Sunday, February 27, 2011

All Strepped Up and Nowhere to Go

Here's the thing: Once two of my children were diagnosed with strep throat, I became convinced the other two children must have strep throat. Every cough or nose drip made me suspicious. So, this morning, I finally took in Benjamin and Madeline for strep tests. I figured I might as well have one, too. We were all negative.

But, Elisabeth was still positive.

She came along for the ride (it was that or help Daddy repair the donated stage lights-- Amanda's choice.) After all the tests came back negative, I asked the doctor, "Why don't you take another look in Libby's mouth? She had a positive test eight days ago, but she's still complaining it hurts to swallow." (Yes, Libby was hovering over my bedside at 3:30 to tell me so.) "Whoa!" the doctor said. "Her tonsils look worse than the rest of yours put together!"

So, it turns out the penicillin-shot-in-the-rear method of treating strep has a 20% failure rate. Now, Libby is on another antibiotic, and doing a lovely job of taking the pills. Should have just done that the first time, I guess. Someday, I'll get it right.

She's thrilled to be missing school in the morning. Yes, I am a rule-follower and will keep her home until she's been on the antibiotic for 24 hours. This is really important, because, in the past eight days, Libby has only had the opportunity to infect: the entire student body including the cast of the play, her four grandparents, her aunt and cousins and the rest of the piano studio, her whole basketball team and the opponents, and the Saturday crowd at the aquarium.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

We Sea Her Turning Nine

Elisabeth, Daddy and I took Amanda and two of her friends for an early ninth birthday celebration. With more crazy wiring going on at the school, and more crazy snow falling outside, we weren't sure we'd get out of town, but we did. Amanda would not be dissuaded from visiting her favorite place on the planet-- the aquarium at Mall of America. We did the behind-the-scenes tour, tried to guess which tiger shark was the infamous "Jessie," and stared at jellyfish until our eyes crossed.

The birthday adventure included supper at Johnny Rockets and a stop at the ice cream shop. The girls had even planned their entertainment for the ride to and from-- they wanted to watch one of the Indiana Jones movies. I knew it was rated PG, and I guess I didn't think much of it... until one of the girls yelled, "Ewww!" from the backseat and made me promise the snakes were not real. Later, I heard them gasp over an utterance of "the d-word" and I eavesdropped on the third graders' discussion over whether Indy and his main squeeze should be kissing since they were not married. All in all, an educational experience. My apologies to their mothers.

My favorite exchange, however, happened in the car on the drive down. Since we live in an outer-ring western suburb, we had to drive all the way through the city to get to the mall. My children are not world travelers by any means, but I guess they do see Minneapolis from time to time. Just recently, we traversed much of the same path to visit the cardiologist. So, this is what happened when we entered the Lowry Hill Tunnel:

M: "Whoa! What IS this?!"
Amanda: "It's a tunnel."
M: "What are we going to see at the end of it?"
Amanda: "Daylight."
M: "I mean, where does it go?"
Amanda: "Out the other side."
S: "No, I know what this is. There are planes driving on top of us right now. This goes under the runway." (?!?!)

Photos are coming... of the aquarium, not the tunnel.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Miss Mary Mack

Uniforms were on... medications were dispensed... breakfast was being consumed. Then, exactly 12 minutes before the school bus was due to arrive, Elisabeth sighed and groaned, "Oh, no, I just remembered-- today is 'Dress As Your Favorite Book Character Day!'" I stopped what I was doing. I closed my eyes. I inhaled and exhaled deeply.

"OK," I said. "I will drive you to school... But that still means you have only 10 minutes to put together your costumes. And I need to get in the shower, so you're ON YOUR OWN!" Both girls hopped to-- and were off.

Once I was through the shower and dressed, I started herding kids toward the car. Elisabeth and Amanda astounded me with their speed, resourcefulness and creativity. Libby was some kind of a fairy from her Barbie and a Fashion Fairytale book. Not a real stretch for her-- just an excuse to wear pink tulle to school. But, Amanda, now, Amanda: She was wearing black shoes and tights, a black dress, and a black cardigan, but the sweater was on backwards so a line of sparkly buttons ran up her spine.

"That's quite the outfit," I said. "Who are you?"

