Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Unexpected Vacations, Cooking Anew, and Facing Eternity

Wow. It's been a long time since I've talked to you. Life has taken some unexpected turns since I last wrote.

In May my beloved and I went to Reno, NV in search of treatment for his Lymes Disease. We found out several things concerning his health, including his food allergies which ended up playing a large part in the pain he'd been dealing with.

The treatments at the Sierra Integrative Medical Center lasted for six weeks. I ended up flying back home and then bringing our four boys back with me for the duration of Travis' treatment. Two 12-hour days of driving straight through from Minnesota to Nevada gave us a lot to talk about and gave me a new appreciation for seeing the country through the eyes of young men.

We made it home as July took off. It seemed we'd missed so much of the summer and our own home improvement projects that we tried to make up for lost time. The summer flew by and in the midst of it all I was trying to learn how to cook gluten free. I could write a book about that alone!

Then summer turned into fall and winter, bringing with it harvesting and the holidays. It didn't seem like much time had passed before Christmas was staring us in the face. It was during this time that our littlest son faced eternity. It was a Christmas I'll never forget.

We'd been visiting my folks for several days and had just spent the last two evenings at my sisters' homes, snacking on Christmas goodies, laughing about old times, and watching the nieces and nephews play. Winter weather prevented us from going home the day planned so we snuggled back into my parent's guest bedroom and stayed another night.

During the night our 20 month old son, Ty, slept restlessly. He woke up with the peeking sun, whimpering. I crawled out of bed to rock him. Instead of a sleepy smile, I was greeted with rosy cheeks, a warm forehead, and 'mommy, I don't feel good' eyes. What worried me most was his raspy breathing.

He'd had a touch of croup about this time last year. You know, that barking seal cough that scares parents and usually requires a Nebulizer treatment or two. Travis and I rocked with him next to a steaming pot of water. We bundled him up and took him outside in the cold air. We tried all of the nurse's suggestions but his breathing only sounded worse. When we arrived at the clinic, they listened to his breathing and took us back to ER.

We were sent home with a prescription for pneumonia and Nebulizer treatments. I suggested that we go back to my folks, pack up our bags and the boys and get the prescription filled on the way home. Ty was sleepy and this way he could get his much needed rest. Travis shook his head. "Let's get the prescription right away. We'll give the boys an early lunch and then head home."

One decision can change your life.

By the time we got back to my parents', Ty had fallen asleep. We laid him on the bed and proceeded to start lunch. About fifteen minutes later he woke up. He was hot, glassy-eyed, and his breathing made my heart skip. When we tried to give him the medicine he couldn't even swallow it. He drooled it out in a pathetic wheeze.

Within five minutes we'd called the hospital back and were on our way into town again. This time they took X-rays of his throat and a Dr. came into the room with a sober face. "I'm not going to kid you," he said. "This is life-threatening."

Ty's throat was swelling shut.

Amid the blur of the doctor's voice, Travis' grave nods, and nurses coming to and fro, I simply held my baby close to my chest and rocked him back and forth, back and forth. Suddenly it all came back. My beloved Katie.

Oh, God. Not again.

Four days to the due date. The lack of movement. Fear gripping my heart. The ultrasound and a still gray form on the screen. The stunning realization that she was gone before I'd ever gotten to know her. Empty arms when they took her body away.

This time it would be different. I had known Katie only through her movements. But I knew Ty by the softness of his skin as I held him. I knew him by his hungry cry when I had nursed him. I knew him by the twinkle in his eyes and his pudgy arms circling my neck in a hug.

Oh, merciful Father. I can't do this again.

But as the doctor left the room and Travis wrapped me in his arms, a peace that only my God could give, stilled my frantic heart.

"God, he is yours. He is yours. You love him more than I." I don't know how many times I repeated this. It could have been minutes, it could have been just once. But I knew with all certainty that my little Ty was His first. Not mine. As much as I loved my baby, my Father loved him more.

The next hour was filled with a flurry of activity.

"We're calling an ambulance and taking him to a bigger hospital."

"We need to sedate and intubate him."

"You need to leave the room while we do this procedure. You can say your good-byes first."

My heart dropped. Good-byes. I knew what that meant. There might never be hellos again. I might never see his little face peering over the side of my bed in the early morning light. I might never chase him through the house just to hear his infectious giggles. I might never see his eyes fill with love when our noses rubbed together.

I laid my cheek next to his. It was still so hot. I hummed him our favorite song just as I did when he took his nap.

I don't know if he heard me.

The flurry increased.

"We're airlifting him."

"No, mom can't come with. Here are directions to the hospital."

The doctors and nurses weren't being callous. They were being professional. They were doing the jobs they'd been trained for. But oh, how I hated to leave him.

