Joseph, Gabriella, Julianna, James, and Elora

Joseph, Gabriella, Julianna, James, and Elora

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Happy Six Months, Julianna!

Sweet little Julianna is six months old today! It's hard to believe the time has gone so fast. I guess it's true what they say about motherhood - the days feel long, but the weeks and months and years fly by!   


I know one should never have favorites among their children - and I don't - but I do have to admit to liking certain children better at various "stages." (For example, Joseph was my first baby and I was absolutely crazy about him...but the child would not SLEEP as an infant!! He would stay awake until 3 or 4 in the morning and just fuss and fuss and cry...I didn't really know what "colic" was at the time and I thought that was just what all babies were like. Oh, my, was I relieved was James was born and he was not like that! ;-) So far, it is hard not to be incredibly prejudiced in Julianna's favor because she is SUCH a sweet baby! She has been a great sleeper from the very beginning, hardly cries, and is sooo snuggly! She's just a happy, happy baby most of the time and so much fun to be around.

It's also quite interesting that she is the first of our babies to really show a marked preference for her Daddy! She has been "Daddy's girl" from the very beginning. I mean, she loves Mommy and wants me plenty, but she will sit with her Daddy for a very long time, perfectly content, and her little face just lights up whenever he's around! It's so very precious to watch, and I think Robert gets a huge kick of it because I'm sure it can be hard to always play second fiddle to Mommy! She's also the first baby he's been able to put to sleep on a regular basis.


About a month before she was born, we took the kids to see Frozen and they became absolutely obsessed with it. (Still are, in fact. If I have to hear one more rendition of "Let It Go" at the top of their lungs...) So when I asked Elora what she wanted to name the baby if it was a girl, she immediately said "Anna!" We had been talking about Julianna anyway, so I thought "oh, how cute - we can nickname her Anna!" (When asked what we should name the baby if it was a boy, Elora's suggestion was "T-Rex!" It's a good thing she was a girl.) However, somehow the nickname "Anna" never managed to stick. Sometimes we call her Julie, but everyone's favorite nickname for her is Jules or Jule. I love it because I think of her as our family's precious "jewel" - she is so loved and cared for and adored by her big brothers and sisters! They squabble over who gets to play with her, hold her, pick out her clothes, and even change her diaper! And she loves all the attention and just basks in the adoration (most of the time...unless it's all a little overwhelming.) 

She is a blessing to our whole family and none of us can remember what we did without her. Happy Six Month "Birthday," Sweet Jules! 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Birth Story: Our Not-Quite Christmas Baby

So, six months later, I am finally getting around to finishing the birth story for my 5th baby, Julianna Evelyn Voss. I realize I haven't blogged since before she was born! Frankly, with 5 kids, I just haven't had the time! I started this post about a month after she was born and I have just kept working on it but never quite managed to finish it until now. I realize it's kind of ridiculously late at this point. But I will go ahead and post it anyway, just because each one is unique and interesting. At least it is to the mom! And since having a baby is quite a difficult feat and proud accomplishment, the rest of you have to listen and pretend to be interested!!

My sweet baby girl. She's been a great sleeper from Day 1.

I think the theme of Julianna's birth is that everything you think you know is wrong! Having my 5th baby, I thought I pretty much knew exactly what I was doing and what to expect, and boy did she prove me wrong! Things started off strangely when about three weeks before my due date (which was December 12), I started having on-and-off contractions. For the first day and a half, they were pretty mild, but on Sunday night they started getting stronger. As this was exactly what had happened with James, I was sure the baby was going to come. Of course, my mom was out of town at the time - which was exactly what I was afraid was going to happened when I heard she was leaving. I called Daniella and told her I was in labor - and she, like the dear, sweet sister she is, hopped on a plane and came down to be there for me and help out since Mom was gone. I laid everything out, and Robert inflated and filled the birth pool (which was just a large kiddie swimming pool). Isaac and Melissa came over, and we all chatted as I walked around the living room. For the next couple hours things seemed to be progressing...and then, suddenly, it stopped. I finally gave up and went to bed, thinking maybe labor had just slowed down and I would be awakened in the night with contractions again. Woke up the next morning and still nothing. The baby seemed to have changed her mind and decided not to come after all. I felt disheartened and a bit stupid. After 4 kids, how could I have mistaken false labor for labor? It felt so real at the time...and with Elora coming so quickly, I was all geared up for another fast labor.
Here she is on Christmas Day - sucking her thumb and holding her ear. She learned than trick from Grandpa Larry.

