Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Came and Went

These last few weeks have seemed a blur. There were so many things I wanted to accomplish, but didn't. I didn't manage to send out a Christmas card (though I haven't given up hope for a possible New Year's card). I didn't get my house as orderly and straight as I had hoped. I didn't bake all the Christmas cookies I wanted to bake. I didn't manage to pick up the desired gift card for my father (had to merely give him cash - which, although I'm sure will work just as well, doesn't feel as generous or nice).

But, I would have to rate this Christmas pretty high. We had a lovely Christmas morning at home as a family. I had two action-packed cleaning and organizing days without the two little ones (every mother needs two days without her small children every now and again). Moreover, we had a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable visit with my extended family in our home.

When we invited everyone, I wasn't sure how many would be able to attend. My family is fairly spread out, from Florida to Mississippi, to Kentucky, to Illinois, to Wisconsin. Thankfully, many were able to attend (despite long drives for a few). Only my sister and her family missed our gathering.

My youngest brother, Tim, and his family arrived Sunday morning. My parents arrived by dinnertime and my eldest brother, and his family, arrived Sunday night. My ES said, "I couldn't believe you guys stayed up until 12:30 talking." I replied, "That is what my family does when we get together. We sit around and recall various stories from when we were growing up."

It is always interesting to see what others remember. Oftentimes, I remember something that others question or don't remember. However, this year, it was my turn to have my memory jogged. While we were sitting and sharing, my niece, Amelia, got a bloody nose. I remarked that her dad often had nosebleeds when he was younger. He piped up, "Yeah, and surprisingly it didn't help when some unnamed person, out of the blue, hit me in the forehead and said 'Be Healed!'"

I asked who did that and discovered that it was me! No way! Apparently, one day I felt the incredible healing powers surging through me and - quite unexpectedly - decided to cure my younger brother of his nosebleeds. My parents said that particular episode left everyone puzzled and landed my brother, Tim, in the doctor's office with another nosebleed that wouldn't stop. They even thought perhaps that was the time he had to have his nose cauterized. He even remembered some doctor rubbing his hands together (in true Igor fashion) and saying they would be taking him to the "bleeding room." (something about causing him to bleed, so they could determine how long it took for his blood to clot???)

The cousins got along famously. My own boys thoroughly enjoyed having other kids at our home. They are still begging for some of them to come back (yes, YS continues to say "Abby come back now.")

The weather was absolutely perfect. My mother, who lives in Florida, had said she was praying for no snow and temperatures in the sixties. It was definitely in the sixties on Saturday. Sunday and Monday were a bit colder than that, but still warm enough to afford some outdoor play. We enjoyed several long walks on our property and my niece, Kirsten, took many beautiful photos (I'll have to snag some from her to share). It was even warm enough on Monday, for all of us to sit out in the sun room by the big tree to open our presents (by that time there were 24 of us, because my brother Mark's family came for the day on Monday).

I was a bit bummed because this morning, ES and I saw a blue heron down in the creek and all our guests were gone. At least they were able to see six or seven deer back in the woods on our walk Tuesday morning. Plus, the kids noticed several tracks of coyote and deer.

My biggest anxiety centered on food preparation. I'm not very comfortable in the kitchen, but I wanted to provide adequately for all those invited. We ended up having a very successful spaghetti dinner Sunday evening. Monday, at lunch, two of my sister-in-laws brought in lunch meats and chips for a sandwich buffet (they also bought me a pack of Sharpie pens because I complained that my own Santa is just too practical and failed to get me the requested Sharpie pens because "we already have enough pens").

When the final guests left our house on Tuesday afternoon, we were all feeling happy and worn out. We had a splendid visit. We had a bounty of food to share. The cousins all had a good time playing together (I must say the Magnatiles were the biggest hit - especially since we received another 100 piece set for Christmas, which broadened the horizons of building possibilities). Everyone seemed to love viewing our home and property. I feel deeply blessed, indeed!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sometimes When You Get What You Want, it Doesn't Work Out as Planned

This morning, as I was making my bed, I glanced out the window to see a FedEx truck backing into our driveway. I ran to ES's room and said, "Hey, buddy. I think Christmas just came for you again! There's a FedEx delivery."

It is amazing how expensive Christmas gets when your children hit the pre-teen years. Somehow, their wishes are more extravagent, more definite. ES had only three wishes this year - each of them were big-ticket items. He wanted a set of cymbals, Rock Band 2 (which only came out for Playstation 2 on December 18th) and Guitar Hero World Tour.

Thankfully, his paternal grandparents have always been interested in nurturing any musical interests, so they purchased him a beautiful set of Zildjian cymbals. The cymbals arrived before Christmas and we let him open them early. He has been like a crazy man ever since.

When the cymbals arrived, there was a special catalog tucked in the box offering a $20 discount on any $100 order. Hubby and I decided to spring for a bit more musical equipment and ordered a double-bass drum pedal for him.

What joy to watch his enthusiasm as he opened the box today. My joy gave way to amazement as I watched him figure out on his own (since it came with no instructions) how to put the thing together. I helped him carry the pedal downstairs to his drum set and left him to his revelry.

Unfortunately, amazement soon gave way to discouragement. I wish I knew how to nurture patience and temperance in my sons. Both my ES and MS seem to grow easily frustrated. MS tends to respond with tears and vocalization. ES, on the other hand, tends to pair "flinging" with his vocalization.

Soon, he was upstairs complaining that the thing was "a piece of crap!" I sensed the danger of his possible response and headed back downstairs with him. I tried to encourage him that perhaps he needed some assistance in calibrating the thing. I offered to take the pedal to a local music store and have them look it over to make sure he assembled it correctly. He pointed out his dissatisfaction (the pedal doesn't stay grounded on the floor well - perhaps he needs to put it on carpeting???). Then, he threw the drum key (a tightening device) across the room.

I sent him upstairs - away from the drums. I knew, even as I was praying for patience for him, that patience is only learned through experiences which require patience. He stewed for quite a while. I stewed for quite a while. Then, he came out and apologized for his outburst. I explained that I understood his frustration, but don't appreciate his present reactions to frustrations. I assured him that there was no way in the world that we were going to turn around now and buy him something else. We would have to figure out a way to get the drum pedal working properly. In the meantime, I expected him to avoid the drums and clean his room.

After spending most of my day organizing and straightening, I happily logged on to check my mail. There were quite a few CarePages and Caringbridge updates. In the midst of checking (and hoping to hear more concerning Coleman's recent struggles), I received an e-mail from Renee, telling me to check her blog.

Yay! Christmas came for me today, as well. My number was randomly chosen and I won one of the four recording ornaments. I have asked Renee to send it to Coleman's family and I'm praying that Coleman has enough feisty moments left within him to record a special message for his family this Christmas-time.

Continue to keep Team Larson in your prayers. When Renee wrote back, she informed me that Coleman was Life Flighted to the hospital Christmas Day and has been given 1 or 2 days to live.

I find myself wondering how God decides which kids with cancer survive and which ones join him in heaven. I don't want Coleman to die! I want a miracle. I want something to change for the better so he can walk out of that hospital and live a long full life with his precious family.

But, I know God, too. Sometimes that doesn't happen. Sometimes His will allows a child to succumb to the demon that is cancer. I think of the many people around the world, who are sharing my grief and the fears and intense feelings of all who count themselves one of Team Larson, a team that "Neva Divs Up!"

I want to scream, "Why, God? Why did you allow him to be born only to die? Why did you allow him to be afflicted? Why did you bring each of us to his CarePage to fall in love with these beautiful twin boys, only to feel our hearts break in two?" I don't want to think about the pain and loss Caden and Peggy and Scott are on the threshold of.

My mind keeps hearing the phrase, "Born to Die." Of course, that phrase is meant to describe Christ. We celebrate his birth, knowing full-well that from the outset he was born to die. His birth and death accomplished something miraculous on our behalf. He was born to share in our earthly trials and sufferings and He died to carry the penalty for our sins. How I pray that Coleman's life, however long it is lived, will bring great glory to God. How I pray that God would reach down and give Team Larson the strength to "Neva Div Up." I pray that God would let them know that He understands their pain, having borne the loss of His son, Jesus Christ. I pray that he would bear them along in this journey - carry them when the going gets rough.

Renee is going to try to next day air the recording ornament. I don't know if it will arrive in time or if Coleman will be able to speak even. For now, I celebrate the chance that I was given to walk alongside this family. I am grateful that there is more than just life and death. There is purpose and eternity. Life is precious. Tomorrow I will hug my two little boys again (they have been with Daddy at my in-laws) and will recognize the precious gift of my YS's second birthday. Children are a treasure from the Lord. Hold yours close tonight!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Not much time left for a great give-away

I popped over to Renee Garcia's blog tonight, wanting to look again at her wonderful Christmas surprise (her husband returned home from a 12 month deployment, in time to spend Christmas with the family), and then noticed that I had missed the news of a great giveaway she is hosting (because I read her news on her CarePage and figured it would be the same on her blog).

Head on over to Renee's blog, because she is giving away four special Hallmark ornaments which allow you to record a message. The random drawing will take place on Friday (which is only hours away). You'll also notice other exciting news they have to share. They will be adopting a daughter with Down's Syndrome this year, to add another K to her Special K's - Kellsey!

