Sunday, August 31, 2008

Doublespeak much?

Liberal Dems:
Out one side of mouth: The nerve of John McCain thinking people will vote for (him and) Sarah Palin just because she's a woman.

Out other side of mouth: Vote for Obama because you have a chance to make history.

Huh? You must mean make history by voting for a 1st-term Senator from Illinois, I guess? Because surely you wouldn't be implying anything else would you? Oh, that's right, I forgot . . . it's okay when you're a liberal. My bad.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ant showdown

My mom is not like the dad from My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding in most respects. Clearly she's not a man, she's not Greek, and she never tried to convince me to work in a restaurant for the rest of my life. However, she does love windex. It has always been her weapon of choice for doing battle with ants.

So, when I discovered that our driveway and flower beds (and by that I mean areas covered in wood chips and dying bushes that were planted years ago by people who are not me) were teeming with the little vermin, I decided to get out my handy-dandy windex spray. Except that I don't use windex anymore. I use the clorox greenworks save-a-tree, hug-a-dolphin, and somehow lower the temperature of the entire globe 100% "natural" cleaning spray. So, I wasn't sure if it would slay the ants. In fact, it says right on the label that it has never been tested on animals. I'm sure this is exactly what they meant.

Armed with my cleaner I began my assault on one of the hundred or so different trails I could find on the driveway and front walk. Let me tell you, if the clorox people ever did test their spray on ants, PETA would have a field day . . . it kills them and fast. I went through 3/4 of a bottle of the stuff, killing every ant in sight. Especially the really hardy looking ones . . . I figure they're the leaders of the pack. Now I realize that when battling billions of ants, there's no way I can kill every single one. And, being the tenacious little creatures that they are, I'm sure they will ignore the carnage in their path and resume their search for the empty pizza box in the trash can. I conceded that my battle was over for now as I had run out of rounds, I mean cleaning spray. I saw the last little stragglers, the few, the proud. But, like Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, I told them to give the others a message. I said, "You tell 'em I'm comin', and hell is comin' with me." As soon as I get back from Walmart.

Monday, August 25, 2008

One lunch, two hilarious children

While the kids were eating lunch a little while ago, I heard Ethan say to Lauren, "What's the word on the street?" I kid you not. Where he heard this I do not know, but apparently (in case you are asked), the word is ham. According to Ethan.

After lunch, I let them have some ice cream. This conversation followed:

Ethan: Mom, what kind of ice cream is this?
Me: It's called Turtle Tracks.
Ethan: What does it have in it?
Me: Vanilla ice cream plus caramel and chocolate and pecans
Ethan: What about turtles? Does it have turtles in it?
Me: Nope, no turtles.
Joshua: This has birds in it?? Gross!
Me: What? There are no birds in your ice cream.
Joshua: You said it has pecans in it.
Me: You're thinking of toucans, Josh.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Florida and Enrique

Lauren: Mommy, I'm putting my babies to bed.
Me: Oh, good idea. What are your babies' names?
Lauren: Florida and Enrique
[Mommy asks Lauren to repeat this several times for clarification.]
Me: Where did you hear that?
Lauren: On the radios.

I'm pretty sure there's an Enrique on DragonTales, but unless she's been watching re-runs of Good Times while I'm sleeping, I have no idea where Florida came from.

This is especially funny in light of the fact that last night I was telling my family that Josh and Ethan lack creativity in naming their stuffed animals. They are all named Tigey, Froggy, Leppy, Wolfy, etc. Leave it to Lauren to break the mold.

And, yes, Enrique is wearing a purple flowery dress.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thankful Friday

1. Donuts and neighbors. Lauren's sweet friend Bethany (also our next-door neighbor) came over this morning, and we made the semi-homemade donuts I found on Jawan's blog. Kids had a blast, and donuts were delicious. Note the past-tense. It happened quickly.

