Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Support groups

Kids are back in school and churches everywhere are gearing up for fall Bible studies, Small Groups, etc. Many people have asked me how things are coming for my fall sexual abuse support group, so I thought I'd share what's been going on in that department...

There were some mandatory training classes that I needed to attend in the spring to get up to speed with some changes our church is making regarding group format. With Bryan working the night shift, 6-7 days per week, I wasn't able to attend the meetings. There was a second round of classes this summer, and deadlines for leader sign-up, and that happened to be in the middle of Luke's cancer scare. There was just no time for me to prepare for a fall group, so it seems obvious that leading a support group right now is not God's plan for me.

If this were any previous semester I would be devastated by this, but I truly feel at peace with this "wait and see approach". What does God have in store for me? I am meeting with some survivors one-on-one right now, and that's really not possible when I'm leading a group each week, mothering and being a wife! I am humbled and honored by the opportunity to meet with these women individually as they process through their specific circumstances.

When Bryan was gone so much, I wasn't able to keep up with my online group either. I am really looking forward to getting back to that in the next couple of weeks. When I was blogging there daily, countless men and women from around the world were being ministered to. That blog takes me at least an hour a day though, so I've got to find the time slot that works best for my family now that Zach's in school M-F, Bryan's working till 6pm (three hours later than his previous "normal" schedule), and Luke is no longer napping.

Once I figure out what my volunteerism looks like at Zach's school, I would like to see if there is time for me to work with one of the agencies that benefited from the bike-a-thon. I would really love that -- and my heart is certainly with their work -- but our lives are really changing with this new season in the boys' lives. I want so deeply to help abused and neglected children, but I also want to be sure I'm not doing that instead of being a part of my children's lives.

I am so very elated with how God has used my life. He has brought some serious beauty from ashes. I give him all the praise and glory for who and where I am at today, and I am so appreciative of every chance I have to help someone else get through what they are going through.

One of my very favorite Bible verses...

"Who redeems your life from the pit; Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle." Psalm 103:4-5

God is good. All the time.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Last of the lumps

Luke had his 3 year old well-visit today. (Yes, I'm well aware that his birthday was almost a month ago.) We saw our regular pediatrician, who had just begun reading about Luke's cancer scare (in his chart) as he walked into the exam room... He gave him a thorough exam and agreed with the four previous doctors (and all the labs & images) that Luke had nothing more than an infection. His swelling is way down, and everything else about him is great! He recommended that we cancel next week's surgical follow-up, and we are more than happy to do just that!

Thanks so much to each of you who prayed and inquired about Luke. We are so grateful for your support.

If you're interested in stats... He's off the charts in height (and 1 1/2" taller than Zach was at this age) and 95th percentile in weight. Zach's first pediatrician projected that he would grow to be 6'5". We are curious to see if he was right; and are equally curious to see if Luke will surpass his brother one day. There is no doubt that our boys are tall.

Neither of the boys is due for shots at well-exams this year - praise the Lord. Luke didn't cry today, but he was scared and tried hiding under my shirt. Dr. N was amazing and took things at Luke's pace. Luke warmed up quickly and didn't protest to the flu mist he and Zach both received at the end of the visit. I would have to say that this was the BEST trip we've made to our pediatrician's office all summer! And boy did we need that.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Nearly two years ago my friend's nephew was diagnosed with cancer. I consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to see Jack and his family not only survive this terrible circumstance, but thrive. Jack was a young man of only 26 years when he was diagnosed. Jack lived an incredibly full life and had hope and optimism beyond comprehension. He passed away this morning at 3:20am. It seemed as if there was an entire community surrounding Jack, and I know that each and every member of that community is grieving this loss deeply right now. Jack was well loved.

As I have watched this story unfold through their family blog, Facebook and my friendship with Jack's aunt, I have marveled at the fact that never once did I see Jack, his parents or his sister give up on one minute of any given day. They lived life to the full - every one of them! There were parties - the Jig, Christmas open house, fundraiser efforts, Relay for Life... And when the Polsons weren't having parties, Jack was attending them. He was surrounded by family and friends! Jack and his family and friends made sure that how they felt about each other was well known.

And, my goodness, the guy traveled! Among other things, there were weekend lake trips with family, float trips with friends, a DC trip with his mom, a cross-country road trip with friends, a trip to Europe last month with his mother, and a trip to Arizona with his dad just ten days ago (although I don't think this last one was very enjoyable). Many of these trips were taken while he was going through treatment, so I know he wasn't always feeling great. I remember hearing that he even threw up in D.C. trash cans and then just went on with the sight seeing! He was a trooper. A fighter. A guy with a serious zest for life!

