Judah’s Story: Our Miracle Baby

Judah's Story

Judah Stephen Helm was born on July 14th, 2014, at 11:38pm.  He weighed 8 lbs 3.5 oz and was 20” long.  (Let’s just be perfectly honest here and admit that I had to look all of that up in his baby book that I barely even recognized because I haven’t added to it in so long.  He’s only 2.  But, he’s the 3rd baby.  My brain has to hold other information now.  However, I DO remember the date all by myself.  Win!)

This baby was, and still is, an amazing picture of perfection.  I have never felt so much love flood over me so quickly, as in the moment Judah was born.  I have never felt such peace, honor, and responsibility to protect.  Might I remind you, this was baby number 3.  But I had struggled with mild postpartum depression previously, and a general gradual movement into the hard core momma love thing.  This, though…this was a miracle.  Everything surrounding this little guy’s grand entrance was a miracle.  So let me start over.

In the fall of 2013, I found out I was pregnant.  Yay!  This was planned, and we were excited.  Around 7 weeks, I experienced some bleeding, but it went away.  I googled it to death, and asked a few girls, but decided it was nothing.   One week later, on a Sunday morning, I woke up to bright red blood.  I went into survival mode and quickly and silently got ready, quietly woke my sleeping husband to tell him I was going to the emergency room, and left.  He stayed home with our older kids.  The emergency room visit seemed to take forever, but I wouldn’t allow my mind to think about what was happening.  I knew that once I let go, I wouldn’t be able to gather myself easily, and I didn’t want to be like that there…alone.  After an ultrasound, hormone level testing, and exams, the doctor told me it was an “inevitable miscarriage.”

Once home, I collapsed in the open bedroom doorway, clinging to my son and sobbing.  I couldn’t say anything – I just couldn’t talk – but my husband knew.  That night, I couldn’t sleep.  I went to my kids’ playroom for comfort and just cried and prayed.  I was so thankful for the two children I already had, and couldn’t imagine going through this pain without having them.  So I prayed for other mommas-at-heart.  And I begged God to save my baby’s life.  But I praised him no matter what the outcome.  He is good.  All the time.

The doctors said that bedrest wouldn’t make a difference, but I decided otherwise.  Less moving meant less bleeding, so I put myself on strict bedrest until the appointment with my OB.  Once there, he put me on an oral supplement of progesterone, and the bleeding stopped almost immediately.  I literally believe we were probably hours or minutes away from loosing our baby.  But the progesterone turned things around, and God saved Judah’s life.  The rest of the pregnancy was completely normal and routine.  All tests and ultrasounds came back normal – a healthy baby boy was on the way!

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I had a birth plan in place, as I had with the other two.  My first two births were completely drug-free and I went into labor on my own, 1-2 weeks before my due dates.  I assumed this birth would be similar, but at 41 weeks and 1 day, I was a crazy pregnant lady.  I was SO done.  My sister-in-law, who I’m pretty sure had a due date AFTER mine, had birthed a sweet baby girl 11 days EARLIER.  I had even gone into the hospital that same day in false labor, probably just with sympathy pain.  I had been sitting at 3cm dilated for…oh, I don’t know…FOREVER.  I was done being patient.  I went in for an ultrasound appointment to check up on baby – something routine for mommas who are past their due date.  The appointment was ON the labor and delivery floor.  What a tease.  Last minute, I decided to cancel the appointment and ask my doctor to break my water instead.  This was so not me.  I was going to wait, and I knew that breaking my water would make the strong pain come earlier than normal.  But I was a crazy pregnant lady…and God was writing Judah’s birth story.  Looking back, I am SO thankful we did not have that ultrasound.

At 6cm, I asked for an epidural.  My doctor was totally confused by me at this point.  I mean, nurses make it pretty clear that they don’t expect you to follow your birth plan the first time around (which, I DID, thank you very much), but by baby 3, they figure you know what you’re getting yourself into.  But you don’t argue too much with a crazy pregnant lady, so I got the epidural (OUCH…not the shot…the stinking contractions while sitting in that position).  It.was.AWESOME.  Relief!  Laughter!  Ahhhhh…. I was ready to push in almost no time at all.  My doctor nearly missed it, but he showed up, and I pushed, and Judah was out!  FINALLY!!!

