Friday, October 31, 2014


Today was my day to sleep in.  We have no extra kids at the house, no school, no plans until it's time to don the costumes and set out with high hopes for gobs and gobs of chocolate and sugar.  It's a free day.  Yet it's not quite 6 am and I've been up for almost two hours thinking about soup. 

It's pouring outside.  I'm sitting here at the computer with a prayer book and a hot cup of coffee, hoping Hubs made it to work before the rain really picked up.  I love the rain so much until I think think about him riding his bike up the dark hills to go to work while I'm at home with a cup of hot coffee and dry roof over my head.

I made a giant pot of soup for dinner last night.  Full of kale and onions and tomatoes and beans and bacon and Parmesan and noodles and love.  I suppose you could call it a minestrone, but since I'm terrible at following recipes, I think of it more as a clean out the fridge kinda soup.  A really delicious way to clean out the fridge and have lunch for the whole weekend since it's such a big pot, kind of soup.  But then 4:15 am rolled around and my eyes flashed open.  Because I forgot to put the soup in the fridge. 

Hubs alarm went off a little while later and I got up, knowing that if I didn't do it now, that pot of soup would be sitting in the compost bin all week long since the trash pick up comes so early.  I sat on the edge of the bed watching him brush his teeth, calculating how much money I was about to go dump in the trash, listening to the gentle patter of the rain of the roof.  

It was just sprinkling when I opened the front door and saw our enormous and slightly scary spider friend in his web, hoping I was prey for a moment.  He's really kinda creepy, but I like him too.  It's such a simple thing, remembering to put a pot in the fridge before bed.  It's the second time this week that I've had to throw away a substantial amount of food and all my failures as a wife, mother, human being seem to be simmering in that empty pot in the ever overflowing sink. 

It is so easy to remember the failures. 

The list grows and grows in my mind about all the ways I just don't measure up.  How I waste food and yell at my kids and my house is always a disaster and I never remember to write down my thankful list and I snapped at Hubs and I forgot to give the dogs their pills yesterday morning and on and on and on. 

But this time, I'm fighting back.  Because perfect isn't something I ever want to be.  And I remember that when I am in the throes of the days and things are going south fast, that is when I cling to the hem of Jesus most fiercely.  And why would I want to be anywhere else? 

As I dump the soup in the compost and the rain drips slowly down my back, I ask Him, where are you in this?  Where is the grace?  Where is the good?  I've learned by now that I will find what I seek.  And I'm done looking for ways I'm a failure.  Not that I can gloss over life, not that I cannot learn from my mistakes, but in the sense that I refuse to let the failings of my days chip away at my soul and my self worth.  Because I am not loved more when my house is clean,  when my clothes are folded, when the dinner is perfect, when happiness reigns in the household. 

The beauty of this whole thing is that I am loved regardless. 

But I know that I will find what I seek.  Which is why, no matter what the truth is, I need to choose to see the good.  And so I pray with St. Patrick this morning,

"Christ beside me, Christ before me;
Christ behind me, Christ within me;
Christ beneath me, Christ above me;
Christ to the right of me, Christ to the left of me;
Christ in my lying, my sitting, my rising;
Christ in the heart of all who know me,
Christ on the tongue of all who meet me,
Christ in eye of all who see me,
Christ in the ear of all who hear me."

He says he loves me no matter what.  That each morning is new.  And I know no matter what happened yesterday, what happens today and what may happen tomorrow, I am loved wholly, by the One who knows every thought, every action, every choice.  And if I can just stay there, clinging to the hem of his robe, there I will find the grace and the good. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Walk in the Woods

We had a free day this past weekend with Hubs home and beautiful weather, so we drove out to the Gorge for a fall hike.  We picked another new trail; the possibilities seem endless in this beautiful state we call home.  It started out near the road and went under the ramp to get on the Interstate and then went up a dirt road.  And then trail turns into the woods and we waked under giant maple trees, showering us with their golden leaves.  The kids picked them up and twirled them and threw them and laughed as leaves came down on their heads.  As we walked, the noises of the cars and trucks and traffic faded away and I could feel the tension in my body do the same.

A walk in the woods can do much for my soul.  We walked slow, looking for spiders to kiss and slugs to poke with sticks and beetles to hold in our hands.  Little Lady loves bugs.  We laughed and talked and threw rocks at dead trees to hear the different thumping sounds they make.  We enjoyed the cool air and overcast skies while hiking up, up, up.  And then we sat at the base of a waterfall flowing into a deep pool which overflowed into a rocky creek bed.  We threw more rocks into the water and got a little wet.  The trees were still mostly green.  But there were a few sirens, with their deep reds and bright oranges calling me, inviting me back next week with promises of color and beauty that I don't want to resist. 

