Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December 2016

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

We are settling in after our epic year. I'm thankful we're through all the planning, decision making,
hard physical work, instability, unknowns, and lack of routine that came with our year of moving from place to place.  It's been a hard year, but worthwhile in the hope that it will yield a more thriving fruitful life. We're rebuilding our new life now. At the moment, this is what it looks like:

Rebecca:  I try to start my day with a little personal time after I get Ella a sippy cup of protein shake to enjoy with her morning cartoons and with her big brother Ben. I drink my coffee in my room in a little nook I made for myself until Ella gets a stinky diaper or is ready for her real breakfast. I can usually squeeze 30-45 minutes in for myself. Then I homeschool Ben, while simultaneously keeping Ella busy to avoid the mischief an active, curious, and unwatched toddler can get into, until we have to drive to our afternoon activities. Our house is up a mountain about 30 minutes from the main city where all our activities are. Once I'm home again, I make dinner for our super-sized household: My family of five, my parents, and my brother. Once the kids are in bed, I wind down with my husband, "my stories" aka Netflix, and some chardonnay. 

I enjoy the beautiful drive everywhere I go. I love that we live in the country with lots of space between neighbors. I love when Jon and I walk Ella to the pond next to our house to feed the ducks or to see the moo (aka cow). I love exercising with my family on the beach bike path. I love being near the ocean and feeling the salty breeze while I briskly walk. I love watching the boys ride bikes, skateboard, or run with my brother while Jon and I get an hour to talk and connect while alternating walking our dog or pushing Ella in the stroller, all in the name of exercise. We've been going three miles each time we can get ourselves there. I love that winter brought more cool weather than I thought Hawaii would have and I can wear furry slippers and snugly sweaters.

Jon:  Jon wakes up super early, makes me a protein shake and coffee for all.  He has an hour commute to work. He often tells me about the beautiful sunrises and the many rainbows he sees on his drive to work. Jon has been employed by two different builders as a trim carpenter. He's never worked as a trim carpenter before, but at each job site his strengths quickly become recognized and he ends up highly valued. If the builder doesn't have another job lined up, the employees have to find another job. That's the case again for Jon. He's looking now for his next job. The benefit to this new situation for us is that all the top builders on the island are really getting to know Jon directly and know his reliability, his high skill level, his extremely high quality work, and his speed. In the future we'd love to build Jon a shop on our property. We would have an instant client base whenever we can make that dream happen. 

On the weekends when we don't have other plans, Jon works on remodeling our bathroom. He is doing an amazing job. I am so thankful to have such a hard working and highly skilled husband.

This is a busy season for Jon and I. There are a lot of demands on our time and energy. We are tired,  thankful for our blessings, and looking forward to more down time to rest and enjoy our new island home. 

Caleb (15 years old):  Caleb starts his day with his mom repeatedly waking him up, as he is a very sleepy teenager who always stays up too late the night before on his computer.  He then gets himself breakfast, plays some keyboard, and checks his emails and the Scratch website to see if they've highlighted one the games he made again. They have 3 times now, which is a big accomplishment for Caleb. He does his homeschool work independently. Then off we go to either robotics, youth group, or Bandwagon. Bandwagon a music program owned by Jon's brother and his wife, Jeremy and Julie.

Caleb started learning the piano in May.  Now in Dec, he is blowing minds with his playing ability.  He sounds like he has been playing for many years.  The piano just makes sense to his math and logic loving mind.  He is composing beautiful pieces.  We got him his own keyboard in Sept for his birthday and he already needs to upgrade.  Caleb will have to start saving.  I love that he has a new passion to enhance his life.

Caleb is also very active in the Kauaibots, a robotics group comprised of all four high schools on the island.  In a normal week he goes two weekday afternoons and eight hours on Sunday. He is focusing his time on learning CAD (computer aided drafting) software, design and engineering, math theory, and programming. He has come really far in the last six months. He earned his CAD CSWA certification showing his competence to work for hire. After an article in the newspaper about the students' big accomplishment, a local business generously hired Caleb and two of his teammates, helping them break into the industry, knowing that the first job is always the hardest to get. Caleb and his teammates are drawing a precise 3D engineering design of an ice cream shop with every object in the business accounted for in the design. It's quite an undertaking and we're very proud of how incredibly hard Caleb has worked at all he does! Upcoming is the team's six week build, where they will work like maniacs every waking moment for six weeks and then compete in San Diego and Oahu. Caleb has been chosen to be a part of the core leadership team in recognition for his dedication, competence, and hard work. We're so proud of him.

Ben (10 years old): Ben tries to wake up before mom so he can squeeze in more morning cartoons. Once Ella wakes up he helps keep on eye on her. He is so good at being actively engaging with Ella. She lights up with Ben. She is lucky to have such a fun and generous brother. It's fitting since Caleb was such a great big brother to Ben. I love watching my kids build and grow their love, connection, and relationships with each other. After breakfast we chip our way through Ben's homeschooling. Some days are easy and fast. Other days it's very hard for Ben to stay calm and/or stay focused. Either way, we make it through all the work. Two days a week Ben goes to Bandwagon. He is enjoying it and picking up a little here and there. I think he mostly enjoys playing with his cousins and his other new friends. I hear more about their awesome games of hide-and-seek than about what he's learning musically. It's all so good for him and I'm thankful for it all. He has plenty of time ahead and I'm happy he's still loving to just play. Ben is going through a growth spurt with his emotions. He has really drawn close to me as we work through it all together. I didn't go through that as much with Caleb and I'm loving the closeness that this phase is building between us, despite the difficulties. I'm thankful I get to be at home with my kids to catch so many moments: hard ones that allow us to work on character building, silly ones that lead to joyful play, and all the ones in between. I love watching the journey and growth in all my kids. Ben is spending a lot of time with his Uncle David, my brother. David can encourage Ben in ways no one else can. They exercise together, go play at the beach together, goof off with video games together, and work on different projects around the house together. I love the lifelong bond they're building. I love how much Ben enjoys and looks up to Uncle David.

