/> Raising Angels: February 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm On to You Kid

When the kids are going in and out of the house to play, and let's face it, there is a whole lot of going in and out when kids are involved, we make them use the garage door. We have a back door but it opens into our living room and I'd much rather have all the sand, dirt and leaves they drag in with them in our garage and laundry room than my living room.

The kids, however, don't like using that garage door because it requires a whole 30 more steps to reach it from the backyard. I keep the back door locked to remind them of this method of entry we've developed. Consequently, I see a whole lot of sad faces that come to the back door and knock incessantly while I point them in the right direction.

This afternoon, Max came in from playing to get a drink of water. I stopped dinner prep and granted his request. He tugged on my leg and looked up at me with his Puss 'N Boots eyes and asked, "Can I go back outside through the back door," and there was a pause, "because you LOVE me?"

"I love you too buddy, but you still have to use the garage door.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Never Say Never

I've often said that you should never, ever tell God, "I'll never...". I'm pretty sure He laughs hysterically when we do.

For instance, in my lengthy time of waiting for a husband, I did, on many occasions, tell people, "I'll never marry a younger man." Nelson is almost three years my junior (I do hold strong to the fact that I look younger - wink, wink).

When I was in college, I said, "I would never be able to teach in an elementary school." Last year the fourth grade fell into my lap. I loved it.

When I cried my eyes out over having to give up directing our high school plays after fifteen years, my mom consoled me by saying, "One day you'll be directing your own kids in their plays." I answered this with a definitive, "Elementary plays? No way, that would be awful!" This year in addition to directing my second fourth grade play, I've also ended up with the third grade one. It is so stinkin' fun!

And I have, on many more than one occasion in my life, said that I absolutely, positively hate asking people for money. This led me to the logical conclusion that I should never get into sales.

Guess who's in charge of getting corporate sponsors for this year's Glory Run.

It's actually kind of funny how this happened. Nelson, who does sales for a living and is really quite spectacular, was asked to take on this job. This would be a good fit, thought the powers that be. The only problem was that Nelson, in addition to working 60 to 70 hours a week, is on the board of our local credit union, the parish council, the financial committee in our community, Cub Scout troop leader, and landlord.

"Babe," I told him one night as he headed out for another meeting, "you've got to tell them you can't do this. They need to choose where they need you most and get someone else to fill in the gap. You're going to kill yourself."

Well he came home that evening he told me, "You'll be so proud of me doll. I told them I couldn't do it."

"Nelson, that's great. I'm so glad. Who are they going to get to take your place?"

A big grin spread across his face, "You!" he enthusiastically revealed.

"Right," I said knowing he had to be kidding, but the grin did not go away. "You are kidding right?" Still nothing. "Nelson! I can't do that. I don't sell. I hate that!"

I hemmed and hawed for several more minutes before I finally gave in. He somehow convinced me that not only could I do it, but that I would be great. I told you he was a spectacular salesman!

The jury is still out on that but I'm going to give it a shot. Oh yeah, I can totally hear the laughter God. I get it. I'm not going to say, "I'll never..." ever again. I'd say that I should just probably say that I'm willing to do anything, which in theory I am, but in practicality I'm not sure that statement would garner any different results.

Basically, the truth of the matter is that I want to do what I want to do. I want it to be easy and fun and use my best talents. I'm not a big fan of stretching and growing. I'm not too keen on humility either. What can I say? I'm human.

Thankfully, God doesn't let me plan out my life. He chooses the road less traveled (at least by me), and that has made all the difference.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Greatest Place on Earth

This afternoon a friend sent me a text that she was pulling together a flash mob for her mom tonight at 7:45. The message said the purpose was to show her we love her and lift her up before she begins chemo in the morning. It also noted, "Please forward this to everyone you know."

Within fifteen minutes I received the same text from at least four more people.

At 7:42 (we only live about five houses down), Nelson and I walked down the street. We were joined on our walk by four other families coming out of nearby houses. When we got to our destination we saw over 100 friends who had gathered on the front lawn to surprise this sweet lady.

We sang three quick songs, prayed for her and were gone. Just like that.

Except, it wasn't just like that. When we walked upon the scene there was a tangible sense of love in the air. The look on her mom's face when she saw all of us was absolutely priceless. And as we walked back home among several families who live with in a stone's throw, we commented, "We live in the best place in the world!"

