Your Christmas Tootsie

tootsie!

I am entering the Christmas season with a new perspective.

And it is one that will never be Tootsie-less.

You see, my only living grandparent just graduated to heaven this past July.

But, technically, she wasn’t just my “only living grandparent” as I wrote. She is the woman that we named our first daughter after—-Marguerite. Known to all as Tootsie.

She passed at 91 years young. With a full heart. And family by her side.

Not me, however, I was a world away. On the last night that I saw her before flying across the continental US and then the Atlantic, I gave her a kiss on her lips, told her to behave, stay out of trouble, and I would see her in 3 years.

I left fully believing I would see her in 3 years—and fully knowing that perhaps I would not see her in 3 years. A conundrum of the worst sorts.

There is not a day that passes that my heart doesn’t skip a beat thinking about our Tootsie.  Beloved, feisty, kind-hearted, slap-happy, Tootsie.

The woman that ate ice cream for breakfast and caramels for dinner.  It’s a true miracle she even lived to see 91 years.

But as Christmas Day approaches, I want to make sure that my life and the lives of my children are never Tootsie-less.  How do I go about that?

In the following ways…

Devotion!

As a child-bride (1 day 15 and married to the same awesome Papa Charlie for 54 years), I want my children to learn devotion.  Ups.  Downs.  All arounds.  Devotion.  You are never too young to learn devotion, commitment, and how to stick to it.

You can be too young, however, to learn how to cook.  Tootsie asked her mom, one time years after she married, “How come Dorothy is a good cook and I am not?”  Dorothy being her sister.  And her mom answered, “Well, you never stuck around long enough to learn.” Tootsie said after that answer she stopped asking her mom probing questions.

How else do I want to ensure my children live Tootsie-full lives?

By dancing in the barn!  

When my grandma and I were in New Zealand together (yep, she took me to New Zealand with her), we were talking about her life.  She said one of her favorite things to do with Papa Charlie was go down by the border (she lived on the border of Mexico) and go barn dancing.  And then she picked up her pants a little and showed me her footwork.

You know, my Papa always whistled at those legs of hers—and I know why.  Even as she aged, they were hot stuff.

Where am I going with this?  In life, take moments to run to the border and dance in the barn!  Take moments to have fun.  Take moments to embrace the one you love and let him whistle at your legs.  Take moments where you make moments and turn them into life-long love memories.

Yep.  I want my children to one day, with the ones that they love, to dance in the barn!

Eat Dessert First!

Now, do my kids actually get to eat dessert first every morning?  No!  But I have taken to getting them donuts for each Thursdays breakfast.  And they are thrilled.

You may say, “Sugar kills!”

But so do cars.  So do storms.  So do viruses.

There is a lot out there that can end your life.  Sugar being one of them.

But Tootsie lived 91 years strong (only weeks away from 92), and she had the sweetest 4 teeth known to man.  Yep.  4 remaining teeth.  She did have dentures, but she didn’t find them comfortable.  And so, with her 4 remaining teeth, we would always say, “Smile, Tootsie!”  And then she would laugh and laugh and laugh!

You know, in our household, we are all for eating well.  But, and I’ll paraphrase Cheaper by the Dozen II, when the mom of the dozen runs into the mom of her husband’s rival family, “You need a little sugar in your shopping cart!”

I agree and believe it’s true.

Life should include the sweet.  Even if it means eating dessert first.  Tootsie-style!

And, finally, Live in love with life.  Live in love with the Lord!

When I was in the 3rd grade, and we were in the mountains for Christmas as a family, Santa showed up at our door.  He was short and rosy-cheeked and stuffed with all sorts of goodness.  Unfortunately, Tootsie wasn’t there to see him, but we did, and we told her all about him when she got back from her errand.  And she relished the moments of our excitement and stories, with rosy cheeks of her own.

And even though she loved living with us in our hearts and minds of excitement, she never failed to praise God for his goodness—even in the silliest of moments—like winning in dominoes!  Although, in our home, that’s quite a serious moment, too.  Any domino game (smile and wink for all competitive families out there).

You see, she was a top-grandma…Teaching us to fish in the rain barrel, watching Papa chop the head off of a rattlesnake, allowing us to raid her closet-putting on her shoes, bras, and makeup, or teaching us how to make porcelain dolls.

But she lived her life devoted to her husband, her children, and her God.

