Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Back-to-School Letter

Dear Goliath,

Tomorrow is a big day for you!  You will go to your first day of sixth grade, your first day of middle school.  I can hardly believe that the time that we have talked about for so long is finally here!  I can hardly believe that I will take Little Middle and Baby to the elementary school in the morning without you....sniff.

What I really want to say to you here has nothing to do with sappy mom feelings, though.  I want to tell you something that is very important about the adventure that you are about to begin.  For as long as I can remember, when I have tucked you in to bed at night, we have said your prayers together and I have thanked God for making you "strong, smart, and special."  I believed it when you were a tiny little guy in a crib, and I believe it now that your feet are bigger than mine and you are going to middle school.

I'm pretty sure--in fact, I know--that lots of other moms believe that same thing about their sons and daughters.  And I want you to remember that when you encounter other kids at your new school.  You will have plenty of opportunities to make new friends, or at least a lot of new acquaintances.  Every single person you are in class with deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.  Every individual that you see in the hallway was created by God--same as you--and that alone makes him/her very special.  Every kid that stands in the lunch line near you or shares a locker in your hall needs someone to be their friend.  I don't mean that you should be best buddies with every person you see.  That would be impossible!  Just be mindful, sweet son, that sometimes yours might be the only smile that another student sees.  Your kind word, even if it is a simple "hello", might be the only nice thing one of your classmates hears all day long.

You have everything that you need to be successful at school this year.  You have a mom and a dad who love you and want the best for you.  You've got two pretty cool brothers (come on now--admit it!).  You never miss a meal, you have a soft bed to sleep in, you've got neat-o new shoes and clothes.  Do you know that there are kids who don't even have those basic things?  Families who don't have enough food?  Parents who can't afford new shoes?  There are kids whose parents work long hours and they don't get to spend a lot of time together.  There are kids who have sick family members, or who don't do well in school, or who are going through a thousand other hurts that they don't tell anyone about.  There is a well-known quote that goes like this:  "Be kind.  Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."  Tuck that away and draw it up when you need to:  in sixth grade, and later, in your adult life.  Some rules never, ever will change.

There is a lot of talk among us adults about how hard it is to be a middle schooler.  That isn't because the schoolwork is so hard (but be prepared to study!); its because you have a crazy need-desire to fit in and be accepted.  Over the next few years, you will have to make some hard decisions about your relationships:  who to keep close to you,  and who to keep farther out.  Be smart, son.  Don't change who you are to make someone else happy.  EVER.  If you have to change, then they aren't worth it.

Tomorrow morning I will feed you a good breakfast, pack a grown-up lunch and a water bottle, and then for the first time in your whole life, I will drop you off at the front of the school and NOT walk you in.  You are growing up.  Sometimes that makes me feel sad and miss the cute little guy in the crib, but I would not trade in 6th-grade Goliath for anything!  Dad and I are so proud of you.  You will be awesome in your new school, and I fully expect that you will make a difference to lots of people there.  Always treat everyone with kindness and respect.  They, just like you, are strong, smart, and so very special!

I'm so glad I got to be your mom.

With love and great expectations,


Thursday, August 22, 2013

The One In Which Summer Comes To An Abrupt End

Technically,  there are 4 days of summer left.

But today, I called Summer 2013 finished.  Done.  Complete.  Concluded.  Over.  Terminated.

I am a firm believer in "too much of a good thing."  And that's what these last weeks of summer break are:  too much.  We've been to camp, we've done VBS, we've done the road trips.  We've visited family, we have good (enough) tans, and we've checked the main stuff off the bucket list.  In fact, all that's left on the bucket list are the things that I hastily wrote on there with good mom intentions.  Things like "Write a snail mail letter," "Do something nice for our mailman," and "Go to a farmer's market."  I know, I know--I was fighting a losing battle.