Ella (2 years in February): Ella loves people! She comes alive whenever we're visiting with people or are in social settings. If people are around she does not get tired. She plays, dances, chatters, and grins ear to ear. She lights up whenever Grandma or Grandpa come out of their bedroom. She really loves when Daddy gets home from work! She loves the nursery at church. I make sure I say bye-bye to her, but she doesn't care. She is so happy to be there and has zero separation anxiety. This is new for me as a parent and it's wonderful. The downside is that she is also prone to explore and wander. She has a strong independent streak. She does not want to hold my hand when we are out unless she has to navigate anything she's not fully confident at, like a curb or stairs. She's discovered the fun of coloring with crayons, but she has a very short attention span. She's starting to mimic more sounds and I expect her language will be taking off soon. For now she tells you a whole lot with direct eye contact and animated expressions in her own baby language. She is a forceful little caretaker. She loves to make sure that Jon always has his hat and I always have my glasses, hair stick, flip flops, and phone. She will force them on you if you should ever be without one of those things. If we're visiting with Zeke, her cousin, she forces food, water, his pacifier, or his favorite stuffed animal on him, even if she has to take something away from him first so she can give it back. She's a good sleeper most of the time and I'm so thankful. It took us a lot of time and work to get to this stage with her sleep, but we're finally there. She loves to dance. The boys have taught her the Imperial March from Star Wars. She can sing the tune while doing a high knee march, toddler style. It's good fun for us all.


Blessings on you and yours!

The Hartshorns

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

We’re Moving! What?!!!

Big sudden changes are happening!  We’re moving to Kauai!  The crucial bits are that we leave Texas the first week of January.  We’ll drive to my parent’s house in California, pulling our belongings in trailers behind our two vehicles.  Jon and his van will go to Kauai ahead of the rest of us to secure work and a place to live.  The kids and I will stay with my parents, helping them to pack up their belongings because they are also moving to Kauai!  My parents and I will share a moving container that we’ll have dropped off to their house and picked up to be taken to the ship.  Then, when Jon gives me the okay, we’ll ship our family car and all go join him in Kauai!  We’ll be taking our dog, which complicates the process.  Hawaii has a lot of hoops to jump through to get an animal through their many regulations.  We’re very excited and have so much to get accomplished in the meantime.

I’m convinced that this move is completely the hand of the Lord.  It is perfectly in his timing for us.  Before moving to Texas, God told me that we would only be here for 3-5 years.  I felt that God’s purpose for our time in Texas was to teach Jon to “live and live fully,” to not just live in survival mode and missing the many blessings in his life while he had his head ducked down trudging through life while working hard.  I felt that God was teaching Jon how to learn what he wanted in life and to learn how to pursue that.  Jon was not good at wanting things in life; he was not good at valuing himself, his wants, or his needs.  I felt that God was going to help us get out of all the debt we incurred from being self-employed in California.  Sometime after we had been in Texas awhile, I felt that God was also going to complete our family during our time in Texas.

Sitting in a booth at the local wine bar on a date night, soon after arriving in Texas, Jon said to me that he didn’t want to go back to school.  He didn’t want to go through the traditional college path, which was a key piece of our plan to move to Texas.  A light went off for me and I was so happy to tell him how big of a deal it was for him to realize he didn’t want something, which is the same as wanting something!  I felt the rightness of this in my bones.  Within the next few days, God gave me a vision of a switchback trail.  Each bend in the trail was Jon meeting someone, putting him on the next leg of the trail.  I felt like the trail overall represented Jon’s career path and journey to living fully.  I knew that Jon would have an unusual journey.

One afternoon, shortly after our move to Texas, I was sitting at home babysitting my neighbor’s four children.  These children were going through the emotional aftermath of their mother walking out of their lives.  They needed a hawk eye on them at all times in those days or you could pretty much guarantee that something would end up broken or someone would end up hurt and crying.  Two women walked up to my door, complete strangers.  I stepped out onto the porch.  They said they had been walking our street praying and were leaving when they felt like God wanted them to come back and talk with me.  They wondered if that would be okay.  I looked back inside at all the kids in the living room and felt God tell me that He would watch them.  I accepted God’s offer and sat on the porch with the ladies.  One of the women did a majority of the talking.  She told me many things the Lord was showing her.  Most of these things were things the Lord had already shown me.  I sat there completely quiet.  For some unknown reason, I didn’t want this lady to know she was dead on.  I was laughing hysterically on the inside, but kept a very serious poker face on the outside.  The lady wrapped up with telling me about a picture she saw of a switchback trail and how it was for my husband.  She went on to describe the same gist of what God had already shown me.  How about that!  At the end I thanked her and let her know a little about me, my story, and how right on she was.  Bonus, the kids were perfectly behaved while I sat on the porch for close to an hour.  God came through in so many ways!  Moments like that are so rare and special and I felt so loved by God!