The next few weeks were quite frustrating. I would have on-and-off labor in the late evening several times a week, sometimes every day! Several times it was strong enough for me to convince Robert that the baby "really was coming this time!" and he would fill the pool again, and then it would just stop. I felt SO bad for all I kept putting him, and the rest of my family, through, getting everyone's hope up for no reason. I know that it was all technically "labor" and my body was preparing for her to come...but it was still frustrating and draining, both emotionally and physically. Everyone was very sweet and supportive and helpful, taking the kids and bringing me food and doing fun activities to help take my mind off the fact that baby hadn't appeared yet!

This is me "ridiculously pregnant" two days before she was born

My due date, December 12, arrived, and still no baby. I started to get seriously annoyed with this baby, especially since I'd only had one other baby go past her due date (Gabriella). Mom jokingly called her "Carlotta" after the opera star from Phantom of the Opera who is such a diva. Monday I had a midwife appointment, and they started talking about ways to help jump-start my labor. I decline most of them since I wasn't even a week overdue yet, but consented to drink a kind of tea that was supposed to help "move things along." Still nothing happened for two more days.

Thursday, December 19, my cousin Tiana came over. She lives in Nashville and I don't get to see her nearly as often as I'd like, but she was in town for Christmas. We had lunch and made fudge, and I felt a bit funny all day but didn't think much of it since I'd had so many false alarms. Tiana left and I started making dinner for the kids...and then I started having contractions in earnest. They got stronger and stronger, and when I started timing them they were finally both strong and consistent - something they hadn't really been up until now. I was afraid to call anyone, though, because I really didn't want to give another false alarm! By 6:30 or so, I finally had to call Robert because I could no longer handle making dinner and dealing with the kids in between contractions. It was about another hour before he finally made it home, and by then I was no longer able to talk during each contraction. This finally convinced both of us I might actually be in labor at last! My parents came, and Lydia took the kids home with her. Mom and Dad stayed, and my brother Isaac showed up a bit later. (Since he got married last year and I know he and his wife are looking forward to becoming parents in God's timing, we thought it might be helpful for him to get to see what "natural childbirth" looks like - especially when the father is the labor coach!)

She's been a Daddy's girl from the start - the only baby he can put to sleep on a regular basis.

Contractions got steadily stronger over the next two hours or so, and by about 10:15 pm I was "in transition." I remember thinking in between contractions "Wait - why was I so eager for labor to start?? I forgot how HARD it is!" ;-) An interesting thing that happened this time that had never happened with any of my other babies was that during the intense contractions, I could actually feel where baby's head was inside me and feel it moving down. It's hard to explain...but it was pretty cool. Right about this point, we finally called the midwives - I think we kept holding off because we really really didn't want to have them come just for a false alarm! But in this case we waited a bit too long. I knew it was time to push, so I got into the poor, tattered, duct-taped-together-after-many-blow-ups swimming pool, and suddenly everything stopped. I felt tons better...but I was afraid my body had tricked me once again and I had slowed/stopped labor by getting in the water. Sigh. I took a couple of deep breaths, felt my body relax...and then suddenly had to push! Two pushes and she was out - our 5th baby, another sweet little girl! Robert caught her, scooped her up, wrapped her in a towel, and put her in my arms. "I'm so glad you're finally here!" I whispered to her as I snuggled her and instantly forgave her for all the trouble she had given me.


