Thursday, October 23, 2014

Moriah's First Refrigerator-Worthy Art

At the ripe old age of two and a half, Moriah has decided to take up art.  On a daily basis, she goes to the drawer where we keep paper and pulls out a piece, then goes to the homeschool closet and gets out the colored pencils; and then starts doodling.  What's even better is when she hears her brothers asking for a coloring picture to be printed from the computer; she eagerly requests--and receives--one, too.

With having a new dog in the house, I've been fielding lots of petitions for dog coloring pages.  Tobin colored one like a patchwork quilt, which I thought was creative and nicely done.
And Moriah?  Well, you can see her style of art.  ;-)
It was fun to put her picture on the refrigerator to be admired by everyone--the first of many works of art she'll grace us with, I have no doubt.  ;-)

Here is the little artist herself this morning.  When I looked out from the kitchen and spotted her on the porch, I grabbed the camera.
 And when she looked up and saw me watching her through the window, her eyes brightened...
 ...she waved...
 ...and then showed me that she was using a marker.
She isn't really supposed to have free reign with the markers, but she is getting more responsible with them, so I let her continue using them.  So what if her hands get some marker ink on them; it will eventually wash off.

It's the price of creativity.  ;-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday {Favorite Salt & Vinegar Chip}

So vinegary it makes my lips pucker.

Which is a good thing.

Because if you're going to be a salt & vinegar chip, you might as well be A SALT & VINEGAR CHIP and not an ordinary chip with a tiny bit of saltiness and vinegariness.

Agreed?

;-)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Shattered Hearts, Strong Faith

When we snapped this picture on that Thursday morning back in April, the last day of my uncle, aunt, and cousin's visit with us, we had no way of knowing that we would never be able to take such a picture again.  
No one could have guessed that one who was standing with us then would, half a year later, depart from this world into the next.  And even if we could have known that one of our number had only six months left to live, we never would have believed that it would be him.

Uncle Jay.

The one who held Moriah so much during that visit.  The one who pushed my boys on the swings in the springtime air.  The one who stood with Jeff in our garden and probably planted a few things himself.  The one who held out his arms to Moriah on the trampoline, and she came to him, and he lifted her down so gently.  The one who sat around our table and ate with us and slept beneath our roof and talked with us and laughed and teased and shared his heart and his thoughts with us.

When Aunt Joyce told me they were coming, all the long way from British Columbia, I knew it would be a meaningful trip; but my thoughts were steered in the direction of the significance of this visit because of my mother's worsening Alzheimer's disease.  I didn't have any idea--no one did--that it was a farewell trip of sorts for my uncle.

************

When my dad called me early yesterday evening, I didn't think anything of it since it's common for him to call just to check in, so I asked him about how Mom was when he took her back to the nursing home after her meal with us earlier that day, and our talk centered around her.  But at some point, Dad told me that Aunt Joyce had called him that afternoon.  My first thought was that she was checking in to see how things were going for my mother, her sister; but then Dad told me that she called to tell him that Jay died.

I thought for sure my hearing must have suddenly given out, or maybe my brain had misfired, because I COULD NOT COMPREHEND that Dad was saying what I thought he was saying.  Uncle Jay died?  Impossible!  He wasn't even sick!  He's not that old!  He's strong and healthy and...and...

...THERE IS NO WAY MY UNCLE JAY DIED.

But then he told me that Uncle Jay had been riding a quad while on a hunting trip, and had apparently run into a hole, and the quad had overturned, and it had landed on Uncle Jay, and he didn't return home on Saturday evening, and his family had looked for him but couldn't find him, and the next morning when it got light they set out again, and his son Ethan found him, and...

...UNCLE JAY DIED.

I couldn't believe it.

Sometimes I still can't.

