"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Monday, March 31, 2014

Farewell Too Soon


Aunt Jean

I just returned from a trip to Houston and San Antonio. We had been planning a long weekend getaway to San Antonio for about a month, but on March 19th, we received a very sad call from Houston that meant we would have to plan a detour.

My beautiful great Aunt Jean had passed away.

Some of you may remember that I said good-bye to my Aunt Pat in December, my father’s sister, and now my family has had to say good-bye to another sweet and beloved lady.

Aunt Jean was my Nana’s sister, so my great Aunt. 2012 was a very difficult year for my family, with three different incurable cancer diagnoses, the last of which was Aunt Jean. At the age of 81, she was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer and was given less than a year to live.

If only you have seen the grace with which she faced her diagnosis. Before cancer, Aunt Jean was the MOST upbeat, fun loving, adventurous person that I had ever met… and after cancer, you would almost never know the pain that she endured almost daily because she was just the same to the world. She was the kind of person who would stop everything to play with a little kid, who radiated kindness. When people stood up to speak about her at her funeral, no one had to make up anything nice to say… the trouble was keeping the speakers within a reasonable time frame! Everyone loved Aunt Jean.

Aunt Jean lived a full, lovely life, but that almost makes it worse… because she was SO full of life, even up to the very end. I know that I am going to miss her so much, and I can only imagine how her daughter and last living child, Sherri, will miss her and her grand children and great grand children and her sisters who were her best friends, and her little brother, 19 years her junior, to whom she was like a second mother. Please pray for them, Aunt Jean left a big hole in this earth, but we rejoice that she is whole and healed in heaven.

You can read a bit more about this lovely, beautiful, sweet person HERE.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Minivan Mama: Our Odyssey for Our Odyssey

So I had intended this to be exclusively about my new minivan, which is very fun, but first I am begging for prayer requests over Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Not only is it illegal and WRONG, but all of its people would then become Russian citizens… as in none of its orphans would be eligible for adoption. My heart is sick, sicker than it was over the Russian ban if you can believe it, EVEN MORE beautiful children denied families.

HUMAN BEINGS created in God’s image, by him for a purpose, locked away institutions FOREVER. Asher has a family, but will they be able to come for him? I’m just SICK, SICK, SICK.

Go to my friend Julia’s blog HERE if you want more information. I feel completely powerless, except in prayer.

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” ~Mark 11:24

Now onto the minivan… and lighter subjects, even though my heart is heavy.

The Search and Minivan Decision

I think that if someone had told me that I would buy a minivan when I only had one kid, I would have flat out denied it. Actually, I remember briefly flirting with the idea of getting a new car when Isla was born, but it was a want, not a need, and I would never have considered a minivan at the time.

Fast forward to soon-to-be-three kids and minivans are pretty much the ONLY option we considered. There’s something about discovering those phantoms stains for the umpteenth time after you have left your house (I swear they were not there when I walked out the door – kids are MESSY in case you didn’t know), unloading your car full of kids again and again, now times THREE, that humbles you and makes you embrace being a mom along with all of the trappings of momdom (hello goofy sweat vests!). Being a practical mom is much more important to me than being a cool mom… I never had much of a chance at being a cool mom anyway. Anyway moms with one kid that possibly want two or three… hold off on buying that car, consider waiting until you need it because you might regret not getting a minivan when you had the chance. At the very least, please reserve judgment (I wish I had).

Here is why we picked a minivan:

  • They are designed for families with small kids so they suit all of our needs. They are low to the ground and I may have another c-section to recover from. I’m getting tired of loading Isla into our TrailBlazer, so I can only imagine how annoying it would get with a bigger, taller car (I’m very short) and more kids. My kids will be able to climb right in and I can stand IN FRONT of them (especially handy if its raining) to buckle them in. Also the sliding doors are a GOD SEND when some jerk parks RIGHT UP NEXT to you, so that either you cannot even get your infant car seat through the opening to the car or your toddle manages to kick your car door and totally DING said car… which then you have to leave a note for and get yelled at. Not even a problem with sliding doors.
  • The only other cars that offer such a roomy interior are SUVs, like the Suburban and Tahoe, and to get them with as many features as my minivan they cost OVER $20,000 to 30,000 MORE! Maybe you are made of money, but I’m not, plus we generally pay cash for our cars (more on that in a second) and I’d rather keep that 20 to 30 grand in my bank account or use it for something better…
  • Another point against SUVs and for minivans is gas mileage. I would feel pretty guilty getting such a low fuel economy when I could have had my Odyssey’s pretty rad 27 highway miles per gallon.

