Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

American Girls, part 2

So much for my intentions to post the next day. Right before I left to take the girls to dance last week, my computer started smelling like it was on fire, and I've been having to beg, borrow, and steal computer time from the husband and kids. None of them are as unselfish with their machines as I wish they were (ha!)

So, the rest of the story ...

All the girls who had been chosen met in September for the first of several rehearsals and the moms were given a list of shoes, tights, slips, and other assorted accessories our daughters would need for the shows. What fun S, C and I had going shopping for all their necessities!

Even more fun was meeting such fantastic young ladies and their moms. For the duration of the rehearsals and performances, I ceased being "Sheryl" and became "Samantha's mom". Likewise, the other stage moms were known as "Kit's mom," "Addy's mom", or "Josefina's mom".

The only part of being a stage mom that I really didn't enjoy was not being allowed backstage once I dropped my daughters off for their call times. They entered through the stage door, and that was the last I saw of them until they appeared onstage, completely transformed by the hair stylists and a team of ladies backstage into young ladies from another era. Any mom who tried to sneak past Miss Nikki, the director, was quickly shown to the door. That was tough.

What was wonderful was seeing the amazing growth in confidence in S and C from the time of the audition until the time of the performances. S was so nervous on audition day, I was a little apprehensive she might throw up. None of that on show day, though! She awakened with a broad smile on her face and not one ounce of trepidation at the prospect of walking down a runway in front of a few hundred people. That alone made the experience worth it.

S summed it up best as we drove home after the second show on Saturday. "Wasn't today just magical, Momma?"

Yes, my American Girl, it surely was.

We were not permitted to take pictures during the rehearsals or shows, but I "sneaked" a few. Most were very dark and blurry, but here are a couple of the better ones. (There was a professional photog there, and I will be ordering better quality shots from her).

Each historical girl modeled several different outfits. This is Samantha's Christmas dress.

And this is the back view of one of Samantha's every day dresses. This is a big-girl version of the dress the Samantha doll wears when she arrives on some lucky girl's doorstep.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My American Girls

A few months back I was browsing the web site of an area arts center to see what kind of theater classes they offer for kids, and I saw a notice for upcoming auditions for an American Girl fashion show. They were looking for young ladies to model clothing in just two sizes, 6x and 10.

Completely convinced that neither of my girls would fit the height requirement, I decided that the experience of auditioning alone would be good for them. I have a theory that the sooner in life kids experience a little disappointment, the better. Nothing is ever gained by being a spectator in life, so I did a quick spiff-up after church one August afternoon and drove them to the arts center. I prepared them along the way that they would probably not be chosen, and if they weren't, it was no big deal. I told them that half the girls of northwest Arkansas would probably be there for auditions, and since there were only a handful who would be chosen, just to be prepared for anything. I assured them that I would be very proud of them just for trying.

We arrived about 15 minutes before the doors opened, and the line of mothers and their nervous daughters, many clutching American Girl dolls, already wound down the street. What we discovered was that not only had half of northwest Arkansas shown up, there were also girls from eastern Oklahoma and southern Missouri as well. This was a bigger deal than even I had imagined.

When the doors finally opened, and they allowed us in, it wasn't long before we saw little girls being turned away. Some didn't fall within the required height range. Others didn't have the necessary measurements around their midsection. When I saw a very beautiful girl sobbing, nearly having to be carried out by her mother, I began seriously questioning my own judgment. What were my motives for subjecting my own daughters to this?

We saw that scene repeated several times over the next half hour, and as I deliberated the pros and cons of taking S and C out of line and driving them home, I realized that both had made it through all the hurdles and were being invited into the auditorium to speak with the judges. They were given a brief set of instructions on how and where to walk across the stage, then given a question or two by the judges to answer. After that part of the process ended, we were allowed to leave with the promise that we would hear from the judges within a week.

At this point, we were hopeful that at least one of the girls would get a part but never dreamed that it would be both. You can only imagine my surprise the following week when I received an email notifying me that S had been cast as Samantha, one of the historical girls, and C as a Bitty Baby.

What an exciting moment it was as I shared with the girls the exciting news.

To be continued tomorrow ...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Changing the collective consciousness

Does this creep anybody else out besides me? This guy is NOT the messiah.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wealthy beyond measure

I celebrated another birthday yesterday, and once again when my family began asking me several weeks ago about my wish list, I couldn't think of a single thing I wanted. Not one.

Gathered around the table a week or so ago, one of my daughters pointed out that she had almost 10 things on her wish list. "I have everything I have ever wanted and more," I explained. "I have Daddy, you guys, some great friends, a wonderful church, a roof over my head, and plenty of food to eat. What else could I possibly want?"

I've tried so hard to impart to my children attitudes that are in stark contrast to the consumerism that bombards us all daily. From every direction come messages that we must have have the best! the prettiest! the newest! the fastest! the coolest! the most technologically sophiscated! the most expensive! stuff available. No sooner do we get one new gadget out of the box and on its charger before something newer hits the market and suddenly the thing we have has lost its luster. It is no longer desirable to us, because our friend has something we regard as nicer.

What a trap.

Avoiding those messages is one of the primary reasons the televisions in our home stay off most of the time. I want my children to learn contentment. The kind that Paul wrote about in Philippians 4:10-14.

"I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess ... Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am" (The Message).

You can imagine my joy when last night before dinner, G-Man wanted to ask the blessing, and somewhere in the middle of it, he spoke these words: "And God, bless all the poor people and let them be rich just like we are. Give them jobs and food and money and a place to live."

May we all be filled to overflowing today with a sense of just how filthy stinkin' rich we really are. Not because our bank accounts say we are, but because of all that has been lavished upon us by God, the One who makes us who we are.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The best part of a spanking

A few days ago, the kids and I were running errands when G-Man remarked from the backseat about some mischief he was thinking about getting into. I can't remember the particulars now, but I do remember thinking how much I love five-year-old boys. They'll tell you anything. At least mine will. So, there he is sitting in the backseat dreaming up something naughty to do. Aloud.

I wasted no time telling him, "But, G, that's something that will get you in a LOT of trouble with Mommy and Daddy. I don't think that would be making a wise choice, do you?"

"No," he answered slowly.

"In fact," I continued just to make my point and drive it home well, "that would probably get you a spanking."

He sobered for a moment as if remembering how much he despises discipline of any variety, and then his face brightened. "But after the spankin' comes all the hugs and cuddles! That's my FAVORITE part!"

I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud.

"Hey G, here's an idea," one of his sisters volunteered, "why don't you just skip all the DISBEHAVIOR (dontcha just love that word??) and go straight for the hugs and cuddles? You don't have to act ugly to get attention."

That's some advice I hope he takes to heart. For a very long time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A side of me you've never seen before

From YearbookYourself.com:





I saved the best for last ...

Yes, I already know I'm turning into my mother, so please don't leave me comments to that effect. It's scary, folks. Really scary.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dear Mom

Two years ago at this very moment, I was standing beside your hospital bed in Litttle Rock watching you take your last breaths here on this earth. I simply cannot believe that this much time has passed.

I have replayed those last hours at least a million times in my mind since you left us, and although it still hurts that you're not here, I now understand that you couldn't stay any longer, and I'm okay with that.

The kids and I talk about you all the time and speculate on how you and Aunt Mary are spending your time beyond the pearly gates. Just this morning as we walked to school, Big Sister wondered aloud if the two of you celebrated your birthdays at Luby's by sharing a dessert.

We will celebrate your birthday tomorrrow with one of your famous chocolate cakes and will send up a big bunch of balloons and sing Happy Birthday. I have to believe that you can hear us and that it makes you smile to know your special day is not forgotten.

Thanks once again for all the love you gave so freely and the wonderful memories you left us to remember. You will never be forgotten.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

As if life weren't complicated enough

I was standing in my driveway a couple of days ago visiting with my father-in-law and his lady friend when the mailman made his rounds through our neighborhood. I sent Big Sister to the mailbox to see if we'd finally gotten our notice from Ed McMahon that he would be bringing us a check for millions. No such luck. Big Sister placed in my hands a manilla envelope addressed to me, and immediate dread washed over me.

I'd been summoned for jury duty for the next three months.

"Oh. No." I said and closed my eyes. "Why me? Why now?"

