Monday, March 30, 2015

Let the Bucket List Begin!

Before our road trip gets too far away and I never get the chance to blog this, I wanted to share the special visits we had along our drive around the East Coast.

These trips were not planned when we first decided to drive to Florida.  We made the decision to make the trip after my aneurysm was found because it's a trip I always wanted to take with the kids, but we were waiting for the 'right time'.  When you realize that you might not see your kids grow up, suddenly 'right' doesn't matter...  and so we planned it out.

It wasn't until a week or two prior that I started working out our route and as I did, I started to want to see as many of my Rachel friends as possible.  I contacted a few of them, but some of it was still up in the air since timing and how the kids would do was unpredictable.  As soon as we got out of our cold 3 degree weather, the temp was 43 degrees for most of the entire first day.
South West here we come!!

We stopped, after 14 hours of driving, in Durham NC where we stayed with my Papa's son Gary and his wife Elaine.  I've never been close to my Papa's side of the family since my Nana died when I was 10 and our families went our own ways.  But when Papa was dying, I saw them at the nursing home he was at and they offered us to stay there.  They cooked us an amazing gluten free meal and gave us the most comfy rooms to stay in.  At one point I was looking at a map with Gary and for a minute and I felt like I could have been hanging out with Papa - they are so similar in so many ways.  Their daughter Jen stopped in to say hi too and gave us some clothes for the boys.  It was a quick, but awesome visit that I'm glad we were able to make.  (There was frost on the ground the next morning, it was COLD, which I hear never happens... only for us!)

These two became quick buddies ♥


We didn't know if we were going to be able to work it all out until the night before, but we left there and met my friend Hannah Rose for coffee at a Starbuck's nearby.  You might remember her as Lily's mom.  We became friends through my blog and had never met in person.  We had coffee and talked and got to hug in real life... the things that distance prevents friends from doing.  She showed me some of Lily's things, which was an honor.  It was another short, and very special visit.  It's amazing to me that I can see people I have never met in person - and might never see in person again - and feel like it's not our first meeting.  It's amazing to me how deep the bond of knowing each other's pain as baby loss Mamas can go.  I'm thankful that God provides for us in this way.  I don't know how people went through this before the Internet times because I can only imagine how lonely it would be. 

My big girl joining in on girl talk.

♥ With our girls' blankets ♥

We said bye for now to Hannah and headed to Florida, where we spent 6 days with Matt's dad and step mom.  We don't see them very often and could never afford to fly all of us there and then rent a car big enough for us all, so this was a pretty huge thing.  The kids had fun hanging with Memere and Pepere and we went on a few day trips, one of which requires another post but we also went to Homosasa Springs to see the manatees and Busch Gardens. 

For BG, I put us all in our shirts from Rachel's Race... We hadn't even made it in the gate yet and someone asked "Where's Rachel?" I told them she is in heaven and the man started telling me about his son who died at just a couple of months old 29 years ago.  He said "You never get over it."  Afterwards, I was thinking... he must see us and think of where his son would be now... would he have a family... like rollercoasters...?  You really truly never move on... only forward without them.

We had probably 20 or more people ask "Where is Rachel?" I thought it interesting that they all used the word "where" instead of " who " like we usually hear. The simple answer was "She is in heaven.". It was better than having to answer who she is... That's something that can't be summed up so easily. And yet the simple statement of where she is felt explanation enough about our shirts and I *know* left an impact on so many.  I know this was God's provision for me and a way He was reminding me that where she is matters more than even who she is... because it's where I'm going to be one day - and why even though she is there, she is still here in our hearts.  I missed her so much this day.

The rides are numbered - and the merry-go-round was ride #43.
It was the only one that we were all able to go on together.
I have a feeling there were 8 of us there. ♥

The original plan was for Matt & I to go to a river to kayak for the day on our 9th anniversary, but his step mom got really sick and we had a lot of driving ahead of us, so we left a day early, on our anniversary, instead.  The weather was about as cold as it's ever been while we were there (35 the day we left, which I hear never happens... only for us!) so kayaking wasn't really the best idea anyway, but my hope was to spend the day doing something warm on our anniversary for once.(married in February in NH means it's always freezing!)  But the car ride led us to another very special place....
Dinner at Ruby Tuesdays - making lemonade
snack at a rest stop on the South Carolina Line

curious boys ♥
Hi Rachel ♥
Thanks Isaiah

My Rachel friend Jenn lives in GA and I met her after she found my blog because we had both lost daughters.  Her daughter Stella died at 5 days old around the time Rachel did.  They adopted two daughters from China and a year later, their Chinese daughter Rose died suddenly.  They have walked through so much in such a short time - and they had just adopted two more daughters from China in January.  I was beyond excited to be able to meet their family.  There were 12 kids with us and 3 missing.  Add 4 adults and that was a FULL house!  We were there for Chinese New Year and were so blessed to share in that celebration with them.  They made us homemade Chinese food - mostly gluten and dairy free!  This was my only 'cheat' food wise... I'm a sucker for crab rangoons and these things looked professional!  They tasted even better.  I paid for it, but they were *good*! 

