Wednesday, December 3, 2008

‘Tis The Season

This is the season that several years ago, changed our lives forever. To be more precise, it was hindsight during the aftermath of this season that spurred our changing. In the midst of looking back over that recent 'celebration' of Christmas, we were led to go back to square one and determine the exact nature of our priorities and examine why we were doing what we had been doing.

As much as in years past, this kind of statement would make me roll my eyes and sigh with irritation at folks who did the same, our examination led us to completely revamp our celebrations of our Saviour's birth. We no longer observe Christmas, even though at one time I snickered at my impression of others who did not, assured that they were sanctimoniously "holier than thou". I was sure folks were making too big a deal of small issues and were highly uptight. Oh brother.

I'll not go into all the reasons why we no longer observe Christmas, but will instead share a few links that intrigued us in the beginning of our journey back to the beginning. Those that are interested may study further and those that are not can go on without feeling judged. I do not begrudge anyone else celebrating Christmas - it is definitely a personal decision - but I wanted to share because I was glad to have my eyes opened to what I was doing, and how it appeared to Yahweh. There may be someone else who will one day be glad I shared.

Assuming that they do not care enough to ask, it hurts our feelings some that close family members have never asked about our reasons for changing our practices.  But should you wonder, we still celebrate the birth of our Saviour, but now it is during the Feast of Tabernacles when the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We also now celebrate His conception during Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights (the biblical Feast of Dedication), because Yeshua is the Light of the World. We praise Yahweh for Yeshua's birth, life, death and resurrection all through the year as well.

From our Torah Class studies by Tom Bradford, here is a short message that may help anyone who is wanting to dig a little deeper. It will at least give you some stuff to Google. Blessings!

Hanukkah Is For Christians (text file)

Hanukkah Is For Christians (MP3 file -about 30 minutes)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Nursing Mommas and Dietary Oils

I was asked by a friend (several weeks ago - blush) about hydrogenated oils, and why I avoid them especially when nursing. Her comments were:
Since I read your follow-up to my comment on your twins :-) I have been researching hydrogenated oils and their effect on breast milk and our bodies. I guess this is a little new to me as I haven’t really thought or heard much about this before, but I am very glad you brought it to my attention. (I am kind of ashamed that I haven’t been awakened to it sooner as I try to be reasonably attuned to our nutritional needs, but I don’t normally do a lot of researching in this area). I intend to make some changes right away. I think it will be tough in some ways, though…I mean, we go through a LOT of peanut butter and I don’t know if it is reasonable to think that we could just start making our own since we don’t even have the equipment to do so…(what do you do? Do you have a grain mill and an attachment to make your own p-nut butter?) What do you use for cooking oils? I read here that canola, corn, and safflower oils should be avoided, so I am curious about how you do it and would appreciate your input to help me get started, when you have time. Do you use coconut oil? I purchase 50# pails of it for my soap making business, but have never once used it for cooking (although it is food grade). Do you use lard in place of shortening? Do you make your own bread, and if so, what do you use for the oil? We actually sell a lot of honey wheat bread since my oldest dd has gotten quite proficient at it, and we took it to sell at our local farm market every Saturday this summer. I’m realizing that perhaps my baby’s birth weight was noticeably lower so that I would come to learn about this nutritional concern for our family. But if you have any links to share or helpful info, esp. on how you do it. I’d love to hear it!

I kept putting off answering this until I had some time to do a little research and post links, etc., but  realize that may not happen for some time still. But it is an interesting subject to Google should you be interested, and anyone can do it (Google stuff, that is). The basic gist is that hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats all have a deleterious effect on breastmilk - production and the actual constitution of the milk.

What I'll do instead is just answer the basic questions and share our experience.  :)

When I first started learning about oils, which ones are health-supporting and which ones are not, I could not afford to just change everything we did overnight. Firstly, I did not know how, secondly, it would cost too much and be wasteful of what we had on hand. So, like every other change we made in our diet and lifestyle, when something ran out, we replaced it with something better... never to go back except in an emergency. When the canola oil ran out, (that the media had told me was so good for us), I bought extra virgin olive oil. When the margarine was gone, I started buying real butter and have not looked back.

It was more expensive to replace the bad stuff with the good stuff, but we squeezed money from somewhere else to make it work. We purposely canceled our health insurance policy and used the money to add to our grocery budget and to learn about our health. We also changed around how we shopped by buying in huge quantities in order to save more money to put into healthier ingredients.

Now, we only use three main things as oils for cooking. I use extra virgin olive oil for anything raw like mayonnaise or salad dressings (because it is unstable when heated). I use coconut oil and butter for cooked foods. Coconut oil is very stable at high temperatures, so it is what I use for anything fried. I also use coconut oil for most things that call for shortening. Pie crusts turn out best for me with butter, though. I buy the coconut oil in 5 gallon buckets, too. With grocery prices going up so much recently, I stepped back to expeller-pressed coconut oil (a lot cheaper) instead of the virgin coconut oil that I had been buying, because it was going to overly stress my grocery budget. I purchase butter 36 pounds at a time from a local food co-op.

We do not use lard (pork fat) at all because it is not part of what YHWH has called food for us. Trust and obey... for there is no other way, right?

We make our own bread (gotta love that Zojirushi!) and use either butter or coconut oil in our bread recipe. The coconut oil seems to make the bread keep a bit longer, too.

Peanut butter is a tough one. We use it a ton, too, but I do not think I have it in me at this time to actually make it. (I have to be honest and admit that it never crossed my mind before.) Too many other irons in the fire, I guess. What we have done in the past is buy 5 pound containers of peanut butter whose only ingredients are peanuts and salt from our food co-op. That is a great plan if you really want to cut back on usage, because it does not taste as good (at least to us). A better plan that actually works out to be very close in cost is to buy Smuckers brand natural peanut butter from the grocery store. If you have a Trader Joes nearby, they also have a good price on healthy peanut butter. If the cost is still an issue, spread really thin.  :)

[EDIT: Be sure to check the comments below, where Amy tells us how she makes peanut butter from scratch with just a food processor!]

So, I hope that helps. I'd be happy to help with more questions, too, if you need!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Twins, Anyone?

Just wanted to share a couple of fun pictures of twins holding twins. Too bad the age difference is too large to arrange (or encourage) a marriage.

Winter 2008 058

Caleb Waller (with the hat) is holding our Sweetie and Josh - his twin, is holding her twin, Honey.

Winter 2008 057

The proud future in-laws parents, Mr. Visionary & Me, and Tommy & Sherri Waller and both our sets of twins

On a side, but related note, if you have ever wondered what could increase your "odds" (otherwise known as the observed past working of Yahweh) of conceiving twins, I think I'm on to something.  For a minor health issue, I had been taking an herb called Chaste Tree Berry  (Vitex agnus-castus) the few weeks before I found out I was expecting. I had asked my midwife for a recommendation, without checking into it myself (very odd for me).

In a new herb book (Prescription For Herbal Healing by Phyllis A. Balch) that I got during this pregnancy, I recently looked up this herb just out of curiosity, and found this:
"Women of reproductive age must use vitex with caution, since it has been known to stimulate the release of multiple eggs from the ovary, potentially resulting in multiple births."

So now we know. Yahweh still uses means.

Monday, November 24, 2008

*Kosher* Holiday Cooking With Gelatin

Thanksgiving is upon us, and we love to get together with our extended family and feast, feast, feast. It is a great time for us to get together without the tension that can be a part of celebrations with relatives that are not believers. Somehow, the thankfulness that wells up in hearts on this day breaks down walls and allows conversations that would not normally occur. We discuss our hopes and dreams, reminisce over our growing up years and talk about what the future may hold for us and our children. We list our blessings,  acknowledging that for which we are thankful.  Most importantly, we openly discuss to whom we are thankful.

We love to have our favorite recipes, passed down from the Grandmas and passed across from special friends, but since we have had a change of heart regarding Yah's Word in the last few years, some of the recipes are just not acceptable anymore. In our efforts to avoid pork (among other things that Yah does not call food), we felt led to eliminate some of our old favorites that contained pork by-products like gelatin and marshmallows. Our family agreed to exalt no euphoric recall, longing for what we left behind in Egypt, but to be thankful for what we still have. We did this for several years until one day I had an epiphany. (Hey, it can happen.)

mandarin orange salad picture

Since the children (and the Mommy) have missed a certain congealed Jell-O salad that Grandma used to make, I was determined to discover a way to make it without having to use Jell-O (99% of gelatin produced in the U.S. is made from pork skin). I got 100% beef gelatin (available at health food stores or online - try NOW brand), and brainstormed how to get it to taste fruity. My first ideas were using fruit juice, but they just didn't have the same flavor we were used to. Then the Kool-Aid idea hit me! I would use Kool-Aid as the liquid! Eureka!