Today, the cowboys had their favorite neighbor-brothers over to play, making five little boys all together.  The problem started when my two oldest cowboys felt the need to show off for their friends, vying for wins against each other in  competitions such as Insult Hurling, Name Calling, and Steal-a-Wii-Turn. Their friends were probably overjoyed when their mom called for them to come home for lunch, and that was the unfortunate moment that The Cowboy Who Shall Remain Nameless made a very poor choice in the way he spoke to his father and myself, and he ended up washing my car (lovingly nicknamed The Bus).  At 12:02 in the afternoon. Yikes.

Once all the cowboys had been denied a trip to Sonic for lunch, and once again been forced to eat sandwiches (the horror!!!), I strongly suggested that we enjoy a screen-free afternoon.  "Screen time" applies to TV, video games, phones...anything fun.  I logged their complaints as usual and assured them that they could do it.

Little Middle and Baby decided to play Legos.  They had been upstairs maybe 10 minutes when they came back down.  One of them was crying and one of them had his arms crossed defiantly across his chest.  Apparently, one brother needed 5 specific Legos that were in the other brother's building, so he just took 'em out and made the whole building collapse.  This led to an argument about each individual Lego in the tub and who its rightful owner was.  Seriously?  We own approximately 2.4 zillion Legos.  So Little Middle says to me, "So what are you going to do about him, Mom?"

Before I could escape those two jokers, the big one comes in.  He is supposed to be reading a book, but LOOK!  While he was reading, he found the walkie talkies that have been missing.  "I'm just going to try them out, OK, Mom?"


I managed to wrangle the walkie talkies away and I declared a mandatory Quiet Rest Time for everyone.  We haven't had a formal QRT since 2008!  

Little Middle ended up falling asleep for a while.  I wish the other boys had too.  I think my Baby might have slept a little bit if he had stopped somersaulting for just a few minutes.  He's cute, but the constant movement can be irritating.  It didn't help that the doorbell rang about 14 times in a row.

By the time we were ready to go meet the new 2nd and 4th grade teachers, I wasn't feeling very rested or refreshed.  I was feeling sweaty and melty.  August in Texas is hot, no matter how you slice it.  So it would have been very nice indeed if the air conditioning to the elementary school had not been shut off just a few hours before Meet the Teacher began.  I imagine that heads will roll for that little shenanigan!

Attending MtT meant that I had to drop Goliath at his jiu jitsu class earlier than usual, which earned me quite a bit of complaining.  He would be bored, blah blah, he didn't want to watch the other class, blah blah blah, couldn't he walk down to Pet Smart, blah, blah, NO!  I ignored him most of the way to the gym, but before I smashed The Bus into the windows of the strip mall, I had to put a stop to his sassy mouth, which probably raised my blood pressure into the next universe.

Somehow, we all managed to get home not much worse for the wear.  Hubby was kind enough to make the dinner that I had on the menu for tonight:  Burger Sliders.  Well, Monster is having none of it.  He's not a fan of burgers.  Monster and I were hungry, so we settled on Toaster Strudels.  I don't think I've eaten Toaster Strudels in a year!  The strudels popped out of the toaster, I put them on a plate, and guess what?  There were no icing packets left in the box.  All gone.

I had to make my own icing.

That's it.  I love my kids with all my heart.  But really...settling arguments about Legos?  Quiet Rest Time?  Icing-less Toaster Strudels?  And I haven't even told you that it was a bad hair day, that Monster conquered Ambien again last night, or that the one thing I have volunteered for begins on the very first day of school.  This is all too much.  I will be a much happier mama, and thereby we will have a much happier family, when we aren't all together all the time.  Summer is over.  Starting NOW!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Insomniac Blogging: Eigth Edition

*6 days and counting until school starts!  Kelly and I will meet for our annual Happiest Cup of Coffee of the Year to congratulate ourselves on surviving another summer.  Of course, that is still six days away.  Anything could happen....

*The phenomenon of feeding three growing boys (and their friends) has brought me to a new all-time low at the grocery store:  In the cereal aisle, I skip right over all those pretty boxes and head straight for the over sized bags. I am now feeding my sons generic cereals with names like Fruit Rings, Marshmallow Mateys, and Cocoa Crunchies.  The good news is that hungry boys do not discriminate!

