Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tae Kwon NO

A couple of months ago we decided that this would be the last year of our YMCA membership.  It served us well for several years, and we are ready to move on.  However, before doing so in December, we set out to give our children one last opportunity to try anything new they were interested in.  Long story short, there were some time conflicts regarding the availability of a martial arts class, and while I was waiting out a solution, God dropped it in my lap.

I've never had an experience quite like that before.  I knew there was a scheduling issue, I knew something needed to be figured out, but I just didn't feel compelled to FIGURE IT OUT.  I just waited with the feeling that it would just work itself out. It still seems so bizzare to me that God just laid out the answer for me regarding something so small and seemingly insignificant.  I mean, God works in BIG things, I've seen that, I've lived that.  But God also works in the teeny tiny things that, well honestly, I think I often fail to notice.

So, a dear friend who had heard about this issue that I was not figuring out, randomly won a pair of tickets for 2 weeks free at a local martial arts establishment...and she gave them to me.  I was thrilled, but also shocked because it seemed SO CLEAR that this was a God given gift, and like I said, I'm still wrapping my mind around how He cares for me in the details.

I met with the owner, signed up for our 2 weeks free, and explained to the kids that this would be a short term, four class, temporary thing.  We were just trying it out.  If they loved it and decided to stick with it we would do that AFTER soccer, and at a more affordable establishment.

Kids started Tae Kwon Do.  Kids loved Tae Kwon Do.

The teacher/owner is AMAZING, you guys.  She is sweet, firm, and so good at what she does.  Cricket was all in from the trial day, but Buttercup, per usual, took a bit longer to warm up.  Fast forward through a 1 on 1 intro trial and 4 "Tiny Tiger" classes.

They knew tonight would be the last night.  They had both expressed disappointment at multiple times leading up to it.  They ROCKED their class and Buttercup announced that she's going to "keep doing this forever" as we left.  But then we left.  And the questions started.  And the discussion started.  And the tears started.

Like I said, the establishment is great.  The teacher is phenomenal.  I would LOVE for my kids to be able to continue doing this thing they enjoy at this amazing place.  But here's the deal, there's a $499 per child enrollment fee, plus a monthly fee of $199 each.

Let that sink in.

We are a one income family.  My husband is a public servant.

Guess what folks, we CAN NOT AFFORD THAT.

I mean, sure, if we skipped some other things that are highly valued by our family, pinched our pennies extra tight, and dug up another source of overtime we COULD possibly squeak by.

And this was a new first.  I mean, yes, we've had plenty of, "I don't know what they heck you need and I can't fix it," screaming baby/toddler moments.  But this was the first time I could see what they want, what they truly think they need, and even though it is a truly good and harmless thing, I can't provide it.  I just can't.

So, tonight I sat with my babies while they cried.  And I was so, so thankful for the work God has done in my life and my heart.  Because I held them and it felt GOOD to be unable to solve their problem.

For the first time in my life it felt GOOD to show them that I will fail them.  I will fall short.
I want them, in my falling short, to be led to His never failing.  

I told them I was proud of their effort and enthusiasm.
I want them to know that I saw them working hard and loving it, and that it was beautiful to behold.

I told them that I understood their disappointment.  That I, too, was disappointed.
I want them to know that what seems good is not always right.

I told them that their disappointment is okay and even totally reasonable.  I told them that even Momma and Daddy can't, as much as we would like to, give them everything they want or need, even when it seems like it would really be best for them.
I want them to know that people will ALWAYS fail them, sooner or later, in some way.

And while they cried, and insisted they would never feel better, I told them that at some point they would feel less sad, not by their own power, but by the power of GOD, and we asked for Him to bring them comfort.
I want them to know that joy, true joy, is never an earthly thing.  True joy is found in knowing that we are HIS, and that we are REDEEMED.  True joy is knowing one day He will wipe every tear and make all the sad things come untrue.  

I could never have imagined how the things God has been teaching me, the circumstances He's been orchestrating, would come to this.  To this moment when I'm holding my crying babies and truly enjoying my imperfection and inability.  Enjoying the reality that I can't give them what they want BECAUSE it forces them to rely on GOD.  And just bearing with them in the sadness of our fallen world.

