Friday, June 24, 2011

brothers and sisters

When I was about four years old, during the Texas summer heat, my siblings and I spent hours in the backyard swimming pool.  My older brother, Israel, would pretend to be a shark and attack me and our little sister, Rachel.  We would screech and stumble over ourselves, trying to get away. 

Years later, when Israel got his drivers license, he took us to the mall.  On the way home, it was raining.  The new driver slipped and his tiny Volkswagon Rabit skidded into the ditch.  All of us stared at each other, our breathing and heartrate slowly coming back down to normal.  When we realized we were all OK, we started laughing.  Israel put the car in first gear, gunned it, and we slipped back out of the ditch.

Growing up side by side, I took my siblings for granted.  There were five of us, total.  Israel, my big brother; Rachel, the one who others thought was my twin (only 13 months younger than me);  Sarah, my baby sister whose personality matches my own; and the baby brother, Jonathon, the one who adored me and I, him.  We lived side by side, marching into life in wide-eyed wonder.  We kept secrets from my parents.  We fought viciously for invisible sibling rights.  Life was linked to each other.

Scattering like the seeds of a dandelion in the wind, my siblings are now all over the United States of America.  I haven't spoken to my dear baby brother since Christmas Day, and sadly, that was within a text.  My littlest sister's distance goes beyond the miles that seperate us.  My big brother continues to amaze and impress me with his talents and abilities as we tentavely discover the adult version of each other.  I'm blessed to call my other sister one of my best friends. 

It saddens me to lose my siblings.  I feel like I lost my group.  We surrounded each other for years, not always on the same side, but still, together.  Now we are all grown ups, and I miss being a part of their lives.

I watch my children, the sibling group my husband and I have created.  They play dress up together, share meals together, fight and holler at each other, and share silly jokes together.  Life is linked to each other.  Peering into the hazy future, I wonder what their relationships will be when they are all grown.  Will their friendships be strong when their lives veer off in seperate directions?   Will they look back on their childhood and remember the sweet moments? 

I pray they will.  I am motivated to give them opportunity to form life long bonds, reminding them how precious their brothers and sisters are in their lives.  We work on building a family that moves like a team, helping each other and sacrificing for one another.  And I treasure the time with my children.  As the older women remind me, time goes by quickly.  Soon, I will miss them as they run full force into the world, doing God's will. 

I think I'll call my brother.  Well, maybe an email...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

only God can explain

I got my own personal miracle this week. 

At 2:20am, I woke up to strong cramping.  Thinking it was something I ate, I headed for the bathroom.  There, I discovered blood.  Bloody toilet paper and blood in the toilet bowl.  What scared me the most was the blood clotted tissue on the toilet paper.  I was bleeding.  I was almost 29 weeks pregnant and bleeding.  Not spotting.  Bright, fresh blood.  I started hyperventilating and crying.  I put my hand on my belly, and raised the other hand in the air "Lord, I surrender this baby to you!  Please save him!"

Careful to not wake the toddler who had joined me in bed a few hours earlier, I headed out of my room to call my mother-in-law, Tami.  Her midwife experiences are priceless to me and I knew she would confirm my fears.  She answered the call quickly.  I told her about the blood and that I thought I should go to the ER at the hospital downtown.  She said, "Yes, go.  Now.  Don't wait for Jason to get home.  He should meet you there." 

Jason was working the night shift.  I hung up with Tami and called Jason.  "I'm bleeding.  I called Tami and she said I need to go to the ER.  To meet you there.  OK?"  Slight pause as Jason took it in.  This is our sixth pregnancy.  Four ended in birth.  One ended in bleeding and death.  We knew, this far along, bleeding was not normal at all and we needed medical help.  "OK.  I'll see you there," he said softly. 

I woke Rachel, my sister who is currently staying with us and helping out, quickly told her the situation.  We hugged each other and I hurried off into the night, the mini-van's lights hitting the deserted country roads.  I was calling my daddy before hitting the main highway, waking him from a dead sleep. 

"Daddy?  I'm sorry to bother you....  I just wanted you to know that I'm heading to the ER with vaginal bleeding,"  my voice shook.  Daddy voice was heavy with sleep, "Um...  how many weeks are you?"  "Tweny-nine," I whispered.  "Ok, Jessi.  We'll be praying for you.  Love you."  Then I was alone in the van. 

And I prayed.  I cried out to the Almighty God to come and heal me and this baby.  From my previous research, I knew that vaginal bleeding is not normal.  Often bleeding is from problems with the placenta or some type of vaginal infection.  Both of which can cause premature labor.  Placenta problems are usually resolved with emergency Cesarean to save both mother and baby. 

"Lord, I want this baby.  I want this baby to grow up.  I want to hear him call me Momma...." I cried as I drove in the dark.  "I want to watch him ride bikes with his brothers.  I want more time than this!"  I felt peace wash over me and soothe me. "Lord, I release this baby to you.  Please come and have your way.  I trust you.  No matter what."  There was nothing I could do to stop the bleeding.  I could do nothing to make my body hold this baby inside for another 11 weeks.  But God could; and so, I beseeched him. 

My parents were praying.  Jason's parents were praying.  My Daddy posted a request for prayer on Facebook and many people responded with simple posts, "praying".  I believe somewhere between my home and the hospital, God moved inside my body.  I believe He healed me. 

