Monday, December 31, 2018

God is Good

"That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in times to come, saying, what do you mean by these stones? Then you shall answer them...And these stones will be a memorial for the children...forever" (Josh 4:6-7). 

My theme for 2018 was Ps 27:13-14. I picked these verses as the Lord impressed them upon my heart in late Dec/early Jan of this year. Before I had any idea of the things I was about to walk through. It was another year of seeing God's mercy in all (2016), and seeing other small parts of the story of my rescue unfold (2017), and hope.

 A year of disappointment, of truth, of waiting, of hoping, of revelation, of courage, and of goodness. A lot of life packed into 12 short months. But He is good, and He does good. Not theoretically, but actually, and specifically, for me.

I wait, and I hope, with confidence and courage. Grateful to be ending another year with lessons & memories that I will carry in my heart forever, and for an ornament with which to remember them by.

Year in Review

A quick glance at a very full year.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Vale's First Picture Day

"You are the happiest, unexpected answer to all my lost echoes" -Ann Voskamp

Your timing was unforeseen, but only to us. We didn't know you were missing all these years, but here you are

It's hard to imagine now, how we ever felt complete before your arrival

Vale was only 3 hours old when my friend Virginia came to take her picture and capture the kids reactions of meeting their new little sibling. They did not know the gender of the baby until they saw her...the big bow on her head was a bit of a giveaway from across the room. Kenna was THRILLED. She's wanted a sister ever since she could talk. Her theory is that girls aren't annoying at all. We'll remind her of that the first time toddler Vale ruins something special of hers:-)

"Certain is it that there is no kind of affection so purely angelic as of a father to a daughter. In love to our wives there is desire; to our sons, ambition, but to our daughters there is something which there are no words to express." -Joseph Addison

Baby mine, don't you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part
Baby of mine
Little one, when you play
Don't you mind what they say
Let those eyes sparkle and shine
Never a tear
Baby of mine
If they knew sweet little you
They'd end up loving you too
All of those people who scold you
What they'd give just for the right to hold you
From your head, down to your toes
You're not much, goodness knows
But you're so precious to me
Sweet as can be
Baby of mine
If they knew sweet little you
They'd end up loving you too
All those same people who scold you
What they'd give just for the right to hold you
From your head, down to your toes
You're not much, goodness knows
But you're so precious to me
Sweet as can be
Baby of mine - Baby Mine, Alison Krauss

We have a little collection of sloths going on for our girly, we're sticking with a W theme because these names just seemed to fit - We have a Winston holding baby Waverly (Wavy), Winona, and this little lovey sloth is Winslow. We thought it would be fun to see how big she gets if we take pictures of her over time with the same little blankie/stuftie.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Shaughnessy Vale is born

The count down to birth day seemed to last forever for this pregnancy. It somehow really seemed so far away - like it would never happen, even though of course we knew it would...but WHEN! I was really hoping for early, not late :-) But, nothing really seemed to be "going on". At my checkup 2 wks before due date, all was good, no signs of labour in any way, and the midwife told me the baby was positioned "wrong" (face to side or face up, instead of face down). Since nothing was happening though, I hoped baby would sort that out and get in a better position when it was actually time to come out.

On Tues the 6th, at my regular checkup, I was 3cm - but not in any sort of labour. I was super surprised, and the midwife warned me that the baby was still at a high station, but once it descended a bit, it would go very fast. I was encouraged - I thought for sure I'd go into labour that day or night. But no - I woke up on Wednesday with a sigh. No baby. No contractions. Boooo. I walked about 3.5miles that day trying to getting something moving, and was now quite sure that Baby would come that evening/night. I didn't go to church, we just dropped the kids off and had one last "just us" date before our tag-along made it's appearance. Mack's Grill was yum, and I ate a ton - and unfortunately, felt perfectly fine:-)

