December 30, 2014

That's What Friends Are For

Spontaneous trips with moms and kids. . .

That's what friends are for.

The winter wiggles were building up and a reprieve was necessary.

So my friend and I decided to whisk our kids away and to go do dishes, change diapers, slap together sandwiches, and oversee teeth brushing someplace else - at the cabin.  What is it about doing the humdrum of daily life in a different location that makes it so much more fun?  We try to convince our husbands, still spending their day in their offices, that we are still working very, very hard.  Really.

Bridger was so excited for the getaway because my friend's littlest daughter is his bestie.

Lovins' and cuddlins'. . .

That's what friends are for.

Playing games by the fire, eating Lucky Charms in bed, target shooting with bb guns in the dark, riding the atv and romping through the woods on an early morning hike wearing blaze orange hats as you create new creek patterns with the rocks until your fingers freeze off. . .

That's what friends are for.

Cleaning up Bridger's morning vomit while I go clean up Bridger. . .

{Missing the picture for that one.  You are welcome.}

That is not what friends are for.

That is what amazing, awesome, kind people are for and I am grateful I have a friend with those special qualities in my life too!

Good times and good friends - my favorite combination!

December 27, 2014

Little Man's Best Friend

He has an official title -- Service Animal.

That is a different species of animal, not to be confused with your everyday domesticated dog.

Once in a while, however, we enjoy presenting him a subtle reminder to him that underneath that proper vest and serious facade, that he is still a dog.

Christmas was one of those moments.

His toy box looks like a pile fitting for a circus elephant.  "Indestructible", "Large Breed", "Lifetime Guarantee" his toy labels all read.  Ha.  He has disproved every such claim.

'Ty the Dog' has a fierce obsession with squeakers.  He believes that they don't belong in toys and will work with his invisible opposable thumbs and tips of his teeth to remove every one.  Ty's puppy raiser sent him a fun stuffed toy that had 16 squeakers in it!  He only gets to have at that challenge on select weekends and he has 13 out already which we wrapped up and sent back to her with a 'thank you' note to show her how very loved that toy was by Ty:)

For Christmas we received a sweet package from his puppy raiser containing another stuffed squeaker toy.  I no sooner handed it to him then he had the first squeaker out already and was finished with #2 and 3 before I could put my camera down.  He was a dog on a mission! See the squeaker carnage peaking out in the first picture and the one already discarded in the second pic as he goes in for another kill?

Ty also has a rule that no toy is allowed to have hair or ears.  He made quick work of both and is seen below scalping his new toy.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Alan had a *gulp* "successful" deer hunt this year. When he came home from the hunt and walked in the door, Ty's Labrador roots immediately came to the surface.  His nose was plastered against Alan's pant leg for a solid hour taking in all the smells that had. . . er . . . what's the word I am looking for . . . 'sprinkled' over Alan's pants as he was handling his deer.

Ty remembered at that moment that he was a dog.  

We now also have 40 pounds of the most amazing jerky you will ever taste.  I have learned that makes for some amazing motivation for Ty.

Everyday we have a small training session.  We have to keep his mind fresh and learning new things for Bridger's benefit. He also needs to stay exacting on commands that we don't currently use very often so he doesn't forget them.  When I have a small piece of jerky in my fingertips instead of kibble, Ty is practically bouncing into position and jumping to perform the command.

On Christmas morning, we let Ty enjoy the morning being a dog.  Ty could sense the excitement and somehow figured out just what to do.  Just like the other kids, he had presents scattered under the tree and he would sniff around until he found one that he knew was for him.  He would bring it over to me to ask my approval or to show it off, I'm not sure which, and then would run off to the foyer where he would enjoy it for a few moments alone - which is his SOP for special treats.  He would then come back and plop down next to Bridger until he felt the fancy to go hunt out another present for himself.

One of his treats was a Kong ball that I filled with jerky bits.  He was frantic to figure out how that ball worked.  He learned his usual protocol with his other Kong treat dispenser of pushing it around with his nose didn't work.  I could feel his blood pressure rising as he was desperate to figure it out. . . which, he did!