The minivan we selected and why:

  • I did not even consider American cars. I do not support unions when I can help it, and especially not the thieving UAW unions… remember back in 2008 and when the UNSECURED creditor unions finagled their way into owning large percentages of GM and Chrysler, pushing out secured creditors, did nothing to reduce their wages to competitive levels, ect. The whole thing was illegal and nothing but a payback for the millions of dollars donated to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. It still ticks me off. Nick might want a Ford one day, at least they didn’t take bail outs, but as for me, I’m DONE with American brands and the unions they support. I would love to buy American, but not when I might as well write a $500 check to Democratic party.
  • So it came down to the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey (we hadn’t heard good things about the Nissan). Nick’s sister has a Sienna and its great, but when it came time to actually look at the cars in the lot, I was so impressed with the Honda. It had so many features that came standard and the way that they built their cars, it was easy to price out models and understand what exactly you were getting. I don’t want to go into to many details but one Sienna we looked at that was roughly the same price as the Odyssey I wanted, didn’t have heated seats, a moon roof, automatic passenger side seating, no back up camera, and several other things. Maybe those things don’t matter, but if you can get them standard in your price range, why not?

The winner: The Honda Odyssey!

The search for the best price (READ THIS PART):

Nick and I have been fairly avid Dave Ramsey followers since we received the Total Money Makeoever when we had been married for one year. He’s awesome, we believe his plan works because we’ve lived it and he only recommends getting used cars. Cars are the only investment (I use the term loosely) that you sink thousands of dollars into and don’t expect to get back MORE than you put into it, in fact you get only a teeny amount of what you put into. Buying used lets someone else take the full brunt of the steep early depreciation. So Nick and I dutifully shopped around for used Odysseys, roughly two years old with not an excessive amount of mileage… we quickly ran into problems though!

First of all, GOOD LUCK finding a decent used minvan in the Midland/Odessa area, people here are family oriented with a lot of kids (4 is very common, more is also common) and minivans are very popular. People generally keep minivans forever and run them into the ground. So we widened our search to all over Texas, where new and used Odysseys were also flying off shelves. The only one that we could locate that fit our criteria was a 2012 in the model we wanted with 17k miles on it was selling for $500 less than we were quoted for a new Odyssey. When we offered a lower and what we thought was reasonable price, we were quickly steered to Nissans and other minivans that “were more in our price range”! That car was just overpriced, but Odysseys do maintain their value very well.

So we decided to go with a new car. We knew that we would not get a good deal in Midland, and I knew that I wanted to shop online and have a price before I went in. That is how I bought my TrailBlazer 10 years ago and that is the way to do it for the best price. So I started two search radiuses of roughly 2 hours drive each, one from my parents’ house and one from Nick’s parents’ house, where I could price out roughly 10 Honda dealerships and let them compete.


Our lowest price was at Round Rock Honda and we emailed a few dealerships that seemed to want our business to see if they could meet or beat that price. David McDavid Honda of Irving (near Dallas) PROMISED US, repeatedly, in writing and OVER THE PHONE that they could beat that price. They had never lost a sale for price and could beat any off by $500! So after multiple confirmations, we set out on the 2 hour drive to Irving to pick up our car.

We get there, they show us the minivan, its perfect, Nick’s #1 color choice of dark grey (mine was black and hard to find in our model), everything.  We wait while the guy goes to set up the deal and he comes back: I’m sorry, we can’t beat the price. We can’t even meet it! Nick was livid. We had forwarded the quote, we had talked to them over the phone. We had received multiple confirmations of their commitment to lowest price over the phone, and they lied. We will be writing several complaint letters to say the least.

