Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sickness at Christmas Time, Continued...

Christmas Day was not at all what I had imagined or hoped for or anticipated. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I came down with the stomach bug that had hit the rest of my little family earlier, and spent Christmas Day feeling weak and miserable. I missed out on my favorite day of the year, and it was a sad, sad day.

The good news is that My Hero and Christopher Robin and Peanut Butter were all well, and full of energy and happiness, and able to enjoy the days' festivities. And My Hero came home from Christmas with my parents and siblings and the whole big riotous party that opening presents with all of them is, and filled me in on all the highlights in such a way that I felt like I'd been there.

Our two little boys had a wonderful day, and came home full of sugar and needing bedtime desperately. Then Peanut Butter woke up a couple of hours later to throw up the contents of his little tummy. A stomach still sensitive from recent illness was no match for all the sweet treats his grandpa and great-grandpa let him ingest.

The saddest part of this Christmas season for me was missing out on visiting with my out-of-town siblings. My sister and brother-in-law from Chicago arrived on Friday, the day Peanut Butter introduced the illness to our family. The party that we scheduled on Saturday evening specifically so my sister and her husband could attend was cancelled. The plan to hold it at my best friend's place instead of ours ground to a halt when her little baby girl began vomiting.

Saturday evening Christopher Robin was hit hard with the same illness. Just as Peanut Butter was recovering, really. Sunday morning My Hero stayed home with the boys while I went to participate in the Christmas Sunday morning service at church. My Hero was responsible for the video and words on the screen during the service, and I was part of the worship team, including a special piece two other ladies and I had been practicing for months. We decided he was more easily replaced than I was, and I ended up running MediaShout during part of the service while the visual team's understudy ran it during the music. The service was amazing, and I was so glad I didn't have to miss it. I came home to a husband laying on the floor and two boys wreaking havoc around him. He came down with the stomach bug, and spent Sunday and Monday recovering. Monday evening Peanut Butter and I attended the family Christmas Eve party, hopeful that in the morning we would all be well enough to participate in all of the festivities of Christmas Day. I thought surely if I was going to come down with it, I already would have.

Alas. Life is full of disappointments. Thankfully I slept much of the day, which felt nice, and spent some time being cheered by this:

A book I saw in a bookstore a month or so ago and decided to spend the last of my birthday money on. It's by the author of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, a book gifted me by a dear friend with impeccable taste for literature, which proved to be an absolute delicacy from start to finish.

It didn't let me down. This author has such a fun, imaginative style, and I love the way her characters have many sides to them, not just "good" or "bad".

It was a perfect read for a Christmas Day stuck in bed.

My sister and her husband leave tomorrow, so I essentially missed their whole visit, other than seeing them at church and the family Christmas Eve party. Not entirely though. My parents in law flew in yesterday to stay for 6 days, and they encouraged me to take the evening and spend some time with my sister while they took care of the boys and put them to bed. So after supper I went to my parents' house, and we played Bang!, a new game my sister got for Christmas based on a genre of Italian western shows, played much in the style of Mafia. It was a very fun evening spent shooting each other off.

My older brother and his new wife drove in from Connecticut Sunday morning in time for church, so I saw them then and at the Christmas Eve party, but missed all other interaction with them, which was crushing. I was so so looking forward to getting to spend time with them with just our family, playing games, etc. Apparently Christmas evening they had a rip-roaring good time playing Bang! as a family. But they were gone, back to Connecticut, before I was feeling well.

All in all, I'm already looking forward to next Christmas. Surely we can't be sick two Christmases in a row... And telling myself to treasure all the times with family I don't miss out on, and I really am so thankful that I have a family I love so dearly that it kills me to miss Christmas with them.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sickness at Christmastime

Today is the day of the Christmas party. The one I've spent the last week planning, shopping for, cleaning for, and thinking about. It's a gathering of high school friends, mostly, ones that get together usually just once a year or so, from all corners of Maine (and in my sister and brother-in-law's case, from Chicago).

The wrench: Peanut Butter is sick. I can't invite people into a germ-infested home, nor can I pass my still-contagious little boy on to any other family just before Christmas.

So the party will take place at my best friend's house instead. She is amazingly gracious to agree to host the party last minute, but she's one who puts more priority on friendship and time spent together and thoughtfulness than on perfection. I love that about her.

My Hero will stay home with Peanut Butter, and I will go alone to help host the party.

Yesterday Peanut Butter threw up again and again throughout the day. Today his appetite is back somewhat, but he spent the morning laying around, napping on the floor, and snuggling in my lap.

Christopher Robin was fascinated by Peanut Butter's new stunt of napping on the floor.

