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?

Katie’s Neuro Follow Up 2014 edition

Every year around this time, Katie goes to see “her Dr. T” to see how she’s doing and how she’s progressing. There were a few phone calls back and forth to set up this visit because no one was sure what Dr. T actually wanted to do this year. He decided that he would check her head and then decide, so we made the appointment in November and then waited patiently for the end of January. Her appointment was Tuesday.

On Sunday Katie lost her second tooth in five days, so she asked the tooth fairy to leave her tooth so that Dr. T could see it. Tooth, being a gracious soul, left it for her to show him. On Monday, Katie made a list of things that she wants to do that her father and I cannot agree on (Dr. T has graciously served as mediator as Katie has been growing and wanting to explore more and more things). This year, her list was written partially by her and partially by me (I wrote the letters she hasn’t quite gotten the hang of yet). This year’s list: riding a two-wheeled scooter; no training wheels, ride a horse, and downward dogs in yoga. I brought along some information on a class I’m interested in letting her take assuming she’s interested.

We were early for our appointment, which worked out well for us because Dr. T was running ahead too. I know, I know; doctors never do, but somehow, Dr. T is always on time and he is extremely forgiving when you get hung up somewhere in the hospital that isn’t as, um, efficient as he is. They did her height, weight, and head circumference. All normal stuff and as usual, Katie is near the bottom of the growth chart, but her head measures normal for her size. Praise God for that.

Katie was her happy, chatty self and completely enthusiastic about her visit. She was honest to God excited about seeing Dr. T. Given that she used to scream at the sight of his PA and was terrified of every person in scrubs she saw, this is amazing and awe inspiring. Dr. T came in and she was so happy to see him and he just goes with it. He got to feeling her head and he was pleased and not pleased. She now has bone everywhere but on the right side. We are rapidly approaching a crossroad, and he did think for a minute before he decided that was going to give her one more year to grow the bone on the right side. He didn’t think she could grow the bone she has so far, so we will continue to pray that God will make those little bones grow and she will get to do all the things on her list.

He did say, you could just use your common sense. I said, yes, well, one of us (pointing at P) wants to wrap her in bubble wrap; the other one of us wants  to let her try things within reason. He said, do you say no? I said, sure, I’ve said no to acro (which her hero Bri does and she wants to try), and he said, okay, so we’re going to let Mom decide for the next year when Dad wants to reach for the bubble wrap, mom has the deciding vote. He also said that next year we will have to move if she hasn’t grown the bone. This is a faith journey — big time. She is a permanent resident of the prayer list at our church and I would respectfully ask that if your church or religious group has a prayer chain or prayer list, please add her to the list. God can do big things and I’m praying that He will do one more big thing for Katie. If He doesn’t, then I believe it means that this blog is serving a larger purpose.

Sitting in my closet right now is a two-wheeled scooter (pink and purple with Tinkerbell on it). She has asked twice already when she’s going to get her scooter, and that will likely happen tomorrow. So we will watch, wait, and pray.

One week ago . . .

You were here, and now you are gone. One week ago I thought I had plenty of time. You were suffering with your pressure sickness and it would be gone in a day or so and you’d be back to yourself. Note, I don’t say happy self or playful self. Those were never words that accurately described you, but loyal, true, steadfast, dedicated. Those were you.

At this time last week, I knew you were in trouble. I didn’t know quite how bad yet, but I knew there was a good chance that my phoenix wasn’t going to rise again. I hope that by the time I figured out how bad it was, your spirit had made the journey to the bridge and that you were playing with Carson and having the best time you ever had. I hope you have had plenty of steak.

I feel so bad for your dad. He made steak tonight and he thought it tasted wonderful and was expecting me to comment on it. It tasted like ashes to me. We had steak last Wednesday and I painstakingly cut you pieces from my steak so you could share. What did I care if you ate table scraps? For one thing, the only way you were getting them was if someone gave them to you. No way you were getting up on those back legs of yours to steal. For another, you needed the food. Your body was starting to waste away and I knew I wasn’t far from having to make a decision I didn’t want to make.

Dr. Chip sent me a card telling me how sorry he was that you’re gone, but glad that you took the decision out of our hands. I don’t know if you did that consciously or if this just happened to you like you slammed into a brick wall (and you’d actually know something about that feeling — what a klutz you could be at times). He’s right. I don’t think I would have had the heart to let you go as long as you were in the fight. And that’s how I saw most of your life.

And that is how I will honor your life. I won’t walk away from a fight, Sam. You never did. You never quit. You never gave up. I would be shaming your memory if I did any less. But I understand, too, that there was a difference in “fight” for you. You had to care about the outcome and it had to matter *to you* for you to fight. Being with me mattered and you fought. Peyton stealing your toy? Eh, there are others and her big bowling ball head couldn’t get to the good ones anyway.

We’re all starting to adjust to life without you, but it is so different, so weird, and so hard. We keep waiting for you to come to the gate, the door, the window, and you don’t. So far, no one here has dreamed about you. If you can, visit Ben. He misses you so much and he needs to know you’re okay where you are.

And this is mama being brave. Who knew I would have to put this word into action so quickly? I should have known that this word choosing me was going to bring a whole new level of stuff to the surface, but I am brave and it is a big brave and you will always have part of my heart.