So we had to drive all the way back to Round Rock, back the way we came plus another hour, three hours more, where thankfully we had a hassle free buying experience. They came in, let us pick out our car from their color options (maroon, blue and silver – we picked silver, not our first choice, but we weren’t too hung up on color) and gave it to us for the price promised. It was a wonderful, quick experience. Also as I said, it was only $500 more than the USED 2012 car that was the same model! Wild.


This is important because we had planned on paying cash for our new car (another Dave Ramsey thing). However, Honda was offering $2500 off the car if you financed through Honda at 0.9%. For us it was a no brainer. We financed the minimum amount we could (for a whopping $70 in interest) in order to get $2500 off the price of the car, and we will just pay it off next month. I hope Dave will forgive us, but I just couldn’t pay $2500 more just to pay cash for the car.

Here’s Nick at the dealership, our awesome salesman, Matt Alpers, was showing us how to work some of the fun features!

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Here is our new Odyssey in our garage!

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We are holding onto our last new car (which is now 10 years old) for a little bit longer, but hopefully we can get rid of it soon. Anyway, it was FUN driving this car back from Temple and I can’t wait for more road trips in it in the future. Isla loved the DVD player and Gemma seemed a lot more comfortable and cried less too! I know we will enjoy this for many years to come!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

First Trimester (3rd time)!

Today I am 13 weeks with Baby Wann #3!

Here is the picture I shared before of our little guy or girl. The baby was 10 weeks or so when this picture was taken!

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Due Date: September 18th, 2014. YAY for a sapphire birthstone!

Doctor’s Visit

Everything looks healthy! Hearing that little heartbeat never gets old, in fact it just gets sweeter. With Isla the concept of the child that the heartbeat would become was so abstract, but now I know that eventually that little heartbeat will be a busy little almost four year old or a sweet little toothy one year old… and its just so beautiful.

I really liked my doctor too, however we have heard some concerning things about the hospital in Midland, so we are going to check into a different doctor who delivers at the hospital in Odessa. We have heard only wonderful things about that hospital. My doctor did ask me if I wanted to try for a V-BAC, which floored me. I want to write a longer post on that later, but I didn’t think it was an option after two c-sections and NONE of my other doctors have thought it was a good idea.  So its something to mull over… Anyway, I will write more on it later.

Also, I could not believe my weight! I have never gained a lot while pregnant, especially with Gemma, and I have never had trouble losing it either. MOVING WEIGHT is another story, but pregnancy weight has never been a problem. However I am starting out this pregnancy at heavier than I have ever been non pregnancy.  As you know I have had some thyroid issues and I just haven’t felt like myself since being diagnosed with hypothyroidism and I know that I have gained weight. Both my endocrinologist and my OB will monitor my thyroid carefully during this pregnancy. Right now with the medication I am running a little hyperthyroid so they are working to restore the balance. Apparently HYPERthyroid is better than HYPODthryoid in pregnancy in any case. I am not going to worry about my weight. If this is meant to be the pregnancy where I blow up like a balloon then so be it, I am going to focus on a healthy little baby. Plus Nick really loves me and makes me feel beautiful no matter what, bless him, which makes it hard to stress.

I HAVE POPPED TOO! I took a picture of myself, but I looked so bad I couldn’t bring myself to post it. Please indulge my vanity. I don’t think I look that bad until I look at pictures and then… ugh. But as for the popping, I guess that’s just what happens with a third baby Smile.

How We Found Out

So let me start by telling how Nick and I found out we were pregnant. I know that I shared it with Isla and I don’t know if I shared about Gemma (I will need to go back and confirm).

In case you were wondering… yes this baby is a surprise! Unplanned, but very much wanted. I won’t go too much into the details, but if you do the math, this baby was conceived on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing day… days filled with distractions! We did know that we wanted a third and we were hoping for MUCH later this year, like when Gemma and this baby would be 2 to 2 1/2 years a part. As it stands, they will be 18 months a part so just a little bit ahead of schedule!

