I was feeling anything but grateful, and my unraveling began with a pink-tinged eye.
On Sunday, the day of Theo’s birthday party, I noticed that Conner’s eye looked a little red and watery. I was busy scattering silk leaves across the table, stacking cupcakes on a pumpkin-shaped stand, and doing the million other things a mom does the day of her baby’s first birthday party, so I didn’t have a lot of time to analyze it. Maybe he got elbowed in the eye while roughhousing with his brothers, I thought. It is allergy season, too.
The following day, his eye looked decidedly worse. After some deliberation, I decided to take him to the doctor. I wanted to make sure he would be OK to go to CC the next day, and I was also hoping to get some antibacterial eye drops so Conner’s eye would be cleared by Thursday, the day of our family photos. Conner’s pediatrician said it didn’t look like pink eye (the kind that is highly contagious and transmitted by touch), but it might be the first sign of a virus that was brewing. A fellow mom who understands the stress of family pictures, she gave me some antibacterial eye drops “just in case.”
When Conner woke up the morning of CC, his eye looked horrible. The drops hadn’t seemed to help at all, which meant it was probably a virus, but he didn’t have any other symptoms. His tummy felt fine, he wasn’t drippy, and he didn’t have a fever. I packed up the whole crew and took them to CC. I tried to assure the other parents that he had seen the doctor yesterday, and she hadn’t thought that it was the “scary” pink eye, but I thought everyone might be a little more comfortable if Conner went home after lunch instead of spending the afternoon with his buddies in the CC childcare as usual. Even though Conner had been happily running and climbing at the playground during lunch, Dan told me that he wilted as soon as he got into the van. When I came home later in the afternoon, poor Conner was in bed with a fever and what we call the “puke bucket” by his side.
I will spare you all the details, but Conner ended up with stomach bug symptoms and a throat that was so sore he could hardly swallow. Based on his symptoms, I was positive he had strep throat. Two negative strep tests later, I had to conclude that he probably had two different bugs at the same time–stomach and respiratory. Of course, he was still feeling under the weather for our family photos two days later. We had already had to reschedule our photos twice, so, dripping with guilt, I gave Conner a dose of Tylenol to perk him up and promised him a pumpkin shake if he did a good job with the photos. (He was such a trooper and totally earned that pumpkin shake! Too bad he vomited it up immediately.) Conner’s fever didn’t break until Saturday morning, and we were really getting worried about him in the meantime.
As this was going on, I noticed Logan’s nose was a little drippy, and I helped him wipe it a couple of times a day. It really wasn’t a big deal compared to what was going on with Conner, but I propped him up at night with two pillows and pushed the vitamin D anyway. A few days after Conner’s recovery, Logan told me that his ear was hurting. I made an appointment for Logan to see the doctor and discovered that he had an ear infection. It hadn’t been that long since his last ear infection, so they had to prescribe something stronger than amoxicillin. The pharmacy told me that they’d be able to fill his prescription in 5-10 minutes, so Logan and I decided to wait. It was OVER AN HOUR before they paged us to pick up his prescription. (I totally earned the right to use all caps here. Have you ever tried to entertain a three-year-old boy with an ear infection in a pharmacy for an hour?)
The next morning, I noticed that Theo’s nose was now dripping. Again, it wasn’t a terrible cold. He could nurse easily, but I did have to wipe his nose occasionally. And then, the morning of his one-year-old photos, Theo started showing the tell-tale signs: mainly, he whined if I set him down (ever) and woke up more frequently in the night. Even though the nurse had told me it probably wasn’t an ear infection, I scheduled another appointment and discovered that Theo had a bilateral (double) infection, his right ear being the worst by far. Like his older brother, it hadn’t been two months since his last ear infection, so he was also prescribed a stronger antibiotic. Unlike his brother, however, Theo was not able to tolerate it nearly as well. His days and nights were filled with almost-constant diarrhea diapers, his little bottom was red and raw, and I could tell he was just miserable and in pain. One night, he woke up screaming as though someone was tormenting him with a hot poker, and we could do nothing to console him. I called the on-call nurse, and we were thisclose to bringing him into the Emergency Room when he finally calmed down, and I could nurse him back to sleep.
Oh, and now that I mention the Emergency Room, I made my own trip there during this time. I have a condition called eosinophilic esophagitis. Basically, an unknown allergy triggers my esophagus to narrow, and food occasionally gets stuck in my esophagus. It doesn’t block my windpipe, so I can breathe and talk, but I can’t swallow when this happens–not even my own spit. So. I was frazzled by all the sick kids and our dinner of Mongolian Beef was on the table later than usual. I was hungry, so I ate a quickly, and a chunk of beef got caught in my esophagus. It would not. go. down. (90% of the time it eventually goes down on its own, but I did have to have my esophagus scoped when Conner was a baby because a piece of chicken got stuck and refused to go down.) My mother-in-law came to stay with the boys, and Dan drove me to the hospital. I talked to a parade of nurses and doctors (all the while spitting into my red plastic spit cup) trying not to freak out. As we were waiting for the surgeon and his team to arrive, the anesthesiologist was briefing me on the possible side effects of having to put me under for the operation. As he was going into the particularly scary ones (you know, like death), I clapped a hand to my chest as I felt a huge pain rip through it. The beef had finally gone down. Praise God!!!