I woke up Thursday morning again, disappointed. No labour in the night. What on earth?! I got up at 6:30 and started my day (which always starts with puttering around the kitchen...breakfast, coffee, dishwasher, etc), and I felt my belly tighten up. No pain at all, just a hard belly for about 30seconds. Not exactly big news by any stretch, but a new or different "sign" so I took mental note. Then it happened again, and took that as a "maybe this is it!" and grabbed an envelope off the island and jotted down the time. And again, and again. 6:35, 6:40, 6:45 - I woke up Brian up with a warning - I think this might be it. Painless at this point, but definitely a pattern. We decided to walk the block. I switched to keeping the time on my phone as we walked a one mile loop. Still no pain but every 5 mins consistently. When we got home I sat on the couch for a few, to see if that would make a change, but no. So I called in and talked to the midwife - given the fact that I have fast labour, was already at least at 3cm, and live more than 30mins away, she told me to come in right away (we had morning rush hour traffic to contend with). I tested positive for Group B strep a few weeks prior (a bacteria in the body harmless to mom, but can make the baby sick when exposed to it during birth) - I required 4 hrs minimum of meds before it would be considered safe to have the baby. If you don't get the meds, you have to stay in the hospital under observation for 2 days to make sure baby isn't getting sick. I've was Group B strep positive with Kenna and Brooks too. And I've not yet had a 4 hr labour, so both of them lacked sufficient meds, and we had a boring hospital stay. Back then, the hospital didn't even have wifi (nor did we have a laptop), and there was literally nothing to do. I remember with Brooks I had brought a book of crosswords and sodoku to do, LOL. This time I was sure we nailed it though - we arrived at the hospital at 9am, and still, although every 5mins, there was no significant pain yet - maybe like a mild cramp.

We unpacked our room, visited with the staff, got the IV hooked up for the meds, and they listened to the baby's labour pattern. Brian had a bit of work to do via phone & email, as did I, so we were taking care of those details - and it was really relaxing and nice. We both commented on it. With all three others I arrived at the hospital in active labour, and there has always been a flurry of commotion associated with that. This was definitely nice and calm and relaxing. Yay. I laid around on the bed, because I knew too much movement might make it go faster, and we had to last 4 hrs. Things were going well! Around 11am I was getting hungry, and told Brian he should leave and go get food - might as well, since nothing is happening, and once the baby is born we won't be able to go for awhile. Good idea. He went to go find food. This wound up taking awhile as his GPS lead him astray.

Around 11:30 the pain level increased and I could tell that the frequency was ramping up too. When the labour nurse came in, I asked her if I should be timing them, she said not to worry about it...okay, well, just so you know they are getting stronger! She said she'd tell the midwives (2 on duty that day, Lorena the midwife, and Caitlin, a midwife-in-training) to come check on me, which they did. 5cm, 0 station, 90% effaced. Lorena told me they were just going out to see their last regular patient of the day, and then they'd be in with me the rest of the afternoon. She said I could get in the tub, and maybe that would stall things for a few minutes. Good plan.

Brian got back around noon - and the contractions were definitely painful at this time. I wasn't hungry anymore, and I surely wasn't comfortable. After watching me through a couple contractions, he (who has seen this before) was like "just get in the tub" - I can't, they have to be in here, you can't just get in! But I told him what they said - last patient, then in here with us, so they should be in here any minute, no worries. Well, he'd just come through the nurses station on his way back in with the food, and had seen them leaving and discussing lunch...!!! Soooo, he was like "let me just go check on something..." and left to find our labour nurse Deanna. He told her my contractions were strong now, and I wanted to get in the tub, so she called them back. They came in by around 12:15 and said I could get in the tub - so I did.

The tub is a hot tub, but for some reason, today it was not hot! Room temp at best. Having laboured in the tub with Kenna, and having a water birth with Brooks, I knew that the tub cut the pain incredibly. Well, the secret is apparently out - it's not water that cuts the pain (although it helps with other things), it's the HEAT that cuts the pain. So I was out of luck this time. The contractions were long (over a minute each) and strong. I have nothing to compare it to, because all my labours ramp up like this in a FAST way, but let me just assure you, a fast labour might be better than a slow one, but WOW do they ever hurt. There is no graduation of pain, or "reasonable" controlled escalation as there are in normal birthing patterns. The advantage is, it doesn't hurt for long, but it hurts more. Again, I don't know this from personal experience because I can't compare to slow, but this is from what I've read on the topic. Anyway, suffice it to say, my memory must be failing me, because this hurt a heck of a lot more than I remember in the past. I was struggling to find a comfortable position in the tub, and basically nothing helped. Each contraction was feeling like it could be "the one", however, they were just sitting back watching me. Usually they give you encouragement, like, "push if you feel like it" etc. - But they didn't want me to have the baby yet, so they weren't offering me anything helpful at all.

