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Archive for the ‘giving thanks’ Category

I had no idea how profoundly motherhood would change my interpretation of the world.

I can look back and pinpoint each perception shift. As a young nurse: collecting and assimilating individual bits of data into a comprehensive whole. As an aid worker: breaking down the comprehensive whole into its individual parts. As a well cared for, well supported, economically stable young woman: realizing for the first time that I could be treated unequally just because of my gender.

But motherhood? Shoot.

About a year after Karel was born, Bjørn and I and some good friends ran a half-marathon. I remember thinking I wished I had a t-shirt saying: ‘You think this is hard? Try birthing a baby.’ I felt stronger than ever. More connected to women throughout the ages. Your vision becomes simultaneously broader and more concentrated. I talk all the time about the constant ticker-line of risk analysis running through my head. (‘how much damage would a fall from that height do? how likely is it that he’s going to fall? How have similar situations turned out? He’s got pretty good balance i mean he’s been hopping on one foot since he was two ohmygoodness i can’t take it ‘GET DOWN FROM THERE!!!”)

Now the motherview manifests itself in ridiculous ways. Most ridiculously in the compulsion to pinch cheeks and smotheringly embrace half-grown men.

For example, one evening before Christmas Bjørn and I were sitting in a bar in Trondheim. Seriously, every time a group of nervous looking 18 year old boys walked into the bar with their button up shirts and huge scarves, I felt my maternal spirit actually leave my body in order to hold their hands and ask them about their lives. What are you really interested in?  I thought-stared at each of them. Besides wondering if you smell okay? Eye roll. Ridiculous, right? Do not even get me started on the young men we know here in Steinkjer, that live continents away from their mothers. Every time they bust out a silly grin my heart melts like it does for naughty toddlers, and in my head these men who have survived the worst of the world suddenly look like 2-year-olds. I want to pinch their stubbly cheeks.

Deep breath. Let’s say it together, now: RIDICULOUS.

I have to remind myself that I’m not nearly as big as I feel. That what I intend as a matronly, bosomy, comforting Greek grandmother hug would probably actually feel like being accosted by a crazy chicken.

But is it so ridiculous, really? Seeing random strangers through their mothers’ eyes? I mean, the effect of sending one’s flesh and blood into the world is fairly profound. For the past year I’ve worked part time at a nursing home. Many of the residents had some degree of dementia. The majority of them are women. When I was new, they’d tell me about their families. Again and again. About their children, how many they had and — before anything else — how many had died. Sixty five years later, the memory of the baby son that couldn’t be saved because the doctor couldn’t get through the snow storm lives strong. Or forty years later, the daughter who died of cancer in her twenties. One woman had two sons, both of whom were alive and well and lived nearby. She’s aphasic, and I’d never understood anything she said, until her grown son came to visit one day. She attached herself to his arm, beamed to everyone around her and said, ‘MOR‘ (Mother), clear as day.

I just about cried.

When it all falls away — all the things we’ve done, seen said, won, lost — the red thread stringing our hearts together in a line, or web, of human connection shines through in its beautiful simplicity. Not a new story. A story intended from the beginning of time, intended with the impression of His image stamped upon us.

 

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Me, last night, to Bjørn: “We are so blessed our kids have been so healthy through the years. No chronic illness, no even so many colds lately. You know what? I’m going to take some credit for that. I breastfed them for a loooong time. That has to have helped their immune systems.”

Me, tonight, pouring pesticide on their scalps to eradicate lice: “There goes that…”

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(Catie Michaelson, this is for you! I DID remember to do part two 🙂 

(Also, for everyone else, this is waay too long and not interesting so just skip it)

Where did we leave off? April? Which brings us to

May: Oi oi oi. May was a big one. I was just cruising through the ”draft” folder and found this:

I am so tired.

I am so tired that even before typing those words — just thinking them — i had to get up and refill my coffee. The coffee pot that I almost filled up yesterday morning, before I remembered that I’d be the only one drinking it. These guys have been living with and helping me manage our day-to-day chaos for the past 2 weeks, and just left yesterday morning. They arrived the day after we got back from a taste of summer and a 60th birthday festival in the south with these guys, and this guy has been travelling for basically the past two weeks.

