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Recovery

10 Feb

Life has been rough lately.  I’ve been sick for the last 7 weeks.  Yes.  SEVEN weeks.  Bronchitis, sinusitis, pleurisy, costochondritis.  We’ve truly been in survival mode.  Alex has watched way too much TV, and I can’t even feel guilty about that because at least he had something to do while Mommy was laid up on the couch, trying not to cry from all the pain.  Alex came down with croup the same week that I ended up at the ER because I thought I’d fractured a rib.  (That was when I was diagnosed with costochondritis, 2 days after being diagnosed with pleurisy.)  And Steven was laid up in bed the entire weekend (of that same week!) with a high fever and just generally feeling awful.

Yep, no guilt that the entire family can pretty much quote all of the movie Cars now.  TV has been my best friend and babysitter through much of this.  Forts help, too.

While all this was going on, we were also having issues with our new kitten, Theo.  While he figured out the litter box in a single night, he wasn’t consistent with it.  He was already treated once for a bladder infection, so the vet thought it was now behavioral.  I wasn’t convinced.  We were cleaning messes off the floor daily, but he was containing them to the same spots, and they weren’t vindictive in nature.  When he peed on the bare tile, that was my opportunity to suck it up in a syringe and take it to the vet’s office for testing.  I was right; it’s medical.  Theo has crystals in his urine, so he and Ninja are now on a prescription diet to take care of the problem.  So far, so good.  Theo is now consistently using his box.   So glad because when you’re already feeling awful, having to clean up feces and urine every day is just lousy.

This week I finally started to feel better.  I’m cooking again, after weeks of takeout and eating from the freezer.  Good thing because all the meals I’d stocked are now gone.  My singing voice still isn’t right, but at least I no longer sound like a 13-year-old boy whose voice is changing when I sing Alex’s night-night song to him every evening.  And while I can’t go outside most days of our unusually-cold winter, we did have one day last week that the temps were high enough not to set off a massive bout of coughing.  Alex was thrilled to get to play in the snow.

Please ignore the complete lack of makeup.  I do not look like a proper Dallas girl.  My excuse: I was sick.

Please ignore the complete lack of makeup. I do not look like a proper Dallas girl. My excuse: I was sick.

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And when the weekend rolled around, he got to go back out with his daddy.  They threw snow at each other.  Super fun.

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My autoimmune issues are causing this to be an extra-long ordeal, and I feel as if I’ll never be well again.  But I seem to be past the worst.  I can hold my child again without gasping in pain.  The coughing has subsided greatly.  I haven’t had to bust out the heavy-duty narcotics for over a week.  And I can now run errands again without having Steven along to carry Alex and lift him into a shopping cart.  Struggling to lift my 34-lb. toddler has been the hardest part of this.  Sick and in pain or not, I had to care for my child.  Thankfully, Alex has really been quite good while we’ve been mostly housebound for the past 2 months.  He’s had his moments of practically tearing the house apart from cabin fever, but in general, he’s been wonderfully well behaved and happily entertained by his toys and movies.  Housekeeping fell by the wayside, which made me crazy, but I knew to let some of that go.  When I cleaned the entire house this past week, it felt like victory.

There’s a light at the end of the (ridiculously long) tunnel.

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Enough

18 Dec

The only parenting book I’ve purchased is this one.  The main premise is that when it comes to raising kids, less is more.  Kids are overwhelmed by too many toys, books, TV, information, etc.  Scale it all back, and kids have an easier time.

For the most part, I’ve found this book to be spot on.  However, I thought the author was nuts to say to keep only about a dozen books out at once for your child.  But even that makes sense to me these days.  Alex keeps going to the same books over and over.  We’ll spend a week devouring The Big Red Barn, Broadway Barks, or I Want to Be an Astronaut.  Over and over and over.  Then he eventually moves on to another few books.

But somehow, we let the toys creep in.  And in and in and in.  Over the summer we noticed that all Alex wanted to do was color.  At first, we thought it was the excitement of his new craft table, but the tantrums ramped up at the same time.  Finally, we figured out that he was overwhelmed by the sheer number of toys.  He had three baskets/boxes of toys in the living room alone, and they were overflowing.  Finding a toy meant digging through the mess, and he just couldn’t handle it.  So he abandoned his toys, and only wanted to color and watch TV.

We culled through the toys, got rid of a few, boxed up a few others to take out at a later date.   It worked.  Alex started playing with his toys again, and the tantrums lessened.

We find ourselves somehow back in the same situation.  Too many toys, too many choices.  And Christmas is coming very, very soon.

See these toys below?

