Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Just get there

First day of CBS 2014
Jacob (3), Caleb (5), Levi (2), Abby (7)
Truly, I think I deserve an award for preserving this precious moment year after year. It is no small task to corral four strong-willed children for a picture on the way out the door to Bible study.

As a dear friend has reminded me, the devil hates Wednesday mornings. No other day of the week is more fraught with frustration, hair and wardrobe woes, bickering, and inevitable delays than the day I try to get everyone in the car and make it to Bible study on time.

And yet we press on, week after week and on into our eighth year of this. Because the study of God's word is one of the single most important things we do. And Community Bible Study is the best place we've found for my kids and myself to do it.

CBS teachers have sung "Jesus Loves Me" to each of my infants. They have prayed with my toddlers over animal crackers and tiny cups of water. They have helped my children memorize more Bible verses than I can count. And this year, they are leading my second grader through a junior version of the same study of Romans that I'm going through.

I do not take these privileges and blessings for granted. The devil hates Wednesday mornings, and I am fully aware of the weekly battle being waged in my kitchen.

"Get there," one of my CBS leaders once told me. "Just get there, whatever it takes."

The victory is ours. We will get there. Week after week, no matter what the enemy throws at us, we will get to Bible study, and my kids will hear of God's promises, and I will rest in His word.

The devil hates Wednesday mornings. And I am committed to doing whatever it takes to continue to make him mad.

And I'm bringing my kids with me.
(Yes, I am fully aware that my eldest son has worn a shark shirt on the first day of CBS six years in a row. And yes, I know he wore the same shark shirt this year that he wore last year. I think we all know how much he loves sharks. Even if he had other shirts, he probably wouldn't wear them on such an important day.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy birthday, Abby!

A year ago, I said she was as spunky as ever.

That hasn't changed a bit. Now she's the spunkiest seven-year-old I know, and I'm still just as glad as ever that she's mine.

As we tucked her in this evening, she stated with a smile on her face, "This is the best birthday I've ever had!"

She's had some pretty awesome birthdays in her seven years. That's a pretty big compliment for this particular day. But it really was the best ever, when you think about it.

She had her traditional birthday breakfast date with Daddy (complete with smiley face pancakes, of course).

We went out for cake pops.

We had made-to-order heart shaped sandwiches for lunch.

And after ballet, we met a few of her favorite people for dinner at her favorite pizza place.

She loves her presents. But this birthday wasn't about the presents, somehow. She enjoyed being celebrated, and being loved, and we enjoyed making it happen.

At seven, she's beautiful, inside and out. She's grown up this year, and it's getting harder to ignore the really big girl she's becoming. She looks and acts older. The behavioral gap between herself and her brothers is widening, and it's sometimes difficult to watch. She still loves to play like a little kid with the 5-and-under crowd, but she also loves to curl up with a good book for hours at a time, and do sewing projects with her Nana and help Mommy in the kitchen. She loves to learn and create and make something out of nothing. She loves the joy of a finished project, and is getting better about tolerating the sometimes difficult process of learning a new skill in order to achieve something.

And that, in particular, is what sets my seven-year-old apart from the six-year-old she was. She's finally learning patience--with herself and with others. We've waited years to see this fruit manifest in her life, and it's a joyful thing to watch bloom. It's not perfect, by far. But she's so much more willing now to try again, or start over, or even ask for help. These are really mature ways to handle the things that we struggle with, and I love the opportunity to remind her of that, and to be reminded myself. There is still so much she and I have to learn from each other, and I fear the years are moving by much too quickly for us to get it all in.

She's softening, somehow. Her heart for hurting people and people in need and even the people she lives with is growing and changing, and the beauty is there, too. She wants to do for people, and provide for them, and share things that may make them happy. After overhearing us discuss some of Levi's hospital bills, she disappeared to her room and came back with $10 that she had earned caring for the neighbors' dog. "You can have this to help pay for Levi's medicine," she explained. I kept it, because her heart was in it. When she gives, she gives sacrificially, and to refuse her gift is to deny her the opportunity to use that part of her heart that wants to help others or bring them joy. She is always making little gifts for her dad and me, or drawing pictures of their favorite animals for her brothers to color, or watching after Levi to make sure he's doing okay in whatever he's doing. She cares deeply, more deeply than she has in the past, and I'm learning to navigate these new waters of emotion that come with having a heart like that.

