Sunday, October 29, 2017

The messy side of prematurity

In the NICU we learned about the medical risks of prematurity - how to keep their health stable. We learned about the physical risks - their vision, hearing, muscle development and risk for cerebral palsy. The area we didn't talk much about? The neurological and emotional risks...those are hidden disabilities and challenges that can make some of the other risks be handled in stride or a tougher battle. 

From birth each baby was so different! Sure, as they've grown we can tell which parent they take after more or collectively that our kids our connected...but even before that, Brennan was sweet and laid back, Landon was happy and unpredictable and Brooke was intense and more temperamental. They're maturing, developing and gaining skills, but those personality traits have served them well.

Fast forward to mastering skills, communication, making choices, critical thinking, impact of friends - that's neurological and emotional. One kiddo struggles regulating emotions, more than the others. Ironically, that's often associated with prematurity. This kid is wired uniquely, perceives things uniquely and needs uniquely. Though they were born a set, they're so different.

When emotions are regulated, situations happen, conversations happen, decisions can be made pretty evenly. When they're not regulated, emotions get in the way of how those situations are perceived, how communication happens, whether or not decisions can even be made...

This past weekend was a breakpoint for that one kiddo. It was messy, really messy. Emotions were raw and all over the place. The last week or so, was kinda like an emotional highway...some turns and hills and some straightaways.  Saturday all bets were off - strategies weren't working, they were just get more emotional and less thoughtful until it clicked.

After the breaking point and we got the kiddo into a relaxing bath, their emotions starting coming down, like the other side of the mountain...they accepted (and did) the consequences they had earned and spoke calmly. While they were in the bath though, I went back to the kitchen where the breakdown happened and was struck by the mess...Kleenexes, balled up paper, pencils and notebooks, so many emotions, frantic, and overwhelmed - then the Bible verse reminder for the upcoming week defining and describing LOVE. What a day for that verse to be our tone for the week! 

Themes throughout the service Sunday was compassion, entering into each other's pain and how much we need God and being Christ to others. Just the conviction I needed...this afternoon, this one was in a great mood to learn and we went through 8 tips to control emotions. We talked about so many emotions (like a bazillion - their words!) slowing down to feel them, recognizing how situations are impacted by emotions from their perspective. They were unbelievably thoughtful, compassionate and kind!  I'm sure we'll have a ton more conversations and hopefully they'll be like this! This one is beautifully made - the intensity that helped them survive, though a challenge now, will be a force channeled for love so deeply and fully!

Writing this more for me to process and remember than anything (!) but it might resonate with some other families in a "mess" right now. As a parent it's so hard to try to continually teach and explain, (often feeling like it falls on deaf or unwilling ears), but how incredible when God works and helps them understand! He knows how we're uniquely wired, made and gifted and will remold messes into creations. (I'm sure He's working on my heart, patience and perspective as much as them handling their emotions!) Saturday started pretty awful, but this weekend ended with lots of beautiful moments! 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

God moves in incredible ways!

When God moves so deeply, you can't help but share! Our family has grown in so many ways this last month - starting new routines, middle school (yikes!), new abilities and our family grew by two! In all this growing, we certainly craved normalcy, things to stay the same, but by taking a step back - there's no way not to change! We're constantly on this journey...our entire blog is called Pollak Family - We're Growing for good reason! :)

In all this change my faith has been made so real and grown so much! Much more than just concepts I believed. Nich & I really do make a great team, and I've learned there's no small way of doing things for us :) Yes, our plates were already full with our family, work, volunteering and other commitments, but God's call was so strong and He's provided the resources, endurance, patience, balance, etc to make things work and to know we're following and doing His work. Last November we felt a strong calling to become a foster family and for the last month have welcomed 2 little boys to our home. Plates became fuller, our dependence and God's grace much more abundant! :)

Over the years, there's been many times God has been so real to me - giving direction when options seemed cloudy, rest and comfort when I'm weary, and contentment when I'm anxious or jealous. Preparing us. This last month, God has been moving in us to blindly, intentionally, willingly follow Him. As a family, we've faced challenges that made us doubt whether we were still on His path, what He has for us, question our willingness (even out loud!) and situations led us to be humble, broken sometimes to utter dependence and in a prime spot to be ministered to. My ears, eyes and heart were ready and so hungry to hear from Him. He reminded me of His power, plan and guidance way back to Moses in Exodus - "You need only to Be Still." God's at work, orchestrating so much more than we can see! I I need to be listening, ready, praying for discernment for when He's ready for me. That's an incredible place to be! 

