Four or Five years ago today, when Caleb was twoish, Tom and I were getting the boys ready for bed. It was around 8:30p.m. so they were already up past their bed time and were wired accordingly. They were wrestling and chasing each other around the living room as I tried to wrangle them in to get their pajamas on. Suddenly Ethan grabbed the neck of Caleb's shirt and yanked him backward, straight into the corner of the wall. Tom grabbed Ethan to discipline him and I picked up Caleb and held him to my chest to comfort him as big tears rolled down his cheeks. I put my hand on his head and gently coaxed him to calm down. A moment later I realized my hand felt wet and I was terrified as I removed it to see bright red blood all over it. It took only a moment to find the deep gash in his head and realize that it needed a hospital’s attention.

I covered his head in a towel and rushed us to the emergency room where I was sure a little thing like stitches would require a long nights wait. But the ER was virtually empty and we were taken back within 15 minutes. It was awful to have to help the doctor and nurse hold my son down as they stitched up his head. He cried and screamed the whole time, even though they had given him local anesthetic. It was about 9:30p.m. when he and I made it back home. After he went to bed I did too. That was enough excitement for New Years Eve.

Fast forward a few years later to today. When I got Vanessa up this morning and kissed her face I thought she smelled a little, off. But I didn’t think much of it. I got her dressed, fed her breakfast and then held her since she was unusually cuddly. As I held her to my chest in a chair she suddenly sounded as if she were gasping for breath and a moment later I felt warmth through my jeans. I pulled her back and another blast of puke erupted from her poor little mouth. She was drenched, I was drenched and it was then that the off smell and the unusual cuddliness made sense. After getting us both showered off I checked her crib and she had indeed vomited in there during the night. Now I get to ring in the new year with a sick child.

At least we ended both years with a bang I suppose.
So last night the kids and I took a long flight into Denver CO and then a 1 hour flight on a different plane into Salt Lake City UT. The trip went surprisingly well. The children were all agreeable. I think it had something to do with the TV’s on the backs of their seats. If you’re flying with kids and you have Frontier airlines at your airport, use them! 

Anyway, as we were boarding our first flight Caleb and Ethan were directly behind me. As I looked back to make sure they were right on my tail I saw that Caleb had stopped. He had a big smile on his face and was waving to a pretty young Asian woman standing in her row. At that moment he said very loudly (the kid has no volume control), “Hi my girlfriend!” which caused immediate chuckling from the woman and her boyfriend. Only a second after that, while still waving at his ‘girlfriend’ he yelled out, “I WIKE GIRLS!!!!” Everybody in the plane heard that one and burst into laughter. I was laughing too but of course my face was bright red. I’m not raising a pimp I swear!!! He’s never said anything like that ever! What a way to start the flight though eh? Kids are great ice breakers.

So as I’m writing this now, we obviously made it safe and sound. I did have to wake Vanessa when we got to the SLC airport and she cried through the whole airport but at least we were off the plane before she was in a bad mood. We arrived at Grandma’s at 12:45 a.m. (2:45 our time) so we were exhausted and fell promptly to sleep. I’m excited to be here, but now I have a wedding cake to start making. The next few days will be very busy ones but I’m glad to be back with family again. I can’t wait till hubby joins us in a week!
The moment I woke up on that 7th day, I felt inside that something was terribly wrong. I thought it was just the anxiety again but soon enough I realized it was more. More than fear. It was paralysis. It was darkness so deep I was afraid I had no control. I called a friend on the phone and sobbed to her.

“I don’t know what’s wrong. I can’t stop crying. I’m so afraid I’m going to do something to myself.”

I called my mother and told her the same things. My body was burning and shaking and so was my mind. All I could do was lay down and tremble, terrified beyond capacity to even function. The medication had washed from my system, cold turkey, leaving an even bigger mess in it’s wake. My mother told me she was flying out immediately. At the same time I was terrified I might do something to myself, I wanted to die. My body and mind were in a state of constant torture and I wanted it to end.

Here I learned the power of love in keeping a weary soul going. My children knew I was sick. Of course they didn’t know the scope of the illness but they were so tender with me, asking if I would be ok, telling me that they loved me. And somehow their love helped me get a better grip on reality. I needed to be ok, for them. They needed me and they loved me and I loved them. I couldn’t be consumed by this thing, for their sake.

So I waited and sobbed and sat paralyzed and wondered when it would end. One hour felt like a day as my mind raced and sent shockwaves of terror and darkness through me. At times the intense darkness would let up but then it would return, leaving me unable to function again. Only adding to the stress was that this break down had come at the worst possible time for my husband, who had a huge deadline to meet. Both of us were frustrated by the timing of this thing. So I looked forward to hope on the horizon. My mother was coming.

