Tuesday, June 25, 2013

{Taryn's 18 month Stats}

This post is a month overdue but here it is anyway....

Taryn weighs in at 22 .15 pounds. She lost about 1.5 pounds in March from a 5-day stomach bug and hasn't regained much since she's started walking. Speaking of walking, she began taking a few steps in March (at 16-mos old) but didn't walk independently until mid-April. Since that time, she has begun to walk fast (but still not running) and can walk down 1 small step without having to sit down. She is trying to jump with both feet off the ground but so far can only get one up.

At her 1-year check up it was confirmed that Taryn has a milk allergy (not to be confused with lactose intolerance- they are not the same). She has always had a clear, runny nose even though she wasn't sick. She also had spots of eczema on her body. At about 11 months old, I introduced her to cow's milk by mixing it with her formula. As the amounts of cow's milk increased and the formula  decreased, she began to show signs of an allergy. Her eczema became wide-spread and covered her back, her runny nose became more constant, and her face became splotchy with red patches. At her visit, I mentioned my suspicion to the doctor and he agreed that she was probably allergic to whey. The only way to tell (without going through the official "allergy testing") was to take her off all dairy and see what happened. Within 3-4 days of taking her off dairy, her skin cleared up, her runny nose dried up, and she was a happy baby. She is able to drink almond milk and consume soy products (but I avoid soy because it's not as good for you as most think- see here and here for more information). However, she doesn't care for almond yogurt (not because of taste but rather the texture of the fruit pieces) and I've never tried soy cheese, so other than almond milk, she doesn't consume many dairy products. At first it was somewhat challenging as I got used to preparing meals that she could eat or omit cheese in foods that I would have otherwise included it. Now that I am used to it, it's not as big of a deal as I thought it was going to be.

As far as her speech development goes, she has made huge gains in even the past week! She correctly (as in at the right times/with correct intonation) says (this list is not exhaustive):
  • Mommy
  • Daddy
  • Teagan
  • Nannie (Annie)
  • Grace (Tristin-Grace)
  • cookie
  • cup
  • down
  • love you
  • bye bye
  • eat
  • No!
  • Stop!
  • Uh oh!
  • Rainbow (our cat)
  • Na na (Jenna and Kiana, our dogs)
  • wipe (as in wipe me & get me out of my chair now!)
  • shoe
  • more
  • chicken
  • Yes (although she doesn't say it very often)
  • kiss
  • baby
  • ba ba (bottle)
Words she can say but not always appropriately:
  • bird (can mean "bird" or "airplane")
  • car (can mean "car" or "truck")
  • down (can mean "down" or "up")
She has also started repeating words or phrases she hears. For example, I took the girls to pick blueberries earlier in the week. She kept hearing me tell them to only pick the purple blueberries. We were picking some and giving them to her to eat as she watched us. When she wanted more, she started to ask for "blue blue". It was so cute! The other thing that is really cute that she and TJ do is sing together. He will practice his warm-up that he does during his weekly lessons, and she repeats after him. They go back and forth, singing to each other.

The biggest news is that she is finally sleeping through the night! She only started that about a month ago (after we got back from Ohio for my sister's graduation). She used to wake at least once each night, but sometimes twice. I'm not sure why she started sleeping better, but it was definitely an answer to many prayers!

Taryn is a very happy, animated little girl. She rarely cries and is usually smiling. She enjoys playing babies with her sisters and it makes me smile when I watch her care for her baby dolls. She will put them in a stroller or high chair and know just what to do with them. It amazes me the innate ability to nurture that God gave to girls. I remember thinking the same thing with my boys as they played with their cars, making car sounds that they had never heard before.

I am so thankful for Taryn as she brings joy to all of us!

Monday, June 24, 2013

{Women Living Well- Having Babies in Opposite World}

I am sharing the link to this post because it really encouraged me...

