Monday, September 5, 2016

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

So there we were, traveling I-35 on a busy holiday weekend. Two adults, three kids, 2 dogs, and a chocolate cake. We'd had a wonderful relaxing visit with the family but everyone was excited to sleep in their own beds that night. We'd left later than we meant to, but we were confident we could make it safely home before anyone needed to eat. And then, before we could even leave Waco, that dreaded orange line popped on the map. Red brake lights appeared on the horizon. DJ swiftly navigated over to an exit while I plotted out our best strategy to avoid the red lights that mocked us just a few feet away. Stopping on the highway meant a dog would whine and bark, a baby would scream, and a preschooler would ask a million questions about why we weren't moving. In that moment, it felt like a fate worse than death. 

But thanks to the blinking blue dot that followed our every move, I proved to be the map master. I swiftly directed DJ through twists and turns designed to get us to our destination in the quickest way possible. With very little effort, we avoided the traffic jam and merged back onto the highway. We were supremely impressed with our team work and navigation skills! We even high-fived. A few miles down the road, it happened again. Cars grinding to a stop. Forward progress halted. Four times we merged on the highway. Four times we exited. 

Eventually we recognized our defeat. This wasn't going well. Even with constant movement, Abigail was screaming. And we were going no where fast. Suddenly, we saw a Sonic. It seemed like a beacon of hope. Food. A break. A chance to nurse the hysterical baby. So we pulled over.

Turns out Abigail's tears were driven by a massive blow out that really needed a bath (or a hose) to properly clean. As I attempted the impossible in the front seat with nothing but baby wipes and a nursing cover, Caleb declared the need for an emergency trip to the bathroom. But Sonic didn't have one, so father and son hiked hand in hand to the gas station nearby. As a result, Noah screamed because he was left behind. Marley barked with an ear piercing yelp that literally made strangers jump away from the car. Cua growled and threatened to devour anyone who came near. (She weighs all of 12 pounds. She's clearly a huge threat.) With Abigail cleaned, changed, and happy, I settled in to nurse. DJ rescued the hysterical Noah and settled everyone in grass for a fun picnic. But they weren't alone! Mosquitos, fire ants, and biting flies invited themselves to the party. In no time, Caleb's legs were covered in bright red polka dots. The picnic was quickly moved to a shady spot on the sidewalk where the ants proceeded to set up camp around my legs. Suddenly, and without warning, Caleb needed to flee to the bathroom. DJ made a return hike to the gas station, convinced this trip was going to prove a complete waste of time. He returned with a happy Caleb and a total disbelief in just how badly he'd needed to go only minutes after his first trip. As DJ settled himself on the ground to eat, I realized Noah was sitting in a puddle. DJ then got the task of cleaning up what can only be described as a catastrophic Pull Up failure. 

Enough was enough. Our food was wrapped back up and children were loaded back into car seats. This was clearly not our night. So we ate in the car and let the dogs eat the french fries that fell to the floor. An hour after our last exit from the highway, we merged back on. Three miles down the road. 

The rest of the trip home was mostly uneventful. Abigail most loudly expressed what we all felt - we were just done! After singing Abigail's song 8,654 times we finally turned into our street. Our home came into view and we joyfully turned our wheels into our driveway. Which was blocked by our neighbor's car. We just shook our heads. 

We've made approximately 85 trips to Waco in our marriage. We guesstimate close to 50 of those have been with children. But none of our trips have quite rivaled this one. This, was one for the books! 

And that's how we narrowly escaped death. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

6 months

Dear Abigail,

Monday was your 6 month check up. 6 months ago we struggled for every single ounce of weight gain. I could hardly stand under the weight of worry and fear and concern. But at this check up you landed yourself so beautifully in the middle of the growth curve I wanted to shout! That tiny baby who struggled to stay awake long enough to eat is now a baby who fights naps and has big fat rolls on her cute little thighs! 


I am so used to the dr saying you look perfect at our check ups that I have to tell you, Monday was a shock. The dr didn't tell us you were perfect. She's worried that you're not rolling enough. And she doesn't like that you only roll to one side. The diagnosis? Torticollis. Basically a tightened neck muscle that limits your head movement. The good news? Torticollis is easy to fix! A few stretches, a little physical therapy, and we're good to go! The bad news? When torticollis starts at 6 months instead of at birth, it indicates a bigger problem. The dr looked you over 2 or 3 times and decided to check your vision. A funny looking machine that had flashing lights and chirped like a bird gave us answers. And they weren't pretty. The nurse said you "failed significantly." My heart dropped to my stomach and stayed there. 

