Ins and Outs of Raising a Herd

Our family has six kids. S*I*X kids. That’s a lot of bodies and a lot of logistics of coordinating a lot of life. I thought a blog post would be a great way to share some of our practical, daily tips and tricks – it may help you, or it may just satisfy a nosy itch you have wondering how on earth families the size of mine are able to keep life rolling smoothly [or at all]. So, let’s begin…..

FOOD

Feeding eight humans every single day, three times a day is a full time job it feels like! Now, to be fair, Hayden doesn’t eat food by mouth, so we’ll exclude him from this particular topic. [He uses a G tube and is on a continuous 24/7 drip of formula from a feeding pump. But, don’t feel sorry for him – he hates food and thinks it’s gross to eat, so he’s fine, yall!]

I start each week with a full meal plan. I sit down usually on Saturday or super early on Sunday morning before church and plan out the week’s meals. This includes dinners, lunches, breakfasts and snacks. It’s summer right now, so we’re all home all day long and we eat every single meal together. (During the school year, my kids bring their lunch to school except for one day per week when they’re allowed to purchase a school lunch.) Our family has some set traditions when it comes to food which include Taco Tuesday (religiously!) and Pizza Friday. Knowing these two meals are set each week, really helps get the ball rolling when it comes time to meal plan dinners for the week. Already having two days filled in is encouraging. We also like to save Thursday nights for “Leftover Night” usually, although, we’re finding less and less leftovers available from each night’s meal (#growingBOYS!) so we are in the process of learning to make more servings at the other weeknight dinners, or just adding in another quick, easy meal on Thursday nights. Historically, my Bible study group (D Group) meets on Thursday nights so it’s nice to know it’s just leftovers for everyone and I don’t have to stress while I’m getting out the door to Bible study.

For breakfasts, I try and plan at least one breakfast casserole for the week and then have other meal prepped high protein options ready for a quick grab during the busy weekday mornings. I like chicken sausage links and turkey bacon as good meat options and have a few hard boiled eggs meal prepped and ready for breakfast or snacks. During the summer, I try to stay as healthy as possible for lunch time meals. Luckily, my kids like salmon and other types of fish, so I try to cook some early in the week that we eat on for a few days throughout the week. In an effort to be overall a bit healthier, I try to get ingredients to make snack options from a “30 Healthy Snack Idea” list we got from a nutritionist at one of the clinics we go to. I keep the snack list posted on the refrigerator so that the ideas are always visible to the kids so when snack time hits (at 10am and 2pm) they have options and don’t have to rely on me to get creative for them.

Once I’ve established that week’s menu, I start an Instacart order on the app on my phone or via computer (depending on how crazy the environment is that I’m in at the time). I add all the ingredients I need for our nightly meals, lunches, breakfasts, snacks and random stuff we may need and put it into multiple Instacart orders if need be. I shop mainly from Aldi because you can’t beat the savings!!! Seriously! (I used to shop there in real life, but then I had four kids and I was no longer in a place to PHYSICALLY ENTER a store ha!) I also do an order from Costco usually bi-weekly for things like peanut butter, Skinny Pop, Topo Chicos, paper plates, etc. I’ll also have a monthly or so order from Sprouts for various supplements and probiotics that we take. Then, I set my order/s to be delivered that weekend – either that Saturday or on Sunday after church. [If you don’t know what Instacart is or haven’t ever tried it, you are for sure missing out!! A shopper will shop for you at a wide variety of stores in your area and with a minimum $35 order at a store, they will shop and bring your stuff to you typically within two hours or less. There is a fee for this [incredibly worth it] service and I opt to pay $100 for the year – much like Amazon Prime. To give it a try, use this link and get $10 off: https://inst.cr/t/MDJSN0wwQkli]

We cook all of our meals 95% of the time and if we do purchase food from a restaurant, it’s just take out and we eat at home. We don’t tend to take the herd to a restaurant as that’s not conducive to eating in this current stage of life we’re in with two one year olds and a teenager in a wheel chair who doesn’t even eat food. Which, honestly, I don’t mind eating at home because it’s healthier and cheaper than anything a restaurant could offer us.

