Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween?

The subject of Halloween is a tricky one. It's highly controversial among Christian circles. A friend told me the other day that the kids at her son's Christian school told him Halloween is the Devil's Birthday. She wondered to me why families would tell their kids that, and honestly I cannot say. People make things up.

Actually, Halloween was originally derived from a couple of Pagan holidays. This a brief description of my very limited knowledge:

One celebration was that of All Saints Day, a religious festival with a feast. The other was Samhain, which today's Halloween is modeled after. That particular day was a celebration of the end of the harvest season where the people would take inventory of their supplies and slaughter livestock for the winter stores. Both groups of celebrants, though, believed this one day was the day that the dead could communicate with the living or could actually come back to life to reak havok and play tricks. At Pagan harvest festivals, people would wear masks to either mimic the evil spirits or placate them.

The Jack O'Lantern is the American representation of a Irish lantern carved from a turnip. Pumpkins were more readily available in America and easier to carve, hence the change. One legend says the lanterns were originally meant to ward off those tricky spirits, but there is other folklore associated with the Jack O'Lantern having to do with Irish legend or the American Harvest. The carved pumpkin itself did not become associated with Halloween until the mid-19th century.

As for Halloween being "The Devil's Birthday," Wikipedia says "the imagery surrounding Halloween is largely an amalgamation of the Halloween season itself, nearly a century of work from American filmmakers and graphic artists, and a rather commercialized take on the dark and mysterious." Halloween is no more the Devil's Birthday than Christmas is Santa's. With regards to the dead coming back to life, only one person has ever beaten death, and as a Christian family, we celebrate that resurrection on Halloween and every day.

In our family, Halloween is a fun day where our kids get to wear dress-up clothes to school and participate in a costume parade. Later in the evening, we take a long walk together, participate in the generosity of our neighbors, and spend time enjoying one another. In the midst of that, it's an opportunity for us to discuss what other people believe, and to relate it back to The Truth. We typically finish the night with a mug of Hot Chocolate and candy sorting before bed.

For us, today is a day like any other (with the exception of all the loot) -- it's not really a "holiday." Unlike the Pagans, we don't celebrate the sun, but rather the Son. We don't worship the dead, but rather the One who conquered death. Are we wrong by participating in the dress-up and candy-gathering portion of Halloween? I don't think so. In fact, if He were here, Jesus might tag along. Gasp!

When I was in Bible School, it was a big deal for the church to have the biggest and most fun Fall Festival on Halloween. It was said that children love candy, they love dressing up, and they love going to parties and having fun, all of which is true. We were instructed that it would be completely inappropriate to penalize Christian children by not giving them something to do that was as fun or more fun than those in unbelieving families. There was nothing wrong in having a candy-laden party for them as an alternative to the world's celebration. In addition, this particular celebration was an opportunity to share the gospel with candy seekers who may not otherwise hear it. They couldn't come for candy without exposure to Jesus Christ.

When we were still in that area, we went to that festival every year. It was big, well-manned, and lot and lots of fun. Plus, there was more candy handed out than one child should ever eat. When we left that area and came to the Metroplex, we found the fall festivals to be smaller and far more crowded, and no one in our family had any kind of fun. So now, we trick-or-treat in the neighborhood and are responsible to remind our own children of the Truth of the Gospel.

Anyway, the kids were very excited to go to school today all costumed. Gracie's untimely illness didn't affect her until she realized it might disrupt going to school in fun clothes. Fortunately, she's better, is breathing well, and has been fever-free for more than 24 hours, so the doctor released her to return.

It just so happens they went to school with a common theme, which is something that we've purposefully done in the past, but didn't plan for this year. In the past, they've gone as matching pumpkins, circus creatures, and as Hershey's Candy products (he was a Hershey's Bar while she was a Kiss). The theme this year was unintentional, but Bub went as a football player, and Gracie went as a cheerleader. (His chosen costume this year was Spiderman, but he cannot go to school with a mask. He'll change after he gets home.) They looked so cute this morning. See for yourself:

Parade Pictures

Regardless of what decisions you make for your family today, I hope your day is lots of fun. I hope where you are the sun is bright, the weather is cool, and Christ is revealed in the change of the seasons. If the dressing-up and candy-gathering is for you, I hope your "harvest" is bountiful, and that you enjoy partaking without tummy aching.

Happy Halloween!

Don't be like me -- Eat your candy in moderation!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Miss You

Gracie and I stopped by Family Bookstore on our way home from the doctor. As we browsed the gift section looking ahead towards Christmas, Gracie picked up a little Willow Tree figurine. She said it looked like Zachary caught one of our balloons. When I looked down to see what she was talking about, she had this little figurine that whose balloon reads, "Miss You." She asked if I thought he missed us, and I told her he did, though I'm confident we miss him more.

I'm not sure that you ever look back wistfully once in the presence of God. In fact, I'm confident you don't.

But oh, how we miss him! At lunch a couple of weekends ago, Gracie drew a picture of our family and our house, and high above the house was a cloud with Zachary peeking out from behind. And, of course, on days like today, he's on her mind. He never leaves my mind. Every time I slow down, there he is. It's hard to outrun the memory.

How will these losses, this life, affect my kids as they grow? Will they make them stronger? Will they make them angry? Will the fact that our living space is strewn with dead-baby decorations scar them for life? (That may be an exaggeration. It's probably not as bad as it sounds. What's shown in the picture is it for the decor.) These are the questions I ask myself as we think, talk, and pray about the possibility of ever trying again.

Balloons for our Baby

So I wouldn't forget...

(I wrote out the entire course of events of my pregnancy end and Zachary's death. I compiled it all right after Zachary died and e-mailed it to an e-mail account set up in his name for James and I to journal into. I knew with time my memory would fade, and the details of something so important shouldn't be forgotten. I'm sharing my experience now with the world. I was 22 weeks and one day pregnant when Zachary James was born and died, and the cough I mention is one I caught over Easter.)

We had gone to Galveston, TX. on Thursday, April 19 for a "babymoon" -- a little mini-vacation for the family before potential protective bedrest and before baby arrived. When we got to the hotel, I passed a large clump of mucus, and continued to pass mucus over the next several days. We assumed it was just normal cervical mucus, but in excess because I had a hard and deep cough and had been sitting upright for long stretches of time while travelling. There was no blood in the mucus so we did not believe it was the mucus plug.

Sunday night after we returned, my cough worsened and I considered going to the ER because I was in so much pain and struggling to breathe. I was very concerned for the pregnancy because I had pressure in my lower abdomen from the cough, but talked myself out of it because I thought I was being too fearful or paranoid.

Monday morning there were two specks of blood mixed with the same mucus on my morning bathroom tissue. No pain really, and minor random contractions. Stayed home to take it easy.

Tuesday morning there was one speck of blood on morning tissue. Slightly more pain and a few more contractions -- one minor one about every 30 minutes beginning at 7:30 AM. Called the OB for a cervical check, though I believed still I was being paranoid and nothing was wrong. Was seen at 11:30 AM with membranes bulging and was sent to the hospital right away.

At the hospital, I was given Mag Sulfate and other muscle relaxants, along with antibiotics. Was catheterized and left in Trendelenburg (head down, feet up) for the afternoon and night in the hopes that the membranes would retract back into the uterus. We were unable to get the cough fully under control, and it worsened as sinus drainage flowed downward in that position.

At 6:00 AM, I was taken to pre-op for a final check before an attempt at a rescue cerclage. Sono reveled that the membranes were bulging further out into the birth canal. A manual exam showed anomilies on my cervix that were the tears as my cervix was ripping through the MacDonald cerclage that was in place. We had the option of returning to the room for bedrest indefinately without attempting toreclose the cervix, but we had already been advised that that would leave us open for a very likely infection that would end the pregnancy and could likely damage future fertility. The other option we had was to proceed to the operating room to try to manipulate the membranes back into the uterus with the aid of an inflated Foley bulb and then stretch the cervix back over and restitch. That was the option we chose.

The attempt was unsuccessful. The membranes would push out around the Foley bulb and would not retract at all. In the operating room, I was told there was nothing more we could do to repair the cervix, but that I would be kept stable on bedrest for as long as possible. I was nearly 2cm dialeted with the cerclage in place and they couldn't determine if the cerclage was broken at all, though it was clear I was tearing through the stitch. I was cleaned up and sent back to the room after recovery. The cough was still very violent.

I returned to the room on a gurney at 9:30. I was shifted back to my bed and as the nurses were getting me arranged and hooked back up to monitors, my water broke. We thought that was it -- that we would be required to delivered within 24 hours -- but were told by both nurses and doctors that we could remain in the hospital on bedrest for up to 2 1/2 months provided there was no infection or no additional cervical change. I was not having contractions and had been given antibiotics to stave off infection. I was allowed to eat and overall felt pretty fantastic physically, though terrified and troubled emotionally.

