Eighteen Years

Categories: Gospel

Eighteen years ago today I entered the MTC to prepare to serve a mission in the Brazil Curitiba Mission.

This week I fed my kids black beans and rice for lunch (a very regular occurrence at our house). And every night I sing each of them their own special song and tell them good night and that I love them in Portuguese. They are also very familiar with the term “cuidado!” (caution) and the phrase “vem cá!” (come here!). And I still say all of my personal prayers in Portuguese.

I cannot honestly say that at this point my time as a missionary was the best 18 months of my life. That would be the last 18 months. But it was probably the 18 continuous months since early childhood that had the greatest influence on the rest of my life.

How to Expect the Unexpected

Categories: Family, Happy Things, Infertility

When last we left our “how to” series (How to Make a Baby and How to Make a Sibling (or two)) I thought we’d written the final chapter and sent it to press. Turns out I was wrong. God had a very exciting epilogue he wanted to write. An epilogue we didn’t find out about until it was well on its way to the printer. But that’s part of the story. And I’m getting ahead of myself. So here’s what we believe is the exciting conclusion with the wonderfully unexpected.

First, some back story.

Have surgery in 2012 to remove your endometriosis. Get pregnant right away and have Iddo. Breastfeed for a year. All of that holding off ovulation and thus the regrowth of your endometriosis. Ovulate once and head back to the doctor. Ovulate again and do round #7 of IVF and not get pregnant. Ovulate again and do round #8 of IVF and have twins, Shimri and Shimei. More pregnancy and breastfeeding to continue to hold off more ovulation (this time till 16 months after the babies are born), because who wants to menstruate? Especially if it means the eventual return of painful periods as the endometriosis grows back. Don’t go back to the doctor after that first post-partum ovulation after the twins because you don’t have any more embryos in the freezer and you’ve felt very strongly that this is your family here on earth and you are very satisfied with it and loving it and living so you have no regrets for anything you did or didn’t do while your children are young.

Now the story.

To keep yourself running regularly, in May sign-up for a half-marathon to be run the coming February and start seriously training for it in the fall when the weather starts to get cooler, getting in some real good miles and having some of the best runs of your life.

Joke with your husband one day in September that “if sex made babies, today would be a great day.”

Continue breastfeeding the twins because you said they could go for as long as they wanted to and they aren’t really interested in stopping yet. Find it odd that you haven’t menstruated again after that first post-partum cycle but chalk it up to the continuing breastfeeding because twins is a lot of breastfeeding, even though they are both only nursing 3-4 times a day at this point. Or maybe you have some ovarian cysts or something going on. Or thyroid problems (those run in your family). Have nursing portraits taken in October because you really want to remember this wonderful connection of breastfeeding you have with your children and you aren’t sure how long you’ll be able to do it and you know it’s passing quickly and will never come again.

Around Thanksgiving wonder why, if you aren’t gaining any weight, your belly is starting to not exactly fit your pants any more. Figure it must be because the twins did a number on your abdominal muscles and the longer distances you are running now are straining them so your guts are just kind of hanging there and your muscles can’t hold it all in any more.

One night while nursing the twins to bed feel some gas bubbles and remember what it was like to have a baby move inside you and for a moment feel a twinge of sadness that you’ll never feel that again.

Because while the pregnancy and breastfeeding can get rid of the endometriosis, there was one other reason you weren’t able to get pregnant before – you kill ALL of your husband’s sperm. And as far as you’re aware that reason still exists.

In January have someone at church come up to you all misty-eyed and ask if you are expecting. Reply that nope, you’re just getting fat. When they point out that you’ve been home sick quite a lot remind them that you have a toddler who seems to like to lick everything so the whole family is sick on a regular basis right now.

In February sit in church one Sunday and wonder why that gas bubble isn’t moving but keeps bubbling in the same spot.

On Tuesday get all the kids in the car after spending two hours walking around at the children’s museum and when you finally sit down to drive home have a tightening in your abdomen that you’d describe as a Braxton Hicks contraction if you were pregnant. But you aren’t pregnant. You can’t be pregnant. So you don’t know what that was. All the same, send a text to your husband saying, “Confession: I’m not so sure I couldn’t be pregnant any more.”
To which he replies, “What makes you unsure?”
“Abdominal sensations.”
“You should take a test.”
“I know. I only have expired ones at home.”
“We can fix that. I don’t think they’re too expensive.”

