grandchildren

Why do I write?

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We all write for specific reasons. Some people write to speak out, persuade or promote. I write to help me process the seasons of life I find myself in. (I am slightly more introverted and get stuck in my head A LOT). I am not writing to try to tell you how to live your life or persuade you to follow me or share my blog. All of those things are good and fine, and if you want to by all means please do, especially if it will help someone else! But those reasons are not my motivation. So today, if you are going to read my blog I would encourage you to grab a cup of your favourite beverage and get comfortable. This is going to be a winding road.

Today I write to help me release my tears, my heavy heart, the unknowns of the future and help me to live in the present. When I write I reflect, stand back and absorb all that my sweet, simple life encompasses. And right now I am reflecting on my Father, laying in a hospital bed in Utah because he is battling cancer. I want to be there, with him and my Mom, holding their hands. But I am here in Idaho because my reality is being a Mum to twin toddler boys who will soon be three. A whole different post will be for that fact!

Let me back up a bit for those just starting this journey with me. Last July Bryan, my husband and our twin sons moved back to Kirkland, WA. My husband received a job opportunity at our old university and we felt it was the right time to take it. Fast forward a few months of being back and my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Over the coming months he went through his first surgery removing tumors on his neck which then came back within three weeks (not six months as the doctors suggested). He then went through six weeks of radiation five days a week. Unfortunately this did not work. Surgery number two was completed I think around May. Still they were not able to get all the cancer. It was at that point that my amazing and supportive brothers strongly encouraged a second opinion which I agreed with too. It was time.

With the second opinion came more options which we have been so thankful for. The doctors started immunotherapy about three weeks ago and were hopeful that it would kick in and start building up the strong cells to help them fight off the cancer. So Tuesday my Mom, Dad and sister in law left for Utah. When they arrived at his appointment Wednesday morning they admitted him to the hospital at the Cancer Clinic because his blood sugar was dangerously high. Since then we have been living through text messages, phone calls, waiting on CT scan reports, etc. All the processes you go through with cancer treatment. It’s not smooth sailing for sure but more a knot-in-the-stomach-producing kind of thing. Through yesterday and today we have found out that they will most likely skip immunotherapy and move to chemo. My Dad also has a blood clot in his neck and they are struggling to keep his blood sugar under control. All of this means that my parents will be staying in Utah till at least Sunday. Of course I wish they were here but again I am so thankful for the team of specialists who are attacking this from all sides and working so hard to heal him.

I feel like I need to say it publicly too that I am believing for a miracle for my Papa. The kind that means we will have him around for many years to come. That he will be here for birthdays, Christmas, summer trips to the Oregon Coast or the mountains of McCall. Yet right now I am in the waiting. The waiting is where I write. The waiting is where I fall back on my ways of finding comfort.

For so many years the place I found peace and comfort dealing with life was on the North Coast of Ireland.

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Here is one of the many coastlines that we frequented when we lived there. This picture was sent to me by a good friend in NI (that is her husband, another dear friend). She sent it to me to bring me comfort and it did just that. It reminded me of the times that I cried out to God about our desire to have a family. I cried more times than I can remember up on that coast. I did deep soul work on those beaches and rocks, the kind that cannot be shaken or shifted. That work is still there, rooted in me. I still long for those shores on a daily basis and even more now when life feels uncertain and foggy. Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond thankful that we are here for this season. Being in NI while this is going on would have been more like torture. So in God’s good grace he allowed us to be close, so very close and for that I am thankful. I have traveled to Idaho six times since we moved back. Yet my soul wants the air, the rolling hills and the cliffs to ponder on. Just for a day. To cry out to God once more in the place that feels familiar. A place where I fought off my own doubts and found a new kind of faith.

Another way I find help is by connection. I have done this by sending out more texts than I can recall asking for prayer and support as my family is walking this road. Earlier today I was listening to a podcast by Jen Hatmaker with Brene′ Brown and one of the very first things Brene′ says is that we are hardwired for connection.

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I wholeheartedly agree with that statement! Hence why I have been burning up my phone updating friends on what’s going on and asking for more prayer. The connection to my husband, family and friends has been so important not only for me but for my Dad and Mom too. They have been bolstered up by the support they are receiving from people who care so deeply for them.

