Lovely November

I love November. I love November for so many reasons.

My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is in November. I love Thanksgiving more than any other holiday because in recent years Jeffrey and I decided that, since we travel north to Michigan and down to southern Indiana at Christmas, we’ll stay home at Thanksgiving. We treasure those quiet days at home together, snuggled up on the couch watching Christmas movies and eating Thanksgiving leftovers. Leftovers are one of the best parts. I love, love. love to cook, but after cooking and baking for days for one meal, by the time we sit down, I’m mostly ready to take my chef’s-privilege nap while everyone else does dishes. Leftovers take zero effort and taste even better than the food at the main dinner.

My favorite season, autumn, stretches into November. The leaves are still vibrant and holding on here. But every morning driveways are plastered with more and more leaves. Soon, the trees will be bare and delicate white frost will cover the roofs in the morning until the sun chases it away.

November 1 – today! – marks the beginning of what I call “It’s-Finally-Socially-Acceptable-to-Listen-to-Christmas-Music-So-That-Other-People-Can-Hear-It Season.” Some people just call this “Christmas Music Season” (and some people of the Scrooge variety aren’t even ready to call it that). I happen to be of the opinion that Christmas music deserves a year-round spot on my iPod, but I respect that not everyone can be as jolly as me all the time. However, I am also of the opinion that from November 1 – January 31, I can listen to Christmas music all the time without regard for who gets/has to hear.

I just think November is lovely. And today has been a lovely start to a lovely month.

Christmas music. People’s posts on Facebook of the not-so-little things for which they’re thankful. A big cold glass of well-brewed unsweet tea. (I do love sweet tea, but, you know, calories…)

Another thing that made today great is that it was the first time since cooler weather hit that the Ravellettes have had Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes for supper. You read right. Kielbasa. Smashed Potatoes. Butter. Red Wine Vinegar. Onions. Spinach. All mixed up together in a bowl of comfort, hugs, and cuddly food-love.

kielbasa mashed potatoes

Does it look sloppy? All the better. Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes is a comfort food. It doesn’t stand on ceremony. It doesn’t mind if you eat it in your pajamas on the couch in front of Netflix. It just wants you to be cozy.

danae is the genius behind this dish that has become a staple in many households among our friends. Check out her recipe on her cooking blog here. (Really. Check it out. You’ll add it to your cool-weather meal rotation tout de suite.)

Since I’m counting calories, I plugged the recipe in to myfitnesspal.com. I followed danae’s recipe for the most part, except I only used half a stick of butter and instead of the milk or cream, I used a half cup of plain soy milk. Be sure to keep extra red wine vinegar on hand – Jeffrey loves to add a lot of extra vinegar to his. In case you’re counting calories or carbs or are just somewhat interested in the nutritional information of this dish, I’ve included what I came up with through myfitnesspal at the end of this post.

This was not just our first Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes of the season, it was also Paige’s first experience with the dish. She gobbled it right up, but she was quick to pull out the spinach. I guess I can’t blame her. I accidentally picked up the regular spinach instead of baby spinach, so it was pretty long and slimy when isolated from the rest of the delicious mixture.

So I’m definitely thankful for Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes. I’m thankful for November. I’m thankful for a lot of things. So this lovely November, I’m going to try to take part in thankful November on Facebook by posting something for which I’m thankful each day. I won’t post them all here because, you know, redundancy, but here’s today’s:

thankful

I’m also going to be participating in No Make-Up November. At first when I read about it here, I was like, “That’s a sweet idea, but I don’t just participate in things just to participate in them. It’s not for me.” Then, I read this

Even after I agreed to participate, it wasn’t easy at first for me to jump wholeheartedly into this challenge. After all, I wasn’t a teenage girl with fresh skin. I’m a woman in my 30s. What will my friends think, I wondered? What will other women think of me, especially at church on Sunday? It was then that a revelation struck me: Aren’t we into beauty sometimes more to please other women in our lives, especially church women?

Ouch. That one hit a little too close to home. I decided, like the author of the article, that if it was really this hard for me to give up the idea of wearing make-up for 30 days, then I probably need to give up wearing make-up for 30 days. I’m a little freaked out about this one. I’ve been wearing make-up every day that I’ve left the house since college. I don’t know why I started wearing it all the time, but I did. I don’t think I wear way too much make-up. (If I do, please message me in private. I promise I’ll forgive you for not saying anything until now, although your mistake would be akin to letting me speak to a room full of strangers with basil in my teeth x 1,000,000.) The way I think about make-up is just wearing enough to make myself look fresh and not dead tired each morning. However, the point of No Make-Up November is to focus on allowing God to fill me with the confidence that comes with knowing – really knowing – that my beauty rests in Him.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.
– Psalm 139:13-16

So the make-up’s been moved to the closet. I’m going to try to keep it there all from now through December 1 (since I didn’t find out about No Make-Up November until after I had already put on make-up today).

Here’s to a lovely, comfort-food-filled month filled with the sounds of Bing, Frank, Dean, Sammy, and Karen crooning Christmas music while we rest in gratitude and in the deep-soul knowledge that we were made beautifully by a Loving God who loves us still. Dayenu. It is more than sufficient.

Grace and peace,

Rachel

Here are the nutrition facts for danae’s Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes per serving based on her recipe making 8 servings (which is realistic for a my-size portion, but completely ridiculous to someone like Jeffrey who could eat the entire bowlful, if he really wanted to): 332 calories, 27g carbs, 20 g fat, 12 g protein, 550 (gulp) mg sodium, 1 g sugar.

When Momma’s away…

This weekend I was incredibly blessed by being able to attend the Pray. Reach. Challenge. Conference at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY. The conference was an awesome blend of times that refreshed and fed me spiritually and amazing, practical suggestions and examples for my work at church. Plus, can I just say that it was such an amazing thing that I just got to be a consumer (for lack of a better word/metaphor) of the weekend instead of being involved as a producer? Yes. I can say that. It’s my blog and I just said it. I just showed up and was fed. I needed that. Big time. Take a minute to think of how you can feed the “producers” (pastors, teachers, etc.) at your church this week, then do it. It’s important.

Anyway, it was a short conference – noon on Friday until 4:30 this afternoon – but it marked the first time that I left town by myself since the Bug came along. I missed two days and two bed times (I didn’t get back until after 10 p.m. since I had to stop by church and print worship programs for tomorrow). That part of the weekend STUNK.  I survived, though, and Paige and Jeffrey had an awesome daddy-daughter weekend complete with sleeping in until 9:30 (why doesn’t that happen when I’m here?), eating at Mary Lou’s Donuts with the committee (you know, the old people who always sit at the counter in places like Mary Lou’s or diners and solve the world’s problems over coffee) and lots of snuggling.

But, when Momma’s away, things get a little crazy and silly and… dangerous. But, Jeffrey has not learned to destroy the evidence yet, so I get to see what really goes on when I’m not here. It’s a good thing he kept this particular piece of evidence, though, because it’s a video that is impossible to watch without smiling, and the world could use more mandatory smiling.

Watch this little video and be happy.

That’s my brave, dare-devil, no-respect-for-gravity, fun-loving, silly daughter, and I can’t wait until she wakes up in the morning. :)

 

 

Italian Dinner with The Bug

Jeffrey’s working late in the fields tonight. There’s been snow in the air the last couple of days, so winter is chasing him. He’s so close to being done with harvest so that he can put his “farmer hours” away until it’s time to plant in the spring. We’re looking forward to him being back on a normal schedule so that we can see him at breakfast and supper, not one or the other (or neither).

Since it’s just us girls tonight, we decided to go on a fancy Italian dinner date… in our kitchen. Bug was afraid she didn’t have anything fancy enough to wear, so she just came in her diaper. But we had a great time anyway.

I learned tonight that the Bug loves selfies. Help! (See the middle photo.)

I learned tonight that the Bug loves selfies. Help! (See the middle photo.)

 

I took a little post-nosh video because this girl was just being too yummy. Enjoy! I’m off to throw that girl in the bathtub!

2012 Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas!

We’re so thankful for everything that has happened in our family in the last year! First and foremost, of course, we’re thankful for our sweet, sweet Paige Esther! Little Bug brings so much joy into our lives each day, sometimes it’s all hard for us to believe.

Paige is four months old now and is learning more and more each day. Her latest trick is picking up her paci and putting it in her mouth by herself. She’s a pro at rolling over and is getting really good at scooting. It’s not crawling yet because her little body hasn’t quite caught up with her mind. She’s got the motions of crawling down, but she’s not strong enough to hold herself all the way up, so she mostly just scoots around on her belly with her head up. She’s dying to be able to crawl by herself and tends to get a bit frustrated when she can’t go where she wants, when she wants. We’re pretty sure that as soon as she starts crawling, she’s not going to stop! Time to baby-proof La Maison!