The donuts:

Bethany loved the shaking part:


Ethan, because he seriously notices when his picture is not on my blog:

2. The loose change spinner/sorter thing at Publix. It's amazing . . . like magic almost. I put in spare change from 2 half-full gallon sized ziploc bags and walked away with almost $60 in paper bills! I didn't have to sort it or try to squeeze it into those stupid paper change rolls that you have to use for finger to plug the bottom of, and the coins always end up going in at a an angle . . . yeah, I hate them. Seriously, it's like a video game, AND it entertains my kids. They took turns throwing handfuls of coins into the tray . . . it was waaaaay better than one of those ponds where I'll only give them like 3 pennies each because I'm really cheap and ridiculous like that. PLUS, it recognizes what items are non-money and spits them out to you at the end. Our first baggy produced 2 tums tablets, the second a key. Are you already guessing the fun I'm going to have with this next time?

3. Who needs a third with such a great second? Plus, I'm really tired, and technically it's not even Friday anymore.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

(Yet another) Reason our sense of self-worth and value should come from God and not our kids

Josh in the van while I'm joining the kids in a rousing rendition of "Jonah was Prophet" a la Veggie Tales:

"Mommy, why can't you sing very good?"

Apparently, I can't even sing as well as an asparagus. Sadly, I already knew this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The boys' first soccer practice

Though I challenge you to try telling Lauren that it was not hers, too. Good luck.

The boys entered the world of organized sports for the first time tonight, and it could not haved gone better. They had a blast. I had first signed up only Josh because I thought one had to be 5 in order to play. When I found out one could play at age 4, I quickly called to get Ethan signed up, but it was (quite) past the deadline by then, so I was afraid it wouldn't work out. Fortunately, I was wrong, and - even beter - I was able to get them on the same team. As I watched them practice tonight, I was so, so thankful that I got Ethan on the team. He would have been miserable sitting on the sidelines with me and the 2 year olds watching all those boys having soccer practice! As it was, both boys got to don their first set of soccer cleats and shin guards and those socks that make them look like they're growing up way faster than they should.

The inaugural huddle and break:

Learning some skills:

Their first time "taking a knee:"


Ethan is "taking a knee" in this pic, but he was a little worn out by then:

See what I mean about trying to convince Lauren she was not on the team? I was very glad for a few other 2 year old siblings who were happy to join in her little scrimmage game:

So proud of Joshua

Joshua is my non-confrontational child. So much so that awhile back I was standing in the nursery after church talking to a friend. Josh was standing next to me. After my friend and I chatted for a few minutes and she walked away, Josh said to me, "Mommy, she was standing on my foot." Yes, THAT'S how unlikely he is to speak up for himself.

So, when he started school last week, my biggest concern was that he find his voice. It's unlike him to strike up a conversation with (or speak at all to) another child, and it's unheard of for him to do so with an adult. Seriously, even with adults he's known his whole life - even with my own sister-in-law - he's not very likely to voice a complaint when something is amiss.

On day one of school, he mentioned that the other kids all got 3 cookies (why they're having cookies, I do not know), but he got only 2. Didn't say anything to the teacher. (Claims he couldn't remember her name, but I know Josh - he knew her name.) Day two of school he tells me that all the other kid got a piece of green paper put in their backpacks, but he didn't get one. Didn't say anything to the teacher. (Turns out this was a misunderstanding; she was taking OUT green folders, and I had sent Josh's the day before.) So, last week when my mom was meeting with her wonderful group of prayer partners (with whom she has met to pray for her kids (and now grandkids) almost every week since I was FOURTEEN!), I had one request: that Joshua find the courage to speak. To other kids and to his teacher.

Talk about an answered prayer. On the way home from school yesterday, Josh mentioned that he had a substitute teacher and that when he arrived at school, they had been watching Snow White. This is what Josh said to me: "Mommy, they were watching Snow White, and on one part a lady turned into a witch, so I told the teacher that I wasn't allowed to watch things with witches, and he fast-forwarded past that part." I thought I could not have been more proud, but actually at that point I didn't know it was a sub, so when I found out it wasn't even a teacher he knew, my pride grew even more.

