A Pleasant Surprise

I am 17 weeks pregnant.  
First of all, I needed to let that sink in.  I’m almost halfway through this pregnancy.  That kind of freaks me out.  And it’s not just the pregnancy going by fast that freaks me out.  It’s that the pregnancy is here at all.  Yes, I am still adjusting to the fact that I am a mother of five children.  
Truth be told, when I married my husband, I was fairly certain that I would never have any children.  And honestly, I don’t think that’s totally unheard of.  I think when young people get married, it’s not always a foregone conclusion that children will follow (anymore).  
A woman planning to be a mother of none, became a mother of five.
Don’t get me wrong.  Five kids in a family doesn’t freak me out.  I love larger families.  I am from a large family myself.  My siblings are like my air and water…I don’t think I could exist without them.  
I just never fathomed myself the mother of five.  
The first four, I could picture easily, once I got past the having no kids part.  When I had Sarah, I saw it as necessary that we’d have at least another because I couldn’t imagine growing up as an only child so I feared that outcome for my daughter.  When we had Dani, again, I knew we’d have another one.  I knew fairly quickly and rather certainly that our family was not complete.  When Helen came along, after about 18 months or so, I was still feeling a nagging in my heart.  I didn’t feel like we were complete.  There was a yearning to continue to grow our family.  
I believe the decision to try to conceive our fourth child was a more difficult one.  Going from two children to three children had been a huge challenge.  It was harder than going from zero to one.  Going from one to two was a walk in the park.  But having three children age 4 and under was not something I was willing to undertake ever again.  Even though I yearned for another baby, it was easy to say, “not yet” for much longer than we’d ever done before.
But, as God likes to do, he worked on our hearts and ultimately, we were open to another blessing and Dominic came along.
But it’s so strange as I think of how we came to be open to number 5.  It was quite unintentional on our parts, I believe.  We had a month where we did not follow our NFP rules.  And in any other month of our marriage, we would have become pregnant.  I remember as I took my ovulation test the morning after we had “broken the rules” and getting the PEAK reading on the test, indicating that ovulation took place/would take place within 24 hours of that test.  My heart started beating fast.  We hadn’t really decided together that we were ready to be open, we’d acted on human hormones and urges without considering the consequences.  
Over the course of that 2-week-wait, I grew to enjoy the idea of another baby.  It broke my heart when I wasn’t pregnant.  The next month, we went back to our avoiding rules.  We just weren’t sure we were ready.  Then the following month, we broke the rules again.  This time, I wasn’t nervous when I saw the PEAK indicator within the 24 hour frame of time of us “breaking” the rules.  I welcomed it.  I asked Craig whether he was hoping for a positive or negative pregnancy test.  He replied positive and I was floored.  Was it possible that we were both really ready to embrace being a family of 7?  Were we ready to receive another blessing in our family?  And, then when I wasn’t pregnant again, I became concerned.  Obviously having another baby wasn’t going to be a given.  We might actually have to work at this.  Were we ready to do that?  We were getting older…was it worth it to really TRY to have another baby?  Hm.
The following month, we followed no rules.  No tests.  No avoiding.  No achieving.  Just let it all be.  And here I am 17 weeks pregnant with #5.
I am pleasantly surprised at how I feel regarding this new baby.  I feel some apprehension that I haven’t really felt before.  I ask myself a lot more questions.  But the questions are good…they keep me grounded.  The keep me focused on the fact that I can do nothing without the Lord and to keep my eyes toward Him and all things will fall into place.  

There’s a sense of peace, that perhaps this little one will give me the feeling of completeness…the feeling that we’re all finally here, that God’s plan might truly be a family of 7.  Time will tell, of course, but it’s a peaceful feeling, whether it’s accurate or not.

