Thursday, January 5, 2017

Our Lady Undoer of Knots & Our Decision to Send Steve to Florida

When I started this blog a few years ago, the idealistic part of me assumed that it would be a place to share family stories, pics of our growing boys, favorite books and recipes, and maybe a tidbit here and there about homeschooling and farm life.

There's always something my mothering heart longs to write about, because writing has always been a special kind of joy, a therapy after long days of diaper changes and dish duty.

But, over the past couple of years, as the length of time between posts has widened from a few days, to a few weeks, to now a few months, I am accepting that the emptiness of this little virtual space may become something permanent, as the order of priority and charity in my heart for our family has far exceeded anything I've ever been called to in the past.

Many of you have been asking about Steve and his current situation concerning his health.  So, while the baby naps, I will attempt to piece together a somewhat coherent explanation of the latest happenings with him.

Three years ago, Steve was diagnosed with Lyme disease.  Early on, many of his symptoms pointed to a possibility of ALS and MS, but thankfully we were able to rule out those diseases as possible diagnoses.  Since I have already written about Steve's journey with Lyme and trichothecene infections up to this point (which you can read about here, herehere, and here if you are so inclined) I will not go into more detail, but will try to catch you up on where he is now.

Since his diagnosis, he has seen a number of doctors of different specialties who have attempted to rid his body of the Lyme bacteria (specifically borrelia burgdorferi and babesia) as well as the toxins from mold (trichothecenes) which have infected his body through his work with hay and wheat straw as well as from our home, which we discovered a year ago contained mold in a small area in our basement, but has since been remediated.

The infections and toxins in his body have compromised his immune and endocrine systems, which has made many of his symptoms worsen.  The specialists he has seen in hopes of building those symptoms back up have had little or no success with their prescribed treatments.

A year ago we heard about a clinic in Florida that specializes in treating Lyme disease, toxicity, and really every kind of illness imaginable.  At that time we seriously considered sending Steve south, but since the clinic would require a relocation for an undetermined amount of time, we decided to post pone it as an option because we were expecting our seventh child, and we didn't feel that it was a prudent option due to distance, separation from family and finances.

Instead we chose to exhaust all medical resources within close proximity, including the Hansa Center, which proved to be of minimal benefit to Steve.  After our son, Blaise, was born last May, Steve's symptoms, most of which are neurological in nature (severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, electrical frequencies in the brain at night which make it impossible to sleep) but also include muscle twitching, exhaustion, memory loss and an inability to concentrate, focus, or articulate his thoughts, began to worsen.
Papa snuggling with Blaise just days before his departure.

I could see and feel that he was becoming so discouraged, even depressed.  It took every ounce of energy and focus for him to keep our hay brokerage business and custom farming operations going, all the while he remained so devoted and present to our family, which brings me to tears just thinking about it.

Like most Lyme suffers, Steve looks pretty normal, and he has learned to cope with his symptoms so well, that people rarely realize just how sick he is.  When I visit with others who are in his same shoes, they also find that it's just easier to put on a smile and trudge through the day than to try to explain to others how debilitating the infection really is.

In early November I decided to pray a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots. I have sincere trust in her great desire to carry our deepest, dearest petitions to her Son. On the final day of the novena, Steve's symptoms were the worst I had ever seen. I can't describe how painful it is to see him suffer so much.  That night, I left for a couple of hours to attend a party, and when I came back we spent a long time talking about a webinar that he had watched which was presented by the head doctor of the Sponougle Wellness center, the clinic in Florida he had considered attending a year ago. The webinar just happened to be focused on Steve's very symptoms, specifically the ones affecting his brain.

At the end of our conversation, we both knew it was time for us to take a leap of faith and send Steve to Florida for treatment.  Thankfully, the clinic was able to accept him as a patient, but we didn't anticipate that it would all happen so soon - he would have to leave before Christmas.

On December 4th, Steve and I flew to Florida and immediately jumped in to meetings with doctors, nurses, and other staff at the clinic.  We also set up an apartment close to the clinic where he'll be staying for the duration of his treatments.

