Friday, December 17, 2010

Fessing up

The kids love when I bake homemade pizza. Danielle likes sauce, cheese, pepperoni, onions, bell peppers and black olives. Emily gets sauce, no cheese, pepperoni and black olives. Derek and Anna are both light sauce, cheese and pepperoni. My slices have sauce, light cheese, onions, bell pepper, banana peppers and jalapenos. Hubby gets...take out. He isn't quite as fond of homemade pizza as the rest of us.

Last night, we watched The Sorcerer's Apprentice as we munched on our pizza (and hubby enjoyed his fish poboy). The movie was cute - especially the lil nod to Mickey's Fantasia role. Several times during the show, the main character was told that he doesn't lie very well. I can relate to that. I stink at lying. Guilt gets me quickly and I just know that it shows on my face. My children, however, have not inherited that from me. They are all excellent liars. In fact, they are so good at distorting the truth that they actually make me doubt my own sanity at times. Last night was one of those times.

Here is what happened. When the pizza was ready, I cut each section and put everyone's special pieces on their own plates. I only put half of my own section on my plate and left the other half on the stone to keep warm. That half actually filled me up pretty well, so I was planning to store the other piece for breakfast. The problem was that when I went back to the was empty. I looked back at my children, who were all happily munching away on pizza, and asked if anyone had taken it. Every single one of them denied it. One told me that I must have eaten it myself. hmmm... I WAS feeling full. Could I have walked up to the stone, taken the second half, walked back to the table and eaten it - all while distracted by the movie? Suddenly, I wasn't sure. Then another child pointed out that none of them like banana peppers or jalapenos. At that point I had to concede that I MUST have somehow eaten the slice myself without even realizing what I was doing. There was no other explanation, right?

But what hides in darkness will be exposed in the light.

This morning, I walked into my pantry and found this:

In addition to the peppers discarded on the floor were a few smears of pizza sauce on the wall.


So I did what any good mother would do in that situation. I pulled out the camera and thought "at least this will be good blog material!" Then I sent a text to hubby. He responded with a suggestion that I punish them all unless the guilty party confesses. I wasn't comfortable with that, but figured that since I obviously am not doing a great job at teaching them to tell the truth, maybe I should try things his way. So I called an emergency family meeting. The girls met me at the pantry door. The boy...was busy puking in the bathroom. Now for those of you who think that I should have been in the bathroom with my vomiting son instead of at the pantry with my girls, you need to understand that I am not only completely useless in vomit situations - I am usually in danger of puking right along with the sick child. That's never a good thing.

After pointing out the evidence, I told the girls that I wasn't upset at all that someone had eaten the pizza slice. In fact, if the culprit had only asked me for it, I would have gladly agreed to sharing it. The problem I had was that I was lied to. I told them that if no one confessed, they were all punished (side note - I never actually told them HOW they would be punished - and none of them asked for details) BUT if the guilty party did step up and do the right thing, she or he would be given - forgiveness.

The oldest immediately protested. That wasn't fair! I agreed, but stood firm. Then I walked away to let them debate it among themselves (stopping first to check on my son - who who feeling a bit better having finished his first bout of upchucking.) Ten minutes later, my boy came to me with his head hung low. I checked his forehead for fever and asked if he wanted to try a bit of Powerade. When he raised his eyes to mine, I knew. It wasn't just the illness weighing him down. Whether his sisters convinced him to come forward or if he decided to take responsibility for his actions all on his own, I don't know. It didn't really matter. He owned up to it and was granted forgiveness.

All was well.

Until, I went to pack the fruit snacks for my youngest' classroom Christmas party. I reached into the grocery bag from the night before and realized that an entire box was missing.

Nobody took it. Nope. None of them. :::sigh::: At least none of them tried to convince me that I ate them myself.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Life with Derek - Looking Forward

Not long ago, Derek and Anna decided to ride their bikes while waiting for the school bus. Anna pulled her bike out of the shed and began pushing it up the rock road toward the cemented area at her grandparents. She had gotten a pretty good head start on her brother because he had to finish packing his school bag first, but Derek is strong enough to ride his bike on the rock road so he caught up with her quickly. I walk onto the scene just as it occurred. Anna was happily pushing her bike and Derek was happily riding his – directly behind her. He was looking down at his pedaling feet, completely unaware that he was about to plow into his sister. I called out, but it was too late. In an instant Anna was on the ground, sobbing and holding her knee. Derek was off his bike, looking confused and concerned.

Looking forward is something Derek really needs to work on. This is the same boy who, two years ago, ran full force into the back of his grandfather’s parked truck, slicing the top of his head open. Yes, the top of his head. You see, just like with the bike, he was looking DOWN at his feet as he raced home. It was around then we learned he had slight dexterity issues. An Occupational Therapist officially diagnosed him with “Lack of Coordination.“ Seriously. Did you know that is a real medical diagnosis – with an ICD (International Classification of Diseases) code number and all? I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Derek very much enjoyed his OT appointments. And why not? They were fun. The OT equipment looked a lot like toys to him. He was sad when his therapist decided that he had advanced enough to discontinue visits. He is still just slightly uncoordinated enough that I don’t see a future for him in sports, but not so much that he stands out among the other, somewhat awkward, 10 year olds he plays with. But while his balance may have improved, his ability to focus on what is in front of him still needs work.

Learning to physically look ahead is one goal - hopefully his new glasses will help with that! His vision deteriorated quite a bit this past year. Watching him struggle to read even the big letters with his old glasses on was kinda heartbreaking. But vision aside, an even bigger goal is for Derek is to think ahead. To be fair, he has come a long way in that area. A couple of years ago, he still acted on impulse more often than not. It was a rare week that he didn’t have some type of discipline note come home from school. Naturally I wanted to do anything and everything that would help my child, but the school system left me feeling almost as frustrated as he was. He was in their care for most of his waking hours. Little by little, I watched my sweet, happy baby boy sink into a reactive, discouraged child. His love of learning was replaced with an “I hate school” attitude. Hearing those words come out of his mouth was what finally convinced me to give conventional medication a try. Up until that point, I held on to the fading hope that proper nutrition (which he wasn’t getting thanks to his intense food aversions) and herbal supplements were going to help. Having him labeled as ADHD wasn’t my worry. It was the medication that I feared most.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll gladly give my children antibiotics for strep throat, ear infections and so on. Xopenex and Pulmicort (a bronchial dilator and inhaled steroid) were life saving meds for my children that I am very grateful for. And while I’ll usually turn to zinc, Echinacea and vit C when I feel a cold coming on, I’m not above going to the doctor when those things aren’t enough. I have great respect for the medical community – mostly. Mood-altering meds, however, scare me (I also have issues with pain meds, but that’s another story.) The idea of drugging my son so that he would behave in school was something that I struggled over. For some reason that bothered me more than if, for instance, we would have been doing it to help his grades. Derek hasn’t really needed help in that area and naturally I’m grateful for that. But of course, school isn’t just about grades. So in a frustrated effort to help my child stop getting into constant trouble at school, I agreed to give ADHD meds a try. Much to my relief, he did NOT turn into Zombie Boy as I feared. Instead, just the opposite happened. It was as though he came alive again. Not in a hyperactive way, but in a “wow, I can think clearly” way. Instead of binding his emotions, the medication actually gives him more control over them. He still makes poor choices sometimes, but instead of melting down, lashing out or getting defensive when corrected, he now does something that I hadn’t seen him do in a long while. He apologizes. No prompting necessary! He’ll actually talk over what he’s done and comes up with ideas about what he should have done instead.

Wow, right? Well, maybe it’s not wow to you, but it is for me. I realize now that it isn’t just the behavior we are addressing. It is the thought process (or lack thereof) that leads to the behavior!