Her God that got her through the death of two of her infant baby boys.  The death of her husband.  And then the death of her adult son.

Tootsie lived life encouraging our childhood imaginations and joys—but Tootsie lived life more by encouraging our devotion to God, teaching us, “God remains your constant.  So, go out and continue living!”

And with a mighty slap on the shoulder, coming from a petite figure, you would know that Tootsie meant it.

Live life with God as your constant, and go out and continue living!  And let your children invade your closet.  But NEVER lose in dominoes!  And I mean Never.  Oh, and cheer for the Arizona Diamondbacks!  Always.

You know, Christmas will bring with it many beautiful gifts, all glowing warmly beneath the evergreen tree.  But I hope this Christmas to give my kids the greatest gift.  A Tootsie Christmas. One where I teach them:  Devotion; Dancing in the barn; Eating dessert first; Living in love with life and living life for God.

For those are truly gifts that will last.

Just like my memories of Tootsie.

Now, tell me.  What about you?  What lasting gifts can you give your children this Christmas?

Rainbow Baby?

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I will never shy away from sharing of my loss.  And I am not sorry if I cause discomfort.

Miscarriage is a very silent loss.  It is a very wrenching loss.  It is a very soul-crying loss.

Miscarriage takes you from elation to depression sometimes within weeks.

Today I read many articles of women, very prolific writers, phew!  Writers that bore their souls of their miscarriage losses.  From first trimester to 16 weeks.

From listeria infections to sudden delivery.

Women that never shared the loss with their children.  And then some that, for some unknown reason, started the conversation in the car on the way to school.

I am sure many of us (especially if you are around my age) can recall the episode from Friends when Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe are in the bathroom during the reception of Monica and Chandler’s wedding.

And the two girls, Phoebe and Monica, had given Rachel another pregnancy test to take to see if she really was or wasn’t pregnant.

Phoebe read the results, “She (Rachel) was not pregnant.”

Rachel cried.  And said she was happy.  And that it was for the best…

Of course, Phoebe was not telling the truth.  She wanted to see how Rachel really felt.  And, obviously, Rachel felt a great loss once she thought she was not pregnant.

Now, let’s leave fiction and enter reality.

The character of Rachel shared the heart of many.  THAT pregnancy test.  That pee stick.  That unsanitary little thing carries a great weight.

And as soon as we see the sign “Positive” our lives change.

Our beings change.  Our hands fly to our bellies.  We smile secretly to ourselves, appearing looney to the rest of the world watching random woman lady walking around with dreamy smile on her face.

We envision blue.  And then pink.  And then blue.  And then pink.

We have already calculated how far along and potential birth dates before even the first doctor’s appointment.

Names.  I am sure that is the first Google search you did as soon as you got back on your computer, after the due date, before the Chinese gender calendar.

Names.  Beautiful names.  Crazy names.  Trendy names.  Old names.  New names.  World names.  Names and their meanings.  Social Security popularity on names.

And twins?!  I mean, after all, can’t you recall someone, somewhere in your family that had twins?  Therefore, what would the doctor share with you?  It’s TWINS!

Whether you lost your baby 24 hours after your positive pregnancy test or 12 weeks later…In those potentially 24 hours you knew you had your baby growing inside of you, you conquered the internet.   You looked at What to Expect-type websites.  You saw where the baby was and how you would grow, and you secretly tucked your favorite name away, knowing that even if you had to fight for it, that special name would become a part of your baby in some way, sort or form…Soon.  If 9 months is considered soon.

Miscarriage.  It rips the very soul out of you.

And even the most gut-wrenching cries cannot bring back what you want the most.  The realization of your baby.  In your arms.  In the 9th month.  Like it should be.

Miscarriage.  It is a devastating end to what was once a beautiful beginning.

For you.

My husband?  For him it still continues, too.

Two years after our miscarriage, my husband and I were in our car on our way to church.  Church is one hour away.  My husband is the pastor of the church.

We were on our way.  On the highway.  We were driving.

It hit my husband.  The loss.  The great, great, tremendous loss.

And as we were driving in the car at 80mph, he started to cry.  The car started veering.

Sobs.  Gut-wrenching sobs were escaping the soul of his being.  Tears that he had always stifled to be strong for his wife that suffered so much physically with the loss and hemorrhaging and emergency D and C to remove the placenta.