On Wednesday send your husband a shopping list of things to pick up from the grocery store on his way home from work: “Pineapple tidbits. Milk. Bananas. And a pregnancy test if you want. Check with me on type before purchasing. They are not all equal.” He sends you a photo of the shelf at the grocery store and you indicate which one to get.

Thursday morning get up and take the test before heading out for your morning run. Be sure it’s going to come back negative because you don’t get pregnant without extreme help. When the test line shows up before you’ve even really put the test down react with complete shock. Romantically go back into the bedroom and toss it at your husband, who knew it was going to be positive and is already figuring out how to save for college for four kids instead of just three now.

Call the OB and the earliest they can get you in is a month out. Which for normal pregnancies is completely normal. But this isn’t normal. You are far enough along already that you’re feeling regular movements, which clearly puts you somewhere in the 2nd trimester already. Call back on Monday and they have a cancellation for the next morning. At your first appointment have a fundal height consistent with 22 weeks pregnant.

Schedule your anatomy scan for Friday. Bring your oldest daughter because she’ll find it interesting. She does. Have the anatomy scan measure you at 23 weeks. Check your calendar and realize that the joke you made way back in September about sex making babies wasn’t exactly a joke. You’ll be exactly 23 weeks pregnant on Sunday. Apparently your sperm killing abilities were related to your endometriosis. And with the endometriosis gone for so long now, that’s gone too. Who knew?!

Have the ultrasound tech write in a card if you are having a boy or a girl. Go home and pick up your other two kids and take everyone out for ice cream. Open the card and discover that Izri (and it took two days of intense searching through the books of Chronicles and a lot of back and forth to decide on that name) is a boy! Shimei gets a brother!

Search the internet and realize pretty much nobody has a way to announce both the fact that there’s a baby and if that baby is a boy or a girl at the same time and everyone else does two separate announcements. Joke with your husband that you’re going to announce the sex but keep the baby secret. Figure out a way to announce them both anyway.

You’ve only known you are pregnant for 8 days. And you’ve already mixed up his real name with his brother’s more than once, before you even knew he was a boy. He let you know early what his name is supposed to be.

The next day go buy all the fabric and yarn you’ll need to make him a hat, booties, flannel blanket, and a turtle quilt.

Since the pregnancy didn’t interfere with training at all and the training clearly hasn’t interfered with the pregnancy, decide to go ahead with your half marathon, definitely looking pregnant at 1 day shy of 24 weeks. Have a great race! Tear up a bit during the race because you’d wanted to run with your other pregnancies but because of complications you weren’t able to. Thank Izri for giving you this opportunity. Laugh a bit because this isn’t even his first race. His first race was the 5K you ran at the end of October while pushing the twins around the Boneyard. Run for one more month, just long enough to get to the 3rd trimester, and decide the ligament pain is just making it too hard any more.

Start getting the list of things you need to get and do ready so that you’ll be prepared when this little guy comes. Video him moving several times because none of your other kids wiggled like this and it’s a bit crazy to watch your belly dance around like that.

Prepare for a VBAC and think your OB is on board until your appointment at 34 weeks 4 days when it’s clear she’s just giving lip service to the idea and doesn’t trust your body to be able to deliver this baby. Almost leave that appointment in tears but hold it together because your kids are with you and they’re already scared after watching the OB argue with you about the delivery. The next morning call the midwives office and start doing what you need to get your care transferred to them. Have one more appointment with the OB before that transfer is complete and have it confirmed that what was once a real good working relationship between you, she was great for the delivery of your other kids after all, just isn’t going to work out any more. Have your first appointment with the midwives at 37 weeks 3 days.

Since all of your other kids came at 38 weeks figure that’s when this one will come too. Nope. He’s doing things his own way.

At 40 weeks go to the hospital for an NST. Izri is doing well, but they still think he needs to come soon. Go home. Put the kids to bed. Shower. Get your bag. And go back to the hospital. Spend all day Monday trying to induce active labor. Finally get it started around 9:30pm. The midwife just calmly sitting on the foot of your bed. Tell her this baby is going to be born before midnight. She says, “Okay.” Your husband doesn’t believe you.

At 10:25pm give birth to an amazingly beautiful and healthy boy.

At 1:30am, with you and the baby fully transferred from the labor & delivery unit to the mother & baby unit, send your husband home to sleep because your little girl hasn’t slept well at all with you not there that day. Sing Izri his song and both of you doze off and on all night long.

