Friday, May 31, 2013

Why Cancer?

Samuel asked me a question the other day...

"Mommy why did I have bad guys?* Where did they come from?"

So I had to explain to my seven year old that I don't know why He had cancer. I know it's a part of God's plan but I don't know why. I also explained that some cancer comes from known causes (smoking, etc)... but a lot of times, it happens without explanation.

I wrestle with this as well.

Yes, my son, why cancer? Why did it grow in your body while your were being knit within my womb? How could someone so small (a four year old) have a tumor the size of a softball? And how does it work that I believe God is good and sovereign and yet God allowed this and yet hates sin and the consequences of sin (sickness and death) all at the same time.

It's beyond me. But not beyond God. 

Samuel's getting to an age where he can start wrestling with these deeper things. These deeper questions. He doesn't wrestle alone.

Scan is set for June 11th. Praying for all to be well. Knowing ultimately, all will be.

*Samuel refers to cancer as "bad guys".

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pain & Glory

So yesterday after taking Libby to the dentist and Michael to therapy we had to squeeze in an unexpected doctor visit in. Michael started seeping again from where his g-tube sight was. We were able to be seen within 45 minutes (miraculous) and we saw my favorite pediatrician (another huge blessing).

Dr. Scott said that Michael appeared to have a fistula. A slight opening but the problem is it goes into his stomach.... so he arranged a consultation for us at the Children's Hospital with the surgical team on Monday. The man is a miracle worker.

Michael has been complaining of it hurting. And this has gone on for 6 weeks (more than long enough). Hence surgery will probably be necessary to repair it.

I've felt so inundated lately. I have four kids in school which means four field days and four end of the school year parties... and money for food for the parties and providing various things for each class. So strawberries, grapes and oreos for one class, m&m's for another and a t-shirt for decorating for another class. Libby has a science project due on Monday.

Libby's dance recital is coming up in a couple weeks. My grandmother is moving in next week. We will no longer have a car for Mike as of next Wed. And his car is officially totaled. We have to take the suburban into the shop today for inspection and will probably need new brakes.

Hm, so life is full. There are many pressures, obligations, etc. Bills to pay. Appointments to make and go to. Blocks to check.

My ultimate need though is more of God. More of His presence to fill me. To encourage and strengthen and sustain me. In the midst of my weakness He is strong. In the midst of my inability He is able. In the midst of my brokenness He is whole and in the midst of my imperfections He is perfect. He can fulfill. He can provide. He can sustain.

Samuel has a CT scan June 11th to check for cancer. And even though I have no reason to think anything is different I still get nervous and agitated.

Somedays it feels like the John Mellencamp song,
"Oh yeah life goes on
Long after the thrill of livin is gone"

Days are long, full and grinding BUT My Hope is in the Lord. I will fix my eyes on Him. When I see Him I am reminded that this here and now isn't all there is. This will not last forever. One day I will see Him face to face. One day there will be no more death, no more sadness, no more sin, no more pain, no more fear, anger, anxiety, stress, etc. Right now I see in part but One Day I will see in full.

Right now I hunger, I thirst. I cut my foot, I have pain. But One day this too shall pass away and I will drink from everlasting water and be satisfied. I will be fed by the Word of God Himself. I will be comforted. Oh how I long for THAT day. Until then asking the Lord for the grace and mercy I need to get me through each moment. Resting in His goodness...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Doing, Doing, Done.

It's midnight and I can't sleep. I'm tired. I've been going strong today. Cleaned out the car. Swept. Dishes. Fold laundry. Emptied trash. Put away accumulated cardboard into recycling bin. Wiped counters at least 3 times. Vacuumed rugs. Organized my room. Cared for kids. Over 13 + hours of go, go, go before I went to Caregroup tonight.

So it's amazing I don't look like my husband right now who is passed out. My poor love is so exhausted. Working so hard. 45 minute commute to work and 45 minute commute back. Up early to help me get kids ready for school, take Ian to school and then work and then come home and get ready to go to Caregroup.

But I'm making a list of all that needs to be done tomorrow. Libby has to go to the dentist. Michael has therapy. I'm trying to have some time with a friend whose moving out of state. I hope to exercise. Clean my bathroom. Make 3 very important phone calls regarding medical appts, billing, and etc. Re-arrange the mud room downstairs so it's ready for my grandmother next week. Clean out the garage some. So I had to write a note to myself so I wouldn't forget all I'm trying to accomplish.

Now my lids are getting heavy. Wondering if I can paint my nails and let them dry as I fall asleep or if they'll get ruined. Tough decisions.

