Family

It’s complicated

Actually, the technical term is “High Risk,” as in this mom just joined the honorable ranks of having a high risk pregnancy. It’s a title I have no interest in earning.

I am the fourth of eight children, so I have spent a fair share on my life around pregnant women, and women sharing their epic tales of bringing these little miracles into the world. For my mother and the majority of her family (a large sample size, encompassing some thirty-odd grandchildren), babies came late and babies were hefty. “Bos babies” we called them – usually in the 9-10 pound range. And generally healthy, which we always acknowledged as a blessing from the Lord.

My pregnancy began very normal and very healthy. Baby has always been measuring well, and apart from a small concern over dilated kidneys, everything was going swimmingly. I felt amazing (still do), and wondered what all the fuss was about over how awful pregnancy can be. I never got sick my whole pregnancy, and sleep was harder for my husband than for me.

Given how things were going, and my family history, I fully expected a huge, late baby, just like my mom had. I was just shy of 10 pounds at birth, and my husband was just over 8. My biggest concern was whether or not the doctors would let me go beyond 41 weeks and wait for spontaneous labor. I registered for larger clothes, assuming the baby would never even squeeze in newborn clothes and would fly through to 3-month outfits. I completely ignored my due date and just assumed I would go well beyond, attempting to prepare myself for that “home stretch” I had always been warned about.

For that reason, when 31 weeks rolled around, I presumed I had ten weeks left – at least. I saved all the baby prepping for the very end, assuming I would have tons of time on my hands waiting around and would need something to occupy myself. I had no baby stuff, no baby furniture, the car isn’t ready, I’ve taken no classes, and the bag isn’t packed. I had time, and I was pacing myself. My baby shower was anticipated to be late in August, three weeks before my due date – later than usual, but August was a busy time for my family and it was most convenient.

Thursday, July 13, all that changed dramatically.

By the grace of God alone, we happened to schedule a Level II ultrasound for July 13. As I mentioned, the baby’s kidneys had been very *slightly* dilated consistently since our 19-week anatomy scan. At that time, the doctor said that dilation could have been a marker for down’s syndrome, but thought it was unlikely. After prayer and consideration, we decided the test for down’s syndrome was too risky, and it wouldn’t change anything for us. We decided to put off any special testing and just monitor it.

We had gotten a number of follow-up ultrasounds, and the dilation remained consistent. The doctor recommended at that point it was more likely to be a slight blockage, and suggested we simply take a closer to look to determine if we should consult with a pediatric urologist about care after birth. Worst case (and least likely) scenario, there was some kind of blockage and the baby would have to have surgery to relieve it.

At that point, we felt like we were not acting out of fear, and rather felt clear-headed going in to get the Level II ultrasound. We felt that it would be wise to meet the specialist now, so we could see if we are comfortable with him or her in the event the baby needed treatment.

The truth is, God had been guiding us and leading us ever since the 19 week scan to get to this appointment, because what we learned there was a total coincidence and we would not have found it if we got the Level II after the initial 19 week scan, or if we had taken any different course of action.

On July 13, we sat down and the doctor took all her measurements: kidneys, heart, spine, umbilical chord, blood flow, amniotic fluid levels, head, torso, femur, arms – everything. We came into her office and sat down for her report.

The good news is, the kidneys are very very slightly dilated, and it is something she is not worried about. It is a very common occurrence, and will simply be checked on again once the baby is born; they usually clear themselves up. She didn’t even find it necessary to refer to us a specialist because she found the possibility of requiring surgery was so remote. We were relieved, and it was what we expected. We we still relieved.

But then the meeting wasn’t over. She informed us the baby was measuring smaller than she would like. She double-checked that I had my due date correct: September 12. She informed us that the head, femur, and torso size were all measuring in the 5th percentile for its gestational age (I was 31 weeks, 2 days; baby was measuring at about 29 weeks, 4 days). She advised us that any time the baby measures less than the 10th percentile, that’s a red flag. And this is a problem.

It could indicate the baby is not getting sufficient nutrients from the placenta, so the baby needs to be watched very closely from here on out because a placenta problem increases the risk of stillbirth. Her recommendation is daily fetal kick monitoring, and twice-weekly nonstress tests, along with weekly ultrasounds.

Needless to say, we were overwhelmed.

I had my regular doctor’s appointment scheduled for the very next afternoon, and wanted to make sure she got the report in time to discuss this all with me then. When I went in to meet with her, I was very much hoping for advise along the lines of “This is a precaution/ it’s very common/we could be wrong/we are just being careful.” That is not what happened.

She told me my baby has been diagnosed with symmetrical intrauterine growth restriction: in layman’s terms, the baby is not growing well and they don’t know why. (My cousin Hannah – RN extraordinaire – says, “You have a crappy placenta and a small baby.”) It’s very rare and very serious.

I asked my questions and got my answers:

  1. Why is this happening? What can I do to help? Answer: We don’t know and there is nothing you can do because you didn’t do anything wrong. You eat right, moderately exercise, don’t smoke or do drugs. Not even bedrest or changing your diet would do anything. You have gained 30 pounds already this pregnancy – you are not malnourished! It’s just not getting where it needs to go.
  2. Could you just have my due date wrong? Answer: I’m confident with the due date. The first two measurements at 10 weeks and 19 weeks are the most accurate calculation of that due date, and the baby was measuring within just a few days of what we set then based on your last cycle. The due date is not off, and certainly not by this much. Similarly, although there is always a margin of error in ultrasounds, a margin this significant is not the culprit. There is something going on.
  3. Are we just being careful here, or do I need to make sure the nursery is ready early? Answer: You need to make sure the nursery is ready early. And you should move up that baby shower.

