Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in Pictures

Stockings hung and Santa presents out.
Presents are put out under/around the tree.
One shot with no flash just because...
BigBro opening his stocking.
Lil'Bro opening his stocking.
Traditional Christmas breakfast in this house! YUM!
Nerf swords from my brother's family.
I think he was opening Bakugan near the computer so he could upload them onto the website.
Lil'Bro and The Ex work on assembling the Lego Star Wars set Santa left.
My new bracelet from my awesome sis-in-law.
My mom's Christmas tree.
BigBro doing some magic from his new Criss Angel magic kit (with Lil'Bro as his assistant).
My nephew Sid enjoys his new rope bone.
BigBro opening something big from my parents.
Mom & Dad with a Katharine Hepburn DVD set from my sister.
Lil'Bro rockin' some killer guitar faces with his new Paper Jamz flying V!
The End.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Birthday Lil'Bro - in Pictures

Pre-carnage. Ready for the unwrapping mayhem!
Mario action figure!
Lego Star Wars - General Grievous Starfighter.
Art supplies and table easel from Nana!
Bowling mayhem with his best buds. Complete with cool kung fu moves.
BigBro watching his pals (all the older siblings).
Lil'Bro trying a split. "Ooooooow! This huuuuuuuuurts!"
I love this shot of Lil'Bro riding the ball return.
The 4 Mustketeers. They've been together since preschool. That was almost 3 years ago!
The End

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Lil'Bro!

Today is Lil'Bro's 7th birthday! Pix at 11:00.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

One Year Anniversary

This past Tuesday was my one year anniversary at my "new" job. I guess I can't claim being the new kid anymore. Oh well. There goes my out.

I'm on a new team now. God's keeping my back. I started out on a cream-o-the-crop team. In July, I moved to a new project. Another group of stellar people. I'm learning new tools and skills. Ramping up the resume which is always good.

So one year in, still diggin' the job.

Thank you, God!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Whew! Thank You, God.

I've been walking around for about 45 minutes just thanking God over and over.

It's Saturday night. I usually let the boys stay up to 9:30pm. But It's a Wonderful Life was on TV until 10:00 so I let them stay up. Around the time I would normally be putting them to bed, I was prepping food for church in the kitchen (I usually wait to prep during Saturday Night Live).

I had washed a bunch of grapes and had them drying. I got out a bowl, cutting board and pineapple to chop. As I stood up from getting the bowl, I smelled gas. At first I thought it was some weird smell from the plastic bag the pineapple was in. I moved around and caught it again. What in the world would smell like gas? I wasn't really that close to the stove. I opened the cupboard again and sniffed. Nope. I smelled the bowl, the bag, the cutting board. Nope. But there it was again - stronger this time. Gas.

I turned around to check the stove controls. Of course they were all on the off position. But wait - one wasn't! It was on medium but not lit!!! I honestly have no idea how that happened. It's not the kind of thing you can easily bump into an on position. The kids never touch it. I've been puttering around the kitchen all evening. I must have accidentally turned it on at some point. I honestly can't imagine how. But there it was. I turned off the knob but the kitchen was filled with the smell of gas!

I hurried and opened the back door, back window, garage door, front door, ceiling fan. It all aired out after a while. But man, that is scary!

And let me paint the picture here for you:

I cooked dinner a LONG time ago. I have NO idea how long that gas was going. The kitchen really smelled of it so it had put out quite a bit. It's very dry and cool here - static electricity popping off sparks everywhere. I'm wearing my faux-Crocs around which build up static electricity. I have the dryer running a few feet from the stove - big time static builder. I normally would have been upstairs putting the boys to bed. And might have come back down to watch some TV before going into the kitchen starting to prep the food.

I just keep thinking of how this evening COULD have gone.

Thank you God for that movie that kept us all downstairs. Thank you for putting the food prep into my head early. Thank you for letting me smell the gas and find the control on. Thank you, God. Thank you!!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


The boys got most of the ornaments up on the tree. I only had to reposition a few. I think I put up about 6. They did the rest.

Every year, we each buy an ornament. They're all very special memory makers. I thought I'd share some of my favorites with you.

Here's the tree:
This is a cowboy boot I got last year. It's some kind of heavy resin.
Cowboy riding a bucking bronco. Cut metal:
Ceramic cardinal bell. His feet are the clapper:
Elvis in white jumpsuit (I lost the Elvis in 1969 comeback black outfit in the divorce):
Little plastic gray kitty (makes me think of my long gone gray kitty):
Gumball machine:
Little kitty book:
This was a little blank book key chain. In 2000, we started writing the year and where we lived at Christmas.
Christmas Pickle picked up this year:
There is a legend that the pickle ornament is a German tradition. I'll ask my two German friends but a quick Google search makes me think it's not quite spot on.
Sock Monkey picked up in 2009:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Tree Is Up

Well the doc has given us the "all clear" to rejoin humanity. I'm not convinced. I'm not sure how looking in ears, nose and throat definitively tell me I don't have a bacterial infection. But whatever. Away we go!

I had a great Thanksgiving with the boys and The Ex. I still have periodically mixed emotions when he's around. But I tell you, as far as exes go, he's fine. We're friends. Memories of the last three years can derail that for me. It doesn't take much. But generally, we do ok. It was a good day. The boys had a blast even though we couldn't be with my parents. And of course, I made chocolate chess pies!

The next day, we saw the doc. So that night we had leftovers with my parents. A second Thanksgiving. That was very cool.

