Our Final Visit with Great-Grandpa (Chuck Smith)

We had been seeing Cousin Vanessa at our homeschool P.E. class in Costa Mesa every Monday.  I had been content with the news of Grandpa, in that everyone said he was doing okay.  I’d hear that he preached Sunday, and imagined that that meant that he was pretty strong.  But that Monday, when Vanessa gave us the update, Sid and I both had a feeling of urgency about going to visit.


After P.E., we went straight to Grandpa and Grandma’s house.  We figured that if it wasn’t a good time to visit right then, we’d make plans to return the following day.  But Iina, Grandpa and Grandma’s live-in nurse, brought us right up to Grandpa’s office where he was reclined, with his oxygen tubes in and his good buddy John Henry rubbing his legs.


Grandpa looked really happy to see us, the kids mostly, he LOVES his great-grandchildren so much.  He stayed reclined, though, didn’t say much and didn’t move much.  It was hard to see him like that.  He was a man who powered through everything, didn’t hesitate, just charged at it and seemed not to comprehend why others didn’t take the same approach to life.


When Grandpa did speak, it seemed to take a lot of energy.  I did not know his health had declined so much, people kept putting such a positive spin on his condition when they’d give a report, in retrospect I see that as a true testimony of Grandpa’s positive outlook when he’d say how he felt.  He had just preached three services the day before, looking at him I didn’t see how that could have been possible.


Grandpa had not yet met Neil, who was then 3 months old.  We had wanted to visit much sooner, but with my more difficult recovery and then the start of the school year, we just hadn’t done it.  First thing when we entered the room, Sid took Neil over to Grandpa and held him close, so that they could make eye contact.  Neil’s face broke into a face full of smile as he looked into Grandpa’s.  Grandpa loved that!  And we got to remind him that Neil was named after him, Neil Charles.  Grandma still talks about how much, “Chuck loves babies.”  It was a wonderful first, and last, meeting for those two.


Iina came in and suggested an idea – that Grandpa pray a blessing over each one of the children’s lives, and that we get it on video, with our phones.  Her suggestion implied to me that this might be their last chance to receive such a blessing from him and that came as a surprise made me so, so sad.


When Sid left to get his phone, John Henry was also out there and met with Sid and told him, “I don’t know if you could tell, but Chuck lit up when you guys walked in the room!  No one has visited today and this is the first day he’s felt very lousy, and hasn’t really spoken or smiled.  I believe your visit was ordained by the Lord!”  The man has an epic Irish accent too, so you can only imagine the impact this had on Sid (hee hee).  I was really moved hearing about it later.


The kids continued to be good and play around a little in Grandpa’s office and we tried to get Sid’s phone charged enough to capture the amazing moments that were about to occur.  Soon we were ready and Grandpa began to thunder out a beautiful blessing over Indy, while holding his hand.  Each child got their turn, held his hand and received a blessing that covered the very rest of their life and their becoming the man or woman God would have them to be.  It was so sweet, and sort of miraculous that Grandpa managed to muster the energy to bless them so intensely.


My cousin Brad had come in by then and spoke to Jonny, “So, Jonny, you’re the oldest, so you are kind of the leader of your siblings.  What I’ve been doing is anointing Grandpa with oil and praying for his healing, would you like to lead your siblings in a prayer over him?”  Jonny was obviously not completely comfortable with this, but he accepted!  I think Jonny’s like me in that the gravity of a situation usually settles on us in the moment and that makes it difficult to wing it!  So here, he had been asked to pray, not only in front of a room full of people, but also for a man who had been praying the most beautifully crafted, biblically inspired, accurately articulated, masterfully intoned prayers, for the last 66 years of his life, the likes of which, millions of people had been audience to, and thoroughly blessed by!  So yeah, being eleven and having a pretty good understanding of who his Great-Grandpa is, he was hesitant.  But he went for it!


Jonny, his siblings and I gathered around Grandpa and laid hands on him, and Jonny prayed.  Grandpa wasn’t going to leave Jonny out on the line, though!  He whispered guidance and encouragement that Jonny appreciated as he chose what to say.  Grandpa was blessed and Jonny was relieved later to hear that he said everything correctly!  He did a great job, Sid and I are so proud.