That afternoon, we decided to start steroid injections to encourage lung development in the event I would have to deliver early. I walked across the street to the hospital and monitored the baby with a nonstress test and took my first shot. The next shot was administered 24 hours later. I got my aggressive schedule of appointments, scheduled all the way through September 8, but my being pregnant still on September 8 was a long shot at best.

In a matter of 24 hours, my whole life had gotten turned upside-down. I hardly knew how to feel, but I felt everything. I still do.

I went from fully expecting a late, fat baby to hoping I get a live baby. The doctor set a target date for me to keep the baby inside until I can hit 37 weeks – August 22. The first milestone before that is 34 weeks – the date at which I can still deliver at my local hospital instead of UCONN. But even before that, every day, and every hour, the baby is inside, presumably growing but certainly moving – is a miracle and I am grateful for every one. Every kick, I tell the baby it’s doing a great job and encourage it. I have no idea if this is sane or not but it’s all I have.

In a matter of a couple of days, my family has already come together with helping hands to prepare for this baby which apparently could make an appearance at any time. My mother and sister-in-law – a new mother herself – cleaned and prepared the dresser for the baby and gathered up the smallest clothes they have (my niece Luciana – a little miracle, too – has already outgrown some things!). My father and brother worked on my new car to get it ready. My other sisters took me out to dinner, and then went and bought newborn clothes for our little miracle. I had nothing small enough for an early, small baby.

My boss has also been insanely supportive. Word-for-word his email to me after I gave him latest update was “You and the baby come first, no exceptions.” I have friends and family praying for us and offering us any support we need. Can God bless us anymore?

My goals at this point are to focus on gratitude, balance, and taking things one day at a time. Every day the baby is in there, we are doing better. I am two days shy of 32 weeks. We are already SO much farther than SO many premature babies who end up doing SO well. We live in an area with some of the best medical facilities in the world, and in a time when babies born well before this point are brought up healthy and well. We have amazing doctors in whom I have great confidence; the OB who discovered the problem and my regular OB were calling and texting each other all day to make a plan for me and discuss my test results. It is very reassuring to have a team on my side.

Then there is the miracle and God’s timing in all of this, and the fact we discovered it at all. Normally, we would not have had a growth ultrasound at this point. The only reason we were there that day is because of what turned out to be an inconsequential kidney question, which we did not address earlier. If we hadn’t learned about this problem now, we would not have nearly as many options as we do at this point and who knows what emergencies we would find ourselves in. God has already been guiding us and leading us to this place, and he is still in control now. We get to check the baby all the time, and get to hopefully see problems before they get out of hand.

The other good news is that I am perfectly healthy. I have no signs of pre-eclampsia (something that could accompany or cause IUGR), and no diabetes. There is no immediate risk to me, and that means time is on our side. Until the baby starts showing signs of distress, or the growth drops off, the baby is safe in there and I am in no danger. That is fantastic.

I woke up at 3:00 am this morning and couldn’t sleep until after 4:30. I wait to feel every kick and every squirm. I had heartburn and was grateful for it: hopefully it means the baby is growing enough to interfere with my digestion! I am probably one of the few pregnant women who wishes she had more stretch marks, and longs for the scale to rise. The irony is, whenever I told people my September due date,  they would always sigh and say, “Oh you have to make it through the SUMMER! That’s rough.” Now, I wish I had it rough. I am completely serious. This pregnancy has been so easy on me and I am so small; I am not swollen or uncomfortable. Other than the anxiety this is causing me, sleep is not a problem at all. At first I thought everyone was just being very negative and it bothered me; now I find myself hoping they are right.

It is very strange what a few hours and a few doctors appointments do to your perspective.

The last piece of my mental strategy is balance. It is very easy to go to extremes with a “high risk” label and news such as this. On the one hand, I could be cavalier and just deny there is anything to be worried about. But every medical professional I have consulted with advises me I am not going to carry to m, and the steps we are taking are responsible and reasonable and the best things to do. I don’t want to take the shots, turn my house and my job upside down to try to get ready for this baby early, and spend hours upon hours in doctors appointments. I don’t want an early induction or c-section. I wanted a totally different situation, but that will not be best for the baby and there are reasonable things to do in response to this news.

On the other hand, I could become obsessed. I find myself already shutting down the search browsers to hunt for more information. I cannot dwell. It does no good and I need balance. It is no good for my marriage and it is no good for my health. I want to maintain – for now – as much normalcy as possible. I asked Massimo that we not give up the other hobbies, appointments, and events we have already scheduled, out of a hyper-focus on the “what if” in our heads all the time. We are going to go to work Monday morning, and leave in the evening. He is at a hunting course today to work towards getting certification for his first bow hunting season this fall. He finished his guitar Friday. I am going to plan on going to my friend’s bridal shower next weekend. I am going to make grocery shopping lists and go on dates and try to maintain my sanity as long as I can. The unknown is the hardest part, but clearing my schedule won’t change that.

