In which we cry out to God.

I'm shocked, yet again, at how quickly things change.

         One moment we're eating dinner Sunday evening in a little cafe in an equally little beach town in Brittany, trying our best to keep our American children from behaving like, well, American children....and the next we're walking on the pier when Adam's phone rings again.

I will never forget that moment.

I was walking a little ahead with the baby, watching Pax as he ran ahead, wild with exuberance about being at the beach. Then Adam was yelling at me to come take Blythe...I thought he was frustrated by her refusal to walk, but as I went back and took hold of her he urgently said "look at me. Look at me!" and when I did, he mouthed "Bad. REALLY BAD."

Oh, his face....! He was crying, and I knew instantly someone had died. My first thought honestly was that it was my father-in-law...he's 68. It's the "logical" choice. Except death isn't logical....

I remember moaning, unthinkingly going on my knees and grabbing the kids to me; telling them we needed to pray, right then, and beginning to pray out loud for my inlaws. After a minute I looked to catch Adam's eyes. I'll never forget the grief, the devastation, the anguish I saw there. "Who??" I mouthed.

"Celine." "She's dead...!!"

I think I would have collapsed with grief then if I hadn't already been on the ground, holding my two oldest. Tears came hot and suddenly. I remember moaning Oh, God, no! ...why??

         Celine (my sister-in-law) suffered from seizers from the time she was about 2. It was a struggle for her, making her at times afraid to try something new for fear that she'd have a seizure; it was an anguish to my mother-in-law, as it would be for any mother watching their child hurt. As Adam got more into his premed classes, we became fairly certain-although she was never formally diagnosed-that she had epilepsy. In the end, complications (horrible ones) from a seizure Sunday morning (April 28th, 2013) caused her death....and it's all so much like a terribly eerie case of deja vu. Almost eleven years ago, on June 29th, my sister died tragically young just weeks after she had started PA school. This time, it's his sister-only 19 years old- who is gone so tragically. And Adam starts PA school in June.

           My heart aches. What else can I say? It's awful, yet still so unreal. She is suddenly, tragically gone..we walked to the beach, which was thankfully abandoned. We talked a little, cried a little, wandered around stunned a little...I called my parents and, in tears, told them the news. Adam gave one huge yell of grief. And then we just held each other and watched our three kids playing happily in the sand, the sun slowly sinking behind them, unaware of how suddenly all of our lives had changed.

            We'd only arrived Sunday afternoon to the little fishing village filled with quaint, white washed cottages, blue shutters, and cobbled streets. It's the town where Adam and Jerome spent summers with their French grandparents, growing up; and it's one of Adam's favorite places on earth. I fell in love with it too. I have always loved the Northern California coast, and after the bustle of Paris, the northern-California-esk coast is much more our style. I can't help but feel it's part of the reason we were there when we found out-if we had to be in France when she died, that place, at least, is healing. Paris-for all its' culture and beautiful architecture-is not a healing place for us. The kids were thrilled to be here. And now we are in limbo.

        We want to be with our Durango family right now. That goes without saying... but between technical issues with the cell phone we have here and language issues with the airline's customer service, it took a day and a half and a trip back to Paris to get flights ironed out. We'll be flying out of Paris Thursday around noon, getting in to Denver Thursday evening. A lot of people have been wondering what progress had been made on our getting back Stateside, so there you go.

         I can see the struggle on my husband's face....the sadness, how unreal it all is at times here. The desire to be with his parents, the grief that she's gone; our inability to do much of anything, it seems, right now. I know how he aches inside...and I know how hard it will hit him when we finally make it back to Durango. How hard it will hit both of us, most likely- to see his folks; to stay in the house where she grew up and lived her whole life. To find her truly gone. I wish I could take the hurt away from him, somehow. I know I can't. But I also know that, if he lets himself be comforted by our Holy Father, this baptism of grief will refine him as a grain of sand is refined in an oyster-layer after layer, tear by tear, until it becomes a Pearl.