Paige is still a great sleeper. We’re in a great routine of reading a story, “topping off the tank,” and putting Paige to bed around 8 p.m. each night. She’s a champion sleeper. We put her down in her crib while she’s still awake with her paci and she’s usually completely zonked within about 10 minutes. She sleeps just like her mommy – flat on her back with her arms above her head. She usually is up once (sometimes twice) a night, but she goes back down right away with no trouble. And, about once or twice a week, she sleeps through the night. We couldn’t ask for a better sleeper!

Paige is growing taller each day. She’s still a skinny little Bug; she weighed in at 13 lbs, 1 oz. at her four-month well-baby check-up on Monday. That beautiful hair that so many of you have asked about is growing longer and darker and red-er each day, it seems. Mommy’s having a lot of fun coordinating “hair prettys” with her outfits each day.

Bug’s personality is blossoming, too. She is the happiest baby in the world. No, seriously. The happiest baby in the world! Several people – at church, at the doctor’s office, at the grocery store, at the mall – have commented that they’ve never seen a baby as happy as Paige. It’s not that she’s never fussy. When she’s hungry or she needs a diaper change or she’s fighting sleep (a new trick – she’s so afraid of missing out on something!), Paige fusses. Most of the time, though, she’s not just not fussy, she’s smiling. She’s very interactive and alert and her face lights up anytime that anyone pays attention to her. She hasn’t met a stranger yet! She is also so talkative, that she’ll strike up a conversation with anyone whose willing to listen and talk back. She’s an absolute joy!

As for the rest of our family, Jeffrey and I are just soaking up being Paige’s parents. We’re having so much fun! Paige is a true gift from God and we feel so blessed that God chose us to be her parents and to be part of teaching her about His love for her and helping her to discover His plans for her life.

Jeffrey’s work at Purdue is still going well and he still enjoys and looks forward to going to work each day. In January, I started working at our church, Elmwood Church of Christ, as an office manager. I never thought I’d want a job like this, but I love it. I love working for and with our church family and I get to use my creativity, too.

We hope and pray that your family has experienced the fullness of the love and grace of Christ this year and that, as you prepare to celebrate Christmas together, you are reminded of His great love and use opportunities to share that love with others.

Grace and peace,

Jeffrey, Rachel, and Paige

P.S. – – We’re super stoked about The Bug’s first Christmas. Here’s a couple of fun videos of Paige and tissue paper to show you what we’re looking forward to on Christmas morning.

Paige vs. Tissue Paper, Round 1

Paige vs. Tissue Paper, Round 2

And, for good measure, if you’ve missed our recent “Jabber Bug” posts on Facebook, here’s a couple of videos of Paige having some serious conversations with Mommy and Daddy… and a video of her holding her bottle all by herself.

Jabber Bug, Pt. 1

Jabber Bug, Pt. 2

The Bug and the Bottle

All the news that is news…

Oh, hello there. What’s that you say? It’s been way too long since the last Ravellette family update? (OK. Maybe you only said that if you are Aunt Abby.) Never fear! A new update is here!
Here’s an update to let you know what’s been going on with our little family of three. The Ravellette top-ten for the last three weeks:

  1. Paige is six weeks old! Our little baby is getting to be not-so-little. By our estimation (you know, weigh yourself with the baby, weigh yourself without the baby), she’s pushing 9 pounds. She’s still just as skinny as ever, though, because she is stretching out like crazy! It seems like every day her legs and arms get longer. But, because she’s tall and skinny, she has a bit of a wardrobe problem. Newborn clothes (especially onesies) are too short to snap comfortably, but 0-3 month clothes (the next size bigger) are so big around that Paige looks like her Mommy doesn’t know how to dress her! She also has another wardrobe challenge, which brings me to highlight number two…

    There’s our happy, happy baby!

  2. We’re finally able to use the cloth diapers! After keeping up with disposables at a whopping $25/a week (perspective – that’s a quarter of my household budget, food and all, for the week!), we’re thrilled that our Little Bug is able to fit into her adorable bumGenius Elemental diapers. For those of you who aren’t hip to the new cloth diaper trends (oh yes, there are trends in diapering), these aren’t your momma’s fold-’em-up-and-pin-’em-up diapers. These diapers, which will adjust in size with snaps to fit Paige Bug until she’s potty-trained, are as close to using convenient disposables as possible. They are one-piece diapers so there’s no worrying about separate liners or covers. As I mentioned, they’re adjustable in size (both length and waist) with their durable snaps. We bought 18 diapers for about $400. Recall that a box of 96 disposable diapers (about a week’s worth) costs 25 dollars. That means that as long as Paige Bug isn’t potty-trained by the time she’s 4 months old (umm… she won’t be), we’ll save significant money. We have an energy-efficient washer/dryer set, so the cost of cleaning them is negligible and so far we’re only having to wash diapers every two days. And, yes, they come out very clean. We took the advice of the cloth-diapering, home-improving bloggers over at Young House Love (the best, most addictive DIY blog I’ve found to date) and also purchased a bumGenius diaper sprayer that is attached to the toilet so that we can quickly and easily spray any… umm… material off of the diapers before they go in the laundry. We have yet to have a diaper come out of the wash that was stained. Something else that has yet to happen with cloth diapers? A blow out. (And trust me, Paige has given it the ole college try.) As the parent who has been pooped on 7,348% more than the other parent (oh, there have been some doozies), I’m thrilled with the extra-strong, hold-it-in-ness of the cloth diapers. Finally, as an added bonus, Paige’s diapers are really super cute.   I mean, a. dor. able. We ordered several different colors and they are just so sweet-looking! They do create a bit of a wardrobe problem (as I mentioned above) in that they make our skinny little girl have quite the big booty. Note: A baby wearing a body suit and fake jeggings over a cloth diaper booty will make you laugh until you cry (at least that was true for me). We’ve learned that coverall-jumpers, shirts + pants, or dresses are much preferable to the ever-popular body suit + legging combo when it comes to Paige’s outfits when she’s wearing cloth diapers. OK. I promise that’s all I will say about cloth diapering. For now.

    Coverall jumpers like this one work better than onesies and leggings with cloth diapers. Also, they’re adorable.

    The diapers are so cute that we just pair them up with t-shirts and skip the leggings/bloomers sometimes.
    Like I said, a. dor. able.

  3. Daddy’s gone back to work. Jeffrey got three weeks off for parental leave (I told you – we are so thankful for Purdue benefits!). He made the most of that time with Paige-and-Daddy-chest-naps, helping Paige explore, and working around the house (just wait until I tell/show you all that he canned from our garden… future post!). It was hard for Jeffrey to go back to work, and it was hard for Paige and I to let him! We had grown quite accustomed to spending all day every day with him! Jeffrey truly is my best friend and we understand how to be in the same space and still give each other space. We really do work/live/play well together. Some people might think that being “cooped up” at home together for three weeks straight would have led Jeffrey and I to get a little tired of the constant together-ness, but we didn’t. We didn’t even have an argument! danae has been talking/writing a lot about enjoying each season of life in its turn (check out her great post about it over at danae: student of life), and, let me say, I am. What a fun, joyful, blessed, amazing season we’re in right now! But, I am looking forward to growing old and retiring with this guy. I can’t wait until we can both hang out at home all the time – what fun! (I mean, obviously I can wait. I’m only 26 and am not looking to retire anytime soon.) Anyway, Paige really misses Jeffrey during the day, too. She’s happy and content pretty much all the time, but she knows that something’s not right when Daddy’s not there. How do I know? Well, this baby is determined to get her quota of Daddy-time each day, no matter the cost. Since Jeffrey’s gone back to work, when he tries to put her down for the night when it’s her bedtime, this girl fights sleep to the bitter end. If you’ve ever been around small children, you’ll know what I mean when I say she has the “no, really, I’m not *yawn* sleeeeepy” look. Those big, beautiful, blue eyes are open, but boy are they ever tired, heavy, and glazed over. Paige doesn’t want to miss a minute of her Daddy-time since she doesn’t get to see him as much during the day now! But don’t let Jeffrey fool you – he’s just as determined to get as much Paige Bug time as possible at the end of the day, too. In fact, he’s quite the baby-hog in the evenings!
  4. It’s Autumn! Hooray! It’s our favorite season and we’re so thrilled that football, pumpkins, apples, and chilly nights (and chili nights!) are back. In fact, we celebrated the return of Fall by taking Paige to the Apple and Popcorn Festival a couple of weekends ago in nearby Brookston, Indiana.We had never heard of it until I stumbled across someone’s Facebook post about it, so we decided to be spontaneous and check it out. It was a fun trip and we got some delicious kettle corn and yummy apple dumplings (not as good as mine, but they required far less effort), and Jeffrey even got to go to a fish fry (this was a treat for him… I was a good sport, but it’s not my thing). We had a nice family outing on a beautiful day, but I have to say, there was a disappointing lack of apples and popcorn at the Apples and Popcorn festival. It was really more of a craft bazaar. I think next year we’ll try to go earlier and catch more of the live music… and try to find where they were hiding the caramel apple booth.

