Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Aunt Susan.

"You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."~C.S. Lewis.

Our Aunt Susan* is dying. Our sweet, beautiful, humble, generous, amazing, epitome-of-a-servant's-heart Aunt Susan is dying. While this is not unexpected as her body has been fighting a very long and very hard battle for years, it is a most devastating loss. Not devastating because her great suffering is almost over but for the simple reason that  Sweet Susan's battle is so incredibly, heartbreakingly unfair.

 Susan has devoted her ENTIRE life to her family. She birthed and raised four of the finest, most brilliantly kind, compassionate and loving human beings to ever walk on this planet. Her marriage to her equally wonderful and equally devoted husband, Don, has been a shining example of what a loving marriage looks like. She never misses an opportunity to tell the ones she loves how much she loves them and still... she has suffered so much more than any one person should ever have to.

I hate cancer. HATE. I hate that it can strike someone barely months old. How it can force a mother to watch helplessly as the sweet, happy baby she grew in her very own womb can be snatched from her loving arms and robbed of a future. How it took away the opportunity to dance with my grandaddy at my wedding. How it can grow silently for years and then,by the time it is discovered, it is often too late. How it can take away someone who puts so much more than her fair share of goodness into this world and someone who is so incredibly loved. Someone that radiates such amazing, unadulterated joy into this universe.

It. Isn't. Fair.

Here's what I know, though. I KNOW there is a loving God. A God who watched His Son suffer miserably and unfairly and watched, helplessly as His VERY OWN SON died. A God who understands the pain our family is reeling from much better than anyone could ever begin to express. A God that has a perfect plan. A God that will welcome His humble servant, Susan, into His kingdom with open arms. It's just her body that is dying. Her soul will never, ever, ever die. We WILL see her again.

Thank You, God, for giving us Susan.

*I should point out here that I'm calling my mother-in-law's sister, OUR aunt even though she's only technically been MY aunt for about 4 years. Still. She told me every chance she could how much she loved me. And guess what? I LOVE HER. Seriously. Like she's actually my honest-to-God-blood-related-AUNT. Its probably exactly how anyone who has ever met that woman feels about her, though.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monkey Business

This week has been a hum...


Allow me to begin with the ER trip on Monday. Ye Olde 10 month old took a tumble and "bonked uh nog!" as the toddler fella would say and had some brief neuro changes. It was all my fault (*beats breast, shouts "Mea CULPA!") . I normally keep one hand on him at all times when he's on the changing table but was trying to shove a particularly bulky diaper into the pail and took my hand off for a brief second when he crashed. Oh, the guilt! Long and expensive story made short, no skull fracture, no bleeds. To quote the ER Doc, "He just got his bell rung pretty good". Ugh. I want to throw up just thinking about it. 

Now, fast forward to Friday night... I am most exhausted from the wild week(where everybody under 3 cried in unison for no discernible reason ALL WEEK LONG) but Ben and I swear to each other that come hell or high water, we WILL do our p90x workout. We feed, bathe and put the wild boys to bed. Aengus wakes up and I nurse him a little longer while Ben runs downstairs to set up the dvd. I put Aengus to bed and then run downstairs to workout. Ben stops 
me at the foot of the stairs and says "Katy, we've got a BIG problem." and all I can think of was "Oh CRAP! Did Declan throw a weight through the tv again?!?"  
Shame on Mama. He wouldn't dare!

... And then I smelled it. 

Apparently there was a blockage somewhere in the plumbing and raw sewage backed up into the downstairs bathroom... and bedroom... and into the drywall. You see where this is going? It's bad. Thankfully, we are renting so our landlords are handling it. Sadly, we are friends with our landlords so we feel extra terrible that this happened while we were living here. It ruined an old mattress of ours but that mattress needed replacing anyway. This house is having to have carpet, baseboards, drywall and a vanity removed. 