I'm hoping that I win so that I can send the ornament to Team Larson. They have suffered a bit of a set-back recently. Coleman woke up fine on Christmas Eve, but soon began showing slurred speech and a droopy hand. They rushed him to the ER and discovered another two spots on his brain. I am praying that this is a temporary set-back. It would be wonderful if they could record a Christmas 2008 message from Coleman to have on their tree every year. Please continue to lift Team Larson in your prayers. My heart is grieving for them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I Need Some Elf Slave Labor!

As I logged on briefly to check my important mail (and wait for the last other member of this household to head to bed), I couldn't help but click back over to the NORAD Santa Tracker. We have been watching Santa's progression across the globe all evening. MS decided that Santa wants chocolate milk with his cookies, since that is what Ruby declares on "Max and Ruby's Christmas." He also asked an enlightened question at the beginning of "The Polar Express" this evening. He was watching the scene where the little boy tiptoes down to see if Santa has arrived yet. MS noticed the stockings were hanging empty over a raging fire in the fireplace. He looked up at me and said, "Won't Santa's bottom get burned coming down the chimney?"

I can tell you, Santa's safe at our house. We have three lovely fireplaces in this old home. I don't know if any of them have ever worked. My husband says when the house was built the flues were built incorrectly and don't vent properly, so we can't possibly singe Santa's behind!

What amuses me is that the Santa Tracker informed me that, at 11:45 p.m., Santa had already arrived in Indianapolis, Indiana. Yep, his gifts are under the tree, alright! Darn it all, I still have to wrap more of my gifts for the boys. How come Santa gets elf help and I don't???

Plus, I was actually expecting some elf help that never panned out (this happens to me often). My hubby planned to take the little boys over to Grandma's house on Monday and then leave them with her (with the help of his sister and nieces to watch them) and return home to help me pack, wrap, and clean the house. Alas, on Monday, we were still doubtful that the full ramifications of the flu bug had left the house. We couldn't risk taking anything over to my in-law's house, since my father-in-law is in very poor health.

Thus, I have had little boy help all week, instead of focused individual power-cleaning time. Thankfully, I'm pretty sure that my family is coming to visit US and not coming to evaluate the state of my house. We did decide to stay here for a personal family gift-time in the morning. Then, we will head over to my in-laws for a grand Christmas dinner (something my husband and the boys wouldn't have gotten if we stayed here for the whole of Christmas day - that has never been my forte!).

All I want for Christmas is some elf slave labor! But, knowing me, I'd try to hold them hostage so I could have that kind of help year round! Hope you all managed to get everything under the tree, the meals prepared, the family visited and the house reasonably clean (we don't want Santa to be unable to get to the tree, now do we?). I also hope that the reality of God's love as revealed in the birth of His Son Jesus Christ long ago, born with the express purpose of carrying our sins to the cross on our behalf, warms your heart and soul this Christmas season.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Book Review: Maggie's Miracle

Once again, Karen Kingsbury, has warmed my heart with another inspiring Christmas tale. Maggie's Miracle, is the second in Kingsbury's Red Glove Series. Each of these short tales are suitable for reading as a family.

The book begins with an eight year old boy's letter to God. He is asking God to help his widowed mother, Megan, believe in love again, so he can have a daddy. The characters felt a bit stereotyped. The mother is a busy district attorney, who obviously took time to have a child, yet doesn't have time to give her son. The grandmother is too tired to keep up with the boy (I guess this rubbed me the wrong way, as well, since the grandmother calls him "the boy."). The denouement was a bit too perfect - all the strings were tied up nicely. Still, I enjoyed listening to this Christmas tale. It was a pleasant way to fill the time driving out to get my Christmas shopping done.

If I could have changed the book in any way, I would have made it a bit less neatly packaged. Megan didn't seem to be a likable character until the very end. The boy never once talked back, despite having dealt with many difficult changes in the past two years of his young life. Casey had not a single flaw. I did enjoy the story, but I wished for more redemption and character growth. Still, I doubt all this could have been pulled off within a brief, 12-chapter book.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What's Up With That???

A few nights ago, I headed off to Walmart after the boys were all FINALLY ASLEEP. I must admit, shopping by myself late at night tends to make me dally. I think I was there almost three hours. When I finally made it to the check-out at 1 a.m., the girl who was handling my line (one of only two open at that hour) looked like she was comatose. She took forever ringing up the individuals in front of me.

When she got to my purchases, she mechanically began to scan item after item. Perhaps she wasn't paying attention. Perhaps I merely needed an odd chuckle before bed. I don't know. But, she accidentally dropped one of my broccoli crowns out of the plastic bag onto the metal bagging area.

What happened next made me think "What's up with that?"

The girl looked horrified. At first, I assessed her expression as shock over spilling out a customer's valued purchase. However, then I watched her daintily reach out a finger and thumb, as if picking up the dead carcass of a rat off her station and whisk the broccoli quickly back into the bag.

Next, the girl reached behind the cash register and pulled out a bottle of hand sanitizer and doused her hands. Only after vigorous rubbing, did she resume scanning my further purchases.

The woman behind me in line was standing with a talkative friend. The friend's back was turned to me, so she didn't witness this little episode, but the woman did. When we made eye contact, she said, in the clearest non-verbal communication, "What's up with that chick?"

I have to admit, my mind was whirring. Wouldn't it have made more sense to douse her hands before touching my produce? Is the produce offered at Walmart so foul that it requires the extensive cleansing of the hands after touching it? We are certainly not eating that broccoli raw. I will spray on the Fit! Fruit and Veggie Spray and then I am boiling that roughage!

I tried hard not to chuckle as the woman behind me said to her friend, "Man, you are missin' it all!" The friend didn't understand, but the woman assured her she would explain when they got to the car.

Now, I'm wishing she (or the check-out clerk) would explain it to me! Anyone want to venture a guess about that weird scenario?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Saga Continues

This year has brought the most medical illnesses, Dr. visits, prescriptions filled and lingering health questions that our family has ever experienced. All five of us are on some form of medication. I feel as if I fill a prescription at CVS every other day. In fact, just today, I learned that hubby had contacted his doctor to explain that his new medicine was causing him to be unable to sleep for more than an hour the past three evenings (I didn't even know he had begun taking it). The doctor has given him yet another prescription for me to fill.

ES's stomach ailments continue to perplex us. When he began to experience unusual side effects to the Reglan, I called his GI to explain what we observed (as the prescription notes instructed to do). This doctor suggested we take him to a psychiatrist. Yes, these problems are getting him down, but the issue isn't primarily psychological, it is physical. The doctor called in another prescription for Erythromyacin (which I filled, but hubby refused to start ES on until school lets out tomorrow, because the pills are gigantic and side effects may cause further nausea - wasn't that what we are trying to combat in the first place?!).

In the meantime, with his weight loss continuing and his intense determination to participate in his school's wrestling season, I decided to call the primary physician again and ask for a referral for a second opinion. The first GI was going to wait until the end of January to give another colonoscopy. Another friend has asked the question, "How can the GI rule out Crohn's if he indicates that there is inflammation within the intestines and at the entrance to the stomach? Crohn's, by definition, is inflammation occurring anywhere from the mouth, down through to the anus." I hadn't realized this and since I wasn't at the colonoscopy, I'm not really sure how they "ruled out" Crohn's disease.

Thankfully, our primary physician is also gravely concerned about the extensive weight loss and has referred us to the GI specialists at Riley Children's Hospital (our second specialist there, since we already take YS to see an outstanding pulmonologist at Riley). They have taken down his history and are securing file information from the other doctors who have seen ES and will be letting us know where that places him on their schedule.

In the meantime, we have been battling the flu. Yah-rah! We missed a family portrait session scheduled for last Saturday because YS was ill. I rescheduled for tomorrow evening. Since I rescheduled, MS had a brief episode Monday night, which rendered him unable to attend preschool on Tuesday. I came down with it on Tuesday. Hubby, with his loss of sleep had it last night into this morning. Unbelievably, just before bed, MS threw up again. I'm hoping it is just a last little flare-up (Please Lord, may I not be up all night fulfilling that undesirable parenting role!). Tomorrow morning, I will be calling Olan Mills to cancel (why bother rescheduling when the next few weeks look pretty full already - regardless of which illnesses choose to linger).

All I can say is, literally, our cup runneth over. Somebody grab a towel!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

At Least Our Ill Health Has Some Perks

What a week we had last week. ES missed more school and I finally took him to the doctor on Wednesday afternoon (another new medicine, Reglan, to try to alleviate the nausea caused by his gastritis). Then, Friday morning, hubby had to go to the doctor and he was put on a new prescription (although he was given samples for the time being - whew!). Plus, I had to take YS for a follow-up appintment with the pulmonologist on Friday (no new meds - yah!).

When I returned home, hubby reminded me that ES was almost out of his Prevacid prescription. After all of MoneySavingMom's great 24 hour give-aways, and her CVS tips, I left with the intention of purchasing the medicine, but the niggling thought of trying to also swing a deal. Imagine my joy, when the prescription receipt held another coupon for $5 off a $15 purchase (again it was only good for 3 days).

