Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Here's our Christmas/New Year's letter that we just mailed out:













Dear Friends & Family,

It’s hard to believe that this year has finally come to a close. It has been a year full of blessings and heart ache. As many of you know, 2010 began with us carrying our fourth baby knowing that he was going to die. The months leading up to his birth were hard, but we tried to be as purposeful as possible to enjoy the little time we had with our baby. Noah Tobias (“Take Comfort, God is Good”) was stillborn at 31 weeks on April 15, 2010. We grieved and still grieve his loss. We will carry him in our hearts forever.

Four months after losing Noah, we learned that God had decided to bless us again. Our fourth little boy is expected to arrive sometime around April 1, 2011, hopefully to be delivered at home by a mid-wife.

The rest of the family is doing well. Livvy just turned six and loves being homeschooled in first grade. She enjoys math, reading and especially loves our co-op Discovery Day. Being goofy, getting dirty, and helping out with her brothers are her favorite past-times. She’s going to be a big help when this baby comes! We love her passionate and yet tender heart.

Sammy is four years old and is an all-around fun and spunky kid. I haven’t done much schooling with him so far, but he is learning a lot through the influence of his big sister and co-op. He loves playing with Livvy and Ben, wrestling with Dad, or being my little worker-man.

Ben is now two years old and is very much a rough and tumble little boy. He loves playing monster trucks with Sammy, but has been known to say, “I in charge.” He can easily ham it up and take center stage, or quietly slip away and get into things that he shouldn’t.

In early November Tom started a new job at a local skilled nursing facility in their rehab gym. He’s enjoying the patients and the lack of stress that came with his previous job. On weekends he’s still plugging away at the house. We’re officially living in the addition and enjoying all of the extra room. It is such a blessing! Tom’s next project is to remodel two small adjoining bedrooms downstairs and convert them into a schoolroom/office. We’re hoping to have that space accessible sometime in the next couple of months. It’ll take some time before everything is completely done, but it’ll be so nice when all the major stuff is finished.

As for me, this year has had lots of ups and downs. I feel like losing Noah has made me stronger and weaker at the same time. I’ve also been challenged during this year of homeschooling. I’m constantly reminding myself not to sweat the small stuff and, above all else, enjoy life with my children while shepherding their hearts toward Christ.

Thank you for all your thoughts, love and prayers over the year – they have carried us. May the Lord bless you, your Christmas and the year to come.

Love,
The Cutlips

“Why do you say… "My way is hidden from the LORD, and my just claim is passed over by my God"? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary… Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:27-31

Friday, December 17, 2010

Livvy's Birthday

Somehow without my permission my first and only precious little baby girl keeps growing.  Here's what Olivia Joy looked liked a little over six years ago.  So sweet and small; she fit perfectly into an oversized Christmas stocking.  She truly was an angel of a baby - she nursed well, slept through the night early on, cooed and talked with her big toothless smiles.  Absolutely perfect!


And then Livvy grew and grew.  She's still a very good and fun kid to have around.  She is smart, goofy, a great help with things around the house, and with minding her brothers.  She's tender-hearted and yet stubborn and opinionated at the same time - takes after her father (love you honey...OK, she a bit like me too).  :)

Here's what she looked like a couple of months ago in one of her finer moments after playing outside for a few minutes.  Give the girl some mud and she would swim in it if it was deep enough!


At the end of November Livvy turned six years old.  For her 6th birthday Livvy decided that she wanted a pumpkin cake - to taste like pumpkin and look like a pumpkin. At first I was hoping she'd changed her mind to something else at the last minute, but it ended up being a very fun theme. My mom and I made two different kinds of pumpkin cake batter. One was a chocolate and pumpkin and the other was a pumpkin spice. We made cupcakes out of most of the batter and one small round for the adults. We iced the cupcakes with orange frosting and waited for the kids to come.


I am not one who enjoys coming up with all sorts of kid party activities or little goody bags, etc.  I'd rather not have my kids come home from a party with more candy or little cheap toys, and so I don't like to send kids home from our parties with stuff like that (I know, what a bah-hum-bug-mom).  I have caved to the pressure and sent home goody bags on occasion, but I'd rather not.  So, I usually try to have the kids do something that the kids can eat or dispose of soon afterward.

