Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School - There's no place like home

School started for the Woodard Academy this past Monday. We were all ready for the routine and structure it provides. With as hot hot hot as it's been we really should have started weeks ago and taken a nice long fall break once the cool air moves in.

We are once again schooling around the table in the dining room. Although I think we will eventually desire a school room in he future, I am very content and happy with our school set up.

We all gather here for Bible first thing. Then we do our history timeline - I let them stand on their chairs...
Then everyone tends to spread out. This year I am teaching 7 kids at the 8th grade, 5th grade, 4th grade, 2nd grade, and preschool level!! You will find kids doing their work all over.

The night before our big first day we had our annual Kick Off with our co-op. It is always so fun and our dear Caldwells always serve as amazingly gracious hosts. Our CK theme this year (we were Continental Kids when we studied geography and Created Kids when we did anatomy) is etCetera Kids. We are not sticking o one big theme but are instead doing a variety of things. Etcetera means "and all these things" so it will be a fun year.

Our very first year we took a pic of all the kids on the swing set. It has become tradition. But it is so hard to believe that Ally was the twins age when we first started together. What a blessing this community of friends has been to us.
 The girls..
 The boys...
 The kiddos having fun...
 get it? etc... dot dot dot...

 Madison and Abigail got a little stick fighting lesson from Jason...

And so we start another year. This is my 9th year of homeschooling. It has been a journey that has far surpassed anything I had ever anticipated and hoped - in both the joys and challenges. I am so very thankful for all the time I get with my children. I love teaching them and being with them and trying to know their hearts. And it reveals to me my own heart to me over and over. I am so blessed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Looking fine at 9!

Coley Moley. What a guy. You never met a sweeter 9 year old boy. He LOVES babies - I mean just loves them and asks for one all the time. He often comes in to the kitchen to ask what he can do to help me. He always offers to pour drinks at dinner time and two nights ago he cleaned the twins room for them - just to be helpful.
He is also stubborn, forgets to do his dishes after every meal and hates to clean his room. But hey - who doesn't? Overall he is pretty stinking amazing. And last week he turned 9 years old.
All this boy wanted for his b-day was a date with his daddy. Doesn't that just make your heart melt. I love these days and know that they are fleeting. The day is coming where all he wants is a car.

We invited our new friend, Nathan, over to play for the day. We ate lunch (fetticunni alfredo - Cole's request) and then wenr to the pool.

After swimming Cole and Nathan got special birthday cupcakes from Gigis.

Then Colson was off on his date. He had won a free meal from the Elephant Bar for doing his reading in the library's summer reading program.

After dinner they went to the Lego store so Cole could spend every last penny of his birthday money (but I do need to say he gave $20 of his money to his big brother so that he could make a purchase for which he had been saving). He bought some Hero Factory sets.

They came home and opened our gift and a gift from the Lees. The Lees also skyped in (on MY ipad no less) for the present opening and Happy Borthday singing and candle blowing part of the night.

 The Lees send him cd's. The kids love them and have already (finally) memorized their books of the Bible because of them. And that gift went well with ours - an ipod. Yes, years ago my mom gave my brother, Jack an ipod. Years ago Jack gave me the ipod. And last week I gave Colson the ipod. Take that Al Gore - I bet he has never recycled that much when it comes to a birthday gift. He was delighted and is actually the envy of his older siblings who have ipods but not with SCREENS.
He had a fun day and I got to retrieve all the memories I could from this aging brain of mine of this sweet boy over the last 9 years. Oh that the Lord would draw Him and that he would find true JOY in the Savior. Our prayer is that he would not waste his life but spend it in ways that matter for eternity.

The Battle of The BULGE.

I have a bulge. Not a baby bulge - man, that would be awesome - nothing better than that baby bump. Of course, having 6 baby bumps (and one of those x2) leave one with other bulges that are not nearly as awesome. But I digress...

I woke up in early June with pain in my back that over the last almost 3 months has gotten increasingly worse every day. The pain in the back was soon surpassed by the constant throbbing intense pain in my right leg. Unbearable is the only way to describe it.

I got an appointment with our church's free clinic (bc we have no money and no insurance - what a blessing to have this ministry available to us!). They arranged an MRI for me and it revealed what we all thought... a bulge...
See, starting from the top, those first 6 nice little well behaved discs?  Then you get the dark one with the black line - it's a tear. Then you get a black line and the little guy is trying to escape somewhere. Maybe he needs a vacation. Maybe the pressure is too much. I understand. Maybe the intact discs tease him. But there he is torn and bulging right on my sciatic nerve.

