Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Horseplay 'R Us

Almost every day here there will be some kind of chase or a good game of hide and seek going on when school work should be taking precedent. But good parents (and teachers) pick their battles so the choice to take a break is often allowed to play itself out. Lately it is quite common to see the boys chase Laura around the house from the kitchen to the dining and living rooms, through the entry and on to the family room only to start the whole thing all over again, laughing all the way. Or for two of them to team up to find the other one who keeps moving in order to avoid dection. However, there has also been an addition to the 'family' of horseplay. Literally.

Here's Matthew and Laura on the trail of Jonathan. You'll note Laura is resting more than the other two. However, the boys did get some rest in as well even though Laura had to be in the middle of it all.

Dr. Dobbs Revisited

In the past few years I have discovered that there are few things more difficult than planning, and then giving the okay to proceed with surgery for your children. In your gut you know that it is necessary, and yet you wonder if you are really doing the right thing. You wonder whether the surgery will cause other problems in its wake or perhaps make things worse rather than better. And you wonder whether you've got the right surgeon sticking their surgical tools in places that will have a permanent impact on your child's life.

Way back almost five years ago now we gave permission for the first time to a surgeon who promised to make life better for Laura. At that time she had a g-tube put in to help her survive, and a nissen to keep her reflux from hurting her even more. Over the years she's had a large handful of additional surgeries, been put under anesthesia for a variety of tests, scans, and such, and had so many other tests while awake that I can't remember them all unless I review her medical records. Through it all Laura has been a trooper, shown her extreme patience, and has developed a very high tolerance for pain. On the other hand, Don and I have gotten more anxious and a bit more nauseous with each and every approval for surgery.

As we met with Dr. Dobbs to review her latest tests and reassess her feet he delivered news that we were dreading. We're down to just three options for straight feet: a posterior tendon transfer, an osteotomy on her heel bone, or a miracle from the Lord. Well, he didn't mention the last option but it is always on my mind. After reviewing the long term effects and the chances for success, we opted to try the posterior tendon transfer before resorting to the worst cast scenario of an osteotomy. Laura will be in Dr. Dobbs capable hands on December 8th. And I'll be sitting next to my Mom wishing I could cuddle up in her lap once again. After we are released from Shriners, we'll head home by December 9th for a week or two and then head back for a cast change. We understand she'll be in that cast for a month or so before finally being cast free - hopefully for good. She'll still have to use the FAB at night so we'll be ordering another pair of Mitchell shoes to go on our Dobbs bar.

While we are hauling her 34 lb plus cast laden body, I'll be reminded over and over again that she's thriving despite predictions to the contrary when she was born. I'll remember that she was God's long before she was mine and that He loves her even more than I do. I'll remember that he has a plan in all of this, a plan for good. And you can guarantee that I'll be wondering what it is even though I know I probably won't know for a long time, if ever. In the middle of all of it will be patient, precious Laura, hobbling around on her cast, laughing and playing as if nothing has changed. I learn so much from her. Perhaps this time I'll learn to be wait patiently, too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Are Snow Shoes Really Necessary?

There is little that brings more joy to our kids than the first few snowfalls of the season. They have yet to experience the overwhelming burden of shoveling again and again, and it is still warm enough per se to spend more than just a few minutes outside. Over the past few weeks we've had flurries, minor snow falls and even a few inches every now and then. And over the past 24 hours we've hit a snow bonanza. Yes, it's early. No, I'm not thrilled despite my love of all things Christmas. However, I have the pleasure of enjoying it from a much younger perspective, and that helps to soften the blow.

A few days ago as Jonathan watched the snow fall in squall bursts befitting the primary snowbelt instead of our normal secondary one, he reveled in the fun to come and told Laura of all the stuff they'd do when they finally got to go out and play in it. He even mentioned things we don't usually need here in the lower 48. Like snowshoes for instance. This meant that I had to look up snowshoes so we could figure out just why they worked. After all, I'm not one to pass up a teachable moment. But I failed to realize just how much of an impression it was making on Laura.

Before I realized it, Laura had gathered the flaps from the cardboard box that she'd had Daddy cut off the day before, and was sitting on the floor trying to figure out how to make her own snowshoes so she could go outside and play. Soon she asked Jonathan for help and before I knew it, masking tape was out and being used for makeshift 'laces'. While I don't think her version would last long, it is quite creative. Laura spent a long time 'walking' around her pretend snowfall, keeping herself on top of the snow, proving that she should be able to go outside and play because she "...won't get wet, Mom. Really I won't. I promise!" even though she has a cold.

As I type she's plotting to get outside as soon as Daddy comes home to enjoy the extra snow that fell today, and wondering where her snowshoes went. Somehow I think they are better left indoors.

Battling Daddy...

I'm sure that it will come as no surprise to you that there are times when I feel like I've been a successful parent, and that Don and I are a great team. Matthew is becoming less of the child he has been, and is growing in to the man he will become. The joy I have as I watch him figure life out is one of the great pleasures in my life. But make no mistake. There are times when it is blatant that I am the mother of three children. And believe me when I say that sometimes I think I have four children in the house.

Here is an example of one of those days:

And where is Matthew you ask? He's off with Poppy. Working out and adding more muscle to his repertoire. I'm sure that if he were home, he'd have been right in the middle of it all. I imagine you are asking me what the big deal is with a few pillows and some balloons. And I'll be happy to answer you, just as soon as I get done praying for the lamps...

Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Where's MY Pumpkin?

Daddy and I took Jonathan and Laura out in the days before Halloween to find the perfect pumpkin. And in the process we learned a few lessons. First, if you want the pick of the crop, don't wait until the last week. We also learned that there are a myraid of pumpkins shapes. And not all of them sit flat. Finally, we learned that no matter how few pumpkins there are to choose from, you can find one that is just meant for you.

Touring St. Louis

Our trip to St. Louis at the end of September was a bit different than our normal drive by. Not only did we have the joy of Diane's company, but we stayed a whole day in between our 10 hour drives. After arriving on Sunday evening, we stopped to pick up something for dinner. Then we settled ourselves in to Nana's apartment knowing she was having a great time up north with Elizabeth but wishing she were home all the same. Monday morning we went to see Dr. Dobbs for a check up and prepared for the tests that Laura would be taking early Tuesday morning. Then we headed out to see what St. Louis had to offer.

It had been a long time since I'd been downtown, and even longer since I'd been to the arch. So we headed there praying that Jonathan wouldn't decide he was brave enough to take a ride to the top. He wasn't. :) But we did have a great time in the museum below the arch learning not only about it, but about it's status as "The Gateway to the West". There were wonderful exhibits detailing Lewis and Clark's exploration, some military items, native American history, details of the wagon trains headed west, and large pictures showing new arrivals coming by boat on the might Mississippi. I know Jonathan learned quite a bit that renforced some of his history and art lessons, and Laura was fascinated by teepees, covered wagons, and buffalo.

Here's Jonathan waving goodbye to us as he prepares to set off in his covered wagon.

Jonathan compared himself to the typical soldier back then. He declared them 'short'.

Here he is next to Lewis or Clark. I can't remember which...

Jonathan read some of the more interesting facts to Laura. Sometimes she actually listened!

Jonathan really got in to the spirit of it all and decided he needed to put some space between him and the buffalo.

And here he investigates the bear that used to roam that area.

It is hard to get a true picture of just how tall the arch really is,

but when you compare the picture of the arch with this picture of the little windows in the observation area, you begin to get the picture. The arch stands 630 feet in the air. And it sways in the wind. Really. Kind of takes your breath away when you are up there blowing in the breeze. I chose not to experience that this trip...

When you are standing outside the arch, there are huge steps that lead down to the Mississippi River. And the bridge we used to cross each time we came to town was just down the way.

We also stopped in at the renovated train station to visit shops and see some of the historic artifacts there, too. I was amused at the prices on the menu, and amazed at quality of the dishes, and the apparent customer service back then. The beautiful architecture they have restored, the stained glass windows, and the colorful tile work showed some of the pride St. Louis has in its history. They've done a beautiful job there. I hope that it revives once again as the economy strengthens in the coming years.

They also had a replica of a caboose at the train station, and Laura just had to explore it. :)

We had several other adventures on our trip as well. Mom explored the neighborhood where she spent some of her childhood, and we ventured in to several areas we'd never been to before in search of one of only three Wendy's in St. Louis. Imagine our surprise when we discovered it was closed. We ate ice cream at Ted Drewes, drove by the botanical gardens, and enjoyed some of the spirit of St. Louis and the efforts to maintain its history in some of the beautiful older buildings. When we finally headed home once again on Tuesday, loopy Laura (the anesthesia kept her a bit off kilter for several hours), Diane, Jonathan, Mom and I knew we'd be back soon. And Nana will be waiting.

The Princess and The Pirate

The annual trick or treat night is iffy here. Or at least it used to be. The boys would sometimes decide that they were just too old (Matthew really is!), or that this year they felt they shouldn't go out because of the spiritual 'feeling' of the season, or just because they didn't want to venture out in to the cold. But every year come Oct 31st, those young enough to go are always dressed and ready at the appointed time.

This year there was no consideration allowed. It was a given that we would go. Period. Princess Laura planned it for months. She knew what she wanted to be and she knew what she was going to wear. And for weeks she collected treasures as she came across them because she thought she'd want to wear them with her costume. Tiaras, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, magic wands, and even fairy wings were all considered at one time or another. But in the end the tiara was the only accessory she chose to include in her outfit.

Jonathan remained unsure of his trick or treat status until the final week. It was then that he learned he could hit the neighborhood with a new friend down the street. There was no question. He was going. But what could he wear? I led him downstairs to the costume boxes in storage. They hold many treasures - furry bunny suits, a fuzzy duck, mexican attire, ladybug jackets, baseball pants, and a pirate costume collected for Matthew's 5th birthday party and proudly worn by Poppy as he dared those attending to 'walk the plank'. I tried to encourage the baseball outfit as it would give him the best opportunity for warmth, but he chose the pirate costume. But being Jonathan, he couldn't just go as a normal pirate. He needed to cap it off with his own little touch.

I smiled as I sent off my two trick or treaters, Daddy in tow. They would spend almost the full two hours out, collecting candy we didn't need, laughing with friends, and touching base with neighbors as they traveled from house to house. Matthew and I stayed home, talked together, and passed out candy. We couldn't have asked for a better evening. And Laura is already planning for next year.