After over 40 blood tests, several UA's and a Pet Scan were reviewed, the doctors were able to pinpoint the causes of Steve's symptoms and put together a comprehensive treatment plan to heal his body of Lyme disease, trichothecenes, petrochemicals (from years of farm and mechanic work), blood parasites (which are carried by mosquitoes, ticks, and flies - more on that later), and a low functioning immune and endocrine system.

I returned home from Florida on December 8th, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  When my flight landed in Kansas City, I received a text of this image from Steve with the message attached:

Stopped at a church on the way home from the airport to attend holy mass this morning.  
When I walked in, this image of Our Lady Undoer of Knots was the first thing I saw.  


I knew instantly that it was a confirmation of our prayers.

There's so much more to tell. I will try to write more in the coming days about Steve's treatment and also our family's trip to visit him in Florida over the Christmas holiday.

With all my heart I thank you for every single one of your prayers and sacrifices offered up for Steve, and for taking the time to reach out to us through texts, phone calls, and Facebook messages. Your love and friendship is sustaining us!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Our Three Month Hunk...Who Is Now Four Months, But Who's Keeping Track?

Hey guys!! Have you missed me? 

Well, I've been kinda busy eating and eating and also there's some pooping, because *hello* my brothers love to change my diapers, so I like to keep it exciting for them.  

Can we just chat anatomy for a quick sec? You guys, my feet are AWESOME!! When no one is around to adore me, and I'm feeling kinda bored, BOOM, there they are. And the toes? They're the jam (hee-hee!). When my gums start to ache (because Mama says I'm teething), I just pop one of my toes in, and I'm good to go!

Speaking of teething, have you guys ever seen The Office? My mom watches it on Netflix, like all night long, while she rubs my gums as I wail and drool in dental agony. 

She loves that show. 

I'm just so glad she didn't name me Dwight.

Anyhoo, now that I'm a good twenty pounds of buttah, and my head is no longer bald (except for that one spot), I'm starting to look like quite the macho man.  Basically, I'm my dad's twin.  

I don't wanna brag, but these are my three month pics. Kinda like senior pics, but with less Photoshopping, since I don't have zits or awkward facial hair (yet): 
What do you think of the mohawk? Too much?
I'm leaning, I'm leaning...somebody? Anybody? Lady with the camera?
Warming up for a plank.  Just kidding.  I don't plank. 
My momma calls this "tummy time." I call it uncomfortable.
 Ahh, that's better! Back to the back! I love chillin' on my quilt.  
It's custom.  I know. I'm a lucky man. My Aunt Stephanie made it just. for. me. *wink!*
 Quick shot of my toes...
just in case you are wondering how squishy and yummy they really are.
 In this pic I'm looking for my guardian angel.  Have you seen him? 
Did you know St. Padre Pio could see his guardian angel? Mine's around here somewhere....
Got your Mama wrapped around your finger grin? Nailed it!
This photo is her favorite.  
She's my favorite.  
All that love and milk and smooches she gives me, I must be her favorite, too.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Tour #6 of the Terrible Two's ~ Where Time Out is Taken With Three Hail Marys and a Shot of Baileys {in the Coffee}

This is our sixth round of pullingourhairout drinking bribing guiding a child through through the terrible twos. You would think that at this stage of the discipline game that we would be on cruise control.  Not so my friends, not so. 
Behold the beloved:
I'm coming for you!
The only thing I know for sure about surviving this unpleasant stage of a toddler's life is: 
1. I can always blame my addiction to chocolate on their naughtiness, and 
2. It won't last forever - the terrible twos, not the chocolate addiction (that's permanent, I'm afraid).
Cheeseburger grin of innocence.

Living with a two year old is kind of like watching that one TV show that's frustrating and awesome at the same time (Downton Abbey). The one where you throw things at the screen because the plot is not going the direction that you think it should go (Matthew dies), but then something awesome happens (cue Dowager Countess every time), and suddenly it's your favorite thing ever again.
Spotty, yet accurate, iphone evidence or our typical testosterone filled breakfast.

Joseph is a 24/7 plot twister.  He lures his parents in with those enchanting blue eyes, sweet kisses and sugary giggles.  We are crazy in love with his (non-tantrum) vocals, because they are seriously adorable! At any given time he's serenading us with his with his curly little voice, calling out the names of his brothers, Cluh! (Charlie), Doh! (Andrew), Honey! (Henry) and, totally charmed, we are certain the tyranny is over. 

