I thought raising kids would be easier…

Video

As I think about starting to write again I’ve taken sometime to read through old posts. The thing I’ve really enjoyed about this blog is the tangible reminder of how I felt in the moment, in each season as we are/were walking through this life together. MaK and I have a vision for our family but honestly that vision gets lost most days in the struggle of taking care of four little girls. Building a family is freaking hard work.

Some days it feels like all we do as parents is say… No, don’t do that. Don’t pinch your sister. Don’t stick that peanut up your nose again. Please show her kindness. Please stop screaming. No, we don’t say we are going to ‘cut one another’ (I have no idea where this came from but it’s incredibly hard not to laugh when Larkyn says “I’m going to cut you Maebyn” like she’s straight outta the slammer). This drags into the night where we wake up several times meeting requests, putting paci’s in, feeding bottles and then try to get a couple hours of sleep before hitting the repeat button. MaK and I always say 3 am to 6 am is our “sweet spot” where we (usually) get to sleep uninterrupted until our four little alarm clocks wake up. Surviving sometimes feels like thriving and a successful day sometimes means we didn’t fly off the handle and scream at one of our kids in a moment of complete weakness. It’s hard to remember that every day we are laying a foundation for our family through these difficult days. The discipline is not futile, teaching is worthwhile even though their attention spans are little and our rhythms are not worthless even if they seem chaotic or make no sense to anyone else on the outside looking in.

We have to continuously remind one another that things worth having aren’t built in a day, week, month, or year. It takes the consistency of disciplined hard work to build something of value, not perfection. I was probably one of the weakest, most undisciplined person out there… until I had kids. I liked things I could have immediately and see the fruit of quickly.  I cannot classify myself as being all that much better now but my kids have changed me into a more focused, driven, and disciplined person, not to mention opening my eyes to that extremely undisciplined person I was/am. MaK and I are building a foundation for our family. Right now the work kind of sucks (just being honest). There’s not a lot of encouragement, it can get a little lonely, the tension gets pretty high over here, and there is just so much freaking whining going on (not just from those 3 and under, MaK and I contribute heavily in that department too). We have to be reminded though that we are building something of great value and even if others don’t understand, each brick that is laid is important and has tremendous value in the foundation that is being built in our family.

We love our little girls more each day and hope and pray that through raising our children  the Lord will continually sharpen us through the struggles of parenthood. It’s kind of cool that the Lord teaches us about himself through the blessing of raising children even if they/we are little poop faces (cue video). Gotta love potty talk – we have no shortage of it over here.

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s been awhile.

Dykstra_MaKenzie-66

Thinking about resurrecting the old blog and stumbled on this final post that I wrote and never published back in September of 2014. MaK and I found out we were pregnant with Salem Christian when I wrote this… although, at the time, we were just a few weeks pregnant with her and didn’t know her name or face just yet (I was still holding out for a boy)…

**Unpublished Post from September, 2014**

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT A PREGNANCY ANNOUNCEMENT, JUST A LEGIT OLD POST FROM 2014. SERIOUSLY.

I haven’t written a post in almost a year. Why? Well, a lot of things have changed over the last year and although there has been much to document, I just haven’t been able or wanting to sort through it all. When I started blogging I wanted to do it so my kids had something to look back on, to see how God has been faithful in our families life. I hope this post is a testament to Gods faithfulness over the past year. So this is what’s been going on over the last year in the Dykstra household.

At the start of 2014 we decided as a family that it would be best if MaKenzie came home from providing for the family and spent her time providing in a different way. That’s right.. Full on, full out, full-time mothering. MaKenzie left her job at Housh Inc, and the plan was for me to start working. Now all I had to do was find a job. We felt strongly that The Lord was leading us to make this change for our family. The reasons were many, but I won’t get into the details. The main thing that I want to document is that we felt The Lord asking us to make this change, so we did. As January and February passed I could not find a job. It was scary, confusing, and a little frustrating as we watched our savings dwindle and no certainty of income in site.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months God provided for us in unique and creative ways neither one of us could have seen. I got side jobs, we got a huge tax refund (a benefit to having 3 kids in a year), people have given us money for no reason, we moved into another families house and rented our house out, bought an apartment building, and I have finally found a job.

This year we have lived In a state of unknown. We’ve been down to almost zero in our bank account several times but God has always been faithful, He has always provided, and He has never let us become over taken by our circumstances.

There’s been moment this year where I’ve questioned everything. Why did we do this? Was this from The Lord or was this from Ross? Am I leading our family into destruction? Are we going to be over taken, and although all of these things play through my mind daily, I believe we are living the story God wants for our family.