Today, I dragged out the tree. It's a prelit we've had since 2005. Last year, I cut off all the lights. To many big sections with no lights. Too hard to figure out which line needs the new fuse. It's normally lit with little white lights. Very classic. I love that look. But Lil'Bro asked for multicolored lights. It's different - especially with the LED lights. They're VERY bright. But I like it. Ornaments will go on tomorrow.

Today, I also made a birthday cake for The Ex. The boys and I gave him a little birthday celebration after his day at work.

We're also hosting my nephew - my sister's dog, Sid. He's such a good little dog. We're going to miss him when he leaves tomorrow.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Eve

I have so much to be thankful for.

I'm almost a year into my "new" job and still love it.

My boys are healthy, happy and great friends. Plus, they're still young enough to enjoy my company.

I live in a safe neighborhood, in a safe city, in a safe country.

I have shelter, clothes, more food than I need and we have plenty of toys.

My parents are nearby. My sister and bro-in-law are nearby.

My friends are sweet, loving and extremely patient.

I could go on. But that's it for now.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sick and Tired of being Sick and Tired

Lil'Bro's bout with this stomach bug kind of blew out Halloween weekend for us. And the following week. He and I got better and things looked good.

Until last Wednesday. I thought I had avoided the full onslaught. Not so. I held down nothing. At all. The Ex drove me to the doc, bucket in hand. They gave me anti-nausea meds. I have been holding down small amounts of stuff here and there. I am, however, very sick of saltines, chicken broth, rice and bananas. I'm hungry but nothing sets well in my stomach.

Last night, BigBro came down with a low fever. I made a bed on the floor next to mine in preparation for the puke-fest to come. We prayed hard before bed. I have to admit, my faith wasn't at 100%. I was expecting a night of puke. We all slept through the night.
This morning, all 3 of us have low fevers. No puking. The boys ate a big breakfast. I ate toast & eggs. The bacon made my stomach turn.

I have an aunt & 2 cousins in town. I haven't seen them decades. I can't go near them. This stomach bug is something that could really wipe out an elderly person like my aunt or my dad.

Not sure what to expect for Thanksgiving. I'm tired and yucky. My cheerleader-esque faith is a little battered. Not that I don't have faith in God. I'm just not praying with much expectation. Stupid me. But there it is.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Ambitious Diet: Not a Good Thing

So here's a little tip from me to you:

If your kid doesn't eat for 2 days and has to be rehydrated in the ER and then feels amazingly better so wants to eat everything he can get his hands on? Yah, DON'T let him get his hands on mini-cheeseburgers.

Today, Lil'Bro made it about 1.5 hrs into the school day before yarfing all over his classroom carpet. I owe his teacher dinner. AFTER he's better.

Just sayin'.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Halloween Eve Rehydration at the ER

Lil'Bro wasn't able to hold down ANYthing yesterday. Not water, not Pedialyte. They called in a scrip of anti-nausea meds. It helped him drink sips of water all night. But then he threw up again early this morning.

After a call to his doctor's office, we took him into the ER for fluids. Two and a half hours of fluids later, he was a new kid. I have read the symptoms of dehydration but never saw them all before. The lethargy was pretty palpable. Very weird to see your usually energetic 6 1/2 year old not respond to anything. He didn't want TV. He didn't want his DS. He didn't want to move.

We got home from the ER and he immediately fell asleep on the couch. For THREE hours. I got an hour of sleep in.

Oh yah, my BigSis and her TallGuy hubby drove 30 minutes up here to get BigBro. They took BigBro to our church Fall Festival. Another church friend will bring him home.

Yesterday, I put out a "help" email to the women at my church asking them to get the food for church. Two women immediately took up the task for me. One of our lead pastors will sing in my stead. A couple of people have offered to come pick up BigBro for church tomorrow. My mom just dropped off a bunch of bananas and some frozen dinners. Tons of my local pals have sent offers over Facebook asking if they can do anything for us. And they mean it. My distant pals also sent prayers and love through Facebook, emails and texts.

I have to tell you, when you ask God to surround you with good loving people? He totally comes through. I cannot thank God enough for all of the awesome friends and family he has surrounded us with.

And Lil'Bro woke up about 30 minutes ago. He has held down water, half a banana and a little cup of applesauce. He keeps talking about the mini cheeseburgers at a local burger joint. I have to think he's on the mend.

Thanks to all my loving friends and family.

For reference, here are two pictures.
Just having arrived at the ER
and 2.5 hrs later.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Break in the Keck

Lil'Bro has the tummy bug that's going around. I probably do, too. But either it hasn't hit me fully or I'm tolerating it better.

So while Lil'Bro watches Scooby Doo on the couch with his bucket, I'll drop a note here.

BigBro is doing well. He's having anger issues. He has a lot of deep seeded anger toward his dad for leaving him for 3 years. The Ex has expected this. But it's still hard when it finally rears its head.

BigBro doesn't fully understand it. We're trying to get him to his therapist but money is very tight and a good therapist can be expensive. Ours is awesome. And he's reasonably priced for his skill but it's a stretch at the moment. Man I hate that.

Anyway, BigBro is overreacting to small things that make him angry. It's another volcano with a very thin cap.

I will retire to the couch with Lil'Bro now.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Growling And The Ex

BigBro has been making a strange noise a lot lately. I can't tell if it's a tic or he's just enjoying the sensation of it.

I can't describe it very well. The way I can do it is, if I close my mouth, breathe in through my nose and make my vocal chords vibrate on the intake. It's like an inhalation growl.

