Sunday, August 30, 2015

Deductible Shemuctible

No joke, I found myself in the Emergency Room the day after my last post. Nothing too traumatic, just an inflamed optic nerve with a side dish of migraine that had to be checked to rule out detached retina. I got to experience an ultrasound of my eye which was kinda cool and then a lot of eye poking which was not. I had a follow up a few days later that showed the optic nerve had calmed down and I passed a visual field test. Next I have to see a neurologist for the visual changes and migraines since I have that darn benign tumor in my pituitary I've been trying to wait out. I'm accepting local neurologist recommendations, btw, preferably someone handy with a scalpel. The timing of all this could be better, but I'm relieved I didn't end up with emergency retina surgery last weekend. Seriously, why can't we stay out of hospitals?

Ben's surgery has been scheduled for the middle of standardized testing week and the day before Jason is supposed to go on a spiritual retreat. It also happens to be St. Padre Pio's feast day. I spent much of today reading about him and I'm in awe of his story. I will be asking for his intercessions that day, for sure. Ben will be having a bronchoscopy while under anesthesia to check out his airway too, so we may as well throw in a request for no new whammies. I would love for Jason to still be able to make his retreat, but know that it will all be as it should. As my new friend, Pio always used to say, "Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry!"

Lest one think all we do around here is wait for reasons to see specialists, we've made a few end of summer memories that fall under the category of "way more fun than needles".

I took in some light hearted outdoor theater with my BFF.

Gigi crammed for Meet the Teacher Morning.

We tent camped.

In the family room. Because breathing is fun.

We had our last ice cream cone.

What kind of ice cream cone was that again??

We saw deer on bikes. Wait, I remember learning about this in grammar class. On bikes, we saw deer?

Jason proved he still knows the importance of woo.

Gigi discovered the joys of Parmesan....

and goat herding...

followed by honing her newest princess skill, Bird Command.

Good night, Gracie.

Friday, August 21, 2015


The transition from lazy summer days to the scheduled chaos of school zone is still loading. Because Ben has had a relatively healthy few months, we are attempting to have him stay a full school day this final year, but with a built in rest period in lieu of specials. We tracked down a recliner to stow in the resource room where he can rest his body, catch up on assignments, and even be depended upon by others in need. Have I mentioned his school is phenomenal?

Pre-K (almost), 5th, 8th

We made these plans knowing things would likely change. Towards the end of the summer, Ben's nausea, dizziness, facial twitching, and headaches returned. I made an appointment with the ENT because those symptoms were occurring the last time he had a tissue-eating-non-cancerous-tumor in his ear. A CAT scan was scheduled for the second day of school and we braced ourselves for a whammy.

The whammy came after the third day of school with news the cholesteatoma had returned for the third time and was now eroding the last defense before the brain. Surgery is scheduled for next month and we are tasked with choosing to a.) remove the tumor and close up the ear hoping it doesn't happen again. Or b.) remove everything in that space and leave the "door" open requiring regular office visits to manually maintain. Swimming would be risky and infections more likely but any future tumors could be removed without surgery and we'd know it was there without needing imaging, hopefully nipping it sooner. Lead me, Lord.

The upside is that as long as the mastoid bone is intact (we don't know that for sure, yet) he should still be able to hear with a hearing aid and the left ear is still functional (though it has been at risk for forming tumors in the past).

Ben took the news stoically and said something witty about the third time being charming. My priest says that attitude is Ben's sanctifying grace at work. I know he has graces aplenty, yet part of me wonders if he just wants to make this easier for us by not putting up a fight. After a hard night of self doubt I woke up this morning all ready to hold it together for the first all school Mass until the opening hymn was announced as, "All are Welcome." I was reminded of toddler Ben singing the same song to me when I wasn't behaving very welcoming. I spiritually lost it for a bit, then took a breath and let Jesus in. "Let go and feed my lamb," He said.

I'm trying. But you see, my lamb isn't swallowing so well right now, Lord. Sigh. I know what You meant.

Jason had a few unexpected hours off and we didn't want to sit out of this beautiful day feeling glum, so we packed up our girl and put our botanical garden membership to use.

When we got to the maze, Gigi stood above and guided me through with animal names for directions. She got me through and as I danced at the exit, I was reminded of the scripture from Matthew, "A little child shall lead them." The lion will lie down with the lamb and there will be peace in the end. Until that day, feed the sheep.

"Monkey! Now, Butterfly!"

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


When Dad's personal effects were being cleared from his office at work, a worn piece of paper was found taped to his computer monitor. It was a Bible verse, Phillipians 4:4-7 and has helped carry us through the gaping hole in our universe.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

The following is reposted from August 2010 on the 5th Anniversary of my dad's passing.

Truck's Leaving

Wally 1943-2010

I have no words, yet feel compelled to write. My sister called with the news in the late evening of Thursday, August 19. My heart sank with the ring of the phone. My husband, Jason, had already gone to bed. I don't recall the exact words she used that ushered me into my new reality. There was an accident. It's Dad. He didn't make it. Something something... boat in Maine.

With heavy heart and disbelief I went to Jason. He'd awakened with the call. While I received the tragic news, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom," began playing on the ipod in our room.

