Cole made a really bad choice that could have a huge impact on his life, depending on how he chooses to handle it from here. Annie told a humiliating lie and then went on to cover it up with other lies that only further complicated the situation before the weight of it finally got to her and she decided to come clean. Courtney's been on a roller coaster with feelings that are so strong and intense in one direction, but then totally change and become equally strong and intense in the polar opposite direction and everyone in proximity is struggling with whether to get on the roller coaster with her or to stay off of it. I freaked out on all of my kids in the car one morning, saying things that were true, but saying them with ugliness and resentment. A few people outside of our home made some of these situations more painful and challenging than they already were. And my husband was out of town most of the week (a sore subject) which meant I was dealing with the bulk of these things on my own.
Somehow, I just kept feeling like if I held my breath until Friday, that my problems would somehow magically end with the work week.
But they didn't.
Josh got home at 10:30 on Saturday night.
By 11:00, I asked him what he thought about me driving up to Seattle the next day to take a break and to visit Ross and my sister.
His initial reaction was that it would be hard on him and his work schedule to manage everything with the kids on his own.
I immediately (and wrongly) went into accusation mode, saying that he never takes into account how hard it is on me and my work schedule when he leaves town.
We slept in separate beds even though I hadn't seen him almost all week.
The next morning, he told me I should go to Seattle.
I told him I didn't want to go to Seattle because I'd feel guilty the whole time I was there.
He told me I should go to Seattle.
So after church, I threw a few things in my suitcase, packed up my computer (because I've got a class full of some of the most wonderful students ever right now, so I still need to work) and my bike (because my sister said the weather was going to be beautiful and that we should get in some biking) and hopped in my car, looking forward to the nine-hour drive ahead of me.
Five hours (filled with lots of sermons, a bit of quietness and a few prayers for good measure) later, I was sitting at the bar at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, waiting for my to-go order of spinach au'gratin and sourdough bread to come out and had the overwhelming urge to drive back home - not because I felt guilty, but because I knew I was just running away from my problems rather than facing them.
I knew that I was choosing to let my problems be painFUL instead of painFUEL (like the appropriately titled sermon I had just listened to.)
And if Ross (my 22 year old) hadn't sounded so excited about me coming up to visit, I think I would have done just that...Took the Southbound I-5 exit out of Portland and drove five hours back home.
Instead though, I took the Northbound I-5 exit and listened to sermons for another four hours before arriving at my sisters house. (Ross offered for me to stay at his place, but my love for Ross wasn't enough to overcome the idea of rooming with four 20-something boys for a week.)
Before even arriving though, I felt like the purpose of my trip had already been met.
I had so much clarity about so many things. Some things I already knew, but needed to remember and some things that felt really new to me...
- It is a choice (and a fight that requires strength) to remain open and soft and vulnerable as a woman in a world where those things are looked upon as a weakness and in a world where it it feels safer to put up walls of protection and to become cynical and jaded.
- My husband is a man of action and a man of few words when it comes to deeper, emotional topics and that is not a flaw in him (anymore than it is a flaw in me to gravitate towards deeper, emotional topics.) God made men and God made women purposefully and intentionally different. Josh is able to make big, important decisions for our family in moments when I am too emotionally invested to be rationale, and I am able to comfort and grow our kids minds with words and emotions that escape my husband at times. We compliment each other. And if I need someone to talk about deep, emotional things with, I can take those things to God, or to my dearest friend or I can even talk about them with my husband as long as I don't start conjuring up mental images of what I think my husband's response should sound like.
- Its easy to love people who love you - almost everyone does that. To love someone who hurts you or someone who feels like your enemy is what glorifies God though. (I know how to be avoid people who hurt me and how to be cordial to people who feel like my enemy, but I can't fully wrap my brain around what it looks like to 'love' them. I know it includes prayer. I know it includes dying to self. But I don't think it means being a doormat for people either. Still processing that one.)
- By trying to avoid challenging, painful, uncomfortable situations in my life and in my children's lives, I am avoiding the very things that bring about growth and richness and wisdom and empathy and endurance.
- Bitterness is the most destructive emotion of all.
- Marriage is not about personal fulfillment (as much as every movie and every love song might lead us to believe.) Marriage is about showing love even when someone is not acting lovable. (Us women know that when we are at our ugliest is precisely when we need the most lovin.) Marriage is about creating a generational impact that not only affects the children in our homes and the grandchildren we'll have one day, but it also is meant to affect our neighbors and our friends and any other person that God puts in our path. Marriage is about becoming a better person by the very process of exposing all of our worst flaws. Marriage is about valuing a covenant relationship more than we value ourselves. And once we fully accept those things, it can be beautiful.
