Saturday, November 16, 2013

Love is in the air





Courtney and I were having a little mommy-daughter talk (I **LOVE** those!!).  We were talking about how we love one another, which led to a discussion about love languages.  I remembered many years back doing the love language thing, but honestly I only remember my love languages.  Shoot, most people who know me as more than just an acquaintance know my love languages.  I am a doer and a gift giver.  And it is painfully obvious!  Courtney wanted to know what her love languages were, so I let her take the quiz online.  Then Carlee, not wanting to be left out, had to take the quiz as well (Btw, she read the questions herself! She even took the computer from me so she could answer them herself --- little Miss Independent!).  My creative juices started flowing.  If we are able to see how we love and how those we love receive love, we might be able to show one another love more often.  Our house can be....well...let's just say we sometimes speak to each other like we are all in an old folk's home that ran out of hearing aid batteries (normal-ish, right??!?!).  We are trying to speak to each other more kindly and show each other love more often.  So me and my computer got to work.
Since birth, I've known that Courtney is a physical replica of Damon and a emotional replica of me.  Carlee is the exact opposite.  Looking at this super crafty chart really opened my eyes.  I love by doing and giving.  I can fold Damon's shirts until the cows come home (Sometimes it feels like it...but in 11 years I have learned to fold like a good military wife!! ).  But if I don't make some effort to hug him, snuggle with him, and hold his hand, it means nothing.  Carlee is the same way.  I can't tell you how many times I have made her bed and picked up her clothes and she doesn't even give it half a thought.  But if I don't tell her how wonderful and special she is to me, she is crushed.  She LOVES physical touch....she hugs complete strangers.  She will shove herself into the smallest spaces, just to be held by those she loves.  On the opposite side of the coin is Princess Courtney.  She hates being touched unless she initiates it.  Like she will pull away from you and give you the stink eye if you try to hug her.  She loves hugs that she initiates from those she knows well, but the rest of you have been warned.  She has a mean stink eye!!! I pity the poor boy who tries to make his move and hold her hand. 
Selfless love, the kind of love we should have for our spouses, our children, and our Lord, is a love that puts our needs aside.  It is a love that says, "I will spend more time physically touching you, telling you how much you mean to me" even though that's not the way I roll.  Love is about "me".  Unfortunately our wayward world has fallen for that twist from Satan thinking it is indeed all about "me".  Our kids have fallen hard for that lie.  Imagine how different our world, our homes, our minds would be if we loved the way God intended us to love.  Imagine if we put aside our needs and thought about those we love more each day.  You see when I selflessly fill Damon's love bank, he in return fills mine.  We are closer, happier, and stronger because of it.  Isn't that the beauty of it all?  When you focus more on those you love, and less on you, you end up a better person in the end.

Till next time,

Gina

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ch-Ch-Change

[tap, tap] Is this thing on?

