Friday, September 30, 2011

Mom, the trouper

On September 20th Mom had her double mastectomy. The long and short of it is, it went off without a hitch. It all happened so fast, really. My Mom was the biggest trouper I have ever seen. She focused on shopping for pajamas, thinking ahead (even talking about Christmas presents), and future treatment plans. She didn't get upset at all. She was so sweet as she was waking up from surgery, requesting a kiss on the cheek from everyone in the room.

Her surgery was 9 days ago and she has had very little pain. She is healing beautifully and the first steps were taken during surgery for reconstruction. She has seen the surgery site and said, "It didn't look as bad as I thought it would." I was afraid it would be a set back to see that area. But she seems to have no remorse over her loss at all. She just wants to get rid of the cancer. Probably a perk of having 68 years of life experience. Her attitude has been so graceful. She did have the lymph nodes removed on one side. But the pathology report came back with no signs of cancer left in her body. They gave her a 94% chance of full recovery and no relapse. I have been told those odds are very, very good.

I know the six rounds of chemo and the other steps for reconstruction will be difficult. We are not completely oblivious to what is down the road. But I am grateful for how well she is doing today. Thank you, dear friends, for praying. Honestly, I think the week before the surgery was more difficult for me than for her! On the way home from Birmingham the night before her big day I saw this beautiful sunset (at the gas station).
I was so overwhelmed with the cancer that I kept asking Jesus to just ride in behind the clouds and rescue me from all this brokenness. I was SO, SO ready for Him to come back right then and take us all Home. But that wasn't the day. And so we woke up and faced the music, and it was good. And tomorrow will be another day. And we all survived. And I am reminded again that no matter what the suffering or trial for this season of life might be, with Jesus there is always, ALWAYS something amazing to look forward to!

"Gratitude never comes from avoiding difficulty, but from finding yourself sustained through it. The degree of joy rises from the degree of gratitude, and the level of gratitude corresponds to the level of God's grace experienced in our suffering. God's sustaining providence brings relief, even when life becomes unspeakably difficult."

~Randy Alcorn

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Celebrating our girl

Lydie turned 5 on the 21st. On the 17th we celebrated at the mall. We invited her sweet girl cousins to the Build-A-Bear Workshop. And afterwards, we met the rest of the family in the food court for pizza and cake. Every year I either make or buy Lydie a dress for her birthday. This year I didn't have time to make one. We actually found this outfit at the consignment store. I appliqued the shirt with scraps of fabric I already had. The skirt was $12 and the shirt was $11. The pigtails are my {FAVORITE} hairstyle on her right now. She just happened to have those brown shoes with a matching pink flower on them. (Hand me down from a friend.) Love it when it all comes together like that!

We set up for lunch in the mall of the food court. Lydie and I wanted pink and polka dots for our theme. I used mostly stuff around the house. Tissue paper (pom poms), scrapbook paper and a kabob stick (sign), and left-over shredded paper for confetti. She is a girl who loves all the little details.
Andy and I did our best to make exactly what Lydie wanted for her cake this year: "a very chocolate-y ballerina bear". Although this cake required less creativity (we just followed the instructions on the cake pan), this cake took a longer amount of time to make! But she squealed when she saw it, which made it well worth the effort, of course.

I try to always incorporate something little from my Nana at her parties. (Nana was Lydie's namesake.) This year I used her old milk bottle to hold Lydie's sign.

Our party favor bags probably do not get rave reviews by our attendees. Let's just say they are "cost efficient". We let the birthday child pick their three favorite foods for the bags. Lydie chose all chocolate (m&m, Hershey bar, Hershey kisses)!

Daddy's girl was getting excited and ready for her cousins to arrive!

We all enjoy this little one SO much! I just wanted to pull her away and hug and kiss her all day!

The employee who hosted the party was really entertaining. I think the girls had fun!

Look at my darling nieces!!

Meanwhile, the boys went to the Lego and football store. Thanks, Uncle Ben, for entertaining them! (Sorry slacker Uncle Rick flaked out and went to Starbucks! haha)

Nana and Poppy were there. Nana even made her own bunny. We missed Mimi and Papa! So glad they are on the mend after being sick for so long!

