Friday, December 28, 2012

Texting like a bunch of teenage girls...

Cancer sucks in a lot of ways, but it has it's perks, too.  A mere ten seconds of everyday but... unwise (G-rated, for my gutter-minded readers) activity* can transform a pleasant, bordering on boring afternoon into an adrenaline-infused race to the ER.  That's right, Chris forgot about the central line leading DIRECTLY to his heart and decided to do a little home maintenance.  He then had sharp chest pains that resulted in a frantic rush to the hospital.
Stage 1:  (Downside)  Unadulterated panic.  (Upside)  Got to drive 95 mph.  By the way, a surprising number of cars were hanging with me in that. 
Stage 2:  (Downside) Realization that we were going to blow half a day on a minor incident.  (Upside)  Relief  as his pain subsided and it looked like we were just being cautious and not about to add open heart surgery to our list of things to sweat out and pray through. 
Stage 3:  (Downside)  Chris feeling like an idiot.  (Upside) Priceless text stream with my family.
Chris was really feeling bad about his lapse of basic common sense.  Because I'm related to some gifted storytellers who have done some spectacularly stupid stuff, I sent a quick text to my dad, brothers and uncles:
Me:  Quick.  C feeling like an idiot for ______.  Tell  me something you've done that's stupider. 
 First my dad, helpfully, pointed out my grammatical error:
Dad:  You mean worse than saying "stupider"? 
Me:  I appreciate your sensitivity as I wait in the ER at MD FREAKING ANDERSON!!! 
Dad:  I feel insensitiver.
I learned all kind of interesting stuff about my family, none of whom should be allowed near firearms, things that move on wheels, airplanes, water pitchers or explosives.  The six hour wait could have been excruciating but between the book I had in my purse and read aloud** and those hilarious texts (seriously, in extreme circumstances, like 12" of snow in Little Rock, the Aggies beating the hell out of Bama or Chris playing Mr. Fix-It/Chemo Guy, my family can text like a bunch of 16 year old girls) it was actually good time for us, one of those days I'll always remember.

Tomorrow is our 16th anniversary.  Love, love, love this guy.

Bless their hearts, I'm glad they don't know what all's coming.


* Chris is keeping up his own blog these days:  www.mysecondfavoriteknee.blogspot.com.  I'm going to give him a few days to out himself before I give all the sordid details here.
** The Future of Us (thanks Kara).  You should always keep a book in your purse.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

All I want for Christmas is for my kidneys to cooperate...




So Chris has the world's most obnoxious kidneys. We're STILL in the hospital. If his creatinine levels don't go up tomorrow, then we'll get to go home first thing in the morning. Otherwise, we're going to have to figure out how to make Christmas in the hospital AWESOME.

Things that are going well:
- There's room service and good movies.
- While the chemo is making him tired, the nausea is under control with meds.
- We got to see the boys today, and they had a great time on the cruise. It really lifted our spirits to see them.
- Chris is hilarious on morphine. He accused a pastor of trying to pick up girls too young for him.


- We learned the chemistry of his chemo meds courtesy of our former grad school advisor who came to visit. Chris was hopped up on morphine at the time, but he got the gist.
- We found out Mom got pulled aside by security because Jacob packed a cap gun in his backpack. She saved the prohibited item receipt as a souvenir for Chris.


Things we could live without:
- Room service is significantly less awesome when you're nauseous.
- This is a LONG time in the hospital, and we'll be back again in 2-3 weeks.
- Just cancer, in general. We're kind of done with it.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, December 21, 2012

Central venous care class




I made friends at central venous care class today. Sitting in a roomful of people learning to care for loved ones with cancer is...

Sheila has been married for 56 years. She thinks it's disgraceful that her grandson went to a fancy school and still can't spell. She's been with her husband since she was 16. They married at 18. He's always been a hard worker. They have seven acres and he mows most of it himself. He got a sinus infection that wouldn't go away. It's leukemia. He's so sick now, and she can't quite get her mind around that. It doesn't seem real. When the nurse began to teach us about changing dressings, she said, "I'm feeling very scared about this. I don't know if I can do it."

Walker has been married for 42 years. His mother taught him to sew and knit. That came in handy when he was in the navy. The other guys paid him to sew things on their uniforms. He made extra money off the fighters as they tended to bloody their insignia and were thus repeat customers. He was scandalized when I couldn't tell him the capitol of South Dakota.

Me: Bismarck?
Walker: (stern and school-teachery). Wrong state.
Me: (winning smile) Some place cold?
Walker: (chuckling) Well, yes.

He figures I can probably read and write okay since I graduated from A&M. He has absolute confidence in M.D. Anderson but open disdain for the clinic near his home where his wife goes for blood draws.

Walker to nurse: You are very intelligent, but the folks at __________? (raised eyebrows and stern look) I'm bringing her back here. She's very sick.

He asked who was sick in my family.

Me: It's my husband.
Walker: (tears and pursed lips). You are very young.

There's just something about the sympathy of the elderly. It makes me feel like a little girl with a busted knee getting a strong hug from her father.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cancered cruise...