Cricket fell asleep thinking of ways he could earn the money to pay for it himself.  Honestly, I'm not sure what we will do IF this crazy possibility becomes a reality.  Because, I'm not sure if working hard for $200 per month of spending money (after the required saving and tithing) and then spending it all on Tae Kwon Do is honoring to God.  Could it be? Maybe.  I don't know.  Right now I feel like it's highly unlikely that we will deem that good stewardship.  If you have all of your needs met and God gives you an extra $200, I'm not sure you're cleared to spend that all on your own desires.  Snuggs and I will have to do some deep soul searching, discussing, and praying if that becomes a possibility.  We would love to foster the work ethic he would need to earn that money, but Jesus' work trumps our work EVERY SINGLE TIME.

We're on to soccer in a couple of weeks, and unless money starts rolling in, by the crazy grace of God, clearly labeled for TKD use, I don't see my children's dreams becoming reality.  So, I suppose I'll start praying for their contentment at a martial arts gym that we CAN afford.





Monday, March 20, 2017

Merciful Manna 3-6 and 3-13-2017 Weekly Review: Egyptians

This is what I started with. It's still quite a struggle for me to break it down to their level in one fell swoop. We talked about this briefly, and then moved on to the fun stuff!
Canopic jars, Egyptian gods, and organ playdough! Such thoughtful and engaging conversation about organ choices then versus what we know now, and concepts of afterlife.
Building a teeny playdough pyramid. They enjoyed trying bases of different sizes, and we had some great talks about 2d shapes working together to make 3d shapes. 
A very unofficial translation of our names into hieroglyphics.  Honestly, I was so impressed by their focus and attention to detail here. 

We also had the privilege of visiting the mummy exhibit at the Indy Children's Museum and checking out plenty of realistic hieroglyphics.  
And really, why even bother homeschooling if you don't get to mummify your sister during Egypt studies?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Merciful Manna 2-27-17 Weekly Review: Mesopotamia and Sumer

We discussed the fertile crescent and the way that the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia were benefitted by the rivers nearby. We talked about what plants need to grow, how God provides, and how people learned to move water by irrigation to expand their farmable land. We performed an experiment to see what variables affect water flow to plants.

We learned about ancient Sumerians and their cuneiform writing carved into clay tablets.  We tried some playdough cuneiform carving of our own! 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Merciful Manna 2-20-17 Weekly Review: The Flood and The Tower of Babel

We began by reviewing the flood story in the Bible. At the end of the story, we transitioned from God's sign in the sky directly to the science behind rainbows.
We reviewed the colors of the light spectrum and discussed the "easy way," blue and purple versus the "science way," blue, indigo, and violet. The kids drew rainbows.


We also talked about the building of the ark, what Noah used, and what we know about how it looked, and why it floated. I sent the kids to look for 1 item they thought would float, 1 item they thought would sink, and 1 they were uncertain about. We made a chart, filled a bucket, and tested our theories! Then we experimented with containers that could be filled with air and float or filled with water and sink. They were truly surprised that the same container could do both!



After the original art project, they decided they wanted to repeat it with the Spanish color words.  I haven't gotten nearly as far as I'd hoped with teaching them Spanish, but evidently what we have done has stuck! 













We also threw every animal vocabulary card I could find on the floor, matched them in like groups, and wrote their names on the "on board" checklist for the ark! 






We finally got enough sunlight to check out the prism!  It was neat to see up close how the red bends less than the purple.  The kids really enjoyed moving the prism around to different sunny spots and trying out different angles of refraction.  We also left the prism sit in one spot for a while and noticed how the light coming through it changed over time.  I drew examples and did my best to explain the similarities between the way the prism functions and the drops of rain that separate the light in the sky into a rainbow.