Then there was the blur of going back to my parent's house. The boys had gone to my sister's. We threw clothes in a suitcase and drove to the hospital. With each passing mile we prayed and reminded each other that God had prepared us for this. When Katie died God became the pillar of strength I'd never known before.

He still was.

He'd been with us the first time. And He was with us still.


Oh, how tiny Ty looked in that hospital crib. Tubes went down his throat and into his nose. Wires ran from IV's in both hands and feet. Machines surrounded his bed. Monitors blinked red lights and numbers I didn't understand. And he slept.

Oblivious to everything around him, Ty was now fully sedated. He was temporarily paralyzed so he wouldn't dislodge the tube with his movements. Because of the paralysis medication he was given steroids to prevent internal bleeding and a machine breathed for him. He was given several antibiotics until the test results came back. He was given extra fluids so he wouldn't become dehydrated. The list went on . . .

And still he slept.

We hovered around his bed. We whispered and sang to him. We touched his cheeks and kissed his fingers. We prayed. We talked to doctors. We watched the clock turn minutes into hours and hours into days. For six days Travis and I lived in that ICU room while Ty slept.

Finally, the day came that the doctors decided to switch his tube to a smaller size. This was a good sign. The swelling was coming down. If progress continued at this rate he may be breathing on his own by tomorrow.

Travis and I went with the nurses as they wheeled him down the hall and into the elevators. The procedure was done and we were on our way back. Tears were rolling down his little cheeks. Why was he crying? Had he felt pain? Had he needed me, even in his sleep, and I wasn't there? I didn't have to say the words out loud before Travis squeezed my hand in reassurance.

When we arrived back in his ICU room the nurses started getting Ty settled again. Suddenly Travis noticed one of the monitors. Ty's oxygen level was dropping. Fast. A nurse looked at his tube and shouted for a doctor. The tape that held Ty's tube to his face had gotten wet and had slipped. The tube was no longer in his lungs and since he was still on the paralysis medication, he couldn't breathe on his own.

My heart dropped in my chest. The doctor rushed in and started hammering out orders. Nurses rushed in and out of the room at his command. Travis and I stood in a corner, clutching each other's hands and praying silently. All we could do was stand back and watch.

Once again the Lord reminded me that Ty was His. If Ty's time on earth had reached its end, then it was because God ordained it before time began. This was in God's hands. Not ours. Not the doctor's and nurses'. The end result would be what God had planned for our good and His glory.

They reversed the paralysis medications and gave Ty oxygen manually for about 20 min. before they allowed him to breathe on his own.

Twenty minutes is a very long time.

And then the sound I longed to hear. A cry. Weak and feeble as it was, Ty was crying. The whole room sagged in relief.

"Mom, sit here. You can hold him now."

Can a mother's empty arms ever feel so full? How could the weight of my baby release a flood gate of tears? Gratefulness. Joy. Love. That's how. Humbled. God had let me keep my baby a little longer.

He's here right now, sitting on my lap as I type. We're home. He's alive. His smile has never been brighter.

God's mercies are simply overwhelming.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pride and Prejudice and Raising Boys

The other day I was working out on my gazelle while indulging my feminine side with the movie Pride and Prejudice. I do this for several reasons; number one being that I need the exercise. Number two; I live in a house full of men.

Living in a house full of men has advantages, blessings and quirks of its own. However, when it comes to voting for a movie on Family Film Night in the Miller household, I’ve found myself sadly outnumbered. If I should ever have the audacity to suggest we watch the perfectly wonderful BBC romance my ears would be met with horrified gasps and my eyes with expressions of abject terror.
The thought of sitting through a 5 hour romance does not enthrall any of the men in my family the way it does me. Still, there are good lessons to be learned in “mom’s girl movie”. I can’t help but think of Jane and Lizzie’s sweet sisterly chatter, learning the shocking truth of Mr. Wickham’s character, and groaning at the misplaced advice given by Mrs. Bennett to “take every opportunity of enjoying yourself”.

So, while burning calories, I hide in my basement and relive the lives of the Bennett sisters in quiet solitude. And, when a little boy’s face does pause in passing, I take every opportunity to teach the folly of Lydia’s foolishness, the wisdom of holding your tongue, and the joy of a close sibling relationship.

But they’re boys, you say. Trust me, this I know well. But opportunities to teach valuable lessons surround us everyday. I take what I get. :)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Part of Me is Moving!

I was doing a little housecleaning on my blogs the other day and I moved the book review blog I share with my twin sister to a different address without letting everyone know! Opps. My fault.

