Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lydia's First Quarter

Believe it or not, sweet Lydia is already more than three months old. Sometime around two months postpartum, I lost track of her age in weeks. I know it will be just the blink of an eye before I am baking her first birthday cake!

I have to admit, although life is busy with three small children, Lydia is the easiest three month old I have had. In her newborn days, she cried whenever I put her down, but in recent weeks she has been content to stretch and smile while playing in her baby gym or lying on a blanket. For the most part, she only fusses when she is wet, tired, or hungry...or when I (attempt to) clean the grub out of her stinky neck folds. She is certainly the most smiley baby in our family. Though she has been smiling at random times since birth, her first seemingly responsive smile was delivered at five weeks. Since then, the amount of smile time has increased each day, and she now spends long periods enchanting us with her mirthful grins.

Another wonderful improvement has been in her sleep habits. Even in the early weeks, she typically had a stretch of four or five hours of sleep during the night. Then she fell into a pattern of sleeping from 12 to 6, but her wide-awake and often fussy periods in the late evenings left me quite sleepy. Around two months old, she started sleeping for even longer periods, up to eight hours, and now she typically goes to bed around 10pm, may or may not wake up to nurse in the early morning, and gets up for the day around 7:30. After having two boys who wanted to nurse every two hours around the clock for most of the first year, these full nights of sleep have been an unexpected blessing. Her tendency to sleep in makes it easier to get breakfast on the table or get ready for church on Sunday mornings. She sleeps well in her own bed or mine, on her back or (shh!) on her belly, and is quite likely to wake up full of smiles!

She continues to nurse well, to adapt well to different situations, and to patiently tolerate her brothers' affections. We are so blessed to have such a happy, healthy little girl in our family. Here's how the princess has grown in her first quarter!

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:2,3

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Name Those Cheeks

Safe with the Father

After last week's post about Hayden being rushed to the hospital with a cough, he ended up spending another day and night there. They attributed the coughing to viral bronchitis and the wheezing to what they are calling reactive airway disease. According to our understanding, it is similar to asthma, and the virus caused it to flare up. The diagnosis - if it is one - makes sense, since allergies and asthma tend to be related, and Hayden always sounds like a purring cat when he has a cold. On top of this, his x-ray indicated pneumonia. After a two nights and a day of nebulizer treatments and antibiotics, they released Hayden around lunchtime on Thursday with a few medications to take home, including an inhaler for his breathing. In the future, we may have to use the inhaler again if a bad cold or anything else causes coughing fits and wheezing. For now, though, he seems to be happy and healthy - praise God!

God was gracious to provide helpful family members, paid time off for Don, and peace in my heart through those two crazy days. I was able to visit Hayden at the hospital on Wednesday afternoon (while my sister-in-law watched Lydia in the waiting room so as not to expose her to Hayden's germs), but Don was with him the entire time. I was greatly comforted to know that Hayden had Daddy by his side, and I'm sure he was too. I also praise God for Hayden's good spirits; he never complained about the medicines, having to use an inhaler, or even about being hooked up to hospital monitors. The doctors were impressed with his verbal skills and the nurses could not resist his two year old charms. One nurse couldn't believe that he said thank you when she brought him something. Another saw me with a gift bag and said, "You must be looking for someone who had a baby!" I responded, "Actually I'm looking for my son; he's in room 316?" She exclaimed, "Oh, that sweet little Hayden! I'm his nurse today!"

Thank you, Lord, for keeping my sweet, sunggly little Hayden safe and healthy and joyful. Thank you for protecting the rest of us from Hayden's illness, and especially that Lydia has not had so much as a sniffle during these recent weeks of sickness. Thank you for his loving father who cuddled and comforted him during what could have been a scary time, and for the peace I had while staying home with our other children. And thank you for being my loving Heavenly Father who never leaves my side. You give me comfort through the times that could be scary, joy through painful times, and peace through the chaos and craziness of life.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

Psalm 73:23

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Human Frailty

First it was a stomach bug - the kind that many erroneously refer to as "the flu." Donny was the first to wake up feeling "hungry" and requiring a change of sheets shortly thereafter. Several days later, Don and I suddenly had stomachaches. Even Hayden had a few episodes of vomiting, though he managed to escape the fever and fatigue that plagued the rest of us. By the grace of God, Lydia was sweetly content and stayed healthy even when both parents were miserable. And miserable I was, at least during those intense moments of insurmountable nausea. Truly, it is humbling to find oneself utterly incapable of doing anything other than lying limply on the bathroom floor.