There's the strangest sense of unreality that wells up at times when I think about all of this.  Have you ever read a book in which someone dies, but someone else has a hard time believing it, and they half expect the deceased to walk in the door, whistling merrily, and telling them that it was all a mistake?  That's sort of how I feel.
~ Uncle Jay and Mark with Josiah, David, and Tobin...at my birthday lunch at Aroma restaurant...April 1, 2014 ~

************

As soon as I said goodbye to my dad, the tears started pouring forth, and I couldn't even take the few steps right away to hang up the phone.  I knew the rest of my family was waiting anxiously to hear the news, but I couldn't make my mouth and voice cooperate to get any words out.  They were patient as I pulled myself together enough to choke out the words; and then I grabbed a tissue box, sat down on the couch, and cried and cried.

Just then, the phone rang again; and it was Betty, the wonderful sister of Uncle Jay (remember her from her visit with us back in February?).  I literally couldn't talk, so Jeff answered and talked with her...and still I wept.

After my first wave of tears was spent, we spent some time hugging and snuggling as a family, talking sometimes and being silent sometimes, comforting the boys as they each expressed emotions in their own way.  That evening, Tobin cried the most; but each felt the loss and lamented.  We also talked about the splendor of heaven and what Uncle Jay might be doing at that exact moment--perhaps talking to King David or Josiah, or maybe Daniel or Ezra, or Noah, or his in-laws (my grandparents) or other family members who had gone before, or just enjoying the presence of God.

Jeff was making no-bake cookies when the call came, and I had been eager to eat some; but after I heard the news, I didn't feel like eating anything, so I waited until much later before I sampled Jeff's cooking (which was delicious!).

There was an extra measure of tenderness between us that evening, as we felt the pain and loss together and as we appreciated each other more.
~ Uncle Jay showing a new scope to my boys...during their visit to Virginia back in April of 2012 ~

************

The day before (which would be Saturday), I had felt such a heaviness in my spirit, beginning about the time I woke up from a nap that late afternoon (I had gotten very little sleep the night before and had been grateful to have some time to nap after Tobin and Shav's soccer game and David's gymnastics class).  But when I woke up, I was feeling grumpy and blue; and that mood persisted all that evening and night and the next day, too--no matter what I did to try to snap myself out of it.  I tried to analyze what was going on and what was causing it; and although I came up with some interesting possibilities for the source of my low spirits, I'm not sure my answers were exactly right!

I don't know how all of this works, but is it possible that somehow my spirit sensed the peril that was soon to befall Uncle Jay and the grief that was to come for the family?  That sounds really weird.  It probably IS really weird.  But for that period of time, for whatever reason, my mood was unaccountably low.
~ Uncle Jay, Aunt Joyce, Mom, and Dad...April 2012 ~

************

Saturday night, as my Canadian family searched for Uncle Jay, another search was going on--this one in the mountains of Colorado for a 13-year-boy named Clayton.  He's the friend of someone I know only through blogging; but when I saw her post a prayer request on Facebook for him, I immediately started praying for his safety during that cold, snowy night and for his quick return to his family.

Two people out in rugged terrain on the same cold night.

One walked out alive.  The other did not.

If it had been a choice--which it isn't at all--I know Uncle Jay would have said, "Lord, take me.  Spare the life of that 13-year-old boy."
~ Uncle Jay and Aunt Joyce happened to be here for David's 7th birthday, and it made the celebration extra special to have them with us...during their April 2012 trip ~

************

Late Sunday night, I threw on a jacket, put a leash on our new dog Willow, and took her outside for a bathroom break.  I shivered, and thought, "Brrrrr, it's cold."  And then I wondered how cold it had been when Uncle Jay's accident occurred, and whether he had had to lay there for a while, getting colder and colder before he walked through death's door into the brilliant warmth of heaven.  And my heart broke a little more.

************
~ my mother's side of the family in 1986...Uncle Jay is in the back wearing a red tie...all three of my grandparents' children were there along with their spouses and nine of their ten grandchildren (only my sister Donna was missing) ~

My parents were the ones responsible for Aunt Joyce marrying Uncle Jay--their only successful match-making experience, I believe they would say.  But what a success!