Now let me just say right now that I am a firm believer in doing one's civic duty. I am a registered voter. I actually do make it to the polls for (most) elections. I pay taxes and try to stay abreast of local, state, and national issues . I help old ladies across the street and never, ever speed while driving. I am a model citizen.

But jury duty? Really. I have no time for this. I work a full-time job and have a few little part-time gigs on the side. I am a wife, mother, homemaker and am now taking classes to apply to nursing school next year. I hardly have time to eat and sleep these days.

"No problem," FIL said, grinning. "After you tell them that you're married to a cop, despise all attorneys, and believe that insurance companies are always wrong because of a judgment that didn't go in your favor 20 years ago, they'll never call you up."

I have never been so tempted to take bad advice in my life. Didn't say I was gonna, I'm just tempted, that's all.

News to me

Just about the time I was sure all the bills from my four-day vacation had rolled in (to the tune of over $45,000 ... praise God for good insurance!) I found in my mailbox today a $1250 bill for ... are you ready for this? A PROSTATECTOMY!

Wouldn't you think that someone at the insurance company would question why (and how) the same patient could have a uterus and prostate removed?

Wanna guess who I'll be calling first thing Monday morning?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The observation of a child

If it seems like I've forgotten about the blog lately, it's because I have! About 10 days before the kids started back to school, I was lying in bed one night drifting off to sleep, and the thought suddenly went through my mind, "You know, I always said when I get all my kids in school, I'm going back and finishing that nursing degree I started working on eons ago. HOLYSMOKES ... ALL MY KIDS ARE ABOUT TO BE IN SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!"

No joke. I was out of bed and on the internet in 2.3 seconds flat. Within 72 hours I had been readmittted to the university and enrolled in the only pre-req for nursing school that I could possibly take this semester.

The only hitch has been that I'm homeschooling my oldest this year, so I tote her along with me to class two mornings a week. What a hoot that has been.

We sit in the very top row of a large auditorium, and she takes her computer and books along with the hope that she can "do school" while I "do school". After the first class, as we walked back to the bus stop, I asked her what she thought.

"I think you're going to make an A+ in that class, Momma, because you're not sitting there texting all your friends while class is going on."

Oh, how times have changed since I took my first college class more than 20 years ago!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Peace ... and progress

I spent a couple of hours tonight at Wal-Mart doing the weekly grocery shopping thing. The store is in the midst of a complete remodel (I'll save my very strong feelings on that for another post), and in the giant turnover that has relocated all health and beauty products just past the rows of school supplies, I found myself carefully navigating my cart between MANY buggies driven by parents obviously on a last-minute quest for crayons and pencils.

The whole experience brought back memories of last year and my 9 p.m. shopping trip the night before school started. The depths of self-loathing for my procrastinatic (is that even a word?) tendencies reached new levels. This is going to sound really judgmental, but I looked at the other people who had put off purchasing their children's supplies until they couldn't put it off any longer, and ~ honestly ~ I could not for the life of me see myself as one of them.

I vowed that night to get a grip, plan better, and not get myself in last-minute races against time that send my blood pressure into dangerous territory.

A year later, I can't say that I NEVER put off important tasks, but there's a whole lot less of that nonsense going on that ever before in my four decades of living.

Some noteworthy examples:

In May, at the end of the school year, I had my grades ready THREE DAYS before they were due in the office.

I now plan all meals a week in advance and make one grocery trip each weekend. It is very rare that I make a mid-week trip to the store for something I forgot or we ran out of.

Last year, I'm sure I bought at least a dozen new books for the Fayetteville Public Library with all the overdue fines I paid. We haven't had an overdue library book since April. (I began writing down due dates in my planner and scheduling library trips in advance instead of waiting until overdue notices started showing up in my mailbox.

My kids' school supplies were purchased two weeks ago and have been bagged and labeled for the first day of school.

Now ~ my next big goal ~ to get them all to school ON TIME for an entire school year. Ambitious? Yes. Attainable? We'll see!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The devil made me do it

Posting has been sparse these days, because, frankly, I've been feeling whiny. Each time I've been tempted to sit down and complain at my keyboard, the words of my mother echo in my mind, "If you can't say anything nice, it's best not to say anything at all." And since I haven't been able to think of much that would be edifying, I've just chosen to remain silent.

In case you're wondering what's been getting under my craw, here's a brief summary:
  • I underwent major surgery seven weeks ago yesterday.
  • I was discharged from the hospital with a large open wound.
  • I was started on a wound vac about 10 days after surgery.
  • The wound vac did its work in nearly three weeks.
  • It only weighed about 7 pounds but by the end of the day felt more like 40.
  • The next mode of treatment came with a prohibition against getting it wet.
  • Sponge baths in the hottest part of summer don't really cut it as far as I'm concerned.
This morning as I was preparing to flip my hair over the side of the tub for its daily lathering, something overcame me that I could NOT resist. I tried, I really did. But the fact that I was going to see Nurse Nancy at the wound clinic in less than an hour dispelled any concerns I might have about soaking my bandages. Gleefully, I jumped in the shower, and oh. my. goodness. Intoxicating is the word that comes to mind. I stood there with the water flowing over me, realizing again just how much we take for granted in the normal course of life. I've had some amazing showers over the years (the ones after long camping trips are the best!), but this one took the cake. I emerged afterward feeling cleaner than I have in, well, SEVERAL weeks.

When I saw Nancy a little while later, I confessed before she even had a chance to see how mangled my dressings had become. Her response? "Good for you!" She even gave me instructions on my way out the door to enjoy another shower before I come in and see her Friday morning.

I wonder if that was her very kind way of telling me that the sponge baths aren't really cutting it in this 100-plus infernal Arkansas heat??

Monday, July 28, 2008

We may need a few history lessons ...

My nine-year-old niece is here visiting this week. She, along with my two girls, loves nothing more than to write, produce, and perform "shows" for us. The production the girls are working on for tonight is based on The Great Depression, they announced earlier this morning.

They've been hard at work on costumes, script, and songs, and just a few minutes ago I heard the (very loud) strains of this song coming from the living room:

"The Great, The Great Depression
It really was so great.
The Great, The Great Depression
It really was so great!"

Hmm ... I'm thinking when we make our usual Tuesday visit to the library tomorrow, I'm going to make a few selections from the American History section for their, um, enlightenment.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tooth Fairy Humor

Not too long ago, Middle C was beginning her last week of kindergarten and from out of the depths of her six-year-old imagination, a vision occurred to her. She would join the ranks of her snaggle-toothed friends for the final days of school.

Never mind that she had already lost multiple bottom teeth.

And never mind that none of her top teeth were loose. Much.

It was destined to become reality, that snaggle-toothed vision of hers.

And so, one night during that final week of kindergarten, C shared her glorious dream with me and went to work with tissue and dental floss to remove the unwanted dentition.

Here's a play-by-play description of how things went down:

Just getting started

Looking a little like Nanny McPhee

Mission accomplished!

And so on that note, I leave you with a little Tooth Fairy humor. Watch to the end ... the last line is worth it all!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The adoration of a child

I was curled up in bed tonight beside the little man, and he was reading to me. Suddenly, he rolled over toward me and with complete adoration in his eyes, he placed his hand on my face and said, "Momma, I sure like the way God made you."

My heart dissolved in that moment, and I was just about ready to say, "Oh, G, I sure like the way God made you, too," when his expression and tone completely changed, and he pointed to my lip and added, "except for that bump on your lip!"

Aw, the honesty of children!

Bye, Bye Betsy

After having my constant companion for 17 days, Betsy is gone. She did the work she was asked to do, I recharged her batteries nightly, and now we are moving on to another form of wound closure.

As I passed through the wound center waiting room today, I walked by a man about my age who was strapped to his own Betsy. I gave him the most sympathetic look I could and then, for some reason, felt compelled to share the news that I WAS FREE FROM MY WOUND VAC, OH HALLELUJAH.

I wasn't sure whether my news would make him feel better or worse, but it sure made me feel better to share my glee with the waiting room. And now with you, all my friends on the internet.

Betsy even went with me to the firing range a couple of times to shoot my new handgun. I'll have to do a separate post on that sweet lil thang.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I love this age

With the addition of a wound V.A.C. to my care, the visits to the wound clinic have slowed from daily to just three times a week. For the first couple of weeks after surgery, my mother-in-law was driving over daily to take care of the kids while I made the rounds between my various and assorted doctors.