To be continued…
I’ve debated for a while on whether or not to write this post. OCD is, in my opinion, one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses around. I suppose I feel compelled to write this post today because this week has been especially difficult for me. Maybe I can help somebody else dealing with this garbage. Maybe it will help me if talk about it.

First of all, let’s talk about what OCD isn’t. The term OCD has become a common phrase, flung around carelessly when people are perfectionistic, meticulous, fixated on doing certain things a certain way or the like. I have to say it’s a pet peeve of mine to hear people casually say things like, “Oh, I am so OCD” as if it’s something quirky or funny. Certainly perfectionism and meticulousness may be present in a person with OCD but many people truly dealing with this vicious disease would not be able to so easily make light of these tendencies. Edited to add - I’m of course not angry at anyone who has used the term lightly, just frustrated because it gives a false impression about what OCD really is.

Now, let’s talk about what OCD is. Wikipedia defines it as …”a chronic mental disorder most commonly characterized by intrusive, repetitive thoughts resulting in compulsive behaviors and mental acts that the person feels driven to perform…aimed at preventing some imagined dreaded event. Also, the psychological self-awareness of the irrationality of the disorder can be painful.”

When a person has OCD the brains “alarm system” so called, overreacts. Irrational fears that may come and go in an instant for normal people will take seed in the thought of a person with OCD and play out over and over causing severe anxiety and distress. Thus, the obsession part of OCD. Perhaps the most distressing part of all is that the person with OCD can’t control this. They know these fears are irrational, they know (or hope) that these scary thoughts are not of their own making or will, yet they can’t get rid of the thoughts. In my case it’s often more than just thoughts. Images will flash in my mind over and over that I can’t shake. It’s like someone has my eyes peeled open in front of a horror movie. Or like someone shouting in my head ceaselessly.

So what does a person do when they are hounded by scary thoughts? What do you do when a disease takes hold of your inner fears and taunts you with the idea of acting on them, or being victim to them? You try to beat the thing out of your head that’s what. Thus the compulsion comes into play.
Somehow you think that if you act a certain way or do a certain something that it will lessen the severity of the intrusive thoughts. So maybe you decide you have to count to 7 three times in a row, or lock the door 3 times in a row to prevent that terrible thought from playing out. Or maybe you have to say a prayer every single time a disturbing image hits. Not that prayer isn’t good, but when it becomes a part of the compulsion, it’s not.

It’s a disease I wouldn’t be surprised if the devil himself created. Why? Because acting out the compulsions only make it worse. As a kind psychologist once told me, it’s an invincible dragon. The more you try to slay it, the more it feeds off your distress and the worse it gets. I could hardly swallow it when he told me I had to stop trying to kill it. I had to learn to live with it. How do you learn to live with something you hate with such a passion? 

Knowing what your dealing with is only 1/4 of the battle. It did help when I was finally diagnosed and knew that these disturbing thoughts weren’t me. But after that I had to yield. I had to hear the stupid disease shout at me and not do anything about it. I had to learn to agree with my adversary while it was in the way with me. I had to see that intrusive image or have that intrusive thought and think “Yeah, that would suck” and try to focus on something else. The trick is finding balance, distracting yourself a little when needed without allowing that distraction to become a compulsion.

Many people I know always seem to be in wonder at how much I accomplish in a day, at how much I teach myself. Well now you know why. I don’t like to let my mind idle. I love to learn new things anyway and while doing so there is less opportunity for me to focus on disturbing thoughts. But sometimes no matter how I try to get along with this disease it will still rear up and beat me into exhaustion. Sometimes I can’t resist the urge to shout back at it. Sometimes I can’t wait for the day to end so I can find release in sleep. But I keep trying to live with it, keep trying to believe that who I really am inside is independent of it and that when I pass into the next life I will finally be free of it.

To read more about the type of OCD I most struggle with visit this article
Within the last couple of days we’ve gotten two different toy catalogs. One from Target and one from Walmart. I decided instead of tossing them I’d let the boys search through them and dream. I figured it would keep them very busy and I was right.

