“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.” – Wendell Berry

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We’ve had nearly a month with Annie, who is essentially the dream-come-true, perfect baby in every sense. I’m getting afraid to tell people how fabulous she’s doing with sleeping and eating, because they invariably tell me I’ll pay for it when she’s a teenager, or, if they are in the throes of a regular baby’s sleeping and eating woes, I think they might throw an exersaucer at me in their sleep-deprived stupor. I was extremely determined not to complain about any part of life with a newborn, but I haven’t even had much worth complaining about. It has been pure joy, joy, joy to have her here and take care of her.

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Maybe because Aaron and I are both extremely inclined to imagine and prepare for the worst possible scenario in every area of life, and because we had a definitively “bad start” with growing our family, this pregnancy lacked much excitement or anticipation. What I really remember most about the past year of anticipating this time is being afraid. So many changes! So many questions! So many new things! We moved into this house knowing I was pregnant, but neither one of us could talk about where to arrange furniture or belongings in order to prepare for the baby. Before nearly every OB appointment, even well past the “danger zone” of the first trimester, I would listen to I Corinthians 15 on my phone and hold Max and cry. When we found out Annie was a girl, I panicked when I thought about how much pink stuff we were likely to accumulate and specifically told friends and family I didn’t want any pepto-bismal-colored clothing or gear. I probably would have been concerned about clothes with too many blue whales and orange foxes or something like that if she had been a boy. More than all this, I worried that the anxiety would spill over in to life with the baby, that it would prevent us from connecting with her, that being afraid of her meant I didn’t love her, that I was letting it steal the joy we had waited for.

But now, with her here safely, I look back and realize Wendell Berry was right in what he said about standing at the edge of the woods. We had the curiosity and excitement, for sure, but the sense of dread for the uncertainties ahead was unshakable. Now I think that fear was part of our first bond together, and I’m sure it’s part of the wild adventure of raising a child. It hasn’t robbed us of anything we need to love and enjoy her now. We really are delighted by every moment with this girl, who is, as Aaron put it last night, “much pretty.” (Proper use of irregular adjectives is one of the first things to go if you are overworked and a little sleep deprived, I suppose.)

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Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will even make a way in the wilderness… – Isaiah 43:19

 

We are delighted to announce the birth of our daughter, Anne Rebecca. Her name means “God has been gracious” and honors the prayers of Hannah, which I have often echoed, and the example of the prophetess Anna, who found her life’s satisfaction not in a child of her own, but in the salvation offered in the only child ever promised to anyone – Jesus. (Her middle name runs in my family, and she joins a long line of wonderful women named or middle-named Rebecca stretching for eight generations now.) This has been quite a journey, and our Annie is an undeserved gift from the God who has been gracious every step along the way.hummel family

 

 

“May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,
the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
— May He bless this girl.
May she be called by the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may she increase greatly upon this earth.”
-from Israel’s blessing to his grandsons Ephraim (“God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction”) and Manasseh (“God has made me forget my sorrow”) as recorded in Genesis 48.

Well, a month of radio silence here… I just thought you should know I have not fallen off the face of the earth nor have I had the baby and kept it a secret. I also have not experienced complete mental atrophy, since I have about 20 blog posts half-written.

Mostly…
party… I would probably feel like this every day even if I wasn’t pregnant, but coffee makes my feet swell three times their normal size, much like the Grinch’s heart overlooking Cindy Lou-Who at Christmas, so I can’t really do anything about it.

Caffeine issues aside, I’m not really reading anything, which is probably the biggest setback to writing efficiently. Between the responsibility of caring for energetic Max and a new baby coming any time now,  I’m not expecting to sleep much in the next several months so  this reading situation is unlikely to improve. I need to jump back on the audio book bandwagon very soon, which will at least start recalling the brain I know I have somewhere. It might even be the preventative measure that protects against committing some of the tackiest common mom-offenses: saying things in person or online (1) about bodily fluids to anyone other than the child’s father or grandmothers, and (2) claiming the “victory” of “keeping the kids alive” all day to anyone, ever, at any time.


After spending three weeks of hearing “You’ll go in to labor any day now! I mean it! You’ll have a baby before your next visit with me!” from the doctor every time I see him, I’m planning to go all Buddy-The-Elf on him if I get to the next appointment and haven’t had the baby yet.

With what seemed to be a medically-indicated earlyish arrival on the horizon for weeks, it’s been a new thing to wake up every morning and say, “If the baby is born tomorrow, what do I want to have accomplished today?” instead of working every day towards some extreme list of weekly/monthly/annual goals. This is good discipline for a planner like me, and every day is a new lesson in eager patience as we wait. And somehow at the same time, the latest possible day she could be born still seems extremely soon compared to all the waiting of the past. Part of me feels like I’ve been (emotionally) pregnant for about five years, so what’s a few more weeks compared to the past half-decade?