One other thing that always touched me about the Polson family was that every time they received bad news, they would share the news and end with an encouragement for the rest of us to spend time loving our loved ones deeply. While Jack never considered the possibility that he would not beat cancer, he had a firm grasp on how life can change in the blink of an eye. He believed that he had many more tomorrows before him, but he lived as if he didn't want to waste a single second. I am inspired by Jack's positive attitude, optimism, wisdom, love of life, and expression of love and gratitude. Jack was an amazing young man.

I will end this post with the words of Jack's mother: "Help us celebrate Jack's life today by loving the people around you!"

Your prayers are deeply appreciated as the Polsons transition into a life that they prayed they would never experience. Life without their beloved Jack.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Different versions of perfection

When Zach was three years old, he noticed that a salesperson had "brown skin" and that Mommy's friend has "skin that looks like chocolate".

It would be another 2 1/2 years before he would comment again on the differences he noticed from one person to the next. And those comments didn't come in the form of an innocent, pure, out loud observation. Rather, he was fearful; clinging to me and whispering. We have two little friends who have Down Syndrome. Aside from our initial conversation (years ago) about their brains working differently but the children being otherwise just like him -- everyone created special by God -- he has always acted like these friends are no different from anyone else. Seeing teenagers (this summer) with Down Syndrome was a different matter. Zachary was fearful because the teenagers were as big as Mommy and they are as old as our babysitter. He was confused. I explained that these boys' brains are exactly like our young friends' and their childlike behavior is a part of that. We talked about how these teenagers are just as cool and special as anyone else (in fact, they're so much fun that they don't think they're too cool to do handstands underwater or cannonballs!). As I chatted with the teenage boys, Zach began to see that they are perfectly nice and fun, and he began to play with them.

There were other discussions over the summer about people who were different in one way or another... We had one such discussion yesterday. He said, "I don't really like to play with so-and-so. He..." And he trailed off. I told him that it's perfectly normal to "click" with some people and not others, as not everyone has the same interests. And then I encouraged him to talk to me about what it is that bothers him about this other child. "Well, it's all the holes on his face." Freckles. My immediate response was, "Oh, Buddy, just wait till we park the van and you see what Mommy's got!" We parked and I asked him to come take a close look at my face. I asked what he sees and he said, "Freckles? But you don't have them everywhere!" Then I showed him my arms and pointed out the fact that my nose is practically one giant freckle! He had never even noticed.

I asked him how many kids in his class have red hair. "Three." That's not very many, is it? "No... But L has red hair and I've known her my whole life. That's not weird!" And how many have glasses? "One." Is that weird? "NO!!!" And how many with freckles? "Only one, I think." Is that weird? "I guess not... I just never saw them before. I have never known anyone with freckles." So, we spent a few minutes talking about how God took special time to put those freckles on Mommy, and the kid in his class... And how God took the time to make Zachary and Daddy with eyes that would need glasses. And how some kids are really tall, and others really small, etc... God made us all, and he made us special. Different. And it's not what we look like that matters; it's who we are in our hearts.

What some might see as a flaw, God sees as perfection.

1 Samuel 16:7 - "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Kindergarten kid

Yesterday was the big day... The first day of kindergarten! Just before we left the house Zach received a call from NaNa, wishing him great luck in school.

Bryan took the afternoon off and went with us. We got there about ten minutes before school started and the lot was already packed and parents & kids were waiting at the doors. I just can't help but chuckle at the serious masses of people at elementary school! (You've gotta remember, preschool had one classroom and only 11 kids.) Zach walked right past all the people waiting and let himself into the school building. Being first-timers, Bryan and I passed right by the desk where we were supposed to get "visitor" tags. Oops.

Zach has had a very "big boy" approach to school. He knows exactly where he's going, asks all of his own questions, and takes initiative. I am so relieved by that... So, when Zach said, "Hey, Mom, it's okay if we hold hands" I was a little surprised. But did not pass up the chance!

He was the first one in his classroom, and eagerly settled into his seat.

As we were saying "goodbye", Bryan went to give Zach a high five... Zach wanted a kiss. He wanted kisses from both Mom and Dad. According to pretty much everyone who has ever gone before us, Zach will grow of out this affectionate stage. So, we're enjoying every minute of it while we can!

As we walked out of the classroom, Bryan snapped one last shot of Zach and his "new best buddies". They are all smiles. Kindergarten suits them.

