Thursday, April 30, 2009

Faith Like Potatoes

Rick & I watched this movie yesterday and both enjoyed the message it presented. We were both especially struck by the following quote:

The condition for a miracle is difficulty, however the condition for a great miracle is not difficulty, but impossibility.
I think we definitely meet the condition for the second one! I use this phrase now that we are "praying for the impossible, but planning for the probable". We know that God is fully capable of miracles, but we also know that those may not look like what we expect or that He may choose not to do them for His purposes. There are times when I feel like I don't have enough faith to even ask for one. Just yesterday I told Rick that it feels like that mustard seed might as well be the size of a watermelon. Even so, Oh, what I wouldn't give to have Him do a great miracle for Olivia!

Much love,

P.S. Another precious family has just received a diagnosis of Trisomy 18. She found me and commented on my last blog post. Please pray for them and/or send them kind words at her blog:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Heart Failure

As Olivia gently kicks around while I type this, I believe I might just have heart failure. Not the literal sort, lest you be worried. Heart failure for a reason that I wonder if anyone else can understand:

I am afraid to love her.

I just know that the more I do, the more my heart will break into a million pieces if/when she is taken from me. I am afraid to hold my belly, hoping to feel her moving within, knowing that every kick, every movement only joins my heart a little more with hers. There are times when I am scared to say her name, as every time I do she is that much more a part of our family and lives.

And yet, all the fear aside, I just can't help it. There is nothing anyone can do to keep me from loving my sweet, precious Olivia. Even though it makes no earthly sense to continue to love on, think of, care about, passionately pray for someone who it seems will be gone from me far too soon, I press forward. I am her mama and she is my daughter and there is no medical diagnosis this world can offer up that will ever change that.

Even with my pending heart failure, I am comforted by this verse:

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Ps. 73:25-26

Oh Lord, please strengthen my failing heart. I thank you for the privilege of loving Olivia.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shock & Awe

It's me. The real me, not the husband that hijacked my blog. wink It's hard to even know where to begin, or where to pick up our story. I feel like each day that has gone by, besides feeling like 3 days each, has been filled with a novel's worth of stories I could share. So, I'll try and give you some snapshots, in terms of shock and awe, of what life has been like for me.

I'm in awe of the immense outpouring of love and support for us. All these people really care about little 'ole me? I have felt like your prayers, visits, and kind words have been lifting me up to keep putting one foot in front of the other. {The yummy food ya'll have delivered hasn't hurt any either!} Your tears are so tender to me, as well, as if somehow those are less tears that I have to cry myself. Please don't be afraid to call, email, visit. I might not answer your call or respond to your email, but know that I am reading or hearing every word. Don't worry about saying the wrong thing or about even knowing what to say. I realize the enormity of the situation and that we all, friends and family included, may be confused, grieving, scared and sad.

I'm obviously shocked at the news itself. I am only able to live moment to moment. Some moments are filled with the deepest darkest despair and the most intense pain that I have ever known. At times it feels so crushing that I don't know how I will even survive. At other moments, I have a sense of peace and calm that I really believe only Jesus can provide. There are moments of confusion and questioning and other times when His truth is evident and the answers seem very clear. I have had times of incredible strength, which the Lord has graciously bestowed upon me, to do or say things that no mother should ever have to. I want you to be comforted in knowing that my heart has not been all gloom and doom. I
have smiled. I have laughed. I am getting out of bed every day. Most of my time, though, is filled with quiet thoughtfulness.

I'm in awe that God orchestrated for Rick to be with me last Monday at my ultrasound. My mom was babysitting my other kids, so we figured if Hubs had to work then I would just go to the hospital by myself. I've been to many other ultrasounds without Rick & figured that this one wouldn't be any different. Can you imagine me sitting there by myself? I shudder at the thought.

