Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lil' Dude Turns Three!

I can't believe my little man is three! So much of the last year was a blur (I barely remember him turning two) and here he is, THREE!
He has grown so much over the last year. He is officially day and night time potty trained. He has a vocabulary that is out of this world. He is a ball of energy and he continues to keep us on our toes! He is so often a sweet, and loving little boy.  I am so thankful for Isaac!
We had a small celebration of just the 7 of us, but it was nice.

Eating his requested birthday dinner: Oatmeal!

Opening presents.

Serious business! (loving the tongue sticking out!)

Papa and Nana got him a Monster Truck!

He was so excited over the sword we got him. He had to go slay some dragons right away!

Even though he is such a big boy, he looks so tiny here to me! Make a wish birthday boy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Boys and their Buddies

One of my favorite parts of our ministry here at New Tribes Bible Institute is that it involves the whole family!
Isaac and Ezra really get to enjoy the students the most out of our five kiddos.  While the girls are at school, they boys are with me over at the Bible School.
Both boys have made some pretty great friendships here.  I wish I could get a picture with each of their friends, but I did want to share the ones I did have.

This is Bekah. Isaac and Bekah eat lunch together almost every day. He really loves her. Bekah came to the Bible school because she wants to serve as a missionary to lost tribal people.  She chose the Jackson location because it is closer to home than Wisconsin, so she can see her mom more often.

This is Leah. She blesses us with watching the boys from time to time when I have a staff meeting. Ezra loves to snuggle her ALL THE TIME. He has good taste. Leah has a sister who graduated here, and her brother attends now. She holds a very special place in my heart, and I feel as if she is one of my own daughters.

These two have a special bond. They share a name! Isaac loves shouting at Isaac from across the dining hall to have deep conversations about trucks and race cars. Isaac is from Jackson, and has known about New Tribes for a long time.  He is interested in missions, and knew this was a great place to come study the Word.

Will you take a moment and pray for these special friends of our sons?  I don't know where life will take them, but I know they each have a heart to serve the Lord, and I can't think of better role models for my children.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The First Week in November Finds Us...

...enjoying unseasonably warm weather for starters! Yesterday was 79 degrees. We had many days this summer where it did not get that high!
Besides the warm weather, we are staying busy as usual. The kiddos keep growing like weeds, and learning new things every day. Here is what the fabulous five are up to this past month.
Emma broke her wrist on her last game of the soccer season. The crazy tough girl played the rest of the game! We obviously did not know she had broken her wrist, and I think once the shock wore off, she was VERY aware of the break.  She broke her scaphoid bone, which is not a fun one to break.  It is a pretty painful break that takes a long time to heal. It looks like she will be in a cast for twelve weeks! She had an MRI and we will hopefully know soon if she will need surgery.
Josie has been enjoying learning the flute this year.  She is also continuing to work on her art.  She was picked as artist of the week out of her whole school (700+ students), and we are very proud of her!
Adelaide has started violin lessons this year. This is something she has wanted to do since she was four, and this year, due to a few very generous grants, scholarships, and gifts, she can! It is so fun to see her excitement and determination.
Isaac is growing more each day. He will turn three this month! How can that be??? I signed him up for a mommy and me tumbling class for six weeks through the rec. center, and he is enjoying it. I mostly did it to have some good one on one time with him, but having a place to run and jump besides the living room is an added bonus!
Ezra decided he was going to surprise his mom and in the matter of about two weeks learned to pull himself up AND crawl! So proud of my super preemie.  Now if he would just sleep through the night...

Pretty big cast for breaking a bone that is only the size of a cashew!

My little artist and her self portrait.

I am so happy to see her joy in learning how to play.

Took this kid downtown to look at all the construction. He was in heaven.

Hey mom! I crawled out of my pants and pulled up! Now quit doing laundry and get me outta here!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Ezra Henry is ONE!

I am beyond thrilled to write those words! My sweet baby is one, and he is healthy! Praise the Lord for He is good!
We celebrated Ezra's birthday by having a big party to thank everyone who helped us, prayed for us, and basically made it so we could survive this last year. While not everyone could come, we did have a good turn out of about 75!
I was so busy with the preparations of the whole thing I never got any pictures of how we decorated.  It was a superhero theme, as he is our super preemie!
The day of his party was a Sunday, the day before his birthday.  On his actual birthday I took the kids out of school and Josh and I didn't go to work.  We took a family day to celebrate life.  This time last year, I almost didn't make it, and we didn't know what the future held for little Ezra. So, we enjoyed the day with our family, my parents, and my sister and her kids at Spicer's orchard and the Howell nature center.  It was such a nice day.

