The Peacemaking Experiment in my Marriage

My beloved Dalton turns 29 at the end of March and I pondered the gifts I could give him. Since we’re saving almost every penny possible to afford our roof repair scheduled this May, I felt like there wasn’t a lot of money to splurge on something great or exciting.

(I’ll probably do a little grocery haul of his favorite kombucha and mochi ice creams since food is one of his love languages. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Then it hit me … why don’t I try a whole month of being nice?

I know, I know. Most of you sweet people probably imagine me as a sweet, timid, gentle woman and in many ways you’re right.

But I am also sensitive and defensive. Especially with my dear husband. He is logic-first and straightforward. I am feelings-based and gentle speaking. He staunchly believes there is always room for improvement in all areas of life; I (a perfectionist myself) also believe there is always room for comfort and grace.

As Louisa May Alcott wrote about Jo, โ€œA quick temper, sharp tongue, and restless spirit were always getting her into scrapes, and her life was a series of ups and downs, which were both comic and pathetic.โ€

I really couldn’t describe myself any better. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, I decided that for everyday of the month I would choose to be what I always wanted to be — a peacemaker, a helpmeet, a courteous and gracious friend.

And let me tell you, just choosing to behave better has made everything better.

I feel better because I already know that today, I am going to be my husband’s best friend. Naturally, I’m setting aside time for him first instead of giving him the last bit of myself at the end of the day when I’m exhausted and irritable.

I feel happier because I’ve already chosen to believe the best, see the best, and speak the best into his life.

I’m choosing to stop the (small) habit of nagging I had started to develop. I’m working on not being easily offended and to enjoy his playful teasing. I’m making effort to be more patient with his faults and to pray for him more often. And I’m taking the time to give him preferential treatment and the best of my time and energy.

Sad to say, it’s like I’m a newly wed all over again and all the frustrations, hurt feelings, exhaustion, and hardships that made me more prone to irritability are more easily put in their place. I don’t need to be a cranky wife. I don’t have to an irritable, defensive grouch.

I’m happier because I’m choosing to live the way I should and God always blesses us when we choose to follow His ways over our own feelings.

The plus side is that my husband already noticed. The first time I offered to rub his feet instead of waiting for him to ask, he gave me a huge smile and said, “wow, that’s nice!” He acted like a happy little king and ever since then we’ve had more fun in the last week than we had in a long while.

I know that’s sad to say but it’s the truth — marriage is wonderful but it can also be hard. We’ve been through a lot in our nearly 7 years of marriage; we’ve experienced great hardship and stress. We don’t get to have dates anymore or go on trips. Everything fun has sort of been on the backburner.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t still have a blast while we wade through this season of life, now does it?

I know it sounds so simple, almost idiotic. Be nice to my husband? That’s so obvious. Of course it is but sometimes you just need to start fresh.

I promise the reward of having my husband laugh more often, be more attentive and helpful, patient and less critical has been worth the effort. It’s like I can see him relaxing as he realizes that he’s not going to come home to a distressed, irritated, easily offended wife.

We’re both reaping the rewards of his birthday gift. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I think I’ll keep the challenge going even after his birthday.

Our Preschool, Homeschool Routine

Uriah and I are a few weeks into our formal preschool routine and we are really loving our new setup. Since I started sharing our routine I’ve gotten several questions — I love that so many in my Instagram community of friends are at the same season of motherhood too!

I thought I would share the basics of our “curriculum” and, in future post, I’ll share how I go about planning for the week.

First, I need to be authentic with you and tell you that, until recently, the idea of schooling Uriah has been a source of overwhelm and anxiety which led to my feeling depressed and guilty as I kept putting it off.

We spent a lot of time doing great things: reading, being outside, talking and singing together.

But we were missing out on purposeful, intentional learning time. Our days were (sometimes still are!) long and lagging. We needed intentional structure. A little more formal in my Charlotte Mason, wild and free approach.

I started googling preschool curriculums …

And felt burdened by the idea of paying oodles of money when we’re working hard to save for upcoming roof repair. Dalton is such a diligent provider and I did not want to take advantage. I also wanted something that did not require tons of printing.