Sometimes I’ll even hear him weighing possible consequences of an action BEFORE he jumps into something. Not always but it’s getting better. When things do get rough, I try to remember that he is maturing day by day and that I too have to look ahead.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Life With Derek

My children used to watch a show on Disney called Life with Derek. I can't tell you much about it because I, admittedly, didn't pay much attention to it. There was a time when I watched everything that my children watched. At some point, that changed. I think it was when my older two children moved away from Nick Jr and PBS kid shows and gravitated to things like Pokemon. I tried to keep up, but by the millionth PI… KA… CHUUU shriek (a threshold that was probably was achieved in the third episode) I found that I simply could not stand it any longer. It may or may not be coincidence that it was right about then that I really started discovering the internet. Oh, I still had to hear the shows they were watching, but tried my best to let it become nothing more than background noise (something I also learned to do whenever hubby used to watch pro wrestling.)

Regardless of not really getting into the TV series, the title always made me smile. You see we have our own Life with Derek here. And trust me, life with our Derek is anything but boring.

When Derek was around three years old, he told me that he choose our family long before he joined us. According to his story he was in heaven with God, looking at different families and trying to decide which he’d choose. God pointed us out to him. Well, we just happened to be at Disney World at the time he was checking us out and were having so much fun that he agreed that we were the right family for him. I remember feeling a sense of wonderment as my baby told me that tale. Sure we had talked about God before and probably mentioned heaven too, but how he came up with the idea that he was there before he was born is still a mystery to me. BTW, we were at Disney World a year before he was born, but of course he probably heard stories about that so I guess that doesn't prove anything other than he had a pretty great imagination even at three. Still, I have to admit that I do like to think that he might have really picked us.

My son’s physical entrance into our family should have given me a clue about what was to come in our Life with Derek. Both of his older sisters choose 2:30 am as the perfect time to jump start labor, so when I woke up at 2:30 am that fateful morning I just knew that it was the day. The problem was, there weren’t any contractions. There was only…dampness. It wasn’t pain that woke me up. It was some kind of spastic jump/kick that was apparently strong enough to break my water. On the way to the hospital, I kept waiting for contractions to begin. They didn’t. Looking back now, I think I can finally understand what happened. You see, he probably got bored and thought that it was a good time to be born and so he made a beginning effort to start the whole process – with the karate kick - but instead of finishing whatever it is that babies do to trigger labor, he obviously got distracted. After all, there was that interesting umbilical cord in there with him. He most likely thought, “hmmm…I bet it would be fun to get all wrapped up in this thing.” So that’s what he did. He twisted the darn thing around his neck. By then the doc had bullied, I mean talked me into that horrible pitocin stuff to start contractions. And so, for the first time in his life, the world forced Derek into doing what he should have done on his own.

It wouldn’t be the last.

Naturally Derek finds ways to be himself regardless of how much the world tries to mold him to what it wants him to be. Sometimes I worry so much about if he’ll ever find a way to fit in. Other times I just have to laugh. Sometimes I do both…like when I read his answers to a worksheet on “Dealing with Peer Pressure.”

Q. What was your friend or friends pressuring you to do?

A. Study

Q. What kinds of things were your friends doing or saying to pressure you?

A. to study

Q. How did you feel about being pressured?

A. Weird

Q. What did you decide to do at the time?

A. Fart

Q. What happened as a result of your decision?

A. I farted

Q. How did you feel about your decision?

A. farty

Q. Would you do anything differently today? Is so, write what you would do differently?

A. Yes, break the world record for the longest fart.

Yes, my son is brilliant.

To be continued….

Monday, November 29, 2010

My near brush with death...

Ok, I've already confessed that I hate shopping, right? Have I ever talked about my dislike of cold weather? What about how my issues with crowds and noise levels?

Welcome to the Christmas season!

Oh joy. I just wanna hide out till May, but life won't let me. Today, I had to brave it all. Well, not so much the cold since it got up to nearly 80 today, but it WAS a dreary wet day if that counts for something. It's going to be COLD on Wednesday. The high won't even see 60! I may freeze solid! Just knowing that such a horrid cold front is on it's way was enough to make me think that it was cold today too. You know, except for that part that it wasn't. But I'm getting off subject. The point is that when I woke up this morning, I knew that it was going to be a rough day. I knew that because today was the day that I was going to start Christmas shopping.

The plan was for me to get the kids off to school, go to the bank and then start off easy with Hobby Lobby (which is such a wonderful place that I sometimes forget that I'm actually doing the shopping thing when I'm there) first. Target was next on the list. I don't care much for Target as it's only a slight step above Walmart, but it had to be done. Bed, Bath and Beyond held one item that I needed, then I would zoom over to the mother of all panic attacks - the mall. There I would get the water filter from Sears and then make a beeline for Bath and Body works for the hand soap gifts.

Yep, that was the plan. It started off pretty good. The kids got on the bus just fine. Then I came back inside...and decided to make a cup of tea first. I don't know how it took me two hours to drink that cup of tea. I'm going to blame my procrastination on extreme anxiety and not Farmville. What? I needed to plant some blueberries! Blueberries are good. And there may have been some laundry done in that missing two hours. The floor REALLY needed sweeping too. And I couldn't just leave the breakfast dishes unwashed.

Around 9:30 I realized that there was no way I was going to get everything done if I didn't get going. Grabbing my keys, I took a deep cleansing breath, jumped in the van and drove down my driveway. When I got to the mailbox, I remembered that I needed to mail a bill, so I turned around and went back into the house to get it. And since I was bringing that to the mailbox, I figured that I should send Cheaper by the Dozen back to Netflix. Of course, I had to find it first. It was almost 9:45 by the time I finally made it back to the mailbox. I opened it and realized that I hadn't picked up the mail on Saturday so before I could put mail IN the box, I first had to take mail OUT of the box.

That's when I saw it. The agent of death.

He took the form of a brown spider. I did not yell (but I might have jumped a bit). I simply swatted the demon away with the mail that was already in my hand. Then as quickly as I could I made the exchange. Incoming mail was taken out of the box, outgoing mail went in. I brought the mail to my van. Then it was on to the bank.

After sending my deposit through the little chute thingy, I reached down to plug in my phone charger. Then, suddenly...he was there. ON MY LEG! (Thankfully, when I got dressed this morning, I knew that it wasn't going to hit 80 today so I wore long pants. I don't even want to think about what would have happened if I had worn shorts instead!) I did exactly what any other self respecting female would have done in that situation. I threw my phone on the floor, screamed bloody murder and pretty much had a spastic attack. The people in the car next to me were trying very hard not to laugh. I didn't think they quite understood the situation. You see, in my efforts to get the thing OFF OF ME, I didn't realize until it was too late, that I had missed the best opportunity I was going to get to kill it. Once, it was off my leg, it did what spiders do hid.


In my van.

By that time, the teller was finished with my transaction and I realized that I had to move the van. Which meant that I couldn't get out and run away as far as I could. I had to actually stay IN the van...with the spider. I prayed and drove to the car wash where I spent every last quarter I had on the vacuum, hoping, hoping, hoping that he'd show his eight legged self to me. No luck. At least the carpet got cleaned.

Out of quarters, I cautiously got back into the van and drove home. I had one last idea. He was waiting for me under the carport. "Oh, brave and mighty Ke-Kat," I pleaded "find the mean old spider." I lifted him gently and put him in the van - the same van that he clawed his way into the day that I left the windows down. Did he appreciate my help? No. He jumped right back out! Then he gave me a "I'm really only in the mood for lizards today" look and stretched.

I left all of the doors open for fifteen minutes in hopes that Mr. Spider would realize that escape was possible. If he did, I never saw him leave. Of course, he is kinda little so maybe he just slipped by. Eventually, with my very life on the line, I got back into the drivers seat and set back out on the road. The traffic was awful. The stores were noisy and crowded. The lines were long and slow. And because I got such a late start, I wasn't able to finish before returning home for the kids - which means that I'm going to have to do this all over again at some point this week.