My little guy on the day he was born!

Trying out a cupcake at his party. He didn't really eat anything, but sure got messy!

Happy birthday sweet Ezra!  Daddy and Mommy love you so much!

The first time I met him/held him was five days after his birth. Here he is one year after that day.

Friday, October 9, 2015

This Time Last Year

I have found myself saying that a lot these last few weeks.
Today marks the day one year ago that I was hospitalized.  I didn't know when I went to the fourth floor that October day that I was going to be there for nine days.  I didn't know that when I left I would no longer be pregnant.  I did not know that I would be leaving to go visit my baby 51 miles away.
This whole year has held a lot of unknowns, as lets face it, every year does.  That's okay though.
What DO I know?
I know God saw me through the most difficult year of my life.  I know that these trials changed me.  I know that even though it was not something I would have chose for myself, I can be thankful for them.
This week will be a lot of reflecting for me.  There will be lots of tears and laughter. We will celebrate.  Life is worth celebrating!

Snuggling momma's two boys. How can my tiny baby be almost one?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Teaching During Trials

This weekend was registration weekend here at New Tribes Bible Institute.  It is a time full of excitement and energy as new students arrive for the first time, and familiar faces of returning students fill the halls. I really love registration weekend.  This year was going to look different than previous years as Josh was now running the bookstore here at the Bible school.  I was excited to be helping him during this busy time. Unfortunately my day took a bit of a turn, and it quickly became clear that we were not going to be joining Josh over at the bookstore.
We attended a wedding that morning and dropped Josh off at the school. I was going to lay the boys down for some naps and then we would head over after they were rested. I was just going to get Isaac some milk first. I opened the refrigerator and was met with an overpowering waft of warm stench. 
The night before I had mentioned to Josh that the water from the fridge (filtered) was not as cool as it usually is. Josh was up pretty late (2:30am!) fixing the problem...or so we thought. It seems as though it was still broke. The entire refrigerator was not working!
I could tell from the smell that things were bad. I asked my family for advice of what I could save and what I had to toss. They sent me a list from foodsafety.gov and unfortunately, there was a lot of tossing involved!
As Emma and I started throwing out the food, I wondered to myself: Why couldn't this have happened when our fridge was bare? Why did to have to be this weekend? Why after I just went shopping? 
As I threw full containers of spoiled yogurt in the trash, on top of pounds of rotten ground turkey, on top of gallons of milk my tears started to flow. 
Emma asked me why I was crying. We could just go to the store again, right? 

I really hesitated using the word "trial" in my post title. Was this really a trial? I mean, hasn't the last year with Josie's accident and everything with myself and Ezra been the trial? 
Well, those sure were trials, but in that moment, this felt like one too. Now I am crying and my daughter is looking at me like I have lost my mind, and I am faced with the fact that yes, this IS a big deal for our family, but NOT for our God! Hasn't he shown is that time and time again?

"You know what, Emma? I don't know why I am crying. I think I am just worrying about how we are going to handle all this. Worried about the repair bill and worried about what we will eat the rest of this month, but that is silly. I know God will provide. Doesn't He ALWAYS provide?"
Emma agrees, and my tears stop. We start to play "what's the grossest thing in the fridge" and giggle over how stinky something is, or how moldy strawberries can get in a short period of time.
Oh, and you know what? God has blessed (and continues to) our socks off.  
The teaching part of the title? That wasn't me teaching Emma, it was God teaching me. Now if I would just be a quick learner...

What we could save. Yes that is a whole corner of ice cream toppings. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Loving My Full House

Life with five kiddos sure keeps me busy! They also keep me so happy! It is so fun to snuggle and cuddle my little guy, and watch as he learns new things every day, like what pears taste like. It is also exciting to see my oldest get more independent. She loves working in the kitchen, and has enjoyed working for others helping clean their homes, and a little babysitting. Then there is all the stages in-between! The potty training, and teeth pulling, and chapter book reading, and it is so fun! What a blessed woman I am, to be able to see all these things through the eyes of my children. 

Road trip to the Mathew Family Reunion.

