Saturday, December 31, 2011

So rock me mama like a wagon wheel...

Rock me mama any way you feel
Hey mama rock me
-Old Crow Medicine Show, "Wagon Wheel"

Been quite a bloggy absence, eh?  (I'm a little frightened to look back at the percentage of my posts that start out with an apology for disappearing from the blogosphere for weeks at a time.  Maybe I ought to just embrace the once a month posting, and trust that y'all can sign up for that nifty little email thing at the top right side of this page.  You did know about that, right?  My blog can automagically send you an email when there's something new!  Ahh, technology.  I'd post more often, but I have to wait for musical inspiration to strike.)

And I know that I can't sum up the highs and lows of a month all in one post, so I'll just hit a few highlights, include a few adorable kid pics and trust that y'all will understand.

We made gingerbread houses.  This was one of my fave memories from my childhood.  And like every childhood memory, it's far better in my mind and memory than in reality.  Reality was that the kids had minimal to zero interest in actually constructing said houses.  And honestly, they weren't even that excited about eating the candy (unlike the cat, who promptly began licking the entire thing).  What is WRONG with kids these days?!

Joye and I, however, thoroughly enjoyed both the making and the eating.  Even more, we enjoyed chatting and allowing the kiddies to play outside on their own.  It's good to give them wings.

I spent lots of good time with my mom.  Cancer is an awful, miserable, ugly thing.  We've found lots of good times together, in spite of her feeling mighty awful some days.  All the more reason to celebrate the good days - and those have been plentiful, too.  We even squeezed in some shopping, which was the most fun we'd had together in months.

I read a book.  For the first time in I'm-embarassed-to-admit-but-probably-several-years a really long while, I read something that was just for me.  Not a textbook.  Not a board book or Dr. Seuss book. Not a blog/web article/newspaper but just a good ol' fun reading book.  My chosen sister gave me Elizabeth Edwards' "Resilience" and even hinted that I'm a resilient woman.  Not sure I deserve that accolade, but I absolutely did deserve a night on the couch under a blanket with a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other.  I will do more of that in 2012.

After MUCH anticipation, Christmas morning did eventually arrive and we opened presents.  Santa was good to us this year, bringing too much stuff (as he tends to do sometimes).  Jay got a bike and a much-hoped-for pencil sharpener (what kid asks Santa for a PENCIL SHARPENER?!), Luke got a train set, Jen & Derek got a fridge which came not in the sleigh but in a truck from Lowe's.  Everyone was happy with their haul.

(working away on one of THREE varieties of pencil sharpeners he received!)

more sharpening!

We went bowling (GO WOLFPACK!!) at the game in Charlotte.  We met up with my college roomie and her hubs, as well as one of Derek's best vet school buds.  Hanging with people we love and largely have lost touch with - again, something we should do more of in the coming year.

We went to Derek's hometown and hung out with his family.  I stayed up chatting with my sister-in-law-in-law (aka SILIL) until 1:40 a.m., catching up on all the stuff we had missed.  We won't let that much time go by again.  The kids played happily together though would not consent to looking toward a camera simultaneously.  Jay is now the proud owner of a chainsaw.  It was good times.  

Mom and I went to meet her namesake, Little Laura.  I cried happy tears and fell head over heels in love with that sweet little gal, even if she is a bit of a crybaby.  It made me want a baby in the house again.  Derek is not *quite* so enthralled with that idea and suggested I travel up to VA to babysit anytime I need my screaming baby fix.

We watched the acorn drop in downtown Raleigh (for you out-of-towners, Raleigh is the City of Oaks and we do love our acorn/oak tree references.)

We toasted the start of good things in 2012 (some of us toasted with the good stuff, some of us with cranberry juice, and some of us toasted with marbles from the new game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.  Whatever blows your skirt up.)