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They put him on my chest, covered him with a blanket “to keep him from being cold,” and we nursed.  (Can I just say the epidural was worth it, if only to not have to feel them pushing on my belly after baby was out!!!!)  I played with his left foot and counted his toes.  I literally remember thinking, “Everybody says they count their baby’s toes, so okay…1,2, 3, 4, 5…this is dumb.  Of course he has 10 fingers and 10 toes.”  And I stopped counting.  My doula told me later that she saw me do that and her heart sank.

See, what I didn’t realize is that he didn’t have 10 toes.  My baby was born with one normal leg, foot, and toes, and one short leg with a tiny foot and 2 toes.  My doctor, nurses, and doula saw it right when he was born, but I didn’t.  I had even leaned up, touched his head, and basically watched myself push him out, and hadn’t noticed what was wrong.  My husband was video taping, and didn’t see it either!  My doctor later told me that immediately when he saw Judah’s leg, he started praying.  “God, give me wisdom.  God, give me the words to say.  Lord, help.”  He knew we needed to nurse and bond.  So he gave that he-might-get-cold excuse to have nurses keep him well-covered.  We nursed on both sides, as my doula took cues and strategically helped the blanket placement as well.  I did not even realize something was wrong until nurses had taken him to weigh and measure across the room, and my doctor asked me if I had seen Judah’s leg.

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In that moment, God held me.  He held my heart.  He held my emotions.  He held my reactions.  He held my mind.  I had peace that passed ALL understanding.  People were waiting for me to loose it.  And I just wasn’t.  God gave me strength, courage, and love that were all His.  I immediately said that this was our baby boy, and God had entrusted him to us, and that I was so thankful and humbled to see what God had in store for him.  I would not have been able to focus during this time if I had been battling with physical pain.  Praise the Lord for knowing I needed that epidural – for the aftermath.

God put the exact people in that room that needed to be there.  He led them.  And they carried me.  My doula (who is a good friend) and I lovingly joke that my doctor is our Birth Pastor.  He has prayed with my husband and I through this journey.  We can rejoice in the Lord together in complete trust in Him, even when we don’t understand.

God also designed my labor and delivery music playlist.  I chose some Christian songs to help me through the time, and listened to them a lot leading up to that moment.  The lyrics and truths in those songs were so relevant to that situation, it still gives me chills.

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Throughout my pregnancy, God was obviously strengthening my faith, a “gift” which I had never felt super strong in before.  He really and truly prepared me for this moment, and I didn’t even realize it.  Until that moment came.  And I am overwhelmed with awe and wonder of our loving Father God.

We eventually learned that Judah has PFFD, or Proximal Focal Femoral Deficiency.  We have been told by doctors, specialists, geneticists, and google that we will never know the reason why he has this.  It is pretty rare, and the causes are unknown.  The medical world does have a few “best guesses,” however, and I have my guess as well.  See, I’ve learned that limbs begin to form in utero around week 7.  (First of all, how amazing is that?!)  Week 7 is when I started having bleeding.  Something happened.  My body was letting go.  But God answered my prayer and saved his life.  My miracle baby.  Leg, shmleg.  He’s alive.  And for that, I am forever thankful.

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God has big plans for this little guy.  And I am so grateful that I get to be his momma, and that I get to be along for the ride.

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Homeschooling: Kindergarten Math

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Today was a big math day for us.  I love math days.  Math is awesome.  I want my kids to love math too, so I try to make it fun.  When I am choosing a curriculum, unit, worksheet, or activity, regardless of the subject matter, I try to make sure it’s going to be fun.  Sometimes, when I pick up a curriculum book or see a worksheet online, I feel like I would be bored to tears if I had to do it.  I’m not going to torture myself by trying to make my kids drudge through something boring and monotonous.