Fast forward 4 years: Sometime after I was recovered from the c-section from Ella’s birth, I got the feeling that we were nearing the end of our time in Texas.  We completed our family, we got out of debt, Jon and I matured so much individually and in our marriage, and I didn’t feel that Jon had started the first leg of his switchback trail yet.  I saw that switchback trail as leading us to thriving and I was ready for that to start!  We finished the agenda God had told me about, for our time in Texas, and it was right at the 4 year mark!  It’s time!  I prayed and prayed, but didn’t get a clear indication of where we were supposed to move.  I totally panicked for a couple weeks on the inside.  Jon and I had big discussions about what our priorities were and where we’d like to live if we could live anywhere.  My ideal was to live near the people I love and have meaningful relationships with.  Most of my closest relationships and my family are in California.  Jon wanted to live near his family in Kauai.  He so regrets missing out on his niece’s and nephew’s childhoods.  The more we talked, the more we realized that if we lived in either California or Kauai, we would likely both have to work to be able to make it financially, as both states are very costly to live in and we don’t want to get into debt again.  If I worked, then I couldn’t homeschool, and we didn’t want to give that up.  This area in Texas has excellent resources for homeschooling that I knew I wouldn’t find so prolifically anywhere else.  Giving Caleb his best chance to be successful with his high school, college, and future career rated as a very top priority for me.  This area is prime for having exceptional science and engineering opportunities for Caleb.  All of this is almost beside the point we knew, because we have zero dollars to move and moving is expensive.  We really couldn’t see how we could save enough money with our current circumstances to move anytime soon.  I felt like God was telling me to “Be Ready.”  So I tried to adjust my expectations, accept that we wouldn’t be moving, and make my peace with my perceived discrepancy of what I believed God had told me about only being in Texas for 3-5 years not actually happening.  We began to make plans to put more roots down in Texas.  My parents began their plans to move to Texas to live near us.  It was all in motion.  However, I still had a savings envelope labeled “Moving” to “Be Ready” like God told me to be.  It was empty, but it was there.

Jon flew out for a quick trip to Kauai to help his brother build the interior of his new music school storefront.  In the process Jon talked to a few people who work in the building industry out there.  We’ve never had a doubt that Jon could get plenty of work on the island.  We knew there was a good market for him there for work possibilities, but we anticipated that he would have to really hustle and work more hours than we preferred to make a livable wage in Kauai, and that I would also have to work to help keep us afloat.  We were leery of putting ourselves in a tenuous financial position.  Once Jon got home, it opened up the dialogue again for moving.  We again began thinking about our priorities and God completely flipped them around on me! 

God had been strongly putting it on my heart for the previous few months that we really needed to find some other people to come alongside us to be spiritual mentors for Caleb.  He is hitting the teen years and we don’t feel like we’re enough.  I want my kids to know the Lord.  I want them to have an active relationship with Him.  I want that so much for Caleb.  He knows what we believe as a family, he sees what we model, he participates, but it’s not completely his own yet.  We have really struggled to find a church community here in Texas.  We’ve been doing another round of trying to find our church home and we realized that what we see here in church is not what we want to teach our kids.  I felt like God was pulling my heart to Kauai and the church community there.  I don’t know anything about it, but I feel like God is telling me that those mentors for Caleb will be there.  I’m jumping out to trust God on this.  My new top priority, in regards to where we live, is for my kids to know God.  I’m trusting that obeying God by following the path I feel He is laying out for us will help us accomplish that.  If Caleb can gain a relationship with God, then I don’t need to fear the lack of schooling resources in Kauai.  If Caleb knows God, then I’ve been a successful parent and have done the best for him that I can; then his home schooling, college, and future career will be entrusted to the one who can help him.

What really made this move possible is that both of our parents are going to help fund our move!  We are so thankful to them for that aid!  I again see the Lord’s timing in even this, because neither of our parents have been in the position to help us financially before and they both suddenly are and they both volunteered to help us!

We know we’re taking a big financial risk by moving.  We believe that Kauai has greater earning potential down the road for Jon than Texas has.  This was substantiated by a website we found created by MIT listing the bare minimum livable wages, typical living expenses, and typical income per industry for each county in America.  It reinforced that Kauai values the construction trade more than Texas does and the deficit between the livable wage and the typical construction income is vastly narrower in Kauai than in Texas.  I have to say that I felt much better after finding that website.  We found it after the decision was made, but it really helped validate our decision and calm my nerves.  We anticipate the first few years to be very tight while Jon is building his reputation in Kauai, but we expect that his craftsman skill level and reliability will quickly earn him a great reputation on the island and that eventually we’ll be doing well financially.  I plan to pick up a little bookkeeping work to help make ends meet, but not so much as to interfere with time for home schooling. 

The wonderful flip side to the financial risk of moving is that we’ll be living near both sides of our family!!!!  Our kids will get to grow up with their cousins!  They’ll get both sides of their grandparents loving on them!  And their Auntie Julie, Uncle Jeremy, Tia Val, Uncle Pete, and Great Grandma Jean!  Plus we’ll only be an island away from cousin Anna & her new husband!  We’re sooooo excited to be close to family!  It was very difficult to spend the last four years without much family in our lives.  We are thankful to Texas for the time we did get with our Swinky cousins:  Andrew, Aaron, Aaron’s new wife Kara, my Missouri family:  Kara, Jude, Aunt Dar, and Uncle Darrel, and my Oklahoma family.

We’ll really miss Caleb’s birthday celebrations adventuring in the Austin area with the Swinky cousins and our 4th of July tradition celebrating by the pond with Kara, Jude, and our friends.  We’ll miss camping in some of the amazing places Texas has to offer with our friends.  We’ll miss the beautiful rural land we live on.  We’ll miss our cat Susie Q who is staying behind, the Rusches, the Goycos, the Hamiters, the Ericksons, the Grants, our park day friends, our One Day Academy friends, and our newly arrived California friends who just moved to Waco!  Please pray for us to all make close and meaningful friendships in Kauai.  The boys are both sad to leave their Texas friends, especially Caleb.  It’s really just been in the last year that Caleb has finally made some close friends and he is really saddened to leave them behind.  Ben’s excitement about our move is trumping his sadness about leaving his friends for now, but I know it will hit him at some point.  He has lots of neighborhood friends that he really loves and plays with everyday.  This is always the most difficult part about moving.  I’m really having a hard time with leaving my cat behind.  I love her so much.  I know she’ll be happier staying in the woods she loves, with our neighbor to care for her, than she would be dragged to California and then on to Kauai.  It’s really hard on me though.