My Kids Are Spoiled! (And I’m Okay With That)

Recently, my sister was informed by a member of our family that her four children were spoiled.  Specifically, she was told that her children have “too much stuff” and that they don’t “need” it all and that “they are spoiled”.
That got me thinking.  (of course)
I think my kids are spoiled.  Truly.  But I don’t think they are spoiled because they have lots of stuff.  Sure, they do have more than they need and it’s a constant struggle for me to ensure they understand that their needs are wants for many others and to remember to give praise and thanks to God for the blessings in their lives, material and non-material.
Yes.  My children are spoiled.  Here’s why:  Because they have their mother and their father, living out a Catholic christian marriage to the best of their ability.  Because they have a secure and stable home life.  Because they have parents who are present and ready to love them, listen to them, discipline them.  I think all kids should be spoiled. 
My life beginning at age 8 was a fairly unstable, insecure life without a father.  And many Christmases, the presents were not “wants” but regular things that I needed.  Often, Christmas was when we received an annual allotment of socks, underwear and clothing.  Very seldom was there something I had told anyone I “wanted” in my stocking or under the tree.  And even, then, when my father came to town and asked what we’d like for Christmas and we told him, we often got told, “You don’t really want THAT”.  I spent many a summer afternoon accompanying my mother into the Liz Claiborne section at Dillard’s so that she could pad her wardrobe, or sitting by her at the Clinique counter as she bought herself makeup.  I don’t begrudge her these things…I never really thought much about it until I became an adult and realized how often my own trip to get a new outfit or taking the time and setting the money aside to buy some makeup, gets pushed to “last” in the priority column.
My life was a constant balancing act of how to be a kid without further wounding an often delicate relationship with both my parents, even though I was not the one to break the relationship in the first place.  I’ve only just recently begun coping with the emotional and physical abuse I suffered as a child.  I mean, I’m only scratching the surface.  I can feel it brewing any time I start thinking of my next session with my therapist…there’s some big breakthrough occurring.  It’s slowly building and I can tell at some point, I’m going to finally hit that point where it all comes crashing in on me and I realize the magnitude of it all.  For now, I have bits and pieces.  What saddens me the most is how common my experience is.
However, I look at my kids and I truly believe they are spoiled.  They are spoiled with love and affection.  They are spoiled with a father who loves them and isn’t afraid to show it.  They are spoiled with a family environment they can count on.  They are spoiled because they don’t have to rely on their siblings to carry them through the day, they can come to their mom or their dad, cry on our shoulder or just cuddle.
And, honestly, I can say that my youngest sister and brother are quite possibly the most spoiled children on the face of the earth from my vantage point.  I see them as spoiled because they had MY DADDY…all their lives.  They still have MY DADDY.  Sure, he is their daddy, too.  But, I spend my time working on my relationship with my dad knowing it can never be what it would have been.  I’m moving forward and I believe my dad and I have a stronger relationship now than we have ever had in my adult years.  But, it’s still not what it would have been.  That can never be.  And that’s just my life.  There’s no changing it even if I wanted to.  But it doesn’t change the fact that they are spoiled.
I hope that I can always say my kids are spoiled.  I hope I can always say they have a dual-parental unit they can count on.  I hope I can conquer my demons and move on to a place where I can be a most compassionate, loving and merciful mother to my children.  I hope I can always say that every day, I look into the eyes of the man I love knowing he would lay down his life for me and our family.

Please, Lord, allow me to always strive to spoil the heck out of my children!

So far so good.

