Blog Post Catch Up/Overload

Hi friends! I'm back in a big/kind of crazy way. ;) I have been writing here and there over the last several months, and last weekend worked hard to add pictures to the blogs I've written and get them ready to post. So I'm doing that now, back dating a couple because it just makes sense to me in my head to do it that way, posting them when I wrote them. So hopefully that doesn't create some pretty annoying blog feeds, but at least I'll be caught up! I hate feeling behind, and I'd love to start writing right where I'm at. To make it easier to read all the posts, (which I'm really only expecting from my mom and mother-in-law, let's be honest ;), I'm linking to them here. A LOT has happened with our little family over the last several months, which why I'm excited to finally be documenting it here. Going through the process of working on these has humbled me all over again with how God is working in our lives. And how our loving Father is always pouring out so much to be thankful for.

Here are the links to my posts:

Zoe - 1 month
Zoe - 2 months
Zoe - 3 months
On An Adventure (the first time I wrote after WE MOVED)
Zoe - 4 and 5 months
Selah is 2/Life Update
Zoe - 6 and 7 months

So yes, you can read all about how our family moved...apparently after those crazy newborn months we didn't think we needed a rest. ;) So we headed off to IN when Zoe was 4 months old and Selah was almost 2. We were sent off with an abundance of love and prayer, though it was an especially tough time. Not a particularly easy move for us. It took a lot of prayer and what felt like courage to leave a place we loved and amazing, irreplaceable relationships. We will always be missing friends and family in Louisville, but I'm so thankful for how our new church family has been amazing in welcoming us here. We were sent off joyfully with so much support and wisdom from our Southeast church family, (where Kevin worked for the last 7 yrs. - for my blog world friends ;), and we moved to Indiana on mission to keep doing the work He has for us. We are so grateful for having been taught and prepared the way we were at Southeast. We are excited to be a part of our new church family, where Kevin is the Small group/Discipleship pastor, as well as having opportunities to preach. God is clearly at work here and we are excited to join him on this adventure. After only being here for a few months, I can honestly say we're really loving being here. We've had our ups and downs in the moving process, (along with moments of shock), but God has been faithful to continue going before us.

To our friends and family, THANK YOU does not adequately express how much we appreciate your prayers and encouragement through this. It is amazing to experience the kind of support we did before moving, as well as what we have after. Definitely overwhelming in the best possible way. So here I am, back online, where this is hopefully just the start of sharing all God is teaching me on this journey....in ministry, in motherhood, and in life. What a privilege to be created by such a loving Father, and pursued by him everyday. Happy Thanksgiving!!


Zoe - 6 and 7 months!

Well, I feel like I started writing this post when Zoe turned 6 months, but obviously didn't get finished. And now she's 7 months old as of last Friday!  Whew, slow down with this growing up little babies!  6 months was a huge turning point/growth spurt for Zoe, much like 3 months was. From 4-6 months she remained just happy to be held or touched, or loved on. The girls and I developed quite the rhythm of getting out and about and having fun, especially because our town lends itself to lots of walking, parks, and storytimes. I always get Zoe out first, put her in my Pikkolo carrier, then get Selah so I can hold her hand. And Zoe was happy to just hang out with me, no matter what we were doing. She is still that way mostly. She used to easily fall asleep while being worn. But in the last couple weeks she has refused to miss out on the action. And just a couple days ago she started sitting next to Selah during storytime, and wanting to be out and about and on the move when we're somewhere. I remember this time with Selah too...it's such a shift from sleepy bitty baby to excited about life older baby! This past month has had so many new things for baby Zoe...TWO bottom teeth, sitting up on her own, crawling on her knees, dumping the dog bowl, not falling asleep in the baby carrier, wanting to be with her sister and participate during outings, and napping at the same time as her sister - yay for mommy!!

These two could not love each other more!  
And even big sister can't resist those squishy cheeks :)

Oh how I adore these two.  And trust me, they both have the cutest dose of silly as part of their personalities!  This will be so fun to keep watching within our family dynamics.  Now that Selah is talking all the time she is cracking us up.  I have no doubt Zoe will be much the same!

This is a signature Zoe face.  She can curl the best lip, 
and sometimes it's just to be silly!

 It's so funny because both Kevin and I thought that the first 6 months were pretty similar for Zoe...the same squishy, snuggly baby who has an old soul and notices everything.  Kevin said once, "I don't feel like she's changed at all."  Which isn't true, but she did really hold steady with her personality and preferences.  Even the cashier at Trader Joe's the other day said she seems so much older just by the way she looks at you. It's funny. I have always said about Zoe that she has never preferred being a baby, and is in a bit of a rush to grow out of it! That said, Zoe seems to have two moods...super duper happy, or super duper not. ;) As I mentioned before, baby girl cried so much those first few months. And she was not a long napper. She really seemed to thrive on movement and closeness. She was literally like this from day one too.  It has definitely been so sweet to get to know her more and more.  I think I'll make a list to commemorate this little 7 months old of mine.  Maybe 7 things about my littlest baby girl.

ONE:  My sweet girl needs her mama.  She's always been one who wants to be close and where I am.  Two days ago she went from her army crawling that she's been doing for a month and a half, to full on crawling on her knees!!  What is happening around here?!  It's adorable though, and she is THRILLED to be so mobile.  One thing that's made it easier to embrace her "growing up" is we've always known the more she can control her position the happier she'll be!  She's also sitting up great, and though I hate to admit it...she pulled herself up today.  Boo hoo, baby's growing up!  It really is crazy, the first baby you kind of expect to get bigger, and wait to see what's next.  The next baby you say, "Slow down little one, no need to rush out of this stage to the next!"  But anyone who has kids or loves kids knows that the next new thing they learn just adds to the fun and wonder of childhood and getting to be a parent.   She has always loved to reach out and hold on to something.  When I'm feeding her she grabs my chin, mouth, or nose.  If I wear her she holds my shirt or the carrier.  She has quite the grip and it's always been a part of who she is!

Zoe crawled over to the stack of books we just brought
 home from the library and sat right down on one of them.
  So far both my girls are sweet little readers, after their mommy and daddy's hearts!

TWO: Zoe is CUTE.  She has the roundest little head, she's always loved to have it rubbed, and she has the sweetest, squishiest little cheeks.  I think she also has such beautiful hands.  She's always moved them so sweet and delicately.  Everywhere she goes she's told she's a beautiful baby, and she just gives that big grin in return.  God definitely gave this girl a sparkle and a joy to share with the world!  She also seems to be a little more compact like her mama.  Which I think is sweet.  She also has the most adorable rolls and always has.  Another way she's so different than her sister.  From day one my two sweet girls have each shown they are their own unique little gals.  I'm excited to see how their similarities and differences will come to life more and more in our family and through their friendship.

THREE: Baby girl LOVES TO MOVE.  She is my little wiggle worm.  I will never forget one morning leading Bible study at church last winter and saying, "I think my baby girl wants to come out!"  She was always leaping and lurching and kicking when she was in my belly.  It was crazy sometimes.  One day I was in Trader Joe's and thought people might be looking at me funny because my belly was moving out of control.  Ha.  Well, the same little lady is quite the gymnast outside the womb.  It's hilarious the way she eats.  It's not this peaceful, stare into my baby's eyes experience.  She twists and turns her body the whole time.  And she eats quick - 5 to 7 min. max.  Crazy compared to last time!  It's actually hilarious how used to it I am.  I LOVE how God prepares and equips us to be mamas to such unique and different children.  Though it can take some work and lots of prayer, it's such a fun adventure to the parenting journey for sure.  Zoe's been rocking the super fast army crawl for about a month, but just this past week she discovered the ability to go from room to room.  As much as she loves to be where we are, she has developed a new drive to explore every corner.  Time to close the doors and put up the gates! :)  This baby girl makes a beeline for the water bowl every time.  And if anyone is on the floor she wants to crawl all over them.  It's hilarious, and if Selah doesn't want her to get into something she'll say, "Yo-ee (Zoe) Mommy hold."

