Thursday, December 21, 2017

Checking In

Eden's annual cardiology check up was today and everything relating to her is great. The main cardiologist she's been seeing since she was about 2 months old, Dr. S, let me know that she'll no longer be traveling to Abilene for the clinics. They've had a lot of issues with the airplanes and timing and other things, so they're changing their schedule and routine and as a result, we'll be traveling to Dallas for Eden's annual exams. Not terrible, but not the greatest news, either.

She charmed everyone present, of course, and was extremely cooperative, which was a relief. Sometimes she get a streak of stubbornness (god only knows where THAT came from) but today she was amazing. Even after we had to wait for about an hour because the doctor's flight from DFW was delayed. And then when we had a bit of a problem delivering our last Christmas gifts. And then had some wait time at Michael's and again at school pick up. I'm afraid of when the sass will come

We've entered the busy time of the year and I'm already exhausted from it all. Our plans have changed so many times I can't even remember all the iterations of them. Normally, we celebrate our family Christmas on Christmas Adam, December 23, but since we're going to Arlington for the holiday this year, the Walke Christmas was graciously rescheduled for the 23 so we could leave after church on the 24. Which means our family Christmas was rescheduled, too. It would have been the 22, but Asher has a school program we can't get out of (with only 11 kids in the school its pretty obvious when someone doesn't show up...) So we're doing ours on Christmas Adam morning, with a nice breakfast and presents and stockings (for the first time ever since we won't be at Oma's for stockings) and then we'll load up for Mom's last Christmas on Orange St. Then the only Christmas in Arlington.

We've had doctor's appointments, sick kids, missed school, Christmas parties, a frustrating school project, LOTS of cooking and shopping and wrapping and decorating and I'm just. over. it. all. Tonight is the last evening of just us for a while, so instead of making the mashed potatoes or putting away the three laundry baskets worth of clothes and sheets or packing or making cookie dough or helping Austin and Elijah organize the playroom, I'm sitting. We've got pizza on the way and our new-to-the-kids Christmas movie (Home Alone) in the blu-ray player. I'll make some cookies from already made dough and maybe we'll do some popcorn, but for the next couple of hours, I'm taking a little break.

This is Rebekah's first Christmas ever, and our last in this house, so I want to savor it as much as I can. If you need me, I'll be in my chair with a beverage (adult or not, it's a toss up at this point) and my feet up, possibly cross-stitching, possibly snoozing, possibly nursing, likely yelling at the kids to be quiet and enjoy the movie.

Merry Christmas, from the Mullins Mob to you and yours

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Big News!

First off, I'm not pregnant. Just getting that out of the way. My baby-making business has closed. We did pretty good work with only a couple hiccups, but we've closed up shop.

Y'all know how I am about secrets. I hate keeping them, but I've been sitting on one for about three weeks now that's pretty darn huge. I had to wait until all the important people were consulted/informed and several discussions were had, but that has happened and now I can tell you...

Drum roll please....

My mom is giving me her house!

Insert shocked faces here. I'll wait for you to wrap your brains around that.

For those of you who don't know, my mom has a large house. Fifty-five hundred square feed, seven bedrooms, two bathrooms...and it's just her, Bob, and their four cats. We have four children and two cats and live in a 2500 square foot house. We're utilizing the space a lot better now that the boys are upstairs, but at Mom's, everyone (including the adults) will have their own rooms. We won't have a mortgage and we'll still have the income from the current renter in the carriage house. We're happy for him to stay as long as he wants.

This isn't going to happen overnight, we're looking at a maximum of five years. Mom and Bob need to find their own house first, and they have a pretty strict list of what they want and it's hard to find. They are interested in a house, so we'll see what happens there. At the absolute soonest, I think it'll be about a year, if everything with the house they're looking at works out.

We could be spending next Christmas in our "new" house!

This will be my inheritance, and since I'd be getting it before my siblings get theirs, the most important thing was to talk to them and get their opinions/thoughts on it. Luckily, my siblings are all awesome and saw what a great thing this is for my family so they had no objections. The brothers did voice some concern over the cost of living in the house, but that's our problem. And really, having no mortgage will help tremendously. They did also say that if I get the house, I'll be expected to bake all the Christmas cookies.

I say that's a fair trade. I'll have two ovens to make it easier.

We have a few options on what to do with our house when the time comes. Part of us/me want to keep it and rent it out. I did some basic research and houses in Abilene rent for about .75/$1 per square foot. Not having a full second bath and being where we are, I think we could ask $1200-1500 for rent and that would cover our expenses related to the house and then some. That way we could keep the house around for whenever we're interested in retiring, but that's so far down the road, it's maybe not the best idea. We could turn it into an Air B&B and if we priced it about like some of the ones in town, it would pay for itself with just a few nights a month.

Or, we could sell it. If we got what we paid for it, or slightly higher, we could pay off the mortgage on it and potentially pay off our cars, possibly even having extra at the end to put into the Orange Street house if we sell it for even more.

I've already got ideas on what to do at the house, where everyone is going to go, how things are going to be arranged. It's entirely possible we'll have empty rooms for a little while as we get settled and figure out what works and what doesn't. If Mom takes her dining table, that room for sure will be empty until we've saved the money to get a good sized dining table.

Depending on when we move in, my kids will be the youngest residents of that house in over 30 years? Or longer? A family lived there from 1964-1984 but I'm not sure how young the children were when they left. It was a business from 1984-1993 and my younger brother turned 7 the summer we moved in. So if we move in next year, three of my kids will be younger than that. So that's kind of cool.

It's big and exciting and a little overwhelming in some ways and stressful in others. I'm looking forward to this. I know I've said several times that I don't want to leave our house unless it's on a stretcher, but, as a friend this week said when I told her about this, Mom's house is the house to change my mind.

I need to recreate some pictures we took when Mom and Dad took ownership of the house Mother's Day weekend of 1993. They're of Caleb, Mom, Dad, and I acting like complete fools with a calendar in every empty room of the house. I'll find those and scan them in so you can all bask in the glory of my 1993 permed hair and homemade clothes and giant glasses (oh lordy the glasses). We'll get in there with our own goofballs and create some memories and traditions. I can't wait.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

We've been busy

I don't mean to go so long between posts, it just happens. I even write out posts in my head and then forget to sit down and type them up. Needless to say, those are all incredibly touching and funny and worded perfectly.

Instead you get this. lol

At the end of October was the annual craft fair at our church. Mom has been heading that for decades at one location or another and we help out as much as we can, which admittedly isn't much. It's a lot of work and without nearly enough helpers and changes in the vendors and various other things, Mom decided not to do it anymore. There wasn't a big huge announcement, though I did post on the craft fair's facebook page.

The Saturday of the craft fair, October 28, Eden was sick to the point that she had blood in her vomit, so she got to spend a night at the hospital. It was, of course, terrible timing, but it could have been worse. No answers, just like Elijah, but everyone was checking everything because of her heart.

She was released Sunday, October 29, around 3. I went to get the boys from my brother's house and then we all met up at home around 4. Austin and I made three Pac-Man inspired costumes in an hour and a half and made it to Trunk-or-Treat at the church and came home with enough candy for a while.

When we called the pediatrician to schedule a follow up, she said to bring Eden in if she had a relapse, but otherwise we're ok not going in. However, we want to get her checked out by a pediatric gastroenterologist from Children's. That's set for December 28 in Plano. Austin will take the day off and go up with her and make a day trip of it. Merry Christmas.

I'm really glad for Eden's medical fund to pay for her visit. Elijah's was much more expensive and made things a bit tight (we're ok, just having to be more mindful of our spending than we usually are).

Elijah is doing great. He's still the little sour patch kid with the angel face. Not much new is going on for him.

Asher is doing well at school. He has his up and down days, like anyone, but it seems to be more up than down. His school had their Thanksgiving program and feast on Thursday and I was in charge of coordinating the food. They held it at First Christian so I was also a big part of the set up and clean up. My feet and knees were hurting after that. The kids did a good job, though, and the food was good.

Rebekah is just sweet and wonderful 90% of the time. The other 10% she's hungry. She's really enthusiastic about baby food and loves fruit. I think her favorite is apples and blueberries. She's also a fan of Ritz crackers and vanilla wafers. Leaves make her gag, but she continues to try them, thinking maybe THIS time they'll taste good. She's still petite and hasn't started sitting up on her own, though she can pull herself up to her knees and maintain that for a little while and if I set her down in a sitting position, she can hold that for a little bit. She got two teeth within about 10 days and her whole demeanor changed from little terrorist back to the angel baby.

