Monday, February 20, 2012

This will not be a cancer blog... okay?

But. The "C" word has invaded our lives. There's some of you who might still check this and might only get this news if I type the words here. And, well, if it were you, I'd want to know.

Several weeks ago, an MRI showed a large brain tumor on the front right lobe of my brain. I've had surgery which was deemed "successful," in that I'm alive, have brain function and the tumor - as far as it was visible - has been removed. Unfortunately, pathology shows that the tumor is a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma. That's not the worst kind of brain tumor you can have, but it does have signs of malignancy. Grade 3s turn into grade 4s. And, to be honest, Grade 4s (statistically) kill you.

Oh, and you know what else I forgot to tell you? I'm pregnant. Oh yes, this situation is a wee bit complicated. I am 17 weeks pregnant with what appears to be a little boy. He made it fabulously through the surgery and has passed all of his prenatal tests with flying colors. And I thank God every day for the gift of life I have growing inside me.

I will need to begin radiation therapy in the next several weeks. The first step is healing from surgery. And there is a lot to be determined and talked through about how to protect Baby while we effectively treat me.

So, this is scary. I'm not scared of death. I'm scared of leaving my family. I kind of feel like they need me around. : )

Ok, I'm closing comments on this one. Not because I don't appreciate your words. The prayers and encouragement of strangers have been humbling and appreciated. But, because I'm needing to guard myself against a few things:

1) Because we live and exist primarily in the Christian world, there are a lot of "Christian" things to say. Some of things are just not true. God loves me, and He has great promises that I can rely on. But He has never promised my health, security or an easy day. He has never promised me that every prayer I pray (with as much faith as I can muster) will be returned with the answer I want. And, still I ask Him to heal me. I ask Him that I will stand next to Ben during every happy and sad moment in his life, and that I will be the one to have an opinion on my kids' boyfriends and girlfriends and micromanage their lives.

2) I need to guard myself against false encouragement. Everyone is quick to tell me how "great I'm doing." You all are so sweet! Well, to be honest, I'm lying on the couch. Which is fine. I'm pretty sure that's expected. I have like 100 stitches in my head and a large air-filled hole in my brain where a tumor used to be. I'm pregnant and my back hurts. I don't think I should be "handling" this differently. But even kind words can send a message that there's a right way and a wrong way to trust Jesus when life is scary. I'm still working out what it looks like for me.

But I hope it means worship. Worshipping Him when there's nothing in it for me.  Well, there is, it's just not what I necessarily wanted :)

A few more thoughts: When you find a good man, marry him. When you say "in sickness and in health," mean it realizing that it can really, really suck and be really, really ugly. Gosh, I need Ben right now. To get me a chicago-style hot dog from sonic. And to do a number of other things for me that are embarrassing and horrible and sweet and patient.

And when you get to 10 years, spend the money, use the frequent-flyer miles and go to Hawaii. Because you seriously have no idea what year 11 will bring.

And develop good friendships. Because your husband isn't the best one to pick out cute hair accessories or paint your nails.

This will probably be the last post here. Ben and I (with the help of good friends) have re-launched our family site, and you can get more info there. There's a sweet video update from him with more details and stuff. Thanks for your prayers for all of us!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Halloween, Part I

What better to bring me out of my blogging funk than my favorite holiday?  Halloween!

Let's review: I love making costumes. I love candy. I love cool, sunny days. I love pumpkins. I love making costumes. I force my kids to have coordinating costumes (at least two of them anyway).

E mocks me for spending time doing what Party City has already done. Yes, well. I prefer not buying poorly made scraps of polyester in favor of littering my house with poorly made scraps of fleece, felt, and hot glue. To each her own.

Well, I thought I'd go ahead and post my kids' costumes because they had an early party this year, which means that I had to get it together early this year, which means that if you're looking for an easy DIY costume, you can take these ideas and run with them. Because they are cheap, accessible, and easy.

