Monday, January 31, 2011

I don't even know where to start...

So much has happened since my last post.

On January 8th, my Sweet Caroline turned three. We had a wonderful party with our family and friends. I'd love to post some photos but I left my camera at a friends house a couple of weeks ago and the pics from her birthday are still on there. When I get the camera back I'll get around to it.

A couple of weeks ago we had one of the most difficult and scary weeks of our marriage. I had a breast cancer scare - found a mass. While I was able to get in to see one of my midwives to get it checked out fairly quickly (on a Friday), I wasn't able to get a mammogram and sonogram for several days (the following Monday). That weekend was a true test of my faith and all I could do was lean on the Lord to be my strength. Thankfully, at my appointment that Monday, everything checked out completely normal.

That same day, Jason's dad had some oral surgery done. We were a bit concerned about how he would come through it because he's got quite an extensive health history and it was a bit risky. Once that was done (it went well) and my appointment was done (and went well) our family breathed a collective sigh of relief. We were in the clear.

Or so we thought.

That Thursday night, Jason's mother had a stroke.

Yes, a stroke.

We were shocked. We were scared. Thankfully, she was able to get to the hospital within an hour and have tPA (a clot-busting drug) on board within 90 minutes. She was in neuro ICU for three days and then a neuro telemetry unit for three more days. She moved to an inpatient rehabilitation unit (at the same hospital) a week after suffering her stroke.

Initially, she was completely paralyzed on her left side and had very slurred, heavy speech. She's regained much of the strength and sensation in her left leg and her speech has returned to near normal. She is still working on regaining the use of her left arm. She's slowly getting sensation back and can move it a bit in her therapy sessions (6 hours of therapy a day!). She improves daily and is determined to return to life as normal.

Through all this the question running through our mind is "why?". Why all these trials? Why all at once? It seems that over the past three months, Jason and I have been bombarded with situation after situation that stretches us almost to our breaking point (we had to put a new transmission in my car, have major plumbing work done at Christmas, and then all these health scares, and we just had to have some major work done on Jason's car).

You know what's amazing? I KNOW there's a good reason. Do you wanna know what it is?


And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Romans 8:28-29

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:6-7

God is sovereign. He works all things together for our good. Even the bad things, the trials. It's all designed to bring us closer to Him. We have to learn to persevere, to have unfailing faith and to claim God's promises. Even in the difficult times we have to lean on the Lord for all our needs. We can cast all our cares on Him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). All the difficulties are to help us to become more like Christ, and to be a witness to those around us in troubling times.

So, I praise the Lord for my trials! Would I love to be spared from hurt and pain? Of course. But, would I be so thankful for the blessings I have if I never experienced trials? Probably not. I'm not sure what the next crazy turn will be but I know that there will be one. I'm not done with pain and suffering in my life. I'll just roll with the punches and know that I'm stronger because of them.

*I totally realize that was a very discombobulated post. Sorry but I needed to get all that out!*

Edited to add: I completely forgot to mention how all this has made us so aware that the decision for Jason to change jobs was led by the Lord. How amazing is it that he gets to work in Fort Worth, five minutes away from the hospital where his mom is?! We've seen more of our family over the last several weeks than we have in the last several months. As Pattie would say... "BONUS!"

Monday, January 03, 2011


For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

I've been clinging to these verses for the past few weeks. We've been looking to the Lord to make some big decisions for our family and are excited to follow His path.

Several weeks ago Jason had a conversation with a partner at an accounting firm in Fort Worth, Whitley Penn. They discussed the possibility of Jason coming to work for them. Which is interesting because Jason wasn't looking for a new job. Not at all.

In fact, we'd talked about him looking for something quite a while back and it made me really uneasy. Why? Why would you want to leave a job where you're comfortable and secure, preparing for becoming a partner? No way. No thanks. Of course, we want to follow the Lord's plan for us so in that conversation (or series of conversations) we decided we wouldn't actively look for a new job. If something came Jason's way, however, and we felt we were being led by God's hand toward it then we wouldn't turn away from it.

Well whatd'yaknow! That's exactly what God did. This opportunity with Whitley Penn popped up and MAN did the process go fast. Lightening speed! Jason went in for an interview just to check the place out and felt completely at home. He loved the folks he interviewed with and all the important questions he needed answered were answered... and in the right ways! Really, he was interviewing them more than they were interviewing him, I think. It was clear that day that they'd be making him an offer. And pretty clear that Jason would accept it.

You know what's amazing about this for me? The peace I feel about it all. I was really, REALLY uncomfortable about even talking about changing jobs back when we first discussed it. (Just ask my girlfriends. Boy, did they get an ear full.) But this, this is different.

