the wound is where the light shines through

In early November we went to see Relient K and Switchfoot in Thomasville, GA on the "Looking for America" tour.  It was nothing short of awesome.  We took our oldest three and they loved it as well.  Switchfoot sings a lyric on their latest album which I love:  "the wound is where the light shines through".  I take this to mean, as I guess it was intended, what Paul means in 2 Corinthians when he says, "when I am weak, then I am strong" and "I rejoice in hardships, etc...so that Christ's power may rest on me."  When we go through difficulties, that is when we feel His power.

That night at the concert we had no idea that in a little over a week we would be walking Juliet through a wound and teaching her about the light shining through.

Saturday night, November 12, my sister Susan and her family were visiting us and we had some people over for dinner and a fire pit in the backyard.  Right before bedtime Juliet was running and tripped on a branch in the backyard and injured her elbow.  She did seem to hurt it pretty badly, but had some movement and seemed like the pain was minimal when she kept it still, so Jimmy and I decided to see how she was in the morning.  I gave her Tylenol and put her to bed.  We do NOT rush to the ER around here.

At 3:45 a.m. she woke up and was whimpering in her bed and I went in to check on her, quickly moving her out of the bedroom she was sharing with Libby, Penelope, and Violet, so that she wouldn't wake anyone up (Susan and Willie were in her room).  I could tell by her amount of swelling that we would probably be dealing with a trip to urgent care in a few hours, but I gave her more Tylenol and hoped she could make it until morning.  I allowed her to sleep in my bed with us to maybe make her feel a little better and also, again, to keep her from waking anyone.

At 6:00 a.m. I woke to her jerking and realized she was having a seizure.  I woke up Jimmy and turned on the light and we tried to rouse her but she just kept twitching.  We made the quick decision to not call 911 but to just put her in the van and take her to the ER facility that is super close to our house.  I woke my sister and told her what we were doing as we headed out the door. I ran a couple lights and constantly asked Jimmy how she was as he held her in the back seat.

It was weird telling them what was wrong with her, as she was coming out of it when we got her in the door, but they could tell she'd had a seizure, because she remained very lethargic for quite a few minutes after.  The weird part was that when they asked us why we brought her in, we said, "She had a seizure and oh, she probably needs her arm x-rayed."  Two things that I assumed were unrelated and really, I think they were.  Maybe.  We really will never know.

To make a long story short, which I intended to do but have totally failed, her arm was broken and she passed her blood, urine, and cat scan tests in the ER- they showed no reason why she would have had a seizure.  So we had to follow up with a pediatric neurologist.

This meant that for the next four days I was either at the orthopedic office or neurologists office.  It was a whirlwind.  And more time than anyone wants to spend in the waiting room.  She had to have a 20 minute EEG, then a 24 hour EEG, and then we finally got the diagnosis that she has Benign Rolandic Epilepsy, which is a childhood form of epilepsy that involves partial seizures that happen in their sleep and that the majority of children grow out of.  She is on medication twice a day for the next 2 to 3 years.

Juliet is my most compliant child, and was nothing but wonderful through the entire process.  It is not easy to have one arm to work with, and I caught her doing her best to put on socks all by herself the day after she got her cast.  Most of my other kids would have very vocally announced to the entire house that they CANNOT put on socks.

During the 24 hour EEG and all the waiting that included, she was patient and apologetic if she moved in a way I told her not to or disrupted anything.

In the waiting room(s) I read "The Littles" by John Peterson out loud to her.  It was one of my favorite books as a kid, and it got us through many hours of waiting.  That and UNO cards and in the end, when I had little stamina left, the iPad.  While I was battling a tense stomach, she was smiling as I tried to make it fun with hospital hot chocolate.

And that is the wound.  Now for the good part.  When the light shines through.  She broke her arm on a Saturday night.  Had a seizure on Sunday morning.  We found out what caused it Thursday afternoon.  So pretty much from Sunday to Thursday, my entire life was focused on her.  Helping her, researching her symptoms, figuring out how to solve this small mystery.  After I got home from the doctor and the pharmacy that Thursday afternoon, I got in the shower and took a long hot one.  

And as I was in there, standing under the hot water for a long time just to wash off all the tension from the last four days, I knew something.  I knew that I would put my life on hold for as long as necessary at any moment, for the well being of my kids.  And I had done it without any consideration or decision.  I just did it.  And there, in the shower, I knew that's how God does with me.  He does any and all for his children.  And without hesitation.