Our weekly menu board, shopping list, and our Summer Bucket List 2021 – in our Family “Hub”/Laundry Room/Pantry.

I mentioned earlier that once I’ve created my weekly meal plan, I write it on a white board in our pantry/laundry room/”home base” station. I write it for my own knowledge, but I also do it so the kids can see what we’re eating on what days and they are aware of what to expect. It also cuts out unnecessary questions and nagging about “What’s for dinner?” and “I don’t like ________.” You don’t have to like everything; but you do know what the options will be for the evening meal. I would say overall, the kids really don’t complain and I try to make meals everyone enjoys, although every night might not be their Most Favorite Meal of All Time – and that’s ok. One thing we have done as well, was to create meals together and I let the kids name the creation. For example, one time I had some chicken breasts I cut in to strips and just baked with some salt and pepper and some Rancher seasoning from Wildtree. It tasted pretty good but wasn’t necessarily in the “Most Favorite Meal of All Time Hall of Fame” or anything. But that night, I asked the kids what we should call our creation and collectively they came up with, “Naked Chicken Deluxe, Yo!” And it stuck! It was a fun name and moved the lame baked chicken up a few notches on the recipe rotation totem pole. By including them in the process, they had a little skin in the game and now they love to help meal plan and request “Naked Chicken Deluxe, Yo!”

ORGANIZATION

Keeping everyone’s schedules organized can sometimes feel like my second full time job! Each week’s success, for us, hinges on something we’ve done for years – a family meeting! We typically do these on Sunday afternoons and all the kids gather around with us and we look at every family member’s commitments for the week. Big commitments for us each week are things like Hayden’s doctor appointments, visits from CPS/CASA/Buckner for the foster kiddos, in office work meetings for Ryan, and sports practices (when in season) for the other kids. Getting everyone on the same page for the week helps EVERYONE, not just Ryan and me. Some of our kids are a little more high anxiety, so it helps them to know where everyone will be and what to expect in the upcoming week.

Any meetings or appointments for kids are written on our family’s calendar in our Family Hub Station. This way, it’s posted for everyone to see. (This even includes Hayden’s nurses who use that same laundry/pantry area to prepare Hayden’s meds and wash his medical equipment. I also keep posted in the “nurse’s station” of the laundry/pantry a hard copy of the nursing schedule which helps alleviate everyone relying on me to know and report the weekly schedule for nursing staff. If it’s posted, it’s a resource for everyone and it takes pressure off of me.) I try to keep the big, dry erase family calendar color coded as much as possible, but the most important thing is just getting the information down. This helps us all tremendously to not feel surprised by our day and to feel a little more sense of calm as we begin each morning.

A practical organization tip I learned years ago from another mom of multiple kids, was implementing something called a “Water Basket.” Rather than having a million cups all over the house, we each have one refillable water cup (I mean, we own more, but we each only use one at a time.) So whether that is a Tervis cup, a Gatorade squeeze bottle, a personalized sports cup, a sippy cup, etc., we each just use one at a time and keep them in our “Water Basket.” We have a Berkey water filter that is located on our dryer and we LOVE it! It filters out all kinds of nasty stuff from our water, and we each just refill our cup as needed, take our drink and ideally, place it back in the Water Basket to grab for the next drink. This helps out tons when the kids are asking, “Where’s my water??” I simply say, “Did you check the Water Basket?” This cute, brown wicker basket is our family’s landing zone for hydration.

Another way we keep order in what could be chaos is by having color coded bath towels for the kids. Each child has a set of three towels, but all three towels are the same color. Each child has THEIR colored towel and it’s their responsibility to use it and hang it up after their shower each night. (We don’t wash towels after each use – sorry if you think that’s gross, but we don’t. You can get a good couple of uses out of one towel if you hang it up to dry, which is what we ask of the kids.) Do they do this right every time? No… not always. BUT, when I go into the bathroom and see a yellow towel on the ground, I know exactly which kid is responsible for it.