The only difficult thing about is is seeing Jason struggle with leaving the relationships he has at MB&D. He really likes working there and loves the people he works with. He's felt a lot of emotion as he's had to resign and tell the folks he works with that he's leaving. We know there are great things ahead.

One of the major reasons we decided the move would be good for our family is the proximity of WP to our house. It's in Downtown Fort Worth (25 minutes away - 14 miles) as opposed to Uptown Dallas (45 minutes away - 35 miles). Huge incentive! Also, if we ever decide to move from this house (and after the month we've had here, we probably will) our choices of desirable places to live is better if Jason's working on the west side of the Metroplex. Jason's new office is just a hop, skip, and jump down the street from his mom's work and sister's school (bonus! as Pattie would say) and close enough for us to be able to come have lunch during busy season without making an entire day trip out of it. Not to mention, Jason has always envisioned himself working in Fort Worth ever since he was a kid. It's where he grew up and we believe it's where he belongs.

So, we're excited to see what this year and this new chapter brings for us and our family. Jason starts on Thursday so get to praying that he'll transition smoothly. I already am!

We need a little (more) Christmas!

After the big clean-up at the house, the kids were able to come home around dinnertime the day after Christmas. Jason and I had planned to have our "at home" Christmas with them that night but they were way. too. tired! Jack barely made it through dinner without falling asleep. So, Christmas would have to be postponed till Monday evening. After Jason got home from work that day it was on to the third, and final, Christmas celebration!

Last tree standing. I packed up my big Christmas tree and decorations on Christmas night. Thankfully, we decided to put this little tree up in the playroom (the first time we've done a tree in there) and decorated it with kid-friendly and kid-crafted ornaments. It was really special and really great to have a tree to put presents around that wasn't completely covered in dust!Before...
... and there's no after shot. Our camera battery died and all our backups were dead after days of snapping photos. Just imagine a huge paper pile and boxes everywhere with elated kids ripping open their new toys.

You know, what happens on Christmas morning everywhere!

Santa didn't care

that we weren't home on Christmas Eve. He didn't care that we didn't have a Christmas tree at Yaya's house. He came anyway!

Before. Notice Santa just about finished his cookie. Well, my mom's dog Gabby finished it for him on Christmas morning!Unwrapping is underway!Yaya had special ornaments made for Caroline...
... and for Jack. Also, notice the t-shirt quilt she made for me in the background!
We had a great morning opening gifts at my mom's and enjoyed a fantastic breakfast of bacon, eggs, and homemade cinnamon rolls. The kids were in heaven! Thankfully, in the midst of all the house and plumbing craziness, I was able to get all my Christmas food prepped at mom's and ready to take to Jason's parents for the big meal later in the day.

We piled in the car and made the trek to Willow Park from Mountain Springs around mid-morning on Christmas.

Once we got there, Christmas exploded everywhere! The kids (and grown-ups, too) had a great time opening gifts. We had a delicious meal and a bit of relaxation time before we all had to get moving again. My mom took the kids back to her house for the night and Jason and headed home to get busy on the house. Even though I didn't plan for Christmas to turn out the way it did, it was wonderful in just about every way. Just about.

Caroline LOVES this puppy Uncle Ross gave her. She named it Fluffy (after one of mom's dogs) and has taken to sleeping with it. Fluffy's even known to give kisses to the rest of the family!Jack and his new guitar. Notice C's Vanna White move here. She also got a guitarAnother one bites the dust.Gigi and Pappaw got the kids a two-seater Power Wheel. Here's the reveal shot!And the action shot!

What matters most

It's safe to say that Christmastime is my most favorite time of the year. I love it. I take great joy in decorating my home "just so", enjoying traditions with my kids (like opening presents in OUR house every Christmas morning before going anywhere else), and making sure everything is perfect. Absolutely. Perfect.

Not this year. Not by a long shot.

On Monday before Christmas, as I was cleaning up dinner I discovered my kitchen sink wouldn't drain. Great, another clog. We have lots of plumbing issues in our old (45-year-old) home so this was not surprise. Jason came home and tried all his tricks; taking the trap out and cleaning it, snaking the pipe, vinegar and baking soda, and finally Drano. Nothing worked. We were resolved to the fact we'd have to call in the professionals the next day.

Morning rolls around and the sink didn't unclog itself overnight. You never know, it could happen, right? I called the plumber and they gave me an appointment window of 9:00-1:00. When did the plumber show up? 12:58. Nice.

The plumber suspected a stubborn clog, just as we did and decided to attack it from the plumbing vent on the roof. He was up there for probably an hour and a half trying to get the clog to budge but it just wouldn't. On his final try with the snake he discovered mud and dirt at the end of the snake when he pulled it from the pipe. Not good news.

