Wherein I hereby confess

Oh, confession is therapeutic for the soul.  And sometimes gives us reason to make changes.  So shall I hereby confess that in 2011 I:

  1. indulged in far too much chocolate, often far too late at night.
  2. gave in to the devil coffee and its evil partner in crime, International Delight.
  3. expected potty training to be much faster than it was, and became, perhaps, more frustrated with it (and her) than I ought.  In the same vein,
  4. changed the words to tried and true songs.  Such as:
    Tinkle, tinkle, little pee/trickle, trickle, out of me.
    Not too fast and not to slow/just enough to help me go
    Trickle, trickle little pee/tinkle into the potty.
  5. really, really enjoyed cuteness.  Perhaps too much.

    Enjoying the cuteness.

  6. failed miserably at vegetable variety
  7. once a few timesmay have pretended to be asleep when the baby cried in the middle of the night
  8. accidentally taught my innocent preschooler the word “frickin’.”  It sounds far worse out of her little mouth than mine.  It has since been eliminated from her vocabulary – and mostly eliminated from mine.
  9. sometimes often forgot to shower (or didn’t know how long it had been since I had one)
  10. on rare occasion, and completely by accident, took the wrong toothbrush – and used it.  (Sorry, honey.  I was really tired.  And purple has been my colour for so long!).
  11. had my socks stick to the floor in something (honey, jam, potassium – you know).
  12. spent too much time on facebook
  13. played on the floor more than cleaned it (okay, I’m kind of proud of that one.  It was really difficult for me.)
  14. did not call nearly often enough the friends I so treasure
  15. watched – and enjoyed – Survivor and (ahem) The Bachelorette (that one is REALLY embarrassing)
  16. learned how to roast a chicken for the first time (and at my age!  That’s embarrassing!), make my own chicken stock, and home made chicken noodle soup (yum!)
  17. exercised long enough to fix the problem – but not long enough to maintain the correction
  18. did not kiss or hold hands with my husband nearly often enough.
  19. bought shoes at a thrift store (totally breaking one of my rules in life, but they are red and still fabulous)
  20. laughed too little and worried too much
  21. received far more than I gave
  22. talked more than listened
  23. pouted more than prayed (ouch – that’s a hard one)

So, I may be using parts of this list to write my New Year’s Non-Resolutions.  I haven’t made a resolution for eons, and don’t really like resolutions since I rarely keep them, but am feeling the urge this year to make some changes.  Not huge ones, more like attitude and relationship changes.   It may happen yet and it may show up in a post in the next couple of days…

Oh so serious, Aliyah.

Working on the laughing more bit!

Advertisements

Things I learned this Christmas

Several years ago while I was teaching Canadian History (not nearly as dull as you might think!), I had a lesson plan that included the “Huron Carol” (which you can read here or listen to here (in Wendat, French and English – English starting at 2:13, I think).  It was written by Jesuit Priest Father Brebeuf for the Huron people, for whom he later died, and it retells the story of Christ’s birth as the Huron (who knew themselves as the Wendat) might have understood it.  I put the lyrics on an overhead for my students to read as they listened, and then asked if anyone could connect the Huron story to the Christian/Biblical account (for instance, “log of broken bark” would be the stable; hunters would be the shepherds, etc).  The student who retold it started with the virgin birth, and another student gaped and said, “You mean, people believe a virgin had a baby???”  That student’s amazement at the story of Mary and Joseph and Jesus really struck me, especially since, having heard it all my life, I often don’t see the incredibleness of Christ’s birth.

Many writers and directors have created films that retell the nativity story, but none have been as powerful or well-done as Tony Jordan’s The Nativity produced by the BBC in 2010.  It stays in detail pretty much to the biblical account, but includes some of the emotions that would have taken place in the in-betweens not talked of in the Bible – of Mary’s doubting (hard for her to doubt, eventually, as her burgeoning belly proves it’s true), of Joseph’s total betrayal, of the despair of Mary’s parents at their unmarried daughter’s pregnancy, of the rejection by family and probable loss of status and respect for Joseph, of his questions even after his dream.  In fact, the majority of the story dwells not in the miraculous but in the earthly heartache that would have been experienced by all involved.  Mary’s doubting turns to faith – but that faith still faces fear and rejection and loss and loneliness.  It is a profoundly human and beautiful rendering of the story and one I still contemplate.