    All dressed up for her first Apple and Popcorn Festival! As Grandma Rose said, “Cutest little apple blossom EVER.”

    The kettle corn at the Apple and Popcorn Festival did not disappoint. Yummy!

    Pit stop at the car for a diaper change.

    Can you tell how excited Paige was to go to the festival?! This is the excited face she wore the whole time.

  5. Paige is going to church! Paige has gone to church for three Sundays and Wednesdays now. She’s even gone to LIFE group. Surprisingly, we’ve actually been getting to Sunday school more on time with Paige than we were pre-Paige! (And, in a very impressive showing, our first Sunday at church, all three of us were color coordinated. It will probably never happen that way again, but at least we can say that we had our act that together once.) We’ve got a pretty good Sunday morning routine down that starts Saturday evening with Paige’s bath. She’s done great at church. Because she’s still so young, we’ve been keeping her with us in class and service and, for the most part, keeping her in her car seat/carrier to help deter people from asking if they can hold her.   We want to avoid Paige being passed around at this point to help decrease her exposure to those early Fall colds. This has meant a couple of times where Mommy’s had to be a bad guy and say, “No, I’m sorry. You can’t hold her right now,” but for the most part people have been really great about admiring sans touching. As for how Paige is handling church outings, she has pretty consistently fake-slept through church. “What’s that?” you say. “Fake sleep?” Yep. That’s how Paige copes with outings – she fakes sleep until she’s home safe and sound with Mom and Dad. We know she’s fake sleeping because 1) Paige has distinctive breathing patterns when she’s really sleeping and 2) we catch her peeking through her beautiful eye lashes to see where she is and what’s going on from time to time, only for her to hastily close her eyes again until we’re home. We did have a bit of a hubbub this past Sunday. We walked into our Bible class about 5 minutes late (first time being late since Paige started going to church!). I took Paige out of her car seat after we sat down and gave her to Jeffrey, who looked down and saw that he had poop on his hand. First blow out in a public place! So, I had to get up (after only just having sat down) to take Paige to the Ladies’ room for a make-shift baby wipe bath and diaper change. While I was gone, Jeffrey discovered that we didn’t quite wipe all the poop off his hand before we left, so he had to get up to wash his hand. Did I mention the door to the classroom is very noisy? So Jeffrey came back to class, then Paige and I came back. Then, barely 15 minutes later, I had to take Paige to the nursery to feed her (we always plan on leaving class a few minutes early so that Paige can eat and get a fresh diaper in time to be in service). So, in case you lost count, the Ravellettes noisily interrupted class by coming and/or going through the squeaky door six times in one class period. Did I mention we go to a class of mostly older people who probably haven’t had to worry about young children disrupting Bible class in years – nay – decades? It’s a good thing that everyone loves Paige!  This past week, Paige also got to spend her first snuggle time with Mr. Sam. Sam is the super-sweet, wonderful Grandpa to every child in the church and he was tickled pink to get to hold Paige. He even sang his special Swinging, Swinging song with her while, of course, swinging her! Sweet Ms. Margaret got to hold Paige, too.

    Daddy, Grandpa Sam, and Miss Paige Bug

    Mr. Sam and Paige – Swinging ‘neath the old apple tree.

    I wasn’t able to find an audio file of Mr. Sam’s song, but if you can read music then you should be able to see how sweet of a song it is.

  6. Paige has new skills and new ways to play! Our Little Bug loves to spend a few minutes each day on her tummy. She’s a pro at holding her head up and looking around. She also tries to scoot with her little pudgy legs. She hasn’t quite figured out what to do with her arms yet, though. Paige also likes to lie on her back on her gym-mat and play with the animal toys that hang just low enough that she can reach them with her little hands. She loves to to hold on to things these days, and the rings on her elephant are at just the right height for her to grab. (Which is much preferable to grabbing Mommy’s hair in her freaky-strong baby grip.)   Paige is also becoming more of a chatterbox each day. She’s figuring out that, instead of just sighing and cooing (or crying) she can intentionally make loud and different noises. You know that she’s about to talk when she’s quiet for a moment and gets a look of concentration on her face (not entirely unlike poopy-face-Paige). Then, suddenly, she’ll let out a clear, loud “Oh!” or “Ah!” We’re not sure exactly what she’s saying, but we know it must be a funny joke, because every time she says one of these Paige-words, she smiles and smiles. She’s very proud of the funny jokes she can tell and we can’t wait to hear her next punchline! She’s also started trying to sing along with Mommy and Raffi when we sing and dance. Her favorite song to sing and dance to is Goin’ to the Zoo. Finally, Paige has a new way she can eat! Last week, Daddy gave her her first bottle. For the most part, she’ll only get bottles when she’s not with me, but we wanted to start slowly introducing them to her since there are some times coming up that she won’t be with me (e.g., when her Daddy and I go to the Michigan football game next week and when Mommy goes back to work full time).
  7. Mommy’s working again. I’m not technically “back” at work yet, but I have started working from home this week for about 20 total hours a week. For the most part, Paige does really well listening to her music and playing while I work nearby. [Yesterday was not one of our better days though, because Paige was dealing with a tummy ache and she just wanted to be held. Thankfully, I didn’t have very much in the way of time-sensitive things that I had to do yesterday and I was able to hold her all day. I hate that she didn’t feel well. My normally very content and happy baby would cry (I mean really cry – tears and all – talk about breaking her Mommy’s heart!) anytime I put her down. Like I said, I hate that she felt puny, but I did not mind the extra snuggle time at all. Thankfully today she’s back to her smiley self.] In addition to working on the computer from home, I’ve also had to pop into the office a few times to print things, so Paige has come to the office with me. We’ve got two more weeks of me working from home before I go back to the office full-time on October 15. I’m not looking forward to going back because I love my time at home with Paige. I love taking singing and dance breaks during the day and being here at nap time so that I can snuggle and snooze with her. However, I am blessed to have a great job working for and with my Elmwood family, whom I love. I’m also blessed that Paige will be with me at work part of the time. And, when she’s not with me, she’ll be with Ms. Carol! My brother and sister and I were very blessed when we were growing up that, although we lived several hours from our grandparents, we had “adopted” grandparents at our church (we love you Nobe and Phyllis!) who loved and cared for us (and yes, spoiled us) just like grandparents. They’re still part of our family to this day! I’m so glad that Paige will get to spend time with Ms. Carol because I know that it will be like going to Grandma’s house during the day. So, although I’d rather just get to stay home with my Little Bug, I’m blessed to be going back to a job I love while a person I love looks after her.

    Paige with Nobe and Phyllis, my adopted grandparents, when they came to visit!

    Paige with Ms. Carol and Mr. Bill when they came to visit on her first full day at home!

  8. Paige loves her bath! The last post about bath time with Paige may have left you with the impression that, at best, Paige tolerated bath time and, at worst, she thought it was cruel torture. And, that was the case. Since then, we’ve been giving Paige baths in her bath pod and she L-O-V-E loves bath time! If you’re not familiar with a bath pod, Jeffrey would tell you that it’s essentially a five-gallon bucket. While it’s a bit more sophisticated than that, I can see where it could give one that impression. Paige gets to sit upright (with a little help from a hand towel in the bottom of the tub and Mommy’s hand on her back) in the pod and the warm water comes up to her little armpits. She smiles for her whole bath! Her favorite part is still getting her hair washed but that’s no surprise because, really, what girl doesn’t love to have a nice scalp massage? We’ll try to take an updated bath video soon!
  9. Paige sleeps (and sleeps… and sleeps) at night! One of the first questions that people always ask us when they see us is some variation on “How’s Paige sleeping?” or “Are you guys getting any sleep?” The short answers are “Like a pro!” and “Yep!” Paige only gets up once during the night for a fresh diaper and a mid-night snack. Yep – just once! Her first block is usually between 6 and 8 hours and her second block is usually 3-4 hours. The only trick is getting her to go to sleep for the night in the first place because, as I mentioned above, she likes to fight sleep to stare at Daddy. But, we seem to be getting better and better at a routine that helps her go to sleep quickly and she’s usually in bed for the night around 9 p.m. She’s even doing a good job taking a nap in the early afternoon and, for the most part (minus a few cat naps) staying awake for the rest of the day. The only time that we really have trouble getting her to go down at night is if she’s been held a lot during the day. She sleeps hard when people hold and cradle her, so it’s no surprise that on those nights after she’s been held a lot, she’s really not all that tired. But, we’re doing good at making sure that she has the appropriate amount of awake time during the day so that days and nights don’t get switched around in our house!
  10. Paige’s newborn photos are ready! The amazingly talented Beth W. who took our maternity photos stopped by La Maison before Paige was two weeks old to snap some newborn pictures of her. She did a great job (no surprise there!) and we’re thrilled to have these great photos of Paige! If you’re in the Lafayette-area and are willing to barter for family photos, Beth does wonderful work and is just a wonderful, light-filled person to know! I’d be more than happy to get you in touch with her. You can click here to see all of Paige’s newborn photos.