Back when our home was built, it was the standard to use cast iron pipes (now we use PVC as I'm sure you all know). One big downside to cast iron is that if it cracks a little or has standing water in it then it will begin to corrode. After putting a camera into the pipe on the roof that's exactly what the plumber discovered. Our pipes had corroded so badly that our kitchen sink was draining into the soil under our house. No bueno.

It was kind of a blur for me after that. There was talk of pulling up my floor, jackhammering into my foundation, digging holes under the house. I was nauseous and I cried in front of the poor plumber. I'm sure an emotional chick with two kids running around was not what he bargained for that day. He wrote up a quick (and very expensive) estimate and planned to return in the morning to turn my house upside down.

Jason stayed home the next day (Wednesday) and I took the kids to his parents to avoid the work. We were only planning on being gone for a day and having everything back to normal (my perfectly decorated, absolutely lovely and comfortable normal), by Christmas Eve. Okay. I could deal with that.

The kids and I actually had a great time that day. We played at Gigi and Pappaw's house. Honey was there as was Aunt Emmy. Gigi and Emmy and I took Jack and Caroline to see Tangled, we played with Annie (the puppy), and we made cookies. Nice!

Back on the home front things were not so good. Every time I talked to Jason the news got worse and worse and worse. The original plan was to put one hole in the floor in the living room. Then there was a need for two more holes in the kitchen and finally for another hole in the hall bath with a tunnel going from the kitchen to the bathroom. Not only was the work getting more extensive but the cost of the repair was climbing. Drastically.

The living room
By the end of the day, the decision had been made to fork out the dough for all the work and get it done. The kids would spend the night at Gigi's and I'd go home to Jason, who'd had to stay home and watch his house be torn up all day long. It was gut-wrenching for me. Lots of tears. My "safe place" was now uncertain. And my Christmas morning at home was not going to happen.
The kitchen
When I got home that night I cried and cried and cried some more. Jason and I had to layer on the clothing and blankets to sleep because we couldn't use the heater that night because of all the construction dust (ugh) and dirt everywhere. We woke the next morning (Thursday) and let the plumber in to get back to work. After breakfast (a date - upside!) we had to take care of some business before I could go back to Gigi's to be with the kids. Jason stayed at the house to supervise the plumbing work.
The bathroom
We decided to spend Thursday and Friday with my mom, have Christmas morning at her house and then head back to Gigi and Pappaw's for the rest of Christmas day. As I was prepping for the unexpected time away from home I decided we would still have a little Christmas at home after it was safe for the kids to return. On the way to my mom's we picked up Jason and the headed up to the farm. Jason had to come back down on Friday (Christmas Eve) so that the plumber could finish up his work. He also did some work on the floor after the plumber left.

Here is my beautifully decorated Christmas tree, wrapped in plastic and shoved out of the way.
In the midst of my despair I realized just how silly it was for me to be so upset about things I can't control. After all, I have a house, even if it had holes in the floor. I have my health. I have two beautiful children who didn't really care if they were opening presents in their living room or not. I am surrounded by friends and family who not only love me but jump in to help without hesitation. And most of all the place I thought was my "safe place" is just an illusion. The only truly safe place I have in in the arms of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

That's what matters most. A baby, born of humble beginnings. A baby, laying in a manger, who would one day change the world. A baby, a King, who came to save me. And you. That's what matters most.

And as for the house, after all the plumbing and foundation was fixed, Jason and I returned on Christmas night to get the clean-up underway. We spent that evening and the rest of Sunday scouring the house (thanks Erin!)and re-installing the flooring. Here's to hoping we can steer clear of anymore money pit-like disasters for a good long while!

S'more and s'more

Little Miss Caroline enjoying dessert with a bit of dinner left on her face.

Party time!

On the last day of school before the Christmas break, Jack's class enjoyed their super-fun Christmas party. I didn't get a ton of pictures. I was awfully busy having fun myself! There was a bit of excitement though. One of Jack's friends, Allison, had somehow dislocated her elbow at the beginning of the party (or just before, I'm not sure). Her mom was on the phone with the pediatrician when I heard what had happened. Since I've got some experience with that I offered my help. I was able to reset her elbow and she felt better almost immediately. Supermom to the rescue! Now, on with the par-tay!

Jack with Maddie and Meredith and Nia
Excited to eat his handiwork!Craft time!
Note: I am not neglecting Caroline by not reporting on her party. The two-year-old classes do have Christmas parties but the parents aren't invited to attend. Too many kiddos get upset about not going home afterward or will cling to their parents instead of participating. I highly doubt my kid would do that but she's not "most kids".

