Category Archives: Life of 7

Can You Feel Me When I think About You?

Today marks six years since I held Clara for the last time.  It also marks the first time that Clara’s entire life followed the same days of the week…like her birthday on a Wednesday, her passing being 2 days after Mother’s Day.  It is hard to imagine life without her and yet here we are living it.  Instead of having six years of memories I have three and a half months.  Sometimes the most vivid memories are not the “good” ones.  Each year as today approaches my thoughts are filled with memories of May 12, 2009 when I raced to the ER and held my breath for an hour while the doctors and nurses did everything they could to bring life back into her.  The afternoon where I held her earthly body for the last time.  The evening that I laid my baby’s body on the hospital gurney and walked away, leaving her behind in that empty room.  That night as we picked up the big boys from our daycare when we also left with an empty infant car seat and two boys asking where their sister was.  It is a day I wish I could forget and yet I don’t want to.  Each year I find the anticipation of this day is harder than the actual day itself.


As my family remembers year number six we do it in a place where Clara’s memorials are not close by.   A kind man listened to the story behind my blog and told me about a place in Iowa City that I might appreciate.  He was so right!  Along the river sits a statue of hope.  When we first got there I was sure of how I wanted to capture it through the lens of my camera, I knew what my hope was.  Instead I viewed something more heartwarming and thoughtful than I could have ever imagined.  The little ones were drawn toward holding the statue’s hands.  They kept taking and replacing the beads that were in her hands.  They took turns holding her hands like they were dancing.  I saw hope and love and a sense of calm.


Every May 12th I reflect upon the future and I am filled with hope.  Hope that her life was not meaningless.  Hope that her loss has brought my husband, my children, and myself closer to God.  Hope that there is always a future even if it isn’t here on earth.  Hope that I am one day closer to seeing her again.


When I think about Miss Clara, can she feel it?  I like to think so, that is my hope.


“The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.”
L.A. Seneca

Mother's Day 2009

Mother’s Day 2009

Day 23 Mommy's Favorite







Kids Bible Verses from Easter Eggs to Spring Rain Drops

{Easter Eggs}

This weekend I realized I haven’t shared our Easter Egg bible verses.  This year we left the easter bunny out of easter.  The kids knew Mom hid the eggs and baskets.  Instead of eggs filed with candy they were filled with pieces of a bible verse for each.  So each of my 5 kids had a color (purple, blue, orange, yellow, green) and that was the only egg they were allowed to touch and collect.  They did great!


Once all the eggs were found they had to use the rainbow to put their verse together.  You know, Roy-g-biv. Never hurts to mix a little school lesson into the fun times.

The little ones needed a little more help than the older boys but it went well.  Next came memorizing.  Well… I didn’t plan it well because they only had 30 minutes to talk about the meaning of their verse and memorize it.  I did end up letting them have their baskets before we went to church.  I know… not exactly the message I wanted to send.

However, I was very impressed with my three little ones (and my husband) who worked hard all day Sunday to try to get them memorized.  By Easter Monday my 2yr old, 3yr old, and 5yr old had their verses memorized!!  Actually my 5yr old had his verse, his brother’s verse, and his sister’s verses memorized!  My 3yr old had his and his sister’s verse too.  It was fun to see them get excited!

{Easter Verses}

For my 2yr old:
You are the light of the world.
{Mathew 5:14}

For my 3yr old:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
{Proverbs 3:5}

For my 5yr old:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
{Philippians 4:13}

For my 10yr old:
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.
{John 11:25}

For my 11yr old:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
{James 1:2-4}

{Picked with Love}

Each verse was picked with love specifically for each of my kids.  I chose ones that seemed to fit situations within their lives.  My 5 yr old has medical issues so for him being able to do all things through Christ who gives me strength was perfect.  My 11 yr old is having some trials and thus the reason for his.  My 10 yr old has strong fears of another sibling passing so reminding him about life after death was important to me.  My little two were picked as starters to their faith.  I love how each of them understand the reasons why I picked their verses and why they are important to their lives!

{April Rain Showers}

As the rain started falling this weekend I looked at my fridge front and decided that it was time to take down Easter and bring on spring.  I turned to Pinterest for a few ideas.  Of course April showers was a common theme.  I found a verse that really spoke to me.  From there I filled up the rain drops with a few verses from last month as well as a few new ones.  These are more for the little kids but I know they are also important to the big kids too.  I think length doens’t matter as much as the meaning.


