On this day, 3 years ago, I was an emotional battlefield. Peace battled anguish. Calm battled anxiety. Hope battled despair. Courage batted fear. All in one. Single. Day. Many of you may remember it. I remember who was with me. What I was doing. The significant times of day. Where I was. Why this day was so significant. It changed our lives, and no matter the outcome of this day three years ago, our life would never be the same.
This is a picture of life with our boys three years ago. Ethan and Liam barely knew their brothers. We had six short weeks with them. They had endured multiple procedures, tests, X-rays, blood draws, medicines, breathing treatments. More than I can even count. And this day three years ago, they would either die, or survive - It was out of my control. It was in God's hands.
I can tell that it has been too long since I last posted - I have forgotten how to maneuver around the site and add posts. I am having to relearn skills that I was adept at a few months ago. Step away from the cyber world for a few months and everything changes.
Isn't that life, though? People change. Places change. Hearts change. The only constant is the passing of time.
And how time flies. I love that our family is growing both in wisdom, in size, and in love for one another. We still have so many struggles, and there are times where I feel more like a drill sergeant than a mom, ("Move it, move it, move it!! Pick up toys, put shoes in your cubby, throw your trash away." And with Emmett and Owen I have been trying to balance being mostly mom, but occasionally speech-therapist mom when I sense a teaching moment - "lips together, now say 'mmmmmmama'). Expressive language has been SLOW in developing, and honestly, I get frustrated easily these days. They cannot answer simple yes/no questions reliably. They can't tell me what they learned in children's church. They can't explain how they got hurt. They can't even say their own names, and it is a STRUGGLE getting them to say "mama" to get my attention rather than the squeal/grunt that has become the go-to for communication. I use my speech techniques to force them to communicate, but often they give up and walk away, and I stand there incredibly frustrated, and feeling lost. This is my PROFESSION. And these are my KIDS. And I often feel as if I am failing them both. What's the silver-lining in all this, you ask? Well, my friends, I know that one day, these boys will be exactly who God has made them to be, despite my failures and frustrations. I'm not the one in control of their destiny, and I'm barely in control of their daily schedule! I will do my best to raise my kiddos to be independent and kind, loving, God-fearing, respectful, and humble. The rest is not up to me. I am proud of these boys, though.
Recently, the twins turned 3. THREE! We had a small celebration with a few friends and a couple of our family. Erika Bridges of Confections in Cake did an amazing job of creating a masterpiece for the boys, and after 3 loooong years of waiting, we got to give them a smash cake!
If I had to guess, I believe the boys enjoyed their art party. We went swimming after having pizza, cake, homemade ice cream, and opening presents.
In other news, we decided it was time to add another member to our family:
Meet MaeFlour - our Pitt-mix pup. The kids love her. Dave and I love her. The cat...well, he's working on it. We adopted her from SPCA in Dallas. When we went to "just look" at the adoptable pups, she picked us, and there was NO WAY that we were leaving without her (thanks to Liam). She must have known that her family was coming to find her that day. We were looking at puppies of medium sized breeds, and came home with a 61 lb 1.5 year old beauty.
Before I go on to share some smallest-member-of-the-family cuteness, I have to promote Dave's newest project. Dave and one of his long-time friends have created a podcast about parenting, from the DAD's perspective hence the name "Dad Hacks." It is a fun, interesting view on parenting, though i'm not sure that 100% of the hacks are 'mom approved"... lol At any rate, if you are a podcast listener, and you enjoy off the cuff parenting ideas, then this is definitely the podcast for you! Seriously, though, check it out. It is available on itunes, soundcloud, and google+. You can also contact them at email@example.com.
In case you are wondering, Ella is still growing like a weed. She is 7 months old, and the proud owner of two bottom teeth. I have enjoyed being home with her and the rest of the family this summer. She has become quite the momma's girl, and I am enjoying all the baby snuggles that come with that!