Meanwhile, the spider is probably still in the van...just bidding his time.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

This past Saturday I joined my sister and her two nieces (actually one is my niece as well, but the other isn't so I'm all confused on how I'm supposed to write that) at the St Jude's Give Thanks. Walk. When I first agreed to "do the walk," I knew that I was going to have to prepare a bit for it. Now you might think that preparing for a 5k walk might involve some physical exercise, but come was a WALK. How much training was I going to need for that? After all, I walk every day! You put one foot in front of the other, then repeat. Easy! No, I wasn't worried much about the physical part. The preparation that I had to do involved something that I detest even worse than exercise. I had to shop.

I'm not sure how exactly I missed the shopping gene that most women automatically get at conception, but if you put my DNA under a microscope I'm pretty sure that you would see that I am, indeed PC - Purchase Challenged. Every now and again, I struggle to overcome my genetic defect and venture into a store, but I truly try to hold off for as long as humanly possible before getting to that point. That admitted, I knew that I could not go to the Walk in the same old sweats that I wear around the house. Sure, they are comfy enough - but have been through a couple of pregnancies and therefore, don't exactly fit very well anymore. For the task of finding a new pair, I enlisted hubby's help. He likes shopping just about as much as I do, but when I mentioned Academy, his fears melted away. Academy is not the mall, and therefore acceptable to him.

Finding a decent pair of sweats didn't take very long, but before I settled on THE pair, I tried on a couple of different ones. Naturally hubby got a tiny bit bored while waiting that whole five minutes. Rather than just standing around at the entrance of the dressing area, he made himself very useful by finding a cute jacket for me. It didn't match the sweats exactly, but I loved it anyway - mainly because it meant that we were officially finished looking and could head to the check out.

Once safely home, I thought the worst was over. I was wrong. You see, when my oldest daughters saw the jacket, they immediately proclaimed me "too old" for such a jacket. I tried pointing out that there was no age limit on the tag, but they weren't having any of that. They insisted that if I went out in public wearing the jacket, I would look like a fool. I might have rolled my eyes at that (because they are teens and I'm trying to learn to speak their language.) After all, I don't need a jacket to look like a fool! Ummm...wait...that doesn't sound right.

I feel a need to point out here that my children did have an ulterior motive fueling their taunts. The 14 year old wanted the jacket for herself. Yeah, she is a rat.

In the end, I wound up wearing the jacket to the Walk, ignoring the great risk of looking like a fool for donning apparel that had been deemed "too young" for me. I'm wild like that. But even if I had been the slightest bit worried about looking foolish, that fear would have vanished quickly enough. When we arrived at the site we saw hundreds of other walkers, many wearing "team" shirts that proclaimed support for loved ones. Suddenly I remembered what the walk was all about. Childhood cancer.

We've had a number of health issues in our home - mostly the normal childhood illnesses. Danielle was a very healthy baby and toddler. She didn't even get a cold until after she was a year old. As a preschooler, she dealt with a few bouts of Reactive Airway Disease Syndrome and now as a teen has occasional sinus trouble, but over all is fairly healthy. Emily was just the opposite. Her food allergies and asthma brought us quite a few sleepless, worried nights. She also gave us a scare with an inconclusive Cystic Fibrosis test that lead to more tests which neither confirmed nor ruled out CF. That was nearly 10 years ago and since she's never exhibited any symptoms other than the ones that prompted the test in the first place, we've all but forgotten about the abnormal test results. Derek's respiration trouble as a toddler/preschooler likely stemmed from the RSV he contracted at two months. He has a few other issues, but I'm going to touch more on that in another post. Last is my Anna, who like Danielle, is a pretty healthy kid. We did have one big scare with her too - back when she was still nestled in my womb. Because I was the ripe old age of 35, my OB deemed me an "older expectant mother" and sent me to the hospital for a special ultrasound that she couldn't do in her office. The radiologist first pointed out that my baby was a girl, and then told us that he found a cyst in her brain. I think that I was supposed to be afraid at that point, but I simply refused to believe that there was anything wrong with my baby. Not even when he mentioned the scary term "Trisomy 18" and gave us a very brief description of what that was. Then he zoomed in on her little hand - which was stretched open - and explained that children with Trisomy 18 do the opposite. They clench their hands. That was all I needed. I refused the ammio for personal reasons and instead opted to go back for another ultra sound several weeks later. By then the cyst had disappeared.

So really, yes, we've been blessed in health matters. I was reminded of that fully at that walk. My heart wept for the parents who have been told "I'm afraid it's cancer" and cheered the bravery of the children who fight each day for life. There was one special shirt that caught my eye. I asked the wearer if I could take a picture of it, but don't feel right about posting it because she was a child. Instead I'll just share what it said.

To Do List

1. Beat Cancer
2. Grow hair
3. Live my dreams

Yeah. That puts things in perspective.

So now I'm giving thanks. When Anna fights me as I try to brush the tangled mess on her head, I'll remember the children who lost their hair to chemo. When Derek refuses to taste even a morsel of what I think is good for him, I'll be grateful that his body doesn't reject what little nutrition he does manage to swallow. When Emily accuses me of playing favorites, I'll thank God that she's only upset about a sibling getting to have a friend over - instead of feeling left out because a dying sibling needs more attention than she does. When Danielle hides in her room to work on what looks to me like a comic book, I'll rejoice that she is working on living her dream.

What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Following the leader

I started a post this week, but haven't gotten around to finishing it. In the meantime, here is one from my old Myspace blog...

Do you remember playing follow the leader as a child?

Fun huh? Apparently the tires on my van play that game all the time. The right front tire is the leader. If it goes, they all go. If it stays in one place, the other three freeze in place too. How do I know this bit of interesting trivia? Experience of course.

Let me share: Just after picking up my daughter's friend, in a moment that was less than brilliant, I turned a bit too much while backing out of a driveway. The right front tire went off the driveway, at the start of the ditch, and just sort of hung there. It spun, but there was no traction so therefore it didn't go anywhere. Now you'd think that at least one of the other three would take up the slack, but NOOOOOO…

We were stuck. I immediately reached for my cell phone. It wasn't in my purse. Why wasn't it in my purse? It's always in my purse. Frustration filled me.

Who was I going to call anyway? My husband? He was in the woods. Does the car being perched precariously over a ditch justify interrupting a hunt? Probably, but embarrassment wanted me to look for an easier solution. Suddenly I had recollection of the salesman talking about a button that would make the other tires spin. Frantically, I searched my dashboard for that magic button. My search was in vain. If such a button exists, it obviously was on the next model up. The one we didn't get. I must not have thought that the button was important enough for the price increase. Foolish woman am I!

I walked back around the van to the tire and pleaded with it. No, not really. I just looked at it…because looking at a problem is certainly the best way to make it go away. It mocked me. I could barely fit a finger between the tire and the ground that it needed to be on. Inspiration struck! Could I push the van forward an inch or so? I put the van in neutral, turned the steering wheel as far as I could and had my oldest child hold it. Then I went to the rear and pushed. Bwahahahaha!!! Nothing. Nada. Zilch. The van didn't budge. I stood there and wondered how much it weighed. If only a football team would just suddenly appear and offer help! There were none in sight. Please? Somebody????

The children saw my look of defeat. "We can all push together" they exclaimed. I wanted to cry, but smiled instead. I conceded to let them try to push for a bit while I tried to figure out how I was going to get us out of this mess…or at least mustered up the courage to ask the people in the house for the use of their phone. The kids pushed on the van for all of two seconds. Then they ran around to look at the tire.

"It's touching! It's touching! We did it!" they yelled.

