Saturday, June 27, 2009

Trying to PACE not PUSH

At first I was rejoicing that I was so soon back the swing of things after my Monday, April 13 thryoid cancer surgery. I left the hospital Tuesday noon, that evening I went to son Jon's baseball game and took pictures. He had another game the next night. I did enjoy being cared for by my parents, my kids and all the dear people that brought by meals, flowers and gifts. I spent a lot of time that week doing gloriously nothing. But, by the next week I was back to homeschooling, tutoring, gardening, running errands, having company and housework.

Well, kinda' the housework. I like to play my cancer card when it comes to something I don't like. I tried it with daughter Gracie one day.

"I can't do housework, I have cancer," I had whined in a way to solicit as much attention as possible.

"No, you don't," she retorted. "It was removed, remember?"

Then, for awhile, I was wondering what the rush was. Why didn't I milk it a little bit longer? Why didn't I hang around in my jammies a little bit longer, sit on the deck in the sun a little longer? Why was I in such a hurry to get back into my busy, busy life?

Getting back into my life after being ill for a time was like trying to jump aboard a furiously spinning merry-go-round with the other kids at the playground. You want to get back on, that's where your friends are, you know it is going to be fun, but unless they stop it to let you get on, you have to take the risk and jump. Then, once on and you find it is spinning too fast for you there is NO jumping off. The risk is too great. So,you close your eyes and hang on for dear life.

When people try to encourage me about the busyness of my life, they always try to get me to stop doing something. It is well-meaning advice, but I just don't know what to eliminate. Which of the six kids? OK, none, I like them all. Cooking? Cleaning? Laundry? Personally, I would LOVE to give up the time I devote to cleaning, but what would that accomplish?

There isn't anything to cross of my list in my life - this IS my life. This is the life I love, the life I chose, the life I prayed for, the life I planned for. The Lord has given me all my heart has desired, and more. I have the husband of my dreams. I have the six kids I have wished for since I was 12 and received the much-desired Sunshine Family for Christmas. As I sat there adoring my dolls, I decided to not play with them much and save them for my kids. At that moment, I decided I wanted six kids. I wanted to homeschool since I was 18 and first learned about the movement and the reasons behind it. I am in a small church where we are needed and loved, another answer to prayer. I am writing again and am blessed to be a member of two Christian writing groups.

In fact, I want to add MORE things to my life. I want to create more memories with my children and grandchildren. I want to encourage more people. I want to have more people over for dinner. I want to plant more gardens, hike more mountains, conquer more dreams, collect more rocks, write more and more and more.

What can I cross off my list? Wasted time, wasted tears, wasted anger, wasted emotions. Anything that takes me away from my desire to serve the Lord with my heart, mind, body and soul. Anything that keeps me from being the best Christian, the best wife, the best mother, the best teacher, the best writer.

That is why I didn't lounge around in my jammies very long. That is why I didn't milk my illness, why I didn't take advantage of the situation.

So, I am on the spinning merry-go-round of my life, with the advice of a dear older and wiser friend, Lydia, avid writer and Hodgkin's Lymphoma survivor, buzzing in my ears when I slow down long enough to meditate on it.

"Together we can claim Joshua 1:9, 'Be strong and courageous, the Lord is with you wherever you go.' Sometimes it's new territory -- chosen by God, not us. But, He's with us. And we can confidently take steps, one by one. He knows our names and holds our hands. May God's grace abound in your life. And it's OK to PACE, not PUSH! Relax! :) "

So, two months past surgery I am feeling fine. Don't we always say that first?

Emotionally, Scott and I have accepted that dealing with thyroid cancer could be a lifetime trial.

Spiritually, we are trusting in the Lord in all these things, thankful to be His children. We have learned when we don't understand the circumstances, we can always trust His character. He loves us. He has good plans for us. He comforts us.

Physically, I still have nerve damage from my right ear, along my cheek and neck down to my rib cage. It's the feeling you get when you are trying to recover from anethesia in the dentist chair. Numb. No feeling. Tingling. Painful to the touch. The pain is only a 1 on a scale of 1-10, unless I am driving or doing something to irritate that area.

