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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Bit of Heaven

Ever since my friend, Annie, moved over a month ago, we've been talking about making plans to meet up - somewhere, somehow. So, our plans finally materialized today after a spur of the moment conversation on the phone yesterday. We picked a halfway point, making it about a 90-minute drive for both of us. I was super excited... except for the bad dream that was trying to haunt me enough to keep me home, safe and sound.

You see, yesterday afternoon as I laid down for a little nap I was so exhausted that all I could think of was how I was going to make the drive home after our play date, right in the middle of my normal nap time. (And, by the way, I feel no shame in admitting I have a normal nap time!) Somehow that thought then translated into me having a dream about making that 90-minute drive back home and getting in a car accident.

So, last night before bed I told Marc about the dream, asking him to help me distinguish between what might be thoughts to heed and thoughts that were being fed by some overactive OCD scenarios. I felt reassured when he responded that he was sure everything was going to go just fine and I didn't need to worry about getting in an accident.

Sure enough, we made it to our meeting point just before 10am without any problems. The boys did great in the car and were great little travelers, even sleeping for the last 30 minutes of the drive.

We let our four boys play at this great little playground for a good 90 minutes or so before we relocated to perhaps the happiest place on earth for four hungry little boys. You would have called it the happiest place on earth too if you could have witnessed what Annie and I witnessed as we all ate lunch together! I should have gotten my camera out to have some proof. It was so much fun. I don't know when I laughed as hard as I did today. Our boys play pretty good together and I was so happy to have some girl time with Annie.

After nearly three hours together, we all got safely buckled into our cars and drove in opposite directions, heading back to our homes. Annie and I promised we'd call each other as soon as we were safely home. I quickly called Marc to let him know I was leaving, giving him a rough idea of when he could expect me home. That was 12:37pm.

The next time I tried to call him was 1:01pm. That was when our really fun day had suddenly made a wrong, very unexpected turn. I thought the stroller in our trunk was the cause for me struggling up some of the steeper hills on the drive. But on one particularly steep incline I learned there was something much more serious going on. I gassed it and the engine was revving, but I watched helplessly as the speedometer gradually decreased more and more until I realized I was starting to drift backwards, back down the hill I was trying to climb.

This is a two-lane, curvy highway through rather hilly terrain. My misfortune occurred in a rather fortunate area - a rare spot where there were passing lanes in both directions and a barely wide enough shoulder for me to slowly back my car into a safer position, making it so cars could pass by me without us being as much of a danger to us or to anyone else.

So, once I was backed onto the shoulder, I tried to call Marc only to realize I was in an unfortunate area where there was no cell phone service. I thought 9-1-1 was supposed to work even in those areas, so I tried that. Guess what? It doesn't work. I looked around me - in the middle of nowhere, miles from getting help, no houses in sight. Oh, and at that moment panic set in. I felt so helpless and scared. Tears filled my eyes immediately and effortlessly, and just as I was about to completely loss my cool, I knew the first and the best thing for me to do was to pray.

I considered praying that my car would just suddenly work again or that I'd somehow get cell service miraculously. And, even though I knew neither of those were beyond God's power to make happen, instead I found myself pleading for two things - "Please, God, keep my boys and me safe. And, please send someone who can help us out of this situation." That was about when I looked in the back seat - Hugh exhausted and sound-asleep and Ben looking back at me with tired, but hopeful eyes. There was something in his eyes that communicated calm and hope to my heart... even if it was just my own survival mode kicking in, realizing this was not a time for me to crumble, this was a time for me to find whatever courage it would take to get the help we needed.

I got out of the car, locked the doors, and somewhat timidly waved down the very next car that came speeding by. They passed me right by and I was so close to falling apart again. My hopeless gaze followed them as they passed and that was when I saw that maybe their reflexes had just been a little slow. Maybe they felt some empathy for such a desperate-looking pregnant lady. They slowed down and then backed down the hill a little, while I ran up to meet them.

My biggest fear about waving someone down was not knowing who would stop and if they'd turn out to be someone I'd want to have stop. Hence, the timid wave. But, in this situation I really didn't have any other choice. You can imagine my relief when right away I felt reassured that this middle-aged couple was the answer to my simple, yet urgent prayer. They didn't have cell service either, but wrote down my cell phone number and my husband's, promising they'd call him as soon as they had service again.

So, with that, I climbed back into the safety of my car where Hugh was still sleeping and Ben was my sweet source of calm. He should have been asleep like Hugh, but there was something about having him awake with me that made the whole situation easier. I had to find things to distract him, to keep him happy... and in the process I was distracted and kept happy, too.

