Thursday, December 28, 2017

Holy-days {Advent & Christmas 2017}

[edited version of last year's Advent post]

Simple. Focused. Intentional.

That is our motto for this time of year.

If you want bunches of ideas for celebrating Christmas, you should probably go to Pinterest. We are more about cutting out a lot of the hoopla -- going for special and memorable (yes) but simple. It is Jesus' birthday; so, we focus on Advent ("waiting with hope") and then throwing a birthday party for Jesus. Simple as that. This was the second year we were home on Christmas Day! Here is what we did this month:

Devotions: Advent is where we put most of our emphasis, because what is this holy-day about if we do not prepare our hearts waiting for the Christ-child to come? We had our Advent wreath (carved out of wood, with 24 candle holes, and there's a movable donkey carrying Mary) out but did not use it regularly. This year, we used a new book -- All is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas (we alternated coloring a page one day and reading a page the next night).
Activities: We had company during most of this month and some rearranging, but it all happened! Sometime in the course of each day, we:
  1. Aolani hung an ornament we made two years ago on our Jesse Tree 
  2. Read a Christmas book. I arranged and stacked all of the Christmas books we own according to our schedule (I usually get two new ones every year). Then, I hid the stack and each night Ricky would put one out for the next day. 
  3. This year we did an Advent Activities Calendar. I came up with 24 things to do, one for each day leading up to Jesus' birthday. I adjusted the calendar so that the daily activities suited our monthly plans (i.e., we made the dessert for Micaiah the day before his birthday). We missed some days, but ended up working them in and just doubling up on other days. The list of this year's activities are below. Ricky would put the next day's activity in the bag at night.
  4. Schooling: I took eleven weeks off from schooling the kids (mid-October until after the new year), so we have time for a new baby, visitors, and Advent stuff.
  5. Our Advent devotional in the evening with Daddy (depending)
  1. Play hide & seek in a tree lot
  2. Make play-dough candy canes (didn't happen)
  3. Make paper snowflakes 
  4. Make pipe-cleaner poinsettias 
  5. Put together Christmas care package for missionaries 
  6. Invite family friends over to celebrate St. Nicholas Day by reading his biography and watching the Veggie Tales about him 
  7. Make snowflake window art 
  8. Act out the nativity story with friends
  9. Make white chocolate-covered pretzels
  10. Pick out Jesus’ birthday gifts (moved to Christmas day) 
  11. Make glitter globes 
  12. Watch Home Alone movie with friends 
  13. Make a birthday treat for Micaiah 
  14. Watch Christmas movie marathon
  15. Make and decorate gingerbread cookies 
  16. Watch The Nativity Story movie under blankets 
  17. Deliver cookies to a halfway house 
  18. Make and give apple bread to our neighbors (moved)
  19. Watch The Star movie in theater
  20. Go on a Christmas light scavenger hunt (in pajamas w/ a hot drink)
  21. Dance to Christmas music
  22. Have a "Fancy Dress" dinner and tea (we paid a friend to come over and cook an elaborate meal and dessert for eight people)
  23. Make a pillow bed on living room floor and watch Christmas cartoons 
  24. Make a birthday cake for Jesus 
  25. Throw Jesus a birthday party!
Decorations: Most noticeably, we do not have a Christmas tree. We are not totally against them; we just choose (for several reasons) not to erect one at this time. We have other items (ornaments, stockings, nativity sets...) on display and hanging around. We keep the Christmas music playing. Also, we simply hang the Christmas cards we receive on ribbon with clothespins. This year we decorated our house on the last day of November instead of the first day of December.

Treats: Our treats were almost daily this year -- banana pudding, cupcakes, gingerbread cookies, white-chocolate-covered pretzels, apple bread, gingerbread cake, ice cream, vanilla drinks, rosemary cornmeal cookies, gingersnaps, etc.