My only thought at that moment was to get to my mother, alone two hours away, innocent and unaware of the policeman en route to her doorstep. Every other immediate family member was in a different state at the time of the accident and I was closest.

No one slept that first night. Jason, the boys and I arrived at 2 am to a house full of loving friends and neighbors comforting my mother. My siblings and their families arrived throughout the morning.  The next day was a blur of calls, sympathetic e-mails, thick tears tinged with half smiles or near laughter and an armada of food and visitors.

One year ago I struggled to accept my mother's mortality as she fought and won the battle against breast cancer.  I recall my parents returning from my mother's surgery to two perfect pink rose blooms in my mother's garden.  Yesterday the five of us went out to the cemetery to see about a  mausoleum site. When we returned a single pink perfect rose had bloomed. Where there were two, now there is one.

The single rose is the hardest part. It is the natural  order that parents die before their children. It is a loss we can  expect. We marry til death do us part but shove the potential from our  minds as we traverse through daily life. Death has parted my parents.  Though her children, family, and friends are there for her, there is no  substitute for my mom's best friend.

As my siblings shared our memories, we were struck by the realization that our father had sought each of us out earlier in the week to tell us we were so blessed.  It's easier to feel cursed in moments such as these, but when we look harder we can see the blessings. We're blessed to have each other. We're blessed to have no one to blame. We're blessed with our faith. We're blessed to have known him.

His imprint surrounds us. The book he was reading, his shoes by the door, his empty chair, the car retrieved from the airport containing his ball caps and glasses.  I try to etch his picture in my mind and the sound of his voice so that I won't forget.

Wally had a passion for his job. We knew he'd never really be able to retire and as it turns out he never had to. He adored his Purple Martins. None of us know how to make them return. He was crazy for his Cardinal's baseball. My son wants to know if we can still watch them play. Wally loved his family.  He was so pleased we'd be twenty at our reunion next year. Ten adults, ten kids. But as of the 19th, we'll be 19. That number is not so perfect.

Dad was a great Papa to his eight, going on ten, grandchildren. My siblings and I remember our father being a strict disciplinarian but by the time the first grandchild came along he was a big softy.  Every grandchild has been tickled with a, "Here comes the bumblebee out of the barn with a bag of honey under his arm."

My dad had his own funny little ways of speaking. He answered the phone with "Yellow?"  All flowers were hollyhocks. Casual shoes were clodhoppers. A gazebo or any outdoor seating area was a gazzabow.  When something wasn't right or someone crossed a line he'd remark, "throw the flag" or "that's a flag."

He loved the word "multisyllabic" and used it to describe anything that was complicated.  Other common phrases include, It'll put hair on your chest, Look both ways, Figure it out, Down the hatch, You'll wake the baby (when no baby was around), We don't need to call anybody (in the midst of a home project), and des colores. Whenever Dad was ready to leave he gave no warnings. He simply stated,  "Truck's leaving" and we'd scurry to comply. It's fitting that he left  us without warning. He wasn't one for long good-byes.

Wally was full of wisdom and was generous with advice. Many people have used the word mentor when describing him. We remember him telling us, "Success is having the problems you want,""That's a good problem to have," and, "Learn to love the things you have to do." He often remarked, "Now that's funny, I don't care who you are." "Everybody has a cross," is a phrase we all well know.  We have learned this week that Dad was emphatically wrong about this phrase, "You can count your true friends on one hand." Each of us have been enveloped in a flood of warmth and love from a sea of true friends. We are in awe of all the people who have told us how important he was to them even before the visitation has begun. I hope that he knows better now.

Paper Boy in Mourning

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

MOBOT Lantern Festival

It took us a few summers to get around to it, but we made it to the Lantern Fest at the botanical gardens and it was lovely. We are lucky to have so many amazing things to see and do in this city. I understand it's still running nightly for a few more weeks. Go!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Jason Laked his Birthday

Ever since we took a vacation to Clearwater Lake some years back, Jason has wanted to return for another day of boating on that quiet little lake. So he arranged to have a post call day on his birthday and rented a pontoon. We packed a picnic lunch and drove the two and half hours to our destination in southeast Missouri. It was a great day of relaxation and family fun where health and weather cooperated.

The boat had a water slide and we could return to the marina any time to change out pull behind tubes. Even mom jumped off the roof, descended the water slide, and braved being flipped from the tubes all while wearing her first (and last) circumstantial string bikini.

No good day goes unread

Feeding the giant Carp from the dock before the drive home.
My country mouse of a spouse would love to live where he could see the stars and build things without permits. He dreams of a green and woodsy place with wildlife for neighbors and bonfires for breakfast. The dude wants a reason to own a canoe. This city mouse has him reasonably convinced that staying in close proximity to level 1 trauma centers and espresso machines is desirable. But I'm trying to afford some outlets for his forestlust.  Thus, his birthday present:

Mom: Hey, now you're twice the drinking age.
Dad: Does that mean I can drink twice as much?
Alex (holds us two cups of milk from dinner): Like this?

Happy Birthday, Sweetie. May your tent find greener pastures soon.