Family Weekend

We went into DC on Saturday and had a wonderful family day…our first outing in a long, long time.  I’m so thankful that Ben has been doing well.  He’s very aware of the limits on his memory…the seizures he’s had over the past two years have clearly impacted his already compromised short-term memory.  But even so, we are thankful that they have stopped for this season and we were able to spend some time this weekend relaxing and enjoying ourselves as a family.

We left Scruff at home.

First Week of School

Ah, if only I consistently took pictures.  I don’t have any, so I’ll have to paint a picture with my words.

Our first week of school was busy, exhilarating, exhausting, and enlightening.  For all of us, it’s been a big ADJUSTMENT.

Meg is now in school all day, which is a change from 1/2 day kindergarten.  She’s enjoying first grade, but when she’s tired she complains about how much she misses being home with mommy.  She had a huge meltdown this morning at 7am.  Thankfully, the meltdown ended before she left for school.   I think the promise of pizza and a movie night  (while sitting on Mommy’s lap) did wonders for her.

Emily is in her first year of Middle School, and she reminds us of this every day!  She joined the Cross-Country team and is running several miles after school 3 days each week.  I am so proud of her because I know this isn’t easy..and she’s enjoying it, despite the hardships!  This is also the first year she has electives in school.  She wanted to do a few different ones, but was placed in the “Math Bowl” where she’ll compete against other schools to win the Math Championship.  Poor Emily…she was probably placed in this because of her good math grades, long before she received the questionnaire about which elective she wanted (Math Bowl was her last choice for elective).  But I am so pleased that she is being challenged.  And she’s glad, too, and even seemed pleased with the challenge she’ll encounter in this class.

Joel is adjusting to having girls in his classroom again, and he is doing well.  He’s also had a hard time getting up early for school…my boy who is normally the first one out of bed is now the hardest one to wake.  He expends himself so completely at school and after-school (playing with our new neighbors) that mornings have been a challenge for him this week.  It’s hard to think of my little boy as a big fourth grader now; I need to start expecting more from him!

I’ve been working 7 – 9 hour days and am physically worn out (and thankful for the weekend).  But I know I’ll get used to it.  The other teachers at CLS are incredibly supportive and helpful, and I am so very thankful for our school community.  It’s truly a remarkable place.  I love the caring atmosphere and the emphasis on excellence.  I love that I am going to be learning new things as I teach my students.  And I love the variety of the work that I do.  I could write an entire post on how different it is to teach choir this year (year two in the school) than last year (first year mandatory for all students).  But I’ll save that for another time!

Ben is home NOT having seizures (five weeks now!), and his attitude has been great.  It’s Ben’s attitude that has really made this transition easier on all of us.  He is leading our family by setting the atmosphere and working hard at keeping things disciplined, organized, and calm.  One extra blessing…occasionally, he’ll take extra meds if he starts to feel “weird.”  I’m just glad he’s aware enough to self-monitor and do this on his own.  It’s a huge change and more confirmation that his brain is focusing on healing itself.

For me, the best part has been getting to see the kids for brief snatches during my very busy days…and then coming home to my husband, who is doing all that he can to remain seizure free and help out in whatever ways he can.

I’ll close with a link to a You Tube video that the English Teacher in me just discovered.  It’s Weird Al Yankovic singing a parody of Bob Dylan.  The cool part is that every line is a palindrome.  And…they rhyme.  Take a minute to check this out, it’s really cool!

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Work Day at the Chouinard House

Ben and I were the recipients of some amazing, God-glorifying care today.  Our Care Group and friends came over for a “work day” to help us with some house projects that Ben and I have not been able to do.

I anticipated a few things being done.  I was not prepared for so many people showing up ready to work, hard, for several hours at a time.  More than fifteen people came and helped.  John thoroughly scrubbed and washed the deck while Beth and Anna repotted some plants.  Anne-Marie put her amazing organizational gifts to work, even going as far as driving home and coming back with some closet organizers for our children.  Marianne brought a van full of food for us.  Then she overheard me mention how I had planned to buy some used bookshelves for the kids rooms, but Ben and I were just a bit too tired this week…so she went home and brought back two beautiful, sturdy bookcases for the kids’ rooms.  Even as I write this, I think she’s on her way back with one more!  Three pre-teens helped fold clothes and organize books, and Susan completely reorganized Joel’s room.  So much more was done than I can even begin to write about.  Thank you, dear friends!

And the men!  We really put them to work.  They ripped out an entire row of juniper bushes that have been an eyesore in front of our house since we’ve lived here.  David, Matt, Kipp, Ben and Quena worked hard taming back the shrubs that have been growing ever larger each year and encroaching on our front walkway, then smoothing out the dirt from where the juniper bushes had been.  Ken removed the filthy curtains covering our garage door windows and even cleaned the windows for us, while Jeff drove everything to the dump at the end of the day.

Wow.  What can I say?  Thank you, Care Group.  Thank you, friends.  This wasn’t just a work day, this was a hard work day.  Thank you for giving up your Saturday to work so HARD for us.  Thank you for the many gifts you brought, for the organizing and the pizza and the fellowship.  Ben and I feel immensely cared for.  We feel blessed and a bit humbled to be the recipients of such hard work on our behalf.

I cannot wait for the kids to come home and see their new bookshelves and storage.   I had hoped to maybe organize one of their rooms…I never expected to completely clean all three rooms in one afternoon.  I know the kids will be extraordinarily blessed by this unexpected surprise.  Thank you, ladies, for staying so long to help bless my kids in this way.

