Friday, December 24, 2010

O Holy Night

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.

I love the artistic license we take in imagining Christ's birth - the sweet Christmas nativity displayed to us since childhood, complete with sleeping baby and lowing cattle. Most likely, it was a much dirtier and intense experience than our imagination cares to reflect on. Still, there is no doubt this was a truly holy night, marking the arrival of not just any child, but the only child ever sent as a suitable Savior to the world.

Was it a bright, starry night? We don't really know. It could have been cloudy and misting, for all the detail Luke's gospel gives us. But it certainly became a brightly shining night to a certain group of shepherds working the late shift in the hills of Bethlehem, when God's angels greeted them with news of the manger-dwelling Christ child. Within hours of His birth, those shepherds were proclaiming His arrival to the world... the first missionaries.

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Sin isn't new. It's not something we've managed to create or enforce through our current culture, despite what your political views might be. Satan has never needed to be creative. The sin we find ourselves languishing to today is the same sin introduced way back in the Garden of Eden - the belief that we somehow know better than God. Most sin stems from humanity wrestling for a place over divinity.

But then this child appears, miraculously born to a virgin teenaged girl and placed in a manger of all things, and suddenly humanity is invited in - not to share divinity with God, but sonship with the Heavenly Father. The "soul felt it's worth" because God isn't just about salvation. He is about relationship - and He desires, if you can believe it, a relationship with imperfect, languishing, prideful us. He chose to adopt us as His sons and daughters because in His eyes, we are worthy.

A thrill of hope. The weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

When we truly understand and embrace what God has done - when we truly accept the undeserved love and salvation He extends to us - can we be anything but thrilled? He is the hope that our weary souls long for, whether you're experiencing that hope for the first time, or you're being refreshed by it once again. We rejoice because it's Christmas morning, because our adopted Father invites us through His Son to cast the burdens we've been carrying - marriage, children, illness, disappointment, fear, and so much more - into His divine hands.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices. O night divine. O night, when Christ was born.

Respond to His great love with worship, not because He demands it, and not because it's "part of the deal," but because your heart is overflowing with gratitude for what He's done. Fall on your knees or stand up and shout; sing a song of praise or whisper a prayer of thanksgiving. But whatever you do, join those Bethlehem angels in giving praise to a God who, on this most divine and most holy of nights, began the process for your salvation and mine by sending His Son to be that baby in the manger we celebrate this Christmas.

May you have a blessed and Merry Christmas,

Monday, December 20, 2010

She Just About Cracked This Nut

In honor of my mom's birthday this weekend, my mom, my sisters, my three daughters and I went to see a local performance of The Nutcracker. I wasn't sure how the girls would do with such a long show, but they were all really excited about the performance. Evie was particularly thrilled. She just loves her ballet classes, and she couldn't wait to see all of the dancers perform.

Unfortunately, I didn't adequately prepare her in terms of ballet etiquette. Therefore, below is a synopsis of the running conversation we had DURING the Nutcracker performance. I just had to record it for posterity.


She starts out on my lap, sitting up as tall as she can and trying not to miss a thing...

What are they doing?

Are they dancing?

Is there going to be any talking? Why is nobody talking?

Over time, she slumps down and starts sighing loudly...

This is kind of boring. Miss Ellen said there would be butterflies. I don't see any butterflies.

Is this the show with Clara? I saw her on the Wonderpets. Remember when the Wonderpets saved the Nutcracker?

Where's Clara?

Sitting up again...

Is she Clara?

What did that man just give to Clara?

Mommy, what's a nutcracker?

Who is that? Why did he break Clara's nutcracker?

He's a mean boy!

There's a lot of dancing, isn't there Mommy?

Half-lounging, with her leg draped over the next seat...

I want to see the mice.

Where are the mice?

Are the mice coming? They were on the Wonderpets.

And up...

Are those the mice?

Is that boy a ballerina?

That's so funny, Mommy. Boys can't be ballerinas!

What happened?

Did he die? Did that mouse die?

Is he going to heaven now?

Waving frantically through several performances in the Land of Sweets...

Mommy! Mommy! It's Miss Sarah! See her dancing?

Where did Miss Sarah go?

Oh, I see her!

Where did she go?

Oh, there she is!

Is that Miss Sarah?

Right there? Is that her?

There she is, Mommy!

She's now at full attention on my lap, and I can feel her flexing her fanny to the beat of the music. No joke. Left cheek. Right cheek. Left cheek. Right... Left... Right. Left. Right. Leftrightleftrightleftright...

Oh Mommy! It's the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy! I love the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy!

Is she the Sugar Plum Fairy?!? She's so pretty!

I want to be a ballerina when I grow up.

I know how to do a pirouette.

Tussling over the flower we had for Miss Sarah...

It's my turn to hold the flower, Ella!

I'm not putting it in your face, Mommy.

Can we give Miss Sarah the flower now?

What about now?

Now do we give her the flower?

I want to give her the flower.

Ooops! I dropped the flower, Mommy.

She decides to stand now, but she can't see the dancers. She sits in the seat next to me, and still can't see. Now she's off to sit with Mimi, who in exchange sends Emily down my way.