Two things in particular have stood with me over these Christmas weeks and past.  The first is that that first Christmas was not necessarily lovely, serene, or joyful; that our Christmas full of joy and hope and beauty stems from the humbleness of Christ’s birth and all of the fear and despair (and hope and faith) spreading from it.  I know many people who face Christmas with tremendous grief, who see the lights and trees and hear the sentimental music and don’t live in the joy that others celebrate – and in that, feel very alone.  And I have really been struck by the fact that we are not alone, much though we may feel it – that we have a God who understands from the beginning our feelings of sadness, loss, and fear, and that the Bible is full of such stories – stories where often the human emotions aren’t expressed but were most certainly felt.

The second is that God is indeed sovereign.  I have been following, with much heartache, a family story of unimaginable trauma that started just before Christmas and still has no answers.  And in this story, I have been tremendously humbled.  I have not made it secret that my faith has foundered in these trying times of Aliyah’s diagnosis and the months since; in raw honesty I have found comfort and some hope.  But this family who is now suffering have demonstrated to me what true faith is and what true hope is.  Such a hope as they have shown, even in the unknowing, is deep, inspiring, eternal.  Sara and I pray often for the little girl in this family, and one of the things we talk about is how sometimes God’s workings don’t feel good in the moment, but He has a plan, He is being glorified, and He is still good.  I’m ashamed to admit that while I’ve taught this verbally to Sara, I have not necessarily lived it in my own thoughts, prayers, and life.

I still remember, in the hospital, those first few days and weeks after Aliyah’s diagnosis.  In spite of everything, I had a deep and abiding understanding that God had allowed this and that it would be worked for good – beautiful good – in Aliyah’s life and indeed in our whole family’s life.  And even when I questioned and doubted and feared, I had a strange gut feeling, deep down, that God was and is working something for good.  Even when I imagine the hard times ahead, I know (and I can’t explain how) that this is a part of God’s story in Aliyah and in us, and in that knowing there is a hope that I have allowed to lay dormant.  Well, no more.

I choose now to live in hope.  To walk in the hope of Aliyah’s joyful life, of Sara’s compassion, and especially of God’s plan.  Of his great and glorious plan – a plan that is to redeem and renew and refresh, that has love and eternity in mind, that carries the greatest hope we could ever imagine.  To remember that faith does not mean never doubting, fearing or suffering, but means facing doubt and fear and suffering through the eyes of hope and eternity.

That is, after all, the beauty of the nativity.  A hard now for a glorious eternity, faith in the face of doubt and fear, and a God who knows it all, loves it all,
and never stops working.

In celebration of Mobility: Aliyah Update #2

Playing in the leaves before her cold

October and November was a long silence on this blog.  Aliyah got sick.  It started with a common cold – I fondly called her my little snot faucet – during which she sneezed, coughed, snuffled and sniffed but was otherwise her normal happy self.  Within two weeks, it mutated into an ugly virus that caused all kinds of heartache and worry.  Aliyah couldn’t hold down food, didn’t drink (that’s a huge indicator of Aliyah’s health as she normally drinks like a horse – and pees like an elephant), and lost all the beautiful pounds she put on in September (so, really, only one pound – but on a wee smidge like her, that’s a big deal).  I wanted to be all cool and collected and manage this flu without too much fear, and made it to the peak  before we did a little trip to the ER.  Of course, that was the worst night of the flu and she was on the upswing after that.  She did learn to tell us when she has to “pook,” and now, every time we pray she reminds us to pray she doesn’t “pook” – which is endearing and sad at the same time.  At any rate, as of November 14 she’s been healthy and gaining once again.

So, every 3 months we get to make the long trek up to the Children’s Hospital for a loooong appointment that starts with bloodwork and ends with a lively discussion with the doctor regarding Aliyah’s current health and any concerns we have.  November 27 was our second of these “cystinosis clinics” and SUCH good news came from that!  First of all, she no longer needs iron or activated Vitamin D, the first of which makes her sick and the second of which is very expensive.  Her sodium phosphate was decreased and all her other electrolyte numbers, even after being so sick, were “brilliant.”  She had started gaining weight (but was still below previous weights).  She is now en route to 20 pounds, hopefully nearly there.