I wondered how my mother, in her diminishing mental capacity, would take the news and was eager to hear Dad's report after he visited her today.  When he told her about Jay dying, she apparently got teary-eyed; but it's so hard to know how much she understands about who Joyce is and who Jay is.  Certainly, she will most likely have forgotten the news by the next time Dad visits her; in fact, she might have forgotten it a minute or two after he said it - who knows?

But I did find it interesting that at some point in their conversation, Mother asked Dad, "Was it Jeff?"

(Speaking of Jeff, here are his thoughts soon after hearing the news about Uncle Jay.)

************

Throughout this long day of mourning, one of the thoughts that runs through my head often is this: What a gift it was that Uncle Jay could make that trip back in March and April of this year!  They stopped at a number of places along the way, spending sweet moments of fun and fellowship with his two daughters (who each live in different places in Canada), his brothers and sisters, numerous nieces and nephews, and various other loved ones.  What a gift for each of us that we were able to see him in person, talk with him, take lots of pictures, and hug him before sending him on his way to the next place.  I am so, so glad for that--not only for myself, but also for the many others who love him and who were able to enjoy the pleasure of his company for one last time here on this earth.

One tidbit from our conversations during that visit stands out to me.  Jeff and I were asking about the history of their ranch in Canada and, more importantly, their own family history--when they made the move to British Columbia, why they did it, what they see as the future of their small communal farm, and so forth.  Uncle Jay, Aunt Joyce, and my cousin Mark patiently answered our questions, sharing their recollections from the past 40+ years; and we listened eagerly to all they said.  But the best part?  Uncle Jay expressed so much contentment.  While acknowledging that things with the ranch had not turned out exactly as they had anticipated, he said that it had been a good life and that he was so grateful to have raised his children there and that he didn't regret making that move at all, etc.  Peace and contentment and thankfulness dripped from his speech like sweet honey from a honeycomb.

His words revealed the soul of a man filled with gratitude, a soul at rest, the soul of a man who, although he didn't live as long as we would have liked, lived well.

Oh, he lived well.

And that's what makes it so hard to say goodbye to him.

I'm confident we will meet again.  I'm certain that this farewell is not forever.  But I'm not at all sure how the gap he left behind will be filled.

That, of course, is where faith steps in.

O Lord, increase our faith!  How we need You now!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Clutter, Be Gone! {Cross-stitched Bookmarks}

While going through some of my mom's sewing stuff recently (since her move to the nursing home, she won't be needing sewing things anymore--not that she had been able to use them for a long time before that), my dad unearthed these and gave them to me.
 They are counted cross-stitch bookmarks that my brother David and I made at some point during our childhood.  It looks like we finished all the stitching, but never accomplished making it into a bookmark.
When my kids saw them, they declared that no offense, but they liked Uncle David's better than mine.  :)  No offense taken.  :)
Since my initials are no longer DGH, I decided to take a picture, post it on my blog, then throw the bookmark away.  I emailed my brother about his, and he declared that he had plenty of bookmarks and I could toss his in the trash as well.  Done!

Clutter, be gone!  :)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

When Internet Friends Become Real

I'm not sure when Rebekah and I first started reading each other's blogs, but it was definitely during the days of my old blog.

So, YEARS ago.  :)

But regardless of when we first "met" online, I know very well when we first met in real life.