Eventually, we’ll be at a stage where I’m more than happy to spend money on a pricey curriculum but it seemed unnecessary for a four year old.

I found the perfect solution …

… when I found Brightly Beaming Resources website and the Letter of the Week Curriculum! Katrina Lybbert created the curriculum and I was immediately in love with its simplicity. Please check her website because Katrina did an excellent job laying out different plans of her curriculum based on your childs age and readyness! It’s an older website but the ideas are excellent for someone starting out!

Here’s the plan …

The curriculum is 26 weeks long (for each letter of the English alphabet). For the first 26 weeks, I focus on the recognition of the letters. During the next 26 weeks, I’ll reintroduce the letters but focus on the phonics aspect.

Each week, I introduce our theme (Monday), the letter (Tuesday), a shape/color (Wednesday), and a number (Thursday). I use Friday-Sunday to read and play games related to our week’s lessons. I’ve taken Katrina’s amazing plan and I alter it according to what Uriah already knows, what holidays are coming up, and how the weather is.

Here’s how simple our routine is …

This week our theme is birds and this is a brief overview of our daily lessons which I usually plan to last about 30-60 minutes. (you can adjust based on your child’s readyness!)

Monday: I introduce our topic of birds! We read a book about birds and I talk about some key words that will come up through the week (nest, build, eggs), we look at pictures of birds and put them on the focus board, find birds on his AAC device, and then we made birds out of playdough and feathers.

Tuesday: We talk about the letter D this week! I will start by putting up a picture of the letter D on our focus board and looking at the magnetic D. We look at objects that I gathered from around the house which start with the letter D (dog, dish, duck, draw), and we read a book about the letter D and another about ducks. Our craft will be making a duck out of the letter D.

Wednesday: Here I introduce the oval shape. I put a picture of an oval on the focus board. We read a book about ovals. We draw ovals and play matching games with felt and flash cards I’ve prepared ahead of time. Our craft/sensory project will be playing with foam and wooden eggs (which are oval shaped) and transferring them from bowl to bowl with a pair of tongs.

Thursday: We talk about the number three! I’ve found the concept of counting tricky to talk about so we keep it simple! We look at a flashcard of three and place it on the focus board. We read a book about counting. W practice putting our fingers up and counting them. I place small objects in a jar (marbles, dice, Cadbury eggs) and Uriah pulls them out, one by one, and we count them.

Friday-Saturday: We play games and read books that are related to all the topic we covered! Some ideas I have for this week will be refilling the bird feeder, playing in a sensory bin full of bird seed with a tiny shovel and scoop, lacing a string through a birds nest picture I made, etc.

To make things easier …

I plan a week ahead and write everything down on my weekly school planner — if I’m not intentional and prepared I tend to wing-it and we both end up frustrated and not learning as much as I hoped.

And I made something for you!

This is the planner I made for our weekly school lessons. It’s simple and cute – just the way I prefer things! To download and print your own follow this link for the black and white version. Or, this link for the colorful one!

Please let me know if you use them and how well they work for you!

I hope you know I’m cheering for you!

If you feel overwhelmed or anxious about schooling your little one I wish I could give you a hug and convince you that the best way to overcome is to just get started! God made you your little one’s mama — He will equip you to do well!

Follow me on Instagram where I share weekly stories about our school prep, ideas, and real life glimpses into the process! Or, comment below and we can connect!

Love and blessings!

Frannie

2020: Being Purposeful this Year

Delicious dinner smells greeted the tired, work-worn husband as he entered the front door; it was good to be home. Soon, the little family gathered around the set table and spoke blessings to each other and thanks to the Lord for the good meal. The wife was neat and cheerful and the light of the house — home was her artwork and because of her attention and care it was everyone’s sanctuary.

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

Well, I’m the first to say this isn’t my reality. I’m hear to confess something to you wonderful readers … I cut corners. Somewhere along my route of wife to mother I stopped treating my role as artwork and it’s become more about my survival.

And that’s okay. Between a difficult pregnancy, bedrest, NICU and PICU experiences, being away from my house for 9 months (and not needing to cook one meal during that time), tending to and toting around medical equipment, and the effects of postpartum I’ve needed to cut corners.

