Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 Christmas Letter

For us, 2011 was a year of learning…

Thomas (9) learned to serve others by volunteering to gather and take out the garbage at a local pregnancy center.  He reports for duty every Monday and greatly enjoys the work! He also learned the value of a dollar as he worked for several neighbors and friends doing yard work and house/pet sitting this past spring and summer to earn money for art camp. Thomas is continuing to work and save his money as he plans to go with our church’s youth group to The Wilds Christian Camp in the mountains of North Carolina for one week this upcoming summer. We are excited about how the Lord will work in his life, especially while at camp.

Tanner (6 ½) is learning to read in school. It has been fun to witness him read words on his own as we drive around town. He has also begun to read more books to his younger sisters, which is a great help to me! This summer and fall, Tanner learned to operate the lawn mower and leaf blower. If you know Tanner well, you know how much he enjoys doing yard work and helping out around the house in that way! Above all, Tanner is learning about salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are excited that he is beginning to understand what true salvation is (and is not). We are praying the Lord will continue to open up Tanner’s heart so that he can truly understand and be saved; we ask that you would do the same.

Tristin-Grace (5) learned to play T-ball this year. She participated on a team through the local YMCA and enjoyed it very much! This was her first experience playing organized sports. Her coach fondly nicknamed her “Princess Pink” because she wore a pink shirt, pink pants, pink shoes, a pink hair bow, and used a pink baseball glove at each practice. Despite her petite frame, she hit the ball with all her might and even got a few doubles! Tristin-Grace is looking forward to playing T-ball again in a few months.

Teagan (3) really learned a lot this year, beginning with learning to talk. She is now talking fluently (and non-stop!) and was dismissed from speech therapy in August. The progress she has made over the years amazes me, and I am extremely thankful for all the wonderful therapists who worked with her to help her reach this point!  Teagan also learned to use the potty, pump her legs by herself on the swing, and to pedal her bike up and down the driveway. She has made some huge developmental strides this year, and we are so proud! 

Taylor Ann (Annie- 21 months) has learned to walk, run, jump, climb, hit, say “No!”, and is even beginning to sing songs, among other things. She is full of life and very busy! Annie’s favorite thing to do is brush her teeth, and she disappears into the bathroom to do so at any opportunity she gets. Annie started attending preschool 2 mornings per week to help occupy her time and expose her to life outside of the bathroom door. =)

Taryn Eileen is the newest member of the family, joining us 4 weeks before her due date on November 25th. Since birth, she has learned to eat really well, about every 2 hours. Taryn has also learned to ignore loud noises such as crying kids, barking dogs, and vacuum cleaners!  She is still working on learning to sleep as she does most of it during the day and not enough at night. I hope that she’ll master this skill soon! Please pray that I will draw on the Lord’s strength as I battle sleep deprivation and  face my daily tasks as a mother.

TJ learned to better use his singing talents by joining our church’s choir and singing before the church as part of a small group. This year TJ sang his first solo in front of the church! He also participated in a recital and performed for the residents of a local nursing home. Singing and music are a major part of TJ’s life, and as his family, we benefit from his beautiful voice. TJ also continues to work at Winthrop University. The Lord has opened up many doors (and hearts!) in terms of providing TJ with opportunities to witness to and encourage his coworkers. It has been a blessing to see the Lord use TJ in this way! Please pray the Lord will continue to open hearts to the truth of God’s word at Winthrop.

I, Terra, learned about couponing this year. I started in May, and I will admit, I am an addict! It takes effort but knowing that I am saving my family money (over $1,000 to date!) is very rewarding and worth the time. In all seriousness, this year I learned a lot about complete faith and trust in God. I found out mid-April I was pregnant again, and I immediately put my trust in the Lord to care for me throughout the pregnancy. The struggle came when we were faced with some unexpected financial pressures. I would find myself awake at night, worrying about how we were going to pay for the things we were facing (pregnancy-related and non-related). The Lord dealt with me over a period of about six weeks. During that time, I saw God answering prayers and using the people in my life to not only rebuke me, but also encourage me along the way. I am thankful that I was able to learn this lesson on trusting God in all areas of my life.