The big news, though, is that we FINALLY moved the boys upstairs! I'd moved 95% of my stuff and after waiting for a few weeks (or years) for Austin to take care of his stuff, I just dragged it all down the stairs for him. Last night he and I got up there and moved the 3/4 bed and pink armchairs downstairs and moved some things around. I vacuumed most of the room then we called it a night. This morning, my older two nephews came over and helped Austin dismantle, move, and reassemble the bunk beds and then move the boys' dressers upstairs. We got most of the boys' stuff upstairs and I rearranged the girls' room and set up the 3/4 bed for Eden.

I'm so excited for this. I really think the boys are going to like having their own space, and same for the girls. There is still some parts of the upstairs that we're using for storage because I just don't have the energy at the moment to get everything put elsewhere, plus there's always going to be stuff that needs to be stored, but they've got tons of space even with me storing things up there. Eden was excited for the new arrangement but got upset when I put her blankets on the 3/4 bed. She doesn't want to use the "big girl" bed, she wants the little "ladybug" bed.

I guess if Austin annoys me I can either send him in to sleep on the 3/4 bed or I can go myself. I'm not giving up on Eden, I think she'll get used to it over time. For now, I'm ok with her sleeping in the toddler bed in the corner.

I've written before about our constant rearranging of furniture to make our house work for us. If we're here 5 months or 5 decades, it needs to work and it doesn't make sense to have so much unused space. I'm still working on the foyer and I have a few ideas. Luckily, Austin is very willing to work with me and help me by moving heavy furniture. Happy wife, happy life, right?

Pac-Man family! Elijah was Pac-Man, Rebekah was a cherry (her shirt had cherries on it) and the rest of us were ghosts. 

Upstairs back area. I don't know that it's been this clean since we moved in, to be honest. lol

Temporary drawer storage

This morning before everything got moved in.

Taking apart the bunk beds. Elijah turned around and said "Oh, thanks for taking my picture."

Dressers with drawers

A different look the length of the room. The shelves on the left are still storage for me. I need to move a lot of the stuff there into the attic, I just ran out of energy. 

Their birth samplers with Dad's ties are now hanging in the stairwell. Elijah's is newly reframed and looks FABULOUS. I'm so happy with how it came out. 

A little reading area for Asher with a few of his books. I moved what we're leaving on those shelves up to the higher shelves and left them the bottom four. He was giving me decorating tips on what to do with empty shelfspace. Weirdly enough, it wasn't "get more books."

The girls' room, Eden's nook. The giant ladybug is on the floor in the corner next to the toy chest. 

The rest of the girls' room. Rebekah likes that the curtains are high enough she can look out the window when she's laying in her bed. 

And now I'm tired. I need a shower and a nap. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

long overdue

Yikes. I really did not intend to go so long between updates. We've been a good kind of busy, with stuff going on but no major catastrophes.

Updates on everyone one by one:

Asher is THRIVING in his new school. He actually talks (!!) about school a lot of the time, though if we just bluntly ask about it, he won't. You have to come at it from the side so he doesn't quite realize what you mean. He had a rough first three weeks, but after a come-to-Jesus conversation, the last four have been MUCH better. They have a color system (green, yellow, red, blue) and in the past four weeks, he was green for all but two days.

His teachers genuinely enjoy him and his stories and he's started having input in class, raising his hand with suggestions or comments. At home, he's a much more pleasant child to be around. He even gets along great with his siblings these days.

I know for sure part of it is the school and the new environment he's in, but I also see that it's that magical maturing that the teachers and principals at TLCA told us happens between Kindergarten and 1st. He's still got his moments, sure, but for the most part, he's actually fun to be around.

We've been reading in the evenings, one chapter at a time, and read through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. He really enjoyed Harry Potter (because he knows where it's at) and he liked Ralph. We haven't picked up our next book yet because I've been exhausted in the evenings or just not here but I'm thinking we'll do something else by Beverly Cleary, maybe Henry Huggins or Ribsy.

He got his first library card today and when the librarian recognized me from my hours spent hanging around her desk as a kid, she got a big grin on her face. He picked out a couple of books to check out and I showed him how to look up books on the computer and find them on the shelf and then how to use the self-check. As we were leaving, he said "Thanks for the tutorial, Mom." I'm not sure if he'll remember how to search and find books (though this is Asher, so probably) but at least he's got that little nugget in his brain somewhere. Now to see how long he can hold on to his card and remember his pin.

He lost three teeth last week, two in the same day. He's got a real jack-o-lantern face right now. But its a cute jack-o-lantern.

Elijah is 5. His world did not change all that much, surprisingly. He had a fabulous Mario birthday party and is already talking about his NEXT Mario party. I just can't with this kid.

He is....hard to describe. He's such a sweetheart and helpful and loving during the day and early afternoon 90% of the time and then almost every evening at bedtime he's just a jerk. He picks on Asher and Eden, he screams at me and Austin, he throws things...there have been more than one occasion that we've physically removed him from his room and made him sleep upstairs by himself. Bedtime is our least favorite time of the day.

He and I read a book together, Charlotte's Web, but he says it fast and has a bit of a speech impediment so it sounded like "Shart's Web." I laughed nearly every night.

He seems to be doing well at CCF, our church's MDO program. He's one of, if not the, oldest kids in the class and he seems to know most of what they're learning. He's been there for 4 years at this point, so he should know all that. He's definitely looking forward to kindergarten next year and honestly, I think he would have done ok in it this year, but I'm ok waiting for him to be "old enough" for it. I don't think we'll have the same issues with Elijah as we did with Asher.

Eden. Oh man. She's just a ball of personality and will. She lives in a world where whatever she thinks or says is the honest truth. If she doesn't like that you told her no, she'll say "Say yes" until you do say yes. Then she's confident she's gotten her way. Woe is you when she realizes she doesn't.

She's still into superheroes and a little bit into ladybugs and some into Mario. So everything she wears is some kind of costume in her mind. She prefers to sleep on the floor of our bedroom instead of in "the ladybug bed" in her room. She doesn't complain when Austin moves her, though. Mostly because she's half asleep. There have been times when we wake up in the middle of the night to tend to Rebekah and Eden has returned to her nook.

Rebekah is just wonderful. She's almost always happy and sweet and content to be doing her own thing. She is Elijah's favorite person and he comes looking for her two or three times a day. She likes to gnaw on whatever she can find, even if it's toes. She still doesn't sleep through the night consistently yet, but she could if she wanted to. She just doesn't want to. She's growing slowly and is petite, but nothing to be concerned about. We've started introducing solids to help her gain weight a little, help her sleep through the night, and to help stretch my milk. My supply is adequate for her, but pumping milk to send to CCF has been a little difficult. I'm barely staying ahead of her, rarely pumping in a week what she consumed the two days she goes. We had planned to do baby-led weaning, like we did with Eden since it's cheaper and easier, but she doesn't have the aversion to purees and being fed that Eden did, so she's had some bananas and applesauce and a bit of yogurt. She liked the fruits, not the yogurt.

She scoots herself all over the place, exploring as much as she can and getting into whatever was left at her level. She loves her siblings and grins whenever she sees them, pops her head up to see what they're doing, and follows them with her head while they play near her.

Austin got a new car for his birthday, a Prius. His old one was 13 years old and we'd had it for almost 10 years. It was dying a slow death and we'd been hoping for a new one for about 16 months when he finally just bit the bullet and got a new car. It's pretty snazzy and he really enjoys it. It reads his texts to him and has a button you push to put it in park. He had it a couple of weeks before I finally got to ride in it.

I've been doing well, too. Cooking and shopping and keeping the household running with errands and doctor's appointments and whatnot. I did manage to slice open my left middle fingertip with a bread knife last week. It's pretty gnarly but didn't necessitate stitches. It almost looks like it has them because of how jagged the cut is. It's interesting to find out how often you use a certain fingertip when you've injured it. I wear a bandaid and a finger cot (seriously looks like a finger sized condom) most days to protect it from water and children and then let it air out overnight. Rebekah still manages to hit it at night while nursing. It'll be a while before it's fully healed and I fully expect an ugly scar, but at least I still have my finger, right? Not that losing a finger is the end of the world. Just would have been a bigger pain (no pun intended) than this.

So we're trucking along. We've got the craft fair coming up, then Thanksgiving with my family in New Braunfels and our only Christmas in Arlington with Austin's parents. Asher's already planning his Minecraft birthday party and we're starting to think about Rebekah's blessing dinner for her birthday. Eden will have a cardio appointment in December and an eye exam in January. Things coming, but nothing super huge or stressful. This year has been exhausting for a lot of reasons and we've still got about 10 weeks or so to go. I'll try to update again in that time. :-)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

No buffalo roaming, just foxes skittering

Something I don't talk about much or even notice anymore is our house. Most days, its just a building that holds our stuff and occasionally irritates me with its quirks.