 Two nights ago before bed Ethan busied himself reading the detailed descriptions underneath each and every toy. Caleb spent a fair amount of time looking through it on Sunday, calling me over whenever he saw a really cool toy he just HAD to tell me about. Then yesterday the boys were browsing through it yet again, together:

Ethan: Mom, I want this Hot Wheel track. It. Is. So. Awesome!
Me: Mmm Hmmm. Looks like fun.
Ethan: So can I get it for Christmas?
Me: Maybe
Caleb: Yeah mom, I wanna Hot Wheews twack too! And a hot Wheews ca!!
Ethan: Yeah mom. I’m just a Hot Wheels fan!
Me: Really? 
Caleb: Yeah, me too!
Ethan: No you’re not Caleb. Only 6 year old boys can be Hot Wheels fans.
Caleb: Mom, Ethan say I can’t be a Hot Wheews fan!
Me: Of course you can. Ethan stop making up silly rules.
Ethan: Well, you can’t play with my Hot Wheels track if I get it for Christmas
Caleb: Yes huh!
Ethan: Nuh Uh!
Caleb: Yes huh!
Ethan: Nuh Uh!
Caleb (close to tears): Moooooom!! Ethan said I can’t pway wif da Hot Wheews twack if we get it for Chwismas!!!
Me (exasperated): Boys! You’re fighting over something we don’t even own!

Maybe next time I’ll think twice about handing them the toy catalog.
My grandma received news that they’ve found another spot of cancer. This time on her liver. It’s new and small and they think they can shrink it with treatment. So she’s going ahead with the chemo. She has a wedding she wants to go too and I would love for her to see our family again. But I guess the treatment for this particular spot of cancer will be very vicious. It’s called the Red Devil, I think, because the side effects are so bad.

Let me start this next thought by telling you that I’m not questioning my faith or God, but I have been pondering lately on how very unfair life can be. My grandma grew up with alcoholic parents and rarely had peace of mind or situation. Somehow she turned out well balanced in spite of all the chaos in her life. One of her half brothers is an alcoholic and the other one has been abusing his body with smoking and alcohol for most of his life. She’s one who has taken good care of her body and yet it is ravaged by cancer. I wouldn’t wish the cancer on her brothers but it seems so unfair that her body has betrayed her this way.

When I was younger, I had a false notion that making smart or righteous choices would always yield fair or favorable outcomes in life. But as I got older and realized that very bad things can happen to the best of people I had to wonder why. I couldn’t understand why those who were good people, wouldn’t always be rewarded for their goodness. But it began to make sense when I had children of my own. If my children know of a promised reward for their behavior, they will almost always choose to act in a way that will earn them that reward, even if their heart is not in it. But I don’t want to bribe them into doing good, I want them to choose good, to be good no matter what. When it is right to reward them I will, but it is not always right to do so. Somehow as a parent, I can just feel where to draw the line. What they need is almost never what they want. It struck me with such force as I came to realize these things that God is in the same position. Do we not call him our Heavenly Father? He is a parent. And though he is God, he is still bound by the same feelings. By the knowledge that to deliver every one from every trial, would be the most growth stunting thing he could do for us. I don’t necessarily believe he wants us to go through or decides exactly what hardships we will face, but I do think that he rarely prevents those events because we’re better for it. And I really believe we are.

I've written on here before that a few years ago I went through the effects of a toxic drug interaction. My body was stuck in an awful hell for months. I had never felt such despair, such loneliness. I had never had my faith shaken so badly. I questioned the existence of God and was terrified that I felt at liberty to do so. But I felt nothing. In spite of this I was determined to know if he was really there. I kept going through the motions, praying and hoping that if he was there he might heal me. I had lived such a good life, I wasn’t perfect but I was doing a pretty good job so why wouldn’t he heal me?!?!? I figured it was because I lacked the faith. That if I wasn’t even sure if he existed that of course he wouldn’t do anything if He did. As I went to therapy and tried to heal my mind I remember for the first time in my life being too angry to care. Angry that any of this happened, angry at the unidentified malady that had plagued me for 12 years. So angry I lost all inhibitions. Things I had been too terrified to tell anyone went on in my head, finally came out and with it came the answer to 12 years of prayer. It didn’t happen overnight but those 3 months of torture transformed me. I never want to go through anything like that again, but I am a better person for it. My faith in God was nearly extinguished but I chose to keep trying to believe until I felt it again. I have a better understanding of Him than I ever did before that experience. Dare I say I’m thankful for that experience? I wish it hadn’t been so miserable, but would the rewards have been as sweet had it not been?

I know God exists and that while he may not take our trials away, he will help us get through them if we allow it. I know things will be ok for my grandma eventually. Death is after all only a new beginning.
And to finish this off on a less somber note. If all goes well with her treatment, our whole family will get to see her again this Christmas. My sister is getting married very close to Christmas and my mom has been so gracious as to fly our family out. It will be our first Christmas with our families in 5 years and I’m looking forward to it.
Tonight being my last night here in Houston and all, Angel girl, my grandparents and I went over to my Aunt’s house to have a barbecue. She makes some good burgers! We had finished up dinner and I was trying to keep the baby entertained while my Aunt and Grandma cleared off the table when all the sudden a cake was placed in front of me that said Happy Birthday Summer! My Aunt lit the candles and they all sang to me. My birthday isn’t for a while yet but they wanted to have a mini celebration with me.