Perhaps too much... As Zach climbed into the car, his response to "How was school?" was exactly as I'd expected... "Good." But as the evening unfolded, so did stories of his day.

"My buddy A and I talk a lot. Too much. Too loud too. In fact, Mrs. H. moved me across the room. I switched desks with a girl." Huh? I searched his backpack for a note. Nothing. Surly having to move a child because they talk too much is worth a note home to Mom and Dad... Apparently not. At first I was discouraged, but then I figured that this is nothing Mrs. H. hasn't encountered before. His school day is now between him and his teacher. They will notify Mom and Dad if it becomes necessary... (I should scan in one of my many grade school report cards that says, "Tonya has trouble keeping quiet in class.")

Highlights of the day included passing his cousin M and future wife E (first graders) in the hall twice. They said hello, which Zach loved. He also exchanged hellos with his cousin D in the hall at some point. Zach's class went on a scavenger hunt through the school to see all the "specials" rooms (art, music, PE, library and computers) and ended up back in their room eating gingerbread men cookies. Not a bad first day! (Did they not read my blog post about my overfeeding him?) Recess, of course, is his favorite time of the day. He said he didn't really play with anyone in particular, but he did talk to his friend W about playing Batman at his house later. Hmmm... Wonder why they were making a playdate for later rather than PLAYING at recess. The mysteries of childhood.

And then the school day came to a close... And Mom, Dad and Luke were waiting in carloop. As we pulled around to the back lot, we were surprised to find Zach already outside. We were at least 30 cars back in line, so he'd obviously come out there accidentally. One of his cousins told Bryan that "there are a LOT of Zach's at school". But I didn't think they called them by first name??? I will discuss the routine with Zach again today, and hopefully he'll come out at the right time this afternoon!

Oh.. I almost forgot! Many of you precious friends have asked how I did. I suppose you all still have visions of me sobbing at MOPS 2004 when I dropped him off in MOPPETS for the first time. What a wreck. Yesterday was not a repeat. Not a tear friends, not a tear. Zach was having too much fun and I know he is so very ready for this. He had a great day!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kindergarten kilos

We've all heard of the freshman fifteen... Have you ever heard of anyone gaining kindergarten kilos? (I just made that up!) Zach begins his first day of kindergarten this afternoon. He does not have snack at school (just found that out yesterday) and he's used to an afternoon snack... So, now I'm worried that he'll get hungry at school. So, I've fed him. A lot. If I keep this up, I will no doubt be overfeeding him. Gotta cut back, Mom. He will be fine!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

God bless Mrs. H.

This time tomorrow I will be headed up to school for my first ever carloop experience. Seems almost surreal, but at the same time I know we are completely prepared for this. Everything we've done over the last six years has naturally brought us to this place. As I've watched the boys play (or eavesdropped when they've been up or downstairs) their maturation is obvious. They share. They offer each other turns. They encourage and compliment each other. They discuss plans and are awesome at make-believe. Both of my boys are growing up and moving on to "the next level". I am truly, deeply, looking forward to this next season of our lives. I never sought out to raise babies; my purpose is to grow young men of character who are confident and capable. Elementary school is our next step and I am eager to see what it brings.

I had a few minutes of alone time before kindergarten open house this afternoon. I used that time to pray for all of the kids going back to school, their families, their teachers, their school staff, their peers, and their safety. I felt compelled to write a note to Zach's teacher. I hope she will be encouraged by it and not determine that I'm a total flake... I just wanted to thank her for investing in the lives of children and I wanted her to know that we have been and will continue to pray for her role in their lives. For some children, Mrs. H. may be their only source of encouragement and love. She may have a life-giving impact on a child, but will most likely never know it. How many kindergartners have the wisdom or vocabulary to express such a thing? My hope and prayer is that Mrs. H. knows just what a vital role she plays.

May God bless Mrs. H.

Money saving madness

As I was cleaning up the house yesterday, I found that I had at least two weeks worth of Sunday newspaper ads and coupons that my husband had left lying around (in the event that I'd want to read them). I haven't looked through either in ages, so I tossed them in the recycle bin. Then I got this wild hair to try coupon clipping... Rather than try this on my own, I enlisted the help of two blogs (that normally cause chest pains at the mere mention) I have on my blogroll.

Money Saving Mom was the most help when it came to organizing... Her weekend posts (and all the others that linked to her post) told me what the hot deals were at all of the stores. She (and many other savings fanatics) matches up the sales ads with recent coupons. I wasn't tempted to buy things I don't normally buy, so I found it to actually be very easy and useful. An added bonus was that many of the coupons are online, so I didn't even have to fish through the paper.

