About a Week Ago

We were back in Dr. T’s office for Katie’s annual visit. We had done a lot of preparatory work with Katie for this visit. We had discussed things he might want to do. Things he might need her to do (e.g., have an x-ray taken), and we talked about how she could make it easier for herself and for everyone else (lie still and not fidget so they didn’t have to use a needle in her arm to help her stay still). We knew going in that the news wouldn’t be what any parent would hope for in this situation. We were not going to be told that the hole was closed and she was free to go. We all knew it. The last remaining hole is still there. So we were prepared for the worst.

What we got was both better and worse than we expected. Katie was Katie. She read herself a book while she waited for Dr. T to come in. She felt very sorry for the child in the other room who was screaming and wanted to go let the other kid know that Dr. T is awesome and he doesn’t need to be afraid, but we convinced her that she didn’t need to do that. They checked height, weight, and head circumference. Unsurprisingly, Katie has gained a pound since he saw her last year and approximately one inch. So the growth spurt we were all eagerly anticipating did not occur. Sigh.

When Dr. T came in, he asked if she could read. She looked at him like you’d expect — silly man, I could do that last year. Heck last year, she wrote her own list of requests. This year she didn’t come with any because she knew this was likely a take away appointment rather than a give to her appointment. He asked Katie how her head is and she was up front with him. I still have a hole right here, and she rubbed her fingers over the spot. He wooged her head (imagine someone else rubbing shampoo into your scalp, that’s kind of like what he does). He said it feels a little smaller, doesn’t it? Katie said she thought so, but she knew it wasn’t closed.

And then we started discussing. January or June. He first wanted to see her again in June 2016 so that if we have to do something we could do it after school let’s out and she would be all set to go when school restarts in August. When I reminded him that we homeschool so that’s irrelevant, then he said, well, then I guess we could go with January. And then he said, no, June. Let’s stick with June. And then the blow, whatever minimally invasive procedure might have been on the table for her is now off the table. If the hole doesn’t fill in she will need surgery.

I understand the reasoning. The minimally invasive procedure has an approximate 50% success rate and it takes a year to determine if it has been successful or not. If we did it now, that would be fine, but if we want to wait, doing full blown cranial surgery at age 8 1/2 is not ideal. It’s not ideal for multiple reasons, but the one that likely makes a difference is that it can destroy a girl’s self-image to have her scar revealed for the world to see and lose a substantial amount of hair. Especially for a girl who has been so patient and worked so hard to grow out her hair. Although, speaking of hair we have learned that the reason that Katie rejects buns so strenuously in dance is because setting one up (that will stay while she dances) pulls on her scar and hurts her.

The surgical procedure is deceptively simple. He will reopen the incision (as we now get to call it instead of the scar, since it may soon be an active part of her body again rather than a reminder of past events), peel back her skin and seed the whole with bone fragments from her and from the bone bank. While there, he also wants to shore up her temples because they are sinking, which they should not be doing. He’ll put a plate over the hole and hopefully the whole thing will heal up and grow and that will be the end of it.

Her restrictions remain the same, no sharp sticks, no soccer, and no body weight over her head (so no hanging upside down on the monkey bars for Katie — not that she would, she says the blood rushing to her head feeling hurts her scar, sigh). And now we have a ticking clock.

Katie sees this as a continuation of God’s plan for her. Whatever happens is what is supposed to happen so that other people can learn about her birth defect and learn how all the treatments work. She’s an amazing kid is our Katie. All she asks of all of you is that you lift her in prayer that God’s will be done with her head. So, if you’ve put her on your church’s prayer chain, leave her there. If you haven’t, please feel free to add her. She believes she has come as far as she has through prayer and the grace of God, and she believes that He will answer our prayers in the way that is best for Katie and her “ministry” (she sees my blogging about her head as a ministry for those who come behind her with trig).