And we do. It's real. It's amazing. And if you don't believe me, come see for yourself. I have a guest bedroom!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Added to the Annals of Everyone Wants a Pet but Me

"Mama, do you know that Matthew has two cats?", Aiden let me know over dinner.

"No I didn't."

"George and Sophie," Mackenzie let me know.

"We don't have any cats," lamented Aiden.

"We don't have a dinosaur either," Max added.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Maximilian!

Dearest Max,

This morning you woke up before the sun in the wee morning hours. I wished you a Happy Birthday and you asked, "Am I four now?" When I confirmed that indeed you were you said, "I don't feel older." Then, you looked at yourself quite closely and noted, "I'm not any bigger."

It was the sweetest moment. Yes, you have grown...in so many ways. And buddy, I totally feel you when you wonder at your own age. We did this one up big in the area of growing up. We put away the booster chair and the car seat. You were even willing to let me put up the plastic plates and cups.

Although, words don't do my feelings for you any justice at all, I'm going to try. I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. I thought I really wanted a girl but I was so glad I had a boy because I adore your name. My pregnancy was pure torture between the leg pains and finishing the house but you, oh you were worth every bit of the sacrifice and then some.

You were by far the most peaceful and happiest baby. And, knock on wood, have been the easiest kid. You are loving, kind, funny and content. I hope you never lose any of those qualities.

Perhaps my favorite one of all is your willingness to spontaneously blurt, "I love you Mama," anytime, anywhere. Lately you've added, "You're awesome Mama," to the list. More times than not, you dole out a kiss or hug to go along with your words. It makes me melt and you know it. Besides the spontaneous exclamations, you also strategically throw them out when you know you're in trouble. Did I mention how smart you are?

I love you with all my heart Maximilian and I am so grateful God gave you to me.


P.S. I'm working on a special project that more fully demonstrates all the ways you've grown, but until then enjoy the photo above. It is you seriously contemplating a very important decision. You're striking out on your own while still holding my hand. That's what I love. I want you to remember that I will always be here for you. Whether it's choosing a cupcake or a vocation, I will let you make that leap forward, but I'll hold your hand every step of the way.

Friday, February 17, 2012

She Has Arrived

Mackenzie just walked in from her big night out and as she stood in the low light telling me of her adventure she looked so mature I almost burst into tears. Tears of sadness that the little girl I adore is gone. Tears of joy at the young lady she has become. Tears of amazement at her stunning beauty. Wow.

Seven Quick Takes - Late Edition

1. I'm writing this now in the dark because I'm trying to stay awake until my daughter gets home. I'm not ready for this to be the case since she's only eleven. Didn't think it would be hard to stay awake. Alright, she's out with my mom seeing Riverdance, but I still have to be up to open the door.

2. As I was sweeping the dining room floor tonight I heard someone knocking on something (sounded like a window and not my door) and then yell my name. I know I was not imagining it because Nelson came out wondering what the noise was. I made him look around and he didn't see anyone. Totally creepy.

3. I had lunch with Nelson today. I love that he's my favorite person. I love that it feels indulgent to steal a moment with him in the middle of the day. Also, I loved my calzone.

4. Between 3:15 and 6 today I cleaned out the garage, the front, side and back yards; moved the trampoline; took Max to the doctor; swept the back porch and started the grill; made dinner; and helped the boys prime their Pinewood Derby cars. Those moments of extreme productivity make me feel like Supermom.

5. Watched a few extra kids between preschool and picking up the big kids. On the way home I thought about my two options. Bring the kids home and have the house destroyed or take them all to the park. Called a friend and met her there. Best decision ever!

6. I made a decision today that made me a total hero in the eyes of one son. Okay, so the park wasn't the best decision of the day. Heroic status totally beats park.

7. My baby turns 4 next week. All he wanted to do was to have everyone eat dinner at Chick-fil-A. This, I thought, was a fantastic idea...no cooking, no clean-up, easy. It was the perfect plan...until Aiden informed me that Max's birthday is on Ash Wednesday. Maybe next year.

And, now I'm done with Quick Takes and I'm still waiting. I might pass the time by reading some of yours here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

God's Little Gifts

In my experience I've found that people tend to enjoy the things they do the best. If you take a look at your kid's report cards, he usually has the highest grades in the subject he likes the most.

