The Epic Summer of 2017

We’re into our third month of school, leaves are falling, and the air is definitely chilly, but I wanted to share some of the memories we created this summer. I’ve been meaning to write this for months, but with four Little Ones…well, you know.

At the beginning of every summer, our church ladies get together at Hidden Lake Gardens for a retreat. I’ve made it a family tradition to bring along one daughter each year for some one-on-one Mommy-daughter time. This year was Lydia’s turn and she was absolutely thrilled about going. The theme was “Transformation” with butterflies tied into everything from the activities to the decorations to the talks. There were caterpillars and butterflies adorning the tables at lunch and, at the end of the day, we released butterflies on the top of a hill. Lydia had a blast.



Our family made one more visit to the Toledo Zoo before our membership ran out and we let the kids ride one of the carousels. Growing up, my own parents often took “carousel pictures”, so here’s to carrying on that tradition.


The first week in July we spent up North, visiting family and enjoying the Cherry Festival and Traverse City beauty. We squeezed in lots of visits, two beach days, a day at the Cherry Festival, and cherry picking. We had planned on staying in a cabin near town, but the cabin was too musty, and, since Dan is particularly sensitive to mold, we made an emergency call to my parents and decided to haul our Little Crew over there. That turned out to be great because we got extra family time and we were even closer to everyone we wanted to visit and everything we wanted to do. It was fun, but exhaustingly fun.


One night, my parents took the three big kids and Dan and I got to go on a free VIP Cherry Festival date.


My sister and her family came too. 🙂

The girls looked so sweet all tuckered out from the fun.


One of my favorite moments from the trip was relaxing under a cherry tree after a morning of picking cherries. We had packed a lunch, and we just rested there eating our picnic and enjoying some time together.


Ever since last year’s family Christmas photo attempt, I’ve taken to a new philosophy: capturing life as it really is. Tears and all. (Some say you can’t have too much fun. You can. This is what it looks like.)


Papa entertained the kids for a few minutes while Dan and I unloaded the car.

A couple more visits…


Our kids love the children’s parade because…candy. For once-a-year tourists, they’re getting pretty good at snagging the candy. Even Paul caught on this year.




Toward the end of our trip we realized that the kids really only wanted to go to the beach. We tried to squeeze in a little more time there on our last day.





And then it was time to head home. The next day was our Church Picnic followed by a busy week of Camp Tikva (our version of Vacation Bible School).





Every year the kids learn a large Bible Memory passage set to music. Those who learn it and can recite it for their counselors get a prize. Lydia was so excited to get her prize on the very last day.

Once we recovered from the craziness of having a week of vacation followed by Camp Tikva, I gave Dan his first-ever day off. We sent him out of the house to have a day alone to read and pray and bike and think. The kids and I had a tea party lunch and played games.



Lydia lost her first tooth. And then her second.

And I raced in a triathlon. This was actually what made this summer so epic for me. Every other summer since Dan and I got married has had its share of difficulty (pregnancy, NICU stays, temporary living situations, working crazy hours, etc.) so this summer felt epic to me. With Dan’s help and support (and weekly babysitting help from Dan’s mom), I trained four days a week to be able to complete a sprint triathlon (1/4 mile swim, 14 mile bike ride, 2 mile trail run). I could write a whole post on this, but I just don’t have time. In short, it was SO FUN but also so hard. I definitely would like to do another one someday, but I think Dan’s going to have to do one first. I was by no means near the front of the pack, but I didn’t come in last place either, so that was good enough for me. The goal was to get back in shape and have fun and both of those goals were accomplished.





After the race we spent a day at our church camping trip. Then we stopped for ice cream on the way home. Best ice cream stop of the summer.

Since our kids so desperately wanted more beach time in Traverse City, and since I feel like they’re deprived not living ten minutes from the beach (like I did), we planned a sort of last-minute beach trip to the West Side of the state.

We found a family-friendly bed-and-breakfast and had a wonderful stay. Getting to eat breakfast, play in the pool, then go to the beach definitely brought smiles (and good sleep) to all of our kids.