A Brief Update

Sam had a massive stroke late Thursday night. She died at 4am on Friday morning. I am so grateful that she likely never knew what hit her and that, for her, it was incredibly quick even if it took her body awhile to catch up with her spirit.

I know that she is running free and eating what she wants and she has no pain. I know that she is finally free of fear and is truly happy. We loved her no matter what and that won’t change even with death.

Good rest and Godspeed, Sam.

If you want to make a donation in memory of my girl, her favorite organization: Labrador Life Line.

We Are in Pain

We are in pain today. Sam has had a rough 24 hours culminating in barfing up large amounts of mucus tinged with blood. We know this may be the end of a very long road for Sam. I claim I’m prepared; I claim I understand, but really, I don’t. I want her to keep going. I want her to be okay. I want her to go peacefully in her sleep rather than in a blur of confusion and pain. I am not okay with this. Not with one bit of it. And I have cried this morning. I fought tears when I talked to her vet, and I think he was fighting them too when he said, really, there’s nothing we can do for her at this point. We need to give her a bit, maybe through the weekend, and see how she is. I am afraid. I don’t want to lose her this way. Though why I think there’s a good way to lose her, I don’t know. I guess I just did.

P and I had plans this weekend, but now they are up in the air depending on Sam. As much as I love both of our families? I am not spending hours with any of them if this is truly Sam’s last weekend. She deserves our time and our attention. I know, we didn’t get to see anyone over Christmas; I understand that, but you know what? Sam is always there for us when we need her. If she needs us, then she gets us. End stop.

My heart is breaking because I can see she doesn’t know what to make of this newest development and she’s not sure what to do or how to cope with it. Peyton is running around looking panicked, which makes me think this may really be the real end (shamelessly stolen from Tim McGraw; I’ll give it back if she turns around. I promise).

The thing with Sam is in the last year, she’s had three very close calls. We’ve had two appointments scheduled to put her down and ended up canceling them because she rebounded and was back to herself. I don’t know how many more times she can go down and pull back up, but maybe she has one or two more in her. The thing is she has a pattern, and I’ve learned I have to let the whole thing play out to make a fair decision, otherwise I will spend the rest of what I imagine will be a long life second guessing whether it was really time or not. I know myself. No matter how many people tell me I will not regret putting her down too early, I don’t think that will happen for me. I think I will regret the missed time and the missed affection, such as it is from Sam.

We talk all the time about how much easier it is for pets because we can make this decision for them and we don’t have to let them suffer. Some even wish for this power for their loved ones. Being one with a dog who refuses to give a definitive sign of anything, I can say I am glad I don’t have that decision making power. The agony of trying to do the right thing for Sam would be magnified by 10,000 if I was trying to make the same decision for a loved one. At least, I imagine it would be.

So, for those of you who have made the decision for your beloved pet, how did you know it was time? What made you turn that corner and say, s/he isn’t happy anymore and it is time to let him/her go?

This Year’s Plans

As my husband of almost 20 (!!) years will tell you, the beginning of the year can be a little scary if you live with me. I am full of ideas, plans, and things I want to do. I make lists, I join classes, I find lots of ways to try to make our lives more meaningful and more fulfilling. And then, I lose track of all those projects and I fall off the wagon and I end up sitting there on December 31st trying to figure out what happened. But not this year.

What makes me think this year will be different? Well, for starters I have a planner that I adore that makes me think about my choices more concretely and helps me to plan and organize in a fashion that is more suited to my style (read, I can ramble on a bit and it doesn’t seem to matter given that it is paper). I’m using personal sized Life is Crafted pages from here. What I like about these is the review aspects of the monthly pages and the other pages that give me a place to put the books I read and the movies I see and so forth.

One of my goals is to write more. Thanks to a random mention on Twitter, I discovered the Magic Spreadsheet. More importantly, because I’m not quite at a point where I want the world to see how many words I write in a day, I found a personalized one that I can use for myself and only myself. I am using it and it is helping me to be aware of how much I am writing.

Right now, I’m writing in word, but I finally made the decision to commit to Scrivener this year and I can’t wait to get started with it. I’m hoping to produce some more academically focused articles this year, and I think this a tool that can help me do that.

As for the other things that I’m doing, well, I joined Ali Edwards’ One Little Word class and Cathy Zielske’s Move More, Eat Well Jumpstart at Big Picture Classes. I’m not expecting miracles from the latter, but a bit more consciousness on my part simply won’t hurt anything. I’m starting a year long cross-stitch project in a few days (Once Upon a Time Sampler, some scripture memory work from A Holy Experience, and some other things designed to help me find and focus on the goals that I need to pursue to fulfill the person I am supposed to be. I’m also continuing with Digital Project Life. I truly love doing this project and I think we learn so much from what we used to do and who we used to be even one year ago. I may suck at scrapbooking in a traditional manner, but put me in front of Photoshop and watch out.

Finally, I am tackling the house. Anyone who knows me knows that my house is something of a terror zone. So I’m working on decluttering and clearing, and making space for us all to breathe. We’re going to tackle some small projects along the way to try to make things more workable while we decide whether this house is still a fit for us or if we need to do something different. Only time will tell.