So, without further adieu, I bring you the before and after versions of Grandma's Mandarin Orange Salad...

The Before version required: 1- 6 oz. package orange Jell-O, but the new version has Kool-Aid and bulk (plain) beef gelatin substituted.

Mandarin Orange Congealed Salad

One  0.15 oz. package orange-flavored Kool-Aid (unsweetened)

1 cup sugar

1 quart cool water

2 Tablespoons bulk beef gelatin

1 - 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened

2 - 10 oz. cans mandarin oranges

6 oz. Cool Whip or real whipped cream

1 cup small curd cottage cheese

Mix package of Kool-Aid powder with 1 cup sugar and 1 quart of cold water. (Note: This is only half the amount of water called for in making Kool-Aid as a beverage.)

Take 1 cup of the Kool-Aid mixture and dissolve the gelatin into it. Let sit for five minutes.

Boil the other 3 cups of the Kool-Aid mixture, then stir it into the cold gelatin/Kool-Aid mixture until all the gelatin is completely dissolved.

Add the cream cheese to the hot gelatin mixture, stirring until the cream cheese is melted.

Chill until slightly thickened.

Drain the oranges.

Fold  Cool Whip or whipped cream, cottage cheese and drained oranges into the gelatin mixture.

Pour into 9X13" pan. Chill until set.

Serves 8-10.

  • Folks always ask , "Doesn't this taste like beef since you use beef gelatin?" No. No more than other gelatin tastes like pork. It tastes like nothing when it is plain.
  • We skip the Cool Whip because I think it is yucky, and I want to save our real cream for whipped cream on the pumpkin pie! This recipe turns out equally well with or without the Cool Whip.
  • Yes, it does have artificial colors, white sugar and pasteurized dairy, but for special occasions we break most of the rules. I certainly would not recommend making a habit of this recipe. But it is yummy, and it reminds us of Grandma!
  • If you want to convert other gelatin recipes, the ratio to use is 1/4 oz. of gelatin will congeal 2 cups of liquid. I weighed this out, and found the 1/4 oz. to equal about two teaspoons. So, for normal gelatin recipes, 1 teaspoon of gelatin will congeal one cup of liquid. 
  • It is also pretty poured into a bundt pan or gelatin mold to make a special presentation.

One more thing: I don't care about eating "kosher". Whether some rabbi declared something to be acceptable or not, matters little to me. I do care very much, however, that I am obeying my Father and staying within the confines of that which Yahweh has called food.

That is why I avoid the pork gelatin. Kosher-Schmosher.
Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sweet Home Jerusalem

This will not appeal to everyone, but then again, neither do I, so it works to post it here. As a Southern girl, and one who prays for the peace of Jerusalem, this really hit the spot. Who knew a Skynyrd tune could be redeemed in such a cool way? I like it. HT: Lillian

Lyrics (to the tune of Sweet Home Alabama):

Eagles wings keep on flyin'
Carry me home to see The King
Singing songs about my City,
Jerusalem you're in my dreams
And I'm gonna sing, yes. (RIFF)

Well I heard the UN talk about her
But a Jewish boy won't drink this brew
Uncle Sam please remember, that
"Jerusalem won't be split in two!"

Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem
L-rd I'm coming home to you.

We're all waiting for Mashiach (OOH OOH OOH)
You can bet he's coming soon
We'll all be dancing in Jerusalem
And we'll all be singing the same tune
Now that's the truth

Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem
L-rd I'm coming home to you.


The wise men of the Holy City
They've been known to pick a song or two
They help my soul when I'm hurting
They give me joy when I'm feeling blue
Now how about you?

Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem
L-rd I'm coming home to you.

Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem
L-rd I'm coming home to you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Paper or Plastic? Definitely Plastic…

Because it is just so versatile:




Plastic grocery bag... $0.00

4 yards of lavender yarn bought at a yard sale... $0.01

Your five-year-old saying, "Mommy I made this kite all by myself!"... priceless.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Eating Fresh On A Two-Week Grocery Plan

When folks hear that I do our grocery shopping every six to eight weeks, they are often flabbergasted.  Without exception, their first gasping question is always, "How do you have fresh produce?", as if it were the Holy Grail of feeding a family. Granted, fresh produce is very healthy for us. Even conventionally grown, non-organic, pesticide-laden produce has produced good results in scientific studies. It is what was used in all the studies showing that eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables can help reduce risks of cancer and other disease. (Remember Five-A-Day?)

While I concede that the ideal situation would be to live in the garden of Eden, or as a distant second, to have our own backyard gardens with seasonal produce ripe for the harvesting four seasons of the year, ideals are rarely reality. Having our own garden supply all our produce needs for the year is our goal, but we are not there yet, and something must be done in the mean time.

Although I am about to share my plan for how to eat fresh produce without living at the grocery store, I would like to state for the record that having fresh produce all year 'round is not an inalienable right. It is simply a blessing that we have in this country - a blessing for which I am grateful.

On to the plan. Every six to eight weeks, depending on how much is going on in life, or how much company we have had, we do our stock-up grocery shopping trip. This is where I refill the pantry and freezer with any frozen fruits and vegetables and shelf-stable items like canned goods. Once a month our health food co-op delivers our meats, grains, beans and baking supplies. That just leaves the fresh produce to pick up every two weeks, which for us, looks like Mr. Visionary making a stop on his way home from work.

We shop this way because it keeps us out of the stores more (so no impulse buying), it saves trips to town (so saving time, gas and stress) and it forces frugality (we make do with what we have on hand). It is not brilliant, it is just a fruit of planning ahead.

During the first week, we focus on the fresh produce that goes bad the fastest. This is the time to eat lettuce and bananas. During the second week, we focus on the fresh things that keep a bit longer like apples and carrots.  We rotate the produce we eat seasonally, to take advantage of what is in abundant supply and cheaper during each season. That means we rarely eat fresh tomatoes and watermelon in January (they taste yucky then anyway), but instead focus on the citrus fruits, leafy greens and root vegetables that are in season. We only have pomegranates in October and November, but enjoy them fully and often while they are in season and actually affordable. Two great books that discuss eating this way are Simply In Season and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle .

Week One Produce:

Lettuces, berries, avocados, pomegranate, bananas, peaches, tomatoes, pineapple, spinach, pears, kiwi, etc.

Week Two Produce:

Carrots, celery, potatoes, cabbage, green peppers, apples, oranges, sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, refrigerated bananas (put them in the fridge during week one- they will turn black on the outside, but still be white and fresh on the inside), leafy greens like collards and kale, and romaine lettuce usually keeps well in the second week, too.

Week two can also be supplemented with frozen fruits, since they are not blanched, and are still raw. We use frozen fruit in smoothies and mixed in our yogurt. The children also like frozen banana slices with peanut butter on top as an afternoon snack.

Both weeks we supplement with lots of lacto-fermented vegetables, which are not 'fresh', but they are raw. Each week can also be supplemented with fresh sprouts grown on your kitchen counter. Alfalfa sprouts, while popular, are not good for you, so we like to make mung bean sprouts (the kind used in oriental food a lot). My kids love these lightly sauteed in butter with a sprinkle of soy sauce. They are crunchy, yummy...and fresh.

So, that is how we do it. My goal as a Mommy Chef is to serve something fresh or raw three times a day, and this is the best way I have come up with to pull it off so far. If you have other tips, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Free Health Books

I came across these books online several months ago, but unfortunately didn't print them, then the link where I found them went bad. They are available as free downloads, and this time, I really will print them. I'm sharing the link in case you could use them, too. We never can tell when they may be necessary.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wee Ones Comment on Obama

I talk a lot. When you walk a Deuteronomy 6 lifestyle, it is part of the raising children package. Life is school, and as such it is a constant barrage of questions, answers and explanations. Sometimes, though, it is interesting to get the childrens' take on what they have 'heard' during these discussions.