My little baker. She is pretty much the cupcake queen!

She is always good for a laugh. Love my Jo Jo.

Addie and Ezra got to share a doctor appointment. Here ears are bothering her again. 

Isaac sure loves his animals. I think Duchess should hate this, but she always comes back for more.

My sweet miracle. He is getting SO BIG!!!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Guest Blogger

Last month I was asked to be a guest blogger for preemie support and awareness. 
I shared about our time of "quarantine" which I was originally going to write for my blog, so I decided I would just share the link with you all if you haven't read it yet. 
I hope to write more of just regular life again soon.  I sure do keep busy as a mom of five though!

We are so very blessed!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Feels Like Forever

There is a weird sensation that happens when you have a baby. They have been inside you for all of their existence, and then suddenly they are on the outside of you, and you feel you are not whole anymore. You want to be with the baby, and hold the baby, and just be near the baby at all times. It may be due to hormones, or just how God designed it, or maybe it is just me, and no one else feels like that, but this was a very real and powerful feeling.
When Emma was born, I remember just wanting to hold her all the time. The nurses would take her to get her hearing checked, or check her bilirubin levels, and it felt like an eternity until she was back.
Ezra was gone. He was in the best place he could be, with the best doctors and nurses making sure he would thrive in the world that came too soon for him. I knew this, but it didn't make the separation any easier. Josh was so good at sending me pictures and using FaceTime so I could see Ezra, and he updated me regularly on all that was going on with his progress. I in turn told all my nurses, as Ezra became quite the popular little guy over here!
We had friends who delivered their own little boy very early, and were super helpful with helping us navigate this new world of the NICU. They helped set up a page on Facebook to update everyone on Ezra's progress so they could be praying for him. They even delivered my milk to Ezra at the other hospital! What a blessing!
When I was moved out of the ICU into the women and newborn unit, I was starting to feel better. I was a long ways from going home (I still couldn't even walk, or even stand up! That magnesium sulfate is brutal!) but definitely improving! I was so very thankful my twin sister Tomesia cold come stay with me.
That is actually a really cool part of this story. Tomesia's kids have year round school in the district they attend. About two months before any of this crazy stuff happened, Tomesia and I were talking. We had planned for her and the kids to come up for a visit in the middle of the week. They were off school then, and she took some time off work. It was going to be so fun! We planned all these fun fall activities to do, and she and the kids were going to spend time with us and with our parents.
Fast forward to Ezra's birth; she just happened to come up at the exact time I needed help. if she arrived a day before, I would have been in the ICU and not even known she was there. She came and stayed with me in the hospital, sleeping on those uncomfortable chairs, bringing me my pump parts and washing them after, walking my milk down to the fridge, reminding me to order my meals, listening to me cry over and over again, opening and closing the blinds, getting me blankets and fans when my hormones were surging, etc. Tomesia took great care of me, and my parents spend the days with her children. It definitely wasn't the visit we planned, but I was so thankful she was there.
While I was recovering in the hospital, and Josh was at St. Joe's with Ezra in the NICU, Josh's mom took care of the home front, along with many, many helpers. We had people bring us meals, come help with laundry and cleaning, running carpool for us, etc. There was no way we would have survived without all the help from our families and friends, and church family. I don't think I will ever know all that went on while I was gone, but I am so very thankful. There is something so special in knowing that no matter what happens to me, I know my family will be well cared for.
Josh's mom took the girls to see Ezra. I asked them all what they thought of the whole experience. They said they just couldn't believe how small he was, and they wanted to hold him. Those were my thoughts too! I am glad they got to see him, and I was hoping to be able to see him myself!
The day arrived for me to finally be discharged. I loved those nurses so much, but I couldn't think of anything better than leaving! 
During my nine day stay in the hospital, on top of all my exciting medical problems, I got a horrendous stiff neck. It made me so miserable, that there was a point I was taking my pain killers for my neck, and not my c-section! So on the day that I had been waiting for, the day I could make a break for it and go see my baby, I first had to head to the chiropractor. I wanted to be able to hold him if they would let me, and with the pain I was in, I knew that wouldn't be possible.
With all the forms signed, my parents came to pick me up, and I was a free woman! They took me to the chiropractor, and swing by subway for food, and the pharmacy for all the blood pressure meds I would be on. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication between the hospital and the pharmacy, and they did not have all the pills I needed. This normally wouldn't phase me, I would just skip it for a day, and if it was just pain meds, I would have. They had me on 300mg of Labatelol 4x's daily and 25 mg Hydralazine 4x's daily! The sheer amount of blood pressure pills they had me on just so I could leave the hospital was necessary though, so we had to wait some more! AHHH! I just wanted to see my baby boy!
The hang up at the pharmacy along with a strict pumping schedule I had to adhere to, and Friday night traffic heading towards Ann Arbor made for the longest day ever, but we finally arrived at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, my Ezra's first home.
I knew I missed Josh, but I didn't realize how very much until I saw him on the curb waiting for us to pull up, wheelchair in hand. There was my darling, my love, and I held onto him and didn't want to let go! A sweep of emotions took me, and I sobbed, and ugly cried, right at the front entrance of this hospital, and I didn't care. I am sure I was a mess.
Josh wheeled me to the fourth floor, and after getting my picture taken for a badge, and some paperwork filled out to prove I was indeed the mother, they buzzed me in.
I was suddenly very aware of how little I really knew. Josh was a pro already, showing me the sink, and how to scrub in, where to wash my phone, where our son's isolette was located.
Josh wheeled me over and Nurse Bethie was there. She said they held off doing "six o'clock cares" for me. I didn't even know what that was. Josh helped me up and I stood looking into this plastic box that was my son's whole world. I had no idea he was this small. All the pictures Josh took were nice and close up, so I didn't get an idea of how very tiny he was.
"Do you want to do kangaroo care?" Bethie asked. 
You mean I can hold him?!?!?
"YES!!!" I said emphatically.
This was the moment I was waiting for! They brought me warm blankets, as I took off my top, and they placed this tiny little human on my chest. So many wires were hanging off this little one who weighed less than 1/3 of a gallon of milk!
He was so warm, and as he lay in my arms, I instantly felt calm, and right where I needed to be.
"He's never done that, Tamara!" Josh said.
"What is he doing?"
"He is still, and he has a smile on his face."
Mommy is here, Ezra. Mommy's got you.