My right arm is still the most painfull. It feels like tennis elbow. I have joked and tried to guess what they did during surgery to cause the pain. "Look, I can bend this arm to look like a pretzel!" The doctors aren't good about answering questions, they just vaguely let me know it will get better. Friends have told me there is often a lot of pain while recovering from anethesia. That was a new one.

I don't have an appointment with my ENT until July or August, I don't have to go through radio-active iodine until September or October. I told my doc I didn't want to ruin a good summer with cancer treatment, I would rather ruin a good school year. Spoken like a veteran homeschool momma who has her priorities straight. My thyroid dosage remained the same through this all, so I didn't have to deal with thyroid hormonal issues.

I am enjoying my summer and all the good things that go with it.

And, I am learning to PACE not PUSH.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Brayden Chillin' Out

This was NOT a posed picture. This was my grandson, Brayden, shortly after birth, stretching out, chillin' out and enjoying the heat waves on the warming table. He was warmer than a three hour old McDonald's hamburger.

This is still his favorite position. Contrary to all those expensive, glossy-covered, child-rearing books, this little guy does NOT like to be swaddled. He likes to be stretched out along your arm, just hanging out like the dude he is.

This pose just shows his nature. He is a contented baby and instead of crying when he is hungry, he snuffles through his nose, unless you make him wait too long. Can't you just see him someday calmly driving across a busy bridge while his wife is yelling, "I have to push!"?

Because I am an absent minded old gramma, I forgot to provide all the details about my favorite grandson. In an email I sent announcing his birth, I didn't even include the birth date, let alone those other statistics women crave. Women utilize those height and weight measurements as bragging rights as aggressively as fishermen. The only difference is, a woman's baby stays the same size with each telling, a fisherman's catch gets bigger. Granted, a woman's labor may increase in length as the story is repeated, but at least the baby always stays the same size.

I guess I can't tease my husband anymore. Throughout our two decade marriage, he has been famous for sharing baby news this way.

Scott - "Oh, so- and-so called and they had their baby."

Mindy - "That's so exciting, what did they have?"

Scott - "A baby."

Mindy - "I know that, was it a boy or girl and what did they name it?"

Scott - "Um...lemme remember...I think it was a boy?"

Mindy - "And what did they name it?"

Scott - "I don't remember."

Mindy - "How much did he weigh?"

Scott - "I didn't ask."

Mindy - "How long was he?"

Scott - "How should I know?"

Mindy - "Did he have any hair?"

Scott - "What does that matter?"

Mindy - "How is the mom feeling?"

Scott - "They had their baby, that's all I know."

To add to the excitement, we have a news flash from Auntie Rebekah, his 6 year old aunt. Two days ago, his "extension cord" fell off. There ya' have it. Whole lot of braggin' going on around here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Testing the Waters

Scott and I were thrilled to watch our granddaughter, Brookelyn, visit the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Like all kids, her first steps of independence were away from her parents, Jana and Aaron. As soon as they set her down, she ran and splashed farther and farther away from her adoring parents.

And, like all kids, the minute she fell, she knew where to turn; back to those waiting, outstretched, comforting hands.

Brookie reminds me so much of her Mommy. Once, when Jana was this same age, she kept running away from us while were in a mall in Duluth. We decided to see how far she would actually go, given the opportunity. We let her wander off, keeping a short distance behind her. She never looked back. She toddled all the way down to the end of the mall, into an electronics store and was "shopping" all by herself. We stood around the corner watching her and waiting for her to miss us. She never did. When we finally made our appearance known and picked her up, she wasn't relieved, she was interrupted. Secretly, I was a little devastated that she didn't miss me. I wasn't thinking about her need for independence, I was thinking about my need for her to need me.

Maybe, she didn't miss us because nothing went wrong. She didn't fall, nobody talked to her, nothing interrupted her adventure. We were still keeping her safe, but at a distance.

Just like her Momma years ago, Brookie was having the adventure of a lifetime, loving the waves, the sand, the delight of all things new and exciting - until she fell. Her first response was to turn and look for her parents. She knew they would make everything better.