This morning we were discussing Obama's election again, as we have discussed little else since election day. Every topic we land upon seems to bring up the dangers of this administration. Studying Ishmael, our bible lessons bring up his name; Math lessons morph into a discussion of taxation, which morphs into a discussion of Obama; checking email, with Mercola's mention of families who homeschool to avoid mandatory immunizations brings up Obama's name, even phonics lessons involve 'The One' this one:
"No, no, Buddy, it is a long O."

"Oh, you mean like O-bama?"

(Mom rolling eyes and sighing) "Yes, Bub, like Obama."

The only other topic that has been so popular lately is the subject of immunity. We have been in a season of actively building our immune systems, discussing how dangerous it is to have them weakened and generally thinking healthy thoughts. My intention with some of these talks has been to motivate my Littles to take their cod liver oil and elderberry syrup, but it appears that the danger mentioned in one discussion and the danger mentioned in the other have melded in their young minds into a whole new form of evil.

This morning at breakfast, toward the end of another Obama talk, and during the dispensing of the aforementioned cod liver oil and elderberry syrup, our seven-year-old 'Napoleon' added in all the sincerity of a wee one,

"Yeah, and Obama  has a poor immune system, too!"

Not to be out-done, four-year-old Doodle added a comment, (the censure of which possibly only my 'Messianic' friends will totally understand and appreciate),

"And I bet he eats Kosher pork!"

Interestingly enough, their Mother did not correct either of them.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Just Say No To The Ministers of Molech

Life matters. Because it matters to me, I am following Holly's example and posting this Randy Alcorn blog post. Despite the Grace-Covers-Licentiousness doctrine speaking to the contrary, we will face a day when we will individually need to stand at Yah's judgement throne and give account. That Day compels a lot of my choices on a day-to-day basis, and my choice for President is included. Instead of seeking to "send a message to the RNC", I choose to send a message to the unborn with my vote. To not vote, is to vote for Obama. To vote for a third party candidate is to vote for Obama. McCain leaves a lot to be desired, but it is the best choice I have that I believe will actually have a chance at getting elected. When I check "McCain" on the ballot, it will be a vote against Obama and a culture that encourages infant sacrifice. I urge you to consider your answer to Yah on That Day as you cast your vote.

Edit: I am not technologically adept enough to imbed this whole post without making everything else on the blog be out-of-whack, so I am posting a link and a quote. Please don't write this off. Please go read this post at Randy's blog:

I'm Not Voting For A Man, I'm Voting For Generations Of Children And Their Right To Live by Randy Alcorn
"Every Christian should take these teachings seriously. Is the unborn an innocent human being? If you claim to be prolife in the historical meaning of the word, then your answer is yes. Is abortion the shedding of innocent blood, the taking of human life created in the image of God? If you say you are prolife, your answer must be yes. (Please do not redefine the meaning of the word prolife and say "I'm prolife" if you're really not.)

So, is the candidate’s stand on the issue of shedding innocent blood important enough to disqualify him as a candidate? Yes. While a single issue can’t qualify a candidate, it can disqualify him. In my opinion, this issue clearly disqualifies Barack Obama, just as it disqualified Republican Rudy Giuliani.

I don’t think someone is a good candidate just because he is prolife. But he cannot be a good candidate unless he is prolife. Personally, if he is committed to legalized child-killing, as a matter of conscience I must vote against him."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tabernacling Fun!

We are in the midst of the biblical Feast of Tabernacles, and have been sharing with friends some photos of our celebrations! We wanted to share with you as well, and invite you to share stories of your celebrations on your blog or in the comments below. If you post about this, please add pictures if you can, and post a link below! This feast lasts for seven days, plus a bonus eighth day, so even if you had wanted to do something for this, and have not, there is still time! I encourage you to go out and put up a sukkah (tabernacle) and enjoy the beautiful Fall weather with the children!

I'll not post about the details of what the Feast of Tabernacles (also called Sukkot or the Feast of Booths) is all about, because Lisa has already done such a great job of all that. But,  if you have ever thought:
~Why would a Christian want to celebrate those "Jewish" holidays? (hint: the Scriptures call them Yahweh's holy days)

~that Pentecost originated in the book of Acts (hint: Pentecost is the Greek name of an already established biblical feast on which exact day the Holy Spirit came)

~that Yeshua (Jesus) spoke of Living Water in an isolated incident (hint: it happened during the Feast of Tabernacles water pouring ceremony)

~or wondered what activities you could do to help your children (or yourself) understand end-times prophecy(hint: Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled all the Spring feasts during His first coming on the exact days of the feasts, and the Fall feasts prophecy His second coming in detail)

then you would benefit from studying the biblical Feasts.

Our home group has planned to be together five times during this week long celebration. Our first gathering was yesterday, and here are some shots of our get together, including my girlfriend's sukkah.

Sukkot 2008 251

Some of the ladies listening intently to some teaching. There is nothing like praying, worshipping and sharing around a campfire.

Sukkot 2008 255

That's Mr. Visionary in the cowboy hat with Babydoll in his lap, and the Engineer in the black sweatshirt.

Sukkot 2008 257

The "worship team" having a fun moment.

Sukkot 2008 258

My girlfriend's sukkah ~ with a woman's touch... so pretty.

At our house, we did not build a "traditional" sukkah, but instead, relied on the Strong's definition of Sukkah, which included the word "tent". Erected on the deck, high above the ground because of my irrational fear motherly concern about the bear, the kids call this our Sukkah City:

Sukkot 2008 229

Oops...I didn't get the hanging leaves and gourds above the tent in the picture.

Sukkot 2008 231

***I think the boys win the "Best Decorated Sukkah" award.***

We sleep in our tents all week, and if we had a larger sukkah, we'd eat in it all week. A quick trip to the dollar store helped us get supplies for decorating our sukkot. We have a Mom, Dad and twins tent, a girl tent, and a boy tent.  Mr. Visionary was glad he did not witness the kids and I folding our king sized (real bed) mattress in half to squeeze it into our tent. If you have never wrestled a mattress with your kids, I highly recommend it... it was a hoot. I can not figure out why Mr. Visionary rolled his eyes at me. It is not that I am a sissy... I did this for the twins. Really.

So anyway, post about your celebrations, and leave us a link! It will be fun to go on a Sukkah Tour!

Oh, Stink.

I just accidentally deleted the twins' birth story that I had been thinking through and editing for two months. How disheartening. I'll start again soon.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How Not To Celebrate Rosh Hashana

The feast days of YHWH often leave me with profound lessons about the Messiah and insight into His plans for us. This year, however, my lessons from Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashana) were of a more practical nature.

My currently having nine sick children and one very sick husband compel me to offer this advice. On the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashana) , when observing the command to blow the trumpet:


Next year, Yah willing, we will have one designated shofar-blower. And we'll disinfect the thing when it's over. I'm just sayin'.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Daily Doings

What I did today:

~nurse babies, change babies, burp babies, hold babies, nurse babies, rock babies, walk babies, carry babies in sling, nurse babies, comfort babies, kiss, love and snuggle babies, make my bed before dinner, pray for more sleep...

Summer 2008 159

The little lady formerly known as Baby A.






What I did yesterday:

~nurse babies, change babies, burp babies, hold babies, nurse babies, rock babies, walk babies, carry babies in sling, nurse babies, comfort babies, kiss, love and snuggle babies, make my bed before dinner, pray for more sleep...

Summer 2008 175

The little lady formerly known as Baby B.






What I did the day before that:

~nurse babies, change babies, burp babies, hold babies, nurse babies, rock babies, walk babies, carry babies in sling, nurse babies, comfort babies, kiss, love and snuggle babies, make my bed before dinner, pray for more sleep...

Summer 2008 182



Rinse and repeat retroactively to the twins' birth date.

It is a good life. I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Childbirth Prayer

prayer hands

As I was thinking over what I wanted to share about the twins' birth story, I realized that I wanted to back up a bit and share this prayer that a close girlfriend gave me a few days before the girls were born. This prayer plays a part in the story, and I didn't want the birth story post to be too long.

My girlfriend found this through what the world would consider a lucky chance encounter, but I believe she was led to it by our Father. I'll always appreciate her scribbling it down on a borrowed scrap of paper and remembering to pass it to me. Thanks Lillian.