Well, my friends, we have had a good busy summer. I start back to work on Monday with Arlington ISD and with an after school company called OT@home. I'm looking forward to making new friends, getting a fresh start to a new school year, and seeing what this next year has in store for our family! (Funny how teachers experience 2 New Years every year!) Ya'll enjoy the rest of your summer, and try to stay safe. It's a crazy world out there!
3 good things:
1.) my mom came and stayed for a week with my sweet niece Averi (who is an incredible baby sitter - I would highly recommend her for kids of any age!)
Well, let me tell you a few exciting things that happened while my mom was here:
a.) Skittles hurt her foot, had to go to the pet ER, and came home high and feeling better. When she came home, she just stared off into space, and was the most chill dog ever (very unlike her)
b.) one of my moms older pups fell on the pool and bc of her age, required immediate rescuing to prevent drowning. Please be safe around the pool with kids and pets!
2.) Date night with Dave! It happens once in a blue moon (when family comes to town. Thanks for taking over kid duties for an evening, mom and Averi!)
3.) Ethan is home for the summer! I couldn't be more thrilled. 😊 and neither can he.
Most days I feel lost. Being a stay-at-home Dad is tough. Tough isn’t the right word. It is equal parts exhausting, confounding, infuriating, exhilarating, and supremely satisfying. I’m not writing this because I’m searching for sympathy, pity, or praise; I want everyone to understand that this is, without a doubt, the most challenging job I’ve ever done and most days I feel completely adrift. I have a lengthy list of tasks I try to accomplish and on that list is “Take over the Blog”. I’m embarrassed to say that I pushed the blog down the list almost to the point of being forgotten. Please accept my most humble apologies for allowing the blog to set idle so long. I will now revive it… vigorously.
When last we spoke, we had the honor of introducing the newest most precious addition to our family. Our sweet Ella recently made it to five months of life and in that time she has established herself as the undisputed mini-matriarch of the Ezell household. She has four brothers inextricably wrapped around her dainty fingers. The boys spend their afternoons competing with each other for the opportunity to hold her, kiss her forehead, and make her smile. Watching my boys interact so lovingly with their baby sister… I don’t have the words. I, however, being the totally unflappable father that I am, have somehow remained unswayed by Ella’s remarkable charm, adorable gummy smiles, perfect little chubby cheeks… yeah okay I’m smitten too. Ella has perfectly completed our family. Being her Daddy and watching her grow is a privilege and a blessing.
The twins have progressed steadily since our last update. With no major surgeries or procedures, much of their progress has been in attempting to speak. This is slow going and often frustrating (for the boys and parents), but improvement is noticeable. Emmett has had the most improvement. After he had his stoma closed up, he seemed genuinely disinterested in speaking up until just a few weeks ago. Since that time he has experienced a veritable speech explosion. Emmett is now using words like “buhbuh” (bubbles), “buh” (bye), “yeah” (yeah), “muhmuh” (momma), “Ahhbuh” (ipad), and UUUUUUGGGHHHHHHH!!!*arms flailing* (Liam). Owen, on the other hand, has plateaued in his speech. He still occasionally says “Hi,” “Yeah”, and “Vuh” for everything else, but for the most part Owen prefers to use sign-language which he is more adept at than Emmett. To give an example of Owen’s speech ability, there was a storm here just a few weeks ago and Owen seeing the trees swaying outside the window looked at me and made the sign for “Daddy”, then the sign for “Outside”, followed by the sign for “Wind”. I acknowledged the storm and we both sat at the window for a spell and watched the trees sway. Regardless of the mode of communication it has been so rewarding to at last be able to communicate with the boys in a deeper way than pointing and grunting. These little boys continue to teach me marvelous new lessons about the world every day, and it makes my heart swell with satisfaction and love. So very proud of my boys.
