Friday, August 24, 2012

A Little Music

Music with Daddy at bedtime.

The evening hours have been a bit long around here since Nathan's been born because it's not so easy right now to get out and wile away the time.  So we've been trying to pull some things out of our hat instead of always putting on a movie.  However, truth be told, they have been able to watch more movies than normal. It's just the way it is.

The key is this though, whatever the activity, it can't make a huge mess because we've already done our big pick-up for the night.  

We hadn't broken out the guitar in awhile.  Yet within minutes, we were kicking ourselves for not doing so.  When we were "younger", we used to play and sing together all the time.  Why haven't we remembered the guitar or the piano?  It's been since last Christmas that we've done any sort of real singing together.  Yet every time, the kids immediately run for instruments and want to "play" along with whatever they can find.  Steve and I love to sing/play together.  Why don't we do this more?

Yet another insight to be gained during this crazy post postpartum period.  Thankful for these nights-the after dinner run until bedtime...even though they can be long at times.  Thankful for all these little people that love to make "music" with their Mommy and Daddy, even if it is raucous at best.  We definitely couldn't form our own little band of coherent music but, we can all be together doing something fun (instead of sibling fighting, whining, zoning out or making more messes).  I know other families that do this too.

Got to keep those little hands busy and music is a great way to do it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Let the Word {What I Tell Myself}

Let the words of Christ dwell in you richly...

So, Nathan is 13 days old today and since his birth, a lot has occurred.  We've celebrated two birthdays, seen Daddy go back to work for the school year, finished out the little league season, and seen four of our seven family members go back to school (Daddy included).  It's been a bit of a ride, I must say.  But it's all been wonderful (for the most part), and we're just trying to take things one day at a time.  I'm healing up really well.  The swelling is going down and though I am a bit far away from my normal frame, I'm beginning to see some remnant of what used to be.  It's good to have hope.  So, in sum, life has been moving on at record speed with all the normal activities and we're simply trying to keep up.

Speaking of normal activities, this past Sunday we debated about going to church.  We were just a little over a week out from Nathan's birth and we definitely felt tired.  I didn't think I'd make it, as church can be such a physical endeavor in the first place with having all of the kids with us in the pew.  But when it came down to it, we knew we hadn't been to church in three weeks and frankly, both Steve and I felt we really needed it, regardless of how difficult it might be to get there.

Once again, we weren't disappointed.  It's amazing how being a midst the body of believers can encourage a weary soul.  It was simply being there.  I didn't hear much of the sermon.  In fact, I hardly heard any of it.  I was nursing the baby in the nursing room and Elliana was sitting on a chair next to me, chattering away about what she saw in the room.  Yet in the background, I could hear the singing and that was enough. For I knew exactly where the service was going.  All of the music, all of the standing and sitting, the rhythm of it all is etched on my memory thus enabling me to imagine myself a part of it all, as I heard everyone moving through the service.

And that alone blessed me.  It was a salve that washed over me and renewed me yet again.  Not that I am overly wounded but the transitions taking place and new responsibilities (not to mention the post partum period in general) can leave me feeling raw, even when I'm doing well.  So in that renewal I could feel all of the pressure, the unknowns, the stress of starting over again and the fatigue from healing and Nathan, fell softly away as the voices were lifted to heaven. In that moment, I was made new.

After nursing, it was time to go and sit in the foyer with Miss Elle in tow.  Steve had the other three inside and Nathan needed me to be moving in order to be rocked to sleep in the Moby.  That's when the sermon started.  It was on my favorite chapter in Colossians- Colossians 3.  I know this chapter well.    

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth..."

As the words were read, they came like a flood and washed me again, cleansing my heart.

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you..."

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another..."  

"And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."

And then the words that pierced my heart anew-"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly..."

I don't know what else was said.  I wasn't able to fully pay attention.  All I remember was the passage being read and our pastor talking about how Christ's words should dwell in us richly.  That's what stuck with me.

And I began to wonder, how can I, a new mother of five on the brink of autumn and all that it brings, be passionate about my faith?  How can I make it through this transition well?  How can I even begin to do anything but just hang on, when I can hardly get to the bathroom, let alone have any sort of great time in God's word?