As adults we gravitate towards the things we do the best. Of course, life does not always hand us only the things we do well. Some things we have to learn. Some things we never really get a handle on. A lot of things we have to do because they need to be done.

For instance, I mop my floors not because I'm good at it or I love it, but because if I don't the house will be infested with bugs and I'd hate that. I don't love running and I don’t do it well, but I do it anyway because I need exercise in my life.

Sometimes though, it seems as if all the stars align and you get the chance to do something you're good at and you love and you have so much fun you could almost burst.

Those moments are God's little gifts.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Purpose of a Scar

Yesterday, the final bandage came off of Max's nose. We kept it as clean and dry as we could but it came off anyway. Of course the plastic surgeon said this would happen, but he also paired that with the statement, "The longer you can keep that on, the less scarring you will see." Good motivation to keep it on as long as possible.

In the weeks leading up to the surgery, I worried about the surgery and Nelson worried about the size of the scar that would be left on Max's face. To me, the scar was a small price to pay. To Nelson...it was his FACE.

As the sun shone through the window in my bathroom and I finally took off the bandage that was now hanging by a thread, the scar was revealed. It was, as the surgeon warned, much larger than what we had seen on the surface. However, as far as scars go, and considering there were five stitches, I thought it looked great. I'm guessing when the irritation goes down and the skin gets a chance to heal, it will hardly be noticeable (at least that's what I told Nelson).

Tonight though, it jumped out at me when I gave Max a kiss. For a brief moment, I felt bad. Of course, every time I do this, I remind myself of Harrison Ford. He has a facial scar and did pretty well for himself...looks pretty good too if you ask me.

However, tonight I was not thinking about Harrison Ford. I was thinking about the scar. Scars serve as a reminder of how something that was hurt has healed. Max's reminds me of how scary the whole ordeal was and how little a remnant of it is left. It reminds me that we can make it. We can heal. It reminds me of God's care for my boy.

That little scar is beautiful, because it is now a part of Max. And Max, well, he's beautiful because he's Max.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Surgical Synopsis

It's taken a week of surgeries and recoveries for me to gather all the pictures and videos, but I think you’ll find they’re worth the wait.

This first photo is the last one of the cyst that was removed from Max's face. We first noticed it in October when we were at the beach. It was very small so we thought it was caused by sunscreen and sand and was just a simple blemish that would go away. Three months and three-sizes bigger, we finally decided it was something more than a pimple and went to see the pediatrician who recommended a dermatologist who sent us to the plastic surgeon who finally said he could handle it.

In the picture it looks small but under the surface it was much larger and it would have continued to grow if we didn't have it taken out.

Because he wasn't allowed to eat or drink after midnight, and he is my big morning eater, I opted to keep him up until 10PM the night before and let him eat a big bowl of cereal. We brought him to the hospital in his pajamas to allow him to sleep as long as possible before we had to leave at 6AM.

By the time we got through registration, he was ready to play. This kid is an ace at Angry Birds!

After the third medical person came to visit us in the surgical wing, he caught on to what was about to happen and got a little nervous. That didn't last for long though. Once he spotted his image in the paper towel holder on the wall, he was back to his normal antics.

We had a heart to heart with his anesthesiologist about his condition and its risks regarding general anesthesia. It was during this conversation that Max became acutely aware of the impending surgery and climbed up into my lap. The doctor explained the process he was going to use before he left to get ready.

The first step was a Versed cocktail Max drank like his normal cough syrup. "This is to relax him," explained the doctor, "as well as you. It's a lot easier for you if we don't have to pull him out of your arms and drag him kicking and screaming to the operating room. This way he won't care."

Max was hesitant to drink the stuff and complained that it tasted "yucky", but he got it all down. He continued to sit in my lap while we waited for it to do its thing.

During this time we met his surgical nurses, who made his acquaintance by giving him a shiny new car he got to carry into surgery. He played with it while I wondered when this drug was going to take him out.

When the nurse came to check on him, Nelson said, "His eyes are definitely getting heavy." Since he was in my lap, I couldn't really see him. However, when Nelson took this video, I knew Max was a goner.

The surgeon came in for the second time and told us what to expect and then the nurses came to get him. They were very sweet and empathetic. One of them took one look at my grasp on him and said, "You know, I think we'll just carry him back. That okay?"

