Category Archives: Family

The Strength Of A Woman – 12 Pregnancies in 11 years

Many will say that women are the weaker sex. Many are wrong, some are right. We have our weak moments, ladies, but so often we rise above because we call out to the One through whom we are able to do all things. (Philippians 4:13) Women, we possess a tremendous inner strength that is unlike anything the world has ever seen before or ever will again. If you’re nodding your head right now, you know exactly what I mean. You’ve experienced soul crushing, heart wrenching pain, haven’t you?

I’ll bet you’re wondering about the title. How is it possible to be pregnant 12 times in eleven years? Oh, it is if you’ve had eight miscarriages, three cesareans and are pregnant with your thirteenth baby (the first pregnancy was twins and resulted in a miscarriage). If you’re wondering if “it” ever gets easier. No, the loss of a child is never easy. Time can scab over the wound, but it’s not fully healed for a long time. Every time I give birth to just one baby at a time, I mourn the loss of my first pregnancy – twins. This isn’t to say I’m not immensely grateful for the children I do hold in my arms. It’s just sad to never have met them or have that situation redeemed in the way I’d like to see it happen. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

There is a plan in everything that God does and I believe it is to strengthen us, to bring us closer to Himself and to break our will without breaking our Spirit. (Isaiah 55:8; Jeremiah 29:11) When my twins died, one at a time, they were six and eight weeks gestation, respectively. My husband shipped out for boot camp the day after we lost the second one. I nearly died from the infection that followed. There were a lot of tears, a lot of silent prayers and a whole lot of moments where all I could do was cry out to God. Was I brought closer to Him? Absolutely. He is Comforter, Friend, Counselor. (Matthew 5:1-12) He has been all those things to my husband, too.

Theresa was conceived three short months after the miscarriage. We all held our breath, wondering if this one would stick. She did! A healthy baby girl was born in the middle of a chaotic night in mid September ten years ago – the very night my husband returned home from his first overseas deployment. I’d went into labor spontaneously at the airport, but didn’t realize I’d been leaking amniotic fluid all day long and the baby was in distress. An emergency cesarean saved her life and brought her fully into mine.

Miscarriage number two happened before Chelsea was born. It was such a blip on our radar because we were preparing for deployment for number 2. We mourned a little together, Anthony and I…and then I watched his ship sail into the horizon and drove home sadly.

Chelsea was born during deployment number three, the following year. Fortunately, my husband was able to stay state-side for the birth (a repeat cesarean, even though I’d gone into spontaneous labor twelve hours earlier and was progressing normally). He was able to fly down to Panama to join his command after the birth. We were really blessed by that extra time together. The healing from the second cesarean took a little longer than we’d anticipated.

Miscarriages number three through five happened all in one year. We have no idea what caused any of these. My guess is a combination of stress and hormonal imbalances? I don’t know. I thought about looking into it, but with my husband deployed every year for six years straight, and raising two little girls on my own, I just didn’t have the heart or the time. My weight, my attitude, poor eating habits and lack of motivation to do much except “get through the days” were all reflective of the deep pain I was feeling inside. Internally, my thought process was “I’m a terrible Mother. God took my babies to punish me. He hates me and wants me to know with certainty that I’m undeserving of anything good.” As you can probably guess, my depression worsened and I wanted to die. (Job 3:11)

Miscarriages six through eight occurred sporadically over the next three years. All were early trimester losses and I never even made it to my first obgyn appointments to see their heartbeats. The bleeding began shortly after receiving positive test results for pregnancy. We mourned those quietly. Most never even knew we’d been pregnant.

Jackson was born on a sunny morning in late May two years ago. When the obgyn was sewing up my cesarean wound, he remarked that he’d also removed a fair amount of scar tissue from my uterus. He stated that this would make the next pregnancy easier, more successful. At the time, it was little consolation to me. I wasn’t sure I would ever want to have another child again. Three cesareans was enough to break my spirit just a little more. Not only couldn’t I carry most of my babies past the first trimester, my body also couldn’t give birth. A mix of joy over the birth of our first boy and sorrow over the loss of ever being able to give birth vaginally crashed over me like tidal waves. As I healed physically from the surgery, I suffered moments of regret so intense I truly believed that I didn’t deserve any of my children. My best childhood friend had just given birth to her third baby vaginally, unmedicated not long before I had Jackson, and I couldn’t even birth one that way. What kind of Mother fails her baby in the most basic way? I wondered, “would I ever give birth ‘the right way’?”