After breakfast introduce your older three kids to their new brother. It’s a joyful introduction.

Come home Wednesday afternoon and be so glad to be home all as a family. A family of six. That’s a pretty good sized family. And it’s filled with joy.

An unexpected, wonderful, exalted joy.

There’s still hope for the rest of us

Categories: Life

The morning of September 11, 2001 I taught fourth graders in Mexico about really big numbers while I was hearing updates about something bigger than I could imagine happening in the United States. Updates about fear, hate, devastation, and death.

The afternoon of June 23, 2017 I sat on our couch reading the news of the world and all the crappy things going on around. Devastation. War. Corruption. Hate. Violence. There was a lot of bad going on in the world that day. Just like there is any other day you read the news.

But while I was sitting there that day I was also holding our brand new, not-quite-4-day-old son in my arms, watching him sleep. Watching him completely at peace. And I knew that as long as God was still sending such perfect souls to this world that He still had hope for our future.

There will continue to be devastation, war, corruption, hate, and violence. But I will hope that we will continue to have updates similar to the service, caring, and unity that followed the terrorist attacks in 2001. And I will take this hopeful new soul, and his siblings, and I will do my best to raise them to serve, care, and love. Because as long as they are still coming there’s still hope for the rest of us.

My Hero

Categories: Family, Happy Things

Every day at noon I face the task of getting lunch for three kids and then getting four kids down for naps. It takes a good two hours before the house is quiet. And there’s a lot of noise before that quiet starts. I get lunch for our three bigger kids and they eat at the table. Since there’s no telling how much lunch they want to eat on any given day it involves making seconds and sometimes thirds to prevent throwing away as much lunch as possible. Lunch is either leftovers, PB&J, or black beans & rice. During lunch I’m either nursing the baby or keeping him happy in some fashion. Then it’s three sets of “stickies” to clean off their hands before things start to really get busy.

Shimri goes down first. I get her a clean diaper, put her in her sleep sack, and then nurse her while singing her special song and then we do some cuddles, a big hug, and she’s in her crib. Then I get Shimei and do the same thing – diaper, sleep sack, nurse while I sing his special song, cuddles, a big hug, and he goes in his crib. And where’s baby Izri this whole time? On the floor or in his bouncy chair crying because I’m not with him right then and he’s tired too. Then I send Iddo to the bathroom and to get a book for me to read to her while I change Izri and get him swaddled and then sit down on Iddo’s bed to nurse Izri and read to Iddo and then I sing to the two of them together and tuck Iddo in before sitting on the couch to finish cuddling with Izri till he falls asleep.

Are you tired yet?

And this is where my hero steps in.

We recently found this video from Sesame Street and have been listening to it a lot.

Iddo is my everyday hero. While I’m getting Shimri and Shimei down for their naps she sits next to Izri and plays him music from the FisherPrice doll house or sings to him or helps him with his pacifier or gets him blankets to wrap around him, anything to make sure he knows he’s not alone. And for the most part it works and he doesn’t cry and isn’t sad. She’s Izri’s hero because she helps him when he’s feeling sad and she’s my hero because she helps me do something I can’t at that moment.

Yesterday she decided to dress the part with her super hero mask and cape.

My hero!

Super heroes help people. Iddo is my hero.

Wow! I’ve been productive!

Categories: Family, Quilting/Sewing/Knitting/Crafting

Between February and the end of June I was EXTREMELY productive. I made:

completed projects

  • 2 racing turtle shirts
  • 2 fleece pillow covers, assisted by Iddo
  • 3 Easter skirts and matching Easter doll dress
  • 4 tiny stuffed Easter bunnies
  • 5 toddler neckties
  • 2 birthday shirts for 2-year-olds (duck and lion)
  • 1 flannel baby blanket, 1 knitted baby hat, 1 pair knitted baby booties, 1 baby coming home outfit with dinosaur shirt and a pair of shorts, 1 tiny stuffed turtle
  • 4 swaddle babies
  • 6 IKEA bookcases built and anchored in our newly organized master bedroom
  • 1 pretty spiffy room divider
  • 1 baby quilt
  • 2 marble mazes and 1 stuffed bear made by Iddo for her siblings, assisted by me
  • 2 flamingo shirts
  • 1 flamingo skirt and matching doll dress
  • 1 pair flamingo pjs and matching doll pjs
  • 4 pairs of men’s pants mended (no photo)
  • 1 tiny human grown to completion

I’m pretty sure I haven’t had a series of months that productive in a long time. I fully expect the streak to be over now that the tiny human has arrived though. We shall see.