*Every Sunday morning I listen to the radio while I'm getting ready for church.  It is a habit that goes way back.  When I was Goliath's and Little Middle's ages, I listened to Adventures in Odyssey by Focus on the Family. Each week I would be so excited to hear what was going on at Whit's End! (20+ years later = dorky, I know)  Anyway...I am not that thrilled with our local Christian radio station.  I hear far more commercials than I do songs, and it's hard to get into a worship mindset if I'm thinking about laser eye surgery or auto insurance for my entire family.  Thanks to technology, I can live stream the Houston station I grew up with.  They don't play Adventures in Odyssey anymore, but they DO set a good stage for worship.  Good job, Houston!

*Little Middle can not believe that my teachers had chalk boards in their classrooms when I was in school.  He was even more astounded that banging the erasers outside was a coveted reward for good behavior.

*Sometimes I use the word "hashtag" in conversation.  Example:  During a phone conversation with my cousin when we were trying to set up a time to meet, her baby was crying and two older kids were arguing in the background.  She was frustrated and said so.  I replied, "Hashtag mom of three kids."  It's especially weird because I don't have a twitter account, or even know much about twitter.

*I wonder if JC Penney will ever recover from that silly reformatting they did last year.  I almost feel sorry for the guy who decided to stop holding sales.  What he essentially did was make them a Wal-Mart with carpet.

*It really bugs me to hear anyone use the word "golly."

*My favorite commercial:

*A few weeks ago, my Bible Study girls were able to get away for 24 hours to the Gaylord Hotel in Grapevine.  We had so much fun...especially when we made an 8-person train in the lazy river!  Ha!  At one meal, we started talking about what our very favorite foods were.  I never got to answer, so just for the record, ladies:  it would be seafood.  Yummy.

*That led to a discussion of our favorite hymns.  It is too hard to pick just one, so we agreed to narrow it down to our top five.  I'm still working on my list, but it reminded me of another favorite:  Remember back in the day when we used to have 5th Sunday Hymn Sing?  At our church, the floor was open to anyone who wanted to make suggestions.  Every single time, little 'ol Ms. Hattie (who seemed really old to me back then) would shout out "82!"  Nobody had to look it up.  We all knew that hymn #82 was Victory in Jesus.  Every time.

*Little Middle is getting glasses.  Just in time for 4th grade!

*Origin of Dallas measles outbreak is tracked to a local church.  Pastor to congregation:  "I've got news for ya:  The measles are unrighteous."

*It's going to be so weird to have my kids at two different schools this year. 

Friday, August 16, 2013


To fully appreciate the story of The Initial Trip To Oklahoma, you'll want to imagine the scene from the minute the sun comes up.  Here, allow me to set the stage:

The sun is peeking over the horizon.  I have been up for what feels like hours because Monster trumps Ambien a lot of nights.  I have gotten all three little cowboys out of bed, and they are eating delicious bowls of sugary goodness drowned in milk. I am creating piles in the living room.  A pile for Goliath, who is going to the local swimming pool with a friend.  A second pile for Little Middle and Baby, who are going to another friend's house to play.  A third pile for myself, which includes the all-important FILE (you know, just a few inches of light reading about Monster in particular, clinical trials, and low-grade serous carcinomas in general.  No big deal.)  

The higher the sun goes, the faster I move.  Hubby, sensing my stress (he's getting pretty good at that), moves into high gear, and starts tossing dishes into the dishwasher.  I finish the piles:  swimsuits, beach towels, sunscreen--check.  $$ for Goliath--check.  Lunches for the little boys plus a snack to share--check.  I breeze through the kitchen and dispense everybody's medication--more piles.  Back to the bedroom to grab my favorite pink water cup, then back in the kitchen to take in my daily bread med.  Just as the last pill slides down my throat, a terrible realization comes to me...made worse because I know that there is not a single thing I can do about it:  The pills I just took weren't mine.  I swallowed all of Hubby's meds!!!  I start making gagging noises and debating whether to call poison control.  Why don't they make those green Mr. Yuck stickers anymore?  Ack!  How could I have done such an unbelievably stupid thing?!?  It wasn't even like I could have been easily confused!  Each of the pills that I take is white and round.  Hubs has different colors and shapes.  I just stood there and downed them, one by one.  