This year, to go with the pumpkin theme, I left all the cupcakes plain and had the kids decorate their own pumpkins and then stick them in the pumpkin patch (a long tin-foiled covered board edged with Twizzlers and filled with crushed chocolate graham crackers) until it was time to be consumed.  All the kids had a great time putting all sorts of sprinkles and candies on their pumpkins.  It turned out pretty cute if I do say so myself.

For lunch I even had the kids make their own pizzas.  I think everybody enjoyed it, even though deep down I felt slightly guilty for taking the easy way out from doing all the other party stuff that's popular these days to do.  But really, Livvy had the best time just being with her friends, and that's what really matters.  I have to remember that when I'm in the midst of things and getting a little stressed.

So Thankful

After eight years of marriage we finally hosted our very first Thanksgiving.  Tom's parents were visiting from Ohio so we wanted to stay home and have a special time with just us and them.



Hosting Thanksgiving meant that it was my job to make the turkey and all the other key parts of the meal.  I know Mom C would have been more than happy to help me, but I wanted the challenge and was excited about taking it on.  I went to The Pioneer Woman for a tested and approved turkey recipe.  I followed step-by-step instructions on how to make her favorite brine, roasting method and gravy.  I also used her creamy mashed potato recipe.  I also made some cornbread casserole, rolls (those I just heated up), a chocolate pecan pie (Mom C called it a Kentucky Derby Pie), and Mom C made a pumpkin pie.

Everything was so delicious!!  The turkey was actually moist and tender, and very tasty.  Which actually made me nervous - I kept thinking maybe it wasn't done and everybody is going to start puking an hour afterwards.  Thankfully that did not happen, everybody's belly stayed nice and stuffed.
 And the honey got to carve the bird, of course.

To remind us of all the things we have to be thankful for, before we began our meal (inspired by my mom I'm sure) the kids and I came up with a thankful turkey craft for all to participate in.  We made cardboard turkey body and stuck him in a call of clay.  Then we made construction paper feathers glued to popsicle sticks and gave everybody two of them along with a marker.  I had everybody write down things they were thankful for on each of their feathers, share them with the family and then stick them into the turkey's clay body. 
 

I think it turned out to be a very fun way of reminding us of what Thanksgiving is all about - except that I can hear in years to come all of the "Ughs" coming from the family as we all do to my mom when she tries to break the mold and do something that requires all of us to participate and share.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All About Baby

Time has been in short supply lately; especially time for blogging.  But having little time to blog about Baby Cutlip certainly doesn't diminish baby's importance in our life.

So without further ado...

Back in August we found out that baby #5 was coming; due April 1st.  Like with my other pregnancies I was nervous, and even more so because of losing Noah.  I'm not one that typically likes being pregnant - I'd rather not puke all day (which thankfully I didn't with this one at all!), get big and fat (I'm measuring 2" bigger around already than I did with the previous four, hmmm...), or be so tired for months on end that playing and interacting with the kids becomes a chore rather than a joy.  I love the excitement behind the whole delivery process, not the pain, but just the anticipation of the unfolding story, but I just don't enjoy the whole process of getting to that point.

I procrastinated quite awhile before calling our OB to schedule our first visit.  I guess I just wanted to pretend that everything was fine than find out that something was wrong - I have a small tendency to be a pessimistic thinker, or, like I like to say, realistic (drives my optimistic honey crazy). 

We had an ultrasound on October 4th.  It was really hard to walk into the OB's office again.  We love our doctor, the nurses and all the staff there (except the ultrasound techs, they were always a bit on the abrupt side, lacking sensitivity).  But everybody else was always kind and friendly.  But going there again brought all of those old memories back.  It was hard.  Thankfully the tech was somebody new and she was very sweet and said our little one was very cute.



Sometime in October things with Tom's job started to get a little sketchy.  The company was doing things that just weren't in the best interest of their employees or their clients.  People started quitting or getting fired left and right.  One of those that quit, asked Tom to join her at the skilled nursing facility that had just hired her.  Tom looked into it, prayed about it and went ahead with the move.  He's going on his third week at his new job and really likes it.  God's perfect timing and hand was in it all the way - two weeks ago the company that Tom had previously worked for announced that they were shutting their doors. 

I know this sounds like it has nothing to do with baby, but give me another minute, I'm getting there.  The health insurance costs with his new job were going to be twice as much as we had been paying.  After some negotiating, Tom opted for an increased hourly wage and no standard health insurance.  We've decided to sign up with Samaritan Ministries which is a Christian health sharing organization - I'm really looking forward to being apart of this group, it sounds pretty amazing.