A Country Christmas

Jack's school had their annual Christmas program, A Country Christmas, just before the winter break began. The threes, fours, and kindergarten classes participated. Jack was excited about it and singing the songs for weeks before the program.
Here's Jackie, dancing to the music
Animals in the living nativity sceneA wide shot of the nativity. The star on the left cracks me up!
Mary and Joseph
A shepherd. See the lamb draped across his shoulders. Awesome!
Jack was doing a little too much dancing, I guess. Here he is with Mrs. Harper, his fantastic teacher.Jack's friend Audrey, belting it out. Love it!
As I was taking pictures Jack said "Mom, get a picture of us together!". Here's what I got. So cute!

Christmas Card Outtakes

MBD Christmas, year 6

Every year, Jason's firm has an annual holiday party. It's a good excuse to get a sitter (Yaya), a new dress, and enjoy a night out. This year was our 6th (and last, more on that in a later blog) and we were glad to be able to be at an event at as a couple. Now, for fun, a trip down memory lane!

Year One:
I don't have a photo for this one. I was pregnant with Jack so we didn't have anyone at our house to take our requisite photo. Jason wasn't actually working at Middleton, Burns & Davis yet. He had been hired but wouldn't begin work till after his graduation six months later. The party was at the Omni Mandalay in Las Colinas.

Year Two:
Post-Jack, pre-Caroline. Not my favorite haircut, dress, or eye make-up. We look SO YOUNG! The party was at The Four Seasons.Year Three:
I was pregnant with Caroline in a MAJOR way! This was probably my favorite year. The party was at The Old Warsaw in a room lined with portraits of topless women. That definitely made for some INTERESTING dinner conversation.Year Four:
Hmmmm. Interesting fashion choice on my part. Ah well, live and learn. The party this year was at Lawry's the Prime Rib. The highlight of the night were the live carolers meandering through the restaurant.
Year Five:
My FAVORITE photo of the bunch! Cause I was skinny! I'm totally going to stare at this picture for motivation to make healthy choices. Party at Lawry's again. Yes, again.
Year Six:
All dressed up again! The party was at the Las Colinas Country Club this year. Looking back it's a little bittersweet being that it was our last MBD Holiday party. On to a new chapter!

Caroline and Yaya wanted in on the picture-taking action!

That's the way it happens...

on The Polar Express!

I'm sure you've read by now that some of Jack's most favorite things are trains. Well, needless to say, one of his most favorite movies is The Polar Express. We watch it year round. Caroline really loves it (and trains, and anything else Jack likes) too. Well, several months ago Jason and I began planning a BIG Christmastime surprise for the kids: a RIDE on The Polar Express! It was all we could to to keep hush, hush till the big day!

One Sunday in early December we loaded everyone up in the car after church and a quick lunch. Jack and Caroline had no idea what was in store, other than we had a big surprise for them. We drove, and drove, and drove. The kids sang, and slept, and watched a movie (The Polar Express, of course). When we FINALLY arrived in Palestine at the Texas State Railroad we let the cat out of the bag. Oh my, were they excited!

The TSRR Monument, my kids, and my hiney. Nice.My heart melts at this one!We took a few photos and picked up our tickets at the will call booth and then headed back into town for some pizza. The kids were almost as excited about this development as they were about riding the train.

Maybe we should let them out more.

After dinner we drove back to the TSRR and got the kiddos dressed in their Christmas jammies and slippers and off we went. There was so much to see (and buy). Just as were walking to the first class tent to wait (totally worth it) the train was arriving at the station after the previous run. Jack was just giddy! Caroline and I waited in the warmth of the tent and Jason and Jack got an up close view of the steam engine. Very cool.
He can NOT wait to get on!Me and my little man!
Daddy's girl, through and throughFinally, it was time for us to get on the train. We had our own little table with snacks waiting for us.
This was the best we could get as far as a family shot goes. Once the train got moving we were off the the North Pole (Rusk) to pick up Santa! We had the most delicious hot chocolate and listened to the reading of The Polar Express on the way. On the return trip we had cookies and sang Christmas carols and Santa came by and gave everyone a bell from his sleigh! So exciting.
Here comes the hot chocolate!
All smiles!Mmmmmm!I'm excited too!Getting his ticket punched by the conductor"There's Santa! There's Santa!""Awwww, Santa! I missed you!"The whistle was very loud since we were near the front of the train. Miss C covered her ears for about five minutes!After arriving back at the station (and taking potty breaks with two kids in jammies in public bathrooms. Ew.) we popped in to the gift shop and purchased a souvenir ornament for our tree. We watched the engineers put the engines back in the shed on our way out and then we loaded back up in the car and got ready for a quiet ride home. It was late and we were sure the kids would conk out quickly. Caroline was out almost immediately and just before Jack dozed off he said...

"Mom, Dad, thanks for taking me on the REAL Polar Express. I'm SO happy!"
Was the time, trip, drive, money, etc. worth it? After hearing that from my sweet boy, totally.