Friday, October 5, 2012

It's happening... again.

No. Not labor. It's more complicated than that. It's that crazy mix of anticipation, excitement and a little trepidation about a new baby coming into the Culbertson Clan and upending things again. Don't get me wrong, I am super excited. I can't wait to find out if this baby is a boy or a girl and to see that little face and hear that little cry. We have always talked about wanting a larger family... (although I realize that four kids is nothing to some more "experienced" parents.) We've gotten a number of people who ask us if we're nuts or look at us like, "good luck with that" when they see us with the two little ones and the huge mama waddle I've been rocking. This little one is a blessing. And we know that. Life, itself, is a miracle. So, if we know all of this, why do I feel a little anxious at times?
I'll admit. I don't always feel nervous. Actually, until recently, I've felt much calmer about this pregnancy than the first two. We are still tweeking things in the nursery. (Which is mostly together and ready to go... with less than a week until baby is here.) Names have finally been narrowed down. (Although we'll let you know what those are on delivery day.) I, as of a few days ago, now have a hospital bag packed. (Jon is still totally convinced that the baby will only come on his/her scheduled csection date, so he does not have to pack until the night before.) We weren't really rushing or making a crazy amount of fuss. Maybe it's because this is our third. Maybe it's because we still don't know if there's a little boy or little girl in there. Maybe it's because we combined this with moving and trying to get a new house in semi decent order before baby arrives... Who knows.
One week before baby's scheduled delivery date... 
But now, it's started to hit me. We will have to answer to "Culbertson, Party of Five" at restaurants. Someone will always have to hold two kiddo hands (at least for a while.) The delicate balance that is brother and sister will be upended. I realize that this last one, especially, is sorta' odd to think about for those who already have two children of the same sex... but for us, it's been nice to have a "girls time" or "boys time" for each of us with the kids. And vice versa. Maybe it's because Sam is so much younger than Ava was when we had him. He is really starting to develop his own personality. He thinks his sister is hilarious and wants to be just like her. Sam's vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds and we're finally hoping to get out of the point and whine stage when he wants something. There are about ten funny things he does/says each day that   I text to various people or tell Jon about when he gets home. (Today, Ava put one of those sleep/eye masks on him, but since it was, obviously, too big, he had it around his chest yelling "BOOBIE!!!" while running around the house. Yep. That's my kid.) 
Ava is in the inquisitive/independent stage. Lots of questions. Lots of things she is trying to figure out how to do or decipher on her own. She is full of interesting comments or questions and everything is still so amazing to her. She is such a big helper and is so ready to meet her new sibling (which she is SURE is a girl... just so we will outnumber the boys.) So, why would having another blessing like either of these two causing any concern? 
I don't think it's the actual having another baby that is the issue. I've done this. We've prayed about this. We know (sorta'- although every kid is different) what to do with a baby. We know that God will help us and give us patience with all of the baby chaos of the first few weeks. I think it's that I'm afraid of missing something with the other two. I'm afraid I'll be so consumed with the baby and his/her needs that I'll miss the cute things that Avery or Sam do or say. Even if it's unintentional. I know I can, at least, rationalize and talk to Avery about the new baby needing more attention. I can set aside some time for her and she'll understand what I'm doing. I'm not sure about Sam. He is super excited about babies in general, but how will he react to having to share his snuggle partner? 
The kids decorated my belly for baby.
I've been assured by those who already have more than two kids that we will adjust and the kids will adjust... and I believe them. I just know that change is always a little daunting... and exciting at the same time.  Here is where I have to go back to that confidence that, if God can create a tiny human life from the raw materials we have inside, I have to figure that He can, surely, help me with my time management skills and powers of observation of every day miracles. If He can sacrifice his son for my salvation, I'm going to guess it's not a stretch for God to be able to make me able to handle three children. Even taking them grocery shopping if I have to.

I'll have to do my part. To open my heart up again. To be open to change and new routines and schedules. To learn to really take the time to listen to each one of my kids. And, with less than a week to go of being a family of four, I'm ready to take on those changes head on and meet the newest little Culbertson in the cul-de-sac. :) We are praying for this transition and new phase in our lives... and we hope you'll join us in those prayers. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Here it is... the whole story. The HOME story. Some of you know this adventure because you went through it with us. Some of you know bits and pieces. But, for posterity's sake and for the memoirs for the kids... I'm writing the crazy way God worked this whole thing out down on paper... or at least on a blog post. 