I’m one who absolutely LOVES surprises but rarely get any so this made me just a little teary. It was so unexpected and so sweet. I even got a present, a new journal which I’ve no doubt I’ll make good use of. Thanks so much grandma! (I know it was all your idea you sly granny you)
For the most part I am. Malleable I mean. But occasionally even I, multi-tasker extraordinaire find I’m being stretched too thin. Oh no, I’ve got a gaping hole over my emotions! Yikes, there’s a slight tear in my resolve!

Yes, sometimes I find I’ve turned into a figurative doughy mess and I feel too stretched out to be able to snap back into shape. Aggravating that precarious state of mind is the fact that I know (somewhere within that miscroscopic logical part of my brain) that nothing is wrong. So bawling my eyes out when I know there’s no good reason for it just makes me feel like more of a failure.

The sad thing about this? It’s a cycle. I’m chuggin’ along feeling great, taking on more and more and suddenly the mental load I’ve only added the tiniest bits and piece too, becomes more than I can bear. I crash and I burn and I cry and I get mad at the world and grumpy with people in general. Then ticked at myself for doing so. Then I cry some more. I just can’t win! I am simply never going to live up to the woman I think I should be. Often this is a good thing, a high motivator. But it eventually always brings me to a complete stop.

Then, after the anger and the crying and the spark of hope that starts my engine chugging again, I find further healing in a bowl of ice cream and a good romance movie. Shortly after that, I realize once again that I can conquer the world…
The Chicken smells like fried stairwell. That’s what I told my husband when I walked in our apartment door last night. Obviously I’d had another long day. As we snuggled under the covers last night I said, “I think I have a mid-life crisis pretty much every month.”

He snickered, knowing exactly what I meant by that. But really, I’m often in a state of transience when it comes to feeling satisfied with my progress in life. Sure it’s ok to cut yourself some slack once in a while but it’s also important to keep striving to be better. I can rarely find a balance between the two. So I got to thinking about my life and where I am as opposed to where I thought I would be years ago. It reminded me of a collage I made with some church leaders and youth 10 years ago. We got together one night and cut loads of magazines apart, gluing pictures or sayings about our dreams onto poster board.

I dug it out of my hope chest today. I don’t know how it didn’t get thrown away years ago but I’m so glad it didn’t. On the back of the poster board is written ‘May 12, 1998 To compare w/life in 2008′
Well here it is, over 10 years later.

I evidently wanted a cat and dog (still do) and I was going to be a WNBA star. Oh how many hours I spent dreaming of playing professional basketball. Yeah, didn't happen. But I did have fun playing in High School.

 I also put a quote on there about controlling your passions. This was a big one for me - A fiery red head at heart. Tempers run hot in my family and my thoughts as I pasted this phrase on were that I never wanted to lose control of my temper again. (HA! Still trying)

 Funny how the smallest picture on the collage made my heart stop for a moment. Everything that I am now, hinges on a picture of two little rings. Ok, not those rings specifically and not even on our wedding rings specifically, but on our union. I am a wife, I always wanted to be a wife. I am a mother. I didn’t always want to be a mother.

To be perfectly and embarrassingly honest here I was terrified of having to…um…do what it is you have to do to become a mother for a VERY long time. Plus I was never one of those teenage girls who loved kids. I babysat on occasion but I rarely enjoyed it. Babies were messy, slobbery, snotty little things and kids were too annoying, demanding and silly. What a brat I was, huh?
But now motherhood defines me. I mean, I try not to let it completely over run my life. I make sure I have hobbies and spend time to myself. But it defines me in that nothing I do is solely about me anymore. Every decision I make affects my husband and 3 little people who are eager to follow my example. Sometimes that is stressful, mostly though it’s helpful. It’s helped me change for the better. 

Once I heard my 3 year old say Damn! for the first time, I knew right then I had to be better at watching my mouth when I hurt myself. Once I saw my 2 year old trying to drink out of the milk carton I realized that I’d better stop drinking out of the milk carton.

Children make you see the worst in yourself without making you feel like you’re a bad person. You see them following your bad example and you not only don’t get discouraged in yourself, you know without a doubt that you can be better and that you must be better, just for them. It’s win win. They better you, you better them. Without even realizing it sometimes.