At this point, I am emotional and worried. But trying to stick with my plan: gratitude, balance, taking things step by step. I appreciate prayers, and offering this little one to God is all I have. The more I consider the miracles of his timing, and his creation inside me, the more my heart is overwhelmed by his mercy. I am mostly telling this story to ask for prayer, and to explain if I seem out of it. Also, to explain why I might suddenly drop off the face of the planet. It is not personal, and the network of prayer and love the Internet provides will be greatly appreciated every step of this journey.

Keep Baby Barbi in prayer. Thank you.

15 answers for 15 weeks

  1. I am due in September.
  2. I am actually seeing it as a positive that I will “have to make it through the summer.” I have fewer pregnancy clothes to buy, won’t have to lace shoes or even put on socks. I will wear dresses and flats, and live in either air conditioning or the pool. #winningallday
  3. I am now in my second trimester, but had an extremely easy first. I never got sick, dealt with a few weeks of exhaustion and mild nausea if I didn’t put some food in my mouth every couple of hours, and that was it. I got my energy back well before my second trimester started and had such an easy pregnancy, and I was pretty shocked when the doctor actually found a kid in my belly!
  4. I feel amazing. Every once in a while, I get worried or anxious. I had bad heartburn for a few days that is now under control. I literally cannot tell you how easy this has been so far and how insanely thankful we are for that. No trips to the emergency room, no special instructions. Just a boring,  easy pregnancy. Thank you, Lord!
  5. It doesn’t matter if it was “planned,” does it?
  6. We don’t know the baby’s sex.
  7. We won’t find out until it is born.
  8. We don’t think we are stronger or better or have more will power than those that do find out. We want to be surprised for ourselves.
  9. The nursery does not have a color because there is no nursery. We do not know where we will be living when the baby arrives, and if it is our current home the bassinet will hopefully fit in the corner.
  10. We will both return to work outside the home after the baby is born.
  11. We are extremely grateful to be surrounded by supportive family, all of whom are fighting over how much free babysitting they will be allowed to provide. We are overwhelmed by love and support!
  12. We do have names picked out. Ask next time I see you and I will be happy to share.
  13. I do not know how this baby will be fed, but it will be fed.
  14. We accept all offers of free baby supplies. Between my brother’s baby, our home, my parents’, and my in-laws, I can almost guarantee every item will be well-used and appreciated! And we promise to pass along any extras to others in need.
  15. We are super excited and blessed. Massimo is already an amazing father and takes care of me and loves us like crazy. We are enjoying every day left before we have a child to tote around, but also greatly looking forward to meeting this little person. #humblebragpro

-D. E. Barbi Bee

XO Marriage Conference

This past weekend, Massimo and I had the joy of attending a simulcast presentation of XO Marriage Today Conference. It was surprising, deep, and life-giving to hear the truth of God’s word being preached over two days from some of the most intelligent, thoughtful speakers I’ve ever heard. Here, I want to break down the why, what, and how of the conference, and encourage you to attend this conference in the future!

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Why did you go to a marriage conference?

To be honest, I was against attending at first. When the first announcements happened in church, I told Massimo I would go if he wanted to, but let’s be real – I was hoping he was as uninterested as I was.

Then, a few days before the conference, Massimo asked me if I wanted to go. I had a list ready to go of all the reasons – good ones, too – not to go: it costs money, it costs time (precious weekend time), we don’t have big issues in our marriage, we already talk about marriage all the time together, and (the biggest one) I’m afraid it will be cheesy, shallow, and emphasize complementarian theology.

They were good reasons, no one is denying, but after talking about it some more, and quieting my fears, we decided that we should go. Turns out, there were very good reasons to go:

1. Any time invested in marriage is time well spent, even if it means taking away from sleeping in.

2. It wasn’t that much money, and my fears about spending money are often out of proportion with reality.

3. We went to the first day of the conference last year, and they didn’t talk at all about complementarian theology, so there was a good chance that would be the case as well this year.

4. We need to support marriage ministry in our church. By attending conferences we may or may not love, we are showing those investing their time and energy into these events that there is an interest, and then they may end up doing something we do love next time.

And so, we decided that no matter how tired we were, or how many other things we could do Friday night and Saturday morning, we would still go to the conference.

What happened at the conference?

The simulcast conference was streamed live from Texas, from 8-10:30 pm Friday, and from 10-12:30 pm Saturday. There were several lecture sessions each day, with breaks (and delicious snacks) in between. For a former grad student like myself, it was so natural to be taking notes and listening to a teacher again.

The speakers were Jimmy Evans, Dr. Henry Cloud, and John Gray. Each speaker was unique, but each was also apologetically preaching! Every speaker weaved scripture seamlessly into his messages. Every speaker was counter-cultural, and straight forward. They preached the truth and were unconcerned about how you might take it. All throughout the conference, I was thinking, “These people really care about marriage, and they are all obviously in the Word all the time.” It was beautiful and life-giving.

