Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Almost there...

Levi's smiling because he has a grape lollipop.

I'm smiling because we scored that grape lollipop on our way out of the hand surgeon's office for the very last time.

The scar tissue on his "snake finger" is healing well, and the doctor seemed pretty confident that there is absolutely no reason to expect we will need anything more than a little ongoing scar therapy to promote continued healing.

I'm pretty excited to think that after today we're likely only one more visit to the hematologist away from putting this whole thing completely behind us.

Although I think Levi is probably going to miss the big male nurse that looked like he works as a bouncer in his spare time.

"Take care, Snakebite," he said, crouching down to give my 2-year-old a fist bump and a lollipop when we checked out. "You stay safe, ya hear?"

That's the plan, big guy. That's the plan.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Neatly coiffed

What I said was "Go upstairs and brush your teeth."

What he heard was, "Go upstairs, steal Daddy's comb, and spike your hair."

Close enough.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

God is able

 "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." - Ephesians 3:20-21
Big things are happening in Levi's little body!

A call from the doctor yesterday evening brought good news: Levi's PTT levels are at 39.6 (down from 69 four weeks ago). This number basically indicates time to clot, and the goal is to have that number somewhere in the range of 24 seconds. As the venom leaves his body, so do the antibodies attacking his blood that are causing the clotting issue. We're getting there! (To put it in perspective, his time to clot was 95 seconds when we arrived at the ER less than a half hour after the snake bite occurred. Stupid snake.)

Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for standing in the gap when my prayers were weak.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Help my unbelief

Levi had what I hope will be his final visit to the hematologist today.

I say "hope" because that's about all I did. I found it much easier to ask others to pray. Pray for full and complete healing, pray for lab results that show his blood is back to normal. Prayers that I, of all people, should be praying.

But I realized, as we drove home from the hospital, just how tiny my faith is. I want those things for him. Desperately, more than I want anything else right now, I want a full recovery for my son. But I seem to have lost the will to pray for it. The truth is, I doubt that my prayers will be answered. And I don't want to be disappointed if the answer is "No" or "Wait."

So I put out my plea for others to pray. Because even as I listened to the words of a familiar song and felt the truth of them in my heart, I asked myself, "Do I believe that?"

"Every fear has no place at the sound of your great name
The enemy--he has to leave at the sound of your great name...
The sick are healed and the dead are raised at the sound of your great name
Jesus,
Worthy is the lamb that was slain for us
Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up
And all the world will praise your great name!"

I have seen the work of the Great Physician firsthand. And the bottom line is this: when Levi's recovery from this incident is complete, it will be God who gets the glory, God who worked through nurses and doctors and lab technicians and surgeons and physical therapists and everyone else who played a role in this, God whom we will speak of when we tell this story for years to come. I pray--with faith barely the size of a mustard seed, I admit--for today's visit to bring the answers we want to hear, and to never have to hear the word "hematology" again. 

But if it doesn't, God is still on the throne, and He is still to be praised. I will wait in hopeful, eager anticipation for the words "fully recovered." But if God is glorified in the good, why should he not also be praised when times are hard?
"In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him." - Ecclesiastes 7:14
So pray with me--and, please, with more confidence than me--that this would all be behind us soon. Pray that God will use this to strengthen us, to teach us to lean more and more on him for the big stuff as well as all the little details that can seem so unimportant. Pray for miraculous healing. God is able!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The lion sleeps tonight

One trip to the store for bedding and a quick stop at Home Depot for supplies to make Levi's new bed "two-boys-in-a-room-together"-proof, and we were all set.

In the end, Levi opted for truck sheets to match his roommate, but only because they don't sell lion sheets anywhere.

Oh, and he calls them "truck sheeps," not sheets, which is really just too adorable to correct.

"Tuck me in my truck sheeps?" he asked. Why sure, cutie pie. Whatever you say.

