/> Raising Angels: June 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

An Update on Dad

Yesterday was utterly exhausting. Something about kissing my dad goodbye before surgery made the dam finally break loose. Of course when they came in to tell us they had made the first incision, which got the tears flowing again. At that point we said a family Rosary in the waiting room and my mom and I cried our way through that as well. Knowing he was on the heart and lung machine was not easy either.

The rest of the morning was spent laughing over Modern Family and YouTube clips with my brothers, reading and chatting. When they came in to tell us that they were closing him up and that everything looked great, there was a collective sigh of relief and a lot of "Thank You Jesus" remarks. Instead of 4 to 6 hours of surgery, they were done in an hour and a half. Amazing!

It would be at least an hour before we could see him so we grabbed a bite to eat in the cafeteria. Have I told you how much I love my family? In a tremendous time of stress, we were there. My mom, my brothers and myself waited it out together. There were no harsh words or arguments. Instead there was laughter, prayer, some hand holding and yes, tears.

When at last we were allowed to go in together to the ICU there was a unanimous feeling of fear of what we would see but a strong desire to see him with our own eyes. Walking into that ICU seeing my dad on a vent with tubes coming out of almost ten different places on his body was overwhelming. He looked, well, not there. It was perhaps the hardest moment of the day for me.

We took turns staying with him through the rest of the day. By 4:30 he was doing well enough to be taken off the vent which made a big difference in his overall appearance. By 9:30 last night when I left, he was talking (although he was so loopy we were fighting over who got to sit with him in order to hear the hilarious things he said), sitting up and drinking.

So far today most of the tubes and wires have been removed, he's been up and walking - first with the walker and now without - and he's out of the ICU. Everyone at the hospital has told us how strong he is and how he's been one of the fastest bypass patients to leave the ICU.

You and I both know that none of this is short of miraculous. After all, when the doctor looked at his pre-bass heart, he said he only sees hearts like that in corpses. I thank you for your prayers. Among all the other emotions I felt yesterday, I felt a tremendous sense of support and love for all the people praying for us and checking in on me.

I don't know what people without faith do!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Not Sure There is a Direct Connection

"Hey guys, you remember Uncle Grant and Aunt Rachel?"

"Yes," was the unanimous reply.

"They had another baby. It’s a girl and they named her Violet."

"Wow!" observed Aiden. "I bet her favorite color is going to be purple."

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Heart of the Matter

I think I've mentioned that my next big event was to be a part of a relay team for the Half Ironman here in town. A friend of ours is an avid biker and approached me at a Christmas party about being on a team together. He assured me he didn't care about time and so I happily agreed. All we needed was a swimmer.

A few months ago I got a call from my dad. "I have this wild hair," said the man who has jumped out of airplanes in recent days, "that I might do the swimming leg for your half team." I have to admit I was a bit stunned. I wasn't sure it was the greatest idea. It doesn't sound like much but 1.2 miles is a long swim.

Once my teammate agreed and I wrapped my mind around the idea, I got really excited about not only participating in the world's largest Half Ironman, but doing it on a team with my dad. How cool is that?

As training ensued, I had lots of chats with him about his swimming. He was having some trouble. I told him to give it some time. After all, even though my dad is in great shape, it has been a long time since he swam. He continued but it was hard. About two weeks ago he told me I may need to find a new teammate. "You'll be fine," I assured him.

That same week he stopped by and mentioned in passing that he got out of the pool shaking and went to see his doctor, who detected some extra beats of his heart and hurried him off to the cardiologist for some tests. Still, I told him he'd be alright. He's never been really sick; surely his heart would be fine because of his exercise and diet.

Those tests led to a stress test which led to a heart cath. As the snowball got rolling I found myself wondering what if something was really wrong. What would my life be like without my dad? Funny, I don't remember ever having that thought. My dad lives less than a mile from me, jumps out of airplanes, works out almost daily and is still the one I call when Nelson is not around. It didn't take me long to realize that I did not like that picture...not at all. I decided right then and there not to entertain that thought again. The sadness was overwhelming.