And mama, you will too. It’s okay to accept that we don’t always bounce back after giving birth; becoming a mother changes us and all change takes time.

For me, almost 3 years after having Uriah, I feel that I’m just now coming out of the exhausted, overwhelmed season that left me pummeled.

One way that motherhood changed me is that it’s changed the way I do life.

I think we all have a certain amount of space, and quite honestly, care to give in a day. Before having Uriah, I had lots of creative space to partial out to my areas of responsibility — cooking, cleaning, keeping home, serving others, loving my husband all got a fair share of my brainwaves.

After pregnancy all my creative space, brainwaves, and care became focused on two areas: Uriah (his thriving and medical needs) and my survival.

In an effort to keep my sanity during these last three years I’ve focused so much on the essentials … ventilators, trach plugs, medical supplies, and doctor appointments. Since I have to be walking in order to do those things I’ve also been focusing on myself — what’s easiest to help me keep going in as a mother. (Cookies, cakes, coffee, Target … ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Everything else suffered. Laundry piled up, blog posts stopped being written, showers happened less, and dinners were more like leftovers or take out.

This year, 2020, I proclaim to be my year of purposefulness. This is the year I stop eating all the cookies and take better care of my body (after all, I’m turning 30 this month). This is the year I stop binging on Gilmore Girls and Friends (could I be any more pathetic?). ๐Ÿ˜‰ This year, I am choosing to not do all the things but to practice the art of caring.

I want to craft, love, pray, read, mother and wife more deeply. This is the year I try to crawl out of the hole of survival and into the light of living.

What’s your 2020 goal?

Making Sense of our Medically-Complex Adventure

Every once in a while I get to see the why’s behind our story. Last week, Uriah had a difficult 4 days following an intense and lengthy bronchoscopy. What was supposed to be same-day surgery became a 3 day PICU admission, a manual bagging, low SATS, three trach plugs, steroids for inflammation, and exhaustive hours spent watching my amazing active boy sleep restlessly and his SATS dance higher than I like.

He’s still recovering from his intense procedure but he is recovering and that is a blessing.

But, as a parent watching her child struggle, there are moments when I wonder why. Why us? Why does Uriah have to struggle? Why the difficulties? Why, why, why?

Tonight, as I cried my little cry, I looked at the stars and saw my favorite constellation … Orion. Long ago, when I was a teen and life felt so big, God so mysterious, and my purpose meaningless I made a pact that whenever I saw Orion I would choose to remember that the same God Who created those stars and has kept them in their place for centuries is the same God Who made and loves me.

And some 10 + years later those same stars greeted me on a night when I wondered why. Why does my son have to work so hard for everything? Why does a simple procedure have to become a threatening, code blue situation? How in the world do normal families function … what is it like to not have to worry about ventilator heaters, trach plugs, suctioning, oxygen SATS, tube feeds, and milestones? Why, why, why?

But then I remembered Uriah’s strength. I remembered his smiles, the silly toothy grins he gives us. My mind wandered over his latest milestone accomplishments — tummy crawling, scooting, saying Momma and Dadda, pursing his lips to whistle, a Swallow Study that showed no primary aspiration, sitting with almost no assistance. These are amazing things for a little boy like Uriah; he is literally a crawling, talking, smiling, scooting, happy miracle and every day, every accomplishment, makes those hard times worthwhile.

Then, there are the random emails I get from young mothers going through PPROM, miscarriages, and extreme fear in their pregnancies. These are the emails thanking me for reminding their authors that God is good, caring, and there in their troubles. These are the emails that make sense of my misdiagnosed miscarriage and all the other horrible aspects of my pregnancy.

And after a few moments reflecting on all this I am reminded, once again, that all life makes sense if I am thankful. And I have SO much to be glad for! For an amazing son who loves me, loves his Daddy, and loves life. For a husband who loves his family with everything in him. For milestones that doctors said would never come. For a home to keep and make memories in.

Though I still wish I could snap my fingers and help Uriah be completely healthy and free from support I am so thankful for where we are at. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t change a thingย  because this life we are living is worth every hardship. I know those sentences conflict with each other but it is true … our life would never be this special, this unique, and this bonding if I could change it.

