Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sleep Deprivation and Grace

Three years ago, I sat on the same faded green couch I am sitting on now. My sweet little bundle of joy (Jayci) was nestled in one bouncing arm while I desperately pecked out Google searches with the other hand. I was determined to figure out what I was missing. Surely every other momma out there knew the secret: getting their baby to sleep. And more, getting them to sleep IN THEIR CRIB rather than exclusively in exhausted arms. Certainty filled me: there was definitely some sort of mom-club that everyone else had been invited to, and I was missing out on. I had a vague idea that the club involved sleep-training and baby-wearing, but I wasn't quite sure how to join or really what either of those things even meant. I googled "how to get your baby to sleep in her crib," and subsequently spent hours pouring over blogs and website providing a confusing spiderweb of answers. Moms who assured me with photos and words that one should definitely be able to clean and cook and entertain and write beautifully with a newborn, who should be sleeping through the night by eight weeks old anyhow . . . .  or else sleeping in your bed in co-sleeping-breast-feeding-newborn-bliss. I was confused, sleep-deprived, self-loathing, and desperate.

Three years later I sit on the green couch and tug at a stubborn zipper on a slip-covered pillow that haven't been washed in who-knows-how-long.  Jayci is yelling at me from her "rest-time" that she wants to come out, which is causing Caden to stir angrily in my arms. He has already, after-all, been asleep for nearly fifteen minutes, which is clearly long enough. I sigh loudly. I'm having one of those days again. The kind when Adam is out chopping wood (literally) for who-knows-what, and the three-year old is in rare form, and the six month old who hasn't slept in six months continues to not-sleep. And I am daydreaming about running away to the nearest hotel where I will collapse in blissful sleep.

A few nights ago, Caden only woke up ONE time all night and I was nearly giddy with the excitement and prospects of what lay ahead. Clearly, before long they would BOTH be sleeping all night! And also napping simultaneously! And I would do laundry and NOT forget to put it in the dryer! And then I would fold it and put it away that same day rather than waiting for weeks! And the dishes wouldn't stack up! And the kiddos would always be polite and respectful and never steal things from us!

But things don't always go as planned, and the last three nights Caden has woken up at least once an hour all-night-long. I realize we've developed some bad-sleep-habits with our sweet little guy (mostly because of his health stuff), but I dont have the energy or stamina at 3am to risk him waking Jayci up by letting him cry even for a few minutes. Besides, who can remember in the constant fog of sleep-deprivation whose turn it is to get up with the baby and how long it's been since he last ate? My only thought is of the quickest route back into my bed.

And so I am still confused. And sleep-deprived. And definitely desperate.

I am, however, a whole lot less self-loathing about the whole thing. Because if I've learned anything in the past three years it is this: there is no mom-club. Or if there is, it's merely the triumphant joining of mothers who have realized that there is no formula, no secret. Only babies who like to sleep and babies who don't. Only moms who breast-feed and those who give formula. Those who cry-it-out and others who co-sleep. Moms who have realized that over every single one of us is a God who lavishes grace. A Father who stands in the gap when my patience wears thin with all-the-tantrums and the lack of sleep. Who offers me hope and fresh starts each morning. Because maybe today will be the day that my sweet-miracle-baby finally lets me sleep for eight uninterrupted hours. Or at least three. And if not? Well I have the blessed assurance that He will sustain me through the weariness. That just as surely as He carried me while Caden was in the hospital, He will carry me now, through the mundane days and sleepless nights.

So for all those moms who are struggling to find their way, who are certain that everyone else has it together and has everything figured out. Let me assure you: we don't. Even right this minute, I can barely keep my eyes open wide enough to remind Jayci not to jump off the couch and to ask her to take the marker away that Caden has somehow got his hands on. I am praying for all of you today (and for myself) that we will get some sleep. And that even if we don't, we will find REST and refreshment in the arms of a loving Father who extends grace in my shortcomings, and reminds me that it is those very shortcomings that will point my children to Him.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Some Stuff . . .

