Pokemon 8th Birthday

Daniel turned 8 in November! It seems so wild to think that it is almost a whole decade since I became a mom. Seems like just the other day I was treading the trenches of motherhood for the first time to this not-so-little-anymore first born son.

Unfortunately, the week of his party, our whole family, sans Hazel, shared a stomach bug. It was quite disastrous. As if my sleep wasn’t on low enough levels as is, the throwing up of all family members at all hours of the night didn’t help me get rested. Although we all recovered in time, there was still just a whirlwind of things left to do or clean before we had guests, so we considered canceling his party.

It was the saddest little conversation ever. Big crocodile tears welled up in his eyes. He put his head down on his knees and his eyes leaked, even though he tried to will them not to do it. He looked at me and said, “I told you to have my party on my real birthday!” to which I replied, “Daniel, that was a week night. No one would have been able to come.” His next step in defending his party was to say, “Well, you already sent the invitations in the mail, so you have to have it!” It was a sound argument there.

So, in doing due diligence, we consulted the family that was invited, and most seemed fine with still coming, and they even offered to help get some last minute things together for him. With that kind of spirit, we kept the party as scheduled. The only real loss was a few “extra” ideas I had to make it extra special, along with having a fully coherent brain at the time of the party, which was reflected in the lack of pictures that I would have normally taken.

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My son had some big plans for the birthday cake. He wanted it to be a Pokeball that when cut open Pokemon characters would fall out of in massive amounts. That character part wasn’t going to happen, at least not from me, so he settled with just having a Pokeball as the cake. Thanks to my friend Alison, I learned that they make some edible sugar sheet paper that could serve as the black lines, and thankfully she just gave me some to use for my cake. A bit of red coloring later, it was a decent looking product.  I was very pleased with how it turned out.

The decorations were pretty simple:

a) some repurposed yellow paper lanterns from his 7th Lego birthday that received Pikachu faces of happy, sad, and angry, which were eventually secured high

b) a goodwill find of a Pokemon sheet to serve as the table cloth

c) a few themed plates rotated with Pikachu yellow plates

c) a clearenced birthday sign that I stuck some Pikachu stickers on to fit the theme and

d) a nice #8 for the middle

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We played a quick game with Daniel’s cousin and one of his best little buddies from school that were in attendance. They had to “find and catch” the proper Pokemons that had been assigned to them.

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We then moved inside to open some birthday presents! He was thrilled with all the items he was given. Thomas and I were so worn out from the days that preceded the party that we completely forgot to give him the present we got him! It was fine though cause it just meant a few days later when I remembered he had another gift to unwrap.

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Overall, it was simple. He had fun, and that was the most important thing for the day. I am glad that we did not postpone, for his sake, and for the fact it might have been next to never that we could figure out another date that worked for most everyone.

We love you, son! So happy to celebrate the beginning of your 8th year of life.

(Little Sister was as cute as could be and was worn out after all the celebrating! The crazy part is, SHE is the next immediate family birthday for our little crew. I am trying to to think about that fact too much!)

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Journeying the Tens

In college, fall of my sophomore year, I broke my leg in three places, resulting in a thigh down, no bending your knee, neon orange cast for 6 weeks and a walking book for 3 or so more.

The day it happened, our co-ed intramural soccer team was out on the field practicing. We had advanced to limited soccer skills, with me falling somewhere in the high middle of that skill set. Being it was just practice, some of us had shin guards on while others did not. You can guess which part of the pack I was in at the time. My shin-guardless shin met square on with my friend Eric’s shin-guarded shin and created an explosion of pain.

At the point of impact, I remember seeing stars and crumpling down on the field. After testing the waters of walking, we opted for someone to carry me back to our college ministry’s house. Little swelling or bruising existed, but lots of pain certainly did. A look-over from an off duty nurse gave the diagnosis of “just a sprain” and to “go gently” the next few days.

That night, my roommate later told me that I talked in my sleep, mostly indiscernible mumbles. The next morning, I couldn’t take it anymore; the pain was becoming simply unmanageable. After Thomas, my then sweet and new boyfriend, transported me to the ER, he went inside the to get me a wheelchair. I remember getting out of his truck with my broken leg having spasms, flopping uncontrollably from the knee down, while all three breaks in my bones rattled and I winced and fought back tears, completely unable to make it settle.

