Friday, August 15, 2014

I will remember today

You know when you're doing something, even something ordinary like sitting on a park bench, and you know, this is a moment. Even as it is happening you know, I will remember this.  

That was us today, talking at the park while the kids played. Ordinary and yet, remarkable. Remarkable because you are still with us. Months before, there were only wisps and bald spots, now your gray hair, unruly and thicker than ever, blowing in the breeze. My son's favorite dog blanket, wrapped around your shoulders on this unseasonably chilly August afternoon. 

You said yes and came to the park with us! The whirlwind of the day could stop on that park bench. And we just were. Together. Alive. Talking. Mother and daughter. Thank you for showing up to Life. 

All your body has been through, invaded with cancer this past year, and your eyes, your eyes still sparkle blue like the sun dancing on the lake. And your face, glowing. Not only are you still with us. The doctor is right. You are vibrant right now. 

None of us know how long we will live. But you, you've been given extra time.  

Saturday, July 05, 2014

One Year Anniversary

Last year, 4th of July weekend was spent at St. Mary's hospital in Grand Rapids. My mom had been there for a week for what doctors believed was a stroke from a blood clot in her brain. It had been a roller coaster week of improvements and setbacks. But as the fireworks were going off, we were celebrating that her brain swelling was continuing to decrease and she was beginning to breath on her own.

It would be 5 more days before they discovered the 3 tumors on her brain and then another 4 weeks and two biopsies to reveal that the tumors were in fact cancer (the first biopsy only found dead tissue so they wanted to go deeper with a second biopsy) Diagnosis: Astroytoma, grade 3. By the time she got her diagnosis she had completed the exhausting work of rehab and would be moving into radiation and chemo. But first, after being in the hospital and rehab for over 2 months, she was going home!

This past week we celebrated her one year anniversary. Not just her one year, but crossing over the one year mark with her doing so well physically and neurologically! I didn't know if she was going to make it to Christmas. I never thought she'd be celebrating another birthday or able to attend another year of my kid's birthdays. We didn't know if she was going to make it through chemo with the severity of her side effects. Doctors had given her 12-18 months and now, at 12 months, compared to others, doctors are surprised how well she is doing. She still tires easy and continues to have some mental confusion (especially when she's tired) and has some limitations with the things she can do for herself. But things she believed were lost, she's slowly gaining parts of it back. She is slowly getting back to writing and is able to read again, which has always been a great joy for her. 

I especially want to mark this year because it seems to have taken her this first year to come back to life. To not be limited by her diagnosis or life expectancy but to find her way back to life, not her old life, but a new life, a new normal. Ahead of you now, Mom, this is my hope for you. Not to prepare for death as you have this past year, but for you to wake each day, for the rest of the days you are given, and truly LIVE, as you want to.

I posted this when my mom was in the hospital that first week and I'm posting it again now at the one year mark. My hope is different now than it was when I first posted this. The doctors were not giving us much hope that my mom was going to improve. My hope that first week was that I would not lose my mom. Now as I post this, my hope is not focused on death, but rather on life. I don't want to continue to lose my mom, before she's even gone. 

And not only for my mom, but for myself as well, that every day I will choose life. In my marriage, in my relationship with my kids and my family and friends. In my work in the office and around my home. To choose Life. For all the days any of us have left. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Her youngest grandchild

I don't know how long my mom will live. Overnight, literally, June 29, everything changed. Doctors believed the seizures, vomiting, vision issues and one-sided paralysis was due to a stroke. A MRI revealed 3 brain tumors - Astrocytomas, stage 3. My dad died 11 years ago from Glioblastoma multiforme, stage 4 brain tumors. This is where my mom is heading.

Today, 5 months since diagnosis, she has completed 6 weeks of radiation/chemo treatment (she was not a candidate for surgery) and one week of a higher dose of chemo. So far, her treatments have stopped the growth of the tumors, but she is very weak.

I don't know if my 2 year old daughter will remember her Grams. Will she remember visiting her Grams today? Warming her hands to put lotion on her Grams' feet? Drinking milkshakes together?

