Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Because Sometimes an Illness is the Very Best Reason to Party - Unfolding the Story of Steve's Struggle With Lyme Disease

The week before Thanksgiving I (with the help of many generous souls) threw a dandy of a surprise party for my husband, Steve, in honor of his 40th birthday.

Throwing parties is not one of my gifts. Just thinking about it makes me sweat profusely with stress. But, with a lot of help, I mean a lot, we did it, and it was awesome! I wanted to take many more pics of the day we spent cooking and decorating in preparation for the festivities, but we were all running around like crazy trying to pull everything together, so I had very little time to get behind the lens.
Steve's sister, Jennifer, and her daughter Brianna worked their magic in the kitchen.  Bri is the baby-sitter extraordinaire.  Joey is in love with her.  Deep, deep love.
My friend, Susan, who happens to be the amazing mother of nine precious souls (so you know she has tons of free time) came to help me decorate for the party. She possesses the rare, yet precious, talent of figuring out how to unravel a mess of tangled balloons!

Both my mom and Steve's mom did SO MUCH to make all of the carefully thought out plans a reality.  They seriously moved at lightening speed, and I wish I had photo evidence of all their generosity and effort!
My goal was to keep the decorations masculine yet simple, but ya'll know that with Pinterest, anything that looks simple is never really simple. Ahem.
My mom was incredible during the weekend of the party. She was right beside me all weekend helping at home with the kids and the entire day during the set-up process being much more attentive to the little special details that I didn't have the time or energy to focus on.
Steve's mom generously gave me her time and assistance for two solid months making phone calls, digging up pictures, advising, watching kiddos, running errands. It was a gift to bring the event together for her son, whom we both love so much.  I was really touched that her entire family was able to be at the party!
Steve with two of his best college buddies from Farmhouse fraternity, Steve and Scott.

One of the most fun decorations we put together was a big 40 that we covered with photos from Steve's life from birth to present.  Watching guests gather around the pics to catch a glimpse of his life was such a treat.
A supremely talented friend from our parish agreed to make Steve's birthday cake.  She did an amazing job, didn't she?? She not only made the cake for Steve, she gave it to him as a gift!

Friends came from far and wide, and those who couldn't come sent loving messages and sincere wishes for fun - and fun did we have!
Our friend, Sara, came from out West and, let me tell you, she was the life of the party!
Stephi and Joe were my picture takers - without them this would be a pictureless post!

Over one hundred people came to celebrate with my guy.  He was truly touched by all of the sacrifices and efforts that so many people made in order to be there with him that night.
Our amazing friends, J.P. and Elizabeth traveled from KC for the party!
These two...oh, my gosh, these two!! They kept us on our toes all night, and we were so happy that they made the long drive to spend the evening (and early morning *eek!*) with us!
Several of Steve's fraternity brothers and their beautiful wives were able to make it to the party. We are so blessed to have been able to stay connected with them over the years since graduating from KSU. His brother, Scott, agreed to give a toast, and it was one that we will never forget.
There wasn't a dry eye in the room as Steve's dad also shared a toast. At least my eyes weren't dry, but that's because crying is something I'm really good at. I should be in a sad movie, because I can cry on cue.
Watching our parents dance together is such a supreme joy!
Annie Up = Most awesome party band evah!
We ate, drank and danced - yep, I hired a band, and they were crazy good! Steve and I have always loved to dance.  We secretly dream of being wedding crashers. (Did I just admit that??) Getting a wedding invite in the mail, especially if the wedding festivities include dancing, is like the supreme gift.  Hiring a band for the party was the easiest part of the surprise planning.
Joey was an absolute trooper. He enjoyed being passed around between the guests, adorned with hugs and smooches, and even twirled around on the dance floor a time or two!

So how did all this craziness come to be?? Last fall, when I realized Steve would be turning forty in December, I knew that I wanted to do something really special, not just because he would be reaching one of those landmark birthdays, but for reasons much bigger than that....

It was almost exactly one year ago when, on an ordinary afternoon of school and chores, I found my husband, whom I thought was in his office fielding business calls, on the bathroom floor completely overcome with uncontrollable anxiety. I immediately dropped to my knees, reaching out to wrap my arms around the broken man who fought desperately to hide his swollen tear-filled eyes behind the cover of calloused hands.