In spite of the many dreams I’ve had to cast aside, in spite of how mentally and physically draining child rearing can be, in spite of how horrible I sometimes think I am as a mother, I know that this is exactly where I want to be right now. I have become and am still becoming the person I always wanted to be. One who is improving herself each day and sharing her love of life with people she loves more than life. What could possibly be better than that?
Written by my grandmother in Houston. I found it interesting and thought I would share it with you. And when they get my Aunt’s power back on I should have some pictures to share as well.

It was Thursday afternoon on Sept. 11, 2008 as we sat awaiting the arrival of Ike. It seemed as if the entire city and surrounding suburbs were entirely shut down after residents had cleaned the grocery store shelves of all food and water, and drained the gas stations dry. I wonder why people wait until the last minute to make their preparations. It was kind of eerie with the city shut down and now it was just a matter of waiting. Hurricanes can be so boring while we keep waiting and watching, waiting and watching, while they speed up and slow down, weaken and strengthen, veer right and loop left. Of course I thought up until the last minute that Ike would turn. Even though I was prepared, I never thought it would ever come in here. Wrong!!
Finally by Friday evening it was very apparent from the news reports that it was not going to turn. A widow lady who lives in a mobile home came to shelter with us, along with her six cats and a parrot. The parrot went to your Aunt’s house! We watched it coming in on T.V. The extent of it was the most surprising. It practically filled the Gulf of Mexico. We have friends in southeast Texas in Lake Jackson and friends in northeast Texas in Orange and the storm raged the entire state. We boarded up the three big windows in the front and put everything moveable in the garage, had our food and water in. We watched the news until about 10:00 p.m. and then went to bed. I couldn’t sleep so got up again and stayed up until a little after midnight. Shortly after I went back to bed was the end of our power for the next 72 hours. It was soooo dark with no lights on in any house or any street lights, or moon or anything. We had to use a flashlight to find our way to the bathroom.
I can’t say that the noise of the wind was that horrible. I have heard worse in Blackfoot, Idaho many nights when I was sure the house would blow off its foundation. So the noise wasn’t too bad. I slept through it until about 4:00 a.m.
Our next door neighbor, who had a tree go through his roof said that at one point he looked out the window and one of the huge pine trees in our front yard was swaying down to the ground clear across the street and the next time he looked it was swaying clear into his yard. He quit looking after that!
I got up at dawn and looked out. Wow, it was unbelievable. The hurricane was still going on. Leaves were smacked all over my windows. You couldn’t even see the back yard. It was covered with limbs, branches, leaves and debris of every kind. And the wind blowing the rain was a sight to behold.
Later it died down and we went out to survey the damage. Our house was not damaged at all and neither was your Aunt’s. However, the neighborhood looked like a war zone. There were limbs and branches everywhere. Huge, huge oak trees were down everywhere. They had crashed into houses, blocked roads, torn up sidewalks and driveways with their roots as they went down. Power and phone lines were dangling everywhere. About 40-50% of the fences were down. It was just an incredible sight.
What amazed me so much was the fact that, even as it was pouring rain people were already out starting to clean up. I felt that it was rather dangerous as limbs were still falling from trees, but there they all were. Everyone seemed to pitch in to help everyone else out. There was a huge tree blocking the road just three houses from us and our next door neighbor was right in the middle of it with his chain saw.
We hooked up an old land line phone and for a time had telephone service, but it eventually went out too and so we had no land line, no cell phone, no wireless internet, and no power. The power of course was the worst. The first night it was rather hot and humid, but early in the morning a big thunder and lightning storm came in and really cooled things off, so that helped considerably with the lack of fans or a/c. However, it also caused more flooding now that Ike had already begun. Some people had generators, but very few, and the ones that did kept running out of gas. Those generators use an amazing amount of gas. On Monday a couple of gas stations opened up and the lines were just humongous. About a three hour wait. And of course they had to get the police out there to keep everyone in line. We can’t manage ourselves, you know.
We did lose all of our food in our freezer and fridge. I said I would definitely get a generator after this, but then after seeing how much gas they take and how difficult it is to get gas I may reconsider. It was quite eerie around here during the nights without any lights. And eerie to drive past totally empty shopping centers.
The schools are closed all week. Some sustained damage, but mostly it is the fact that we have no gas for the school buses.
The Bush Intercontinental Airport sustained substantial damage. I think they are resuming flights on Wednesday. Hobby Airport also had damage. So we were pretty isolated. We couldn’t fly out, couldn’t drive out, and couldn’t call out. Your Uncle’s mom passed away and he had to drive the five hours to Dallas in order to get a flight out to California.
We were fortunate in that we did get our power back on in 72 hours. Also we did not lose our water and some of our friends did. Your Aunt who lives just two blocks from us, is still without power at this time. I don’t know why they can’t get to her.
All in all we were very blessed. It has been a tremendous clean up job, and lots of lessons learned, but none of us was hurt and no damage done to the house. The Lord blessed us greatly, and we pray for those who lost their homes or lives. We are grateful to all of you who offered prayers in our behalf.
I was lucky to have such a good relationship with my mom as a kid. Of course we had our disagreements but overall things were good, are still good. I never had any reservations about telling her anything. About asking her anything. She knew how to maintain a proper balance between being my mother and being my friend. She believed in my abilities and let me know when I wasn’t living up to my potential. Sometimes I agreed with her. Sometimes I wished she’d stop expecting so much of me. But I always knew she was right, that becoming a better person was an active decision. And that even if I continued to be stubborn and slough off in my school work or other areas of my life, she would still love me. I knew she would always be there for me.