But the pendulum swings both ways with a heart that cares deeply. She has the potential to show great kindness, but also to cause great pain. She knows what words will hurt her brothers, and she's having to learn to keep those tools guarded. She is learning the fallacy of "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Words carve deep scars, and those she uses and those used toward her are more powerful now than they once were. She is learning the truth of "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks," and is beginning to understand how her character is revealed in her speech. Her growing understanding of the power and strength of language makes it easier to apologize to her now, but I've noticed forgiveness doesn't come as quickly as it once did. There was a time when she could forgive and move on, as most kids do. But now she wants to know why she's been wronged, and how it will be different in the future. Her brothers are still quick to forgive her, but she is (sadly) learning the delicate art of holding a grudge that we adults seem to be so skilled at. I don't like this part of growing up.

She still loves learning most of all, and is never far from a book. She wants to know everything about everything, and her conversations are dominated with new information she's learned or read somewhere. She wants to do science experiments and make things. She soaks up knowledge like a sponge, and it is glorious to watch her process all the new information and new literature she's finding in the world around her. We finally made it back to the library recently, and while her brothers were browsing for animal books, she seemed a little lost. "Where are all the chapter books for big kids?" she wanted to know. I pointed to the wall of books she would love, with shelves spanning more than 20 feet in length and nine feet high. "These are all for me?" she asked, amazed. I love that attitude. (Yes, Abby, those books are all for you. The world's your oyster.)

Happy seventh birthday to our sweet, spunky Sunshine!

Monday, August 25, 2014

What we know

There's only so much you can do to keep a 2-year-old safely occupied during this many doctor's visits.

When this is all over, we might publish our findings so other parents can reap the benefits of our experience. Stuffing blankie in a surgical glove, chair spin contests, and painting your body with chapstick are just a few of our great ideas. There's plenty more where that came from.

What we've learned today (besides where all the best spots in the hospital parking deck are located) is that things are looking up for our little snake charmer.

The results of Levi's follow up blood testing are in, and it appears he has no underlying blood disorder contributing to his improper clotting issues. This is the result we suspected we'd get, but we're breathing a sigh of relief to have it confirmed. We will follow up with additional blood work in a few weeks to monitor the clotting factors in his blood and, hopefully, see some improvement in his numbers.

The bite wound on his finger is healing, and he's regaining a lot of mobility in the affected finger. We went back to the hand surgeon today and Levi has started on a pretty heavy duty antibiotic to stave off what appears to be the beginnings of an infection at the wound site. Overall, the wound looks better, and for that we are grateful!

So now we wait, and we continue to pray. We wait for complete healing, we wait for full resolution of the clotting issues, and we wait to get back to a normal that doesn't include so many car rides back and forth to see different specialists.

And as we pray for these things, we remember those of you who are praying alongside us. Thank you doesn't begin to say it. But we are so, so thankful for your prayers!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Reading buddies

If you ask Caleb, he'll tell you he can read now.

(If you ask me, I'll tell you I taught him to read last year. He just never believed he could do it.)

Now the confidence is there, and with it, the skill and the desire to read as well.

Thankfully, his sister is surprisingly patient when tasked with being the teacher's assistant. She's more than happy to sit next to Caleb for long periods of time and help him sound out difficult words.

Which is great, because I've kind of reached my max on how much Biscuit and Scat, Cat I can read.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Where we are

"Mommy, look!" Levi yelled from the living room. "Mommy, look! Mommy, look!"

"What is it, Levi?" I asked, moving in closer to check out the book he was flipping through.

"Uh-oh 'nake," he informed me, shaking his head and showing me the awful snake he'd found on page 43.

"Boo-boo 'nake," he continued, "No touch!"

Boo-boo snake indeed.

I'm not sure how much he remembers of what happened to him, or if he simply hears us talking about it. By now he's heard the story of his misadventure enough times that he's fairly confident of his superhero status.

While we were in the hospital, I kept him busy for a while looking through pictures of his siblings. We happened upon a picture of Abby, and she just happened to be sitting near the spot where the snake attacked. "I don't like it," he said of the picture, without prompting.

When we got home, I took him with me to get the mail one day, a trek that took us right past the site of the attack. He kept his eyes firmly on the spot where the snake had been coiled. It was fresh in his mind then, and I think he did remember.

But nearly three weeks out, I think the memory of the event is starting to fade, and is being replaced with stories of the event. I'm glad for that.

Caleb still tells the tale of what happened to his littlest brother everywhere we go, and is more often than not met with total disbelief. I have to tell the horrified audience that this is one wild story my 5-year-old did not make up.

Abby likes to make sure the story ends on an upbeat, and usually waits for a break in the conversation to interject with," ...and we're really glad our brother didn't die." She's very matter-of-fact about it, and it still catches me off guard every time. I understand her sentiment, but I wish she'd work on her phrasing.

