Saturday, December 31, 2011

Miracle to Miracle

I accomplished--and learned--a lot in 2011. In the last 12 months, I:


--fulfilled a life dream and met Mary Poppins.

--sought and found help at M.D. Anderson.

--finished a year's worth of chemotherapy and Avastin treatments.

--moved into my perfect house. How I love it here!

--mourned the loss of two precious unborn babies.

--went to about a thousand little boy birthday parties.

--sweltered through the hottest summer EVER.

--continued to study, learn, and grow with my Tuesday Sisters.

--grew my hair back!

--made some new friends in our neighborhood and through the boys' school.

--realized that mothering is not for the faint of heart when Goliath went to camp for a week and later competed in a martial arts tournament.

--went hunting with my man. After 13 years of marriage, it's about time.

--tolerated and even learned to love Gus the Terrible.

--found my inner crafter and spent a lot of time and money at Hobby Lobby.

--discovered Pinterest.

--buried a deceased bunny rabbit and welcomed our guinea pigs' love child into our menagerie.

--went to Disney World, the circus, and a snake farm.


"To be alive, to be able to see, to walk...it's all a miracle. I have adopted the technique of living life from miracle to miracle." --Arthur Rubinstein


New Year's Eve is not really a big deal to us. We used to try to stay up late to watch the ball drop; now we're too old and have too many kids to care. When I wake up in the morning, 2012 will have begun. I won't eat black-eyed peas, I won't hum "Auld Lang Syne", and I won't make resolutions. Instead, I will begin tomorrow like I begin every morning: choosing to LIVE my life. Not too many people get the opportunity that I have had to examine life and re-discover what is truly important. Every single day that I wake up is a miracle. Every experience, every encounter, every minute...miracles. Instead of making temporary resolutions, I want to make one permanent promise to myself: I will recognize my life's miracles and soak them up. I will make the most of what I've been given to be the best me that I can be.


Here's to a 2012 full of grace and love...Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fancy Free

Last night I had the distinct privilege of stepping outside my usual circle to attend our church's annual high school girls' winter retreat. Mind you, I elected not to retreat overnight. I am far too old and grouchy to sleep on the floor in a room full of giggling girls. I chose instead to spend the evening with them and then retreated myself right into the comfort of my own bed. The story of how I came to attend the retreat is fun: my cousin, who is a fun-filled, Spirit-led, unique-in-all-ways Bible teacher, called me up last week and said, "Hey! I am teaching at this girls' retreat at a church that I think is pretty close to you. Could I spend the night at your house?" Turns out that it was MY church! We have both been surprised, I think, to discover how many mutual acquaintances we have--it's a small world, after all.

The theme of the retreat was "Fancy Free." The thought of trying to communicate what freedom in Christ truly looks like to a room filled with 9th-12th grade girls is SO intimidating to me, but Christina and the other leaders made it look easy. It is good that I recognize that my God-given talents lie in the 4-year-old realm and not with 14-year-olds. I really enjoyed being able to sit back and participate in meaningful worship and absorb some sound Bible teaching. The theme Scripture is in Matthew 6: 25-34. Here it is from The Message translation:


"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion--do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers--most of which are never even seen--don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

So here's what I learned. Or more accurately, here's what I was gently reminded of:

1--I was created purposefully, lovingly, and carefully by THE God of the universe. He crafted me for his pleasure. He delights in me. He cares for me. Tiny sparrows and unseen wildflowers have everything they need. If the Creator cares enough about those little flowers to give them lovely colors and perfect designs, why in the world do I insult him by not believing that his design for me is perfect as well? I am so accustomed to my norm--my day to day, ordinary being, that I allow myself to become settled. I play a lot of different roles in this life: I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister. I am a friend, a teacher, a neighbor. These are all good and accurate descriptions of me. But none of these descriptions necessarily defines me. Yes, I am Mommy to the 3 little cowboys. What if I let that be the thing that defined my life? I would be left with pieces missing, because I was created to be more than just that. There is a universe of possibility out there, and my Jesus wants me to make the most of every chance I have to be the best me that I can be.


2--I can't be free if I don't trust Him. I mean, really really trust. Trust in the sense that I will go anywhere, do anything, give everything...all for Him. Trust in the sense that I am willing--no, EXCITED--to jump into the great unknown if He calls me to, because it never occurs to me that He won't be there to catch me. I can, and should, look for ways to demonstrate His love and glory in the middle of disaster and crisis simply because he is faithful and trustworthy. I am safe as long as I am with my Lord.

I love 4-year-olds. But it was a nice change of pace to go deeper and let my heart be penetrated by the sword of the Spirit. I will be seeking ways to live in God-reality. I don't have to worry. I can relax and be me. What a good God!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Glory Baby

Dear Baby,


A little while back, your mommy called me to tell me that you were coming. I had been waiting for that phone call for a while--almost since the day your mom and dad got back from their honeymoon! We cried happy tears and I may have even screamed and jumped up and down a little bit. The happy news of you spread quickly.


A few weeks ago, your mommy called me again. This call was as heartbreaking as the first was joyful. She said that she had been to see her doctor to check up on you, and that you had stopped growing and your heart was no longer beating. Just as quietly as you entered our lives, you left.


Your mommy has been my friend for most of my life. I usually refer to her as "my Caroline" around here, and everyone--even people who have never met her--knows who I am talking about. She is my most special friend. As an extension of her, you would have been the most special baby.


I imagine that you might not have had your mom's curls, but you would have had a touch of her red hair. I think that you might have had amazing bright eyes like your daddy and a huge smile like your mommy's. I like to think that you would have loved me intensely. You could have come to my house during the summers, and we would have baked cookies and played with the cowboys. They would have loved you so much!


So many people already loved you...your mommy and daddy, of course. Your grandma and grandpa. Me. You were a long-awaited answer to a heartfelt prayer. We all miss you. Your mommy is such a great lady, and she will be a wonderful mom. But Baby, no matter what, you will always be hers. She is walking through these sad days of missing you by claiming this verse:

"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

My Caroline's heart desire is to be a mommy. Even though losing you isn't at all what she wanted, there is no denying that by your very existence you made her dream come true.

I hope that, even in your brief life, you felt love. You brought love to our lives, and because of you, we will never be the same. Someday we will see you again, and then your mommy will get to be with you forever. I love you, Glory Baby.


Love,

Auntie Allyson


Glory Baby--Christy Nockels


Glory baby, you slipped away as fast as we could say baby...baby

You were growing, what happened dear?

You disappeared on us, baby...baby

Heaven will hold you before we do

Heaven will keep you safe until we're home with you,

Until we're home with you.


Miss you every day

Miss you in every way

But we know there's a day

when we will hold you, we will hold you.

You'll kiss our tears away

When we're home to stay

Can't wait for the day when we will see you,

We will see you.

But baby, let sweet Jesus hold you

til mom and dad can hold you

You'll just have heaven before we do

You'll just have heaven before we do.


Sweet little babies, it's hard to understand it

'cause we're hurting,

We are hurting

But there is healing

And we know we're stronger people through the growing

And in knowing

That all things work together for our good

And God works his purposes just like he said he would

Just like he said he would


I can't imagine heaven's lullabies

and what they must sound like

But I will rest in knowing, heaven is your home

And it's all you'll ever know, it's all you'll ever know....