Shortly after our beach trip, we embarked on a long-awaited vacation in Pittsburgh. What’s in Pittsburgh? That’s what everyone would ask us, and we honestly didn’t know. We knew we wanted to visit a big city, just our family, and our first pick was Boston. We decided Boston was too far away to drive with these kiddos, so we looked at a map and picked something within driving distance.

On our way down (and back) we stopped at Brandywine Falls in Ohio. It’s just a short walk from the parking lot to the falls, perfect for the short break we needed.

We fell in love with Pittsburgh. The amazing city views, welcoming old neighborhoods, incredibly hilly winding roads, three rivers, a million bridges, and tons of fun things to do. We visited a science museum, children’s museum, parks, play grounds, unique restaurants, and a natural history museum. We stayed at an old apartment building that had been renovated and converted into hotel suites. One of my favorite parts of this trip was waking up in the morning, eating a casual breakfast together, taking our time getting ready for the day, and talking about the fun we had planned.






We also took the kids to a Pirate’s game, starting with batting practice. The evening turned out to be WAY too much fun for our family to handle, but batting practice sure was fun. Each of the kids got a baseball while the Cubs were practicing.





We took an inclined railroad up Mount Washington and ate at an Italian restaurant with a beautiful view. And we took a few now-classic “take it like it is” family pictures.



And then there were more museums…




Our last day there we made it to the River Walk, something I had on my list of things to do. When we got to the “water steps” we had to hustle to keep the kids from jumping right in (which would have been a lot of fun if the weather had been warmer!)



And so wrapped up our epic summer. We gradually have made our transition into fall and are currently enjoying the school year, colorful leaves, and lots of apples and pumpkins.

🙂




Abby’s Fourth Birthday

This month, Abby turned four.

So let me tell you all who our Abby-girl is.  She is the most enthusiastic, life-loving little girl I’ve ever known.  I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again and again for the rest of our lives, but Abby is an extremist. When she’s happy, she beams.  When she’s disappointed, the world IS ending.  Her meltdowns are epic.  Her naps are deep.  And when she wants to be loud, she’ll hurt your ear drums.

Abby had to get some shots recently.  Imagine a small room in a doctor’s office.  Abby is curled up on my lap with tears in her eyes.  Lydia is sitting next to us, covering her ears and singing (loudly) a made-up song about how everything is going to be ok.  The nurse is quietly singing Abby a little song about what she’s doing.  It’s not actually time for the shot yet, but Abby is curled up tightly on my lap, clutching her favorite stuffed pig in one hand, and screaming at the top of her lungs.  She continues to scream, even when I tell her it’s not time yet, until the “pokes” are done.  But, the moment Abby was done, she had a sweet little smile once again, tears in her eyes, and was proudly clutching her new stickers as if she had just won a medal.

Abby appreciates food.  One morning she greeted me by asking, “Where’s Daddy?  What’s for dessert?”  Her favorite foods are hot dogs, burgers, pizza, and ice cream.  In fact, we let her pick out one meal for her birthday and she waffled between these choices for about a week.  But all hope is not lost for her future dietary choices.  When Abby doesn’t like the meal I make, she’ll happily ask for three bowls of salad instead.

Abby receives compliments like a pro.  You know how some (many) people shrug off compliments because they’re humble or don’t know how to respond?  Not Abby.  If you tell her you like her dress or that she has pretty eyes, she’ll look up at you with sparkling eyes, a closed-mouth grin, and big cheeks in a way that will make you either compliment her more or try not to giggle.  She’s just that cute.  Dan and I took her to a toy store to let her look around and see what she might like for her birthday.  The conclusion: anything.  Just getting a gift makes Abby’s day and she’ll keep that gift with her all day, whether it’s a sticker, sunglasses, stuffed animal, face paint, tiara…you get the idea.  It was so cute on her birthday to watch her reactions when we sung her, “Happy birthday”, and it was even more adorable to hear her later in a different room singing to herself, “Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me…”

Lydia and Abby are your typical young sisters.  They often don’t get along.  But within the past few months they’ve surprised me.  There are moments of every day when they can play happily together.  They get so caught up in their make-believe worlds and later come to tell me all the stories of what they’ve done.  Usually Lydia is the one in charge, deciding what they play and who’s who.  Abby is usually the princess, bride, or ballerina, and Lydia is the one doing Abby’s hair, picking out her clothes, and putting pretend makeup on her.  Abby also often “has a new baby” and Lydia is Abby’s doctor.

