Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sometimes Life Just Takes Over---Part Three

Here's where we left off last time...

If you missed Sometimes Life Just Takes Over--Part One, read it first here.
If you missed Sometimes Life Just Takes Over---Part Two, read it here.

I am sure you are saying, “But I was expecting more.” After all, I did say it would get really good...Just you wait…there is more.

Go on and see!!

Well, during our stay at the hospital, my sister-in-law called me and told me that she had entered our family in a contest a local radio station was having for military families for a complete home makeover. Apparently, one day the she was cruising the stations on her radio at a stoplight when she heard an advertisement which suggested that anyone knowing a family in the military who had need of help with repairs to their home should write a short essay telling about them and email it in. She texted herself a reminder to do it when she got home, answered God’s call for her to write the essay, and a few weeks later they called and told her we were in the final group of contestants. That’s when she called me.

My hospitalized fifteen-year-old just about flipped. He’s daydreamed for a few years now that one day Extreme Home Makeover would knock on our door and tear our rattletrap house down and build a big new one. Sometimes we’d dream of what each new room would look like, and he’d imagine that they’d gift him a car for being so awesome (he is a huge help to me). Well, we all started praying and he and I started believing that maybe something just like it could really happen. Why not? God can do anything He wants to do, right? Then came the day they finally took out the naso-gastric tube and we were just grateful they let him have a popsicle, and the next day he was thrilled over orange jello and sweet tea, and after that we forgot all about it. Other things took precedence, like getting him well and home.

Not too long after arriving home, something or other had gone wrong and I was feeling a bit desperate while getting ready in the morning. I cried out to God, “Please Lord. I know that you have promised to care for me and be there for me when I don’t have a husband (mine is often gone), but sometimes I just need someone to fix my plumbing and electrical problems. I thank you sincerely for all you do, but please, would you use this contest to show me that you will fix my plumbing, as well as being the strong tower I can lean on?” Less than five minutes after that my sister-in-love called and screamed, “YOU WON!! What? Are you kidding me?? Thank you, Lord! Praise you! You are amazing, Lord Jesus!! Aaaahhhhhhhhhh! Yahoo! I cried and jumped around doing the happy dance, looking ridiculous and not caring. What an incredible, once in a lifetime blessing. Both then and today I pray that we will live up to the promise of that blessing…to be a blessing to others.

The kids supervise while the grown ups move out many, many boxes of books...

And so it was that we moved our homeschooling from the dining room table and living room floor to my crowded bedroom while different sponsor companies came one after another to make improvements to our home. My first task was to box up our collection of about ten thousand books. I managed to do it just in time (a local moving company offered to store some of our things while the repairs were being done, then later we ordered a POD). Unfortunately, the morning after doing all of the packing, I woke up in excruciating pain, unable to move my left arm without turns out I tore my rhomboid muscle and spent the next week in a frantic haze trying to keep up one armed. Ah well...all's well that ends well.

Read on and find out the rest of the story...

Our old 1930s farmhouse was still sporting the original rusty metal roof and windows with pulleys and lead weights inside. We were so utterly blessed when we discovered we were to receive a new roof, new siding, new windows, a tune up for our HVAC, and repairs to some interior walls. 

New windows...

Electrical updates...the box was upgraded and moved from the boys' room to the outside wall. Whew!

They went a little overboard taking off the original siding on one wall, which had to go back up...
but it all turns out well in the end!

Doesn't the wrap look great? Wait till you see the new siding...

The new roof...I don't know how they manage to stay up there so easily.

The new siding is going up, along with new trim.

Our slightly enclosed porch was solidly enclosed and made into a “sun room/classroom,” and had its own heating/cooling unit installed

They got rid of the old-fashioned, drafty, half-broken glass windows and framed in for new modern windows.

Leveling the floor and fixing some rotten spots...

Real walls!!

Check out the drywall...we're almost there!

The new floor is down and you can see how wonderful the room will be.

It's amazing what a coat of paint can do...I LOVE it!

Last, but not least, a lovely glass door to match the new front door.

Our drafty (used to be an enclosed back porch with a stained ceiling and worn out indoor/outdoor carpet) was revamped, had a heating/cooling unit installed, was given a new ceiling, and the water heater that was in the center of the main wall was moved into our utility room out of the way. The walls and ceiling were painted, too.

See that huge heater in the middle of the's got to go.

Moving the elephantine water heater out of the back room was high on my list.

A new, unstained ceiling goes up and new insulation is added where needed near the new heating/cooling unit.

Painting the walls makes such a difference in how the room looks. It's incredible.

Hubby and Poppy install a matching floor we bought in the library before we move furniture in.

Our utility room and one bathroom had professional closets installed, which made the laundry area a family closet for the little kids.