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Day 30

Day 30: I am thankful that I have so much to be thankful for. It may sound a little silly, but this month I have been intentional about counting my blessings, and I have not once found it difficult to be grateful. What I have, who I'm with, where I live...these are the blessings that God has poured out on me. My life is a testament to His goodness. I don't deserve anything at all, but He is the giver of all good things.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Days 27-29

Day 27: I am thankful for good food. I like to spend time in my kitchen, perusing my collection of cookbooks and planning meals for my family. I am grateful that I enjoy cooking and that every resource I need is readily available to me. So many people in so many places could only dream about the food that I consume every single day.


Day 28: I am thankful simply that the five people that live in this house are a family. We are not perfect by any means, but we love each other and we are intact. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. So we work to take care of each other. We fight for what really matters. We say "I love you." My whole world is wrapped up under this roof.


Day 29: I am thankful for my bed. It is the most comfy, cozy place in the world! Once the boys are in bed, I retreat to our bedroom for some "me" time. Some nights I read, some nights I watch TV. I have a safe, warm place to relax and sleep every night. People in my own community don't have what I have.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Day 26

Day 26: I am thankful for the joy I feel as the holiday season begins. Last year, I asked God desperately for a glimmer of hope, a restoration of joy. My body was weary and my spirit depleted. What a difference a year makes! I felt it as I decorated my in-laws' Christmas tree with Baby last night, and I feel it as I am looking forward to decorating my own home this weekend. I have always loved this time of year; I hated it so much last year that happiness felt just beyond my grasp. I am blessed beyond measure, and thankful.

Friday, November 25, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Day 25

Day 25: I am thankful for AbbyDog. I will never ever forget when Abby came into my life. She was a tiny puppy whose ears were bigger than the rest of her body. We lived in a loft apartment (we were carefree newlyweds) and Abby couldn't climb the stairs because she would trip on her ears! She has been through five moves and three babies with us and never complained. When I was sick, she would lay in bed with me. On my darkest, most scary days, when I wanted to cover my head and never come out, my princess puppy was there loving me. She follows me everywhere I go, and she always is glad to see me when I come home. I love my dog!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Days 19-24

Day 19: I am thankful for my grandparents. I have been blessed with amazing relationships with them that a lot of people never get to have. I count the four of them among my very favorite people, and many of my happiest memories involve them. I like to imagine that my Grandad is spending his time in eternity building beautiful things to put in the family mansions so he can show off to the rest of us when we get there. I still miss him every day. Gran, Buck, Grandmama~I love you so much!


Day 20: I am thankful for my "Tuesday Sisters" Bible study group. We have met, in some form, for more than 10 years. This is a core group of friends and sisters in Christ who I am privileged to do life with. They have prayed for me, laid hands on me, pushed me to be better, let me complain and/or cry when I needed to. We eat, we shop, we study, and we laugh. We laugh a LOT. They are faithful friends, and I wouldn't be the woman I am without them.


Day 21: I am thankful for Caroline. Caroline has been my friend for as long as I can remember. She knows things about me that no one else knows. She was my first sleepover buddy, it was her fault that I got my name written on the board in 3rd grade, and she was the one who shared my excitement when that special boy finally kissed me as a teenager (turns out he wasn't really that special after all). She was my maid of honor and I was hers. We have shared joys and heartaches. A friendship like ours is something that not everyone gets to have. She is my lifelong bucket-filler...how fortunate am I?


Day 22: I am thankful for my brother. He was kind of a pest when we were kids, but he turned out to be a pretty cool guy. His quick wit and unique perspective on life make me think and often make me laugh. He loves music, people, and animals. Most of all, he loves God and seeks to walk with Him hand in hand.


Day 23: I am thankful for my sister. Despite our age difference, we have always had a close relationship, but the older we get, the better friends we become. I count her among my closest friends. She is funny, she is stylish, she is sweet, and sometimes she is righteously indignant. She "gets" me, and I adore her.


Day 24: I am thankful for my parents. If you have never met my mom and dad, you are missing out! Today is their 38th wedding anniversary. They love each other, and together they taught us what love is. I am so grateful for their example of commitment and loyalty to each other and to family. They way they live has helped shape me as a wife and a mother, and set the standard for what I want for my children.

Friday, November 18, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Days 17-18

Day 17: I am thankful for my job. I love love LOVE the opportunity I have to "set the stage" for little ones to begin a lifetime of learning. We have so much fun together! ABCs and 123s are never boring with a bunch of 4-year-olds...and this particular group of littles is amazing. I love to watch them create, count, reason, play, and interact. God's goodness is evident in my classroom every week.




Day 18: I am thankful for my boys' school and their teachers. I absolutely believe that God has his hand over my children each year when they start school, and maybe never more so than now. My sons are blessed with amazing, dedicated professionals who want them to succeed academically, but also care for their spirits. Goliath, Little Middle, and Baby love school! God did that, and I am grateful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Days 15-16

Day 15: I am thankful for phenergren. Seriously.


Day 16: I am thankful for all things fall. Cool temperatures, colored leaves, wind, overcast skies, pumpkin bread (and pie...and candles...). Fall is the long-awaited end of the dreadful summer season, but a breather before the rush of the holiday craze begins. To me, it's the most wonderful time of the year!

Monday, November 14, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Day 14

Day 14: I am thankful for good neighbors. We have never known our neighbors (much) until we moved into this house. I didn't really know what I was missing! I love having people close by who will help out in a childcare pinch, who will loan me pots and pans for a lasagna-making extravaganza, and who do not mind if I leave their phone number for the babysitter to use in case of an emergency. I don't have to look too far to find big blessings!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Day 13

Day 13: I am thankful for my Goliath. He can be stubborn and sloppy, but his heart is tender and he loves with no limit. He is growing up SO fast! Right before my eyes, my little boy is being transformed into a young man who protects his brothers, cheers for the underdog, and loves his mom and dad. He is learning what it means to truly be a Christ-follower and how to make the right choices to walk with Jesus. He makes life an adventure--I can't wait to see what's next!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Day 12

Day 12: I am thankful for mornings. I make it a point to get up early so I can have some quiet time before the craziness of the day begins. I love my first cup of coffee, the opportunity to spend time with God, gather my thoughts and get my bearings for the day. Every morning is a small fresh start. I am undeserving, but He is faithful.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Dear Baby,
Today you turned six. Six! You told me a few nights ago that after your birthday, you would need two hands to show people how old you are. The tiny hurt in my heart grew just a little bit more when you said that. You probably don't know it, but every new experience you have makes me happy and sad at the same time. Happy because you are a perfectly delightful little person who loves life. Sad, because you are proof that my babies are growing up faster than I care to admit.
But I can't stay sad for too long. You don't allow that! You are way too busy growing and learning and performing and smiling. This year you have had a long list of "firsts." You rode your first real roller coaster. You moved in to your first room all of your own. You jumped off the diving board for the first time. You had your first day of kindergarten. You read your first words.
You are amazingly wonderful. You also do things that make me shake my head and ask "Why?". Like when you colored the bottoms of your feet completely red with a marker. And like how you continue to throw your backpack over the top of your head backwards so that the weight throws you off balance and you topple over onto the sidewalk. And when you lay down on your stomach by the pond at the park so you could try to catch fish with your hands. You are silly, and so very fun.
You like cereal. You are happy in the mornings. Your favorite thing is to ride scooters with your brothers out in the cul-de-sac. You insist that both Daddy and I tuck you in every single night. You always want to be the one to say the blessing before dinner. You have new friends at school, but you still want to hang out with your old buddies. You love school, and your brothers think you're weird because you get excited when you have homework. You want to go to big church with us instead of children's church. You like Legos and knock-knock jokes.
As I write this, you are laying in my big bed snuggled up to me. We are watching some of our favorite Phineas and Ferb episodes. You have your blue blanket tucked under one arm, and I have to smile. It reminds me of the night of November 11, 2005 when we were alone in a hospital room together. You were snuggled up to me with a blue blanket tucked around you that night, too. You are growing up, but you are still--and always will be--my Baby.
Happy two-handed birthday, darling boy. I love you with all my heart.
Love,
Mommy