Simon & Charlie wanted to be Mario and Luigi. Well, Charlie hasn't a clue who Luigi is. But he likes to do whatever Simon is doing, so it all works out well. These costumes were perfect and so easy.
1) Overalls. Overalls for a two-year-old are a cinch to find. For a six-year-old? Not so much. Beg on facebook until you find some.
2) Green shirt, red shirt. Plato's closet.
3) Mustashes: dollar store.
4) Hats. Found these on Amazon for a few of bucks each. (Plus, they're prime eligible).

5) Gloves. Amazon again.

6) White craft foam for the M & L circles.

Too much cuteness!

Simon wanted Ben to be Toad. 
Ben was thrilled.
He loves Halloween as much as I do.
In fact, every year he begs me to think of costume ideas for him. He especially loves it when my ideas include him wearing tights or being shirtless or wearing ridiculous things on his head.

So, when I made him this giant mushroom head, he could barely contain himself. I know your husband wants one too, so here you go: (adapted from here)

1) Buy 1/2 yard of white fleece. Fleece is stretchy, which works out perfectly here.
2) Double up the material and cut out a circle - so you end up with two large circles.
3) In one circle, cut another small circle in the middle so you have a doughnut. This is the head hole, but make it a a LOT smaller than the head you are fitting.
4) Put the two circles together and sew around the edge. Flip it inside out.
5) Tear apart a pillow and put the stuffing into your mushroom.
6) So that the stuffing doesn't fall out all over your husband's head (even though he is SO in the spirit of the holiday that he wouldn't even mind), take a piece of fabric (I used a cloth napkin) and lay it over the stuffing. You're too lazy to sew it, so just place it there and tell him to be careful.
7) Cut circles of red felt and hot glue them on.
8) Stick it on his head and tell him how much you love him.
9) Put pictures of him on facebook and then giggle with each comment that comes in.

Talya wanted to be My Little Pony. I have no idea why. But, since I liked My Little Pony when I was a little girl, she is more than allowed to like it today. After figuring out to dye and curl dollar store hair, I canned that idea. Too much work and kinda gross looking in the end.

I went with a ribbon headpiece which was cute.

She wouldn't let me take pictures, but if I can get some I'll post more about her costume because it was cute.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Help! Conflicted about The Help

I'm not sure if I'm going to publish this. It's kind of a charged subject and I am certainly not the expert.

The Help.

I read it. I loved it. Like, really, really loved it. I've been waiting/dying for a chance to see it in the theater. And then I did the thing that I usually do that generally sucks the fun from what I like (see Thanksgiving). I did some reading. I tried to see the thing that gave me joy through the eyes of someone else. Someone who was crying tears of hurt and anger while I was weeping with sentimentality and warmth.

Ugh. The thing is that I live in this world and you live in this world, but depending on who you are, where you were born, what color your skin is, how much money you have, etc., our worlds are not at all the same. And I need to know that. I need to see it. Because if someone doesn't show it to me, I will go along ignorantly celebrating things that hurt people.

I have to come to grips with White Privilege. And when I think I start to, I get blindsided again by another reminder that I haven't at all. That I have so far to go. I'm embarrassed and ashamed each time my eyes are opened again and my head is turned towards The Ugly (and I realize I'm looking at myself).

When I was in college, I learned how to do thoughtful feminist media criticism. I had this great teacher. She was a single, older woman who had a very-easy-to-mock way of speaking. Most people hated taking her classes, and I did at first too. But then I jumped all in to a paper critiquing Fried Green Tomatoes from a feminist perspective. I typed terms like "patriarchy" and "phallic symbol" and other things the likes of which my 3.5" disk drive had never known before. And I learned. I learned to look for meaning and symbolism and types and it made me a better thinker.

It was empowering for me to look at things through that lens because I was a (young, naive) woman.

I never looked at a film through the lens of a different oppressed minority. It never really crossed my mind.

In the past few years, I've been trying to do that. See my things and my purchases through the lens of poverty. See Thanksgiving through the eyes of someone living on an Indian reservation. Read a patriotic slogan with the eyes of an innocent Muslim that's been randomly searched too many times. Hear my spiritual cliches through the ears of someone who is hurting and rejected.

