March 29, 2013

You Know It Has Been Too Long Since Your Last Post....

.... when you get emails, texts, calls and yes, even real actual handwritten letters saying... "ARE YOU OK????"

Or when you turn on the computer and every family member who walks in the room says, "Are you really writing a post???"

Or when you see your blog on the screen and wonder who's page you are looking at.

Or when there are 30 posts spinning around in your head and you can't decide which one to write first.

Or when your kids say, "Mom, don't you think you should work on your blog?"  

It's not that I don't want to.  I really do.  I miss you all so very much.  I think about you much of the time.  But blog time, aka nap time,  has been otherwise occupied with resting and sleep and all that good stuff.  Blogging has also been hindered a bit by a dead computer.  Allen gave me a new one and for most people that is an exciting prospect.  However, figuring out Windows 8 has been a little more than a challenge for me.  And then something went crazy with the software in my camera so we returned it and haven't found a replacement yet.  The girls have no problem with me using their cameras but without having mine with me all the time I find I am taking far less photos than I normally do.  

The good news on my front is the last few weeks have been the best since September.  I feel closer to myself than I have since I found out I was pregnant.  While I don't think I will return to running anytime soon, (who am I kidding I can barely walk up the steps, right)  and I still have to spend a lot of time resting, I feel like I am back in the game of life again.  I feel like a normal, that is 32 week pregnant "normal" person.  God has really given me a wonderful reprieve.

I have been sleeping much better.  My breathing has returned to normal.  My sugar has leveled out to some degree.  I have been able to be up and about almost every day.  Ok, so I am more like an armchair parent right now.  I sit in the center of everything and kind of direct more than do.  I tire very easily but quite frankly that seems it should be expected after so many months of sickness and the fact that I am carrying around way more pounds than I am used to.  Just the same, it feels good to be there or here or whereever after so many months of not.

We've just about wrapped up our school for the year which is good with all that is about to happen around here.  Several friends have been in to visit.  It is so sweet to catch up with those we have missed for so long!  In all my time sitting I have been working on hand quilting three projects I hope to wrap up before Henry arrives.  And, on a particularly good day we even started to work on all those photos still hanging around from the flood.

You remember that, don't you?  It is a painstaking project but I actually think there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.  The hardest part, trashing what was not salvageable, is finished.  Those that were damaged but still had potential have all been scanned in.  And now the girls are working on getting what was left behind into new albums.     

This flood and picture business does have a blessing side to it.  I've been making albums for quite some time now and many are old styles no longer sold by Creative Memories.  That means in order to find pages and page protectors to fit I've had to do a lot of searching on eBay.  This has been a bit of a frustrating process.  Since they are older styles, sellers label them as "vintage" and charge insane prices for things they wouldn't be able to sell otherwise.  I found one package of pages selling for more than an album cover set.  How ridiculous is that?  Anyway, I digress.  Imagine that!

So, I had a very dear friend who I met when Brianna was a new born baby.  She and I became very close over the years.  She was much like a mother figure to me in that she had grown children almost my own age.  But... she had a large family and had young children my kids age, too.  We both shared the same values and ideals when it came to raising a family, but she had all the experience I lacked.  Anyway, our girls took ballet together.  We shared our love for home schooling. We took tap dance lessons together.  Both of us had a love for sewing.  And we often swapped "war" stories in the parenting trenches.  We both had a passion for photographing our families and journaling about the special moments of raising our children.  She died quite suddenly three years ago.  She was one of the dearest friends I have ever had and rarely does a day pass that I don't think of her.

Even though neither of us had time for such endeavors, at the dawn of the scrapbook era, her niece got us both into making our memories into albums.  Anita became a consultant so we could afford this new past time.  Eventually, she grew it into a great business.  Almost always our time together was spent working on, discussing and sharing our books.    These days of digging through photos and working on albums made all those Wachters who knew Anita miss her all over again.  It was very bittersweet to find some handwritten notes mixed in the mess of supplies and tools.

So back to eBay.  I was searching on eBay last weekend for some things we needed and I came across an auction by a seller whose name rang a familiar bell. I checked the location and had an inkling I knew just who it was.  A quick email and sure enough it turns out to be my friend's oldest daughter.  It was nice to exchange a few emails and catch up on her children and think of someone we both loved for a few minutes.