30 Days of Thankfulness--Day 11

Day 11: I am thankful for my Baby. His infectious smile and random hugs make my world go round. He loves school, he loves his friends, he loves his brothers, he loves his blue scooter and his stuffed raccoon. Being his mom has made me a better person.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Day 10

Day 10: I am thankful for my country and the privilege I have to be an American citizen. I know that the freedoms I enjoy came at a price, and I am thankful for those brave men and women who sacrificed so that I can live in the greatest country in the world. One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Days 8-9

Day 8: I am thankful for the darling lady who cleans my house (no, it's not me). For a minimal wage, she comes faithfully every single Tuesday to sweep, mop, scrub, and dust all the things that I don't have time/enthusiasm for. Our agreement does not include her cleaning the little cowboys' bedrooms or their upstairs game room, but occasionally, I come home to find that she has done those rooms anyway. She is a blessing in my life.


Day 9: I am thankful for music. I often say that music is my love language. I love that when words fail me, I can find a song that expresses exactly what I feel. Back in the day, I was a diligent piano player (although my talent was debatable) and I have a history in high school marching band. I didn't grow up to be a musician, but ask my kids someday about how we blare "Sweet Caroline" in the car with the windows rolled down, or check with my friends about my "song for every occasion" quirk. Music makes memories for me.

Monday, November 7, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness--Days 1-7

The first week of November has vanished into thin air. It's time to get caught up on my 30 days of thankfulness!

Day 1--I am thankful for the gifts of forgiveness and salvation that my Lord has given to me. I am undeserving, but He loves me so much!

Day 2--I am thankful for my Little Middle. His life and his heart are pure and simple. He loves openly and freely and doesn't expect much in return except that I love him. And I do.

Day 3--I am thankful for our house. It is cozy and roomy and...homey!

Day 4--I am thankful for my husband. We have been through so much together, but his love for me is stronger than the day we were married. I am blessed.

Day 5--I am thankful for my church. It is a place where I learn and grow, serve and give, worship and love, and receive from others. I really am glad when I go into the house of the Lord!

Day 6--I am thankful for my Bible. Hubby gave it to me for a Christmas gift the week before our first son was born. Nearly ten years later, it is worn and more than a little marked up. I don't know how I could ever replace it, though. Precious, precious book.

Day 7--I am thankful for my washing machine and dryer. I complain a lot about my laundry duties, but the reality is that every time I start a new load, I should take a minute and remember that we have SO MUCH MORE than so many people.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Safe

I spent the last two days at MD Anderson testing and meeting with doctors. Today I found out that within my body, things appear to be normal. There are no "recurrent pelvic masses," no "focal suspicious bony lesions," and no "evidence of metastatic disease."

In other words, ALL CLEAR.

Tonight, I tucked my babies into their beds. I told them that Mommy is OK, and that the pictures the doctor took of my insides showed us that there is no cancer growing. To my oldest son, I said, "Even if those pictures had been different, though, it would not change the single most important thing. What is the most important thing, Goliath?" He replied, "God loves us."

And THAT is why the five of us are completely safe. Tonight, and forever.

"I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8

Monday, October 3, 2011

Trusting Jesus

I received this message from Little Middle's Sunday School teacher:

"...I asked the class to draw a picture of a time they had to trust Jesus. I was touched when he shared that he had to trust Jesus when you were diagnosed with cancer for the 2nd time. He's a precious boy!"

This is the picture that my Little Middle drew:


"For you are my hope; O Lord God, you are my trust from my youth and the source of my confidence. " Psalm 71:5

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In Which I Express Myself to Cancer

Dear Cancer,


I hate you.


I hate what you have done in my own life, and I hate that two other lives this week in my little corner of the globe were snuffed out by you.


It is your fault that these other children will grow up without mothers. It is your fault that my little boys could so easily become those children. It is your fault that those two husbands are now widowers, and I hate you so much because I have horrible dreams that my husband could be that, too. I hate you because you break families apart...good families, who love each other and love God.


I am just so mad! I am furious that you exist in the first place, and even more angry that you are so evasive. You should be cured by now, and even prevented. How are you still able to elude sophisticated medicines and scientists? Why do you insist on sneaking up on innocent people and invading their bodies? Why can't you just leave us alone?!?


I despise you for making me sick, for making my hair fall out and then come back curly, for making me ration my energy and activity so I can be "normal" again, and for making me the object of pity and sympathy. I hate you for making me work so hard to figure out and trust my God--and sometimes to even question everything I have believed for most of my life.


I choose every day to beat you. I decide over and over again not to let you win. But you and I both know that you are very powerful. You have the advantage. If you decide to attack again, there's nothing I can do to change your mind.


Tomorrow morning when I wake up, I will feel--just like I do every morning--scared. But then I will choose--just like I do every morning--to not let you beat me. I will fight; I will trust.


Hear me loud and clear, Cancer: You suck. I can honestly say that I wish I had never met you. GO AWAY.


With as much sincerity as I can muster,

Allyson

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?


On this day ten years ago, I had three years of marriage behind me and we were eagerly expecting our first child. I was at work on the morning of September 11, 2001, when the news began to circulate in our office that something in America was very wrong. We turned on the television set in the city manager's office and a group of us stood there, too horrified to believe that what we were seeing could be real. I saw the second plane crash into the World Trade Center and I saw live images of those towers imploding. Thoughts of the magnitude of the loss of life overwhelmed me. I remember that I called Hubby at his office to make sure he was aware and safe, and I took a call from my mom. I spent my lunch hour that day sitting in my car listening to the unbelievable details on the news wire.


I raced home at the end of the day and planted myself in front of the TV. Hubby and I ordered Chinese food for dinner. As much as we wanted to, we couldn't tear ourselves away from the terrible pictures that meant that life in America would never be quite the same. I remember that I put my hands on my belly so I could feel Baby Goliath move and kick. I cried so much--for the lives that were lost that day, and for the new life that I would soon be bringing into the world.


In the days and weeks to follow, I remember the flood of emotion I felt as the country--MY country--began to rebuild. I remember how colors and ancestry and political parties became irrelevant, because all that mattered was that we were all Americans. I remember the flags and the yellow ribbons displayed. I remember feeling so very proud to be an American.