"Watch me, Grams!" Dancing to Christmas music. As Grams aches and longs to dance with her granddaughter as she once did.

"Why are you lying in bed, Grams? You not feeling good? What is wrong?"  A 2 year old, trying to make sense of it all.

We all are.

Oh how your Grams loves you. May you remember.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Living Intentionally (this summer)

There's a wet blanket on my back these days, weighing me down. I am sad and overwhelmed and lonely. I'm just getting through my days rather than feeling contentment and yes, still the tiredness that comes from long days of motherhood, but also, always the gratitude. I am coming out of this now, the past couple days, and no longer feel so soggy.  Part of this is realizing that I have not been living my days as I want to...with purpose and intention... with patience and peace... with the completion of tasks.  I'm not filling my days and my weeks taking steps and making movements towards the things I want to change about myself and my life. 

Summer is fast approaching (my son has only 2 more weeks of his first year of school)! Summer is one of those seasons that is like a blank slate to me, much like New Years Day and the start of a new school year each fall. New beginnings. Time to reflect and make changes. I have decided to name this summer "my intentional summer". The other day I sat down and wrote up a (flexible) summer schedule/routine for the kids. This includes play dates and day trips and day camps and service projects as well as daily routines of chores, errands, outdoor play, naps/quiet times, meal prep, kindergarten prep, etc. I struggle so much with organization and time management. I am so poor at it but desire so much to become more organized and more wise with my time. 

I have set a couple goals for my kids for this summer: potty training and night-weaning for my daughter and learning how to tie shoes and ride bike w/o training wheels for my son. And I thought, what about goals for myself? My focus is so often on my kids that I get lost in my role as mother. I know myself well enough to know that unless I set goals (and then break down those goals into doable steps, etc,) there will be no change. I'm desperate for change: with my weight, with my current exercise (or I should say, lack thereof), with the clutter in my house, with how I spend my time. I don't want to be stuck anymore. Feeling stuck weighs me down.

So, here are my "living intentional" goals for summer 2013:

1. Study to take the National Counselor Exam in the fall (one of my final steps towards full Professional Counselor licensure. Right now I am Limited Licensed which means I work under a supervisor.)

2. Lose 10 pounds - that's one pound/week - feels very doable. I'm starting back on Medifast this week.

3. Run the Coast Guard 5K (July 27th) - I'd like to be able to run this rather than walk/run. This week I start a "couch to 5k" training program

4. Set up new work schedule for the fall (writing, seeing clients, etc.) - there's a lot that goes into this and I'll be sharing more about this in another post but my husband and I are making some exciting changes with our private practice. I'll be spending a little more time in the office starting this fall and I want to develop my blog more and work on some writing projects as well as other dreams I'm working towards. This summer I want to develop a clear picture of what I want this to look like for the fall.

Just writing down these goals lightens my mood and gives me hope. These past fews weeks have been emotionally painful but I am grateful for them to show me that I am not where I want to be in many aspects of my life. I am not meant to remain stuck in these bad habits. I am meant for more. I can get there with intentional living.

I like what Sharon Wegner says in her "What is Weighing You Down" article: "I am a work in progressalways seeking to find a better way of being a better me." 

I want to be a better me. 

I'm not living to my full potential these days. 

I'm not working towards being all I'm capable of being. 

I want more. 

I am the only one holding myself back from the ME I want to be.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Holy Sick Days

There's a nasty flu virus in our house that has laid my active children flat on their backs. Keagan caught it Wednesday at school and by Friday there was only 6 kids in his class! The remaining 13 kids were out sick. And Friday was class picture day...

I am grateful that my children are rarely sick - minor colds here and there but my 5 year old hasn't puked since he was 6 months old and my 2 year old has never puked... until now.  Makes me grateful to have such healthy kids.

Two sick kiddos can be exhausting. But this has also been a holy time. Obviously I don't enjoy cleaning up all the puke and poop that rarely actually makes it into the toilet when little ones have the flu. And there's the nonstop laundry and the sleepless nights. But there is holiness in the midst of this.