He does it now and then. I've noticed it every day for quite some time. Every now and then I'll say, "Hey, you're growling," or "Stop the growling." Not mean. Just kind of like you'd tell your kid to get their finger out of their nose in a matter-of-fact tone.

As we went to bed tonight, I followed him up the stairs and heard the growl. I said, "Hey, you're growling again." Lil'Bro asked why he does that. BigBro said he didn't know. I asked if it was tic-ish or if he just liked the feeling. He wasn't sure.

Lil'Bro asked what a tic was. I explained how Tourette's is a neurological disorder where the nerve signals get confused or crossed. Probably not exactly technical but it helps me to think of it this way. Lil'Bro wanted examples so I mentioned some. I tried not to list all of BigBro's manifestations - kind of hit all over the TS spectrum.

After a while, BigBro asked me to stop talking about the symptoms because it made him uncomfortable. He has told me in the past that he doesn't feel his TS until I mention it. Which I understand. But I also think it's important for his little brother to understand what TS is and how it might manifest. It's always good to have a built in advocate - even if he IS three and a half years younger than you!

So I told BigBro that I'm just explaining it to Lil'Bro and there's no need to feel like I was listing everything on HIS list of TS symptoms. He eventually joined in the explaining. Which was cool. I certainly don't want it to be a hush-hush taboo subject.

I understand how discussing TS can make BigBro suddenly very aware of lurking feelings. But I also know he can own those feelings, talk about it and be ok.

And The Ex
And on a totally separate subject, The Ex has been living nearby for just over a month now. I cannot tell you how spoiled I feel with the extra help he is giving with the boys.

But here is one weird little observation:

When I was doing this all alone - forced to do it - I did it. I mean, yah, I had days where I felt overwhelmed. Especially in the beginning. But by this third year? Our routine was in the can. I just did it. Not spectacularly, mind you. But we were all alive, relatively clean, fed and clothed.

On my own, if dishes needed doing? I did them. If laundry piled up, I tackled it (eventually). If errands backed up, I got 'em done. I could do all the shopping, unload the car and put it all away. Hey, who else is gonna do it, right?

Well, now I have a co-parent nearby. Within walking distance. He's been stepping up and helping. Suddenly, I can remember being one of a couple. Suddenly I remember how impossible it felt that I could have done the shopping and now I had to unload the WHOLE car all by myself! AND I had to put the stuff away, too?! Suddenly, one person couldn't possibly do any of the chores that needed doing - not alone!

Being part of a couple gave me this fragile-flower mentality. I see it all the time with couple friends of mine. The trash is overflowing but my friend won't touch it. That's his job. The dog can be scratching at the door, starving, but another friend won't get the food from the bag 5 feet away because that's her job. I mean, really?

But yah. Really. I was the same way. I remember thinking I would never be able to do it all by myself. And there are those that would look around my house and argue I am NOT doing it all by myself. (And I would agree.)

But let me tell you, my dainty-fragile-flower mentality? Feh! Because on my good days? (And lately, these outnumber my bad days by far) I can get up, get the school prep done, dress the kids, help Lil'Bro brush his teeth while hounding BigBro not to get distracted. I can get them to school and get to work and then kick ass to get back in time to pick them up from after-school-care. I can drag them home and whip them into homework-mode. I can make a dinner (and by "make", I don't mean Donna Reed's version of "make" - but they're alive and thriving so...), clean up the mess and put away the leftovers. I can do the grocery shopping, unload the whole car and put it all way - alone. I can run the errands. I can balance [air quotes] the budget and make all the payments. I can plan, pay for and execute all the parties. I can buy the clothes, shoes, school supplies. I can somehow squeeze 2 extra hours out of schedule for a birthday party for every kid my boys know. I can periodically dust (at least once a decade), vacuum (much more frequently), scrub, wipe, and scour the house. I can do ridiculous amounts of laundry. I can post meaningless jibber jabber on Facebook and blogs. I can make it to church on time with both boys in tow, contribute to the ministries there (including 'Comic Relief' and 'Official Wisecracker'), sing my brains out and get back home. I can do it. I don't need to half-ass it and whine that my partner should be doing such and such and if only he'd be doing THIS part, I'd be able to do THAT part better and all that horse hockey I used to think.

And this isn't judgment. These are all observations about my formerly whiny, selfish SELF.

When I became a single parent, I talked to God and said, "You're going to have to help me here. There is NO way I can do this on my own!" There really wasn't. It's not a one-person job.

Thankfully, my partner is the Creator of All Things. He still makes me unload the whole car and put the groceries away. But not alone.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Amazing Brothers

Yesterday, the boys were supposed to go to the 7th birthday party of a best pal of Lil'Bro. One of the 4 Musketeers, Lil'McV. They've both been pumped all week for this.

Just before lunch, the school called me. Lil'Bro was in the nurse's office with a low fever complaining of tummy yuck. I called The Ex and he ran to pick him up.

When I picked up BigBro from after school care, I gave him the option to still go. We got home and took Lil'Bro's temp. The fever persisted so we had to call the McVs to say, sorry, Lil'Bro couldn't go. Oh he was SO upset. He understood about contagion. He understood he needed to be a responsible sick person. But on MAN, this was a hard one.

As Lil'Bro sat silently crying on the couch, BigBro told him, "If you don't want me to go, I'll stay here with you." Lil'Bro didn't reply. He was too upset. BigBro told me, "I'll stay here with [Lil'Bro]."

