Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Like A Bird

Ava Joy Rivers came into our hearts in a whole new way August 13th, 2012 at 1:47pm. She weighed 7 pounds 13 ounces and was 20 inches long.

The meaning behind her name is quite significant to us because she is named after my dearest friend, Becca Rankin, who passed away a little over a year ago from cancer at age 33. What you say? How is that?

Well, Becca's full name is Rebecca Joy Swanson Rankin. Obviously, the "Joy" is pretty self explanitory. We hope and pray our little princess is filled with a joyful spirit just like Becca was. The Ava gets a bit more complicated, but is perfect for her in every way to us. Ava means "like a bird" and as most of you know, Becca and I have called each other Batman and Robin (like a bird) for years in jest. It was a silly fun thing to do as girlfriends but became near and dear to me at the time of her death. Something between just the two of us, something silly, but something meant for only the other one because I can assure you there is no other Robin in the world quite like mine... I love you Robin. I miss you more than ever, but as I sat in your funeral a year ago, and I prayed that if God would choose to bless us with another little girl one day, I wanted to honor you and in turn honor Him by blessing her with your name in this unique and special way.

Little Ava Joy, I love you and prayed for you with an overwhelming pain in my heart and the Lord has somehow shown me great mercy and compassion and blessed us with a precious baby girl to love on and Lord-willing raise for His glory. I pray first and foremost, you choose to accept His free gift of salvation and desire to serve Him just as He serves us. My Robin was a servant girl herself and blessed many with her example of a servant's heart. She served others with joy and was a blessing to all those that knew her.

Ava: like a bird 

Joy: filled with joy 

My Girls: Al, myself, my Robin, and Anna 

Psalms 15:30 As for God, His way is perfect; He is a shield to all those that put their trust in Him."

My last note to my bestie:
"Batman and Robin
Forever and Ever.
In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore."

"And Batman needs a Robin."

Psalms 30:5 

"His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning."

  And that she has...

The necklaces my sister gave to me for Christmas in remembrance of my Robin.
I wore these during my labor and was able to tell several nurses about my Robin.
And so she continues to speak to others in her death, and now in new life.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tomorrow's the Big Day!

It's been so surreal this time around knowing we're having a little girl, thinking about her much more intentionally like a real person, shopping for her, choosing her name, and all those things you get to do with any other pregnancy, but I will say, it has been a fun change for us all since we haven't found out the gender of our babies beforehand since our second child and she was the only one at that!

I'm mostly excited about our day tomorrow, but with any labor, I'll be honest and after 9 of them, it hasn't gotten any easier. I still get a tad nervous about the labor process and the pain that goes with it. I know it's all worth it and all the one liners women get before game day to try and be helpful, but take it from me, it still hurts, it's still work, and it's still just as thrilling and exciting as your first, and you still fall in love with that baby in a whole new way when you lay eyes on them for the first time. The miracle of life never gets old or wears off just because we've done this a time or two. ;) God is good and we don't want to take anything for granted. 

All of that to say, we would covet your prayers for our baby girl. She is still arriving 3 weeks early and having had 2 babies born unhealthy, this thought does not go unfiltered through our minds. I do have some medical concerns that have preempted this decision and if you know me at all, you know what they are. I can assure you, if you don't know, you might not want to. HA! Trust me. Fun girly stuff that somehow seems too hard to put into even type. The fact that she is girl (and they develop quicker and are feistier than boys are) and the fact I tend to make super size babies are all things she has going for her. But please, if you think of it, pray she is a strong and healthy. I know if the Lord has other plans for us, He will use it to glorify Himself and draw us closer to Him.
The very first thing I bought for you sweetie! I can't wait to put you in it! 

This is how we told your big brothers and sisters they were having a baby sister this time! They were soooo excited!!  The cookie was pretty good too! :)

It's been all smiles knowing you're on your way! They've prayed for you for almost 9 months now!  You are so loved and you're not quite here yet!

