Thursday, February 28, 2013

Reflections from Dave

A year ago today, at this very hour, I was laying in the Shelby Emergency Room desperately seeking relief from a horrible stomach pain.  Just a few minutes later, around nine or so, I would be informed that I would be admitted to the hospital.  They gave me some pain medicine and the relief was instant.

When I agreed to go to the emergency room - at my wife's insistence - I never thought they would keep me.  I thought they would just think I was weak and dumb and would send me home.  I hoped they would not and had actually decided if the ER docs did send me home I would walk out of the hospital and come right back in to the ER.  The pain was intense and unbearable.  I remember telling Amanda, "There's something inside of me that has to come out." 

Little did I know that I would be in the hospital for ten days, undergo a major surgery, receive a cancer diagnosis and be discharged with  the promise of chemotherapy and the fear of dying young. 

February 28.  A day that will be ingrained in my memory forever.  A rebirth.  And for all of the trauma, uncertainty, nausea and pain, in retrospect I can honestly say that the past year has been one of the best of my life.  I have learned to put things (work)  into perspective, to enojy free time, to cherish my wonderful wife, children and family and to appreciate the mere fact that I get to be home with them at night.

But most of all, I have faced one of my greatest fears - the ominous "C" word - and so far, won.  I can honestly say that life is better today than February 28, 2012.  And even with all the challenges of the past year, it has been one of the best of my life.  What a tremendous blessing!  Praise be to God! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Oh February, you never fail to amaze me.

February is usually a ridiculous month for us. All of Ella's check up appointments fall during the month and there's always illness. Our house has seen strep throat, three sinus infections, and two ear infections in the last four weeks, and that includes me. I might have had a bit a bronchitis, too ("Ain't nobody got time for that!"), but whatever. The drugs were the same either way.

After all those doctor's appointments were over and antibiotics were underway, I had jury duty for the first time. And, I was actually picked to serve on a jury - which I'm still doing. They say the average case in this county lasts three days. Tomorrow will be day three. Dave is loving it because he wants to know what goes on in the jury room. I told him I'd take good notes. It has definitely been interesting.

Between doctors appointments and jury service, I've been doing a lot of watching and listening and waiting. I have some musings.

What does it say about me as a person that I felt profound relief when I overheard the doctor at the after hours clinic say that the little girl who was in the waiting room with us because she had been throwing up for days likely had appendicitis? Nothing good, especially given that my child was the contagious one with strep throat, but the longer I parent these children, the more creeped out I am by doctor's offices. I nearly lost my cool with Luke that same night because he kept getting on the floor in the exam room. Ick. I know what stomach viruses do in this house, and I'd take strep throat over that any day of the week.

On more than one occasion in the last three weeks, I've felt like cattle being shuttled around here and there, but most especially during the jury selection process. Come in, go out, take a break, hurry back, and wait. And American Family Care? Not much better than jury selection. I wouldn't have been there if my actual doctor's office worked a full week, but they don't and I needed to get myself checked before the weekend, so there I was questioning if that doctor even saw anything with that light she shined in the approximate vicinity of my mouth hole. Then the nurse came in with two shots and, I kid you not, I had to ask her, "Do we know what's wrong with me yet?" Cattle.

Having had shots in my love handles now, I can honestly say I'd rather just drop my pants and take it in the butt cheek. Why the love handles?

Ella doesn't wait well. As we were waiting for the pediatrician to check out Luke last Friday afternoon, she informed me that we had been waiting for 17 minutes and that "this [was] the worst thing that ever happened to [her] life." It was longer than 17 minutes, but I'm glad that's the worst thing to ever happen to her.

I'm convinced that all bailiffs are old. No offense to bailiffs, but every one I've ever met is old enough to be my grandfather. Our bailiff/concierge for the week spent some time telling us about how many pacemakers he's had, and about some of the more gruesome criminal trials he's sat through. I was encouraged to know that the cases disturbed him because I was quite disturbed while listening to his recounting.