One of the first days when Zoe started rocking on those knees at the beginning of this month.

FOUR: Zoe totally did a 180 and turned fussy into flexible and FUN.  I had gushing milk at the beginning and I have no idea if that contributed to her colicky nature those first few months.  But even if it did, she always, always hated being flat on her back, from day one in the hospital.  Which makes safe sleeping tough.  (and reiterates my love for the rock-n-play!)  This baby girl rolled onto her tummy at 3 months and 4 days and has never ever slept on her back since then.  Which didn't even make me nearly as nervous, even when she was tiny, because it helped so much with her sleeping.  It's funny because while I didn't get to have long, luxurious times of sitting and holding her, taking her all in, much like I did with her sister, I did get to hold her and love on her a lot while walking, moving, bouncing, doing life, etc.  So I still got my precious newborn, once-in-a-lifetime snuggles, they were just a little more active than last time.  And now she still loves to be involved in any and everything.  She is up for anything, anytime, just as long as she gets to see what's going on or participate....and as long as she's not alone. :)  The girl needs her people for sure.  Even though she's always on the go, she will happily give a snuggle session anytime!

FIVE:  Baby girl is not a big fan of sleep.  She has certainly gotten better, but this sweet gal could party all night and day long it seems.  Her daddy just said the other day he thinks she might be one of those who doesn't need much.  Uh, I would have to disagree...that is NOT in her genes. ;)  The other 3 people in her family actually love a good snooze.  But true to her 'life of the party' self she sure loves music.  She even just started bouncing to it during our dance parties which is awesome!  At first I wasn't really sure she was doing it, but today I tested it and it was so cute.  Definitely need a video.  She also loves to put everything in her mouth.  She is a chewer for sure, and will keep me on my toes with the things she finds to gnaw on.  I could have stopped with she will keep me on my toes.

SIX: Zoe LOVES HER SISTER.  And she has a sister that absolutely ADORES her.  I teach the girls that they are best friends and talk to them about how to treat each other in light of that.  My prayer is constantly that they would be so blessed to share life together and be best friends the whole way.  And neither one is as happy as they would be if the other is not there.  Yet they both are happy to have their one on one time when they need it.  It is so sweet how Selah gets upset if she hurts Zoe, whether on accident or on purpose.  And if Selah starts crying then Zoe looks at her and thinks she should be crying.  The drama is thick here you all.  That is definitely in their genes, I have to say!  Their daddy and I take all the responsibility for that.

Look at those sweet and squishy legs!  And yes, for 10 days during the move
I used disposables...that was a GREAT decision for my sanity :)

Selah had her crib in the main room for awhile after we moved for various reasons,  and would always say, "Baby in," after she woke up from her nap.  So I would let them snuggle together in there, which they both always love.

She was not sitting on her.  And no, I do not let her do this.  But that's
not to say she doesn't try!  

How hilarious is this?  
Selah got a baby picture of mine and set it right in between them.  Ha!

SEVEN: Zoe is a daughter I always dreamed of.  She and her sister both.  Oh how I could never have imagined how amazing these days would be.  I cannot believe He is giving Kevin and I this amazing honor and privilege of loving two little girls, being filled with joy as we experience life with our daughters.  God has taught me so much through Selah and Zoe, (and motherhood in general).  One lesson I'm finally learning is to be gracious with my children and gracious with myself.  Being a mom is hard work, but amazing work.  It hits me all the time that I am living the answers to years and years of prayers when I longed to hold my own sweet babies in my arms.  And every day when I'm juggling these two sweet girls, through constant diapers to change, meals to make, training to follow Jesus, obey mommy and daddy, and be kind...I am thankful.  I don't always have a great attitude or get everything done that I think I "should."  But I will tell you this....I do not take this life for granted.  The Lord is so gracious to give us these days to make memories with these little ones.  And wow, how I've learned so much more about his love for me.  I am reading the book Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson and it is amazing.  Rocking my world in the best way.  God has shown me some of my faulty thinking while I have been reading it and saying, "Oh my goodness yes!  This is exactly for me...this speaks straight to my heart."  But at the same time thinking no one else must need that encouragement.  Yet somehow it is growing quickly in popularity and I've heard others say it has been amazing to them as well.  That alone gave me so much peace to know....I am not alone.  I am not the only one who struggles with different aspects of motherhood even while I embrace my littles so completely.  The enemy might attack me and want me to believe that I am alone and crazy and everyone else has it together.  But my Father in heaven gently calms me and says, "Fix your eyes on me, not the world.  I will give you rest and be all you need as you train up these sweet ones in righteousness.  Know me...love me...seek me, and be graceful with others."  

It is my desperate cry that we as mothers and even those who long to be mothers would be one another's greatest encouragers.  That we wouldn't make it our place to judge or overly advise when listening and praying for is what is required.  That we could embrace how uniquely the Lord has designed us all, and how each must follow the convictions the Spirit has placed in her own life.  I think a lot of freedom will come from that.  Shocking realization:  There is not one way to raise these little people, not one way to parent.  We all certainly have our preferences and opinions, but outside of what the Bible teaches, God leaves a lot left to need to come to him for in the way of wisdom and learning.  Which is why we have to be asking Him to lead the way.  We are raising kingdom workers, prayer warriors, and God's children.  That is big time.  We need each other and we sure need Jesus.  There is rarely a day when I go to a story hour and don't meet someone new.  And whenever I ask about them or hear a little bit of their story I see over and over women needing to be encouraged on this journey.  If you go to any events like this throughout the week, I encourage you to always, always talk to someone you don't know.  Show them some sort of kindness and learn their name.  Smile, be sweet to their baby, let them go first.  It is such an opportunity to be a light and show love to another mom who just needs to know she is noticed and she's doing a good job.  

Well, I think that will wrap it up for now!  I am excited to be "caught up" with some of these blogs I've been partially writing so that I can start writing as it happens now.  I feel like there are so many details I'm always wanting to blog about, or heart stuff I want to share, but needed to catch myself up first.


Selah is 2! (and a Life Update)

Today is a day that forces my hand to the keyboard.  So many of them prompt me strongly, but today I just couldn't resist the prompting any longer.  My baby girls are growing up...fast.  It's amazing really.  Most of the time I feel like I'm along for the ride, thoroughly enjoying the adventure that every new day brings.  Yet sometimes one day brings newness to it that makes my heart lodge firmly in my throat and I have to choke back the tears of losing yesterday to forever.  The only thing that helps me recover is my extreme thankfulness for today.

(Taken right before we moved, during a hot, exhausting packing day)

So in light of my long (yet not unusual these days ;) blogging absence, I think I'm going to have to steamroll the current info. onto this blog post.  Because I usually so desperately work to create perfect little packaged posts that hold all the info and pictures I want in it and not anything else.  But I've been trying that and I keep running into problems with it...not enough long stretches of time or energy to complete them entirely, a computer that is in the crashing stages of life and I haven't been able to upload photos to for a year, and an often lack of emotional energy or discipline to record these precious days.  I sure do miss documenting life on this blog, so I'm determined to make a come back.  But this post isn't about that.  Let me add a quick note to say that I used to care too much about making certain groups of people happy with what I write...but I think that does a disservice to myself and my little ones.  We obviously have rough, plenty of bummer moments types of days, but I usually don't choose to expand on all that when I do memory posts like this.  But maybe on one of those days I'll just spill my guts.  Maybe not. ;)  So pretend I entitled this, "Celebrating My Kiddos."  Well, okay, one thing.  There was that night last week that Kevin must have run an errand, I was giving Zoe a bath and Selah hadn't obeyed right away so I sent her to time out.  Well she was exhausted and got her feelings hurt so she started that dramatic-sad-not really crying-but screaming anyway thing, which in turn prompted her sister to start fake crying/screaming, (those two really seem to stay on the same page;), and it hit me just right that I had to put my head down with the biggest smile on my face.  I just couldn't stop laughing at the moment, thinking about this crazy scene.  This is definitely a far cry from the time Zoe was 10 days old and this happened...I cried with them then!  So things like this happen and most of the time I don't even know what day it is because I feel so exhausted...but I'm thankful to be blessed with that exhaustion so this post reflects that!

