Tuesday, February 27, 2018


There was an in-depth car discussion with the oldest and the youngest about the definitions of the following words:


It began when Little One announced, “I went to confession with Father Delano (I knew who she meant) today. He gave us all the same independence.”

Benjamin: (sawing and drilling)
Dad: “Ben, are you building the whole project by yourself?”
Ben: (rolling eyes) “Yes.”
Dad: “Why? I thought it was a group project.”
Ben: “It is— But my partners are both girls.”
Dad: “Well, Ben, you are aware girls are capable of building, right? Some are actually quite good at it.”
Ben: (silence)

We have also adopted a new saying that we read in a bedtime story: “The buts will have to make their own toast.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Small (Huge) Victories

Today was a day of doctoring.  This is not my favorite kind of day.  The schedule is off and everyone is out of whack from the long, President's Day weekend.  Plus, we got snow yesterday, which hasn't happened much this winter, so it takes longer to get anywhere because everyone forgets how to drive.  Plus, I've been attempting to do more contract work, but the preparation for the contract work (for which I do not get paid) seems to be more consuming than the work itself, and it sure isn't getting done while I'm sitting in doctor's office waiting rooms waiting for someone to call our names.  So, tomorrow will be a bit stressful, as well, when I attempt to get back on track.  For tonight, however, we in Krinkeland are celebrating.

There is good-- OK, GREAT-- news on the fronts of both doctor's visits.

First, Todd went today for his every-six-months endoscopy.  Well, the test is supposed to be performed every six months, to recheck the state of things following Todd's lifelong battle with a hiatal hernia and the resulting gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD.)  Of course, he's Todd, and he's a man, so his own health always seems to take a back seat to everything else, and six months becomes eight months becomes a year... But, anyway, he was going today.  I knew it because I had to drive him, but it turns out I hadn't remembered everything about the appointment.

There have been times in years past when Todd's condition made him very ill.  He has dealt with pain and discomfort on some level for as long as I've known him.  He has had to cut many things from his diet, sleep with an elevated head, take prescription medications.  His mom has nursed him.  I have nursed him.  (I will never forget spending one night on my hands and knees, pregnant with baby number two, cleaning spaghetti vomit from our beige bedroom carpeting.)  A few years ago, he developed something called Barrett's Esophagus, which is a precancerous condition.  Todd had the abnormal cells removed through an ablation procedure.  His gastroenterologist also performed a somewhat novel procedure to attempt to correct the hiatal hernia, or at least to reduce its severity.

Time went on, and Todd has done well.  So, naturally, I freaked out this morning when I asked him something about the endoscopy and he said, "No, I'm not just having an endoscopy-- I'm having another ablation.  Did you forget?  Dr. G. said at my last endoscopy there was a remaining patch of Barrett's cells at the bottom of my esophagus that he wanted to remove the next time I came in."  I replied, "WHAT?! ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL YOURSELF, FOR THE LOVE?!?! YOU HAVE BEEN WALKING AROUND WITH PRE-CANCEROUS CELLS FOR PROBABLY A YEAR AND YOU DIDN'T THINK YOU SHOULD GET THAT TAKEN CARE OF SOONER?! TIME TO PLAN YOUR FUNERAL, DUMMY."  Because that's where I go.

My husband said, "Calm down, Woman.  I am following my doctor's orders."

So, we went.  We entered the waiting room at the endoscopy center and who is sitting there, ready to greet us, but Todd's best buddy's parents?  What are the chances we would run into them here?  100% because they are angels of death, I presume.

When the nurse called Todd's name, I didn't even say goodbye, because I was still mad at him and his precancerous cells.  A couple hours went by, and I was the only one from the morning session left in the waiting room.  First, I thought, Oh, great, I forgot to go back with him and talk to the anesthesiologist, as I usually do.  You see, Todd really loves drugs-- Propofol, in particular-- and I'm pretty sure he asks for extra everything because he just loves the escape.  Could we be more different?  I ask you, blessed Lord, COULD WE BE MORE DIFFERENT, AND WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU PUT US TOGETHER?!  So, I usually say, "Hey, Doc, I'm aware he's a drug-seeking whore, but I have a pile of laundry and four kids to tend to, so please go easy on him and everyone wins."  But, I forgot to do this today, so I began to figure he was just taking a really long time to wake up.

