And, life changes in an instant

beach sand photos in the post from June of last year, at a Padre Island, Corpus Christi


Three things of significance happened yesterday.

I filed our taxes,
I thought I had lost Amalia for a matter of 15 minutes (but it felt like much longer), &
I witnessed a drowned boy be resuscitated.

The first incident, is rather dull, so I’ll skip over it only to say I personally filed our taxes (which I’ve done for the last 9 years of our marriage). We will get a healthy sized return, enough to fill our coffers for a day or two & give us the illusion of being rich.  Of course, after that, it will go to our debts. But we’re getting that much closer to our goal of being debt-free, & we are grateful.

The next two incidences, though more interesting, are of the sort that make you want to curl up under a blanket with your kids huddled close. The kind that make you want to stay that way forever, or at least until they’re grown-ups.

The second incident began with an agreement.

I had promised the kids I would take them to the swimming pool after school (it opens in March here in San Antonio, at least in our subdivision) but they needed to clean their rooms first. After about 20 minutes, I went upstairs, & found the boys in their room “cleaning”–more like cleaning one minute for every five minutes of playing legos. Salem was still napping. And Amalia, was nowhere to be found.

Panic did not set in until I had walked through every portion of the house, shouting her name, with no response.

I enlisted the boys help. We looked outside, in the garage, in all the nooks & secret hiding places of our 3,000 square foot home. Nowhere.

beach mali

I gave the baby to Hyrum, told Asher to watch Salem, & then jumped in our car.

I drove to the swimming pool (maybe she had walked there? she had been urgent about going earlier). The streets & driveways of the neighborhood were empty.

I felt strange, the day bright & hot, with my heart racing, my mind full of panic & urgency. If you have ever lost a child, even for just a few minutes, you know the feeling.

I raced home, hoping she had surfaced in my short absence. Still no Mali. After more searching, Hyrum said he’d heard her in her room. I ran to her room, & pulled the crumpled blanket off her bed.

There she was.

She’d been hiding. I asked her if she had heard me call her name. She said no. It’s impossible, I said. I was shouting after all. For whatever reason, she had hid.

I’ve heard of kids doing this. But Amalia is five & not really like that, I thought. But alas, it was one of those moments of sweet relief coupled with, don’t you ever do that again/you’re in big trouble.

The last, & final incidence went something like this.

Though it was at least 80 degrees out, the pool was frigid. I love a good polar swim (remember this?), but still had major reservations after I dipped my toes into the semi-arctic waters. Joseph & I were playfully trying to get the other to jump in. Our kids were already in the pool.

I was laughing.

“NO, no, I have your babies, I do your taxes, I do NOT have to do this with you!” I said, as Joseph tried to pull me into the pool.

beach four

But then, there was a moment, you know, where someone is trying to tell you with their gestures that something is wrong.

I thought I had a bee on my shoulder because Joseph seemed to be gesturing to my shoulder, but in reality he was pointing behind me. I realized this, & turned around to see a man at the poolside. He was kneeling down, hovering over a gangly boy of not more than five years old. My eyes went into focus, & I realized he was administering CPR.

As if by instinct, I ran over to offer help.

Though, I should say, I’m not good with trauma. One time a student had a seizure in the middle of a Pilates class I was teaching. I had never seen a seizure before, so I had no idea what was happening & it completely freaked me out.

The boy was blue. No breath or movement. Time slowed to a crawl.

Please, please, please God, I found myself saying. Help this little boy breathe. The man, the boy’s father, was doing the best he could, but he was going into shock himself.

The boy began to gurgle.

A choking, gurgling sound. His eyes were glazed over, sort of rolled to the back of his head. He began to breath, though it was the breath of a fish out of water. Labored & unnatural.

“You’re doing great, you’re doing great.” I kept repeating to the dad.

When it was clear the boy began breathing again, the boy was lifted & carried over to some towels. The dad was in shock. I could tell he had no idea what do do. Someone had called 9-1-1, so we sat & waited. I told the dad to hold the boy, who was still lying on the cement, gurgling.

“He needs you to hold him,” I said.

beach boys

I had a flashback, the kind that comes when a memory is triggered by a traumatic event.