(Zoe is growing like crazy and she is a HAPPY child!)

First, the latest with us: we moved to another state and are working at a new church!  I actually wrote all about it about 3 weeks after we moved, and I just posted that and back dated it here.  So that will fill in some blanks and emotions.  We've now lived in our home in IN for a little over 2 months.  It has been crazy, as moving (especially with little ones!) always is.  But we are really soaking up this time as a family too.  It is definitely a bonding experience to move to a place that neither of you have ever lived and learn it together.  We have certainly had our hard, homesick moments, but this post isn't particularly going to be about that.  But I will say THANK YOU to our amazing Louisville community who have prayed us through this transition.  We sure do miss doing life with you, but you are in our conversations, thoughts, and prayers often.  And we are SO grateful for being sent out for kingdom work with such support.  We are also really thankful for the sweet, gracious community here who has welcomed us with open arms.  And God has really blessed us with continual affirmation in little and big ways that He has gone before us here.  Which ultimately brings more peace than anything else!

Our home here is getting cozier and more "us," and the girls and I are honestly having a great time exploring during our days.  There is the cutest children's bookstore downtown that has a train table and story time 2 times a week.  (And a special, longer activity on Fridays you can register for!)  We also have the most amazing 3 story library that has story time a few times a week, and an awesome play area.  Then there's Barnes and Noble's story time on Wednesday where they also have a train table....along with gingerbread lattes and mommy books too!  When the weather was nice her most favorite thing in the world was the "pawk." (park)  She could go for hrs. there.  We also usually make about a once a week trek to Trader Joe's, about a 20 minute drive, which is like a field trip to Selah because she gets her own cart...and she has turned into an awesome, mostly no fit throwing shopper.  I have also become more efficient at getting through the store, and if I keep it to 20-30 min. max we're good.  Don't get me wrong, we certainly don't do all those things every week, but I love the options, and whenever we do any of them it's been a really fun time and a good day.  I think Selah and I both like the adrenaline from our outings. :)  Actually just this past Monday I was really taken back by how much Selah has changed even since we moved 10 weeks ago.  When we first started going to story time here she kept asking for the train to be uncovered and got a little ready for the stories to be over.  But just this week we went in, she sat down on the little carpet square and loved the stories, anxiously waiting for each page to be turned.  So I chose this week to start checking out big stacks of picture books at the library to read throughout the week which my teacher heart has been loving.  And Zoe is totally along for the adventure.  We have quite the system and she lives in my Pikkolo carrier. We both have grown to love that thing. There are also some really sweet, young moms that go to our new church, and we're slowly planning more play dates to get to know them.  But just keeping two baby girls fed, changed, and getting their regular naps while keeping up with the house and continuing to get settled has proved to be all consuming on a lot of days!

I guess what I really want to be writing down for keeps right now are thoughts about my baby girls as they are.  So I should get right to that...

Selah is 2.  She is an amazing, beautiful two yr. old who has captured our hearts and created a whole bunch of joy bursts in there.  We look at her all the time and tell her how beautiful she is.  We actually use the word 'cute' a lot around here, so she does too.  Which is awesome.  She looks at the baby and says, "Cuuute."  Or if I put a necklace on or curl my hair I get the same reaction.  So do furry little animals she sees, so I don't quite know how to take it.  ;)  What a journey we've been on since her baby sister was born.  It has blown me away how awesomely she has jumped into the big sister/sharing mommy role.  Such a beautiful blessing to see her love her life with Zoe in it.  She has always been a nurturing baby lover, with a pretty good imagination for independent play, and it seems those things have helped.  But from the moment we brought Zoe home, Selah has wanted to be with her as much as possible.  The first thing she says whenever she wakes up from anything is, "Bay-bee, bay-bee." She immediately wants to wraps her arms around her neck and smother snuggle her. She can say 'Zoe,' and sometimes even Zoe Joy, but I call Zoe 'Baby' and 'Baby Sister' so often that I think it's always stuck with Selah.  She makes us laugh absolutely every day.  I love it when she says, "Whoops!" if she or someone drops something or if she falls, and "Saw-ree" when it's appropriate.  About a month before we moved, I'll never forget that first moment Selah said, "I do it."  We were in the bathroom and I was helping her with one of her dolls.  It caught me off guard but was so precious.  That was her first sentence.  And the beginning of her language explosion.  One of the sweetest nights of my life was 4 days before we moved for good, after a super fun night of swimming at a friend's house, and I was getting dinner for Selah in the midst of packing while Kevin was out of town, already having started his new job.  I handed her something like a napkin or cup and unprompted she said, "Gank-oo!"  (Thank you)  I got the biggest smile and it totally caught me by surprise.  I have been saying "Thank you mommy" probably after almost anytime I've done something for her or given her something since she started making sounds and words.  It is an amazing moment, as other moms have experienced, when something you've worked hard to train your child in bears fruit.  Amazing.  I have a whole post to write about that night, (and I'd better get to it!) because it was sweet and special, and right on the edge of everything that was to come.  Just one of those sweet spots in the midst of crazy that I desperately needed and meant a whole lot.  Speaking of swimming, I do wish I had written more about that this summer...Selah LOVES the water.  It's really awesome and was so cute to see.  Even in the midst of packing and craziness, I tried to take her to the pool as much as possible.  The month of August was awesome because it wasn't so unbearably hot for Zoe to sit in the stroller and often sleep.  Then at the end of the summer Zoe was big enough that I got her in with us a couple times and she loved it too!  Such sweet little water babies.  We made some really special memories this year in the pool.  Next summer will surely be a blast with them both eager to get in.

A few weeks before her second birthday Selah really started talking about everything and pointing out everything.  It was like all of a sudden we were like, "She knows what everything is!  How long has this been going on?!"  Ha.  These little ones go from baby to big kid in a flash.  She was also saying, "Ma-muh, ma-muh" all the time when she was calling for me or talking to me.  So sweet when she would call for me with this sweet voice from her crib.  How can you resist?  The crazy thing is how quickly she stopped calling me that and went right to 'mommy!'  It was like over night, right around when she turned 2.  It really surprised me that she just changed, so I tried to make her go back.  Ha.  Good luck telling a 2 yr. old what to call you. :)  Then I settled into and accepted we had grown to Mommy.  But guess what little big girl started trying out on me last week..."Mom!!!"  What in the world is happening.  I have no idea where she picked that up but it is funny.  I still keep trying to refer to myself as Mommy, but she firmly goes back and forth.  Today I spontaneously showed the girls a cheer from high school and Selah responded with a calm, "Good job Mom."  Ha!  I've settled into the fact that I just love being her mom and I'll be happy to be called whatever her little heart desires.  So enjoy it while it lasts fellow "mamas!"