In case you haven't noticed, gas prices aren't cheap these days, and I started feeling a little guilty about all the fuel I was costing her.

So, over this past weekend, I decided to try taking The Musketeers with me to see if they might be able to manage themselves in the waiting room during my dressing changes.

We went through the whole list of "be on your best behavior" rules, and they assured me that of course they would behave, so I was a little caught off guard when The Little Man walked through the doors of the clinic and within 2.4 seconds was plastered against the fish tank in the waiting room, yelling, "LOOK, MOMMA, IT'S A DEAD FISH! A DEAD FISH! DO YOU SEE IT???" I tried without much success to divert his attention to a nearby table where his sisters were already setting up a game of Hi-Ho Cherry-O, but the fish corpse had all of his attention. "SO, MOMMA, DO YOU THINK THAT FISH IS DEAD OR JUST DYING?"

There were probably a couple dozen patients waiting, and I'm sure you can imagine the smirks and snickers we got.

Fast forward to my appointment today. I went through all the rules again in the car, being sure to emphasize the "No Yelling" rule. All nodded their heads and affirmed that they would behave like perfect angels.

The rules were forgotten, however, the second The Little Man walked through the door and spied the aquarium again. He raced over, noticed another black fish in the tank, and I watched as his eyes grew wide. He turned and yelled, "MOMMA, LOOK, IT'S A MIRACLE! GOD RAISED THE LITTLE FISHIE FROM THE DEAD! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT???"

Oh, the wonder of being five.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sporting the latest in summertime fashion ...

I got my wound V.A.C. yesterday. It wasn't at all what I was expecting.

My assumption: A tiny little thing that I could wear inconspicuously on (or under) my clothing that would be silent and, well, inconspicuous.

My reality: A purse-sized pump that must be worn across the shoulder that makes periodic noises that sound like farts.

The doctor and nurse who put on the V.A.C. assured me that once patients get used to carrying it around, most of them "love" it (no kidding, they really said that) and just carry on, business as usual.


I had a prescription to fill last night, so I swallowed my pride and made up my mind I would ignore any sideways glances or staring I might get and headed off to Wal-Mart after dinner. As I stood at the pharmacy counter, handing the tech my prescription, Betsy (I figure if it's got to be a part of my life for several weeks, it might as well have a name) decided to start growling and tooting. Not certain whether the guy heard it or not, I figured my best bet was just to raise the volume of my voice and hope that he's familiar enough with medical devices to know one when he hears one.

Almost as bad as the gassy sounds is the fact that this thing is continuously pumping blood and other gack from my incision, and if you happen to look at the wrong time, you're likely to see all manner of nastiness surging through the tubing.

And I'm going to learn to love this thing like a dog loves ticks.

The one positive is that they taped me up so securely yesterday when I got Betsy that I no longer have the creepy sensation that all my innards are about to fall out. That's the thing about open abdominal wounds. You can know in your head that an incision is only 3 cm deep, but there is an irrational fear that it is much deeper, and if you lean in the wrong direction, all kinds of essential body parts are just going to tumble out. It's very disconcerting and a sensation I've tried to control by wrapping my midsection very tightly with an Ace bandage (over all my other dressings).

This is a part of the recovery process I could definitely have done without, but I'm going to give Betsy a real chance today, on this our first full day of partnership, and perhaps this arrangement can be terminated before too long.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I take a break from all surgery talk ...

to share this with you.

Now, you know I try hard to keep this family friendly and avoid profanity, but I couldn't figure out how to retitle this with "heck". It makes me happy every time I watch it. And makes me dream of traveling the world.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Minor setback

The hematoma that kept forming in the hospital still isn't finished doing its thing, apparently. I went back for my THIRD wound check this week feeling discouraged and VERY sore after whatever the heck Dr. P did to me yesterday. I have to clamp my hands together tightly to keep from punching her when she starts digging around in my incision with those long alcohol-soaked Q-tips. She comments every time on how stoic I am and apologizes repeatedly for the torture. I can tell she derives no pleasure from my pain, but that doesn't keep me from wanting to slap those instruments right out of her hands.

I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon at a nearby wound care clinic where the techniques for dealing with "hard-to-heal" patients are more cutting edge, according to my doctor. I'm going to miss seeing her every day but definitely won't miss all the probing and digging.

Wish me well.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Uterus Trivia

The weight of a normal uterus is 103 grams. According to Dr. P, physicians deem it a "complicated" hysterectomy when the uterus weighs more than 250 grams.

Mine? According to the pathology report, it was just a few grams shy of 1000. Yikes!

I promise to stop all this surgery talk soon ...

I always wanted to be notable for something ...

I went back to see Dr. P yesterday afternoon to have my incision checked. Since I developed a hematoma in the hospital, she wanted to be certain that there had been no reaccumulation of fluid at the wound.

Beth, Dr. P's nurse who was present at my surgery, walked into the examining room and exclaimed, "Girl, your uterus was GINORMOUS!"

I had already seen pictures and knew she wasn't kidding, but just to satisfy my curiosity, I asked Dr. P how big was the largest non-pregnant uterus she had ever seen.

She thought for a second, and said that in more than 500 hysterectomies she's performed, mine easily made the top 5.

I feel like the Guiness people should be calling me soon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Perhaps my family is tired of hearing me complain

One of the more uncomfortable after effects of general anesthesia is a slowdown (or in some cases, shutdown) of bowel activity. Dr. P and several nurses made it a daily practice to place a stethoscope over my belly to listen to the sounds my gut made in the first few days post surgery.

Without venturing into the TMI category again, let's just say they heard a lot of noise, but there wasn't a lot of activity going on.

C6 and G5 made lunch today (nachos), and the above is what I found waiting for me at the table. I nearly popped my stitches out laughing!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What made my hospital stay enjoyable

A longtime fan of novels about Amish people, I purchased book two in the Sisters of the Quilt series by Cindy Woodsmall several months ago and held onto it until my hospital admission. As I was packing my bag for the hospital, I thought about the fact that it had been over a year since I started the series and threw book one in the bag for good measure. (I am notorious for forgetting important details of books and movies.) I was glad that I did, because I ended up rereading the entire first book and then made it through the second book as well.

"When the Heart Cries" and "When the Morning Comes" are the first works by this author, and she weaves a compelling story. Even under the effects of heavy medication, I could not put these books down. I found myself thinking of Hannah, the main character, throughout the day and continually being drawn back to her story to find out what would happen to her next.

Now, I'm forced to sit and wait until mid-September when the next book, "When the Soul Mends" is released.

If you're a fan of Beverly Lewis and Wanda Brunstetter, you'll love Cindy's style. Any book that can hold my interest enough that I would call three days in the hospital enjoyable has got to be good!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Just in case you've been wondering where I am ...

I'm gonna warn you right now ... this post definitely falls into the category of TMI. So if graphical descriptions of surgery gross you out or you're offended by discussions related to passing gas, you might want to keep on surfing, because I'm not planning on leaving out a single detail of what I've been through this week. NOT A SINGLE ONE.

First, a little background info ... I saw my GYN, the fabulous Dr. P, back in August for my yearly exam. She thought my uterus felt a little "boggy" and sent me for an ultrasound. A healthy, normally functioning uterus should measure in the vicinity of 8 x 6 x 4 cm. Mine was 12 x 7 x 10 cm. We should do a biopsy, she suggested, to rule out any possibility of something cancerous growing in there. It was negative, and with a new school year beginning, I didn't feel inclined to really deal with things at the moment, so I put my "boggy" parts out of mind as best I could until school was out.

The only problem was that while I was busy trying not to think about it, my uterus kept on growing. And started mashing on things like my colon and bladder. I ran into a former coworker sometime during the winter who was recovering from having a hysterectomy, and I decided that was EXACTLY what I needed. Melissa was only three weeks out from her surgery and looked absolutely fabulous. Knowing how many doctors frown on performing unnecessary hysterectomies, I started getting my sales pitch ready for Dr. P. I was really gonna help her see why my situation definitely was in the "necessary" category.

As we moved into spring, my symptoms were really getting annoying, so I went back to see Dr. P in May. We needed to do another ultrasound, she said, and the second one showed my baby box to now measure a whopping 14.8 x 9.0 x 14.1 cm. For you non-medical people who don't think in metrics, that's approaching the size of a football. And, yes, it absolutely FELT like I had a football in my pelvis.