I found one yesterday morning, in a tidepool. An oyster, that is. Unopened. It's silly, but I brought it home. Hoping maybe there will be a pearl inside it. Pearls stand for tears, they say...both joyful and sorrowful. Weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes with the morning. It's just that sometimes, the night lasts longer than you ever thought it would.

           A picture of Celine flashed into my head last night, as I stood on the beach just minutes after hearing the news. I saw her in heaven, still herself but so much more herself-whole, straight, peaceful, shining with joy and health. Which of course is the truth. She was laughing, the smile that was seen when she was truly happy here on earth spread wide on her face. Her hair streamed out behind her, still long and dark but now lit from the back by a Light. She was talking to several people, bright and dressed in white-their backs were to me so I couldn't see their faces. But there was Joy there. And Peace. And Wholeness.

       There's a lot I don't know right now. What God will work from these ashes; how life will change now-I don't say how it can go on, because I've walked this road before and it does go on. And there is joy and silliness even now at times in the distraction of our kiddos. We're waiting until we get Stateside to tell them-trying to get through the flights first. Pax knows something is up, but not what. I don't know how my children will react to all this-they loved their Aunt C.C. very much. And she loved all her nieces and nephews very much, too. I felt the fear start to creep in a little as night drew closer the first couple of nights-and with God's help I fought it off. There wasn't much sleep for me yet; how could there be? But instead of the thoughts I was dreading there was music. Praises to God were running through my head all night long. I do what I can to help my husband's heart and know it will never be enough; but I also know we're not alone. And I know our God heals.

I know He works all things together for His glory. And I know that when we are weak, He is strong. I can feel His strength more and more, today, as friends around the world are praying for us-thank you, dear friends. Please keep lifting us all up. Adam's parents in their devastation, Jerome and Tiff there on the front lines, us with a marathon of flights and jetlag and another road trip to get to them. Thank you for your words, your prayers, your love. We love you, too.


April in Paris.

This is Notre Dame. It's the one time our camera worked on our morning excursion last Sunday; an ambling walk along the Seine across bridges and around old stone buildings to the huge church on the Pont. The bells were ringing...you could hear them long before we got to the cathedral. Deeply resonating and beautiful. And did you Notre Dame has several play areas, around the back and side? They do. Including a sand box-that's where we were, surrounded by these wide-spreading, blossom-heavy, incredibly gorgeous trees. There was a little old man there, too, sitting in the corner of the sand box with a pile of sand toys. He'd brought them for the kids-whoever they might be-to play with.


In which we go to the Awful Tower.

       Yesterday was an idyllic day. The weather has finally decided, once and for all, that it is spring; there were suddenly women everywhere in dresses and skirts where the day before there were only skinny jeans, scarves and boots. And since it was sunny and warm, we had decided it would be a good day to head to the Tour Eiffel. We went last time we were here, of course. But since Blythe has been asking to go to the "Awful Tower" for, oh, at least 4 months now...we knew we'd be going again.

    We came at it from a different metro station (due to getting an early start and hitting rush hour traffic on the Metro-yikes. A little nerve-wracking with 3 kiddos!) and decided to walk the last half mile or so, from the Ecole Militaire (military academy) up the Champs de Mars. So, after a quick stop at a friendly neighborhood Starbucks.....oh, by the way, if you're ever over here and find yourself in need of an easily accessible  public restroom-find a Starbucks. Seriously. Public restrooms are a bit hard to find here...as are water fountains. And a way to make a return at a store without filling out 8 pages of paperwork. Or get a checkbook or debit card from the bank where you have an account. Actually, a lot of things are just a little more complicated than they need to be.... Don't worry, my husband agrees. As does my French father-in-law, most of the time ;)

      So back to Starbucks. Add in a stroll down another street or two, a stop to take our jackets off, a look at the military school...and we turned onto the Champs de Mars. It's an impressive sight, at least for me; the long, rolling greens broken up by paths leading to the huge tower. And guess what we discovered today? There are two super-great playgrounds, a mini carousel, and a tiny cafe hiding there in the shadow of the tower! We knew there's a big carousel on the other side of the tower; but this was even better. The big kids, of course, wanted to go play; and we were all for. You know there's a certain amount of play-energy that kids need to expel every day, right? Regardless of whatever regular "exercise" they may get, they will be antsy/twerpy if they don't expel enough play-energy. So play they did.