The twin thing is so weird. She's a flexer, too.

Yes, really.

Left. Right. Left. Right...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Whine, Whine...Wine

Hmmmm. Seems some time has passed since my last post. If you're wondering why that is, it's because there's NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT MY LIFE. This is a critical problem. I like looking at the humorous side of raising four children - and living with five (ahem) - but there just hasn't been much to laugh about since August.

No tragedies, no traumas... just not funny.

Needless to say, I'm back in the dark place. Not that my whole life is dark. I'm back to teaching two days a week and I love being in the classroom. Something about it just feeds my soul. Grading papers? Dealing with slap-crazy, totally insane, where's-my-padded-room parents? Not so much. But I am totally and utterly passionate about what I get to do in that classroom.

My marriage? Pretty good, considering we're in the midst of football season. I haven't seen much of the hubby since my last post, but I haven't had to set myself on fire to get his attention yet either. Auburn is undefeated so I'd say we're doing pretty good and "War Eagle," thank you very much.

The house? I've got a ton of unfinished summer projects in the works, but it's still standing, it's relatively clean, and Christmas decor covers a multitude of sins. I can't complain.

Family? Friends? Well, there's never enough time in the day to be the daughter, sister, or friend I want to be, but I've got some pretty amazing people in my life who let me pick up in the relationship wherever we've left off - even if it's months between conversations.


Hmmm. The children.

The children. Sweet Lord, how do I even begin to address the children?

See? I got nothin'. This is where it's just DARK.

I am really struggling in the Mommy-role these days. I'm probably the only mom in the carpool line who cried when the teacher wished me a "Happy Thanksgiving Break!" And dear heavens, Christmas is right around the corner. No school for them. No school for me. I told my dad the other day that if I go missing over the holidays not to come looking for me. I don't want to be found.

The problem - and you've probably guessed it from the title of this post - is whining. My children are extraordinarily whiny. And there are four of them. I wake up most mornings to my nearly five-year old twins laying on the floor by my bed, rolling around, whining "Huuuuuuuuuuuungryyyyyyyyyyyyy. Huuuuuuuuuuuuuungryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy." Once breakfast is over, their mantra increases in volume until, by the end of the day it's "HUUUUUUUUUNGRYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! HUUUUUUUUUUUNGRYYYYYYYYYYYYY!"

And before you contact the Department of Child and Family Services, yes, I feed my children - multiple times a day.

Of course Ella, who is now six, is the master whiner. She's a bit more theatrical than her sisters, so her whining usually involves a series of acts.

"Can I have a snack, Mommy?"

"Not right now, Ella. We're about to eat dinner."

"Yes! I want a snack RIGHT NOW! (foot stomp) You NEVER let us eat! (more foot stomping) It's so NOT FAIR! (now she's throwing herself on the floor) I'M STARVING!!!! (she throws in an "arrghh" of frustration to punctuate her point)"

And then, unfortunately, there's the three-year old boy - who's going to whine simply by virtue of the fact that he's three. And he has mentors.

I've got to tell you that I really feel like I've tried everything to shut down the whining. First of all - and most importantly - I've never, ever given in to the demands of whining children. Which makes me wonder, "Why do they keep whining?!?!" They get time-outs, vinegar water, toys taken away, TV privileges revoked... and still they whine.

I'm in a really dark place. I'm one discouraged mommy. I knew that motherhood would be extremely difficult when I started - I wasn't delusional going in. But I have some really strong-willed children - you can ask any one of my friends, family-members, or babysitters. And I've lost my humor somewhere along the way, because I can't find pleasure in motherhood. It's work, and that work just gets more and more intense with every passing stage.

Can you give me some hope? Does someone out there in blogland have some sage or brilliant advice to offer me? Please - tell me how to stop the whining before I'm numbing myself with my own good wine!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Great Debater

As the summer wears on, with nary a first day of school in sight, I find myself engaged in more and more ridiculous battles with my eldest. Seriously, this girl will argue any point, any time, just for the sake of killing time. And without school to break up the days, there's a lot of time to kill. Of course, I have to admit that my Ella-apple didn't fall far from either parental tree, since both my husband and I not only engage Ella in debate, but we actually try to win.

In my defense, though, sometimes winning counts. Like when Ella walked into the house a few weeks ago carrying a dead bunny.

...I'm sorry. Let me pause for a moment while you re-read that sentence...

She walked into the house carrying a dead bunny.

OK, maybe you grew up on a farm and this seems like no big deal. Me? I don't do dead nature. EVER.

And since I don't do dead nature, I did what any good, non-farming, suburban mom would do: I ran away from her screaming, "GET IT OUT GET IT OUT GET IT OUT GET IT OUT!!!"

And Ella, the Great Debater, stood there with her bunny corpse in hand arguing, "But Mom, it's fine! See? It's fine!"

I'm not sure if I won the argument, but I finally convinced her - from several rooms away - to put the bunny back where she found it. And I DEFINITELY won the hand-washing battle. I just wish they still made lye.