Turns out, I didn't have to use my sales pitch on her at all. She was suggesting surgery at the same time the word "hysterectomy" came out of my mouth, and I left her office with a date on the calendar: Tuesday, June 17.

The presurgery festivities began the day before when I followed the doctor's orders to eat a clear liquid diet all day. That worked fine for breakfast, but by 11 a.m., I really found myself craving a sandwich (or something besides chicken broth and jello) for lunch. But, being the rule-follower that I am, I stuck to the plan all day. The real fun began around 7 p.m. when I drank the requisite 10 oz. of magnesium citrate. Just getting that fizzy stuff down was a real chore. I found that if I drank it through a straw placed as far back in my throat as I could stand it without gagging, the taste didn't bother me so much. And if I alternated swigs of mag citrate with Dr. Pepper, it bothered me even less.

About 90 minutes later, the party in my intestines began. There was some rumbling and some grumbling followed by SEVERAL rapid trips to the restroom. And then some more rumbling and grumbling. And MORE rapid trips to the restroom.

That made for a pleasant night, but I really hadn't planned on sleeping much anyway, because I wanted to be SO exhausted by the time I checked in at the hospital at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday that perhaps I could sleep through all the presurgical stuff. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the hospital folks wanted to re-ask me the 93 questions they'd already asked at my pre-op visit eight days earlier, and sleeping through five nurses asking me to please state my name and date of birth would not be an option.

Once on the surgery unit, the hospital staff wasted no time getting me fitted in a backless gown and paper booties. They were all very nice (for the most part) until I raised the question of exactly why I needed to be sedated with general anesthesia.

"Of COURSE you have to be sedated," one nurse told me.

"Well, duh," I replied, trying hard not to roll my eyes. "My question was why do I have to be completely out? Doctors perform C-sections every day using an epidural, so why can't I have my uterus taken out with an epidural?"

She looked at me as if I had suddenly started speaking Chinese.

"You ... you ... want ... to be ... AWAKE ... for your surgery?" she sputtered, as if no one had EVER made such a request.

"Yeah, why not?" I replied.

"Uhh ... because it's just not done THAT WAY," she said, still giving me the look.

"Oh." And just because I really wanted to horrify her, I added, "I was really hoping to watch."

I can't even begin to describe the look that comment got.

Dr. P came in, and when I told her how sad I was not to be able to observe the surgery, she offered to take pictures for me. She didn't think it was weird at all that I might want to see with my own eyes the football that had taken up residence in my body and caused me untold agony. "I would want to see too," she said, patting my hand reassuringly.

I awoke several hours later in the most pain I have ever felt and mad as a hornet that the surgical staff allowed me to awake in such horrific pain. It only took a couple of minutes to locate the button for my morphine pump, and I started pushing that thing like crazy. Never mind that it's programmed to deliver the blessed medication every so often, I pushed it several times a minute just because I could.

Wednesday morning dawned, and I felt FABULOUS. Really. Although I only cat-napped for 20 minutes at a time throughout the night following surgery, I got was up at 6 a.m. Wednesday ready to take a shower and walk the halls of the hospital. Perhaps she might let me go home on Thursday morning if I could just show her how amazingly well I was doing.

Thirty seconds into the shower, and I was rethinking that plan. The hot water, blood loss, lack of food, and everything else all swirled around me, and I would have fainted in the shower stall were it not for a shower bench to catch me. I didn't even get to shampoo my hair, the dizziness was so bad.

Once I recovered from that experience (about four hours later), I did get up and do some walking, still holding onto hope that the next day would bring my discharge papers.

Unfortunately, by Thursday morning, I had developed a hematoma at my incision site, and she took out all my staples to pack the wound. (After only one meal of solid food, I was back on a clear liquid diet again. Serious bummer.)

Now, in case you've never had any experience like having a large abdominal wound packed, let me just tell you, IT IS NO WALK IN THE PARK. The cavernous sides of the incision smiled hideously at me, and I was certain I saw my spine hiding down below all the bloody tissue.

The business of packing and redressing went on THREE MORE TIMES. Each time, I would hold onto the sides of the bed and pant like I was about to give birth to a 12-pound baby. Sometimes the nurses would even have to tell me to breathe, because I would forget. The pain was that bad.

In the midst of all this packing and redressing, the cheerful nurses would stop by to ask if I had "passed gas". The answer was always no. It hurt too much to cough. I couldn't imagine the pain of trying to pass gas. And why did they care so much?

Late this afternoon, Dr. P stood over my gaping abdomen and proclaimed that it looked "beautiful". I peeked once again just to see what had changed, and it still looked like a big bloody hole to me.

"You're ready to be sutured up," she announced, and the sweet nurse Marilyn lined up instruments and suture material and created a little mini-OR right there at my bedside.

I watched as she injected lidocaine and then methodically brought the edges of the cavern together with Vicryl, tying each knot perfectly.

"You would have made a great seamstress," I commented.

Half an hour later, the wound did indeed look much better. I don't know that I myself would have described it as beautiful, but I was pleased that Dr. P had proclaimed it so. And more pleased when she handed me a stack of instructions and prescriptions and sent me home.

And just because I know all of you would be disappointed if I didn't share a picture of my oversized boggy uterus, here it is in MOST of its glory. Apparently there's a pretty impressive fibroid hiding out on the backside. Dr. P said when she pulled it out, it made a loud sucking sound. Neat, huh?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Five years ago tonight ...

I was in the hospital giving birth to my baby. It had been a very long day. My parents had come to see us the night before, and I awoke the next morning with a burning desire to birth a baby before the day ended.

Although I was three days past my due date, there was no real reason to think that the blessed arrival would be anytime soon. At my OB visit a few days earlier, I was not dilated or effaced at all, and the baby was still high in my belly.

But as they say, where there's a will there's a way.

At 7 a.m. on that beautiful Saturday morning, I announced to my father that his job was to watch the girls that day. My mother's job was to walk with me around our 1-mile subdivision until we could get some contractions going.

"Put your shoes on, Momma. I have only one goal today and that's to have a baby!

I don't think anybody really believed me. At first.

We must have walked three or four miles before I had to stop for a break. Discouraged that I hadn't felt so much as a twinge, I decided to have a light lunch before resuming the walking.

At some point, I decided that since walking wasn't doing diddly squat, I would bounce very lightly on the trampoline with the girls. My parents weren't too keen on this activity, and neither was my oldest who was about 3-1/2 at the time. "I don't think this is such a good idea, ShelPotter," she said worriedly. "What if the baby decides to just fall out on the jumperline?"

"Oh, if I could only be that lucky," I laughed, and jumped a little higher.

The parents tried to stop me and threatened repeatedly to call my husband (who was working that afternoon and would never have tolerated such reckless behavior from his 40+-week pregnant wife). I just laughed and bounced a little higher and harder.

The bouncing wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as I had imagined it would be, and with my hands supporting my ginormous belly, I finally threw all caution to the wind and jumped as high and as hard as I possibly could. The doctor had refused to induce me, and I had the possibility of a C-section looming ahead if I didn't go into labor spontaneously, so what did I have to lose?

After all that activity, fatigue overtook me in the middle of the afternoon, and I napped for about an hour before I was awakened abruptly by ... a twinge? Yes! It was the first very faint hint that my sweet baby was about to exit the womb.

"Put your shoes on, Momma. We've got more walking to do!"

And so the march around Jericho began again. Amused neighbors smiled every time we passed, and some even asked, "Any luck yet?" I wasn't ready to tell anyone that I was feeling occasional twinges. Not until I was certain they signaled something big.

Finally, around 7:30 that evening, my husband was called home to drive me to the hospital. Five and one-half hours later at 1:06 a.m. on June 1, our third child (and only son) was placed in our arms. That night was sacred for several reasons and will forever remain etched on my heart and mind. Even now, five years later, I can hardly reflect on it without tears of joy.

Happy fifth birthday, my sweet boy. You were the baby we almost didn't have, yet I can't imagine our family without you. You bring a whole new dynamic to the clan with your wild enthusiasm and your extravagant love.

We're just head over heels in love with you!

Friday, May 30, 2008

My disorganized ways

They are finally catching up with me.