But, then, I remembered the situation, and I figured the doctor got the scope down there and saw that the Barrett's had morphed into full-blown cancer, and now they were sitting back there trying to figure out how to tell me that.  So, I paced along the windows.  I poured some coffee and I dumped it out.  I cleaned out my handbag and probably threw out all the important stuff-- who even knows.  Finally, the nurse called "Andrea for Todd" and I walked the Longest Mile.

She pulled back the curtain on Todd's recovery area, and the doctor, who happens to also be a former colleague and personal acquaintance of Todd's, was already in there.  He looked annoyed when I offered my hand and reminded him of my name, but, then, he always looks like that.  He also always looks like he needs a haircut because, heaven help us, you are much too old and much too far inland to rock the Surfer Shag.  Todd was reclining on the gurney, wearing a dopey grin and muttering, "Remarkable... wonderful... I can't believe it..."  I thought it was pretty cruel to tell a guy he has cancer while he's still clearly high and not processing much.  Before I could ask questions, the doc tucked a clipboard under his arm, turned and walked out.

It took a while to piece together what Todd was saying, but eventually I got the gist of it: The doctor did do an endoscopy but did not do an ablation because there were no Barrett's cells.  What's more, the previous procedure seems to be holding and Todd's hiatal hernia is now so minor his symptoms are in total remission and he does not even need to take over-the-counter reflux medication.  The physician did take some biopsies, so we will await those results for a final ruling, but this is the best possible outcome I never expected... mostly because I didn't even know what we were facing today.

An ice-cream-for-lunch-and-then-home-to-sleep-off-the-drugs celebration followed.

In truth, I was only home for about 15 minutes before Madeline got off the bus and it was time to take her to the eye doctor.  At her last exam six months ago, the ophthalmologist tentatively declared Maddy's amblyopia, or lazy eye, corrected.  She declared Madeline could go without the patch that had been worn for two years to cover her strong eye and strengthen the weaker one.  We returned today to find out if the correction was holding, or if she would have to return to the patch.  (Madeline really did not want the patch back.)  With her glasses on, Madeline's vision tested 20/15!  By comparison, when we began patching, even with her glasses, Maddy could only see 20/50. 

This is remarkable, the doctor said, and the mother is equally thrilled.  Here is the secret to how we got this result: We followed the doctor's orders.  Madeline wore the patch, every day, even when she really didn't want to, which was every day.  Her teachers were very helpful and supportive, but, ultimately, she did it.  And it worked.

Madeline will still (always) wear glasses to correct her less-than-perfect vision due to astigmatism.  She knows this and she is OK with it.  She is my only kid to seek out her glasses when she forgets or loses them.  And, she's mighty cute, with or without.

Thanks for sharing our joy in this day.  I'm so thankful.

Baby Madeline Kate rockin' the shades 2009-style

Monday, February 5, 2018


My sister and her family did not come to our family Super Bowl party, even though it was set to double as Solomon's birthday party, because Oliver was diagnosed yesterday with influenza.  That is a scary bummer, since they have new baby Thaddeus who really should not get sick.  We were all sad to miss them, but understood and appreciated that they did not want to spread the virus.  Today, even though they stayed away, Elisabeth woke with a fever.  Since she was around all the grandparents all day yesterday, and since it's dress rehearsal week for her upcoming musical (opens Friday!) we went right to the clinic.  Yep, influenza A.  Boo!  I was texting my sister today, and Oliver is sicker and Tad has been running a bit of a fever.  Everybody better get to praying!  We all need it.  Melman needs to get back on her feet for "Madagascar!"  Please pray all will be well-- particularly that my tiniest godson who is two months old today will be well-- and the show will go on.

The Best Thing About Being A Theater Mom

I was standing at the edge of the auditorium as rehearsal was wrapping up.  One of the stage managers called, "Melman's mom?" three times before I answered.  Heaven help us, I can hardly remember my kids' real names-- now I'm expected to answer to characters, too?!  Such is the life of a theater mom.  (The mothers of the high school theater group call themselves "Drama Mamas" and I just cannot do it... the words get stuck in my throat... already too much drama going around in this world, I guess.)

"Melman's" production opens on Friday, where she'll take the stage with her little sister Lemur.  This past weekend, our oldest actor wrapped up her first season of high school one-act competition.  Yes, I said wrapped up, because they didn't win.  This amazing theater troupe, from a powerhouse arts magnet school, came in second in the section finals.  There's a lot of drama that goes along with that, let me tell you.  But that's not the topic of this blog.  Not really.  Not by a long shot.

