Tuesday, September 22, 2015

And Then He Was 7

Dear #1,
Today you are seven. You amaze me more and more every day. This year especially, I am so thankful to celebrate with you.  I am so proud of the person you are growing into. The more years I am a mother, the more I realize that your goodness is more about HIS goodness and less about my specific parenting techniques and abilities. You are one of the greatest gifts God ever gave me and I feel unworthy to the calling of raising you. I hope you know this every day of your life.

You remain as social as ever. You love nothing more than getting to go hang out with friends, or having a big dinner at our house. You say hi to everyone you come across and all people are your friends. You love to talk. And talk and talk. Your topics of conversation are becoming deeper by the day and I enjoy answering your well thought out questions. Your favorite person to be with is Daddy. You want to be just like him. You even started sleeping in your underwear just so you could be more like him. Everyday when he comes home you joyfully shout, "DADDY!" and run to give him a hug.

School comes easy for you. You are smart and get things without much explaining or teaching. We have seen a marked improvement in the way you play with #2 this year; something we thought may never happen. You are growing kinder and more self controlled by the day and I am so proud of you. You love competition; but not for the sake of winning, but for the sake of having fun and meeting new people. Often times on the soccer field you will choose to talk to a friend instead of playing the game. You are fearless when it comes to trying new things. You will jump into anything that sounds fun, even if you have to do it all by yourself. I love this about you.

You always try to stand for what is right and, more importantly, do what is right. You care about big issues at a young age and you aren't afraid to talk with people about them. The other day at breakfast you asked the lady sweeping the floors, "Excuse me, are you Catholic?" We went on to have a very nice conversation about the woman's beliefs. This is a skill and ability most people lose as they grow older. I hope you never do. I hope you always see people for their goodness and never hide a hello or  a smile. I hope you never lose your ability to say what you think is right, even if it makes people uncomfortable. This year you have been begging us to receive your first holy communion and working very hard at your behavior in mass to get there. I love how anxious you are to become one with Christ. Every night after I put #3 to bed, you call me to your room and say, "I forgot to give you a blessing, hug and goodnight kiss!" Then you proceed to hug, kiss and bless my forehead. It's one of my favorite parts of the day with you.

I love you, son. I know I'm not always the perfect mom. Please forgive me for the times I have yelled, lost my temper, or not listened well to you. Know that every day I love you a little more and every day you help me to be the best person I can be. I hope that I can do the same for you!


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Child-Like Trust

There are some big changes happening in our family right now. As if having a baby and getting a massive blood clot in one year wasn't enough, we have also decided to leave the Air Force. This decision didn't come lightly and we had discussed it long before the baby or the clot. If we were staying in the Air Force, we would be moving in February of 2016, so moving was in our future regardless.

Once the decision was made to get out of the Air Force, the next step was for Max to find a job. So we prayed, and we prayed hard. We prayed that God's will would be done in everything. We prayed  that He would open doors that needed to be opened and close doors that needed to be closed. Max applied for jobs locally and afar. He is a very smart man: an engineer with a good career. He is very hire-able. With all those applications, only one door was opened. Some of the other doors were blatantly closed in our faces. The door that was opened with perfect ease was for Max's dream job back in Oklahoma City. Even though staying here would have been much easier. I wasn't convinced that the ease of staying made it the right choice. I struggled for a very long time at the thought of leaving family and friends that have become so dear to us, especially in these difficult times. I loathed the thought of all the work that has to be done to sell this house and I cried at thinking of leaving the place where two of our children have been born.

Then, one day, my kids taught me a very good lesson and I was reminded once again why Christ calls us to be child-like. I started telling my kids we might move to Oklahoma and expected high emotions from all of them. Instead they asked a simple question, "will all of us go to Oklahoma?" When the answer was of course, yes, they were perfectly fine with the idea and even started to get excited about the new adventure. Even since that day, they will have momentary sadness about someone they will miss, but in general, all they care about is that Mommy and Daddy are going with them. They trust that we are making a good choice for our family and that we won't leave them.

That got me thinking: I pray for doors to be opened and closed. I pray for God's will to be done and for right decisions to be made. But when that decision is clear, and is the harder of the choices, do I actually trust that God's hand was in it all? Because if I do, then my only response can be the same one my children had. "Ok God, I will go because I trust you know what's best and no matter what, you will stay by my side. And that's all that matters, no matter how much it will hurt to leave family, friends and this house. Are you coming with us God? Yes? Well then o.k. I'll go."

