December 31, 2013

Baking Day

This is part of the batch of photos I uploaded but never got around to posting before Christmas.  

One of the things we love to do between Thanksgiving and Christmas is bake.  

No big news there.  Doesn't everyone?  In addition to baking for the neighbors, friends and our church family there are always fresh cookies waiting by the door for the post man, UPS guys, and anyone who finds themselves on our porch.  

The kids will about trip over each other racing for the door when they see a vehicle heading into our driveway.  

Carmella is a fun helper in the kitchen.  She more mashes her dough than rolls balls but she is a pro at lining them up on the tray.

And she had a blast with the sprinkles.  When she wasn't decorating cookies, she stacked the jars of decorating sugars and jimmies up to make a tower.
But, oops!  One time her tower fell over and there were chocolate decorations everywhere.  She diligently entertained herself for 30 minutes picking every single one up and putting it back in the jar.
But her favorite job of all was helping to ice the gingerbread men.  She slathered that icing on as if it was an Olympic event.
And she wasn't too shy with the blue paint, either.
I love working in the kitchen with the youngers... and the not so little ones, too.  
Every time we have a big cooking day I can't help but remember when it was just me and it took days to accomplish what we all do in just a few hours.
This is definitely one of the things God must have been referring to when He tells us children are a blessing.
Not only am I blessed by our time together, but countless people were blessed by the fruit of the work we are able to do together.

December 23, 2013


Addison is a seriously good cuddler.  Everywhere we go he is snatched up and snuggled into someone's arms.  This is definitely one of the awesome parts of down syndrome.  Most of our kids by this age wanted to get down and explore.  And Addison does enjoy time to get down and check out his world.  But he is just as content to snuggle in.  Every evening will find him being passed from person to person for some loving.  

Because everyone likes a cuddle with Addison.  I seriously never know where he might turn up.  One day I went to get Carmella up from her nap and there they were.  (I'm thinking they had some help with that one)
Another morning he will be in the boys room tucked under Nathaniel's chin.  And yet on another morning he might be here catching a few extra zzz's with Brianna.
I hope he doesn't give up his cuddling for a long time.  But we are making sure we take advantage of every minute we can get while it lasts.

December 22, 2013

Snow Days

I would hate to live in one of those places where the weather is always the same.  How boring!  Or even worse to live in one of those places where it never snows.  We had two pleasant snows before Christmas and the kids enjoyed every minute of it.  The boys built an igloo.  
Aedan always builds a snow man on my deck so I can see him when I wake up in the morning.  
Addison and I had a blast trying out the new sledding trail.  Well, I had fun and Addison tolerated it.
My favorite play mates in the world.  I can not imagine how boring life would be without this gang!
Carmella loves snow.  But she hates for it to touch her!  She will stare out the window in sheer delight for hours as it comes down.  She wants to be outside in her pink snow suit with everyone else.  She loves snow men and the sled.  But don't let the snow touch her boots!  We are definitely working on that.
Elisabeth's snow man.  After this fellow started to melt, Aedan felt so sad for Ellie he went outside (in his suit before church) and gathered up what was left to make another snowman for her.
The deck snowman a few days later when the temperature was in the 70s.
I know there are a lot of people who can't stand snow.  But I hope we have a good long snowy winter.

December 21, 2013


Addison absolutely loves faces.  He has recently discovered faces in mirrors.  I'm sure he doesn't realize it is his own big smile looking back at him.  

The other morning, after I gave him his bath, he was making all kinds of faces at himself.  I had to giggle because it reminded me just of Wayne... you know from Fireproof?
Well, ok, if you don't know, he sure looks adorable anyway.  But if you want to see what I mean.  Check out Wayne for yourself.

December 20, 2013

The Knitters

One night when we were in Boston we were driving through town to dinner.  It was around 6:00 and we drove about 20 minutes.  I noted that in the front room of almost every house there was a television on.  I noted it was the time that our family would be typically eating dinner together.  This broke my heart.  And it reminded me of one of the many reasons I am so glad we do not have television in our home.  During that hour when most peoples minds are being bombarded with garbage, our family is sharing about our day.  We are having our devotions.  We are helping each other through our trials.  

But that really wasn't the point of this post.  One great thing about not having television is watching what our big girls do to fill their time.  One night last week they spent the evening teaching a friend how to quilt.

Another evening last week I went downstairs after we tucked the little ones in bed and there sat my girls, a cross between the typical American young person and old biddy.  They were knitting and solving the problems of the world surrounded by bowls of orange peels, candy wrappers and empty coffee cups.  