We did a lot of math today, and NONE of it felt boring or monotonous.  We even did two worksheets.  Some of you need to change your attitude about math – at least around your kids.  If you show interest and enjoyment in what your kiddo is learning, chances are they will show interest and enjoyment as well.  This is going to vary some, especially as kids get older, but I definitely see that my kids take their attitude cues from me.  On the other side, if you talk about how much you hate something, your kids are generally going to hate it too.  If you tell them math is boring and hard and terrible, they will believe you.  So stop it!  Learning about numbers is FUN.  We are skip counting, adding, learning about money, and even solving story problems.  STOP right there with those mental eye rolls – story problems are awesome!  “Jan needs 10 dollars.  She has 5 dollars.  How many more dollars does Jan need?”  The answer is not that Jan needs to get a credit card.  Maybe this is why so many people are bad with money.  Somebody needed to tell them in Kindergarten that math and numbers and story problems are awesome.  I’m not here to have an argument about algebra or calculus with you (although, I love them too).  But I do wish more parents fostered a love for numbers in their small children, rather than training them, by example, that math is just a dumb chore.

I get that some of you just don’t love math.  For me, it’s history.  I never enjoyed history in school.  But rather than avoid it and have a bad attitude, I’m so excited to learn alongside my kids.  I’m trying even harder in this subject area to make it come alive, because the traditional way of doing things just did NOT work for me.  This is one of the BEST things about homeschooling!  I can change it up and do what works best for US!

Math is probably the subject we change things up in the most.  I love that I am able to see my daughter’s strengths and weaknesses so quickly and change the plans as needed.  We can advance in certain areas beyond her “grade level,” and go back in other areas to pick up something she has missed.  Today’s math lessons are a great example of this, so I wanted to share with you an example of what we use and how we adjust.

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Our main math curriculum is called Math U See.  I started her in the Alpha level in the spring, and after a few lessons, realized we needed to go back and start with Primer instead.  We skipped at least 10 lessons and then got going.  It is BEAUTIFUL to be able to tailor your child’s schooling to what THEY need.  I did my research before picking our math curriculum, and I hated the more traditional school books.  I am very impressed by the simplicity and reasoning behind Math U See, and I believe it is challenging, yet still fun and flexible.  It comes with a teaching DVD so that another teacher is teaching your kids the lesson, which takes a lot of pressure off as well.  Sometimes your kids (and you) just need someone else to explain it.  As of now, we have covered (and enjoyed) subjects such as place value, skip counting, certain addition facts, and solving for an unknown.  (Excuse me while my heart skips a beat…solving for an unknown in Kindergarten…I love it!)

This week, we have added in some other math items to supplement, though.  Through going over our daily calendar time (this particular day it was in the car), I realized Tenley was struggling with the teen numbers.  She will often transpose the numbers (calling 13, 31).  To be fair, that set of numbers is weird.  We should pronounce them “ten-three, ten-four, etc,” but we don’t.  Since she’s not retaining it with me just explaining it (over, and over, and over….), enter Pinterest.  I found these awesome number reinforcement worksheets, and since she can read, they are perfect.  Plus, we’re getting in some handwriting at the same time, which she can be hesitant to do.  Sneaky learning is the best.  I printed off 11-19 and we will do one each school day.

I also found some awesome resources for learning about money.  We have talked about this a little bit on our own, and she knows what money is.  She knows that you earn money by working for it, and we have taught her to break up her money into 3 categories: save, give, and spend.  But it is obvious she doesn’t understand the values of each piece clearly.  I understand this will be a process, but we are starting now!

While she was working on the money puzzles, she grabbed her Money Mini Book as a reference.  (Great way to problem solve, girly!  Use the resources around you!)  I also printed, laminated, and cut out these money clip cards, for her to use with clothespins.  Pinterest can be so helpful, and I am SO thankful for these fellow homeschooling mamas who have made these resources available FREE!