There was a weekly deal where if you purchase $20 of Hershey's candy, you would receive $10 back in ECBs. MoneySavingMom suggested buying 7 packages of Hershey's Bliss, which were on sale for $3 and using 3 of the Sunday coupons for $2.50 off two bags. However, I don't get 3 Sunday papers, so alas, I only had one lonely $2.50 off coupon. Still, I knew that MS loves to make the easiest toddler assisted candies around. (I line the cookie pan with foil. He puts out rows of pretzels. He removes the wrappers from umpteen Hershey's Kisses and I place them in the middle of the small round pretzels -sometimes I let him help, but often he puts them lopsided, so I adjust them. Then we bake them in a 200 degree oven for two minutes and I plop an M&M candy in the middle of the melting kiss.)

I also snagged a container of Thermaflu Warming Relief, on sale for $5.99, which gave me back $2 in ECBs. I had a rebate coupon to get my $5.99 purchase price back, so if you consider the $2.00 in Thermaflu ECBS as going towards the chocolate, I secured 4 bags of Hershey's Bliss and 4 bags of Hershey's kisses all for the final price of 50 cents (The chocolate total was $20 - minus $10 I got back in ECBs, minus the $5 prescription offer ECBs, minus the $2.50 coupon off the Bliss bags, minus the $2 ECBs earned from the Thermaflu). You can see why this stuff gets addictive!

Granted, I probably didn't NEED 8 bags of chocolate. But, I would have bought the kisses anyway at some point. Plus, we are having some family visit in our home over the holidays, so now I will be able to have lovely little bowls of candy around tempting them! I did chuckle when I got home and realized that I had purchased all 8 bags in dark chocolate - MY favorite. I think I may have to see if they will let me exchange a few of the dark chocolate bags for milk chocolate, in the interests of my guests.

Unfortunately, I wasn't chucklin' for long. As I entered the house, with my triumphant spirit, my son's medicine and my fists full of chocolate, I quickly took in the reality of my life. YS had thrown up at the dinner table. Hubby held him until I was able to clean up (the table, the carpet, the clothes, the tub), then I bathed him and started in on a night of attempting to catch infant vomit. You can be darned sure, though, that during a half hour lull, while he slept, I washed up the evening's dishes and treated myself to a few dark chocolate bites of Hershey's Bliss!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Win a $500 Home Depot Card

Hurry! Don't stop to read my blog thoroughly - I don't have anything exciting to share (apart from some updates on my ES's health, however that will have to wait for tomorrow). Head over here and enter to try to win a $500 Home Depot Gift Card. You have to leave a comment on that blog post before 6 p.m., December 11th. I know I am minimizing my own chances by sending you over there, but wouldn't that be a cool wind-fall for this expensive month of the year? Best of luck to you all. Priceless holiday wishes to you just for visiting my blog, even if you don't win!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Still Faithful and Still Wooing

As soon as the boys were in bed, I headed to Walgreens to get my transferred inhaler prescription for YS (and the $25 gift card they offered). They also will be paying me a buck for buying two of their Scotch three-roll tape (they were on sale, 2 for $2 and when I send in the Walgreens Rebate Club form at the end of the month, they will put $2 back on a gift card, plus I had a $1 off coupon clipped from the paper).

Next, I dashed into CVS and talked with a manager about my purchase Saturday night. Because I arrived before midnight on Saturday, she assured me that I did indeed see a sign offering a second toy at half off. She looked over my receipt and then printed out a $5 ECB to give me the half off that I failed to get on the initial purchase receipt. Score! Does that mean I paid -4.99 for those three items now?

Plus, they continue to lure me into the store with their good deals. I usually purchase my YS's diapers in a large package at Walmart for about $19. However, this week, CVS is offering $5 in ECBs with every $25 purchase of Huggies. This enables me to purchase three of their smaller packs for $10 each and use three Huggies coupons ($3.50 in further savings). Of course, Catherine has already trumped me, big time, on the diaper purchase in this post, where she secured 658 diapers for $3.36! See why she makes me green?

I don't want to get my hopes up too much (given my experience with MS), but my need for diapers may be dwindling soon anyway! YS has begun asking to "pee in the potty" every time we take his diaper off. He is the only one of my boys who seems to prefer sitting during the learning process. Thus, he has also successfully done both while sitting on the potty. I try to leave him "nudey-butt," as we call it, for a portion of each day and he tends to produce on the potty about three times a day for the last week (today he even forgot to ask for the M&Ms I offer him). Wouldn't it be a tremendous blessing if he went to night-time diapers only, by the time he's two? Oh, he's a keeper, and cute-to-boot (which is a British expression for also, I believe - am I right, Sarah?)

Monday, December 8, 2008

How I Was Romanced into a Relationship with CVS

Cardiogirl was blown away by my story of the penny purchase of two toys and a 2-liter of soda. I must admit that, even though every detail is true, it feels like a fish story (where the fish is portrayed as bigger than it really is). Before I come clean and explain exactly how much those items cost me, I want to explain how my love for CVS came about.

About a year ago, I began to enter the blogosphere (previously, I really only read my friend Sarah's blog - you must go there now to view a fantastic You Tube video about getting back to the real meaning of Christmas). First, I met Dawn through her widely famous Pokemon Card-E-bay story. Then, I found a place to search for bloggers by state. I believe that is how I found Catherine's blog (you can check out her Jesse Tree blog as well - a meaningful Christmas tradition). She regularly chronicles her big CVS deals and I am often green with envy.

I had long been a Walgreens monthly rebate player. However, when Catherine began to outline her deals at CVS, I started to salivate. Then, I received a CVS deal via snail mail offering me up to $50 in CVS gift cards with the transfer of up to two prescriptions. I had several prescriptions to refill and usually filled them at Walgreens. I transferred two prescriptions and received the $50 to spend in a CVS in the future.

True CVS players attempt to roll-over their freebies when using the Extra Care Buck system. I spent my initial $25 on items which then gave me back almost $25 in ECBs (I still have one of those $25 cards). The ECBs do expire within a month, so you have to be more diligent than the Walgreens deals (once I receive my Walgreens rebate card I can use it any time, months and years later).

I have an Extra Care Card, which I always provide at the outset of any transactions. Because I took the time to register the card on-line, I also receive on-line offers from time to time. Then there are the occasional deals on the receipts of filled prescriptions.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I had received an e-mail deal offering $5 off a $30 purchase. I had a few ECBs to roll-over and there were bountiful deals offered at that time. I don't remember how much I paid at the check-out, but by getting ECBs back on many items, and using several coupons on toothpaste and candy bars, I managed to get two free Colgate Total toothpastes, 3 free G-2 Gatorade drinks, two free nail polishes, two free lip glosses and two free candy bars. I left the store with a fistful of ECBs on my extra long receipt.

I was a bit worried that I wouldn't manage to use the ECBs before they expired. Then, I received the $5 off $15 purchase coupon on my prescription receipt. I headed to the store intending to buy a large plastic dump truck which YS had been craving the last time he had been in a CVS with me. By purchasing the soda and a container of shampoo (also with coupons), I figured I could get the dump truck for $5.

Alas, I was on a time-constraint with only 15 minutes to shop before my $5 off deal expired. I couldn't find the dump truck anywhere, but did notice a sign, which I thought read, "Buy One toy, get the second one for 50% off." When I noticed a $15 Bump and Go Train which blows real smoke, I knew that it would be a big hit with YS for Christmas. Thinking I was getting the second toy for half off, I selected the $10 Magnet Mania toy (ES already has these and the boys love to play with them - though, they are noisy). I have 14 nieces and nephews to buy for on my side alone (due to the number, we all agreed to keep the gifts around $5).

When the clerk gave me the total - $20, I produced two ECB's worth close to that amount and the difference came to only one penny. So, in reality, I paid $10 for each of those toys. I don't especially want to pay $10 for the magnet toy, but I'm not sure they will give me money back if I try to return it, since I paid with ECBs.

If you are interested in joining this fun game, so that you too can do end zone shuffles after really great steals, you can learn more about it at She offers a tutorial on how to get started and how to secure the best deals (check her sidebar for CVS 101 and CVS - How to Make it Work For You). She also outlines lots of deals which are available in various stores. These days we're going to need all the deals and money-saving tips we can find, and it does feel as good as catching a really BIG fish or scoring that important touch-down for the team!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Never Let the Obstacles Win

What a treat to have been able to watch the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, "Front of the Class" tonight on CBS. As mentioned in a previous post, I made every effort to nail my sons' bodies into their evening coffins. Alas, one of mine, in particular, is a vampire and refused to be nailed in the figurative coffin (and this is almost every night, not just nights when he knows that Mom intends to seclude herself downstairs to watch a movie on our lousy rabbit-ears TV, because the Dish won't allow access to such inspirational fare as CBS sometimes offers). (Int, Cardiogirl! Should I curse the Dish or Comcast?)

From the first ten minutes of the movie, I was already being moved to tears (am mentally seeing the scene which played-out back in high school when I watched West Side Story for the first time, and my sister came up from behind me to gloat over catching me crying). It was a touching, heart-warming, inspiring movie. My husband interrupted my tears to ask me if I would check in on the little boys at the first available commercial, since they were both clamouring for me.