Presents:  This was our third year of doing it differently. Whereas we use to not exchange presents amongst just ourselves, we have asked our extended families to work in "Christmas presents" with other events -- like new year's or increase birthday or summer or a new school year or a visit or other holidays. We want to teach our kids that just as they get presents on their birthday, Jesus gets the gifts on His birthday (see Matthew 25:45) -- just keeping it simple (and imitating St. Nicholas!). After I had collected like a dozen gift catalogs over the past month or so, we spread them out, allotted each person an equal amount of money, and let them go! Yet, we do buy a few New Year's gifts for ourselves as a family and some friends that are to encourage faith and witness (such as Voice of the Martyrs' prayer calendars) for 2018. [Yes, our kids get gifts from us throughout the year as does Jesus, but we all know that birthdays are special for the birthday person ;)]

Christmas day activities and traditions: This has quickly become my favorite day of the year! First, we do all of our cooking for today the night before, so we can all sleep in some. Then, Ricky leaves to pick up our guests for our big meal and party (we pray much beforehand who to invite -- poor, needy, lonely...). After we eat and play, we sing Happy Birthday and have the cake before taking our guests home. Then, we went outside to talk about five gifts from God to give him thanksgiving. Afterwards, we did our annual scavenger hunt. This was so much fun again! This year we had seven clues, and the theme was Gifts we can give to God -- hearts/feelings, minds/thoughts, bodies/strength/clothes, dreams/hopes/plans/prayers, thanks, time, and money. There are more, those are just the ones we did. We finished the evening off playing games and eating leftovers:) And then we transitioned into picking out gifts to give Jesus. It was a great second Christmas-at-home doing what we wanted and look forward to next year!

Hope you had CHRISTmas joy in your celebrations and preparation for the coming of the King!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Merry CHRISTmas!

“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me.”
Mark 9:37 

May Jesus be welcomed!

Ricky, Aidan, Aolani (almost 8), Micaiah (6), and Raphael (b. 10/25/17) DiMartino

Top fave posts of 2017:
Raphael's Birth Story
Raphael's Birth & Name Announcement
Help Enduring Suffering
The Jewel {poem}
Marriage in Light of Eternity {video}

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Bundles of Joy

  • First week of November: We mostly laid low at home with my mom still visiting. The older kids went to their friends' house for a play date and again for small group, and Ricky went to a church outreach meeting.
  • Second week of November: Another chill week. My mom went home; we had our pastor over for lunch one day; our church body begins bringing us dinner meals for the next six weeks (!); and, the older kids went on another play date while we took Raphael to the Chiropractor (no crying or waking, just rested on Ricky’s chest while being adjusted:).
  • Third week of November: More homebodiness, just friends coming over to visit and see the cute baby;)
  • Fourth week of November: We were able to go to my parents’ farm for a few days over Thanksgiving! Raphael is a great car rider; the kids got to play with their cousins; Raphael got to meet his aunt and uncle; and, I crashed and rested (life with a newborn)!
  • Aolani is so motherly and helps me take care of the baby. Her maternal instincts are sweet, and she feels important and big (which she is)! She is also becoming quite independent and strong-willed (disagrees and argues with me a lot :( ).
  • Micaiah's mishaps (actually Mommy’s mishap, a humbling tale): One day Aolani came to me to inform me (tattletale) that Micaiah’s giving jar was empty even though his spending jar was full of money (since they haven’t tithed recently, he must have taken the money from giving and put it in the toy jar -- see money jars). I turned to him and astonishingly say, "You stole money from God?!” Ignoring his firm denial and shaking my head in disapproval, I continued, "Even if Mommy didn’t see or find out, God sees and knows everything!” Then he burst into tears and kept saying that I wouldn’t listen to him. I assured him I would listen. He reminded me that he had given me all the money from that jar when we collected money to buy Bibles for Buddhists. That’s right! I felt the heavy weight of guilt. Micaiah is so quick to give, generous and tenderhearted! After apologizing for wrongly assuming and falsely accusing, I gave him a big hug and reminded him that God loves a cheerful giver :) 
  • Raphael did a lot of growing this month! He lost his umbilical cord on his eighth day, gained three pounds, turns and moves a lot when lying down, grew out of newborn diapers, is practicing neck control, and did his first laughs for Ricky and I separately over Thanksgiving break (melt my heart!). He is our little noisemaker, making all those sweet, precious newborn grunts and squeaks. During the first month of life, I focus on breastfeeding and establishing a strong nursing relationship since it will hopefully last at least two years. So we spent a lot of time in the recliner just resting and nursing and growing. My milk came in on day three, and I went straight into oversupply, which I anticipated since I was only nursing one child (I had it with Aolani). To combat this issue, I nurse on just one side for two subsequent feedings before switching to the other side. This way my body gets the message to slow down milk production. This month I am somewhat working on sleep and next month’s focus will be on trying to figure out a routine that will work well with our family’s life. Right now, Raphael is still sleeping in our bed at night, probably until he can sleep at least six hours straight before waking to nurse. (Ricky is extremely hard to wake, even with alarms, water, hitting, my shouting, baby wailing... So when the baby needs to eat at night, I need to be able to reach him because Ricky will sleep through it all!)
  • I have written lyrics to well-known lullabies for the kids (i.e., one, two, three), and here is Raphael’s (to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star):
Twinkle, twinkle little star Raphael is who you are Raphael, it’s God who heals Trust in Him, your heart He stills Don’t you know He loves you so Yes I know He loves you so Twinkle, twinkle little star Raphael is who you are 
  • I put in every shot of Raphael during this shoot (by my mom), even if it's not great, because I treasure each expression! He's 1-month old here.
  • Almost all of these pictures include Raphael; we all just can't get enough of cute, little, chubby squish!
  • Verses I memorized: Matthew 5:45-48