Do I love my boys? Durn TOOT'N'!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Drilling a Relief Well

Since my last post, BigBro has had one more ginormous volcanic eruption. Again, it was a minor upset at a friend's house. This time, I had the sense to stay at the play date for just such an occasion.

Lack of sleep + life-event stress do not a good thing make. Good grief. I'm typing like Yoda.

Listening to him after this breakdown...or during it, I guess...I heard so many things that broke my heart:
  • When will this STOP?!
  • I don't want to FEEL this way!!!!
  • This happens every DAY!!
  • This will never end.
  • I'm so confused!
  • I don't even know who I AM!
  • I don't even know what I'm feeling!!!
After he had blown off some steam in his room, we had a talk. He shamefully confessed that he had twisted some of his very special stuffed animals. "I wanted to hurt them!" he tearfully blurted out. It was then I wished I could hand him a big ol' bat and a hanging punching bag.

I told him it's totally ok to be mad at dad or me. It's totally ok to feel confused about wanting dad to stay while wanting him to be able to go back to his beloved Boston. It's ok to scream and want to punch things. I can sense the guilt and shame in him - thinking that all of these outbursts and negative feelings are somehow him being "bad".

I did NOT have the answers and I told him so. But God does have the answers and I reminded him of that. His faith is huge. And I'm thanking God for growing it so huge because it's what will get him through this.

When I dropped him off at school yesterday, he was down. Not pouty or over dramatic. He was probably depressed. He was low energy. He was giving people brave fake smiles. But it wasn't him. Sadness just dripped off of him.

From our conversations, I knew he thought he had reverted. He knows how awesome he's been doing with no tics, no rage and no anxiety. And all of a sudden, bam! they're both back in spades. So add to all the guilt, fear, hurt and anger the thought that suddenly Tourette's is back and taking over.

Yesterday, I called his therapist and said he needed to get in there because he was having an emotional crisis. They got him in first thing this morning.

Our play therapist, Dr.M, is awesome. He loves both boys so much. But he has that special appreciation for BigBro. Today, BigBro saw Dr.M for an hour. Toward the end, I joined them and they showed me (some of) what they had discussed.

Dr.M firstly explained that all of these crazy conflicting emotions are very hard to wrestle. And that EVERYone wrestles with them in their life. Even grown ups. So A) you're not alone.

He then explained that everyone has needs in their lives. I saw a piece of paper that had a bunch listed - obviously, they had made the list together. I saw things like "security", "attention"...I couldn't read all of it. Dr.M explained to BigBro that all of these needs, if not met, will pull on you like gravity. Except they pull your heart (ie emotions). So when a big life event comes along and these needs become greater, the heart can sometimes be over run by things like fear, anger, hurt, and guilt. I saw those written on that same pad.

It was explained better than that but that's what's in my head.

So Dr.M asked BigBro to show me how he had modeled what his emotions might look like in the sand table. Firstly, I wouldn't even know how to go about modeling that. But here's what he did (and I wish I had photographed it):

One third of the sand table was fenced off and had a volcano, ambulance and eagle figure. The other two thirds had some bright shining marbles & stones, some little toy street signs (like yield, stop, arrows, etc.), a colorful moth figure and a bat figure. It also had a big wooden elephant near the fence.

The side with the elephant represented the side that held his friends (moth & bat), fun (shining marbles & stones), and direction (signs). The elephant represented a big event that happened. It was so big, it pushed him out of the fun side and into the volcano side.

The volcano side represented his isolation. He felt alone even with people around. The volcano represented his anger. The ambulance could get to him but wasn't able to stay long (he showed it sliding down the sand away from his eagle self).

I pointed to a Grinch figure on the fun side that was facing the volcano side. He said that represents how he feels like there is something watching him, always ready to mess him up. He felt like it was his guilt and other emotions that would get him when he least expected it.

It was amazing.

I told him I found it very interesting that his two friends had wings. Because his two best friends are very awesome and true friends. It made me think that their wings would allow them to fly up over this huge elephant and get to him. He looked at them for a minute and went, "Ohhh..." then picked the moth & bat up and flew them over to his eagle self. He liked that. I also pointed out that HE had wings. He liked that, too.

Dr.M drilled a relief well for my little volcano today. It's a good start, as he said. But putting words and labels on those needs and emotions was key, I think. BigBro seemed light when we left. Like, he knew what it all was now. He had identified it and named it. It's a known quantity. Takes the edge off that fear and anxiety.

When I dropped him off at school, he greeted the teachers with his usual bright, "Hi!"

I know we're not done yet. But that relief well is doing its job. It's relieving the pressure and letting God do the rest.

Keep those prayers coming.

Friday, September 10, 2010


BigBro is having a rough go of it this month. The boys' dad moved back to town on 09/01. He's a 5 minute walk from our house. He's not mopey and he's already helped me out with sharing the kid care almost every day.

The boys are thrilled. many emotional obstacles. BigBro finally uncorked at my friend's house tonight. Huge meltdown. All of the conflicting emotions he's been bottling came flying out when one teeny thing happened. Here's what was in the volcano:
  1. BigBro hesitated to show how happy he is about their dad being back. He thought it might hurt me.
  2. We are letting them choose where they want to sleep pretty often. BigBro was worried if he wanted to stay with parent A, it would insult or hurt parent B.
  3. He's afraid dad will leave again.
  4. He's glad dad is back but knows he really wants to live in Boston. He feels bad that dad can't be where he wants to live (I personally also think he feels guilt over this).
  5. He feels bad that dad gave up all his friends.
  6. He feels bad that dad gave up his band, job, life, etc.
  7. He worried about dad's ex-girl thing because, well, he saw what a breakup can do.
He also feels guilty for having most of these feelings. It's a horrible vicious cycle.