It has been miserable. I have been in so much pain and I have been on A LOT of medication. I am thankful for a diagnosis and the Lord has been so faithful to provide FREE physical therapy visits and FREE chiropractic visits. I am just praying that I will find relief soon.

SO - if you've tried to get a hold of me and wondered why you couldn't it's because I've climbed up in my bed with pain meds in attempt to sleep my pain away. Thank God for Madison. Send your nominations for mother of the year at any point.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

J Baby - my great love

My hubster turned 37 this week. I don't know if I ever really thought 37 was old - but I certainly do not think it is anymore!
I love this man. I mean, in a sweet, ooey gooey, mushy gushy, make your heart beat faster sort of way. And I love him in a solid, resolute, firm, stand the test of time, for the rest of my life sort of way. And I think both are so important.

The last few years have been hard for us. It's hard on a man to barely make ends meet for his family. It is hard for a wife to deal with a discouraged partner. It's hard on marriage when its members are worn and exhausted and sometimes less than kind as a result. It is hard to feel like you are treading water in life - just staying afloat -and wondering if you are in your marriage too?  Yet it can be good.

It's good to know who will still be there at the end of the day. It's good to know no one is going anywhere. It's good to know you are still loved when you feel unlovely. It's good to find you are stronger than you knew. It is good to receive grace that you didn't know could be offered. It is good to crawl in bed with backs turned and still find feet that make their way to touch in the middle. It is good to know commitment. 

When everything is always ooey gooey chocolate and roses it is wonderful. The easy days and romance are the pulsing emotion of love. But the life in the trenches, no make up, yes I just said that and now I'm so sorry... the commitment... is the decided action of love. 

I am so blessed to know both. My J Babe still makes my heart beat faster. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of him and have to stare a moment longer. I love being with him and he still makes me laugh and laugh and laugh. And I am in this till death do us part.

I love you Jason Scott - with an undying, crazy strong, ever growing, never regretting love. I love you as much as always and more than ever. Happy Birthday.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Madi wins an iPad!

Madison won an iPad! The kids all worked so hard participating in the library's summer reading program. The won all sorts of coupons for participating but at the end of summer they would draw names for the bigger prizes - like $25 gift cards, a wii, and an iPad. Every time they read 800 pages (or 8 books for he younger ones) they were able to enter their name in the drawing. Madison read over 3,200 pages and had her name entered 4 times.

The initial day for prize notification came and went. All the kids knew the date was August 2nd. All day that day and even that week the kids reminded me to answer my phone if it was a number I didn't recognize. At the end of the week they officially declared "Woodards never win anything."

However, last week I get a call from the library saying they had extra money to buy an extra iPad for the teen reading prizes and MADISON's name was drawn as the winner!! It was pretty exciting. But them came reality. We did not want her to have an iPad. We don't want her having internet access and honestly - when it comes to our kids - this house is the place things come to be lost or broken.

Knowing Madison deserved a reward for her diligent reading and for breaking the no-winning streak for Woodard family... AND knowing that Mommy's laptop is on it's last leg (seriously folks - it's taped together in my lap right now and beeping at me every 4 seconds saying it cannot read what is in the USB port even though there is nothing in the USB port) we came to an agreement that Madison would be paid a decent amount of money (small to us - large to her) and Mommy would use the iPad. SO - I am so super pumped about my new iPad!!  And Madison is quietly saving enough money to take over the world. So it's a win win (win).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don't Waste Your Life

These are our friends Colby, Emily and little Jireh...

They are so, so dear to us. We met at church. They always sat somewhere close to us and eventually we said "Hey - come over for dinner some night!" and a beautiful friendship was born. We do lots of hanging out, sharing meals, and loving on each other. They are the ones that took Madison and Jason to Peru. They have helped us financially over the pat few years in ridiculously huge ways. They have shared our burdens and we have shared theirs.

Colby and Emily are rare in the sense that that truly live the things they say they believe. I mean, they treat their time, their talents, their money as God's and do not hold on to any of it too tightly. They give of their time to serve others, they volunteer their medical abilities at our church's free clinic. They give their money to people in need to a degree that most people would be uncomfortable with. When we were without a job in December they asked if they could buy a house big enough for all of us to live to help ease our financial burdens. I mean, who does that? These two. They take very seriously the command to love one another and I praise the Lord for them.

Now, we have certainly been blessed by them financially - but the greatest gift they have given my family is the testimony they have right now facing the newest trial in their lives.

Brain Cancer.