I had hoped and prayed that this day would never come.  Just six months earlier, Steve began experiencing sensations of numbness and tingling in his hands and occasionally his feet.  The symptoms were sporadic, so we both gave it little attention until one day he came home from work bothered by uncontrollable muscle twitches on the backs of his legs, and a disturbing inablity to concentrate or focus on daily tasks.

I'll never forget the look in his eyes as he explained to me how bothersome the twitching and foggy brain symptoms were.  It was a look of both worry and fear.  That day was the beginning of a long and arduous process of researching illnesses that might be associated with Steve's symptoms. Eventually, we narrowed the symptoms down to what we believed could be Multiple Sclerosis, ALS or Neurological Lyme Disease.

After weeks of appointments, phone calls, more research and tests, Steve was give the Lyme diagnosis.

The past few months have been filled with many ups and downs physically, mentally, and emotionally for my love.  At times it feels as though he is adjusting well to this new way of life, a life that requires Steve (and myself) to be much more attentive than before the diagnosis to his day-to-day habits that affect his health. Being attentive to a healthy diet, regular exercise, proper rest, remembering medications and supplements, tracking and journaling symptoms, and embracing the reality of physical limitations that were simply never there before has been an adjustment for everyone.

Once we put a treatment plan in place (last winter), Steve began to experience some relief from his symptoms, so we were very encouraged and felt as though we were on the right track with regards to his medical protocol.  Unfortunately, late last summer, some of Steve's symptoms began to escalate, and new ones popped up with a vengeance. He began experiencing terrible sensations of pulsating frequencies in his head, especially at night time, which often left him completely unable to sleep. Naturally, his ability to concentrate, to remember the names of friends and family, or even simple objects became terribly difficult.

He was exhausted and worried that these new symptoms the Lyme was presenting would not be remedied and could even get worse.  The worry was nearly consuming.  Nothing can prepare you, as a wife and mother, for the great amount of strength and fortitude required to truly care for a sick spouse, and manage the needs and lives of all the little ones too.

If you are reading this and have dedicated your life to caring for a sick child, spouse, parent or friend, I wish I could reach out and embrace you this very moment.  I offer you my deepest empathy. Words cannot possibly describe the weight that presses upon the care-taker's heart, and I know you understand what I am saying and feeling.

Steve's doctor, who was very concerned with his new set of symptoms, recommended that he begin testing for Multiple Sclerosis. Many of the symptoms that Lyme disease can present are similar to symptoms for M.S., Fibromyalgia, Parkinson's, ALS, and a number of other neurological diseases, which is why those very illnesses are often misdiagnosed.  The doctors believe a patient has M.S. or some other neurological disease, but he or she actually has Lyme disease.

The days of waiting for his testing to begin were filled with terrible anxiety for Steve.  He couldn't help but worry about what the future held for him as the provider and protector of our family.  To say that my heart was completely broken for him is an understatement.  I simply cannot explain the intensity of my desire to take away all of the pain and worry from him.

I've never prayed as hard as I did during those weeks when Steve was suffering most.  It's funny, but I've never been one to enjoy getting up at night with our babies for multiple feedings, but I am truly thankful that Joseph has been waking often in the night to nurse, because I wand to be up, ready to help Steve in case he can't sleep and, if nothing else, just to pray over him again and again and again.

When Steve's doctor encouraged him to begin testing for M.S., I knew right then and there, that I wanted to do something significant to celebrate his upcoming birthday.  At the present time, he still possessed a good amount of physical strength and mobility and was trying to carry on through the days as normal as possible.

I couldn't help but think that a year from now, the picture of life could look quite different than the present.  Would he be confined to bed or to a wheelchair?  Would it be necessary to send the boys to school so that I could dedicate myself to caring for Steve full time?

These were all frightening questions, yet very strong possibilities that we wrestled with day after day as we waited for Steve's test results.  During the wait, I decided to move forward with my idea to host a party and booked the band, the venue, and gathered Steve's family together to see if they would join me in the planning and execution of the event.