We have had one of the best years of our lives. Although the of money has been great, the joy of provision has been greater. Even though parenting three kids under two has been difficult, the joy of our children is greater. Even though this is not the story I would write , the testimony that God is forming in our life is so much better. We have learned that trying to live a life surrendered to Gods ways is HARD!!! But it is indescribably better than anything else.

As you well know if you’ve read any of my previous blogs, MaKenzie and I have decided to let God decide how many children we will have. So, it should come to no surprise that we are expecting our 4th child in February of 2015. 4 kids in 30 months:) I don’t know how everything will work out. Our days are long, hard, demanding, and sometimes overwhelming but as I look back on this last year I can see how faithful God is and no matter what comes our way, He is working for our good. I would rather live His story for our lives than be trying to come up with it myself.

– Ross

dad life part 2.

Larkyn SmileIn my last post I was really honest with what we are going through as a family but I feel like I made it sound like our lives are nothing but struggle and we have no fun around here. Let me just say, the days can be long and hard but our family still is having fun. Not the same kind of fun we had when it was just MaK and I, or just MaK, Maebyn, and I, but it’s still been a great time of life. So, with that said, I thought I’d share the brighter side of what three kids just one year a part is like.

After we got the diagnoses that the twins had TTTS our lives shifted in a dramatic way and it hasn’t been the same since. MaK and I really relished the time we had before the twins got here because we knew we’d be confined to our house for an unforeseen amount of time after they arrived. With having 2-4 doctors appointments a week and a one year old, our time was still limited in what we could do but we decided we were going to go out to eat while we still had the opportunity. We frequent Mexican restaurants and one time while walking into one of our favorite Mexican joints a woman stopped us (as was the usual with MaK’s huge belly and a not-quite-one-year-old). She asked us what we were having, how old was Maebyn, are you guys nuts, and this that and the other. Upon finding out that we were having twin girls, the elderly woman stopped talking leaned into me and said “Ya know, it takes a real man to blast the balls off.” I was honored by the comment but thought if she only knew I actually wanted to keep the balls on.

Mom and GirlsAnother thing that has been fun to see is how Maebyn has assumed her role as the second mother in the family. If one of the twins is crying, she’s right there with a paci, blanket, or bottle. She may not know how to use them or where exactly they should go but she knows one of those three things usually stops the crying. She already loves her sisters very much. Any time she can get to them, she wants to kiss them and hold them.  She does most things in series of two. Someone’s crying? Two paci’s are needed. If we’re blessed with another child and only one shows up next time, we’re gonna have some serious explaining to do. Also, she got two baby dolls for her birthday and all day long she carries one or both of her babies around saying “baby, baby” all the while rocking, burping, and pushing them around in her shopping cart. We love seeing how Maebyn has adjusted to the craziness of our life and how she already loves her sisters at such a young age.

cousinsAnother perk to being outnumbered by babies is the response we get when we’re out and about as a family. We went to Chipotle last week and not only did the cashier insist on carrying our food to the table but when we looked around the restaurant for a high chair and all were conveniently being used, a sweet family immediately lifted their little boy out of the high chair and brought it to me. The husband gave me a pat on the back and said “you guys need this way more than we do”. It sometimes feels like there must be a huge “HELP!” sign on my back when I take the girls out judging by the response I get.

We are finally starting to enjoy being a family of five. Yes, our lives are much different and mostly about our kids, but the joy that has come from having children and being parents is unmatched to the struggle. It’s taken 2 months to get out of the haze of bringing home 2 tiny babies but seeing them smile, snuggle each other, and get kisses from her sister have started to ease the daily frustrations. MaK and I both want a big family and are thankful for the three kids that the Lord has blessed our family with.

– Ross

dad life.

Dad_DaughterI haven’t written a blog post in awhile and that’s mostly due to the fact that every day is the same. Wake up around 4, hold a baby until 6, feed the twins at 6, Maebyn wakes up at 8:30, feed Maebyn breakfast, feed the twins again, feed Maebyn lunch, put Maebyn down for a nap, feed the twins again, Maebyn wakes up from her nap, feed Maebyn a snack, feed twins again, MaK gets home from work, feed Maebyn dinner, feed twins again, put Maebyn to bed, feed twins again, space out on couch, feed twins and hope to go to bed for a couple hours…. And repeat.