After that, he found his present of a ginormous indestructible gummy bear which Bridger had chosen for him in his favorite color of green.

He maimed that bear in no time.  The first problem, it had a squeaker.  Ty thought his job was to break through the super duty plastic and help that bear out by removing his squeaker.  First, after 30 minutes of very frustrated chewing, he did away with its leg. 

Then, he had to remove the ear (remember - nothing can have ears).  After that, the squeaker gave one last groan and gave up the ghost.  I had to trash our "lifetime guaranteed" toy after that to keep it safe for Ty so he wouldn't pick apart and ingest any plastic.

Then, the magic dog dust wears off and he goes back into service, caring for his boss and he becomes 'Ty the Service Animal' once again.

As wonderful as that title is, his best title will always be:

Little Man's Best Friend.

 What a gift this extraordinary animal has been this year for our extraordinary boy!

December 25, 2014

It's Not About Scrooge

The presents are all opened and my children are snuggled in their beds with their wonder and curiosities of the day satisfied.  My house looks like Christmas threw up all over it. Twist ties from obnoxious packaging are embedded in my carpet only to be found by the horrific sound the vacuum will soon make when it runs over them and my Christmas tree is already lying outside the back door where it can drop its final few needles still clinging to its quickly baring branches.

Christmas is finished.  Well, only in part.

The best part of Christmas carries on.  The part of us that had some reckoning, the part of us that saw a need to be better, to be more like Him in some way, hopefully, will carry on.

I finished reading Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, last night.  I had read it before, but not within the past seven years - which is when my journey on the special path began.

On the special path, you gain a new lens to look through and you see and understand things differently.

Rereading this story, I see a new meaning.  I believe, that I understand the story better.

The story is not about Scrooge.

It is about Tiny Tim.

Though, it is through Scrooge's eyes that we understand that.

As the Ghost of Christmas Present, with Scrooge in tow, stops at the Cratchit's home to sprinkle a blessing on it, Bob Cratchit is returning from church carrying his little Tiny Tim.

Our home has had a blessing sprinkled on it too.  It is something completely intangible, yet a blessing so real we feel at times we can touch it.

Mother's first question to her husband:

"And how did little Tim behave?"

I smiled as I read that.  Whenever Alan goes to church with Bridger, and without my accompanying them, it is always my first question when they come in the door as well.

Tiny Tim's statement concerning the outing burned in my heart because I feel it is one of the very purposes of Bridger's journey.  Said Tiny Tim, 'he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.'

Having Bridger in our home reminds each of us in our family, every day, of Him who performed these miracles. Having such a child in your presence, and pausing from your other duties for a moment to think upon it, will inevitably turn your thoughts towards Heaven.  Tiny Tim reminds of us that.

The Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come shows Scrooge a mourning family, that has just lost their precious little son, but yet, that grief is overcome with happiness from gratitude from a gesture - a very simple acknowledgment of them from Scrooge's kind nephew. Then Bob Cratchit reminds his family of how they have been changed by Tim, "that when we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he was a little, little child; we shall not quarrel easily among ourselves. . . "

We find less room for complaint and agitation in our house.  You cannot whine about your own health, circumstance and other trivialities when you have a Tiny Tim in your midst.

After the magnificent visitations that take a cold hardened heart and cause it to be twisted and tormented, that cause Scrooge to change and to feel, that cause him to see and acknowledge, Scrooge awakens and immediately sets forth to act.  I find it very telling, and even the purpose of the story, to know what a changed Scrooge does.  With his breath restored after just seeing his own death, the first critical movement that Scrooge sees necessary to perform with his new changed heart is to go lighten the burden of Tiny Tim.  Immediately upon waking from the series of nightmares his first action is to purchase the biggest turkey hanging at the butcher and bring it to Tiny Tim and his family, that little Tim might thrive and live.

What is it about Scrooge's newly refined and purposeful vision that saw this as the most important thing to do first?

