Thursday, June 18, 2015

Flexibility

Summer went according to plan for almost 2 weeks.
We spent our mornings at the beach or pool the first week, and VBS (while I went to work) the 2nd.
Our afternoons were spent reading and relaxing and doing housework.
And occasional short, hot, walks.





Then, last Tuesday while I was making dinner, Aquaman, The Dude, and Greystoke were running laps in the living room. Aquaman was pushing a truck, bent over as he ran when his hands slipped and he went straight down onto his pinky finger. The minute he showed it to me, I told him it was probably broken. But we decided to wait a little while and see since he wasn't in terrible pain.
The next day, it still looked funny and still hurt when he moved it, so the pediatrician suggested urgent care for an xray. Where we found out it was broken.

Which still wasn't too big a deal since the doctor taped it and said Ortho would probably just give us a splint to wear for a few weeks.
That night, The Dude woke up in the middle of the night with a 104 fever, and threw up the medicine I gave him.
At the doctor's the next day, it was pronounced to be viral. He charmed everyone with his pathetic puffy eyes for exactly one day, and then returned to completely normal.
The end of VBS came and went. The Dude was the only preschooler who felt the urge to perform with the older kids. He didn't notice everyone who was telling him to sit down. But he was so earnest about performing the motions that nobody cared.
Friday morning, I woke up and my wrists hurt. I figured it was from lifting Greystoke up and down all night since he was sleeping terribly. Then I got to my feet and realized that my knees hurt pretty badly too. I figured I must be sick or something. The strange fever illness of Greystoke's must have hit me a little differently.
I went to bed achey, and when I woke up Saturday I could barely move. Both knees and ankles were swollen and stiff, and I couldn't fully flex or extend them. My fingers wouldn't close and my knuckles were swollen. When I put my feet on the floor they throbbed.
I didn't see any point in going to urgent care for a doc-in-the-box so we all just went about our day as best we could. Sunday was just as bad...maybe worse. But Monday I woke up about 50% percent better, and have pretty much stayed that way since.
Everything hurts...but only a very little bit. Like I imagine it must be to be 65 years old. It's hard to get up and down off the floor, or tie shoelaces and texting hurts my thumbs.
But still, I am much much better than I was over the weekend so I am very thankful.
My sister has rheumatoid arthritis.

She has always been a little more achey than the general population, I can remember it even in high school. Now she deals with daily pain and stiffness and difficulty doing a lot of things that the rest of us 34 year olds take for granted.

When I told her the problems I was having, she said she prayed that my pain would come to her instead.
She has always been that kind of sister.
And I hope she hasn't been in any more pain lately, now that mine is better.
I'm holding out hope that mine is just some sort of strange post-viral reaction.
But it has been good for perspective. For just a couple days I was granted the opportunity to experience what she, and so many others, have experienced, The physical and psychological pain of staring a chronic illness in the face.
The day to day difficulties of struggling with tasks that I have always taken for granted.
The wondering at what I must have done to cause this.
The creeping fear of what will happen in the future, and watching your husband face the same fears.
And the reminder of the importance of finding my identity only in being a child of God and not in anything I can accomplish.
I am young and healthy, and I am that mom who sits crosslegged on the floor with her kids. I need my coffee to keep up, but I have been able to lug 3 boys and a surfboard and other gear to the beach without batting an eye. 

 When I imagine our future, it continues that way. Right up to when they are grown up and gone, and JT snd I are going to the gym together again.
 But we are never guaranteed to even have a tomorrow. Just as God keeps our babies breathing in and out, he keeps us, in all our presumed strength, breathing in and out too. And waking up pain free. With the energy to face each day. The Lord gives. The Lord takes away. And He is Good.
Maybe it is easier for me to say that, because there is a pretty good chance that this is just some strange viral reaction that will be completely gone a week from now.
 But I also believe Isaiah 26:3
"The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace: because he trusts in You."
 Life can be hard, and I'm not going to say that I am always calm, cool, and collected. As a matter of fact, my boys have been driving me crazy today. Even the joints are tons better, today I just feel unbelievably drained, and their energy and their running in circles around me trying to break more bones is just...unnerving.
 But I also know that I don't have to be afraid of the future. I've seen how God has always provided the strength I have needed for every trial that I have faced. It might not always be pretty...well...it's rarely pretty. But it's real, and it is beautiful.