Coupon Cravings is a cool blog too. Her focus seems to be on all sorts of random deals... Think restaurants, gas stations, magazines, online offers, etc.

First things first... Get the coupons and ads back out of the trash. I really only needed the ads to clip in-store coupons. Keep the coupons organized the way they came, as bloggers refer to them by the booklet name and date published. Write the date on the cover. (Example "8/16 Red Plum"). This makes it very easy to find what you're looking for.

Second... Build my shopping list using the bloggers' lists of hot deals. Only write down things that I actually use. Clip my coupons (from the paper or online) and head out.

It wasn't hard to learn that K-Mart is currently having their double coupon days. The best info I found regarding this deal is at the Frugal Girls blog. K-Mart is not convenient for me at all, but I had other errands to run near there. I was discouraged by the many rude employees and the difficulty finding things, but happy with my savings. I purchased what you see above. Only a couple of the items were on sale, but the coupons I had were pretty big, especially when doubled. I even found a $5 off a toy coupon on a K-Mart blog. (Really, there's a blog devoted to K-Mart? I had no idea.) That coupon couldn't be doubled, but I was happy to get this ridiculous Bionicle for Zach's upcoming birthday for $16. (Really, how is a Bionicle worth $16?) Don't tell Zach about the present. Anyway, my total savings was $28.04. I spent $61.80.

Since Walgreens and CVS are within walking distance of our house, I should be shamed for never trying coupons there before yesterday. Walgreens was a total bust - they were out of the few things I'd come for. CVS was a better success... Most of what I purchased at CVS was on sale. Combining sale prices with my coupons made for awesome savings. (By the way, my CVS provides a CVS card scanner at the door. Scan your card and the machine kicks out a coupon. The one I got yesterday was $3 off a $15 purchase.) My total savings was $19.82. I spent $21.62.

We also stopped by Costco and bought a membership yesterday. I plan to go back later this week for my first shopping spree (er... TRIP... Is it a spree when saving money is the focus?).

Bryan ran into Target for these, but he couldn't find them. They are normally $9.99, but are on sale right now for $6.50. I have a $1 coupon too! I will swing back by Target later.

The only errand I didn't get around to is stopping by McDonald's. You read that right - I am running an errand to McDonald's. They have coupon books on sale for $1. Scratch that... I just called the McD's closest to my house and they don't have them. I will have to call around to others. If you find some, please let me know.

So, there you have it... I have been successful at saving serious amounts of money by using coupons. Now that I've managed to save $47.86 in one day, with minimal effort, how can I justify NOT doing it again next week?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Love our new toy

We bought a new camera this week. It came highly recommended by a few professional photographers that we know... After doing some research and checking it out at the store, we finally purchased it online. So far, we are not disappointed!

These pictures were taken on the first day... I could tell that it was set to widescreen, but couldn't figure out how to reset it. So, all these pictures are widescreen and, frankly, I think they're cool.

*The pictures are straight out of the camera. No editing - pretty much because I don't know how to use my Photoshop with the software that came with the camera! We'll figure that out in time... The guy at the camera store said there would be "no learning curve" with this camera. I knew he was wrong. He was a terrible sales guy... But, honestly, the camera is pretty user friendly once you know what all the buttons and knobs do!*

I'm a big fan of the feature that converts the picture to b&w while highlighting one specific color in the shot. We had a lot of fun playing with that feature at the pool.
A few of my summer faves... Painted toes, blue skies, floaties, my kids and our neighborhood pool when it's not very busy!
Luke loves doing "CA-NON-BALLS!" using his inner tube.
I love this expression on his face...
Love that long, messy, sun-bleached hair
(but had to get it cut the next day).
Bryan noticed that my freckles really stand out in b&w.
Cool blues peeking out from all over.
Little foot prints... I have a similar picture of me at this age.
The kids use the word "bro" all the time.. Here they are - bros.
This was taken on the school playground on back-to-school night.
One of my favorites... Love these orange highlights!
Luke loved the self-timer and the fact that we can set it to take three pictures at a time! We did it over, and over, and over again.
Finally able to capture decent action shots...
Zach became a "diver" on Aug. 13th.