Tiny Tim knows.

And I do too.

It is not the story of Scrooge that has changed me.  It is the story of Tiny Tim.

Merry Christmas,

and, "God Bless us, Everyone."

December 23, 2014

I Can Handel It

There is no more glorious way to welcome in Christmas than to participate in one of the greatest musical works ever composed, devoted entirely to praising Him.

I have participated as a violinist in an orchestra performing Handel's Messiah nearly every year for the past fifteen years.  It never gets old.  In fact, it only becomes more magnificent every time.

This past Sunday was the performance.  It was a welcome relief to step away from being a caregiver for a moment.  Bridger was the last of my sickies at home, but he is the one that drains it all out of me.  

A man was talking to me after the performance and was comparing their household of sick children to mine - sounding much like a "we all have it just as bad so stop thinking you are so unique" lecture.  I responded, "Flu schmuu. Caring for typical kids with their illnesses is really a piece of cake.  It is when Bridger becomes sick that makes daily life nearly impossible."  Just a piece of advice, don't compare 'normal' life to 'special' life. I have lived both and there is no comparison.

I can throw some chicken soup and Kleenex at the former, give them an ipad, wash some extra sheets and wake up in the night a few times to tend to them.  Do that, times four, for all the typicals and life is still easy peasy.  Sometimes, typical children are even easier to care for when they are sick.  With typical children, you know that they will get better, and that it is just a matter of time.  The mental stress and weight hanging over our head each illness with Bridger, is that we don't have that same assurance.  The times that Alan and I have looked at each other and said, "I think this might be the time" now counts well beyond one hand.  Those are not words that parents should ever have to say to each other, let alone, on over a handful of different occasions. 

For Bridger, his challenges start to layer and stack.  A quick highlight of what is involved in his care -- I have to pay critical attention to the timing of certain medications, pumping electrolytes down his tube in 30ml increments every 15 minutes, round the clock for 4 days.  Frequent steamings and tending to him every. single. minute.  After trial and error, we have found this to be the successful pattern to keep him out of the hospital.

The good news - it has worked this time {knock on wood} and I think we are in the clear now for spending Christmas at home!

It must have been the magic of Handel.

We had been rehearsing for months.  We had beautiful soloists, a powerful choir and full orchestra.  We had an audience of over 500 with every seat being filled within a few minutes of the doors opening and I had the best seat in the house - sandwiched right in between the choir and the audience.

There are not words to describe what it feels like to be in that particular seat during the Hallelujah chorus with choir booming behind me and the standing audience of 500+ belting out the grandest praise in song to our Lord.  I could not even hear my violin during a large part of the chorus, nor could I even see my music because of the tears welling up in my eyes.  Luckily, I can Handel it.  I have played it so many times I could do that one with my eyes closed.

I still get chills up my arms remembering the feeling in my heart as I was playing.  I believe that I, and all the others present in that chapel, just felt what it might have been like to be a heavenly participant in that first nativity.

Luke 2
 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

December 20, 2014

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Tonight we continued on a new tradition that we adopted last year which was introduced to me by a good friend.  It is a simple little game that has quickly become a family favorite.  Most likely,  I suppose, because it involves presents.

My kids call the game PRIZE.

5 dice spell out the word "prize", with each side of the die having the corresponding letter written on it, with the exception of one blank side on each die.  Roll the dice, spell out p-r-i-z-e, and choose a mystery present from the stash in the middle.  Roll and have any of the dice have a blank side up - no prize for you.

Simple game.  High stakes.

Last year the kids were fooled by the big presents and immediately grabbed those first. They found wrapped treasures like a big pack of napkins, some smelly dollar store cologne and even a roll of toilet paper.  They weren't falling for that this year.  They went for the soft rectangular shapes - knowing that one of them would likely contain a big bag of M&M's.

Lance was less than thrilled when his curiosity led him to select the package that jingled -- only to reveal some Christmas ponytail holders.