Speaking of showering and getting eight people ready daily, we also have mason jars for each kid that has their toothbrush and preferred toothpaste in it as well as floss or floss sticks. This keeps their things organized and no one gets confused over whose is whose. (Hayden does have his own wheel chair accessible bathroom so his operation runs a bit differently….and since our remodel is now complete, we have a bathroom dedicated to the other five kids and guests, as well as mine and Ryan’s bathroom that no child is allowed in – we shared long enough! ha!!)

Mud Room Wall

As part of our renovation, we wanted to find a way to incorporate a “mud room” of sorts. We have a one story, 2,200 square foot home that we were able to creatively turn in to a five bedroom, three bath home with loads of storage and a sink in the laundry room. We got really good at using every square inch of space we could find and that’s how we created our “mud room” wall in our entry way. This wall, has six cabinets, one for each child’s backpack and sports bag/equipment if they’re playing a sport that season. (More on sports in a minute.) The wall also has a bench and cubbies for shoes as well as hooks for jackets in winter and purses for myself and guests. I love this so much and its functionality has been a HUGE lifesaver for me. With the backpacks inside the cabinets, I don’t have to see clutter everywhere, but rather it is contained behind a cabinet door. Again, when the kids go looking for their shoes or jackets, I simply direct them to the shoe cubby or their cabinet and they are able to solve their own problem and locate their belongings.

Time Management

A few years ago, Ryan and I made a decision on where we wanted to put our focus when it came to family. For us, building a strong family unit who knows, loves and serves the Lord together is THE most important thing. Defining what we wanted for our family helped us to determine what we did not want for our family. Family dinners together and quality time for talking and teaching are our priority. Knowing our end game goal, helped us to inform what our day to day life would look like. One of the parameters for our family, is that each child is welcome to play one sport per year. We spent many years playing all the sports and dragging babies and the disabled across all kinds of fields and to practices and games and we were 100% miserable. We don’t want our kids to miss out completely on sports just because we have a large, unique family dynamic, so we put healthy boundaries around recreational sports. And here I would offer a wise quote I love that says, “It’s ok to live a life others do not understand.” And it is ok. You do not have to look like every other family in your neighborhood or in your extended family or like your coworker’s family. In fact, I hope you don’t. I just want my family to look like Jesus and so for us, that means limiting the time we spend on practice fields and fighting on Saturday mornings to get to the ball field to sweat together in misery. But my family is not your family – so I honor and respect whatever it is you choose to spend your time on. (**Note on this: we do let our kids do music lessons and we are more open to activities that don’t require weekend commitments – think Taekwondo and dance lessons. We’re not total sticklers for no fun; it’s just we can’t afford to commit every weekend to a ball field, especially when weekend nurses for Hayden are hard to come by.)

In practical terms, to get all these humans showered and in bed on time, we have stick to a pretty scheduled and regimented bed time routine. **Disclaimer: I know Ryan and I are more type A than the average bear… and we’re fine with that. It works for us. Feel free to judge us. We do not care. We know who we are. ;)** We generally starts baths for the babies around 7:00pm and then it just progresses from there to the older kids. One thing we do to prevent arguments between two of the kids who consistently were arguing about who would shower first, is that we created a schedule for who showers first and posted it in the bathroom for all the world to see. (I did this also for these two as they’re roommates and would fight nightly about who should shut the door and turn off the light. are. you. kidding. me. right. now. So to put a stop to one more senseless fight, I posted a light/door schedule and taped it on the wall. THE END.) Now that the shower schedule is posted, everyone knows who should be where and when. While one person showers, the other person goes and takes their nightly vitamins and then they switch tasks.

