Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tightening My Cape

Well, it's that time again. In the midst of all these happy holidays is a week I really don't love: Deer Season. This is a snap of my husband's hunting group. I believe they call themselves the Young Buck Buckmasters. Several of you readers are in the same boat I am: that is, you've got the kids all to yourself this week as your husband exercises what he apparently believes is his God-given right to hunt, drink, carry on like a fool and be a man.

I'm feeling pretty positive about it right now. I've been through a lot of years of this, and a lot of children as well. It doesn't matter if I'm pregnant or nursing or sick, my man still believes the great white hunter in him trumps the family. And I rise to the occasion. I think maybe it's time he started to feel a bit vulnerable by how well I manage without him, eh?

But I'm really strong, and, even at seven months pregnant and facing long days of work and doctor's appointments, I'm up to a challenge. I'll do it, and I'll do it well.

I have been proud to say several times in the past couple of years that I think Shrek is finally growing up. And, even though he's gone again to chase that elusive 20-point dream buck, I'm going to say it again: I think Shrek is finally growing up... a little.

He worked hard to make things right this weekend before he ditched us. He spent the whole day with us yesterday, put up Christmas lights, did multiple sinkfuls of dishes and loads of laundry. He was even up two hours later than me last night folding a mountain of clean clothes and still woke up cheerfully this morning to accompany me to church with our brood.

So, hey, let's all give him the benefit of the doubt this year. Maybe we'll see him more than normal. Maybe he'll answer his cell phone when I need him. And maybe, just maybe, he'll grant my wish of Scrap Week or Shop Week or whatever the hell we "deer camp women" come up with to do for a week while our loving husbands work their normal jobs, coordinate child care, quiz the kids' with spelling words and vocabulary, taxi them around to various events and commitments, do the laundry, keep the dishes under control, wipe the noses, change the diapers, give the baths, cook, and generally love their children as we do.

HA!!!! I can hear you deer camp women laughing. Made ya smile, didn't I? It's hard to imagine, but who knows? It could happen.

Alas, I am tightening my cape, I am strengthening my nerves and my resolve. I may not do this cheerfully, but--oh yes--I will do it.

I know I've been a bit quiet the last five days or so and that many of my blogger friends were quiet as well, and I think it's a good thing. We can't let technology take over the way we live. We have to make those memories and be a part of the stories to be bloggers.

I had a great Thanksgiving and a wonderful weekend. My hope is that you did as well.

So now... now I hunker down and wait for those last few Christmas gifts to arrive. I enjoy the sparkle of my holiday decorations, the lighting up of my children's eyes as we drive around town to take in the holiday light displays. I breathe deeply the scent of my cinnamon clove candle, savor the last couple months of being the mother of just three children.

I work, I drive, I wash, I wipe. And I give thanks for all of these things. The things that make up the fabric of my blessed life.

Oh, and dear Lord, keep those fools safe....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

I love Thanksgiving. It's family, food, gratitude. It's no pressure, a cuppa coffee with dessert and the meeting of the women when we try to come up with a Black Friday plan and simultaneously plan a Christmas gathering for 80. It's my Vera Bradley apron and the matching one I bought for Lily but that gets more use from Max. It's the anticipation of Christmas; the beginning of four intense weeks of kids lip-syncing songs at holiday programs, family gatherings and Advent calendars.

And it's just my kind of holiday. I try to be grateful for the many, many blessings in my life year-round. I seek to always be aware of my own situation and those of others, especially those less fortunate. I strive to teach my own kids what it is to express gratitude everyday.

What am I grateful for? I'm grateful for my husband, who gets better all the time, I swear; for my delicious children and their little brother kicking away in my womb. I'm thankful for my mother, my sister, my entire family. For friends who know me well, and like me anyway. I'm grateful for my health, my country and my freedom.

I am grateful for my house with the furnace rumbling, my warm bed and my life stretching out before me.

I'm drinking from the saucer because my cup is overflowing.

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you get to spend it with the ones you love.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Glass is Half-Full

I've been feeling short-changed lately, and that is not a feeling I want to have. Big things and little things have been piling up, trying to make me less than grateful for the million good things in my life. And I am not going to let them!

Where did it start? Well, I had the week at home with Max and Colby, losing and finding my mind. Then I had a hectic Friday. The morning was a long OB appointment complete with a 4-D ultrasound, which was awesome! It's definitely a boy, and he is adorable! More on that later.