But the best part came today, with the phone call from the cystinosis nurse.  Aliyah’s cystine levels, which were 3.8 in June and 0.7 in September, are now at

0.02!!!!

Merry Christmas to us!  That is definitely the best gift we could have received.  What that means is there is very little damage currently occurring in her cells.  We are thrilled!

In addition to all this fabulous news, we have been hoping to eliminate the medications from Aliyah’s regime, and as of two weeks ago, she no longer needs her anti-nauseant medication.  This is another great “drop” from our medicine cocktail!

In other Aliyah news:

She started crawling two weeks ago, and has the cutest little wiggly-bum when she does it.  And she started walking on teetering toddly legs last week!  While she still doesn’t prefer walking (it is, after all, fairly slow and involves lots of falls), we often find her walking ’round and ’round the couch, giggling to herself.

Aliyah's Great Strides

Last week, her G-tube was replaced with a Mic-Key (Peg), which is a tube that we hook-up and take off when she is done, which definitely makes for easier movement.  The initial exchange was painful, but now she tries to put it in herself.

Aliyah still talks up a storm – her new obsession is “na-na-niles” (crocodiles) and Santa (on who’s lap she happily sat).

On the parental front, Bob and I are managing to get more sleep as well.  We’ve figured out a feed schedule whereby the midnight meds only take 15 minutes instead of 45, so I can go to bed at a normal time and wake briefly at midnight before sleeping the night through.  And since we have sleepers (yesterday our girls slept until nearly 9am), I’m quite well rested.

All in all, a very positive month.  Aliyah’s nose has started running again, though, so here’s hoping it stays just a cold…

Proud as punch

 

The Season of Christmas

Confession #1: when Lite 95.9 started playing Christmas music on November 16, I was more than a little annoyed.  I love Christmas, but seriously, that is a long time to listen to Christmas music.

Confession #2: Since November 16, I’ve listened to little else.

The beautiful thing about having such a very long Christmas season is the amount of preparation time it gives you.  Preparation of the house, of the pantry, of the freezer.  Preparation of the gifts and events.  And preparation of the heart.

That last one is the one I’ve hoped to impress on my girls – and myself – this year.  What is the meaning of Christmas?  How do we cultivate the joy and hope and peace that Christ came to offer in our home, amidst the business of shopping, the stories of Santa and reindeer, and the excitement of presents under the tree?  We’ve tried a few things:

  • An advent calendar.  Do you know how hard it is to find one that has that story of Christ on it?  I saw Santa ones, snowflake ones, Cars, Beauty and the Beast and various princess ones, but nothing about Jesus.  A friend of mine, amazingly, has made it a tradition to bring us a fair trade advent calendar from Ten Thousand Villages, and it has parts of the story of the birth of Christ on every tiny little door.  Every night (well, mostly), we sit down and read through each day until that date, having Sara fill in the blanks to the story.  And then, of course, chocolate.  I’ve heard of other advent calendars that include something for the family to do every day (like bake cookies for a neighbour or someone in need, plan a family games night, write a special card for someone, etc).
  • Books.  Lots and lots of books with stories themed on joy, hope and peace, and reminders of those things throughout the day.
  • Operation Christmas Child or the like.  This year we all went shopping for the Calgary Children’s Cottage, where kids stay when they can’t stay at home.  Sara really enjoyed picking some things out!  And it helped me tone down my ideas of what was necessary for my children’s gifts.  (This is something cool my inlaws do as a gift in honor of extended family).
  • Singing carols.  Every night, when the girls go to bed, we sing carols with them.  Sara can sing most of the words now!  She has particular favourites – “Go tell it on the mountain” and “Silent night” especially.  Aliyah still just sings “Holy Holy Holy” and “Hallelujah”. (:

But of course, there are all those fun things that aren’t “spiritual” but are nonetheless a wonderful part of Christmas!  Like baking cookies and laughing at my girls licking the icing off the table, or watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and eating said cookies.  Like Heritage Park’s 12 Days of Christmas (OH, I could spend the entire week there and not have enough of it!!!).  Like playing in the snow … oh, I guess we can do that after Christmas too.  Well after, darn it.

