Elijah’s First Birthday

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Elijah’s first birthday. Although I’ve shared plenty of pictures on here of our Sweet Boy, I wanted to spend this post sharing a little about who our Elijah is.

We call him Lij, Big, Elijah, and sometimes Sweet Boy. He has always been a mellow baby, and very content. When I was pregnant, he didn’t kick or move around very much compared to any of his siblings. He’s always happy to do his own thing: crawl around, eat anything he can find (more on that later), or play with anyone. I think he’s going to grow up to be a relatively quiet boy and eventually become the kind of person who, once he does open his mouth, has very wise words come out.

He’s also very strong. I’ll probably always remember turning around one morning, as I was preparing breakfast, to see one of our children (who shall remain nameless) standing on Elijah’s back. Just standing there like he was a step stool. I yelped, scolded, and got that kid off of Elijah as fast as I could, but Elijah just lay there mid army-crawl, looking up at me with an expression that said, “What’s the big deal?” He was fine, though the child on his back weighed more than twice as much as he did.

Elijah is happy to play with anyone who shows him interest. Abby will frequently entertain him while I’m in the kitchen. She’ll hug him, “tickle” him, and wrestle him, and he’s happy just to have the attention. Just about anyone we let pick him up will find a sweet, smily baby, who is, again, happy to interact no matter who you are. But when Elijah gets tired, he wants Mom. He’ll start crying if he sees me enter the room and he’ll army crawl quickly over to my feet. Just like his siblings, he’ll pop some fingers in his mouth (he prefers the pointer and middle finger of his left hand) grab on to my hair or his own, and become quiet and content once more.

But, Elijah LOVES his daddy. There’s a Frank Sinatra song called “I Only Have Eyes for You”, and, though I don’t actually know the whole song, that one line from the title pops into my head just about every time Lij spots Dan across a room. He’ll stare at him for so long until Dan finally comes over, gives him some attention and hold him. (Abby was the same way.) “Mom’s great when I’m tired, but there’s nobody like Dad!”

As far as food goes, Elijah has recently started to eat a lot. For months we couldn’t get him to eat solid food. Baby food of any flavor makes him gag. He won’t touch bananas. Avocado won’t stay down, and even if it could, we can’t get him to put it in his mouth anymore. The only toothless-friendly food Elijah likes are sweet potatoes, and he loves sweet potatoes. Of course, my one baby to skip the purees is also the slowest to get teeth. The day his molars come in will be a happy day, because Elijah will pretty much only eat what we’re eating. And he’ll only eat it if he gets to feed it to himself.

As we approached the one-year mark, Dan and I were DONE getting up at night, but Elijah wasn’t. We tried roughly a million approaches to get him to sleep better: night weaning, feeding right before bed, waking up to feed right before I went to bed, moving him out of our room, letting him cry, waking him up at preplanned times during the night to eat, and always, always, we just prayed that he’d stop getting us up. Finally, when the weather really got cold, we had to move him into Paul’s room because the room he was sleeping in didn’t have heat. Paul handled the transition surprisingly well (but he did keep asking for us to put Elijah in his crib with him, and could not understand why they had to sleep in separate beds. He also likes to give Elijah things to sleep with: blankets, stuffed animals, wooden tools, toy cars, books…). I gave up on “making” Elijah sleep through the night, and we all survived. Now we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel as he sleeps through the night more and more frequently (four out of the last six nights, not that I’m counting).

We feel truly blessed to have Elijah in our family. Every child is different. Every personality is unique. Elijah is our strong, quiet, content, friendly baby with only one major flaw. He. Eats. Everything. I know all babies do this. I know I have three others and I can’t watch him as closely as I did the others. But it’s not just that. This boy has a gift. He can find things even if we just picked everything up. He’ll sneak (yes, sneak!) things into his mouth and then hold very still whenever you look at him so you can’t tell he’s chewing (gumming?) it. Rocks, dirt, leaves, small toys, day-old food, pieces of carpet he tore out himself. This summer, the day before we went on a short beach-trip, Elijah got his hands on a small giraffe eraser. Lydia was the first to notice him coughing and ran to tell Mommy (Way to go Lids!). I quickly realized the problem was beyond me and sent her to get Dan, who was, thankfully, working from home that day. He came down and did everything you’re <em<supposed to do. But when Elijah started gasping for air and coughing up mucus and blood, we called 9-1-1.