And life goes on in the meantime. Swimming lessons, track practice, library books, school meetings. Finding lost papers, paying forgotten bills. Putting up the ladder for the chimney sweep who just had to come now.

I think I was meaning to insert pictures of Mom, Dad and Chris, Ivar and Lil Torunn; and Bjørn, respectively, after each mention of ”guys.”

It’s all coming back to me — We flew to Kristiansand and drove to Arendal for Ivar’s 60th birthday celebration, which was to be a mega party of several days. I don’t think we’d flown anywhere since the previous fall, when Emil Birk hitch-hiked back from the zoo. So, please, imagine our surprise when ALL OF THE TRAVEL WENT INCREDIBLY SMOOTHLY.  Not a single horror story to relate. And we ate and drank and celebrated 60 years of Ivar in the warmth of the southern coast.

We drove home from the airport after Arendal, and then drove back the next day to pick up our American grandparents and Uncle. They fit right in to our routine like they live next door. Bjørn was gone for 8 of the days they were here, and I was extremely grateful for the back up. It’s not fair to travel all the way to Norway just to babysit, though, so we took one long weekend and drove our Wisconsinites, who had just survived a winter of polar vortexes, back into the snow through the mountains to Røros. One UNESCO World Heritage Site and one Eurovision Song Contest in one weekend? Pretty sure that checked ”Cultural Experiences” off the to-do list.

It can’t be said enough how grateful the five of us are to have family that is willing to travel to come see us. A very belated thank you for a very lovely visit.

June: June, june, what happened in June? YES — the first showing of our house. Can I just say how weird it is to have your house be so clean and empty that it echoes? Part of me was proud, and part of me rolled my eyes. I’d spent seriously years trying to banish the echoiness of that house. Anyway, we took Karel to track practice, ate pizza in the park afterwards, and kept waiting to hear from the realtor. No one came, friends. No one came to witness the beauty and echoiness of Solvangvegen 17. Anyway, that’s all I really remeber about June.

Wait! My little brother asked his beautiful girlfriend to marry him in June! Hearing the words ”and I asked her to marry me” come out of his mouth caused my heart and gut to react in exactly the same way they did watching our last baby take his first steps. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Jessie for saying ”yes” to Jon and all of us.

July: Another snippet of forsaken blogpost:

Summer 2014: It was hot. We develop a routine — one day at the beach, one day at home. We counted that we visited seven (or was it eight) different beaches, most more than once. Cai Ruben learned to walk at the beach — on the sand, on the rocks, in the water. He discovered splashing and sitting and throwing rocks in the water. He used the inflatable swimming ring as  walker and cruised along the waterline.

We really did spend July in the water. As in, I actually went into the water. We hoped we’d be moving in July, so we didn’t make any travel plans. And we couldn’t have found better summer weather anywhere else. The boys were naked all. the time. I’d get them dressed, send them out to play, look out the window and their pants would be gone. But can you believe there are so many beaches around here? Long sandy, shallow beaches where you can wade fifty meters out and have water still be below your knees. PERFECT for children of a slightly water-phobic mom.

AND we had guests! My highschool classmate Katie and her husband Tim just happened to be in Sweden, and decided that it wasn’t too far out of the way to come and see us! It was a real blessing to reconnect after so many years. Katie and Tim’s visit had a lasting effect — Emil Birk, who until that point had refused to speak English to anyone (despite his perfect comprehension), suddenly just started explaining things to our guests. In English. We were quietly elated.

Oh! AND after three more showings, our house sold! Cue simultaneous feelings of freedom and slight anxiety. Now we can move! But where??

August: Right, so, since we needed to find someplace to move TO, the primary activity of August was househunting, and getting ready for Karel to start school at the end of the month. By the grace of God, both objectives were met with more success than we had hoped for. We found a house that we thought was out of our league — twice as big, good condition, stunning view, walking distance from school, apples trees in the back yard! — and put in our best offer. Turns out it was the only offer, which meant our best was good enough. Even now, 6 months later, we’re still in a little big of shock. Our bid was accepted the week before school started, and transferring Karel’s information from one school district to the new one could not have been easier.

So then there was that — our first born starting first grade. He was excited, and nervous, and brave and started in his new school without a second glance back. But just how he got big enough to start school I still do not understand.