On the Approach of Childbirth

Before she labored, she was delivered;
Before her pangs came, she bare a son!
Isaiah 66:7

Fear not, worm of Jacob,
O people of Israel,
For I will help you.
Isaiah 41:14

The hard, painful hour of delivery draws near,
And in the midst of the pains and fears
That course through me
This fervent prayer rises from the depths of my soul--
May it ascend to you, Eternal Parent!
With every pain, with every pang that seizes me,
My words die on my lips.

Only your name, Yahweh, remains alive on them
They utter this cry alone: Yahweh, my Elohim!
You who are my shield and my protector,
My comfort and my rescue,
The one who dampens my fears and my fright,
The one who embraces me in hope,
The one who is my strength--
Oh, as I raise my tearful eyes up to you, Parent of All,
May it draw your compassion down to me.

Let your mercy shelter me,
So these birth pangs do not overtake me,
So I am able to bear them with courage and strength.
Oh, that your parental grace
Might guide me safely and securely
Across this awesome threshold.
All-Compassionate One, shorten my suffering.
Let me soon achieve the joyous goal of this labor--
Let me soon enjoy a healthy, strong baby.
Yahweh, do not now recall
All my sins and missteps in life!
Forgive me and pardon me now
For all my failings before you.

In your compassion and mercy, may it be your will
That I give life to a precious new being.
Preserve my life, and be with me,
For all my hope and trust rests in you. Amen.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Two Beautiful Girls!

Ahem... a drumroll, please?

I am so sorry it has taken so long to update everyone. I had NO idea life would be in such an uproar after the twins' arrival. It has been mostly a good uproar (you know, outside of sleep deprivation and hormones swinging wildly), but WOW, how wonderful it has been!

This is a quick update to let you know that the twins have arrived safely and soundly. After weeks and weeks of praying that they wouldn't come too soon, I began to wonder if they were coming at all.

They were born Friday evening, August 15, at exactly 38 weeks gestation.

Baby A  ~  6lbs. 12 oz., 19 inches long

Baby B  ~  7 lbs. 6 oz., 21inches long

Summer 2008 101

 About 20 minutes after Baby B was born. I'm smiling as I realize that it is really over... we made it.

Summer 2008 110

 My beautiful reward after a long wait. Baruch attah Yahweh! Thank you, Abba!


I think I have finally emotionally processed the birth story enough to be able to write it out... I'll try to post it soon. But then again, if the dating of this announcement is any indication... don't hold your breath.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My Wedding Day Ride

The whole affair was a pretty haphazard business. At my tender age, experience was dreadfully lacking. In a months' time I had graduated from high school, turned 18, bought a house and was about to be married. Still in the blush of my youth (batting eyelashes here), I had only witnessed one wedding ever. Ever. And it was only a month before my own. Not much help.

So much of it was patched-up and thrown together at the last minute that any original plans were long forgotten. The night before the wedding, when asked, "Where are the programs?", my answer of, "What are programs?" should have been a sign that all was not well in the planning department. After breaking into the church past midnight to create and print the programs (we had permission, but no keys), the next morning was nothing less than zany. All those visions of a leisurely breakfast saying goodbye to the family were not to be. Instead, folks were rushing hither and yon and the phone was ringing off the hook. When it was my turn to take a shower, things were just settling down a bit.

Stepping out of the shower, it was eerily quiet in the house as I realized I was the only one there. It seemed that everyone assumed that someone else was taking the bride to the church. Mr. Visionary had my car, and there were no other cars home. No one was answering the church phone, and those were the days before everyone five years old and over had their own cell phones. After a half hour of frantic and futile phone calls to find someone (anyone) to drive me to the church, I finally gave up. My best laid plans were long since wrecked, and my last minute I'll-Think-Myself-Out-Of-This-Bind efforts failed as well. I was down to, "Father, if you want me to be married today, you'll need to send me a ride," which is really where I should have started.

Mr. Visionary reminded me of this story this afternoon, as I was nervously trying to think myself out of another bind. My desire for a home birth this pregnancy was overruled by nature of it being twins. No midwife would attend a twin birth at our home, forty minutes from the closest hospital, and I wouldn't feel comfortable with it, either. However, a hospital birth requires planning in the area of childcare and transportation for the laboring woman (namely Me). Therein lies the rub.

Mr. Visionary works a minimum of an hour away from home four days a week. My midwife and OB have both instructed me not to mess around, and to expect a quick labor. My labors aren't terribly long anyway (usually six hours or way less), and twin labors are known for being much shorter than "normal". If I should labor while Mr. Visionary is at work, I will need someone to take me to the hospital and someone else to stay with the children. Both of these somebodies will need to be fairly close to where I live, which is a huge obstacle in itself- I don't have many friends that live close.

My worrier nature wants to remember that my labor with the Dreamer was just over two hours, that I am already dilated several centimeters, that my first childcare plan will not be available because of her having a boatload of company coming in this week, and that I cannot drive while in labor. That is just the beginning of my list. I can think of plenty more while laying awake timing contractions.

Back to the wedding day story. When I finally gave back to Yahweh the burden of deciding how it would all work out, it did. The phone rang, and some friends from out of town were calling to see if there was anything they could do. They picked me up, and the show went on... on time even.

Mr. Visionary reminds me that the same will happen in this situation -Yahweh will provide... and that it too, will be right on time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Encouraging News

There are many factors to which I could attribute the good news: a healthy diet, plenty of rest, good hydration, those wonderful homemade vitamins, the blessing of midwifery care, or a host of other miscellaneous factors. My heart tells me, however that there is only one factor in the end. Yahweh has been merciful to me, and His grace is abundant.

Yesterday's ultrasound showed that our babies are 5lb 3oz, and 6lb 6 oz at 34.5 weeks. Do the math if you would like, or take my word that it is a lot of baby to be carrying around. At this stage, they usually put on about a half pound per week each, but I'm trying not to think of all that. Add in the extra two pounds for two placentas, and I don't wonder at my being so tired... or my walking like a duck... a barefooted duck on sharp gravel, even.

I am weary of waiting, but eager to have these babies "cook" as long as possible. When I am exhausted, and wanting labor to begin (but feeling guilty because it is too soon), the only comfort I have is knowing with a certainty that Yahweh is in control. I was reminded of this anew last night, as my sister in law was rushed to the hospital for an emergency c-section because of toxemia. He declared the end from the beginning, and He himself knit these little ones together in my womb.

The timing is all His. I was sure last night that I would have accidentally started labor because of stress, but it was not to be. You see, as I was resting, and looking out the window, a full sized black bear just walked by my window. While my boys were outside playing in the yard. I ran to the door, screamed for the boys, then almost fainted when they walked casually in mentioning that the bear was only 12 feet from them.

I don't have a lot of experience with bears (read that NONE), and never thought I'd need it where we live (we are not that rural, you know). But, as a shameless plug for homeschooling, my kids educated me after the fact that black bears aren't dangerous if you just stay out of their way. They found this out on their own just from reading all the field guides we have laying around. If they were in "school" all day, they never would have had time to educate themselves or their Mom on this important matter.

So, let the record show that I can now scratch off of the list black bears walking through the front yard as a possible means of starting labor. Now we know.

I'll keep you posted on any new developments... or anything else we can scratch off said list.
Summer 2008 052
My sister in law & Me comparing belly sizes. She was 36 weeks here, and I was 32 weeks.

Bill & Tracy, Congratulations on a beautiful baby girl! You done good, Momma!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quick Update

My best intentions keep getting overshadowed by either the size of my belly (which is measuring 47 cm.) or my lack of energy, which is why I haven't posted anything. My computer was also out of commission for a few weeks, but that is not a great excuse because I could have used Mr. Visionary's.

Anyway, I am at 34 weeks and counting. Counting contractions, counting trips to the potty, counting the minutes that go by while I lay wide awake at night trying to sleep... counting down the days.

All is well with Momma and the babies: weight is great, blood pressure is great, etc. I have an ultrasound tomorrow morning to check these little folks' weight, and I will update better afterwards. Really. I will... if Yahweh wills it and the creeks don't rise.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Politeness Revisited & Catching Up

Just when I thought I was doing fine with not feeling obligated to blog, I learned a reason why I should - at least every once in a while - check in with some manner of post. My Mom and Sisters-In-Law have convinced me that it just is not proper that I leave them hanging to wonder if I have either died or moved to Israel without saying goodbye. Alas, a post as proof that at least the first of their worst case scenarios is unfounded.