Once inside, I was asked to rate my pain. This was an activity I had never recalled doing before. The worker sat before me a laminated chart with faces to help me choose my level 1-10, with 10 being the greatest and deepest pain. One thing I knew for sure was that it hurt. The level of that hurt was the most I had ever encountered. After thinking briefly, I declared, “All I know this is the worst pain I’ve ever felt. But there has to be something in the world that hurts more………..so I am going to say a 9.”

All the people I encountered treated me like some whiny little college girl, for my leg still wasn’t overly swollen or bruised. The doctor that asked the initial questions and examined my leg before x-rays literally said, “This isn’t really a big deal here. If you will just sit still and let me look at your leg, it won’t hurt.” A few x-rays later, the doctor came back into the room and quickly spoke the words “I’m so very sorry. I really did not think your leg was broken at all. You actually have three separate breaks in your left leg.” Turns out I had a valid reason for the pain. The visit ended in a temporary cast and a pain shot in my butt, at which point I made my new and dear boyfriend turn his head and look the other way.

This event successfully stayed at the top of my pain scale experience until August last year. Breaking your face can rank pretty high as well apparently. I never remember anyone asking me at the scene, during the life-flight, or in the ER about my pain level. I guess when people can visibly see a break in your jaw, with your mandible split clear in half, along with a few open wounds on your chin, they don’t need to question too much about 1-10, cause they don’t want you to talk and the existence of pain is obvious. Later, however, when I would want some pain meds, the scale became a point of conversation. When my headaches were debilitating, while my jaw was wired and pressed so tight my teeth ached in every space, crevice, and place, when the site of the titanium plate insertion itched on the inside of my mouth, and within that closed mouth I vomited due to the pain, I wanted to say 10 but never could. I always, at least to my memory, said 9….cause something worse had to exist.

When mom was diagnosed and we began her frequent doctor appointments she was asked to choose her pain level each visit. I would sit next to her and try to spy on her pain scale choice each week. Mostly, mom would circle a 3. I wanted to often jerk the pen and clipboard from her and yell “that’s BS mom!” but I never did anything that dramatic. Some days though, the 3 actually was believable, thankfully. I never saw her circle lower and rarely saw her circle higher. One day, when she was not breathing well, aching, not eating much, and overall in a poor condition, I saw her circle a 7. That very day she was admitted to the hospital and stayed a full week. I think she might have told doctors and nurses a higher number when I wasn’t around, but 7 was the highest she ever admitted to in my presence, and 3 was her average. Eventually, I ended up telling her, “Mom, you can’t keep circling threes on the scale. It’s just not believable.” Her reply? “I know, but right at that very moment it doesn’t hurt too bad and I don’t want to be a trouble patient.”

A few months later, after Hazel’s arrival, months after mom’s diagnosis, I finally got around to reading a book, _The Fault in Our Stars_ by John Green, that my sister-in-law let me borrow when I was a on driving lock-down and still eating all my meals through a straw. I knew the premise “kids have cancer” but that was all. I ended up reading the book in 2 days, and that was not fast enough. Something about three kids to take care of made me put the book down here and there. Turns out, the main character’s name is Hazel, which is something I did not know of before naming my girl. Little did I know at the time that this book would prepare me for so much that was to come, such as mom’s “Last Good Day” and, ultimately, her passing. It was in this book that my choice of 9 finally became clear. If you haven’t read the book, you absolutely should. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is one you need to watch. But if you want to not be spoiled about it, just stop here…… cause in the book, there is a loss, and with that death, Hazel reflects upon the pain she experienced in the ER with her emptiness from losing Gus:

I called it [my ER pain] a nine because I was saving my ten. And here it was, the great and terrible ten, slamming me again and again as I lay still and alone in my bed staring at the ceiling, the waves tossing me against the rocks and then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliff, leaving me floating faceup on the water, undrowned.

The weeks since mom has died have been full tens at times, thrashings against rocky cliffs. Those moments that sneak up on me are the worse, such as Hazel beginning to crawl and me instinctively beginning to send mom the video. Some things you mentally know will be emotionally draining or sensitive, such as Daniel’s upcoming birthday, her birthday this month, Thanksgiving, etc., but those unexpected occurrences are the worse it seems, and this is a journey I’ve only begun.