      Adam ran up the mall to see about getting our tickets while I watched the kids play. Sitting on a park bench in the "little kids" playground, the sun streaming through new-budding leaves, I had another moment of surrealism. The sand beneath my feet was beach sand, soft with bits of ground-up shells, brought from some French coastline; my three kiddos played just as they do at every other playground we've ever been to (although, still no swings. What's up with that??)....and the Eiffel Tower is looming to my right. I laughed a little about how blase the mothers (ok, and the nannies....this IS Paris) are about their little playground on the Champs de Mars. But, really, I suppose that's how Chicagoans feel about the Sears tower. Or San Franciscans feel about trolley cars. Or Phoenicians feel about saguaros....

      Then Adam came back, and we headed to the tower. We gave the kids the choice of standing in a super long line to ride the elevator, which stops at the second floor and then continues to the tip top (what we did last time), or standing in a shorter line that moved much faster, but then they would have to climb the stairs to the first floor.

They chose the stairs.

Adam was positive we were headed for disaster.

       But they did great! Better than great...they actually loved climbing all the way up to the first floor. I knew Pax would be fine, but I didn't expect Blythe to like it...she's put up a protest a lot on this trip about walking. But apparently this was like hiking-different and, in her young eyes, an adventure! A chance to prove she could keep up with Pax! and she did brilliantly. At the top, we gazed at the view for a bit, then found a little cafe where they had water and pain au chocolate (chocolate croissants...my children have eaten pain au chocolate at every.single.cafe we've stopped at.). And the baby? He did fine, and was very happy when we let him out of the carrier long enough to have a snack. I've been carrying him like a baby kangaroo all over Paris-he tolerates it for a bit, then is ready to be FREE!!

     The rest of the tower was fun. A little viewing of the city, a browse through the giftshop; then hiking back down the stairs and across the neighborhood to get back on the metro. Pax started falling asleep one stop before ours and I felt horrible about making him stay awake...but he's just getting SO big and with the stroller, Blythe, the baby in his carrier, and all the steps in the metro stations-he just plain has to walk.

       After we'd fed the kids a late lunch, put the littles down for naps, and settled Pax, Adam and I looked at each other with a bit of a sigh of relief. Or thankfulness, really...for several reasons we just felt like God had given us a day of Grace. And we needed it, too-a day with no meltdowns, no flipouts, no arguments or fighting-just spending time together, having fun. Now, we certainly have fun and enjoy our kids every day (or, if we're really being honest, maybe for parts of every day)...but today was just a gold-star day. A day we will always remember. A day when the potential you see in your kids is, in one facet or another, fully on display...and you revel in it. If every day was a gold-star day for me, maybe it would be one for my kids, too-but even that morning (which started early) my husband had to remind me that it's about what attitude you chose to have as much as anything. (Actually, what he said when he got back from the bakery was, "Why don't you just go away for awhile? You're not in any condition to be with us right now," He said it half-jokingly, with a smile...but I made myself a cup of coffee and went into the bathroom to get ready by myself, anyway. He was right. I was a bit cranky.) I'm so thankful for our gold-star day...which ended with a trip across the street to jump on the trampolines, because apparently they didn't get all their play-energy out. And now, I leave you with a little video of the day, because the camera we brought shorted out and it's crazy expensive to get a disposable one. Oh, and they're crazy hard to find, too. Why? Well, it's like we tell the kids sometimes...because this is France, and everything is just a little bit different here. But when that "different" means fresh croissants and bread every morning from the bakery just around the corner, and they just happen to sell the best cafe eclairs ever there too...it's a very good different, indeed.