My brother called to tell me the news. The cath showed that dad had two coronary arteries with 100% blockage. There was also partial blockage in three other places. The doctor said it was a miracle he was still alive. It's people like him who are fine and then they drop dead doing something like mowing the lawn. The blockages have been in his heart for a very long time, maybe twenty years or so. The bigger miracle was that because of his health and exercise choices over the last few years, there has been no permanent damage to the heart itself. His heart developed extra veins to feed itself. His exercise, in the words of the cardiologist, has saved his life. Furthermore, if he hadn't pushed himself through this swim training, which stressed the heart more than usual, we would have never known anything was wrong.

Bypass surgery was scheduled for this Wednesday and then they sent him home from the hospital because the recommended surgeon was unavailable. They didn't see him as an immediate risk since he had lived with his heart like this for so long. The plan is to do five grafts.

My poor mother, as you can imagine, is a nervous wreck. Being a nurse, she knows full well all that can go wrong and has let us know in no uncertain terms that anything to do with the heart is a very big deal. She's been sent home with a time bomb and has been given the task of making my dad take it easy...which, believe me, is no small task. I don't envy her job and if I were her, I'm pretty sure I would react in the same manner.

My brother from Kansas City is on his way here as I type. We're hosting a cookout tomorrow to spend some family time together before the big surgery and hospitalization that will follow. Then we'll all be at the hospital Wednesday to be there for our parents the way they have been there for us all of our lives.

I find myself unusually unworried about all of this. I understand fully (at least as fully as a nonmedical mind is capable of) what's going on but I'm not worked up about it. Funny how faith can do that for you.

Instead of worry, I am amazed at how God has kept my dad safe all of these years. I marvel at His plan sending the Holy Spirit to nudge my dad into the whole swimming thing. I am grateful for his family doctor who listened carefully enough to catch the irregularity, the cardiologist who did the same as well as the doctor who did the heart cath. I am confident in the surgeon because all of the doctors dealing with my dad have used this same surgeon on their family members. I am also clinging to the his promise that he was adding time on to dad’s life...not a few years, but ten to twenty years.

Now don't get me wrong, if God has something other than my dad's quick recovery and perfect health in mind, I may not be singing this same song. I will be mad (no offense God, I'm just sayin'). But, even if that happens, I still have faith enough to know that God's plan is better than mine, not that I always agree with it. I know that God loves my dad even more than I do and that He can take much better care of him than I can.

Open heart surgery was not what any of us had hoped for, but it is what it is. Truth be told, I think that once my dad recovers, he is going to be unstoppable. If he could do all that he did with a heart as weak as his, imagine what he'll be able to do with one that's working at full capacity. My dad, after all, is the real Superman.

So the Half Ironman may not be in the cards this year but next year - next year, we are going to have one heck of a race. I'm going to be able to say that I was on a team with a man who is a walking (or rather swimming) miracle and it's going to be glorious!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I've Been Bitten

I haven't posted much this week because it seems I've caught a bit of a bug. It's been so long since I've had it that I had forgotten how quickly it comes on and how suddenly it takes over. But, to tell you the honest to goodness truth, I'm loving it.

Ok, I'm not really sick; I've caught the decorating bug. Remember way back when we were building, and building, and building the house? I was pregnant (at least for the last little bit) and basically took on decorating the house as a full time job. If you see it in the house, I chose it - tile, lights, plumbing fixtures, paint, tile...you get the picture. It was exhausting and confusing but, well, kind of fun too. The end result was a house that we love and one woman tired of making decorating decisions for awhile.

Fast forward three years and that's kind of where I still am. We have a few photos on the walls but not many. I'm not sure if it was a conscious decision or just running out of steam that halted all progress on making our house more of a home. I've never shopped for curtains, furniture besides the necessities, or decorations of any kind.