Too soon, it was time to go, so we started back down the trail covered in a blanket of golden leaves.  The sound of the waterfall faded and birds sang for us.  The lady fell asleep in her Daddy's arms, a rare gift.  Before long, the sounds of civilization crowded in, and we welcomed them as we were tired and hungry and happy.

"Keep close to Nature's heart...and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.  Wash your spirit clean."  -John Muir

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jameson's Arrival Part Two

We felt so alone and so scared and unsure about everything.  But we weren't. 

While we were reeling in the hospital, my entire family was on a plan to get my mom on a plane.  And while Jameson was in surgery, she was in a car, driving away from vacation to an airport hours away to get on plane to get to us.  To be with us.  To take care of us. 

And Hubs coworkers were amazing too.  His great friend came and sat with us for the whole surgery, stayed until we heard the doctor say it was all okay, and then went back to meet our beautiful boy.  Only two people were allowed in at a time, so I told our friend he better go first because once I get in there I'm not leaving until they kick us out at night. 

That night Grandma arrived.  We hugged and cried and looked at pictures of Jameson on the computer while Hubs tested out the new point and shoot camera because our old one broke the night after J was born.  She stayed for over two weeks and spoiled us rotten.  I'm pretty sure Little Man's toy collection doubled during this time period. 

The next day, Hubs coworkers and a chaplain came to the hospital and the nurses let them all in to pray around my baby.  She said something about how they were all so official looking in their uniforms and she couldn't say no.  So many people were holding us up, bringing and mailing meals, emailing us to tell us they loved us and were praying for us. 

It was overwhelming.  The support and love, which we were so grateful for, yet felt so bad about...all of these people going out of their way to bless us and we could barely be present to thank them.  I think we both feel more comfortable being on the giving end of things than the receiving end.  And emotionally, we were bewildered with the surprises. 

He was the healthiest boy in the NICU.  The nurses would take pictures of him for us and tell us how cute he is and how lucky we are and I would look around the room at all of the truly sick babies and everything was so scary and there were so many machines and tubes and I'm so afraid of needles that I've literally passed out just talking about vaccinations and this was really all too much for me.  (I've improved on this slightly.) 

And then there was this diagnosis of Down syndrome.  I had never known anyone with Down syndrome before.  It was unfathomable to me at the time.  I wasn't even 30.  The pregnancy was fine.  I have never once in my life tried an illegal drug.  How did this happen to me?  I couldn't wrap my brain around it and it was so difficult to reconcile my unconditional love for my boy with this diagnosis that I did not want. 

When we were at the hospital, when I was holding Jameson and I could kiss his perfect little head and count his ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes, when I could sing soft and low to my baby in my arms and tell him how much I loved him, then it was all okay.  It didn't matter that he was in the NICU, it didn't matter that he had Down syndrome, he was mine and I loved him for being him. 

But when we went home at the end of the day, all tired and sad to leave our baby behind, when it got dark and I would look on the computer and read about Down syndrome, read all the statistics and see the future that I had dreamed for my baby curve away down a different path, it wasn't okay then.  I was scared of the therapies and doctors visits.  Scared of the new timeline for talking and walking.  Scared of the increased risk of leukemia.  Scared of the idea that my child may never graduate from high school or move away.  Scared that he may die at 50, before me.  I mourned the loss of my dream for his life.  The dream of a normal childhood, of college, of marriage and babies.  It was hard.  I cried a lot.  I stared off into space, lost in terrified wonder of this new future. 

And then I would get up in the morning and go to the hospital and hold my sweet baby and it was all okay again.  I would hold him and look into his sweet face and just know that we would get through it all and be just fine.  It didn't matter if his path was different.  It only mattered that we were in it together. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Jameson's Arrival, Part One

I was lying in bed last night, thinking about when Jameson was born.  It was all so surreal.  And everything was so fast.  On the eve of his birthday, I wound up in the hospital, unable to see from a really bad migraine.  The doctors checked all my stats and baby's too.  He said I was having some contractions, but nothing notable and he's see me in two weeks for my next appointment.  I still had a month to go. 

But Jameson had other plans.  All night long I woke up with contractions.  I started timing them around 5 am.  I still have the scrap paper with times scratched all over it in his baby book.  After breakfast I installed the carseat.  After lunch I called the midwife.  During naptime we called the babysitter for Little Man.  I think at this point, Hubs was still thinking we had a lot of time to play with so he made small talk near the front door with the girl from down the street, while I crushed the door trim and cried out we've got to go NOW.  I almost ripped the door handle off the car with each contraction on the way to the hospital. 

When we arrived at the unit and called the nurses station to let us in, they had no idea we were coming because the midwife really didn't think I was in labor and never bothered to let them know.  They quickly got me into a room anyway and handed me a gown to change.  After I changed, I literally fell to the ground while walking to the bed because the contraction was so strong.  The nurse was a little anxious to get me in that bed.  My first words were that I want an epidural.  To which she replied, you don't have time, you're already at 8.  I remember it all happening so fast and being so chaotic.  And less than 45 minutes from the time we pulled into the parking garage, the doctor, exclaimed "Its a boy!"  She didn't even have her gloves all the way on, he came so fast. 