Overall, Jon and I feel like we’re coming home even though we’ve never lived in Hawaii.  The general atmosphere feels similar to our California life.  This is the first leg of Jon’s switchback trail!  We’re so excited!  Blessings on you and yours and cheers to our new adventure!

The Hartshorns

Friday, August 14, 2015

May – July 2015

The first five months with our sweet little Ella have sped by.  In the last couple weeks I’ve found that I’m starting to feel more fully recovered and more myself.  When I find myself thinking about new recipes to try and following through, including cleaning up my kitchen mess, I know I’m feeling better.  Or when I decide to cut Ben’s shaggy hair and it’s no big deal, I know I’m feeling better.  These sorts of things had been put on hold since I started feeling ill from the pregnancy.  It’s been a long time of living with doing just the highest priority things.  I’m happy to start having brain space and energy for doing more.

2 Months

At 2 months old, Ella is doing well overall.  I'm pretty sure she's on the verge of smiling.  I can't wait!   We're loving our little girl.  She had her first cold and is wheezing and coughing, poor little thing.  It’s delayed getting her immunizations, but I’m good with that.  She's in the 88th percentile for weight and the 97th percentile for height.  We sure make big babies!  She does great in the car, which is a relief because both boys screamed in the car when they were babes.  She is eating on a consistent 4 hour schedule and has been going 8 hours at night since she was 6 weeks old.  Her sleep is worse than it was before.  She really seems to need to suck and she can't keep her binky in for long.  She's just found her thumb if she's on her tummy, but we're trying really hard to keep her on her back.  Both boys were tummy sleepers and thumb suckers.  I was so much younger then and hadn’t known anyone who’d had a baby die of SIDS or suffocation.  Now that I have, I’m a lot more cautious.  Our nights mostly end up with one of us holding her and popping the binky in her mouth repeatedly.  I have to remember that we've made good progress overall with her eating and awake time.  I remind myself that she is a different person than the boys and doing things the exact way I did with them maybe isn’t what Ella needs.  She really seems to need that extra comfort of being held at night and needs assistance to suck her binky.  I have never slept with a baby in my bed before.  It’s taken some thinking for me to decide I am okay with this unexpected development.  She is still going down easy for her morning nap.  I just need to figure out her sleeping and self soothing for the rest of the day.

Kat, Anna, Laurie, & Becky - My Girls ❤️

Ella and I got to sneak off for a quick California trip to go wedding dress shopping with my closest college friends.  I’m so happy for Laurie and her new marriage to be!  It was wonderful seeing all my friends and introducing Ella to her surrogate aunties!  Traveling with a 9 week old while recovering from a c-section was definitely a huge undertaking for me and I would not put myself through that for just anyone.  These friendships hold such a close place in my heart and it was a really meaningful trip for me.  I’m so happy I could be apart of Laurie’s special event.  I love the moments captured in my memory of all of us sitting in the beautiful showrooms waiting for Laurie to come out in each dress and contemplate her thoughts about each one, adding accessories to complete each look.  I loved when she found “the one” and the dress shop brought out a bottle of champagne.  How fun!

Sentimentally, I looked over at Ella sleeping in her stroller next to designer wedding gowns with a window view of downtown San Diego, and dreamily hoped that I might get to wedding dress shop with my daughter one day.  I really enjoyed watching each moment with my friends as they snuggled and played with Ella.  It really touched my heart.  Ella did so much better than I anticipated.  She didn’t cry on the flight at all on the way out.  She had just learned to sleep through the night in her own bed before my trip and splendidly, she continued to do so.  She and I shared a hotel bed and she looked so cute on her half.  On the way home, I had a funny moment.  I had Ella strapped onto me in the baby carrier.  I was pushing the stroller, which I had loaded up with the carseat and the diaper bag.  I unlocked the carseat from the stroller to streamline the process of folding it all up before boarding the plane.  My plan failed and the carseat toppled off the stroller, knocking the stroller and its contents over in the process.  As I’m struggling to get it all picked up (remember I’m still recovering from surgery, the floor seems miles away, and I’m carrying a floppy newborn) a young man walks right by me onto the plane.  I couldn’t believe he didn’t offer to help me at all!  Well, I’m awesome, and I got it all under control on my own.  I got everything folded and ready to be picked up by the crew, and I got my baby and diaper bag onto the plane.  I looked over and saw that I was sitting across from the unhelpful young man.  He totally gave me the “Oh great, I’m next to a baby,” look.  Then Ella started crying and I was super worried she would cry the whole way, but the devious side of me was like, “Serves you right!  You’re stuck next to a crying baby and I don’t even feel bad for you, muahahaha!”  I did feel bad for everyone else on the plane and thankfully her crying didn’t last long.  She was done before we even took off.  All in all, a super successful trip!

Great Grandma Jean & Granny

We’ve had so many wonderful visitors in the last few months.  Granny and Grandma Jean started the summer lineup of visitors.  It was so enjoyable introducing Ella to these special ladies.  It was so fun showing Grandma Jean all the improvements we’ve made to her house.  It was her first time back since she moved to Hawaii 4 years ago.  Both kids will probably remember all of the puzzling that occurred with Grandma Jean.  She loves her puzzles.  There was always one going while she was here.  Granny kept the kids busy, helping her in the kitchen, making all sorts of yummy things.  Caleb will forever remember grating millions of lemons and limes for the wedding cake Granny was making for Aaron and Kara’s wedding.  Grandma Jean did her special great grandma magic, captivating the attention of our sweet little baby.  I love watching how Grandma can still any child with her deep gaze and speaking sweet compliments and affirmations to them.  It’s so powerful and tender and I’m thankful to have witnessed it with each of my kids over the years.