Even as I'm writing I feel a little desperate to figure out how to possible capture her exploding personality on this simple computer.  But it's impossible.  Saying things here just sound like facts....but they couldn't possibly capture the life that is in my firstborn baby girl.  Anyone who has or has had a two yr. old knows what I'm talking about.  They are so full of LIFE!  She is funny and silly and loves to play.  She calls other kids, "friends," and doesn't understand when big kids are the nicest, but she's getting more curious about it.  She can play all.day.long.  It's amazing how long she could go without eating or stopping if we let her, especially at a park.  And they have great parks here.  So many places to explore.  She could also sit and watch Curious George for longer than I let her too, so she's definitely a versatile little person.  She has a sweet heart and loves to do things as a family.  She loves to take walks, which we've done a lot of since we've moved.  When we first moved here we went to the children's museum with some friends and she had an absolute blast the entire day.  Couldn't get enough.  I think all the fun things to do and the fact that everything is so close together here has really helped her transition seamlessly.    And I think she was also at the just right age to be flexible and not so attached that she would have a hard time.  Though I know she would be thrilled to visit our old/home church and see the familiar faces that have loved on us so much.  We sure miss them, and certainly have some really homesick days, but are thankful they sent us with many prayers and words/hearts of confidence in the Lord's plans during this next step for our family.

Moving was hard.  Really hard.  It was exhausting to pack and clean, find a new place to live, process leaving our old life, and take care of a 4 mo. old and 23 mo. old at the same time.  It was emotionally exhausting too, and I think I got sick with a bad cold or sore throat in the middle of it.  We tried hard to get together with as many friends and family as possible before we left, which was awesome but crammed our days full at the same time.  Looking back I'm amazed at how Selah adventured through those later than usual nights and kept going with joy.  It is seriously a blur.  The week before moving and the 2-4 weeks after feel like such a crazy time in my memory that I was just forcing myself to physically get through.  Zoe has always needed me in a big sort of way, which I love about her, but looking back I think that contributed to the exhaustion.  Not to mention that my youngest baby used to hate being in the car.  Not a great situation in the midst of all the running and driving we were doing.  My saving grace was having two babies who didn't know the difference of what was going on, and just wanted to love life!  So doing fun things with them in the middle of it all helped me keep my sanity.  But that's all just a side note.  We survived, and dare I say now we're on the brink of thriving! :)

Back to my baby girl....Selah still loves all her baby dolls, but she doesn't leave clothes on any of them.  Which I think is the opposite of how I was when I was little, concerning the clothes thing.  It will be interesting to see how this evolves.  She also loves building blocks and will tell you to sit and play with her.  And she loves kicking or throwing any type of ball.  She really seems to love 'working' at something.  She has recently started loving 'making' something in the kitchen, or helping wash the dishes.  And I let her "make" to her little heart's content, giving her little bits of flour, raisins, oatmeal, and measuring cups and spoons.  It is her place of delight to be working with me like that and I love it.  She loves when I make, "muffs." (muffins)  And I've recently taught her to like carrots and "hummoose," which I'm thrilled about because I love hummus.  Little things I wish I would have done a better job of writing down are things like when she started making actual kiss sounds when she kissed us.  (instead of just putting her lips together)  This also happened about a month before we moved and it was so sweet and adorable.  She started putting so much purpose behind her affection.  It's the little things that seem to make your heart the happiest as a mom!

She's also learned a lot about obedience and seems to be a child who wants to do the right thing.  But I can tell when it's hard for her because she has that "look."  She went through her first "fit" phase around the time we moved because I can remember telling Kevin, "Just make sure to support her head on her way down."  Ha.  These kiddos sure have strength!  That's right around the time when he wasn't too thrilled with Trader Joe's trips that got too long! ;)  She's also started "running," swinging her arms and everything and it's awesome.  She loves to go on walks with Daddy without the stroller, just holding his hand and occasionally running with him.  A few months ago she was saying, "Yeah" a lot when we'd ask her something, and we'd correct her to say, "Yes, please."  So she transitioned to, "Yep,"  which was so cute.  Then in the last few weeks she has started saying, "Yes, peas."  And it's awesome.  An encouragement to new moms...start repeating the manners over and over early and one day it will stick for good!  My mom was huge on manners and it has stuck with me.  I'm definitely thankful to have been trained in that way, where it feels weird if I'm rude.  (because let's be honest, I definitely can be.)  The hilarious part about when they start saying these things is that they say them all the time.  Like now when you give something or do something for Selah she says, "Gang-koo, Welcome.  Gang-koo, Welcome."  So funny.  Selah loves reading, and she loves books about numbers or animals.  She really loves it when something is funny or silly.  She still sucks her thumb and twirls her hair when she's tired or unsure of something.  But right before we moved she grew out of holding onto my hair when I would rock her or sing to her.  Just today she asked me to take my hair out of a ponytail when I was holding her at one point, but that was it.

The last 6 months with her have definitely been a time when we have been overwhelmed with moments of truly delighting in who Selah is becoming.  It is such a powerful connection with the Father's heart when you read in His word how he delights in us and can't really imagine it or fathom it.  Then you have a child of your own and it is overwhelming how the reality of delighting in another beautiful creation in a way that takes over your whole soul.  I have moments of watching her and just being speechless with how I feel about her.  Just tonight I snuck up the stairs and peered through the railing to watch her talk to her stuffed animal and 'read' her Bible before she finally surrendered to laying down for sleep.  Then I went up to make sure she wasn't sleeping on a block or a book and she woke just enough to ask me to get in.  It's actually pretty cozy in there.  You know it's almost time to transition to a  big girl bed when she's old enough to ask us to snuggle next to her because she knows we can't resist those sweet moments.  The other night I rubbed her head and sang her all the way to sleep and treasured it in every way I could.  I always, always longed for this, prayed for this, desperately hoped for moments just like the ones I'm having now.  It's a really incredible experience to learn how to parent and encounter the refining that comes from it.  And to witness the unfolding of a life learning its way for the first time.

I just can't resist all the original uniqueness that comes from within her.  She is untainted by the world and brimming with pure innocence and it's amazing.  I treasure it as hard as my heart will allow.  Every experience with her is new and amazing because it's the first time it's happening for us as parents.  Some of those firsts she hasn't loved, like fireworks at a wedding this summer which terrified her, and the fire trucks in the first parade she saw.  "Too loud," as she would say.  She gives a pretty good neck grip during these times too. :)  She loves to help get everyone's socks and shoes ready when she wants to go somewhere, and two days ago she sat and worked at it and got her own shoes on and velcroed...which was adorable because she had a shirt and diaper only on and we weren't going anywhere.  Speaking of diapers, she's still in them.  And I'm still cloth diapering two.  I'd love to tell you about it sometime. ;)  So far she makes her little Target bath baby tinkle in the potty chair so it will sing and say, "Yay!"  I'm waiting for her to feel really ready.  She asked to be changed, so I think she's close.  When she was 18 months, right before Zoe was born, she didn't have a diaper on after bath time and became really overwhelmed because she had to "poo."  So we ran and put her on the potty and she pooed in there.  And apparently was pretty traumatized because she never wanted to do that again...ha ha.  So we'll wait for that.  We're doing fine without wiping bottoms and dealing with public places so far. ;)

We pray more about Selah's relationship with Jesus than anything else.  She likes to talk about "JeeJee" as she calls him, and thinks every Bible character is him.  She also insists on first finding the "baby" towards the end of the Bible every time we open it.  We just recently have been talking about really praying for the Lord to develop and refine certain character traits we see in our children.