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

That sentence rang in my ears.  Well, what word?  And then my mind went back through that whole passage and how it gave an exact description of how my attitude should be right now.  But how can I do all of that?  I'm tired and feeling stretched.

And in that instant, God made it so simple for me.  That sentence from Colossians was all I needed to hear at this time and so I began to cling to it and soak it in.  And in doing so, I realized this:  if I can allow God's word to accompany me throughout my day by telling myself the truth of the gospel, if I can just do that, I'm going to be okay.

I can choose to tell myself I'm tired.  I can tell myself I'm confused about what to do next when I can't figure out what the baby needs.  I can tell myself I'm frustrated by circumstances or kids' attitudes.  I can tell myself I don't want to keep going.  I can tell myself I don't feel like getting up one more time in the night, or going to correct that child again, or playing/reading to everyone.

I can tell myself these things and what I'll get is discouragement because there is no hope.

Or, I can tell myself the gospel.  I can tell myself Christ is Risen.  I can tell myself that God carries every burden.  I can tell myself that He never sleeps and that I can talk to Him in the night.  I can tell myself that He is the God of all comfort when I feel tired and spent.  I can tell myself that He has made me clean even though my heart is so dreadfully wicked on its own.

And I can clothe myself in those truths because in doing so, I'm adorning myself with faith.  Not faith in myself but faith in an eternal God who loves me.  If I start there, I'll make it.  If I speak discouragement to myself, I'll bail.  It's that simple and I must choose.

In speaking the gospel to myself, God will show me how to love, how to give, how to stretch that much further and how to trust in Him.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

These first weeks can be hard as everyone adjusts.  But what I tell myself during this time will determine my heart and my attitude.  Christ's words in me are fighting words.  They fight pride, discouragement, fear and failure.

And oh how I need all the help I can get.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Our Twins...

Four years apart!


When Nathan came out, Steve got a quick picture of him and he brought it over to me so that I could see him.  My first reaction was, "That's Josh!!"  He quickly agreed and then went back to take more pictures.  It wasn't until later though, that we realized just how much they look alike.
Daddy and Nathan

Daddy and Josh


We even discovered, upon looking at these old pictures, that their weights were nearly identical.  Their length was for sure.
Nathan getting weighed

Josh getting weighed (1/10 an ounce apart in weight)

I don't know if we'll be able to tell the difference between their baby pictures.  The only thing right now that stands out to us is that it seems Nathan has blue eyes and Josh has brown.  But Nathan's eyes could change so, who knows?

It's amazing how genes play into the whole thing.  Totally and completely amazing!!

We're doing well here.  Day #6 of having five children.  So far, Nathan has been a dream.  Steve and I have been simply marveling over him and drinking him in.  We love just holding him at night when the others are asleep watching his little facial expressions as he moves through sleep.  He's been the sweetest little thing and we just can't get enough of him.

I'm recovering well.  I've still got the major post belly pooch that will be around until my uterus shrinks down.  It always looks so funny too after a c-section because there's a big incision there creating a weird bump.  But I said "goodbye" to vanity a long time ago I guess...five children and four c-sections later.  I know, in time, all of those parts that were stretched out will find their way home again.  They always do.

I'm off to get a few minutes of shut eye before my big boys get back from Grandma's.  Nathan had his circumcision this morning so they went hiking while we did that.  By the way, have I mentioned that our transition has been made so much better because of our parents?  Both sides of parents have been champions (they always are really).  And both of them helped us out tremendously over their anniversary weekend.  Not only was it Isaac and Steve's birthday, it was also both parents' anniversary-my parents on the 10th and Steve's parents on the 12th (Isaac and Steve's birthday).  That time in August is really busy for our families and we just made it even busier with Nathan's birth!!  

So Congratulations Yia Yia and Pa Pou Georgatos on 38 Years and Congratulations Grandma and Grandpa Dauphin on 40 Years.  We love you both and appreciate you SO much.