Of course there was that whole having a newborn who grew into a toddler who didn't toddle and then all that therapy. There was the fact that I worked last year a little and this year part-time. And well, the whole economy crashing had an effect on us too which meant funds have been, shall we say, a little tight for awhile. Hmm... no wonder I didn't do anything.

Around Christmas I won a gift certificate to a local decorator's store and happened upon a little sign I fell in love with for the laundry room. It's the second smallest room in the house, but when Nelson hung the sign for me, I caught the vision for the room. And then I had to go back to work and all forward momentum screeched to a halt.

While the boys were out of town last week, I managed to clear out the nursery to make way for a real live guest room. The very day I finished, I got a note from my cousin asking if they could come for a visit in July. Nothing like house guests to light the fire.

With the kids in vacation bible school and golf camp this week, I had a few free hours every day. Nelson gave me a budget and off I went. The curtain shopping totally overwhelmed me. I realized the reason I've never done it was that I have no idea what I like. As you can imagine, that did not help with the shopping.

Then I found what I decided I wanted way back in December for the laundry room. It was a cute cafe curtain that went perfectly. I went with a simple extension rod, got home, ironed the curtain and hung it myself. Viola! One room done and suddenly I was ready to move on.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sometimes You Just Don't Feel Like It

After assigning everyone a chore this morning, Max sang, "Today I don't feel like doing anything," in perfect tone. Then he looked at me and said, "I have a good idea Mama. How about when I sing that song, I don't have to do anything I don't want to?"

*Disclaimer: My children do NOT know the words to this inappropriate song. Unfortunately the first line that sends me reaching for the volume/fast forward/power button is very catchy.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Holy Rock Star

Every year for our anniversary, in lieu of gifts, Nelson and I elect to do something together. We figure that time together is always better than stuff. This year he surprised me with a trip to Atlanta's Lakewood Amphitheater to see Heart and Def Leppard in concert. What can I say? I married an 80’s fan.

Now I've never been a huge fan of "hard" rock but I love live entertainment so I was game. After waiting out a huge thunderstorm and power outage, we finally got in and rocked it out big time. With the first strum of Nancy Wilson's guitar I was taken back to my high school days. So we threw our hands up with rock fingers extended and danced and screamed with the best of them. We had so much fun!
We stayed the night in Atlanta so this morning when we woke up we did some research on local churches and mass times. We finally settled on attending mass at the Catholic Center on the Georgia Tech campus.

The congregation was made up of about 70 people, most of whom were college students dressed in everything from sundresses to shorts and flip-flops. It was a totally different experience than what we had experienced last night, and for that I was glad. Rocking it out for a bit is fun but it's certainly not something I want to do all the time.

The moment the priest started talking I knew we were in for a great experience. He had the joy and magnetism of a man who not only loves the Lord, but who genuinely enjoys being a priest.

His homily did not disappoint. He spoke of the Trinity in a way that was totally memorable for the young crowd (and those of us a little beyond our college years). He spoke the truth in a way that was exciting and inspiring. I was immediately drawn in to what he was saying. What I happened was the most spiritual experience I have had during mass in a long time. He radiated Jesus and I wanted to catch some of the light.

In the midst of my prayer during mass it occurred to me that this young priest was every bit the rock start that the bands we heard last night are. I found myself being very grateful that I felt that way and that I realize that Jesus is a much bigger deal than any band I will ever see.

We stayed to talk to Father after mass to tell him what a great job he was doing. He asked what brought us to town. In the conversation that followed he told us that he was actually a bit of a rocker himself and that in fact he liked Heart so much he had them on video. His parting words to us were in fact, “Rock On! Barracuda!” See? Rock Star!

There is a time and place for rock and roll, but there is never a time or place I want to be without Jesus.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Momentary Mush

The big project I've been working on this week with only half of my family in town is turning the nursery into a guest bedroom. We moved Max upstairs with the big kids months ago but that really only meant that he slept up there. The rest of his stuff was still downstairs.