At about 11:00 AM the chief neonatologist came to our room to talk to us about the likelihood of premature birth because of my incompetent cervix and PROM. He advised us that ethically the hospital would do nothing to rescusutate a baby born between 22 and 23 weeks, which is right where we were with our little one. Between 23w0d and 24w6d, they had a fairly good rate of viability, but a 50/50 chance of a decent quality of life. With boys, that chance was even lower. At 25 weeks, the success rate of viability was about 85% with minimal long-term complications (like ADHD or dyslexia, etc.). We were encouraged to make a decision about care for our baby before birth. We decided we would choose Hospice or comfort care for a baby born before 25 weeks, though we had the option to retract that decision if the baby was beating the odds. We prayed against the odds that we would have a successful bedrest and that our baby would remain in utero until he was safe. We also prayed that we wouldn't have to make the decision whether our baby would live or die.

After the doctor left, I really had to go to the bathroom. I had been on a liquid diet through the night, and had the urge to have diarrhea. The nurse helped me to the toilet, but as I heard amniotic fluid trickling into the toilet, I couldn't bring myself to let anything come out -- including a BM. I was so afraid it would be a baby coming out. I stood to return to bed and as the nurse was attempting to empty my cath bag, I felt lots of low pressure. I think it was then that baby moved down.

I returned to the bed, had a friend in to visit and was served lunch. We joked about how I would be there for weeks and never be able to go to the bathroom. Then we talked in seriousness about using the bedpan and even resorting to enemas, if necessary. My doctor came in to round and I talked to him about the same thing. He advised me to do what I needed to do -- he preferred the bedpan, but allowed me to the toilet if I had to use it.

At about 2:30, both James and my friend left me to beat school busses home. The plan was that James would go home, meet Matthew, clean up and then bring more things to me within about an hour and a half. After my company left, I tried to use the bedpan, but could not get past the idea of pooping in my bed. The nurse came to help me to the toilet again. As she was attending to me, she noticed a great deal of bloody show. She checked my cervix to be sure nothing new was happening, and determined my cervix was still at 2cm dialated. In the bathroom, I was able to have a BM with no abdominal pressure. However, when I returned to the bed, I had lots of pressure when sitting and was leaving blood everwhere.

The nurse helped me get into the bed and as I shifted one leg in, she noticed something and quickly jumped up to pull the Code Blue button. Within literally ten seconds there were ten people in my room. The cord had prolapsed and was hanging out of my vagina. My doctor was there in an instant, I was back in Trendelenburg, and I think an entire hand was inside of me attempting to push that cord back into the uterus. They were running around prepping for birth, but I asked if we could wait until James got back. The doctor hesitated, but then said this would be where they would be rushing me out for an emergency C-section, but since there was no hope that our little boy would survive, we could wait until he returned. This was at 3:00 PM. I couldn't remember anyone's telephone number at this time of craziness and crisis, but fortunately both James and Mom called me at that precise moment and I was able to have them come back. The doctor had them wait to even move me to Labor and Delivery until James arrived. He ordered an epidural for me to be administered right away. By this time, I was beginning to feel regular contraction and the pain of my cervix pulling through my cerclage.

James and Bub arrived at the hospital about 3:40, with Mom right behind them. They took the time to explain briefly to James what happened, and I relayed what I wanted done with Bub to Mom as she waited for another friend to arrive to pick him up. At that time we wanted the children kept nearby because we anticipated a very quick delivery and thought it would be a good idea for them to see the baby. I was transferred to Labor and Delivery, and by the time I was there, contractions were stronger and more painful and I was groaning and crying with the regular pain and tearing. Things were moving so fast.

The nurses got me situated and the anesthesiologist arrived to administer the epidural. He inserted it in one location -- pushing the catheter up into my spine -- and I had enormous pain in my left hip, so he took it out to start all over again. I still have a bruise at that site seven days later. He aadministered another epidural and within moments, my physical body was no longer in pain, but I was even more brokenhearted. I shouldn't be doing this -- not for many more weeks. I was terrified. I had given birth before to Gracie at 36 weeks, and I remember feeling unsure about the experience, but never terrified. Excited, but nothing like this. At that moment, there was nothing more that I wanted more than holding that little baby in. Because of all the nerves and stress and the liquid diet that I had been on for a couple of days, along with the epidural causing me to lose the muscle tone in my lower half, my bowels began to let go. I had the forethought to tell the nurse what I thought was coming, so we were able to place bedpan after bedpan to catch what was coming. For a normally very private person, this humiliation magnified an already horrible day.

Once the epidural had fully taken effect the doctor returned with his retractors to remove the cerclage. He discovered that the cerclage had remained fully intact when we thought it had broken, and that thought I was dialated to nearly a two with it in place, the dialation was strictly from the tearing of my cervix. He told us then that there was no pulse remaining in the cord and that our son would be born still for sure. I was dialated to a three. Cytotek was insterted at 5:20 to promote continued dilation and to bring on stronger contractions, and we were left alone to wait and weep.

It was in the delivery room that we had to choose a name for our son. We had joked about that for the two weeks that was what were going to have to do. We had been told about six weeks earlier that our baby was a girl for sure, so we had chosen a name, painted the room, purchased clothes, and told all of our friends. Two weeks later, my perinatologist advised us that our "daughter" had a penis -- we were having a son. It was an odd transition. We had been nearly 9 weeks pregnant with what we thought was a girl, and had lost the baby 35 days before my last menstrual period with this pregnancy. Knowing that we were having a girl was in some ways like getting a second chance. When there was a little penis present after all, it was immediately like losing the other baby (Ainsley) all over again.

That sense of disappointment in the change was very short lived -- we were so excited to be having a son. James was especially proud. He was the first and maybe only one in his generation to have a biological son. He was responsible for carrying on his family name. As we packed away the girl clothes we had purchased and prepared and begin washing and hanging little blue sleepers and overalls with ducks and trucks on them, we were both so ready for the end of summer when our baby would be here.

James had the laptop running, as we had just sent an update to our family and friends of our situation. There had been phone calls for two days about the events unfolding, but information was incorrect in some loops and imcomplete in others. We wanted everyone to know for sure what was happening and how they could pray for us in the time of our most desparate pain. With the laptop open, we began searching fervently for a name. We had thought we had at least 14 more weeks, but we knew now we were lucky if we had four more hours. Having a name before he left my body was the most important thing at the time. We used the search engine at and searched by meaning. My first meaning choice was "bitterness," but I immediately knew that was not my heart towards my son or my God, so any name with that meaning would not be appropriate. We decided to choose a name whose meaning would bring honor to God, and after searching through all the letters, the name Zachary was absolutely perfect and right. Zachary means "Remembered by God."

For me, this name had such significance because this baby is so important to us. We have dedicated our lives and our finances and nearly all the reserve strength we had to growing our family. We had such hope for Zachary -- as a son, as a brother, as a precious addition to our family. We celebrated every roll, every bump, every kick. Morning sickness excited us. I outgrew clothes with pride. We dreamed of our days with our baby and waited happily for the days that we could "complain" of how sleepless our nights were. I literally dreamed of clutching my newly born child to my breast and singing God's praises even before the birth process was complete. Losing our little one at this time or ever was our absolute worst fear come true. We knew as his life ended that people would rally around us, but the day would come that the busyness of their lives would overtake them. We knew that the flowers and the cards and the phone calls would stop coming. We knew people would forget, but God would not forget. He would not forget how we had prayed for this child. He would not forget how we longed for him. He would not forget all that we had done to ensure his safe arrival. God would not forget the bitter tears we wept, or how we relied on Him for even the strength and will to breathe when we didn't know how we could even survive the pain.

With a name decided upon, we had friends and family in the room. We made small talk and had American Idol on in the background. We pretended we were interested in anything else other than the overwhelming knowledge that the son of my womb had died and that we would never know his voice, hear his laugh, watch him sleep, teach him to walk, or help him pray. A little after 7:00 and another coughing fit, the cord prolapsed further. At 9:20, I was due to have another placement of Cytotek and the nurse said she would check me then. I was worried I wouldn't last that long. I could feel baby parts moving down and out. About 8:30, our friend Richard arrived with some food for James who had eaten very little in two days. We visited until around 9:00 when my nurse and her trainee returned to check me and insert more Cytotek.