My boys weren't even alive before September 11, 2001. Life post-9/11 is the only life they've ever known. Hubby and I have never talked with them much about 9/11...not because we don't think it's important, but because we don't know how to explain to our children that there are evil people in the world who want to hurt us because we don't think or act like them. And because we don't know how to answer questions about thousands of innocent lives lost and a good, just God who loves everyone. But this past spring, when U.S. forces killed Osama Bin Laden, the questions started. And what I was afraid of is exactly what happened: they asked questions that I didn't have answers for.


What I do know, though, is that I want my boys to grow up to be men who love God, love people, and love their country. Today is a day for Hubby and me to remember, and for us to teach our sons to take pride in the life they have in the United States of America and to mean what they say when they recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Because we are indeed one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.



Oh! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war's desolation

Blest with victory and peace may the heav'n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

Oer the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And They're Off!...Now What?

The day I've waited for and dreaded has come and gone! Look:




The three little cowboys have gone off to school. They walked into their new school on the first day together, and each one had a great day. In fact, pretty much every day so far has been a great day! According to Goliath, if "some dummy hadn't invented math, school would be just about perfect for me."



I was just as nervous as they were on the first day--maybe even more so. We had met all their teachers, purchased all their supplies, and ordered the backpacks they wanted. A side note about those school supplies: I finally wised up this year and bought the wrap packs. For the last four years I've nearly killed myself trying to recreate what I loved doing with my mom: picking out all of the school supplies and crossing things off the list and shopping for new clothes. With the boys, it was a beating. Boys just don't care. So I saved myself the heartache and frustration and just went with the PTA deal. It was the smart thing to do.


Where was I? Oh, yes. The first day. Not only did we start at a brand new elementary school, but Baby is a big kid now. My first thought when I woke up that morning was, "Today is our last first day of kindergarten." How did we get here?!?


He loves it. He doesn't seem to mind being away from me all day. He likes his teacher, all of the specials classes, and the playground. He loves the penguins that his teacher collects, the reading fort in his classroom, and his locker. He even likes homework (and he takes it very seriously). The only thing he doesn't care for at kindergarten is the kid that sits beside him because "he is not a good listener." On the 2nd day of school, Baby came home and announced that he had a new best friend at school. I asked what his name is, and my boy said, "I don't remember." Ha!


How about this guy? He's a proud 2nd grader. Get this...once upon a time, his teacher had ovarian cancer. That's no coincidence. Luckily, she no longer has cancer. Instead, she has a newt and some fish in her classroom, and that's all she needed to win Little Middle's heart.


And this one...my big 4th grader. Oh, the worry leading up to that first day! But turns out he needn't have worried much at all. He already knows several kids at school--one from flag football a few years ago, one who played on his kindergarten baseball team, and another little boy who he used to pal around with in preschool! He totally gets that God is taking care of him. His teacher couldn't be more perfect for him. She has a very cool, laid back personality, and from what Goliath reports, her classroom library is the best in the building!


So the boys are happy and thriving. Now what? The truth is that I'm having a bit of an identity crisis. Of course I don't sit around pining for them all day (well, I did on that first day, but I've gotten better), but it's so WEIRD. The house is quiet and still. There are no fights to break up, milk to be poured, or snacks to be fetched. All I've done for nearly ten years is have small people underfoot, and now I have all this T-I-M-E. I run errands. I grocery shop by myself (much easier and economical than going with the kids). I clean house and do laundry. Slowly, I am figuring it out. I have been invited to a mom's prayer group specifically for our elementary school. I have plans to have coffee with a neighbor who I'd like to get to know better. I have tried a few new recipes and last week I even went to see a movie! Maybe it's time to do a few Allyson things instead of a lot of Mommy things.


One of the things I love to do is teach, and not a moment too soon, preschool started back up yesterday! It was so strange to walk in by myself--I've had at least one little cowboy at preschool with me for the last eight years. The day went about as smoothly as a first day of preschool can go. I have delightful four-year-olds who are smart, curious, and a little noisy. I can't wait to see their eyes light up as they discover new things this year!


Baby really wanted me to have a good first day, so he helped make my lunch. Smile.

In other random H-family news, Abby Dog's 13th birthday quietly came and went. We didn't throw a big party, but her cousins Lucy and Moose were here visiting and we managed to make her feel plenty special. She is now 91 in people years--elderly by any standard. The boys occasionally ask me if she's going to die, to which I retort, "Of course not."


Little Middle hates spelling words, but still loves his Legos as much as ever! He nearly emptied his substantial Lego box building this skyscraper last week:


God and Mother Nature finally showed us some mercy here in North Texas with temperatures that were less than 100 degrees. On Labor Day, I took Little Middle and Baby out exploring in the "forest" behind their school. That water bottle Little Middle is holding contains a lizard that he caught. It is so gross and ugly, and right now it is in a box on my coffee table because LM was able to persuade me that he will get cold outside at night. Ick.


Goliath couldn't go on the adventure because he spent the weekend in bed with a lovely strep throat/sinus infection combination. And I would just like to say that no adventure compares with that of going to a pediatric urgent care clinic on a Sunday afternoon. Now, in spite of incessant hand-washing and mouth-covering, Hubby seems to have caught the germs. I'm trying not to inhale too deeply around here.


Now I'm off to get a head start on dinner. Ham and cheese pie is on the menu tonight. The only thing better than Southern Living is a good friend who reads it and passes along the best recipes!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reflecting

Today I got to hold an hours-old baby. Everything else going on in that hospital room faded into background noise while I looked over Baby Kate's teeny tiny fingers and toes. Astonishing. I was privileged to be present while the big brother and big sister met their new baby sister for the first time. I got to hug my precious friend who, I swear, has been pregnant longer than anyone I've ever known through the hottest summer I can remember.


Every detail of my visit brought back every detail of my own babies. How good they smelled...how soft their skin was...the funny faces they made...how I loved to rock and sing to them. I remember the hospital stays--the visitors, the balloons and flowers, the Chick-Fil-A cravings, the tiny outfits, the pride and excitement.


I also remember the first night we had Goliath home with us, when I slept inches away from him for fear he would stop breathing. How my days and nights bled together with a newborn in the house. How my whole world suddenly revolved around feeding times and tummy gurgles. How I learned that there is no laundry detergent powerful enough to get out some baby stains. How I cooked dinner with one hand for years so that I could hold a baby boy with my other. How I obsessively tried to keep them on a good schedule, read them books, and take them outside every day, and how I beat myself up when I missed a day. How I feared failure more than anything...and still do.


When Baby was born, Goliath was not quite 4 and Little Middle was just 17 months old. I had my hands more than full. Those were the days when people at the grocery store gave me that "you're crazy" look. I walked blindly through those first years, kind of in a survival mode. I thought more than once that if I could just get them all sleeping through the night...drinking from a sippy cup...walking...sitting in a booster seat...down to one nap a day...out of the stroller...then I would have it made.


Now my Baby is going to kindergarten. Tiny onesies have long since been replaced by superhero t-shirts. We're down from 3 carseats to 1 small booster seat. Everyone drinks from a real cup and eats off of (gasp!) breakable plates. My baby days are well behind me.