Flash forward to about a month ago, and I finally had my answer to so many questions I’d been asking myself for years. While filling out a birth plan form for an obgyn, I had this funny feeling that I should not be checking the boxes for a repeat cesarean. It’s difficult to describe just what was going through my mind, because I truly don’t believe the thoughts came from within my own head – they were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. As I read off the option of “I would like a mirror placed at the end of the bed so that I can see my baby being born,” I thought “well, that would be nice!”  I didn’t check it off. I knew it wasn’t a possibility for me. No one does a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) after three. Or do they? (They do! Read ACOG Guidelines here!)

Something sparked inside of me, and I looked around on YouTube and Facebook for a support group or some sort of advice. Was it possible? Could I dare to dream? I found a local VBAC support group and read about a miracle VBAC doctor. He’d recently, successfully completed a VBA3C at a local hospital.  My heart beat violently inside of my chest and my eyes turned toward the hills, as I prayed silently “Lord, could this be me? Could I be one of those women who boasts about the miracle You have done within them?” A little research and a whole lot of prayer later, I was on the phone with a hospital administrator who is not only VBAC friendly, but was encouraging me to go for a VBAC. I took her advice and ran with it. As soon as I got off the phone with her, I called the miracle doctor and made an appointment.

Flash forward to today, I am on my way to a VBA3C (Vaginal Birth After 3 Cesareans). The miracle doctor encouraged me to get a volunteer doula and to take childbirth classes. I’ve done both and I have to say, I’ve never been more encouraged or felt more supported while pregnant. I have the only male doula in my area, and while some would balk at that, I say “puh! You don’t know what you’re missing!” He’s a great source of support for both my husband and me. I’m also able to meet with the midwife at my doctor’s office for most of my prenatal visits (though it will be the miracle doctor who delivers Isaiah). Midwives are an amazing source of encouragement and support, too. How vastly different, how divinely blessed is this pregnancy! I cannot thank the LORD enough! I cannot praise Him enough! Every day, I’m waking up and thanking Him for this day. No matter what stress is going on in my life, it’s still a good day. I’m one day closer to my very first vaginal birth. One day closer to restoration. (Joel 2:25)

God is good. I know I can endure great suffering because God is right there in the midst of it with me, strengthening me. (Romans 5:3)

There are so many resources out there that now tote the dangers of repeat cesareans and give hope to the possibility of VBACs after multiple cesareans. You are not stuck in a repeat cesarean. You can switch providers! You can do this! (More ACOG support!) Call your local hospital, ask about their policies and ask to speak with the VBAC friendly nurse or doctor. Be firm, and remind the hospital that policy is not law. (Don’t be rude, though!) You have to advocate for yourself, decide in your mind that you can do this, and then run with it, no matter what anyone says. Keep looking for the VBAC friendly doctor – that miracle doctor out of hundreds that will say yes even after everyone else says no. (You’re going to find that most of these doctors are classically trained, so expect an older doctor. Not always, but often.)

There is great pain in child loss, in miscarriage, in infertility, in birth plans not going the way we’d hoped. There is also great healing to be found when we take our pain straight into the arms of Christ. He is knitting solutions into the problems we never knew we had.

Lord, I lift up to You the pain of others who also have suffered pregnancy loss. I lift up those who have lost infants and children young and old. You are good. You are capable of comforting, of healing and restoring. Thank You for never leaving any of us in our time of need. We love You, LORD. All Glory, Praise and Honor go to You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

 

The Naming of the Boy

In a previous post, I’d mentioned that we’re naming our fourth little bundle of joy Isaiah Mark Anthony, and I promised to share the story behind the name. While I know a lot of people don’t like to share names until their child is born, I don’t personally mind. “Steal” the name, or don’t. It doesn’t diminish from the meaning we’ve put behind it for our child.

“Isaiah” is an ancient Hebrew name meaning “Yahweh is Salvation.” My husband chose this name and while I initially argued for “Jeremiah” instead, the name has grown on me and I absolutely love it. It completely fits our family. God is our salvation. His very name, “Isaiah” will be a daily reminder who his helper is and where he can go in time of need. I love that legacy. May it continue to bless our family tree for generations to come.

“Mark” was my biological father’s name. He passed away last November, the day after Thanksgiving. I took it very hard because we were never close. He did not raise me. I didn’t even meet him until after I’d turned 18. Our relationship was rocky, at best. The hardest part of his death was accepting that I’d never have the earthly father I’d always wanted, needed and dreamed about. I had to completely mourn the loss of that dream. I’m still mourning it, if I’m being completely honest. Naming my son Mark is, to me, an acceptance of what was and giving a nod to what still can be, through another generation. We are not stuck in a cycle of abuse. We can end it, heal and move on toward a brighter tomorrow. “Mark” is an old latin name that means “god of war.” We hope our son will grow into a man of strong conviction towards the Christian faith.

