Today is our very first day of the Show Your Real series, and I'm delighted to have my good friend Rachel as our first guest writer. Rachel and her husband Jay were some of the very first people we met when we moved to Pittsburgh. Dustin and I were desperate for friends-for community- and after receiving an email from me basically offering to trade some of our Young Life skills for some instant friends, they accepted the deal. Rachel immediately welcomed us into her home with a smile and a heartfelt wave (hugging just isn't really her thing). And five years later we don't spend quite as much time on her couch, but I'm still very thankful she's part of my life. You can read more about her story, and her delightful kiddos on her blog A Heart In Progress.
And now...on with the show.
Courtney (who, I think we can all agree, is all kinds of awesome), has set forth a blogging challenge. Let's show our real. ((gasp!))
I can't just jump right into how we make it through a typical day around here without addressing an elephant in the room...or rather, the spirited 4 year old who has stolen our hearts (and at times, tried to ransom them for a turn on the computer) Jay and I have been married for 13 years and have 3 kids; Joe is 9, Bella is 7, and Trey is our 4 year old. On Christmas Eve, 2010, when Trey was 2 1/2, he was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. Neuroblastoma, if ya wanna get technical. Trey has earned his nickname, Young Warrior. He has walked that fine line between life and death and fought his way back to us every time. We've been told that his diagnosis is terminal, which makes me sick to even type those words. We have no idea how long he'll be with us...could be years, could be months. We just don't know. From the beginning of this journey, we've been pretty transparent and open about all things concerning Trey's treatments and our life dealing with this. If you're on Facebook, look up his page 'Pray (and more) for Trey'!
Even though we've been (at times, brutally) honest, there are misconceptions lingering about our lives. When we meet someone who has been following Trey's journey, but does not know us personally, they often talk to us with the sympathetic head tilt. Do you know the tilt? These folks have such sadness in their eyes as they talk to us because they think that we are languishing away, crying all day, holding on by a thread. Which is not true. Other people that know us personally think that we're in denial because we're NOT hiding in bed all day, gnashing our teeth and tearing our robes. This is not true either. The truth is; we're not in denial and we're not consumed with sadness. Do I have moments when I think that this surely can't be real, there must have been a mistake? Sure. Do I experience crushing sadness/fear/anxiety? Absolutely. But, Jay and I decided right from the beginning (as in, in the hallway at the hospital right after hearing the diagnosis) that we were going to rely on God, His will, His plan, His strength. Trey has cancer because we live in a broken world and awful things happen even to sweet, innocent babies. God did not give Trey cancer, rather He allowed Trey's cancer for reasons that we may not fully understand while we're here. But, our reality demands that we handle the situation and keep moving forward. Hiding under the covers won't make it all go away. Shaking our fists at God in anger won't shrink Trey's tumors. What we do understand is that God is good, He keeps all of His promises. Our whole family has been incredibly blessed over the past 2 years. God has provided in might ways. If you were to see Trey today, you'd never even guess that he's sick. It hasn't been an easy journey and it's not nearly over (Praise God!), though we know it will get much more difficult. Our response to people's misconceptions is that we will not grieve for what we haven't lost. Trey is here today, so we will celebrate today. Our "normal" may have changed, but Trey, Joe, and Bella are all incredible, Jay and I are closer than ever, and we're going to revel in that!*
*I realize that one paragraph is hardly enough to cover the range of emotions or reactions or faith issues that encompass living with a terminally ill child. If you want to learn more, don't be afraid to ask. Seriously, anything. How does one discipline a sick child? What are his treatments like? How do Joe and Bella cope and fare having a brother who gets "all the attention"? I'm open...
Whew! Still with me? Now onto the nuts and bolts. Our days vary greatly from one to the next and it takes serious team work to Get. It. Done. I am so thankful for my husband and we make a great team, if I do say so myself. And I just did! Our strategies are simple, yet they save us time and sanity!
Get things done ahead of time! I know! It sounds too simple! I would rather sacrifice 15 minutes of sleep at night to get things done any day rather than wake up earlier or not wake up earlier and run around in a panic. Each school night, Jay and I make the kids' lunches together (awww, cute!), go through folders and book bags, make sure everything is signed, put away, library books packed, instruments set out. The kids set out their clothes (including socks and shoes) the night before and cannot go downstairs until they are completely dressed...Oh! How many mornings we have suffered through the last 5 minutes before leaving for school screaming and yelling to move faster and get your shoes on! Having them get ready before coming downstairs has saved a lot of tears and tantrums. The kids do better, too. Trey has treatments at the hospital every Monday, so on Sunday night, I pack up the laptop/DVDs/toys and put the bag by the door. Easy peasy! Whatever we have on the schedule for the next day gets as prepped as possible the night before. I even cook my breakfast sausage all at once, usually on Sunday, and then just heat it up in the mornings. Anything to save a few minutes in the morning and make things more pleasant!
Be friends with binders. I love binders. They don't necessarily help get us out the door any faster, but they they sure do contain the endless clutter that comes with all these people. Joe and Bella each have a binder that gets filled everyday with the school papers they bring home to be recycled later once the binder is full. Why don't I just immediately throw them away? Oh, because I worry about odd things like what if, what if, they need to go back to a particular paper and I threw it away??? In my mind, disaster. I have another binder that I keep all the odds and ends papers that don't really have a home...my Ulta and JoAnn's coupons, permission slips, invitations, etc. Oh, yet another binder for the kids' church papers and projects. Even more binders to organize all of Trey's medical stuff. Binders, binders, binders! (My love of plastic bins and labels deserves its own post, fo rizzle)
Start at the end! I have always, always, always worked my schedule backwards in order to be somewhere on time. (and I am strangely passionate about being on time) Here's what I mean: The kids have to be at in their classrooms ready to go by 8:45, so we have to leave our house by 8:30, teeth need to be brushed and jackets on at 8:25, breakfast on the table by 8:10, Jay gets up and ready at 7:50 (he really is Super Dad, because he gets breakfast ready while I get myself ready), kids get up and ready at 7:30, I get up at 7:15 to eat breakfast and get ready. See? I started with the destination time and worked backwards to get it all done. And there's even a few minutes built in there to accommodate the unforeseen...toothpaste dribbled on a shirt, missing headband, riveting episode of Sponge Bob...ya never know.
We really do have a good thing going over here, though there are a few spots that I could use some help...
I need more SLEEP! I average about 5 (broken) hours of sleep/night and that's just not enough for this Momma to keep her happy face on all day. But! When night falls, I fight going to bed! I watch reruns of Friends that I've seen probably 100x, I read (though, to me this is really a non-negotiable), I browse the endless realms of the googlebox. Then, I beat myself up thinking that aside from keeping everyone fed, I didn't really accomplish much...though, that could be the lack of sleep talking. It's a vicious cycle.
I need a shower. How's that for showing my real? It's not like I never shower, it's more like I'd like to shower more often...ya know, like during all the hours I'm not sleeping. I could make a lot of excuses, but the bottom line is that I don't always make time for just 'me' (plus, it takes a long time for me to do my hair and I just don't wanna)...I do the best with what I have and just keep moving through the day.
So, there you have it. That's a glimpse into my real. I can't wait to read about other people's real!! Check back in with Courtney for future installments. Thanks for reading! And let me know any suggestions you may have for more sleep or frequent bathing...