Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Praise You in This Storm

Keziah finally has her first tooth! She's been working on them forever and finally yesterday I felt a sharp little razor coming out of her gums. When Micah got his first tooth, Erik and I did the "spoon test" - putting a metal spoon in his mouth to see if we could hear the unmistakable "clink". Yesterday morning I did the spoon test with Keziah and, CLINK - she passed with flying colours! I won't even attempt to take a picture of the tooth at this point, but here's Keziah sporting her latest scrunchy smile face which you will see several times over in this post...

She has taken her first crawling "steps" but still doesn't seem to realize that this could be a great mode of transport. In the last couple of days she's figured out how to push herself up to a sitting position from lying down. The other morning I was quite surprised to find her sitting happily in her crib. So, I know this is a good step towards crawling. I'm going to predict that by next week she will be on the move...

I'm glad to announce that Micah is doing much better in all aspects since I last posted. He hasn't had any full-on accidents in the last several days, but still has one or two partial accidents per day where he is wet enough to need a change of clothes. He is once again starting to tell me when he needs to go pee which is a major improvement in itself. M&M's and stickers are great incentive :) Sleeping is going quite well too. Bedtimes are sometimes a challenge still (last night it took over an hour before he finally dozed off...) But for the most part he has been doing really well staying in his bed and falling asleep without us sitting in his room or singing him to sleep. That's encouraging. And the separation anxiety has significantly lessened this week. He has been spending time upstairs with Grandma every day. A few days ago he still insisted that I come up with him, but in the last couple of days he's been more than willing to go up on his own. Praise the Lord for that too!
Thanks to those who have been praying for Micah in this way - especially to little Hailey who prays faithfully for Micah every single night!!

A little update on Doug, Elissa & Caleb - The little guy is gaining weight and filling out! He wants to eat all the time! Just like his Daddy, I guess... :) Elissa is still moving slowly, but is doing more and more with her left arm every time I see her. She hopes to have her jaw unwired in the next week or two and has decided that she doesn't want a second surgery. Their home life is very busy and demanding with all the care that Caleb and Elissa still need. And Elissa's days are filled with all sorts of different doctor and physio appointments. Thankfully, Doug has been granted an extention on his leave from work and will be home for at least another month.

We have been spending lots of time as a Toews family in these weeks - sharing suppers, watching videos of Nathan, telling stories... I can't say that things are getting easier, but life is moving forward and our new reality is feeling more "real" with each passing day. For me, some days feel OK and other days are really sad. And I think Erik would agree that it comes in waves like that for him too. Last night Rosanna was here and we watched a Nooma video together about grief. Rob Bell shared about getting a phone call with the news that a close friend had been killed in a car accident. He talked about how he replays that moment in his head over and over - the exact words of the caller, where he was sitting, how the phone felt in his hand. I can relate to that. I don't know why I replay that first moment in my mind all the time. It's like I'm afraid of forgetting the shock and sadness of that moment; as if I need to remind myself of the hugeness of what happened.
In the video Rob also talked about how we experience grief and that whatever we're feeling right now is OK. I have this certain expectation of what grief looks like, and it feels strange to not be in that space all the time. I don't cry very easily and it feels wrong to be so dry-eyed. Instead I just have a heaviness in my heart and an ache in my gut and this thickness in the back of my throat... The way we deal with our grief depends on so many things: the individual relationships we had with Nathan, our personalities, and the realities of life that we have to deal with now - which, for me, means two demanding children.

This week I have been mostly saddened when I watch my kids. When I see Keziah making new milestones and Micah growing older by the day, I realize how much Nate will miss out on them growing up. He loved my kids and he was always excited about each new part of their growth and progress. And every day is one more day since Micah knew his Uncle Nathan and I continue to pray that he will remember.

This morning when Erik's alarm went off there was a Casting Crowns song playing on the radio. I've heard the song a couple dozen times but the words have never been so applicable before...

I was sure by now that You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen" and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as your mercy falls I raise my hand and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I'll praise you in this storm and I will lift my hands
For You are who You are no matter where I am
Every tear I've cried You hold in your hand
You never left my side and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry, You raised me up again
My strength is almost gone, how can I carry on
If I can't find You?

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

I have struggled with God's control in all of this. I know God is in the business of answering prayers, of caring about even small things and working them out for us - and yet in this one BIG thing that REALLY mattered, he seemed absent. We believe in our heart of hearts that God is good even though his ways are not our ways, but his ways seem even more confusing to us than they've ever been before. But still we trust that God is walking with us.