“Anthony” is both my biological father’s middle name and my husband’s first name. I love this for two reasons: we’re nodding to the past, while looking towards the future. My husband is a loving, present father who daily makes sacrifices for his family. To be blunt, he’s everything my father never was. Because of Anthony, the cycle of hurt, neglect and abuse has been broken and we’re working towards a legacy of faith-filled family ties. The name “Anthony” means priceless, inestimable or praiseworthy. It’s an old English/Roman name and I think it’s wonderful, just like my husband.

We are only about eight and a half weeks from Isaiah’s due date, though I truly have a feeling he’ll be here a little earlier than that. I cannot wait to hold our little bundle of joy, lay hands on his sweet little head and bless him immediately following birth. We also have a tradition of reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to our children within an hour or two of birth. It’s a reminder for us to love our children, no matter what trials come during our time raising them, and a blessing for our children to immediately be surrounded by the Word of God. On a whim, I began this tradition with our first baby, Theresa while my husband was sleeping. The thought occurred to me that now I’m a Mother. There is a huge responsibility on me to show this child what love is and how to love. Though I’ve struggled over the years to do this well, the Lord has been patient, merciful, gracious and kind to me as He teaches me, corrects me and guides me on right paths. I love the scripture in 1 Timothy 2:15 which states “Yet a woman will be brought safely through childbirth if she and her husband continue to live in faith and love and growing holiness, with habitual self-restraint.

The Lord is so good to our family. I am amazed by all that He has done and brought us through. All Glory, Honor and Praise rightly goes to Him for the blessings and the refining trials in our lives.

I’d love to hear from all of you what you think of our son’s name and how the Lord has blessed you. You can feel free to leave a comment or join us on Facebook.

Love,

Mandy

Pray for Brookings, OR

I haven’t spoken about this, but it’s been on my mind and in my heart. You may have seen a couple posts I’ve shared among friends on Facebook, but…
 
My hometown in Oregon is in as severe danger as Texas, but because of fire, not rain. The fire is consuming over 100,000 acres of forested lands and is growing very quickly. It’s only 5 miles from the city limits. My beloved Mother in Law and her husband still reside there, for now. It may not be long before they’ll be required to evacuate. I know their two dogs are affected by the smoke in the air. Please keep them in your prayers.
oregon-wildfires-burn-across-state-of-oregon
Photo: Amanda Douglass, via Inciweb
 
My Mom and her husband also live in Brookings. My younger brother is also there. Between them, they have two dogs. I’m sure they’re affected by the fire as well. Pray for them, please?
 
In addition, there is an extremely large homeless population in my hometown due to the housing crash in 2015 (the same year we became homeless!) There are countless children, infants, women and elderly who are severely affected by these conditions. I know that our prayers are desperately needed.
 
I regret not posting anything sooner. It’s just that this situation is too close to my heart and if you know me well, you know that some things I have to process before I can ever discuss in detail. I don’t ever plan to return to Brookings in this life unless the Lord physically forces me back there for some reason.
 
 
If you’d like to keep up to date on what’s happening there, I’ve provided a link. I’m sure there are countless links to fundraising sites, however, if you truly want to help, I will direct you to one reliable source to give that has more than 20 years track record of reaching out to homeless, elderly, disenfranchised and children. St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church is the hub of homeless ministries and their Vicar, Father Bernie Lindley is a local fisherman and has his hand in many different community organizations. He was born and raised in Brookings and knows the people well. He’s well respected by local first responders and government officials and has the community’s backing to help those in need. You can reach Father Bernie Lindley at St. Timothy’s on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 9 am and 12 noon (PST) by calling: (541) 469-3314 or by email: office@sttimothyepiscopal.org or bernie@sttimothyepiscopal.org
 
Or you can get more information on the ministries they offer by clicking: St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church
Thank you for your prayers and support of the community during this time.

Pregnancy Updates, Revamping the Blog and Life Changes

It has been about four months since I’ve written a word on here. Honestly, I’ve been hemming and hawing over what to do. We’ve had several big life changes, including moving to a new town, pregnancy, removing our kids from public school and career changes. As my good friend put it recently, “What’s a normal pregnancy without a move?” (Yes, we move a lot.) I just haven’t made time to sit and write, or to revamp the older content that I know isn’t working.

Sitting here on my birthing ball, I’m ruminating over all the changes still to come. God has brought us so far, and as I look around, there are still an amazing amount of changes yet to come. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed, I remember his promise in Philippians 1:6 (Berean Study Bible Translation): For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Ahh. That makes me feel better! He’s not going to leave me in this messy state!