I realize such a thing would be nothing big for most kids his age; most of my friends' kids talk to me without hesitation. But, for Josh, this is HUGE. So, thank you, God, for answering my prayer and for graciously letting me see the evidence of it so very quickly.

(By the way, I feel the need to add that my rule against witches is not hard and fast. He's seen The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (the cartoon version), he watches The Frog Prince (a Muppets classic), which has a witch in it, and he's probably seen a few others. But, as a general rule, I don't like my kids watching things about evil at their ages, and while Disney movies would strike most as pretty benign, I like to decide whether it's a witch I'm okay with or not. That's for me to decide, not a school.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

How I spent my birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. Since birthday activity options for a stay-at-home mom of three kids are fairly limited, I decided to plan activities that would be fun to do with the kids. (See how I'm embracing my place in this world and my stage of life and all that crap? I'm a saint.)

My wonderful parents took us out to lunch at Chili's, after which mom and I met my sister in law at a local indoor amusement park/activity center place for kids. Josh has been dying to try roller blades since he's heretofore used only 4-wheeled roller skates. I've been telling him I wasn't sure if he would be able to do it . . . I must have forgotten to whom I was speaking. When that boy decides he can or wants to do something, he does it. (Swam unassisted at 3, swam to the bottom of the deep end at 4, rode his bike without training wheels before he turned 5, etc.) So, here's the skating part of the day:

Josh on his roller blades:

Ethan making his way sloooowly around the rink, but never wanting help:

Two of my nieces:

All the cousins (minus Lauren who was on the carousel):

Lauren had a blast running around the skating rink in her socks (which she insisted on changing into since the other kids did), but I finally took her out to do the carousel and swings and such. Here she is on the big swing for the first time. (I took some pics as it was spinning, but they're all blurry.)

After the skating fun, mom and I took the kids to see Space Chimps. (They enjoyed it, but it was not a great flick.) Then, more skating since the wristbands were still good for another hour. After that, mom took Josh to spend the night at her house, and Ethan and Lauren and I headed to Target. This is what they looked like within 2-3 minutes of leaving the Target parking lot:

While in Target, I picked up some window paint bottles and let the kids decorate a few windows while I put stuff away. They had so much fun doing this:

I know it's hard to tell what the point of this picture is (and it's hard to see . . . sorry, best I could do), so let me tell you. I had been showing Ethan how to use the paint at first, and since David was sitting on the back porch, I wrote "Hi" backward so he could read it from the outside. A few minutes later, Ethan said, "Mommy, come see how I wrote my name." He had written it perfectly backward - letters in reverse order and facing the wrong way. For a 4 year-old kid who can barely write at all, I was very surprised and impressed:

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Hiding Place

Our house is on the market, which means time to purge, purge, purge. I spent the past several weekends cleaning out and organizing every room and closet in our house. Which is a good thing except for one small detail. Books. There are/were books in every nook and cranny of our house. Good books. Lousy books. Adult books. Kids books. (Am I starting to sound like Dr. Suess?) Why is that a bad thing, you may wonder. Because a job that would normally take me 2 or 3 hours ends up taking me entire days because I CAN'T STOP READING THE BOOKS! How could I decide whether to give away a book or keep it without opening it up and trying to remember if I liked it. Or, worse, if I know right away that it's a keeper, that means I really liked it, and I don't have the willpower not to open it up and read a little just to remember why.

While "cleaning out Lauren's closet" (aka, reading) 2 weeks ago, I came across an old copy of The Hiding Place, the story of Corrie ten Boom and her family who spent years in Nazi concentration camps because they were Christians who harbored Jews in Holland during WWII. I know the story well and remember loving the book, but in truth, I have not read it since I was a teenager. I began skimming parts, but finally, feeling guilty that I was reading while David and the kids were at my parents' house to enable me to better work on my cleaning project (sorry, mom), I decided to put it aside for another day.

So, for the past week or so, I've kept it in my purse and read it during waits at Dr's offices, pick-up time at Josh's school, etc. (I love reading a book that way because it makes it last longer.)

