back the train up

On Wednesday we had a guy come out and look at our shingles. Our brand new shingles are buckling on our garage. In the end he said we need to empty out the attic and spray insulation in there before winter.

Oh my goodness. The attic is where I store EVERYTHING. And now I have to find new homes for all of it. I can't use that space anymore! And if you have been in my house you know we only have one closet in the entire home. And the basement doesn't have proper stairs for fitting bins up and down the steps. I could store things in the barn, but it's not convenient and it is also so dusty.

So it will all be heading to the garage. Or at least half of it will be. My goal is to get rid of half of it before then.

But here is how this is going so far. I call this a 'Back the Train Up' Project. Do you know these kinds? The kind of project that in order to do the actual project at hand (empty the attic) there are nine other projects that really should get done so that this project is done well. Like the garage needs to be cleaned out and purged a bit, making room for the stuff that has to fit in there. And the upstairs closet needs an overhaul to make more room for the things I want to store in there.

Here's my nightmare: Rory just starts taking bins out of the attic, pell mell, with no real plan for where they should end up. And then, the kids, being helpful and fun, begin to unpack the bins and discover favorite items stored away, and by the end of the day the contents of the entire attic are strewn all over my house.

I've lived my life long enough to know this scenario is more probable than my own orderly game plan.

So I have begun my work in haste. I'm sort of excited because I do love getting rid of stuff and this is the ultimate in forced minimalism. But I'm also sort of in disbelief because there is so much stuff that needs to find new homes...

Wish me well!

The birth story of Elias

So the real start to this birth story definitely began that Monday before when we thought FOR SURE we were going to have our baby that day. I wrote about that part here and here.

And then we waited all week long, and it was a long week. The kids were great and patient, but Rory and I were so ready to meet this baby. We just kept making up stuff to do. All. week. long.

But then Friday night I started having contractions. And they hurt enough to call them legit contractions. I didn't wake Rory but I kept wondering if I should call my mom to start driving in case things went quickly. But they were always 10-15 minutes a part, so I knew we weren't actually that close. I made it to seven in the morning before I called her and we decided she would come about 9 or 10 to get the kids.

Unfortunately, when the kids were finally packed up and Mom arrived, things had slowed waaay down. Everyone left and I went up to bed. I had been up much of the night and needed to sleep.

I woke up about 11:30 and put my tennis shoes on to go and walk our road. Oh I was so frustrated. I couldn't believe the contractions had stopped entirely. I walked down to the end of our road and turned around. Rory met up with me one driveway down from our own and asked what I wanted to do. And I spit out angrily, "I want to go Tacoasis."

Which is hilarious. And unwise. You really shouldn't eat chimichanga's before you go into labor. But I didn't care. I was mad.

So we drove the truck to Tacoasis. And ate a chimichanga at our favorite outdoor table and I got a pepsi which felt special. And then Rory said we should go get ice cream cones and walk around our downtown. In the end it turned into a lovely afternoon. We ran into friends and I got a Mackinac Island Fudge icecream cone that was fantastic. We walked into nearly every shop and we spent an hour in the bookstore looking at board games.

The only trouble with this dreamy Saturday is that I couldn't really relax because I was worried about our kids. I had already had my folks watch them all of Monday. And if I wasn't actually in labor, it felt ridiculous to have my folks have them again, knowing that they would be with them after the baby came as well. But it was hard to know if we should go get them and bring them back. Because it also felt like maybe things would progress...

So we went to a movie and saw the new version of The Lion King. Which we loved, by the way. It's too intense for little kids, but it was the perfect movie for us that day. And lo and behold, my contractions started up again with some regularity. Mostly ten minutes apart. I would grip the arms of the chair, Rory would look at my face to see if he should record this one on his phone and I'd breath through it while hearing Hakuna Matata. Then the contraction would end and I'd whisper, "pass me the dots." or "are there any reeces pieces left?" And I'd inhale the candy until the next contraction.