Also, I didn't take any pictures. It's like I don't even know who I am. I did, however, snap these two quick ones after church when we went out for lunch with my family.


2 -My kids both love to laugh. Which makes me happy.
 3 - The other day we had this gorgeous fantastic weather. So we dragged out our blanket and lay in the sun reading books. The sun was warm on my back while I read A Severe Mercy, and Jayci looked at Goldilocks, and Caden chewed on "Ten Tiny Tickles." Basically, it was perfection. Until I got too hot and I remembered it was only February and I didn't know how I was going to survive the summer.

4 - I dont know if I mentioned that my friend Danielle is living with us right now (she's a hairdresser). As a result, my hair has been more colors in the past few months than it has been in my entire life. Right now it's got red in it. Jayci's response? "Red is NOT my favorite color mommy."

5 - Mornings when Adam gets up with Jayci are some of my favorite times ever. I lay with my smiling boy in bed, and the sun streams through the blinds and makes my whole day bright. It's good for my soul. Particularly after a rough night like last night when Caden was up at LEAST once every hour. Sigh.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Love and Grace and Messes

I don't know if anyone noticed (just humor me and pretend you did even if you didn't), but I wasn't around much last week. Adam and I have been trying to figure out some stuff, and I have been sitting staring at this computer screen for quite some time (since Valentine's day to be exact). . . I'm just not sure how to share, or what the best way is to respond and deal with the whole situation. And now I'm making it sound like a bigger deal than it actually is, or even than we think it is. Anyways, all that to say that I am sharing this with humility and hopefulness that you will be praying for us to demonstrate grace and love.
-------------------
It's late afternoon on valentine's day, and I am attempting to get Caden to sleep in his crib, a painstaking and often unsuccessful task. I hum softly as I gently lay Caden down, just as I hear the front door fly open and kiddos burst in, a cacophony of laughter and loud and an unmistakable valentine's day sugar high.

I catch the door before it bangs and gently slide shut the barn door, hoping (in vain probably) that the double barrier will keep Caden's eyes closed for more than 10 minutes. I grin as I am immediately accosted by a dozen little arms, offering candy, giving hugs, telling me about their valentine's day. Jayci is in the midst of the bunch, her skin milk to their chocolate. She bosses them incessantly, reminding them all to "play nice," and calling them by their nicknames: boo-boo, daddy, maya, oj . . .

"Daddy" asks me to help with his homework, and he plops down in Jayci's small wooden chair. I sit next to him on a blue chevron floor cushion, impatient to grab the pencil and write answers for him, reminding me once again why I probably should never homeschool.

The sugar high is unmistakable in the especially boisterous crew today. They fight over Candyland, track mud through the house, and pull forty seven books off the shelves before I finally suggest they take the frisbee and football and go outside to work off a little steam. Minutes later, a few of the littlest boys tumble back through the door, offering me roses from the man on the corner.
My heart feels full as I snip the ends off the roses and arrange them in a mason jar on the counter. Finally, we herd the crew out the door, their hands and mouths sticky with the rice krispie treat kisses we made. I breathe a sigh of resignation as I go back inside and begin again the never-ending task of cleaning up. We make the kiddos pick up after themselves, but that inevitably means a candy-land-man left here, a domino there, the queen of spades under the table, and candy wrappers hidden in seat cushions. While I'm straightening piles and shuffling papers back where they belong, I notice: Adam's wallet is gone. Cautiously I ask Adam if he moved it, or if he had seen it anywhere else. We rummage through the entire house before admitting defeat, and acknowledging that one of the kiddos had probably taken it.