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My little guy is obsessed with trains right now.   Those are the only two he owns, and he loves them.  They’re in constant play, and that little plastic Thomas the Tank Engine is his bed buddy every night and during naps.  While he loves playing with the (better) Thomas trains in the church nursery, truth is, he’d be perfectly happy with just these 2 trains.  He doesn’t know that he’s supposed to want more, at least, according to our culture.

(At this point, I should probably mention that he’s not only getting Thomas trains and tracks for Christmas, but also a Thomas train table.  Grandparents are awesome!)

We came home from Thanksgiving in Texas with a ton of new toys from my husband’s side of the family.  We bought toys while we were in Dallas for Christmas.  And the toys from my side of the family have arrived.   I’m finding myself wondering where we’re going to put everything!  More than that, I’m questioning whether or not we should even give Alex the gifts we bought for him.  For example, we bought him a set of cars and one of those rugs with car tracks on it.  But in light of all the trains, I’m not sure the car stuff will be played with.  I have a strong suspicion our boy will be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of stuff coming his way.

This is the sort of parenting dilemma I never anticipated.

We culled through the toys again last night, and we need to weed out a few more.  I’m trying to take to heart what Simplicity Parenting says about toys.  Our culture, and frankly our parental desires to give our kids things that will make them happy, say that if a kid likes his toy car, then he’ll love a dozen of them.  But instead of loving his one or two cars, he’s overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cars and won’t care much about any of them.

Alex loves Veggie Tales, and his stuffed Bob the Tomato is his best buddy.  Bob goes almost everywhere with us.  We considered buying him Larry the Cucumber to go with his Bob, but then decided against it.  We’d rather have him love Bob, instead of having to divide his attention/affection between the two.  We’ve seen a hierarchy of preference among his stuffed animals, and frankly, he just doesn’t need to add to it.

He has enough.

But Joy Comes with the Morning

20 Nov

It’s been 2 weeks since we lost our sweet Doogie.  Turns out, life goes on.

Ninja grieved hard for about a week.  He’s adjusted now, although he has become a bit clingy.  When we first adopted him, he couldn’t believe his good fortune in getting a real home of his own.  He spent his days plastered to me, gratitude pouring off of him in a most uncharacteristic fashion for a feline.  Now he spends his days next to me because he’s lonely without his brother.  Doogie didn’t play with him much these last few months, but he was a presence, a warm body to snuggle with, a buddy to take meals with.

Never underestimate the power of just being there.  There’s definitely a lesson in that.

A surprisingly good photo of Ninja, taken by the toddler

A surprisingly good photo of Ninja, taken by the toddler

Alex no longer asks about Doogie, although I did have to field a question from the little neighbor girl about what happened to the other cat.  I just said that he got old and sick and went to live in heaven.

The leaves on the ground no longer seem to mimic our sorrow.  They’re just leaves, and they’re kind of fun.  Alex and I have been crunching our way through the yard, kicking leaves and having a good time.  This really is a beautiful time of year.

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We’re already talking about a new cat.  We’d love to go ahead and get one now, as Ninja really needs a buddy.  But somehow that seems foolish when we’re about to leave for Thanksgiving.  “Bye guys!  Hope you get along and don’t tear the house apart!”  So Ninja will just have to get through Thanksgiving, then he can have a new friend.  I worry about leaving him for a few days without a buddy, but we have a sweet friend coming to check on him daily, so I think he’ll be all right, just lonely.  But hey, it’ll make him appreciate a new cat all the more, right?  (I’m laughing right now because introducing a new cat into the household is never an easy process for the resident cat.)

Are we crazy for wanting to bring in a new cat just when we’ll be putting up the Christmas tree?  Probably.  I remember Doogie’s first Christmas with us.  He was such a climber when he was a kitten.  The Christmas tree proved irresistible for him.  He was up at the very top in probably 2 seconds flat.  So, we may be dealing with more of that, but right now, it sounds pretty great.  Life goes on, and it’s time to rescue a cat who needs a home.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.  Psalm 30:5

Grief

8 Nov

I sit outside, sun down, floodlights on, and watch my toddler cram fallen leaves into the cab of his toy dump truck.  When the week started, the leaves were still on the maple trees.  By week’s end, many lay on the ground, having fallen in their annual ritual.  It seems a fitting end to this week of sadness, as if the trees are crying leafy tears.

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The whole household is grieving.  How do you explain to a toddler the concept of heaven?  He asks for his cat, and there is no explanation he understands.  He just knows the cat is gone.  Our Ninja Cat roams the house, searching Doogie’s favorite hiding places, calling to his brother and getting no answer.  He spends his days plastered to my side, curled in my lap in the moments I sit, snuggled into me when I sleep at night.  He runs to us and looks relieved when we return home after leaving him alone for a while to run errands.  He doesn’t know how to be an only cat.