Upping the tempo a bit here now, because this is NOT going to go to a part 3.

September: Bank meetings, paper signing, walkthroughs, PACKING PACKING PACKING, calling on friends shamelessly to move heavy objects from one side of town to the other on repeated days. Moving in the middle of the week for reasons that we questioned in the midst of the process. We started to paint and plaster at the new place with the dream of finishing before we moved in. Bjørn travelled to Italy, I got sick, Bjørn travelled somewhere else, I became a bit of mess… but one way or another we got all of our stuff in and were waking up to the view of the fjord by the end of the month.

September brought some bumps in the road for Karel during school, as we set down that path of learning some of life’s hard lessons. September also brought us a 4 year old, and saw a one year old who could barely walk start to hop. With both feet. Off the ground.

Heaven help me.

October: As of October 1st, we turned over the keys (and consequently the mortgage) of Sølvangvegen 17. Super great to be back down to having only one house to clean. We spent October getting organized, I think. Or at least settled. We made applesauce and apple pie from apples from our very own apple trees. We discovered that there is a small woods adjacent to our lot, so while we no longer run through the woods to get to barnehage, we can at least play in one when we’re home.

November: I think November was pretty calm, too. We worked on getting into our new routines with school. Bjørn was travelling a bit more again, and things were a bit tense at times with trying to help a first grader with way too much homework while willing the two smaller ones to not harm each other. But we made it. I started looking into what it would take to be a doula in Norway, and had a lovely and informative meeting with one of the two doulas in our section of Norway. We celebrated Thanksgiving with the local North American crew, which had everything it should have: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pies, wine, friends, family, running kids, and as if that wasn’t enough, for one reason or another we all started singing from ”The Sound of Music” … and the day was perfect.

December: December brought us to our first Christmas in our own house, and all that came with it. Gingerbread, decorating, meal planning. Bjørn had arranged for Ann Inger to take ALL THREE BOYS for a night in the beginning of December (honestly, I had nothing to do with it) so we were able to start out the holiday season with clear heads and child-free shopping. This year felt much more relaxed than other years, and I wonder if that early night out had something to do with it. On that little trip I also bought a new dress. It is wool. A wool dress. And it is the most comfortable and warmest thing I have ever had on ever so I think — I think — I have jumped up another step on the assimilation ladder.

December isn’t december without a little bit of drama — ours came in the form of urgent care visits for a cat bite (Cai Ruben); a sudden overwhelming sulfer-y smell in the house on the afternoon of Christmas Eve (I was desperately forming evacuation plans in my head); and a little conversion mix-up which led me to accidentally buy a 20 pound turkey (instead of say, 8) to feed 5 adults and 3 children on Christmas Day. Needless to say, everything ended up juuuuust fine.

So there we have it. Seven — no, eight months recounting the random blessedness of our little lives. The Lord continues to shine His face upon us… and keep us warm.

 

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Okay — it’s only a couple of weeks late –wait, no 1.5 weeks late, but here are some pictures from Emil Birk’s 4th birthday:

Hahahahaha — just kidding! We didn’t take any pictures!!! Wait that’s a lie — we took one!!! But he wasn’t in it!!!! Hahahahaha….!!!!!!!!!!!

If that’s not the hitting the fast-forward button to a future middle-child-therapy session, I don’t know what is. (insert eye roll)  Sorry Emil. Remember, mama’s love language is food, not photos. I spent weeks planning your cake… which is interesting because right now I canNOT for the life of me remember what it was.

Sigh.

ANYWAY, Emil is a very proud four-year-old. He is in the big-kid room at barnehage, is obsessed with the word poop, has had one accident since he (miraculously) agreed to wear underwear, likes bugs, animals, secrets, and ninja turtles.

That child can push all of my buttons in the amount of time it takes me to pee. He makes me pray out loud while sitting on the toilet. (Are you getting that that happened this morning?) He laughs (literally) in the face of all discipline, but is completely gutted if a big kid he looks up to is angy with him. He hits and throws things at Karel, but somehow not at Cai. His four year old world still has trouble embracing the existance of ”bad guys” in play (E: ”This is a nice thief.” K: ”But he can’t be nice if he’s a thief.” E: ”oh. But he is.” etc. etc. cueing distress and the swooping in of the mama with the solution that if the thief says he’s sorry then he’s nice.)