I'll be honest - it's pretty depressing. What's even more depressing is thinking I'm doing it, and realizing I'm not doing it well enough.

So, here's the thing about The Help. Someone could probably argue the racial harmlessness of the book. (I guess?) But, if it hurts others, if it reinforces ugly stereotypes, if it assuages in any way necessary responsibility for racial harm, then I don't want my voice to be in the chorus of "oooohs" that you hear in the back of the theater.

After getting a different perspective on The Help, I was a little devastated. (Can you be "a little" devastated? That's what I was - wrecked, but probably not enough) And, then I listened to the Voice.

The gospel is for this too. For every time that I should have known better and didn't. For every time I have valued my entertainment over someone else's reality. For every time I thought I was thinking through race "better" than someone else. For every time my heart is defensive. For every time I don't "consider others higher than myself."

Which is a lot.

The gospel is for this; it is for me. It's to make my heart soft and my mind sharp. It's to do the difficult, messy work of restoration - not to make it look like no work is needed. And it is to forgive me, even before I realize how much I need it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


This school year started out rough. I planned our vacation right over the first day. Simon and Ben had to fly back early to be here for school. I was unprepared on many levels: 1) That school could possibly start as early as the 18th. I mean, really? 2) That in "real school" there are "absences" and "tardies." I was late every day last year for 9:00 pre-K and this year he starts at 8:15. Eek. 3) Uniforms. The girl who once wore gus macker men's boxer shorts to school as clothing is now mother to a rule-following young man who must be in logo-free polo shirts every day.

I at least managed to find all of the school supplies, including the very specific and elusive 6 x 8, 24-page spiral bound sketch book. I was minutes from stapling some copy paper together when I resorted to Amazon. I'm still delinquent in coming up with the smock that must be large enough to fit over his clothes, but not so baggy that it gets in the paint, but also can not go over the head.

But the ramification of all-day school that I'm living with now is one that you moms who have preceded me probably know all too well: the contempt.

I am the dumbest person my son has ever met. I swear. If this is 6, I am NOT going to do well with 16.

So far tonight,

  • I've been blamed for the fact that he hasn't done his "homework," which is coloring two sheets. It doesn't actually appear to be due back to school. He told me I'm "distracting" him by asking him questions, like, "Do you want to watch a movie?"
  • He indignantly demanded that he needs to do his "practice reading." The first two words of the book were "I have." He told me that he sounded them out and it says, "itch." I told him that that was a great guess, and explained about that little space that tells us where one words starts and one ends. He informed me just how wrong I am and that there is no way that I by itself is a word. I offered to read him the story and he told me that I couldn't because I would read it wrong.
  • He has told me numerous times tonight that he's angry with me. Apparently for walking into the room.
  • Pretty much if eye-rolling were a tone of voice (and I think we can all agree that it is), that's all I've been hearing tonight.
Day 5 of Kindergarten and my baby has already decided he's smarter than me. At least my two-year-old's temper tantrums are seeming adorable in comparison.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pin-it Cynic

So, I've been gone a while. I have lots of reasons for that - big and small; good and trivial. I'm sort of in process of figuring out if I want to keep this bloggity-blog going, or if I'm ready to shut 'er down.

One of the trivial reasons that I haven't been writing may or may not have something to do with the inordinate amount of time I spend on pinterest. I only have so much time-to-waste-on-the-internet, and I've got to spend it somewhere. Time wasted on pinterest is equal to the time you waste surfing pinterest multiplied the time you spend shopping for and implementing pinterest projects. Like this:

As you can see, facebook is a much more efficient waste of your time. That equation looks a little like this:

Ok, they're both kind of time-sucks.

Anyway, while I figure out the deep meaning of my blog and my relationship with the internet, I thought I'd start a little series entitled, "The Pin-it Cynic." In this series, I will illustrate why we pinners can get a little pin-happy and start calling things "brilliant" that are, in fact, really bad ideas.