Red envelopes for Chinese New Year

They set us up in their basement which had it's own bathroom and we felt so spoiled.  I never told Jenn this, but the first night, we overheard them doing their family time and I was ear to ear smiles... listening to this family who has gone through so much and has welcomed all these little children into their family teaching their kids about God and praying to Him together - in ways that were almost identical to what we do in our home each night - just made me realize how united we are in Christ.  Adopted as sons and daughters into His Kingdom.  It's amazing.

Once again, it was an instant connection... like we've always known each other... Jenn and I have talked on the phone a bunch too, but it was so nice to hug and spend time together.  We hung out on her couch chatting it up the first night... more time was the only thing that could have made this visit better.  (that and warm weather!  It was 19 degrees there, which I hear never happen...only for us!) We did get to stay for two nights, which was awesome.  She babysat our kids so Matt & I could go out for lunch for our anniversary.  Watching their new daughters and them overcoming the language barrier seriously had me in awe.  The entire visit was such a blessing. 
lunch at BK when we left... all the cups and plates said Stella on them!

We left there on Friday and headed to VA for a one night stop so we could get home late Saturday night.  I had one more visit my heart was seriously longing for....  a little girl in VA named Lily ♥  We heard rumors that a storm was coming and we would be driving straight into it so I asked Matt if we could make the trip to visit Lily that night instead of Saturday on the way home like I had planned.  I'm thankful for his willingness to add the extra 2 hours of driving onto an already really long day. I'm thankful for a husband who understands the importance of visiting a baby's grave and cares about how much it means to me. Our initial plan was to drive for about 9 hours.  By the time we were in our hotel, we were closer to 12.  But along the extra drive, we saw the most beautiful sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

We found Lily's special spot in a little cemetery in VA... There was snow on the ground (which I hear never happens...only for us!) This is the stone that we helped pay for so Hannah could give it to Lily in 2013 when we didn't do a race.  It was SO amazing to see it in person - it's so pretty and so perfect.  I was blessed beyond measure to be able to show the kids in a tangible way what we did that year.  They knew, but it helps bring it to reality for them... they know how special stones are, having watched me at Rachel's spot all these years.  The sun was still setting and the view was beautiful.  I wanted to tell Hannah we were going, but decided I'd surprise her as long as we could find it okay.  I sent her a text with a picture of us there.  That was one of my most favorite parts of our entire vacation... to know how much it would mean to her to see us there and be able to do it!!  It fills me up like nothing else to make another hurting mama smile. 

It's so 'ironic' that this picture is numbered 5143 in my camera roll
We were there right before Lily's 5th birthday.
We went to the hotel and got ready to swim!  We hadn't been able to swim yet so this was exciting. lol.  The weather was saying that VA might get 5 inches.... but as the night went on, it became apparent that they were getting more than that, and that since VA doesn't get snow like we do, they don't have the ability to take care of the roads like we do... so we booked another night.  We didn't want to get home on Sunday so we'd have time to settle in before Matt went to work Monday, but it made more sense. 
can't take a family photo without feeling that missing piece...
I always can picture just where she'd be.

We hung out on Saturday and swam and ordered gluten free pizza... it turned into one of the best days of our vacation... a down day just me and my loves...  we watched TV and ate.  It was so relaxing.  The perfect end to an awesome trip.  But as the day went on, the snow just kept coming down...  18 inches later!! we didn't know if we were leaving on Sunday either!  I checked out the weather and it said it would be in the 40's and so we planned to try to leave and see how it went.  We were given clear roads, bright sun, and a perfect 43 degrees all the way home.... ♥♥♥
The only moving vehicles we saw during the storm were tow trucks
dragging other cars that crashed!

Yes, this is VA.  Did I mention this never happens here... only for us!

North East... coming home!

There is one more trip I want to share, hopefully I will get to that soon, but it needs it's own post. 