I got this

Categories: Family

Two years ago I took our three kids to the library. It was my first solo outing with three kids. Iddo had turned two and Shimri and Shimei were almost 12 weeks old. I loaded everyone in the car. We drove to the library. I put Shimri and Shimei in the double stroller and we went in. I sat in a corner of the kid section. Iddo went looking for books. I nursed Shimri and put her back in the stroller. I nursed Shimei and put him back in the stroller. I helped Iddo check out the books she’d found. And we went home.

I’d done it. I’d left the house with three kids all by myself. Nobody had died. Nobody thought they were dying. And from there on we just went places.

Last week I took our FOUR kids to the library. It was my first solo outing with four kids. Iddo is four. Shimri and Shimei are two. Izri was 3.5 weeks old. I loaded everyone in the car. We drove to the library. I put Shimri and Shimei in the double stroller and Izri in the Baby K’Tan carrier and we went in. I wandered around the kid section while Izri slept in the baby wrap on my chest. Iddo, Shimri, and Shimei looked at books and colored the coloring sheets on the table. I followed Shimei around because he likes to pull the things on the shelves out that indicate what letter of the alphabet is where for the authors and put them on the floor. We found 15 books we needed to bring home. I helped Iddo check them out. Shimri and Shimei got back in the double stroller. We got Izri his very own library card. And we went home.

Piece of cake!

On the way home I thought about how different the transition from 1 to 3 had been (the transition from 2 to 3 only took 20 minutes so we don’t count that) compared with the transition from 3 to 4.

For example, Iddo was born on a Saturday and the following Sunday, at 8 days old, we took her to Sacrament meeting at church and then came home (it seems like for some reason that’s all there was anyway that week). Shimri and Shimei were born on a Sunday and the following Sunday, at 7 days old, we took them to Sacrament meeting at church and then I came home with them. Izri was born on a Monday and the following Sunday, at 6 days old, we stayed all three hours of church and I taught half of a Gospel Doctrine lesson (Brett taught the other half).

Going from 3 to 4 isn’t that big of a deal for us it seems. We’re already out-numbered (definitely playing a zone defense now, not a man-to-man), so what’s one more? Of course it helps that our #4 is one of the most chill people around. And an awesome sleeper. And an insanely fast eater. And it helps that our other three are good listeners and not runners and not prone to nuclear meltdowns in public (they do happen at home on occasion though).

I’m knocking on wood and I may eat my words later. But for now, I got this. :)

The Love of a Mother

Categories: Family, Featured, Gospel, Infertility

This last week was Mother’s Day. It was my fourth with a child in my arms. But it was not my fourth Mother’s Day. In 2014, the first Mother’s Day I had a child in my arms, someone asked me how I was enjoying my first Mother’s Day. I wasn’t sure how to answer that because it wasn’t my first. Brett had been honoring the mother in me since our marriage, seeing in me as Adam saw in Eve while they were still in the Garden of Eden, that she was the mother of all living. And I’d been honoring my own mother in some fashion since 1979, the first Mother’s Day after I was born.

All mothers love their children. Yes, all. Some of them aren’t very good at showing it. Some of them don’t know how to show it properly or safely. But all mothers love their children. In early 2012, before I was pregnant with Iddo, so before most would even consider me a mother, another mom, doing her best to love and defend her children, told me that I would not be a good mom because I was not doing for her daughter what she thought I should. This woman loved her daughter, as she should, but didn’t know how to express that love in a way that didn’t hurt others. I keep in my inbox an email from a friend who knew the situation where she told me “You are a great mother” and then listed several reasons why she would say that.

Note the tense in that email. It was not a statement of future status. It was present tense. I had no children. Yet she told me “You are a great mother.”

I’ve been thinking about the “tense” of motherhood with Mother’s Day this past weekend as I’ve seen this quote several times.

No love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child.
– Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Behold Thy Mother“, General Conference, October 2015

Elder Holland does not specify the location of that child. Is it a child in the womb? Is it a child in arms? A child who has already returned to heaven? Or a child who has not yet left heaven for earth? I would answer yes to all of those questions.

The love of a mother does not require the physical presence of a child to be selfless and devoted. I loved our children long before they came to our home. And I will love them for eternity no matter where they go from here.