Not a second later he is clobbering us over the head with that shrilling scream that is something like a meat mallet on our nerves.

Just last week, as I was strapping Blaise to myself in the baby sling and throwing back the last shot of caffeinated hope for the morning, I heard a loud thunk. Strolling over to the window, sure to find the infractor facing the wrong direction in the yard with a baseball bat, I was surprised to see this instead:

#6 flesh of my flesh, bone of my bones.  Holding a tomato from my garden.  Winding up his chubby little pale-flesh limb for another chuck.

He wasn't throwing my tomatoes at anything or anyone specific, he was just randomly shot-putting them into the wind.  Because those 5 bazillion dollars I've spent on every size and kind of ball for our offspring over the years is apparently not working for him?  Maters are where it's at.

Now, if he was chucking cucumbers at the house, I'd be so chilled.  Because, seriously, I cannot. eat. another. cucumber.  But tomatoes, I've been waiting all summer long for those babies! 

From the top of the deck I stared down with my high-blood pressure face ablaze and gave the little Mr. the what for.  Oh, I'm sure you can probably guess what he gave me.

That's right.  He gave me the meat mallet.  

NOOOOOOO, MOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!

Right there.  Right then.   Pumpkin angel told me, no.

What did I do? I went back inside, poured another cup of coffee, threw in some Baileys, said three Hail Mary's, and called daddy for some moral support.

If you've been where I've been then you know just how challenging it is to be patient during this stage of your tots life.  On top of the natural pressure we place upon ourselves to handle each and every circumstance the right way, there's also so much advice out there to wade through, what to do, what not to do, what's normal, what's not normal.  Seven kids later, goodness knows I've heard or read more than my fair share of it all.

If this is your first time wading into the terrible twos waters with your tot, or if that stage is just on the horizon, here's a short list of parenting points to ponder that Steve and I have collected over the years. Most of them have stemmed from the trusted advice of great mentors and great authors*, and others have been fine-tuned through trial and error. Collectively, they are tips that have proven to be the most helpful and fruitful for us when we stick to them with love and consistency. 

1. Be Consistent 
Whatever method of discipline you choose to use, whether it's time out, early bed time, taking away privileges, etc. just be consistent and follow through.  I can't stress this enough.  We have failed at this so many times and paid the consequences.  Discipline may be difficult in the moment, but in the long run it's easier on you and on your child.

2.  Chill Out
I know this is obvious, yet challenging at the same time, but you have to be calm.  Children are so perceptive. They know instantly when a parent's fire is lit, and if your child is even slightly strong willed, parental anger just ignites in them the will to compete or defy. Discipline is not a competition. You are in charge, so just stay calm, stay the course, and expect the child to dislike and rebel against the boundaries you have set - that's normal!  You're not bending a will, your shaping an attitude, and that can take time.  

3. Love 'Em Up 
Sometimes our kids' bad behavior is really just a cry for love. I've really noticed this with Joey. Some mornings I put him in time-out a dozen times before we've even finished breakfast. Sigh. Why? Really I just need to stop what I'm doing for a moment, hold him on my lap, hug him, laugh with him or read him a story. When I take this approach, his mood and behavior instantly improves.  Love and affection is magical! Give 'em some one-on-one time and see what happens.

4. Watch Your Language
Try using specific language, or "trigger words" with them.  A couple of our favorites are This is not acceptable behavior, and You re in charge! Or, You get to choose!  When a child is being argumentative or defiant we give them two win-win options and explain that they get to be in charge of the decision they make.  

For example, I might say, Joseph, you may either sit down and eat your lunch or go to nap-time early. I will let you decide.  You get to be in charge! You have two minutes to choose, or I will choose for you.  I set the timer and wait for his response.  Either one is a win-win for me!  

5.  Praise 'Em
Words of affirmation are really important during this stage.  If my kids are tuning me out, it's usually because I'm using more disciplinary words (in a frustrated tone) and not enough affirmative ones.  Be intentional about catching your kids making good choices, and then affirm them specifically.  I like the way you shared your toys today! Or, Thank you for saying please and thank you at supper! You're such a big boy!