Chris and I were supposed to go on a cruise with my extended family* this week.  Our cruise got cancered, but because my parents, grandmother, brothers and sisters-in-law are awesome, my children still got to go.  Here's Chris with the cruisers before they left.
Usually, this kind of picture involves much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but, as much as cancer sucks, it's kind of magic, too.
Me:  First, I would like to remind everyone that Chris has cancer.  Second, I want all of you to line up on the stairs so I can take a picture.
That was the most orderly and cheerful family picture we've ever taken.  The only exception was Rand who still threw a fit and had to be bribed with candy.  But that was kind of comforting.  A toddler is still a toddler.  He has no respect for cancer.

The morning after they all left for the cruise, several things came together to indicate that it was divinely ordained that I should console myself at the mall Monday before we started rapid-fire appointments the rest of the week..

  1. I found cash I'd forgotten.
  2. The gift card I thought had $5 was really worth $100.
  3. New York & Co. was a running a store wide 50% off sale.
So, I may be at M.D. Anderson this week instead of a cruise, but I'll be looking fabulous.

* Because my parents are rock stars, they got us all a cruise for Christmas.
** Chris starts chemo Thursday.
*** For my praying people, here are specific ways you can pray (or generally send good vibes if you're not the praying type) for us:
  1. That chemo would be effective.  That really (and probably obviously) effects his prognosis.
  2. That we would have patience, grace, energy and kindness with the boys when they get back.
  3. That we would look out for one another's interests in this.  
  4. That I'll still be nice when he's nauseated and cranky.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Singing barefoot

During the music in church, a few days after we found out about Chris' cancer, I was staring straight ahead trying not to cry in front of the boys.  I noticed the worship leader was barefoot and thought, "That's weird.  I wonder why he doesn't wear shoes?  I guess he must sing better barefoot."  Then it occurred to me that that's exactly what I'm going to do.  My family needs me to be strong right now in a way that terrifies me.  And I'm not supposed to just survive this.  The Lord has a song for me to sing.  And I'm going to do what I have to do to sing it.  I'm going to sing barefoot.




* Seriously, there's no telling what you're going to find over here.  It'll probably be awkward, emotional and embarrassing.
** Stone Feet by Carol Evans

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

But your grammar sucks...

We had a heckler during spelling yesterday.  David and Jacob were spelling words with tiles. Bryan was harassing them when they missed anything.
Bryan:  I can spell every word in the English language that's ever been teached.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Urban retreat spa and imaging...

I love the medical testing process.  This is somewhat oversimplified, but when you boil it down to essentials, it goes like this.
Patient: My knee hurts. 
Doctor: You may have cancer. 
Doctor now sends Patient to another facility where Patient then is
  1. Told to undress - you know, in case he isn't uncomfortable enough already.
  2. Strapped to a table inside a machine for 45 minutes of thundering heartbeat sounds with overlaid slamming noises so loud it requires earplugs.  
  3. Handed a panic button.
There's nothing to do but think about whether or not this thing on your leg is cancer.  Can you read? No.  Can you listen to music or a book?  No.  It's just you and your thoughts.  Three hours ago your life was normal.  Now you may have cancer.  Just think on that for FORTY-FIVE minutes with a horror film sound track playing in the background.  Push the panic button if it gets to be too much and you want out.  I wanted to leap from my chair on the side and pound the hell out of that panic button.
"Give that thing to me.  HELLO, I AM PANICKING!  I'M PUSHING THE PANIC BUTTON!"
Seriously, medical testing folks need to get with the spa people.  When I got a facial, they offered me a glass of wine in case I was nervous.  In the background birds were chirping and water was running.  All the lights were dim.  We needed some of that action in the MRI room.

* This is not a commentary on the medical staff or facility where Chris was checked.  They were great.  The doctor who referred him was great.  The process is just... disconcerting.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Chris...

Friends, it's been the worst kind of week.  My Chris has cancer.  He went to the doctor Friday morning a week ago with a sore knee.  He called me an hour later to tell me the doctor was concerned and sending him for a CT and MRI (more on that process later).  That evening we found out he has osteosarcoma, a cancer of the bone.  So we woke up Friday morning thinking everything was fine and went to bed in a new world.

The most unexpected things let you know something serious is going down.
  1. Chris voluntarily took off his sunglasses for some pictures.
  2. Chris left Rand in his Pull Up all morning while I was at the store, and I didn't care.  I wasn't trying to be noble, I just Truly. Did not. Care.
  3. I dropped the f-bomb.  
  4. My dad lost his keys.
  5. My mom burned the bacon.
  6. I threw a banana out of a moving car.  
  7. And, most ominous of all, neither of us yelled at the children for an entire weekend.
Last weekend was tough, but holy and precious time.  We couldn't do anything about doctor's appointments until Monday.  We didn't want to tell the boys until we had more information (and were secretly waiting and hoping for some sort of superhero power that gives wisdom for telling children their father has cancer).  So it was borrowed, sacred time.  I snuggled with Chris whenever I could.  We played football with the boys.  I built with Legos.  We sat outside.  Chris played Scramble with his sister and claimed she made his cancer hurt when she beat him.  I stared at the same page of my book and eventually just gave up and rested my mind.  Rand served us all wooden food and called us buttheads.  The big boys fought imaginary bad guys and argued over whether choosing an imaginary German rifle obliged one to fight against one's brothers who were armed with imaginary British and American weapons.  I watched the last few carefree hours of my children's childhood.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Definitions and a disputed zombie attack...