Our new laundry room/family closet doors...the new washer/dryer combo we got on sale is inside. They are my first new set, does it hold a lot of laundry at a time. It cuts my laundry time in half. A true blessing. Not to mention that the clothes can be folded and put away right there!

Tex helps with some of the repairs.

We received an adorable new shed that perfectly matches the house which is going to hold the overflow from the library for now...eventually, I will organize it to be the repository for all of the games, manipulatives, FIAR bins, and other oversized items for the library. Right now it's just being used for storage. Lastly, we were blessed with some landscaping that pulled our existing raised beds together in a professional and tidy way. I will post pictures of those later, after the flowers start to bloom.

I love, love, love this shed!

What have these changes meant to us as a home educating military family? Well, I can honestly say that for the first time in our marriage I won’t mind if Hubby decides to stay in until he retires at 30 years. If you’d asked me any other time, I’d vehemently have said that he needed to get out because there is so much to do that can’t get done with him in the military. Now, well, it’s done!

Also, last summer I attended a Living Books Libraries librarians’ conference with Jan and Gary Bloom of Books Bloom and Liz and Emily Cottrell of the Living Books Library based on the model of Michelle Miller of TruthQuest History’s Children's Preservation Library. What can I say but that it inspired me...

Me with Liz and Emily...

The concept of rescuing living books for future generations and putting them into a library to be used by other homeschoolers suddenly gives my years of collecting books addiction for books now has legitimacy. Yay! I now plan to use the best of our books in a library we will open in the back room of our house. That formerly useless and ugly room is now our “Lifetime of Learning Library” which we hope to open to local families in the fall. We will try to "Change the World one Book at a Time..." (read about the conference if you'd like to learn more).

The new shelves are in and ready to be loaded up with good books!
It's going to be a fun summer.

Our library will contain books from early world history to modern American history. Fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, and videos will all be shelved chronologically to aid families in finding the resources they need for any time period. We have other topics arranged by day of creation into units, so that you can easily find books for a unit about insects or one on astronomy. Of course, there will be quality children’s picture books and favorite series’ books, as well as book collections to support FIAR and BFIAR. 

There will even be field trip backpack kits to local sites. We will also offer games and manipulatives, books on tape and cd collections, and plenty of parent home education resource books. It is a joy and a blessing to me to see my children’s interest in books blossom and their abilities to help care for and choose quality books grow as they learn the lesson of serving others in our library.

Ladybug loves her job as a librarian.

One more blessing that came to us as a part of our Operation Homefront Home Makeover prize was an opportunity to visit a local campground that has adorable and comfortable cabins available for families to rent. We stayed for a long weekend and enjoyed fishing, swimming, playing on the playground, and some nice walks while some of the more intense electrical work was being finished. It was such a kind consideration and everyone involved was very gracious to us.

As a result of winning the prize and having the much needed repairs completed on our home, we’ve finally been able to wholeheartedly pursue my dream of getting certified so we can foster/adopt one or more older children from our own country’s foster care system. There are so many kids out there in foster care who are without families through no fault of their own. While most people want to adopt babies, or younger children, we feel led to open our home to a young lady who is older, so she will have a place where she can feel safe, people she can rely upon, and a family to come home to before she ages out of the system. 

We are praying that we may be a blessing to a young lady, and we are certain that she will give the greater blessing to all of us, whoever she is…and if she has a sibling or two, well, the more the merrier! My youngest four love to talk about her and imagine what she will be like and it blesses me to see their hearts open wide with love for someone they don’t even know yet. What better lesson could be learned in school than that of loving others?

The last HUGE effect the makeover has had on our family is the blessing of FINALLY having a room that is dedicated to our pursuit of home education. Previously, the kids studied alone or in groups in various places around our house, which made it more difficult for me to keep track of what was going on with whom, and to keep up with my own work as I spent a lot of time walking between kids and looking for this or that. Now our sunroom acts as our schoolroom. 

We traded a piece of furniture we did not want for an enormous marker board to put on one wall, and bought a long computer-friendly counter top for thirty dollars from a local resale store and supported it on two short filing cabinets we already had. The same store offered  upholstered chairs on wheels for ten dollars, we moved in two chairs and a round table for my older son, and bought an old child’s desk for thirty bucks off of a local online yard sale, so for about a hundred dollars, we made over the whole room. 