Just days after diving into the party plans, I received a call from a very emotional and relieved husband who called to share the wonderful news that the results of his M.S. tests were negative. I cannot tell you what an enormous relief this was to both of us!  Now the question was, what can we do to step up his treatment of the Lyme?

Everyday we are devoted to researching possibilities and opportunities for potential treatments of the disease. Steve's symptoms continue to change from week to week and their frequency and severity is often unpredictable, which makes understanding the disease a monumental task.

To watch someone you love so much, someone who has always been in perfect health, suffer so greatly is a mighty cross to bear.  And, yet, as I say that, I can also speak with complete confidence that Lyme disease is not something that has happened to Steve, but rather something that has happened for him.  Our crosses are often a gift, a mercy meant to bear a particular fruit in our lives if we are willing to offer ourselves unreservedly to the Father, trusting in his great plan and purpose.

We pray daily for Steve's healing, but we pray even more that he might be a docile and loving servant of the Lord, submitting himself freely to accept with humility the greatest good that can possibly come of all of this.  If it be healing than praise the Lord, and if it be to suffer the terrible pains of mind and body as well as the physical limitations that the Lyme brings, then Praise Him Still.

Looking back, I'm truly happy that I decided to surprise Steve on his 40th.  There's something so beautiful about friends and family coming together for a celebration.  I believe that celebrations can open our eyes to glimpses of heaven, the supreme eternal party, and that glimpse has the power to infuse a deeper sense of hope and encouragement into the heavy hearted, the broken body, the tired soul.

I know that's exactly what the surprise party did for Steve (and for me as well).

If you could be so kind as to keep Steve in your prayers, I will be eternally grateful.  We are thankful for your friendship and support, and promise to keep you posted on any new developments concerning Steve's condition.

Friday, December 12, 2014

He Wll Finds Us In the Mess and Make Our Mess His Home

These guys....
They are my charmers.  My little ones.  The people who use perpetual giggling and spit up to help me forget that I'm also mom to one who will be in high school (I'm choking over those words) in eight short months.  I remember when Benedict and Andrew were this age. I had so much time to just sit on the floor and play with them, to watch them grown and learn and live right in front of me.  Those were such glorious days.

I feel a great longing in my heart to be able to give these guys the very same time and attention.
I could write a thousand captions for these photos. They fill my heart with such great joy.  Baby bro on the left keeping upright thanks to the skillful placement of one chubby finger on the carpet and a steady right hand on big bro's back.
 The jammie huddle.  Let's put our heads together, and think up a genius plan to overwhelm mother with our adorableness today!
Uh, oh, Chubs McCrackers is lookin' a lil' wobbly. Joey earned the nickname when the boys, who often snack while holding him, discovered that his little belly shelf catches their cracker crumbs.
 Easy does it, Chubs. Steady now, steaeaeaeaea-dee.
Next to Lego mini figures and BBQ tater chips, pajamas are Charlie's world.  I think there was once a movie called Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Well, Charlie is going to start the Brotherhood of the Traveling Jammies. I can see it now:  One pair of fleece footie pajamas, six boys and a bag of chips.
The older boys might not be up for it, but Chubs McCrackers will be in fo sho!

Today after lunch I gave myself permission to read a few of my favorite blogs while the boys finished their quiet reading.  Two of my favorites from Kathryn and Stephanie included sentiments about slowing down, simplifying and stepping back a bit from life, all of which resonated deeply with me.  

To my own personal disappointment, I have found the opportunities to blog (thoughtfully), to spend quality time with friends, run in weekend races, or to do something as simple as geting a hair cut to be very few and far between since Joseph's birth.  He is still in "I can survive on virtually zero sleep" mode and will not be comforted by a pacifier or anyone's arms but mine.

I really cannot seem to find my footing these past few months.  Since Steve's health has been a great concern to both of us and has required significant adjustments for me personally, caring for him as well as the majority of the children's needs is a calling that, most days, leaves me feeling inadequate as I wrestle constantly with everything that's not getting done. 

That's a pretty uncomfortable place for me to be.
But, isn't it true that discomfort is also a merciful gift from God?
I believe so....I really do.