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. – Romans 8:22-25

 

Since this pregnancy has progressed, graciously, to 35 weeks, I’m finding I can’t go out in public without getting comments about the baby coming. A friend told me people have an innate need to connect with others and don’t always know how to do it properly, and since most people have had kids or expect to have them, the sight of a child or a huge pregnant belly gives them an easy opportunity to try chatting with you. This makes sense to me and I’m happy to make conversation with people,  but I’ve noticed that 95% of the comments I receive from strangers are really negative. The comments like, “You must be getting really uncomfortable!” or “If you feel big now… just wait!” pale in comparison to what we heard from the person who told Aaron he could “upgrade” (to a boy) next time if I won’t let him “trade it [the girl] in.” Yikes.

Yes, I have had to leave my cart in the middle of the grocery store to use the restroom, arriving just in the nick of time. Twice in one trip.
Yes, my google search bar history includes phrases like, “best pregnancy sciatica treatments,” “risk of stillbirth after 30 weeks,” and “how to relieve swollen ankles.”
Yes, I barely sleep at night and barely stay awake during the day.
Yes, my maternity clothes are insufficient to cover my midsection and I sometimes accidentally show off some already stretch-marked baby midriff (not very attractive) while wearing compression socks (also not attractive) in public.
Yes, I weigh more than I wanted to weigh at delivery.
Yes, those famed “sweet” kicks are actually a bit painful.
Yes, there are other things I am not going to mention here…

And you know what? I’m extremely comfortable. Because I have been talking lately to so, so many friends who are waiting, and waiting, and waiting, or who have lost babies — Second trimester; Twins; Several losses in a row; Scared to love a new baby on the way; Trying not to resent a husband who changed his mind about wanting to have kids; Life-threatening ectopic pregnancy loss; Failing adoptions; Foster children sent back to dangerous biological families; Facing the probability that there will never be a “take-home baby.” I love these women and I pray for them. And I know any one of them would cut off her right arm to be in my compression socks and too-tight shoes in the height of summer. So I’m not glossing over anything: I really am extremely comfortable. I know what it is to face the hollowness of a flat (okay, flat-ish) stomach when it should be stretched to the max, and I know what it is to wait and cry and beg for answers… what I have now is a much, much better experience than those things. So I have to say I’m doing great, because there is no third trimester anywhere near as uncomfortable as the one that doesn’t happen.

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[as long as she's fine, I'm fine!]

 

 

As usual, our summer has had plenty of visitors and traveling already! A few weeks ago, Aaron’s parents visited and did amazing things like keeping my dog exercised, fixing our lawn mower, and painting trim while I napped. The following week I visited my parents, which required successfully transporting my 8-months-pregnant self and a 7-month-old dog on a 10-hour solo road trip through the midwest without losing my mind. I have been missing the ease of certain things about life in Iowa, but I must say that driving across Wisconsin is so lovely that it’s almost worth the extra time in the car compared to driving across Iowa and Illinois.

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Successful completion of this trip is due in no small part to indulging in a few of the 49 cent ice cream cones at McDonald’s.

After arriving in my hometown, a friend from high school asked if it was weird or hard for me that my sister is expecting a baby without facing any of the heartaches I battled. I can honestly say it noticeably affects how we handle certain aspects of our pregnancies, but I’m mostly glad not everyone has to suffer in the ways I did. We celebrated my daughter’s impending arrival, so I opened presents for her and spent time laughing with my extended family, full of hopes for the two girl cousins growing up having as much fun as my sisters and I have with our girl cousins.

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praising God for all five girls in this picture!

Other parts of the weekend were more sober. I stayed a little longer than I originally intended because my grandparents were both rapidly declining into very poor health, so I was able to spend extra time with them and help my mom, who bears most of the heaviness of their care right now.  Is there something ironic about uncomfortably leaning over a giant belly to wash a sink of dishes for the chemo patient you’re naming your baby after? And having inspiration about what foods might work for her to eat because you’ve also recently experienced more nausea than you ever imagined possible? I thought so. It was certainly a week of peculiar beauty.

This is exactly what I meant when I said that most of life bears witness to the old funeral text: In the midst of life, we are in death. There is tension, there is heartache, there is so much joy and so much awareness that everything’s a little askew. Because I want my baby to know personally how sweet my Grandma is and how special it is that we have this same middle name that keeps passing down for all the girls, and I don’t know if that will happen. I would have loved if we hadn’t lost the babies before her so she would “just” have hand-me-downs from older siblings instead of fancy new duds from a big baby shower. It’s not a sign of discontent to acknowledge that things are messed up and you wish it could be different.