Been a while (like a LONG while --like Blogger sent me an email to see if I was still alive long) since I last blogged.
The Blankinship Bungalow has been through a few minor changes in the last 6 months.  The Air Force had some lovely German gentlemen pack up our Earthly possessions and move them (as slow as humanly possible) to the land of the free and home of the brave!  God really blessed us with an assignment back in Louisiana.  Now, I realize some of you just picked up your phone to call the local pshyc ward for my sake, but put the phone down and hear me out.....Damon's first assignment in the Air Force was to Barskdale AFB.  We knew NOTHING of this area.  I knew more about quantum physics than the Shreveport/Bossier area.  For instance, when I went to share the news of my impending departure with my principal she gave me the "french" pronunciation of Bossier {bo-see-a}.  I had no idea that there was a very southern pronunciation.  The look on the faces of those who knew better was priceless.  I am forever grateful to them for their gentle correction.
Damon and I moved to the area as a young(ish) couple.  We weren't newlyweds, but we didn't have kids yet.  We were in the "we're not trying, but we also aren't preventing" stage in life.  We moved in to a 3 bedroom house, got a new [to us] car, and I got a new job.  We started attending the University church, building relationships with our local brethren.  Our time at Barksdale AFB was full of growth.  My experience as an educator grew by leaps and bounds as I was blessed to work with amazing teachers.  Damon came to BAFB as an Airman First Class.  He left as a Staff Sergeant.  Our family grew as we added three beautiful daughters.  Our faith and strength as a couple grew, especially when we had to bury one of those sweet babies.  Our roots grew deep while we were in Louisiana.  Our church family was here.  My best friend lives here.  Our girls know Bossier City as "home" (the military kid definition of "home").
When we left for Germany, we thought we were leaving "home" forever.  It was heartbreaking to leave this place.  For various reasons, our time in Germany was difficult.  It was certainly a variety of stressors and situations that got us.  Our roots grew short, and in a sense, we withered a little bit.  As our time to move (DEROS) approached, we prayed fervently that God would send us where He needed us.  We prayed for a little bit of relief from what we had been going through.  We prayed that He would lead us to a place where we could regain our strength.  The idea of coming back to Barksdale seemed like an impossible dream.
In God's perfect timing, no one picked up an overseas assignment.  An airman from Barksdale was selected to fill that slot, leaving a place open waiting to be filled.  When the stateside listing of assignments came out, we were in shock.  There were 3 assignments posted, and the other two mandatory movers had no desire to go to Louisiana.  Long story short, Damon was selected to come back to Barksdale.  Hand over fist, God blessed us.  First we found a house.  My best friend looked at it for us, and we were the first applicant to have a great credit score (our credit score was yet another blessing!!!).  Then Damon was approved to buy his truck, the truck he's wanted since I met him, without any hassle.  The school district adopted Courtney's IEP and even added to it.  We've been here almost 6 months (that doesn't seem right!!) and we are still loving our Cajun life.
In December, we are making a few changes.  I've had the opportunity to work as a long-term sub in a local school.  God afforded me the opportunity to see the ins and outs of the education system.  Don't get me wrong, the schools here are amazing.  And if I didn't have children of my own, I would certainly choose to teach here.  What I saw was teachers working obscenely long hours, being asked to do things that had little or nothing to do with the genuine education of their students.  I saw how, little-by-little, the control over their classroom is shifting to those in higher administration, people who really have no business directing a classroom.  For a brief moment I considered going back in to the classroom.  But even as a substitute I was putting in 10-12 hour days.  I could easily spend 60+ hours on 25 children that would be in my life for a year, maybe two or three at the most.  I had to ask where that left my own children.  What time would I be leaving for those I will know for a lifetime, those that I am passionate about?  I considered starting my masters in reading.  But that scenario put me back in the same situation, just later in life.  And later in life is when young ladies really need their mothers.  I honestly give major props to my teachers friends who balance it all.  I have no idea how you do it, and with such ease.
Then I started contemplating what my girls are going through.  Courtney has both ADHD and Aspergers.  School, in itself, is a major stressor in her life.  She goes to school for 8 hours a day, only to come home and struggle through an hour minimum, often closer to three hours of homework.  She gets in trouble for "not paying attention" or not having her homework (where it goes is anybody's guess -- it's done and it WAS in her bag!!!).  She had a D in conduct for the 9 weeks.  Carlee is in first grade.  She is already devouring books.  When tested for a reading level (with many MAJOR distractions), she came out as a 2nd grade reader.  I knew that was a bit low, so I started handing her 4th grade books.  She reads them and takes the AR quizzes with little to no effort. She passes the spelling test every Monday, never seeing the words.   Her teacher is amazing. But her hands are tied.  She has a large number of very low performing students.  Time is programmed in to the day to deal with the low performing students. But those above average in any area are left to progress on their own.  While subbing, I noticed that Carlee was in the library, mostly on the computer, A LOT.  Not because she was any kind of behavior problem, but she was done with her work way ahead of her peers.  I could ask that her teacher give her more challenging work, but she is already at work by 7:00 and doesn't leave until after 5:00.  How much work can we expect from someone who is paid so little.  That is just asking for burn out.  The crux of our decision for the future came when I received a phone call from Courtney's school.  I never answered my cell phone while teaching, but I saw that it was Courtney's school and I was genuinely concerned.  Instead, I was informed that she was in the counselor's office because she had been written up for not having homework.  I understand that we must create a desire for responsibility in our youth.  And I agree that homework, in appropriate amounts, is a necessary evil.  But I also understand that my child doesn't have the social maturity of her peers.  Her ability to think responsibly isn't like those in her class.  If she thinks through a scenario, she doesn't come up with the same possible outcomes.  This is something we work with and strive to teach her daily.  She was told if she missed more homework, she would be put in In-school Suspension.  That's just not okay with me.  Damon and I talked about it, and prayed about it.  It seemed that the blaring neon sign God was dangling in front of us was to home school the girls.  Not as a means of keeping them from any punishment, or as a slap to the school system.  As an administrator said so well, this is what happens to our schools when business ideas and strategies are applied to children.  Children do not act or react like numbers.  They should not expect to be treated as numbers. 
In the past, the idea of home school turned Courtney's stomach sour.  She would make a face and say, "No way, momma!!"  When we brought it up this time, she really took to the idea, and has embraced it.  Carlee is excited to study things she wants to learn about.  And the idea of doing her school work at the park is quite inviting.
As of now, when school ends in December, we will be pulling the girls out of public school.  Little do they know, I have a reputation as a teacher.  I've already started planning, and they will not be easy lessons.  I plan to push them as far as they can tolerate.  I want to see the girls blossom and grow.  I am ready to see them learn more about God and His love for us, and how He leads us day by day.  I am ready to combine my passion for my daughters with my passion for teaching.
December really can't come fast enough.....