The other gorgeous thing that happened at the conference was that they didn’t base their teaching on gender stereotypes and narrow boxes. There were occasional jokes about her not knowing what to wear, and his just wanting to watch the Superbowl without interruption, but when things got serious, they were not messing around with any tropes: they emphasized our unity, equality, and common needs. I can’t even tell you how refreshing I found this, especially since I expected the complete opposite coming in.

How did the conference help you?

If nothing else, it was a wonderful time spent together as husband and wife, listening to the same teachers, and actively participating in focusing on our marriage. It’s important to talk about marriage one-on-one, but to both be sitting side-by-side, being fed the same truth – it’s really uniting and strengthening. And since we were there together, we’ve been talking about some of the messages together practically non-stop since the conference.

I learned a lot over the few days (including that there are good marriage conferences out there); these are just a few of the quick takeaways:

  1. Marriage was created for intimacy; that’s how things were in the Garden of Eden, and that’s what God wants in our marriages. Intimacy is not automatic; it must be built and jealously protected. Intimacy is for every marriage, and can be found even after all hope seems to be lost.
  2. All humans need connection. In the beginning, we were perfectly connected to each other and to God, but now that connection has been broken. Marriage is the process of re-connecting to each other, and to God. It can be painful, but the sacrifice is well worth it.
  3. Marriage is a miracle. Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding, and he’s working miracles every day that a marriage stays alive. The covenant of marriage is sealed and signed through physical intimacy, and breaks curses of generations past. Marriage belongs to God, not our government.
  4. Physical intimacy is special and spiritual. It connects two people like nothing else can, and represents the covenant of marriage like nothing else can.

The bottom line is this: there are no quick-fixes in marriage. Culture likes to sell short cuts, but God has a process (he can accelerate that process, but there is still a process), and the result is so worth the effort! This conference did not try to sell short-cuts: they looked in the Bible, saw the goal, and gave you encouragement to press on!

I can’t say that our marriage will be radically different, or that were in a dark place and it was saved by this conference. But attending the conference was such an honor. I was blown away by how much different it was than what I was afraid it would be. Please go to a conference like this when you have a chance – you might be surprised, too!

-debarbibee

A New Year

This is the Devenney clan at the end of 2014 - always growing.

This is the Devenney clan at the end of 2014 – always growing.

2014 was a bridge year. It was the first year in a long time that I didn’t move. The last couple of years have all brought something new: graduating college, starting law school, starting a relationship, then getting married. And the next few years will bring new things: finishing school, moving, then starting my career. But 2014 was here, just sandwiched in-between years of surprises and changes, bridging them together and giving me space to move forward and breathe.

Although there were no big things for me this year, this year was no slouch. I started two new jobs, got closer than ever to completing my education, fell more in love with my husband, committed to eating healthier and even went through a spout of exercising.  We traveled to New York City, Virginia, and Ohio. We got through two seasons of unemployment, and began to really, tangibly dream about our future. We also said good-bye to my beloved Great-Grandmother.

2014 also brought lots of exciting changes to our family. We welcomed a new sister-in-law, Mayra, to our family. We also saw two cousins get married to beautiful women. My brother, William, was around for the longest stretch of time in years. We are preparing to welcome a new little cousin to the Bos clan. My cousin, Ben, and his wife welcomed their first girl. My sister, Rebekah, got a new job and started a new chapter of her life in Queens, New York. Lots of others got new jobs, and new homes, and new girlfriends or boyfriends or just friends. It was a growing year for our family, for sure.

2014 will also be marked in my mind, though, as a year of suffering. Although we, through God’s mercy, have been spared suffering ourselves, Massimo and I have watched a number of family members suffer this year. Watching someone you love so deeply go through such pain is hardly being spared suffering yourself; it feels so real. Some suffering was through outside circumstances – things no one could have seen coming or changed even if they had. With these family members, we pray for protection and peace, and thank the Lord that He sustains us every day.

With others, the suffering has not even been exposed yet, but we see what is lurking behind the closet door where they hide their bad choices. I have been searching for a word this year for when someone you love, hope the best for, and know can do better does something that can and will hurt them. You want them to – and know they can – have the best life, but they chose darkness, and self-hurt, and separation. Disappointment? Anger? Confusion, for sure. I haven’t found a word, but it is the word for the kind of pain that comes from loving so much. For these family members, we pray constantly, that they will recognize their power of free will, that their hearts will be softened to the hope of the Lord, and they will realize the light that comes with believing.

In 2014 we hoped. We have been given the right to dream with the Lord, and we will exercise that right again in 2015. The light is stronger than the darkness, love is deeper than hate, and we will hold onto these truths until they are all that remain. We will cling to these truths especially this year, as I finally exit the stress and security of education. After 20 years of classrooms and books, I will finally say good-bye, reap the rewards and pay the price for my years of schooling. We will be moving, Massimo will start his second guitar, I will take the biggest exam of my life, and start a new career – and these are just the things that are changing between the two of us! 2015 will likely be one of the biggest years of my life, and I am experiencing all the ranges of scared and excited you can imagine.

But no matter what, I will hold fast to the hope of God’s sovereignty, the only sure thing we have. We will celebrate, and pray, and work harder than ever before. 2015 – let’s go.

How would you characterize your 2014? What do you look forward to in 2015?