I then went to a jewelry store and used a gift certificate toward a little bling for myself. It was a gorgeous four-pearl pendant (one for each kid!) on a ball chain. I happily paid the difference. Unfortunately, the pendant had its own separate clasp, and I kept realizing throughout the weekend how insecure it was. I repeatedly found it, hooked it back on and stupidly kept wearing it, thinking I'd have it soldered first chance I got. What happened next? You got it: it fell off one final time sometime Sunday evening, and I have yet to find it.

After my jewelry store stop and a quick lunch on Friday, I had a meeting in Athens in the afternoon. It was stressful and a bit tense. And I got a parking ticket while I was there. After the meeting finally ended, I slipped the 4-D ultrasound CD in my computer at work, anxious to print more photos of my little man... It was blank! I tried to call the office, but they had closed early for the weekend.

So I head to the grocery store, spend too much, and decide I deserve a sweet tea from McD's. Of course, I didn't realize how old and rancid it tasted until I'd driven away.

By the time I got home, Shrek was aching to get on the road to his nephew's playoff football game. The kids were all in or near meltdown mode, and the groceries were cooking around me, waiting to be put away.

So even though the rest of the weekend went fairly well, and Max is finally feeling a bit better, I went into this Monday worried about returning to work after being gone a week. I felt shorter and less powerful somehow. (The weak, terrible coffee didn't help a thing.)

And that feeling persisted throughout my morning. I talked to a couple close colleagues about it, put my head down and charged into my to-do list. By lunch, I was smart enough to leave the office, buy a coffee (much better!) and a frozen pumpkin custard and then sit in the glorious Athens sunshine to enjoy them.

And that's when things started to look up. I got a message on my cell phone that a second ultrasound CD, promised functional, is waiting on me at the front desk at the doctor's office. While I haven't yet found that pearl pendant, I believe I will. One day of the three-day work week is down, some major tasks have been completed, and I no longer feel overwhelmed.

My house and my heart are full. I have what I need and what I want, even. I am lucky lucky lucky and thankful beyond belief. And I always believe, even when it feels like someone is trying to take me down, that the glass is half full. If I can't keep my optimism, I really won't make it in this crazy, tragic thing I call life.

Oh, and I did get one picture of my little darling, who is about to make this life more full, more lovely and more challenging. He really is adorable! (Please disregard the umbilical cord floating up around his neck and nose. I hope to show you even more amazing photos as soon as I get that CD!)

Hello, baby boy! We can't wait to meet you....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Losing and Finding My Mind

Ava and her beautiful momma....

So I told my mom tonight during my day-end report that every day I lose and find my mind several times. It's true. I couldn't seem to get Max out of the house today. While he's getting better, it's baby steps, baby steps. Oh, unless you're a baby I know named Colby, and then it's leaps and bounds into your big brother...

But I thought a lot today about our good friends who have a five-year-old battling a cancerous brain stem tumor. They were at St. Jude's today for yet another follow-up MRI to see what's happening. And early reports look good. Now they can enjoy the holidays and keep pressing on with treatment and living life out loud with their beautiful girl, Ava Cole.

And I thought about how they've lived with this diagnosis for more than seven months, and how their minds have had to wrap around it. How they have had to strive for balance among statistics, hope and parenthood. How they surely have lost and found their minds many times.

And my road is so easy in comparison.

So I send my continued prayers, love and affection out to them tonight and to our angel, Ava Cole, who brought together a community in such an amazing way, who has proven to all of us that you can affect change just by being what God made you.

If you're a parent, be sure to give some extra kisses to your own blessings tonight. In the hustle and bustle of this day and the holidays to come, let us strive to keep it all in perspective.

To read more about Ava, check out an article I wrote back in March while we waited for a clear diagnosis or

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Wow, it sure has been a rainy, lazy kind of day. It's fall slipping away, and the holidays settling in.

I'm still home from work with Max, who is doing better. He's getting harder to understand, though, if that is possible. And he's just now starting to feel well enough to have a slight attitude. Mainly he's a kid on drugs. Very strange acting. Drinking, but not eating. And man, does he love his momma! He wants me sitting, laying or snuggling with him on he couch all the time.

Mr. Colby, who I've been referring to as a monster, has his own ideas about how to help Max recover. He "kisses" with open-mouthed slobbers that Max insists are bites; he happily throws toys and has hit Max square in the head at least three times; and he likes to wake Max if he's feeling lonely. But today was much better than yesterday. Maybe it was the rain. Both boys took two-hour naps, and I joined in for about an hour and had lunch in peace before they woke up!