But here's the thing about all that I've said. God will still love me just the way I am even if I don't do another thing. He won't be extra pleased with me by all I do and accomplish. I could do a hundred things and He won't love me more for that.

What a wonderful thing to know that Christ's work is perfect, sufficient, and more than enough. He accomplished what needed to be done and I can rest in what He's done. Because I am in Christ I can be at peace knowing that when God looks at me He sees Jesus Christ's perfect life and righteousness... and is gets attributed to me. That's pretty crazy amazing.

What an awesome God I have. His Love and Faithfulness uphold and sustain me in the midst of my daily life. He carries me when I'm tired and overwhelmed. And He loves me because I am His, not because of what I've done but because of what He's done for me. I am precious to Him. I belong to Him.

What love. What grace. What a Savior.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tearful morning...

Lots of tears today saying good-bye to Auntie Kelsey. Libby in particular didn't want to get on the bus to go to school. Sometimes it's just hard to say good-bye.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Enjoying Kels

One of my dearest friends is in town. She has come all the way from CA to be with us. She's my adopted little sis, Kelsey. It has been such a pleasure to have her around. We've gotten to do some fun things together... just simple everyday stuff. Going to the park. Getting coffee. Eating lunch. Doing errands. etc.

When Michael was at therapy and Peter was napping we were at the park for a little bit. Here are some pics.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Choosing What's Important: When It's Time to Unplug

I'm sure we all have it; E-mail inboxes filled up with messages that want your attention. Voice messages on your phone that need to be checked. Texts that need to be replied to. It seems everywhere we turn there is someone or something that wants our time, our money, our attention.

How to discern what is a distraction and what is truly important is becoming increasingly more difficult.  Lines tend to blur and pretty soon, when our defenses our down, or we're really tired, or hungry or bored or lonely we do something we don't intend to. We purchase something we don't really need. We eat something that's second-rate instead of making the time for something that would nourish our bodies. We waste our time drifting online, vegging out in front of mindless tv, checking out that e-mail that has a sale for 40% off that something we don't really need but the sale will end tomorrow.

One thing I've come to realize is that if I'm not purposeful with my time then I will waste it. It's a given. Now by this I don't mean we need to always be working and be productive and efficient all the time. I'm not saying every minute needs to be tracked and held into account. But I find that I have misinterpreted rest and refreshment with distraction. If I don't intentionally make time to for true Re-Creation or something that will renew my energy and give me strength I will spend my time caught in a pendulum of working until I'm completely burnt-out or taking a break that really isn't a break but just wasting my time with distractions.

There is a time and a place to do something mindless. There is a time to just relax and unwind... but are you truly relaxing? Are you truly unwinding? Or are you numbing yourself from reality? Are you trying to forget what hurts you? Are you trying to escape from pain or heartache or loneliness? Are you afraid of your brokenness? Are you afraid of being unaccepted?

My propensity lately is when I'm hurting bad emotionally to want to eat sugar. I want to numb my heart by overeating. I want to drown myself in decadence because then I will not focus on what's really bothering me... instead I will distract myself for a little while and then punish myself with self-loathing that I have once again fallen off the horse, so to speak, and broken with my new way of eating.

I am also in a dangerous position when I am tired and online. I once bought CLEANING products online on a whim... because it was after midnight and I was tired and I thought it would be a good idea to clean the house but I was exhausted... and so my guard was down and so I clicked a button and made a purchase. I woke up the next day with buyer's remorse.

Exhaustion is dangerous: I have written e-mails that I shouldn't have written because my tongue was loosened. I have gotten lost in facebook and pinterest for hours because I was tired. What I truly needed in those moments was rest... and in that moment that would have looked like sleep.

Sometimes what I really need is to refresh myself: give myself a facial or soak in a bathtub, drink a hot cup of tea, go for a walk, read a good book, work on a scrapbook page- bottom line do something that will help me to reconnect with myself and renew my energy... but instead I waste it on distractions.

There is a time and season for everything under the sun. I just want to be sure to try and use wisdom and discernment with my time. I try to figure out when I'm feeling weak and vulnerable and desiring distractions and steer myself away from the computer or the pantry, etc.

Do any of you struggle with this? How do you manage your time? What do you do that brings renewal and refreshment? How do you discern what is "restful" and what is just a distraction?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Car Accidents & God's Mercy

Mike got in a car wreck yesterday. The likelihood is that his car is totaled. A teenager had pulled out onto the road and t-boned straight into Mike who was traveling 45 mph.

Thankfully no one was seriously injured. Both passenger side doors of Mike's car cannot be opened at all. The police officer ticketed the girl and she was held liable for the accident. He has a very stiff neck and shoulder and back as well as headaches. But all in all it could have been much, much worse.