Now each day we have breakfast together at the dining room table while listening to the kids’ Apologia Bible lesson on mp3. Some days I choose a character trait from Character First or the IBLP list of character traits and we discuss it and make a plan to work on practicing it throughout the week. Then the kids head out to their seats in the school room and look on the marker board to see what assignments I have written out for them for that day, usually a combination of a few workbooks (like math) and reading response journals. Our older son sits with us, though he keeps track of his own online and book work.
After lunch is when we do our Charlotte Mason sort of activities, such as our artist study, nature study, or some drawing and narration about one of the kids’ books they read or a read aloud. It is also when we do our America the Beautiful history a few days a week. I like to have classical music on in the evenings and we try to choose one composer every few months to learn about. The kids dabble with the piano, trying to learn a few songs informally, and my teenager practices his writing and art in private online groups he created with close friends.
Each child has chores and areas of the house and library for which they are responsible. We stop what we are doing a few times a day to have short clean up periods so the messes they (and the three year old) inevitably make don’t overtake us. I like to read to them before they go to bed, though some nights my head hurts and I can’t manage. Then Daddy tucks them in instead and tells them a story and prays with them, or their older brother will do it in a pinch.

Here they are having a camp out on the new Sun Porch.

We do movie/pizza/game night every Friday night and that is something we look forward to all week. AWANA and youth group gives them social interaction, along with a homeschool 4-H group, and church. There may be a season for us to get out more, but right now we are content with enjoying the blessing of our newly made-over home. It is still not perfectly organized yet, but I can see the possibilities again, instead of the problems, and we are enthusiastically committed to conquering the remaining projects together while finding new ways to reach out and be a blessing to others.

Of course, sometimes you realize just how good God really is because He knows exactly what is going to happen, and provides for you ahead of time. At the end of November, I had a freak accident and managed to break my tibial plateau, injure my MCL, and completely tear my ACL. I was very limited with what I could do for several months while the fracture healed, and now face reconstructive surgery that will have me completely off my feet for months. 

But you know what? It really doesn’t bother me all that much. I am glad it was me and not one of my kids or my folks or Hubby. Seriously, six months ago, I’d have been going crazy, wondering how was I going to manage to keep homeschooling and take care of the house and watch after the kids and... Now I am reassured that God not only has my back, but He even covers for me ahead of time!
We have new spaces and new routines and new hope for being blessed and being a blessing to others, so instead of choosing to focus on what is left undone, or all that has yet to be done, we are instead focused on getting on with the next fascinating thing and seeing what other challenges and ways to be a blessing that God has in mind for us. We are reassured that through it all we will pull together and that with Him all things are possible. 

So what’s our current homeschooling style in the midst of all this chaos and uncertainty? Real life home education: new experiences, facing challenges, pulling together, seeing God’s sovereignty, rising to meet God’s calling, working together to be a blessing to others. Now that’s a quality education…and a blessing.

Thanks for reading our story and keeping up with us. Thank you to all who have prayed for us over these last crazy, challenging, and very blessed last six months, and most of all, thank you to all the people, from my dear sister-in-law, to K95 Radio, to all of the wonderful and generous sponsors who made this miracle possible. May the Lord bless you richly and abundantly. 

Blessings to you and your families,

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sometimes Life Just Takes Over---Part Two

If we sat down for a chat over tea a few months ago, I would have told you that I sometimes wondered if we did the right thing when we bought our old fixer-upper farmhouse on 14 acres in the country. When considering where to move after receiving my Navy husband’s new orders, we decided we liked the idea of a home in a rural “small town” area where there would be trees to climb, woods to explore, and room to grow. Along with those desires for our children, we also had a dream that we’d find a place we could call “Blessing Farm,” and that we could make it a place our family could use to bless others. We weren’t quite sure what form that blessing would take, but I had a vague idea that I’d like to be able to open our doors to foster children and/or homeschooling families who wanted a taste of the country life without having to care for chickens and horses of their own.

Partially due to my husband’s demanding work schedule and partly due to not having the money we needed for the necessary repairs, work progressed slowly, and nearly five years after moving in, our list of things to do was still longer than the outline for War and Peace. That can weigh on you after a while and over the previous year or so, the strain of there always being something that should have been done three months ago was affecting not only our ability to focus on homeschooling, but was also clouding our positive outlook.
Then a miracle happened. A real, honest-to-goodness miracle. If you’ve ever wondered if God is listening to you when you are calling out for Him to save you from whatever issues plague you, know that He really and truly is. I think for a while, my heart knowledge of that wavered, but He knew exactly when to step in and provide…He knew my strength was failing and that I needed a helping hand. I feel He reached out and provided our miracle because He wanted to enable us to reach out and pass the blessing on to others.

Let me back up a decade or so and fill in how we got to the place where the Lord had to intervene so that you will truly understand where my discouragement was coming from. About thirteen years ago, I was a stay at home mom of two little boys, ages 7 and 1. In my pre-homeschooling life I had been an English teacher. Now I cherished the time I had every morning with my two young ones, and the hours I could spend enjoying the childhood of my second born since I felt I had missed so much of my oldest son’s early years by working and getting my degree. 

