Six!

 IMG_20150729_192830798IMG_20150729_193011IMG_20150729_191642358IMG_20150729_193054IMG_20150729_193201IMG_20150729_194209473Josiah is six. We celebrated his birthday yesterday. What an incredibly tough year for him, and yet he was his sweet-spirited, sunshine self all the way through. That grin of his! He has taught us so much this last year. I don’t know what the future holds for him with all this Hirschprung’s stuff, but if his smile is any indication, it will be a bright one!

(He was very particular about his cake- chocolate with chocolate frosting and blackberries and blueberries on top. All gluten/vegan/dairy free, of course.)

Transitional space…

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It has been just about two months since Josiah came home from the hospital. I note this simply because it is only this week that our life has come to a recognizable normality for us. It is the simplest of things, really. It means that chores are getting done regularly. Our meals are planned, prepared, and served on time. The children’s attitudes have come back from the stratosphere. We’re having regular, open spaces in our days to go on adventures, learn together, read together, and all the little family traditions that make us, us. I knew how important it was to get to this point- it is what I have been diligently working towards since the minute we left the hospital- but this season of transition has taken significant time. And that is okay. 

We had sort of an intense day on Wednesday with lots of errands needing to be run and a doctor’s appointment for Josiah. Sitting in traffic and sipping some much needed coffee, this old post floated through my head and I finally dug it out this morning. Sometimes we have such a death grip on what we think is our normal that we can’t open our hands to the joy and change that is before us. It was originally posted on June 22, 2010. The change I refer to is the loss of our child, the loss of my husband’s job, and the subsequent unemployment. Josiah is just under a year old at the time of the writing- our miracle baby. Our life had just barely come back together at that point- my husband had just started his new job after such a long time of no hope, as it seemed.

——–

Fingers trace along the line of counted blessings, and I marvel. Can this be? What seemed the darkest days then seems to me now a precious time, paid for in tears and sorrow. We lovers of God- I wonder if we become so mindful of the Glory that we forget the Cross? That we forget the sorrow? He promised there would be much of it in our lives. And yet we wish, yet I wish, to go from joy to joy and glory to glory without the hard and narrow path that leaves blisters and weary muscles. Paul whispers of the long journey, the marathon race- no quick sprints here. Heart heaving, breath catching run that seems to spread out before us, endless. But it does have an end- and will I come to the end with weary muscles but strong heart? It seems there is no path more fitted for strength than that of weakness…[read the rest here].

She brings light…

IMG_20150717_174945IMG_20150717_183541118IMG_20150717_180542973IMG_20150722_103635260We celebrated Lorelei’s birthday last weekend. I, for one, just cannot grasp that my sweet girl is now nine. It seems like just yesterday that she was a little one. She brings so much light into our world. She is the thread of laughter that runs through our days. She has a very impish sense of humor, often catching the funny in something long before the rest of us do. Her feet are always dancing, her arms swirling, light as a butterfly. We unfortunately couldn’t afford for her to have ballet or dance the last two years, but this upcoming year, she will be able to take dance classes once again thanks to a very generous gift from my mom and dad. Her birthday weekend was really lovely…her gifts this year were just spot on for her, and it was such fun to bring her delight- a small return for all the delight she brings us throughout the year! She was very specific about her birthday meal- she wanted breakfast, including a towering stack of chocolate chip waffles, a vanilla cake with buttercream frosting and strawberries on top, and pink lemonade.

We had guests for most of the weekend with it being her birthday; after the dust cleared we were definitely in need of some quiet re-fueling. If there is anything the last year has taught me, it is to be more aware of when we need re-centering, and make sure it happens. The fact of the matter is, out of six kids, only two are really extroverted, and mama and daddy are both social introverts. We love birthday weekends like this- being able to connect with those we love in deep ways- but when it’s over, we definitely need to switch gears. And our four introvert kids need the reboot too. I didn’t realize how necessary that was until this year. It requires a lot of patience on my part as a parent. I’m older- I can find my way back to center and boot back up much faster than they can, because I’ve had a lifetime of practice to learn what works well for me and what doesn’t. They aren’t there yet- our home is where they begin that lifelong journey. It also requires creative thinking to help them find what works for them. The more I have come to understand this, the easier our transitions get. Sometimes we still have a catastrophic miss because I misread the signals, but those times are getting further and farther between.

I’m still thinking about the Running on Empty post from last week. There are so many rich things that can be drawn out from that time in my life, lessons that I still use everyday, but here comes the first fundamental change it has wrought in my life- I don’t spend a lot of time online anymore, which means these things move on a much slower schedule than I would like sometimes. I could have gotten on many times in the last week but I knew it wasn’t the wisest thing for me. I promise I’ll go into that more in depth, but I just wanted to lay that out here first. I try not to apologize for my slowness in this regard, but sometimes it needs an acknowledgement especially when there are things on the tip of my tongue as it were.

Running on empty…

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This picture was laying on my husband’s desk last night. It caught the corner of my eye as I passed by. The memory of it struck me hard this morning, stirring my coffee and looking out the window, the children’s laughter echoing in the background.

Oh that day. Ellianna was so inconsolable that day, fussing and sleepy but unable to settle to rest. I spent most of the day and night trying to calm her. I remember how exhausted and overwhelmed I was. The children’s schooling hadn’t been going well. The part-time job I was working from home was becoming frighteningly full-time, far more than I ever expected it to be. The economy had contracted, making our family very much house-bound, unable to afford the gas to go anywhere. Even church visits were curtailed, dropping to once or twice a month- the choice being whether to go to church or to feed our family. I was working so hard on so many fronts and it was barely a drop in the bucket of our need.