This week I finally bit the bullet and went through all the stuff. I'm happy to report that by the end of Tuesday, the room was devoid of all Max's things but the furniture. I stood there in that empty space and felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I was utterly amazed at what I could do given some undivided time.

While I was standing there, it occurred to me that it would be tough to use this as a real guest room with a changing table and kid's dresser in it, so I snapped a few photos of them and posted them on Craig's List the next day. The furniture was really too much for us to store "just in case" and I figured if we do ever need it again, we'll buy some actual furniture that can grow with the kid.

I was surprised by the activity on my listing and by today I had people coming to look at the stuff. The first couple that came was expecting their second child in 4 weeks and already had a 15 month old in arms. She walked in, loved the stuff, handed me the money and it was gone.

Then it hit me...it was gone. This was the furniture I was looking at when my water broke before I had Mackenzie, the furniture I spent hours upon hours changing diapers on, the furniture that held the books I read to all of my babies. It wasn't just furniture, it was part of the family...my family and now it was gone.

Funny, I didn't think some cheap furniture would affect me as emotionally as it did. Whether or not this is the end of this part of our lives, only God knows. It is however, the end of one part of this stage - the stage when I had three kids under four, the stage when we built a house while I was pregnant and moved when Max was two weeks old, the stage that made us who we are.

Oh, tomorrow I will be fine and I will rejoice in an empty room that I get to make pretty all over again. I will be happy with the cash in my pocket and I will move on. Tomorrow I will do those things, but tonight, tonight I will be remiss for a moment longer. I will play back all those sweet memories and I will not go back in that empty room for fear of becoming a big puddle of mush.

Time marches on even in our little home and sometimes I need a moment to just take it all in.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Spot of Tea

I have all but given up on buying gifts for my parents. They've been around awhile so there's not much that they need. And, on the off chance that they actually need something, they go out and get it. With the house paid for and all of us gone, they can do things like that. More power to them I say!

Unfortunately, on gift-giving occasions, that kind of leaves the rest of us at a loss. What do you give people who don't need anything?

When I was a kid I remember my mom asking for things like, "I just want you kids to be good," and "How about just one day of peace?" My response was always the same, "That's nice Mom, but what can I buy you?"

Now that I have achieved motherhood, I totally get those requests. In fact, I've been know to make them myself. So, even though it took me awhile, I think I've finally figured out how to give them what they love...time.

When I heard about a new place that offered high tea, Mother's Day was in the bag. The only problem was that it only has parties on the weekends and doesn't open until 11:30 on the weekdays which means we had to wait until school was out to cash in on the gift. But today, with the big boys in Florida and Max at a friend's, us girls - we.had.tea!

The tea room was cute and girly and just what we needed. We chatted and lingered and taught Mackenzie the art of drinking tea with her pinky extended.

There's just something about my very own pot of tea that felt so indulgent. Of course the raw sugar, dainty cup and tiny spoon with a tea pot on it didn't hurt.

And the food? Well it was just as dainty and girly as the rest of the place. I tried to snap a picture of the tower of scones accompanied by their Devonshire cream, lemon curd and strawberry preserves but they were devoured before I could pull the camera out. I did get a picture of the tower of treats that came out next, complete with its cucumber, chicken salad and pimento cheese sandwiches, but this photo, with Mackenzie's gaze of total awe...well, it was much better than the one of the food.

It was a simple pleasure. Time with the girls; time to sit and sip; time to enjoy. Time. Well. Spent.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

God's Plan for Me

Seems God has a theme going in my life this summer. He's been talking to me a lot about relaxing a little bit, taking it easy and enjoying the moment. He's also been proving to me that I can do those things and still be able to do what I need to do.

Today He drove His point home in an unusual way. I had an early run on the books while Max and Mackenzie were still asleep, followed by a nice hot breakfast and then on to the big project of the day.

