Prayers...

In April, 2010, when Andrew was 2 1/2, a tumor was discovered behind his eye. The tumor was removed, but it was found to be an aggressive cancer. He endured seven months of chemo and six weeks radiation. In December of 2010, the day after his last treatment, he was rushed to the ER with an almost fatal bacterial infection. He survived.

He is now seven-years-old!! I don't visit here much, because during the ordeal, this is where I dumped everything--my rage, my fear, my sadness, my ugly, my hope, my everything. But I want all of you who supported and prayed for us to hear his updates. You helped me survive, and I am deeply thankful. Every once in awhile, I will check in to let you know how he's doing. Please continue to pray that cancer will never return to his body. Thank you.



Monday, February 28, 2011

Mundane Monday

"Do you guys have your shoes on?" I yell up the stairs.

"Why do I keep hearing screaming? Aaron, are you bugging Sammy?  PLEASE STOP IT."

I smear some cream cheese on two bagels, bag them up and wash two apples.  I find a stack of Thin Mints and pry away two groups of two and wrap them in left-over Christmas saran wrap. As I search the pantry for two juice boxes, I hear it again: Thump. Thump. Scream.  A blood curdling, almost predictable, I-am-being-tortured scream.  I barely flinch.

"Are you guys dressed yet?  C'mon! We're gonna be late!"  I race up the stairs, two steps at at time and find both of them putting on their shirts, still without shoes and socks.

"Aaon's being mean to me!"

 "C'MON! Let's get going! Get your shoes on! C'MON!

"I can't find my shoes!  I don't have any socks! I don't have any underwear! I don't have any..."

Finally, everything is found.  They may be wearing yesterday's jeans fished out of the laundry, or their brother's underwear, but they are dressed.  Climbing into the car, they both trip over Sammy's favorite shoes (the ones he spent the morning searching for) and settle down into their car seats.

"Everyone have their seatbelts on?  Yes? Good."

I back out of the driveway, check the car clock, and sigh.  It will be a miracle if we make make it on time.  Turning my focus to the road, I start the softly mumbled but urgent tirade of frustrated comments at the oblivious drivers in front of me.  "Move it, will ya? Could ya go any slower? Geez!"

BAM from the backseat.

Blood curdling scream.

"He hit me with his lightsaber!"

"But he hit me with his sword!."

I lean back, careful not to take my eyes off the road, and hold my breath, hoping they will comply without too much persuading. I extend one arm into the back seat, palm up.

"Give me the weapons. NOW."

With slight hesitation, and perhaps a little protest, they hand 'em over.

More shrieks.

More screams.

 "What now!?" I yell over my purposely loud radio.

 "He is singing THAT song.  Over and over and over again!  Ahhhh!!! make him stop!

And, he is.

"Sammy is a poopoo Sammy is a poopoo Sammy is a poopoo"...and so the song continues. 

I try a calm, pleading approach:  "Please stop singing that song.  You are driving us bonkers."

"Sammy is a poopoo..."

(Do you find it hard to effectively discipline from the front seat? I DO!)

"Just ignore him, Sammy."

"I don't know how to do that!!' he screeches.

I breathe a small sigh of relief as we pull into the school parking lot. Right. on. time... That is, IF the cars in front of me will just hurry!  I make an almost U-turn and maneuver my way onto the curb.   A loud bell is blaring.

"Get out! Get out!" I urge, desperately.  Aaron climbs over the back seat and pushes his way through his brothers' legs. As the door opens and he prepares to exit, I touch his arm and smile.  "Have a great day! I love you.  Bye, Sweetie." He hops out and runs to class. whew.

I pull forward (thump, thump) over the curb and keep driving.  Next stop, preschool.

As we arrive in the parking lot, I am grateful for the ten minutes we have before school starts.  Ahhhh...time for a little mascara (without it, my eyelashes are blonde, and invisible) and a deep, cleansing breath.  

"Get me out of my seatbelt Mommy! Get me out!" Andrew cries as he wiggles in vain to escape his straps.

I reach back with one arm and release him.  Soon, both boys are doing somersaults over the seats waiting for me to finish up. "C'mon Mom!! My friends are out there!!!"

I finish up with the mascara, open the door, and release the captives.  They sprint for the scooters and I sit down at a child-size picnic bench by the classroom door. When the teachers are ready, I sign Sammy in, drop off his lunch, and kiss him goodbye.

Another morning drop-off complete!

Andrew and I head for home.

I was deprived of this routine for a while.  And I missed it.

I am so thankful that I get to participate in this daily chaos.