Jana's most repeated phrase, as she grew was "Me do myself." If I fed her, she took the food out and fed herself. I allowed her to dress herself, only stepping in when her life was imminently in danger, like she was shoving her head into the armhole or when she was dangerously near the point of needing the clothes cut off her because she was so twisted inside of them. I rescued her when she got stuck behind things, under things and on top of things. "Me do myself," was always her reason, her excuse and her plea, but when she couldn't do it herself, she always knew who was there to help her.

By granting Jana independence, she learned how to use it wisely, through various trials, stumbles and victories in life. As an parent, she is now learning to grant Brookie independence, while keeping that perfect Momma-to-the-Rescue distance.

And, in lovingly watching Jana grow, I've learned to broaden that perfect Momma-to-the-Rescue distance from her. At each stage in life, from toddlerhood to adulthood, I've stepped a little farther back, a little farther back, a little farther back...

But, my hands are still outstretched....just in case...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Man Pack

On Saturday morning my husband and I were up early to prepare to leave for a mini family vacation. He helped and when he was ready to go he said, "I have my keys, my cell phone, my wallet and I am ready to go."

I was astounded and impressed. Our normal routine when Daddy is going somewhere is to find his keys...then his wallet...then his cellphone, not necessarily in that order. He has left his keys in the ignition, under the seat and on the garden ledge in the front yard. He has left his wallet in every item of clothing owns, on the dashboard of the car overnight, under the seat of his car, under the bed and on every piece of furniture we own. His cellphone has been equally as neglected. He lost it once for three days, but he can't remember the details, so I can't tell on him. The kids have been enlisted in the nighttime routine of Finding Daddy's Things so he will be ready for work the next morning.

He packed his stuff, made coffee, put the kids in the car and was ready to go. Just like that. I was still putting on makeup, packing toiletries, clothes and accessorizing jewelry and shoes for each outfit. That's the difference between the sexes. Men pack clothes, women pack outfits. Accessorized outfits. Every shirt my husband owns can be worn with every pair of pants, but for a woman it isn't that easy.

But, while I am packing, I am cleaning. That's another difference.

A man plans to go. So, after a change of clothes are thrown into something and the car keys are found, he's ready. A woman is packing to go, preparing the house to be left and planning for the return. I had to empty the garbage cans to keep the house from stinking. I put away every misc. item I walked by. I put away clean dishes, wiped counter tops, straightened bathrooms, put away clean laundry and shook my bathroom rugs. I got library books ready to be returned and packages ready to be mailed on Monday. I got so much put away in my mad dash around the bedroom, I saw parts of the bedroom floor that hadn't been showing for a few weeks. I just HAD to vacuum.

Somewhere along the cruise on the matrimonial highway, my hubby has learned to appreciate this crazy routine and pitches in. We all love coming home to a clean house. I just can't delay departure time.

Finally, I was ready to go.

The house was picked up and my suitcase of outfits was being wheeled down the hallway by my son. I knew I had to hurry before hubby lost

a. the car keys
b. his phone
c. his wallet
d. all of the above

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Too Tired to Know My Name

Monday morning I forced myself to get out of bed and begin a new week. But, the flurry of activities this weekend has left me looking even more haggard than normal. If put on the spot, I am not sure I could remember my own name. On a normal day, I don't usually remember my kids' names, but to forget my own? That's some serious brain damage, or lack of sleep, or both.

At 6am Saturday morning I jumped cat-like out of bed when I heard a knock on my bedroom door. I had been plastered between my husband and my nightmare-plagued six-year-old. Surprised I didn't land on either of them, my son-in-law's cryptic message spoke my Poe-like heart rate even higher.

"We're going to the hospital now. Jana's contractions are one minute apart."

I threw on the clothes I had been wearing the day before, twisted my long, snarly bed hair into a clip, threw things in a tote bag and met them in the foyer.

Jana was leaning over the railing, having a contraction. I moved in to rub her back to ease her pain and she was irritated.

"Don't touch me."

I wasn't offended; I instantly knew she was in transition. I guessed she was dilated to 8 at least. We managed to get into the car with various pieces of luggage, surviving several more contractions. Suddenly, neither Aaron nor I could remember how to get to the University of Washington Medical Center. Jana panted and cried out directions, we recovered and managed to get on the interstate.

No traffic and calm husband...