Luckily, the story has a happy ending.  Hubby's meds knocked me out for a good while, but didn't kill me.  It's a good thing he was planning to drive to Oklahoma!

So, he drove and I slept.  We ate on the road (I do love me a good grilled cheese sandwich from Sonic!) and arrived at the clinic in Oklahoma City just a few minutes early.  The staff was friendly, the facility was nice, blah blah blah.  You don't care about that.  We were there for 2+ hours, and I signed a consent form for the clinical trial.  Then they sent us home.

Yep.  An entire day for a few pieces of paper.  I could hardly believe it, either.

The next step?  They are supposed to be in contact with the hospital here in Dallas, working to obtain tissue samples from previous surgeries and/or biopsies.  I assured the research nurse that it wouldn't be a problem.  There is probably an entire closet at the hospital with my name on it.

Once the tissue is obtained and it is determined that I do indeed have the cancer that my doctor and I say that I have, Oklahoma will call me.  I will get in my car and drive 3 hours there.

When I get there, I will have a CT scan (my favorite!).  Then I will drive 3 hours home.

The CT results will be sent to an independent radiologist.  That guy will painstakingly measure each of Monster's parts.  Each part must meet a certain criteria--1.17 cm. this way, 1.148 cm that way, etc.  If Monster cooperates, we move on to the next round of screening.  If he is not measurable enough, I am at the end of the road.

Assuming that Monster measures well, I guessed it!  Drive to Oklahoma!  At that appointment, I will offer up some blood for testing and also do an eye exam. One of the most likely side effects of the MEK162 drug is an eye disorder, which can be anything from swelling around the eyes to a change in vision.  This is a proper time to mention my #1 childhood fear:  Becoming blind like Mary Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie.  I got my first pair of glasses in the 2nd grade.  I'm taking that eye exam stuff seriously, friends.

It is my hope that before I leave the clinic that day, the randomization process will take place.  As it has been explained to me, the randomization goes something like this:  The doctor puts certain pieces of information into the computer, such as my age, Monster's size, etc. etc.  Then the all-knowing and all-powerful computer spits out a slip of paper that can alter the course of a person's life forever and ever, amen.  One does not argue with the computer or change its mind.  All decisions are final.  It made me think of this:

Once the Super Computer randomizes me, I either start taking pills twice a day, or...I don't.  And if I don't, well, the implications of that are pretty enormous.  

If I am randomized to participate in the trial, there will be many trips to and from Oklahoma.  Many.  So I'm sure you will all be glad to know that between my house and the clinic, there is a World War II monument, an exotic animal safari, a Gene Autry museum, a supposedly-"world-famous" fried pie restaurant, and 5 casinos.  I ought to be able to amuse myself in my comings and goings.

Admitting that I've never been to a casino before speaks to my insecurities about gambling.  I'd rather stay where it's safe, thank you very much.  But now, there is no such thing as safety for me.  MEK162 is a crapshoot--nothing but a big risk.  Will I be among the "lucky" ones who get picked?  And if I take the drug, will it even work?  Will it outsmart Monster?

The fact is, there is only ONE sure thing:  Nothing about me is random to God.  He's known all along how this would play out (Psalm 139:16).  He counts every hair on my head (Matthew 10:30).  And with or without Monster, I'm just passing through.