I must say that I was pretty unsure of how this long drive would be with 5 little kids who hate sleeping in the car...  but we planned all our driving for during the day (except just as we were getting home on Sunday which was the hard part) and it went way better than I could have EVER expected.  Even with our DVD player breaking 2 movies in on the way there!  They did unbelievable.  Pit stops take a lot of extra time, but they all went smoothly.  I was able to research ahead so I knew what fast food items were safe for us gluten free wise, and I packed a ton of food which kept us eating well and saved us money.  We did get a couple of nice weather days which my head needed and the kids have a ton of memories of a huge trip that wasn't stressful with their mom and dad.  This is exactly what I had hoped for in this trip.  I'm so thankful to God for the opportunity to do all of this, and for making a way to see all these people who mean so much to us along the way.  I can't put words to how special this was for me, as Rachel's Mama.  She truly has brought me so many blessings... too many to count.

We discovered we really like road trips, and now that we are not afraid of driving long distance with our crew, all I can think about is where we are going next!!  So many places to see and friends I long to meet.  If I love you, you are on our bucket list!  Wanna meet somewhere in between?! ;)
E's Team Rachel Blanket

The daisies we bought for Matt's step mom for Valentines Day.
Picked them up and they were labeled 43 ♥
A warm Valentines with my Honey

Last day of vacation...
I love these people so much.
Pit stop!  We got really good at these and managed to always make them fun!

Win the Moment

On Thursday I was cleaning my basement.  Well, I started to.  I was about 30 minutes in when I heard a bunch of crashes and a scream for help.  I went upstairs to find my kitchen flooded, the babies standing on the open oven door to reach the sink.  They had filled the sink and let it overflow as they dragged towels through the water and all around the house to... wait for it... mop. 

They were trying to mop and proud of it.  *sigh*

Just as I discovered this, we had a knock at the door.  The Pest service was here to do our spring check... which is why I was cleaning the basement... I'm afraid of other people's opinions and last year they told me my basement was too cluttered.  I've cleaned it many times since then, we are far from pigs, but we have stuff and not a lot of time to organize it.  Still, I'm sure they see worse - and still, I can't help but need to clean it before they come.  It's kind of silly actually... and I paid for it.

So, the dude walks in and asks "Is there anything I need to know about?"

"Yeah, my kitchen is flooded.  You can come in, I'll just be cleaning up a disaster, like usual..."

I cleaned and sopped up water and started laundry and threw away all the damaged things.  I was not being very friendly or my usual talkative self with the pest guy - I was trying to get my mind around why these things happen to me... all. the. time.

Asa was running back and forth like a crazy man with no pants on screaming and Sam was following the man around asking him "Guess what?" and making him ask "What?" so he could fill him in on every random thought a 6 year old could possibly have... from a bee almost going in his ear when he was three to how much Desirae yells at him... Isaiah was adding to the conversation and Ezra was, like always, hanging off my leg screaming for me to pick him up as I told him over and over, I can't. Desirae was nowhere to be found... smart kid.

30 minutes into this, he looked up and asked "So... how many of them are yours??"  I couldn't help it... I started to laugh... like a lunatic.  He would glance up and look at me and then look back at the kids... They were all surrounding him, and about 6 inches from his face at this point.  I said. "I know I look crazy, that's because I actually feel crazy... because I might really be going crazy."  (My massage therapist assures me that real crazy people don't KNOW they are crazy, so I must be fine)  He said that he was feeling crazy too because the next day was the first day of his vacation.  I said "I nnnevvvverrr get a vacation." and laughed some more.  Every time the kids said something or Asa pulled on his privates in front of this guy, I laughed harder.

He went to leave and looked at the clock and it was like the light went on... it's school hours... so he asked "Do you homeschool them?" 

"Yeeeessssss... bahahaha..." 

I looked crazy.  I felt crazy. 

"So, you really never do get a break..." 

"Nope. I wasn't exaggerating."

Later, Matt and I were watching the sermon series Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler we've been going through (highly recommend it!) and one of his main points he kept driving home was "Don't despise the hard days."  He spoke of the verses in the Bible that talk about the unbelievers that  God turned over to their sin.  It APPEARS at though they are really happy and their lives are so much 'easier' than ours, but be aware of thinking that is good - because I don't know about you, but any good parent I've ever seen tells their child what they can and can't do and at times makes their lives very difficult in order to save them from themselves.  He used the garden analogy, which you all know I love and God uses every year in my garden to remind me about my sin and the effects it has on me and my ability to bloom for His glory... 