After being in the tub for 30 minutes or so, after a doozy contraction ended, I asked - how much longer? Deanna told me "I'll let you go at 1:30! Actually, 1:27, I'll call it good at 1:27!" Ok, I replied, but what time is it now? "It's about 12:50" I just looked at her, realizing that I probably couldn't make it last 40 more minutes, but I said "I'll try"...then I felt another huge contraction ramping up, and moments after saying I'll try...I didn't really try, haha! It was something I couldn't really even control - she had to come out! In that one contraction I pushed her out (and the midwives sprung into action over the side of the tub!)

There was a little commotion going on, and the midwife was saying she couldn't grab her, and stuff like that, she also the words "en caul" but they didn't register with me - I didn't know what that meant. My mind immediately went to the negative, I thought there was something wrong. After Grey's prolapsed cord and then shoulder dystocia, I thought maybe that happened again - Shoulder dystocia is a known complication of a water birth, and they make you sign wavers to that end. What I didn't know is that my water never broke - and still hadn't. She was still in her bag of waters, and it was making it hard for them to get her!

Her little hand was up at her face - as it had been in every ultrasound we had - and that is what the midwife was able to grip at last, and pull her out the rest of the way. People ask if I looked at her in the sack, and I didn't. I was too distracted. It's one of those weird moments when it's over in a second but feels like forever at the same time. They declared her born at 12:56 on one piece of paperwork, and 12:57 on another, lol. The midwife was doing her thing (clearing the sack from her, though I didn't realize it at the time) and brought her up out of the water and handed her to me. She didn't cry and opened her eyes to look at me. Lorena said "awwww, look at him!" and I immediately thought she'd noticed that it was a boy, and wowsers, I was wrong again! But then she said "wait, do we know what it is?!" and we peeked at her curled up on my's a GIRL!

Being born en caul is very rare, happening in less than 1 in 80,000 births, apparently. It's also called "being born in a veil" - which is very fitting. I didn't know that that is what it was called. One nurse was so excited about it ("she's famous out there!") and asked if that is why we named her Vale, I was like, um...I picked this name out in LOL.

I think because of lack of pressure with me being in the tub, and the fact that she came out in one contraction, instead of more slowly, there just wasn't the pressure to pop the sack. But whatever the reason, she was another fast and easy birth (no tearing) - water births are the best!

Brian got to cut the cord this time - the only other time he did was with Kenna - Brooks was too rushed (they were scrambling big time to catch him), and Grey's was so traumatic they didn't have time for "fun stuff". I think that's all I can remember?! Some of the first pics are posted below...

A few more things - Vale and Kenna were both born in the "blue room" and both boys in the "pink room". Vale is a Brooksie twin, because they were both water births, both 8lbs even, and both have O- blood (like Dad, while Kenna and Grey are A- like Mom). Since Brooks is the only rightie, we are thinking odds are that she'll be a rightie too, and then we'll have 2 sets of boy/girl twinsies:-)

Kenna's story is here (my longest labour/birth start to finish at almost 5hrs, she was posterior and never turned)
Brooks' here (least painful labour, shortest by far, and accidental water birth)
Grey's here (fast labour, traumatic birth)

IV for meds, all hooked up! I texted this pic to the kids at home:-)

Lets have a baby! We're ready!

The first few contractions upon arriving. I couldn't feel them yet.

First picture taken of our baby after she was born. We did skin to skin for about an hour - she wasn't warming up well, maybe because that tub she was born in was so cold?! 

Getting her weighed and measured - 8lbs even, 20ins...she looks longer than 20 - I wonder if it's because she's kind of skinny, or if she wasn't all the way stretched out when then measured?

First pic with Daddy

They took her to the nursery to warm her up under the lights. They didn't want to bathe her until she was warm. That worked like a charm. I stayed back in the room and changed and re-did my makeup (kids and pics would be happening soon!), and then joined them in the nursery. She's "bald" in the front! She has the least amount of hair of all the kids, by a long shot, because of that bald patch!

Time to get back to our room!

Sweet girl

The Names I Picked

Well, if you know anything about me, you probably know that I love
names! The best part about not finding out the gender of the baby,
in my opinion, is getting to pick two names. Pretty much right from
day one I was inspired with two, Cash and Vale. (I was also pretty
certain from day one that it would be a girl...). There are few things
I like to consider when picking a name, which are consistency,
theme, etc.  I like everybody to feel like they belong together.