Hawaii Family

They stayed with us for a week and then we all went to San Marcos to wed our lovely cousin Aaron to his beautiful bride Kara Rhodes.  We got a cute little house rental that had a stocked pond for fishing, a relaxing hammock, and peacocks roaming the grounds.  It was a great mini vacation and it was so wonderful seeing all the Hawaii family that flew in for the wedding!  We were all very involved in helping set up the wedding and rehearsal, so we spent lots of time working on that.  I felt really proud of myself for overseeing the reception set up with a 2 month old baby.  Caleb got asked to be a kitchen helper during the wedding for the caterer.  He did a great job and the head chef was so impressed with Caleb.  He gave us such uplifting and encouraging praise about Caleb, praising Caleb’s humble work ethic and wishing Caleb was older so he could employ Caleb.  That feedback is so good to hear for Caleb and for his development into adulthood.  It warms our hearts as parents.

We wrapped up the end of the school year and somehow we stayed on schedule with our homeschooling despite having a new baby.  I’m so happy and thankful for One Day Academy, where the boys each take a class one day a week.  Ben had a blast going to school this year.  He loved his science teacher and he loved all the fun projects and experiments they did in class.  He especially enjoyed the new friends he made this year.  One of the moms would take the boys out front to play each week and bring different fun toys to play.  He really looked forward to that time with his friends.  I worked at the front desk as head supervisor until the week before I had Ella.  I just dropped the boys off the tail end of the school year.  It was nice to have an afternoon off of my normal homeschooling duties and having the house mostly to myself once a week for a few weeks.  I still had Ella with me, but it felt like a reprieve nonetheless.  Caleb did outstanding in his English class.  English is not his favorite subject, but he applies himself and I’m proud of him, especially because I know how he feels about the subject.  His teacher is excellent and he’s learning and retaining really well.  His composition writings and poems this year show a greater skill than I would expect at his age and I’m impressed.  At home this year, Ben has made great progress with his reading and math.  I’m very proud of him.  He has come so far with his reading.  I often find him reading Calvin & Hobbes comics or Captain Underpants books to himself.  He also has a fondness for the Amelia Bedelia books.  It’s a big deal to me when my kids start developing their own love of reading.  I love reading so much and I’m happy Ben is discovering that love too!  Caleb’s main interest this school year has been computer programming.  He spends most of his free time learning Java or creating video games in Scratch (a program developed by MIT to teach kids block programming).  There is a lot of complicated math involved in both kinds of programming and Caleb often goes to bed with an unresolved math problem and wakes up with it solved.  He thinks about math so often and I love it!  It cracks me up and is so far from what I thought about as a child.  He is a smart cookie and I feel the pressure to make sure I give him the best education I can; to give him his best chance of success in life.

Summer brought a lot of friend time for Ben!  Ben is spending countless hours playing with the neighborhood kids.  It’s so cute to see Ben and his band of little boys ride up on their bikes, being tailed by all the dogs that live on our street, done with their adventures outside.  I often have a herd of kids playing in the living room or working on their fort in the yard.  The kids work so hard building their fort, weaving branches, and clearing an open space in a copse of trees.  The girls add their own special touch repurposing odds and ends they found to make it homey.  I love all their imaginative play!  One of the neighbors has an above ground pool and often invites Ben over to swim.  He has so much fun.  I love that Ben is building magical summer memories and that special feeling will become part of his long term memory that he can fondly recall.

Caleb has spent a majority of his summer time programming.  He loves it so much!  He also participated in a BETA summer robotics program with the local homeschooling team.  He participated in weekly two hour webinars, taught by an expert, to begin to learn the MathWorks programs MATLAB and Simulink.  Many other teams participated in the webinar sessions as well.  It was a very interesting learning experience and I appreciated the webinar format.  If anyone had a question after the session, they would get to ask the expert.  It was very productive for Caleb.  After the webinars, each team had a programming challenge to complete.  Our team would work independently at home and then meet together once a week to work out the kinks in their programming to make their robot accomplish the assigned task.  This experience will really help them in the BEST competition next fall.

3 Months

At 3 months old, Ella’s found her smiles.  She’s been giving them out for the last couple weeks and it always melts my heart when she smiles a huge joyful smile after she sees me!  She's been sleeping through the night in her own bed for a few weeks pretty consistently, which is such a relief!  Just after she turned 2 months, Jon and I nervously made the decision to put her to sleep on her tummy.  It’s helped her sleep much better.  She's also been getting her hand clumsily to her mouth to suck her fingers in bed, which is helping her start learning to soothe herself to sleep.  Perfect timing because laying her down for naps had been getting harder and harder.  We've turned a corner now and naps have been getting a little easier again.  She just started to bat her arms at her hanging toys on purpose.  It's so cute seeing her start to learn to control her little limbs.  I also noticed that her hair is beginning to rub thin where her head lies down on her bed.  I was hoping we had escaped the bald baby syndrome with her, but no such luck.  She’s also enjoying the adorable handmade blanket Great Grandma Jean made for her!  What a special gift!  She sleeps with it every night.

One day we had a very severe summer storm.  Our creek rose about 15 feet, flooding our road over the bridge.  The next road washed out completely, rendering it impassable.  We were trapped at home until the waters receded over the bridge and the city came out to rebuild the other damaged road.  Even once those roads were passable, our two main routes to town were still flooded and impassable for days.  I was shocked at the speeding flow of deep water that consumed the roads.  There was still one very out of the way route to town.  I think it took me about an hour to get to town instead of the usual 15 minutes.  I’m thankful there wasn’t any damage to our home.

Ella meets Uncle David

Our next visitor was my brother!  It had been 3 years since we'd seen him and we loved our time with him!  We took him to Schlitterbahn Waterpark first.  It was a great day!  It was adorable to take Ella “swimming” for her first time.  She looks so cute in her little swimsuit.  She didn’t react at all to being put in water, not a single indication that anything different was happening.  It was a heated pool, so maybe that’s why?  Jon and I took turns staying with Ella in the shade at our picnic table so the other parent could enjoy the rides.  It was a fun and relaxing day overall.

