Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quiet Time

We have always had a well-established napping routine in our home. I worked hard to get my second child into a one-nap-a-day routine as quickly as possible so that both of my boys would sleep at the same time each day. I needed this to happen so that we weren't stuck at home all day with one boy or the other sleeping, but I also needed to have a couple of hours alone. A couple hours of NOT nursing someone, changing someone's diapers, answering questions or cries.

Those boys went on to nap solidly into their sevens, as did their sister after them. Then came Canaan. By the time Canaan was born, I only had one napping child. The oldest children were well out of naps, but I'd kept the routine going anyway, calling it Quiet Time. At 1:00 every SINGLE day, all children filed into bedrooms, and they stayed there quietly until 3:00 (or later, if they'd fallen asleep).

But as Canaan grew, the older kids got older. They didn't need quiet time any more. They were mature enough to manage their needs on their own. They knew to seek solitude as necessary. And at the same time, I didn't need quiet time either. My children weren't asking nonstop questions. When the baby cried, a big brother tended to him at least as often as I did. The household was running itself pretty smoothly and the demands on Mommy were fewer, even though there were twice as many children.

Around four or so, Canaan stopped needing daily naps. He is not an introvert and does not need time alone like my older boys did. He functioned well throughout the day with no nap and no quiet time. Our 13-year Quiet Time tradition tapered off and finally came to a stop altogether.

A couple days ago, my house seemed too quiet. We were finished with schoolwork, so the dining room table was cleared off and wiped down. I looked around and didn't see any children at all. I started to wander around, wondering where everyone had gone. I found each one doing something either on their own or with a sibling - one listening to music, a couple watching a movie on an iPod, one reading. I gazed at my brand-new high school freshman and thought about how many of those Quiet Times I might like to have back now that I only have a few years left with him under my wing. I considered how valid that need was at the time, how poignant it had been to realize that we were all doing fine without it, and how bittersweet it is to know that now, I truly do not crave "me time". I have a different perspective now. If my 5-year-old climbs on my lap at the exact moment I was hoping to do something alone, I guide his little head back onto my chest and whisper how happy I am that he's mine.

Because in a very few short years, I'll wish I could do that just one more time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Malachi's 8th Grade Graduation

 I've always kind of wondered what the big deal is about an 8th grade graduation. Well, maybe not always - I mean, I did really like my Jessica McClintock lacy pink dress when I graduated 8th grade - but as a Mom, watching my friends' kids graduate, I didn't understand all the fuss. It's not the end of anything, you know? They're just moving up a grade. No biggie.
 Until tonight. We've been planning Malachi's 8th grade graduation party all day, trying to get everything ready, and it's been a busy day. I'm tired and I have a headache. And once everyone went to bed and I was alone with my thoughts, I realized: it is indeed a big deal. My son no longer needs his pull-toy dog on the desk and he no longer plays on nickjr.com. When he sits down with a book he actually knows how to read it. He doesn't point at the pictures and tell a fantastical story any more.
He's well-equipped, this young man. He's ready for high school. His heart is sold out for the Lord and he's going to make a mark on the world, wherever God leads him.

The thing is, after tomorrow he'll officially be a high school student. He'll be a for-real teenager. And yeah, he'll always be my son, but he's growing his wings a little more every day. In a few short years he'll be ready for liftoff.

"I'll have tears as you take off
But I'll cheer as you fly."

I love you, son. Happy graduation.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I'm not usually big on anniversaries of life events. I mean, I love celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries and things, but when it comes to some big life happening, I don't usually remember that such and so happened on such and such a date.

But there are a few dates that are engraved on my heart for all time.
April 13, 2011 - Alif came home sick
April 16, 2011 - took him to the hospital
April 17, 2011 - intubated and sedated
April 19, 2011 - 1st surgery
April 21, 2011 - told he would not survive his strokes
May 5, 2011 - 2nd surgery
May 26, 2011 - trip to USC
June 2, 2011 - 3rd surgery
June 21, 2011 - home!

Today feels huge to me. To picture life one year ago, to know that on that morning I said goodbye and good day to my husband as he drove off to work, had lunch with him a little later, and then welcomed him home as a very sick man within just a few hours - it's unbelievable. We just get so used to life as we know it, and though we know intellectually that it could all change in the blink of an eye, we sure never expect that to happen.