I remember the night my boyfriend left. I was 18 and he was my first love, the first boy I had ever kissed. I was certain I would marry him, but first he needed to serve a 2 year mission for our church. It wasn’t a requirement, it was his own decision and one I had encouraged him in. But that didn’t make his leaving any less painful.

As we stood out on the lawn that final night in a tight embrace whispering our 10th good-bye, my mother stood inside the door waiting. A final tight squeeze as the tears filled my eyes and we separated. He had to run to his car to avoid being drawn back toward me and I had to run to the door to avoid the same. He started his cars ignition and waved at me with tears in his eyes as he drove away. I waved too and then broke into a sob as I fumbled to open the screen door. I flung it open and then jammed the weight of my body against the main door to push it open. As it swung open I saw the shape of my mom standing there, her arms pulling me to her. I was already sobbing so hard my head hurt. She guided me down the stairs, helped me crawl into her bed and tucked me in. Then she lay on the covers beside me and stroked my hair until I fell asleep. She was completely silent in word but her actions meant everything. Whether my pain was over dramatic or not, she knew how keenly I felt it and she didn’t try to stop that. She let me grieve hard while assuring me with only her presence and I’m forever thankful for that.

I love you mom. Happy Birthday.
Because I like to keep it real. *snicker* Or maybe I just like to embarrass myself.

Me: Yummy pizza honey. Thanks for making it
Boys: Thank you daddy!
*munch munch munch*
Hubby: BU-URP!
Me: *said with a slight smirk on my face - I thought you made a rule that there was no belching at the table.
Hubby: *with a twinkle in his eye - Oh, yeah.
Ethan: I have to go potty!
Me: Alright already, go.

* Hubby teases me as I eat, mischevious grin forms on my face*

Me: BE-ELLLLCCCCHHH!
*Chorus of laughter rings out from Ethan in the bathroom and Caleb at the table
Ethan: Burp. Burp. Burp.
* Caleb laughing
Ethan: I just tooted!!
Me: Thank you for the play by play of your bowel movement son. Really.
*munch munch munch from Caleb*
Caleb: Mama, you’re a chicken!
Me: Well you’re a chocolate cake!
Caleb: You’re a grass!
Me: You’re a Grape!
Caleb: You’re a ewephant!
Me: Well you’re a BE-LLCCCCHHHH!!!!
*Uncontainable laughter from both boys and one husband desperately trying to stifle it.
Ethan: More mom! More!!
Me: No, no, I’ve gotta stop. You’re father will never kiss me again if I don’t.

Some of our dinner times are more entertaining than others
My glances at his face were brief. I tried to focus on anything but him, which was difficult to do considering he was talking to me. His voice sounded so quiet and distant compared to the thrum of blood sounding in my ears. At the same time I ached with anticipation I trembled with fear. He knew I’d never been kissed by another boy in all my 17 years. He respected that and had told me he wouldn’t dream of kissing me without my permission. That was when I wasn’t sure I wanted to be kissed yet. When I wasn’t sure if things would continue to progress.

Now they had and my feelings for him had deepened immensely. He was my close friend and I was insanely attracted to him. I had to kiss him! But I had no experience. What would he think?
He paused from whatever it was he had been saying and asked if I was ok. My anxiety must have been showing on my face.

“Yeah,” I reassured him and then I hugged him close. As we held each other tight I quietly said the words I had been thinking all night, “I really want to kiss you, bad.” Then I squeezed him tighter hoping maybe he hadn’t heard me, or that maybe I could stay in his embrace forever and not have him look at me with my face red enough to notice even in the moonlight.

