Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas break fun

Ahhh... Christmas break. We SO needed this.

Unending days (or at least a week or two) of no schedules, nowhere to be, nothing we HAVE to do. Just us. Hanging out. Enjoying each other. No rushing around. No gifts to buy. No doctors appointments. Or therapies. Just home.

The last few days I've been able to really truly enjoy my kids. To look into their sweet innocent eyes and see the ways they are growing. To give them the attention they crave and deserve. To just be together.

And I've been able to re-appreciate how hilarious they are...

A few quotes from our week:

Charlie: "Daaadddd..... when are we going to beeeeee there??"
Dad: "We're going to turn up here."
Charlie: "Ooh! Turnips!! I love turnips!"


Nolan: "Mom.. What will the nursing home smell like?"
Me: "Uhhhh... (pondering this odd, yet legit question) What do you think?"
Nolan: "I don't know... Dirty rats?"


Dad: "Charlie, will you pray first?"
Charlie: "Yup. Down, Set, HUUUTTT!"

and then at bedtime..

Charlie: "Watch over Tacky, Abe, down Set HUUUTTTT!"


Nolan: "I wish I could go back to school."
Me: "What?? Why?"
Nolan: "So I could skip rest time for 5 whole days.."


Charlie: " Look! Santa left us the empty wrapping paper rolls!"
Nolan: "Yeah! Cause he knows we like to play swords with them!"


while painting window suncatchers..
Me: "Wow Charlie! You painted your Santa all black!"
Charlie: "Yup."
Nolan: "Maybe he got stuck in the chimney."


and my favorite from today..
Charlie: "Dad!! Listen to this! This is sweet.. Guess what?"
Dad: "What?"
Charlie: "I speaked Spanish today..."
Dad: "Really? What did you say?"
Charlie: "I said 'Cha-cha-cha."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Confessions of a Scrooge

I've never done Christmas cards before.

It's always been one of those things.. You know, the plastering only picture perfect photos of your kids all over Facebook, the Pinterest Perfect blogs highlighting the finest decor for every season, the bragging of your kids skipping ahead a grade, getting 1st in the overall Science Fair, begging for more homework, loving to clean their room, and building handmade recycled wood crafts for homeless orphans...

It just doesn't seem real. People do not look like that all the time. Families are not always smiling. They are not always freshly showered and cleanly clothed and not trying to hurt each other. The weather is not always perfect. The lighting is not always accentuating your highlights and the scenery is not always ideal.

Don't get me wrong.. I'm not a total downer.. I absolutely LOVE receiving Christmas cards from our friends and family. I LOVE checking the mail this time of year and instead of seeing piles of bills, there are a few handaddressed envelopes that I know will make my day. Look at all these people that have never before received a letter in return from me, but think of us every year and send a card anyways..

Thank you! I've just never been able to bring myself to do it before..

But this year is a little different. Maybe it's because I reveal so many bad/embarrassing/REAL secrets of our family on this blog, that I finally feel like I can post a picture of us all clean and smiling and happy looking at the same time (thanks Photoshop!) without feeling like I'm putting on a show.

Although I did seriously consider sending this out..

But I didn't.

Because looking back on the year, of course there were messy times. Of course there were crabby times. Of course there were sick times. Because that's what being a family is about. It's not about having it all together all the time to put on display for the world to see. It's not about organized closets and toothbrush scrubbed floors with Pinterestingly tantalizing meals on the table every night. It's about life. It's about getting down in the trenches, getting dirty and grimy. And getting through it. Together. It's about loving each other. And learning. It's about this crazy journey we're on and the memories we make along the way.

Overall this was a good year. Overall, there were smiles. And laughter. And togetherness. And overall, that's what I want to remember. So..

Merry Christmas from our Family To Yours!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Is Her Life Worth It?

I know why Ella got Salmonella Poisoning..

and I am (eeee!!!) guest blogging about it on my absolute very favorite blog that I'm creepyily obsessed with and secretly want to be *ahem* like to read every once in awhile.. you know.. when I get time...

So click here to head over to my friend Deanna's to read my blog. Warning-it starts the same as a previous post, but don't worry.. it's different. :)

Is her Life Worth It?

Friday, December 14, 2012


Immediately after I published my pity party post yesterday I decided I needed a breath of fresh air. I put on my shoes and coat and wandered down to our mailbox, hoping to clear my head and draw some kind of strength from nature, enough to make it through the rest of the day at least.