We reviewed the Tower of Babel story from the Bible.  This may be my favorite lesson yet, because I feel like I could have really easily screwed it up and still gotten a "nice result." Fortunately, I was listening to the Spirit move in my heart, and ended up with both a "nice" and Gospel centered result.  I started by getting out 2 colors of playdough.  I would make a "I" statement as I built a block with pink, and a "Thank you, God" statement as I built a block with orange.  "I cook delicious dinners for my family," versus "Thank you, God for providing us with yummy food to nourish our bodies." After adding several blocks to each tower, I stopped to ask the kids which tower was about me and how good I am, and which was about God's goodness and honoring Him.  Then we smashed the tower that was about me, and likened it to the Tower of Babel story.  Then they each built towers in the "Thank you, God' method.  It was absolutely precious to hear the things they were thankful for, and I was so glad to be able to help them change their "I" sentences to glorify God.




After discussing the way God gave the people different languages, we practiced saying "Hello" in several languages.  Then they each wrote the English version and another version of their choice. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Merciful Manna 2-13-17 Weekly Review: Creation and The Fall

Having recently realized that I was overdoing it a little in the curriculum department, we've made an intentional decision to scale back and slow down.  To be present, enjoy our work, and have enough space to open our hands to what God would have us do each day.

Week 1: Creation and The Fall

We began by reviewing the story of creation in the Bible. Next we made a list of what happened when. I walked them through all of the, " What could you use to show that God made..." questions. Then they performed their first very loosely scripted play!  They also sang and danced to "Genesis 1:1."


We drew diagrams of the plant life cycle and plant anatomy. Then we played a flower identification matching game. Later we took a field trip to the local florist to see a variety of flowers in person and ask lots of questions.  Buttercup loved purple delphiniums and Cricket loved orange roses.  I didn't get pictures because we were way too involved, but you can see the flowers the kids picked out on the table! In that picture the kids are using playdough to make some representations of what God created. They learned the phrase "ex nihilo" which means out of nothing. We talked about how hard it can be for us to create out of something and how easy it was for God to create out of nothing. 




Next we reviewed the story of The Fall of Man in the Bible. I walked them through a story board summary. We reviewed several artists' renditions of the fall. Then the kids each drew their own representation. 



We also did some Biblically inspired Valentine's cards, wrote letters to our friends, and followed along with the Math U See curriculum that's been working so well for us!






Sunday, June 12, 2016

How We Got Here...

It's taken two and a half years of "back story" to get us where we are today, and quite frankly, that is exhausting to relive and re-explain.  Yet, we are constantly encountering well intended friends and family who want to know what's going on.  So, here it is for perusal at your leisure: the whole story (minus some minutae and emotional processing).

January 16, 2014 marked the official beginning of our adoption process.  Though, of course the heart work began long before that day.

February 25, 2014 we learned that Snuggs was growing a tumor in his noggin, which would (among MANY other things) result in the end of our adoption process. It's crazy to look back at those dates, just over a month apart, and think about the prayers, paperwork, and tears involved.  I still don't completely understand what God was doing there, and I doubt I ever will this side of heaven.

After almost two years, many forms of medication, countless vials of blood, several minor surgeries, and our fair share of marital strife, it seemed as though we finally had a good handle on this tumor and its side effects.  We began 2016 feeling like he could preschedule his procedures on a predictable timetable.

In March of 2016 we celebrated Cricket's 5th birthday aboard a Disney Cruise.  It was truly wonderful.  So wonderful, in fact, that we booked our next one while on board just to save 10% because we KNEW we would be coming back for Buttercup's 5th birthday.  His birthday was the final day of the cruise.  Once we were on land again, Snuggs called to check in with his mom, who had been having some stomach issues that had landed her in and out of the hospital periodically over the two months prior.  He was told that they had run some more tests, which they planned to discuss on the 8th, and that he could be included in that conversation via speakerphone.  She said she felt good about the care she was receiving.

We spent the entire next day being shuttled between various airport gates and airplanes.  We landed in our home state that evening, drove home and got the kids to bed shortly after 9pm.  Exhausted from a full day of traveling with a 3 and 5 year old, we drug in the luggage, dropped it in the kitchen, and were asleep by 10pm.

Shortly after 2:30am that "night" on March 8th, we were awoken by a phone call from Snuggs' sister, panicked and hysterical.  "Mom's coded 3 times and they've been working on her for 40 minutes."  All he said was, "I'm on my way."

