Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Moment of Your Time To Save A Whole Lifetime of A Child

What if this picture was of your child?

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of the passing of Declan Carmical. If you don't know how the story of Declan touched my life, read last year's post here.

As I think about all that has happened in this past year, I realize that while life for us has moved on in a major way, life for Declan's family has not moved so much. They are still mourning. They are still suffering. They are still fighting his fight. One week shy of his first birthday Declan died of AT/RT cancer, one of the many types of pediatric cancers which still have no real understanding, as funds for research are minimal- the majority from the National Cancer Institute are reserved mostly for drugs and information on other cancers. While every type of cancer deserves attention and a voice, I fail to understand how pediatric cancer has more or less fallen to the wayside, neglected; lost in the darkness and tears in the hearts of each family who loses a child to it; stunted by the breast cancer awareness movement and others. Our future depends on our children. So why then do we fail to protect them from one of their most prominent enemies?

As I read many posts online today about Declan and his family, I remember how deeply I was struck with his story around this time last year. It affected me in such a way that for days after his passing, I was numb. I can't even imagine how his own mother felt; it's a grief of which I can only scratch the surface to understand. I know in my heart that all things work for good and that our lives have a purpose that far surpasses our understanding of it. I know this. And yet, as I am numbed again by the memory of Declan's suffering and death, the comfort from this fact is shadowed by pain, a pain I imagine is slighted greatly by that of Declan's family. There is no point to trying to understand why pediatric cancer exists; that question is reserved with the many others that are unable to be answered until we get to heaven. But it's possible to know - and we all deserve to know - why pediatric cancer research is not funded more, why there are so few advances in treatment, why our children aren't given more of a chance.

While life for us has moved on since this time last year, Declan's story and the fact that he is just one child of many who were failed by the NCI, has never left my mind. Three percent of NCI's funds goes toward pediatric cancer research. THREE percent. And that's for ALL types of pediatric cancer combined! The statistics for children developing pediatric cancer are astounding. It could be my child at any time. Or yours. It could be our children's children. Something has to be done. We need to wake up to these facts! We need to do more.

One small step you can take in helping this cause is to vote for Journey 4 A Cure in the Vivint Gives Back Project. Every day you can vote to help J4AC win money to fund actual research for pediatric cancer. It only takes 30 seconds or less, but it may just give another child 30 more years (or more!) on earth. Please vote! Our children deserve it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pie Chart for My Anxiety!

These moments are both painstaking and vicious.

My brain approaches cautiously but then ceases to understand or comprehend that there are actually moments beyond this one, so I am locked in a tunnel, swirling around in the vacuum of thoughts and feelings I have created within myself.

These moments are full of silent screams that echo through me and come out in a myriad of ways: short temper with my kids, lack of energy to do chores, angry tears. These moments define my life lately and I'm at a loss to even begin to understand how I can creep away from them with my sanity and my soul intact.

The children are only a small percentage of the equation. The hardships a mother endures as she is raising her children are justifiable and really, they are the norm. She faces the unmistakable conviction of wanting to do the absolute best she can to raise them to be servants of the Lord and takes it hard when she feels she is failing. Nothing is easy. Never in a million years did I think raising children would be. I remember what I was like as a child. I remember my 6 brothers and sisters, too. But I don't think I ever thought that it would be this hard. My mother is a freakin' saint.

If I could do a pie chart to represent all the things that make up my anxiety, that little sliver you see on similar charts representing the nominal cut would probably be that of my children. Really. Because while yes, they do create a sort of chaos to my life and it is definitely difficult to raise four children under the age of seven, there is just so much more that my anxiety is made up of. Often, my kids are my solace. Like this afternoon when I was trying to find Sophia (who just turned two) to put a diaper on her before nap. I wandered through the house looking for her because she disappeared off my bed in the time it took me to get a diaper from the next room... I found her hiding in my closet. I opened the door and with a delighted grin and a mischievious giggle, she declared, "I wos juiced hidin', Mawmy!" Times like these are what keep that percentage low.

The general subject of "children" really is only about 10% of my pie chart. So what makes up the rest you ask?

It's me.

Yup, that's right. My big fat rump sits covering the rest of the pie chart. I just can't seem to get out of the way. Part of it goes into the piece where I allow the reality of my small house to paralyze me when the four children - who are just being children - are running through it, and are under my feet, and are screaming and fighting over toys. I'd say that makes up about 40% of my anxiety. It's not them, it's my way of dealing with it. That gives me anxiety; the fact that I can't deal with it lately.

The next piece is also a rather sizable piece. It's the business piece. Our landscaping business is doing great. I know we're on the path God wants us to be on. But there's so much about running a business and there's so much that is put on my shoulders on top of everything else from our personal life. And this year, coming to the end of our third season, we are desperate to move on and start next season in a different place. Not just physically - like where we're located - but in general. Our plans for the next phase of our business include so much. Like having help. Like planting a tree and perennial farm. Like Joe being more involved with his customers and not having to do the maintenance end of things. This part is probably 35% at least. Because again, I don't know how to deal with it properly.