Grandma came in to eat dinner with Grandpa around then and so we stayed awhile and visited with her.  She was refusing to eat because she didn’t want us to leave!  She is the sweetest Grandma!  I have so much to say about her (that’s for another post).  We decided to leave and I went to Grandpa, around the back of his recliner, since he had tables on both sides, and from behind I leaned down, hugged him and kissed the top of his head.  I told him how happy I was to see him, and he said, “I’m happy to see you, Jennifer and your beautiful family.”  Big smile.


Grandpa died in his sleep, of a heart attack, two nights later.  I’m just so grateful for our final visit.  And please pray for my precious Grandma Kay, as one can only imagine how hard this loss has been for her.

Posted in my thoughts | 2 Comments

The Harrowing Birth of Neil Charles

This pregnancy had been a surprise.  Sid and I knew we weren’t ready to make the choice not to have any more children, so we hadn’t done anything permanent to that end.  We were being careful not to get pregnant, we were aware it could happen, and from time to time one of us would remark something to the effect of, “Can you imagine if we got pregnant?  That would be soooooo crazy.”  Ha ha!


I am always ready for my period to start about a week before it’s supposed to.  So in November of 2012, I was anticipating its arrival, yet too busy to worry about whether or not it would start, “It will be here soon enough,” I’d tell myself.  I had a busy weekend to keep my mind off of that stirring possibility, with my niece’s birthday party closing it out on Sunday evening, after that I’d think about my late period.  And so Monday morning I wanted to take a test to ease my mind so that I could rightly start the homeschool week with a clear mind ready to focus on academics.


Positive, there it was.  I am not one to practice patience when my family, my best friends, are just in the other room.  I ran into the bedroom where they were convened, threw myself down on the bed and said, “SID!  LOOK!”  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  The kids were really excited, I was in shock and Sid got quiet.


We decided to get an ultrasound to find out the gender, just to try to simplify and organize this complicated and haphazard event.  We found out we were having another boy.  So awesome!  My emotions were still regularly swaying between overwhelming joy and gratitude that I would get to have another baby, and anxiety and spinning at the thought of keeping up with all I had going on plus the care of a fifth child.


We got to go to Maui when I was 26 weeks along and we stayed there for 2 mostly lovely weeks.  Our second night there brought challenges for me in the form of stabbing abdominal pain.  Not like contractions, with their duller, cramping squeeze.  Passing gas and pooping brought no relief and in the middle of the night I wondered if I should go to an E.R.  Sid gave me an incredible massage and I was finally able to relax.  The pain was sincerely excruciating.  I slept a tiny while and when I awoke, still much too early to arise, I noticed I was having contractions.  I finally texted my midwife.


I recovered fine after following her advice and hydrating and staying in bed.  I was disappointed to miss out on the blowhole, but I knew what I needed to do for baby and I.  I surely did not want to go into labor.


We enjoyed the rest of our trip so much.


In my 33rd week both of my daughters would perform in a ballet recital.  That’s what seemed to bring on my second health challenge.  The day after the second recital I again had abdominal pain, this time it seemed to me more like muscle strain, but this time I also had a low-grade fever.  I felt pretty bad so I stayed in bed for a day and watched TV with the kids while Sid went to work.  Again I recovered.


My final health challenge came when I was 36 weeks and extended to the day I became 37 weeks.  Monday we went to Costco and happened to include a new thermometer in our purchase.  When we got home I wanted to test it out and in doing so found I had a low-grade fever again.  So I went to bed.


By that night I felt really bad, my fever had risen, I was sick.  The next day I was worse and a bad headache and neck ache accompanied my fever.  My midwife and I concluded I had a flu.  I tried to fend it off with oscillococcinum, but to no avail.  My head and neck continued to hurt badly, I had no appetite, a fever and could barely sleep.  I was thankful I wasn’t closer to my due date, I thought I’d have at least a week to recover before facing labor.


Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday I was still very sick.  My head and neck aches were what had kept me awake the prior nights, I wanted to sleep and so Wednesday night I planned to take acetaminophen.  As soon as it kicked in I got hot flash-hot.  I was sweating a lot, barely dressed with windows open and the ceiling fan on.  It took about 2 hours before I started to feel a little cooler.  As soon as I did, I got into bed, thankful that my head and neck were feeling okay and I fell asleep.  Not long after I woke up, chilled.  Next thing I knew I was freezing and shivering.  I tried to go back to sleep, but my shivering became almost convulsive.  I woke Sid and asked him to close the windows and get me extra blankets.  He had five blankets on me and then laid himself over that on me and I still shivered.  I needed to pee, but dreaded leaving the blankets to the painful freeze I would feel getting to the bathroom and back, so I held it.  Sid became really concerned and got on his computer looking for info about my condition.  He found an article describing acetaminophen’s effect on pregnant and menopausal women and it was exactly what I suffered.  Finally, my body normalized, I could only hope that in all the hypothalamic craziness my fever had broken.


It hadn’t.  Thursday I was still fevering and feeling downright shitty.  I couldn’t believe it, I had never, ever been that sick for that long in my whole life.  My midwife offered to come, but was scheduled to come check on me Friday morning anyway so I waited it out all day Thursday.


Friday morning came, I hadn’t slept much and was awake off and on from 8 am with mild contractions.  Around 9 they were becoming painful so I called my midwife.  I did just as she suggested – took 2 krill oil capliques, drank a tall glass of coconut water and got into an Epsom salt bath.  The contractions stalled and I relaxed in the bath dozing off here and there.  I was so insanely exhausted, and did I mention I still had a fever?  ha ha, ugh.


The contractions became painful in the bath again and so I got out.  My midwife came at 10:30 and started to listen to the baby during my contractions and watch me.  She also needed to check me for dilation, etc.  Well, I was dilated to 5 cm and my water bag was bulging, “Jenn, we’re havin’ a baby today.” She told me.  The kids overheard and were thrilled.  I was shocked, excited, and so very, very exhausted.  I ate some toast and took an ibuprofen to bring my fever down.


She continued to listen to the baby during my contractions and she was detecting a deceleration in his heart rate with most of them, but it recovered quickly.  She notified me that she wasn’t concerned yet, but that I may need to go to the hospital if we got to a place where his heart rate wasn’t rebounding so well.  Now that I knew I was in actual labor, I began to use my breathing and visualization to get ahead of my contractions and cope.  They didn’t feel so painful anymore, but they were still strong.


Sid was filling the birth tub and Sue was making preparations in the kitchen.  She told me to move around if I felt like it, I had been sitting on the bed until then.  I thought it sounded good to move a bit, and so I got off the bed.  As soon as I did that, my contractions became stronger and closer together.  I made my way to the bathroom and the contractions came extremely close together, barely offering enough time between to put my hair up!  In the bathroom, I couldn’t hold back, I moaned with a really strong contraction.  Sue came quickly, knowing what that sound meant!  She asked me if I wanted to have the baby right there, or get into the tub.  I opted for the tub, but my contractions were still so close, she asked Sid to carry me to the tub.


He came and picked me up from my underarms, holding me up so that my feet barely touched the floor, and like this, I floated from my bathroom, down the hall, through the TV room, through the dining room and to the birth tub in our library!  He also helped me in.  The … water … felt … so … good.  I continued to labor in there while Sue finished preparations in the kitchen and Lindsey arrived to assist her.  With a contraction my water bag burst, and I immediately noticed meconium in it.  I called to Sue, feeling like a little girl, “Suuue?  My water bag broke and there’s meconium in it!”  She came and told me it was time for the baby to come out and just to push and keep on pushing.  I pushed with everything, which probably wasn’t much, given my condition, but my best was enough and his little head came out!


When I became aware that his head was out, I had a big giant thought in that very small moment – I was almost done; I was about to give birth to my fifth baby; to give birth for the last time; still three weeks away from my due date; it was about to be all over; I was about to meet my new baby and in a moment, I would be finished with my final pregnancy, that one that had surprised me so, that one that was hard and happy and so precious.  And so I relaxed, like Sue instructed, until I had the strength to push again.  The strength came and I pushed for the very, totally, last time, and Baby Neil was out, and as soon as Sue unwrapped his 3-times-wrapped umbilical cord, he was in my arms.