The midwives arrived a few minutes later. This seems to be our MO - call them too late and have them arrive after the baby's already here! I think it's because Robert just loves to deliver his own babies! ;-) And may I add that he's great at it! They checked me and baby out, declared everything great, helped deliver the placenta (which, frankly, was more trouble to push out than the baby had been) and got me settled into bed. My sister-in-law Melissa, who had been hoping to be here for the birth, arrived a few minutes too late and didn't actually get to see her birth but at least got to see the new baby. I remember that back when Joseph was born, I insisted that the ONLY people who were ever going to be there for the baby's birth were Robert and my mom because it was too embarrassing to have anyone else witness it! Needless to say, 5 kids later, my threshold for embarrassment is nearly non-existent. Plus I feel so strongly about natural birth  that if it can help anyone to be less, well, "freaked out" by witnessing a homebirth, that's really important to me. Not that I'm going to invite the neighbors to come watch or anything.

Proud big brothers

So there you have it (finally!) - Miss Julianna Evelyn Voss, 8 lb, 6 oz, 20 inches long, born December 19 at 10:25 pm. And may I add that in spite of all her dramatic false alarms beforehand, she was/is the sweetest, easiest baby we've ever had. She was sleeping 6+ hours a night by the time she was about 2 weeks old and gave us less trouble than any of the others, which has been a HUGE blessing! I'll post some more recent pictures of her soon. (And yes, I realize this post took 6 months, so "soon" might mean any time in the next year or so.... Thank you for your patience.)

I just love this silly

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Longing for snow

Mid-November has arrived and I'm longing for snow!

Snow is beautiful and magical and mysterious and familiar. I cannot wait for that glorious white blanket to cover over all of November's brown naked drabness.

Here's hoping we get the first snow of the year on Thanksgiving! Only a little more than a week to go.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sometimes I miss sugar

I know it's been a while since I posted, and technically this post should be Part IV of "The Cruise that Wasn't," but I really just wasn't in the mood to talk about it. Although I will try to get to it eventually. Anyway, I've been pretty busy and there has been a lot of stuff going on with me and my pregnancy (34 1/2 weeks now!) and having to suddenly switch midwives, but I won't go into all of that. The short version is that I am fine, and Baby is fine, and I am still planning a homebirth with the same midwife who was there for Elora's birth. (Actually, she wasn't there for the birth - but she got there right after! Frankly, I'm kind of hoping for a repeat, not because I don't want her to be there, but just because super fast births are wonderful!). However, because of a few issues that have arisen, I'm trying really hard not to eat refined sugar or processed food/carbs, and to combine my foods in ways that are low-glycemic and won't spike my blood sugar.

I admit it was pretty hard the first week or so. I have a pretty big sweet tooth, and saying goodbye to sugar was painful - especially because I have always thought of pregnancy as the time where, as long as I was eating a really healthy, high protein diet otherwise, I could get away with all kinds of treats without worrying about my waistline since it was non-existent anyway! Knowing myself, if I COMPLETELY cut out all forms of dessert, it would probably be setting myself up for failure, as in one day I would snap and consume an entire chocolate cake in one sitting and drop into a diabetic coma sort of thing! So I have been trying to find healthy alternatives that are very low sugar, use raw/natural sugars, and are low glycemic so they will be easy on my system. So I have embraced things like berries and homemade whipped cream, cheesecake with no crust sweetened with small amounts of raw honey, and dark chocolate. It's been good but...with all the leaves changing colors and falling off the trees and that crisp cold delicious smell of Fall in the air, I really really miss my pumpkin fix! Unfortunately, pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin cream cheese muffins from Starbucks were definitely out.

My mom came to my rescue in the form of pumpkin cream cheese! She found some at Trader Joe's that was delicious, and then came up with a recipe for a homemade version that had even less sugar. It's delicious spread onto apples, celery, or whole grain sprouted toasted (or just eaten with a spoon, if you're desperate!) I ate up all she gave me and had to make myself another batch today.

Here is the recipe. (I didn't measure my ingredients, so I kind of guessed on a lot of them. I'd say just add/taste until you like it!)