After a long wait, the paramedics came, repeated everything Dan had already done, and reported to us that Elijah would need to take an ambulance to the hospital where he would probably need surgery. I pulled the mom card (what if he needs to eat?) to get to be the one to go with him, even though Dan wanted to go. Dan graciously stayed home with the rest of the kids and I made a scary trip to Mott’s Children’s Hospital. Lij had missed his nap and fell asleep in the ambulance, which was actually a very good thing, but made for a scary ride. As I was trying to pray, I remembered some words from earlier that week, that an Elder had prayed for Elijah during his baby dedication, “We do pray for his protection. We pray that the Evil One would not be permitted to harm him.” Those words encouraged me. If our elder has been led to pray that only a few days before, and if we had faithfully shared how God had answered our prayers in Elijah’s life, to tell that God really does hear and answer our prayers, surely God wouldn’t intend on taking him from us now.

I prayed that Elijah would cough up the toy he was choking on, and back at home, Lydia was frantically praying the same thing (and that we could still go on our beach trip) with Dan and the rest of the kids. Elijah did cough up the toy just two minutes before the ER team was planning to call in their back-up surgery team (because the first team was busy). After coughing it up, Lij started grabbing all of the medical equipment, trying to pop it into his mouth too, which gave the team a good laugh and caused no one to give me a hard time. Clearly this was a baby who never stops putting things in his mouth. (And yes, we did get to go on our beach trip.)

God has been kind to us in giving us Elijah, and in protecting that Little Stinker beyond what we can do ourselves. When Elijah was born, I had always thought of him as a special gift. Elijah means: the Lord is Yahweh. John, named after Dan’s Grampa, means: Yahweh is gracious. Grace. Gift. Elijah John, you are indeed a special gift to our family. We wouldn’t trade you for anything. There’s no on like you. You remind us, sometimes daily, that God does answer prayer in big and small ways. He has protected you already when we thought we might lose you twice. Happy first birthday, my Sweet Boy. And, please, please, give us a less eventful second year!

The Story of Our House

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Back in August I shared the story of our housing hunt.  Today I’d like to share the story of our house.

It had been a long hunt so far when I started praying that we just wouldn’t even look at anymore until it was the “right one”. I was weary of getting my hopes up and then the crushing disappointment that usually followed: the house or neighborhood was no good, or someone else made a better offer.

There was a two-story home in a neighborhood that we liked so we went to go see it. The owners had kept it immaculate. Every inch was decorated to their style but, as they showed us around, it was hard to picture is as ours and not theirs. The price was within our range, but seemed high for the area. We prayed and talked about it. And we waited. We prayed more, talked more, asked our parents for advice. We walked around the neighborhood, talked to neighbors, and even went to look at it again.

It seemed like a good match. Everything in our minds said to go for it. I was desperate to finally end the hunt. But whenever we prayed, we felt unsure. It was confusing. Over and over we had prayed that when we found the right house we would know right away, and with this one we just weren’t sure. Again and again we tried to figure it out, but it just felt like God was giving us an unclear, “Maybe not.”

After a couple weeks with no changes and no new prospects, I started apartment hunting online. It just felt like we’d never find the right house. We still didn’t know if we should offer on the two-story, and we were waiting to see if maybe the price would come down. Then, one weekend, our Realtor took us to look at three more houses.

One was on a busy road. One was moldy-smelling and old. One was huge, but with a small yard. All were out of our price range. We prayed and again felt like God was saying, “Wait.”

At the end of the three viewings our Realtor asked me again what was wrong with the houses so far, what did I want that they didn’t have. I attempted to explain the things I wanted in a home, the most important things. Suddenly her face lit up as she said she had the home for us. We knew the owners, she told us, but she had to get their permission before telling us which house it was because it wasn’t even on the market yet.

Dan and I spent the ride home trying to guess who it could be. The next day he found out and emailed me. My first thought was, “I love that house, but Dan probably won’t want it.” To my surprise, he told me he had prayed and felt this might be our new house.

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The next day we went for a visit and our friends showed us around. We loved it and had no question we wanted it to be our new home. The next weeks were so happy. We had found a house that we loved. It was bigger and more beautiful than anything we had expected to afford. It had a huge yard and was just down the road from a park. It was better than anything we had looked at so far and anything we had hoped or planned for.

Because the house wasn’t on the market yet, we were able to offer the asking price without any competition. The inspections and appraisals went forward and, after what seemed like a very long time to us, we closed on our own house.

Dan and I truly believe that, by praying about every home and trusting the Lord’s leading, God kept us from offering on the other houses because He had something better for us. And now we are enjoying the fruit of the waiting, the prayers, and the obedience, by getting settled in a house that really feels like a home. It’s not the starter house we had in mind. It’s a home we can imagine living in for a very long time.