If I haven’t lost you yet, I’m about to. This is the part where you’ll want to have me committed. Brace yourself. In an effort to be a good steward of each minute of the 24 hour day I’ve been given, and in order start my day off focused and ready to tackle whatever the day may bring, I work out at 5:30am! I wake up at 5am, throw on the workout clothes I laid out the night before and head to either Yoga or Pure Barre. (I’m in a weird overlapping time when I go to both and am trying to determine which activity I love the most.) This has been SO helpful to my mental health and overall attitude about the day. It gives me a chance to get up before the world, to pray out loud on the drive to the studio and give my day to the Lord, and then to accomplish something fully without being interrupted and to get to move my body before [all of] my family is even awake! I never used to be a morning person, but now that I am, I really enjoy it! My body and mental health are worth the investment. And, having to get up so early means I get to bed early as well. Which is better for me anyway! Confession: I used to watch Netflix and eat Skinny Pop and drink a glass of wine and go to bed way too late. But now, I only have wine on Friday nights or the weekend, and I get to bed at a decent hour every night (in fact, I put my phone to bed at 8:30pm and it goes into Do Not Disturb mode so that I set the tone for winding down.)

Family Traditions

As part of our mission of creating a close, tight knit family, Ryan and I decided to start “family traditions.” These seem like minor things, but their OUR FAMILY’S things so they’re big things to us. Some of the simple things we do are traditions like Taco Tuesday and Pizza and Game Night Fridays. These are stable, routine things that we hope make our kids feel secure and connected to our family unit. We eat dinner every night anyway, why not pick one night and just make it a “tradition.” We try to have “movie night” on Saturday nights although we’re not very consistent in that one. Whatever tradition you create doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s ok if it’s not perfect or done with 100% consistency. Just being together and creating memories as a family is the goal here.

Another tradition we do that the kids LOVE is “Fancy Dinner.” We had all this wedding china sitting in drawers and in cabinets and for what? We rarely used it and it just sat collecting dust. So one day we decided to dust it off and let the kids use it as we had Fancy Dinner. They flipping LOVE IT! They feel fancy and honored that they get to use our china. We do this once a month and even if the meal is lame, it still feels fancy because of the plate – I mean talk about upsell!

Since so many social interactions in life are centered around food, we include Hayden in our family dinners each night even though he doesn’t eat food by mouth. We use the time each night, to check in with each other and each family member shares a “Sunshine” and “Cloud” from the day which is their high and low of the day. We also keep a devotional book on the Lazy Susan on the table and we are slowly reading through it together. We added, recently, a book called “What If” and it offers hypothetical situations and each person gets to answer with how they would respond. Obviously we don’t have to use these guided materials, but it’s nice to have some structure as we range from one year olds (clearly non verbal right now HA!) to a teenager and everywhere in between so having something to put us all on the same page is a nice tool to utilize. The main point of all of this is to just sit down with your family and BE TOGETHER. I grew up in a home where this was not a priority and not a routine and I remember each meal I had at a friend’s house where we did sit down together and talk and leisurely enjoy dinner and discussion and I treasured those times and conversations greatly. That is part of our hope in doing our nightly dinners – that our kids will be inspired to converse together, to think and discuss ideas and various topics and to just enjoy being together and that when they’re outside of our home or when they have their own families they will continue in these family traditions.

Now that I’ve given all of our family secrets away 😉 our final one is this. We ultimately just want our kids to know we love them and although we are structured in the way we run things for the sake of the family unit, we are so thankful to have this family we have been given to lead and grow. To us, there is freedom in structure. Which feels like how our heavenly Father leads and grows us as well. We are free in Him and the structure of His word. But this family, and God’s family, isn’t just about rules and religion; it’s about relationship. Our prayer is that in listening to our kids now and in opening the conversations up for topics that might difficult, they will always feel welcome to come to us for advice in the future when the topics are much heavier than who should shower first or whose turn it is to turn off the lights. 😉

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

On Guard!

A person I love and respect made a post recently about “cancel culture” referring to the most recent movement of many people to cancel Netflix due to the release of the French film, “Cuties.” In her video, she states she watched the film and although she hated it the entire time, she needed to watch it and encouraged others to watch it rather than “cancel culture” quit Netflix. I have to respectfully disagree. Remember the old song lyrics, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see?” I put this into that category.