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I love you, the bluest

Courtney tells me over and over that she isn't a good writer. For Valentine's Day, she wrote the following at school:
"The Color of Love
I love you Dad, the bluest.
I love you the color of the rain,
as it falls from the gray clouds.
I love you the color of the sea,
when the sunlight shines on the water.
The sky at night,
when it's about to be completely dark.
The buzz of a bee.
The hush of a whisper.
I love you, Dad, the bluest."

I don't believe her when she says she isn't a good writer! I am in awe that my six year old wrote this!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who woulda thunk it?

So, being super graceful is not one of my foremost qualities. Apparently. Last night I was going to the BX (sans children....woo hoo!!!). There is a nasty dead bird that's been waiting for someone to take it away. I was trying my best to avoid the bird and all it's nastiness. Out of the blue, I decided to do an impromptu Olympic ice skating move.....aka, I slipped on the ice. If the judges were there I totally would have gotten a 10 (for clutziness)!
Today I have this nasty bruise. It's about 6 inches long and 3 inches wide. HURTS like the dickens (whatever the dickens are...). Pretty shade of purple. I do love purple, just not on my legs. I called the appointment line and put in a message for the nurse to call me back. I have a clotting disorder (I clot WAY too well), so I have to be careful with very large bruises. Or so my Rheumatologist says. I haven't had a bruise like this in years. While being patient (HA!) waiting on a return phone call, I started researching the best care for large bruises. Here's some of the more comical stuff I found....

"I was told about an old Mexican remedy by my Mayan tour guide. I was instructed to prepare my knee right before bed by melting a chocolate bar, spreading it on my knee, and to wrapping it in gauze. I did this and the next morning, the very dark black bruise was a pale yellow color. Try it...it works!"

Chocolate? On my leg? What a waste of chocolate!!!! I can hear me now..."some for me, some for my knee..." And how do I explain that to Damon? One way ticket to the looney bin!!!


"A bag of frozen peas works when applied to a smaller bruise, providing proof that vegetables are good for you in more ways than you ever imagined."

Hmmm. I wonder if chocolate AND veggies would do me good.


I wonder why doctors hate patients that do internet research.......




Saturday, December 25, 2010

A blog post from Gina...WHAT??? Hey, Facebook is being dumb and not publishing my videos. So here ya go. The girls got a sled for Christmas.


This is Carlee's turn on the new sled. We had about a foot of snow that partly melted with rain, then refroze, and covered in about 1-2 inches of snow. Pardon the laughing....she turned the sled on accident and headed straight for the fence!



Here is Courtney's turn on the sled. She went right over a BIG patch of bare ice, which sent her even further. Carlee had done this on one of her turns. I was afraid she wouldn't stop and go into the street!!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's all about the secret ingredients!!!