Aquaman ended up needing a cast for his finger, since the fracture was near the growth plate.
Which was the next damper in our summer plans.
 No beach, no pool, no water play....
in Florida summertime what else are you supposed to do?
 We're waiting for his cast cover to come in the mail, which will hopefully help us survive our vacation with JT's family....at the beach.
 In the meantime, we're having to find other creative ways to burn energy, without completely withering from the 100 degree heat index.

 Greystoke is getting vertical more and more. Occasionally, he takes off walking without even realizing it.
 He has recently fallen in love with books, and brings them to me, saying "uh uh uh uh" until I read them to him.
He says "hi" now to everyone. Before I even see them, he has extended his greeting.
Today he said "book" for the first time. And yesterday "duck". He is exploding with growth, and thriving in the company of his big brothers, who, broken fingers and cancelled summer camps or not, seem to be enjoying their summer.
 It's funny, because I have always struggled as a parent with the expectation that children need constant routine. Though I like routine to some extent, I have always been flexible with mine. JT, even more so. So our family is in a constant fluid state of change, and that has often made me feel guilty, as often parenting books will convince you that you are somehow depriving your children of something if you do not have a rigid schedule.
 But the circumstances of these past few days have reminded me that sometimes flexibility is the most important thing you can teach your children. That yes, routine is comforting, but routine is never a guarantee in life.
 So sometimes, we read books in the morning, and sometimes we wait until right before bed. And sometimes we rush right out of the house, and other days, like today, I am still not dressed, 4 hours after we woke up (though I better change that soon so I can make it to our appointment).
And I can't be sure, but I think my kids are going to turn out just fine.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

I Can Only Imagine



Today my twin sister was going to be here hanging out for a summer visit.
But instead, last night she flew back to Michigan. Her plane was delayed because of lightning, so she missed her connection. She didn't make it to a hotel in Chicago until 2 am. Oh, and we very kindly shared the stomach flu we all had with her for her travels.
This morning she is at a funeral, which is why she went back early. Her friend's daughter, who would have been 10 months old a couple days ago...went down for a nap and, as her obituary read: "woke up in heaven."

Of course, I haven't been able to get this family out of my head since I heard the news. I've been praying for them every time I wake up in the middle of the night. I've been trying to imagine what my sister appropriately called: "the unimaginable."

Yesterday, driving up to my parents' house to visit with my sister for a few more hours before she left, the song: "I can only imagine" came on the radio, and I tuned out the chaos of 3 boys in the back, so I could listen. And cry.
I have always loved that song, it's picture of heaven. It's reminder that there is so much more than what we see. That this earth is only such a small part of reality. I've always sung that song thinking about myself and how it will feel to see Jesus face to face someday, but this time I saw the face of baby H. And it seems like it would be hard to picture a baby in heaven, but what I realized as I sang is that it is even easier to picture a baby there than anyone else.

On the beach earlier in the day, I asked my sister to tell me more about the sweet baby in the picture I saw. Wanting to remember someone I never met. She said "she didn't have much hair. And she was very happy. Like Greystoke."
Which, I think is what I already knew.

I've been seeing her in him since then. He's just 3 months older.

Babies are creatures of worship. They are the closest glimpse of heaven we get here on earth. The way the laughter flows from somewhere deep inside of him. The way he breaks into dance every time he hears a song, even a bird song, or the song in his heart. The way he needs my love...unashamedly, desperately, openly.

He is beautiful, and she was beautiful. And she is most beautiful now.
"Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you, Jesus, or in awe of You be still?"
She was probably just starting to pull to a stand here on earth. She might have just started babbling "Mama....Dada."
"Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all?"

She went to sleep, tired from putting blocks on top of each other, or rolling a ball, and practicing her crawl. She dreamed sweet and simple baby dreams and she woke to the most incredible dream of all.
I don't know why her human experience was so short. She will miss so many aspects of this life, but she will not miss out on anything.