I guess I could start at the beginning... When we were looking for a place to live in Lancaster about 12 years ago. Jon was already living in Lancaster (Lititz actually) with his roommate from college's parents. They are an amazing family with a heart for... everyone. He loved living with them. He would live with them and work during the week and then come to my parents' house about an hour away in Dover, PA for the weekends. We were engaged then and we knew that we needed to find a place to live. We figured we'd rent, but we didn't really know anything about the area or about the apartments in the area. There were a few weekends that we did some apartment shopping... And we didn't like any of them. We were getting married in August. It was May. We still had no place to live. And just like that, Jon said he'd found a place. I remember clearly. He came to my parents' house and said, "We have an apartment." This was news to me. Especially since we had not discussed or seen this new place. Actually, I came to find out, neither had he. He just heard that this one place was decent and close to everything and in a good area. He went in and asked if they had any openings as of July or August. They had JUST had someone submit notification that they were moving. And it was the only apartment open. Two bedroom. Two bath. Bottom floor with a patio. Jon said we'd take it... and he never even saw it. No model was shown either. Oh gosh. I was a little leery to say the least. When my mom and I did get a chance to check it out, the former tenants had moved out and we were going in to get measurements of the windows so we could look for curtains. We walked in and... it was HORRIBLE!!! A pig sty. No kidding. Mystery stains on the carpets. Weird holes in the walls... My mom almost cried. There was a crew of people there assuring us that they were putting in all new carpet and fixing and painting the walls in the entire place and fixing all of the other things that the former tenants had destroyed. Again, we were leery, but we decided to trust that it would all work out. 

When we moved in, we were pleasantly surprised that it had ALL been redone. It was a nice apartment. We liked it there. We loved the area and the setup of the actual space we had was great. Except that it was an apartment. It was very likely that the people that lived directly above us worked 2nd or 3rd shift and were part time cloggers or WWE wrestlers. The ladies who lived above them were two sisters who got into huge verbal shouting matches. Sometimes when one was outside walking their little dog and the other was on the balcony. And then there was the unibomber who lived across the hall. Okay, so he wasn't really a unibomber. At least, we don't think so. But, he never came out. And the one time that we happened to open the door at the same time as he did, he looked at us creepily and closed the door and went back inside. Freaky!!! We began driving through neighborhoods in the area to see if there was anything we liked. We always kept returning to this one little development that had lots of mature trees and cute houses, but was only a few minutes away from where we were at in the apartment and close to just about everything. True that we hadn't ventured very far in our searches, but we knew we liked the area. It was just outside the city but about halfway between Jonny's job on the eastern side of Lancaster County and mine on the western side. When we finally looked for a house, we sat down with the realtor and said this is what we want. We also had driven by this little cape cod on Fruitville Pike (about 3 miles away from the apartment) and saw a "FOR SALE" sign in the yard. We asked them if we could check that one out. My mom came with me for the first showing. Heck, it was the first house we really looked at. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving (aka: first day of buck season!) Jon had to work, but I was off school and my mom was off as well. No one was living there. It was right on a main road, but had three bedrooms, a huge back yard, and, although it needed a new kitchen and bathroom, was loaded with character and... I LOVED IT!!!! I called Jon and we scheduled a second showing when he got off work. That was about 6pm. He liked it too! We found out that there was another offer on the house so we put in an offer and hoped for the best. We got a call that the seller had accepted our offer. That was 8pm. In a little over 8 hours we had gone from living in an apartment to promising to purchase a house!!!

Our Fruitville Pike house...
Remodeled kitchen
Our back yard!
The living room
Holy crap!!! What were we doing? For real? It was a crazy whirlwind. Was this how things worked? In a month we were moved in. Over the next few years we redid the bathroom and kitchen. Much better now. It's funny. Because we moved there and started going to a new grocery store that was closer to the house, we met someone who would eventually lead us to a whole new group of friends... some of our best friends for the past 8 years now. Crazy. We loved the proximity to everything, but we now lived on a busy street. Not my favorite. Luckily, our back yard was pretty big and led to what was eventually turned into a community park. We put a fence up (to make sure the dogs didn't get out) and used the back of the house mostly like the front. However, the dogs did get out and one of them got hit on the busy road. This was our first dose of "this house isn't going to work forever." We began having children and when Avery was born, had to turn the guest room into a nursery. We still had an office and our bedroom though. Then, Sam was born. There goes the office. Avery moved into the office bedroom and the "office" got displaced to share our dining room. We knew we were running out of room. Baby and kid stuff was taking over our house. Jon and I had discussed wanting to find a bigger house before Avery had to register for Kindergarten. We didn't want to have to just get her started somewhere and then move her. But we had time. Sam was just turning one in a few months and Ava would be four at the end of March. We had time. 

