Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cause this is thriller...

Thriller night.
--"Thriller," Michael Jackson

It's late and we're ready for bed, so this will be short. All you really want is pictures of Jay and Luke in their costumes anyway, so here you go--Bob the Builder and the Rockstar.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fire Truck, Fire Truck...

...I wanna ride on a Fire Truck!
Fire Truck, Fire Truck
I wanna ride on a Fire Truck
-Fire Truck, Ivan Ulz

Okay friends, I must admit that I had never heard this song before today. What? You haven't heard it either? Well, please take a listen.

Jay is so ready to be back at school. Because his INR has been too high since we got back to Raleigh, his cardiologist was uncomfortable with him being in a daycare setting. High INR means his blood takes too long to clot, so he's at much higher risk of bleeding from minor cuts and (more importantly) higher risk of head injury.

As much fun as he's been having with me, he loves kids his own age and loves the endless stream of song and dance that is a daycare setting. So we spend some time each morning hanging out in his new class. We drop off Luke with his buddies in the infant class, then head down the hall to see what kind of musical entertainment we'll find in the two's class. And almost every day, we find some two year olds with some funky dance moves.

Today, the twos were all sitting in a circle and singing when we arrived. Fantastic! Just in time for the music party. The teachers were taking requests, and the first was for "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Jay's fave song up first?! Seriously - Jay is gonna LOVE this class! He even got in a request for "Down By The Station" between his friends' requests for the "ABC" song and "Baby Bumblebee."

Then, Grace wanted to sing a solo. While I was unfamiliar with her musical selection, I must say that she sang with great enthusiasm. Her performance was cheered by much clapping all around. And, of course, when one toddler gets a solo, they ALL want a solo. The teachers were happy to oblige, though I'm not sure whether it was encouraging the kids' confidence in front of a group, or just the chance to rest their weary voices. Either way...

The next solo was a little boy who sang the fire truck song above. (If you didn't listen earlier, you really must now!) Having never heard the song, I thought it was pretty cute, but the teachers gave each other a knowing look that I can only assume meant something like "Oh Brother. Here we go again." When he finished, the teacher asked, "Who wants to sing a DIFFERENT song?!"

There were many willing volunteers, each promising to sing something else. But when their moment in the spotlight came, every single one of them opted to sing "Fire Truck." Yes, each and every kid. Each of the ELEVEN renditions of "Fire Truck" was belted out with increasing gusto, and some of them even included jumping up and down. By about version 7, I was absolutely cracking up.

Then, this afternoon, Uncle John came by the center to provide some musical accompaniment for the fall festival. He sang a song or two, then opened it up to requests. Big mistake, Uncle John. Of course, having had "Fire Truck" stuck in their heads since the morning, you can imagine what the twos class wanted to hear.

When I tell you it was like a baby rave, I am not at all kidding. There were kids of all sizes jumping up and down in a big mass, crowding around Uncle John, screaming at the top of their lungs. "Fire Truck! Fire Truck! I want to ride on a FIRE TRUCK!!!!!!" All we needed was some crowd surfing, and it would have been quite the dance club scene. Just don't let Jay do any crowd surfing. You know, blood thinners and head injuries and all...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Come on baby, light my fire...

...come on baby, light my fire
try to set the night on fire
-The Doors, Light My Fire

Ahhhh, fall. I love the trees as they start to change colors. I love the crispness in the air (though I must admit that NC has seen precious little of that this year during our record-setting heat wave). I love the outdoors in the fall, and one of my fave ways to enjoy the great outdoors is camping. So last weekend, the whole McFoster clan headed out to test out the new camper that my folks just got. Jay has nicknamed this vehicle "Camp the Camper." You can't just call it "Camp," mind you. It's Camp the Camper. "I want to go in Camp the Camper!"

Now, I must admit, camping in an RV is not my idea of camping. I'm no primitive backwoods backpacking girl ... if there's no potty with actual toilet paper within walking distance, it's not really my thing. But I had imagined a camper as a glorified hotel room without the benefit of someone to change your sheets. I mean, it's not camping in my mind unless you're sleeping on the ground. But I decided to be open minded about it and give it a shot, with the plan for me and Derek to stay in our trusty, well-loved tent. My mom so kindly named it "Ren Tin Tent." (C'mon, you had to chuckle at that!)

