Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Another ice storm. Will it ever end?

Thank you for all of your prayers! I have not had another migraine (knock on wood) and we have gained possibly 3 new bible study members! Our new study looks awesome, Lies Women Believe: And the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy DeMoss. (Thanks, Tara for the suggestion and for the pjs above!)
I won't write about how the kids' sleeping is going because any of you who blog and have children know about the curse that happens when you write about it...I'll leave it at that! :-)
As I am about to pack our whole house (or so it seems) to stay with my BFF for the last 23 years, Robyn, to ride out this next ice storm, my nerves are all on edge. I HATE ice.
My reflection on the last year continues as my birthday just passed and Caroline's 3rd is right around the corner. I vividly remember a day in July when I was huge pregnant and putting away dishes from the dishwasher when my hand froze mid-air while putting a glass in the cabinet, when I realized that it was the first time I had the energy to put away dishes by myself. I broke down and cried.
It is such a strange thing to try to explain that it actually hurts me to realize I am getting more used to this new normal. I feel like I don't want to get used to it-what does that mean if I am? Am I forgetting how awful our situation is? Am I getting more okay with the acceptance of our situation? That he is not coming back? I almost want to stay miserable--this is really hard to explain...So anyway, it is obvious to me how far we have come now that I am able to take care of more responsibilites. Don't get me wrong-I still have to have tons of help (for example: my mom still takes care of my sweet kiddos while I teach my college class and does most of our laundry, Matt M. is also my "go to" baby sitter at church, Nellie and Jed are my valet and baby holder at church, Meagan and Chris C. have a standing "dinner date" with us once a week to let me work on my class stuff, Reba brings us meals all the time and, of course, Becky is always ready to let me pour my heart out or help in anyway she can and on and on.) I just feel like I am getting more used to toting around both kiddos to events and juggling feedings, cleanings, diapers, bills, baths by myself. I figure I will have time to myself when they go to college in 20 years. :-)
Sadly, our unique group of young widows with young children grew last week. The Elkins Superintendent passed away unexpectantly leaving his wife and 9-year old daughter. We have a super close connection through Tennille, but I have not met this family yet.
My whole body aches when I think about what they are going through right now and what is to come in the coming months. I really feel ill when I think about it. I look forward to meeting her and helping in any way I can.
We started a three Sunday grief class at church this week. I don't want to be a downer to all of you, but I think it important for me to share what our sweet elder told us. He reminded us that every single person will go through grief at some point in their lives. For some people it is sooner in their lives than others, but it will happen. It is how our world works and it started in Genesis 2. I guess what I want others to take away from this is if you have not experienced grief yet, you will. So you might as well prepare as much as you can before hand by belonging to a church who can help you through it (I don't know what I would have done without mine) and CHERISHING EVERY MOMENT in life.
I was driving Caroline to dance and she was singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" to her brother in the carseat next to her. I tried to soak everything about the moment into my memory and thank God for the blessing of her sweet spirit. She constantly says, "I love my brudder" and "I love you, ma-ma!" She still says, "Shanks" for "thanks" and "Step-pool" for "stepstool." Precious.
Thomas smiles so incredibly easy and I LIVE IN THAT MOMENT when he smiles so big at me-using all of my senses to take in the sweetness.We are not promised tomorrow-we are actually promised that loss will happen-"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die;" Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 But the promise of ETERNITY with our loved ones is also ours for the taking, you just have to ask for it! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
Stay warm and safe.

Recommended listening: Beauty Will Rise by Stephen Curtis Chapman It is so amazing-seriously, check it out. Kimberly gave it to me and it has been so encouraging for me-it is for anyone who is grieving or needs encouragement to keep going.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Our Last Two Weeks: A Novel by Bonnie Culp

Caroline sampling Christmas cookies to leave for Santa
(Thanks Tara S. or we would not have had any!)
Right now Caroline is happily playing with a new play-doh set (thanks Meagan and Matt!) and Thomas is enjoying watching her from his bouncy seat-which means I have T-minus 3 minutes until someone needs me!
I have written so many blog posts in my mind these last couple of weeks and it feels so good to be getting some of it actually on my blog right now.

I have to start with yesterday.

Disclaimer #1: If you are queasy skip down to the ****below.
Disclaimer #2: I am not exaggerating one iota about anything you are about to read below.
Disclaimer #2b: Just because I wrote what I did on disclaimer #2 does not mean in any way do I ever exaggerate in my blog posts-I just want to make clear that I am being completely factual and objective in my description below.