So our theme is sort of surnames (British isles/Irish), or place names,
for girls feminine sounding but not girly/frilly, for boys a little bit cowboy?
Each of our children have a permanent nickname, different than their
given name... all things I wanted to carry over in the naming of this baby.

Our boys carry on a tradition that my mom started with having three
names, the third name being a namesake. We have covered Brian's
Dad (and Brian's middle name) and my Dad with Brooks and Grey's
third names being James and David, so now we had to decide who
we would name the next boy after? Brian has no brothers and I have
too many LOL. It didn't seem fair to just pick one brother and leave the
others out. Using the name Brian was a consideration too. And although
there have obviously been many great-grandpas, there has only been
one alive while we've been Grandpa Shantz.
His name is John Allan, and he goes by Allan. We decided our Cash
would be named Callan Asher John. In the end if the baby had been a
boy it is possible it would have been spelled Callen, because I think
Brian preferred it and we were still kind of back and forth on that detail.
I had preferred Callan Ashton John, but Brian liked Asher a lot better
than Ashton so that was an easy switch out, especially because of the
meaning, which I'll get to...

From the past: Brian picked Brooklyn from the list of Lleyton, Brooklyn
and Callum, after his birth. I was determined to have a Grey, and Brian
loves the name Gregory, so that one fit well too. Right near the end of
Grey's pregnancy Brian suggested, kind of in a joking way that he would
name his next kid Cash, because of how expensive kids are...
and I've been inspired by it since then, I love it!
Moral of the story don't joke around with names near me you never
know what'll stick.😝

Kennedy Shea - Kenna
Brooklyn Carson James - Brooks
Lleyton Gregory David - Grey
Callan Asher John - Cash

This time around I was very interested in the meanings of the names,
which is something I didn't consider at all with the others. This time,
I just felt the need to name them well, including a name with meaning.
When I came across Callan, and saw that it meant "battle or rock",
I knew that was the one. One of the great life lessons I've been learning
is just how much God cares for me - the lengths He will go to rescue me,
and tear down the idols that I hold tightly to. I've seen God fighting for
me first hand, not always in pleasant ways that I like, but in ways I need.
And it reminds me, the battle is not mine, no matter how much I
deceive myself into thinking life is all on me to control, it really is
all about Him. My rock, my refuge and my high tower.
Asher means "happy, blessed", and
John means "Jehovah has been gracious".
I felt the name, with all three of those strung together, told a pretty
good story. One that I'd be pleased if my son would come to
understand one day...
The lengths that God will go to rescue him.
And how worthy of praise He is, always.

Here is a musical/poetic adaptation of Psalm 91,
which is the passage I gave to the idea
of this name (Getty's, My Dwelling Place,  Ps 91)

"My dwelling place is God Most High
A present help in danger
I rest secure in love’s pure light
Beneath my Master’s favor
He freed me from the fowler’s snare
Where sin and shame had bound me
Deceived I’d made my refuge there
Till fearless He came for me...

My dwelling place is God Most High
I’ll never seek another
For I am His and He is mine
My heart He’ll keep forever 
I know the Name on Whom I call
He promises to answer
With life He satisfies my soul
And crowns me with His pleasure..."

And now for the girls name! Shaughnessy has been my favorite
name ever since I heard it when I was about 10 probably?
One of my brother's classmates had a younger sister named
Shaughnessy, and I thought it was wonderful. I married someone who
does not share my passion for names in a general sense, and specifically
does not share any sort of passion for this particular name 😕.
But, he's kindly consented it to its use, multiple times.
If Grey had been a girl he would have been Shaughnessy Aleah (Shaunie).

This time around, although I still love the name, I was wanting to use
it but being drawn away from it at the same time...a certain song lyric
and biblical idea kept coming to the forefront of my mind,
"My anchor holds within the veil" (My Hope is Built on Nothing Less).