How do you make sense of the hard things in your life? Are there any special ways God reveals Himself in the mess?

 

Frannie

A Happy Day // Hospital Update

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We have a wonderful, wonderful update.

This Thanksgiving we spent the day transferring Uriah to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. It was a busy day but a decision we are so glad we made. Uriah was 4 days old when he took his first big ambulance ride!

We transferred when our Neurosurgeon team gave a very elusive, negative prognosis and treatment plan. Basically, they felt there was too little brain tissue to bother inserting a shunt (and therefore relieving the pressure in his head). They felt the risks and common difficulties of a shunt were too high and would only recommend it if Uriah’s head got too large and difficult for us to care for. They said his brain was so underdeveloped that he was blind and most likely deaf and that he would have very little motor control.

Needless to say, we needed a second opinion. I have had months and weeks to research, read, and connect with families with similar diagnoses’ and I knew how beneficial a shunt could be to Uriah. I also knew that parents of babies with these sort of brain anomalies are often told that their children would would have the poorest quality of life with enormous difficulties.

I thank the Lord for my amazing husband! Within moments of the doctors leaving, Dalton jumped into action, planning how to send off MRI’s, and asking me who I knew we could connect with. By the end of the night we knew we had to transfer to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

This afternoon part of the Neurosurgeon team met with us to discuss Uriah’s care.

And guess what?! After reviewing Uriah’s scans and examining him they say he does not have Holoprosensephaly (where the front part of the brain did not divide). They do not know why the last hospital gave him that diagnosis.They believe that his brain did in fact divide properly but that his severe case of Hydrocephalus compressed it.

They want to insert a shunt and believe his brain is very likely to “fluff up” or “sponge out” once the pressure has been relieved! And while his brain may never be fully formed like yours or mine and developmental delays and special needs are likely they see no reason for him to be blind.

I cannot tell you what this means to us. To leave behind a hospital that encouraged us to do nothing but manage the symptoms of Uriah’s pressure and enter one that believed a shunt would be very beneficial to him is absolutely … I have no words. (All I want to do is cry tears of happiness but that hurts my incision so I just sit in awe and thanksgiving and ponder all the possibilities our Uriah Boy has). ๐Ÿ™‚

When we left the last hospital Dalton and I knew that it was a possibility to be given the same treatment plan in St. Louis. And we knew that if Uriah was meant to be blind, deaf, and benefit more from a lack of treatment than we would love him just as strongly. But we just *had* to know if the doctors were right. We just had to have a second opinion. ***We wanted his brain to be given a chance to “fluff out” and recover from the damage the blockage created.*** We wanted him to be given a chance.

My new mommy-heart is so full. There is no greater gift than being given a chance, both spiritually and physically, and we thank God for giving us both. I am thankful we were given the time to prepare, research, and connect with families with similar stories so we would know how to respond (all that bed rest proved useful in more ways than one!). I am thankful for a husband who is bold enough to demand second opinions and question professionals (I’m not so much) ๐Ÿ˜‰ . I am thankful that Children’s accepted Uriah’s case and gave him the medical attention and examination he needed. I am thankful for a medical team who personally meets with us. And I thank the LORD for the better diagnosis. I was prepared to love a little boy with two life-altering diagnosis … to be told he has only one (and the relatively more minor one at that!) is something I never thought I’d hear. I honestly can’t believe it.

Thank you all for your prayers. We’re currently holed away in a hotel room and I am enjoying being able to finally put my swollen feet up and drink coffee in peace. We’ll be right back to Uriah’s bed tomorrow morning but for the moment we rest and smile little happy smiles to ourselves over the good news. We love our son so much, no matter what his diagnosis and abilities, but this news is truly refreshing.

As far as upcoming surgeries, Uriah’s TE Fistula (esophagus/trachea) surgery is being tentatively planned for this Monday (it was rescheduled when we changed hospitals) and then his shunt surgery will follow in the coming weeks after he has rested and recovered from the first.

We still have a long road ahead of us but this makes the difficulties so much easier to wade through.ย Is there anything better than a chance?

Love and blessings,

Frannie