After all of the presents have been selected from the middle, we transition into the brutal rounds of Sudden Death.  Roll a P-R-I-Z-E and anyone's loot is fair game for the taking.  Once again, the peanut M&M's seem to be a hot item continually being grabbed from one person to another.

Even Bridger gets in on the action and was a quick study.  If any of his dice had a blank side up, he quickly took his little quivering hand to adjust it to show a letter and then shout with excitement that he had won a prize.

Bridger quickly had exhausted his limited amount of energy for the game, and after we finished we took his lethargic, sick little body upstairs to bed.

The rest of the family finished off the night with another attempt by me to resurrect a favorite Christmas tradition from Alan's childhood -- his mother's Christmas tree bread.  I have had two failures in the past and was determined to get it right this year.  I found a new successful cinnamon bread recipe and the kids enjoyed "decorating" the Christmas tree before I served it up warm with a mug of milk.

It has been an exhausting week of illness for most of my bunch and we are far from out of the woods yet with Bridger.  Because of that, for a brief moment tonight, it felt beyond refreshing to forget about the sickness that has hovered over our little household and just be together and laugh.

With this sweet bunch, I feel like I am the one who has won the PRIZE.

That is, until someone wakes me up tonight in the middle of the night because they just threw up, wet their bed or can't breath through their nose.  There are no winners in that game. Just sayin'.

December 19, 2014

It's All About the Accessories

Like the look?

It's the latest fashion accessory.

I call it no-eau-de-vomit.

I deal with vomit quite frequently in my special world.  God must be getting a chuckle out of that.  Of all of the things in life I detest the most, vomit ranks a solid #1.  So God gave me a vomit-filled life.  Bridger, either from his sensory reactivity or compromised and fragile health, vomits nearly daily.  Often, multiple times a day - and when he is sick, I just stop counting all together.

I discovered a brilliant little trick a couple years ago and have used it every time without fail.  I have a stash of disposable face masks reserved for these fun occasions and it makes clean up much more painless.  I loop these little puppies around my ears, roll up my sleeves, pull on my latex surgical gloves and tackle boy, bath, bed and bedding.  I spray some Lysol, remove my protective gear and no one is none the wiser what just went down in that little room.

It was my signature look today. . . all day long.

Eliza's signature accessory today was this. . .

Bridger's orthotics.

On days like today when Bridger is barefootin' it, his little sister takes advantage of the opportunity to don his orthotics.  Hard to see in this picture, but those little plastic braces are knee height and incredibly uncomfortable.  She is obsessed with them.  She straps them on and puts on his shoes and awkwardly clomps around sounding like Pinocchio for hours as she goes about her daily business.  I will occasionally find her stuck in Bridger's mobile stander (on right) or gait trainer that she will strap herself in and not be able to get out of.  Too embarrassed to call for help, she will just wait for me to find her to set her free to go clomping about again.  She cracks me up.  Who needs baby dolls and My Little Ponies when you have a wonderland full of unique playthings around here?

So, there are the highlights of our very draining day.

I have 10 bottles of different medicines lined up on my counter and syringes rotating through the line up right now.  I have tv trays and bowls with a chicken soup ring around the middle waiting for the dishwasher to magically empty itself.  I have vomit laundry cycled through at every available minute today and I am hoping to catch the guilty party who keeps throwing their snotty tissue balls on the ground instead of in the trash can.  I think if I just follow that clomping sound it might lead me to catch the prime suspect in the very act.

Today, we sure look great. Tomorrow we will look even better.  Really.  Want to know how I know that already? Because I chose a mask in a lovely shade of green to wear tomorrow. It will bring out the color of my eyes.  

You see, even in our pathetic haze of disgustingly sick, I can still follow the fashion trends - which right now, tell me its all about how I accessorize.

December 18, 2014

Dropping Like Flies

'Tis the season.

Not the merry type.

It is that other season that I warned you of here.

It started with a pneumonia and now they are dropping like flies around here.

Apparently, misery loves company.