Especially since our visit to the pool last week when Ella announced, in a very loud voice, "I NEED TO GO POTTY RIGHT NOW, MOMMY." Since I don't do dead nature OR public pool restrooms, I sent her off to take care of business on her own. Moments later, I saw her strolling by in search of her water bottle.

"Ella, I thought you had to go potty."

"I already went."

"You did? That was fast."

Too fast. So I felt it necessary to ask a list of obvious questions.

"Did you go in the bathroom?"


"On the potty?"


"Did you take off your bathing suit?"

"No, I didn't need to."

The fellow parent standing within ear shot started choking on his hot dog.

"Ella, go get in the pool right now."

"I don't want to swim, Mommy."

"NOW, Ella."

"I want a snack."


She finally got in the pool. It's gross, I know, but I'd like to believe that chlorine is like a modern-day lye.

But gross or not, sometimes I engage in battles that I don't need to win - I just really want to. Like today, when Ella told me to take a left instead of going straight.

"I know where I'm going, honey. I need to go straight."

"No, Mom! This way is a shortcut. You need to turn!"

"Nope, I need to go straight."

"Well, when I'm sixteen and I can drive and I have a car [a grand assumption on her part], I'm going to go that way."

Trying to diffuse the pointless argument, I responded, "Okay, Ella. That sounds good. And you know what honey? I think you are one super-awesome kid."


"No, you are Ella. You're an awesome kid. I think you're amazing."


Huh? "You know Ella? You're right. You don't do magic."

I figure I've got to let the kid win once in awhile...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

If Life Gives You Lemons, I'm Guessing She'll Charge You

There are only two days a year when I demand complete organization from myself: the first day of school and the last day of spring cleaning. (New Year's Day was supposed to be a third, but I gave up the dream when I married my husband and discovered that his bowl games and my obsessive compulsive disorder don't mesh.) I try to give myself a bit of grace on the other 363 days of the year.

Since organizationally I totally missed the first day of school, I took this year's spring cleaning very seriously. VERY. SERIOUSLY. I printed out last year's two-page typed list of chores, updated it to three, and assigned everything to fit into a two-week cleaning schedule. The list is pretty important, because I really like being able to check off each chore accomplished:
Scrub and disinfect the trashcans (check - GROSS!!!)
Move the refrigerator and vacuum underneath (check - Add "call the chiropractor" to the list.)
Touch-up paint the downstairs (check - Keep the paint out. Ty just walked by with a Popsicle.)
Wash the windows and wipe down all the woodwork (check - I get one lousy check mark for two day's worth of work???)
You get the whole crazy, ugly picture...
My plan was to host a garage sale at the culmination of this cleaning rampage, because I was hoping to net enough money to buy a comfy reading chair.

The problem with cleaning a house that has four children in it, unfortunately, is that while I was waging war against a battalion of dust bunnies under the fridge, a nuclear bomb was going off in the family room. And while I washed one window, sticky hands were smudging up the other ten. I spent a lot of time re-cleaning the house and re-checking the list in my pursuit of one, perfectly organized, post-spring-cleaning day.

I also stretched my two-week schedule into three... which pushed the garage sale back to Memorial Day weekend... which is a really lousy time to host a garage sale.

Of course, I didn't realize my timing was bad going in. I was a woman on a mission to clean out and restore my house to its pre-child glory - and buy that coveted reading chair. So I dutifully posted an ad on Craigslist, made a collection of colorfully-ballooned and directionally-sound garage sale signs, and organized and tagged a yard-full of quality discard items. At the last minute, I picked up some Country Time Lemonade and a package of Styrofoam cups. My goal was to keep the kids away from my busy sale by distracting them with a lemonade stand.

Garage Sale Day dawned sunny and hot. Mom showed up early with bagels and shmear, which we ate quickly in preparation for the onslaught of early-morning customers. Since the sale started at 8:00, I wanted to be all set to go by 7:30. Ella, who it turns out was totally on board with the whole lemonade stand thing, was also ready by 7:30.

"Are people going to give us money for our lemonade?"


"How much money, Mommy?"

"Uh, how about a dime for each cup?"

"Nah. Let's do a quarter. We get to keep the money, right?"

"Sure, honey. Y'all can keep whatever money you make at your lemonade stand, and I'll keep the money I make at my garage sale. Sound good?"


Ella made a sign for the stand while Emily and Evie took turns pouring lemonade into cups. And Ty tasted it for them. Several times. They were all pretty proud:

By 8:00, the kids had gone through about half their product and were starting to wonder if any customers actually planned to show up. Just then, Ella spotted our next-door neighbor taking a pajama-clad walk of shame to deliver her garbage down to the curb.

"Miss J! Miss J! Come buy our lemonade! Over here! Come buy some lemonade!!!"

The kids all took off in hot pursuit of the embarrassed Miss J, who managed to make it back into her house before they reached her with their lemonade-filled Styrofoam cups. Lucky for her, Ella spotted a car coming up the street before she could ring Miss J's doorbell.

"Hey, girls! It's customers! Customers! Hey! HEY!" She started chasing the car down the street. "Come buy our lemonade! And then go look at my mom's stuff!"