He was so strong for so long.  And then two years later, our son Maxwell nearly died.  And then Maxwell lived.

And then all of it hit Richard.  On the way to church.  In the car.  Traveling 80mph.

And we nearly wrecked the car.  He had to pull over on the abandoned highway.  And I had to sit there.  Stunned.

I sat there as Richard shouted at God.  “Why?”

Why?

I sat there as Richard shared his guilt.  He was in America when our baby’s heart stopped beating.

“Why, God?!”

I sat there as Richard cried.  And cried.  And cried.

I didn’t know what to do.  And that is probably exactly how he felt as I lived through my time of tears. He probably didn’t know what to do.

Miscarriage.  The silent shame?

Never!

Miscarriage.  The silent pain.

The pain of loss.  Such tremendous loss.  For the mom.  For the dad.  For the brothers and sisters.

For those that love you.  For you yourself.

No one knows what to do.

No one.

And that is probably why miscarriage remains such a silent topic.

Because what can you say about a baby that you loved and barely knew?  Except to the very core of your being you did know.  Just as well as you know the other children you have.

I read once that a rainbow baby is a baby that follows the storm of loss.  Just like a beautiful rainbow shines after the rain.

And I loved what I read.

So, today, I am here to say.  Miscarriage.

It is a loss that guts your soul.  And you feel it forever.

But miscarriage also taught me about life.  The beautiful value of how precious and yet fleeting life is.

I had never valued life so much until our baby lost it.

And then we, through the storm, saw our rainbow.

Eventually a double rainbow.

And their names are Maxwell Loren (2 years and a few months old now) and Josephine Diane (9 months old).

Our baby we never got to meet.  Sam.  Simply Sam.

And despite the beauty of our rainbows, there is not a day that goes by that we don’t reflect upon the gorgeous life of our Sam.

For Sam was our storm.  And Sam was our watering.  And Sam was our awakening.

Our awakening to compassion.

To beauty.

And to life.

Sam.  Oh how I miss the baby I barely had.  Then I look at my rainbow babies and I smile.  I smile at them while remembering Sam.  It’s as if there will never be one without the others.

Just like there will never be a rainbow without a storm.

And 3+ years later, I can smile.  Sadly smile.

The ultrasound of my perfect baby alive in my mind.  The heartbeat-strong.  The feeling of life-there.

And yet time has passed and life has changed.  And we have double rainbow blessings…

But today, Dear Sam, I raise my life and voice for you.  And for all women like myself.  And for all men like my husband.  And for all siblings like my Adelyne.

And I say loudly, without shame, you are loved deeply…even if it is only our hearts that get to hold you.

You were our storm.

But everyone knows—water is necessary for life.

And that is what you were.  A life.  A beautiful life.

Thank you, Sam.  Simply Sam.

Now, I am off to kiss my babies.  My rainbows after our storm.  And I am going to inhale deeply their scents.

And maybe even cry a little.

Because the world does spin, but my heart remains the same.

Mother.  To Sam.

No matter, I will go to bed with a smile.  Because my storm was beautiful.  And mine.  And forever I am changed.

So despite death.  I was taught life.

And I am happy about that.

Because life is beautiful.  Just like our storm.

I forgot to feed my daughter. And we sent her to a counselor.

adapackingup

Living in a different country, in a village, where hardly any English is spoken is a bunch of fun. Especially when you forgot the differences of the beginning of the school year.

Things that are quite important like…

Oh, packing your daughter’s lunch for her.

You see. I forgot that they don’t start serving school lunches the first day of school. I even made sure to tell my husband, “Richard, make sure to go and pay for school lunches so Adelyne will have money on her account.”

So, Richard went to pay for lunches. The lunch lady said, “Oh, no worries. Pay by September 15th.”

And we thought, “Wow. What a relaxed country. How nice!”

Little did I remember (until well past lunch time) that they don’t serve school lunches that day.

AHHHH! Well, good thing I packed Adelyne a cookie to snack on. Oh, and Smarties because, after all, it was the first real day of school and I wanted to remind her to be a “Smarty”. Smarties are like M&Ms. Therefore, technically, she did have two things to eat. Both sugary. But I guess sugar worked well enough. She made it through the day 😉 And, yes, she came home HUNGRY.

To make it up to her, I had bought her favorite French pastries for her arrival home…apple! She was so happy to see them and devoured them quickly.