Boy did I get more than I bargained for..

When I looked in our mailbox, I saw a package. It was from a friend who had read my post last week about our trauma with Ella's holey shoe at the doctor's office and decided to bless me with a pair of nearly-new shoes her daughter had outgrown. She happened to have extra room in the box, so included an adorable outfit as well. I was already smiling as I unfolded these items, and then I opened the Christmas card she had sent along with it. There was a generous gift of money included that she wrote was from a Facebook friend of hers who had read the blog and admired the honesty of it.

Wow. Humbled. After a week of worrying about paying for truck repairs, Christmas presents, and other such things, and then complaining about my "hard" life on my blog and Facebook.. I felt awful. I felt so guilty for not appreciating what I have and for being so selfish to think solely of myself, instead of looking outward like this stranger (I think) did.

That random act of kindness carried me through the rest of the night, and honestly my day went much better. Charlie woke up from his nap in a good mood and we enjoyed a lively game of Chutes and Ladders, we giggled at bedtime, and even though I ended up getting the stomach bug my children so graciously shared with me last night, I still felt uplifted and like I could handle this.

If Ella's life has taught me one lesson (it has taught me A LOT, but bear with me..) it would be that people are generous. People are good. People like to help others. When Ella was sick last year we overwhelmingly experienced the good of people and I vowed to "Pass it on" the best I could. I think I've done an ok job.. there have been times I've reached out to others and tried to bless them, but I know there's also been times I've had great ideas, but for some reason or another didn't follow through with them. I heard a quote somewhere something like, "The smallest act of kindness is better than the greatest of intentions." Guilty.

I often talk myself out of something kind I could do because "Well.. I'm not sure if they really like that," or "Maybe they already have something like that," or "I don't really know them that well," or "Can we even afford that?" I really do think about doing so many things, but I am ashamed to admit that not enough make it to fabrication.

And now there's the tragedy in Connecticut.

Reminding us that although there is so much good in the world, there is also so much evil. My heart and prayers go out to all the families affected by this senseless act. As I hug my children a little tighter tonight I will remember those mothers whose arms are empty. As I prepare supper that is likely to be rejected by at least one family member, I will think of those families who cannot be together tonight. As I wrangle little bodies to keep from fighting, and try to maneuver them into bed I will feel thankful that they are here.

So where can we go from here? What kind of difference can we make in this too-often cruel world? I will tell you first hand that even the smallest act of kindness really can uplift you. The most humblest of gifts, even if they're not your "favorite" can carry you through the hardest of times. The smallest acts really are better than the greatest intentions. What can we do today in our lives to make the world a better place?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What happens if mom makes a cake?

It's been another one of those weeks. It seems like we've had far too many lately.. more than our "fair share." One of those weeks that if there is a cold germ flying around within a 5 mile radius.. all our kids will catch it, even if they haven't gotten over the last one yet. Or if there's a particular, puking GI bug lurking nearby, we'll also be sure to get that too. And some random illness causing a fever at the same time all 3 kids are hacking, puking and whining? Yup.. we'll be sure to catch that too. And if you take a child to urgent care and need to pick up medicine on the way home, the pharmacy is sure to be closed.. One of those weeks where if the husband decides to take a half day of work to go hunting in the 1 inch of snow we have, his tires will be sure to slip on the grass and do about $4000 worth of damage to his truck.. One of those weeks where you decide to print out large sized family pictures to finally! hang on your walls and while trying to flatten them out from being rolled in the tube they came in, your husband absently sits on them and bends the corners all to heck.. One of those weeks where when you actually try to put a dent in the filth you are living in, due to taking care of sick, whiney, clingy children all week, you'll discover the belt to your vacuum needs replaced. One of those weeks where you rush to sew new stockings to hang up for Christmas decor, and after the 4th one you just can't get the fabric to coordinate just right, and have completely run out of motivation, leaving you with "Four Stockings Hung By The Chimney With Care".. in a family of five. One of those weeks where everyone is around-the-clock whiney, crabby, needy, and discouraging and you just don't know what to do to change it around.