A similar thought to the boys name meaning...I am His, and He is mine.
My refuge, my anchor. All is held together by Him and for Him.
And I looked up Veil as a name. There are 3 ways to spell it, each
one carries its own meaning. I don't prefer the look of veil, and Vail
has a meaning I didn't really connect with. But Vale.
It means "valley by a stream". I guess in a certain sense that's a
regular ol' "place name" meaning, but it immediately spoke to me as "hope".
Valleys are not always the desirous place to be in life, right?
It's the mountain tops we dream about. But the stream... the water
moving through means that its not a pit, or place of despair.
Not only does our anchor hold within the veil (Christ), it also holds
in the vale (valley), because of the hope we have in Him.
He is making a way for us, mountain top or valley - those things
are just circumstances. Tools for shaping us, if you will.
He is doing something new in us as He sanctifies us, and that is
something that I'd like my girl to know as she navigates her own
highs and lows over the years, with a faithful God who will never
stop fighting for her.
Shaughnessy is a variant of John, so carries the same meaning
"Jehovah has been gracious", pairing that with "valley by a stream",
I felt the story behind the name was a solid reflection of all the things
I hope for in this little life. 

"Wonderful, powerful,

My hope, and my defender.
Mighty God, Emmanuel,
My dwelling place forever" (Psalm 91 My Dwelling Place)

Kennedy Shea - Kenna
Brooklyn Carson James - Brooks
Lleyton Gregory David - Grey
Shaughnessy Vale - Vale

Brian chose Shea for Kenna (a family name on his side). This time
he didn't really have a say 😂, my mind was so made up he was
helpless against it. He's a very good sport, I'm grateful for that!

I hope I have achieved my goals - carefully selecting names that
"go with" all the others in the family. They're all Irish/British isles.
They're all surnames or place names. They all have a permanent
nickname. They all have double letters in their first names...
ok, that last one is just a fluke 😉
They all were my absolute delight to ponder over for 40 weeks.
I just love names so much, and the reasons behind them, too 💕

"...When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

Christ alone
Weak made strong
In the Saviour's love
Through the storm
He is Lord
Lord of all" (Hillsong's Cornerstone)

She was born "en caul" which is also known as being born "in a veil". It's a very rare thing to happen (google it if you want!), and I thought that was pretty cool - good confirmation in my mind that I picked just the right name for her, all the way around 💕

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Baby Reveal

Well, the biggest news of 2018, for us anyway, was the unexpected arrival of our little baby. Due Nov 11th, we announced it to family and friends via this video a few days after telling the kids.

 The uncut version of us telling the kids:

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Kennedy's 12th Birthday Trip

In February, Brian announced his "idea" to the family - it was news to me too, as I don't ever remember having this conversation with him...that 12 would be the "big kid" birthday, not 13. He thought to make it special, each kid could pick what they wanted to do, and where they wanted to go - the rule was it had to be within a reasonable days drive, or a cheap flight.

Kennedy was about to turn 12, so she had to decide really quickly! She wasn't coming up with any really great ideas, I mean, what is there to do in the world when you've never done anything? Haha! She was struggling to think of what might make a good trip. I helped her out with a few ideas - not pushing one over another, just giving her an idea of what things you could do on a fun weekend away.
She chose to see a play - the Sound of Music was touring off Broadway and would be about 3hrs away a month after her birthday. We got tickets, and formed a plan from there. 
She picked the hotel. Free hotel breakfast was very important on her list, so she picked the one that seemed like it had the best breakfast:-)
We did some shopping! And I had made an appointment for her to get her hair cut/done at a fancy salon while we were there.
Before the cut!

One of the malls we visited & shopped at in Raleigh Durham area, NC

We went to Maggiano's Little Italy for lunch one day. They don't have those in our area, so it was fun to try something new (for her, I was a fan from my Chicago days)

She picked out a dress for the event all herself - well, with a little help narrowing it down from me:-) I knew she'd be attending my sisters wedding in a few months as well, so it served double duty. She chose the colour.

Hair and makeup done for the theater!

I was 3 or 4 months (who can keep track) pregnant with Baby # 4.

The Tobacco District in Durham, North Carolina

Hotel lobby pic. She looked so pretty and so grown up!

I re-wore my dress from Janessa's wedding in December, and broke in the shoes for Jillaine's wedding, upcoming in June.


We had such a fun weekend away, doing all the fave things and splurging on all the things we normally wouldn't. She got her fave Panera soup and bread bowl. We finally bought that Arby's chocolate mint shake we'd always wanted to try but never had. Truly a lovely time, with a lovely, quickly growing up, girl 💗