A Sports Sidetrack

I’m a big KU fan.  I graduated from KU in 1996.  I grew up in a town about 20 miles west of Lawrence, KS.  I was in 8th grade the year KU won the National Title over Oklahoma in Kansas City.  I had big posters of Danny Manning and Stacey King going up for shots in the big game. 
I got to thinking yesterday as I had a twitter discussion with Rebecca after WVU beat Purdue and the students stormed the court.  I made a comment along the lines that I would think that a team that’s been as good as WVU lately, would be past all that storming the court stuff.
A little background:  I don’t really understand the whole storming the court business.  I get it, I suppose, that kids are excited for their team’s win, and want to show that.  However, as a KU fan, it befuddles me.  We’ve won lots of big games, but never have I seen Naismith Court, in Allen Fieldhouse, rushed by fans or students.  I went to lots of games when I was a student.  Probably one of the best games I witnessed was in 1995, UCLA came to AFH for the first time, KU was down 15 at the half, but they came back and ended up winning by 15.  If there were ever enough energy for a stormin’ of the court…it was that game, but it didn’t happen.  
Over the years, I have come to realize that KU probably just wins too much for that sort of thing.  We KU fans are majorly spoiled.  I mean, we WIN at KU.  That’s the name of the game at KU in basketball.  The program is under the microscope.  A “bad year” at KU is a great year most other places.  For years, under Roy Williams, KU was always ranked in the top 10, getting top seeds in the tournament, challenging for the conference title.  When Bill Self came in for the 2003-04 season…well, let’s just say, he hit the ground running and (barring a couple of early years bad NCAA tournament losses) really hasn’t looked back.  I saw a statistic the other day that under Bill Self, KU has the highest winning percentage of all programs.  KU won the national title in 2008.  Bill Self will ever be loved at KU mainly because he did what Roy Williams never did.  He had a top program during the season AND post-season…he brought it home.
But, I digress.  I remember reading an article in the University Daily Kansan while I was a student there that basically reviewed for the student body what is expected of them at KU Basketball games.  And storming the court?  Absolutely a no-no!  Why?  Because, we were Kansas…no opponent we’d ever beat would be worth that sort of celebration.  It would be sort of saying, “We weren’t supposed to beat you, but we did” and at KU, that’s unheard of.  KU wins.  Period.
As I began writing tonight, I started a thread on KU message board asking when the last time the students stormed the court.  One person, being funny, said, 
“I know it probably doesn’t fit your definition of storming the court, but April 7, 2008.”  
Well, No, that doesn’t fit because that’s when KU won the National Title, and it wasn’t at AFH and well…damn straight they stormed the court, we were #1!  🙂  
But another response made me chuckle and went along with what I thought about KU basketball and what’s expected:  

There were a few dumbsh*ts that stormed the court after the Texas game a few years ago, can’t remember exactly which year.

But I don’t think i’ve ever seen a full on court storming in allen

And there was this response to that comment:

And those few knuckleheads got booed off the court and had to endure the walk of shame.

Exactly…what perennial top 10 team has fans that storm the court after a win over anyone?  Isn’t that just admitting that you weren’t supposed to win the game?
I am always a little interested when I see students of universities where their programs seem to be trying to take their performance to that next level…where they are expected to win.  And when they rush the court after a win, I wonder that it seems they want respect like they “belong” but then they go and do that? It doesn’t make sense to me.
Take WVU for instance…John Beilein had that program working well the years he was there.  It really wasn’t all that much for Bob Huggins to come in and take over…besides the fact that Bob Huggins has ways of getting his players in there pretty quickly.  WVU has been in the discussion every year in the Big East for the last 5-10 years.  Last year WVU went to the Final Four.  And, I was a little bit surprised when they rushed the floor after their team beat Purdue, ranked #8.  Purdue may be #8…but they are still in the Big 10 and typically only a couple of Big 10 teams are legitimately good each year…sometimes it’s Purdue in the mix and sometimes it’s not.  A win over #8…means you storm the court?  Does that mean you don’t think you should have beaten a #8 team?  There are lots of universities where kids are just itchin’ to storm the floor.  I know it, because it happens and gets ESPN coverage…because it’s usually KU, Duke, UNC, UCLA, Kentucky or some other big power-team that got beat.  I was just surprised to see it happen when it was *just* Purdue.
I had a suspicion that Rebecca would post about this topic today…but of course, I’ve written my thoughts without seeing hers yet.  I wanted this to mainly be my own meanderings on the subject and not really an attack or reaction to whatever she might write on it.  

Just so you get a feeling of what it’s like to be part of the KU Basketball Tradition…I leave you with this video … it runs on the scoreboard right before the Jayhawks’ Starting Lineup is announced.  It’s from 2008-09 best copy I could find on You Tube.  So, just add a couple more conference championships in there (are we at 53 or 54???  I know we’ve won a share of the last 6, and the last two outright).  And add a slew of wins to total all-time wins (we’re close to 2000…if we haven’t passed it yet.  We had 1970 at beginning of 2009-10 season).