6.  Be Strategic
Don't attempt big outings when your kids are hungry or tired. It's a sure recipe for a fiery melt-down. Man, have I made this mistake too many times!  Little ones simply cannot understand the mental flowchart that we moms have strategically drawn up for the day. No matter how creatively we try to explain our plans to them or reason through specifics with them it's like spaghetti in their little heads. So, we must be realistic about our expectations and smart about scheduling if we want to avoid unnecessary conflict.

7.  Show Mercy
Be affectionate after punishment. After we put Joseph in time out (which he hates, because he has to be in a room by himself), we try to remember to pause, kneel down, hug him and remind him why he was punished, and then express that we love him and that he gets a chance to try again.

8.  Quit Counting
I hope I'm not offending anyone here, but the countdown method is not a good idea.  Telling a child they have five seconds to do anything means that they will max out that five seconds and risk being disciplined.  Again, we know this to be true through trial and error.  I'm not sure where I read this but offering the child a single warning and explaining the consequence they will receive if they refuse to stop their behavior seems to be much more effective. If you find yourself saying, "Stop!" over and over again, that is the same as counting.  You have to give the warning and discipline immediately if they do not adhere to your warning.

The only exception to this suggestion is if a child is hurting another child, then there's not warnings, discipline is immediate.

9. Brag Don't Bemoan 
Don't speak negatively about your child to others in front of your child.  If they constantly hear you telling others that he/she is going through the terrible twos, is so naughty, is exasperating you, they will more than likely fulfill their role as the "naughty one." But, if they hear you say positive things about them to others, especially if you praise them in front of your spouse, they will absolutely light up and they will know that you love them and believe in them - this will (hopefully) motivate them toward obedience. Again, so guilty of this here, because sometimes we moms just need to vent, am I right? We just have to be prudent about the time and place we choose to vent. 

10.  Encourage 
Be encouraging and show a little mercy to others and to yourself.  A couple of weeks ago, I was in a bookstore purchasing some materials that I needed for our homeschool year.  Joseph was in a serious funk.  I had asked an older brother to help watch Joey while I shopped, but I could still hear Joseph's pipes vocalizing his discontent with life.  I finally had to seek out the manager and apologize for my son's behavior.  To my surprise, the manager was so kind and gentle with me.  With his understanding, I instantly felt the parent perfect weight on my shoulders lighten up.  We need to extend that kind of grace and understanding to others, and to ourselves as well. 

Sometimes children are down right awful because their parents have failed to love and nurture them with proper discipline. But, most of the time, kids are just being kids.  They're trying to figure out life in this big world and how they fit in to all of it.  It's a big job to love and lead our little ones in the right direction, and I know for a fact that it's easier when we set our critical eye aside and show some mercy and support to one another instead.

Gotta run - Joey is blowing his nose.  In the curtains.

Have a great week!
*A few of our favorite trusted resources:










Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Choredom: Trust Me, It's a Good Thing

Check out Captain Long Legs:
He does not get those stilts from me. I'll spare you the photos, but if you need a visual, think tree-trunkish.

That kid is one of the top reasons why blogging has taken a serious backseat this summer.  I'm either feeding him (major budget breaker), shopping for bigger shoes and longer britches for his body that won't. stop. growing., or following him around the house like a shadow, desperate to stay as close to him as possible, for as long as possible before he packs up and moves out of mi casa (hello, heartbreak in three short years).

As much as this photo of him makes me weep a thousand tears, it also makes me smile as many smiles, because I am so thankful for who Benedict is, and how he is growing up to be such a fine young man. (Not perfect, but pretty darn great.) There are no back pats with that statement - it's 100% God's grace and goodness.  I mean it.)

Because I have such an intense awareness of the passing of time, my immediate reaction to the pain is to spoil Ben.  I know, it's ridiculous! I really don't mean spoil in the material sense, but in the let's have fun, and go do stuff, and eat lots of ice cream, and forget about work sense.

Thankfully, my husband has more mature ideas than I do.  He's right there with his handy-dandy sense of reason to balance out my maternal need to suffocate our teenage son with unlimited supplies of food and hugs.