"I'm Miss Mary Mack," Amanda replied, and she held up the children's book based on the rhyme. And Amanda looked JUST LIKE MISS MARY MACK on the cover. Oh, how I wish I'd taken a few seconds to snap a photo. The child is so innovative, and me, without a novel idea in my head.

Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back.

She asked her mother, mother, mother
For 50 cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump over the fence, fence, fence.

They jumped so high, high, high
They reached the sky, sky, sky
And they didn't come back, back, back
'Til the 4th of July, ly, ly!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Friendship of Breath-ren

I watched a friend's one-year-old girl and five-year-old boy this morning. Our sons have the potential to be very good friends-- each has three sisters, they have similar temperaments, they like the same kinds of things. But they also clash-- a lot. And, since they have the lovely examples of older sisters, they really know how to make their words hurt:

E: "You are my best friend. But I have a lot, lot better friends than you."
B: "But I love you!"
E: "I love you, too, but sometimes your breath really stinks."
B: "Well, your breath stinks, too. You didn't brush your teeth this morning!"
E: "I did, too."
B: "OK."
E: "I still love you."

E (10 minutes later): "I have a lot of friends. I really love Sam. Sam is my best, best buddy."
B: (looks crestfallen)
E: "Don't be sad. I guess I can like you, too."
B: (brightens) "OK! Want to see my show now?" (The entire morning Ben was wearing a pale pink leotard.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

She Reads, HE Speaks

This morning was another of those "perfect storms" when, at exactly the same time, I needed to: have the house picked up for the cleaners, get Benjamin to preschool, listen to Elisabeth read scripture during school mass, and leave for the funeral of a friend's mom.

I was flying through the morning, trying to complete all tasks, and doing none of them particularly well. After dropping off Ben, I sped to the girls' school and dashed in just as Libby stepped up to the microphone. I was taking deep breaths, trying to keep Madeline quiet, and tuning one ear to Libby's voice. Though she had practiced her reading in the days prior, I began to realize I had not really listened. While this is from a letter of Peter to church leaders, does it not apply to all of us?

"Church leaders, I am writing to encourage you. I too am a leader, as well as a witness of Christ's suffering, and I will share in his glory when it is shown to us. Just as shepherds watch over their sheep, you must watch over everyone God has placed in your care. Do it willingly in order to please God, and not simply because you think you must. Let it be something you want to do, instead of something you do merely to make money. Don't be bossy to those people who are in your care, but set an example for them. Then when Christ the Chief Shepherd returns, you will be given a crown that will never lose its glory." (1 Peter 5: 1-4)


Love it when God smacks me around like that!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Boyfriends

When Amanda and Elisabeth were younger, one of our favorite jokes was about a "boyfriend." One of the girls would say, "Daddy's my boyfriend," and then I would feign upset and argue, "Oh, no you don't. Daddy's my boyfriend. Go find your own!"

Earlier, when I was a young woman first working in the television industry, female colleagues and I would joke about "boyfriends." This was a little, inside joke about male coworkers with whom we particulary enjoyed working. It had nothing to do with love or romance, but more with the fact that these men were competent at their jobs and gave us the respect we needed in our positions.

Then, there are the "boyfriends" on the individual lists my girlfriends and I keep. We tease our husbands about their "girlfriends" (Todd's include Ashley Judd and, now, Lea Michele.) And we have our own rotating rosters of the hot and famous with whom we wouldn't mind hanging out. Naturally my boyfriend list contains the obvious names of Matthew McConaughey...

...and Taye Diggs.

And I have some weird ones in there, too, like Stephen Baldwin.

But, today, while watching "Million Dollar Listing," I couldn't help thinking about how I am drawn to Josh Flagg.

There are the obvious obstacles: he's spoiled, pretentious, Jewish, about 14 years old, and quite possibly homosexual. Maybe it's more that I want to be Josh's mother than his girlfriend. Although, we do meet his mother on the show, and she's an interesting character, too. We haven't even gotten to Josh's grandma-- which, now that I think about it, is the real reason I watch the show. Edith Flagg is this old, classy, Jewish pip, who's also a shrewd businesswoman (she's credited with introducing polyester to the United States) and a guilt-ladeling matriarch.

Maybe I really want the grandma to be my boyfriend...

Monday, February 21, 2011

What's Next-- Locusts?

First, two of my kids got strep.

Next, we got slammed with a blizzard.