Tonight, the boys were at my friend's house, playing with her two boys and a few others. The Ex and I went out for Indian food - the boys are not fans. Just as we wrapped up dinner, my phone rang and my friend told me BigBro was having a big meltdown and she wasn't making any headway with him. She got him on the phone and he wasn't making any sense. He was way beyond losing it.

When we got there, she came out to meet us. He had calmed down enough and uncorked on her. I think it helped having a totally neutral loving safe person to talk to. She explained that some game had gone bad (some boys not following rules - which sets BigBro off on even a good day) and that did it. UNCORK. So that one little pinhole became the egress for all of these pent up emotions. He had communicated #4-7 to me the other night. But I hadn't know all of the rest.

The boys went home with their dad tonight. I'm hoping that goes well. He hasn't had to deal with this close up for quite a while. I wish I had them. Ah well.

But to back track - since their dad returned, BigBro has been having exaggerated blinking, his finger/hand action (Spidey Hands), shoulder shrugging, and multiple little verbal tics. His threshold for dealing with problems has dropped. He's been having little emotional explosions here and at school. One happened this morning at school.

So the signs have been there. I knew something was up. And I knew it coincided with the return of The Ex. I know it's normal. I'm not worried about this being some long-lasting thing. But I can tell you this: I'm making an appointment with our awesome child counselor on Monday.

If you're the praying kind, my boys need it. LilBro clams up. So this could all be going on in his head, too. I don't know yet.

Like I told BigBro - God is bigger than this. He'll help BigBro control his body again. Now that we know what's going on and how to counter it. Come on, God!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First Day O' School - 2010

Today was the boys' first day of school. BigBro is in 5th grade and LilBro is in 1st. Didn't I just have them? Apparently, I better stop blaming post-partum baby-weight as the reason for my girth. Dang.

I spent yesterday fighting a migraine. So last night, I felt yucky and lazy and didn't want to cook. That latter part is nothing new. I just usually feel peppy and lazy and don't want to cook. But anyway, we went to the local pizza buffet. I had salad and pizza. The boys had pizza. It was yummy, cheap and fun.

Three hours later, it was unfun for me. Mom and I assume it was bad lettuce in the salad bar. I have no clue. I spent a good part of the evening in bed or on the terlit. Aren'tchya glad I shared?

The boys were too excited about school starting the next day. So I had frequent visits of "I can't get to sleep!"

I awoke feeling like punk this morning. Exhausted and unpeppy. It's a good thing we packed their lunches and backpacks the night before. Because I was off my game. Which is also why I don't have a gazillion photos. Dang it.

We drove to school knowing that the 1st day is when everyone else and their brother drives to school. No matter how many emails and letters the school send with instructions on where NOT to park, everyone parks there. So the streets surrounding the school became a tightly packed series of one-way streets. So we all ended up playing chicken to see who would win and get in or out of the school. I wish the school would hire me and a hand-picked group of parking nazis for that first day. I swear, you'd have a clear zone around that school where cars and buses could get in and out! But alas. They did not have me nor my minions.

We got out of the car and I had enough sense to snap this picture with my Blackberry. After burning the boys' retinas out by making them face the morning sun, we went to class. Both boys are very happy with their teachers. LilBro's 1st grade teacher was BigBro's 4th grade teacher last year. We ADORE her and were very happy to see her. BigBro's teacher is awesome. I'm told she is high energy and has extremely creative teaching plans. She is TAG (talented & gifted) certified so knows how to deal with those off-beat TAG kids that think outside the box. Outside the whole store, often times.

I love our school. I love knowing my boys are safe and surrounded by staff that actually care. One of my best friends works there as a teacher's aide so I know they have an on-the-spot emergency contact right there.

Last Friday night was Meet The Teachers night. I had the sense to bring my camera that night knowing the first day of school would be controlled mayhem. So I give you these two shots of the boys' teachers:
The Wonderful Ms. H and LilBro:

BigBro and The Fantastic Ms. F

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Boys and Their Dad

The Ex is moving back to Texas. Not only to Texas but to our town. Not only to our town but to the apartments within walking distance from our house.

The boys are understandably thrilled. I am immensely happy for them. They have missed him. And - selfishly? - I can't wait to have some help I don't feel guilty about.

I haven't written about The Ex in a while. It's hard to write honestly about it here because I don't find the bloggosphere a place for full disclosure.

He returns to his boys after much soul searching. The reality of what he did back in 2007 has finally really hit him. And I can't imagine it's easy to reconcile the good man he generally is in life with the dolt he was for the last three years.

God has been speaking some big huge stuff to me lately. Our pastor had two major lessons on forgiveness that just hit me between the eyes lately. The first right before The Ex told me he was moving back to the area. God's timing is all over this thing.

The Ex and I have worked very hard to maintain a friendship. So I will be glad to have my friend nearby.

God's working on this guy. I am looking forward to watching what He does. Because my boys deserve a Dad. Not just a voice on a phone.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pokemon Boy is TEN!

On July 5th, Pokemon Boy turned TEN. Double digits. And I have to tell you, I hardly see any signs of Tourette's. He'll tell you he doesn't have it any more. The director at his after school care recently told me that he's not on their watch list. They used to have to watch for his huge highs and lows. They say he's just one of the kids.

All of his teachers (school, after school, church) say that he's a hoot. We went to the doctor yesterday and he was so eloquent and polite, it just blows me away. Most adults that meet him are really taken with him.