So, just in case you are wondering what in the world is going on over there at Reviews by Two - we moved a hop, skip and a jump over to Reviews By Two - Books. Our plan is to get a few more blogs up and running together. You know, like Reviews By Two - Education, and Reviews By Two - Games for Children. So, keep an eye out. Lots of changes going on, but the same two twins sharing lots of opinions. :)

That reminds me, maybe I should do a little housekeeping at home. But at the rate I'm going, I'll move one of the boys and won't be able to find him again!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Countdown

What does Hawaii look like in January? Don't ask me - ask my husband. Right now he's on Kauai, the Garden Isle, feeling the ocean breeze on his face, catching a nice tan in 80 degree temperatures and watching beautiful Hawaiian sunsets.

Without his wife.

For the 8th time.

Hmm. Something isn't quite right here.

Well, to be quite honest, he is working - really. He hops on a plane every January and for two to three weeks he toils in a cornfield in the Hawaiian sunshine. Being a Research Technician for a chemical/corn breeding company does have it's perks after all. . .

Why aren't I with, you ask? Well, I could go with him and sit alone in a hotel while he baked in the sun or I could roam the island by myself while he worked from dawn til dusk. Neither sound like an option I'd like to try. I'd rather have both - the vacation and my husband - at the same time. Call me silly.

And it also seems that God's timing for a Hawaiian vacation is not right now. The couple times we'd planned my flying out there when his work was completed ended up being crossed off the list in favor of other things. You know, those little things that keep popping up like . . . a pregnancy, a nursing infant, selling the house . . . those things.

So, I stayed home with my boys, cleaned the house top to bottom, rearranged closets and listened to the freezing rain and -30 windchill forecast. Living in Minnesota does have it's perks after all. . .

This year two of my close friends spent a few days with us and we laughed hilariously, stayed up till the wee hours on a Jane-Austen-era kick watching movies such as Persuasion and Jane Eyre and nibbled chocolate.

Then the boys and I went to visit my twin sister and her family. Again I laughed hilariously, stayed up until the wee hours watching Wuthering Heights and Northanger Abby and nibbled chocolate. Then I added a run to the ER and watched as the flu bug made it's rounds just for the fun of it.

Ahh, the joys of trying to pass time more quickly while my beloved is gone. Reading late at night until my eyes are too fuzzy to see. Watching the hands circle the clock for the godzillionth time. Waiting for the phone to ring and hoping it's his daily call. . .

So now we are counting down the days, trying to catch up on sleep, praying for his safe return, smelling his coat and hugging it while it hangs in the closet (I know, I'm pathetic), cuddling my infant, teaching school, tucking the boys in at night, and above all, realizing the precious gift God has given me in my husband. Being alone for a time does have it's perks after all. . .

Monday, November 26, 2007

November/December Book Giveaway

For the rest of this month and all of December my sister and I are holding a contest for 2 copies of Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant. The rules to this contest are simple. Visit our review blog at Reviews By Two and answer this question:

At what age did Amy Grant begin her singing career?

Be sure to leave your email address so we can contact you if you are the winner. (We respect your privacy.)

How Thankful is Thankful?

How was your Thanksgiving? We had a wonderful weekend here. My mother-in-law joined us for our Thanksgiving meal complete with a 23 lb. turkey. Yes, I know, a 23 lb. turkey wasn’t really necessary for 7 people - and four of them children! But I love making hot dishes with leftover turkey so have no fear, the 16 cups of chopped turkey I froze will not be wasted. :)

But beyond all the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and pumpkin pie that didn’t set up quite right, I also left the weekend behind being truly thankful. Traditionally we take turns going around the table and mentioning the things we are thankful for. Most of the time the children are thankful for the pie and ice cream and I, like most mothers, usually mention my family. Of course we mean it, but God occasionally uses a moment or two in our lives to make us really mean it.

This weekend He gave us such a moment.

Ty, our 7-mth old, was in his red ExerSaucer in the basement family room with our 7 and 3 year old sons. My husband and I were sitting at the table playing a spirited game of Monopoly with our oldest son.

Pounding feet and a shrill voice interrupted the battle for Kentucky Avenue as Wyatt warned us that Ty was choking. Everyone raced downstairs and after a quick glance, I swept out his mouth. What I found made my heart stop. He had apparently gotten a hold of a foam toy piece about the size of a silver dollar and, like all babies, put it straight into his mouth.

Because it was round and slippery when wet, there would have been no way to get it out had he swallowed it.

After I’d checked him over, cuddled and kissed him and my heartbeat had returned to normal, it dawned on me that this was thankfulness. The moment in life when all time stops and you realize that a minute or two more and it would have been too late. I mention my thankfulness for our family over a Thanksgiving meal, but it wasn’t until I contemplated what it would mean to wake up each morning without a drooly kiss and a squeal of happiness from my baby that I became thankful in a much deeper sense of the word.