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mosaic Institute

This past summer we had to name our school (according to North Carolina law). 

What a joyful and fun experience! We so enjoyed coming up with ideas and laughing over our silly suggestions ;)

Anyway, we did come up with a name that we both loved:
Mosaic Institute 

Why? Here are some of the reasons behind our choice:
  • I have always loved mosaics and found them mesmerizing. How all kinds of pieces of different shapes, colors and sizes can come together to compose a new and beautiful work of art. We want God to take the different shapes and sizes and "colors" of our kids and then nurture them into a coherent whole for his glory and purposes. At the same time, we want our kids to discover the multifaceted world around them, developing an appreciation for the truths of God in all the fields of learning and the beauty of God in all the people groups and natural wonders of the world. When all the various peoples in the world come together to worship and praise the Lord, it’s exquisite and glorious!
  • The word "Mosaic" is derived from Moses. When you go to the House Chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives, there upon the tops of the walls are marble relief portraits of famous lawgivers and rulers throughout the history of the world. All of them are depicted in profile, with their faces looking toward the same spot in the back of the room… all of them except one. The one they all look toward is the one whose face is not in profile, but whose face looks straight out toward the center of the room. That face is the face of Moses. He is the progenitor of much of civilization in the free world, civilization built upon the mores of Judeo-Christian foundations. Furthermore, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7). Moses, as the author of the Torah, the instruction of God, is in a sense a figurehead of that very fear, that very reverence, of the Lord, and as such he is someone who encapsulates wisdom. Finally, and somewhat controversially, there is even the theory that the development of the alphabet originated with Moses in writing the Ten Commandments and the Torah. The theory suggests that Moses streamlined Egyptian hieroglyphs into a system whereby unique sounds correspond to unique symbols in a one-to-one ratio -- not pictures symbolizing whole words as in hieroglyphic writing -- thus forming the concept of an alphabet, and it was from Israel that the Phoenicians then disseminated knowledge of an alphabet around the world. If this idea be true, then a school named in honor of Moses is all the more fitting, as literacy is one of the essential cornerstones for any development of knowledge.
  • The Mosaic Institute = TMI = Too Much Information, just what we want for our school!
  • Mosaic Institute = MI = Mission Impossible, exactly what we feel like we are attempting to do (me homeschooling as I am impatient, not a kid person, in a wheelchair, have a nerve disease and a speech impediment, cannot read aloud or write, unable to drive...), but God’s grace and strength are enough to cover all my shortcomings and inadequacies! Nothing is impossible with God (Mt. 19:26, Lk.1:37)!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Full Finishes and Fresh Finds