{April Shower Verses}

Main Theme:
I will send down showers in season;
there will be showers of blessing.
Ezekiel 34:26

I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
Psalm 3:7

You are the light of the world.
Matthew 5:14

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
Proverbs 3:5

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Ephesians 6:1

I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.
Philipians 4:13

For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing;
it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8

For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only son,
that whoever believes in him
should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

{Why my Fridge?}

Since November I have been creating a new theme with verses or Pre-k things.  With 5 children, four of them boys, my fridge is the hub of my home!!! I see my kids stand there and read and look at the things on there.  I quickly realized that that area could be a great place to share things.  My kids look forward to the changing of the fridge front every 4-6 weeks.  I also enjoy the change and being able to use that to teach.  It has taught me to have an appreciation for teachers who take the time to use boards at school to teach from.  They can take a bit of work and planning.  I have chosen not to purchase anything other than paper, ink, and tape for mine.  That usually means a bit of searching, printing, and cutting.  I don’t mind though.  I don’t feel bad if my kids destroy parts of it by the end of the month. 🙂

Happy Spring Everyone!


Big Hero 6 and Loss

I have to admit I love Big Hero 6.  I skipped out on it when it was in theaters because I didn’t think my 18m old would sit through it.  Then we were supposed to see it at family movie night at church and we totally forgot about it.  Actually I am glad I got to see it the first time at home.

Whoever wrote Big Hero 6 really took time to understand loss!  I cried at quite a few spots in the movie and actually felt angry at a few spots too.  It just touched my heart in a way I didn’t expect.


Obviously the funeral got me.  It always does, no matter the movie, tv show, commercial.  It is just a hard thing to watch, even when it is fake.  As a parent who has lost a child it is hard but to watch Hiro stare at Tadashi’s empty bed hurts.  It reminds me of how my kids felt after the loss of their sister.  It reminds me of their questions on if we had to take down Clara’s room and if another baby would stay in there.

“Tadashi was in good health and with healthy habits could have lived a long life.”

I think the hardest part is when Baymax shows up later in the movie and asks about Tadashi.  He says, “But Tadashi was in good health and with healthy habits could have lived a long life.” SIDS is just that, a healthy child goes down for a nap and doesn’t wake up.  Clara should have lived a long life but instead she is in Heaven.  It is hard to hear Hiro talk to Baymax about this.  I think back to talking to the boys about Clara’s death and also to all those others who have asked about her loss.  Sometimes life isn’t what we expect though.  Clara’s life was too short for me but just perfect for God.  I am okay with that.

“Tadashi is here!”

Skip forward a bit and Hiro is having troubles and he hears Baymax say, “Tadashi is here.” Hiro makes a comment along the lines of no he’s not.  Then out of the blue Baymax shows a bunch of lost movies of Tadashi.  I cried because I remember finding some movies on our backup site and on our camera that I didn’t know existed.  They are such a lovely but heartbreaking surprise.  It is so cool to hear the voice of your little one you hold no more.  Every time I see those movies I cry just as Hiro did.

It also reminds me of when I finally asked for the images from the funeral and burial of Clara.  To see those images again was harder than I expected.  I didn’t realize how much of the burial I didn’t remember.

“I will always be with you.”

Then when Baymax is left in the portal and he says, “I will always be with you.”  I think I about lost it.  I mean it takes me back to the closing of Clara’s casket and moving away from her grave. You have to give up something that means so much to you.  You know you will never see them on earth again.

Actually it makes me think of how much stuff we kept of Clara’s too.  I had a tough time getting rid of so many things and yet eventually you have to give away baby stuff.  Hiro is left with just Baymax’s glove after the problems in the portal.  I know I can only keep a few treasured items.    Today we have just a few items from Clara.  Every time I let go of items that were Clara’s I always hear “I will always be with you.” It brings me to tears just writing about it today.


Okay… so I know that Clara will never come back.  My Baymax is her memory.  Things like her rose bushes blooming or her beautiful tree blooming each year or our family picture of the SIDS Run, those are my Baymax.  Each year they return just as Baymax “returns” to Hiro.  To me those times create memories that include Clara.