When I looked at the CD booklet for Casting Crowns this morning, I noticed that they had written a little introduction to the song - about the mother of a little girl who was dying. The last couple of sentences stuck out to me:
"Sometimes God calms our storms. Sometimes he chooses to ride them with us."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Taking its toll

Grief is affecting all of us... Micah included. We have gone through some serious regression in several areas; namely potty training, sleeping & separation anxiety.

Poor sleeping and "clingy-ness" have always been issues with Micah, but the potty-training had been SO easy! I never put a pull-up on him for naps and he was even dry most nights. He always told me when he had to pee and accidents were very rare. Now I feel like we're starting at square one and the progress just isn't happening as quickly. It's been hard not to be frustrated since I know that he knows better. But, we are back to using stickers and chocolate chips and throwing little parties when he can pee in the potty and not in his underwear. And if I forget to remind him he will usually just pee his pants. Today we went to playgroup and when I buckled him into the car he was soaking wet. I don't think he even cared. I know that potty-training can be an ongoing process like this for lots of kids. But when he was doing perfectly for so many weeks already it's very hard to go back to this.

And I have never seen Micah as clingy to me as he has been this last month. Even Grandma, who in the past has sometimes been more desirable company than even Mom or Dad, just doesn't seem to cut it for him lately. This is hard, because he is not as willing to go upstairs and play with her for an hour here or there. In a public setting (i.e. playgroup today) he will not let me out of his sight and practically hangs on me the whole time. I don't know what I can do to regain his trust. I guess time will be the biggest factor - just reassuring him over and over that I am here and if I do leave that I will come back. It saddens me to see him so afraid and so upset. I've resolved to always tell him if I do go somewhere because I don't think sneaking around will get us anywhere in terms of gaining trust. But, I would LOVE to take people up on the many babysitting offers I've received, but right now it's just not worth it. I hope that we can make a turn-around in this area soon...

And sleeping - well, sleeping has always been a challenge with Micah. It hasn't worsened too much in the last month other than that we just let him stay up late every night since it wasn't worth it to fight with him when there was so much other stuff going on. So, now we are trying to re-introduce a bedtime that is earlier than 9 pm and that hasn't been easy.

Anyway, reading Andrea's blog today reminded me today that God really does care about these "Mommy" worries and I don't know why I forget that. So, I need to pray about these things and not let them stress me out!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

9 Months

I haven't been very faithful in keeping up with Keziah's monthly updates, but 9 months seemed like a significant milestone.

Keziah is getting into everything these days. I call her "Miss Grabby-Hands" since she will reach for anything within her grasp and pull with all her might. We were at The White Spot on the weekend and the unknowing waitress placed a full cup of ice water on the table in front of her. Keziah reached for it and pulled the entire glass onto her lap. The look on her face was priceless - utter shock and silence followed by a loud and insistent wail. We worked pretty quick to get her out of those wet clothes and into some dry ones. Thankfully the people around us just chuckled and thought it was cute :)

Keziah seems bored with her baby toys these days and is most interested in whatever toys Micah is playing with. And if Micah ever takes any toy away from her she freaks out. So, here come the days of sibling rivalry already... I suppose once she's crawling Micah will have to really watch out! She would also love to get her hands on Micah's snacks. Her baby version of food no longer seems as desirable. This last week she has developed a love for cheerios and spaghetti noodles - still "chewed" with no teeth, I might add...

I was pleased last week when I found some great baby food recipes in a recent Parents magazine. To name a few: broccoli with garlic & olive oil, peas with yogurt & curry powder and sweet potatos spiced up like pumpkin pie. Keziah's been a big fan of these "souped-up" veggies - and it sure beats trying to get her to eat plain broccoli!

Here she is last night at the piano with Auntie Rosanna.

Getting ready for bed - doesn't every baby love being naked? She looks so old to me in this picture. I'm starting to see more little girl-ness in her.

Still not quite crawling but every day she gets a little bit closer. As this collage testifies, she is definitely getting adept at maneuvering around...

That last picture is how these moments usually end - in sheer frustration. Hopefully once she figures this crawling thing out she'll be a happier baby...

And here she is watching Daddy & Micah through the window.

We love you baby girl...

Monday, August 20, 2007

A little humour - courtesy of Micah

Here are a couple of videos of Micah to make you smile:

Erik and Micah invented a new version of soccer last night. I think it could really take off...