It’s so fun after the collective FIVE years, including fertility treatments with Isla, that it took us to conceive our first two, to have this one happen so easily! Yay! In a way I am not surprised and I hope that this doesn’t sound arrogant, but I remember praying and feeling at peace after we conceived Gemma and thinking “I just don’t think God has anything else to teach me about waiting for a baby. He has already taught me so much. I don’t think the next time will take as long as the first two.” I really didn’t mean it in an arrogant or desperate way, sometimes you just have peace around things. Of course, I also didn’t think that it meant that we would ever have a surprise like this one!

Basically it went down like this. I had a teeny bit of spotting. (Sorry if that’s TMI). “That makes sense” I thought… “I am probably getting close to my monthly visitor” (I don’t actually think like that but talking about these things on a blog is weird enough) and I didn’t give it a second thought. Three days later, nothing… and I started to think “Could I be pregnant… no way!” It was on Nick’s birthday and his parents were on town. Nick and I went out to run errands and I casually mentioned that maybe I should pick up a pregnancy test. Nick and I have been through this before… and Nick is cheap so he responded with a face and “ugh… no, come on.” In his defense, we have spent a small fortune on pregnancy tests and have only had two come out with the answer we wanted so experience was on his side! BUT I just had a feeling, so I promised I would buy the cheapest test that Albertson’s had and bought it anyway…

SIDE NOTE: Did you know the Dollar Store sells pregnancy test!?! I wish I had known that before…

I woke up the next morning and took one of the tests. It was a dud. The test line never came up so the test didn’t work. I didn’t really care, but it reinforced Nick’s suspicions and my own based on our history so I decided I would give it a few days before I took the next one. I went out into the living room and the kids were playing with their grandparents and I brought out my iPad and thought… “Maybe I should just see if I am late.” Normally I am on top of this and track it but December was a weird busy month with Angel Tree. I know its hard to tell, but it does take up a bunch of my time. I sat down to calculate and came up with ALMOST THREE WEEKS LATE! How did I miss it? I guess having two kids and Christmas and Angel Tree and New Years and Nick’s birthday and I don’t know… I just totally missed it.

So I quickly ran back into to take the other test… and sure enough! PREGNANT! I nearly freaked out. I called Nick into the bedroom and showed him the test and he was SO SHOCKED! It was such a sweet blessing, but a shock!

How We Told People

My mom guessed when we went to Houston and I had a migraine. How do moms just KNOW these things? We told everyone else after Gemma’s birthday! That was it. Nothing special, except the news. SmileTruthfully I was little nervous that people would not be excited since this is our third and Gemma is so young, but everyone was so happy and excited for us!

How The Pregnancy is Going

Apart from the migraine and losing all of that delicious Greek food I ate in Houston… I have had NO NAUSEA and NO SICKNESS! Its been awesome. I wake up and feel normal. Other than that, my gag reflex is a little more sensitive and I am very tired getting to the end of the day, but THAT’S IT! Yay.

Oh wait… I will say that MY HOT FEET HAVE RETURNED! However, its much more manageable here in Texas than it was in Russia. For starters, I started to sleep under a throw with my feet out. I always kept my feet out before, but I think the lighter blanket keeps my body temperature cooler than our comforter. Also I have a ceiling fan which keeps air blowing on them. I’ve only had to get up to run them under cold water a few times.

Random Things

We are getting a minivan! Hopefully soon and I will post on that search in detail.

Given that we will have two babies 18 months apart, we have purchased a dedicated DOUBLE STROLLER. Stroller shopping… my joy, my delight! I will post on that in detail as well.

This adorable baby is going into the guest bedroom with a crib and maybe our glider. I just do not have it in me to redo a room for Isla and Gemma (the baby would then move into Gemma’s fairly gender neutral nursery). I don’t want to spend the money or the energy since we just did everything when we moved in! I would like to actually spend money finishing up a few projects around the house for ME for a change.

This does mean that we will probably turn our den into a playroom. I am mulling it over… we like our den for TV watching, but I think having that playroom will help my sanity a little bit!