Thankfully, this Advent, despite the desperation I so often feel internally, grace has come.  It comes as a steady stream of arrows piercing holes in all my best arguments for how I think things should be, how they should go according to my plans, desires and even according to my capabilities.

Grace has helped me accept all of the things that I cannot control and given me the fortitude to settle in to the present moment, trusting in all that God desires to give me right then and there. You guys, this is so hard for me, I mean if only you could see how messy life is around here right now!

Although my nature desires to tidy the home, create more exciting school projects for the boys, bake holiday treats for the neighbors or even to read something more stimulating than  Dick and Jane, those aspirations are just not possible right now.  God is using my limitations so that I may SEE his generosity - generosity expressed through the excitement in the eyes of a child who is thrilled to share an idea or a story with me, or a hug from a son that I hold for an extra second just so his post-basketball practice scent of hard work might imprint upon my memory forever, or the supreme view of two little guys playing together on the floor in their pj's.

Surely I would have missed these things, or at least not appreciated them to the depth that I should, had I been allowed the opportunity to carry on about the day's business according to my own desires for a well groomed family nested inside of a perfectly ordered home with time dedicated to blog about it all.

Above all, this Advent, I am learning to truly grasp the truth that what the Lord seeks from us is our very best in all circumstances.  If this season of your life allows you time to bake and decorate and craft then, for the love of Jesus, you should do just that.  And, if this season of life means that you must offer up the mess, another infant feeding, another sleepless night, another burned dinner, another denial of any self-comfort or opportunity to do what you want so that others may be blessed by your sacrifices then, for the love of Jesus, you should do just that.
For many years I have loved the Chris Rice song Make Yourself at Home.  It is the perfect meditation for me this Advent.
Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home

The the Lord's manger is our soul.  It is the place He longs to rest, to reside within us every day.  I am learning, day by day, that the soul's most supreme furnishings and decorations are not our own ambitions and accomplishments but the words "Yes, Lord" that we speak, the ascents of the will, great and small, moment-to-moment each and every day to whatever God may be asking of us.

So wrap our injured flesh around YOu
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The World's Greatest Dad Turns 40 and Mom Does the Ugly Cry

If you've been here before, then I know you've heard me preach about how frustrating the pace of life can be sometimes....most times.  We'd all like to slow things down a bit, but with work, the kids activities, school assignments, housework and holidays it's a little tricky getting off the treadmill when you're running at a dead sprint.

Nothing makes you want to slow things down more than a birthday, especially when you've sailed through the 30's and time is now ticking to the beat of 40.  Getting older is no fun, can I get an amen? Turning 40 is like getting a nice big slap on the naked fanny. It's a bit of a surprise and a shocker all at once!

I thought I was young, but I'm not.  Young is over. Oh, crap. 

Steve and I often find ourselves staring deeply at our children, particularly the oldest ones, asking ourselves what we can do to create more moments with them, more quality time, more pauses for hugs, and questions, and praises, and meaningful guidance and direction through their varying stages of life.

With the younger ones finding this time is easy.  That's because there's always a toddler attached to a leg like a third appendage or a baby saddled on a hip riding us around every day.  But, the older boys, they are the ones that we always wonder - every single day we wonder - if we are making a difference in their lives.  Most of all we wonder if they know, really know deep down, how terribly much we love them.
(A consolation smooch for my guy who hit 40 first, poor guy!)
On Tuesday, Steve officially turned 40.  It was a pretty low key day.  I was totally off the celebration hook since I had just thrown him a whopper of a surprise party a couple of weeks ago (details Monday!).  I did get up early and make him waffles, though.

Such love.  Such adoration. Actually, we were out of cereal, and bread and eggs and bacon and fruit and yogurt (and whatever else you can eat for breakfast).

No, really, the waffles were a result of two parts love, one point five parts empty pantry.  I can't help loving the birthday breakfast. There's just something so great about being showered with love first thing on your birthday morning. It's a wonderful thing . And, if the rest of the day gets totally screwed up, well, at least you can savor the memory of a happy morning!