We were living at my parents house.

Hyrum, not even three at the time, came running into the house.

He and Asher (only 15 months old), had been playing outside. The gate to the area of the yard with a small pond was always locked. But I would soon find out that, that day it wasn’t.

It was the middle of February–frosty weather, but the boys were bundled up.

“Asher, fall, Asher fall, come mommy,” Hyrum said.

I ran. Boy, did I run. The image of Asher’s bright yellow & red coat, floating face down, in that little pond. Some things you will never forget.

I swiped him up, his face frozen with shock. He, like the boy in the pool, was not breathing. I ran inside the house. I ripped off all of Asher’s clothes, tipped him face down & beat his back with my palm, as though each firm blow would breathe life into his tiny, stiff body.

Finally, finally, water gushed out & he started to choke, then breathe. I didn’t have to do CPR, & fortunately, he hadn’t been there long, so nothing more than holding him close, getting him warm again was needed.

beach trail

Back to the pool.

I looked at the dad. A specter of his former self, his face was dull, expressionless as he held his boy. I ran & grabbed Tyndale’s baby blanket & helped wrap the boy in it. I rubbed the boy’s feet.

“Can you feel this, I said? Can you feel me rubbing your feet, sweetie?” Nothing but more choking, grunting sounds. But he was responding.

I put my hand on the dad’s shoulder.

“You did so good. You saved his life.”

The man began to cry. I knew what he was feeling–a mix of shock, guilt, terror. I had felt that, though to a lesser degree, when I found Asher in that pond some years ago.

“You can’t blame yourself. You can’t. You saved his life.”

beach four

Later that night Joseph asked me if the boy was handicapped or disabled in some way.

“What do you mean?”

“You know, like is there something wrong with him? Before he drowned, I mean.”

He was asking this, because the boy did look handicapped. But we only saw him after he drowned.

I paused, realizing, that no, the boy, I’m confident was not handicapped before the drowning. It hurt to even think this.

“He may very well be now. Who knows how long he’d been without oxygen. Even a few minutes without it can cause permanent brain damage.”

My sister-in-law Becky gave me a prayer journal for Valentine’s day. She’s the kind of sweet person you envy because of her spirituality, her kindness. I’ve often remarked, “Now how did Elias (my brother-in-law) con her to marry him?”

The journal is for keeping track of people, things you’re praying for. It’s a nice way for my cluttered brain to keep track of those things I want to make sure to mention in my daily interactions with God.

So, this morning, under the line, “people to prayer for” I wrote: Phil, the little boy who drowned.


beach kids

Joseph & I talked at length about the experience. We decided the takeaway from this is:

1) We must teach our kids that water can be fatal. We need to each them to respect that. My kids are all swimmers & have grown up around pools. Some of our best memories take place on or near water (remember this video?). We can’t teach them using fear. They need knowledge. Teaching them the basic rules of safety around water (like no diving in the shallow end, or running on slippery cement), teaching them how to be strong swimmers, & teaching them to look out for others who are swimming are all key. 

2) Importance of knowing CPR & basic first aid. Every adult needs to know & stay current on CPR. I have taken more than half a dozen courses of CPR in my life, but CPR is something that you have to refresh yourself on, every year or so. I cannot tell you how frightened I was to realize, had this been my kid, I don’t think I would have remembered enough of the techniques to perform CPR properly.

3) Parents–stay on your guard. But know that things like this may happen. We can’t watch our kids every second, of every day. But we can make wise choices, teach our kids to make wise choices, & do the best we can.


beach kite

Last night, as I tucked the girls in, I sang an extra rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle.” I snuggled, I kissed. I noticed how beautiful Amalia’s eyes are in the dim light. The particular way her thick, dark eyelashes gently curl upward. How sweet it is that she sleeps with her stuffed animals, as if she believes they will protect & watch over her as she slumbers.

I don’t know why bad things happen. But they do, sometimes. The best way to cope, I believe, is to love, love, & love some more.


  1. Katie Lorsch
    on March 24, 2014 at 12:43 am said:

    A touching post Janae. I wish I had the power to keep my children safe at all times. I’m getting anxious about the swimming season and am thankful for the timely reminder.