Colby was diagnosed just weeks ago. Days before he graduated from his residency as a pediatric ENT he had his first symptoms. What an earth shattering revelation. And yet, the testimony these two have is amazing. The very first night Emily and I talked on the phone (the day after they got the results) she was so obviously being divinely held. She gave me all the details and told me all her fears but she could not have communicated more clearly their greatest desire was to bring glory to God and advance His kingdom with this cancer. We cried. We prayed. And she talked as if they had been given this great gift. I mean, who does that? These two.

There is SO SO SO much more I could say about these two precious friends and their commitment to Christ and to encouraging fellow believers but this post will be epic long as it is. I have ended this post by copying just one of the letters they sent out to friends. Please read it. Please share it. I really have never cared if people are reading my blog but I desperately desire that people would read this letter.

We spent our last evening wih them last night. They treaed us to chocolate fondue at the Melting Pot (boy do they love me or what?!) .
They leave today to begin their trek to San Fransisco where he will have brain surgery to remove as much of the tumor as they can. Surgery is Tuesday the 16th - would you join me in praying for them?  Read this letter and be encouraged that God gives grace when we face trials. Be challenged to hide God's Word in your heart as yousee it pouring off their lips in what they write. Be convicted to remeber how we are called to live like our days are numbered and to bring glory to God even in the face of things like cancer...

Dear Friends and Family,                                                                         July7, 2011

            Thank you all so much for your sweet prayers and words of encouragement.  We are now three weeks out from our initial discovery of Colby’s brain tumor and it is a joy to be able to share with you how faithful God has been. Because of God’s tender mercies EVERY day, we have hope and are continuing to trust that this circumstance will be for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ. “So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).  Many of you did not receive our first email explaining the details of how we learned of Colby’s tumor.  If you have any questions after receiving this update,please don’t hesitate to ask.  We are both happy to answer any questions you may have.
            Over the last few weeks, we have watched God provide so abundantly.  When we needed time to simply celebrate life, we had the opportunity to do so with both of our families as we celebrated Colby’s graduation from residency 2 weeks ago.  When the emotional battles were tough,your phone calls, hugs, emails, and texts came at perfectly timed intervals.  When we needed to hear from God, he has shown himself powerful in his Word, the Bible.  He has led us to so many helpful passages in our daily readings, sermons online and at church, and through many of you who reminded us of passages to study. 
            We have been overcome with the immeasurable value of Christ in our lives.  “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you” (Psalm 63:3).  His love is worth living for, and is even more valuable than life itself.  It is that Love that has carried us, and is what awaits us in even more awesome clarity after this life.  And we have this assurance not because of anything good we have done to deserve a reward, but because of Christ and the free gift of grace He offers to anyone who just trusts in Him.  It is Colby’s absolute desire that each of you know Christ in this way before he leaves this world.  There would be nothing that would give us more joy in this life.  In fact if anyone is unsure of his eternal security or would like to talk to someone about starting this relationship with Christ, Colby would like to talk to you personally, anytime, night or day. You may email him directly at ____________ or call his cell phone at 405-XXX-XXXX. You may also call or email Emily if you would be more comfortable.  (friends- message me if you would like to get in touch with Colby or Emily)
We have also been reminded that this battle is not our own.  Each time we made plans to fight the next step, God was one step ahead of us and showered us with a new blessing. When we thought our next steps for finding the right neurosurgeon would be difficult, God gave us two excellent options – both in Houston and in San Francisco.  Both neurosurgeons called Colby personally and were very kind and helpful.  We have prayed through our options and have chosen to move forward with the surgeon in San Francisco. 
Though we were initially hoping we would be traveling to San Francisco this week for a consultation visit, from his standpoint, there is nothing the surgeon could gain from examining Colby in person that he could not gather by telephone or from his MRI.  In fact the 2 telephone calls and several email communications with him have more than answered our questions and concerns.  He confirmed that the tumor is almost certainly a low-grade glioma and is located in the part of the brain called the insula.  The great news is that the neurosurgeon expects Colby to have a nearly 100% chance of being alive 10 years after diagnosis based on his published data, though we maybe battling recurrence by that time. He also has published data that shows <2% risk of serious complications (such as paralysis on one side) in his relatively large experience in removing tumors from this area.  Because this is a slow-growing tumor and Colby feels so well,we have the luxury of time and ability to schedule a surgery at a mutually convenient time.  Colby’s surgery will take up an entire operating day and the surgeon would not be able to do anything else that day, so it is understandably difficult to find a day with that kind of availability.  At this point we are waiting to hear from him with possible dates for surgery, and hope to hear this week.  We will send another update when we know our travel dates. 
In the meantime, please continue to pray for the following:

1. Healing.  God is able to heal in ways that doctors cannot.  We know that is one way that God could glorify Himself, and we are asking him to remove the tumor before the surgeon can even get to it.  However, we know that is not the only way God can glorify Himself in this and we trust in His perfect will for us.

