Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Where was I?

Here I am! Hey, y'all. I've been here in Atlanta for five days now, at Becky's house with the fam. Becky had her first chemo infusion last Wednesday (the day I arrived), and we spent the next couple of days running errands, hanging out around the house and kind of waiting to see if the nausea would hit. And thankfully, so far, it hasn't. This is such a blessing--and one that we aren't taking for granted.

Thursday, with Becky full of energy (!) from the steroids they gave her to tolerate the chemo drugs, we ventured out to the Mall of Georgia. Wig shopping was on the agenda. And perhaps a trip to Pottery Barn. This is a huge mall and after wandering around looking for the wig shop, I called the store's phone number listed on the brochure we had. "We're having a hard time finding you," I told the nice lady who answered the phone. "Oh, honey, we're actually right across the street from the mall," she told me in that Southern drawl that I miss so much. "If you're in the Dillard's parking lot just look for the big picture of Raquel Welch in our window. You can't miss it."

And indeed, she was right. We could not miss it. No one has ever given me directions using Raquel Welch as a landmark, but I must say it was quite helpful. The wig shop ladies were lovely and compassionate and helpful in some very practical ways.

Friday afternoon, we took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese's. For my Aussie buds, Chuck E. Cheese's is a pizza place/indoor arcade/play area/place where a giant mouse wanders around. It is kid-heaven. Hank had been begging to go, and since Becky was feeling good we all went. It was a good barometer of health, I think. If rubbery cheese pizza combined with screaming 6 year olds and a dancing mouse don't make you upchuck, then you must be in pretty good shape. Heck, I was feeling a little queasy myself!

Friday evening, we decided to head up to the mountain house. So, with Becky properly doped up in the passenger seat of the minivan and Mom and Dad leading the charge, off we went. It was a very chilled out weekend. Becky's arm was very sore from the surgery, and we still were taking it easy with the whole potential-nausea thing. But Mom and I did manage to venture into town for a little shopping. And here we saw something that, to me, is quintessentially Southern. In fact, I can't think of three words that better describe the American South:

Love it. I can't report on the deep fried pickles or oreos, I am sorry to say. But I stood there for awhile in admiration of the purveyor's creativity. Dare to dream, you guys!

Back in Sydney, Jason is holding down the fort with his usual unruffled capability. And his mom arrived today to ride herd on the kids, so he'll be able to get back to work. However, as we speak, my Natey is laying on the couch with a stomach bug. I'm sure he got sick because his mother has left him. All things are mom's fault, right? Sorry, big man. Hope you feel better soon! Maybe I'll bring you back a deep fried Twinkie. That might help.

Back again soon! I am so, so thankful to be here. Becky is doing well, I am trying to help out as much as possible, and there have been two trips to Target. And counting. That is all for now. xoxo

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And, I'm off

In a few hours, I'll be getting on a plane to fly to Atlanta. I can hardly believe it! Through the surprise, amazing generosity of a family friend, I get to go to the States to spend a couple weeks with Becky as she begins chemotherapy. Thank you, Family Friend!! This is such a blessing to all of us, I hope you know that. I just wish there was a word that meant "blessing-plus" or something, cause that's what it is.

Jason's parents were planning to come to see us in May, and when his mom heard that I was trying to work out how and when to travel, she offered to come early and help with the kids. And that's how it is that in about 9 hours, I'm getting on a plane all by myself.

I've been told that they serve meals on planes. And that there are movies one may watch. And that you can even read books or magazines. Could it be true? I seem to have a vague, very dim recollection of doing such things myself at one time. I guess I'll find out tomorrow. It says something about the season of life you're in when you look forward to a 13 hour flight alone so you can read and watch TV.

My hope is to be available to do whatever Becky needs or wants me to. If it's playing with the kids, or cooking, or cleaning, or even late night runs to Super Target. Yes, I will step into that breach for her. When we left the States back in January, I thought it would be two years before I'd see my family again. And although, I'd wish this trial away in a heartbeat, I am so grateful for the chance to physically be there and help shoulder the burden.