But forgetting her lunch was not all. Somehow, lost in translation, was the fact that she would need PE clothes to change in and out of.  She did, however, change her shoes from outside shoes to hallway shoes.

So, let me set this all straight:

She was the only student that did not have a lunch.

She also was the only student that did not change clothes after PE.

And she was the only student that DID change her shoes from outside shoes to hallway shoes back to outside shoes.

That’s it.  Three strikes.  We definitely struck out.

But in spirit and adventure and smiles, we still won.  Adelyne came home completely happy to have been at school and back amongst her friends in Poland.

Now for the counselor…

Before we returned to Poland, my husband and I were completely breathless, having near panic attacks, worried about Adelyne’s return to Poland.  After all, we had been living in the beautiful and glorious USA for the past year and a half.  That’s a very long time for a child.  Especially when you go from 1st grade to 3rd grade.  The maturity at 8 that was not there at 6 is astounding.  Her entire being is different now.  And school in Polish.  Eek!  The language is so difficult.

And, so, we, trying to be and ahead of the game parents, decided to set up a back-to-Poland counseling appointment.  Hoping that it would be 1 of 3 appointments.

We met with the counselor and spoke to her about our concerns and told her about Adelyne.  She was extremely perceptive.  Probably a great trait in a counselor, eh?  And we scheduled the time for her to meet one-on-one with the counselor.

Adelyne was told that she was going to meet a lady that she could share openly with her feelings about returning to Poland, or anything else that laid heavy on her heart.

She seemed okay with it.  So off we went.

Now, here’s the funny part, the lady that we sent Adelyne to is specifically a counselor for children.  She has toys and crafts and art supplies galore in her office so that the children can play and talk at the same time, keeping the atmosphere very safe for them.

Well, Adelyne decided to sit on the couch across from her and speak the entire time.  You see, Adelyne was an only child for 6 and 1/2 years.  And for that entire time, she has helped us build a foundation for the poor in Poland.  Meaning, she has spent the majority of her life in meetings or doing grown-up stuff.

The counselor was funny.  She said, “It’s the first time a child has sat on the couch the entire counseling session.  It made me a bit uncomfortable.”

Haha.  A piece of the counselor’s own medicine—being on the other side of the couch, eh?   (But I say that in respectful love because I truly believe greatly in good and Godly counseling and hold the utmost respect for the counselor herself)

Back to the counseling session.  Adelyne shared a lot.  The counselor after spoke with me about what was said and her advice on how Richard and I could help with the transition back to Poland.  Overall, it was a beautifully great and helpful session.

And with everything in my being, I had intended to take Adelyne in for 2 more sessions before our move back to Poland.

One session to address the difficulties Richard and I had in our marriage the past year that she was witness to.

The next how she felt when Maxwell was sick (Our son is a NICU and then later an ICU, blood transfusion, and coma survivor).

So, you see, there is a lot that a little 8 year old could share with a counselor.  And I had really wanted to get her back…

But life got in the way of my best intentions.  My husband was once again out of the country for a month.  I was packing and moving a house without him.  My daughter had daily dive lessons.  And I have 2 wee ones that were even wee-r at the time (if there is such a word).

All of this means we did not get back to the counselor despite my heart telling me it was so needed.

And then we went and did it.  Moved back to Poland.  And we began to settle back into our lives of living in a foreign country and all that entails (which is  lot on its own).

Happy, happy, happy has my daughter been.  And then it hit!

Bam!

Maxwell, our son, had a horrible allergic reaction to something.  His face swelled up, his eye was swelling closed, the red was creeping along his neck.

He looked horrible, felt horrible, and I began to panic.

Can he breathe?  What happened?  Did he touch something?  Did he eat something?

And then something even worse happened.

My daughter lost it.  She just sat there and cried and cried and cried.

I felt for her, but, at the moment, we had to take care of Maxwell (and the regime that comes with a horrible allergy attack) and then monitor him closely for about 20 minutes with our epi pens right next to us.  We were debating, do we call my brother, a fire captain and paramedic?  Do we call our brother-in-law, a doctor?  Do we call the Polish emergency number 1-1-2?  Do we ride it out?

Who knows if we made the best choice, but we made a choice that we felt was best.

And while Maxwell slowly started to improve, Adelyne started to dis-improve.  She melted.  Literally melted.

