Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Work in Progress

Contrary to popular belief, I have not fallen off the face of the Earth.

After a lengthy flight delay in Denver, we made it back to Texas late Sunday night. By the time we got home, got the car unloaded, got ready for bed, and went to sleep, it was close to 2 AM.

Monday, we were back up at 6:00 to get the kids out the door, and I followed them out for a morning doctors appointment. After the appointment, I was off to campus to complete an assignment, then back home to pick up the kids. Then, we three went to a park near my school so I could spend more time studying for finals while they played and tormented wildlife. When James got off work at 6 PM, I handed the kids off and went to school again to take my Algebra final. I didn't get home Monday until after 10:00. Then I was off to bed late, up again early, out for coffee with a friend and home again to collapse.

Yesterday afternoon, I learned a couple of new HTML codes to modify Blogger layouts, so I subjected a few of my friends to my new skills. (Randi, Amy, DeDe, and Jenny) I worked and tweaked and tweaked and worked late into the night, so I was again off to bed late, up again early, and am now beginning to reformat my own layout.

I try on blog backgrounds like I try on blue jeans, so I've spent the whole morning looking for interesting graphics and cool wallpapers to upload. I still haven't found one that's just right, so my blog is currently an ever-changing work in progress. And all of that is why I've not posted more about our trip, or posted really anything for that matter.

I promise I will very soon...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A New Day Dawning

"David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized the child was dead.
"Is the child dead?" he asked.
"Yes," they replied, "he is dead."
Then David got up from the ground.

After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes,
he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped.
Then he went to his own house,
and at his request they served him food, and he ate.

His servants asked him, "Why are you acting this way?
While the child was alive, you fasted and wept,
but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!"

He answered, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept.
I thought, 'Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.'
But now that he is dead, why should I fast?
Can I bring him back again?
I will go to him, but he will not return to me."

-- 2 Samuel 12:19-23 NIV

You Never Let Go
-- David Crowder (Remedy, 2007)

When clouds veil sun
And disaster comes
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul
When waters rise
And hope takes flight
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul

Ever faithful
Ever true
You I know
You never let go
You never let go
You never let go
You never let go

When clouds brought rain
And disaster came
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul
When waters rose
And hope had flown
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul

Oh, my soul
Oh, what love, oh, what love
Oh, my soul
Fills hope
Perfect love that never lets go

Oh, what love, oh, what love
Oh, what love, oh, what love
In joy and pain
In sun and rain
You?re the same
Oh, You never let go

(Photo Credit: espion)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

On this day, the day you died...

Sweet Baby --

On this day, the day you died, we climbed into the clouds, marveled at majesty, and scrawled sentiments into the snow.

We have found comfort in our escape. By removing ourselves from the everyday, we've been able to deeply reflect on the brevity of your life. We miss you immensely, and a moment never passes that we prefer things as they are. We would much rather have you home with us.

Conversely, we find that we have grown from one year ago to now. One year ago, I thought I may die from the brokenness inside of me. I didn't know how I could survive the pain that consumed every portion of my being. Today, I live, and while we are no closer to understanding, we are closer to healing. Though timidly, the heart once shattered beats again.

Sweet Baby, we love you, we long for you, and we wait with anticipation the day we'll hold you again.


Scenes from the day

Friday, April 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Sweet Baby.
Your moments on Earth were far too few...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Calling to Mind

Today marks the day of the downhill slide. One year ago today, I was readying myself for a quick visit to the doctor, feeling ashamed that I was behaving immaturely and being far more worrisome than necessary. Little did I know it was the beginning of the end...

I'm so sad I can hardly breathe.

Losing Our Baby


Memorial Service

So I Wouldn't Forget

Hoping to Understand the Deferment of Hope

On Grief and Sorrow

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

WFMW: Scrapbook Paper Organization

I like scrapbooking, but more than actually doing the work of scrapbooking, I like buying scrapbooking supplies. I have found more stuff on sale, on clearance, or at a garage sale than I can reasonably use in a lifetime, and while I have no problem purging and tossing in every other room in my house, the contents of the scrapbook room will likely never see the inside of a garbage bag or donation bin.

That said, I needed an organizational tool for my scrapbook paper. I looked online, checked out scrapbook stores, and I even visited The Container Store, but nothing. That's not completely true -- there were some things, but since I'm not independently wealthy, I had to come up with something creative. Enter Target, where I picked up a basic set of white wire storage cubes and a pack of zip ties, and created this:

To model mine, build three stacked cubes per the package instructions. [On the Target website, I can only find a set of 4 cubes for $20, but I purchased a set of 6 in the store for around the same price.] Next, slide the remaining flat pieces in at the desired locations, and secure with zip ties (2-3 on each side, so 6-9 per shelf).

You can space your shelves out evenly among the cubes, but I wanted an open space on the bottom to store pictures for current projects. That way, I can't ignore them. Additionally, I have larger quantities of a few colors of paper, so I made those shelves a little deeper. Play with it -- make it work for you.

Other things this could store:

** Homeschool Curriculum
** Completed Art Projects
** Art Paper
** Card Stock
** Drying Flowers

The possibilities are endless, really. Enjoy!