Apparently wearing a badge that says "Juror" around the court house gives you status. I didn't have to put my purse in the bin to run through the x-ray machine after lunch today because of my badge. That makes me uncomfortable. I want to know that everyone in the courthouse had their bags and persons checked. I've read a lot of John Grisham; I know how suspect jurors can be.

Jury service isn't nearly as glamorous as Grisham makes it seem.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Nine Things I've Learned in Nine Years of Marriage

Dave and I have been married for nine years today. I decided to commemorate this anniversary with a list of nine things I've learned in my marriage.

Nine Things I've Learned in Nine Years of Marriage

1. Putting God in the center - in faith and in practice - makes our relationship stronger. We have lived a lot of things together, big and small, that could have torn us apart but we keep finding ourselves bound closer together. 

2. We make a good team. My attention to detail and his brute force combine so that we work very well together. Also, knowing each other well enough to know when to lend a hand helps, too. I have no idea how many times he has been about to lose his head over a poorly written instruction manual that I helped him sort out before he broke something. Or, how many times I needed him to hammer, tighten, or pry something that I just couldn't get done with my weak hands. There have been many, many occasions when we've rescued each other from DIY purgatory with our respective skills. It's not just home improvement; it's most things. We work well together.

3.  We can argue without having a full blown, ugly fight. It took us a while to figure this one out, but it is possible, and necessary. I've written about it before.

4. When I start to dislike him, I need to make some time for myself. Sometimes, he starts to grate on my nerves and there is nothing he can do that's right. Luckily, I realized years ago that what I need to do when that happens is retreat, because it's my attitude that needs adjusting, not his. Oh, he does occasionally get in a funk that requires an attitude adjustment (and that usually means he needs a break, too), but when I'm well-balanced, his funk doesn't irritate me. Also, it's not my job to adjust his attitude.

5. Kids ratchet everything up a notch. They make it louder, messier, busier, and crazier. If it's good, they make it better. If it's struggling, they make it harder. Plain and simple.

6. Words are powerful. They can tear down or build up, and the more intimate you are with someone, the more powerful the words you use with each other become. He's my life partner; I don't want to hurt him with my words.

7. He bakes better cookies than me. It's just the truth. I do most of the cooking because I like to cook and because he likes my cooking better than his own, but I will burn a cookie like it's my job. That's why cookies are his job.

8. Small, thoughtful gestures are a big deal (and he is so much better at this than me). Sometimes he fills my car with gas, or turns on the space heater in the bathroom so it will be warm when I get up to shower, or brings me something silly from the store just because he knows it will make me happy. He's really good at those things, and it makes me feel loved.

9. The better I know him, the more I love him. He's my favorite.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Nothing says "I love you" like...


We decided to go candy-less for Valentine's Day because our candy bowl has been fruitful and multiplied. Seriously, we're supposed to be down to the crap candy by Valentine's Day, but we're not. What is happening in there when we sleep at night?

Also, they have parties at school today, and we made white-chocolate-dunked-candy-sprinkled-birthday-cake-creme Oreos for them to give to their friends. The smell alone was enough to make my teeth ache. We didn't need anymore sweet things for Valentine's day, so we gave them Stompeez. Ella has only been asking for them since August. To say that she was excited is an understatement.

Luke loves his, too, but mainly because they are frogdragonalligators and they are his very own house shoes. His foot isn't big enough to make their mouths chomp yet, but he doesn't care. He was the only one who could be still long enough for a picture.

My Littlest Valentine
Isn't it funny how little kid excitement can suck you into a made up "holiday" that you previously swore off? Ahem.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sometimes Pinterest Irritates Me

I mostly triple-heart love Pinterest, especially the way it helps me do my meal planning every week, but sometimes it just makes me shake my head. These are tonight's offenders.