Music is also healing for me. Before we left Northern Ireland last year, a good friend gave us this album by Foy Vance.

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The album washed over my broken heart as we packed up our sweet home and traveled the North coast of Ireland one final time before moving stateside. Since returning it has been a balm to my heart on many occasions. It is no different right now. One of the songs Foy sings is called Burden and it says this:

Come to me, my brother, and I will sit with you a while
Pretty soon I’ll see you smile and you know you will
No matter how much you’re hurting right now
You know that everything will change in time
So let me carry your burden

This song makes me weep right now. What our family is carrying is a burden. We are hurting. But the promise is that everything will change in time. I find comfort in knowing that this is not forever. I am hopeful and believing this for my Dad. That he will not be sick, that he will be well. That he will feel like himself again and smiles will come easy and last long. But I am so thankful for songs like this that speak to me at such a core level.

I am also finding peace by grabbing the moments that I can (as limited as I feel) and be in the present.

My Dad hasn’t liked having his picture taken for awhile but I have been taking pics of him anyway. Us in our sunglasses with our sweet smiles, love it! My Dad and the boys in their adorable little boy underwear, pure Mommy love! The boys celebrating their third birthday a little early on the deck at my parents with my Mom, eldest brother and his wife, such a sweet evening! The boys exploring every inch of my younger brothers property usually in just their nappy or pajamas, I can’t get enough! These are the moments that help to keep me here and now, in the sweetness of life while still tasting the bitter. (Thanks again Shauna Niequist for that wonderful book Bittersweet!)

As I sit here and finish writing this blog, the boys are awake from their nap and now are watching another show.  They have had way too many treats and late bedtimes. But this is the last way I am processing. By being gracious towards myself. This weird in-between is not forever. Soon enough we will be back in our home, in our routine. Bedtimes will get earlier, treats will be fewer as will shows. Yet for today, I am smothering myself in tons of grace. And sometimes that grace looks like bending the rules for all of us.

I want to say thank you to each and every one of you who are praying for my Dad and our family. It means to much to us all. Please continue! And to the different artists/authors who have contributed unknowingly to my life, thank you for what you have brought to the table. It is helping more people than you can possibly imagine, including me.

 

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The aftermath…

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I.LOVE.SUMMER!!!! The heat, the light evenings, the unstructured-take-it-as-it-comes schedule, the playing!

This summer is no exception. Our summer has been filled to the brim with fun, family and friendship. Time in Idaho, Northern Irish visitors and then a magical escape to Alaska have all been pretty epic if I do say so myself! We have pushed ourselves and the boys to keep going at breakneck speed and for the most part all of us have done okay.

Yet our first two days back in Washington, routine, normal bedtimes and familiar surroundings have shown me that maybe we went a bit too far. When your normally early rising toddlers aren’t getting up till 9am (thank you Jesus!) you know you went beyond your capacity. The cracks have been showing for the last week with the boys being a bit grumpy and us being just really tired. So the unraveling of some bad habits is happening and we are in one of those lovely adjustment periods. You know what I mean right? The times when you feel like your parenting skills are substandard and your children have developed super human powers to push all your buttons at once. Yeah, it’s one of those times.

Bedtime tonight was especially delightful. And yes, I am being sarcastic. I took all of the boys toys, comfort pieces and blankets. I even unscrewed the lightbulbs in their bedroom to discourage their war on sleep. The boys did not nap today which made them extra cranky tonight. The thinking that this would mean an earlier than normal bedtime was completely inaccurate. Ha! So many grand plans lay in wreck and ruin from toddlers who took over the world inside their home!!

Yet once again my boys melted my hardened heart towards their little revolt. Kidran would continually agree with me when I would reprimand them with his encouraging ‘Yawh!’ Somehow he has inherited this from me and I got it from my Mom! It’s so stinkin’ cute though! Then Cohen asked me to kiss all the places he hurt in his little mutiny in his bed. We finished by me kissing each finger tip and the not to be forgotten thumb.