About 20 minutes later my helpful couple came back from the direction they'd left in, just to let me know that they'd found a Call Box a few miles up the road and that CHP would be on their way to help me out. They said the dispatcher would call Marc, but that they'd also call Marc as soon as they had coverage.

About 20 minutes later a CHP officer arrived. It's now about 2pm. After talking for a few minutes outside our cars, he offered to push my car up the steep hill with his car, putting us in a much safer place where there was a turnoff - a Vista Point.

The officer wrote down Marc's cell number and said he'd call dispatch to confirm he'd been reached and was on his way, before leaving. He went back to his car and I got back into mine. Both boys were wide awake now and I was distracting them with apples and water. After about ten minutes the officer came back to let me know that Marc was on his way, but that he had decided to stay with me until help arrived. I can't tell you how comforting it was to not be left alone there in the middle of nowhere, still more than an hour from home and still with no available communication with anyone. Even when his shift change was about to happen, he called for another CHP officer to come take his place, as my sort of personal guardian.

At this point it was 3pm and the boys were just starting to get a little restless, so I got them out of their carseats and let them play in the driver's seat and roam freely from the front seat to the back. They clearly thought this was such a great game, completely protected from the stress and worry of the situation.

Another hour passed before Marc and my Dad showed up, the most welcomed sight ever! I heaved a huge sigh of relief. The CHP officer stayed around long enough to make sure Triple A was on its way to help us get towed, and then we thanked him profusely before he left, no doubt ready to serve the public in any way possible. Such kind and thoughtful CHP officers helping us today, more heaven-sent help for sure.

After getting everything out of our car and into my Dad's, the tow truck arrived and we finally made it back home at 6:30pm (over four hours later than originally anticipated), just in time to eat some dinner and get the boys in the bath and settled for bed.

It ended up being a much longer and more exhausting day than I expected, but it was so much fun to see Annie and her boys! And, as much as I could have done without the car problems and the extra drama that followed, I'm sitting here feeling such an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the simple (yet profound) reminders that God does answer prayers and is aware of the details in my life. I know He was watching over us today. I know He kept us safe and I know He sent us people that would help us get home. It's good to be reminded every once in a while that even when we are among millions of others in the world seeking help and guidance, we are not forgotten or overlooked by a loving Father who loves us all individually and perfectly, and responds in simple (yet miraculous) ways.

Some might argue that the way things came together for us today was simply luck, but I know better. Luck doesn't happen the way things happened today. Today I experienced a bit of heaven as I witnessed very specific answers to some very specific pleas come help me in an urgent time of need. There is no other explanation.

(And, Annie, if you're reading this, even at the end of the day I have no regrets about meeting up with you today... if I could do it all over, I'd still have made the trip to see you. Let's get a date set for next month!)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Getting comfortable with failure

Phew, it's been a busy week! The weather this week was a beautiful prelude for spring's approaching arrival, though it still feels a bit out of place since we haven't seemed to have had a normal winter yet. Still, I sure love these days with temps in the 70s, the feel of wearing my flip flops again, and going outside with a short-sleeved shirt. With weather like that we've been spending more time soaking up that organic vitamin D.

We spent a few mornings out in the backyard, the boys playing in their sand and water table (minus the water for now) while I dug my hands into the dirt to pull up some weeds, listening to the soundtrack of my happy, giggling boys in the background. I was so pleasantly surprised to discover how much better Ben and Hugh play together outside than they do inside. It was peaceful and warm and I got my hands dirty. I really, really love getting my hands in dirt. There must be someone else out there who completely gets what I mean by that without any further explanation. Yes?

And, since I'm the mother of two young boys I was super excited to find a worm in my digging. (Otherwise I would have been semi-grossed out.) I called for Ben and Hugh to come look. You should have seen the ways their eyes lit up and their hands trembled to get their turn to touch the slimy, wiggly little guy. Ben had his sand pail with him, so I put some dirt in his bucket and then put the worm in there for him. The expression on his face made it clear that he thought that was just about the coolest thing ever. (And, doesn't that follow that I would then be considered the coolest mom ever?! haha!)

And, just when I was starting to think things couldn't be going any better I found a caterpillar. And then two more after that. I grabbed an old 10# wheat can that I had just emptied out the week before and thought I'd better hang on to it for something exactly like this. I had the boys help me put in a good layer of soil at the bottom, then we put in some leaves and welcomed our three caterpillars into their new home. They seemed pretty excited about what we were doing, even though I'm pretty sure they weren't thinking quite as far ahead as I was.