I should also mention that I cried many, many times during The Lion King. To have a baby on the way while listening to Circle of Life was one thing. But that movie is packed full of Messianic themes and I could hardly stop crying at the end. I highly recommend it.

After the movie we brought books we were reading to a favorite park by a pond. We sat on a bench reading for an hour and everything slowed down again. But this was a magical moment. It was positively stunning outside, not a bug, and the sun was setting. The temperature was perfect and we were looking out over the prettiest scene. Plus, we both were reading books we loved. I was reading Read Aloud Revival and Rory was reading a Wendell Berry book of essays. It was dreamy.

We were going to get hoagies for supper, but decided to go to Aldi instead. I grabbed all sorts of food that looked good to me: corn on the cob, stuff for caprese salad, hummus, salami and on the way home we decided we should go home and make pickles to go with this feast.

But in a crazy twist, by the time we got home, none of that good food looked or sounded good to me. And I went upstairs to lay in bed while Rory stuck to the plan and got cucumbers from the garden for the pickles. And soon after my contractions began again and this time they were intense and terribly uncomfortable. It was at this moment that I remembered that having a baby is seriously painful. I called Rory on my cell phone every time a contraction began and he would tell me how long it had been since the start of my last contraction, along with where he was in the pickling process.

We kept this up for about 40 minutes when I told him he had better come and pack everything up. We had some stuff packed, but not our toiletries and chargers...

It was dark when we got in the car (we had swapped our mini van with the kids for my parent's car that could hold the infant car seat in the back for the ride home) and the stars were out. The moon was rising and it was a glorious night. We drove to the hospital on our country roads and Rory kept complaining that all the screens were so bright he was having trouble seeing the dark road. He kept asking me to try to figure out how to dim the dash screens. I barked at him that, "I don't care about dash screens! I am in a really bad mood when I'm having a contraction!!!" And then I'd try to figure out how to dim the screens again, until the next contraction. But it did help pass the time on the way to the hospital...

We got to the Emergency entrance (because it was Saturday night) and our nurse came and met us at the door to walk us to the Birthing Floor. She had blue hair and was super young. Soon after she was trying to get my IV in my hand and tried four times with a considerable amount of digging around, trying to hit the vein. In the end she went to find her charge nurse to see if she could get it in. That nurse tried the other hand and got it right away. And then the anesthesiologist came for my epidural and I felt so much uncertainty if I should get it or not. Things were happening naturally this time. Maybe I didn't need it. But I really, really wanted it at that point. It was midnight and I was remembering how awful the awful moments can be.

So I got the epidural, and then my skin began to itch. All over. It was bad. But bearable. And I couldn't feel the contractions anymore, which was as incredible as ever. But then I started to feel almost drugged in the head and my arms felt immobile, so I asked them to turn the epidural waaaay down. So the epidural was a very low dose, but I liked it much better. I still felt the contractions, just not the pain.

Rory got our music set up and began to play Resurrection Letters by Andrew Peterson. I swear the atmosphere in the room changed from fear to rest. All the anxiety and nerves and unsettled feelings I had went away and I felt calm and ready again. Of course the epidural helped with all of that, but I felt such a peace wash over me that I know it was spiritual too.

My nurse put one leg up on the peanut ball, trying to get the baby to turn the right way (I was having back pain with each contraction that was so bad they wondered if the baby was sunnyside up...) and then we basically tried to sleep while things progressed. When I arrived at the hospital I was at a 4. So we still had some ground to gain.

Rory got his itty bitty chair bed set up (bed is too generous of a word!) and he got horizontal too. We slept off and on until the nurses switched at 7 am. The new nurse came in and checked me and exclaimed, "oh wow! You're at a nine and a half. It's time!" She called the doctor and at 7:50 it was time to start pushing.

