Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Full Hands, Full Hearts

It doesn’t matter where we go - a store, a restaurant, the beach – anywhere. We inevitably get stopped by, usually a woman, who feels the need to comment about the three small children that we tote with us. 

The comment always goes something like this:

“Wow, three boys? You sure do have your hands full…” The comment is either preceded by a sympathetic look as though I had leprosy, or it is followed by a raised eyebrow as if I had birthed three hyenas and had clearly neglected proper birth control procedures to prevent aforementioned hyenas. 

Of course we have our hands full! Raising three boys, ages five and under, can be overwhelming at times. Sometimes we feel like a traveling circus, and sometimes we feel like the orangutan exhibit at the local zoo.  Are they perfect kids? No. Am I a perfect mother? Far from it. But I love my boys. And my hands are also full when I’m doing laundry, taking out the garbage, or putting away groceries, but no one comments then.

Why does this bother me so much, you might ask? It irks me for a few reasons.

Reason #1 – Why do people feel the need to voice their inner thoughts to complete strangers? I don’t approach people and say, “Wow, your hair stylist was really having an off day, huh?” If they only knew what our family really has been through, they wouldn’t think that having “just” three boys was so tough. You don’t know anyone’s story until you’ve walked miles in their shoes. So go ahead and comment. I wear an 8 ½, by the way.

Reason #2 – It is no one’s business how many children we choose to have or not have. Please don’t look at me like I was negligent in the arena of birth control. Don’t stand there and do the math as to the years between my children. Don’t look at me like a breeder. Don’t look at me and try to determine how old I am in relation to my children. Yes, I’m young, but I had children with my husband, and after I earned two college degrees and worked for years. Clearly, I’m not a strain on society. A family member, who also has multiple children, was recently scoffed at when she mentioned that they wanted an even larger family. The number of children a husband and wife choose to bring into this world is an issue that is between God and them. 

Reason #3 – Perhaps the strongest reason as to why this bothers me so much is that it is all that my children hear. Every time we leave the house, someone is telling them that they “are a handful.” When you hear something enough times, you start to internalize and believe it. If I tell myself every day that I am worthless, ugly, and stupid, eventually I will believe that I am worthless, ugly, and stupid. But if I tell my children that they are loved, blessed, and special, they will grow into young men who believe that they are loved, blessed, and special. And I pray that they will someday raise children of their own and tell them that they, too, are loved, blessed, and special – and not just “handfuls.”  

So the next time a perfect stranger approaches us and feels that it is their place to comment on the existence of my three precious boys, I will reply with the following:

“Thank you for your input, and I am sure you are well-intentioned. But I would prefer my children to not believe they are burdens on their parents, but know that they are blessings from God. The next time you feel it necessary to comment on someone’s family, you’d be better to tell them how beautiful, blessed, or fantastic their family is. Have a nice day.”

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy 5th Birthday, Aaron

Happy Birthday, Aaron.

I truly believe that all children are a gift from God. There’s just no other explanation as to how and why life forms. Anyone who doesn’t believe in God hasn’t witnessed the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth.
Aaron, you were a true answer to prayer and continue to be a gift from above.
We tried for years to have a baby, and two years into the process, we found out we were expecting you, our first little boy.
Statistics show that only approximately 30% of women’s waters break. And only 5% of women deliver on their due date.
My water broke. On your due date.  I think you’ve always had an attention to detail.
As you started to grow and play, you organized your cars in color order.
You like to eat your meals one food group at a time.
You follow rules.
You put one toy away before taking others out.
You have manners and a politeness that some adults I know should emulate.
You help fold laundry.
You make your own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
You look out for and protect your little brothers.
You take out the garbage. The big bin.
You’re sympathetic and empathetic toward others.
Your pre-school teacher dubbed you the “class encourager.”
You are wickedly smart.
You love the Lord. (As I sit here writing this, you are “reading” your Bible.)
You pray.
Aaron, my dear boy, you are a light to this family. You make us laugh, teach us new things every day, and are mature and wise beyond your years. Happy 5th birthday to my little “Bubby.” You’ll always be mommy’s little baby. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Happy 1st Birthday, Matthew

To my dear Matthew, on your first birthday:

You, sir, are a true reflection of God's timing and plan.

As others know, you were not, well, expected. Your dad and I said we were done after having your brother Ben. Two boys seemed like enough, but the Lord had other plans.

The night we found out that you were going to be our #3, I was scared. I wasn't ready to be a mom of three. Your older brothers were just 3 1/2 years old and 6 months old. I had no idea what I was going to do with a third little person around the house.

In the midst of my tears, your brother Aaron kept repeating, "Mommy, Matthew 6. Matthew Six. Matthew 6." After some time, I broke out my Bible and looked up what Matthew 6 said.

Matthew 6:25-34

Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

When we read that, we knew that you were to be named Matthew. It was only fitting. 

A few weeks away from your delivery, I received some news that no one ever wants to hear. I heard that I was very sick. What I learned was that the sickness might have not been seen for a very long time, if it hadn't been for you. Being pregnant with you made it possible for me to see the sickness. 

You saved me. 

And while I was facing a very scary and very sad time, your birth and your first year gave our entire family something to rejoice over. You allowed us moments to smile, laugh, and embrace new life.

You saved all of us.  

So, you little miracle and hero, while you weren't in our plans, you were in God's plans.  You have been an absolute joy and ray of sunshine in our lives, and I can't wait to see all that your life has in store for you.  You and I will always share a special bond, and you will forever hold a piece of my heart.

Thank you for saving me, my little hero.