It was in the sweetness of that moment that once again my heart turned towards my two little men. Tired and overstimulated from the experiences of so many trips and people in such a short space of time. Exhausted from the pace of life their little legs were not meant to keep up with. I also have noticed that they seem less enthused with their normal favourite spots to play. Alaska has gotten into their veins and the restriction of modern city life is cramping their ever-growing style. I find myself saying ‘no’ more often, ‘don’t do that’ a lot and that is okay. They will learn to appreciate the offerings of each place they land in the future. Right now it’s just hard to explain the feeling of being out of sorts to our little men.

As I pondered the way Kidran and Cohen had dealt with the transitions of the summer I felt a new grace applied to my heart and soul. The 17th of July marked our first full year back in the states after our 12 year planting/rooting in Northern Ireland. The year has been incredible in so many ways. Reconnecting with old, dear friends, starting new and exciting jobs, being closer to family, being surrounded by mountains again, the list could go on. It doesn’t feel that long ago that we left this place because it is so familiar.

Still when I think of home my heart sees Northern Ireland. The green, the sea, the people, the growing up and growing together that was done. At first I would try to push these thoughts and feelings away. Not anymore. I welcome them. I sit with them. I treasure them. They are an intricate part of my story now. A part that is filled with love, depth and peace that came from pressing into a place. Often times people talk about growing where you are planted. I remember releasing myself to that way of thinking in Northern Ireland at times when I didn’t feel settled, when it felt foreign and not like home. So I am comforted that right now I am back to working at growing right here, right now, where I am.

Are you growing right where you are? What would help you to do that easier, with more grace for yourself and others? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Amma is here!

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I am so thankful for our parents! Yes, that is a massive understatement as there will never be enough words or pages to truly explain all the ways they have been there for us. They supported us through the long painful years of infertility and celebrated more than anyone else when we finally got pregnant. I remember crying with Lynda over the phone as we shared our significant news and I will never forget my Mom standing up in Mancino’s restaurant shouting ‘Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!’ While my Dad’s face beamed with a mixture of tears and elation as he expressed his delight quietly.

Since the moment our boys arrived our parents have been there. My parents came and stayed with us in Northern Ireland for six weeks and Lynda stayed for three and a half months. They have visited us wherever we have been and let us come crash into their lives by ourselves and now with our boys. Their generosity is humbling and their kindness inspiring.

It has been with great joy and contentment that we have had the pleasure of Lynda visiting us here in Kirkland the past few days. Amma Chud has had so many special moments with our boys this trip and they have embraced her with open arms!! It has made my heart swell seeing our boys connect with their Amma as it does when they are with any of our family members but grandparent connections are about the sweetest.

Since Amma Chud arrived we have enjoyed some wonderful weather and have taken advantage of it fully. We have visited parks, downtown Seattle, watched Bryan’s team play their first spring season game and simply soaked up some much needed Vitamin D. We all sit back and watch the boys with joy and pride. They provide constant entertainment for us and anyone who happens to be in their vicinity.

The picture above says it all. The boys love their Amma! They have matching curls and it’s adorable!!! Plus the picture of Bryan and I on our wedding day in the background speaks to me of the legacy our two families are creating within these little boys lives. Seeing her read to them as they sit on her lap and listen, engaging with the story and read along brings me to tears.

I find myself taking so many mental snapshots right now. I am trying to let these days, even the not so fun ones, really imprint themselves on my heart and mind. It will be ten years from now in the not so distant future and I will look back at these times with our boys and cry. Cry for what has happened, for what we didn’t capture and for the future that is coming all too quickly. Yet I will also smile and ponder these things in my heart, recounting the ways Cohen always embraced life and every adventure. I will replay the nature walks with Kidran that took three times as long because he noticed every little detail and every bug, stopping to fully take in these tiny forgotten fragments in the array of large life. I will remember Cohen’s consistent greeting of ‘Hi Momma, hi Dadda!’ with his dummy in his mouth, holding both toy bears, as if it was the first time he had seen you in ages! I will reminisce about the way Kidran always used my clothes as his towel when getting out of the bath while clinging to me, cuddling in till I put his fresh PJ’s on.

So tonight, as you tuck your own children into bed or say goodnight, whatever their age, remind them of what they were like when they were little. What did you love about them at age two? Age five? What did they do then that they do now? Tell them the silly things they did or the sweet things. Share the joy their lives bring to you with them and create some more memories!!!

