Wednesday, November 11, 2015

our favorite veteran ever

This past March, we embarked on a 3,000-mile road trip from Virginia to Texas, in order to check things out as a family before we made the commitment that we would move south.  My goal was that at the conclusion of the trip, we would have 12 enthusiastic thumbs up.   Seeing as we're now in Texas, I'd say the trip was a success.  But the highlight of the entire trip was a surprise detour we made on our way home.

Now I may have mentioned that my nephew, Tommy, enlisted in the military last year. After thinking that he might go to the Naval Academy, he surprised us all - his mother especially - by deciding that he would instead become a combat medic in the Army.  And so it is, he headed off to basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma last August, a mere week after he was with us for our 20-year anniversary on Nantucket.


My children adore their cousin Tommy.  So during his time at basic training, they wrote him several letters, telling him how proud they were of their big cousin:


And they drew him many a picture of encouragement:


Tommy wrote them back:


And also included pictures of encouragement:


To this very day, William still does 100 sit-ups every night, because he knows that Tommy is doing it, too, and he pledged to his cousin that he'd be working out with him.  Following Halloween, the kids talked to several of their friends about donating candy, and we shipped off a package to Tommy that weighed nearly 10 pounds and the parents all agreed, if it had stayed in our houses - would have resulted in us gaining 50 pounds. It's a mass / caloritic ratio mystery ... so yay for 18-year old metabolism and intense PT activities every day!

On our trip home from Texas, we had a bead on Nashville, Tennessee. Our plan was that we'd make a stop and check out a show at the Grand Ole' Opry ... because as luck would have it, The Charlie Daniel's Band was playing.

In the midst of our road trip planning exercises, I received a text message from my sister, Eileen, and she asked where we were.  When I told her that we were heading to Nashville, she excitedly wrote to me that Tommy was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky - which was only an hour away.   And so it is, Charlie and I made the immediate decision that we would forego Charlie Daniel's and drive to Kentucky.  The kids meanwhile, were oblivious to all of this.  We just told them that because it was Tuesday, we'd be having a day of fun "T's".

For lunch, we'd have turkey with iced tea.  And then, we would drive through Tennessee, and stop by the T-Rex museum.  For dinner, we would have a T-bone.  But alas, on our way to the T-Rex museum, we started having terrible car trouble.  Or so the kids thought.  Little did they know, the best "T" surprise was in store.

Here's what happened next (pardon my totally obnoxious voice - I was just so excited!):

On this Veteran's Day ... my heartfelt gratitude goes to the young and old who faithfully, courageously, and willingly serve our country.


We love you, cousin Tommy.   Please (please, please, please x infinity) stay safe out there.

Monday, November 09, 2015

everybody is a part of everything

As I've written before, I'm very much enjoying our move to Texas.


From a personal perspective - we love the new community, and our neighbors are wonderful.  Not just the doctor that performed surgery on 2/6 of our family (or 1/3 if we were to reduce to the simplest form) the first month we were here, and has since been very helpful with my "brain" issue - but especially our next door neighbors who are also new to the area.  Our children are the same ages, and play soccer together.  We've bonded on a very primitive level ... they are our kind of people.

Our tribe. 

From a professional perspective, it's been spectacular.  While I'm in the same role, our new collaborative workspaces are amazing, and I'm having the opportunity to positively interface with so many colleagues.  Just last week, Charlie decided to just float his resume and mere hours (if not minutes) later, he had people calling and asking him when he could start?  For the two of us, this move couldn't be better.

As for the children ...

Elizabeth is thriving, especially socially.  She's joined the Chess Club and thus far, is undefeated.  A few weeks ago, she challenged the Assistant Principal to a game and from what I understand, won in less than 12 moves.  Much to the dismay of her siblings, she's an absolute shark when it comes to puzzles and triumphs every time she plays.  After several years of special education services in Virginia, she was positively diagnosed with dyslexia just last month, in Texas.   This can and will be it's own separate post - but the fact is, our school here zeroed in on it immediately, and she is in great hands.

Henry is thriving, too.  I'm so thankful that we opted to start him a year later, because although he is the oldest child in his class by a few months - it's been perfect for him.  He has befriended all the kids in his class, and he easily grasps all of his academic material. If he'd focus on what he was doing - instead of hurrying to get things done as quickly as possible so that he can direct his attention to reading / writing / daydreaming about dinosaurs ... he'd have straight A's.