Now to get you caught up on the great shareworthy experiences of the last few months. Firstly, at the end of February we had the distinct pleasure of hosting my Sister and her family (Sarah and Tristan Gale and their children Helena, Maggie, and Hugh) in our home for a week. This is quite a significant happening when you learn that my sister and her family live in Edinburgh, Scotland. Fewer things lift my soul higher than being able to spend time with my family across the pond. My nieces, Helena and Maggie, played with their cousins non-stop the whole week only pausing briefly to eat, sleep, and love on their new baby cousin Ella. My nephew Hugh (his friends call him Hubert… okay well maybe just his Uncle but really does he need any other friends when he has me?) was still a bit small to romp with the bigger cousins as he was only 9 months old so instead he played with his Uncle Dave and there is no doubt, me and the Hoobs know how to have a good time. The time I get to spend with my sister and her family is very rare so I’m sure you can understand how special it was. I now have fresh memories that I can cherish until the next visit (which will certainly be quite a long way off).
It’s hard to think about the time we got to spend with the Gales and not feel a little heartache. My nieces and nephew are growing up so fast and so far away. I miss them terribly. This heartache reminds me that we have to make the most of the time we have with our family, even the ones who are very close by that we take for granted. Our lives are a gift, one that we, too often, squander trying to get more things, or make more money. There is so much joy and satisfaction to be had by connecting with others. No matter who you are, if you are reading this I’m glad that I can share our lives and our journey with you and I hope in turn you will share yours with others.
Love from the Ezell Family
Three Good Things:
So I told Dave he was going to have to take over posting blogs now that I am back at work, but would you believe that he is so busy with a baby and 4 other kids that he hasn't had time to post?! Ha! Neither have I, and so we have a major face-Palm fail on our hands. So sorry everyone. This will HAVE to be remedied.
The twins are doing well - they are growing, starting to verbalized more and more (I've gotten solid b sounds, as well as d, m, and an occasional s. They are both able to verbalized "yeah," "hi," "bye," and "buh-buh" which we accept for bubbles. I am very excited about all this, but it is VERY slow progress. Like snail's pace slow. It has almost been a year (in June) since Emmett got his trach out, and it will be a year for Owen in August... Honestly I expected substantially more progress than this, but we are kind of in uncharted territory, and I will take what I can get!
As for GI, we have seen very little progress in both their gastric output (which drains from the G-tube in their stomach, and then we re-feed it into their J-tube) and ability to be clamped for extended periods of time; however, now that it is spring/summer again, we can start pressing them for more progress. Our amazing GI Doctor has given us the go ahead to begin trial pedialyte sips to see if it will jumpstart the gastrocolic reflex. I am trying to remain hopeful - God can do wonders if I only continue to trust and believe. I WANT the boys to continue improving, but because I am so close to the situation, it's hard to appreciate the minuscule improvements. Shame on me, right?! I am determined to hold on to hope. What have we got to lose by simply doing that? Exactly. Nothing at all.
The twins are set to start preschool in the fall, which we are ecstatic about. I think they will absolutely love it. Liam will begin preschool in the fall as well, so Dave will only have a sweet little girl to manage for part of the day. And by sweet little girl, I mean the most precious thing since baby kittens!
This little 12 pounder runs the ROOST around here, and she is the most adored, loved on, bottom-never-touches-the-ground baby I have ever laid eyes on!
We had the opportunity to pay an office visit to Dr. Renard (the lead surgeon and mastermind behind the boys' separation surgery), and it was much over-due! Dave and I were so happy to see him again - it has been over a year since we last saw him! And that is just too much time. I wish we could get the whole team back together again. I would definitely have a round of neck-huggin' to do.
All the boys are growing up, and becoming so mature. It's surprises me how quickly time goes by. Liam will be FOUR in less than a month, the twins will be THREE in July, and my oldest baby will be entering the double-digits this summer. It makes my heart ache just a little bit. And Dave and I will celebrate SEVEN years of marriage in 2-ish weeks. Sheesh. I don't even remember half of those years! (Don't tell Dave, though!) I guess that goes to show that we must love each other, or some gobbledygook thing like that.
