Tuesday, March 29, 2016


I know what its like to feel like your brain has betrayed you. I think a lot of us fear losing control of our minds, but over the course of the last year I have had to face the reality that a great deal more of it is beyond our conscious control than we like to believe.  But a chronic illness is different: you feel like you're living on a trap door, just waiting for it to give way at some completely unpredictable moment.  Mine is minor, and the greatest risk is my physical safety.

There are others who live with much larger, much less stable trap doors. Sometimes when the bottom falls out, their illness takes over and causes them to do something that they otherwise would never do.  Until someone puts the pieces back together, they often have no idea what's even happened.

When something shocking and disturbing happens, a very natural reaction is to keep looking for more information, more details, some pieces that will make it make sense so we can categorize and process it and move past it.  But sometimes, no matter what we find out, it still won't make sense, and nothing can make that OK.

All we can do is work toward accepting that we're all broken, some so extremely so that it can create a wide circle of hurt.  We work on trusting that the Lord knows and understands that better than any of us, and governs over it with tremendous mercy and grace.  There are things that we rightfully mourn in the mortal realm, but I trust that he will make the scales balance eternally, and heal the brokenness that permeates this life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Feeling Buried

The first bill from my most recent misadventures arrived today.  I have a pretty good sense of how much ORs, anesthetists, surgical plates, etc, cost, so while the sum was depressing to me, it wasn't at all surprising--it was about what I expected.  It caught Doug off guard a bit.  I tried to be reassuring by responding, "We'll get there."  He responded, quite understandably, "When?! When I'm 90?! When the kids are 90?"

Our marriage has sort of felt like one long, bad cosmic joke, financially.  We've always been pretty frugal (the big exception being going to the expense of driving to Montana once a year when we lived in California. And the year we had the most wiggle room, we bought everyone annual passes to Disneyland, back when buying them for the whole family cost us less than the price of one plane ticket to Missoula).  We rarely go on real dates, and even when we do, usually pretty cheap ones. The kids have lived almost entirely in hand-me-downs, thrift store finds, and eBay purchases.  Our cars have been modest, and we only had one for the first 8 years we were married.  Our home and all of our rentals have been modest, and we've rarely done much with them, as far as decor, improvements, etc.  We have never bought many toys or extras, for the kids or the grown ups--presents were limited to birthdays and Christmases, and we kept those pretty simple.  All the shoes and clothes I have owned our entire marriage put together cost about as much as a month's rent for a family home.  All the furniture we've ever bought consists of a couple of hand-me-down couches, a couple of thrift store recliners, a set of discount bunkbeds, our king bed, and our two (inexpensive) couches.  The one indulgence has been the bit of travel we have done, and most of that has come out of tax return funds.

And yet, we manage to keep falling further and further behind.  We were in school, then grad school the first few years we were married.  We took the job in Lindsay, realizing it didn't pay much but that the future was good.  We managed to buy the townhouse, and then almost immediately ended up in the ER and then in the hospital for 5 days with little Dylan, and then took in an entire family.  Those bills almost sunk us.  But they didn't.  So we started climbing out of that hole, little by little, and it took several years.  We were finally almost there, back to something of an even keel, when Doug lost his job.  We faced 16 months of no steady income, precious little income of any kind.  We were just starting to get ourselves back to something resembling normal bill paying, when we totaled our van, and had to unexpectedly add a car payment to our monthly bills. For everyone's sanity, we had to finally break down and spend the money to seek treatment for Doug's ADD (and that is one decision I have not regretted for one second--it has made all the difference in the world). We had made no progress on any of the debt from all of that, but were at least back to a reasonable monthly budget, when my brain freaked out.  Repeatedly.  Two ambulance transport bills. Two ER bills.  Two EEGs, CT scans, MRIs, multiple appointments with a neurologist.  We hadn't even had a chance to touch those bills yet and BAM! treacherous ice threw thousands more dollars at us: another ambulance, another ER, surgery (with implants), multiple trips to the orthopedist.

And we've decided to set Doug's resignation at the end of June.  I am regularly tempted to freak out.  To panic, or to be angry, or just to break down and cry.  But I always get the impression that its going to work out: that we will not be buried and behind forever, and that we will actually make progress much faster than I expect.  I don't see how that's possible--I really, really don't--but I trust it.  Its really the only reason I haven't had a meltdown.  Maybe it means that business will take off even quicker than we expected.  Maybe it means that there's some adventure waiting that we haven't foreseen.  I don't know.  But I keep getting the impression that we will be able to offer our kids and our family more than it seems right now.