But here. Here there is still pain. There is still waking up in Michigan summer, and finally the sun is out because it is June, but you can't feel its warmth just yet because your sunshine is gone. There are years piling up on years, and at least all the light around you lights you up again, but nothing will ever be quite as shiny without her here.
Last night I lay in bed watching Greystoke breathe. I put my hand on his tummy to feel him breathe. I didn't feel anxious watching him. Anxiety assumes some sort of control, and I know I have none. He breathes in and out because God keeps him breathing in and out. The Lord gives. The Lord takes away.

Being a nurse and working with special needs' children, I have seen the things that can happen. A normal 8 year old girl who got the flu and now has to be led by the hand, shaking her head, and doesn't speak. A boy, surrounded by his 3 big brothers who now help his mom...who fell in the pool when he was 2 years old. Now he is 13 years old. He sits in a wheelchair and smiles at all the nurses. Developmentally he is probably about a year old.
I've heard stories about babies who pull to a stand, fall backward and bump their heads and then get up like everything is normal and the next day they are in the ICU.
I know that life is fragile, and in my head I am not afraid of it. Because I know there is more to the story.

But I have also often thought that one of the hardest things about having more children is that there is just one more chance to be mortally wounded. Each child dangles like an appendage, intricately linked to my heart. Vitally linked. Motherhood is glorious. Motherhood is dangerous.

Last night it took me a long time to fall asleep, and I slept fitfully. I am sure it was at least partially linked to caffeine intake, and probably also related to knowing that my sister was out there still traveling and sick and grieving in the middle of the night. But mostly I slept fitfully because I was praying for the family of the sweet little girl who left a gaping, mortally wounding hole in a mother's heart, a father's heart, the heart of her grandparents and aunts and uncles.

I was praying that God would use this tragedy to draw them closer to Him. That He would fill up that gaping hole that will always produce the dull ache of loss in this world so that inside, even though it hurts, there would be a glimpse of warmth...of hope.

Greystoke stirred and I rolled him to me, and I felt the milk flowing out of the side that he wasn't nursing, warm liquid that felt like the tears that also dripped onto my pillow. I held him close and did not resent the interruption.

The Dude woke up twice last night, crying hysterically over his new 4 year old fear...scorpions. I have never seen a scorpion and I don't know where he even heard about them, but he is obsessed with them right now.
He and Greystoke were up at the crack of dawn ready to face the day. Our summer has been a lot of fun so far. But I struggled this morning to reconcile the chaos of my days with the kind of day my sister's friend is facing. The kind of day that will stand still for eternity. And yet, the rest of the world will keep moving.

On the way home from Walmart, it came on again: "I can only imagine, when that day comes, and I find myself standing in the Sun."

Someday they will feel that warmth again. The way the Sun should really feel. The shiny way.

Until then, I pray that every whisper of loss and pain drive them deeper into the arms of Jesus.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

No Good Thing Does He Withhold



Turns out, I did have the stomach virus. Turns out Aquaman did too. In fact, we started vomiting at precisely the same time. And for whatever reason...which I have analyzed and analyzed again since that moment...I couldn't actually stop vomiting. 13 times in 3 hours.

Here we are eating ice chips on a sleeping bag on the floor together, in between episodes. While Greystoke crowed and crawled between us, happy and content and feeling just fine about getting the rest of us sick.