I am thankful for:

#7    The mundane
#8    Routine
#9    Chaos
#10  Screaming children
#11  Lost shoes
#12  Teasing brothers
#13   Mascara
#14   Lightsabers and plastic swords
#15   Scooters
#16   Flexible teachers who give grace for well-deserved tardies.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Four Hugs a Day

"Four hugs a day, that's the minimum. Four hugs a day, not the maximum.  Four hugs a day..."

Amused, my mouth smiled on one side as I watched Sammy move his mouth up and down, pretending to sing, staring at the ceiling, then at his friends, and then at his fingers.  The rest of the boys seemed to have practiced the same distracted routine, only in a different order.  The little girl next to him was animated, engaged, and singing each word in tune.  Her curly pony tail swung behind her as she swayed to the music.  The rest of the preschool girls seemed to follow her lead.  The boys wiggled and squirmed, the girls watched the teachers and copied their hand movements.

For most of the song, I hardly noticed the words.  The melody reminded me of a song that Lucy and Ethel might have performed in one of their Vaudeville skits; slightly grating if not for the sweet voices singing along.  Andrew was on my lap playing his Leapster.  It was a little too loud, and Sponge Bob kept whistling in my ear, so I was fumbling for the volume control.  Noticing the stylish preschool moms surrounding me, I was also worrying about my boots, and wondering if I had coordinated them well with my outfit. I'm still not sure.

But at some point during the song, the distractions faded.  I began to listen the sing-songy lyrics, and I focused in on my middle son. Suddenly I found myself considering the words.  "Do I hug him enough?" I asked myself.

I carry Andrew constantly.  I hug him before I put him in his carseat.  I give him a squeeze when I lift him out.  I cuddle with him at night to help him fall asleep.  He plops down on my lap, whether I am ready or not. 

My oldest son Aaron has always been naturally affectionate and comes to me for hugs, even when I don't come to him. 

But Sammy?  He used to wait for a hug before school in the morning, but now he runs off, happy to see his friends.  When I pick him up from school, he runs past me to the playground.  He can put on his own seatbelt.  As I reflected on my daily routine, a realization sunk in:  I need to be more affectionate with my middle boy.  Days slip away too quickly.

So I have been looking for opportunities to reach out; for moments to tousle his hair, or squeeze his shoulders, or give him a kiss on the cheek.  I don't want to miss him in the busy routine of life.  I want him to know, and to feel that he is loved.

The next morning when I woke up, the rest of the house was still quiet and dark.  I could hear the heavy breathing of sleep and curtains were still covering the windows.   I found Sammy sprawled out on top of his red and blue plaid comforter.  I lay down and curled up next to him.  I squeezed him tightly to me, kissed his soft cheek, and whispered, "Wake up Sammy bug!"  And before he could pry his eyes away from dreams, he smiled.  He smiled huge. 

As the days continue, with school drop-offs and pick-ups,with treks to the grocery store and times at the park, I keep looking for those moments.

And I keep finding them.

"Four hugs a day, that's the minimum. Four hugs a day, not the maximum.  Four hugs a day..." (And yes.  that song was in my head ALL week!)







Wednesday, February 23, 2011

SUCCESS!! and a Million Thank Yous

When my world was falling apart, and we were just beginning treatment, and I could hardly make it through a day without sobbing, Stacia sent me an email.  "What can I do to help?" and then later, "What if I created a website for Andrew and had people send him hats from all 50 states?"  Stacia hardly knew me, so I was overwhelmed by her thoughtfulness, and her willingness to do that for Andrew and for me.  I accepted her offer.  To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I didn't know her very well, and thought maybe Andrew would get two or three hats, and we would be thankful.  But for almost a year, Stacia has been persistent in tracking down friends,  family, and blog readers to send Andrew hats.  It has been a lot of work!

Yesterday, he received the last of the 50 states!!  In addition we also received hats from outside the U.S. including many of the Canadian provinces, Mexico, England, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Germany (I hope I didn't forget any).  I am in awe of her dedication.  Her blog is amazing too.  If you haven't checked her out, you can read more at My Fluffy Bunnies.  Thank you so much Stacia.  You have blessed my family more than you know.

Here are the final two hats:

Utah

and Delaware!!



ALSO! I want to thank ALL of you who sent us hats, cards, cars, games, well-wishes, toys, coloring books, silly bands, tattoos, pictures of your children, kind words,  gift cards to McDonald's and more!  What an amazing blessingYOU have  been.  Even on the worst days, it was always a pick-me-up to go to the post office, and find a package or two (or three, or four, or ten!).  I am still shocked by the support and care you have shown me.