Now and then, I see the fingers wiggling. Sometimes he's a bit fidgety. But there are no more anxiety attacks. There are no more raging outbursts. I haven't seen a facial tic or heard a verbal tic in I don't know HOW long.

It's still there a bit. He still says that when I mention it, he feels it. So I don't mention it.

I have to tell you, if you think prayer doesn't work, all I can say is, keep trying. Tenacity. Pokemon Boy and I have been praying about his Tourette's since we found out. I have prayed for complete healing. My church has. My family has. I'm still not giving up because there are teeny traces still there. I have no doubt that Pokemon Boy's amazing progress is all God. How many kids with an anxiety disorder have it just disappear? And during a divorce, his mom being laid off, etc. Yah, that is ALL God.

I just had to share that. My boy is ten. He's an amazing person. I have no doubt that God has some big plans for him. And overcoming this Tourette's thing is probably part of it.

Here's a shot for you. This was spring 2001. He was about 9 months old. Couldjya DIE?!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Blog Spammers Need a Good Slap

I promise to post an update soon. But for now, I will have to inform everyone that I have had to - once again - turn on the comment moderation because of some stupid blog spammer who seems to think I need to order Viagra.

So thank you, blog spammer, for once again making it difficult for my friends, family and regular readers to comment on my blog.

Eat dirty socks.

Love...Tourette's Mom

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hey Uncle Jim, Save a Place For Me

A couple of hours after posting that last post, my mom called and told me Uncle Jim had passed away that night.

He had a very pleasant last day and was able to say goodbye to almost all his family on the phone or in person. He died surrounded by family. That evening, my cousin posted the following on his CaringBridge journal:

Our Papaw has left this world for a better place. He died surrounded by his family and friends. We thank you for your love and support of our Dad/Papaw. We know that he is going to walk the streets of gold and hang out with Mindy and Jesus. (Mindy was his special dog that loved him as much as we did. ) Thank you Jesus for letting us have such a great Papaw. We love you! [signed the family] CANCER SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am encouraged today hearing the plans of all the extended family to get there to love on each other. I think Jim will be happy we will all finally be in one spot together. It's been a long time coming.

All the emails, Facebook posts, texts and phone calls have been so wonderful. My family is very lucky to be covered in so much prayer and love from strangers all over the world.

Easter 2010: My Uncle Jim & Aunt Lucy (center) surrounded by their 4 kids and their families:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Heavy Heart

My heart is heavy. I kind of get that statement right now. I've known how to correctly use it and in the right context. But I feel it. My heart feels soggy and heavy and rather listless.

Our extended family is - I guess - on vigil now. One of the favorite uncles suffered a life threatening intestinal blockage recently. It was touch and go but he's a tough nut and he fought his way through it. Once past the crisis, I'm sure I wasn't the only one that thought, "He's a tough one - of course he came through it!" Even a few days later when the diagnosis of cancer came, I'm pretty sure most of us thought, ok, he will have a rough battle but he'll come through. Even as the battle became a worse struggle, many of us just knew he'd persevere.

We are all preparing for the most likely outcome. None of us are ruling out a last minute miracle from God. Although, I will confess that I am having trouble praying in faith for that miracle. My fearless confident type of prayer starts to wane as reality takes us closer to what I don't want. I'm human. So sue me.

I have fitful sleep. I wake often and all I can do is pray when I do. It feels so...not enough-ish. I often start wondering how my aunt and cousins are all handling this. It's one of those many times in life I want to DO something. Something tangible, physical, real - to help. I know prayer is much more powerful that we know. But being a physical being, I want to move my limbs and affect some kind of relief for my hurting loved ones. Gah.

So there's that.

On a more peripheral front, Andrew, a pastor from my former Boston church, died early this morning. He was young, with a strong young wife and two beautiful little children. He and his wife are both pastors at my former church. His wife was the kind of children's ministry leader that knew the names of every mom that dropped her kids off. And this was a big church. I was always astounded when Val would greet me by name after I had only been going there for a few months.

I kept in the loop through two church friends, L & J, who were close friends with them but lived down here. Again, because of his youth and his faith, I just KNEW the cancer wouldn't take him. But the reports grew more and more discouraging. And the inevitable news came today as I worked.

Again, all I can do is pray for his family and loved ones.

Lastly, I called a long-time Boston friend of mine to sing a wacky happy birthday to her. Fortunately, she picked up and I didn't have to be a total spaz into her voice mail. We had a long wonderful talk. During our talk, she told me she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer two weeks ago. She's a nurse, so I take heart when she said, "If you're gonna get cancer, this is the kind you want to get." Duly noted. If they ask me, I will request thyroid cancer. She is young. That counts in her favor. She had just put a bid on a house the day before her diagnosis came in. When she tearfully asked her doctor what she should do about the house bid, he said, "Buy your house!"

I don't pretend to know why God allows good people to die and bad people to prosper. I fight off the stupid thoughts like, did I just not have enough FAITH when I prayed??? As if I have anything to do with God working his miracles. At the ripe old age of 44 and a half, I can finally say I have read the WHOLE bible. And since it's fresh in my mind, there is a part of me that has a bigger picture. I get that we cannot see God's plan. We can't see his all-encompassing view. These long waits on Earth to join our loved ones that have already passed are blips in his timing. I also know that not every illness is a judgment. Death is not to be feared. But the human me that IS trapped in a physical body, that DOES have to live in time, that misses people - that me has trouble with these events.