I was having visions of watching these three caterpillars go through their process to becoming something miraculous and beautiful and teaching my very young toddlers all about it along the way. I'd finally redeem myself from all those years of struggling through every science class I ever took. I'd make it fun and exciting and learn new things myself.

So, while the boys were down for naps I transferred the caterpillars to a glass fish bowl, all set up properly (according to my search results on Google). I almost took pictures to show off the start of Science Project #1, with plans to document the entire process with photos. Imagine my visions of beautiful pupas, watching the butterflies emerge in all their glory, setting them free with the boys by my side. Our first science experiment together!

With all of these grand visions dancing through my head, you can only imagine my great disappointment when the next day I checked on our little caterpillars only to find that all three had died. So much for redemption. At least the boys are still too young to know what a terrible failure I am at anything remotely related to science. Maybe I still have some time!

But, you know, there was something about this experience that made me start to feel more comfortable with failure. Although, not just failure ('cause I'm already a pro at that), but more specifically feeling comfortable with my boys seeing me fail. It's part of life and I know it'll be healthy for them to see me in situations of falling short. My hope is that I'm also able to show them how to get back up and try again, how to greet failure without losing the excitement of attempting new things and still hungry to learn.

As a bit of a side note, you know what's funny? For Valentine's Day I made homemade fortune cookies, complete with fortunes I found with Google's help. And, one of them actually goes perfectly with this little story:

"Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

Friday, February 17, 2012

The big question? Answered!

The night of November 3rd, just hours after getting the initial shock that we were expecting again, I made some comment to Marc about our baby and referred to the baby as a "she" without even thinking about it. I caught myself as soon as it came out and kind of shook my head, unsure of how/why it slipped out like that.

But, with every comment we've gotten over the last few months that would go along the lines of "I bet you're just hoping for it to be a little girl..." I would make sure to respond with "we will be so happy, whatever the baby's sex." And, I really meant it, too. I LOVE having boys and would love a whole house full of them!

Then, last night I had a dream that someone was handing me my baby and said, "here's your little daughter." So, I woke up this morning just wanting to finally get the answer to the big question. And, this is what we learned:

And, I have a hilarious husband, who will one day be famous for his comics. This is his interpretation of what we saw today:

There's a whole lot more running through my mind and heart, but that'll have to come a little later... it's precious nap time right now and with the sun shining, the windows opened and the birds chirping, I'm hungry for a little quiet time to do some private reflecting. The windows of heaven have definitely been opened on my little family.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Exhausted. And happy.

The weekend is coming to a close and I'm sitting here feeling so exhausted that I'm actually looking forward to the arrival of Monday morning. What's funny is that the weekend wasn't terribly out of the ordinary, just a little more energy-sapping than usual.

After a conversation I had with my sister on Friday morning, when she told me about her Friday night date plans, I made a (not so) subtle comment to Marc about how we don't ever go out. But, then, right away I knew why. To do something other than catch a movie at the theater around here requires a lot of creativity. And, the theater's prices are hiking up so high that there is rarely a movie worth the hike.

Plus, if I'm completely honest, by the end of a long day (and week) just about the last thing I want to do is get dressed up and go out. By 7pm, when the boys are snuggled in their cribs, I'm content to snuggle up in my PJs on the couch. And, I'm pretty sure Marc falls in the same personality category when it comes to that.

So, we compromised. We put all electronics away at 7pm, picked out a movie we hadn't seen in a while (Catch Me if You Can), snuggled up on the same couch in our PJs, and we even held hands. And, you know what? It actually felt like a date... only much more comfortable than being in a theater.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling surprisingly motivated to tackle my growing list of things I've been procrastinating. One of those was to re-organize Marc's office. When we first moved here (TEN months ago!), we sort of just piled boxes and bins in the office closet with the intent to come back to it after a couple of weeks. Well, that clearly didn't happen as planned. So, we pulled almost everything out, consolidated and organized everything. It was amazing how much more space we had by the end. The boys had a blast getting into things, dancing to Abba, and trading off wearing Marc's sunglasses and bike helmet. They actually cried when we were done.

But, little did they know the fun was just beginning. In our organizing I found that darn box of old receipts and bills that has needed to be shred for years. Shredding is so obnoxious, but it's at least somewhat entertaining for little boys. So, we sat on the floor and started to tackle that very large box. I soon discovered bills and receipts going all the way back to 2003. It was quite the little walk down memory lane.

When I came across the pile from the summer of 2008, I was unable to go through those bills from UCSF without feeling some of the painful memories that left me so heartbroken I wondered how I'd ever recover. Just when I was in the middle of walking down that particularly painful lane, I kept getting pulled back to my current reality with the boys giggling at the shredder or trying to tackle each other. And, there was something so overwhelming by the striking contrast in those two realities - one of wounds that still sting a bit when they're uncovered and one of the miraculous healing that has since changed my life completely. I never would have imagined I'd ever feel such intense joy as I do now.

