Friday, March 30, 2007

Vacations Are Heaven

We're Baaack!!! We had so much fun! It was a vacation spent just being together (minus Will who was on a high school baseball trip). My parents were with us. Actually, I should rephrase that. We were with them . . . again. What can I say? There are bonuses to having parents that own a time-share and do not have any other children living in the area to crash their vacations!

This vacation was the best kind . . . relaxing. We played games with our kids - card games, Mancala and cribbage. We did a big floor puzzle of the United States. Paul and I had several basketball games together. He was quite crafty in getting me to play a VERY long game. We usually play H-O-R-S-E, or if I don't have much time (or energy) P-I-G, but when we got out on the court at the resort, Paul suggested a game of I-L-O-V-E-Y-O-U-M-O-M-M-Y. How could I turn that down????

We enjoyed the pool, tennis courts and Eric went golfing with my dad. We also read lots of books by Bill Peet. If you haven't discovered this children's author, you must! These were some of Eric's favorites as a child and our kids ADORE them! They are creative, funny and have quite the vocabulary.

On Sunday, we went to a church that is one of the oldest in the PNW. It was a log cabin. I enjoyed it. Patrick did not. Paul and Kim did not. It was a very long service with funeral dirge music. (I wondered if their music was always this funeral-ly or if it was because of Lent. It makes me love the music at our home church even more! Jazzy baby!) Speaking of Lent, I gave up biting/picking/tormenting my nails and they are looking pretty good! Can't wait for Easter so I can chew them all off! LOL! JK!

The car ride was long. It was a seven hour drive and we are used to long car trips, but seven hours IS long. I never thought I would say this, but portable DVD players are the best thing ever invented! I was opposed to getting one for the longest time. I wanted my children to read in the car, and draw, and look at the clouds deciphering visual creations. In reality, this meant I was the entertainment committee - and the referee. For this trip, we loaded up with TWO DVD players and THREE portable video game systems. It was heaven. Nobody looked at the clouds but heaven reigned! Eric drove and I had hours of peaceful reading, knitting and journalling. And Eric and I TALKED! For HOURS. Yes, it was heaven.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I Love Spring Break!

Today has been a blur as we prepare to go out of town for a few days. Spring Break! I love it! I'm all packed, fridge is cleaned out, newspaper is stopped. On top of that, my college class is complete and I crossed off every single little thing on my nagging "to-do" list. (I don't know why, but for some reason, every time I am going to go out of town it suddenly becomes absolutely essential that I call about that insurance billing error or some dumb thing that hasn't had any importance at all for the last three months. I guess I just like to have my mind totally free!)

As I was driving to the bank, I was thinking about my son Paul. I am really looking forward to having some special time with him. Paul is 8 and he is just the happiest boy you will ever meet. He is our "easiest" child; a goes-with-the-flow kind of kid. He has so many friends that every time he gets invited to yet another birthday party I ask him if he could start to be a little meaner to the kids in the classroom because I am tired of having to buy so many birthday presents! He smiles at me with his big, toothy grin and says, "Mooooom!"

Paul doesn't have time to spend with boring ol' me. He and Kim are the best of friends and have their own little exclusive club. They are 18 months apart, which is a great spacing between kids. (Then again, Joe and Will are 4 years apart and they've always had a similar bond.) Paul never wants to go with me to the store or to run errands. My girls jump at the chance to go anywhere with me and even Will likes to go to the grocery store (he's learned he can get a lot more personal snacks that way!). Paul likes to stay home and play basketball, ride his bike or play video games.

What I'm getting at is something my mom once pointed out to me. She had watched some show on Dr. Phil or Nanny 911 and I found her advice irritating at the time, but of course, she was right! It can be dangerous to have an easy child in a big family. The squeaky wheels get the grease. Alex never squeaks.

So, I try to keep this at the forefront of my mind, but with everything that's been going on, I worry that I haven't been giving him enough attention lately. He doesn't ever seem to care one way or the other. But I care. I know he is going to grow up and I want to have as many wonderful memories being with him as with my squeaky wheels (who will go un-named so as to protect their innocence).

So, for vacation, I've packed all of Paul's favorite board games and books and I look forward to spending some very special time with my very special boy. I look forward to spending time with all my kids! I love Spring Break!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

THE WEDDING

Well, it's only 1:30 and we are already home from the wedding! On the drive home, dh and I decided maybe all of our children should get married at the Courthouse - short, sweet, and hardly time to cry. Besides that, it's cheap and low-stress.