I had honestly never heard of homeschooling at this point, and when I finally did hear about it, the family who introduced us to the idea was so different (which at that point seemed undesirable), that the idea wasn’t particularly appealing. I wanted my son to “fit in,” not stick out. Besides, I very strongly felt that while I might be able to teach a classroom of 8th graders about The Hobbit, teaching my strong-willed first born was something I could never pull off. I had yet to learn to rely on the Lord to provide all I needed, including patience, because He will.

Well, that’s a lesson in itself. Never say never. One move and another grade later and the Blue Ribbon School assigned to the classroom of the “Teacher of the Year” produced a son who hated school and  thought he was horrible at math. I was going crazy trying to figure out how to fix things while my husband was perpetually out to sea on a submarine. The Lord arranged another meeting with a homeschooling mother during that time, and she managed to talk me into attending an ABeka conference. Seeing things laid out so simply made me think I could do this…maybe. If I let the curriculum be in charge, then maybe my son would go along with it. 

The deal maker occurred when I confronted my 8 year old son’s teacher about how many books they had managed to read during the school year…one. If there’s one thing I am passionate about other than Jesus and my children, it is books. The idea of an entire year in school wasted (by focusing on teaching to the test) grated on me, and I knew that even if I did nothing BUT read books with my son the next year, I could do better. Besides, I was tired of battling the Lord on this one…He’d finally convinced me that it was time to accept His calling on our family to become home educators. You can read the Top Ten Reasons Homeschooling Works for Us, if you'd like to learn more.

It took us about half a year to get him over the harm the public school had done to his interest in learning and his confidence in his natural abilities and special gifts. When he finally started getting into the groove of homeschooling, his former interest in history took off, he read dozens of historical fiction novels, loved our monthly field trips to local attractions, and really got to know his baby brother and attach to him in a way he had not done before. What a blessing! We used the extra time together to reach out to other families and to help them get their needs met, and doing that with each other forged a deeper bond between us. It was a fine example of being blessed to be a blessing, and then being blessed again.

The years that followed added two more children to our numbers: a girls and a boy. We lost a baby to miscarriage as well, years’ worth of “Daddy Time” due to my husband’s military service, and I developed chronic migraines. But the kids hung in there with me and thrived in our homeschool, in spite of our imperfect circumstances. We had moved away from a strictly “boxed” curriculum, deciding instead to pick and choose from different companies in order to tailor our studies to our oldest son’s interests, allowing the younger ones to join in as they were able. 

Our style was eclectic, using textbooks for some subjects, with Unit Studies and Delight-directed sorts of activities thrown in to supplement and keep interest high. We did things together like incubating and raising ducks and chickens for a friend, acquiring a horse and learning how to care for and ride him, building raised-bed gardens and growing our own vegetables and flowers, constructing robots out of kits, and taking missions’ trips. We encouraged our kids to volunteer and to be active in a variety of activities such as Boy Scouts, AWANA, youth group, and Upward sports. We also continued to use living literature (books written about a topic by someone who was both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the topic) to add a lot of extra learning to whatever curriculum choices we did make. My “mentors” at this point in our home educating journey were Gregg Harris’ home educating family seminar series and Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. You can read more about these early years and our oldest son's battle with math here.

Our main goal in homeschooling has always been to raise children who love the Lord and seek to serve Him using their individual gifts and talents. Secondarily, we want to raise children of character and independence, who are capable of taking care of themselves and a family, as well as ready to be a blessing to others when called upon to do so. Even when times were tough for us monetarily, we lacked time, I was exhausted, or we were dealing with personality clashes, those goals gave us something to strive for, agree upon, and focus on. And, of course, we’ve always agreed on the appeal of lots of reading and real life activities. There are many ways to accomplish these goals, which is why I suppose our homeschooling “style” has evolved many times over the years.

Fast forward two duty stations (two moves) and we were back in the city I consider home because my family lives here. We arrived with our moving truck one day and had our second baby girl the next. God was good and provided us a buyer for our house the day we drove off in the moving van...but He has a sense of humor because I had to sign the paperwork to sell the house while I was in labor! We now had the ability to finally search for our dream home, a place we might plan to stay after retirement, and hoped to find something with a bit of land where we could have chickens, horses, dogs, and cats. A place where we could grow gardens, raise children, and cultivate love…and hopefully, be a blessing to others.