  • First week of October: We went to the OB/Gyn, chiropractor, and community pool. Ricky's dad and brother visited and took the kids to the Renaissance Festival :)
  • Second week of October: We took dinner over to share with some friends; I was 2cm dilated at my OB/Gyn appointment this week; we had other friends over for dinner another night; Ricky's mom flew in for a 10-day visit; went to community pool; a dear man from church handmade a crib modification and a changing table for me and brought the completions to us (they are beautiful and high-quality!); while Ricky's mom took the kids to the Renaissance Festival, we hosted a missions' meeting and then attended a conference about the Reformation; went to small group; and, completed our last week of school before taking our long break until the new year!
  • Third week of October: We went to see a new neurologist about my dopamine deficiency; I was 3cm dilated, 50% effaced, and the doctor could feel baby's head at my OB/Gyn appointment this week; MIL took kids shopping and to four parks; enjoyed shaved ice; took Aolani back to doctor; Micaiah had a bad reaction to a spider bite on his toe; and, went to community pool the same day early labor started...
  • Fourth week of October: crazy week with MIL flying home, my mom coming, preparing and cleaning, getting ready for baby; I was 4cm dilated, 85% effaced, and had completely dropped at my OB/Gyn appointment the day before L&DRaphael's arrival; Raphael's first doctor's appointment (he had lost 10% of his body weight before my milk came in and fattened him up); Ricky led our church's annual flag football game again; Ricky took the big kids to church to lead the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) and then to our church's Fall Festival; and, my dad brought his parents to visit and meet Raphael :)
  • Aolani's antics: She loves to hold and dress the baby, telling us, "I’m preparing to be a mommy."; She asked Ricky on her own accord a common question, "Why don’t they put a computer in my daddy’s courtroom so you can play with me?" ;)
  • Micaiah's mishaps: He would often adore baby Raphael and tell us, "He’s so cute I can’t take my eyes off him!"; He informed us that coy means sneaky; and, he lost his first tooth (it wasn't loose) and spit it on the ground outside (so it's really lost)!
  • They are both making really astute observations and asking wise, insightful questions! I do a poor job at recording them :( 

  • School verses: Micaiah -- Psalm 34:13, Isaiah 45:22 ; Aolani -- 1 Corinthians 10:31, Romans 6:23
  • Verses I memorized: Matthew 5:40-44

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Raphael's Birth Story

It’s so neat to me how every birth is so different and completely unique! 

For most of October, I had sporadic contractions that were not really intense and varied in length. Sometimes I would have them off and on for three hours. The uterus was just working out, but they were plentiful enough to dilate my cervix 3cm. 

Then at 8 o’clock at night on Sunday, October 22nd, the contractions started again and wouldn’t go away despite being the easy, bearable ones (the ones you can talk through). I lost my second mucus plug. After the contractions continued for more than four hours, I called my mom to alert her. She decided to leave her home and drive here in the middle of the night. 

The contractions lasted for 25 hours but never really got more intense. I climbed into bed at 9 o’clock Monday night exhausted from staying up the entire night before, and the contractions stopped. I slept nine hours straight! Apparently, it was all early labor. 

Then on Tuesday, not only did I not feel like moving but the baby got still and hardly moved at all. (This happened with my other two the day before labor —storing up energy for the big journey down the birth canal.) I, also, had another Ob/Gyn appointment — baby had dropped super low, 85% effaced, and 4cm dilated now. The doctor thought I would most likely not make it to November or even to the weekend. So, all those contractions the day before were doing something! 

I had a feeling that I’d be up again that night, so I headed to bed early again at 9 o’clock. I slept for two hours and woke with contractions. We timed them for over an hour before getting up. I had lost a third mucus plug and called my doula to tell her what was happening. We woke my mom. I spent the next hour drinking lots of water, changing positions and locations, and going potty. The contractions were bearable but would not go away. 

I internally agonized over whether or not to head to the hospital yet. In the past I would not go there until the contractions became intense and active labor started. I really did not want to labor much at the hospital because I’d feel the pressure to progress in labor instead of just relaxing and letting my body take the time it needs to birth my baby. But I knew that there were a lot of signs I couldn’t ignore — early labor, dropping, dilating, stillness, mucus plugs, pottying a lot, and constant contractions. And this was my third labor, so I didn’t know what it would be like. Maybe active labor would be super quick, and I was not prepared to have him at home or in the car. 

All things considered, I felt like he was coming soon. We should just go. 

Called the doula and the babysitter (to stay with the big kids) to tell them to come on over. 

Still having bearable contractions. 

We left around 3 a.m. for the hospital. After we got in, they put the fetal monitor on for a little (with my permission) and gave me an hour to dilate more before admitting me. The stress I didn’t want! 

An hour passed, no progress. And Ricky napped during this uneventful time. They called my doctor to ask what to do. (My OB/Gyn said to call him even if he wasn’t on call, and he would try to do the delivery if he could.) He said to give me two more hours before checking me again at 7 o’clock. 

I couldn’t wait to get into the nice, big bathtub in my room. So in I went! The water came up high. Ricky sat on the big corner ledge and napped again. We played worship music (Will Reagan) and relaxed! 

Half hour later (6 a.m.) I had my first contraction that I couldn’t talk through — active labor had begun! No going back now! (Note: It was resting in the water that allowed my uterus to relax and let the contractions intensify.) 

