Thursday, September 27, 2012

Busch Gardens (part 1)

The start of a great day....

Libby waiting with Courtney and giving a thumbs-up

Samuel's excited to ride on Prince Elmo's Spire

Toby's Dream Foundation made Samuel's dream come true last year... our trip to Disney provided through Give Kids the World.

One neat thing that Give Kids the World does is gives for up to a year a  one day pass to amusement parks throughout the country. We were able to go to Busch Gardens right before school started. 

We were blessed to get to go with the Williams'. Mike and I were AMAZED at how uncomplicated it was for us to go with 5 kids to an amusement park. Many hands do make light work. Kids had a blast! The next day they were begging to go again.

"La-La" & Michael

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

No internet til October. We've got bills to pay and the internet doesn't take precedence over fuel for the car. Just want you to know why I'm not writing regularly.

Fall is here and it's glorious. Cool breezes. Long sleeve shirts and jeans. It's wonderous. Playing outside is so enjoyable.

Hoping to take a nature romp soon.

Til then soaking up the sunshine and the coolness.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

In the Potter's Hands

It's interesting when I come to a birthday or an anniversary how it creates in me a spirit of reflection. I tend to think about the past. What happened then and where I'm at now. I then stop to think about the future. One of the ways I tend to do that is to think about our life plan... where we want to be in a year, in five, in 25.

It's somewhat ridiculous in that every single plan Mike and I have made has kind of blown up in our face. And yet having some kind of purpose and singular vision can be good, I think.

In looking at our future I can't help but look our present square in the face. It's definitely not what we thought it would be. And to be honest I still think we're reeling from Samuel's cancer treatment. It was almost a year ago and it's taken a while to breathe and reflect and process. Having small children leads to very little time to just be. To absorb and process emotions and feelings... especially of loss, grief, and pain.

When my sister Libby died I was pregnant. Six months after her death I had my daughter, Libby. I really haven't had a moment since then to stop. And it's a blessing in a way. You're too busy to think. You have to move forward. There's someone who needs you and depends on you to feed them, change their diapers, bathe them, play with them. And it helps. But it's also hard. You tend to shove your feelings down until one day the cork pops open and everything comes spilling out. And yet I haven't actually had a technical mental break-down. Kind of surprising. Or maybe that's why I have counseling every week. To process my life. And to avoid utter collapse.

I'm sure when you look at your life it's not what you imagined it to be. Maybe you married young (like me) when you thought you'd wait til you were older. Maybe you're not married yet and you imagined you would be. Maybe you thought you wouldn't have kids, or that you have more kids than you can imagine, or you haven't been able to have kids.

Maybe you thought you'd have a different career. A different kind of spouse. You imagined your life looking different. Your house. Your car. Your body. Life isn't often what we thought it would be.

And yet, I think, that even though my life has followed some painful paths I'm thankful. I wouldn't be the same person I am today if it wasn't for these shaping tools of trials, suffering, loss. And as I write this, I think, oh heavens, but can I bear more? I'm not longing for more pain. I'm not masochistic. I still have a ways to go.

I'm trying to release myself to letting God have his way with me. I am His. He can use me as He wants. I hope and pray that my life can be an encouragement to others. I don't know what that will look like or how it will play out... but I'm not the potter. I'm just the clay. And He's not finished yet...

Playing the Cards your dealt

So I've been sick for over a week. It's been pretty yuck. Coughing. Mucous. etc. Doctor told me Friday (um, yesterday) it's a bad head cold/chest cold. He prescribed this really strong cough medicine with codeine. It's supposed to "knock me out". But instead I'm wired. Which really stinks. Because most nights I've fallen asleep late: 2:30 a.m., 4:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 2:30 a.m.

I've gotten really little sleep and I'm really run down. Fun combination.

But in the midst of it I'm thankful that my husband was willing to make it as pleasant as possible. He surprised me with a pumpkin spice latte. After taking me to the doctors yesterday we got some thai food and some $5 movie bin movies and came home and chilled. The kids were elsewhere. A nice treat.

Today we drove to Edenton, N.C. We went to our favorite bookshop there Garden of Readin' and had some coffee and I got a few paperback mystery novels. We then went down the street and caught a flick together.

Nothing insanely outrageous but wonderful just the same. Thankful that I can get time with my best friend.

When Mike and I were first married I was a little crazy about our time together. Maybe the correct word is obsessive. There was never enough time together. I would get all mopey when I thought time would be cut short. And I was pretty demanding of his full attention.

But as I've matured over the years (and learned to let go) I've come to realize that any time we have together is precious. I've gotten better at improvising. I know that we don't have to spend money to have fun. I know we can make the most of every minute we get.