He took to his new bed like a champ, and hasn't quite figured out that he can get out of bed in the morning by himself like Jacob does (when their bunny clock tells them it's time to get up, of course, and not a moment sooner). He still waits for us to come in, and is sitting at the end of his bed, blankies and stuffed lions tucked under his arm, asking "Get me up, please?"

He has Tess Lion (the lion that he has had since he was a baby that he named after Jacob's Tess Puppy), Lion blankie (which he no longer calls "nay-nay," much to my dismay), blue blankie, and his newest addition, Roardie (the stuffed lion his nurse got for him in the hospital) to keep him company at bedtime. Roardie got his name when Jennifer, his first PICU nurse, showed Levi a picture of her lion-loving son with all of his stuffed "Roardies." Levi's been calling his new lion "Roardie" ever since.

With an entourage like that, it's no wonder the kid gets a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Very local library

"Mommy," the eldest yelled in unison from Caleb's room, "the library's open!"

I had no plans to go to the library today, so I went upstairs to tell them we weren't going anywhere, and that they needed to stop yelling.

I was halted at the door.

"Here's your card," Abby said, handing me a block. Caleb squeezed around me and handed one each to Jacob and Levi, who had fallen in line behind me.

I was escorted into Caleb's room and given the rundown.

"Welcome to our library," Abby said with an air of authority. " It doesn't have a name yet, because we can't agree on one, and Caleb wants to call it Caleb's shark library, and I told him that's not a good name."

Well, now that I had a little background, at least I knew what I was getting into. I asked what I should check out.

"Okay,"said Caleb, rising to the occasion. "These are stories that really happened..."

"Non-fiction," Abby interjected.

"These are stories about birds and mammals," Caleb went on. "And these are stories about amphibians and fish."

"These are alphabet books for learning," Abby continued. "This is the fiction section, and these are history and science books. The magazines are on the end."

I was told I could chose two, and instructed to return them in 48 hours or they would take money out of my piggy bank.

I think they have this library thing pretty well figured out.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Sentimental journey

Today, we bid a final farewell to this crib.

All of them have challenged the integrity of its construction.

Only one of them broke his arm trying to escape from it,

But each of them has found a creative way to get out of it. Abby liked to walk across the front like a gymnast on a balance beam. Caleb took a more Superman-style approach, launching himself across the room and landing himself in a cast. Jacob was stealthy, creeping over the side and dropping silently to the floor without detection.

Levi's escapes began earlier than the rest (leading to an adjustment that left his mattress directly on the floor inside the crib) and were a combination of all three; his best work was done when he convinced Jacob to lift the crib up, allowing him to slip underneath the bars.

But Levi's escapes had become more and more frequent, and the interest in a big boy bed seemed to have piqued, so we decided it was time.

First, we had to disassemble the crib that has been a permanent fixture in our home for what seems like forever. I may have cried a little (okay, a lot) when the demolition started. It's been nearly seven years to the day since we arrived in Virginia with a three week old and tucked her into this crib for the first time. It's traveled more than 1200 miles to three different houses, and has never suffered a lapse in use between babies. Save for vacations and overnights with grandparents, this one piece of furniture has been utilized almost daily for seven straight years.

There's more than just a little sentimental value in this most beloved piece of furniture in my home.

An era has ended.

This mom thing is hard.

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.)

Monday, September 8, 2014

It is well with my soul

There's just something about the ocean.

A vacation with four little kids is really less of a vacation and more of a temporary relocation. But when that relocation lands a beach in your backyard, it is balm for a weary soul.

And mine has been so weary of late.

I stood in the sand and cried as I watched my kids run with wild abandon up and down the shoreline upon our arrival.

Tears of release. I felt the stress of so many doctor's appointments and worries and fears and what-ifs begin to melt away. This week would be one of enjoying my family, and little else.

Tears of relief. God knew what he was doing when he brought us to this spot at this time. He knew we would need this respite, and that we would need it precisely right now.