My two beautiful sister-in-laws. Love that we are all raising our kids together! They are both awesome wives and Moms!

Andy and his brother Ben. (You can tell by my family's wardrobe that it was game day for Auburn!)

I wonder what my five year old girl wished for?

Greyce and Lydie- two peas in a pod.

Fun was had by all. In six short weeks we threw all three children their own birthday party. Gonna hang my party hat up for a while! :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dining for 4

We have had quite a bit of cool weather around here. When the air turns breezy and smells fresh, I become obsessed with baking and cooking. I guess after such long, hot months, it is nice to enjoy warm food again. Also, due to my diet we really do not eat out except after church and on Wednesdays when Lydie and I spend the day in Birmingham and have lunch together. I find it embarrassing to have to say, "I'll take a grilled chicken salad. But the chicken can not be grilled with any oil or butter- it has to be grilled dry. And no salad dressing. And only spinach, cucumbers, and onions." I hate being that girl. So I cook a lot. And consequently, clean the kitchen a lot. :)
This past month I have cooked rich casseroles, baked with pumpkin (chocolate chip pumpkin muffins are a favorite), made steamy cinnamon swirl cake, an apple pie, and created new soup recipes. The children are enjoying chili for the first time ever. The secret? 2 teaspoons of sugar (per crock pot) and sauteed onions. Apparently it makes a real difference. Who am I kidding, of course, it does. It's butter and sugar!
It sounds like the kids eat junk all the time. But really they only have a dessert one or two evenings a week. And we usually have one casserole a week, and the other nights I try to make a lean protein with veggies. They do love carbs at breakfast (waffles, muffins, pancakes) but I try to serve appropriate portions with fruit. Remember when you counted your baby or toddler's servings of fruits, veggies, dairy, etc.? That habit never went away with me. I find myself telling them, skip the chips for yogurt, you need another dairy. Or skip the crackers for nuts, you need another protein. Is that silly? And do you feel like you are constantly reminding your kids to drink another glass of water?
The most ironic part of all of this baking is that I can not eat a single thing that I am making! My diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, and 6 ounces of fish, chicken, or beef each day. (Plus lots of water and gum!) I haven't had a carb, milk/cheese, or any sugar in 35 days. And I have only had snippets of caffeine in the occasional unsweetened tea. Isn't that stifling? But I have 21 pounds of weight loss as reward. And those pounds propel me to keep inching forward. I don't want to have this attitude forever, because I do not think it is what God ultimately intended for us...but right now food is just a means of energy (and not enough!), and nothing more. Because I have been so disconnected to taste and the feeling of being full, I am able to still enjoy watching my family eat all the goodies. Some how instead of torture, it's very gratifying.
I think in order to reach my ultimate goal at a moderate pace, this will be my way of life until December. So no fall goodies for me! I just keep repeating to myself: No more belly fat! No more belly fat! The belly and I have been enemies for a while and I am determined to win this battle once and for all! And in the meantime, I am going to enjoy happy, crumby-faced kids, yummy smells, and good times in the kitchen baking with my kids. And if I'm lucky, I'll dream of feta cheese again. I mean that literally.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Sunny spots

There's always blessings along the way...

{Lydie's first day of ballet class. I grew up taking dance from age 3-18. So watching her in class is very special. }
{Dinner with friends to celebrate college football kick-off last Thursday. } **We will NOT be cheering for Mississippi State this Saturday!!**

{Fun art projects! }
Lydie's splat monster

Jack's embroidered leaf painting

{Fun finds at the consignment sale, along with over 200 things tagged from our house which will hopefully pay for our fall clothes! }

{Cool, lovely weather. 70 degrees with bright, blue skies and puffy, white clouds. }

{Running into five different friends from high school. It is so fun to be back in Alabama! }

{The completion of our fourth week of school. Our school days have been full and challenging. I think all of the kids have learned a lot this first month! But we are all ready for our first field trip!}