And there he was.  Our Jameson.  So perfect and strong and healthy.  Everything was going so well and every indication was that everything was fine.  Hubs went home after a few hours to put Little Man to bed and I was so tired I asked the nurse to take Jameson to the nursery for a little bit so I could sleep.  I woke up in the middle of the night and she brought me my perfect little boy and I tried to feed him, but he wasn't really that interested.  So I just held him on my knees and we looked at each other, both so in awe of the other.  I thought he was so beautiful.  But there was this nagging thought that I couldn't shake, something about the shape of his eyes that seemed different in a familiar way.  But no, surely someone with a degree would have said something by now, right?  Right?  He was perfect anyway.  When I got so tired that I worried about dropping him, the nurse again took him to the nursery for a bit. 

But a bit was a little longer.  I woke up to breakfast in front of me and no baby for feedings.  After scarfing some hospital scrambled eggs down, I walked to the nursery to see my sweet boy and hopefully feed him.  And when I got to his crib, he had a red tube down his nose.  I started to freak out.  The nurse came over and stood across the crib from me and matter of factly stated that my boy started vomiting up bile in the middle of the night and they think he has a bowel obstruction, so an ambulance is on it's way to transfer him to a bigger hospital for tests and possibly surgery.  And oh, by the way, he probably has Down syndrome.  And I stood there, terrified, looking from my perfect little boy to the nurse and back again, willing myself to not fall down. 

It was still early when I called Hubs, who probably mistook the panic in my voice for nerves and fatigue and excitement.  I tried so hard to not tell him on the phone, but he needed to get to the hospital fast.  I told him that something might be wrong and they were taking him to a different hospital and you need to come quick.  So he did.  He and Little Man arrived around the same time as the transport team.  We introduced the brothers.  Little Man was only 16 months old.  Nurse Tactful filled in Hubs with the same information bombs she dropped on me earlier in the morning, we signed some papers and watched a crew take our baby away in this terrifyingly technical transfer incubator.  It was a Sunday and I needed a doctor to sign my discharge papers.  It felt like it took forever and that we were a world away from our boy, now 5 miles away on the other side of town.  17 hours after arriving at the hopsital, we rushed out the front doors and across town and into another hospital. 

It was all so fast and we had no idea what was happening and we were so scared and shocked.  And I was a hot mess of emotions and hormones and fatigue and fear.  We felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under us.  Once Jameson was settled into the NICU, we were allowed to see him, but Little Man was not.  After the initial meeting with the doctors, Hubs took Little Man home, got the babysitter back, brought me some clothes and Jimmy John's and we sat at a round table staring at nothing, shell shocked about everything that was happening. 

My whole family was on vacation in Michigan and I remember calling the cottage phone number to tell my sister-in-law that my baby was in the NICU and needed to have surgery and would probably be in for a while and probably has Down syndrome.  I kept breaking down crying whenever she replied.  Hubs had gotten a hold of his parents earlier.  They were living in Alaska at the time, as far away from us in Florida as possible.  We were all alone. 

I am out of time!  Will write Part Two soon! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Like Magic

It's cooling down outside and the rain is starting, leaving golden leaves splattered across my deck. I love fall.  The smell of the leaves and the rain.  The feel of wool socks and cozy fleece.  Turning on the oven every day.  The breads.  The soups.  The pumpkins and the costumes.

Today joy looks like a toddler wearing a rainbow unicorn costume. 

There is magic in her eyes and her mind and I get lost just watching her sometimes as she plays and lives with reckless abandon.  I already see it slipping away from him, the calculating way he understands how some things can't be real, the way he's already jaded and skeptical enough to see how the world works.  But it's not gone yet, not completely.  But I see him and I see her and the window is just so short.  This time we have to witness the marvel and experience the wonder, their wonder, it is fleeting. 

There is magic in this season of holidays that I will fight to keep alive for as long as I can for them.  It starts with pumpkins and candy and silly costumes, and leaves sprinkled with crayons and ironed between wax paper.  It moves into turkeys and family and fellowship and thankfulness.  And it culminates with trees covered in a million twinkle lights, stockings, birthday cakes, and gifts from someone so magical, he still believes enough to ask that jolly soul to deliver one to Heaven from him. 

No matter how hard this season is for me, I will fight for this forever. 

Today joy looks a lot like craft preparation.  Before Jameson died, the whimsy and the play and the fun came so easily for me.  I struggle with it now.  I'm still me, but I'm so different in ways that can't be undone.  But just because it doesn't come easy, doesn't mean I can't still do it.  Because that window is so small.  And the magic is so fleeting.  And they are so worth it.