1 package cream cheese, softened
About 1/2 of a 15 oz can of pumpkin (more or less, depending on how "pumpkiny" you want it...I did more)
3-4 T brown sugar or raw honey (again, start out with less and add until you think it's sweet enough)
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 - 1 t cinnamon (to taste)
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
(OR just use a heaping teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice)

With an electric mixer, cream all ingredients together until smooth. Cover and refrigerate. Spread on just about anything for a mouthful of pumpkin-filled deliciousness.

I like this pumpkin spread on the cinnamon-raisin Ezekial 4:9 bread, which is delicious but sadly not cheap, or my homemade sprouted spelt flour bread, which sounds complicated but is SUPER easy to make. I'll try to post the recipe for it tomorrow.

Give this pumpkin spread a try and I promise, you will hardly miss sugar!

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Cruise that Wasn't {Part 3}

I'm sorry it took me so long to go on with Part 3. Real life interfering, I guess. Also, I realize Part I and Part 2 were kind of depressing. Apologies. Things get better today, I promise.

We woke up Friday morning rested, refreshed, and eager to take back our vacation! After grabbing a quick, delicious, and oh-so-healthy breakfast at Krispy Kreme, we got in our little rental car and began the long drive down through the Florida Keys. It was quite an interesting trip - and in this case, I actually mean interesting in a good way, as in we were both interested in all the new sights and scenery!

There is basically only one road that goes all the way down from the northernmost "key" which, I think, is Key Largo, all the way down through the others to end at Key West and "Mile 0." Both sides of the road are heavily lined with this strange type of shrubbery called mangrove trees, which have long curving roots that branch out into the ocean. I had never heard of a tree that could live in salt water before! But mangroves suck up the salt water through their roots and then somehow filter out the salt, which crusts on their leaves. They grew thickly on both sides of the road, which gave one the impression of driving through the countryside, but then suddenly there would be a break in the trees and you would see the sunlight sparkling off the ocean on either side of you! It was not what I expected the Keys to look like at all, but it was beautiful and unusual all the same.

Our first stop was in Islamorada, the island just west of Key Largo, where we were planning to have lunch. We had heard that the best key lime pie to be had in the Keys was at a place called Mannie and Isa's, a couple who grew the limes in their own backyard and then brought them into the restaurant to make their famous pie. However, sadly, we discovered when we got there that their restaurant had been closed for several years. We stopped to buy some t-shirts for the kids and asked the locals to recommend a good seafood place. This is how we ended up eating lunch at The Fish Company.

It was a beautiful outdoor restaurant sitting on the water.

The restaurant surrounded a central pool, where they would feed sharks, pike, and other fish that would swim up from the ocean for a free meal. Then there was a big fight/feeding frenzy!

The seagulls kept trying to get in on the action, diving down to try to catch the pieces of meat before they hit the water - without getting too close and gobbled up by the sharks themselves!

This seagull was not 6 feet from my chair. He really wanted some of my lunch.

There were a couple pelicans hanging around as well.

View in two different directions from our table.

And there's my handsome husband, just hanging out waiting for his food. We shared stuffed mahi-mahi (the non-cute kind of dolphin) and coconut shrimp - it was yummy!

 After lunch we got back on the road and drove down through several more little islands. Along the way I saw a sign that said "Swim with the dolphins!" and I got really excited. This was something I've always wanted to do, and I gave Robert puppy dog eyes until he gave in and stopped. :-) We went into the Dolphin Research Center and asked if we could sign up to swim with them. Guess what? They don't let pregnant women swim with dolphins either! *sob* I was starting to feel very discriminated against!

 Fortunately we at least got to see some dolphins. They were pretty cute.

A ginormous iguana that was just hanging around:

 And a funny macaw learning some tricks:

A few hours and several more little islands later, we had made it all the way down to Key West! We had a couple of hours until sunset, which we had been advised was a beautiful sight over the water. We walked around Duval Street, which appeared to be the hub of the town, but we quickly discovered it was...well, not exactly our scene, as it consisted mainly of bars, strip clubs, and cigar shops. Yikes. We pretty quickly got disgusted with Key West and decided it wasn't worth waiting around, even for the promise of a beautiful sunset, so we bought a few presents at a souvenier shop and got back in our car to leave.