I gave them a quick and hearty scolding. Told the baby to lie back down because I was NOT going to rock him. Answered MS that, "Yes, it is o.k. to get out of bed if you must go to the bathroom, but then you must head back to bed."

Alas, after the first half hour of the movie, I felt little eyes penetrating the back of my head. MS had gone #2. I didn't even want to miss a minute of the movie to go and wipe his sorry behind, so I told him to go wait on the downstairs potty until I could wipe him at the next commercial (now there's a tale that should have been made into a "Not-Me-Monday" post and aired on McMama's blog).

Instead of enforcing my boundaries, I gave in and let my MS stay up and cuddle with me and watch the movie. This required frequent explanations ("Mommy, why are you crying now?"), but I'm hoping one day he will also make a difference in someone's life because he learned early on that sometimes people are different and we shouldn't laugh at those who are different, but rather seek to help them and understand them, and maybe even, learn from them.

I certainly was reminded to never let the obstacles win. We all have them. They come in a myriad of forms, but if we let the obstacles win, then we and others around us, lose out on a lot of blessings and lessons.

If you didn't get a chance to watch the movie, I did notice that you can read the book. And, if you watched the movie, send me a comment (just to know you are out there and might actually be influenced by something I have written) and also go to leave a comment with Brad Cohen about his story. Here is his website.

Now, I'm just hoping that my little vampire doesn't decide to take this lesson to heart. May I not discover that he is determined to never let the obstacles win when it comes to his desire to achieve his dreams of staying up past his bedtime. Dear God, please give him the wisdom to understand that this lesson applies to persevering in positive ways, not ways which will diminish the strength and health of his body (like some women who blog into the wee hours of the morning and then wonder why they can't get their morning tasks accomplished).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Deals at the Stroke of Midnight

Tonight, as I began reading my mail I discovered that today was the last day for a great sale over at Vision Forum. Remembering my love of the three-man sling-shot, which we purchased last year for our nephews, I decided to check it out. How thrilling to discover that the three-man sling-shot and a few other items were on sale for 50% off, plus they offered a flat rate of $5 for shipping through December 5th. Now there will be more nephews loving the three-man sling-shot!

As I finished placing my order, I seemed to recall that earlier in the week, when I had filled a prescription at CVS, my receipt offered $5 off a $15 purchase within the next three days. I dug out the receipt. At this point, it was 11:35 p.m. and I noticed that the offer expired December 5th.

Here is what I managed to snag:

I paid one penny, thanks to those Extra Care Bucks I earned on their Thanksgiving deals! Ya just gotta love CVS!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Making a Difference

I guess this is the month for inspiring, heart-warming tales. After a frustrating evening with my own 12 year old, I'd much rather focus on something positive and encouraging. So tonight, I am making mental plans to reserve Sunday night (note to self: this means getting the kids to bed before 9 p.m., before 10 p.m., even before 10:30 p.m. ... unlike TONIGHT!).

At 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Central time) on Sunday, December 7th, CBS will air a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie called, "Front of the Class." It is, apparently, the story of Brad Cohen, a young man with Tourette Syndrome who dreamed of becoming a teacher. He was turned down by 24 schools before one school finally gave him a chance. I was able to watch four brief interview questions with Brad Cohen (here), where he encourages other teachers to determine to be the teacher who makes a difference in a young child's life.

My first thought was of how I probably failed just such a student as Brad Cohen. Although my passion was to become an English teacher, after only one year teaching English, I found myself teaching a Basic Life Skills class with special ed. students. It ended up being a really great job, one which I will always look back on with fond memories. It was also a perfect fit because the class only met for two hours and I was able to have the best of both worlds. I was still in a classroom, working with students, yet I was fully a stay-at-home mother (only missing my infant's nap time).

My students were challenging for a variety of reasons. They came with plenty of baggage and different learning disabilities. They made me laugh and they gave me loads of pleasant memories and stories, but they also tested my patience and stretched me. One student had Tourette Syndrome.

Looking back, I doubt I was the supportive "make-a-difference" teacher that a student with Tourette's would need. I can remember feeling frustrated with his tics and outbursts. It disrupted my class. I didn't want my classroom disrupted. I'm not saying I was unsympathetic. I probably was, but I do remember many times feeling drained dealing with this particular student.

But, after dwelling on a situation where I may not have been the "make-a-difference" teacher, I realized that there were other occasions where I certainly played that role. In fact, it made me think of a student I still remember with great fondness, Mike P.

Mike P. was not the student I was assigned to work with, when I worked as an individual assistant at my son's elementary school. However, he sat right next to my student and on the very first day of class in that third grade classroom, I noticed how quiet and withdrawn he was. I soon learned that he had recently lost a younger sibling.

One of the perks of my aide position was that I always had ample opportunities to talk books with the students. I love books and I love to talk about books. Ms. McKee, the fabulous teacher who guided our days, shared my passion for books.

One day, early in the year, we sat in our island of four desks (myself in a chair next to Jenny, the student I assisted), discussing books. I mentioned that I had tried the popular book, A Series of Unfortunate Events , but that I didn't really like the book. I outlined my grievances. I didn't like the way the author stops continually to give definitions of words. I didn't like the baby talk of the youngest sibling. I didn't like the formulaic feel of the book.

Amazingly, Mike spoke up. He said that he would probably like that book if I would read it to him. Mike was a quiet kid. He wouldn't come out and say that he couldn't read the book himself, yet he was willing to venture that he would enjoy hearing the book. I decided to take him up on this little challenge. I sought the permission of Ms. McKee, who thought it a tremendous idea, and we began leaving the classroom for ten or fifteen minutes (I think it was during the D.E.A.R. time, Drop Everything And Read, immediately after lunch) to sit in the library and read A Series of Unfortunate Events, beginning with book one, The Bad Beginning.

Over the course of three years, we read through ten of the books. During his fourth and fifth grade years, we read after school and then I drove him home. If we had remained in DeKalb, and Mike had continued to be willing, I would have read the entire series. In fact, to this day, I continue to collect the series for him. Just this morning, I saw another copy of book two in a thrift store and thought of Mike. I'm pretty sure I've already given him that one (if not, it is waiting on the shelf with the others).

I sincerely hope that I was able to make a difference in his life. I was deeply fond of him. I appreciated the opportunity he gave to me (you all know that my own ES would not have allowed me to read this series to him). I watched him make great strides as a student and as an individual over the years. It wasn't always pleasant. He often held me at arm's length, if he thought I had treated him unfairly in the classroom (remember, I functioned as a co-teacher in many of his classrooms). But, he always came around again and sought those story times.

Of course, I hope that I can make a significant difference in my own son's life as well, as his parent. Tonight, was a rough patch for us. Indeed, tonight it was ES holding me at arm's length, unwilling to let me in on what was really bothering him. And other issues led to raised voices and disagreement. Sometimes, it is a lot easier to look at situations where I was able to make a difference in a student's life than to look at situations in my own home where I might be failing to make the difference I long for in my own son's life. Thankfully, I know that we're looking at the short-term right now. Maybe the long-term will bear out my efforts on his behalf.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More Siblings Ya Gotta See

I spent all my time tonight catching up on blogs (I'm so behind and there are so many fantastic bloggers out there). But, I did want to pass on a link to another beautiful story of some siblings meeting for the first time. Renee at Life with my Special Ks linked to a lovely woman named Bethany. Bethany and her husband have two biological children (one with Down's Syndrome). They recently brought home a newly adopted daughter (with Down's Syndrome) and are sharing their journey. What a beautiful story!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Siblings Meet

Two heartwarming tales. I spotted this Chicago Tribune story about two octogenarians who only recently discovered that they were brothers, both lawyers and live six blocks apart. The article's author described it as Dickensian. How appropriate for this season!

Then, I popped over to Boothe Farley's blog since they were expecting a third daughter around Thanksgiving. Their news is fantastic. They welcomed a beautiful baby girl, with another unique name (explained in her post) and have found some comfort to assuage the loss of Copeland (who was born with Trisomy-18 and died shortly after birth).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Huge Sigh of Relief

A month ago, I received a summons to appear for jury duty on December 2nd. This has been hanging on my neck, dragging me down for quite some time. I wasn't sure exactly how this was going to work out. I have no sitter. My littlest guy would have a really hard time being left with a stranger (as hard a time as I would have leaving them with a stranger). The director of Parent's Day Out did offer to allow them to come extra days, but that would only provide morning supervision.

At first, my mother-in-law planned to come for the first day of the jury selection. Then, she wasn't able to come until Wednesday afternoon. My husband spoke with his employer and managed to switch his normal day off (Monday) to Tuesday this week, so that he would be home with them for at least the first day, until we learned if I would be selected for the jury.

Next, we realized that my ES was scheduled for a follow-up appointment regarding his stomach issues this morning at 8 a.m. This meant that I would have to drive all three boys to the appointment. A mother of one of ES's friends did offer to keep them this morning, but that would again mean leaving them with a stranger. Finally, my husband called his supervisor and asked if he could come in late this morning. Thankfully, she agreed.