Then, Todd's car died... possibly for good (which would be the definition of "dead.")

All while we're trying to upgrade the school's electrical system in preparation for this theatrical production. I shudder to think what tomorrow brings. Yet, I smile, knowing I have God-- and vodka-- on my side.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Strep Tease

We are not superheroes. No one's biology is perfect. I have noticed, being the mother of four, that some children, some families seem to have tendencies toward contracting certain types of illnesses and infections. We've only ever had one ear infection in Krinkeland. We know Elisabeth is susceptible to urinary tract infections. No one has ever had influenza (I suspect because I opt for flu shots for everyone.) It seems we get a barfy bug approximately once a year after school starts in the fall. No one in our family has ever been diagnosed with strep throat.

Until today.

Elisabeth started complaining her throat hurt at the beginning of the week. But, she's been singing and yelling a lot at play rehearsal. Plus, I imagine they're all generally run down due to the hectic nature of our family life right now. She didn't run a fever, she didn't complain of any other symptoms, she was willing to go to school. But this morning, things escalated. Libby had a major meltdown about playing basketball this morning. And Amanda returned from a sleepover saying her throat really hurt.

I felt compelled to first address the issue of the refusal to play basketball, along with apologizing for all the screaming I've been doing due to the stress of this theater program. So, I called a family meeting. As I herded Daddy and the kids into the living room, Amanda asked, "Are you going to tell us you're pregnant again? Because that's what happened the last time we had a family meeting." I guess we need to have more family meetings.

Todd and I talked about how busy we've been, and we apologized to the children if they've taken the brunt of our stress. We reminded them that family is the most important priority (after God) but we also said it's important to follow through on your commitments, so we were going to keep working on this production, just as Libby was going to keep playing basketball. When all was said and done, after the group hug, Todd and Benjamin started assembling the new popcorn popper and I took Amanda and Elisabeth to urgent care for strep tests.

Libby was riding the doctor's wheeled stool, ricocheting off the exam room walls. Amanda was riveted to "Angry Birds" on her iPod. The doctor said, "Gee, they don't really seem sick, do they?" I agreed, and started kicking myself for wasting two copays. At that point, the nurse poked her head back through the doorway and said, "Oh, yeah. They're both positive." My jaw dropped as I gasped, "Nooo." You'd think she'd just told me the kids had smallpox.

I regained my composure and asked about treatment. As has been previously addressed on this blog, my brilliant but stubborn children are about as good at swallowing medications as I was as a child. I said there was no way I was going to administer liquid antibiotics over the toilet twice a day for the next ten days. She told me the world was different now-- she could write a prescription for pills or chewable pills. "How about a shot?" I asked.

She agreed. One syringe full of antibiotics, 24 hours to let the shot work, and they would be free and clear. They were huge needles, administered in the butt cheeks (my children have no padding) and it took two adults each to hold them down. The girls are really mad at me. I'm really mad at strep.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Closet Organizer? I Need a Brain Organizer

We finally ordered and received an organizational system for the closet in our master bedroom. It's been a long time in the works, and something I desperately wanted... So far, the system itself is being met with mixed reviews. But, more on that another day. Today, the issue is me and how I seem to be embodying characteristics of my airhead husband.

We ordered the elfa system from The Container Store earlier this month because it was on sale. Even though our plates are currently over-full, when the 17 boxes of parts arrived, Todd went right to work on the assembly. See, after 14 years of marriage, he is finally tuning in to when something is really important to me. Either that, or it was because I'd already prepped for the job by taking all his clothes out of the closet and piling them in the bathtub.

Anyway, wherever a few hours in the week allowed, he put up brackets, shelves, and drawers, and I reorganized and filled them. We got to one, final, odd wall, and we didn't really feel as though we were making the best use of the space. The problem with making adjustments to the original design is that the only store in this chain in our area is on the other side of the metro, about an hour from our house. I dedicated this evening to taking back the pieces we were not going to use and buying ones we thought would better fit the wall.

It took some time, but the designer at the store finally helped me get everything sorted out. They had the items in stock and I waited while they filled my order. Since it was a much smaller order this time, I assured the clerk I could handle hauling out the cart and loading the car by myself.