But now I know better than to think that I have it made just because my babies are older. Yes, they are more independent in a lot of ways. But in some ways, they need me more than ever. And it's nice to be needed. Mothering is not for the faint of heart.


My mom tells me that as her children were growing, she always anticipated the next stage and enjoyed it more than the one before. Don't get me wrong--I am super-proud of my boys and the little people they are becoming. I wouldn't trade one crazy day in this zoo for anything. But I guess tonight I just feel a little nostalgic. Their little fingers wrapped so easily around my big one. I wish it could always be easy.


Every single night, I still check on each boy before I go to bed. I lay a hand gently on his chest to make certain of his steady breathing, and I plant a quiet kiss on his forehead. I get to be their mom. It was then, and always will be, the greatest joy of my life.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Too Hot to Blog




Today is Day 34 in an exhausting string of consecutive days of 100+ degree temperatures, aka Texas Heat Wave 2011. The swimming pool is like bath water. Cooking anything besides cereal is torture. It feels like the a/c in the car isn't working, but it is--it just can't keep up. The boys and I are hunkered down with ceiling fans running at full speed in every room. It's just TOO HOT...even for August in Texas.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

June Wrap-Up

Summer is almost half over. I blinked my eyes, it was July already. So, mostly for the sake of documentation, here's some of what went on around this zoo in June.


In June, I...


--said goodbye to precious friends who moved to Tennessee. Richard and Christina, you may never know this side of heaven the extraordinary impact you have had on me and my family. I miss you, and will continue to pray for you. Deuteronomy 28:3!!!





--had a painful, emotionally charged visit with Dr. M, which led me to the decision that I must find a new oncologist.


--went to 2 last-day-of-school parties with my oldest cowboys. Saying goodbye to their teachers and their school was tough.



--got my mop 'o curls cut and colored. Mustered every ounce of courage I have and went public with it. Still not loving it.

--let my cowboys visit their grandparents for six days by themselves. Oh, the QUIET!!

--traveled to West Texas with Hubby to visit family and retrieve the cowboys. I especially enjoyed pool time with my little guys and spending time with Sweet Mema, my grandmother-in-law.


--watched Little Middle shine at Lego Camp with his best buddy. That smile of his is priceless!


--got de-ported. Day surgery to remove my chemo port was not too bad. I am SO glad to have it out!

--continued with my Pinterest problem obsession. I found a few DIY projects that I loved...look what I made!!!:



That precious menu board is nothing but cute paper in a simple frame. I write on the glass with an Expo marker and erase it every week with a paper towel. Easy! And no one ever asks "What's for dinner?" anymore. :)


--taught 4-year-olds in VBS at church. I loved the time with my beloved co-teacher, but I realized that summer is not my best season for teaching. I blame the lack of patience on the heat.

--went on a day adventure with the cowboys to visit my brother at a youth camp where he was working. I got a lot more than I bargained for when we attended the afternoon worship service. Our friend John sang a song that he and my brother wrote together while I was sick last year. I was humbled and honored to have camp leaders and youth pray for me and lay hands on me and my family. It was the most extraordinary spiritual experience I've had in a long time. I left Waxahachie with a full and grateful heart.

(BTW, I highly recommend the "Declaration" record by John Sherrill. Get it!)



--continued to look for my favorite cookbook and my camera, both of which are missing since we moved. It explains the lack of creativity in my menu planning and the poor quality of pictures in this post.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

About the Hair

"The hair is the richest ornament of women."--Martin Luther


Fifteen months have passed since I shut my eyes tight and gripped my mom's hand as hard as I could while my hair was shaven off my head in response to chemotherapy treatments. The intense sorrow I felt during that hour at the salon was matched only by the horror I felt when I finally worked up the courage to look at myself in the mirror later that night.


They say that time heals all wounds. I disagree, but I would compromise and acknowledge that time takes the sting out of most wounds. As much as I hated it, I learned to live without my hair. Life kept going on all around me, and I made the choice to participate as much as I was able.


But my already-fragile self-esteem was shattered by my cancer-induced baldness. All these months, I've put on a brave face and a good show, but every time I looked in the mirror, I saw ugly.


Now my hair is growing. I've had it cut a few times, and recently finally got it colored because I've found that blondes really do have more fun. I begged my hairdresser to find a way to fix the crazy, kinky curls into a silky straight mane, and you know what she said? "You should embrace the curls." Humph. Some advice.


Fast forward a couple of weeks. Turns out she knows what she's talking about. After two agonizing trips and quite a few dollars to the beauty supply store, I found out that all the products and flat irons in the world can't fix this. Trying to straighten this hair only makes me look like I'm wearing a huge mushroom on my head.


So I have curls. Lots and lots of very blonde curls. I've experimented with a few different things, but the bottom line is the same every. single. day. It's still ugly. I can't comb it down or tuck it behind my ears or put a clip in it or anything. I can't even manage to make it look like I meant to style my hair this way!


Since the boys have been out of school, I have been wig-free for the most part. They have gotten used to the new look, so I know it's time for me to go public with my hair. Tomorrow will be that day. I don't mean to dramatize it, but I have great anxiety about going to church without my wig. I feel vulnerable and exposed. It's hard to explain...I think I should feel victorious and joyful instead of scared.


I've often said I wouldn't trade my cancer journey for anything because I've learned so many valuable lessons along the way. But how I wish I could have taken this same journey with a full head of hair! But then again, what I've learned probably wouldn't have mattered nearly as much. Like knowing that life has very little to do with my hair and everything to do with my heart.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Real Mom Kind of Day

I've never pretended to be something I'm not on here, so I will preface everything I want to say with a confession: I am drinking a glass of wine right now and it is the best thing that's happened to me today.

That being said, let's talk about my day. The alarm went off this morning, and I turned it off and went back to sleep. Yes, I set my alarm during the summer. It's weird, but I like being up early so I can enjoy a cup of coffee and quiet time before the monsters children get up. So the day was already off to a rocky start when I went in the kitchen late and it was a disaster from each boy getting their own breakfast. Um, hello? We own this great contraption called a trash can. It would be fabulous if someone besides me would use it to clean up after themselves.


The novelty of summer never lasts long, and I think I can safely say it's over around here. I had barely had two sips of coffee--not nearly enough for me to be patient--when I was surrounded by "Stop it!" "He took that away from me!" "I was here first!" "MOOOOMMM!!!" I'm not even kidding that I let them watch TV/play Wii/use the laptop for most of the rest of the morning.


Electronic Time was interrupted only by requests for snacks and me defending my recent hurried grocery trip. No, we don't have any more Gripz crackers. No, I forgot to replace the pretzels. No, I did NOT buy Fruit Roll Ups. (Why do they like those things anyway? They are so gross.)


Then it was time for lunch. We had to eat early today so we would have plenty of time to get Little Middle to Lego camp with his best and oldest buddy. Everyone wanted chicken nuggets. Everyone agreed that microwaved chicken nuggets were preferred over waiting for me to bake them in the oven. I left one brother in charge of lunch while I went to work on my wretched mop o' chemo curls, which led to me closing my bathroom door so I could say an unholy word to my hair in the mirror. When I returned to the kitchen, the brother in charge had fixed himself a plate and was happily eating while the other two were practically begging for food. I unleashed my wrath on him and said some unkind and hurtful things to him...which goes against the family rules that I constantly remind the boys are so important. Ugh.