When Samuel was in the ICU at 7 months I remember we did  games together. We were losing our minds with anxiety. But we took turns passing paper back and forth. Playing Sudoku and filling out crossword puzzles. We made it count.

When Samuel was in PA and was hospitalized we would spend family time by bringing Libby to the hospital and we would have them take baths just like they did at home. I brought their bath toys and baby lotion and we would let them play in the tub and we would scrub them down and put them in their pajamas. They would snuggle in Samuel's hospital bed and watch a movie until it was time for either Mike or I to take Libby home.

I've learned that you don't always get dealt the cards you wanted. But it's how you play the cards that you got that matters.

I'm glad I get to play my cards with Mike. He makes a lousy hand a winning hand every day.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Photo Book

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Thursday, September 06, 2012

9 years later... He's still the one.

9 years ago I was dressed like a princess. Well, I felt like one anyway with my long sheer Celtic sleeves and pearl roped empire waist gown. My hair crowned with a thick braid covered by a lovely veil. It was the day I married my best friend, Mike Napier.

I remember the excitement and anticipation of that day.  Early in the morning, we sat across from each other in a booth and had pancakes at IHOP- pumpkin pancakes. Pretty special. I know some people say it's "bad luck" for the groom to see the bride but I just had to see him before we got married.

September 6, 2003 was a magical day. We were surrounded by people we loved, beautiful music and charming atmosphere. And God's presence permeated the whole thing. Our surroundings felt fairy-tale-esque. Trees strung with lights. Soft glowing candlelight. An enchanted forest. Golden yellow tulle. Ivy and white roses. Flower girls throwing pennies instead of petals. (Pennies had a special significance to me. They represented God's faithfulness and a reminder of His love for me.)

And even though I had just seen Mike that morning, I felt nervous. I was a little scared. I gripped my Dad's hand tight and told him to talk to me and distract me from the butterflies in my stomach. I remember gliding down the aisle on the arm of my father to the spell-bounding sound of my sister's ethereal voice. But it wasn't until I saw his face that I knew all would be well. I felt at peace. And more than just calm. I felt excited. I wanted to sprint down the aisle when I looked into his eyes. And I wanted to wipe the tears that spilled down his cheeks.

Our wedding was possible because of the help of so many friends and family.*

And as special as our wedding was I was thankful that it meant more than just one special day... it was a ceremony that celebrated a life-time commitment to each other. It was the first day of all the rest of the days that were to come.

We never knew all the things that would so quickly follow our wedding. The loss of close family members. Having many children in rapid succession. Serious and life-threatening hospitalizations and health issues. A bachelor's degree to be followed by a Master's degree. Many different jobs. Many different vehicles. Many different moves. And oh, about a hundred + days of hospitalizations.

But even knowing now all that was to follow I would still say I do. I wouldn't want it to be any other way if it meant it wasn't with Mike. He is an amazing part of my life. My blessing from God. Mike has helped me weather so many storms and has remained faithful, kind, loving, patient, gentle and full of trust in our ever faithful God.

Mike isn't perfect. He's human. Sometimes he's too dang smart for his own good. Sometimes he doesn't change the empty toilet paper roll. Sometimes he's selfish, proud, or rude. Yet, I'm 10 times worse and he somehow manages to forgive my selfishness, pride, rudeness, my attitudes and hormones.  He is my love. And my bestest friend. He puts up with me... and that's saying something. Mike tells me I'm beautiful even with all the changes my body has experienced. He sees the stretch marks as "battle scars" that I've had from bearing our 5 beautiful babies. Mike makes me feel feminine even when I feel like a frumpy dumpy Mom. He has walked with me through grief, pain, trials and heartache. He's been with me through morning sickness, through emergency surgeries, through his ER visit on Christmas day to ICU stays with Samuel on Christmas Eve. He was with me while in labor, in pre-term labor, and also driving like a mad-man to get to me from PA to VA to be with me when I delivered the twins... and I called him every 15 minutes to see if he was getting closer :)

Mike supported me when I've lost weight and comforted me when I've gained weight. He held my hand when I thought I wasn't going to make it through another minute without my heart shattering. He made time for me to still be me... and to dream, and create and to read and to be reminded that I am more than "just a mom"... He helps me to be Jennifer.

He doesn't let me wing it alone: he helps pack our kids lunches, does laundry, dishes and changes diapers. He gives medicine and breathing treatments... and took Samuel to almost every single radiation appointment. He spent countless nights with our son in the hospital as I was on bed-rest with Peter and later when I was contending with a nursing infant. Mike has been sleep-deprived, meal-deprived, and career-deprived because he has been willing to love and care for his family more than himself.

Babe, I wouldn't want to walk these paths with anybody else. You have my heart. I love you more than ever. Thanks for loving me and our fantastic five. Thanks for making me laugh even as I cry. Thanks for caring about me. For your thoughtfulness... for your desire to make me smile. For not letting me implode with self-pity and despair... for being sunshine in the midst of some really dark days.