Abby gives the best hugs.  We call them Abby-hugs.  She squeezes tighter and tighter with impressive strength.  And, though her hugs are wonderful, she is less of a snuggler than her sister.  But she is more of a wrestler.  Dan likes to play-wrestle with the girls, but I usually sit out, so whenever a family comes over to our house, Abby wants to know if the dad will wrestle her.  If he’s not big on wrestling, she’ll go for tickling instead.

While Lydia learns things in big jumps, Abby is more of a slow-and-steady-type learner, but what stands out in her is her ability to love.  Since Dan and I tend to be pretty academic people, this has really made an impression on me.  I’ve seen that a person’s love can win you over.  In times when I’ve been overwhelmed and crying, Abby would approach me and ask, even when she didn’t have many words, “Mommy, why are you leaking?”  She’ll tell me now that she doesn’t like it when I’m sad or angry, and if I am she’ll ask, “When will you be happy again?”  She’ll stay by my side until I assure her that I’m doing well again and then she’ll run off to go play some more princess.

Seven Years!

Today Dan and I get to remember this day:

And celebrate the seven years we’ve had together since that day. Each year I put together a slideshow of pictures from our wedding, past anniversaries, and the latest year together. We always enjoy looking back on what we’ve gone through in a year (and six others!) of marriage.

Happy Anniversary Dan! I love you!

This Crazy Kiddo

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Lydia turned six at the end of May. She had been counting down to her birthday for over three months. Several days each week she would update us on what she wanted to do for her birthday, who she wanted to have over, and what presents she wanted to receive. When the birthday weekend finally arrived, we had a lot of birthday and start-of-summer fun. We took her to a toy store to pick out a toy to buy with her birthday money, got ice cream and pizza, and spent much of her actual birthday at the playground. She constantly reminded us to sing and say “Happy Birthday” and begged me to make her a “birthday balloon” (a balloon with a smiley face drawn on it). She got pink roses from Dan and went on her second-ever Daddy-daughter-birthday date.

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Lydia has also been asking regularly if it’s warm enough to play in the sprinkler or go to a pool. Since the first day of spring, it’s been hard to keep socks or shoes on her feet, not to mention a coat. She loves playing “house” outside and is so proud that this year she’s big enough to climb into our tree house all by herself.

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Lydia loves to play pretend, dance, and snuggle. She is always dressing up as a bride or asking to “play princess” with Dan, which is not exactly his favorite game. 😉 She loves any hands-on activities and anything “special”. Bridal showers, weddings, holidays, birthdays, and get-togethers are sure to put her on her best behavior because she’s just so happy. When she learns it’s a significant day, for any reason, she’ll wonder why we aren’t celebrating more. For example, she asked why we weren’t having a fancy breakfast or a special dessert for groundhog’s day.

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Kindergarten was a breeze for Lydia. Thankfully (for me) she picks up on things really fast. Really, the best way to teach Lydia is to not teach her but let her watch others do the task. When she gets it in her head that she wants to try, she usually can succeed. This has worked well with laundry, cleaning up after meals, serving food, and even math lessons. I can get her to learn a lot more by doing a lesson half myself and letting her do the other half, than if I explain a concept to her and ask her to do the assignment alone.

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Gift-giving might be Lydia’s top love language. She loves to make “gifts” for people – homemade construction paper cards, simple cross-stitch pictures, cut out pieces of paper, and bouquets of flowers (dandelions or violets, usually) picked from our yard. She also loves receiving gifts. When she was struggling to do her reading lessons with a cheerful attitude, we discovered small prizes work wonders to get her motivated. And now that our library has started their summer reading program, Lydia has been reading at least a book a day to win her prizes, when it was always a struggle to do a page or two in her reading lesson book.