We got a bit of a late start, but frankly, that's just how I was raised. We're chronically late. So even though we were only headed about 30 miles from Raleigh, it was after dark when we got there. Derek and I got the tent set up before it got completely dark, and we managed to aim our headlights at the site for dad to back Camp the Camper into its space.

As soon as we got it parked, Jay began begging "Let's go camping!" We're like, "This is it, kiddo. This IS camping." Clearly, that answer was unsatisfactory. He kept asking "No, let's go camping in Camp the Camper!" Eventually, we realized that he'd imagined camping to mean riding around in the camper. Poor kid. Not gonna happen with a pull-behind trailer. And unless we really get into this business, we're not buying an RV that you can drive.

But once he realized that his vision of camping needed to line up with ours, he got into it. He ate a few roasted marshmallows, and got sticky goo all over every inch of his hair. He slept in his clothes. He wore said clothes again the next day. He cooked sausage and grits with his Uncle Matt. He double fisted said sausage, eating two patties at once (one in each hand!). He dug in the dirt. He went fishing with Popper. He took a nap in the tent. He went on a little hike with his daddy. He ate a lot of junk food, including a SlimJim. (Derek says it's just not camping without them.) He learned the finer points of building a campfire as Popper and Uncle Matt debated proper wood-stacking technique. (Answer - both the teepee method and the log cabin method work pretty well as long as you have 4 firestarters underneath!) He had a fantastic time in the woods and didn't play with a single toy. He invented his own from sticks and rocks and his imagination.

Laid back Luke approached the whole camping business the same way he approaches everything else ... with a smile. We plopped him on a sleeping bag on the ground and he scooted around, gnawing on anything he could reach. He was as happy as could be as long as we kept him well-fed. And let me assure you that, even though Luke and I refused to attempt the SlimJims, we were all quite well-fed.

I must say that this trip made me miss my Appie & Papa more than usual. They loved to camp, and all of my childhood camping trips were with them. When the firewood we bought was seriously green, my dad commented "Papa would have said, 'That firewood had squirrels livin' in it yesterday!'" It made me laugh, hearing in my mind exactly how Papa would have said it. I trust that he was helping us out, watching us from above and making sure our green wood burned enough to roast our marshmallows.

All in all, I could not have asked for a more perfect weekend with my family. In the end, it's not whether you sleep in a tent or in a bed, it's who is there to roast the marshmallows with you.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A fair is a veritable...

...smorgasbord, orgasbord, orgasbord
after the crowds have ceased
Each night when the lights go out
it can be found
on the ground
all around
Oh what a ratly feast!

(I'm not going to identify the song ... but I'll give a prize for the first person to comment with the correct source AND singer of this fave song from my childhood! No cheating ... Google knows everything but I want to know who really remembers!)

Ahh, the fair. I love the fair - the sound of kids squealing, the smell of fried food, the people watching, the exhibits with giant vegetables, the animals, the demonstrations of super absorbent towels - I love it all. Well, I don't love the rides, but there's more than plenty to do at the fair while keeping one's feet firmly planted on the ground.

Last night we loaded up the boys and headed out to see what the state fair has to offer for 2010. I was a little worried about how we'd haul them both around, but it worked out better than I could have dreamed. Luke was (as usual!) more than happy to ride on Derek's chest in the Ergo, and Jay was surprisingly content to view the knees of the other fairgoers from stroller-level. I'm not sure how we'd do it if we decide to have another little one ... I think going to the fair will be quite a challenge when the kids outnumber us.

As you might expect, we ate from one end of the fairgrounds to the other. We considered letting Jay test out the one pound hot dog that was featured in the N&O this year, but we weren't sure his heart could take it. We weren't so concerned about the artery-clogging nature of the pounder, but were quite worried that he'd be so excited about the prospect of eating the world's largest dog that he might go into cardiac arrest. Instead, he chowed down on some roasted corn (probably the only quasi-healthy option in the whole place) and a steak sandwich from the NC Cattleman's booth.

And Luke, whose enormous appetite probably would have allowed him to finish off the much-discussed Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger, instead stuck to baby food. But he thoroughly enjoyed his first taste of french fry! None of us were brave enough to taste the KK burger - or more accurately, none of us were willing to spend hours working off the 4000 calories that thing contains.