This was Micah at 10:45 this morning. Last night's 8 hour sleep just wasn't enough for him, I guess.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

End of another week

It's Saturday morning and Erik is out with Micah running some errands and Keziah is enjoying her first cheerios in the highchair beside me. She is devouring them!

I liked what I had done with the pictures of Micah the other day so I decided to bring both kids back to the same place to try to get a good updated picture for one of my bigger frames. Getting a good shot of both of them was impossible; Keziah was so busy trying to grab the camera and Micah was refusing to sit still since I had promised him some blackberries. But I still managed to snap a few good ones in the grass. I made the colours more vibrant by using the saturation effect on Picasa2

Keziah seems to be finally making some milestones. No crawling yet, but she’s close. Here she is in her almost crawling position:

She is also finally interested in standing (her legs were always like jelly when I tried before) and she has finally discovered the joys of jumping in her exersaucer.

And yes, I noticed that both videos end with her crying… That’s our girl! I've been seeing more and more of Erik in her personality these last weeks. Not that Erik's a whiner :) But Keziah has an intensity about her that reminds me of him. And she's stingy with her smiles - which is apparently how Erik was as a baby. And he still takes life pretty seriously... So far, both kids seem to have personality traits of their dad. Maybe our next baby will have my laid-back personality???

I'm not sure what was up with Micah in that last video. He’s been doing anything to get attention lately. I recognize that it’s a result of him not getting enough attention these last weeks. Erik and I feel some days that we are always on his case about stuff and I don’t like that. I feel the need to have firm boundaries for him, but it’s hard always saying “Micah, don’t do that!” or “Leave your sister alone!” We need to be intentional in catching him in good behaviour so we can reinforce it. And we definitely need to have more quality Micah-time.

This week went by fast and Erik's got 5 days of a new job under his belt now. Life may be getting into routine for us again but each day is clouded with sadness. Some days more than others. The other day I spent an hour googling Nathan's name and information about the accident as if there would be some comfort in knowing more than I already know. Or maybe I just wanted to sit in the sadness of it all for awhile. I came across some blogs I hadn't seen before and a few other articles, etc. It's strange to read what other people are writing about everything. As I read it I'm overcome with how sad it really is. Knowing that this tragedy is "our" tragedy is sometimes a little unreal and reading about it makes it sink in all over again...

Doug & Elissa had some discouraging news yesterday. She went to have her jaw checked by an oral surgeon here in Abbotsford. He was very unimpressed with the wiring job done by the Calgary doctor and recommended that they re-do the surgery or else there might be permanent loss of feeling on one side of Elissa's jaw. Of all of Elissa's injuries I think the wired jaw has been the most frustrating and she has been counting down the weeks and days to when she will get the wires off. Now to think that it could be mid-October before it's all over feels like another big blow. They have the option of just leaving it be and hoping for the best but the doctor didn't seem too optimistic. We can always pray for a miracle right? God is definitely in the business of defying medical logic. Please pray for them as they make this decision and let's pray that another surgery wouldn't be necessary.

Yesterday marked week 4 since the accident. Four weeks that have felt both long and short. Rosanna said last night that she hates how time has elapsed since then. Every day takes us further from when Nathan was alive and with us. And every day makes us afraid that we'll start to forget him or learn to live life without him. It's feels as though we can't stand to live in the pain and grief but going on without Nathan is even scarier. Yet, none of us have a choice.

Our good friends Craig & Jen generously mailed us some great books which came yesterday. Last night I started reading “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. I’m barely through the first chapter and I can’t wait to read more. The introduction really whet my appetite and as someone who’s grieving, I know it will bring a lot of comfort to learn more about our heavenly home where Nathan is already dwelling. I appreciated the author’s humility as he introduced his book. He was aware that many of his thoughts on heaven would seem to contradict what we, as Christians, have always thought to be true. But he has done his research and believes the scriptures have a lot more to say about Heaven than we might think. So, I’m excited to read on.

We are so consumed with the here and now that we forget that the present is just a small span of time in the matter of eternity. Not only that, but the tangible things in the present are so very temporary and intangible compared with the things of heaven. With that thought in mind, I've had this scripture running through my head this morning which I will leave you with:

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
~ 2 Corinthians 4:18

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What is "normal" anyway?

Some more pictures of the teeny-tiny bundle of Caleb-ness...