As you know, we are planning a move to Pennsylvania. From Georgia. For those less astute geography students out there, that's a long way. A long way from my family. From my friends. From my church. From . . . well, everything I love. (David's PA family notwithstanding, of course!) I told a friend today that I feel like I am living in the strangest combination of feelings right now: I truly feel like I have great faith and peace but am also holding on by a thread at the same time. I KNOW that this is God's work in our lives (and I intend to tell that story soon), I KNOW that He is a good and loving Father who will take care of me and my family wherever He places us, and I KNOW that there is no better place to be than where He calls me. And, yet I'm afraid. I'm human. I don't want to go. I will miss my family. I don't know what life will hold for me there. (Then, again I don't know what life would hold for me here.)

Which is why I'm so glad for the chapter I read in The Hiding Place yesterday while waiting for Josh to come out of school. In it, the Nazis have just invaded Holland, and the Dutch are still engaged in their brief resistance. The ten Boom family can hear fighting overhead, and during one night of severe fighting, Corrie hears her sister Betsie downstairs in the kitchen. Corrie joins her until the sounds of the planes begin to fade and then goes back to bed. As Corrie runs her hand over her pillow, a sharp metal object cuts her hand. Shrapnel. As Betsie is bandaging it, a shaken Corrie says, "Betsie, if I hadn't heard you in the kitchen ---." Betsie stops her and says, "Don't say it, Corrie! There are no 'if's' in God's world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety."

I pray that God will continue to remind me of that in the days to come.

Our first outside-the-house ponytail (sort of)

Since she could talk, Lauren has been asking for a pontytail. Poor kid had no idea. Other than a mullet-trim at about 24 months old, she has never had her haircut, so this is as long as it's gotten in the more than 2 1/2 years she's been alive. It's finally long enough to put a little side half-ponytail in without it sticking straight out at a 90 degree angle from her head.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A little . . . okay, a LOT . . . of my tale

I've been feeling compelled to write out my story lately . . . not because I think anyone wants to read it, but more because I will benefit from remembering and writing it. This will be a 2-part story describing two distinct ways the Lord has been working in my heart this year. I'm having trouble deciding whether to tell the "contentment no matter where He takes me" tale or the "thankful He saved my life" tale first. Hmm . . . I guess being alive is always a good place to start. (By the way, this is a loooooong story, so if you already know my medical saga, skip the first 13 or 14 paragraphs (yes, it's THAT long).)

For those who may not know my story, I have had a chronic kidney condition all my life. It's most likely benign, but I have seen a nephrologist for the past 15 years to monitor it, and in the interest of being on the safe side, my first nephrologist 15 years ago decided it would be prudent to biopsy one of my kidneys. This took place in 1994 when I was 19 years old. Unfortunately the biopsy was inconclusive - it revealed abnormalities but was not conclusive as to what the underlying defect was.

So, fast-forward about 10 years. I was 29 and barely pregnant with our third child (so barely that I wasn't even aware of her yet) when I developed high blood pressure for the first time. The drs pretty much treated it as pregnancy-induced hypertension even though they thought it highly unlikely that it would have developed so early in the pregnancy if that's really what it was. I began taking medicine to control my bp, and in the end Lauren was induced 3 weeks early because the medication was beginning to lose its efficacy.

Now comes the first time in this tale when I began to truly fear for my life. When Lauren was 3 days old, I developed the worst headache known to mankind. I had never experienced anything like it. It began on a Monday afternoon, and by the next morning I was in tears. We had to take Lauren to the pediatrician to get her billiruben checked that morning (yes, ALL of my kids decided to be jaundiced), and several nurses asked if I was okay. I struggled through that visit, which ended around 9:30 am. I had made an appt to see my midwife at noon but dropped the kids off at my mom's and headed on over there hoping she could see me sooner. I waited for about an hour in tears when finally I went to ask the nurse how much longer it would be. Taking one look at my face, she said, "Just one more minute." Within a minute I was having my bp taken, and at this point it had risen only to about 170/90. (It would continue to rise until it finally peaked at 210/115.) At that point, my midwife and the consulting OB sent me straight to the hospital with my "Do not pass go. Do not collect $200" card. I spent 4 days in the hospital with post-partum pre-eclampsia (which I did not know could occur), 2 of those days in critical care as they worked to get my bp under control. I finally got relief from the headache on about the middle of the second day.