So that’s all the news that is news in the Ravellette house. Hopefully I can stay more on the ball so that it’s not another 3 weeks until we update you on life within our house.

For now, please keep our little family in your prayers. Also, we’d be honored to pray for you and your family – let us know how we can pray for you!

Grace and peace,

Rachel

Count Your Blessings, Name Them One By One

We have been so overwhelmed with blessings lately. I mean, we’ve been overwhelmed with blessings our whole lives, but I guess lately we’ve been overwhelmed with an acute awareness of our blessings.

In quiet times when I stop to pray and to thank God for these blessings, that time itself becomes a blessing to me that lifts my spirit, especially when I think that even without these blessings, dayenu – it would have been sufficient. Counting my many blessings, naming them one by one, is an act encourages me. Perhaps sharing some of those blessings with you could encourage you. If nothing else, I hope that you will take some time today to sit in a quiet place and thank God for your blessings. Name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done! (And you’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head – it’s been in mine for days!)

Paige Esther Ravellette!

Our beautiful, beautiful baby! We just can’t get enough of her.

Our sweet baby is a beautiful answer to so many prayers – our prayers and the prayers of others. Paige is healthy and growing beautifully. She’s an incredibly happy, content, and easy-going baby. When she fusses, if a new diaper and a meal doesn’t satisfy her, a few minutes cozying up on Daddy’s chest is all it takes for all to be right in her world again! She has fun awake and alert times each day during which she loves to explore. She’s a pro-sleeper who gives us between 6 and 8 hours of sleep a night with only one interruption. (Now, if we could just get the little night owl to start her nights before midnight!) She’s a great eater and does awesome with her feeding schedule during the day.

We love her contented-baby sighs, sleepy-baby coos, and busy-baby grunts. We love that we can watch the way she moves and kicks and say, “Yep! We know those kicks!” because it’s just the way she moved every night before bed before she was born! She’s already started to smile a bit when Mommy and Daddy attack her yummy baby face with kisses. Her lovely strawberry-blonde hair is almost magical. It’s growing fast and in some light it’s as richly red as her Daddy’s beard and in other light it’s as blonde as can be. She has incredible head and neck control for a baby who is so young. She already rolls up on her side anytime she can. She loves to sleep on her right side just like her Daddy, with her arms above her head, just like her Mommy. Jeffrey and I love being Daddy and Mommy to our precious Paige. It’s hard for us to remember what our life was like before Paige was here!

Jeffrey David Ravellette!

I can’t be thankful enough for my sweet husband. He’s a natural caretaker. For most of my pregnancy, Jeffrey bore the brunt of housework and cooking. He came to all the pre-baby classes at the hospital with me, which became invaluable to us. It means so much that he was at the birthing classes, newborn care class, infant CPR class, and breastfeeding class to hear the information with me, instead of me just passing on information to him. He could not have been more supportive through the entire pregnancy journey! His caretaking has not stopped now that Paige is here. Jeffrey is a great Daddy who is like the baby-whisperer. He’s can always calm Paige when a diaper and meal won’t cut it. He gets up for every feeding to make sure that Paige and I have everything we need. He can wrap Paige up in a swaddle that’s like a perfect cocoon (so much so, that Mommy started calling Paige her little Glow-worm). He knows just how to hold her to make her tummy feel better when she’s gassy.

So thankful for my wonderful husband – Paige’s awesome Daddy! Also, he’s pretty handsome, too.

But Jeffrey doesn’t just take great care of Paige, he still takes great care of me. Recovering from giving birth is not something I had given much thought to pre-Paige, but it’s serious business. I don’t know what I would have done without Jeffrey. I couldn’t stand, sit, lie down, or get up without help for the first couple of days. I couldn’t carry Paige or pick her up out of her crib. I’ve never felt so utterly helpless, but thankfully I have a wonderful helpmate. At one less-than-glamorous moment of helping me and caring for me, Jeffrey said, “You know, when you’re a teenager you think you know what ‘love’ is, but you’re not even close. This is love.” And he’s right. Real love in a marriage is demonstrated and strengthened in the less-than-glamorous moments like when one spouse can’t care for him or herself. Jeffrey not only cares for me physically, he also is wonderful about sitting with me and talking about important things and not important things, big things and small things, serious things and funny things. He spoils me rotten. Case in point – after we came home from the hospital, I mentioned how I missed the wide array of on-demand fresh fruit at the hospital. I asked Jeffrey to get some oranges and peaches when he went to the grocery store and he came back with the entire produce section!

“Peaches and oranges” = Peaches, oranges, nectarines, plums, apples, grapes, and pineapple. Jeffrey definitely spoils his girls!

I couldn’t be more thankful for my wonderful husband.  It truly makes me wonder how people can parent alone. I’ve always tried to keep my friends who are single parents or whose spouses are not able to be as involved as they’d like in my prayers, but now those prayers are more urgent and have more fervor behind them. Take a moment to pray for parents who are parenting alone today. I don’t know where I’d be without Jeffrey!

Our Families

It’s a true blessing to us that our family members love on Paige while allowing Jeffrey and I to figure out how we’ll parent. Neither Jeffrey nor I would respond well to our decisions with Paige being constantly questioned or second-guessed. We’re fortunate that our family members are supportive and loving without being critical.

Our Elmwood Family

What a blessing our church family is! Since the day we got home from the hospital, we have been inundated with cards and meals. Oh the meals! We haven’t cooked since we’ve been home – someone from our church family has brought us a delicious meal every day, and we still have another two weeks of meals to look forward to! The prayers and kindness of our sweet church family are precious to us. Our Elmwood family members have opened their homes to our visiting family so that they may stay with them. Others have helped us in ways that they probably don’t even realize. Our Elmwood family certainly keeps me busy writing thank you notes! But even so, I don’t think we could thank them enough.

I’m thankful that my job now is to serve the Body of Christ at Elmwood every day. Right now, I’m thankful for eight weeks at home with my sweet girl. I can already see how difficult it is going to be for me to give up that home time and go back to work. But, I’m thankful that I work with and for my dear brothers and sisters in Christ and that I love my work, otherwise it would be even more difficult to return!

Our Elmwood family is a major reason that we decided to stay in Lafayette (even before Jeffrey had a better job) instead of pursuing our original plan of heading back to Nashville when I finished with my work at Purdue. We have not regretted our decision to stay. We’re so thankful for our family in Christ all over the world, but especially our Elmwood Family!

Purdue Benefits

Jeffrey gets three whole weeks of parental leave! Paige and I are so thankful to have him home with us for some sweet family bonding time as we adjust to life with our newborn.

Dr. Mulder

Dr. Mulder has been our family doctor for a couple of years, and now he’s Paige’s doctor, too. He’s a wonderful doctor who cares for us very holistically – he’s never just prescribed us medicine without first thoroughly considering other options. He cared for me throughout a scare with a five-week migraine last fall and did a great job following up with different test results and the neurologist to whom he referred me. Jeffrey and I trust him a great deal, and so we’re so glad that he’s Paige’s primary physician.  He’s already proven how wonderful he’ll be with her. He visited the hospital twice to see Paige before we went home. He answered our questions and answered questions we didn’t know we had yet. But, best of all, he showed love for our sweet baby. Dr. Mulder is an unashamed Christ-follower. What a blessing when your baby’s doctor holds her up, looks at her and says, “We serve an amazing Lord!” We’re so thankful for Dr. Mulder!

We’re glad to have Dr. Mulder on Team Paige!

Antibiotics

To all women who may someday be moms: Nursing is initially uncomfortable, but it should never be excruciating. Seek medical attention if you pass “uncomfortable” into the land of pain. Don’t wait until you need antibiotics.

iBabyLog

Great iPhone app! We’ve been told it’s because we’re first time parents that we keep obsessive track of Paige’s inputs and outputs. Oh, well! This app makes it super easy to keep an accurate record.

YouVersion

While we’re talking apps, this one is great! I really enjoy the quiet time I get while nursing Paige for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I’m able to read. I’m using one of the reading plans on YouVersion – the Bible in 90 days – to keep a focus in my reading. It’s been a real blessing to me to spend so much time in Bible each day.

There are so many more blessings that are helping us through each day, so stay tuned for more blessing lists. Again, I urge you to make your own list of blessings today. I’d love for you to share them with me, if you don’t mind, so that I may be encouraged by your blessings, too!