I was thrilled my husband took ES, since the roads were snowy and quite slick this morning. In fact, last night ES heard sirens racing by our house and he looked out his window to see a burst of flames down the road. We don't know all of the details yet, but think that a car slid off the road, hit a telephone pole and exploded. At first, ES thought it was cool, to see a car on fire out his window. Then, it began to dawn on him that someone may have died in this accident. The thought that it could be one of his friends really hit him. I think he had a hard time falling asleep last night.

The nurse-practitioner who checked on ES this morning said that the biopsy results came back negative for a lot of things: celiac, lactose intolerance, even H. Pylori. However, this doesn't mean that he doesn't have H. Pylori, because it could have been that the particular spot which was biopsied merely didn't have bacteria located there. At this point, his official diagnosis is chronic gastritis and esophagealitis. He is to continue with the Prevacid and eating more frequent small meals (thankfully, he has put on almost 4 pounds) and check back again in two months. Since he continues to experience headaches and have stomach upsets in the mornings, this conflict seems still unresolved.

Thankfully, the court issue has resolved. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, several people had re-assured us that all I needed to do was call the court and explain our situation and I would probably be relieved from the jury duty. My husband's sister had been excused twice when she was home with their twins. So, first thing this morning, I called the court.

Unfortunately, I was told that I would not be excused. However, they were waiting to hear if the case would actually go to court. The woman agreed to give me a call to let me know if the case went to court.

I now feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. She called moments ago to say that the case was settled out of court and I will NOT need to appear tomorrow morning. Of course, when I called to break the good news to hubby, he did say that his employers were willing to let him off to care for the boys, if need be.

Although he might have been allowed to stay home with them, would he really have been ABLE to stay home with them?? We already find that weekends get quite stressful. Their constant demands and endless messes tend to get on his nerves. He admits he's often glad to get back to work. Thankfully, we won't have to test his limits this time around. Whew!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Book Review: The Christmas Child

As we headed out the door for our drive to my in-laws' house for Thanksgiving, I scanned my shelves for a quick, pleasant read. At first, I was tempted to bring Maigret's Christmas, a collection of short stories in the mystery genre (a book I won in a library contest). However, I knew I wanted an absorbing read (in case I needed to block out the noise from my boys in the van), so I slid it back onto the shelf and grabbed another little Christmas book which I had picked up at the thrift store. The book was appealing because of the glossy photo on the front cover. It looks like a coffee table book: one I would proudly display ... if only I had a coffee table.

This book, The Christmas Child, by Max Lucado, is apparently a repackaged version of an earlier story called "The Christmas Cross." Apparently, it was such a big hit that it was turned into a movie (which I noticed is available at for only $5.99). The book I purchased bears photos from the movie and the text was large enough for me to read without reading glasses (fortunate, since I haven't managed to pick up a pair yet). It would make a lovely gift book.

Jack is a reporter from Chicago whose marriage is faltering. His wife requests some space, so he adds extra time onto a trip for work and heads to a small town in Texas to visit a church there. His father had received a black and white photo of the church in the mail mysteriously and Jack intends to investigate. What he finds is an inspiring tale of loss and redemption (you know me, I'm a sucker for redemption stories!). This was a beautiful, easy read. I might just have to rent the movie, if my husband and I can finagle a date night sometime this month. I'm guessing the book was a condensed version of the movie. I could use a good heart-warming tale these days!

Of course, if you are looking for quick, heart-warming Christmas tales, I must also recommend Karen Kingsbury's Red Gloves books. Each of these books follows a Christmas theme and have only 12 short chapters. At her site, they even recommend reading one chapter aloud over the 12 days of Christmas (an interesting idea I might just attempt in a few years when the little ones would be old enough to stick with the story). I've only read two of the four books, but my favorite so far is Gideon's Gift.

When I read Gideon's Gift, I was working at ES's elementary school and would often read during my 15 minute breaks. I sat in the school library crying as I read this book on the couch and the librarian just had to know what I was reading. I hope she went on to read the book, too. Leave a comment if have any other quick, inspiring Christmas reads to recommend.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Book Review: Never Let Me Go

I wish I had the energy to write a better review for this book. Alas, I have been totally drained the last two days. I spent most of Sunday in bed, sleeping. Tonight, logged on to read my mail and write this brief review, but did note that Coleman Larson needs further prayers. He is now unable to walk on his own. Thankfully, they are home and will enjoy a Thanksgiving with family.

On to the book - Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro, was quite interesting to listen to. Despite the Asian sounding name, Ishiguro is British and does a remarkable job of painting life (and speculative life) in England. The book tells the story from the perspective of Kathy H., a student who grew up at Hailsham school. At the outset, Kathy explains that she has spent most of her time recently being a "carer" for many "donors." But, then she begins to outline her background a bit more and you come to understand more and more of the nature of the boarding school where she was raised. Without giving away too much of the book, Ishiguro does a splendid job of drawing interesting characters and intertwining them in an ever-unfolding story with suspense and intrigue. The premise is one which could set you thinking anyway, since it opens up a few ethical worm-cans.

It is definitely a good read and if you want a great British tale to listen to, do check out the audio version. It reminded me a bit of an adult version of a story like Lois Lowery's The Giver. My only criticism, is that the entire story could have been achieved just as well without any of the discussions or allusions to sexual situations. Still, a very good read.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Apparently He Supports the Death Penalty

Today was a full day. I know that I mentioned last month that my reading might taper off because I was in love with my niece's song. However, I have to confess that my reading was also affected by that blasted thief, the aging process.

I had an eye exam this morning. Lately, my eyes hurt when I try to read. I can no longer read the expiration date on coupons (and my husband, who wears glasses, laughs at this one). Things begin to blur. Of course, I had visions of coke-bottle glasses and yet another tally mark on the list of things sabotaging my self-image (other items on the list include a mid-section ruined by two c-sections in my 40's, graying hair that refuses to be pulled into the stylist's highlighting cap holes, and, of course, the ubiquitous toe-nail tragedy). It didn't help that my ES said "Neeee - you have to get glasses!" when he heard I was going in for an exam.

Now, I am breathing a sigh of relief for two reasons. First, the fuzzy sensation from the eye dilation wore off before I had to drive my MS to a birthday party. Second, the optometrist said my eyes looked very "young" and "healthy." I don't have to purchase prescription glasses (without insurance coverage). Instead, I can select a cheapo pair of reading glasses (a plus one was suggested - and if you don't know what I'm talking about, then you are obviously not over 40!). Knowing my track record with sunglasses, I'm guessing Santa just might bring me an extra pair in my stocking!

I insisted on an afternoon nap for MS (in fact, maybe he'll have a nap every day for the rest of the week, thanks to Wednesday's escapade). From the moment he woke, he was ablaze with enthusiasm for his first official birthday party invitation. The birthday boy is in his class at pre-school and the party was held at a Chuck E. Cheese's two towns away.

He and I both had a wonderful time. He received a cup with 20 tokens and managed to snag enough tickets to select two snakes, three frogs, a dinosaur, and a multi-colored pen. The birthday boy loved his Diego game (at first when I petitioned MS to ask the birthday boy what he wanted, MS kept telling me "All Joe wants is a birthday cake. Could you make him a birthday cake?" - finally, he came up with "Joe likes Diego"). I had wonderful, easy conversation with another preschool mother (this woman is amazing - she has 3 daughters, ages 7, 4 and 2 - and is attending law school ... in Michigan ... every weekend ... for the past 3 years - and I can't keep my house clean????).

During the drive home, I was explaining to MS that I am hoping to get the house cleaned and the Christmas decorations up this weekend. We had been planning on putting them up after Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I was called for jury duty beginning December 2nd. Thankfully, my sister-in-law, who is a nurse, had already planned on staying an extra week at my in-laws. For now, the plan is for my mother-in-law to head over to Indiana on December 1st to watch the kids Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. (There is literally no way she could come without someone to care for my father-in-law). Hubby will be off Friday and Monday. At the one week point, if I am selected for the jury and the case is still in session, I am "up a creek without a paddle," or at least without a babysitter in the canoe.

Of course, the little guy didn't understand what a jury is and why Mom might have to spend her days in court. Thus began another teachable moment. I explained that sometimes people do things that are bad, like punching other people or stealing things, and the police have to arrest them. Then, they go to court and the judge and jury decide whether the person did the bad thing and should be sent to jail or not.

At first, he was very concerned. He said, "Mom, I don't want you to have to go to jail."

I could have replied, "Mom will only have to go to jail if I leave you home alone while I go to fulfill my civic duty." Instead, I sweetly answered, "No, buddy! Mom hasn't done anything bad. I have to help decide if the accused person has done something bad and then say if I think he should go to jail or pay a fine or something."

Then, he came up with this all on his own (although, I do know that the preschool recently visited the police department - hmmm??):

"Sometimes bad guys steal someone's house. I think if a bad guy steals someone's house, the police should put those handcuffs on him and then put him in a tank of water until he has no breath in him and then he will die."

Good thing he doesn't have to worry about jury duty yet! He's not too cut up about the Christmas decorations going up early either. He said he wants to push the button and make the Grinch's heart light up on that Grinch Christmas ornament we have! The only way I see the Grinch's heart lighting up these days, is if they fail to select me for the jury and send me home to my excessively needy children.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Lost ... My Mind!