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I waited patiently for the Lord and He inclined to me and heard my cry.
Psalm 40:1

The Story of Dan’s New Job

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A few week ago, Dan started a new job. I wanted to share this as a testimony of God’s provision and answers to our prayers concerning Dan’s work over the years we have been married so far. I believe this is only the beginning…

When Dan and I got married, we were both finishing college. Dan was working part time as a math tutor on campus with only foggy ideas about his career. He had considered ministry, but more recently, and after prayer, felt God wanted him to pursue a Master’s degree. So, Dan finished up his last semester and started a Master’s degree in math just as Lydia was born and spent her time in the NICU.

As a Master’s student, Dan was able to teach some classes and continued tutoring until summer. That summer, hours were low and we were preparing to live on our lowest budget yet, when Dan was offered an internship at a small engineering company in Ann Arbor. So, God provided the first real job of our married life.

Dan’s internship turned into a full-time job, but during that time Dan’s aspirations changed. He came home one night and said to me, “I think I want to start a business”.

I was doubtful but didn’t say much and just listened as he explained further. Over the next several months I came around and together we brainstormed countless business ideas. (My favorite was to publish a book entitled: 100 Businesses I Didn’t Start but You Should) Investing all of our future hopes into starting a business, while working in someone else’s business turns out to be quite challenging, and trying on the whole family. When Dan’s job ran out of work for him at the beginning of the year, it was a bittersweet transition.

Should he start a business now?

Should he try to change to a different field?

Should he get a PhD (this has been constantly under consideration over the past few years)?

What next???

We prayed and prayed and Dan applied and applied. He was eventually offered a job as a software engineer at a young, but growing, company in Ann Arbor. The day he accepted the job I was devastated, convinced that he would be stuck programming for the rest of his life dreaming of businesses that he would never start.

Through it all, we continued to pray. We prayed for wisdom and guidance, and we prayed that God would provide a more fitting, enjoyable job for Dan.

The software job wasn’t all that bad. It wasn’t nearly as mathy or intellectual as Dan would have preferred, but the company invested in a ping pong table and the ping pong seemed to make everything a little better. Eventually I stopped asking Dan, “How was work?” and started asking, “How did ping pong go?”

We kept praying.

Then one day, so gradually and unexpectedly that I can hardly remember it, a small start-up contacted Dan on linked-in. While he was interested in their offer, he didn’t think he stood a chance at landing the job, so he didn’t even mention the upcoming interview with me until it came up during a Skype chat with his mom.

During the interview, Lydia and I prayed. We prayed mostly that, if this was a job God wanted for Dan, that he would land it whether he was qualified or not.

Dan came home that evening and told me they wanted a second interview.

The scene repeated itself. I don’t remember how many interviews Dan had, but it felt like a lot. Each time he would come home surprised and tell me they wanted to talk to him again. Each time he would insist he didn’t think he stood a chance at landing the job. Each time I became more and more convinced that maybe this really was a job God wanted Dan to take.

The day came for the final interview, but they didn’t get back to him right away. They didn’t get back to him the next day either. The next day, during the afternoon, I felt a strong urge to go and pray about the job. I spent a few minutes praying for the company, praying that Dan would be on their minds all day, praying that he would be the right match, praying that they would choose him. And when Dan came home that night he told me that they had.

We were in the middle of buying a house and skeptical about starting a new job. We didn’t want to do anything to slow down the housing process, but closing was almost a month away and the new company wanted Dan to start immediately. We talked it over with our mortgage lender and eventually decided Dan should start…that Monday. And he did.

This is the first time Dan has to check the clock to make sure he leaves work on time. It’s the first time he is invested and interested in the product. We love it. Protean is a small start-up, so they can’t offer all of the benefits of an established company, but they can offer other fun perks like generous vacation time and free lunches every day.

So now, Dan is a data analyst for the company called Protean. Their product, which they hope to launch later this year, is basically an all-in-one credit card that works with an iPhone app to hold all of your credit and store loyalty cards (anything you swipe, really). Dan’s job is to sort through all sorts of data and make meaningful graphs to display that data and help the company make good decisions.

Sometimes, when I need the car, we drop Dan off at work in the morning and pick him up at the end of the day. The girls and I have gotten to meet a lot of his coworkers and we’ve spent a little time lounging in the work area while we wait for Dan to finish. Lydia is already making friends for herself.