But then we didn't. Well, sort of. The day before Sam's 1st birthday we found out I was pregnant with #3. Due in October. Hmmm... where would we put this one? I mean, we could double kids up in a room. No problem. But would we do that and then have to move in a few months anyway? And how long did this whole house selling/buying process take? How did it work? Would we be here with our house on the market hoping for someone to buy it and having potential buyers coming through our house when we were in the midst of having a baby? Crap. Now what? We had been doing the "open house groupies" thing for a while to see what was out there. We liked a few, but not a bunch of the others. Pretty sure we saw a brothel at one point. We kept hearing that you should put your house on the market first because you never know how long it takes to sell a property. The buying is the easy part. So, we finally decided to put our house on the market and start our "official" search.

There were a lot of people through our house. Ten showings in a week. And then... an offer. Two, actually. We finally decided on one of them and had our house under contract. In a week. Hallelujah!!! But now we had to find a place to live!!! We made the sale of our house contingent on finding another (so we weren't homeless) and we only had about two weeks to make it happen. Well, in two weeks, if we didn't find a place, the buyers of our house could decide we were taking too long and get out of the contract. 

We were probably the biggest pains in the butt to our realtors. We went to a bunch of houses. Some were on busier roads than we wanted. Some were, set up in an odd manner or had lots of neighbors looking in on us. Some were ok... Not many impressed us. Only a few. And they had some other issues (being further than we wanted to be, or having kid bedrooms and our bedroom on different floors - which we didn't want, or being too stretching on the current budget.) The goal was to be getting OUT of debt with the profits from our house. It was not being house poor because we bit off more than we could chew with the new house. On Good Friday we, again, were on a tour of houses to see in the area. No luck. (Pretty sure the owners were hiding in one of them while we were there, and another had about 90 varieties of wallpaper plus other updates that needed done... for out of our "comfort price.") We had to figure something out. I was getting frustrated. We had about a week left. My parents had said we could move in with them till we found something. Which was looking more and more like what we were going to do. Or we could move to York County where we could get a lot more "bang for our buck" but we liked our area and we had a life and friends here...

Jon, who is my perfect completer, had no such issues. He's calm. Like, I'm pretty sure that all of NJ and eastern PA could fall into the ocean with one big swoop and Jon wouldn't bat an eyelash. I can just see it now. "Sweet. We're closer to the beach." That would be his response. This is his kind of calm. But, you see... it's more than that. He TRUSTS GOD!! With everything.  He and I finally sat down TOGETHER and prayed about the housing situation. We'd been praying individually, but don't you know, the scripture says in Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." We stood on the promise that God would take care of us. We are more important than the birds, and they are taken care of. We trust Him with our SALVATION, yet why was it difficult to trust Him with things like housing? Because, we thought we could do it ourselves. Finally, we knew that if we needed to live somewhere temporarily, that would be fine.  Even if it was a commute, even if we weren't where we thought we wanted to be. God would make sure that something better came of it. And... wouldn't you know it. The next day, Jon checked out a real estate site... and found a house in that exact little neighborhood that we used to drive through when we first moved to Lancaster. We asked our agent if we could see this house (as well as some others, just in case...) But, it was most of what was on our list!!! 
Our Roosevelt Boulevard house

Dining room leads to screened in porch

Living room (needs new paint) :P 
Back yard with play set! Kids are happy
We went to see it two days later. And my parents got to be there for it too. It was great. Four bedrooms... with the potential to add another down the road if we wanted a bigger master. All the bedrooms on one floor. A second bathroom on the main floor. Hardwood floors. Finished (although ugly) basement. Screened in porch. A swing set. Gas heat and an outdoor already included gas grill. Backing up to... nothing. A protected wetland. All of this on a cul de sac right down the street (less than two miles) from where we live now. This was even more than we had asked for. And it was in our budget. Yes, the house needs love. Some paint, a fence, a few updates, and a little revamp of some of the areas. But even the "uncool" parts have "cool" potential! We knew God had answered our prayers. But... if it didn't go through, if they didn't accept our offer, we were still at peace about it. It would work out. It took a few days, but on the night before our contract contingency for our current house was up, we  were under contract on our new house!!! Can I get an AMEN?!!! We are trusting that this will happen. We are excited about the new house. But even if, for some unforseen reason, we are unable to move in...  we're okay. No more "Mandy-freak-outs" on the horizon. We both know that God is in control. He has ways and plans we don't understand (and may never understand.) I'm working on being as constantly calm as Jonny... but I'm not sure that's in my personality. I'm getting better at it though. Thanking the Lord for His provision every day in every aspect of our lives. He truly is our source. For EVERYTHING!!! 

