On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.


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Out of My Hands

I like being in control. There. I wrote that sentence.

There is only so much in my life, however, that I can control. I can run a household, but I can’t decide when it’s a convenient time for my husband to deploy. (Nope, the Marine Corps is completely uninterested in my opinion.) I can make the best lesson plans and order exciting curricula, but I can’t rewire the way that G’s brain pays attention. I can log 100 miles a month and swallow my Zoloft, but anxiety still rears its ugly head from time to time.

I also have no control over S’s insulin pump. I learned that yesterday morning when S came home from swim practice and announced that she had an alarm message on her pump. After two attempts to rewind and reload the insulin cartridge, I concluded that the pump had broken and that S needed to go back to injections while Animas shipped us a new pump.

Let me rewind for a minute. S was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 3 years old. She spent Easter weekend in a children’s hospital while Ryan and I learned how to inject insulin, check blood sugar, count carbohydrates, and do the job that her pancreas was supposed to do. For a full year we administered three types of insulin at three different times a day; we carefully counted and fed her the same number of carbs at the same time each day. It was exhausting and scary. On top of this, I was in my first year of homeschooling G, and H was still nursing. By the grace of God, we all survived that first year with diabetes.

I forgot to mention, however, that S was always hungry and that she was still struggling to gain weight. We made the decision to put S on an insulin pump. Of course, it had to be a pink insulin pump, and she had to agree to wear it. We found a pink pump, and I ordered a pump waistpack in zebra fabric so that my little horse lover could safely carry her pump. A month after starting pump therapy, S had gained three pounds and grown a full inch; her hemoglobin A1c also dropped a full point. The best part was that she could eat whenever she wanted. We still followed a diabetic diet, but she was thriving again at the age of 4.

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S on her very first day with her insulin pump. So little and so much pink!

She’s been wearing a pump for five years now. While this isn’t the first time that something on the pump has malfunctioned, this is the first time that we’ve had to remove her completely from the pump. Guess what. I’m totally out of practice when it comes to remembering how to give injections and how Lantus, a slow-acting insulin, and Novolog, a fast-acting insulin, interplay. It turns out that I’m not a good substitute pancreas when I can’t use a pump.

Until yesterday, I failed to realize just how important S’s insulin pump is. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this pump literally keeps our daughter alive. (That’s another scary sentence to write.) Did I feel out of control? Yes. Did I try to shove my anxiety back to a dark corner? Yes again. Was I thankful that Ryan was home from water survival training? Absolutely. Did this unexpected experience drive me to my knees? You bet it did.

This morning S woke up with a blood sugar of 352. That’s after spending a good chunk of yesterday in the 40s and 50s. As an added bonus, she was spilling ketones this morning, so I made my third phone call to the emergency operator at Georgetown University Hospital. But here’s what I did first: I prayed over S. I asked that God would protect her from these crazy numbers and that He would grant me wisdom in knowing how to take care of her. I asked a faithful group of friends to pray with me, too. Right before I took H to swim practice, we prayed that her new insulin pump would arrive this morning instead of later today. I said those prayers in faith because I had exhausted everything I knew how to do on my own. I said those prayers because crying in frustration and snapping at Ryan wasn’t making me feel any better. I prayed because God always hears our prayers, and faith means believing that God will accomplish what we cannot.

An hour later G and S arrived for the second swim practice, and they brought good news with them. S had drunk enough water to flush out her ketones and a big brown UPS truck had delivered a new pump. Amazing. The whole experience lasted 24 hours. S survived, God is still in control, and I have to admit that He is much better at being in charge than I am.

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S knows how to accessorize: goggles, swim cap, and pump!

Speaking of situations that are beyond my control, I’d like to ask a favor of my readers. I have a niece and nephew whom I have not met. I have not met them because they are currently living in the Democratic Republic of Congo. My brother- and sister-in-law have completed all the necessary steps to bring home their children; however, the DRC’s government has suspended exit permits for legally adopted children. Nearly 800 children are waiting to join permanent families; tragically 10 children have died from malaria and malnutrition–preventable diseases–while waiting for their exit permits. I realize that 800 children is not a large number, but each of these children is special to their families. Would you sign this petition to request that the Obama administration contacts DRC President Kabila before the African Leaders Summit in early August? It’s a small act, but it just might be enough to bring two children home.


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She Loves Me…

20140722_112738This artistic masterpiece is the reason that H interrupted my morning shower. She loves me. She thinks I’m awesome. And she thinks I’m cool. She commandeered the rose from a neighbor, and she wrote two of the nicest words that she knows how to spell.