One day, Lord willing, we'll be helping our kids with our grandchildren and we'll be celebrating 40 (ish) years.  What a blessing!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Nathan Daniel

Proudly we announce Nathan Daniel's birth!  He was born yesterday morning bright and early at 8 lbs 1.6 oz and 20 inches.  All aspects of the c-section went as well as they could go.  He came out screaming and very pink.  My pain was minimal and I even slept the night before!  God was so gracious to us and provided for all of our needs.
The name Nathan means, "God Has Given".  When we found out we were having another boy, we rejoiced and said, "God has given us another son to add to our many!"  So that is the main reason we chose that name.  God has also blessed us with many things we did not expect this year so Nathan was fitting for this time in our lives and family.  Daniel means "God is my Judge".  Along with many blessings this year, there were also many difficulties.  We often found ourselves wading through these times knowing that God is our Judge and that we seek to please Him, not others.  So that's where his middle name came from.

Now back to the story...

When we showed up, we saw Ginger, who was Caleb's labor and delivery nurse.  I've never forgotten her and the kindness she showed while I was in labor with him.  She was really special.  I didn't see her with Joshua's birth.  However, when Elliana was born, she had remembered me and came specifically to prep me for her surgery.  This time, she made sure to show up and chat with us for awhile as another nurse prepped me.  Seeing her smile immediately relaxed me.

There was also an anesthesiologist that I met during my VBAC consult with Josh.  He was super funny, warm and kind.  I remembered him and I always hoped I'd get him to do my spinal.  The spinal is the scariest part of the whole thing for me for some reason.  It's also the only time in the process that I have to be on my own.  Steve isn't allowed into the operating room until that part is over.

In the past, I've had anesthesiologists who struggled with gentleness.  So I always pray that whoever shows up will at least make me feel comfortable since it's my least favorite part.  After mentioning to our nurse that I really hoped that doctor would do my spinal, she said it was unlikely since there are 15 of them who rotate in and out.  However, a few minutes later, he walked through the door with a bowtie on, grinning from ear to ear.  After talking with him for a bit, we discovered he is a Christian.  I felt so comfortable with him doing the spinal and it went off without a hitch.  As an added bonus, he busted out the classic, old school Newsboys, once Nathan was born.  It was hilarious.

I didn't get to hold Nathan right away.  But while they were sewing me up, I started getting a pretty bad headache so the thought of holding him was pretty far from my mind.  I got uncomfortable quick!  They gave me some medicine in my IV and within a few minutes I was doing much better.  A couple of minutes after that, I was headed back to the postpartum room, Nathan was on his way from getting cleaned up and I was able to nurse him within twenty minutes of being born!  I think that's the fastest I've ever gotten any of our c-section babies latched on.  I was really, really thankful!

All in all, God has really blessed us here with wonderful family and friends coming in and out.  We've been spoiled with watching the Olympics, yummy treats and rest.  Both grandparents have been amazing and our kids did really well meeting their new brother.  Steve and I have been soaking up the time we're getting with just each other and Nathan.  It's been wonderful.  And on Sunday, Steve and Isaac's birthday, we'll be going home.

We're thankful.  God has given us another son and we are so grateful.  Thanks for praying for us.  I'm sure the transition to five kids, along with school starting, will be a bit crazy.  So keep praying...I'm sure we'll need it!  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The End is Here