No kids were in the car with Mike. PTL

I wasn't in the car with him but was close by and able to help. PTL

Our insurance provided a rental car. Again, PTL

No one was seriously or permanently injured. PTL

I'm so thankful for God's mercy in my life. I must confess though I held Mike very tight and I could hardly put a cap on my tears. It was really hard to hear my husband tell me he was in an accident. It brought up losing my sister and nephew in a car accident all those years ago.

But this was NOT that accident. And God was merciful.

In the meantime Mike had to miss a day of work and he doesn't have work for the rest of the week.
Time for rest and icing and ibuprofen. We are also on the look-out for a new car. Just something that can get Mike to and from work safely and reliably.

Thank you Jesus for your mercy and protection and that you are working out all things for our good for those who are called according to your purpose!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Watching 8 children under eight.

Yesterday there were 8 children in my home. 8 children eight and under. Now, this was by choice. I watched my friends very delightful children for a good part of the day. 

We had a 9 month old, two 2 year olds, an almost 4 year old. two 5 year olds, a 7 year old and an 8 year old. You would think it was crazy train over here but it was actually relatively peaceful. The kids seemed to neutralize each other. They were all very entertained and distracted by one another.

There was much laughter, playfulness, joking, shrieking, chasing, and song-singing. Some highlights included Samuel shouting out incorrectly Evangeline's nickname of Doodle. He kept calling her "Noodle! Noodle!" (very funny)

I loved getting to play with Adeline (AKA Baby Bird or Birdie). She was such a doll and so fun to feed and engage with. She loved soft books and I gave her a fun soft doll that she enjoyed batting around and mouthing. Elliot and I played with foam blocks for a while and he eventually got tired of knocking my towers and engaged playing with me and we built some great towers together. 

I loved hearing the mixture of laughter among my kids and our guests. I loved their joyful faces and cheerful voices. It was fun having a snack of goldfish and then rainbow chocolate chip cookies :) The kids ate dinner well and then it was time for Mike and I to bring the fantastic three back to their home. That was the only time there were sad faces or tears.

I had originally planned to take the kids to the zoo but was glad we bowed out with the rainy and stormy weather. I also was blessed with the help of my husband who was sweet and affectionate with all of the kids and a huge help enabling me to smoothly carry out diaper changing, bottle-making, and naptime routines. Later in the afternoon Danielle also came to my aide (thanks Dani). I was able to take a breather for a few minutes and read a book. While "resting" I could hear Adeline waking from her nap and I had some fun snuggle time playing with her on the bed. Oh, 9 months can be such a fun age!

What a blessing to have other children to play with and enjoy. 

Samuel finishing schoolwork before our friends show

"Bad to the bone" Peter in his new shades


Ian & Evangeline- smoothie king and queen

Libby feeding baby bird

Libby and Evangeline in their created "crowns"

Libby, Evangeline & Elliot

Friday, May 10, 2013

Not above bribery...

I had a day this week when Mike was gone out of town and I was managing the kids solo and I had a horrific headache that I stooped to bribery. For some extra z's I kind of let things go. Peter was up and Samuel had stayed home due to exhaustion. Peter came and brought me a candy bracelet. I totally opened the package and let him have it. Yes, candy for breakfast people.

For a while I could hear him quietly and contentedly playing on the floor next to me. This was what he was doing...

He pulled open my purse and pulled out everything. Wet wipes. Credit cards. MVP grocery/pharmacy cards. Pens. Paper. Floss. Yes, I carry crazy stuff in my purse. Stamps. Birthday cards. Lipgloss. Hand lotion. Sheesh.

He was busy working on investigating skills while I was trying to survive the morning. Sometimes a little candy goes a long way...

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Another trip to the zoo.

Lately I feel like I live at the zoo in Norfolk. Actually, I do live in a zoo at home :)

Michael's school field trip was yesterday and I went with Peter. I know it made Michael's day that we were there. He kept dragging me along and yanking on the stroller so that we would move forward to get to the all important elephants. I kept explaining it was important to stay with his class.

The best news of all was talking with his teacher Amy. Amy said the news that I've been praying for the past four months. "We are going to move him up to Kindergarten this fall!"

I nearly keeled over with relief and excitement. She had wanted him to stay back and do something different. I wasn't quite sure what to do but trusted her judgement and began praying.

But yes, he will be in Kindergarten in an inclusion class. His IEP (individualized education program) will make adjustments and allowances for him. I'm thrilled. When I told Mike he was thrilled.

So among the giraffes and zebras and tigers and lions I was doing a praise you Jesus dance in my heart.

