When I fix a salad, my kiddos beg for me to make my balsamic vinaigrette. It’s a good mixture of sweet and tangy, oil and vinegar and several opposing flavors coming together to make the perfect dressing. A good dressing makes the flavors pop in a big salad, all the ingredients complement one another and the salad goes from a good salad to great.

In the salad bar of our family, we have own perfect vinaigrette right here at home, our sweet twinkies, Harper and Judah. Our twinkies are about as opposite as they come. Let’s start off with the boy/girl status. I still love that we are asked, as recently as 2 days ago, this is the scenario.

” Oh my, you have a large family. Are any of them multiples?”

” Yes, we have one set of twins” I reply pointing to Harper and Judah who already have their hands raised and chests and smiles beaming with pride of their twinkie status and the repetitive familiarity of the question.

“Oh, how old are you?” asks the well meaning stranger in Target.

“six” they say in unison. Now visualize this as well, Harper is in a sweet red gingham frock with her curly pigtails tied in ribbon and Judah in denim shorts and red polo, his blond silky straight bowl cut hair all pushed to the side.

“Oh, so they are identical twins?” the stranger asks me.

“Uh.. no, they are fraternal, boy girl twins”. I say, almost embarrassed for the lady that she can’t tell this for herself.

she replies, “well you never know these days with the way kids dress”

As we continue our shopping, I get tickled because other than their immense love and appreciation for one another you’d never call them identical.

Harper, constantly smiley, type A,  articulate, organized, a perfectionist, a rule follower, adorer of Brysan, dancer, Judah’s taskmaster and loves pigs so much that she refuses to eat anything that is a pork product for the fear that a nice pig was killed to become bacon. ( we eat a lot of bacon in our house and I use it in a lot of recipes and so Canaan felt bad that Harper was refusing to eat a lot of the dishes due to the bacon. So he let Harper know very matter of fact- that only evil pigs were killed in the making of bacon. They were questioned and tried and only the evil, bad pigs of the world would be turned into bacon. Harper simply said ” have you met these pigs? Are you sure it is a evil pig? I have not met this pig, and someone could have been wrong, so I can not eat this pig” and so she continues to only eat “pig free food ” as she calls it. )

Judah is a carefree spirit, all boy, can eat his weight in cheese dip, passionate, tender hearted, ornery, video or computer game master extraordinaire, lover of giraffes and sayer of crazy things. ( LIke when he got a tick on the top of his crack last summer he came to me and said. ” Mom, I have a pet tick on my butt, his name is dude, wanna meet him?” I didn’t understand  so I asked him to repeat and he said again ” Mom, I have a pet tick on my butt and his name is dude wanna see?” and with that pulled down his khaki shorts and spiderman tighty-whities to show me the humongous black tick the size of a pea nestled at the top of his bum crack that he hadn’t mentioned because he knew we’d take it off and kill it. )

As twinkies, they are a united front-  they will defend and protect the other one from harm, criticism, glaring eyes, always sharing whatever they have with the other one. You can give them just one of something because they think in twos. You have a piece of bubblegum, their first response is to ask for another one for their twin. And if you only have one, then by instinct they only eat half and the rest goes to the other.

We have a tradition of taking out our birthday kids for their birthday alone for a date with just mom and dad. Last year they went by themselves to separate places. Last week  they pleaded to go together, to as Harper said ” the fancy restaurant of Steak and Shake”. They ordered for each other, knowing exactly what the other wants. ImageImageImageImage

Together they are the perfect combination of sweet and salty, oil and vinegar. They make our family better, together they add something that a singleton baby never has. It’s hard to explain, unless you are blessed to have twins yourself. But they are our viniagrette in our big salad.

A day of daddy, fun and loving on our baby, celebrating our sweet Storie’s first year in our arms.  Daddy took off the day, and we spent the morning hiking in the sunny and muggy 85 degree,  crazy March weather and the soggy rainy afternoon at the Science Museum.  We went to our favorite, McDougal’s, for dinner where Solomon gagged himself and promptly threw up every bit of chicken, every french fry and tiny bit of ice cream he devoured all over the poor restaurant’s floor. And as soon as he finished spewing, he promptly said ” Can I have more? I’m still hungry”. We cleaned up, left and purchased a cake at Sam’s because or oven had broken 2 days before and could not be used. When we arrived home we sang happy birthday and  let our little sweetie play in her cake to the sounds of much cheering, much like one would hear at a major sporting event. Storie showed out for her adoring fans and made a giant mess. Much sugar was devoured by all, including Solomon.

I want to make sure all remember the little things, like Storie using just her pinky at first to touch the icing in her cake and then going double fisted into the cake with no turning back, except to try to get under my shirt to wash it all down with a little milk. How at the science museum Emerson was able to beat everyone at the relax and empty your mind brain game, and she was a fast win too. She moved the ball with no problem to the other side and sat there with a wide smile staring off in the distance each time. Watching Canaan cradle his baby sister and sing to her songs about hockey. Malachi and Harper walking hand in hand at the museum and her hanging on every word Malachi uttered because Harper declared,  “Malachi’s so smart at museums and science”. Gideon and Solomon walking the trails together, and Gideon’s tenderness and patience with Solomon, carefully explaining all the vegetation we were surrounded by.  Watching my husband laugh, hard at the kids antics and just soaking up the time with my family.