Unfortunately, every home we liked with acreage was way out of our price range. Anything that was in our range either needed tons of work or had no land. Finally, we were shown a smallish, bright blue 1930s farmhouse about an hour from my parents’ house. My husband would have to drive over an hour to work and back every day, and it was half the size of our old house, but it had fourteen acres, a huge garage and a shed, and unlimited potential. Before we decided to make an offer, we prayed about it, and my husband ultimately it would be worth it to have the children in a safe and peaceful place where we might someday add to our family through adopting older children who otherwise might be left with no forever families. We agreed it would be worth the effort it would require to repair and to downsize, and resolved to be patient and persevere, growing stronger together. We even came up with a name for our new home: Blessing Farm.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, sometimes the ideas are grander than the execution. Immediately upon our purchasing the house (literally days later) the bottom dropped out of the housing market. Our hopes for adding onto the house and/or having it repaired professionally tanked when the estimates we were given exceeded our now lowered house value and made a home-improvement loan impossible, and several of the contractors we did hire were dishonest so we lost a significant amount of our limited savings. My husband tried to get it all done, but his job never quits. If you only have a short time after dinner with your kids, and you know the most important thing you can do every day is to spend a few minutes telling them a Mr. Spot story (ones he makes up) or reading them a Bible story, and to pray over them, then things like painting trim, fixing wiring, and repairing fences often fall to the wayside.

This left us with a livable, but not particularly comfortable mess to deal with each day as we tenaciously fit in homeschooling in between attempts to fix one thing or another. After all, home economics and shop count as classes, too, right? Add a sixth baby (a boy) on top of three episodes of flooding, serious health issues for various family members, another miscarriage, two surprise baby ponies, our oldest son’s graduation in 2009 and then his wedding last June, a promotion (and longer hours) for Hubby, forever breaking down cars, and then the everyday issues you run into with having five kids at home whom you are homeschooling, and you are guaranteed to find one overworked and frustrated mama who by God’s daily grace was just barely managing to keep it together. 

Yet, somehow I managed to educate five happy, warm-hearted children in a relaxed Charlotte Mason/Delight-directed style with daily Bible lessons, nature studies, reading of living books followed by narration, art and music studies, copywork, personal projects, and a few carefully chosen textbooks for older students. My favorite resource at this time was A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. I also worked for over two years on The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew (including blogging regularly), started my homeschool-for-free site, and even managed to learn a few new life skills with the girls like making homemade jam, crocheting, and quilting.

But there was a cost to the constant upheaval and never-ending issues. Things were holding together, but just barely, and I ached for the time when there would be margin to have overflow so we could be more of a blessing to others, both joyfully and abundantly. Sure, we’d had others out to enjoy our place, to relax in the peaceful country setting, to meet the ponies and chickens, and we’d kept on doing some short term mission’s efforts together. Unfortunately, on any given day there was more than we could handle at home to just maintain normal. As my headaches were starting to get worse in reaction to the stress, my ability to hang in there just a little longer was fading. It seemed I always felt I was falling short of what should have been done on any given day. I am no Superwoman and sometimes I felt like giving up. The only thing is, I am staunchly convinced that having once been convicted to homeschool by God, I was not ever going to put any of the kids into public school unless He convicted me of its necessity…and it would likely take words written on the clouds to make me believe it was Him I was hearing and not just my own weak flesh…so I couldn’t figure out what “giving up” looked like. All I knew is that I needed help...and He provided it.

Things had to change...Already feeling behind when you wake up every day is just not good. So we decided to make a few changes. First, I notified the Crew that I’d finish up the current term then step down to give someone else an opportunity to be blessed. We’d received so many blessings from our time on the Crew that kept us motivated and excited during difficult times that it was hard to set it aside, but we knew the time had come to focus on home. We also decided to take a few months off over the summer, to reconnect, regroup, and hopefully refurbish our learning spaces so they’d function more efficiently the next term. Because we usually homeschool year round so that when Daddy has time off we can take time off with him, the plan to forego school all summer for work was a big step for us. But since flexibility in scheduling is one of my favorite things about homeschooling, we decided to make a go of it.

Our summer of 2012 started by us really focusing on getting that dreaded “list” whittled down. If I didn’t know how to do it, I planned to either learn how to do it with the kids, or find someone to help us. I had even saved up a bit on the side to cover a few things we might need a professional to complete. I was tired of not knowing where all of my teaching materials were (we’d never been able to completely unpack our stuff since our new house was so much smaller than our old one, so our garage was one big, out of control mess) and I was frustrated with feeling as if every day did not meet up to my expectations, in spite of my ability to organize and be creative, simply because everything takes a lot longer in a house that’s always in process, and never quite done. Whatever I could do to change this, I planned to do over the summer.

Then our 15 year old asked to go to summer camp. My main source of help was going to desert me! Honestly, though, we never had a second thought about it being the right thing for him to do. He’s a great kid and he deserved a break. He earned the majority of the camp fees himself by doing odd jobs for neighbors, and we very much trusted his youth pastor and liked the kids with whom he would be traveling.

So here is where it starts getting interesting…and crazy scary at the same time.  Just remember that God can use the most challenging situations to bring out good things, and if we can simply get through the hard parts by faith, we will be amazed at how well things can turn out. A few days into his camping experience, we received a call that there had been an accident during a soccer game. He’d been injured and taken to the hospital. Since my father was already at our house and my husband was two hours away from home at a job site, we made the decision that my dad would accompany me on the four hour drive to camp to pick my son up from the ER. However, when we got about halfway there, we received another call telling us that there were indications that his small bowel had been perforated and surgery would be required to save his life. What?! We went from picking him up and bringing him home early from camp (disappointing, to be sure) to his life being on the line in the space of a few moments.