{Sweet pumpkin baby turns one. Our friends' baby is just too cute and the kids enjoyed his party last night!}
{Dinner with Mom and Dad in the middle of the week. Again, so great to be here. }

{Successful surgery for my father-in-law. Hopefully he is finally on the road to recovery!! }

{Slow progress on my diet. I guess progress is progress. Seventeen and a half pounds shed so far. }

{In the past four weeks we have only had fast food one time. (And this was because we were going to a football party with hot wings.) This is a very good thing for us. I have to really plan ahead in order to pack food if we are away from home. And, I run the dishwasher three times a day due to so much cooking at home. But I know it's well worth it! }

{Lydie's amazement with herself today because she learned to gurgle her milk. She's convinced she is brilliant.}

{Sweet emails and notes from friends encouraging us with Mom's diagnosis. Thank you! She will be having a double mastectomy the week of the 19th. Please continue to pray with us!}

{Keeping my eye on the prize. And the prize is Jesus.}

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Tuesday: A {crazy} day in the life

8:00 Rolled out of bed. Bed head. Fierce mood. 3rd night in a row that I was up with The Coughing Child. Kids are loud and happy, even T.C.C. Sweet husband is feeding them breakfast and having devotion with them. Sweetest gift around, he is. But...

8:15 Argued with husband. Desperate for a solution for T.C.C. Defensive, guilty, tired. Why am I saying these things?

8:30 Sent kids to do chores and get dressed (aka turn off the cartoons). Throw on clothes and call for doctor's appt. He can only see us this morning. Declare that school will begin after lunch today. Wade through dishes. Make a strawberry smoothie. Husband leaves for a consulting work day away from the farm.

9:00 Best friend calls. She never calls in the morning (so thoughtful!). I tell the kids this is an important call and I will need a while. They get back out the toys they just cleaned up. I talk for an hour and feel so encouraged. Kids are outside now laughing. Feels like fall. Josh brings me a flower and a kiss. Joy boy.

10:00 No time for shower now. It's going to be a hat and lip gloss day. I do, however, remember to brush my teeth. Do a hair/teeth check on the kids. Check. And we're out of here. Call and apologize to husband.

10:30 Doctor, drug store, errands.

12:00 Lunch. Home-made pizza. Crust not cooked all the way through. Doughy. Not a big hit. Tell the kids I need to make three phone calls and then school begins. Credit card company has cashed the check, but it is not credited to our account. No resolution. Pest control company scheduled for tomorrow...huge flea infestation from stray dog in the barn. Fleas must have traveled in on Andy's clothes. Old bank account from Georgia finally closed and check in the mail for fees that have accrued. 2 HOURS (and a very messy house) LATER...

2:00 We start school. They immediately need a snack. We start again. Praise God, they speed along the basics. Juggle grammar questions with 3rd grader, decimals with 5th grader, and planets with kindergartner, but all at the same time. Paint Pluto, dissect sentence, dry erase board for another decimal pong. Listen to her read, check his math sheet, listen to him recite poetry. Ping pong.

5:00 Only science, history, and Latin left. Take a break and I put on dinner. Didn't check the salsa that was added to the casserole. Now that it's in the oven I see the "HOT" label with three peppers beside it. Can't give it a taste test due to my diet. Smells SPICY. But it will do, along with some buttery crescent rolls and beans to mask the burn. Juggle dinner and science. Read half of history, too. Praise God for William Wilberforce. Finish up the planet painting with Lydie. And throw in a quick Latin lesson. Notice the boys are loving it. So thankful.

6:00 Husband is home. He shows the kids the picture of the chocolate lab he just held and wants us to adopt. I swear a flea crawled up my leg. I begin to itch all over and serve dinner. Smells great. The plain chicken and lemon asparagus on my plate, not so much. Tell the kids over dinner that Nana has cancer, but the doctors say they are going to get rid of it. We pray.

6:30 House is almost unrecognizable. Offer a movie if the kids can clean the house, get showers, and the boys can practice guitar with time to spare. Get a call that my father-in-law has to have surgery again tomorrow. Complications. Mother-in-law is understandably distraught as she just had surgery of her own last week. Call the kids in to tell them the news. More prayer.