One of the hubs' ideas is to keep the chore train chugging along.

While most people are currently posting about their fabulous summer vacays (which I happen to love!), afternoons at the pool and the beach, baseball games, and outdoor theatre, my camera reel is a little lighter in the recreational department.  

C'est la farm vie!

Don't get me wrong, my boys L.O.V.E. farm life, but they don't love everything about it.  Especially roguing.  For those of you who's closest experience to farming is going to the farmer's market, roguing is just a fancy word for pulling weeds.

Last Saturday, I thought I would be Mrs. Motivated and sneak out of the house before Blaise woke up to squeeze a run in before breakfast.  My sneaking went about as far as the kitchen, where I found four tired boys sitting in sleepy silence, sliding on their work boots, waiting for dad to drag them out to the soybeans that needed to be rogued.

All my hugs and promises of pancakes upon their return couldn't wipe the pathetic look of choredom off their faces.

I hate seeing my boys unhappy.  But, you know what? Even though I hate it, I'm pretty much okay with it, and let me tell you why.

As much as we all want our kids to grow up, go to college and become instantly successful, barring some miraculous intervention, the titles of CEO or head coach are not going to be bestowed upon them post-graduation.

This means that, more than likely, they are going to have to sit as the low man on the totem pole for a while, no matter what career path they choose.  And, often with the L.M.O.T.T.P. rank, come the less than desirable tasks that no one wants to do.

Poor things. They will probably feel overqualified and underpaid while answering the call to perform such menial tasks. BUT (finger's crossed) I'm hoping they won't throw a tantrum, and will actually be able to endure the monotony...if they have any sort of interior grit whatsoever.

So, how do you get your kiddos some of that grit? Well, based on personal experience, I really believe that the best grit-builder is chores. Serious chores.  Not just clean your room chores or take out the trash chores. I'm talking about chores that take time and dedication to finish.  Mowing and trimming the lawn, cleaning out the garage - top to bottom, detailing the family car, pulling weeds, and shoveling snow.

By the way, I'm totally convinced that folding laundry and sock-matching builds better hand-eye coordination than hours sitting in front of the X-Box.  I've seen it for myself.  No video game pro can top my boys speed when it comes to a game of knuckles or snatching the last cookie from the jar.

Most nights, Steve and I don't do dishes after the evening meal.  After watching our children receive the bounty of our hard work, we retire to the living room with a glass of wine while they take their stuffed little tummies to the kitchen where they team up to return my domain to ship-shape condition before any other evening activities ensue.

Of course they moan and groan about it.  That's normal.  And then there's the towel snapping and arm wrestling which always leads to some sort of squabble, which interrupts our sipping of the grapes, which leads to one of us redirecting their focus with threats of double vegetables and no dessert for a week.

Anyway, this particular chore of KP duty is just one of the many grit-building opportunities we give to our children. They also clean bathrooms, do laundry, mow and trim the lawn, and change diapers (gasp!). I'm probably painting a work-house picture here but, honestly, chores actually make up a very small portion of our children's day, and amazingly, the time that they contribute to the economy of the home makes the time that they have to play, rest, socialize, or participate in activities even sweeter.

I know it sounds crazy, but work actually makes for happier, more confident, more grateful kids.

If you haven't already experienced choredom resistance from your kids, I assure you at some point you will.  Eventually chore charts with cute rewards will no longer be enough to entice them to keep their rooms clean.  They will pout, sulk, cry, and utter every grievance over your expectations of them....anything to wear you down and make you feel guilty for asking them to lift a precious finger to help.

If and when that happens, don't throw your hands up! Don't give up! Stay calm and stay the course. Remember, if you need a little leverage to get them to cooperate, you can always dangle the car keys, cell phone, television time, or fun with friends privileges out in front of their scowling faces. (Those are priveleges, not rights of entitlement.)

Our approach to chores isn't militaristic, it's just matter of fact.  Being a part of a family means there will always be chores, and why should mom and dad do everything? When we as parents shoulder all of the responsibilities of the home, and on top of that, shuttle our kids to every activity on the planet, we deny our children vital opportunities to gain the virtues and skills necessary to become generous individuals who are mindful of others. Virtues and skills that will also bolster their confidence so that they might assert themselves in the most challenging circumstances in order to aspire toward the dreams and goals they desire to achieve in life.

