Friday, November 18, 2011

You're Gonna Miss This

Maybe it's because we brought a new baby into our home just six months ago. Maybe it's because we rented the upstairs of our home to help pay for the new baby (adoption is so not cheap) and moved our family of seven to our basement. I'm sure it's in part due to the obvious fact that I, as the mother of these five children, have been, shall we say, less than highly functional due to the many procedures I've had the past couple of months. Maybe it's the weather! Whatever the reason(s), my children have been pretty much out of control.

Usually, when things are a little rough it's because one of my kids are acting out and struggling a bit. That's when I realize this child may need extra attention or intervention for a while until he/she gets it together again. It's not fun when a child is struggling, but I've always been grateful it wasn't all of them at once. That is, until about two weeks ago.

That's when my children--all of them--started acting out. Constant fighting, constant tattling, constant beating each other up. I just kept thinking, "What is going on here?" I mean, my children are far from perfect, but we've never hit such rock bottom before all at once. I was beginning to think my children had made a pact with the devil or something, and I just wanted my real kids back again. I fell into bed exhausted every night from the never-ending effort to make and maintain peace in our home.

This past Sunday, after a grueling day of consistent contention, my husband and I looked at each other and just said "thank you" that we had each other to rely on and weren't trying to deal with it all by ourselves. I was so grateful to have a tag-team partner so that when I felt myself losing it, I could give him "the look" and he could jump in. Then, when I saw his patience wearing thin (which seldom happens), I could come to his rescue. Finally, a few nights later, I told him I wasn't sure I was up to it anymore. I was scared for him to go to work the next day and leave me all alone. That's when he reminded me of the miracle of the seven-hour school day, and I realized I'd never been so grateful to have three of my four older children in school all day! I just might survive after all.

I went to bed that night quite discouraged. Trying to give my children the benefit of the doubt, I reminded myself of all my kids had been through lately.Then I groaned as I faced the fact that I was heading in for another surgery. I wasn't sure our family could handle it. I found myself wishing for the time to pass quickly so we could get this all over with and life could be simpler, easier. I couldn't help but think that if my kids were older . . . if the baby wasn't so dependent . . .  if Dan's job wasn't so demanding . . .and so on, this trial wouldn't be so difficult.

That's when I turned on the radio to a song that has always touched me. It's by Montgomery Gentry, and it's called, "You're Gonna Miss This." The lyrics explain how we have to enjoy the stage we are in with our kids--even if it's a difficult one--because they grow up fast, and one day we will realize we miss what we had. I love the chorus, which says, "You're gonna miss this. You're gonna want this back. You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast. These are some good times. So take a good look around. You may not know it now . . . but you're gonna miss this."

Those words struck me like a lightning bolt. My first reaction was, "Oh no, I'm not! I am not going to miss this! " But then, that darn song kept racing through my mind the rest of the day, and by night time, I began to really listen to the lyrics and apply them to my life, and I realized how true they were. No, I probably won't miss the the fighting, tattling, hitting, name calling, finger pointing, etc., but I will miss this time of my life. Even now, when things have been a little tough lately. Why? Because I know we are learning and growing as a family, and as difficult as growth can be, it feels good in the end. We are getting through some rough things--together--and I wouldn't have it any other way. I truly believe we will all be more humble, more tolerant, more understanding, more willing to serve others like we have been served because of these tough times. And besides that, there's a whole lot more about life right now I'm gonna miss some day.

Like watching my nine-year-old son play football--a sport he loves--and win the Mini-Bowl this year. Asking him if he feels it would be wise to cut his football-watching hours down on Sunday to make it more of a special day, and hearing his thoughtful answer, "Yea, I think I should. How about I only watch five hours?" Like hearing him tell me he loves me and giving me hugs and kisses every day before leaving for school.

Like smiling as my six-year-old tries on five different pairs of sweats before school each morning as she agonizes over which pair to wear (after all, you have to be comfortable at school). Watching her pretend to teach preschool, just like her mother, every spare minute she has. Like feeling her wonderful little arms around my neck, squeezing me in the best hugs ever.

Like watching my almost 12-year-old daughter set a goal to make a 14-under Power Volleyball club team, and make it! Hearing her show extreme patience with her five-year-old little brother and help him through problems when no one else can. Seeing her grow more beautiful every day and not even know it. Like seeing her smile when she notices she's now just slightly taller than I am.

Like watching my little five-year-old scrunch his eyebrows together as he tries to figure something out. Hearing him beg me to teach him to read and constantly saying, "I know how to spell_____" and then spelling it sort-of right. Listening to him bump his head and then saying, "You broke my smolder" because he loves movies and can quote them all day. Like hearing his insatiable laugh and seeing the sparkle in his eyes.

Like soaking up the beautiful smile of my baby! Seeing her learn and grow right before my eyes. Recognizing the miracle she is in our family. Like looking at her and knowing all is right in the world somehow.

Like watching my husband walk through the door at the end of the day and automatically thinking of how much I love this man. Being amazed at his unbelievable patience. Watching him lead and guide our family through example and meekness. Feeling his arms embrace me at the end of a very long day, knowing we can get through anything together.

Yes, I am gonna miss this. And so I'm determined--even on very rough days--to simply take it all in, see the good, and not be in such a hurry to enter a new phase of life. Because one day I'm sure I'm gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast . . .

 . . .At least most days, that is!:)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

LIFE--Oh, So Good!

Okay, I just have to say from the start that my blog is having issues. It won't allow me to publish as normal, so if the layout isn't great, and the words are all scrunched together, I'm so sorry.