It was a good day in a week of many good days. I am so blessed.

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I lay staring at the ceiling 6 years ago, my round bulbous belly full of 2 tightly packed twinkies fighting for space in a womb that would be vacant less than a week later. Bryan and I discussed that we were at peace and that we thought our family was complete. God had been more than faithful and beyond gracious. Our zealous wishing of 9 children in 10 years would soon be answered as my delivery date hung luminously near. I had been banished to the bed by my fabulous OB 4 and half months earlier due to a pesky cervix, constant contractions and the fear or the NICU becoming our home away from home for our soon-to-be newest 2 members of our family. Bedrest is maddening. I was so grateful to still be full of child, yet being relinquished to one’s bed to stare at the popcorn speckled ceiling as though it were the milky way, trying to see constellations and pictures in the formations of small particles of drywall as though gazing at stars, will cause one to go a bit mad. It was after several draining hours of this, and the discussion that these two twinkies, who ever they were, would be the last to live in my womb, that I had a dream.

What we think and what the Lord knows can sometimes be diametrically opposing. It was that night God let me know He was not done building our family. I woke up to the next sunrise, knowing we were not finished and that morning began a 6 year quest that leads me to tonight as I listen to the deep breaths of our sweet Storie beside me breathing in and almost whispering with each breath a confirmation to my soul that God is faithful.

He told me that two were missing.  Always I had a sense someone was missing before I ever became pregnant. And while each time  I knew a child was missing, I didn’t know who that child was, until this time. He gave me a picture of who was missing, not just the blessing of a child. But that a boy and a girl would become part of our family. It was and still is a first in my ever evolving relationship with my Lord. This clear vision of what He had in store. But I saw them, I saw my son and daughter, I heard their names, I breathed in their goodness and beauty. My  Solomon and Storie.  And from that moment on, they became real to me as my beloveds that I had nestled in my bosom, Canaan , Addison, Malachi, the twinkies, Aidan , Gideon, Emerson, Brysan. We were not yet complete.

Solomon arrived a month before the twinkies second birthday . He was jolly, plump and joy. His cheshire cat grin still wins over anyone who is blessed enough to receive it. When Solomon was 7 months old we started trying for Storie. Six different times we saw 2 lines on a pee stick. 6 different times hope was stolen and a new baby was added to my nursery in the heavens. Each loss  only made the missing hole in our family that was Storie more evident. The longing to meet her grew with each loss, the light and hope in each positive test began to dim with each passing loss.  To be honest, my heart battled with The Lord. I questioned His goodness, His methods and even wrestled with myself and worried I was going to let doubt supersede what my heart as a mother knew was tangibly missing.

But O, why do I doubt?  Why do we allow ourselves to walk through the desert, parched, alone, stumbling, barely able to stand, staring at mirages, instead of letting the Lord carry us in the blazing heat and dry land,  resting our head on His shoulders, The desert is still the desert, a desolate, hot dehydrating place, but why do I always want to fight him like a tantrum throwing toddler instead of allowing him to renew me and carry me to an oasis in the midst of a dry and barren season in my life.  He knows my immature ways and picked me up anyway, kicking and screaming, he held  my toddler acting soul while I pitched my fit, until I finally gave into Him. The way your 2-year-old fights your loving, but firm embrace when they’ve gotten so frustrated because their independence wants to do it themselves, but you in your parental wisdom know that no matter how they try, they can’t, but you can’t help them until they choose to give up, quit screaming and pounding and collapse into your chest exhausted, having finally given into your ever constant desire to help them.  I was that toddler. I can still be that toddler. I am so thankful for a heavenly daddy that sees that and wants to still fix it, who still finds me precious to Him even when I can’t be still and I am thrashing about.

It was when I finally collapsed on Him, surrendering in a losing battle with myself , a month after my sixth miscarriage. A devastation that turned into a ruptured ectopic. It was then He surprised me with another 2 lines. I must be honest, while I was still excited about the glimmer of hope that 2 lines brought, I doubted that two lines would turn into Storie. Her pregnancy started off doomed. But God likes to shine in darkness so it comes as no surprise to me that He waited until my blood levels indicated that this was probably going to turn into another loss before showing His hand. But  it didn’t, an ultrasound showed a baby, then a baby with a heartbeat, then a baby with adorable little arm buds and hope grew deep inside my womb. I want to say that I was carefree and blissful, and gave all to the Lord. I didn’t do that, I let the enemy camp out in the tents of my mind, starting campfires of doubt and worry. I spent everyday of her pregnancy wondering if this would the day  the baby died, cautiously counting kicks and movements rather than relishing in what will most likely be the last time to experience one of the greatest joys of my life, pregnancy. God the father loving gave me an OB who knows my fears, who for 13 years has spoiled me and blessed me with little tastes of bliss, short little meetings to get to watch and know my baby better while they still remain a mystery at large in my ever-growing belly. God knew all  along my failings, my inability to just trust and enjoy and so he gave me my fabulous OB and his nurse who indulged my need to watch on-screen. Other than Bryan, I am not sure anyone else really knows how much those glimpses meant to me. What an oasis in the desert it was how every time, it refreshed me and enabled me to go on and begin to believe that this time we would meet her, this would be the baby we’d get to keep.  Hope renewed is beautiful but a terrifying sword as well.