I really can't complain about my morning routine. My husband rises at 5 a.m. every day. Being the wonderful, loving husband that he is (and knowing that I come to bed around 1 - he catches me every. single. time - groan), he usually gets my ES up and out the door to catch his 7:30 a.m. bus each morning. This allows me to sleep until YS or MS wake me.

Thanks to the little bug he has been fighting, and the meds he is now taking, ES often feels ill in the morning or needs to use the restroom just when the bus is about to arrive. Such was the case this morning. At 7:40, my hubby gently woke me and explained that I would have to take ES to school because nature called at an inopportune time.

This was a good thing, really. By the time I returned home, I was wide awake and didn't spend my normal half hour trying to rouse myself from the couch. I was even feeling quite productive ... this morning. So productive, I decided to take the boys to the library (they've been begging for the Max and Ruby video - even YS, who says those names with such enunciation).

As I bent down to put on YS's coat, I had to coax him into letting go of sleepy bear in order to get his arms in the sleeves. From the moment we got in the car, it seemed like mayhem descended. YS didn't want to listen to the Cam Jensen book, while MS was adamant that it stay on. As we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a mom who had recently walked the trail with us at the park. MS seemed eager to greet her son, so I hurried to get them out.

I think he was really excited to be with a "friend." Can I blame him? His already loud voice went up about 15 decibels, despite constant shushing. He ran right out of his shoes on his way to the junior department. He wanted to show Tyler how fast he could run. He headed with Tyler to the Halloween videos (surprise, surprise) and I went off to find Max and Ruby.

It seemed like every minute that went by, their behavior deteriorated another notch. MS was monopolizing the large stuffed puppy back in the board book area. YS was throwing Lego's. MS then walked up to a girl and grabbed a book out of her hand. I began to sense those furtive, yet-not-so-furtive looks from other mothers. You know those looks. The, "my, here come the rabble-rousers" looks!

After a time out on the couch for jerking an Elmo doll away from his brother, MS crossed the line by crawling right behind the head of another mother who was seated on the climbing shelves reading to her daughter. I had to whisk on coats, grab our two items (I don't think we've ever managed to leave a library with only two paltry items!), and head for the self-check-out machine. Thankfully, MS loves to check out and didn't cause any further furtive (or not) looks.

We arrived home, ate lunch and prepared for afternoon quiet time. Thus began our daily activity of searching for sleepy bear so YS can nap. The last thing I remembered was wrenching it from his hands to put on the coat. I couldn't remember if we had it at the library or not. I couldn't remember if YS had it when I took him out of the car seat. I do know we didn't take it home from the library, because I distinctly remembered every moment of the whisking on the coats, hanging heads in shame exit.

After thoroughly scouring the entire house, I had to put YS down without sleepy bear. He whimpered, but did fall asleep. MS was supposed to be having quiet reading time in his room. He asked if he could come out to help me look for sleepy bear. I looked and looked. I checked every crazy place the thing has ever shown up before (mixed in the costume boxes, inside the cardboard play house, in my husband's closet, under our bed, etc. ad nauseam). I checked the van and the garage.

(Warning: Lengthy side-note!) I have always loved reading Dawn's blog and hearing of the many food discoveries that go on at her house. Up until this point, I have chuckled over these tales. Then, I looked under the curio cabinet in the spare bedroom (which leads to the garage - this is where coats are usually put on). I noticed this box and pulled it out. What?!

I remembered buying it last week. I don't remember putting it away. Lovely, what was inside, eh? Good thing I found that. But, where, oh where, was sleepy bear?

I began to really feel frantic. I called the library to see if anyone had turned it in. No such luck. I called my husband and my mother-in-law to ask them to pray for sleepy bear's safe return. MS happily talked with his grandmother.

When ES arrived home, I left him in charge of MS and sleeping YS and drove back to the library to see if it had been dropped in the parking lot. Still no bear. I began the search all over again, MS trailing behind me.

As I entered the spare bedroom, I decided to look behind the bed (I had already looked under it, but who knows). Next, I lifted the comforter and, there, stuffed between the two pillows, was sleepy bear. Suddenly I hear a quiet, "I thought you would never find it!"

I turned to face MS. "Are you saying that you put sleepy bear there?"

"Yeah. I didn't think you were gonna find it."

I burst out, "You are in your room, in quiet time, until dinner. In fact, probably AFTER dinner, too!"

Two and a half hours of my afternoon wasted. Fretful emotions roused. Unnecessary prayers invoked. MS's quiet time interrupted (ah, this was the goal all along). Sleepy bear FOUND. Now, I'm signing off and heading to bed. Maybe I'll even make it before one. Then again, I still have to straighten the upstairs, load the dishwasher, and brush my teeth. Darn it all, late again! It's no wonder I've lost my mind.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Christmas in November

As a kid, the worst thing that could happen on a Christmas morning would be to open up presents of clothing. I can remember a few such Christmases, when my sister and I received matching knit vests or matching glove, hat and scarf sets or sweaters from my grandmother. If the disappointment of the discovery of clothing instead of toys wasn't bad enough, we also often ended up swapping because she liked the color I received and I liked hers better.

Now, I know that my MS would be heartbroken if every present he opened ended up being clothes. However, I am pretty sure if his grandmother bought him clothes in his favorite themes (or better yet, costume pajamas), he would jump for joy. This is just a personality quirk of my middle son.

Today, my husband decided to bring down the bins of clothes we have in storage in the attic. I have been searching for boots to fit the little boys. I know I will have to purchase a pair for ES. He went the whole of last winter wearing MY boots every time he went out the door to snowboard or sled. He had boots, but always complained that his Velcro came loose. Thankfully mine were a basic zip-up black and not too feminine.

Perhaps climbing that ladder and entering the distasteful environment of the attic is a complete pain. Something prompted my husband to make the decision that, from now on, all the clothing storage bins will be stored in the basement. He did give valid reasons: the changes in temperature from extreme heat to extreme cold and the presence of mice. I'm still thinking it was more of a hassle-induced decision.

You would have thought it was Christmas. My husband opened one of the bins and found a train t-shirt lying on the top. He brought it triumphantly in to present it to YS, even though it is probably a tad bit too big still. YS was thrilled and MS decided he had to investigate.

Within minutes he was pulling the lids off of boxes and experiencing a high akin to Christmas morning. Oh, the bounty! He found a power ranger pajama set with an accompanying cape, power ranger and Yu-Gi-Oh shirts, and Scooby-Doo underwear. He was even thrilled with a pair of dalmatian slippers.

My MS loves clothes! He loves changing clothes. Unfortunately, he doesn't love folding them or putting them away (nor is he very good at it, even when he tries). I'm seriously contemplating getting him three or four crates and merely letting him toss all of his shirts, pants, and sweats into the appropriate bins. Then he can dig through to find that elusive shirt he wants (oh, the number of times I have scoured through his drawers looking for "the Spiderman shirt that is kind of sparkly and has the Hulk on it" or something like that).

My husband brought down about 12 or 13 Rubbermaid boxes (everything boy from sizes 5 - 12). He did mention that there were two boxes up there marked "girl clothes." I suppose it is finally safe to get rid of those clothes now (wink). Hubby said he would happily lug them down next time I'm heading towards the town where there is a Crisis Pregnancy Center. I'm sure he would tell me to convey to grandma that our boys don't need ANY clothes! It may take me clear until Christmas to reorganize the boys' clothes and figure out where to store these in the basement. At least, in the meantime, I have some very happy little boys.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Looking Back

Is it wrong to admit that sometimes I find myself longing for the good old days when it was just my hubby, myself and our one son. Originally, I had wanted five children. These days, I think I would be dead if we had five children. I know plenty of other people who do fine with those larger numbers. In fact, I'm blown away by how many other people do fine with those larger numbers. It can make a mother think, "what's wrong with me? why can't I handle the demands of three children, for goodness sakes?!"

Then, I find myself wondering if my PARTICULAR children present more demands than the average kids. Do other children find quiet things to occupy their time and remain contentedly focused on what they are doing? I can remember my parents taking us to work (they were Salvation Army officers and we spent a large portion of our days at the church building). They would pull out a small mattress for the floor and we would lie on our bellies with a large plastic bin of crayons in the middle and a stack of coloring books. We colored for hours on end. We listened to records with stories. We played games with one another. I don't remember hounding my own parents every two minutes to come and see what I had drawn or come and set up a different game or come and watch me play a song on Guitar Hero or come and rescue me from my brother.

Then again, probably the problem lies within. Is it my age? Am I just too old for this gig? My husband has a theory (and one I'm none too happy to admit, because I can see it rings of truth) that I would find things to be unhappy about no matter how many children I had. Perhaps that is what sets these other mothers apart. Those mothers whose faces glow with love and enthusiasm for their broods of small children. Those mothers who admit to being a bit out of sorts when their youngest one is no longer a baby.

Today was one of those days where I was wishing for a less complicated, less chaotic home. From the moment the boys awoke, it seemed my name was being yelled from every direction of the house. I literally think my MS managed to say "Mom" over a thousand times today.