Listen carefully – it is ok to guard your heart! (and eyes. and ears.) You can still have meaningful conversations with your children about the dangers of apps like TikTok and about the oversexulization of girls/children in the world WITHOUT watching “Cuties” first in the name of “research.” I have not watch an R rated move in I couldn’t tell you how many years. I felt my own convictions over movies long ago, and my husband and I decided years ago we just wouldn’t watch movies rated R. (There are exceptions to this on occasion for movies that are true stories but are rated R for graphic violence/blood shed like in The Passion of the Christ, etc.)

I’m sure that’s laughable to many of you. Maybe I’m the local town prude. Do I care? Not one bit. It is fine by me. I control what I view and listen to and I know myself enough to know what I can and cannot handle. Images and ideas – they stay in my mind for YEARS and so the things I choose to put into my mind, have to meet some pretty high standards before I just open the door. In fact, there have been times in my life when someone is sharing an inappropriate story or joke and I have flat out asked them to stop. If that feels uncomfortable to you to ask someone to change the subject, maybe you just excuse yourself from the situation instead. But do something! Don’t just sit idly by and allow input into your mind when you have control over what you see and hear.

I have never heard the song, “WAP” nor read the lyrics and I never will. I don’t need to traumatize my mind to remain “relevant.” Based on the chatter online and a few images I’ve seen of that particular “artist,” I can very much declare that that “art” is not something I will be introducing to my mind. And that is ok!

**Caveat here: I absolutely still address real, painful issues – I don’t simply hide under a rock when it comes to issues like human trafficking, abuse to children in the foster care system, poverty, abortion, etc. I pray for God to break my heart for what breaks His and those things break His heart. I research and learn about topics that even though are painful to learn about, are still necessary to share and teach my children about. We have many discussions about the Holocaust and slavery and all kinds of topics that are hard to process because of how sad and horrific it is. I simply am trying to convey here that I don’t willingly view certain images in the spirit of “gathering data.” You can understand something is inappropriate (i.e. WAP) without having to actually watch it with your eyes.

I tell my kids all the time: “It is ok to live a life other do not understand.” In fact, that’s literally the whole point of the Christian life anyway. The last place a Christian needs to be is fitting in. Maybe you won’t be as relevant at the water cooler? Great! If you’re following Jesus, you were called to look DIFFERENT. This world is NOT your home. Fitting in, relevance, trending – these things can not be your idol while you simultaneously call Jesus your Lord. He wants all of your heart. And soul. And mind. So, you have permission to guard those things!

Guard your mind. You can cancel Netflix if you want. In fact, throw your TV on the curb. If you’re not doing something to look different than the world, what are you even doing? Use this as an exercise to see what you’re willing to sacrifice for Christ – mainstream radio? Netflix? Social media? What is your idol? If you can’t let Him lead you in the small things, how will He ever be able to use you in the big things?

I’ll end with this. If we sit in America in our air conditioned homes and wonder what lot we’ve been given that if we cancel our favorite streaming subscription we may persecuted for being part of the cancel culture, then we are SADLY so far from the truth of the gospel that it’s frightening. Literally, this second, Christians are in chains for Christ. They’re being slaughtered for Him. And we aren’t sure if we can make such “sacrifices” as cutting back our TV time? God help us all.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Provers 4:23

Visit Voice of the Martyrs to learn about how you can help Christians under persecution: https://www.persecution.com/response/

That Introvert Swagger…

I currently find myself with quite a rare gift upon me. I’m in my house with only Hayden. No nurse. No other kids. No spouse. Just Hayden. And he’s sleeping. As an introvert, the pulse of our family unit haunts me. Constant people, commotion, chaos. And no way around it. It’s just the collateral damage of this life.

If you are an introvert, let me see if I can make you squirm in your seat. You ready? It’s going to hurt. Because I am a homeschool mom (my choice, I know), I am always with my kids. But they’re MY kids and so if I end up in an argument with a three year old, that’s my business. However, because one of my kids is significantly special needs, he qualifies for nursing help 168 hours a week. That’s all the hours in a week, if you didn’t know. All of them. Every. Single. One of them. You hear me, introverts? ALL. All the ones when you want to walk around the house in your sweats and no bra. The ones when you and your husband get in a fight about which one of you said they would pick up some bread. The hours when your kids are off the chain and you’re not sure if you should have them or yourself committed. The hours when your phone rings and it’s your mom calling with a personal family matter to discuss. All of the hours that you treasure dearly and need to sit quietly in your own space to recharge. They’re gone. Life took those hours away from you and instead gave you a constant turn over of staff in your home whose sole purpose of coming to your home is to make a sustainable income. Your home – your sacred haven of respite and peace, where you recharge – is their “office.” It’s where they get their insurance benefits and rack up PTO. How do you balance this?