I recounted the story over dinner tonight to my BFF Laura that this time last Friday I was on cloud nine. For the first time ever, I ended a semester without piles of essays to grade. No final exams to mark. The only school work hanging over me was entering a few scores in Engrade and turning in grades to the office. Folks, that is MAJOR for me. The night before grades are due, I'm usually pulling an all-nighter. I know a number of teachers who don't think a thing about being late with their grades, but I'm not one of them. Mine are going to be on time, by golly, even it it requires me to hook myself up to a Jolt IV and down a steady stream of Mountain Dews.

But that wasn't the case this time. I stayed on top of the paperwork these last nine weeks and was feeling quite encouraged by the end result.

Perhaps there is hope for me, I foolishly thought.

(Anyone who knows me well is enjoying a good belly laugh right now. I have always been extremely disorganized, and short of a divine miracle of the Almighty will probably always be that way. I hate that about myself, I really do.)

Fast forward two days to Sunday.

I was grocery shopping late in the afternoon, and as I so often do, went in the store carrying only my checkbook holder, keys, grocery list, and pen. I don't know why I hate carrying a purse, I just always have. I see lots of cute purses around these days, but I really hate the chore of switching purses to match outfits, so it's just proven much easier since I gave up diaper bags a couple of years ago to just carry the bare essentials.

Somewhere in the middle of my Target stop, I looked down and saw my little checkbook holder perched precariously near a large opening in the front of the cart, and a little voice in my head said, "You know, it's really not a good idea to carry all these little loose items around like this."

I agreed with the voice. After all, just how many times in my lifetime have I lost something important? Hundreds? Thousands? The Lord only knows ...

And so I made a mental note to find a good all-purpose purse that would match most, if not all, my summer outfits.

Unfortunately, my good intentions came a little too late. By the time I arrived home no more than 30 minutes later, I had lain eyes on my beautiful navy leather checkbook holder for the last time. As well as my driver's license, concealed firearm permit, debit card, and heaven only knows what else (no credit cards, thankfully).

I've given everyone I know permission if they see me in public without a handbag to please slap me. Hard. I don't ever want to have to visit the Revenue Office unnecessarily again.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pray for the family of Stephen Curtis Chapman

I awoke to the awful news this morning that the five-year-old daughter of contempary Christian artist Stephen Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth was struck by a vehicle in the family's driveway yesterday and died later from her injuries.

Please pray for this wonderful family.

You can read the article here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

So giddy I can hardly see straight

I woke up briefly at 1 a.m. this morning, and as I glanced over at the clock a thought went through my mind that excited me so much I almost didn't go back to sleep.

School is out THIS WEEK!

For me, at least. My oldest and youngest finished this past week which will ease up the schedule a bit. Middle child (in a different school) will finish June 4.

But right now it's this Friday ~ the day I empty out my classroom ~ that excites me the most.

As I have said before, I have loved every moment of this year. The experience of teaching in a small private Christian school has been RADICALLY different from teaching in a 7A public high school. I have enjoyed each one of my 27 students ... but I'm ready for summer.

More than anything, I'm ready to prepare for next year. I will be moving up with my sophomores and teaching American lit this coming year. Call me a nerd, but my brain is so abuzz with ideas that I can hardly see straight. We'll be reading "The Scarlet Letter," and I already have a preliminary pattern sketched out for my Hester Prynne dress with a big fancy A that I will wear to introduce the unit. Early American literature is one of my passions because of the glimpse that it gives us into the origins of our great nation.

Bye bye Silas Marner and Julius Caesar. Perhaps I will see you again in a few years, but Hester Prynne and Tom Sawyer are calling me now ...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Why I love being a mother

Of all the hats I've ever worn (and, yes, there have been quite a number of them), being Mom to three is hands down my favorite. Here are just a few things I'm enjoying these days:
  • Built in buddies to accompany me on the most mundane of errands. As my older daughter told me yesterday as we headed off to a long graduation ceremony, "It doesn't matter what we're doing. Just being together makes it special."

  • The "shows" they put together for their daddy and me.

  • Watching them sleep at night. They look so angelic as they slumber, it's hard to remember all the mischief they get into during the daytime hours.

  • The constant reminders that little people are watching me. I watch what I say and what I do so carefully these days, knowing that even when I don't think I'm being scrutinized, I probably am.

  • The built-in humility they offer on a daily basis. When I slip up and act in a way that is inconsistent with the values we are trying to pass on to the kids, they are very quick to spot it and point it out. Sometimes publicly. Ouch.

  • Late-night talks while cuddling in bed as they fall asleep.
This has been a wonderful Mother's Day. My family let me sleep until the ridiculously late hour of 9 a.m. at which time I awoke to the smell of pancakes and syrup. Hubs and the cubs would have served me in bed, but the prospect of blueberry syrup on my bedding was a gift I could do without, and so we all dined at the table together. At my place were cards and a gift (a new bottle of Ralph Lauren "Miracle" which is my new favorite). Later, it was lunch at the Olive Garden and a peaceful, lazy afternoon spent at home, followed by a special dinner prepared by my little girls.

And the gift I wanted most? For the kids to get along well with each other today and play happily. They delivered, I'm proud to say.

As joyful as my heart is on this, my ninth Mother's Day, it is mixed with a measure of sadness for a number of friends and acquaintances:
  • For the ladies in their 30's and 40's who would love to be moms but are still waiting and praying for God to bless them with a mate.

  • For the couples who long for the blessing of a child in their home but struggle with infertility or repeated miscarriages.

  • For our friends in Texas who recently lost their first pregnancy after only a few short weeks.

  • For the moms who are grieving the loss of a child.

  • For several friends who are spending their first Mother's Day grieving the recent loss of their moms.
Mother's Day is such a special day but one that has the potential to bring a great deal of pain. So while I celebrate my blessings today, I also pray for those who felt like they had little cause to rejoice. My heart goes out to you all.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


During the summer of 2006, I received an email about the Friendship Family Program at the University of Arkansas. Within the email were statistics about the percentage of international students who come to the U.S. for their programs of study, live here for an average of 2-3 years, and return to their homelands without ever having set foot in an American home.

Birds of a feather definitely flock together, and in a university setting, it is only natural that students would seek out companions who share their language and customs.

The Friendship Family Program seeks to broaden these students' experience in America by allowing them to experience life as Americans experience it ~ in the setting of a family that they get together with on a casual basis once or twice a month.

Intrigued, I signed up, requesting a female student from India. One of my best friends from my undergraduate days in Louisiana was a guy from Madras, and I fell in love with the people, the culture, and the food of India. This would be a great experience for the kids, I thought.

Within days, I received an email with the name of our student, Shruti, and given her contact information.

Unfortunately, within a few days my mother became ill, entered a hospital in Little Rock, and passed away. Contacting Shruti was the farthest thing from my mind.

When I returned to Fayetteville after the funeral and life settled down a little, I sent her an email and explained my situation. At that point in my life, I wasn't feeling particularly hospitable or friendly and seriously considered contacting the international students office to let them know I wouldn't be participating in the program at that time. Perhaps they could find a more suitable family for Shruti. A family that wasn't reeling from the sudden loss of a mother and grandmother.

Something told me I shouldn't do that, and am I ever glad I made the choice to email her a few days later.

We were all smitten with this delightful girl (I can call her that since I'm old enough to be her mother!) from the start. She has captured our hearts, and we've enjoyed some special times over the past year and a half. Shruti has awakened in my kids an awareness of other peoples and cultures and a desire to see and experience the world outside of Northwest Arkansas.

She was awarded her MBA today from the Sam M. Walton College of Business and will be leaving us in just 11 short days for a new life in Boston.

Shruti, we're so very proud of you and your hard work. We hate to see you go, but we know God has a great job waiting for you up in Boston. Stay in touch!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Who knew it would be this hard?

I'm about to make a shocking confession.

It's been three years since my eight year old took swim lessons. My six year old and four year old have never taken them.

Now it's not that I don't value swimming skills. Far from it. It just seems like every year something happens to foil my ability to get my kids on a list ~ anybody's list ~ for lessons.

I've tried. I really have.

One year it was a new baby. Another year it was a move. Last year, I simply let the time get away from me. Never thought about anything related to water activities until the pools opened Memorial Day weekend and by then it was too late. I was laughed at when I called several area pools the day following Memorial Day to inquire about swim lessons.

"Our list filled up in March," one snooty lady told me.

Excuse me, I wanted to say. I was not thinking about swimming when it was still snowing every other week.