She climbed in my lap like a small child would and crumpled against my chest.  No matter how many times we tried to assure her that Maxwell was fine, she seemed unable to breathe peacefully.

And that’s when I got to the heart of her panic.

Laying flat against my chest with her legs curled up into my lap she said through her tears, “Do you know what it’s like to have your brother almost die on you?”

No.  She wasn’t talking about his allergy attack (as severe as it was), she was talking about when no one knew if Maxwell was going to live or die when he was a baby.

In the midst of something sad but not so extraordinary (although I don’t take allergic reactions lightly, especially with my nutty son), the past came back in a rush to my daughter, and I could tell the future will continue to hold a lot of healing.

And while we have epi pens for our son Maxwell, dealing with the heart of Adelyne may require a different kind of medicine.  Called time.  Love.  And lots of hugs.

Now, to end on a funny note.  As Adelyne was super sentimental about Maxwell’s horrible allergy reaction, she just wanted to cuddle her precious baby brother.

Max, on the other hand, kept kicking her away and tackling her and shouting, “Noooooo!”

Yes.  This did eventually make the waterworks worse.

But, truly, isn’t that what brothers are for?!

 

Standing on the bank of a river doing a handstand.

faithontheriverbank

There is a picture propped on the windowsill of Maxwell’s bedroom. The windowsill is right next to his bed. It is an unusual looking picture by appearance. There is a little boy doing a handstand in the forest, near a river.

If you were to see it, you would say, “Why is this unusual looking photo in Maxwell’s room right next to his bed?”

And I would answer you this…

Never ever doubt the praying faith or beautiful dreams of children.

You know, in the Bible there was a big dreamer. His name was Joseph, and he often had many dreams that either got him in or out of big trouble.

But these dreams were not his own. They were dreams that God gave him and brought about in truth and reality in God’s timing.

When Maxwell was on the cusp of death, a friend’s son had a dream about him—Maxwell. And his dream, as told by his mom to me, went something like this…

“Mom, I dreamed that there was a little boy doing a handstand on the bank of the river. That little boy was Max!”

And so she sent to Poland a framed picture of a little boy (her son) doing a handstand and pasted it on a different picture at the bank of the river.

And that little boy, doing the handstand on the bank of the river, represents Max.

Her son, he dreamed a dream that he believes God gave him…That Maxwell would live and grow and one day do a handstand on the bank of a river.

Well, today Maxwell is still too small to do a handstand at the bank of a river, but nearly every day of his little 27-month-old life, he puts his head on the ground, sticks his little, adorable butt in the air and waits for his sissy (known to most as Adelyne) to come and lift him up and over for a complete somersault.

It’s not a handstand at the bank of a river—yet. But it’s a show of life. Strength in training. And living in motion.

And every day I glance at that picture.  The one of the little boy on the bank of a river doing a handstand and am reminded about a boy, far away, that dreamed and believed.  Dreamed of my son and how God would restore his life and give him strength to live, to grow, and to flourish.

And every day I am thankful that my friend’s son took the time to dream.  To pray.  And to believe.

I pray that one day you, too, will be doing a handstand on a riverbank!  Or whatever it is in your life that God lays upon your heart.

Have faith, my dear friend, pray, and believe.

Amen.

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

 

My daughter punked me today. Robin Williams would be proud.

sillyada

My daughter punked me today, and I believe the comedian that the world just lost would be proud.

But before we get to her stunt, I would like to say:

Depression

Health failings

Addiction

Loneliness

Fear

Despair

Suicide

They don’t have one face.  They don’t have the face of only the homeless man or woman living under the bridge.

They don’t have the face of only the man or woman living in an institution of white walls.

They don’t have the face of only the misfit teenager that everyone belittles.

Darkness has no barriers.  It has no popularity barriers.  It has no economic barriers.  It has no gender barriers.  It has no age barriers.

Darkness resides in this world in utterly devastating ways.

I remember clearly our church in all of its surprise and devastation when an utterly beautiful mom of a devoted husband and gorgeous children took her own life in her garage one day.

It will forever haunt me seeing my classmate walk after school to wrestling, only to wake up the following day to reports that he took his own life that very night of the last day that I watched him walk away, locking eyes and sharing a smile.