I'm *that* mom... on roller skates

Back-to-school night was on Thursday, 5:30-7:30pm. The school sent out "suggested" time slots for attendance based on last name. Our slot was 6:30-7:30. As an incoming kindergarten family, we decided that suggestion did not apply to us. We were there at 5:35 and all very excited! Very. The parking lots were full and cars lined every street around the school. We found a spot and filed in with the masses... But then Zach hesitated as he saw "the entertainment" that was standing outside the front doors. It was a man, dressed in a cowboy costume, standing on stilts! Zach doesn't like grown-ups in costumes, especially not ones on stilts! So, suddenly he was anxious, nervous and hesitant. The moment I saw this in him, I welled up with anxiety. I helped him past the "cowboy" and headed into the school lobby. I was now overcome with emotion. I managed to stifle the tears in the lobby (after all, no one else was crying!). Then it seemed that every first time kindergarten mom we passed in the halls kept replying to my cheerful hellos by saying they were sad or having a hard time. As we reached Zach's classroom, he was a little hesitant again. Which made me well with emotion a little more. Till I finally did CRY. And it was just back-to-school night.

We have kindergarten open house on Tuesday morning. This is when we will bring his school supplies, find his desk, and do whatever else we didn't do on Thursday night. All the upper grades will have started school on Monday, so it will be like a normal day (except that we're just visiting). Wednesday is Zach's first day of school.

Until Thursday night, I really thought I was going to be perfectly fine with school. After all, he was in afternoon pre-k last year, three days a week. This year will be 30 minutes a day more, five days a week. Not too much of a change... Except that he will have multiple classrooms, several different teachers, will use the library, and there's a whole new staff that I've only laid eyes on once! And... I won't be volunteering once a week or going into school every time he does. On the major up-side, I'm pretty sure there are school skating parties! I love roller skating.

Found this great prayer on one of my favorite blogs...

Here we are again, Lord. Their backpacks are loaded and their faces are scrubbed and their lunch accounts are full.
And I know you'll walk with them, Lord. You always do. But a mom still has to ask.
Will You walk with them? Will You whisper to them what they need to hear, when I'm not there to whisper it?
Will You please, oh please, cover their school with the protection only You can give, and will You keep harm far away?
Will You make their minds strong and ready to learn? Will You help them understand that hard work honors the One who created them?
Will You guide their teachers, giving them patience and wisdom and creativity and more patience? Will You bless them for their efforts?
Will You love all those children there, the ones whose lunch accounts aren't full, the ones who feel alone? Will You teach my children to be kind and unselfish and to love those who are different from them?
Will You point them back toward home just as soon as you can?
Lord, I give them to You today and everyday, trusting them to Your care.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The big plan

I had quite a conversation with Zach this afternoon while laying on the pool deck... One that came out of nowhere, as he is typically more consumed with soccer, Bionicles, Spiderman and the first day of school to concern himself with long term plans...

Zach says: "Mommy, do boyfriends ask their girlfriends to marry them?"

Me: "Yes, when a boyfriend feels that he has found the woman God wants for him to spend the rest of his life with he generally asks his girlfriend to marry him. Then she becomes his 'fiancee' while they plan the wedding, and then after the wedding they are 'husband and wife'."

Zach: (pondering) "Hmmm."

Me: "This is the kind of thing that we should be praying about. That God will keep your wife-to-be safe, prepare her for marriage, keep her pure and that he will show you what his plan is for your life -- which girl you should marry."

Zach: "God has already showed me a plan."

Me: "Really? What's the plan?"

Zach: "Well, I think that someday E should be my girlfriend. And when we're all grown up I think God wants me to ask her to marry me."

Oh, E... I'm speechless. Only time will tell. I'd imagine that marital plans of a 5 year old don't often come to fruition, but I'm quite certain that we'd be blessed to have you as a part of our family.

I'm pretty sure Zach would die if he knew I blogged about this, so let's keep it between us. Along with his sudden interest in E. has come embarrassment... What a fun season we're entering!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Little boys doing big things

This week the boys delivered the money that was raised through the bike-a-thon. They were so proud to hand over their envelopes, and Bryan and I are so very proud of them for their generosity, awareness and compassion.

At the child abuse prevention center... We had the pleasure of meeting the CEO and were given the chance to thank her for her commitment to children. The work they do is amazing.

The organization that works with foster children invited us to a lunch meeting. The boys were able to tell the committee how the idea of the bike-a-thon came about, how much money was raised, and how excited they are to do it again. The committee members enjoyed having kids at their meeting! And as I listened to members discuss the fostering needs in our area, I couldn't help but wonder how long it would take for me to convert the scrapbooking room back into a bedroom. The needs are so very overwhelming. While we are not in a position to foster right now, we continue to pray for those children, their foster families & shelters, and agencies whose mission it is to support and
assist those children. God bless them.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.

Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?'