The next Friday, I told Don I was seeing spots. Only it wasn't really spots; it was a strange wave in the lower right corner of my vision that would not go away, even when I tried taking my contacts out. And when it finally stopped, my head started to hurt. I always have frequent migraines when I am not pregnant, but this visual disturbance was new - and quite unwelcome. I spent the weekend battling a migraine with rest, cold packs, medicine, and prayer.

Then yesterday, Hayden woke up from his nap in a fit of coughing. Judging by the barking sounds echoing from his room, I was sure he had croup. After a night and day of sleep punctuated by fits of dry coughing, Don took him in to the doctor. Apparently his breathing troubles were more serious than I thought. The doctors advised taking him to the hospital by ambulance. Tonight he is in the pediatric ER, having his breathing monitored to make sure he gets enough oxygen to avoid passing out. I am home, holding down the fort with Donny (who thankfully, seems to be fine) and Lydia, who has been fussy with teething pains all day. Currently she is trying to eat her entire fist, and seems quite angry at her inability to do so.

These three back-to-back interruptions of health have disrupted our schedules and my grandest intentions of getting anything cleaned, organized, caught up, or otherwise accomplished. They have forced me to sit on the couch, rest in my bed, or snuggle some feverish little body while contemplating the frailty of our human existence. Yes, I admit, I am a frail, mortal person. Each migraine or bout of nausea reminds me that I am not the capable supermom I may, in the far recesses of my mind, imagine myself to be. And besides this exercise in humility, illness brings an opportunity to practice unselfishness, especially when it is a loved one who suffers. I saw it displayed by my oldest son who willingly did his brother's chores this morning, and by a sweet daddy who gave up his comfortable bed to spend one night being coughed on by a restless toddler and the next confined in a pediatric hospital room. Amidst the inconvenience and outright pain, there is some good to be found.

I am so thankful to live in a time and place where we have access to medicine, doctors, and even hospitals when we need them. I am thankful for the prescription that helps me recover from migraines, and that unlike my great-great-grandmother, I do not have to fear that my baby will die from a cough or fever. I am thankful for my own and my family's health that we so often take for granted. If nothing else, sickness reminds us of how precious a blessing our health is, and how wonderful it is to be well.

But more importantly, I praise God for the viruses, the migraines, and the painful conditions that force me to become more like Him. I thank Him for the opportunities to grow in love, humility, and selflessness in the face of suffering. And though my fleshly discomforts may be all-encompassing during those moments of agony, I must thank Him for more than restoring health to my physical body. I was a sinner, a broken and diseased soul destined for a place of torments that make migraines and vomiting seem like a tropical vacation. And just as I cannot save my body from death and disease, I alone am incapable of saving my soul from hell.

Yet God, in His infinite mercy, chose me to be one of His own. He lovingly lifted me up from the bathroom floors of this sinful world and breathed new life into me. As a loving Father, He holds me close to His side. There is no supplement, no prescription, no miracle cure that can do for my body what God has done for my soul. He has saved me in order that I might spend eternity with Him in a place where there is no more sorrow or suffering or death.

My body is weak. One microscopic germ can take down my entire family. But there is One who is strong, and He can use these inconveniences to remind me of His power and greatness and love. He heals my brokenness, inside and out. Praise the Lord!

I cried like a swift or thrush,
I moaned like a mourning dove.
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
I am troubled; O Lord, come to my aid!"
But what can I say?
He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
I will walk humbly all my years
because of this anguish of my soul.
Lord, by such things men live;
and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
and let me live.
Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
behind your back.