I had a dream a couple of weeks ago that Joe got married and what I remember about the dream was that it was a very happy event. It was. Joe was very happy and Marci (his new WIFE) was very happy. Her parents were happy (they LOVE Joe) and we were happy to see our son so happy! (And that's a lot of happy.) Eric helped Joe with his tie and Marci's mom rearranged her bouquet. Marci had a cute new haircut. They both looked very nice. Yes, it was happy.

But, of course, it was sad too. It was just very sad to look at our son and see how sick he is. Before, he was always the picture of health: vibrant, muscular, with the looks of a model. Now he is pale, he has circles around his eyes, he's thin and weak . . . but he still has that million-dollar smile! Most grooms worry about things like . . . oh, I don't know . . . like, losing the ring or fainting or maybe even farting during the "I do." (Actually, guys seem to be so proud of their farts, they probably don't worry about farting, even in the middle of their wedding ceremony.)

Joe had his own worries, but it all turned out okay. He was relieved to still have hair for the event (it's falling out by the handfuls) and to be able to walk without his cane (he took extra painkillers). In all my daydreams of what it would be like when my first child got married, I never thought about things like hair loss and cains. I guess the good thing is, it will reduce the stress in our future weddings. How can I worry about the catered food being perfect when I will look back and remember the things Joe worried about?

After the wedding, they were heading to a local hotel (compliments of Marci's parents) after first picking up some "to-go" from Olive Garden, their favorite restaurant. Oh, and refilling his prescription for painkillers at the pharmacy - not the normal stop for newlyweds. That's never part of fairytale weddings. But then, in fairytales, the groom never has cancer.

Just as they were getting ready to step into the car, Joe gave me a big bear hug. He's always been a "hugger" even during the teenage years, even in front of his cool, teenage friends, and now, in front of his wife. He hugged me for a long, long time. I will never forget that hug.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Inquiring Minds Want To Know!

The National Enquirer would have had plenty of articles for their magazine if they had been around our house the last couple of years. I'm glad they weren't. But I guess it's time for me to report an upcoming event in our lives. My son is getting married. Tomorrow. Joe decided last week that he is tired of waiting until his cancer is gone, he wants to get married. Now. He has been with his girlfriend for three years. They will get married in front of the Justice of the Peace, a very small ceremony, with only parents invited. Hopefully, Joe will fully recover from his cancer, and they will have a big reception this summer.

Lots of emotions fill me today. I never thought he and his girlfriend would actually get married, but then again, I never thought his girlfriend would stick with him through his cancer - twice no less. Before Joe got cancer there were multiple events which the National Enquirer would have loved to sink their teeth into. Lots of things that happened that left lots of bad feelings between the girlfriend and several members of our family. It's hard to get over bad feelings. It's hard to forgive, especially when the offender isn't necessarily sorry for what happened.

Luckily, our pastor at church has been giving a series on forgiveness. It couldn't have come at a better time.

I wish I could tell you all the wonderful things he discussed but I don't have time - I have a wedding to get ready for, remember? Bottom line is this. If we don't forgive those who have hurt us, we continue to hurt ourselves over the hurt and every time we think about the offense, it hurts us again. Past hurts only bring anger and resentment that turn to poison for our bodies, minds and spirits.

Most people will cry out that the person who hurt them doesn't DESERVE forgiveness! Sometimes, the offender doesn't even WANT forgiveness! But we don't just forgive for them, we forgive FOR OURSELVES - whether or not they deserve it. WE deserve it.

And really, forgiveness is the foundation of the Christian faith. I think about all my own faults and the things I have done in my life that have hurt other people, and hurt God. I'm sure there are things I have done that I didn't even know hurt someone else. And yet, God forgives every transgression. How can I not forgive those around me?

But how do we do it? How do we get over it? Slowly, a little bit at a time. Forgiveness can take time. And even when we feel we are "over it," it will rear it's ugly head every now and then. What then? Our pastor suggests having a strategy to think good thoughts when the bad thoughts come. For instance, if we have dill pickles right in front of us, it is hard not to think about them. But, if we put the dill pickles next to us and start to cut a mango, we focus on the sweet mango - even if the pickles are right there.

This is the strategy I have focused on. When past hurts come up, I scoot them out of my mind and try to think of all the positive things I can regarding the person - in this case, our son's girlfriend.

I have determined that from this day forward, I will not allow the past to hurt me. I will focus on the mango, the positives. I will even refuse to say anything negative about the girl my son has decided to marry. "On my honor, I will promise, to not say, do or think anything bad..." (Oh, those Girl Scout days sure do come in handy!)