This past year has been the hardest of my life. I have never experienced such anxiety, worry, fear, desperation, longing, loneliness, instability, panic.

But it's also been the most rich year. I have never experienced such closeness with my Father, love from family and friends that was absolutely unending, dependency on God that was literally moment by moment some days, an almost physical covering of prayer. I have had a front-row seat as a witness of God's miraculous power. I have seen him carry us through days that felt like they would never end.

I love you, Lord. I love you, Alif. And to my family and friends who walked every step of it with us, and especially to those who continue to walk this insane path with us, I literally cannot thank you enough. I have tears in my eyes as I write, because there is a depth of gratitude that I feel physically but could not possibly put into words. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Friday, March 02, 2012

I watch my baby

I stand out in the beautiful springtime sun and watch my baby, and he's five. He's five and he's running lap after lap around the yard, stopping each time to leap over a toddler slide toppled over. He's wearing the same outfit he did yesterday and the day before that. Skinny jeans, "because some of my pants are weird, Mama, but these pants are cool." and a lime green hooded shirt, and headphones. He brings me the headphones every time one of his favorite songs come on because he loves it so much he wants Mama to hear it too. But not right now. Right now he's running, and his arms are swinging, and he looks five. He presses his lips together in work and concentration, eyes on the grass in front of his feet.

Then he catches my eye, and I'm smiling proudly at him, and - there it is! That precious-boy smile starts from the middle and stretches out. His sparkly brown eyes crinkle and the dimples crease deeply. And he runs again, and again, looking each time to see if I'm watching, and of course I am. I open my arms wide and he runs and jumps and there he is, my little baby boy, cuddled in my arms with his face nuzzled against my neck. "Am I a good runner, Mama?"

"Yes, son. You sure are!"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sometimes it happens

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 When Alif was in the hospital, I spent many hours staring at his monitors. In the first weeks the numbers were frightening: they were constantly changing, alarms were going off regularly, and we'd learned enough to know what his numbers should be that when they weren't, we were afraid. Most of the time things stayed pretty even. He was in critical condition (even grave at times), but mostly the numbers stayed kinda sorta where they should be.

That's a little like the way life is right now emotionally. We're settling in to life in our "new normal" and for the most part, even though things kind of stink a lot of the time, the emotional barometer stays pretty even. There are even days now and then that feel pretty darn easy. We laugh and talk and enjoy each other as a family, the sun is shining, and we're appreciating everything we have. There are other times that feel harder. We feel the impact of our losses more deeply or a new loss pops up or something that has seemed okay until now suddenly feels permanent and that can be hard to deal with. But mostly, we just carry on. Day after day, step after step, we just - do.

But every now and then it hits. Something comes out of nowhere. I remember one of the early days of Alif's illness last April, I was in his room in the ICU and all I had to go by were those numbers on the monitor. I had grown used to alarms going off, so when the blood pressure alarm sounded I was on edge but not worried. His nurse wasn't around but I was sure she would hear the alarm and come adjust something and the numbers would go back to where they should be. 80/70 . . . 68/65 . . . oh my, I wasn't thinking this was a good sign and I poked my head out to see if someone was coming. 60/58 . . . 55/48 . . . oh my gosh, where ARE they? When his blood pressure went to 41/33 I yelled into the hallway, "Someone come help! His blood pressure is 41/33!" My mind was in TV drama mode, seeing that flat line beeping across the monitor . . . I was really panicked. Several nurses rushed in, adjusted the meds, and the situation improved. My blood pressure went down as his came back up.

I had that kind of moment on the emotional front today. I'd had a beautiful morning. I woke on time, showered before anyone else was awake (a rarity these days) and took the kids to their enrichment classes. Canaan and I love our "buddy day" and I was especially excited today because I'd responded to a post on a homeschooling group to purchase three years of science curriculum for about half what I would have otherwise paid. Imagine how humbled and blessed I was when this sweet lady *gave* me the books. It was just one of those sunshine-in-your-face kind of days. I took Canaan to the park, ran a couple errands, and soon we were headed back to the charter school to pick up the rest of the kids.

And then we drove past Burger King. The last time (and one of the only times!) we ate there was the day Alif got sick. My mind instantly flashed to Alif next to me on the bench, Rudy across from us singing Broadway-style, the kids playing in the disgustingly dirty playgym. That day is crystal clear in my mind, because it was the last day my life was normal. The last time I said goodbye to my husband as he drove off to work. The last day I went about my day as usual, without worrying about Alif.

