23 February 2009

Jeff's baby

We have two babies joining our family this year. As you know, my baby is arriving mid-May, and I can still hardly believe she's coming so fast! (Can you tell I'm still in the "feeling great" phase?)

Yesterday, Jeff's "baby" arrived... or started to arrive. He labored for 14 hours, with the help of his brothers, and delivered like a champ! We know this is just the beginning, but I'm still a little in shock that we've actually even begun. He said he wanted to get started right away and I thought "Great! Go for it!", realistically thinking there will be 100 other things that we need to do first, but what can I say? He's amazing.

Isn't she beautiful?

He got almost three whole walls done, which was beyond my expectations. After getting the children in bed, I even helped for a couple hours. I learned how to use the "BIG saw" (which I now know as a chop saw), the nail gun (very scary, but surprisingly empowering), the "loud hammer thing" (which is actually called a power hammer and smells like the 4th of July), and I'm a wiz with a measuring tape and speed square (which should actually be called a triangle, don't you think?). And, I was happily singing (lucky for Jeff, it was inside my head) Ms. Werner's goggles song from my sophomore chemistry class while we worked. Any PHS Bulldogs remember that one?

Goggles, you'll love your goggles. They will keep your eyes from (stomp) burning out...

It was classic. Believe me.

It was fun to work down there together and see what he'd been doing all day while I'd been visiting with family, attending a baby shower, and trucking the kids to Provo and back. Nothing says "LOVE" like working together with big power tools!

So, our construction journey begins. It will be a slow process, I'm sure, but so far we're just thrilled to get ANY kind of start on it, as it will help our growing family enjoy our little home even more! Plus, there will be room for company! Any takers?

Three cheers for a do-it-yourself-er husband! Did I get lucky or what?

17 February 2009

Moving day

Today was like Christmas.

We got our lives back... and attempted to squeeze ourselves back into our little home.

A big thanks goes to some of you...

who made it possible for my children to sleep in beds tonight.

Their own beds. It's been a while.

We love you.

16 February 2009

Valentine's Week

For a family who doesn't really celebrate Valentine's Day, we sure had a fun time enjoying the holiday this year! It was an eventful week, and as promised, I did get some pictures. I will warn you, if you're a critical photographer, this post will drive you nuts! I took pictures, they just aren't very good. But honestly, they're pictures, so I'm happy to have them.

After talking about how it was warming up last week and we were able to enjoy being outside and going for walks... it snowed. Of course. Luckily, my kids were thrilled, so they bundled up and were off as soon as they got the chance! Anyone noticed how much "stuff" comes along with living in a four-season climate?

Jack was trying his best to play "snow baseball" with Jane as pitcher. He would make her a BIG snowball, hand it to her, and before he could get back to his bat and turn around, she'd already thrown it as far as she could. Very entertaining for me.

Jane is constantly eating snow. Walking Jack to school each morning takes FOREVER because I have to constantly be convincing Jane not to eat the snow until on the way back. She just can't resist it when it's freshly fallen.

They realized pretty quickly that it was way more fun to throw snowballs at ME than each other, and once I got my gloves on, I was all for it. These two are hilarious. We had a GREAT time just playing in that small amount of snow (and there really was SO little!), until I was so cold, I coaxed them inside with the promise of hot chocolate. Why do I get cold before they do?

My sweet mother-in-law invited the grandkids (and moms) over for a Valentine's party during the week. Jane and Ellie were enjoying their heart-shaped Jello at the table. These two are one year apart, almost exactly, and when they get along, it's so nice! I think I caught Jane chewing, maybe?

Jane was so excited to make her cute Valentine's craft with Grandma and loved stringing the ribbon through the edges. This girl sure loves crafts, for having a very non-crafty mother!

This is Jack "not smiling", but still looking very cute.