Yesterday.  :)

She and her husband Daniel were vacationing with his family in Virginia and kindly made time in their schedule to drive here from Williamsburg, just so they could visit us.  I was thrilled to meet them in person, after years of reading Rebekah's thoughts, praying for her challenges, and being inspired by her lofty goals.  I've seen her grow up--from a single woman to a wife--and I'm especially excited because Rebekah is expecting their first child, and I'm eager to watch her transition into the role of a new mother.  Such special times!  :)

When my boys learn that guests are coming, one of their biggest hopes is that those guests will play a game with them.  :)  Sure enough, Rebekah and Daniel were good sports and allowed themselves to be dragged into a (very!) long game of Uno after our supper yesterday.  As a matter of fact, nobody actually won the game, since it had to be halted due to the lateness of the hour...but Tobin was quick to tell me that he had the least amount of cards in his hand when they stopped.  ;-)

 I loved how Moriah climbed up into David's chair and made room for herself there.  :)
 Meanwhile, Jeff was entertaining Shav in the living room by making funny faces, bringing forth peals of laughter from Shav.  :)


 Moriah decided Daniel's lap was a pretty good place to hang out, too.
 Daniel had just a few cards at this point in the game.  ;-)
 Shav was particularly excited about Daniel being here because Shav's middle name is Daniel, and he jumped at the opportunity to have a "The Daniels" picture, after watching his big brother David have a special picture taken with Uncle David every time we get together.  Moriah barged right into some of the photos though.  :)


 We added a third Daniel: the one in the painting done by my extremely talented father-in-law.  :)
 
 I wish I had thought to get a group picture when Jeff was home, too; but unfortunately he had already left for work when we took this.
 I'm so very glad that Rebekah and I got the chance to meet.
Now when I read her blog, I'll be able to hear her voice in my head!  :)

Thanks, Rebekah and Daniel, for making us part of your Virginia vacation.  Come again anytime!!  :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

From Morning til Evening...

...Moriah wants to be with our new dog.  I can't even count how many times she kissed and hugged and petted Willow today!  And Willow is as gentle as can be with Moriah.  It warms my heart.  :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Secret in My Bathroom Closet

Something's been hiding in my bathroom closet for a couple of months.

That whole closet needs reorganized, and it's time to bring out what's been hidden and time to throw it away...but before I do, it's time to tell the story of what I've been hiding.

It's this...
I don't even know if you can see that double line in the pictures.  They were never very dark, those lines that confirmed that the hormones of pregnancy were beginning to wash through my body.  But they were there.

They weren't enough, however, to keep the right mix of hormones in the right amounts at the right times, and a miscarriage happened.  It was an early one--one of those that, if it weren't for the wonder of modern medical technology in home pregnancy tests, you would never know for sure that it had happened.  Five weeks of pregnancy isn't very far along, not far enough for the baby to be making blood, blood that might mix with the mother's blood and require her to get a Rhogam shot.  And so, since it was so early, since things were progressing along without any strange complications, I didn't even go to visit the midwives and have the miscarriage confirmed.  I've been through this two other times, after all; so I--sadly--knew what to expect.

You might wonder if I was devastated, and I'll tell you that I wasn't.  Disappointed, yes...but devastated, no.  My heart is so full of gratitude for how God has blessed me with children that, although I was eager to have another, I wasn't crushed when it didn't work out that time.

But here's what was hard.

The miscarriage happened on August 19, during what felt to me like a season of loss.  The biggest loss, of course, was my mother moving into a nursing home because of the progression of her Alzheimer's Disease; the sting of that loss still remains, despite my thankfulness that she's in a safe, caring, attractive place.  Another loss of sorts was the trip Jeff, Josiah, and David took to California for a week at the end of August/beginning of September.  Although I was thrilled that they could go and have so much fun and build so many memories together while visiting our family and friends there, I felt a huge emptiness without them here.  When we planned the trip, we had no idea that my mom would be moving into the nursing home the day after Jeff and the boys left for California; neither did we know that I would have a miscarriage that month.  Even if we had known those things, I would still have wanted them to make the trip; that's how strongly I felt about them seizing that opportunity for their adventure.  But as I watched them go through the security checkpoint at the airport and then disappear out of sight, my deepest emotion was LOSS.  (But happily, when they returned safely a week later, my heart rejoiced at my GAIN!)   :)