For more of this week's great Works for Me Wednesday ideas,
visit Rocks in my Dryer.

On having nowhere to go...

We had our son cremated, and his ashes rest in an urn on an antique secretary in our home. As we approached this anniversary weekend, among other things, I've struggled with the decision we made not to bury his body, because here we are without a grave to visit. Now, I know full well that he's not there, but when you need to do something to manage your grief, not having a gravesite can be rather troublesome. (photo credit: Alex Blinder)

We tossed a few ideas back and forth, and while staying in bed for three days with the covers pulled over my head was in the running, we opted instead to get away. To get on a plane, to go somewhere we've never been, and to take an active step towards moving on. We need some time for restoration, so on Friday, James and I are flying to Denver.

Any suggestions for gentle activities?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Weekend Update

'Tis the season for loads of homework, so I don't have much time to write, but I wanted to post a quick weekend update. Before I do, a story:

I once visited a local church during the holiday season, which is the time of the year that the word 'tis is used with some degree of frequency. The pastor of this particular church planned to begin each of his three points with the word 'tis, but prior to the message, he relayed a story about how he and his staff spent the week arguing over pronunciation.

As he told it, the argument was between "tiss" (sounds like hiss), and "tizz" (sounds like fizz). I chuckled a bit because words can be tricky, and mispronunciations can be funny, particularly if his wacky staff members were trying to get him to say "tiss" at least three times in a sermon. Surely they were setting him up for some laughs at the next retreat, because as we all know, the word 'tis is a contraction of the two words it and is. And since is is pronounced "izz," it would stand to reason that 'tis is pronounced in the same way.

Good stuff. Really funny.

But then, he went on to say that he was going to go against the flow and say 'tis the way he thought it should be pronounced, and that is when I learned that we all don't know about contractions, or about the audio function on

Speaking of mispronunciations, I was inducted into the English Honors Society this weekend. The induction was complete with a ceremony, an oath, and a reception following with a service of cold cuts and cake. Bub called it "Mom's Smart Club Party," which was super. Oddly, I was the only new inductee with English as a declared major.

Maybe it's just me, but I view the limited number of English majors among the membership as a problem. The chapter is only two years old, so perhaps the number will increase with time, but still. The treasurer -- a Business major -- mispronounced several words during her portion of the presentation: insignia became insigMia, lapel became label, and there was something else, but I can't recall what it was. [Fortunately, having a good short term memory is not part of criteria for membership.] The president even broke clear language rules, but his major is Biology. For representatives of a society that promotes the "love and learning of language," it was a pretty troubling affair. Regardless, the sponsors mean well, and are very passionate, and their passion encourages me to believe that I can take this thing seriously.

Here I am being sworn in --
"I promise to read lots and lots of books,
and to do my best at pronunciation..."

This is Seth, the chapter president.
He introduced himself that way over and over again to everyone in the room.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Seth, President."
As much as he said it, I think my kids thought he was the President.

Bub and I had hot chocolate at Starbucks on a day far too warm for anything hot. We did a bit of people watching, had a good chat, and played near a fountain that he filled with all my silver coins, since Cooper had previously taken all my pennies. Bub and I have matching coffee stains.

How can I teach him to love his stained bits when I don't even like my own?

At The Sharper Image with the Man of Steel.
After visiting Disney World, the kids like to pose by absolutely everything.
I draw the line at beer displays in the grocery store.

Also at The Sharper Image: Brian the Brain
(This Interactive Digital Roommate made me feel so depressed
that I wondered if James would notice if I moved
all the lonely people of the world into the upstairs game room...
Seriously, I think I need help.
Either me, or the guy who thinks a brain in a bottle makes for a good roommate.)

Stick 'em up...

As for the rest of the weekend:

** Bub played in a football game where about 40% of his team didn't even show up. In fact, there weren't even enough boys there to offically play a game, but instead of calling it a forfeit, the coach of other team kindly benched some of his boys and made use of our Saturday morning. Despite that generous gesture, they played really well and absolutely slaughtered Bub's team.

** James and I saw the movie Smart People, which is about a self-absorbed literature professor. To a degree, I enjoyed it, but James merely tolerated it. He said he'd had about enough "English people" for one week, what with the induction and all.

** I saw some interesting news clips [Food Costs on the Rise and Homewrecker Pays].

** James played golf with some coworkers, and realized he's better at dressing the part than actually playing. His PGA Tour dreams have been dashed.

** I made arrangements for my 18-year old niece to live with us this summer before she's off to college. Friends, need a summer babysitter?

** I began studying for an upcoming Biology exam. As I read, I learned about the importance of having a head.

Better than Biology:

"Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ,
and the head of the woman is man,
and the head of Christ is God."
I Corinthians 11:13 NIV

"God has put all things under the authority of Christ
and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church."
Ephesians 1:22 NLT

"...Instead, speaking the truth in love,
we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
From him the whole body,
joined and held together by every supporting ligament,
grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4:15-16

And last, but most certainly not least, my blog friend Tara's dad passed away Sunday, which made me reflect on something Karen and I talked about when I visited her in the hospital. We talked about egocentricity -- about how even in the middle of our reaching out to others, it's still ultimately about us. The fact that I'm so self-centered even in the midst of service is something I still really need to work on.

