Two weekends ago Pete and I went to Galena, Illinois for a little getaway. I don't leave the kids very often and when I do, I usually cry at some point. Well, I was proud of myself the morning we were packing up to go home when I realized I hadn't cried the whole time. I know, it was only 2 nights so you may be thinking I'm crazy. But this home and these people are my world so going away usually leads to guilt. Guilt because I may not be available when they need me, because I am not there to protect them, and because I'm expecting someone else to care for them. But this time was different. That's probably because they're getting older and capable of helping and because I was totally confident in the young couple and their baby who stayed with them. So away we went and it was a refreshing time in a beautiful place. Here are a handful of pictures from the weekend.
When you grow up moving around, changing home often, the things and people that are consistent hold deep meaning. When every few years you are transitioning to a new place with new people, attempting to make new friends, the things that remain in your life are like anchors. That's what their house was to me. Opa and Oma's house was a place that meant sameness to my little girl life. No matter where we lived, we always went back there. For Christmas, for summer time fun with cousins. As we got closer to their house and the highway gave way to the sweet neigborhood I still love to be in, I was giddy. In winter I enjoyed hours of sledding and outdoor exploring with my close in age uncle, Tim. In summer, family potlucks at the park, bike rides and walks with Opa and Oma. At night I would lie awake in an upstairs bedroom unable to sleep for the haunting sounds of nearby trains, but comforted by the steady stream of conversation of my parents, aunts, uncles and Opa and Oma coming from the living room. Their deep theological discussions always mixed with their uproarious laughter. I remember backing out of that driveway to go "home" to wherever we lived at the time so many times over the years, but I always knew I'd be back. In my early twenties I lived with Opa and Oma for about a year while I went to beauty school and lived for the weekend when Pete would visit from school. I spent so much time sitting on the porch talking with Opa and Oma. There is so much they taught me just by taking the time to include me in their lives. Opa has been gone now for 12 years. I can still hear his laughter, the sound of his voice in my mind. Oma died 2 weeks ago today and while I'm so thankful for the time I had with her- that I knew my grandmother for nearly 40 years! - I still get sad thinking about the things that I didn't learn or ask her about. Today I was reading a book to the kids and there was a really beautiful description of lemon meringue pie. And I just wanted to put the book down and cry. Oma made the most delicious lemon meringue pie. And I never asked her to teach me. She was brilliant in the kitchen, making everything seem so effortless. She made homemade bread that was amazing. She thought nothing of letting a crew of grand kids make and decorate cut out cookies with her.
I still can't really believe she's gone. The thought of her house without her in it is really hard for me to handle. I hope and pray that someone in the family buys that house so I can maybe still visit. So I can still sit on that porch and think of the 2 people who sat there together, Bibles in their laps, trays with their lunch on a table nearby. I'm grateful to the Lord for the ways He used my Opa and Oma to shape my faith and help make me the person I am today.
I was down on the floor and the cold tile felt good. I started to get up and Pete asked me what I was doing. I said, "I need to get up." Then he told me I had just passed out and I needed to stay on the floor for a little while. That's when I realized that it wasn't that I simply fell because my back hurt. I passed out because the pain from getting up and down from the toilet was so bad it was making me sweat and everything got cloudy and dark and then I was on the tile. Thankfully, Pete caught me and gently got me to the floor. As I lay there I just thought about how helpless I felt. And it didn't feel good. It doesn't feel good to not be able to tell myself to get up and get up. Or to walk and take steps. It hurts and my body is fighting the pain by not obeying my brains orders. A few minutes before the passing out I could hardly get out of bed. Pete helped me get on my feet, but once I was up I just hung onto his neck and leaned on him because my body wouldn't let me put any weight on my feet.