When I got sick, I was stripped of everything. When the talk of moving was coming around, I heard God whisper in my heart, "Don't be attached to anything but me. Not even the place you live. Have I not taken care of you thus far?" I thought that God was done (at least for the present moment) breaking down walls and that new ones were on their way up. But I see now, that even though I am healed from the clot, there is still more He wants to break down, more that needs to be stripped away. And as hard as it is, I KNOW that He is doing this all out of love for me and in answer to my most fervent prayer: that I would be the woman He has created me to be.

In the end we accepted the job in Oklahoma and will be moving in January. There is a lot of work ahead of us in the next few months, and a new life to start in Oklahoma. By the great trusting example my kids have given to me, I pray that the only words on my heart and lips may be, "Jesus, I trust in You".   

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Day That Changed Our Lives

I'll admit that when I set out to write this post, it was going to be a long 3 part series with every detail of everything that happened written down. The thing is, when I went to write everything down that has happened over the past 5 months, it was hard, and I didn't like doing it. While a lot of it is actually written down in a journal, I'm not quite ready to re-live or retell every single detail of those days. Maybe someday I will, but not today. Today will be a very short summary of everything that happened. It was too big of an event for me to just let it go without writing some of it down here.

Two weeks after I had Sarah, I got a very bad headache that lasted 5 days. On the 6th day of the headache, while nursing, I lost control of the upper left side of my body. My hand could not grasp things and when I tried to raise my arm it simply dropped down. There was tingling from my upper neck to my hip. After consulting with my midwife, we decided to go in to the hospital.

After about two hours of non-stop physical tests, the doctors determined (or thought so) that I had an a-typical migraine. The plan was to send me home after doing a quick CT scan just to make sure all the bases were covered. About a minute after I was wheeled back in to my room a knock came on our door. If you have ever had tests done at a hospital you know that getting results often takes a long time; I knew immediately that knock was not good. "I'm sorry but we found something. We found bleeds in the brain. Neurosurgery will be up in a few minutes" Minutes.  Those moments were so surreal. Max's boss had just lost his wife because her brain was bleeding. Was I headed in that direction? In that moment life seemed so so incredibly small and simple and God seemed so so incredibly big. I felt like I was hanging over a dark pit of death held only by a thread that God could cut anytime He deemed right. If I have ever felt true "fear of the Lord", if I have ever been able to conceive even a small portion of His greatness and power, it was in these moments. I clung to Max. We prayed, we cried, we called a few people. Then we started thinking of practical things. I started worrying how Sarah would get fed if I needed surgery or wasn't there to feed her. I made him promise to pump milk for her even if I was unconscious, to comfort her through her tummy troubles should she need to go on formula. Nurses came and went and my father-in-law brought a priest friend to give me last rights. I am forever grateful for that favor and the grace of the sacraments that evening. A "few minutes" became lots of minutes as we sat and waited for more news.

Those moments felt like hours, but eventually news came. After an MRI, it was confirmed that I had a huge blood clot in my superior sagittal sinus (a major drain in the brain) and two small bleeds that resulted from the clot.  It was also determined that, unless the bleeds became bigger, I would not need surgery that night. As long as I wasn't having my brain cut open and I had Max and the baby with me, I was at peace. But then another wave of bad news came: I was being transferred to the neurosurgery unit and Sarah was not allowed there. No matter the fit I threw or the people I asked to speak with, the request to have her near me was denied. I thank God everyday that my sister, Joanna, had come earlier to bring Max some food. When we got the news that Sarah could not come with me, she promised me she would take perfect care of her, and even nurse her should she need to. It was the greatest gift she could ever give me and God knew she was the only person on earth I would feel somewhat comfortable sending Sarah with. So, as they wheeled me across the doors of the neurosurgery unit, I kissed Sarah goodbye and left my heart there with her.

The next morning I woke, and my heart hurt more than my head. I missed Sarah with every bone in my body and longed to nurse and hold her. Max had woken up every 3 hours in the night with me to pump milk for her, since I couldn't use my left arm. The next two days in the hospital were filled with pumping, crying, waiting, sleeping, tests, and more waiting. We felt forgotten in that shared room, as every doctor who came in seemed to be for my roommate. After about 48  hours on heparin and tests results that showed the bleeds had stopped, I was allowed to go home (I begged for this). With as little sleep as I was getting in the hospital, I felt I would die from staying there, not from going home.