- I want to keep fighting for my kids hearts instead of fighting against their behavior since our hearts are the source of all of our behavior anyhow.
- Growing up to become a real man is very difficult in this world we live it because there is so much opposition to it. (I started this series recently and finished it on the drive. It's NOT an easy series to listen to, but it's probably one of the most powerful things I've ever heard.)
- I don't want to pray that the storm will calm, I want to pray that I will learn to be calm during the storm. (I cannot take credit for that quote - but I can't remember where I heard it either.)
And that pretty much sums up all of the 'smarts' this little pea-brain of mine can absorb during a nine-hour car ride.
And a totally unrelated (but lovely all the same) photo...
Annie has been having stomach-related problems since September-ish.
Not every day, just most days.
And nothing non-stop, just intermittent bouts that seem to last for two or three days at a time.
Occasionally, its bad enough to make her cry, but usually, it's just bad enough to bring repeated complaints or bad enough to make her quiet - which is always cause for concern since Yans is a girl of many words.
And I don't think she's gained more about five pounds in the last four years, which puts her in the 10th percentile for her height and weight.
But she's crazy-healthy. Has never had an ear-infection, has never been on antibiotics, rarely gets anything worse than the occasional cold, etc.
I took her to see her pediatrician to get his take on it. He recommended a stool sample and wrote a prescription for something to treat gastritis.
I threw away the prescription because putting an otherwise healthy 8-year old girl on prescription medication just didn't make sense to me and I decided to start doing my own research instead.
We're pretty healthy eaters, so I wasn't worried about it being related to processed foods or sugary foods, or anything of that sort.
So I just came to the conclusion that it was probably related to dairy or gluten or some other food-related sensitivity.
I tried cutting as much gluten out of her diet as possible, I tried cutting dairy out of her diet and I kept reading and trying new things to no avail.
We found her a new pediatrician (a female per Annie's request and an office closer to where we lived per my request) who recommended an abdominal x-ray and several blood tests to check for a number of things, including Celiacs.
I also scheduled an appointment with a naturopath who specializes in pediatrics.
I knew it would be hard to juggle the opinions and the recommendations of two doctors, but it just felt like the only way to balance the conflicting recommendations of Western medicine and natural medicine.
The naturopath recommended more blood work to test for Vitamin D and iron deficienices, and a food-sensitivity test as well. (Not to test food allergies, like the life-threatening reaction caused by peanuts for example, but food sensitivities that cause chronic inflammation in the digestive tract and elsewhere.)
Because of Annie's weight though, we couldn't draw enough blood to run all of the tests.
So I opted first to complete the blood tests recommended by the pediatrician to check for any serious, acute problems and then waited a month (because that's how long the hospital said I needed to wait) to have the blood work drawn for the naturopath.
In the meantime, the test results from the pediatrician all came back good, so she requested we get a fructose test to rule out that possibility as well.
That meant Yans and I spent almost four hours at the hospital last Monday getting a fructose test (which involved fasting, drinking a fructose-drink and then blowing into a bag every 20 minutes for three hours) and another blood draw (which involved Annie turning gray, going limp and nearly blacking-out due to having her blood drawn after fasting all day.)
Didn't take any photos during the blood draw because Annie isn't too keen on having her blood taken and that means she likes to sit on my lap with her nose nuzzled into my neck - which isn't to conducive to shooting. I did find myself with an abundance of time to shoot during the fructose testing though...
Expecting the fructose test results back any day. Won't hear anything back on the bloodword for another few weeks though.
If you've had any experience with this sort of thing, I'm all ears.
For the last few years, the kids and I have gotten up early on Thursdays (used to be Fridays) so we could study spelling words and Bible verses down at the Good Bean in Jacksonville, over milk and tea and bagels and scones. (There's actually no coffee involved, but we call it 'coffee day' nonetheless.)
We've even talked about how cool it would be if one day, when they have kids of their own, if we carried on our tradition with all of us meeting down at the Good Bean together each Thursday morning to study over milk and tea and bagels and scones.
A few months back though, I found myself frustrated because if we weren't able to make it to 'coffee' for some reason, my kids would say things like, "Well, I'm going to fail my spelling test then!" - as if somehow, the studying of spelling words and Bible verses were MY responsibility instead of theirs and that Thursday morning coffee was their God-given right.
