Monday, December 29, 2008

Stocking Swap

So this year I participated in the Stocking Swap organized by Tara at The Well-Rounded Woman. I was So excited when my package came (a day or two before Christmas) to discover that I was recieving stocking stuffers from Tara herself! I followed the instructions and Kayleigh and I carefully put the unopened box under the tree for Leland to stuff my stocking with on Christmas eve.

And look what I got! Some post it notes (and really, who, in a house full of people can NOT find use for post its?), root beer flavored lip gloss, nail polish, a file, a beaded bracelet (lots of jewelry this Christmas, is that a hint?), some lovely note cards with a "K" (that would be for Kathryn!) embossed on the corner, some Avon lip balm, AND a dark chocolate bar. Yum. (I'm hoarding that while we eat up the cheaper, not good for us chocolate first!). The penguin card in the corner had a lovely note from Tara. I was really touched by her thoughtfulness and LOVED knowing that I'd have a stocking full of gifts on Christmas morning. (Leland tries hard every year but you know..)

Thanks, Tara, it was a lot of fun and I can't wait to do it again next year!

Christmas Recap

I wish that I had made the time to get online on Christmas Day and post an entry. I tried to summarize a bit below. I can't say enough what a surprisingly beautiful and blessed Christmas we had! And why am I surprised? Isn't it just like God to make sure that the day we celebrate His gift of His Son is like that? Christmas was beautiful.

The days that have followed it? Not so much. Nothing earth shattering or even new. We're just sad and missing Seth. Grief continues to have a way of creeping up on me and catching me unawares..

Anyway, THAT's not what this post is about either. I just wanted to share a picture of a few of our multitude of blessings (above). Those of course are the physical trappings. They don't show the peace & grace bestowed upon us daily! My feeble recaps are below, if you're interested!

I have more to share. Tomorrow I'm posting about the Stocking Swap I participated in, sponsored by The Well-Rounded Woman. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Day

Christmas Day was a beautiful, amazing, blessed day. I can only credit the Grace of God and thank those who lifted our family up in prayer. Speaking for myself (and isn't that what this blog is for anyway?), I had mere moments of melancholy; overall, a truly blessed day.

We were SO blessed. The kids had many, many presents with the Christmas Wish and the hospital helping out for them. And us. Leland and I had many unexpected blessings as well. I recieved some wonderful yummy smelling bath items, a framed print I had coveted many moons ago (which soon gets its very own blog post!). Leland got a beautiful trench coat. And the kids.. Kayleigh recieved My Little Ponies, Barbies, etc. The boys got Spy Gear, and books, and movies. Everyone was pleased and blessed. We didn't have to cook. We had a calm easy morning, laid Kayleigh down for a much needed nap and after she awoke, headed out to Leland's mom's for dinner. We were pleased to not get stuck coming or going!

We had started our whole day with a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday to you, Dear Jesus". I acknowledge that all of our blessings are gifts from our Saviour God who loves us. I am grateful for those in our lives who share their blessings with us so we continue to physically be reminded of that Love.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve morning found me running a few errands out of the house. I had an appointment in the morning and afterwards, some things to pick up at the grocery store. The grocery store on the day before or morning of a major holiday is NEVER my favorite place to be but with the record snowfall we've had the last few weeks and working Monday & Tuesday, I just didn't make it out any sooner. (Well, in all fairness, I made it out. Out to finish up the Christmas shopping. Not out to the grocery store.)

When I got home, Cary was feeling a wee bit sad. We had a cuddle and I shared something with him. As I went about my errands, driving to my appointment, walking the aisles in the grocery store, etc., I could hear a gentle whisper. Angels? The prayers of others? The Holy Spirit? As clearly as if someone was whispering from behind me. And the words? "There is hope.. There is Hope." I KNOW that whatever else is going on in the world around me, the grace of God holds me up.

After getting Kayleigh down for her nap, the boys and I made sugar cookies for Santa. (I cheat and use the refrigerated sugar cookie dough from the store). In the midst of that, we recieved our second big blessing of the Christmas season. Remember we were Christmas wished a bit ago? That was wonderful. And just the start of it! We were also "adopted" by Sacred Heart Children's Hospital Administration and Child Life specialists. The presents that were unloaded at our house! Unbelievable. I was surprised to not cry. (And apparently, people were betting on that happening!). Leland and I worried we wouldn't have room for the few presents we had from other family members for the kids.. Where would Santa put HIS presents? As far as problems go, for the kids, those aren't bad ones to have!

Later that evening, I gave the gifts an early Christmas present in the form of pendants which are scrabble tiles with Seth's picture on the back. I got them from HopeRenewed on (have you discovered Etsy? Check it out!) The kids seemed to appreciate them. Kayleigh wore hers for three day straight. "Where's Baby Seth?" "Baby 'ef, RIGHT HEW!" (Baby Seth, RIGHT HERE). After that, we went to church where we heard a lovely messagge on Isaiah 9:6 "For a child is born to us...... And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Pastor Glenn expounded on how God meets our needs through those four titles. We closed with a candle lighting ceremony.