I also started my Christmas wrapping today. I think I got only seven or eight presents wrapped, but a little productiveness goes a long way sometimes.

Overall, I'm feeling peaceful and quiet. I feel myself transitioning along with the weather. Thanksgiving is next week already, and it feels like the calendar is full, or full enough for me.

Oh, and the monster broke my camera somehow, so I'm hoping it's back in time for all of the holiday business. Dave captured the perfect shot of me, asleep on the couch with my big belly, Colby asleep in my left arm and on my lap with a wayward sippy cup and my right arm resting on Max's sleeping figure. And if I had gotten a copy of that downloaded to the laptop before the camera quit working, it would be today's banner image. But, as it is, I think this early-morning shot Max captured of me a couple of months ago fits the bill.

I'm thankful today for so many things. Among them are sick leave, peace of mind, codeine and an awesome, warm house in which to ponder my life.

It's amazing.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

On a Prayer

My big boy giving thumbs-up pre-surgery.

My little man Max had his tonsils and adenoids taken out yesterday. I wanted, selfishly, for the doctor to confirm it was the right decision after the surgery, and he did. He said Max's tonsils were, indeed, very large. In fact, they were larger than those of the nine-year-old he worked on after Max. And his adenoids were blocking 50 to 60 percent of his nose, so we should see improvement on many fronts. He may even spike a growth spurt!

So, that's the good news. The bad news is that he's having a very rough time. He is in a lot of pain, and he doesn't want to drink much. Couple that with a fever and Momma Warrior is battling his dehydration big-time.

Trying to sleep off the anesthesia after surgery

Just to mix things up even more, Lily started puking with the stomach virus about 20 minutes after we finally arrived home from the hospital with Max. And then, Colby's diaper exploded. Oh, Universe, you are so funny...

Shrek and I shipped Colby off to mammaw's, took turns comforting our other babies and held on tight to the knot at the end of the rope. Last night was extremely difficult. Luckily, Lily's vomiting had subsided by then, but Max was not well at all. Dave took the first shift with him, and I relieved him around 1:45 in the morning. Around 2 a.m., I felt a sense of panic. Max was crying incessantly, drooling everywhere, and his fever was rising fast. There was no one to call, and I was on my own.

It brought to mind a Sugarland song. I wanna be the one you run to first. Well, I've certainly been the one Max runs to first his whole life and especially in the last 24 hours. And that's a big job. Especially at 2 a.m. when you're the only one around with a very sick kid who dehydrates easily and hallucinates with fevers and also has a history of febrile seizures. (Oh, and he does, in fact, have a fever, won't drink, and won't stop crying.)

But I prayed, I soothed, I cajoled. I forced the medicine down, turned on James Taylor, and actually got to sleep with Max for about an hour and a half before the crying started again. We watched the sun rise, and I had faith things would get better. They have gotten better. Not much, but a little.

And I don't know how, but several people have told me they have fond memories of having their tonsils out. It has not been easy for either of my kids who have gone through it so far and many of the kids I know. I hope Max does NOT have memories of this, at least not the parts where we force the meds down his throat every four hours and how, already, we have gotten Tylenol with codeine in his eyes not once, not twice, but three times.

I pray, if he remembers anything at all, that he remembers my touch and how he didn't feel alone because his momma, seven months pregnant, was a warrior who helped the yuckies go away.

Please get better, little man. I am so proud of you!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

27 Weeks :: Movin' Right Along

I don't have much energy left, but wanted to check in tonight. Exhaustion has been a theme this week. I do well throughout the day, but tend to crash around 8 or 9 p.m. I've got some aches and pains here and there, and some nights the heartburn kills. But by and large -- no pun intended -- I'm doing well.

I was supposed to have a four-dimensional ultrasound and some other OB visit highights on Friday, but I had to reschedule them to make room for Max's tonsillectomy. Ugh... On Friday, my little man goes under the knife, and I'm not looking forward to it. Lily had her tonsils out at three, in 2007, and we had a time of it! I'm hoping this time is much better for us.

But tomorrow is a gift. All three kids will be home, I'm off work, and the weather is supposed to be fantastic! So we'll take that day like a bird in the hand before things go downhill. We'll play and savor and picnic. And I promise not to play Christmas music.

Thanks to all of you veterans and active duty military for making these days possible, for making America the amazing and free country it is, and for making us all feel safe and secure, even when you didn't.