The funny part was, as we were driving around trying to find our way out of Key West, we ended up on the other side of the island and suddenly everything was lovely! A long, deserted beach with beautiful waves rolling in, nice little houses and hotels, places to rent boats and kayaks and fishing equipment...wait a second - we LIKED Key West! We stopped off at the beach for a few minutes to wade in the surf, and then reluctantly realized that it was getting late and we still had to drive all the way back to Ft. Lauderdale that night. It was just too bad we didn't discover the nice side of Key West sooner.

The trip back was fairly uneventful, as we were mainly trying to get back as quickly as possible. We stopped for dinner at Porky's Seafood and Barbeque in Marathon, which was the first place we could find that was open! Apparently all the little towns pretty much shut down after dark. It was kind of a fun, funky little place that reminded me a big of an old houseboat, as it extended onto the water.

Every square inch was covered with writing by its customers, and there was a live guitarist as well. Robert had a crawfish sandwich and I, having had my fill of seafood, ordered bbq. Then we both ordered key lime pie.
Me with my perfectly normal key lime pie

Robert with his very weird fried key lime pie. He insisted it was delicious.

Dinner over, we drove steadily until we reached our hotel, at about one in the morning, and fell into bed, exhausted but satisfied after our first actual successful day of vacation!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Cruise that Wasn't {Part 2}

So, evidently, the cruise wasn't going to happen. We drove another hour back to Ft. Lauderdale, kind of vacillating between shock and outrage. We kept trying to get over it and change the subject, but then one of us would suddenly turn to the other and say "I can't believe they didn't TELL us beforehand..."

The cruise had been scheduled for months. I think Robert bought the package back in February, and then it took a long time getting my passport updated, but it had definitely been scheduled for about 3 months in advance. And the worst part is, while he was scheduling it, Robert TOLD the cruise representative on the phone that I was pregnant. "Okay, great!" he replied. Not "how far along will she be?" or "Oh, that's great, but by the way, we have this policy..." Not a word. Then, once it was all scheduled, they sent us some paperwork detailing all the things we would need, the extra fees we would be charged, the papers we would need to get on the ship or if we were going to bring our children.... Guess what that paperwork didn't include? ANY mention of their pregnancy policy whatsoever!

I understand the policy (now that it's been explained to me), and I don't really have a problem with it. See, after 23 weeks, babies born early have a lower but very real chance of survival. If a pregnant women were to go into premature labor and have her baby early, they don't have the neo-natal facilities or resources to properly take care of it. It doesn't have a helicopter pad, either, so it would take longer to get the woman and her premature baby back to the mainland to get to a hospital, etc. I understand that they are afraid of getting sued and don't want to deal with it. I get it. And I would have had no problem with this stupid policy if SOMEONE, ANYONE had bothered to mention it to us BEFORE we tried to set foot on the ship!! We would have scheduled the cruise for 3 weeks earlier and everything would have been fine. But...BUT...

Back in Ft. Lauderdale, we found ourselves being shuffled back and forth between the "Welcome Center," the cruise line phone representative, and the hotel staff, none of whom seemed to want to claim us. We were starting to feel like Philip Nolan, the fictional character from The Man Without a Country! Our plane didn't leave until Sunday morning, so we were here for another three nights no matter what. We went to get some lunch at a local seafood place while waiting for the whole situation to get straightened out so we could get another hotel room.

Right next door to the seafood restaurant, we spotted this:

Did you know in an alternate universe, I'm a notary public? ;-) When you have such a strange name as I do, you always get excited to see it in random places. It's even spelled correctly! Also, the seafood place, Flannigans, was good. Robert was very happy with his shrimp linguine, and I even ate smoked fish dip and clam chowder of my own free will and enjoyed them. (I'm not a big seafood person, in case you can't tell!)

Back at the hotel, we FINALLY got our room, and went and fell into bed and took a four hour nap, trying to catch up from a night of little sleep and a day that held frustration from start to finish! Woke up feeling better, grabbed a quick dinner at the hotel, and took a short walk to buy some water bottles. Then we girded up our loins and began planning Our Vacation: Take 2.  Robert suggested we take the car the next day and drive all the way down through the Florida Keys, stopping at various interesting sights along the way. We resolved that no amount of aggravation from the cruise line or the "Welcome Center" was going to prevent us from having a terrific vacation after all!