Things have been wrapping up quite nicely, if I can even say that.  We made it to the end of the semester for A & M, Steve did really well again (we're thanking God tremendously for this because it was probably his hardest semester yet), we've got our checklist done and we even somehow pulled off the birthday party for Isaac.  Tonight we'll spend one last night together as a family of six and then we'll put everyone to bed at the grandparents'.  Tomorrow morning, bright and early, this new little person will come into the world.
I probably won't sleep a wink.  I never do.  I don't particularly care for the whole planned part of having a c-section.  I much prefer the spontaneity of labor.  It's much more exciting.  But living and having my baby live, just seems more important than my preferences in that area.  So I'll go with it.
 I'm really hoping that all will go smoothly so that I can have this baby in my arms right after he's born.  I've only gotten to hold one child after birth and that was Caleb, who was my only vaginal birth.  I've been told that if all goes well, I can hold this one while they sew me up.  Last time I couldn't hold Elliana because she went to the NICU for breathing issues, despite being 40 weeks.  I'm just about 40 weeks with this one-this weekend I would've been.  I always beg my doctor to let me carry to the end to get the baby nice and strong.  (Most of the time with c-sections they take them early).  So I'm praying he's ready.  Yet, I'm also trying to hold the desire to be with him quickly post-birth loosely.  God gives as He pleases.  If it doesn't happen, it will be okay.
We still have no name for the poor boy.  We have had so many other things going on that we just simply haven't decided.  But we will, pretty quickly, I'm sure.  All of our other children have names.  I'm sure we'll figure it out.
 Yesterday we celebrated Isaac's birthday a little early.  We started off with a birthday breakfast of Monkey Bread and I have to report that our entire family polished that sucker off.  I could not believe it.  There wasn't a crumb left.  I don't know what I'm going to do in the coming years.  I'm going to have to start making multiple things!!  We then did a quick run over to Gilroy to get Steve some new shoes at the outlets.  Our boys love to play at the Arby's there because it has probably the best play area structure I've ever seen. So we did that.  After naptime, we got ready for the party.

We kept it simple.  We ordered pizza, invited just Dads and sons and I made boxed cupcakes with frosting from the tub.  We ate to our hearts' delight and then all of the boys went out to play baseball right across the street.  It was seriously a blast.
Even the Dads got in on the action.
For all you need is a plastic bat and some determination to transport you back to your childhood!!  I wish I would've gotten pictures of all the Dads.  They were so adorable, I mean very manly, to watch!  Especially mine....ha ha!  Look at how handsome he is!
Here were all the players in last night's game.  Every single one so stinkin' cute to watch.
There were a few little breaks the littler ones took to draw in the dirt with the bats.
And the sisters that showed up to cheer on the game, got in their own fun too, playing in the dust and having a marvelous time.
I loved watching each of the boys, so determined to get their own moment of glory.  For that's how baseball is.  You have to go up to bat and try and make it all into something!
My third son kept running to third base first with the biggest grin on his face.  I can still see him running.  And since my oldest is so in love with baseball, it was the perfect thing to do for his birthday.  Now he can rest assured that he was celebrated and not forgotten.
Now his Dad on the other hand....we got him a new baseball glove and he got new shoes...I'm also giving him a baby tomorrow that I've been working on for the last nine months.  Not sure what else I can do.  I think he knows he's loved.
I still won't ever forget, this time seven years ago, on Steve's 26th birthday, when our first little man came into the world amidst such upheaval in our lives.  God has done so much in seven years.  Who knew that seven years later God would be bringing our fifth child into the world at nearly the exact same time.  I wonder what the next seven years will hold.  By the way, look at that slide into home plate!!!  Isn't that so adorable!!
For now though, I'm content that we've made it this far and I know God will be with us as we make the transition to a family of seven.
The happiest of birthdays to my amazing husband and firstborn son on Sunday.  Tomorrow we'll add another to the party and end up with a birthday run of three, all special, irreplaceable and totally unique.

See you all on the other side and thanks for keeping our family in your thoughts and prayers.    

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Coming Home to Me

"You can create a climate for him according to your attitude, and this is part of your job as a wife.  The home you make and the atmosphere of that home is the world he comes back to from the world of his work.  Let it be a place of beauty and peace."  Elisabeth Eliot, Let Me Be a Woman, pg. 101

The kids were on their near weekly Taco Bell run with my mom yesterday, when Steve came home for lunch.  He had given a final presentation that morning for one of his classes and his professor wanted him to fix a small part of his project.  No was just going to take some time.  Everything else went off without a hitch.

When he walked through the door and saw my tears, he immediately ordered me to stop cleaning thinking that was the source of my tears-utter exhaustion.  "You're tiring yourself out way too much Nikki.  Everything looks fine.  Stop, now!"  But he was wrong.  I wasn't crying about being tired.  I definitely was tired for I had been cleaning all morning and I still had some things left to accomplish on my list (with my mom's help) that afternoon.  But that wasn't it.  Although, I'm sure it didn't help.  It also wasn't the near 40 week pregnancy hormones hitting me either.  Although I'm sure they added to the drama somehow.