And I will, until the day I die, never forget the beautiful friend of my precious brother that ended his battle too young-watching someone grow before your eyes from kid to teenager to adult attending friends weddings.  And then death.  Too tragic.  Too young.

Yes, darkness.  Darkness my friends takes over.  It takes over minds, hearts, thoughts.  It takes over lives, marriages, jobs.

Darkness is very real in this world and you can’t buy your way into happiness.

How is it then that it can be battled because Christians and those that don’t believe in God both lose to this evil thing?

For that, I have no answer.  Families that have lost their loved ones to such evil often cry out with the same questions.  How is it that someone that is loved so much cannot think that they can pull themselves up and out of this battle and survive?

They can.  And yet it must seem at the time when they lose the battle that they don’t see any light.  Any tunnel.  Any hope.

They are probably more tired than words.

And their mind battles demons that no one knows.

Often we are so envious of the beautiful lady—yet we don’t know why she tries so hard.

We are so envious of the perfect body—yet we don’t know why she works so hard.

We are so envious of the bank account of our neighbor’s—but we don’t know at what cost to his own family.

We are so envious of the funniest—but we don’t know why they laugh so much.

We are so envious of the smartest—but we don’t know why they know so much.

The majority of the times, it is a natural drive and self confidence that keeps people going and doing and being the way that they are.

But there are those times when those that we envy are who they are to hide what they are battling…

Darkness invades.

I often wonder if my son died if I would be overcome with darkness.  A darkness too deep that I would not be able to recover.  And I think that I wouldn’t.  But I don’t know.

What do I know then?  I do know that in all of the despair and the darkness that is battled, there is a light, Jesus Christ.

Will everyone that believes overcome darkness?  Perhaps on this side of life, the answer is no.  But there is an eternal light through Jesus that means on the other side of life, the answer is yes.

The thing is—Jesus does not want anyone before his or her time.  And that, unfortunately, is what suicide is.  It is leaving this darkness before your time.  Leaving your family before your time.  And leaving your work before your time.  It is a finality to life that wasn’t yet meant to end.

It’s a silent subject and oh so sad.

It’s not discussed much in church.  Suicide.  It’s only delicately reported in the news.  Suicide.  And movies often make only the most extreme outcast the one most likely to commit it.  Suicide.

But this darkness does not only attack those on the outskirts of what we label society (and, truly, who are we to label society’s outskirts)…It resides in the biggest of mansions or the smallest of homes.

And it must be discussed.  Because it is a battle.  A dark and dangerous and lonely battle that needs to be fought.  For the person fighting it.  For the family living it.  And for the rest of the world that may enter into it.

But in any and all cases, those that lose their battle to this darkness need to also be remembered in their light.

For they, too, lived a life.  And, Robin Williams, he lived a life that brought a lot of joy to millions around the world.

How we all wish we could have brought him the same joy.

But, alas, as still as time may seem for those closest to him mourning this devastating loss, the world turns.  And now it’s the world’s turn to speak out and battle and fight for those like Robin Williams.  Those that put on a happy face.  A face that is the facade to the darkness that clouds the hidden mind.

I pray for you if you are in this battle.  Find help.  And realize that you can overcome.  Bring your battle to light and allow God to be your northern star and those around you to be your mates.  Your life is not done.  Your time has not come.  Your finality of death is not meant for now.  God is not done with you yet!

Phillipians 1:6 (NLT) reads,

“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus”.

And, now, today, as Robin Williams brought laughter to the world, my daughter, very unaware of the death of Genie, brought great laughter to me as she punked my very being.

“Hey, Mom!  I got your toothbrush ready for you!”

Now, normally, I would be a great skeptic.  But my daughter has displayed tremendous amounts of great help in the past few weeks.  Perhaps she has known that Mommy needed it in this foreign land of Poland as we have lived without Daddy nearby or running water every evening for over a month.  Perhaps she knew I have needed her extra grace, as moving to a foreign country with 3 children and 2 of them 2 and under requires much more coffee and much more sunshine than a usual day.

Perhaps she did it this morning, got my toothbrush ready, because she knew I was up at the crack of dawn doing the MOST DISGUSTING THING EVER…giving 3 dogs flea baths.

Yes, I said and admitted it.  Giving our dogs flea baths.  Disgusting fleas.  Disgusting dogs.  Disgusting job.