Here’s a few memories from this season:

Spruce Meadows - I love a good hat!

Ali hanging out with her littlest 'cuz at Spruce Meadows.

Mmm cookie baking.

Trying to get her whole fist of icing into her mouth...

A little too fast for her...

Pulled it up until "my legs are tired."

Her first snowman. A little guy!

Meeting Prancer.

Helping Hands – Top “ten” ways to help someone with an extended hospital stay

Very recently, I learned of a family currently facing trauma, the kind of trauma that involves an extended hospital stay followed by a period of convalescence (hopefully at home).  They are part of an incredible church family, one that has surrounded them in ways that are deeply supportive and faithful, and have been a real testament to what the family of God should look like.

My sister-in-law and I started brainstorming ways that people could help.  I have friends who intuitively know the needs of people with crisis situations like illness or accidents (and even awesome situations like bringing a new baby home), and immediately jump to fulfill them.  I would imagine many of you, like me, hear of these kinds of things and feel helpless.  Well, you’re not!  I give you…drumroll, please…the Top Ten (okay, nine…well, eight, really) helpful tools for those with such a crisis. Most, if not all, of these ideas were done unto us.  You would be amazed at the ways you can bless people who need it!

During and/or after hospital stay:

    1. Meals.  This is the number one offer of help that we were given, and it was an incredible blessing.  We received meals while at the hospital (thank goodness – food’s expensive there and not so healthy) and after.  Here are a few tips:
      • Go disposable.  If you can help it, try not to use dishes they will have to return or they will have stacks of them and not know where they go.
      • Ingredients list and a recipe!  This is helpful for allergies, and for those dishes that are extra special hits.
      • Directions.  Don’t forget to let them know how to heat it.
      • Include the date of preparation.  They may come across a frozen meal several weeks (or months) later and not know how old it is!
      • * If you are the person with the key to their house, perhaps do a little freezer organization (mine needed it!) so it’s easy to access the meals.
      • Hot meals: set a date and time when you plan to bring it.  Give enough notice that they haven’t got something ready already.
      • If you don’t have time (or don’t like/can’t cook), give a gift card to restaurants that are close by hospital or home.  Take-out pizza or Chinese can be great on the really overwhelming days.
    2. Snacks.
      Extended hospital stays get expensive.  Bring muffins for breakfast (frozen or not, make sure they’re labelled), or a loaf of bread with jam and butter, some fruit (not too much; it goes bad when forgotten), granola bars, a small tray of fresh veggies, etc.  A travel mug, some tea bags and some sugar cubes are helpful too.
    3. Encouragement at the hospital and after.  This can be in the form of cards, notes, messages on the phone or facebook or email.  We were so touched by all the encouragement we had; it helped us through the harder times to know so many people cared and were praying for us and our family.
    4. Parking.  If you know that the stay will be extended, consider purchasing for them a one-week parking pass at the hospital.  Make sure you aren’t doubling up with someone else, though; if you can ask them if they need it, try that.  And if they don’t want to accept your money, ignore them.  When you are in the hospital, accepting help is very humbling and you don’t necessarily realize how much of a help it is.
    5. “Love Offerings.”  There were some small but very thoughtful gifts that came to the hospital for us.  People gave or lent books or activities like sudoku or word searches (which was nice once the crisis was past), colouring and activity books for older siblings who stick around the hospital a lot, travel shampoo, a newspaper or magazine, things like that.
    6. Yard work.  Easiest, probably, because no arrangements need to be made.  Just show up, bring your own lawn mower, trimmer, shears, gloves (or shovel, if it’s winter) and clean up the yard so it doesn’t seem like another thing to do.  (My wonderful mom redid my whole garden – but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you know them well).
    7. House workIf it is possible to clean house for them, consider bringing your own supplies.  Ask if they use chemicals or chemical free/home made stuff (they may have their own, if they do).  A wonderful friend of mine made some home made cleaners for me – she remembered a conversation we’d had about that once!
    8. Child care, if applicable.  Including pick up and drop-off, if you are able (or switch vehicles if they have car seats).  (Have I mentioned my amazing family and friends?).
    9. Laundry.  A thoughtful offer – but probably not one that will be accepted.  It is…ahem, embarrassing…to have someone go through your skivvies.
    10. A listening ear.  Often when someone you love (like your child) is ill, everyone asks about how your child is, and not about how you are.   I was so grateful for friends who listened to me cry and rant and worry.   I was equally grateful for friends who took me out and talked about the things in their day to take my mind off of my own heartaches.  Not that I remember much of the conversation…but it was nice sometimes to shut off and not talk about things.