One Little Word 2015

I’ve been flirting with Ali Edwards’ One Little Word project since 2011. I picked a word in 2011 (Joy) and I did a few of the prompts, but the good Lord knows that I am not a scrapbooker. I was disappointed with myself and didn’t try it again for a couple of years, but last year I decided to choose the word Brave. It ended up being a far more challenging year than I could ever have imagined and yet, I think I lived out my word far more than I could have imagined. I knew that in 2014 I would have to face a huge loss, and I did, ten days into the year. But beyond that, I did things in the last year that I simply would not have done, but I used the word brave as a spur even though I, again, failed at the scrapbooking aspect of it. I spoke in front of a group of adults who weren’t students. I have danced in a semi-public forum. I have done activities with both of my kids that I would not have considered before. I even took on a leadership role in an organization that my daughter is now involved in.

All of that said, I am giving this whole thing another go. This year, for so many reasons, I’ve chosen the word “inspire.” We’ve been exploring some alternative ways of approaching school with the kids because I’ve been seeing too much stress in our six year old. One of the methods we’ve been looking at has as one of its mantras “inspire, not require” and that was part of the word choosing me. Part of it was an alternative definition, inspire also means to breathe. I love it. I’m excited to see where inspire leads all of us this year.

Year in Review — 2014

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before? Became a squad leader for American Heritage Girls.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I did not make resolutions.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes, a friend from church gave birth to the most precious little girl, and another friend gave birth YESTERDAY to another beautiful little girl.
4. Did anyone close to you die? Sam
5. What countries did you visit? None.
6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014? Peace. I would like very much for my life to be more peaceful
7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? January 10. The day we lost the bravest, most stubborn dog in the world.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Surviving the almost overwhelming waves of grief.
9. What was your biggest failure? Being afraid of making waves and speaking up when things aren’t going right.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Usual assortment of colds and lung issues.
11. What was the best thing you bought? A Midori Traveler’s Notebook. Thanks to it I have finally achieved planner peace.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? I’m not sure how to answer this. We were all grieving and we all handled it differently — some more productively than others.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Kids who have apparently been taught that different means bad. It’s like reliving my childhood.
14. Where did most of your money go? Judy’s Dance Academy (and I will gladly give her even more; the kids are thriving there).
15. What did you get really excited about? Zac Brown Concert.
16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2014? “Drink a Beer” — Luke Bryan; “Compass” — Lady Antebellum; “Overcomer” — Mandisa; “Thrive” — Casting Crowns; “Keep Me in Your Heart” — Warren Zevon; “Remember Me” — Mark Schultz; “Shine” — Newsboys; “Keeping Score” — Francesca Battistelli; “I’m Not Going to Miss You” — Glenn Campbell
17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder? Very sad. Trying to build a new normal without Sam has been one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. And so very hard.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Expressing grief in front of the kids so they’d know how to do it.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Listen to other people tell me that she was just a dog. Caring about others’ opinions about anything.
20. How did you spend Christmas? With family. I went to Christmas day service again. So glad we’ve started doing that :)
21. Did you fall in love in 2014? With Spirit FM. It’s radio I can actually have on in my car and not worry about what the kids are hearing.
22. Think of something important to mention. Choosing a word for the year can be simultaneously the most exciting and most difficult things you can do to yourself.
23. How many one-night stands? None.
24. What was your favorite TV program? Criminal Minds (although I’m watching on Netflix and not current). Also loved Gracepoint.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I don’t hate anyone. I dislike a number of people, but I don’t hate anyone.
26. What was the best book you read? The Goldfinch Donna Tartt
27. What was your greatest musical discovery? Francesca Battistelli
28. What did you want and get? A new phone with more memory than even I can use.
29. What did you want and not get? More time with Sam.
30. What was your favorite film of this year? Mom’s Night Out
31. What did you do on your birthday? I don’t remember.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? A family vision.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014? Capri pants and t-shirts. I’m pretty steady that way.
34. What kept you sane? Friends who understand me.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? George Clooney (though he is no longer “available” so I may need to rethink this now).
36. What political issue stirred you the most? Balancing gun rights with the right to not fear being out in public.
37. Who do you miss? Sam.
38. Who was the best new person you met? Rowena.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014. Unexpressed grief leads to anger which leads to much larger messes than just admitting you’re grieving and letting that happen.
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I am a mess; I am a wrecking ball

I must confess that I still don’t get it all

Lord I believe that all your words are true

It doesn’t matter where I’m going if I’m going with you.