The trainee was first to check me. She felt around with a puzzled look on her face and relayed in the most business like fashion that all she could feel was cord and feet -- no cervix. My heart broke further and my fear level rose. She rechecked me and felt around and around. She said she could also feel only cord and feet, no cervix, but that sort of progression was way too fast, so she would note that I was dialated to a five or six in the Nurse's Report. She said if I wanted to go ahead and push, the baby would probably come on out. I told her there was no way I was going to do that. My husband wasn't in the room, my doctor wasn't in the building, and there was no way I was going to do this without them -- that the last thing I wanted was to end up in some sort of crisis situation with nothing but a nurse and a trainee in the room. Zachary was coming out breech, and I could foresee the head getting stuck. She said she'd go then to call the doctor, and my family and friends were invited back into the room.

Back to the small talk until I coughed about five minutes later and felt something else come out. I asked my company to leave the room again and had the nurse come back. She lifted the sheet and said she saw a foot. She asked me again to push, and I again refused. She said we didn't need the doctor there to deliver, that he could just follow up. I reminded her I was paying his bill and he would be there. There was still the risk of Zachary's little head getting stuck, and the risk of me needing a D&C after delivery, or worse -- the risk of me hemmoraging and moving to a very dangerous place very quickly as I had done with the loss just six months before. I then discovered she had not yet called the doctor as she said she would. She left the room to have him come back to the hospital.

James was brought back into the room and the nurses began to prepare for the delivery. As contractions were coming faster and harder, they rechecked my vitals and removed my catheter. I gripped the bedrails and breathed through the pain and fear and prayed that my doctor would get there quickly. I was positioned with my legs folded open so Zachary's body could move slowly through the birth canal as we waited -- so his little arms and body parts wouldn't be harmed by me tightly holding him in.

The doctor arrived about 10:05 PM, took a peek, and began to suit up. I thought back to when Gracie was born. Dr. Harman took his time then thinking this new mommy would take a long time to push and he had just gotten his gloves on when she flew out of me. He caught her by an arm and a leg, and I don't think his surgical gown had ever even been tied. How many times we have laughed over these five years about the sight of him fumbling to catch her. What a sweet and joyful memory. Now here we were again -- my body expelling a baby and a doctor lingering at the dressing table. One glove was on, Zachary was moving down, and all I could do was shout, "Hurry!" His glove popped, my legs were settled in the stirrups, and I was told to push. I couldn't do it. In that split second I thought it may have been much nicer to have let them do a C-Section on me, but then I remembered how I had prayed that if my child should die, to let him die after 20 weeks so I would have the privilege of delivering his body. This delivery was a gift to me. When I realized that, I found the resolve to give birth to our Zachary James. With one half-hearted push and one with determination, his sweet little body left mine.

As the doctor lifted him away from me, I thought I saw his arm move. I asked if he had moved, and the doctor said, "No honey, he's already gone." The umbilical cord was cut and he was carried over to the warming table. James stood at the end of the bed crying not knowing what to do until I asked if he could see the baby. Of course he was allowed to, but we were new to this situation and we were in shock. The baby's nurse was buzzing about her normal duties when James asked why the baby's chest was moving. The nurse said it wasn't, but James insisted it was. My immediate thought was, "Oh God, save my baby," even though I knew nothing could or would be done with him at only 22 weeks. The doctor had just finished attending to me and left me there to confirm that our Zachary's heart was indeed still beating. I asked if I could have him before they washed him or did anything to him -- I wanted those moments of life. The nurse hesistated until the doctor said, "Give that baby to his mama." Then the doctor ducked his head and left the room.

We held our sticky little baby and kissed him and touched that beating little baby heartbeat until it stopped at 12:12 AM. We then allowed the nurse to clean him and dress him to protect his paper thin skin from our hands and from the touches of our loved ones who came to mourn with us. It was amazing how quickly he became cold and the skin on his little hands began to blister after his heart stopped beating. Watching that rapid degeneration made us decide to not have our children return the following morning to say their goodbyes. They are both still so young that we were concerned that what they would see with their eyes would scare them, and we opted to share some lovely photos we had taken instead. Our friends and family left, and we kept Zachary with us until 2:30 AM when the nurses became insistent on my post partum care and the physical pain was just too much to avoid the pain pill and stay awake any longer. We had them take him away.

The following morning we thought we wouldn't see him. We had a lovely, beautiful picture of what he looked like and felt like. We were concerned of losing that sweet image in our minds if he had indeed deteriorated further. After we made arrangements that morning with a local funeral home to have his little body cremated, the nurse mentioned he had been kept in a room nearby. James asked how he looked and we were told he really looked pretty good. We decided to have him brought back to us, and I'm so grateful that we did. That next morning provided more of a sense of closure than the night before ever had. After having given birth and then sleeping, it was all too easy to convince myself that it had just been all just been a bad dream. To have my dead baby back in my arms jolted me back to reality and forced me to begin to truly grieve the loss of what I had had and what never would be.

My doctor came that morning at 9:00 AM to check me and release me, but I refused to leave until I had the opportunity to complete the birth certificate information and until we were able to physically hand our child's body over to the director of the funeral home. (We didn't specifically demand the director -- that's just who was on his way.) In this storm of chaos, we wanted some degree of control. We were allowed to do what we needed, and were respected in our efforts.

As for where I am now, I am struggling. I find such hope and peace in God's Word and have a confident trust in the knowledge that He has a plan for me and had a plan for Zachary, and that this entire situation was not a surprise to God. He knew long before Zachary was ever considered or conceived that this would be the course of his life, and the manner of his death. I believe that God will provide me with the strength and comfort to survive this unimaginable pain. I have hope that God will restore me Himself -- that He will knit back together the broken pieces of my hurting heart.

But I struggle because I don't understand how this could ever be good or be turned to good. I don't understand why it seems like we always have to be the example or the family from which lessons are learned. I struggle because the desire of the heart of our entire family is to grow and have more babies, and I don't know how God intends this to come to be. I really, really wish I had my baby back, but more than that, I wish I had a sense of being settled in the way things were and not consumed by this heartache.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sick Kiddo

Just a quick post to say I've been working on a couple of posts on and off again today, but I have a sick kiddo and that makes for a hard blog day. Gracie has had the sniffles for about two weeks now that have grown progressively worse. (She had an allergy runny nose when we had Flu Mist administered. Since then, we've been on a downhill slide.)

About five days ago, she started to complain that her throat hurt, but her complaints were always and only first thing in the morning when her hair hurt, and her toesnails hurt, and anything else she could think of that would buy her twenty minutes more in the bed. I took her throat complaint about as seriously as the others, and maybe slightly moreso. After all, she had been stuffy, so she'd been sleeping with drainage and her mouth all agape as she snored all night through this sniffly time of year. Whose throat wouldn't hurt? Drink some juice and get on the bus.

Today, though, she complained of pain, and as I feigned concern, I noticed a real fever that had not been there before. I pulled out the thermometer, and while the fever wasn't high enough to medicate (99.8), it was high enough to indulge. Some certain little miss would be missing school.

As soon as Bub was dropped off, she, for a moment, acted as though she felt better. By the time we returned home, though, she was clearly feeling worse. Her temperature climbed and climbed over the course of the morning until at lunchtime it was at 103.6. Time to involve the pediatrician.

We were squeezed in at 5:40 P.M., and didn't get to leave until 7:30 P.M. (I've never been in any doctor's office past dark. First time for everything, I guess.) They could see in one sinus cavity that she's been struggling with allergies, but noticed an infection in the other. In addition to that, she tested positive for strep throat (guess the juice didn't work -- poor baby), and her lungs indicate walking pneumonia. Holy cow!! She may also have a worse type of mucousy pneumonia, but we won't know that for sure until after a night of breathing treatments, two kinds of antibiotics, and a follow-up exam.

The crazy thing is that neither of my children really ever get sick. The first time Gracie got sick, she was two, and the situation was similar (she had everything under the sun crammed into her two little infected ears). This time, just as that time, when it rains, it pours.

Here's hoping for health and healing, and lots of good cartoons on T.V.!

What's Your Name?

I saw this elsewhere and had to post it here. Feel free to swipe it...

10.WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother & father's middle name)
Lynn Ray

9. NASCAR NAME: (name of your mother's dad, fathers dad)
Elmer Charles

8. STARWARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, any 2 letters of your first name)
Hugda, or Hugma, or Hugam -- anyway you say it, there's a lot of Huggin' going on!

7. DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, fav animal)
Green Giraffe

6. SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born)
Jo Dallas

5. SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd fav color, fav alcohol drink, add "THE" to the beginning)
The Purple Merlot

4. FLY GIRL/GUY NAME: (1st letter of 1st name, 1st 3 letters of your last)
A-Hug (Now, that's fly!)

3. GANGSTA NAME: (fav ice cream flavor, fav cookie)
Rocky Road Oreo

2. ROCK STAR NAME: (current pets name, current street name)
Bailey Riverchase (Our most recent pet, Bailey, was shipped to Alaska. I'll teach you to poo in my shoe!)