 

Grace and peace,

Rachel

 

“This time last week…”

Last Wednesday night, Jeffrey and I began starting sentences with, “This time last week…” after it hit us that Paige’s one-week birthday was just hours away. Paige’s birth story is, we think, really neat (pretty much the best story these new parents have ever heard!), even though it turned out to be nothing like what we expected! (Although, according to what many of you have told us, things turning out differently than we expect or plan will be theme of our journey through parenthood!) In case you’re interested, here is the story of Paige’s birth.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

With Paige’s due date, August 18, just days away, Jeffrey and I met again at 2600 Ferry Street for another doctor’s appointment. Let me be clear: I. Was. Miserable. I had a pretty easy pregnancy overall, but the one pregnancy symptom that I had that got absolutely stinkin’ out of control was swelling. I was retaining water like crazy. It didn’t matter how long I sat with my feet up, how bland and sodium-less my food was, or how much water I drank to try to “flush” extra fluid out – I just kept retaining more and more and more water. Just when I thought that I had reached critical mass, my body would find a new way to swell. This swelling, at one point, caused me to gain nearly 20 pounds in water weight (as a point of reference, a gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds) in just two weeks.

Up to this point, however, while the swelling made me uncomfortable and more-than-puffy, it hadn’t posed any threats to my well-being or to Baby Rave’s. For my whole life, my blood pressure has always been on the very low end of normal, sometimes even lower than normal, and that trend carried on without missing a beat through pregnancy. Last Wednesday, however, after finding out that I had gained yet another 7 pounds (almost another gallon!) of weight, we also found out that my blood pressure had suddenly spiked from the low end of normal to slightly higher-than-normal in only a week. If you want to raise your OB’s eyebrow and cause some concern, that’s a surefire way to do it.

Before my doctor even examined me for labor progress, she saw the additional weight gain and new BP reading and said, “Well, what are your thoughts on timing for delivery?”

“Huh?” we said.

“I’m not OK with your blood pressure readings today. I don’t want to risk your blood pressure raising any more. I want to induce you and I’d prefer to be the doctor checking you since I know your history – not one of the other doctors in the practice. The only days I’m on call in the near future are tomorrow, Tuesday – which is already completely booked – and then not again until the 25th, and I don’t want you to go that long. Are you OK with being induced tomorrow?”

Talk about a reality check! Jeffrey and I did some quick eye-contact communicating and answered, “Yes!”

Whoa. Suddenly this obsessive planner who had reluctantly accepted that you can’t plan for the day and time that your baby comes had an appointment to have a baby! I didn’t know what to do with myself!

My doctor told us to check in at the hospital at 7:30 in the morning, she’d examine me at 8 a.m. and then start Pitocin.

Jeffrey had to head back to work to tie up just a couple of stray loose ends. We both called our family members to let them know. I stopped by work to print out and sign my August time card. The whole time I was wondering, “How on earth am I going to pass the time until 7:30?!”

I started obsessing about strange things. My hair! My ruddy bangs! I didn’t want my hair to be in the way during labor! It needed to be tightly braided, stat! So I went to the mall, popped into a salon and paid to have my hair washed and braided. Call me crazy, but at that point, the state of my hair was my most serious and urgent concern.

Then, I went home to clean my house. That’d be a good way to burn a few hours of nervous energy, right? Oops. It was already clean. I mean, I had already really cleaned it. Like dust-the-walls-and-ceilings clean. Now what was I going to do?!

Jeffrey was busy mowing the lawn. I packed up our dog, Lucy’s, things and then Shaun and danae came over to pick her up. That was the ticket! Time spent with friends goes by quickly. We had a great time visiting with the Casteels. They even helped me carbo-load before the big day on some Fazoli’s pasta and breadsticks! Jeffrey and I so enjoyed a laidback evening with them.

After Shaun and danae left, Jeffrey went back outside to finish the lawn and I did what cleaning I could by straightening up the kitchen and doing the little bit of laundry we had. When Jeffrey finished outside, he went to work putting the finishing touches on the china cabinet in Baby Rave’s nursery. It was about 10 o’clock and, mercifully, I was sleepy. I went to bed, expecting Jeffrey to soon follow me.

He didn’t.

Apparently the dad-to-be was even more wired than the mom-to-be! He stayed up until almost 2 a.m. because he couldn’t sleep!

Continue reading

Miscarriage, Yet Dayenu

Disclaimer: This post is long. Really long. It’s about a very, very hard time in our lives in which Jeffrey and I suffered a miscarriage. You may wonder why someone would write about this – especially in a place where they couldn’t control who could read it. Here’s why I chose to write this and share it with you:

  1. It’s helpful for me to tell this part of our story. It’s helpful for me to have to think about not just the hurtful parts, but the wonderful parts where God showed His powerful love in ways that still humble me and lead me to sing praises to Him.
  2. I feel like, for the most part, no one talks about miscarriage, even though it affects so many people. Did you know that approximately 1 in every 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage? It’s seen as a private hurt and so people keep it to themselves. But not talking about something so prevalent and so hurtful attaches a stigma to it – almost like a shame. I felt so alone in my struggle until I was able to talk to other women who had been in my situation. For my part, I don’t want to hide in the shadows of miscarriage. I want people to know that this is part of my story so that when this hurt happens to others, I can be known as someone with whom they can cry,, talk, sit, and heal. No one should feel alone in a pain like miscarriage – no one. If you do, I’m here. I’m willing to listen. I’m willing to talk. I’m willing to be quiet. I’m willing (and would consider it an honor) to pray. I’m talking about my miscarriage so that you know that you can, too.
  3. This is part of our story. Even if what you’ll read here was the end of our parenting story, dayenu. It would have been sufficient. I hope you’ll see the exciting ways God worked through this chapter of our story and, if you make it to the end of this post (it is pretty long) you can join us in saying “Even if this was the end, dayenu.” Praise God for surpassing that which would have been sufficient time and time again.

So that’s why I’m writing this. I have to get it out there. Before we can share with you more about our parenting journey (and pictures and videos to come of our sweet, sweet girl – which is probably why you’re really at this blog), we have to tell you this part of our story. It’s long. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t want to read it. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t want to know details about this chapter of pain in our lives. But, I hope you will read it. I hope you will read it and praise God for His loving works at the end of it. And even if the end of this post were the end of our parenting story, dayenu.

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For a long time, Jeffrey and I have felt like God has been preparing us for God-honoring parenthood. We’ve seen our friends’ kids grow and change from infants to toddlers to “big” kids. We’ve prayed. We’ve had talk after talk – not just about logistical things like discipline and cloth diapers and schools but about how we can minister and disciple each other and our children in our home. We’ve thought about how we can best not only teach our children about God but, more importantly, help them build a foundation for a lifelong, growing, personal relationship with Christ. It has just felt like God has been working on our hearts and leading us on a journey to parenthood.

That’s how it felt in our hearts.

But there was a problem in our heads.
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Jeffrey has always been sure that he wanted to be the kind of father who is involved and engaged. He’s excited to teach our children by doing things with them. He wants to be open with them and honest – even about when he’s wrong. He wants to not only talk about God and faith with them, he wants to actively live God’s love and his faith in Him with them. He wants to see them grow, change, develop, learn, and move from stage to stage. I want all of that for him, for me, and for our children. That’s the type of parent that each of us wants to be.

So the problem in our heads.

Jeffrey’s career.

Even though Jeffrey hasn’t been technically “over the road” as a truck driver since the fall of 2009, his job as a coal hauler is still unreasonably demanding. His “local” coal and rock hauling route takes him more than 14 hours a day and more than 400 miles. And that’s only half of it. There’s still a mountain of paperwork each month and a never-ending maintenance to-do list. Those parts either consumed his weekends or left him feeling guilty when he’d spend his weekends doing other things he needed to do (exciting things like… yard work) or even enjoyed doing like spending time relaxing with me.

We knew this owner/operator lifestyle was not conducive to the kind of marriage we strive to have or to us being the kind of parenting team we want to be. Jeffrey would miss out on being an active, involved, and engaged dad and I would essentially be a single mom.

But we also knew (or come to find out, we thought we knew) that we were stuck. Our financial obligations (and mounting truck-related debt) meant that for Jeffrey to change jobs, he’d have to be able to make more money than his experience and education levels gave us hope to expect.