I am shocked that earlier ultrasounds didn't pick up ANY of Olivia's imperfections. Seriously. A routine ultrasound didn't pick up a potentially serious heart defect?? They couldn't detect an abnormality in her brain? No one noticed her constantly clenched fists or cleft lip & palate? What then DO these routine ultrasounds pick-up on? This is more scary & worrisome to me than anything! If it were not for the fact of Olivia's delayed growth {she's only half the size of a typical baby at this gestation}, we would NOT have gone for any additional ultrasounds. Even through the devastating news, Rick & I are thankful beyond words that we found out this news
now. We both can not even imagine what things could have been like, to go through the entire pregnancy or however long we will go through, believing that everything is alright, painting a nursery, purchasing baby items, our other daughters' excitement mounting, only to find out at the very end the news that we now are aware of.

I'm in awe of my husband. I don't know what I have done to deserve such a wonderful guy. He is so far out of his comfort zone in what he has had to deal with, I don't even think he speaks the language of whatever zone he's in. He is having to help bear such an incredible burden and has done so well to be strong. There is no measure of gratitude that could show how thankful I am for him. He mans the phone. He plans. He protects. He comforts. He blogs {well...tries to}. wink He is amazing! I know this is an unashamedly forward request, but I'm sure he could really use some "husband" support right now. We girlfriends do the talking, crying, hugging, sharing our feelings thing, but I'm sure a few words from other husbands out there couldn't hurt. Maybe even a movie or a bike ride or bowling would help. Rick can be emailed at rickrios009 [at] hotmail [dot] com.

I will leave you with one last thought.....
My pastor's wife asked me this morning what my overall thought has been about everything. My answer came easily. It is the one thought/feeling that has been there since the beginning, even amidst the horror and tears and soul-screaming in that ultrasound room: God chose us for this. There are many things I might not understand, but I know that this passed through His hands first, that HE is not surprised, that it is part of the unique plan that HE has for my husband and I and our families and friends. And that, the fact that He chose us for this, brings me at least some measure of comfort.

Be blessed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I just wanted to write a thank you to all of you who have been praying for us. For your words of encouragement, your offers to help, your support, your emails, your posts, your visits, etc. Simply put, thank you for caring for us enough to walk with us during this difficult season of our life. Thank you for being "Jesus with skin on", for loving us.

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.--John 13:35

Thank you, Rick

Thursday, April 23, 2009

While we're waiting...

Thank you to all of you that have been praying.

We got the results back from the Fish study yesterday. That test is for problems with chromosomes 13, 18 & 21. Dr R told me that Olivia has Trisomy 18 which means there is additional material in her 18th chromosome. This explains the heart problems, the clenched fists, the brain things we have seen. 98-99% sure Olivia has this problem, the full panel results in about 12 days will confirm. What does it mean? Dr R has not given Olivia much hope; the websites aren't encouraging as 50% of children with this problem are born still born, of those born alive, less than 10% survive to their 1st birthday, etc. The higher the weight when born, the better the odds and Olivia is nowhere near where she needs to be, but girls are more likely to live than boys.

There is no surgery by human hands that can be done. There is no magic pill, no therapy, nothing but to wait. She is in the hands of the LORD and only He has the power to heal her however He so chooses. Yesterday we told the girls that Olivia may not come home with us but go to be with Jesus in heaven, then last night as I prayed with the girls, Sienna puts her hand on my arm and says "We forgot to pray for Olivia to come home with us." so we prayed for Olivia. The odds are not in favor of Olivia, but the LORD is not about odds. That is what I tell myself. But what do we wait for? I don't know what we wait for, but I am trying to wait on the LORD, and wait for His answer, whatever His answer is and just know that He is God.

Thank you LORD.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dare to Hope?

First I want to thank all of you for your prayers and support and encouraging words and offers of help. They mean more to us than you could know. As my wife says, you have been “Jesus with skin on” to us.

As many of you know, when you get a lot of information in a really short time, something gets missed, so I wanted to share some more details with you all that I forgot two days ago. One detail is that Olivia also has a cleft left palate, and a misshapen head. All of the previous things and these things put together lead the dr in Rockford (dr R) to believe there is a chromosome problem. Also, many might not have known, but Beck had high blood pressure from the beginning of this pregnancy and was recently put on blood pressure meds. The dr R from Monday believes that this indicates chronic hypertension which would definitely affect the placenta and therefore Olivia’s growth.