So the girls and I were going to make smoothies to go with our lunch....strawberry, mango, and banana. YUM -- I know!!!
I haven't been feeling well....I have a goober infection that won't let go.....stupid bacteria. Anyhow, on a good day I use my brain. On sick days, I rely on Damon's brain (desperate times --- desperate measures). Did I mention that Damon had a dental appointment today and wasn't here? So I got out the strawberries and mango and instructed Carlee to get the milk. Courtney piped up, "I'll get it." Which lead to a "6 and under" squealing fit (really -- your vocabularies are EXTENSIVE, must you squeal at one another??) I called Court off of the milk task and redirected her to getting the bananas. (See, I do use my extremely expensive education degree while staying at home!!)
We have this bar stool in the kitchen, intended for adult use only. Carlee, being Carlee, just doesn't get that. She grabbed the stool and plopped it down right where I needed to be.....so I moved everything. Remember, I don't feel well, and arguing with a three-year-old is just plain pointless. I put everything in the blender and noticed this blur that looked like a little hand grabbing the lid. I confirmed my suspicions without even looking. She was hollering, "I gonna put the wid on the bwender." Joy....fine. I turned the blender on....and you would think those two had never been around a blender.....screaming "it's too loud, turn it off." Duh, if it's too loud, LEAVE!!!
Genius Gina put all the bananas UNDER the frozen mango....thus creating a banana mush and frozen mango with strawberries on top. So I got out my wooden spoon, turned the blender off, and tried to separate things and mix it up.....not happening. So, here's the extra special moment, I turned it back on, and poked it with the spoon. Smart Gina would have stopped with a small poke. She's on vacation. Genius Gina stepped in and gave a BIG poke. And if my kids didn't think the blender was loud enough.....I added a wooden spoon to the mess!!! Now I was smart enough to get out a strainer and strain the liquid from the solids to retrieve the half of the spoon that didn't come out of the blender. I pieced it all back together making sure we weren't going to have any surprise fiber!!! Or at least I tried to piece it all back together. I banned the kids from the kitchen --- and from speaking --- and 25 minutes from the time I began the whole process....SMOOTHIES....and maybe a little saw dust? I am just looking out for the kids fiber intake.
Anyone want me to make them a smoothie???? Special ingredients may (or may not) be included.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May 24, 2005