My first night home was an exciting one to say the least. Only a few hours after being home, I was taken by ambulance back to the hospital. I had what they deemed a simple partial seizure where my left side went completely numb again, but only for a few minutes. Needless to say, it scared me very much and on the ride to the hospital I made peace with God that this whole thing might actually kill me. The funny thing is, I didn't fear for my children living without me, or wonder what would become of my family. Instead, I had only a great sadness that I might not be there to witness it all. I realized in that moment the privilege of my vocation. It wasn't that I didn't believe anyone could raise my kids or be a wife to my husband, it was that I wanted the blessing and honor of living out my vocation. And I promised God that if He willed that I live through all of it, that I would do my very best at living it out. My heart felt peace as I watched the lights of the city through the back window of the ambulance.

I was sent home from the E.R. with a new prescription of anti seizure medicine. Looking back I am not sure if it was the medicine, my blood clot, or a combination of both, but I slept....A LOT. Over the next few weeks, I slept nearly 22 hours a day. Taking a shower was almost too much to do. I ate in bed and only got up to go to the bathroom. Max had to go back to work and my mom had promised to stay as long as we needed her. She became the woman of the house. She had to. I couldn't do anything but sleep, nurse and heal. If it hadn't been for my mom being there, I wouldn't have been able to heal the way I did. She cooked, cleaned, took care of the kids, took care of Max, took care of me, played interference when people wanted to come visit and loved with every ounce of her being. None of us knew how long the healing process would take, but she promised to be there for it's entirety.

Very, very slowly I began to heal. After the first two weeks of constant sleep, every day got a little better and I could do a little more. It would take about two months before I could even go out of the house, and even then it was a hard thing to do. Days were filled with sleep and doctors appointments and trying to figure out what our life would look like after all of this. It's hard to write down exactly how those days of healing passed, and only my mom, Max and I know what they really looked like. Over time I did heal. My mom stayed with us for four months, until I was finally able to handle the work of four children on my own. It was so bittersweet to say goodbye and I feel a part of me will always be with her  for taking care of me during that time. It's like she took a small piece of my heart home with her, and to say that the transition to "normal life" without her was heart braking and hard is an understatement. I will forever be thankful for her help to us during those months, and to my dad who was willing to be without her all that time.

I have left out so much here. Maybe someday I will write more. I do want to note that when I got sick I remembered this post about my hardships in pregnancy with Juliana. I remembered the lesson God taught me from all of it: that if we pray to be sanctified and holy, we must accept the sufferings that make that happen. Through the hardships of these past months, I know God is only allowing it for the sanctification of my soul and my family, and there is great peace in that. I cannot write down all the graces given to my soul during this time, but I will say that through suffering comes great spiritual growth and change. I know with everything in me that God allowed me to go through this because He loves me and hears my prayer to be the woman He created me to be. It would have been easier had my house burnt down than to go through what I did. He could have stripped me of my attachment to earthy goods, but He chose something much greater; God stripped me, in those days, of my very core. He stripped me of my capabilities as a wife, mother and person. I was forced to humbly accept any and all help that was offered because I could do nothing on my own. I gave up control of my house, my children, my health and life as I knew it. In giving up that control I had to give it ALL to Him. I was left with absolutely nothing and He became everything. And I wish so badly I could say that I have become a saint on earth from all this, but I continue to fall daily in my vocation. I continue to struggle with the "why" of all of it, and I'm still trying to deal with the great amount of emotion that comes from a traumatic event. But I know that as I struggle through this life, an ever-loving God is there to carry me through it. It is only by His grace that I can do anything.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Miss Belle Turns 5!

I can't believe you are 5! Everday you amaze your father and me with your kind heart and unfailing love. You will often randomly come up to me and give me a big hug and kiss for no reason at all. You are the first to offer help so that I "don't have to do all the hard work" myself. You are incredibly independent and capable of doing tasks far beyond what children your age normally can do. In my time of illness, you have been the one that will hold my arm to help me to my chair, ask if I need anything and refill my water whenever you see it is empty. It is humbling and amazing to be served by you, and you do it with such sincerity of heart.

You are such a wonderful sister, both to #1 and your younger sisters. No matter how many times #1 wrestles with you or how often you fight, you always stick by his side and don't want to do much without him. You are mother-like to #3, letting her follow you wherever you go. You teach her everything you know in the gentlest way. If #4 is awake you want to hug and hold her. While you have a tender and compassionate heart, you are also as tough as one of the boys. You will wrestle, hike, play crazy, run hard, and keep up with just about any kid that comes your way. Your spirit is fierce and your heart is gold.

So often you will come up to me and ask a question or pick up a conversation that we had days before. You process things internally, think about them long and hard, and then come back to me to discuss your thoughts. I sometimes will think that you didn't understand or really hear something I have taught you, only to have you bring it up in conversation later in a way and with an understanding that amazes me.