That said, I'm sure gonna miss my little family here.

Jason, being the complete superhuman that he is, encouraged me to go without the kids when I was agonizing over what to do. "What if Grace forgets me?" I asked him, only half joking. He assures me she won't. And if she does, well, there's always bribery to win her love back. Hey--it's worked for the other two, after all.

I'll catch y'all on the other side of the Pacific. I'm off to put some BOOKS in my carry-on! Books for ME to read!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weird Injury of the Day

Because, apparently, that's what is happening around here these days.

Nate just hit himself in the mouth with a garlic press. Apparently, it hurt a whole lot.

No blood, though, so that's a bonus. He has a tendency to hurt himself in random ways. That's my boy! You might be wondering why I would let Nate play with a garlic press. If you're wondering that, I might venture a guess that you've never spent four days alone with 3 children.

Church in a couple hours...there is much to do, and I really should be doing it! But I wanted you to know this late breaking news.

Beware of garlic presses. Vicious things.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I still don't understand what "cold fusion" is supposed to be.

I am sitting in the often-fought-over rocking chair, typing up my sermon for tomorrow. I've been kicking it around in my head for a week or two, so I'm hoping it'll all come across as it should.

It probably isn't helping that I turned on the TV for background noise. I'm home alone tonight, so I like to have some noise. But guess what's playing?

The Saint! It's reminded me how much I like Val Kilmer. Such a handsome sort of fellow, don't you think? This is such a fun movie. Cheesy as anything, but I like cheese. All those disguises! All the wacky science-y hijinks! So I think I might have to turn the TV off so I can get some work done.

And someone once told me I looked like Elisabeth Shue. I really, really don't. I mean, we are both bipeds. And I have blondish, wavy hair. But the resemblance pretty much ends there. I think maybe the person that told me that was nearsighted or something. But whatever, I have a take-all-compliments policy. Once you say it, it's mine, buster.

Okay, well now I'm really procrastinating. Better sign off. Have you ever gotten a really nice compliment that was totally off-base? Do tell!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

When Babies Attack

A few mornings ago, Jason was holding Grace. As she flapped her arms like babies do, resembling a crazed chicken, she scratched his eye. Like, gouged his cornea. Yikes. It started to hurt. And as the morning went on, it really started to hurt. And then it started to hurt to look at him. Know what I mean? Where someone else's eye looks so red and sore that it makes your eyes water? In my opinion, an injury to any part of your face always hurts way more than you think it will. Every few minutes, he would wince and hold his hand over his eye. It was hurting so badly he said he was feeling a little sick to his stomach. Yikes again.

He had a busy day planned and was planning to just push through. But after another round of searing pain, he asked me to call our GP. They squeezed him in. Yup, the doctor agreed, it was a doozy of a scratch. He regaled Jason with stories of his own shockingly painful eye injury and gave him some eye drops and a prescription for pain medication.

Jason went on to his meetings and by dinnertime was exhausted. Nate was asking us questions about what happened, about why Grace did it, about when Daddy would feel better. Later, as I sat with Grace and Ava in the living room, Nate came up to me and said in a quivering voice, "I feel bad about what baby Grace did to Daddy. I feel bad about his eye." And then he started to cry.

And I thought, "Do you know how completely endearing and adorable that is? Would you like a pony?" I called Jason over and we reassured Nate that he was okay. I think Nate was a little freaked out--usually if Jason is sick, he doesn't look any different. But this time, it was obvious that something was wrong. I asked Nate, "Why don't you pray for Daddy's eye to get better?" He wanted me to do it instead. I encouraged him to pray. Then Ava stepped in. "To be fair," she said grandly, "I'll do it."

"Dear Lord," she said, "Please help Daddy and make his eye not hurt and feel better. And Lord, please help Grace with her cheekiness."