AND this is what I KNOW you all want to know! We are probably finding out the gender! Right now, I feel like just the baby is surprise enough without adding in the gender surprise on top of it, and this may be our last baby… I have always wanted the experience of finding out early. My OB lets us find out at 16 weeks for $75 ($100 for 4D U/S), rather than wait until 20 weeks. I am thinking about it. If we are going to find out we might as well go whole hog. One thing I do know, whenever Nick and I find out, we will probably do the envelope/baby outfit gift wrapped/romantic dinner thing just to make it special for the two of us!

That is it folks. We so overwhelmed and overjoyed that we get to be parents to THREE little babies. Children are gift and a reward, and that becomes more real to me the older my children get and the more I have.

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” ~Psalm 127:3

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I’d build a pool…

The other day my friend Julia blogged about Reece’s Rainbow’s 21 Days of Hope campaign.

She asked the question – If you had $44100 just laying around, what would you do with it?

“Would you use it to buy a new car?  How about put in a swimming pool? A new wardrobe?  A luxurious vacation?  An addition to the house?  Pay down some debt?  A new boat?“

And I had to laugh out loud and then look sheepish because definitely, I would build a pool. That would be my first thought. I live in TEXAS! It’s hot here in the summertime. HOT. I can’t tell you how many times I have said to Nick “When our ships comes in, I want a house with a private pool!” If someone dumped $44,100 in my lap, my first thoughts would jump to POOL!

(I do feel like I need to put in a disclaimer that we are buying a new car, but we need one! I assume that Julia meant an unneeded, superfluous car!)

But not everyone is like me! In fact, I know that there is at least ONE person out there who is not like me. A wonderful, sweet anonymous donor has promised $44,100 to TWENTY ONE Reece’s Rainbow children IF we can get $21,000 in donations to Reece’s Rainbow’s Voice of Hope Fund.

I know sometimes I only want to give directly to children or families because it’s so fun to see grants go up and KNOW that that is bringing a specific child home. It’s something we can latch onto.

But without the Voice of Hope fund, there wouldn’t even be a Reece’s Rainbow. It’s not glamorous, but its necessary to continue the work that they do. The money covers advertising for Reece’s Rainbow and subsequently the kids, salaries for staff (and they work their fingers to the bone), office expenses, postage, Down Syndrome awareness materials, working with new families, and much more. Click HERE to read about everything that the Voice of Hope fund does!

PLEASE GO CHECK OUT THE 21 DAYS OF HOPE CAMPAIGN! And give to the Voice of Hope fund. For every $1000 raised, each child below will receive $2100 in their adoption grants! What an amazing gift. Don’t let it go to waste!

Please go to the 21 Days of Hope page and GIVE! You know any amount is welcome and none too small.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Baby Steps

We have a walker!


I love that she walks right into Isla’s arms. So sweet! I love my two girls.

Friday, March 7, 2014

1 Year of Gemma!

I really wanted to get this post out before we announced our third little baby, but I succumbed to extreme pressure from my mom!  It turned out to be a good thing because it also took the pressure off of writing this post in a timely manner… and LESS pressure is something that I could use MORE of!

Our little treasure is already ONE YEAR OLD! How time flies. Her first year has gone by so quickly, but we have loved every second of it. She really is the sweetest baby and has such a sweet little temperament and her daddy and I just adore her! (So does big sis, most of the time).


I took Gemma to the Doc last Wednesday for her one year check up and she is healthy as can be! Hooray! Also her weight it creeping up and her head percentile is creeping down so I’m thankful for that. She also had to have FOUR shots because she missed one somehow, even though she has been brought in on time. The older my kids get and the more kids I have, the more I dread shots! Poor babies. Gemma did great though. She did melt down right as she got the shots, but then quickly recovered and was smiling by the time we got home!

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We have been working hard to get Gemma’s weight up, although we have taken her off of Pediasure. We basically let Gemma eat whatever she wants, whenever she wants. So far she LOVES pasta – especially ravioli and lasagna. She absolutely adores smoothies of any kind, and SQUEALS whenever she sees us drinking anything from a straw because that is the way she drinks them and she wants what we have. She usually either gets a whole milk smoothie with banana and fruit or a glowing green smoothie. She also loves oatmeal, PB&J sandwiches, and Honey Nut Cheerios. (Yes she is on very different diet than Isla this age!)