Can't wait to see what they turn up... both in their problem solving and their Christmas projects.

December 19, 2013

Ministering Through Miscarriage

When I wrote about the Henry owls, a sweet reader shared with me about a friend who was expecting a little boy this Christmas.  Baby M had Down Syndrome.  Earlier this week she wrote again and shared that he had passed away before his birth.  She was seeking advice about how to minister to her friend in this time of mourning.  

When we had our miscarriage in 2010 we knew the Lord had a purpose in it.  We prayed and we waited.  It wasn't long until we saw God's plan.  I had been praying for some time for the Lord to enlarge my ministry.  And He has used our loss to do that many fold.  Rarely does a week pass that I do not receive an email from someone who has suffered the loss of a child or who is ministering to someone who has. And then there are the many people we have known or met in person who are dealing with the loss of a child.  It has been such a blessing to be able to reach out to so many women through this commonality.  And it gives purpose to something that was painful.  I have had the blessing of walking with my Christian sisters and leading them closer to Christ.  And I have had the blessing of leading the lost to a saving knowledge of Jesus.    

For a long time I have wanted to write a post sharing some things that may be helpful to those who are dealing with loss or ministering to someone who has suffered a loss.  It's just one of those many things I have never quite gotten around to.  However, yesterday I pretty much wrote the post in my reply to this email so I thought I would share some of it here.  I am eliminating names to protect the privacy of this hurting family. 

Today my heart is incredibly heavy as I think of your friends.  Thank you for sharing with me!  I had to face a hard time this morning and it was good to remember that no matter how hard, I get the blessing of holding my sweet son through whatever trial he may face in his future.  Not every parent is so blessed.

We choose to focus on the blessings of having a child with Down Syndrome.  But there is a very stinky side to it.  And the loss is definitely a stinky side.  I don't mention it much because I want Ds to have a different face.  But the real matter is that many children with Ds die every day, either before birth or as young babies and children because of complications from their disability.  

In 2010 we suffered the loss of our 8th child.  It was one of those times when we knew without a doubt that God had a plan.  We couldn't even begin to understand it as we mourned someone we had fallen deeply in love with.  But within months of the smoke clearing, God's plan became very clear.  I had been praying for a greater ministry and He put it right in my lap.  In those years I have been blessed time and again by the ability to minister to women through miscarriage and the loss of their children.  Some were our Christian sisters who needed comforting and others were lost women who I had the blessing of leading to salvation.  In all of that God has clearly confirmed to us what we knew all along, that in loss He has many blessings!
1.  Know there is a purpose, even if we can't imagine what it is

I know it doesn't look that way right now, especially to your precious friends.  But God will do something wonderful.  You did not mention what the cause of baby M's death was, but perhaps if nothing else it is the goodness that he will not have to endure some of the difficult and painful procedures we have seen babies go through as part of their Down Syndrome.  We have a little friend who is Addison's age and is preparing for her third open heart surgery.  She has also undergone gi surgery and has a feeding tube to nourish her.  We have another young friend who has Ds.  She was born, BORN, with Leukemia.  

I do not mean to say that it would be any comfort to say Max is better off dead, as some would imply.  But to say, maybe God wanted Max to live for eternity.  And someone had to carry him for that to happen.  And perhaps his suffering would have been too great.  So the Lord, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, allowed him to come to heaven now.  Doctors estimate that the majority of pregnancies in which a child has Ds end in miscarriage prior to 12 weeks of pregnancy.  But perhaps God wanted M's parents to have the joy of knowing him for as long as possible before he needed to go home with Jesus.  For me, knowing that there is a child waiting for me someday, gives me a focus on heaven that I never had before.  Perhaps, the Lord needed your friends to understand a parents love for a child with special  needs in order to minister in the world of special needs.  I believe God allows these things to happen for many, many different reasons.  And I can not begin to ascertain the why in this case.  I can only speculate and encourage you and your friends to consider those things for themselves.  And to do so with the acceptance that God's plan may never be clear this side of heaven. But perhaps, that in seeking the possibility of God's plan, your friends may find comfort and purpose for something that seems too sad to bear.  For me, focusing on God's plan is always the key to coming through trials victorious!