And sitting there, I thought: this, here, is a moment to remember.

Lord forgive me for my cheekiness, and help me forgive those who are cheeky against me.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Baby steps

Well, I haven't said much about rats lately. I know, y'all come here daily seeking stories of the vermin you've come to know and love, and I've disappointed you. The truth is, there really isn't much to report. (ThankyouGod!) After the Incident with the Pantry in the Nighttime, the exterminator came, Jason laid some traps and plugged some holes, and all was quiet. He checks periodically to make sure the holes are still plugged--without telling me, cause I don't wanna know nothin' about no ratholes.

It's been two months since The Sighting. And it's only in the last couple of weeks that I've been able to go into the pantry at all. For the weeks before that, I either crammed the groceries I needed into the cupboards where the dishes are kept, or I sent the kids into the pantry for me. Yes! Here, I admit it. I sent my own children into the belly of the beast. I didn't even tell them of the danger therein.

A couple of weeks ago, when I needed something I started darting in there myself. I'd open the door and stand at the threshold. I'd quickly scan all the shelves. I found that my fists would clench involuntarily. Then, I'd take one big step in, grab what I needed and duck back out and shut the door.

Yes, this is ridiculous. Thank you for pointing that out, it's very helpful.

Last week, Jason was working on his laptop at the kitchen table and I needed to get something from the pantry. Except, I wasn't totally sure where it was, so my quick in-n-out technique wouldn't work. I opened the door and stood there. I flipped on the light. I stood some more. I walked in, and started gingerly poking around in there, looking for what I needed. It feels very silly to write this, but I'm being serious when I tell you that I could feel my heart beating faster the longer I was in there.

I could also feel Jason watching me. With amusement. I didn't even have to look at him to know that he was truly enjoying this moment. And then I knew that he was about to seize that moment. Without turning around, I stuck my hand out behind my back and pointed at him.

"Do NOT...do what you are thinking about doing!" I said. "What's that, babe?" he asked. "I know what you're thinking. You are waiting till I start to relax in here and then you're gonna make a loud noise or throw something or say boo. Don'teventhinkaboutit!"

He laughed. "Well, I did consider it. When is it gonna be okay to make jokes about this?" He has practiced what I know is, for him, a great deal of restraint. I told him he could make fun of me all he wants, but he is under no circumstances allowed to scare me. Or I will unleash the full might of my fury. Which is indeed terrifying. I'm like that little white bunny in Monty Python's Holy Grail.

Harmless and sweet, until you mess with me too much. Then, you best just curl into a little ball and wait for it to be over.

Okay, that's not really true. I just like sounding mean. Let's face it--anyone who won't go into her pantry for 6 weeks after seeing a rat in there can't be that tough.

So, let's sum up. Pantry: Clear so far. Kids: Often used as bait. Jason: The picture of restraint. Me: Quivering Mass/Potential ball of fury. I think that about covers it all.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Fragile Peace

Do you remember the Rocking Chair Wars of February '10? There was much strife over who got to sit in the prized chair, until Ava and Nate arrived at a creative solution:

Since then, to mediate chair-related disputes, we have used timers, they have alternated days with the chair, no one has sat in the chair, they have sat on top of each other. None of these have been an ideal solution. Both sides feel they have the rights to exclusive chair-usage. This is problematic, for obvious reasons. I have a whole new level of compassion for those working towards peace in the Middle East. Like I said before, there's just one dang chair and everyone wants a piece of it.

This morning, I was in the kitchen loading the dishwasher (I am always in the kitchen loading the dishwasher. Or unloading it.) when I heard Ava say in a disgusted tone, "Nate! Stop it right now! Get off!" Then, Nate came running in to find me. "Ava pushed me off the chair," he said, wounded. I walked to the doorway of the living room. "Ava, did you push your brother off of the rocking chair?" "Yes!" she said, "Cause he was tooting on me to make me get out of the chair!"