Well. I love this family of mine. Despite how hectic our life is currently. I find life to be worth living because of them.
More to come soon.
3 good things:
2. Cats. (We like to grow ours in flower pots.)
I pray that you find yourself undeniably blessed by the God of the universe.
Ella Rae Harper Ezell arrived exactly as expected on January 4, 2016. Eight pounds, 6 ounces and 20 inches of pure baby-sweetness. She. Is. Beautiful.
ethan and Liam were able to meet her at the hospital, and it was love at first sight for both of them.
Can you believe it is already well into December?! I had to go back and look at the last time I blogged, and I must admit, I am a bit ashamed of myself! I am sorry for not posting sooner! The incoming nice weather in Texas (finally) has motivated us to get the twins out and about quite a bit more, and now that I am working (and loving it) I find that I have less time than I did before!
So let me just begin by sharing what we have been up to lately:
We were fortunate enough to have several Halloween festivities to enjoy, and while most of the costumes didn't change, some of them did...
The purple minion transformed into captain America, Gru became the purple minion, and I just became a caped pregnant lady. 😄
The summer that I turned 12 years old, I attended a church camp in Siloam springs Arkansas. One of the counsellors that attended the camp with my group was also my neighbor. After one of the sermons, we talked about the message, and she asked me, "have you accepted Jesus? It feels like when you are really dirty, then you take a shower - you just feel so clean and different." She was shaking, either from nervousness, or excitement, I'm not sure which. I told her I had not, and she helped me through the process of becoming a believer.
Fast forward a few months. It was a Wednesday night at our church - there were only a few faithful attendees present, and our pastor began his sermon, as usual. But then he said, "Christ said, "you have heard that it has been said 'do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone that looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-29 NIV)." Then our pastor stated this, "if you don't think this applies to you, then just go ahead and rip that page out of your bible." And he ripped the page out of his bible, threw it on the floor, and continued. "The Bible says 'love your neighbor as yourself Mark 12:31. If you feel like you are better than other people, then this doesn't apply to you, so just rip it out of there. Obviously, Jesus didn't die for you." And he continued. One by one, the pages of fundamental Christian beliefs were ripped out of the Bible. Love the Lord your God with all your heart. Ripped out. Keep your oathes. Gone. Honor your parents. Respect your elders. Do not murder. Be slow to speak and quick to listen. Do not steal. Do not worry. Take care of orphans and widows. Do not judge... The pages that he tore out of his bible flew around him, and landed gently on the floor. And they began to pile up. As a brand new Christian, and being only 12 years old, I sat in wide-eyed shock for the next 30-45 minutes. And I didn't breathe.
Fast forward 21 years. I still vividly remember this sermon. It is one that will remain with me for the rest of my time on this earth. The message is so profound, even now. When I was 12, I could not believe that MY PASTOR was treating the BIBLE in such a disrespectful way. As Christians, we consider this book as something to be revered and respected. But we miss the mark. I miss the mark. It is not the book that holds the power and sanctity, it is the message and teachings within that we should take to heart and live by. And believe me, I am preaching to the choir. You know all those fruits? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? I struggle with every. Single. One. But lately, it is love that I am struggling to embrace. You might as well rip the "love your enemies" clean out of my Bible because it is HARD!! And I don't WANT to love my enemies! I want to Hate them! There is really only less than a handful that fall into this category. What frustrates me about one person in particular, though, is that no matter how nice or considerate I try to be, this person returns it with spite. And I can't change said person's attitude. I struggle with anger, hate, and too often self-control. I mean I really let my tongue loose.
The problem is not that this person exists- the REAL problem is that I refuse to embrace Christ's teachings and demonstrate patience, and understanding, and as much as I want to refuse it - love. Unfortunately, admitting my struggles doesn't make them any easier - they are still struggles, and even when I try to give up my hatred and anger, it seeps back in. I give them to God, and then I take it all back the next day. Day after day after day. I am so grateful that God does not reciprocate my own struggles.
