Friday, October 23, 2015

Walker turns six!

Walker, I cannot believe how far you've come!

You are doing so well in kindergarten that your teacher told me that you "do not stick out to her as different." While you will always make your mark with your personality, she was saying you do not have overtly special needs. You do not require significantly more support to be successful. You have worked SO HARD in all your therapies the past two years and it's paying off. You love your school and are happy to go each day. You told me today that your favorite part of the day was playing with all your new friends. I'm just blown away by how you are embracing this new adventure and doing so well. 

You now are officially social. Too much involves retreat to solitary Lego playing but you crave interaction each day, especially with Harris. You love him dearly and enjoy spending time creating stories with your Lego people. He does too because I heard him proudly explaining to a friend what you two liked to do with a Lego scene you had built together. One of my prayers when I found out we were having a second little boy is that you would be best friends and it's definitely being answered. 

You are as sweet as you can be. I help out at your school with lunch once/week. When I leave, you always thank me for coming and give me a big kiss on the cheek. It could not possibly be any sweeter. Out of the blue, you told Mimi and KB that you were glad they came to visit us. I don't think I'll ever quite get over these little things from you because they seemed at one point to be unattainable.
You are transparent in your actions and that touches people. You are not concerned with what other people think and speak what is on your heart. Of all the things that have emerged from you the past couple of years, I think that is my favorite. 

One comment that I've heard several times from different therapists is that you "respond well to therapy." I don't know why you respond so well and others don't. Some kids that started where you started aren't doing nearly as well as you are. I want you to know that because it makes me profoundly grateful. Your life, and our family dynamic, could look very different right now. While I know there would be blessing in that as well, I'm so thankful for the progress you've made and the trajectory you are on.

You started this year to ask questions about Caroline. When she came home you were three and completely in your own world. It didn't register with you until this year that she has people she calls her brothers and sisters in other families. I was explaining it to you, how God grows families in different ways and how she would always be your sister and also the sister of kids in different families, and how that happened. You thought about it for a minute and then said "I'm glad you're a Goolsby, Caroline." You speak so openly yet infrequently that when you do say something, people know you are sincere. You made Caroline's day with your simple, sweet statement.

I just couldn't be any more proud of the sweet, funny, brave little person that you are. I love to hang out with you and hear the way you see the world. Happy birthday, sweet Walker!

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."
Phil 1:6

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sweet Caroline is 8!

Caroline, I usually work on these birthday letters for a few days, at least. This one I'm writing after you're in bed on your birthday. I have been thinking about what you might want to remember about this year and what I want to tell you. Some of this year has been heavy and some has been silly and I just wasn't sure what to say.

You summed up your heart when I was putting you to bed tonight. You have been anticipating your birthday presents for weeks. There has been much discussion about what you wanted and what you might get. At one point, you made a schedule for the day of when you would open gifts/eat cake, etc.

For your birthday party, you asked that your whole family come over and swim.


You asked to make Sea Turtle cupcakes and go to dinner together.

Done and done.

You asked for more presents than any child might get in their lifetime so we picked what we thought you would enjoy the most and hoped you were pleased.

You were rollerblading through the kitchen in your jammies so I think at least some of it was a hit.

I was putting you to bed and we were talking all about your day and going through the details you wanted to remember. When I asked you what your favorite present was you didn't even pause before saying "My WHOLE family being together!" with a huge smile on your face. You have such a big heart!! When you talk about your brothers, you mean all of them. The ones that live with you and the ones that don't. When you say your family, you include the Goolsby's and non-Goolsby's equally.

You were presented some challenging circumstances and have chosen to embrace it as more people to love. As you grow, your relationships are changing with your siblings but they are not weakened. Just different. They are all evolving and will continue to do so. What's so awesome is that God placed these children in families that give you room to explore what those relationships will look like and have committed to keeping those bonds intact. When you want a party with your siblings, it is a guarantee that they will ALL be there. One mom is having BACK SURGERY at 7:30 am tomorrow and they still showed up for the whole thing.

That has been on theme of your year this year, I think. God's provision for you and for our family.
We moved into a new house closer to your new school. The longer we live in this house, the more I love it and see it as a HUGE provision for our family and you especially.