2.  Don't be afraid to speak your heart in a loving but clear manner

Additionally, in helping your friend through this time, I suggest being very bold with her.  We often tap dance around hurting people because we don't want to hurt them more.  But we are most useful when we speak frankly.  Say, "Friend, I want to help you and be of the most comfort to you.  How can I do that?"  She will need to cry.  She will try to fight it.  But it is a very important and necessary part of the healing process.  Everyone likes to do that in their own way.  Ask her plainly.  Does she want you to sit with her while she shares her burden?  Does she want you to keep everyone away so she can have time alone to cry and mourn?  The sadness will come and it will come again.  But each time it will last less and be less violent than it is now.  Today I can honestly say I no longer cry for our baby.  I do think about him.  But I never cry anymore.  If someone had told me that in 2010, I never would have believed them.  

3.  Create a keepsake

When we lost our baby, one of the hardest things for me was thinking of all that he would never be a part of.  My kids did something beautiful and wonderful that helped all of us through the healing process.  Each of my kids has a memory box that contains things like their ID bracelet from the hospital, their footprints, first birthday balloon, seashells from their first time at the beach etc... My oldest daughter painted a wooden jewelry box and put a music box in it.  We filled it with things that represented all those firsts that were so hard.  For his first Christmas a tiny ornament, for his first birthday a candle, the first day of home school had a kindergarten pencil, a shell, a tiny book... you get the idea.  The last thing to go in was a tiny white Bible, part of our church tradition.  Even today, once and again, I hear that music box playing and will find one of the kids sitting on my bed fingering the items from his box.  We will talk about Gussie and the wonderfullness of God's plan.  I also like that it gives Elisabeth (who was only 2 at the time) and Carmella (who was not yet born) a way to know their brother.  Since then we have given boxes to other mothers who have suffered the loss of a child.  Sometimes it is a premade box.  And sometimes we hand decorated an unfinished box.  It just depends on the mom.  They have filled it with their own memories and some have come back to tell me how much healing it brought to them.  
4.  Acknowledge their baby

I think you are right that it is a good idea to give the Henry owl for Christmas as you originally planned.  For one thing, it gives the parents something tangible to hold and squeeze in those time that they are missing their son.  If they do not desire to keep it, they may find comfort in seeking out a baby through their local children's hospital who has Ds.  Many people will try to avoid the topic of their baby at Christmas, feeling it will make them sad.  But they will be thinking about it anyway.  Knowing that you loved their son will bring them joy.  On my birthday after our loss my special friend gave me a willow tree angel holding a baby.  She explained how it made her think of me and our baby.  It made me cry like crazy.  It made me so HAPPY.  Today I see it every day.  And not only does it remind me of what is in store for me in heaven, but it reminds me of how God used this loss to give me a special friend who had only been a mere acquaintance before.  Incidentally, this friend ended up losing a child and I was able to help her through that time.    

5.  Find a way to remember

One of the things that we were blessed by as a family was adopting a child through World Vision with the same birth date as our son.  That may be a suggestion for your friends.  We found great comfort in knowing we could do something specifically to help another child.  

6.  Plant a tree  

In that first year we all needed a place to be with our Gussie.  So we planted a tree in the back yard.  We planted a garden of white flowers around it.  I can not begin to tell you how many times we would find our children there or how many hours I sat there myself just talking to the Lord.  Today it is now just a garden.  It still reminds us of someone we love.  But not in a mournful way.  Just in a, "I can't wait to hold his hand in Heaven" way.  

7.  Music soothes the hurting soul

There was certain music that really ministered to our hearts during those months following.  We compiled them into a play list.  One day, as we were taking a meal to a friend who has just had a miscarriage, my daughter burned it to a CD.  She wrote months later about what a blessing it was to her.  Since then, I often burned a CD for ladies who are going through a loss.

8.  Good Reading

There are two books I routinely share with women who are dealing with loss.  These are two beautiful Godly women who I came to know through blogging.  Angie Smith's I Will Carry You and Lynette Kraft In His Faithfulness, He Afflicted Me.  Again, ladies have come back to me and not only told me how these books helped them but that they passed them on to other women who were dealing with loss.

9.  A gift Basket

I was looking to order some herbs when I came across this beautiful gift basket at Earth Mama Angel Baby.  I tucked it away and forgot about it until I was putting this post together.  I like the way the store owner states what we often forget.  Women who suffered miscarriage are postpartum moms, too.  And they need care and comforting.  I think this basket would be a wonderful gift for a mom who is recovering from miscarriage.