One of the greatest changes yet to come is that I’m working with an OB/GYN and a doula to achieve my very first VBA3C (vaginal birth after three caesareans)! I am beyond thrilled! I have had all three of my babies via cesarean (not by choice) as the first one was an emergency c-section and the other two were repeats, via “hospital policy.” I’m planning an all natural, unmedicated VBAC for baby Isaiah Mark Anthony. (More on his name in an upcoming blog post.)

All of these changes are good. All of the work that God is doing is good, even the tough stuff behind the scenes (still paying down debt and continuing to learn to live frugally).

Back to revamping the blog – there’s been a lot of hard, heart-wrenching work that God has been doing in our lives over the past few years that I want to share with you. I know the layout isn’t fantastic and some of the content is outdated and needs to go or be revamped. This is where you come in. Can y’all let me know honestly what works and what doesn’t? What do you want to see more of? Let me know in the comments below. I’m going to be getting back an official domain name here soon, too.

Thank you to all my long-time readers and the new ones who inspire me and uplift me.

Love,

Miss Mandy

 

 

 

You’re Pregnant Again?!

About 3 weeks prior to giving birth to Jackson, my mind was set on tubal ligation. I was “done” having babies. – then I heard God clearly say “You’re going to have a son who’s going to help him (Jackson) in his ministry.” And I knew then that I wasn’t done having babies. I was honestly crushed and my first reaction was a curse word.

It took almost a year before I was even entertaining the thought seriously of having more children. I didn’t want more. It’s not that I don’t love kids, it’s that I’m a planner. I look at the realities of how much raising kids costs, what my husband’s career goals are, and I evaluate the health needs of my family (spiritual, mental, physical) along with economics. Having more kids makes absolutely zero sense financially. Looking at it from a purely spiritual viewpoint, it makes a *little more sense. I grow more with each child. I’m stretched beyond what I thought I could handle and I’m faced with many more faith building situations with each child’s unique set of life challenges – illnesses, discipline methods, personality clashes, learning differences, to name a few. Bottom line: raising kids is really tough! It’s not for the selfish, lazy or faint of heart. It grows you, changes you and redirects your focus to something so much bigger than yourself. There are so many parallels between parenthood and our faith walk that are beautiful, affirming and shore us repeatedly that God alone is fully worthy of praise. Parenthood is the toughest role I’ve ever taken on and I’m grateful that Anthony and I never have to do it alone. God is always here.
Parenthood brings multiple challenges especially harsh criticisms and judgment, even from people who truly don’t mean any harm. I see the looks people give me when one of my kids acts out in public. They’re judgemental, condemning. They reduce me to mere inches before I fight inwardly with myself to “toughen up”. When people discover I’m pregnant with my fourth baby, many make rude and disparaging comments such as:
“you know what causes that, right” ( Yeah, and it’s both fun and biblical to enjoy sex and have loads of it)
“All from the same father?” ( We’ve been together twenty years, so YES!)
“What are you going to do with four?” (Do you have any idea how much this one makes me feel like you’re calling me a horrible mother? Love them. I’m going to LOVE them.)
“Are you done after this?” (Ask God. It’s His choice how much He wants to bless us.)
“I just never saw the point in having so many kids when there’s so many unwanted kids already waiting to be adopted.” (Then go adopt and stop harassing me. I don’t fully disagree with you. I hope to adopt someday, too.)
“Can you handle another?” (I have to mentally edit at least five potential responses before I gracefully end with “yes, with God’s help.”)
Bottom line, I’m not done having children until the Lord shuts my womb. I fully trust Him to make that time abundantly clear. He has guided me through every other major decision and life change. I’m not going to stop trusting Him now. Can I “afford” more kids? Nope. Am I daily concerned with that fact? You betcha! I take that to Him in prayer almost hourly some days. He always provides. My faith grows and my husband, children and I are absolutely never without our most basic need – Jesus.
It’s time to change our views on parenthood, family sizes and pregnancy in the USA. We have, as a society at large, such a disconnect from God, from the Bible’s Wisdom and solid teaching and from simple faith, causing us to make far too many wrong, unbiblical and hurtful assumptions. God’s providence doesn’t always look the way we believe it will. It rarely involves comfortable methods for any party involved and it very rarely involves actual currency (for those overly concerned with that fact).
We’re so blessed to know, love and serve a very big God who intimately knows us, gives us infinitely more than we ever dared hope for and surrounds with His loving care and protection – even when it involves people and situations that cause us discomfort.
Parenthood is humbling. It’s terrifying at times. It’s always, always, always worth the sacrifices and hard work. We can all plan out our paths, but it’s the Lord who directs our steps. Maybe we could all be a bit more mindful of that?