-debarbibee

How to Avoid Being Asked When You’re Going To Have A Baby

It’s wedding season, and although I’ve already weighed in with my marriage advice, there was one important topic I did not discuss, but should be disclosed to all you newlyweds. So listen up: the truth is, now that you are married, you need to be prepared for the semi-constant stream of questions regarding your plans or opinions on having your first baby. And although the subject is deeply personal and really none of anyone’s gosh darn business, it will happen, over and over and over again. (In fact, I’m looking for information on exactly how long you need to be married without children before they stop asking: 3 years? 7 years? 15 years? Anyone?)

You thought they would be satisfied when you got married, after all, that’s what they asked about for years prior to your wedding. But no, now that there’s a ring, they need a BABY!

So how can you avoid this shameless invasion into your privacy? Here is some advice, but beware: it can happen when you least expect it.

1. Never, ever, EVER under any circumstances hold a baby in public.

This is such a rookie mistake. You thought you were just meeting your new niece/nephew/cousin/best friend’s infant, and that the polite and desirable thing would be to hold the thing. Hahaha you are not just holding a baby, like any ordinary person, you are auditioning, you are modeling, you are displaying you parenting skills for the world to critique. So put that baby down and walk away.

The last known picture of me holding a baby, from 2010, a good two years before I started dating my husband.

The last public picture of me holding a baby, from 2010, a good two years before I started dating my husband.

2. If you must hold a baby, DO NOT TAKE A PICTURE!

Another sad, rookie mistake. That’s not just capturing a brief, precious moment in your life, that picture is going on the Internet, and the Internet is going to comment that, “A baby suits you!” and “Look’s like you’re ready!” Bad. Or even worse, “When did you have a baby?! Congrats!”

Exception: If grandma just wants the shot, and has no access to the Internet, nor can she pass the photo to someone else to post on Facebook, take the picture, and get rid of the baby before anyone else gets any ideas.

3. Have an ally with you at all times.

This could be your baby-phobic spouse or an empathetic friend or parent, but it really helps because for some reason when  you say, “No, no babies for me now,” they don’t hear it, or forget it 25 seconds later. But when your friend or parent says it, then it is suddenly in a language they can understand. My mom is great at deflecting these. (Woot woot!)

4. Never, ever express your interest in children generally or in a specific child.

You can no longer say how much you like babies or that her baby is so cute. While I understand the difference between liking a baby and wanting to have one yourself, right now, this minute, adults do not understand this dichotomy. If you like children, or are good with children, then why aren’t you pregnant? Well, from my understanding it takes more than liking children to be prepared to get pregnant, deliver and care for the thing, and raise it for the next 18+ years. Just saying. But yeah, you can’t compliment another person’s kid. You will become a jerk, but that’s what it takes.

5. Do not decline alcohol, complain of an upset stomach, say, “I’m so tired and I don’t know why,” go to the doctor without explaining a non-pregnancy reason, wear empire-waist clothing, or gain small but noticeable amounts of weight.

These will all be quick indicators that you are pregnant! Only pregnant people don’t drink, only pregnant people get tired, and only pregnant people have stomach aches. You no longer will have any ailment or reason for acting weird other than pregnancy. Isn’t that exciting? That stomach flu you thought you had? It wasn’t – you are PREGNANT!

 

However,  let’s say some of these fool-proof methods do not work, here are some possible responses when a stranger pops the question:

1. Sarcasm

“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you how I’m totally with child!”

(Danger! Danger! Only use with someone fluent in sarcasm. If not, it could spin out of control faster than you can imagine.)

“I can’t wait to get no sleep and clean up someone else’s bodily fluids all day.”

(This is a little more obvious, so it could actually work with someone not fluent in sarcasm. Be careful, though, because a very nice person will try to tell you how “It’s all worth it though.” Barf.)

“When do you think we should have a baby. We were looking for a stranger’s opinion.”

(A little rude, but it might just be the only way to get the message across. Or they will actually give you their opinion, which is….nice.)

2. Lies

“We’re looking into adoption, actually, would you be interested in donating?”

(This may or may not be true, because adoption takes so long, you could actually be in the pre-early stages and not even know it yet. But it is nice because it puts the buck back on them: will they give you a check? Bonus: you might get money.)

“I’m pregnant right now. Shhhh, it’s a secret.”

(If you are talking to someone who will forget your name when they turn around, this could work. But it’s extremely risky because they could blab and then you have rumors to kill by wearing super-tight clothes for the next three weeks. Use only if you are in a particularly snarky mood.)

3. Deflecting

“Hahahaha Me? As a mother? You must be crazy!”

(This is a little self-depricating, and a nice church lady might try to reassure you. But someone with a sense of humor might let it go here. Bonus: you get to call them crazy, even if you were the only one who noticed.)

“We really want to get a house first.”

(This is nice because it gives them a timeline: you can’t just buy a house tomorrow, it takes a long time to save up and find one. Suddenly that baby is looking like  a good three years out!)

“Have you seen these pictures of my dogs?”

(This totally puts the baby subject aside, and may even get rid of them because, generally, other than puppies, no one wants to see pictures of your dogs.)

4. Ignoring

“How was your son’s graduation party last week?”

(Anything that is about them and will get them talking a long time will do: parties, trips, specific projects at work. Just make sure it doesn’t look like you are trying to keep a secret by changing the subject because they could start some rumors.)