As for how Levi is doing, the truth is we still don't really know. He's running around and acting like a normal 2-year-old. To look at him, you'd never know this kid spent four days in the ICU. But internally, we're still in wait-and-see mode.

We don't have any more answers from hematology about what exactly is wrong with his blood and what we can do about it. The test results should be in soon, and hopefully we'll have good news to report.

Wound care and physical therapy are being handled by a dear friend who is skilled in both areas. We are grateful that she is able to see Levi almost daily for follow-up care in our home. The wound site seems to be improving, overall, but a few areas of concern sent us to a hand surgeon this morning for a thorough exam and x-ray to monitor his healing. The x-ray showed no bone or tendon damage, and there doesn't appear to be any nerve damage. The wound does cross a joint in his finger, and he's still struggling with mobility in that finger because of it. Encouraging to grab things with his "snake hand" (as we call it) takes up most of our day.

The big siblings are definitely showing signs of weariness at all the attention being lavished on their little brother. It's as if Levi has suddenly become an only child--earning the privilege, in their eyes, of going places (doctors' appointments) alone with Mommy and Daddy, playing with special toys in the bathtub (physical therapy), and getting fan mail (get well cards) from friends and family.

It's been a tough adjustment for everyone. Bad behavior has been at an all time high, and the hubby and I are both still emotionally drained and short on patience. Homeschool has taken a back seat to physical therapy and doctors' appointments and trying to control chaos. The laundry is piled high and the house is a disaster. We've somehow managed to sit down to three meals a day, and that has been no small miracle.

Please continue to pray, friends. Pray for answers. Pray for healing. Pray for rest. Pray for normalcy.

And if you want to pray that I'll find some clean clothes for us to wear in that big mountain of clothes in the laundry room, that wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rehabilitation

Here's a snapshot into what some of our physical therapy looks like.

It might not look like much to you, but those selfies were hard earned.

In order to see himself on my phone, Levi has to use his "snake finger" to press the button.

No snake finger, no selfie.

It's that simple.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Silence is golden

It is a rare occassion indeed to find these three boys in the same room without an accompanying cacophony.

And yet, here they are, so enthralled by Caleb's newfound confidence in his ability to read that they are willing to sit peacefully as he sounds out the entire story.

It is the quietest they've ever been.

Or likely ever will be again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I'm the tooth fairy now

Last night she went to bed with a tooth under her pillow.

This morning, she woke up and found a quarter in its place.

(She knows I put it there, and she thinks the tooth fairy story is entertaining, as far as stories go, and we didn't destroy her childhood by telling her the truth. She was just pumped to find money in her bed. She doesn't really care how it got there.)

There was little fanfare involved. We were reading our story before bed, and she interrupted.

"Excuse me," she piped up. "My tooth came out."

Sure enough, there it was. One tiny little pearly white in the palm of her hand. She was pretty excited. This moment had been a long time coming.

Did I mention she had been wiggling this tooth for almost a month now? And that the permanent tooth taking its place is pretty much all the way in already? And that the sight of my 6-year-old wiggling her teeth makes me a little queasy?

I don't know if I can do this 19 more times.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to spell it

We have a new spelling and English curriculum this year, and I love it.

Like, love it love it.

Seriously. I wish someone had taught me English this way. My daughter is systematically decoding the English language, and it's awesome to watch. We've replaced spelling lists with spelling rules, rules that actually make sense and are actually followed in the English language. My favorite Type A-daughter loves spelling rules. Mostly, she loves being able to figure out how to do something without asking for help. This curriculum is teaching her to do that.

Like when she tried to spell "quack."

"It starts with Q," she started, adding the letters to our word board. "Q always needs a U, so it starts with QU."

"Since Q always needs a U, U is not a vowel here. Every syllable needs a vowel, so the letter for the next sound is....A."

"A doesn't say its name; it makes the short sound here. The last sound is /k/, so since A is a single vowel making its short sound, the /k/ sound is spelled CK."

"QU...A....CK."

I think giving Abby the tools she needs to write without needing outside input might be just the way to get this kid to finally start enjoying writing.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I don't even like pets

We have these tadpoles.

Eighteen of them, to be exact.

Only eighteen, because we gave a dozen or so to a friend.

Adopting them as your own is the only logical thing to do when you find a bucket of water full of tadpoles behind an abandoned house. (Actually, I offered another alternative, one that involved dumping them in the creek. I was voted down by the rest of the family.)

Can someone please remind us what happens when eighteen tadpoles stop being tadpoles and start sprouting legs? Because based on the size of this little aquarium, we seem to have forgotten.
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