Monday, July 4, 2016

...of hacking it

A friend asked me recently how we organized all three kids' clothes in their room since they all slept together. Since moving into our new/old house, I've had to get even more creative, but it's really worked out pretty well! So I thought I'd share what we did just in case it might be helpful for anyone else. 

First of all, all three kids in one room is definitely awesome. Some people fear it and, depending on your kids, it just might not be possible for you. For us, it just worked out. We traveled so much and the kids were in all different kinds of beds and sleeping scenarios that they were pretty flexible. And now, after a year of them all sharing a room, we are able to have a pretty epic happening with one child in the room while the other two sleep right through. We will eventually give Selah her own room, but that won't be for a few years. So here we are, with three kids in an 8x10 ish room, sharing our tips with you!

I knew we wanted a Kura bed from IKEA because we needed a low bunk, since we also have low ceilings and ceiling fans. We ended up finding an already hacked Kura bed from someone and painting it white. 
They actually took two Kura beds and just used the bed part on the bottom. Added drawers and then basically secured the second bed on top of the base of the first one. It gave us two big drawers for clothes storage, but got Abram a little closer to the fan than I would have liked. But their room is pretty cold anyway, so it worked out. I love that I'm still able to say good night to him easily without straining myself to get to him in a really high bunk. 

The problem was that the family that sold us the bed must have had theirs in a different corner than where I needed ours and the end of the bottom of the bed didn't have panels to cover the inside where the drawers are when they are shut. So I thought about covering it with fabric or cardboard and then realized I needed a third "drawer" for a third kid, since the two bed drawers were going to be used for pjs, underwear, and socks. Simon is too little to deal with those big drawers anyway. Enter the IKEA Trones shoe boxes. 
These are screwed into the frame of the bed, so they aren't going anywhere and they are perfect for Simons pjs and socks (underwear won't be added for awhile).
No pinched fingers, super easy for him to open and just the right width of the bed with two of them. So that's pjs and underwear. 

This is the rest of the clothes:

Each kid has a tops and a bottoms box. My motto is, if it's too full to close, they have too many clothes. Actually, I just made up that little ditty just now, but the thought process is long standing. Those medium Trofast bins can hold enough clothes for a season. Changing seasons gets a little tight, but it's worked out well for the last year. They all know which ones are theirs- even Simon and he's gotten really helpful with getting and putting away clothes at not even two and a half years old. So that's great. 

Speaking of Si... We thought he was ready for the side of his crib off and he seemed to handle it well for about a week. Then, his new found freedoms got the best of him and we had to revert, but maybe just temporarily. So I didn't want to keep taking off and putting on the crib bars. So, I just turned the bed around. The chair rail makes it a little wonky, but he hasn't even really tried to push the bed away from the wall and sneak out but once and a stern word has kept him from trying it again for at least a week. 
It may not last, but for now it's working, so I'll celebrate. 

And finally, the one open wall space has a shelf for books, baby camera, sound machine (an integral part of a three kid sleeping room), some artwork, a hamper, and their stuffie storage. Although that's not doing much. We counted tonight and Selah had twenty stuffed animals and dolls on her bed tonight. Abram had 13 and Simon had something like 8. So that stuffy storage needs to start eating some toys or I'm going to force feed it. 

Alright. I'm getting really tired and dreaming about the stuffed animal hamper turning into Audrey Too. Better go to sleep. I'm hoping that this midnight hour will see an end to the 4th of July fireworks that have been keeping me awake. 

Happy July 5th!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

...of too many emotions

8 years ago tomorrow, I married the sweetest, kindest, most Jesus loving man that I know. A few weeks later (after our honeymoon in Idaho), we moved together into our first house. 

5 years ago, this month, we made the final decision to join our friends and the work they would be starting in the UAE and began the long process of actually launching. 

3 years ago, this month, we moved from Sharjah to Fujairah, where we thought we would spend many years to come.

1 year ago, today, we flew from Boise back to Austin to begin a new life here. We grieved as our friends packed up and sold our house worth of stuff in Fujairah. We said good bye to people over the internet that we had planned to be hugging in person that same day. 

7.5 months ago, I heard our sweet baby #4's heartbeat for the first time and they gave us an official due date of June 14th (today). 

5 months ago, yesterday, we held our sweet baby Jo in our hands after losing her at 18 weeks. We knew, if she made it, she would have had Down Syndrome and most likely many medical issues, but we knew that we would endure and be better people by God's grace if He had given her to us. But, in His sovereignty, He knew that taking her home at that moment was the best thing for us all.  

This week, they are finishing remodeling work on that same house we moved into together 8 years ago and we should be moving back in at almost exactly the same time we moved in 8 years ago. 

This month, and specifically this week, will always be an emotional one for me. Filled with joy and sorrow, but especially and always peace and amazement at the goodness and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father throughout every aspect of this life. 