I will catch you up in random order:

~Currently at 29 weeks and counting, I have been put on modified bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. For every two hours of my being up and about, I have to be horizontal for two hours. My being old and experienced at this whole birthing thing has led to some factors that can make carrying twins to term a bit more challenging. Add in a houseful of lively offspring, 100 degree days with 70% humidity, and farm animals with minds of their own, and the words change from challenging to We-could-use-a-miracle-here. My midwife and her OB have given me two goals. The first is to make it to 32 weeks, which, among other things, would eliminate my need to go to the university hospital over an hour away to birth. The second goal is to make it to 37 weeks, at which point the babies would be considered 'term'. Per the midwife, "Between 32 and 37 weeks, we will be grateful for every week we get."

~Mr. Visionary and I have been wrestling. Our first listing on our house has expired, and as much as we feel led to sell this home to remove the last hindrance to our being out of debt, it seems insane to think of trying to show our house - much less pack and move - with circumstances such as they are. We are contemplating pushing pause on this ride.

~I have gotten all the herbal medicine I could reasonably assume we might need for the next year completely made. (Cough drops, tinctures, tea mixtures, and a supply of bulk herbs for poultices and miscellaneous things that come up.) Now all of my main ingredient herbs are tinctured in large enough quantities to last for a while. I keep all my tinctures made as single-herb tinctures so that whenever I need a special formula for a certain strain of illness, I can custom mix it in smaller quantities. The most important to me is the afterpains tincture, since I can't take any pain meds after the birth, and Motrin only goes so far. I also got a ton of herbal salves that we use often made up. (If you haven't yet bought TN Farmgirl's Medicinal Herb Course, you may want to. That is where I learned to make all this groovy stuff!)

~ I got 99% of the fall/winter clothes purchased for the children, because I don't expect to be doing much shopping when the twins are small. The Spring stuff may need to be prayed in, depending on how well I adjust to having the twins here.

~ I have just about given up on making any more freezer meals. I just can't manage any more bulk cooking. I am still trying to double up here and there to put away at least one meal at a time. I am using my "up time" on the weekends to get meals made for the week while Mr. Visionary is here to run interference (read: keep the boys out of the kitchen).

~ Except for midwife appointments, I have canceled any trips to town for say, the next six months. Even before the bed rest issue came up I had announced to Mr. Visionary that I was done with trips to town. When you shop as infrequently as we do, the shopping days are looong, so as to make the trip more efficient, but it makes for a long day for the pregnant lady. Even if I got through a shopping day intact, I felt like I had been hit by a truck for the next two days and needed long naps just to get through. It just isn't worth it. Mr. Visionary and the children do an awesome job with the grocery list all by themselves. Yes, he does take all seven children shopping for a month's worth of groceries at a time - and they even remember stuff I forgot to add to the list.

~ I have a confession. Rather than being frustrated by having to rest so much, I am finding myself ever-so-glad when it is time to go down again. I had no idea I would be so tired. Every once in a while I feel compelled to stay up longer to finish "this last little thing", but the children are too well trained. They know all they have to do is call Dad and he will fuss at me to go lay down. Really, when I think of how vulnerable these tiny ones are, it makes it easy to do the right thing. My spirit is being quieted and humbled in ways I could not have imagined. It is all good.

I'll try to be more diligent about getting the laptop out during my "down time" and keeping you updated proving that I am still alive. Thanks for the lecture encouragement, Mom! I love you!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Preliminary Steps

One thing we have been walking through as we work toward our goals, is the idea that nothing happens overnight. For every plan, there are preliminary steps that have to happen to make the end turn out properly. The bigger the plan, the more prerequisite steps.

In order to go to Israel, we have to first sell our farm and home. In order to move away from our farm and home, there are many steps that have to be done first as well. The less we leave for the last minute, say, after a contract is signed, the smoother things should go. At least this has been our thinking.

One large question that had to be determined is where exactly we would live after selling our home. It is a question that is yet to be answered. Since we have to live *somewhere*, we planned to buy a motor home to live in while we scout for property, and set up our new home in the States... wherever it happens to be. (Remember, we have to have *some* home in the States because Israel will not allow us to stay in the country longer than 90 days at a time.) But, since we only operate with cash, not debt (well, except for this house for now...), something else had to be liquidated to be able to purchase the motor home.

We got the blessed opportunity last weekend to meet half of a husband-wife blogging team whose blog Three Fold Cord, we really enjoy. They are real-life close personal friends of one of our real-life personal friends, and they bought Mr. Visionary's tractor. It was a blessing to have the tractor go to someone we knew had some of the same values as far as raising the family and farming, but it was also good to just have that part of the plan marked off the list.

Goodie basket from Julie @Three Fold Cord

Julie from Three Fold Cord sent us this yummy basket of goodies. As if buying the tractor wasn't enough!


Mr. Visionary & Michael from Three Fold Cord

Mr. Visionary & Michael from Three Fold Cord ~ they're smiling still because they haven't started loading up all the pieces-parts.



Loading up the tracor attachments

All the children got in on the loading action, too.




The plan involved having the proceeds from the tractor earmarked to buy the motor home. Preliminary steps, you know. Mr. Visionary had been doing research for months to determine what kind of motor home we would get, cost estimates, pros, cons, and plenty of mechanical details that I don't pretend to understand. In other words, when the tractor sold, he was ready to move on to the next step. Meanwhile, I was still waiting for the twins thing to sink in. The next step happened faster than I had guessed.


This weekend, Mr. Visionary pulled this into the driveway:


During all his research, he had determined that a bus converted into a motor home (rather than a factory-made motor home) would be a better choice for us, as they are sturdier, ride steadier, and, most importantly for me... have plenty of storage space underneath:

Ahhh... storage space!


We'll have to be very creative to make it work having eleven people living in this space. The Word promises food and raiment, not necessarily spaciousness. Remembering that it is a step towards a greater goal will help.

First view inside


Looks like the conversion process has already begun...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Quick Question

Anybody else get this after asking, "Honey, will you please encourage the boys to get their morning chores done quickly?"

Spring 2008

Who knew that an impromptu wrestling match was the proper response? Apparently these guys hear and speak a completely different language than us girls. (And Doodle just can't resist a little danger.)


I think I've been schooled. The boys got their chores done in record time... even including the wrestling.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Large Families and Twins ~ Part Three

This is Part Three of a series with advice for large families who are expecting twins. You may read Part One Here and Part Two Here.
Some practical thoughts from Susanna:

Don't put any preparations off! I cannot stress this strongly enough! Start now and feel urgent about it! Do the most physical tasks first and work your way down to the least physical. For instance, go from making freezer meals & shopping, to sewing, to setting up and organizing baby supplies - and save planning/writing activities for later on - lists, schedules, etc.

Freezer meals! What worked very well for me was to plan one or two "sessions" a week. I would make 3X a recipe, freeze two and serve one for supper that night. We can get disposable aluminum 9x13 pans at the Dollar Tree two for a dollar. Label each casserole or bucket of soup with its contents and simple clear instructions for preparation so you aren't necessary for that part later on. Keep a list on the fridge with what meals you made on each date so that you can eat them somewhat in order. This works better than dating the meals themselves. Post-partum, save those meals for when you aren't getting any more from others & try to stretch them out as long as you can, saving them for extra-busy days. Ours lasted until the babies were almost five months old, and I was able to get the summer sewing (easy one-hour T-shirt dresses) done for the girls before the meals ran out. You will be SO thankful for EVERY meal you freeze! I encouraged myself with this thought while making all those meals in the summer heat!  By the way, this plan worked so well that I still plan a freezer meal session every three or four weeks, but now we have more and bigger eaters, so I make 4X a recipe and put three away! This method fit well into normal life and wasn't overwhelming until I couldn't physically manage it anymore and Dh told me to stop.