Since Monday afternoon (it's now Thursday morning) I have done hours and hours of research on-line. I have searched everywhere I know to get answers. The only thing I know for sure is that the doctor urged us to get an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist sooner rather than later. So we have an appointment September 17th. Until then, we wait. We wait and pray and try our hardest not to worry. 

This morning I read Isaiah 45. And suddenly, I had my answers. Over and over Isaiah reminds us that there is no other God. That He made us, He sustains us, He leads us, and He holds us close. 
"I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name." (Isaiah 45:11) 
He's got this, dear one. He formed you, He knows you, and He's calling you by name. So while this momma works not to worry and obsess and generally freak out, I'll trust the God who made you. The God who made your eyes and knows exactly what you can see. 

I love you, my sweet sweet Abigail. You have filled our family with such joy and I am so glad God gave us you! 

Love, 
Mommy

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Photography

"Great job!Caleb has discovered the joys of digital photography. While he can rock a selfie and some of his photos reveal a fascinating glimpse of life through the eyes of my little hurricane, many of his photos leave something to be desired.

"Hey Caleb, let's take a picture of Abigail's shirt. It's so cute today!"
"OK, Mommy!"


"Well, that's great. But let's try backing up a little bit."


"I was kinda wanting to see her face."


Sigh. Never mind. 


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Changing my story

Caleb tends to get hooked on one show at a time and watches it ad nauseum until we can't stand it anymore and force him to watch something new. This week, he is hooked on Super Why. The characters always have a problem and fly into a storybook to help solve it. In every episode, a storybook character says "I can't help it! It's in my story!" The solution to the problem is always to change the story. So instead of Humpty Dumpty sitting on a wall, he throws a ball with his friends. 

Today, I suggested we share a bag of popcorn for our snack. Caleb was quite excited about a bag of baby bell peppers we'd just purchased at the store and said "I don't like popcorn anymore, Mommy. I like peppers and carrots now. I can't help it! It's in my story!" Giggling a little, I asked if he zapped the word popcorn and changed it to pepper - just like Super Why. With an extremely serious look on his face he said, "No, mommy. I just changed my story. In my brain."

It was a sweet little moment and in no time he was jabbering away about balls as per his usual. But the exchange has stuck with me throughout the day. With child like innocence, he changed his story. I would love to so easily change my story! No more popcorn, only peppers. I'd love to change my story from "Allison sat on the sidelines." to "Allison joined in the game." For a few hours I pondered and pouted over the story that never seems to change. Always the French fries, never the salad. I wrestled with what a friend said today "Sounds like there's an athlete in you. You just need to do it." 

I have no answers tonight. I know I want to change my story. I know I want something different. 

But there's one thing that has echoed in my heart with every thought of changing my story. Each time I wrestled with how I could change, I was quietly reminded there's One who already has. There's One who saw the story of a dead and hardened sinner, lost in her own ways, and changed it. He reached into my selfishness and pride and changed my story. Glory! Death to life. Selfish to servant. Victim to victor. And He's not done. My story is still being written. Every time I take the pen and write words that don't belong, He comes along and changes them. 

I don't know what my story holds. I know I want to see change. But I also know that it already has. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day

Do you see this one? The one with the blue eyes that sparkle and shine? He changed my name. 

Do you see this one? The one with the smile that literally stops strangers in the store? He changed everything I knew about motherhood.

Do you see this one? The one with all the hair? She changed...well, she changed everything.

Together these three have rearranged me from the inside out, stretched me beyond my limit, split me in two, and made me weep in pain and exhaustion. They have brought me hurt I never knew possible. 

Together these three have challenged me to be better than I was, forced me to live outside of myself, and burst my heart wide open with a love I never imagined. They have brought me joy I never knew possible. 

Motherhood is nothing I expected it would be. It's so much harder. It's so much better. It's so much more beautiful. This Mother's Day, I'm so thankful for these 3 precious little ones that call me "Mommy." (And often call me "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!") They are such a precious expression of my heart and I wouldn't be who I am without them. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I am me

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. (Marathon nursing sessions and ridiculously long laundry folding sessions tend to allow a lot of time to think...) I've also spent way too much time on Facebook. 

On Facebook I see the best parts of each friend. I see the friend with 4 children whose home is filled with schedules and peace and no television. Ever. I see the friend (also with 4 kids) who just opened her own shop where everything is lovely and perfect and her children don't leave things destroyed in their wake. I see that friend who makes time to work out daily and makes healthy choices for her family. (Come to think of it, that friend has 4 kids too.) I'm left feeling like my life is chaos, all my things are ugly and need to be updated so they're trendy, and I'm ruining my family forever by running through the drive thru. 