It was simply this.  I had just realized we were one assignment away from finishing 8 straight months of absolute craziness in grad school and I had no idea how we had made it besides God's utter and complete grace to us.  And I couldn't hold back the tears.  It was just too huge to me.  Once the kids had left for a bit, I felt I could decompress a little without everyone wondering what was wrong.  That's when Steve found me.   

Ever since we found out about this baby around Christmastime, both Steve and I (with the kids in tow) have been sprinting toward a goal and that sprint has lasted this whole pregnancy.  We were going to get through two semesters of full-time graduate work while Steve worked full-time.  He'd help me with what was left as best as he could and I was going to carry whatever was left over, along with my pregnant belly.  And we were going to do it together.  Ready, set, go!

We knew it would be hard.  We knew it would be a difficult challenge.  But we knew we needed to do it and we walked into the whole thing willingly.  Steve needed to get his Masters done and this was the one way to expedite the process.  We figured it was better to do it before the baby came rather than after.

So when I thought about the baby arriving next Thursday and Steve finishing up on Monday, I couldn't help it.  I just started bawling. I couldn't believe we'd actually made it without any major catastrophes (of course there were definitely hard bumps along the way).      

Quickly, my mind went through the many week nights that Steve was holed up at Starbucks while I put the kids to bed by myself.  I thought about the nightly phone calls made to check in with him, to connect with him and to update him on the night's proceedings.  I thought about all the times he'd come home from wrestling for hours with a problem and I'd have to remind him that he was made to do this, that he'd figure it out, and to not be discouraged.  And I thought about how his success and his joy at finally solving a problem became as much my success and my joy, as we celebrated another dragon slain.

And I was reminded again, Steve and I are created equal.  But we are so different and our roles in each other's lives are even more diametrically opposed.  He is not better than me.  I am not better than him.  Yet, as his wife, so much of what I do is integral to him succeeding in the work God has called him to.  And if I love him, if I truly love him, I will be so caught up in his mission that it will become my own. 

All of our husbands are unique and have various talents.  And these talents are worthy of our admiration and pride.  But they also come with a price.  I believe one of the most difficult things to do, as a wife, is to wholeheartedly support these talents and not see them as competition.  Women are naturally jealous and it is so easy to be threatened by anything that takes a lot of our husband's time.  Now I'm not advocating abuse or anything like that.  But there are sometimes when a man needs to put his head down and do something.  And he needs his wife there as his loudest fan in order to succeed, and not to be his biggest critic.

This is a lot easier said than done.  And I'm no saint either.  This can only be done with the right perspective and that takes God's incredible grace.

As I was reflecting on these lessons that have become the foundation of my attitude for the past few years during grad school, I was thankful.  It hasn't always been easy.  And we're still not done.  We have two classes left.  And after grad school, who knows what other lessons I will need to learn in this area.  It won't end here.  But I can say this with confidence, it's much better to be a happy and tired wife who is so proud of her husband and his accomplishments, than it is to be a contentious one who is always fighting for her rights and her way.

One, though tired, will still be joyful because she's sold out for the mission that God has given to her husband and thus to her and their family.  The other will be unhappy, alone and without satisfaction.  For no one is ever satisfied when they're looking out for number one.  It just doesn't work that way.

We need each other.  God has designed it that way.  And in marriage that often means major sacrifice for one another. That will be different for each wife because every man is different.  But the principle is the same.

He's coming home to you.  What will it look like?  Whose vision, whose mission do you have plastered in the recesses of your mind?  Is it yours or his?        

As I come down to the final days of this pregnancy and Steve winds down the clock on this blitz of a semester, I've been reflecting a lot on what we've been through.  And to put it plainly, it's been gnarly.  No buts about it.  But even though it's been really, really intense for our family, especially in light of me carrying number 5 while being on super duty with the other four, I'm glad it's been good.  Steve and I are still best friends.  God has been good to us and we're just a little further down the road on this mission God has us on.