Even though we do the exact same things every single year, we had a blast. We weighed ourselves at the Department of Weights & Measures, wishing my dear Uncle D was there to crack jokes as we stepped onto the cattle scale. (Jay is up to 33 pounds - back up to his pre-surgery weight!) We examined the tractor display and the antique highway patrol cars. We oooohed and ahhhhhed over the giant pumpkins. We started teaching the boys the difference in a polled hereford and a charolais. (Can ya tell the family vet took us through the animal expo building?!) We sampled peanuts, BBQ sauce, Cheerwine, and hush puppies from the Goodness Grows in NC tent. Even in our non-food pursuits, we were surrounded by food.

But the highlight of the night was when we bought our apple cider and headed over to check out the blacksmith shop. Even Luke woke up from his nap to check out the hammering. Fire + big tools = one seriously happy toddler. I need to get a video of him describing how the man "turns that great big ol' handle and fire goes up that tube-y." Adorable.

All in all, a great time at the fair. But now - can you identify the song lyric inspiration?

Monday, October 18, 2010

When we've been there ten thousand years...

...bright shining as the sun
we've no less days
to sing God's praise
than when we'd first begun
-Amazing Grace

There are certain moments in life that freeze into your mind. Those that capture a feeling that will last forever. I had one of those moments yesterday, and it was so beautiful to me that I want to capture it in words, too.

Yesterday afternoon was our church's annual fall festival. It's not a fancy event. We gather at Optimist Farm, take a hayride (or four) around the field and through the woods, bob for apples, eat some hot dogs. The big boys usually play football, and the kids play cornhole or ladder golf. But mostly we wander around and visit with friends, enjoying the weather and watching young'uns play. It's fall at its best for me.

But after dinner is when it really gets good. There's a bonfire (small and controlled in a fire pit, thank you!) and marshmallow roasting. Well, since it's mostly kids, there's more marshmallow igniting than marshmallow roasting, but they seem to enjoy them blackened. Then the singin' starts.

We have some awesomely talented musicians at FBC. Our choir's anthem on Sunday morning absolutely took my breath away. The music is traditional, reverent, beautiful - exactly what I want to hear on a Sunday morning. But the campfire singin' is good ol' fashioned hymns like your grandma sang in her little white clapboard Baptist church in the country. Pow'r in the Blood. I'll Fly Away. Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. Throw in a few requests by the kids - Jesus Loves the Little Children, Deep and Wide (thank you Sweet T - great suggestion!), She'll be Comin' Around the Mountain - and you have quite the sing along.

The accompaniment to this singin' is quite a collection - a couple of guitars, an upright bass, an accordion (seriously!), a few tambourines for the kids who're willing to join in, a washboard. In spite of the fact that I can't carry a tune in a bucket, I enthusiastically sang along because seriously, I just can't resist "I'll Fly Away."

But the mental image I'm tucking into my mind is when we sang Amazing Grace. Derek had Luke snuggled close on his chest in the baby carrier, fast asleep. I'm singing to my little off-key heart's content. We're standing beside friends, surrounded by the church family that helped to carry us through our dark days. And Jay is in the center of it all, grinning and dancing his crazy toddler moves (he definitely got his Daddy's rhythm-or lack thereof). He was absolutely full of life, enjoying himself as totally and completely as he ever has. Beautiful moment, full of amazing grace. I shed a little tear of joy. I am so grateful for the blessings in my life.

Friday, October 15, 2010

It's magic... know
never believe it's not so
it's magic, you know
never believe it's not so
-Pilot, "Magic"

You've been waiting for it - a sappy-free post. (Whew, finally!) This post is all about our littlest magician who, although unable to pick up a cheerio and get it to his mouth, is able to completely undress himself.

One day at school, his teachers commented on his magician skills - they told me that he managed to take his diaper halfway off WHILE STILL WEARING his pants! I'm thinking, "Sure. Y'all just didn't get the diaper closed well. Ha ha - funny anyway." But after last night, I'm starting to wonder if they were onto something.

As you may remember, our dear sweet easygoing Luke-o can be a little devil in the middle of the night. He lures us into a false sense of security, going to bed without a peep and sleeping through the night for nearly a week. Then all of a sudden - WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! - the 2 a.m. intruder arrives. We'd been due a middle of the night screamfest; he's been sleeping through the night all week.

When the screaming started last night, I went in to find that his diaper had overflowed. This actually can be a good sign - it sometimes means that the crying stops quickly with a clean diaper and dry jammies. I put him into two piece PJ's since that is what was on the top of the drawer.