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She’s always been our most verbal child, so it’s no surprise that Lydia is almost always talking. If we had the patience and knowledge to answer all of her questions, she would be a genius. On ANY topic, Lydia can rattle off 5 questions without taking a break. Usually her trains of questions come to an halt whenever Mom or Dad have to ask for a break so we can focus on something or give attention to someone else. Lydia also has a very good memory. She has memorized over 100 Bible verses (with desserts as the most effective incentive). The other day we were listening to our daily news radio program during breakfast and one of their regular promo segments started playing. She recited the 30 second promo pretty well right on top of the program.

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This year is Lydia’s turn to accompany me to our church Ladies’ Retreat for a Mommy-Daugther date and she’s pretty thrilled. She’s been looking forward to her turn ever since I took Abby last year. Her memory is pretty incredible in that way too. For example, about nine months ago we took Lydia to a dentist appointment. They told her that she would earn a stuffed animal prize if she could stop sucking her thumb for 30 days. She stopped that very day. Last month I took her again and she got her prize. The next day I found her sucking her thumb after eight months without it! Dan and I had to explain that the point was to stop altogether, not just stop for eight months to earn her prize and then start again.

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Some of my most precious memories of Lydia lately have been our one-on-one times together. Sometimes Lydia will snuggle up next to me during nap time and play with my hair while she listens to an audio book. Occasionally Lydia helps me cook dinner, peeling carrots or stirring vegetables as they cook (that’s her favorite because she feels so grown up working at the stove). I try to remember to give her snuggles, hugs, and tickles whenever my hands are free because my hands are so often full, I’ll go days without a Lydia hug if I’m not intensional. (Don’t worry about her being deprived though, Dan picks up the slack. Lydia is quite gifted at sneaking into his lap whether he says it’s ok or not!)

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Little Man Turns Two

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It’s hard to believe Paul is already two years old. He is. And, when he’s not being shy, he’ll tell you he is.

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“How old are you Paul?”

“TWO!”, he’ll answer with a grin as he holds out his thumb and pointer finger to show you.

It’s cute. He is adorable. And he had a really great birthday.

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Before Paul was born, Dan and I joked that we needed a boy. Our girls like their snuggles from Daddy. Several months ago, there was so much fighting over who would sit on Daddy’s lap during Bible time, we had to set up a schedule. So Dan and I would joke that we needed a boy who wouldn’t need the snuggles from Daddy, a boy who would snuggle Mom instead. And do you know what? Paul is the snuggliest little two-year-old I’ve ever met. He wants Mommy to hold him during every meal, whenever he’s tired, and whenever he’s unsure about something. Paul is incredibly sweet and loves to help. Lately he’s enjoyed taking his bib off, bringing it into the kitchen, and throwing it into the sink. He usually does so in the middle of a meal, but it’s still adorable. He also likes to help with laundry, by pushing the wet clothes into the dryer as I put them down on the dryer door. Then he slams the door shut, usually before I’m done. He also likes to shut the dishwasher for me, while I’m still loading it. 😀

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Paul also likes to help set and clear the table. He’ll spot a condiment in the fridge and put in on the table and then come back for more. He’s choices don’t often match the meal (mustard when we’re having tacos, for example). When the meal is done and the girls are delaying as much as they can before clearing their dishes, Paul will walk back and forth, grabbing whatever is left on the table, and throwing it into the sink or trash (not always the right one).

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He’s also a Little Rascal. He’s cute and he knows it. He’s not afraid to cock his head to the side and give you his sweet “emoji” grin when he’s up to no good. He loves to wrestle, but doesn’t like to lose, and isn’t too old to run to Mom for a hug when he doesn’t win. He loves balls and bats, and toys or pictures of animals that growl. (He likes to growl.) Paul loves to be outside and will often grab his shoes and point to the coat closet to tell you he wants out, but he hates the cold and will stay inside whenever it’s below freezing.

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Like Abby, Paul has been slower to start talking. Recently we started using sign language for some basic words at meals and he’s picked up on those pretty well. Even more recently he has started picking up more words and putting words together. Here are some recent favorites:

Bible/Baseball – “Bay-Bul”
“No”
“Coat”
“Bye Nana” (after I got off the phone with my Mom the other day)
“Night Daddy”
“Thank You”
“Hold” (me)
Elijah John – “Lijah John”
Lydia – “Lee-ya”
“Car”
“Nose” (He finds it hilarious to say “nose” and point to your nose.)
OK Google – “Okay Gool” (which he says into my phone whenever he can get his hands on it)

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Paul loves being a big brother and hasn’t had much trouble adjusting, but sometimes he gets jealous if he sees me holding Elijah (or anyone else) when he wants to be held. Overall he is a great older brother who loves his siblings, snuggles his Mommy, and wants to be just like his Daddy.