And here I was, you will have to picture it because I will not offer cyberspace a photo of it…in my bathing suit (remember I only had a baby 7 months earlier ;)), and a shower cap, latex gloves, and my husband’s flip flops—because I was not about to go out in my cute shoes and ruin them…

Perhaps, yes, today of all days, as we prepared the kids to go to Polish and French lessons, perhaps today my daughter was just being kind.

And there in the bathroom were our toothbrushes.  Her dad’s and mine.  Laid out.  On the counter.  With toothpaste on them and even the tube of toothpaste lying haphazardly on the sink next to them.

Nothing, absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.  Except the fact that she did prepare our toothbrushes.

But I trusted my daughter and said in my mind, “I shall appreciate this kind gesture…”

And I began to brush my teeth.

Bubbles upon bubbles upon bubbles sudsed out of my mouth as the taste of toothpaste was overtaken by the underlying taste of liquid white soap.

Yes…My daughter is so proud.  She punked me.  And it did make me laugh.

For in this world, in this short, short world in this speck of existence that we call life, we need all the laughter we can get…

Even if it comes with the taste of toothpaste.

RIP, Robin Williams.  You will be missed.

News articles related to his death:

CNN

NY Times

Fox News

BBC

Huff Post

Marriage is anything but sentimental…

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Rich and I love reading together.  We read through the Bible together.  Right now we’re in Romans.  We just finished James and boy did I learn a lot from that.  In fact, I realized something beautiful about Grace and the difference between that and Faith.

When Maxwell lived, we read through Job.  Who reads through Job?!  Not me.  And yet us.  And reading it after a tragedy, you understand it differently.  Yes, it’s still hard to read—but oh so worth it!

While Maxwell was in the hospital we reread the scriptures Richard preached on just mere days before our son almost died, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (NIV) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Did I mention this is what he preached on DAYS before our son nearly died?!  Can you imagine having to LIVE through those verses you just preached?

I couldn’t…yet we tried.

Some days we succeeded.  Other days we failed.  Ultimately, we came back to them when we still didn’t know Maxwell’s outcome in life.

Moral of that story, DON’T…absolutely DON’T preach on something if you are not prepared to live it!

Needless to say, reading the Bible together is a big part of our marriage.  No, a HUGE part of our marriage.

And reading other books—important too.

Right now we’re reading a book that we just started.  So to review it ahead of time would be unfair.  Therefore, I will just tell you I already LOVE what we’ve read.  And it’s basically an entire background of statistics and facts and thoughts and reviews.

Does this mean all of them are happy facts?  Heavens no.  But they help me understand marriage and the perception of marriage and how we, as a society, think or look at marriage.

We’re only 40 pages in…

But, what really drew me to the book in the first place was the back cover and these words, “I’m tired of listening to sentimental talks on marriage.  At weddings, in church, and in Sunday school, much of what I’ve heard on the subject has as much depth as a Hallmark card.  While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental…”

And I’ll leave it at that.

After all, like I said, we’re only 40 pages in.

But that alone was enough to get me started.  Truth, man.  Truth.

I, too, am tired about the beautiful Hallmark sentiments you see everywhere about marriage.

Marriage is real.

And real is real.

And life is real.

Which means sometimes messy.  And tough.  And rotten.  And wonderful.  And glorious.

And while it’s not all tornadoes and volcanic eruptions, it is also not all unicorns and rainbows.  It is just life.

Marriage is just like that.  Life.

Like I heard on the radio years ago when someone mentioned to the radio host, Delilah, how she (the caller) didn’t feel in love with her husband, this was Delilah’s response, “Love is not a feeling…I don’t always feel like getting up in the morning to make my children breakfast—but i do.  Why?  Because I love them…”  In marriage you won’t always feel in love, but that doesn’t mean you give up.  And it has stuck with me over many thousands of moon later (after all, there are 365 days in a year and largely at least a sliver of a moon over that time.  Then you have to add the years we’ve been married—we’ve made it into the thousands of moons, literally).

I love to read.  So reading this book is a pleasure.

And I love my husband.  So reading with him is a pleasure.

And, like I have mentioned so many times before, I love my marriage—but we fight hard to make it work.  So reading a book on marriage is a privilege.

One I’m glad I have.

In the meantime, stay tuned for the review once we’ve finished, and go ahead and read other recently posted and archived blogs while you’re at it.  After all, we love that you stopped by And 2 Makes Crazy.