Good night, America. Go hug a veteran.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

Miss Lilith turned seven today. My baby, my first baby and my only girl, is seven. I can't tell you how the last seven years have changed me, how I have become the person I was supposed to be by becoming a mother. I can't tell you how many kisses I've given and been given, how many sleepless nights I've had, how many times my heart has bubbled outside the confines of my body. My motherhood began with a traumatic labor and delivery seven years ago today, and I am so glad.

Lily had a raucous, lively birthday party dinner complete with Jukebox Pizza last night. Four friends spent the night. It all turned out well, with Lily saying this morning, before they left, that it was her "best birthday yet." Well, she spent the rest of her day whining, crying and, thank God, napping. This is a girl who doesn't do well when she doesn't get enough sleep. So I'm not sure when the next sleepover will take place, but this one made her happy while it lasted.

She did calm down enough tonight for me to tell her a couple of stories from the day she was born as I gave her a bath. When daddy and a nurse accompanied Lily in her Isolette out of the operating room, I'm told our family and friends in the hallway swore she was a boy because of her overwhelmingly loud cries and the air behind them. She had the most perfect rosebud mouth, the best complexion and a striking palette of dark hair, blue eyes and red lips. Even in those early, overwhelming days of new motherhood, I was so incredibly entranced with her soft pinkness, her angel face.

After her bath, I got to read her one of our favorite books: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. Lily sweetly sang along to the refrain that repeats throughout the book, which I can't help but sing:

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be....

I really am so proud of my tall, smart, conscientious little girl. She's a helper and a learner. She is curious and kind and happy. I am blessed beyond measure that God gave me a girl. She is not only a precious part of me, but an amazing separate self.

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sounds of the Season

I'm not afraid -- at all -- to admit that I already have about a month, or even six weeks, of Christmas music in my system. That's right, folks. I think I heard my first strains of my absolute favorite Christmas album -- "Home for Christmas" by Amy Grant -- in the last couple days of September.

I've said it for years and I'll say it again: I love too many Christmas albums to listen to them only a month. It's usually two months for me, but this year, it's three. Now, I can't take the hard-core holiday stuff yet, but the Godly stuff? The beautiful ballads that remind me of singing with my family at church on Christmas Eve? You better believe it!

I really love Christmas, and it isn't because of the presents. For me, it truly is about Christ and family and how each of us has that chance, every year, to stand outside in the crisp, cold, fresh air on Christmas Eve and to realize we really are just a small speck of humanity in a big world on a blessed night. I love the way concessions are made for people to be with family, to be away from work (hopefully) and to be a child again, if only for awhile.

So I think that's part of my love affair with holiday music. My memories seduce me time and time again, and I relish the fact that I'm given the privilege to help to make those special memories now for my children.

I remember the 8-track in the old Chevrolet Impala we had as kids blaring All that I want is to know that you love me and this will be my finest Christmastime and, funny enough, on the same mix, Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad / I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart on the way home from selecting the year's live Christmas tree.

There's the memory of stifling giggles with my sister when I was ten or so and singing at church, What child is this, who laid to rest? Where ox and ass are feeding...

There are the years of music with my dad, who bought every single "Very Special Christmas" album and blared it throughout the season. These albums kept me exposed to Christmas music from all genres, be the artist Sheryl Crow, Tevin Campbell or Run DMC. It was December 24th on Hollis Avenue in the dark / When I see a man chillin' with his dog in the park / I approached very slowly with my heart full of fear / Looked at his dog, oh my God, an ill reindeer....

There are also the memories of Kenny and Dolly's classics greeting my siblings and I as we descended the stairs on Christmas mornings in junior high and high school. Christmas without you / White Christmas and I'm blue / Like fireworks with no fuse / Christmas without you....

Just today I listened to the Chipmunks Christmas twice with Max and Colby. And let's not forget the Muppets. These are the fibers of my childhood Christmas memories.

I try not to be a stick in the mud. I am always looking for new holiday music to love. Last year, it was Sugarland and this year, just as soon as I get a chance, I'm buying the Indigo Girls new holiday CD.

I'm in the mood and in the spirit; there's no doubt about it. 

I guess the Christmas song that sums it up best for me right now is Amy Grant's "Grown-Up Christmas List." (It's been done by many artists, but I gotta go with Amy...)

No more lives torn apart / That wars would never start / That time would heal all hearts / And everyone would have a friend / And right would always win / And love would never end / This is my grown-up Christmas list....

This really is my grown-up Christmas list: that we all know the blessings that have been bestowed upon us, that we treat each other with respect and dignity, that we always have the courage to do the right thing and that the world we leave our children is better than the one we've known. 