And this must have been the week for old friends.  Tuesday night we had a meeting with Allen's mentor and good friend from long ago.  We've touched base now and again over the last 13 years or so but mostly with our busy life and his busy life, we just think of each other once and again.  David was a very special person in Allen's life and the man I have to thank for my husband's ability to do just about anything useful there is to be done.  We had a great dinner catching up on his family news, our family news, news of old friends and swapping chicken tales.  The Lord willing we hope David will be overseeing our addition in the next few months.

We also had the opportunity to have dinner and spend an evening with some new friends a few weeks ago.  Well, really Julianne is like an old friend.  We met her through blog world a number of years ago.  There are so few young people today who live life so intentionally for the glory of the Lord.  It has been a blessing to get to know her through her blog and through personal correspondence.  We were delighted to know that she and that someone special in her life would be spending part of spring break here in Maryland.  We had such a great evening getting to visit face to face and getting to know Brandon, that we barely even took a picture.  But we sure hope they will be back soon and we won't make that same mistake twice!  If it is possible, we enjoyed their thank you notes almost as much as our visit.  Those gorgeous yellow flowers still look amazing, by the way.  And, while it might still be a bit premature, a special note, dear Julianne... marry that man quick!  Anyone who is willing to spend an entire evening with a houseful of kids he doesn't know and write a thank you note, too... well, that's rare and someone to be snatched up before he gets away.
Teaching Julianne and Brandon how to make Cavitille

Ellie couldn't wait to meet the lady who loves Rapunzel

Samuel cornered Brandon into hearing all about his chickens and fighter planes.

On the Henry front, things are coming along nicely.  We are 32 weeks now.  I am enormous!  Which is funny since he has consistently measured 1/2 pound smaller than the average baby.  That's a good thing for a diabetic baby.  Our nurse shed a lot of light on the topic a few weeks ago when she announced the kid is sideways.  And backwards.  And what else would we expect from a baby who has done everything to make his presence known from day one?  So in addition to all our other waiting and questions we are now waiting to see if this little fellow is actually going to spin himself around the right way.  Go figure!  

Last Saturday we started having contractions.  This is not particularly worrisome since I have had contractions from about 4 months on with all our babies, except Emma Rose.  I spent many months on bed rest with two of the children and 3 were born prematurely.  Actually, we were commenting on how unusual it was that I've not had contractions before now.  He more than made up for it with an entire day and night of it.  So I'm back to doing things that can be done only sitting or lying down.  It's funny that you think, this is my 10th pregnancy.  Surely, I have seen it all.  Yet this little guy has managed to pull out all the stops to make sure we all know he is going to be different!

Oh, and I think he is going to more than be rewarded for it.  While I feel like a great big whale, everyone else around here keeps patting my abdomen and saying, "He is so cute!"  Like really?  How can you tell?  Carmella has learned to say Henry and thinks every large tummy is him.  Elisabeth has to kiss him goodnight and pat him good morning every day.  And yesterday when we were doing our lessons he was completely covered with princess stickers.  How do you suppose that happened?

We are excitedly moving ahead and making preparations and looking forward to the day not so long from now when we will get to hug and kiss him face to face.  I am just finishing up the binding on his quilt.

With no place to put the crib, we are returning to the old bassinet that hasn't been used since Brianna was a baby.
Kaitlin took scraps from his quilt and made it over.  I must say, it was so beautiful I almost cried.
Carmella loved it so much she wanted to climb in.

Allen always prepares for a newborn with some big home improvement project that makes a huge mess and creates a lot of noise.  When Nathaniel was on the way we bought this house... which we've been working on ever since.  With Aedan he remodeled the master bedroom and bathroom.  Then with Samuel the garage became a school room and nursery.  When Ellie was expected he decided to gut and remodel the basement... which is almost finished.  With Carmella came the remodel of the boys and girls rooms.  And this week the builder came in to talk about the preliminaries to rip the roof off and add a second story.  Yeah, a one or two room addition would be a lot easier.  But why do things the easy way?  Seriously, because of the well and septic locations, and the power lines and easements and right of ways, we can't build out from the existing house.  Which leaves us with the option of going up or moving out.  While the idea of moving and being done with the whole mess is tempting.... we love it here too much to actually do it.  We hope to have a three way meeting with our architect and builder by the end of next week.

Other updates... Please keep some these people in your prayers.