Besides that trio of losses--a baby, my mom, and Jeff & my oldest two sons--I also felt surrounded by other disappointments, which admittedly were much smaller, but still played into my sense of being in a distinct season of loss.  For example, when Josiah broke his arm, my vision of how the last month of our summer would go suddenly went up in smoke--or more accurately, was wrapped up in a cast, unable to move!  Since our scheduled extracurriculars were over for the summer, I envisioned trips to Riven Rock Park to play in the mountain stream, time spent practicing violin in preparation for lessons to begin again in the fall, piano lessons that I would give Josiah to compensate for my dreadful lack of discipline as his piano teacher, and fun in the swimming pool--none of which could happen with his broken arm.  I felt adrift, my dreams for what I thought would be a laid-back yet productive month of August having vanished in the light of reality.

Those were the events and that was my outlook in the days and weeks that surrounded my miscarriage.  Not exactly the most cheerful of times, eh?

Out of that cloudy time came a strong light, however; and that was the unshakable trust I had in the will of God for the future size of my family.  It was a gift from Him to be able to say--and believe with all my heart--"If He blesses us with another child, I will be DELIGHTED!  But if He sees the path ahead and knows that I have all I can handle already, it is still OK.  His plan is good, and I rest in that."

Today, on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I hear tales of pain much deeper than what I've experienced during my three miscarriages, and I wonder why I've, in a sense, had it so easy.  Each time I've lost a pregnancy, something--or lots of somethings--have happened to diminish the pain and increase my awareness of the blessings that still surround me.  Most dramatically, my first miscarriage occurred two days after we endured an armed robbery and home invasion.  In light of that, losing a pregnancy at seven and a half weeks didn't seem as awful as I had thought it might.  After all, I was still alive, and my husband and two sons were still alive, and our neighbor who was held hostage by the intruder was still alive, and his family was still alive, and life was AWESOME.

My second miscarriage happened in the summer of 2011 (the story is told in four parts: here, here, here, and here); but because the first pregnancy tests were vague in their results, my heart was prepared from the beginning for the possibility of a miscarriage.  Since my hopes weren't raised too high, it didn't hurt as much when they were dashed.  Even more significantly, I happened to get pregnant with Moriah in the month following the miscarriage.  It wasn't really supposed to happen that way, according to man's wisdom; but clearly in the wisdom of God, it was the very best thing that could have happened that month.  :)  That (strong!) positive pregnancy test coming so quickly on the heels of the miscarriage definitely diminished the sense of loss, to be sure!

And now here we are in 2014.  Like the 2011 miscarriage, the first pregnancy tests I took this time were negative, and then finally I got a faintly positive one, and then later, another faintly positive one.  It was all so reminiscent, however, of the 2011 miscarriage that if I were a betting person, I would have put money on the possibility that I was having a miscarriage, long before it actually began.  I did try to tell myself that, despite the fact that the pregnancy tests hadn't given a quick, strong positive, I still might manage to hang on and there still might be a healthy baby growing inside me; but I'm enough of a realist that I never got too far with that line of thinking.

When the miscarriage began, there was no surprise, but oh, there was that sense of loss.  If you could have listened in on my prayers during those days, you might have heard something like this:  "Really, God?!?!  After trying for eight months, I finally get pregnant here in the month of August--the same month my mom moves to a nursing home--and I can't help but feel that it's so significant that just when one of the most precious relationships of my life is being, in a sense, taken away, You give me a brand new precious relationship.  BUT THEN I MISCARRY?  What's up with the timing of THAT?  Did You really have to arrange things that way???"

I'm a paragon of faith and trust, can't you tell?  ;-)

But God loved me even while I whined, and He covered me with His blanket of peace, and my soul was at rest.

It still is.

Not knowing the future...still feeling the nudge of desire for another baby...realizing that it's not a given that we'll have another one...I walk through these days knowing that when my plans fail, His never do.

Even when that means positive pregnancy tests that brought great joy turn into reminders of dreams that didn't come true.