We knew who had done it. Or at least we were pretty sure we knew. Like 85% sure. Not sure enough to accuse, and not yet close enough or familiar enough to talk to his mom.  This particular boy is one I've been determined to befriend. He's a tough nut to crack, but I am relentless and stubborn. When we moved in this past summer, we would spend most evenings sitting in the muggy Georgia night on our front porch, swatting bugs, people watching, and drinking homemade peach milkshakes. I would sweat profusely, patting my rounded belly, propping up my hopelessly swollen ankles, and declare night after night that I was going to befriend that little boy. He was always out, regardless of the hour. His cheerful loud voice rang out as the lone child among the adults on the street corner. I was never sure who he belonged to, or why he was out with "unsavory" characters at all hours of the night. But in the stagnant heat of July, I dreamed already of next summer, when he would sit with us on our front porch instead. Eating popsicles and playing cards and enjoying being a kid rather than growing up too fast.

And so, even in this act, I am saddened but not particularly angry or surprised. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that we want to take advantage of teachable moments, I would be tempted to just let the whole thing slide by, pretending oblivion. But I am convinced that someone needs to love these kids well. And sometimes loving well means disciplining, erecting boundaries, and enforcing them.

The next day, we leave the cheerful yellow sign off the door. Conspicuous in its absence, a few kids knock insistently on the door anyways (they always do), asking what is going on, why we aren't "open" that day. We explain that someone had taken Adam's wallet, and that we are taking a few days to figure everything out and think about how best to proceed. Quite quickly, we are inundated with kiddos calling and knocking and letting us know who took the wallet (the same kiddo we had suspected). We are flooded with offers of retribution, and begging to come back in. The flurry is exhausting. I am so ready, willing, eager to show grace. But I am at a loss as to how best to demonstrate grace to someone who doesn't acknowledge that he wants or even needs it.

And I wonder how often Jesus stands frustrated, ready to forgive us, arms open wide. While we ignore, cajole, deny. We put our walls up, certain of pain, unforgiveness. Divine retribution. And yet, still he stands there. Waiting.

So tomorrow, after much prayer and family time, and wise counsel, we will hang the yellow "hello" out beside the door. And the kiddos will come in. And we will risk, once again, losing things. Having toys, or cans of Sprite, or snacks, or even our wallets stolen. But they are just things, and hearts are always always always more important than things. So even when we are saddened or disappointed. Or when we lose things we think might be important, I will grit my teeth to show grace. Pulling it out again and again, its edges worn smooth from use. But Grace only grows more beautiful with use, changing us and dazzling all those who encounter it.


Still, I am stubborn in my pursuit. Because I know that is how Jesus pursues us. Stubbornly, unendingly. Forever.  And we will pursue reconciliation, while erecting boundaries and expecting more from him. But always, always, we will point him back to the Truth. I will paint with grace-graffiti over the lies he has learned about who he is. I will tell this little boy that he is more than the things he does. That stealing our wallet doesn't define him as a thief. Because we refuse to define him by anything other than what Jesus tells us he is. Beloved. Adopted. Chosen. Forgiven.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Heart Faces: A Very Special Heart

This week's theme at I Heart Faces is "hearts," and I simply couldn't resist entering this week. Although, as usual, I waited until the last minute and now I'm scrambling to get a post up before we have to leave for dinner and after shooing all the kiddos out the door on a massive valentine candy high.

My entry this week, of course, is Caden. I literally just teared up looking at this picture, thinking about my boy's special beautiful heart and the miracle of who he is. In case you're popping in from I Heart Faces and don't know the whole story, Caden was born with severe heart defects and had open heart surgery at 5 days old. The three weeks he spent in the cicu at Choa Egleston were the scariest and most beautiful ones I have ever faced. God met us, and encouraged and uplifted us, in incredible ways, even as we surrendered our son.