I press on. I press on. I press on. When I still don’t get it. I press on.

“Press On” Building 429

Peyton Turns Nine

This could be a very short post or it could be long. One never knows when it comes to the world’s happiest dog. Peyton turned nine two days ago, not that anyone seeing her would ever know that unless they saw the grey around her muzzle. That’s the only clue you have that this dog is getting older.

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Peyton has had a tough transition this year. Sam was the boss around here. Everyone, including Peyton, danced to Sam’s tune whatever it happened to be that particular day. My first true realization that Sam might be in trouble the night she died was the way Peyton was acting. She was whimpering and trying to shove in the gate that separated the two of them. The next morning, we let Peyton in to smell Sam and to see her so she would, hopefully, understand that Sam was gone. We think she did, but she’s been a very different dog since that day.

February brought more stress in that we had discovered lumps on Peyton a couple of months prior. Given our experience with Sam, we all agreed that removal and biopsy were the only option. The kids were told that Peyton was going in for a routine teeth cleaning (which was also happening), but I knew there was a chance we’d lose her on the table if he opened her up and found cancer everywhere. I was more or less prepared for that possibility and thank God that he had someone call me the second she was open and he DIDN’T see anything indicating she was essentially a walking dead dog.

So, after that drama, we settled into life with Peyton as an only dog. She doesn’t love this life, I don’t think. She doesn’t like being the one in charge. She doesn’t like having to remind people to feed her. She’s not a noisy dog, so there have been days she’s been forgotten for awhile until we start looking for her. Every time she can, she escapes into my room and lies down in the exact spot where Sam died. It is more than a little freaky. The first time she did it, she scared me to death (to be honest) because lying down, you really can’t tell the difference between the girls.

Peyton had her annual pain in the backside ear infection. I swear, when I schedule Ben for full day camp this summer, I’m just going to go ahead and schedule a vet appointment for Peyton. Every year since he’s started going to full day camp, I have had to take her to the vet.

Peyton went to her first animal blessing this year. I’m not sure she really understood it. She was so excited to be OUT with PEOPLE. She almost doesn’t know what to do with herself.

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She’s also enjoyed, sort of, the slightly more open house where we let people come here. The last two years of Sam’s life, no one came to the house unless it was absolutely necessary. Now, the kids have friends come over and we have a dog who doesn’t think a kid playing with one of her kids is necessarily attempting to kill her kid. In fact, Peyton likes to join in. What kid doesn’t enjoy being tackled by a 68 pound Lab?

So, the happiest dog in the world remains the happiest dog in the world, with occasional melancholy moments. She did allow me to get a birthday photograph and I will be very grateful for that.

Easing Back In . . .

with a little story of homeschooling success. Ben uses Life of Fred for math, but he mightily resented the Honey cards and memorizing multiplication facts. This wasn’t a serious issue for him until about chapter 5 of Kidneys when he announced that he felt he should have paid more attention to those math facts earlier on and wanted to know what he could do about it. As luck would have it, I had discovered a fascinating card game called Speed. We have been playing Two Speed for a couple of weeks now and yesterday, Ben came up with a proposal. He wanted us to let him work on each level of Speed for a month and then test him to see if he knew his facts. If he did, then we could move on to the next level of speed. I counter-proposed that we work on Speed for two weeks, try the test, and if he didn’t pass, do two more weeks and try again. He agreed.

He took his Two times table test today and aced it. He was bursting with pride and showed the test to his dad. He then demanded that we get out Three Speed and work on that. He is very proud about that.

He is also fascinated by a new book called The 52 New Foods Challenge although he’s not thrilled with some of the foods on the list. I did not realize that this author also has a game out: Crunch a Color that will be in our hands today. If I can even get him slightly interested in eating food that isn’t white, I will consider it a huge victory.

We have been hanging in there. Some days without Sam are really hard, some days we seem okay. The kids are busy with lots of activities and I am determined to start updating this blog more regularly. Mostly with homeschooling stuff and dog stuff, but we’ll see where we go. I’ve missed being out here in the blogosphere and I hope that this time I’m really coming back.