Conversations...
David:  What does dissuade mean? 
Me:  To try to talk someone out of something.  If you were about to throw your dinner at Daddy, I would dissuade you. 
David:  Daddy would dissuade me harder.
_______
Bryan:  I know why they're called suckers
Me:  Why? 
Bryan:  If you play a game and you lose, you get a sucker because you suck at it.
_______
Bryan:  (crying hysterically and horribly frustrated during Zombie nerf tag)  It's not fair!  I ate Jacob's brains and he won't die!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Civilized?

(This one is from a few months ago.)



Corroborating evidence
1.  We played chess with the boys tonight.
2.  We're reading The Hobbit together and they love it.

Contrary evidence
1.  The boys were inspired by Tolkien's gristly word on goblins:
"Hammers, axes, swords, daggers, pickaxes, tongs, and also instruments of torture, they make very well, or get other people to make to their design..."
They had all sorts of ideas on the specifics of how goblins might amuse themselves by torturing folks.
David:  They could chop off their toes one at a time and cut off a little more of their legs every day.
Bryan:  They could pull out their eyes. 
Jacob:  They could chop off their heads. 
David:  No, you don't want them to die right away.
2.  Chess lasted a little too long, so bedtime was a hyperactive melee.  There were wedgies, races up and down the hall, empty threats, toddler pronouncements obviously planted by older brothers:  "Mo-nee (Mommy) pee-pee her pants."

But seriously, we were playing chess, so I have to go with civilized on this one.

Roomba'd


As the smallest person in our house, Rand is, understandably, concerned that the Roomba will, someday, vacuum him up.  He usually keeps a safe distance, but the Roomba is tricky.  It sneaks up on him occasionally.  I heard him shrieking in the living room tonight and found this.


Reconstructing events, i think the Roomba crept up when he wasn't looking, he panicked and flipped his Little Tykes car (oddly reminiscent of what happened to me the day after I got my driver's license, but that's a post for another day) trapping his face directly on top of the Roomba in a really tight space.  
Me:  Are you scared or hurt?
Rand:  (heartbroken, wailing) I SCARED!
We snuggled.  He sucked his thumb.  I was as sympathetic as my Uncle Philip was the day he picked me up at the scene of my first car wreck which also included an upside-down vehicle.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chocolate chip ridiculous...

To reveal a glimpse of your silliness is kind of endearing and even scores you some humility points, or it would if you weren't, you know, too super-humble to care about such things. For obvious reasons, however, I rarely reveal on the world wide web the heights to which my ridiculosity can soar.  An exception...

This week our small group served at Church Under the Bridge, a ministry that does a church service and feeds about 200 homeless folks nightly in Houston.  We brought pizza and cookies.  When we were working out the logistics, I threw down the gauntlet and demanded that the cookies everyone brought be homemade because...

  1. I do think it's meaningful to bring good food that you would serve at your own home to these things.
  2. Seriously, I rock out at homemade chocolate chip cookies.  If you leave out people I love, my cookies rank second only to books I've read in areas of personal pride.
So, I threw down my homemade demand and then sat for an uncomfortable interval in the silence and guarded discussion that followed and realized that
  1. I was one of two people in the room that had access to a kitchen for most of every day.
  2. There's really no better way to squelch a serving opportunity than to demand that everyone do it your way, playing to your talents and ideas.
I retracted my demand.  

Fast forward to the evening of the event.  At 5:00 I remembered that HOMEMADE COOKIES banner I'd been flying the week before and noticed that
  1. I had to get three kids to karate in 45 minutes.
  2. I needed to leave for the service in an hour.
  3. There were not 4 dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies in my house.
Now, if I had been mature, I would have recognized the chastening of the Lord and humbly bought some cookies and calmly taken my people to karate.  If I had had a taser gun, I would have tased the children and whipped out those cookies in uninterrupted silence without a problem.  But I do not own a taser gun and there is no way in hell I'm showing up without homemade cookies after the fuss I raised.  It was frantic.  In the end, I could only pull it off by putting the kids in the car, slapping the last batch in the oven, sprinting to the car, driving, ahem, briskly to karate while explaining the meaning of "tuck and roll," drop-kicking the children out of the car and racing back home, where I found
The event was a blessing to me, and you know what?  In the end, I think just hanging out and listening to people who needed to talk is what I was actually supposed to do there - not march at the front of a parade of browbeaten people carrying homemade cookies.  Who knew?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Six years old...

I love this little guy.  So much about him makes me smile.  He's a curious mix of spunk, humor, narcolepsy, affection and braininess.  He has an irresistible crooked smile.