We truly felt very stuck. Stuck in the life we had and far away from the life we desired. What was so frustrating was we felt like the life/lifestyle we desired was God-honoring and – more than that – that our desire to have the kind of marriage we want to have and to be the kind of parents we want to be was a desire from God! Add salt to the wound – we felt like God was preparing us for parenthood. He was preparing us for something that we were sure we just couldn’t ever have!
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The lowest point in this “stuckness” was on a Wednesday. Jeffrey’s truck was in the shop (we were afraid that we would have to replace the – gulp – engine…) so he came with me on a work trip to a small town in northern Indiana called Wakarusa (at the time, I was working for a nonprofit Foundation). I had to film a very elderly man (whom everyone calls “Doc”… you can’t make this stuff up) as he gave a message for the Foundation’s 50th anniversary. We loved meeting Doc. At the time, he was 89 and his priorities are pretty much spot on. He was intent on honoring God, leading and loving his family, and helping people. Those are the pillars he built his life around. After we interviewed him, we went toward Shipshewana to spend the afternoon at my great-grandma Slater’s favorite hang-out: Das Dutchman Essenhaus where we perused the crazy gift shops, played mini-golf, went antiquing, and had a huge supper.

It was so nice to finally have some fun time together. On the ride home, we started talking about Doc and his life model. This led us to, once again. talking about our desire to be parents and the kind of parents we want to be.

It didn’t take long for the hopefulness and excited-ness in the conversation to be replaced by the giant, oppressive feeling of being STUCK. How? We were plagued by that question. It was impossible, we concluded. If we couldn’t be the kind of parents we wanted to be – the kind of parents we felt God was preparing us to be – then we didn’t want to be parents at all. The tentative hopeless conclusion we came to – the lowest point – was that, despite our desire and our feeling of being molded into Christ-centered parents, maybe it just wasn’t in God’s plan for us to have children. It hurt, but we couldn’t see anything beyond it. It left us – especially me – with a desperate, giving-up feeling. It was sad, and that’s all I can say about that.
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During this time, we were living with our best friends, Shaun and danae. We were living at their house because danae and I (and the boys) had a mentoring relationship with a young girl whose life has been so hard – so the opposite of mine. At that time, she was 19 and her own harmful and poor choices (and the consequences from them) were piling up on the effects of others’ victimizing choices against her in her past. Earlier in the year, in the course of meeting and studying with her, we were led to a painful realization that we had to step away.

You see, in the spring of 2010, danae and I had baptized her. We are both confident that she knew – at the very least – that putting on Christ in baptism was more than just receiving salvation. It’s a commitment and it requires change – radical change. She knew that and she knew that the change wouldn’t be easy. But, she also knew that change would be more than worth it. She had experienced the transformative love of Christ. She wanted it.

Fast-forward to January of 2011. The bad choices were mounding up. It wasn’t just poor, un-Christlike choices (that were quite literally killing her) – it was an attitude of justification, rationalization, and minimalization. She oozed an attitude of “I and I alone can determine what is right and good. God’s got nothing on me.”

Since she had put on Christ and become our sister, we had a very real and very hard call to hold her accountable to the identity in Christ that she had put on in baptism. After weeks of joint and individual study and prayer, danae and I agreed: it was time to walk away. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We asked her to choose – Christ or the world. We made it clear that we were choosing to stand with Christ and that if she chose her own way over Him, she was leaving us behind, too.

She walked.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – did I mention that?

It was bitterly heartbreaking to see someone you love deny Christ… How do parents who’ve seen their children turn away from God go on living?! It hurt bad enough to lead me question if I’d ever be able to have children because the very real risk that they might not choose Christ seemed so heavy. I was sure that if it were my daughter who had walked out of the room that evening, I would have, at the very least, torn my clothes and my hair in anguish. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – I can’t say that enough.

In the midst of that pain, the Spirit laid a truth on my heart. She had never had the benefit of living in a safe, God-glorifying home. She had no context for what living for Christ in a “normal” home would look like. She needed that kind of life modeled for her in a radical way. She needed someone to take her in – and really – more than just one someone.

I knew then, as I know now, that this truth came form the Spirit because I would never ever choose to give up my privacy and home life. But I knew in my heart it was right.

I shared it with danae and we agreed that if she were ever to come back – to choose God – we would ask her to move in to one of our homes and the five of us – Shaun and danae, Jeffrey and I, and her – would work together and live together in a way that strove to honor Christ. It took serious resolve and really the Spirit to keep us from running after her and offering this new solution. But we knew that if we did and she came back, she’d be choosing us and not God. She had to choose God.

Some more fast-forwarding – – like a couple of months. She came back. She chose God. Her own choices had led her perilously close to death, and she awoke to her need for God.

So, that weekend, Jeffrey and I moved into Shaun and danae’s. I mean, we really moved. We brought our pets, our king-sized bed, and our refrigerator. We didn’t know how long it would last – we’d agreed not to put a time-limit on it. We just wanted to let God work through us.

I have so much more to say about that time that we lived there – it ended up being about 10 weeks. But that’s not the part of our story I feel compelled to tell you right now. Just know that God worked in mighty ways.

It was hard.

But it was good.

There were times that were even great.

Maybe I’ll tell you more about it some day. Probably, even. It is a big part of our story.

Anyway – – all that to say, we were living with Shaun and danae. While our grass was growing high (high enough that once we even got an official warning citation from the city), we were five minutes away at their casa.

Why do I tell you that? It’s part of how God was working in our journey toward parenthood.
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Most people who know danae and I think we are about the most ridiculously over-the-top best friends they’ve ever heard of. Our husbands even think so. But don’t let Jeffrey and Shaun fool you. They can be just as bad – sometimes worse. Jeffrey was, as I’ve said, doing his 14-hour-a-day, 400-mile “local” trucking gig during the time we were living with Shaun and danae and so he was getting home super late. What he needed to do when he got home was gulp down some supper, take a quick shower, and come to bed. Instead, he and Shaun would stand (why do men always stand?) in the kitchen and talk for. ev. er.

At first, it was kind of funny. Then, as I started to see that it wasn’t getting any better and Jeffrey was getting progressively less sleep, I had to start setting a timer for them on the stove each night. Ridiculous!

One result of all that male-bonding is that Shuan really began to understand Jeffrey’s job and the way it affects our lives in a way that none of our other friends have ever been able to. It’s one thing for us to explain that Jeffrey had to get up super early (before me) and get home super late (often after I’d gone to bed). We could tell you that he was running on barely 2 REM cycles of sleep a night and that his weekends were spent lying under a truck or under a mountain of paperwork. But until you see someone live that life day after day and night after impossibly-short night, you can’t really understand.

Shaun (and danae) did see it. Shaun came to understand our feeling of being stuck. Jeffrey shared with him our frustrations with how we wanted a family and a family-life centered on Christ – how we longed for it – but how we felt absolutely trapped by seemingly insurmountable circumstances. He came to understand and he – like any brother – started to look for a way to help untrap us.

Shaun is a “dirt doctor” – an agronomist at Purdue who specializes in studying soybeans. Part of the reason why he and Jeffrey hit it off so well as friends is that they have eerily similar backgrounds. Shaun grew up on his family’s farm in rural Illinois and has the same indefatigable work ethic and commitment to doing things the right way the first time that was ingrained in my sweet husband in his upbringing on his family’s farm in rural Indiana. They both love farming and growing things. Shaun translated his love into a career in crop research in which is absolutely shining. He and danae like to joke that he is “outstanding [out standing] in his field,” but he seriously is. He does great work and is already  – at this early stage of his career – in high demand as a researcher and expert.

Shaun’s counterpart in the Botany and Plant Pathology Department is another bright, young PhD who is absolutely taking her field, crop diseases, by storm (I promise I’m almost out of agriculture puns). She had been looking, unsuccessfully, for a new research assistant for quite some time. But you see, at just the right time (don’t you love how God works?), Shaun came to understand that 1) Jeffrey needed a new career and we needed a way out of our stuckness and 2) Jeffrey would be the perfect fit for his counterpart’s research assistant position.

Shaun told Jeffrey about the job and that weekend Jeffrey and I sat down together to write a résumé. Now, on paper, Jeffrey was not qualified for this job because he didn’t have a piece of paper with his name and the words “Bachelor’s of Science in Agronomy (or a related field)” on it. But, Shaun had talked to his fellow researcher about Jeffrey and he assured us that Jeffrey would be more than qualified for the demands of the job and strongly encouraged him to throw his name in the hat. So, he did!

As we knew would be the case, Jeffrey did not meet the qualifications for the position. However, the researcher was so impressed with his application that she went to HR to re-write the job requirements so that “equivalent experience” could now stand in for the degree!

We re-wrote Jeffrey’s résumé to be more descriptive of his farm experience and re-submitted his application. Next, came his interview. Despite his nerves, he did beautifully. Then, on my birthday (June 3), Jeffrey logged his last day as a truck driver. We found out that he got the job and that he’d start on June 23rd, so he hauled his last load and parked the truck. We didn’t want to risk a major breakdown and tow/repair bill to go with it (that was a threat that always loomed dark and heavy above us), so Jeffrey settled in for a much deserved 3-week hiatus from work while he was between jobs.