And it wouldn’t be a KU Basketball post without:  

ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!  GO KU!!!

We Have A Birthday!

Two years ago, today, I’d checked into the hospital the night before to begin Cervadill and begin the process of inducing labor.  The night went by quickly with regular checks and contractions started sometime around 3:00 a.m.  The doctor stopped by around 7:00 and broke my water.  The contractions started coming a bit harder and faster and lasting a bit longer.  I was able to breathe through them ok, though.  My husband, my helpmate, my rock through all of my labors and deliveries was there with me.  We opened up the blinds and saw a winter wonderland in front of us…it had snowed during the night.
I asked for an epidural around 10:30 and was able to get one fairly quickly (for a Friday) and my husband and I commenced playing Cribbage and listening to the radio.  The nurse on duty was the same nurse on duty when we’d had Helen three years before.  She and Craig had known each other in college (her best friend and Craig’s best friend had dated for awhile) so we talked, caught up and all of that jazz.  
Even with the epidural, I could feel the pressure of the contractions.  I do not see this a failure of the epidural, I like still feeling some pressure…but it did remind me just how painful those contractions could be without the epidural (I’m not much on pain).  Soon, it was time to push.  As the doc arrived, he brought someone with him and asked could she observe (she was a med or nursing student, can’t remember which).  I just said, “Hey, I’m gonna do my thing…she’s welcome, it’s not going to change how we proceed.”  So, I pushed.  and I pushed.  My husband helped count to 10 through each push.  Finally, that head crowned and the body proceeded out with following contractions and my beautiful baby boy was born!  At 1:16 p.m. on 1/16/09.
We have been so blessed by Dominic’s presence in our lives.  The girls have a baby brother to care for, to hang out with and to learn from.  Dominic is one of those people you just have to experience.  He is fun, gentle, sweet-tempered, and laughs easily.  Dominic is the kind of kid that makes you want to have another baby.  The importance of his addition to our family is difficult to put into words.  All of our children are miracles, but they each bring a unique perspective to life, to our family, and Dominic is no different.  
Dominic’s smile, his very presence, illuminates the true meaning of the gift of life.  Thank you, God, for sending us our little Dominic.  He completes us all in ways that we never could have foreseen.
Happy Birthday, Dominic!!!

And He Will Raise You Up

Since I was a girl, I loved this song, “On Eagle’s Wings.”
My 8th grade class sang it at our graduation.  
My brother sang it at my wedding.  
It was sung at my Grandfather’s funeral.
No matter the challenges in my life, this song has always reminded me that the LORD lifts me up, that His strength is never-ending, and that if I place my trust in HIM, that I will be at peace.
It’s not always easy and many times I forget.
But even if I forget, HE never does and HE is there, waiting for me, when I turn back to HIM.

Why "Endless Strength"?

My favorite song growing up was the song titled, “On Eagle’s Wings”.  Growing up in a broken home, I clung to God more fervently than I think I would have otherwise.  I didn’t have a stable home or parent to cling to.  I had my siblings, but they could only provide so much.  I remember the verses and certain words that always kept me going…

“Say to the Lord, My Refuge, My Rock in Whom I trust”

“And He will raise you up, on Eagle’s wings.  Bear you on the Breath of Dawn.  Make you to shine like the sun.  And hold you in the Palm of His Hand.”

Knowing that God would hold me in the Palm of His Hand was enough to get me through the day at times.
When I got older, I still clung to this song.  We included it in our wedding Mass, even though the liturgist raised his eyebrows and said, “That’s usually a song used in funerals.”  I didn’t care…that song had been a part of my life for so long and as I began a new life with my husband, I wanted that song to be a part of it.  
I remember the song also played at my grandfather’s funeral and I cried familiar tears.
When I named my blog, I referred to my favorite bible verse, Isaiah 40:31:

Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. –Isaiah 40:31

Endless Strength refers simply to the strength I receive only from God.  I can see His hand throughout my life, through all my hardships, sufferings, joys…I can see His Amazing Grace all around in the fact that I am where I am now, when I could be in a much worse place.  

The Lord has provided this Endless Strength.  It is His Grace that led me where I am today.