Bryan in bullet points

  • He maintains a count on how many kisses on the lips Chris and I each get so he can keep it fair.  If Chris is out of town, no kisses on the lips for me.
  • He's fascinated with numbers.  The book he got for his birthday says it has 63 pages, but that's wrong.  It actually has 72.  He knows.  He counted.
  • He writes stories.  He's kind of limited by his repertoire of spellable words.  He just learned to spell "thief" and is really excited about the new possibilities for his writing.
  • We spent the night at the zoo for his birthday.  A line of older kids all took turns touching elephant poop.  When it was his turn he said, "No thank you."  I hope that trend extrapolates.
  • An hour or so later, he tried to lay down on the floor of the reptile house and go to sleep.  He combines his father's talent for knowing when he's tired with my talent for being able to sleep anywhere, which I think could qualify him for some kind of sleeping Olympics.
  • He's obsessed with Legos.  He has his Lego birthday requests planned out through his tenth birthday.
  • He's going to invent a spaceship that travels faster than the universe is expanding.  It has to go faster than the universe is expanding or else you could always be traveling right at the edge and never break out.  He will then travel outside the universe and see what's there.  He expects to find:
    • More universes - probably there are 5 or 6 altogether.
    • God.  He will see his body but not his face because if you look at his face, you die.
    • Side note, the verse in the Bible that says "For you brought nothing into the world (Bryan translates world as universe here), and you will take nothing out of it" does not have to be true - your spaceship.
  • He gave Rand a chess lesson, fully expecting to then play a game of chess with him.
  • He figures that in the summer, Earth is close to the sun, so it's hot.  In winter, Earth is far from the sun, which must imply it's close to Pluto because Pluto is also far from the sun.  Snow on Earth comes from snowballs shot at us by Pluto.
Someday I may get homeschool credit I don't deserve for his love of learning.  The truth is, I just have to not beat it out of him.  I think I could put him in room with paper, pencil and an assortment of decent books, and he would educate himself.  

Happy birthday, little man.  Save me a seat in your spaceship.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween





Happy Halloween from a ninja, a couple of commandos and Elmo packing heat. Because of his recent potty training adventures, Elmo was a little confused when we explained trick-or-treating to him.

Me: You knock on the door and say "Trick or treat!" and they give you candy.
Rand: "I go poo-poo they house?"

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Matt Damon and inertia...


We did an awesome science experiment today.  Fill a glass with water, place a pie tin on top with an egg balanced on an empty toilet paper roll like this.


Be sure to center the toilet paper roll over the glass.  Now in a smooth, horizontal motion, knock the pie tin away.  This should happen.


This might happen.


Just try again.

Now, where does Matt Damon come in?  He's actually the key to a successful egg drop.  Have you seen We Bought a Zoo?  Remember this awesome line,
Matt Damon:  "You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.  Literally, 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, something great will come of it."
As applied to this experiment, you need half a second of insane courage.  You have to go all in on this.  If you just sort of tap the pie tin, you might as well just throw the egg on the ground.  True, you could look like a fool and splatter an egg all over your patio, OR you could successfully smack an egg into a glass of water without breaking it, and that, my friend, is something great.  (You can deduce from my exuberance in the video how I expected round 1 to come out.)

While thrilled that they all made the egg drop, the boys were a little disappointed that this experiment wasn't the eggy mess they expected, so with the exception of Rand, after each child successfully explained why the experiment works, he got to smash an egg into a tupperware.


Rand, of course, just grabbed an egg and smashed it when the mood seized him, but he earned his smashed egg.  He actually got the egg drop on the first try as I was mentally calculating how many eggs were to be sacrificed to his toddler dignity.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday...

Chris is at the Aggie game today, so with pretty fierce commitment to not taking four boys to the grocery store, this is what HEB looked like this morning when I left.


Now it's 10:30. The groceries are stowed, the laundry is running, and my house is clean... ish. I'm pretending it's a pre-2003 Saturday for 30 minutes.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, October 15, 2012