We love you Little Man! Happy Second Birthday!

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Taylor Christmas Letter 2016

Well, my Friends, I am back again for anther edition of the Taylor Family Christmas Letter. For those of you just tuning in, I am the much Beloved Christmas Moose, back again to update you on the Taylor Family Happenings from this memorable year. Ready? Here we go…

(The pictures you will see were all taken from the Taylors’ afternoon-long, pathetic attempt at a family picture. I say pathetic because they did not get one successful shot, and because they accidentally pointed the camera too low to include me. I was on top of the fireplace mantel. Ah well. Family pictures with four Little Ones are literally impossible.)

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Would you believe I woke up to meet another little Moose-calf in the Taylor household? They never even told me they were expecting! But out I come, out of my box in the closet to join the family in putting up Christmas decorations, and there was the most adorable little Baby just nestled up in Justine’s arms! If you’ve seen pictures, maybe caught a glimpse of the Little Guy snuggled up and sleeping…you have seen nothing. He is SO cute. Just wait until you see him with his little eyes open wide. Adorable.

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Along with writing a traditional Christmas letter, this year I have been delegated with the task of including an update of Elijah’s first month, because yesterday was indeed his first month birthday. Lij, as the family most frequently calls him (pronounced as the middle portion of E-Lij-ah) was born on November 20, bright and early. He flew through his tests and procedures and was happily discharged and sent home two days later, November 22, two days before Thanksgiving and four days before I came out of my box (Yes, they got me out a day late this year). However, Taylors like to break the medical odds and in true Taylor fashion, Lij tested positive for borderline congenital hypothyroidism. It sounds worse than it is. While hypothyroidism (low activity of the thyroid gland) can be very serious, Elijah has a very mild case and is already taking special medicine to keep everything right where it needs to be. As long as he takes his medicine, like the good baby he is, he shouldn’t have any symptoms.

Elijah weighed five pounds and eleven ounces when he was born, and at his latest appointment was up to six pounds, ten ounces. The first couple of weeks were slow going because he was just too sleepy to eat very much. Most parents want their babies to sleep more. Justine was trying earnestly to wake him up. Elijah even sleeps at night, much to Dan and Justine’s surprise and delight. Sure, he gets up every 1-3 hours, but three out of every four nights he’ll go right back to sleep after a diaper change or a snack. He is a content Little Boy and everybody in the home loves snuggling him.

And, I might be speaking too early, but as I was writing this update I saw the Little Guy roll over for the very first time. (Although he was sort of on his side to begin with.) Way to go Little Man!

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Well, as adorable as Elijah is, I just can’t spend my whole time writing about him. Next up is P-Man. That is: Bud, Buster, Buddy, Butch, Butchems, Butchcake, Stinker, Rascal. Paul. He’s a cutie too, and always up to something. This year Paul set a new record for the family by taking his first steps at 16 months old. He spoke his very first words during one of Dan’s softball games this spring, “Hi Daddy!”. Aww. Some of his other words are: baseball, Mama, Daddy, baby, Leeya (Lydia), Lijah, no, and sock. He loves wearing his shoes everywhere he goes, except in the car, where he loves to take them off. He still needs two naps a day, sucks his fingers when he gets sleepy, and enjoys being held by his Mommy. He loves to be outside in the warm weather and hates being outside when it’s cold. He will hold his little brother and give him kisses and sing him songs. He absolutely loves to wrestle anyone, but especially his Dad. Recently he found the drawer where Justine keeps her oven mitts, and now he likes to dig those out and put them on before finding Dan and punching his legs. He is all boy and super sweet all at the same time.