No they aren’t the same as creating memories with your child but that is the option God has given me and I will love them!  I chose to love them and to enjoy them.  Hiro found Tadashi’s chip that was used to create Baymax but Hiro still had to create Baymax again.  I find it to be the same with Clara things.  God has given me opportunities, I just have to choose to make them good memories.

So to sum it up, Big Hero 6 is my new favorite movie.  Actually it is a family favorite!  Even my 11 and 10 year olds were open about how they “get a lump in their throat” every time they watch it.  They said it has been healing to watch because they too have felt the same as Hiro.

Thank you to the writers… They got it right. They touched hearts. They touch lives. Loss is real, thanks for showing that 🙂



Holding Hands

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Isaiah 41:13

Most of us have cared for young children. Maybe you have cared for one with strong fears.  I can tell you from experience it can be tough for both the child and the parents.  Children naturally lean to us when they are fearful.  We have spent many days holding our children’s hands through blood draws, tests, surgeries, loss, or the anxiety of watching others suffer.  Each time they reach out their hand for reassurance that everything is going to be okay.  Often times they don’t want to let go and tears flow.  The grip of a young child in fear is one that pulls at the heart.  We want nothing more than to show them everything will be okay.  God wants to do the same for them and for us too.

As adults our fears are far more reaching that just our children’s health.  Many of us fear the ramifications of day to day decisions like moving, finances, jobs, stress, relationships, ect.  We need His help to overcome our own fears.  Just like our sweet children run to us, we should run to God.  But how many times do we really remember that He is there holding out His hand to us.  How many of us try to take our hand away and hold onto that fear?   We try to maintain control of a situation, thus holding onto the fear that goes with it.   That fear can leave us feeling alone, empty, and our life at a standstill.  It can blind us to the path God has in front of us.  All too often it causes us to focus on the bad instead of seeing any good in our situation.  When we hold onto fear, our children see that and they learn to do the same.

Chris and I have lived through the biggest fear of any parent.  Our daughter, Clara, passed away from SIDS in 2009.  Shortly after Clara’s passing we found out I was pregnant.  After a healthy pregnancy Lincoln was born with what was classified as a “cosmetic birth defect”.  Five months later we would learn differently.  As the doctor listed off issues they found on the MRI our heads spun and our hearts ached.  Nothing had prepared us for the fear that gripped us.  When our older boys came to us in fear of losing another sibling, we held their hands.  We questioned how we were to comfort them when we ourselves needed relief from fear?  We soon realized it was an opportunity to show our children how we rely on our Father for comfort from our fears just like they rely on us.

This week I challenge you to look at how you react when you are fearful.  Are you holding your Father’s hand like your children hold yours or do you pull it away? Are you taking opportunities to show your children that you seek God’s help with fears, just like they seek yours?  Take time to share a fear with your children and show them how you hold God’s hand.  Through facing fears together as a family you will see a change in your children as well.  They will learn to not only hold your hand but God’s hand too.  It is a gift that will forever change them.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. Psalm 56:3



Lincoln’s Lemonade

Lincoln has really taken a liking to lemonade.  In fact his favorite reason to visit the Ronald McDonald House is to drop off pop tabs and pick up a fresh can of lemonade.  I can’t help but look at him and think of our “Pink Lemonade”.  He is just a much a part of that as Clara.  His legacy is one we hold in the live aspect.  We hold him and see him overcome so much everyday. To see this little boy who is always smiling through it all is amazing.  He shows us just how many good things can be found in the tough times in our lives.

Today we went looking for girl scout cookies and his choice:  Lemonades!

Love this boy!


Indoor Snowman

When it is too cold to build a snowman outdoors (or too warm for others) I found a fun way for the kids to build one anyway.


With five kids we go through a ton of toilet paper.  I am not sure how much is actually used and how much is flushed for the fun of it.  Anyway I found a fun idea when I was looking for Elf on the Shelf place ideas.  The kids had fun decorating the TP with washable markers.  They spent 2 hours stacking, moving, and restocking their own 3 rolls of snowman.  Then, they next best part was getting to use the TP and watch it turn the toilet water turn colors 😉

Do you want to build a snowman?


Christmas 2014

Nothing is better than celebrating the holidays with traditions and breaking a few.  This year was full of both.  After careful planning, Lincoln’s before Christmas surgery date still got pushed back to post holidays.  This meant we could carry on our tradition of hunkering down and being homebound again.  Who wouldn’t want to break that tradition we started in 2010?!?!
There is always next year, right?