The misery started with Sadie's pneumonia, shared with Eliza who added to the shared pneumonia her own ear infection.  Eva brought her own unique germs to the mix today with a positive test for the flu (despite us all having our flu vaccines this year), Lance is coming down with something and on the way home from the doctor today with Eva I got a call from the school clinic that Bridger was throwing up, and he is now a lethargic, weak bundle of pathetic.


A smorgasbord of germy delights.

For Bridger, vomiting comes with everything from pink eye to pneumonia and everything in between.  So what is his underlying illness going to be? The suspense is killing me.  Right now he is taking a brief nap - after which whatever combinations of illnesses he has will make themselves manifest with their associated symptoms - including more vomit.

This is the second reason that my Christmas preparations are completed well before December.  In December I have to be ready to shut down and step away from "life" at any given moment.  Having been in the hospital for Christmas in the past and having many other near misses - I know that my time soon will not be my own.  Sometimes hospital stays are actually easier than what is required in home care.  Keeping Bridger out of the hospital takes all I have - and even some that I don't.  In a matter of hours I will not have the time or ability to grocery shop, so while Bridger now briefly sleeps I am frantically taking inventory of what meals we have that can be thrown together without me present.  Starting 1 hour ago, I no longer have the ability to run a single errand because Bridger will require 100% home care and I cannot expose a caregiver to his illness to relieve me.  Anything left on my to-do list will soon be in the hazy pile of forgotten because my brain fog will set in as I will most likely not be sleeping tonight or in the nights to come because I will be listening for the retching of vomiting or keeping an eye open for seizures.

All this on top of caring for the "typicals" and their dripping, snotty noses, hacking coughs and blazing fevers.  That is really the easy part.

I can do this.  I got it down to a science which makes me smile at myself.  This is not offered as whining, but just said to offer a glimpse into a piece of the December special life.  While it is completely exhausting, I feel a little closer to Heaven in times like this.  Christmas isn't about what color of wrapping paper to use or spending mind power scheming what your little elf should be posed to do next.  Christmas is about sharing His love through service, and I will have plenty of opportunity to do that for a frail special little package.  The lucky part for me -- I can give that service while wearing my pajamas and my hair in a scrunchy.

So excuse me while I end this post.  I have only a few minutes of time left before I devote the rest of my week to nurturing the Christmas Spirit - the special way.

December 17, 2014


Yesterday was the school-wide geography bee.  Usually I would not have known of such school happenings, but I had this one marked on my calendar for a long time.  My sweet little 4th grader was her class champion and moved onto the school-wide bee to challenge the other class champions.  The competition is exclusively for the 4th and 5th grade classes with a total of 10 participants.

Sadie was so nervous, and she was relieved that she didn't have to go first.  She hadn't been at school for the past three days, nor had she slept either - not because of nerves, but because she had pneumonia as was on the tail end of healing and received special clearance from the doctor to go to school just for the competition.  We were nervous for her, but were hoping that she would feel a boost in her self esteem by possibly making it to the top 6 or 7.

Round after round passed and our little Sadie stayed on the stage, nailing questions that neither I nor Alan knew the answer to.  Humbling to say that our 9 year old knows more than me!

One by one the chairs emptied until there was just Sadie and a single 5th grader left as the finalists.  It came down to the final challenge round of 3 questions.  They each got the first question right, the second one wrong and the final question Sadie answered incorrectly and the other participant won.  We were so proud of the winner too - she is my friend's daughter and a fellow teammate on Sadie's field hockey team!

Top two!  I was so excited for her to be excited for herself!  That middle child position is serving her well.  While I have worried that she is being neglected and overlooked as the 3rd of 5 children, she, instead, has become a human sponge and absorbed, learned, studied, read and analyzed anything and everything that she can get her hands on.

Her teacher was so proud that she had reached the top two and Sadie came home beaming from school today because of the praise offered her by her sweet classmates. 

So proud of my geography bee finalist -- she is just Bee-autiful in every way possible!