"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Friday, August 9, 2013

Rain On

There is thunder rumbling outside and the sky is turning dark.  There is a storm brewing out there, and that is just fine with me. 
A Friday night thunderstorm is the perfect way to end this week.
Our dryer broke.  All the little lights come on, but when I push the start button, the dumb thing goes "beep beep."  Every. Single. Time.  "Beep beep."  "Beep beep."  "BEEP BEEP."  My techno-nerd hubby used the Google and got some ideas.  He ordered a new part, which was delivered today.  So far, no luck.  "Beep beep."
In the's no secret that I detest laundry even when all the machines are working.  You can only imagine the joy it has been to drape each individual sock, towel, and little-boy undie over the shower, tub, trampoline, swing, fireplace, and finally, my friend Krystal's drying rack.  If you see us out and about and we look a little wrinkled and/or crusty, you'll know why.
The location for the clinical trial has been narrowed down for me because nothing else is available.  Looks like I will be traveling to Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain!  The first step is to meet with the trial doctor to discuss my history and make a final decision about my eligibility to participate.  That meeting will take place on Monday.
Although I fully realize that this clinical trial has the potential to be the hope that I have asked God for, I am having a hard time being cheerful about it.  For one thing, I will endure a rigorous screening process made up of multiple tests that for some reason can not be all done in one trip to Oklahoma City.  I do not understand this.  For another thing, it is possible that I will go through the screening and randomization processes, only to be informed that I can not take the trial drug.  "But here", they will say.  "We would like to offer you some lovely Taxol as a consolation prize.  100% guaranteed to make your hair fall out! Tried and failed to cure cancer!  Congratulations!"  That would be neat-o.
By the way, in case that scenario should occur (and there is a 1 in 3 chance that it will), this is what I will do:  WALK AWAY.
I am not doing chemotherapy again.  5 drugs in 3 years.  I guess you can safely say that I am not chemo-compatible.
Here is another reason that I hate this week.  This conversation happened:
Little Middle:  What time will Mr. Dad be home?
Me:  Around 5:30.
Little Middle:  Can I call him and see what time he will get here?
Me:  No!  I just told you when he'll be here!
Little Middle(making pouting face and crossing arms across chest)
Me:  You sure are anxious for Daddy to get home.  (Teasing)  Why does he get to be the fun parent?
Little Middle(Serious face) Because you're always sick.
Ugh.  He said it the honest, this-is-what-I-really-think way that kids say stuff.  He wasn't trying to be hurtful. Just real. 
Then today, we had another big blow--one I'm not quite ready to write about, but you can believe me when I tell you that I deserved that glass of wine I drank at almost-5:00.
AND my darling cowboys ran off to their friends' house with my laptop and all of the leftover Chick-Fil-A ketchup and Buffalo sauce packets in their backpack.  You know, for the monster movie they were making.  Special effects...very, very special.
I hope it rains.  I hope the heavens open wide and it pours down.  I hope there is thunder and lightning to match my mood.  I love a rainy night....but not a stormy life.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Insomniac Blogging: Seventh Edition

--“And one has to understand that braveness is not the absence of fear but rather the strength to keep on going forward despite the fear.” -Paulo Coelho
--We recently received a letter from our auto insurance carrier that went something like this:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. H,
It has come to our attention that Eric is approaching the legal driving age in Texas.  Congratulations on reaching this milestone with your son!  If you intend to add Eric to your auto insurance, we want to help you with that.  Please contact us as soon as possible.
Of course, we don't have a son that is anywhere close to driving age, nor are any of our sons named Eric.  Silly Allstate. 
--"So what's the point of middle school?"--Baby, upon finding out that there will be no such thing as recess for his big brother at his new school.
--Friends who were driving through the Metroplex yesterday found that the only traffic tie-ups were caused by Obama protesters standing on bridges over I-30.  Apparently these folks have strong opinions about our POTUS, and they wanted to impeach.  I am all for exercising your right to free speech, but seriously....holding signs over a busy interstate during rush hour?  Safety issue.
--And why would anyone want to march for any cause right now?  It's too hot.
--I did a zip line over a swimming pool.  I made friends with the little boy behind me in line, and I don't know what surprised him more:  that a middle-aged lady was dangling out over the pool, or that all of my friends were waving and yelling "Now let go!  Let go and swim!"
--Me (Baby sitting on my lap): It hurts my tummy when you move around so much.  I want you to sit with me, but I need you to be still.
Baby:  Then I can't sit with you.
....And he somersaulted away.
--I'm loving this MP remix:
--Wise advise from my Seester while in New York:  "Don't revolve and text."
--A long time ago I sang with the choir at church.  Then we moved and had a few babies.  The "babies" are now all manageable enough for their dad, so I have rejoined the choir.  In just a few weeks of singing with this amazing group, I have been blessed beyond measure.  And a bonus:  soon we start Christmas music!!!
--Hobby Lobby has aisles full of pumpkins, leaves, turkeys, and such.  It's the call of fall...if only it wasn't 104 outside.  Sigh.
--I think sometimes there is nothing more comforting or delicious than breakfast for dinner.
--I saw a teenage kid at Kroger buying a bunch of flowers, presumably for his sweetheart.  As soon as he got outside the store, he eagerly tore the paper off and made a dash for his car.  He was all smiles.  Ah, young love. 
--Worship means letting go of what people think of you so that you can let God know what you think of Him.--something I learned at kids' camp.
Is your mama a llama?" I asked Reese my Niece.