They performed the three hour long surgery that night shortly after we arrived, and it took him two weeks at that hospital in West Virginia to recover enough to make the drive home. There was another month of staying at my parents’ house an hour away where they could dote on him full time (without the danger of four little kids, ages 2-8 jumping on him and hurting him accidentally) before he could come home, and then another month before he recovered much of his previous energy and strength. It’s been over six months since the surgery and he’s still having issues, but he is persevering with a wonderful attitude and praying for a full recovery. We were blessed by so many people during that time: my mom who helped Hubby with the kids, the pastor and his family, folks from the youth group, fellow campers, the nursing staff and doctors, and we also had many say what a blessing our son and family had been to them. I feel completely blessed that he is all right. I know God has great plans for him.

I am sure you are saying, “But I was expecting more.” After all, I did say it would get really good...Just you wait…there is more...and it is absolutely amazing.

Check out Part One (specific details about Cowboy's injury and recovery and how God used the difficult situation to bless many people.

Check back for the really good stuff, part three, coming soon...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sometimes Life Just Takes Over---Part One

Wow! It has been a while since I posted anything. One of these days I will have to go back and fill in the gaps by backdating posts so that someday, when I get this all printed up for my kids, that two month gap isn't there. But for now the gap remains, because sometimes life just takes over. Actually, if I look back at the last six months on Blessings Pour Out, almost all I see are reviews, and for that I apologize. Not that the reviews aren't honest or heartfelt, but when I started blogging I never intended to become a "reviews only" blog. That's not my favorite cup of tea, though it does appear I have been partaking of that cup for half a year or so.

Those of you who know me in person understand why things have been slow on the blogosphere for me. Sometimes life suprises you in incredible ways; some good, some not so good. Since the good is intimately wrapped up within the not so good, I will start with the not so good events that precipitated our crazy life going off on a tangent in July.

Travel back to July 26th. It was an ordinary summer day at our house, with a few slight changes. The Four Amigos were outdoors having fun in the sun while I cleaned up inside and chatted with my mother. Tex was notably absent as he had accompanied his youth group to camp a few days earlier, having earned the money for the fees all by himself by mowing our neighbor's lawn for the last several months. My mom was visiting, trying to help make up for the missing person by doing some of the things I normally do (laundry and dishes, which I am always happy to defer to anyone who offers), so I could do the things Tex usually does (like the outdoor work), plus some cleaning projects I was working on. Hubby was at work, and Poppy was at home.
Ring Ring went the phone. "Hello?" I said.

"Mrs. ---, it's Pastor Robert. Calling from camp."

"Oh, hello." I'll admit that my first thought was 'Uh-oh. What did Tex get into? Someone must have convinced him to do something he would normally never do and...' that's about as far as my line of reasoning got.

"Well, there's a situation here. Tex has been injured and the ambulance is here checking him over."

"What?! What happened?" Gone are thoughts of normal worries. Instead are concerns that all is well, and it isn't.

"Well, the kids were having a soccer match and another camper on his team who happens to weigh about 300 lbs and stands 6'4", collided with Tex when they both went for the ball and fell into each other pretty hard. The other guy is okay, but Tex has vomited twice and the camp nurse insisted we call the ambulance to have him checked out."

"Okay." I breathe a sigh of relief. It sounds like it could be a minor mishap. After all, who gets hurt badly playing soccer? They are just being careful, I think. "Where did he get hurt?"

"Well, he seems to have been hit in the stomach and the groin. I think the groin is hurting him more because he's doubled over and complaining about how it hurts. He passed out on his way to go lie down, but the people here don't seem panicked so I think he will be all right."

"Do I need to come right now?" I ask. We are four hours away from camp, if traffic is light.

"At this point, I don't think so. I think Tex would say he wants to stay once they clear him to go."

"Okay. Will you go to the hospital with him and keep me updated? I don't want him to be alone. I can leave at a moment's notice if things change. My mom is here and willing to stay with my kids." She's been listening to the conversation and nods her head.

"Of course, I will. Here's my cell number. Call anytime. I will call as soon as we get there and they tell me what they will be doing." Pastor Robert hangs up and I stare in shock at my mother. Because everyone seemed so calm and matter of fact, I feel that maybe it is just a bad hit to the groin and he will be fine, but my mother's instinct wants to go be with him. Then my "don't be a worry wart and embarass him and make him leave the fun he's worked so hard for" sense overrides that, and I am stuck, not knowing what to do. I call Hubby, and he is flabbergasted. He offers to leave work immediately, but since I know there are some very important people there this week that he has to interact with and that he really can't leave until that is done, I tell him just to make sure he leaves before traffic gets bad, so we can go if we decide we need to. My mom calls my dad and he jumps in his car right away and heads over.