  2. Your big sis
    on March 22, 2014 at 11:58 pm said:

    Wow. That was quite the experience! It’s good to see pics of the kids since we are so far away!! Miss you guys!

  3. Jas
    on March 21, 2014 at 4:35 am said:

    Janae, I have been reading your blog for such a long time now but I have never commented. I just wanted to *finally* comment to say that I LOVE the way you write. The way you tell a story and pour every bit of your heart and soul and faith into it. Without even knowing you in person, I can just tell you are the most warm, caring and genuine human being. Never, ever change.

    Thank you so much for letting us all be a part of your journey. God bless.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 21, 2014 at 5:21 pm said:

      Jas, this is going in my box of things to read when I’m having a super bad day. Thank you for your sincerity. And thank you for taking the time to write to me. You have made my week. ox

  4. Heather @ The Soulful Spoon
    on March 19, 2014 at 11:02 pm said:

    Joy you are so brave! Thank you for sharing this. I can’t even imagine the trauma it caused for you, no matter how brave you were. I know how quickly life can change in an instant, in good and bad ways. Just like the sun pops out right after a thunderstorm, or your favorite pet gets hit by a car right after you come home to them to greet you. Life changes, life happens, and we never know where it will bring us.

    The last four years of my life have been nothing but trauma, and recovery all in one. In 2010, I was woke up at 2:30 a.m. to be told my dad had been killed in a car crash instantly on the way home from work. His last text to me was 5 minutes before the crash, telling me he loved me. Six months later, I was involved in a horrific accident myself and almost died from being deathly ill from an eating disorder. And then, like the sun does, it comes out of the clouds when we least expect it. After being umemployed two years without a job, God brought me the dream job I always wanted at being a freelance writer, all through a random search on Pinterest. He brought my mother a pet dog that was born the day her dog died, just three months before she got the new dog.

    And then, there are the moments life asks you to step up to the plate, just like you did here. Wow. What a remarkable story. You have so much to be proud of!

    By the way, I truly admire your debt-free goal. I think that is so amazing and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story, and your heart through every one of your posts:)

    Your blog truly does BRING JOY every time I read it<3

    Heather McClees

  5. Marilyn
    on March 19, 2014 at 7:38 pm said:

    Amen. My goodness. Amen.

  6. Joya
    on March 19, 2014 at 7:09 pm said:

    Thank The Lord the little boy is alive. How terribly scary. I’ve been reading a book about a little girl who disappeared and so naturally that sort of thing has been on my mind. I’m so glad Amalia was found safe and sound. Kids!! We can’t take a moment for granted, that’s for sure.

  7. Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine
    on March 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm said:

    O my, that is so scary! When I went to Disney World years ago with my grandparents we were at one of our hotels pools. Two boys were in the deeper end (they were both really young) and their mother was just oblivious and reading a magazine. The younger of the two boys fell under and started to drown. My grandfather saw and jumped in and helped him out. Another scary event, but the mother of the boy was just angry and didn’t even thank my grandfather for the help!
    I learned and got certified in CPR, AED and first aid training last year in my health class. I am so happy I have more knowledge now about what to do in a situation like that! I never knew before, but now I feel so much safer.

  8. Katrina
    on March 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm said:

    WOAH!!! What an experience! Thank you for sharing that. It will make me re-double my efforts in watching the kids near the water this summer!

    • Janae Wise
      on March 19, 2014 at 3:25 pm said:

      All it takes is just a minute or two of not paying attention…

      Scary, but it’s good to have these very real life reminders.

  9. Laura H
    on March 19, 2014 at 2:09 pm said:

    Hi Janae,
    Thanks for sharing your stories from yesterday. What a day! I’m curious, what did you tell Amalia after her hiding incident? I am not a parent (yet) but am always interested in how others handle situations and I wonder how I will handle them when the day comes!

    • Janae Wise
      on March 25, 2014 at 7:47 pm said:

      Hi Laura! We just talked about how important it is to respond ANY time a parent or an adult says your name, & I think she got that. Though kids, they really do live in a different world sometimes…

  10. Alanna
    on March 19, 2014 at 12:36 pm said:

    Wow, Janae, this gave me so much to think about.