Later that night my Mom and I spent the evening together at our local county's pageant competition. There wasn't really anything too terribly exciting about the pageant, but it was so much fun to have a night out like that with my Mom.

So, that brings us to my exhausting Sunday. I was sitting here with heavy eye lids (at 8pm) and feeling like an old lady for wanting to crawl into bed at such an early hour. But, when your husband has church-related meetings that start at 6:30am, Sundays are the least relaxing day of the week. Not only that, but finding a way to get myself and my two boys all fed and dressed and ready to go by 8:45am when Marc comes back to pick us up for 9am church. That might not sound like a big deal, unless you knew how long it takes me on a normal morning to accomplish the same tasks.

Then, that's just the beginning of the fun. The first hour is spent entertaining/wrestling the boys, keeping them from hurting each other, keeping them quiet and from running around, and (the latest) keeping them from throwing things like hot wheels and sippy cups at unsuspecting church-goers three pews back. Luckily, since Marc isn't able to sit with us, I do usually have my parents' help, which makes a big difference!

For the second two hours I should have a bit of a break, since the boys are old enough to attend the Nursery class. Except that the last couple of weeks have caused Hugh such traumatizing separation anxiety, that I've been spending those last two hours of church entertaining/wrestling my same two boys, along with five others (typically with the help of one other adult). I'm just hoping Hugh settles and gets comfortable in there soon without me, because it really does make for a much more exhausting Sunday.

And, that's it. That's why I'm so tired at 8pm on a Sunday night. But, as I was reminded by my shredding-inspired little walk down memory lane, I have to acknowledge the incredible joy and miracles of my life that are the reasons behind this utter exhaustion. I'll take the heavy eye lids and the old lady bedtime any day of the week for these little stinkers that bring me so much joy. And healing.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Another exciting walk

The weather has been so unseasonably warm this week. And, since I'm starting to feel better (before Monday night it had been two weeks since my last episode of vomiting), I've been getting myself and the boys out of the house as much as possible.

This morning I loaded them in the stroller and we walked the long way around to Ba-Pa and Gi-Gi's house (that's what they call Grandpa and Grandma). I even worked up to a light jog for part of it. Have I mentioned how I keep forgetting I'm pregnant?

The boys were so happy to be out in the sun, but not so happy to be strapped to the stroller side-by-side. I made sure they each had a book and a bus in each hand to keep them occupied. I never seem to anticipate what they can (and will) use as weapons.

I think we were all relieved when we finally arrived at my parents' and had some time and space to run around and create a little excitement in a new environment. We didn't stay too long because I knew it'd take some time and an undetermined number of stops along the way back home to beg the boys for mercy with goldfish crackers, before making it home in time for lunch and naps.

Well, little did I know we should have stayed five minutes longer.

Just as we were approaching the second to last turn of our walk home, I looked up and noticed a group of about 20 guys walking along the street I was just about to turn onto. My first thought, from their camo outfits was that it was some army guys out training together. Now, we don't live in a military town whatsoever, so I'm still not sure why that was my initial thought.

Within about a split second, they broke from their group and scattered into the yard that was facing my approaching intersection, which, mind you, is right on the corner of an elementary school. That was when I noticed the bullet-proof vests and guns drawn. I was still about 30 feet from the corner and suddenly felt very unsafe about moving another inch forward.

My heart was about to beat right out of my chest and with my shaking hand I pulled my phone out of my pocket and called Marc. (I almost put it into camera mode to record whatever was about to go down, but fear of actually truly being in danger took over.) Poor Marc. I had to repeat myself... probably because I was talking too fast and whispering and panicking all at once. Once he understood what was going on, he said he'd come quickly.

All while I was trying to explain what I was witnessing, I was backing down the sidewalk away from the action. There was a policeman at the front door yelling, "Police! Open up!" probably about five times before he tried to bust the door in. Then he yelled for someone to check the side door. It was pretty intense for about five minutes. I swear I heard two gun shots at one point and decided it was not worth it to risk trying to approach the intersection yet.

As soon as I saw more policemen coming out to the front yard, looking a little more relaxed, I decided I was probably safe to finish our walk home. That was also about the time I caught eye of Marc coming toward us, ready to restore peace.

I'm not sure what the boys were thinking. I'm pretty sure they weren't even aware of what was going on. Luckily. Seriously, so freaky, though! How is it possibly that I always find so much drama is this tiny town when I'm out on my walks?!