But at the same time, I am so thankful that anything that ever holds together is evidence of grace. We see so much of it right now.

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little max in lake michigan at sunset.

 

A contented heart looks to and … sees the wisdom of God in everything. In his submission, he sees His sovereignty; but what makes him take pleasure in God’s wisdom? It is this: the Lord knows how to order things better than I. I only see things at present, but the Lord sees a great while from now. …I know that the love of God may as well stand with an afflicted condition as with a prosperous condition.”
-Burroughs, Jeremiah. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Available for free on Kindle!)

In the midst of the moving preparations last fall, we talked a lot about something we’ve been dreaming of for years: a little lab puppy. Aaron grew up with dogs and still misses the black lab, Abe, that he raised from a puppy while he was younger, and we’ve always known that we would have a string of Labrador Retrievers when we “grew up.” The original plan was to get a puppy in between our first and second children, since we wanted our kids to grow up with a dog and we might as well just make that a very intense toddler/puppy/baby season and get it over with. As I’ve mentioned before, “original plans” are kind of a joke for us at this point. The baby thing got complicated and then every time we looked at our open back yard and white carpet, we knew the Iowa house wasn’t the place for a dog. Some of our friends had a fabulous chocolate lab that we loved, and we talked about adopting one of his puppies sometime around when Aaron graduated. As it happens, they had a litter due the week after Aaron’s PhD defense and the puppies were conveniently located just north of our new hometown in the Twin Cities. It seemed like an ideal situation, so we allocated the proceeds from the sale of our chickens towards our hoped-for puppy. We looked for houses with fenced back yards, and “passed” on several fabulous options that weren’t dog-friendly. We ended up buying one in a quiet neighborhood with a doggie door already installed.

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On Veteran’s Day, we got the text message that puppies had arrived! Less than two weeks later, I handed a positive pregnancy test to Aaron and said something like, “Well, I don’t know how this happened, and if it works out, we can’t afford to get a dog anymore… but I will probably die if something happens to this one and I don’t have my puppy.” Wanting both a dog and a baby very badly, we decided that it wasn’t worth panicking about the finances after making gazillions of sacrifices for the sake of “financial responsibility” during the past five years, and that we wouldn’t regret having both together in the end. We sent in the deposit for our puppy the next day. I showed pictures of “my puppy” to all my piano students and asked for their choice between my two favorite names (“Sam” and “Scout,” neither of which was a big hit with Aaron). One little boy suggested I name him after a composer… “Just not J.S. Bach, because people would think you were pretending to be a chicken if you yelled, ‘Bach! Bach! Bach!’ out the back door.” I felt this was a very astute observation.

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After we brought the puppy to our new (and unpacked) house in Minnesota, Aaron made a few other name suggestions and we tried them all out on the pup for a few days before settling on Max, which came from three of Aaron’s favorite movies — The Grinch, The Great Race, and Get Smart. I was the one who told Aaron he was definitely a “Max,” but warned our family that if this was any indication, we would have to rely on Jewish traditions that don’t announce a baby’s name until the 8th day of it’s life. (We managed to get settled there with relative ease.) Today, this little guy is seven months old! Though our couches are looking significantly worse and I have to do tons of laundry because he drools all over us, we have loved the hilarity, play times, and strict exercise regiment he has brought to our life. (Walking twice a day during the Polar Vortex was still a better option than having a brand new house demolished by a young dog.) This year has been full of almost as many big, stressful life events as you could pack into a 12-month period for people of our age, and I’m grateful we’ve had the joy of a happy, licky, waggy, too-jumpy puppy to bring so many smiles to our faces in it all. family

We took Max on his inaugural canoe ride this weekend, which went better than expected with NO TIPPING during his impromptu dives off the side. That night we laid in bed with lots of extra pillows for my pained hip, laughing at the snores of the dog we wanted, marveling at the impending arrival of a child we have really, really, really, really, really wanted, and expressed our joy to finally live near water, which we have both missed so much. It’s not how we thought this would all come together, but it seems to be coming together just the same.

[Puppy Anecdote: Max knew it was bedtime on Monday, and crawled under our bed in hopes that we would forget to put him in his kennel overnight. Whenever this happens, he doesn't know that his tail still sticks out from under the bed skirt. It's pretty cute as he wags it s-l-o-w-l-y with anxious excitement, though he's still naughty to do it. I tried to grab his haunches to pull him out, but he scooted further under the bed to the other side, where Aaron was standing. Max belly crawled along under the edge of the bed, which we watched as the bed skirt swayed, and finally stuck his tongue out far enough to lick Aaron's toes. Then he looked surprised that we "figured out" where he was hiding. Ha!]