Emil is not shy. Emil is not small. Emil will chase the neighbor boy out of our yard if he doesn’t want him there. He is a defender of pre-school justice.  As Emil shouted ”Du er dum!!” (”you are silly!”) from the veranda to a random boy riding his bike down the street, I realised that Emil and his big brother put us in the interesting position of being parents to one child who may have a tendency toward being teased, and one who may have a tendency toward being the teaser.

His stubborness is inherited on both sides. Hah! THAT’S where he’s underestimated us. I can out-stubborn him. Push all you want, buddy. I’m still gonna love you.

A tribute to four years with our little man of many names:

eb: sleepy baby with so much hair! :)

eb: sleepy baby with so much hair! 🙂

eb: Six months old, all cheeks.

eb: Six months old, all cheeks.

eb: food enthusiast

eb: food enthusiast

eb: comedian

eb: comedian

eb: 2 years

eb: 2 years

eb: monster trapped in a cage.... just kidding.

eb: monster trapped in a cage…. just kidding.

eb: artist

eb: artist

eb: Selfie!

eb: Selfie!

eb: big brother

eb: big brother

eb: little brother

eb: little brother

eb: Ninja turtle!

eb: Ninja turtle!

eb: proficient baker

eb: proficient baker

eb: FOUR!!!

eb: FOUR!!!

 

Emil, Emil Birk, Emilian, Emiis, Birkelus… still not too big to be our baby. xoxo

 

P.S: I remembered about the cake now! One cake with plums that he picked with our friend Heidi, per his request, generously decorated by the birthday boy himself with sprinkles and M&Ms (or ”emili-ems”, as he — and now we– call them), and surprise spider cupcakes which miraculously turned out like they were supposed to. AND pizza roll ”snails.” We share a foodie heart, me and my Emis, so I think he was pleased. eb review 011

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We have a birthday party to prep for.

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this circled square on the calendar telling me our baby is one. It’s been a whole year since his stormy entrance on a typical April Sunday. Blue skies one minute, snowstorm the next.

Everyday for the past week or so I’ve been thinking back to what we were doing this time a year ago. Waiting….but not so impatiently. Meeting friends at the Easter Sunday church service, hoping the baby would come so we could name him Pascal. (You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.) Visiting Bjørn’s grandma in the hospital when I was there for my standard ”low measurements” ultrasound on my due date. Running errands later in the week, enjoying saying ”two days ago” when asked when the baby was due. Predicting ”maybe on Sunday,” to the moms at barnehage. Visiting friends on Saturday, because life does not slow down for number three. And during all these days, through all the Braxton Hicks contractions and sore back muscles and fatigue, thinking ”I’ll know when it’s the real thing.”

Baloney.

Sunday morning (as predicted, ahem) I woke up around 5:30 with a contraction. And another one about 10 minutes later. And then still another one, about 12 minutes later, even after I’d peed. And then 10 minutes, then maybe 15… but they didn’t go away. So around 7:00 I woke Bjørn up and told him maybe we should call his mom. So we called his mom at 7:30. By 8:00 I’d had like one more contraction, and I told him to call her back and say never mind.

What WAS this??? All these long and irregular intervals… I flashed back 4 1/2 years ago to a hot Wednesday in July, sitting and timing contractions with my mom at our apartment in Minneapolis. This time, blessed woman that I am, I timed them out with my mother-in-law, while fielding questions from the boys and trying not to feel stupid when Karel asked if the baby was coming today and I had to say, ”I don’t know.” (He promptly pushed both of his hands forward in the direction of where the baby would eventually exit, to keep him from popping out on the couch, I guess.)

We called, they said to time them for an hour. We did, there was no change. We called again, and those kind kind midwives asked me if I wanted to come in. Even though they were having one of their busiest days. I said yes.

Forty minutes to the hospital, folks. I had a measly three contractions.

Anyway, they received us, talked to us, examined me, listened to my perplexedness at this whole situation, and then told me that sometimes, with the third one, labor starts and then stops and then starts again.

Please now envision the ”are you serious?” face.

Three centimeters dilated after 7 hours of irregular contractions. I started giving the ”are you serious?” face in my head to all the people who told me how fast the third one was going to go.