It turns out that no one in that particular car was interested in purchasing lemonade, or in looking at my stuff. However, Ella felt she was on to something and started shouting at every car that came down the street. Eventually, someone stopped and bought a cup - for $1.00. Then a couple more stopped. Miss J came back out - dressed now - with some money too. Even the garbage man hopped off his truck to buy a glass. Suddenly, the kids' lemonade stand was doing booming business. It didn't hurt that Nana, Papa, and Auntie M showed up about this time to enjoy a swig of Country Time.

Finally, FINALLY, one of the lemonade customers strolled up to peruse my garage sale goods. She picked up a chipped tea pot and handed me a dollar.

"There's a matching tea pot over here, if you'd like," I offered helpfully.

"I only have that dollar. I used my other change to get this lemonade."


"But I really like that second pot..."

"Oh, um, well here. I'll just give it to you, since that other one is chipped."

"Thanks!" She smiled and walked away just as I noticed the $20 bill hanging out of her pocket.


At least I had a second customer waiting in the wings. He'd already bi-passed the lemonade stand and moved on to inspect my junk. Evie, however, poured him a glass, chased him down, and handed him the drink anyway. Then she waited. Expectantly. Her four-year old stare (or was it the open hand) turned out to be more than he could handle, so he fished out a quarter, downed the lemonade, and headed back towards his car without making an offer on my kitchen table.

Double awesome.

By 10:00, my mom and I had dubbed our day "THE MOST DISMAL GARAGE SALE DAY IN ALL OF HISTORY." Meanwhile, the kids' stand was hailed by all (mainly Ella) to be a huge success. I decided to close up shop early and headed off to collect my signs. While I was gone, Mom reported, Ella kept chasing cars. Apparently, one of them laid a wheel trying to get away from the scary little girl and her lemonade.

Her hard-sale tactics worked, though. In the end, Ella and her team made $8.79 in lemonade sales. If you subtract what I spent on signage, my garage sale netted -$9.00.

"Wow, Mommy. We did a whole lot better than you did. We're really good at making money. A lot better than you. You didn't sell much at your garage sale. What can we buy with all our money? Can we buy noodles to swim with a the pool? That would be a fun way to spend our money, since it's ours and we get to keep it. You don't really have any money to keep, do you? 'Cause we made more money than you."

I'm thinking about setting her up with a stand at the front of our neighborhood and renegotiating our original deal. There may be more than one way to get my hands on a new reading chair. But stay away from our street if you're not interested in buying some lemonade. You're liable to get stuck with a drink you didn't want.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Did and I Do

Ten years ago I took this man...
... for better and for worse...
No, it's not all coming up roses in our house. Let's face it: Four kids can make for some pretty intense arguments, especially when we're both worn out from the effort of parenting. But we committed early in our marriage to put God first and our relationship second. Everything else - even our children - comes after those two things. It's a conscious, daily decision to place one another's needs above the more urgent demands of our family, and it's rarely easy. But having children seems to have opened up a line of communication in our relationship that wasn't there in the early years, perhaps because we are so much more conscious of the decision we've made to protect our marriage. These days, there's a lot more of the "better" and a lot less of the "worse".
... for richer and for poorer...
If four kids make for some pretty intense arguments, then watch out for the fireworks created by our "financial discussions". But there are two important notes I'd like to make about this section in our marriage vows. First of all, PRAISE GOD I married a fiscally responsible man. We would be living in my parent's basement or in a cardboard box if I controlled the family finances. My husband is a wonderful steward of our money, and I am so grateful for the opportunities we've had to live comfortably, travel extensively, and give generously. Which leads me to my second note: Even though we've (and by we, I mean my husband) worked hard to be responsible with our money, we've (and by we, I mean I) made plenty of mistakes. Yet by God's grace, we are kept secure.
... in sickness and in health.
This is a tough one. We've faced some pretty hard challenges in this part of the vow, namely in the area of pregnancy. I battled infertility and miscarried three times before Ella was born. My actual pregnancies were miserable and life-threatening. The twin pregnancy in particular was brutal, and we spent a lot of time in the hospital. Our marriage really took a hit around that five-year mark. But the celebration today is that we've learned something from those difficult times. No doubt there is a future in which we will face these trials again. Sickness is often a part of life. But I'm determined to celebrate fifty years with the man I love, so we're going to learn from past mistakes, lean on each other in the future, and take our vitamins!
T, I take you to be my husband all over again. For better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, I am committed to love and respect you as my husband. Now, ten years later, I know so much more about what those vows mean, and the difficult choices they require. But I choose you joyfully, gratefully, and lovingly. Thank you for being my husband, my friend, my lover, and the father of our children. I can't wait to spend the next forty years by your side, celebrating the sweet blessings our life together will bring.
Happy Anniversary, babe. I love you!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


My girls are high drama. Which is weird, because my husband and I are such calm, low-key people. I have no idea where they get it from.

Seriously. No idea.

Anyhow, now that summer's here, it seems that Emily and Evie have kicked the drama up a notch. Their early grasp of the English language has lapsed into whines, screams, and one-word demands, mostly for food. It seems I don't feed them enough, because one or the other is always "hungry, Mommy!!!". (At least until dinner time, when everyone is "too full" for chicken.)