Just 60 minutes before she professed her love for me, I parked her bicycle in the garage and ordered her onto the porch for a cool down. It seems that I was “ruining her life” by insisting that she stop whining and play nicely with her sisters and our neighbor. She didn’t find it funny that I threatened to spray her with the hose in my hand if she didn’t stop fighting. She was angry when I did spray her because she continued to say ugly things. She even threw her bike helmet onto the grass to show me how angry she was, which is why I parked her bike.

In full disclosure, I hit her with fewer than 10 drops of water and she could find no evidence of water on her clothing. I even apologized, but she was still grumpy with me.

I suppose H either has a terrible short-term memory or that she’s forgiven me. Either way I’m thrilled with my gift. It’s better than a paycheck or a full vase of roses with the stems attached.


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Lessons from the Swimming Pool

Summer swim season comes to an end next week. (Phew!) All 3 girls have spent countless hours in our neighborhood pool over the past 6 weeks. So have I.

This is H’s first swim team experience; actually, this is her first experience with organized sports. It’s been a bumpy introduction for her. On her very first day of practice she proudly swam 200 meters and then threw an enormous tantrum when she learned that she would have to come back to the pool every weekday morning. Once we bypassed that hurdle, she declared she would never, ever dive off the blocks. (Guess who is an accomplished diver now.) Alas, she is holding tight to her preference for backstroke. I can always spot H when her teammates are swimming their laps; she is the lone swimmer on her back. On the bright side, she has shaved 8 seconds off her PR and recently won the second heat for 7- and 8-year-old girls. Next year’s goal: Swimming on her belly.

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H found this H during our trip to Oregon.

S’s swim season has been more about her blood sugar and less about her actual swimming. Swimming is notorious for making blood sugar numbers wacky, but her numbers this summer have been crazy low: 37, 36, 35, 34, 33. She’s drunk more juice boxes and eaten more fruit strips in the past two months than I can remember. Type 1 diabetes continues to make our lives unpredictable.

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S (in the center) occasionally tolerates photographs.

G loves swim team and has asked to start swimming year-round. She’s moved up an age group this summer, and the competition against year-round swimmers is stiff. Still she continues to excel in breaststroke. On Thursday we watched her cruise to a second-place finish. Of course I’m proud of her accomplishment in the chlorine, but I’m equally–if not more–proud of the way she handled a recent swim meet situation.

Swim meets are super fun for swimmers. They swim for 30-60 seconds at a time and then have several hours to hang out with their friends and eat all sorts of delicious foods. Parents generally don’t have the same view of meets. We get to provide those delicious foods, and we have assigned jobs that take way longer than 30-60 seconds. I typically spend 2 or more hours lining up swimmers on their way to the starting blocks. During pre-meet warmups, someone often plays music over the loudspeakers. It’s mostly innocuous pop meant to help pass the time before Event 1 starts.

At the last meet I was sitting with several moms and children at a table; we were just digging into our dinners when I heard the opening bars to “Sexy and I Know It,” last year’s hit from the group known as LMFAO. That’s when I jumped up from the table and race-walked (because you can’t run at the pool) across the concrete to the source of the music. I hope I was polite, but I was less than thrilled to be asking another parent (of young girls, no less) to fast forward to the next song. The father who was acting as DJ and meet announcer complied with my request; however, that’s not the end of this story.

If you’re unfamiliar with the lyrics to “Sexy and I Know It,” you can read them here. If you can’t figure out what LMFAO stands for, I suggest that you NOT look up the term. The more I think about what happened the other night, the more upset I get. It is hard to raise little girls in today’s culture. It is harder still to keep them appropriately innocent. I want our daughters to grow into young ladies; therefore, I resent anyone who uses the word sexy around or to describe children. Children aren’t sexy at all, and I resent having to defend what should be a basic tenet of parenthood. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

I cooled down after chatting with a few moms who had appreciated my request, but I was utterly floored by the conversation I had with G yesterday. We were in the car when G told me about the conversation she and another friend had with the same parent just moments after my request. It seems that several of G’s friends didn’t like the next song and went to ask if they could pick out a song. They asked this parent why he hadn’t finished playing “Sexy and I Know It.” His response was that “some lady” had asked him not to play it. Her response? “That was my mom. She probably didn’t think it was appropriate for 3-year-old kids to listen to that song.” What floored me is that this parent tried to convince her that it wasn’t a big deal since these same kids would probably hear the song on the radio anyway.

WHAT?!!! This is what a grown man of approximately 40 years says to 11-year-old girls? This is exactly the kind of argument I would expect to hear from someone who is not old enough to drive a car or vote. And by the way, G is smart enough to know that she’s not going to hear this song on any of our radios.