Motherhood is no doubt hard work.  For every mother, no matter the situation or circumstance.  But it is good work.  And us mothers have an intense bond of knowing what it's like to love that hard and that fully.  I am in a sweet place right now, really enjoying these days that are flying by but are being filled with memories.  When these sweet ones are grown, the thing I'll miss the most is how they feel in my arms.  Oh how I love holding them close, feeling their sweet skin, and calming them by running my fingers through their hair or rubbing their little arms.  I love their giggles, their energy, and their joy.  I'll miss those sweet baby things one day, but I also excitedly embrace the new days and ways they grow...because I don't take it for granted to get another day with them.  It's such a privilege to raise these sweet children God birthed from my womb.  So amazing.  I pray for many, many, many days with them.  And I pray hard for the relationships we'll hopefully have as they grow and we get to see how God will use them.  But for now we're going to take all the sweet snuggles we can get!

Well, that's embarrassingly long.  But I'm sure the grandma's and great-grandma's appreciate the update!  I obviously can't turn this into any longer of a post...or at least I'm not going to.  So that's it for now...my amazing littlest baby Zoe girl will get her own update coming up next!  That little one is going to be running circles around me in no time!


Zoe - 4 and 5 months

Sweet Zoe's 4th and 5th months were the craziest ever!  I always vow I won't say this, but I sure do wish I had done a better job of journaling and writing during that time.  But I was just trying to keep my head above water in a lot of ways.  It also was the end of summer, the beginning of a beautiful Fall and we were so busy having fun and exploring our new town.  I remember thinking when Zoe turned 4 months, then 5, how much she was changing and growing up, mostly in the way of showing her personality.  She has A LOT of personality too, let me tell you.  She is the smiliest little baby, unless it's time to go to sleep, which she really dislikes.  She also gets very upset if she's done playing on the floor and you don't pick her up right away.  She has not been one to roll from one side of the floor to the other, but she's been rolling onto her belly since shortly after 3 months, and will pull herself to whatever she wants.  Zoe's love for her sister just kept growing during these months, and she learned to become quite flexible, with lots of changes.  We moved when Zoe was 4 and 1/2 month old and she was still at a place where she did not love being in the car.  So the driving to and from when we had to do that a few times was not easy.  We had the privilege of staying with my grandma for almost a week while we were looking for a place to live in our new town.  The girls loved their Great Grandma/"GeeGee's" house, and it was fun to get to spend that extended time for her.  But it was a little crazy too, as two little one's in a non-child proofed home can be a little hard on their mama. ;)  We moved to our new place, had some rental house issues to work out, which was stressful to say the least, and just the process of unpacking, moving, creating new routines.  But the girls were champs and we played and played.  I have worked so very hard since Zoe was born to keep doing special things with her and Selah, no matter how crazy it's been.  Because even when the stress is high and the to-do list is long, I don't want to miss out on precious memories!

Zoe has been told her whole life that she is SO CUTE!  And she is told this by everyone!  That only got more fun and easy to do during those sweet months because she just smiles, crinkles up her nose, and is so easy to make giggle.  If she hears her daddy making her sister laugh she will twist her whole body around so fast just to see, then she starts laughing right along like she's part of the fun.  Every single morning, without fail, both girls have to see each other first thing.  Zoe smiles so big when her sister comes to give her hugs.  She has always had the most amazing cheeks, and has received too many kisses to count...just so amazingly irresistible!!  At 4 and 5 months old Zoe took lots of walks in my carrier, to the park, to our downtown, at the grocery store, during story time at the library or Barnes and Noble.  She did a lot of hanging out and going with the flow!  I love the memory of one of the first times she was in the nursery at our new church.  I was a little nervous, but when I came to get her she heard my voice, whipped her head around and smiled so big.  And she was sitting in a Bumbo, which we don't have, and it was before she was sitting up on her own.  So she looked so big and I got one of those overwhelming, "She's mine," proud mommy moments.  I just love her little 'zest for life' heart.

 I will say she still was not a great napper at at home at this time, which was tough for me.  (She always slept great in the Pikkolo when we were out and about;) So many days I felt like I just needed somewhat of a break.  My babies needed so much at this time, and Selah wasn't quite having full conversations or communicating as fully then.  I think that's all why it's kind of a blur.  We were just living and loving hard, trying to sleep when possible and recover from the exhaustion of getting adjusted and acclimating to a new place.   The days were flying by fast!  And I might have stayed up most of the night to finish details for sister Selah's 2nd birthday, which didn't do me any favors on the energy front. :)  I usually have what I consider to be a pretty good memory, even with the details, but wow...those first two months of Indiana with two babies and a husband with a new job were crazy.  And we didn't even have our dog with us at that time!

You know how some kids require singing, dancing, and standing on your head to get them to smile one demand? (that's Selah;)  Well not Zoe.  She practically gives you the biggest smile just for looking at her!  And if you talk to her in a sweet voice or give her a big smile, she just cannot resist.  It's such a precious trait of her's, to smile and laugh so big and easily.  It is seriously infectious around here.  We all love to make our baby Zoe smile!

Zoe honestly just loves love.  I know that sounds like a normal baby thing, but for this girl - it's serious. She thrives in every way on affection and the attention of her loved ones.  This has been true since the second they laid her on my chest in the hospital.  It's actually amazing to see how she showed us who she is during her first moments.  This is fun in the way that she is thrilled to be spent time with in anyway.  Meaning she's always like it when we sing to her, or read her books, or talk to her.  Even from a little bitty age.  Which has always been so sweet to me.  When she is happy, she is the happiest little thing without a care in the world.  But when she's not, she is my little firecracker.  I mean for real.  This girl has spunk and spice for days!  This mostly shows itself at sleeping times, in the carseat, or when she is ready to be picked up.  Sometimes it's seriously like two totally different babies.  But she is always calmed quickly at this stage.  I know that God is going to use that fierce determination for his glory.  And I know her joy will be something special that will be a light for many.  I pray that He helps me know how to lead it well.  One thing I haven't mentioned is that Zoe moves all.the.time.  Just like in my belly!!  It's amazing.  When she is wiggling all around and in our arms I imagine those same movements in my belly and it cracks me up.  She just has to move and kick and twist and grab.  At the same time, she has always been one to lay her head on my shoulder and lean in when we're holding her.  She will just hang out in your arms looking around and taking it all in, perfectly happy.

I love you Zoe girl!  You are such a special blessing to me and I cannot imagine my life without you sweet one.


On An Adventure

It is good to be here...writing in this little space of mine in the online world.  In the last several months my mind and heart have been in a million different places.  If I'm being honest, it's been pretty exhausting in most ways, but wow - what an adventure!  About a month ago I had a blog in my mind titled, "On the Edge of Adventure and Feeling Thankful."  Well, that ship has sailed.  I am still feeling thankful, but we are deep in our adventure....our little family moved to a new state just a few short weeks ago!  After MUCH prayer and seeking, talking and thinking, and seeking wise counsel, my husband took a new ministry position at a church in Indiana, only about an hour and 15 min. from where I grew up.  (and where my parents still live)  This decision was honestly, truly excruciatingly difficult for us.  Kevin has been in Louisville his whole life, and his entire family is there.  And we had to choose to leave an incredible and amazing church and community.  God is doing an incredible work there, and the people are on fire and seeking hard after him.  We were so privileged to be a part of it.  It was a unique situation because we both felt as excited about ministry and what we were both in the middle of doing as we ever had.  And we really felt if there was a time in our marriage and our family to take a step of faith like this, then it was now.  Nonetheless, the relationships we have built over the last five years we've been married, and the amazing people who have loved on us and our babies, were so, so tough to say goodbye to.  But shortly before Zoe was born, this new job possibility came up.  And we spent months going through the process of seeing if God was leading us through that door.  As it turns out, we felt peace and excitement to walk through this new door, and embark on an adventure together, no matter how tough it would be to leave a place where we were thriving and knowing great joy.

