Written February 20, 2012
My husband left us this week. He took all of our stuff, even our dog. Ultimately, we both agreed it was for the best. After all, we are in the process of moving, and it really was time to get some things out of the house here in Montana. So, my husband and his friend hauled two trailers full of household things and shop tools to Minnesota. He’s coming back home to Montana in a few days, and then we’ll wrap up everything here and all move to Minnesota together for good in the next few weeks. Between sick kids (again), packing, and the chaos of too many projects going on at once, life is at the same time a crazy blur and amazingly peaceful.
While we escaped most of the winter with hardly a sniffle for our kids, February makes up for it with one round of sickness after another. After our little boy’s hernia surgery and a round of stomach flu for four kids, I didn’t really think anything of it when runny noses made an appearance at our house earlier in the week. Turns out, though, that the runny noses turned into fever, coughing, and several days of feeling wiped out and not sleeping well at night for each of our kids. Two nights this week I tallied getting up ten times in the night for achy little people crying or wandering into our room, needing comforting. At one slightly irrational point in the middle of one of those nights, I remember wishing our kids just had the stomach flu again, since it really just lasted about seven rough hours. This latest bug dragged on for days, a long, slow, fussy grind.
In between sick kids and moving are the little details, things that I would probably forget about if it wasn’t for the fact that I am writing about this for the newspaper. Little details, like needing to Google “poison control silica packet” one day. Turns out that once again, my very industrious two-year-old fully utilized that golden seven minutes while I put his baby sister down for a nap. Somehow, he found the box that held the guitar for Guitar Hero. If you asked me to show you where we keep that box, prior to a few days ago, I would have told you we didn’t even have that box. Inside the box, he discovered a delicious gold mine, a few of those packets of silica gel. Yes, the ones always labeled “DO NOT EAT” and “THROW AWAY.”
When I returned downstairs, I found him busily cranking the Whirly Pop popcorn maker. The Whirly Pop is a covered pan with a hand crank attached to the lid to stir popcorn while cooking it on the stove. It’s marginally useful for popcorn, but it is fabulously noisy when cranked by a busy two-year-old. Since he uncovered it in the “donate” bag a few weeks ago, he has stirred up all sorts of noisy creations that kept him quite busy. Checking to see what he stirred up this time, I saw wet toilet paper, foam letters, and I had a sinking feeling when I saw mysterious little clear beads and a tell-tale silica gel packet laying next to him.
Asking him if he ate any of the beads that looked very candy-like, he simply said, “Yes I did.” Gulp. So, after a quick internet search, life went back to normal. By cross-referencing several websites, I learned that while the silica gel packets are labeled to look dangerous, they are essentially harmless. Humans would need to consume extremely large quantities to have the desiccating abilities be a problem. Silica gel is basically a man-made sand.
In addition to the new learning opportunity about ingesting foreign substances, this week of moving and sick kids includes a few other highlights. For our kids, the highlight of moving is kicking kitchen garbage bags full of clothes and blankets down the stairs from the second floor, sending the bags careening end over end until they crashed to the floor in the living room. Another highlight this week is our extended family. On the Montana end, my sister-in-law came to help pack with her five kids, driving several hours from their home in Miles City to get to our house after I made a phone call plea for help. And in Minnesota, when my husband arrived after driving 1,000 miles with a packed-to-the-rafters trailer, my family descended upon it, and unloaded everything into our new house in the space of an industrious afternoon.
In the midst of our moving melee, another event put all of the stress in perspective. Last Thursday, a great man in our community here passed away. Craig Schwehr, just 39, died after a long fight with multiple illnesses stemming from lymphoma and transplant complications. If I could pick someone that I would want to live a long life, Craig would have been at the top of the list. I first met Craig when I taught Spanish for two years in the same school where his wife was also a teacher. Craig was kind, quick to smile, generously giving, actively involved in our tight-knit community, and was well-liked in the town of Melstone where he taught high school math. He cooked delicious food, and on several occasions baked banana bread and sent it to school with his wife, Kelli, to share with all the other teachers. Most importantly, he was a devoted, loving dad who fostered and encouraged the achievements of his son and daughter who excel in both academics and athletics.
Over and over, our friend, Craig, and his family were in my thoughts this week. He was just a few years older than we are, not even 40, but his family’s time with him is done. As I thought about the Schwehr family, the phrase “peace that surpasses all understanding” popped into my head. I couldn’t remember what it came from, so I looked it up on the internet and realized it was from this Bible passage: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
So this week, as I felt anxious, I said a few prayers and reminded myself of how thankful I am for the situation we are in. Despite too much to take care of, moving stress, and not enough sleep, we are so blessed. We are moving to the house in the country that we’ve always wanted. I probably have another fifty years to spend with my husband, judging by our grandparents’ longevity. Every day, we get to wake up and hug our kids, and at night I have my husband next to me. Life is turned upside down, and at the same time, this is a peaceful, happy time. We are living the life we want to have, overflowing with wonderful family, and I am so very grateful for all of it.
Thank you to Kelli, Craig’s wife, for letting me share this.