Granted, I was totally over it the first day school was out. But I thought my ear drums were going to rupture this afternoon at 3:00 when the two of them were rolling on the floor squawking for ice cream. This is all I have to explain my temporary insanity: I talked them into some quiet time in their room by letting them color... with markers. Ten minutes later I was paying the price for happy ear drums, because I caught the two little girls who know way better coloring on their carpet and on each other.


Goodbye, happy ears.

I grounded them to their room - sans markers - until dinnertime, which led to the crying for Mommy, the begging for toys, and the "I have to go potty!" rotation. I'm used to it, so I can pretty much tune it all out. But when they started shrieking like their clothes were on fire, I went sprinting up the stairs.

Ella was in the hallway outside their door, set to explain. "There's a spider in their room, Mommy. I didn't want it to get out, so I locked the door."

"Okay. Uh, thanks Ella."

I unlocked the door and opened it to find Evie and Emily perched on top of their dresser, clinging to each other for dear life, and screaming at the top of their lungs about - yep - a spider. (I'm still curious as to why they chose the dresser and not the top bunk bed, but whatever.)

"Where's the spider, girls?"


"I don't see it."


"I still can't find it."

Evie stopped screaming for a moment. "It's a little spider, Mommy. You have to look hard."


I eventually found and disposed of Earth's tiniest spider, but I the process I gave up on the grounding. A few minutes later, I walked into the playroom where Evie and Emily were at last playing quietly. Evie was standing at the play kitchen, donning her oven mitt.

"What are you doing, Evie?"

"I'm a Pirate Chef." She whipped a plastic pizza out of the toy oven and set it on the table in front of Emily. "Pizza!" she shouted. "ARRRRG!"

"Yum," said Emily.

"ARRRRG!" Evie replied.

There has got to be a way for me to cash in on all this drama. Surely there's an Arachnophobia 2 in the works? Top Chef seems pretty popular. And aren't pirate movies hot these days?


Pardon me while I go Google the Olsen twins.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ty's Journey

If you're looking for funny, this post ain't it. Sorry. I'll get back to my hilarious pretty funny mildly entertaining posts once things have calmed down a bit around here. But I'm coming off a pretty intense weekend that began with Ty's "big" doctor's appointment, limped along in the reality of my insanely whiny children and my absent husband, and is ending with a filthy house and a critical lack of rest. To top it off, my husband's grandmother - an absolutely amazing woman who has been a profound spiritual influence in my life - is in her final days of hospice. I've done a lot of crying this weekend.

(I know. Not funny. But at least I gave you a fair warning.)

My focus at this particular moment, though, is my son. This post is mostly for friends who know about Ty's situation. Not many of you out there in blog land know what he's been dealing with, because I think I've only written one post about it. And that's mostly because his situation is what it is. He's not dealing with a terminal illness or anything as scary as that. He was just born with a birth defect that seemed to be, for a long time, one that we could deal with. Only lately, it's demanding more and more of our time and attention. You're welcome to read on, if you'd like. I'll describe the initial steps of Ty's journey pretty quickly:

When he was born, the nurse told me that it appeared Ty's left arm was badly bruised from the rather traumatic delivery. When I looked at his arm, it was bruise-colored from his shoulder to his middle finger joints. The "bruise" was still there two weeks later, and my pediatrician told me that it was probably a port wine stain. He sent me on to a pediatric dermatologist who waffled a bit on the diagnosis and sent me on to Dr. K (the doctor I referenced in my previous post and the man I hope to never, ever see again!). Dr. K didn't really care what it was called; he just wanted to get rid of the discoloration and went to town zapping it with a laser. After two sessions, I vowed to never go back.

At that point, Ty was almost four months old. His left arm was nearly twice the size of his right, was a dark purple / red, and was covered in numerous lesions. The next doctor we saw - a highly recommended pediatric plastic surgeon - called it a hemangioma, and said that the tumor was outgrowing its blood supply, hence the ulcerations. Ty underwent three laser surgeries with Dr. Joe. Although Ty didn't have to be awake this time around, Dr. Joe was much more aggressive, and each surgery left Ty's arm mottled with burn marks for weeks after the procedure. I finally told Dr. Joe that I needed a break.

Everything seemed fine for awhile after that. Ty's ulcerations healed and the discoloration of his arm was much less pronounced. I never noticed it unless someone out in public asked me what was wrong with my boy's arm. I'm not a fan of nosy people, but to keep things simple I said it was a birthmark.

After several months, we were back at the doctor for Ty's 2-year check. Dr. P, our pediatrician, paid special attention to Ty's arm. And during his exam, we both noticed a big problem at the same time: Ty's left arm was significantly longer than his right. Dr. P sent me back to Dr. Joe, who sent me on to Dr. Al, a hand and upper extremity surgeon. Dr. Al diagnosed Ty with an AVM, or Arterio-Venous Malformation, which is basically a tumor caused by an abnormal collection of blood vessels. His first goal was to determine if the tumor was "high-flow" or "low-flow." After a lengthy and sedated MRI, the radiologist told us that Ty's AVM is low-flow. Praise God. With a high-flow AVM, the result is more often than not amputation of the limb.