Baby supplies: Only use cloth diapers if someone other than you is completely in charge of laundering them. This holds true until the twins are sleeping through the night at the minimum. Also, don't skimp on baby supplies. It will save you valuable TIME to have very big stacks of burp cloths, onesies, stretch suits, receiving blankets, sheets and waterproof pads - anything that you use often and gets dirtied fast. The waterproof pads are great to put in the bassinettes under their bottoms, so if their diapers leak, it is contained, and you don't have to change the sheet, too. I'd never bothered with them before the twins. My babies spit up a lot the first few months, and if they spit up on one end of their sheet, I'd just lay them the other way until that side was dirtied, too. I hope you are as blessed with lots of good thrift stores in your area as we are in ours! We didn't lack any supplies we needed when the real test came. I did, however, have too many socks - they don't get dirty fast! Borrow what you can - clothing, bassinette, sheets - especially what you only need shorter term.

Try to set everything up that you will need for their care in as compact a place as you can, to save steps. You will get to the point where you are grateful for even 5 minutes saved so you can lie down that much sooner. We put everything in our bedroom: Along one wall was the changing table (we found for $12 at a yard sale and which we're still using) with a large diaper stacker (given to me) hanging at the left end and a pocket organizer (found for $1 at a thrift store) hanging on the right end. To the immediate right was a wheeled four tier metal cart with wipes, etc. on the top. To the right of the cart sat our Dekor diaper disposal system - like a Diaper Genie, but with greater capacity. (My husband put his foot down about cloth diapers and said that we would economize somewhere else!) Along another wall we set up a loveseat (30% off at a thrift store) for nursing the babies. It is soft and comfy and has a back high enough for me to lean my head against and thick enough for me to stack burp cloths on! I needed a long-term, comfortable solution to the HOURS and HOURS I would spend sitting and nursing them - tandem, of course, to save time and stimulate better milk production. This tandem nursing is impossible to do discreetly, so our rule was: only girls allowed in; boys had to talk to me through the bedroom door! (We got used to it!) I put a small pillow in the middle of the loveseat for back support and a bed pillow along each arm. To nurse them, I would lay them side by side on our bed, strap on the twin Boppy pillow (indispensible to me - It is wider all around than a regular Boppy and has wide velcro straps in the back. I found it at a twin yard sale for $3), adjust my shirt for nursing, scoop up the left hand baby, then the right hand one, back up like a Mack truck (beep, beep, beep) and sink gratefully into the loveseat with my feet propped on a nursing stool (given to me.) The bed pillows supported the sides of the Boppy. After getting them started nursing if necessary, I was hands-free. I didn't start this until they were both nursing at 6 1/2 weeks. Probably I would not have been hands-free for the first weeks, I'm guessing? I had a floor lamp and small stand to my right, and my Dear Husband found a small hospital-style bed table that sat to my front right as I sat there. I could write thank you notes (stock up on these now!), letters and other things, reach the phone (but because the door was closed, I only used this if I had to, as the older boys often needed to talk with me), my BIG water cup, healthy snacks, books to read tissues, lanolin (I did get sore, but not for long and the lanolin helped), etc. etc.

I don't think I would have been able to nurse them so thoroughly (I didn't start solids until they were about 7 months) and so long-term (until they were 14 1/2 months and I weaned them for the sake of this next one) if I hadn't had such a workable situation set up. For it to be sustainable, I had to be able to multi-task, I had to be comfortable (I tend toward back trouble), and I had to have privacy.

Scheduling - Along with training the children in more food prep tasks, they should be trained to do the laundry if they aren't already. Other skills to teach: changing sheets, ironing, outside work, care of the younger ones. Try not to do anything that the children could be doing - stick to what only you can do. Even if you get outside help, you will need to depend on your children to keep the basics happening - they will not be spoiled by others' help!

Don't try to "do school" until the babies are sleeping through the night, unless they are completely independent, and it's not keeping them from helping with the household needs during that time. Make up a schedule for after the birth with all necessary chores assigned. Don't try to get creative - assign them the basics they've reasonably mastered and give the same children the same tasks for the duration. If they are doing the same things at the same times each day, this will cut down on the number of reminders that will be needed. There will be time for variation later! If some of the children work better together, assign them together. If some do better widely separated - keep them separate. You want this to be as workable as possible. There will still be plenty of opportunities to learn character and to get along with each other without going out of your way during this high-stress time period to set them up! Assign older ones to keep the younger ones on track, including helping them at mealtimes, pottying, toothbrushing, reading aloud, having them pick up after themselves, dressing them, etc.

For instance, right now my oldest son is in charge of laundry Monday to Wednesday (the girls fold and put away) and my second son is in charge of our 2 1/2 year old those days. Then Thursday to Saturday, they switch tasks. This is, of course, in addition to their other daily chores. My third son is gifted with growing things and he does lots of our outside work. I don't combine children for kitchen clean-up - the same child clears and wipes the table, sweeps the floor, empties the dish drainer, and stacks and wipes the dishes. Right now my younger daughter does breakfast, my older daughter does lunch, and my third son does supper.

Take your thank yous as seriously as you should take your need for help. Thank everyone specifically and sincerely for whatever they put into your family during this time, no matter how small. If you neglect to do this, they will feel taken advantage of, even if they told you not to write a thank you note. Do it anyway! I kept a running list of anyone who helped, with their address and what they did for us, meals, gifts, etc., with a box in front of each person that I checked off when the thank you note was sent.

If you can find out the babies' genders ahead of time, this can be a huge help in preparing, as you won't be forced to find appropriate clothes before you feel ready for it, which may be later rather than sooner! My previous boys had not left much behind them, but we got all the clothes ahead of time that we needed for the twins' first 6 months (plus a start on the next size/season), and I was so grateful for this later! Before they were born, I went to one great "twin yard sale" and all my trusty thrift stores! I got some matching sets for public appearances, as our boys are not identical, but mostly we just needed more boys' clothes. We don't have wealthy or spendthrift friends, and the gifts we received would not have been nearly sufficient. If I'd had a boy and girl, what I had stored away would have been enough, I'm sure.

I am wondering if you are planning a home or hospital birth, and how prepared you would be for a C-section. I developed pre-eclampsia (thank the Lord it was not severe, and not until near the end, hence the bedrest to keep it under control) and both twins were solidly transverse from at least 32 weeks on. After six homebirths with our wonderful midwife, the twins were born C-section. This was very hard for me emotionally later on, as I hadn't really accepted the possibility personally. It would be wise, even if you are planning a home birth, to have everything ready in case you need to transfer to the hospital.

One more thing:

My first and strongest recommendation unless you're in the last month or so of pregnancy is to get a copy of Dr. Barbara Luke's book on expecting multiples, and one of Elizabeth Noble's book, "Having Twins." (I liked the older edition of the latter book better - the newer one had weird stuff in it about pre-birth memories.) Many twin books emphasize the time after the twins are born, but these two have tremendously important information about having a healthy twin pregnancy that you really need to have as soon as possible. An acquaintance with 2 year old twins (# 9 and 10 in the family) gave me the Dr. Luke book. When I found out twins were on the way, I remembered her twins were born at term, and both were over 7 pounds, and that she'd followed a special twin diet, and when I called and asked her what specifically she'd done, she wanted me to have her copy of this book! At my 6 week post-partum check-up, I bequeathed my copy to my midwife, then regretted not having it to loan out, so I bought another one. I would be happy to loan it to you if that would help you, and you could keep it for the whole pregnancy. It tells very specifically how many servings of each kind of food you should get every day, according to which trimester you're in. My son made up slips of paper for me with each food category and space for my tally marks, and I used one a day to keep track of my servings, then threw them away. There are several helpful charts in the book that you can photocopy. The actual food choices they recommended were not as healthy as what we eat (especially with white flour and refined sugar), but knowing the servings of the different categories were so helpful, as was so much of the rest of the book. I tend to put off eating as the least important task in life. I know I would have fallen far short of what would've been good for the babies without that practical information. Since we don't have a large income, my diet was less varied than I liked, and I got very tired of eating by the end! BUT I felt fully rewarded when I saw those healthy boys! The dr. said I was 37 weeks 1 day when they were born, but I know I was actually 36 weeks 2 days. (You know how those things can go.) The boys weighed 7 lbs. and 6 lbs. 13 oz. Your goal is to grow the babies to the same healthy sizes they would be if you carried them one at a time. There is no genetic reason twins are almost always growth retarded - it is caused by insufficient diet and the mom not getting sufficient rest, and burning off what should be going to grow the babies. I gained more weight than they said I would on that diet, but it was almost exactly what my friend had gained, and we both lost it all by six months postpartum - nursing two really helped!