They can't wait to hear from us tomorrow so we can give em' all your stats! 

Alexis Gabrielle is 12!

Thanks Nanny! I've been talking about this one for weeks now! 

The new American Girl McKenna movie!

We met some girlfriends at Nichole's Pastries downtown. It was a scorcher outside that day!

Looking all grown up just chattin' it up while we waited on a table...

Eyeing those desserts in the deli cases so they made sure to save room for the big to-do!  ;)

Lunch was fabulous and tasted so GOOD! I could eat there everyday I think. I knew Alexis would love this place after being there earlier with my girlfriend. It was the perfect birthday treat! A modern day bakery for my pastry chef wanna be! 
1 year and counting now till my girl is officially a teen, but we've got a head start on a few things around here.

Madeline invited Alyssa, Lindsey's younger sis along. She's a spunky thing too and a real sweetheart!

Jill and I sportin' our dessert choices. They were nummy!! 

Aren't they all grown up here Jilly? Where has the time gone and where will we be in another 12 years?  It's gone by so fast... I hope they are always good friends. Just like I am with their mama....
This year was a tad sad. There were no toys of any kind to be bought, no theme she wanted... She just chose to have a fun day with a girlfriend she hardly ever gets to see anymore. These two have known each other since they were babies in the womb. Her mama and I are good buds too. I puffy heart this family. Lindsey and Alexis are opposite in so many ways and I think that's why they click so well. I'd say she made a pretty good choice for her big day. I had a blast too!

Looking all grown up in their tween tees. :)

Yummo, was this chocolate tower by far the BOMB! I had one earlier in the summer with my girlfriend and  had told Lexie all about it! 

Forever Friends Bracelets

Thanks again Lindsey! I don't ever take mine off!

It was sure fun to have you over for the afternoon after our shopping excursion at West Acres.

Pretty excited girls opening up gifts that night with the fam!

Mom and Dad's gift was new bedding for the new room in the making!  I had it secretly in storage after finding a steal of a deal on it so I had pictures of it put in her birthday card. 

The year for a new backpack. No more character backpacks. It's all  stuff I would nab from her now.  HA! She's lucky I can't even begin to squeeze into her clothes. HA! 

The long awaited arrival of Auntie Sarah's gift - always a much anticipated event. She's so thoughtful and creative as to what each child would enjoy based on their interests and personalities.

I'm trumped again. Nothing new. HA! 

Alexis loves to bake and Sarah bought her her very own baking supplies.  Even I want to make cupcakes looking at those snazzy liners!

We love you birthday girl and hope this 12th birthday of yours was memorable and just as special as you are. You make us laugh. You make us tear up with your thoughtful ways. ( and yes, your occasional drama now...)  You are kind and generous beyond your years. You forgive more freely than both of your parents and have been a true example of Christ to us this last year. You are an avid reader and super creative writer. You love your Daddy, but are amongst the few of our kiddos that is still a mama's girl. I love your snuggles and hugs, your inquisitive questions and your wild zeal for life. I still remember the day and hour you were born, the lavender dress you and I both wore home from the hospital, the long nights I'd never give back pacing the hall, and the many months I prayed for you to fill my womb. You are the only child that is a mirror of me in both your looks and your personality. I love you to the moon and back my sweet "Punky Rama." You make me look at life differently, realize just how selfish I am, and are helping God to mold me into a better person. I hope to take more chances, laugh and giggle more because of you, and maybe even become more crafty. :) "Alexis Gabrielle",  "Servant to Mankind" and "Devoted to God"... This is our prayer for your life. May you live it out according to our Saviour's divine will.


Scrubbing, Painting, and Weeding Oh My!

This house has been a blessing and will continue to be so for us I'm sure. But it does have a story to tell and it's a longer tale. Ha! It's also been a long road of ups and downs, dissapointments and excitement, as well as emotion that we didn't even realize was possible when it comes to a house. It is only four walls so to speak. HA! Who knew it could cause such stress and havoc? 