When Jana contracted and yelled, "I can't handle this anymore! I am feeling pressure!" I estimated her to actually be closer to 9, then silently lipped to Aaron to go 65. At 6:20am on a Saturday there wasn't a lot of traffic, and the HOV (carpool) lane was nearly empty. I knew the snarly place in traffic could be the 520 Bridge, since there are only two ways to cross Lake Washington into Seattle from the eastside.

Once on the bridge, Jana's next cry was, "I have to push!" I'm thinking she's at 10, and began strategizing how I could deliver a baby in their car on a bridge over troubled Lake Washington waters. Mentally preparing myself, but always enjoying the scenic view, I marveled that Aaron could be so completely calm, driving as if we were going on a picnic.

At the hospital, we parked in the emergency exit and I ran in to find a wheelchair and security personnel to park the car. The hospital was empty. Like a scene in a low budget movie, my cry of "Is ANYBODY here?" echoed against the sterile walls as I flip-flopped my feet back to the car for the luggage. Aaron was walking Jana down the hall and I remembered to shut the car door. We left the car in the emergency lane. It was running. We were in Seattle. We must have been flustered.

The LAST thing I wanted my daughter to be doing at this stage of labor was walking a hallway that seemed a mile-long. Still finding the hospital empty, we took the elevator to the 6th floor. I was wondering if anybody showed up to work that day. But the size of the empty elevator comforted me. It was a much roomier place to deliver a baby compared to a car. I found myself relaxing a little.

The nurses who greeted us didn't seem to take our need for urgency serious until we were in the room and Jana heaved herself onto the bed to push. One of the nurses informed me I would have to go back down and park the car. In my mind I was yelling, "ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!?!?" But, the new assertive me just told another nurse she would have to call security and have our car moved.

The following flurry of scrubbing, chattering and nurse noises was annoying, especially to someone who's only occupation is pushing. Like shushing those irritating people who talk during a movie, Jana said in the nicest pushing voice a woman can have, "Can you please stop talking, it is bothering me."

Since I was the Mom who cried when her baby got shots, I purposed to be strong as I watched my baby girl suffer. I bit back the tears and shared the verse the Lord gave me as my labor verse. I waited for a perfect moment when I knew I wouldn't be annoying. "For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right Hand of the Father." I encouraged her to endure for the joy of baby Brayden.

It was amazing to watch her strength and her diligence in delivering naturally, her research and preparation ahead of time paying off tremendously. She knew what to do and Aaron supported with love and strength. I was privileged to be there in a holy moment, when another soul was ushered into the world.

Her enduring ended at 7:07 when she received Brayden in her arms. Since I have been mocked ever since my comment of "Look, it's a baby!" when big sister Brookelyn was born, I wisely kept my mouth shut and grabbed my camera.

Later, one of the nurses caring for Brayden asked us how we survived the traffic coming over the bridge into Seattle. She was surprised to hear we made it to the hospital in about 13 minutes. She told us 30,000 people were estimated to be arriving for the University of Washington graduation in the Husky Stadium next door to the hospital.

When we left the hospital at 2pm to go to Jon's weekend baseball tournament, Seattle was snarled and the west-bound traffic was almost dead stop from Seattle to I-405, the connecting north/south highway. We saw a distressed woman in cap and gown, standing beside her car stalled in the midst of the worst traffic we have ever seen. We saw ambulances trying to inch through the traffic on the bridge to get to the hospital. We cruised down the east-bound lane, marveling at the goodness of God. Had her labor begun later in the day, we truly would have been delivering in the car, stuck in traffic on the 520 bridge.

We rejoiced in the health of Momma and baby and the steadfastness of Daddy. We delighted in baby toes, baby smell and baby cries. We praised the Lord for His goodness to His children.

And, to be honest, Scott and I were thankful it was their baby, not ours. We love babies, we always have, but we are tired. We are thankful to share in the birth as bystanders, not participants. We are too tired for night feedings, too tired to chase them up and down and all around. We love in a quieter, sit-down kinda' way.

Now, reflecting and resting, my name is coming back to me.

It's Gramma.