I have started weaning her, which is sad, but my Doctor did not recommend breastfeeding while pregnant. I kind of agree. We are down to twice a day and occasionally I will nurse her during the day. I don’t want to rush her though, so I am just watching my nutrients and vitamins and slowly getting down to just morning nursings and then not at all. I had hoped to nurse her up to 2 years, but it was not meant to be.

I think of her as a good eater, but then the other day I had to coax her to eat strawberries. At first she was hesitant but then quickly seemed to love them! She does try most things.

Gemma has five teeth, two on bottom and three on top with a fourth on top very close to coming in.


Gemma loves her sleep! She naps twice a day and usually sleeps about 12 1/2 hours at night. Unlike Isla who can rock and roll all night, when Gemma is kept up past her bedtime – we know it and she gets very grumpy with us!

She is also SO EASY to put to bed! I just nurse her, give her her binky and blanket and she rolls right into bed. HALLELUJAH! That is SO different from Isla AT ALL AGES, who has never been easy at bedtime.

Movement & Motor Skills

Gemma is quite a climber! I am really impressed. The other day she kept climbing into Isla’s battery operated jeep without opening the door. She just hoisted herself up there, hitched one leg over the door and she looked like a little cat burglar. I tried to get it on video, but to do that I had to remove her from the jeep. I think she thought she was in trouble or something because after my second attempt she just sat down and started crying and I never could get it on camera. :/. She climbs on couches and a little rocking chair that my mom Santa bought her for Christmas. She is too little for the rocking chair really, but she loves to climb and stand up on the chair, holding onto the back and then rock really fast. Once upon a time I would have rushed to get her down in case she might fall (she really rocks FAST), but I have been reading that kids usually have a better idea of what they are capable of than you do and Isla has proven that time and time again. And you know what? So far Gemma has not fallen and is very careful on the the chair!

Her fine motor skills are excellent! She is already feeding herself with a fork if we put the food on it. She also pulls her cup with a lid and straw to herself and drinks that without knocking it over or spilling it.

Gemma is a very fast crawler and scooter! She is very fast when she is holding onto something and walking. I thought she would be walking by now since she has taken two or three steps between items (like the couch and the ottoman) but she isn’t. That’s ok little baby girl, take your time!


She is saying “Hi” so well and so proud of herself! She also says “mama” and “dada” and “night night”, but that’s about it. She is very vocal though and much more than Isla was at this age. She is full of squawks and squeals and they are very cute.

As for signing, she is only signing “more” and “finished”. We are working on others, but I think that I am not as dedicated as I was with Isla. I find myself responding without thinking to her little noises when I know what she wants. I think its because she’s my second and I know that her speech will come in time and I am not as motivated about sign language.

She is a big tongue clicker! She thinks she’s hilarious. She must have some African blood somewhere, somehow!


Gemma is a sweet, happy, EASY baby. She may have ruined me for all other babies. I don’t know if I can handle a high maintenance baby after this one! Meet her minimal needs, and she is very content. She entertains herself well. She has the sweetest smiles. She is such a little cuddle bug! She will just lay her little head on our shoulders or chest and be still, heaven.

She is a shyer baby than Isla and more of a mommy or a daddy’s girl. She cries when we drop her off at church and doesn’t warm up to strangers that quickly when they want to hold her, although she does love to flash her adorable smile. She is also fairly sensitive and if she does start crying – WOW, it can take her a while to calm down. My biggest worry for Gemma right now is that she will not develop good coping skills so we will be working on that as she gets older. She also has a lower threshold for stimulation than Isla did, and when she is overstimulated she lets us know.

My mom wanted to do a photo session of the girls in these adorable dresses she bought them. Thankfully we got a few of just Gemma smiling in the beginning but the rest of the session was a lot of this!



Sensitive or not, we ADORE our little Gem. She makes our lives so sweet! We are thankful and blessed be her mom and dad and sister. Gemma Elizabeth, we love you so and our family would not be complete without you!

Pure and Undefiled Religion

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