We got up and rifled through the luggage to find what he would need in the event that he had to be gone for more than 24 hours, and less than 5 minutes after the call came in, he was out the door.  His mom was gone before he got halfway there.  He was the first family member to the hospital.  Later, he would tell me that he cried, held her hand, and spent roughly 30 minutes telling her all about our vacation and how much the kids had enjoyed it before anyone else arrived.

It's an interesting thing being SUCH an emotional woman married to SUCH a calm and steady man, one who encounters tragedy on a daily basis, at that.  I was by his side for as much as I could possibly be as he processed and prepared for her service, and aside from an occasional far off stare and less conversation than usual, I saw no further display of emotion.  Someone said at her service that he has tear ducts of steel.  I wanted to punch them in the face.  People have NO IDEA.  He is a problem solver, a caretaker, steady, reliable, just, and calm.  But he has the biggest heart I have ever known, and once the tasks are completed, the problems are solved, and everyone else is taken care of, he allows himself to feel it.  Mind you, still not in the dive deep and wallow sort of way that I do, but in small, controlled waves.  I can tell you that he has thought about his mom tons of times since she passed, that he has cried a little and prayed a lot, that he hates that she hurt and died, but being ever the optimist he is determined to find the shred of silver lining. 

Let me tell you, you should brace yourself, because the silver lining here sucks ass. 

There's just no other way to put it.

The silver lining in Snuggs' mom passing away is that those tests they ran days before she died, tests which she never even got to hear the results of, revealed some interesting things that led the overseeing physician to consider Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 1 (MEN1) as a contributing factor.  MEN1 is a genetic condition caused by a mutation of chromosome 11q13, it is autosomal dominant, which means a child only needs one parent with the mutation to have a 50% chance of the same mutation.  At her funeral, we actually learned that Snuggs' estranged older brother had been diagnosed with MEN1 a couple of years ago, had the same tumor Snuggs has in his head, and had recently had 1/3 of his bowel resected as a result of other complications.

The next couple of weeks were messy.  We began a process to increase life insurance policies just in case this became a bigger problem.  We dealt with paperwork, thank you notes, and belongings that resulted from his mother's passing.  We requested a referral for genetic testing for Snuggs...and both kids.  We fell out of our normal steady routine and were just getting done what we needed to handle each day.

As the month drew to a close, I was baptized on Easter Sunday.  I stood before our congregation and confessed that I had spent far too many years trying to be good enough to earn God's grace, and that I had FINALLY managed to begin to wrap my mind around the depth of my depravity, the perfection of his love, and the gigantic gap between the two, that can be covered by Christ alone.  I stood before hundreds of people and told them that I was going to "keep right on rocking imperfection and rest in His perfect grace." 

I truly thought I was a mess.  I was honestly amazed at how much of my messiness I had allowed these people to witness over the last several months.  I was yet more amazed that they continued to love me and lead me to Jesus.  I thought I was a mess then.  I had no idea...but, of course, by this point you know I'm an incredibly Type A personality.  I like order, predictability, schedule, organization.  So I was thrilled when April 4th meant the first Monday in a new month.  I had a plan, and was determined to attempt a return to normalcy. 

The day began promptly at 6:30 am.  Folks, we were doing so well that day.  We were accomplishing tasks on a timeline.  Snuggs left for work at 11:30am, and on the way there received a call from a former coworker in another county.  The officer had called with a request.  Remember that estranged brother I mentioned?  "We need someone to ID his body and we can't get a hold of any other next of kin."
...
I think that was the point at which I completely gave up doing things MY WAY.  We made it 5 hours into my pretty little schedule before the bottom fell out.  We were on moment to moment stand by to determine if Snuggs was going to go ahead and work, or call off, load up, and head out of town to go identify the remains of his older brother.  Ultimately, they were finally able to send an officer to his brother's father's house and make contact.  Snuggs didn't have to go.
It's weird, you know, when people you are supposed to be close to die...except you actually weren't close to them.  So weird.  I'm sure there were some feelings that happened, but the next thing I remember is the next day when we learned that Snuggs' brother's 16 year old son, whom we thought had been living with his mother, had actually been in foster care since January.
That might not seem like an earth shattering fact to you.  But, let me take a minute to remind you that we had been piles of paperwork, case worker meetings, and multiple classes into an adoption process through DCS only 2 years ago. You know me, don't you?  You know my heart for kids.  You know I LOVE ALL THE KIDS.  You know I wanted to read this as a sign, right?  You know I wanted to dive in and open my heart and my home, right?  You know I cried, and cried, and cried.  You know we argued, I questioned, and I sighed the "WHAT THE Flip EVER" sigh, right? You know I found out that this boy's birthday happens to be the same day as my Buttercup and flat out lost it and dissolved into a sobbing puddle while my husband looked on in disbelief?  But, for a WIDE variety of reasons, our nephew will not be coming to live with us.  We are, however, going through the steps to be able to legally build a meaningful relationship and be involved in his life.  And yes, it breaks our hearts that there isn't more we can do without significantly endangering our children. 