Ross and MaebynThe day to day adjustments have been hard and taking care of three kids is not easy but by far the hardest thing that I’ve learned through these last couple of weeks is I no longer have a life outside of my family. I know this is a season of time but the complete surrender of anything going on in my life has been the hardest part. I know it’s because I have a lot of selfishness inside of me but one thing is for sure, selfishness is getting rooted out of me day by day. All I am is dad. Caretaker of our three kids. Before the twins, it was difficult, but I had time and energy to do things that I wanted to do. I had energy and time to work out, spend time with friends, do Bible studies, and run errands. Now, the sheer task of keeping everyone fed takes up most of the day. God has been slowly stripping me of things I’ve tried to find identity in other than Him. In fact, this has really been going on my whole life. I want to be attractive, a person people consider wise, interesting, influential, a good dad, a good husband, and every time I’ve tried to build identity in those areas on my own accord, the Lord has graciously stripped me of my striving. I know my true identity lies in being a son of the King, my heart just has a tough time deeply believing it. I’m constantly pulled the way of the world.

twins 10 weeks oldWith the birth of the twins, I’m constantly being asked “how do you do it?” Amongst many other comment of astonishment about our circumstances. Every time I hear one of these comments I cringe, because of my insecurities and because of a lot of the undertones that come along with them. “Don’t you want to work?”, “Why doesn’t your wife want to take care of the kids?”. Even though people may not be saying or even thinking these things, I do. Being a stay at home dad is isolating. I don’t have much to talk about with other guys because our day to day lives are a lot different. People may think I’m doing the right thing but ultimately, I don’t feel respected. And we all know that it’s too easy sometimes to fall into the trap of making our “feelings” our reality.

At the end of the day, I’m exhausted, MaK’s exhausted, Maebyn is exhausted, and the twins are wide awake. Hah, funny how that works out. I don’t know how long this season will last and to be honest, the biggest blessing in all of this is that each day is hard enough on its own so looking to the future isn’t even on my radar. The Lord is teaching us many things through this season. I wish I could say we are walking through it better, but sometimes frustration with our kids, each other, and ourselves seems to be the theme of our day to day routine.

I guess at this point of the post there is supposed to be some sort of culmination into how all this corresponds to a bigger, better purpose… well, it does. Right now it’s hard to make sense of it or even understand, for that matter, how it all “works together for good” but I know that it does. I think that is one of the biggest issues our family is facing with this new normal – recognizing that feelings and beliefs can often be very contradictory and we meet at a crossroads of letting one or the other win. Insecurities, mundane routines, exhaustion… all fight with me to trust my feelings. But I’m trying to rest in the confidence of my beliefs and what I know to be true.

Romans 8:26-28 (The Message)

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

– Ross

Living on the other side of a miracle

The Dykstra TwinsI haven’t written a blog post since the twins were born and that’s due mostly to the fact that I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts, change in daily routine, and the many emotions that go along with living on the other side of a miracle. The night the twins were born MaKenzie and I were so happy, we were so thankful, and our hearts were overwhelmed with gratitude towards the Lord for the miracle that was the twins healthy birth. However, three days after being home the only emotion I was feeling was frustration. Lack of sleep, change in routine, and living in complete chaos has been overwhelming at times and I’ve felt my heart lean more towards frustration than towards gratitude. I’ve been ashamed of how quickly I’ve forgotten about the miracle that has happened and how quickly my circumstances effect my feelings. I desperately want to be grateful for what the Lord has done but I would be lying if I said on a day-to-day basis the frustration doesn’t win out most of the time.

Dad and The TwinsLast week I started reading through Exodus again and one thing began to stick out to me very plainly. As I began to read, I noticed that the Lord was directing the steps of the Israelites to the very last detail. It says in Exodus 14 that God led the Israelites to the Red Sea when He could have taken them around it instead. He did this so His glory could be shown through parting the Red Sea. After the Israelites walked through the parted Red Sea, they sang songs of praise to the Lord for His protection, guidance, His glory, and unmatched power. He delivered them with an unforeseen miracle and the only response was praise. However, three days later the Israelites come to a place without water. They instantly began to question Gods leading because they were thirsty. Really? God just parted the Red Sea and killed their enemies and they think He’s going to let them die of thirst?