After church we headed over to a friends for a bit and then home. (Although we got stuck in the driveway and for just a moment, home was questionable!). Home, kids tucked in, Leland and I did the mighty task of hauling all the presents out to under the tree and off to bed!

The anticipation was in the air!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Candid interview

So, one of my internet friends over at "The Glamorous Life of a Hausfrau" did this cool interview thing and I volunteered. (I know, brave of me, huh?)

Here we go:

1. If you could learn any language, effortlessly, which would you pick and why?
I think Italian or French as, for whatever reason, I've always like the "Romance languages" (I know a bit of French, or used to, having been raised in Canada but you know, what you don't use, you lose).

2. What is your dream job?
Well, I love what I'm doing now (the mom gig, and the secretarial gig, but mostly the mom gig). I've often thought that I'd liked to go back to school and maybe go into social work or counseling. Really, though, I just want to do whatever God calls me to do. I know that might sound like a cop out but I've had my "dream job" change often enough that I know I have little to do with it!

3. What do you never leave home without?
I hate to admit it but it's my cell phone. Bleh. Mostly because Leland HATES it when he can't get ahold of me. Not that he's possessive or calls me all the time or anything but if we're going to have cell phones, we better be using them! (I guess that would make him mostly practical).

4. If you could send a message to your 18 year old self, what would it be?
Oh. My. I have NO idea how to answer this. Hmmmmm... Hold on, honey, it's going to be a bumpy ride! LOL. Seriously, I'd like to tell my 18 year old self that she's stronger than she thinks she is, that if she only knew how much God loved her and could hang on to that, she could save herself a world of heartache. Of course, I'd be a little afraid of altering my path and as painful as parts of it have been, the choices my 18 year old self made have contributed to getting me here! So, I guess I'd stick with Hold on Honey!

5. What is your most prized (non human) possession?
This changes frequently. Currently, I'd have to say it's the locket my mother gave me for my birthday this past August. It's one of those lockets that holds four pics in it and she put in a picture of each of my kids, Sean, Cary, Kayleigh, Seth. I love having them all close to my heart when we're not together. Especially now.

So, those are MY five answers. Thanks for the opportunity to do something a little different, ETW!

Here are the rest of the rules:

"Put the rest of the rules in your post:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions. (for the love of Pete, make it easy for me to find your email know mine).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions."

I'll interview the FIRST person to ask in comments! And to read the interview that started this for ME, click here!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

There are angels..

I have been so encouraged and blessed by the comments left on my last post. So much so, that I may have to STOP talking about my four faithful readers and increase it to five or maybe, someday -gasp- even fifteen! Fifteen faithful readers.. I like the sounds of that. But that's not why I logged on to blogger today. Those comments, by new and old readers alike, have been very heartwarming; we've been blessed in SO many ways this week.

I happened to tell someone this morning, a virtual stranger, about Seth. She has a son about the same age, her first child and burst into tears. I'm touched by that kind of compassion in others. Someone at McDonald's, another stranger, gave Kayleigh a stuffed horse; she promptly named it Rainbow. Or Katie. Depending on her mood. A daughter of a friend of ours went out of her way to help ensure our big boys didn't miss out on a fun opportunity they've been looking forward to. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

We were "Christmas wish" recipients yesterday. A local radio station sponsors "Christmas Wish" every year and one of my very dear friends wrote a letter in to the station nominating our family. We were blessed to receive gifts & gift cards from them, for all of us (not JUST the kids!). It was humbling and heartwarming. (I was told they would post the letter my friend wrote on their website; I'll share it if they do.) (For another description of the Christmas wish, read here.) So many kind things people have done for us on this journey. About the time I start having to remind myself that God DOES love me, even when I don't feel it, something, some ONE comes along to make sure I DO feel that love.

Several years ago, my mom went through a difficult time in her life. I gave her a greeting card at the time, I'm sure I found it in the "encouragement" section of the greeting card store. On Thanksgiving, my mom gave us a gift bag of various items and in it was the front side of that card. She had detached it from the back half, where I would have written the message to her and on the back of what was now basically a postcard wrote: "You gave this to me in my time of need. Now I give it back to you." I don't know the author but I want to share this with you. (If you know the author, please let me know in comments).

There have been Angels in my life.
There have been angels in my life. While they haven't arrived with a blast of trumpets or a rustle of wings, I've known them just the same. They performed their acts in human guise, sometimes borrowing the faces of family and friends, sometimes posing as well meaning strangers. You have known them, too, when just the right word was needed, when a tiny act of kindness made a great difference... or perhaps you heard a voice whispering in a night of sorrow, the words not quite clear but the meaning unmistakable-- "There is hope... There is hope."

