We have had 2 birthdays in the last week, and with Miriam's ascension to teenhood, we now have five teenagers in the house since Naomi is still a year off from the big 2-0.
Right at this moment, our kids are 19, 17, 15, 14, 13, 11, 8, 6, and 4.
But Isaac will turn 16 in a few days so we're just about to have another change in ages. Then no more birthdays until May for us!
Someone asked on Facebook how my "vacation" has been. She put the vacation in quotes because, no doubt, she realized that with a houseful of kids, I am not just sitting back and putting my feet up. BUT, this year has been actually relatively mellow. Rose, while still a terror at times, is way easier than she was even a year ago. So I've gotten naps most days. I've been able to take walks. I'm writing Star Wars fanfiction and reading Pride and Prejudice fanfiction. It's been very pleasant.
A friend of mine who lives out of state just had her third child yesterday. He has Down Syndrome (they knew he did from prenatal testing) and was born 9 weeks early. He is in the NICU and I am praying for him fervently, and for his mother who had to have an emergency C-section to deliver him.
So they are obviously having a very hard, challenging, agonizing Christmas season. They adore this little man and God has a good plan for his life in spite of his early challenges.
We had a good day yesterday. This season tends to be hectic, but thanks to Kevin, I've felt more peaceful than usual.
He, bless his heart, took care of purchasing most of the gifts for the children. He also filled the stockings.
My mom made the stockings. Aren't they cute??
So Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, of course. Realistically, it is natural for children to be excited about presents and I understand that. They got lots of video games (courtesy of Kevin's careful analysis of good games out there) plus a whole bunch of plushies made by Lydia and Angela. More about that in another blog post.
Post present picture. So blessed by our family!!
I've been thinking quite a bit about infants. We lost our last baby to miscarriage this summer, of course, and with the hysterectomy I am obviously totally and completely done having children. Since I am 49, that is entirely reasonable.
Having said that, I've been thinking about little ones. They are so small and so helpless and so WEAK! And yet Jesus,
Who, being in very nature  God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature  of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!
The cross part was horrible enough, and such a gift to us. But the baby part! To go from being God in heaven to a helpless little person on earth, one dependent on the care of a Jewish teenage girl!
Yes, I am thankful for Jesus, and his willingness to lay aside Heavenly glory to save us. To save me.
Sigh. So we've had one of our tiresome illnesses. Kevin and I in particular have been sick for almost 2 weeks now. When I say sick, I don't mean really sick. Not smallpox sick :-). Or even flu sick. No, it is just a cold. The kids of course are taking their sweet time passing it around. I think they all have had it now except for Isaac and Joseph, who are on round one of it since they missed the first 2 weeks while they were in Hawaii.
I have been really achy, which is an interesting combination of minor illness and working hard on my core strength after the surgery. Yep, I'm still not quite back to normal. My chiropractor says I am improving, but I have a pretty sore neck and am applying heat to it often.
Today is better than yesterday, and yesterday was better than a few days ago, so that's good.
Kevin is working 3 days this week than gets nearly 2 weeks off for Christmas. That's exciting!
There was a recent comment about my career, or lack thereof :-).
On February 14th (Valentine's Day!), 1997, I turned in the final paperwork for my Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan.
Obviously, I still remember the date. My defense was exactly a month earlier, on January 14th, 1997. I haven't forgotten that date either.
I was very driven academically as a teen and 20 something. I fully intended to be a single career woman until God intervened and brought Kevin into my life. He was in graduate school with me. He became a Christian in late 1996, started attending our church within weeks, we began courting, and we were married June 1997.
So, quite the romantic whirlwind :-).
Kevin is younger than I am and thanks to co-oping as an undergraduate, he was 3 years behind me in graduate school. So while he finished up, I worked as a staff member at the University of Michigan in the Materials Science Department. It was a great job for me. I got teach a little, fix instruments (not always my easiest thing, I admit), and help with the labs.
Kevin finished his degree in September of 1999. I was pregnant with our eldest at the time, and we moved down to Ohio so Kevin could begin working at Wright Patterson Air Force base. He was part of a program where the Air Force paid for his Ph.D., and he was obligated to work for them for 15 years!
We had already decided that I would be a stay at home mother to Naomi. That was a decision based on a number of things. We could do it; Kevin made enough to support us. We knew that even as DINKs (Double Income, No Kids) that with both of us working full time, life was busy. Add a kid to the mix, and we would get super busy.
And I wanted to be at home with our baby. Kevin wanted me at home with our baby. I am not someone who trusts easily, and I really wanted to be the one providing primary care for our little one(s).
Given that I did have a Ph.D. in engineering, it seemed reasonable to look for some part time work. For a few years (through the births of our first three children), I taught the occasional engineering class at a local university. Then in 2003, Kevin heard that there might be an opening at the base where he works. I went in and interviewed and got a job with a contractor on a very part time basis. The original plan was one day a week. I've been there 15 years now (15 years!) and now I work 4 to 5 hours a week!
It's a crazy situation and I feel very blessed. I keep a foot in my field but I'm home with the children almost all the time. I bring in a little income, which is helpful with 9 kids. My job has been very patient with me with frequent absences for new babies, and I was gone for 2 months earlier this year because of the hysterectomy.
Since I was 44 when Rose was born, I'll be 62 when she graduates from high school. That's a reasonable retirement age. All this is to say I doubt I'll ever work full time. I'm homeschooling the horde, of course, so I have plenty to keep me busy at home.
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
This is one of my main verses these days.
One of the odd things about having a big family is that we have spent literally 19 years taking care of small people who can't, for example, rummage around and find food if necessary.
It frankly requires stamina and perseverance to keep feeding these kids over and over and over :-).
It requires stamina to teach the younger children necessary chores so they can develop a good work ethic and the skills they will need to survive life.
It requires faithfulness to teach the 7th kid to read, and the 8th, and the 9th.
I'm not hero. I'm just a mom who loves her kids like crazy. But I'm also a selfish person at heart, and an introvert. My idea of a good time is to be on the beach at St. Croix with my wonderful husband.
Which is why we've been going there once a year!
But the rest of the time, I have to persevere and persevere and persevere. I must not grow weary of doing good.
I would take a bullet for any one of my children. I would. But in a way, in a way, a one time heroic act would be easier than being faithful every single day to mediate disputes and read Bible stories and talk to them about their scientific and spiritual questions, to try to focus and understand when they babble away about obscure computer games!
That's why I need, desperately, the Holy Spirit of God in my life. By myself, I could not do this. I want to, believe me. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. But through the Holy Spirit and prayer, I am able to faithfully fulfill my tasks day after day, week after week, year after year. Thank you, Lord.
The 3 littles and I did quite a bit of schoolwork this week. Sarah and Daniel are both learning to read. Sarah is 8 and is not yet fluent, but thankfully I have years of experience and I can see she is progressing very well. I am confident she isn't dyslexic. Every week she reads a little bit better. Daniel is an early bird in reading compared to his older brothers.
We are death on microwaves! Yet another one bit the dust. We bought a replacement in stainless steel, to match our refrigerator.
We went to the annual party of the company I work for. I was recognized for 15 years of service. Time flies. Hard to believe I've been there 15 years already!