We also were able to welcome a new addition into the Rich family this week! My older sister, Vanessa, had her fifth this week, and oh, what a welcome bundle this little Drew Michael is! The delivery went well, and of course, you would never have known Vanessa had just given birth. She looked as calm and beautiful as ever. How do BOTH of my sisters do that? Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the mom, just the babe, Papa, two out of three older brothers, and Jane admiring him. Vanessa is sure going to have a lot of help with little Drew, no doubt.

I was able to go into Jack's class on Friday and help with the Valentine's party, which I loved. This was my second time there this week, and I have really enjoyed watching him interact with his peers, and feel the rhythm of his school day. He is definitely a social one, and I was very pleased that there was no indication that he was the "new kid". This is him with his friend, Lucy, who's in our neighborhood carpool. (that term isn't totally accurate since we're all within walking distance, but they're two of the four who leave together every day)

Jane came into class with me and enjoyed all the activities and sweets with her friend, Phoenix, who's sister is in the class. He's becoming a more regular playmate for Jane, and we're loving it.

Jeff surprised me and decided to take Friday off to be with us and get some things done. What a fun day! We decided to indulge ourselves and go to Marie Callender's for lunch for their Clam Chowder bread bowls we've been craving since San Francisco. They did not disappoint! The kids loved their meals as well, which means they sat in the booth and we got to enjoy eating and visiting, sans chasing the kids around the restaurant amidst dirty looks. Sometimes it's nice that kids grow up. (this one is from my phone, not great, but cute smiles!)

Not a great picture (she was playing tug-o-war with Jack), but at least it shows how cute Jane is in her red long-underwear P.J.'s. Have you ever seen a more snuggly Valentine? Thanks, Vanessa, for these P.J.'s, I can hardly get her take them off!

That night, Jeff went to help my brother-in-law get things started with the move into their new house (yes, this is the family who JUST had the baby, very eventful week for them!). I was putting the kids down and reading and reading to them until (like always) I started falling asleep. While I was reading out loud. If you think that's bad, you should hear me when I fall asleep singing to them. Jeff assures me it's very clear when I start dozing. I guess that's a compliment?

I finally passed the book off to Jack telling him we'll just have to finish it in the morning. He was totally into this Nate the Great book, he just kept on reading, finishing the last four chapters completely on his own! I knew he could do it, but he just hasn't been too motivated until he was involved in this storyline so much, he couldn't put it down. It was exciting for me to lay by him and see the excitement as he solved the mystery with Nate the Great himself. These are fantastic books, by the way, so whoever reminded me of them, thank you! They are a perfect bridge into reading chapter books! (P.S. This one is also from my phone, I can't remember why I didn't have the camera!)

Our actual Valentine's Day was pretty non-traditional. Jeff went back to help with the move, and I went down to be with my sisters and mom with all the grandkids. It was a quick visit (but always enjoyable) as we needed to get back to our house for another big project.... drumroll please... Jeff has decided to start working on the basement! We've been talking about it since before we got back to the U.S., and I'm still in awe it's actually happening, slowly but surely.

Jeff dropped the kids and I off at the house and was off to go make the first big purchase of lumber and wiring. He kissed me goodbye, apologetically saying, "Happy Valentine's Day" as he sped out the door. I don't know if other women would be unhappy with this kind of Valentine's Day, but can I just say, I was thrilled with how the day was turning out.

Jeff spent his morning helping MY sister's family move into their new house. The kids got to play with their cousins. I got to visit with my sisters, parents, and bond with my new nephew. Then, my husband spent hours working to improve our house so we can have more room for our family. What more could I ask for?

(This picture is actually of Jason (Jeff's twin), NOT Jeff. Can you tell the difference? Heidi was nice enough to lend him for a few hours to help load, load, and unload all this lumber from Lowe's. Can you believe what a lucky girl I am? Who needs flowers, I've got 2x4's!) Anyone else just loving this pose?