Manna vs. management


I was talking homeschool with some women new to the beautiful chaos that is spending all day with your children along with a somewhat nebulous list of tasks on which their entire future depends.  One of the things we talked about was how to do school with a toddler.  I told them some things that work well for us like
  1. Stack blocks, line up Matchbox cars or roll a ball with Rand while doing lessons with the older guys. It's not possible with every subject but it works well for some.
  2. Have the big boys take individual breaks to play with Rand.  David puts him in the bike trailer and rides around the block.  They read to him, push him on the swing, build towers for him to destroy, serve as fellow restaurateurs, ...
  3. Take advantage of the time when the boys are doing independent work to play with Rand.  Sometimes just spending five minutes with him recharges his little batteries.
  4. Play-Doh.  It's messy but keeps him occupied for 20 minutes.
  5. Include him in the schoolwork when it's possible and he's interested.  He scribbles in coloring books, cuts paper, plays with math manipulatives, scribbles on small dry erase boards and sharpens pencils (don't judge).
  6. Bring a favorite outside toy in the house.  I let him (and no one else) drive his little red car in the house.  In the interest of honesty, though, this happened as a result when an older kid broke my rule.  When guests ask what happened, I say, "Traffic accident."
  7. Let him fingerpaint with yogurt on a cookie sheet.
  8. I hold him while I teach when he's in a snuggly mood.
  9. We do schoolwork out on the patio sometimes, so Rand can dig in the dirt, pour water into cups, look for lizards, ...
  10. Do school in the bathroom while he plays in the bathtub.
  11. Keep toys in the schoolroom.  Someone more organized than me would rotate these regularly.
  12. Let Rand and Bryan help make lunch as they are the most neglected during school time.
  13. I have a Dora/Dinosaur Train silver bullet.  I save it for when a) the other boys are not available to play with Rand, b) it's the end of our school time and he's done with toddler-puttering for the day, and, most importantly, c) I've exhausted my daily supply of energy for being a good toddler mama and must focus on ONE thing.  Normally I'm rabidly opposed to TV during the week, but as a friend recently said, "Praise Jesus for TV."  Seriously there are some times (like when the alternative is me screaming at everyone) when TV is just awesome.
So, that's my homeschooling with a toddler list.  I've read similar ones.  They're helpful, but when I read them I put all this pressure on myself to come up with a plan to keep Rand occupied and stimulated all day.  Something like 8:00 - 8:20 Play Doh, 8:30 - 8:40 Read to Rand, ...  The thought of trying to maintain a schedule like that while also making sure the big boys get through all their work makes me want to send them all to boarding school.  Seriously, just writing the sentence raised my blood pressure.

The way this plays out for me in real life is like the Israelites wandering in the desert.  God provides daily manna and I have nothing to store for the next day.  Each night I go to bed having only a vague idea how I'm going to do school with a toddler the next day.  In the morning, I pray something along the lines of

God, please help me to love and enjoy Rand and teach the big boys with excellence 
in a way that's fair to Rand,
without yelling at anyone, 
so that I'm not tossing back a couple of glasses of wine at 2:00 in the afternoon.*
And God doesn't zap me when I forget to pray this, but when I start depending on my own resources to live out my days well, I stop being sensitive to Rand's needs, and I forget how short-lived his toddler days are.  I try to just plow through our list as quickly as possible.  My fuse gets shorter and shorter until I realize where I am again and remember that I can't do this without God's daily help.  I simply don't have what it takes to do school, house and toddler well on my own.  Then I go back to praying for help.  I don't really understand how it works, but it does.  On a good day, Rand usually plays independently when we start school.  Eventually, I notice that he's getting bored or decide he's been on his own long enough.  Then I pull something from the list above depending on my mood, his mood and what the other boys are doing.  Once I've reached my toddler limit (usually right before lunch), I let him watch a Dora/Dinosaur Train while we finish up.  Having the discipline to pull from that list instead of just shooing him away or throwing up my hands and yelling at everyone or rushing through our schoolwork and feeling guilty because I know I haven't done things well is simply not in me.  I need help.  I used to pray most often out of guilt and obligation.  Now my prayers are overwhelmingly inspired by desperation

With your help I can advance against a troop;
    with my God I can scale a wall.
It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.
Psalm 18:29, 32-36

These verses can seem melodramatic and silly as applied to daily life, but they're really not.  Ladies, we do a lot of care taking, and it's just hard to do that well - with joy and with gracious hearts.  So whether you have children or not; whether they're in school or at home, you're going to face situations that feel as desperate and intimidating as scaling a wall (personally, I can't even do monkey bars) or single-handedly fighting an army (can I get an "Amen!" from anyone who's dealt with vomiting children recently?).  It is God who arms you with strength and makes your way perfect.  May he sustain you with his right hand this week.

* Unfortunately not hyperbole.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Potty training operating principles...

I started potty training Rand this week.  It's a family adventure.  Everybody gets pretzels when he pees.  Everybody gets Skittles when he poops.  He hands them out with dignified toddler pride.

So when I started with David, two friends gave me advice that formed my potty training philosophy.  You need realistic expectations and hope.

  1.  (From Janice)  Just accept that your house will be covered in pee for awhile.
  2.  (From Melissa, who was starting the potty adventure for the first time at the same time I was.)  I keep telling myself that even the children of crack addicts are potty trained by kindergarten.

Thanks, friends.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Off the grid...

I went away on a women's retreat last weekend.  Chris took the boys to his parents' house.  When he arrived...
Ron (father-in-law):  Where's Summer? 
Chris:  On a retreat with church. 
Ron:  Where? 
Chris:  I have no idea. 
Ron:  No idea!  You need to call or email or text her and find out.* 
Chris:  I promise, she does not want me to contact her. 
Ron:  But what if she didn't make it.  You don't even know for sure if she's there. 
Chris:  Look, this is one of the few times when I know exactly what Summer wants.  Yes, there is a chance that she is dead on the side of the road, and her body is rotting.  In that case, I will be devastated and her parents will never forgive me.  But, it's a really small chance, and I'm not going to contact her.
I rarely enjoy acknowledging that Chris is right.  He was.  Being completely free was exactly what I wanted.