Thank you, Lord, for such wonderful friends.  Thank you, friends, for showing us God’s love and care today.  I know each of you sacrificed something to serve us.  We are so very, very thankful for you.

A Summer of Constant Change

The kids are coming home tonight!  We are so excited to see them.

It’s been a very emotional two weeks.  The kids left on the same day that Ben was released from the hospital.  Ben and I spent the first few days recovering from his hospitalization…Ben recovering physically, while I recovered from the emotional trauma I experienced during his seizures.  When we returned home from Hopkins, Ben was clear and normal and completely himself.  This is such a mystery for me…how can he be so out of it, like he was for the two weeks before his hospitalization, and then return so completely and fully to normal?

After several days, Ben was aware of feeling clearer in his head than he had felt in a long time.  I, on the other hand, found that without children to distract me the emotions and experiences of the past several months came crashing down like an overwhelming flood.

As the adrenaline has worn off and the crises have dwindled (Ben’s seizures), I think that part of me has grown weary of handling things well.  I used to want to go through trials in a way that would please God.  Now I just want the pain to go away.  Many times I’ve realized that my ruling desire is to have a normal family and a normal homelife.   But what I’ve also realized these past two weeks, is that no matter what our circumstances, I walk around daily with a sense of grief in my heart.

I am particularly aware these past two weeks of Ben’s inability to work.  He is home and he has lost enough function so that he really can’t do a lot.  But he hasn’t lost his innate intelligence, and he remembers what it’s like to challenge himself and work towards something.  He’s just not able to do that.  And this just adds another layer to my sadness.

Here are some quotes I found in my journal from a time back in April.  They don’t all flow together well; but they encompass much of what I have been experiencing in my heart for the past few months:

This summer, I have measured my days by doctors’ appointments.  I don’t really have any sense of time; only of the appointments and the time slowly passing in between.

I find lately that no matter what I do, I am just consumed with sadness.  I wonder if everyone’ mind races all the time to the future, or things they don’t like about their life.

I know I write so much about the prolonged nature of my sadness.  I definitely have great days and great weeks; long periods of normalcy where I enjoy my family and my home.  But underneath it all there’s this profound sadness.  I want to get past this.  It’s like there’s this deep discontentment in my heart.  It hits like a wall when I wish Mom could come out for a visit or help me with the house.  Or when I realize how tired Ben is almost all of the time.  What is the difference, biblically, between grief and discontentment?  Am I really sad, or am I discontent with the circumstances God has for me?  How can I discern between the two?

And underneath it all, I just want someone to tell me I’m doing a good job.  I know that seems so selfish.  But as I wrote it, I just started weeping.  I feel like I’m pedaling, pedaling, pedaling and not moving anywhere up the hill.  I haven’t gone backwards.  But I’m not getting anywhere.

I share these thoughts because I know there are other people who can relate to them.  It encourages me when people tell me that they can relate to some of the things I’ve written on here.  And even though I know I have so many conflicting desires in my heart, I ultimately do want to please the Lord in this life He has given me.

I think the hardest thing for me in my life is the inconsistency.  The instability.  The constant emotional ups and downs.  Two good weeks are wonderful for Ben.  But for me, they are two weeks in a summer of constant changes.

Well, as we say at CLC, “Constant change is here to stay.”

I keep coming back to this Bible verse, which I must commit to memory:

Isaiah 33:6

and he will be the stability of your times,
abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

Summer Musical Photos

My dad took a few pictures of my kids in the Music Academy’s Summer Musical:  5 Loaves, 2 Fish:  a tail of divine catering.    Here is why I wasn’t with Ben at the hospital on Friday night and Saturday the other week:


I loved seeing so many kids ages K – 8  working together.  I love the fact that many kids got to play in an orchestra together to accompany the show…what a great (and unique) opportunity for these children.   And best of all, I loved watching the kind, gentle ways of all the high school helpers who worked with these children.  These relationships were so special for my kids.  In fact, the older helpers did the girls’ hair and makeup, which Emily loved!  What great memories for all of my kids.  The videos should be ready this week, so Ben will get a chance to see the show soon.

California, Here They Come!

Ben’s family is taking our kids to California for two weeks. We’ve never been away from the kids for this long!

The kids will be visiting 4 aunts, 3 uncles, one grandma, and 5 cousins (4 who were born in the past 2 months!).  I guess now is as good as any for them to learn how to change diapers!  They will fly into LA and spend some time touring that city and enjoying a day in Disneyland.  Then they’ll drive north to Hollister, where they will spend a week with Grandma and enjoy Carmel, Monterey, the mountains, and other wonderful experiences.

We visited Ben in the hospital yesterday so that they could say goodbye.  He’s clearly doing much, much better as he always does in the hospital; we’ve joked that we should book our next vacation there since he so rarely has seizures while he’s in the hospital.  We expect to come home with some new treatment options.  The doctor doesn’t seem particularly encouraging that medication can do much, but we do know that we need to keep trying things until we’ve exhausted all of our options.

Today I plan to drive the kids to the airport in the early afternoon, and then rush up to Hopkins to see if there is any way I can speak with Ben’s doctors.  We anticipate that he’ll be released tomorrow, but don’t really know very much yet.  I cancelled Ben’s doctor appointment in New York this week as well; it seemed unnecessary after all the time we’ll be getting with the Hopkins doctors this week.

Bye, kids. We’ll miss you.  Fly safely.