The girls' first glimpse of their tiny brother.

Josh said they squealed with delight!

This rainbow was outside my window when I was moved to the women and newborn floor. God used a rainbow as a reminder He would never flood the earth again, and He used it that day to remind me that He was in control of this, and He never lost control. He was not surprised by any of this, and I can trust Him through this storm in my life, no matter the outcome.

Ezra getting a tan! He needed some phototherapy to help his bilirubin levels improve.

Josh sent me this picture and I couldn't stop looking at it! He looked SO big and healthy all dressed up in clothes. He was SWIMMING in those preemie clothes. ha ha!

I'm getting discharged from the hospital!!!

Holding my baby boy!

Ezra the first time I held him. He was happy to see me. 

Seriously, the cutest little peanut!

Josh took me to see a floor on the hospital he would frequent as he prayed. Quite the view!

This is the way Ezra grew. So many little things to pump into his tiny body, as he was not ready to enter the world so early. Not as good as the womb, but they sure helped him grow!

This was Ezra's first home, and Josh and I both grew to love that hospital, and the amazing staff in the NICU.

He's so tiny and fuzzy!

His perfect little hands.

"Hi momma. I am glad you finally got here. I've got so much to tell you! Daddy and I have had an exciting time here!"

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Holding on to Truth

When I came to, I was in recovery in what felt like a dark basement. A doctor was putting in an arterial line in so they could measure my blood pressure in real-time (rather than by intermittent measurement). I was really groggy, and I just wanted to see my baby.  I needed to see him and know he was okay. I have to admit that is part of my story I don't remember. I relied on what my nurse Linda ( now a dear friend) and Josh recalled of this time. It is still very hard for me to not be able to remember Ezra's birth (because I wasn't awake!) or even the first time I saw him. These are moments I treasure with each of my children, and hold them dear to my heart.  I am so thankful for a husband and Linda who have helped me peace the story together.
While I was coming to in the recovery room, Josh was with our tiny little boy. 
Our little boy came out crying! This is something that is a miracle in itself. He took his first breath! I am so thankful God protected his tiny lungs, and gave wisdom to my doctor to know to give the steroid shots to me to help mature his lungs. The shots worked. My boy could breathe! 
Josh cut the cord. "What's his name?" they asked.
We had not come up with a name yet. We still had nine weeks, or so we thought.  Josh knew how important it was to me that he had a name before he left the hospital, and he knew which names I liked, so he named him. Our little tiny life was now Ezra Henry.  Ezra means help. We needed help if we were going to get through this. Very fitting indeed. Henry means strong leader in the home. From the moment he was born he started taking the lead, directing our lives in ways we never imagined. Turns out, Ezra Henry is the perfect name for him.
They brought Ezra to me right before they left on the ambulance.  I couldn't really see him. He was in a little traveling box (Josh called the pizza oven. ha ha) and I couldn't sit up yet after the surgery.  My eyesight was poor.  Everything was so blurry. I reached in and touched a foot. At least I think I did. I don't remember.
They were off, and I was moved to the ICU. 
Linda had taken pictures of Ezra and printed them out for me. She taped them up along my bed rails, and this was a huge source of strength for me in the days ahead. She may never know how much that meant to me.  