7:00 Bathe Lydie. Clean the restroom as I watch her stick her head underwater and laugh hysterically when I panic. She stays underwater forever. Where was that bravery when we were in the pool this summer? Hear sweet guitar music. Marvel at my husband's teaching skills. Feel tired, overwhelmed, helpless. But oh SO loved. Feel joy welling up.

7:30 House is basically in order. Oh no, remember sheets in the dryer. Put them on all the beds. Oh no, remember we forgot to read the other history assignment. And we were supposed to discuss our composer. Noted for tomorrow.

8:00 Kids get 30 minute start on the movie. Andy talks with his parents. I finish tagging clothes to drop off tomorrow for the consignment sale. Look at the agenda for tomorrow and feel tired. Open the windows and enjoy fall air. Pray that afternoon school will not be necessary again for a long time.

8:30 Prayers and hugs and kisses with the children. Coughs (them). Sighs(me). Walk past the sink full of dishes and the toy train tracks on the floor. Enough for today. Husband reminds me again, "It's okay, babe. We live here." That's right. It doesn't have to be perfect (or even remotely in order) to be lovely. Time to cuddle.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor day weekend fun: The Fair

We were the big party poopers of the family this weekend. My brother's family, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all went to the beach. We decided to have a "staycation" and not join them. I know, boring! But it was SO good for us. We watched movies, played games, the kids had home-made pancakes and popcorn, enjoyed a day of college football (War Eagle!), and we took one night to go to the Alabama State Fair. I napped, took a bubble bath, read, and enjoyed my family every day. With such a busy school year, so much travel time in the car, adjusting to teaching three separate grade levels this year, and trying to adjust to Mom's cancer news, I had NO energy to pack and travel. (And we have a fabulous trip to look forward to in December with these family members- Steamboat, Colorado!)It has been a super weekend! Restful, fun, wonderful! (If you live in Alabama and listen to the radio, we saw the "monkeys ridin' dogs!!" My husband thought that advertisement was hilariously obnoxious.)

Sunday, September 04, 2011

My tour for Lydie

The other day while Mom was in surgery for her cyst (before the bad news), Lydie and I took a tour around Birmingham. The hospital was so close to where I spent my first 10 years of childhood that I thought I would show her around. (The boys were in classes all day at the hybrid school.) She is the perfect tourist, as she oooos and ahhhhhs over everything, always asking for more.

First, we toured the Highland Avenue area of downtown Birmingham. My great aunt who I was named after lived there and I have many memories there. She was never married, a fully devoted school teacher, and a lover of children. She was a big part of my Mom's life because my Mom's dad died when she was just six or seven, so Aunt Margaret came along side my Nana to help raise my Mom and her brother.

Here is her apartment. It has a beautiful courtyard. My brother and I thought it was HUGE when we were little. She lived upstairs, and Ms. Lucy and Ms. Claira lived downstairs. Those ladies taught us a variety of card games and always had gum on hand. We spent mostly every Saturday afternoon there with them. It looks exactly the same.

Nana and I walked this sidewalk many, many times. We would either just walk the 4 or 5 miles home, or we would catch the bus. Nana never learned to drive and somehow managed just fine. We passed Nana's church on route.
Nana's house is still the same color and very much the same on the outside, with the exception of the missing porch swing. Nana was Lydia's namesake (Lydia Mae). Some of my fondest childhood memories are from this house- sewing, baking, learning to braid my hair, gardening, house keeping, and having parties. My Nana was lovely and probably the most influential person in my life.And directly across the street lived my Grandmom and Granddad. Their house is still the same color, too. My Grandmom was a lively, extroverted, very well put together lady. She LOVED having us over, along with my cousins. She loved to cook and always, always told me, "I know for a fact that I have the prettiest grand babies around." She made me feel special. My Granddad was a kind, salt-of-the-earth type of man. Full of integrity, quiet, steady. They made a beautiful couple.And a few miles down the road is where I lived from birth until 5th grade, which is when we moved to Homewood (the suburbs). This house was white with red shutters when we were there. There was a touch of red everywhere- the master bedroom, the kitchen (countertops!), the wallpaper, even the truck, because red was my Dad's favorite color. Sweet, simple life in this little house. It's for sale now. A part of me wishes we could move in.Lydie and I had a blast walking and driving down memory lane. I wonder what she will tell her children one day about her childhood?