1. THIS is a muffin top?
If this is a muffin top, I'm packing half a dozen.
2. DIY car fabric redo for a custom look? I'm happy when my car isn't a rolling ocean of goldfish and Kool-Aid stickyness, and especially when it doesn't smell like stinking cheese.
In the words of Sweet Brown: "Ain't nobody got time for that!"
That is all. You're welcome.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Chore Charts are Changing Our Lives

Ella has been helping me with chores around the house since she was about 18 months old, but in the last year she's become really capable of doing some things without assistance. She can clean up her room, make her bed, sort her dirty laundry, put away the clean laundry, get herself dressed, brush her own teeth, use the bathroom, clear her plate from the table, etc. As she's become more capable, my expectations of her pulling her weight in our family have increased. I believe that every member of our family should contribute to the work that keeps our house neat and peaceful. Once they become able to pick up their socks off the floor and put them in the laundry basket, it's no longer my job. I still help them with these things as they are learning, of course, but I fully expect that they will do these things themselves as they get older. As members of our family, they have a responsibility to contribute to the upkeep of our house.

Ella is usually very willing to do things herself and quite helpful around the house. However, the morning rush to get her out the door had become very tedious, regularly breaking down into negative interactions for both of us. The Barbie mess on her bedroom floor had gotten completely out of control. The amount of nagging I've been doing lately is ridiculous, and she doesn't respond well to it (does anyone?). She doesn't like to be told what to do and I don't like stepping on Barbie junk and verbally dragging her through the morning routine. The more I tell her to put her shoes on, the longer she resists. She's just like her parents in that way. 

I stewed over how to solve this problem in a way that works for both of us. I need her to get up and dressed in the mornings without me nagging. I need her to straighten her room so that we can walk in there (and make it more inviting to be in there, or even have the door open). She needs autonomy - specifically, space and time to do the things that are expected of her without me hovering.

I had a chat with her so that we could problem solve together. We agreed that I would wake her up more gently by lying down and talking to her for a few minutes while she wakes up, and she would pick out her clothes the night before so they are ready and waiting to be put on in the mornings. That improved things quite a bit, but it didn't address the messy room.

After sending her in to clean up her room, then sending her in to try again, I locked her out of the room Sunday afternoon and cleaned it myself. I realized that the mess had become overwhelming for her. She really didn't know where to start cleaning it up. She had done most of what I asked, but the Barbie's were still partying all over the place - making it feel so much messier than it actually was. While I cleaned, I thought. (Because what else is there to do while you clean?) Then the solution hit me. She needed a list.

Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake, ya'll. She'd been telling me she needs a list since the one time I made her one when I needed her to do some things on the weekend and I didn't want her to stop playing to do it right then. She told me last week when she was so proud of herself for filling up her sticker chart at school because she did all of her jobs without being told. She needed a list of jobs at home.

I finished cleaning her room and I made two lists for her and taped them on her bedroom wall. (How do you make a list for a kid that can't read? With pictures. Her lists have the words and the pictures because I intend for them to stay on the wall for a while and she's learning to read.) I didn't say anything to her about them, I just waited until she found them. When she did, I explained that they are her lists of jobs to do each morning when she gets up and each evening before bed. I read them to her so she would know what they said (and be able to translate my pitiful drawing).

The child was so stinking excited about her lists that she has already made me amend them to add additional tasks. The lists have been up for three days now, and life has been so much easier. The room has stayed cleaner, she's getting up without a fight, and getting ready before it's time to leave. While I fully expect that some days will be better than others and sometimes I'll revert back to nagging her through the morning routine, I'm hoping that we can make this a lasting change in our house.

These are Ella's lists.

Morning Jobs
1. Make your bed.
2. Get dressed.
3. Put on your socks and shoes.
4. Use the potty.
5. Brush your hair. (her addition)

Bedtime Jobs
1. Put your shoes in the rack.
2. Put away the Barbies and their stuff.
3. Put away other toys and books.
4. Take your dirty clothes to the laundry room.
5. Pick out your clothes for tomorrow.
6. Take your medicine. (her addition)
7. Brush your teeth and potty. (her addition)

Will it work for Luke? I have no idea, but he is very interested in her lists. He might demand that I make him a list, too.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Luke's First Haircut

We finally did it. We had the man-cub's hair cut. Though I loved his wild hair, it had gotten a bit unruly, even for me. He'd started shoving it out of his eyes during gymnastics class and it couldn't decide if it was curly or straight.
We weren't ready for the close cut yet, so it's still a bit unruly but much neater looking than before. I'm pleased with it, and he seems to be, too.