Note to Self: START thinking about swimming EVERY single time you see a snowflake fall from the sky.

My original plan was to enroll the little people at The Swim Ranch here in town. It's run by a former Olympian and University of Arkansas swim coach, and everybody I've talked to swears they could teach a boulder the backstroke.

At their prices, I would certainly hope so. It's $90 a kid for one week of lessons. Let's see ... for three children, that's $270 buckaroos for, did I mention, ONE WEEK of lessons.

For that amount of money, I'd expect all three to have a guaranteed spot on the swim team.

Needless to say, it didn't break my heart when my buddy Laura called a couple of months back around 7:30 a.m. on a dreary March morning to say that she was in line for Swim Ranch signups and ... take note of this ... she was number 168 in line. The Swim Ranch people apparently pride themselves on taking as much time with each family as they possibly can (to discuss what, I can only imagine ... politics? religion? the high price of swim lessons??) and so it was about 6:30 p.m. (yes, that's 11 hours later) before her registration was complete and she had shelled over hundreds of dollars to the Swim Ranch for her kiddos.

It would have been hard enough to part with that much money, but parting with that many hours was out of the question. Not for swim lessons, for the love of Pete.

So I began investigating other options and found a pool in a neighboring town that offers 8 days of Red Cross lessons for $40. Significantly better. The only problem was that sign ups began at 7:30 a.m. this morning. I had kids to get to school in our town, so I begged my mother-in-law (who lives just a few miles from the pool) to go hold a spot in line for me until I could make it to the registration place.

My phone rang at 7:15 this morning. She was at the registration building and was told that all our forms needed to be completed before we could even get a number and stand in line. Okay. I began rattling off dates of birth (these are her grandchildren ... shouldn't she know this stuff already??) and emergency contact information while simultaneously driving my 8-year-old daughter to school. She was safely deposited into the care of the sweet cafeteria ladies at 7:20, and off to the pool we headed.

All the while spitting out dates and phone numbers to my MIL who was frantically writing it all down on the other end. I was also registering a friend of my older daughter's, and when it came time to sign the forms, MIL asked, "What name should I sign?"

"Her mother's name I replied," and began to spell it for her.

Long pause on the other end.

"But that's (pause here for dramatic effect) FORGERY (gasp!)"

"So?" I replied. "This is not a tax return." (At this point, my own mother would have told me to stop being a sassy pants, but this is my mother in law, and she would never say such a thing to me. Ever.)

Another long pause.

"Well," she began in her authoratative way, "if you sign another child's consent forms, then if something happens to her, you are liable."

I was tempted to ask her what law school she graduated from, but I decided I'd probably already crossed one too many lines considering how good she'd been to haul herself out of the house that early in the morning on account of my children's swim lessons.

"Umm, but we're not signing MY name ... we're signing her MOTHER'S name ... and if they have a problem with my forging her mother's signature, they are free to call her mother when I get there to verify that I am not breaking any laws."

"Well, okay, if you're sure."

"What I'm really sure of is that I'd better not show up at school later today with my own children registered for lessons and X (the friend) not. That would be bad."

Within another 10 minutes I'd arrived at the youth center, and MIL met me out front with completed paperwork in hand. She handed me our assigned number (#14), directed me to the proper room and took my younger two off for a morning of fun. Left alone in this room full of moms and a few dads, I began glancing over the papers. I was mystified over a "field trip consent form" that had been stapled to the back of each registration form.

And then I noticed the heading on the top of the front page: "2008 Day Camp Registation".

Oh no, surely not.

I caught the eye of a nearby mom, and tried very casually to ask why the registation forms said Day Camp on them.

She couldn't hear me, so I had to ask again, louder this time, catching the attention of half of the people in the room.

"Why does the registration form say 'Day Camp' on it?"

She and every other person within earshot looked at me like I had broccoli growing out my ears.

"Because THIS IS day camp registration," someone finally answered.

"Oh," I said. I should have stopped there, but I had to confirm before I gave up my place in line. "So where are swim lesson signups?"

"Down the hall in the room marked 'Swim Lesson Sign-Ups."

I was growing redder by the moment.

Ninety minutes (and better directions) later, all four kids were registered. I was $120 poorer, and not too happy about all the wasted time, but it was over. And it didn't take 11 hours.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Just in case I haven't mentioned it ...

After today, I have ONLY THREE MORE WEEKS OF SCHOOL!!!!!!!

I have loved every moment of this year. Teaching in a private school has been an experience that I could not have imagined 12 years ago when I taught in a public high school. I am simply wild about my students. I will miss them like crazy this summer.

But still.

I NEED summer to come quickly. The lack of organization around my house is killin' me.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Fun weekend

Our wonderful friends Steve and Angie Titus and their children invited us to join them and a group of folks from their church for a weekend of camping and hiking on Petit Jean Mountain.

I'm simply too tired to write much tonight, so I'm posting a few pictures from the trip. The scenery was breathtaking, and the fellowship was sweet. Thanks, guys, for inviting us along!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Lisa's Mom

My cousin Pat calls it the club that no woman wants to join and no member can leave.

It's the group of women, like myself and Pat, who have lost their moms way too soon. Pat was just a day away from turning 40 when her mom (my Aunt Mary) died, and I was 38 when my mom passed away.

Today, the group got a little bigger. My sweet friend Lisa lost her mother this morning after a courageous year-long fight against small cell lung cancer that was diagnosed at the end of March 2007.

Please pray for Lisa and her family as they travel to Nevada for her mom's service. She and Ben will be leaving four of their five children at home in the care of a relative. Pray for their safety as they travel and for peace for their broken hearts.

The club has enough members for now. My hope is that the rest of my friends get to enjoy their mothers until they are well into old age and have had many happy years to enjoy their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

That's the way it ought to be.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wishful thinking

This morning as we were gathered by the front door, holding hands, ready to pray for God's blessing on our day, Jeff scrunched up his nose. He looked around our little circle and said, "Whew! Somebody stinketh!"

I knew immediately it was the little man. There's just something about little boys (and big boys, too) that is ... hmm ... odiferous after they've been outside playing for more than three or four seconds.

We headed to the bathroom as soon as Dad had left, and the little man began to strip down for a quick bath. He was full of excuses that he did not smell bad and why I should not give him a bath before school.

Lifting his arm to his nose, he sniffed loudly and proclaimed, "Why, smell me, Momma. I smell just like a BUTTERCUP!"

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

I knew my husband was a gamer when I married him. I foolishly thought that he would want to give up his online madness after he discovered the immense joys of marriage and parenthood.

Twelve years later, I know better.

And so, after much protesting (and excuse making), I came to the realization that there was probably much fun to be had in the online world of elves and such ...

And so, I introduce to you Elyndrien (my character) and Gelric (Jeff's character).

Aren't we just precious?

Monday, March 24, 2008

I know this is late ...

From our gang to yours, happy belated Easter.

Resurrection Day began on a stressful note (as do most Sunday mornings at our house, I shamefully admit). Knowing that the kids' choir was singing in the later service, I set my alarm for 7 a.m. That would surely give me enough time to put together the squash casserole I would be contributing to the annual Easter gathering at the in-law's .

Things went well until I decided 15 minutes before we should have been leaving the house that I really couldn't bear to skip a shower after all. Clean and late or on-time and miserable?? The shower won out, but unfortunately, there was no time for makeup. I was putting on mascara in the car with one hand and holding onto the casserole dishes with the other when my honeyed carrots decided to overflow their banks. Sticky honey sauce dripped all over my new pants, and I was sucking in a big breath of air before exploding in anger when I remembered that it was Easter Sunday. In the grand scheme of things, was my vegetable mess really that big a deal? A big enough deal to completely ruin the morning with an outburst on the way to church? Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to realize that it wasn't.

I braced the kids for the likelihood that we would not make it to church in time for them to sing with their choir, and all three were gracious in their responses.

"It's okay, Mom," one said. "We know you've been working really hard this morning to make us look nice and to cook some good stuff for lunch."

Wow. I didn't expect that. I wondered what their response would have been had I given in to the temptation to scream loudly a few moments before.

When we finally arrived (after pulling over to mop up part of the carrot mess with a towel), the kids' choir was halfway through their second song (of four), and a very kind lady ushered them into the sanctuary and onto the risers so they could finish out the performance. I survived seven hours in my sticky clothes, and we had a mighty fine time (and some incredible food) at our family dinner.