Carolyn is doing amazing.  For all of the concern that I had about whether or not to take her tonsils and adenoids out - and the remorse that we did the surgery as we went through a long and difficult recovery - there's no question that it has changed her life for the better.  She really is a changed child.  I'd never believed how much of a difference it would have, if I hadn't witnessed it myself.  Gone is the child that would need to be reminded 25 times to do something.   The post-surgical Carolyn takes responsibility for herself and her belongings and her grades have been steadily climbing.

Then there's William. Academically, he's at the top of his class.  He's one of those kids that just "gets it."  Everything comes to him very easily and he's motivated to do well, so it's the perfect combination. Book wise, he's golden.  But socially, he is struggling so hard.

In Virginia, William was quite possibly one of the most popular kids in his class.  He befriended everyone.  In fact, a few years ago for Thanksgiving, one of the boys in his class - who had just moved to the area from New Jersey - stood up at an assembly about "Giving Thanks" and shyly read to a gathered audience, how thankful he was for our William, because he was so kind to him and made him feel comfortable and welcome in this new environment.   Given his track record in Virginia, I thought for sure he'd do fine anywhere. 

Ah, but remember how William and his sister had their tonsils removed the second week of school?  They then missed two weeks of school for their recovery?  And when they returned to school, they were in study hall for the next two (plus) weeks, catching up on various lessons and missed assignments.  Because they were in study hall - they ate lunch at their desks and didn't go to the cafeteria or recess.  At their new school, they have various periods and move around from one class to the next with differing students, so the only time they really have to socialize with one another is at lunch and recess.  But because he was out for more than a month - the first month of school - he missed out not only on schoolwork, but on the social circles that were being established.  For whatever reason, it hasn't slowed Carolyn down at all.  But it has derailed William.

In a nutshell, he hasn't found his school tribe yet, and it's been excruciating.

For the past month, beginning at around 5:00 on Sunday night, he'll start to dread a new school week beginning.  Last week, he was so distraught, and there was absolutely nothing I could do or say to help him, unless my words in some way involved pulling him out of school and teaching him at home.   Eventually, I told him to sit down and write out his thoughts because it always helps me to get things out on paper.    He started writing, and writing, and writing.    

Once he'd wrapped up his epistle, and I got him settled in to bed for the night, I crafted an email to his teacher and the School Counselor.  I told them that I was very concerned about his transition, and then I copied and pasted a portion of what he had written.  The part where, "school is a foreboding institution - a monument of sadness that robs me of my joy and sucks at my soul." 

The next morning, the Counselor reached out to me with an email that effectively said, "Wow, thank you for letting us know.  We're ON IT."  She then swung in to action and had William come to her office for a chat.  The science teacher also swung in to action and appointed William to the Ecology Club. Among his gardening activities that he gets to do on a monthly basis, he also gets to police the kids in the cafeteria a few times a month, and ensure that they do not mix recyclables with trash.  It's a big responsibility!

Still, he is distraught.  And it really didn't help matters that on Friday night, the kids had a grade-wide social at their school and at one point, William tripped and bumped in to a boy. The friend of that boy thought it was intentional, and retaliated by punching him in the chest and pushing him in to a wall.

I was there, manning the drink booth.  And while I didn't see it happen, I did hear about via a devastated William ... and if you think that my response was to immediately find the boy and have a little "chat" you'd be 100% right.  Meanwhile, William was hiding in the dark cafeteria behind the refrigerator.  Mortified, not by my actions - but that someone would do that to him.

Last night, as I was tucking him in to bed, he asked me to please come to school and have lunch with him, today.  Because this is likely my last week in the office for the rest of the year - I have a million things to do.  I didn't commit to William, but today I realized that none of my work activities, are more important than being with my little guy in his time of trouble.

So at 11:15, I packed up and left for the school.  When I arrived and walked in to the crowded cafeteria, I immediately saw Carolyn at a table with her friends. I then saw Elizabeth at a table with her friends.  And then I saw William, sitting all by himself.  His shoulders were slumped and he was sadly looking around.  My heart broke and fell down in pieces to my knees.   When he turned and saw me - the look that came across his face, I can't even describe it.