*The family of baby C.  At two weeks old his parents took him to the pediatrician because he was fussy.  The doctor said he had reflux and sent them back home.  He became fussier over the next few days.  His parents, veterans with 2 older children, knew something was wrong and took him to the ER.  The doctor there said he had a fracture in his leg and the child was taken away to a foster home.  Assuming the parents were guilty of abuse, which I do not believe to be the case, authorities have done nothing to get medical care for this child.  In fact, since being in foster care over the last 6 or more weeks, he has turned up with at least 2 more fractures.  Their other children have been removed from the home and the parents are being charged.    We are praying that this little boy would receive the medical care he needs, for the truth to come forward clearing the parents name and ultimately for this family to be restored.

*Also, continue to pray for baby Taylor who has been in NICU since he was just a few days old.  He came down with RSV almost immediately following birth.  He seems to be making small improvements but is still on a ventilator full time, which may be causing problems as well.

*And, pray for baby Jackson and his family.  In just a few short days his family will be flying to China to bring him home after a very long wait.  Woo Hoo!  We pray for an easy adjustment for all of them, for heart strings to be quickly tied, for safe and smooth travels, and for any special care he will need upon arriving in the United States.

While I have your attention... I'd like to tell you a bit about a long time very dear friend of Allen and mine.  We all met when we were young adults.  I was just finishing up high school and the fellows were beginning college.  We have all been like family since.  We have been through many joys and trials together, including extended family heart aches, weddings, divorces and babies.  Being separated for long periods of time with half the world between us, we have still remained the closest of friends.  In 1996, while serving in the Navy, Tony was diagnosed with MS and discharged from the military on a medical basis.  We have watched him work hard to establish another career, maintain his health through careful diet and exercise and lead his wonderful family.  This year Tony and his wife Carrie are raising money to help others with MS receive therapy and treatment and to spread awareness of this debilitating disease.  Please consider popping over to their page and making a donation.  Every little bit helps.  Do it for me... please.  Let them know Art's Chili Pepper sent you and you will seriously encourage this very pregnant lady.

And in other news... Samuel has lost his two front teeth in the last week.  Here only one is missing but I love this photo of him.  He looks so cute with his little gap.  My boy is sure growing up quick!
The daffodils are blooming
And we've had two feet of snow since the first week of March.  Which is officially more snow than we've had all winter.  Of course the yucky think about March snow is that you get a foot in the morning and by dinner time it is all mud.  But it was pretty to look at while it lasted and the kids enjoyed taking those two days off school to sled.
March in Maryland also means the rain.  With the ground saturated it just rushes like no ones business.  I wondered if the chickens might get carried away but they held their own.
And on the topic of chickens... we had the queerest egg one day.  It was so tiny.... more like a parakeet egg.  Have you ever seen such a small egg?
 That's a baby feeding spoon.  See how tiny?
 Of course, it became a home school project in which we measured and weighed and learned about finding volume with water displacement.
What we couldn't seem to find out was why it was so tiny.  If you know anything... do let me know.  But regardless, it went into the omelets for breakfast and everyone was happy.

Speaking of eggs, after many years of raising parakeets, our birds have successfully laid a clutch and we have enjoyed watching the chicks hatch and grow over the last week.  They are so adorable in all their featherless ugliness.  We are waiting for the last egg to hatch but in the meantime, our house is filled with the adorable peep of chicks... which is nice because at night it hides the squeak of the mice in our attic.

Yes, they are still there.  The exterminator has been in twice and is throwing everything he's got at the little pesks but they are fighting hard to hold their territory.  The last few nights it seems they are less busy so perhaps they are finally getting the idea that they are supposed to die after they eat the poison?

And on the pet front, this week Elisabeth got a new fish, named Bubble Gum.  He died in less than a day.  He was replaced with another beta named Lime.  There is something incredibly hilarious about walking into a pet store with a girl all dressed in pink and asking to see all the pink fish in the joint.  The sales guy seemed to enjoy it, too.

And Emma's turtle digested his tank mate, a 6 or 7 inch Pleko.  Yeah, we are seriously thinking we have created a monster.  Emma has been telling all of us to stop overfeeding him but who knew how glutenous Zipper had really become?

And now, hard as it is to imagine, Easter weekend is upon us.  The kids have been busy prepping dinner for 25 friends, making centerpieces
putting together favors for the guests.
 And the girls are literally counting down the hours until they can cut into the Easter pizza.

With everything blooming, noses are running and eyes are itching, but that hasn't dampened the spirits of our little gardeners who are eagerly planning their vegetable boxes for spring.  Even as I write, Allen and the boys are out there digging something up in preparation for the end of the frost season.

