It's Christmas time......

 A Christmas time catch up because Christmas time is always so busy! We started out the season with a special Christmas party hosted by the Hem/Onc team from Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. The evening started out with a potluck style dinner, they had raffles, crafts, and of course....Santa Claus. Ok, we don't do Santa, never did, but it was fun and we reminded our little ones NOT to spoil it for the other children! So they were super good and didn't say anything about the fact that there is really NO Santa!! They met other patients and their families and they even were good sports and got their picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus...then they were given a gift.
At the craft table to make ornaments

Abby meeting another Abby!!

A very sweet baby Tirzah, all decked out for Christmas!

 A tradition I started several years ago was to make gingerbread houses. This year I knew I would not be able to make these from scratch like I usually do, so I cheated and bought village kits. Each box had four houses and the children had a blast! They didn't seem to mind at all that I hadn't slaved over the oven all day for this to happen. Phew! After just having a baby, I really didn't feel like being on my feet for that long. ;-)

A full choir
 Our children's choir had a big performance this year. It was a great way to invite folks out on a Wednesday night for entertainment with a Salvation message and cookies with punch or coffee. It proved to be a very special night for everyone. We had a full house and the children did a stellar job! I was so proud of all of the children, but must admit I was especially proud of the five Houston's that were a part of the program. Michael and Julia both had parts in the play and were quite the actors! Abigail sang a duet of "Away in a Manger" while Lydia and Zeke sang with the rest of the choir. I honestly think the choir sounded better than ever...not because of the Houston children being in it, but as a whole. Just thought I'd clarify as it sounded a bit arrogant! At the end of the play, Julia sang a solo part in a beautiful song about adoption. Bravo to the whole cast!
The actors performing

One last performance

Lydia posing with that bouquet! A happy girl!
 Days before Christmas brought one more wedding at Westside Baptist Church. A lovely couple had a beautiful wedding......and guess who "caught" the bouquet?! My eight year old daughter, Lydia! I told Naomi and Anna it looks like they will have a LOOOONG wait for their turn at the altar! Haha, they made sure I knew that they are NOT superstitious! I think they hope to be married before Lydia's old enough!
Another shot of sweet baby

Showing off her new pacifier!

Zeke, the star bearer
Amongst the hustle and bustle of the holiday, Tirzah has continued to grow. She is still an amazing baby, very good natured and starting to show her smiles.

We also had a we were unable to go out and cut down our own REAL tree, the children were all feeling a bit down. The reason for this is because Anna's immune system is still very young and we are not able to have real plants in our home for a year. This includes trees, Christmas or other. Well, with no tree in the house, it just wasn't feeling very "Christmasy". I heard that there was a family who had a spare fake tree. So I sent them a text and by Sunday night, we had a "tree" for the week. This definitely brought a spirit of excitement into the house! Selah jumped up and down and cried out, "It's Christmas!"
A much needed trip through the drive thru!

Christmas Eve we had a candle light service. It was a full house and a very special night. The atmosphere was beautiful and full of the real Christmas spirit....the spirit of Christ. The singing, the message, the fellowship of believers, the reminder of what this season is truly about. Remembering that Jesus really did come to Earth as a human baby so that He could lay His life down for our sins. A sobering thought. It was precious to sing praises unto our Savior!

After the service, we headed home to a wonderful dinner with dear friends. It was a late night full of games and chatter, friends, and family.
Christmas morning arrived and we enjoyed family time together in a warm house with the fun of presents and yummy food. It was a lazy day just enjoying time together. Now, we are tidying up the house, clearing it of some of the Christmas decorations and preparing for the end of 2013. It has been a full year. We've had the blessing of trials and triumphs. We are thankful that Anna is cancer free now and that baby Tirzah made it into the world without any issues. We are blessed to have come to the end of the year a bit stronger in the faith and, hopefully, ready to take on the new year! I hope you all had a blessed year as well! May we all think back on the moments and recount the areas of growth, maybe even where we needed to grow but didn't (counting this as a lesson learned), and count each blessing that has been bestowed upon us with thankful hearts full of worship to the One who deserves it.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

November Birthdays.....

Here are our November birthdays! Finally! I hope you all understand that I've been recovering from having our precious and newest November baby and then I was hit with strep throat! I am on the mend and now taking a few minutes to post this in honor of all five children born in November.