At one point, I would have said that I'm in a consistent process of dying to myself, but in reality, that is just not true. I'm far from it. I mean I'd like to die to myself, and I understand it's an ongoing process, but sometimes I'm flabbergasted at my position in this process, and feel quite overwhelmed. And then there's the issue of my being quite lazy and very resistant to the whole "dying to myself" thing -- particularly of late. How that relates to Tara? It really doesn't, save for the fact that her faith in the midst of pain has been remarkable, and it reminds me of how rotten I really am.

As Jon Acuff over at Stuff Christians Like would say, I'd deserve God's great big elbow of death, were it not for His grace.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

On Keepin' It Real

I've been reading this blog lately called Stuff Christians Like, which is abolutely HILARIOUS. I can't even believe how dead on this guy is, and the things he thinks to point out makes me laugh until I snort or stop breathing altogether.

I found this in the archived posts, and while it's not necessarily in the hilarious category, I believe it's just another way to say what I've been saying all along:

Sometimes, we Christians, worry that if we admit things are not going well in our lives you will assume that our God is not good. You will see our struggles as a reflection of who our Lord is. So instead of being honest, we will drop the Christian "F" word, which of course is, "Fine." Even though you can see on our faces that we were up all night arguing with our wives we will tell you "things are fine." How's the new project going? Fine. How's the family? Fine. How are things with your wife? Fine. The problem with that approach, in addition to being really dishonest, is that we're called to comfort people in the way we've been comforted. We're called to roll up our sleeves and show our scars to other people and be real about them. Jesus came to heal the sick and when we pretend we aren't, we're just lying. (My other site is like a mistake parade based on the lessons I've learned.) Life doesn't have to be "fine." You are not failing if it isn't "fine." God is not less loving or powerful or great if you tell someone the truth. If anything, when you open up and are honest, you get to share how even in the midst of something sucktacular God is carrying you through those times.

Disclaimer: The site is meant as a fun way to look at some of the quirks that we as Christians have, and I personally think it's very important to look lightly at ourselves. The writer is down with Jesus and he knows that even as Christians, we don't have it all together. What better way to acknowedge that than by having a good laugh?

That said, I want to add that while this site is fun and is meant as a parody, I don't necessarily get behind 100% of the posts [probably more like 99.8%], and certainly not 100% of the comments. What's great though, even in the comments, is the fact that site is open for real discussion, and isn't that the ultimate goal?

I get behind that one million percent.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Turned Away

On the Thursday that Zachary died, I was released from the hospital. The nurses let me wait to vacate the room until I could hand his body off to the funeral home director myself. It was the middle of the day before he could come, and as I handed him our baby, I wondered how he would get his body back to the funeral home. There would be no casket, and he was far too small for a body bag. I still wonder how he was trasnported.

After the trauma of the birth and all the attempts at salvation, I could hardly bear to walk, but I refused to be wheeled out. James was in front of me pushing a cart that overflowed with flowers and lovely tokens of wishing well. I followed behind with a box of memories. As we passed the nurses station, the constant chatter quieted down, and not one eye glanced in our direction.

Around the corner was a bank of elevators tucked inside a little nook. As the cart rounded the corner, some new grandmother squealed, "Ooo, it looks like someone else had a baby!" Her hands were clutched under her chin, and her smile was wide, gaping. In an instant, understanding took over, her face contorted, and she quickly turned her whole body away from me -- as if whatever killed my baby would infect her own.

The sun was incredibly bright that day. Brighter than I'd ever seen it before.

I came home, and swept the kitchen.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Written Off

Before all the losses, I was not known to be a particularly emotional person with regard to crying and whatnot. When it comes to honoring my Irish heritage with fiery bouts of anger, it's safe to say that emotional, but as for the crying, I'm actually quite bad at it. I sometimes cry when I injure myself, and I often cry when people die, but otherwise, I manage emotion by cleaning something or by eating.

As our journey of infertility got underway and we began having loss after loss, I became more prone to tears, and now I sometimes cry at the most inappropriate times -- like while shopping at the supermarket, or while lunching at Central Market, or while filling up my car with gas. Sometimes I cry for good reasons, and other times I cry for the most ridiculous of reasons, and never on purpose at all.

For example, the other day, I was home alone watching Monk instead of doing chores or Algebra homework, and I started crying while watching a commercial for cheese. I don't know why I was crying over the cheese, except for the fact that it may have reminded me of some cheese I craved once when I was pregnant. Regardless, I was discomforted by the tear shedding, disturbed not only by the fact that I was crying, but also that my emotion was motivated by a processed food product.

As I sat and contemplated the nonsense of it all, I saw a preview for Lifetime movie called The Memory Keeper's Daughter, a movie based on the novel by Kim Edwards. Now normally, it's safe to say that I prefer hours and hours of looping reruns of Dora the Explorer to Lifetime movies, but for some reason, the trailer for this movie piqued my interest. I recorded it, and this morning, I watched it.