I was about halfway home when Todd called, "Hey, are you missing a closet rod?" "What?!" I asked. "The Container Store just called and said you left a closet rod in your cart. The store is closed now, but someone will wait for you to come back and pick up the part you left." I swore a blue streak into my windshield and exited the freeway. Since this kind of mistake is typically Todd's specialty, I don't think he even minded the hour it added to my absence.

This is not our closet... but this is the kind of stuff we bought to organize our closet.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lickin' La Vida Loca

Raising children is generally a disgusting experience.

I mean that in the most positive, loving way possible. I adore my children and often think to myself-- and even say out loud, "I would not trade the worst day with them for the best day without them." Still, being a mommy means having regular contact with boogers other than my own; becoming overly familiar with what goes into and out of digestive tracts, from both directions; and being on a first-name basis with every virus-causing germ known to the microbiological community.

Today's issue: Madeline licks stuff.

I know it's called Pica when a person eats non-food substances. That's generally thought to occur when said person is malnourished or nutrient-deficient in some area. Not this child:

OK, so the donut isn't the most stellar example of nutrition, but, it's a cute photo, right? Anyway, Maddy doesn't eat the stuff-- she just licks it. She sat through mass at school yesterday, passing a board book back and forth with a little friend... and licking the page. In the car the other day, Benjamin yelled from the back seat, "Ewww! Maddy is licking the bottom of her shoe!" At McDonald's for lunch, Madeline licked her chair before she climbed up to eat.

I know I can't put sanitizer in her mouth because the alcohol is toxic. But, having her tongue removed seems even more drastic, doesn't it?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Brain Delay

While saying prayers with the kids tonight, I screwed up. We were running down the "God blesses," by family, as we always do, when suddenly a collective gasp rose up from my children. "Mom!" they all yelled. And I knew it right then. It was too late-- but I did catch myself. I had forgotten Lucia:

"...God bless Grandma and Grandpa P., God bless Gua, God bless Auntie Lisa, God bless Uncle Teddy and Auntie Kristin, God bless Auntie Ellen and Uncle Terry, God bless Kazmer and Solomon and Oliver..." I didn't even revert to, "God bless the baby in Auntie's tummy," as had been the custom for, well, about nine months. I just blew right by my three-week old niece:

Sorry, Lucia, I've been kind of preoccupied. Don't worry, though. Your cousins stuck up for you and set me straight. You are one beloved baby:

A grievous error, I know... Still, I'm not putting it on par with forgetting my child at home and leaving alone to go coach her basketball team.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Friend Me, Sign My Wall and Poke Me

It took quite a few years, and ended up happening quite by mistake, but I am finally on Facebook. For the record, it's not as though I was ever staging a protest or was deliberately digging my heels into the Dark Ages. I just always thought two things: (1) If someone really wants to get in contact with me-- and who would?-- it's not that hard. (2) I air as much personal stuff as I care to air already on this blog, and I can't really commit to another cyber-venue.

So, as you well know, Todd and I have been among a handful of volunteers launching a theater program at our kids' school. It is consuming. And, as with anything, one of the main tasks/obstacles is communication. Our cast roster is holding at 88. Plus, we have about three dozen children and their families helping out backstage and offstage. Then, there are the school families who do not have children in the cast and crew but who still offer their support through donations and in other roles. As much information as I think the director and the stage manager and I disseminate, wires can still get crossed and there seems to be plenty of confusion.

It was suggested at our last production meeting that in addition to the Saints on Stage blog, email circulation, printed notes, and verbal announcements, it might be a good idea to put information about rehearsals and performances on Facebook. Since it seems to me most of the civilized world does use Facebook, this seemed reasonable.

I sat down last weekend to set up a Saints on Stage organization page. You'd think I was trying to bake the perfect souffle or assemble a Schwinn blindfolded. I called my sister-- a regular Facebooker-- to help. Since she'd never gone the organization route, she wasn't that much help. However, somewhere along the process, Facebook required me to establish an "administrator" for the Saints on Stage page. The next thing I knew, I was on Facebook.

It does make me happy to think I can be in more regular contact with certain, beloved friends. At the same time, I know I would always be in contact with these dear ones, anyway, anyhow. So, if you are on Facebook, too, I guess you can look me up. I can't guarantee I'm going to be "liking" or "commenting" or "friending"-- at least not until this play is over. But give me time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Descriptive Valentine

Todd and I are up to our eyeballs in play-planning. Plus, we just forked over a huge chunk of change for a closet organizing system. So, Valentine's Day was destined to be low-key in our house.