An hour later and Pastor Robert has called again. This time the news is not so good. It seems Tex has been in terrible pain since they brought him in and though they've dosed him with heavy painkillers, he's not feeling any better. He's moaning constantly. I feel horrible for not being there with him.

Robert tells me they are sending him for a CT scan and an MRI, to see what is going on in his abdomen. When my dad walks in and hears the news, he suggests I call my husband to see where he is (he hasn't left yet, and it would be two hours in the current traffic were he to leave immediately), and then offers to leave with me right away, just in case. Pastor Robert seconds the idea by pointing out that even if it winds up being nothing major, Tex is going to be one very sore kid for a while, and the campsite does not have a/c, nor are the cots comfortable. If I'd known that from the beginning, I think I'd have left immediately. As it is, it takes me about 5 mintues to throw some books in a bag with my headache meds and my computer (to look up what is going on if there is something wrong), and we head out with mom keeping the little ones calm with PBJs and a story. We are figuring we are on our way to pick Tex up and bring him home. Neither one of us is thinking that we are going there to stay for two weeks.

Our drive to City Hospital takes four hours. About half way there the news on the imaging comes in and it's not good. There is fluid in places there shouldn't be, and that means that his bowels are perforated somewhere. He will need surgery, but they have to do more tests, clear up a room and find a surgeon, and get us there to sign forms. Boy, do I feel guilty for not being an hour closer than I am...

We arrive just as they are prepping him for surgery. We thank Robert profusely and he excuses himself to go back to camp after praying over Tex with us. I get to talk to the surgeon, telling her what Pastor Robert told me about the situation, including the apparently TWO times Tex fell and hit his head when trying to walk inside to get to a bed. This prompts her to send him for a quick image of his head to make sure there is not a bleed (there isn't), and then there are a million forms to sign, including the one that says one of the possible side effects of the surgery is death. That is a very frightening and humbling statement. They may be quick to say that they just have to include that because it could happen, and the chances are few, but it is still out there.

However, I feel I had supernatural peace over me as I think I held it together pretty well. We asked if we could pray over Tex before they took him in and they were happy to let us do so, then we kissed and hugged him goodbye, promised to keep praying for him, and then were escorted to the waiting area around midnight.

Once we sat down I realized I'd developed a severe headache and all I wanted to do was close my eyes, so I did and my thoughts kept running wild. An hour or so later, a nurse came in to update us that they'd found the tear and all was going well in their efforts to repair it. I tried to read, I think my dad watched the tv, or maybe he read, too, I don't remember. I think I dozed off for a little less than an hour because of the headache. 

Finally, at about three in the morning, the surgeon came in and said that she'd found a section of torn small bowel and removed it, then noticed that approximately five inches next to it were very flimsy and looked like they'd tear given any pressure, so she removed a total of six inches of small bowel and reattached the two ends together. She said she'd throroughly cleaned the matter out the abdominal cavity that had leaked through the perforated areas, and spent a lot of time making sure she hadn't missed anything. She explained they were currently sewing him up, and that he'd be taken to recovery in the next half hour or so, so someone would come in soon and show us the way.

Whew. Praise God! He made it through and they didn't have to take it all out (this was given as a possibility and scared the heck out of me as I know two individuals with this issue and it is not what I want for my 15 year old son, for sure). With a lighter heart, I quickly called Hubby and my mom, then we were led to Recovery, where Tex was slowly coming to. I reassured him that all was well, and the nurses told us they'd take us all to the OB ward, where they often put their pediatric post-operative patients to keep them in a safer (less germy) environment with more one on one nursing care.

One on one was right because we were the ONLY folks on the ward. The nurses were spectacular and the hospital had a policy of allowing parents to stay in the rooms for free as they felt the children healed more quickly and were cared for better. Hooray! Another provision by the Lord, as I could not imagine where the money for a hotel for however long we'd be there (we were told a minimum of a week) would come from. We all settled in...Tex was given pain meds and left alone for a few hours to sleep, and dad and I managed a few hours of shuteye on some awesome chairs that pulled out into mini-beds. Crazy day, but God's crazy love and care for us brought us through.

I know for sure it wasn't my own strength keeping me going during those hours of waiting (even if you count the hour I slept, and who is to say that the terrible headache didn't keep my focus off of my anxiety and the sleep get me through the worst of it?). It wasn't my own graciousness that kept my tone polite and my words sweet to the folks who helped us. I was feeling overwhelmed and far from happy.