Friday, May 31, 2013

One Year Later: I'll Take the Stairs

There are a few images from this last year that will stay with me for a lifetime.
Others, however, have been miraculously erased, never to be viewed again. I think it’s God’s way of helping us move on. He allows some of the memories, pictures, and feelings of pain to dissipate as we check off each day on the calendar. Others, He has us hold onto, to remember where we were and help us figure out where we’re going.
I can remember almost the exact concrete pavers we were standing on when we left the surgeon’s office after the biopsy, when we stopped, clung to each other, and sobbed.
I remember the heat I felt sitting on the couch, surrounded by family when, on speaker phone, the doctor confirmed our nightmares. I remember watching the boys walk down the stairs for the first time after that phone call, realizing I would never be the same mom again.
I remember sitting in the chemo treatment for the first time, crying, and having the most amazing nurse trying to hold back her tears, too.
I remember looking down at my body after the surgery for the first time, confident in knowing that I did what I had to do, but still feeling the awful emotions of regret, loss, and sadness.
I remember my last chemo treatment and the ringing of the symbolic bell. I remember an entire chemo room clapping and crying for me; me - a stranger to them all, rejoicing in the milestone along with us.
And that’s about all I really can vividly see in my mind’s eye. I have blocked out intermittent doctors’ appointments, the true feeling of nausea, the nights sleeping in a recliner, the metal taste in my mouth, and the exhaustion. I’ve even begun to forget what I looked like bald.
I am truly a different person than I was one year ago today. For some things I have more patience, for others, none. I have more empathy and sympathy. I want to do more things for others, and for myself. I want to work harder than I’ve ever had to work. I want to play harder than I’ve ever played. I don’t want to miss out on the little things, and I certainly want to be a part of the big ones. I want to smile and laugh more and cry less. I want to say yes to opportunities that may not come my way again. I want to try things I’ve never tried. I want to tell people how much I care about them. I want to repay all those that sacrificed for me.  I want to give back. I want to share my story, in hopes that it can help even just one person. I want to share my faith, in hopes that it can save even just one person.
I have a bucket list now. A real one. And I keep adding to it, because I’m going to be around for a long time.
There’s a winding set of stairs that lead to my oncologist’s office. In the center is a beautiful waterfall. But for so much of this last year, I had to take the elevator. I was either too tired, too sick, too nauseous, or too weak to even consider the stairs.  
Until now. I’m strong. Those stairs that were once impossible to climb, exhausting, daunting, and scary, are now just another piece of evidence to show how far I’ve come. They symbolize my strength, my growth, and my journey.
So, from here on out, I’ll take the stairs.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thank you #4: Nathan

When a couple recites their wedding vows, they always imagine that the “bad times,” “sickness,” and “poorer” will happen to the other couples, not them. All too often, when those less than desirable times occur, the couple runs away from each other, not honoring the vows they made to each other and to God.

This last year was a true test. We experienced the bad, the poor, and the sick – all within a 24 hour period. One year ago today, I lay on a surgeon’s table while the doctor performed a biopsy. By the time we got home, a message awaited us that Nathan was let go from his job. The next day, the cancer results were confirmed. Bad. Poor. Sick. 

Instead of running away, Nathan ran toward me. I will never forget the look in his eyes when the doctor said “cancer.” I will never forget watching him punch a hole in our kitchen wall out of sheer angst. I will never forget the tears that he shed and how tightly he held me – together.

He stood by my side for every moment of this journey. He took me to every doctor’s appointment. He held my hand as the nurse inserted the chemo needles each and every time. He got me whatever food sounded good while I was sick and nauseous. He took care of the boys so I could rest. He helped shave my head when my hair started to fall out. He told me I was beautiful. After my surgery, when I felt like I had been chopped to bits, he helped feed me. When I was strong enough to take a shower in the hospital, he was the one to help me. I was so scared for him to see me all cut up, so I draped a towel over me. The towel fell, and I know that he saw my scarred body, but he never said a word because he knew I wanted to keep it a secret for just a little bit longer.  Once home, he helped me change the bandages over my drains. He helped me get dressed. He told me I was beautiful. 

He rejoiced with me when the doctors said that I was cancer free. 

This summer, we will be married for 11 years. We were supposed to take a vacation last summer to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary, but life got in the way. I pray that this summer we get the opportunity to spend just a few days together celebrating just how far we’ve come, preferably somewhere with a beach and a few margaritas. Just sayin’.

Our wedding song has always been important to me, and it proved even more so this year. It’s titled I Will Be Here by Steven Curtis Chapman. I close with the lyrics and a link to the song, and a heart full of gratitude to God for blessing me with Nathan. I couldn't have done this without him.

I Will Be Here Music Video

Tomorrow mornin'
If you wake up
And the sun
Does not appear
I, I will be here

If in the dark
We lose sight of love
Hold my hand
And have no fear
'Cause I, I will be here

I will be here
When you feel like bein' quiet
When you need
To speak your mind
I will listen

And I will be here
When the laughter turns to cryin'
Through the winnin', losin' and tryin'
We'll be together, 'cause I will be here

Tomorrow mornin'
If you wake up
And the future
Is unclear
I, I will be here

As sure as seasons
Are made for change
Our lifetimes
Are made for years
So I, I will be here

I will be here
And you can cry on my shoulder
When the mirror
Tells us we're older
I will hold you

And I will be here
To watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things
You are to me, I will be here

I will be true
To the promise I have made
To you and to the one
Who gave you to me
I, I will be here

And just as sure as seasons
Are made for change
Our lifetimes are made for years
So I, I will be here
We'll be together, I will be here