The next piece makes up the final 15% of the chart. It's my marriage and all the baggage that came with my husband. Of course, I have baggage too but we're not talking about me now are we? Oh wait.. Uhhh... Maybe we are? It's not really my marriage and my husband; it's me. It's how I handle things. The crazy cycle that my thoughts go through. My inability to trust. To cope. To heal. To love. I'm whacked sometimes. I have baggage. Really.

Soooo....Is my anxiety a direct result of my self-induction of it? Does that even make sense? I stress about not doing things perfectly and not having things the perfect way. And I squeeze myself into this tunnel and I create the vacuum and I lose myself in my thoughts. Is it easy here? No. Is it easier than out there?? No, not really. So why do I do it? I have no freakin' clue!

I pray about this all the time. What is wrong with me? Why can't I just let it go and give it to God and have peace about it? Is He trying to offer me peace? Maybe not yet. Maybe I need to just sit here in this uncomfortable place until I'm ready to take it. Maybe I just need to allow the viciousness of the moments pass so I can draw in the gentle nature my Heavenly Father has with healing me.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Win a FREE Book!

My friend Judy from BenMakesTen and Homeschool Faith And Family Life has a give-away on her site for Suzie Andre's book, "A Little Way of Homeschooling." This book is an account of 13 different families who felt called to homeschool which eventually led them down the path to "unschooling."

The contest ends at noon on August 21, 2011, and Judy's tenth and youngest child, Ben, will draw THREE lucky winners' names from a jar!

Enter here for a chance to win!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Family Vacation

We just got back this week from a 6-day vacation in East Tawas, Michigan. I don't know about you but when a big family goes on vacation, especially if there are several little ones who are pretty dependent still, it's more stressful than it's worth. Most of the time. This time, it was different.

Thanks to my wonderful friend Colleen, we got to enjoy some really serious vacation time. Serious, meaning it was a REAL vacation where we actually got to relax.... not just a "get away from normal life" vacation. There weren't really too many stresses that got packed in our luggage to follow us to Michigan, as is usual when we take a trip to the beach. Of course, with 4 little children in a strange place, there is definitely some stress. But it was stress that could be soothed with sunshine, pool time, splashing in the lake, s'mores. It was doable stress, the kind that seems to melt away the second you look out over the calm waters of Lake Huron and watch the setting sun.

So, what did we do on our vacation?

We drove 11 hours to arrive in East Tawas around dinner-time. The ride was uneventful. The kids had DVD's to watch, art bins full of snacks, crayons, notebooks, a canteen, and stickers, and of course their all-important "Ishies" and pillow pets to snuggle with when they grew tired. The last two hours proved to be a little bit anxious for their tiny bodies to deal with but we made it without incident and with everyone in good spirits. Juliet (the dog) didn't even throw up once!

Coming into East Tawas, we could see the clear waters of Lake Huron stretching out to the right of us. Gorgeous! Lots of Evergreen trees dotted the backdrop and a slightly-cool northern breeze floated through the open car windows.

We checked into our cabin (which I have to say, I was unimpressed with and it was really too small for our 6-person family with a dog..definitely something we have to do differently next year.) Colleen came with her daughters to welcome us and bring us a basket of Michigan goodies - fudge, blueberry jam, banana nut muffins, a mug with packets of organic green tea tucked inside. Very thoughtful. But I hungered more for the sight of her and her girls, as we haven't seen them in half a year. The only one missing was her son who was visiting his grandpa. That evening, we met her mom and step-dad at the Dancing in the Streets event the town has every Tuesday, where the kids can dance to a live band, blow bubbles and draw on the street with chalk.

After that, the week began. On Wednesday, we swam in the pool at our cabin and then drove to Colleen's mom and step-dad's 30 acre property. There, we cooked out, fished, rode the four-wheeler, ate s'mores and visited with some of the most down-to-earth and loving people I've ever met. The kids put on skits, chased the chickens and stuffed their faces til dark.

The rest of the week was spent much in the same relaxing way. We visited a Lumberman's monument, where we walked 280 steps down to the water (and back up again, me carrying a 3 year old most of the way up!). We went to the lake a few times to splash and cook out. We headed back to Colleen's family's place to hang out again, where we drank homemade wine, canned pickles, ate, fished, shot at targets with Joe's gun, and chased the chickens some more. Colleen and I got to have lunch together on our own, walk around to the many little quaint shops, and catch up. We walked the dock and looked at the yachts and sailboats as the kids bonded, Aidan pledged his love to Emily with a smiley bouncy ball and a shy attempt at a marriage proposal, and Stephen and Joe bonded over fart apps on their phones. (Boys are so icky!)

We attended Mass on Sunday morning at Holy Family with Colleen and her kids and her mom and step-dad. It was a very beautiful church. We ended our last evening there with dinner and drinks with the 3 of us adults while Megan and Steven took care of the kids at Colleen's house. Somewhere in the midst of that night, a poopy diaper was changed by 3 kids wearing rubber dish gloves!

We had a lovely time and already miss our friends! Can't wait to go back next year! God has blessed us with amazing opportunities to enjoy His creation and share special times with special friends.