(This is called withholding vital information, Nate.) "Nate, did you toot on Ava to make her get up?" A wicked gleam came into his eye. He nodded. "Well, of course she pushed you off the chair. I would have, too! That's disgusting." Nate snickered.

The arguing continued. And I instituted chair lockdown. No one sits in the rocking chair. If we can't peacefully co-exist in a living room free of tooting, pushing, and name-calling, if we can't embrace a culture of mutual chair stewardship, then no one gets to enjoy the chair. So now, the chair is our very own DMZ. I'm gonna go to the hardware store this weekend and see if I can get some barbed wire.

For now, the arguing has stopped. But I can feel it brewing. As sure as Nate will live to toot another day, the battle is not over.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I Was Not Aware That There Would Be Math Involved.

Math is not my strongest subject. I've always found it intimidating, sigh. The roots of this are deep, y'all, way deep and stuff. I could tell you about the time Ms. Ward yelled at me in front of my 6th grade math class cause I was doing something wrong with fractions. (I had a stress headache the rest of the day.) I could tell you about the time my mom, in a homework session gone drastically wrong, nearly killed me with my 4th grade math book. She would tell that story differently, but I think we all know that 9 year olds have a stronger grip on reality and a healthier perspective, right? Plus, this is my blog. And also? Nanny nanny boo boo.

I suppose my talents lie in other areas. So yesterday I found myself with a dilemma. It's been a very busy couple of weeks here at La Casa de Down Under, and I really, nay, desperately needed to clean our bathrooms. The house that we live in has an unaccountably high number of bathrooms, you see. When we rented it a few years ago, we were told that the builder built it for himself, and he obviously built it with some very specific needs. Maybe he had a small bladder? Cause there are loads of bathrooms here. At last count, we had five toilets in this house, but that number could change. More seem to be popping up all the time.

As you might imagine, cleaning all these bathrooms takes awhile. Even longer when I am continually stopping to mediate disputes, fill drink bottles, find paintbrushes, and take stuff out of Grace's mouth. As I got started on our bathroom the kids were playing happily and Grace was bouncing in her Jolly Jumper. Then I started hearing big, reverberating BOOMS coming from the hallway. And laughter. And more booms. I walked out of my room to find this.

As you can see, the kids grabbed all the spare pillows they could find and were jumping from the top of the stairs to the bottom. It's half a staircase really, and they were having a ball. And they were not fighting or whining or trying to find me. Grace was more than entertained watching them from the safety of the doorway at the top of the stairs.

And here's where the math comes in. I stood there in the hallway, toilet brush in hand, wondering about statistics. About probability. And wishing I'd paid better attention in my college stat class. I know stair-jumping isn't the safest household game to play. Someone could land wrong and twist their ankle. Someone could bruise their tailbone. Someone could crack their head on the nearby doorjamb. However, if I don't clean these bathrooms, we could all get some kind of bacterial infection and die. Given a little more time, the dirty diapers in the trashcan could become sentient beings and demand their rights. The clumps of dried toothpaste on the kids' sink could fossilize. What is likely to be more dangerous, statistically? If a hundred children jump into this pile of pillows, what percentage would require immediate medical attention? If a swab were taken of my bathroom floor, what is the probability of getting fined by the Health Department? If I flip a coin 50 times, how many times will it land on tails and how many times will Nate land on his head? You see? Math, y'all.

No one said parenting would involve math. In the heat of the moment, I ran the numbers and decided to let them carry on. And there was much rejoicing.

Note: No one was injured in the making of this blog post. Miraculously! And I discovered that happy kids and clean bathrooms are not mutually exclusive. (Ha! See? At least I remembered that from my Stat class.) I also discovered that I am a total sucker. Cause when the kids saw me in the hallway, Ava asked if they could "help" me clean. I said, "The best way for you to help me right now is to play and let Gracie watch you, to keep her happy." They were not thrilled with this idea. I could see all my plans crashing around my feet. Grasping for an attractive alternative, I said, "How about I pay you and Nate to babysit for me? I'll give you each 50 cents if you keep playing and just talk to Grace and let her watch you."