At this point, things suddenly felt much more serious. Obviously, Ty overcame a huge hurdle just in passing this "test": he won't lose his arm. But I'm beginning to realize that Ty's arm isn't just some birthmark or mild defect I can casually refer to as his "lucky fin" (the Finding Nemo reference I'd started using). We're facing some pretty serious stuff now.

If I haven't lost you yet, here's where things stand:

- Ty has a low-flow AVM. The tumor cannot be surgically removed because 1) there's a high risk of significant blood loss and 2) it's nearly impossible to remove the whole thing. Chances are that it will to grow back. All we can do is periodically "de-bulk" the tumor through surgery.

- Ty's humerous (upper arm bone) is growing rapidly due to the excess blood flow. It will continue to grow at an advanced rate, and there's nothing we can do. At some point, Dr. Al will make an educated guess as to whether or not the bone has reached it's adult size and will remove the growth plate. In the end, it's hoped for that Ty will have two, reasonably proportioned arms as an adult. But he will definitely go through an awkward period during his school years.

- We consulted with a geneticist on Friday, which was the "big" appointment I referenced earlier. There are three concerns we are facing now, as a result of this appointment. 1) We did a genetic screening to see if Ty has a predisposition for developing an excess of soft tissue. If the answer is yes, he will need to have routine ultrasounds to rule out any tumors growing in and around his abdominal organs. 2) Ty will be getting an echo cardiogram and a chest / abdominal CT to see if the AVM is in anyway connected to his heart. This is our big concern right now, since the AVM is on the left-hand side of his body. 3) Since Ty has passed out several times after hitting his head, it may be necessary to do an MRI of his brain as well, to make sure that the AVM is not in any way connected to the blood vessels in his brain. I'm not thinking about that right now. We'll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

And that's where things stand. If you made it through all that medical jargon, I'm impressed. If nothing else, it helps me to process through where we've been and where we're going. I have plenty to say about where I'm at emotionally, but I think I'll wait to get into all that. I'll just ask that, if you feel so led, you would add us to your prayer list. I'm praying specifically that 1) there is no AVM presence around his heart and that 2) Ty won't have any more episodes of passing out. If we can avoid that circumstance, then we can skip the MRI of his brain and therefore all of that additional radiation. I have other prayers I'm praying, too, but I'll just start with those.

Thanks to all of you who pray for and ask about Ty regularly. He is such a sweet and happy kid, and a tremendous blessing to our family. As I've said so many times before, we just weren't complete until he came along!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Boy, Oh Boy

As one of three sisters and a mother of three girls, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what makes girls tick. And I'm pretty sure it's hormones. But two years ago we added a son to the mix, and I think I'm discovering what makes boys tick. And I'm pretty sure it's hormones. One hormone, really.

My mom - who actually has time to read books like Dobson's Bringing Up Boys - was recently describing to me the "testosterone bath" that my boy's brain is apparently swimming in. Supposedly all this testosterone causes my son to come up with spectacularly insane ideas, but blocks the concept of consequences. Hence, the problem I've encountered lately with "dangling."

The first time Ty dangled was shortly after his 2nd birthday. Ella came running inside from the backyard yelling, "Mommy! Hurry! Ty can't get down!" I dashed outside to find my son dangling from the monkey bars of our outdoor play set. They're roughly 7-feet off the ground and Ty was hanging on for dear life. As I ran up to catch him, he looked over at me and whimpered, "Stuck."

"Yep, you're stuck alright, kiddo. Let's not do that again."

" 'K, Mommy."

One week later I walked into the twins' room and saw this same child dangling from the top bunk of the bunk beds. His little legs were swinging around, his feet looking for purchase. He looked around as I gasped and said, "Mommy. Stuck."

Since then, I've found him dangling from several precarious spots - the bunk beds again, countless play sets, and in one heart-stopping instance, the top of the pantry shelves. Each time he sums up his experience: "Stuck." Unfortunately though, dangling is not the worst of my problems.

A few weeks ago I was upstairs folding laundry in my bathrobe. The kids were hanging out downstairs watching "Max and Ruby" and essentially enjoying a sick day when the doorbell rang. I don't usually answer the door in that particular state of undress, but curiosity got the better of me. I opened the door to a woman I'd never met before holding Ty in her arms.

"Um, is this your son?"

She gathered from my ghost-white face and my inability to speak that she had, indeed, found the boy's mother. As it turns out, Ella had been inspired a few minutes before to put some of her artwork in our mailbox. During her foray into the front yard, Ty slipped out the door and started up the street towards a friend's house. A woman happened to be driving by at the time, and correctly assumed that I was not wise to the child's absence. She watched him make his way past a few houses, and then intervened.

The next person to bring Ty home was the Orkin Man - who really is the hero those commercials make him out to be. This time, I have no idea how Ty got out. I'm just thankful that our exterminator recognized him.