I was happy, and so, so tired.  And I was in shock and so very exhausted.  In the pictures of these precious moments, my eyes are dark and sleepy and kind of glazed over.  And I appear to have been very concerned about Neil, furrowing my eyebrows staring intently at him.


When I got out of the tub and onto the couch to nurse, I was nodding out, catching my head and popping it back up as it fell.  And honestly, it is difficult for me to recall much else from that day or the next couple of days as I recovered from everything.


And I am left with questions … Was my fever induced by my pregnancy?  After my birth, my fever did not return.  Was Neil’s cord wrapping responsible for his early birth?  Sue said that when a baby is in distress like that, they can signal something somehow that causes birth to ensue.  Did I have some other condition, and if so, did Neil’s cord and thus early arrival, possibly save my life?  Or did my condition cause the early birth and save his life from possible strangulation in-utero?  I do not know, and I’m okay with not knowing.  I do know that I am so exceedingly grateful to be here, now.


Aside from the crazy birth, Neil had some health challenges early on and at times we thought he might not go on.  His breathing was tricky, almost like at any moment it could stop.  Too fast one minute, very slow and labored the next.  The very day we got good news from a pediatrician that his lungs and heart sounded very strong, he nearly completely stopped eating and didn’t breastfeed strongly until about three days later.  Also early on, his body temperature was normal when he was being held, but then would rise to fever when he was lying on the bed.  My midwife had never heard of that, I kept thinking I was trippin’.  Kangaroo care was no longer just a sweet enhancement to our bonding with our newborn (as with our prior newborns), it was absolutely necessary.  I felt like Neil’s whole system would go out of whack when he was solitary.  Skin-to-skin is such a completely perfect miracle, in that, the thing that feels so soothing to the parents in such an unstable and worrisome time, is also the very thing that stabilizes and sustains equilibrium and allows the continuing of vital development for our precious, fragile and vulnerable little babies.  I’m so thankful at how well-known and embraced that wonderful principle is now.


Indeed, I am SO exceedingly grateful to be here, now, six months later.  Neil is thriving and happy and so engaged.  He loves to smile at anyone who has a bit of patience to catch his eye.  His cuteness enchants every one of us in his family and there have been numerous exchanges he’s shared with his brothers and sisters that simply make me happier than anything else.  Indy sometimes sings to him when he cries!  I mean!


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Posted in Baby #5 :-), birth stories, childbirth, my thoughts, photographs, Sid | 5 Comments

Sweet grace

I wanted to share a story from early, early in this pregnancy, before I even knew I had conceived.

Some weeks before, I had met a wonderful friend named Angela at my homeschool meeting.  Usually, I’m shy there and eager to get home, but one particular time, I brought Indy, a tricky situation.  We inevitably ended up outside in the hall where Indy met Abby, Angela’s then almost 2 daughter.  They were so cute taking turns saying, “Abby!”  It totally reminded me of Eva and Wall-E.

It turned out that Angela’s older daughter was enrolled in the same weekly P.E. class program we were, so Angela and I got to visit a little every week for the following eight weeks.

Well, at the second to last P.E. class, Angela had brought a copy of the publication Above Rubies to give to me, since someone had given it to her, but she already had the same issue from her own subscription.  If you are not familiar with Above Rubies, it is a usually quarterly, donation-based, ministry magazine, free to everyone.  Their sort of tagline, taken from their website is, “Encouraging women in their high calling as wives, mothers and homemakers.”

So, I brought the magazine home and later that evening read it cover to cover (just about).  Most of the families featured in the articles had at least 4 children, but the majority had many more.  It was interesting to hear the stories of these women’s journeys to coming to want, and pursue, having large families.  I was left feeling that to have more babies would be wonderful and simply, not that big of a deal (as I have become used to people being critical of families with more than 2 or 3 children).  Not only that, but also I felt supported in the great sacrifice I have personally made for my children.  All of that, on top of my, always present, underlying, extreme adoration of my own children, I felt sorta like having another baby.  Weird – I literally asked the Lord, “Did you have Angela give me this magazine as a way of preparing me to find out I’m pregnant?”  I wondered in the quiet moments all weekend long …

… And then a pregnancy test on Monday confirmed God’s sweet grace for this mama.