Did you read that?! He got the job! He’d be paid essentially what he made as a truck driver after taxes and expenses, plus he’d get awesome Purdue benefits (we’d never had benefits before… self-employed = self-Insured = paying almost a mortgage payment each month to insure two healthy, non-smoking young adults), minus the tremendous overhead and risk of owning and operating a semi truck. WOW!
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Have you ever just been overwhelmed to the point of disbelief at how God blesses you? We have. Seriously. I’ve often said that I couldn’t have scripted a better job hunt/job procurement/job for my sweet husband. And believe me, I’ve tried.

You see, I’ve always been proud of Jeffrey. You won’t find a harder or smarter worker anywhere. On top of that, I knew when I married him that I was marrying a truck driver and since we’d be dating for 4 years before we married, I knew the kind of life that entailed. Furthermore, I knew that Jeffrey not only excelled at his job, he enjoyed it. However, as our marriage progressed and that “stuck” feeling with regard to Jeffrey’s career really sunk in for both of us, I started to really long for something different for us, and Jeffrey did, too.

We felt like we were at the bottom and we were stuck there and at just the right time God completely blew us away.

Now, the job and the positive lifestyle changes that it would mean were blessings by themselves. But, put that in the context of our desire to be parents, and we were just absolutely over the moon. We felt like we finally could see God’s plan. He was growing this desire in us to be God-honoring, Christ-modeling parents, even in the midst of seemingly impossible circumstances. And then, once again, He proved that nothing is impossible for Him and He completely changed our circumstances. We were sure that it was God’s plan for us to be parents and to be parents soon.

Did I forget to mention another reason we thought that? On May 5, I found out that I was pregnant.

Tell me. What would you have thought? Would you not have been so aware of being overwhelmingly blessed? Would you not have thought that God’s plan was coming together before your eyes in a way that just absolutely floored you? We weren’t trying to get pregnant, but suddenly, in the midst of a promising job search process that led to an exciting new career for Jeffrey, we were. Jeffrey would start his new job on June 23rd and our baby was due January 8, 2012.

Everything was good (I mean like Garden of Eden good) and wonderful on June 3 (Happy 25th Birthday to me!).

And on June 4.

And on June 5.

And on June 6.
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Then came June 7, 2011. Our third anniversary. I was just getting used to the fact that it was a Tuesday and Jeffrey was still there when I woke up (remember – the truck was parked for good!) when I realized what woke me up.

Cramping.

Panicked, I ran to the restroom.

Spotting.

Time stopped. I knew. This wasn’t good.

I told Jeffrey. I wasn’t crying, but I was trying desperately to control the doomed panic in my heart and voice. There really was no disguising my panic, though.

He was wonderful, but calm. He said to call the doctor.

The doctor’s office wasn’t open yet.

Instead, I shot an email to the director of the Foundation for which I worked and told her that I wasn’t feeling well and was waiting to hear from the doctor, so I wouldn’t be in today. I told her I’d work from home.

I sat on the couch and started to work.

And then I started to search, frantically, for if my symptoms could possibly be normal and OK. I knew in my bones that it wasn’t OK, though.

Eight o’clock came. I called the doctor. They could see me at 3 p.m.

3 p.m.?! Didn’t they know my world was spinning out of control?

In an attempt to distract myself, I worked frantically on work all day. I didn’t leave the couch. The lines of worry didn’t leave my face. My face was so tired of displaying my worry that I started to get a headache from my brow being scrunched for so long.

I tried praying while I worked, but I didn’t have words. I just finally said, “You know my heart. Hear it! Listen to my hurt! Don’t let the hurt be real! Take it away!” That’s all I could pray.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey was still being the picture of calm. He did his own searches and assured me that this could be normal. I was early in the pregnancy – about 10 weeks. This could just be some residual effect of implantation. It happens all the time.

Bless him. But my forehead was still furrowed.

Finally it was time to go to the doctor. We got in the pick up truck and Jeffrey drove me to the doctor’s office where, just a couple of weeks earlier, we had gone for our exciting first OB appointment where a nurse couldn’t get over just how healthy each of us was, and our healthy family histories. What a healthy baby we’d have!

This time, not so exciting.

The same nurse showed appropriate concern over my symptoms, but echoed what Jeffrey said that this could be totally normal. Then, the same CNP who had congratulated us days earlier came in to examine me. “I think everything here is good,” she’d assured us. “But, let’s get an ultrasound just to check.”

There was a glimmer of hope, then. We were to go straight over to the the other OB/GYN location to get an ultrasound. On the way over I even thought, “Maybe this is OK. In fact, maybe it’s great! Maybe all that worry will have been for naught and our anniversary gift will be that we get to see our sweet little baby for the first time!” I thought that, but deep down I still knew. Somehow, I just knew.

The ultrasound. I was 10 weeks. The baby measured about seven and a half weeks. There’s where the beating heart “should be.” It’s not there.

The ultrasound tech, who was wonderfully sweet, said with a broken heart that showed on her face that, legally, she couldn’t give me a diagnosis. I’d have to wait and talk to the CNP. Could we wait across the hall? Sure. We didn’t talk. I couldn’t, or I’d fall apart.

I felt bad for her, the ultrasound tech. Why should she have to be involved with our pain? After all, she was so nice.

We came back into the ultrasound room where the CNP was on the phone. “I’m sorry,” she said.

Sorry? Why did she have anything to be sorry for? I listened to her tell me what I already knew and then new information. I’d need to get a shot, since I’m RH Negative. The next few days would be like a period. If it gets worse than that, I should go to the hospital, but I should be fine.

I got a shot. I still couldn’t talk, but I couldn’t hold out much longer. I had started to silently cry and I could feel that more than silent tears were coming. Grief and anger. It had me by the throat. Soon it would be so tight that I couldn’t stop it.

I got my shot. We left. I made it to the truck. That was it.

The way home. The next several hours. There was nothing that poor Jeffrey could do. I couldn’t be helped.

I was so angry! People do drugs, have babies, and leave them in dumpsters! It’s not right! Teenagers climb into the backs of cars and get pregnant and they get to have their babies! It’s not fair!

I was so angry! What on earth? How had God let this happen? He had just taken us from such a dark, hopeless, stuck place when it came to the prospect of being parents to a brighter and more amazing place than we thought possible. How could He have let this happen to us? How could have let us fall further down in the pit than we were before?

Nothing made sense. I hurt so badly. I was already hurting because I could see that Jeffrey was hurting differently than I was. He was hurt. He was sad. I was crushed. I was broken.
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The next morning, it was different. The world, I mean. The world was different. The hope that had been there on my birthday was gone. It had been chased away by the hurt that found us on our anniversary.

We told our families. I don’t remember how. I think an email. I think in the email we put something like, “We don’t want to talk about it, we just needed to tell you.”

Then, we told six of our closest friends. We told them because we couldn’t carry it and we needed them to carry it for us. We told them because we needed them to pray for us when we couldn’t pray, not with words anyway. I think the Spirit led us to tell these three couples. They were the right people to be going before the throne on our behalf, which we came to see very quickly.

I don’t remember much about that day, Wednesday. I remember I called in sick to work. I couldn’t deal with work yet. I remember that I sat on the porch and watched Jeffrey work in the front flower bed. I remember that we decided that we needed to get away from our house and just leave. I remember that we booked a campsite in Wisconsin for the weekend. That’s it. I mean, I remember that the world was different.

Thursday, I went to work for the first half of the day. There was a conference being held on campus and I was to staff a booth in the exhibit room for my Foundation, so I went to do that. I put on my good face. I interacted with passersby – all women, all elderly, all matronly – with charm and grace. I remember thinking, “I’m miscarrying. Right now. While I’m talking to these people. They have no idea.”

That was the first moment since the no-heartbeat that I wasn’t selfish. That moment when I realized that the people around me had no idea that I was going through one of the hardest things in my life right at that very moment. That was the moment that I realized that the same could be true of anyone around me. I never know what’s going on with people around me. Not really.

That was the first moment that I realized that on Tuesday afternoon, I had entered the ranks of countless other women in my acquaintance and women I’ll never meet. I had a (then) silent pain. What is it about miscarriage that leads people to keep it to themselves? Why was it my natural reaction? Why did I even tell my family, “We don’t want to talk about it. We’re just letting you know?” I guess I knew a few people who had miscarried. But, for the most part, I realized that it’s something that people don’t talk about.

It’s isolating. I don’t know what “it” is though. Is it miscarriage itself that’s isolating? Is it the fact that people aren’t open about miscarriage that’s isolating? Is it the fact that it’s called a “miscarriage” like I made a mistake and did something wrong? Standing there in that tiny ballroom with old women all around me collecting stickers, ink pens, and other tchotchkes from every booth they passed, that was the first moment I realized that something was wrong with the way we, as a church, cared for each other or maybe the way we don’t trust each other to care for us. That’s what’s isolating. We’re supposed to be in community. Not just when things are good, but all the time.