Thankfully, Caden is home with us and just had a fabulous check-up with the cardiologist - so what better day to celebrate his heart made whole!
As usual, head to I Heart Faces for more beautiful hearts this week! (I happen to know of several other wonderful "heart babies" whose pictures have been entered - be sure to leave them extra love!)
Photo Challenge Submission

Friday, February 10, 2012

Good News from the Cardiologist (and more)

 Yesterday, we took Caden back to the cardiologist for the first time in six months. I was, admittedly, nervous. And the doctor didn't make it any better by telling us right off the bat that his murmur sounded quite harsh and he also now had a "thrill," meaning you could feel the murmur when you laid your hand over his heart. He said we needed to do an echo to find out more. Once they looked at the echo, however (which Caden handled like a champ), they said that his valve had a noisy murmur but that the function still looked good. And the left ventricle (the one they were worried about because it was thickened)? He said it looked "peppy" now! Hooray for Caden's peppy heart! The doctor said he thinks it will be a few years until Caden's next surgery, and that we don't have to go back to the cardiologist for 9 months. That means he will be over a year old before we see the cardiologist again - that is crazy! I left the appointment feeling so overwhelmed, once again, by the goodness of our God, and the gift of our son. Thanks so much for all your prayers! (sorry for the over-abundance of exclamation points. I feel this is exclamation-point-worthy-news)

It's still CHD awareness week, and I wanted to point y'all to some good stuff around the web that you guys can explore, read, share etc. And again, I wish I had more adequate words to thank each and every one of you for continuing to walk this journey and celebrate the Lord's faithfulness with us!

-Our Pinterest Board has nearly 200 stories on it right now. Warning: you might want to grab some kleenex as you shed tears over broken hearts, some of which have been healed, others who are still fighting, and some who lost their battle with CHD. THEY are why we must continue to fight for awareness and funding. These heart babies (and kids and grown-ups) and some of the bravest, most beautiful people I know.

-Visit my friend Stefanie's blog for some amazing stories and links and videos and more. I have shed quite a few tears reading her posts and hearing some more heart baby stories.

-Loved this.


My sweet fellow heart mom Tara shared some more information about pulse oximetry:
 
What can you do?  Follow this link to view your state and the person in charge of advocacy for getting a bill passed.  See how you can help.  Secondly, if you are expecting, or know someone who is expecting, tell them to ASK FOR THE TEST when their child is born.  In fact, there is a printable brochure you can find here, that you can bring to your doctor and talk to them about it.

It’s all about learning and being an educated advocate for your child!  You can find more information on pulse oximetry on these websites:

 
Oh and here's the update from my 365 project. You'll notice one day is conspicuously missing. Oops.
(Some amazing people brought us some amazing goodies today. I am continually blown away by God's encouragement and provision for us. We are blessed by y'all!)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cardiologists and CHD Awareness

Caden has a cardiologist appointment tomorrow. It's his first one in four months (which is a good thing, because it means they believe he's doing well enough to go longer between appointments). But I'm feeling (unnecessarily) anxious about it. Like, the kind of anxious that's giving me butterflies in my stomach and making it impossible to sleep, despite how exhausted I am and how excited I was to be in bed before 11pm. I KNOW that it's most likely they will tell us he's doing great (after oohing and aahing over how cute he is of course). I mean, he smiles constantly, giggles at his sister, eats fine most of the time, hasn't had any signs of anything NOT being right with his heart. But I still feel that nagging fear, causing tension on the fringes of my days. There's such a sense of uncertainty for me about Caden's future. I know he needs more surgery at some point, I just don't know when. Or how I will know. Or what that will look like.

Maybe it's just the fact that he even needs a cardiologist. I mean, the second Adam walked into the hospital room and introduced me to the "cardiologist" I knew there was something very very wrong with our son. And after he was born, I held Caden, nursed him, loved on him, yet still had NO idea anything was wrong. So what if there's something wrong again, and I just don't know? All that to say, please be praying for us and for Caden tomorrow. I'm praying that he will astonish the doctors anew at just how well he's doing!

This train of thought, the uneasiness and anxiety, the "not knowing" have made me think a lot about the fact that I DIDN'T have a clue anything was wrong with Caden. It was a pulse oximetry screening that literally saved Caden's life. And for that reason, I am passionate about advocating for mandatory pulse ox for babies before they leave the hospital. In case you didn't read Caden's birth story, after hearing a murmur they checked his pulse ox, his was at an 89 - it has to be at least a 90 or else they send them to the NICU for further monitoring. I tremble to think what might have happened if they didn't do pulse oximetry at the hospital where Caden was born, or if the nurse had bent the rules just a little since his level was hovering anywhere from 89-93 . . . In fact, we had them track down that nurse so we could thank her for saving our baby's life. She prayed over Caden and grasped our hands tightly, reassured us, and lifted us up to the Lord. She saved us that day in more ways than she will ever know.