The time spent in the ICU was the hardest in my life. I felt so sick and alone. I was still on magnesium sulfate, as well as hefty doses of hydralazine and labetelol. It was like time was going in slow motion. I felt like the whole hospital was vibrating, and there was a constant pounding in my ears. I couldn't see well at all, and was attached to so many things.  I had pressure cuffs on both my legs so I wouldn't get blood clots, a blood pressure cuff on my arm going off every five minutes, and a breast pump attached to me every few hours (I could not hold it on my own) so my milk would come in.
I remember begging God to heal me so I could see my son, and to keep him safe. 
As I was lying in the bed all alone, my uterus empty, my arms empty, feeling so utterly betrayed by my own body, my faith was being tested. 
All these questions kept coming, and then the answers. It was like a battle in my mind to hold onto the truth I knew.
How could God allow this to happen?
Why wouldn't He just heal my body so I could see my baby?
Didn't we go through enough with Josie?

I love you, Tamara. I am so much bigger than this. You just can't see it.
Do I owe you an explanation for what I allow and don't allow?
Don't you know Me at all yet?

Then I just felt shame.

I thought of a very dear friend of mine who just lost her baby. How dare I take the gift of Ezra's life with anything but gratitude. Haven't I learned anything from the four we lost?
I thought of Job in the Bible, and remembered how God in chapter 38 where He says "Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them." I always imagined God yelling at Job in sort of a "How DARE you!" sort of way. It was not like that for me. It was more of a gentle reminder. 
I am so thankful for His Word, and His faithfulness to speak to me through it. Being reminded of my loving Heavenly Father is the only thing that got me through these dark days. 
I had an amazing nurse in the ICU.  Honestly, all my nurses were wonderful. I felt at times as though angels were ministering to me, as they helped bathe me, and give me little sponges of water to suck on. Debbie was a nurse who stayed with me at all times. I was her only patient and anytime I was awake, she was right there next to me. She read to me the cards my children made me (I couldn't get my eyes to focus enough to read) and she would help hold my phone so I could talk to Josh who was with Ezra. Of course I probably made no sense at all! Debbie hugged me as I sobbed and would tell me how the weather was outside, and if I had any visitors. She was amazing, and made my days bearable. I was sad to leave her when I transferred to the mother and newborn unit a few days later, but I was happy to be getting better!
Josh has shared his journey through this time on our ministry blog here. I encourage you to check out the posts (I think there are 7!), as he had the more exciting part of the story: Ezra! 
Very soon (but not soon enough!) I would get to be with my son!

Ezra is born! This is his first picture. He cried for everyone. Had to show off those working lungs!

This is the first time I saw his face, in this picture. I am so thankful Linda took these! I thought he looked like a tiny kitten or a baby squirrel.

Ezra was intubated, but not for long!

The doctors and nurses took great care of our baby as they prepared him for his first road trip!

Ezra was SO tiny. Look at the size of Josh's hand next to him. Our little miracle!

This is the first time I "saw" him. Ezra is in the "pizza oven" and I am reaching in to touch him. A few things come to mind when I see this picture. First, I am sad that this was the only time I touched him for five days. Second, I wish I could remember this more. Third, look how very swollen my hand and arm was! Severe swelling is another symptom of pre-eclampsia.

Ezra in his new "home" at the NICU of St. Joseph Mercy in Ypsilanti, MI. Daddy is learning how to care for his tiny little guy while mommy gets better.