We start with Naomi, born on November 4th.....then Michael's special day is the 7th, Abigail is the 13th, Samuel is the 20th, and Tirzah Hope was born on the 26th. For Naomi's special day, Daddy and I each got to go on our own special dates with her! I took her to the salon to get her hair cut and styled, and then we went for a bite to eat. What a blessing to be able to enjoy time with one of my very best friends, my 19 year old daughter! Michael enjoyed crepes for breakfast and his special request of chicken curry for dinner...Yum! Abigail had the opportunity to go with Daddy and Mommy to one of Mommy's doctor's appointments, but afterward, we took her to BluBerry for a special frozen yogurt treat! Samuel got to celebrate a little bit for three days in a row! Busy schedule was the reason, but it was definitely fun! We went to Happy Teriyaki for his dinner and the chef whipped out this amazing fruit sculpture! Then, Last but certainly not least.....Tirzah made her appearance via c-section in the early morning of the 26th. Her special treat was meeting her Daddy, Mommy, and all 11 brothers and sisters! She got to feel the warmth of being in the arms of those who love her very much and are so blessed to have her here- healthy.

Well, here we have it folks! These are the last birthdays in the Houston family for 2013!

Happy first day of winter everyone!

One Week!

It has already been a whole week since Tirzah Hope's birth! Though things didn't go according to "the plan", I am so blessed to have had a wonderful experience. So far, Tirzah is an amazing little baby. She is so delightful in countenance and she takes a pacifier!!! She sleeps really well, thus giving me a week of sleep that I haven't experienced in over a year!!! My recovery is slow but I am feeling much better. I am blessed to look around my table and see the 12 olive plants God has given to the Houston home. This morning Selah prayed over breakfast and said, "and thank you for Mama's baby, Daddy's baby, my baby, Ezekiel's baby...." I love that she knows that Tirzah is all of our baby and not just "mommy's"! It is a most wonderful thing to have a newborn in our home once again.

Baby News....

 Monday afternoon I felt it strange when Craig said to remember our bag as we headed out for my NST appointment. "But Craig, it's just a quick appointment to make sure baby is doing well!" "Just bring it." And so that's where we start.... We headed to the doctor's office for our scheduled non-stress test for baby. I wasn't in labor even though I was 42 weeks along, but I did have a couple of contractions. After one especially long one, baby's heart rate dropped considerably. This caused concern with the nurse and she asked the doc what he wanted us to do. So, we headed over to labor and delivery for a more detailed monitoring and ultra sound. Baby continued to not look so good. The ultra sound revealed a deteriorating placenta with very little amniotic fluid and not much movement of the baby at all. The doctor came in with concern on his face as he brought the results to us. With such distress showing up after every tiny contraction, we were all worried what affects real labor with intense contractions would do. A c-section was very likely. They gave me a bag of fluids and baby seemed to perk up a bit. Enough that the dr. seemed very optimistic about a natural delivery!.....
Mommy meeting Tirzah while still in surgery

Several hours passed and baby's activity and heart rate made a turn for the worse. Baby seemed to like it when I was put on oxygen, but again we were faced with the danger of intense contractions should I go into labor- which of course was what needed to happen. Craig and I felt at complete peace with the decision to go ahead and go straight into a c-section rather than risk labor and eventual emergency c-section. I was wheeled into the operating room at 5:30 am for an epidural (the anesthesia that would be safest for baby's heart) I have never had one before and let me tell you....I would never ask for one! Ugh! I will admit that I was very nervous about the procedure but I knew I was in great hands! With Dr. Christen and Dr. Caulkins doing the surgery, we had a great team. There was a pediatrician there to take care of baby as soon as the delivery took place. At 6:22 am, our sweet little Tirzah Hope was born! She weighed in at 7 lbs 14 oz and was 20.5 inches long. A small one for the Houston family. We are so thankful for the wisdom of doctors who really care for their patients and for the technology to find out when something is wrong. By every appearance, our dear little one was at least 42 weeks, she may actually have really been "due" on her original date of November 4- putting her at 43 weeks and 1 day. We are rejoicing in a beautiful and healthy baby girl!!

Tirzah means delightful, pleasant, beautiful and is in the Old Testament of the Bible 18 times!
Hope to place trust, to believe

Happy birthday little one!

"Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners." Song of Solomon 6;4

Day +200....Results!

Anna guessing we heard something
It is so hard to believe that today is day +200!!! We were just waiting eagerly for day +100 for her to be released from care in Seattle. Today we were waiting with anticipation for a phone call from Anna's doctor to let us know if they had results back from SCCA on her bone marrow aspirate from last week. We didn't hear, and didn't hear, so Craig called and left a message. He then called SCCA and tried with them with no answers. Then the call came. Dr. Irwin gave us the numbers.... the results of Anna's tests were 0.00000%!!!!!!!! Anna is cancer FREE!!!!! We praise the Lord for such amazing news that only God could give! We had Anna come into my hospital room to share the news with her as I wanted to be there to see her it is:
Daddy telling her the number

Rejoicing in her Daddy's arms

We all cried and rejoiced together!

Snapshot Update

Yes, you have read the baby ticker correctly folks! I am almost 42 weeks pregnant with baby number 12! This is no surprise to us as this is the way it goes for the Houston family. And that being said, I finally decided tonight that I should probably go ahead and get a bag packed "just in case". I know, normal people (ahem) would have had their bags ready at 37 weeks.....I just know this would be a lesson in futility. So, my bag is finally ready, a boy outfit is packed and a girl outfit. Now to get me ready! I am truly hoping to go into labor very soon I mean BEFORE Thanksgiving. I'd rather not be in the hospital while my family gathers around our beautiful table to take the time to remember to be thankful for all things. Besides, Naomi and Anna both want to be at the delivery and they are the cooks!!

This past week Anna had her six month bone marrow aspirate. Her doctor has said if he hasn't heard back on results from SCCA by Tuesday, he will pester them until they tell us. =) We are praying for no cancer, of course.

So, stay tuned everyone, this week promises all kinds of announcements!!!!!!

Because Life Hasn't Been Exciting Enough.....

After celebrating one of our many November birthdays on Thursday, Craig and I left for a board meeting/retreat near the Hood Canal. We had no cell phone reception and no internet access. Saturday evening we arrived home to find Anna in not-so-good shape. She was in pain and her abdomen was a bit swollen. I was so exhausted that I just couldn't think of what could be going on with her so I asked her if she had taken any pain meds and we all went to bed. Sunday brought no relief to Anna. She was a trooper however and even still sung in the choir! She kept clinging to her side......her right side. Upon coming home, Craig called the on call doctor with her oncologist's office. It just so happened to be Dr. Irwin...Anna's doctor! He recommended immediately taking her to Mary Bridge Children's ER to rule out acute appendicitis. just so happened that the ultra sound revealed that was exactly what was going on with her. The surgeon had left for the night but when he heard that it was confirmed, he turned around and called a team together for an emergency surgery. Normal people would've had to wait until Monday morning, but with Anna's special needs, they felt it vital to take her to surgery right away. I missed seeing her before she went in, but was able to be there with her and Craig over night. The surgeon informed us that the surgery went very well, her appendix was definitely inflamed though had NOT ruptured! Praise the Lord! There was some infection around the appendix but they were able to clean it up. She was given a high dose of steroids as her body doesn't produce enough on it's own to help fight off infection, and high dose antibiotics. He then told us that immune suppressed patients just do NOT get appendicitis and she had just blown their theory out of the window!

Anna is now doing well though she is in much pain. It is the plan for her to get to come home on Tuesday. Please pray that she recovers quickly. Her bone marrow aspirate was scheduled to take place Wednesday early morning and now has been post-poned until the following week.....unless we are having a baby of course! Life just doesn't seem to want to slow down one bit!

The Blessing of Home Education

One of the glories of home education is finding curriculum that works best for your students! I am thankful for the opportunities to get to explore the many options available. Recently I discovered this Primer for beginner readers. I LOVE it! I have had several students who have struggled with learning to read and this is a very helpful tool for those students and one busy mama! It explains each lesson plan with specific detail so all you as the teacher have to do, is teach!