Last week was especially tough and we ended up with a pretty critical & stressful moment for one of the kiddos, and through this wrestle, God surrounded us with such affirmation my heart was about to explode! It was definitely a Kingdom moment - the message at church last week seemed to use scripture, song and reflections of past lessons that God's already worked through to culminate all my doubts and worries and He took them. I was such a mess! :) He loves us so much and I believe is so eager for us to follow without hindrance the life He has for us, blessing and serving others, and gives us what we need to do His work! So often we miss the opportunities because we get so caught up with the worries and day to day of this world that we don't "raise our gaze heavenward" and get a chance to do what we were truly made for!

Man, I hope this conveys the joy and just life I've felt in the midst of such tough stuff knowing we're doing what we're made for! What a God we serve! 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The next chapter!

Foster care has been on many of our hearts for years...sometimes for a brief time, sometimes on a couple of ours, but this past Thanksgiving God put a heavy tug on mine, Nich, Hailey & Brooke's at the same time. We prayed about the timing, our family, the agency, the logistics (!) and felt such a peace and direction that we knew this was the next chapter for us!

It's absolutely amazing to see how God works; looking back it's easy to see how the seasons and lessons He's brought us through has prepared for this next step. Surviving and managing life with many young kids will help us acclimate others into our care. Balancing medical & development issues with typical kiddos has helped us see each kid uniquely, think creatively, trust God and ourselves, savor moments and get our work done quickly! It's also helped our kids be more understanding, patient and compassionate with others. We've been blessed with this house and have room to share and supportive family & friends too! Personally, I've grown (and continue to grow!) in ways to accept and love the life God's given me and to trust - He has a beautiful plan bigger than I can see and He's got it under control. A few years ago I wrestled with not serving in a ministry, but He reassured me that timing was to minister and build up my family. We'll always have areas to grow and challenges to face, but I believe the kids have a good foundation...we got through a tough season and are stronger, even more ready to serve as a family!

After several months of learning and licensing, our family was officially licensed  to care for foster kids Friday! Our home is prepared, our hearts are ready and we're eager to welcome kids into our home! We'll likely be ready early July!

Please pray for our family that we continue to seek God during the transitions, continue traditions and conversations. We're prepared in our heads - pray that comes out in our hearts and lives in the moment as we care for new kiddos!

Friday, November 4, 2016

God for an advocate, we need only to be still

Landon's in the hospital again, and though it stinks, I'm thankful for the time with him, time to be still and reflect. I could be doing other things (sometimes feel stressed and guilty about the other things I'm not able to do!) but MY SON IS IN THE HOSPITAL - that's my priority and I need to remember and settle with that. Hospital stays and medical complications have become such a norm, this may sound strange, but it's easy to minimize and feel like just another thing. This stay has been like that and I'm glad for the wake up call. Not in an emergency way, but reflectively!

Thankfully it's been one of the most stable and mild hospital stays, but that's easy for me to think I can handle this...Landon was a little sick the last few days but Wednesday afternoon vommited and had several seizures over 1.5 hours which didn't stop with our rescue meds. I have a hospital bag packed so quickly grabbed that, easily explained what was happening to the other kids (they're unfortunately used to the ambulance coming and just asked how serious on a scale from bad, medium and ok), and prepped for the routine. We ended up in one emergency room, transferred to another hospital emergency room then admitted. We got settled in the room at 2:30am; but had several interruptions with monitors and IV beeps, staff questions, etc til morning (so not much sleep). Throughout the first day, he surprisingly got much better and I was anxious for them to wean him a little faster because we can do a lot of care at home. The second night was another with very little sleep, not due to his medical status, but he was so restless, IV equipment beeps, general traffic and hospital noise. Most stays, I feel I'm able to keep things together, manage sleep, emotions and other responsibilities but this one - just minor challenges (though they didn't seem like it in the moment!) caused a breakdown.

Early this morning, we were up so frequently and realized I was run down, and definitely not depending on God. I prayed for Him to take over.  I washed my face and tried to go back to sleep, only to be woken just a few minutes later - the nurse realized my concern and acted on my behalf - this time it was the doc, at 4am wanting to hear what I was worried about. Another moment of exhaustion came out during rounds this morning, and I wasn't speaking as eloquently as I would've liked :) The nurse helped explain, the docs talked to me afterward and are following up with other services for me.  Now, I'm a mom, but sometimes mama bear comes out which isn't always productive. This hospital stay, Landon's been doing great but I've quickly become exhausted and easily stressed. When I had a chance to reflect, the verse in Exodus 14:14 "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still" kept resonating with me. 