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Then there’s Abigail. Abby, Abster, Abs. She’s a little fireball and whatever she does she does ALL THE WAY. If she’s happy, she’s irresistibly sweet. If she’s angry, everyone from here to Detroit knows about it. She doesn’t let her big sister push her around. They are the very best of friends, even if they don’t realize it yet. Together they love to play house, wedding, and princesses. Lydia is always the bride or bridesmaid and Abby is the “Wedding Girl” (we don’t know what that is yet). She is three, but if you hold up your three middle fingers she will tell you that she is not that three. She is the pinky-ring finger-middle finger three. Abby always calls Paul by his nick-name “P-man”. She thinks Elijah is “so, so cute”. She likes to do school with Lydia, which involves coloring in a coloring book or tracing in her special tracing book which she calls her “cat book” because of the cat on the cover. She is learning that napkins are not called “Backins”, but she still calls toilet paper “paper toilet”. Abby is funny and sweet and learning and growing a lot this year.

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Lydia (Lyds, Lydnacious, Munchkin) started school this year and loves it. Her favorite parts are probably math and art, but everything else comes in a close second. Lydia is almost always pretending: pretending to be a mom, pretending to be a grown up with a sister that she is always visiting, pretending to be a princess, or pretending to get married (to Dan). She is incredibly creative with her outfits (regular or dress up) and becoming more and more aware of what she likes and doesn’t like. Today she was sharing her list of foods she doesn’t like (spicy peppers, onions, celery, mushrooms, and sort of baby carrots) and does (tomatoes, cucumbers, burgers, pizza, cheesy noodles, ice cream, chocolate cake, chocolate brownies, and chocolate). If you ever are lonely, you could use a Lydia in your life. She loves to be together, loves to snuggle, and can always find something to talk about with lots of questions included. She has an insatiable desire to play with her Daddy; read stories; and, at Christmas time, make tea, turn off the lights, and snuggle in the living room by the Christmas tree. She is quick to love, quick to forgive, and learning how to be a Big Helper to her Mommy and a Loving Sister to all three of her siblings.

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Justine has her hands full this year, as strangers love to tell her. She likes to think that full hands and full days make for a full heart, and she has been basking in the joy of it all this Christmas. This summer felt like one big, long wait for Baby. Now that he is here, Justine is soaking up his Little Newbornness as much as she can (while still taking care of the rest of the pack). She also loves teaching Lydia. All year she has focused on being a Good Mom and being grateful. She finally found a satisfying healthified toffee bar recipe, an accomplishment that can only be trumped by successfully taking all four kids to Elijah’s doctor’s appointment last week. (They are a handful!) Other than homeschool and Baby, the highlight of Justine’s year has been spending more one-on-one time with Dan. She, like Lydia, loves to spend time together.

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Dan started a new job working as an Artificial Intelligence Computer Scientist on the Autonomous Vehicle for GM this year. So far he has been enjoying the challenging problems at work, despite a longer commute and even earlier mornings. He still loves to work out in his (unheated) garage gym, even on the coldest and windiest winter days. This spring he joined several young men from church on a Softball team, and this summer he spent many Sunday afternoons playing baseball and soccer. Dan has also tackled several home repair projects this year including roofing his garage and rebuilding his old shed. He can’t wait until Paul and Elijah can tag along on his projects, in his gym, and on the baseball field.

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As for me, it was a good year snuggled up in my box. I have never had the privilege of seeing a Taylor Baby so freshly born, and, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, he sure is cute. The others are too, and even more so this year as more of them can say my name and give me hugs. I just love when they suck on my antlers.

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Well Friends, so wraps up another year for the Taylor Family. They, and I, wish you a blessed Christmas season and a very happy new year.

Yours Truly,

Christmas Moose.

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Elijah’s Birth Story

Ever since Lydia was born, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So this is Elijah’s birth story. Here’s my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

To read about the events leading up to Elijah’s birthday, click here.

At something like 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning on November 20, Dan and I were settled into our triage room waiting for my doctor to come remove my stitches so Baby could be born. My labors have all been pretty fast, and have gotten faster each time, so I was already doing the math in my head and expecting Baby to be born by about 9:00. But, I was also trying to just take things moment-by-moment, because I know nothing is guaranteed to go the way I expect during labor. I had read up, prayed a lot, and was prepared for a completely natural delivery, if possible.