It seems like I live my life defending my choice to have many children instead of celebrating them. I have heard just about every comment and snide remark a person can make about children, mothering, and preventing more children from coming along. These remarks have come from strangers, family, and even an OB doctor at the practice I use. Why?

Because our society does not embrace children as much as it says it does. Abortion wouldn't exist if it did. There would be more large families if it did. Pregnancy would be more celebrated instead of questioned. And mothers like me would not feel ashamed to walk the aisles of the grocery store with all of her children, afraid of what comments she will hear or questions her children will have to field.

So, for all the moms out there reading this, whether you have one child or many children, do not be ashamed, embarrassed, or defensive. Instead, celebrate the gift you have been given and praise the Giver of Life for choosing you to be their mother.

Friday, June 21, 2013

{Blueberry Picking!}

I took the girls to pick blueberries one day while the boys were working to earn some extra money. We have only been to this particular farm once for a strawberry festival. I was familiar with the layout but honestly didn't know what to expect because we've never picked blueberries before. It was a GREAT time!

When we first arrived, we made a stop at the bathroom to ensure we would have plenty of time to pick without having to "go" later. When we came out of the bathroom, we saw a group of people listening to instructions from one of the farmers. He then handed out half-gallon buckets to everyone. Side note: we have gone strawberry picking at a different farm and at that farm, customers were required to pay prior to getting their buckets. I was assuming this farm operated in the same way. I was wrong. I was only wanting a total of 1 half-gallon bucket of blueberries. Since each of the older 3 girls had a bucket, I was trying to convince them we were going to SHARE the bucket and contribute to filling it. Thankfully someone overheard me and explained the way this farm operates. I definitely like it better with each person having a bucket to fill without sharing. We just combined the berries into one bucket when we were finished, and I paid for exactly what I wanted and turned in the extra buckets. We proceeded to walk to the blueberry fields, which was about 1/4 mile down a dirt road.

As we were walking, a woman turned around and asked me if I homeschooled. I told her that I did, and she commented she hadn't met me before. I thought that was strange (it's not like all homeschoolers know each other!) but introduced myself nonetheless. She continued to ask questions and it occurred to me that I had somehow joined a homeschool group upon exiting the bathroom! I explained my mistake to her, and we both laughed hysterically. Thankfully they were more than willing to include us, and it made for good conversation and a better time for the girls since there were other children picking with us.

We picked blueberries, of course eating our fair share as we picked. The girls each picked and filled their own buckets, excited to show me their loot every 2 minutes or so! Taryn just enjoyed the fresh air and even fresher blueberries. We couldn't pick them fast enough for her; she was double-fisting them into her mouth! We enjoyed talking with the farmer about how they grow, the types of critters that are attracted to blueberries (ladybugs love them!), and how to tell a really ripe blueberry from one that is almost ripe (it's not just about the color!).

While in nature, we heard many types of birds, saw turtles (the fields were across from a pond), and enjoyed hearing the sounds of being outside. I heard the familiar sound of an airplane overhead, and as I pointed it out to the girls (I am slightly obsessed with airplanes, always have been), I was thrilled to see it was a biplane! We watched it fly over us and then resumed picking our berries, just talking and enjoying our time together.

After about 45 minutes of picking, we made our way back up the dirt road to begin the process of paying and leaving. As we reached the top of the hill, we saw the biplane parked in a field next to the strawberry fields. Of course we had to stop to take a picture. The girls wanted to get close to it, but the exhaust was still hot because it had just landed. After we paid for our berries and walked to the truck, we heard the airplane prop start up. We watched it taxi down the grassy field, pick up speed, and take off over the trees. The girls were disappointed because it flew off in the opposite direction, but as we continued to load up in the truck, it flew directly over us and we were able to wave at the pilot and his wife. The girls were so excited because they got to see it again!

Blueberry picking, especially at this local farm, is definitely something we will be doing again. The boys want to go with us next time, as does TJ. I actually foresee another trip in the near future as we have already ate the half-gallon bucket we picked (only 2 days ago!).