It has a pool. Not only do you love to swim, you are confident in the water. Insecurities you may have on land do not hinder you when we are all swimming together. It's given us an activity to enjoy together in an easy way. It's brought our family closer together.

This is also a house that is a fresh start for everyone. The night you came home to us, you slept in what was, at that time, Harris' room. It had boy paint colors, boy bedding, and his name on the wall. It became your room, with paint colors you picked and your name on the wall but you sometimes referred to it as Harris' old room. This room, in our new house,  is YOURS. You picked it. It has two closets, a full length mirror, and you've only ever known it as your own.

One of the greatest things about this new house is our sweet neighbor! She's about your age and you two are good friends. You play together beautifully and she seems to be as eager for a playmate as you are. You love playing with your brothers and get along well but sometimes you just want a girl! Caroline, I so hope that you look back on this sweet season of your friendship with our neighbor and see that as God's blessing for you.

Here you are (with Harris) way past your bedtimes, rocking glow sticks in the pool. You all had so much fun together!

Two people this summer, who did not know each other, commented on your "servant's heart." You absolutely do have that. You are the FIRST to offer to help. You see needs others don't and are delighted to meet them. It is not burdensome to you nor are you doing it to curry favor. You just want to help. You are a friend to all and have a gift for seeing those on the fringes and offering comfort and help. You've been through trials, certainly, but it is already becoming evident how God is using that to bless others around you.

My sweet girl, I am so honored to be your mom and I can't imagine our family without you. Hayes and I were discussing things that were nice the other day. I went first and named popsicles as something nice to have. Hayes said "Caroline is nice!" You are such a good sister to the boys and meet them where they are, accepting the crazy. You embrace daddy and I as your parents, as imprefectly as we do it. I just love getting to be your mom. You are the sweetest!

Happy birthday,  precious girl!

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19

Friday, June 26, 2015

Life is never dull

On Father's Day last Sunday we headed for the vacation we'd been looking forward to for months! Family camp. That may not have sounded that exciting at one point in life but with four young children it's pretty much the best thing ever. It's exactly what it sounds like, regular summer camp that you do with your kids. The deal is that they have super energetic college aged counselors that are also fired up about Jesus and serving your family. There are kids programs in the mornings with speakers for the adult to hear. Because there was some concern that Walker might not be able to hang the whole time with the group sessions in the morning, he had his own counselor, who was PRECIOUS. 

Walker didn't pass his swim test and was very upset about having to wear floaties so his counselor put some on too. I love this place and these people.

 The morning sessions the kids had bible study and then did some of the camp things, different things each day. Hayes got to ride one day.

He went swimming. This actually is him smiling, despite how it looks.

Harris went down the slide. He apparently slowed down quite a bit at the end.

You know who took these pics? Not me! A camp photographer becuase they have thought of everything. I could not find pics of Caroline but I'm sure they're in there somewhere. The food is good and they remind the parents before each meal not to lift a finger. They cut your children's food, get straws, refills, whatever. It could not be more pleasant. And while your kids are having fun you are hearing a speaker. Ours talked about biblical truth and was in Ecclesiastes. So good! We had a date night complete with a sunset boat ride.

Date night is when things took a turn. When I picked up the big kids I saw Harris fighting back tears, sitting down next to his counselor. I couldn't imagine what the problem was and his counselor told me he jumped off the high dive and then said his head hurt. He and Caroline had been doing that for two days straight so I didn't think much of it. 

He sat down on a bench while I rounded up the other kids' things and we got ready to walk to our cabin. He asked me to carry him. I thought that was weird but probably just because we'd been going non stop for two days and it was two hours past his bedtime, so I did. Then when he got too heavy I asked him to walk. He did but he was staggering and veering to the left. After a few steps he just fell down. 

Ok. Deep breaths. I got the other kids sent to the cabin with Tom and took Harris to the camp nurse. She thought we needed to go see the RN across the street so we drove there. That's where he started vomiting. They drove us to the ER, where he was at that point unable to stand up to be weighed. They immediately started doing blood work and cat scans. The first showed nothing so they did another one, with contrast this time. Still nothing. At this point, he's having difficulty moving anything on his left side. His eyes are twitching rapidly and trying to fix to the left. His head is cocked at a weird angle and he can't really move it. The ER in Tyler is out of ideas and wants to fly him to San Antonio so "the neurosurgeon can get an MRI and see what needs to be done."