But I felt his arms slacken, and then his hands gripping my shoulders as he pushed me strongly away from him. I had no choice but to look into his eyes as he held me there. And then his lips warm and gentle were molding into mine. It was brief but sweet and it sent tingles all through me. He pulled away looking at me with that gorgeous smile and I knew he had loved it as much as I had.
Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t end up going to the hospital. I know I wanted to at times but I had a vague idea that my body was going through some sort of panic disorder and I knew there wouldn’t be that much that could be done. Yes, they probably could have given me something to calm me down but the thought of taking any medication actually sent my body into a frenzy all over again, though I was still taking my thyroid medication. So I stayed in bed for close to two days, dealing with the shock waves pulsing through me. I never knew what would trigger the panic attacks. Sometimes it was a loud noise, sometimes it was the way the light filtered through the window, sometimes it was a simple thought. Every night the going down of the sun triggered one. I would find myself feeling hopeful and positive one moment and the next I would feel warmth spreading through my body, fear seeping into my emotions and a heart racing in anticipation of some sort of supposed doom.

I called the doctor who had prescribed the medication and told her what had happened. She didn’t seem very concerned or informative. I asked her how long the medication would take to flush from my system and she told me 6 days. I decided I could survive that long and that once the medication flushed out of my system, everything would be normal again.

For 6 days I waited. The third day after the interaction, my husband went back to school. I was terrified of being alone with the children. What if it happened again? Could I even make a phone call this time? As the door closed I could feel myself starting to lose control. It knew it was battle of mind over matter, but I was new to fighting it and my bodies responses were so strong. I started shaking. I paced nervously around the room, my arms and legs trembling.

“I’m ok, there’s nothing wrong, I can do this.”

As the terror welled up in my throat I willed it to dissipate and I set to work. Distraction was what I needed. Everything I did seemed so new because now it was with such purpose. Unloading the dishes was done with forced vigor and a smile. I wanted to believe things would be ok, I hoped that acting the part might make it so. The whole day was a fight to control my body, to not get swept away by my emotions, to tell myself that though I felt one way, it wasn’t a reality. It was triumphant to make it through without calling my husband to come home. But then after he came home and as night fell it became too much. As the sun went down I could feel my body reacting once again as it had done every time darkness fell the past 3 nights. The warmth, the spasming of every muscle in my body that no positive thought could control. I lay on the bed writhing in agony as my body spasmed and twitched, heat rushing through my limbs in waves, praying for it to end soon. Eventually it did and I tried to sleep, although hoping for peace in sleep was even beyond my expectations at this point.
I had barely slept at all in the past 3 days. I was beyond tired but my mind would not shut down. I would find myself drifting off and if my mind took hold of a thought for too long the panic would set in. I made due the night previous with a half conscious sleep, my body trying to slip into panic the entire time. I found that if I let a multitude of thoughts simply rush through my mind and not focus on any of them, I was ok. But I was on the brink of a full attack the entire time. That third night after my first day alone, sleep would not come at all.

I was angry, I was exhausted, I was scared and I was beaten. So I did the only thing that came to mind, I asked for another priesthood blessing. This time another brother from our church came over and assisted. The peace I felt was instantaneous, my body relaxed and soon I knew I was ready for sleep. And sleep, unmarred by nightmares or panic for the first time in three days, came to me. I needed as much undisturbed sleep as I could get for the battle to come…

To be continued…
I never thought a baby girl would be that much different from a baby boy. Well, excepting anatomy of course. But I’ve changed my mind since having one - we women are doomed from the start.

An initial emotion may be one of sadness or frustration, but she doesn’t let it stay at that. No, she goes for added volume just to be extra clear about what she’s feeling. She’s finally learned that throwing her body backwards and hitting her head on the floor when she’s mad does more harm than good - now she kicks her legs wildly instead. Or if she’s in my arms she kicks and flails and hyperventilates as well. It’s quite a display. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I want to cry and sometimes I want to cuddle her and say, “Yeah, some days I just want to throw myself on the floor and kick and scream and hyperventilate too.”

She’s like an over filled water balloon. Always on the verge of bursting. She’s not even a teenager yet! But the drama can only last so long and then it’s back to that 4 toothed grin that makes me melt. It’s back to the toddling/stumbling around the house while babbling that never fails to make me smile. Back to the intense concentration of trying to fit a square block into a round hole. The drama comes and goes but there’s always an Angel underneath that I can’t seem to get enough of.
 The types of events I imagined when I thought of interacting with my own children, before I had them, don’t come close to most of the events that have actually happened since they’ve arrived. My day dreams never involved such vast amounts of urine. In fact, they never involved urine at all. But now that I’ve got two boys, that’s a lot of what our interactions are about. Questions like, “Who sprinkled on the floor?” and “Who forgot to flush the toilet?” are asked frequently. I pretty much clean pee off the toilet and floor every day, once even off the top of the toilet, but yesterdays urine happening tops them all. Oh yes, are you ready for this?

