Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Let’s Pick Up Where We Left Off!

As with most blogs, this blog is sorely neglected, replaced by social media as a way to connect with family and friends. Even though it isn't current, I love the records that I kept with this blog, starting with my twin pregnancy in 2008 and slowly decreasing in frequency through my fifth baby in 2016. I've chronicled things that I'm glad to have in writing somewhere, that the kids can look back at someday.

And with that in mind, I find myself compelled to open this back up and add a few more entries, because a sixth VanHorn baby is coming in late February or early March of this year! I want her to have some of the same recorded stories that I have for the other kids. So, let’s catch up!

Let's start back in late 2017. Abel was not quite two years old, past the baby stage. My sister and her family had started doing foster care in Oklahoma, and Tony and I were inspired by the difference they were making in children's lives. We took a look around our home -- we had an extra seat in the car, space for an extra bed, and room in our hearts for another child. We decided to become foster parents, maybe even with the possibility of adopting a child. 

We applied with a local organization, got accepted, and started attending their classes. We did background checks, pored over binders of material, and updated our home to their safety standards. By February of 2018, we were at the final step before being officially licensed -- the home study, where a person comes to our home to make sure it meets the standards, and to give us a final interview.

Everything went well, and we were well into the interview when the interviewer said, "And how will you handle this Important Issue?" (I'm not going into specifics because the actual issue was only a small part of our decision, as you'll see.) Tony and I answered honestly about how we've handled the Important Issue in the past with our children, and how we would handle it in the future with any foster children. The interviewer promptly informed us that while the foster organization considered our answer to be "correct" in terms of foster children, that our answer was "incorrect" regarding our own children, and that we would need to commit to correcting our ways in the future. We were both caught by surprise. Nobody had ever mentioned this specific stance to us, in all the classes we had attended, or in the thick handbook we had read. We asked if there was any flexibility, and the interviewer said no. She cut the interview short and said we should take time to think about it. 

I immediately emailed the organization, asking for a written copy of their policy about the Important Issue. They replied and said that they had nothing in writing regarding the Important Issue, but nevertheless, they still wouldn't allow us to be foster parents unless we were willing to agree to their unwritten policy.

Tony and I were uncomfortable working with an organization who had "our way or the highway" policies not written down anywhere. It made me fearful that they could revoke our license any time they pleased, with whatever unwritten policies they hadn't told us about previously. We were also uncomfortable working with an organization that could demand that we make changes in how we parent our biological children. So, we made the heart-wrenching decision to cut ties with the organization. 

That ended up being the end of our foster care path. We could have tried to work with other organizations, but for some reason, Tony and I both felt that God had closed the door.

The next two years went quickly, as they do when you're young parents of five kids! Abel proved to be quite a handful as a toddler, and the older girls enjoyed school and their hobbies, and we enjoyed watching them all grow. We were busy, but not too busy, and enjoyed our time as a family.

Then, 2020 hit.

Like the rest of the world, Covid-19 turned our lives upside-down. Starting in March, the kids had to do at-home learning, and Tony began working from home. We were under a two-week stay-at-home order from our state government from the end of March into the beginning of April, and any business that wasn't "essential" was told to shut down temporarily.

Many medical procedures were canceled or rescheduled because they weren't considered essential. Tony, in particular, was supposed to have a certain "non-essential" medical procedure during that time, but we weren't concerned and made a mental note to schedule when everything was back to normal. (Which is laughable, because things still aren't back to normal!)

And then, in June, the now-obvious results of not getting around to scheduling that appointment happened: I realized that I probably needed to take a pregnancy test. :) 

I'm sure you know the result of that test! Baby #6, due almost exactly five years after our "last child". I kept it from Tony for about 24 hours, when he and I had planned a date night together. After we placed our order at the restaurant, I slid a card across the table to him. He thought it was a Father's Day card and said "Aww, you didn't have to get me anything!" I said, "I'm pretty sure I did!" :) He opened it, and quickly realized I was telling him something much more important than Happy Father's Day. He spent about two minutes being completely shocked, and then, like the man I know him to be, he embraced it. I could see him getting excited, like he has for all our children.