Thursday, June 6, 2013

{Locks of Love}

Now that summer is here, school is out, and our days less busy, I have more time to post what's been going on in our lives...

For several months, Tristin-Grace has been wanting to cut her hair. As in short, very short. She was tired of having to sleep in braids, and truthfully, she just wanted a change. TJ was against her getting her hair cut off. Every morning, as I brushed and fixed her hair for school, she'd plead with me to make her an appointment. Every evening, after her shower, she'd plead with me to make her an appointment. And each day when she got home from school, she'd ask me to fix her hair and beg me to make her an appointment. And each instance I told her the same thing: talk to your dad.

Finally, Tristin-Grace was able to plead her case to her dad. Although not happy, he agreed she could get her hair cut. I made her appointment about 2 weeks out to give her time to think about how she wanted it cut, and if she truly did want to cut it short or if she only wanted a couple inches cut off. We talked about how she could donate her hair to an organization that makes wigs for children who are battling cancer, alopecia, or some other medical condition causing hair loss. I showed her pictures of a little girl we know (but haven't seen in a while) who is the same age as Tristin-Grace. She is battling brain cancer and lost her hair due to all the surgeries, chemo, and radiation. Although hers is starting to grow back, Tristin-Grace made her decision and was set on donating it to Locks of Love.

We discussed our plan with TJ. Locks of Love require a minimum of 10 inches from tip to tip of the cut hair, and the hair has to be banded or braided together. I rubber banded her hair and took a ruler to it to show him about where it would fall after it was cut. TJ really didn't want her to cut her hair, not because he was set on her having long hair, but because he was worried she wouldn't like it after it was cut. She has only ever had long hair and was in for a big change! He agreed to having the 10 inches cut but not a centimeter more!

For 2 weeks she counted down the days, and honestly, I really thought she would change her mind once the big day arrived! We got to the salon, ruler in hand, and got started. Our stylist, Erica, began by straightening Tristin-Grace's hair so that, when cut, it would be exactly 10 inches. Finally, it was time to begin cutting. I gave Tristin-Grace one more opportunity to change her mind, but she was determined!

Her hair when we arrived

Straightening it

Measuring exactly 10 inches

 The Big Cut!
 View of the back
Her new 'do
She is thrilled with her hair! She loves that she can wear it down without getting in her face, and she said it feels lighter now (well no wonder- it was down to her bottom berfore her haircut!). Someone asked how much total she had cut, and I would estimate 11 inches. Her ponytail was 10 inches exactly but once her remaining hair was evened out everywhere, it was close to another inch off the back and sides. I'm just happy that Tristin-Grace loves her hair as she definitely earned this haircut!

Monday, June 3, 2013

{The Lord's Provision}

This post is simply a public expression of thanksgiving to God for all that He has provided us over the past few months. Here are the specifics:

*We knew last summer that we would be needing a new(er) vehicle as TJ's van (our only vehicle that could hold all 8 of us) was showing signs of its age and wear, particularly with the transmission. The goal was to keep up the maintenance on it for as long as possible until it was no longer safe to drive. On one of our trips to Ohio, we drove a rented Toyota Sienna while TJ's van was being repaired after a minor accident he was involved in. It was very spacious and had plenty of cargo space for all of us plus our luggage and gear. As a result, we discussed buying either a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna when the time came to replace his van. I will admit, I wanted a new van sooner than later, and hoped that TJ would one day soon announce his decision that it was "time".

When I found out I was pregnant in November, immediately we both knew that purchasing a vehicle was a priority because another baby meant we had outgrown a mini-van. That also meant our vehicle options were limited. We began to pray. We began to search out vehicles that could hold 9 people (comfortably) and still have room for strollers, groceries, etc. We had 3 options: a Chevy Suburban, a Ford Excursion, or an 11-passenger van. We researched all three of our options and concluded that the Ford Excursion was the best choice for our family. It is also one of the most expensive simply because of it's size and limited availability (they were only produced from 2001-2005). We began to pray some more. We needed finances along with a low-mileage vehicle that was in pretty good shape so it would last a long time. TJ spent many hours scouring the internet for one, and God provided just the right one! TJ was able to trade in his van for close to what we paid for it (over 4 years ago!) and was able to negotiate the price of the Excursion down another $1,500. It was truly amazing to see the Lord's hand in that entire situation!!