It was! Those beautiful little angels in disguise did it! I scooted them away from the van and then with a quick prayer, got in and tried to drive forward…lo and behold, forward the van went!
Who needs football players when you have kid power!?!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The saga of the Ke-Kat

The saga of the Ke-Kat continues….
Not long after his first “Happy We Found You Under a Wheelbarrow” day, Ke-kat disappeared. Friends tried to reassure us that he had just wandered off to do his thing and would return soon enough. Emily wasn’t buying that. You see there are a couple of big dogs that sometimes roam around here and she was positive that they chased her precious cat away. In fact, the night before Ke-kat vanished, Emily had seen the dogs in the nearby field and she asked if we could bring the cat in for the night. I refused.
Cue the “you are so heartless” comments. I deserve them.
Now you might not believe it, but I like animals. Really! The first pet that I remember was a German Shepherd named Lucky. Ummm…actually the thing I remember most about him was the time that he walked around and around me, wrapping me up in the chain that he was connected to. That was slightly terrifying to a three year old, but I must have gotten over it because I consider German Shepherd’s one of my favorite breeds. Over all, I’m more partial to the “bigger” dogs than I am to the little, super hyper kind that starlets carry around in purses. Keep your miniature poodles, Pomeranians and Chihuahuas. Sure they are adorable, but I prefer border collies, golden retrievers and Labradors. And wolves. Yeah, wolves are awesome.
The people that I grew up next door to kept about 2 million stray cats in their yard. Most neighbors probably saw them as a nuisance, but I thought that they were amazing creatures. On lazy summer days, I would sit in our yard, pick out the ones that I felt looked the most elegant, give them names and wait/hope for one to come close enough to pet. Sometimes my sisters and I would discover a litter of new kittens in our yard. To us, that was like finding treasure! I can’t tell you if I liked dogs more than cats or vice versa because they are both way cool to me!
Most of the other animals (I’m going to stick to mammals here – I’ve had my share of experiences with reptiles too, but it’s probably best that I not go into that now) that I came in contact with as a child were the farm kind. Chickens weren’t exactly pet worthy, but they were very fun to feed. Another animal I enjoy “helping” my dad with were the pigs. Pigs have a reputation for being stinky, and I can assure you that they’ve earned that label. They are also quite heavy. I know that not because I ever tried picking one up – but because I have had a couple of them step on me when I would “show” them at 4-H contest. OUCH! I will admit that I don’t care very much for cows. That’s probably because I was chased by a couple as a youngin’. Plus I just don’t like milk very much. Cheese is good though, so they have that going for them.
My very favorite animals of all are horses. Those majestic creatures have always fascinated me. My grandfather and my great uncle both had several horses so I learned to ride fairly early.
Okay, now cue the “awwww…” comments.
So, yeah, I like animals. I just like them to be outside – of my house. If other people want to keep them inside their house, that’s super! Seriously, it’s a wonderful, loving thing. It’s just not something I feel I can handle at this point in my life. There are four, very messy children living in this house. We all speak, basically, the same language, and yet I still can’t communicate effectively enough to get them to clean up after themselves. Maybe one, if I master cat or doggy speak, I’ll even give them a shot. Yes, there may come a day – but don’t hold your breath.
I do make exceptions. Last year, we had several “freezes” here. Every time I saw that the temps were going to be falling very low at night, I let Emily bring Ke-kat in. See – I do have a heart! It just wasn’t very attuned to Emily’s plea the night before Ke-kat disappeared. I figured that he had found a way to outsmart those pesky dogs before and would do so again. After all, he could climb onto the top of my van if he had to. I know this because I’ve found him there a few times. There are even nice scratch marks in the paint that serve as further evidence.
Apparently the top of the van wasn’t safe enough for him that night. Or maybe it wasn’t the dogs at all. Maybe, like friends tried to tell me, he just got that wanderlust feeling and finally decided to take a little adventure. A very distraught Emily searched and searched and searched without luck until - on day five - she decided to check across the street again. She later told me that she had a dream the night before that she would find him in the shed there. Sure enough, in the shed he was! I don’t remember seeing my girl that happy in a very long time!
All was well with the world. It didn’t last very long.
A week later, Emily came to me in tears because Ke-Kat’s face wasn’t eating, sounded congested and had a “swollen” face. I figured “He has a cold. Cats get colds, right? Leave him alone and he’ll get better.” So my Emily went off to school thinking that she had the world’s most pitiless mommy. In my defense, I did check online for reasons that a cat might have swollen face. The problem was that I was going on the assumption that his whole face was puffy. Later that morning, I walked outside and saw that wasn’t the case. He had a huge knot on one side of his face. I brought him to his food bowl and saw that he was obviously hungry, but just couldn’t find a way to eat. That put me in an emotional crisis. I don’t want a pet. Four children are enough! I don’t want vet bills. Pediatrician bills are enough! But his wittle face!!! Ugggg…again…am I really that heartless? Guess not. I called the vet.
The vet was very nice. When I told her that our Ke-kat was an outside cat, she didn’t have me locked up or anything. Instead she asked if there was any way we could confine him to one room for a week while he healed. She even offered an alternative option of boarding him there at the animal hospital. Since I haven’t won the lottery yet (I kept forgetting to play) I choose the former. For some reason, in my mind, it was important to point out to her that the laundry room that we’d keep him in was pretty fairly spacious room. I had this whole guilt thing going on and just needed to make sure that she knew I wasn’t locking the cat up in a closet. The vet suggested canned cat food (duh - why didn't I think of that!) until he was able to chew the crunchy kind again and prescribed a liquid antibiotic that I had to squirt into his mouth twice a day. Yeah, try doing that for fun sometime. My daughter and I figured it out pretty quickly though. We wrap him in a towel and she gets his mouth open while I aim and squirt. All in all, the visit only cost a week’s worth of groceries for my family of six. I figured, what the heck, we could eat ramen noodles if things got too rough. Yep, we’d eat noodles and the cat would dine on gourmet canned food. Remember, in my first Ke-kat post, when I said that kitty poop is the more foul smelling stuff on the face of the earth? I stand corrected! The canned food smell is even worse. The odor would assault me every time I walked into the laundry room -which I had to do not only to clean dirty clothes (cause my family rejected my suggestion that we become nudists until the cat moved back out) but also to get cleaning supplies or to get to my computer (my tiny office is nestled in a cubby sized room next to the washer and dryer.) Every time I went into the room with the cat, I automatically held my breath as long as I could. I would also get an uncontrollable urge to scrub my hands raw, but oddly enough I couldn’t bring myself to use the sink that was in the same room as the cat. I had to use another sink - in one of the non cat infected rooms. If any article of clothing fell to the floor when being transferred from the washer to the dryer, or from the dryer to the laundry basket, it went right back into the dirty clothes pile which was kept in a closet so that the cat couldn’t get to it. My bedroom became the staging area for sorting, folding and distributing clean clothes because there was NO WAY I was going to do any of that on my laundry table until it had been sanitized thoroughly – with three different disinfecting cleaners. Actually I don't think that one was overkill on my part. After all, there was a point when I watched Emily place the POOPER SCOOPER on that table. How I didn’t drop dead in that instant, I’ll never know. My heart is pounding furiously just thinking about it.
At the end of the week, we returned to the vet who was fairly pleased with Ke-kat’s progress. The lump was still there, but he was eating well and acting normally again. She asked how often we were doing the warm compresses and I suddenly wanted to melt into the floor. I’d totally forgotten that we were supposed to be doing that! How awful! If a doctor had told me to apply a warm compress to a hurt area on one of my children, I’d have been all over that. Why didn’t I remember it for Ke-kat? Thankfully Emily came with me to the follow up visit and she was put in charge of the warm compress routine. Within days of starting it, the lump dissolved away.
With Ke-kat all healed and me recognizing that it’s possible that I have serious OCD issues concerning our furry family member, it was time to put the cat back outside. But would he run away again? Would the dogs come back to scare him? Would he get into another fight during his night roaming? <-we a="" an="" believe="" by="" caused="" fight.="" he="" in="" injury="" lump="" probably="" received="" span="" that="" the="" was=""> How could we both keep him safe – and ME SANE???
Emily’s answer was that we should kennel him at night. Part of me wanted to reject that right away because although I couldn’t stand the idea of him in the house, I also couldn’t stand the idea of him being locked up in some tiny cage – meowing his little heart out! And what if he needed to…um…go? Emily had an answer for that too. We would get a big dog carrier to put him it - something large enough for his food/water bowl, a bed and a litter box. She even agreed to pay for it out of her own savings. So now Ke-kat has a nice, safe place to stay at night.
And I have my laundry room back. Yeah me! Time to do laundry!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How I spent All Hallows Eve