What is it that makes a time and space holy? Where there is reliance on God to get through these exhausting days and nights. When our hearts are expectant and dependent on what God will do next. How long, Lord? 
I can't do this anymore...

These sick days are set apart from our normal everyday. There's rest and peace and quiet in our house. There's lots of rocking and snuggling and cuddling and reading. We're hanging out in our pjs. My sister and brother drop off medicine and groceries. Keagan's listening to a Junie B Jones CD and playing legos on his bed. Skylar's nursing A LOT and falling asleep in my arms. Keagan's napping during the day and going to bed easy at night. (I could get used to this!) We're going through lots of popsicles...

Holy sick days slow us down. They draw us to our knees for sustenance, for requests of healing. They give us grateful hearts for the normal everyday health of noisy, active kids (and a thankfulness for a brief reprieve).

It can be so easy to miss the holiness in the everyday. These sick days remind me that we don't need to rush ahead to the days when Keagan will be back at school and Skylar will be back to her not-an-ounce-of-fear busy self. I'm in no rush.

Although I admit, I'm ready for the puking to be over.

Some photos in the midst of these sick days...

Mommy and Daddy's bed a favorite place to be

Popsicles help...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A drawing entitled "Tuesday"

After parent-teacher conferences, we decided to add a day to Keagan's three day/week school schedule and have him go Tuesdays as well. Turns out, his teacher has been sitting him out during playtime to do the work he misses the two days he's not there. Not cool. Free play at school is such an important time for 5 year olds, especially for our son as he's always been more comfortable with adults than his peers.

We decided we would give Tuesdays a try and see how it goes. Last week was our first week and it went fabulous. Tuesday was a 2 hour delay day so it was a perfect way to start a 4/day week. Also, his teacher was going to be back in the classroom after being absent for a week due to a medical issue. So Keagan was excited to go and sailed through the rest of the week (with Thursday at home).

This week has been a different story.

Monday night at bedtime, Keagan asked me, "Is it a school day tomorrow?"
"No it's not!"
"Yes, honey, you go on Tuesdays now."
"I don't want to go."
"Let's just sleep on it tonight and we'll talk about it in the morning."

10 minutes later he's out of bed with something to show me. A drawing...

Keagan is standing in front of his school with tears falling down to his toes. In the sky it's storming with thunder and lightening and he knows he's not supposed to be outside when it's thunder and lightening but he's crying so hard he doesn't hear the thunder.

And that's how he feels about going to school on a Tuesday.

You might remember, the entire first month of school, he cried at every drop off.

This week Tuesday, he did not go to school.

I still don't know the best thing to do for my child. Stick to the 3 days/week and see if he can bring home the work he misses so he doesn't have to do it during free play? Make him go Tuesdays even if he doesn't want to? Start with a half day on Tuesdays until he's more comfortable with the 4 day week schedule?

On the plus side, kuddos to my son for expressing himself amazingly in his drawing!! :)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

A flooded bathroom

You don't know the kind of parent you're going to be when your 5 year old floods the bathroom. That's not something you expect to happen on any given day and certainly not something you plan for.

It seems like so much of parenting these days with my 5 year old and 21 month old is the unexpected.

It's all fun and games til the bathroom is flooded...

Let's just say I was a bit caught off guard and since I had not done any reading about what to do when your son floods the bathroom, like I had about sleeping habits and eating habits and what to expect when expecting, etc, this I was not expecting. I find that in the unexpected, I react more than respond. This time I reacted poorly. I don't like the mother I became.

We had just finished dinner (picture spaghetti and peas all over the floor from my (almost) 2 year old's latest favorite dinner activity) and I am focused on what needs to be done to get these tired children to bed (and Momma a much needed break). Do they need a bath? They had a bath last night, right? My husband had to stay at the office late because he had a client in crisis so with only me doing bedtime duty, the next question is, who needs to get to bed first. My daughter had been fighting a cold the last few days so I wanted to get her to bed first. My son offered to fill the humidifier in his sister's room and I am getting sister in pjs and nursing her and reading her books. After several trips from the bathroom to the bedroom it occurred to me, that humidifier has got to be full by now. But no, he says, not yet. And then it occurred to me, why is there water running in the bathroom?