This soother is actually really tiny :)

Auntie Jamie

Uncle Erik

We've taken some time to do some little dates with Micah this week. On Sunday afternoon Erik and I left Keziah at home while we went for a walk to find a good vantage point to watch the Snowbirds perform (it was the Abby Air Show this past weekend). Would you guess that the best view we found was at the Petro Canada on Old Yale & Townline!

Today Micah and I left Keziah with Grandma and we went on the first blackberry hunt of the summer. We had quite a bit of success and took a few pictures along the way.

The infamous "cheese" face:

Micah's face reminds me of an olympic swimmer in this picture...

Having fun with colour...

It's so hard to get kids to stand still for a good picture!

Life in our little household has a "normal" feeling this week since Erik has gone back to work. He finished his second day at his new job and says he really likes it even though it's very different than what he was doing. It's a much slower pace than before and Erik admits he'll miss being "in charge". But I think God had the perfect timing in providing something that was low-stress for Erik right now.

I admit it feels wrong to be doing normal things. And it feels even more wrong that I'm so glad to be doing normal things. I know for the sake of my kids (and therefore my sanity), that routine and normalcy is a positive and necessary thing. But, it still feels weird. It seems wrong that I can go grocery-shopping or to the park just like I did 4 weeks ago. Life has changed forever for our family, but yet is has to go on somehow. I don't think any of us are sure exactly how that's supposed to work...

Erik and I have been reflecting a lot on death and heaven. A couple of months ago I read the book Edge of Eternity by Randy Alcorn and was so moved by it that I told Erik he needed to read it, even though he's not a reader at all. But Erik started it and now, after Nathan's death, is even more motivated to finish it. Randy Alcorn has written several books and heaven is a consistent theme (and something he has obviously researched a lot). The perspective in this book was so amazing that I felt like I couldn't live life the same after reading it. I would definitely recommend it.

That's all for today. It's 9 pm and the house is finally quiet. It feels like we are starting at square one with some of Micah's sleeping issues, but I'll save that saga for another post...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Final Homecoming

Caleb was released from the hospital today! We went over to Doug & Elissa's this afternoon to enjoy the little five and half(ish) pound bundle.

Micah saw "Baby Ca-yib" for the first time in person.

Auntie Rosanna got to feed Caleb his supper bottle.

He downed his bottle and beat Keziah who dawdled over hers :)

Daddy Doug is already learning to multi-task...

Some much-deserved Mommy/Caleb time.

The little family.

And since I'm already blogging, I figured I'd give an update on our own little family since it's been awhile...

Keziah is getting close to crawling I think. She leans forward on her hands and folds her legs behind her. It seems like she's about to take off, but it could be a little while yet. I'm looking forward to her mobility because I'm hoping she may be more content once she can get around. She is still a champion sleeper but is a handful during the day - and still NO teeth to show for it!

Micah regressed in his sleeping and potty-training in the last weeks but seems to be getting back on track now. He has also backtracked in the whining department. And separation anxiety seems to be at an all-time high. Anytime we get ready to leave the house he throws a fit and cries, "Don't go anywhere!" He does this even if we're all going somewhere together. He's already made several scenes in the driveway as we're headed out to the car. But, he's also bringing us so much joy each day. The way he's talking now sounds so grown up. Just the tone of voice he uses sometimes is hilarious. He comes up with little witty comments to cheer up the family, like "I'm a big tall man!" Unfortunately, we relied quite heavily on the TV to get us through those first couple of weeks and now we are trying to wean Micah off of Cars and the Treehouse Channel without too much withdrawal...

Erik is planning to go back to work this coming week after about a month off. The day before the accident Erik actually accepted a new job. He will be a sub-contractor for J&G Builders, assisting them in their house-building projects. The job description is a little ambiguous and will include some framing and finishing work. Erik has the utmost respect for the father & son who he will be working for and they gave him an incredible offer. It has been such a blessing for Erik to not have to worry about looking for work or setting up another house contract during this difficult time. He has a fantastic job with a steady income waiting for him whenever he's ready to go back. Thank you Lord, for that.

As for me, I've been keeping busy taking care of the kids and helping a bit at Doug & Elissa's place since they've been home. There honestly isn't much else to report besides that! I'm looking forward to having a bit more time to take Micah out in these last weeks of summer. Even though I don't feel much like having outings, I still want my kids to be able to enjoy a bit of the summer yet.