I pushed and pushed for an hour. The contractions were five and six minutes a part at the beginning, so we had a lot of awkward time to kill in between pushes. Which Rory loves to tell people about. Because apparently I just told stories between each round of pushing. I was telling them about my other births and funny things about my kids and what they're excited for with this baby. And we were still trying to land on a middle name if this baby was a girl. So all the while Rory was throwing names at me, thumbing through his Bible, trying to find a great middle name. It was a busy hour of pushing and conversation.

Finally we got to the very last pushes. I pushed hard four times in a row and knew I couldn't stop there. Baby's head was right there and I was in so much pain. On the video I say over and over and over, "ow! Ow! ow! ow!" It dawned on me how close I was to meeting this little baby and I tucked my head and pushed with all my might. The head came and then I had to push again. And then the body came, a bit slower than my other babies. The cord had been wrapped around baby's neck, they would later tell me, and that was why the whole pushing phase took so long. We praise God baby was okay through all of this.

Rory cried with tears and joy, "It's a boy!!!" And that boy was put up on my chest and I cried that joyful cry that comes so gladly with so much relief and so much happiness. A boy! I laughed and cried and started talking to my son, "Oh honey, you have been working so hard. I know you have. Oh Elias, you are here. I am your mama and I love you so, so much." And Elias cried and cried. We all did.

At that moment, the song "Is He Worthy" was playing. Oh I wanted to weep I felt so overjoyed.

There is a lot that happens in that hour after a baby is born, but somehow just an hour later, we were facetiming with our kids and my folks and introducing them to Elias. Then we called Rory's parents. My sister's family called us to hear the news too. Rory texted our pastor with some pictures and then at 11, we decided to tune into our own church service to catch the end of the sermon. After the sermon, they showed the pictures of me and Elias and announced that we had our baby and the church erupted in cheers and applause and it was so fun because we were watching!

And then my first round of French Toast arrived and around 1:00 our kids came in to meet their littlest brother. It was a ruckus, as you can imagine, and Alden was in desperate need of a nap. But my favorite moment came at the very end when Ivar stayed back so it was just him and I and Elias in the room. He said, "Mom. When you called and were about to tell us if it was a brother or sister, I told myself "it's a sister" so that my face would be happy when you said it was a girl. But then you said it was a boy! And I just couldn't believe it! I wanted it to be a boy!!! I had always thought it would be a boy." And then we talked about what fun it will be for him to have two little brothers that will always want to tag along with him.

Now it was time for him to go but he stopped in the doorway and said, "Mom. I really miss you." And my heart wanted to explode. We talked about the plan for the next two days and how good it would be to have our whole family back together at home with baby Elias. I could not wait to get everyone back under our roof again.

After their visit, Rory's folks and his brother Kyle came by and we had such a fun visit. I just remember a lot of laughter. The whole day was so joyful.

They left, and soon enough it was time to order more French Toast.

Smiling Elias

One week ago tonight we were waiting for labor to progress and still so uncertain that things would pick up that we decided to make pickles. Which will forever be a memory of this birth story now. At 8:00 my contractions suddenly became regular and intense. Rory was working fast in the kitchen trying to get the pickles done while I was realizing that things were really getting started now. I was upstairs in bed and would call him on my phone at the beginning of each contraction, "Starting," I'd grunt. "Ok, honey! That's six minutes from the last one! And I'm almost done with these pickles!"

I remember having a sense of humor about the whole thing even in the moment and by 9:00 we both knew it was time to load up for the hospital. And thankfully the pickles were done.

Anyways, it seems Elias has our same good sense of humor. His default face is a grin. It's a riot. He hears my voice and his cheeks turn up. He smiles and grins all during his sleep. He is a happy baby and for that I am so glad.

This first week has me pretty sleep deprived and remembering just how much you are up at night with a newborn. But with this little boy grinning at me, I can't complain. Newborns are so sweet and I know very well that this season goes so fast.

It's a boy!

Introducing Elias Anton Groves. He decided to come on his own (no pitocin! my first baby that didn't need pitocin!) and was born on Sunday morning at 8:50. I had contractions off and on starting at midnight on Friday and irregularly all throughout Saturday. And then Saturday night it all kicked in and we checked into the hospital about 10:00.