And everyday, Steve comes home to me.  I want to be happy.  I want to be cheerful.  I may not always be dressed perfectly or have the house looking spic and span, but I want to be glad for the life God has given us.

And like it or not, I set that tone.

I create that climate.  I'm responsible.  I want to be a refuge and a respite.  The world is a crazy place out there and my husband carries so much on his shoulders and he works so hard (all husbands do).  I can be a light, a rest and a support if I can get over myself and if I can just remember...he's coming home to me. 

He's coming home to me.

One of my favorite songs by Patty Griffin and Julie Miller illustrates this point exactly.  If you can forget about all of the cheesy pictures of Patty and just listen to the music, you'll be blessed.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Toaster Pastries

My little ones have been begging me to buy pop tarts.  And by begging, I mean begging.  They've seen some of their pals from various places regularly have them around for snack and they just look so fun.  I mean, who doesn't want a frosted, pastry pocket full of goodness?  So I didn't blame them one bit.  However, buying pop tarts just wasn't at the top of my list.  And that was simply because buying milk, eggs and cheese was just more important.  I'm just sayin'.

I'm not totally against the sweet goodness that comes in these little pockets.  I just don't want to buy a box and have them disappear amongst my four children in two seconds flat.  One box would feed them all for about,, maybe two snacks?  So if anything, making them with what I already possessed would be the only option to get one of these tasty morsels into their hands.  A week or two ago I was reading through my trusty King Arthur Flour cookbook when I came across a recipe for Toaster Pastries.  And based on the recent discussions in my house, I just had to try them. 

So, a few days ago, I finally just decided to give them a whirl because well, I didn't have anything else to do :).  And let me tell you, although I'm not an artist when it comes to baking things like this, they were quite tasty.  I definitely could use some practice at measuring more accurately, etc...but the finished product was really very good and worth doing again.  So I thought I'd share.

I'm not sure how often I'd make these since they are a bit involved but, they were fun to try and my kids thought they were great.  Heck, Steve and I thought they were awesome.  We felt like we were little again as we licked our fingers savoring every last bit of sticky, ooey gooey brown sugar filling goodness.  And the best news of all was that I only had to buy cream of tartar to make them.  Everything else was already in my pantry.

However, I must confess, making them at 9 months preggo just about did me in.  All of the bending over, measuring and letting kids "help" had me hobbling around like an old lady at the end, making loud sighs and grunts here and there.  Steve came home for a study break, picked up a toaster pastry and upon hearing all the music I was making, kept asking if I was okay.  It was a bit pathetic.  But I was determined to get those little suckers into the oven, let me tell you.  And even though I was a bit haggard at the end, the smiles I got from the littles made it all worth it.  I just made sure, that afternoon, I got myself one long nap to make up for it all.

So give these tasty pastries a try!  You'll get lots of hugs, smiles and kisses for these, that's for sure!!

Toaster Pastries
King Arthur Flour

1 stick butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
4 c. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. milk

Fruit Filling
1 1/4 cups thick raspberry, strawberry or other flavor jam
1/4 c. flour

Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Filling
6 tbsp soft butter
3 tbsp flour
3/4 brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 salt

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat well.  Blend dry ingredients together in a small bowl.  Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk to the butter mixture, beating the dough until it's well blended.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for several hours, or overnight.

Just before you're ready to remove the dough from the fridge, prepare the filling.  One batch of pastry will use one batch of filling.  Preheat the oven to 350.

Divide the dough into four pieces and work with one piece at a time.  Chill the pieces you're not working with.  Roll dough into a large rectangle roughly 12 x 8, about 1/16 of an inch thick.  The dimensions can be different.  Just make sure you can divide the dough evenly into 8 squares.  Spread the filling (1 tbsp) on four of the pieces.  Lightly moisten the edges with your finger that's been dipped in water around the filling and then top them with the non-filling squares.  Seal each tart with a fork dipped in flour.  Prick the top of each tart a couple of times to vent while baking.  Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. 

Bake the tarts for 20 minutes or so until they are lightly golden brown.  Transfer to a rack to cool.  Enjoy!

Note:  There was a recipe for frosting (powdered sugar and milk) but I skipped it.  They were sweet enough without it.