So happy Easter to you, dear friends.  Thank you for your prayers and well wishes.  Don't forget to let us know what is up in your world and with all sincerity I will try to be better about keeping up with this poor blog and getting around to answering emails.  But don't hold your breath!



March 11, 2013

Book Reviews... FYI

Kaitlin, Brianna and Emma Rose will be joining me in writing book reviews for Art's Chili Pepper.  Because we have so very many, we love to read around here, we have moved reviews to Reviews with Art's Chili Pepper.
If you are looking for something to read take a look and see what strikes your fancy.  If you live in our area I have a copy you can borrow.  Well, if I haven't loaned it out and forgotten where it is.

Happy reading,


March 7, 2013

The God of Lost Causes

Growing up in the Catholic church we taught prayer was very important.  We had specific times each day that were dedicated to this discipline.  First thing when we woke we prayed the blessing upon our day, before meals we said the prayer of grace, on the way to school we prayed the rosary and at bedtime there were prayers for a safe sleep and blessings for those we loved.   Going to Catholic school we still prayed at the start and end of our school day and some teachers also prayed with us before our classes began.  

In between, I talked to God about all the things that were on my heart.  This has been a life long habit that has served me well and seen me through much.  To be honest, I don't know where this habit came from.  I think it really must be an innate instinct given to us by God to draw His lost children toward Him.  Otherwise, there is no real way to explain why so many who had no religious upbringing explain how they called upon God in their greatest time of need.  But that could be a long discussion far from my point today.  Which is that I always had a need and desire to communicate with God, just as great or greater than my human need to communicate with my fellow man, even though no one ever shared the possibility with me.

Something we were taught however, was that if you really needed God's ear on a certain matter there were specific "saints" who you should ask to intervene on your behalf.  If you want to sell your house Saint Joseph is your man.  If you are sick call on St. Blaise.  If your pet is sick then St. Francis is your man.  You need a husband?  Get in touch with St. Nicolas.  After searching high and low for the missing ring my grandmother had given me, my mother told me to ask St. Anthony to help me find it.  

But St. Jude, now he was my very favorite.  He was the patron saint of lost causes.  And the fact was most of my life was one great big fat hopeless lost cause.  I eventually came to realize that included all those prayers to St. Jude and the summer spent in Jersey asking St. Anthony to turn up a ring that never was found.  In fact, despite my mother's good intentions, I discovered these type of prayers always fall on deaf ears. 

However, the story doesn't end there.  Because I came to know something, indeed someone, far greater.  In 1994 I had the pleasure of meeting the God of lost causes.  The God who can do any thing, any time no matter how hopeless it seems.  All I have to do is ask and, unlike St. Jude and St. Anthony, He answers.  

Lately, I feel like a lost cause.  Even something so simple as sleep is something enormously unattainable for me.  

Last night as I crawled into bed, shortly after 11, Carmella started crying.  She has come down with a cold and was having a little trouble sleeping.  Allen checked in on her and got her settled back into bed and we settled back down ourselves.  No sooner had we finished our prayer time when I heard another noise.  

That's when I came to consider if maybe God doesn't want me to give up sleep.  The reasons that my sleep are disturbed far outweigh the good nights of rest I have had the last 7 months.  Hypoglycemia.  Restless legs.  Asthma attacks.  Asthma medicine that makes the heart race.  Lots to think about.  Trips to the bathroom.  And my new favorite, mice.

It seems some rodents have taken up residence in our attic.  So, it could be they have been there all along.  But since Sunday night they are lingering right above our bed.  As soon as we get into bed and everything is quiet, the scratching begins.  I HATE MICE!  Truly, there is nothing else that bothers me aside from snakes and mice.  Bugs, spiders, whatever... they are annoying but they don't give me the creepy crawlies like mice.  And there they are.  All night long.  Running from here to there and back again right above my head.  Just taunting me with the fact that there is nothing I can do about it.  

Last night Allen got up and put on some music to drown out the noise but it was too late. I knew they were there and it took me forever to clear it from my head and settle into sleep.  The whole time I was thinking about how much I really wanted to get done on Thursday before we had company on Friday.   Oh, how I really, really wanted to sleep.  I dozed in and out until about 4 am when I just couldn't take the tossing and turning anymore.  I grabbed my Bible study and headed to the basement where the light wouldn't disturb anyone else.  