1. STRIPPER NAME: (name of your fav perfume/cologne, fav candy)
Ralph Lemonheads (The most unpopular stripper -- teehee!)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

On Death and Marshmallows

I am not afraid of death.

I used to be very afraid of dying. Electric storms in particular always made me cognisent of my mortality, and more than once (even as a teen), I made my younger brother come share my bed when the weather grew fierce. One summer, he and I drove to visit an uncle near Oklahoma City. When it was time to go to bed, I slept in a bedroom, while Dustin slept on the couch. That night, I awoke to what I thought was the house ripping in half. The loudest, most horrible storm was raging outside. Though it was the middle of the night, the sky glowed orange with electricity. I'd not seen anything like it before, and I've not seen anything like it since.

I peered at that scary precip through slit blinds, and worried, wondering was this the end of the world? (Though I was not a Christian at the time, I understood an end was coming and I dreaded it.) For some reason, this storm that shook me to my soul woke no one else in the house. Dustin, who was sleeping in the next room, didn't even hear the commotion, but nevertheless, I drug him to bed with me. Certainly he couldn't protect me from the wrath of God I equated with those cloudbursts, but usually just having him near made me feel safe, protected. That night, though, even having him to hide behind left me feeling no more protected than I had when there was more space in my bed. It was undeniable that there was something bigger than me, someone beyond my understanding, making me aware of my smallness on the Earth. Before then I'd heard a few passing remarks about the Christ, but it wasn't until later that very summer that someone bothered to really tell me all about Him, and show me the way to the cross.

After I became a Christian, that terror of death was gone. There has never, ever been another time that I have been startled awake by a storm and have felt that same sense of utter hopelessness as I did that night. (I think that whirlwind twilight was a work of God to prepare the way for me to come to Him. I was so very like the pre-apostle Paul in my behavior. I would abuse "simpleminded" Christians every chance I got, and there was no way that I would have ever just followed a crowd into belief in Christ. I'm still not a crowd follower, but that's a different topic for another day.)

As far as death is concerned, I find it particularly interesting. As a pasttime, I enjoy browsing around the very old parts of cemeteries in an attempt to either determine or imagine how people died.

Last fall, I went to the funeral of my great-aunt who lived a long and lovely life. As all the family I didn't know hung out grave-top and chatted amongst themselves, I took my kids around to explore. Near the front of the cemetery, we discovered a family plot from the 1800's where five children from one family were buried side by side. They died one right after the other with about a year's span in between each, all of them being around three years old at their time of death. (So, when the first three-year-old died, he had a sibling at age 2, age 1 and one in the womb. The next year, the mother was pregnant again when her next three-year-old died, and on and on for the next three years until five children in a row were gone.)

To see five dead children made me think some kind of horrible plague or a devestating illness like pneumonia (one that's mostly non-threatening now, but nearly a death sentence then) was a curse to those children, but more than one child never died at the same time. They died one right after the other, all about a year apart, and all at around age three. The only simple answer I could come up with was ritual sacrifice or a family REALLY fed up with the terrible twos. There's no way to know for sure exactly what happened to all those children, but such a horrible circumstance sparks the imagination.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the local cemetery, which is a tiny little place hidden behind a trailer park. In the very back corner was the grave of a young man. I'm sure he died by some tragic circumstance that broke the hearts of all his loved ones. What I found interesting about his gravesite is that someone surrounded his plot with landscaping bricks, and people (at the funeral, I assume) littered his it with trash: cards, toys, empty beer bottles, lighters, and pocket knives stabbed into the ground. Even more interesting was the crackpipe right on the top of the trashpile. I thought it was so unfortunate that these were the things that "honored" this boy. The probability of a wasted life -- of that wasted life -- was the thing that broke my heart.

I think about my own death from time to time, and wonder what it will be like. I have a pretty clear understanding of what the after-death will be like, but the dying -- that's the part that intrigues me now. I hope I have an extraordinarily long life and slip away while getting to finally sleep in once again. But if I don't get that long life, I hope to die by some ridiculous circumstance that will make people shake their heads and chuckle a little inside. People will say, "Oh yeah, that's an Amanda thing." (At lunch a few weeks ago, a friend commented on someone else's miscarriage and asked, "Was it a regular miscarriage, or was it an Amanda thing?" With infant loss, I am a category, so why not with death as well?) I'll be off to a better place, so those left behind might as well have a nice laugh, right?

I was with my Granny when she died.

My Granny was by far one of the most special people on the Earth. She had Type II diabetes that she treated with cases of Coca-Cola and gallons of orange juice. As a result, her kidneys failed suddenly one Saturday. I was engaged to be married and living in Texas at the time. I remember rubbing her soft hand as I said goodbye and moved away just a few months before -- her aged skin felt like satin to the touch. James and I were in Dallas for a weekend of wine-tastings when the news came of her decline, and instead of our own plans already in motion, we sped north to Tulsa. James stayed the weekend, but I stayed until the end. Granny's family came from three different states to remain at her bedside, though she was drugged for pain and hardly able to communicate. What she did say was either delusional or deeply spiritual. I don't recall leaving her at all.

By Tuesday, she had not died. People began to tire of the wait, and left to go to dinner or to do some shopping. In and out, people came and went, but I remained, completely hopped up on hospital coffee and beef jerky from the gift shop. That evening nearly everyone decided to go to dinner together, but four of Granny's large family stayed behind. That chosen four I still find remarkable.

My Granny had four living children. The four of us at her bedside represented those four decendents, and each of us were the oldest of our line.

  • Of her own children at her deathbed was my Granny's oldest daughter, Ruby.
  • Granny's next child is my mom, Becky. I am Becky's oldest biological child, and I was with Granny as she died, while my mom was not.
  • Next, my uncle Mike's oldest daughter Rachael was there with us. Rachael, after having been estranged from the family nearly all her life, came from Arkansas to say her goodbyes.
  • My Granny's youngest living child is my uncle William. His oldest son Freddie was in the room while William was off with my mom.
(That information is not relevant to any point I may be attempting to make, but I've always found the whole situation very interesting.)

Today, I am so grateful to have been present with her as she slipped out of her broken body. She didn't just pass away, meaning she was here one minute and gone before we realized it. Granny died. She was alive one minute, and dying the next. Her physical body labored there, struggling to hang onto the life inside that was going on to something better. She wasn't in pain (thanks to the wonders of modern medicine), and there was no heart struggle (only the most perfect peace). Granny's death to me revealed the most marked difference between body and soul. In watching her die, I was able to clearly see that the two are definately not one. This sounds absolutely morbid, I'm sure, but being a part of her death is as special a memory to me as any Christmas, or birthday, or garage sale weekend.

While I am no longer afraid of dying, and though I find it to be a topic of great intrigue, I worry about what life will be like for my family when I'm no longer here. Though I don't have a terminal illness or realistically anticipate death in any way, I prepare for it. I know of people who died young (my dad at age 44), and I've personally had some very startling experiences that make me appreciate just how fragile we all are. I've worked on my will (but not finished because the working on it generally ends with a cuddling of this person or that), and I have all my policies in order. Minimally, I've labeled the contents of my business card organizer with "Bub's Opthamologist," or "Gracie's Dance Studio," just so Dad (or whoever) will know who goes where when. Regardless of the major (and minor) ways I am able to arrange things, I know if I die there will be those day-to-day things that are not done to my liking, or just not done at all. It's that knowledge that has troubled me the most.

Bub and I helped my mom move today. To me, moving -- especially moving my mom -- is like a small death. I die a little inside each time I hear her current apartment is "not quite right." (Today was the fourth move in four years for the biggest packrat I personally know. After it all, my body feels like it might be nicer to die, and yet, I live on.) Gracie was going to come along, but she was sleeping this morning when it was time to leave. As a result, she spent the day alone with Dad. He normally asks for suggestions for their time together without me, but he mentioned washing the dishes this morning as I prepared to go, so I rushed out the door before he changed his mind.

I was busy and unavailable most of the day, so the two loners fended for themselves. I'm not sure what they had for breakfast or lunch or even if they ate at all, but I heard they spent some time at Starbucks and shared conversation over coffee. They watched football and played computer games, and for the second time in a decade, James cooked "dinner." (Father and daughter dined together on a meal of beef roast and marshmallows. Not exactly the nutritious combo I would have prepared, but it worked.) I came home to a showered and pajamaed daughter having story time with Dad, and was pleased to find her better than just alive.