Yesterday, I spoke with dr R and he did tell me that Olivia did grow between ultrasounds, but nowhere near the minimum amount that they like to see. But that is better than absolutely zero growth. At this point, we are waiting at home and waiting for the first result from the amnio, which should arrive between Thursday and Saturday, and then dr R will call us.

As I have had time to think and pray and absorb the information, I feel all sorts of things: fear, anxiety, pain, questioning, doubt, … I don’t know but the LORD reminded me the following lyrics:

I’ve walked the valley of death’s shadow
So deep and dark that I could barely breathe
I’ve had to let go of more than I could bear
And questioned everything that I believe
But still even here
in this great darkness
A comfort and hope come breaking through
As I can say in life or death
God we belong to you.

--Steven Curtis Chapman, “Yours”, 2008 Radio Version

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. --Philippians 4:6-7

Many of you have asked how to pray, so I ask that you specifically pray for the following:

Pray for Beck’s blood pressure, for the placenta to work right, for the umbilical cord to open up and supply Olivia’s needs, for Olivia’s heart to work right, for Olivia’s brain to develop right, for Olivia’s hands to open. I want to dare to hope for the healing only the LORD and trust the Him that Olivia belongs to Him, as does Sebastian, Sienna and Tatiana. Thank you all for your love and prayers.


PS-Beck is reading the comments is very thankful for all the support.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Baby Olivia

Hello to those who follow Beck's blog. Unfortunately we got some pretty bad news yesterday so this is her husband posting today. As some of you know, Beck has been pregnant for 25 weeks now and the baby has not been growing very much, so we had an ultrasound yesterday at a hospital in Rockford that specializes in high risk pregnancies. After the ultrasound, the doctor comes in and reviews the results right away.

The dr spoke in percentages and probabilities but is pretty certain that Olivia has Dandy Walker, which is a form of mental retardation affecting motor skills in varying degrees. It is a problem with her cerebellum and has most likely affected her hands at the least as one is in a fist and the other in a half fist, which indicate neurological problems. There is also a heart problem, which is VSD or tetri something or another. Then her umbilical cord has 2 arteries and 1 vein but only one artery is supplying blood, which leads to the original reason for going: slow growth. As a result of all these things put together, this dr is not optimistic that Olivia will live and that she has probably not grown at all over the last several weeks.

We decided for an amniocentisis to find out more information and hopefully be able to make better decisions, and the first test will/should return on Friday and will tell us if Olivia has a 13 or 18 chromosome problem, which if she does, will mean she has a "lethal" genetic problem. Meaning Olivia won't live and probably won't go the full term. Even if that is not the case, the doctors seem skeptical because Olivia is not getting all the blood she needs and isn't growing.

How to pray? Well, we are just trying to soak it in. Don't know what to think exactly but we know the LORD loves Olivia, even more than we love her. If she goes to be with the LORD there is no better place for her than in His arms and if the LORD wills for her to stay, we pray for a miracle, just like in the Bible when Jesus healed the lame, the blind, the deaf, the sick...

Already, many of you have called and comforted us as well as prayed and we appreciate you all at this time. I only ask for patience if my wife doesn't answer or talk much. I can't imagine what she must be going through, but we must trust that the LORD knows what is best and why, even when we are in the midst of the storm. Please continue to pray for wisdom for us as we make decisions for Beck and Olivia. God bless.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Easy Strawberry Shortcake

1 box white cake mix
1 container strawberries, sliced

1 pt. whipping cream

4-6 T. powdered sugar

1 t. vanilla

It's really as simple as bake the cake, whip the cream, slice the berries & assemble, but I've given a little more detail below!

Make cake according to package directions. You will only need one layer, so you can either make half the mix in a cake pan and the other half into cupcakes for the kiddos or make both layers & freeze one. Depending on how many people you want to serve, you might want to make the layer in a pan bigger than 9", if you have one.