I pulled up a chair and said, "How you doing, big guy?"  He broke in to a huge smile said, "I'm doing GREAT, now that you are here.  Mom, I love you so, so, so, so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you."   We talked for a few minutes, and eyed out the scene in the cafeteria.  I asked why his sisters weren't sitting with him (WHY?!?) and he explained that he came in after they did and there were no seats at their tables. And they can't move seats once they sit down because the Cafeteria Ladies rule with an Iron Fist called Detention.

Also, even if there had been seats at their tables ... they are girls.

Sitting next to us, were a table full of boys.  I asked William if he knew them - and he said yes.  I then asked if he'd take any exception to me talking to them - and he said no.  So without further adieu I stood up, and walked over to their table.  All of their eyes turned to look at me, this grownup, who surely has something VERY IMPORTANT to say.

I said to the boys, "Hi guys, do you know William?"  Then I nodded my head over my shoulder.  They all said that they knew him.  I then continued, "Did you know that we JUST moved here?  And that William had to have his tonsils taken out the second week of school?"  They didn't know that.  So I continued, "And because of his surgery he missed TWO WEEKS of school. And then, he missed TWO MORE WEEKS because he had to go to study hall.  And by the time he was able to stop going to Study Hall, he felt like all the friends were gone. Can you imagine?" 

Their eyes looked legitimately concerned and they arched their necks to look around me, at William, who was playing with his mashed potatoes.  I concluded by saying, "Can I ask you guys a favor?  If you happen to see William sitting in the cafeteria by himself - or wandering around at recess by himself, can you maybe invite him over?  Will you keep your eye on him, because he's having a really hard time fitting in."

In unison they all said, "YES M'AM!" Then they all pointed out that there was an extra chair at the table and would William come over and sit with them RIGHT NOW?

He did. And so did I.

And for the next 15 minutes, we talked to them about their favorite sports, movies, and food.  We then talked about a delayed birthday party for William ... and maybe they could come help us celebrate.  And that's how it is that I made plans to take a bunch of fifth grade boys out to play paintball in mid-December.  Not sure my neurologist will give me clearance to do that - so Charlie might have to be my backfill.

As I was getting up to grab a pen so I could write down all the boys' telephone numbers so we could coordinate our paintball outing,  I happened to walk past a table and sitting there - all by herself - was a little girl with slumped shoulders, playing with her mashed potatoes.

And my heart broke all over again.

I swooped by Carolyn's table and asked her to come with me.  She initially resisted by saying that she'd get in trouble if she left her table, and I told her that she'd get in trouble if she didn't.   I asked my daughter what the girl's name was, and she said, "Ashley."  Walking back to the table, I leaned down and said, "Hi Ashley. How are you doing?"   She looked surprised and said, "Um, I'm OK."  So I very gently asked her, "Ashley, why are you sitting over here, all by yourself?" And she whispered, "I don't have any friends."

My hearing isn't so great at the moment, so the poor child had to repeat it THREE TIMES before I heard what she said.  Carolyn, who undoubtedly heard it the first time and had more time to process this information, stepped forward and said, "I'll be your friend, Ashley, and I'd really like to sit with you."

As I'm standing there with beams of sunshine coming out of my ears, the Lunch Lady came over to tell me that they really make every attempt at spotting kids that are sitting by themselves and try to get them to sit with others.  "But" she told me, "We can't MAKE them move. If they want to sit by themselves, that's their choice."

I told her, "That's why it helps to have me here, because as a parent, I can make them move ... and I will make them move.  If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that no fifth grader wants to sit by themselves in a crowded cafeteria. They might tell you that they do, but it's a 25-minute torture sentence."

After I told her what has happened with William the past several weeks, the Lunch Lady promised me that she'll step up her efforts.  And I promised her that I'll drop by several times a month to help.

Tonight over dinner, William was in great spirits and is excited about the prospect of friends, and paintball.  And Carolyn and Elizabeth have Ashley in their crosshairs - or anyone else that might be sitting by themselves.


As it turns out, taking a one-hour break from work to spend with my fifth graders, was quite possibly the most important lunch meeting I've had all year.

Friday, November 06, 2015

the power of distraction

So in other news ....