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As you can see, we are kind of all over the board here.  We have gone backwards to pick up some skills she maybe “should have” known already.  We have moved forward into some advanced skills.  And we have grabbed some practical items to learn about on the fly as well.  I absolutely love having the ability to control what she is learning, depending on what she needs.  I also love having the ability to go with the flow and not plan so much.  We have a loose plan, but we are able to be flexible, and adjust based on needs and desires.  I still have a lot to learn, but I am so thankful God has us on this journey for this season.  It has already been more of a blessing than I ever had imagined.

How did YOU feel about math in school?

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How we paid off $80,000 of debt in 2 ½ years

How we paid off $80,000 of debt

I think we can all agree: Debt sucks.  No one wants to be drowning in debt or stressed out about money, but somehow, almost all of us end up there.  Students loans, credit cards, vehicles, mortgages, etc… It’s easy to get into debt, and it is so hard to see the way out once we’re there.  Debt becomes our new normal.  We work more hours, get more jobs, and then buy more stuff.  It’s an awful cycle.  Many people start to think of the price of new items in terms of monthly payments, rather than how much the total item costs.

Just talking about it makes my chest feel heavy.  We all prize freedom, yet where is the freedom in debt?  Proverbs 22:7 says, “the borrower is servant to the lender.”  Some translations use the word “slave.”  Doesn’t it feel that way?  We are slaves to our lenders – and if they don’t get their payments each month, we have even bigger prices to pay as a consequence.

But why are we even talking about this?  Isn’t everyone up to their neck in debt?  Isn’t that just the norm?  What’s the point of getting out?  I mean, all this stuff I’m in debt for is supposed to make me happy, so I’ll just keep buying it.

Now, I am not going to say that everyone should always avoid all debt at all times. I believe that when you weigh the options, some things may actually be worth getting into debt over – like education, or your home.  Different people are in different circumstances and have different desires.  So I’m not going to sit over here on my high horse and pretend like I have the answers for what everyone should do.  It’s totally your money, and it’s not my place to judge what you do with it.  Really.

But for those of you who WANT to get out of debt, know that it IS possible.  And you may be able to become completely debt-free faster than you think.  So I’m going to tell you how we paid off $80,000 of debt in 2 ½ years.  For real!  And it’s not because we have big paying jobs.  My husband is a teacher, and I am a stay-at-home mom.  We are NOT swimming in cash over here.

2 ½ years ago, we built a house.  Our new mortgage ended up being about $133,000.  2 ½ years later, we are down to $53,000.  Here are 9 things that helped us get here:

  1. Create a Budget

If you don’t have a budget written out, do it now.  Do.It.Now.  You may think you are doing an OK job of keeping your spending under control without one.  I can almost guarantee you’re not doing as good a job as you think.  Track your spending – EVERY penny – and see how much you need for each category.  Then cut it down (please don’t cut down your tithing, if that is something important to you) and set goals.  Continue keeping track of everything, and adjust as needed.  It may take a few months for you to get a handle on exactly what your numbers need to be, but start the process now.  It is AMAZING how much little things like fast food can add up to.  Take your lunch to work and save $150/month.

There are a ton of free budget templates online.  Here is a simple worksheet I found: Budget Worksheet Form

If you’re a spreadsheet person, like me, you can make your own, or maybe use one of these: 10 Free Household Budget Spreadsheets

  1. Make it a Game

Have fun with this!  Challenge yourself!  Saving money and cutting back does not have to be dreadful.  I feel like it’s a fun contest to see if I can beat myself by spending less in certain budget categories each month.  Make goals and visualize your “why” for getting out of debt.  What would you do with all that extra money, if you didn’t have those monthly payments??  Go on vacation?  Retire early?  Give more? Spend more on your hobbies?  If you are a super visual person, you can even create a “vision board”  with pictures of your goals to remind you of why you are tightening up now.  As Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else now so later you can live like no one else.”