This whole mess has made Ben extra nervous about buying a house sometime in the not so distant future. He's rented his entire adult life except the first 2 years of our marriage when we paid a mortgage on the house I bought before I met him. I HATE renting, though. It makes me all hive-y and itchy. All I can hear is my dad's voice saying "You're throwing money down the drain when you rent!" every time I write the rent check. I miss being a homeowner and feeling invested in where I live. I miss having a garden and planting perennials (which get bigger and better every year!). I miss diy home improvement and painting a  back bedroom just the right shade of green to make someone I love feel content and welcome when they're in it. But mostly, it's the garden. 

I am my father's daughter and it is NEVER more apparent than during Lent when I peruse greenhouses and seed catalogs daydreaming of summer's vivid bounty. I scoop up seedlings and packets of zinnias and get all fired up about Good Friday (That's the day you're supposed to put out your garden, don't you know!). I stick my nose in a potted rose bush and wonder about whether or not the blooms were fragrant enough to waft into the house if I planted her beneath an open window. 

Last year we lived in a town home with no outdoor greenspace so in terms of Spring planting, it was a bust. This year we have a deck and a big yard and I'm getting the boys in on the action...

I think it's a winner. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Recent Thoughts on Motherhood in 3 Parts.


We "potty trained" Declan this past weekend. At the very least we ditched the disposable baby diapers in exchange for the more comfortable cotton potty training pants. We also transitioned Aengus into cloth diapers. It was a LOOOOOOONG three day test of wills, patience and being housebound. By the end of the weekend, Declan was running and sitting on the potty every time he needed to go. Our only real issue has been the whole "Pull down your big boy pants BEFORE you sit on the potty". He really seems to get it, though, and it makes me incredibly proud to be his mama. 

Declan in "big boy" underpants, pajama top and prop hat from the preschool program

In addition, there was the "daylight savings time" time change. Had I remembered that this past weekend was the weekend to move clocks up, I would have postponed the potty training another few weeks. I didn't remember and Ben and I both ultimately paid for my oversight. 

 For adults, the time change means late for church or spending the next week a little on the sleepy side until your body readjusts. For children(at least for mine) it apparently means going to bed an hour or more later and waking up two hours earlier... and also waking up repeatedly throughout the night with a loud and long caveman yell ensuring that your brother ALSO wakes up wailing like a banshee.  So, instead of only getting one less hour of sleep, the children are getting 3+ less hours of quality snooze time ensuring that Mom and Dad get EVEN LESS sleep than their typical 6-8. Good times. 

Aengus practicing fine motor skills with finger foods
My children also subscribe to the whole "Let's learn a new trick and while we're at it, let's sleep super crappy and wake up our folks and each other about a million times a night... I mean, we can always take a few naps as long as we don't take them at the same time, right?". If Ben and I were looking for a world of hurt, well, we found it.  Potty training bootcamp + time change + thunderstorm = THE PERFECT STORM. (Did I mention that Georgia, our boxer, is our very own in-house meteorologist and she likes to tell us that it's about to rain by whining and fretting in my ear at 2 am? It's kind of like having a really unpredictable rooster with dog breathe. I didn't mention that? So sorry!). I'm pretty sure you can surmise that Ben and I probably slept a grand total of 45 minutes on Monday night. 

No, the rest of his class were not supposed to be his back-up singers. Declan had other ideas. This is from the Preschool Spring Program. 

The ONLY thing that I could do was pray for mercy. The reply I heard loud and clear was,"Katy, there are families all over the world, country, state and city that would give everything they could to have the opportunity to settle their beloved child down just one more time. This is a blessing. I know you are exhausted but you need to take a deep breath and enjoy rocking those boys back to sleep." It's amazing how much patience gets scrounged up when God whispers THAT little message into your heart. Regardless, I really, REALLY needed some alone time. Sometimes blessings can really wear a mama out!


Speaking of blessings, it's no secret how blessed I feel to have found nursing(the career path, not the baby feeding... although, I love that too!) so early on in my life. When I was 22, I would have given ANYTHING to have found the right person in college, get married shortly after graduation and have lots of babies. I knew very early on that there was a longing in my heart that only a loving,devoted marriage and a house full of children could soothe. God's master plan for my life was a much less direct route ("the scenic route", you could call it!) and I am so incredibly grateful that He had a much better idea and didn't give me what I wanted exactly when I wanted it.