I just went to YouTube to see if it was on there.  We have DVD's so I didn't know if you could view it for free.  I found it, so decided to skim through it again, since it's been a few days, so I could remember how he worded it because this has been on my mind constantly since we watched it...  well, when I saw that the exact place I wanted you to see started at minute 43, I wasn't surprised... but it did make me cry.  God is in the details.  At 43 minutes on this sermon I wanted to share, he has them open to the exact verses I shared on my last blog post - which also leads him into the exact point I've been thinking on. If you can watch this entire video, you should - but if you can't, you should at least humor me and watch for a few minutes starting at 43 minutes in.

He talks about not needing to think about 5 years or 10 years from now - even a month from now... just focus on the next thing in front of you and 'win the day'... cling to God... ask him to help you... just get through today.

I've heard these words in my mind over and over.  I get so ahead of myself.  I think about even my appointments for next week and I get overwhelmed.  If I try to think about *everything* I have to do this next week, it could paralyze me.  I keep saying "There are so many of them."  I feel so outnumbered and so inadequate and go back and forth between wanting to send the kids to school so I can get a break for once and being afraid of how short my time with them will be and trying to plan for their life without a mom should my aneurysm rupture. 

I have been failing constantly with them.  My patience are thin, my energy is low, my nerves are shot and I am only one person with the workload of much more.... I'm getting so tired of not being the mom I want to be, that I feel like giving up on everything I have worked so hard to do in order to get some relief....  and this isn't really about what I decide to do with them - whether I put the babies in daycare so I can teach the older ones without constant interruptions... or I send the older ones to school so I can sit and play with my babies... or I accept that my kids have less of me than I would like, but they have more of each other, which has an entire other set of benefits... it's not about what I do necessarily - it's about winning the day.

What does it look like to "win the day."

Well, in my mind and heart, a day won is a day not where everything goes right, but one that when everything goes wrong, I can laugh and enjoy my loves even still.  A day won is a day where I treat my children and my husband like I believe they belong to the Creator of the Universe.  It's a day when I don't miss a chance to love someone else.  A day where I rest in God's faithfulness and trust in His plans. 

And so as I've spent the last few days, trying to 'win my day'... I failed a day in while cooking pancakes.  I was trying to make 8 pancakes and sausage while starting coffee and everything was going ok until something didn't... isn't that always the way?  And right when the food started to go down hill, Sam got hurt, the boys were fighting, people were demanding attention for boo-boos and justice for their attacker... and I snapped.  "STOP!"  I yelled.  "I can only do so many things at once!"  and in my mind I heard "Win the day... "  But to me, I had already lost it because I don't want to treat my kids like that...  And God ever so gently spoke to my heart...

Well then, win the moment.  If you lost one, dust yourself off and get the next.

Now that I can do.  One moment at a time... because moments lead to days... but they are a lot easier to manage. 

Tomorrow I have my stress test.  And I don't want to go... at all.  And I have an appointment every single day this week and two on Friday.  My life is a whirlwind and there isn't much I can do to slow it down.  Our family has medical issues and so this is just how it is for us.  I can let that drive me to the point of insanity - or I can win the moment.

You know, I thought I had this down with Rachel... I thought I learned how important and sacred each moment is.  I thought I understood how little control I have... I thought I was brought to a place of such close and sweet surrender with the Lord that I would never struggle again... but I still do - and know I always will.  My goal is to make the times of struggle times that I recognize as a gift to me from my Father who *will* work all things out for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28). And I love Him.

Times where I can choose to win the sit and play with my babies, who are growing up way too fast, whether I am watching or not.  To talk with my daughter who is yearning to work through her thoughts in her growing and changing mind...  to play ball with my boys who are soon going to want not much to do with their mom...  to sit down and snuggle with my man when even a few minutes allow...

It came to me as I thought on this...  I won that day.  Sure, everything was a wreck and the pest guy thought I was crazy and that we are slobs.  Sure, I was late for everything I had to do... sure, the kids caused, yet another disaster...  But I laughed and handled it all with grace...  looked INSANE, but whatever!  I didn't lose the moment.  My kids weren't traumatized by my laughing and they weren't embarrassed about our mess or the pest guys opinion.... and I wasn't trying to win the day - I wasn't even trying to win the moment - God won it.  He gave me what I needed to get through that with joy.