Our next tradition we knew we wanted to keep was that of the Angel Tree.  Iowa City area does things a little differently and it took some time to find something similar.  Chris was able to find a place on the UI campus that let us choose an age range.  He picked a couple of tags and we went shopping or herding is the right word (that is what it is like with 5 kids at 7:30 at Walmart).  We walked the aisles searching for things that we thought we might have purchased for Clara.  We decided on a few Barbies, Connect Four, beading set, Minecraft, kids nail polish kit, and a cat Lego set.  When we got home and unpacked we realized we had purchased exactly 7 gifts.  The kids thought that was pretty cool, “1 gift from each of us!”.  I call them “whispers from Heaven”.


We broke tradition when it came to Christmas Church programs. This year we were able to attend Family Sunday and watch each of the kids sing.  It was the cutest thing to see them in front of a crowd.  We are fortunate to have found a welcoming church and a wonderfully healthy nursery.  To date Lincoln has never been as healthy as he has the past 3 months!  This peace of mind has allowed us to attend more regularly and break our traditional Christmas break from church.

CameraAfter months of asking for a fancy camera Chris and I found one we agreed on.  Thank you to for an amazing deal!  We are now proud owners of a Nikon D7000.  I am not doing many cakes now but I am sure I can find lots of other things to photograph and learn with.  Chris even found some free classes through the U for me.  I am not satisfied with just pointing and shooting and want to be able to use our device to the best of it’s abilities.  Guess I have just picked up a new hobby!  Anyway here are a couple of test images I took this past week.  Not bad to start with.


Clara Ornament

This year the big boys were not home with us.  We have that every other year so it was nothing new but it still felt different this year.  We opted to take the little ones to Build-A-Bear to create a critter for them to take to bed.  Haleigh already takes her “Baby” (Cabbage Patch) to bed and there has been a long standing argument between the boys on who gets to take the other “Strawberry” (the other Cabbage Patch) to bed with them.  We thought creating their own stuffed animal might be fun for all of us.  So on Christmas eve, after our traditional homemade pizza creating, we took the boys to the mall and had fun.  Both Lincoln and Preston picked out a Ninja Turtle.  While we were stuffing Chris and Haleigh disappeared to do a little last minute shopping.  The little boys seemed to have a lot of fun picking out weapons and a pair of Ninja Turtle pajama’s for each turtle.  We left Build-A-Bear about a $100 lighter but Mikey and Raph are well taken care of and provide lots of nighttime comfort.


Here is a little peak at Christmas morning too.  Santa left the kids a little Turtle playset and a table and chair set for the little ones and a nice pair of athletic pants for the older boys.  After sorting, packing, throwing, donating, and moving everyone agreed less is more.  Our kids saw fewer presents but more focus on God and giving.  I must say it was a much more peaceful holiday.


Although our holiday season isn’t over yet our tree is down.  Our tradition is broken once again but small home means space is critical 🙂

South Dakota friends and family, we are headed your way soon!
We miss you!
Sending lots of hugs.











and a whisper from our Little Angel in Heaven…
Elf Listens to Angel


Creating Our Meaningful Advent Calendar

We began the tradition of an Advent Calendar 2 years ago.  I created on using some of our old mismatched gloves and socks and for the past 2 years we have filled it with lots of treats.  The kids think it is awesome to guess what is in each one and I enjoy not searching through all the leftover mittens for a match.  #winwin


Advent Calendar (Ortman)

This year I decided to take a different approach with it.  Honestly it is what I should have done from the beginning.  I wanted to know the real meaning behind the advent calendar.  I wanted the kids to know too.  So this year we used our old tradition and added some learning.

After using my good friend google to search for kid friendly explanations on how the advent calendar began, I decided to print it out and display it with our calendar.  Here is where Pinterest gets involved… rather than store all my links in an email I will never again find, I opted for a new board to store and share links.