After cake is baked and cooled, split it horizontally. The best way to do this is to use your serrated knife and cut into one side of the cake about 1/4 of the way through, then gently turn the cake, always keeping the knife only about 1/4 of the way into the cake. This should make for nice really even layers. You can slide that top layer onto something flat, ie rimless cookie sheet, piece of cardboard, cutting board, etc and then slide it back onto the filled middle of the cake when needed. If you don't feel up to this "splitting" task, just leave the cake unsplit.

Sprinkle a little sugar over your cut berries to get them to juice up. Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks, add the powdered sugar & vanilla, whip to stiff peaks {taste for sweetness}. Spread a bunch of your freshly whipped cream on the bottom layer, add a bunch of your berries, replace the top layer, add more whipped cream and put the rest of your berries on top. If you're not splitting, just put a bunch of whipped cream all over the cake & put as many berries as you want over the top.

This is *so* much better than those spongy pre-made shortcake cups you buy at the grocery store. And who can even compare freshly whipped cream to that cream in a can?
{Hey, I buy it too, but fresh is *so* much better.} This is perfect for a spring or summer meal. The best part is you can vary the cake flavors & the fruit for other simple cakes. How about chocolate cake, whipped cream & cherries? Or spice cake, whipped cream and grilled peaches? Make it your own!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Think Pink!

The official word is: our baby #4 is a girl! And we are mostly tickled pink! {Sorry, just couldn't resist.} Daddy & Biggest Sister were holding out for a boy so that things would be even and our Little Sport would have a brother. Bigger Sister was praying for a girl. She wants a sister badly. Part of me thinks it's so she can boss a little sister around. When we told her that it's a girl, she jumped up and down squealing, "God answered my prayers! God answered MY prayers!" It was really touching & made me wonder if we are having a girl because of the tender, availing prayers of a 4-year old......

I have been struggling with high blood pressure this pregnancy, which I have never had a problem with before. I finally had to be put on medication last week for the duration of the pregnancy & praise God that the medication is working! I test myself a few times a week with an at-home blood pressure cuff. The doctors would ask me at every visit if I worked outside the home & if I was under a lot of stress. STRESS? That would be an understatement, but I don't think they have enough time during those visits to listen to my story! wink

After a routine 20 week ultrasound revealed a smaller than average baby, we had a follow-up ultrasound this Tuesday at 24 weeks. Unfortunately, the growth lag has increased. I am concerned, but trying not to worry. My OB called me personally today to give me the results and has decided to send me to a high-risk pregnancy hospital {probably Lutheran General} for evaluation, necessary testing, and additional ultrasound(s). I keep telling myself that I am in the loving and capable hands of my Great Physician, but at other moments I wonder if I can really handle one more thing.

I consider it a privilege to be able to share this with my dear readers and to ask to you to pray for me & our daughter. As always, I would love to lift YOU up in prayer, if there is anything you need. You can always email me privately through the link in my sidebar.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

School Bits: Lapbooks

What is a lapbook? Well, I'm glad you asked! {Well, not really YOU, but...} Anyhow, a lapbook is basically a educational tool made from a file folder that you fill with little activities, mini-books, games, and information based on whatever your topic is. Topics are typically either literature-based {revolving around a book you're reading} or unit-study based {a broader topic of study}.

Tatiana's current lapbook

Why lapbook?
We haven't done too many yet, but the value is that it makes your subject come alive in a way that say, a book report or worksheet, really doesn't. It's a great way to review material you've learned/read and solidify the important facts. For the littles, it can also improve various motor skills, such as cutting, coloring, and pasting. Besides that, it's fun! Lapbooks also create a sort of "living record" of the things my kids have learned. They can look back through them, re-read things they've written, do the activities in them, etc. I think this would also be beneficial if your children actually attend school, as an alternative to a "report", supplemental summertime or at-home learning to enhance what they're reading, or as a creative alternative for a presentation/project on a given subject.

What ages can lapbook?
All ages! Tatiana {7 1/2} is just finishing her second lapbook now and Sienna {4} is working on her first one! Starting from the time your child can color, cut & glue, they can lapbook!

Here's the inside. It has a Oregon Trail mapping activity, T/F questions, and wordsearch.