And there are lots of positives to say. (See? I am turning over a new leaf!) She has stuck by Joe during his bouts of cancer and Joe loves her. (There, that wasn't so hard now, was it??) She likes animals and she is really smart. (See, I'm doing very well!) She has big boobs that she flaunts. Oops! I mean, she has a nice figure. (I just put that one in for fun, to see if you are still paying attention!)

But seriously, I am happy for my son because I know this is going to make him happy. He has a great outlook about beating his cancer and he has a strong will to live. Part of that is because he wants to have a life with the woman he loves.

So, tomorrow, we will witness the first marriage of one of our children. I am thinking of mangos, and I am happy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

New pictures!

To all the readers of my wonderful mothers blog:
Hi! I'm sure my mom has metioned me in the past- Lizzy, a.k.a. her tech support.

Well, her little techi is back at it tonight helping her upload pictures. (No worries- I'm sure that she'll catch on eventually. After all, it only took her 3 months to succesfully learn how to add an attachment to an e-mail!)

These are just some pictures from random moments throughout the past few months, showing just a few of the many things she has mentioned in her previous blogs. Enjoy!

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Happy Birthday to Patrick! (That is the amazing "Spike-tail dinosaur" *cough*Stegasaurus*cough* that my daddy created for him)

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With a slight reluctancy my mom let me put this up. I thought it was a great picture. :]
Photo Removed
A fair share of the family at a recent dinner outing.
L-R: Will, me, Kim, Joe, Paul, Marci (Joe's girlfriend) Patrick, Mom
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This would be Wicket- the puppy that keeps Joe smiling. (If my mom didn't mention- he was named after a Star Wars character!)

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Kim and Paul after their professional picture. :]

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I was told by my mommy to put a pretty picture of me up, so here it is! (*ahem* There is no reason at all for why this is smaller than the rest)

Happy Birthday Patrick!

My baby is FIVE! I asked him if he felt any older and he paused, in his analytical way, and then said very seriously, that he now feels twelve. That's Patrick for you!

I call Patrick my MORE boy. He is MORE of everything! He is just the smartest, most lovable, funniest little boy in the whole wide world. His vocabulary is amazing and he says things that just make us look at him in wonder if we might have a future president on our hands.

But he is also "more" in other ways. He is more stubborn, more strong-willed and more active than any child we have ever parented (or ever hope to again :-) Oh, but it's his birthday, so we will stick to his positive traits!

It's fun to be five! Everything is exciting! We went to the mall! (I don't like to shop and I don't like malls but Eric says I have habits that are more expensive than shopping - such as having lots of children.) Anyhoo, I took Patrick to the mall and we went to the Lego store. Patrick LOVES Legos. He has wanted this three-headed dragon thing for months so that was our big purchase of the day. Then, we went out to lunch with Daddy and this afternoon we went to Will's first baseball game of the season. I think I saw a little bit of the game in between looking for microscopic Legos that kept falling into the gravel. If we ever get the thing finished, I wonder how many pieces will be missing? Ah, the life of being #7.

Tonight, Patrick opened his gifts. It's fun to watch five year olds open gifts! They absolutely LOVE every little thing! One thing he got was a bike helmet and he was just so happy to have a new bike helmet! Oh, if we could all just be so excited about things like bike helmets our whole lives!

We had a wonderful dinner some friends brought over and we had the cutest cake that Eric made with a dinosaur on it. Eric is the cake baker and cake decorator in our family. (I will try to post a picture of the cake - which means I will have Lizzy do it since I don't know how.) Tomorrow we will celebrate Patrick's birthday with a few of his little friends. Oh, to be five!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Experiencing The Worst . . . And The Best

We spent the last two days in Eugene, with our son who is undergoing cancer treatment. True to form, Joe is sick but his spirit is strong! He is full of wit and humor. He loved recounting the story of attempting to go for a walk with his dog, Wicket. Wicket is an adorable Shitzu puppy. Wicket had a leg amputated shortly after birth due to a birth defect. Joe was laughing so hard about how he can't even keep up with a three-legged dog. We couldn't help but laugh along with him.

While we were down in Eugene, we went to visit the Holt Headquarters. We had never been there before. It was wonderful to see the famous words of Harry Holt inscribed on the entrance, "Every child deserves a home of his own." We also got to meet Robin, coordinator for the Vietnam program. It was a wonderful treat to finally put a face with a voice. She is such a warm woman.

There was a time when I wondered why God would time us to begin our adoption when He knew Joe's cancer was coming back. I know without a doubt this adoption is due to God's hand. The timing did seem strange. But, I no longer wonder. Our adoption fills us with hope. It is the best thing happening in a time of the worst.