It makes me figure, too, why mom kept shooting so low on the spectrum when choosing her numbers. I guess when you lose your husband suddenly, while you have 4, 6, and 12 year old children to care for, your pain scale is completely and irrevociably skewed.

I hate that the pain of losing mom is so great, even if we had some time to expect it and prepare some for it. 62 is still just too early to die, even if others have gone much sooner. And in the sadness, I get angry, cause 32 is just simply too young to not have any living parents, yet that is currently my lot.

I’ll never be able to forget her, feel nothing at the significance of my loss. There really isn’t a pain pill that takes away the pain of loss; the pangs in my stomach will always reside. Amidst the 10, however, I find peace knowing she can’t even fathom the concept of a pain scale now. I’m grateful for a faith that she shared with me that tells me this is true.

It is while journeying through the tens that I cling to scripture that can restore my soul, most recently John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

HE has overcome, and therefore I can claim the same. I will take heart, even on 10 days, and know that I can have a peace in troubled times.

Halloween Dreams Do Come True

Our kids are slow to choose costumes for Halloween. They deliberate and choose, only to adapt and restart, ending ultimately in a new choice. It keep us from committing too soon to any one costume, thus missing consignment sale cheap costumes or the early pickings from the retail stores. Generally, we like to make their costumes, when possible, (or at least scrounge it together like last year) but let’s face it, it takes time to pull off the awesomeness, which is rare these days, especially now that our sweet Hayzee is army crawling as of last week.

This year, I wanted to avoid the last minute rush, so I sat the kids down last week and asked them to make a list of 4 costumes that they might like to be for Halloween. Their list contained the following: Ash Ketchum (Pokemon’s main character), Charizard (Charmander’s evolved version), Oschawott (a water Pokemon from the Unova region), or Yoda.

Yeah. That’s the list. I had to totally educate myself a bit more on Pokemon as I wrote down the names.

I wasn’t overly worried until I looked up those crazy Pokemons and realized how rare and complicated they are costume wise.

And although there might be costumes to buy on-line for a few of these, they were outrageously expensive. I don’t do expensive when it comes to this sort of thing. And if it were semi-affordable, read still too much for a kid’s costume, it wasn’t right, such as not being the evolved version. This is when I realized I was going to have to make them.

We settled on Ash and Charizard.

Thursday last week I went to Goodwill. Although many find great deals at that store, the deals seem to allude me. I typically do much better off in regular retail stores. Goodwill just generally disappoints. This day, however, I found everything I needed. It was amazing. In the sheet section, I found the perfect colored sheet set for $2.99. I found a “close enough” blue bath towel for .99, green gloves for .99 and I also found a Pokemon sheet that I plan to use as the table cloth for Daniel’s birthday party for $1.99. Totally divine Goodwill day.

Although I have a sewing machine, the bobbin has been giving me issues. So, Sunday, I went up to a friend in church, and in a much too serious voice, I announced to her “Pam, I have a problem.” The look on her face was intense, so I had to back it down a notch. After settling the fact it wasn’t as big of a deal as the way I started the conversation, I asked her for help with my bobbin. She volunteered her help but also suggested that I borrow her mom’s machine. Sunday afternoon, our or way to the pumpkin patch, I picked up the goods.

Monday I set myself to work. I began using all the scraps from home, such as cardboard boxes, old hats, tape, and material surplus from other projects. I made a quick trip out of the house with Hazel to grab the Ash Ketchum hat for Daniel (the most expensive item, and it’s not even exact, just close enough once I put the felt emblem over it). Tuesday I continued work and brainstormed with my brother’s girlfriend about how to secure the wings of Charizard to Wesley. After basketball practice for Daniel last night, I took off with Hazel to the craft store while Thomas put the boys to bed.

A $4 bag of stuffing and a white sheet of felt later, I felt as if I had all the supplies I needed to finish.