March 15 she arrived blue, not breathing after what seemed like an easy labor, 6 weeks early, necessitating a 6 day stay in the NICU. It was not the entrance into the world  we envisioned, but she was here. I was a basket case of  emotions, I do not play well with others once my babies are born. I want them with me, nestled into my chest as I inhale the scent that only a new baby, fresh into world can have.  The NICU held her captive, but still she was mine, she was here and she was alive and it wasn’t just any baby, it was the baby God spoke to me  in my dreams, she was our Storie.

Each member of our family prayed for her, begged for her, wept for her and questioned God’s plan. My children are constantly reminded of God’s faithfulness as we look into her round blue eyes and know that God is just that, faithful.

When I was a little girl, I would love to sit criss-cross applesauce and have someone gently run their fingers through my hair lightly touching my scalp sending shivers down my spine. It is not very often that I feel God’s fingertips grace my head and play with my hair. Only an omnipotent huge God could use a baby’s tiny little digits to caress my head while I lay at His feet. Once again He has redeemed what was stolen and broken and given me more than I deserve and better than I dared dream.  We are blessed, we are full of joy  and any that know us know that it could only be from the Lord.

It seemed like a dream, too good to be true..
We laughed, we sang,
we couldn’t believe our good fortune..
“God was wonderful to them!”
God was wonderful to us;
we are one happy people.

Psalm 126:2

I opened the top drawer of our black dresser and grabbed my pair of pink flowery panties, and my beige bra and laid them on the cradle outside our bathroom door.  I undressed, jumped in the hot steamy shower and began to bathe. The sound of the running waters cause Judah, my personal cabana boy,  to run into the bathroom and ask me , ” Mommy, you need a towel?” ” Thanks, Judah, I sure do”. Within 30 seconds he is back and laying me a towel on the toilet and shuts the door.

I love to take a hot shower, I love to just stand under the shower head and let the water run down my head and neck, I usually can get in a little prayer time too and feel refreshed inside and out when I get out. I may get interrupted repeatedly with questions, but that’s okay, the water feels so good. As I stood there with my head tilted back I heard blood curdling screams coming from outside the door. “Bleeding, Blood, BLLOOOODD! Help me Mommy!” Harper’s voice almost unintelligible  from her panic.

My head lathered in shampoo, I opened the shower door, wipe the suds off my face to see Harper standing there, in one piece, uninjured, but extremely upset with one hand held high and close fisted. ” BLLEED BLOODD, BABY TOAD!”. ” Fix it Mommy, fix it,” The baby toad who looked like he may have been killed due to an attempt at being a bit over loved and squeezed was way past the point of CPR or any other life saving measures. Judah who walked in to ask Harper what was wrong quickly noticed the dead  baby toad in her hand and said. ” Sokay, Harper, Sokay Honey, I get you baby toad” and as fast as he flew in Judah was gone to fetch her another toad.

Harper was now soothed enough to go and help search for a new toad, and bury cover with dirt among the other dozens of dead toads in the flower bed outside the back door. And I shut the door to my still hot shower and finished rinsing out my  sud soaked head. I finished my shower and I was drying off, Harper and Judah came in my room again. This time Harper’s a bit peeved.

” Judah lost my new baby toad”

“Not lose it Harper, baby toad jump, I get you new baby toad”

” Okay, tank you Judah”

“sno poblem Honey”

And the twinkies ran back outside to our beautiful country land that has enough baby toads filling it to make Pharaoh consider letting the Israelites go.

I proceeded to get dressed, I put on my panties, deodorant, my maroon gypsy skirt and then my bra. My bra is not one of those precious sweet little printed pieces of lingerie you’d find at Victoria’s Secret. My bra due to my  great endowment is more like a piece of military equipment , with many hooks up the back, extra snaps and hooks around front all working together to enable me to walk with out tripping over them. It is a process to get it on and off.

I finished hiking my girls up and locking them in the apparatus when I felt something slightly brush my breast underneath the left side.  I fidgeted with my bra trying to fix it. Then I felt it again, but this time it lasted longer than a second or two, this time it was constant, and it was moving and I KNEW it was not the under side of my bra turned in.