And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'"
Matthew 25:34-40

Coach Daddy

I am so proud of Bryan. Introducing himself to complete strangers over the phone is not his thing, but he did it (four times). Being in charge of six little boys all by himself is not his thing, but he's doing it. Soccer was not his thing, but now it is.

When we had our 20 week sonogram 6+ years ago and learned that we were expecting a baby boy, Bryan immediately had visions of tossing a ball with his son. Having played baseball through college, that ball was of the baseball variety. I'm pretty sure soccer wasn't even on Bryan's radar.

Zach has tried basketball and t-ball, but soccer is the sport he really loves (at least for now). So, soccer it is. Bryan has talked to other coaches, read through books and online resources, dragged himself out of bed for soccer camp in June (when he was working the night shift), taken our family to two professional soccer games this summer and has made two trips to the soccer club office in the past week. He has not asked me to do anything. He's doing an amazing job as coach.

The team had their first practice last night. Bryan had run through all of the drills in his mind and put them all down on paper, including the time allotment for each. It was really rather impressive. The kids had a great time, Bryan loved every minute of it, the parents stuck around to chat and watch practice, and the sibs played at the playground. We are really excited about this soccer season. Thank you, Coach Daddy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer grows neighborhood friendships

Walking to the summer pool party a few days ago...
Funny that we have so much loot!
Bouncing with friends
Zach and E enjoy swimming after hot dogs & bouncing


Today we had a back to school party at the park

You'll notice we're surrounded primarily by girls!
(And we wouldn't have it any other way.)
Friends spray each other with water guns while other
kiddos play in the water bucket
Zach loves spraying his friends
A blurry pic... But this little girl was our next door
neighbor for many years. L is a cherished friend.
Luke, A and E refueling
Luke helps bury his brother in the sand
E digs in the sand
We have had such a great time hanging out with all of our neighbors this summer. Only two of these eight kids will start kindergarten next week. The others are varying ages, so we don't have the chance to spend a great deal of time together throughout the school year - everyone is going in a different direction! We loved reconnecting over pool dates, playing in the park, neighborhood parties and soccer camp. We are looking forward to school and the many new friends we'll make, but it's always bittersweet to go back to a routine that doesn't regularly include our neighbor friends. We love you guys!

Just so sweet!

Ever since we started talking about preschool for Luke, it seems that he has morphed into a different child. He is SUPER sweet all the time! He offers to share everything, kindly takes turns, hugs and compliments his brother all the time, and is easily accepting discipline. Right now, I can honestly say I'm pretty sure I have the sweetest kids in the entire world.

On the way to take our donation to the child abuse prevention and victim's advocacy center the boys were super sweet...

Zach: "Mommy, you are so beautiful. I just can't stop looking at you! You look like you should be going to a dance. You are really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really beautiful." (I haven't showered today, hardly have any make-up on and am wearing the skirt and top I wore to Luke's birthday party. Nothing fancy. No one even noticed me at the party!)

Luke: "When I grow up I'm going to be a tool buddy. I'm going to work like Daddy. I'm going to be a daddy. I'm going to be Daddy's tool buddy. I'm going to be Daddy's tool buddy when I grow up because that's what daddy's do." (Bryan is an electrician and has a tool buddy - a guy he works with all day.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Preschool - yes or no?

Bryan and I take my job as a stay-at-home-mom very seriously. We always have. When we were pregnant with our first born, we'd talked about preschool as if it were a possibility but never a certainty. And if he went to preschool, it would surly only be for one year. What could they teach him at preschool that I couldn't teach him at home? And teaching the kids is totally my job. Kindergarten through 12th grade? Well, that's mandated by the government, so off to school they'd go! (And, frankly, I would home school if Bryan would let me... But then we'd need a dozen other posts about my previous life dealing with serious separation anxiety - mine, not theirs.)

Then Zach hit age 4 and all of his uber-cool older cousins were starting school. And every show on PBS was about going back to school. Naturally, Zach started asking when he would go to school. "Kindergarten is in two years, Dear." But he kept asking. Since he had such a serious desire to go to school, we enrolled him in preschool the following January. He went for 1 1/2 years. It was such a wonderful experience for our entire family.

Enter Luke... He has been asking to go to school since he was two! Our first immediate reward when Zach started preschool was that he learned how to socialize and work with other children his own age. This is the area where Luke struggles. He is very friendly and outgoing, but sharing is not to his liking, and shoving sometimes is. I find myself actually avoiding play environments with kids his own age because the little friend usually ends up crying... We plan to hold him back in school, so he won't start kindergarten till after his 6th birthday. That's THREE YEARS from now. We'd planned to put him in preschool for 1 1/2 years (just like Zach), but now I'm weighing our options... One thing preschool can give him that I cannot is a bunch of 3 year olds to socialize with. Why wait till he's 4 1/2 to learn how to get along with kids his age?