Tears of joy. I could not help but recall that it was upon this sand last year that Levi took his first shaky baby steps. As the last "what-if" slipped from my mind, I uttered a prayer of thanks that he is with us this year, running at top speed, chasing waves as they crash against the shore. I hope I will never take these little moments for granted again. Life is too precious, too precarious, too fleeting.

And then I dried my tears, because someone had sand in her eyes, and someone else needed to go inside to go potty, and someone else was peeing in the ocean and needed to be reminded that, no, you can't just pull your pants down wherever you want to. And that's pretty much how things went for the duration of our time at Folly Beach.

There were a few moments of excitement that interrupted what became, for a few days, our new normal.

There was the birthday party for the seven-year-old whose one and only birthday request was that we celebrate with sparklers on the beach. Wish granted. Her dear friend Neely was there with her family, and Aunt Sarah and Uncle Ryan joined us with Abby's favorite baby cousin. And as a bonus, Nana and Granddaddy showed up and joined in the festivities.

There was the hunting and gathering of so many things that washed up on shore, the highlight of which may have been this starfish that Jacob was determined to keep as a pet. His sister rightly convinced him to return it to the ocean before he killed it. In other news, we logged a full week of school while we were at the beach, since this kind of up close investigation of marine life totally counts as science.

There were all those times I tried desperately to get a picture of all four of my adorable children at once, but failed because they're children, and there are four of them, and something always gets in the way. Popsicle breaks should be a perfect photo op, but Caleb suffers from chronic brain freeze, and to be honest, no one is interested in smiling at me when there are popsicles to be eaten. One of these days we'll get this right.

There was lots and lots and lots of digging and building and excavating and demolition of sand structures. Because earth moving is serious business, and with three boys to do it, lots of progress can be made in very little time. Caleb and Jacob took seriously their task of instructing Levi in the ways of sandcastle-building and hole-digging with careful instructions like "Stop throwing sand!" and "Don't step on it!"

And while her brothers were hard at work on shore, this girl was spending hours in the water perfecting her boogie boarding skills. In a repeat of last year's shenanigans, she coaxed her dad out into the waves at every possible moment. As a bonus, no one got stung by a jellyfish this year.

There was the day Justin tried to catch a shark for Caleb and ended up reeling in this 4-foot-wide sting ray with a tail as long as our daughter is tall. The fight to bring him to shore lasted over and hour and a half, and the sea creature dragged my hubby more than a half mile down the beach before it was over. He drew quite a crowd once he got it into the surf. It wasn't quite as cool as catching a shark, but Caleb was still a little impressed.

There was the night that Abby lost her second tooth, and the tooth fairy forgot she had a job to do. "Tooth fairy didn't come," said Abby, joining me in the bathroom we shared when I got up the next morning. "Not to worry," I assured her, slipping a quarter under her pillow as she looked on. "We can fix that."

There was so much creative play, because truly, that is the thing my kids do best. They planted forests of driftwood on the beach, dodged hot lava waves as they crashed on shore, pretended to be sharks chasing mermaids, and imagined great big vehicles driving along the sandy roads they'd constructed. There was no stopping their imaginations this week, and no desire to, either. It was glorious to watch them play freely with all the free time in the world to just play.

Mostly, we woke with the sun, ate a quick breakfast and hit the beach by 8:30 a.m. Which meant that we were pretty worn out by mid-morning, making for a perfect excuse to take a popsicle break before heading back out for a bit before lunch and naps. (And oh, what glorious naps these children took at the beach! All of them, every day. It was fabulous.) After naps it was more of the same until dinner, and often there was enough time and energy left to hit the beach one more time before bed.

And sometimes the eldest two even had the opportunity to sneak out and hunt for crabs after dark with their dad. Because he's awesome like that. And we were on beach time, so bedtime was really kind of arbitrary anyway.

Was it more than a little awesome? Yes. Was it refreshing? Indeed. Are we already counting down to next year?

Absolutely.

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!
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