December 16, 2014

All is Calm, All is Bright

"I, with you, have witnessed during the past few days and weeks what has become over the years the annual commercialization of Christmas. I am saddened to see Christmas becoming less and less about Christ and more and more about marketing and sales, parties and presents."
"And yet, Christmas is what we make of it. "
Thomas S. Monson 

My December is exactly what I make of it, and it isn't decorated with deals and frazzled with functions.

In my December, all is calm and all is very bright.

I developed a tradition when my oldest was just a baby.  It was a practice started out of shear survival and has continued out of deliberate preservation of the holiday we celebrate.

I don't know whether to share it with pride or embarrassment - because it does reveal that I am mildly OCD.  But this blog has probably given indication to that already.  So, might as well come out and say it. . .

My Christmas presents are all purchased and wrapped by the first week of November.

Think of me as super organized or think of me as super weird.  I am fine either way.

The billable year for my husband's law firm comes to a close at the end of September.  I always was alone all waking (and most non-waking) hours, 6 days of the week through August and September.  I decided to occupy myself during that otherwise lonely time by thinking about the perfect presents for everyone.  I would make all of my Christmas purchases then and have them wrapped and tucked away until Christmas.  Thirteen years later I still carry on that practice, not because of the ending of the billable year, but because it makes Christmas all the merrier.  By removing all of the commercial consumption out of my December, our Christmas becomes exactly what I make of it.

Our December has nothing to do with presents, and everything to do with remembering the Gift.  

Our December is filled with concerts of music celebrating His birth.  Our December is filled with creating memories with friends and family and sharing the love that is a reflection of Him.  Our December is filled with evenings snuggled up tight as a family watching movies and playing games and doing the things that draw us closer together.  Our December is filled with drives in the dark to look at the beautiful lights and singing Christmas carols out of tune along with the radio and spending bedtimes cuddled reading one our dozens of Christmas stories that are collected on our coffee table. Our December is full smiling over Christmas cards received explaining to my children how each of those beautiful faces of friends and family on those cards has touched our life.  Our December is filled other lessons and activities that teach my children to understand the significance of Christmas, of sharing His love through service and about the Gift they are celebrating.  December is full of exactly what I put in it.

There are too many other times in my life when I am running too ragged, completely over scheduled and under disciplined, too many times when I do the right things for the wrong reasons or the wrong things for the right reasons -- but not my December.  Late into Christmas Eve when all of the littles are tucked into bed and I whisper to my husband to go in the basement and bring up the bin of wrapped presents that have been patiently waiting their debut for over a month, I am quite pleased with myself.  For all of my shortcomings as a mom, I feel I got December right.

"Despite all the distractions, we can see to it that Christ is at the center of our celebration. If we have not already done so, we can establish Christmas traditions for ourselves and for our families which will help us capture and keep the spirit of Christmas."

Enjoy this little video. If the thumbnail is not present, as it isn't when viewing on some mobile devices, just click on the link below:


December 14, 2014

The Buck Stops Here

*warning: this post contains a graphic image that may be disturbing to some readers*

I am a city slicker, my husband hunts.

We have reconciled that difference in our marriage and it all works out in the end.

His annual deer hunt with his brothers is something he starts counting down for approximately 11 months and 26 days before the big event.  That would be approximately the day after the previous deer hunt ended.

It's usually completely harmless.  He goes up to our cabin with my oldest son and all of the other menfolk and they drink A&W rootbeer and eat Double Stuf Oreos by the pound.  They walk around the woods carrying their rifles and stay up late into the night watching old western movies.  I'm pretty convinced there isn't any hunting that really goes on.  But he comes home rejuvenated and a more energetic father and husband - so I absolutely support his annual getaway.

Yesterday, he had a friend invite him to go hunting on some property locally and he jumped at the chance.  Another opportunity to let him walk around in the woods for a few hours and come home happier than when he left?  Sure, I supported it again.

Until. . . I was at a restaurant having lunch with my mom and I received THE text.  The text that I have always dreaded.


Following the text were some proud images.  I was eating lunch.  I finally had to put my phone away.