As we draw to the end of both this family update and 2011, we pray you have a joyous Christmas and blessed New Year!
With Love,
TJ, Terra, Thomas, Tanner, Tristin-Grace, Teagan, Annie, & Taryn

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Family

Here is our most recent family picture. I am including it in our Christmas card...if I can ever find the time to write them!

Life for me has become even busier than it was before. I am struggling to find a balance between my expectations and reality of what I can accomplish in a day. My "To Do" list is so long and yet it seems I spend all my time between laundry, dishes, and caring for children. It is discouraging to see my list get longer instead of shorter, but I know soon enough a routine will be established and life will get back to "normal," whatever that was.

On a different note, Taryn is gaining weight quickly because she eats so often! During the day, she goes about 2 hours between feedings. However, starting around 8pm, she feeds about every hour and a half. I am nursing her but find myself giving her bottles of formula more and more because she just doesn't seem satisfied, even after nursing for 30 minutes or more. On the bright side, the kids (& TJ) can help feed her bottles whereas with nursing they obviously can't. The down side is that formula is expensive and pumping is too time consuming.

Sleep is still a rare and precious commodity for me, and I chuckle every time someone (well-meaning) advices me to nap when the kids nap. I really wish I could (trust me!) but it seems that Taryn wakes to eat when the others go down for a nap, and by the time I'm done feeding her, Ta is usually walking in the door from school and we begin our routine of homework, snacks, and getting him ready for school the next day. Once we're finished, the girls are waking from their naps and supper needs to be prepared, etc. In my "spare" time, I try to get another load of laundry going, the kids to help me with chores, and Annie down from wherever she's climbed. I am thankful this is only a season of life because sometimes I feel like my head is going to spin off my shoulders!  It truly is a busy household, but God has blessed me abundantly and I love my children dearly.

Because I doubt I have a chance to update before then, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Once I finish our yearly update, I will share it here. =)

Monday, December 5, 2011

{ A Thanksgiving Blessing }

My dad and a close family friend (Donna) drove down from Ohio to visit us for Thanksgiving. They arrived around 1:30pm on Thanksgiving day. After some playtime with Grandpa and a tour of the house for Donna, the younger kids settled down for naps while Th and the adults chatted and  I finished up dinner preparations.

We ate our Thanksgiving meal around 4:30pm, I cleaned up and then prepared dessert while the kids and other adults played outside, enjoying the unseasonably warm temperatures. Shortly before 7pm the kids came in and began their bedtime routines of showers/baths. We then sat and enjoyed a variety of desserts prepared by both Donna and myself. Once dessert was over, bedtime for the kids was not far behind, and by 8:30pm all of the adults were gathered in the living room for the evening.

The busyness of the day left me exhausted and as I sat watching TV and chatting with the family, I realized I was having mild contractions accompanied by cramping. They were not anything serious, and by no means close together, but they were strong enough to get my attention. When we went to bed about 11:15pm, I briefly mentioned the contractions/cramping to TJ just to keep him informed as to how I was feeling. I immediately fell asleep and slept great...until about 3:15AM.

I woke to find a pain in my lower right side, and thinking it was because my bladder was full, I used the bathroom. Upon returning to bed, I found it difficult to get comfortable and the more I tossed and turned, the more contractions I had again accompanied by cramping. After trying for more than an hour to get back to sleep, I decided to get up and take a bath to see if that helped to relax me. I woke TJ to tell him of my plan (so he wouldn't worry if he woke & found me not in bed) and he mumbled "Okay" and rolled back over to sleep. =)

Once in the bathroom, I again used the potty before getting into the bathtub. It was then I saw spotting and knew the situation was more serious than I had thought. I proceeded to get in the tub but the contractions only became stronger and more frequently. Finally, about 5am, I made the decision to wake TJ so we could prepare to head to the hospital. He asked if he needed to do anything immediately and upon hearing me say "No", he told me to wake him when I was ready to go and again rolled back over to sleep. =)