I can not speak of the car ride to and from Lego camp. It was too ugly and involved too much shouting.


After Lego camp, we headed to the pool. Goliath reminded me that I am under doctor's orders not to go in the pool until Saturday, but I didn't care. That doctor doesn't have to stay home with three kids all day.


All three of my boys know how to swim. Well, Baby is still learning, but he is plenty tall enough now to touch the pool bottom in most areas. So I can't figure out why they must hang on me, cling to me, grab my legs, jump on my back, etc. while we are in the water. They don't NEED me. And it's not like I don't play with them there! I sure don't sit in a lounge chair like a lot of other mothers and watch them from a distance. I'm right there with them wherever they go. They're not even close to drowning, so I wish they would LET GO.


Goliath had to go to jiu jitsu, which required me to make elaborate arrangements with my friend at the pool, another friend whose son is in the same class, and Hubby. Three kids isn't really that many, but there are times (like today) when it feels like too many! I managed to get Goliath there on time, only to arrive and remember that I still had to sign him in. I had to go into the studio in my swimsuit cover-up and my semi-wet mop 'o curls. Awesome.


I went back to the pool and swam with Baby and Little Middle a while longer. Before I knew it, it was close to 7:00 and there was no way I would have time to cook. Chick-Fil-A for everyone! Oops. A few small someones might have been too busy complaining that there wasn't enough of their particular favorite sauce(s) to say "Thanks, Mom, for picking up dinner for us. We really appreciate all you do." Or maybe they were just too busy spilling 2 (!!!) glasses of water all over the table, floor, and each other.


Enter more brotherly bickering, a few more raised voices, tears, one go-to-your-room-and-don't-come-out-until-tomorrow-morning, and one removal of Wii privileges. I am flying the white flag of mothering...I surrender.


They're great kids (usually). I'm not a bad mom (usually). Just today was not our best...theirs or mine.


Thanks, Lord, for letting me be their mom. Thank you that when I wake up on time tomorrow morning, your mercies will be fresh and new. And thank you for wine. Amen.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hunting Wabbits

What do you get if you give a little cowboy a small gun and plenty of wide open space?





Saturday, June 11, 2011

Peace and Quiet

It's Saturday night. My little cowboys are in West Texas starting their summer off right with their grandparents. Hubby is watching the UFC fight at his brother's house. Abby Dog and I shared a Schlotzsky's sandwich and now we are catching up on my recorded DVR shows and enjoying the peace and quiet.


I deserve some peace and quiet, if you don't mind my saying so. We bought a new house and moved. Preschool ended and I watched my Baby graduate. I kept on dragging Goliath and Little Middle out of bed and to school every day, long after every other school district in Texas was done. I had a less-than-enjoyable doctor visit (I am fine.). Finally--FINALLY--Summer 2011 is here! I usually am not a fan of summer. It's way too hot and there is a little too much quality time with the kids. But this year, I am more than ready.


The last day of school was tough. Because of our move, the boys will attend a different elementary school next year. I have done everything possible to get them excited: We visited the school book fair and bought--what else?--Star Wars books. We took a tour of the campus and met the counselor and the principal. We admired the playground. But I know that none of those things make it easy for my sons to leave behind their friends and favorite teachers. There were tears in all of our eyes when we walked out of the doors of their school for the last time.


We celebrated the end of school by heading straight to the pool. The first swim of the season was great! It's already 100+ degrees here. You know what they say about Texas...we have four seasons here: Almost Summer, Summer, Still Summer, and Christmas. Anyway, Baby was triumphant at the pool when I showed him that he is finally tall enough to touch the pool bottom in the lazy river, and that he is tall enough to go down one of the big slides. Victory! Now if we can just get him swimming confidently like his brothers...


We love, love, LOVE our new house. It is nearly twice as big as our old one. Each of the boys has their own bedroom, and they are really enjoying having their own space. I have a huge bathtub, a kitchen with two ceiling fans and more than enough cabinet space, and a laundry room that is an actual room. That hasn't endeared me more to the laundry chore, but it makes it a little easier to keep up! We have nice neighbors and fruit trees in the backyard. Our own little piece of paradise...aaahhh. Of course, no experience in this family is complete without some sort of mishap. We had lived here almost three weeks when our washing machine went berserk and we had a flood. The water in the laundry room was deep enough to cover the top of my foot when I was standing in it. Even worse, the Gain-smelling river ran straight into the hall where we have wood floors. I ran around town like a crazy person before I finally landed at Home Depot, where I rented a wet-vac and made friends with a sympathetic old man with chewing tobacco in his back pocket. With a little help from my good friend Momma Wolg, I managed to suck up the water, but not before it damaged the flooring. The silver lining: My feet smelled nice and felt super-soft from all that sloshing around.


Things have been pretty quiet here in CancerLand. Back in the spring, I went to M.D. Anderson in Houston. MDA has been on my radar for a while, but I haven't felt well enough to make the trip for quite some time. My reason for finally going was two-fold: One, I wanted/needed to get a second opinion about "what's next?" and two, MDA is renowned for their clinical trials and experimental drugs to treat cancer. Having been assured that cancer will forever be a threat, I want in on that action! I spent nearly a week there and during that time, I had every test and met with every specialist imaginable. At the end of the week, I was informed that without a doubt, cancer is not currently present in my body. I worked out a plan to return for scans and to remain under "surveillance" by the staff there. And, I asked about and gratefully accepted a prescription for a drug that I hope will keep cancer at bay for a while. The drug is an anti-estrogen--theoretically, the less estrogen that my body produces, the less chance there is that cancer cells will be able to feed and grow. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but it would be silly and irresponsible for me to not explore any and all options.


My news about MDA was not greeted with the enthusiasm I had hoped for by Dr. M here in Dallas. In spite of that, he will be performing yet another surgery on me next week to remove my chemo port. I can't say that I'm excited about surgery, but I will be thrilled to have that thing out of my body! Hopefully I won't need one ever again.


With the little boys out of town for a few days, I've had time to explore a new obsession: Pinterest. PandaMom gave me a few pointers, and I am well on my way to digital organization! It makes me feel all artsy and crafty, which I am NOT in real life. Still, it's nice to imagine that one day I might be able to bake a pink heart into the center of my plain-Jane cupcakes or make a wreath out of crayons for Teacher Appreciation week.


Every year I buy Little Middle a new pair of flip flops, and every year he wears them for just a few weeks before he breaks them. Every. Single. Year. When I went to his class party on the last day of school, he was barefoot because his shoe had broken. So I gave up and I bought him a more solid, pricier pair. If they don't last him the rest of the summer, he's just gonna have to wear tennis shoes. That might have sounded heartless when I said it out loud when pulling out of the store parking lot, but Baby assured me, "You're the best mommy we could ever have." Little Middle retorted, "Yeah, but that's 'cause she's the ONLY mommy we can ever have."