All that to say, a pregnancy is a "pre-existing condition" and isn't fully covered by Samaratin Ministries.  To lower our out-of-pocket costs we've decided to hire a mid-wife and have this baby at home.  Now remember, I have a small tendency to think too much and think a little on the negative side of things.  So this idea was rather shocking to me at first.  But God in His amazing grace gave me that peace that only He can give.  I think it shocked Tom how quickly I came around to the idea and actually became excited about it.  Back in May of this year I had met Sierra, the friend and mid-wife of my good friend Amy.  At the time I had no thought that I would ever need her services, but I really liked her and enjoyed our brief visit.  I'm looking forward to having her deliver this little one, at home.

On November 4th I had the anatomy ultrasound and my last visit with our OB.  I will miss Dr Perrin; but not having to go to her office again is a blessing. 

It was so good to see the little one again, learn that everything is developing perfectly, and find out that we're having another little boy!  Oh, boy.

 Livvy was sad.  She cried a little and said, "It feels like it's always a boy".  It didn't take her long to get over the disappointment and get excited about another little brother.  That's four brothers for her.  Sammy and Ben, of course, were excited from the get-go.  Go boys!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Floor'd

Well, after almost 2.5 years, we have flooring, and not the concrete kind! 

Tile was actually installed back in the end of August.  I had been waiting until I could get it really nice and clean until I took a picture of it.  Which is why, now three months later, I'm finally posting about it.  Not that I've been able to get them clean; the constant influx of construction dust has prevented me from getting it even remotely looking nice and clean for any length of time.  The times, two of them, that I've tried to mop the floors, I've managed only to smear around the dust.  I give up.  Maybe somebody (eh hem Mom, Mom C. :>) will have pity on me and give it a really good wipe down while we wait for the next dust creating construction project to get underway.

Last Monday the carpet was completed - the downstairs living room and the entire upstairs.  It is so nice to have something soft under our feet.  It has really made the place feel warm and ...well, livable, like a home. 



This past weekend with some help from my parents we moved beds and dressers upstairs and we all got to sleep upstairs for the first time.  It is so nice!!


Friday, October 15, 2010

We Have Five

Monday night I had the rare treat of shopping without children.  Livvy and Sammy were at Awanas, and Ben was at home with Tom.  While perusing Cost Plus I ran into an acquaintance...a friend of a friend type thing.  But anyway, we started chatting.

How's business?", "How's Tom?"  and so on.

And then he asked that question.  "So, how many kids do you have?"

"Uuuhhh...  Well....  Uuuhhhh....  Three."  I literally said that, the "uuuhhh's" and all.  I can't imagine what he must have thought.  Oh well.

If the kids had been with me they would have happily and loudly said, "We have five kids, Livvy, Sammy, Ben, Noah and the baby in mommy's belly."  They tell anybody and everybody, including the old couple behind us in line at the grocery store and the check-out clerk.  They talk about Noah freely and include him in every family count there is, and all family pictures.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

I've answered the "How many kids do you have?" question before including Noah.  But for some reason that night I didn't.  Not including Noah in my count of children last Monday night left me feeling sad...like I not only denied Noah, but I denied God in a way by not acknowledging what He had done by giving us Noah and taking him away.   It's a hard one.



Today, Octoberr 15th, is the National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.


It was one year ago this week that we found out we were expecting baby #4.  I've shared this before but will again, I wasn't excited about it.  I didn't think I was ready.  I was enjoying and wanting more time with just the three that we had.

It was six months ago today that we met and said goodbye to Noah. 

It seems very surreal... did we really just go through that?  Did we really have a baby six months ago?  He died before we ever got to see him take a breath.  We held him for 8 hours, gave him to the gal from the funeral home, and went home.  How could we really have been through that?  How could six months have gone by already?  Did six months ago really happen?

Every now and then I look through Noah's pictures on the computer (none are up in the house yet, except his hand and foot print molds; we're still very much a construction zone, no room for pictures). I see Noah's box on my dresser every morning. I have the blue blankie replacement tucked under my pillow.