The verse doesn't tell us to just sit idely - it says to be still. Psalm 46:10 remind us what to do when we're still - "be still and know that I am God. I've been emotional and for a stay that "should've been routine" and "I should've been able to manage", others have stepped in to help Landon for me. I'm so used to needing to advocate for him and am thankful for others just stepping in - definitely humbling this hospital stay! That's God at work right there. A reminder that He's God - the one who gives us all - endurance, strength, rest, each breath and takes care of us in unexpected ways.

rocked Landon at 6:30am, and that was the first time he fell soundly asleep. After rounds he was ready to get up and this morning we just played, rocked, cuddled, sang. He needs me as a mom and that's what I need to be right now. God's got things under control. My God is God, much bigger than I can comprehend! 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

7 years

Wow - it's been 7 years since our quads were born. 7 years today they became triplets to new people that would meet them. A lot happens in 7 years. You do a lot, you think a lot, you feel a lot, those around you do too! 

Kids grow up. New kids come along. You get through the day-to-day. You do extraordinary things. You go on vacations. You move, you might build a farm :) You have fun and enjoy life.

You wonder why, with so so many questions. You're jealous. You have doubts. You find clarity and glimpses of a plan larger than yourself.

You grieve. You're angry. You're scared for your other kids. You feel all sorts of feelings. Your emotions move quickly. You find peace and source of calmness. 

Some things stay the same. Some feelings are still there, yet not as near the surface. Today my thoughts wandered, in sweetness, not pain. Katelyn's life was not lived out physically on earth, but lives very much in our hearts and our home. Her life and death has changed our lives, our perspectives, the conversations amongst all of us, such big life and God concepts simplified to explain to kids. 

Each year, we've sent balloons in the air, but today I told Hailey (first) that today is Katelyn's Heaven Day - anniversary of her death - and asked if she wanted to send balloons. She already knew today was the day and found comfort in sending balloons to remember. It was like a relay...Brooke walked in while we were talking, so started the conversation all over again but Hailey shared. Brooke wanted to send balloons and also wanted to talk about what Katelyn would've been like, would've looked like. Brennan overheard and wondered what we were talking about. I said it was the day his sister died several years before, he said her name, and that he missed her. Wondered when she felt better. This year was a deeper understanding for Brennan and Brooke, and always for us too!  

This year we chose our favorite color balloons (so she could get to know us!) and let them loose tonight. 

Thankfully they didn't get stuck in any trees! 

Hailey, Owen and I worked in the memorial flower garden made last year!

There weren't many tears today, but a lot of hugs. We were gentle with each other tonight. That's the sweetness and the impact she's made. 

Love you sweet girl! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Answered prayers in strange circumstances!

This might sound a bit odd, but stick with me! God answers prayer in the strangest circumstances sometimes! 

We had a rough week and a really rough weekend of the kids listening, doing what they know they should be doing around the house, etc which means lots of reminders, attitude, consequences...not the makings of a great summer break, right?! This weekend especially Brooke was struggling a lot with something and it was catchy with the rest of the family. There were some kind moments, but an overwhelming amount of attitude, impulsive comments and behavior, doing what she wanted despite the impact it had on others...when she's in the mode, she forgets to listen to her body and we end up with accidents. Not cool when she's capable, see our perpetuating cycle? We had a family circle meeting - talking seriously about what our family looks like, how we relate to and help each other, and ask for help or a break, and challenged each of us to show each family member love or kindness at some point during the day - every day. 

The next day was another struggle for many kids, but again Brooke specifically. When we had time to talk, I checked in on her challenge. She answered honestly and by 6pm said she was only kind to Landon by helping him get a toy. Yikes! still time to turn it around - no wonder it's been rough though! 

Next day, a good day for a few kids, but again rough for Brooke. Friday we had bought a slip n slide but we were in no shape to use it til Sunday. Brooke had to sit out as a consequence (our theory is they're learning-consequences and when smaller ones don't work, we need bigger consequences). It hurt for her to not play, but after calming down, she, Landon, and I sat on the porch and talked about her thoughts and feelings. There's a lot in there! :)

Fast forward, rough day today with a sitter and I was feeling at my wits end. Looking back at my words with her for the last few days, it was pretty negative and that's hard - she didn't do much to hold up her end, but I was really at a loss to help her! I told her, God trusted Mom and Dad to help raise you guys to be like Him and I don't feel like I'm doing a very good job - help me out here! 

Remember that post about keep my eyes about the waves? She saw a poster of that phrase in my computer last night...Today's devotional was about Paul's thorn in his flesh (in this worldly place). Boy, this sounds bad, but this weekend I felt like I had a 6 yr old thorn! Then I was reminded about her thorns. How badly I wanted this to change, I bet she does too but doesn't have the words for it! Paul said he boasted about his weakness because in that, God's power is made strong! These are lessons He's teaching me, but I couldn't see the birds eye view in the thick of it this weekend!