Tears sprung to my eyes and I pouted. "I want that BACK, God! I want my husband back. I want my LIFE back. I want to go back there!"

My emotional monitor was beeping, and no one came to adjust anything, because they can't. No one can change what has happened in our lives. No one can fix Alif's vision, his cognitive challenges, the constant, constant worry I have that the new valve won't last or that he'll contract yet another infection. No one can make it so that he can work or drive again. These are things that eat away at me when - well, when I let them.

Then the guilt sets in. We have SO much. We have God, each other, our wonderful children, our home, everything we need, really. God has blessed us in so many ways. It's crazy to feel the pain of our losses so intensely when we've been gifted so much. But sometimes it just IS. It's hard.

I'm thankful that these moments don't usually last for long. By the time I picked up the rest of my kids, I was ready to enjoy them and carry on with everything we have going on today. I'm thankful for a God who understands that life sucks sometimes and doesn't berate me for having a hard day.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

Sunday, January 01, 2012

January 2012 menu

I finally buckled down and made a one-month menu. I've wanted to do this for a long time, as I'm often late with grocery shopping just because it takes time to make the menu and shopping list. This way I can do the bulk of our shopping 2 weeks at a time and just have a quick trip in between for produce, milk, etc.

I simplified big-time with this menu. We like a lot of variety, so usually we don't repeat too many breakfasts or lunches and definitely not dinners. I decided to make a weekly standing menu for breakfast and lunch and just keep it easy. There are a few variations to keep it interesting, but it's the same idea each week. I'd love to improve on this by focusing more on nutrition, but just having this planned out (and thus avoiding fast food!) will help a ton. Also, breakfasts & lunches will have fruits & veggies added in - like oatmeal days there will always be a stir-in like apples, peaches, raisins . . . you get the idea. So here goes!

1 b-s'mores (hey, just keepin' it real)
l-soup & cheesy garlic bread
d-fil's birthday (eating at their house)

2 b-bean omelet
d-"chik-fil-a" nuggets (made at home); sweet potatoes

3 b-oatmeal
d-roast; swedish baked potatoes

4 b-yogurt, muffin, fruit
l-turkey sandwich
d-croissant poppers; salad

5 b-cereal
l-snack lunch (this will be a bento-style or muffin tin lunch)
d-chicken spaghetti; green beans

6 b-breakfast burrito
l-english muffin pizzas
d-chicken salad; breadsticks

7 b-pancakes (usually will make a clean-eating high-protein type with various grains)
d-asian salmon; rice; salad

8 b-smoothie
d-turkey burgers; fries

9 b-egg scramble
d-pork chops; homemade applesauce; cauliflower

10 b-cream of wheat
l-taco salad
d-chicken stacks; rice pilaf

11 b-yogurt, muffin, fruit
l-tuna sandwich

12 b-cereal
l-snack lunch
d-zuppa toscana

13 b-breakfast burrito
d-meatloaf; mashed potatoes; carrots

14 b-pancakes
d-baked penne w/sausage

15 b-smoothie
d-tuna casserole; broccoli

16 b-omelet
d-quesadilla w/turkey; oven roasted veg

17 b-grits
l-tortilla soup
d-chicken stir-fry; black beans & rice

18 b-yogurt, muffin, fruit
l-ham sandwich
d-shepherd's pie

19 b-cereal
l-snack lunch
d-split pea soup; tortillas

20 b-breakfast burrito
l-bagel pizzas
d-trader's pizza

21 b-pancakes
d-vegetarian chili; cornbread

22 b-smoothie

23 b-egg scramble
d-white chicken chili

24 b-oatmeal
d-lasagna; garlic bread; salad

25 b-yogurt, muffin, fruit
l-salami sandwich
d-chicken pot pie

26 b-cereal
l-snack lunch
d-roasted red pepper soup (TJs); cheesy garlic bread

27 b-breakfast burrito
l-english muffin pizzas
d-quiche; salad

28 b-pancakes
d-caprese grilled cheese

29 b-smoothie
d-breakfast for dinner: egg sandwiches; bacon; fruit

30 b-omelet
d-sandwich on bread roll

31 b-cream of wheat
l-taco salad
d-spicy honey chicken; quinoa