When they checked me again, I had dilated 1cm, putting me at 5cm. I could stay. My doctor was going to stop by on his way to work to check on me. 

Just as it became eventful, Ricky took his third nap. My mom and the doula stayed up with me while I labored. 

Doctor came at 8:15 a.m.; 7cm dilated now! He said to call him at work when I felt the urge to push. 

I alternated between sitting on the edge of the bed and the toilet. I kept my eyes closed most of the time because I was so tired and I needed to focus on the contractions — not fighting them, relaxing, and even welcoming them! I kept reminding myself that they were massaging the baby and bringing him to me — I want contractions! The more I have (and don’t resist), the quicker it’ll be over and I can see my baby. Let them do their work, bring them on! 

When Ricky wasn't napping, I had him reading the Scriptures aloud to us, for us, and over us.

Laboring continued for another three and a half hours before I asked for the midwife on call to check me. 9cm. Not 10 minutes later I felt the urge to poop. Twice. But I knew I didn’t have to because I had nothing left after having several bowel movements that morning. It was 11:55 a.m. I knew I’d have to push soon. Time to make the phone call to my doctor! (We joked how God timed the delivery for the doctor's lunch break so he could attend!)

He walked in 20 minutes later, and I let them know that I had to push now! 

Pushing was harder than I remembered, and I screamed a lot. The doula kept reminding me to push low, and that helped because I felt like I could do that. (Doulas are a necessity to me!) Pushing felt like it was taking a long time, but in reality it was only 15 minutes. I remember yelling, "Get this baby out of me!” :)

Ricky was beside the doctor and said how impressed he was with the doctor’s skill. I only tore a little and got one stitch.

I gave two shouts of joy once Raphael was out — one of relief and one of victory! (The rush of hormones right after delivery is overwhelmingly strong!) I couldn’t wait to hold my baby. Everyone was saying that he was perfect and healthy. They laid him on my chest, and Ricky cut the cord.

The staff said Raphael did not look 10 days early, except that he didn’t have any vernix yet. He got the highest Apgar score of all our babies. After they measured him, they gave him back to me. He was eager to nurse, which he did for two hours! 

The babysitter brought the big kids to the hospital to join us. They were elated! 

We had friends visit that evening and left the hospital the next day. 

This hospital was the best experience we had for a birth. The staff kept it dark and quiet with minimal intrusion during the labor. We only saw our two nurses, and they not only read our birth plan but were quoting it to us! That hadn’t happened before. They didn’t avoid us or walk on eggshells around us like we were the weird or difficult patients. They were understanding, respectful, and kind! 

Overall, the labor and delivery were the opposite of the rough and tough pregnancy! Natural and vaginal birth with no medication or intervention. No complications and no GBS. Six hours of active labor and 15 minutes of pushing. Postpartum healing is going well. Raphael is healthy and is nursing well. (It took three days for my milk to come in.) We were in disbelief for a while with how flawless everything went! 

We are just so thankful to God!


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Surprised by Joy

  • First week of September: My mom left and took Micaiah with her to spend his week with my parents; they did a lot (see slideshow below). Aolani had her week alone with us -- tea time, ice cream shop, date, sleepoveer at friends' place (all three of us), baking, daily movies, and lots of company! We, also, had small group here and a friend come visit, and I had blood work and an Ob/Gyn appointment. And, we met my parents to get Micaiah back ;)
  • Second week of September: We had friends over for dinner; Ricky's paternity/family leave (FMLA) started (paid time off using sick days), which he has 12 weeks of and ends after Thanksgiving; Ricky went to a church meeting; we went to a little girl's birthday party; we visited my grandparents and aunt/uncle (which was a joy); and, we went to small group.
  • Third week of September: Ricky and Micaiah went to a little boy's birthday party; another Ob/Gyn appointment; had the new neighbors over for dinner; took Aolani to the doctor; went to the indoor community pool to exercise and get my legs moving; and, enjoyed a day visit from a friend.
  • Fourth week of September: A friend came over to share prayer time; my mom visits, and we go to the pool, a pumpkin orchard, and my baby shower; and, we went to small group.
  • When we went to Mexico and left the kids with my parents, I think that scared Micaiah. He grew frightened that we might not return to get him. So, he did not want to go to my parents' farm without us (that included his week alone with my parents at their house). But after Aolani's week at DaySpring and all the fun she had, Micaiah started to warm up to the idea of having his own week there. He grew more eager to go as the time grew near, and he ended up having a blast, of course!
  • School verses: Micaiah -- Exodus 20:12, John15:5, Hebrews 13:8 ; Aolani -- Philippians 4:8, Lamentations 3:40, Isaiah 41:10
  • Verses I memorized: Matthew 5:35-39

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

He's here!