We didn't understand God's plan when we were unable to get licensed to do foster care. But God knew, in just a couple of years, that we would fill that seat in our car, create that space for another bed, and fill that room in our hearts for another child.

This baby may not have been a part of OUR plan, but she was always a part of God's plan, and she certainly has always been loved.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Crash

Six days ago today, four of the kids and I were in a car accident.

After dropping Leila off at drama camp, we ran an errand and headed home. I'm not going to talk about the cause of the accident because I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say while insurance is sorting everything out, so I'll just skip that part.

The front passenger side on our car collided with the front driver side of the other car. I don't remember getting hit. I don't remember the impact, or the air bags deploying. None of my kids do, either, and I feel like that's a gift from God. The first thing I remember is realizing that an accident had happened and hearing the girls asking me what had just happened. I remember smoke coming from the steering column. I turned around, told them that we'd been in an accident, and asked the girls if they were okay. Some of them were crying, but they all said yes. I asked if Abel was okay (I couldn't see him because his seat is rear-facing) and they said yes. Then I looked through Abel's window at the driver of the other car and could see her moving. No major injuries. Another gift from God.

I was in a HUGE state of shock, and didn't even realize it, but I got through the next hour. I probably seemed pretty emotionless. The kids and I got out of the car. That's when I realized that my glasses had been knocked off by the airbag, and that I had a burn on my wrist from the airbag. I also had a bloody toe, and bruises from the steering wheel and seat belt, but I didn't realize those things until later. Several people stopped to help. A man helped me get the kids from the street to the sidewalk. The kids and I sat close together and waited for the emergency responders. I don't remember saying much except comforting words to the kids. That's when I got my first look at the cars. Both front ends were smashed in. Fluids were pouring onto the ground. Pieces of both cars had flown for several feet in every direction. The windshield was smashed.

I called Tony to tell him. He says I sounded so calm that he thought I was joking. He asked if I wanted him to come. In my shock, I said he could come if he wanted to. That makes me smile now -- of course I needed him! What was my plan for getting home? What I didn't realize is that he had ridden his bike to work, so he hopped on his bike to come to us, but we still didn't have a way to get home. God was taking care of it, though.

After that, there was a whirlwind of firemen, police officers, and paramedics. The kind man who helped me to the sidewalk stayed with me until Tony got there, and then disappeared without saying goodbye. A complete stranger hopped out of her car at the stoplight and gave me a box of graham crackers for the kids. (This. This makes me cry even now. What a kind gesture in such a chaotic time!) The firemen and police officers gave stickers to the kids, and took turns holding Abel while I filled out the accident report and went back to the van to get our important stuff out. (That's also when I realized that my unopened soda had exploded on impact. The hit must have been pretty huge.)

I'm not leaving the driver of the other car out of this story intentionally. She and I just didn't interact with each other. She was sitting in a different spot, had different people taking care of her, had her own paperwork to fill out. I know that she wasn't majorly injured, but that's about all I know. I'll find out more as insurance gets processed. I've been praying for her and her family (who came after the accident) since that day.

About this time, I was wondering where Tony was, because I didn't realize he was on his bike. He wasn't answering his phone (because it was in his backpack). I finally called my sister Becky and asked her to come be with us. God is so good. She was only 5 minutes away, and was driving a car that would fit all of us so that we could go home. She and Tony arrived at almost exactly the same time. She took the kids and I home and Tony stayed while the minivan got loaded onto the tow truck, then came home for the rest of the day to be with us.

Once we got home, I fell apart. I alternated between crying and sitting silently for the next few hours. The accident could have been so much worse. The "what if's" were paralyzing. Tony stayed with me, except when he picked up Leila from drama camp and explained to her what had happened. Becky brought dinner. My parents came, because that's what parents do! Most of the kids are too young to really understand, but Hadley had a hard time. She cried a lot. She processed it out loud. She drew pictures. After a good night of sleep, though, she felt better. And slowly, I started to unwind, too. I didn't feel okay all at once, and I really don't even feel totally okay today. Driving still makes me really anxious.