So, you're still wondering about the song lyric reference?  Derek got an Old Crow Medicine Show CD for Christmas, and the song has been in my head nonstop since.  GREAT song and great album for the bluegrass lovers in the crowd.   Jay, like his momma, finds a song he likes and wants to hear it over and over and over.  (I once made a "mix" tape that consisted of UB40's "Red Red Wine" over and over on one side, and a few other songs on the other.  Not much of a mix.  But I digress...)

Anyway, last night Jay wanted to hear "Wagon Wheel" three times in a row, and somewhere in the middle of the third time, we ended up with a family dance party - spinning in crazy circles, singing at the top of our lungs, laughing hysterically, and falling down dizzy.  And I couldn't help but think about what a great way it was to end the year, rockin' with my sweet little family.

So, a belated Merry Christmas from the Foster Four, and Happy New Year!  May the coming year bring you nothing but health and happiness and love.  Most of all, may you spend 2012 with those in your life that matter.  Know that each of you reading this matters to me!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Radiant beams from thy holy face...

...with the dawn of redeeming grace
-Silent Night, Traditional Christmas Carol

Sorry for the blogging absence.  The week before Thanksgiving was mighty crappy with my mom in the hospital and me hating every moment of that experience.  I just haven't felt much like writing, save for one whiny, half-written diatribe about how much I hate hospitals and the smell of Purell hand sanitizer (PTSD anyone?!).  No need to post whiny-ness so that's still in drafts where it belongs.

Thank you to all of you who have prayed for my mom and for me and for her being home for Thanksgiving and for answers and for sanity and all of the other things we've managed to hang onto.  I could not do this alone.

But even with all the support, I've been fighting crabbiness and bah-humbug-ness.  I just haven't wanted to welcome Christmas and definitely haven't much focused on the reason for the celebration.  We put up our tree, and that cheered me a bit.  There was no perfect hot chocolate-sipping, fireplace-gazing, angel-on-top moment.  There were more than a few "Be careful!  That's fragile!  Crack."  moments.  But the tree is up and pretty.  I'm trying to embrace the good enough mentality.  Perfection is boring.

We made an advent wreath (hey, it's only a week late!  Gimme a break!) from the greenery in our yard and Christmas tree trim offs.  I laughed at Jay calling it "scenery" instead of greenery, but even that didn't do much to ease the funk.  I got fun and funky snowflakes on my fingernails (Rock on, Michelle!) but the 63 degree weather still made me feel un-Christmasy.

Until tonight.

Both boys dressed in their Christmas finest for church this morning.  I mean, if you're ever going to wear a size 4T navy blazer, Christmastime is it, right?

Undecorating the tree (or is that rearranging the ornaments?)

I might cut off his toes when he outgrows the saddle oxfords.  Adorable!

 He's not keen on this photo op - every photo delays lunch by another 1/16 of a second.

What a little grownup!

I can't decide whose outfit I like better - the smocked romper or the blue blazer!

Such cuteness.  Cute boys + long naps = happier mama.  

Then tonight we headed to our church's annual Hanging of the Greens service.  Adorable kids singing and awe-inspiring music and candles.  I can't describe the emotion it brings out.  I absolutely love every moment ... but I will always remember this moment:

That, for me, was Christmas.  Forget presents.  Forget shopping.  Forget the wrangling and convincing it took to get them to wear the adorable Christmas outfits.  Forget all of it.  Christmas is right here.  I am reminded again what a miracle it is to have that little boy here with us and fully alive.

Everywhere, everywhere Christmas tonight.

(PS - Great big thanks to my dad for snapping those cellphone shots - I *love* them!  So glad mom was up for the occasion so y'all could join in the fun.)

Monday, November 7, 2011


...all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh I believe in yesterday

Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh yesterday came suddenly
-The Beatles, "Yesterday"

Many of you have already heard about the shadow that's hanging over me.