"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

... of bread!

Alright. I'm finally sitting down at the computer (whaaaaaat?!) and posting the recipe to this plantain dough I've developed. This might be similar to another recipe out there, but I haven't ever seen it, so I've been working on this for awhile and now, I think, it's ready to share! Since starting the Auto Immune Protocol diet last year, I've been searching for a good pizza dough recipe. That's where this recipe started. 

With more or less coconut flour, this dough can be used for pizzas or sandwich bread (more) or muffins (less). So, here it is!

Plantain Dough
Preheat oven to 365.

-1 just ripe plantain (yellow with just a little black).
-2.5 tbsp coconut oil
-1/4 cup coconut milk
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp apple cider vinegar
-1/4 cup coconut flour (for muffins), add 3 more tbsp coconut flour (for pizza or "bread" dough)
Peel and cut plantains into large chunks.
Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
Add all ingredients except coconut flour. Mix well.

Add coconut flour and mix well. Muffin dough should be still be a bit... creamy. At this point you would add in anything you want for muffins (I've made "cupcakes" by adding raw cacao and vanilla extract - no sweeetner, the plantains are sweet enough already). Spoon into muffin cups and bake until just browned on top and a toothpick comes out mostly clean. It's been awhile since I did the muffins, but it's probably at least 20 minutes.

For dough, it should bond together well and not stick to the bowl.   
Press dough 1/4 inch thick until desired size (pizza obviously bigger than bread). The right side is to show the amount I used to press a 6" diameter piece of bread.
The whole amount will make about 3 personal pizzas or 6 pieces of bread. If you aren't making all of it at one time (not sure how well pre-made ones would heat up), the rest can go in any kind of container for use within the next few days. 
When you use it again, it may be slightly brown on the outside and look marbled when it mixes with the still yellow inside of the ball. This is ok. Might even make it look fun. As long as it smells good, you should be good to use it :)
(This is when I used it for a burger after a day in the fridge. You can see the marbling. Still tasted great!)

Anyway, bake at 365 for 18 minutes. The sides may start to brown if they are too thin, so pack up the sides so they are the same thickness as the rest of the bread. You want to make sure they are baked through and fairly stiff. 

For Pizza dough, bake for 14 minutes, take out, add toppings (I love no-mato sauce, onions, mushrooms, sausage and greens!) and bake for another 4-5 minutes.

Otherwise, sandwich it up!!

This bread is definitely sweet, so be prepared for that. I love that about it. My go to lunch recently has been a salmon or tuna salad sandwich (canned salmon or tuna mixed with celery, onions, mashed avocado, coconut milk, dill, tarragon, garlic powder, and salt). Yum, yum!

Hope you enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2016

... of freezing time

Up until literally today, I couldn't wait for my kids to grow up. "When he doesn't nap it''ll be so much easier!" "When she's in school, it'll be so much easier!" "When he can help with chores, it'll be so much easier!" Then today, all of a sudden, I felt this overwhelming desire to freeze time.  Today (a day I spent mostly laid up in bed) I realized: It's not ever going to get "easier".

We've already discovered that there are intricacies to a five year old boy's personality that do not exist in a two year old's. e.g. lying. So while he won't throw as many temper tantrums, he will sneak pieces of candy out of the Ikea "pick a mix" and hide it in his pocket taking little bites whenever my back is turned (Tuesday). Then a whole conversation about stealing and lying will ensue in the car with an eventual temper tantrum over the discipline I've decided to issue (not getting any of the candy I had actually paid for)

Before we know it, he will be a teenager. Lord willing, he won't lie to us regularly, but he will be a teenager. We all know what that means...

Oh, Lord... what does that mean?!?!

I had to go into Simon's room and wake him up from a dead sleep at 6pm because he had taken 2.5 hours to finally fall asleep for his nap, He is deliriously adorable when I have to do that. He always starts jabbering about stuff right away. Today, it was cars, as he heard one zoom by on our street right as I got him out of his crib. So we walked next door to the guest/work room with the "car watching" window. He was still a little out of it and his face was frozen in a stare waiting for a car to drive by or his senses to return (whichever happened first). And I just stared at his little profile. That nose and those cheeks. That straw colored, uncut hair. Those blue-green eyes. That innocence. And I cried.

Yes, he's mischievous, but he's also sweet. He will bash apart a painstakingly made Lego car one minute, and go give the sweetest "sa sa (sorry) Abey" hug the next. And then perform the ritual all over again. Soon, he'll be the Lego creator and I won't be able to hold him after his nap and gaze into his face, because if he's anything like his brother, he will never sit still long enough for me to get a good look.

And in that moment I felt time slipping away. I suddenly regretted all the times that I wanted to rush them through this (or any other) stage in their short little lives. They may not remember these days, but their dad and I will. And I want to cherish them forever, not have a hard time remembering because I was so focused on getting to the next, "easier" stage.