After chowing down on waffles soaked in a bucket of syrup, and tackling dad in a a crazy dog pile of super sticky boys screaming *Happy Birthday, Dad* at the top of their lungs, we got back on the treadmill for the daily sprint.
(I think the dental hygene freebies from the dentist add some pizazz to the pic, don't you?)
As evening rolled around, I realized that we had a few minutes to spare before Steve would arrive home from CrossFit. So, I encouraged the boys to each write him a note to give with the few small gifts we had purchased for him.
(I provide the most amazing crafting supplies.  Note the awesomeness of the colored foil stars.)

I had no idea that one of those notes would move me to tears (the blubbering kind).

One by one, Steve read each thoughtful card the boys had created for him, affirming their incredible artistic skills (give a boy a sheet of white paper and a sharpie and big things happen) and thoughtful choice of words included in each letter.

Very last he read our oldest son, Ben's, card, which said:

Happy Birthday!  I hope that it is a happy and memorable one.  Thank you for 
being there for me in everything I do, whether it is school work, farming, friends, sorrows,
mistakes or sports.  Thank you for being the great dad that you are.  There are many 
other dads out there that don't care what their boys do, or who they are.  Also, thank
you for keeping me between the lines, and teaching me to hold a good relationship with
God.  I highly doubt that there is a dad that can match you.  Happy Birthday!

For real.  A teenager wrote that.  On his own.  I swear.

Steve kept it together (tough guy), but not me, I did the big snotty bawl, and the boys, who already think I'm some super-weird species from another planet, looked more perplexed than ever.  Call it hormones or lack of sleep, but whatever state of being I was in there was no way I could have held back the tears.
(Just to take the birthday love a step further, we gave dad some lotto tickets, which was disturbingly thrilling for all of us.) 
Sometimes as parents, it's those seemingly small confirmations from our children that play a huge role in helping us to know whether we're doing it all wrong, or if we're actually getting a few things right.  

I know, without a doubt, that Steve is an amazing dad.  He puts aside so many of his own goals and desires to make time for the boys.  He has an incredible ability to seize the ordinary moments of the day, especially during everyday chores or farm work, seeing them as opportunities to laugh, tease and teach the boys small yet significant lessons about life and about the greatness of God.

I have a feeling it's those very ordinary moments that the boys will remember most about their time with their father, more than the skiing and hunting trips, or any other grand event they experience together.

I heard an alarming statistic the other day: In the U.S. the average amount of time a dad spends with his child per day is seven minutes. Seven.  SEVEN!!! Holy smokes, that's tragic.

When I heard that terrible bit of news, my heart sank.  

After giving it some thought, (brace yourselves) I began to wonder if we moms aren't one of the reasons why there is such a deficiency in quality time amongst fathers and their children. 


I know, that's a pretty big statement, but trust me, I'm not criticizing your love or noble intentions (I am in this boat with you!). 

Hear me out??...

In our quest to nurture and support our kids in everything they do, as moms we also have a natural tendency to think we know what is best for them at all times (totally guilty of this).  We are so deeply involved in (read: control) everything our children participate in, from their teeth brushing schedule to basketball and gymnastics, that we offer dad little opportunity to be on the nurturing side or to have meaningful time alone with the kids. And, when we play captain of the kid ship every day, dads often don't feel needed or wanted.  

Sometimes, (I'm talking to myself here) it's good for us to stop hovering, to step back, to step away, and just let dad take the reigns for a while. 

I know that Steve could very easily devote all of his time outside of work to other things - clubs, community and church organizations, playing sports with buddies, or chasing more business ventures. Thank goodness he is not a seven minute dad. I cannot express how incredibly blessed that makes me feel.  

As I watch our boys growing up to be men, I am thankful beyond words that our sons have such an incredible soul leading and loving them with such great purpose and devotion.

And, according to Ben, his dad is doing quite a fine job.

P. S. Today is the final day to sign up for the gift card giveaway! More details right here!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Lovely New Additions to Our Christmas Book Basket + GIVEAWAY!!

One of my favorite childhood memories is of when I was quite small, maybe six or seven. I was invited to my friend Kim's house for a sleepover just days before Christmas.  I'll never forget the cozy warmth of their farmhouse, which was decorated in the most charming and magical way. The top of the upright piano glistened with the delight of a perfect little Christmas village, the tall, robust tree strung with what seemed like a million lights, set the entire house a glow.