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are."  1 John 3:1

And what is Juliet's response to me taking care of her?  She follows.  Without hesitation.  I tell her we have to go to the doctor (again) and she just puts on her shoes and gets in the car.  I tell her she has to get 20 spots of glue on her head (again) and she doesn't complain.  I tell her she has to take medicine every single day twice a day and she just opens her mouth.  She doesn't ask me what's in the medicine or why we have to wait so long in the waiting room, she does what I ask her to do.  And it reminds me not to question why God has me go through those wounded times.  He is my Father and he is, automatically, doing what is best for me.

And as the days have gone on with Juliet, I have shared with her about how this thing she is going through is a challenge, but that God can be her strength when she is weak.  And she gets it.  It's a beautiful thing.  Her wound is where the light shines through.


Happy 15th Birthday Jackson!

Though a little late, I didn't want to pass up a blog about Jackson's 15th birthday.  At our house we only get a "friend party" every other year, and for years 11 and 13 Jackson chose to take trips instead of a party.  So he was due a fun one.  He organized it all himself, and graciously invited not only friends his age, but entire families, most with kids not even his age!

He hosted a game night!  It was lots of fun and included Bohnanza, Trump (as in the Donald Trump game from the 1980s), Ticket to Ride, Dominion, and of course Settlers of Catan.

We also had a movie playing for the little kids and lots of fun games in the backyard which the non table top game playing kids initiated themselves.

Instead of a cake, Jackson requested cinnamon rolls, and we made the ultimate game night snack- the Nachos of Catan.

It was fun for all and as his mother I was of course happy to see how many people love my boy and blessed him on his birthday.  He is definitely worth loving.

He also got his learner's permit a few days after his birthday- this has been somewhat anti-climatic.  I think teaching a teenager to drive may be a bit like having a baby on TV.  On TV, you see parents who are teaching their child to drive as these panic stricken crazy people and the teenagers are always doing something over the top stupid.  Like a woman in labor on TV is yelling crazy things and/or doing something totally unrealistic like smiling with perfect makeup right after the baby is born.  All that to say, I expected teaching Jackson to drive to be like it is on TV.  It's not.  It's actually quite boring riding around a parking lot at 5 mph.  I found myself saying things like, "Okay, now we're going to try and go the speed limit."  I'm sure the panic moments will come, but so far the contractions are really far apart, so to speak.

Happy Birthday Jackson!


I'm gonna live forever

Sometimes I feel like my life is like that opening scene from the movie "Fame"- that one continuous shot where you see all the students practicing instruments, dancing, singing, or acting. It's portrayed as this romantic and genius chaos. This is how I try to view my life, but it's hard. It's hard because to see my chaos as romantic, I have to look past things like chewed up Tootsie Rolls on the counter next to someones lost tooth. I have to get into a van with a mystery smell. I have to wade through laundry closing in on me like the trash compactor scene from Star Wars. And I will say it out, even though the authorities may come for me:  It's nearly impossible to get anything academic done some days. 

So we press on. And I pray for the wisdom I need to home school these six brains. And that's all one can do. So keep those creative juices flowing, kids. And tomorrow, during lunch, let's do a big dance number where we jump on the kitchen table and bang out rhythms with our silverware. Oh wait, we never use silverware at lunch time. Maybe you can roll up your paper plates. 


Costumes 2016

Here we are this year.

Jackson:  Marty McFly

Libby: Rey  (so was her cousin Elise!)

Cash:  Sumo Man!

Penelope:  The Statue of Liberty

Juliet:  Little Bo Peep

Violet:  Sheep

Jackson did most of his on his own with help from multiple family members and neighbors.  Libby and I may or may not have cried and yelled while working out her costume.  Cash got this Sumo suit from my sister and her family for xmas last year, so...thankful for the low maintenance kid.  Penelope made me extremely happy by dressing up as Lady Liberty- which I did when I was about her age, and she totally owned it.  Juliet and Violet were nothing but precious and Juliet did take out a couple things with her staff.  Violet had to be bribed with candy to put the hood on for the photos, but hey, at least it worked.

There is a lot I could say about the planning and execution of costumes for six kids.  But because of all that, I have very little energy or brain power to write much. This year Libby hung this up in my kitchen to keep me on track.

It was super helpful and also a little rattling to realize that this is just a tiny portion of what goes swimming around my brain on a day to day basis.  Here's to fun memories!