Obviously, this is just my opinion. It might be an idea that completely works for you. So don't let me stop you. And please don't get offended if I feature something that you pinned. 

Oh, and this is probably a good time to point out that I loooooooove Pinterest. It's the organizational system I've used with the most consistency to date. That's saying something.

Here's an example of something you might see on the Pin-it Cynic:

In the time it took that girl to paint her nails like cupcakes, I could have baked a whole batch of the real thing. In the time it takes for her artwork to flake off while doing the dishes, I could consume about 6 of them.

But they are cute.

This isn't a real laundry room. In a real house, those subway tiles, stainless steel and gray granite would be smeared with goo with little pieces of dryer lint stuck over it all. The lids to the cute canisters would be thrown to the side and paper towels would be falling on your head because you'd be too lazy to get out the stool and you'd try to chuck them up there and make them stick. And what is in that urn? 

Well, in my laundry room anyway. Which reminds me. Time to go pick little pieces of accidentally-washed cardboard off my wet clothes before I throw them in the dryer! Happy naptime to all!

Oh, and seriously? If you're not on pinterest, please join. It's so fun! (Just let me know if you need an invite!)

Monday, June 13, 2011


It's late. I'm partied out, exhausted but grateful for great days of celebrating my kids.

About Talya, I don't even know what to say. She's our free spirit. I've been called that a lot in my life by people who think "free spirit" means "dresses weird" or "paints her house bright colors" or "says things she shouldn't." But, really, freeing my spirit from caring what others think - and what I think God would think - is a long and windy process of growth.

With T, the phrase makes sense. She's completely unpredictable; she's entirely and uniquely herself. She wears her freedom like a beautiful dress that I hope she never outgrows.

(She's also a sister wholly devoted to both of her brothers, which is one part of her that I completely get. )

Friday, June 10, 2011


For three days, I have two two-year-olds. But, today, I have one with a birthday.

I really love this kid. Because none of what makes him amazing can be genetically attributed to me, I feel very free to brag about him. I tell everyone how smart he is and how he is talking so much earlier than my other two were at this age. How he can count to, like 17, depending on the day. How I've been too busy to teach him one darn thing, but how he knows absolutely everything, as if his brain is extra-spongey.

I look at him, and the ease with which he accomplishes everything, and it is easy for me to predict what he is going to be when he grows up: a soccer play, a football player, an actor, a singer, a dancer. So, pretty much he is going to have a very risky career path, but it will ultimately be very fulfilling and make lots of others jealous.

When he was still in the orphanage, our friend/advocate wrote to me and said "He loves to smile." I was filled with a moment of pride (as if I, having never met this 6 month old baby, had a thing to do with it) and then the cynic in me took over and I was filled with dread. What if that goes away? I thought. What if he comes home with us and he doesn't smile and I'll know it wasn't just his melancholy personality but that he used to love to smile and then he met me and never smiles again? 

Over-dramatic much?

When a child has a birthday, the mother usually posts some pictures of what they looked like on their birth-day, and goes through a series of "A year ago, I was rushing to the hospital" or "Two years ago today I became a mother." Even with my other two, there's a sense that their birthday is more than a little bit about me. In fact, Ben used to give me presents on Simon's birthdays because I did all the work.

Hmmm. Two years ago, a child was born but I was not his mother. His birthday is not about me. But it's no less sentimental. It's a celebration of the day his story began. It's a recognition that we don't need to know the details of those beginnings to hold them sacred. It's a prayer for his birth mother and for Charlie that God would heal any hurt that took root two years ago.

When I picked him up from childcare at the Y today, he yelled "Mommy!" An older boy looked at him and said emphatically, "That is not your mommy." I said, "I am his mommy." The boy looked at me, looked at Charlie, and said, "But you're white and he's black so I didn't think you could be his mommy." I explained to him what adoption is, and have never been so proud to say, "So, I am his mommy."

Because it's his birthday, and I don't need memories of his birth to know it happened and to know that it changed my life.