Offering our boys opportunities that have the potential to form them to become steadfast, dedicated, resilient members of society isn't solely meant to help them temporarily survive the hum-drum duties that their future careers might require of them.  They are also meant to give them the lasting and meaningful strength to rise up to, rather than shirk, those less than desirable tasks that are a necessary part of maintaining a healthy thriving community, church, and/or family.

Who will stay a little longer to clean up the trash-strewn stadium after a ball game? Who will give up a golf game to organize the fundraiser for a friend in need? Who will sacrifice social time to stand in line and serve at the soup kitchen on a Saturday morning? Who will give up an afternoon of football to shovel snow for an elderly neighbor? Who will sacrifice sleep for night time feedings and diaper changes?

I hope that my boys will.

In fact, I hope that no matter what career path they choose, or how successful they become, that they will always have the interior conviction to recognize and confront the hard things in life, the less-than-appealing duties that need to get done, and that they will tackle those duties with humility and perseverance.

But, you know what? Hope is a great virtue, but hope doesn't stand on it's own.  It needs legs.  And legs look like opportunity, and for our kids, opportunity looks like chores. Chores really could be the tool that builds a solid foundation made of hard work and meaningful experiences.  A foundation that gives solid support to the purpose that the Lord has in mind for each of our boys to fulfill.

Time to wrap this up! The boys have moseyed in from mowing and are looking forward to an afternoon at the pool.

If you're a parent who also believes in chores, but have felt alone in that area of parenting, I hope that you feel some support today! And, if you've been hesitant or afraid that chores might turn your child's life upside down (well, they will, but your kiddos will be okay, and so will you!), I hope that you feel encouraged to give it a go!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Patience is the Fruit of Gratitude ~ Remembering Blaise's Birth

           
Several years ago, my spiritual director told me that gratitude is the gateway to patience.

Yeah.  Just let that simmer for a while.

I kind of hated it when she would say stuff like that to me.  Because what she said was true, and truth can be uncomfortable, even annoying, since sometimes I'm a toddler and I don't like to do what I know I'm supposed to do. Read: get better - grow up - get over myself.

Two weeks before Blaise was born, her words came back to me.  They were a spiritual life preserver thrown out from my memory as, sadly, I had forgotten all about them.

Her wisdom really did rescue me from drowning in the waves of worry, doubt, and despair that kept pulling me under into the depths of self pity. I just couldn't get over the fact that our seventh son had decided follow in the stubborn footsteps of brothers #2, #4 and #6, by hunkering down for a long twelve days past his due date.

Practicing real, sincere, prayerful gratitude isn't always an easy thing to offer up, especially when you've decided that you simply cannot survive being pregnant for one more single solitary day.

If you've ever been in my flip flops, you understand what I'm sayin' here. At 40+ weeks your whole body aches. You haven't seen your ankles for a good three weeks. And the only thing thing that fits is your husband's bath robe - which you've convinced yourself, with the right pair of shoes flip-flops, could pass for a classic, albeit fuzzy, wrap dress.

But, given the fact that my chocolate stash, and all my other earthly comfort-seeking strategies for distraction had failed to keep my inner tantrum sector from screaming, When in the hell am I going to have this baby??!, I gave in to the one thing that I should have been choosing all along: GRATITUDE.

(See how it says attitude right there in that word? Probably not a coincidence, huh.)

Still determined to help this baby get his birthing rear in gear, I gathered up my gratitude and, as I contemplated God's generosity, proceeded to mow the lawn, weed the garden, and walk the curbs around neighborhood until I couldn't walk any more.

Unfortunately, all that determination made me a wee bit tired. It just so happens that the only prayer I had prayed for myself over the last two months of pregnancy was that the Lord would allow me to go to the hospital feeling rested, and that circumstances surrounding the birth would be relatively uneventful (unlike the last time). Because I'm not able to handle an epidural, I need every ounce of energy and strength possible to get through the labor and delivery.