We’re crazy about you!

Orphan Train

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There are so many thoughts swirling through my mind today, and they all come back to Maxwell. Today Josephine celebrates her second month of life. She is as cute as a button and big as a bear. I understand that she was born at nearly 11 pounds, but I would lay money on the fact that she is 16 pounds today. Her 2-month appointment is next week, and I look forward to her stats.

So, if today is Josephine’s big day, how do I continue to circle around back to Maxwell? It’s simple. As each day is simple. And it’s simply this, every day I reflect on Maxwell’s milestones and compare them to where Josephine is today.

Is that okay? I don’t know. It’s hard to know because they are close in age, and just as I was recovering from our first year with Maxwell, we find out we’re pregnant with Josephine.

It’s hard to go from watching one baby slowly die, be revived, and fight every day for his life for months on end. After he makes it, you still watch him. Daily. Fiercely protecting the very air he breathes.

Once out of the hospital, you gladly sacrifice sleep as his apnea mat, tucked protectively under his crib’s mattress, ticks methodically soothing your very spirit. The very tick keeping you awake is the same tick keeping you sane. There you have to find your balance between sleep and sanity. And that’s when you realize that sanity wins because sleep eludes you so that you can continue to hear that tick, tick, tick, tick.

Because there is the tick, you know that your son lives another moment. He is with you. The sun has set, he is sleeping, and you have made it through another day. A day with him. You should be sleeping to prepare for the next day, but you can’t. Tick, tick, tick, tick.

And then it’s hard to find out you have another little one coming.

You become a tornado of emotions. Joy being the forefront followed closely by fear. Joy. Fear. Joy. Fear. And sometimes they mesh together and you don’t know where one begins and the other ends.

That’s when you have to make a decision. To stop. To stop living in fear and to focus on joy. But it’s harder than that single word, Stop.

I just finished reading an amazing book, Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline. It parallels the stories of two girls that go through the foster care system during drastically different times of American history. One, Vivian, goes through during a time of immigration in our country followed by the Great Depression. The second, Molly, is in present-day foster care. Their lives differ. Their lives imitate. One is 91. One is 17. Decades may separate who they are, but circumstances resonate who they are.

And it is in this book that I saw a bit of where I am. Who I am. And why I am. Today.

Vivian is asked a metaphorical question by Molly. Does she believes in ghosts? It is then that Vivian pauses before she responds. And her answer is simple, “Yes…They’re the ones that haunt us. The ones that left us behind.”

Later in the book there comes a part when Molly is pondering over Vivian, her statement, and her life. And Molly has finally understood what Vivian had to say, coming to this conclusion, “…Vivian has come back to the idea that the people who matter in our lives stay with us, haunting our most ordinary moments. They’re with us in the grocery store, as we turn a corner, chat with a friend. They rise up through the pavement; we absorb them through our soles.”

Bam! It’s ironic that on the very day that I am rejoicing upon Josephine’s second month of life and mourning where Maxwell was at that exact moment in his life, that I read this passage.

Today I am in a car, driving to the mountains, to spend quality time with family during Sprint Break. Happy 2nd-month of life, Josephine.

With Maxwell, I was in a hospital, sanitizing every ounce of my being, still having to put on full hospital garb, mask, and booties, while finding myself fortunate that I could grasp his very finger. That his finger still pulsated with life. Very weak, unstable life. But life. Praying to God that one day he would make it out of where he was. Happy 2nd month of life, Maxwell.

Vivian didn’t believe in literal ghosts, but the way that Christina Baker Kline describes the weight of Vivian’s past and the people that traveled with her daily in who she was and how she lived reminded me exactly of where I am today.

Celebrating Josephine. Reflecting on Maxwell. Intertwined. Forever.

I will never be the same person. Woman. Wife. Mother.

I will never be the same human being.

I watched my son take his last breath. I ran into the hospital’s hall screaming for anyone to come and help bring him back to life. He was revived. After that it was a waiting game. A waiting game for life.

And a year and a half later as we celebrate Josephine, I remain haunted by Maxwell.

His life has made me who I am today.

A different woman. A different wife. A different mother.

Fear. Joy. Fear. Joy. Fear. Joy. When will it stop?

It stops long enough for me to celebrate Josephine while playing peek-a-boo in the mirror with Max.

For God does not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7