But here's the thing. In the past year, our family has gotten to know our church family pretty well. These are families that we see in real life. (And they, in turn, see us.) I see the friend struggling to parent a snarky preteen. I see the friend who lost her job but not her joy. I see that friend that meets me in my chaos and loves my family fiercely, even when we all lose our minds. Wow. These real life relationships have changed me. But they've also helped me find me. 

Someone asked me today about Abigail's schedule. As we chatted I realized she really doesn't have one. With the boys, that would have sent me into a tail spin! I worked tirelessly to get everyone on a routine so our days were predictable. Organized. Scheduled. We were all miserable. I thought we needed more schedule so I buckled down more. Then somewhere, somehow, I just stopped. I stopped trying to hyper schedule our day and just let it flow. But as I talked to my friend today I realized how much more relaxed we had all become. And then, in the middle of our conversation, it hit me. I am me. God gave me these kids because they need ME as their mother. Not my friend who perfectly schedules her day. Not my friend who has an eye for creating beautiful treasures for her shop. They need me - loud and crazy and unscheduled me. 

I think for the first time in my life I'm really ok with that. These kids have changed me. My church family has changed me. Growing a family has changed me. And "me" is a wonderful, beautiful thing! 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Two months

Two months. It's the blink of the eye. It's an entire life time. In the last two months my heart has tasted heartache and victory. I have cried so hard I couldn't breathe. I have hurt so deeply I couldn't speak. I have celebrated victories I never considered a battle to be won. I have treasured moments I once doubted would ever come to pass. 

I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me go back to the beginning...

February 18. The morning started with a call from my OB. My blood pressure was too high. I was too swollen. Baby was too big. Four weeks early. It was time to deliver. Within hours I was in active labor even though I was having a planned c-section. It was clear that the only cure was delivery. Despite everyone feeling confident that Abigail was ready for "life on the outside", she came out weak and with a strange high pitched cry that ignited a flurry of activity that ended with my baby girl in the NICU. And not in my arms. I wasn't prepared. None of us were. Her breathing was weak and her blood work showed a potential infection. The rug wasn't just pulled out from under me. The whole floor collapsed and I was falling. Every step forward was met with giant tumbles backwards, landing us flat on our backs once again. 

I can remember sitting in my small hospital room, clinging to this tiny fragile body that was too weak to move or cry or even swallow. I held my daughter close and tried to pray. I've only known a handful of times in my life when I hurt so deeply I couldn't pray. This was one of them.  My heart literally couldn't form the words. I only knew pain. All I could say was "God, help!" as I clung to the verse that says the Spirit intercedes with groanings and utterings we cannot understand. 

Two months later, looking back, I can see that moment in a new light. I can feel God holding that broken mommy and little baby fighting for life. I can hear Him whisper "I already am, dear child." The mysterious infection that kept her in the NICU was never explained. But within hours of it being discovered she reached a critical state of dehydration and stopped eating. A feeding tube was placed in an effort to save her life. It worked. The milk dropped in her belly slowly brought her back to us. A glimmer of hope. A glimpse of God's grace. 

We finally left the hospital but our battle wasn't over. She was still too weak to breastfeed and was steadily losing weight. For over a week after she was born she continually dropped lower and lower. I don't remember much from that week except holding her close as I wept. I begged her to fight. I begged her not to die. I prayed and prayed for our sleepy preemie to wake up and eat! Then one day, she did. Like a light switch, she turned a corner. She had gained two ounces the next morning at her weight check. My mom and I declared it a hallelujah day! We celebrated with cokes at Sonic. Which turned into lunch. Which turned into us ordering the entire left side of the menu. Which led to us coming home with the largest Sonic bag I've ever seen in my life! But I felt like I could finally breathe! She was gaining! Another glimmer of hope. A glimpse of grace.

As we approached our due date, another glimmer broke through. Abigail suddenly had the strength to nurse. She still relied on bottles, but we could see it in her eyes. She was growing. We slowly (very slowly) backed off on bottles and allowed her to nurse more. But every dropped bottle came with fear. It came with the nagging memory of those terrifying NICU days. It came with questions and wondering and doubt. It felt like a cloud that always hung over my shoulder - taunting me with dark storms but never bursting forth. Was she ready? Was she getting enough? Would she gain weight at the right rate? Were we making the right choices for her? 

At her 2 month check up, I got to weigh her before and after a feeding. Not only was she gaining beautifully, we were able to see how much she's taking in when she nurses. Seeing that number grow after nursing felt like a breath of fresh air. It was a holy breeze that blew the storm clouds away. The clouds hanging over my heart broke free and sunshine took over. Hope wrapped itself around my heart for the first time in two long months and I can finally breathe! Our family is living in glorious glimpses of grace!