Ever since we read the book The Five Love Languages a few months ago, we've learned so much about ourselves and each other. It was clear to me as I read it that my love language was "service". As I've noticed what kinds of things help me feel happy and loved since then, it's even more clear. I was SO happy and feeling like the luckiest wife in the world to have a husband who loved me so much to spend his day serving our extended family, and then our own. Honestly, what could be better?

So, happy Valentine's day to you all! I hope you celebrated in whatever way helps you feel the most loved, be it flowers, dinner, kisses, or just taking out the garbage.

09 February 2009

I'm grateful

This has been a fun-filled week busy with school, friends over to play, library visits, a cousin sleepover, and finally a few days we could actually get outside and enjoy now that the snow is finally melting! And, good news... we still have grass. It looks terrible and there are incredible amounts of weeds throughout, but there is grass, so that was a relief. Amidst all the fun of everyday life, it has been a little emotional for me.

Two things in my mind define this week. On Wednesday morning, I received an email from my friend in Bangkok telling me she had spent the evening with one of our "families" after the father was caught and taken to IDC (Immigration Detention Center). This family has been one that we grew very close to very quickly, and they were extremely hard to leave. They've been through months and months of waiting to be accepted as legal refugees only to be turned down enough times that they were thinking about returning to their homeland of Sri Lanka. Not being accepted as official refugees makes it very hard to live in Thailand because if they get caught by the police, that's it; they go to IDC. Every time they leave the house, they are putting themselves at risk. (How long could you stay in a tiny one room apartment with a family of six?) They risked it only for the most important of things: food, church events, and any chance at an education for their children (they aren't allowed to go to school, but my friend was tutoring the two youngest children).

Hearing this terrible news took a bit to sink in. Usually, I can hold in my emotions fine until I talk to Jeff, then it all comes out. Luckily, he happens to be an incredible listener. I called Jeff on the phone after I walked Jack to school. We both have felt incredibly helpless, knowing that from here, all we can offer are our prayers. After talking with Jeff, I went about with my usual morning tasks, with an entirely changed perspective.

I just called Jeff and was able to talk to him about anything I wanted, for as long as I wanted. Not all wives have that option.

I started making the beds and remembered how immaculately this sweet family kept their one-room home. They had so little, yet everything was kept very tidy and had its own place. Do I take care of all the things we own? And, why on earth do we own so much? Do we really need it?

I cleaned up the breakfast dishes and swept the floor, remembering when this family and others spent the day at my home cooking amazing Sri Lankan dishes for us to enjoy together. They took care of things so perfectly, and were so cautious to wash and sanitize everything in between each step. They wouldn't let me help until I absolutely insisted, because they had just found out I was expecting. Do I really enjoy my beautiful kitchen to its fullest? Do I really appreciate having a stove, oven, counter space, and a microwave? And, for heaven's sake, I have machines that wash my clothes and dishes for me!

What's more, the next day I received word that the mother was having problems with her heart and had passed out. I'm sure it was just more than she could handle. Most women would have hit this point months ago. This woman is as tough and faithful as they come, and hearing of trial after trial was more than my heart could bare. Jane even walked in begging to put on the dress this woman had made for her shortly before we left (it's her favorite). How she got a dress for her daughter and mine out of that little piece of fabric seemed like the miracle of the loaves and the fishes to me. How could someone going through so much even think of doing anything for anyone ELSE?

All throughout the morning, through my tears, I thought of all the little things I take for granted. I have my family, safe and sound. Jeff is not in jail, holds a good job, we're healthy, we're pregnant, we can live in a home we love, Jack can attend school, and my children can run and play inside and out, like normal kids. Not only do I have MY family with me, but all of my extended family within an hour of our home. What more does one need?

I've missed Thailand from the moment we left, but have felt like it was time for us to be back in the States. After all this, I felt like I wanted to go back. I felt homesick... for Thailand. This was the emotional part of my week.

The second event of the week, you will be happy to know, was a positive one. I was able to return this week to playing with the Orchestra at Temple Square. It's been about two and a half years, and it felt good to be back. Attending the Thursday night rehearsal felt just like normal, although as I was trying to mark my music I was consistenly struggling to remember typical musical terms that would normally not have phased me. Rusty? Definitely.