We live in an old house. It was built in 1920 and has lots of cool features and a few not so cool features. Cool: original hardwood floors in most of the house. Not cool: 1 1/4 bathroom (the sink in the half bath doesn't work). Cool: awesome fireplace and beveled glass and mirrors and crown molding in most of the house. Not cool: the plumbing is a patchwork and needs to be updated and a sink needs to be repaired. Cool: my built in bookshelves in our room and our original kitchen cabinets. Not cool: our electrical is also a patchwork and needs to be updated. Cool: lots of big original windows so we don't have to have lights on during the day. Not cool: lots of big original windows so the house kind of leaks warm and cold air. I don't want to replace them because they're so pretty, but man.

I could go on. I love that we've got nice sized rooms, but I hate that the layout of these rooms is so awkward and the placement of certain areas is the way it is. The kids' room, for example, has six walls, three of which are exterior walls of 90% windows. Lots of light, sure but's a weird shaped room.

I knew this was my house when I saw it on the realty website in June 2010. It was priced a little above what we could afford, but it had been on the market a while and I wanted to see it anyway. By the time we got our (terrible) realtor to set up a viewing, they'd dropped the price a lot and then accepted our offer below that. We moved in in July of 2010 and have both loved and hated it ever since.

We have three bedrooms, a living room, a front hallway that's kind of useless (it's really a big room, not what you might think of as a hallway), the aformentioned 1 1/4 bathrooms, large kitchen, back hall/mudroom, laundry room, and a large space upstairs that's tricky to figure out. It could be a bedroom or a second living area. We've mostly used it for storage for the past 7 years. Out of sight, out of mind. We put long planks in the attic space at one point (I think I was pregnant with Elijah at the time) and that's become our mid-term storage: storage for items I don't need right now, but use annually (holiday decor, out of season clothing) or every couple of years (outgrown kid clothes). Also, there's some other stuff: a sewing machine, cross-stitch patterns I've already done, my high school year books, a couple tubs of keepsake items from Dad and my youth I'm not up to getting rid of yet.

We also have a house in the back that's not finished, mostly just walls, roof, and floor (though there is a bathroom out there that could be made useable) that's for longer term storage. I have a small apartment's worth of furniture, a small mountain of boxes, dining chairs, all of our outside toys, cross-stitch stuff I don't want but don't want to get rid of...y'all, I'm a borderline hoarder. But at least my stuff is about 90% organized. And I do actually get rid of tons of stuff every couple of years, donating to garage sales or the Salvation Army. I've tried to sell some things myself with limited success.

When we moved in, we were pregnant with Asher. I knew he wasn't going to be an only child, and this house is seemingly designed for two kids in one bedroom and a third on their own in the other room. We had the front room as a guest room for a long time, but after a while our guests ceased staying with us, so we turned it into a playroom for the kids. They've got my grandmother's old yellow couch, which is the most comfortable couch ever, a tv with gaming systems, and all the toys they occasionally play with, plus a toilet for their use (though they naturally run through the house, find me to inform me of their need to pee, then use the main bathroom). We want to keep that room as their play area, so then we planned to put the boys upstairs and keep the girls downstairs, either in the same room or eventually moving Eden to the front room with the private bathroom. Things were moving along great, then the boys announced it was too creepy upstairs and they didn't want to move up there.

Cue the record scratch. We've been trying to figure out the best way to utilize our space since day 1 and it's been trickier the more people we add to the household. We toyed with the idea of taking out a loan at some point and adding a bathroom in the attic and expanding the upstairs room so that could be a master suite, we talked about adding a bathroom to the master bedroom by extending into the yard, we talked about sacrificing part of the master for a bathroom (we really need/want another bathroom). We've switched the living and dining rooms twice, once when Elijah was about 4 months old and back again about 2 months ago. We've rearranged the furniture in every room but the kitchen multiple times.

Luckily for everyone, Elijah recently decided he'd be ok sleeping upstairs as long as he could take his Mario plushies. Asher, when faced with the choice of sleep upstairs with Elijah or downstairs with his sisters decided upstairs wasn't so bad after all. Now I just have to get my stuff relocated and Austin to go through his and decide what to do with it. I'm hoping we can have the boys upstairs within a couple of months.

I love the house. We've painted it and that actually helped my feelings about it a LOT. We're slowly getting it to how we need it but with four kids and a limited amount of money to do that, it's taken time. We've done something every year we've been here and I hope we can continue that as long as is necessary. This year was supposed to be plumbing, but things have gotten away from us financially because of Asher's testing and Elijah's hospital stay and a photo package we bought for Rebekah, so this year it'll have to be something small. Like maybe a tree to replace the one that died.

We love where we are. Being across and beside Serenity House has had minor inconveniences, but overall hasn't been terrible. The Red Cross is on the other side and they're quiet neighbors, too. We like being within walking distance of downtown and all that has to offer, we love being within walking distance of the church (though we haven't actually walked there much the last couple of years....too many kids). We're even walking distance to my oldest brother and my mom. I just need a grocery store closer than Ambler and a few more restaurants, maybe some more shopping downtown and I'd be all set.

We were blessed in that we both graduated college with no debt. We were able to start saving immediately for whatever we needed to so we were able to buy our first house six months after we were married. Our only debt currently are my car and our house. We're looking at buying Austin a new car, but I'm hoping once we've got mine paid off, we might be able to continue pulling that amount out of our account and put it into the house. It would take a while, but we'd eventually be able to fix everything that needs fixing, add on a bathroom, fix up the guest house into maybe a rental apartment or something.

Unless someone has $100,000 they want to give us for those

Little by little we'll chip away at it. Our plan right now is to never leave. It (mostly) works for us and meets (most) of our needs. It's the home we brought our sons home to and the home our daughters were born in. We've been here 7 years and already have a lot of history here. A history we hope to continue.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hospital Adventures

Oh my good lord. I guess Elijah got a little jealous that I don't write as much about him on here.

A couple weeks ago, July 31, Asher got sick late that night. He threw up a couple times. He was feeling ok, but not well enough to go to the day camp we had him signed up for. He missed three days of it, just attending Monday and Friday. Thursday and Friday, Eden threw up once each day. So Thursday, Elijah got to have a special treat in being the only one in the family to go to a friend's birthday party. Saturday, everyone was feeling good, Sunday night, Elijah threw up once.

Monday and Tuesday, he was up and down, hard to keep away from the others, just like Asher and Eden had been the week before. We made and delivered dinner to friends who had a little boy injured in an accident on July 29 and then went home and ate our own dish of the same meal. Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, Elijah threw up again.

Wednesday morning, Elijah didn't get out of bed. He said he was too sick. After a couple of bed wetting incidents, I realized he wasn't going to get up to go to the bathroom so I put him in a pull up. That makes it easier to make sure he's not dehydrated so I was ok with it (plus less laundry). He went through several on Thursday and that evening, when Austin was checking on him and dumping the bucket, he commented that it looked like Elijah had cinnamon and sugar in his vomit.

He hadn't really eaten anything since dinner Tuesday, so that surprised me. He had taken a little nibble of a cracker, so I figured that was it.

Friday morning, his vomit was black and grainy. I studied it for a second, then googled. It said that if vomit looks like it has black or brown flecks, that indicates that there is blood present and the patient should receive immediate medical care.

Now, we live in the age where we google and EVERYTHING is dire, so I decided to play it safe and call the doctor. Of course, it was after business hours because they close at noon, but she called back very quickly and when I described it, she said to take him in.

Bob came right over and sat with Asher and Eden and I took Rebekah and Elijah to Regional, calling Austin to meet me on the way.

We got there around 2:45 and sat in the waiting room for about a half hour before going to a triage room where they checked his vitals and said he didn't have a fever and his pulse and blood pressure were good. By 3:30 we were in another triage room waiting for a doctor or someone. I texted my siblings to keep them in the loop. At 4:30, a nurse came in and started an IV and drew some blood. As weak as Elijah was, needing to be carried everywhere and not able to reposition himself much on the bed, it took two nurses, Austin, and finally me to hold him down to get it in. He complained a little but then went back to being quiet and still. John showed up about 4:45 when they hooked up a bag of saline to get him hydrated.

Two bags later, we were told we were going to be admitted. That was around 6:45. John left to take care of his kids and we started making some arrangements for the night. A friend volunteered to bring Austin dinner and we asked him to wait until we were in the room. That didn't happen until 7:45. Then Bob said he had a couple errands he needed to run, so I asked a friend who lives two blocks away to come sit at the house until someone could get there. She got there around 815-830 and then another friend showed up with pizza for the kids, who I'm sure were starving.