Shortly thereafter, things started happening so quickly that I can't exactly remember the dates or even the order of events.  But, ultimately, over the course of 2 weeks and nearly a dozen blood draws, we got the official MEN1 genetic diagnosis, we learned that Snuggs' pituitary tumor is showing signs of growth, and that he has parathyroid tumors that need to be removed as soon as possible. 

Snuggs will tell you that he has received compliments from doctors about the organization of his medical files and information. He will also tell you that is exclusively because of me.  I have learned more medical jargon, read more scholarly journals, and filed more paperwork in the last month than I have in years.  However, there is still so much I don't understand. 

I know they can't treat the pituitary tumor until the parathyroid situation is under control.  I know that Snuggs had a very difficult decision to make regarding the placement of the 1/2 gland they will keep in his body.  You have four parathyroid glands (which are totally different from your thyroid, by the way) and his surgery will remove 3.5 of the four.  If they leave the remaining half intact, it is highly likely to regrow and require resection later.  This resection will require Snuggs to be put under, and is more difficult with scar tissue from the previous surgery.  However, if they place the remaining 1/2 in his forearm muscle, then when it regrows later, it is a quick easy, local anesthesia surgery.  However, the recovery time for leaving it in place is roughly 2 weeks, whereas recovery time for forearm placement is 3 months.  There is also a slightly higher risk of the gland failing to function at all if placed in the forearm, which would mean that the 3 months of recovery would become a lifetime of frequent medication (as in, up to every 30 minutes), and serious side effects including numbness and lack of feeling in hands and face. 

We weighed A LOT of factors, but ultimately he decided to leave the gland in his neck.  Surgery is scheduled for 11am on June 13. 

Once he recovers, the will likely run some full body scans to make sure we aren't missing anything before beginning some medication to shrink the tumor in his head.  This medication is very likely to make him quite ill for quite a long time, but we will deal with that when it happens.  There's also been some concern about pancreatic tumor, and we expect blood work results on that very soon. 

The kids are both scheduled for genetic testing July 11, which, quite frankly, just sucks.  As weird as it sounds, I was clinging to the hope that Snuggs' testing would come back inconclusive.  That would've been frustrating, but it would've meant there was no reason to test my kids because their results would've been the same.  But, of course, his results came back with a  crystal clear mutation, so now we face the 50/50 genetic game of chance.

Ultimately, I try not to think about it.  Maybe that sounds crazy, but I promise you that every single time I try to think about what the outcomes of those tests might be it goes south fast.  I'm learning A LOT right now, but above all else, I am learning that God's providence runs deeper and wider than I'd ever previously dared to imagine, and that I am totally horrible at predicting the future in light of His divine providence.  When I imagine, dream, or worry about the future, I'm placing myself in a world where I'm in charge, and I'm without God's provision.  It's not intentional betrayal, it's just the reality of the situation.  I am completely unable and incompetent to foresee the care He will provide for me tomorrow, because I am not there yet, and when I GET there, He will be right there with me in it. 

Or, as my friends like to remind me, "Manna comes in single day servings."

That's hard, you guys.  Manna for only today requires that I lean hard into God and trust that He will show up tomorrow and provide.  That when I can't even find a way to catch my breath today, He already has a perfect plan for me tomorrow. 