I was sent home on day 4 (finally being able to see my 9 day old baby I hadn't seen since she was 5 days old) but my bp continued to be a roller coaster. Finally after a few weeks, the OB said this was clearly not pregnancy-related anymore and I needed to see my pcp because he would know of a wider range of bp medications to try. Of course, about this time our insurance changed, and our pcp was no longer covered, so I had to go see a new dr. He was listening to my heart and said, "Do you know you have a heart murmur?" Um, no. He said, "It's actually quite loud. Are you sure no one's ever mentioned it." Of course, I'm very sure, so he does a chest x-ray. Here comes my next "Do not pass go" card. My heart was enlarged, so he sent me straight to the cardiologist at 5:30 that afternoon.

The cardiologist was concerned that I may have had cardiomyopathy; I did not. He said that my heart was definitely enlarged and a couple of my valves (mitral and aortic) didn't close all the way, but it was probably the result of how high my bp had gotten during my pre-eclampsia episode. He wanted to keep an eye on things and thought it would probably resolve itself in time. It did not.

All this time, I'd been seeing my nephrologist to keep an eye on my kidneys. Sometime in mid-2006 he decided to do a kidney ultrasound since I had not had one in many years. That ultrasound revealed some enlarged blood vessels in my left kidney. He thought it was probably just some scarring from the biopsy I had had years before, but he ordered an MRI to get a closer look. So, I had an MRI in the fall of 2006, which confirmed enlarged blood vessels in that kidney. My dr decided not to do anything at that point (a decision he would later question) but to keep an eye on things. So, in December of 2007 he ordered another MRI. (Meanwhile, my bp had continued to require more and more medication in order to keep it down.) This time the MRI report was that the vessels of my left kidney were even larger than they had been the year before. This concerned him, but he still said it could be anything from a minor aneurysm to scar tissue to . . .

So, in Jan. 2008 I had an arteriogram of my kidney. (That's not a fun procedure, but it is pretty cool. The radiologist pretty much steers a catheter through your arteries much like a kid playing a video game, with the controls entirely on the outside of your body as he watches the inside on a monitor. I'm amazed at how they can make it twist and turn through exactly the vessels they want to get it to your heart, brain, kidney, etc.) As soon as the radiologist injected the dye, he said, "Oh wow, you have a massive AVM." (a term I would later learn means arterior-venous malformation) He had told me prior to the procedure that he would inform me right away of what he saw but that he would NOT make any guesses about what my dr may want to do about it. He stressed this point quite emphatically before he began the procedure, so I was a bit taken aback when his next words (after, "Call and see if Dr. W is in the hospital at the moment - he's going to want to see this right away.") were, "You're definitely going to need surgery to fix this. Yeah, they're gonna have to fix this." So much for not taking any guesses!

So, at this point (while I'm lying flat and still in the hospital bed for four hours, as is required after an artiogram), the radiologist told me to call my nephrologist and ask if he really wants to see me or if I should just go ahead and let them make an appt with the cardio-vascular surgeon. I didn't have to call. The next morning my phone rang, and it was Dr. W's office saying, "We're making an appt with the cardio-vascular surgeon." Still, I didn't have any idea what to expect. As anyone on the planet would do, I began to research AVM's on the internet. It seemed that the most common treatment was an arteriographic procedure where they insert some type of stent through your leg to repair the problem. Of course, I also read that sometimes they have to take out your kidney, but I had absolutely no idea which of the things I was reading applied to me. So, I did what any normal person would do . . . didn't worry about it and went on our church's women's retreat.