Our plans and resolution being made, we went back to sleep. Can you tell we're parents with small children??

To be continued...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Cruise that Wasn't {Part I}

Last week Robert and I took a vacation. It wasn't the vacation we intended to take - it wasn't the vacation we planned - perhaps it wasn't even the vacation we wanted. But it was the vacation we got, and, as I believe God has His hand on everything in our lives, it surely was the vacation He knew we needed.

Originally we were supposed to go on a cruise to the Bahamas. Robert found a good deal, and we had been planning to go for months. We wanted to have one vacation with just the two of us before the new baby comes and we can't really go anywhere for a while. (Nobody wants to take five children on a cruise ship. NOBODY. Can you imagine? I would spend every waking second and probably most of my sleeping ones trying to prevent one or all of them from getting lost or falling over the side. Oy. That is not a vacation!) So, we planned, we scheduled, we packed, we ran around frantically trying to find our passports that I had gone to tons of trouble to have expedited and then hidden carefully away from the children and then couldn't find the day before our trip...!

Finally all was ready and the day was here. The kids were packed up and sent off to Grammie's for their four-day "sleepover," which they were super excited about, and Robert and I boarded a plane bound for Ft. Lauderdale and our glorious four days of sun, ship, relaxation, and all the food we could eat. Or so we thought.

The first "bump" in the road was our flight getting delayed coming into Denver - all flights, actually, due to bad weather - which resulted in our flight to Ft. Lauderdale getting bumped back three hours, which meant we arrived at 2:15 am local time, give or take a few minutes. We trekked the deserted airport, got our rental car and directions, and drove out into the POURING rain to try to find our hotel. It was not terribly near the airport, but we finally arrived, got our room, and fell into bed to get a few hours sleep.

The next morning we had to rise early all the same, because we had a tour scheduled with the "Welcome Center" as part of the package deal we signed up with our cruise in order to get an inexpensive hotel room and rental car. Turns out the "Welcome Center" was most inaptly named. We arrived at 8:30, said "we're here for our tour," and were informed (quite testily) that the tour was actually located an hour away! Gee, thanks...that would have been nice to know when we called you to check in yesterday! Every single person who worked there was not only less than helpful, but quite rude about it. Finally we managed to get the tour rescheduled for Saturday after our cruise ship returned, retrieved our boarding passes, and set off for the Port of Palm Beach to get on board our ship!

After another hour drive, we arrived at the port to see the World's. Biggest. Ship. stretched out in front of us! I have never seen anything that massive, particularly up close. It dwarfed everything around it, including the "embarkation building" next to it, and made up feel like ants next to a mountain! Two tiny little ants who parked our car, went through security (security?? To board a ship?? It was nearly as thorough as TSA!) checked our luggage, and went to fill out our final paperwork to get on board. While Robert was writing, a tiny little Asian lady came up and smiled at me.

"Getting ready to get on the ship?"

"Yes," I smile back.

"Ah. I see you are expecting!" (gesturing to my burgeoning stomach)

"Yes, that's right."

"How far along are you?" (conversationally)

"Oh, about twenty five weeks."

"Oh." Her smile disappears. "Well, I'm very sorry to have to tell you, but we cannot allow pregnant women on board after twenty three weeks."

I blink. "Excuse me?"

Oh, yes, I heard her right. This small factor, which not ONE person from the cruise line OR the 'Welcome Center' had bothered to mention until we were actually boarding the ship, was company policy. No amount of discussion, reasoning, or appealing to more highly authorized personnel did any good. We were very apologetically but firmly refused entry to the ship and shown out of the building, one of us fighting back tears of frustration. You can probably guess which one! The four hours' sleep combined with the hormones weren't exactly helping.

We drove back to Ft. Lauderdale in defeat, tired, frustrated, stunned by this turn of events and wondering how to salvage our vacation.

To be continued...