I know I've been feeling this way, but I thought I'd been doing a pretty good job of faking a smile and keeping a cheery attitude. Apparently not. It's recently been brought to my attention that my kids are picking up and on the "nothing can go right" mantra. Just today I was looking at a paper Nolan had brought home from school and was just about the throw it in the trash when something made me stop and read the sentences he wrote a little closer. The assignment was to make a prediction about what would happen next. So, for instance under the heading "A snake is under a tent" he wrote, "We will get bit." Makes sense.. and for "Two dogs see a cat," he wrote "They will chase it." Yup.. Clearly accurate statements. But the last one is the one that got me. The statement is "Mom makes a cake." I was hoping to read something along the lines of "We will eat it" or "It tastes yummy" or "We hug and kiss her and tell her she is the best mom in the world and then go to bed early while she enjoys a nice hot bubble bath and daddy cleans the house." Instead this is what I read..

Yes, he wrote, "It will spill." All I can do is shake my head at that one. Sadly.. that is probably much more accurate than any of the very purely fictional statements I came up with.

Things have been rough lately, but somewhere deep down.. very very deep down.. I think I like my kids. I keep having this very-hazy-around-the-edges, distant memory that is quite cloudy and difficult to see through, but it sounds like maybe there is laughter in it? We are enjoying each other's company? We are having fun? And no one is coughing or puking or crying?? I'm not sure because it all seems like a dream in the midst of a nightmare, but I do believe this might have happened at one time in our lives. I found this picture that gives me a clue that this figment of my imagination might actually hold some truth, but I'm not sure..

Who are these nice, genuinely happy-looking, smiling people??

I know I have a lot to be thankful for. I know it could be worse. I know it may sound like I'm unnecessarily complaining.. because I am. Please, just allow me this moment..

This week (and last.. and the one before that.. and the one before that...) reminds me of my friend Deanna's fabulous post from a few months ago. I wish I could come up with my own great analogy, but since I can't I'll just retell hers.. She must have been having "One of those weeks," and compared it to an evergreen tree lit with Christmas lights. The lights are bright and twinkling and beautiful to look at, but think about what's holding them up.. Hard, pokey branches that hurt when you touch them. Branches that, if you try to walk through them, will scratch you and scrape you and hurt until you bleed. But what if you didn't have those branches? What if they weren't there to hold those beautiful lights up? The lights would be laying in a clump on the ground, not beautiful or admirable to look at by anyone passing by.

The bright twinkling lights in our life are the good days. The days highlighted by joy and outlined in laughter. The days everything just seems right in the world. The pokey evergreen branches? They are the hard days. The "one of those weeks" days. They serve to make us stronger and hold us up in the good days, so in the end we're not crumpled in a tangled heap on the floor, but instead shining brightly, weaving effortlessly in and out of those branches, twined together in a beautiful display of love and strength.

It's a wonderful analogy and boy, I hope its true.
If so, we are going to have one heck of a big, full, branchy, poky, scratchy tree..
Let's just hope we get a few lights soon to make it shine. :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

PROOF! I am not a liar

The last few weeks of Ella's therapy appointments have been a bit disrupted by meetings, doctor appointments, and such terribly tragic things such as someone trying to (gasp!) touch her. And what a shame since Ella has such an exciting thing to share as finally taking steps! So today when we had every single one of our therapists present (6 in all..), ready to witness her amazing feat, do you think she seized this golden opportunity to show off her skills? Impressed them all, knocking their socks off, and completely making their day week? Of course not.. she was sick, not feeling herself, terribly clingy.. making a complete liar out of me..

So just so no one goes about spreading rumors about the crazy lady imagining her child is walking, I have PROOF!

Alas! A video of Ella taking some steps. It only took me an hour or so to find the right video to upload (Don't worry.. I had nothing else to do. HA!) and keep in mind this isn't her best work because the too-cute-they-shouldn't-be-legal boots she's wearing are a little hard to walk in, (she's learning early that you pay a price for fashion) but it's all we've got.

So there! I am NOT a crazy lady.. Too much.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Best Kind of Prayer..

comes from a child. Not only are they faith-filled, innocent, and totally honest, they also can be completely random.

Charlie's prayer from the other night..

"Dear God, watch over... umm.. thank you for.. mom, dad, Ella.. mom, Charlie.. dad, Nolan.. playing at Nana and Papa's, playing outside. Thank you for getting to play with the kitties.. Watch over mom, dad, Nolan.. dad.. mom, Charlie, Ella.. Nolan, dad..."

insert Nolan: "What is he talking about??"

me: "Shhh..."

"Mom, dad, Charlie, Ella.. mom.. Nolan, dad, Ella.. Charlie, mom, dad. Amen. Goo goo."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Do you hear what I hear?