I really liked the idea of having bible verses for the kids each day.  It gives us a reference point for the little kids and a place for the big boys to dig deeper if they want.  I found a wonderful link with some very basic verses (it is pinned to my board).  They work very well for my little boys and are maybe a little too short for the older ones but again it is a starting point for the older ones.  Next year I might try to create the story line with verses that work a little better for us. 🙂

So my next problem was what to do with each verse throughout the month.  If they don’t have a place they will get forgotten and if forgotten they mean nothing.  We are a visual house.  I really couldn’t decide between placing snowflakes by my advent calendar or I had no idea.  So back to google.  I found a few “create your own calendars” but I didn’t want to create a new setup nor did I want to have to buy five stars, five babies, five angels, 10 rings to place in the different days.  I met in the middle.  I chose to use pictures to reference instead.  It will cost me far less to print what I need and I don’t have to worry about little objects being left on the floor for me to step on.

Visual Aid and Verse Card Holder

Each image is attached to a piece of construction paper.  For day 1 the angel comes to visit Mary so an angel was the image I printed.  Now the pre-picked verses I found don’t move along as quickly as some so there are a few days that are doubled up. My kids don’t seem to mind.  I tried to find images that very closely followed the verses so that my 3 and 4 yo could easily figure out what we were talking about.  After we read and talk about each day, we add it to the coordinating image.

Advent Calendar Week 1

Now that we are seven days into the calendar we have found a rhythm.  We also take time to review the previous days before we add the current day. This has been great for all.  On day one the angel visited and that is all they remembered.  Today they remember that the angel’s name was Gabriel and he came to tell Mary she was going to have a baby and His name was going to be Jesus.  By the end of the month they are going to be able to recite the story of Jesus!!

I can’t forget to share that while we opted for verses this year we still placed a small treat in each day.  The treat is only to be eaten after each verse has been read and talked about. Works perfectly for everyone except the 22 month old.  She just tries to eat it through the package!

After this Christmas Advent Calendar project I have a new appreciation for teachers and the time they put into creating lessons for their students.  It is worth it!

Merry Christmas!


Ortman Christmas Decorating Season #9

I can’t believe it either!  Chris and I have been decorating our Christmas tree and home together for 9 years.  Together we have decorated 1 apartment, 2 homes, and now a rental.  We also have way more helpers than we once had. It takes less time but it is still so fun.

Christmas Tree Decorating 2014

Our picture is a little blurry but I think you get the gist.  Of course Lincoln and Damon thought it was best to stand on the bar stools to hang ornaments.  Lucky for us no one was hurt during the duration of our decorating.

Christmas Tree 2014

In our home we have a fun tradition when it comes to Christmas ornaments.  Each year Chris and I gift to each kid an ornament that reflects them for the previous year.  Year 1 is always a baby’s first ornament.  Some years it has been Mickey Mouse, Transformers, sports, snowmen, cupcakes, Blues Clues, Toys Story, the list could go on!  It is fun to look back at them and reminisce about their interests and like during certain years.  In the end each of our kids will have at least 18 decorations to add to their first Christmas tree.  I think it will be interesting to see how many we can squeeze on our tree.  We have 7 more years with all five at home.  At that rate we will be adding another 35 plus 7 more that belong to Chris and I as we celebrate each year too.

Living Room

So now that our living room is decorated… and honestly very full… we are ready to relax and watch some Christmas movies together.  Up first was Mickey Mouse!


With little room for stockings I found a creative place to hang them.  This way I won’t have to worry about little hands pulling them down.  Oh and that silly lamp that I don’t really care for looks amazing on it’s “fragile” box.  I wonder what our neighbors think of it?  It does look nice and I am sure will be a conversation starter with the neighbors.

Well, just wanted to say Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas for the Ortman’s!
Hope your holidays are fun, exciting, and safe!


Toddler {Thankful For} Fall Decorating Project

I spent way too much time on Pintrest but I found a fun way to decorate for the Thanksgiving season.  I thought it would help reinforce the nightly {thankful for} prayers that he and Lincoln do each night.  My three little ones were crazy about this project!!  I simply traced each of their hands on different colors of construction paper.  If you look closely I opted to use a single color for each kid and I used their “writing” hand.  I feel like it makes it personal and they can show friends and family their {thankful for} things. They each gave me ideas for their hands (well the baby needed a little help) and then they each took turns hanging them up.  When my older boys got home they were disappointed that they didn’t get to put hands up too. Fun for all ages I found!

Thankful for

Be Kind, Be Thoughtful, Be Genuine, but Most of all Be Thankful.