I have so many thoughts.
First, newborns are so wonderful. I mean, so, so wonderful. Elias is darling and snuggly and squeaks a lot. We landed on his name just on Monday morning. We had been stumped for 9 months trying to come up with a name. My great uncle's name was Ellis, and that was in the running. Ivar like Elliot and Emmit was discussed. We thought about Elijah and then finally when Rory said, while brushing his teeth, 'how about Elias?' I felt my heart swell and knew we had finally landed on his name. We will likely call him Eli, but for now I am trying to use Elias, mostly so I remember it! It's that new of a name, and he's not named after anyone, so I have to go through my own foggy memory to remember...Elias. I have time though. Mostly we call him "Alden...I mean, Elias" and likely will the rest of his life. :)

And Rory's great grandfather was named Anton. And his grandpa's middle name was Anton.

We had a great stay at the hospital and were the only patients on the birthing floor the whole 36 hours we were there! The nurses that delivered Elias were the same two who delivered Alden two years ago and we all remembered each other. I ordered french toast four times after delivery, as well as three different omelets and bacon every time with everything. The hospital food service people kept saying to me, "it's just so nice to find someone who likes hospital food. we'll be sure to tell the workers in the kitchen."
My folks brought the kids on Sunday after they had all been to church. We facetimed the kids before their church service at Shepherd of the Valley so we could tell them that we had a boy. And then they came right to the hospital after service and lunch at McDonalds. Alden usually naps at 10 or 11, so when he arrived at 1, he was a disaster. Oh it was so funny to me. Poor boy. He just wanted to push every button on my bed, and say no, and cry and and cry some more. He was a wreck when Rory brought him out to the car and I don't know if he ever recovered. Well, more accurately, I don't know if my dad will ever recover! Ha! He looked pretty worn down himself!

And now we're back home, just the three of us. We just woke up from a good nap in our own bed which was wonderful. Rory said, "sure beats the school bus cushions I slept on the last two nights." The kids will come back from Mimi and Papa's tomorrow, and then life will pick right back up, I'd imagine. But we're ready for it.

So those are my scattered thoughts at the moment. I still want to write out the birth story and another thought before the kids come back. I just have this feeling if I don't get this stuff out now, it may be a while! We're going to have corn on the cob and tomatoes and mozerella for dinner now and then I'll go take a bath in my super clean tub. So glad I super-cleaned it! And then we'll try sleeping for a few hours at a time all night long, working on a good latch, trying to get a good burp. I feel seasoned at this newborn thing, and yet it is amazing how awkward it can all feel at the same time. I changed him into an outfit before we left the hospital and he flailed all around. It felt like I was getting my sea legs back. So that's what we'll do this week. Elias and I will work as a team, finding our rhythm. And the fab four will come back and we'll transform into a family of seven as we find our footing.

My heart is positively overflowing.

life and death

This morning we got the heartbreaking news that our dear friend Avis passed away early this morning. Avis goes to our church and she and her husband Fred, sit right behind us every Sunday. Some people are occasional attenders, but Fred and Avis are there Every Single Sunday. This past March Avis invited me to her 74th birthday party, a sweet breakfast with four of her best friends and me. I felt so honored to be there.

Just two weeks ago they got the news that Avis had stage 4 cancer. And it went that quickly.

It is sobering because in this season of waiting for the baby, I am once again amazed at how little control we have over birth and death. These are the two most mysterious of all events in a person's life, and in a world where we feel like we can control most things in between those two moments, it is always a shock to the system to realize how little control we actually do have. I think God uses birth and death to help us not forget that he is the giver of earthly life, the giver of eternal life and that he holds all time in his hands.

So birth and death. We don't have much say. But we trust the one who made us, the one who holds all time in his hands, the one who has formed this baby in my womb, the one who is holding Avis now, and the one who is most tenderly holding dear Fred.