While I am at it, I want to say a few more "Thank You's."

Thank you to CJ for suggesting and making the "Prayers for Andrew" button!
Thank you to my sweet nurse Tiffany (who rescued me from hell):  A Tall Drink of Life.

I also want to thank Sharon.  She has been a reader and a supporter for quite some time, and when I investigated her website, I found that she makes beautiful quilts.  Her comments always make me cry.  I told her that I wanted to buy a quilt, and she offered to make me one, "as a blessing."  A couple of weeks ago, it arrived in the mail.  I took it out, and held it to my face, and you know what? it even smells beautiful. I am once again in awe of the time she took to make this for me.  She even spent time trying to figure out what colors might match my home.  I encourage all of you to check out her website: Sharon's Cottage Quilts.   Here is a picture:


Thank you sweet Sharon!

I also want to thank two bloggers who gave me awards, which I have yet to recognize.  I am not following the rules, but I wanted to thank them and mention them!  Anne from "500 Places with Kids" gave me the award below.  Her husband is a cancer survivor and she writes about the places she visits with her children, and gives travel tips along the way.  Thank you Anne!



My friend Missy also gave me an award, and I want to thank her.  She is a beautiful person inside and out and has been an amazing support throughout all of this.  Check out her blog at My Life and Everything in Between.  Thank you Missy!




I also want to mention a few bloggers who have been there for me, through all of it, regularly commenting through my anger and through my tears, through sweet moments and ugly moments.  Thank you.  I appreciate your support and kind words more than you know.

Thank you to all of you who have placed Andrew's button on your blog.  Thank you to the many other bloggers who have followed my story and shown your support.  Thank you to my anonymous readers.  Thank you to those who pop in once in a while to say hello.  Thank you to my friends and family who read and cry and smile with me.  Thank you to ALL of you who have read our story thus far.  I am so appreciative.  You have all made this last year much more bearable.

(I hope no one feels slighted! You have all been beautiful).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Birthday Aaron! (The post he deserves: without scorpions, laments, or caffeine.)


Aaron:

"When I grow up, I will buy the house next door, so that you can see your grandchildren every day.  I have houses picked out for my brothers too.  Right next door to mine." 

"Sammy likes cars.  I like weapons."  (mom sigh)

"I don't want anything for Christmas.  Just Andrew to get better."

When Aaron was eighteen months old, I used to tell everyone that after 4 pm I could not let his feet touch the ground.   That seemed to be the bewitching hour.  His eyes would sparkle at me in challenge, and he would take off.  Completely oblivious to any danger, he would jump on our bed in crazy randomness, close to death with each hop (well, at least in my first-time-mommy way of thinking).  He had no interest in doing anything in a seated position.  He would make sure I was watching, and then run towards electric outlets with fingers extended.  He would chase the dogs, and grab their tails. Everyday. The poor, poor dogs.  They were exhausted. And so was I.

So I established a routine.  If the directions were written down, it would have read: 4 pm:  "Go for walk (in stroller).  5 pm: Eat dinner (in high chair).  5:30 pm:  Take a very long bath (in tub.) 6:30 p.m.:   Go to bed (in crib).  Feet must literally never touch ground."  That helped.  Until he learned to crawl out of the crib.

Around the age of two, in a park full of playground equipment, he would stand near babies in strollers and try to make them laugh, ignoring the slides and jungle gyms.  When his brothers were born, he was elated and wanted to hold and feed them.  He was a natural big brother.

From a very early age, Aaron made golf clubs, recorders, pvc pipe, whatever, into swords and rifles.  When he learned about a new animal, he would ask, "How does it defend itself?"  He went on imaginary journeys through bathroom jungles and paddled through swamps in his Huggies cardboard boat.  (I didn't realize how long this video was.  Watch a little and you get the idea...)


video

Yesterday, he turned seven.  He is still the same little man.  He doesn't chase the dogs anymore (and they are grateful), but he is always looking for an adventure, and partners to join him.  He loves Boyscouts, camping and running races.   He is fascinated by spies, Hardy Boys books, and any kind of mystery.  When disputes arise between friends, he is their natural mediator.  He still loves to make babies smile.

He is compassionate and kind.  Creative and thoughtful.  Sweet and beautiful. Protective and strong.

He makes me proud.

Happy Birthday my sweet, sweet Aaron.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Caffeinated

That stupid Coke (soda). 
What was I thinking?!  It looked so good, and my stomach felt queasy. 
 But now....
I am wide AWAKE. 
Maybe I should take a Tylenol PM? 
 I will give myself fifteen more minutes...