For some reason I thought we'd see the doctor Friday night so kept hanging around. Finally about 9 I accepted we weren't so headed home. Austin didn't want me to send anything back but I found Elijah's kitty and sent that back around 1130 with Kristen so he could have at least that.

Saturday morning, I woke up with a headache. Not a lot of sleep and stress and a little dehydration of my own built it into a migraine. I was going to drop the kids off with the Dukes so I could go to the hospital, but I was feeling bad enough that Beth came and got them. I got a quick nap with a cold pack on my neck, then rallied enough to pack a bag for Austin and head up to the hospital for a couple hours.

Elijah was still vomiting off and on, even though he was no longer taking anything by mouth and hadn't since shortly after we got to the ER. They attempted meds by mouth a couple times but they always came back. I left around 7 to pick up my kids and get some dinner for myself then we all headed home to rest. I was eating when Cari called and basically said she was coming in the morning.

She and her niece arrived around 9am and I headed out shortly after, swinging by Target to get some Mario stuff for Elijah. It's hard to find Mario stuff! I found some figurines and a racer toy along with some glow in the dark mini Thomas trains and a set of Mario pjs. I got all that and headed to the hospital, getting there around 1030. Right after I got there, they took Elijah down for a CT scan. He did great and when they pulled him out and complimented him, he said "Yeah, I was really scared!" When Elijah heard Cari was in town, he said "But I haven't seen her." Kid knows how to play pitiful really well at this point. I hung out until lunch then headed home to nurse Rebekah. She was happy to see me, the other kids were indifferent. Cari ran and got us adults lunch then she and I headed to the hospital. Cari made a quick visit then headed back to the house. Austin's parents arrived around 330 and came straight to the hospital. I stayed up there until about dinner time, around 530, then headed home for the night.

We were told if Elijah could eat something and keep it down, he could go home. So Austin and his parents attempted to bribe him to take small bites with stories. When Austin told me it was going really slow, I said "know your audience. Bribe him with something he cares about: Mario and minis." So Austin bribed him with minis (I'd taken them all home) if he ate his cracker. Elijah got excited and ate too fast and threw up. So that meant another night in the hospital.

Austin came home briefly to drop off his computer and get minis and maybe something else? I'm not sure. We had a friend volunteer to bring dinner Sunday night, then we told them the grandparents were here to maybe another night, then when we realized the grandparents weren't coming to the house at all on Sunday, I texted and asked if the offer was still good. It was, so the three of us here feasted on chicken strips and french fries before heading to bed again.

Monday morning, Austin's parents met him at the hospital so he could get to work. I got the kids settled, then Austin's mom came to the house so I could go up to the hospital. I got there around 10 and by 11:30, headed back for Rebekah. Elijah was doing so much better I decided to keep her with me. That also saved me time running back and forth. He was excited to see her and she seemed pretty pleased to see Papa and Elijah. We spent the day just sitting around, like you do in a hospital. I took a little nap because my stomach started bothering me Sunday afternoon and Sprite and rest are about all that fixes that. Austin got there around 430 and we saw the doctor again. She said he was good to go as soon as he saw the gastroenterologist. The nurse informed us earlier that he didn't make rounds until after 5 most days. So the discharge paperwork was ready to go, we were half packed, Elijah was talking about going home, food was coming to the house....and no gastroenterologist.

I finally left around 5 in the middle of a big storm. I ran barefoot through ankle deep water to get the car and pull it up to the pick up area so Rebekah wouldn't have to get wet, then Austin waded out into the rain to put her in when we had to wait for the car ahead of us to load their passenger. A normally 15 minute drive home took me nearly half an hour because I had to keep back tracking to avoid hugely flooded intersections and once even downed power lines. I almost didn't see the power lines, they were so covered with water in front of me and debris to the left.

I finally made it home, got everything inside, and called Mom to update her and called Austin to tell him what route to avoid.

Dinner arrived around 630 and the kids and I ate pizza and Beth had chicken strips from the night before. We sat and watched some videos and read books for a while until Mom and Bob came over to say hi. Finally around 9 I decided to put the kids to bed and Beth decided to go on to the hospital to get Allen and then go to their hotel. She took Austin a change of clothes and headed out.

I stayed up a while, dealing with kids and pumping milk for Rebekah and waiting for Austin and Elijah. At 1030, he texted that the night nurse finally called the gastric doc to find out what was going on and we found out no one had told him he had a patient to see. He'd be there about 9 today.

I was't super happy, to say the least. They brought in a portable x-ray machine and x-rayed Elijah for the doctor and then removed his iv. Austin posted on fb:

"Relative pain levels of hospital experiences:
CT scan: 0
Vomit: 1
Vomiting blood: 2
Getting contrast by IV: 3 (for a second)
Taking medicine by mouth: 4
Getting your throat swabbed: 5
Taking medicine by butt: 6
Getting an IV stuck in arm: 7
Missing your little sister: 8
Taking all the tape off your arm so they can unstick the IV: 10"

Poor Elijah was just done, I think. He was exhausted from being in the hospital so long and being told he could go home so many times and the not being able to. I'm not sure when he fell asleep, but he was asleep by midnight.

I was winding down to go to sleep when Austin texted that the doctor had come in at 1230. He realized that it wouldn't be possible for him to get there at 9 this morning, so he went ahead and came in last night.

All of Elijah's scans have been clear all along. Nothing on the ultrasounds or the CT or the x-rays. Nothing too weird in his bloodwork or urine or vomit. A diagnosis has been kind of the equivalent of "I don't know, aliens?" We're pretty sure it was gastroenteritis, but even then, we don't REALLY know. The IV antibiotics seemed to do the trick. We don't know where it came from because he ate what everyone else ate, even another family, and no one else got sick. He's been around the same people and places he always is. So who knows. Apparently, some people can show a sudden random sensitivity to something and get really sick really fast. He had wet several pull ups on Thursday and even one Friday morning, so to find out 8 hours after his last wet pull up that he was severely dehydrated was a little shocking.

The gastric doctor cleared him to come home with no restrictions. We'll still take it easy and rest a lot this week. We don't have any plans until a follow up with the pediatrician on Friday morning and we'll keep it that way.

If Elijah had been awake at 1230 or 1, I think Austin would have packed up and come home. But he decided to let Elijah sleep so they got home around 7 this morning. Beth and Allen met them up at the hospital for discharge then headed on home. Austin put Elijah in his bed and he's currently still asleep at 1030. Eden has been up and down, Bob has been by with donuts and to pick up the prescriptions to drop off for us, Austin's back at work for a few hours today, and I'm contemplating going back to bed myself. It's good to sleep on a rainy day when all your people are where they're supposed to be.

I know I forgot things. SO MUCH happened it's hard to keep it all straight. It was more stressful for me than for Austin (I say, I don't know for a fact) because while he was there with Elijah 90% of the time, he had a lot of downtime. Elijah was watching tv a lot and Austin was on his phone or computer. I was running back and forth, to stores, to various locations to take care of the rest of us, coordinating care and feeding of everyone. I didn't have time to straight up ask for help most of the time. I did ask for a few things here and there, but for the most part, I hate asking for something like that. I feel like I'm imposing and sometimes the wording of offers of help make me think that person doesn't REALLY want to, they just want to offer (and I get that, I really do). So when people just showed up and said "No, this is what I'm doing," I could almost cry. Friday I came home and some dishes had been washed and tables and counters wiped down. Saturday I picked up my kids from the Dukes and they'd been fed and had playtime with friends and watched movies and observed a hullabaloo outside. My sister came Sunday and didn't just keep my kids from running in the streets: she swept, she changed the litter box, she folded a small mountain of laundry, she changed dirty diapers (her niece probably did that,, she gave Rebekah a bath, she fed me and my kids. If there had been dirty dishes in the sink she would have washed those too, I'm sure.

My tribe showed up.

I was in MOPS for 2.5 years and never felt like they showed up for me. Ever. One person from MOPS helped out after Eden was born and it was one of the most amazing things ever. I've copied it twice now and had intentions of copying again but then Elijah happened. This was the main reason I left. I felt like I had no real community there and it hurt to keep going and putting myself out there and feeling like after all that time, I just had friendly acquaintances. I've gotten closer to some of the other women since quitting, ironically enough.

Our church has been showing up more and more recently, and I love that. In a week and a half, we had a new baby, an accident involving a child, an accident involving the new baby's pregnant aunt (nothing too severe, she's fine), and now Elijah. We've set up meal trains for three of us and the dates get filled up quickly. We're recognizing how much we need each other and we're showing. up. It's hard to be in this world alone and when your kids are hurt its even harder.