What supplies do I need? Besides your topic, you'll need manila folders {either repurposed from the household or purchased}, adhesive {so far I've just used glue sticks}, and an assortment of activities, pockets, mini-books to add to your lapbook, many of which can be found online for free {see here}.

Pockets for a vocab memory game & other mini-books

Where do I start? A google of "free lapbooks" will get you going! There is an excellent thorough guide to many aspects of lapbooking found here, including pictures of sample lapbooks, instructions for various mini-books, how to plan lapbook units, and more. My all-time favorite resource so far though is Homeschool Share. I am actually going to use their preschool/kindergarten lapbooks {based on good children's books} as curriculum for my 4 year old for next fall. If you are looking for a great learning activity for your preK-er based on books, these are wonderful because the units & activities are already organized, so all that's required for mom or dad is obtaining the book {library!} & printing the lapbook pieces.

Any other questions, feel free to ask!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

He listens!

I had a rough couple of days last week. Hubby and I were both feeling down about our work situation and it's just no good when we're both feeling that way at the same time! I attended my Tuesday night Beth Moore Bible study, where she said in the video:

You'll never have anything more contagious than your joy.

It stopped me dead in my tracks. I felt, at the moment, that surely no one would be "catching" anything from me because I really felt less than joyful. I cried nearly the whole way home feeling like God is not listening to me. {Notice all the "feeling" I was doing. Certainly not thinking my way to success!} I cry out to Him & wonder if He hears me up there. I just kept saying, "He's not listening. He's NOT listening."

Wednesday comes & Hubs goes to do some truck driving practice. As he finishes up, he pops into the trucking office and lo-and-behold, there was some work that came up that he could do! He hopped back into that truck lickety-split! And when he called to tell me, I was...dumbfounded? I don't even know the feeling word to describe it. All I could do was imagine the look on God's face {compassionate & satisfied} for sending the message to me that He does indeed hear my prayers AND answers them.

And then on Thursday, during my quiet time, to further solidify the message I needed to hear, He sent me this verse:

Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. (Jer. 29:12)

He WILL listen to me. He DOES hear me. I just broke down in tears being reminded of that fact. {Besides, at that exact moment the song "Hope Now" starting playing on the radio!} It's fascinating to me because I've had Jer. 29:11 memorized for quite some time {"For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord....} and had overlooked the verse(s) following. I am now clinging to that promise: He will listen to me!

And for whatever your need is today, my friend, He's listening....

Friday, April 10, 2009


I've often wondered where I would've been as Jesus went to Calvary. I don't know the reason why, but throughout my walk with Christ, it's a questioned I've pondered many times.

Would I have been tending to my daily duties as the sky and everything around me went black?

Sitting in somber reflection as the days events transpired?

Following him as He carried His cross, weeping?

I guess all my pondering really points to one more interesting question: would I have believed Him and in Him enough to care?
Which reminds me of the question we all have answered in one way or another: "Who do you say that I am?"

Hope your Good Friday is filled with thoughtful reflection.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Creative Fun: Bubbles

Here was last week's creative fun activity: Bubbles! The recipe came from the Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions: More than 65 Wacky, Wild & Crazy Concoctions.

World's Best Bubbles
2 1/2 quarts of water

1/2 c. corn syrup

1 c. liquid dish detergent

Put water in large container and mix in corn syrup until well blended. Gently mix in dish detergent. Keeps for two weeks in an airtight container.
Use a variety of objects for bubbly fun!

My review: I made this in a large juice pitcher & it makes ALOT. I definitely would half the recipe. I wasn't TOO impressed with the bubble making abilities. With a name like "World's Best Bubbles", I was expecting some awesome, easily made bubbles. It didn't have the consistency that I thought would help make better bubbles; seemed like it should've been more viscous, if you know what I mean. We used several different objects for our bubble making: the paddle to my mixer, a small whisk, metal rings from mason jars, standard bubble wands, and some plastic cross-stitching canvas. I think it was a great science/learning experience, especially for the olders, to see what kind/size of bubbles each object made. The plastic canvas made what the kids called a "bubble hive" and they really enjoyed using that. My disappointment in the bubble quality aside, THE KIDS PLAIN LOVED IT. Seriously. They sat in the kitchen for well over an hour experimenting with making different bubbles. Even the 16 month old was enthralled. Medium mess level, but high enjoyment level!