I start screaming and trying to get it off, not knowing if it was a bug, a wasp, or something else lodged underneath inside the cup. As fast as I can I get the hooks unfastened and I am writhing and wiggling to pull it off. Half the kids are all in my room watching me. Judah and Solomon are standing near me laughing, “mommy dancing Solly” “I’m not dancing, it’s not funny” I reply back. Harper has walked in at some point, and as I finally fling my bra off my shoulders and onto the bed, I start brushing myself off. Harper runs towards the floor by the corner of our bed and excitedly scoops up off the green coverlet something and giddily exclaims. “You found it ! you found it, tank you mommy, you found my baby toad!” ” Oh my baby toad, i miss you, mommy, you found baby toad, tank you”

Judah runs out of my room yelling in his husky old man voice, “mommy found hawper’s baby toad, mommy found hawper’s baby toad”

Sweat drips from me after the adrenaline rush and flailing maneuvers. I grab my bra and shake it out to check for any other living creatures, a new thing I will be doing each and every time I put it on from now on. As I start to clasp it back up I hear. ” Harper Honey, be careful don’t squeeze it”. ” Oh no! Where’s the baby toad jump to, everybody look for it!”

On June  7th I turned and looked at Bryan as we laid in our bed under brand new covers,  the smile on our faces told the whole story.  Our first night in a new house, a fresh start to life after the fire, an email at 9:30 at night telling Bryan he had been offered his dream job. We had joked that wouldn’t it be something if God orchestrated a most amazing day, a trifecta of blessings: a new house, a new job and to top it all off a new baby. After the move into the house went so smoothly, a few hours later the email that would change our circumstances, at 10 ‘o clock at night we drove to the Kroger to purchase a 2 pack of pee sticks to see, if who knows, maybe we would get the trifecta of blessings. A few moments in the bathroom and a minute or so late, I squealed and Bryan and I both sat with our 2 lines brightly shining  and prayed a huge prayer of thanks for all that had transpired in those few hours and what an amazing end to such a great day.

It has been a whirlwind these past few weeks since that most joyous night. The next morning as we shared with close friends the unbelievable blessings, we all declared this  only to be the masterwork of our creator. We stated out loud that morning that nothing could steal our joy as we prayed before Bryan went to start his first day of work at a new job. That afternoon as our van went airborne and  rolled, we totalled our beloved Clifford the Big Red van, we said the enemy was at work but he would not steal our joy. We were all okay besides minor injuries. The enemy would NOT steal our joy,and he didn’t. The kids quickly figured out when I couldn’t accompany them into their xrays and cat scans at the ER after the accident that I must be pregnant. We shared our secret and thus the “family secret” began. They too had prayed for this baby, they have so wanted more siblings, all of them were overjoyed at the thought of another baby.

The past month has been constant talks about the new baby, looking at the first couple ultrasounds of a little bean and it’s twinkling heartbeat, a few close friends that love us for who we are, all shared in our joy. Despite the search for Clifford’s replacement, it’s been a party over here.

This morning as Bryan met me at the fancy ultrasound place, a kind but not personal ultrasound tech asked me to empty my bladder and lay on the cold hard table. A wand was prepared and inserted and immediately our precious baby popped up on screen. As it laid there still, Bryan and my eyes met. Both knowing what the other was feeling and thinking. Our hearts both sunk as we studied the stillness on the screen. The flickering little light had gone out and was no longer flashing. The sterile room that had brought us much joy previously, was now the place of  stolen joy. We have been to this sad land before. Too many times. The sweet anticipation that fills the air when you walk in sucked out  like a backdraft, trapping you in the fire of miscarriage. Almost stealing the air you breath, in the way you hold your breath that maybe the turn of the wand or that emphatic plea to God to let the flitter of the heart be seen again, let my eyes be wrong. But you know, your heart feels it before your eyes can register what you are seeing. It’s over, all the plans you’ve already made for this baby. The holidays you’ve already envisioned  , the baby names, the fullness you feel deep inside where your heart was pouring into this tiny piece of you and your best friend, that spot you patted frequently and smiled at the precious gift that any outsider wouldn’t know that you were carrying but only noticed the glow that only carrying an extra soul around can give you, gone, the life gone and that fullness replaced with the overwhelming heaviness that only one who has had to walk around with a dead baby inside of her can understand. We have walked this path before, it doesn’t make it any easier, each loss is a cut onto a bruise already there , over the scars that you thought had healed previously.

There is indescribable guilt, telling my precious children who were so excited, that again, my body has failed them, again they will have to wait to meet this brother or sister. I can only promise to that we will try again, that God has called us to one more by my womb and the enemy will not win this fight. We will have our happy ending.

My heart hurts today, my head hurts from crying. My heart aches for my children and my husband who all desperately wanted this blessing. My body has not figured out what has happened so I still feel pregnant, nauseous, tired, pukey.  I see my fabulous OB on Friday to see if my body can figure this out for itself or if I will have to have a d&c. I want to know how soon can I try again, it ‘s the passage of time until hope is renewed again that is the hardest for me. I know we are supposed to have another by birth and another to adopt. If our house would sell we could start the adoption process, but at the  moment ,time feels suspended except for the fact that tomorrow Canaan will be a day older and that much more farther apart from his youngest siblings, even less time to become friends and close siblings. All seems consuming, and it’s still all so raw and fresh.