It is what it is!

Pax and I were looking out our huge windows after lunch today, enjoying the business of a Sunday afternoon in Paris and just talking about this and that...what we might explore next, where we'd been this morning. "you know," I told him as we watched the water shooting high up into the fountains in the Place de la Concorde, "We could walk out to those fountains tomorrow...you guys could throw a penny in, maybe make a wish,"
"And I know just what to wish for," he replied with a satisfied look on his face.
"oh yeah? What's that?" I ask, waiting to hear some little-boy-heart's desire.
You can take the kid out of the States, but ya can't take the States out of the kid...
(and for those of you who were wondering, my picky eater is actually doing quite well. Of course, Pain au Chocolate almost every day doesn't hurt, either...but it's no bean burrito!)


In which we are on an Epic Adventure.

                I'm sitting on a low, plush red sofa in a 5th story living room thousands of miles away from my everyday home. A few feet away, a grand piano that my littles love to play on during the day rests quietly. It's old and unused to all the joyful noise three children bring, but beautiful. The ceiling over my head, graced with 18 in. crown mouldings painted with hints of gold trim in places, occasionally creaks as the family above us settles down for the evening. Down on the street, traffic with all its lights and noises won't stop anytime tonight, making me thankful for our quieter back bedroom. It's finally dark, although light and time here are so strange that 7pm looks and feels like 4pm or 9am. The garden on the other side of our street is locked now, quiet after the days' bustle of tourists and Parisians soaking up the April sun. And in the distance the Eiffel Tower is lit up, a yellow glow now where minutes ago it was alive with sparkling lights my two oldest oooed and ahhhed over. This is Paris; this is our home for the next month.

We've been on the road for over two weeks now, an adventure planned to soak up the last bit of time before Adam starts the craziness of P.A. school. He left his job at the hospital where he's worked the past year and a half at the end of March, and we began the journey to see family before we flew away for a bit. Driving from our home to Durango took one 10-hour day (almost one-year-olds require LOTS of stops. So do three year olds who happen to get carsick....), where we spent Easter Sunday celebrating the miracle of Christ's love for us at our "old" church while seeing many, many dear friends. Adam and I got to spend a day away at the Ouray hot springs the next day, thanks to our sister-in-law's bravery in taking on all 6 crazy cousins (thanks again, Tiff!!) and it was a relaxing, beautiful day filled with deliciously hot hamburgers and fries at a local brewery and sun. We'd forgotten just how strong the sun is on top of a mountain...and so we'd forgotten our sunscreen. Needless to say, we got a bit pink at the hot springs! But it was so needed, our time away. Trying to pack for a 6 week, 3 location, intercontinental vacation while getting our house back in some semblance of order (I love to come home to a clean house!) was busy enough. Then there was the car accident my mom was in the Sunday evening before we left (the 3rd of those your-mom/dad-is-in-the-hospital call I've gotten since Thanksgiving....not loving those. Being so far away in crisis leaves you anxious and helpless!) Blythe, especially, had a hard time; although she couldn't verbalize to me WHY. She and my mom are great friends... have I mentioned that my sweet little girl has a really, really hard time when she can't be in complete control of any situation? AND that she's an epic shrieking meltdown-er? And that there was A LOT she couldn't control that week? Ai. What a week. (Mom is going to be fine, by the way...but while the doctors were discovering that the accident had given her Broken Heart Syndrome, they also discovered an artery that is 90% blocked. So in that way, the accident was a blessing in disguise. She just needs rest, now, and physical therapy-the former must heal before they can deal with the latter.)