Because I was just 36 weeks that day, I was not prepared for a hospital stay. I opened the door to the crawl space under the house to search for a suitcase, stopping only to breath through each contraction. Since Donna was asleep in T.G.'s room, T.G. was asleep on the floor in our room. I didn't want to turn on the light and wake her so I used the light from my cell phone to pull clothes out of my drawer and throw into the suitcase. In my haste to get to the hospital, I couldn't think clearly enough to remember what to bring. Let's just say I'm thankful we live close to the hospital so TJ could bring me the items I forgot. =)

Once I was packed up and ready to go, I again woke TJ and put a phone call into the doctor's office. In the meantime, TJ woke my dad, explained the situation, and gave instructions for the kids upon their awakening. We then got in the car and headed for the hospital. We arrived shortly before 6am. The nurse took me to the "Triage" room where she checked me, asked if this was my first baby, and, after picking her jaw up from the floor because of my response, immediately escorted TJ and I to a L&D room.  I was given a hospital gown, an IV was inserted, and preparations for delivery were made. The doctor and anesthesiologist were paged, and we waited for them both, all the while I tried to breath through my contractions. About 7:15am I received an epidural and at 7:45am the doctor came in. And about 5 minutes later he left...Let's just say I was not very happy with him!

He informed me that he was going off-shift and the next doctor coming on had a C-section scheduled for 8am. He was only "hanging around" until after she finished the C-section in case there were women, like me, in labor. But, since my water hadn't yet broke, he wanted me to wait until the female doctor could deliver. I was upset because, although I had an epidural, I could still feel the contractions and I was in a great deal of pain on my right side. I simply wanted the baby out!!

A ceiling tile in my L&D room...supposed to help me to focus on my breathing & not the pain.
My hero, I mean my doctor, arrived about 9:15am and immediately broke my water. A few pushes later Taryn Eileen arrived at 9:26am. She was 6 pounds, 15 ounces and 19.75 inches long. She has dark hair and a round face like her siblings.
Shortly after birth
Taryn did not do so well for the first 24 hours. She did not eat (nurse or bottle) and had problems with mucus in her stomach. She actually choked so badly (complete with turning blue) at one point that she was taken to the NICU for observation for a couple of hours. It was rather scary for me because I was alone at that point and didn't really know what was going on with her. Thankfully my nurse was sweet and kept me informed, and she didn't mind that I called her a few times just to check on the baby.
Th was the first to hold her (being the eldest has its privileges)

Despite his tough exterior, Ta couldn't WAIT to hold the baby! =)
We left the hospital Sunday afternoon and Taryn's discharge weight was around 6 pounds, 3 ounces. She was seen by her pediatrician last Monday and was up an ounce to 6.4 pounds. By Thursday she had gained another 2..5 ounces. Taryn returns this upcoming Thursday and the goal is to be up to 6.12 pounds. I am both nursing and giving her formula, and her feedings vary between every 2-4 hours (of course at night it's more frequent).
The "Mini Mommy" & her baby

So far she is a good baby and the biggest challenge for me is trying to keep her safe from her siblings. Annie and the other girls all want to help care for her, and sometimes they aren't as gentle as they should be. =) I know their intentions are good but it is often overwhelming for me as they literally fight over the baby.
Teagan couldn't believe she really came out of my belly. =)

We've had help in the form of family staying to help with the other children, friends taking some of the other children, meals, and of course prayers. I am still rather unstable emotionally and yesterday as I finished getting all the girls and myself ready for church, I began to cry in the bathroom. I was physically and mentally exhausted from the process! I know it will take time to adjust, but the lack of sleep and extra time needed for feedings is taking its toll. I am still also trying to keep Th on track with his schooling (so thankful he is a diligent student & willing to be flexible with me!) so that we won't get too far behind. I am thankful I pushed him hard in the beginning of the year because we are actually 5 days ahead of schedule but I don't want to stop him for Christmas break yet because we are not at good stopping points. This week we'll end 2 subjects so next week we'll only have to focus on 4...should be an easy and managable task that will keep him on track and allow me time to continue to adjust to life as a family of 8.
My dad & Taryn
(so thankful the Lord allowed him to be visiting with us!)

A shot just to put her tiny size into perspective...the carseat swallows her up!

Wow. Still can't believe I have 6 kids. I'm beginning to wonder if my quiver is full, although somehow I doubt it...  =)
Close up of her face