I said that enemy could not steal our joy. There will still be joy in my heart and my house. And as much as my flesh doesn’t want to write and say it, my soul and my heart still say “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Job 1:21

My belly was round and taut with another month to go before Emerson could arrive safely and healthy. Canaan was in the 2nd grade, and the end of the year trip to visit a historical plantation was on the agenda. My fabulous OB gave me strict orders that I would NOT be permitted to go on this field trip, too much walking around for my cervix that was already ornery.  Sweet little Canaan was sad and disappointed that I couldn’t join him and his classmates. In a feeble attempt to make things better I gave him 15 dollars to spend at the gift shop. I believe that was the most money he had ever held in his hand at one time and he was now so elated to go on the field trip that he hardly slept that night.

It was a hot windless May day, falling the week of mother’s day. He left that morning in his maroon school tshirt  on the big yellow bus and when I picked up the sweaty, smiling boy with a large brown sack behind his back he immediately said ” You can not look in this bag, I got your mother’s day present, I used all my money and it’s so beautiful and you are going to love it so much”. The words flew out of his mouth so fast and in one breath that I had to ask him repeat what he said to make sure I didn’t mistake what he uttered.

That night with rainbowed wrapping paper he carefully wrapped and overtaped my present. Canaan walked around the rest of the week telling me repeatedly how much I would like my present, how he had picked it out just for me and he couldn’t wait until Sunday morning.

Bright and early as the sun started to creep in through the blinds, he jumped onto my sheets and climbed over my large round belly and handed me the brightly colored , covered in masking tape present. I quickly tore into the gift pulling at the tape to open the large rectangular box.  ” I wanted to make sure the wrapping paper stuck to the box” Canaan’s little voice squealed. He then helped me tear off the the last piece of off-white masking tape. His fingers were on top of mine as we both lifted the cover to the cardboard box. 

I grabbed the blue fabric folded up ever so neatly and unfolded it swiftly as Canaan spoke as fast as words would fall out of his mouth ” I knew this was perfect mommy, the stars reminded me of you because we like to lay outside and look at the stars with me, and you love the color blue, whacha think mommy? Do you love it?”

. Before I could even respond my eyes began to well up with tears, my body unable to process all the emotions flowing through me at the same time as I stared down at the large confederate flag draped over bed. It’s large blue vastness laid out in all it’s southern glory. Touched by the naivety of my sweet boy’s precious thoughtful gift and  hystercially laughing inside at the thought ” I feel pretty sure that I am the only mother of a black child that received a confederate flag for mother’s day”, in fact I am guessing I am the only mother of a black child to ever receive a confederate flag as a gift, for mother’s day or any day, I am a special woman.”

” Do you like it mommy? Do you? Can we hang it outside our house, PLEASE?” ” I want everyone to see what I got you”

I carefully chose my words.

” Canaan baby, this is too precious of a gift to let it flap in the wind, I would never want it to be destroyed, I want to keep it put in my hope chest with all my most special things. Would that be okay?

He sat there silently staring at me, all the while I am praying that I have not hurt his feelings but only imagining the many scenarios in my head of all the people who know we are biracial family ; perplexed  and horrified by the flag proudly displayed outside our house. Plus the irony, Bryan, who is a descendant of Nathan Bedford Forrest the founder of a certain organization that is abbreviated  with the same letter 3 times that comes after J in the alphabet,  having a black son who wants to proudly hang the confederate flag.

Canaan finally spoke again ” I can tell you like it because you only get water in your eyes like that when you’re sad or really happy, and you’re smiling so I know it’s cause you’re really happy. You can put in your chest if you want so it doesn’t get messed up. I know I have an idea, we could just take it out and use it in the house when we have people over for dinner, so that they can see how pretty it is.”I did good, huh mommy? Is the this the best present you have ever got?”

“Yes, baby, this is one of my very favorites ever, thank you.”

And it still is.

His precious page boy bowl cut frames his little face and matches the personality of our ornery Judah. While blessed with Bryan’s corn silky blond hair, in his cells he received enough of my genetic material that his hair grows fast like mine. I love my boy’s hair. My fingers naturally drag themselves through the soft strands. The most energetic frenzied Judah will almost instantly go from squirming to calm and sedate when my hands caress his hair. His warm soft chubby fingers gently placing my hand back on his head to continue playing with his hair. A request that I can’t refuse.  Yesterday as Judah sat in my lap ,as my hands ran through his hair, I noticed that he had a little more hair than I would like him to have.