Here's my challenge to you: next time you find that somebody is going through something that you consider "minor", consider that it might not be "minor" to them. Something that everybody else calls minor (my accident is classified as minor by the police and insurance) can affect a person deeply and for a long time. My prayer is that God uses this to make me more understanding and helpful to other people in "minor" life situations as well. He's been teaching me a lot lately.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In The Middle (Abel's Name Story)

I absolutely love baby names.  If there was a job where you could name babies, I would take it!  I've blogged previously about how we named our four girls, but I haven't written about how we named our Abel Jude.

Abel's first name doesn't have much of a story.  I made a list of names that I liked from baby books and baby name websites, and after thinking about it for a few days, Abel was the clear winner for me, and Tony thought so, too.  Done.  Easy.  No sweat.

However, his middle name turned out to be the toughest decision of all of our children's names.  In fact, we hadn't decided firmly on Jude until just after he was born.

Initially, I wanted to use a virtue name, since we have used Grace and Truth as two of our girls' middle names.  After doing lots of research on boy virtue names, I got my heart set on Abel Braver.  Tony didn't love it, though.  So, I kept looking.  Then, one morning, I got the song "Hey Jude" stuck in my head, and thought that Jude had a nice sound to it.  And I remembered that "Hey Jude" actually has a special meaning to Tony and me.

When Tony and I were dating, back in 2004, we decided to take a road trip to Houston/Galveston together during spring break.  We stayed with friends of my family and got terrible sunburns on the beach.  We had only been dating for a few months and weren't talking seriously about the future yet.  For our hours in the car, Tony made a mix CD of songs -- some road trip tunes, some of his personal favorites, and "Hey Jude".  I always thought that song seemed like "one of these things is not like the others", but I never asked about it.

Our selfie (with a disposable camera, ha!) on the beach in Galveston in 2004.

Ten years of marriage and five kids later, I was thinking about that song again.  So when Tony got home from work that night, I asked him about the song from our road trip CD.  He told me something I never knew: that song was a personal reminder to him that "you have found her, now go and get her.  Remember to let her into your heart..."  Well, if that's not the sweetest thing I've ever heard!

Not only that, but when I looked up the meaning of Jude, I was surprised to find that it means "praised" -- the same meaning as Tony!

Things were looking pretty good for Jude, but I still loved the name Braver.  So I hung onto it until after Abel was born, but it didn't take me more than 30 minutes to realize that Jude was the right choice.  It had a story and a meaning.  Our son, Abel Jude.

(By the way, I've had several people ask if we're going to call him A.J.  We don't call him that ourselves, but you're welcome to!) :)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Abel's Birth Story

(This comes with the usual warning: if you don't want to read about birth and everything that goes with it, then this isn't for you.   I'll catch you on my next blog post.)  :)

Abel Jude VanHorn
Born March 10, 2016
7:45 p.m.
8lbs 11 oz

In reflecting on the day that Abel was born, which was only two days ago, the main thing that sticks out is that it was nice.  Just a really great day, all around.

On March 10, 2016, I woke up at 4:44 a.m. with a really strong contraction.  I remember the exact time because it's the kind of time that sticks in your head.  I couldn't fall back asleep, so I went downstairs to eat a bowl of cereal (ah, pregnancy eating!) and stopped to use the bathroom on the way.  While using the bathroom, I lost my mucus plug, which only means that labor will start sometime in the next couple of weeks ... you know, like all those other late pregnancy symptoms that I had already experienced in the last week, like increasing contractions, harder contractions, groin pressure, the baby dropping ... plus, I still had 8 days until baby was due, so I went and ate my bowl of cereal, then I went back to bed.