After about 7 hours of The Dude puking, I had the pediatrician paged. Only problem is, I was incapacitated with my head in the toilet when he called back (I have never been so happy that I decided to clean all the toilets the day before. There is something satisfying about puking into a clean toilet at least.) Luckily, he tried again a few minutes, and his advice was to take him to the emergency room.
Only problem with that was, I couldn't really even walk by this point, and I was still home with all the kids by myself. I told myself I would just wait until JT got home, and then maybe JT could take The Dude to the emergency room, and maybe I could handle the other 2 on my own.
Then JT walked in the door. I said hello, and then promptly threw up in the trash can,
I told him that The Dude needed to go to the ER. He told me he was sick too, and we ALL needed to go to the ER. 
So we did, all 5 of us, because we have been needing some family time.
I somehow managed to stand up long enough to grab the insurance cards and some frozen milk for the baby, who was getting tired of trying to nurse when nothing was coming out.
The Dude threw up in his carseat on the way there, yelling "stop it!!" while he gagged. Aquman cried repeatedly about how thirsty he was, as if we were all personally responsible for that. I moaned a lot, because everything hurt.
When we got there, I had to kneel down to fill out the registration cards, and then someone brought me a wheelchair. Aquaman demanded over and over in a loud voice during our 45 minute waiting room wait: "why won't anyone HELP us, we need WATER! I feel like I'm dead!" The only time he quieted down was when he was throwing up some more. JT was trying to help everyone. Trying to track down water. He forgot his emesis basin during one of his voyages, and puked all over the floor. I scooted my wheelchair as far away as I could from the smell. JT dutifully took off his shirt and started cleaning it up until the triage nurses stopped him. The Dude, usually wild and energetic, was so tired and dehydrated that he fell asleep face down on an ER chair. Greystoke tried to collect more germs to pass on to us, sucking on the wheelchair and laughing hysterically at the fun we were having.
At some point, maybe after the first time I vomited blood, I started moaning "Help", because it just seemed right.
Eventually they called us back. Greystoke clapped his hands in my lap, thrilled with the wheelchair ride. The very kind nurse moved us from separate rooms into the same room, and pushed our beds together. Within 15 minutes of the Zofran push and some liquids dripping into my veins, I stopped moaning for someone to help me, though it took JT longer. His word of choice was "no!" which he interjected intermittently from his heap in the bed.

We're better, it's been 10 days now. I highly doubt we'll all ever get that sick at the same time ever again.
I still haven't had any birthday cake, and I plan to change that shortly.
I haven't stopped being tired yet, still catching up on sleep, dealing with a teething baby. But the daily anxiety is lessening, and I feel a little less...shell shocked now.
School is out. The last day of school came and went without much fanfare. Aquaman had a great class this year...a great class of kids, and a great class of parents, and I will miss the group of us...how we used to show up 10 minutes early for pickup so the younger siblings could play, and the mothers could talk.


But this summer will be fun too. Last summer was kind of...hard...with a brand new baby, and slightly younger kids, all the days kind of ran together. We didn't hit much rhythm. Aquaman did a lot of crying. But this year, Aquaman is going to 2 summer camps, VBS, and a couple other church activities. Then there will be our family vacation and our competition trip.

On our off days, we have a bucket list of other fun things to do....Sebastian inlet for sure, the kids love it there. Jetty park. Bass Pro Shop, Incredible Pets, free bowling, free summer movie, maybe the Sebastian splash pad. Lots of the beach. Lots of the pool.




13 month old Greystoke is a total blast. He wants to be held....a lot. He is getting lots of teeth, so he doesn't sleep that awesome lots of nights. So I'm tired. But I've learned better than to try to night wean at this age, and so I'm getting a lot more sleep than I would be. Besides, night nursing is pretty much the most awesome birth control I have discovered.

And, regardless of all the people who ask...I don't want to try for a girl. As a matter of fact, there was maybe a little piece of me that hoped when I was pregnant that Greystoke would be a girl, but since the moment I saw him on the ultrasound, I knew I wanted...Greystoke. And not a little girl. And now the weird thing is, I think I'd be more likely to have another child if I was guaranteed another boy. It just seems easier somehow.

But 6 people vomiting in the ER? I think that's a little over my head. "3 is an odd number for everything but children" the mother of one of my patients told me once. That has stuck in my head, and it's always rung true for me.
 My meditating on the word of God hasn't been going as well these past 2 weeks. I've been so tired. I've been staying in bed longer than I should. The little voices, and the mountains of housework have been pulling me harder than I'd like them to be.

But this week, the words in my heart have been from Psalm 84.
"Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgramage."
 I don't glory in my strength, I never have, because I don't have much. Inner strength or physical strength. I am small. I am weak and sensitive and vulnerable.
I'm disorganized and a lot of times I feel inadequate as a mother.
I throw up a lot. I end up in a wheelchair calling for help.

 But I have set my heart on walking after Him. One foot in front of the other.
 "As they pass through the valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength until each appears before Zion....

For the Lord God is a sun and a shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless."

He shot life giving fluids right into our arms last week, and this week, He has drenched our thirsty ground with rain and sloppiest of puddles, and the jolliest of puddle walks.
He's been my sun and my shield.
I don't feel blameless. Not by a long shot. My rows and rows of failures line up to overshadow the joy of my heart sometimes.
But when He looks at me, He looks with me in mercy.

Accepted. New. Free.