Years ago in order to save a little money Bryan became our resident barber. All of our boys get their haircuts from the daddy. So yesterday afternoon was no different. Judah was perched on the potty in the bathroom, the clippers were brought in, hair was wet and in typical Judah fashion he had NO desire to sit still. Bryan asked him calmly to sit, tried to bribe him, begged, pleaded and then called for my help.  I sat down on the cold porcelain and gingerly lifted an already reaching Judah onto my lap. His always warm soft fingers grabbed my ear and pulled me down to his mouth.

” secret mommy, no cut for Judah Ok? Mommy tell daddy no cut for Judah”

 ” Judah baby, just be still for mommy, I need your hair cut, I’ll hold you, you just be still” 

” NO cut, no cut for Judah, not day, No NO NO!”

He is now struggling to get out of my arms and his torso is contorting in impressive gymnastical ways to get from my grips.

” Judah, why won’t you let daddy cut your hair, just sit here on mommy and be still”

“No be still, I fight” ( Judah calls light saber duels -fights)

A couple of months ago at Mandy’s , she led a small group of us women in some quiet time with God. One of the many precious things she prepared was random scriptures to read. One of the slips of paper spoke to me and has stayed with me. When I say it or think it, it is the fingers of God carressing my head and hair in a gentle loving motion putting my restless heart and mind at ease.

Exodus 14:14 ” The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still” 

Judah was speaking to me yesterday. Yes, he didn’t want  a haircut, but I only want him to look his best and be able to see clearly without the wisps of silkiness getting into his eyes. 

I have hair in my eyes, my sight is obstructed with the worries.  I am constantly telling God,” I have a secret, I am scared, Bryan still has no job, no one is looking at our old house that’s now for sale, we need to move in June, my heart is broken again from another miscarriage, I want to fight”.  It’s hard to see, I  keep twisting and turning. I keep trying to fix things, I keep running, questioning, arguing.  I’ve been in such a funk,  foolishly and blindly thinking that I can control what’s going on, that somehow by fighting with the enemy and allowing him to steal my joy instead just being still and letting God fight for me that I’ll be better for trying to fight it.

And yet I don’t listen He’s telling me how to regain my sight. 

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still”

As I held Judah I whispered in his ear for a couple of moments, ” Mommy’s here, I will hold you, don’t be scared be still, just sit right here and be still so I can play with your hair when daddy’s finished.” Within about 2 minutes my twinkie boy’s body became almost mushy as he calmly collapsed in my arms and let me hold his head still while Bryan delicately trimmed his hair. 10 minutes later with a light blond dusting of hairs on the cream colored linoleum floor, Judah was looking good and back running around the house with a light saber in hand. 

Bryan shouted from the bathroom, “Gideon, you’re next. Come here please”

Judah stopped running as he approached Gideon and said ” so-kay gid-in, just be still, be still.”

When I was the size of a lima bean in my mother’s womb a screaming 7 pound baby boy was born. This baby’s children woke him up and sang him “Happy Birthday” and then his oldest informed him he was officially old. Malachi chimed in and said “Wow, he’s right I remember when you were just 33, time flies huh dad?” We spent the day celebrating the daddy and enjoying our time. Not to be left out the kids bought Bryan gifts to open during the day. His favorite candies, pez and tic tacs and plenty of chocolate. His birthday meal order was submitted and we all went together to shop for the ingredients. Together Greek  chicken, home made flatbread, greek raisin rice, coca cola cake and homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream was tenderly prepared. Each child helping contribute to the meal.A chair decorated with stickers was loving placed at the table and declared the birthday throne. A movie was watched and we all enjoyed the company of each other. 

In honor of my favorite guy, he’s few funny things that make me love him even more.

When Bryan had menegitis, the only thing that he could say was ” I love my Kroger plus card, we use it a lot because we buy a lot of milk”. He didn’t know his name, the name of his children, where he was or anything else. But the infectous disease doctors and residents all enjoyed coming by to ask a very sick Bryan ” How are you feeling Mr. Foriest?” and chuckling when he told them of the great deal we get on milk.

At one of Canaan’s baseball games last summer one of the parents from the opponent’s team approached Bryan and said, ” I think it’s so great that you support your little brother like this. I see you with your mom and all your brothers and sisters and you are always here cheering on your brother. That’s really sweet.” Bryan confused asked what she was talking about. She replied ” You’re  that cute little black boy’s older brother aren’t you?”. Kindly, Bryan replied ” Uhh No, I am his dad, these are all my kids, that’s my wife right there.”  ( I have a couple of problems with this, first do I look like I could be Bryan’s MOTHER? And 2, Bryan has retained his youthfulness, but seriously an older brother?!)

When Malachi was born he was sooo worried that someone might try to swap babies that he brought a thick permanent marker to the delivery to immediately write Foriest on his tiny newborn foot.

2 days after we got our chocolate colored, afroed sweet baby Canaan and we went to get our first family portrait taken.  Bryan got a haircut at the Regis hair place in the mall. As he sat in the chair discussing in great detail the wonderful things about being a new parent and how perfect and beautiful Canaan was yet never mentioning that we adopted, just  ” I still can’t believe I became a daddy this week, it the most amazing thing. He’s the most beautiful baby, have you seen him, he’s sitting there with my wife, isn’t he amazing I love his dark silky curls?” The hairdresser next to Bryan leaned over to the one cutting his hair and in a loud whisper for every one to hear declared. ” Wow, i can’t believe he hasn’t figure out that baby’s not his. You see him? He not dat baby’s daddy”.  