I had gone to the chiropractor yesterday and she said I may have a slipped disc. I'm not sure if it's from riding in the van for 7 hours on Sunday or wearing my boots all day that have a bit of a heel or if it isn't from any particular thing. What I do know is I have to begin being fully committed to working out. I need to get stronger so maybe I won't go through this again. The day after an adjustment is always rough, thus the pain this morning. And I'm really being careful today- not staying in one position too long, not lifting the little ones, not bending or reaching. The chiropractor wants to see me three times a week for six weeks. It's really hard for me to commit to things, like chiropractic care and working out, that take me away from the kids. I like being with them AND it's my responsibility to care for and teach them. So I really don't like giving up that time and even the control. But I guess the severe pain is a wake up call that it's time to really start taking care of this body so I can take care of everyone else better.
I'm humbled by the feeling of helplessness. By the need to rely on Pete to hold me up and the children to do the work around here. And by the reminder that without God's grace each day I can do nothing.
Sunday was a busy but very sweet day for our family. Right after our morning church service we hit the road, Michigan bound. We ate sandwiches on the way and looked forward to an afternoon and evening of visiting. First stop was the home of my Grandparents on my Mom's side. They recently moved into a new apartment and it was wonderful to see them in a place that is convenient to town. They previously lived on beautiful acreage so it has been hard for them, especially my Grandpa, to not have their own land for the first time in SIXTY! years. On our way to see them we drove past the house that they lived in the whole time I was growing up. Even though we didn't live in Michigan for most of my childhood, that place holds so many memories- feeding calves from bottles, drinking dark purple grape juice (Grandma was brave), big gatherings at Christmas time with my aunts and uncles and cousins, playing hide and seek in the basement, enjoying my Grandma's delicious chop suey and the special bunny cakes she always made for birthdays, playing in the woods with my cousins, riding to town for ten cent boxes of candy. These were all things I looked forward to on our visits. I am so thankful we still have them with us. It's really sweet to see them enjoy all my people. Their health has been up and down over the past several years, but the joy of the Lord is their strength.
Our next stop was a quick one, to drop the four youngest kids off at my parents' house while the rest of us went to my Oma's church. Oma was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and colon cancer. In so many ways it doesn't seem real to me, that the path of physical suffering is before her, that as she approaches 80 years old this vibrant, strong woman is experiencing weakness and pain. But in the midst of that her faith is strong and it is beautiful to see. God's faithfulness is great and His grace abounds, even as our hearts are sad. "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26). We trust that the Lord will be near to her in her pain and give her wisdom as she has decisions to make.
After church we picked up the kids and walked across the street to Oma's house. Actually, right now my cousin Nate and his family live there and Oma has an apartment on one end of the house. Still, to me, that house will always be Oma's. We had a sweet time singing hymns together, praising the God who made us family and who cares for us. There were over 50 people there and yet, as Pete and I did the math later we recognized, that was just over half of the offspring of Opa and Oma. God's faithfulness to the generations of our family was evident in that room.
Afterwards, as we drove away, I realized that apart from my parents love, that house was the one constant in my life. As a military family, we called several different places home. But that house was always a place we returned to. I lived there for brief periods, once as a child, and then again when Pete and I were dating. So many memories are wrapped up in that place- after school nachos with my uncle Tim (not even a year older than me), skating in the church parking lot next door, sliding down the stairs on blankets, lying in bed at night with the sound of the trains at the crossing nearby interrupting the comforting sounds of my parents, aunts and uncles, and Opa and Oma talking in the living room. The hours I spent tearing down wall paper in the room I lived in when I was 22. There was much time sitting on the front porch, relaxing and talking with Opa and Oma. That was always such an inviting room with a restful cottage feel. Opa died suddenly of a heart attack nearly 12 years ago, but I can still hear his voice, his laughter, his Dutch accent.
Sorry the pictures aren't the best- I'm not so great with my camera yet!
I'm so thankful for the years of memories I have of my Grandparents on both sides of the family. The Lord has richly blessed me with a Godly heritage and I treasure the moments I've enjoyed with them.
I can't believe I haven't been here since May. I really didn't mean for that to happen, but life...
A few pictures of life around here from last week-
Silas is our latest talker so far. We're all having fun trying to figure out all his words. I want to remember always his sweet little way of talking. Here are some of his words-
Anneliese = Annlee
water= wawa (I've never known a child who ACTUALLY says it that way and nobody taught him that!)