My mom, Laura McLean - or LaLa to her grandbabes, was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.  To say that the past few years have been crazy doesn't begin to do justice to the emotional roller coaster we've been riding.  Really, having 2 kids is plenty life-changing.  I've watched 2 kids arrive, held hands through Jay's 2 heart surgeries, and watched my mom endure countless rounds of chemo, a couple of hits of radiation, 2 brain tumor surgeries and some crazy nanoparticle liver treatment.  Yeah.  Call me stressed.  Or call me really, really, really bad luck to people who love me.  Y'all might want to keep your distance.

Anyway, mom got some more bad news on Friday that even my weak attempts at corny humor can't gloss over.  She's got a lot of additional tumors in her brain, and there really aren't many options left.  She can do whole brain radiation, but that comes with some miserable cognitive side effects like trouble making decisions or following the steps of a process.  Or she can stop treatment and risk seizures and difficulty with balance and movement.

Where is option F - None of the Above?  No one should have to make these choices.  No one should have to make them over and over for 5 years straight.  Life is hard, but this is impossibly hard.  And while I know that death is a part of life that we all deal with, I still have no idea how to wrap my mind around what is happening - around the idea that we're going to lose her before we're ready.

The thing is, we've gotten bad news before - over the past 5 years, we've heard rotten reports so many times.

It's cancer?  "Wow.  I really don't know what to say."

It's spread to your bones?  "Oh, that's awful.  I wish I had the right words."

It's spread to your liver? And your brain?!  "Oh my God.  I'm speechless.  I have no words."

And now, it's spread to your brain and there's nothing good they can do about it?

You'd think that I'd be getting better at this by now, that I'd have a clue about how to react or what to say.  You'd think I could pull out some words that had comforted in the past.  That all of us would be ready for our reactions.  But practice absolutely does NOT make perfect.  I'm as clueless and dumbfounded and angry and sad and confused and all of the above as I ever was.  I'm just as lost as I was each of the times before.

And yet...

I have a fabulous husband who is a partner in every sense of the word.
I have two beautiful children.  They are healthy today, thanks to an incredible miracle I was privileged to witness.
I have girlfriends who are like sisters.  And they will wipe my tears.  They bring milkshakes and hot chocolate and warm blankets of hugs.  They assure me that my crazy thoughts don't mean I'm crazy.
I have a huge extended family of amazing people that make me laugh.  We will hold each other up when the going gets tough.  We eat together and we laugh together, and that's how we get through both good and bad.
I have a church family that is supportive and loving and has showed me how the love of God really works -  in the way they love others.
I have a great job that is fulfilling and meaningful and makes a difference to others.  It surrounds me daily with colleagues who are like family, and they help sustain me.
I have a warm house and a car to drive and plenty to eat and clothes to wear and everything I really need.  Everything.
Most of all, I have had an incredibly close relationship with my mom, and I've been blessed with learning from her.  I have seen an incredible example of how to face scary things, how to love people around you, how to smile in spite of the toughest of circumstances.

I have so much to be thankful for.  

So mom - look at me!  I am taking your sunshiney attitude and stealing a few rays.  (You've still got plenty.)  I wish I knew what to say.  I love you.  I hate that you're having to make these impossible choices.  I hate that you're going to feel pain.  I hate the mere idea of living without you and your never ceasing positive attitude.  I will hate the reality of it far worse.  But I am trying to focus on the present - that I have you today.    I love you.  And I am incredibly grateful for all that you've taught me.

LaLa and Luke, March 2010

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Listening and dancing to music...

... is AWESOME!!!
-Super Music Friends Show, Yo Gabba Gabba

We'd been anticipating the night for many months, and last night was the big event.

I realize that people generally fall into two camps when it comes to this show: love it or hate it.  That's cool.  I don't love the same music or movies or children's programming that you love.  Haters - feel free to ignore this post, and definitely feel free to keep comments to yourself.  But as for me and my family, we LOVE Yo Gabba Gabba.

Once upon a time, our little guy was pretty sick.  He got pneumonia 5 times in as many months.  We didn't know it at the time, but he was in congestive heart failure because his mitral valve was so badly functioning that fluid was backing up into his lungs.  To open his lungs a bit and help him breathe, he had to do a nebulizer treatment every night.