I know I'm not the same woman who walked down that aisle. That woman was a lot more attractive (no baby weight). That woman was mostly blissfully ignorant of pain and hardship. That woman was pretty spoiled.

But this woman loves you more. This woman knows God more fully. Has seen His faithful provision to us time and again. And this woman would walk through the valley of the shadow of death with you anytime.

I love you. I'm proud of you. I respect you. And did I mention... I'm more in love with you than ever???

Your Love,


*Michelle, planning the wedding with me. Weekly planning meetings at Barnes & Noble and Starbucks. Lisa, our fabulous mistress of ceremonies. 8 bridesmaids, 8 groomsmen, not to mention my beautiful junior bridesmaid and my flower girls, (Thank you Anne, Cathy, Michelle, Kelsey, Joyce, Sara, Laura, Emily, Sharon, Alexis, Courtney & my dear sister Libby!) the ushers, gift attendant and book attendant, Joy & Jessica. Abi transformed our church into an enchanted Celtic forest.... the most beautiful and magical wedding I've ever been to! My uncle Craig did our photography- thank you! And the support and love of so many precious grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins and friends.

Highlights include: Having a gathering of 450+ guests to witness and cheer us on at our wedding ceremony. They had to get more chairs because there were so many! My wedding cake(s) provided by Annie! Best cake ever!!!! Bridal party dinner at Olive Garden... where I couldn't eat my favorite dinner of fettuccine alfredo because I was too excited! Thank you Aunt JoAnne & Uncle Kelley. My Dad building a deck on the back of the house... for a small, intimate wedding reception. Miss Barb doing fabulous desserts... still need the recipe for those Texas Bulls-eyes (is that what they're called?)

Flowers were beautifully arranged by Miss Kay. Fantastic Hair did my hair and a lot of the bridesmaids. Incredible musicians- thank you Josh, Kate, and John. Oh and the amazing Hunt Family Fiddlers... Yeah, we were spoiled.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

More Summer Fun...

Ian & Michael

Thick as thieves

Best Friends Forever

Ocean time with Auntie & Madison

Kristin & Madison


Michael, Libby & Ian "burying" Samuel

Madison & Peter

Mmm.. yummy chair.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sick Day.

I've been in bed all day.

This usually is a fantasy of mine while I'm preparing dinner and trying to simultaneously entertain five hungry, crabby kids. Oh to be in bed, able to read a book or watch a movie or enjoy the quiet. The idea usually thrills me.

But today it's because I'm sick. I've been barking like a seal. I've used Mucinex, Nyquil and Dayquil. My achiness has dissipated and I don't have much of a headache but the cough and chest pain linger on.

I've drank cup after cup of water and taken emergen-c throughout the day. My kids have intermittently popped in and out with a quick hello or hug and Mike usually ushers them out as quick as they came. I read a mystery novel, the entire book, today. But with tossing and turning and napping and sweating and brushing crumbs off the bed it wasn't as exciting an event as I pictured.

And Mike doesn't feel well either. So there is the pressure to get better so I can take care of him and the kids. And school starts Tuesday. I feel like I'm in a nightmare. The usual anxiety dream is I'm preparing for a trip and I'm about to board the plane but I didn't pack anything. I'm trying to throw things in a suitcase but it's too late. That's how I feel but instead it's real life.

I'm sick, sweaty, in bed- and unprepared for the school year. Yes, I have their school supplies. Yes, backpacks are packed... I guess it's more mental than anything. I don't feel ready for it to start. I don't feel ready for the kids to be older. To be heading into a new school year with new teachers and new expectations and responsibilities... and more homework and more questions of 'will they make friends?' 'will they be left out?' 'What if they're bullied?'

Ultimately, I want more time.

Time before summer slips into Fall. Before the leaves change and holiday events are around the corner. I'm trying to grasp at the fading rays of the sun wanting desperately for time to stand still. Libby is 8 next month. And Peter will soon follow with his 2nd birthday. Where does time go?

And yet...
... There is something about the routine that the school year brings. a bit of predictability. A schedule to follow. Time to work on projects and clean the house. Time to fill the house with the aroma of freshly baked cookies before they get off the bus. Time to sit and write and reflect even if it's just while Peter's napping. Time to pick up a new skein of thread and knit a new scarf.

So, time passes. Whether we want it to or not. It keeps moving... taking us from one time to another. from one season to the next. Asking God to prepare my heart and the hearts of my children for this school year. To rest in His peace that surpasses my understanding. To pray and to let go of the worry and anxiety that eats at me. To surrender all things to Him. and to trust that He knows what is best... even on sick days.