I'm a little sad to admit it, but after today I believe that James could get along and parent just fine without me. Though things wouldn't always be just exactly as I would have preferred, I know the kids will get what's important from James, love being the chief of them all. They would all survive, even if on dinners of meat and marshmallows.

"But we do see Him who was made for a little while
lower than the angels, namely, Jesus,
because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor,
so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. . .
that through death He might render powerless
him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,
and might free those who through fear of death
were subject to slavery all their lives."
Hebrews 2:9, 14b-15

"For those who follow godly paths
will rest in peace when they die."
Isaiah 57:2

"As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age."
Genesis 15:15

On Grief and Sorrow


Today is not a day more dismal than any other.
Regardless, these words are The Truth
and are a soothing balm to my aching soul.

"Laughter can conceal a heavy heart,
but when the laughter ends, the grief remains."
-Proverbs 14:13

"Don’t think I am a wicked woman!
For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”
-I Samuel 1:16

"Sorrow is better than laughter,
for sadness has a refining influence on us."
-Ecclesiastes 7:3

"My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief..."
-Romans 9:2

"Job stood up and tore his robe in grief.
Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship."
-Job 1:20

"But my heart is heavy with grief.
Weep for me, for I wither away."
-Isaiah 24:16

"You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book."
-Psalm 56:8

"I weep with sorrow;
encourage me by your word."
-Psalm 119:28

"Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.
Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love."
-Joel 2:13

"How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?"
-Psalm 13:2

"...You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy."
-John 16:20

"For the Lord has called you back from your grief..."
-Isaiah 54:6

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
-John 16:33

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.
All these things are gone forever.”
-Revelation 21:4


These are various quotes on the topics of grief and sorrow.
I originally included them among the scriptures above,
but while they are very good, they are merely opinions,
and shouldn't be equated with The Truth.

"Grief is not he opposite of faith.
Mourning is not the opposite of hope.
I believe that well meaning Christians can try to hurry us out of our mourning because we make them uncomfortable. The Bible does not say to cheer up the bereaved, but rather to 'mourn with those who mourn.' Christ does not say we grieve because we are deficient in faith, but rather 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted [not rushed].' (Matthew 5:4)."
-Jennifer Saake (Hannah's Hope)

"Sorrow makes us all children again -
destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

"God's Word never said we were not to grieve our losses.
It says we are not to grieve as those who have no hope
(I Thess. 4:13). Big difference."
-Beth Moore

"She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts."
-George Eliot

Friday, October 26, 2007


I've spent alot of time this week considering my uterus. It's impossible not to be so contemplative when the big boot of childbirth kicked me out of my secure state of denial earlier this week.

(Review posts from Monday and Tuesday -- the childbearing was not mine.)

I've had some really weepy moments this week, when weepiness (or at least this particular frequency of weepiness) has eluded me for a couple of months now. All the crying has made me feel more frustrated than ever. I know DeDe's giving birth has been hard on my heart, but still, why so hard? I wondered this until I read last night in Hannah's Hope by Jennifer Saake:

True infertility or the loss of a child brings deep grief, but does God's Word validate such anguish? In addition to holding many accounts of barren characters carefully preserved for our benefit, the Bible treats childlessness as truly devastating pain. Proverbs 30:15-16 lists barrenness right up there in the "top three" things that never are satisfied, along with death, drought-devastated land, and fire. When prophesying Jesus' betrayal and crucifixion, Isaiah 53 talks of the Lord having no decendants, noted with as much seriousness as are the oppression and affliction that ultimately led to His murder.
That excerpt helped ease the encumbrance of guilt that has accompanied this pain, and has helped me at least stop questioning my goodness or Godliness as a result of the burden that remains.

The pain of loss is hard, horrible, devastating, but even worse than the pain of loss (at least for me) is the incredible fear of losing again. I have had four known losses in my life -- three in the span of time between one Pap Smear and the next. The emotion that accompanied each loss was increasingly worse, and by the fourth in August, I truly wondered if I was bound for Rusk. (The State Mental Hospital is in Rusk, TX.)

When I lost that August baby, I knew for sure that I was 100% through with childbearing, no doubt about it, done. But by September, the asking started again. The "I'm a great dad, I'm getting older, I really want to have another baby" guilt-trip sort of heart-wrenching asking started again, and I realized I was not 100%-no-doubt-about-it-done. 99.99%, maybe, but not 100%. I figured I should probably pray first before getting back to that 100%, so that's what I set out to do.

My prayer went something like this:
Oh God, first of all, I don't ever want to talk to you about any of this ever again for as long as I live. As you know, this whole childbearing nonsense has been nothing but a struggle for me from day one, and I'm really tired of it all. I don't like hurting, and I don't want to do it anymore, but I do want to do what you want me to do, though I do not think that entails getting pregnant ever again. Ever. But God, James wants to get pregnant again and I don't know how I can move beyond this fear into compliance. I don't want to submit to him or to you. I want to be done and I want to stop hurting, but more than that, I want to serve and honor you and do whatever it is that you would require of me, no matter how much pain comes along. That's what I'll do God, even though I'm pretty sure I'm not going to like it. Please God, don't let whatever you're calling me to include having me get pregnant again. (Unless that really IS what you want for me, at which time, you'll need to provide me with some sort of clear, undeniable sign straight from Heaven.) In Jesus' name, Amen.

Now, neither James nor God will *make* me do what I do not want to do, and realistically, I wouldn't mind being pregnant again. I am not afraid of the being pregnant as much as I am afraid of the not being pregnant anymore. In fact, when I get past all of the junk that makes me high-risk, my pregnancies are lovely. I don't get morning sickness, I eat lots of food without feeling guilty about it, I lose weight, I get plenty of sleep, people do things for me, and for a brief period, I look good in clothes. Pregnancies are the best, until they're over far too soon. It's the fear of that that makes me think, "Uh, no thanks."

But I prayed. I prayed my obligitory prayer. I even included that self-sacrificing (or is it self-righteous?) part about being willing to do whatever with the blah-blah-blah about the pain. And I was willing to do whatever, just as soon as I got that sign. (Considering that God so rarely shows up with a sign -- at least for me -- I just knew that I was in the clear. Phew!)

So, this week I've been extraordinarily contemplative about it all, and alot about the pain of all those babies gone far too soon. That rack is tough. I'm a tough gal, but some days that suffering takes me out. I could not imagine anything worse than that anguish, but in the midst of my contemplation, I remembered something. I remembered what may have been (dare I say it?) a sign. Allow me to explain.

Monday night is the night I lead Celebrate Recovery. The week before this past Monday, a woman had contacted me about general family issues and began attending our group. This Monday was her second time ever to participate. The first week she was there, I said nothing about loss or about our babies, and nothing about Zachary in particular. But this Monday, the woe of my losses (particularly in light of DeDe's experience that day) and the things God was revealing to me about Himself through them made up the bulk of my sharing in group. This woman had already shared in group that night, so she couldn't comment at the time, but when group was over, she caught me outside.

She shared with me that she had lost a baby -- a girl named Victoria -- at 22 weeks eleven years ago. When she talked, she choked back the tears that were filling her eyes. I could see that there was little difference between the affliction of my 180 days and that of her 4015 days. While her understanding my pain was somewhat comforting, her level of continued torment was astonishing. I realized there would never be a time that I would be completely in the clear.

This woman told me her tale of loss, of how her baby died in the womb, and it reminded me of my friend Karen. Karen's baby, Benjamin, became entangled in his cord in January, and was dead a week before anyone realized it. I briefly shared Karen's tragedy and mentioned we should all connect, but followed with the fact that Karen is pregnant again, and is now counting down the days to her induction.

When I mentioned that, something in this woman changed. The torment of her loss was lessened now, and what took it's place in an even more powerful, more painful way, was a very clear, very obvious sense of regret. The fact that her heart had been ripped out upon the death of her daughter now seemed trivial when compared to the incredible regret she carried from not having tried again.

The regret was tangible, palpable, completely undeniable, and I realize now that it would be the same for me. I could see myself in her eleven years from now, and I was startled by the thought. I am afraid of the pain of another loss, but I am terrified by the regret that comes with just giving up. Nothing in this situation is more clear than that. You know, I could be wrong, but this woman coming to me from out of the blue to show me what's worse than the pain I've got seems to be as clear a sign as any.

So, this is what I've taken to James -- this newfound revelation. He understands that I've laid the pursuit of pregnancy down as a sacrifice to God, and recognizes that I am presently unwilling or unable to be the conception clockwatcher. But, he also knows that he feels compelled to pursue the continued growth of our family, and in that, I am willing and able to submit to him in this area. My heart is open to God and to my husband, and the last thing I want to have happen in my life is my accumulating the weight of a new burden just because I'm fearful and stubborn.