Gramma Mindy, Gramma Joy

Proverbs 17:6 "Grandchildren are a crown to the aged,
and parents are the pride of their children."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Princess Amazing Grace

It was going to be Grace's Big Night.

She was attending the Celebration Dinner to celebrate the end of another great year of homeschooling high school. Well, that's what the Moms are celebrating, the daughters just want a chance to dress like a Princess.

Grace had been Princess preparing for weeks. She altered a beautiful red dress, either size 14 for $12 or size 12 for $14, to fit her small frame. She accessorized with the perfect jewelry, shoes and a lacy sweater.

After writing a history paper on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, she had been whining, in her adorable Grace way, that she should attend finishing school like Jackie O did. As her banquet drew nearer, her whining increased. She was SURE she needed help, but finishing school wasn't an option. Instead, we gathered the four generations of women in the living room to finish her off in our own middle-class way.

Big sis, Bethany, who's attending cosmetology school next year, finishing the do' for the princess.

Grandma Barb is finishing the photo shoot. She also participated in advising, watching, giggling and enjoying the girly-girl moment.

Granddaughter, Brookelyn, is finishing off my clean living room. She wanted to be a Princess, too, but, this little Princess needs a Maid-in-Waiting! In her quest for beauty, she scattered bobby pins, brushes and combs around the living room. She did try to help put all the hot rollers back in the container. She would grasp one in her chubby hands, run over to the container in that sideways bobbing motion only toddlers have mastered, then try to shove it on the little pegs. While Brookie amused herself and messed up my living room, Grace stood up and went to finish her beauty routine.

A princessy work of art! We were enjoying Beth's awesome transformation of our daughter (how should I describe her?) into a glamorous young lady. We were stunned. But not for long.

I was in the bedroom getting my camera bag when exasperated, elevated voices reached me. I knew it was my Amazing Grace.

She was at the kitchen sink, giggling in her flustered way, while scrubbing on her beautiful red dress with a green washcloth.

"What happened?" I asked. I only had been gone a few minutes. Just a few, short, minutes. Not even a New York minute.

"Well... I had put cover-up in the palm of my hand in case I needed more. Then, Bethany needed to fix my hair. While I was sitting there, well... I just forgot it was there. I stood up and was smoothing my skirt down and ….well...I got makeup all over my dress."

Sure enough. Flesh colored makeup was spotted down the front of the sheer overlay to her dress. I began running the water as hot as it would go, found a white rag, and began treating the spots. Water didn't work. Soap and water didn't work. Baking soda didn't work. This stubborn cover-up was determined to do its job. It was covering up her Princess dress.

"Eewww, and I put that on my face? Does it ever come off your face?" Grace wondered aloud, but, it gave me an idea.

"Makeup remover!" I shouted as I dashed down the hallway to my bedroom for the oil-less makeup remover and cotton balls.

We had only a few minutes before the dinner began.

Determined as a movie-hero, I had to fix this dress and I wasn't going to give up without a fight.

We dabbed and dabbed and rubbed and dabbed, until we had the makeup out. We used hot water to rinse the area, then I sent Grace to dry the dress with her hair dryer. I wasn't sure if I should have left her alone again.

Then, I heard another noise that indicated something wasn't quite right. One of those Gracie screechy, laughy noises that sends premonitions, worries and exasperations up and down my spine. I ran back down the hallway to find this.

She also had That Look on her face. The Amazing Grace Look. She lifted her skirt and said, "Look, Mom, I forgot to take my running shorts off and put on my slip!"

Instead of being Jackie O. my daughter is Gracie OH NO!

I was still wondering if I trusted her alone as she trotted downstairs to get on her slip. Quickly she was back upstairs and flying down the long hallway to Rebekah's room. She was frantically digging through her closet and tossing things, cartoon-like, over her shoulder.

"What in the world are you looking for?" I tried to be stern, but also knew her answer would be amazing.

"A purse that I let Rebekah use for dress-ups."

I handed her the purse she was looking for. It was right next to her, hanging in plain view on a peg. It could have bitten her. It should have bitten her.