Family

Why I Don’t Use Birth Control And Never Will Again

I, Mandy, boldly declare that I do not currently use birth control and I never will again. I’m about to tell you why, but first…a photo of my amazing family!

Family
Aren’t they cute?

This is a hot topic, isn’t it? Let’s all agree that no matter what our views are, we will discuss this topic in a respectful manner. I’m posting this based on my personal feelings after having researched this and considered for quite some time. I didn’t just get a wild hair and decided to make everyone mad. 😉

First of all, I want to say that in past, I have used both “the pill” and Paragard. I recommend neither for reasons that are both secular and faith-based. The pill I used was Seasonale. What this particular pill offers is birth control with regularly scheduled periods every three months. That’s nice if you hate periods, or, like me, you needed a jump-start to your periods because you hadn’t had one in four years. Yep. I started this pill long before I even became sexually active. I have a long, painful history of endometriosis and ovarian cysts that burst every four months or so, causing me a ton of pain.

Back to the pill. I took this pill for just under a year and then stopped. When I got married to Anthony, I decided I didn’t want to take birth control. To me, it felt irresponsible. When you have sex, you have to know that pregnancy is possible. If you don’t want to get pregnant, don’t have sex. I have always had a strong faith in God, and I wanted to let Him decide the size and timing of our family. It never felt right to prolong pregnancy for any reason. I will touch more on this in a moment, in addition to the downside of any birth control pill, even Seasonale.

Flash forward five years to 2011. I was healing from yet another miscarriage (I’ve had more than I can count on both hands) and I wasn’t dealing with it well emotionally. My husband was deployed again and I was raising our two girls alone in a weird town, surrounded by people I didn’t really know all that well. I felt pressured to stop having babies, and I wrongly succumbed to the pressure. I started a conversation with my doctor that lead to me making an appointment to get an IUD installed in my body. I chose Paragard at the advice of another friend. This device remained in me for two and a half years until I just could not take it anymore and I got the thing out of me. Seven months later, I got pregnant with Jackson. He is now about to turn a year old! Cue the cute baby picture…

Baby Saber
Jackson chose an advanced weapon from a more civilized time as his first toy weapon. That’s my boy!

All that having been said, I’m going to tell you now what issues I had with birth control and will always have with any and every form of birth control. They stop God’s blessings from coming. I do not believe that it’s ever okay to limit what God wants to do in my life. By taking birth control, I would be doing just that.

I am pro-life. This includes suicide, doctor assisted suicide the death penalty and abortion for any reason. It also includes birth control. I believe that life begins at conception and I have not seen evidence to support that it doesn’t. I am open to receiving actual scientific proof, but so far, it doesn’t exist. There is, however, scientific evidence that a flash of light occurs at conception. That is incredibly exciting! You can read the article HERE.

My biggest issue with “the pill” (all types of birth control pills”) is that they thin out the uterine lining, making the womb a very hostile place for fertilized eggs, and keeps them from implanting. Instead, they cause your body to eliminate the egg, fertilized or not. This means you can still conceive a child but thanks to the pill, it will not implant, so the fertilized egg – your baby – will be eliminated from your system. It will be aborted within a week of conception. It’s not a natural phenomena because your body hasn’t just randomly selected this life to end. It ended because your body has synthetic hormones inside that are making it a hostile environment for fragile new life. I’m not okay with that. In fact, I feel really sick to my stomach considering that fact. I was on the pill for a couple of months after getting married. I have had to really pray and ask for God’s forgiveness, knowing that I may have gotten pregnant sooner, had I not been on “the pill.” If you’re interested in reading more about birth control pills and what they do, please visit the links at the bottom of this blog posting.

What I’ve discovered about IUDs is not much better. They are inserted into your uterus and are supposed to prevent sperm from ever meeting an egg, however, they can still meet an egg and you can still conceive and abort a baby while having an IUD inserted, just like being on “the pill” and I am 100% not okay with that. One of the ten commandments directs us not to murder and I take that seriously. I don’t believe that passively murdering the unborn is acceptable in the Lord’s eyes.