And then I thought about my computer  - all those pictures I lost aren't the winning moments.  They help me remember times and places... and without them a lot of it will fade from my (and the kids' minds)  But the winning moments on our family vacation aren't even on photos anyway.  They are the moments where we played a board game and (don't judge..) I had to "Make the player to the right of me laugh or pay $..." and I mooned Matt.  I've never seen my family laugh so hard...They are the moments where we chased our baby through the restaurant giggling out of embarrassment... helped each other up steep parts on our hike...  the moments of fun conversation by the fire... the moments of shared tears by the water... the moments of messing up and having to say "I'm sorry."  Even as I write that, I can think of a dozen pictures that would remind me of things I mentioned and it makes me sad... but the moments are not lost, they were already won.

And so this week, as we prepare for Easter - the best holiday of the year... and Good Friday - a day where God won the moment,  my prayer is that perspective won't be lost on me and I can win moments, one at a time - until they become days - and the days become memories... memories of the undeniable power of God and the victory He has over sin. 

I came across a little card with the serenity prayer on it - but it has the entire thing, which often isn't quoted... it seemed to fit - how 'ironic'!

GOD, grant me the serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change,

Courage to change the
things I can, and the
wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the
pathway to peace

Taking, as He did, this
sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make
all things right if I
surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy
in this life, and supremely
happy with Him forever in
the next.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Trust the Potter

Our owl pottery pieces arrived today  - and just as I feared, one was broken.  It was Desirae's of course... the one she was so longing to have... the whole reason I spent over $60 on buying, painting and shipping these... *sigh*

The big chunk missing looks like it can be glued back into place so I called the pottery place to ask what the best kind of glue to use is and she assured me that "This never happens."  (only to me, of course) She was very kind to give us a credit for the next time we are in town, and that was great since she could have said shipping issues were not her fault... but that didn't change a thing about the 12 year old girl sitting in front of me looking at the pottery I painted for her, on our special weekend, with disappointed eyes.

So I did what I do best... started talking with no clue what I was about to say... and dug deep for something Rachel's life has taught me...

"We can just look at it like... like... we can just look at it like just because it's not perfectly formed doesn't make it any less special."

She thought for a second and I waited to see if it would help... "Yeah... it's least it's in the back."  I continued nonchalantly, "It kind of gives it character." as I stirred the dinner I was cooking. 

She started planning her next piece she will paint with the credit and said she wants to go back each year on her birthday to paint a piece that she can make a collection for when she is older.  I told her maybe we can go back sooner than that for another girls day - to which she happily agreed.  I assured her I'd get the good glue and fix it the best I can.  I really hope it works and that she is just left with a little glue-filled crack as the reminder about 'imperfection not making things less special'... but if she has to live with the gaping hole... well, I can relate.

I thought back though to when the package arrived... I was in the shower and she came in all excited and said "Maaammmaa... look what I have..."  and proudly held up my mug.  I peeked out and said "Ooooh! I knew they were going to come today!" and she gave me a minute to enjoy it before telling me hers was broken.  I have to say, if I may brag for a moment... for a 12 year old who *really* wanted that owl jar, I'm seriously impressed that her first announcement to me wasn't "Mine is broken!"  She has a sincere concern for others and that makes me proud to be her mom.

On another note, I could use some prayer for my health.  The naturopath has been working with my supplements and I was doing pretty good - short version is all my issues this fall were because I was 'over methylated' from taking the active folate I thought I was supposed to be taking based on research and advice from others. (side note: PLEASE don't follow someone else's medical plan, every person's body is different!)  He used some other vitamins to remove the crazy amount of folate I had stored up (bc my body can't utilize it) and immediately I got better.  My blood pressure was down to a great number, my migraines went away, joint pain was all but gone, my moods evened out...

Well, I have to be on folate because of the MTHFR mutations.  So, he started me back on another kind weeks ago, just every other day and I was okay for maybe a few days.  It dawned on me yesterday that all of my issues have returned... migraines constantly - for days straight - horrible mood swings, joint pain like crazy and my blood pressure has started creeping back up.  I called today and he has me back to square one with supplements.  I'm thankful I recognized it early this time but it concerns me that what my body needs, it also doesn't take to well.  He said we'll figure it out, it's just going to be a balancing act because of the combination of mutations I have.  This is what he was telling me last month about 4 of the kids having 2 mutations on 677 which is worse for heart problems, but easier to treat because they almost never have this balance act problem... where Sam and I will have a harder time being treated because we will easily get over methylated and that has a whole other set of problems.  So please pray that we will figure out what I need and quickly.  Also for wisdom to stay on top of where the kids are at since they are all being treated now too and I don't know how they feel inside. 