Feeling Cinderella's pain, I informed her I was taking a few pics. I had to capture these few moments of perfection before any more major disasters occurred. She did the obligatory teenage whine thing about being late already. I used the parental trump card, informing her that after all I did to get her ready, I was going to take pictures. Nice pictures. She whined happily at me, and trudged to my outdoor photography studio across the street. She posed with the tree, bench and stream as I commanded. The whole time, I was giving her strict instructions.
"Don't slip."
" Don't fall."

"Don't step in a dog poo."

"Don't snag your dress."

" Watch where you step."

Happy with the gorgeous pictures of my Amazing Grace, we were finally ready to leave. I was emotional and almost weepy in the memory-making rite of passage. I was trying to think of something tender and encouraging to say to my daughter to solidify this bonding moment in our hearts forever. But, as I walked by her side of the Jeep, I had to settle for, "GRACE! Your dress is shut in the door!"

My emotion of exasperation was back, and despite my doubts of getting her there in Princess form, she made her fashionably late entrance and enjoyed her Celebration Dinner.

Near 11pm, she and three friends arrived home, still gorgeous, but a little tired and wilted. Dad greeted them at the door with smiles and compliments. Then, he stared harder at Amazing Grace.

"What is that on your dress?"

"That?" she giggled. "Don't ask. It's chocolate."

Can anybody recommend a good finishing school? Before she finishes me off?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I Found My Missing Lipstick

The perfect lipstick issue is a big deal. You can spend a lot of time in the store gazing at tubes, wondering which one is that perfect color for you. The color that will instantly transform you from a tired, kid-goobie stained mother into a fresh, exciting, young woman. It has to be just the right color. It can't be too bright, it looks like you're trying too hard. It can't be too light, it looks like you aren't trying at all. It has to be that perfect color that draws attention away from all the other imperfections you tiredly drag around all day long.

My favorite was called UV Fusion, whatever that means, but they stopped making it years ago.

Busted. Apparently, Beka thought this color was perfect for her, too. The last of the UV Fusion is fused to her face.

She wanted to play Cowboys and Native Americans with brother Jon. She is trying out her Native War-Whoop, which isn't politcally incorrect, it is part of a time in history that we all have mixed feelings about. However, my kids, as I did, love to read about the long-ago Native cultures and how all the people lived in the "olden days" of the United States.

Smile for the camera. Like all the kids in my family,she has learned that if you smile and let mom take pictures of you, you won't get in as much trouble.
But, not only does that lipstick have to be that perfect shade, it has to have that perfect shape. After it has been smashed down while trying to make lipstick kisses, writing on mirrors, or painting a little girl's face, it just can't perfectly outline your lips in that age-defying, life-transforming way.
I guess today I will have to go lipstickless, letting people notice my tired, wrinkled face and all the Momma Goobies on my shirt.
And tomorrow, I will begin, again that quest for the perfect shade of lipstick that will transform me into a fresh, exciting, young woman. It will probably be called Ponce de Léon.

Monday, June 1, 2009

FLASHBACK - Rebekah's First Birthday

September 24th, 2003 - Rebekah Joy turns 1

These are the oldest digital pics I have stored on my computer. It doesn't mean they are the oldest I took, they are the oldest that have remained despite kids "editing/losing" them and my new computer crashing three times in six months last year.

We were celebrating the first birthday of our sixth child. Scott and I had been married 17 years. We were both 39 years old. We had just moved into our new home August 1st, a two story older home with a lot of room for our growing family. It is also the month we first found out we possibly would be relocated to the west coast within a year.

Big Sissy, Jana trying to get little Beka Boo to look at the camera. Of course, the first digital camera we had with not the greatest quality.

Now, she's got the idea. She hasn't quit posing since this moment.

Grace with Mommy. Yes, we both look astonishingly young in this pic. Notice my scarless neck! This was BC. Before Cancer.

A rare shot with all the kids smiling and nobody is pinching someone else behind the scenes. Back Row, L to R, Bethany, 13, Jon, 7, Daniel 15.

Front Row, L to R, Jana, 16, Rebekah, 1, Grace, 10.

Daniel learned to edit photos early on.

Is this little frown forewshadowing of what is to come, or is she just whining for more cake?

Since this birthday, Rebekah has moved to the PNW, has thinned out a lot, began kindergarten this year and now "babysits" her neice, another chubby, adorable little toddler.