"Turn off the water," I call to my son.

And then, perhaps a bit too late, mother intuition kicks in. I run to the bathroom and there is water all over the floor - the very new floor that my husband just installed a month ago due to mold under the old floor. My son has this habit of pushing down the stopper in the sink and for some reason, who knows why, he was leaving the water running while taking all those trips to his sister's room... And now the bathroom is flooded, filling the drawers and cabinets below the sink and soaking the rug.

I had a pile of towels in the living room ready to bring down to the laundry room and grabbed the whole pile and began mopping up the water. I'd like to say I remained calm during this time and kept my mouth shut... I wish I had. Silence speaks so much louder and kinder and full of less regret in such moments.

It's oh so different looking back now. But in the moment, I've got a sick toddler that should have been in bed long ago and a boy who also just needs to be in bed. And remember the humidifier in my daughter's room? There's water all over her room, soaking her rug as well.

I don't like to physically pick up my son to get him to do what I want him to do (go straight to bed, do not get a snack, do not go pee, do not brush your teeth.) There is a parenting saying that I really believe in despite struggling at times to put it into practice. It says, start as you mean to go. Meaning, don't do something now that you don't want to (or can't do) years down the road. There will come a day (rather soon) where I will not be able to pick up my son. Nor do I want to be doing that to my 5 year old. He is not a baby who might need to be picked up and distracted when doing something he should not. He is 5 and the responsibility needs to rest on him to obey me.

But there is a flooded bathroom and a sick toddler and the boy just needs to be in bed. So I pick him up and plop him in bed, saying more things loudly that I will later regret. And did I just slam his door? I'm re-living my teenage years here and I'm supposed to be the parent! I don't allow him to slam his door and I just slammed his door. Sigh. I climb the stairs and at the top of the stairs is my 2 year old who, when she sees me, points her index finger at me and yells, (mimicking me) "Go to bed, Keagan!"

Definitely a cringe-worthy parenting moment.

"I'm sorry," I say to my daughter. I finish mopping up the water off her floor and put her to bed.

And as I'm cleaning the bathroom, (our kitty helps by lapping up some of the water), I have time to think and time to calm down. I never thought I'd be a yeller as a parent. I consider myself to be a patient and calm person. But I have my moments, certainly more moments now with two kiddos than when I just had my son. Oh what a different parent I am with two kids... not all bad, not all good. But I'm not okay with being a yeller. I don't want to be a yeller. I don't want to be someone who just reacts to a situation rather than responds to it. And I'm mopping up the mess my son made and less angry now, but now, the guilt is starting to settle in.

It's "All Hallows Eve" and my daughter is sick and my husband is working late and my son flooded the bathroom and I'm yelling and putting my kids to bed without brushing their teeth. And this year we won't be starting a new tradition of baking pumpkin pie and eating popcorn while watching, "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." Maybe next year.

After I clean the bathroom, I go down to my son's room and sit with him on the bed. I begin by apologizing.

"You were so angry, Mom."

And I was. And it's ok that I got angry. The problem is that now, because of my poor reaction, it has now became less about what my son did and more about what I did. Sure he felt bad about what he did. But I'm the one awake at midnight, feeling guilty, trying to think of a way to make it up to him. And it's not until I decide we can build a haunted gingerbread house together after school, that I can fall asleep. How did it come to this? How quickly we got off track.

What do I want to teach my kids about anger? Because I'm certainly teaching them whether it's intentional or not. I want them to know that it is okay to be angry, but not to hurt people or things in our anger. I want them to have outlets for their anger other than yelling or slamming doors. I want to teach them to seek forgiveness and take responsibility for their anger. And to forgive. Forgive themselves and others. How about you? What do you want to teach your kids about anger?