I sat in the car next to Damon. My hands were shaking, because I knew that day was going to be an important day in my life. I was more nervous than I had ever been in my 27 years. I could tell Damon was nervous as well. He turned off the engine and we just sat there. While it was just a few fleeting moments, it seemed like an eternity. He reached over and held my hand. And we sat there in silence. After a few minutes, I asked him to pray. Looking back his prayer was so appropriate. He prayed that God would put His hand on Mariah, and give us peace. When he finished, we quietly got out of the car and walked into the clinic. I checked in with the front desk, as I had done so many times before, and quietly found my place next to Damon in the waiting room. I suppose the anxiety of the day was written on our faces. One of the other moms-to-be asked me if I knew what I was having. I told her we were pretty sure it was a girl, and that we would likely be having her that day. The doctor noticed 2 days earlier that Mariah's growth had slowed considerably. The fluid levels were still low. If she were to have any chance at life, it would have to be outside of the womb. I kept to myself the uncertainty of what would happen once she was born. No one was able to make any certain diagnosis, and who was to say that she wasn't going to live. There was no need to scare a poor young mom. We waited for what seemed like forever. We watched through the window as women came and left the clinic. At one point Damon walked across the street to Burger King to get something to eat for lunch. I was most disgusted with him when he brought the bag into the waiting room. I was 8 months pregnant, with no food in my belly. But no worries, I expressed my humble opinion and he went into the hall to eat! Finally after about an hour and a half wait we were called back. I was first taken to the ultrasound room. The doctor had ordered a Biophysical Profile of Mariah. The tech took her time and looked at everything carefully. Mariah always scored well on everything but her fluid levels. They typically hovered in the .5cm -1.0 cm range. That day wasn't much different. The tech finished and left to get the doctor. Damon and I sat holding each other's clammy cold hands. Our nerves were beyond shot at this point. We knew that in the next few moments the doctor would tell us if today was the day our baby girl would be born. What would happen after her birth was so uncertain. Some doctor's speculated that my membranes had a small leak and that she would thrive outside of the womb. Others said that she had a congenital defect and would not survive. In a few moments the doctor came in and did her own evaluation. Mariah's growth had all but stopped. It was time.
We spent the next thirty minutes making arrangements for Courtney's care, all while waiting to be admitted into the hospital. My mom was in town, but I needed her by my side for moral support. By the time everything was settled Damon and I were in our holding cell, also known as a labor and delivery room. Damon had called a few friends to tell them today was the day and they began trickling in. He called his parents and they started on their journey to Louisiana. I called a friend I had known only through email, but who had helped me through all the uncertainties we were facing. Not too long afterward a small crowd had formed in the waiting room. One nurse commented that this baby must be loved because of all the people who were ready to meet her. Around 2:00PM I was wheeled back to the operating room. My doctor couldn't be the one to perform the c-section, but one of her colleagues who knew my case well was available. Being that we needed one of the top NICU's around, we were at a teaching hospital. I was asked if I would allow a 4th year resident to place my spinal block. I agreed and a gentleman entered the room. He had difficulty communicating with me, as English was not his first language. After the 8th failed attempt and about a half an hour of excruciating pain, his superior came in to take over. It was his opinion that I should be given a general anesthetic or "knocked out" for the surgery. That had to be my worst nightmare and I screamed "NO!" at him. The OB performing my surgery knew that there was a chance that Mariah would not live long and asked that he make one attempt at an epidural. On the first try everything was in place. I was put in position and belted to the table. Damon was brought into the room and given a chair by my head. The next 10 minutes went by so quickly. As soon as Mariah was born, she cried. It wasn't a cry like her sister's. It was small and weak. But she cried, and on her own. Damon wanted so badly to see her, but she was whisked into a separate room with the NICU staff. They worked on her and stabilized her. After just a few minutes they allowed Damon to see her. He called out to me that she had brown hair, and a lot of it. I lay there on the operating table, bawling. The doctor performing the c-section was one that had told us that without a doubt she would die within minutes of birth. And here we were a good 5-10 minutes later and things were looking good.
The NICU doctor in charge of her case took a quick look over her before she was transported upstairs. She was wheeled past me so that I could get a quick glance. Ironically they had her back to me, but my nurse made them turn the isolette so I could see her face. She was wheeled close to the waiting room and my mom and a few women from church were able to see her as the staff rushed her to the NICU. The doctor took Damon aside and told him that his first impressions were that this was not a congenital defect, known as Potter's Syndrome. She was too plump and didn't have many features that Potter's babies have. He was pretty sure her survival rate was good. Damon quickly passed the information on to me, and went to the waiting room. On the way out of the OR he encountered our regular Perinatologist. She had cleared her schedule for the afternoon, even canceling an appointment or two, so she could be there for the birth. For 6 months I had been in her office almost weekly, if not daily. She had become vested in Mariah's outcome. After sharing the news with her, he made his way to the waiting room. He was shocked at the number of people that had gathered there. Friends, coworkers, neighbors. He roughly estimated that about 50 people were there in all. When he gave the news from the doctor a prayer of thanksgiving was offered, and many people went back to their lives. A few close friends stayed behind. I was wheeled from the OR to my room where I called a few