The kids got special cards and bags of loot from all their grandparents. The helium balloons from Auntie Ellen were also a big hit! I bought them each a little token something-or-other from Mommy and Daddy and called it good. Done, right?

Well, I had nearly forgotten that a couple weeks ago, Amanda's teacher had sent home a special request for parents to make a valentine for their third grader, secretly send it back to her at school, and the teacher would distribute them to "our little valentine" at the class party. Oh, my. Martha Stewart I am not. Don't craft. Don't scrapbook. Don't even have legible handwriting.

That paper sat on my bedside table for a week. Finally, I figured I better get it done before I forgot altogether. I got out some scissors and some glitter glue and some stickers. I gave Todd one of those paper heart doilies and told him to write a special message from Dad. I took another and wrote a couple lines just from Mommy. I wrote Amanda's name down the middle of the valentine and added decorative accents where I could.

When I finished, I figured it looked about as good as if a third grader did it (or maybe a preschooler.) I sealed it up in an envelope, sent it back to the teacher, and then forgot about it... until Amanda hugged me at rehearsal this afternoon and said, "Thanks, Mom, for the special valentine you made."

This evening, I overheard her on the telephone describing the valentine to her grandma: "It had these pretty, paper doily-hearts, with messages from my dad and my mom (recited verbatim.) And it was glued to the most beautiful paper... my favorite paper we have in this house, with the rainbow ladybugs on it. And there were puppy and kitty stickers because those are my favorite..." She went on and on, gushing over her homemade-makeshift-Mommy valentine.

She didn't care that I'm not artistic. She didn't care if the card looked early-American-garage-sale. She didn't care that it wasn't original or over-the-top. Amanda loved that I took the time to tell her how I love her. And I do.

Oh, how I love all my valentines!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Home Alone

We all knew it was only a matter of time-- my Space Cadet husband forgot one of the children. Our family life is a bit upside-down lately, with all that's going on, and we are both burning our candles at both ends. Still, Man, really?!

I got up early and took three of the children to see my nephew Kazmer's 8 a.m. basketball game in the neighboring town. Since Elisabeth had her own basketball practice and game starting at 8:30, and Daddy is one of the team coaches, neither of them could attend. Todd and I discussed this plan last night, and again this morning when, admittedly, he was still pretty much asleep.

As I left Kaz's game to pack up and head to Libby's game, I noticed all kinds of missed calls and text messages on my phone. The last one really alarmed me: Time stamped 8:40 a.m., it read, "I am here at basketball. Where's Libby?" Later, Todd told me he had awoken with just enough time to get himself ready and to the gym. He called out in the house, but, finding it quiet, assumed I must have already packed up all the children and gone... somewhere? And he guessed we were all waiting for him at the courts.

I called home and Grandpa R. answered the phone. He said he had shown up at the school to watch Elisabeth play and Todd told Grandpa he was the only one there-- he had no idea where the kids and I were. He sent Grandpa back to our house to see if maybe, just maybe, Libby was still in bed.

She was. Well, actually, when Grandpa arrived, Libby had recently awoken... and had just enough time to go room-to-room in the house, looking for her family. Concerned she must have been scared out of her mind, I later asked Libby what she was thinking when she found the house empty. She said, "I thought, 'Good.'" That's our Libby.

Grandpa did get her to the game-- not quite on time. But they were there when I showed up, three kids in tow and steam coming out of my ears. For the record, leaving your seven-and-a-half-year-old home alone in our state is not illegal-- it's just stupid. And, I don't think it will happen again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"B" is for Bright Benjamin Boy's Brain


The preschoolers are studying the letter "H," so that made today Hat Day. We lined up all Benjamin's hats and he considered each before making his final choice. He decided on his Shrek hat, which is hilarious. (I should take a picture.) But the runner-up was a really nice red ball cap with a navy brim and a letter "B" embroidered on the front. I believe Todd bought Ben the hat on one of his airport-souvenir-stand shopping sprees following a conference in Boston.