At the hospital, there was no more blood!  None.  All the tests came back normal.  The sonogram showed a healthy placenta in exactly the right position.  The baby's heartbeat was strong and he kicked and moved about during the  6 hours we were observed on the Labor and Delivery wing.  The hospital staff faithfully searched every possibility for causes to vaginal bleeding and came up short each time.  We were discharged with admonishes to come back if the bleeding started again or if I had contractions or cramping. 

There is no explaination other than a miracle.  At home, I research vaginal bleeding in the 3rd trimester.  Every website said "go to the ER.  Get medical help."  Every article warned of placenta previa or placenta abruption.  My bleeding was real.  I really did see blood clots on the toilet paper.  God's plan was greater.  God stopped whatever was wrong inside my body and kept my baby within me, healthy and strong.  Praise His name!

"So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you."   -Deuteronomy 31:6

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

the non-due-date

Yesterday was Vivian Joy's due date.  It was a hard day to walk through.  June 6th.  When I discover a pregnancy, the due date is one of the first things I calculate.  That date sears into my brain as the countdown to delivery begins.  June 6th.  As May passed us by, I knew the no-longer-big-day was coming.  Sometimes, I pushed those thoughts down and didn't want to think about it.  Other times...  I wrapped the thought into my mind, hugging the few memories of Vivian close to me. 

Sunday night, June 5th, I realized "it's tomorrow!"  I knew it was, but I had to be sure.  I pulled out 2010 calender, but the darkly scratched out weekly marks were not helpful.  I sat on the couch feeling at a loss of how to know for sure.  Then I rememembered, I was charting when we made Vivian.  My charts were tucked underneath the bathroom counter, not necessary now with pregnancy instead of periods.  In the bathroom, I searched methodically through my old charts.  Two years worth of charting clipped neatly to a pink clipboard.  I couldn't find it.  My searching grew almost frantic.  Proof.  I needed proof that she lived. 

There it was.  I had hidden it at the bottom of the pile.  I pulled the chart out with the "happy face" sketched beside the bold "ETA June 6th" and the cycle length marked "9 months" beside yet another "happy face".  Without warning, I realized I was sobbing.  The sobs reminded me of the cries that took over months ago in the same bathroom as I processed the loss of my October baby.  The October baby who should have been a June baby.  I bent over my now swollen belly and gasped for air.  The chart proved that Vivian had been alive and real.  I had written on September 28th "three positive pregnancy tests!!!"  I stared at my chart and caressed it.  "I wish it had turned out differently, little baby."  With a sigh, I quickly stashed all the charts back beneath the sink and left the bathroom, drying my tears.

It is odd to mourn the loss of one baby while carrying and celebrating the growing life of another.  I want this baby, but I also wish we could have had our Vivian.  The "real" Baby #5.  I want both.  I wish Vivian could have been born, alive and healthy, last week and this little baby, growing now for 28 weeks, come a few years down the road. 

But I can't click my heels together and make my wish come true.  Vivian's in heaven, long gone from my body.  I can only imagine what might have been.  And I have a new baby now.  One that pushes against me even as I type a memorial to his sibling who preceded him in life and death. 

So, I ask God to kiss Vivian good night and tell her I miss her.  I ask him to let her know her big sister reminded her mother that she "has a baby in her tummy and one in Heaven".  And I rub my belly and feel life kick back.  This is the path God chose for us.  He will dry my tears and lift my head.  Thank you for life, Lord.  "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Job 1:21  For me, in the past year, the Lord has done both.  I will praise His Name.

Time4Learning Final Review

My family enjoyed our month with Time4Learning. I signed Isaiah and Rose up for one month trial. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we had some issues when we first started using Time4Learning. Specifically, Isaiah was not able to work independently on the computer with Time4Learning. We solved that problem by keeping an adult beside him to assist in reading the directions.

The more Isaiah used Time4Learning, the more he enjoyed it. I found it affirming to see him reading, proof that my efforts in teaching 1st Grade has been worth it! He does read! We basically used Time4Learning as a year-end-review.

Rose did awesome with the PreK/Kindergarten lessons. The younger curriculum is easier to maneuver than the 1st Grade lessons Isaiah struggled through. Rose easily chose which lessons she was interested in and gleefully played the learning games. She thoroughly enjoyed Time4Learning.

My favorite thing about Time4Learning was the section where the parent signs in and can see exactly what her child has been busy doing on the learning program. Many lessons were scored with a number grade (example, 86%) and it was good to know where Isaiah's comprehension level was with various lessons. Parents are supposed to be able to assign lessons everyday for the kids, but I couldn't figure out how to do that during our month trial.

Which brings me to my conclusion. While I would definitely recommend Time4Learning, I don't think it's the best fit for our family. The biggest reason is that I have four kids and, while the monthly cost is affordable for small families, for us, it quickly adds up. If Time4Learning could offer a monthly price for large families (more than two kids), we would be interested. As of now, I think the Keys will keep plodding along with library books and free Internet resources.

**This is a personal review by Yours Truly and as usual, my opinion is 100% my own. The content of this review was not written by Time4Learning, but the writer was compensated. **

revolutionary love

I have experienced revolutionary love. Love with no strings attached. Jesus Christ loves me and made a way for me to have a relationship with the One True God. God desires a relationship with you, too. If you have yet to experience this revolutionary love, please email me at jandjkeys@hotmail.com so I can share this amazing experience with you. Blessings, -Jess