I came home from my half day of work in a bit of better place. I think it’s because I stopped just focusing on my own pain when it hit me that people all around me could be in pain and I wouldn’t ever know. I’d just go on collecting my tchotchkes and smiling with them.

I also came home to BBQ from South Street Smokehouse that one of our friends – one of our prayer team friends – had brought for Jeffrey and I for lunch. Food really does help sometimes – especially brisket.
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The next day started out differently, better. We packed up our camping supplies, dropped our dog, Lucy, off at Shaun and danae’s, got groceries for the weekend, and got ready to go north to Wisconsin. We decided that we’d avoid Chicago traffic by going west through rural Illinois and up I-39 through Rockford. We stopped for gas and ice on our way out of West Lafayette. While Jeffrey started packing ice into the coolers, I started to have some really bad cramping. I thought it was just part of the whole medical situation and that it would pass. I was focused on getting to the campground – I was ready to be there.

As we kept heading west towards Illinois, the cramping didn’t get better – it got worse. In fact, cramping doesn’t even sound like the right term. I felt like I was being stabbed and sliced. Still, I was determined to not let this spoil our weekend. It couldn’t go on forever, right?

We crossed into Illinois and as we entered the first town – Watseka – I told Jeffrey that we better stop somewhere. We stopped at a dinky little gas station. I went inside and I was not prepared. I don’t want to get too graphic here, but now instead of just feeling like I was being stabbed, I was bleeding like I had been stabbed. I went back out to the truck and told Jeffrey that we should call the OB on call from the practice I went to and ask what to do. I was starting to get worried. We tried calling the OB, but he or she didn’t pick up. The switchboard operator paged the OB with our phone number to call us. We waited. And waited. We never got called. Meanwhile, nothing was improving. I told Jeffrey that I needed to get to a hospital. He asked if I wanted to go back to Lafayette. We were only about an hour or so away. I told him that I needed the nearest hospital… now. Jeffrey went inside to ask the cashier if there was a hospital nearby. Thankfully, there was one there in Watseka, just a few blocks away via a route that was highlighted on a big map behind the counter.

At this point, I was nervous. I didn’t really know what was happening. We were going to a tiny hospital in a tiny town. Stress level was going up.

We got to the ER and all I’m going to say is that God’s ways are bigger than ours. There are top-notch, state-of-the-art hospitals in Lafayette and I trust the doctors, nurses, and technologies available here. However, when it was all said and done, I’m glad I wasn’t in Lafayette. We were at the right hospital with the right nurses to care for me.

Things didn’t all go smoothly (at all!) as soon as we got to the hospital, but the ER nurse was wonderful. I can’t say enough about her. Well into the night, I was teetering on the edge of needing a blood transfusion, emergency surgery, or both. But, she was exactly the right person to be the primary caregiver for me (and Jeffrey) during that time. She joked around with us a LOT which calmed us when we first got there and kept me in good spirits the rest of the night. When she needed to be, she was gentle, reassuring, and nurturing. I ended up having to stay the night so that they could monitor my blood count and so that I could be seen by the OB in the morning. Because of her (and I’m an awful person for not being able to remember her name anymore), I was OK with it. Even though her shift was over, she personally moved me from the ER to a patient room. Before she moved me, she called around to other nurses in the hospital to see where the emptiest and quietest hall was that night. She pulled some strings for me to get a room on a quiet hall with the nurses that she knew and trusted best. She also broke protocol and had an extra bed brought into my room so that Jeffrey could stay with me. Even though it was almost midnight, she let Jeffrey leave the hospital to go to McDonalds (the hospital cafeteria was closed) to bring us back supper since we hadn’t eaten for almost 12 hours. She made sure Jeffrey was able to get back in and get back to my room.

We’ve had a couple of experiences with Jeffrey being in the hospital or having surgery here in Lafayette and the nurses here were wonderful. However, they never treated Jeffrey like he was their only patient, because he wasn’t. We were in the right place. There were others who came into the ER in Watseka that night, but our nurse stayed with us and had other people care for the other patients. We were in the right place. God put us in the right place. You see, at just the right time…

As if that wonderful nurse wasn’t enough, we were also blessed with a great OB. Around 11 a.m. the next day, she finally came in to see me. She went over all my test results (I woke several times during the night to find someone with a needle in my arm getting more blood) from the night, but then, she talked to us. I mean she really talked to us. I hadn’t had a chance to see my OB since that awful ultrasound on Tuesday, and so no one had really talked to us yet about what happened. This doctor did. But not just that, without us having to ask, she anticipated the unspoken questions and longings. Why? How? What if? She covered them all. She was a mother, but her first pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage. She said that even though she was a doctor and “understood” it, she still didn’t understand it as a patient. That perspective helped her help others – helped her help us.

When the doctor left the room and we were left to wait for the discharge nurse, it really hit us how blessed we were to be in this tiny, outdated hospital in Watseka, Illinois that looked like hospitals you’d see in a movie from 20 years ago. God carried us there.

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You probably think we left the hospital and went home. You may not know us as well as you think you do.

We left home to go camping, and we weren’t going to go home until we went camping. Jeffrey left it up to me, but I was bound and determined to spend time camping and spend time away from home. We called the campground and explained our situation and they promised to hold our spot. We had about a six-hour trip ahead of us.

We got to the campsite and it was late – like 11 p.m. or so. There was a light rain falling and, since I was still incredibly weak, sweet Jeffrey had to set up camp by himself. He got us set up and we went to sleep. Better than that – we went to rest. The whole weekend was rest. The sweet kind of rest that God promises. The rest that comes with the peace that passes understanding.

That camping trip was the first time Jeffrey and I had “gotten away” since our honeymoon. It was an unexpected trip under awful circumstances and it was a gift. At one point in the weekend, I started to feel guilty. What did it say about me that I was so relaxed and having such a wonderful weekend when I had just found out that we had lost a baby? Was I a terrible person for enjoying myself when I should be miserable? Then I realized – well God reminded me – that we had asked people that we loved and trusted to pray for us. To pray for healing. We had asked them to call upon God’s promises of rest and peace. And I know they were doing that for us. While we were in the hospital. While Jeffrey was setting up camp in the rain in the dark. While we were resting away from phones and our house and everything. They were praying for us. Beyond that, God was caring for us as He always had. He was hurting with our hurts and healing as only he knew how.

I wasn’t a terrible person for not being miserable when I was “supposed” to be miserable because I wasn’t supposed to be miserable. I was supposed to be grateful to the One who was there with us. And I was.
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If you have had experience with miscarriage, you may be thinking that I got off easy. I did have to go through a period of grief. It came several months later and it was hard. It was hard for me. It was hard for Jeffrey. I had to deal with things that God allowed me to skip initially. I knew I’d eventually have to work through them, and I did. And it stunk. And, to some degree, some of that hurt is still with me and I think it will always be with me. This world has hurts – hurts that don’t make sense.

Now that we’re so close to holding our first child, we have a new perspective on the miscarriage. We can see how there are good things, not really silver linings, but good things. We can see how the job I had last year would have been a terrible job to have with a new baby (I mean, it was already pretty terrible on its own). We can see how we would have struggled with medical bills since my pregnancy had started before Jeffrey started at Purdue and therefore would not have been covered by his insurance. We can even see how God grew our faiths and our marriage through the experience and pain. We can see how, since I got pregnant this time near the end of November and the due date for my first pregnancy was in January, if that first baby had been viable, we wouldn’t ever get to meet this sweet little baby who wiggles when I eat chocolate, gets frustrated and tries to break her way out when she gets the hiccups (which is frequently), and who likes to stick her little baby booty out near my ribs when I’m relaxed.

We can see the good. We can see how God carried us – from those first days when the world was so different so quickly, through the wrestling matches with pain months later, and through a healthy and relatively easy pregnancy. We can see the good. But that still doesn’t mean that we’re glad it happened. It still doesn’t mean that we understand. There’s still the hurt of never getting to meet our first baby. Never knowing if that baby was a boy or a girl. Never knowing who he or she would have looked like or grown up to be and do. There’s still that hurt.

But that hurt has helped shape us. I said at the beginning of this post (dear longsuffering reader of this ridiculously long post, can you remember that far back?) that “For a long time, Jeffrey and I have felt like God has been preparing us for God-honoring parenthood.” Our miscarriage has become part of that preparation. We know that as parents, we’re not going to be perfect. We’re going to mess up. But we also know that God will be there to carry us and our sweet little girl through our mess-ups. We know that God has a purpose for our sweet baby. We know that He will work through us – mess-ups and all – to help her grow into the woman that He knows she can be. We’re so excited for that journey – and a little intimidated. But, if God can give us peace in a storm of pain that my heart screams that no one should ever have to endure, He can and will certainly continue to prepare and shape us for a journey of parenthood and family-hood that honors Him. That is our prayer. Please pray it with us and for us.

Grace and peace,

Rachel