2. We are still looking for ways that Colby may be faithful to this calling and not waste his tumor.  He may have one such opportunity this coming Monday that we are excited about. He is open to sharing his testimony and the gospel in any format or event.

3. That we would have news about surgery date soon.  Though not urgent from a medical standpoint, many things in our lives are on hold until we can get this part behind us. 

4. Multiplication of time to read, study scripture, and write for both Emily and Colby.  The lessons we are learning in these days are priceless and we want to meditate on them and record them for us to look back on and give God the praise He deserves.

 Again, it is our privilege to walk this road together with your support.  We will send updates as they come and are grateful for your love and prayer.  If you wish to be removed from this prayer list for any reason, please don’t hesitate to let us know.  We won’t be offended at all.  Also if you know anyone else who you think would like to hear from us and pray for us, we would be happy to add them to this list.

Emily, Colby, and Jireh

Romans 8:16-17 "The Spirit bears witness, along with our spirit, that we are children of God.  And if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if we may suffer with him that we may be glorified together."

We are SO homeschooled.

The last two days we have done our part to perpetuate the homeschool stereotype. We haven't bought denim jumpers. We didn't get all awkward and look at mommy when someone asked us what grade we were in (oh wait, yes we did do that). We didn't decide to stop immunizing our kids. What did we do? Well, the oldest 4 spent the last 2 days with friends having a Lord of the Rings marathon. And they wrote their own skits. And they did their own LOTR activities.
If you had asked me if I had stuff in my house to create LOTR costumes I would have had said no - but give my kids 10 minutes in the attic with their creativity and they were decked out.

Frodo and the ring...
 Gandalf (the white)...
 I call him Lego-las... get it? Those are lego pieces on his ears...
 And Aragorn - she washed her hair and then put gel in it to get it all scraggly and cool (seriously cool, people)...
Here they are with their other buddies...
They had loads of fun and I am definitely ready to ban all elf and orc talk for a while.

Not wanting the littles to feel left out we had our buddies Noah and Lydia over to play with the twins and Pipps...
The girls played with the doll house and with their babies and played house under my bed and in other strange places. The boys played very well just waiting for me to allow them on the wii and then were in 7th heaven - you know, not having to interact in real life but getting engrossed in the task on the screen... see - homeschoolers are normal kids too.

All of these things helped in having INDOOR fun as we have endured 60+ some days (I believe) in a row of triple digit temps. I just love our friends and all the little friendships amongst our kids.

I will take geeky kids and teens that love each other and love to play with each other and do silly skits any day. I think they're the coolest cats around.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Twice As Sweet

My friend, RC, is having twins! This is my first friend to have twins and I am so excited for her.
She has 5 girls already and- get this - the twins are both girls too!! Having 7 daughters in a row has to break all sorts of statistical probabilities. And for all of them to be so stinking cute probably does too.

I got to be a part of throwing a shower for this lovely lady but as you oooh and aawww over the pictures know my contribution was minimal. These other hostesses are shower pros. The theme was "Twice As Sweet."
 Look carefully... to the left... through all the pink... I made the sparkly marshmallow pops...
 insert pictures of said pops - aren't they cute!
...ok, enough about me - back to the shower...

Pink lemonade served in mason jars - so cute. Who says Pinterest is a waste of time?!
Seriously - I apologize if any diabetic comas are induced merely from looking at these pics. What a treat it was to celebrate the coming of these sweet babes.
Look at the adorable garland made for her with take home treats - everything on there the babies can wear!
And speaking of cute things she take home for the wee babes... these are the mobiles my friend ACK and I made for her...

I want to have a baby just so I can make one for my own!

Thinking about her twins has made me find all the memories I can about my own little guys. I remember some things very clearly and others not so much. I remember cuddling them both in my arms and how wonderful that felt. I remember learning how to nurse one bottle feed the other at the same time. I remember wondering if I'd ever make it through - and here we are almost 7 years later. The Lord was faithful - which I guess answers the question I asked regarding them yesterday... "Will I ever make it through?" Haha. I am so glad to know the Lord gives life and the Lord sustains mommies. To Him be the glory.