I read a post by Matt Hammitt (a fellow "heart parent," as well as a singer that I am apparently a little obsessed with) this morning. And his words have stayed with me all day:

I'm what we've come to call a “heart parent”, and from my family's wounds, faith has risen up in me. I want to make being Bowen's daddy count, and my guess is that if you are a fellow heart parent, you have that very same desire.

Imagine if we all rose up to claim the beauty of our struggle, found hope in what looks to be hopeless, believed like children, for our children, that a better world is coming. Think of what it would be like if we embraced what felt wrong as the birth of what will one day be made right. What if we found each other, walked, laughed and grieved together? Imagine if, together, we traded in all of our pain to claim an amazing purpose.

Beauty from ashes, joy for sorrow. And the promise of wholeness; if not now, than some day. Because when anxiety fills me and troubles my heart, I must rest fully in the promise that it will all one day be made right. And I trust completely (though not always easily) in the Truth of a good God who loves Caden and has a perfect plan for his life.
Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are more common than you might think, and nearly 1 in 100 babies are born with a CHD. I don't want to scare moms, especially new ones (there's already plenty that scares us as new moms right?) But I do hope and pray every single day that I might be a good steward of Caden's story. And if his story might help spread awareness and ultimately save lives, than I am honored to be even a small part of that.


I have also been so grateful for the opportunity to help fellow heart mom Ruth (and Stefanie) put together the Faces of CHD page on Pinterest. And, let me just tell you, I have sobbed with both grief and joy over each and every beautiful face on the board. There are nearly 200 stories and pictures that have been shared, and the range of stories, of defects, of outcomes . . . it's staggering. I would love for you guys to go read some of the stories, share, repin - and it's not too late if you still want to share your story too (just send me an email - Becca1612 at hotmail dot com)

*I'm going to try and post a little more throughout the week about CHD and will probably link to some other heart mom's stories and posts as well. They have all done a much better job than me at being on top of all this. Probably because I am so NOT on top of my life that there is currently 6.5 loads of clean, unfolded, and undoubtedly very wrinkly, clothes strewn across my house right now.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dear Caden

Dear sweet Caden,

I can scarcely believe it has been six months since you came into our lives. No one who has encountered you, or your story, are the same since that very first moment you entered our story. And I haven't stopped breathing in the blessing of who you are ever since. Whether it's stroking a tiny patch of forehead while your chest is open and wires stream from every limb, or cuddling you close to me in the wee hours of the morning, I am thankful for each moment. And that is a gift that I didn't always grasp with your sister. I love both of you so much, more than I thought possible. But God has used you already to teach me so much about myself, about you, about being a mom. About His goodness and about grace.
Your sweet grin lights up your whole face. Not a day goes by that doesn't include comments from strangers on how happy you are, how beautiful you are, and how perfect and soulful your eyes are. And I think it's because of where you've been. Because of all the obstacles you've already faced, and overcome, all the lives you've already touched.

Every day as I nurse you, give you a bottle, force-feed you peas (not that I blame you because peas? they're nasty), I pray over you. You've taught me so much about prayer. About communing with a Father who is there, present, even in the midst of the mundane, the every day.  I pry my hands open on a daily basis as I remember what it means to surrender you. To surrender you today, tomorrow, and every day. Just as surely as I surrendered you on the day they cut open your chest. Because I am filled with certainty that you belong to a God who loves you more deeply and more recklessly than I ever could. A God who has big plans for your life, plans that have already blown me away with their beauty, terror, and hope.
And I know that your special heart, and every minute you spent in the hospital, has helped to shape you, even if you don't remember them. Because we gave you to the Lord. And anything that belongs to the Lord is precious, a treasure simply waiting to be unfurled. With you, every moment is special: a gift, a miracle, a joy. Even when you are fighting sleep endlessly, when you are crying, when you are jumping unruly in your exersaucer, or spitting out your peas.