Then if you want a really good cry, go watch this Ed Sheeran video! It’s absolutely one of my favourites!!

Moments…

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Before I share anything I want to thank everyone for your support, prayers and encouragement over the last wee while. My Dad went through his surgery with great ease, has not been in any pain following the operation and is planning on pursuing some alternative forms of cancer treatment first before any type of radiation or chemotherapy. Both my parents are in great spirits and feel a lot of peace about the direction they are heading. Again I am so very thankful to be close and able to support them face to face at times rather than over the internet or telephone. The week I spent in Idaho was a gift and I am very grateful for it.

Now back to the business of normal life and motherhood. Normal life is still a bit busy and chaotic at present. Bryan’s team made it to Nationals this year and are currently in Southern California and will play their first National game today. Nail biting stuff I tell you! The boys and I are so proud of his coaching, determination not to make this ‘just a building year’ for these ladies and his constant communication with his team to encourage and build them up. We are BIG fans of Coach Chud!!! Go Eagles! Talons up!!!!!

Once Bryan gets back we will celebrate Thanksgiving with Lynda, his Mom, and some of the Ambrose side of the family in Wenatchee, WA which is so special. Being closer to family and adding to the memory bank is always important to us. After that we will head back to the Eastside, I will start a part time job, we will move into our own place in Kirkland and Bryan will continue coaching, recruiting and getting ready for his next season (with some ski instructing thrown in there too!).

So this week while Bryan is away I decided to come visit some good friends again in Tacoma, the Olsens. They are some of our oldest and dearest friends whom we have grown up with over the years even with the distance between us physically. We love them so much!! One of the things that always seems to happen when we are here are dance parties. We turn on the music, pump it up loud and just cut loose! We dance around the kitchen and living room letting go of any inhibitions. Recently they have upped the dance stakes by buying a light up disco ball to project onto the ceiling and create an even more epic dance vibe. This is stellar I assure you!!!

We have had two dance parties already. At the end of the day, after dinner, when everyone is feeling a little tired and crazy but there’s still youthful energy to burn with the winter nights forcing us to stay indoors. So we have danced our backsides off!!! Samuel, their youngest, and I are two peas in a pod. The music hits and we just let ourselves go however we feel like moving. It is wonderful therapy for any calamity life may throw at you! I highly recommend it.

Our boys have very different approaches to dancing. Cohen right away starts bouncing, marching and waving his hands above his head to the music. Kidran sits back and watches or wants me to hold him close while I dance around with him on my hip, eyes wide in observation until he warms up to the notion of dancing by himself. The other night while we were dancing he raised his hands to be lifted. He snuggled in close, rested his head on my shoulder and I had a moment.

You know the ones. You flash forward twenty plus years to your baby’s wedding day. Your son is in his tuxedo or suit, looking the part of the handsome groom. You have a permanent lump in your throat as you and your husband discuss how fast it all went by. ‘Remember when we were taking them for walks in the woods, showing them how to tie their shoes, teaching them how to write their names?’ you say to one another. Then bam, you are in the middle of one of the most significant moments of your child’s life. They are no longer a child but a grown man who is becoming someone’s spouse. You go through the ceremony and make it to the reception. Then the music begins. Groom and bride take to the dance floor for their first dance. Everyone claps. The bride then finds her father and your son finds you. So, once again, son and mother dance, heads resting on each others shoulders now. His strength no longer requires your support or hip, but he will still lay his head on your shoulder in act of familiarity that takes your breath away. And there it is, the flashback to your friends living room and your slow dance with your hesitant, wide-eyed two year old, leaning in and clinging on to you because at that moment you were his comfort and world.

Good grief! I am bawling now imagining this scene in the future. I have no idea what the future holds for my children and whether or not this will ever play out even close to how my mind sees it. I know some people don’t like skipping ahead to the future, they say stay in the present and be here, now. I appreciate that but one of the best ways I know how to do this is by dreaming of what the future may look like. One thing I know for sure, it won’t look like today. For these moments with my sons are fleeting and fast even if somedays drag by marking each second and minute till finally bedtime arrives and I collapse on the couch. Looking forward makes me take in this moment, today, right now.