Miracles happen... even in the midst of the zoo.
Checking out the bear with classmates

Michael, excited to be with his friends at the zoo

Little Brother



Elephants- FINALLY!!!

this lion loves to sleep- 3rd time I've caught him sleeping at the zoo

"animals" at the zoo

caged class

behind bars

exhausted after a long fun day

New bedding for the boys

Great Grandma (my Grandma) has started a recent tradition of giving the kids new bedding on their birthdays. Ian was psyched by his new angry birds bedding and pillow. Michael loved his race car bedding and car pillow. Too cool. As much as they love their bedding I have to confess they were pretty excited about the boxes that arrived!!!

Thanks Great Grandma!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Angry Bird-Day!

The twins decided for their birthday to have "Angry Birds" as their theme. It was a fun time had by all. One of the highlights was the amazing cake created by the fabulous Heather Hughes. That woman has some serious creative talent!

I used angry birds blankets as a makeshift table cloth. I set up all their stuffed angry birds and balls and other paraphernalia as decoration. Mike came up with the idea to have angry bird bowling. This was a total hit. The kids took fluffy and fuzzy angry birds and knocked down pins.

Ian and Michael continue to remind me most every day that they are five now... as if I need to be reminded :) Yikes, they are growing up!

The cake to end all cakes!

the birds

versus the pigs

chocolate gluten-free cupcakes with angry bird rings as toppers

"Happy Birthday to you" brings smiles on their faces

Birthday boys Ian & Michael.
Ian: "Mom, do you know we were born on the same day?
Me: "Uh yeah, believe me, I was there, I know it!"

Monday, May 06, 2013

Then... and Now: Remembering Cancer

Samuel at a tea party
funny face at the Oncology Clinic
I wish I could say that I never once think about cancer anymore. It's a memory in the past, right? We are living in the here and now so my mind should be fixed on the present. 

But regularly, and often daily, my mind drifts back to remembering when. Often it's a reminder of something that I used to have to do or perform daily that I don't have to do anymore. I don't have to give shots or clean CVL tubes. I don't have to flush with syringes and give all sorts of assorted medicines throughout the day many times a day. 

I don't wear purple latex gloves and I'm not incessantly cleaning up throw up, wiping every surface with antibacterial products and bleach is no longer the perfume I wear. I have a routine that doesn't revolve on how many days are spend at the Cancer Clinic. I am not in the midst of regular EKG's, CT scans, MRI's, and dressing changes. 

Getting checked by Dr. Pegram
I don't have that red-eyed, glassy look ALL the time. I wash clothes and bedding because it's dirty not because it has some sort of body fluid all over it. I'm only changing diapers for 2 kids instead of four.  I breathe easier and deeper. My heart doesn't lurch every time I get a call with the number starting "668" which is CHKD calling. 

But it's still there... lurking in the back corner of my mind. The games of "what if" haunt me. What if this comes back? What if this good time will be over before it really began? What if this is the last normal holiday, birthday, outing.... 

A long life is not a guaranteed promise on this earth. We are shadows. fleeting. Dust to dust. A vapor. A flower that quickly fades- here today and gone tomorrow. My hope isn't in this world. It is not in the temporary. It is not in the here and now. 

Our "favorite" hospital room
My hope is in the Lord and in His promise to redeem and make all things new. My hope is in Heaven where I will be with Him face to face. The place where there is no more sin, no more sadness, no more sickness, no more shame. The place where life on this earth will be but a blip on the screen. Where eternity stretches out before us full of laughter and light and fellowship and we will be who we were made to be, doing what we were made to do, with the One who made us and calls us to Himself. 

I look back at the years and I'm so thankful that I'm not walking the same road. It was painful and so very hard and my heart broke every day and at times I never thought I would see the sun shine again. 
And here we are. Over a year and a half of having any chemo. Almost two years since we had to be inpatient in the hospital. I don't freak out if Samuel has a fever anymore. I don't have tubes that I have to clean and flush and be mindful of. He can take a bath. He can go in a pool. I don't have to worry about the sun burning his chemo saturated skin. 

So as challenging as my days can be now I have to remind myself... they've gotten a lot better. Then I  was pregnant and then having a newborn while facing my other son's cancer treatment and all that it entailed. Now my youngest is two. 

Then all five of my children were under the age of 6. Now, my oldest is 8. Samuel used to be able to barely eat any food and was on a feeding tube. Now he eats a variety of foods and is able to handle an assorted variety of food without gagging and throwing up.

So much has changed for the better. So much to be thankful for. God has been so merciful and kind. 

Next month is another follow-up CT scan. Hoping for the same good news- no cancer.