So to those of you who have taken the time to respond on my blog, the stranger at McDonald's, the Christmas Wish people, Michele, my mom, etc., thank you. Thank you for continuing to bring us God's message of hope. Our family needs it and we appreciate you for reminding us, no matter what we're feeling, "There is hope".

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Still here. Still struggling.

I"m not even going to attempt to apologize for my lengthy blogging absence.. I do feel badly about the fact that I may have driven off all four of my faithful readers but at this point, I"m blogging as much for me as for any readership I may or may not have.

The past couple of months have been so, so hard. I am still overwhelmed, underfunctioning and missing Seth so badly sometimes it actually takes my breath away. I had an interesting thought yesterday and for anyone who does happen to be following our journey, I wanted to expound on it a little bit..

I am often amazed that every step of this journey has been harder than the last. And for me, it started 3 years ago before Seth was even a twinkle in his Daddy's eye (My parents used to say that!). When I was pregnant with Kayleigh, a friend of mine discovered she was unexpectedly and unpreparedly pregnant. During her pregnancy, she was told her son was very sick, not developing normally, would not live to birth and if he did, would die shortly thereafter. I think because I WAS pregnant with Kayleigh, it hit me a little harder than it may have otherwise. I clearly remember thinking "I could NEVER handle that happening to me".

And then it happened. When I was 12 weeks pregnant with Seth, I received the "there's something wrong with your baby and we don't know what it is" phone call from my ob. The possibilities were endless and none of them sounded very good. Of course, we already know the end of that chapter, Seth was genetically normal with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Yes, that pregnancy was very hard. Waiting for Seth was, to that point, one of the hardest things I'd ever done in my life.

Then Seth was born. At five days old, he underwent open heart surgery requiring time on bypass and five days in recovery with an open chest. And I thought all the uncertainties of carrying him inside me were hard! He was extubated, re-intubated, extubated again (a total of 3 extubations). He didn't have the energy to eat and had a g-tube surgery. Finally, 7 weeks later, they told us to bring him home. And I freaked out because it would be HARD. (Seriously, I cried the day they told us we could get discharged in a day or two, I was one scared mama).

Seth came home. And it was wonderful to have him here, and hard. He was tube fed and on a continuous drip PIC line and taking a bunch of meds, and it just felt like it went on and on and on. Now I had four kids, FOUR, and Kayleigh was just barely two and I couldn't do it. But I did. We all did.

When Seth was five months old, he had a heart catheter. And it was hard handing him over to the doctors. And accepting the fact that afterwards, he had to come home on oxygen. And we did that. And Seth came home. And on September 10, we checked into the hospital for his Glenn and the next morning I handed him over to the doctor's for surgery. And it was hard.

On September 17, at 10:30pm, we received the phone call that Seth was not doing well and we should come back up to the hospital immediately. I knew that meant he'd likely coded and I prayed, crying all the way there. And it was hard. And a week later they told us there was neurological damage. And it was hard. And a week after that, things looked more bleak, and it was hard.

Finally, we requested a DNR for Seth, put him on comfort care and loved him while we waited for God to heal him or take him home. And I remember thinking that NOTHING I ever did in my life would be as hard as letting him go. Or making funeral arrangements. Or burying our sweet baby boy. But as I had been all along, I was wrong.

The hardest thing? By far the hardest thing is learning to live without him. Facing Thanksgiving and Christmas, hearing our big boys cry for their little brother. All those things are so much harder than what came before. But isn't life like that? Don't "they" say that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger"? I look back on all this, still in the midst of it and I realize few things.

I didn't react the way I thought I would. (Do we ever?) I always thought if I ever lost a child, I'd just crawl in bed and stay there for weeks. Of course, I started all this thinking I couldn't even handle a pregnancy with a questionable outcome. God's grace is such an amazing thing. I believe that the "I could never do THAT" thinking comes from the fact that standing on the outside looking in, we are assessing a situation on our OWN strength and thinking we could not handle it. Likely, on our own, we could not.

Fortunately, we do not have to handle the hard things life gives us on our own. We are given the freedom to handle them with the Lord. No, that's not right. We are given the opportunity to let the Lord carry the burden for us, all I have to do is ask for and accept the help.

I wish it were as easy as it sounds in the above paragraph. Life is STILL hard. We live in a fallen, sinful world and bad things happen. Babies die. I"m still a mere human being, I don't have all the answers figured out. I struggle every day. I feel like I learn something new about grief every day. I'm still learning how to allow the Lord to carry my burdens for me. And I have great hope. For as much as every step has felt harder than the one before, the strength of the Lord has continued to lift me up. I am still struggling. But I am still here. And there is bright light at the end of this tunnel, thank you, Lord Jesus!

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)