The resident and hospital doctor came into our room to remove the stitches and I braced myself for an uncomfortable experience. (I had a cervical cerclage, or stitches to keep the cervix shut and hold Baby in longer, put in at around 13 weeks.) My doctor was not on call that night and his partner, whom I’d never met, wasn’t at the hospital yet. So my entire time in triage was with the hospital’s on-call doctor and the resident. They had had some trouble getting the stitches out with Paul, and it was a fairly painful experience. This time was much worse.

The resident started trying to get them out, but after several minutes, she gave up and asked the doctor to try. She couldn’t seem to find the stitches. The doctor sat down and started to try to get the stitches out, but she couldn’t find them either. So the two started tag-teaming, trying different tools, angles, and techniques. Thankfully, I wasn’t in too much pain from contractions yet, because the attempts to find the stitches were painful enough. I lay flat on my back, squeezing Dan’s hand tightly with my teeth clenched and eyes tightly shut.

Occasionally the doctor and resident would ask, “Do you want a break?” but I just wanted the stitches out, so I kept telling them to keep trying. I have no idea how long we were in that room, but it felt like a long time. At some point I started praying. Then I started praying more urgently, “Jesus, help them find the stitches…guide their hands…” It started to look like they were never going to find them, and I started to wonder what would happen if they didn’t. Would I have to have a c-section? Would I labor anyway and just tear right through the stitches? I was praying more frantically and feeling pretty desperate.

When I was feeling rather hopeless, urgently praying, suddenly the darkness of the inside of my eyelids seemed to be replaced by a glowing light and I was filled with peace and calm as some verses came to my mind. They weren’t actually verses that I have memorized so the words weren’t clear in my mind, but the idea was there…”When you pass through the waters, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…” I was filled with trust. Jesus was taking care of me. Then I heard the doctor and resident and felt the pain again and everything was dark and painful and desperate all over again. And I prayed and again the darkness melted away and I remembered those words, “The waters will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” Calm washed over me again.

Just a couple of minutes later, the doctor declared that she had successfully removed the stitches! There were still buttons in there somewhere, stuck in the scar tissue, but the stitches were removed. (The stitches were tied through a button so that they would be easier to find and cut out. Instead, the buttons got lost and the stitches were very hard to find!) As soon as everyone left the room, I asked Dan to find the passage that had come to my mind. He found it and read it to me:

Isaiah 43:2
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,and the flame shall not consume you.”

Soon we were allowed out of triage (I have no idea what time it was by now) and headed to labor and delivery. We were shown to our room and once there we let everyone know what kind of labor I was intending on having (since we had already been offered pain medicine once or twice). My birth plan was pretty short:

I would like to have as natural of a labor and delivery as possible.
If possible I do not want an IV.
I know that pain medication is available and will ask for it if I want it.
If possible, I would like to hold the baby immediately after delivery.

Our nurse was sweet. She got me all hooked up to monitors and assured me I could have a natural delivery. Then someone told me I had to get the betamethasone steroid shot for the baby’s lungs. I assured them I had already gotten both doses, but they insisted. New research has shown that it can help if Baby gets it right before delivery, any baby born before 37 weeks. Now, that shot takes 24 hours to be fully effective, and 48 hours for two doses to be fully effective. We thought it was silly, knowing how fast my labors are. But we also felt like we were in a position where we would be terrible parents to say, “No”. So, I got that painful shot during labor again. (My doctor later told me that I could have declined, knowing the shot was pretty much useless in that amount of time anyway).

After the shot I was allowed to labor as I wanted. I lay down on my side, shut my eyes, and tried to relax through the contractions. Dan was at a loss as to how he could help and kept asking if I was ok. “I’m relaxing!”, I insisted, “it’s part of my method”. Eventually I couldn’t just relax anymore, so I got up on my knees and leaned against the top of the bed. The nurse offered me a big bean bag to lean up against, and that really helped. By now my contractions were really intense, sometimes coming on top of each other. Dan tried rubbing my back or pushing on my hips to help and I actually swatted him away, thinking, “you’re doing it wrong!”. I’ve always wanted Dan near me and helping me during labor, so I KNEW I was in transition and Baby would be coming soon. I also started to feel like I had to go to the bathroom all the time, but after a couple difficult trips back and forth, I knew it was just the pressure from Baby moving down lower.