SistersIt seems ridiculous but as I read through these stories I began to relate more and more to the Israelites condition. They just witnessed a great miracle three days ago but still their life circumstances were uncertain, scary, and led them to a place of wondering if God was really going to provide for them. I couldn’t help but feel like I’m living in somewhat of a similar state. I’ve seen the mighty hand of God at work, I believe that He is going to see us through, and I know that He is going to provide. However our life circumstances are real, they are overwhelming, and I wonder if they are going to overtake us sometimes. As I read through Exodus I was reminded that God never left His people. He was there before the Red Sea. He was there as He parted it for them. He was there when they were thirsty. He provided time and time again. He didn’t take away the tough circumstances but always provided in the midst of them. As MaK and I move forward our hope is that we don’t miss the provision in the midst of our circumstances.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And those who hope in the Lord will not be put to shame.”

Romans 5: 4-5

I hate not sleeping. It’s hard not to have a routine, and it doesn’t seem like this phase of life has an end in sight, but as we walk through this season of life our hope is that the more uncertain life becomes the more room there is to hope in the Lord. We aren’t walking through this season perfectly… at all. In fact a couple weeks ago I think I told each girl, including Maebyn, to shut up at the peak of my frustration one night. Not exactly a high point but we keep moving forward hoping in the Lord. He is here. He parted our Red Sea and He’s here in our thirst as well. Hopefully tomorrow I don’t forget that again.

Ross

A Day in the Life.

Dykstra FamilyIt’s been four weeks since the twins were born. Some days it feels like time has flown by and other days it feels like it’s been a year in this “new normal”. We thought we knew what sleep deprivation looked like after experiencing the newborn stage with Maebyn but with two in the mix and a one year old, we’re learning a new side of tired that we never knew existed. 🙂 Thanks to some great advice from other twin parents, we’ve been trying our hardest to keep the girls on the same schedule but lately they seem to have a plan of their own, which includes eating at the same time everyday and rotating who is awake and asleep throughout the night time.

Twin LifeWe’ve been learning (read that as trying to learn) so much these past few weeks. The value of teamwork. The golden opportunity and moment of bliss: nap time. Taking on new roles as the “Need Meeters”, that’s what Ross and I call each other throughout the day, between the three girls and our pit bull, Beazy, we’ve adopted new identities of recognizing and meeting a need pretty much 24/7. Appreciating and loving dear friends and family who have helped out in so many ways from making and bringing us meals to helping us balance watching the girls and adjusting to our new life (THANK YOU!). Receiving unexpected gifts and support is so humbling and appreciated, another thank you to the generous, anonymous person who sent us a huge box of diapers two weeks ago and the countless loved ones who’ve mailed cards and sent supplies over the past month. We truly can’t say thank you adequately.

The_GirlsAnd overall, we’ve been recognizing how wild, crazy, fun and chaotic this new world is for us. We got brave this week and took the whole clan out to an outdoor mall just to walk around and spend some time enjoying the last few days of warm weather here in Cinci. Two baby Bjorns, one stroller, and one giant diaper bag later, we made it to the mall – with an eager, Frankenstein-walking one year old and two newborns. It wasn’t until this trip that we realized just how our situation must appear from the outside looking in. We were greeted by a comment or disbelieving stare from literally each and EVERY passerby and have had some fun conversations with complete strangers sharing stories about their “family of nine”, or their first few years of parenting twins. We definitely welcome these conversations, it’s nice to know we’re not the only crazies out their who long for a big family and welcome the challenging blessing.

Dykstra SistersWhat else are Ross and I trying to learn? That these moments, minutes, days and hours are so fleeting. That feeling overwhelmed might not be such a bad thing and conversations at 3 am shouldn’t be held against one another. That the house will not be clean, probably ever again and laundry, bottle washing, breastfeeding, burping and diaper-changing are all never-ending tasks that show these girls that we love them and are here to serve. That Mountain Dew is fuel. That toys, burp rags, blankies and pacifiers are the new scenery. That making games out of routines helps pass the time (who knew you could get a leg work-out in by balancing your one-year-old while simultaneously breastfeeding?). That dance parties and blaring music is a MUST at 2 pm when everyone is hitting an all-time energy low.

That this stage will pass soon and they really are only little once. That cuddles, baby coos and dreaming smiles are the rewards and should not be taken for granted.

– Ross, MaK, Maebyn, Truette & Larkyn Dykstra

They’re here.

twins bornAbout a year ago, MaKenzie told me that we needed to start a blog because she thought it could make us a little extra money. At the time I didn’t really understand blogs, why people followed them, or why people would get paid for writing their opinions. Nevertheless, about 4 months after MaK begged me to give it a try, I wrote my first blog post. The only thing I wanted this blog to be was something my kids could look back on and see how God has been faithful in our family’s story. I am so thankful MaK pressed me to do this blog, the events that have taken place over the last 9 months have cemented a testimony for our family and for our three baby girls that God is in the details and He can be trusted. Monday night was the beautiful ending to a long but satisfying 36 week and 3 day identical twin pregnancy.