All that having been said, I also understand that it’s quite the challenge to raise a large family in this day and age and that everything is really expensive, kids are a challenge and that money doesn’t go too far for most families. Yep. I totally get that! I also know that what is impossible for us to accomplish on our own, God makes possible through His people, through faith and through very hard work. I also know from personal experience that we do not need as much stuff or as many activities as we think we need. But that is a blog post and a discussion for another time entirely. 😉

What should you do if you’re currently on a form of birth control? That is for you to decide. You will need to talk about it with your doctor and make a decision that is right for you and that is in line with your own beliefs. If you’re a Christian, I encourage you to discuss this issue with your Pastor or another trusted member of your church leadership in order to gain more insight. Weigh this against God’s Word. I encourage you to seek out what the Bible says as well. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you, through God’s Word what you are to know regarding this topic. Prayerfully ask God to make clear what He wants you to do. I am not going to tell you what to do or not do beyond that. It’s your body and this is your choice. I encourage you to educate yourself before making any decision. Whenever I’ve jumped into things without ruminating on them for a while, I’ve always regretted it. Don’t do or not do something because someone told you to.

Sterilization is something I’ve only recently heard discussed in faith communities and I don’t feel that for our family, it’s a good choice. I may change my mind later, but right now, my personal belief is that while it doesn’t even allow for any chance of conception, it still limits what God can do in your life. I don’t want to limit that. I want to do what God asks me to do, no matter what. Parenting is hard, but it sanctifies me. It blesses me. It sanctifies and blesses my husband. And it increases the number of God’s people on the earth. In the end, I believe it blesses God, too.

As I was editing this post before posting, I read it to Anthony in order to gain his insight. After all, he is a big part of our growing family! 😉 He said he agrees wholeheartedly. I’m not too surprised since this is a topic he and I have been discussing at length recently because…I have the baby fever again and we are hoping to conceive again, in God’s timing. Our family is not “done” yet.

Having said all that, I am very curious to know what your beliefs are on birth control. Do you believe it’s okay to use it? Do you believe God calls us to use it? What about sterilization? Do you feel that it’s okay to medically sterilize yourself in order to avoid pregnancy? What have been your experiences? Please share them respectfully in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helpful links:

http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-pills

http://www.pfli.org/faq_oc.html

http://www.hhs.gov/opa/reproductive-health/contraception/birth-control-pills/

http://www.rxlist.com/birth_control_pills-page2/drugs-condition.htm

http://americanpregnancy.org/?s=birth+control

http://www.acog.org/Search?Keyword=birth+control

http://www.drugs.com/seasonale.html

http://paragard.com/What-is-Paragard.aspx?&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=paragard&utm_campaign=Branded%207/15&utm_content=sVNUIk71A_pcrid_86316850505_pdv_c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feed The Pig {Small Savings, Big Reward}

Hey y’all! Do you want to go on vacation next summer? Us too! We can’t afford to make a line item in our budget for a vacation, so we’ve had to get tricky and think outside the box in order to fund our first ever family vacation. Yes, I said first ever. We’ve never been on a real family vacation before, so we’re planning to take one in 2017 no matter what. 

But how will you fund this thing, you ask? We’re feeding our pig! No, we don’t own a real pig. We have a big, chubby piggy bank we’re feeding every time we find a coin or cash in our bottles and cans for money. All of that goes straight into the pig.

Pig
Seriously the saddest photo of a pig I’ve ever seen. This pig needs to go on vacation!

How did you ever get such an odd idea, you ask? I got this idea on my birthday when I was thinking up ways to give a gift to my family because they have given me the gift of love everyday. I shared my idea with them and they love it!

Originally, we’d started saving coins in a clear two and a half-gallon jug, but we could see the coins and after years of emptying it every time we had an “emergency” we decided that just wouldn’t work, so now we’re feeding the pig! So far, we have it about half full already! We estimate there is about $50 in there, but to be fair…it was already about 1/4 full when I first got the idea.  I’m excited to crack that piggy open next summer and see what’s inside!

You might be asking “well, what happens when you fill the pig? Will you empty it out and refill it?” Well, yes and no. We’re going to leave all the money in there until next summer. When this pig is full, we’re going to fill another pig. Ideally, we’ll make our own pig out of fun recycled materials. If we do, I’ll be sure to share the tutorial of how we did it. If not, you know me…I’ll fess up and humble myself enough to tell you we broke down and purchased one at the Dollar Tree or a yard sale. 😉 I estimate we’ll fill this pig by the end of summer, but we’ll see!

We have some ideas about what we want to do. The kids obviously want to go to Disney Land, but I am vehemently opposed. I do not fit that into my list of values. There are much more frugal things to do with that money, y’all! Personally, I’d prefer my kids experience a national park or a cool new beach. I want to experience the outdoors and reset our natural clocks…maybe get Anthony to wake up before 8 am for once? (Yes, I am one of those annoying morning people. I wake up happy, want the house cleaned and children fed before 9 am. I swear, I was meant to be an Army drill sergeant. I missed my calling.)