A very early merry Christmas to you and yours!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It Takes a Whole Village to Raise a Child

Or, say, six children. This is what my sister and I have come to know is true. We are both working mothers. She works full-time, but locally, whereas I work part-time an hour from home and an hour and a half from most of our doctors. (If, of course, you time the path I have to take if I have to come back through the hometown for a child pick-up for said doctors...)

My mom, Kim and I moved a couple of small mountains in order to meet at Gabriel Brothers yesterday after work for the annual toy sale. We spent a fair amount of money on Christmas gifts for the kids in our lives and then -- gasp! -- got to eat out, just the three of us at Olive Garden. Our conversation was nothing short of hilarious. It went a little something like this:

Me: Kim, I moved my 8:30 appointment in Athens, so Lily no longer needs to come to your house early to get on the bus with Jule.

Kim: Oh... well. That's good, because I forgot she was coming. Oh, but I need you to take Jud to Thursday School on Thursday because Cecilia will be out of town.

Me: Oh, sorry, I can't. We have that doctor's appointment for Max. But call Traci... Oh, wait, I think she goes to work for awhile first... Call.....

Kim: I'll just call Missy. (Calls Missy, leaves detailed message about Thursday School.)

Me: Oh! Missy! I need her cell phone number. She's a great one to have.

Mom: It really does take a village to raise a child...

A couple minutes later, Kim's cell phone rings....

Kim: Oh, Missy! I forgot. You guys don't even do Thursday School.... No, it's OK... No, really, I'll find someone else... No, really, I am so sorry. ....

Hangs up; all three of us burst into giggles.....

Me: I still have to leave early to pick up the kids and get to Marietta by 4 p.m. for dentist appointments tomorrow.

Kim: Oh, crap! That reminds me, Julia and I have dentist appointments tomorrow at 6 p.m.! I have to run all the way back home to pick her up and then back to town for the appointment.

Me: No way! Send a note to school for Jule to ride to Johnny's on the bus with Lily. I'll just pick her up and bring her when I come. It'll save you an hour of driving!

Kim: Do you think that would work??

Me: Totally. I'll call Rachel right now. She is so great.

Kim: What time are your appointments?

Me: 4 p.m.

Kim: So you'll be at the dentist's office at 4 p.m. with four kids? How are you going to get your teeth cleaned?

Me: Oh, well, you know what they say: It takes two near-seven-year-olds to raise a 17-month-old. Jul and Lil can take care of him!

Kim: Uh, I guess. I'll be there by about 4:45 p.m.

Me: OK. I'll just try to get Lily and Max in the chairs first....

The whole meal went like that. I swear, it was hilarious. We talked about how the details never stop. There are days kids need to wear tennis shoes, days they pack and days they eat lunch at school, money for this, money for that, meds for one kid, a canned good needed for another's charitable offering. There are spelling tests, field trips, diaper rashes that need that one kind of cream that works. The sitter is out of diapers, the sitter is off Thursday. This mom helps us make Tuesday work, while Thursday is possible because of another.

It's insane!

So, the dentist appointments? A train wreck!!! I tell ya! I felt like Mrs. Duggar there for awhile. NOTHING worked out very well. We arrived on time, after an hour and 45 minutes of calculated driving and pick-ups on my part. I was feeling good, great even! And then, Max was supposed to be here at 3 p.m. You and Lily have appointments at 4 p.m., but he was to be seen at 3.


Well. I didn't get that information. Luckily, they were able to work him in. (Thanks, Kayla, for doing such a great job with the kids!!)

Then, in spite of my hygienist putting Dora on the big screen in my exam room, the books, the crayons, the toothbrush and the groovy sunglasses, Colby would not stay put. He spent about 15 minutes on my six-month pregnant self as my hygienist tried to clean my teeth. At one point, he grabbed a full Dixie cup of mouthwash, which I promptly saved from his grasp... and spilled. Seriously! I spilled it... everywhere.

Kim finally came, took the baby from my hands and we finessed our way through the next 30 minutes of craziness at the dentist's office. I thanked everyone, including the dentist -- a sweet-as-he-is-adorable father of six -- for putting up with my circus. They were great.

But it all proves that, in spite of the best-laid plans, it takes a village to raise a child sometimes. Or at least a team of two amazing sisters.

Thanks, sis! I couldn't have done it without you. (And I hope we never do it again.)

p.s. A fond farewell to Governor Ted Strickland. The state's students should all be weeping today. You were amazing, and you will be sorely missed by those of us in the education sector.


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