Halloween was this past weekend and I didn't get a single picture of all four kids in their costumes.  Although I'd asked them to please not leave the house without me taking a picture of them, do they listen?    (Usually yes ... on Halloween night when everyone is desperate to get outside ... no.)

For the record, William was a werewolf, Elizabeth was Frankenstein's daughter, Henry was a dinosaur trainer (Owen, to be exact), and Carolyn was a zombie colonial girl.  It brings me great joy that Carolyn still wears her costume from Colonial Williamsburg that I purchased two years ago, after one too many ales, when I thought it would be a superb idea to spend the equivalent of a mortgage on handmade colonial garb for the whole family.  It's good to know that at least one of my children is getting our money's worth out of the costume.

Here's Elizabeth with her haul ... she lost count at 420 pieces of candy.


Charlie and I were dressed up, too ... as Colonial people, of course.  When we arrived at the neighborhood block party and we were the only adults dressed up, Charlie said aloud to everyone, "So ... it would appear that WE were the only ones that received the memo?!"  

After the neighborhood shindig, we retreated back to our house, dragged out our fire pit, and hosted several friends at the base of our driveway.  And so it is, our tradition of Halloween 'smores has successfully migrated and taken root in Texas.


Last week, I was away on a business trip in Puerto Rico, and after our very productive meetings during the day, I had the privilege of kayaking with one of our senior managers (my boss' boss) through a bioluminescent lagoon in twilight.  It was so awesome ... one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life.  We paddled through a twilight harbor, and entered this lagoon where the pitch black sky was drenched in stars.  We put our hands in to the water and splashed around to see the phytoplankton light up, and over head, there was a huge shooting star.   A fiery meteor so large, I could make out the shape and texture of its rocky surface as it flew through the atmosphere.

It was a truly spiritual experience and I felt the most amazing sense of peace in my soul.

On our paddle back to the loading zone, we navigated a canal that was draped in mangroves.  Our guide shined a light up in to the trees and pointed out the 4-foot iguana that was perched on the limbs above us and told us how these huge reptiles, with their huge claws, will often teeter off the branches and fall in to the boats.  In that moment, we heard a loud "SPLASH!" and both my senior manager and I let out a scream and startled so hard, we almost capsized.  We then started rowing so fast, our previously synchronized paddles were clanking off each other.

(Good feeling GONE.)


While I was away, Charlie received this letter from our insurance company. I'm not sure why this cracks me up ... it's really not very funny, but it is nice to know that my insurance has approved me for brain surgery.  


As word travels that I'll be going in for surgery in the next few weeks, so many people have expressed that they are amazed how "composed" I seem to be during all of this.  To which I've replied, "What is the other option?"  

As my sister Janet says, ours minds can be like a bad neighborhood, so she prefers not to go in there, alone.  You've got to roll up the windows, lock the doors, turn on some happy music, and keep your eyes on the road.  

Perspective is important.  Consider, if not for modern medicine, I would have checked out of this world 40 years ago, when I had a ruptured gangrenous appendix at the age of 5.  Charlie would have checked out at 18-years old when he had a ruptured gangrenous appendix.  When I look at things that way, I clearly see that each day has been nothing if not a gift.


Between me and the kids, this week I've been at the doctor's office almost every day.  I've been going through a lot of tests, and the triplets have been going in for their 11-year-old check ups.

What I didn't realize is that ELEVEN is a big age for shots.  In addition to the flu shot, they get their tetanus vaccination, and a host of other things (at least three that I could count).  To say that Elizabeth turned inside out at the prospect of a shot is an understatement.  Yesterday, she received her flu vaccination, and the only way she could get it, is if she was cradled in my lap with her head on my shoulder.  When she overheard me talking to her father that she would be going back in two weeks for more shots, she imploded.

So I told her exactly what I've been telling myself the past few weeks.

"Why worry about something that hasn't happened? Why distress ourselves with dark imaginings for what may or may not occur? It's not in the here.  It's not in the now.  So let it go and just be present in THIS moment."   Then I showed her a picture of the 38 shots I had to have when I had my allergy testing last month.


At the sight of this, she screamed like a 4-foot lizard had fallen in to her boat.