Anyway, this is going to be a really interesting experiment. If we can all keep up with it, we’re going to have an amazing time. If not, well, I hope the kids like beans and wieners cooked over a campfire at a local campground because I am absolutely serious when I say we’re going on a vacation next year and it’s absolutely not going to be funded by our line item budget – this is all to be funded by coins and bottle returns.

What is the oddest way you’ve ever funded a vacation? Have you ever tried to fund one from bottle returns and coins? How did that work out for you? Share in the comments below. And remember – feed your pig!

 

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A random photo of my adorable son enjoying his first BBQ rib last night. Because my sense of humor is nuts and I love showing off my super amazing kids. Enjoy! 

Christians and Alcohol

This is one of those “hot topic” moments where I’m going to address something that you might not like or agree with. You may have very strong feelings regarding alcohol and your feelings are totally valid! (Seriously!) I am, however, going to ask that you read this with an open mind and use respectful language when replying in the comments – or emailing me privately. Thanks! 

From time to time, I’ll see a friend or Christian news site post something negative on the topic of Christianity and alcohol consumption. While I completely understand why so many claim that to be a “good” Christian you must remain sober all the time, I just don’t agree. Alcohol and Christianity can and do mix, in my opinion. In fact, I believe you can be a very lousy Christian and still be sober. Alcohol has little to do with it. I believe that what so many are focused on are heart issues.

There are many people who use alcohol as a means to control behaviors or situations, whether it be their own or someone else’s. Alcohol can be used as an escape from reality or as a celebratory beverage. It can be consumed in moderation or excess and it can be consumed in a Holy way or a sinful manner. Many would concur that a sip of wine during communion is perfectly acceptable for most folks. Is that sinful? I don’t believe it is. What about a hardworking Christian coming home  from work and having a beer while preparing dinner for their family? Is that sinful? It could be, but it depends on the intent.

There are people – like my husband and I – that enjoy a beer every few months. We usually will crack open a Corona while making tacos. I’ll take a few sips, crack a silly joke and then hand off the beer to my husband to finish because I’m a light weight. We’ll crack open another beer in about a month in a similar fashion, usually while making tacos or chili. Our kids may or may not be paying attention to what we’re drinking. If they ask, we’ll tell them honestly that it’s beer. Beer is an adult drink and we enjoy it occasionally because to us, it tastes good. We’ll go on to explain that it’s not good to drink too much because it’s not God honoring to get drunk, but it is okay to drink a little beer sometimes. If our kids question further, we’ll answer honestly, but they usually don’t. Someday we’ll have a full, open and honest discussion about the effects of alcohol, however, right now they’re not even ten years old yet and show such little interest in it. If they had shown interest, we’d have had the full talk.

Anthony and I drink very responsibly, don’t drive afterwards and don’t rely on alcohol to “make us feel better” or to fix anything in our lives. It’s more of a festive, celebratory deal for us. We have maybe five or six beers total a year. And maybe one or two bottles of wine. Part of this is due to cost, but mostly it’s because we don’t crave it, don’t feel it’s an important part of everyday life and understand that it can be over consumed, leading to a serious breakdown of self and family. We know we’re responsible for taking care of our greatest blessings – our kids, and we don’t want to do anything or drink anything that will inhibit us from fulfilling our roles as parents. Consequently, I don’t drink during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, so in the last year, we’ve had maybe one beer total and no wine or other forms of alcohol. (If you are breastfeeding, please know that alcohol remains in your system for up to four hours after consuming it, so you’ll need to pump and dump your milk and use alcohol-free pre-pumped milk to feed your baby during that time.)

Children are susceptible to outside influences, of course. They can be tempted to try alcohol at a friends’ house or even by media such as television, movies, books, magazines and even social media. This is why Anthony and I feel it’s important to have an open dialogue with our kids, on their level. Since we rarely have alcohol in the house, we use other outlets to introduce the topic to our children, such as passing a bar or restaurant that is known to serve alcohol. One day our eldest daughter wanted to go into a bar because she saw that they were having a pool tournament and it looked like fun to her. We explained that she could not go in and that we weren’t likely to either. This prompted the usual “why” response from her and we launched into a mutual, informative discussion on why not. This particular bar didn’t serve food and Anthony and I don’t see a point in entering an establishment that only serves alcohol, especially since we never finish even one drink ourselves. We don’t enjoy the physical effects of drinking too much alcohol and we certainly have no desire to hang out in a place where everyone else is enjoying an activity that we don’t. We’d prefer to spend our time doing things with people we love – like our kids. This satisfied her curiosity for now. I’m sure she or one of her siblings will ask again and we’ll answer truthfully, in much the same way.

 

I’m curious to hear what God’s said to you all regarding alcohol. And if you’re not “religious” what do you feel is acceptable for Christians? There are no wrong or stupid answers!