Eventually, I got the headache.  The dull ache that forms behind my eyes if I don't get enough sleep.  There is no effective medicine for migraines that is safe to take during pregnancy.  So, even though the sun was starting to come up and I knew the family would be moving soon, I grabbed an ice pack and laid down on  sofa.  As I felt the cool relief set in, I thanked the Lord for ice.  Can you imagine if Esther or Ruth had a headache?  No pills.  No ice.  Just pain.  But we have the joy of frozen eye masks.

So, as I laid there, I became overwhelmed at the cooking, cleaning, and shopping I wanted to get done.  I wondered how I would even begin to do it with little sleep, a throbbing head, and a sick baby.  Sounds like a lost cause, doesn't it?  I thought so.  And then I got really smart and I went to the one who could do something about it.  I simply asked Him to make the sleep I had to be enough for the day ahead and to give me the energy I needed to do what needed to be done.

And guess what?  I didn't need to lie down mid morning.  Something I normally must do even on days when I "sleep a full night."  I worked right through lunch.  As a matter of fact, I forgot to eat lunch all together.  Which is not really a good thing if you are insulin dependent... but let's not go there.  I felt so good, I just kept going.  And then around 2:00 I sat down in the kitchen.  Kaitlin asked how I was doing.  I thought about it for a minute and realized I felt better than I have in a long time.  

And that's the God I love.  The God who can answer my simplest prayers to show Himself amazingly powerful and strong.  The God who cares about even my littlest needs.  The God who can do great and mighty things.  The God who can stretch 3 hours of broken sleep into 8 good hours if I just ask.  

The God of lost causes.  

March 1, 2013

Finding Purpose

You all have been so faithful in praying for our family in different times of need.  In almost 19 years as a Christian I can really tell the times when brothers and sisters are lifting me up in prayer.  Back in November, after I mentioned my pregnancy here and explained some of the health issues I had been facing, I received the first night of sleep with no hypoglycemia I had had in months.  And that is just one small example.

Prayer is such a powerful purpose.  It is easy to get busy and forget that sometimes it is the greatest purpose in a specific situation.  At least for me anyway.  Maybe the rest of the you are way more spiritual than I am in this area.

Don't get me wrong.  I love to spend time with the Lord in prayer.  In fact, I find my greatest times with Him are not necessarily in my dedicated prayer time but when I truly pray without ceasing.  Just chit chatting with Him about my concerns and the needs of others as I go about my daily life.  But...

Personally, I am a doer.  When I see anything that needs doing, I have to do it.  I can not stand to walk away and leave anything incomplete.  When we are strolling through a neighborhood and I see some weeds in a flower bed, I must stop and pull them.  That's how God made me.

When I see someone hurting or sick or struggling, the first thing I want to know is what can I do to ease the burden.  Don't think this is very noble because it is as much a need for me as it is for the one in need.  When I can't find a way to help, I feel as helpless as the one in need.  And when I see a need I can't meet, I feelfrustrated.  One of the greatest struggles I have had the last few months is my inability to do.  So many people we love are going through so much right now and I have to just sit back and watch unable to do anything to help them or ease their suffering.  It seems like a terrible cruel curse.  To have this desire to reach out and yet to be completely unable to fulfill it.

Or maybe it isn't such a curse.  Because in my inability to get busy and get my hands dirty the Lord has given me another purpose.  In all those days spent resting when I am tempted to let my frustration grow, the Lord has filled those around me with many needs that I can do absolutely nothing about.  And in all those sleepless nights He has provided me with many uninterrupted hours.  Hours in which my family is sound asleep.  Hours in which I can't clean, cook or wash clothes.  Hours in which I can not teach school.  Hours in which I am too tired to read a book, write, answer email or sew.

And what do you do when you are faced with all those hours and a mind and heart full of sorrow for those you love?  Pray.  I pray for the little girl we know suffering with Lyme's disease.  I pray for the brothers who are out of work.  I pray for our friends awaiting their adopted child.  The family who have had their child taken by CPS.  Our church and her members.  In a time when I feel so worthless, He has given me a wonderful time to spend communing with Him, building a stronger prayer life and an opportunity to help others in a far greater way than my mere physical efforts could ever do.

And isn't that just like our God?  When He is bringing us through trials, He blesses us. When we are struggling He gives us purpose.  When our growing pains seems so great, He stretches our arms to reach those in ways we might never reach them otherwise.

The great King, Solomon summed it up far better than I ever could in Ecclesiastes Chapter 3

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: ...  What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?   He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. is the gift of God. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him."