Kim and I wiggled our little selves underneath the tree and, wedged between the soft carpet and broad canopy of branches, we stared up into the sparkling lights while her mom read to us story after story, until we couldn't hold our eyes open any longer.
I'm quite certain that that experience sparked the beginning of my love affair with books.  And the treasure of that memory is what inspires me to read to my own children beneath the tree lights or snuggled up by the fire during the Advent and Christmas seasons.

{Who am I kidding.  We have boys.  If they laid under the tree, it would be a horizontal nightmare in approximately 7 seconds.  We read on the couch and stare at the tree from afar, and that's as magical as it gets.} 
A couple of years ago I decided to share a few of the books I had collected for our Christmas book basket.  Then, last year, I added a few more.  Your response to those posts was tremendous, so I've decided to continue sharing that list plus the new additions we make each year.

Choosing just one or two books for our basket is no easy task, because my wish list is a mile long. I like to keep all of our treasures together in one big basket for the boys during the holidays, and I actually pack the basket away when the Christmas season ends.  Doing so helps me keep track of our beloved stories and also builds an anticipation for reading them that otherwise might not be quite as strong if the books were left out on the shelves of our library year round.

And, also, hiding the books is just me protecting our financial investment in the children's inheritance.  Aren't they going to be thrilled to see 10,000 books written into the will? Concealing the goods keeps tragic shredding and "accidental" destruction to a minimum, since books have also been known to be used as frisbees, snack platters and door stops in our house.

Here are the two new additions to our collection 
that I am excited to share with you:

This book was chosen for the little guys in our family! Although it's intended to be read from the beginning of Advent (December 1) to Christmas day, we will be reading it throughout the Christmas season. Here is a more detailed description from Ignatius Press:
The joy and hope of Christmas are at the heart of this book intended for the whole family. Starting with the 1st of December (like an Advent calendar) each day has a new story, leading up to Christmas. Richly illustrated, this collection includes stories based on the Gospel accounts of the birth of Christ, as well as stories about Advent and Christmas customs. Also presented are original tales about living the Christmas message. 

If you enjoy the tradition of baking cookies at Christmas time, you and your kiddos will LOVE this book! Set during the depression era, The Gift of the Christmas Cookie is an inspiring story that beautifully intertwines the legend of the Christmas cookie with a tale of great generosity. The illustrations are as lovely as the story.  You will never think of Christmas cookies the same way after reading it!

You guys know I cannot keep all of this literary goodness to I'm happy be GIVING AWAY a $25 gift card to!! Both the new titles, and most (if not all) of the books from my list of twenty-five favorites can be purchased there.

The giveaway begins today, Monday, December 1 and ends Friday, December 5.  The winner will be announced on Friday on my Facebook page and contacted via e-mail.  
Good luck and happy reading!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

From a Heart Full of Gratitude, I Give Thanks For YOU, My Readers!

"Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think.
It's splendid to find out there are so many of 
them in the world."
- L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Yesterday evening, as the sun sank low beyond the horizon, I breathed in deeply that just right autumn air, the kind that sinks deep into the very corners of your lungs, filling them with life, and happily finished off the last mile of my evening route.  As usual, I was thinking bloggy thoughts, tossing around topics that I've been wanting to write about for a while now, lists of family stories and of course something special for the Advent and Christmas Season.

I realized it's a little late to write something for Thanksgiving, but, at the same time, I know that it's never too late, or too early, or the wrong time at all to simply be thankful.  My list of gratitude is a mile long this year.  At the very top is knowing that my husband is slowly starting to heal.  He has been sick for over a year now, and, thanks be to God, making some headway in a positive direction.  I think I'm finally ready to write in more detail about that, and I will soon. 
It is difficult to express with words just how very thankful for this small space I am, a space where, when time allows, I get to share my life, my interests, my faith, and at times my lack of faith, with all of you. Sometimes my posts are read by thousands and sometimes by only a few, but it's those few of you who are always here, and I can't begin to tell you how thankful I am for your friendship.