He kissed us both goodbye and went to her without hesitation, or much body control for that matter. As she walked away with my soft lump of an angel, he rested his head on her shoulder and slurred, "I can waal-ulk." We all laughed and then he was out of sight. The doctor was right, that did make it easier.

The surgeon came in about thirty minutes later to tell us Max was fine. The cyst was much larger than he thought and he was glad we got it out when we did. He told us Max was still in the operating room and then he'd go to recovery for a bit before coming back to us.

This was the hardest part of the day for me. You mean my baby is going to wake up and I'm not going to be there? This was not how I pictured it. It's funny how knowing he was okay did not take away my fierce desire to hold him in my arms and let him know everything was okay.

I didn't have to mull that over very long though. When I heard the, "Awws," from the staff at the desk, I knew he was on his way. It was the only moment I cried. He looked so small on that big surgical bed. His body was limp, his arm was bandaged to keep the IV in place and his finger was attached to a monitor. It was not how any mother pictures her child. It mattered not one iota that he was fine. I need to have him...NOW.

As I stood over him, trying to hold back my tears, the nurse said, "Would you like to hold him?" I had my arms around him before she finished her sentence. There was some untangling of wires and lowering of the arm of the bed, but I had him and I wasn't letting go.

The staff giggled as they told us of how he was speaking in tongues to them back in recovery. They were right. It was a little disconcerting to watch him force out some slurred sounds. When he found the strength to open his heavy eyes, they were bouncing around like a humming bird at a feeder.

It was sad, scary and funny all at the same time; however, because I knew his siblings would never believe how out of it he was, we recorded it.

It took him about 45 minutes to get coherent enough for me to be able to take him home. The nurse took out the IV and Max sounded a bit like E.T. when he responded with, "O-u-c-h!" in a slow, slurred and low voice. Once the wires were out he needed to go potty.

At this point it was a lot like having an intoxicated three year old. He couldn't walk or stand, or really hold himself up. Going potty was no small feat. Trying to hold him while also trying to help him aim ended up with us both almost landing in the toilet but we made it out of the bathroom unscathed.

After that little experience, I did decide that it would be wise to take him to the car in the wheelchair since I had already sent Nelson back to work. Of course, he couldn't really sit up either and the chair was so big that we had to put him in the "Batcave" so he didn't end up on the floor. That day I thanked God he was still in the car seat because those shoulder straps kept him up on our drive home.

Once home, he was talking much better, but still not himself. He would get up and tell me he wanted to walk and then fall to the floor. I finally convinced him to stay on the couch and I sat on the floor next to him to prevent any accidents.

When it was all said and done, he ended up with five stitches covered with some steri-strips to help prevent scarring. The most challenging part was keeping those on, clean and dry for a week.

I am thankful it's over and that he did so well. I hope we don't have to do that again for any of the kids...ever.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

Apparently, three surgeries in a week’s time are not good for blogging. It's been over a week; but considering what that week looked like, I gave myself a little pat on the back for pulling out the computer at all.

It started last Tuesday with the first (of many says my doctor) vein closure surgery. I've struggled with what I thought was one really bad vein since I was pregnant with Max and it's gotten progressively worse with time. Last summer, when I finally decided that it wasn't selfish to see if something could be done about it, I began a nearly six-month process that led to Tuesday.

The procedure is really not that big of a deal. It’s a simple day surgery that you're out for but are up as soon as it's over. You actually walk off the table, get dressed and go back home. Only when you've never had a real surgery (other than my wisdom teeth out and a growth removed from an eye-lid), it’s a little scary. Combine that with the fact that my surgery was scheduled for 4:15 AM (seriously!) at a surgical center 20 minutes away, and it made for pure exhaustion.

The day of the surgery I'm not allowed to drive or cook but other than that and the exhaustion, it wasn't too bad. The next day I was up and back to life with the help from some prescription compression hose (please don't be jealous of my stylish tan stockings that make me look like I'm 80). These things are no joke! It takes several minutes, some awkward movements and strong jerks to get the things on. The best part is taking them off at night, which, by the way, requires all the same moves as putting them on.

Thursday we had to pluck Max out of bed at 5:30 AM to have him at the hospital by 6 for his surgery at 7:30. He did great but coming out of anesthesia required total supervision. We were both wiped out.