We don’t know if this job will last for one year or twenty, and we don’t know where God will lead us next. But after about three years of praying and waiting and wondering, we have seen God answer this prayer for a good (enjoyable) job for Dan, and we want to give Him the credit and the praise. (Even if there’s no ping pong 🙂 )

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Many Are the Plans

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During the past few days I have been reminded of Proverbs 19:21, which says:

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

I had been pretty excited to begin my 5K training on the treadmill at the gym of our apartment complex. Saturday was the final run in Week Two of my nine week training program. It was a wet, slushy, cold, and snowy evening as I headed out to the gym, sloshing through puddles and trudging through freshly fallen snow. This time I even stretched before I ran, but four minutes into my workout my knee started hurting. For about thirty seconds I tried to keep running before I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. So now I’m off my training schedule and on the elliptical to give my knee a rest and learn a little more about how to run, stretch, and not injure myself.

The very same night we gave up potty training…again…for now. After a week of accidents and messes, Lydia has successfully learned to go to the potty immediately after she wets her pants. She loves it. She hasn’t gone in the toilet once. I talked to some other moms, prayed about it, solicited Dan’s opinion, and made a mental list of pros and cons. Since we recently invested in some quality cloth diapers, the only thing we lose by waiting to potty train is the extra cost of washing those diapers, which I calculated to be about three cents a day.

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I didn’t really want to write about that in a post. I didn’t really want to “give up” again. But it’s the best decision for our family right now.

After giving up the endless trips to the toilet and all the time spent reading to Lydia while she did nothing on the potty, I was excited to get some more done yesterday. Clean up the living room, wash that pile of leftover dishes from Sunday, tackle a project or two, play with the munchkins. Abby decided she wanted to be held all day instead and by eleven o’clock I had only tackled some of the dishes and Dan had thrown everything littering our living room into piles. So much for my plans to catch up.

Our list of plans goes on and on, but I have been reminded of that ever-true Proverb. The Lord’s purpose will prevail. And after a nice, quiet prayer time while the girls were sleeping, I surrendered my plans and came out feeling happy. God’s plans are much better than my own.

Surely Goodness and Mercy

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In the first few weeks after we found out we are expecting Baby Two, I had to wrestle through the fears of having another preemie. There’s nothing like having a baby born early to make you realize how little control you have over when a baby arrives. The biggest fear, then, is that Baby will come too soon, too soon to survive, that is.

I spent quite a few nights laying awake and praying for Baby, that she would make it to term, and that I would not be anxious all pregnancy long. After a while, Psalm 23 would start to come to mind every time I prayed for Baby, specifically the part in verse six that says “surely goodness and mercy will follow me”. I began to feel like God was confirming that “surely goodness and mercy” were going to follow Baby.

This wasn’t a guarantee. I had no assurance that Baby would even stay put long enough to reach an age when she could survive if I suddenly went into labor. However, I began to trust that she was safe in God’s hands. Maybe she would make it to term. Maybe God would take her home. Either way, God’s goodness and mercy would surely follow her.

Then one night I woke up with some pain. I immediately thought I was having contractions, Baby was coming, and it was too soon. There was nothing I could do but drink water and lie down and pray. As I did that, different verses from the same chapter sprung to mind: “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”. The valley of the shadow of death: that place where the fear of death lingers uncomfortably and inescapably close. We made it through the valley that night, and I finally fell asleep with some peace; God’s rod and staff were comforting me.

As the pregnancy continued, and I would often pray for Baby, a picture started to fill my mind: a happy scene with rolling green hills, a sunny sky, and a safe and happy little lamb. In my mind, the picture took more and more form until I realized it would be a beautiful quilt, and I began to pray for the chance to make this quilt for Baby.

I’m not a very experienced quilter. I have made one quilt for my nephew, and it was a rag quilt, pretty simple. The only other projects I’ve ever even sewn were an apron for Lydia’s birthday (using an online tutorial), a dress for Lydia that sort of turned out, and a cover for her diaper changing pad (which needs some repairs). But soon I had my sights set on this quilt for Baby, if only God would provide money for the materials.

Well, thanks to some kind gifts from my husband, my Mom, and another family member, along with some of my own savings, I now have enough money to make Baby’s quilt! So here is the grand introduction and also a request for some input from my readers. This picture is the computer generated version of what the quilt will look like:

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I’d like to keep the design unchanged, but I’m having a little trouble working out the colors. We’re having a baby girl (according to our ultrasound), but Dan and I think this quilt looks a little too boy-ish and certainly is dominated by greens. I’ve tried changing the color of the writing around the border and the background, but nothing seems to fit well with the rest of the picture. I’ve also considered using a patterned fabric for the dark green border and binding, but haven’t found a fabric that would match the inside picture and bring in more girly colors. Thoughts? Suggestions? Specific fabric recommendations? I appreciate any comments, and I look forward to keeping you updated on the quilt’s status and the months go on.