I'm still waiting on results from my scan on Monday.  I think I had a horrible reaction to the contrast... not hives, but I was OUT OF IT for HOURS... actually, I fell asleep multiple times while driving myself home (I know, super dangerous) and then went to bed at 5:30 and couldn't come to when Matt tried to wake me. I am going to ask what to do for future scans, but I am not thrilled with this since scans are already nerve wracking enough.  It's not the common 'allergic' reaction, but it was pretty severe fatigue and that can't be normal.  Prayers for their discernment on that would be appreciated.

Lastly, I've been crying a lot... like on and off all day and night all week... over everything. I'm not sure if it's because I'm scared, overwhelmed, stretched way too thin, over methylated or a combination of all of it... but I'm struggling pretty bad.  I'm trying to only think on truth and to not get ahead of myself.  I'm at a major crossroads with school, where we live, health, Rachel's non profit... all of it... everything.  If you have talked to me in the last couple of weeks about me, you have seen me cry and that's a guarantee.  I don't have much to say about that other than I need prayer and I trust God with every detail of it all so I just ask that you carry me to the cross when I come to mind.

He formed me, He knew what parts would be broken, and He's the only One who can put me back together, if I'm even meant to ever be 'back together' on this side of heaven.  But I rest in the truth that I am HIS and not a single crack in my fragile self happens apart from His knowing it and Him carrying me through it.  If that means He brings me the special glue to hold me together... or if He allows me to stay the way I am until He creates me anew in my life after death... I trust the Potter.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Isaiah 43:1-7
   But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;
Therefore I will give men for you,
And people for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
And gather you from the west;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
Bring My sons from afar,
And My daughters from the ends of the earth—
Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”

Isaiah 64:8
And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Girl's Getaway

My friend Chloe from New Zealand participated in Rachel's Race this year as a virtual walker.  She made this little Rachel "pocket rider" that she brought with her on the walk and then mailed to me.  My little Rachel bear has been riding on the dash in my truck since.  Asa broke the daisy off of her headband when I let him hold her one day, but I can fix it one of these days.

So, last weekend, Des and I went away for a girls night.  She had gotten tickets to Stars on Ice for her birthday and we left the day before to spend some girl time together away from all our crazy boys.  We took the van instead so we grabbed Rachel's pocket rider and Des put her in the cup holder.  We found Matt's stash of sour candies and ate them all (oops)... but I thought it was really cute that Des put one in front of Rachel's bear. ♥
It wasn't too long into our drive when I realized how badly we BOTH needed this trip.  Des has a hard job being the big sister of 4 brothers and a dead sister.  She does A LOT.  Much more than most girls her age... some times too much for her age.  She could run my house better than many adults could.  Lately, she can quickly get on my nerves because I have zero tolerance for attitude or laziness and she is a pre-teen who suddenly has both... but she is such a good kid.  It was amazing how well we were getting along just me and her.  I'm not sure how to foster this more often with our financial and time limitations, but this connection doesn't happen while running errands or in our daily grind.  I need to be more purposeful with her because I only have a few short years left to win her heart for Christ. 
Our first stop was, of course, shopping.  We bought her a bathing suit and a journal and I got a journal and a couple things for the house.  And then we were off to the hotel!
a keepsake box I found. ♥
We got into our room and immediately began working on our chocolate stash... because any girl getaway needs chocolate. :)  I made them all dairy and gluten free so we could eat our hearts out.
I had called the hotel ahead of time and the chef actually prepared an entire menu with all the gluten free items on it and left it at the desk for us!  I was really impressed with how well they handled that.  They even had gluten free pizza.  We planned on ordering room service, but when we walked past the dining area, Des thought it looked 'fancy' and wanted to eat there, so we went down to have dinner together.  We both got the baked haddock, baked potato and green beans and it was so good! 
During our conversations, there would be moments where I felt like she was so old... and then she would say something that revealed how little she still is.  Being 12 isn't easy - so stuck between two worlds...  we talked a lot about boys and what she thinks of 'dating' and how she will handle it when these things start coming up... because let's face it, it won't be long before the boys are chasing this pretty girl... and it's my job to make sure she runs as fast as she can in the opposite direction! lol.  But in all seriousness, it's coming and it's scary.  If I could go back to her age, I would change so much and avoid so much pain.  My hope is that she will choose differently and reap the blessings that will follow.
After we ate, we went back to the chocolate... I went to sit on my bed and she had left me a note earlier....
We hung out on our beds for a while and let the food settle while we watched some Family Fued and then went down to the pool.  With our Goggles On! (old post relating to the importance of goggles if you don't remember it, you should read it!)