As much as I dislike admitting just one of my MANY imperfections (a.k.a. sins), I know that I am not alone. We ALL have imperfections that we struggle with, whether they are obvious or covert. It's okay to be imperfect. But if we are truly seeking a heart like Jesus', we can't tear out the pages of our own Bible that we don't want to acknowledge while pointing a condemning finger at others, because then wouldn't we be saying "I am better than you," or "you are so sinful you don't deserve for Jesus to have died for you"? Both concepts are innately wrong. No one is holier than any other person. We have to recognize our own faults, allow God to deal with our own hearts, and look for ways to lift others up when they are overcome with struggles. Isn't life messy?
Speaking of a messy life, we have gone through some pretty huge adjustments this past month that deserves some mention. As you are all aware, Dave lost his job mid-September. We knew that God had other plans for our family, but finding that plan has been kind of messy and a big struggle. Losing a consistent income has hit us hard for the past couple of weeks, but God has provided me with a full-time job in the Dallas school district. And ya'll, over the past few years, I have forgotten how much I love my career. God knew what He was doing when He designed this crazy plan, and Dave and I are both at peace with the outcome. Dave is getting to learn how to manage the intricacies of our household (which is an interesting process to be a part of), and I am learning to let go of controlling the intricacies of the household. I'm not sure who has the harder job! Lol
Ella Rae Harper is growing by the day, and is expected to arrive in early January, the twins are recovering from a minor cold and tracheal infection (and by minor, I mean that Owen had to spend a few days in the hospital, meanwhile Emmett stayed at home on antibiotics!). Ethan and Liam are as ornery as ever, and life goes on.
3 good things:
1.) my mom is turning another year wiser tomorrow!! Happy birthday, mom!
2.) God has provided for our family, again, in our greatest time of need.
3.) coming home after work to a cacauphony of boys who are all loudly glad to see me.
4.) (bonus) being asked to write as a guest blogger. It's such an honor! More details to come soon.
Well, friends, there have been some pretty incredible life changes going on in the Ezell household. I will start with Ethan's news - last week, he accepted Jesus as his Savior. I am so proud of him, because that is the one, single, most important decision a person can EVER make. So important, in fact, that it completely changes the course of the individual's eternity. Ethan has chosen an eternity of life, rather than suffering. Praise. The. Lord.
The second life changing event is that Dave was laid off. While this came as a surprise, we are approaching it as a blessing, and looking for God to lead us through. Times of great difficulty forges great faith. All we are asked to do is believe that God has our path planned, and He will provide. This doesn't mean that I don't wake up at night worrying about our finances, or about Ella's arrival in a few short months. These are all very human reactions. Faith comes in when I give it all the Creator of the universe, and ask Him for guidance, which He gives freely if we pay attention.
So, you may be asking, what are you going to do?! Well, I will tell you. Currently, Dave and I both believe that I should go back to work while he takes up the home duties and child-rearing efforts. During this time, Dave is looking into different careers options, and he will possibly be returning to school. We are both at peace with this decision, AND when I return to work after maternity leave, Ella will be in some pretty capable hands. (Not to mention father-daughter bonding time! 😊) I am looking forward to getting back into Speech-Language Pathology, I have missed it! It's both therapeutic, and a creative outlet for me, AND it's a way for me to provide for my family during our transition to God's path for us! If you ask me, that's a win-win situation.
In the meantime, we had a visit from a blind cyclops...
Oh, he cracked me up. He walked around in this state for a good ten minutes. Until it turned into this...
I promise, I put the patch over ONE eye, and he maneuvered it into these positions!
I have also been busy planting a few plants around the house and just trying to make it a bit more home-ified. I cleaned up the back porch and spray painted a few items. It is now one of my favorite places to just go and sit, mainly because there isn't anything in sight that HAS to be done!