So I set a new rule that only kids who made it THEIR responsibility to show me (by Wednesday night) that they had been practicing their spelling words and Bible verses would be able to partake in Thursday morning coffee.
It didn't go over well at first and many a Thursday came and went without 'coffee.'
More recently though, they've been coming to me on their own each Wednesday to show me that they have ineed been practicing and therefore, we've been spending more Thursday mornings at the Good Bean again, so I was able to shoot these a few weeks back...
As of bedtime last night though, Miss Yans hadn't come to show me she had been studying (and I'm not in the business of reminding kids - I'm in the business of teaching kids responsibility) so that meant she went without 'coffee'this morning and that she had to prepare her own breakfast (which turned out to be a cheese stick and a kiwi) instead.
And I know she didn't do it on purpose, and I know she gets good grades, and I know I could have opted to cut her some slack, but I didn't because:
- It would just teach her that my words mean nothing, because I don't have plans of following through with them.
- I want my kids to admit when they screw up without making excuses and without placing blame on others, and then I want them to learn to move forward, using their mistakes as experience and knowledge, and momentum.
And when she fought back tears while respectfully asking if she could use her allowance money to buy 'coffee' instead, I felt proud of her for avoiding dramatics and for trying to come up with a solution, and told her 'no' with as much love and understanding in my voice as possible.
I think of all the times I have prayed and pleaded with God for something (like my ex-husband not leaving when I was pregnant with Cole) and He said, 'no.'
And thank goodness He said 'no' because sometimes, 'no' is the most loving word we can say to someone.
Last Saturday, Courtney Lee was away on a trip with our church, Josh and Cole were fixing the fence at the old, new house we used to live in (and now rent out) and Yans and I were having a girls day.
We stopped by to check out the progress on the fence...
That shirt used to be Courtney Lee's. (She was wearing it in this post, which is kind of a fun little trip down memory lane if you've forgotten what my kids looked like back then or if you weren't around here back in 2009.)
I'm always excited to see how much bigger those trees have gotten each time we stop by the new, old house.
Ross bought them for me on Mother's Day the same year we moved into that house (long before meeting Josh Downs.)
They weren't much taller than Annie when we planted them.
And then we made our way to Circle J for lunch...
And then we hit a few of my favorite junk shops because (thankfully) Yans loves junk shopping as much as her mama does...
Those are Rainbow Loom bands on her fingers. (She's bypassed the loom and makes the bracelets using nothing but her fingers now.)
I talked her out of getting that bunny.
And the talking figurines from the movie Ants.
Try as I might though, I couldn't talk her about of spending her allowance on those little, baby chicks.
Much to Annie's delight, the owner of the shop actually ended up giving them to her for free.
She named all six of them.
I was able to talk her out of that (albeit cute) doll though.
And I was able to talk her out of the muppet figurines.
And this spotted pup too.
Annie had just cleaned her room the day before and filled four trash bags full of things she didn't want anymore So, I was explaining to her that each of those bags were full of stuff that she once felt like she 'had to have,' but didn't like/play with any more - and how every single thing in the store we were shopping at was something someone once 'had to have,' but eventually didn't want anymore.
Because 'stuff' doesn't bring joy - in fact, 'stuff' can actually bring along a lot of discontent.
Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for my frugal husband) that meant I had to be an example by just enjoying our time junk shopping together, without actually purchasing anything myself.
Not even that cute, red and white striped throw-pillow that was only $8 and would have looked so great on my couch.
And then we stopped by Blind George's to grab some popcorn to help fuel the fence-building boys and to eat on our drive home.
And then we went home and I spent the rest of the night getting rid of stuff that I don't want anymore either.
I went to Cole's track meet last week only to see this girl walking towards me in a uniform...
Turns out everyone in my family had been keeping this little secret so Courtney could surprise me at the first track meet of the season.
I like those kind of secrets.
Even the coach was in on it.
Turns out, she's doing shot put.
And this guy was doing long-jump.
He wore a pair of shorts (with paint on them) over his track shorts (because he thinks they're too short), but (conveniently) forgot to take them off prior to his event.
And he did the 800 too.
This was my first time photographing a track meet, which was new and fun, except it was also the first time my kids had very specific requests about what I photographed and what I didn't photograph, which was equally new, but not so much fun.
Of the things I've learned at the ripe ole' age of 41 though, it's that there's no sense fighting 'new' because its a guarantee in this funny little thing called life.