"What does the 'B' mean, Mom?" Ben asked me. "Well, 'B' is the first letter in the word 'Boston.' That's where Daddy bought you this hat." He pressed on, "But what does the 'B' mean?" I told him that this particular B was the symbol of a professional baseball team, based in Boston-- the Boston Red Sox. My son put his hands on his hips, rolled his eyes, and snickered: "Yeah, right, Mom. Like anyone would name their ball team after their clothes!" And he walked off shaking his head.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh, Where, Oh, Where Has My Baby Gone?


BEFORE

One of the days of the week while Amanda, Elisabeth and I are at play rehearsal, Benjamin and Madeline go to my good friend's house for a play date. My friend also has two daughters in the show, and two little ones at home, so she considers the babysitting her contribution to the production. And my kids love to go and play with her kids, so it's a win-win.

This friend is also a hair stylist. A very good one, I might add. But one who went a bit far with her power... and her scissors. While my friend was playing "beauty shop" with all the kids-- she has a small salon in her house, and the preschool boys love to get colored-gel "hair hawks"-- Madeline crawled up into the chair. She seemed so excited to be there, and was sitting so nicely, that my friend cut my baby's hair. Without my permission. Without my presence.

For the record (not that I need to state the obvious,) I know nothing about hair and pretty much follow my friend's advice, because I do consider her the expert. In fact, the only reason I had not gotten Maddy's hair cut is because my friend told me to let it grow. I thought Madeline looked like a shaggy dog and I had a heck of a time keeping that long hair out of her eyes.

Still, I should have been consulted! I should have been there to witness the stripping of her babyhood. I should have wept over the wispy locks as they fell! And, yes, of course, I told my friend so, and she apologized profusely. She did make sure there were all kinds of photos and even saved a few locks for me.

When Todd saw Madeline in the evening, he said, "Oh, she looks adorable!" After I told him the story, he said, "Bet you were pissed." I told him the rest of the story and he shrugged, "Well, for the record, I never got to witness any one of the kids' first haircuts. And I'm doing just fine."





AFTER

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Once Bitten

I think I have a little bit of frostbite on my fingertips. How I have lived in these ridiculous climactic conditions for the past 36 years and not gotten frostbitten until now? Still, the story is pretty silly.

We've all been so busy, especially with the theater activities, that regular, weekly errands and chores have fallen by the wayside. Today, with no rehearsal, I was determined to get to Costco. We were out of milk, bread, basically all produce, and other important staples like bacon crumbles and applesauce in squeeze pouches. Even with my mission in mind, somehow I still didn't get around to going to Costco until 5:00 this afternoon.

The four offspring and I dashed into the warehouse and first hit the liquor store. Priorities, priorities. After that quick errand-within-an-errand, we entered the big store. I had barely started hefting bulk snacks into the cart when I started to feel ill. I can't really explain it. I know this, because I tried to explain it to my husband, and I just sounded-- and felt-- stupid. But, I was nauseous, light-headed, dizzy, hot, and just generally feeling yucky.

It came on so suddenly that, naturally, I fought it. I had already fought half the battle, which was getting myself and all four kids into Costco. I wasn't about to turn around and leave without the stuff on my list. I explained to the children that I wasn't feeling well and pleaded with them to cooperate so we could polish off the list quickly and leave. Surprise, surprise, they kind of obeyed. Will wonders never cease?!

The problem happened when we got through the checkout and past the guy who checks your receipt (one of my favorite things ever, because it would be sooo easy to shoplift an industrial-sized jug of laundry detergent.) In the entryway to Costco, I bundled up the children, but did not put on my gloves. I don't know why. I just didn't. It was so flipping cold, I ran to the car, pushing one cart full of children and groceries in front of me and pulling another behind me.

The big girls piled into the back seat, while I pulled each little one from the cart and buckled in her and him. I started the car and returned to unload all my buys into the back end. Still no gloves. My hands quickly-- really quickly-- started to hurt. I just hauled heavier loads at a faster pace.

By the time I hopped into the driver's seat, both hands had gone from painfully cold to numb to stiff and unable to bend. I was already feeling crappy with whatever other sudden ailment had befallen me; now, as my hands started to warm up, they were killing me. So, I sat and cried.

Todd's workplace is very near Costco, and I was really wishing I could just call him to come and get us, because, by this point, I was truly thinking I could not drive. However, I knew he couldn't come and get us because he had earlier called me and told me the battery was dead on his car, so he was counting on me to go after the Costco run and give him a jump. Eventually, a wave of nausea passed, and I could bend my fingers just enough to guide the steering wheel... but they still really hurt.