And now?  We are on that adventure, and have moved to the most charming community and a young church who is hungry for more of God and all He can do in this place.  We have joined a sweet and passionate staff, and people who have been so sweet to welcome us with kindness and joy.  Our prayer is that we can serve and become a part of this church and community, and be completely surrendered to how God wants to use us here.  And so far we are no doubt tired, (moving is exhausting!!!), but we are having fun.  I kid you not, as one of Kevin's co-workers just said, we seriously moved to Stars Hollow out of the Gilmore Girls.  We live on a brick road you all!  We also are a walk away from the cutest, historic downtown which has an old fashioned diner/ice cream shop, a cupcake shop, a children's bookstore that has storytime two times a week, the coolest antique shops, and some fun restaurants.  I can also walk to the (awesome) library, and Kevin often walks to and from work!  We are just a mile from our new church/his work.  Just this past weekend there was a fun little festival on the downtown square that we walked to.   There are also some really fun parks here, one where we had Selah's second birthday party.  So all those things certainly make it easier for a mom with two sweet little ones to adjust.  I would be lying if I said we haven't had some seriously homesick moments.  Moving is always a really big deal and just takes time.  And while we love being a part of our new church family, it is definitely tough not to feel like we're missing out at "home" sometimes.  This is my third really big move in my life, though it's a little crazier because I do feel a little like I've 'come home' in a way.  I haven't lived this close to my parents since I left for college 14 years ago...and I am a midwest girl with a heart for Indiana. :) All that to say, we are excited to join God at work here, to get to know our new community, and continue making memories as a family. Thank you friends and dear family for your prayers! We are so thankful!!



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This was one of my favorite moments shortly after Zoe was born. It was about 6:30 in the morning, two hours after her arrival, and we were "kangarooing" on the hospital bed, while Daddy was asleep on the couch. I thought I would sleep after being exhausted from laboring/delivering through the night, but I had so much adrenaline and emotion, I just sat there, with tears rolling down my face. I didn't have my bible or journal or anything near me, (and I wasn't exactly able to just hop up and get it, if you know what I mean;). Kevin was asleep on the couch in the room and I didn't want to wake him, so I just held my baby girl, thanking God for her delivery, overwhelmed by the whole experience. So surreal.

I went all natural for Zoe's birth. Like no medication at all. It was crazy. Crazy hard. So hard that Kevin or I neither one could think about it or talk about it without getting so emotional those first days. I mean seriously...if you're looking for a way to be forced to get outside yourself and depend fiercely on God, this is one good way to do that. :)

I mentioned with Selah's birth that Kevin and I had really prepared to give the natural experience a try. But if you read her "three day induction" story, you know that wasn't happening after being induced. And while I didn't like any of the effects of the epidural, I admittedly loved the whole birth experience, and had fun going through it. When I got pregnant with Zoe, it surprised me how many people asked if I was going to go natural. It caught me off guard because I really wasn't necessarily planning on it or even determined to give it a try. I just knew I really wanted to enjoy my second birth experience too. Well, the doctors even started asking, and being really encouraging about me being able to do it. It's funny how much it meant to me that they were so positive. (both my dr. and the dr. who delivered Selah when mine was on vacation.) So I started saying if I had to be induced then no way I would even attempt it.  Because in my opinion being induced is like being set on fire...at least that's what it felt like to me after 30 hrs., before the epidural;)  Having done it the other way, I can confirm it to be true...induced contractions feel much crazier and unnatural - really hard to find any sort of rhythm or relief through.

Kevin and I did start reviewing all we had learned, praying and preparing for the possibility, and I started saying if we went into labor on our own, if the baby was in a good place and it wasn't terribly long, then I definitely wanted to see how we could do. Having an epidural last time wasn't my favorite, with the paralyzed legs and how sick it made me. So that just added to my motivation to see how it might go.

We prayed many times to go into labor on our own, and prayed some very specific prayers over the whole process. We had no idea what it would be like for that experience, especially since the last time we were so overdue and it was really different.

So around 37 weeks I started doing the thing where the increasing braxton hicks contractions make you think you're going to go into labor anytime. Also, Zoe always sat really low, especially after she flipped from being in a breech position, around 34 weeks. So the end felt a lot different. That at least threw us into gear and we spent 3 solid weeks being way more productive and prepared than usual. (I was packed by 38 weeks, I actually checked everything off my list (wow), and my nesting of choice was sewing...more on those projects later!)

Basically for the next few weeks every night was about the same once I laid down, feeling a little different, increasing contraction like symptoms. At my week appt. I was 4 cm dilated, which I was SO excited about. I thought for sure I would go early. (Just because I felt different than last time) My sciatic was really messed up though, so those last weeks were tough...so it was probably wishful thinking that she'd come soon. 40 weeks came and went on April 11th, and we just started taking it day by day.

Friday night we went to a church staff get together, which was one of those bonus things when you're overdue. :) That night while I was talking to someone I would randomly get these weird bursts in my back, different but not exactly painful, more like I thought it was funny because they would catch me so off guard. Saturday night was kind of the same, maybe a few more. I definitely kept feeling like there was an increasing sort of "churning" in there. Then, at 2:30 Sunday morning, I had a contraction that hurt enough to wake me up. One of those quick waves. But I thought I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep, as 30 min. later I had another. I made myself relax and thankfully did go to sleep. All day Sunday I would have another one of those contractions, and they remained 30 min. apart. And my nesting was crazy. I was moving around the house, making sure everything was in order, laundry was done, bags were packed and double checked, Selah's stuff was prepared...oh, and I made a crib sheet I had been planning on since I had Selah. Ha. By mid afternoon, during Selah's nap and when I was at the part of feeding the elastic through the sheet, I was laying in bed working on it, because my contractions were more painful and I was starting to really time them/pay attention to the intensity.

My mom was originally going to come on Saturday, but we had pushed it back to Sunday, and she arrived around 5:00. I'm so thankful for the perfect timing of that, because she lives 4 hrs. away and I really didn't want her to miss it. By the time I was rocking Selah before her bedtime, I was having painful enough contractions that I had to stop singing every once in awhile and breathe through it. But they still weren't long. After she went to sleep the real fun began.

I was still busying myself with preparations, while continually saying things to Kevin about being prepared. I think I was getting nervous about how everything was going to go, as it's all just so unpredictable. He started reviewing our notes from the class we had taken, especially about how to help me through contractions and when to go to the hospital. Between 8 and 9 they were getting bad enough that I had a bit of a meltdown at one point until Kevin and I were on the same page, and I had to start vocalizing through them. I tried to get in the tub but I did not like that at all. For some reason every time I had a contraction, (once they were especially painful), I had to stand straight up. I think it was her position or something.

The contractions were lasting at least 30 sec. and were getting closer and closer together. Between 9 and 11 things progressed and changed significantly, as far as my pain level and the consistency. I took a shower to try to relax and be ready in case we were going to be having a baby that night. (Obviously we were, but apparently we like to keep our options open. ;) By 11:00 I was on the floor in the living room with the exercise ball, and we called our amazing friend Holly, (who has 10 children of her own and who helped us during labor last time), to get some advice on what to do. Everything we had learned and read had told us to not rush to the hospital because it was best to get as far along as possible at home in a relaxed environment. (Which I totally agree with, as long as your water doesn't break of course). And the real reason we were unsure was because they were (mostly) consistent at 5 min. apart, but never lasted more than 45 sec. So we were really waiting for them to be a minute long. Well, Kevin was waiting for that. It's so hard on the "coach's" part, because they can't feel the pain or know how intense it is, so he could only go by what we had been told/taught to do. We did learn through this experience that every baby/body is different and following the mom's lead is undoubtedly the best (only!) way to go. :)

The funny part was the fact that my sweet mom had to witness this craziness. She was admittedly starting to get a little scared that we had lost our minds and were going to have a baby in the living room. At one point I guess Kevin went to talk to her about phone numbers and who could come stay with Selah during the night, and he said she was looking up on Web MD what active labor looked like and when to go to the hospital. Ha! She did such a good job of not freaking out or telling us what we should do next.