My "new" truck! :)
What I learned is that my plan is not always God's plan. I wasn't planning on another baby, and I am so thankful that (for once) I didn't repeatedly express my desire for a new vehicle and put undue pressure on TJ to purchase one. Can you imagine if we had gone ahead and purchased a new(er) mini-van last summer and then only a few months later found out about the pregnancy? That would have been a financial mess for sure! I also learned that I have to trust that TJ is going to make the best decisions for our family, and that the Lord will bless us when I submit to TJ as the leader of our home. This vehicle is certainly proof of that, and I would be remiss to not acknowledge the Lord's working in the entire situation.

*Taryn's birth meant that she and Tristin-Grace would share a room (since Annie & Teagan already share a room) once she slept through the night. Taryn is not a good sleeper so she continued to sleep in the crib in our room until she was only waking once per night. In early April, TJ and I felt she was finally sleeping well enough to move into TG's room. The problem- we only had 1 crib and I was going to need it for the new baby. I began to search for a 2nd crib. I inquired at the thrift store (they don't accept cribs because of all the recalls), I searched on two local buy/sell forums that I belong to (no one wanted to sell one for less than $75), and I posted my need on Facebook. I also prayed every night that the Lord would provide something, and that it would be cheap. I looked online and found one brand new for around $100, but I really didn't want to invest a lot of money into a crib since Taryn will be moving to a twin bed in the next 6 months to a year. God answered my prayer! About a month ago, a friend of mine emailed me one day stating she was moving her child from a crib to a bed and no longer had a need for hers. She didn't know if I wanted hers. Without hesitation, I said "Yes!!" and asked how much she wanted for it. Her response- no charge, just come pick it up. Wow!! TJ put it together last week and Taryn slept in it for the first time Friday night. She was unsure at first, but now loves her new crib in her new room!
Taryn in her new crib in Tristin-Grace's room
*Tristin-Grace has a full-size bed in her room, and with the crib and another dresser, there was barely room to turn around. The next item we needed to get was a twin bed for her to replace her full-size bed. TJ is going to build a guestroom/nursery downstairs off of our bedroom, and I am going to put the full-size bed in there. I again checked the thrift store for a twin bed, and we were able to get a mattress in excellent condition for free, but finding a twin bed that included the bed rails was not very successful. I again prayed about it, and the Lord again provided above and beyond my expectations.

One day a couple of weeks ago, TJ was working around the house when he received a phone call from a co-worker. She had a house not too far from ours that she was preparing to rent out. She had just cleaned out the attic and wanted to know if we needed a twin bed and frame. Coincidence? I think not! But, the blessing didn't stop there. Another friend of  mine is having a baby boy about 2 weeks before I am due. TJ and I decided to go ahead and purge the remaining boy items we had, so I texted her to see if she wanted the clothes. In return, she offered me a twin-size trundle bed, complete with mattresses, that she was getting rid of. For only the investment of bedding, we now have a bed for Tristin-Grace, Taryn, and an extra (the trundle) for friends.

It may seem trite to share these "stories" with you, but the Lord has been so good to us over the past few months. It's easy to see the Lord's hand in the "big" things in life, but it's also important to see it in the everyday moments. In all of these instances, the Lord answered prayer, provided for His children, and blessed beyond what was needed. In the process, I learned the power of prayer, the importance of waiting, and witnessed the goodness of God.

This hymn pretty much says it all:

Great is Thy Faithfulness (words by Thomas Chisholm, music by William M. Runyan)

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see All I have needed Thy hand hath provided Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.