You know, the truth is that your mom doesn't even really know how to handle such a treasure. I'm a girl. I have a daughter, and two sisters. No brothers. No other sons. Nothing to even begin to point me in the right direction. How do I raise a boy? How do I infuse you with knowledge of cars, and leadership, and rough-housing, things I know nothing about? I know that I will show you grace, live recklessly full of mercy and joy at all we've already overcome. And I will pray every day that you will watch your earthly father and seek your Heavenly Father.
 
I think to myself that perhaps I will sleep one day, maybe when you turn twelve. Because I have to believe you will turn twelve one day. And you might have had another heart surgery or two by then, but we will celebrate your twelfth birthday with fear and trembling at how close I am to having a teenage son. One who can eat his weight in hot dogs and cheese dip (some thing have to be inherited from me right?) and who can burp and smell and wear shoes that seem to big for your awkwardly adolescent self.

And on that day, my prayers will echo the ones I whisper as I gently graze your scar today. Prayers for a son who, above all else, loves and depends on Jesus. Who craves time with a Savior who saved His life, who healed His heart, and changed an entire community. I pray that even as you have suffered open-heart surgery, you will remain willing to rend your heart for the sake of those around you. That you will become a man whose heart breaks over injustice and whose bravery is unmatched. Who mends brokenness, and knit hearts together every single day.
I pray that you, my son, will one day lead just as you have always led. By example. By sharing your story and facing bravely all that lays in front of you. That people will be drawn to Jesus because of your beautiful heart. Because I have seen that heart. And I am as certain today as I was on that day that it is a unique heart. A heart that may be hurt by life, by defects, by sinfulness, by unforgiveness and anger, but a heart that always triumphs in goodness, in love, and in grace. 
I look at your sweet, beautiful scar. And I pray no one will ever convince you it's anything less than perfect. An outward symbol of your victory. A glorious sign of the way you were hurt, and how you were healed.  I pray you will never hide your hurt. That you will never be ashamed of the things that make you different, the scars that have shaped who you are. We have both been hurt, stretched, cut, wounded . . . and we are stronger.
This week is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness week. The statistics say you are 1 in 100. But, my sweet boy, I know you are more like one in a million. Which sounds cheesy, but I believe it is true. You were made exactly how you were supposed to be. And I couldn't be more grateful for who you are, where you've been, and who Christ is knitting you into each and every day.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Caden's Half-Birthday

First of all, can anyone else seriously not believe Caden is 6 months old today?! I am in the process of writing Caden a letter for his 6 month birthday today. However, it is apparently involving many tears and I'm struggling to find the right words to express my heart for my sweet, beautiful, miracle. So I put together a slideshow, and then cried some more while I watched it. This slideshow, to this particular song, has been in my head and heart for a really long time. When we brought Caden home, I told Adam I wanted to have him dedicated and I was going to force our church to play a slideshow of his life using this song (our pastor, however, is a very large ex-wrestler and football player, so I'm not sure how effective the "forcing" would be).

Why? Because God has been faithful and steadfast, and we have not walked alone. Even through the darkest nights, we were never alone. And I pray that we will always be "breathing out His praise" each step of the way.

Thank you ALL for being a part of our sweet boy's journey.

 

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone

Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we'll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January Photo Dump

Because I'm doing a 366 project this year, I have been taking pictures every day. I only choose one picture each day to share/label etc . . . but most days I have more than one picture that I love. Mostly because my kids are so darn cute. Again, I'm completely unbiased in this opinion.

That said, I couldn't bear the thought of not sharing a few more pictures from this past month. And by a "few", I mean a "whole lot." Don't say I didn't warn you.

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