So the few hours of a happy deer hunt turned into an all day adventure as he had to drive down in the Shenandoah Valley to a deer processor to drop off his trophy of the day.  Since it would be too late to drive back home, he took a few of the kids with him to spend the night at the cabin since the processor is not too far away from it.

Does this sound foreign and unsettling to you?

Let me ease your mind a bit.  The established rule in our household is that we eat what we kill.  We can buy our meat as a product of a cow in a slaughter house, or we can eat our meat from a completely free range natural source that had a better life not stuck in a small pen.  Like I said, I have reconciled that in my mind, but seeing the process is something I just assume avoid.

One of the children that he brought to the cabin via the deer processor was my little 5 year old daughter -- the human sponge.  I have never seen a person as observant and aware of every element of life and her surroundings as she is.  Her wheels are always turning and she wants to take in everything she sees.  She is also addicted to deer jerky.  With good reason.  Let me tell you, I can never eat jerky sold in stores after having the amazing jerky produced by this deer processor.  It is full of all sorts of spices and flavors and, after just one bite, you will never be the same.  She was excited for her dad's successful hunt knowing that some yummy eats would result.

She insisted on going into the game processor's store because she wanted to take in the all that this entailed.  She meet some burly hunters and chomped on a piece of jerky offered to her by the butcher.  I can't imagine that many cute little girls stuck to their dad's leg frequent his shop.  Prior to that, as they pulled in, she insisted on seeing the dead buck under the tarp on tow carrier.  She understands the circle of life and was not phased in the least.  Quite the contrary.  She wanted to touch it.  {insert that none of this would have taken place if I was there.  Remember - city slicker with an absurd addiction to hand sanitizer?}  She took a hold of its antlers and gently moved the head and started her deep chuckle belly laugh at herself.

"Look Dad, I am making him say 'yes' and 'no'," she told Alan as she rocked its head up and down and side to side with the antler.

How GROSS is that?! Where does she get THAT from?!

Seriously.  She is cut from a different cloth. When I relayed that story to her older sisters they practically lost their cookies.

Alan had to take a picture. Don't worry, this won't be going in our next Christmas card.

But, I gotta love her little mind that is unphased, courageous, curious and stealth. Nothing is going to pass her by in life, including the Buck.

December 13, 2014

In Pieces

Two weeks ago today was my father's birthday.  He would have been 74.  That would make it 12 birthdays that he has been gone from us now.

I spent his birthday cuddled in front of a fireplace at our cabin wrapped in my favorite quilt which is pieced with the fabric of all of his shirts.  So many memories flood my mind when I look at those quilt pieces.  I see him mowing the lawn in the light plaid shirt, I see him sitting behind his computer in the blue plaid one, I see him carving the turkey with the collar of the red plaid one poking out from under a sweater.  He had a very plaid themed wardrobe and that very plaid quilt is a memory of all of the pieces of his life.

I miss him terribly.  I wish he was here to support and love me through this special journey.  He would have been an awesome special grandpa.  He would have lifted and hauled in the moments that my back can't lift another 70 pounds.  He would have patted my back and given me an " 'atta girl" in the times I feel so alone.  He would have loved Bridger so tenderly and got him laughing through his frustrating challenges.  He would have told me that I am doing wonderfully well.

He would have done all of that and more, if he was here.  

And yet, I have felt that he is here, doing all of that - in pieces.