So to my tribe, thank you so much. You made a long, stressful weekend a little easier to bear. And not having to worry about meals much the next week is going to be hugely helpful as we get back into the swing of things.

Friday night heading to the room

Tuesday morning sleeping in his bed with his teddy. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A good mix

We've had a week around here. Asher started his last summer camp on Monday, an all day camp that was his "trial run" for his new school this fall to see how he'd get along with the other kids and to give the teachers a preview of his personality and behavior. It was also the last week of CCF, our church's MDO that the other three attend. Monday was great because I got to nap all day in peace.

Tuesday, Asher was throwing up, so he missed camp. Disappointing, but not a huge deal. Wednesday, he was still sick, so my plans for another all day nap were thwarted, though I did get a little nap while the others were gone. Before drop off, Eden was running around in her swimsuit and swim diaper and peed on the floor. Because those diapers absorb NOTHING. Thursday, he was STILL sick and Eden threw up, so we didn't go get groceries when we usually do and cancelled plans to go to a birthday party. Luckily, the birthday boy's grandma and mom love my kids so they came and got Elijah and he got to go have fun. That night i wiped something off the floor I thought was chocolate from a cupcake that had been stepped on and smushed into the floor. It was not chocolate. Friday, Asher was feeling better, so went to the last day of camp and got to go to the new water park here in town. Right before we left, though, Eden threw up again and somehow managed to get it on the back of her head while standing. Kind of impressive. Scrubbing and shampooing twice got her at least presentable to leave the house for an hour. Then Friday evening Asher was sick again.

I'm over it. I've cleaned up every bodily function this week. Even some feline stuff.

So yeah. I've been busy. And forgot to update on Thursday after Asher's follow up with the neuropsychologist.

Dr. B was a colleague of Dad's and new him before the aneurysms and treated him afterwards. Apparently I even had a session with him at one point to make sure I was handling everything going on with Dad in an appropriate manner. I have zero recollection of this but he was very friendly and seemed pleased to know that we were John Walke's family.

He confirmed that yes, Asher is smart. He does have some sensory issues but nothing severe enough to warrant occupational therapy. When he curls up in a ball because of noise or does some of the other odd things he does in reaction to stuff are because he focuses on the things that annoy/bother him so much that they're all he can think about. He doesn't know how to shut off that focus just yet but it's something he'll learn. (I didn't think to ask about ways to help him learn that, but we may google that.) Asher's academics are leagues beyond his socialization, which isn't unsurprising. We knew all that already. He needs more social interaction to help him be better around people but we don't want to do too much and overwhelm him.

It's a fine line.

At the beginning of it all, though, Dr. B said that neurologically speaking, Asher is Dad: the way he thinks, the way he processes, the way he explains things are all the way Dad did it. (I'm not sure if that's before or after the aneurysm, but I'm going with before.) After talking to me a bit, he said that the way Asher reacts to social situations is pretty much me. I've just learned how to cope with it and handle situations that stress/bother/annoy me. So he's a good mix of me and Dad. Which isn't a bad place to be, in my opinion.

We talked about the pros and cons of TLCA and A Moore House and Dr. B didn't come out and say he'd recommend one over the other, but did say that it wouldn't be a bad thing to focus on Asher's academics right now, so we've settled on A Moore House. A good thing, too, because I'd already bought all his school Dr. B did recommend that we try to get him into something social outside of school, so that's our next hurdle.

Overall, it was a mixed bag of a meeting. A little frustrating because he didn't tell us anything new, really, he just confirmed everything we'd heard or observed ourselves. But that's also a good thing. Everyone is looking at Asher and seeing the same things. He's a good kid, he makes friends easily, though he says he doesn't have any friends, he's smart, he's socially awkward, and he has some definite quirks.

I'm really hoping that A Moore House will work for him. I know those teachers are great and will do great things with and for him, but he has to adapt to their style. He's basically starting school for the first time this year and he's starting in 2nd grade with a bunch of kids who've kind of done this before and know the rules and each other. They're very inclusive and accepting, so its Asher who'll have to open up and accept them. He gets so frustrated when people don't do things exactly the way he wants them to that he yells and gets mad (and that's totally me, I'll admit it, I just grumble to myself or text my frustrations to a friend) and that's not going to work anywhere, let alone with A Moore House.

In other news, I think (hope) we're on the upswing of sickness around here. I think we've gone a full 36 hours with no incidents! Fingers crossed for a cleaner and less gross week.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Scratch and Sniff

We all do it. The internet and cooking shows and cookbooks and Pinterest have made it so easy to find recipes that look amazing, so we bookmark or print or pin or save them somehow and then never. look. at. them. again. I've got dozens and dozens of recipes like that, most of them that call for ingredients I tend to keep on hand. And then we make the same things over and over because it's easy and we know the recipe by heart and our kids will actually eat it.

I do bulk cooking to save a bit of money and hassle and usually have a freezer full of the same meals that we can just pull and heat and eat. I'm tired of those. I'm tired of our usual recipes. But I'm also stupid picky so trying new stuff almost always involves some kind of recipe editing.

So, in an effort to shake things up a little, save some money by using what we already have and only have to buy a few things to finish off, and to eat maybe a little healthier (ok, so not too much but at least without lots of unpronounceable ingredients) I've been cooking dinner from "scratch" at least once a week for the past month or so using some of the many recipes I've got stashed all over.

We've had mixed results.

Asher is even pickier than I am. He eats zero vegetables willingly. I eat like 6 so I can't fault him too much. He hasn't liked much of what we've had that's new, so I make sure to throw in an old standby periodically so we know he's eating at least once a week.

I've messed up a couple things. I've underseasoned (I weirdly HATE tasting what I'm cooking. I can't explain it, I just don't want to do it. If Austin's around, he's my taster.). I've over cooked. I've had to cut meat in half to get the middle done in time to serve it with the rest of the meal because the rest was cooked to the point that it was almost mush.

We're all surviving. And we're saving a lot on food.

We buy gift cards through the church for restaurants then we end up eating at other restaurants and buying tons of groceries and snacks and wondering why we have spent $1000 on food this month. Now, when we want to eat out, we try to use those cards. It's pre-paid for food, and we pre-paid so long ago it feels like free food.

I quit buying lots of snack foods and chips so now the kids are actually hungry at dinner and typically eat an actual meal instead of 20 packages of fruit snacks or 15 cheese sticks or half a bag of chips. I do still buy cheese sticks because that's an easy quick snack for me while breastfeeding, but since none of them can open the packages by themselves, I can control how many they get. This backfires because I get snacky late at night and toast gets real old, as do cereal bars, granola bars, and cheese sticks. Sometimes I just want a handful of chips or Oreos or something.

Tonight we had tacos and met with mixed reactions. Asher didn't like them at all. Eden wanted to eat the meat out of the shell with her fork, then when we tried to dump the meat on the plate for easier access, flung the shell around so now there's meat chunks on the floor. Elijah ate 2. Austin had 4 1/2 and I had 3 1/2. Most of it we had on hand. $1 for some shells and a couple bucks for sour cream (which I'll use the rest of for something later next week) and some veggies from the farmer's market and we had a nice meal.

For dessert, we're making a cinnamon roll cake that I had all the ingredients to on hand and have been wanting to make for a while. I just hadn't gotten to it because buying a cake or some cupcakes or whatever is so much easier, but it usually doesn't taste as good. We'll see how this tastes. We did edit the recipe a bit: it called for plain icing and we made cream cheese frosting, because cream cheese frosting makes pretty much anything better.

A benefit of this method of feeding my family, besides the whole saving money thing, is that Elijah wants to help. He wants to learn how to make things, specifically cake. He wants to pour the eggs in and watch it mix up. He wants to watch me spread frosting on cake. He wants to know how to make his favorite things. He's slowly getting interested in making dinner, too. I'd love to raise kids who know how to cook and cook well and cook more than one dish well. Or at the very least, kids who know how to follow a recipe and adapt it as needed.

The cinnamon roll cake is now out of the oven and the house smells amazing: cinnamon and cream cheese and sugar. We're going to let it cool a little before digging in and it'll be another thing that brings us all back together around a table, enjoying each other and our food.