If you are one of those who chooses to do something like this for someone, try not to be offended if you don’t get thanked.  Those you help have so much on their mind, they may forget a few people.  Go anonymous, if you like.  But don’t feel you have to – I loved thanking people for their help, letting them know how grateful I was.  If you happen to be organizing any of these things and can get people’s names and addies, and maybe write a little list, that’d be great – so when the person gets down to thank-yous the information is readily available.

Have you ever experienced this kind of help?  How did people you care about help you when you were in need of it?

Finding those rose-coloured glasses

Enjoy every moment of these years.  They pass far too quickly.

The wise words of a far older woman (grandmother, probably great-grandmother) to me as I packed up my (chattering, bickering, whining) children, slung heavy diaper bag over my shoulder, and attempted to shoulder open the door on my way out.  I gritted my teeth, smiled, nodded.

I remember those exact words given to me years ago, during my carefree university years.  I had been lamenting various essays and exams coming in that busy, cold month of November, and my dad said, “These are the easiest years of your life.  You’ll never have such carefree years again.”  And, once again, I gritted my teeth, smiled, nodded (and probably said something rude because, after all, he was my dad and not some lovely old grandmother).  But I knew better.  I knew that these university years were far too stressful and overwhelming to be compared to the freedom of having a job and a paycheque and all that free time

Now when I flip through my university photo albums, my heart sighs with lovely memories.  Memories of dancing under an enormous tree with my roommates, singing “Someday my Prince will Come” under the starry skies.  Of spreading homework across a picnic table on an autumn-warm afternoon.  Of brisk mornings racing to the bus, my backpack bouncing on my back and my breath puffing out in front of me.  Of dear friendships, first loves, deep philosophical conversations, midnight Sev (Seven Eleven) runs for slurpees in the dead of Winnipeg winter; pool tournaments lasting into the wee smas, camp retreats and jamming with the worship band, Purple City (those of you who know must just wink wink and keep the secret) and football games.  And yes, memories of hours of schoolwork – sitting by my window, chin in my hand, as I composed an essay on Cinderella or tried to figure out syntax errors or analyze statistics.

But, as you will note, most of those memories do not involve tons of stress.  And not because it didn’t exist but because, in the grand scheme of things, all of the joys and hopes and giggles of that life triumph over the hyperventilation over exams and caffeine-induced stupors when pulling all-nighters to get a paper done that I should have completed days before.

Funny how those rose-coloured glasses are nowhere to be found in the now moments of life.  Such pressing things take a toll on us: children begging to be picked up while we cook dinner, or stubbornly refusing to put on their shoes in a rush to get out the door, or very vehemently and vocally disobeying instructions not to beat on their sisters.  Laundry hampers heaped to overflowing with dirty clothes, windows streaked with little fingerprints, fridges that are desperate to be cleaned, and a floor with crumbs as numerous as the stars.  Constant repetition of the word “NO!” from both mommy and child.

Nightly I flop, exhausted, onto the couch, look at my husband, and realize that the only thing I want to do is close my eyes, listen to the silence and dream of days to come, when my children are more independent and less whiny.

Oh, but when I think of those other moments…

  • arms squeezing my neck so tightly I can hardly breath
  • cuddles in bed
  • singing songs with two high small-child voices joining in
  • funny imaginative stories invented by preschoolers
  • remarkable inside-jokes presented by a toddler

I know in the harder moments of life that yes, my dad was certainly right – those university years were indeed among the most carefree of my life.

And I know, too, that that little old grandmother was right, too.  Someday I will look back and desperately miss these years.  So I’m going to hold on to each moment – in case I blink and suddenly my girls are all grown up and I’m missing the arms around my knees, the happy giggles, and even the banging of spoons on metals bowls amid shrieks of laughter – yes, even that.