5. What you really want to do.

“Why ONE EARTH would I take into consideration your opinion when trying to figure out if I want to become a parent?! I did not ask you when I got married, I did not ask you when I chose were to live, pick a job, or pick a restaurant for dinner. So why in all this green planet would I want to know what you think about my uterus and our decision to have or not to have children.

“FURTHERMORE, how do you know that I”m not pregnant now, and just waiting to tell you, or children are a super duper sensitive topic right now. Huh? How do you know? You DON’T! It is never ever enough for you people. Please go back to wherever you came from and never ask another person when they are going to have a baby.”

-debarbibee

Southern Wedding Weekend [in Pictures]

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My cousin Josh and his wife Sarah.

10507985_693863820661290_1316584218_nIt has been a record year for weddings in our family: as of now, it’s looking like three this year! (But it’s not too late to book that New Year’s Eve Ceremony, if any cousins are contemplating.)

This weekend it was off to North Carolina to see my cousin Josh marry the beautiful Sarah. It was 13 hours down and about 32 hours there, and 13 hours back. A long trip, but it was so much fun to visit with everyone and a true honor to see yet another person join our family through the covenant of marriage. I hope we get to see Josh and Sarah again soon, and that God blesses them for many, many years ahead!

A few observations about this weekend:

1. Virginia is a very, very big state and I don’t understand how it gets away with being so big. Not cool. All the New England states are like, doing their thing and just taking up as little space as possible, and then Virginia is all, “Let’s be obese!” and stretches its arms and legs out as much as possible. Knock it off.

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This is when we finally hit Virginia, about half-way into our trip. You start to get a little loopy.

2. Any long trip should definitely be followed by a trip to the spa. We were fortunate enough to have some basic spa passes with our accommodations at the Rock Barn Golf & Spa. And boy was that fun.

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The eternal farms of Virginia.

2a. However, we should really have the spa to ourselves, as we are a talkative bunch and tend to get kicked out of quiet spaces, as we were on Saturday.

3. The reception was inspired by The Great Gatsby, and I did not know fondant could be so new money.

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4. I have a shockingly attractive family. I mean, come on, have you ever seen a more beautiful group of men and women? And what’s more, they are some of the most genuine, sincere people you will ever meet. I wish we could see them more.

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This is [most of] the Devenney women.

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This is [most of] the Devenney men.

5. I did not know you could serve filet minion and chicken together, but boy-oh-boy can you! And they were both delicious!

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6. My family is fun. Like the serious kind of fun, where you can talk about it later and it’s funny even if you weren’t there. You know? The smart fun. Hilarious.

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My sisters Elizabeth and Sarah and my second cousin Miriam.

7. Me and my family are way too susceptible to that southern drawl. Just 32 hours around everyone else and we started to loose our Yankee-ness! I’m so weak!

8. Even though I’m a Barbi, I’ll always be a Devenney. It’s funny how being around different pieces of your family can show you where you get different attributes. I got to be around some of my mom’s family last week for Nana’s funeral, and then some of my Dad’s family for this wedding. And I can be with each of them and know that I’ll always be a Bos, a Devenney, and a Barbi.

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I write it like the doll.

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-debarbibee

First Anniversary Trip to New York City [in Pictures]

It’s been one year today. One year ago, he wore his suit, and I my dress, and we met at the chapel. I walked with my Dad down the aisle to him. His face – oh I’ll never forget it! We prayed, we listened, we vowed, and put on those shiny new rings. And there it began. It seems like it was both last week and decades ago, but I can truly remember every moment of that day if I try.

They say things about the first year: that it’s the hardest, that it’s the easiest. They talk about honeymoon phases and newlywed fights. I don’t know much about those things, but I do know that if this was the hardest, then I don’t know what on earth people complain about. And if it’s the easiest, then bring it on, world, because we’re in it for the long haul.

This year was absolutely amazing: challenging, rewarding, and so full of love and joy. To top off the year, we took the train into New York City and did some of our favorite things, with my favorite guy.

First up: some shopping, of course. Massimo spoils me. But it was on sale!

Next: the Central Park Zoo, complete with Rio 4-D!

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Then we had a flawless early dinner at Uva. I can’t stop thinking about that meal – this place was awesome. And started off with a three-cheese platter. You can’t go wrong when you start with cheese and figs.

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And finally, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We only saw about 10% of this monstrous museum, but we did get to see some 200 year-old Martin guitars and Van Gogh paintings. Not too shabby.

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And in the end, I took my first taxi ride back to the station and got a piece of cheesecake for the ride home. Thank you for a fabulous day in the city, love! Happy Anniversary, and I can’t wait for so many more!

-debarbibee

A Letter to My Grandmother

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I talk to my grandmother all the time – events, in church, just  when I’m alone. But I wanted to publish this letter to be read by whomever so desires because I want everyone to know how amazing she was. I want her to live on. 

Dear Grandma,

I miss you. I missed you yesterday and I’ll miss you again tomorrow. We learned about Heaven again this week in church. I love imagining you up there, worshiping God. I bet you’re helping all the kids up there, too. They are probably getting distracted and you are helping them pay attention and have fun. You had this amazing way of walking on stage in front of 200 excited, sweaty kids and getting them to listen while you tell them all about what’s happening the next day at VBS. I have no idea how you did that. I wish I did.