At the end of the day, that's the best part. We sit together and eat. It doesn't matter if I made it from scratch or if Austin picked up a $6 hot and ready from Little Caesar's on the way home. Eating together with my family is my favorite part of any meal. Except when food goes flying and wails of anguish rise up because I'm making someone eat something they don't like. Life is hard, y'all. Especially when you're 6.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A circle's round

Asher had some testing last week to evaluate for sensory issues. It was a long day, starting a 9am and going until nearly 5pm. We had an hour of phone calls with the insurance company, then an hour of discussion between me and the doctor and a half hour of paperwork (because the packet that was literally 10 pages long they mailed home beforehand wasn't enough...). Rebekah and I just hung out at the office since I had to take Asher at lunch time for an hour. She did ok, I managed to get some reading and a bit of cross-stitching done. She did get a bit fussy because the office was very bright and she needs it a little darker to sleep. Asher did well, taking a couple of breaks to run around and work on a cross-word puzzle.

One of the questions on one of the forms I filled out asked if I worried about Asher's relationships with other kids his age (or something along those lines) and it got me thinking.

Austin pointed out that he's not really in touch with many of his high school friends, and even fewer than before. Really, the childhood people he's in touch with are all from boy scouts. The friends that we have kept up with more are the college friends and people we met after we moved to Abilene. And even then, we're extremely homebody people so we don't have lots of friends (loads of acquaintances, but that's different). He didn't see the fact that Asher doesn't have any friends as an issue because he's not still friends with anyone he was friends with at 6. He doesn't even keep in touch with them on facebook. It concerns me because I AM still friends and keep up with people I was friends with at that age.

Kristen and I met when we were about 5. I assume. That's when we were in kindergarten and when I started piano lessons. I don't really remember NOT knowing her. We went to church together, school together from Kindergarten through high school, we had plans to live together and be in each others weddings, raising our children side by side.

We definitely have had our ups and downs as any 27 year relationship will. We've argued, we've disagreed, we've hurt each other's feelings, we've been distant for years at a time, but we've always managed to come back to each other after a while. I wrote a post about it a few years ago, lamenting the fact that it had been so long wince we'd been back that maybe it was over. Kristen saw it and we had a lot of talks and are back, though being in our 30's with families we'll never be back to where we were as teens or even 20 somethings. Kids and families can really get in the

In spite of the years apart, we, I feel, easily slip back into the comfort of our relationship. We know what we did before that hurt the other, so we try to avoid those mistakes. We cook for each other, we are an ear for each other when our families are driving us nuts or when something exciting is happening, we're a shoulder when something terrible is happening. We get together with our mess of kids and husbands and eat big meals then shoo the kids away to play card games.

Things can still be rough. Scheduling is a nightmare, since we both have lots of extended family in town and there are other obligations we have to church and work. When we do get together, there's the whole trial of "oh lord, what do we cook to feed this mob of people we're in charge of that everyone will eat and isn't too hard to make?"

Relationships change as we age, we both get that, and we do grieve the relationship we had as teens. We'd get together and cook or bake something, then sit on the roof of the carriage house and eat and talk for hours. Our biggest worries were tests and classmates and siblings. Our worries and locations have changed, but our main activities haven't. I have to make myself leave sometimes because I could sit and talk for hours. The funny part is I'll wonder what we'll talk about before we get together and then we're standing at the door for 20 minutes talking 5 hours later as one of us is trying to leave. Everything and nothing, that's what we talk about.

I'm looking forward to raising our children together. So far, they're all still young, so we're in the trenches together. Coming soon is school aged kids together, then teens together (lord help us), then empty nesting together. Maybe someday a vacation together (with or without kids, I'm flexible).

That's what I want for my children: relationships to last their whole lives. Relationships with ups and downs, sure, but with love at the heart of them. Relationships where it doesn't matter what you might disagree on or where you might end up, you still gravitate back towards each other. I want my kids to have friends who they can raise their babies with, friends who will pick up the wrapping paper at their kids birthday party while they dish up dessert in the kitchen, friends they can call on when they're moving or need help for whatever, friends who will come to their house and not judge them for the grease spatters on the stove, the dirty dishes in the sink, or the dirty floors and children. Friends who will just show up to eat good food and play games and ignore the kids in the other room screaming (mostly happily) and playing. Friends for a lifetime.

It doesn't hurt to have a lifelong friend with a pool who's happy for you to invite yourself over once in a while. Or who's a fabulous baker and willing to "share" the extra/messed up cupcakes with you. Or who gets the silly thrill of saying Streusel Berry Apple Bars. ;-)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day not my favorite day. My dad is gone, as are both of my grandfathers. We've never spent Father's Day weekend with Austin's dad, but we try to remember to send a card (Allen, they're in the mail, I promise). I try to make sure that Austin has a good day, but he's not all that into making a big deal of things unless I tell him to, so he's content with a quiet weekend. We spent this weekend at the splash pad, eating Chili's (his favorite), and going to see a movie. He got some cards we all forgot to sign (so we can give them to him next year!) and two ties and I remembered to get the kids to write and draw in his notebook. I even gave him the last 1/3 of my molten chocolate lava cake from Chili's, prompting him to say "this is the best day ever!" I questioned that yesterday was a better day than the day he proposed or the day we got married or THE DAYS HIS CHILDREN WERE BORN. Apparently 1.5 chocolate lava cakes in one day is pretty hard to beat.

When my dad died, Mom gave each of us something of his. My brother John got a Father's Devotional book of some kind and when he flipped through it, he found a list of ten things a dad should do. I have a scanned pdf of it, but I don't know how to convert to a jpg, so I'll just transcribe it below. I'm not sure if he came up with it himself or if it’s part of the devotional book, but these were words he lived by and I think it made him an excellent father....but then I might be biased. 

Top 10 Things a Dad Ought to Do: 

10. Hug her & Hug her to the very end. Be crazy in love with your wife. Your children will follow your example. - Eccl 9:9

9. Leave the back door open and the light on. A lifelong commitment to being a dad. Be sure they are welcome home. - Luke 15:20

8. Cry when you leave home. Don't be afraid to show your emotions. - Gen 45:1,2; 46

7. Teach your kids to work hard. Lead by example. II Thess 3:10

6. Marry off your kids many times. Be actively concerned about your kids' future spouses, no matter what age. - Gen 24:3

5. Never be too busy for your kids. Let your children interrupt. (BBC dad anyone?)

4. Be a man of your word. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

3. Treat your family as if the preacher was there. Be a true man of God, and practice holiness at home. - Eph 5:4

2. Build your wife a phone book holder. Fill your life with loving deeds. - 1 John 3:18

1. Wear a cowboy hat. Be yourself within God’s freedom.

I think those are the references. Some are hard to read on the pdf. I feel like Dad managed to exemplify these traits. 

Dad liked chocolate a lot, but I think he would have rated his children higher than two pieces of cake in one day. He loved us and our spouses and our children tremendously. More than that, though, he loved our mom. He made sure we saw that in a lot of little things he did for her, the courtesies he extended to her, the affection he felt for her. It was so much a part of our daily lives, I can't think of many specific examples other than him squeezing oranges for fresh orange juice for her periodically. He wrote her some pretty mushy letters when they were dating and engaged and some sappy (though not too terrible) poetry after they were married. 

That was a good thing for a father to do. It gave all of us an example of what to look for and be in the future. He may not have consciously done it thinking about the example he was setting, but just because hey, he loved this woman he'd married and had all these kids with and why WOULDN'T he want to show her how he felt about her? That is the best example, the one where it's not a pre-planned thing, just a natural, instinctual part of life. 

So to all the dads in my life, raising your own children, raising someone else's, stepping in to help out adults who aren't your kids but are kids to someone you love, doing it with a partner or doing it alone, Happy Father's Day. It’s a pretty thankless job sometimes, so I'll say it today: Thank you for loving us, your wives and the mothers of your children and your children. Have a neck tie and a beverage of your choice. And maybe a piece of chocolate lava cake. Or two. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I'm gonna carry that load

A frequent topic of conversation around our house for the last month or so has been the "burden of thought." It's changed a bit how we do things, though it is a tricky change to make.

The burden of thought, very basically, is the fact that women know/do everything in the home. We know when the doctor's appointments are, we know how much toilet paper we have and where it is, we know what's in the pantry, we know who the teacher is and what kind of drink she likes from Sonic, or if she prefers Starbucks instead, we know what's going on with our kids and what time of day is their best. We know everything and do everything. Men don't for the pure reason of not being there when things are scheduled or purchased or revealed.

This has led to the social view of men being helpless dolts around the house and women being the frazzled "how does she do it all" mature one of the relationship. Men are children and women are the long suffering adults who got suckered into spending their lives raising their children and cleaning their homes.

This is wrong. Men are not HELPING around the house when they pick up their laundry or wash dishes or put children to bed. They are being a part of the household. I don't care if he works all day and she stays home or vice versa. The house has to be cleaned periodically, the children have to be tended, the food cooked, the laundry washed. It all has to be done and just because he works outside the home and provides the finances to keep the family going does not give him a free pass to do nothing.