The Evolution

He had a full head of soft, black baby hair at birth.
(That's Maunt Becca holding him.)

At his first birthday party.

At his second birthday party.

Just before the haircut. He was nervous.
We saved the curls for his keep box. I kind of hate that it probably won't go in a ponytail anymore so that he can sport the West Coast surfer look with his sweat pants and flip flops, but it was time.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Monkey Love

We took an impromptu trip to the zoo today, and saw a mama orangutan with her baby.
Mama and Baby
Every one of us was in awe of them. Baby was sleeping the whole time and mama only moved to kiss her baby's face, over and over again. She could have been me holding my sleeping babies for nap and kissing all over their faces. It was amazing, definitely my favorite thing at the zoo today day.

Friday, February 01, 2013


If you aren't familiar with Internet Mommy Jargon, WOHM means "work outside the home mom." There's also WAHM (work at home mom) and SAHM (stay at home mom). There's lots and lots of online discussion, often heated, about the virtues of all three. I'm not interested in debating which is better because I already know what is best for us. I can't say what's best for anyone else.

I shared an article on my Facebook page this week about things you shouldn't say to a working mom (because people make a lot of assumptions). That article and some other discussions I've had recently led me to spend some time thinking about my personal situation and how I got here.

I am a WOHM. I have a full-time job doing something that I genuinely enjoy. I have a work situation that is flexible enough for me to work around the kids' schedules so I can still be at school events and doctors appointments. I'm at a place in my home life where the kids are a little more self-sufficient and generally happy in the evenings.

It wasn't always that way. Going back to work after my maternity leave with Ella was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I did not want to leave her. I missed her with my whole being while I was away from her, and the evenings were rough because she was tired and ready for bed when I got home. For a while, I longed to be a stay-at-home-mom. Then we settled into the routine, and as she got a little older, the evenings got easier. I got busy with work and started enjoying it again. That's when the guilt settled in. I felt like I was supposed to want to be home with her, but I really enjoyed my job and the adult interaction it brought to my days.

Still, throughout my pregnancy with Luke, I tried to figure out a way to have more time at home. I thought I would need it with a second baby, and I thought they would need it. I very nearly quit my job to take a part-time job close to home. Thankfully, that didn't work out. During my maternity leave with Luke, I accepted some truths about myself.

1. I need forced social situations like work and church. I am truly an introvert. I struggle to create my own social situations, but work gives me a place to be social and have adult interaction.

2. I need more balance than being at home all the time gives me. After having a baby attached to my body in some form or fashion for most of the day or meeting the constant noise and needs of kids all day long, I need the time to sit quietly at my desk by myself. This need for alone time is part of the introversion.

3. I need to have something in my life that is my own thing. Part of my preparation for Luke's birth was enrolling Ella in preschool because I wanted her to have an activity that was just for her once he was born. I realized during my second maternity leave that I also need that. It helps me remember that before I was Mommy, I was Amanda. One of these days, they will be grown and living their own lives, and I need to make sure I remember that I am someone other than Mom when that happens.

4. I need to contribute to the family income - for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that preschool and extracurricular activities are important to me, and I couldn't justify those things if I didn't work.

When I went back to work after Luke was born, I went with a better understanding of what I need to be the mom my kids deserve, and I left the guilt behind. I desperately need the balance that working outside of my home brings me. I don't have as much time with them as I would if I stayed home, but I feel like they get a better me in the time I do have with them. I miss them when I'm at work and some mornings it's really hard to leave, but I appreciate the time we have together more because of that. I love weekends and vacations when I get to focus soley on them and Dave, and I love going back to work after those things to have some time for me.

Sometimes it really is hard to juggle everything, especially when the kids were babies, but right now I'm very happy with my work-family situation. The kids are happy, too. They love going to Grandmother's house every day and they love preschool. We've built a village for them and it's working really well.

I work for a lot of reasons, and one of them is simply because it's what I need to be a better mother.