The guys spent one morning working to repair the damage in our yard from the big storm.  Jon borrowed a tractor and fixed our driveway.  David worked to cut up our dead trees with our chainsaw and the kids hauled the heavy pieces to our woodpile.  It was hot sweaty work and they got a lot accomplished.

I love that Uncle David timed his trip to be here for Ben’s 9th birthday.  That was really special for Ben.  He had such a fun evening playing at the pool and the park with his friends and family!  I'm so thankful for all the people who loved on my boy!  I felt really fortunate that Uncle David, Grandma Jean, and Tia Val were all in Texas and able to celebrate with us!  He played so hard and completely exhausted himself!  He was so worn out he could hardly open his presents!  I love my fun, affectionate, and imaginative 9 year old!

As we said farewell to Uncle David, we found ourselves having extra time with Grandma Jean and Tia Val.  They extended their time in Texas after Aaron’s wedding and stayed in a nearby house rental.  We tried to get together as often as possible.  I loved watching Tia Val read books to Ben.  I enjoyed extra puzzle time with Grandma, afternoons at their pool, watching both ladies snuggle Ella, and having family meals together.  There were some really sweet moments and I have fond memories of our quality time together. 

Anna & her kiddos

My dear friend Anna and her kiddos came through next.  It had been a few years since we’d seen her kiddos and I love all being together.  I love our kids playing together!  I love seeing how they’re growing up!  I wish we lived closer to each other.  It was great catching up and just living life together for a week.  We took the kids to the pool one day and I learned a lesson, wear appropriate pool clothing at the pool.  Summer was just starting to rear its ugly hotness and I really regret my decision to wear pants while sitting outside in the afternoon.

4 Months

At 4 months, Ella is cooing and trying to talk to us and it's so cute!  I'm pretty sure the boys didn't talk to us like she is.  This is a whole new fun adventure with a baby girl!  She smiles all the time and sometimes we can get her to laugh.  She is on a good schedule and that really helps me be okay.  She seems to get pretty upset if she messes her diaper while she's sleeping, thus ruining her nap.  Otherwise, she is napping well.  I'm sooooo thankful she has been sleeping through the night steadily since she was about 9 weeks old.  Her daily dose of screaming like a banshee once a day seems to be over with, Hallelujah!  She's following movement a lot more and turning her head towards sounds now.  She loves to stand assisted.  It pretty much guarantees a laugh.  I love dressing her in cute little outfits and then showing her cuteness to Jon.  Each morning, she hangs out in my lap while I drink my coffee and we have special Ella and mommy time.  Time is flying way too fast with this little bundle of sweetness.  I'm trying to soak it up as much as I can.

We celebrated the Fourth of July with our usual traditions at our neighbor’s pond.  Sadly, Kara and her little guy Jude couldn’t make it this year and we really missed them.  The men and kids shot off a never-ending stream of fireworks.  It was a really impressive display and I enjoyed it.  I didn’t think I’d be able to join in the festivities because I figured it would be too loud for Ella.  But she went to bed and wasn’t disturbed by the distant booms at all.  I tried out our monitor for the first time and, wonderfully, it got reception at the pond.  So I relaxed and enjoyed myself!  Yay!

Becky is here visiting meeeee!

My friend Becky was our next visitor!  I was so happy!  We took her out for some legit Texas BBQ and some pool time.  Mostly we just stayed home and talked and talked and talked!  I'm so thankful for our special time with Becky and I love that even though Ben didn't remember her from his CA life, he still took to her right away and easily called her Auntie.  It warms my heart.  Auntie Becky, you're the best!

5 Months

At 5 months, Ella is starting to bring anything she can to her mouth.  Her favorite things to suck on are her to two middle fingers, a handful of her shirt or a nearby burp rag, and just recently, her toys hanging on her playmat.  She started preferring some upright time each day, so she gets to bounce for awhile each day in her Johnny Jump Up.  While she's in it she loves twisting and bouncing and having a good view of all the happenings in the house.  She loves watching Ben and his friends playing.  She is free with her smiles, which is stinkin' adorable!  Right after she turned 4 months she started sleeping 11.5 hours straight at night, which was amazing for Jon and me!  It threw her daytime naps off for a few weeks and she's finally just getting back into regular daytime sleeping patterns.  Ben is getting more and more interested in her as she continues to become more interactive.  It's so sweet hearing him talk to her.  I love it!  I think Ben is really going to bond with her this month while Caleb will be gone on a solo trip to Kauai.  That’s right, Caleb is getting to go on a solo trip to Kauai to have amazing adventures with Granny and the rest of the family there!  He’s so excited!  He leaves the end of July and returns the end of August, just before school starts.


Blessings on you and yours!

The Hartshorns

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ella’s Journey (Feb-April 2015)

Ella’s arrived!!!  We’ve had a long journey leading up to this sweet little girl’s birth.  She is adorable and we’re so thankful for her.  She’s a gift and we’re so in love with her!

Having a daughter has been the deepest desire of my heart for close to 10 years.  If I thought about it, I would start feeling tears welling up with longing.  I kept laying my desire down at the Lord’s feet and trusting Him with it.  God is good.