I sure hope so.  Because this is getting old.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Its been a crazy couple of months at our house.  Mom hobbling around makes the whole house run a bit less smoothly.  Dad putting in whole days at work and then another 4-6 hours at his second job makes things even more bumpy. Keilana got pneumonia (and a particularly awful case of it--both lungs sounded like garbage, top to bottom and all the way across) and strep throat, and missed two full weeks of school.  Kylie also got strep throat and missed an entire week of school.  Dylan developed a persistent, mysterious and severe cough as soon as his sisters got better, and ended up missing an entire week of school, as the cough was difficult to keep under control even with cough syrup. Thankfully, Keira never got sick.

I'm back on both feet now, with only a brace.  All the kids are healthy.  This week has been Spring Break, and I have organized and cleaned the house top to bottom.  There are 8 weeks of clinical hours and online classes between me and graduation.  Doug has submitted his resignation and will no longer be working for the county as of June 24th.  Life is changing quickly.  Its all a little crazy.

And in the middle of all of it, the kids just keep growing up.  I wish somehow we could hurry Doug and I through all of this, while pushing pause on the kids.  Alas, time marches on, indifferent to my mommy impulses.

Dylan turned 10 last month.  I always hesitate over how much to share about my kids online, for their sake. Suffice it to say, Dylan is a unique kid.  That is often delightful and has many advantages, but it also has its challenges.  The first half of the school year was very difficult for him. A few months ago, I saw a significant shift.  Instead of "nobody likes me" I started to hear, "I don't fit in" or "I have different interests than a lot of the boys in my class".  He recognized that those weren't the same thing, and it was huge.  He made friends a lot easier after that.  For his birthday, he invited four other boys over.  They played Minecraft, ate pizza, and watched Star Wars on the big screen.  As he was taking friends home with his dad, he said over and over again, "This was the best day ever".  Its hard to express how much that meant to me.

He loves Star Wars, Minecraft, Pokemon, Bakugan, and wild animals.  Especially birds.  He knows and can classify many, many species of wild birds.  He obsesses over them, and loves to learn facts about and categorize wild animals.  He often talks about being a wildlife biologist when he grows up.  We discovered today that he may have some hurdles to jump there.  His class had the opportunity to dissect fish today.  He came home looking green, and told me he ended up having to sit across the room away from everyone else, and still almost threw up.  He said, "I thought it was going to be fun, but it wasn't."  As he started to talk about it, he began gagging again and thought he was going to vomit.

His teacher texted me a picture of him during the beginning of the dissection.  His whole body is tense and he's holding his stomach.  When his dad asked him if he felt bad for the fish he said, "Yeah. One had eggs in it--that means they're never going to hatch.  And they were only 2 years old.  It was sad."  He is a tremendously sensitive child, both physically and emotionally.  The combination of assaults on his senses was just a bit too much for him.  He's very bright, and generally kind.  He has some challenges ahead of him, but many tools for overcoming them.

And Keira turned 5 yesterday.  She is a fun little monkey. She is still incredibly smiley: she looks for reasons to be happy most of the time. She can be very friendly and outgoing, the most confident of our girls at this age, but also far and away the most introverted.  She has gotten quite bold in her social interactions, happily talking freely with adults when they engage her.  But if you leave her alone with her toys, her coloring supplies, or an iPad or TV, she can contentedly go hours without talking to another person.  She handles having to go to school everyday really well, but would happily stay home 90% of the time if I let her. 

I took her shopping on Monday for a new birthday outfit (last year's shamrock shirt and tutu were getting pretty small).  She was thrilled to be in the car with me, but wanted to listen to music, not talk.  She has a very specific play list: The Sweet Escape (Gwen Stefani), Vindicated (Dashboard Confessional), Stuck Like Glue (Sugarland), Little Wonders (Rob Thomas), Radioactive (Imagine Dragons), Apologize (One Republic), and Curious (Barenaked Ladies).  It makes her a pretty pleasant traveling companion.  She still sleeps in our bed too often, and even refers to it as "our bed".  She is quick-witted, and loves to tease and joke.  She's very precocious and precise in her language--she loves to explain things to people.

When she gets hurt or angry, she will scream if its me or her siblings, but with anyone else, she shuts down to total silence and runs away to hide.  If she's upset but mostly controlling herself, she won't disappear, but will absolutely refuse to speak. This makes her dad bonkers, but is so familiar to me that I can't even muster irritation.  Our other girls are fit-throwing shriekers, which was totally foreign to me when I became a parent.  Keira reacts like me.  Though its unfair, this makes it easy for me to be patient with her.  Keilana will shriek, throw herself about (she is the child who has broken doors and put holes in drywall), and Kylie will hit and scream that she hates you.  I have learned to be patient (neither of them loses it very often and they are both very sweet and quick to apologize when they have regained control), but its hard for me to understand.  Keira's disappearing act, or stubborn refusal to engage, makes perfect sense to me.  More often than not, she's a peacemaker: if someone starts to get upset, she will do what she can to quickly smooth things over.  She doesn't like conflict, and happily does what she can to make people happy.

Its a joy to watch them grow, mature, and learn.  Its also torture. *Sigh* The nature of being a parent.