At 11:02am yesterday (I know this because I looked back at the time on my phone) I texted Becky that I had finished my class at Leverett. I noticed that I could not see what I what I was typing to her because my right eye was acting as if I had stared into a bright light. I chalked it up to allergies and finished my errand before getting back in the car to head home. When I got in my car I realized that my eye was worse. I called my mom and tried to explain it to her. She immediately described it perfectly-it was like looking through a prism and you are unable to see straight on and then the blindness moves to be just on the periphery. She said that I should head home quickly because this is exactly what happens to her twenty minutes before a migraine starts.
I have never had a migraine before.
I managed to get home and try to help my mom (she had Caroline, Thomas and Jett) before the pain started.
I am having to pause typing this right now and remind myself to breath as I try to describe this.
I put Thomas in his favorite Rainforest stationary jumper and laid down on our guest bed-it was the closest place to lay down.
Every breath I took intensified the pain over and behind my left eye. I gritted my teeth as the pressure built.
I heard my mom come and get Thomas, but I could not open my eyes or acknowledge her presence-I was in a fetal position holding on to dear life.
I tried to think about something else other than the pain and even my thoughts made the pain worse. I felt something wet on my face and realized tears were streaming down and yet I was not crying.
I had begun to feel nautious early on. I now knew I was going to throw up.
(I believe one of the worst feelings is having to frantically look for a container to throw up in when there is nothing available.)
I found a wipey box-dumped the wipes and waited a few moments. My mom came and I told her I needed something bigger to throw up-and then I threw up-a lot-in that stupid wipes container with the Disney movie "Cars" them around the outside.
I then moved to the huge bowl my sweet mom brought and asked her to hold my hair (Don't you love moms) as I threw up more.
I finally collapsed back onto the bed and held on for more pain.
----The three minutes of typing ended-just so you know-Thomas needed a diaper change, Caroline needed help making a red butterfly and now he is down for a nap and Caroline is eating lunch, so an hour later, I am back recounting the worst pain I have ever known in my life----
Where was I? The pain...I have lost all semblance of time, I remember thinking these thoughts: "I remember reading in a magazine that if you have the worst headache of your life that you should go to the doctor-how in the world do I get there, Mom can't carry me to the car, we have three kids here, I can't move from this fetal position (I later find out that I was in the position not moving for around two hours straight with no relief from the pain) someone is going to have to call 911, I wonder if they will be able to find out house?" Other thoughts (more like flashes of thought, because with this much pain I could not think about anything longer than two seconds at a time) "I would rather pass out." "It would hurt less to lose an appendage-at least then my body would be in shock and I couldn't feel the pain." But, at the height of the pain-which I do not know at all how long this went on-all I could think was, "Dear Jesus, Dear Jesus, Dear Jesus." i am not kidding. That was it. I've never taken the Lord's name in vain in my entire life, and I was not then either, it was cry to the Lord to take the pain or take me.
As I mentioned in Disclaimer #2 I am not exaggerating at all. I felt the need to repeat this disclaimer here.
My dear, wonderful, awesome, amazing momma brought me a wet, cold washcloth at some point after the first throw up, I think. I had to have a fan blowing on me, but my body was freezing. I could, at this point, now think more than two seconds at a time. I could think about ten seconds at a time without losing my train of thought. I then knew I was going to throw up again! Good grief.
After that bout of throwing up, I then felt well enough to turn over onto my left side for the first time all afternoon. I lay there hearing my poor mom taking care the kids wishing I could help, but I still could not move. I heard Uncle Travis come in to pick up Jett and I could not believe it was already around 3:30pm. Caroline came in at some point and I was afraid she was going to try to climb on the bed and knock over my bowl of throw up, so I told her not to get up here and she said, "I was just bringing you a puppy dog to make you feel better!" She then kissed my forehead and left. Precious baby.
Around 4:30pm I decided to try and sit up and test it out. My vision was still weird, but the intense pain seemed to be over.
I walked downstairs and saw Caroline smile so big when I told her I felt better. I found my poor momma and she said she didn't think I'd be out of bed the rest of the night. I could not believe I was, either.
I could not move fast, but I could move and that was amazing to me. I managed to smile, talk and begin to feel "normal" again. The headache reduced to just a typical headache pain. (I still have a "whisper" of the headache today and my jaw hurts from clinching my teeth.) I told my mom today that I should have felt in my ear to see if my brain was oozing out from exploding in my skull. She said that was a good description of what a migraine feels like. We compared notes and she began having migraines at about 30 years of age. I am truly hoping this was just a one time thing from all of the stress this last month, but I am still talking to my doctor about at an appointment I made in a couple of weeks.