Isaiah 38:14-17

Friday, September 4, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Did you ever have to write one of those essays? I think I still have my assignment from the first day of second grade, which includes a crayon portrait of a girl with long brown hair riding a horse, captioned with a few sentences about my trip to Oklahoma. And now that it's "back to school" time, I feel that I owe my blog readers - if there are any of you left - an essay of sorts explaining where I have been all August.

Those of you who have not seen me in real life or on Facebook may have suspected that I went on vacation. But actually, there were no glimpses of palm trees or famous landmarks for our family. We didn't have out-of-town relatives staying with us for weeks, nor did we sign our children up for summer camp, vacation Bible school, and swim lessons at the Y. Yet this summer has been what my teen friends from church would describe as "amazing." Although the season started off with six weeks of rain and recovering from major surgery, the fun of late July and August were enough to cast a warm light over the memory of Summer 2009.

We have been quite spoiled in our opportunities for swimming this summer. Besides a few visits to friends with pools, we have been able to swim in our own backyard. We bought this house with anticipation of enjoying the inground pool when warm weather arrived, but in the spring, it was a mosquito breeding ground full of tree limbs that had fallen during a winter ice storm. Our dreams of creating an outdoor oasis with freshly poured concrete were quickly dashed by five digit price tags, but we invested the money to have the basics: new liner, steps, and the pool opened for the season. We bought a pool cover for the off-season, which we ended up putting on for several weeks just to keep the pine needles out of the 65 degree water. I listened, oh so patiently, to my husband's daily tirades about how determined he was to chop down every bud-, leaf-, and needle-dropping tree in our forested backyard. It rained so much that we didn't even think of using the pool for about a month. Then we had to buy chemicals and a pool vacuum to keep it clean, and run the filter daily. And in spite of the abundant rain, the water level in the pool was dropping. Yes, there was a leak, which cost a mere $100 just to diagnose; the job to repair the cracked pipe was estimated to be several hundred dollars. Thinking we would rather drain the pool than drain our savings, Don and I wondered whether we should bother to fix it at all.

But as it turned out, we were greatly blessed by a good friend who is knowledgeable about pipes. He and Don spent an entire day in early July digging a giant hole next to our pool. After a quick trip to Home Depot, they were able to replace the damaged piece of pipe for a mere $30. By the end of July, Don had the pool clean, the chemicals balanced, and the water level stable. In August, we finally enjoyed swimming in our pool! The boys loved paddling around in their floaties while Lydia looked on - or slept - in her poolside seat. We hosted several birthday parties and other gatherings by the water, which were lots of fun even when the weather was uncooperative or when Don popped the boys' pool toy while diving through it. And even I, the one who has never liked the bother of getting changed and getting wet, snuck out on more than one naptime occasion to quickly cool off in the refreshing water. Though I love fall, it's too bad our swimming season is so short - before August had even ended, it was too cold to swim!

We, especially the children and I, were also were privileged to spend several lazy lake days with my mom. Last fall, she and my step-dad bought a house on a quiet pond just 15 minutes away from us, and their small strip of shore is just right for young waders. The boys spent hours digging and splashing, sliding into the water, going for boat rides, and paddling out to the raft in their floatie tubes. With some help from their uncle and Daddy, they even caught a few fish!

The tranquility of the water and lakeside picnics (not to mention the built-in babysitter grandparents) made it feel like vacation. I enjoyed a canoe ride with my husband as well as swimming (always staying afloat to avoid touching any muck at the bottom!) and floating on the inflatable raft...though after last time, I will be hesitant to get in the water again. I thought the bugs, frogs, and small rodents in our pool were bad enough, but they pale in comparison to leeches and a watersnake! In this picture, taken just prior to the vile creature's beheading, my heroic husband has him pinned with a rake.

Oblivious to the wildlife encounters, Lydia enjoyed the fresh air and family snuggles, whether she was looking "berry sweet," or modeling vintage (okay, hand-me-downs from mom) fashions.

I have more to share, but it will have to wait for another day. Meanwhile, I want to post this one before another month goes by!