Friday, September 02, 2011

A call to honor

It's a true adventure, walking with Jesus in the context of a fallen world. It never ceases to amaze me how the peaks and pits can all squeeze into a matter of days. This week was no different.

It started off beautifully. The boys had wonderful days at their hybrid school. We are really getting into a groove with school at home, too. I am settling into the driving time, enjoying it as much as possible. I LOVE my day at home alone with Lydie. We are baking, she is learning to read at such a quick pace, she paints every day, and we cuddle and read. Kindergarten is amazing. She adores gymnastics. And what's more fun than watching your child learn something that they really enjoy? The boys are making sweet, precious friends at school. It seems they have already found a group of great guys to hang out with. (And, their friends are in the same group- the beauty of being in a 3rd-5th grade class together...gush!)

On their off days (Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday) we sleep late. We linger on the sofa for over an hour with the Bible and our devotion. We discuss, they ask pent-up questions, we pray. It's lovely. Then we work hard, and I feel really comfortable with our work load. We are learning a lot and they are being challenged. The boys are flying along with guitar and golf. And Lydie starts ballet next week. I LOVE watching them learn. This week also brought the celebration of Joshua's birthday and Andy and my 15th wedding anniversary. It was magical.

I began to think on Thursday morning, this may turn out to be a FABULOUS year! I am generally easily excited about life. But I really began to get elated. I was looking forward to our football kick-off night with friends. I weighed in losing 14 pounds. Good, good, good!

Then I got a devastating call. My Mom had a reoccurring cyst that needed to be removed on Wednesday. I spoke of her first episode here in June. She finally heard from the pathology report, and this time it is cancer. BOOM! The hammer fell. I kept telling myself, "Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever!" His unfailing love is the same after the boom as before when all my ducks were in a row and I envisioned a seamless year. I TRULY believe it, too. He knows, He ordains, He loves, He carries, He purposes. I've experienced unexplicable joy in the midst of sorrow before, and I know what it feels like to be carried in His arms.

So now all I know to do is take this "ideal" school year that I have constructed and give it back to Jesus. My weeks are jammed packed with serving my children, husband, neighbors, and entertaining family and friends. It all looked so good in my mind, and I confess, on paper. (I am one of THOSE people who writes out a schedule for menus, chores, school, etc.) But my ideal year is being tossed in the blender on the liquefy mode. So I will have to do what the Lord knows is so very difficult for me- follow Him closely every day. No planning. No game plan. No predictability. Just daily, me and Him, walking together as I wait for Him to order my days. I will be learning anew this season what it means to honor my father and my mother. I am blessed to be called to do so. I know it will stretch me, but Jesus will sustain our family and hold us tight. I pray I can be the hands and feet of Jesus to my sweet parents who I love so dearly!

Andy and I were just talking on our anniversary about CLINGING to Christ, and consequently to one another. No matter how easy or difficult our current stage of life might be, it's the only answer, really. Holding on TIGHTLY!

Please pray for us, and especially for my Mom. Pray for healing, faith, peace, and joy. Pray for more Jesus for all of us. As God uses this deeply painful and challenging illness for His glory, this truly could be the most AMAZING year ever as we taste of the deep riches of His grace.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Dear September,

I am so glad to see you! After a long, hot, summer on the farm you are like a visit from my best friend. I am trusting you to bring cooler weather, at least by mid-month. You bring so much wonderful fun to our home. I hope we can find new places here in Alabama to carry on the same traditions we have enjoyed in the past in Georgia.

Like these...

A visit to an apple orchard (our visit in 2008)

Lydie's birthday (party from 2009)

Trips to the park (2009)Auburn football (2008)Fall decor (2010) Fall consignment sale (2008)The state fair (2008)Picnics (2010)

Let the good times roll!