After that escape - which siphoned about 10 years off my life expectancy - I made an emergency call to my dad, who came over the next day with every locking device under the sun. Now every cabinet, closet, and door is equipped with child-proof locks. This solution may be short-lived, however, since my two-year old boy appears to be the master of escape. I thought that reversing the lock on his door would keep him in his room at night, but using a stool and his trusty plastic screwdriver, he managed to pop the lock three nights in a row. After that, I added a slide lock up at the top. Ty discovered through trial and error that by kicking the door, he can eventually get the lock to slip. Then he pops the second lock with his screwdriver and is out the door.

I won't lie. I am terrified of what this boy will eventually be able to accomplish. How long will his brain will be sitting in that bath of testoterone? It almost makes me anxious for my girls' estrogen-soaked teen years.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Because Self-Esteem is Overrated

In an effort to help Ella make new friends, I recently arranged a play date for her and a little girl from school. Ella really seems to like her, but the jury is still out for me, thanks to the following conversation:

Ella's new "friend" asked me, "Did you know your ceiling has a big crack in it?"

"Um... yes."

"Why does it have a crack?"

"Well, as houses get older and settle they sometimes get cracks." Ever the consummate teacher, I continued, "You know how people get wrinkles when they get older? Houses are the same way." (In this case the consummate teacher needed to shut up. Don't worry. You'll see why.)

"I don't have wrinkles."

"That's because you're still young."

"But you have a LOT of wrinkles."

I didn't have the time, or the words, to reply before she went on.

"Ella, should we take our shoes off?"

"Only if we're careful not to step in the dirt."

"Ewwww! You have dirt in your house?!"

"Oh yes, lots of it. Just look at the floor!"

The jury may still be out as far as I'm concerned, but something tells me these two are going to be fast friends. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to make a quick call to my therapist. And Merry Maids.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Remembering a Little of Life BC (Before Children)

I was a lot of things in my past life: daughter, wife, teacher, friend, seamstress, bookworm...

And then I had a baby.

And then another.

And another.

And yes, another.

Obviously I'm still a few of the things I once was, as my parents haven't disowned me (to my knowledge) and my husband hasn't left me (would I notice if he did?). But now that I've added "Mother" to the list, there's just not much time left in the day to teach, read, sew, or pursue friendships.

Until this week anyway, which reminded me a little of the woman I was BC (Before Children).

So first things first: I'm a teacher again!!!

Can I tell you what a shock it is to type those words? Just two weeks ago, my husband and I were praying about school for next year. We knew our budget wouldn't allow all four kids to attend private pre-school, but we really felt led to enroll them anyway. The day after I delivered their applications to the school, I got a call from a principal I used to work for who now runs a homeschool program. One of their teachers is having some health problems, and he was wondering if I would be willing to finish out the year for her. It's one day a week of teaching 7-8 grade English - an my salary is the exact cost of the kids' pre-school.

Isn't God good?

I've had the best time this week buying my school supplies and writing up lessons plans. It's refreshing to be doing something I love so passionately, without feeling like I'm neglecting the needs of my family. Of course, I'm totally terrified of not being able to balance everything, but that's another blog for another day.

Since I'm back in the classroom again, it only seemed appropriate to get a new "teacher bag". Convenient timing, since my dear friend Rachel and I had a sewing retreat planned for this past weekend. It was a wonderful three days of friendship-building, sewing, reading, and sleeping in. And I thought you all might like to see the results (because people in blogland seem to love posts like this). Anyway...

Ta-da! My new teacher bag:

Excuse the poor photo quality. I took some quickie shots just to give you an idea of what we did.

These are the 3 dresses I made for my three little girls:

This one is Evie's, with the green panel in the center:

This one is Ella's - I kept it solid pink all the way around, to make hers a little different from the twins':

This one is Emily's - it's the reverse of Evie's, so the skirt panels are swapped, and the bodice and strap fabric's are reversed:

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
OK, enough of that now.
They did turn out a little big, but they actually look really cute worn as smocks over shirts and jeans. That should get us through the cold weather, anyway. By summer, they should be just right as sundresses the girls can run around in at church.
It was so much fun to finally start - and finish - some sewing projects, and Rachel and I are hoping to do it again soon. My hubby is on his way to the Grand Canyon tomorrow for a week of mountain-man backpacking, soI figure he owes me big. Plus, he knows that it feeds my soul to re-connect with that BC woman every once in awhile.
It gives me the strength to spend a whole week, alone, with my four children.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Diary Excerpts: The Making of a Christmas Card

November 26, 2009
Dear Diary,
Wow! Where did the month go? I can't believe it's Thanksgiving already, and I haven't started on our Christmas cards. I don't even have a family picture yet. I mean, I guess we could use that one of us at the beach, but none of the kids are looking at the camera and Ella's eyes are all puffy and red from crying and the hubby's smile looks a little forced and... Yeah. It was a bad hair day. Maybe I should give Andrea a call and see if she can shoot our family portrait this weekend. Speaking of which, I should give her another shameless plug on my blog - if I ever actually post again, that is. Man, the holidays are crazy...