We walked into the hospital at 6:30 am on August 12th (just one day after Maebyn’s first Leaving the NICUbirthday) to start MaKenzie’s labor. Our team of specialists decided that given risk and circumstances with the TTTS, it was time for the girls to come out and induced labor was the route we were taking at 36 weeks 3 days pregnant. Throughout this entire pregnancy there has been countless situations where MaK & I just plain did not know what to do or what decision to make but we’ve desperately tried to seek what God was telling us to do. Sometimes it was very clear and we felt Him very near to us, and other times it felt like taking a step in the dark, completely unsure of whether we were making the right choice or not. MaKenzie labored hard all day long and at about 6 pm the pain and contractions were becoming more and more intense and it looked like we still had a long ways to go, she hadn’t progressed from the 4 cm dilation that we walked into the hospital with and I could tell her spirit was weakening.

I remember thinking maybe we made the wrong decision to have an induction, maybe we should have waited for labor to come naturally, maybe we screwed this entire thing up and made the wrong choice… MaK desperately wanted to have a vaginal birth and the longer the day carried on the more it seemed like she may have to have a c-section. She got her epidural around 6 pm and at that point we both mentally prepared to “settle in” for the long hall which could possibly lead to a c section. Around 7 pm our doctor came in and broke baby A’s water. I’m not a pro at labor stories, so here’s the gist… within 40 minutes contractions were so intense MaK assumed the epidural had not taken and was having difficulty talking through them. She asked the nurse if it was possible for the epidural to “not have worked” because of the pain she was in, this question prompted the medical staff to check her progress again. Within that short hour she had reached completion (10 cm) and Baby A was literally getting ready to make her appearance. Our nurse threw scrubs at me and 3-4 nurses rushed into the room to hurry and wheel MaK into the OR before the first baby decided to come out on her own (all multiples pregnancies are delivered in the OR because of the risk potential). They were in such a hurry they nailed MaK’s hospital bed against the door on the way out, we laugh about it now but at the time … no one was laughing 🙂 Long story short, in about 2 and a half pushes the twins were here. The sound of the two cries was almost too overwhelming to handle. The girls were here. Alive. Safe. Healthy.

the twinsTruette’s skin was much paler than her sister Larkyn’s. Her umbilical cord was smaller and she weighed over a pound less than her “little” sister – True was born about 1 minute before Larkyn. The doctor reminded us that this was the effects of TTTS and not to be worried immediately, she would be checked out in the NICU as soon as possible. We were so thrilled when we found out, just three days later, Truette was ready to go home from the NICU and we could officially start our new “life” as a family of five.

When MaKenzie and I were trying to determine the names for the twins, we looked back on what this journey has meant to us and both decided we really wanted to give each girl a name that meant something and held significance, so that they both would remember and never forget what happened even before they were born. The name Larkyn means “to be crowned in victory” and the name Truette (our little “True”) we wanted to represent truth. Together, the girls names tell the story of what we believe it really means to be “crowned in true victory”… a display of God’s direct intervention and healing touch when all else around pointed to an inevitable loss. We wanted their testimony to be shared. Living in Cincinnati, I’m sure Larkyn is going to hear, “So, your parents are big Reds fans? Is that why they named you Larkyn?”  My prayer is that this is her response (MaK and I disagree slightly on the opening statement, but we won’t get into that here)…

“No. Every member of my family is a devout Detroit Tigers fan!! My name is Larkyn because before I was born, I was supposed to die. You see, I have an identical twin sister and we were diagnosed with twin-to-twin-transfusion syndrome and given very little chance of survival. But, my family and I serve a God who heals. He healed my sister and I, and together our names mean to be crowned in true victory.”

This journey has been special to our family. It has not been easy but it has driven us closer to the heart of our Lord and that is more precious to us than anything. Thank you to everyone that has taken part in this story with us. We honestly cannot thank you enough for the prayers and encouragement you have given to us, you lifted our spirits and made us feel more love than we could ever have imagined. Even though this story is unique to our family, the Author of our story has plenty more stories just like this, full of His redemption and love for His children. We are thankful to be a part of the great cloud of witnesses that stand and proclaim how great is our God.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

Thank you for loving our family, praying for our girls and for taking the time to read a portion of our story.

Ross, MaK, Maebyn, Truette & Larkyn Dykstra