I pulled up in front of Todd's office and sent one of the kids inside to "tell Daddy I need him." I turned on a movie for the remaining children in the car and put my head down on the steering wheel. Todd came out and asked whether I needed to go to the hospital. I told him, no, I was starting to feel better, which wasn't entirely a lie. He also asked me whether I thought I was menopausal and could be having a hot flash. I did not have the strength, at that moment, to hit him.

After getting his car started, Todd asked whether I thought I could drive home. Since we'd just gotten his car going again, I didn't think it would be prudent to leave it. So, I told him I thought I could drive, but that I would feel better if he drove the car with the kids... just in case I did crash, I didn't want to endanger their little lives, too.

Todd followed me for a while, called me once to tell me to stop weaving, and, then, after deeming me roadworthy, said he was going to stop and feed the children supper, but I should continue on home. I did just that. After Todd mentioned supper, I started thinking: Am I maybe feeling so crappy because I need to eat? It slowly occurred to me that my "nutritional" (totally the wrong choice of words) intake for the day had been one jelly donut, a 52-ounce Diet Mountain Dew, and a handful of gummy bears.

Once home, I had a string cheese and some blueberries and began to feel much better. When the tribe arrived home, I helped to put away all the groceries. Standing in the kitchen, Todd said, "Maybe you're pregnant." From menopause to pregnancy in one thought leap. Swell. I hope I made equally horrified expressions in response to both suggestions.

A short time later, when I was tucking the kids into bed, I noticed Amanda wearing a goofy grin on her face. As I kissed her goodnight, she whispered to me, "I hope it's a boy this time."

In summation:
1. It is important to eat real food every day.
2. My fingertips still hurt, so why am I typing this long telenovela?
3. I am not pregnant.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Relief and Love

I left the house early this morning without my wallet... without the insurance information filled in on the medical forms... without Madeline's shoes... But WITH four sleepy, little people and their strong, healthy hearts.

Amanda, Elisabeth and Madeline all had normal echocardiograms.

Benjamin's test results were also as wonderful as they could be. He does have a dilated aortic root (don't know if I thought it would just go away, or what) but it has grown only as much as would be expected with normal little boy growth. As for his aortic valve, that, too, is a little bit off-- but, the way the cardiologist described it this time, the deformity is so slight, a lesser echo tech might not even have spotted it. The valve continues to function completely normally.

We will visit the cardiologist again in two years. As she did one year ago, the doctor impressed upon Todd the importance of his getting an echocardiogram. (If his dad and his son have the same condition...)

Thank you for your unending prayers, support and friendship.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dread and Love

The kids are all in bed, Todd is reading this huge manual that is supposed to turn him into a stage lighting designer, and I am stalling... supposed to be filling out paperwork for the pediatric cardiologist. We are taking all four children for echocardiograms in the morning.

It's been a year already since we found out Benjamin has some hinky things with his ticker-- a bicuspid aortic valve and a dilated aortic root, to be exact. Is this something? Well, that's a tricky question.

Ben has always been and continues to be asymptomatic; the abnormalities were found through an echo ordered by the geneticist "just to check." Following last year's echo, samples of Ben's blood and tissues visited all kinds of interesting labs around the country, to be checked for certain connective tissue disorders that can be linked to these heart defects and some of the other physical characteristics our boy sports. Everything came back negative.

The cardiologist seemed to downplay Ben's issues, reminded us he is healthy and his heart is strong and we wouldn't even know about the valve and the root except that the geneticist had ordered the test. It could be something hereditary-- Todd's dad has a similarly constructed pump. This made us ask about the other children, whether their hearts might also have these differences. The cardiologist said we should, at some point, get all the girls' hearts looked at, too. I asked, "Can we wait until next year when we bring in Benjamin to get rechecked?" She said that would be good.

I tried to chill... prayed, when chilling didn't work... prayed some more... and eventually did kind of chill. Though never far from my thoughts, "pediatric cardiology" eventually fell further to the back of my mental Rolodex. Then, one day after Christmas, I reached into a pocket of a jacket I hadn't worn in a long time and pulled out an ink pen from The Children's Heart Clinic. And my heart sank.