I cannot pretend to understand what God has planned for the future. I have no way to know. I really don't even have a way to guess. I know what God CAN do, I just don't know what he WILL do. Despite that, I will serve Him with an open heart and a willing spirit, clinging to the fact that God has very good plans for me, "plans to prosper [me] and not to harm [me], plans to give [me] hope and a future" (Jer. 29:11), and that those plans will be worked out no matter what.

I said all of that to say this:

(I think we may try again.)

"For I know the plans I have for you,"
declares the LORD,
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

"The Lord will work out his plans for my life
— for your faithful love, O Lord,
endures forever."
Psalm 138:8

What it's all about...

Could this really be what it's all about?

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Gracie loves to dance. She is normally somewhat shy and rather reserved (even clingy from time to time), but turn on some music and she'll be the most outgoing girl in the room.

This is Gracie during our most recent trip to Babe's Chicken Dinner House (ah, Texas). She will out-Hokey-Pokey any Babe's waitress, and that's something.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

First Fight

A couple of weeks ago, it occurred to us that Bub will turn seven in a very short time. Though he is growing older, we perceived him as a child much younger. It was hard for us to recognize Bub at his age. In fact, he still had training wheels on his bike, and he'd never been out from under this ever-watchful mommy's eye. Ever. I mean, he has been in school, but I have spies. I check in all the time. Outside of school, and church, and the childcare center at the movie theatre, he's always been with me.

As terrified as it made me feel, I realized it was time (way past time, in fact) to begin loosening those apron strings, which is why a couple of weeks ago we dedicated our Sunday to launching him into the world. He learned to ride his bike without training wheels.

By last Saturday, he didn't need my help at all and was off and riding completely alone. I remained outside with him doing work in the yard, but when I was finished, he wasn't. I had to begin making dinner, so I caught him as he was whizzing by to say, "Don't get off your bike. Don't leave your bike anywhere. Don't get run over by a car. Don't get in the car with anyone. Don't talk to strangers. Don't get kidnapped. Don't run your bike into anyone's car, particularly that Lexus right over there. Don't go into anyone's house or backyard. Don't run over your sister, any animals, or any of the neighbors. And for goodness sake, Bub, be careful. I'll be back in five minutes." And with that, I went inside, closed the door, and left my baby to fend for himself in this big, bad world.

Those five minutes were the longest of my life, and probably the very best of his. Because that fact was very obvious, I knew it was time for more. Yesterday, Gracie had ballet. We stopped at the store to pick up something to prepare for dinner, and on the way home to do that, we drove past a cluster of little boys playing soccer four houses away from home on our cul-de-sac street. Both kids knew all these little kids from the bus and from school, so I offered to stop and let them out. On the street. Without me. They have never moved so fast to get out of a car. I'm not even sure I had come to a full and complete stop.

I left them, but watched them as I went in and out of the house to put away groceries. They both looked so cute, and so big, and they sounded even bigger as they coordinated their glorious adventures with the neighborhood children (really, it was just the task of getting this soccer ball to that manhole, but when you're six going on seven, little else is so glorious). Gracie quickly tired of all the loud boys and came home to help me make crab cakes, but Bub stayed out for about eight "just five more minutes, puh-leeze" segments until I drug him inside to wash up and eat.

Bub has never been more alive as he was when he came in from playing alone. He had so much fun and went on and on about this game or that race or the cat whose tail they pulled. As I was explaining why cats tails shouldn't be pulled, I realized my letting go a little more and a little more often is the very best gift I could ever give him, and while admiring this new light in his eyes, I resigned myself to it.

So today, Bub barreled off the school bus and into the house, yelling, "Mom, mom, can I go play with the twins?" I agreed without reluctance for the first time in my life. He wolfed down a snack and raced out the door. Moments later, he came home to ask if he could ring their doorbell because they were not outside. I instructed him to ring only once, to be polite, and to let me know what the answer was. (I failed to tell him to run down to let me know -- he stepped to the sidewalk to yell from four houses away, "Hey mom, the parents are nice! They said they can come out and play!") I went back inside to leave him to the world once again, but this time, it felt okay.

Bub played outside for about an hour. I checked on him every ten minutes or so, and I could see he was following the rules and having a great time. I did notice at every check that the number of boys increased. It had been Bub and one other, but just before I went in, there were six more boys. We knew two who were Bub's age and size, but the other five were bigger, ranging in size, but none probably older than the fourth grade. Regardless, they were all playing soccer, and seemed to be having fun.

At about that one hour mark, I came inside, put dinner in the oven, and made a quick phone call before calling him in. About five minutes into the phone call, Bub came inside in obvious distress. He said, "Mom, something very bad has happened," and I thought, "Did a pedophile just buy the house next door? Did someone get run over by a car or mauled by a rabid dog?" He looked confused, not sure of what to tell me, or even of what had just taken place. As he started crying, he started blubbering about the ball and some boy swinging him around and scraping his hands and knees on the concrete. And then he said, "Those big boys were mean to me. They had a fight with me."

As he continued to cry, I headed out the door. I mentioned a few posts back that I'm a mama bear. I really am. I will say that though my rambunctious little ADHD (emphasis on the H) prodigy can easily drive me to the very edge of the very last fiber of a set of worn-thin nerves, I am always on his side. As I marched that four-house stretch to confront those mean little boys, I reminded myself that it's not okay to beat up children. Despite that, I had to get to the bottom of the situation, and pick up his scooter that was left on the curb.

Even after confronting those boys (with kindness, though I wanted to be mean), I still don't know exactly what happened. Bub said they fought with him for no reason. They said he wouldn't give their soccer ball back. Both scenarios are highly possible. These "boys will be boys" moments are so very hard to take! The bottom line is Bub lived three glorious days in the world while out from under my watchful eye. It is hard for me not to focus on the fact that after only three days the world hurt him, but instead I'm trying to remember all the fun he had and the light that sparked -- the one that despite every effort I could not create.

I reminded (or instructed) the mean boys that violence is not the answer, and I appreciated Bub for his decisions in the fight. He stood up for himself when he told them he wasn't a "Stupidhead" as they claimed, and he came home instead of making things worse.

This struggle is so intense because I'm so protective. After our many struggles with him (adoption and ADHD) and with life in general (deaths and whatnot), I prefer to just keep him close. As for Bub, we have taught him what is right, and now we have to teach him what is reasonable. I know I have to come to terms with boys being boys. This first fight is a learning experience for us all, and part of me wishes I would have just left the training wheels on.

Business Time

The Essence of Married Life

(Just Kidding... Or Am I?)


I daily check in on a blog called Toddled Dredge, which is consistently fanstastic, and one I frequently recommend to others. I've spied on it in secret for some time, but yesterday the author posted a link to another site called Hogwart's Professor in response to the controvery brewing around J.K. Rowling's recent comments about Dumbledore's sexual orientation.

I followed the link, was completely enlightened, and returned to Toddled Dredge to comment about something that I've heard before and had just read again -- the underlying Christian message in Harry Potter (and other stories). I commented about that point, and quoted something the poet Shelley wrote ages ago in A Defence of Poetry. In essence, Shelley pointed out that Poets (and writers in general) are priests who communicate God's message, though they may not personally have "correspondence with that spirit of good of which they are the ministers," and they may not understand their expression of that "Power which is seated upon the throne of their own soul."

This morning, as every morning, I checked in on my favorite blogs, and I noticed a link in the Toddled Dredge comments back to Hogwart's Professor where I have now been quoted. Of course, the link was immediately followed, and I felt like I must have looked like a scene on a sitcom where someone is looking for themselves in a review or an article. They're hunched over the paper, scanning and mumbling, and then they shout at the recognition of their own name. ("Mumble, mumble, murmur, Amanda -- YAY!") I'm home alone, and yes, I shouted.

I'm quite confident it's no big deal really, this quotation (though you can read it for yourself here and come to whatever personal conclusion you like). For all I know, the Professor is the next door neighbor of the Toddled Dredge author. And honestly, I guess I wasn't really quoted at all. My Shelley quotation was re-quoted. Regardless, it still feels nice that something I said mattered enough for someone else to repeat, and my name was mentioned. That's nice, and I'll take it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

That Tuesday

Today was that Tuesday -- the day with my friend and the new baby. All in all, it went far better than I anticipated.