By the time Tony's alarm went off at 6, my contractions had been consistently 30 minutes apart since the one that woke me up.  (By the way, 3 contractions, 30 minutes apart doesn't even count.  The labor book I use as a reference starts at the 10 minute mark.  But I had a feeling!) So Tony decided to work from home while we decided what direction things were going in.

About an hour later, I texted my sister Becky, our traditional babysitter while I'm in the hospital, and put her on mild alert.  She found somebody to cover her shift at work and waited for my call.  Then, I called my parents and told them the same thing, but encouraged them not to drive the 1.5 hours to get here yet.  Of course, they finished talking to me, packed their bags, and drove up.  :)  My family is clearly not very good at "low alert".  :)  Back at home, Tony and I packed our bags, just in case.

So, by noon, everybody was watching and waiting, and I was having steady, productive contractions that were 15 - 20 minutes apart.  Still not close enough to call "labor".  My parents brought lunch, Tony took the twins to school, and I figured, if my parents are in town, we might as well do something to pass the time!  Like walking!  And what better place to walk than an antique mall!  So Mom, Becky, and I spent a couple of hours at Willowstone Antique Marketplace.  We had so much fun!  Mom kept track of my contractions (which I could still walk and talk through, so I really wasn't the crazy laboring lady at the antique mall!), and by the time they were steadily at 10 minutes apart for almost an hour, we decided to head home.

At home, 3:45 pm, I told Tony that it was time to go, but I wanted to wait for a few more contractions, and I wanted to eat before we left anyway.  That took enough time to be able to see the twins when Grandpa brought them home from school, too, so it was fun to be able to see how excited they were.  Then we drove to the hospital.

At the hospital, we checked in and were taken to triage, where they decide if you're actually in labor.  My contractions were 7 - 10 minutes apart and I was dilated to 6, so they admitted me right away, about 4:30 p.m.  My nurse walked in and said, "Well, I was wrong about you!  I saw you come in, and you were so relaxed that I figured you were a first-time mom who was going to get sent home!"  And that relaxed feeling was pretty much the theme of the next two hours.  Everybody who came into the room commented on it.  During every contraction, I closed my eyes and relaxed my whole body while Tony squeezed my hand very hard, reminding myself that I needed to give all my energy to the uterus so it could do its job.  My doctor even checked me again when she arrived, because she didn't believe that somebody could be dilated to 6 and be as calm as I was -- and she was surprised to find that I was almost dilated to 8!

At that point, my doctor offered to break my water -- no pressure, just asking if it was something I wanted -- and I was trying my hardest to remember why my drug-free birth book said not to do it, but I couldn't remember, and I was starting to get tired, so I decided to do it.  I do think it sped things up, but that's when it got really hard, too, which is probably why my book suggested not doing it.  :)  So, she broke my water at about 6:45 p.m., and by 7:15 I was feeling the urge to push.  My mom came in from the waiting room for the delivery, and of course Tony was by my side.

With Cecily, I remember transition being awful and pushing being a relief.  I didn't have that experience this time.  I barely noticed transition this time, and pushing was awful, terrible, and I wanted to quit.  I was trying to get away with light little pushes at first, but I quickly realized I was going to have to do better than that.  Also, my contractions were SO LONG.  At one point I blurted out, "this is a never-ending contraction!" and my doctor said, "you're right, you've had waves for about 7 straight minutes now, but you can do this!" (By the way, I love my doctor.  She really felt more like a midwife than a doctor through the whole pregnancy.)  It was probably the hardest work I've ever done, but our baby boy was born after 30 minutes of pushing, at 7:45 p.m., weighing 8 lbs 11 oz.  He looked just like our other babies, with a head full of dark hair (although not as much as Marlowe!).  They gave him directly to me, and Tony said, "Heather, do you want to tell them who this is?" and I said, "Everyone, this is Abel!"  I heard the whole room, especially my mom, murmur how much they liked the name, and in that moment, laying there, holding him and announcing his name, I got teary.