Life is the simplest it’s going to be. All I have to do with my boys most days is feed them, make sure they stay relatively clean and safe and sleep at the times they need to sleep. I can easily distract them when they cry, they laugh readily and want more cuddles than sometimes I have time for. It only gets more complicated from here on out and I recognize that. So today I celebrate the simple moments, the ones that help me look forward and then redirect my gaze to what lies before me right this very minute.

For all you Momma’s out there having one of ‘those’ days with your kiddos. Do whatever you need to do to find the joy in your kids and the joy in being a parent. You won’t regret it!!

My Papa…

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It is raining here in Lake Stevens, unrelenting raindrops that will keep us indoors for the day. The boys have just gone down for their morning nap and I have a cup of hot chocolate to make my way through. To be honest though, my mind is miles away in Idaho and my heart is caving in from the weight of so many emotions. My Papa, my Father, the man whose hands have always cradled mine in his, whose eyes are filled with kindness, the man who walked me down the aisle and is loved by many, is having a PET Scan. He was recently diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma cancer. It appeared in a lump on his neck and grew quite quickly over a three week period. We will know more after today but my whole being wants to be there to support him and my Mom. To hug him tightly, to hold his rough, strong hands that I love so much. I want to be with my family as we all rally around him and my Mom during this time.

So tomorrow the boys and I will drop Bryan off at work and make the eight hour drive to Idaho. It’s a long drive but I am so thankful we are close enough to make that now. Many of you are praying and will continue to do so and I appreciate it!!! We are hoping, praying and believing along with many others for a positive outcome from the scan. Depending on the results he will possibly go in for surgery on Thursday so please keep thinking of and praying for him!

While this is happening, my head is spinning with other things. I have an interview for a job when I get back, I still haven’t properly finished my book, I miss Northern Ireland, I don’t feel like I have been kind to my boys the past few days, my back is sore making sleep not so great, and the list goes on. I am not looking for a pity party. I am aware and know how wonderful my life is. I have an incredible husband, two wonderful sons who are gracious, forgiving and always ready for fun. We have a roof over our heads during this period of transition from the UK. We are surrounded by wonderful people who are invested into our lives. Our families are closer than they have been for years. So no, I am not looking or asking for pity. This is me processing and being vulnerable when I feel my life is spiraling out of control and I can do nothing to stop it. This is me saying there are too many emotions, too many BIG things going on all at once. I am sure most of you know exactly what I am talking about. Sometimes life presents multiple paradigm shifts at the same time. And whilst you could possibly adjust to one or two, the other three or four are just too much. That’s where I am at. Feeling overwhelmed with the depth of this thing called life. The hardest and most shallow trials can hit at the same time creating the perfect storm of emotional turmoil. I am clinging to the quote that ‘this too shall pass’ for I know it to be true. So what will I do?

What I will do is this. I will be kind to myself. I will allow myself to cry as much as I need to. I will not beat myself up if I shout at my boys when they misbehave. I will breathe. I will sit still when I can. I will open my heart to my heavenly Father and ask for His grace to fill in the gaps and fill my heart. I will sit some more. I will hold my boys, hug them, kiss them. I will cry on Bryan’s shoulder when he gets home from work. I will pack what is needed for our journey. I will take one step at a time. I will not rush. I will be.

I know the picture above is not the best quality, yet I love it. It captures the essence of my sweet, kind, gentle-giant loving Papa. My boys love him. When we stay with my Papa and Mom the boys love sitting on his lap, reading, chatting or watching cartoons with him (he’s a big kid at heart!). My boys are not alone in loving my Papa though, all the grandkids do and we are so very thankful as his children to have him and my Mom. My Papa has always been such a great earthly representation of my heavenly Father and I thank him for making that relationship easier than most. I am excited to get there tomorrow and throw my arms around him in an extravagant gesture of love!

I would ask you to please keep praying for him and our family though. I know it makes all the difference. For those of you who like me, find yourself in a similar season, what do you need to do today to be kind to yourself? If you can, do it. Ask for help, cry, read, walk, sleep. Do whatever it is that will ease your mind and soul. You have my permission and most likely the permission from all those around you too.