  1. Stop Spending Money on Stuff You Don’t Need

Do you really need cable TV?  No.  It’s really expensive and it rots your brain.  (Okay, to be fair, I am no stranger to binging on Netflix.  But at least it’s WAY cheaper!)  Get a cheaper cell phone and plan.  We use Cricket Wireless.  We have awesome service, decent smart phones, and pretty cheap plans – with no contracts or extra fees.  If you have cell phones, ditch the landline.  Do you have magazine subscriptions you don’t read?  Waste of money.  Don’t eat out so much.  We maybe go out once a month, including fast food.  If we go out more, it’s because we somehow got it free.  It’s healthier to eat at home, it’s way cheaper, and facilitates family time better.  When you do go out, use a coupon!

  1. Spend Less Money on Stuff You Do Need

When was the last time you shopped around for car/home insurance?  Or internet service?  Sometimes you can save a lot by switching, and it’s so worth the time on the phone to find out.  Buy less clothing, and when you do need it, buy used.  Resale shops can have awesome stuff for WAY cheaper than retail.  Even when you combine sales and coupons, new clothes are usually way too expensive for my taste.  This goes for adult and kids clothes, including shoes and accessories.  Most people have way too many clothes in their closets anyway, so just stop buying stuff (even cheap stuff) unless you need it.

  1. Sell Your Stuff

Go through your house and get rid of stuff.  Be brutal.  Believe me, you won’t miss it, and you’ll love having the extra cash.  Do your kids really need THAT many pairs of shoes, when they refuse to wear anything but their favorite pair anyway?  Do YOU need that many pairs of shoes?  No.  Declutter every room from top to bottom and you’ll have a cleaner house and more money.  Win, win!

  1. Search for Deals

My husband is awesome at this.  Just yesterday, he came in and asked, “Do you want pizza for dinner?  It’s free.”  Combining coupons and his awesome deal-finding skills, we fed our family of 5 with carryout pizza for 58 cents, and had leftovers, and I didn’t have to cook or clean.  *swoon*  He speaks my love language.  His favorite go-to site for finding deals is Slick Deals.  He also checks out all the grocery ads and we stock up on sales – like meat, cheese, and blueberries – all which you can freeze for later.  I don’t coupon a lot because I think it turns out being a waste of time and money a lot.  But I do use coupons for diapers.  I use Amazon Prime to get deals on toiletries and vitamins.  We almost exclusively go to Aldi for our groceries, because it is cheap and quick and awesome.  I am in love with Aldi.  We participate in kid’s clubs and birthday clubs at local libraries, restaurants, bookstores, etc.  These can get you coupons for lots of different free activities and foods.  Searching for deals can take extra time, but it can save you lots of money, and give you the ability to do things free, like eating out, that you may be cutting out of your budget.

  1. Do Free Stuff

You can still have fun and experience lots of things without spending lots of money.  Go to community playgrounds.  There are lots of free places to hike and picnic too.  Places like Home Depot and Lowe’s have free workshops for kids and adults.  Museums have free days.  Libraries have tons of free programs for all ages.  Go for a walk or a bike ride around your city, neighborhood, or riverfront.  Some communities have free splash parks, or pools for summertime fun.  Communities and businesses offer free events all the time, so just get out there and search for them.  You’ll gain new experiences and have lots of fun – for no money at all!  Remember to pack your own lunches and snacks!  😉

  1. Get a Side Hustle

There are always side jobs you can take on to make extra cash.  Your time is valuable, so you don’t want to take on ALL the jobs, but it can be super helpful to earn even $20 a week extra.  Tutor.  Clean a house.  Mow a lawn.  Babysit.  During the time we have paid down so much debt, I started growing a direct sales business, which helped a lot.  Just make sure you don’t waste your hard earned money; instead…

  1. Take Your Newfound Loads of Cash and PAY DOWN THAT DEBT

It is SO much fun to see the principle balance on your loans decrease.  It’s like a party every month.  Many wise financial advisors say to work hard to pay off your lowest debt first.  Then take all you were paying on that loan (the payment amount + whatever extra you were paying) and put that as extra on the next lowest until it’s paid off.  Then take all that money and put it on the next, and so on.  Your debt will fall off faster this way, kind of like a snowball!

Then CELEBRATE because you are DEBT-FREE!!!!!!  You CAN do this!!!!

What are some of YOUR favorite money-saving tips?

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