My ES was gone for the morning, and I kept hoping to find a brief window of time where I could get the little boys busy with something and manage to slip into the shower for ten minutes. Finally, when I picked up ES at noon, I explained that when we arrived home he was not playing Guitar Hero (Rock Band is out, since his foot pedal broke in half last weekend), he was not going on the computer, he was not even cleaning his room (that would have been first on my hubby's agenda for him). He would be taking the little boys downstairs to play in the play room (I had already straightened the upstairs rooms three or four times only to discover them pulling whole buckets of toys out - just for the pleasure of seeing everything on the floor, I think) while I took a shower!

At least when my husband returned home from his half day of work, I was clean and presentable. However, it didn't take long for more damage to be assessed. Apparently, YS pulled a whole shelf of books off the bookshelf downstairs (these are MY books, not children's books). Plus, someone (????) toppled a small pile on my desk, knocking off a double frame with my twin nieces' pictures. The glass in the frames shattered. The little boys were ushered upstairs.

These photos of the play room show that one end is theirs and the other end is, supposedly, mine. Ha!

After a nice nap for YS and myself, I went down to clean up the mess. I keep my books - at least my fiction - in alphabetical order (see, I'm not a complete messy!), so I began to put them in order on the shelf. As I did so, I was noting several books which I had started but never finished. One was a book that has recently been buzzed about because a movie was made (The Secret Life of Bees). Another was Stones from the River. I opened this one to find a makeshift bookmark (another messy habit).

It was a stapled set of Amtrak ticket stubs from a trip I had taken with my ES in June of 2000. He was four and still loved trains. We decided to take an Amtrak train from Naperville, Illinois out to Kansas City, Missouri to visit my parents. What fun we had taking that train. During our visit, we visited another train somewhere nearby, and the conductor even let my son go up into the engine and pretend to drive it. It was no effort at all to pour all of my energies into seeking out adventures according to his interests. He, and his favorite things, had my undivided attention. I seem to recall having much more energy then, too.

Well, something tells me I better end this nostalgic look back to the days of our family of three. They are all quiet right now, sleeping soundly. This is my favorite time of the evening. But perhaps I love it a little too much. Perhaps I wouldn't be wishing for the simpler times of a family of three, if I would put myself in bed the minute they go to sleep. Perhaps the problem isn't the kids and isn't me. Perhaps, I just need to give up this whole blogging experiment. There is a strong likelihood I would have enjoyed my family of five a bit more if I had gone to bed before 2 a.m. this morning. Then, rising at 8 to meet their demands might not have seemed so overwhelming.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Would You Do?

So many times in parenting, an unexpected situation arises where I don't really know quite how I wish to respond. I'm sure there are quite a few possible responses and probably more than one of the possible responses would even be considered a good response. None of us parent exactly like another person, but it is interesting to consider how someone else might have responded.

On Saturday night, my ES was invited to a birthday party at a roller skating rink a few towns over. I always appreciate when we can car pool in these situations, and don't really mind the late night pick-ups, since I am usually up until midnight or 1 a.m. So, I headed over to pick up my son and his two friends.

As they entered the car, they were boisterous and jovial. They began to regale me with tales of their big wins in the arcade and some pestering of the authorities for the "insane" ruling against hats out on the rink. I had chuckled when I noticed a piece of paper lying on the table near their gear. It said "Hats are podiness" or something like that. They translated. The writer had been trying to spell poisonous. (I promise there was no alcohol involved at this middle school party!)

One of the boys began to call home on his cell phone. He tried several times and when no one picked up he began to get really crazy with his messages. He would say things like "I know you can hear me. Pick up. I'm just going to sing the Canadian national anthem until you pick up." I was surprised he actually knew the words (this song, by the way, used to be in our church hymnal at the back and it always made us kids laugh when my older brothers would request it during the hymn request time on Sunday nights).

In an aha! moment, he realized that he should call his sister's cell because she is always up. She did indeed answer and he begged her to go get the mother so he could ask if the other friend could spend the night (we haven't been allowing ES many overnights because of his illness). As he waited for the mother to come to the phone, he was explaining to the other boys that if he asks his mother to have someone spend the night during the day she always says "no," but by 11 p.m., she usually is so tired she just says yes.

Apparently, she did the uncharacteristic. She stuck to her guns. Her answer was no and you could hear the tone of the conversation begin to turn ugly. What surprised me was how ugly it turned. The boy didn't curse his mother or anything, but I would say that his response was disrespectful (especially given the fact that the rest of us were hostage listeners to this conversation). He felt that she was being unfair, since his sister had just had a sleepover. I guess what really got to me was that this boy accused his parents of denying his request because they wanted to safeguard their daughters. After angrily hanging up on his mother, the boys began to discuss the mother and "injustice."

Of course, I was reeling over a completely different injustice. Now, I understand that pre-adolescent minds are highly egocentric. I understand that boys will vent when they are frustrated. What I found myself confused about was what my response should be.

I really wanted to say something, but didn't feel comfortable. In the end, the minute I was alone in the van with my ES, I said, "If you ever speak to me on the phone in the manner that ***** just did, you will regret it for a good long time. I would have never expected such disrespect to come from *******. She is his mother and whether he agrees with her decision or not, he should treat her with respect."

When I mentioned the uncomfortable incident to my husband, he said I should have asked for the conversation to stop. As soon as I heard him give his take, my mind went off on a Becky Bloomwood tangent and I imagined myself bringing the car to a stop and asking the child to stand outside of the car if he wished to continue his conversation. Even now, when I think about it, I don't know what I should have done.

So, I ask - what would you do in a similar situation? Have you been in a similar situation?

And, since I'm begging for feedback, I'll add another scenario. ES has missed most of this week of school. He missed last Friday because of the colonoscopy. He missed Monday because he awoke with a headache and intense nausea (we wondered if, in his weakened state, he had picked up the flu Saturday night). On Tuesday, he awoke with a severe headache, but I took him to school at 11 when it cleared up. On Wednesday morning, he threw up.

I was really anxious for him to go back to school today, because I'm sick of having him home pestering the little boys and today is my one free day he is missing too much school and especially because he would miss a field trip today. It wasn't just any field trip. It was a field trip to see Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol in Indianapolis, followed by lunch at Acupulco Joe's restaurant. It was a field trip I already paid $15 for him to attend.

I argued with him for quite a while this morning, while trying to get the little boys dressed and off to school (I didn't even manage to give them breakfast). I tried to remind him that he would probably feel better and even if he didn't, couldn't he bear the pain in order to take advantage of this cool opportunity. (O.K., once again, I did a bit of Becky Bloomwood rambling - imagining myself driving to the theater after dropping off my little boys at preschool, to see if I could use my son's ticket and see the play with his class - oooh, maybe I should have threatened this! The humiliation of that could certainly get a 7th grader up and moving.)

Thing is, his father and I had already discussed this possibility (since he's been sick like this and the infection seems to be getting worse). We understand his anxiety and concern that he might get on the bus and then feel sick and have no escape. We understand that he feels really horrible in the morning (this is characteristic of H. Pylori infections).

Would you have forced him to go anyway? We had agreed not to force him. I didn't take our parental decision very well, though. I grumbled quite a bit today (bad mommy) over his missing the play, over his rousing in the afternoons, over his accumulating absences. ES spent most of the day apologizing. Of course, then I had to tell him the apology was unnecessary, since he couldn't help being sick and I know he did want to go (maybe not as much as I wanted to go, but he did want to go with his friends on a field trip).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another Painless Way to Help

Two Coleman posts in a row. Just consider Coleman and Caden part of the "Boys" in my blog name!

Michelle Brownlow has come up with an interesting idea for possibly securing more money to fight against childhood cancer. Her heart has also been aching for Team Larson and her idea offers up another painless way to help. If you go to her post, you can link to the John Deere comment page. She is asking her readers to petition the John Deere company to make a donation to in honor of Coleman Larson. The Larson twins love John Deere. In my comments to the company, I mentioned that every time I see the John Deere logo I think of and pray for Coleman. I also added that I think the twins would make fabulous spokesmen in a commercial.

Anyway, you can easily join this grass-roots effort and send a quick comment to John Deere, asking them to make a donation.

If you are interested in spending money while supporting Childhood Cancer Research, check out Michelle's other site, Its for the Kids, where she takes orders for hand-made namesakes. I purchased one for my niece Amelia (a leukemia survivor) and it was adorable, see? Christmas is coming ... why not give a gift that gives back?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Carry Coleman in Prayer

Due to my sinus infection, I haven't snagged as much time on the computer lately. On the same day that my ES had his endoscopy/colonoscopy, and we received the good news that he doesn't have Crohn's, Coleman Larson underwent an MRI and they received the difficult news (with these precious twin four year old boys right in the room) that Coleman's cancer has spread. Both chemotherapy and the 3f8 treatments they were hoping to try, are no longer options. He is also displaying tremors and slurred speech. Today was quite an exhausting day for them, with more tests to try to determine the source of the tremors.

As Peggy put it:

"So a recap- Cman's finger poke,one catscan, one port access, one infusion, one E.E.G., one omaya access, one bouncy brother trying his best to sit still and be supportive and entertaining for an almost ten hour day. TWO exhausted parents."