Hubby, Ethan and Caleb were playing a game of Go Fish while I was busy getting Vanessa ready for her afternoon nap. After she drank her milk I laid her down in her crib and went into the kitchen to load the dishes. I could hear her softly whining and knew she was almost asleep. That ’s when Ethan leapt up announcing that he had to poop (yeah we’re working on getting him to stop announcing these things). No sooner had he entered the hall bathroom than Caleb leapt up announcing that he had to pee. I told him he would have to wait until his brother was finished. We have a bathroom in our bedroom but going in there when Vanessa is still awake and then leaving will throw her into a frenzy.

Caleb walked into the hallway and in a matter of seconds I heard his voice saying, “Mommy, I have to pee bad!” I recognized the urgency and knew I had to do something. I ran into the bathroom to find Ethan sitting on the toilet and Caleb with his pants around his ankles, holding himself and dancing. Thinking fast I told Ethan to scoot up just a bit so Caleb could pee into the toilet behind him. But I was too late. Caleb simply couldn’t hold it anymore. Suddenly pee was spraying in three different directions through Caleb fingers as he was still trying to “hold” it in. He was peeing on Ethan's butt, the floor and the counter top simultaneously.

Ethan jumped up screaming, I was screaming and shielding my face from the spray and pushing Caleb toward the toilet. None to soon he finished but barely any of it got in the toilet. I just stood stunned for a moment as I looked at my two bare bottomed boys. Both with pants around their ankles. Both soaked in urine. I moaned a bit as I took a sloshing step backward, but then I started laughing out loud as everything replayed in my head and the boys joined in. It was the strangest family bonding moment we’ve ever had. Boys!
Ethan's final day of kindergarten was last Wednesday. We received a note several days prior stating there would be a kindergarten program that day. I was hoping this wouldn’t end up being a “graduation” ceremony because I think like Mr. Incredible in that respect.

Bob Parr: It’s not a graduation. He’s moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.
Helen Parr: It’s a ceremony.
Bob Parr: It’s psychotic!

I think the graduation ceremony should be something really special, saved only for seniors, for the kids to look forward to all through school. Anyway, I arrived at the school at 9:15 and went into the auditorium to find seating was already very limited, but I managed to squeeze in to the middle of a row. The children came up on stage as the crowd clapped and proceeded to sing eight different little songs in English and Spanish. After that, the school principle got up to make some closing remarks. Here is where Ethan’s kindergarten program, became a cultural experience for this little white girl from the midwest.

Principle: We are gathered here today, to celebrate these glorious little children, in their kindergarten graduations
Some of the crowd:Mm Hmm.
Principle:And to commend them...
Some of the crowd: Mm Hmm.
Principle: ...for their efforts, at school this year.

The Principle’s voice seemed to increase in volume right before a pause, after which would immediately follow a chorus of satisfied Mmm Hmmm’s. But the best was yet to come.

Principle: You children, you are graduating from Kindergarten today. But are you going to settle, for just a Kindergarten education? No!
Crowd: Mmmm Hmmmmmm.
Principle: Someday you’ll graduate from sixth grade, but are you going to settle for just a sixth grade education? No!
Crowd: Mmmm Hmmm.
Principle: Someday, you’ll be graduating from High School. (Dramatic Long Pause) But are you going to settle for a High School Education?!?
Crowd: Mmm mmmmm. (some shouts of No way!)
Principle: You’re going to go on to college! And someday, you’re going to graduate from college. But are you going to settle for a college education?
Crowd: NO!
Principle: That’s right. After college, you’re going to go to graduate school! Yes, moms and dads, we have DOCTORS! and LAWYERS! and SCIENTISTS! and TEACHERS! and FORTUNE 500! BUSINESS! OWNERS! ON!THIS! STAGE!

The crowd simultaneously leapt to their feet, erupting in deafening cheers and clapping. It was absolutely the most contagious enthusiasm I have ever experienced and I found myself clapping and smiling as I watched those children on stage absolutely beaming from this wild attention and encouragement. I shook my head in wonder as I thought of the amazing cultural differences that exist in different parts of America, without which life is not nearly as interesting. I’d have to say that was the most exciting school program I’ve ever been too, and Ethan and I both loved it.