Between all these difficult days and late, interrupted nights, I was a physical and emotional mess. I pulled my hair into yet another greasy ponytail. My eyes stung from fatigue. My hands were raw from the frequent washing that didn’t really help stop the spread of germs because now I was feeling a cold coming on. (Did I mention that Shane got it too? Yup, it got passed around to all four of the boys.) When I tried to vent to my husband, he thought that I was somehow complaining about him and became defensive. Bad-tempered thoughts bounced around my head like ping-pong balls:
If this condition is so rare, what are the odds that I would get it? Why does this have to happen to me?
He doesn’t have to deal with sick kids all day. If he’s not feeling well, he doesn’t have to flip grilled cheese sandwiches and force-feed Tylenol.
I used to have time to run and do yoga. I don’t do anything for myself anymore.
These kids don’t appreciate anything I do for them.
He doesn’t get me. I have no one to talk to.
As I reflect on the kind of thoughts that were filling my head, I realize now that all of them were 100% false. However, when you’re in the thick of it, the lies can be quite convincing. That’s why it’s so important to rely on the truth, God’s Word, which reminds us to be thankful in all circumstances, not just when things are going well. There is always, always something to be grateful for, and I, for one, am ready for a major attitude adjustment.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Our church is encouraging its members to give thanks and praise to God by posting something we’re thankful for each day in November on social media, and I thought this would be a great way to change those grumbling ping-pong balls in my head to grateful ones. As you now know, life has been kicking me in the pants lately (I’m just giving you the highlight reel!), so I’m going to have to play a bit of catch up.
I am thankful for the Bible, which protects us from the enemy’s lies and reminds us to give thanks in all circumstances. We do not face hardships on earth because we have a penance to pay but, with God’s help, we can choose to look at it as a reminder that this earth is not our true or eternal home. We can look forward to the day in which we will join our Heavenly Father in a place where there is no sin, pain, or sickness.
I am thankful for the freedom to educate our children in the way that best fits our family. While homeschooling is a great fit for my two oldest boys, Logan is having a blast at preschool! His teacher is wonderful, and I love how she always points the children toward Jesus. It will be fun when Logan comes home with us full-time in first grade, but we’re loving this choice for now!
I am thankful for friends. We had some friends over for a game night recently (kids included!), and we all had so much fun! I remember there was a time in which Dan and I were very lonely. We were newly married and had returned to our hometown to find that most of our friends had moved away or didn’t have much in common with us anymore. As time has passed, we’ve found our “tribe,” and we’re so, so grateful. We’re thankful for our own adult friends and that our children have great little buddies from likeminded families.
I’m thankful for my the adorable moments that make raising a three-year-old bearable! This past weekend, Logan received an early Christmas gift in the form of his new “big-boy bed!” (His toes were reaching the end of his toddler bed.) I got the bed all made up for him, and he was delighted to see all of the animals on his comforter. “Oh, they’re so CUH-YUTE!” he exclaimed, and then he proceeded to give the animals kisses. (He especially liked the raccoon and the bear.) It’s moments like these that keep me from losing it when he says things like, “Mama, I’m so, so, SO sorry I flushed Theo’s green ball down the toilet. I did that a long, long time ago.” (Yesterday.)
I am thankful that for our parents. I could write a novel about all the different ways our parents help us. They provide us with nourishment, childcare, chauffeur service, emotional support (there’s nothing like a chat-sesh with my mom when I’ve had a particularly challenging day), and their physical support. This past Sunday was Grandparent’s Day at Sunday School, and all four of the boys’ grandparents were able to come and hang out with them at class, and they never miss a choir concert or piano recital. We are all so blessed to have these wonderful people so present in our lives!
I am thankful for my new book club, Mom’s Bookshelf! Time will tell whether or not it was a good idea for me to make yet another commitment, BUT I love books and chatting with like-minded homeschooling mamas, so I just had to try it. I really enjoyed making three new friends and digging Daisy Goodwin’s novel Victoria. I highly recommend it, by the way, as well as the PBS presentation by the same name.
I am thankful for our Classical Conversations community. The moms in our community inspire and challenge me, and we’re all united in our missing to “know God and make HIm known.” My children are blessed with fantastic tutors and are surrounded by good friends. Our community balances diligent learning with lots of fun, and we are so thankful to be a part of it.
I am thankful for coffee. Have you seen the name of this blog? ‘Nuff said. OK, not really. What would we mommies do without our coffee? While I usually stick with decaf + a splash of half-and-half + a scoop of collagen, I recently tried a Chai Tea Latte from Gloria Jean’s. I now understand what all the fuss is about! Thank you, God, for coffee. Amen.
So now it’s your turn. What are your grateful for? Stay tuned for more 30 Days of Thanksgiving posts. Hopefully, I won’t have to play catch-up again, but we all know that’s a very likely possibility. 🙂