Ever tried to make a two year old sit still for 30 minutes and breathe scary-looking, funny-smelling smoke?  Yeah, me neither.  He fought the treatments like crazy, and I didn't have a clue how to get him to settle down.  So this anti-TV mama resorted to the one thing I knew had a fighting chance of keeping him still for that long.  Television. And all he wanted to watch was Yo Gabba Gabba.  So we watched.  Every night.  And he'd sing along through that blasted fish mask.

In a really interesting coincidence, I learned about another little girl named Davy who also has Congenital Heart Disease (among a number of other congenital issues).  Her mom writes an uber-cool blog, the mom, and I got hooked.  Know who the mom is married to?  None other than Scott Schultz, co-creator of YGG.  Yep, the guy who comes up with the creatively awesome ideas for this show has watched his little girl endure heart surgery and weeks in the hospital and medical procedures galore.

Then, in August 2010, we went to Philadelphia for his open heart surgery at CHOP.  And as soon as we got there, we saw an ad in the airport for the YGG Live tour.  Jay was SUPER excited to see the Gabba friends welcome him to the airport.  We'd planned for 2 weeks in the hospital, and the show was scheduled to be in Philly a week later.  We were hopeful that we'd be back home and into regular life by then.  Of course long time readers will remember that he was still in ICU at that point, and home was still many, many weeks away - with "regular life" many months behind that.

So when the chance came along to see them in Raleigh, we jumped.  (We didn't jump for the $117 dress circle tickets, but the view is lovely from the back row, too.)  When the Gabba friends came on stage and I saw the ecstatic look in that little boy's face, I gotta admit, it got me.  There were tears rolling down my face.  We joked in Philly that he had complications intentionally, just so that we'd still be there and he could see the show.  But the truth is that I feared he'd never live to see Yo Gabba Gabba in person.  Or that he'd have endured so much time without oxygen that he'd be in a wheelchair, or unable to express himself through language, or any of the other millions of debilitating, life-altering issues that could have happened so easily.

But last night, this boy was fully and completely alive - in every sense of the word.

He clapped.

He hugged himself.
You put your arms out wide, wrap 'em around, squeeze tight!
Hugs are fun - Hugs are fun - Hugs are fun!

He danced during Dancey Dance time.

He was, in a word, enthralled.  Completely focused on those silly-looking, lovable creatures.

But he wasn't the only one!  Oh no.  Derek, Luke and I had every bit as much fun as Jay did.  Luke sat in his seat and clapped enthusiastically at the end of every song, even standing in front of his seat to dance.

And when Biz Markie came out (oh yes - THAT Biz Markie!) and started teaching the kids beatboxing for Biz' Beat of the Day, Derek and I were like "Is this for realz?!"  Oh yeah.  Loved every minute.

After the show, we had to check out all the confetti and paper leaves that came down.


Yeah, it was THAT fun.

Monday, October 31, 2011

You better watch out...

You better not cry
You better not pout
I'm tellin' you why
Santa Claus is Coming to Town!

Somewhere during the hottest part of the summer, my incredibly creative 3 year old was asked what he wanted to be for Halloween.  He promptly and enthusiastically replied "Santa Claus!"

I'm thinking, "This is going to be a very bad idea.  Somewhere in middle school, the kids will hear about this, and he'll never live it down."  Derek, meanwhile, is thinking "AWESOME!"
We let it go for a while, thinking he'd change his mind.  Nope.  Santa.  Every time.  Derek asked his facebook friends whether this was a good idea.  As the only dissenting opinion, I was overruled, and the Christmas-o-ween was born.

Ho Ho Ho!  Happy Halloween!

But since we agreed that Jay could be Santa, we decided to go all the way.  Because really, how many years can you do a family theme costume?  The days are long, but the years are short.  So Luke became an elf, and Derek and I became the reindeer.  I'm going with Vixen, just so it sounds like I was something cool for Halloween.  Dear Hubby was Rudolph, complete with flashing red nose (thank you dollar spot!).