He decided Peanut Butter needed more than just the one blanket I'd put over him, so he added all he could find from both of their beds, and then began loading toys around him, too.

He felt very useful.

They're both sleeping now, and most of the food is prepared, and, well, there's no pressure now to make sure the house is spotless, so...for the first time in a week, I'm blogging.

EDIT: My best friend called, and her baby girl is sick, so...the party is canceled, and we'll pick a date in January to hold it instead. =sigh=

On another topic, the Fall Into Reading book club is officially over, and I did NOT finish. When I realized it was December and I had three books to go, I gave a tremendous effort, but December, this December, has held very little time for reading except just before bed, and my eyes just don't stay open like they used to. I wrote reviews of the books as I finished, though, so I plan to post them in a day or two, for the three of the five books I did finish. I hated to fail, and miss my goal, but it just wasn't as much of a priority to me as making a tree skirt for my tree and planning refreshments for the party, and pushing all the projects and busyness aside at least once a day for some relaxed fun time with the boys, usually including the reading of books, which I really think is Green Bean's absolute favorite pass time. Oh, and trying to think through a meal plan for the week after in-laws are coming to visit, which will be a wonderful treat, especially for the boys! They've been sending a Christmas package to them each week of December, because the giant wrapped box they sent home with us in October simply wasn't a big enough expression of their love and adoration for their grandsons. They're so generous.

And I've been talking with Christopher Robin about Christmas Day, and all that will take place on that day, and his eyes get shiny and his smile grows involuntarily as he anticipates the day's delights. I love that we have small children of our own at Christmastime. Even when they get sick the day before our Christmas party.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Ordeal

When I heard the thud I didn't know it was any different from a hundred other bumps and falls he has throughout the day. When I heard the intensity of his cry and saw him writhing, I knew he was hurt badly. I picked him up quickly and blood streamed in his eyes from the gash in his forehead. As the bleeding slowed, we saw clearly that we would be making a trip to the emergency room that evening for some stitches.

Christopher Robin and Peanut Butter had been playing happily together. Christopher Robin had a plastic sword and a plastic golf club, and he was using the two to chase and "capture" Peanut Butter, knocking him to the floor and landing on top of him. Rough play, but accompanied by laughter and giggles from both of them. Such play is refreshing to watch after endless hours of competing and fighting over toys and complaining about each other. I should have known it would end badly. Such fun, rough play rarely finds reason to stop until someone gets hurt. The final chase and capture knocked Peanut Butter into a jutting corner wall, forehead and wall colliding, tender skin giving way.

We packed the boys in the car, and decided to drop Christopher Robin off at my parents' house on the way, if they'd have him. They willingly took him in and sympathetically wished us well. They experienced the ordeal of taking a toddler for stitches numerous times when I was forehead bears the scars. I'm not terribly coordinated, and apparently when I was young I did foolish things like run with my hands in my pockets. Christopher Robin has inherited my lack of grace, though, while Peanut Butter has been sturdy on his legs since he first pulled himself up. Yet Peanut Butter has had two significant injuries, while Christopher Robin, in spite of hundreds of bumps and bruises, has never been seriously hurt. I wonder if it's coincidence, or if it's because of Peanut Butter's strength and intensity about things. Christopher Robin sort of flops about, while Peanut Butter is all drive.

Peanut Butter is so strong in his opinions and so determined to have things his way that the nurses struggled mightily to swaddle him in the sheet that traps his arms and legs and holds him still. He was so angry about the treatment he was getting, that I had handed him over to strangers, STRANGERS, people he has always been absolutely opposed to, and they were insisting that he not move, that his furious wails began long before he felt any pain. His anger turned to fear and confusion when they shone a bright light in his eyes, and the shots of anesthesia, that actually were terribly painful, turned his crying to tears of the betrayed. That was certainly the hardest part for me to bear. After the pain was gone and the stitching began he sunk into resigned, exhausted whimpering. The whole ordeal lasted no longer than ten minutes, but I longed with my whole being to have him back in my arms, snuggling him close, knowing it was all over.

I always wonder how such an ordeal can fade so quickly in his memory. Why doesn't he hold it against me? Why doesn't it erode his trust, that I willingly took him through this ordeal, let strangers hold him down and hurt him. Probably, truthfully, it has eroded his trust somewhat. I won't be able to take him back into the hospital to have the stitches removed with the same ease we took him the first time. He knows what I'm capable of, that I won't protect him from the things those people in blue decided to do to him. When he's older, I can explain it all to him. For now, he accepts that I'm his mama, and his attachment to me is far stronger than any ten minute betrayal could wear through.