 What?! Neurosurgeon?!

This is about two am. So, an ambulance came to get us. During the ambulance ride to the airport, I asked if they had any idea what was going on. They both shook their heads. One said he'd never seen anything like it. Then I asked if they thought he'd be okay. One stayed completely silent and the other said, "I sure hope so."

That's not what I wanted to hear. With that, we boarded the tiniest plane I've ever seen to go to San Antonio.

This is an Internet photo. I was NOT taking pics at this point.

This was my view except a very sick looking Harris was strapped to the bed while two paramedics discussed how they'd never seen nystagmus (that's the eye movement) to that degree before. 

I couldn't see Harris' eyes during the flight and the airplane was so loud it was difficult to talk to the paramedics. He was sleeping but vomiting occasionally. They kept checking to see if his pupils were reacting to light. I couldn't tell if they were and in some way I didn't want to know the answer. I was wrestling with God, trying to decide if I'd still think He was good if He took my child. While that was going on, I remembered a story Walker's precious counselor told me just that morning. His family is battling something serious and he was telling me how he chose to repeat truths about God to himself, even if they felt empty. They were still true and still powerful. Just writing this takes me back to that airplane, when I really didn't know what the outcome was going to be. That was terrifying but I also had a supernatural peace. Not an assurance that things would be okay but a peace that was present outside of circumstances. God was near.

So we landed in San Antonio and boarded another ambulance to the hospital. Up until this point, I'd been with Harris the whole time. This ambulance driver told me to ride in the front. I must have looked as disturbed by this as I felt because one of the paramedics from the flight immediately told me, "Don't worry mom. I'll take good care of him." 

Bless that person.

At the hospital, there was a crew of people to receive him. There were several dr's examining him and nurses verifying his history. At this point, things started turning around. The dr in Tyler had spoken with the dr's here and they were expecting a very different patient. A much sicker patient.

He no longer had nystagmus. He could turn his head somewhat and was starting to be able to move the extremities in his left side. He had turned a corner.

It was a completely different scenario than what I'd been told. There was no need for an MRI. They moved him to a quiet room in the trauma ER with a TV and brought him some dvd's. He was able to eat, as there was no longer a concern that he was going into surgery. About 7 am, they got him up to walk and it was still pretty disturbing. While he was able to move his feet and legs, when he walked, his feet were flexed and knees were straight and he just veered left until he fell. He looked like a marionette puppet in the hands of an inexperienced operator. 

We just stayed in this room, waiting for a bed to open up, and he rested and ate two platefuls of pancakes. The next time someone asked him to walk, he nailed it. He walked straight with his arms at his sides, touched his nose with alternating fingers and giggled at the absurdity of these requests. My boy was back!

He did not get any medicine at any point in this ordeal besides zofran for nausea. That's nothing magical because that's what I took for nausea when pregnant. He had 7 straight hours of getting worse and all of a sudden took a u-turn and got better. 

This is the diagnosis on his discharge paperwork.

Yes, that says dizziness. After all that....dizziness?!
One trauma dr said his diagnosis was a concussion. However, the ENT's disagree with that and it's not written down on anything we have. He has follow up visits with a neurologist and ENT and no one seems to agree on what happened. No one diagnosis fits all of his symptoms.

So, I don't really know. Here's what I DO know. We have got some amazing friends. People sat with me at the hospital, babysat kids, brought food, prayed in the middle of the night, and the list goes on.

God is faithful. Harris was not scared. I was not scared either, even as I wrestled with some heavy questions. I know that doesn't make sense but that's how it happened. I will be unpacking this experience for quite some time so maybe I'll learn some more things along the way. 

Praise God Harris is fine! He just needs some naps and is getting spoiled beyond belief right now.

 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:1

Saturday, February 14, 2015


My baby is three! I see now what happens to the baby in the family. That child gets whatever he wants. You sleep in our bed at will, eat yogurt tubes endlessly, get 14 books at bedtime, and generally get away with mayhem the others never dreamed of.

Case in point. At both Harris and Caroline's birthday parties, you ate piece after piece of cake. It kept you sitting calmly in one place so whatever. Your poop was bright green. That's the life of the fourth kid. Eat up!