I was at Target putting together a basket of goodies to take up to the hospital for Joe. I was downhearted, knowing the suffering he is having to endure. But then, I came upon the most adorable little Easter bunny socks. I knew they were perfect for Anna and happily stuck those in the cart too. (I really feel like our child will be a girl - Anna.) Therein lies the perfect example. Our anguish is lifted with hope. And really, just having all our little (and big) ones around brings us constant hope and happiness. How can one not be when one is surrounded by so many smiling faces?

We may be experiencing one of the worst experiences life can bring - but we are also experiencing one of the best. God's timing is always perfect.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Having Kids Saves Us Money

When tax time hits, I always try to convince my husband that our kids really don't cost us much because we save so much in taxes! Sometimes, I even go so far as to tell my husband he is saving money by having so many children. He just goes into a hysterical state that I can even think such a thing and think it could actually be true! (And I do actually think that by the time the seventh child is added and they are sharing a bedroom and wearing hand-me-downs and we are buying in bulk and we get that wonderful $1,000 tax credit per child along with the standard deduction, and they are out of diapers and don't need daycare and are not yet in school . . . I actually do believe that we come out even.) Yes, I hear you laughing. Yes, I know that means I am talking about a period of exactly one year. But hey, I can still uphold my end of the argument!

But now I have a new thought. Let's pretend my husband is right and it actually does cost what all those crazy researchers say it costs to raise a child. I just read it costs $15,000 per year to raise a child. If this is true, I am actually saving money by adopting a child internationally.

Now, I better make sure I brush up on my CPR before my husband reads this blog because he knows as well as I do that our last child, who arrived through birth, cost us a whole $100. He is going to keel over and die if I go into a tirade of how we are saving money by adopting internationally, after we just wrote that last check to Holt for . . . well, I can't even bring myself to say it. But, it's true!

Costs for an international adoption run upwards of 25K depending on the country and several other factors. I am not including travel fees because that is just a vacation (another point my husband adamantly disagrees with, but let's pretend he does, for the sake of my great argument.) The IRS offers a $10,600 tax credit for adoption and our state offers an extra $1,500. Okay, so we already have the cost of adoption down to less than 13,000. Okay, here's the kicker! Since the child is usually around a year old when coming home, and those researchers say it costs 15 K for each year, we have just SAVED money. Since we are adopting a child around the age of four, we are coming out way ahead. Of course, there are all those travel costs, but remember? That's a vacation!

(And no, honestly, I do not think that spending two weeks+ in a hotel room with a grieving, confused toddler; while simultaneously leaving my other children at home is really a vacation, but let's stay in happy-land for my great argument here.)

See? Having kids saves us money! (Just don't look at our orthodontist bills.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

I Could Be A Millionaire

In my speech class I did my last speech on self-made millionaires. We had to do an informative speech on a culture of which we are not a member of. I'm sorry to tell all of you, but I am not a member of The Millionaire's Club.

I was on my way to becoming a member when at the age of 19 I decided to have my first baby and Eric joined the Army. Did you know you don't get rich in the Army? Then, I went on to have 3 more children in the next 9 years. That, also, is not a key to financial freedom. Then, Eric got hired at Intel and in a few years stock was at an all time high! My chances were improving! Then, the stock market crashed and stock sunk (and stunk)--and it still does. We also added four more children (counting the one we are adding now), three through international adoption - not necessarily the most economical way of adding children to the family :-)

Having a lot of children is not very economical. Really. We have actually had months where our food bill is higher than our mortgage. Seriously. And we live in an area where it takes at least $100,000 just to buy the LOT the house sits on- thusly, our mortgage is not a tiny one.

Anyhoo, just for fun, when I wrote my self-evaluation for my speech class, I decided at the last minute to write a little poem as a creative endeavor for the day. (Yes, I'm still stuck in third grade and think poems need to rhyme. Also, for some crazy reason my blog will not let me put space in between the stanzas-sorry. Guess it looks even more like it was written by a third grader!)

I COULD BE A MILLIONAIRE
I could be a millionaire,
Have an estate for my lair,
Wear fancy clothing everyday,
Always be able to get my way.
I'd have a Starbucks every morn,
Drive my car with a two-tone horn,
I'd have a maid, a butler and cook,
Spend my time reading bestseller books.
Instead I have a million kids,
Wash dishes, clothes and sippy-lids,
Wear jeans and t-shirts everyday,
Argue with teens to get my way.
I go to the park every morn,
Drive my beast with the broken horn,
I am the maid, the butler, the cook,
I spend my time hearing, "Look Mom, look!"
I'll never be rich in terms of dollars
I'd rather be rich in terms of hollers,
Though fancy vacations are a thing of the past,
hearing, "I love you Mommy!" will always last...
-----------------------------------------
We're off to the Children's Museum today! One big plus to a big family, we definitely get our money's worth out of memberships - to the Children's Museum if not the Millionaire's Club!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Steel Magnolias

Okay, so I'm going to date myself, but does anyone remember the movie Steel Magnolias? The title came from the fact that mothers are strong during emotional traumas. I often feel like Shirley MacLaine, the mother in the movie.