Did everyone have a safe and happy Halloween? It was a fun day here. We started off by going to Mass, where it was my turn to teach Children’s Liturgy. Here comes a confession (Catholics like to confess things ya know)…when I first started the current Children’s Liturgy program at our church, I did so basically because my own children were driving me bonkers. You see, I have really great children who, unfortunately, can’t sit still for one whole minute much less one hour. There are some adults who have a tough time with that too, but that's okay. I know that different believers worship in different ways. I like to think of myself as a “still waters run deep” kind of person. I hear God clearest when I am silent. For me, going to Mass used to be my time for learning, reflection and prayer. But that was before children. After children it became a time of stress, embarrassment and even anger. Finding my “still” in church with my children next to me was pretty much impossible. It was then that I decided that if you can’t beat ‘em (because regardless of where you stand on physical discipline, BEATING ‘em is never a good idea) – join ‘em! Instead of getting upset at my wiggle worms for constantly disrupting my church time, why not help make their church time more of a learning experience on their level? The church was very receptive to my offer to begin a Children’s Liturgy program and so it began. Don’t get me wrong, my darlings are still quite capable of making me want to pull my hair out every Sunday, but somehow it all balances out now.

This Sunday we had a fairly large group of children attending. That would be a great thing, except for the fact that the only area we have to hold CL in is a rather small room just off the side of the cry room. When you have 30 children packed in a tiny room, things can get a bit chaotic. I had to asked them to “show me you’re listening” just under 80,000 times. After our Gospel story and discussion, I gave up, umm...I mean, decided to use the rest of the time for fun. They each took turns telling us all what they were going to be for Halloween. One little boy was quite eager to let us all know that he was going to be a “warrior.” By that time, I was more than ready for a bit of peace and quiet, so when he said that, my mind went straight to imagining I was home alone, in a yoga warrior pose, listening to something soothing. That mental escape only lasted about .00000007th of a second but it was enough to make it through the rest of class.

There was no time for yoga after church. Instead the children and I headed to PetSmart to get a giant doggy carrier for Ke-kat. Why would we buy a giant doggy carrier for a cat you ask? Because otherwise, I was going to have to spend oodles of money that we don’t have budgeted, in therapy bills. For me. I’ll explain more about that tomorrow (yes, I’ll post all about it tomorrow. Or the next day. Or soon. I will be soon.) After the pet store, I decided to take the kids to Chick-fil-A for lunch. Uh huh. On a Sunday. Yeah, I’m brilliant like that. Have you heard that Chick-fil-A song?

I could hear his voice in my head as I neared the restaurant and saw the empty parking lot. :::sigh::: I totally respect their reason for being closed on Sunday, but at the same time….I wanted waffle fries! We settled for a local pizza place instead and then headed home. The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful, except for Anna and Derek asking me, every fifteen minutes, if it was time to go trick or treating. Finally that time did draw near. They got into their costumes.


Our costumes have been getting a lot of use here last couple of weeks. First there was the Night at the Boo-seum – a local Halloween fest held on the site of our future Children’s Museum (which has been in the works for over a decade now…I’m hoping that it gets built before I have grandchildren.) Anna absolutely refused to wear the princess costume that she HAD to have when we went costume shopping. It didn’t itch in the store, but it did once we got home. Go figure! Instead she slipped on her trusty Mulan costume. That Mulan dress is probably the best clothing purchase I’ve ever made. It was originally for Danielle…who passed it down to Emily…who passed it down to Anna, who keeps it with her play “dress up” clothes and even occasionally uses it as pajamas. Unlike most costumes, it apparently doesn’t scratch, bind or feel uncomfortable in anyway at all. Why can’t all costumes be like that?

Since she was Mulan, I made a last minute decision to dress up in the kimono that Danielle wore at Mechacon this past summer. At first Anna was excited about my dressing up with her, but became somewhat impatient when I tried, in vain, to tie the obi semi correctly. "Just hurry up already" she pleaded. After several tries I admitted defeat and just “did it my way.”

Our next costume outing was for the Friday before Halloween. The elementary kidlets got to dress up for school, and I got to dress up – for school too (I was subbing at the preschool.) Aren’t we all too cute?

One very dear friend saw this photo and commented that I was missing a kid. I mistakenly assumed that she forgot that I have four children and laughingly pointed out that the pic was missing TWO children, not just one. That’s when she told me she first thought it was my oldest and two youngest in the pic. Oh yeah!!! I was mistaken for a 16 year old. Wooooohooo! That totally makes up for the Walmart cashier NOT carding me a couple of weeks ago when I purchased some beer for hubby’s fishing trip. Belch…beer. Buying the stuff was yucky enough. Not being carded was just insulting. So what if the only way I can look too young to buy alcohol is in a Halloween pic where I’m wearing my daughter’s costume. I’ll take it!

The younger two got to wear their costumes AGAIN on Saturday when we went to my sister’s party. By Sunday, I was pretty impressed with how well Derek’s ninja outfit was holding up after so many wearing and washings. I did not put the kimono back on when I took them trick or treating. Instead, I got all deck out in witch dress. Yeah – we like dressing up at our house.

I also really like seeing all the little ones in their various costumes. That’s part of trick or treating that I like best. They get candy. I get to say things like “oh, look at that precious little Ladybug.” Or “What a great pirate!” Or “Hey ninja dude!” That last one earned me a scolding look and an indigent “Mrs. Sandy! I told you this morning that I’m a WARRIOR!” Opps. Sorry. My mistake.

At home, we divvied up the candy loot (because big sisters need candy too even if they did nothing but sit home and wait for the goodies to come to them.) I inspected it all looking for Butterfingers before letting them eat three pieces each and bagging the rest for later. Then it was time for baths and other bedtime rituals (why do I still have to remind my 14 year old to brush her teeth?) As I put Anna to sleep, I could hear that at least one of the others was moving around – out of their bedroom. Ordinarily I would have called out another “it’s BEDTIME” reminder, but it was Halloween and I let the offender slide. Later, when I went to finish MY bedtime ritual of cleaning the kitchen, I was greeted with…a clean table, wiped counter-tops and all of the dirty dishes stacked neatly next to the sink waiting for me to wash them.

I hope that I don't have to wait until Halloween 2011 to get treated like that again!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Once upon a time, in a land far away...actually it's only a half hour drive from grandmother asked me to help her record a program. I tried to show her how to do it herself, but she didn't seem interested in learning. At the time, I didn't get it. What was so hard about programing a VCR?

Fast forward to the dawn of the DVD age. Our first VCR/DVD player combo was pretty simple to program, but it eventually had to be replaced. That's when we decided to upgrade to VCR/DVD-R (because recording on DVD's would save so much space!) Oh boy. That machine drove me nuts. The instruction novelette that came with it was written in English but could have been Greek because I just couldn't quite GET IT. There were way too many steps required to set up a simple recording. After several tries, I did what most normal people do once they get to the stage that they realize technology has passed them by...I gave up. If I missed an episode of Heroes or NCIS, I would simply watch it online instead. The problem was that I couldn't do that with American Idol and since softball games directly interfered with getting my David Cook fix, I found myself resorting to the unimaginable. Yes, it's true...I begged my teenager to help me.