If you have not yet gone to the bottom of the pool with your googles on with your kids, I encourage you to do it this summer.  I cannot even tell you what a blessing that time in the pool was for both of us.  It's been a long time since I've been able to just play with my Desirae May... we are usually so busy taking care of littles, but boy, did we play!  We would go to the bottom and have a 'dance party' and then come up for air and go back down and do it again.  We had races.  We pretended we were haddock in memory of our dinner and did crazy swim moves and flips... we laughed, laughed, laughed.  It was awesome. 
We went back up and showered and got comfy for some scrapbooking. 
Back in the fall, while we were on vacation and I saw the wedding on the top of the mountain, and was overwhelmed with wonder if I would be able to help Des plan her wedding considering all my heath issues, God put on my heart to make a scrapbook with her.  I didn't want it to feel morbid for her, just something so that if I am not still here when she gets married, she will have comfort in knowing her mom helped her prepare for it at least a little. Something that would take away the sting of her mom not being able to be there that day.  To, in a way, be there with her... the last thing I want is for sadness to be an overarching feeling at her wedding.  When we got back to town after that vacation, I saw a wedding magazine in the checkout.  I picked it up to see how much it was and this is what I saw...
Of course we haven't found time to work on this and so when I found out we'd have a night alone, I got more supplies and brought it so we could 'plan her wedding' together while we were away.  We spent a couple of hours cutting and pasting and talking about different flowers, colors and dress designs and classy vs horrible.  I'm thankful she is drawn to designs that are modest.  Oh Lord, please let me be with her that day!!  I also brought some items from mine and Matt's wedding to show her and she put one of our invitations and our wedding program in the back of her scrapbook.

We ordered GF pizza by room service, stayed up entirely way too late, and I didn't make her brush her teeth.  Moments I will cherish forever. ♥♥♥
We slept in and went down to eat breakfast - but the line was long and we were still full from the night before so we went to swim and sat in the hot tub for a few then bummed around the room and watched more Family Fued (it was on constantly!) and ate some more.  We drank coffee together, which made her feel all grown up.  By the time we left the hotel, we were finally relaxed.  We could have used another night to be honest, but Des was glad we had a few more things to do before we headed home to insanity! 
Our next stop was a place called Clay Play where you paint your own pottery.  I planned on spending much less than we did - but Des *really* wanted this owl dish and so we picked a mug for me that matched.  I had talked her into doing salt & pepper shakers that would cost half the price because we could each do a shaker, and she said it was fine, but I saw her face light up when she looked at the owl and I splurged.  We went to pick our colors and I looked for what color #43 was but couldn't find it.  We picked 3 of the 4 we were allowed to use and then decided we wanted a coral/peach color to be the last one and then found it on the bottom shelf... and guess what # it was... ?  Yep. 43. 
Des painted mine and I painted hers.  We decided ahead of time we would make the eyes look like daisies for Rachel but the rest we didn't coordinate at all....
It's almost scary how much alike they came out!  She is so much like me in every way.  Probably why I get irritated with her.  lol.  We spent well over 2 hours working on these!  It was super relaxing.  Now we just wait for them to come in the mail.  I had to pay extra for them to ship them since they don't fire them the same day.
We left there and grabbed some GF food at Five Guys in Portland.  It is so different eating out with just one child.  I would never say I regret having a lot of kids because I love them all more than life itself or anything life can offer... but I will say I had a few moments where I realized how incredibly hard it is now to be the mom I thought I would be.  Having one was so simple and I felt like such a good mom.  I never doubted my ability.  Having two was only hard because I wasn't sure I could love another as much as I loved Des, but I did so that was fine... three was a breeze... 4 was Rachel and no words describe that... and 5 was actually not that bad.  But 6...this little E... so close to my crazy Asa... they've done me in... in every way.  They seriously bring me to my knees every single day. I suppose there is purpose in that....
So anyway, after we ate, we went over to the arena for the Stars on Ice show.  Just as we were walking in (late of course) there was a light "Rachel" snow and since we were in Portland, where she was born, it was special.

you can see the snow resting on Des' hood.
 Here's where it started getting really 'ironic' on us...  our tickets were for row 4, seat 4 and 5.  I told Des ahead of time that I had a feeling that whoever was in row 4, seat 3 would have something to do with Rachel... but I was hoping the seat would be left empty and it would be like she had a seat with us. 