Today I asked for help praying to figure out how to help her, stick with consequences and show her love. It wasn't until a few steps into the answer did I see, but God answered - in the middle of the mess tonight, when I recognized my need for him. During devotions tonight she stopped and said she need to go potty (end up having diaherra...). From the bathroom she called for me to help since she didn't feel well. God gave me compassion and not frustration. She talked calmly about how she was feeling (I'll spare you the details!) and suggested we read Corduroy while she keeps trying. Well, it took so long that Nich told her he'd finish devotions with the others and she said (not pouted or yelled) that she was disappointed but I offered to read it together just us after she was done. She finished on the potty, stayed calm, we read about nothing being impossible with God (how fitting right?!). She remembered a time when the Israelites were leaving Antartica :) and it seemed impossible but God helped. I told her about a time something seemed really hard (figuring out how to move past the weekend) but I prayed and needed help praying because I was really frustrated and God helped make it possible and spending time with her way sweeter! 

Seriously?! God, I'm so thankful You're in our everyday and helping us navigate through this life for what You have in store! 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Truths found in the seeking

I've started this post several times but haven't had the time, or the clarity to put it all together til now. I'm so thankful for the way God works - when we can see the puzzle pieces falling into place! Hopefully this comes out as it is in my head and my heart!

The last few months it seems like we've had more and more conversations with the kids, understanding things from their perspective. General stuff - school, growing up, living with each other, friends, their feelings, etc. Also it seems like we've had more doctor appointments that have been straightforward about what the kids are dealing with - not just from a health maintenance standpoint, but giving us a glimpse into their day to day (hearing, vision, pain, stimulation, etc). Often, I think we (and really adults in general) forget how big and how real the challenges kids are facing! I know I do! I'm so glad to get that deeper understanding and to be able to talk about, though it often sparks some pretty interesting discussions. With the kids, depending on the challenge they're facing, it can take us a lot of ways, right?  Sometimes we trivialize the issue or their feelings, sometimes wonder why the situation happened to us/our kids, sometimes we blame whatever caused the issue. I've been really humbled hearing from their perspective, challenges they're facing.

When Landon was in this hospital last month, I read an article in a parenting magazine that asked how do you answer the question, "why me? why my child?". There were a lot of answers in the article from parents (and I think I would've answered this a lot of different ways over the last 6 years!), but the point of the article says our "answers will vary, but the importance is in seeking our own truth."

How true is that! In any change that's done to us, is natural to question why and try to make an understanding of it. Our answers will probably change as we move through - as we process, grieve, reflect, live. The quote says the importance is in seeking our own truth. Not taking someone else's, not happening upon, but is found IN seeking what makes sense, what's true for us. 

I think the process of seeking is just as important as what happened (the event, diagnosis, etc) and the truth that's found. Situations will keep happening and I need to continually seek and know myself and the journey I'm on. This isn't always pretty stuff - I know for me, I've wrestled with guilt, blame, resentment, envy for the life others lived that I wish I had (or I had planned). Working through this stuff has also given me crazy joy, gratefulness, hope too. Not going through life with a rosy sunglasses (!), but working through stuff changes you and can help give you a different perspective, right? I've written about this before if you're eager to read about my journey....and it wasn't a one time aha moment! :) 

Landon's last hospital stay, he ended up struggling to breathe on a ventilator because he aspirated his vomit from a seizure. There's definitely been "why my kid" thoughts, but that's not helpful for me. The overarching TRUTH I was reminded of yesterday at church, we live in a broken world, we're human and God is using us, our situations to show us Himself. God's plan is to bring us closer to him. So there's no room for the "why me, why my family" comments, it's the chance for us to cling to God. When we continue on in the challenge, through the challenge, despite the challenge - It's in those moments that it's obvious it's not us, but God! Use us, do a good work through us, bring Your glory!

In the conversations we've had with the kids about how they tick - they could be different yes, but no worse than anyone else...they're still beautiful creations. We're all jars of clay created not of perfect gold so God can use us and He can been seen. If we were perfect, would we depend on him and would others see Him living in us? 

When we talk about what their friends have said, how they've felt - we're human, but let God help you respond - us respond - and don't find your worth in your friends. Man, it breaks my heart to hear them feel left out, that they're starting to understand how people view others, but continue loving and being you! 

When we understand more from a medical standpoint how their lives are and likely will be impacted, it's frustrating to think of how to adapt, but you do and encourage them to keep striving, learning, enjoying life!

There's many truths and my journey has helped me really start to understand them. God is enough for all the challenges I'll face. Sometimes I need reminders when the the challenge seems bigger and more central. Perspective...Jennie...perspective! I pray I can help my kids turn to Him or start to straight up rely on God. I know they'll find their truths as they grow, and need to seek and find in their own time. I'm thankful for what my journey has taught me so far and the promise of what's ahead!