Austin read an article about the burden of thought and asked me about it. It hadn't occurred to me that he just didn't know these things and that he might want to. We keep our communication lines pretty open but we still have times when we miss something, like all couples. We talked about how I'm the one who's always making lists of what we need to take when we go on a trip, I'm the one making all the plans for the weekends when we do something (like CALF...that weekend was planned out weeks in advance, then altered slightly Thursday night and again Friday night....all by me), I'm the one planning all our meals and shopping for everything. Austin never hesitates to run to the store when I've forgotten something or to pick something up whenever I'm just wiped out and too tired to cook. He's not "helping" exactly, he's being a member of the family. He and his children need to eat and if I wasn't there, he'd have to do it on his own.

For a couple of years now, I've sent Austin a weekly email with our schedule for the upcoming week so he knows what's going on while he's working. Sometimes it's packed full of school and doctor's appointments and outings around town. Sometimes there's nothing but praise team practice. He likes knowing what's going on so if there's a day that's going to be particularly busy for me and the kids, he knows that maybe that's a day he can take over and "help" me. Since things have been changing on short notice recently we got the Cozi app and started using that. Austin can pull up the calendar and see what's up that day at a glance. It has a place for grocery lists, too, if I need him to hit the store so I don't have to go with 1-4 children in tow.

Writing this I've had to stop myself from typing "help" a lot. It's so ingrained in our heads as women that men are helping us it's hard to get away from that. It's even Biblical that we are helpmates to our husbands, though it seems that women have had some pretty difficult tasks historically, what with raising children, keeping vegetable gardens, cooking, cleaning, making clothes, etc. Almost always in long skirts and long sleeves. God bless the women before me. I'd not survive without my leggings and tank tops and a/c in this Texas heat. My generation hasn't seen it much in the previous generations. I remember my dad reading to us and occasionally cooking breakfast (always on Mother's Day, though) but that's about it. He wasn't even a grill kind of dad. He worked a lot of long hours so he just wasn't there for that kind of thing, but he was there for us in other ways. It seems that most dads of my peers were like that.

I'm getting off track.

The main purpose of this is to say: I'm trying to relinquish some of the load, but it's tricky. For 9 years of marriage, my "job" has been to run our household. And Austin was my assistant. When kids came into the picture, he stepped up, almost eagerly, to do more. He has always taken the diaper changes when he's home and most of the feedings in the evenings once they're on bottles. He does bath time and bedtime and playtime and clean up time. He's really the parent in charge in the evenings. I'm the back up then. He's in charge of dinner on weekend nights when we don't have something planned. He gets that I need time away from my kids to be a good mom so he doesn't mind when I run away to play with my friends at 8pm and don't come home until midnight. I don't ask his permission, but I check to make sure he's got the energy to parent solo for the evening or that he didn't have plans  or a thing he wanted us to do as a family. He's taking over more with the boys when it comes to travel plans. We sit down and discuss day by day what we'll be doing and eating and he takes on some of the tasks. I'm apparently too much of a control freak (who knew?) that I can't give up complete control of things, but he's ok with that. Sometimes he needs a reminder or a little push.

We're both learning how to share the load and it's trickier than you might think, but we'll get there.

Disclaimer: this is not to say ALL men are clueless at home. Some are very hands on and stand shoulder to shoulder with their wives or partners in the trenches of young childhood. I'm just speaking in general and personal terms. 😊

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I remember...

This is super long (probably 7 pages printed) and it's something I've posted before. There's a bit added at the bottom, so if you want to scroll down to the bolded part, that's where it begins. 

Written in 2009: 

I remember being very small and curling up on the couch after church with Dad to read the comics every week, even when I was reading them over his shoulder. He’d fuss at me for reading ahead. Maybe that’s why I hate people reading over my shoulder today. I don't remember a Sunday we didn't read the comics.

I remember him making a valiant effort to be at every school event and piano recital that I participated in. When he wasn’t there, I bragged to the other kids that my dad was off saving lives.

I remember his asking “You know what?” and when I said “What?” he’d always respond with “I love you!” I surprised him once by saying “Chicken butt” but he still said “I love you!”

I remember being excited when Dad would let me drop the tithe check into the collection plate every Sunday.

I remember Dad giving me his coat on Sunday mornings when I’d get cold. I’d go through his pockets and play with the treasures he had in them. Sometimes, I’d just curl up and take a nap on the floor, wrapped up in the warmth and smell of my dad. He still gave me his coat even after I was old enough to remember to bring my own.

I remember one Father's Day a long time ago at ACC where we were instructed to let the father pass around the communion. He was to tell us "This is the blood of Christ" and "This is the body of Christ." Dad liked that so much that he did it for the rest of his life. I have a hard time doing communion without him.

I remember him only having to spank me once. I don’t remember what I did but I was more shocked by the fact that he hit me than by anything. I knew he loved me and that I had earned this punishment and that I never wanted it again.

I remember his reading to me all the time. The only stories I remember specifically were Little Monster’s Bedtime Book and the Chronicles of Narnia. Once a friend came over early for my birthday party and we were reading. She curled up on the other side of Dad and he read to both of us until the party started. She told me later she wished her dad would read to her and I realized I had something special. I was 7.

I remember falling asleep in the car on the way home from anywhere and waking up in his arms as he carried me inside. I loved it so much that I would sometimes pretend to be asleep just so he would carry me. I hated when I got too big for him to carry me anymore.

I remember him getting us up for school in the morning, flipping on the light in my room and telling me it was time to wake up. When I got downstairs, he’d usually have breakfast ready to go, either oatmeal or cereal or if we were really lucky, French toast. He’d go outside to warm up the car when it was cold outside so we didn’t have to shiver on the way to school. We’d listen to NPR and classical music on the way and he’d talk to us about the things going on. When we carpooled with the Kings, we listened to the kids’ station with silly goofy songs and I realized my dad wanted me to learn about the world around me and know about classical music.

I remember him driving us to school and listening to the announcement that Bill Clinton had been elected president and asking if Dad voted for him. He told me it wasn’t generally something a lot of people felt comfortable talking about, but no, he didn’t vote for him. He also pointed out that it didn’t matter that he hadn’t voted for him, he was still our president and thus deserving of our respect.

I remember hating playing the piano, but loving how proud it made Dad to see me playing in recitals and the goofy faces he’d make at me through the doors to the music room.

I remember playing two duets with him: one as an awkward adolescent and the other as a frustrated teenager. I never told him how much I valued that I alone of his children got to do that with him.

I remember as an older teen dreaming of weddings and happily ever afters asking what his favorite song was. We were listening to Natalie Cole’s album “Unforgettable, With Love” and he told me he really loved the song on that cd, Unforgettable and explained how Nat King Cole died and that Natalie had taken old recordings of her dad singing and had turned it into a duet. He thought about it for a bit and told me that his all time favorite, though, was The Way You Look Tonight. We danced to that at my wedding.

I remember when I was about 12 we were home alone, just the two of us, for a weekend. It didn’t happen often, so that was kind of special in itself. We went to bed early on Saturday because he was driving me out to Girl Scout camp in Sweetwater the next day. In the middle of the night, there was a loud crash that shook the whole house and woke us both up. I thought there’d been an earthquake or something but the big tree in the back had fallen over into the courtyard. It was like walking in a tree. Dad was relieved no one else was home because Caleb would have gotten scared and Mom would have been blocked in. I was just relieved it didn’t hit the house.

I remember that he didn’t like to watch movies more than once but he would watch classics again and he loved the movie Chariots of Fire. When I went to Great Britain and walked along the beach where that famous running scene was filmed, I knew what the movie was when no one else in my group had even heard of it.

I remember several times being told I was his favorite. I always teased that Cari was the favorite because she was chosen and he got stuck with the rest of us.

I remember once my dad describing feeling real joy as he held one of his children moments after birth and my mom asking if that’s why he named her Joy. I wondered if secretly I’d been the favorite all along.

I remember that I had to stop going shopping with Dad because I could get him to buy me just about anything I wanted.

I remember being shocked when I saw him lying in a hospital bed all hooked up to wires when he had his brain aneurysms. I couldn’t believe this fragile body belonged to my dad. It never seemed very real to me that he could die. He was dad: he was going to be around forever.

I remember being frustrated that he wasn’t the same after and wishing he’d just go back to normal.

I remember being angry that I could only take two classes at Abilene High so that I could take care of Dad after school while Mom worked.

I remember feeling guilty at how relieved I was when other people stepped in and helped and feeling like I let Mom down because I didn’t help enough.