And on that note, I'm gonna go enjoy my peace and quiet. Happy Summer!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Boys In My House

There are boys in my house - and Spiderman shoes
And 200 papers in various blues.
There's Bob (he's a builder) and Thomas the Train,
There's a fireman coat to wear in the rain.
They have cars on their shirts and frogs on their hats
There's a glove and a ball and a red plastic bat.
There's dirt on a face and a smudge on a nose;
Grass stains on knees and sand between toes.
There's bathtime at night with bodies to scrub,
And when we're all done there is dirt in the tub!
There's bandaids and bruises and curious bumps,
There's smiles and laughter and sometimes there's grumps.
There's odors most icky; there's boogers so green
There's more yucky things than I'll ever get clean.
There's piles of laundry; there's stories at night;
There's bedtime and bathtime and dinnertime fights.
There's cars and there's trains and there's books about trucks
There's Scoop, Lofty, Dizzy, and Travis, and Muck.
Sometimes there are bugs, and sometimes there are frogs;
Sometimes they are lions, or dinos, or dogs.
There are cute little vests and darling neckties
Dragged right through the mud - oh what a surprise!
There's running and climbing and jumping and falling
And laughing and crying and hugging and brawling
And rolling and losing and finding and creeping
And whining and stealing and sometimes there's sleeping.
There's tantrums and time outs and extra loud noise -
There's love in my house shaped like three little boys.
--E.J. Kilmer

Friday, May 27, 2011

My Story

I commit to Jesus, I commit to His followers, I commit to His world.

At my church, this is our motto/mantra/mission statement. I was recently given the opportunity to share part of my story with my church family to reflect my personal commitment and the joy God has given me in my journey.

He is good, and He does good. This is my story.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Baby-isms

Goliath: "Why are you drinking water with your breakfast, Baby?"
Baby: "Because it's healthy for me. You know what else is healthy for me?"
Goliath: "What?"
Baby: "Pepperoni."

Baby: "Daddy is my buddy."
Me: "That's great! What am I?"
Baby: "You are my minion."

Baby: "Mommy, you know I am having a lot of problems today."
Me: "No...what kind of problems?"
Baby: "Like finger problems and toe problems."

Baby (expressing frustration to himself while playing Super Mario Brothers on the Wii): "I can't believe I only have 64 free men! But thank God I got the freeze balls!"

Monday, April 25, 2011

Homeowners!

The blog is neglected.
I'm drowning in dirty laundry.
I can't find anything.
I haven't cooked a meal that's worth anything in days.

And here's why:

Today Hubby and I signed final papers for our NEW HOUSE!!!

"Excited" does not begin to cover it! We outgrew our current house a while back--it has gotten smaller as the boys have grown bigger. The new house has plenty of space, both inside and out.

Tonight we picked up dinner at Rosa's and had our first meal in our new house...picnic-style on the kitchen floor. The boys got to bring a few things over for their new rooms. Goliath brought his CD player and his art supplies, Little Middle brought his Lego Star Wars ships, and Baby chose to bring his hats. Even Abby Dog got to come, and she was a big hit with the little girls who live next door!

The five of us are over-the-moon-thrilled about our new place. There is much more work to be done (including the "big" moving day this weekend) before we are settled there. But while I'm making a path through all the U-Haul boxes, I will be thankful. He has given us so much!

P.S. I promise that when the move is done, the blog will be revived.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Do's and Don'ts for the Chemo Room

In honor of my LAST day in the chemo room (!!!), I have put together a little list of do's and don'ts for basic etiquette. I tell the little cowboys all the time that manners matter...even in the chemo room. Here's what and what not to do.

1. DO mind your own business. We might have to share nurses, but my cancer is mine and your cancer is yours.

2. DO NOT ask me every time you see me if I've tried the peppermint-flavored water. Maybe I don't like peppermint. Or maybe I don't like water. Probably I'm running out of polite responses.

3. DO wear a nose strip if it keeps you from snoring while you nap.

4. DO NOT talk about nose hair. I do not want to hear about whether you have it or not, nor do I care to know whether blowing your nose is easier during allergy season if said nose hair has begun to grow back.

5. DO keep private information private. Just like sex, any conversation about bodily fluids and/or functions easily lends itself to a TMI label.

6. DO NOT offer to share your neck pillow or blanket with me. Ick.

7. DO NOT ask me about the specifics of my case. Chances are that I hate being here, and having to rehash the depressing details with a stranger only makes me hate it more.

8. DO cover your head. Chemotherapy is a beast, and we all know it. There is no need to flaunt what it has stolen from you, thereby reminding the rest of us what we have also lost.

9. DO NOT, under any circumstances, wear pajamas, a housecoat, your slippers, or a crown to the chemo room. No way can you keep your dignity if you do.

10. DO wear a bra. Please.

11. DO NOT say things like "These pole covers are so cute!" or "That was easy, wasn't it?" Nothing in the chemo room is cute or easy to deal with.

12. DO be very careful what you eat in the chemo room. Because Mexican food and chemotherapy don't mix.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Little Middle!

Dear Little Middle,

Today you turned 7 years old. Seven! Tonight, even as I write this, you and several of your friends are running like wild men through our house. They've been invited to your birthday party--your first sleepover! (You made sure that I knew that girls have slumber parties, but boys have sleepovers. Big difference.) Daddy and I are exhausted, but every balloon, pizza slice, and drained juice box is absolutely worth it for the big smile that you are wearing on your face.

I wonder how many more birthdays you will celebrate before I stop calling you my "little" middle? I would guess a lifetime's worth, but you're not so little anymore, are you? I became more aware of it over the last few months when people started commenting that you look so tall...and then you outgrew all of your pants to prove it. Your long legs and big feet are constant reminders that you are well on your way to dwarfing me!

First grade has been an adventure, hasn't it? God was good and blessed you with another fabulous teacher this year. Lucky for us, she is a sports fan. That has motivated you to enjoy the classroom and put forth a good effort at school. Otherwise, your grades might reflect your overall learning philosophy: If it's something that interests you, it's worth learning. Otherwise, you don't waste time on it. Same with reading. Every time we go to the library, you make a beeline for the animal non-fiction section. You know exactly which shelves house the books about snakes, lizards, crocodiles, and other creepy crawlies. Those books are pretty much the only ones you want to read...and I suspect that it's just as much for the pictures as anything else!

In spite of your limited repertoire, you've become a good reader this year. You read all of your own birthday cards today. What fun! I still remember when you first read Dr. Seuss to me. You've come a long way since then!

Aside from icky animals, your other two affections are still Star Wars and Legos. I cleaned out your closet earlier this week, and I could not believe how many teeny tiny Lego pieces I picked up! They were everywhere. Your creativity is astonishing, though. You will easily sit for an hour or more at a time while you are building something. I often find you sitting on your closet floor, surrounded by the small, colorful blocks.


I tried to steer you away from a Star Wars-themed birthday party this year, but I failed miserably. This is your third one in a row. I guess nothing comes close to the awesomeness that happened long long ago in a galaxy far far away.

Over the last few months the dynamics of your relationships with Goliath and Baby have begun to change. You and Baby still are (and always will be, I think) the best of friends. But as friends sometimes do, you get on each other's nerves. I see your desire to be included in more "big boy" stuff--namely, whatever your big brother has going on. Many afternoons, I am walking a fine line between giving you the independence you need and giving him the privacy he needs. Hang in there, buddy. Your time is coming. It won't be long before you will come and go with your friends and ride your bike around the neighborhood minus a parent. Trust me on this.

