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!").

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Learning the Laws of Physics and the Strength of Branches

My ES is learning lots these days (ohh, I'm hearing a former principal in my mind even as I type - she would always end the morning's announcements with a lilting "Learn Lots!"). Most of these are not lessons he is hearing from us. Oh, the words may be going into the ear canal, but the brain is stuck in that adolescent mode, like a scratch on an old LP, convinced that his own wisdom is sufficient.

A glimmer of daylight penetrated his closed mind today. For a nanosecond of his life now, he is appreciating the full truth that parents don't just speak to hear their own voices and they don't give advice (or should I say, forbid actions) merely because we "never want to let them have any fun at all." I don't know how long this nanosecond will last, but I'm aching for him to benefit from some aches and pains.

My husband is not a handy-man. He is an intellectual. A book-man. A thought-man. Apart from a few hammers, some screwdrivers, lug nuts (whatever those are) and wrenches, he is tool-free. However, for the time being we are living in his deceased grandmother's home, where my father-in-law has stocked a whole assortment of tools along the walls of the garage. This is like a dream come true to a 12 year old boy, though possibly a nightmare for his parents.

ES and a friend went for a walk in our woods this afternoon. Prior to leaving, my husband took the time to call Robert (a man who often hunts in our woods on weekends) to ensure the boys' safety. Robert was not hunting, so they were free to explore.

While exploring, they came upon a lengthy vine hanging from a tree. Somehow, they managed to pull the vine down and bring it back to the house. If I had to guess, I'd say it was 20 or 30 feet long. I had to ask them to move it off the driveway because I was heading off on a brief shopping trip with MS.

While I was gone, my husband informed me, they got out a ladder and nailed the vine to a branch on a tree. They cut off the bottom with a saw and were swinging from it. Unfortunately, contentment with anything new doesn't last long for my son, so they were hatching another plan. I'm guessing my husband stifled these shenanigans, because when I arrived home, the friend was gone and ES was inside. Hubby just wanted me to be aware of what ES had been plotting, because he was going downstairs to exercise for a while. ES had actually wanted to climb a bigger tree and hang the vine from a distance higher up. Moreover, he was upset because my husband wouldn't let him try it. I shook my head, commiserating on the inherent risk of raising adolescent boys.

Hoping to run off some little boy energy and delay the task of making dinner, I took the boys outside to play. Before I knew it, ES was up in a tree, bemoaning his overly strict, safety-conscious father. He attempted to show me what he had wanted to do. He even asked me to get the nails, hammer and leftover vine for him.

Of course, there was no way I was cancelling the other parent's "NO," but I did listen to him voice his plan. I began explaining my own support of the "grouch's decision." My primary concern was that the branch didn't look to be strong enough to hold ES's weight.

How, indeed, can you prove that a branch is strong enough to hold your weight, without swinging out onto the branch. I believe he was mid-sentence saying, "See, it CAN support my ... (oh, say, a yard away from the trunk of the tree and probably 15 feet off the ground)." He didn't get to the word "weight." If he did, it was drowned out by my wail. Because his hands were still around the branch (you know, don't you, that these things don't REALLY happen in slow-motion, even though they appear that way to the brain and the eye), he took the blunt of the fall on his tail-bone. He did hop up quickly in an attempt to convince me that he was fine.

Of course, I felt it necessary to regale him with stories of how lucky he was. He wasn't holding a hammer and nails during the fall. He landed on soft grassy ground. He didn't get impaled by either the branch or anything else lying on the ground. He is still alive. He can still walk. Etc., probably ad nauseam.

At first, he didn't want to tell his dad. He took the huge broken limb down to the draw. I was going to honor that, but did intend to blog about it (thinking, we'll see if hubby is one of my readers or not - ha!). He ended up telling on himself (probably because his rear end is hurting).

Wait a minute - didn't I recently blog about how a boy is not likely to tell on himself??? However, this time, he had the added element of his entire family watching, apart from his dad, so I'm guessing he figured it was better to come from his own mouth than MS's.

Not sure what he'll feel like tomorrow morning, but I doubt it will be a stomach-ache he'll be complaining of this time. Still, I'm sure I'll be understanding and empathetic. After all, I've experienced my own streaks of "I know better than my Father." Indeed, many of those scratches on my brain's LP were playing long after I had passed adolescence. I'll be understanding and empathetic because I know what a bruised tail-bone feels like, even if I'm not a tree-climber or a boy!