We joyfully announce the birth of our son
Raphael Preston
born on October 25th
at 12:29 p.m.
6 pounds, 10 ounces
19 inches long

Raphael is Hebrew and means "God has healed" or "God is Healer"; Preston is my maternal grandmother's maiden name. God whispered his name 'Raphael' to me back in August. Raphael is also the name of an archangel, a famous artist, a well-known tennis player, and a ninja turtle. It is said that Raphael is the angel that stirs up the healing waters of the Pool of Bethesda once-a-year.

Another natural childbirth -- birth story soon. We are all doing great! Nursing well and recovering quickly :)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Help Enduring Suffering

A bunch of random thoughts I had about suffering during our two months of torture, July and August:
  • I was reading in Mark 10 one day about when the sons of Zebedee ask if they can sit beside Jesus in Heaven. And Jesus responded, "You don’t know what you are asking... Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" (verse 38, NIV). But the NLT version calls it the “baptism of suffering”! And I wondered if this was the third baptism, after the baptism of water and the baptism of the Spirit/fire comes the baptism of suffering... And I couldn’t help but wonder then if this was what I was going through — the baptism of suffering, just like my Lord...
  • I heard a sermon several months ago about the spice myrrh and how when it’s crushed and turned into oil, it gives off a sweet aroma. When it’s crushed, a sweet aroma is released. And I definitely felt like when I was being crushed, a bitter aroma came out. Yet, how I longed for the sweet aroma of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16) to come out when crushed by suffering! I was sharing this with a friend, and she reminded me that Christ suffered perfectly on our behalf because He knew that we would suffer imperfectly. This got me thinking... I am still the pleasing aroma of Christ even in my imperfect suffering as long as I am pointing to Christ’s perfection and sufficiency, which is more than enough to cover my weakness and imperfections and insufficiency to suffer well.
  • During this time someone asked me how I was making it through the pain, and I offhandedly thought of six things that I would automatically do throughout the night to help me endure —
  1. Remembering 2 Corinthians 12:10 — delighting in this struggle because His strength is best displayed when I am weak.
  2. I watched the movie “The Shack” during this time, and the Jesus character said, "If you focus on the pain, you’ll lose sight of Me.” So true! This is one of the great truths Jesus taught when He calls Peter out of the boat and to come to Him on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). When Peter took his focus off of Jesus and saw the scary storm around him, he started to sink, of course. If you focus on your circumstance, you lose sight of Jesus and go under!
  3. I have a cross on the wall beside my bed that was my constant, physical reminder to look up — don’t look in or around but look to Him for help, deliverance and salvation (Psalm 27:9, 40:17; Isaiah 45:22)! Envisioning Christ on the cross bearing unimaginable pain, helped me to feel united with Him in mine (Romans 8:17,23). Remembering His great suffering, reminded me that He was holding me in mine.
  4. Worship songs was absolutely vital! I had four songs that I played repeatedly and constantly throughout every night! Psalm 34 by Shane and Shane, Psalm 46 by Shane and Shane, Come As You Are by Crowder, I Am by Crowder
  5. Over the summer we received several words and visions from the Lord. There was one from a friend that I really held onto in the I'm-about-to-freak-out-and-scream-bloody-murder moments. She said that there would be times of intense pain ahead when I might feel alone or forgotten by God, but the opposite was true! He had not turned His eye away from me; His eye was so on me! I was always before Him. Knowing He was watching me and listening to me during the pain, helped me cry out to Him (Psalm 40:11-13 was my constant plea).
  6. Also, repeating the popular quote to myself: “The presence of pain doesn't mean the absence of God.” 
  • Finally, that final week of terrible RLS before resorting to the dopamine agonist prescription, the Spirit brought 1 Corinthians 10:13 to mind -- No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. And I would ask the Lord how long can I endure this? How much can I bear? I would desperately pray nonstop and beg for the Lord to show me the way out!! And a week later He did.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

8 months

8 months
I look bigger when I'm up; the chair is quite concealing ;) I have now gained 26lbs. I am 1-2 cm dilated, and baby is active and head down, with a heartbeat of 146bpm.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Going Under