The retreat was wonderful.  When you live with boys, there is something particularly beautiful about a roomful of women singing.  The weekend was an answer to prayer, or more accurately an answer to what I should have been praying for but mostly just felt sad about.**  The first night, as I lay in bed, I started to pray to find friends there and then caught myself and thought, "That's selfish.  I should pray for something less needy and self-involved like experienceing God or being able to help someone else," which really translates to, "I don't want people to think I'm needy and self-involved.  I want them to know I'm super-spiritual and not at all needy."  In that moment, I glimpsed the underlying pride in my reluctance and decided to just let it go and be a spiritual parasite that weekend.***  I prayed for friends.

I met some great women.  There was a lawyer who loves to read.  Neither of us could sleep so we traded book recommendations and talked over mugs of tea while the rain came down and everyone else slept.  I talked discipleship with a tenderhearted and humble (in the real way, not my super-spiritual way) woman who wants to help women get into mentoring relationships.  There were some new homeschool moms who wanted to know how to homeschool with a toddler (I'm afraid there was more self-assurance on my part than was really warranted.  That'll be my next post.  The bright side of making yourself a little ridiculous is that it gives you blog-fodder.)  I also met an absolutely radiant woman who is expecting her first baby.  We talked about balancing work and home and being okay with not putting all, or in my case, any, of yourself into a career even if you had fancy schoolin'.  I talked.  A lot.  I gave my opinion.  A lot.

So, I usually try to be conscious of self-involvement in conversation, says the woman with a blog about her life.****  (I know that may be shocking to those of you who know me irl, but imagine what I'd be like without that effort.)  But last weekend was a time when I really think it was okay to just be needy and talk about myself.  Anything else would have been prideful and dishonest.*****

* I take it as a sign of Ron's deep love for me that he actually proposed texting, as he thinks texting is second only to the iPhone in inanity.

** It's less grammatically incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition when you know you did it.  Just FYI.

*** In case you didn't catch it, that was super-humble of me, which implies that I'm super-spiritual.

**** I just want to make sure you didn't miss that super-humility again.

***** And there it is again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The brothers h on weddings...

From our road trip to Virginia over the summer (more to come, unless I get distracted)...

This summer I drove the boys to Virginia to see family and friends and spend time in the woods.  We also got to see their first baby sitter get married.  David was planning on marrying her when he was three because she could make popcorn.  Jessie was beautiful.  The wedding was perfect.  The brothers now have firm opinions on weddings...

The Brothers H on Weddings

  1. You get to wear grown up clothes.  (They're weird in this way.  They love to dress up.  I think it's because we've only ever gone to casual churches.)
  2. You get to play tag.  (There was a herd of boys at the wedding, and a fenced field just outside the reception area.)
  3. There is an open bar.  It took them a while to wrap their minds around the concept of unlimited Coke. They kept asking me in a tentative, please don't give me a lecture about greediness voice, "Can I get another Coke?"  
  4. With a very nice bartender who adds three cherries per coke.
  

The brothers announced that this was the best party ever.  Jacob plans to have his wedding at a swimming pool where he will wear his fanciest swimsuit.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Toddlers...

Chris and I were discussing the definition of hypocrite today.  I'm still trying to flesh out my thoughts on that, but I'm pretty sure that toddler is an antonym.  A toddler is utterly without pretense.  What he feels is on his face.  And the Lord made him this cute so you won't sell him on ebay when he


throws a hissy fit because you took his donut out of the bag.  That's right, I bought him a donut.  I didn't even pretend to take a bite of it.  But I took it out of the bag, and, apparently, that was RIDICULOUS.

Whoop!...

My big boys are on their way to the A&M game.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Not the hill to die on...

Parenting changes so much from kid 1 to kid 4.  Some of that is due to parental maturity and some to laziness.  Poor David, we nearly gave ourselves heart attacks trying to keep his 2-year-old body in a twin bed.  Jacob had arrived a few months before, so David got booted on up to a bunk bed.  Putting him to bed was a nightmare.  We did everything Super Nanny said we should, plus a lot of other stuff.  Poor little guy.  The solution was so simple, but at that point in my parenting career, it never occurred to me.  Fifty bucks on Craigslist would have solved everything.  Based on that experience, Bryan and Jacob stayed in cribs until they could talk in paragraphs about why it was time for a big boy bed.  Unfortunately, the Brothers H crib didn't last until Rand was speaking at that level.  It started falling apart.  Remembering the experience with David, though, I put it back together with zip ties.  Finally, Chris intervened.

Chris:  (in that voice you use with crazy people who haven't flipped out yet)  I'm concerned for Rand's safety.  I think we need to throw away the crib and set up the twin bed for him. 
Me:  I'll give it a week.  If it's interfering with my life, we're buying a crib on Craigslist for our 2 and a half year old 4th and final child. 
Chris:  (doing a mental expected value problem, a possible cost of $50 vs. a certain fight)  Okay.