Anyway, time to sign off. This post has taken me most of the evening since Micah is NOT going to sleep - even though he should be exhausted...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Reflection on the last few days

We spent three nights in Calgary last week. During the days we were back and forth to the hospital. The kids had a tough time with all the traveling and strange places, but it all worked out. We stayed with the Hamm's who are good family friends. I lived with them for a year right before Erik and I got married so I felt very at home there even if the kids didn't :)

We took Elissa outside for some fresh air and sunshine for the first time in 2 weeks.

I snatched a video of Caleb squirming in his bassinet...

Here's our girl posing for the camera during bathtime back at the Hamm house.

I was able to visit with my sister Erin and her youngest son Liam on Friday. They were in the city while her husband was taking some courses so it worked out well that our trips overlapped. Liam is the closest in age to Micah of all his cousins so it was fun to watch them play. It took awhile, but by the end they seemed to be having lots of fun together...

Liam giving his cousin Keziah a big smooch.

Micah and Liam had matching Happy Meal toys...

fyi: I am almost two years older than Erin but she beat me by getting married first and having all of her (three) kids already!

Anyone who's been through the Calgary airport with kids has probably noticed the large wind-up airplanes. What a great idea. Micah was thoroughly entertained while we waited for our flight home.

We welcomed Doug & Elissa home yesterday and it was really good to see them get settled into their own space. It was a little overwhelming for Elissa, but comforting at the same time. I could tell that she was much more peaceful than she had been in the hospital and that was encouraging to see. They went to see Caleb in Chilliwack today but there is a plan to transfer him to Abbotsford as soon as there is space available. You can pray that this will happen soon so that visiting him will be made easier for Elissa.

Tonight we were all together as a family for the first time in awhile - except for Kristi who is back in Manitoba. We had a family dinner with the Loewen's (Rosanna's family) and even though it was good to be together and even though it was good to laugh and share stories together, there was no denying that there was a gaping hole in the group where Nathan should've been. I sat beside Micah's bed tonight while he fell asleep and thought about all that Nathan was to me. I've been grieving Rosanna's loss of him as a husband and Erik's loss of him as a brother, but I haven't stopped much to reflect on how much I will miss him. He was a brother and a friend and an amazing uncle to Micah & Keziah. I remember several special moments Micah had with him at the cabin the weekend before he died - a little outing to the bakery for donuts, a trip to the park where Uncle Nathan pushed him on the swing for a long time, falling asleep together in Nathan's tent after watching Finding Nemo... I pray that Micah will somehow be able to remember these moments, even if it's only through pictures and Erik & I telling him stories.

Erik and I have agreed that God has been answering prayers for peace. Even Rosanna has a peaceful countenance that she admits is beyond what she is capable of. God has been fulfilling his promise from Philippians 4:7 "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Thank you for your continuing prayers.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Coming Home

We were in Calgary from Wed – Sat of last week. It was good to see Elissa and to be together. She was feeling very tired of being in the hospital and discouraged at her inability to care for Caleb. The jaw surgery has limited her diet a lot, but we tried to find some exciting things for her to eat besides the pureed hospital food. A Peters' Drive-In Chocolate Banana shake was probably the favourite :)

On Saturday morning before we left, we found out that Elissa was being discharged from the hospital. So, we helped her get settled in the home of a family friend, who is also a nurse. We were surprised at the early discharge since Elissa is still very much in recovery mode. But we were also thankful that she could be out of the hospital and that Doug wouldn't be limited to visiting hours in order to be with her. Yesterday a bed came available for Caleb in the Chilliwack hospital so he was helicoptered out here. Elissa and Doug are booked on a flight to come home early this afternoon.

Caleb is doing well. His feeding tube came out the other day and he is taking the bottle very well. Elissa is hoping to pump her own milk for him and possibly even breastfeed, but due to her injuries, etc. it is a little more complicated than normal. We're praying that this will work itself out. Caleb has still had some problems with breathing in his sleep (which is normal for a preemie) and will stay in the hospital until this is no longer an issue.

Elissa still has a long road of recovery ahead of her and they're not sure how things are all going to work out once Caleb comes home and needs constant care from them. So, we're praying that God would work out all of these details for them.

It was good to be in Calgary, but it was definitely challenging with the kids. They both came down with colds which didn't help matters. We had a couple of really bad nights there with them. Micah had several melt-downs and was seriously sleep-deprived, so it was good to come home on Saturday. We all caught up on some sleep, and Micah and Keziah seem to be resuming their little routine which makes all of us feel better.

I have several pictures to post, but my time is limited. We're headed over to Doug & Elissa's this morning to do a final clean of their place and get it ready for their arrival. More to come later...