***************************Queasy people can begin to read here.***********************

(I am including random pictures from the last month throughout the rest of the post-thanks to Becky and Meagan C. for providing pictures.)The 3 Little Bears: Ben, Thomas, Jett

What stress have I been under the last month or so, you might ask? (Ha, I know you wouldn't ask-you can already imagine probably)
Backing up to December (really Thanksgiving, I guess) the dread of the holidays without Thomas and the one year anniversary (that seems like too "positive" a word for it, but that's all I can think of to call it) looming was awful.
On top of that, Thomas got sick in early December with congestion, fever stuff. I took him to the after hours clinic and they made me come back the next morning again to make sure it wasn't pneumonia. It wasn't, but, wow-scary.
Then as I mentioned in the previous post, Caroline got sick right before Christmas (still grateful to Leigh"Ro-ro"Ward) and then within three hours of arriving home after spending a wondeful week at Mimi and Poppy's Thomas fever started. A few friends had come over to spend a quiet New Year's Eve with us at our house (I've realized after being gone any length of time, it helps my emotions tremendously to plan on having someone visit us right when we get home. It helps ease the transition for me and keeps the quietness of our house not so loud-if that makes sense.)His fever started right when our friends arrived, so instead of discussing how 2010 will be better for us than 2009 and enjoying each other's company I was holding Thomas constantly taking his temperature to see how high it was getting. Long story short (moms and dads know what nights are like when kids are sick-I do not need to describe that) his fever got up to 103.5 the next morning, which was of all things-New Year's Day. Our clinic was closed until the next day, so another day of me holding him, checking his temp, making sure he was drinking etc. (BIG thanks to Becky, Travis, Tara and Jacob for letting Caroline play with you all and have another sleep over at the Hudson's. She had a blast.) I finally made it to January 2nd and to the clinic by 8:30 in the morning only to find out what I already knew. It was the same virus Jett had over Christmas and there was nothing they could do for him. So finally by January 3rd he seemed to be doing better and I could breathe in-only to realize how close the "anniversary" was getting.
On January 4th I began to feel the prayers.
January 4th was a Monday this year, in-service for teachers (Just as the day of the accident was the first Monday back for teachers and an in-service.) Only this time we had snow and (visible!) ice on the ground and the in-service was cancelled.
WHY oh Why could that not have been last year!? Why not just a even a hint of snow or ice or even a mention of it in the forecast last year and, for sure, Thomas would have been EXTRA careful (He was always careful.) Why couldn't it have been last year when the in-service was cancelled?--All questions I have already pondered for 364 days, but brought fresh when the snow came this cold, Monday.
I am sure every Springdale teacher thought about how this in-service was cancelled and that I was at home alone with my two sweet kiddos and he should have been with us enjoying hot "toe-toe" and each other's company, excited that we had an extra day of Christmas vacationt to spend together.
I wish I could describe the feelings of those prayers that day. I felt like I was on some sort of "high" all the time knowing it was all from God. Caroline and I (holding Thomas) danced to fast music most of the day and played with her many Christmas presents, enjoying each other so much. It was the best feeling. I told a friend the next night that I wish I could start a rotation with everyone who was praying for me that morning and we could all pray all day for someone and each day do that until every person who prayed for me could feel the way that I did that day.
So the winter storm continued and school was cancelled again, Tuesday, January 5th-the one year mark. I awoke that morning not knowing how I would feel. Good that I made it to one year? Terrified? Of course, sad? I knew that my sister had planned an entire day for me so I decided I would get out of bed for her. My mom was coming to take care of my precious kiddos. I went through the motions, not feeling much until about an hour after waking up and then it was waves of grief. Each crest higher than the last, flashes of that morning one year ago.
The phone call that awoke me, deciding whether or not to wake my almost two-year-old after her first night in her big girl bed. Dori arriving to babysit. Becky arriving to drive me to the hospital-the next few hours (Way too terrible for even me to describe on my blog. You may be surprised, but the darkest parts I cannot even write about.)
I went back to my room once my mom came to take care of Caroline and Thomas to decide if I could make it.
Becky came and told me I didn't have to do anything that day if I did not want to-Have I mentioned how awesome she is?-I knew that she had some special things planned so I sucked in my emotions that were spilling onto my sweater and stood up.
I am just going to list the things we did because my heart is starting to beat faster remembering and I can't handle reliving it all right now.
She surprised me by having some great friends meet us at the accident site. They set up a beautiful cross and we prayed. We went to lunch at a favorite restaurant (this was so much fun) and then I got to go home to take a nap! (Naps are precious for me-Thomas still wakes up several times a night.) Then she got me up to go see the movie New Moon with her (so fun) and then we raced over to Dori's house. Blessedly, the roads were mainly clear so that everyone could make it this amazing celebration of my husband's life that was planned so carefully by my sister and friends.
I was completely amazed at the trouble they went to for me. They had printed color programs for the night, pictures already printed from placing the cross that morning, a book for people to write their memories of Thomas in (I have not read yet, I'm waiting for the right time...,) the words to all the songs printed out for everyone to sing and gobs of food and hot chocolate!
The 35 or so of us visited and ate. Even dear Kimberly came. I know how hard it must have been for her.
We sang a capella (Church of Christ style!) some of our favorite songs. It sounded like heaven (thanks, Jacob for leading us!) Scott and Denise, our precious campus ministers who are about to leave with their family to live in Ireland for mission work came and comforted me. Scott, who was our speaker at Thomas's funeral last year, prayed and shared comforting passages from the bible. Becky played a slideshow she had made of Thomas's life and included encouraging messages about the fun in the years to come with the blessings of new life that happened this past year. We sang some more-it was like being in heaven, truly. Lots of tears-not just sad tears, but also hopefilled tears were shed. And then, the end of January 5, 2010 came to an end. We had made it. We had survived the day.The next days were a little tough, too. The weather continued to leave us with -15 degree wind chills and school was cancelled for the entire week. Caroline, Thomas and I played by ourselved for several days until Becky was able to brave the cold and come visit us.
With the events of the week, the weather and sickness my spring semester of teaching was upon me before I could hardly turn around. I was stressed to the max trying to figure out when I could work on my school stuff. God provided again and Meagan and Chris C. came over to bring dinner and Chris fixed things around the house for me. They even came back the next day after church to let me work for several hours getting my syllabus ready and lesson plans for the week. Mimi then came Monday to let me work some more and attend meetings.
I am so thrilled to be teaching a 7 hour course this spring at the University. It is truly a dream come true and I enjoy it so much. I am just having trouble balancing being a single mom and getting my lessons ready!
All of this on top of our regular schedule of Mother's Day Out for Caroline once a week, dance once a week, me teaching two mornings a week, church, paying bills, laundry (Mimi takes care of this a lot for me!), answering emails and, of course, feeding, bathing, playing and loving on my sweet kids.
I am not trying to get sympathy at all. I am just getting all of this down so that I will have it recorded to look back on in years to come. I realize most of you probably do the same things, but the yucky part is that I cannot look forward to 5:00 pm and the arrival of my husband home for the evening.
It stinks.
I also want to state for the record that I have the most amazing support system of anyone I know and that my mom is here a couple nights a week and usually I get to spend time with my sister on the weekends. So I rarely feel like a "single" mom. I do have help. I also know that there are a ton of you who are ready to help as soon as I say the word. It is still hard for me to ask and sometimes I don't even know what I need-just that I need something!
If anyone is still reading at this point (I don't blame you if you didn't make it!) I have some prayer requests:

I cannot find my card reader for my camera. I know it is silly to pray for a trivial thing like that, but it is so important to me to document my kids lives through pictures-so I have to find it!

My guilt for not being able to respond to emails, calls etc. I know it is silly and everyone understands, but I can hardly stand it. I just do not have the time to keep up.

Our ladies bible study (currently at my house, once a week.) This bible study has been going for around 4-5 years and has gotten me (and others) through some very hard times. Now with a lot of our girls having first (or second!) babies, sickness, the weather etc. our numbers have gotten low. I don't know what I would do without the study and I know God has a plan for us, but extra prayers about it would be helpful.

Caroline and Thomas sleeping issues. Caroline's: Naps and bedtime have become a struggle. Thomas: He's almost 5 months, enough said.

My parents: They are very close to putting their house on the market to move here! They have lived in the same town for about 22 years, so this would be a big move. Please pray for it to sell quickly and for peace about the decision and their future.

My nephew (Ben and Allison's baby) arrived December 18th!
Alisha and Nick's baby girl arrived December 22nd!
Welcome, Matthew Allen Culp and Livia Noelle Ruple

Thomas's four month check-up went great. He is the absolute happiest baby I have ever known. He is so good. He only cries when he is extremely hungry or if Caroline yells too loudly.
He is "talking" up a storm. Cooing-yelling (not screaming, he is yelling about his world!) He is about to roll and is starting to sit up on his own-not for long though.
And he is a whopping 17.4 lbs 26 inches long.
(Before you congratulate me about how well the supplementing is going-let me announce that we have gone to just formula. I am not beating myself up about it anymore so I feel like I can tell everyone now. I just could not keep up with the it all-the pumping, the hour long feedings, cleaning bottles, cleaning the pump parts etc. It was too much for me. We are all happier now. Thanks for all of your encouragement and support.)

The last few weeks, Caroline and I were able to make snow angels together, enjoy movie nights with popcorn and laugh at sweet Thomas's noises and smiles. We have had many happy moments the last few weeks as well as sad. I am still hopeful that 2010 will have many more happy moments than sad.