Well.. we don't know yet.

Ella's follow-up ENT appointment was today and I pretty much had a blog post all written in my head to the tune of the Christmas song "Do You See What I See?" (in case you didn't get that from the title..) about how she passed her hearing test with flying colors and the tubes are working beautifully and we were all but released from ever seeing the ENT specialists again.. I guess this is what you get when you count your metaphorical chickens before they hatch, even if only in your head.

I should have know things were not going to go my way today from the very start.

I should have known when my too-kind-to-say-anything mother-in-law stopped by to pick Nolan up for school to save me an extra half hour of driving time and saw my horrifically embarrassingly messy house.

I should have known when I stepped foot out the front door and saw that our dog had broken into our porch and strewn a bag of trash all over the lawn (meaning I had a horrifically embarrassingly messy house inside and out).

I should have known when I sat down in my car and saw a fuel tank pointing to Empty.

And I really should have known when my driving-to-Sioux Falls-by-myself ritualistic listening to the soundtrack from "Wicked" was tainted by a non-working iPod. I've truly begun to treasure that time where I am not outvoted by pleas of listening to "Big Green Tractor," "Made in America," or Sesame Street Music and I'm free to belt out at the top of my lungs (completely out of tune of course) "Defying Gravity!"

But I ignored all these somewhat-subtle signs and charged ahead to the appointment, high expectations in tact.

I arrived in desperate discomfort due to still after SO many of these trips, not learning my lesson that a 16-oz thermos of coffee goes through my system in exactly 1 hour and 8 minutes and our drive takes 1 hour and 30 minutes, leaving the final 22 minutes completely agonizing. Due to Ella typically being asleep at this time coupled with the knowledge that she will scream the rest of the way if awoken, this leaves my options very limited.

I am forced to choose between pulling off into a secluded cornfield somewhere (hard to do now that harvest is over) OR finding a small town gas station and leaving Ella locked in the car to run in and out at warp speed before she wakes up (or somebody steals her) Both of which are obviously terrible ideas and of course I have done neither.. Of course..........

OR I can wait it out. And since I'm normally NOT early/on time I usually have to just wait it out. If I could only remember to wait to start drinking my coffee until 22 minutes into the trip I think I could time it about perfect..

But anyways.. first thing at the appointment was the OAE hearing test. Or what should have been. The lady hooked up the monitor and realized she couldn't even get a reading. At first she said maybe the tubes weren't even in..? Great. But upon further inspection she saw that they were, in fact, in but maybe were crusted over.. "You didn't throw away those ear drops she got after surgery, did you?"

Of course not.....

She decided not to do the OAE until Ella had seen the doctor because she wanted him to look first, knowing that she wouldn't pass if they were obstructed. So we were sent back to the waiting room to wait. When we were called back to the doctor, the first thing they do is take your weight. (Not my weight, thank goodness...) The nurse was busy getting the scale all ready for Ella. The scale that you stand on. Unassisted. I said to her, "Ummm... she's not gonna stand on there. She can't yet." The nurse looked surprised and said, "Oh! Okay.. Well we can do it.. on this other scale... I guess.. I thought she was old enough." Ouch. I know she didn't mean any ill will with that comment, but it still stung a little. Yes, she is old enough. That doesn't mean she can. Or will.

To add insult to injury Ella's weight was even lower than last time and seems to continue to drop slowly which I know GI is not going to be happy about. And we weighed her clothes on, which again GI is not going to be happy about, but they're just going to have to deal with it.

While waiting for the doctor I was trying to keep Ella occupied and casually looked down at her feet and pointed to the hole in her shoe and said, "Ella! You have a hole in your shoe." Big mistake. HUGE. She freaked out and wouldn't stop grabbing at her shoe and I couldn't distract her enough. Apparently she was appalled that her mother would bring her on an outing with holey shoes. I'm sorry. One pair is borderline too small, one pair is missing its mate, her boots are hard to walk in, and I haven't had time to buy new ones yet... Don't worry Ella. I threw the favorite-fits-just-right pair of shoes with the hole in the toe away the minute we got home so that will never happen again..

So THEN when the doctor came in there was some confusion about why they didn't do the OAE since that was basically the only reason we were there in the first place-to see if she could pass it with the tubes-so he sent me back to the waiting room again. To wait. But not before he AND the nurse reminded me on two separate occasions of those all-important ear drops nobody told me were important that I could use whenever I thought I should.. Seriously! What is in those ear drops?? The healing water of Lourdes or what? And why didn't anyone tell me about it the day we got them???