That day I may have had three or four hours of sleep, I’d guess. It was a pattern then. James and I would rise with the children, stumble through the morning. He’d leave for work, I’d dress the children, set them down at the table, start in on schooling. Rock the baby, change a toddler, correct some math, frantically evaluate lunch and dinner options, run the laundry, the dishwasher, the vacuum. Answer work emails sprinkled all through, my phone dinging relentlessly. We’d survive the lunch, the dinner, the witching hour, and into bed they’d go, and then the second half of my day would begin. Hours upon hours of work. Part of my job was fulfillment, meaning that I would have to pull and pack product, label with postage and prepare for mail. It was all stored in my laundry room. Pull, pack, label. Fold and hang a load of laundry while composing emails in my head. I’d eventually get to the end of my duties for that day, often far past midnight. Crawl into bed. Get up and do it all over again.

My husband and I never saw each other, two ships passing.

The day that picture was snapped, it was uploaded to Instagram. I don’t have a record of that day anymore, because I closed down and deleted the account that it was associated with. I imagine though, that it was probably something sweet. Something about rocking babies. Most likely, knowing myself, it was probably something happy. That’s what I’ve always done. My memory of that day is so sharp- how very exhausted I was. I remember rocking her, so very sad, wanting someone to rock me. Someone to come in and fix it all. But instead, I reached for the beautiful in my life, grabbed hold of the moment, clicked and added it to Instagram, and probably didn’t think much about it after that. And now I see that picture and I nearly come undone.

What I see now is how sick she was. We didn’t know then what she was fighting, but looking back, so much of her babyhood and early toddler years make so much more sense now. Why she was sick all the time with all these nebulous symptoms that acted like other things.

What I see now is how incredibly unhappy I was. I see the lines of exhaustion in my face. All I can see is the depth of despair I felt at that moment. I was so heart-sick.

A few months later, it would all come to a head. The lines snapped every which direction and our lives very much shattered. That shattering led to healing.

It ultimately led us to where we are now, a state away, a different job. The reason we ended up here was unclear to us when we first began the move. Not the fact that we moved, mind you, just where we moved. We laid our fleece in Denver, in Nashville, in Atlanta, and here. Sure, some of my family lives just over the water from us here, but this place wasn’t chosen for the nearness of family so much as it was chosen for the nearness of opportunity and a fresh start. It was all prayerfully laid out in a council of witnesses that were also praying with and for us. Every sign came clear and ringing that we were to come here.

We had no idea what we would face after we moved here. No idea that storms and battles we were yet to face. I look at the mama and babe in this picture and I just want to reach through time back to her, wrap her up in compassion and love, and give her the grace she was unwilling or unable to give herself at the time.

I felt that level of exhaustion in the days after Josiah’s last hospitalization. No amount of coffee helps. A nap just gives you a headache. It’s a completely out of gas feeling, one that requires a full-stop reboot, extra sleep, nutritional and vitamin support. So depleted. It was understandable of course, coming of the tail end of a week long hospitalization with Josiah, the surgery, learning new care techniques, caring for the other five children and the house and the continued recovery from my own surgery. But it was temporary. I’ve journaled out here over the last month about how I have stopped the clock, taken a staycation, and rested quite a bit, more so than I normally would, and filled the gas tank back up. I am no longer bone-benumbed exhausted, unable to form sentences, crying at the drop of the hat because everything is so overwhelming.

What makes me so sad when I look at that picture is how I lived in that state for over two and a half years, almost three. I thought I had to. I really truly thought that it was okay to be in that state of complete depletion and profound stress constantly because it was serving my family. I don’t even know how to unpack all that, but there it is. It’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit in the last month and a half as we’ve begun the slow recovery from all the medical craziness. In some ways, this last year has been just as intense as those difficult years were. The ongoing medical needs of two chronically ill children are certainly a factor. But the person I am today and the way I deal with stress is very different now because of the lessons I learned at the cost of that very exhausted, heart-weary mother in that picture, and I want to continue to unpack that as I have time. It’s so important.

In my kitchen…

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One of the surest signs that things are returning to normal? New adventures in the kitchen. We have about ten or twelve meals that stay in heavy rotation, especially when things are really crazy. I haven’t tried anything new for a long time. This week I added in some new possibilities to add as favorites.The more I’ve been studying Celiacs and the accompanying nutrition, I am realizing that “gluten-free” isn’t enough. Most of what makes up “gluten free” options would normally be okay in small doses (rice and potatoes come to mind), but not to be eaten at the level we’ve been eating them. Especially what I’ve been reading about arsenic in the rice, and that the glycemic index for ground potato flour and corn is off the charts compared to their ‘whole’ counterparts…it’s pretty mind boggling. I don’t know. There is so much to learn. So take what I’ve listed here with reservations- I really don’t like how much rice is in the menu this week, but I’m taking it week by week and trying to improve each week.

We’re eating:

One Pot Pasta (sub GF noodles)

Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Taco Salad (sub GF ranch dressing)

BBQ (instead of buns, we eat it by itself or over a bed of fresh spinach)

Zuchinni, Black Bean and Rice Casserole

Cheesy Chicken and Rice (sub GF cream of chicken, rice)

Bean Casserole (Family recipe)

Stirfry

Shepherd’s Pie

 

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