I wrestle with the decision of life or death.  Did we do the right thing?  Should we have waited to see if he got better?  The idea of putting a suffering creature out of its misery is a noble one…until you have to make the decision yourself.  Humans aren’t meant to play God, and it’s good that we aren’t allowed to make these sorts of decisions for each other.  

My husband sees my pain, feels my wet tears as he holds me.  He reassures me that what we did was right.  He even says that he made the decision, so I need not feel the pressing guilt that threatens to crush me.  In my head, I know he’s right.  But my heart.  Oh, my heart.  How deeply it hurts.  Doogie was my baby, the sweet, spunky kitten I chose over 14 years ago to join our family.  The kitten who won over our crotchety tabby cat.  The little cat who accepted Ninja willingly when our tabby died, and we brought a new brother home.  The cat who seemed to shrug his little shoulders when we brought Alex home from the hospital.  He could take anything we threw at him.  But kidney disease did him in.

I wish his last days had been better.  He made Alex cry the day before he died.  We were in the vet’s waiting room, surrounded by other pet owners and their dogs, a toddler he didn’t like getting in his face in his carrier and exuberantly saying, “Hi!”  When Alex stuck a finger in his carrier, Doogie reacted in terror.  A paw came slashing through the carrier bars and smacked Alex.  He didn’t hurt him, but oh my heart, Alex’s face crumpled with the betrayal of it all, then the hot tears came.  I gathered my human baby up in my arms, while saying soothing words to the furry one.

This isn’t the way I want to remember Doogie.

I see something out of the corner of my eye, and I turn, expecting to see a little gray-and-white cat.  But it’s just a toy.  Or the laundry basket.  My heart hurts all over again when I remember he’s not here.

We have a board book, Busy Kitties, which Alex loves.  We read it together, and I smile as Alex imitates the cats.  I say something about Ninja, and Alex meows in response.  Then he says, “Doo-ie!”  I ask if he wants to see Doogie.  He nods enthusiastically with a grin on his face.  He has forgotten that Doogie slapped at him.  He remembers only that a Doogie sighting is a thing of excitement.  Doogie avoided Alex as much as possible, but Alex squealed with joy whenever Doogie made an appearance.  I smile and try not to cry as I explain again that Doogie went to live in heaven.  He looks puzzled, but he quickly moves on to something else.

I wash dishes while Steven is upstairs bathing Alex.  Ninja cries.  His meows grow desperate and ever louder.  I call him to me, and he comes, but he looks confused and runs back out of the room.  I see him under a chair, calling out with everything in him.  I come undone because I realize he is wanting Doogie to answer him, and I know that it isn’t coming.  I stop what I’m doing, pull off washing-up gloves, and go to him.  I sit on the floor, drawing him into my lap.  He sinks into me, burrowing his head under my hand, wanting comfort.  His grief is palpable, and I cry with him.  Tell him he’s loved and not alone.  We sit together for a while, and then I go back to my work.  Ninja is quiet.

This is life after loss.  It is guilt, sadness, pain, loneliness.  But it is also joy.  Joy that Doogie no longer suffers.  That he is with his beloved big brother, Calvin, the tabby who ended up adoring him.  My husband reminds me we had 14 good years with him.  He lived long, and he lived well.  We have so many happy memories of him, and they will come back to me when I’m less encumbered by the weight of fresh grief.

And then there’s the joy in knowing that in a few weeks, we’ll be ready to start all over, choosing just the right cat for our family, one who will win over his or her new big brother and steal our hearts.  Just like Doogie.

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Happier

31 Oct

We’ve now lived in Oklahoma for a year and a half.  In that time, I had nothing to call my own.  I was wife and I was mother, and that was all.  That was all.  I’m sure there are those who think that should be enough.  Taking care of my family is important.  It is good and noble and refining.

For me, though, it’s also a tad depressing.  I don’t do well without something to call my own.

It’s why, when my son was a premature newborn under doctor’s orders to stay home for his first 6 weeks of life, my husband let me go to church every single Sunday during that period, instead of trading off Sundays with me, as was the original plan.  He saw how happy getting out of the house made me.  My plan at that time had been to quit singing on the praise team at church for a couple of months.  My hope had been to be back by Christmas Eve service.  I’m not sure I even made it a full month before I was back on stage singing.  I needed music to give me the feeling that I was still me.  I was drowning in mom-ness at that time, and singing on the praise team for those few minutes on Sunday mornings reminded me that I was still in there somewhere.  I didn’t have to give up everything.

Then we moved to Oklahoma, and I did have to give up everything.  Sometimes following God is really, really hard.

I am blessed.  I get to be at home every day.  I know there are many women who would love to be in my shoes.  I do know this is precious time with my son, and I love taking care of my home and family.  But I need something that is just mine.  Something that has nothing to do with my husband or son.