We were gone from Fri evening until Sunday around noon. It was a great retreat and a time of sharing and connecting with friends that I will treasure forever. I pulled into my parents' driveway around 1:00 Sunday afternoon (David had, of course, gone to my parents' house with the kids) and found David standing in the driveway waiting for me with a piece of paper in his hand. He barely said hello before saying that Dr. W had called and left his home number for me to call him when I got back to town. Ding-ding-ding!! Alarm bells going off in my head . . . he called on a Sunday??? And he left his home number??? Those are never good signs.

So, I called him right away, and he said that he had been in his office looking over my pictures (from the arteriogram) and realized that a whole lot of doctors were talking about Rebecca R, but he wasn't sure if anyone had actually talked to Rebecca R. Umm, no, actually. He said he just wanted to prepare me for the fact that I as going to be having a "huge operation" and that there was a very good chance I would lose my left kidney. Huh?? At this point, I still wasn't even 100% sure what an AVM was, much less how it was threatening my life. He said that he had moved my appt with Dr. B (the surgeon) up to the next afternoon and wanted this taken care of asap.

So, the next afternoon I went to Dr. B's (aka, my life-saver and miracle-performer) office and finally began to understand exactly what was going on with me. I finally saw the previous two years of my life beginning to make sense. Have you ever watched one of those artists on tv who starts a painting with seemingly random strokes on a huge canvass? I saw one once where the artist spun this huge square canvass around as he made stroke after seemeingly meaningless stroke, until all at once - as it was practically finished - I saw the face of Albert Einstein. It wasn't until almost the final stroke of the brush and spin of the canvass that I saw any face at all, and once I did, it was unmistakeable, and I didn't know how it had taken me so long to see it. That's what it was like when Dr. B explained my AVM. So, here it is:

When I had that kidney biopsy back in '94, the biopsy needle had nicked a hole in an artery and a vein. Blood had begun to leak, so instead of going from the artery to the vein via a capillary bed as it's supposed to, the blood was shunting straight from the artery into the vein. Well, as you proably know, the blood in an artery is high pressure, in a vein low pressure. So, over time, as this blood was forced into the vein at high pressure, it began to pool there and create what's called a fistula - a bulging area of blood vessel where blood accumulates. Well, after almost 14 years, that fistula had grown so much that there was more than twice as much blood in it as there was in the entire rest of my body. The result: my heart was having to work waaaaay overtime to supply enough blood to my body, resulting in an enlarged heart, high blood pressure, and chronic exhaustion (which I had chalked up to having 3 kids aged 3 and under!).

So, Dr. B's plan of action, he said, was to go in through my abdomen (because the kidney's vascular system lies in the front), find the exact spot of the leak, and fix it. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, he said that the fistula contained so much blood that when reading the arteriogram pictures, it was impossible to tell exactly where the hole was. It would fill with blood with every beat of my heart, and by the time in emptied during the off-beat, it was already full again . . . so, he basically said he would have to go in fairly blind, use an ultrasound once he got inside of me, and try to find the leak that way and hopefully be able to save my kidney . . . and my life.

Now's probably a good time to mention my grandmother. My dad's mom (who died in her 60's while I was in college) had high blood pressure and kidney problems most of her adult life. She had the first of several heart attacks in her 30's and eventually died of a massive heart attack on the operating table for an unrelated, relatively minor, sugery. (Thyroid, I think.) So, all this time, I've pretty much figured that my health issues are just genetic, and whatever happened to her would probably happen to me, too.

Now, if you know me at all, you know I'm not an easily freaked-out person. As my pastor, Bill, would say, my boat doesn't tip real easily. Even right up until this point, I've been my usual even-keeled self - not panicked, not worried, not anxious . . . but, then . . .

I went for my pre-op on what was supposed to be the day before my surgery (it ended up being postponed a week because I had the freakin' flu), and at LEAST 4 different medical professionals (drs and nurses) came into the pre-op area and said, "Oh, you're the woman with that AVM?" or "I saw the pictures of that AVM . . . amazing . . . mind if I listen?" (You could hear it with a stethoscope on my side, and they were all in awe of that . . . imagine how much more amazed they were when I showed them that you could actually feel it just by touching my side . . . I'd been feeling it for a long time and just thought it was a very-strong pulse.) Or, my favorite, from my anasthesiologist (who is also a good friend), "Wow! Do you exercise at all? You do? That is unbelievable. I can't believe you're alive."