Lydia and Abigail both proudly display their cursive handwriting! Abigail is just learning to read these words while Lydia is reviewing and making great leaps of growth in her reading! Lydia recently read two whole verses out of 1 Samuel chapter 8! We are so proud of them!
Below, Julia shows off a flower she made during science. We use the Apologia curriculum for science and it is filled with all kinds of fun projects for the students to do. We enjoy these as they help solidify and bring to life the lessons they have learned. This is just a sample of what we do each day. I am blessed to be able to keep my children home and teach them the fundamentals so they will be prepared for life as adults! It is so rewarding to look at these munchkins and know that you are the one who taught them to read so that they can, in turn, learn ANYTHING! I love to watch their minds grow each and every day. And I especially love to know that they are learning things that will honor God as we get to focus on character building as well as "the three R's"!

A Thought For the Day

When my husband is here we are in a specific book of the Bible, however, when he is out of town we step aside and read from the Psalms or Proverbs. Last night we read from Proverbs 31 and this is the verse that was discussed: Proverbs 31:31 "Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates." (emphasis mine)

I've been thinking on this for several days but the thought was well articulated last night during the discussion time of our family devotions......

Lookie at What I did! I did it for you, aren't I wonderful?
* "and let her own works praise her in the gates." Think about it. When we as humans do something, we have the tendency to want to proclaim it to all that are around us. We want praise, we want recognition, we are special, we did this for someone as any godly, selfless person ought to! The problem is the focus. We become so focused on ourself and our need for recognition, a thank you, a praise, someone to notice, that we lose the blessing of doing it as unto the Lord. When our focus is on self, it is most definitely NOT on Christ where it ought to be! When we crave recognition so badly, whether we think it comes from insecurities of the past, the truth of the matter is that it is complete and absolute PRIDE. We feel the "need" to be lifted up for as many to see as possible. This reeks in the nostrils of God. Some may be silent about this, always feeling down on the inside because nobody seems to have noticed what they did, while others are vocal about it, going around asking people if they have noticed what they did and if they liked it. Both are sinful. The silent person is just as prideful as the obnoxiously self recognizing person. While I think it is more obvious to detect what is wrong with the loud, it may be harder to see what is wrong with the silent. The silent "sufferer" will fill with bitterness in the dwelling place of their mind and heart, the open person is filling the ears of others with their own praise. Proverbs 27:2 says, "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips."

...if they would only recognize what I've done!
When we do things for the praise of man, we dishonor our Creator. We make self our idol. 1Corinthians 10:31 says, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." .......To the GLORY of GOD. That means all that we do should be done for God's glory, not our own glory, not for us to be recognized and praised.

I am an amazing person, I do so much for others!
Is it wrong if someone chooses, of their own will, to recognize you or praise you for something you've done? Absolutely not! If this is done without your nudging, consider it a gift, a blessing! But if not, count it as done unto the Lord and move on. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather hear from the one who saved me, "well done good and faithful servant" as I enter the gates and He sees my works and the fruit of my hands than to hear a thousand thank you's here on earth.

We are all guilty of the sin of pride. The desire to be recognized, praised, thanked. Whether you are the silent "sufferer" or the loud, self praising, may we all strive to see this sin in ourself and pray that we can overcome it with the help of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

"He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:30

Lord, help me die to self and glorify you as you only are worthy of praise

October Birthday Fest!

Princess Lydia! 8 years old!
October officially begins our cluster of birthdays! Starting with October 6, we celebrated Lydia's 8th birthday.  She got to be princess for the day. She enjoyed homemade cinnamon rolls and a new dress and journal! Next up was October 17 with Ezekiel's 4th birthday! Hard to believe he is no longer a baby!!! He was thrilled with muffins for breakfast and a Daisy Red Rider BB rifle! It has been a tradition in our home to give each boy his first "real" gun on their 4th birthday. Each of the older boys brought theirs down to show him. He was very excited. October 18th was a very special birthday. Julia became an official double digit! Julia is now 10 years old and quite grown up! Since we were out of town at a conference, we celebrated the night before at a Mexican restaurant with Zeke. They enjoyed the sombreros and fried ice cream, though I still owe Julia a birthday breakfast! She is hoping for chocolate chip pancakes. She enjoyed getting a new dress and journal just like Lydia. Unfortunately, we will have to go find a new dress as she has grown so much and I misjudged her size!!! Last, but definitely not least, October 24 brought Craig's 38th birthday. We all enjoyed celebrating our favorite man's special day!!! We made omelets and German pancakes for brunch and he was showered with gifts. This concludes our OCTOBER birthday fest.......stay tuned for the NOVEMBER birthdays!!!!!