On the flip side, I wonder if I'm over reacting. Am I expecting too much out of a 3 year old? Will I regret giving up two mornings a week - those last precious mornings that the boys and I have together before Zach is REQUIRED to go to school all day next fall (1st grade)?

Luke always does well in Sunday school, etc... It's just those playdates at the park, when he and another child are running wild on a play structure and then Luke comes running up, unprovoked, and shoves his friend down. Crying ensues, the other mother goes to comfort her sweet child, I am embarrassed, Luke apologizes, goes into time out, and it all starts over again after he gets out of time out. I keep thinking of preschool the way I thought of Apollo's dog training... As if Luke is going off to some class to learn how to behave. Have I fallen off my rocker?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Relationships are weird

Maybe complicated is a better word. Or maybe an even more accurate way to put it is that people are complicated and can have a tendency to complicate relationships.

I would guess that everyone has experienced a friendship end without any understanding as to why. No falling out that you remember. No significant life change that would explain your drifting so far apart. No unforgivable wrong doing on anyone's part, but you sense what you would describe as "awkward tension" whenever you run into this person.

I have had two such friendships in my life. Ones that were deeply meaningful to me; that I'd expected would be forever friendships. The most recent one still really saddens me. We were the kind of friends who discussed everything and spoke the truth in love to one another always. Until, that is, it involved our relationship. The drifting seemed to take place slowly... I noticed it right away and missed our easy friendship but I let fear, hurt, pride and insecurity keep me from saying anything to her about it. She didn't say anything either. For a long time I hoped that we'd be able to adjust to our changing lives and move on with our friendship, but that never panned out.

Seeing her is difficult for me because I considered her to be like a sister and I have no idea what happened to change that. I wish I could have my friend back. It is said that friends are for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I kinda hate that poem. It accomplishes it's goal of poetically explaining why people come and go from our lives, but I really hate the going part. And I hate when you feel with all your heart that someone is a forever friend, only to find that perhaps they are not.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes

My kids say a lot of funny things.. I usually post them on Facebook as they happen and most people say, "I hope you're writing these down!" Yesterday my friend suggested we get a reality show so that the entire world could enjoy them. She must really love us!! Instead of a TV show, I've decided to make an effort to include them in my blog. This will suffice as a journal, right?

Here goes....

Last night Zach and Luke were playing in the back yard. Luke was nagging Zach to do something quickly and Zach said, "Hey, Luke, Gotham City wasn't built in a day!"

At the surgeon's office earlier in the day, Luke was a total riot. He was a bundle of energy and just kept talking and laughing!! The resident kept telling him how cute he was and even said she would love to get her son and Luke together for a playdate. Midway through the appointment the surgeon said, "You are just soooo adorable." Luke, beaming, very loudly said (in a super high pitched voice), "I AM ADORABLE!" A few minutes later the resident went to feel the nodes in Luke's hip area and he very seriously said, "Your hands are veeery cold."

I just remembered one from last week... As Luke sat on the toilet he shouted, "Mommy, come here, I need some privacy!" As Bryan puts it, it's one thing to know a word, it's another to understand it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wonderful buzz words

My two new favorite words...


Those are the words the surgeon used to describe Luke's lymph nodes today! The surgeon talked with our pediatrician a couple of weeks ago, scoured her notes and all of the labs and images from the past 3+ weeks, talked with me, and examined Luke this morning. He found many swollen nodes on the anterior right side of his neck (front) and a few on his posterior right side (back) and even some in his hip area, but he said the nodes are still TINY compared to anything that would be concerning.

He spent a lot of time talking with me and answering every question I had... He said that at this time he feels a biopsy is unnecessary for several reasons - our initial complaint is getting smaller everyday (it appears to have responded to the antibiotics - which cancer does not do!), Luke is otherwise perfectly healthy without any other signs of cancer, and the doctor has never seen a cancer present like this in a three year old. (A little extra info - with swollen lymph nodes, the reason is generally an infection of some sort or cancer.) Did I mention that Luke's doctor spent 12 years as a pediatric surgeon in one of the leading cancer institutes in America? Even if we did biopsy it, we would only be doing a biopsy on one node (the largest) and it wouldn't give us any indication of what's going on with all the other nodes. So, even a biopsy cannot guarantee that a person (let's stop talking about cancer in terms of Luke, shall we?) does not have cancer because only one node is being biopsied and not all of them.