I keep asking God to tell you how much we miss you and love you. I hope he’s giving you my messages.

William got married last weekend. You would have loved it. He married a beautiful girl named Mayra. She loves the Lord, just like you would have  wanted. She and William are hoping to return to Peru to be missionaries, helping teenagers learn about Jesus. You would be so proud. Remember how excited you were when Uncle Stephen and Aunt Holly went to Guinea Bissau as missionaries? Yeah, it’s like that. I can still hear your voice talking about it.

They are staying at your house for a little while, which is really good because Grandpa just had heart surgery. He’s doing really well, you would be proud of him for that, too. He misses you a lot. It’s been almost eight years. A lot has happened in that time. You have more grandchildren, more grand-nieces and nephews, and even a new daughter-in-law.

I got married almost a year ago. His name is Massimiliano, but I call him Massimo. He’s truly wonderful. He loves me so much, sometimes I think my heart is going to explode. He went to eighth grade in East Haddam, so I like to hope that you’ve seen him before. He’s changed a lot since then, but I tell him about you all the time. You would have liked our wedding. We got married at Camp Bethel, just like mom and dad. Nana even made it, trying to steal the show, as always.

Susannah graduated from Hale-Ray last week. She’s going to Nyack and wants to be a teacher or a librarian, like you. She’s so smart and beautiful and kind- all your grandchildren are. I don’t think you have a bad apple in the bunch! How does that happen? You must be watching out for us. I hope you are.

I’ll keep thinking of you. Every once in a while someone brings you up. They talk about how you changed their life, and what they remember most about you. I think that you might have changed everyone you ever met.

I really wish you could know my husband, and Mayra, and Anthony’s soon-to-be wife, Bekah. We’ll always wish you were still here, but we also have the hope of meeting you again. We have hope because death is not the end. I hope you still smell the same way when I see you again. I love you, Grandma.

love,

Deborah

Real Advice for the Class of 2014

So far, I’ve had a pretty relaxing summer. We have had a few big events, but nothing compared to the school year. But this week, all that changed.

Let’s see: the travelers arrived home from Peru at 2:00 am Sunday. Then it was a pretty quiet Father’s Day, where we ate hamburgers, held alpaca blankets, and heard all about their trip (with a surprise visit from Uncle Stephen and my cousin Jack!). Then Monday my Grandparents arrived from North Carolina for the festivities. I’m pretty sure there was nothing big Tuesday, but who can remember?

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All the sisters with Baby Giraffe in her cap and gown!

Wednesday – double graduation, Thursday more preparations (and I think Mayra’s family is coming into town one of these days? There is so much, I don’t even know.), and today (Friday) is setting up the church and last-minute shopping for the Wedding Reception, tomorrow.

Following our Wedding Fiesta tomorrow, we’ll have church Sunday (Massimo and I are on for music – of course), followed by my sister Susannah’s Graduation party. Oh, and in the middle of all that, Massimo has been working extra early and long days to finish some big orders at work.

Let’s just say, emotions are on short fuses these days, and we are just plain tired. But the Grace of God shines through, as always. Massimo got a raise this week, out of the blue. And I couldn’t be more proud and thankful! I’ve gotten to see relatives and friends more than usual, and some that I haven’t seen in a year. I can’t wait to celebrate my brother and his wife (still sounds weird) tomorrow, and, cherry on top: I got to attend my 13th Hale-Ray High School Graduation to see two sisters graduate!

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These girls…

And that was probably the highlight of my week. I’ve been to a lot of graduations (13 at Hale-Ray, 6 college graduations, and a few others). Most of them are generally the same: gowns, hats, “reach for the stars”, “remember your past”, etc.etc.etc. But there is still nothing like seeing someone you love walk across that stage. There is something about that moment, that tradition – it’s like it’s all been leading up to this moment. I’ve seen it many times, with many different people, and now Susannah and Emily have also participated in the rite of passage. They’ve closed one chapter of their lives, and have the pen to the paper to write the next. Well, I suppose it’s more accurate to say read the next chapter, since you are not really the writer.

And that brings me to the shortcomings at your graduation. Don’t get me wrong: it was beautiful and honorable and Hale-Ray did a great job. But being at your ceremony also reminded me of what was missing: Jesus. (There was mention of God, but it was in the Pledge of Allegiance and a song.) Graduation advice tends to be filled with cliches and slogans that make for light, cheery speeches . (I mean, every big event does: weddings, baby showers, birthdays – you name it!) But if you want real advice, the kind you can look back on months and years from now and it’s still the Capital-T Truth – you have to go straight to the source.

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Me and Massimo with our sisters.

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The Grads – Susannah and Emily.

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The Hale-Ray Class of 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I struggle with this. I have gone through periods where I read a lot, and then times where I can’t remember the last time I opened it on my own. One trick I have for getting back into it is to read the Psalms: they are short, beautiful, and jam-packed with the most honest, brutal Truth. I like to read through and underline the promises and actions of God, while circling my actions. This way I can meditate on who God is and what he is doing, while also learning what my response should be. I found this Psalm today for you girls, and I think it pretty well sums up the adventure on which you and your Heavenly Father will find yourselves. Moving on from high school is scary and exciting, and sometimes you can feel pretty alone in this big world. But if you stick tight with The One who made you and loves you more than you can imagine, then everything will be okay (even during crazy weeks like this one!).