So, here I am, at 12:45am trying to cherish that sweet moment from today. And for my sake and theirs, I'd like to be better and writing and sharing about our daily life and experiences on here so that we will all have a way of remembering the days that I know are fading away much, much too fast.

.  (Thanks to Erika Knox for these adorable pictures of our little people!)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

...of the same, but different

When we came back to Austin from the UAE and Quinn started back at his old job and we went right back to the same church and are even a few months away from moving back into our old house, we struggled with feeling like the previous two and half years just didn't happen. Sure, we had another child, but it all felt the same as it had. Except that our hearts were completely different. God had pulled us out of our former comfort zone and opened our hearts and eyes to a people who desperately needed His love. So when we came back, we were like different people in the same life. Even though those two years were less than we had planned and the memory of them gets further and further away, He still used them to shape and transform us in ways we never could have imagined. It was like we had entered some kind of time warp where everything was the same and different all at once.

Then, just a few weeks ago, when we discovered that our fourth baby, Joanna Lynn, had Down syndrome, everything changed again. In the five short weeks since we have been given that information we have grown to love her dearly. We delved into finding out more about what would make her special and different and I spent a lot of time reading stories and watching videos of amazing kids and people with Down syndrome. After knowing that the Lord had laid that condition so specifically on Quinn's heart, we were positive she was meant to have it and it made us very excited to meet her and add her to our family. Quinn was sure that she was the child the Lord meant for us to raise, but I always knew that losing her was a real possibility and that maybe her life was meant to lead us into caring for a different child with Down syndrome. We didn't know the extent of her physical issues and were waiting with anticipation for next Tuesday when we would have her 20 week anatomy scan with the specialist and get more specific information.

I felt her move a few times around 16 weeks and knew that the movements should get more and more pronounced. When her heart rate was 181 (just above the very top of the normal range of 120-180) at 16 weeks and her movements got less pronounced and spread out and eventually stopped around 17 weeks, I kind of knew in my mom heart that we had lost her. I hung on until 18 weeks hoping for her movement to start again, but scheduled an appointment with one of my doctors this past Monday at 18 weeks. 

When they couldn't find her heartbeat, my heart still broke. My sweet regular doctor was rushed in to confirm and he found that she was only measuring at about 15 weeks. There is no way to know exactly when she was officially healed and went to be with Jesus, but she probably stopped growing and passed away sometime last week. My doctor reminded me of what I already knew: that this meant she most likely wasn't "viable", meaning God knew the extent of her physical issues and it was the most merciful thing for all of us for Him to take her home now. 

I cried so much that day that it hurt. But the hope we have in knowing that we will see her again someday is beyond compare. I'm not sure how old she'll be or whether she will be "our daughter", but I'm sure we will meet her and somehow we will know. When we told Abram that Joanna had already gone to heaven to be with Jesus, he was sad for just a split second as he processed and then his face lit up and he said, "But she is the most lucky one, because she is the first one in our family to get to meet Jesus! I want to meet Jesus!" Amen, sweet little boy. Amen.

We are now on the other side of another time warp. It was shorter this time, but just as epic. Four months ago, we though we'd be adding a fourth child to our family. One month ago, we thought we'd be adding a special needs child our family. Today, we only have three earthly children in our family again. We are back where we started, but as completely different people. We still believe that God wants for us to be involved in the Down syndrome community in some way. We don't know what that will look like, but Joanna's life will have a ripple effect in our lives and hopefully in other lives as well.  We've already had some dear friends tell us that God used her to place Down syndrome on their hearts as well and they are praying through what that could look like for them. Praise God for her big, little life.

I thought it might be more appropriate to wait for a bit to process longer, but tomorrow I go in for the procedure that will remove her body from mine and I would love prayer. Writing this all out has also helped with the grieving process. I also feel that this is the best way for us to glorify God in this. We trust Him and believe that He is completely sovereign over it all and there is so much peace and comfort in that, it's incredible. I know, too, that I am not alone in this. The women I know who have been open and transparent about the children they have lost have given me a lot of strength these last few days. Quinn and I were talking about how, for reasons only really known to Him, God adds thousands of "babies" to heaven everyday who never saw the light of our sun or breathed our air, but are experiencing His presence in the fullest, healed and whole. And it's for His glory and our good. How amazing is that?

Thank you for all of your prayers for Baby Jo and our family and your many words of encouragement since my last post. We asked for prayer for her healing and a strong body and He has absolutely answered those prayers! She will always be our gracious gift from God and our beloved fourth child and we wouldn't change that for anything.

I'll end all of this with the first and third verses from a song that has always been a favorite of mine, but didn't truly have personal meaning until the last year. It now gives me so much comfort.

"When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
'It is well, it is well with my soul!'"

"And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll.
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend.
Even so, it is well with my soul."