They gave me the option to leave during the stitching, looked at me like they expected that I should, but I knew I could handle it. My Hero was sitting in the chair behind me, and I was standing with my hand on Peanut Butter's small round shoulder. As the doctor pulled tight the second stitch, though, the familiar black edges began to frame my vision, and my stomach felt tight and uncomfortable. I fought it for a minute; it frustrates me that my head can take it all in with calmness, but my body reacts in a way I can't control. Then I switched places with My Hero before I fainted. By the time they finished the third stitch and completed the job, I was fine, and so glad to hold my sweaty, tear drenched baby boy.

The gash looks much better pulled together in a neat, straight line. It's healing nicely. Christopher Robin is fascinated by the idea of stitches. He had a wonderful time at Grammie and Grampa's, but he often brings up the subject of Peanut Butter going to the hospital to get stitches, and asks question after question about it. I'm so glad he wasn't there to be scarred by the wails. If it's ever his turn to go, he has nothing to associate it with yet, unless he can tell just by looking at it that it would hurt. And I really don't think he can.

The other detail that was important to the story from my perspective is that I had just bought a new sweater and little brown corderoy pants for Peanut Butter that day, and had put them on him to make sure they fit. I envisioned him wearing them to Christmas parties, and was pleased how well they fit when I tried them on him. I left them on him for a few minutes while he played, and one of my first thoughts when his forehead was gushing blood was (how terrible am I??) to protect his new sweater. I even considered changing his clothes before going to the hospital, but I had never done this before, and the bleeding stopped so quickly I was afraid the wound would start to scab if we didn't get him there right away, and then they'd have to break it open to pull the skin together. That didn't happen, but it probably would have been messier to try to change his clothes than to keep him in them. When we returned home from the hospital I was relieved to find that the drop of blood on his sweater washed out nicely, as did the drops of blood on our light gray carpet. I really don't think such things should even register on my mind when a tragedy happens, but alas...some things are clearly just too important to me.

Here's the little boy 24 hours after the incident:

Thursday, December 13, 2007


52. Placing silver spoons beside glossy white bowls, an act of worship, not a mundane chore.

53. Homemade chicken noodle soup. Chunky noodles, savory spices, tender vegetables. Enough for two suppers made in one afternoon.

54. Feeling the confusing mix of laughter and frustration as kitten Tuttles knocks ornaments off the tree, across the carpet, down the stairs to shatter at the bottom.

55. The look of satisfaction on Green Bean's face when his aunt, my little sister, reads him books, and books upon books, willing to correct herself when Green Bean tells her "you read wrong words" because she said it differently than Mommy and Daddy do. He is content when structure is followed, books read consistently and predictably.

56. The way Peanut Butter crumples into a heap of tears of sorrow and shattered dreams when he's told "no", again, to playing with the cluster of permanent markers he's learned to reach from our desk drawer by turning a tub upside down and using it as a stool. Every time "no", every time the tragic tears.

57. My mom's willingness to drive up the road and wake My Hero from his deep slumber because I have a flat tire. I could change it myself, except once I get the stubborn lug nuts off, I can't wrench the wheel from the car. My car has a way of melding itself to the tires, and I have to knock it loose in order to pull the flat tire off. I whacked it repeatedly to no avail while I waited for My Hero to show up. Then he whacked it for a while, and it finally gave just after he sent me into the store to ask to borrow a hammer.

58. That my flat tire happened when I had our cell phone on me, on My Hero's day off (Mom only woke him up a few minutes before he planned on getting up), when I did not have our little boys in the car.

59. Our mom's group. A group of six stay at home moms with two common needs, social interaction and time to ourselves. Every other week we meet at one of our homes and visit together and let our kids play, and every other week we take turns watching each other's kids so we can have a few hours to ourselves every so often. I longed for something like this all last year, so this year I partnered with another young mom in my small group, and we made it happen. I'm so thrilled that it's a success!

60. Shopping with the ladies of my small group for Christmas gifts for a 14 year old girl who lives with her grandparents, who are trying to provide for her and her brother in a tiny house on a small, fixed income (while our husbands shopped for gifts for her brother). Stretching our dollars to buy two outfits, a movie, and a cute rolled pillow in the shape of a puppy with an adorable face. It really felt like loaves and fishes, the way we were able to stretch the money.

61. The quiet first hour of the morning all to myself, darkness turned to soft glow with Christmas tree lights and window candles. I've grown to love this time so much I no longer care to claim my sleep-in day.

62. Green Bean's cheery, scratchy fist words of the morning voice, "Tuttles! There's Tuttles!" Our kitten being showered with our three year old's full attention for several minutes every morning.