When I started moaning more and more loudly through the contractions, Dan and I knew it was time for them to check me. I was a little nervous, not wanted to hear I was only dilated to four. But I was also confident that I was in transition and Baby was coming fast. They told me I was dilated to “six or seven” and I clearly remember thinking, “Whatever. That baby is coming soon.”

I hit the peak of transition and thought, “If this goes on much longer, I can’t do it”. I was moaning so loudly that I heard the nurse saying, “Stay with us Justine!” If I remember correctly, Dan was expressing some concern that, “They’d better get in here!” Then I felt Baby moving down fast and pressure to push. I started yelling (how else could I tell them Baby was coming?). The nurse knew instantly that I was starting to push and she got right up near my face and asked, “Did the contraction stop?” I frantically shook my head no and she told me I had to turn over onto my back during the contraction. This seemed cruel and almost impossible to me at the time, but I was also in a state where I would do whatever I was told. I managed to roll over onto my back and the contraction just kept going.

I was concerned about tearing, and I knew it could be good to stop pushing and wait even if it hurt. I was preparing for that moment, but everything was happening so fast. The next thing I remember was feeling the most intense pushing contraction and the nurse demanding my attention. It took every ounce of will-power to not push and instead listen and obey what the nurse was trying to say, so I opened my eyes wide and looked right into hers. Later Dan told me he would never forget the face I made. He said my eyeballs were almost outside of my head and I looked completely crazy.

The nurse told me to let go of Dan’s hand (I wasn’t even aware I was holding it) and bend my right leg and wait to push. I did. It seems like there were about five people all crowded around me at that point and that a couple of them started telling me to go ahead and push. I have no idea if I was having a contraction or not, but I pushed and then I heard Dan say, “Justine! Look!” I looked down and there was my baby! Well, there was the top half of my baby. I heard one of the ladies there (A nurse? Or doctor? Or pediatrician?) say something like, “What do we have?” and in the next moment someone declared, “It’s a boy!” and scooped him up and put him right up on my chest.

Dan and I both thought it was a girl (again). And I had really wanted a boy. So I was relieved and thrilled and so happy I could cry. They were about to clamp the cord when Dan jumped in and asked if they could wait. They said that was fine, and waited until the cord stopped pulsing to clamp it. (From what I understand, the baby gets more blood if you wait to clamp the cord. Since all of our children have been anemic at some point during their first years, this was important to us.) They left Little Elijah snuggled up on me for the next 45 minutes.

Then my Doctor’s partner came in (he missed the delivery, but I guess I really only did push once or twice). He sat down with the resident and they spent the next half hour or more digging around looking for those long-lost buttons. They finally found them, after a miserable search, lots of hand squeezing with Dan, and lots of sympathy from the nurses. They had to cut them out of scar tissue in the cervix and then stitch up the cervix and a second degree tear.

However, I snuggled my Baby that whole time before they took him away to weigh him and clean him off. He weighed 5 pounds, 11 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long. He was born at 8:38 in the morning, just 5 hours and 23 minutes after my water broke.

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It took a while to settle on his name, even though we had pretty much picked it out when he was only about 14 weeks along (that’s another story). But soon enough we announced it: Elijah John, and we were transferred to the Mother-Baby room to enjoy the first couple of days with our new baby.

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Later in the morning, the kids came to visit and meet their new Baby Brother. Lydia very sweetly brought a stuffed lamb for Elijah to sleep with, in fact, the stuffed lamb my mom gave her before she was even born (we told her that wasn’t allowed, but kept the lamb where Elijah could see it.)

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It was sweet to see the kids together, but I especially enjoyed watching Paul react to his new brother. He loves him already, and even though he doesn’t have a lot of words, we’ve heard him say, “Baby” and “Lijah” and sometimes he gives Elijah kisses.

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Like Paul, Elijah got to be held almost non-stop in the hospital. It’s a privilege we just didn’t get to have with the girls.

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And after two (sleepless) nights in the hospital, we got to take Elijah home!

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