By this time we had been there for an hour with little to no answers. And as if that weren't enough, while we were waiting in the kids area there was a little girl about Ella's age who was mocking me with all the things she could do. She seemed to be walking and running and talking and coloring all in the name of taunting me that Ella can't do those things... Okay.. maybe I'm exaggerating a little. But it's amazing how on a good day when everything is going well it doesn't bother me at all the see other kids Ella's age doing things she can't do, but on a day where a few things are starting to quickly add up, your emotional senses are heightened to polar extremes.

I guess I can't speak for everybody.
Maybe not everyone is like that.
Maybe they have tougher skin than me.
Maybe I'll get there.

After that agonizing, frustrating tear-filled-eyes wait the audiologist finally called us back again to do the test. Which took about 3 minutes. Hindsight=20/20. We should have just done the OAE the first time... But anyways.. she didn't pass. Which could either mean she does have some hearing loss or her ear canals are too tiny still to get a good reading or the respiratory gunk she has going on right now is interfering. Same old story. So again.. we were sent back to the waiting room. To wait to see the doctor. Again. And we waited (with that same little girl, lest I could catch a break) and waited and waited. After so much waiting I Ella got a little cranky so we started to walk around the waiting room. The receptionist noticed us and asked who we were waiting to see. I told her the doctor, again. She smiled and nodded, then I heard her call back to the nurses station and ask about us and soon a nurse came out saying that, after all that time waiting for him, the doctor wasn't going to see us again today and actually guess what? He had already left. Apparently he had some place to be (I don't know, but I can pretty much guarantee it wasn't a 1 1/2 hour car trip home to pick up his other child before Papa had to go to work during which he was also hoping to stop to get supplies for Christmas presents, groceries, pictures, and the library where he accidentally dropped off a book that actually belonged to a different library....) All the nurse could tell me about Ella failing the test was that "I'll probably be getting a call.." A what should have been 20-minute appointment with answers turned into an almost 2 hour appointment with no answers. Beyond frustrating.

Don't worry. I held it together until I got to the car. Okay.. the parking lot. Fine... it was the elevator.

During my drive across town I realized I was left with no time for lunch and very limited time for the fabric store (Yes I was choosing the fabric store over lunch). So I quickly ran in, upon realizing I FORGOT my SIXTY PERCENT OFF coupon, with a grumpy Ella hoping to find exactly what I was looking for in less than 10 minutes. Didn't happen. So back to the car. On the way out of town I realized that maybe in fact I did have a few minutes to swing through the drive thru of McDonalds. I don't even like McDonalds so why did I choose there out of all the enticing options along 41st Street? Two words. Popcorn. Chicken. McDonalds has the most amazing popcorn chicken bites. Or should I say had... McDonalds had the most amazing popcorn chicken bites. They don't have them anymore. Of course. But after investing so much time waiting in their mile long drive-thru line I felt like I needed to make it worth it and order from there. The day held a slight glimmer of hopeful redemption when I found an old McDonalds gift card in my wallet from when Ella was hospitalized last year (We don't eat out much..). Until I found out it had $0.37 on it.. Ugh.

But I smiled. And moved on. And left at the very last possible minute I could have to make it home in time. And while eating my sandwich and holding the wrapper on the outside I suddenly looked down and realized there was a bite taken out of my wrapper. Yep, I'm awesome. Does the fact that I couldn't tell the difference between eating my sandwich and eating the wrapper hold any indication of why I don't like McDonalds in the first place??

The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful except for the truck driver who honked at me as I passed him on the Interstaet and waved for a full 10-seconds who I have no clue who you are. Among the things that went through my head during those few seconds were "Do I have a flat tire? Is my door open? Is my trunk open? Is something hanging out my door? OMG did I leave Ella on top of the car??? As if she would still be there after 40 miles of traveling at 75 mph (I checked though.. just in case.)

So now we're home again. And after Ella screaming for 1/2 hour and coughing up mucus all over me, we are no worse for the wear. Or maybe just slightly worse.. At least we fared better than that iPod.. It may have gotten thrown against the dash on the way home. No, it didn't make it work. But in case you're wondering? Yes, it did in fact make me feel better.. Much better.