Rand slept well in his big boy bed for a few weeks.  For the past few months, however, he has insisted on going to bed on the floor.
Rand:  (tone implies, "I am not to be trifled with.") I sleep floor. 
Me:  Don't you want to sleep on your bed? 
Rand:  (tone implies, "You fool.")  No, dinosaurs eat me. 
Me:  Dinosaurs won't eat you in the bed.  They live under the bed.  They'll eat you if you lay on the floor. 
Rand:  (tone implies, "You do not want to throw down with me over this.")  No, I sleep bed, dinosaurs eat me.  I sleep floor. 
Me:  (internal monologue)  That sounds so uncomfortable, but how much do I really care?  Let's see if he still sleeps until his normal time in the morning.
He slept normally that night, so now and then I make a feeble attempt to convince him to sleep in his bed, and he unfailingly shoots me down.  Tonight he upped the ante.  He insisted on sleeping on the floor in a plastic top hat.  I figured the hat would work itself out.  He eventually decided he could live with clutching the hat instead of wearing it.  It was a moral victory.



Friday, September 7, 2012

Be jealous...

When I brag, I like to be subtle-ish about it: "I'm very concerned that Child X won't learn true repentance since he's never lied to us," or "I wish Chris would stop buying me red roses every week when he brings home flowers.  He should branch out and try something new."  This time, however, I'm going with all-out, in-your-face bragging.

My husband rocked out my birthday this year.  That, along with the fact that he freely offered a guiltless sick day on Labor Day, when I had a nasty, nasty stomach bug but no vomiting (That's actually an important detail.  I require vomit-evidence to grant more than 2 hours sympathy to him.) that ended with all the dishes done and the house cleaned up, has awarded him my goodwill for at least year.

Chris had me get a babysitter for the day for my birthday.  That morning I opened my birthday present and found 6 envelopes labelled with times throughout the day.

He kissed me, told me to open each envelope at the given time and left for work.  I settled the kids in with a sitter and sent him a picture of myself leaving for my amazing day.
I wanted to send plenty of evidence that this sitter for a day on your birthday thing is a great idea.  I opened my first envelope at 8:00.  His note sent me to Barnes and Noble with a giftcard to "Buy some books for your trip and drink some coffee.  You're going to have a busy day."  I wandered the book store for a glorious hour and left with these.

I opened the next envelope at 10:30.  I was a little concerned when I read "Relax and give it a shot" followed by an address.  Tattoo?  Body piercing?  No, he'd gotten me a massage.  When I left the massage glowing with relaxation, I found Chris waiting outside.  The 12:00 envelope was for lunch with him at one of my favorite restaurants.
One of my very favorite people, Janet, picked me up after lunch.  The 2:00 envelope announced pedicures for Janet and me - the fancy kind I never get for myself.
During
After.  The cute little feet are Janet's.  The clodhoppers are mine.
The 3:30 envelope sent Janet and me with a gift card to a tea room to drink tea and buy some fancy tea and a new tea cup to take home.  The For a Lady is my favorite, and the tea cup has changed my life. It has a built-in strainer for loose leaf tea.*
The 6:30 envelope sent me to his office parking lot where these two handsome guys knocked on my window.

Chris got us box seats to see The Lion King.  He had gone home and picked up my two big boys so they could join us.  The show was amazing.  The seats were awesome.  I felt like a celebrity.
At the end of the night I felt loved, appreciated, known and my toes were pretty.

So, amazing as he his, Chris does occasionally piss me off.  For the past 12 years, I've had a little routine I go through when he really upsets me.**  When I start running through the mental list that ends in, "He's a jerk.  He doesn't love me," I try to stop and run through the things he has done that show he loves me and he's a good man.  Here's a sampling from the list...
  1. He asked first before he kissed you for the first time.
  2. He always tells you the truth.
  3. When you have hard and embarrassing things to tell him, he doesn't shame you and responds with grace.***
  4. After you lost Caleb, he checked the mail every day so he could get rid of the baby mail before you saw it.
  5. He gave you a Valentine's Day card in Spanish.****
  6. He goes out of his way to be nice to your grandmother.
  7. He's a great dad.
  8. He rocked out your 36th birthday.  Seriously, it was better than 21, and that's impressive.
"But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you..."  W.B. Yeats

* I realize that sentence puts me in very special nerd category.
** Actually this is the more mature later phase of that routine.  I'm leaving off the childishness and selfishness that precedes this.
*** He does, however, shame me over my sense of direction and capacity for insanity.  See this and this.
**** I don't speak Spanish, which made what would have been a cheesy Valentine's card into something truly entertaining.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Jacob...


Jacob, when you read this someday and notice that your birthday post was over two months late (bless your poor middle child heart), just remember that it was eventually posted and that it was my first post after a month long hiatus.