(Amanda is in the front row, second from right.)

I recently posted on social media something about how I better not criticize "hockey moms" because I seem to spend just as much time and money running around, chasing after my actors, and constantly trying to keep myself (and their father) in check that we are supporting our kids' dreams and not having them live out ours.  The truth is every mom wants her child to belong.  Now, from my perspective, I am never looking for my child to be seen as the center of the social universe, the star, the standout.  I am forever recalling those prayer requests from my young mommy days with Moms In Touch... ALL the times we would pray for a particular child to have just one friend.

My firstborn navigating the world of high school has been an interesting experience for me to witness.  She is, by all obvious measures, a well-rounded, well-liked girl.  She cares deeply for her fellow humans (more than she cares for her studies, which, thankfully, come easily to her) and she has a wide range of interests.  Amanda is busy, all day, every day, and definitely has a need for quiet time, home time, at night.  Still, a mama worries: Is she friendly enough, but not too friendly?  Does she have true friends?  Does she know who to trust?  What about boys?!  Does she tell me things?  The things she does not tell me-- is that all right, too?  IS SHE GOING TO BE OK?

So, maybe this post isn't about being a theater mom as much as it's about being a mom.  I think most of us would confess we have no idea what we're doing and we worry every day that we're doing it all wrong.  I definitely fall into that category.  Except, every so often, I know that something is going right.  Maybe it's just that moment, or maybe it's a greater sign that everything is going to be OK.

A couple weeks ago, as this group of young actors and technical staff really got into the thick of things with their production, there was an oddly scheduled double rehearsal, with a three-hour break in the middle.  Our house is just a mile or two from the high school theater, and Amanda asked if she could invite the cast and crew over for some down time and a meal.  It seemed a no-brainer.  The daughter helped pick up and got a rough idea of a plan, while the mom made sloppy joes and shuttled the siblings off to friends' houses.

The doorbell rang, and the kids arrived, singly or in groups, kicking off their shoes, greeting me on their way through the kitchen, and disappearing.  Some of the students had previously been guests here; they are regular friends of  Amanda's, but many were new to me.  There were girls and boys, freshmen and seniors, divas and techies.  There was a lot of laughter.  When I was growing up, my friends and I often hung out at my house, and I always wanted that for my kids, too.  Naturally, I wanted to be around to eavesdrop, but I didn't.  I stayed quiet and I stayed out of the way, only delivering popcorn during movie time and refilling platters at dinner time.  I was there just enough to know that things were OK.  Things were better than OK.  My kid must be better than OK, because she created an environment to which they all flocked, in which they all relaxed, within which they all belonged.

Around my daughter's table, the preppy student council president dined with the pink-haired mother figure.  The beautiful dancer shared her stress over calculus, while the younger beautiful dancer soaked it all in.  The tall, dark, quiet, senior boy listened to tales of woe from the lesbian with the partially shaved head.  Groups of three or four bent their heads over their phones and whispered-- about me?-- and it was all right.  Someone watched the clock, and gathered the others when it was time to go, but not before they complimented my overdone brownies.  One even remarked, "I just love this backsplash!"  And I thought that was a weird thing for a high schooler to say.  And it was wonderful.

My daughter just walked in from an evening out with friends, and, over my shoulder, commented on the above photo.  She said they all looked pretty good, even though they'd just been dealt a second-place blow.  I said, yes, that was credit to the team for rallying.  "Oh, there was no rally-- theater kids are just really good at faking it," Amanda said.  Knowing she'd only seen the photo and not read the post, I then asked, "So, were they all faking it when they seemed to have a good time at our house?"  My daughter replied, "Oh, no, they're real with me.  They know I can't stand it, otherwise."  See?  Winning.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

They Have My Heart

It's the start of a new month and I am wearing my new shirt.  The "Heart Warrior" title is incredibly deceptive, I guess, as I do not have a congenital heart defect (at least, not one of which I am aware.)  But I got the shirt and I wear it proudly, not only because t-shirts with slogans are my jam, but to honor all the Heart Warriors I know and love.

February is Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) Awareness Month.  Next week-- the 7th-14th-- is generally considered CHD Awareness Week, so I'm a bit ahead of the times, which, like, never happens, but I'm thinking about it now.  It's estimated approximately 1 in 100 babies in the United States is born with a heart defect, and this is considered the most common type of birth defect.  Find out more information here.  Sometimes, the CHDs do not cause symptoms and do not affect the kiddo's health, as in our son Benjamin and nephew Oliver.  Other times, there is a need for intervention and care, as with our godson Thaddeus and friend Eddie.  Whichever case we encounter, we tackle, right?