I don't think about Noah every minute or every hour.  But...sometime during the day his memory always comes up.  Sometimes it's when I'm looking at the kids' stair-stepped height.  Sometimes it's when I see a friend with their baby who was pregnant at the same time as I was.  It's always when I sing the kids' their night-time song and point to each one of them tucked into their beds, Livvy, Sammy, Ben, point up for Noah and point to my belly for the new baby (the kids' idea).  At some point during every day I remember again that he, my little Noah Tobias, is not here with us, he's missing.

I saw this song posted on Molly Piper's blog.  I know it's written for families who lost a loved one in the 9-11 attacks, but...it's true of us too:

You're Missing, by Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Today's School

This post might be more for the grandparents.  I haven't done a great job at keeping them informed about what we're learning in school and sharing cute pictures - sorry.  So...here's what we did this morning.

We've been learning about rivers this week.  Earlier this week we talked about and drew a map of OT Bible times rivers, lakes and seas - Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Jordan, Red Sea, Dead Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and the Sea of Galilee.  I don't know what they've learned, but I'm certainly more educated.

Yesterday at co-op's Discovery Days they had fun watching how waters flows from high spots to low and cuts a path as it goes.  They even created a flood where they had to create a dam to stop the water from flowing into the village.

Today, because I hadn't much planned but really thought I should be doing something fun and hands-on with them, went outside and turned on the hose.  First we filled up a bucket of water and took it over to a big mound of rocks/dirt we have in the side yard.  We climber to the top and dug a little hole for a mountain lake and then dumped some of the water in it.  Then we dumped the rest of the water into lake to see where the water would cut it's path down the mountain as the winter snow melted. 

Next we followed the instructions from our Compassion Explorer magazine to show what happens to water in a vegetated area versus a non-vegetated area.  We filled up two cookie sheets with dirt: one with just dirt and the other we added some rocks and clumps of grass.  We put a couple of bricks under one end of each pan and then dragged the hose over.  The kids had fun making it rain and watching what happened as the water made it's paths.


You can see that Sammy's vegetated mountain slope held where the rocks and grass was.  Livvy's non-vegetated slope all washed away - mudslide.  We had the perfect real-life example of this during the summer as the rains came and fell on our recently burnt mountain.  Slopes that used to hold the water gave way and several neighborhoods flooded including ours.  Thankfully this morning it was just a small localized flood that didn't result in any property damage - just some muddy pants.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

4 and 40

This is a little late in being posted, but...on Sept 24th Sammy turned 4 years old and on Sept 27th Tom turned 40!!  Happy Birthday to two of my favorite boys.  Crazy how it worked out this year that Tom is exactly 10 times Sammy's age.  Next year it won't be so; but this year 4 and 40!

On Saturday the 26th we had a party for Sammy and a surprise party for Tom.  The whole surprise aspect didn't turn out quite like I had envisioned - I had grander schemes that just didn't fit into the day. Again and again God is teaching me to let go of my hopes and dreams and accept His plans for me...without whining and complaining (isn't that what I tell the children all the time??  Guess it's a hard lesson to learn).

Despite my plans going slightly awry, the party was a success and everybody had a fun time. 

There were lots of kids - amazing because there was only three families excluding ours:
 - lots of food, and my best attempt at Spiderman cupcakes:



My sweet, tenacious, sensitive, stubborn, loving baby boy is growing up fast.



Sammy:
Before lunch: "Dear Jesus, Thank that we're here; thank you that everybody here. Thank you that Oma and Opa and Grammie and Pop-pop gonna come another day. Thank you that you gave us Jesus and angels to watch over us. Amen"

After falling down without crying: "Yeah, 'cause I'm tough like Daddy."

After doing 5 minutes of school, he gets out of his chair and heads outside. Right before he closes the door, he leans inside and says, "Hey mom, if you need me, I'll be outside."



My great, goofy, serious, adventurous, faith-filled husband is a gift from God.
Tom:
For the last two years regarding the house: "It's all starting to come together now."
 
When something goes wrong with the house, "It's always something."
 
Talking to me about life, "God is good.  You've got to remember that."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Car Talk

When we're in the car driving somewhere, anywhere, it usually takes at least 20 minutes one way.  During that time the radio is typically off, it just starts all sounding like noise to me, and the kids are happily chatting away or quietly watching the sites go by.  When there is the chattering of children, it's usually something like this:

Ben: singing, "Na, na, na...  NAH!"


Livvy, as Belle Polly pocket, to Sammy, as blue-guy Power Ranger:

"Hey, Honey.  Can we go and adopt some children today?  They are in an orphanage because their parents couldn't take care of them."