When I was trying to get pregnant with Ben, God was very clear with me that I was not to learn anything about the science behind increasing your chances of having a boy or a girl.  I had to trust God.  I obeyed and had to shush any of my friends who were reading the books and bursting full with wanting to share that info.  I had to check myself constantly to make sure I was content with having a boy or a girl.  I even ended up acquiring some beautiful baby girl bedding in case my baby was a girl.  A few months later, we got our sweet Ben, who has brought so much fun and joy to our family!  I’m so thankful for him, so thankful that the Lord made sure I was good with either a boy or a girl, and so thankful that the Lord knew what He was doing in how he built our family.
I kind of assumed I would only have two children, so I thought I was done, buuut...I kept my favorite practical baby stuff...just in case, like the Moses basket, the changing table Jon built with its baskets, and a few favorite blankets and toys.  About 6 years ago, God took me through a time where He was teaching me about “giving freely” and He required me to give away all my saved boy clothing and to do it with a generous heart.  My nature is to plan and save.  I attach so much sentimental meaning to my kids’ clothes, so this lesson was not the easiest for me.  Ever since then, I pass along our kids’ outgrown clothes to our friends with younger boys.  I have to say, I was very surprised to find how much joy I got from seeing the clothes on our friends’ little guys.  A burst of sentimental memories of my own kids at younger stages comes back to me in those moments.  I love it!  I see now that God knew I wouldn’t need those clothes at all and that they should be used and enjoyed instead of wasting away in storage indefinitely.  Let’s say it again, God is good.
Once we were in Texas for about a year, I had a moment where I realized that the big roadblocks to having a third child had been removed, namely that we had gotten ourselves unburied from a lot of debt.  I also wanted to have all my young kid stage child-raising days behind me before I started working towards becoming a counselor, a direction I feel God is leading me in.  God also released me to learn about the science behind increasing your chances of having a boy or a girl.  I started getting excited that God was finally going to give me a daughter!  It took Jon awhile to agree to having a third child.  I knew he was really okay with going forward when he pulled me aside at Christmas time to give me his present in private.  It was a sweet little pink polka dotted baby girl onesie with matching shoes and a note that read:

Dear Rebecca,
        I love you so much!  You are such an amazing woman and blessing to me and the kids.  I want you to know that I am on board and excited about having a baby with you.  How could I deny a child the blessing of having you for a mother?  You are the best!
His gesture really meant a lot to me.  So I read the books and began tracking my temperature and charting my cycle.  I did not enjoy doing that, so I just stopped after awhile.  I knew God was in control ultimately anyway. 
One day the Lord told me the meaning of the name for my daughter; bright, shining light!  It was such a clear and specifically worded message from the Lord.  Can I say it again, God is good!  I looked up names with that meaning and wording, and the one I loved best was “Ella.” 
It took much longer to get pregnant than I expected.  I miscarried and it broke my heart.  God named that baby Alex, which means defender of mankind.  I’m pretty sure he was a boy.  It took awhile until I was ready to try again.  Once we started trying, it took a really long time to get pregnant again.  I was wondering if it was meant to be or not, but I kept trusting God, no matter the outcome.  Although it seemed like giving me a daughter was His agenda, I just didn’t know anything for sure.  Trust, trust, trust.  I finally got pregnant.  This time around I had to really keep my emotions in check.  I didn’t want to dwell on fearing another miscarriage.  But I also didn’t want to start making plans and buying baby stuff, just in case.  We kept our good news on the down low until we had a confirmed ultrasound that all was well.  Insurance ended up being a ridiculous nightmare to get situated, so my first doctor appointment was much later than normal.  Once we got everything worked out with insurance, we were so happy to find out that all was well with this baby and we could share our good news!  I kind of knew in my heart that she was a girl, especially since I felt the Lord had already named her, but had to wait to find out for sure.
We endured a very difficult pregnancy.  I had awful morning sickness and a crippling fatigue in the first half or so of this pregnancy.  Some symptoms improved with the second half of pregnancy, but they were replaced by other frustrating symptoms.  On top of the normal pregnancy fatigue and discomfort, I had gestational diabetes, insomnia, a crazy overwhelming hormonal or nerve based itchiness at night that would leave me a sobbing mess, and Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction – a common pregnancy condition where the prego hormone relaxin does its job too well, making the ligaments around your pelvic bone during pregnancy too loose too soon, which causes instability and severe pain in the pelvic joint.  I had to only try to get done the bare minimum each day throughout the whole pregnancy.  I kept up with homeschooling and paying the bills, but that’s about it.  I gave up trying to cook for my family or keep the house clean.  It was even hard to delegate because my brain couldn’t handle thinking of what needed to be done in the house.  Little by little, I regrouped and got the boys busy keeping the house clean.  Jon took over all the cooking and shopping.  I am so blessed with a family who will do what it takes.  I’m very thankful for a husband who is so supportive of me and such a great and engaged dad.  We ate a lot of tacos, spaghetti, and chicken caesar salads, we ate out a lot, and we made it through.