But I won't stop praying. And it doesn't derail my faith. I don't doubt God. As I told him the other night, I just wish he'd let me in on it. He will. Someday he'll tell us all how it was and we'll all be like, "OOOOOOOoooooh. So THAT'S how it was!!!"

One thing that really made me smile today was this thought: Today? Andrew got to meet Jesus face to face. Face to FACE, man. Now THAT is something to celebrate.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Mothers' Day is Comin'

Have you ever looked up how many times orphans and widows are mentioned in the bible? There are easily 25 references of the two together. We are told to care for them. Protect them from people who would take advantage. God makes promises to both, together and separately. The measure of someone following God is often taken by whether they are caring for orphans and widows.

I think in today's world, this would translate to making sure we are caring for and protecting those that can't do it for themselves.

So in the context of Mothers' Day, I've been thinking of all the single moms out there. You want to do something truly meaningful on Mothers' Day? Find a single mom and do something for her. Take the judgment out of the whole equation. Or is that only my issue? Don't worry about how she became single. Just look at where she is and what she needs NOW. That's always how God deals with us, right?

Find a mom:
  • Find a widow. At a funeral in 2001, a widow touched my arm and told me, "Make sure you stay in touch with [the new widow]. The widow is always forgotten." It's a sad truth as often wives have made their community through their husband's work or life. And I know I've been guilty of not contacting someone after a spouse's death as I was uncomfortable with knowing how long to give them to be alone, etc. Even if you feel weird because you haven't called in a while, reach out now. Just do it. Make the connection.
  • Find a divorcee. This is true for every kind of single mom. But since my divorce, I don't have that guy to spoil me on Mothers' Day. I don't have anyone to send me flowers, take me to dinner, dote on me, make me feel special. My kids do cute things - helped by my mom. But every woman wants to feel valued. Since my divorce, Mothers' Day, my birthday, and all holidays are a bit . . . lacking. I'm ok with it. But I tell you, special efforts are especially appreciated.
  • Find someone who is temporarily alone. Especially those moms who have husbands deployed elsewhere. Or if her husband travels all the time. I tell you, when you are doing it all by yourself but you know you have a partner elsewhere, that is an emotional rough spot. There are so many things pulling at you - worry, resentment, guilt. My friends in this boat have it rougher than someone who's been doing the single mom thing for a full 3 years. You know what I mean?
  • Find someone who is being pulled away from their home. Do you know a mom who is deployed elsewhere? Send her an email offering to do something nice for her family on Mothers' Day. Work with her family to send her something. Offer your computer so she can do a video chat with her family. Do you know a mom who is nursing an ailing family member? Now THERE is someone that is overwhelmed. Try juggling a family and hospital time (or home care, possibly).
  • Find a new mom. Many new moms have their act together. I wasn't one of them. Back in 2000, after Pokemon Boy's birth, a basket of muffins that I would have rolled my eyes at a year earlier became our breakfast for a week. Someone dropping off Chinese takeout one night lifted our spirits. She dropped it off and left. No pressure for us to entertain.
Here are some thoughts:

Give the mom a certificate good for an evening or afternoon out. You'll watch her kids on a Saturday afternoon or a weeknight. She can sit at home and watch a movie. She can go out with friends. She can just have alone time. I have to tell you, when my mom does this for me, that is often when I run those errands that I know would drive my kids nutty. Without kids, I can get about 8 errands run where they'd only tolerate two.

Invite the mom and her family over for dinner with your family. It's often so hard for a single mom to find social time and also quality family time. Single working moms have so little time. Any "down" time gets filled with chores and errands. Family time is often that little time in the car while running errands. If you invite the whole family over, you're giving her a break on dinner prep, social adult time and possibly social time with and for her kids, too. Lots of birds with one stone, you know?

Are you handy, crafty, cleany, cooky? Offer help with something she might not be able to handle alone. Ever tried to purge the garage with little kids wanting your time? That spring cleaning doesn't usually happen for single moms with little ones. Maybe I'm alone in this but I find it easier to clean someone else's house than my own. Helping someone get out from underneath that overwhelming task of [fill in task here] might be just what she needs.

When our music director was recovering from brain surgery a few years back, his wife and mother of two wee ones was constantly by his side. So a bunch of us women at church rotated to go over and clean her house. I tell you, it was a really cool way to help. It is one of the ministries I've done that has stuck in my head - more than quite a few others that I've been involved with.

Offer to watch the kids so she can go get a hair cut. Do you know I went more than a year without a hair cut because I just couldn't find the time without kids? And I have help from family and friends. But when you constantly ask the same person to watch your kids, you feel guilty doing it too often. Getting an offer like this would be awesome. Of if you're really set up in life, offer to watch her kids and give her a certificate to a spa that will do her hair and some other spa offering she might like!

Are you a married couple? Ask your hubby to watch the kids while you take the mom out for a girl's night. Sometimes, my neighbor's hubby watches the kids while she and I sit around talking, having a glass of wine. We don't even go anywhere.

While I obviously have a heart for the single mom, ideas like this are great for any mom. Many of my married friends are just as harried as I am. It can be hard to work out breaks for both parents when they're both feeling totally overwhelmed. Juggling your marriage, your job and your kids is a LOT. I tell you, I only have to juggle my job and kids. I am not tied up tip toe-ing around anyone else's issues.

Time is the most precious gift we can give someone. It's the gift more churches wish their members would donate. They crave it more than cash tithes. How many times do we as individuals utter the words, "There's not enough HOURS in the day!"? I'm constantly saying how I wish I could clone myself. Offering your time is way more special than a gift certificate.