Posted in Baby #5 :-), contemplative mothering, my thoughts | 6 Comments

Baby #5

Okay, so holy moly, I’m pregnant!  I’m 13 weeks along and after hearing the heartbeat yesterday, I finally feel like it’s totally real.  We waited much longer than we usually do to tell people, partly because we were so stunned by the news ourselves, partly because I was overwhelmed by the news and partly because of my previous miscarriage (2002/2003) in which I had no idea it was a no-go until I was 16 weeks along.

Jonny, Aveline and I went to see my wonderful midwife, Susan Gill yesterday for my first prenatal appointment.  It feels like home there with her.  Aveline told me later that I seemed different while we were in there, that I seemed kinda jumpy and excited, funny!  I told her that doesn’t surprise me because I’m always excited to talk to Sue.

Jonny at Sue's

Jonny at Sue’s

Ave's selfie at Sue's

Ave’s selfie at Sue’s

I love the photos she took!

I love the photos she took!

Talkin' to Sue (my facial expressions in the photos of me looking more animated were un-postable, heh heh

Talkin’ to Sue (my facial expressions in the photos of me looking more animated were un-postable, heh heh

Getting my blood drawn

Getting my blood drawn

If you were a reader in the past, you might remember that I kept a fourth child journal, all about my desire to have a fourth child, and then my eventual pregnancy with, and birth of, my fourth child.  I wanted him so bad, but I struggled with that desire.  I struggled with it because I’m a very content person and somehow I (or possibly others) convinced myself that I was selfish to want another.  I really anguished over that decision and I attributed way too much importance to the “advice” and input of others.  Now, when Sid and I look at Indy (our fourth) we can’t help but say that the people that discouraged us from having another child were, well, idiots, (sorry) because he literally is the best thing that happened, not just to Sid and I, but to our three older children, as well.  We love him infinitely more than we had imagined, and we had imagined loving him infinitely, so let’s see the equation for that!

This time, with this pregnancy being an “oops” – no wait, oops is the wrong expression, “oh crap”?  “oh wow”?  Ha ha, well it was all of those at some point!  But with all said and done, we now feel mostly like “Thank you, Lord.”  I guess, I’ll just put it this way, with this pregnancy being unexpected, I feel so blessed to get to be pregnant without having to do all that anguishing!  And I literally do not care if anyone thinks that this pregnancy is less than wonderful, because I am convinced it was meant to be and I am so, so excited.  It is a great source of joy to me, like when you were a kid and you got that amazing toy for Christmas and then the next morning you forget why your so happy and then the toy comes back to mind …  Every time baby #5 comes to mind I get giddy, peaceful and full of joy all at the same time.

-I want to add a special note.  Sue and I decided to listen to the heartbeat with the doppler ONLY because I had concerns due to my previous miscarriage.  She wanted to alleviate any anxiety, and the sound of that sweet beating did.  But, before you get a 2nd ultrasound and for sure before you buy an at-home fetal doppler, please look into the risks.  She would only put it on me for a quick minute and even recommended that, if she couldn’t find the heart beat fast, I get a full ultrasound rather than keep the doppler on my abdomen for too long (lucky for me she found it fast).  She knows her stuff, please look into it, it’s something conventional practitioners don’t mention.

Posted in Baby #5 :-), mothering, my children, my thoughts | 5 Comments

Good Way Handworks

So, I started an etsy shop.  It’s called Good Way Handworks.  Here is a peek at what you’ll find there:

One of my sweet little Cottontail Cushions

One of my sweet little Cottontail Cushions

Here's the back with a little pocket for any small item that needs special keeping

Here’s the back with a little pocket for any small item that needs special keeping

I enjoyed making these cushions very, very much :-)

As for the name of my shop, Good Way comes from Jeremiah 6:16,

“This is what the Lord says:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.”

And I did leave off the very end because I wanted to focus on the command God was giving, rather than the errant human response, heh heh, taking liberties, I suppose.

So there, I’m back!


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Jonny spotted this awesome guy @jonnycontractkiller

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Too much fun with these, some old, some new, friends!

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