I also worked on the outdoor entry space in the front, and I must say that I am pleased with it. There is still some TLC that needs to happen, but for now, it is an improvement.
Well, my friends, there's not too much going on, but there is enough. Blessings to you all.
3 good things:
1.) getting some additional quality family time
2.) feeling God's peace in the middle of it all
3.) Halloween wigs
I hope you all had a magnificent long weekend filled with fun, family, friends, and some relaxation! Our family certainly had some new experiences, and overall an excellent time filled to the brim with greatness.
The drive to Arkansas is typically a 5-5.5 hour drive, but with all the kiddos in tow, and the extra stops we made, it turned into a 7 hour drive. Our pit stops were a welcome diversion, and the boys were able to stretch and goof off for a little over an hour.
Emmett and Owen were absolute angels in the car, much to my surprise. They didn't cry or fuss; they were content just sitting and watching DVDs. The older boys, on the other hand, were a bit of a handful, though once we were about 2 hours into the trip, they FINALLY settled into it. We made a stop in Texarkana to eat and play.
"Silence is golden, unless you have children - then silence is suspicious." - Anonymous
IT'S A GIRL!!! (In case you missed it)
We are thrilled, but even if the baby were a boy, we would have been thrilled. There is just something about babies that makes us that way.
And she will be called Ella Rae Harper.
Before Dave and I became pregnant, we discussed extensively the idea of expanding our family. During this time-time-of-discussion, some days we felt that we wanted to, other days we were worried that it might be too much with the twins medical care, and the increasingly busy social schedule with the two older boys. However, the more I thought about, the more it became very clear to me: Couples regret not having more children. Couples NEVER regret having a child. I want to live a life that I will never regret.
* * * *
With the beginning of the school year comes new routines, and new struggles. It seems that every year, one of our biggest struggles is wisdom in knowing how to manage "technology time" (screen time, computer time, iPad time, etc.). I have been contemplating creating a rubric for homework and responsibilities that makes the child be responsible for his own time and activities. So, in my head the rubric looks something like this:
1.) homework - completed = 10 min
- neat the first time = 5 add'l min
- answers double checked (>2mistakes) = 5 min.
- completed homework put away = 5 min
2.) bed made - 7 min
3.) lunchbox in kitchen without being asked - 5 min
I'm not sure if this will work. What do you all do? How do you motivate your kids to take responsibility, and teach them work before play? I am taking any advice right now! I want this year's school work to be positive and rewarding!
This coming week, I will be undertaking a huge endeavor with the boys - we will be traveling to Arkansas with all four boys, just the six of us. As you can imagine, I am a bit nervous because of the nighttime duties that have to be performed, as well as all the daytime duties. I believe, though, that the memories will be worth the work. On Thursday, the twins will be making an appearance at a Harding University embryology lecture performed by their Papa Dean. And then on Sunday, Dave has been asked to say a few words about our journey of faith and family at Sylvan Hills Church of Christ in Sherwood. If you live in the Sherwood area (or surrounding area), and would like to join us in worship, the address is 117 W. Maryland Ave., Sherwood, AR, 72120. I am absolutely giddy about being able to visit with so many individuals and families who have prayed for the twins and our family!
For now, that is the latest edition of our news, but I would like to put out a request: Dave is looking for work in the DFW area. If anyone knows of a job or listings related to geology, environmental field, or anything else that you think might be similar please, please, please send it our way. We would appreciate all the help we can get, and as our God says, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." -Matthew 7:7-12
We are diligently asking and seeking and knocking, and we will accept any help that comes our way!
3 good things:
1.) double doozies. I mean, yummy!!
2.) Good books to read
3.) Being given another day to live.
Don't forget to post your ideas about keeping screen time to a minimum and responsibility awareness to a maximum! Not only for me, but for the other readers. 😉
Follow me on Twitter @JeniusEzell
Follow Dave on Twitter @EzellDave