Things I Love About Jacob...
  1. He wanted the entire world to come to his birthday party.  In the weeks before his party, he harassed me into inviting every stranger his age we met at the park, the zoo, the pool, ...
  2. He named his ukulele Gold-headed Beauty and his pick Green Star Picker.
  3. He makes up really elaborate games.  This one is called Checker Chess.  You play with all the chess pieces, one row of checker pieces and 6 checkers off the board.  These are the rules:
    1. The chess pieces move as usual except the rooks are called lookout towers, the pawns are called guards, and the bishops are called king's guards.
    2. Checker pieces can either jump or land on the same space to capture something.
    3. Guards (pawns) capture like kings.
    4. Three of the extra checkers are doctors.  They can each be used 3 times to revive any previously captured piece.  That piece then moves to its starting position.
    5. The other 3 extra checkers are meteors.  They can fall from the sky and kill any piece.  They can each be used twice.
    6. The game is over when one player's king and queen have been killed.
  4. He loves people.  He's never met a kid he didn't want to befriend.  He has loved every teacher and coach he's had so far.
  5. He loves to play the piano and read and is enormously proud of the fact that he can belch like David.
  6. We were at a playground last year and there was a kid being mean to Bryan.  Jacob stood up for his brother.  The next time we went back to that playground, Jacob said, "I hope that kid in the blue shirt won't be there.  He's a really hard fighter and I might have to protect Bryan again."
  7. He makes up poems.
    If I Had One Wish 
    If I had one wish
    My wish would be
    Let me think
    O, it's candy!
  8. And, this is what he made me for my birthday.  Love this guy.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

It is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer...


One of my favorite probability demonstrations is a "magic trick". Ask a group to flip a coin 100 times and record the results in order - H for heads and T for tails. Half of the group uses a physical coin, and the other half imagines they're flipping a coin. Shuffle the results, and, with surprising accuracy, the brilliant teacher can separate the fake results from the real ones. The fraudulent results will not include long enough runs of consecutive H's or T's.

I've decided that doing local missions with kids is similar. If you're doing it for real, there will be some stretches unpleasant to the eye - things that make you want to tweak reality to look more like a "Serving the Community as a Family" brochure. I want to get out there and serve other people with my boys. Truly, I do. But, the real life version often looks nothing like what I played out in my mind. Sometimes it's better than what I imagined - grittier and less eloquent, but true-er. Other times, it's just disastrous.

Our project for the summer was to gather children's books for a local mission to needy families and then foster a two hour story time and book distribution for children whose parents were waiting in line for services. Wait, you might ask, don't you have a toddler? Isn't two hours kind of a long time for a two year old? Thank you! After four boys I don't understand why that doesn't occur to me until 45 minutes in. Friends, it was a humiliating experience. I had the loudest, screamingest child there. One of my kids kept asking why he couldn't take a book home. Another one complained when I declined his repeated suggestion of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as a read aloud for the preschool children waiting patiently for a book. Another one of my offspring kept goading Rand by notifying him every time he picked up one of Rand's favorite books. One of the boys kept trying to crawl on my back - not my activity of choice when I'm STRESSED. By the time I finally admitted defeat, recruited backup and bailed on this absolute fiasco, I think the people in line would have pooled their assistance money to just pay me to leave, which brings me to another fun math item.

In an upper level math class in college, a professor taught us a very useful and colorful phrase to be used in place of a formal proof of an obvious (or particularly difficult to prove) assertion: "It is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer". It even has an abbreviation: iottmco.

So, it is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that a passive, sedentary, two-hour service project with four boys in a public place IS A BAD IDEA. In the future we will be moving boxes, packing canned food, riding bikes for Living Water, delivering food...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nanny Whitten

Nanny Whitten with her parents shortly before her mother died 
Vivian Adele Earp was born on November 13, 1912 in Okra County, Eastland, TX.  Sixteen years later Adele attended a cookout at the home of John and Kate Whitten.  "John told David, who was not at the party, that if he were him he 'wouldn't let any grass grow under his feet until he met that girl.'  David waited outside the Baptist Church that Sunday night to meet Adele Earp, the daughter of Gus A. Earp.  They were married on the 26th of June, 1929."*
Nanny Whitten holding me beside her father
David and Adele had five children:  Wilma Wayne, Mary Nell (my sweet Gran), Anna Jean, David Earl and Billy Jack.  When his children were 16, 12, 7, 5 and 3, David Heron Whitten was killed in an automobile accident.  Adele faithfully fed, reared and educated her five children in the midst of overwhelming circumstances.  She clung to the Lord and worked her behind off.  (Maybe I should go into the business of writing epitaphs.)  I love the picture of her holding me above.  You can see such gentleness and love on her face.  You don't see bitterness.  I love hearing her children and grandchildren talk about her.  They loved her.  She delighted in them.  I want to be this to my boys and to their wives and children.  I want to have released the hurtful things that life has, and will surely continue, to throw my way, so that I'm free to love them without strings and without demandingness.


Nanny Whitten's children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren gathered a few weeks ago to enjoy a beautiful and really miraculously pleasant Texas July weekend.  Sixty-two of us were there.  Nanny would have been so proud of her cowboys waking up with the sun to cook breakfast for everyone, of all the happy, loved children running around, of her children gathered together.



"I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a THOUSAND generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."  Exodus 20:5-6 
I'm so thankful to be living under the umbrella of Nanny Whitten's faithfulness, and also a little ashamed of my whininess given that at my age, my great-grandmother was scraping out a living by the sweat of her brow with five children to feed and a ranch to run.  I'm thinking that the stress of her life did not include whether to enroll her children in karate, boy scouts, or flag football.

* From Direct Ancestors of David Heron Whitten and Vivian Adele Earp by my fabulous aunt, Jean.  Thank you so much for your hard work.  This has been a joy and treasure to read.

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