Because they were so busy, we were giving a room way way WAY down, two hallways away from the labor rooms. No big deal. We’re easy going. We’re just going to wait and see if anything is happening, anyway.

We ate lunch. I was just back at the hospital a few weeks ago, eating lunch, and I sat in the same spot. This time I did not grip the arms of the chair and lift myself off of it everyone five minutes because of intense pain, however.

We walked to the atrium of the hospital, bought some rolls and a magazine. Stopping next to a wall to breathe every five minutes.

We took the elevator back up, back to the room, waited for someone to come. The next midwife came on shift and asked if I wanted to be examined, so we walked down the two hallways, slowly, stopping to breathe through contractions, trying not to wonder if this woman has ever seen a laboring woman in her LIFE because if she had, would she really ask me if the contractions are painful? Do I seem like I want to walk this slowly and take this many breaks?

Three hours of hard contractions every 5-7 minutes.

Four centimeters.

When she asked ”Disappointed?” I did not respond. (Please re-ask the question above)  When she asked if I wanted some pain pills, I said yes.

Slowly, painfully, back down our two hallways to our room. I managed to convince myself that if we needed to do this the long, hard way, I was going to do it the long, hard way. It was 4:30 p.m when we got back to the room and I swallowed the pills. ‘Baby by midnight’ was the new slogan.

And then the contractions sped up again. Every three minutes or so. I couldn’t do anything other than wait for/ dread them. I figured I wouldn’t be in the tub this time, like I’d been for the first two, and vaguely wondered when that transition happens of going from the clothes you came in to the much-more-appropriate-to-give-birth-in hospital gown.

But dude, the stretchy pants had to go. So there was one item of clothing off.

Fifteen minutes later, I put the call light on.  I was all about doing this the long hard way, but if it was going to be that long and this hard, I was going to need some help.

Ten minutes later no one had come, and my nice light flowy tunic top had become TOO MUCH and was now on the floor. Right before the top came off there had been a contraction so long, and so painful, that I started laughing, because really, the pain was ridiculous.

I had it in my head, friends, that this baby wasn’t coming before midnight. It did not occur to me that I might be in transition stage RIGHT NOW, meaning imminent BIRTH.

It did not occur to me until 5 minutes after I had adopted my standard, lean-on-the-back-of-the-bed, on-all-fours birthing stance AND STARTED TO DO THE LABOR SHOUT that he was coming now. Which is what I shouted. There are probably children on neighboring pediatrics ward that had their dinner interrupted by the echoes of my ”HE’S COMING!!!!!”

Which is when Bjørn took his first active role in the arrival of his son and sprinted down the hallway to find someone. Anyone.

I, in the meantime, really thought I was going to have to catch this baby by myself. As in, with the next contraction (somehow my underwear were also gone…answering the question of how one undresses to have a baby: in spastic, desperate stages), I had my hand — the one not gripping the bed — ready to catch him.

Thankfully, he did not come just then, but the midwife did. With another set of ”are you serious?” questions. ”You didn’t think to let us know [this was happening]?” ” Do you want to have the baby here?” (”I don’t care!”) ”No, no, I don’t have any equipment.”

Then came my favorite. Please remember I have on a bra and tank top (sorry Dad) and am kneeling on a hospital bed with blood on my hand from trying to catch my own son.

”Can you walk?”

 

I’m doing the blank stare right now.

 

”No.”

So they took the bed. With Bjørn at the helm, the midwife and the baby nurse (who kindly covered my naked bum with a blanket) wheeled the bed down one hallway, then another, to the delivery room. While I concentrated on not pushing I wondered if they actually knew that both beds would fit in the room. They must have, because in we went. I transferred to the other bed, there was a flurry of cloths and pads and whatever other birthing paraphernalia was necessary, but I got the green light to push. Water broke on the second push. Cai Ruben was born on the third. Time of birth: 5:18 p.m.

It was a bit stressful then. I was still on my hands and knees. The baby was still connected by umbilical cord, which had wrapped itself around his neck a couple of times. I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t  hear him. I couldn’t reposition myself. I just had to wait, until we could maneuver leg over cord, bottom below belly, clean sheets in place of bloody ones…but then. Then we had him. Then he was there, on my chest, where he was supposed to be. Our third son. With round ears and dark wisps of hair, and eyes that we could already see were not going to be blue. And we three sat there, laughing with wonder and disbelief, through the shaking and stitching, the surrealness enhanced by the snowflakes pouring down from the skies that had just been blue.