So, yes. In essence, I paid my kids a dollar to let me clean the bathrooms. I told you I'm not very good at math.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

All the Frills Upon It

Today was the Easter Hat Parade at Ava's school. It is the event of the season. Or at least of the week. All of the K-2 students are assigned a "buddy" from an older class and together they assemble the younger child's Easter hat. Then everyone comes on the last day of term for the Hat Parade. The students march around, there are raffles drawn and colouring competitions, and there is that general buzz of "it's the last day of school before break" feeling.

Last year, I remember the Easter Hat Parade lasting about 6.3 years. Roughly. I mean, I thought that sucker would never end. That may have had something to do with the fact that I was greatly pregnant, sitting on a hard plastic chair with a 3 year old Nate on my lap. So I anticipated it lasting forever again today.

But it didn't! Just over an hour. Who really needs more Hat Parade than that, anyway? And this year, instead of looking like an Easter egg myself, I got to bring my little baby chick with me.

Look at that little Easter confection!

And here is Ava in her long-awaited hat. Note the very serious hat-wearing posture and frozen smile.
And look at the expression on the little boy next to her! "You gonna take a picture, or WHAT?" That's L, in Ava's class--he is a real cutie.

After the Hat Parade, the principal thanked us all for coming, and encouraged us to go ahead and take our children home if we wanted to. I looked at one of the other moms sitting next to me and raised my eyebrows. "I don't think so!" I am not one of those moms that dreads school holidays, but why rush these things? She'd have more fun at school with her buds, anyway.

You might've guessed that for us, Easter is about a great deal more than bunnies and eggs and chocolate. Don't get me wrong--we enjoy all that as much as anyone. But if there had never been that first Easter morning--hope springing from despair, life miraculously triumphing over death, God Himself meeting us in our darkest moment--I certainly can't imagine what my life would be like. So while I'm eating chocolate and playing Easter Bunny this weekend, I'll definitely be thinking of that. And thanking God for God.

And let me just add this...I usually don't rant about things, y'all. I am not a debater--I'm a lover, not a fighter. I leave the controversial stuff to my brother Dave, who's so much better at it than me. But I just read an article yesterday and couldn't believe it. Background first, though. Each year, the Royal Easter Show takes place in Sydney. It's a huge, 2 week long festival, a carnival-like atmosphere with entertainment and rides and exhibitions. Sponsored by the Royal Agricultural Society, so there's livestock shows, too. Thousands and thousands of people go every year.

So, yesterday I read that the Bible Society of New South Wales was told they could not have a stall at the Easter Show. They had originally been told they had a spot and then were told that, due to the religious nature of their exhibit, they would not be permitted to participate. Because clearly, Jesus and Easter don't mix. I just have to say, I think this is utterly redonkulous. To be fair, the Easter Show management claimed to have "an unwritten policy" that no religious or political groups can participate. But no Jesus at the Easter Show? Doesn't that just seem a bit silly? Their stall would have been one of hundreds that people could stop at or walk on by. I was simply amazed that they were told they couldn't come. If nothing else, it seems like a bad PR move for the Easter Show!

I mean, when we went to the Chinese New Year Festival a few weeks ago, was I surprised or offended to see exhibits and stalls espousing traditional Chinese beliefs? Literature being sold along those lines? No. Cause y'all, it was a Chinese New Year Festival. Perhaps there might be some people from China involved in such a thing. We chose to stop at the stalls we were interested in and to pass by the ones we weren't. No worries, right?

Anyway, it's still Easter regardless of all that! I mean, I don't think Jesus is sitting at home all bummed out that he didn't get asked to the prom or whatever. So however you spend it, I hope you have a great weekend. And to all of you who have been emailing or commenting and asking after Becky--thank you so much. She is home now and doing well. We are so grateful for your prayers and sweet thoughts.