You reach out in the kindest ways to share your own personal stories with me, to offer support as I ramble on about motherhood and raising boys.  You seem to know the perfect time to gently lend advice when I need it most, and when I'm falling apart, feeling completely defeated in the day to day battles of life, you help me find a reason to smile again.  Your love comes like a light in the dark, and with your sympathy and humor I am encouraged to keep going.

I wish that I could meet all of you face-to-face and give you my thanks in person, to share a hug, a laugh, and maybe even a tear.  You are the very reason bloggers keep blogging, because somewhere between all of these lines we write, there is a thread of connection that ties us close together, and I feel the strength of that connection in a very real and positive way.

May you know, without a doubt this Thanksgiving, that you, my readers, are among the most precious blessings in my life, and I am humbled and honored to praise God for you today and always!
~ Happy Thanksgiving!! ~

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Five Month Photo Session With Joey and A Few Thoughts on the Virtue of Contentment

Look who's FIVE months already!! Can you believe it??
Yesterday morning, there just wasn't enough coffee in Kansas to get my brain in the right gear to teach Latin to my small posse of children, who are already way smarter than I am. So, I called for an extended recess, because executive powers are awesome.  The little diversion from school was spent snapping pics of Joseph, and hoping that one member of the posse would "accidentally" spill his juice on the Latin.
Before I knew it, all of the boys were on their hands and knees beside me talking to Joey in their sweet baby voices, trying to coax his famous grin.
Joey! Chubbikins! Festival! Jo-Jo! He loves all of his nicknames, everyday it's a new one.

I just love this series of expressions...
What? No, way, gurl! 
Ahhh, milk. Yeah, milk is my jam!
Did someone just say the "N" word? You know how I feel about naps.
I would be lying to you if I said that the past five months have been some kind of cake walk.  I mean my hair is still falling out and I'm developing some sort of eye twitch from a lack of sleep. Little Joey has done to us what babies do best, which is turn his parents upside down and shake 'em with all his might.

Last night Steve and I were laying on the floor with Joey between us, admiring his grin, the innocence in his laugh, the purity in his eyes, and while both of us were completely exhausted, we couldn't help but marvel over the way this little person, day after day, keeps us grounded, brings us back to what is most important in life.

I really treasure knowing that each of our children, particularly in their infant stages, have taught me something profound about life, about myself.  Oftentimes those lessons aren't easy for me to learn, because I'm a slow and stubborn student.

So, what has sweet little Joey taught his mama? He has taught me the value of being content in less than ideal circumstances.

In the past, after having a newborn, within a couple of months I am able to regain my footing with life and can keep up with the sprint with the boys, laundry, homeschooling, groceries, cleaning etc., etc.  I expected a repeat situation.

Not this time.

I am constantly aware of everything that is not getting done because I simply can't get to it. Rushing from this need to that responsibility to every demand, I am often out of breath and overwhelmed.

But, this guy is on a mission to help me....
From the floor where he's perched upon a blanket, surrounded with toys, Joseph pauses from the shaking and the chewing to look up at me, drool running down his chin, eyes full of that loving expression that only babies have for their mamas.  His sweet and gentle nature catches my attention, calling me out of the daily burdens. His charming presence speaks to my heart as if to say, "Here I am, choose me, be with me."

I didn't realize before Joseph came into my life, that perhaps I placed too high of a (prideful) value on my ability to keep our life in, not perfect but at least respectable, order before feeling content with myself as a mom and perhaps even with those around me.  For now, the daily tasks are so much bigger than my physical and emotional capacity to meet them. I have no choice but to find contentment in less than ideal circumstances.

The great blessing in choosing to be content in the present circumstances isn't that I am released of my will to try or to care, or even that I magically become okay with the house being a disaster, or having to serve cereal for lunch. Rather, it is in the freedom that comes from choosing to be content that I'm able to see life in it's proper perspective.

The moments throughout the day when I choose to pause from my work to cuddle with kiddos, read an extra story, engage in sincere conversation, or to simply sit and admire all of Joseph's soft, sweet squishiness is never, ever second to work in the order of priority.  Of all of the lessons my children have taught me, this one is perhaps the most valuable.