He is risen, folks. He is risen indeed.

May we celebrate each and every day of our lives the death that gave us life.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

History repeats itself

We're currently on day nine of a ten-day vacation to Florida, and I'm sitting in the hotel laundry room washing a few loads of clothes and reflecting on the previous week and a half.

I have tons of photos to post when we return home, but I just wanted to write for a few minutes tonight about some of the striking similarities this trip bore to our previous trip to Disney World in 1996.

Twelve years ago I had just married the love of my life in October, but we waited until Christmas break (I was taking classes that semester) for our "big" trip. My paternal grandmother had been declining over the past few months, and one of my aunts took me aside before the wedding and made me promise that if my grandma passed away that I would not cancel or delay my trip at all. "She knows you love her," my aunt told me, "and she would NOT want you to alter your plans in any way." Our wedding trip was still over two months away at that point, and I couldn't imagine such a thing actually happening, so I told her what she wanted to hear and didn't think too much more about it. Sure enough, on New Year's Day 1996, just two days before Jeff and I were supposed to leave for WDW, God called my sweet grandmother home. On the very same day, Northwest Arkansas got a ton of ice and several inches of snow making travel to Little Rock impossible. And as if that weren't enough, I came down with a nasty case of bronchitis and had to scramble to find a doctor who could see me given the fact that it was a holiday and the weather was so bad.

I have never felt so conflicted in my life as I boarded the plane for Florida at the exact hour my grandmother was being memorialized in a city 200 miles away. Never mind the fact that there was no way I could have gotten there safely. And never mind the fact that I was on the brink of pnemonia. My sweet aunt was kind enough to call me several times that morning to reassure me that things were turning out exactly as God wanted them to. He knew my heart was in Little Rock, and my family knew my heart was in Little Rock. All I knew was that my body was on an airplane bound for Disney World, and it felt like the most disrespectful thing I had ever done in my life.

Fast forward 12 years.

Striking similarity #1: A couple of weeks or so before we left, I came down with a nasty case of strep. When I realized that I wasn't getting any better with over-the-counter stuff, I high-tailed it to the walk-in clinic because once again I couldn't get in to see my regular guy (this time flu season was to blame, not a holiday). After 10 days of an antibiotic that at first seemed to be working but ultimately proved powerless, I was seen by Dr. O the day before our vacation was to begin. When I saw him, I was in worse condition that I was 10 days before (and I was in pretty bad shape then).

Striking similarity #2: It snowed three days before we were scheduled to leave and a big snowfall was forecasted for the night before.

When I started noting the eerie correlations that seemed to be unfolding with each bag we packed, fear gripped my heart and I asked my husband to pray that the similarities would end there. My dad's mother was 94 when she died, and my maternal grandmother is now 95 and lives in a nursing home just like my other grandmother did. All the strange coincidences were causing my imagination to run crazy with thoughts of "what if ..."

We prayed that the snow clouds would go a different direction ... and they did. We prayed that my new drugs would work quickly ... and they did. We prayed that no tragedy would occur in our immediate or extended family ... and it didn't.

Until tonight. Less than 36 hours from our return home.

While sitting here in the laundry room checking email and reading news from home, I was blindsided to read the obituary of my dear friend Joyce. She was my neighbor for more than four years and has been a mother figure to me, especially since the loss of my own mother.

I last saw her a few days before Christmas when the kids and I stopped by one Sunday afternoon to drop off a gift to her. We knew her health was declining, but her spirits weren't sagging at all. She had some gingersnaps for the kids, and we sat and visited for quite a while. A few weeks later, one of her brothers came to visit from Florida in his motor home and she got permission from her oncologist to make a trip to Birmingham to visit her daughter Carol.

On the day of her departure, I was supposed to run by her house to tell her goodbye, but something held me up that morning. I gave her a phone call instead to wish her a safe trip. It never crossed my mind that she wouldn't be coming back in a few weeks as planned.

She got to Birmingham and it became apparent that the medication she was taking for her leukemia wasn't working, and her oncologist told her that he was releasing her to hospice care.

I'll never forget the day she called to break the news and to ask me for a favor. Would I please call all her neighbors to let them know that she was dying? I've wanted to blog about it all before now, but my heart has been so broken I've hardly known what to say.

By the end of the phone call, she and I were both crying hard, but she was able to say these words that she had never spoken to me before: "I want you and the children to know how much I love you all. I really, really do." I reassured her of our deep love for her and our daily prayers for her health.

I talked to her several more times after that, the last time on her 74th birthday on February 23. She sounded so strong as she told me about her wonderful hospice workers and the great care they were giving her. If the doctors had given her any idea of how long she had to live, she never mentioned it to me, and so I was hoping for time to visit her in Birmingham. When I asked if I could bring the girls to see her this summer, she seemed delighted by the suggestion, and I was glad I had asked.

If there's anything I should have figured out by this point in my life, it is that there are no guarantees of a tomorrow. I am losing count of the friends I have lost that I really didn't give a proper farewell to. Of course, we as Christians know that we're not really saying goodbye, but you know what I mean. It's hard enough to grieve a loss without also grieving a missed opportunity to say things that need to be said. To give one last hug. To say one last "I love you."

So I'm going to say it here.

Miss Joyce, you meant the world to me and my family. You were the first neighbor to welcome us when we moved in across the street from you. You were the first person to come visit me just a few short weeks later when we brought Gavin home from the hospital. You shared your tomatoes with us in the summer and showed me the best places to go pick blueberries. You shared your favorite books with me and all the wisdom you had gained from successfully raising two daughters. You were like another grandmother to my kids, and they are going to be devastated tomorrow when I tell them that all their prayers for God to heal you have now been answered in the way we were not at all hoping for.

You maintained your hope and courage until the very end, and I hope that if I ever face a terminal illness that I can handle it with the class and grace that you have displayed.

I miss you so much already, but I take joy in knowing that you are now free from leukemia and all of the medications and treatments that took a harsh toll on you these past few years. I take joy in knowing that we will see you again one of these days. If you can arrange for my home to be somewhere near yours, it would delight me to no end to trade garden vegetables with you again and swap novels.

Think you could pull that off??

Monday, March 03, 2008

I guess this means I'm a Crochet Guru?

I ran across this quote today and had to laugh:

"You appear to be a Knitting Guru. You love knitting and do it all the time. While finishing a piece is the plan, you still love the process, and can't imagine a day going by without giving some time to your yarn. Packing for vacation involves leaving ample space for the stash and supplies. It can be hard to tell where the yarn ends and you begin."

I can't say I feel that strongly about knitting. It's enjoyable but requires much more mental energy (and manual dexterity) than crochet. When it comes time to relax, I usual don't have much mental energy to spare and am much more interested in going to my happy place for a brief time.

We've got open suitcases filling the living room and packing lists galore for our upcoming trip in a few days, and my overwhelming concern? Whether Delta will allow me to fly the friendly skies with my crochet hook and something with which to cut yarn. Oh, and whether I will even have a spare carry-on for my current project.

My compulsion to stitch can best be stated by a sampler I saw in a cross-stitch shop in Branson more than a decade ago. It read simply:

"I wish I may
I wish I might
Stitch a stitch
Or two tonight."
Most people I know cannot relate at all to my fiber addiction, but if a single day passes and I haven't done at least a few stitches, the day just isn't complete. My husband would be horrified if he knew just how many nights I have stayed awake over the past 12 years listening for the slow breathing that lets me know he's drifted off to sleep so I could creep to the living room for just one more row (which more often than not has turned into several rows ... ahem)

I just found a website today that lists allowed and prohibited items on domestic flights, and hallelujah, crochet hooks would appear to be on the approved list. Just to be on the safe side, I'm going to purchase a plastic hook this week and stash the old metal hook in my suitcase.

Call me strange, but I think I'm as giddy over how much of this afghan I can get done while travelling as my kids are over meeting The Mouse.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Please stand back ... my head could explode at any moment

Eight days ago I was awakened in a most unpleasant way ... by a throbbing in my throat that would not be relieved by hot tea and honey.

Hubs and the cubs went on to church without me and somehow the therapeutic effects of 3+ hours of solitude in bed convinced me that I was much better by their return.

The following morning I was once again awakened by the sensation of being knifed in my throat, but a few sprays of Chloraseptic numbed me up enough to get through the day.