Luke has been scheduled for a follow-up visit with the surgeon in a month. If the nodes are larger, he may consider a biopsy then. He still feels 99.99999% sure that this is going to pan out to be nothing more than an infection or perhaps a matter of Luke just having larger than normal lymph nodes on his right side. He encouraged us to just live life like normal and enjoy our fun little guy (Luke was a riot at the doctor). He did tell me to keep the most tell-tale cancer symptoms in the back of my mind --- weight loss, excessive bruising, unexplained itching, night sweats --- but not to worry. Luke appears to be just fine.

I don't ever want to hear one of my boys' names used in the same sentence with the word "cancer" again, but I can honestly say that this has been a growing experience for me. The greatest thing I learned is to pray without ceasing while trusting God's plan, even if it includes something very, very scary and undesirable. Being able to do that brings a peace that I can't describe. I have always known in my heart what I wanted (Luke to be perfectly healthy) but I knew that we would be okay no matter what the outcome.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

All the money is in ( we think)

We received the last of the bike-a-thon pledges in the mail yesterday. While the event only benefited children and families in our state, we received donations from three different states and were overwhelmed by people's generosity. As we figured out how those giving had heard about the event, we've thought of a lot of new ways to promote it next year. We are eager to see how the event grows over time.

The final tally:

The event raised a total of $755, but the impact will actually be $1,140. Read on.

$370 will be given to the child abuse prevention and victim's advocacy center. Coincidentally, this is the total of all the checks, which we'd already asked people to make payable directly to this particular organization.

$385 will be given to the statewide organization that works with foster children, etc. They have a relationship with another agency who will match the funds donated, provided that those funds go specifically toward child abuse prevention in our county. With the matching donation, the total impact will be $770. While these funds will be specifically earmarked for families in our county and not their fostering efforts statewide, we figured that preventing abuse will also prevent some of the need for fostering. We feel this is a great fit for the event and an excellent decision for children and families in our area.

This matching funds idea came about after the event... Next year we plan to approach area businesses to see if they would match donations or be willing to make a flat donation. How can they resists helping KIDS help KIDS?

The total impact of the event in terms of dollars is overwhelming. $1,140 is a lot when you consider that the cost was only $5/biker. People clearly gave way beyond what we were asking. In addition to the money raised, people in three states, from small children to retirees, are talking about child abuse prevention, victim's advocacy and foster children, and they are getting involved. We could not have asked for more. We are absolutely thrilled!

Monday, August 3, 2009

From Kindergarten to College

We have spent so much time focusing on Luke lately - running between the doctor and hospital, then planning his birthday - that I was beginning to feel a little guilty. I didn't want Zach to feel overlooked, so I planned to make Saturday all about him. I kept the kids in the dark about all of my plans, so I had one surprise after another for them... Things Luke would enjoy too, but they are absolutely right up Zach's alley!

Prepare yourself... The paparazzi strikes again!

First on our list, shopping for kindergarten school supplies
After shopping for school supplies, I'd planned to take the boys to the Museum of Natural History on the campus of a nearby university. Bryan was at work, so I thought it was going to be just the kids and me.... Then Bryan surprised ME by leaving work very early and going with us! A surprise for everyone.
Father and son
Luke refused to sit on the steps with Dad and Zach. Instead, he plopped down by the main door -- conveniently positioned between Dad and Zach! Gotcha, Buddy!
Budding scientists... At least Zach is! Luke wants to be a SNAKE when he grows up.
He loved all the microscopes. He plans to be an astronaut, a scientist, an eye doctor (at Children's) and a teacher
when he grows up.
Can you believe that we ran into a preschool friend at the museum?! The day really was all about Zach!
Dad & Luke outside the museum
Strolling the main street on campus
As he rested in my lap under this shade tree, I couldn't help but wonder if this is the university he will one day attend
We've had such a wonderful day that it makes us all want to flip... Or, in our case, do cartwheels!

So, we had this really great day that centered around Zach's interests... I hadn't looked ahead on our calendar to realize that this ENTIRE week would be about Zach. He's got soccer camp every morning from 10am-noon. I'm not comfortable dropping him off all by himself, so Luke and I endure the heat, play ball, do puzzles and hit the playground with Zach and friends after camp. We love camp!

Bryan will be coaching Zach's soccer team this fall. He received the team roster yesterday and Zach and I were thrilled to meet one of his teammates at camp this morning! It will be fun to get to know him and his parents this week.