Psalm 86

Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.

You are my God; save you servant who trusts in you.

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.

Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.

Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.

In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.

For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in the truthgive me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

I will praise you, O Lord my  God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.

For great is you love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

The arrogant are attacking me, O God; a bend of ruthless men seeks my life – men without regard for you.

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant your strength to your servant and save your faithful [daughter].

Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see if and be put to shame, for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Congratulations, girls! Stay strong in the faith.

-debarbibee

Marriage Advice from a Very Experienced Woman Who’s Been Married 11.5 Months

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Look at those kids: they didn’t know anything! Married for 45 minutes – those babes were just starting out.

My little brother William is getting married tomorrow in Lima, Peru. I am super duper totally excited for him because he’s marrying an amazing, godly woman named Mayra. And I won’t be there. BUT, as his big sister, who has been married a whole 11.5 months, I thought it was my sisterly duty to offer the young man some solid marriage advice. I’m so much older and so much wiser (which are the only qualifications for offering advice, according to The Sound of Music). We’ve found that these were important fundamentals to keep in mind in our marriage, so we wanted to share them as a little gift to you guys.

1. Every marriage is different.

People always ask me, “How’s married life?” (They will ask you, too. A lot. Figure out a thorough, yet succinct answer fast because you will need it on-hand at all times.) I think that’s such a funny question because I’ve only been married once, to this one man. What do I know about “married life?” I know about my married life. That’s all.

You are unique. Mayra is unique. That means that your marriage is totally unique! And that’s awesome and beautiful and amazing. It’s like this precious little other being that is being born, and you get to spend the rest of your life taking care of it and getting to know it and watching it grow. So when someone says something about “marriage,” or “wives,” or “husbands,” or you have expectations about what “marriage” is like, just check those expectations at the door, and examine them fully before you let them in. Focus on how God made You, and Mayra, and brought you together. Start there.

2. That doesn’t mean I can’t give you advice.

Well, it doesn’t mean no one can give you advice. There are some similarities between marriages (like there are some similarities between you and your pastor, or me and my sisters). Marriage, as we know and think of it, is a sacred covenant. It’s an ancient sacrament that is mysteriously binding you both to each other, and to other married couples down the ages. It’s like becoming a citizen of a new country: you have new rights, new responsibilities, and a new identity. But you are also still yourself. Basically, it’s a confusing and pretty miraculous thing. The point is: be wise and cautious about who you listen to, and set a good example for others

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But look at these mature, knowledgeable adults! At 11 months, we’ve seen a thing or two.

3. You’re giving up a lot, and getting a lot.

I didn’t really know what I would have to give up when I got married. I knew I would have to give up some things, but I really couldn’t comprehend how much everything in my life would get re-prioritized. (You really can’t comprehend it before you’re in it; so just hang on.)

Church obligations, social circles, family, school, work, leisure, health, money: everything gets shifted. It’s sort of like on those shipwreck movies where everything’s cool and you’re on a relaxing vacation, and it’s all, “Who wants another soda?” And then all of a sudden you are lost and you need to make a shelter from leaves and sticks and drink pee to survive. Like, whatever your reality was before, you can’t take anything for granted and you have to re-prioritize and start from scratch. It can get messy, and a little painful.

The good news is: you are getting a partner for the rest of your life. And I can’t really begin to explain how much you gain with a partner by your side, through thick and thin. So try not to mourn the losses and focus on building up and investing in the gains.

4. For goodness sakes make each other happy.

When the terrible, stressful things are happening and it’s just one of those days, what makes Mayra happy? Does she like gifts, or time alone, or time with you, or does she like when you help take over some of her usual responsibilities, or does she want relaxing time away? Like, figure it out (ask her), and do it. (Recall the part where she is unique and everyone’s different and stuff? Yeah, she’s super special.)

Find out what makes you happy no matter what terrible thing is going on and tell her so she can do it. (P.S. Did you know that good communication is A-tops first primo important? Mhm. Tell Her!!! Ask Her! Mayra: Tell Him! Ask Him!!!)

5. Pray pray pray together and for each other.

Pray before meals, pray before bed, pray in the store and in the car, pray when your spouse is having a bad day, when he or she is having a good day, pray when you are upset with him or her. Pray all the time, for all the reasons, especially when you are upset. And tell the other person that you are praying. No matter what else Massimo ever does for me, my favorite thing is when I know he’s praying for me. It’s basically the most loving thing you can do for a person.

6. Communicate

Neither of you are mind-readers (as far as I know). We decided early-on in our relationship to not hold each other accountable for something we didn’t know. I can’t get upset with him for something I wanted him to do when I didn’t tell him, and vice versa. Honest, open communication is so crazy important, and non-verbal communication doesn’t count.

There are SO MANY less misunderstandings when you use your words, like our good parents taught you. We are not monkeys; we have a verbal and written language, and that’s why we are able to get married. You don’t see monkeys on Say Yes To The Dress, do you? That’s my point. Talk it out. (And you guys have two languages to use, so you have no excuses.)

I love you both and I can’t wait to see your love for each other and marriage grow over the years!

-debarbibee