And agreed, yes ... it could always be worse.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

when the cup is half full

So, earlier this week I went back to see the neurologist and it turns out I've got two tumors.  One on the left and one on the right.  In case there was any question, being diagnosed with "multiples" in tumor language is not nearly as much fun as the diagnoses of "multiples" in children language ... although the sensation of surprise is comparable.

The doctor initially thought that I had a glomus jugulare tumor, but because they didn't "light up" with the contrast during my recent MRI, he's not quite sure what they are.  He's assured me that malignant tumors in this region of the skull are extremely rare ... in fact the only time he's ever seen one is when it metastasized from somewhere else.  That's good news for me. I think.

At this juncture, we know that the tumors are eroding the bone, and are very close - if not impeding on the temporal lobe - so I'll be going in for basal skull brain surgery on November 18th to get the pathological scoop.  (Literally.)

While I'm remaining very optimistic that everything is and will be fine - and this will soon become yet another blip on the radar of life - there is this small little voice that whispers, "What if..." 

My hearing is further damaged? 

There's a hemorrhage?

It's malignant?

What's really amazed me is that the little voice of worry, is being drowned out by an even louder voice of strength that is shouting, "WOW... WHAT A GIFT!"

The truly beautiful thing about having a health situation like the one I'm currently facing, is that it makes you abundantly aware of your fragility and mortality.   I'd suggest that the vast majority of people are so busy with their lives, they never really stop to think that this could be their last day.

Or year. 

We have plans! Schedules to keep! Goals to accomplish!  Rooms to paint, albums to organize, pounds to lose, trips to travel, children to raise!

At least for me, I've been far too busy to even think about the prospect of NOT being here.  The mere concept of that is simply inconceivable.  It's got to be an emotional defense mechanism because if we dwell on the not of being here - the possibility of departing our loved ones - we'd slump in to a state of perpetual depression.  That's surely part of the reason, seven years later, I still haven't finalized my Will.  Yep, totally flaked... can you believe I never had it notarized!?

So this blip on the radar, has been an excellent reminder that we're not in control.  While being organized and having a clean house and stocked refrigerator, might give the illusion of control, we don't completely hold the reins on our fate.  The only thing we can control is our attitude, so I'm trying to keep a positive one.

It's also been a gift to be reminded that we're part of something.


People from all over the world have been sending me emails (I'll respond to all of them soon, I promise!), and friends and family have been showering us with calls and offers to travel to Texas and stay for as long as necessary.  The kids asked me one night when I was tucking them in to bed, "Mom? Why were you crying earlier today? Is it because you are going to die?!" and I laughed, "No, I'm not worried at all about that .... we are blessed because we have so many people that love us.  That feeling of being lifted up, it makes me so grateful I weep!"

My sister called me last night to tell me about a sweet little girl that lives across the street from her, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was two. The doctors surgically removed most of it.  She's now seven, and recently lost sight in one eye because the tumor had regrown and damaged her optic nerve.  This past May, she had a massive stroke, while undergoing surgery.  Her recovery has been very long, and is now punctuated with chemotherapy, because the re-growth is malignant.

It's so difficult to see God's Fingerprints on that situation, but I'm sure they are there, just as they are on so many other incomprehensibly sad situations.  Perhaps these things happen - in part, to spark love and compassion?  And maybe remind us of the beauty in what we have in the here and now?


A favorite passage of mine is from the Buddhist teaching:
One day some people came to the master and asked, 'How can you be happy in a world of such impermanence?  The master held up a glass and said, 'Someone gave me this glass and I really like this glass. It holds my water admirably and it glistens in the sunlight.  I touch it and it rings! One day the wind may blow it off the shelf, or my elbow may knock it from the table. And I say, 'Of Course!' When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.' 
Another way of looking at it, is to consider the conversation I had with my mother earlier in the month. Her response upon first hearing all of this was to say, "Well, you know ... NONE of us are getting out of this world alive!" 

True that.  Treasure your cup ...


And all the awesomeness in it.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

what are the odds?

It really seems like our move to Texas was meant to be.  Or at a minimum, we are supposed to be exactly HERE at this point in time.

Last month, I mentioned that Carolyn needed to have her tonsils taken out - and because she was (repeatedly) unable to have them removed in Virginia - we finally decided to make the move and find an ENT surgeon, here.  As luck would have it, there is an ENT office in our neighborhood. And, a well respected ENT surgeon lives less than a hundred feet away.  This ENT surgeon happens to be the same one who took out Carolyn, and William's tonsils and adenoids, just last month.