You are adored and you know it. I was carrying you around yesterday and you patted my arm and said, "I love you very much." I could eat you up!
Please note the haircut your dad gave you. Thanks Tom. :)

Your number one favorite thing to do is anything your siblings will do with you. Anything. 

I know that flash couldnt have been pleasant but you stayed still and smiling as many times as Walker requested.

Caroline loves to pose for pics and you always come running to be included.

You will swing for hours if Harris will push you. 

You are just happy to be included and will do anything Walker envisions.

You love to march!

Walker wanted to "be rescued from the ocean" so you did your best!

I'm constantly concernd that one of the bigger kids will land on you but it never bothers you. You get up saying. "I'm ok!" And you keep going.

Eating ice cream is always a hit.

You guys were doing a conga line on New Year's Eve. Everybody con-GA!

You are always in the midst of any action. Nothing goes down without your awareness or involvement.

You are a cuddler.

Walker had obtained the iPad under dubious circumstances so you were both quiet as could be. Little hooligans.

You love to chill in your chair. I have so many pictures of you like this. 

When I see this I hear the Fresh Prince theme song in my head, for some reason.

I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8
And I yelled to the cabbie 'Yo homes smell ya later'
I looked at my kingdom
I was finally there
To sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Air

You definitely have a swagger. You upgraded to Walker's room when he moved upstairs. Your speech therapist didn't realize you had switched and when you told her it was your room she said, " I think it's Walker's." In a voice full of righteous indignation you growled, "I think it's NOT!" Kb made the comment that he'd never heard a child speak with so much authority in his voice. Um, yes. That's true. I don't know what that means for the future.

You love to sing. You sing loudly and frequently. THE B-I-B-L-E, THAT'S THE BOOK FOR ME, etc. Whenever you sing it's usually at full volume.

You love to be a helper! Please retain this trait as you grow.

One for you, 14 for me....

All ornaments on one branch. Nailed it!

You are outrageously independent. You insist on serving yourself and will not tolerate help.

By the time you're done peeling it's a sticky mess but you don't care.

You like to play a game you call 'Dump the garbage.'


You stay busy. You are the busiest thing.
I mean. Why??

You love books!

This chicken did not understand the danger it was in. It was not doing a good job of staying away from you.

You insist on riding the bike and putting on your own helmet. BY YOURSELF. You cannot pedal but will not be caught on the tricycle that is your size. Big kids ride bikes.

Your plans will not be thwarted.

You are constantly asking if I see your muscles.

Yes. Flexing while eating donuts. Perfect.

This picture pretty much sums up your life the past year.  You were just chasing Harris' remote control car around while he stayed one step ahead of you. Poor guy! It's hard to be the youngest sometimes!

All that going wears you out.
Swagger. Look at the leg cross.

You really love your school. You ask to go every day. For some reason, when you walk in the door you lay on the floor, face down, or put your head down flat on the table. Your teacher comes with a toy phone and tells you Fireman Sam ( your hero) has been calling for you and so you take the call and all is well. This happens every time! I don't understand what's going on but I'm glad your teacher knows how to help you through it.

Here was your thanksgiving craft from school. I'm going to give you a practice run with the question next year. :)

Your face! We had pics made for a Christmas present and you would give me that face above when asked how you were going to smile. The photographer must have been funny.

Your teacher at church stopped me to tell me that she'd never seen another child take a leadership role in leading worship like you do. Whatever you do, you are all in. You have a love of life that others are drawn to. You are quick to laugh and find fun wherever you are. Life with you is never dull. I think of you as the exclamation mark of our family because you have such a strong and energetic personality! I love, love, love you so much. You're just so darn fun! I'm looking forward to what age three holds for you. I'm certain it holds potty training, even though you disagree. I know it will hold more laughter and kisses and me "being a t-Rex" while you roar on my back. I kiss you so much that you say, "No more kisses, that's enough!" I cannot help it. You're delicious. :)

My verse to pray over you this year is that you will be equipped for all the good works prepared in advance for you to do. I don't have any idea what your "good works" are but I know you will love people well and have fun while you do it. 

Happy birthday, sweet Hayes!

Ephesians 2:10 ESV 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.