friends who couldn't be there. I called my sister and we cried tears of joy. About an hour after Mariah's birth, my mom and Damon went to the NICU to see her. When they walked up to the glass, they saw a small baby surrounded my several young students. An ultrasound machine was beside her, and there sat her NICU doctor showing these students an ultrasound of her abdomen. They watched not really understanding what was going on. I suppose he saw them and quickly finished up. He walked towards them and said "Mr. Blankinship, I need to speak to you in my office." I was on the phone with a dear friend giving her the good news when my mom and Damon entered the room. There aren't words to even begin to describe Damon's face. He was pale. And I think his face spoke a million words. I quickly got off the phone. Damon couldn't even speak. He simply fell in a chair beside my bed and buried his head in his hands. My mom told the doc she couldn't tell me, he would have to. The next few moments were like time standing still. I listened as this doctor that had given us such a wonderful report told me that my sweet baby girl did not have kidneys. Without kidneys there was no chance at life. There was nothing we could do, but let her go. I got that feeling, you know the one where something really bad is about to happen. And then I just started screaming and crying "NO, NO, not my baby. You have to be wrong." He place his hand on my leg, gave his condolences, and left.
I immediately told my nurse to get me up to that NICU to see my baby. If she didn't take me I was going to take myself. She left and came back in less than ten minutes. It was just enough time for me to call my sister back and give her the horrific news. I was wheeled up to the NICU in my bed. My epidural had been turned off, but I wasn't ready to walk. I was offered pain meds, but I refused them because I wanted to remember every detail of my time with my baby girl. We sat next to her in her isolette for a short time, but I wanted to hold her. The NICU staff quickly went to work and arranged a room where our friends and family could come in, but a staff member could still be there to manage her breathing tube. During this time, those friends that stayed behind started calling people back to tell them that things weren't as they has seemed. I held Mariah for about an hour. I sang to her. I kissed her. I examined her from head to toe. She had beautiful brown curly hair. It was so soft and thick. He fingers were long and her legs were muscular. She was perfect. Damon held her. He sat in a rocking chair and rocked her. He kissed her, and sang through his tears. The alarm kept going off on her breathing machine. And her heart rate kept dropping. Damon held her tight. And just four hours after she entered this world, she left the arms of her daddy to be with the Father.
The tube that connected her to the breathing machine was cut and the NICU staff left the room. We stayed in that room for a good two hours. My mom held her. Friends trickled in and out. Damon's parents arrived and his mom held her. Finally we asked that everyone give us a moment alone with our baby so we could say our goodbyes. A nurse came in and helped me wash her hair that was still bloody from the birth. Damon and I sat there holding each other, holding our baby, and crying. My heart was shattered into a million pieces. I didn't want to let go, but I knew I had to. We asked that her dress be given to a little girl who would be going home. And we handed her to the nurse, tears pouring from our eyes as she left the room. It was the last time I would see my sweet Mariah here on Earth.
The next few days were surreal. I remember many, many people came to see us. I was so numb to what had happened, even to the extent that we were able to laugh. We showed her pictures to just about anyone who would look at them. But the nights were torture. I was between two rooms. On one side a mother-to-be hooked up to a monitor. The chug-chugging of her baby's heartbeat was torturous. It was a sound I had become so accustomed to while carrying Mariah. On the other side, a new mother. A baby boy. I watched as her friends and family brought flowers and balloons. I listened as her baby cried at night. I heard the laughs and the joy, and I my heart crumbled just a little more. At night, I would just cry. I begged a nurse to have them bring me my baby. I didn't care if her body was cold and hard, I just wanted to hold her. Each night I was given something to make me sleep. Tears would stream down my face until my body gave way to the medication.
By day two I was more than ready to go home. I didn't want to be there the typical 4 days post-op. I begged my doctor to let me go home, and she did. Damon picked me up at the hospital entrance. I sat there in the wheelchair, empty handed, heartbroken. The drive home seemed longer than usual. I don't remember too much of it. I do remember turning into our driveway. I sat there, looking at our house. I couldn't move. I didn't want to go in. Last time I was there my baby was alive. So I sat in the car and cried. Finally, someone came out of the house to help me get out of the car and go in. I looked at our rose bush which to this point hadn't really even bloomed more than one bloom. It was filled with beautiful pink blooms and buds. I don't even remember how many, but there were many.
This had to be the darkest time in my life. It was the time I felt the most alone, like God had left me. I was angry. I was sad. I felt as if I would never be the person I was before...which was true. God was reshaping me. Sometimes when a potter is working with clay, he has to completely undo the work he has done to improve his end product. I think God was undoing a lot in me. To reshape me, to improve me, he had to take me down to nothing.

I actually wrote this over the course of this last week. I wanted to write it for posterity. One day I hope our girls will read this. I want them to know that there is hope beyond this world. Losing a child is likely one of the greatest and most tragic losses anyone can endure. There are no pretty words for it, it sucks!!! It was and still is one of my greatest struggles. Yet, it is with God that I have survived. It was in the moments I felt hopeless, when I wanted to hide in hopes of never being found, He picked me up and held me close. I honestly do not know how a parent can go through this without the Lord and still remain hopeful.

Happy Birthday, dear sweet Mariah. Mommy and Daddy love you and think about you often. Have fun playing with the angels today. We have many kisses waiting for you when we get there!