The movie itself was probably better than your average Lifetime movie, perhaps because the book it's based on is remarkable. It had a good message about life and love, as well as an example of an incensed battle for equal rights. Hard decisions were made, regret was had, change was attempted. It was altogether touching. Personally, however, I was most touched by an accurate depiction of the way a loss haunts.

It was late in the 60's. The mother in this story gave birth to twins -- a "perfect" boy, and a girl with Down's Syndrome. Neither the mother nor the father knew she was carrying twins, and it wasn't discovered until the second baby began crowning. When the baby was born, she had the physical features of a child with Down's Syndrome, and because of the lack of understanding in that era, the father (who, in an emergency, delivered the babies) instructed the nurse to take the baby to a "home for Mongoloids," thinking she wouldn't live very long. He made a split decision to protect his wife from the pain of raising what he believed was a terminally-ill child, only to have her die later, so he told his wife their daughter died during delivery.

I won't say anymore about the movie in case it comes out on DVD or something, but I will say this: the woman had everything in life -- a handsome and successful husband, a beautiful home, a healthy son -- but despite all of her many blessings, she couldn't help but see the missing baby everywhere she went. She'd not even known she was carrying a second child, and yet, she was haunted by the baby in the empty space of the crib. And while not in a debilitating way, as time passed, she imagined her daughter at every stage of life. She never "got over" her loss, and she never completely moved on as her husband originally hoped she would.

I couldn't believe that particular detail had been added, because before I having a loss of my own, I had no idea just how haunting they could be. Before my own, I was the unwitting bystander who insisted a loss must all be for the best. I'd only heard of losses occurring as the result of something being wrong with the baby, but all of my losses (save for the last one) had to do with me and a defect in my body. None of it was for the best. But whether the loss was prompted by my body's defiance of motherhood, or the baby's inability to form properly, the losses -- each and every one -- stay with me.

I see the space in my house, unused as it was intended. I see the space in my family, growing ever larger and ever more empty. And I feel the space in my womb: tomb like, tormenting. Sorrow is present in the midst of any joy.

"If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created [meaning Heaven]. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to 'glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bath[e] him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild."

-- C.S. Lewis
A Grief Observed

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Do I smell something rotten? Oh wait, that's me.

The third time I visited Karen at the hospital, she asked why I'd come to visit in the first place. We'd already talked about how in our respective situations, people didn't respond the way we thought they would. We had similar stories of longtime friends who disappeared when the going got tough, as well as stories of the most unexpected people rising to the challenge. I think as a thrice visiting stranger, she didn't know where to categorize me.

I explained as I have here already, that when I was in her situation, I felt so alone. Lying in that bed hour after hour, day after day, I felt unrelatable, abandoned. I came to her because I understood where she was at -- physically, emotionally, spiritually.

I knew that my laying in wait would have a good outcome -- at least, I hoped it would. I knew something was growing inside, and at the appointed time, birth was inevitable. Regardless of the anticipated result, regardless of the fruit of my labor, the pain of the struggle was constant. Because I could relate to her struggle, I made myself available to encourage her and to support her in whatever way I could.

Ultimately, that's been one focus of this blog -- at least in my mind.

Originally, I began blogging because I'm far too distracted to journal on paper anymore. In order to journal, I have to first put the laundry away, because it will taunt me if I stretch out at all. Then, once I get comfortable and find the next free page in my journal, I realize that my pen is out of ink. I get up and head to the kitchen where I begin unloading the dishwasher, because by the time I've arrived in the kitchen, I've forgotten what I'm in there for. As I load the dishwasher, I clean out the refrigerator, because I always need two or three more things to fill the load and the nearly empty leftover dishes will do nicely. I rinse those and put them on the rack, start the washer, and begin scrubbing the refrigerator, because, after all, I'm already in there. While cleaning the refrigerator, I remember the carrots still need to be peeled and are becoming a little soft, so I peel them, chop them, and bag them to make soup for dinner. I pull out a pen and notepad to make a list for the rest of the dinner ingredients -- chicken, celery, onion, Heinz ketchup -- and as I pause to think of what else belongs on the list, I begin to chew on the end of my pen. All of a sudden, I remember the pen is why I came to the kitchen in the first place, but now it's time for the grocery store and dinner preparation and homework help and homework of my own and bedtime stories and reality TV and conversation and more dish washing and before I know it, the day is completely and utterly gone. The journal returns to its spot at my bedside, and another day passes without recording.

I'd not really considered blogging as a viable alternative to my sporadic journaling, but my sweet friend Amy insisted I begin doing something. I was spinning in circles after losing Zachary, and when I got to that place of trying to make sense of things, she encouraged this as an outlet for processing. I'm glad she did. I'm much better behind a keyboard than I am in real life. This particular venue has been ideal for me because not only has it allowed me a convenient location to actively work through the process of grief, but it has also become an avenue to perhaps reach some other people, and to relate to the unrelatable.

While I still intend to use this blog as a place to work, with embarrassing and brutal honesty, through whatever, I hope that it will matter to someone, somewhere. I hope that someone at the very end of their rope, completely consumed with grief, will end up here, and will realize that there is hope, regardless of circumstances and how they appear.