My heart is aching for this precious family. I cannot do anything to ease their anxiety, but I can pray and encourage everyone I know to lift them up in prayer. Please remember Caden, Coleman's twin brother, as well. He is watching this whole thing unfold and is extremely concerned about his brother.

As for our good news, we haven't been able to take any action on it yet. ES came to us in the middle of the night to say he felt really ill. We kept him home from school today and had to cancel an orthodontic appointment (it was a tightening, so we temporarily held off that pain).

With his nausea, we didn't feel good about starting the two week triple therapy (consisting of two strong antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor). Plus, I have been trying to reach the doctor with questions about scheduling these medicines. It gets a bit complicated when the Prevacid is supposed to be taken on an empty stomach, and one of the antibiotics isn't supposed to be taken within six hours of an antacid or with calcium or any vitamin supplements. We are trying to determine a schedule for his meds, his vitamin and his probiotic.

Of course, our primary prayer for ES is that this doesn't prove to be an antibiotic resistant strain of H. Pylori. We are hoping that the two week course of heavy meds will eliminate the bacterial infection, allowing him enough time to strengthen his body for the coming wrestling season.

We have been extremely grateful for the prayers of family, friends back in DeKalb and those who stay connected with us through the internet. If we have been encouraged by the relatively small number of people praying for ES, think how encouraging the numerous prayers for Coleman help to strengthen and support his family. Take a moment to watch this video of their family, visit their carepage and say an extra prayer for Coleman and Team Larson, because they "neva div up!"

Friday, November 7, 2008

What Lurks In Your Intestines?

This past summer, my ES attended a camp here in Indiana. He had a fabulous time, but from the moment he returned home, he seemed to be battling some sort of bug. At first, we attributed it to fatigue. As the weeks went by and he didn't improve, we thought it might be a parasite picked up in the camp's pool (there were rampant cases of cryptosporidium in the news this summer). Trips to our regular doctor weren't providing answers either. He was tested for parasites, lactose intolerance, and celiac disease. Finally, we were referred to a GI. This doctor suggested it might be Crohn's Disease and scheduled an endoscopy/colonoscopy for this past Friday.

Unfortunately (or maybe that was fortunate, given my medical squeamishness), I am in the throes of a miserable sinus infection, so my husband took ES. He reported that he found it a very emotional thing to watch his son go unconscious (especially since we have friends whose brother/brother-in-law underwent a routine dental surgery and suffered complications from the anesthesia).

He didn't have long to linger in the emotion, however, because the doctor immediately began explaining what he was seeing on the monitor. My husband said it was fascinating. They performed the endoscopy first. The doctor noted an ulcer in his throat, which signals the presence of infection. There was also inflammation at the entrance to the stomach.

The doctor's comments during the colonoscopy were encouraging. Things looked good, despite a substantial amount of inflammation there as well. His assessment ruled out Chrohn's, thank goodness. He now believes that ES is battling a case of chronic gastritis brought on by an H. Pylori infection.

As soon as my husband called with the news, I went on-line to search for information. Not surprisingly, my son did the same when he returned home. Gone are the days where you can say to your child, "The doctor thinks you have an infection, so you need to take this medicine. O.K., off with you now ... go play."

I was surprised to discover how widespread H. Pylori really is. Wikipedia said, "Helicobacter pylori (pronounced /ˌhɛlɪkəˈbæktɚ pɪˈlɔəraɪ/) is a gram-negative, microaerophilic bacterium that inhabits various areas of the stomach and duodenum. It causes a chronic low-level inflammation of the stomach lining and is strongly linked to the development of duodenal and gastric ulcers and stomach cancer. Over 80% of individuals infected with the bacterium are asymptomatic....
More than 50% of the world's population harbour H. pylori in their upper gastrointestinal tract. Infection is more prevalent in developing countries. The route of transmission is unknown, although individuals become infected in childhood.... At least half the world's population are infected by the bacterium, making it the most widespread infection in the world."

Say what? Half the world's population are walking around with this bacteria inside? Now, this shouldn't surprise me. I myself discovered that I was hosting a parasite called B. Hominus (now why are so many of these darn things an abbreviated first name followed by a weird sounding second name?) long after I had returned from missionary work in the Philippines.

My son and I contracted the ultra common Giardia and the tests revealed that I was also an asymptomatic carrier of B. Hominus. (Wikipedia informs me that B. Hominus is now called "Blastocytosis.") I believe I was prescribed one of the same antibiotics ES has been given. After several attempts failed to eradicate it with antibiotics, doctors suggested an intensive regime of multiple antibiotics over several months. I decided against it, because I was asymptomatic. When I was tested during my last pregnancy, no sign of the B. Hominus showed up. I'm hoping he has packed his bags and left, never to return to the hospitality of my intestines!

Now, I am facing the treatment plan for my son. He has been given prescriptions for two different antibiotics and an antacid (Prevacid). We are still unsure exactly how to schedule these doses, since the Prevacid should be taken on an empty stomach and one of the antacids should be taken six hours after any antacids and separate from dairy products (apparently the calcium in the dairy products can bind to the antibiotic, diminishing its effectiveness).

I am really grateful that ES does not have Crohn's. That would be a life-long journey. Although many of these parasites and bacterial infections seem to be growing antibiotic resistant, I am hoping that this prescribed course of treatment will rid ES of his difficulties and allow him to resume with healthy adolescent weight gain. The doctor did warn that "the treatment is often worse than the disease," so we shall wait and see how ES fares with the medicines while attending school.

The doctor also performed several biopsies of the tissues within ES's intestines and throat and we should receive those results in a few weeks. ES was able to score more gross factor points because the doctor sent him home with eight pictures of his throat, esophagus and intestines.

This whole thing has fascinated MS, who continues to talk about taking pictures inside of people. I recently purchased a new digital camera and he wanted to know if I could take pictures of his insides now. Ha!

We plan to start ES on a pro-biotic, which my husband has been taking for several years, called "Healthy Trinity." (Come to think of it, I took Healthy Trinity for about a year around the time of MS's birth. I wonder if the probiotic helped eliminate my lingering parasite?) If 50% of my readers are carrying this bacteria within them, and 80% of those are asymptomatic, perhaps you should look into probiotics, too? It certainly makes you wonder what is lurking in your intestines!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Anticlimactic Reveal of the Snake Cake

I am so thankful to Amy for her suggestion of purchasing a card reader. It only cost $13 and it enabled me to save my photos and videos from MS's birthday (taken at the end of September). I feel so relieved.

So, here are the long-awaited photos of the coral snake cake which MS requested for his birthday. I was fairly disappointed with how it turned out and would love to try it again (perhaps next year he'll still be interested in snakes). First off, it called for two cakes in bundt pans. I made one vanilla and one chocolate, but because I rushed through the frosting task, you could sort of see through to the different bits of cake color. Plus, two cakes is WAY TOO MUCH for our small family of five. We ended up throwing half of it out, even though I tried freezing some of it.

I think, if I attempt this again, I will do things differently. I will only prepare one batch of cake batter and will fill the bundt pan with half of the batter (don't know if this will make it too flat, but as it was, it was very large and round). Next time, I would approach the frosting differently as well. To save time, I chose to use my larger Tupperware frosting tips. It did save time, but the cake ended up looking like a furry caterpillar instead of a snake.

Still, MS loved it and that is what matters. And, yah-rah, I managed to retain pictures of the cake for posterity. I am adding in a photo of YS, moments before he stealthily snitched the camera and placed it in the sandbox. With an adorable face like that, I couldn't be mad at him. Hey, he knew I really wanted to have a camera with sound accompanying my videos!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pleasant Places

For some reason, I spent a portion of my day today thinking about some material things and opportunities I don't have (I can promise, "materialistic" is not a word anyone who knows me would associate with me). But as I end this day, my mindset has shifted. I'm not sure what to attribute this to, except perhaps it was a God thing. Apart from the hour and a half I spent in line waiting to vote (and most of that time, my focus was on keeping YS from bothering others with his impatience, not really talking to others), I didn't really do anything besides taking care of my family.

Still, tonight as I read updates from several families that I pray for (Coleman Larson, who is not feeling great, but is still headed to NY to begin another round of treatment; Nicholas Delefice -sp? - who did a fantastic job swallowing his chemo pills despite often having difficulty with this; Janae, who is still at the beginning stages of her cancer battle [new address for her updates at]; my precious niece, Amelia, who looked so sweet in her costume), I have been thinking along the same lines as another blogger I read recently (sometimes I read so many of them that I can't remember where I read something or which location I made what reply to).

I'm realizing that even though my life is not perfect, my family is not perfect, my attitudes are not always perfect, my abilities as mother and wife are not always perfect, even still "the lines have fallen to me in fine places." Some blogger mentioned this verse of Scripture on their blog (perhaps it was MckMama, when I was reviewing older posts last night).

Here is the actual verse:

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.
Psalm 16:5-6

I believe it. God has given me so much to be grateful for. So, I am counting my blessings tonight. I'll also be kissing some of them in a few moments, when I head off to bed (although I may skip kissing ES, since he is all the way up in a loft bed, and besides, he might swat me away and say "Get off me freakin' kitty!").