Relax. Stop thinkingFocus on your breathing.

I think Aaron's birthday party went well. 
 So cute to see all of those mini-Star Wars characters running around. 
I should blog about Aaron for his birthday tomorrow...
maybe something about the day he was born....
and how thankful I am for him...

But I think I did that last year.  Maybe something else...?




 I can't believe there was a scorpion upstairs in the bedroom hallway. 
 A small, tan bark scorpion. 
The dangerous kind.
There could be a scorpion in my bed. 
 RIGHT NOW
There could be a scorpion in the boys' beds. 
RIGHT NOW
One of these days, one of us is going to step on one.
It is just a matter of time.
 I wish I could call pest control, but it is 12:30...a.m. 
Those people! The previous owners.
 Telling us they never saw any scorpions in the house and
then we hear their dog died from a scorpion bite?! 
I need to call pest control tomorrow. 
 I wonder if they are open on Presidents' Day?

Dang that Coke!! Should I take the Tylenol? 

But listen. 
 It is so quiet. I can hear my own breathing. And the dogs snoring. 
 I am alone here.  Alone here in my thoughts, in the quiet.  How rare is that? 
 Fifteen more minutes.

Relax. Close your eyes. Calm down.

He was shaking and I was in denial. I ignored it. I went to church and ignored it. Of all the days to spend the afternoon in a loud stadium watching a terrible football game... He could have died. I would have blamed myself for the rest of my life, because I saw him. Shaking. Just for a few seconds, but I should have done something. Right then. I didn't know it was that serious, but I should have checked.

Thank you God. If you had anything to do with saving Andrew's life. Thank you.

Maybe I could write something about how Aaron's arms have grown too long for his new shirts,
and how his ankles peek out beneath his new pants (that I bought a month ago). 
How did my sweet baby get so long and lanky? 
How did he get so sweet? 
How did he get so seven?
 His kind heart and compassion give me hope that I am doing okay at this parenting thing.

I wonder what Aaron's teacher wants to talk about in his conference? 
 Last time she said he was a very sweet kid...has something changed? 
Maybe this stuff with Andrew is having an effect. 
Maybe it's his math.  Dang math.  Just like me, not a math brain. 
I need to get out the flashcards.
Tomorrow we will start with the flashcards.


Why did we even buy Coke for the party!? 
Who needs Coke? 
Sugar, fizz, calories.
and CAFFEINE. 
Stupid! 

Why does prayer feel like I'm banging my head against a wall? 
Why God? 
Why the same prayers, year after year, after year?
Hearts are breaking
and nothing changes.
God.  Please help.

I hope Andrew and John don't get that stomach bug. 
I don't think I can handle any more vomit.

Stupid Coke!!!!!! 

Time for the Tylenol.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Conversations and Valentines


Unfortunately (as this story is repeated whenever someone asks, "So, how did you meet?"), John and I "met" on opposite sides of a glass window, separated by a buffet line of trays, and a pan full of shredded cheese.  As much as I would like to deny that I ever worked for the University Student Union serving beans, it has forever become a part of  "Our Story."  I think John's first words to me were, "Huevos Rancheros."  I'm not even sure he included a "please."  And our first conversation ended there.

The next time we spoke was in another Mexican restaurant, following a church event.  Thankfully this time, I was a fellow consumer.  We were sitting next to each other at a long wooden table full of college students.  "You gonna eat that?" he said, when he noticed an uneaten taco on my plate.  I replied, "No, help yourself." I thought a few more things (like, "really?"), but the outloud version of our second conversation ended there.

The conversation that changed our lives, occurred several months later.  After a heated church group discussion in which I dissented from the rest of the crowd, he escorted me home and we continued to consider the same topic.  Soon, the conversation turned more personal and we hardly noticed our feet walking as we wound our way through campus to get to my dorm.  We arrived too quickly at the entrance, so we lingered on the concrete entryway for several hours. Earlier that day we were mere acquaintances, but our relationship status quickly changed, and as the evening progressed we were sharing our closely guarded secrets and hurts.  This conversation continues today.

Two years later, we were married.  Since that night out on the steps, we have celebrated many Valentine's Days together: some in happiness; some in tension; some in fancy restaurants; some at home; some in joy; some in sadness.  One was spent at Shakey's Pizza in Pasadena, California surrounded by skee ball, video games, and children who were not our own...but that is a long story.