Let me just say, laboring naturally with people you love around you can be hard. Well, at least for me. Because I might be able to get through a lot of pain, but it's really hard to be extremely nice/loving/respectful through it. It takes so much focus and the littlest thing can make you crazy.

So while Kevin was talking to Holly, asking her what we should do, I had a painful contraction that I was particularly loud through. She asked Kevin, "Is that Page in the background? I think you all should probably go." So apparently when they get that hard and painful you're getting close. ;) Kevin did give me the option of laying on the couch and seeing if they lightened up at all. An option I was not interested in. I'm definitely not the girl looking to deliver my own baby! Ha.

We got in the car around 12am to head to the hospital. I wanted to pop in Selah's room, lay my hand on her and pray over her one more time, and I tried...but barely made it out of her room without "verbalizing," (that means some form of yelling), through another contraction. The drive to the hospital was not particularly pleasant. I kept telling Kevin not to talk and to just turn on the music. It took about 15 min. to get there and when we did I asked Kevin to get me a granola bar we had packed because I knew they wouldn't let me have anything and I wanted to have energy. Then he got out the video camera...which I was not a fan of during active labor, let me just say. But apparently he's really glad he took it now!

The main doors were locked, so we had to walk to another exit, then a nice man with a wheelchair loaded me up and took us up the elevator. All the while I'm getting through these contractions. When we got up there we probably waited 5 min. for the nurses to come, (and I apologized for taking them from their break - ha.) They asked me if I was going to get an epidural and I said it depended on what they checked me at. So we went in the triage room, and she checked me...I was a 7!!! In my mind, from everything I'd heard and read, 7-8 cm. is transition. And I had told myself if I could make it that far, I knew the baby shouldn't be too far away so I was definitely going to try. Kevin was obviously nervous about this....he asked the nurse how far in I could still get the epidural. She said all the way up until the baby crowns. (Who knew??)

I had strep B, and the worst part of that beginning process was getting through these painful contractions while they tried to get an IV in, start the penicillin, (which burns like crazy! really didn't like that), and asked me a million questions. Literally...it felt like a million. I was still sitting in that bed which was tough, and that whole thing was a blur because it was several nurses, lots of talking, and a painful thing in my arm. They wheeled us to the room, and said they'd call our doctor. Once we got in there Kevin made sure the lights were low, and we just kept getting through one contraction at a time. Shortly after we got in there I felt sick and threw up that granola bar I had eaten so quickly in the car. That was no fun. My doctor came really quickly and waited until we were between contractions to check on me and see how I was doing. I asked her how long it usually took and she said about 1 cm. every hr. In my mind I thought there was no way I could do that kind of laboring for 6 hrs. She said she was going to go get some sleep, and they'd get her when it was time.

Then it was just Kevin and me.  I'm telling you, I just teared up writing that sentence. That was the moment of entering one of the most sacred, painful, intense experiences of my life. It is so, so difficult to even know how to describe it...because to me it was so extremely internal and deep and focused....and so hard. Every time I had a contraction I would stand straight up, clench my legs together, sometimes get on my tip toes, and grab Kevin's shoulders really tightly. Sometimes would try to get a rhythm of swaying, or going up and down on my tip toes. In hindsight, its funny that everytime Kevin thought something would help me because I started doing it, he would try to initiate and I'd bluntly say, "Stop, don't do that!" I really wondered if we would be able to get through it without help or a doula, and now I think it was best to just have Kevin there because he's the only one whose feelings I didn't have to worry about hurting. It would have been hard for me to be in so much pain and be potentially rude to someone else had they been there. I would have worried about it and felt badly. He understood and knew he just needed to follow my lead and get me through. And he was amazing.

Music is so incredibly powerful to me, so like last time, we had it ready to go. Earlier in the day, when I had showered I had sang the song, "Love Came Down," (the Bryan Johnson version), and practiced relaxing through it. So I asked him to play it. That was one of those sweet and powerful moments of the night. I absolutely love that song and needed every word of it in those moments. I remember listening to that and Bebo Norman, and know we played more of my 'labor playlist,' and it was so helpful, just to help me stay focused on God's strength and not freak out at the pain. I think it was during that song that Kevin almost started to tear up and get emotional, and I said something to the extent of 'no way hosea.' I needed him to be sturdy and help me through each contraction.  Only one of us was allowed to be on an emotional roller coaster. ;)  I also really relied on my index cards with scriptures on them.  That was something I didn't have done yet, so while I had been laboring at home earlier in the day I'd given my journal to my mom so she could copy some verses down that I had chosen.

The one thing I was able to tell him to do that didn't make me crazy was to tell me at the beginning of a contraction that it was almost over. It was amazing what that did for me mentally. Sometimes I had to remind him during my breaks to say it right away. (Even if it wasn't exactly true.) I could tell he didn't want to tell me something that wasn't accurate at first, but I assured him that's what I needed to hear!  I'm telling you, even as I write this I can remember those huge waves as they built and peaked. And let me tell you, through every single one I thought, 'There's no way I can do that again. I'm going to get the epidural.  Then somewhere in my mind I'd be thinking I'm so close, just one more contraction. Then I'd think, that whole epidural thing would just take time, slow me down, be annoying, and make me have to get a catheter.  (which caused annoying problems after they took it out with my first baby.) That was all taking place somewhere in my mind, all while I was processing the pain.

I remember Kevin left two times for some reason, I think to talk to our families, maybe go to the bathroom.  But those two times he wasn't there it was SO much harder to get through the contractions.  I had to be careful not to panic.  But I did use those two times to be much more out loud verbal and vulnerable with the Lord, which was good for me.  I read my verses out loud, claiming them with my whole heart, and one time I said as surely as I knew how that I was claiming God's favor and calling on the Spirit in the name of Jesus, and asking for his angel armies to surround me and help.  Looking back those moments were powerful and awesome parts of the night.

Our sweet nurse Michelle came in every once in awhile, having me on the monitor for one stretch just to check on the baby, and to tell me if anything felt different to let her know. I felt like I was definitely moving towards something and the pain was increasing steadily. And I kept feeling like I had to go the bathroom, so I would continue to try. We had gotten in the room between 12:45 and 1, so at 2:00 or a little after I asked her to check me. I think that time was in hopes that progress would be motivating. She normally would have waited another hour, but she did...and I was at 8cm! That was seriously what I needed. So we kept going, and that next hour or so was crazy. It was still quiet and dark, and we had actually gotten into quite a rhythm. But I don't think we played music anymore after that...all I remember is the pain, the focus to get through, and the breaks. OH my goodness the breaks.

If pain in labor/childbearing is a result of the curse, then the breaks in the middle of contractions through natural labor are the demonstration of God's grace.  Seriously.  Getting through natural childbirth is only made possible by these incredible chunks of time where your body literally relaxes so deeply from exhaustion that you can fall asleep.  I kid you not.  Every time  I would make it through another contraction, right when it was over I would sit back down on the bed, positioning myself in the same way every time, with one leg on the bed, I guess because it was comfortable with my still sensitive and searing sciatic problem.  Then I would close my eyes, breathe, and gently sway back and forth.  At least a couple of times I would jerk awake from almost being out.  It's funny because even though I couldn't verbalize it I thought, "I wonder if Kevin knows I almost fell over?"  Ha.  Apparently it wasn't as dramatic as it felt.  But those moments were SO peaceful and SO amazingly awesome.  And it felt like they lasted 10 min. each.  Apparently they were only 2 or 3 min. long though, sometimes a minute and a half, according to Kevin.