So, now that I was turning into a medical freak-show - which is great if you want fast and friendly service from a medical office staff, but not so great if you want someone to allay your fears about your condition - I was starting to get a little concerned. In fact, by the time I was on my way home I was coming unglued. Fear and panic were apparently trying to make up for lost time, and I became almost fully convinced that I was going to die on the operating table exactly like my grandmother had. Yep, that was it. Everything else was so uncannily similar to her that this made pefect sense, and I morphed into panic personified, crying and hyperventilating like there was, pun intended, no tomorrow.

Here's where my favorite phrase comes in, "But, God . . ." How many times is that found in the Bible? I don't know, but it's in there a lot. Things are looking mighty hopeless . . . but, God . . . those must be two of the most beautiful words in the English language. As I was driving home from the hospital I was listening to a song that I had not heard in, literally, years. Thanks to my recent aquisition of an ipod, I had been traveling down memory lane and dowloading songs I hadn't heard in ages. One of these was by an old Christian folk singer named Don Francisco. Most anyone under 35 or 40 has probably never heard of him, but the majority of his songs were simply Bible stories told in a beautifully poetic way and set to folk music.

The song I was listening to (unintentionally; it was on shuffle) during my drive home that day was called "Voyage to Gennesaret" and was the story of Jesus walking on the water as the disciples' boat was caught in a storm. Here are a few of the lyrics (the rest are in the link):

A man was walking on the water, and we trembled, cried and prayed
Till He stopped and turned and spoke to us, "It is I, don't be afraid.

At that moment, I had the clearest sense of God's presence and voice as I have ever had in my life. I saw Jesus - the unseen presence through every twist and turn of my life's journey - looking at me with love and saying, "It is I. Don't be afraid. Everything you're going through, have gone through, and will go through. Every road your life takes you on. Every storm you weather. Every joy, every sorrow, every pain, every unknown. It is always I. Never be afraid." I'm sure many of us have experienced what the Bible refers to as "peace that passes understanding," and this was truly one of those times. Only God could take me from abject fear to peaceful calm in a heartbeat.

And more aware of my heartbeats, I had never been. After two years of trying not to worry, every palpitation (and they were many) felt like it could be the end of me. The feeling of peace God gave me that day would not last; it would come and go. But, the vision and the message remained. I would lie in bed at night with my hand on my side feeling the blood pouring through the AVM and imagine that it was suddenly harder, faster, stronger, fainter . . . I conjured up images of my heart stopping or my insides hemmoraging that would make a CSI writer proud. But, always, I remembered God's voice: It is I. Don't be afraid.

So, thank you, Don Francisco. Thank you, Dr. B. Oh, how did things turn out? The surgery was not fun, but it was successful. After making a 10 1/2 inch incision and retracting my ribs out of the way, Dr. B located the leak with an ultrasound and was able to bypass and patch it without having to remove my kidney. I'm told that when they opened me up, my heart was pumping almost fourteen liters of blood per minute, and by the time they closed me, it was pumping six. (Five is normal.) Recovery was not easy . . . 5 days in ICU, 2 days in a regular room, 4 weeks without my kids, 6 weeks sleeping (or, more accurately, not sleeping) on the couch, and going on 6 months now with ribs that protrude in places they previously didn't and lingering pain when I do certain things like close the door on the back of the van or lift a heavy casserole dish out of the oven. But, you know what? I'm alive. God is still there, the unseen presence comforting and holding me steady through every storm He allows to come my way. And, like Peter, I sometimes keep my eyes on Him and experience a peace that is as miraculous as walking on water, but I often take them off and panic anew. For those times, here are a few more of the lyrics from the song, which is really from the Word of God:

I climbed across the gunwhale looking straight into His eyes
But long before I reached His side, the wind began to rise
I forgot Him in an instant and I sank just like a stone.
I cried out, "Jesus save me!" and His hand was on my own.