Today, Wednesday, I worked to finish everything up, cause even though Halloween is Friday, church tonight has asked the kids to wear their costumes. Although my original idea of securing the wings was to use to spare cloth diaper elastic, I decided that wouldn’t be strong enough, so I cut up an old bra and made some adjustments to make it work. I thought I was done, but once Wesley got home, I realized the circumference of the bra was too small, so I had to add some length. Add some hot glue, lots of random stitching, and a bunch of giddiness from my boys, and I can happily say I am officially mom of the year!

I now present to you Ash Ketchem and his captured Pokemon Charizard.

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I made their Halloween dreams come true……

If that even is such a thing….. :o) LOL

2nd Grade

I let you know about Wesley starting Kindergarten but I failed to mention my first born starting 2nd grade!

DSC_0066This year, we landed one of the very best teachers in his school. I knew her personally before she was our teacher, and all I had heard was fantastic things about her as a professional. When Daniel was in K, she was teaching that same grade level, and even though we did not have Ms. Smotherman, I was privileged to often see her in action at K events.

She writes kind words on his assignments and gives awesome stickers, she encourages him, and the first day of school, Daniel jumped off the bus and yelled, “Do you want the good news or the great news about my day first?!?!?” Her commitment to my son shows, and he is eager to learn from her. I can say something 15 times, but Ms. Smo can say it once, and suddenly it is law. Recognizing his strengths, she sends home book bags well above his grade level so he can be challenged in his reading. Acknowledging his weaknesses, she praises his handwriting when it is most legible. Her spelling games and math songs foster learning and excitement in Daniel. She gave extra love to him in the days surrounding mom’s passing, and when she first saw me after hearing the news, she came over to me, hugged me, and noted that she was praying for me.

Each year, Daniel excels and surprises me with his social strengths and learning capabilities. In these two senses, he got the best of mom and the best of Dad. He truly loves his classmates, and that is something I am happy to see. He cares for people I am not forcing him to care for due to my proximity to the moment or my linking of him into that person’s life. At his own decision, Daniel opted to not have anything peanut butter to eat for snack or lunch because one of his friends, Parker, is allergic. It’s not a school or classroom rule, but a personal one Daniel vowed to follow so he could sit next to his friend with no fear, in order to show he cares.

It’s hard to believe how quickly this sweet boy has grown, and I am amazed by him, as well as very proud!

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 7.46.22 AMAnd yes, he definitely wants to be a scientist, even if he couldn’t tell you a single thing that a scientist does, besides science.

Grandma Holds Our Hearts……

Before mom passed away, I virtually watched a friend from another city tell her mom goodbye as well. As Liz spent the final days with her mom, I prayed fervent prayers for her family. I also silently took note, for I knew in my heart that my mom would pass soon too. In her mother’s final weeks, Liz managed to make some very special crafts with her boys and their Grandma. When I saw the pictures on Facebook, I told myself that I would do the same with my mom and my children.

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DSC_0054When hospice was called in and mom was sent home, we were operating under the impression of her having weeks left to live. That was the best estimate from the doctors and other experienced medical staff. When mom came home, Liz commented to me about her activities and how special the handprint crafts were for her family, and she advised that I make some too. Although I had already planned to do so, I hadn’t purchased anything to create them. In my time of need, I simply texted two of my friends a picture from Liz and said, “I want to make these, and I need the materials ASAP.” I shared the kiddo’s sizes and I was quickly promised by my friend Helen to have the items the next day.

I had thought that I would have those weeks to make the craft, but mom came home on a Tuesday afternoon and passed very early on a Thursday morning. Weeks were really mere days. Bless Helen, for when she arrived, I had just received the news from the DSC_0057hospice nurse that her opinion was mom had hours to live, “I believe your mom only has hours left and anyone that needs to see her needs to do so fast.” I was shaken. I was not under any impression that mom had years or months to live, but the new of hours took me by surprise and sent me into a bit of a frenzy.  Hands unsteady and voice quivering, I beckoned to my cousin, Ann, to go and get my boys from school immediately.

Once the boys arrived, I swiftly began the craft, one that I had thought we would calmly do in a few days, with patience and joy, not urgency and tears. I smeared blue paint all over Momma’s hand as best I could, trying not to get it on her bed sheets or her clothing. She was aware and cooperative but not fully in control of herself, so getting her hand to be just right for pressing on the shirt was a bit difficult.