But, wouldn't you know, the night of all that curb-walking, around 11 p.m., just as everyone was sleeping soundly and it was finally my turn to crawl into bed, ba-boom.  Contractions.

At first I wasn't too worried because I had been having contractions at night for about three weeks. And, since those were all uneventful, I figured this was just a repeat situation.  But, after about three hours of activity, things really started to crank up.

Wanting to labor at home as long as I could so that Steve could sleep, I settled in to the recliner and tried to rest. Around 4 a.m. it was time to wake Daddy up.   Exhausted, yet excited, I grabbed the coffee pot and, in desperation, chugged down the cold bitter cup that was leftover from breakfast and waddled out the door into the dark.

Once we got to the hospital, my contractions began to slow down.  I wasn't about to pop into the maternity ward only to have them tell me I wasn't in "real labor." So, for nearly an hour, Steve and I walked a loop around the admissions floor until my contractions were two minutes apart.

After checking in, I was happy to hear from the experts that not only was I really in labor (insert eye-roll), but also dilated to a SIX (insert rock star jump).

Like the six births before this one, the details of the labor and delivery quickly faded as the miracle of life passed from my womb to my arms.

But there are two very poignant moments during the labor that I don't think I'll ever forget....

About an hour before Blaise was born, I had really hit a wall. It took every last bit of energy I could muster to keep my emotions and bay and to stay focused.  As I stood hunched over the bed, leaning on the rail for support, I looked up at Steve seeking his encouragement.  In our silence, the exchange of glances spoke a thousand words.  His eyes told me that he knew just how fragile I felt.

Leaving my side for just a moment, he went in search of my journal, the one that I had recorded a little over one hundred prayer requests from my readers, friends, and family. Returning to my side, he opened the book and laid it between my hands. As I hung my head over the scripted pages, one by one I read, again, the needs that had been entrusted to me weeks ago. As I prayed, every weakness and every pain I was feeling was completely taken up into those intentions.

As I prayed I remember seeing very clearly in my mind the image of the crucified Christ. Up until that time, I had only considered that it was our sins alone that Jesus bore upon the cross. But, it was there that He also took ahold of our every pain and suffering as well. He knew, with deep love and tender compassion, every ounce of pain I would endure to bring a new life into His world, just as He knew every measure of suffering being borne by the hearts of each and every name I had written on the pages of my journal.

In that space in time there was a beautiful unity between us all - Christ, myself, and those whom I was praying for.  I cannot describe the peace and joy that flooded my soul at that moment.
On May 27th at 10:02 a.m., Blaise Maximilian Kolbe was born.

I was once asked, since we have had multiples, if the experience of giving birth ever ceases to be amazing . The answer is a resounding, no. It's a truly humbling, yet thrilling experience each and every time. Steve and I are always a total mess at the moment of the birth.  We hug and kiss and bawl over our new child, completely unaware of anyone else in the room.

It's a glorious time!
We decided not to tell the boys the gender of their new sibling until they arrived at the hospital. When they walked into the room, a curious silence came over them.  As soon as they heard they had a new brother, the room turned into a gymnasium - woo-hoo's, high fives, chest bumps and all!

One by one they held him...(Not pictured, Ninja Joey, who was only allowed to admire from afar.)
George, the first to request the honor of holding his new brother.
 Andrew, Mr. Tender.
 Henry, so proud to finally be big enough to hold a baby on his own.
 Ben, the oldest holding the youngest.  I can't even type that without getting teary-eyed.
Charlie, 100% in love. 

For weeks we volleyed back and forth over three names for our new little guy, and thought we would choose the one we felt suited him best once he was born.  My top pick was Ambrose John Vianney. Steve's was Louis John Vianney, but we also had Blaise Maximilian Kolbe on the roster.

In the end, it was the boys who chose Blaise.  They campaigned hard for his name, and came out victorious - we just couldn't say no.
 Blaise has no idea just how incredible the father who holds him truly is.
 Blaise is my parents' seventeenth grandchild.  
My dad always tells his children that he has more love than grandkids.  He's right.
Oh, my darling Blaise! 
Thank you for reminding me that patience is the fruit of gratitude.
Your sweet face will forever be a reminder of that truth!