My boys and their favorite pig.
--I do love the school supply aisle at the Target.  Everything is so clean and crisp and NEW!  Although I buy the love-your-PTA wrap packs (because my cowboys would rather eat broccoli than go school supply shopping), I have been known to pick up a box of fresh crayons and a notebook or two just for myself.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Dear Cancer,
As you know, I am not much of an activist.  I don't raise funds or go to health expos.  I only attend one 5k walk each year (although I walk with defiant pride!). 
I have other ways of expressing my feelings.
Today, I am really mad at you!
You are a sneaky, meaner-than-mean SOB.  You have no boundaries for your prey:  rich, poor, old, young, male, or female. So I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised when I received the unwelcome news of my longtime friend's breast cancer diagnosis this afternoon.  I am not usually at a loss for words, but this message left me speechless. 
But not for long.  No, sir.  I picked up my phone and I dialed across the miles.  The second I heard her voice, it came back to me:  how I felt six years ago.  How I was her when a doctor said to me, "I have bad news.  It's cancer."  How you changed my life.
And you know what?  I liked my life.  I didn't invite you.  I didn't want you.  I DO NOT LIKE YOU.
Yet, you refuse to leave me alone.  What's the deal?  What is it about me that you think is so great?  Is it my affinity for musicals and carbohydrates? My nifty sense of humor?  My ability to make up songs on the spot?
And my sweet friend.  I know why I love her, but what could you possibly want with her?  Is it her Job-like patience?  Her fun-loving spirit of adventure?  Her affection for snow cones?!?
With one phone call, she was pinned with the unwanted pink ribbon.  Blah.  Pink, teal, whatever the isn't a badge of honor.  It's not a privilege to fight this fight.  I, and now my dear friend, and millions just like us, fight because we have to.  Because you invade our bodies, but even more than that:  you attack our lives.  You interfere with every. single. aspect of everything until there are more questions than there are answers. 
Not only am I mad at you for invading, but I am FURIOUS at you for the questions.  Today my counselor (and I would like to insert that my need for a counselor is also your fault) gently and graciously guided me through nearly an hour of gut-wrenching talk of ...have I done enough? when is enough enough? how much is too much? how will they know how much I love them? will they remember? does he understand that he is our everything? should I be scared? can I be peaceful?...and so on and so on.
The tears flowed fast and furious.  The counselor knows that I am mad at you and she says that's OK.  So there.
You suck.  This world is broken, yes, and sin-filled, and I still don't think that is a good enough reason for you to be here.  Be gone!  Get out!  Maybe I'll become a cancer activist after all and take up the cause.  You've done enough damage, both inside and out.  I'm sick of you.
Fed up,
Confidential to M:
So, today was a bad day.  And there will be some more bad days.  But hear me loud and clear, sister: you are not alone!!!  There is no way that I am going to sit over here and let you walk down this road unassisted.  I KNEW all this cancer stuff would come in handy someday!  :)  It's okay to be scared, and it's okay to be mad (obviously!), as long as you remember the three things:  1) God loves us. 2) God is always in control. 3) God is good.
You are the daughter of a big, big God who is holding you in the palm of his big, big hand.  And you have a slightly crazy friend who will do just about anything for you.  Anytime, day or night.  Any reason.  You are loved.
Oh yeah---let's hit up Bahama Buck's, okay?  My treat.