Unfortunately, clean clothes did nothing to settle the crying so I resorted to holding and rocking. The screams just got louder. So, I put him down (still screaming). With a kiss kiss on the head, I left the room, hoping that a little time would settle him down. When the screams hadn't quieted 10 mins later, I went back to check on him. One leg was completely out of his pants! Ummm, okay, they were a little big. But it's not like I put him in my pants! I re-dressed him, being sure that the pajama bottoms were pulled halfway to his armpits. (C'mon - It's not like anyone is going to see this mini-grandpa look in the middle of the night.) That seemed to make him happier, so another kiss on the head and I left again.

Ten more minutes later, the wailing had gotten even louder, so I went back to check on him again. The boy had gotten his pants completely off. They were laying beside his head. He had undone one side of his diaper, and the other side was hanging by a thread (which really does nothing to help prevent nighttime accidents). One sock was hanging from his big toe; the other was nowhere to be found. And best of all, he had pulled one arm completely out of his shirt and had the neckhole up over one ear. I truly think that if I'd let him wrestle around for another 5 minutes, I'd have found him completely nekkid. I really wish I'd had my wits about me to take a picture, but at 3 a.m., I just wasn't thinking that far ahead. I was too busy laughing.

What did I do? You guessed it. I dug out some one piece footed PJ's, and he fell asleep in 3 minutes. So, Ms. S and Ms. R - I no longer doubt your story. I think our lil' magician really did remove his diaper at school while still wearing his pants. And tonight, I'm going to stick to the one piece jammies.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

So tonight I'll ask

the stars above
How did I ever win your love?
What did I do?
What did I say?
To turn your angel eyes my way?
-Jeff Healey Band, Angel Eyes

Happy Anniversary a day late to my wonderful hubby. (Hey! Gimme a break on the tardiness! I spent the day with him, not writing blog posts!) I tried very hard to post a picture of us on our wedding day, but as you may note by the lack of visuals, I failed. See, we got married back in the dark ages before digital photography was the norm. I think our photographer took digital pics, but we sure didn't get the images. I tried scanning some of the snapshots we printed with no success.

Nine years ago, I promised to love you "in sickness and in health." I never really thought through those words before now. It never occurred to me that "in sickness" might not mean "I'll love you even if you become sick." It means so much more.

So, thank you honey, for being the one I take this journey through life with. Thanks for making me laugh. Thanks for keeping me grounded and calm. Thanks for being such a caring and gentle father to our boys. Thanks for overlooking my atrocious housekeeping skills. Thanks for holding my hand on the tough days. Thanks for being mine. I am one lucky girl.

Monday, October 11, 2010

With a little love and luck... will get by
With a little love and luck
You'll take the sky
-Jimmy Buffett, Love and Luck

This post is inspired by one of my "chosen sisters," one of my girls who came to visit during the darkest days in Philadelphia. (Sidenote - Isn't it nice to know that if life doesn't give you sisters, you can pick them?! I get the benefits of adult sisterhood without the tweenage catfights over who messed up my mascara...) She sent me a message of encouragement to say that she was, yet again, praying for me, for my mom. To say that this gal has known hard times and loss doesn't even begin to cover it. I had known her for several years before I learned just how much she had been through. A long trip and a few tear-filled stories gave me a new respect for her and for her ability to smile through the pain. I can borrow a page from her book because she is a mountain of strength.

But what she said in her message was about changing our perspective on luck. An outsider might look at my story - nearly losing my child after open heart surgery, then immediately watching my mom fight a recurrence of breast cancer - and think that the stars sure are aligned wrong for my family. It might seem that we're pretty unlucky.

Her perspective was that we are lucky beyond words. Yes, what we went through was traumatic. But we're here. We're home. We have two beautiful boys who are happy and healthy (or well on their way to good health). But more than that, my extended family is closer than ever. We were blessed to spend six weeks together in Philly, and the boys were lucky to be able to develop that kind of special bond with their grandparents. We were blessed to spend that time with our parents. We spent six weeks holding hands and being thankful for the life of our children, grateful for each heartbeat. That closeness came not just in spite of the hard times, but because of them. We're closer as a family BECAUSE of what we have been through and continue to go through. And that strength will carry us through the coming days.

I would love to say that God simply gives us strength to get through the challenges. But it's not that simple. God puts people in our paths, people like my dear friend, whose stream of prayers and love make the difference.

Don't get me wrong - I still want it to go away. I want to wake up tomorrow and learn that after just one treatment, mom's tumors are gone. Poof! But just in case the magic genie in the infusion pump doesn't work that way, I know I can rely on the love of family and friends to pull me through. And every day, I thank God for that.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I've got sunshine...