63. Soft cheek against mine, long limbs draping over my lap, "I really love you" spoken with fervency. Oh, little boy. I really love you, too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


My boy has found his pockets. I now have to remember to check not just my husband's pants pockets before I throw them in the washer. Green Beans pants could hold any kind of precious object, or just something that will affect the state of the whole load of laundry, like a tissue or (horrors) a pen.

Early one morning after Green Bean woke up, he dragged a stool over to the Christmas tree so he could watch the automated Bambi ornament spin, and then he asked to get dressed. That was odd. He had never paid any attention to when he changes from pajamas to day clothes before. And we almost always wait until after breakfast. Mystified, I told him he would have to wait until after Peanut Butter woke up, because to go in the bedroom while Peanut Butter was sleeping would certainly wake him. Then Green Bean's reasoning became clear; "I want pants with pockets," he said.

Green Bean's favorite item to pocket is his daddy's cell phone. That way he has it on him at all times, and he loves to go around the house taking pictures with it. He has figured out that by pushing "Okay" twice he can take a picture of anything, and his photography skills have dramatically improved with practice. The phone's photo gallery first was filled with lots of black, blank pictures, because he paid no attention to lighting and got too close to the object he was trying to capture. But now the gallery is filled with colors and random snapshots of family members doing ordinary daily things. My Hero is glad he spends so much time taking pictures instead of pushing all sorts of buttons that change the entries in his "phone book" from, say, "Dad's cell" to "Dad's cellffffffhhh". It's risky to let him play with our cell phone, you say? Yes, it is. But Green Bean knows never to push the green button, and he obeys. He has pushed it once or twice, whether accidentally or on purpose, and the cell phone is taken away for a while, but he loves playing with it too much to make that mistake often.

Other things he has put in his pocket:
-a small purple stone given to him by the kind lady who does "Story Time" at the library
-all of our pens ("They won't all fit," I predicted. Why do I say things like that? He continued sticking them in one by one until they were all in there.)
-all of our chopsticks, which stick out of his pocket in the same manner as the pens
-my hair elastic
-a penny

He reminds me of Tom Sawyer and all the boys in that book by Mark Twain. It's a boy thing to do, fill one's pockets with treasures. And he's my boy.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

How My Hero Makes Me Proud

My Hero applied for a promotion.
After a month and a half, he recieved a call for an interview.
He interviews well, and received a call for a second.
Then he recieved a call to drive to a distant store to walk through it with all the upper management from the district, critiquing the store, explaining what was good and what needed to be changed. That, he said, was harrowing.
Now we wait.

The new management position is in a store 1 1/2 hours away. That's an hour more each way than he travels now. That means two hours less family time each work day. Or less sleep.

It's in a store that is running smoothly and well run. Not a problem store like several closer ones to us. He's been spending the last 8 months in a "challenging" situation, and while he has appreciated the challenge and grown tremendously from it, I think a less stressful situation is now in order.

The store manager is said to be a wonderful person. She's the one he'd be working with directly, so that's really important. Some people, we've learned, no matter how carefully you handle them, make you feel like bashing your head against a wall.

The salary would be 1 1/2 times what he's making now. That's a beautiful thought. Financial goals like saving for college and putting 15% into retirement and paying off our house early and having more to give...all suddenly more easily attained.

The position would put him in place to more easily transfer to a closer store when a position opens up. He'd be a step ahead of his current position, and more likely to be chosen.

He was told, after the walk through the store with upper management, that he would hear in a day or two whether or not he got the promotion. So after three days of not hearing a thing, we had to assume the position was given to the other guy. I hadn't realized just how much I'd adjusted my thinking already to accommodate the new position...I had to re-adjust my thinking to accepting that nothing was changing in the near future, and we needed to keep on going for the long haul. And then he found out that (and this happens so often with his company I should learn not to believe anything he comes home telling me, but then what do you believe?) the person who told him he'd hear in a day or two didn't know what they were talking about, and that the decision was passed on to the district vice president first, and he decides or gives his input or whatever, and in 2 or 3 weeks we'll hear the final decision.
Since I've already started counting on it once, and then had to retrain my thinking, this time around I'm holding the final decision much more loosely. From our perspective the pros far outway the cons, but our perspective is pretty limited, and the one con is a big one. I'm content to leave the final decision in God's hands, and that's how I've been praying about it.
Either way, I'm so proud of my husband. He always ROCKS interviews. He's good at thinking on his feet (he balances me out that way. He: strong ability. Me: completely inept.) He has a strong work ethic, natural people skills, and acquired management skills. Three years ago he was a night receiver stocking shelves. And whether or not he gets the promotion (ahead of his own ambitious time-table), the final interview step of walking the store with all the big dogs was a tremendously good learning experience, and next time he's faced with it, he'll have the confidence of having done it before and knowing what's expected of him.
He makes me proud, and I am so blessed.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas Photograph