This is in no way an exhaustive list.  You may find some things particularly helpful and other things completely useless.  But hopefully there is something that will minister to your hearts or allow you to minister to someone else.  I know there are many readers out there who have experience in this area.  I would love if you would take time to share here ideas that you feel would be helpful to other readers.  If you comment through Google+ please copy and paste your comment directly into the comment section of this post.  That way future readers will have all your suggestions compiled into one place.
Love to each of you.  May the Lord bring you comfort in your loss and give you strength and courage to reach those who are hurting.


December 18, 2013

Christmas Cards

This post actually has  no real point.  Except to ramble on about Christmas cards.  I love Christmas cards.  I love sending them.  I love receiving them.  People don't send Christmas cards as much as they used to.  But it is still a major highlight of the holiday season for the Wachters.  I particularly like the photo cards.  This year I ordered from Minted for the first time.  I love the weight of their paper.  But what I didn't love was that after we designed a card we loved, we realized it was a post card.  That actually seemed like a good idea at first because then you save on postage.  But, as it turns out, Allen was disappointed that we couldn't include a letter.  And, after placing the order, I worried that the cards would get messed up in the mail.  And then, I should have known, we paid just as much for postage because they don't make Christmas post card stamps.  And I had already bought the stamps after Thanksgiving. 

I appreciate people who still send Christmas cards.  Sometimes it is the only way we hear from loved ones around the world.  Yeah, I know.  If only I was on Facebook.  But I am not.  Nor am I likely to ever be.  So there you have it. 

And while I am rambling on about Christmas cards, Joanna, we loved your card.  It was the first one we received this year.  We didn't have our display up until a few days after the mail man brought your card.  We admired Baby M and Baby J and we marveled at all the Lord has done for your family this year.  And then, because we had no place to put it, we lost it.  Everyone murmurs about this at least once a day.  Which is why your cork board is all the more amazing.  You don't have to wait until your Christmas decorations are up to put out your cards.  It's there all year and you will never have misplaced cards. 

Another reason I don't like the post cards is that it is very hard to get all the addresses on those little lines.  This, perhaps, wouldn't have been such a challenge if they had been the jumbo sized post cards.  Which I assumed they would be.  That's why you should get a ruler and actually check those measurements.  But with the standard sized post cards... wow!  Not much room for names and addresses there. 

Anyway, the girls and I love choosing and addressing Christmas cards.  We send out about 150 every year.  When our order comes in the mail, everything stops while we check them out.  And no matter what our evening plans were, they get put aside so we can curl up on the couches and address them together.  We pull out coffee.  And chocolate.  This year we went through a bag of Lindt dark chocolate peppermint truffles.  Which, incidentally, are amazing.  While we address we share stories of the names we come across.   Who are the Berry's again?  They always ask that question. We laugh.  We reminisce.  Remember Miss Candace who used to baby sit you?  She has 3 children now!  And we get a little teary.  No card for dear brother Harry who died on December 7th. 

The little guys like to help, too.  It is usually their job to stamp and lick the cards.  This job Carmella took very seriously.  The boys always recall the first year they were allowed to sign their own names on the cards.  Which reminds me of how the littlest things often have the biggest impact on our children.  But that is an entirely different topic. 

 Do you send Christmas cards?  What is your preference.  Printed cards or photo cards?  Do you include a personal letter or a family update?  Do you have any special traditions surrounding your cards?

December 17, 2013

The Gingerbread Castle

The boys set their sights big this Christmas
 It took three days
 4 boxes of graham crackers
 2 pounds of confectioners sugar
 and every hot glue stick in the house
 Countless pounds of candy
 But isn't it a thing of beauty?
I think they've come a long way since our first attempts at gingerbread!
 I love little details like this bicycle
Elisabeth's swing
 this speedster and Samuel's toboggan
I have absolutely no idea where my kids got their artistic and creative ability.  It sure did NOT come from their mama.  But I am grateful they have it.  Watching their minds and hands work furiously through a project is even more delightful and rewarding than the finished project.

My kids never eat their gingerbread houses.  They always have a blast making them and then they want to look at them so they decide to save it for a while.  By the time they want to eat them, the thing has been sitting around for a month and is covered in dust.  I usually end up discreetly disposing of them in the big trash can outside.  I try to do this during busy times so that when they notice its gone I can say, "Oh, that hasn't been there for a long time." 

What about your family?  Do you make a gingerbread house?  Do you eat it or cherish its beauty for weeks to come?  And how do you finally get the kids to part with it when spring flowers are poking through the earth?