I would look for a smart and touching quote to include at the end of this post, but Max is simultaneously barking at the FedEx guy and drinking out of the toilet. See ya!

 

Happy Friday! This week held a very noteworthy celebration: The first “real” piano student sign up of my Minnesota piano studio! We toasted this occasion with the most despicable-tasting sparkling cider available in the Target clearance aisle. (Seriously. It was awful. We both said something like, “We should have just had champagne. I think pregnant ladies in Europe drink sometimes and their kids are okay…”)
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Here are some reading suggestions for the start of a beautiful weekend…

[One] You guys, it’s been legitimately sort of HOT this week. We haven’t turned on the AC yet (we rebel against that sort of thing for a while), but it’s toasty enough to reschedule Max’s mid-afternoon walk so we can go to the basement for downstairs chores and naps instead. I have been really happy with my strategic door-and-window opening plan, which was inspired by this old post about “Living without A/C and Liking It!” from Like Mother, Like Daughter. We actually don’t know if the air conditioning unit works in this house, so we’ll get it cleaned out and hope for the best when it starts getting hotter! (I keep thinking… if you can’t make it until June for a/c when you live in Minnesota, you’re in serious trouble.)

[Two] I’ll probably whack out a whole post about how ridiculous the “mommy wars” are, especially in evangelical Christian subculture, but this post from Jen Wilkinson was particularly encouraging as I gear up for being a part-time working mom.

[Three] This look at the stairway to wisdom from David Brooks includes some great thoughts about the personal stories behind statistics, especially in relation to teen pregnancy.

[Four] I’ve seen this post about homeschooling popping around among friends quite a bit. I’m not going to deny that if I wrote an article about homeschooling (as someone who was homeschooled, has worked closely in tutoring other homeschool families in upper grades, is married to someone who was homeschooled, and will need to make some decisions about educating my own kid in the future) it would say the exact opposite of this one. In general, my opinion is that 85% of homeschool families need a more serious attitude about academics and a lot less restrictions for everything else. But it’s worth reading and reflecting critically whether you agree with it or not!

[Five] I love these thoughts on “scruffy hospitality” and welcoming people into life as you are!  Good, good words from Jack King.

“Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.’ …Friendship isn’t about always being ‘excellent’ with one another. Friendship is about preparing a space for authentic conversation. And sometimes authenticity happens when everything is a bit scruffy.”

[Six] Two different friends have recommended the “Hillsdale Dialogues” series to me for combating intellectual decay. These lectures on literature have provided some mental stimulation lately, so they are worth checking out even if you’re a little intimidated (or not immediately interested) in hearing about The Illiad or Sir Gawain.

[Seven] Maybe especially because, finally, some things are really coming together –PhDbaby, duckling, puppy… what else could we want?– we’ve been battling a lot of thoughts about hopes, both the ones we felt were dashed so many times in the last few years, and the ones we’re still not sure about for the future. There are questions about calendars and things that don’t look like we thought they should at this point, birthdays that came before all the things we wanted to do by that age were done, and uncertainty about how to redream for some of life. I loved this encouragement from Ann Voskamp:

Time can’t dictate dreams or hijack hope or determine destination. Time may have hands on the clock but it’s arms are too weak to rob anybody of hope, steal anybody’s prayers, destroy anybody’s joy. And so what if time’s got hands on a clock — it’s God who has His Hands on the universe. Every little thing is going to be okay because God is working good through every little thing. All that’s happening is just happening to make miracles. There are miracles always unfolding under the impossibles.
“Joys are always on their way to us,” writes Amy Carmichael. “They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming.”
Because there is never a night where joys are not coming to us, there is never a road that can’t arrive at Hope.Circumstances can go ahead and run out of time — but the courageous refuse to run out of hope. We can always hope because there is always joy traveling to us down the unexpected roads.

“The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” – Psalm 147:11

The mosquitos are particularly nasty, but we’re hoping for another weekend of bonfires, laughter, Max adventures, and some more painting. (I can tell it’s making a big and beautiful difference in this house that needed a lot of “lipstick and rouge,” but will it ever end? I think “soft flipping” a house and getting a puppy effectively eradicated the possibility of ‘relaxing weekends’ before the baby arrives. )

(You can enjoy more quick reads at Conversion Diary!) 

 

 

 

 

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