I called the number printed on the pen. Now, the appointments are tomorrow. The tests will show what the tests show. I know what I know.

"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 16:5-8)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Greatest Show on Earth

There was a new fundraiser at the girls' school, aimed at raising money to support the arts. The Student Showcase was a recital of sorts, with students in grades three and up performing as vocalists, pianists, violinists, guitarists, and more. Some of the actors from our new theater program, Saints on Stage, performed a number. Amanda also had her turn in the spotlight:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Beaten at My Own Game

Dad: "How come the Blu-Ray player doesn't work?"
Ben: "I think someone shoved two discs in it at the same time."
Dad: "You think someone shoved two discs in it at the same time?"
Ben: "Yeah."
Dad: "Who would do that?"
Ben: "I don't know."
Dad: (to Mom) "Who would DO that?!"
Mom: "I don't know. I didn't see it happen. But I think you already have your answer."
Dad: "Ben, did you shove two movies in the movie player at the same time?"
Ben: "No."
Dad: "Who did?"
Ben: "I don't know."
Mom: "Which two movies got shoved in the movie player, Ben?"
Ben: "I think it was 'Coraline' and 'Toy Story 3.'"
Mom: (to Dad) "See, I told you you'd get your answer. Even when the kid lies, he can't really lie. And he doesn't even know he's caught."
Ben: "Daddy, I know how to fix the movie player."
Dad: "How?"
Ben: "You just shove a butter knife in it and move it around until you can get the movies out."
Dad: "How do you know that?"
Ben: "It's what Mom did last time."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Undressing for Dress-Up Day

The girls' school is celebrating Catholic Schools Week. This also ends up being their Spirit Week, with a special menu, fun activities, treats, and dress-up days. When kids go to a parochial school and wear uniforms every day, dress-up days are a BIG deal.

Today was a unique one: Salad Dressing Day. The direction was for students to dress as their favorite salad dressing, as in Western or Ranch or Creamy Italian. When I saw this on the calendar, I just giggled. I couldn't help myself.

You see, both my big girls really like lettuce salad. But they don't like any kind of dressing. I could eat only dressing-- forget the salad-- while Amanda and Elisabeth like their leaves bare. Add it to the list of delightfully odd things about my children.

For the record, Amanda got her blue jeans, plaid shirt and straw hat and went as Ranch. Libby dressed in black, tied a scarf around her neck, found a beret in the dress-up box and looked French. I couldn't help thinking what a relief it was... I was waiting for either girl to tell me, "But, Mom, I can't dress as my favorite dressing because I don't like salad dressing. I like my salad naked."

Can't you just see them walking the halls in their birthday suits?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Peek-A-Boo

Whenever it's time for Madeline to do something she doesn't want to do-- get her diaper changed, take a nap-- she runs and hides. I wish I could get a photo of her, because, she is so cute. I know, I'm her mother... naturally, I think so. Maddy has only two hiding places: under the rocking chair in her room and behind the Little Tikes basketball hoop in Benjamin's room. She is so stinking cute. Oh, Maddy makes me smile!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

She Marches to Victory!

Amanda won the third grade spelling bee today:

Talk about getting the blood pumping... Took me back in time, it did, super speller that I am. I nearly stopped breathing when one of Amanda's classmates got the word "caterpillar." That word, and the moderator's questionable pronounciation, cost me the regional bee back in eighth grade. Amanda's schoolmate got it wrong, too. And the other dude, who Amanda admits is a way better speller than she is, got hung up on "lightning."

My sister, who was watching Ben and Maddy this morning, had a different memory and a different reaction when I told her I was going to watch Amanda compete in the third grade spelling bee. She told me she, too, had won her bee that year. But, the next year, on the day of the fourth grade spelling bee, she faked illness because she couldn't take the pressure.

The fourth graders had their own spelling bee, as did the fifth-eighth graders. That one took a while. First and second place from the "big" bee will go on to the district competition. As for Amanda, she didn't make much of a deal over it. Barely mentioned to me that she was going to be in the spelling bee, actually. And, when I asked her last evening whether she wanted to practice spelling big words, she said, "No. Why would I?!"

If you're wondering why all the kids look a little odd, and why there are no uniforms, it's their "Spirit Week" at school, and today is Pajama Day.