Thanks to my doctor's coaching while baby was crowning, I had very minimal tearing this time, and since we had monitored my iron more closely this time, I also didn't faint when I got up to use the restroom like I did last time.  Everything after he was born went really well.  The hospital staff was great to work with, and we were able to go home on the evening after the day he was born.

And that's Abel's story.  A beautiful end to a nice day, filled with family.  Just perfect.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Baby 5: 32 Weeks (and the whole pregnancy)

This poor baby ... I've only blogged about him once.  So, I'll try to squeeze everything from the entire pregnancy into one post.  That's fair, right?  :)

I'm 32+ weeks right now, and have managed to take exactly 4 belly photos during this pregnancy.  I was visibly pregnant really quickly, but now that I'm looking at a comparison photo between all of my pregnancies, I'd say that my belly has been pretty much the same size at 32ish weeks every time.  Maybe a little bit bigger this time, but it is my fourth pregnancy, after all.  :)

I had a gut feeling that this baby was a boy almost right away.  I still had constant nausea, like my other pregnancies, and even with medicine, I was throwing up about every other day from week 5 until week 16, and then it slowly tapered off.  But the thing that really tipped me off was that I still gained weight -- about 15 pounds during the first trimester, even with morning sickness!  I ate SO MUCH FOOD.  I was hungry!  My biggest craving was cottage cheese.  Those little 8 oz containers weren't even worth buying -- I bought the BIG containers.  Almost anything dairy or sweet did not stand a chance in our house.  And, as usual, I couldn't handle vegetables -- and definitely not the smell of anything tomato-based, or onions.

Still, when you've heard "it's a girl!" four times in a row, it's surprising to hear "you're having a boy!" during that halfway ultrasound.  I believe my response was, "what!?"  His four older sisters were all hoping for a boy (their main reason was so that Daddy didn't have to be the only boy anymore), so they're just so excited for him to be born.  They're going to be really good helpers, and I truly mean that.

I'm planning to have another drug-free birth, although I did have to change doctors and hospitals this time.  My hospital midwife moved away, and after I got pushed around about gestational diabetes testing by the doctor who replaced her, I decided to try another hospital midwife.  She ended up not accepting any clients who have had prior c-sections, but recommended a doctor in her office.  I really like her a lot!  She's young, open to talking about options, and one of my favorite things is that she only asks me to come in every 8 weeks!  This fifth time mama does not need to be at the doctor constantly!

And yes, we do have a name picked out, but we're not sharing it with anybody.  You'll just have to wait for it. :)

So, we have about 7.5 weeks until my due date.  I haven't gotten to my due date with any of my pregnancies, so fingers crossed that this will be the same way -- especially because Big Guy seems to be large.  Based on the ultrasounds, I'm guessing he'll be between 9 - 10 pounds.  Tony's going to have to start rolling me out of bed in the morning!  :)

We're thankful for all the prayer, love, and support we've received during this pregnancy.  We are so blessed by the people we are surrounded by.  We know that you're as excited as us (well, almost as excited as us!) to welcome this new little person into the world.  Thank you!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Fun Ways We've Announced Our Pregnancies

I've been pregnant about a million times now.

Or maybe it just feels that way.

Anyway, Tony and I have had lots of opportunities to tell people that we're pregnant.  I've been remembering some of my favorite announcements lately, and decided to write them down so I can reminisce even when the kids have taken all of my brain cells.

(In addition to this list, I'm including links of our announcements from here on the blog, too -- just follow the links throughout the post.)

I think the first pregnancy always creates the most long-lasting memories.  Some of my favorites from that pregnancy were from before we even knew we were having twins!  We flew to Phoenix to spend Thanksgiving with my sister, my parents, and my grandma, and we made these shirts to wear, so they would know right away when we got off the plane.  Unfortunately, my dad didn't even notice, and drove us all the way to my sister's house before anybody told him!  Ha!