I decided to attempt a Christmas card photograph yesterday. I hung a blanket on the wall that was lighted by indirect outdoor light (sunlight, only it was cloudy). Then I explained to Green Bean what I was going to do. He was already in a touchy mood as he always is when he wakes up from his nap, and he has grown to dislike being photographed (my own fault, for sure.) I insisted on his cooperation, and he melted into tears, when to my relief I saw My Hero's car pulling into the driveway. I'm not sure why I thought I'd be able to do it without him, actually. He talked to the boys and helped me get them in position, and then was the clown who made them smile and laugh over and over while I snapped pictures. Twice or three times I hit the on/off button instead of the snapshot button, and after almost each of My Hero's crazy antics Peanut Butter would stand up and try to go to him, but through teamwork and a little magic dust we got one or two good ones.

The one we settled on:

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Explaining God

I feel weak and foolish in my attempts to teach my children about God. I hesitate, not wanting to oversimplify, to cheapen the truth, yet wondering how much a three year old can grasp of the interaction between us and God. How do I describe someone he can't see, but Who is always here? "Where's Jesus?" he asks. "He's here with us. He's everywhere." Does that melt into meaninglessness in his mind? "God made us, He made everything." Is that also a comment he shrugs off, because he can't see God, or sense Him with any of his senses? Does he understand that we're talking to the King of the Universe when we pray with him before bed? Or does it strike him as a mere recounting of our day, and other words he doesn't understand.

I know in time his understanding will broaden, and I think it's important to begin to teach him now, but I really am concerned that these phrases that are over his head...he'll just form a habit of tuning them out...not trying to understand.

Like I did. I'd read the stories printed on the Sunday School bulletins, but skip over the verses at the end. I'd read the stories printed by Christian children's publishers, but skip the morals at the end. I even felt a little guilty, knowing that was supposed to be the most important part, but the truth was, I'd heard it all before and it bored me.

I suppose there's no way to totally avoid that behavior. And I think the truest and best antidote is to keep our love for God as much an action as possible. Not just holding off the opening of gifts until we've read the Christmas story, but finding ways to give gifts of ourselves to needy people. Putting our faith into action as much as possible, to stir up the questions and make them want to know why we do what we do, and how God has called us to live so differently.

I want Green Bean and Peanut Butter to know that the reason they must treat each other with kindness, gentleness, and respect is because that's what makes God happy. But I don't want them to equate God with a supernatural judge who watches over their actions and smiles at the good and frowns at the bad.

We began a Jesse Tree this Christmas, and once again, it feels a little over Green Bean's head (Peanut Butter doesn't even slow his spinning steps long enough to notice what we're doing, and it's certainly well beyond anything he's interested in). I attempt to simplify the stories, explain them in his words after I read them from scripture. I still feel like it's so far from anything he sees or knows that he can't be getting it very well. But he points to one of the ornaments and asks me to read about it again. So I flip to the passage and read it. He likes me to read to him from the Bible, and asks me to quite often. That's something. And now he picks up my Bible and "reads" it himself. It must sound like a bunch of gibberish when I read to him, because when he reads it his stories are just words from the world he knows. "And I ride my firetruck, and play with numbers and letters, and go over there, and my coloring books, and Peanut Butter cries, and..." On and on. Only last time he read, he added "The Lord" to his sentences. "The Lord is happy we color in our coloring books..."

I pray. And hope they both see, as they grow, a genuine love for our Creator in my own heart, and in my actions. Little by little, he'll grasp it. And the ultimate choice belongs to his own heart. Who will he serve. I will pray, and live, and do all I can, but all-knowing, all-loving God will direct his life, order the circumstances that shape his perspective, and draw him to Himself.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Glimpses of Christmas

Christmas. The cozy evenings warmed by a thousand tiny lights, hot cocoa stirred with striped peppermint, gift lists exchanged, candles flickering their illumination on the hobbies and interests dearest to loved ones hearts. Anticipation building...only 18 days until my sister and her husband come to stay for a week. And a surprise gift, my older brother and his wife, newly wed, spending their first Christmas together with us. Joy and excitement building with each Christmas, as our children grow old enough to understand and anticipate the Day. Traditions becoming dearer as they set a mold in our children's hearts. The process of decorating becoming more...interesting and hazardous with two hands-on young boys enthusiastically helping. "I've never seen so many ornaments broken in a single day," in the words of My Hero.