I love that he could eat a 10 course meal but if one of those courses were not dessert he wouldn’t feel like he’s eaten a full meal. I am blessed beyond measure to be gifted with a husband that wanted this great family I have, as much as I do and is never too old to play with our kids. I love that if I want a glimpse into the past and what he must’ve have been like, I can look at Gideon and see the reflection of little Bryan staring back at me. I love that he pushes me to love the Lord deeper, trust more, and loves me for me.  I love this old man of mine. I love that he tenderly calls me Ladybug more often than using Valerie when he wants something. I love my old maynard and think age looks mighty good on him.

Brysan and Aidan were jumping on my bed before it was 7 o clock this morning. There was light coming through the blinds and they asked me when I was getting up. “Hurry up mommy, we need to go, let’s go to the store.”  Brysan couldn’t wait to go to the store to go and get candy with her own money to give to her twinkies this morning when they got up for their birthday. Malachi had come to us yesterday after finishing his school work and said ” I know what I have to do, I have to build a wall-e costume for Judah” And then for hours the boy taped boxes and cardboard tubes together. Aidan joined him and made an Eve costume for Harper and the two of them painted together. So excited to give their hearts gifts to their twinkies.

Harper woke up this morning crawled under the sheets and said ” happy birthday judah today”. A few minutes later Judah walked in and the first thing uttered from his mouth was “happy birt-day honey” and then broke out in song to his “honey”. Harper shouted ” Twinkie Love ! ” (This is the phrase that has been developed over the past few years when Harper and Judah find each other numerous times during the day with out streched arms and bear hug one another. This can be done in times of elation or times when one of them just got in trouble by the mommy/daddy  and the troubled twink is looking for sympathy.)

We have a family tradition that every hour you are awake you get to open a little “dollar zone” kind of gift on the day of your birthday. We started this years ago and every non birthday sibling is as excited as the birthday child to give the little wrapped trinkets on the hour and it makes the birthday last all day and is just special for everyone and keeps the excitement up.

Brysan, Aidan and  I ran to Kroger after giving them their first little present and after Brysan picked out the best looking bags of sour gummy worms, we came home with Harper’s favorite powdered sugar donuts. Malachi was about to pee his pants to give the twins their costumes. Malachi and Aidan brought them in laid them in front of them them and they went crazy playing in them and Judah refusing to remove it for the next hour. Because we couldn’t wait to really blow their mind, Addison and Bryan go outside to get  their big big present ready. ( 2 months ago I found the motorized  jeep I’ve been wanting for them on craigslist, we’ve never had one for any of our kids and so we were all so excited to see them receive the jeep). 

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Unsure of which one of us 10 was more excited to witness the unveiling of the jeep. We all stood around with smiles as Judah and Harper went crazy. Judah drove and Harper was too busy cackling and laughing to gripe out directions and orders. The entire day has been full of joy, love and the confirmation once again from my Heavenly Father that He called us to this amazing job. It is days like to day that make me so tickled to have 10 children and the desire to be blessed again. 

Twinkie love today erased all fears that weigh on our shoulders, blessed peace was gifted to us for today. All the stresses of houses, jobs, money and other things will be waiting for us, but today we were all just in the moment all reveling in the multiplied joy that came to us 2 at a time 3 years ago.

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Time has flown when I think that at  9:51 3 years ago tonight after many many hours of my fabulous OB trying to turn an ornery baby boy who had his feet stuck in my cervix,an emergency c section was done and a feisty blond 5 pound 10 oz baby boy was pulled from my womb. 3 minutes later his screaming sister who was a whopping 4 pounds 10 ounces was pulled out as well. My fabulous OB shouted out  ” you’ve got one of each Valerie, that will make all your kiddos happy”.  Happy doesn’t adequately describe the joy felt when after 4 months of  bedrest. And the love of our beloved twinkies didn’t start at that announcement of their arrival. The saying it takes a village couldn’t be more true.  Without the amazing group of our homeschool family we would not have carried these precious bundles to term. We had Godly women in our house daily loving my children like their own, feeding my family, scrubbing my toilets and committed to giving these twinkies inside me the very best chance possible. I am pretty sure no other twins have been more loved by such a large group of people. Every day when I look at Judah and Harper’s precious faces I am thankful for the hands and feet of Jesus. 

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Judah and Harper multiplied the joy when they joined us on the outside. Judah had an 8 day nicu stay that separated them at birth. With in minutes of being reunited 7 days later Judah put his arm around her and she snuggled into him.They have been inseparable ever since. Everything in their little lives revolves around the other one. We had always wanted wanted twins and it has been better than we even imagined it to be. We love you twinkies– Judah Pie and Harper Honey.