I want to be clear, although I’m an introvert, I don’t hate [all] people 😉 **little introvert humor for my friends who feel me** I enjoy being with people and I love having meaningful conversations with people. But I can only handle so much until I need a minute to refill my tank. And the refill station is what has been out of order in my home. I LOVE having our nursing help. I LOVE the work our home health therapists do for Hayden. I LOVE that there are people who love and care for my son and my family as much as I do. I really do. This is NOT a burn on them. This is a statement that there is a cost to having help and it’s one that until you’re living it 168 hours a week, you may not realize how expensive the cost is.

And so, as we are without a nurse on this particular day, the stars have aligned for me to have a [relatively….] quiet home (I still hear the hum of the ventilator through the baby monitor and the drone of the oxygen concentrator in the hallway). For this brief moment in time, I have the clarity of mind to revisit my oh-so-sporadic blog for a bit to share just a tidbit of my life with the world.

There’s no magical fix. There’s no earth shattering advice I have to offer. Just some perspective on what life is like on this side of the world. Moms like me love our children deeply. We would do anything for them to keep them safe and protected and healthy. And sometimes for us, that means just sucking it up and accepting that for this season, our homes are not 100% our own. We recognize that we live under a microscope. That perhaps although words aren’t spoken out loud, observations are made by visitors in our home who get a front row seat to some of our worst days. The days when your kids are misbehaving and fighting, the days when you feel like a loser of a mom, the days when you burn the dinner and stink up the house and are embarrassed, and the days you lock yourself in your room to cry on the floor in peace for just a quick minute before you rally and go back into battle.

Yet even in the chaos, I am completely convinced that this circumstance and this assignment has been given to me by the Almighty and in His infinite wisdom He has appointed to me this amazing responsibility and gift. There is a tension that it is ok to sit in for a bit; the tension of having a rough day but also trusting completely that God has orchestrated and put this scenario in place perfectly for His glory. And at the end of the day, I give Him the praise for this unique perspective and for this daily struggle because through it all, it draws me closer to Him and refines me to make me more like Jesus. And I’m just hardheaded enough that I’m sure He needed to pull out the big guns for someone as stubborn as me. 🙂

I read a quote today from Tony Evans in his new commentary, “The Tony Evans Bible Commentary.” In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with God, has his hip injured which results in a limp and is then renamed Israel. Tony said, “Jacob’s life would never be the same, because he was now limping because of his hip. This suggests that any man God blesses will possess a limp. God will create something in that person’s life that makes him despair of his own strength and lean on the Lord’s instead.” Amen and amen! God bless the limp that He gave me, for from it, I am blessed and know Him.

The Day the Linen Closet Died

So. Many. Boxes. Just dropped off in my living room and I was expected not only to know how to use the items inside, but also to find a spot big enough to store them in an organized fashion so all the many [many!] hands working in my home would know where to find the supplies they needed.

That’s how this thing works. You take a baby home on a ventilator and the housewarming gift you receive is the presence of a DME (Durable Medical Equipment) company and all of their “goodies” being offloaded to you. A welcome offering. A tease of what the next decade or more (if you’re lucky) will bring. Loads of supply shipments – chux pads, ventilator circuits, suction catheters, pulse oximeter probes.

And so begins the “overtaking of all the space” movement for families like mine. Our home is now a PICU Omnicell. The storage for beautiful guest towels and extra bedding is replaced with bins and tubs attacked by a label maker. Organization is key when there are staff members working in your home around the clock and they all have to access the closet – previously known as your beautiful linen closet – to do their job.