DSC_0063Daniel and Wesley were pretty excited to be painting with her, and they were ready to complete the full product then and there, yet, for obvious reasons, that couldn’t be precedent at the time.

Mom likely would have died that very night, but with all the hub-bub around her, people coming and going from her home in droves, she sustained a bit longer. In the wee hours of the next morning, mom passed, and dealing with a little craft became the least of my worries. Helen later texted me and asked if we got the craft done like I had hoped, to which I replied, “Yes…and it’s not perfect….yet it is perfect.”

Over the weekend, we managed to finally make the time to finish. I wrote “Grandma holdsDSC_0059 my heart forever” on each in pencil and the boys each went over the letters with fabric paint markers. They decorated the back however they wished.

Although a tiny thing, it is also simultaneously huge to have these shirts. It is the last thing she ever got to do with my children. I realized while we were finishing them that mom’s hand was small, smaller than mine even, and I can’t remember ever truly noticing that before.

I got overly stressed about trying to make them perfect, cause I realized that having her handprint on these shirts is something I can never get back should we mess them up. I gradually let that go, under the same concepts of it not being perfect but still perfect.

“Grandma hold OUR hearts forever……”

And we are glad to have that be the case, until we see her again.

Kindergarten Kiddo!

Well folks, I am incredibly behind on this post, but, believe it or not, our sweet Wesley is now a kindergartener! Boy did that happen fast!

DSC_0001He has looked forward to school for a very long time. He continually missed his Bubba when he would leave for a few hours to learn away from home, and every time we went to lunch with Daniel, Wesley was prepared to stay, should someone allow him to do so! For two years, Wesley eagerly awaited his turn.

DSC_0011With a summer birthday, Wesley would be a bit younger than his brother upon starting K. This made me cautious. However, Wesley attended speech for one hour, one day a week last school year, and his speech teacher assured me Wesley was more than ready. It was true, after all, cause the boy could already read, although he is not as swift as his brother to show you that fact. He knows all the little odds and ends that he needs to know, and his little heart was ready for the new world of friends that school has to offer.

When his Kindergarten teacher called me to inform me that she would be his teacher, I cried when I hung up the phone. Silly, but true. I cried because even on the 1st of August, I knew that we would have a difficult year ahead of us with mom’s illness, and knowing that Wesley was going to be in the hands of Mrs. McGregor, the same teacher that Daniel had for K, I knew my heart could take refuge in his atmosphere of a God fearing woman that would make the time to love on my child and help him grow in little boy wisdom as our partner in Wesley’s education. At the time, I did not at all image that mom would pass a mere 5 days into Wesley’s school year though. Amid all the sadness, what a blessing to know I could text his teacher and tell her the news and ask her to hug him a few extra times in the days to come. This same wonderful K teacher brought a yummy meal to the funeral home for my family as a sign of support. Already busy enough, she carved out moments and made extra effort to be even more amazing. DSC_0007

So far, Wesley is rocking this school thing! He has come home tired a few days, but we knew that might be the case. Wesley is a creature that truly needs his sleep, much like his momma, and even though he *always* gets up early on his own time, he often still takes a nap if I force him to be still long enough. When the first 4 days of his school year were crazy wild days with him heading off to other peoples homes so I could be with mom, me not even staying the night at the house since I was at hers, and him eating whatever it was other people chose to feed him, and then a whirlwind weekend of extended family and funeral services, it was truly great that he even managed to hold it all together! In true fashion though, the boy not only held it all together, but he managed to make friends and “be the best rhymer” in his entire class. Beyond just having friends, he somehow convinced a sweet boy in his class, Tucker, to buy him treats from the lunch line for about a week, even though Wesley had more than enough food in his packed lunch (Sorry Tucker’s mom! At least you are a kind neighbor who hasn’t sent us a bill yet!).

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His grins that first day after his 3-5 minute bus ride home were amazing. He cherishes his brother and is super happy that they have an overlapping lunch time where they can see one another daily (and momma appreciates this fact too, cause eating lunch with them is super easy this way!). DSC_0019

Wesley, we have full confidence in you. We believe you are smart, and we know you are loving. Our hope is that you will shine in God’s light, wherever you are each day, listen to the knowledge put before you, and continue to share your smiles to all you encounter. What a brilliant and strong boy you are!

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