When you have six kids

I've been collecting, on the notes app on my phone, a list of things that are reality to a big family. I've been wanting to write a blog about it for a long time. I've decided to just post it right here, in bold, just as it is on my phone. If there is any explanation necessary, I'll add it in regular type. Here we go. 

When you have six kids 

They talk about food constantly  It's appropriate that the first thing on my list was food. There is constant discussion about what's for snack, what's for dinner, whether they like it or not, and especially how much or how many they can have. In my house I chastise them for grabbing apples while I am cutting them. Because if I let them eat them while they are being prepared, then there would be none left when I was finished. Pancake breakfast: overheard comments are not intellectual discussion or compliments to the chef. It is all, "Mom! She already had 4!" and "Wait! I've only had 2!"
You're always afraid you've left someone  I can't seem to get past this. I'm constantly asking if everyone is in the van. And if I don't ask I try to look back there but it's hard because my smaller kids sit behind my biggest. So I've learned to listen for their voices, so that I don't sound like a paranoid idiot, repeatedly asking if everyone is in the van. 
Immense dirt piles full of random stuff  This will never cease to amaze. When I sweep the floor it's like I've swept the floor of a toy store, fast food joint, and office supply store all at the same time. Oh, and a slobs house.  
Misc bins full of stuff  More stuff. There is so much stuff. 
Step on counters, stools, anything to make yourself taller  My fifth child is especially good at this. When you have a busy mother, you learn to fend for yourself. You get it even when you can't reach it, because, well, you want the blue bowl and if you have to wait for someone to get it for you, the food you're trying to put in it will most likely be gone. Penelope learned to put things in and out of the microwave and work the buttons way before she was old enough to reach. I'm sure it is extremely hazardous but no trips to the ER for third degree burns yet. 
Some sort of show every night ("be your tv" recently)  My kids are always putting on plays, fashion shows, concerts, etc. Recently the girls told me that they like to entertain each other while they are on the potty. While one is going, the other is her "tv" and performs. Then, they switch. 
Your husband always asks you how old someone is  Or, he just asks the kid himself. 
When you open the van door something may fall out  I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote this. Something may not fall out. Something WILL. 
The oldest with the youngest- reading to, looking at me with knowing how cute. Having little ones with big ones around is awesome. They get it. They see how special it is to have a child. It's a huge reward. 
The middles forming bonds daily. They do. It makes those three in a row close together totally worth it. 
The picture moments constantly. This is true for no matter what size family. 
The inability to remember everything. This is infuriating. Today Jackson read to me from this very blog something I wrote and I had no memory of it. Ah! 
The knowing you'd do things differently if your older self could tell you things, but the inability to do anything except live in the now  Again, true for any and all parents. 
Everyone else seems to think you have a lot of kids but you just keep thinking of how maybe you should have had one more (or two) and you also think about how there are so many people with more kids than you. It's true. Sometimes I have to remind myself I have twice as many kids as most people. I feel like I just have a normal amount. 
More about food- snacks. Someone always want s a snack. My kids eat. Some kids are birds. My kids are pigs. See above. Can never stress how much they talk about food. 
You forget what time of day and how much each baby weighed. You feel like a terrible parent when you have to go look at the hanging on the wall to remember what time of day they were born and how much one of your kids weighed. Even though you birthed the kid and made the wall hanging yourself. 
Your kids call expiration dates "due dates" When the milk is about to go bad...wait a minute, that never happens. When you find a can of something someone gave you (because that's the only food that goes bad) that is expired, one of your kids announces that the due date is such and such. I mean, there is always a due date looming. 
You never never never remember to bring your reusable bags to the grocery store  Because you are more concerned with making sure everyone has shoes on. And that they are all in the van (see above).
You marvel at people who do. and who exercise  I do this. I watch nicely dressed ladies walk into the store with their reusable bags neatly folded and you wonder if you'll ever have time for such a luxury. I don't marvel at all exercisers. Just the ones who do it in the middle of the day. By themselves. Looking like they enjoy it. 
Lady in grocery store shopping in heels and cut off jeans  Many shoppers astound me. Who goes to the store in heels? To shop for groceries? My trips to the store are not for fun or enjoyment. They are purely utilitarian and usually involve someone pulling on my shirt. 
There are unexplainable things that happen to you. Jug of water in garage. Mustard on your bra. Mystery poop. 
Some things are unexplainable. Let's be real. A lot of things are unexplainable. 


One, Five, Eight, Ten, Twelve, Fourteen

Here we are again.  Time for the yearly update.  I try to do this between Libby and Jackson's birthdays every year...and I'm just in under the wire- Jackson's birthday is in two days!