The scenic route is ALWAYS better.

The cornerstone to His amazing plan for my life (from my current perspective) was/is my nursing career(I met my husband on the job, y'all! Don't tell me that life is random, God PLANNED that little introduction). I learned so much because of nursing. I learned to hear little, tiny whispers of a heart murmur and to trust that little, tiny whispered voice in my heart that said,"Something here is worse than anyone knows... stay close to this little one. She's going to need you to be on your toes, today". I learned to tell the "I'm hungry" cries from the "I'm wet" cries and most importantly, how to swaddle tight and hold heart-to-heart in case of the "I just wish I was back inside my mama!" cries that keep those frazzled first-time parents up all night. I could go on and on about what I learned because of being a nurse but the honest-to-goodness most important thing I learned was that in order to give the very best care of your patients, you have to LOVE your patients desperately like they belong to you. Like you are caring for YOUR baby/little sister/grandmother etc. 

It was through that little pearl of nursing wisdom that I met our newest babysitter. I was frequently her nurse  for YEARS back at Children's before she "aged out". She has always been one of those precious patients that you just can't help but love to pieces. A really good kid. Last week I ran into her here in Johnson City. Turns out, she lives within walking distance from our house and she LOVES to babysit. Also, turns out she's GREAT! She watched the boys yesterday and Declan loved her so much that he smooched her square on the mouth and yelled "BYE, S, BYE!!!" for 20 minutes after she left.  She cared for those wild boys so lovingly, just like I did for her years ago. The moral of this story is that one should take every opportunity to love on another mother's baby because you never know if that love will grow up, turn around and love on your baby in return. Being good to people is never ever a mistake. Neither is loving someone. 


S came over yesterday and watched the boys while I took myself on a little date. I went into an overcrowded(with merchandise, not actual people) over-priced boutique that I would have NEVER pushed a double stroller into. There I was hounded mercilessly by an over-eager saleslady. No, I will NOT buy cobalt blue capri jeans and just pretend they're petite, full-length jeans. That never ever works, y'all, because I can't adjust the placement of my knees. I'm short, not a side-show. 

I left and then travelled further down the road to a newly-opened nail salon. This place was staffed/owned/managed by an immigrant family* (see foot note). The father and the uncles were there, engrossed in their iPhones when I walked in. A small, twinkly-eyed little girl of about 3 flittered around the store and spoke the family's native tongue. A 6 year old boy with a buzz cut ran in and out of the shop. I requested a pedicure and was seated immediately. My feet were plunged into a hot, soapy tub to soak and I immediately escaped into a magazine. I felt more relaxed than I had all week. 

Then it happened. 

The Mama walked in. She'd been out running an errand, I suppose. Her thick, glossy black hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She was easily 7-8 months pregnant and looked as adorable as could be in her breezy maternity tunic, leggings and sparkly flip flops. Radiant, I'd say. At that moment, her little 3 year old daughter pranced right up to her and began chattering in the mother tongue. The Mama reached out her hand and beamed down at her little one with pride as she replied back to her daughter. They walked hand in hand, chirping happily back and forth as they made their way to the back of the shop... I didn't understand the words but the message was clear as a bell. And as I watched, I felt my heart smile a little bit and then I felt something else.

 I missed them.

 Those busybody boys of mine that, quite literally NEVER let me rest. They finished my nails and I paid and tipped and walked next door to a children's shop. As I walked back to the wall of stride-rites, my attention fell to a pair of "early walker" soft, rubber soled shoe in Aengus' size. And it struck me... Aengus will be walking in a few months (if I'm lucky) or weeks (if I'm NOT lucky)! How could it be that the best parts are flying by so incredibly fast? Tears welled up in my eyes and I slipped my shades back on and went home to my babies.
Never one to share the spot light, is he?