Fast forward a very painful four days to Friday. I agonized all day long over my symptoms. Should I go to the doctor? Or should I hold off until Monday? It's not going to see the doc that bothers me. He's a very likable sort and always makes me feel like I'm the most important patient on his schedule that day even if he has an entire room of coughing flu-bags vying for a few minutes of his attention (and his prescription-writing powers). I just don't like taking antibiotics and view them as an absolute last resort after I've tried everything over-the-counter I can get my hands on.

When things didn't improve over the weekend and I woke up this morning at 5 a.m. burning up in the middle of a dream that the people from Home Improvement had all taken their power sanders to my pharynx, I knew the OTC stuff just wasn't cutting it. It was time to make the phone call I'd been dreading.

A much-too-cheerful receptionist answered my call and told me the very soonest I could be seen was late on Wednesday afternoon.

"Mmmm ... I think I'm really sick," I told her. "There's no way he can see me today?"

"Oh no," she replied in her too-happy way. "There's a LOT of flu going around right now." But, she went on to suggest that I pay a visit to the walk-in clinic if I thought I needed attention sooner than Wednesday.

The walk-in clinic? The clinic we always referred to as Medi-Quack when I was in college? I just didn't know about that ...

Somehow I made it through class, but by the end the pressure in my left ear was so bad I was afraid my eardrum was about to rupture.

Medi-Quack was sounding more and more like a viable option. So the Little Man and I stopped by on our way home. Forty minutes later, having been diagnosed with a raging case of strep and left otitis media and prescriptions in hand, we headed to the pharmacy.

I had to laugh at his youthful naivete. "Now that you have your drugs, Momma, you wanna stop at Chili's and have chips and salsa?"

No, honey, I think I'd rather have a power sander taken to my throat.

Just give me a few days, though, and I'll be all over that.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

And how would she know this?

Yesterday, my Sara and I were out doing a little shopping in preparation for our upcoming trip to the Land of Mouse, and we stopped by the snack bar at Target to get some popcorn and a drink. As we walked to the car, Sara commented on her favorite popcorn.

"I like the really yellow pieces the best," she said, "because they're really buttery."

And then the observation that had me scratching my head:

"But Momma ... when you're out playing in the snow and gathering it for snow cream, the yellow snow is NOT the best."

I don't even want to know how she figured that out.

Friday, February 22, 2008


This from the BBC this morning:

For the second time in two years, an Argentine teenager has given birth to female triplets, BBC News reports.

The 16-year-old, who goes only by the name of Pamela, first gave birth to triplets at the age of 15.

Pamela, who lives in Leones in the central Argentine province of Cordoba, also gave birth to a son two years ago. All seven children were born prematurely, and the mother did not use fertility treatments, the report said. The chances of giving birth to triplets once are more than 8,000 to 1, according the report.

Provincial authorities donated land and built a house for Pamela’s family when the first set of triplets were born. Pamela’s mother plans to ask the government for more assistance.

So, if I'm reading this correctly, Pamela first gave birth at age 14 to a son, at age 15 to triplet daughters, and at age 16 to another set of triplet daughters.

Folks, that makes this child the mother of SEVEN BABIES.

The government has donated land and built a house for this girl, and now her mother is planning to ask for MORE???

I don't know whether I'm more appalled by Pamela's actions or by her mother's. This family definitely needs help, but it's NOT in the form of government assistance.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No Peanuts, Thanks. I'll Take a Valium Instead ...

It's been almost two weeks ago that my husband called home one morning with some news he was practically BURSTING to share.

"Okay, hon," he started. "Do I have ALL your attention?"

So excited was he that my first thought was that he had won the Powerball or something. But then I remember that he doesn't buy lottery tickets. A tax on people who are really bad at math, he calls them. And just in case I haven't mentioned it before, Hubs is really bad at math.

But I digress ..

"Yeah, you have it all," I replied. "What's up?"

In a nutshell, his new employer is sending him to some training in Orlando, and they are encouraging him and his coworker to take their families along, since the hotel where the training will be held is practically on Disney property.

My initial enthusiasm was quickly followed by a near panic attack as I realized that my plans to drive there had already been foiled. We're flying, I was told.

Yikes. I haven't been on an airplane in so long I'm embarrassed to say. Certainly not since 9/11. I always did okay on airplanes when I was younger, but it's different now. I'm a momma of three, and there are crazies in this world who think it's noble to take over American planes and crash land them into buildings.

I know, I know ... safety measures have been put into place since then that make it nigh near impossible to board a plane with anything besides the clothes on your body and possibly a toothbrush in a carry-on if you're very lucky, but still.

I'm a worrier, and what makes this even worse is that my primary means of destressing (knitting and crocheting) will not help me at all seeing as how they're not about to let me board a plane with needles of any sort.

Since Hubs is a certified, card-carrying officer of the law, I thought perhaps he might be allowed to board with his weapon concealed. But no. The Airline Nazis don't allow that either.

I don't want to sound prejudiced or anything, but I'm just giving my family fair warning right now that if there is ANYONE on that plane that looks the slightest bit like a terrorist, I'm not flying. Unless they drug me first.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

It's Always Good to Know Who Your Competition Is

The little man and I were having lunch together at home today, when he suddenly looks at me and says sweetly (and emphatically), "Momma, you are the best momma in the WHOLE ENTIRE OF THE WOR-ULD."

"Really?" I asked. "In the whole world? Are you sure?"

"Mmmm hmmm," he replied, nodding his head. "I'm VERRRY sure."

After a brief pause, he went on to add another thought. "In fact, Momma, if they (not sure who "they" is) lined up ALL the mommas in the wor-uld, and I got to pick one, I would pick you."

"Really, Doodle Bug? You would pick ME?" I tried to act surprised, even though he has expressed this same sentiment at least 49 times already this week.

And then the clincher.

"Oh, yes, Momma. In fact, if they let me spin to pick a Momma, and my spinner landed on Scott Donna Momma, I would just CHEAT THE SPINNER and pick you anyway! So there!"

You can only imagine the sigh of relief that escaped me as I realized my arch rival Scott Donna Momma was NOT going to beat me out for the affections of my little boy. Whew.

Friday, February 01, 2008

This Crazy Arkansas Weather

On Monday of this week, we awakened to unseasonably warm temperatures. The thought briefly passed through my mind that I could easily see myself wearing a skirt and flip-flops to class that morning. "It's January," I reminded myself. "People will laugh at you if you show up in flip-flops."
So I dressed in something appropriate for what the weather would normally be in January (never mind that my upstairs classroom usually feels 15-20 degrees warmer than it should). And I roasted.

Walking out to my car afterward, I spoke briefly with Susan, the ninth-grade English teacher who was wearing flip-flops. We commented on how beautiful the weather was, and could this be a sign we would have an early spring.

The next morning, the weather again was gorgeous when I awoke to a balmy 65 degrees. And so I did what I had wanted to do the day before. I shaved my very white legs, threw on a skirt and top and my most favorite pair of Skechers flip flops. (This is probably a violation of some obscure rule in the 20-page dress code, but since I haven't taken the time to read it all, I surely can't be held responsible for following it, right??)

Hubs commented before he left for work that we were going to see a significant drop in temperatures that day, and there was even a chance of snow that evening.

A wiser woman would have immediately put on a pair of tights and boots (seeing as how my warm wool pants are forbidden by the dress code), but I dismissed his warning and assumed that the big drop the forecasters were predicting surely wouldn't happen before I got home around noon. After all, those guys are rarely right anyway.

So off I went in 60ish degree weather. A mere 90 MINUTES LATER as The Little Man and I headed to the mall to buy Daddy's birthday present, it was already well on its way to the 30s. Those smirks that I had worried about getting the day before ... yes, I got plenty of them as we braved strong winds (without coats, of course, because who would wear a coat and flip-flops together??) G and I went into a shoe store to get Dad a new pair of Merrill's and when I asked for a man's size, she coyly remarked that it looked like I could use a pair of shoes as well. What could I do but laugh?

It's been freezing every day since, and the snow finally came yesterday, though not nearly as much as we'd been told we'd get. Somehow our 4-7" turned into not much more than a heavy dusting, but we got two days out of school, which have been wonderful!

This is the view from my deck this morning:

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go pack away every pair of sandals I own just to avoid the temptation of donning another pair anytime in the near future.