We always do something for Valentine's Day, to thank each other for that third conversation under a Tucson moon.  Tomorrow night we will continue it, in the first restaurant willing to take us without a reservation (if we can find one). Maybe Mexican.  Grandma will be watching the boys.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Weird Week

It has been a stange, odd week.
Parts of it were funny.
Parts of it were sweet.
But most of it felt like a weird dream.

Almost every day I thought,
"I wish I could reboot and start over!"
and
"I wish I could just take a nap!"
I don't even know why.
Just little annoyances that built up and made me feel out of control.

My brand new computer has a virus,
and I can't blog from it.
:(
There is a spinning wheel in the middle of the page and it won't let me type.
It almost feels like virtual laughing, or taunting:
"Ha ha! I am never going to stop spinning!
I look like I am processing,
but I am not!
Ha Ha! Fooling you!"

Sometimes when I put in my blog address and push "send"
my blog starts talking to me.
It says,
"You may have won a Million Dollars!"
So I am sitting here at the kitchen counter on my old,
slow as molasses laptop
(that does not have a virus).
Tomorrow, hopefully, my new computer will be cured,
so that I can cross one annoyance off my list!

I think I had too much caffeine this week too,
which always makes me a little jumpy and off.
My mind races faster than my eyes can process,
if that makes any sense.

One day this week,
I spent 12 hours in my workout clothes
waiting for the right moment to exercise.
(It never came.)
I kept catching glimpses of myself in mirrors
and windows
and wondered,
"Why do I look familiar!?"
"WHO do I look like?"


And then I figured it out:



I don't know if I can wear those workout clothes anymore...

Another day,
I was driving around,
dropping children off at school
when Sammy pointed to the passenger seat window,
and said,
"What's that Mommy?"




That?
hmm...
well, that would be
a nylon mesh strap

ripped off
of something...

Probably something from here:



(You are looking at my garage ceiling.
Yes, that is my car parked under there.
Did I tell you about my husband's strange storage strategies?)

I really hope the ceiling continues to stay up.

The sweet part...

Andrew noticed that his eyebrows have grown in,
and woke me up to show me.

That alone
made my week
much better.


However,
I am still relieved that in four minutes it will be Friday,
and this very odd,
virus-infested,
overly-caffeinated,
Star Trekky,
nylon-strappy,
week
is almost over.

Was your week as weird as mine?
:)




"Irritating? Ah yes - one of your Earth emotions."
Dr. Spock

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Struggle

Several days ago, I was searching through the car radio for a station that would allow my ipod to play through the speakers. I stopped pushing the scan button when I heard these words, "Israel means, "He struggles with God."  Strangely, I was immediately comforted. 

The naming of Israel is a story I have heard many times before, but never considered in depth.  The book of Genesis describes how Jacob gets into a physical struggle with God, and after the wrestling, God blesses him and changes his name to "Israel."  His descendents would be the nation of Israel.  Jacob/Israel walks away transformed, but with a limp.

I was comforted because so often I feel like I am doing "this" wrong.  I sometimes feel like there should be no struggle.  I should just surrender.  I should just be faithful.  I should just submit to His will.  I found these words comforting, because it gave me hope that God expects us, perhaps wants us to struggle with him.  He is the one who named His nation Israel.  God understands that struggle and questioning come before surrender, and before peace.

Throughout this last year, I have been extremely sensitive to any perceived criticism.  I constantly expect others to believe I am handling "this" wrong.  My feelings of rage and anger have been so intense they make me feel guilty. Any insinuation that I should do something differently in terms of grieving, or processing, or feeling, is like a needle stabbed through my eye.  When anyone even touches on my guilt, I am a pile of egg shells.  Angry egg shells.

I have a lot of "shoulds" going through my brain.

"I shouldn't be so angry at God. It's not His fault."

"I should trust Him."

"I should be able to surrender."

"I should be more faithful."

"I should accept that God is good, and not out to persecute me, and move on."

"I should have moved into peace and surrender by now."

If only it were that simple.

But to me, it is not.

It is trusting and surrendering to a God who allows atrocities every second of every day (for some reason) despite his goodness and love.  So it is hard.  I am afraid the "limp" might be too much to bear. I'm afraid any "blessing" might be too little, too late.

I fade in and out of surrender-mode, returning regularly to a place where I snatch the controls right back (at least in my own mind) and tell God to "leave me alone!"
So, I felt a wave of freedom and peace come over me when I was reminded:

God expects the struggle.
Perhaps wants it.
He understands.
He is bigger than my anger.
He is bigger than my despair.
He can work through all of it.

Which is good.

Because I struggle with Him.

Struggle and pray.

As I am sure many of you do.

Everyday.