Friday I made my first trip to a chiropractor. I feel like I've tried everything else for my muscle problems when running that it couldn't hurt to try. During the consult he assured me he could help and showed me several testimonials from runners just like me who are now running without pain. Nelson and I figured we were already going to meet our out of pocket by the end of the month so why not?

The only problem was that this first appointment involved x-rays which revealed a problem slightly bigger than a sore leg and back. When he put up the pictures, I knew exactly what I was looking at without him saying a word. First the lower back picture went up with a spine curved to the left and then the upper back image went up with a strong curve to the right. Together they made a lovely looking S-shape that showed me my scoliosis has returned. I actually felt slightly relieved to know that there was a physical reason for all the pain I've been experiencing.

This Tuesday I had surgery number two on the other leg. This time they were merciful and set the surgery for 5 AM. I am so not a morning person. I did better this go around and didn't sleep the whole day away. And this leg actually feels better than the first so that was nice too.

Today Max and I both got our stitches out and I think we're done with the plastic surgeon and I don't have to go back for more leg stuff for six weeks. Tomorrow, however, I'm having a few more tests and images done to see how we can work with the whole back issue.

I feel like I've been pretty blessed my whole life. We have experienced great health for the most part. We've had a few visits to the E.R., tubes in ears, a brief hospital stay, but other than that just your run-of-the-mill stomach bugs and colds. We thank God often for the health we've been given.

So what are we doing now that the tables have turned slightly? Well, we're still thanking God. I'm thanking God we have the means to hopefully fix the pain of the bad veins in my legs. I'm grateful that my surgery coincided with Max's. He was able to see mommy have surgery and stitches days before he did. We talked it up big and told him how cool it was to have stitches. It helped him to put him at ease about his. I even got my stitches out before he did so I could talk that up too. I was so worried that Aiden would wonder why God allowed him to have scoliosis when He healed mine. Now I can show him we both have the same thing and he'll be okay.

Of course, I'm hoping that besides the other vein surgeries I know are coming, the rest of the year will be less involved health-wise for us. A few normal check-ups here and there will be nice thank you very much. But if it's not, I will thank God that they happen in a year when we've already met our deductibles.

I am, in the midst of all this, developing an even deeper appreciation for poor old Job. He is the man in the Bible my heart always went out to. He did nothing to deserve his trials but he walked through them with a grace I pray I get. His was not a prayer made lightly. And these days lately, I've been praying with him. "The Lord gives and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Pre-Surgery Soak

Tomorrow is the big day. We go in at 6 and surgery is scheduled for 7:30 AM. It is a day surgery and not a big deal in the grand scheme of things that require an operation.

There's one little catch though. When the neurologist finally put a name on Max's low muscle tone, he called it Central Core Disease. Anything with disease attached to it sounds bad, but again, if I had to choose one for my son to have, this one is not too bad. When I asked the neurologist how this diagnosis would come into play, he said hardly ever. "Except," he noted, "he's at risk for Malignant Hypothermia if he ever has to go under general anesthesia." This he informed me, could cause him to go into cardiac arrest on the table. That part was scary, but honestly I thought, the kid is three, I won't have to worry about this for a very long time. In fact, I was more worried that I'd forget about it before it ever came into play.

Yet, here we are six months later. We can now add to the list of our doctors a plastic surgeon and an anesthesiologist who I won't allow to touch my son until I speak to him personally. Our plastic surgeon is amazing and said that I could tell the anesthesiologist that he can perform the sugary without having Max intubated. That's what we're hoping. He also assured me that the drugs that cause Malignant Hypothermia are hardly ever used anymore.

All good news. But then there's that crazy he's my baby and I like to be able to control things that go on in his life at this stage. I like to feel like I can protect him from all pain and everything bad. But after this and this, I know I can't, but it doesn't stop making me want to. This is why God gives children to mothers. This protective instinct, it comes with the territory.

Tomorrow we’ll hand him over and we’ll pray like crazy until we see him again. He’ll be no worse for the wear, save a few stitches. I’ll thank God for His protection and pray that this will be the end of surgeries for my children…at least for a little while.

But tonight, oh tonight was for a good long soak in the tub and a late night snack after the big kids went to bed. It was a night to relish the sweet smell of this angel in my care. It was a night for an extra snuggle and night worthy of recording the every day singing that still makes me swoon.