Then when that precious break was over and the fire in my belly started up again, I'd stand quickly, grab onto Kevin, stand on my tip toes, and squeeze my legs together, trying to breathe, relax, and believe it would be over soon.  My screaming during the contraction started turning into me saying, "Owww, owww," kind of rhythmically, I guess because it felt better for me to be honest that it hurt!  Those contractions ended with a sort of sob too.  Then it got crazy.  Let me just say, transition is not when you know "the baby's almost here."  It's when your screaming goes up an entire octave and the breaks get shorter and shorter, less and less.  I remember specifically when I started sounding different and feeling like something was violently trying to get out of my body, and Michelle came in and said, "Are you okay?"  At the time I thought she'd lost her mind because it seemed clear that I was not. :)  But once I told her "something had changed," and she checked me to find I was 9 cm, I realized she had asked because it was sooner than she expected and I was sounding like someone does when the baby is about to come!

At 9 cm there were no more glorious breaks, no more rhythmic swaying or even any thinking clearly.  And I was just so incredibly tired.  (This all happened between 1:00 am and 4:11 in the morning.)  I crawled on the bed and screamed into the pillow for each one, and they came really pretty close.  I remember still thinking, "I can't do this, I'm going to get the epidural."  Then I'd go through that whole process in my mind again of how that would all just take too much time and I was almost there.  The room started getting a little crazy as nurses started prepping.  By this time I was biting the pillow with each contraction, accompanied by a pretty high pitched scream.  Mentally what honestly helped me the most was telling myself, "You will not break.  You are created to do this, this will not break you, it just hurts.  Because you just have to find a way to not completely tense up and try to protect yourself from the pain.  It's much better to lean into it and get through, if that makes sense.

My dr. came in shortly after and checked me again and said it was time to push!  This all was happening so fast but didn't exactly feel like it at the time.  I actually pushed really hard once and she realized I wasn't quite all the way to 10 like she had thought, but I could kind of push my way there.   Oh my goodness then the pushing.  I don't know if I've ever felt quite like I couldn't do something as much as I did that night.  That was the moment I most honestly admitted my absolute inability to do it, and my desperate need for the Lord to do what I couldn't.  My dr. was calm and so amazingly incredible the whole time.  She apparently is the resident pro at natural deliveries, and I certainly learned why.  She said, "Your natural instinct is going to be to scream through the pushing, but the more energy you put into that the less you'll have for the push."  Which I didn't love hearing, but I trusted her and gave it a shot.  She stayed that calm and so encouraging through the whole process.  She even let me put my foot on her leg for support.

I remember during each push my dr. saying, "Push, push, push!" really fast, and Michelle saying, "You're doing great, you're doing such a good job."  Kevin would say, "You're doing it, you're doing so good, keep going."  Then he would tell me he was so proud of me.  But let me tell you, it was crazy hard.  Ridiculously hard.  My baby girl did not pop right out.  I remember looking around the room and there were like 3 or 4 other nurses just waiting.  They just stood there watching, as calm as could be, saying nothing, doing nothing, just looking.  I remember wondering what they were thinking and how they could be so calm!  I also had a preconceived idea that "the ring of fire" was something that would last for seconds, when you pushed the baby out.  Well that might be true if your baby comes out with one push!  My sweet girl's head finally made an appearance after a crazy hard push, but she was not all the way out.  Apparently this was normal because my dr. wasn't freaking out or anything, but it.hurt.like.CRAZY.  This was the moment.  I was crying, I said to Kevin, "I can't do this," and he said, "You are doing it."  Then I was stuck in the fire thinking, "I can't push through this pain...but what's the alternative?  She can't go back in and this is the only way out!  One other thought in the back of my mind was that my sciatic pain would disappear if I could just get her out.  I'm not sure if this is accurate, but it felt like she was half way out and I was stuck in the fire until I did something about it!

So I gave a hard push, then cried out, "Lord Jesus I need you to deliver this baby right now!  Please help me!" (seriously - I was screaming this in the room.)  I pushed as hard as I could one last time and she came out.  And I thought I was going to pass out.  It hurt so bad.  Not like a shocking hurt, but like a 'this is so crazy, I can't believe I'm enduring this searing pain' hurt.  The coolest feeling of not having any medication is feeling the baby go from your belly to out in the world.  That really is awesome.  Your belly goes from hard to soft in a second.  I fell back onto the bed and was shaking, and the dr. handed her to me....still in her bag of waters!!!  It was so awesome, I only wish I had been a little less exhausted to really take all that in.  To break the water my dr. just gently sliced the bag and it all fell out on top of my chest.  Then they wiped the rest off Zoe's face.  It was the coolest thing.  And I have heard keeping the waters intact can help cushion the contractions, so I choose to believe this was such an answered prayer, and more grace on God's part.  Then Zoe gave the passionate little scream she is not known so well for, and she was snuggled close in my arms.  (I just sighed heavily thinking about that moment.  I still feel relief and joy when I get to this part of the story!)  Oh, and since she came about 3 hrs. after they pumped me full of that painful first dose of penicillin, I didn't even get enough rounds to protect her from the strep b....but since she was born in the bag of waters it didn't even matter!  Kind of crazy.

I remember kissing her wet little head over and over, talking to her in my mommy voice and telling her I loved her so much.  And I looked at Kevin and we both started crying, and I'll never forget saying, "That was so hard."  He nodded through his tears and said, "I know."  I looked over at my mom, who had come in right before I started pushing, and I said, "That had to be so hard to watch."  Then she started crying!  It was a little intense if you can't tell. ;)  But beautiful babies coming into the world is always so amazing anyway.  I will add in for those who have been through a natural delivery or who are curious about it, the part after delivery was extremely unpleasant, not quite worse, but bad in my book.  Email me for details. ;) I snuggled baby Zoe under my tank top to get her warm.  My brother and Kevin's parents came in to see her, and we were all just exhausted.  And so, so thankful.  There is nothing like the adrenaline rush and beautiful exhaustion of a baby coming into the world.

After that they helped me into a wheel chair, and handed the baby back.  My body was so seriously fatigued and out of it that for a second I was hoping I could hold her steady.  I just wanted to close my eyes.  Nobody was worried about that apparently, so I held her close, and she ate the whole time they wheeled me down to our room.  I had tears running down my face the whole way down the hallway, just taking it all in, everything we just experienced and the intensity of the last several hours.  So overwhelming and amazing all at once.  By the time we got to our room it was about 6 am, and the sweet nurses gave her a bath, and told us how seriously beautiful she was.  (We agreed of course;)  I was starving and exhausted, but breakfast wouldn't come until between 7 and 8, and Kevin passed out as soon as the nurses left and I was snuggled up with Zoe again.  I thought I would sleep because I'd taken a pain pill, but instead I found myself right where that first picture shows, tears running down my face, my heart processing the experience, and my adrenaline still rushing, just feeling so, so thankful.  I love, love being a mommy.

***If you're wondering, immediately after I gave birth I was thinking I would never do it that way again, wasn't even sure I could ever give birth again, and I would never tell anyone else to do it like that!  But that quickly changed to I will take it as it comes and I'm so glad we did it.  It's definitely an experience you can't over think or dwell on because then of course it would be too hard to imagine.  It's certainly a moment by moment thing for me, and I'm really, really thankful for the experience, just because it was special for what it was.  And while the after pain really wasn't noticeably different, my emotions and ability to move around were a lot better, and I didn't have some extremely annoying effects on my body that I had had previously for a couple months after my first delivery!  My advice for anyone giving it a try...definitely have worship music, the Word, and a willingness to totally and completely rely on and call on the Spirit for strength!!  Oh, and it took a full 2 months to "forget the pain."  But I can still do a pretty good job of remembering if I try hard enough. ;) TOTALLY WORTH IT.