Anyone ever make homemade bubbles?

Monday, April 06, 2009

School Bits

I've been trying to refocus my attention in many areas of life, one of them being homeschooling! God has given me a renewed passion and interest for this very important job, so I thought I take some time to share some of the tidbits that I like about it, what we use, how we make it fun, and so on. Hopefully, you'll find something of use, interesting or just plain informative about what homeschooling is all about.

My first bit is:

Open and Go!

Before I started homeschooling, the aspect of PLANNING seemed extremely daunting to me. I imagined having to sit among stacks of textbooks, 1" thick planner and pencil in hand, stressfully trying to figure out how much of each subject to cover every week. My image couldn't have been more wrong & am truly blessed to have discovered the nature of "open and go", which describes our current curricula, by Hearts of Dakota. You simply open the teacher's manual where each subject is laid out for you in detail and begin your school day! Very little preparation for me! The manual tells you which pages in which books to read, the main idea of what you've read to review with your child, and gives you detailed instructions for simple activities when applicable. The first year we homeschooled {kindergarten}, I pieced together our curriculum based on the literature program Five-in-a-Row and therefore did much of the planning including which subjects to do, in which order, how many pages/lessons to complete for the different subjects, etc. I initially thought a open and go curricula would stunt my creative side, but it actually reduces the stressload of planning, allowing me to enjoy and focus more on the teaching and very little on the planning.

Open and go is perfect for the non-planner, busy mom, and new homeschooler alike!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask about our homeschooling methods or adventures!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday Funny

Seems like every Friday my schedule gets disheveled & I'm unable to make some "creative fun". I'll be sure to fit that in this weekend though. In the meantime, here's a funny:

Tatiana: Can I have some chocolate milk, Mom?

me: Sure. Get out the stuff & I'll make it for you.

Tatiana: {gets out necessary ingredients} I made a nice display for you, Mom.

me: ???

Tatiana: You case you want to post about it on your blog.

And here's the evidence:

Guess that falls under the "you-know-you're-a-blogger-when" category. Hope you enjoy some good laughs this weekend!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

And then there was sun

The tornado sirens went off yesterday at about 5:30 pm. We take that kind of thing pretty seriously around here, so the kids and I headed down to hide under the stairs, while Daddy checked for weather alerts to verify the alarm's veracity. After waiting for several minutes and the alarm ceasing to sound, we came back upstairs and I immediately left for my Tuesday night Bible study. The rain was coming down. The clouds were black and luminous. The wind was harsh. I kept on the look-out for funnel clouds. About 7 minutes into my drive, the rain started coming down harder than it had been. The windshield wipers were on full blast. And then.... was over.

I could see the edge of the storm as I drove out from under it, into a blue sky, and blinding sunlight. The wipers squeaked against the windshield, almost laughing at me since I didn't need them anymore. I was...full of wonder. The radio played:
Amen, amen to the God of grace
Amen, amen He is worthy of praise
I realized that those choruses were playing even in the roughest part of the storm and continued to play as I put down the sun visor and just drove in amazement. I felt like laughing and crying all at the same time because it was if God spoke to me through that odd weather moment. And I immediately started praying. That that glorious moment would be a metaphor of my life at present. That our lives as it pertains to working and finances would change as suddenly as that storm. One minute hiding while danger is looming and the next, basking in the sunlight and blue sky. That my husband and I would drive out from under that storm together. There is a song that says, "Sometimes He calms the storm and sometimes He calms the child." I asked God if He could calm the storm now and thanked Him for endlessly calming His child.

And on my way home later that evening, I prayed for you. Whoever and wherever you are. Knowing how painful that time in the storm can be. And hoping that if you are there now, that soon, we can be basking together in the glorious sunshine.

Does He ever speak to you in out-of-the-ordinary moments?