As I also mentioned, when we moved to Texas, I had a slight cold that led to the worst ear infection, I've ever had in my life.  After suffering through it for a few days, hoping that a spare Z-pack I had would do the trick, I went to the Emergency Room because I was new here, and didn't yet have a Primary Care Physician.  The ER doctor prescribed me a stronger antibiotic and told me that if I wasn't better in three days, to let them know.

Because I'd talked to my mother - and she was adamant that I get in to see the ENT - I called the ER three days later, and asked that they refer me. Which they did.

When I arrived at the ENT, two days later, they did a hearing test and told me I'd lost approximately 50% of the hearing in my right ear.  The ENT immediately scheduled me to have a CT-scan and an MRI ... and a few days later, I was back in the ENT's office and was told that I was being referred to The Medical Center in Houston, because there was something "suspicious" with my images.  I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I wasn't thinking it would be too big of a deal.  When I was in that MRI machine ... on the first day of our children's school ... I fell asleep and had a dream that I'd totally missed the bus.  Maybe I startled and it was blurry?

My appointment with the neurologist was last week and after he had me answer a number of different questions, and walk across the room, and touch my fingers to my nose, and bend down to touch my toes, he inquired on the headaches I've been having.  These pesky headaches that happen at least daily and sometimes persist for hours, started around the same time as our move to Texas.

They originate from behind my right ear and radiate across my entire head.  I've been chalking them up to the ear infection, dehydration, lack of sleep, stress, relocation, hormones, the vast quantities of barbecue we've been eating each week, and fifth grade homework.

The neurologist nods and says,  "I suspect you've got a cyst.  But let me go look at your MRI and I'll be right back...."

Almost 45 minutes later he comes back and says, "Well, it's definitely not a cyst."  I smile and am just about to say, "Phew, that's good news!" when he continues, "It's a tumor." 

Unfortunately, I only retained 27% of what he said from that point on.

There are a lot of questions, I don't yet know - including where exactly it is, or whether or not it's malignant.  We do know it's about the size of a small walnut.  Yesterday, I was back having another MRI - and within the next few days, I'll be meeting with the neurologist, again, to determine the course of action, which he assures me will likely include surgery and a lengthy recovery.

While I still have some slight loss (~5%) and it feels like I've got fluid sloshing around my ear, my hearing has largely returned.  And from what the neurologist can tell preliminarily, this tumor is likely NOT the cause of that hearing loss; although it is probably the cause for my persistent headaches.  

When I was leaving his office last week, he told me that this is what they call an "incidental finding." If they hadn't been in there, investigating my hearing loss - on this exact ear - they wouldn't have known about the tumor, until who knows when?   Of course that begs the question, how many of us are walking around with absolutely NO idea what's going on inside our bodies?

(Insert need for everyone to have full body MRIs!)

It could just be that it's all coincidental, but I think living where we are - in this location - with these ENT specialists literally in our yard, is no accident.  Moreover, the doctor told me, "If I didn't know better, I'd think you have someone upstairs looking out for you..."

YES, I'm sure I do.  (Thanks Dad!) (And Mom, who talked me in to going to the ENT!)

I'm sure that whatever happens, all will be good because no doubt, the universe is unfolding as it should and God's fingerprints are all over everything.  Meanwhile, on a more serious note ... I'm still trying to figure out how to work this situation in to to my annual rhyming Christmas letter.

There's been a rumor... ?

We must always try to keep our sense of humor... ?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

they fill up my senses, like a night in the forest

Tomorrow ... my once three-pound babies will turn eleven-years-old.  ELEVEN.  We're now solidly in the throes of tweendom and I'm in awe thinking about where the time has gone?

As these children become older and more independent, time doesn't seem to be slowing down ... in contrast - it just keeps moving faster.  Long gone are the days when I'd gaze at the clock dreaming of nap time.  Now, because of the lengthy school days - and after school activities (including but not limited to homework, soccer, dinner, and showers); my time with the children seems so fleeting and so, so precious.  Except when they're fighting with me over homework. Which is still almost every night.  But I'm trying to focus on the positive.