It is more important than you can imagine right now that they are born as close to full term as possible. Caring for infant twins is enough of a challenge when they are born healthy and strong at full term, and adding any complications such as insufficient outside help, heavy responsibilities toward other children and the general household, NICU stays, nursing difficulties (common when babies are even a little early), insufficient preparations (including needed supplies and organized-ness) for the realities of caring for them, C-section recovery, etc. etc. can quickly make the situation completely overwhelming. One of the mistakes I made was that I REALLY didn't think I would run into any of these problems - they're for other people, and I didn't read those sections of the books very carefully! We didn't face all those difficulties, but we did face some of them. But somewhere early in the pregnancy, I realized that I simply could not use the excuse that I was too busy to rest properly or was tired of eating properly, because the two most helpless and needy people in the family were depending on me to take this seriously, and put a priority on caring for them. It was hardest in regards to my toddler, still a baby himself in many ways. But he and I cuddled a lot with me resting on my left side and reading to him, and he got more of me that way than he might have if I was my usual busy self.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Large Families and Twins ~ Part Two

This is Part Two in a series with advice for large families who are expecting twins. You can read Part One Here.

Susanna's family was arranged like this at the time their twins were born: their other children were Boy 13, Boy 11, Boy 9.5, Girl 7.5, Girl almost 5, and Boy 14 months. Here is more of her advice for Twin Mommies with a house full.
During this time, just the mental pressure of having to think about where all the children were, what they were doing, what they were supposed to be doing and what I needed to do about it, took more from me than I had to give. This was wintertime and we have a very small house and don't use the TV or movies for babysitters, and we tried to keep up the homeschooling until the birth and start it up again a month afterward.

My mom went to be with the Lord in 1994, and she would have been my best helper - she started with twins and went on to have 9 children altogether. She was a very godly and wise and hardworking lady. Our church is elderly and small and 40 minutes away. My mother-in-law has allowed herself to get very obese and she's very self-centered and lazy, so even though we live next door to them, we received little help from her other than taking the other children while I was in the hospital. She said she hardly needed to do anything for them - they took care of everything themselves. My siblings that I'm close to all live very far away, and all our friends were pre-occupied with their own families.

Some did their best and some honestly let us down. It really is the grace of God in my heart that I am good friends with them now, as I struggled very much with resentment over this. I felt like a starving man who had to watch others eat a big meal in his presence without offering him any. I knew what the normal busy-ness of life was that they were facing, and I knew they were not trying to understand what we were going through. God has used this in our family since then to give us a strong desire to help people He brings across our path at the time they need it and not if/when it becomes convenient for us. Also, He showed us that we had neglected to pursue relationships with other families - we had no community, and since then He has opened up many opportunities that are still ongoing. So He used our troubles to bring good into our lives.

This is what I would do differently now that I know what it's like, if I had it to do again. I would approach one of my friends who is somewhat organized and willing, and ask her to be our Help Organizer (hereafter referred to as H.O.). I would give her a list of all potential helpers and their phone numbers, NOT email addresses. I've found that it's just human nature to ignore calls for help unless they are made personally, one on one. Make another list for your H.O. that includes all the tasks people could help with. Here's the suggested "script" for your H.O. to use: "I'm organizing help for Julie and her family - here's what they need - what would you be able to do to help them?" (NOT "Julie asked me if you could help"!) I'm acting as the H.O. for a friend right now. I've also recruited someone to be a H.O. for another friend who was too shy to ask herself. (Perhaps your husband would be able to make this phone call for you.) This method really works. I wish I had used it myself. For most of us, it is just impossible to ask for help, and this way, someone is being your advocate.

Here's a partial list to get you started, and please don't discount any of it without very careful thought. What you don't realize now is that normally small tasks will become HUGE. And remember that you will later regret any pickiness or pride on your part. This will only be for a limited period of time - eating less than healthily or having someone clean the floors with the bathroom cleaner or dress the little ones in mis-matched clothing or show them Veggie Tales videos will not make any difference later, but that help at that time will be worth more than gold. Resist the temptation to show everyone how much you can handle by yourself - you, your babies and your whole family will pay for it. If you are at all like me, you will be tempted to play the martyred heroine, but it is not worth it, because you will not just hurt yourself. I'm being brutally honest here!

Housecleaning - give specific tasks, for instance: Choose one: 1. Oven/stove 2. Fridge/freezer 3. Bathrooms 4. All floors in house 5. Under kitchen sink 6. Fingerprints/cobwebs/radiators & baseboards 7. Stickiness on all kitchen surfaces (cupboards, drawers, fridge, etc.) You get the idea. Leaving all this to the mercy of your children for weeks means you'll be facing it all in a couple of months, with very little available time to do anything other than the basic necessities.

Ironing - the girls and I wear skirts and dresses and my DH wears button shirts for work - 'nough said! My mother-in-law actually did this for us for two months (the only help she offered, unfortunately because she could do it at her house while watching soap operas - but what a wonderful help it was)!!

Food Shopping - Stopping at the grocery store for a few things on their way to visit you and your babies is a much-appreciated help that most people would be happy to do for you. If you shop at any out of the way specialty stores, like health food stores or bent and dent stores, let your H.O. know which of the folks on your list also shop there, so she can ask them for this service.

Children - Take your younger DC to a playground for the afternoon and clean them up afterward. Don't be too picky about naps or grass stains. Also, it's more helpful to have one older child home with you to save you steps. They can take turns doing this.

Laundry - Stain treat, launder & fold several loads of laundry, and while waiting for loads to run, oversee meals & naps & read to the children. Alternatively, they could take your laundry to their house.

Meals - More than one per person if possible, like one a month for three months. Do not be too picky here, as that really puts people off. Try to make it rewarding for them to help you. Ask them for their recipe if something is especially good.

Staple Food Prep - often overlooked, but so, so helpful - yeast bread, quick bread, bran and other muffins, granola, etc. You can give the H.O. your recipes for the volunteers to use if appropriate, and even the ingredients, if they have time, but not money to spare. Or it may be easier for someone to come to your house to make them.

A few thoughts on Dear Husband: I learned the hard way that I needed to make the extra effort to smile and thank him for everything he did to help, even when I was exhausted and weepy (which stage lasted several weeks for me). It's very easy to turn against each other under the enormous load and allow resentments to build up. Also, he had trouble before the birth imagining the postpartum time, and he downplayed the stories I'd heard. This encouraged me to do the same, and consequently, we were not really prepared for the intensity of what we would face. Now we know better!!! Now he's very enthusiastic about any and every opportunity I/we get to help other families that need it, especially twin situations.

In case this is scaring you, let me say that after the twins started nursing and sleeping through the night at 6 1/2 weeks (and I got more than the 4 1/2 broken hours of sleep out of every 24 hours that I'd gotten since their birth) the joy and fun began! Of course it is hard work, but so fun! All the horror stories I'd heard about months and months of sleepless nights and foggy days moving right into twin toddler terrors have simply not happened here. Many mothers who are ordinarily opposed to the idea of a routine for their babies are very receptive to it with twins, for the sake of keeping everyone sane! I've heard three types of stories. 1. "Wish I'd worked harder at establishing a routine...there was chaos for months on end..." 2. "We wouldn't have survived without a good routine...the routine helped my twins sleep through the night at 6 (or 8, or 10) weeks..." 3. (From moms who had no other children or who had live-in help for the long-term) "All I did for months was nurse babies...they still won't sleep all night at 10 (or 12 or 15) months..."

You may be one of those who is violently opposed to the idea, and if so, just take this as a charitable attempt to pass along what has been invaluable to me. If you are not opposed, but haven't ever tried it, I would highly recommend "Babywise" as a good place to start. We used the basic principles from "Babywise" for all 8 of ours and all of them slept through the night by eight weeks. It took twice as much effort with the twins, but I knew it would pay off doubly later, and it did! People who are unfamiliar with how the "Babywise" routine works think it means that you let your baby scream until the clock says it's feeding time. Nothing could be further from the truth! In reality, you are meeting your babies' need to eat before they have to ask for it, while gradually guiding their sleeping and eating into a predictable pattern. Almost all "Babywise" babies sleep through the night on their own by ten weeks, especially when the mother has been consistent from day one and guided the baby away from habits like snacking, catnaps, or sleep props. It doesn't take long for my babies to learn to love their beds when they are sleepy! It is not complicated - just a few simple things to remember - but everyone I've ever known in real life who has used it (at least 10 that I can think of quickly) has been so thankful for it, especially those who had previously tried it the other way and had long-term sleep issues to deal with later. By the way, it does include a chapter on multiples written by a mother of twins, triplets, and two singletons.