I am amazed at ALL the ways He has provided for us.  So many times I was frustrated with the way it seemed like my plans were ruined or falling apart. 

I get it now, Lord.  I know you were protecting, and providing, and preparing.  I know now, more than ever before, that what I *think* is best for me is a far cry from what You *KNOW* to be best for me in every single huge and tiny way.

Yet, more than any other single provision, I count our community as our single biggest earthly blessing.  I dare not tell you the number of times I have called friends in ALL STATES OF HYSTERIA.  But I will tell you that I have been completely flabbergasted that they keep answering their phones!  I mean, really, I am the absolute definition of a hot mess these last 3 months.  I have called ranting and raving, angry, sad, sobbing, confused, and needing IMMEDIATE assistance in all sorts of ways.  I am truly shocked each time they answer.  They can pretty much bank on me being some form of needy mess on the other end of the phone, and these crazy people still push that little green button and answer.  What in the actual what? 

Christ Jesus is ALIVE in these folks, y'all.  That is the SINGLE TRUE explanation.  My friends have shown up so.many.times.  They've come with food, childcare, tissues, encouragement, prayer, love, hugs, tears, and wine.  They've come at all hours of the day and night with plenty of notice, little notice, and absolute panicked urgency.  Some of them have sat in the car in a parking lot with me while I lost my composure, some have literally sat on the floor of the church and sobbed with me when I couldn't walk down the aisle for communion.  They've poured the sweet promises of Jesus into my heart, and shared a hard word of correction when I've given fear too much power.

We are getting there.  I am getting there.  It felt like a big day the day I finally felt my faith drive out my fear.  I won't lie, I still have some fear, but it's not the boss of me any longer.  I can see so clearly how God has loved us well through this mess, and I believe that He will continue to work all things for our good.  I have learned that I have a tendency to run and cower when I'm afraid of what is next, and I've learned that He is right there with me when I'm hunkered down refusing to face reality, unable to put one foot in front of the other.  He is so good, so kind, so loving, and He is so happy to hold me while I fall to pieces so that He can lovingly put me back together and push me on to honor Him today, or when today seems too much, just this very minute. 

So, that's where we are.  That's how we got here.  Aren't you glad you asked?

Please pray that our faith would continue to conquer our fear.  That's all. I briefly entertained the idea of asking for a laundry list prayer.  You know, prayer for the surgery, recovery, the doctors, my kids dealing with it all, but God has already provided for ALL OF THAT.  He already knows.  He'll be right there.  So please, join us in praying that we would simply REST in Him.  Me, especially, because if you know ANYTHING about me, you know rest isn't my strong suit.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Kissing Summer Goodbye

My goal for this summer was to very intentionally take things slowly and enjoy my kids just for who they are.

Today marks the last day of summer vacation. They start school on Monday for three hours five days a week.  We marked the days off on the calendar. Two short months. Nine brief weeks. Yes, it went quickly, but it was so very sweet. 

As I tucked them into bed tonight sleepy and dirty from the final day of summer fun, I did not feel any longing or regret for what could've been, but rather pure joy and contentment from the time we have spent just being together.

They are two and four, and what it took to create a summer full of bliss for us might not look like much to most people. Playgrounds, picnics, parades, puddle jumping, road trips to St Louis, St Joe, and Chicago, dance parties, sleepovers, pool play, tons of tag, Bible stories all snuggled up on the couch, bonfires and marshmallows, many museums, good books, splash parks, sand angels, rainbow sprinkles, veggies fresh out of the garden, sidewalk chalk, blowing bubbles, silly songs, math games, finger paint, sand and water play on the deck, building sand castles on the beach, bike rides, sweaty hikes, watering and weeding and watching plants grow, play dates, new friends, old friends, dropping off dinners made to bless others, cool moss, fresh lemonade, the county fair, slip and slides, sprinklers, and plenty of sunscreen!

This has been the happiest summer of my life. There is nothing I would rather do than make these teeny tiny memories full of love with my family. We have loved each other well this summer. We have basked in God's glorious creation. We have soaked up every drippy drop of joy. Our hearts are so full! We are richly and abundantly blessed!