On a cloudy day
When it's cold outside
I've got the month of May
-The Temptations, My Girl

Yes, the weather in NC is sunny, but it's a cloudy day for my family today. Many of you know that my mom, aka LaLa, has been battling a recurrence of breast cancer. You're certainly welcome to learn more about her story on her CaringBridge page. LaLa got some pretty cruddy news yesterday - the tumors are continuing to spread in spite of every kind of chemo that's been thrown her way. She's now going to have to start another round of the hair-losing, nausea-inducing, hard-core-fatigue kind of chemo.

I'll be honest - my first thought was, "You're f'ing kidding me! Haven't we been through enough?!" (Sorry to all my God-fearing, profanity-avoiding, polite friends. The F word really was the first thing that came to mind. At least I didn't say it out loud in front of my children.) I really just wanted to crawl in a hole until this whole nightmare is over. I'm getting just a wee bit tired of hearing crappy news every time someone I love goes to the doctor.

But, then we went over to my folks' house, and I saw the way that my mom is handling the news. Grace is really the only word I can use to describe it. Grace under pressure, strength when the going gets beyond tough. She gave the boys big hugs, tried to trick Luke into crawling, showed Jay their new camper, gushed over how delicious the dinner we brought was ... she went right on living. She started planning the camping trip we're going to take this fall.

I could almost hear her saying, "Chemo? Cancer? You're not going to interrupt my life. Slow me down? Maybe. But while I'm moving slow, that's just more time to smell the roses."

It's so obvious to me (okay, to the whole planet) that she absolutely adores the boys. They bring me untold joy, but apparently grandchildren bring a level of joy that I have not yet experienced. She chooses to find joy on even the most difficult of days. She actively seeks out things that make her happy, and often that involves my babes. She jokes about her inability to peel the rose-colored glasses off her face, but I gotta say ... something she's doing really works.

Mom, it is an inspiration to me to see the way you face challenges. You have shown me to face cloudy days with a smile, to create your own sunshine in the midst of the rain. For that, I am eternally grateful. Even if I'm not as good at it as you are. I love you!

Now - you wanna go wig shopping?

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm a survivor...

I'm gonna make it
I'm a survivor
I will survive
-Destiny's Child, Survivor

Thanks, y'all for letting me vent a little on my last post. I'm sorry for complaining about the little things, when I have so many blessings to be thankful for. I may need the occasional reminder that doing the dishes is, in fact, a blessing. It means I have eyes to see, arms to move, legs I can stand on, food on my table, and well-fed children. It's just remembering to see it that way.

I guess the root of my frustration is a bit of PTSD mixed with a healthy dose of survivor's guilt. You know, the way plane crash survivors think, "Why me? What am I supposed to do with my life that was so important? Why was I was spared?"

I spent weeks in the hospital thinking, "Why me? Why do I have to watch my child suffer when so many friends think a sick kid means an ear infection?" I also spent quite a bit of time whining, "Why Jay? Why does he have to endure so much pain when his friends are off hanging from the monkey bars and laughing?"

Now, I'm struggling with the flip side of that coin -- Why me? Why do I have the miracle baby? Why did I come home with two healthy children when so many who are reading this blog right now have lost a child? What are the expectations that come with this awesome second chance?

One of the blogs that I read from another heart mom, Team Ewan, lost baby Ewan today. They had to make the agonizing decision to take him off ECMO. Reading her words, I cried. I know how close we were to that. I can't imagine that kind of pain. There have been hundreds, no thousands of people praying for Ewan. There were that many praying for Jay. Where is God in all of this?

I know that these "why me" questions are questions that have no answers. This is one of those times when my limited understanding of God and God's role in this world leaves me confused. And occasionally frustrated. The conclusions I keep coming to are not satisfying and leave me with more questions than answers. And I promise you that I'm not asking you to give me simple answers to something that theologians have struggled with for ages.

So, I am trying to stop asking. To trust that I'll understand more someday. To enjoy this day - and each tiny moment within this day. To laugh at the joy a two year old finds in eating a sausage biscuit. (Actually, just the sausage - I ate the biscuit.) To marvel at how a 7 month old can spread food across the high chair tray, down the wall, and onto the floor. To savor that evening walk with my family and truly appreciate each step together. Because, whatever God's role in the workings of the world, I know that these are blessings to be savored.