Yesterday, when I knew Rebecca was free from the womb, it all began to feel quite painful. It remained painful yesterday afternoon and evening, and then all the way to the hospital this morning. I cried here and there both days and choked out the lyrics to the hymn, "It is Well with My Soul" as I drove to today's visitation. (see video)

Fortunately, I was able to get myself together before going in. I was able to hold Rebecca (nearly all day long, thank you very much) and help DeDe without being an extreme mess. Only one time did I even become choked up while in the room, and it was at a moment when we three were alone (DeDe, baby, and me), and DeDe ambushed me with her loving kindess. "How is this for you, really?" she asked. "It's fine (tears)," I said. "She's so lovely (sniff), and I'm so glad (sob) that I get to be here with you (boohoo)." We talked through it, and ultimately, my time with DeDe and my time with Rebecca today was very healing, and for that I am so grateful.

On my drive home today, I wondered why it was so hard for me only after Rebecca was born, and really not so much before. Admittedly, there were times that it was not easy to watch DeDe grow and blossom while I shriveled away, but I mean, I had been able to talk and joke about DeDe's pregnancy for months -- why was it now so much harder? One thing I realized that I hadn't considered before was that as long as she remained pregnant, my loss wasn't fully really over. I know that sounds strange, because DeDe being pregnant didn't mean I was. But we had shared those moments -- those good friends pregnant at the same time moments -- and when hers was over, mine was really, really over. DeDe's delivery was the final thing required to end everything that still lingered from that time in my life. Rebecca's birth was proof that life indeed went on, that none of my situation was a misunderstanding, and that there's no hope for some different outcome. It is truly the end...

Empty Arms Filled Today

Monday, October 22, 2007

Get Dead

Tonight as we were driving home from Celebrate Recovery,
I had this conversation with the kids:

Gracie: Hey mom, I know why Mr. Bruce took Rachel to school today. Because Ms. DeDe had a baby.
Bub: What? A baby?
Me: Yep, Ms. DeDe had a baby today. Rachel's a big sister now.
Bub: Was the baby alive?
Me: Yes, she was.
Bub: Well, mom, how come all of your babies get dead? How come we don't have any of the babies that were in your tummy?
Me: I don't know, Honey. That's a very good question. I wish I knew the answer.

It's so sad that even their innocence is lost...

Play a game, Feed the hungry

I saw this on a blog called Exploding Aardvark: "For every vocabulary word you get right, FreeRice donates ten grains of rice to the hungry. The game adjusts to your vocabulary level automatically, and it’s funded by unobtrusive ads. Pretty neat."

fun game + good cause = no brainer.

Quote of the Day

"Science has proof without any certainty.
Creationists have certainty without any proof."
- Ashley Montague, British anthropologist and humanist (1905-1999)

Coming Soon: Rebecca Grace

Today, my friend DeDe will be giving birth to her second daughter. In fact, if all goes well and the doctor stays on schedule, Rebecca Grace should enter the world in about an hour. It's all so surreal.

DeDe has struggled through this pregnancy with even believing she was pregnant. She's joked about it, and laughed about it, but it was a serious feeling. Last week, she called me to come over to help her, and I couldn't have been more pleased. It had just occurred to her that she had less than a week left before having a newborn in the house, and the baby's bedding was not yet on the bed. (In her credit, absolutely everything else was washed, readied, hung, put together, and put away. It's so funny that when you're pregnant, one thing seems like so many.) I was glad to help because I still want to be this in her life, in Rebecca's life. I don't want the shadows of my past to be a factor in my exclusion, and fortunately, DeDe has never treated me that way and has never excluded me.

I teased her about her still not being convinced she would be having a baby this week. She was ironing a bed skirt while I was straightening a bed bumper, and she mentioned we didn't have to work, we could just hang out. Um, no, we couldn't. Fortunately, the decision was made to let the dry cleaners press the skirts, and we moved on to much more fun tasks, like putting up wall hangings and managing toy organization, and in that, we had lots of time to chat. We talked about our intertwined stories of pregnancy and loss, and remembered her baby Hope who would have turned one year old on Saturday (if born on her due date -- October 20, 2006). We considered how if Hope had not died, Rebecca likely would not have been pursued, and how odd it is to consider this coming baby in that light. We finished up, and she spent the weekend at the RV in an effort to see Bruce again before their family of three changed forever.

This morning I called DeDe just to check in and to let her know that I was praying. That woman is so funny. She and Bruce had just dropped Rachel off at school, and she was waiting in the car while Bruce was having his hair cut. I think they had a couple more errands to run before they popped over to the hospital to GIVE BIRTH! She was so nonchalant. I still do not think it has occurred to her just exactly what is on her agenda for this afternoon. At least she's peaceful -- that's a blessing.

I'm happy for my friend. I'm happy for her family. I'm happy that there's a good outcome to her pregnancy story. May abundant blessings be heaped on them today and always.

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD:
and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
Psalm 127:3

He maketh the barren woman to keep house,
and to be a joyful mother of children.
Praise ye the LORD.
Psalm 113:9
"Our children will hear about
the wonderous acts of the Lord.
His righteous acts will be told to those yet unborn.
They will hear about everything he has done."
Psalm 22: 30b-31 NLT

Update: Rebecca Grace was born today (October 22, 2007) at 1:22 P.M. She weighs 7 pounds 1 oz, and is 20 1/2 inches long. She has ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes, and a headful of dark hair. Mommy and baby are both doing well, and are enjoying getting to know one another. Thank you, God.

Danger at the Dunkin' Donuts

I was catching up on my current events this morning, and ran across this. This is a prime example of why you shouldn't mess with a woman until AFTER she's had her coffee. Yikes!

Drive-through rage caught on tape
Drive-through rage caught on tape


Sunday was a very busy day. James, who is normally my weekend helper, flew to L.A. yesterday morning to meet with a client. (He said it was work, but I'm not sure how flying to the coast to sightsee and have brunch at a swanky hotel along with the bonus of interesting adult conversation can be classified merely as "work," but whatever.) In the meantime, I was left at home with two especially needy children and a four-essay exam to complete by midnight. I felt like I was being pulled in fifty directions at all times. In spite of that, I made time to do with and for the kids as I normally would have, and I think the day went off fairly well.

Last night, Gracie showed me that she is really trying to implement some of my multi-tasking ways. I was in the middle of writing one of the essays for my exam when I took a break to watch cartoons with her. She was in my bed watching them, and I was in my bed watching her. She asked, "Mom, aren't you going to watch T.V.?" I answered, "No, honey, I'm going to watch you watching T.V." She then told me that she was going to watch me watching her watch T.V., and her face screwed up like she was concentrating really hard. When I asked her what she was doing, she said she was trying to get one eye to watch me watching her, while keeping the other eye on the T.V. Ah, that's my girl.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Non-Laundry List

So, I was in the shower thinking about the term "Laundry List." Earlier today, my sister commented to me that her blog reads like a laundry list of daily events. Also, I distincly remember James throwing that term around alot when he worked in advertising: "Joe Coworker writes his commercials like a laundry list, when you really have to spice things up."

What does it all mean?
Am I the only one not making lists about laundry or while doing laundry? What am I missing out on here?

This is my interpretation of a Laundry List:

1.) Do Laundry.

...OK, Done. (With the list, never with the laundry.)

Now, maybe it means a list of laundry supplies, but that goes on my shopping list, so why isn't the terminology interchanged? Example: "Joe Coworker writes his commercials like a shopping list." It would work, but who knows what it would take to catch on.

I detest, despise, abhor the laundry. It is by far my very least favorite thing to do on the Planet Earth. Wisdom teeth being carved out from deep within my jaw bone have nothing on the tedious, mind-numbing, never-ending task that is the laundry. I hate it so much that I refuse to make lists about it or appreciate the terminology of this sort of list making, despite the passion that lists themselves evoke deep within.

My response to this whole ordeal is a non-laundry list, or rather five things I would prefer doing besides the laundry.

1.) Posting on Blogger. It seems to be an addiction, of late.
2.) Grocery shopping. This is actually one of my very favorite things to do. I peruse the products with nearly as much appreciation as I consider art at the museum.
3.) I already mentioned the wisdom teeth thing, but I hate laundry so much that it bears repeating.
4.) Watching The Office. Michael and Dwight are so stupid that I cannot help but feel about a million times better about myself (even if they are fictional characters), and an improvement in self-esteem is always better than laundry.
5.) Dringing coffee. Ok, doing that is actually better than doing alot of things, but what if I said it was week-old coffee left in a unwashed carafe on the fly-laden counter of a smoky truck stop? Would you then understand my hatred for the washing arts? I hope my point is clear.