Earlier this year, when we replaced our 20 year old set with a new TV for hubby, we also traded in our old cable box for a new fancy, smancy DVR cable box. Everyone told me that I would love having a DVR, but to be honest, I was afraid to even try figuring it out. I didn't need to face the humiliation again. Accepting that I technologically challenged had been a big step for me. I was comfortable with my status. Why risk further shame?

Then it happened. I don't know how to describe it other than to say that a reckless feeling overcame me, prompting me to give it a shot. The kids were in school, which meant that hubby would be the only one to witness my attempt - and he would never dare laugh at ME. Well, not much anyway. He was lying on the bed with The Mistress (aka his iPhone) when I softly commented that it would really be nice to record Angel since I'm usually busy getting the kids ready for school when it's playing. I think there must have been something in my tone because he actually looked up from his game playing and took me seriously. After a whooping 30 seconds of direction, I did it!!! I set the DVR to record Angel. OMG that was so easy!!! I even found out how to go back and actually watch the recording! I am WOMAN!

That jubilant feeling emboldened me. I put the remote on the nightstand, looked over at hubby (who had returned to his game) and offered something I knew he'd been waiting for.
"I'm ready."
He almost dropped the phone in surprise. Almost. Tentatively he asked "Are you sure?"
"Yes. Now - before I change my mind."
He reached over, gently took my hand and led me....
to the van. I should have been a little more nervous than I actually was as we drove to the AT&T store to get his new 4G phone and transfer the 3G one to me. After all, I had mocked The Mistress for so long that part of me secretly worried she would rebel once she was mine.
The transaction was almost painless. Except for the paying part, but even that was less than I was expecting. My first phone call came in even before we left the store. Thankfully hubby was right there to show me how to answer. Whew.

Once home, he took both phones and handled all of the transferring for me. Then he went to work. Now it's just me and the phone. Obviously I can't call her The Mistress anymore (that title was transferred over to hubby's new phone.) I'm not sure what I'll name her. First I think I'd better figure out how to actually use her. So far, I know how to answer it when it rings.

This may take a while.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall Fails

This year the first day of fall fell on September 22nd. At least that's what the calendar says. Mother Nature apparently had some last minute details to attend to, so she ignored the calendar and waited until Monday, September 27th to send a bit of cooler air this way.

I love fall. Who doesn't? There is just something so refreshing in the air that says screams "Wake up! The oppressive heat has been banished (for a day or so anyway.) Get moving! Clean something! Strew faux pumpkins all over the place! Decorative corn should be displayed. Ceramic scarecrows must adorn the shelf above the TV. Fill the pumpkin basket with pine cones. Yeah...that's cute. FALL is here! Rejoice!"

Didn't it say that to you?

Cooler weather also means I can finally get to a couple of projects that I'd been putting off. It's not quite cool enough to open the windows for the four hours that it will take my oven to self clean so I still get a pass on that one for a while, but I can at least do a bit of gardening now. On the way back from picking up the gardening soil and mulch, I wondered if I should try moving the overgrown salvia or just rip it out. It's very pretty in early spring. Later in the summer the bees love the flowers. The problem is that it is just much too tall for the area it's in now. I decided a while back to replace it with Candytuft, which, according to the seed packet will give me "white dainty blooms" that "cover a dense mat of dark green foliage." That sounds pretty, doesn't it? Anna and I had fun watching the soil pellets "grow" in warm water and then planting the tiny seeds. Most of them have sprouted and are waiting in a tray on my window sill.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to do any actual gardening yesterday. As soon as I got back from Lowes, Emily called me from school because she accidentally left her binder in her last class and by the time she retrieved it, she missed the bus. When we got home, we were greeted by a friendly, thirsty black lab who thought the best way to show me his appreciation for the water he found (in Ke-Kat's bowl) was to run into me - several times. Ke-Kat was NOT amused by the interlopers behavior. Emily picked up her cat and tried in vain to hold on to him, but Ke-Kat thought that the top of her head was a better than her arms. That was about when my oldest, Danielle, decided to join us - with a broom. Now we may very well have been in danger of being licked to death, but I didn't see the need to exasperate the situation with weapons, so I sent her straight back into the house. We borrowed a leash from my SIL and Emily set off to find the doggy's owner. By then, it was time to get my younger two from the bus, supervise homework while cooking supper, feed the kidlets, bring the older two to CCD class, fold clothes, pick up the older two from CCD class, remind the children that they do, in fact, have to take a bath every single day and that brushing teeth wasn't optional. After sending them all to bed it was, at last... quiet.

This morning, I decided to get the grocery shopping finished early. I got in the car...and gagged. Guess what happens when you forget to take gardening soil and mulch out of the back of the van? Uh huh. It wasn't nice. Dear readers, you will be happy to find out that I did not throw up. It was close, but somehow I managed to keep my breakfast where it belonged. After removing the offending bags, I sprayed the entire van with febreze in hopes that if it didn't take the smell completely away, it would at least add a nice lavender tinge to the manure stench. Then I put the windows half down to let the vehicle air out.

Three hours later, I cautiously tried again. The smell was bearable. I sat behind the wheel, started the engine...and got the unnerving feeling that I wasn't alone. He couldn't have, could he? I turned my head and there he was. Curled up ever so cozily on the back seat, Ke-kat raised his sleepy head and gave me a look that said "Let's see if that stupid dog can find me in here."

Yep, Fall is off to a brilliant start.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Today is a special day in our home. On Sept. 5th of 2009, my daughter Emily came into the house bursting with excitement. She'd found a tiny kitten under a wheelbarrow in the yard. Now you must understand - I had successfully avoided giving in to the "can we have a pet" plea for a long while. Four children is plenty enough responsibility thank you very much. A pet means more work for me. A pet means increased bills (vet visits, pest treatments, food, toys and so on.) A pet means arranging for care when we go on vacation and figuring out how to bring an animal along when we are forced to evacuate for hurricanes.

I didn't want a pet. My Emily did. She is the animal lover here. Animal Planet is her favorite TV station. There was no way I could look at her face and say that we couldn't keep that scrawny bag of fur. I did say that she first had to go to all of the neighbors to make sure that the kitten wasn't for them. No one claimed it. It was so tiny that we couldn't imagine that it had wandered far on it's own. Later I found out that our local shelter had just begun imposing a drop off fee for unwanted animals, so I suppose it's likely that someone decided that our yard was a less costly place to dispose of the creature.

Since there was no way I was allowing it in my house, Emily and I built a makeshift home out of spare bricks, wood and chicken wire. I'm not totally heartless. I wanted it to stay safe! At the store, I bought kitty chow, flea bath and a flea a couple of toys. Later we got a tag for the collar. Emily checked for important parts, declared the kitten a "girl" and dubbed her "Cookies and Cream" - Cookies for short. For some reason, I couldn't bring myself to call her that. To me, the kitten was and will forever be "Ke-kat."

In those early weeks, I discovered something important about the kitten. When ever I noticed Ke-kat digging a hole, I knew to get away - FAST. You see, kitten poop happens to be the absolute worst smelling stuff on the face of the earth. They bury it in order to survive. No creature could stand being near that foul odor for long. No creature but Emily of course. She didn't care if the kitten pooped on her shirt. And it did sometimes. Especially when we gave it milk. Emily searched the internet and decided that milk wasn't good for Cookies. As the person who does the laundry here, I completely agreed.

After a couple of months we realized that we didn't want MORE kittens, so I checked around to see about getting Ke-kat fixed. The local vets wanted $200 for the operation. It was explained to me that the procedure was more intensive for female kittens. I understood that, but wasn't ready to shell out so much, so I kept looking. A friend told me about the SPCA in New Orleans. There it would cost us a mere $50 for the "fix" and another $40 for the shots. We packed Ke-kat up and took her in. Later that morning, I got a call telling me that HE was ready for pick up. ummm...excuse me? He? Yep. He.