We did it . . . the big day

After having him at home with me for 5 years and 10 months, I dropped my firstborn off at school today. I expected tears . . . from both him and me . . . but to my surprise and delight, neither of us cried. He was nervous. I took pictures, but he did not want to look at the camera. We got there about 15 minutes before the start of school so that he could meet and play with other kids in the class. There were a couple of girls playing with a globe, a couple of boys playing with some type of connecting buildng toy, and another boy playing with blocks. After clinging to me for a few minute, he said he wanted to go play blocks. We (David and me - he's such a great dad he went to work a little late so he could come with us for the first day) said great and took that as our cue to go.

The pics are not great. This is Josh's nervous side, refusing to look at the camera and unable quite to form a smile. But, he wasn't crying!

Daddy and Joshua before we left:

Mommy and Josh arriving at school:

Walking into school:

Josh at the sign outside of his classroom:

Josh at his seat at his table (he sort of looks like he's crying, but he's not):

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Have you read them?

I saw this on my friend Kristen's blog (who got it from another blogger who got it from another who got it from the blog linked below. . . I'll spare you the entire chain of possession; suffice it to say it is not my list.) Anyway, I thought it was interesting. I couldn't find the actual source for the list or whose "Top 100" these books are, but I agree that most should be on any top 100 list. (Though I'm a little perplexed by the appearance of Bridget Jones' Diary and the absence of Diary of a Young Girl by Ann Frank.) And, I'm stunned by the statistic below . . . seriously, only 6 of these? Granted, I have an English degree, so I had no choice but to read a lot of them, but MANY of them were required reading in high school, and several of them I even read as a kid. I'm going to hang on to this list and make sure that my kids are able to "bold" most of them . . . whether they like it or not.

(Of course, this will be far more interesting if the rest of you copy and paste it into your blogs and follow the instructions.)

And, if there were a way to super-italicize The Count of Monte Cristo, I would. It's my favorite book . . . just so you know.

According to The Big Read, the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on this list. How many have you read?

Look at the list. Bold those you have read. Italicize the books you LOVE.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. 1984 - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchel
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Where do people come from?

A conversation between Ethan and me while watching the Opening Ceremonies last night:

Ethan: Mommy, why won't I ever be older than Josh?
Me: Because Josh was born before you, and you can't change when you were born.
Ethan: Why was he born before me?
Me: Because that's the way God planned it to be. He made Josh exactly when He planned to and you exactly when He planned to.
Ethan: How does God make us?
Me (not wanting to go there yet): Well, I'm not sure, but (interrupted by Ethan)
Ethan: I bet I know how he does it.
Me: Really, how?
Ethan: I bet He says, "May I please have a person?" and He gets one.

Works for me.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I'm sitting on the couch watching Jeopardy, Joshua and Lauren are jumping around and wrestling, and Ethan comes up and lays his head on my chest and puts his arms around me.
Me: You tired, buddy?
Ethan: No, I just really love you.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Life with a drama . . . king

So, tonight was family movie night, which we try to do about once a month. And, no, poor Lauren, as much as we love her, does not get to participate, so perhaps "Family Movie Night" is a slight misnomer. Anyhow, tonight's movie was Iron Will, a classic true story about a boy in a dog sled race. I chose it primarily because Joshua is obsessed with huskies right now, having bought a husky webkin several weeks ago. There are not words to tell you how much he liked this movie. He LOVED it. He wants to know when he can run in a dogsled race and whether he will get to wear "tennis racket shoes" when we move to Pennsylvania. And, of course it could probably go without saying that after it ended, he spent 10 minutes racing around the living room on his stick horse pretending it was a dogsled and telling me to cheer for "Iron Josh" and "Iron Wolfy" (his webkin). When I went in the boys' room to tuck them in, he was climbing over the end of the bunk beds to get on his top bunk (in order to make it more difficult than simply using the ladder) and saying to himself, "Don't give up now . . . you're almost there . . . you can make it . . ."