I come from a long line of strong women. Women who came west on the Oregon Trail, women who lived hard lives, women who overcame difficult circumstances. Steel Magnolias. I am a Steel Magnolia.

During Kim's many cleft surgeries I completely hold it together. Even during her most horrible, heartbreaking surgeries, I know she needs me to be strong for her. To be her rock. To put on an Academy Awards performance and pretend like everything is fine and I am completely calm. I never want her to pick up on my fear.

Now I do the same for Joe. When I'm with him I smile and laugh and pretend that everything is fine. I never want him to pick up on my fear. I'm a Steel Magnolia.

With Kim, once we get home from the hospital and I'm all alone, late at night, I finally let the magnolia wilt and I have a good, long cry. I remember one surgery on her throat, her face was so swollen after surgery she was unrecognizable. And I also remember one day last summer, I saw Joe near the end of his chemo, and if I had bumped into him on the street, I never would have recognized him as my son. I know about chemo and I know what's coming. And I know it's going to be exponentially more difficult and painful this time.

During the crisis, I hold everything together. After it's over, I give in to my anguish.

Once Joe began treatment this time, the steel magnolia went into full gear. I would often feel like a news correspondent when giving information to others on his status. I probably seemed emotionally distant or callus to some.

But it's harder to be a steel magnolia this time and sometimes, I can't control the emotion within and the tears come, unexpectedly (although never in front of Joe). Some of my best friends, who have never seen me cry, have seen my tears these past weeks. But usually, I can quickly pull it together and get the magnolia to steel up again.

Today Joe called, and for the first time since he got his chemo ten days ago, he had some spunk in his voice! He said he is feeling MUCH better today! The relief from his constant nausea is profound.

My relief is profound too. I am thrilled to know my son will have some relief from feeling so sick for the next 10 days - until his next chemo treatment. And even though I know he has a very long road ahead, I feel like the first crisis is over. I can let the magnolia wilt. And as I write this, it is late at night, I am all alone, and tears stream down my face. Sometimes, it's okay to just be a magnolia.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Mommy, Do You Ever Get Bored?

"Mommy, do you ever get bored?" Kim innocently asked me today. Bored? Bored???
The irony of her question is that it occurred exactly one hour after returning from the emergency room where she had to have a CT scan.

It all started yesterday when I picked up the kids from school.

Kim gets in the car and tells me she got hit in the head and feels woozy and her vision is blurry. My mom radar goes off as I get details of what happened. Just a simple hit in the head during a game of tether ball. Hmmmm. Now, I'm usually very laid-back about illnesses and injuries, but the vision thing bothered me. A lot. So, here I am with eight children, ages ten and under (between my own and my daycare kids) wondering how it would look to go directly to the emergency room with all eight.

Gathering my wits, my initial panic passes, I get our doctor's last appt. of the day and hubby comes home early. Our doctor checks her out and thinks she will be okay even tho her vision is quite off. Our doctor goes on to tell me however, that if she starts to throw-up I should be concerned.

In the middle of the night, Kim wakes up and thinks she is going to throw-up. But she doesn't. Now, I am getting very concerned! Then, she says she feels fine and goes back to bed. I'm second guessing everything and wondering if feeling like you're going to throw-up counts as throwing up??? I put her in bed with me and watch her just like I used to watch my newborns after I'd read some horribly scary statistics on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I was up the rest of the night watching over her.

So, today we got a CT scan and she is fine other than having what the doctor termed, in highly-educated medical jargon, "One heck of a good concussion!"

My husband calls and asks how everything is going and I tell him that maybe having 40 thousand kids is a few too many. (It's a joke between my husband and me. I have always been the one to initiate the discussion of having/adopting another baby, so in times of stress I always ask him why HE wanted so many kids??? Our number of children has risen over the years, in hyperbolical fashion, from 18 to 40 to 18 thousand. I guess with the addition of Anna I will have to raise it to 40 thousand.)

So, does Mommy get bored? No, Honey, Mommy does not get bored. Mommy's too busy taking care of her 18 thousand kids.

(As an update on kid number 2, he is nauseous every minute of every day but in typical Joe fashion he tells me not to worry and that he is okay. The good news is, his kidney pressure is gone and he is able to eat with the help of a medication.)