This blog is FAR from being an answer blog, because the last thing I have is answers. Instead, I have experience, and lots of it. More important than that, I have a relationship with a loving and merciful God, who sustains me and guides me in both the good times and the bad. It is He who has given me a glimmer of hope when there was none. It is He who brought me unimaginable comfort when the hope was snatched away. It is He who restores me, piece by piece, moment by moment. And it is He who waits, willing to bring that same hope and comfort and restoration to all who call on His name.

I felt it was important to reiterate these purposes here because I found myself in a situation today where nasty me came out in full force. You know, good ol' stinky, rotten, mean-spirited, foul-mouthed me. I know why nasty me showed up. My days are disappearing. I'm one planner page turn away from the day that is surprisingly not marked, "Mourn baby's death," and I'm coping by being controlling and angry and just pretty rotten through and through.

[For example, over the last week or so, I think I've called James at work maybe three-thousand times to make sure he submits a request to have next Friday off. I've been impatient with my children, finding myself extra sensitive to their normal behavior, and yet, wanting to keep them very, very close. I've been riddled with physical aches and pains, whereas I normally am not, and I wonder if there's an association. Today, I subjected some friends to a bitter rampage, responding spitefully to a situation that has nothing to do with me, and later was left to make amends.]

I was hoping to be more graceful wrapping up this year, but alas, I am not. Who am I kidding anyway, what with the inevitable coffee stain on my shirt, hair that is never quite right, and a brain that is better behind a keyboard than in real life? Graceful is not at all what I am. Wholly reliant upon grace is more the case, which is why I suggest you consider yourself warned. I have no idea who will be at these keys: somber me, contemplative me, grateful me, nasty me.

What I do know is that I intend to be at these keys as much as I can -- to record my thoughts, to recall my experience, to remind myself of where I've been, and maybe, to catch a glimpse of where I'm going. And if I'm lucky, perhaps someone, someday, will leave here with a little bit of hope, confident in the fact that they too are not alone.

Monday, April 14, 2008

On Third Day and The Wave

After a Saturday morning of garage sales and an afternoon football game (where Bub's team won), we headed to Arlington for a Third Day concert and a Rangers game. The kids particularly enjoyed Third Day and were surprised every time they heard a song normally played on the radio. It was like magic!

The only other live music show they'd ever been to was the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival a couple of years ago when Trout Fishing in America performed. At the time, their CDs were in rotation in our car, so we couldn't miss them playing in our area. However, any given Third Day song is much cooler than "My Hair Had a Party Last Night" or "18 Wheels on a Big Rig," which made the concert so great. Bub busted out with some dance moves and stayed interested until he found a big mound of muddy ground. After two or three songs, Gracie was more interested in the snacks in my bag. (Sidenote: regardless of the coolness factor, I'd see TFinA again anytime. Their music is so much fun!)

For your listening pleasure:

Third Day: "Show Me Your Glory"

Trout Fishing in America: "18 Wheels on a Big Rig"

Pictures from our day

Following the concert, we watched the Rangers compete against the Toronto Blue Jays. (And I say "compete" because I think they forgot how to play. It was a miserably boring game.) The highlight of the evening was the wave that the belligerent drunk guys seated near us began and kept going. The fun of the wave somewhat made up for the onslaught of auditory abuse. Somewhat. We cut out early when the inebriates who'd been temporarily ejected returned to their seats and began pelting people in their section with peanuts. After an already long and eventful day, there was no reason to wait around for that inevitable brawl. (See picture: the sunlight streaming onto the field says "HI.")

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"A life with love
will have some thorns,
but a life without love
will have no roses.

Thank you, James.
Just what I needed.

Friday, April 11, 2008


"Are these jottings morbid?
I once read the sentence,
"I lay awake all night with a toothache,
thinking about toothache
and about lying awake."
That's true to life.
Part of every misery is, so to speak,
the misery's shadow or reflection:
the fact that you don't merely suffer
but have to keep on thinking
about the fact that you suffer.
I not only live each endless day in grief,
but live each day thinking about
living each day in grief."

-- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

WFMW: Unique Uses for Tool Bins (Updated)

I have a thing for organization. I really, really, really love organizing things. I'm pretty sure it's quite unhealthy, but gosh darn it, it's fun.

Just as I love to make substitutions in a favorite recipe in order to utilize what I have on hand, I, in the selfsame way, like to use what I have to create inventive storage solutions. Over the next couple of Works For Me Wednesdays, I'll show you some of my favorite ways to store our junk.

Featured here today are tool bins. If you shop in The Home Depot, Lowe's or a similar store, you may recognize bins like these from the hardware aisles. Most commonly, bins like these are used to store nuts, bolts, and screws. In my house, they're used to store fruit snacks, lint rollers, and glitter.

I acquired these tool bins a few years back when my mom worked with a hardware vendor. Every few months, she would have to reconfigure a display and replace the used bins with a new ones. When the used ones were in perfect condition, she would toss them in my direction, instead of just tossing them in the garbage. (Unfortunately, she no longer works with that vendor, so I thought my supply was cut off, but she recently told me she saw similar bins for sale at The Home Depot.) Moreover, while it may be difficult to see, inside the craft bins particularly you'll notice that I use other tiny tool organizers and office supply organizers to keep very small like items together.