For as long as I can remember, our most special time of the day is bedtime, when I'll sit with them, on the edge of their beds, in their dimly lit rooms and recount the events from the day.  Sometimes, I feel like I hurry along our conversations because it's late - and they need to sleep - or I'm zapped and I need to put my feet up.

But whether a brief two-minute conversation, or more lengthy twenty-two minute conversation ... we'll talk, and pray, and I'll run my fingers through their hair and tell them - every night I tell them - how much I love and adore them and how incredibly GRATEFUL I am that they blessed my world.

No truer words have ever been written on this blog:  I really am the luckiest person alive.

Tonight Charlie and I spent a few hours after they went to sleep, blowing up 48 balloons, which we strung around the house.  Ever since their seventh birthday in Virginia, we've made it a tradition to decorate the house on the eve of their birthday.  Because when 50% of your family celebrates the exact same birthday ... it deserves some festivity.

These lists have been hanging up on the fridge for the past few weeks, since perhaps early September, but I took a photo of them tonight, so I can memorialize their birthday gift wishes @ 11:


William's birthday list - he really wants an X-Box 360 and Marvel Superhero games.  Also, Jurassic World X-Box games.  Because if there is one thing that he and his little brother love to do - it's to talk / play / breathe / dream about anything and everything related to superheroes and dinosaurs.  Add a video game to that mix and you've got the recipe for 8- and 11-year old male euphoria.

William would also like Love, Hope, and Peace throughout the world.  Oh, and a Nerf Sword. So glad that was listed after his charitable desires.

(Ankit is our Indian friend, through Compassion International, that we've been sponsoring for the past six years. I'm happy to see that William is thinking of his pen pal, on his birthday. Although I suspect it has something to do with me repeatedly telling him, "It isn't always about what *we* want. It cannot be 'me, me, me!' We must think of others, and what we can do to make the world better."   This is evidence he's hearing at least a little of what I'm saying and for that, I rejoice.)


Elizabeth's birthday list - a phone, a baseball mitt, roller skates, colored pencils, get ears pierced, cowboy boots, new tennis shoes, visit her best friend from Virginia - Rosie - and get two new guinea pigs.   I haven't written about it yet, but in July, we made the very difficult decision to leave our two guinea pigs, Barack and Georgie (also known as James Brown and Einstein; Chocolate and Oreo), in Virginia.  The day before we pulled out of town, I came to my senses and realized that driving 1,500 miles with two guinea pigs AND the rambunctious dog in the middle of summer, was infinitesimally more than I could handle.

For as much as I loved our guinea pigs ... I didn't love them that much.  Nor did I love them so much that I'm in a hurry to replace them anytime soon.  If soon = 90 years.


Carolyn's birthday list - a real baseball bat, cowboy boots, a walkman, and then a lot of time spent together as a big happy family.  Going to the movies - fishing - and having my Mom and Jim visit.  My favorite birthday wish of hers is that we "Drive around Texas and give money to the poor people."

I think this wish stems from a situation last year, when we were on a road trip, and saw an elderly homeless man near a traffic light, in the pouring rain, holding out a cup.  We'd stopped at the red, and reached out the window to hand him some food and money. That gesture was a highlight of our children's trip.   I'm so glad to see that the memory of how good that small act felt in her heart, stuck with my sweet girl.   But pray tell, how do we find all the poor people in Texas?  And where does all the money come from?

In regards to distribution - do we just roll down our windows and throw it out?

Clearly, there's still some logistics we need to work out.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

so, around the same time they qualify for AARP

Despite pleas from the children to buy them their own phones ... we've held out because I see no reason for our 10-year olds to have that kind of technology.  I'm so mean, because apparently "Everyone else MOM, EVERYONE has one."  Our poor children, they're so deprived.  

A few months ago, Charlie replaced his iPhone with a new one, and the kids thought that meant they could have his old phone which he'd stashed away somewhere.  When they found the old phone, they probably felt like they'd just won the lottery - and thought they'd try to crack the security passcode.  

I only figured out what had happened when William asked if I could let him use a calculator.    


This was a fun little math project for us to work on together.   Although probably more fun for me and Charlie, than the children. 


We calculated that the phone will be unlocked in approximately 45 years ... or around the same time they may be planning to retire.  

Suffice to say, they're very, very upset with Siri.