These five years have been such a joy watching you grow and discovering who you are. It is an honor to be your mother. You are truly a gift to this world and a gift I do not deserve. I love you Belle.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jules Turns 2

I didn't get to sing happy birthday to you on your 2nd birthday. There was no cake or special dinner or guests. I lay in bed that day, 3 days out of the hospital from my brain clot and cried because you deserved so much more than I could give you that day. You toddled in and out of my room several times that day with a huge Tweetie Bird balloon in your hand that MiMi had bought for you on your special day. You climbed up on my bed hesitantly and hugged and kissed me. You weren't used to seeing your mom like this, and I could tell it almost scared you in a way. With eyes full of tears, I told you Happy Birthday and exclaimed how much I loved you.

Jules, you have the sweetest and most sensitive heart. When you get hurt you need a hug from someone. If you can't find an adult to hug you run to #1 or #2 and hold on to your brother or sister for comfort. You dry your tears with the bottom of your shirt, as if you are trying to be bigger than you really are. These days you walk around trying to do everything your siblings do. You don't realize that most of the time you aren't actually playing with them. You are perfectly content running ten steps behind them, trying to be a part of it all with a huge smile on your face. You have not shown one drop of jealousy towards #4. You constantly want to hug, kiss and hold her. Hopefully someday you two will be not only sisters, but great friends.

Your tiny feet pitter patter around the house in the cutest way. It is a noise that brings a smile to everyone's face, every time we hear it. I wish I could lock that sound away in a box and open it every time I'm having a bad day or want to remember you this small, because I know the days are coming way too soon where that pitter patter will stop.

You love the people close to you with all your heart and say so by exclaiming, "ov ooo too!" when someone says they love you. Your language grows everyday and it's so amazing getting to know you more and more. You love to sing and dance and try your hardest to keep up with the choir at mass. When a song starts, you open the hymnal and "sing" and then close it promptly when the song is over.

You bring so much joy, light and laughter to this family. We all adore and love you so much. Next year, God willing, I promise you the cake, candles and singing you deserve on your birthday. I love you Jules bug, and am blessed beyond measure to be your mom.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Birth of Sarah

In the coming weeks/months I will be writing many entries on the great changes and events that have recently occurred in our lives. But today I am writing about our 4th child's birth. If birth stories make you squeamish, you may want to come back another time.

It is January 19, 2015. We have spent the day at the park with friends. The past week I have been so impatient to have you because you have stayed in almost a week longer than your big sister (#3). I was so ready to meet you and start our new "normal". Little did I know that the next weeks and months would bring nothing but more lessons in the virtue of patience.

On the evening of January 19 we went to sleep and I felt pretty crampy. Around 12:30am on the 20th (39 weeks and 3 days pregnant) your dad woke to the sound of me moaning through contractions. He tells me he doesn't care what I say, that he is setting up the birth pool and if labor stopped he could just take it down the next day. I try to argue with him, telling him that maybe this isn't the real thing, but lose the battle. While he sets up the birth pool I walk around to see if contractions pick up. They are very short but very intense. At 1:19am Max calls our midwife, Jaymi, to let her know what is going on. We finish setting up the room for the pending birth. The lights are turned off and the room is lit with flameless candles all around. I'm still insisting that labor could still stop, but Max doesn't believe me.

At around 1:30am I ask for the birth pool to be filled and tell Max to call Jaymi again. She says she is going to take a quick shower and will be at our house in 30 minutes. As contractions are getting extremely intense I decide to sit in the birth pool for some much needed relief. After only two contractions in the birth pool, I can feel you moving down into my pelvis...fast. I try to find a good position because I know pushing may happen soon. Max starts to hear my moaning turn into grunting and immediately knows what is happening. With the next contraction I HAVE to push and reach down to feel your sweet sweet head descending very quickly. I rub it thinking it might give you some sort of comfort through what must be hard for you as well. I'll never forget that feeling or that moment. I am calm and quiet and realize that I must do this with great self control if I don't want to have a major tear. I gently and very slowly push your head out. Just then I hear your dad say, "Don't push if you can help it!" To which I responded, "Sweetie, her head is already out!"

Max grabs a flashlight to see what is happening in the dark water and calls Jaymi. I tell Max I think the shoulders are taking a little long to come out (although I was probably just in between contractions). Jaymi instructs him to gently push you towards my back and you come slipping out into the water at 2:01am. You dad hands you to me and as I place you on my chest I see you are sleeping soundly. As we try to wake you, you give the smallest cry and we know you are safe.

Your birth was my dream birth: at home, in the water, delivering you with my own God given intuition. Sarah you are more of a blessing to this family than you will ever know. I love you.