Another one of my favorites from our first pregnancy was telling my coworkers at Focus on the Family.  During our morning devotional time, I said that I had a prayer request.  With a totally straight face, I announced that I had been to the doctor and had been diagnosed with a growth in my abdomen.  I paused, then said, "It looks like it should go away on its own in about 9 months, though!"

I think that we could have had a lot of fun telling people that we were expecting twins, too, but we were so shocked that we just called people and blurted it out!  I'll never forget my phone call to my mom after that ultrasound.  She laughed so hard that I thought she was going to quit breathing!  I was not amused.  :)

When we found out we were pregnant with Marlowe, our due date was the very fun 11/11/11, so I made shirts for the twins with that date on them, and I had them wear the shirts to several places so that they could "announce" the pregnancy for me.  And wouldn't you know, I don't have a single picture of those shirts?

I had actually forgotten about this fun announcement for Cecily until I looked through my photos for this blog post.  I called all of my sisters and told them the news first.  Then, we all took the following pictures and sent them to Paula.  That night, Paula called my parents and told them to get on our family Facebook page, and started posting the pictures one by one.  This was fun for us because somebody else (Paula) was making the announcement for us, and we could just watch it develop!

During my current pregnancy, we found out that we were pregnant two days before our big send-off for my sister, who was moving to Oklahoma.  I knew it was early in the pregnancy, but I wanted to tell everybody when we were all together.  I whipped up this gift certificate from an online template and waited until we had finished the sending-off part of the party (but before my sister left) to hand them out.

Of course, these announcements have been mixed in with phone calls to far-away relatives, and text messages, and casual lunch conversations, and there are probably some super fun announcements that I'm completely forgetting right now ... but those are definitely some of my favorites.  Until next time!  (Just kidding!) (Or am I?) :)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Marlowe's Memoirs: Four Years Old

The transition to four years old is half happy and half sad for me.  I absolutely love the 4- and 5-year-old years, so it's exciting to move past the exhausting 2- and 3-year-old years.  But it also means that my baby is physically growing up.  The cubby cheeks and legs are starting to get slim.  I suddenly have a little girl, not a toddler!

One of my favorite things about this fall has been getting one afternoon a week with just Marlowe and me.  The twins go to afternoon Kindergarten, and Cecily naps at my friend's house for the afternoon.  Usually Marlowe just gets to be my sidekick while I run errands, but we always manage to get some ice cream or eat lunch together to make it special.  I am surprised at how much I look forward to those afternoons!  She's a pleasant shopping buddy and obeys really well.  Never imagined that I would say those things about Marlowe!  :)

It's true: Marlowe is maturing without losing her signature spunk.  She helps out with chores, and I can generally trust her to make good choices most of the time.  Except bed time ... she cannot get rid of her extra energy and would talk to her sisters all night long if we didn't intervene. (Clearly, you can see that she gets that extra energy from falling asleep in random places during the day. Ha!)

Last week, we had a hilarious "first" that I kind of doubt we'll have again.  All the girls woke up like usual, and we were eating breakfast at about 7:15 a.m.  Marlowe was being especially quiet, not eating anything.  Then, Tony and I noticed that she was nodding off!  Literally falling asleep at the table!  Tony carried her upstairs and she slept for another 1.5 hours.  I've heard of kids falling asleep while eating lunch and supper, but never breakfast!

I can't write about Marlowe without introducing you to Bun Bun.  We won this stuffed purple bunny at an Easter egg hunt a couple of years ago, and sometime in the last year, Marlowe decided that she and Bun Bun were inseparable.  She named her (or maybe him?), as well.  Bun Bun has gotten lost several times, and lives with her arms pushed into her body cavity, but Marlowe loves her, and drags her around everywhere.  She especially loves it when Grandpa Korf hides Bun Bun.

I found so many pictures of the things that Bun Bun puts up with that I couldn't choose just one!

I think that's where I'll wrap it up.  We're so happy that you've been a part of our family for four years, Marlowe!  We love you so much!