Speaking of Jackson, he is nearly fifteen and seems to be getting taller every day.  He has really joined my team in so many ways, helping me with chores, cooking, cleaning, watching little kids, and getting his schoolwork done without needing reminders.  It is life changing for me and I am grateful and relieved to have someone making my life easier around here.  Jackson is still into everything technology, he is enjoying his Chemistry class, is taking driver's ed, and tackling Geometry too.  When not doing school he is enjoying playing guitar at youth group and helping in the A/V booth at church.  Everyone loves Jackson and he is an extremely tolerant big brother and friend.

Here is Libby.  Libby turned twelve this summer.  She is still drawing, writing, and creating enough for a dozen twelve year olds.  Just yesterday she created lego sets and drawn instructions for both her sisters.  This week she read a book in one night- as I was falling asleep I heard her brushing her teeth a few minutes before midnight and I knew she had stayed up reading in the bathroom (the only place where she can turn on a light) to finish.  Libby continues to enjoy her baby sister Violet and they are excellent room mates.  Libby is tackling two virtual school classes and taking piano, gymnastics, and archery this fall.  I am always telling her siblings how lucky they are to have her for a big sister.

Cash Alley, age 10.  Ten!  I can't believe it.  What happened to my squishy marshmallow baby?  He's in there, just a little taller. What can I say about Cash?  Here's a Cash story...During the hurricane he stayed with a friend one night.  When we went to pick him up, the dad of the family came out and asked if Cash could stay longer, while Cash looked out the front window, watching us and smiling his Cash smile, waiting to see what we would say.  That is Cash.  Figuring out how to charm people and also figuring out how to get what he wants.  He continues to read a ton, lately he's been into Peanuts cartoons.  He is taking archery and piano as well.  He is very gifted at music, but doesn't like to practice.  It's frustrating to me, but I hated piano practice too when I was a kid.  Jimmy often urges him to play drums with he and Jackson in the garage.  He is very good for a kid who has never had a lesson!  Lately he has been getting his school work done quickly so he can go on errands and jobs with Jimmy.  That's a win-win for me!

Here is Penelope, at age 8, with her first yearly photo where she has front teeth since she was three years old!  They finally came in this year, and while it was a sad day, she is still our Pip and her teeth haven't changed her personality.  She is still full of spunk and life and enthusiasm for anything and everything.  She is often seen playing Lego Friends, Minecraft, or watching My Little Pony.  She is still in gymnastics, and has moved up quickly.  She is taking archery too, and her teacher called her out the first day in front of everyone and told them to watch out for her, that she was a good shot! This week she and Juliet started a cleaning business.  The sign reads: "Puliet'sJobCom.  Do It With Love.  We're in Town!  We dust! We srub! We mop! We wipe! We clean!" They are trying to save up for a huge Lego Friends set.  Penelope is fun, fun, fun.

Juliet is five and has started kindergarten.  She is super smart and always saying something witty that shows her sense of humor.  She came to me this summer, when I challenged her to read on her own during rest time one day, and said, "Mom! I read INSIDE my body!"  She meant that she read in her head, without saying the words out loud.  This was a great moment for me.  Not only is it wonderful when your child can read, it is even more wonderful when you're their teacher and so that means that's one less thing you have to teach them!  Juliet is rarely sad or upset, she is often found sleeping late...she stays up later than a five year old probably should, but it's hard to get her to bed ahead of her older sister.  Juliet is taking gymnastics too, and enjoys drawing and creating at her kindergarten kid table.  We all enjoy her a lot!

Violet.  Violet is 23 months- almost two years old.  It has been so hard to say goodbye to pregnancy and baby land.  But what a wonderful baby to go out on.  Violet brings everyone in the house joy and happiness, just watching her this last year learn how to walk and talk and discover so much has been a ton of fun.  Violet loves books, singing, and dancing.  She is very opinionated about her clothes, does not like to sit in her high chair, and is my pickiest eater.  What kind of child does not like blueberries, strawberries, oranges, peaches, peas...? She absolutely loves bananas though, so she eats at least one a day.  Violet is very aware of what's going on in the house, and today she answered me in a complete sentence when I asked her where her bowl of yogurt was.  "Jovie ate it."  This was because I allowed her to eat at the coffee table since she does not like the high chair.  She does get away with a lot, but that's her lot.  She is the baby.  Our baby.  And we all love her so much.

Thank you to our loving God for another happy healthy year!  Much love from the J Train!!