That was the plan except that sometime in the night a little hand tapped my arm and asked, "Mama, can I snuggle with you?" I was too tired to say no, so in he climbed. When the alarm went off at 6 I hit it fast so I wouldn't wake him. He'll be up soon, I thought, I'll run then. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

When he finally shoved off the covers, it was ten o'clock in the morning. How is that possible? This is my kid who wakes at 7 like clock work.

This was not the morning I had planned, but I'm beginning to see it's not all about my plan. God has something different in mind for me and why I hope every morning doesn't start quite so late, I'm not going to complain about a good, solid night's sleep or God’s plan for me.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Thirteen years ago today I said, "I do," to my very best friend. I loved him so much that day I thought I would burst. Today I am wide open with the depth of that love.

Nelson, I love you! Happy Anniversary!

Thursday, June 09, 2011


Tomorrow I'm taking the kids to Tampa, FL to visit their Uncle Aaron. We'll leave early in the morning and hopefully get there in time for dinner, spend time Saturday doing something fun, go to church on Sunday and then head home...without Aiden and Dawson. Yep, Uncle Aaron wants to keep them for the week.

The boys are crazy excited and so is Aaron (we'll see how long that lasts). Funny thing is that by the time Mackenzie, Max and I return home, Nelson will be in Kansas City visiting my brother Kevin. My mind is mulling over what I will do with three whole days with only two kids in the house.

There are projects...lots and lots of projects and errands to be done. There is that temptation to clean like crazy because it might stay that way for longer than two minutes with only two kids to mess things up. Then there is that other side of me that says, maybe, since everyone else is on vacation, maybe we should do one of those "staycations". Hmm...high tea, nails done, pools floated in, and dinners out sounds kind of fun.

I'm not sure if I can do that. I'm getting better at it but the "let's get things done" side of me is much stronger after years of working out. And, just as in exercise, it hurts to use those week muscles.

We'll see which side gets its workout next week. Until then, happy weekend to you!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Chickens Don't Grow on Trees

"What's for dinner Mama?" Aiden asked on the way home from the pool.

"We're having pork chops with green beans and rosemary potatoes that came right out of the garden. That's pretty cool isn't it?"

"You mean they came right out of the ground? That is pretty cool. It's too bad you can't grow meat, then we could have homemade everything. Can you grow meat?"

"Well, yes."

"Really? How does meat grow?"

"You don't really grow it but you can raise animals like they do on farms and then eat them," I explained.

"Wow! I would NOT want to be a chicken or a cow.”

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Read My Lips

I was stealing a few minutes away at the pool today reading a book, something I rarely get the chance to do...just for fun. I zoomed through two whole pages when my silence was broken by a dripping wet Max.

"Mama" he asked as he dampened my arm with his hand,” will you please push me on the swing?"

I looked up into those pathetic little eyes and said, "Sure buddy, just give me a minute." I thumbed through the pages and realized I was only a page and a half away from the end of the chapter. "Let me read these last two pages and I'll be right there."

"Okay," he said rather impatiently. I tried to hurry through the page but it was hard to concentrate with two intense eyes staring at me. He once again put his wet hand on my arm and leaned in close. Then he leaned in even closer until he was almost nose to nose with me. "You're not really reading."

"I'm trying to buddy but you're kind of distracting me."

He looked closely and observed, "How can you be reading? Your lips are not moving at all!"

Monday, June 06, 2011

A Lesson in Fun

Today was preceded by an afternoon yesterday that involved Mackenzie going to the river and then to spend the night with a friend and Nelson playing golf and having dinner with the guys. Consequently, my afternoon was spent with some rather sad boys wondering why they never get to do anything fun.