It seems like when life is harder than normal (not that normal isn't hard enough), and I'm groping to figure things out, I find myself drawn to the keyboard. I recently heard on a Dr. Phil show that writing feelings down can be a good way to find answers, resolve issues and move forward. That's my hope, I guess. And if I get to the end of the page and still have nothing figured out . . . well, at least I'll have a journal entry.
Three weeks ago I went to the dermatologist for what I thought would be a simple routine procedure to remove a small bump on my nose that was possible basal cell carcinoma. Four and a half hours later, I left with a huge hole in my face where my nose used to be. Apparently, the skin cancer had been growing deep beneath the surface of my skin for many years, spreading throughout my nose and to the corner of my eye. The plan was for me to walk next door to the plastic surgeon to get sewn up, but after staring at every angle of my face for what seemed like a lot of minutes, the plastic surgeon sighed, and told me there really weren't great options. The cancer had been in the crease of my nose, a very hard place to repair. It had also spread to the corner of my right eye. He would need thick skin for one part of my nose and very thin skin for another part. After taking pictures of me, he said he would study my nose that night and present us with options in the morning at the surgery center. I made the mistake of looking in the mirror before we left. Pictures don't really do justice. I gasped as I saw the deep, red gap in my face and wondered how it could ever be fixed.
(A little graphic--I should have warned you. Worse in real life. Almost to the bone. The tear rolling down my face is because I just looked in the mirror).
It was only three weeks previous that I had checked into the very same surgery center to have a laperoscopy. An ovarian cyst had ruptured and I had a lot of scar tissue built up from a surgery years ago that was pressing against my ovaries, causing pain and discomfort. I felt I was just getting back on my feet and feeling good when I found myself going under anesthesia once again. This time when I awoke I had a huge bandage sewn to my face and the pain had moved from my abdomen to my nose. It was necessary for the doctor to take a skin graft from my collar bone, and then also to make a cut up my forehead to take some thicker skin from there. Of course I looked pretty . . . what's the word . . .scary? But, determined not to let it discourage me or affect my attitude or self-perception, I took a couple of days to recover and then went about life as normal.
(three days after surgery--my collarbone shows where they took one of the grafts)
As I went out in public I experienced a little bit of what I'm sure many people with varying disabilities have gone through in their lives: pointing, staring, whispering, and more. My biggest fear was that my little four-year-old preschoolers would be afraid of me. I warned their parents that I looked a little abnormal, but these darling little children seemed more concerned that I was in pain than that I looked funny. That's the miracle of children. But in reality, I knew every time I left the house that I did look like I had gotten in a fight with a barbed wire fence and lost, and when people stared at me or children pointed, I was so grateful it didn't bother me. Of course I wished they were staring because of my astounding beauty, rather than my lighting bolt scar and blotchy skin graft, but I understood, and it was okay.
My six-year-old daughter, who happens to think appearance matters way more than it should, asked me one day if I was embarrassed to leave the house. When I told her I wasn't, she commented that she sure would be if it was her! My husband flashed the famous scolding look, but I only smiled, unoffended. It was a valid question. I was just thankful that, although I certainly don't look the way I'd like to, that my looks have nearly nothing to do with my life or my happiness. I'm just as happy--just as ornery, just as tired, just as emotional, just as everything--as before this happened. I guess it helps that I've never considered myself beautiful. Either way, life is still so good.
(what I look like now)
I returned to the dermatologist two weeks later to have some skin cancer removed from my back. The darn doctor told me it wouldn't be painful, but he lied. For two days, I bit my lip all day, trying to endure the pain from the incision and wondered if I was simply turning into a wimp. Even now, nine days later, my back is extremely sore. I've decided maybe my pain tolerance has decreased to the point of being intolerant altogether. Either way, I found out last week that I have a torn meniscus in my left knee and will be going in for a knee scope at the end of this week. Even as I write about it, I know how insane it sounds and I've considered cancelling it, but the throbbing in my knee insists I take care of it (and my husband reminding me our deductible has been met is a little hard to ignore as well:).
So, I'm feeling a bit beaten down. Sometimes I go to bed and don't know which pain to complain about--the one in my nose, my back or my knee (so usually, I go with all three, just to be consistent:). But, despite the pain and discomfort I have felt, which is so small compared to what I know zillions of other people have gone through, the part that has been the hardest is the toll it's taken on my family. My kids are sick to death of my problems and my inability to be at the top of my game. And I can just imagine them one day, when everyone is talking about all the great things their moms did, things like, "My mom always had freshly baked cookies waiting on the counter when we got home from school," or "My mom always woke up with a smile, whistling happy tunes all day long," my kids will only have this to say: "My mom always had surgery." Not exactly the legacy or the memory I'm hoping to leave behind.

I've thought a lot about Stephanie Nelson these past few weeks(not that my trials can even compare to what she's gone through). You know, the amazing woman who was burned on most of her body from a plane crash? I remember watching a small video clip about her as she talked about getting back into life again, and how difficult simple things were to do now. I can only imagine the pain she suffered and still does suffer from her injuries. But the part I will never forget is when she said this: "Life is good. It is oh, so good." I would think that would be pretty hard to say under her circumstances. And yet, I know what she means.
Life IS good. It IS oh, so good. Even when it's beating me up. Why? How? Because of what I know. And this is what I know. That I am never alone. That God hears my prayers and answers them in countless ways. That I am his child, his daughter, which means that it doesn't matter what my nose looks like. That He prepared a way for families to be together forever through sacred promises made in holy temples. That very little of what the world deems important matters at all. That I'm so grateful to be a wife and mother, especially now that being a supermodel is definitely out! That I have the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life; I have a family who loves me despite every reason I give them not to; and that it is enough.

So, here I am at the end of the page, and although I'm just as clueless as when I switched the computer on, I know things are going to be okay. I will get through one last surgery; my nose will eventually heal; scars will fade; and I will get to the top of my game once more. It just may be that the top isn't as high as it used to be!