As always, God astounds me with the way He reveals these insights into our lives. For this I am truly thankful.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I'll be the first to admit it. There was a time of my life when I wasn't very good with directions. Even now I do better with, "turn left by the red barn and go for two miles" rather than "turn east on 35th Ave.".

One of my most embarrassing moments was a time I was lost with my twin sister. We were driving three hours south of our hometown on our way to my boyfriend's home for the weekend.

I usually visited him with a friend of mine who was double-dating a friend of his. While my friend did the driving, I did the talking-and-not-paying-attention part. But this time it was Gail and I, and we were on our own. No map, no written directions. Just my vague notion that we turned left by the big round silver thing (which turned out to be a grain bin :)) and the thought that I would recognize land marks as we got closer.

Of course my dad asked me, one last time, if I thought I would know how to get down there. Knowing he wouldn't allow us to go if I hesitated in my answer, I nodded vigorously in the affirmative. All lights turned green -- and we were down the driveway chattering like the seventeen-year-old magpies we were.

It was going well until we turned by that big round silver thing and the landmarks I expected didn't appear. Hmm. Maybe we should turn around and come at it at a different angle. Ya think? Yeah, we thought. But that direction didn't work either.

Now this was in the days before cell phones. And this was also in the days that my stubborn pride would not allow me to stop and call my boyfriend or to stoop so low as to buy a map at the nearest gas station and admit I was lost.

Down in this part of Minnesota there is a lot of farm land and not a lot of houses. The sky was turning dark, so when we reached a town that had a vaguely familiar name to it, we stopped. My sister and I ran in to a gas station and asked the equally naive seventeen-year-old magpie behind the counter where we were and how to get where we were going. Amid the neon pink bubble gum, we were pointed out the door and told to go on 'that road down there'.

And yes, we took her word for it and started down the road. I can roll my eyes now, but at the time I was speeding along in the dark without the faintest idea whether or not I was going the right way and praying that I'd suddenly end up in front of my boyfriend's house -- and expecting just that to happen.

Well, to make a long story shorter, we ended up near the Iowa border, which, do I even need to tell you, was NOT the direction we were supposed to be going. Big surprise there, huh.

Back into our little gray and red Horizon and off we went down the road again. This time we did end up in my boyfriend's hometown but by now it was completely dark and I had no idea how to get from town to his house which was ten miles into the boonies.

So, I stuffed my pride in the back seat and found a phone to call him. To his credit he was frantic with worry. He gave explicit directions to his farm and made me repeat them. How we drove right past is still a mystery to me . . .

By the time we found another phone, he made me promise not to move. He jumped in his truck and came to me. I don't know if I crawled over to him or not, but by the time he'd enveloped my in his arms I felt like it. I was now about 4 hrs late and he was simply glad he could call my dad and say we were safe and sound - albeit thoroughly embarrassed.

To his credit again, my understanding boyfriend became my beloved and understanding husband, Travis. He's certainly had to fit the job description after the broken tailgate, the shattered window, the busted toilet tank cover, and the hole in the house siding . . . and yes, they were all accidents!

My point in telling this long-winded story is that directions and I have never been on the best of terms. But how often do we travel through life without directions, either physically or spiritually. How many times do we stare into a bleak future and have no idea where to turn or who to ask?

Isn't it funny that the very God who created direction and the best book on directions you can own, is often the last one we turn to. God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Asking our directions from Him should be the first thing we do. Come to think of it -- we'd never be lost again . . .

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book Contest

Well, it's not really a contest per se. You don't have to juggle or sing in front of an audience. Of course that might be fun to see! :) That reminds me . . .

Once a year our church family has a talent show at our Valentine's Banquet. Mostly it's Carl, our comedian, or one of the younger generation that happily skip up to the front of the room and tell a side-stitching joke or perform a neat trick or routine. But one year our quiet and reserved pastor's wife stood up, walked calmly to the front of the room, and with the guitar accompaniment from her husband, began a cute little tune that went something like, "What would you do in a little canoe with the moon shining all around . . ." It floored us that she got up and sang in front of everyone. The song was pretty cute too! :)

This contest is much simpler. Really. All you have to do is pop over to the book review blog I share with my twin sister at Reviews By Two and read about our latest review on Marilyn Rockett's book, Homeschooling at the Speed of Life: Balancing Home, School, and Family in the Real World.

Then, post a comment here or on that blog and your name will be entered to win. The winner will be announced on October 1st. Don't forget to leave your email or I won't be able to contact you. (And I won't spam, sell or do any of that stuff.) Either that or check back and if I don't have an email to contact the winner with, I'll post their first name and can be contacted through my email.

Okay, the contest is officially open!