I should have figured out earlier that s/he was a he. After all, every time he sees me, he immediately lies down and stretches so that I will bend over to scratch his belly. It's not that I think that I should have seen certain parts that would have given me a clue. I'm just pretty sure that a female would totally ignore my existence. Ke-kat, however, loves me. He brings me presents often. Not a week goes by that I don't open my door to find a dead frog, dragonfly or lizard waiting for me. When I garden, he showers me with attention by leaping out of his "hiding place" in the flowers and grabbing my hand. When I have gardening gloves on, he isn't shy about sinking his claws in - I can only assume that's because he wants to pull them off in order to view my hands better. Thankfully he doesn't use his claws when he uses the same move on my legs to prevent me from stepping back into my house.

Yes, Ke-kat loves me. He doesn't have a clue that, a year ago, I was secretly hoping that Emily would come home with news that he actually belonged to one of our neighbors. He doesn't care that I was furious with him after he ripped apart the screen on the dining room window or that I shoo him down from the top of my van each time I catch him up there. Ke-kat is part of our family and he knows it. He loves me...and I kinda like him too.

Happy "found you under a wheelbarrel" Day Ke-kat!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I Want...

"I want candy."
"I want a new DSi game."
"I want Bakugan battle gear."
"I want another flashlight."
"I want a friend to sleep over this weekend."
"I want a puppy. A REAL puppy."

It's good to want things. At least that's what I tell my children when they barrage me with requests. When we want things, we reach for them. We set goals and we work toward them. Wanting moves us forward.

Except when it doesn't.

Often times I find myself telling my children that they cannot have what they want - not because it's an impossible goal but because it's not good for them. For example: they aren't allowed to stay up all hours of the night playing video games. That would wreak havoc on their bodies and brains. Reaching the treasure chest to win Link's hover boots isn't nearly as important as getting a good night's sleep, but when they are in the "zone" they aren't considering that. They only know that they want to continue playing the game. That's when momma has to stand before the power button and say "save now or lose your progress."

The thing is...we don't outgrow the tendency to sometimes long for things that we know are bad for us. What happens when we no longer have mom standing at the power button?

My Facebook friends have heard me whine about my love/hate relationship with Sonic Dr. Pepper. My brain KNOWS what will happen when I finally give in to the craving. The sweet deception will lull me into a false state of optimistic confidence. I'll honestly believe that I'll be able to enjoy the pleasure of that icy joy without consequence. And sometimes I can. That's the clincher. Sometimes I can have one and then go on my merry way through life without wanting needing another for a while.

Sometimes I feel the edge creeping up on me the next day. When that happens, I have two choices. I can either give in to the caffeine call (which will only prolong the inevitable), or I can try to tough it out. The tough it out option can be particularly suckish, but eventually I have to accept its punishment.

How do you deal with wants that you know you shouldn't give into?

Monday, July 26, 2010


I'm in a slump. Yeah, I know. Wah Wah, poor lil me. You don't have to tell me to "get over it" because I've already told myself. The thing is that I'm also a procrastinator so I think I'll wait till tomorrow to "get over it." I can do that. It's allowed.

Trouble comes in 3's right? The faucet on the tub is broken, the desktop is having boot up issues (which is probably being made worse by me shutting off and on the power to get it to boot up) and the bottom element on the oven has died. That's three. We reached our quota, right? So what if they are all fixable problems. It's the inconvenience that counts! It's taking forever for the tub part to arrive. I'm having panic attacks about bringing my computer in to be fixed (how long is it going to am I going to survive?), and the oven repair person won't be here until the end of the week. :::cue the wah, wah, wah:::

But none of that put me in my slump. None of that has me feeling helpless. Forget three. Trouble came in four this time.

It happened in a flash. My husband leaned slightly over the table to take a bite of his supper. That was all it took. No heavy lifting. No straining or twisting. He just tried to eat something and his back seized up. It wasn't the first time. He has dealt with back pain for quite a while. The worst was a little over a year ago. That time it hit him so hard that he fell and was unable to get up at all. Woefully weak woman that I am, I wasn't even able to help him get off the floor. A call to 911 brought the paramedics who took him to the ER, where he was admitted to the hospital for a couple of excruciatingly painful days before his back was sliced open and the offending part of his ruptured disk was removed.

Have you been in the position of watching a loved one suffer, knowing that there is nothing you can DO to make it better? Being here, in that helpless state again, has brought to mind a time when he was the one who was forced to stand by - unable to fight the invisible enemy that was attacking me. I never really looked at it from his point of view before. He had just come back from a 5 1/2 month tour in Haiti a few weeks before it happened. I was seven months pregnant with our second child. I went to my OB with a complaint of feeling "chilly" and before I knew it I was being hooked up to a special bed that circulated ice water, one monitor for our baby's heartbeat, another to watch for contractions, an automated blood pressure cuff that went off every five minutes, a pulse ox and three IV's. Naturally I can remember what that was like from my own POV, but now I wonder...what did HE see? What went through his mind when the OB told him that she decided to air vac me to a civilian hospital in another city because there were fears that if I were to go into labor at that point, the military hospital I was in wouldn't be able to support both my life and the life of our unborn baby. What must he have felt watching them load me into the helicopter? What strength did he drawn on when he took our little girl back to our empty quarters?

The funny thing is that I knew that we (baby and I) were going to be fine. Oh, there was a claustrophobic moment when I was pushed through a tunnel like tube into the helicopter. For an instant I wondered if the scurry and fuss was warranted after all, but that feeling quickly passed and I just knew that everything would work out.

I didn't KNOW that last year when I was the one watching. I only knew that my husband was in pain and I couldn't do a darn thing about it.

I didn't KNOW it yesterday when I was so frightened that he was going to have to go through the same ordeal once again. I still don't know that he isn't headed in that direction, but I am relieved that this time at least seems to be a bit different so far. He is still able to move on his own and there is hope that he can be treated with medication instead of another surgery. We'll find out more after his MRI tomorrow. Till then, I'm going to stay in my slump and admit that I'm... helpless.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Seeking John Marco

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison

I feel that quote with every fiber of my being, and yet, writing comes last. I know, I's suppose to be this overwhelming force that leaves me unable to eat, sleep or do anything else until I create. The need to record my story should supersede any and every desire that dares to distract me from the singular purpose of composing ...ummm...excuse me a moment.
Anna was hungry. Now, what was I saying? Oh, forget it. Writing comes last. It doesn't matter that in rare moments of still, the story calls to me, begging to be unfurled.
Just thinking about my fictional island brightens my soul with purpose. There are times when I find myself wanting to re-read chapters that I haven't even written yet. My characters are friends that I long to visit.

They will wait. They have waited this long already.

I guess that means that I'm not really a writer. Heck, I can't even seem to give a few lines to this blog as often as I would like.

What I am (beside mom,
home management connoisseur, cook/nutritionist, laundress, maid, finance director, transportation specialist, keeper of electronic gaming devices, homework motivator, psychologist, referee, teacher, judge, jurist, enforcer of law, mind reader, Anna chair, first aid dispenser...yeah, I know that everything after "mom" is redundant but it's my blog so I can yammer on if I wanna) is a reader.

Books are my escape, my sanctuary, my portal to new worlds. Stories feed me. Unfortunately life doesn't always leave me time for decent meals, so there are long spells when I have to make do with grazing. When I take the kids to a fast food place, I devour every silly word printed on their happy meal boxes/bags. Standing in line at the grocery store, I'll scan headline after headline on the magazines on display...until I literally feel my IQ falling and then I'll tear my eyes away from that and start reading the ingredient list on the items in my cart. And then there is the internet...or as I like to call it...paradise. From email to news articles to discussion boards to social networks to blogs, the internet is a never ending smorgasbord of awesomeness.