Zeke....4 years and proud owner of a real gun!

Julia, 10....yes 10!!!

Daddy with a homemade card from the younger Houstons

Day 160.....and Sporting a Ponytail!!!

Yes, folks, you read that correctly! Anna is able to show off that she can now wear a ponytail with her own real hair!!! And here is a fun picture to show you all!!

There it is! Look closely!

So, how is our Anna doing? Anna  has been battling bugs over the last few weeks. She has had a slight cold that just seems to not want to go away. Currently she is dealing with another tummy bug. She will go back to see her doctor next week instead of in two weeks so they can monitor the situation. They don't believe it to be GVHD, but at the same time, they don't want to wait too long to test for it if necessary.  Other than the viruses, Anna is doing quite well. Her energy level is still low but increasing slowly. She has good days and days where she requires long naps. We try not to push her too hard as we know her body is still working very hard to get back to healthy. We are scheduled for a November 13th bone marrow aspirate to find out if there is any remaining cancer cells left. We are hopeful that her numbers will show 0.0000000%!!!!

As you can see, her hair is coming in!

It has seemed so weird as I distribute Anna's meds into her containers and they are still relatively empty. Her med list has decreased significantly. She is currently on her Tacrolimus taper. (This is her immune suppressant drug) She should be completely done with it the middle of January. With the taper she should also be able to slim down on the amount of magnesium she is on as well as some of her other meds. Anna's spirit and attitude are still amazing to me. She appreciates life. She is thankful for little things as she is alive to enjoy them! She is looking forward to the month of November as many exciting things will be happening, including her aspirate, getting to be a bride's maid in a wedding, and the opportunity to be at the birth of her baby sister or brother.

Yesterday, we brought Selah Joy in to our family physician as she had a fever and her face and neck were bright red. Craig wondered if it might be scarlet fever. (I remembered she had been exposed to strep on Sunday so I thought daddy's diagnosis would be correct) The dr. at first thought it was just a virus but then he looked at her throat. After the swab, we waited for the results which popped up fairly fast. Sure enough, daddy was correct! Selah has strep throat and scarlet fever......which is highly contagious. Ugh. We called Anna's oncologist to find out what they may want to do to protect Anna and they agreed with our doc she should be put on antibiotics just to be safe. While were there, I started coughing (as I have been for a week now). Dr. C didn't like the sound of my cough and after listening to my lungs said I have bronchitis. He also said no flying to North Carolina next week! This was a sad thing as I have (nervously) looked forward to a week with just Craig and I relaxing, reading, and then going to a conference that he is speaking at. But I know he is right. I do need to get well and try not to wear myself out before having this baby. This is just another thing on top of the sickness I have been having with pregnancy. I have been keeping food down however my weight has continued to decrease. I lost 3 pounds this last week. The baby is supposed to be gaining 1/2 lb each week now. I still don't mind the numbers lowering, but I don't want it to affect the baby's health in any way. I am on antibiotics now and am hopeful that I will be able to get energy back so that I can get much done before the baby arrives. Baby's heart rate continues to sound perfect! No more arrhythmia! We praise the Lord for this! This evening at dinner, we asked Selah if she was feeling better. Her spirit is back to normal and she was being super silly. She responded with, "yes, the docker (doctor) did it!"

Asleep after her doctor appointment

quarantined in Daddy and Mommy's room

A sweet smile even though she wasn't feeling well

Praising the Lord Today!

I had my OB appointment today. Just a normal check up. The baby's heart rate was......NORMAL!!! We are rejoicing that the arrhythmia seems to have cleared up! Zeke and Selah came with us and really got a kick out of hearing the baby's heart. They giggled through the entire time. It was fun to bring them as they are super excited about this little one and it was fun to introduce them to the doctor that delivered them. It's also fun to have time with just the littlest of the littles. Our doctor was very pleased to see the echo report....perfectly formed heart and to have a clear answer to what the arrhythmia was. Anyway, just wanted to let you all know about our great news and to say thank you for your prayers and your words of encouragement. I have indeed felt the prayers on our behalf, and the Lord has graciously allowed me to be able to keep food down and not feel quite as sick as I have been. Thank you once again and God bless you all!