Part of me misses working. It was so much easier when I could compartmentalize my life. I got a reprieve from motherhood, if only for a moment. I could focus on one thing at a time and do a job that I was proud of.  I could get immediate feed-back on whether I was doing a good job or not. When I was done for the day, I could go pick up my happy baby and head home to snuggle until it was time to go to bed, wake up to do it all over again. It was exhausting. But this part of my life is harder. I don't get a break. I'm on the clock 24 hours a day and I wonder constantly if I'm doing right by them. I give Declan the same direction over and over and over again ("Declan, please, get down off the chair. Chairs are for bottoms, not for feet") and still, he climbs until I say it again. I am often out of breath and near tears by the time Ben gets home from work. Believe me when I say that stay-at-home mothering is by far the hardest job I've ever had. Sometimes, I am resentful. But maybe it's just because I'm tired. 

I am all-too-aware that these beautiful boys will only be little for such a short time... and it is breaking my heart. I know how blessed we are that I can stay home with these funny little souls and I am so grateful. Now, when either of them does something amazing, I can pull out a camera and take a picture instead of hearing about it after 4pm when I pick them up at daycare. Now, when it's beautiful outside, we pull the table on the deck and eat our lunch... then we play until we're so filthy and exhausted that all we can do is eat our dinner and get a bath. I get to be there for this amazing, beautiful, wonderful time and I really do love it. I certainly don't want to get to the end of this chapter of my life and feel like I missed even a typo. Now, I'm certain that I won't.  

*I love these immigrant family-owned nail salons. They work hard and their little funny kids help you pick out glittery polish. They understand if you hold your baby in your lap while you get your toes done and will often volunteer to give your baby a cuddle because they, too, know the secret about loving someone else's baby. Also, the stories are amazing... "We left Vietnam two years ago. I wanted my children to have a better education than me. I've been taking English at the night school and my daughter just got a nursing scholarship! She wants to help people!". Also, I only go to shops where I see them clean the foot soak tubs so, no, I'm not afraid of toe fungus.*

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Heart Faces: Beautiful Black and White

This is my boy. 

I think he's beautiful all the time.

Not just in black and white. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What a day!

Today was amazing. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! The entire day! Seriously. Warm and sunny and no longer a "winter" month (as it is now currently March)! Plus, the boys and I drove to Gatlinburg to meet up with our dear friends, the Fawvers (minus Travis) in order to spend some quality time with the creatures at Ripley's Aquarium (yes, I took pictures). In addition, we didn't hit the double bottleneck of traffic because we drove through Newport and Cosby to get there! Woot, WOOT, Y'all! I'm telling you.

The drive was so incredibly beautiful. There is something so special about Tennessee and as we made our way through the mountains today I could practically touch it. I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging mixed with nostalgia and a heavy undercurrent of joy. Meredith (of Fawver family fame and also one of my very best friends) asked me over dinner if I was happy in Johnson City and, incredibly(and it's incredible because I was so unhappy in VA despite all the wonderful people there), I AM.

I am in such a great spot in my life. I have a loving, devoted marriage to my soul-mate. I have two sweet, healthy, hilarious little boys that make my ever lovin' heart explode. I am two hours or less from practically all of our family and lifelong friends. Also, need I remind you that the groundhog was wrong this year and Spring arrived early?  I can't think of a single thing I want right now except a smaller jean size (and I'm workin' on it, yo!)

I promised you pictures so I'll just get on it with it so y'all don't have to keep pretending that you're here for the words.

Declan points out the fish
Bridgette would actually face the camera when I took her picture. GENIUS!

Spooky Shark!!!

Bridgette and Declan are 6 weeks apart and have been sweet friends ever since...

They really do play very well together...

He wasn't the center of attention but he sure was a good boy at the Aquarium!

The tunnel under the penguin exhibit

Meredith and Mason. Mason was such a good boy too! He's about 3 months younger than Aengus but outweighs him by a good pound and a half! 

Aengus with his eyes on the big kids! It won't be long, buddy!