I remember taking racquetball as a PE course for distance learning and Dad doing that with me. I wasn’t very good because I was afraid of getting hit by the ball.

I remember taking physics in high school and absolutely hating it because I didn’t get it. Dad was frustrated with that since he loved physics so much and had advanced degrees in it. He would sit with me for hours and try to explain it and eventually I would get him to do the work for me. He’s the main reason I passed the class.

I remember him taking me on a real date when I was about 15. We went to the Olive Garden, we played putt-putt and we went to a movie. He told me I wasn’t a cheap date and that any guy who didn’t want to spend the money wasn’t worth my time.

I remember getting ready for the few dances I went to in high school and Dad saying ‘Wowwee!” every single time.

I remember how much he loved astronomy and how he tried to teach me about constellations. He would take me star gazing whenever there were meteor showers. We made it a semi-regular date and I’d make grilled cheese sandwiches and hot cocoa and we’d sit on the car and look at the stars and talk. To this day, the only constellation I can find on a consistent basis is Orion.

I remember my senior prom and how excited Dad was that I had an actual date. He told me that if Charles knew anything about anything he’d bring me an orchid. Dad was so proud when Charles showed up with a beautiful purple orchid wrist corsage.

I remember him being proud of me when I graduated from high school, but that pride was tempered by anger at my cousin and my brother disappearing right after, causing us all to be delayed getting home.

I remember him trying to help me with my college math classes and finally accepting that I couldn’t do this advanced stuff, that my brain was better at the social studies than the sciences.

I remember him meeting my first boyfriend and telling Mom he was a fine young man.

I remember his disappointment when I broke up with that boyfriend.

I remember him trying to like the next guy I brought home and not succeeding.

I remember him helping Mom and her siblings pack up their parents’ house and grumbling at the stupid Christmas tree I wanted so much, but bringing it along just because I wanted it.

I remember graduating from college and his pride that I had done it and with some honors.

I remember his frustration when they called me Talitha Jane.

I remember him helping me move to Austin. He grumbled about the tree again. He helped move the furniture out of the house in Lubbock and into the apartment in Austin. I remember dealing with two flat tires and the hurt of my roommates seemingly not caring that I was leaving, but knowing that my dad would always be there for me.

I remember Dad was always there when I moved: into the house in Lubbock, to the apartment in Austin, to the first apartment in Dallas, across the complex to the second Dallas apartment, and to the house in Carrollton. He grumbled about the Christmas tree every time and always offered to throw it away for me.

I remember the kisses that always ended with “Wow! Sweet! Chocolate ice cream! Grandmother’s apple pie!” to which we would sometimes add “With whipped cream and sugar!” and he would go further and add “And nuts!”

I remember the way he would say “Choooclaaate.”

I remember him telling me not to smile or my face would crack into a million pieces and how 99% of the time I smiled.

I remember he called me Tali-poo and Brown Crested Speckled Thumb Sucker.

I remember getting in trouble on our family trip to the four corners and my punishment was having to sit up in the front with Dad overnight and keep him awake. We watched the sunrise over the desert and it was beautiful. He asked me to write him a poem about it and I did. I'm sure there's a copy of it somewhere.

I remember how much he and Tigger hated one another.

I remember him always answering “Better than I deserve” whenever someone asked him how he was.

I remember how excited he was when I told him I was going to marry Austin. So excited, in fact, that he jumped the gun 6 months before Austin even proposed and emailed Pastor Max to ask if he would officiate over the ceremony.

I remember him repeatedly telling me it wasn’t too late to back out, that they loved Austin but they loved me more and I should do what was right for me.

I remember his pride and loving support as we planned the wedding and I struggled with work stuff.

I remember being sick the week before the wedding and him driving to get me milkshakes every day because it was the only thing I wanted and the only thing that tasted good. He frequently got the wrong thing, but I loved it because I knew he did it for me.

I remember his pride as he came to get me to walk down the aisle.

I remember every time I cut my hair for Locks of Love he would frown. He loved my hair long but would always tell me how proud he was of me for donating my hair to others.

I remember one last “Wow!” kiss before getting married.

I remember him asking me if I liked chicken and when I asked why, he stuck out his arm and said “Take a wing.”

I remember writing my Daddy Folio letter and agonizing over it for a couple months, wanting to get the words just right.

I remember him blessing me at my wedding, though I was too emotional to really hear the words.

I remember him holding me tightly as we danced at the reception, like he didn’t want to let me go.

I remember waffling between several songs for our dance and settling on his favorite.

I remember telling him I didn’t have a gift for his birthday, but that I wanted to go bowling with him and him telling me his knees were too far gone for that anymore.

I remember asking what he wanted for Christmas this year and him telling me he just wanted everyone there. I told him this Christmas was with the Mullins but that next year would be with the Walkes and I’d most likely be pregnant. He was indignant that my child’s first Christmas would be with his OTHER grandparents and not him.

I remember my brother asking me if I was sitting down and then telling me our father had died. I didn’t believe him and he had to repeat it before my mom finally came on, sobbing, and telling me he was gone. It’s still not real.

I remember the last time I saw him, cold and still and looking completely surprised. I lay across his chest and wished that he’d hug me back.

I remember Rosetta holding my hand and telling me how he would talk about me all the time and how proud and excited he was about what I was doing with my life and how when I was little, he’d always tell her to make sure I ate when he dropped me off at her house in the mornings.

I remember being incredibly angry when Luke sat in Dad’s chair that night. He wasn’t family and he was intruding.

I remember agreeing with my sister when she said he was a beautiful man and deserved beautiful flowers.

I remember crying as I realized he would never play Fur Elise again and wanting to play it for him one last time.

I remember being amazed at how I didn’t cry during my eulogy and that I could get through my piano pieces and thinking “I don’t want to play any more after this.”

I remember being angry that outsiders to the family were taking his belongings. I wanted to rip the owls and everything out of their hands and scream that they didn’t deserve this and they should get the hell out of my father’s house.

I remember the first time it hit me that my father would never see my children and how much I cried that they’d never have their granddad read them a story.

I remember the last time I held him on this earth. I marveled at how greasy the ashes were and how much, and at the same time how little, there were. I cried as I let the last of his ashes be washed from my hands and wished I was hugging him instead.

I remember seeing my niece being born and thinking “She’s late because he wasn’t ready to let her go yet.” I was angry again that she’d never get to know him.

I remember the regret hitting me that I’d never played the Moonlight Sonata for him and that he never knew how much I loved playing for him.

I remember thinking this would make me feel better instead of making me hurt more.

Added in 2017: 

I remember how exhausted and sore and overwhelmed I was with Asher as a newborn and how much I wished my Daddy was there to give me a helping hand. 

I remember how that happened again when I was overwhelmed with two little boys and one of them needed hospitalization when his little brother was only 3 months old. 

I remember when we got Eden's diagnosis wishing he was there to hold my hand while Mom held the other one. 

I remember each birth feeling all over again that he would have been so excited to be there. 

I remember how much he loved learning whenever Asher asks a "question about life."

I remember how he brushed my hair when I was younger whenever I try to wrestle Eden into letting me brush hers (it's not easy). 

I remember the way he sat and read when I see Asher sitting with his legs crossed reading a magazine. 

I remember how loving he was whenever Elijah spontaneously gives me a hug and says "I just love you."

I remember how much he loved chocolate whenever Eden brings me a box of chocolate cookies, or Elijah asks for chocolate milk. 

I remember how much he enjoyed family dinners whenever Rebekah smiles or even laughs during nursing sessions. 

I remember how much he loved to read to his grandkids every time I see Papa read to them or hear them demanding at least 3 books from Austin every night.

I remember how helpful he was to my brothers with their kids whenever Papa Bob is just as helpful with mine. 

I remember how much I loved him and how much he meant to me when I see how my kids "other" grandfathers have stepped in to fill the void he left behind.  

I've finally gotten to the point where it's more bittersweet than bitter. Yes, there are still tears. Yes, there is still that ache and that dismay and even sometimes that anger, but it's better. It helps that Allen is SUCH a present grandfather. Eden changed his name to PopPop and he's going with it. It may have just been for Memorial Day weekend, but if it's a permanent change, he's fine with it, just like Dad would have been. It also helps that Bob is so eager to be helpful and useful he's almost TOO much at times (and I mean that in a good way). Picking up Asher from school, taking the boys to McDonald's so I can get a break, rewarding them when they've done well and giving them a talking to when they haven't. He's relaxed into his role as their grandfather on my side of the family, and I'm thankful for that. 

Some days are hard. Some days are easy. It's just the way life goes.