(Luke was NOT a fan of the elf hat!)

(Okay, I have to admit.  It was a cute idea.  And he was an adorable Santa.)

Look!  It's Sush!  She'll do us no harm on Halloween!

And Miss Sue!  She always has special candy for her special elves.

What's an elf outfit without the elf slippers?

I waited until the VERY last minute to make the costumes, thinking the kid would change his mind.  He didn't.  I went shopping on Friday (THREE days prior to the holiday, mind you!) and when I picked him up that afternoon, I excitedly told him that I'd found the stuff to make his costume.  His reply?

"I changed my mind.  I want to be something else for Halloween."

Oh no you don't, kid.  Not after I drug your LaLa to 15 different discount stores searching for a red sweatsuit, you don't!  Not after we bought a cheap tree skirt to make the fur collar and cuffs!  I got a red flashing nose for your daddy!  You ARE going to be Santa, you little stinker!  

But after seeing it, he came around again, and was pretty excited about it.  And while I was definitely not in favor of this idea in the first place, I gotta admit.  I came around too.  It was seriously cute, and really fun for the whole family to dress up together.

Merry Halloween from the Foster Four!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wild night... calling
-Van Morrison, "Wild Night"

Sweet Luke, who has been generous enough to sleep through the night for many, many months, has a little cough.  And it's enough of a little cough to wake him up in a big way.  So last night, he woke up numerous times and needed a little parental intervention to settle himself again.

First, this needs a little backstory.  When the boys were babies, we made what we believe to be a very wise decision by putting a single bed in each of their rooms alongside the crib.  These beds, which were actually 2 parts of a trundle bed, were great places to snuggle and read stories, great places for Granna to sleep when she came to town, and most importantly, great places for mom or dad to crash on particularly rough nights.  It worked really well for us.

But recently, Jay decided that he wanted to start sleeping with Luke.  We thought it quite adorable and they shared a room very nicely, happily chatting to each other every morning.  Good roommating is important because if we ever decide to have another wee one, sharing a room will become a necessity for the fellas as our house only has 3 bedrooms.  They were so happy together, in fact, that we moved Jay's toddler bed into Luke's room and put the trundle back together in the room formerly known as Jay's.  It made for much more space in each room.  This worked swimmingly until the grandparents came to stay a couple of weeks ago.  Jay wasn't about to let the chance to share a room with grandfolks pass him by, so he moved back into his old room on the trundle - and hasn't looked back.  He's stayed in the big boy bed.

So, last night when Luke woke up for the third time at 4:00 a.m., I mumbled sleepily that I'd just stay in his room after I got him settled.  I had forgotten a critical piece of information - the only available bed in there is Jay's toddler bed.  But honestly, I was so tired I didn't care.  I re-settled the Lukester and curled up on Jay's tiny old bed.

"Not too bad, actually!" was the thought that crossed my mind as I drifted back off.  "Kinda like sleeping curled up on the couch," something I've done by choice, over and over.

At around 4:45 a.m., however, I began to realize that it wasn't *quite* as comfy as our couch.  All the baby books suggest you purchase a nice, FIRM mattress to minimize risk of SIDS.  We shopped well, my friends.  It's certainly a nice, firm mattress.  And while it might be the width of the couch, there ain't no stretching out or letting your feet hang off.

Then at not quite 6:00 (the hour I've designated as worth getting up!) Luke woke up crying again.  In my not-so-wise state of grogginess, I picked him up and brought him into the bed with me.  They tiny little toddler bed.  And as he laid there snuggled up under my chin (quite literally!), I thought "If we're going to be the only 2 people in this house sharing a bed, why in the heck is it THIS one?!"  Thus endeth my attempts to sleep.

Oh, and just in case I wasn't confident of this already - I am most certainly NOT ready for another newborn in the house.  I like my sleep a little too much.