Organs, Illness, Grace

"Mom, what happens when a baby dies? Do you bury them in a box?" Madeline asked.

"Well, it depends. Some people do that," I said, already hoping she'd change subjects.

"What would you do if Solomon died?" she asked.

"Well, hopefully that doesn't happen, Madeline. But, if it did, we would donate his organs so that other sick babies would have a chance to live," I told her.

"What's an organ?" she asked.

"Those are the things inside your body that keep you alive, like your heart and lungs and kidneys," I said.

"Well, how can you donate them?" she asked.

"Well, the hospital can take them out of you and give them to someone else," I told her, hoping we were almost done with this lovely conversation. "So, for example, there is a little girl at our church who needs a kidney and they can take a kidney from someone else and give it to her so she can stay alive."

"Well, how does she live and get around without her knee," she asked, clutching her knees to her chest.

"What? What do knees have to do with...." I pause. Then I burst out laughing....Get it? A 'kid knee'....hee hee hee. (Yeah, I can be slow sometimes...)


"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." -Ecclesiastes 3:1

"There is little time for anything, and a system for every activity in a family of seven." -Me

The more kids we have had, the more I have realized that big families only run smoothly when there are systems in place. One such system is how we do our laundry. Each child has their own basket and is responsible for bringing it to the laundry room when it is full. Once down there, I simply stick all the clothes from that basket into the washer and dryer and put all those clothes, now clean and folded, back into the basket. I can avoid any hassle in figuring out whose clothes are whose this way. Now, while I still don't enjoy doing the laundry, this system works wonders, especially with two little girls whose clothes are impossible to tell apart.

At any rate, I kept noticing the obscene amount of towels the kids were going through each week. So, at the beginning of this year, we implemented another "system"--the Towel Rule. This is essentially a one towel a week rule. Each child has their own towel that they have to use all week (assuming there is no spontaneous expulsion of bodily fluids like vomit or what not landing on the towels...) and so they have gotten into the habit of hanging their towels up and reusing them. This rule has been fabulous. The Towel Rule is like that person you meet for the first time and seem to just click with on every level, leaving you feeling like you've been great pals forever. BFF Towel Rule! Where've you been my whole motherly life? (Seriously, this is not rocket science and I am stumped as to why we didn't establish it before like other families we know!)

But sometimes, even the best of friends can fail us. Take last night for example. Well, let's backtrack a little. Madeline has had the flu all week. She's been running temps anywhere from 101 to 104.9, has had chills, headaches, coughing. It's been great fun. Oh wait, no, it hasn't. Especially when, the first night she was really sick, she awoke vomiting the mucus out of her tummy and as she turned to tell me she didn't want to be sick, she coughed all that dangling sputum right in my face. ("In your face mom!" that vomit seemed to yell.) There is nothing quite like having mucus-throw-up shot into your eyes. Ugh. While we have all had this terrible cough, she was the only one who came down with the full blown flu-version....that is, until yesterday.

It was right around 3 p.m. when, out of nowhere, my body started shaking uncontrollably from the chills. By the time Kurt came home, having had the worst possible day at his work, I was curled up on the bed hoping to be run over by a train to put me out of my misery. Still, I made my way downstairs to eat dinner with the family and wait for Solomon to awake so I could feed him before taking something strong...well, as strong as over-the-counter will allow anyway. And that is where this story begins....

By 6:25, having taken some night-time OTC meds, I am in bed for the night and nursing Solomon who has been sleeping since 3 p.m. Soon thereafter Liam comes bouncing into the room. He immediately finds a noise-producing toy and sits down to play with it....right. next. to. my. bed.

"Can you find the letter I? I. Good job! You found the letter I. Can you find the letter...."

I grimace in pain. Each sound of that "computer" is like a drill going through my head. I make a mental note to take a hammer to every toy containing batteries upon my feeling better.

Meanwhile, the older kids are getting ready to take baths and pretty soon a fight breaks out about which towel is whose. Kurt has been saying for a week or so that each child needs to always use the same towel so that there is never any question: Aidan would use only blue and white striped towels, while Madeline only brown, etc. After much gnashing of claws and gritting of teeth, the controversy came to a close and each kid retreated to their own corner, presumably towel in hand. Lily comes running in to ask where she can take her bath. I steer her into my bathroom since water is still in the tub.

"Can you find the letter M? W. That is the letter W. Try again. Can you find the letter M? M. Good job!...."

The baby, having been nursing this whole time, pulls away from me, without letting go! Ouch! I'm jarred out of my stupor and realize I can't sleep. I am reminded of where we started 3 years ago, this blog and I. Liam was still a wee little nursing baby, pulling away and hurting me. Ahhh.

Madeline comes in and asks if I need anything. She is going to be a great mom, far better than I am. She brought me a piece of paper, clipboard and pen, in case I needed to write something. Then she brought in the puke bucket, just in case. (Thankfully that wasn't necessary.) She then climbed up on the bed to kiss me on the cheek. My heart swelled and then sank. She had been so sick the last few days and I kept her at an arms distance. I even became impatient in the middle of the night because I was so exhausted from being up with her and Solomon and any other kid who happened to need me at o'dark thirty. I vowed I would learn from her offering of grace and be a better mom. (This is much better than my original vow of waking up each kid at different hours of the night because I am sick....you know, just to get them back....)

The toy Liam is playing with asks if he wants to go out to play.