[Note from Julie ~ I  *do* normally cringe at the mention of "Babywise" materials (no links here... Google/research and come to your own conclusion, but we'll not discuss it on the blog). Having been a lactation counselor who was a  successful nursing Momma of many and being a past "Growing Kids God's Way" participant, I never felt that the two would mesh well. I am still not ready to drastically switch gears in my philosophy on nursing babies (which, incidentally is exactly in line with Shonda Parker's that is outlined in both _Mommy Diagnostics_ and _Naturally Healthy Pregnancy_), but I realize that having twins is a place I have never walked before, and that more structure may be necessary. I will play it by ear, taking cues from my Little Ones and my body. I mention this because I personally must remember that disagreeing with one issue is not reason enough to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Susanna has walked in a hard place that I have not yet, and I am wanting to be humble enough to listen.]

You mentioned having lots of people trained to change diapers. I much preferred to soak in time with the babies, care for them myself, and give them lots of loving. I didn't want them to get less of Mommy just because they were born together! I had my helpers (mostly my children) do other tasks. My time priorities went from youngest to oldest. The younger you are, the more slowly time seems to go. For our older ones, the whole 10 weeks of the worst time went fairly quickly. Does this make sense? Also, even when I still had to pump and bottle feed, I tried to do as much of the feeding skin to skin as I could manage. (This is also good for milk production hormones.) I just crammed as much affection as I could into every trip to the changing table or crib and into every diaper change - all the necessary stuff, since I didn't have the luxury of just sitting with them for very long! Actually, this seems obvious, but during the worst time, I was so exhausted that it took special effort.

Part Three to follow...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Large Families and Twins ~ Part One

Every time a new circumstance occurs in life, I feel compelled to do new research. It is my signature move. Funky worm on the tomato plants? Research. Unidentified stain on the carpet? Research. Illness? Rash? Research. Twins? Research.

My modus operandi regarding the twins phenomenon involved asking (discreetly- as I didn't want to get flamed!) on the MOMYS Digest for Moms who had twins after already having a houseful of children, to contact me. (The MOMYS digest is for Moms who have had at least four children in eight years or less, in order to share practical help for women who have children fairly close together.) Since any responders would have lived to tell about it, I figured that these women were the ones to ask.

One Mom in particular was extremely helpful. She acted much like a beloved best friend who would sit you down on the couch, point her finger gently in your face and give you a strong word... in love. Her advice came just hours before my meeting with the midwife for the first time since discovering I was carrying twins. That one e-mail, along with that one meeting with the midwife and our discussions following, have drastically altered the direction of our family during the next few months. This thing is far bigger than I had imagined.

With my history of some early deliveries, my status as an "elderly grand multipara" (a fancy way of saying that I have had several children and I am now considered old) and our desire to not have twins in the NICU, the midwife's strict instructions involved, "Three up, one down". After every three hours of being up and active, I am expected to rest horizontally for a full hour. I was told to be glad, as this was a concession based on our lifestyle with a house full... she normally requires "Two up, one down." Talk about forced scheduling, this is it. (Now where'd I put that MOTH schedule?)

I want to share some of the advice I received from the MOMYS, as I have found very little in my searching for help for families who already have a large family before twins arrive. Much like Holly shared about children with Shingles because of how little she was able to find, I want this information to be out there somewhere for other families who may be looking. Susanna in particular, was a wealth of advice on this topic ~ for Moms expecting twins as well as others who may know someone having twins ~ that I want to share her e-mail in full.

I will split her letter up into several parts, but here is the intro:
Dear Julie,

I'm going to be straightforward in hopes that you'll take it seriously and avoid some of the avoidable problems ahead!

There was only one thing that I didn't do that I should have done, that every single twin book or article told me to do, and every single other twin mom told me was most important. I did everything else right, but the lack of this one thing made the whole experience almost nightmarish for the three weeks I was on bed rest before the birth and the almost seven weeks postpartum until they both began nursing and sleeping through the night. We were desperate for help. My husband's three weeks off following the birth was ludicrously insufficient for the needs of the household. I wish I would have taken all that counsel seriously. I was too sensitive to others' seeming reluctance to help, too proud to let most people see our household in need (messy or dirty, including children!), too hesitant to ask for help in even modest amounts, especially if I was sure they would think we were just having too many children if we couldn't handle it ourselves. I think my reputation also hurt me. Nobody was close enough to realize the trouble we were having, and when I did attempt to verbalize how things were going ("I feel like we're drowning..."), I think they didn't really believe that the capable Susanna really needed help - I was just being too picky and unwilling to let things go for a while or something. We simply have not faced such tremendous stress before or since...

Stay tuned for Part Two...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Martyrs, Henty and Matthew 18

Whenever the children come to me wanting to tattle, I encourage them to try to motivate or encourage their sibling to do the right thing, before ever coming to Mom. "Don't jump the gun on the Matthew 18 thing... go through step one before step two." It seems like a good plan most of the time, and often I am pleasantly surprised to see the level of diplomacy with which situations can be resolved by the children without any outside intervention.

However... I'm thinking I should be a bit more specific about what constitutes "motivation".

Spring 2008 033

It appears that our Little Napoleon was refusing to clean his side of the room. An interesting mixture of martyr stories, Henty novels and little boy imaginations.  

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Plot Thickens…

I hate to read them at night. I never get a pinch of sleep. Those books with so many twists and turns in the plot that draw you deeper and still deeper into the complex lives of the characters make me edgy. When will their lives settle down into a logical pattern? When can I stop holding my breath as I await the next page? Most importantly, how... oh HOW will I ever keep up with all the author-invented storyline contortions that seem to have no other purpose than to keep my mind busy trying to figure out where this is all going? It can be dizzying.

There is an Author I know whose story lines I deliberately attempt to not try to decipher. I can never guess accurately, and I often waste much time and emotional energy in the figuring. I am not always successful in keeping my mind from "going there" , but I make it a point to get back on the wagon as soon as I am caught in the act of wondering worrying trying to figure Him out. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts and His ways higher than my ways. No question. Just because it is a given doesn't mean I don't forget...

Early in this pregnancy, I wondered aloud about why I was experiencing such a drastic increase in the degree of morning-noon-and-night sickness compared to previous pregnancies. I was out of commission, and it was humbling. I was sure it was Father's way of showing me how much I needed to depend on Him... Every. Moment. Of. Every. Day.

When at fourteen weeks I began having contractions, severe edema and anemia more pronounced than usual, I sensed the need to revamp our daily schedule to accommodate my needing to prop up my feet in the afternoons. I began making dinner after breakfast each day, resting with my preschooler in the afternoons, and going to bed earlier. I've seen this plot line before. YHWH is a God of order, and this was surely the message I was supposed to be getting through my circumstances.

When my fatigue level never lessened as I strolled out of the first trimester, I made myself a homemade prenatal supplement, a daily chart as a checklist of all the nutritional bases I needed to cover in a day, and bribed encouraged the children to help me make sure I was getting in enough fluids. "Hey, you guys... we get a quarter every time we bring Mom her drink and get her to drink some!" Without a doubt, being purposeful was the name of the game and the lesson. I could read the hand writing on the wall.

When my belly was outgrowing the clothes that normally fit during this season of pregnancy, I dutifully got out my sewing machine and made a few things that would last longer. I began praying for an increase of the fruit of the Spirit to be manifest in my life, because the idea that self control was lacking in my diet occurred to me to be the lesson I was supposed to learn from this particular plot curve ball. This plot deciphering was getting easier and more predictable as I went along.

Sometimes when reading an author's story, I can jump ahead of them and guess what is coming next. It is a bit of a game to see if I am right. I had this whole thing figured out, I was sure. YHWH was trying to use all these object lessons to teach me and to mold my character in to the woman He desired me to be. Although all these object lessons could be accurate and could technically be a partial reason for each of the symptoms I experienced, let the record show that YHWH is not to be put into a box.

Here is what I found out in this season:

Because YHWH is unchanging does not mean that He is predictable...


I am expecting twins.