We walk in late and seats 1, 2 and 3 had to get up to let us in... sitting in seat 3 was a mom who gave me a dirty look for interrupting their show.  I was preoccupied mentally for a few minutes over how someone's lack of grace can affect a person.  As if I liked being late... 
I have always loved figure skating... so I knew this would be something I would like, but what I wasn't prepared for was how much emotion it would bring out.  I found myself fighting back tears through almost every performance.  I'm a crier anyway, but figure skating? 
A couple of songs into the show, this same lady reaches over and slaps my arm and says "That's my daughter!"  I asked which one and she said the one wearing the peach outfit.  Two things came to mind... first of all, she wasn't upset that I was late because she was grumpy... she was upset because this was her daughter's first time skating with Stars on Ice and she is a proud mama who didn't want to miss a thing.  I get that.  Second, my mind went back to Des' finger pointing at the peach color, #43 at the pottery place.  I turned to look at her and I kid you not, there were daisies printed on the side of her glasses. 
I wanted to tell her, but knew I'd look crazy so I didn't.
A few minutes later, she took a picture with her phone and when she put it back into her lap, the screen was still on.  I glanced down and her phone number was on the screen... the first three numbers of her phone number... 430
I wanted to tell her, but I knew I'd look crazy so I didn't.
I leaned into Des and whispered for her to look at her glasses and phone number... she's in row 4, seat 3 I reminded her.  Her eyes just got wide.
Then the finale was choreographed to "Shut Up and Dance with Me" and "Just Dance" and I realized that the theme of the show was "Dancing for Joy" ♥
That would have been enough for me to feel like God answered my prayer about letting me know Rachel was with us... but at the end of the show, the lady in seat 4,3 said to someone behind her "I told Hope to meet us at the door we came in." 
I looked at her and asked "Is your daughter's name Hope?" 
"Yeah, why do you know her?"
"No... well... um... I can't believe this...."
I was fumbling for words and she was staring intently trying to figure out what I was saying... I knew I had to tell her something or I'd look crazy... so I told her "My daughter lived for 43 minutes and you were sitting in row 4, seat 3 and we joked about how that seat might be left open for Rachel before we got here and Hope is a word that we associate with my daughter...."
I didn't tell her I saw her phone number or her daisies or that her daughter was painted in color #43 or I would have looked crazy....
Oh, wait, I already did look crazy!!  But you know what?  She started crying anyway.  We cried together over my little girl not being able to sit in her seat.  Me and a perfect stranger.  I was like a kid who just went on the best rollercoaster ever walking out of that place, repeating over and over how I couldn't believe that just happened. 
We got in the van and "My Hope" was on the radio.
I told Des on the way home that it might seem like I'm talking about Rachel and all the ways that Rachel shows up during things like this... but what I'm *really* talking about is my God, who cares so much about my heart that he pulls details together that He knows will get my attention... things I couldn't make up if I tried... things that could only be from him and point to the Truth of an eternal life after death.  When I tell people about seats and flowers and numbers and all the ways in which God times details just perfectly, I pray that nobody ever mistakes that for Rachel's doing... because while I do believe that God has clearly shown me that her and I are still connected in Christ and therefore she IS with me, along with Christ in my heart - I don't believe that Rachel herself makes these things happen.  I often say "Hi Rachel" as a way of saying her presence with me has been made known... but hear me when I say that Rachel would be nothing without her Father in heaven.  She couldn't do these things in and of herself.  It's actually God who does it and I'm so thankful He does.  I'm so thankful that He consistently reminds me of His love and her eternal life with him.  I'm so thankful that He hasn't forgotten me and how my heart yearns for her.  And I'm so thankful that he doesn't grow tired of hearing me say the same old things... or that he doesn't put a time limit on my need to be reminded that she is okay.
We serve an amazing God...a compassionate, loving, understanding, loyal and faithful God who never runs out on me.  He's never too busy to listen and He's never too self consumed to forget me.  It's a humbling thing.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-15
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
    And a time to die;A time to plant,
    And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
    And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
    And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
    And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
    And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
    And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
    And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
    And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
    And a time to speak;
A time to love,
    And a time to hate;
A time of war,
    And a time of peace
What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? 10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
12 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.
14 I know that whatever God does,
It shall be forever.
Nothing can be added to it,
And nothing taken from it.
God does it, that men should fear before Him.

15 That which is has already been,
And what is to be has already been;
And God requires an account of what is past