"Yeah! Woo hoo!" Liam shouts, jumping up and running out of the room. I wonder if I need to tell Kurt to keep him from going outside but then remember he can't yet open any of the big doors.

Pretty soon, Lily is screaming from the bathtub that she doesn't have her towel. 'Really Lily?' I think. Aidan comes running in with what I assume is not her towel as the whole Towel-gate controversy starts over again. (Screaming, gnashing, claws, teeth...) I sigh. Kurt is certainly right but I don't have the energy to tackle this problem at the moment. Liam comes running back in and somehow finds another noise-maker in my room. Why are these toys in my room? I make another mental note to start the spring cleaning and de-cluttering as soon as I am able to get out of bed. This is ridiculous.

I look at the clock. It is 6:47. WHAT?! It has only been 22 minutes??? The kids all find their way downstairs where they play a game call Smatch-it or something like that. Basically, they smash this spinner and have to find the matching card, kind of like a knock off of Memory. All I hear is the smashing on the wooden table. And the noise. My head feels like I stuck it inside a ginormous conch shell and I am consumed by ocean noise, and children. I am comforted, in a strange sort of way, by the sound of the screaming kids. I hear them stampede down to the basement and I assume Kurt has told them they can watch a movie. All is silent.

At this point, my thoughts drift to a family friend who is waiting to hear back about her biopsy for cancer. She is not too much older than I am, maybe ten years, her son is around the same age as Madeline I think. I look to see if I have her parent's phone number in my cell phone. No luck. Irritated that I have so few numbers in there, I decide to pray now, call tomorrow.

I imagine Kurt downstairs cleaning up the kitchen and doing the laundry. It gives me a chuckle. It is too quiet and I remind myself he had a terrible day. The kitchen can wait. I'll be better in the morning, if not tomorrow, some morning at least.

Solomon starts laughing in his sleep next to me bringing my thoughts back to the here and now. He opens his eyes, looks lovingly toward me, smiles and then goes back to his peaceful snoring. I wonder if I have the energy to put him in his bassinet. I start to cough and cough and cough. My head is pounding but even in this moment I feel so blessed, this baby tucked under my wing, the rest happily engaged in some program that will certainly teach them something terrific, or not. The meds must be kicking in. Yet I am still very awake. I read on the label that these drugs can cause excitability in young children. A line from Monsters Inc. goes through my head: "Works on little children AND little monsters..." Works on little children and little mothers, I think, laughing. I debate whether I should take the second pill of the meds (I usually only take half a dose when I am sick so that I can be available to the kids at night....and so I don't roll over on the baby if he happens to be feeding.) I decide against it and pretty soon the kids are running upstairs, brushing teeth, and getting into bed. Madeline comes and asks me something. I don't remember what. Kurt tells the kids to be quiet "mom is sleeping." He comes walking into our room and Madeline yells for him from her bedroom. He yells back, "Just a minute!" I almost chime in on the irony there but decide he had a bad day, I'll keep it to myself. He's doing his best under the circumstances, as am I. Only, my current best is laying still, looking like I've been hit by a monster-truck while holding onto hope that a new day is dawning and with it health and well being.

Madeline woke me once in the middle of the night. I hopped energetically out of the bed (and by energetically, I mean not quite as slow as a snail but not quite as fast as a turtle). She had to go the the bathroom "really bad!"

"Great! Let's go!" was my response (and as she jumped out of bed I thought, way to use those "kid knees" hee hee). Afterward, I kissed her good night and told her I loved her. She told me she loved me too and went back to sleep smiling. So did I.


  1. I absolutely love your anecdotes of life as a family of 7. Honestly you should be up for Saint Hood. I have such enormous respect for you to always (even in the heat of battle) draw on your humor, your faith, and your enormous capacity of love for your family. You are truly one of the special ones. I aspire to your level of patience. I would have closed (and locked the door) taken double dose of meds, told Lew that he was in charge as I was going to be out of commission and Lord help the sorry soul who tried to intervene on my need for rest and recuperation. Alas, I only have the 2 (and when you are outnumbered like you are you really do need 2 (or 3 or 4 parents parenting) Lewie has taken to praying for all of our health lately and its seems to be having a positive impact on our family's wellbeing... so I'm not arguing with what works. We will add The entire Wolf Family to our prayer list and send you some Echlin LOVE! Best to everyone and can't wait to see you this summer!

  2. Thanks Teresa. I will have to look into it as I am having crazy fits....it was about 4 a.m. this morning that I couldn't get it under control at all...cough drops didn't help and I finally ended up in a very hot shower hoping the humidity would do the trick. Thanks again.

  3. Thank you Dawn. You left me feeling all warm and fuzzy (and I know it isn't just the fever and meds b/c I awoke fever free and didn't take anymore meds!) ;)

  4. Karen, you never cease to amaze me. You are truly a wonderwoman, and an inspiration to us all. I hope you're feeling better very soon, and back up and running. I hope Kurt knows how truly blessed he is to have you.

    I've loved reading your blog from the beginning, and feel lucky to be able to watch your family grow, even if we live 1,500 miles apart. :-)

    Take care!

  5. Thanks, Amy. I appreciate it. Wish I could take credit but really, I can't. :)

  6. That sounds like a really tough week. I love the Towel Rule. IN our house the youngest is always just using whatever towel she finds in reach - usually her older sister's. It's good you are instituting the Towel Rule early in their childhood.

    Hope you feel better!


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