November 29, 2009
Dear Diary,
Well, we had our family pictures taken today. Actually, in the interest of expediency, we had our family pictures taken, our 10-year anniversary pictures taken, Ty's 2-year old pictures taken, and the twins' 4-year old pictures taken. Too bad we ran out of time; I really want to get the Halloween pictures taken before the girls ruin their fairy costumes. Although judging by the condition those fairy wings, it's probably too late anyway. (Note to self: Figure out if that is dirt or mold...)

Anyway, the process didn't go as smoothly as one might imagine. For starters, I forgot to do the laundry last night, so the twins' sweaters were dirty. And Ella's sweater was too small. And Ty's outfit didn't match. And neither did mine. And we were totally running late. Which is the only reason we didn't stop at the store to buy new matching outfits for the six of us. Well that, and the fact that my husband was looking at me as if I'd gone certifiably insane. Frankly, I don't think it's insane to want everybody to match exactly, but whatever.

Even with a photographer and two assistants, the shoot was more torturous that an afternoon of waterboarding. Apparently, the phrase "Look at the camera and smile!" is understood in a child's brain as "Look anywhere but here, and tears would be great if you've got 'em". Seriously, someone should do a study...

Of course, it didn't help that there were like ten other families in the park getting their Christmas pictures done at the same time. I'd like to think that they're all just procrastinators like me. But since everybody matched, they'd probably just spent the last two weeks coordinating their outfits. Not looking so insane now, am I Diary?

December 9, 2009
Dear Diary,
Andrea got our family pictures edited and turned around in no time. She's a miracle worker. Apparently children can look away from the camera making odd faces, and a pro can still come up with pictures like these:

The "We've-Been-Married-Almost-10-Years-and-the-Kids-Haven't-Killed-Us-Yet" Shot

Emily and Evie's 4-Year Old Picture
(They turned 4 on December 6, 2009!)

Ty's 2-Year Old Picture
(He turned 2 on December 11, 2009!)

Ella's 5 1/2-Year Old Picture (She turned 5 on July 14, 2009, because once upon a time I actually PLANNED my pregnancies!)

I'm surprised I can say it after that hideous afternoon in the park, but I'm really happy with our family pictures. In fact, I've got one picked out for our Christmas card! I'm taking it in tomorrow to get it printed up.

December 10, 2009

Dear Diary,

In the letters of this texting generation: O... M... G... I'm never going back to that camera store again.

It started out fine. I found a parking spot right out front - though in the interest of keeping the sheriff's department happy, I had to drag everybody out of the car and into the store with me.

Which is when things started to fall apart...

I do not make quick decisions. I'm a perfectionist. You know that, Diary - I write about it all the time. It's just who I am. So chaining me to a computer with 3 of 4 my kids running around, and telling me to pick out my own picture and card design? Stress-FULL. First of all, there were 435 pictures on my disk. And I couldn't remember which one I'd picked. Of course within the first 2 minutes of my hunting and pecking, the kids had knocked over no less than 3 picture frames and a stool. In a panic (and with no sheriff's car in sight), I hauled everybody back out the van, gave them some books to look at, and locked them in. Luckily, my great parking spot kept them in my line of sight.

I ran back in, picked a random picture, and then started flipping through the designs. Would you believe I found a design that matched our brown, red, cream, and light blue attire? Yeah, neither would I - but I actually did! That was the only thing that went right, though, since as I was printing off my order I happened to look outside and notice Evie in the front seat of the car.


I grabbed the receipt and ran out the car, where my naked child greeted me with a shriek of, "I HAVE TO GO POTTY!" Why this required her nudity, I have no idea. But her sister was not about to be left behind and started stripping down as well. As soon as everyone was re-clothed, I hauled them back into the camera shop and asked if we could use the bathroom.

It turns out that the bathroom is also their storage closet. Or vice versa. Either way, kill me now.

I HATE public restrooms.

As if all that wasn't enough, Emily needed help getting her seat belt fastened. Or she did until I climbed back there to help her - by then she'd already clipped it. Being the ballerina that I am, though, I tripped over my own feet and fell out of the car, landing on my sciatic nerve. No big deal, though. I just had to lay in a crumpled heap on the parking lot until the feeling came back to my right leg.

(Seriously, kill me now.)

December 11, 2009

Dear Diary,

I had to go back to pick up my pictures today. I hope nobody recognized me.

December 15, 2009

Dear Diary,

It's nearly midnight, but all of my Christmas cards are stuffed, addressed, and stamped. Well actually, I ran out of stamps half-way through, but I'll get around to picking up more. Whew. Feels good to have that done.

December 16, 2009

Dear Diary,

Emily un-stuffed all the envelopes.

December 17, 2009

Dear Diary,

I sent out the stamped half of my cards today. I wish I'd had time to write a letter this year, but the hubby put his foot down and actually said "no". He seems to think this project is is consuming me.


January 4, 2010

Dear Diary,

I found a stack of Christmas cards this morning when I was cleaning out the office. Did I forget to buy stamps?

January 5, 2010

Dear Diary,

I'm posting a blog today if it kills me. If people didn't get a Christmas card from me this year, the least I can do is post a picture.

On second thought, maybe I'll get around to it tomorrow.