[UPDATE: Gibee at Kisses of Sunshine found these same tilt bins for sale online as medical supplies. See? So many great uses! The bins pictured at this link are the smaller bins similar to the ones I store tea suppies in. (See below.) All the other ones I've shown are the size just bigger.]

I know there are many storage solutions specifically geared for the crafter and scrapbooker, but I've found many of the products that would be useful for me are sold at a premium because of the type of store they're sold in or how they're labeled. I prefer to store things on the cheap, and storage solutions for hardware or office supplies can often be found at garage sales or thrift stores for a low, low cost.

When it comes to organization, keeping my eyes and my mind open works for me.

Storing Snacks in the Pantry

This Storage Unit is the only good thing about the laundry room.
Down With Laundry!

Effective Storage for Excessive Hairbows
(Please disregard the wipes.)

Time for Tea
Tilting Bins in Two Smaller Sizes

And my favorite of all...
Craft Storage in the Scrapbooking Room

Kid Craft Supplies, also stored in the Scrapbooking Room

Appreciate the Label Maker Magic
My Favorite Label: Bric-A-Brac, because it's so fun to say!

(For more great tips, tricks, and ideas, check out Works for Me Wednesday hosted by Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer.)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pet Project

I'm an animal lover, just not a pet lover, which is why this dinnertime craft aquarium is the closest thing Gracie will get to the real thing.

Don't you just love the freakishly large fin on her pet paper shark?

When Ice Cream is the Will of God

The kids were playing outside today after school, when all of a sudden, Bub burst through the door screaming, "MOM! MOM!" I came running from my bedroom thinking Gracie must have just been attacked by a rabid dog or the car was stolen out of the driveway -- something dramatic for a call so frantic. As I raced towards him to see what the matter was, he exclaimed, "THERE'S AN ICE CREAM TRUCK OUTSIDE!"

Now, normally I might have corrected him on scaring me to death, but to Bub, the ice cream truck he could hear coming our way was an actual answer to prayer.

Not long after we moved here, he, while crying, told me he wanted to get a different house because ice cream trucks didn't come to our neighborhood. I told him that wasn't a reason to move, but he was serious. Their neglect of our neighborhood was so troubling to him that if he had any say in the matter, we would pack and move post haste.

A time or two afterwards, he actually prayed that God would send an ice cream truck, which I thought was cute and a sweet memory for the scrapbook. I thought that God probably enjoyed that prayer as much as I did, but I didn't give it a lot of thought. And while Bub hasn't prayed for the passing of an ice cream truck over the last few months, he has brought the issue up periodically and wondered what might be keeping them away.

Today was the day of answered prayers.

I grabbed some cash and rushed into the yard with the children. We craned our necks to determine the direction from which "Home, Home on the Range" wafted, and we decided that the truck was stopped just one street over. By this time, all the children who had just been outside playing were inside begging mommies for money.

As we waited, Bub ran to the intersection of a street a few houses down -- one that dead ends into ours -- to see if he could spot the truck and wave it our way. By that time, all the other children were back outside and racing to join him. Bub was there only a moment or two before he began to shout, "I see it, I see it!" But nearly just as quickly, he dejectedly called to me that the truck passed the turn. He wasn't coming onto our street.

We live on a quiet cul-de-sac street tucked in the middle of a big neighborhood, and I can easily see how we could be missed or ignored. Without a doubt, though, I will do all I can to see that my little boy isn't disappointed. Should I let him see the answer to a prayer before his very eyes and leave him to watch it drive away? Nope, not if I can help it.

I turned in the other direction, and I began to run.

And if you know me, you know my running means business.

By now, a large cluster of kids took my lead and began to follow me. Bikes racing, scooters scootering, kid feet pounding the pavement -- we all headed to the intersection where our street meets a more major one. We reached the corner where I shouted to the children to wait while I continued to run. (It's the boundary for most of the children on our block.) I rounded the corner, leaving our street, all the while still running. And here I should say that some sort of adrenaline kicked in because I was hardly even winded.

At least not as winded as I should have been.

You know, with the windedness that comes before death.

As the ice cream truck came into view, I could see the driver turning his wheel away from me. Now, I'm a smart gal, and I know that even adrenaline running has limits. I also know there's no way I could run the entire neighborhood chasing down a Bomb Pop, so I began to yell and wave my arms in an appropriately frantic way. The driver, when he heard my shouting, stopped and motioned me over.

"There are six kids waiting for you on that corner," I huffed, and pointed behind me.

"But I going theese way," he replied (with a heavy Eastern European accent), as he pointed in the opposite direction.

"Sir," I puffed, "I just ran down our whole street to get to you, and there are six kids waiting just on the other side of this fence. You have to come this way."

The fact that I had my serious mom face on may have helped, but after a mere moment of standoff, he nodded his head, waved me away, and turned in our direction. When the kids heard the music coming towards them, I heard jubilant shouts long before I saw happy faces. And when I finally caught a glimpse of those faces, my boy's face had the biggest smile of them all.