I had a precious moment with my father a couple weeks before his passing.  It is an experience that holds a place in the most sacred chamber of my heart.  My father was in the hospital healing from his unsuccessful operation to remove a malignant tumor webbed through his brain tissue. Knowing my father's prognosis, many friends and family came to extend their love to my father. I had precious little time alone with him during the time from his diagnosis until his death.  In a rare moment of time alone, I sat by his hospital bedside.  I had just held a tray for him to vomit in - a side effect from the chemo treatment he was enduring at the time.  He missed the tray, and I caught it instead.  We both had a chuckle about that and then I promptly ran to the bathroom next to his bed to throw up myself, as I was 10 weeks into my second pregnancy and well into my first trimester of "morning" sickness.  I returned to his bed and held his hand and we looked at each other.  My heart was hurting and I told him I had two worries.  He asked what they were.  Through my tears I told him that I first worried about Mom, that she would be lonely.  And that second, I worried that he was scared.  He could choke back his tears no longer and he squeezed my hand and looked at me through wet eyes.  He didn't address my first concern, but with absolute assurance told me that he was not afraid, to which he added that he was just really going to miss me.  After he said those words he could no longer speak.  When I could find the breath between my sobs, I asked him if he would check in on me often.  He looked straight at me, and in a voice raspy from a large lump in his throat said, "I promise I will."  

We hugged and cried together until just a few minutes later another friend entered that hospital room to visit and that special moment between my father and I would be relegated to being a memory engraved on my heart.

I wish I could have one of those moments where I look at a rainbow and feel a gust of wind and hear my father's voice in my head.  But that hasn't happened.  I feel him watching over me in other ways. I feel his " 'atta girl" when one of my dad's old friends sends me a special message or simply "likes" one of my Facebook posts.  I feel his strength he is sending me through the hugs I receive from my uncle Bill, his brother, who hugs just like my dad did with his stocky broad shoulders.  I think my dad might have had a special hand in sending Eliza to our family, who gets Bridger laughing and smiling the way my dad would have if he was here.

Through those simple ways and others, I think my dad is checking in on me as he said he would.  I just feel it in little pieces.

December 11, 2014

Sew What

Fabric therapy.  It works.

As a newlywed I discovered a love for digging through the discount fabric bins and playing with the beautiful combinations of woven plaids, printed florals and subtle solids. In my free moments back then, I would browse the hanging bolts at my favorite store, Calico Corners.  I would spend my evenings with my little $99 Singer Special that my husband had given me on our first Christmas and cut and stitch, remove stitches and stitch again until my perfect creation took shape.

At least, it looked perfect to me. In reality it was a uneven, wonky seamed,  misaligned patchwork of pathetic.  I had no idea how to sew, I didn't know how to read a pattern to save my life, but I proudly mounted those cloth creations above every window in our little townhouse.

I still don't think I really know how to sew, and still can't read a pattern. I have advanced from my little Singer to a complex Bernina - not that it has made any difference in my needle art abilities.  But the benefit is just the same - it is still fabric therapy. I still proudly hang my creations above my windows complete with their mismatched seams, uneven hems and I am neither admitting nor denying that there may have been a glue gun or duct tape used to make these draperies.  Just don't look too close.

I have been told quite often that I need to "take time for myself." Every special mom laughs at such a suggestion.  If we would show you our daily itinerary your jaw would drop.  You can only squeeze an orange so tight.  

I have been told I should try yoga -- by quite a few people.  Perhaps gently hinting that I need to relax?  If one more person tells me I need to do yoga I might just take my rolled up yoga mat gathering dust in the corner of my closet and whack them upside the head.  How is that for relaxed?

I do admit, however, that I long to be something more than special.  This journey is all consuming and I have mentioned in previous posts how I, along with most special moms, crave to feel there is something more inside of us beyond being a caregiver extraordinaire.

So, in the spirit of discovery, I took my love of fabric therapy to the next level.  I signed up for a sewing class.  Beyond intimidating for me.  I deal in long lengths and straight seams - pillows, curtain panels and an occasional headband.  You can't really mess up with that kind of stuff.  This little "stress reliever" was going to teach patterns, sleeves and buttons, oh my.

The classes took place in an adorable little sewing shop with a funky zen-filled owner.  By the end of my class I was anything but stress-relieved, and the owner was even losing some of her zen.  I have great powers that way, I guess.

But, to my own amazement and delight, I got through it without pulling my hair out and I sewed A DRESS!  For me, this is astounding.  Will I ever try it again?  Not sure.  But until my 3 cute daughters out grow it, I will smile with absolute satisfaction from my newest accomplishment in my pursuit of fabric therapy.