The day before Ella's arrival

On the morning of Ella’s birth, we dropped the boys off at One Day Academy, where they each take a homeschooling class, and drove to the hospital.  Prepping me for surgery & setting up my IV’s ended up stressing out my body that had been fasting food and water for 12 hours.  Jon said my head rolled back, lost color, and my eyes were fluttering.  The nurses checked my blood sugar and said it was way too low.  They gave me an IV with sugar in the drip and gave me oxygen.  That started helping some. 
Before I knew it, we were headed to the surgery room.  They gave me the spinal block and then let Jon in.  This surgery ended up being drastically more traumatic for me that the previous two c-sections.  They used the minimal amount of drugs to keep me from pain, they put a large blue sheet up directly in front of my face, and they tilted the surgery table back so my head was lower than my feet.  My arms were laid out perpendicular to the sides like I was making a capital T.  I felt a lot of pain in my shoulders, arms, and head.  I could feel every little touch from the doctors and nurses.  In previous c-sections I was completely immobilized from the spine down, could hardly feel any pressure, and had enough morphine to feel pretty good.  This time I could wiggle my toes through the whole surgery.  The weight of the baby and the angle of the table really increased the stress on my body.  I was having a really hard time and felt really stressed out from the discomfort.  I asked them to level the table and to give me oxygen.  They did and it helped me a little bit.  Then it felt like the doctor was pushing on my ribs over and over and over with all his weight.  It was just too much and I started to cry.  Soon they pulled the baby out and held her up for me to see.  I couldn’t really see much from my position.  The nurse thought I was crying from joy, but it was from how overwhelmed I was, physically mainly, but I’m sure emotionally too.  As soon as the pressure of the baby and the doctor was off of me, I instantly felt physical relief, I could finally start breathing better, and I began to feel less distressed.  After they weighed the baby, the laid her on me, but there wasn’t any room because the curtain was so close to my face, so they pretty much laid her under my chin.  I couldn’t really see her, but I gave her a kiss.  I wasn’t quite ready to take in the joy of my new baby because I was still so overwhelmed from the surgery.  I recognized that lack of joy and connection and felt disappointed.  I wanted to be filled with joy and love.  I just had to take one thing at a time.  I knew I’d get there soon enough.  They took Jon and the baby to another room while they sewed me up.  I just concentrated on breathing in the oxygen and trying to recover.
They wheeled me into the post-op room where Jon and Ella were waiting.  Jon said the time he was in the room alone with Ella was really sweet.  Moments after I arrived in the post-op room, my cousin Kara and the boys arrived.  She had driven from Missouri and picked them up from school.  It was a big relief to me to have Kara there.  I needed that extra measure of love and support and friendship.  Plus, knowing she was in charge of the boys, freed me up to be completely unconcerned about them the whole time I was in the hospital.  That was a big weight off my mind.  I was still needing some time to regroup, so I feel like I missed out on seeing the boys meet their sister.  The nurse came in to see if I was ready to nurse for the first time and I had to ask for a few minutes to collect myself.  This is all within 5 minutes of being wheeled into the post-op room.  The nurse came back a few minutes later and we nursed.  The nurse gave Ella a bath and got her all snuggled up.  A while later they took us to the maternity room. 
The trade-off to the more traumatic c-section was that I recovered much more quickly!  I had no drug haze to come out of immediately after surgery since they used much less medicine.  I was on my feet and regaining muscle strength much sooner than I have in the past thanks to my fantastic surgeon!  He sewed up a lot more layers internally than they did in my previous c-sections.  He did a great job!
The next few days are kind of a blur.  Feed the baby, doze, eat, wait, visit with friends and family, and celebrate each little milestone: standing, walking across the room, walking down the hall, getting unhooked from the IV, being allowed liquids, being allowed jello, being allowed solid food, etc.  Kara brought the boys to visit about twice a day.  She kept up their homeschooling, fed them, and even made extra food to leave in our freezer!  She was a Godsend!
It took us awhile to settle on Ella’s middle name.  We were still at the hospital before we officially decided.  Early in the pregnancy God told me “joy.”  I didn’t know if that was supposed to be her middle name, but I felt like it could mean that she would be a joy to us.  We considered naming her Joy, but we decided to name her Ann.  It’s my middle name and my mother’s middle name.  I was really attached to the idea of continuing that tradition.  Ann means gracious one.  I love her whole name together and its meaning, Ella Ann Hartshorn –a bright, shining light and gracious one, who brings joy to our family!
My mom was able to come once I was home from the hospital.  It was so nice having her around.  She and Ben got a lot of good time together and she changed a million diapers for me.  She got to visit for two weeks and we really enjoyed her!
Over the next 6 weeks I had a few extra complications.  My incision got infected and I had a bad cough and cold.  It is pretty difficult to sneeze or cough when you have a fresh incision.  That on top of the usual sleep deprivation and a nursing baby sucking the life out of you is a lot to take at once, but we made it through.
As I expected, Caleb wasn’t very interested in the baby, but what can you really expect of a 13 year old boy.  He held her when he first met her, but he’s never asked to hold her since.  He doesn’t ooh and aah over her or really pay her any attention.  He’s much more interested in his own hobbies.  Ben is 8 and is much more willing to hold her if it’s offered to him, but he doesn’t ask to hold her either.  Ben is more interested in looking at her from time to time.  He thinks the little facial twitches that cause her to smile are smiles she’s giving just to him.  It’s super cute!  He likes to count how many times she smiles at him.  I think Ben will especially love playing with her when she can interact a little more.  Both boys will give her a binky in the car when she needs it.  It makes me happy to see them try to keep the binky in her mouth when it keeps popping out.  I like that they’re interacting with her when normally they wouldn’t and sometimes it’s just funny listening to them while I’m driving.  Caleb will load and unload her in her car seat for me, which is a huge help while I’m recovering from the c-section and can’t lift that much weight.  Jon loved to trap Caleb on the couch under Ella.  He would just set Ella on Caleb and then Caleb would be stuck because he didn’t know how to move Ella.  It was hilarious!  We finally taught Caleb how to move Ella, so that trick doesn’t work anymore.  Jon also sneak attacks Caleb regularly.  He gets Ella and makes her swoop down to give Caleb relentless kisses.  It’s adorable!

Ella is a super sweet little baby girl.  It’s so captivating to just look at her.  We’re really enjoying her little expressions and movements.  Snuggling her is the best!  She had her nights and days mixed up for her first 3 ½ weeks.  Now at 6 weeks, we’ve mostly got her little body regulated to a four hour schedule of eating, awake time, and sleeping with just eat and sleep from late night to the morning.  We’ve just about got her sleeping through the night the last couple nights.  My body is mostly recovered from the c-section and my energy and stamina are increasing each day.  I’m getting back into the swing of things and adding back in cooking and cleaning little by little.  I feel so much better than I did when I was pregnant!  The more I sleep and recover, the more I move out of survival mode.  Now I am really appreciating and cherishing moments with Ella.  I’m so excited to see what the next year brings with this sweet baby girl!