So, Thursday was nice, but Sunday was fantastic. The feeling of walking from the back of the tabernacle onto the stage was overwhelming. How am I so blessed to be able to play with this amazing choir and orchestra? I wondered how I could keep anyone from figuring out that I'm just a normal person, not anything exceptional. I'm average in just about every way (which don't get me wrong, average can be really nice at times), so why am I so blessed to participate in something like this?

I started feeling overwhelmed with gratitude that I could hear such amazing sounds. That I could move my fingers so I could play my violin. That I could see the music to know what notes to play. That I could walk to and from the stage unassisted. That I could be there, doing something I love with a husband (the most important one) and two children giving their full support.

So, this week, I have asked myself at least 100 times, why some people are so blessed, as others go through such trying times. And each time, I remembered something a dear friend said to me years ago as I confided in her how guilty I felt with all of my blessings and so few trials. She assured me that sometimes people are given many blessings, and their challenge is to try and use them to help those who are experiencing trials. For me, this was serious insight.

It's harder here than in Thailand, for me to see everyday opportunities to give. Getting settled, I've realized how self-centered I've become worrying about getting things for the house, planning for Jack's new school next year, and centering everything on my own agenda. This week has been a good one to pull me out of my "me" zone and help me realize how life is good. Not everything needs to be perfect, or to match, or be planned three weeks ahead. It's okay to just be grateful, and enjoy all that our Father in Heaven has blessed us with, and look for ways to use those blessings to the fullest.

In the meantime, I'm searching for ways to help our sweet family in Bangkok as they go through this rough time. To our Bangkok friends, I ask that you please keep us informed and let us know how we can help. As much as I want to be there, I'm not. We are sending prayers your way and know that in the Lord's time, he will send the blessings.

To my Utah friends, thank you for enduring my "spill" this week on all the tears I shed. I promise, next week, I will supply happy pictures of my beautiful children like all the typical "happy mommy bloggers" do regularly, with updates on all the happy "kid" things that occur in our home daily.

And, can I just say... thank you.

02 February 2009

Baby Hillman

Today I am 25 weeks along. Who knew? Actually, I think I've been telling people I'm 22 weeks for at least the last few weeks, so at my ultrasound when she said I was almost 25 weeks along, I was shocked! What a pleasant surprise!

I feel like pregnancy has taken a back seat to so many things things this time around. It makes me a little sad because I feel like I haven't had the mind set to really mentally and emotionally appreciate what a blessing it is to be pregnant. I LOVE being pregnant! And, right now, in my second trimester, that is SO easy to say. Maybe in a couple more months I won't be so in love with it, but for now, I'm feeling good! My little one is extremely active, even more so than Jack and Jane I would say, but then again, it feels like it's been forever since I've been pregnant, so have I just forgotten?

And, since this was my first serious ultrasound in the States, I finally found out that I am having another GIRL! How fun will that be? Anyone with sisters knows how wonderful they are, so I'm happy that I'll have two girls in a row who can grow up together and enjoy that unique bond that only sisters have. Jack was fairly sure we were having a girl, and Jane was hoping. We're all thrilled! Isn't she beautiful?

Speaking of sisters, this is the second child I'll have in the same year as my two sisters. Vanessa is due very soon, and Joanna in August. I can't wait for this set of cousin "triplets" to grow up together just like Jane and the boys will!

As I lay on the Ultrasound table, it hit me what a miracle creation is. We are so blessed to have this power to create little lives that we get to love and care for. And what trust our Father in Heaven must have in us! We can't wait to welcome another little girl into our family, and we are anxious to have our other children be a bit older so they can really share in the joy (and work!) of having a baby in our home.

So, I may be three weeks farther along than I realized, but still, she seems so far away! Is it too much to hope for to magically be 3 more weeks along than I expected in another couple of months?