Well, the Lord has seemed to have a theme with the Rivers family this year and that has been one of waiting and daily dependence upon Him. Selling our home did not come easily or quickly - and not for a lack of HGTV stalking either. I tell you, we tried everything!! And if you leave out the fact that it was sorta impossible to remove the cute railroad tracks a house down from us, ( that we were told were never used by the way... ) It really came down to one thing. We were not in control of our future. We could do nothing to sell our home or give it a jump start. God was in complete control and that was hard for Jessica to realize. 

Our last home sold in under 30 days and even though I knew the market was a tough one 8 years later, I sorta figured my OCD and my love for HGTV would help me out. While I'm sure it didn't hurt us, the Lord had other plans for our family last year. 13 months of waiting, crying out to Him, wondering what in the world we were doing wrong.... it all came down to this. Nothing. Whether my house was perfect for a showing or I had forgotten to fold the toilet paper like an envelope, ( yes, serious OCD) I could do nothing to make it happen. Only God, in His perfect timing, could allow a family to fall in love with our house and make an offer. We all know people who've sold their homes in mere days and then others who've sold it in a heartbeat, despite the fact it looked like a warzone! Point made. God sells homes. Not HGTV. Not people. 

After we closed on our last home without a hitch, (thank-you for that going smoothly Lord...) we moved forward with our plans to build and once again, our plans were turned upside down. When all the final numbers came in, it was just too expensive. I'm sure my love for all things craftsman did not help and when faced with the reality of building a 4500 square foot box without any character, we both decided to look one more time at the handful of practical homes we had seen the last 18 months of browsing. And there were only 3. All too expensive and one home wasn't even on the market anymore. We contacted our realtor and had her look into the two homes that she could locate and sure enough, one had sold, one owner would not budge on their price, and the other like I said, wasn't even on the market anymore. Maybe they had sold too? We'd have to do our homework on that one by ourselves. We knew we could live in a smaller home, but let's face it. Neither one of us ever wants to move again and really, although moving is tough, it's not the moving process. It's the selling process. Having 9 children under 11 is completely and totally exhausting all by itself - now throw in showings and open houses for 13 months and you have yourselves some pretty whipped individuals. I was good for a few months living on adrenaline and the excitement of what the future held. After the 6 month mark, we started to crumble on the inside. What was God trying to tell us? 

After much prayer, and taking things like my 12 inch baseboards and crown molding off my list... This was tough for me. HA! We knew we could build a large practical home that would still be beautiful and functional, but the basement would go unfinished for a time, and the yard would be a mud pit for awhile too, not to mention things like the deck or all of our ideas for built ins and such around the house. We could do it and it would be worth the wait of 4-5 months to get exactly what you want, BUT THEN.... Jared got a phone call from the man he had contacted about that house we had seen almost 18 months beforehand when it was on the market. Jared had written a letter to him through snail mail no less and less than a week later the owner called Jared and was totally willing to sell. They had removed their listing because they had finally decided to rent it out of desperation. I believe they had already bought another home and I'm sure 2 mortgages were just too much stress on them. Heavens. We would last a month before we would start to starve! What was God doing here? We had to think and pray about this some more before moving forward with the build. After much deliberation and a fresh showing in our minds, we made the offer. It was clear to us, we could not build that size home, with that practical of a layout, with the kinds of "upgrades" and perks this home has at the price they were asking. True, no sprawling southern front porch for me, or Pottery Barn's white woodwork, ( Sniff. Sniff.) but I couldn't argue that this seemed like the better buy for our family. A fresh new neighborhood in a smaller town , not too far from "our Big Apple" of Fargo/Moorhead. And hey, now our kids could still be in sports, and take their piano lessons, and continue to eat what they eat, which is ALOT! (And I only see that bill growing! HA!) Building would have meant a few more sacrifices in those departments and God was slowly but surely clearing a path for our family to move into this home. 