We decided on his name that same day, I think. I wanted a name reflecting how we felt the day 20 weeks ago when the midwife slipped up at the ultrasound and told us we were having another boy. ”Cai” is from the Latin ”Caius,” which is thought to mean ”to rejoice.” And Ruben, of course, from the Hebrew Reuben:

”Behold, a son.”

 

 

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It’s late late late local time, and I can’t sleep.

I’ve made a meal plan for the boys while I’m gone next week, added items to various lists, eaten ice cream and pepperkake, and browsed Facebook and old blog posts for the past 1.5 hours. All four men in the house are asleep, but it’s only a question of time before one or more of them start the nightly migration from their rooms to ours, making it even more of a shame that I’m not sleeping while they are.

It’s okay. It’s Thanksgiving. I’ll pretend that I’m high on pie and coffee. And try to record the tones of gratefulness of 2013 before sleep descends.

A List Of Thankfulness, Numbered:

7 is for the seven plus months we’ve had with Cai Ruben. Both chaos and joy increased exponentially as we increased to a family of five. We are humbly, humbly thankful for another safe arrival of a healthy baby. I am convinced that this one is never going to grow up, but will be my baby forever. Why he’s working on crawling is totally throwing me for a loop.

p.s. Did I ever write up a birth story for him? Have I done that for ANY of them? Remind me to do that one day.

6 is for the number of years we’ve been married. Thankful, as always, for a caring husband and fantastic co-parent. These little-kid years are not easy on a relationship, but with luckily for us, our shared trait of stubborness is working in our favor. As is a mutual love of beer and select crime series. Six years down, many more to go.

5 is for the number of years we’ve had with Karel Magne. He’s reading now. Did I mention that? Just single words, not sentences, not books, but words. The first step in entering that world of independent magic. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. What happens when your heart grows up and doesn’t need you anymore? Five is for our oldest brother, the ”storste bukkene Bruse” (biggest billy goat Gruff). He charms us, impresses us, exasperates us, he doesn’t eat meat…par for the course with a billy goat, I guess.

4 is the number of Thanksgivings we’ve had in Steinkjer. Almost four years in the same place means I meet people I know almost every time we’re out. It means that when newer arrivals are working through the emotional contortions of a new/old/different place, I can’t commiserate so much anymore. No one wants to hear ”just give it time”… so I don’t say so much of anything. Four is also the number of screens I access daily to stave off tiredness and feign connectedness with the outside world. Thankful for technology, and as always, Skype.

3 is the number of years we’ve had with Emil Birk. Or rather, Emilian Birk Lyngstad, as he calls himself now. Three months as a three year old…I just don’t even have the words. Two is a piece of cake compared to three. For my own sake, let me repeat it: I am thankful for Emilian Birk Lyngstad. I am thankful for the funny things he says and his soft cheek  snuggles. I love the medley of cartoon theme songs he sings every morning. I would love it more if it weren’t at 6:30 a.m. and accompanied by flailing legs, but you can’t have it all. I love that in the midst of throwing a fit about something, if you explain the situation to him, he will eventually heave a big sigh and say ”okay, maybe.” Right now I love that he will not be three forever…but when he’s five I’ll probably wish that he was. Sigh. So irritating.

2 is…what time it is right now? the number of liters of coffee I’m going to need tomorrow? Two is the number of days until I’m boarding a plane with the baby to Spain to meet Catie. So two represents our thankfulness for the friends we have throughout the world, the friends who travel the world, the friends who love us and keep us in their hearts even when we’re elsewhere in the world. The shrinking of the planet has it’s drawbacks. Small enough to cross paths, but still too wide to hold hands.

1. There is one roof sheltering our five heads. One roof that we sleep, eat, play, talk, shout, and irritate each other under. We know many families for whom this is not so. Or for whom it is now but wasn’t before. However great the joy of being reunited might be, I am thankful for not bearing the weight of being separated.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Praise Him all creatures here below.

Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Amen.

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We are proud to introduce our newest little man:

(more…)

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