Each year when my son visits the cardiologist-- or every two to three years, depending on how he's growing-- I get anxious leading up to it.  Will the test show something different?  Will the change be a problem?  Will there be intervention?  The heart doctor begins each exam with a good, long listen and then puts her hand on Benjamin's chest, looking him in the eyes and seriously stating, "You have a strong heart."  It matters to all of us in the room to hear that.  So far, each visit ends with the same report: Everything is stable.  If ever there is news, we will take action.

The point of this post is February, HEART MONTH, is a great time for everyone to take action.  Now, I am not going to tell you exactly what kind of action to take... I just want to remind you that there are plenty of options for action:
*You could wear a cute shirt to raise awareness.
*You could become an organ donor, and, while you're at it, donate blood and register to donate bone marrow.  (Sorry, not all that is CHD-related, but it's all important.)
*You could donate to CHD charities.  I'm not going to tell you which charities should get your money.  There are so many, the missions vary, as do the destinations for funds.  But definitely look into it and give in a way that works for you.
*Study and work in the cardiac field.  Support ethical research.
*Do whatever you can to support families of heart kids.  While not uncommon (see above,) this is an atypical, lifelong walk that no one volunteers to undertake.  Make a meal for the family.  Offer to babysit siblings.  Send a gas card.  Don't say, "Be sure to ask if you need help-- anything."  They won't ask.  Just help.
*Pray, pray, PRAY.

While we're at it, here's what NOT to do:
*DON'T underestimate these amazing children.  They will surprise you, thrill you, and beat the odds every single day.
*Don't have pity.  Not a single parent would change a single kid about a heart kiddo-- because that's exactly what makes that kid who s/he is.  Embrace and celebrate, in all the senses of those words.
*DO NOT second-guess a heart parent.  Seriously.  If the parents have spent enough time with medical professionals to know their child has a congenital heart defect, then those parents also know full well what's best for their child.  They've heard and heeded the warnings.  They are protecting their kid.  They are doing the best they can.  Give them some credit and give them a break.  If Mama says you cannot visit, you cannot touch, they cannot come, no way, then THAT'S IT.  Don't argue.  Don't roll your eyes.  At the same token, you don't need to warn or scare them.  How useless!  They know best, anyway.  Don't ask why the baby doesn't have a thicker sweater, or whether it's really wise to have him share a bedroom with a sibling, or if it's safe to bring him to church.  Mom and Dad thought about it.  THEY GOT IT.

As I say with everything, what a wonderful world this would be if we all just assumed the best in each other.  I know I'm doing the best I can, day in and day out.  And I know I love me some kiddos, those with heart defects and those without.  Happy Heart Month!  Share the love.  Do some hearts good.  By the way, my godson's name, Thaddeus-- it means "courageous heart."


As my two followers have no doubt already taken note, I haven't been blogging much of late.  It's not that things are not wonderful in Krinkeland or that my children are not constantly doing amazing things.  It's not that I don't have lots of opinions on lots of topics.  It's not that I absolutely cannot make time to write.

It is that we are in a really hectic phase of life, and, it seems, I am preferring to just be present in those times with my family, recording in my mind the memories to play back later.  It is also that a lot of the thoughts I have on a lot of those topics are complex and potentially painful or offensive to others, and so they may be better unshared.  And, it is like everything else in my life: I am a creature of habit.  When it is habit, I do it; when it's not, I don't.

Recently, I was making small talk with some teachers and administrators at my kids' school and I happened to say that line about being a creature of habit.  "I get up at the same time; I go to bed at the same time; I eat the same things every day; I wear the same things every week; I tell my kids the same mantras and stories.  I am nothing if not consistent."  I also commented how my husband is the opposite-- the definition of chaos.  One of the women responded, "Really?  Knowing your family now for a number of years, I would have guessed the opposite."

I am still scratching my head over that one.

The point is this: I have not taken ill or been abducted by zombies.  I am also not pledging to be tied to my laptop, posting daily or more often.  But I am going to get back to this, because we do have a lot to share in Krinkeland.  Moreover, what's good for my fingers is good for my soul.  Write on!  Word.