We signed and sealed our offer and everything seemed to be hunky dory UNTIL the owners informed us their renters had no intentions of moving out. Yes, I guess they were pretty clear that they were not leaving. Great. Who sees that coming? What did that mean for us and all our plans? I mean I don't wish anyone out on the street but come on? You are a renter and your contract clearly stated that if given a 60 day notice, either one of you could "get out" so to speak. But I won't bore you with all the things that were said, the attorneys that were involved, and the "fun money" that Jared and I and the owners eventually offered them in desperation to just leave already. They made their first smart move and took it. Fair? No. But in the end, it was still cheaper for us all when compared to building, not to mention the convenience of moving in before baby # 10 arrived. And I'm positive the previous owners were just glad to be done with the whole mess and delete attorney out of their everyday vocabulary. All of that and a about a thousand details in between, I'm going to skip over for fear of really putting you to sleep, we were able to move in about 3 weeks ago and begin painting, scrubbing, and weeding. 

Making this our home, our haven of rest, and hopefully a place where others find a little bit of that too, has been alot of work but almost theraputic after everything we've been through. I figure I'm nesting anyway, why not clean every light fixture, vent and pot light, towel fixture, ect. in the place? It had to come down for the painters anyway. BTW, we did spoil ourselves and hire that out - something we've never done before, We are on the DIY Advocates Committee, but the house came in under budget and that was one of "those conversations" we had before making an offer. You see, this was more Jared's baby than mine, and although I've always like the house, I probably would have bought or done something different with all the drama that went on. I'm not nearly as patient as my man. But you all probably know that about me. HA! 

We decided to do 3 things to the house before moving in. Lighten it up and have it painted since I was forgoing my beautiful southern white woodwork. I know. What I cross to bear. I admitt. I sound spoiled, but this is our 3rd and hopefully, our final house, and I admitt, I'm picky and particular. That's the first step to recovery right?? HA! Lighten it up and change out the darker black appliances to stainless steel, and change one quirky bathroom light fixture that made me think I would be going on stage any minute. Lighten it up has been a theme with me this year. I do think dark woodwork can be beautiful - that's what I chose for our last house for pete's sake, but I think in my old age I'm finding I need all the help brightening my mood I can get. HA! Well, thankfully, with a very grateful heart I might add, the Lord has allowed us to do all those things and other than a funky green countertop I'm just choosing to work with for now and finishing out a future mudroom/bathroom, our project list is pretty small around here now. Which is good, because between normal everyday life and those 10 little people we have to take care of everyday, we think we're pretty stocked up on our "project list" for years to come! 

The kids and I did alot of weeding around the house while the painters widdled away at their job and I must say, it looks a TON BETTER. who knew weeds could go that deep and be that thick around their bases. I had no idea! Clearly yard work, was not a favorite of anyones' living here beforehand. I look forward to next spring/summer when we can begin adding some color and perennials in around the house. Meanwhile, I can find good landscaping ideas on pinterest and dream away about my future apple tree and hydrangas.

To everyone who helped us pack, carry boxes, lift pianos, and wipe down a cupboard... Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you! We feel very blessed to have a stash of friends who show up to help us move and don't run away when I start directing them to my labeled signs here and there around the garage. If you were here, you know what I'm talkin' about! It was a fabulous system overall, and heaven forbid, if we ever have to move again, I'll certainly do it again! SO thank-you for putting up with my crazy!! :) 

Most importantly, thank-you to all those that uttered even one prayer for us this past year and a half with all the different things going on in our family. We've certainly needed them and I am sure been carried along by them. The Lord has upheld us in our darkest moments when we have thought all is nought, and we are grateful for the brothers and sisters in Christ who've loved on us, encouraged us, and prayed us through. We are deeply humbled by the grace He has shown our undeserving family. We have a home that is far beyond what we truly need, and our prayer is that it is a blessing to all those that enter and we pray that they will see Christ shining through here and there and find His love in their lives.