So this morning after Nelson left for work and the equation was the same as the day before, I decided that I could do something to change the atmosphere. "Hey guys, what do you think about heading to a water park this morning?"
We drove across town to a little water park and playground. Granted, it was not a water park of the major water park variety. It was more like a really grand set of sprinklers. However, I explained to them that today was their turn to have a little fun. And that's exactly what we did.
I'm finding that I am getting the hang of this relaxing thing a lot better than I have in past years. Yes, there was laundry to be done. Yes, I have lots of projects on my list. However, after spending the year feeling bad about missing out on time with my kids, I am realizing that it is both okay and necessary to do a little playing together sometimes too.
This has not always been the easiest thing for me. I find it incredibly hard to just be. And why I did make a few phone calls while I watched them play, I also pushed them on the swings and oohed and ahhed over their conquests.
I began to notice things like, oh my goodness, when did Dawson get so tall? What happened to my little Kindergartner? Isn't it great the way Aiden and Dawson still love to play with each other?
And where, oh where, did my baby go? Seriously, he's in the 90th percentile for his height.
He was a bit timid about the sprinklers at first. He was much more concerned about munching on his spicy Doritos than getting wet.
And, wouldn't you know that the kid would find it much more fun to jump in the mud puddles than run through the sprinklers? Every time I see him run, jump and climb, I am so thankful. I also find myself thinking how this is totally good therapy for him. I then wonder if this is they way I will think the rest of his life.
In the very next moment I try to catch him going down the slide and he's by faster than my camera can catch him. But I see the glimpse of a boy who is totally content with his life. I see his big, beautiful smile and hear his sweet laugh and I remind myself to learn from him.

We couldn't see the park at all where we parked, but as we were holding hands moving towards it, he caught sight of it and looked up at me and said, "Mama, this is my best day ever!" Really now, who cares how fast he runs?

So here I capture a picture of my three little amigos. Today was their day. We went from the park to lunch because we were very hot and hungry and twenty minutes from home. Their little eyes lit up as we walked into the restaurant. They were so very happy and thankful to have their very own meals with drinks and not to have to share.

And somehow, after lunch and a grocery store run, as I was making dinner and doing laundry I thought to myself that I may have found the balance. Having fun with the kids doesn't mean I can't get anything done. What it means is that the most important thing is getting done and I hope that's a lesson I never forget.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Donut Day

Today was National Donut Day and the kids and I hit three...yes, three Krispy Kreme shops to get our free totally unhealthy circles of deliciousness. We absolutely did not eat all three of our donuts (I can draw the line somewhere), but we did wash down the ones we consumed with some 50 cent slushes from Sonic's happy hour.

Lest you think we wasted the entire day in search of free food, I also washed all the sheets, made an amazing pound cake (overkill after the donuts but we had guests for dinner and I didn't think Krispy Kreme glazed pieces of Heaven would be appropriate) and homemade zucchini bread, as well as take all 4 kids to the library and watch an extra child for 5 hours. We also brought dinner to a friend with a new baby and had some friends over for dinner. So, even though my husband is currently sleeping on a bed with no sheets(why, he did not put the clean sheets which were sitting ON TOP of the bed on, I have no idea), I think it was a pretty productive summer day.

As I was pushing to get dinner finished and the kitchen cleaned before the guests arrived, I had a brief tinge of guilt at having spent so much time goofing off with the kids. But then I remembered that it was summer and wasting a bit of time with my kids is totally in the plan. I sighed with relief that I did what I did. These crazy outing are the stuff of which lifetime memories are made (my brothers and I still talk about the Lord's Day Meals at the gas station grand opening - eating hotdogs on the curb).

After the third donut shop I did discern that the kids were pretty thirsty. When I realized it was 2 o'clock, I announced to everyone that we were going to get some slushes on the way home. "Three Krispy Kremes AND Sonic slushes?" Aiden asked in utter amazement. "This is like the best day EVER!"

Now that's what I'm talking about!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Finale...Finally

I finally finished with the teacher work days today. The year is officially over and I celebrated by once again staying up until the wee hours trying to record it all. Hopefully tomorrow, sleep will ensue. Just in case you're up and need something to read, you can go here to find out about our last day of school.

Good night.