My little boy was in a world of hurt and there was nothing I could do to help him but pray. But there you have it...that IS the biggest thing you can sometimes do. PRAY. And we did that. So did lots of other people. I heard from someone that the young man who collided with Tex organized the campers to pray for him four times each day. He was so sorry the accident had happened and so sure that the continued prayers would help. And they did.

Sometimes the best thing you can do besides pray is to be there. I was so blessed to be there with my son. It turned out to be a blessing for us that Poppy was with me instead of Hubby because the little ones needed Daddy to help them get through the tough time. Plus, Hubby's folks decided to drive up and see Tex, then drove the four hours to our house and spend a few days with the little one, which helped distract them even more.

It was a blessing that this accident happened right as the Olympics started. It gave Tex something to distract him. I know that seems like a silly thing to be thankful for, but when your child does not get anything to eat for almost a week, then when he finally gets to eat he vomits it back up and gets that horrible NG tube shoved back down, and taken off of liquids and food for another week, you are thankful for whatever distractions there might be.

We were so thankful to the folks from the local church that sponsors the camp. The pastor, his wife, his lovely daughters, and many of the youth and adults from the camp came over at various times to visit with, pray for, and entertain Tex. Several young ladies from the youth group came one night when he was allowed to have soft foods, and brought him ice cream and a movie. I think it was a funny one with Vin Diesel, but I can't remember exactly which one. It didn't matter because he was simply happy for the company and the laughter. They ministered to me by providing me with a gift card to their favorite local oriental restaurant (poor Poppy is not into that sort of there was more for me), and Poppy graciously stayed with Tex while I went out for a few hours with a book and unwound over a delicious salad, some hot tea, and a generous plateful General Tso's Chicken and lo mein.

We were incredibly blessed by the wonderful nursing staff. I've never met a nice bunch of nurses. They did anything and everything they could to make Tex's stay and ours comfortable and less stressful. Many days they visited with Tex, joking with him, and making him feel as if it wasn't quite so bad as it was. One sweet young lady even treated us to pizza one night! And the blessing of being on the OB ward just can't be beat. If we'd been on the regular pediatric ward, Tex would have had less attention, less rest, fewer freedoms to have visitors, and our ability to stay with him could have been severely limited. Thank you, City Hospital!

And what a wonderful doctor Tex had. She was truly used as an instrument of God to bring him back to health. She was careful and conscienscious and caring. The weekend doc was great, as well, knowing when it was time to go ahead and push on, and being willing to step back when necessary.

Even the folks back home pulled some miracles out of their pockets...if you remember, Poppy and I left with nothing but the clothes on our back (and my one back of stuff I never leave home without). Nanny stepped in and packed him a bag, Hubby packed a bag for me, and a wonderfully kind church member actually brought our bags to us on our third or fourth day there. Boy, let me tell can be very thankful for a shower after spending that long in the same clothes!

Nanny was a trooper as usual, helping with the kids on days when Hubby had to go into work for whatever reason, and always being there to do whatever was needed. She always does that and it never gets old. I hope I never take her for granted, or that she ever feels taken for granted. We all love her so much and appreciate all she does.

Once the hunger pangs and the post-surgical pain started wearing off, Tex was ultra-grateful for his Poppy being there. Moms are nice, and you like them around when you are miserable, but when you want to watch sports or talk computers, well, Poppys are better. Unless the sport happens to be men's trampoline or water polo and you are yukking it up with your mom wondering why anyone would ever want to do water polo and have to wear that horrible headgear, and wondering how on earth trampoline became a sport...

And then there's the blessing of finally knowing that you have turned the corner and it is all going to work out just fine. You might have 22 staples in you, tubes in places you don't want to admit to, and still have to be hungry for a few more days, but eventually it will all come around. You might even be stuck with two days of lime jello and mush once they let you actually have some food,  but eventually they will let you eat that bacon you've been craving, yes, some scrambled eggs with cheese sounds divine, and don't forget the sweet tea and toast, please.

Last, but certainly not least, is the blessing that was initiated by my sister-in-law months before the accident. This blessing came to a head during our hospital stay, and perhaps, our stay there is what tipped the scales in our favor. We are so thankful that the Lord can use things that we'd never wish to have happen for our good, and that He knows what is going to happen before it happens and provides provision for us before we know it is needed.

Of course, if you don't know what is coming next on the blessing list, you are wondering what I am talking about. But it's late as I write this so rather than go in longer, I will suggest that you tune in Monday, because that, as they say, is another story.

Never forget that life is full of blessings, both large and small. Appreciate them every day, for every day is a blessing and a gift.

To read more details about Tex's story, check out What's Been Happening at Your House Lately? It was written when the events were more fresh in my mind...and don't forget to check back here next week for Sometimes Life Just Takes Over, Part Two. You are sure to be surprised! I sure was. I am grinning giddily just thinking about it. See you then.

Blessings to you,


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