Triumphs

Ben has had a series of breakthroughs in the last few weeks that are nothing short of remarkable. I think some of my readers know that Ben is a dancer. He doesn’t just take dance; he’s a dancer (big difference, at least in this mom’s opinion). He started ballet in October and it has been a serious struggle. He didn’t like it. He was frustrated because he just couldn’t seem to keep up and get his body to do what it was supposed to do. He’s a natural tapper. You can explain a step to him, he’ll fool around with it for a few minutes and then he’s ON IT. But ballet is not coming as easily and he was frustrated. Then literally the Tuesday after Sam died, his ballet teacher changed. This was a decision that was in the making for a while, but the suddenness of it was a bit of a shock. Fortunately, he knew the new teacher (she was Katie’s teacher last year), and he adjusted to her pretty quickly. The thing is he’s about a year behind the girls in his class, and he knows it. About three weeks ago, he asked me if I thought he could take some private lessons. I told him that if he wanted to do that, he needed to ask his teacher and work with her on a schedule. And he did it. The funny part is that everyone was shocked that he wanted private lessons for ballet. But he has a goal, and improving his ballet technique is part of reaching that goal. He has his homework for the next couple of weeks and he’s pretty committed to doing it.

We started back with All About Spelling recently because he doesn’t like the way spelling is taught in Learning Language Arts through Literature. He loves everything else about the program, but not the spelling, so we agreed to go back to All About Spelling. He’s discovered he can spell a lot more and a lot better than he thought he could. Yesterday, we tried an experiment and discovered that he can type a response if he’s dictated to, so we have dictated phrases and sentences in the last two days and he has done them all right. He is so proud of himself, and he’s now understanding what the purpose of learning how to type actually was. Hoping that means he will actually start working on that again.

He’s also finally getting a grip on how to harness his imagination and powers for good. I can’t wait to see who he becomes. We’re on an amazing ride with this kid.

“God Sighting”

Every year in VBS, the kids are told to pay attention to the things going on around them and to look for what the curriculum we use calls “God sightings” — moments where you can see God’s hand moving in your life or someone else’s life or in the world. I had an experience this week that could have been the work of no other but God.

It all started with a drawing that Ben made back in November to put on our Christmas tree this year. He drew a cross with heart imposed right at the cross’s center. He said it represented his heart for God and his understanding that Christmas is about the cross as well as a birth (um, have I mentioned that I am raising two very serious little Episcopalians — my daughter had a fit when we used something other than the BCP to pray over Sam after she died, and pitched a tantrum of rather epic proportions when we tried out a grace at dinner not from the BCP). Sure hope the Episcopal church hurries up and writes the blessing for the loss of pets.

Anyway, fast forward to the day after Christmas and Dayspring’s annual sale. I’m not sure what made me go take a look because I had just received a beautiful Kelly Rae Roberts’ cross that I love, but I went to look and found this. Of course, I ordered it immediately. When it came, I knew I was going to order another one for Ben the next time they had a sale because it isn’t super girly, but not overly masculine and it perfectly captures his art and his heart.

Last week, I finally found a sale on it that made me feel comfortable and I ordered it for him. At the same time, I ordered initial tags: one for him and one for his sister. They both like the fact that I wear their names on my necklace every day and asked if they could have an initial with their crosses when they got them (Katie got hers when my new one came in). All of this arrived on Wednesday.

When I opened the box with the cross in it, my breath caught in my throat and I immediately started to cry. See, I have been praying since Sam died that I would get a sign, something that I could understand, that she was happy; she was okay. I’ve worried that I should have done something more than I did the night she died, and I wanted some reassurance that she was okay. She’s come to some other folks in their dreams, but not to me. Anyway, in the box was the cross with an “s” initial tag on it.

I could not believe what I was seeing at first, but then I recognized it for what I believe it is, God providing me with a tangible sign that Sam is with Him and okay.

Of course I contacted Dayspring to see what they wanted me to do about it and they explained that it had been a return that was put back into stock by “mistake” and that I didn’t need to worry about returning it. At this point, I told them the story I’m telling you and they agreed, God put this in my path. The “s” is now on my chain with my cross, my kids’ tags, and the pearl I wear for P. I feel calmer and I feel more at peace than I have since she died.

Who knew that God would use a FedEx truck to deliver a sign?