"Sure, Honey.  Let me kill these bad guys first and then we can go."

"Okay, sounds good.  I hope there are no bad guys at the orphanage."

"Don't worry, honey.  I'll protect you."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Camp Out

Sometime back in the beginning of summer we talked about going camping with the kids over the Labor Day weekend.  Tom had Monday off from work and took Tues and today (Wed) off so that we could take a break and go have some fun. 

Well...when it just came down to it, we decided against it.  Tom was/is feeling pressure to get our "C of O" (certificate of occupancy) before the end of Sept when our building permit expires.  So, he decided to take the time to work on the house.  And, honestly, I didn't want to go.  As it is I'm not sleeping well.  Being almost 11 weeks pregnant I'm getting up 2-3 times a night to pee - the whole kidneys working over-time beginning pregnancy thing.  I knew I wouldn't have any fun because I wouldn't be able to sleep.

So, anyway, sorry for the long explanation, we had a camp out in our own back yard.  Tues night we had a bonfire and the kids got to eat marshmallows. 


Yesterday the kids and I set up the tent about 20 feet from our back door.  The kids were so excited about sleeping in it, they crawled in the tent ready to go to bed by 7pm (their bed time is usually between 7:45 and 8pm).  I crawled in with them, read them a couple of stories and then lay there until they fell asleep...about an hour and a half later - too many fun things and noises to distract them.


I had told them ahead of time that I would not be joining them in the tent for the whole night, I would be sleeping in my own comfortable bed.  I think they thought that I was being a little silly or a little "princesie" about it (or maybe that was just me), but they didn't give me too hard of a time for it.  I told them that Tom would join them in the tent after he was down working on the house - which didn't end up being until 3am.  Poor guy, the kids were awake by 6:30am happily jumping all over him.

Maybe next year we'll really go camping.  Until then, back yard camp outs are really fun and easy.

Frogs!

Most of our little tadpoles have become frogs!  Some are still froglets and only a couple are still tadpoles.  They have one by one over night popped out rear legs and then front legs.  And I do mean pop.  I thought that their legs would just grow from little tiny buds, etc.  But, literally, we'd go to bed at night after looking at them and then in the morning one or two would have fully formed little back legs.  Very fun to watch God's amazing animals change in front of our eyes.


Another One

Before this year I had never been to a funeral, memorial service or anything close to it.  When my grandparents passed away, time, travel, event, and/or location never made it possible or necessary for me to attend. 

This year, though, I've been to three.  Three memorial services for three very loved and wanted babies...  babies who were known before their birth to have some sort of malformation that made them "incompatible with life".

First there was our own little Noah Tobias in April.  Then Emma Grace in June.  On Tues the big kids and I went to support the family of Sarah Faith as they said goodbye.  As we released balloons for Sarah (and for Noah), we said a little prayer that seems very appropriate to say for all three of these very loved little ones:

Shalom, Noah, Emma and Sarah
Nothing broken
Nothing wrong

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Super Fun Friday!

On Friday the kids and I joined Sara and her girls on an outing to get tadpoles.  We drove out Walnut Canyon road, pulled into a little picnic area, hiked down a little hill, climbed over a barbed wire fence, hiked some more until we found the bike trail; followed the bike trail for an unknown amount of time, cut across a field to were there was a dirt road, hiked along that for a tiny little bit, crossed another field, and then ended up at this little water hole that was teeming with tadpoles (Sara had come with the girls and her parents the week before, so she knew the way. I'm pretty sure I couldn't find it again).

The kids had a blast catching tadpoles and playing in the water. My kids, of course, led the charge to not only play near the water's edge but to literally jump in and go for a swim. It was such a sweet time of fellowship for them and for me. It was the kind of time that builds bonds and creates lasting memories. Thanks Sara for such a fun adventure!!

Here's the kids, Ketter's first:
 
Sabrina
Sage
Audrey
Naomi
Livvy
Sammy
Ben
Ben and I.
Unfortunately we neglected to get a picture of Sara hiking with Naomi...sorry Sara.  Let's do it again just for the picture :).

And, here are Livvy and Sammy getting as wet as possible.

By the end, all the kids were wet.  We stripped them down to their skivvies and they hiked out.  They thought that that was the best thing ever.  Childhood innocence is so precious!