Most moms I know would give their eye teeth for some extra hours in the week or some alone time. Not that we don't love our kids. But having alone time is something I never really appreciated until I had kids. Just a few hours in a chunk where you can do whatever you want. Go to a movie. Go clothes shopping where I can actually TRY THINGS ON. Just walk through Target without someone going, "Can we GO yet?!" Drive around. Sit in the back yard reading in the sun.

And I can basically repost this for Fathers' Day next month. I could write a whole blog on how single dads are in an even rougher boat than single moms. In SOME ways. Don't throw anything at me yet. Being thrown into single parenthood usually happens along with some devastating life bomb. Being thrown there without that natural nurturing mother gene is even harder. Just sayin'.

So this Mothers' Day, if you're in a good spot in life where you can give to someone, give some time to an overwhelmed mom. Figure out what she could really use, ASK her what she could really use. Or offer something you know she'd never ask for herself.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lil'Bro And His Fear Box

I'll try to make this quick as I'm supposed to hit the hay. I've been sick with allergy-induced asthma and all sorts of phlegmy goodness for about a week now. Getting better. But shouldn't stay up blogging.

And yet...

Had to share this gem with you.

Lil'Bro is 6. It's around this age that many kids start wrestling with fear. Pokemon Boy went through a real battle with this that was exacerbated by his anxiety disorder. Lil'Bro seems to be pretty much on par for his age.

He's becoming more aware of the world. He hangs with older kids more than PB did at this age. Simply because he is included in PB's world. He's also more saturated in a peer group at this age than PB was. So he hears all sorts of stuff from other kids of all ages.

One kid on the bus informs him that curses (like in movies) are REAL and can kill you. This same kid tells him days later that there are these certain words that, if you say them? They'll kill you! This kid needs to stop watching horror movies.

Another child regales the after school class with stories of parasites: what they are, what they can do to you (always the worst case scenarios, mind you). She informs everyone on bed-bugs later in the week. She's probably just reciting snippets from her recent viewing of something in Discovery.

Then there are the real worries of little kids like, what if something happens to mom? What if so and so dies? What if lava erupts under our house? What if a tornado hits us?

I don't want my kids to live in fear. I held on to lots of fears as a kid. I had a particular fear of "bad guys". And I'm talking stereotypical cat-burglar types, all in black with the black ski-masks, etc? Oh yah. I would have waking dreams where they'd be standing in my room with a ravenous barking dog. I'd be convinced they were outside my house, holding a single match to the corner of the house to burn my house down. Because I'm sure that's how arson is done. I was terrified of hurricanes and tornadoes. Earthquakes and volcanoes. At one point, I was terrified of the Bermuda Triangle. This, while I lived in New England.

So I get fear. And I get how it can stick to you. My mom told me she never knew to teach us kids how to pray against it. It never occurred to her.

In 2005, my small group specifically targeted fear with in-depth prayer. It was amazing. And when God broke the grip of the paralyzing fear in my life at that time, it really did feel like freedom. Oh don't get me wrong. I still wrestle with fear. Real and imagined. I don't watch the news because of how it affects my boys. But also because it's too easy to buy into the media's biased frenzy. And there are still nights when I leap onto my bed, careful not to let my feet dangle over the edge . . . just in case there's someone or something under my bed.

But now I know how to battle it. God is a God of peace. The prince of stupidity is the author of fear. And he's darn good at it. But he still can't stand against earnest prayers in Jesus' name. Nope.

So, yah. Back to the subject (my hope of brevity once again shattered by my vomitous verbosity).

I've been arming my boys for years by teaching them to pray. I've shown them God doesn't care about fancy words. There's no secret formula to "praying the right way." You just tell him what's going on. You tell him what's wrong or what you're happy about. So I tell them to tell God what's scaring them - just like they'd tell me.

Well, praying against the fear wasn't really working all that well for Lil'Bro. It's one thing to ask for it. It's another to believe it. And it's a whole other kettle of fish to receive it. Especially when you're 6.

I'm pretty sure it was my Boston small group that taught me this visualization. I would package up a problem. Wrap it up in my mind. I usually visualized wrapping it tight in brown paper and lots of packing tape. And I would give it to God. Sometimes I would lay it at the foot of The Cross, asking God to take it from me. Or I'd say I'm releasing it to you, please take it from me.

So with Lil'Bro, I told him that we're gonna box up all our fears and ask God to take them. So we do this thing. We close our eyes and hold out our hands like we're holding the sides of a box. Then I say, "God, we're putting all these fears in this box," [miming putting things in our box]. "We need help because we just can't conquer these fears all by ourselves. But we know you can. So we're putting a lid on this box," [miming the lid] "and we're releasing them to you," [miming handing it out to God]. "So God, we release these fears to you and ask you to take care of them. Because we know you're big enough to handle it for us." That's the general gist of it.

So the other night, we're doing this. And after we released the fear box to God, Lil'Bro said something like, "Let's ask God to give the box back to us filled with [mumble mumble]..." I said, "What?" because it sounded like he said something like toys. And I thought, oh boy, he's getting the wrong idea. He mumbled it again and I said, "Toys?" He goes, "No mom. Let's ask God to return the box to us filled with JOY." Oh my goodness! And here I was thinking he might not be getting the idea. I nearly hugged his head off. "Of course! Yes! Let's ask God to return it to us filled with joy!!" I had him pray that part. Which he did swimmingly. I have no doubt God did so with a big huge smile on his face.