This is the second batch of kids he served after turning down our street.
He easily made $60 or more by making a little detour in our direction.

Why do children prefer to eat Popsicles in the shape of a severed face?

The Happiest Boy on the Block

(And I'm probably going to have to answer for this one, but...)

"And this is the confidence that we have in him,
that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
And if we know that he hear us,
whatsoever we ask,
we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."
I John 5:14-15

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Nothing Like Riding a Bike

Today was race day at the Texas Motor Speedway, and while we are not NASCAR fans, we are good friends with a couple who is. We kept both of their girls while they rooted for their favorite drivers. Their oldest daughter Rachel spent the majority of the day upstairs playing with Bub and Gracie. We hardly saw the three of them all day long. The baby, Rebecca, behaved as babies do -- eating, sleeping, and filling her diaper.

Rebecca fell asleep about as soon as her parents walked out the door, and I smugly thought to myself, "This is going to be easy." Forty-five minutes later, she woke up, all coos and smiles, and needed to be fed. I had to sit for a good long while to coax an exclusively nursed baby to take a bottle, and I thought while I sat that it's been forever since I had to sit somewhere. Sounds weird, I know, but since I was a nursing mom myself, I rarely just sit without at least mentally moving on to the next thing.

After her bottle, she was ready for another nap, but the bottle made her burpy and she needed some soothing. We moved from sitting in the rocker to reclining on the bed. Some back-patting stopped the boo-hooing, and as the tears stopped, the sleeping started. At that point, I was stuck. I knew I wasn't as sneaky as I once was, so I was left holding the sleeping baby until she decided to wake up (which was not a bad thing at all).

James came into the bedroom while the big girls hid Gracie's Hide-and-Seek Hayley, and noticed the baby was asleep again. He said, "Looks like you've still got that magic touch. It must be like riding a bike."

I smiled in acknowledgement of his comment, but I learned that caring for a baby is nothing at all like riding a bike. I mean, the technical caring for a baby was easy to manage. (I don't think one could ever forget how to change a diaper.) But the things that come with being the mother of a baby is long gone, those instinctual things, such as knowing how to balance a crying baby with dinner-making. I didn't realize that second-nature response wouldn't be with me forever. Fortunately, Rebecca is a patient little girl.

The kids enjoyed having a baby here. They made silly faces and were surprised at every smile. They kissed her face, rubbed her head, shared their favorite toys, and argued over which of them Rebecca liked the best. It was a sweet and fun day, and I am far more tired than I've been in a very long time.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Conundrum of Consistency

We're in the midst of a parenting conundrum. Bub spent the week -- every day this week -- getting in trouble at school. Recently, a point was brought up about "his behavior pattern," and we have been puzzled since.

In general, Bub is your average, every day seven-year-old, and if you don't have one of those, they can be quite irritating from time to time. Our boy is the same as all boys -- he enjoys noise coming out of his mouth and other orifices, he likes to talk all the time, he gets wiggly quite a lot. The fact that he has ADHD exacerbates those normal boy behaviors around lunchtime before he takes medication, but for the most part, he's really no different than any other boy.

His teacher, Ms. G, is very sweet and she's been exceedingly patient with him through the learning of new routines and the changing of medications. She really seems gifted to teach little boys, she's enduring when it comes to those ADHD moments, and she seems to really care for Bub. We're grateful for her, and we feel blessed that he has her as a teacher this year.

During Open House, Ms. G brought up these "random" week-long occurrences of poor behavior decisions on his part, and commented on how odd they were. She observed the fact that he's really cooperative and obedient three weeks out of every month, but in that same month, he averages four or five bad days generally all clumped together. Until she brought up that point, James and I hadn't really thought about it, but her observation sparked a discussion between us.

Bub does great three weeks of a month, and then about one week a month, he "struggles." He comes home with behavior demerits for talking or for not following directions -- complaints which are vague, at best. However, despite the fact that he's just been in trouble at school, he comes home and behaves as well as he normally does, which is really quite good. Nothing seems out of the ordinary to us.

Now, don't get me wrong: Bub has bad days, as we all do, but it makes more sense when he has a bad day at school and behaves like a crazy person at home. There's a consistency there, and we know what to do with that. The confusing thing to us is when he has a bad week at school, but behaves normally (and sometimes better than normally) when he's home again.

So far, we've been consistent with our behavior expectations, and with consequences when those expectations are not met, but at this point, we're at the end of our redirecting rope. It seems that these solid "in-trouble" weeks occur about the same time and for the same length of time every month. To me it seems what we may be dealing with might have less to do with Bub and more to do with Ms. G, if you know what I mean. I'm totally speculating here, but his poor behavior decision days clumped all together and occurring at approximately the same time every month seem so coincidental. We're not one for excuses, but we're wondering if there may be a legitimate one here.