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Most Blessed Girl On The Planet...

For real? Almost a year now... As I type this, my little man will be one year old in only a few days. It has flown by. What a difference a year makes.

Sam was born on February 2nd. Groundhog's Day. We actually got to pick his date of birth. When I had gone to the doctor after Avery was a week late they said that the fluid was low and they needed to induce me. They looked at the ultrasound and told me that they expected her to be around 8lbs. Not bad for being a week overdue. I didn't even get very far in labor, and her heart rate kept dropping. They didn't know if she was wrapped up in her cord or what, but she wasn't going to tolerate labor if she was already stressing and I didn't feel any contractions yet. So they whisked me away down the hall to perform an emergency Csection. Not my plan, but I had already decided that the goal of the day was to have a healthy baby and not get stressed on the "plan" for delivery. When she was born, she was 9lbs and 14 oz (they obviously just guessed before and were WAY off!) and there was meconium. Any of these things could have contributed to her being stressed out (lack of room, poop in there, low fluid, etc...) This is why they let me decide if I wanted to have another Csection with Sam.

I was a little leery of deciding to have a csection again. It was a bit painful. But, we decided to do it again and got to pick our delivery date... 2/2/11. :) Jon thought it would be easy to remember! lol! In fact, when I look back, I really do like the memory of his birth. We were scheduled to be the first csection of the day at 8:30 am. This meant we had to be there at 6:30. Normally, I'm not at all excited about being anywhere by 6:30 am. But, this time it was different. Neither Jon, nor I, could sleep. We were too excited. My mom had slept over and stayed in bed with Ava while we got up and left for the hospital. She would give her breakfast and come to the hospital when we called her later.

As soon as we got up we noticed the ice. There was an ice storm the night before. At 6am, everything was cold and dark and quiet and glistening... Jon made sure to scrape the patio and the car and such, but we were ready. We prayed before we left. For safety, for the surgery and for peace. We drove to Women & Babies Hospital (which is only a five minutes or so from our house) very slowly because of the ice. The road was virtually empty. Schools were being cancelled and a lot of businesses were closed. It was just us and this glisteny, quiet world. One last drive before our world got flipped upside down again. It was if God wanted us to slow down and take a moment to reflect before our lives got a bit more chaotic. It was awesome.

Even when we got to the hospital it was quiet. There weren't a ton of people milling around because it was so early and even the ladies at the intake desk for scheduled csections were just getting in for the day. Everyone was calm. Everyone. Even me. We met with the nurses and anesthesiologists and finally the doctor. All was smooth. We were told that we'd have to be bumped back to the second slot of the day because someone had an emergency csection ahead of us. No biggie. I was remembering how they'd done that for me when I had Ava. We were ready. I went in and got prepped for surgery. Still, no stress. God had given us that peace we had asked for. Even though I was numbed, I was still aware that no one else was stressing either. They were talking about their kids and one guy wanted to convince his wife to buy into alpacas... :) No, I was not THAT drugged up...YET. Jon was right beside me. Making me laugh and smile the whole time.

And then... There was a wail! This little boy who had been making me have heartburn, was finally out and screaming like crazy. It was the best scream ever. He was NOT happy. People were roughing him up, pricking him, measuring and weighing him, and Daddy was over there snapping pictures of the screaming little man. 8lbs, 14oz. If we would have let him cook as long as Ava did (an extra week and a half) he probably would have been a "biggie" too. And then they swaddled him... Still screaming. And brought him over to me. I finally said his name and got to hold him and he stopped. He just stopped crying and tried to place the voice. He seemed to know it was me. (Maybe not, but I'm going to say that's what it was.) I had talked to him and near him for nine months. He calmed down. (Don't worry. That didn't last too long.) But in that moment, I knew my life was absolutely amazing and that I was the most blessed girl on the planet.  Thank you, Lord.

Now, this messy little kid sits at my table and dumps food on the floor for the dog. He walks around the house and tries to chase his sister (who loves EVERY moment of it.) He wipes his nose on the dog and puts everything into his mouth (or tries to shove it in mine.) And in those moments, when I look at the two beautiful blessings that God has given me laughing and giggling on the floor... I am reminded again that my life is absolutely amazing and that I am the most blessed girl on the planet. Thank you, Lord... again.