It was here on the world wide web that I was first introduced to Mr. John Marco - on Myspace to be exact. Any female with a Myspace account knows that there are three types of "friend requests" there.

First there is the "let's keep in touch here too" kind. Those are from people you know.
Next there is the "Musician" request. Those are from people who want you to hear how amazing they supposedly sound. Sometimes they are worth checking out. Sometimes you wish you hadn't bothered.
Then there is the "Girl collector" request. Those are from pigs posing as men. Luckily, they are pretty easy to spot.

The friend request from Mr. Marco didn’t quite fit into any of those categories. You see, he is an author. I had not read his books, nor had I even heard his name before that day, but suddenly I was intrigued. An author made a request to ME? I had to find out more. Wiki told me that he had two sci/fi - fantasy trilogies in print (he has since had a young adult novel published as well.) Various reviews let me know that the books were worth checking out. I did and before I was halfway through the first of his novels, I was a fan.
I was also a little star struck.

There is something quite wonderful about being able to speak to a favorite author. That isn't something I ever thought of doing when I was younger. Back then, I didn't think much about the people who wrote the stories that I enjoyed so much. Authors were simply names that had to be listed on book reports for English class. How the sentences came to be on the pages wasn't something I took time to wonder about. They were there and I loved them. Nothing else really mattered. Somewhere along the line, that changed. It started when, at 17, I read Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings knowing that although it read like fiction, it was actually an autobiography. The character was the author...the author was the character. Suddenly the people who wrote the stories were as real to me as the words they used.

Later (okay...MUCH later), the internet opened doors to discovering more about the word weavers that I learned to admire.
I’ll admit to visiting RK Rowling’s website frequently back when my life revolved around Harry’s fate. (Okay, maybe not my entire life, but I did once comment to a friend that it would totally suck if I died before the seventh book was released.) I’m a “fan” of Terry Goodkind’s Myspace and Facebook pages. Every one in a while, I’ll check out Christopher Paolini's website (hoping, hoping, hoping to see some sign that the fourth book is getting closer to being published.)
Twitter updates from Kevin J. Anderson let me know what progress is being made on the next Dune book.

Yes, those types of things are nice - but it was Mr. Marco's blog and Facebook updates that I most looked forward to reading. I guess that's because his posts offered a personal connection that fan pages and official websites don't. When he wrote about reading to his son's kindergarten class or mishaps that occurred on a vacation, he became a real person to me.

Then he disappeared.

Gone from Myspace. Gone from Facebook. Even his blog was closed. After a while, curiosity got the best of me and I emailed him. His response was very human. While I will not divulge the details of the correspondence, I can say that his explanation spoke to me not only as a fan - not only as a reader, but also as a person who understands how the demands of life can trump even the deepest longing to write.

So I am sending out a "thank you" to Mr. Marco. I hope to be one of the first to buy his next novel. I'd like for him to know what an impact he has had on me. By sharing a bit of his life with his fans, he helped me see him as human being and not simply a name on a book cover. That was a gift that, in turn, helped me understand that I can be more than I am today. If other authors/humans can work to overcome the challenges before them, I can too! I will not give up searching for those stolen moments that I can use to jot down a thought or two. I will not toss my fictional world aside even when, in exhaustion, I don't think that I'll ever be able to give it the attention it pleads for. Today I am a reader, but if I keep seeking... I might just find that I can be an author too.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lake Woes

Thanks to a week long string of storms, we hadn't dared to make any family plans for Independence Day. On the morning of the 4th, however, the sun broke through the clouds - tempting us to enjoy the great outdoors while we could. I had just brewed a fresh cup of green tea when hubby walked in and suggested that we all go for a ride in the boat. I took a sip of my tea and glanced out of the window to judge the gathering clouds. Were we going to be treated to yet another afternoon soaker? Probably, but why let that stop us! I found myself suddenly willing to chance the rain. So what if we got wet. We were going to be in the water anyway! I drained the rest of my tea and then sent the kids to put on their swimsuits while I packed towels, sunscreen, a book and my camera. I had this crazy idea that I'd take a few pictures of the beautiful swampland and then sit back to enjoy my book while the kids swam with hubby.

This was our very first boat outing as a family, so you'll have to forgive me for being so naive.

Trying to fit the entire family in the boat didn't look like much of a challenge to me. Sure I'm fanatical about seat belts and car seats in the van, but this was a boat! Don't ask me why that made a difference to me. My thought process isn't very consistent. My husband, OTOH is much more logical. He knew that his cousin was going along to the same area which meant that we could split the kids between the two boats. We all found our places and put on our life-jackets as my husband carefully steered the boat into the canal. When I sat down, I discovered a slight problem with my life-jacket. It didn't fit. Sitting down pushed it up over my face. Then there was the fact that I could slip the whole thing right over my head altogether. My husband rolled his eyes as I pointed out that if it came off that easily while I was sitting down, it wouldn't do much good if I was knocked unconscious after being thrown from the boat. I wasn't going to be thrown out of the boat he insisted. My oldest daughter, who stands several inches taller than me, swapped her jacket for mine and we both got a better fit.

Impatient to get going, hubby started roaring down the canal as soon as I finished zipping the jacket. Actually, the increased speed might have begun even BEFORE I finished getting the jacket situated. Startled, I threw my arms around my baby girl and braced myself for the ride. That's when I discovered that holding a child on my lap in a boat meant having my face assaulted by thousands of tiny, needle like whips. Who knew that hair could be classified as a dangerous weapon?

Okay, you can stop calling me a wimp now. I didn't cry or anything. It was just an unusual sensation. Really. Stop laughing at me or else I'm going to have to start writing birth stories. You don't want that do you? I didn't think so.

Hair whips aside, the ride down the canal was kinda wonderful. Clusters of elephant ear plants lined the banks. Every now and again I'd spy an ancient cypress tree dripping with Spanish moss. There was a wooden cabin just down a side canal that caught my attention. I would have loved to take pics of all of those things, but getting the camera out as we zoomed along doing 70 mph just wasn't happening. Finally, right before the canal opened up into the lake, I managed to get hubby to slow down enough for me to take a picture of the striking water lilies. I didn't, however, manage to get him to take the time to pull closer to the lilies, so unfortunately it isn't a very GOOD picture.

We sped off again and hit the lake itself. That's when the fun really began. As we bounced from wave to wave, our oldest daughter squealed in delight and our youngest daughter slid down to the floor gripping my legs as tightly as she could. Me? Well, while I was jolted up and down in my seat, I reflected heavily on my last cup of green tea. Drinking it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do. In fact, avoiding all liquids for at least two days before attempting the trip would have been surely been a much better option.

After an eternity of rough riding (it lasted at LEAST five minutes!) we arrived at our destination. The boats were tied up and everyone got into the water. Almost everyone. Anna (the youngest) wasn't quite ready to venture in, so I stayed in the boat with her while she built up her courage. After a bit, I realized that it wasn't fear of the water that was holding her back. Her little face showed a discomfort that I easily understood. She had to pee. I knew the feeling. Hubby overheard us discussing our mutual problem and told us to just go in the water.
I could do that.
Maybe not.
It wasn't going to happen.
Anna insisted that she couldn't either, but at least she was able to put her discomfort aside and begin to enjoy the water. I smiled and tried really hard to not think about the return trip across the lake. Eventually, I didn't have to worry not think about it anymore because it was happening. No, I don't mean that I was peeing in the lake...I mean that I was being bounced to death in the boat again. I'm pretty sure that at one point, my heart and stomach swapped places. What didn't move, thankfully, was my bladder. It kept it's size, shape and location all the way home thank you very much.

Later, just before bedtime, Anna made a small confession. She motioned me closer and whispered "Guess what? I pee'd a little bit on daddy when he held me in the water."

Ah, the unabashed joys of youth.