  • First week of August: last week of swim lessons; my mom went home for 10 days; we went to Cincinnati to visit with Ricky's dad, brother, aunt and two of first cousin's boys about our kids' ages; and, we visited Coney Island, saw a Reds' baseball game, played a lot, had cookouts, and relaxed while there. [Although, this was when my physical woes became near-unbearable.]
  • Second week of August: we had an Ob/Gyn appointment, a friend visit, and a friend's surprise baby shower; the kids went to a friend's birthday party; and, our small group had a dinner gathering.
  • Third week of August: my mom returns; friends come over for dinner; we have another Ob/Gyn appointment and go out for ice cream after; have our pastor over for lunch; we go to the chiropractor; meet with a friend from church about modifying the crib that survived the fire and building a changing table for me; Ricky takes Micaiah on his Daddy-Son adventure, a hike up Table Rock mountain; and, Ricky visits the Marshallese church.
  • Fourth week of August:  we go to a surprise birthday party for a friend, with 11 different cakes!; and, our church holds its summer picnic, and Ricky gets to baptize Micaiah (see video below)!
  • Kids' measurements -- Micaiah: 43.8" tall and weighs 44 lbs; Aolani: 47.5" tall and weighs 54 lbs

  • School verses: Micaiah -- Matthew 7:12, Proverbs 20:11, Isaiah 43:1, 1 Thess. 5:18 ; Aolani -- Proverbs 16:22, John 13:36 
  • Verses I memorized: Matthew 5:29-34

Friday, September 15, 2017

Days of Play Amidst Summer School

  • My mom came to help me for the next two months ( as I was growing bigger. Her visit ended up being very fortuitous with perfect timing due to a heavy transcript load and my physical health; what a God-send!!
  • I have always had restless leg syndrome (RLS) to some degree for 12 years but usually kept it under control through natural means. However, it kept worsening with this pregnancy and culminating in August. These past two months were marked by sleeplessness, pain, wailing, screaming, warm baths and all kinds of attempts for relief (31 to be exact, yes I have a list), verse recitation, worship, and crying out to God all night. Ricky called this time in our life a "living hell." What helped other people didn't even come close to offering me any alleviation. It had grown so severe that I had nonstop RLS and pain 24/7 prohibiting sleep for days and felt like I was losing my mental sanity. I would have to drink caffeinated coffee to ride in a car and make it through a day, but even caffeine stopped working. I gave in and took a pharmaceutical prescribed for me. It's a dopamine agonist. It's not a sleep drug but calms my legs down so my body can rest. And it lasts all the next day, too! But, I am a goner by 8-9pm, my old computer-work time :( We are waiting for test results regarding my low dopamine levels before moving ahead. Although I suffered great agony, baby boy is growing and moving a lot (more than the other two at this point) safe in his cocoon of love! We did begin to wonder just how long he would remain unaffected by my lack of rest and high stress levels.
  • We think we have a name for baby boy, but we are waiting to see him once he's born to make sure it fits him; so we are not revealing it ahead of time ;)
  • First week of July: We finished our school year last week; Grandma took the kids to a free summer movie one morning; we went to some friends' birthday party for their kids; and, I did Aolani's first standardized test, breaking it up into 45-minute sections over three days (she had fun and loved it!) 
  • Second week of July: We went ahead and started school -- Kindergarten and Second Grade -- as we'll take a long break when baby comes; a month of swim lessons starts, and Aolani is now swimming on her own and Micaiah is on the brink now!; I had an Ob/Gyn appointment; and, we enjoyed hosting some missionary friends from Albania for a quick visit :) 
  • Third week of July: Aolani had her first dentist appointment with no problems! We had some friends over for dinner one night.
  • Fourth week of July: All five of us went to the movie theater; we went for a prayer walk (I couldn't make it as long as normal); we hosted our church's seasonal missions' meeting; we went to the theater again for a double date with friends; and, we visited a friend out-of-town for church and lunch.
  • Aolani informed us, "My favorite part of my body is my leg because I can use it for everything!" :)
Made her own flag for Independence Day

Swim lessons

The Butternut Squash family
Friends' birthday party

We had a missionary family stay the night (boys slept together and girls were together -- they loved it!)
"I'm Daddy!"
  • School verses: Micaiah -- Romans 3:23, Acts 16:31, Colossians 3:20 ; Aolani -- Psalm 106:1, James 1:19, Philippians 4:4 
  • Verses I memorized: Matthew 5:25-8