My husband jumped back into working with youth back in the spring.  He took a much-needed year off from ministry, then jumped back in.  He leads a high school boys’ small group.  Alex has been so sick this year that I didn’t think I was going to get to ever do anything, as one parent needs to be home with him when he can’t go to the nursery.  So I did nothing.

As summer came to a close, the assistant youth director said she’d heard that music is my thing, and she asked if I would be willing to help out with the youth praise team.  Once I made it clear that I might be unpredictable due to my son’s frequent bouts with sickness, and she was okay with that, I said yes.  Then amazingly, I was also approached by the children’s director asking me to lead music in AWANA.  The youth and children’s schedules worked so that I would be able to do both, so I said yes to that, too.

Talk about jumping back in with both feet.

After a few weeks, it became clear that doing both is just too much.  I’m running from youth rehearsals to feeding my family (a packed dinner I haul to church with us), to AWANA, and back to youth.  And did I mention I’m co-leading a middle school girls’ group?  The old Sesame Street song comes to mind.  “One of these things is not like the others…”  AWANA has to go.  It’s not just choosing music each week; I have to spend a lot of time on YouTube looking for actions to go with every song.  Because in my inexperience with children, I didn’t have actions for the songs the first night, and it didn’t go well at all.  It’s all just adding an extra level of stress to my Wednesdays, and I’m missing out on some youth stuff while I’m with the children.

But you know what?  Even with the stress and the crazy that is now known as Wednesday, I’m loving it.  It’s amazing how much happier I’ve been since I started doing something outside of my home and family.  It was definitely time.

Two

3 Oct

Our handsome little Matthew Alexander turned two recently.  Unlike his first birthday, I didn’t go all out with a theme or decor or a color scheme.  I didn’t really do anything besides make one of his favorite meals, bake a cake, and buy him presents.  I think if he were a girl, he might someday look back at the pictures and wonder why I didn’t have a color-coordinated candy bar and decorated water bottles, not to mention practically everyone we know in attendance.  But  he’s a boy, and I suspect he won’t care in the slightest.  And that’s assuming he ever goes back and looks at the pictures.

Score one for boys being easier!   Granted, we haven’t tried potty training yet, so I may eat those words in the future.

We didn’t even invite anyone other than my parents, who drove in from Texas to celebrate with us.  And dinner was nothing more than homemade macaroni and cheese, peas, and carrots.  Humble, for sure.  But I had a very happy boy, as he got to eat a favorite meal with some of his favorite people in the world.  What more could a little boy ask for?

Well, maybe a tricycle.

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And getting to ride facing forward in the car for the first time.

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And a super-awesome playset for the backyard, complete with assembly by Grandpa and Daddy.

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(They weren’t able to get it done, but Steven has since gotten the playset several steps closer to finished.)

Homemade cake with a bad icing job made Alex quite happy.  He’s such a big boy that he’s now able to blow out candles.  He got practice ahead of time at church with his new job.  He’s now the unofficial candle-blower-outer.  He takes his job very seriously and scans the sanctuary for every lit candle in the place.  Apparently, getting to blow out candles is a Big Deal when you’re two.

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His favorite gift of all, though?  Helium balloons.  Steven brought them home while Alex was napping, and you’d have thought the kid hit the jackpot when he woke up and found them downstairs.  Open presents?  Why?!  There are balloons, people!

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Once the balloons lost their helium, his new toys became interesting.  Bob the Tomato goes everywhere with us now, and Alex shows off his new bubble mower to any neighbor he sees.  He even showed it off to the dogs next door.  Because dogs care about these things, you know.

Life is good when you’re two.

Summer Recap

30 Aug

While it hasn’t been a terribly busy summer, it has been eventful.

We took an awesome family trip to Vail, CO.
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Alex received a craft table and chairs from his grandparents.  Coloring is now Alex’s favorite activity.  I’ve loved it, too, once we worked past his desire to color all the furniture, the windows, and the TV.  (Thank God for washable crayons!)

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Alex has been having a blast with his little pool in the backyard.

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Alex met his cousins for the first time.

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I set Alex up in the bathtub with shaving cream mixed with food coloring and let him go at it.

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My long-suffering cats have been hugged and pretend fed by Alex.  Doogie usually runs away, but he got hugged by Alex a couple of weeks ago when he was frozen in place, puking.  Insult to injury.  Alex saw an opening to hug a cat, and he took it.  Poor Doogie.  That’s okay.  He’s enjoyed playing Lord of the Dogs with the new craft table.

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And finally, we’ve survived a bout with scarlet fever, regular strep, a stomach bug (me), and a very nasty mystery illness that resulted in high fever followed by a blistered, oozing rash.  That last one took down both Alex and my husband.  It’s been a not-fun couple of weeks around here.  Hoping for better health come fall.

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