He keeps us laughing, that's for sure!
I'm back in the baby and toddler stage again. It is so very different this time around! In some ways it's easier because I have so many willing (usually) helpers. Yet, it's harder in a lot of ways because there's more juggling. My days consist of constantly assessing which need to address first. It's a blessing to be needed by so many people, to hear, "mama, I need..." or "mama, can i..." But honestly, its hard too. Many needs means a lot of noise. It is tiring to the body and the brain! Obviously, a hungry newborn comes first. And a stinky or needy toddler is next. Some of the older kids are better than others at understanding that their schedule is subject to change depending what the little ones need! I guess in a way I've created monsters with my normal way of scheduling. They need to realize that schedules are useful, but that we aren't slaves to them, but must be flexible! On that same note I probably need to let go of the guilt that tells me I'm not doing a good job staying on top of school right now. This is a sweet time to enjoy. I want to hold Anneliese and just stare at her while she's little and that often means there's something else not getting done. I know that I need to be okay with that because I'll never get this time back. And I know that in the fall I'll be spending less time nursing, I'll be getting more sleep, and it will be all around easier to manage things. That's what I need to tell myself when I feel like I'm dropping these balls I'm trying to juggle.
It's a good time to remember Ecclesiastes 3, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven..."
The night before Charlotte was born Peter hit the back of his head on his nightstand and ended up in the ER getting staples in his head. Apparently Silas wanted to "celebrate" a new sister the same way. Yesterday evening he fell of a chair and got a little gash in his head in exactly the same spot that Peter has his scar. Thankfully Pete hadn't left yet to get groceries or I wouldn't have had a way to get him to the ER. Along the way we stopped by a friend's house to see what she, as a nurse, thought of whether or not we should take him in. After looking at it she said she would so we kept driving to the hospital. By then he had stopped crying and was jabbering away. We were afraid we'd wait forever- you never know with hospitals! Thankfully the doctor took a look at it within 30 minutes. He explained that he'd put a couple of staples in and that heads heal very quickly. Since the little room was crowded with Pete, Silas, Anneliese and her carseat, and me, (and since I knew Pete would be better at handling the whole stapling business) I decided to take Anneliese and go out to the waiting room. As I sat there I prayed that our little man would be brave and not have too much pain. A little while later when Pete came out with him he was cheerful and it turns out that through the whole thing- scrubbing it clean, stapling- he didn't cry at all! And he thanked the doctor when it was over.
The whole thing was overwhelming for this postpartum mama. I am not good at being brave right after I have a baby. Hormones, lack of sleep, the responsibility of caring for another little one- all these things just make me wish I could put everyone in a bubble of safety. At this time I need to be more diligent in praying for the Lord to help me to trust in His care for us. When worry creeps in I need to fill my mind with scripture, meditate on God's goodness and His sovereignty, and rest in His promises. These babies all belong to him and in life they will have pain. I can't protect them from every hurt, sadness, or trouble. And so I must entrust them into the care of the One who made them and loves them even more than I do.
It's crazy to me that this handsome little guy is going to be 2 at the end of the month. He has brought so much delight and laughter to this family. Thankfully the older kids all really enjoy him. The novelty of a baby again after so many years didn't wear off as he grew. They love to play with him, teach him things, and just help with him in general. One of the older girls is always willing to give him a bath, help him get dressed, make him some lunch and clean him up. Being number 7 definitely does not mean getting less attention around here! As he becomes more little boy than baby, I'm thankful for glimpses of his little-ness and also his developing personality.
He still thinks mama's kisses are magic for owies. He has only a handful of words (unlike all of our other kids at this age) but he says mama 5 million times a day. He is a creature of habit and knows after we read his morning Bible story we go upstairs to brush our teeth and I dry my hair. He's good at picking up and likes things in their proper places. He loves to wrestle with his big brothers and doesn't seem to notice that they are quite a bit bigger. He loves to sit and look at books and he also loves to run around like a wild little thing and do things to make us laugh. He's tender hearted and has quite fallen in love with his baby sister.