 

RV Life – Week One {Debt Free Journey}

Moving into an RV is hard to do in less than a month! But it’s worth it. I already know by the amount of difficulty we’ve had this far. Whenever our family is challenged greatly, we learn amazing lifetime lessons.

Whenever I’ve encountered a challenge in the last few days, I remind myself why we’re on this journey. I envision the outcome and then I find the strength to keep going.

We spent our last night at our rental home preparing the motorhome to live in full time. That was a challenge! Even though we’d sold, given away and donated about 90% of our stuff – we still have had to face the fact that we have too much! All these years, I’ve thought I needed a glass, fork, plate, knife for everything. Well, I don’t! A coffee cup works for tea, coffee, hot cocoa, cider, etc. It’s a multi-purpose cup! Who knew? 😉 And a steak knife cuts a whole lot more than just steak. Just saying.

We thought that because we didn’t shop excessively that we were being frugal and careful with our money. We thought that because we’d downsized about a year ago (donating over 70% of our stuff) that we’d already entered the  world of minimalism – you know, dipping our toes in, testing the waters. Well, we didn’t even have a full toe nail in the water! I seriously recommend a full two months or more to downsize to just the bare essentials. With a family, I’d increase that to three months because life happens and children are so much more important than stuff – incoming or outgoing stuff. We simply didn’t have a choice this time around. The rental market crashed, our rental home was put on the market and we were given 30 days to move out. We felt God calling us into RV life and we quickly answered “sure thing, God!”IMG_20151008_174432

I’m glad we didn’t think this fully through first. We might not have obeyed. We would be missing out on great blessings.

The amount of work this has required and is still requiring, is teaching our kids to move past their comfort zones.  It’s shaking them up in a good way. Suddenly, they can’t just sit in front of a television. They have to get up and explore the world around them. They can’t dump out all 300 wooden blocks because there is no room for that. They must get creative. And they must begin helping with chores.

A major disservice we’ve done to our kids is to relent when they fight us on chores. Because of that, the girls haven’t learned about the importance of a good work ethic. They’re learning now, out of necessity! Future bosses and co-workers of my children – you’re welcome. 😉 Seriously though, it’s been good for all of us. It’s team building and I see small fruits forming already.  In due season, they’ll ripen and be ready for the harvest.

We’ve encountered our fair share of challenges, but we have hope, faith and spirit. We have love. And we will conquer this mountain and be all the better for it.

Both girls yelling in RV doorway

When God Asks YouTo Do Something Incredibly Brave {Part 2}

Hopefully by now, you’ve read part 1 and know that we’re in the process of moving our family of five plus one dog into an RV to live in full-time. I have a little update for you – we’ve purchased the RV and are in the process of fixing it up as we clean out our rental house. This weekend, we’ll be selling just about everything we own and packing the rest into our little tiny house. We will be moving into it full-time in about ten days or less!

Our RV is a late 80’s model with only 53,000 miles on it. “Georgie Boy” has had just one owner in his lifetime. (Yes, I name all our vehicles). He’s been well kept. We paid far less than $10,000 for our new home and are hoping it was a good investment. We’ll see!

Both girls yelling in RV doorway
Welcome to our new home!

We are painting the cabinets white, the walls a light yellow and will recover all of the fabrics. The carpet is pretty new, so we’ll steam clean what little of that there is.

Girls and beds
Chelsea is pointing to what will be her bed – the pull out couch. Theresa is pointing to her bed, a pull down bunk.

We will be putting the curtains back up soon. I pulled them out to wash them. They’re a warm sandy color and we’ll be keeping them for now. I will likely tie dye them this coming spring because I hail from a hippy and it got into my blood. 😉

RV kitchen
This is the sum of my new kitchen. What adventures will we cook up in here?

We do plan to paint the counter tops and make them look like faux granite counter tops. Also, not shown is the refrigerator/freezer. We will be painting the outsides in chalkboard paint to create a fun family message center. Because I need all three kids underfoot when I cook on that tiny three burner stove. I really do. 😉

Tiny bathroom
Five people, one bathroom. Madness. Or as Chelsea put it – “Poopin’ on a plane”

I’m not real keen on the towel racks either and will eventually be replacing those with something more fun and whimsical. Stay tuned for that!

View front to back
View from living room/girls sleeping space to kitchen, bathroom and “master bedroom” area

That kitchen faucet has totally got to go! Anthony has his eye on one, so we’ll save up to replace it.

Chelsea wave
See you soon with more updates! 🙂

Stay tuned for more updates! There’s a lot happening!

Peace Be the Journey,

Mandy ❤