Labels read “Suction Canisters” “Gloves” “Oxygen Tubing” “Vent Filters” – This is your life now. Welcome to it.

I caught a glimpse of our linen closet last night. The door was open and the hall light was on. I just sat and stared at it for a long moment. I pondered out loud to Ryan, “I wonder what normal people have in their hall linen closets?”

We’ve lost our garage space, our hall closet space, our kitchen cabinets, our pantry. It’s all dedicated to storing and organizing all the equipment required to keep a human alive. We trip over bikes in our garage because we have no place for them, since the bike storage is taken over by catheters and sterile water. We keep an Instapot on top of our dryer because an entire kitchen cabinet is full to the max of meds, syringes and ports. We hide PT benches and equipment behind our couch so we appear “normal” when people come over.

It’s an odd feeling to contemplate what a normal house would look like, knowing that if you had a “normal house” it would be because your child wasn’t living in it with you.

In random moments like this – catching a glimpse of a linen closet in the light or seeing your neighbor’s tidy garage while you’re out on a walk – that you evaluate what your priorities are. Sure, I would love a Home & Gardens Home, but that wasn’t in the cards for me. Learning what you have to let go of helps you realize what you want to hold on to.

Our house isn’t perfect, but it’s full of sweet memories and little people and loads of {loud} fun. And honestly, I think I like that more than a house that looks like a Container Store show room.

Out of Body Experience

A quick story. An experience unusual for me.

The setting: my house.

The characters: Mom, Grayson, Ethan, Foster Daughter.

Missing: Ryan and Hayden (who were inpatient overnight at a sleep study in the hospital.)

Once upon a time……….

A rare, cool summer evening, that’s not only tolerable to be outdoors, but pleasurable was gifted to us this evening. Late summer nights are my favorite. When the sun isn’t ready for the day to end just yet and it keeps hanging around just a little bit longer. Popsicles and bicycles, sidewalk chalk and neighborhood pickup basketball games. These sights and sounds of summer I treasure.

I had taken up residence in my lawn chair out front, watching the boys riding bikes up and down our quiet street, while little Miss and I played with bubbles and sidewalk chalk. No one was fighting, which is an extremely rare treat. 😉 Each of us, just enjoying each other’s company, wishing the night wouldn’t end. We migrated to the back yard and the kids jumped on the trampoline and climbed on the jungle gym while I sat on the back porch and just watched and listened to their laughter. We stayed out past our normal bath time because it just felt right and why not? – it’s summer. This moment here is what summer nights were made for. Late night fun outside, just riding bikes and jumping on trampolines, playing pretend with the neighbors and your siblings. Not a worry in the world. Not in my world anyway. I was free – for just a moment.

I was free from worry about what time the cath timer will alarm. I was free from dragging the suction machine around. I was free from the beeping reminding me to check the emptying oxygen tank in order to raise up saturation levels. I was free from being called inside at a certain time (regardless of the season or the amount of beauty the night held) to begin night treatments. I was free to sit on the back porch and just enjoy my children being children. I got to watch them having fun and enjoy life, which in turn was an enjoyment for my own life. I was free to do these things.

But I wasn’t free of the guilt of enjoying the freedom. Part of my heart wasn’t with us, even just for a night. The piece missing was having a legitimately fun evening inpatient because that’s what he enjoys – meeting new nurses, playing TV games on the hospital network, scanning his meds and his hospital bracelet with the handheld device. He doesn’t enjoy riding bikes, jumping on the trampoline, eating popsicles. I shouldn’t have felt guilty; he was having a magnificent summer evening with friends. But I can never forget. I’ll never forget I live two lives. I’ll never forget I have two families and even when I switch back and forth from each of my mom roles, I’m never free of the other one.

Moral of the story: If you have the freedom to watch your kids being kids without a timer telling you when you have to go empty their bladder, administer their med, perform their respiratory treatments, replace their oxygen tank, turn on their ventilator – please enjoy that time. Look up from your phone, be present with them and be thankful for that time and freedom. And try to put the guilt to rest, even if it’s just for one beautiful, cool summer evening on the porch.