    You perfectly described the sheer terror of thinking you’ve lost your child. I’m sorry you went through that, even a taste of it is torture. We lost our 4-year old once during a family photoshoot when he wandered off following a puppy. He realized he was lost and hid between a bush and a fence. It was near a busy ferry dock and large body of water. After a few minutes of calling his name I went into a mode I didn’t know existed inside me. I ran the perimeter of the park, screaming his name without inhibition. By the time he was found (15 minutes later) I could barely put two words together, I was shaking so badly. It was a nightmare.
    The positive thing I remember about this experience was the other women around me. They recognized the panic in my voice and without waiting for a request to help or description of my child there were at least 20 women roaming around, calling his name. In a moments time, these strangers became allies and I had an army of mothers looking for my lost boy. I love instances where social norms go out the window and strangers are united by humanity.

    What a scary experience with the drowning boy–and your retelling of Asher in the pond. It gave me chills.

    We just moved to a beach house so I’ve been thinking of this a lot lately. We have four young children. The boys (5 & 7) are allowed to play outside by themselves but my girls (1 & 3) only with supervision. We’ve had Family Night lessons about water safety, put chains on all the doors and we’re signing everyone up for swim lessons…but deep down I’m still nervous.

    Thank you for the plug about CPR. I need to sign up for a course–stat!

  11. April
    on March 19, 2014 at 12:21 pm said:

    So scary! Last summer when Libby was barely 2 she wandered out of a neighbor’s yard (where the mom and I were chatting). W/in a few minutes I noticed she was gone. Circled the house several times, looked in the garage, went in the house. Got more and more frantic. Took about 5 minutes to find her but found her 2 yards away in a strangers yard. I swear to God I thought she was gone. I honesty thought she had been taken and that day was the last day I was going to see her (she was w/in feet of a very busy street). Praise God He protected her and gave her back to me!

    • Janae Wise
      on March 19, 2014 at 12:26 pm said:

      Oh mercy. That’s the WORST feeling in the world, isn’t it? I think I’d rather die than know that a child of mine was in fact, lost. I’m reading Elizabeth Smart’s memoir right now. I read it with a box of tissues. That girl, her parents, I cannot even imagine.

      So glad you found your little Libby.

  12. Keri @ WithLovefromColorado
    on March 19, 2014 at 12:14 pm said:

    Oh my gosh. As a new, first time mom, I have sooo much anxiety about my sweet little boy. He’s only 8 weeks, and I worry almost constantly about something happening to him, about me not being able to make it right, about not being a good mother. I can’t imagine what this little boy’s father went through. Is going through. They will be in my prayers.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 19, 2014 at 12:25 pm said:

      “As a new, first time mom, I have sooo much anxiety about my sweet little boy. He’s only 8 weeks, and I worry almost constantly about something happening to him, about me not being able to make it right, about not being a good mother.”
      I’m afraid this anxiety doesn’t ease up. Not really. I mean, you learn how to cope with the anxiety & worry by doing your best & trying to make wise, mindful choices, so it gets a tad better. Yoga helps a lot! But sometimes I think I must a glutton for punishment, asking to worry about a child, X 5!

      I hope you & your little guy are doing well. I’m sure you know this, but take lots of pictures, because they grow fast!

  13. Ricki
    on March 19, 2014 at 12:09 pm said:

    Oh, Janae, so beautiful. I’m crying along with that dad. Sounds like you helped a lot, too. And so glad you found Amalia so quickly!

    • Janae Wise
      on March 19, 2014 at 12:37 pm said:

      Ricki, it is quite tragic, isn’t it? As much as tried, I still didn’t fully convey the depth of this man’s shock & grief. And his wife wasn’t there. I can only imagine what her reaction was when she found out about her little boy.

      I’m so glad I found Amalia too–little stinker. I was like, “how does a child just vanish?!” The answer is: the vanish when they hide really well ;0

  14. Melissa
    on March 19, 2014 at 11:30 am said:

    Amazing story – fantastic telling.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 19, 2014 at 12:22 pm said:

      Thank you Melissa. It was quite a day, that is for sure.