Those truly random bad days when rules are ignored and behavior is unacceptable, we have no problem removing at-home privileges or following through in other pre-determined ways. But what do we do with that cluster of days that seem to be less his fault? I'm absolutely certain that those days he gets in trouble, he's in trouble because he's behaving in a particularly irritating way, but could it not more that the observer is just more prone to irritability? How do we encourage improved behavior in that 25% window when he's behaving exactly as he does the other 75% of the time? How can we maintain consistency of correction here when it seems like there may be an absence of consistency in judging his behavior when he's out of our care?


Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Fourth

I thought having a baby would make it easier, this looming anniversary. I thought my having a baby to hold would ease the grief the month would hold. I thought burying my face among the soft folds of baby skin would make tears less toxic and the heart less bitter, so we conceived in July -- the first month we were able.

Despite prior struggles, we were hopeful. We'd figured out how to manipulate hormones to make it through the first trimester, and I'd been physically altered to overcome cervical incompetence. We felt physically triumphant, but we never, ever planned for the baby to just die. We had only a few weeks of expectation before the tiny heart we saw ceased its beating and the baby's body left mine for good.

Sweet pea, as your due date passes, we remember you and long for the day we'll see you face to face. And we're holding fast to Jesus, the One who carries us through the storm.

"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

"So with you: Now is your time of grief,
but I will see you again and you will rejoice,
and no one will take away your joy."
John 16:22

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Saturday Recap

Saturday was Bub's first flag football game, and yesterday at school, he wrote an account of his experience. These are his thoughts, verbatim:

On Saterday I had to go to our very first football game. I was on offince in the first haff. My teams name was the Green Dragons and the teams name was the Yellow Bees. It was very hard. After the first haff was over, the score bored siad... Dragons had 0 points and the other team had 7 points. We were giting beat bad. Then they called deffience to come to the feaild. While they were playing, I was watching them play. They looked they had a pretty hard time without me. We had flags on and we haff to pull them. Both teams had flags. Thire team was very good at playing football. They were better then our team. I hope we win the next big game!

(Don't mind the misspellings -- he's in the first grade and is encouraged to spell phonetically. Italics added to emphasize my favorite part. Such a humble boy.)

And oh, How They Procreate

Since she's now in her 12th week and clearing the first trimester, I believe it's probably safe to publicly announce that the other Amanda (my baby brother's lovely wife) is pregnant with their second child. They're very excited, we're excited for them, and my mom seems very happy that someone is finally giving her another grandchild.

Here's Amanda at Thanksgiving taking a pie out of the oven.
Now imagine her with a wee Bun in the Oven.

"Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
Psalm 127:3 NLT

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hold Fast

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a little package of picture frames. The frames were made by a presumably now-defunct California company called Form & Reform. The frame style is called Hold-Fast, and the box shares this bit of trivia:

"In Days of Olde, sailors tattooed the words Hold Fast on their knuckles to remind themselves to hold on tight." (Photo Credit: Botanize)

I at first chuckled to myself when I read that. I pictured myself port side in the middle of a stormy sea, and it didn't take long for me to determine within myself that even without actually having experienced any boat/storm scenario in real life, if I ever found myself in that situation, I would without a doubt be doing nothing more than Holding Fast. Well, except for screaming. I would for sure be doing nothing more than those two things -- Holding Fast and Screaming -- and I'm pretty sure I don't need anything or anyone to remind me.

At that point, I recalled this Discovery Channel show James and I used to watch called The Deadliest Catch. Basically, this show chronicles a most perilous profession: that of the Alaskan crabber. These crazy people launch out into the Bering Sea, where two-story tall waves slamming full force into puny human bodies is not uncommon, and they risk their actual lives so our seafood buffets will be overrun with gnarly little decomposers.

Now, I'm not one for watching fishing shows. Unless I have a good, long nap on the agenda, I can't bring myself to tune in to people sitting, whispering, and watching a line bob in the water. But this, my friends, ain't no fishin' show. The Deadliest Catch is (was*) so much more. The only reason I tuned in (and this is horrible) was to see who would be swept away, but despite my faithful viewership, I've never seen anyone go down.

Do you know why that is?

They know to Hold Fast.

These crabbers, as I'm sure is the case with seafarers of all sorts, go about doing their jobs in the most precarious of situations. They function in the midst of crashing waves and rocking boats, and they press through hardships, trials, and tribulations just to make it to the end of the day. And when the storm blows in -- the kind that makes it all worse and the kind that could take them under -- they know what anchors them, they take hold of it, and it is that to which they Hold Fast.

Hold Fast, v.: stick to firmly (from

"But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law
that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you:
to love the LORD your God,
to walk in all his ways,
to obey his commands,
to hold fast to him
and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul."
Joshua 22:5 NIV

"It is the LORD your God you must follow,
and him you must revere.
keep his commands and obey him;
serve him and hold fast to him."
Deut. 13:4 NIV

"My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me through your law.
I have chosen the way of truth;
I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD;
do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free."
Psalm 119:28-32 NIV

"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest
by the blood of Jesus,
By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us,
through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
And having an high priest over the house of God;
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience,
and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering;
(for he is faithful that promised)..."
Hebrews 10:19-23 KJV

(*I say "was" because we have actual lives now and that's a show that unfortunately doesn't make the DVR Prioritizer.)

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