Our family dynamics have changed some over the past year, too. The Year You Were Six will forever be marked as the Year of the Sickness. How I hope and pray you don't remember it when you're all grown up! I have spent a lot of time feeling guilty over my perceived failures as your mother--like when I had to stop volunteering at your school, when I couldn't go on your field trip, and when I had to trust someone else to take care of you because I wasn't able to. But then I step back and take a good look at you. I realize that there are some things that life--cancer included--can not change: it can't change the fact that God created you to be exactly what He wants you to be. And He made you for me. No one else could be your mother. God picked ME. And you know what, Little Middle? I think I am the luckiest mom in the whole wide world.

You make me so happy, my sweet 7-year-old. And no matter how big you get, you will always be my Little Middle.

Love,


Mom

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

They're Different, All Right!

I am constantly amazed at the very distinct personalities that my 3 little cowboys have. In spite of their close ages and relationships, they are not as similar as you would think. Here are a few ways they are different, and how we celebrate them (usually)!

Sandwiches
Goliath: Salami with mustard
Little Middle: Turkey with mayonnaise
Baby: Cheese with mayonnaise

Music
Goliath: Likes to sing
Little Middle: Would rather eat dirt than go to choir
Baby: To sing or not to sing?...that is the question.

Big Issues
Goliath: Worries. About. Everything.
Little Middle: Goes with the flow.
Baby: Lets everyone else do the worrying for him.

Animals
Goliath: Horses
Little Middle: Dogs
Baby: Buffaloes and longhorns

Hobbies
Goliath: cooking, hunting, and cooking what he hunts
Little Middle: hunting, fishing, and Legos
Baby: video games

Reading
Goliath: Loves it!
Little Middle: Can, but doesn't want to.
Baby: Doesn't know how.

Chick-Fil-A Sauce
Goliath: Ranch
Little Middle: Ketchup
Baby: Polynesian

Clothes
Goliath: khaki shorts and t-shirts
Little Middle: "soft" shorts and Star Wars t-shirts
Baby: jeans and cowboy boots

Favorite Thing to Do With Mom
Goliath: Get ice cream at Marble Slab
Little Middle: Roller skating
Baby: Playing Wii

Favorite Thing to Do With Dad
Goliath: Riding horses
Little Middle: Hunting
Baby: Playing Wii

Playtime
Goliath: Jump on the trampoline
Little Middle: Lego
Baby: Anything outside

Movies
Goliath: Bronco Billy
Little Middle: Star Wars
Baby: Rango

One Word
Goliath: Passionate
Little Middle: Sweet
Baby: Funny

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hair Update

It's been a while since I posted an update on my hair. Most of ya'll are too polite to ask about it, but the subject still comes up every now and then. So, here's what inquiring minds want to know: My hair is growing. In fact, I got it cut a few weeks back. I didn't cut it because it has grown to an unmanageable length, though. Don't get too excited! I cut it because it will grow faster and better if I do some upkeep on it, or so I am told. What I secretly am hoping for is that there will be magic in those scissors, and it will begin to grow in a completely new way. What's coming in now is a weird texture (curly) and a weird color (mud). I much prefer my old texture (straight, at least with the help of a flat iron) and my old color (salon-blonde). That's what my "pretend" hair is, and that's what I will wear until...well, until I say otherwise. The curly mud grows on, though, all crazy-like--so much so that it must be restrained these days. I have to wear a grippy headband-type thing to hold it back before I smush it all up inside the pretend hair. Wig-wearing was easier when I was completely bald!

I wish I could say that looking in the mirror is easier these days, but that wouldn't be exactly true. Besides the mop o' mess, I am annoyed at the pasty white color of my skin. I am disgusted by the weight I lost last year and have managed to put back on (The Sickness and I will share the blame on this one). I have HAD IT! with the little zit that keeps showing up on my chin, regardless of how often I wash my face. I'm not 14 anymore, for crying out loud!

For as long as I can remember caring, I have always wanted to __________. Have better hair...lose weight...apply makeup like an expert...have clear skin...update my wardrobe--you can fill in the blank with almost anything that equates with prettiness. I don't feel much more comfortable in my body as a grown woman than I did in the awkward-for-everyone adolescent stage.

Understandable?
Maybe.
Sinful?
Probably.
Truthful?
Absolutely.

The Sickness has forced my hand in a lot of areas, but this is a big one for me. When Goliath was a baby, I used to recite this Bible verse to him (we had fun hand motions and everything!):
"I will praise you, O Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and my soul knows it full well." Psalm 139:14

Now, if I could be so easily convinced that God took perfect care to weave my son together, what makes me think He would just toss together a few ingredients and hope for the best when it came to me? And if I could so readily and easily praise Him for the three miracles that are Goliath, Little Middle, and Baby, why would I neglect to praise Him for the miracle that I am?

Any good 12-step program will tell you that the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. I have a problem with my self-image. The next steps in my "recovery" can be found in the pages of my Bible, where it says that I am special and loved...cancer, curls, and all.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend Getaway

For quite a while now, this weekend has been circled on my calendar. My BFF Caroline managed to get tickets to a Chris Tomlin/Christy Nockels/Louie Giglio concert, and Friday was the big night! I left work early on Friday and drove to Houston. Just being alone in the car would have almost made the whole trip worthwhile! I dropped in on my brother and SIL just long enough to freshen up, then headed to Caroline's house. We enjoyed dinner at the Black Walnut...YUM!...and made it to the concert with time to spare.

This show was a salve for my soul. The "concert" could more accurately be described as a corporate worship experience. Thousands of people singing "Yes, Jesus Loves Me" and "How Great Is Our God" together was more than enough to give me chills. The best part for me, though, was Chris's rendition of "Amazing Grace" (with "My Chains Are Gone"). I don't cry much these days--there's too much "stuff" piled up on me. But the words of that precious hymn were as fresh to me as the first time I believed them. I linked my arm through Caroline's, leaning on her like I have many times over the years, and brushed tears away with my free hand. It truly felt like God was blowing the dust off the surface of my heart and stirring something that has laid dormant for a long time. I'm so thankful.

Meanwhile, my brother was working some magic on my behalf. He's got friends in high places (Hi, Clay!), and he was able to get us passes for the meet-and-greet after the show. Caroline and I were thrilled to be able to meet Chris Tomlin!

On Saturday, I had lunch with my grandparents. We went to the Olive Garden, and it couldn't have been more lovely if I'd had high tea with the Queen herself! Look at my cute Buck and Grandmama checking out the menu:

And here I am with them and Gran. I'm pretty fond of these three people!

I had a delightful time just hanging out with my brother and his Other. Phil and Chelsea, you made me so comfortable in your home and so happy. I love, love, LOVE you both!

I headed home feeling refreshed and satisfied. Of course, no trip would be complete unless something weird happened. Or maybe two somethings: 1) I was driving north on I-45, minding my own business, when I saw a field with some horses...and a zebra. Huh? 2) I stopped at Buc-ees, which is a legend in its own right in Texas. This was in front of me:
You might be a redneck if you only wear socks to pump gas. And yes, I took a picture...because that's how I roll. Sorry, Mom.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011