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My bedroom is finally dark and quiet. The clock reads  3:04 . My eyes burn each time my eye lids touch down. I have been waiting for this moment of peace and silence. As I lean back into the pillows resting under my neck,I have a feverish baby nestled into my chest. Solomon’s breathing is fast and shallow and growly as he finally sleeps for the first time in hours. Within seconds of my eyes closing I am in a deep sleep. I immediately begin dreaming about all of us at a picnic at a park. Like most dreams thought about at a later time everything is vague and barely memorable. But I do remember being happy in the dream at the park ,when out of nowhere there is a volcano and I feel hot molten liquid on my face and in my ear. I remember thinking how weird that there was a volcano at the park when I was jolted out of my dream and into the sound of a choking gasping vomiting baby has soaked my pajamas and the milky slimed rsv pneumonia causing vomit pooled in my ear. I sat up not quite awake, unsure of myself of what was really going on and pulled sweet Solomon away from my chest just as he finished throwing up the mucusy gunk from his lungs mixed with every last drop of breast milk he nursed from my breast an hour ago all over our sheets. He turned his head toward me looking at me with wondering eyes of concern and with perfect trajectory finished spewing right into my hair and face.  Bryan who is now awake as well , grabbed Solomon from my arms and began stripping him. I stripped too, taking off my clothing for the 5th time that day. What can I say I guess I bring out the vomit in those around me.  As I got into the shower Bryan handed me a sad, sobbing, coughing baby to bathe with me. I washed us once again, for the 5th time and as the warm water ran down his back and my chest, he started to calm down and laid his weary head on me as I lathered the soap and began to wash us both off. 

As the sunrise brought light into our room after being mercifully given a couple hours of sleep with no vomiting, children began to filter into our room. Each one recognized by their cough as they sauntered down the hall. Six of ten with RSV. A week unlike any other. Such sweet sick kiddos each one burdened by the thickness in their lungs and high raging fevers that struck fear into us. A plagued house of illness that brought much crying and holding and even laughter at the comedy of errors that struck our humble abode.  Holding constantly, somebody, at all times no matter what. Crying from every child who was scared or didn’t want to do their breathing treatment, crying that the stomach bug decided to re-rear its ugly head today and now on top of still chunky coughing children, vomitrociousness is back in rare, fine coat- your- mother form.

Laughter because all tragedy begets comedy even if its dark comedy. Laughter is the saving grace when vomits pools in your ear. Or when waiting in the pediatrician’s office with a sick red cheeked hacking baby who is fussy and squirming in your arms with no consolation and the little boy in the waiting who is running around crazy and not acting ill who keeps trying to make conversation with me and kept saying “ta-tas, ta-tas”. I thought I was just misunderstanding his toddler speak and assumed he was telling me about Tom and Jerry playing in the waiting room. His father never making eye contact with me when I tried to give him a friendly smile. After waiting about 10 minutes and standing up to walk Solomon around in an attempt to calm him down I notice that Solomon had kicked the neck line of my shirt down and my black bra was being seen by all and the little boy was not explaining the antics of a cat and mouse but pointing out my tatas. Embarrassed I fixed my shirt and stood with my back to the back of the bashful father in the waiting room. 

More humor when after being thrown up on again for the 5 the time tonight by Harper after bathing decided I still felt germy and grabbed the bottle of germ-x and lathered my whole body with it in an attempt to antibacterialize myself. Warning to anyone who thinks that might be a good idea after one has taken no less than 10 showers in 2 days, scrubbing herself clean and having just freshly shaved her legs. WOW oh OUCH, the “cooling” alcohol that you feel on the palm of your hands turns to fire on your shaved legs and the scrape on your elbow. Lesson learned.

Hilarious laughter heard by my children tonight after my 4th shower due to the 4th round of spew and vomit and fresh out of the shower my hair still wrapped in a towel I make the comment that ” I am not picking any one up because I am clean and I must have some kind of super power to make people spew”. The kids tell me that would be a great super power, while having this discussion, Harper walks up to me and with out thinking I pick her up and cradle her in my lap. No later than 30 seconds pass.. you guessed it- another volcanic eruption all over me. 

I am not a homebody. I am feeling stir crazy and beginning to think a pretty padded room with one of those neat jackets that hug yourself might be in my future if we continue on this path of sickdom. I have gone through 2 full bottles of Tide, a can of lysol and mopped and wiped every surface with it as well  in my feeble attempt to keep things at bay. The 4 ( Canaan, Addison, Aidan, Gideon) who have yet to fall told me all my trying has paid off. The 6 who are plagued beg to differ. RSV is supposed to last around 8 days which means  we should receive our pardon soon. With the stomach bug I am hoping we are soon reprieved from it as well and we will get to dwell among the land of the well very soon. I will take all the prayers  you would like to pass this way. I look forward to the date with my pillow tonight and hope my fun  picnic dreams do not take place at Mount Vesuvious.

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