Miscellaneous Observations

Nutty Bars are quite possibly the most addictive food on the planet. I don't have a special affinity for either peanut butter or wafer cookies. As for chocolate, I'm sure no explanation is necessary. However, the combination of these three together is for me a personal vice -- a thousand times better than chocolate alone. It is a literal impossibility for me to resist their call. I rarely buy them because I know what a strong hold they have over me, but recently, as an attempt at compromise, I purchased the 100 calorie Nutty Bars. Ultimately, that doesn't matter when one eats 1200 calories of Nutty Bar goodness over the course of a day.

About 10% of the all hope scriptures in the Bible are in the book of Job. Of the one hundred and forty some-odd scriptures on hope, fifteen of them are in the Book of Job, while David wrote another 25 in the Psalms. 1/3 of all the hope scriptures in the Bible were from these two men: both crazy, both persecuted, both mistreated, both challenged, both amazing.

There seem to be three major categories of blogs on Generally crafty Christian mommies, Brazilian blogs, or Porn sites. For some reason, when I scan through, I seem to find little else. Strange.

I have an intense fear of failure. Every time I seem to get close to success, and am literally terrified of falling on my face. So sometimes, I don't fall on accident. Sometimes I get so scared of falling, that I make myself fall. I go out of my way to stumble on something to control the fact that I fall, and in falling, I mean failing. Actually, when I really think about it, I fail at very little. I mean, I do have average goof-ups, and general mistakes, and random faux pas, but nothing that would really be classified as an all-out failure. In spite of that, I am really just so remarkably terrified of failing. I'm afraid of the repercussions of failure. I'm afraid to end up under a bridge with children gone wild and me as the single homeless person with a weight problem. I am scared to fail -- at this, and at life.

My purse is not a purse. It is a saddle bag, at best. I am the pack mule of motherhood. Let me share with you its contents:

  • A very large black wallet. On the box, I think it was literally called, "The Enormous Wallet." It has card slots, photo slots, money slots, receipt slots, zipper pouches, a checkbook holder, key rings, and a calculator all built in. I think there may also be a man servant and periodic table of the elements, just in case.
  • A tiny little case of really, really hot mints. I swear to you, these mints are the Hiroshima of Halitosis. Bub got them at some booth at the fair, and when they burned six years of taste buds off his tongue, he gave them to me. Lucky.
  • A kid pocket that has within itself two DumDum suckers, three rocks, a spare house key, seven pennies, a random tube of Peony lipstick (a color I hate, but that bribes Gracie), a business card for the pediatrician's office, and two note cards filled with scribbles.
  • A black Rolodex business card wallet. This baby snaps closed and can hold up to 36 business card-sized cards of my choice. I use it to organize my shopping club cards, gift cards, punch cards, business cards (really?), insurance cards, and season passes to this place or that. Because it snaps closed, I store within it larger notes, papers, or coupons I need to keep with me. This is my example of organization on the go, and it makes me smile every time I go to Kroger.
  • An extremely large spiral for taking notes or recording various occasions of randomness. It also comes in handy for making lists, which is another thing that makes me smile. I say large because it really is. It's far too big to be carried in a purse. It's not quite academic size, but just nearly.
  • A plastic pink hair tie.
  • Six grocery store receipts.
  • A tiny spring. (What in the world?)
  • Two things torn from the November issue of Family Fun magazine: Daddy Letters and a recipe for Apple Pie Party dip.
  • Two bottles of Bub's afternoon ADHD meds. He takes one prescription, so why am I carrying two bottles?
  • Cover Girl powder foundation in Classic Ivory. I have no skin color. I'm nearly as pale as they come. This is my "summer" makeup.
  • A broken pen. Maybe this explains the spring!
  • Five 15% off coupons for The Children's Place. Someday, evidently, there will be a spree.
  • Three sample packages of Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Moisture Cream. I grabbed these at the pediatrician's office last week to give to DeDe, but they smell so good and work so well on my fall-to-winter skin that I'm keeping them. So there.
  • A bank deposit slip.
  • A check stub for reimbursables.
  • A credit card offer from Household Bank. Act now - Don't delay! Whatever.
  • Conference notes from school visits last week. Geniuses, just as I thought.
  • A newsletter from the Denton Organic Society called "The Ladybug Express." Does my having the newsletter count for anything? My intentions are good...
  • One blue comb.
  • Three used tissues.
  • A blue plastic necklace with large round beads. Not mine.
  • Two white shoes strings. One can never be too prepared. No, seriously, these are for practicing when we're sitting and waiting for something. Clarification: these are for the kids to practice with, not me.
  • Two ink pens.
  • A stick.
  • A bookmark that reads: "I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your law is written on my heart." (Psalm 40:8) Yea, and Amen.

Blessed and Fortunate

If a I ever received a clear reminder of how blessed and fortunate I truly am, it was today. Amy e-mailed me with an extraordinarily inspirational excerpt from another blogger whose son, without a miracle, is dying before her eyes.

In the midst of her pain, this is her perspective:

There have been many times throughout the last couple months where it has felt like God is sleeping through our storm. Much like the story of Jesus and His disciples in Mark 4:35-41, life has brought a fierce wind along our journey, causing powerful waves to almost capsize our boat, and Jesus is in the stern, but it feels like he is asleep. I have often cried out to Him, saying, "Jesus, do You not care that we are perishing?" (v.38)

However, I am realizing that it is not I who needs to awaken Him, but rather He who wants to awaken me.

This journey of pain, our fierce storm, is intended to arouse me out of my slumber of mediocre, status quo faith. When the time comes for God to rebuke the wind and the sea, whereby we find calm, it would be devastating to hear him say, "How is it that you have no faith?" (v.40)

Pain is a catalyst by which God wants to stimulate our faith…Oh, that I might submit to that which He desires to awaken in me through this storm!

God, how selfish can I be? What greater capacity is there for that in this fallen woman? I bemoan the children who died who truly had equal potential for death as life. I mourn for the son we knew wouldn't live, and yet this mother hangs on, refusing her heart to fail.

It's heart wrenching, heart destroying, to see the limited glimpses into their lives. To watch her sweet boy sing "The B-I-B-L-E" and parrot all the same little words and animal sounds that our children parroted, and then to see her beautiful baby cry in frustration as his body fails him, leaving him to fall over. Even worse, to know that now his sweet voice is gone, along with his eyesight, and general bodily functions, all within a matter of months. It literally left me weeping.

Oh, that I would not be elevated in such self-righteous observations -- that I would be cognisant of my own pain, but also of it's limitations! As I watch this faithful, and strong, and broken mother, I know that pain is something I've never been truly acquainted with, and that I honestly hope I never will be.

Thoughts about this mother...

I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord,
for his mercy is great...

2 Samuel 24:14

At least I can take comfort in this:
Despite the pain, I have not denied the words of the Holy One.

Job 6:10

His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."
John 9:2-3

Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail."

Lamentations 3:22

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks you for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, tough you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:9-11

A Note to Christina:
These words are not meant to ever add to your pain, rather they serve as a personal encouragement for me and as a grasp at some miniscule amount of understanding of your situation, and minimally, my own. Your situation is amazing -- one of amazing pain, amazing brokenness, amazing faith, amazing dependence, amazing hope, amazing challenges, amazing heartache, amazing encouragement. I could go on, but instead I long to similarly reflect the love and neverending compassions of God with such faith and understanding.

I just want to say that I could never have the capacity to relate to the complicated emotions you have experienced or are experiencing. This is a driving situation, and it's incredible to watch you in your enormous grief being driven to a Holy and Incomprehensible God.

Please know that though tiny and irrelevant they may be, my prayers are bound together with yours for the complete and total restoration of your baby, your family, and your heart.

Inappropriate Dressing and Gypsygulls

This was one of those days. One of those random empty days that begged to be filled. How easy it would have been to fill every moment with wastefully necessary tasks! Instead, we did what was absolutely vital. We went to the lake and threw rocks at things.

It was fall, last fall. I remember the day so clearly, because until the moment we hit the shoreline, it was still a Texas summer. The season changed as we approached the water, and we were all inappropropriately dressed. That to say, in one moment we were sweating, and in another, half-frozen. We warmed ourselves by throwing more rocks at a much more furious pace, and by chasing enormous flocks of seagulls who were downed by the sudden temperature change. Even I admit to enjoying that chase. It was so fun to creep up to the grounded flock looking straight at us, and run towards them as they swelled into the air, a screeching mass. Then, floating back to their original position, they would taunt us to try again. Which we did. An embarrassing number of times.

(Question: Are they still called Seagulls if Lake Lewisville is their home and not the sea? I rather like Lakegulls, Hobogulls, Gypsygulls, Disorientedgulls, Lack-of-Effective-Map-Reading-Skills-Gulls.)

I love those longing-to-be-filled days. I love who my children are, and who I become, and I love the ideas we come up with together.

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