       By the grace of God, a fantastic daddy/husband (who was willing to let me fly up to Colorado with the baby to be there if I felt I needed to-therefore taking alllll the packing, cleaning, and driving of the 2 bigs to Colorado on himself...he was very thankful when I decided I was needed at home more ;) ), and an incredible friend who came over with her family and brought us dinner Wednesday night, left us ANOTHER dinner for Thursday as well as breakfast one morning, and then came over on Friday loaded up with her 2 girls, a kiddie pool, four cans of shaving cream, and food coloring to let the kids blow off some steam....we made it the end of the week. Community, friends. It's a BIG deal.

      Anyways. Back to Colorado. We spent 3 days in D-town, capping it off with dinner at Mark and Jill's house where Pax discovered the world of StarWars Legos...and then headed up to Ft. Collins early the next day. The kids did beautifully that day (yay for sleeping babies! Yay for no puke!) and we made good time. The NEXT day was spent baking and baking and baking some more and making sure my mom wasn't overdoing it and then decorating cupcakes....because the day after that, Friday, April 5th, was Blaise's first birthday! Which will have to be a post for after we get back, because I left the camera I used for those pictures in Ft. Fun. Too much luggage already. But it was fun and we loved celebrating our smart, funny little guy! Fast forward a few days of slipping away when we could for some time together, seeing family, snuggling our new niece, and more rearranging and packing....and we headed to the airport for the epic journey to France. Which went very well, actually; although I learned why you should never, EVER fly with a sinus infection if you can help it. The rest went pretty much as well as can be expected with 3 kids. Although Pax didn't sleep AT ALL for about 24 hours and so eventually melted down...but that was after we'd already made it to the apartment an Paris and to be expected, after all, with jetlag and kiddos.

         My inlaws were already here, on the tail end of a week's stay, when we arrived. They took me one day to the Carrefour (France's version of walmart, only nicer) and helped us stock up on some essentials. VERY nice, since in the area where the apartment is we walk everywhere and the grocery stores are small and you get only what you can carry home in your small, portable grocery cart. Jetlag makes a blur of the first few days and nights, especially with kids-the baby had the hardest time adjusting, with Blythe a close second. I've actually been extremely impressed with Pax on this trip. His ability to adapt to different situations, try new things, step up and take on even more responsibility, start speaking a little French, etc. has been so fun to watch! So we're here, and settled, and exploring Paris with three kids in tow...very good times. Saturday night Adam and I got to go out to a 2+ hour dinner at a teeny chic place right around the corner from Notre Dame, which meant tromping across Paris in the blowing rain and wind (in heels!). We experienced several of those movie-esq umbrella-blowing-inside-out moments and just had to laugh...and throw away the umbrella once we got home :) But walking  back by Notre Dame at night, across one of the padlock bridges...the grounds still and dark, the arches and towers lit up against the night-I soaked up the beauty and the other-worldness of the evening. Sometimes it still feels surreal, that this is part of my life now-Paris. Adam and I are constantly aware of the blessing of all this even as we seeking the Lord's purpose for this in our lives is,  as well as for others. 

      Sunday, the last day before my inlaws left, we had an epic family dinner with my father-in-law's Uncle (88 and still sharp as a tack!), Aunt, and 2 of his cousins....which started when they arrived at 9pm. We didn't even enter the dining room until 10pm, after a "appetiser" course of champagne and some chocolates they brought with them. It's a different world, for sure! I have to admit that as much fun as they can be, I always half-dread these dinners, because although everyone is very nice and, of course, interested in seeing us; they speak entirely in French. And although I understand quite a lot by this point and speak a bit, I have to concentrate so hard to understand the flow of conversations that I'm exhausted by the end of the evening! Well, that and the fact that it was after midnight before the dinner was over...but I've done it before, both in Brazil and several times with Adam's family (the first dinner I ever had with his family was one of these epic French-speaking marathons) so I just buckle down and try to constantly pay attention so someone doesn't say something to me when I'm not listening because THEN where would we be??

     And now, I've rambled on quite enough and this is much too long to add any of the other stories I already have to it...so we'll save the story of how Adam almost got us arrested on the Metro yesterday for another night. A tout a'lhuere!