Yes, I know I’m on my soapbox again. But I am also ridiculously proud of G. I guess she’s actually been listening to me all these years, and I think she is growing into exactly the kind of young lady that her father and I want her to be.

G (on the left) and one of her favorite friends.

G (on the left) and one of her favorite friends.

 


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75 Years

6 siblings,

1 birthday boy,

1 Nunu.

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8 granddaughters.

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3 spouses,

1 girlfriend,

2 boyfriends.

1 long-haired Banjo.

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Not enough beds,

Not enough forks,

Too much hummus.

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75 years celebrated by 22 people

with 7 different surnames.

0485 days together in 2 houses.

Too much laughter to count,

Too much love to measure,

Too many dishes to wash.

???????????????????????????????2 play performances,

Endless bike rides,

Marathon rounds of Phase 10.

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28 miles in 6 runs,

0% humidity.

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12 hours by car and plane,

4 suitcases in tow,

3 time zones to cross.

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From Maryland to Oregon and back,

One person is worth all this fuss.

Happy birthday, Michael.

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Summer is in Full Swing

I just finished vacuuming cherry pits and stems from behind the piano. No one knows how they exactly got there, but I suppose it’s the same person who left an apple core behind a living room chair in an experiment to see how long it takes to completely dehydrate it. Or it could be the child who removes strawberry tops wherever she happens to be and then drops them so that it looks like our house has been invaded by an army of green spiders.

Yep, summer is in full swing, and I have the discarded fruit remnants to prove it.

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H’s second swim meet. She only swims backstroke.

Our calendar now revolves around swim practices–2 every weekday morning–and swim meets–every Tuesday and Thursday. In between we manage to accomplish small things like unloading the dishwasher, completing a remedial math lesson, and offering first aid to a field mouse.

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It’s easier to just take the picture the first time the kids ask than to listen to them beg you to take a picture for 30 minutes. This is S and a maimed field mouse. She couldn’t decide if it had a hurt foreleg or hindleg.

Last week G got her first pair of glasses. I would have been horrified to need glasses when I was her age, but she was ridiculously excited after I realized she needed an appointment with the optometrist.

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G–in her new specs–enjoying a cool treat on a warm day.

Today we are waiting for the windshield repairman. He’ll be here any time between 12 noon and 5 P.M., and this gives me an opportunity to enforce a lazy day around the house. Plus we’re packing for a family vacation, which means we’re cleaning out drawers and closets, doing laundry, and fighting over whose turn it is to fold the laundry.

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We pretended to be tourists and posed at the Virginia Welcome Center on I-95.

This weekend the girls and I visited my parents for some much-needed rest. Last week was full of long and difficult days. Our dear friend Sophia went home to Jesus on Saturday, June 21. While she wasn’t my child, I spent much of the day weeping for her parents. Ryan and I decided it was a good time to take the girls to a local beach and then spend the day doing things we don’t normally do. We watched Maleficent and then ate a delicious Chinese dinner.

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S and a horseshoe crab skeleton that she found. Ryan declared it too stinky to come home with us. Boo.

Still my heart aches for Sofia’s parents. Her service last Friday was beautiful but heart-breaking, just like her life. I cried for my babies, too. With some consolation and in total childish honestly, H reminded us that Sofie is now playing with her sister Lucy in heaven. And they’re not just playing; I think they’re dancing together and running around those golden streets. Their bodies are strong and beautiful, and they realize that those of us on earth are the ones experiencing “light and momentary troubles” while they’re enjoying the start of their eternity.

S with her swim teammates at yesterday’s meet.


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Today marks the official beginning of summer in our home. We finished our school work 2 weeks ago, but it hasn’t quite felt like summer until today. Here’s why:

1. We made our first trip to the family doctor for an in-office removal of a deer tick. The tick was a parting gift from a Saturday spent playing outside in thick grass. I removed about 95% of it yesterday, sealed its microscopic body in a Ziploc bag, and then tossed it into the freezer just in case we need it later. It’s only June, and already it’s been a horrible tick season for our area. It took our doctor 20 minutes to remove 4 itty, bitty tick mouth parts. H was a trooper through the entire procedure. (Here’s a really fun interactive tick ID page. Okay, it’s only fun if engorged ticks don’t make you squeamish.)

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S paddling to shore after her very first kayak ride on Saturday. S was all smiles during her adventure.

2. I drove 5 children to Sweet Frog for an afternoon treat. (That was H’s bribe for cooperating with the doctor.) I enjoyed sitting at my own table and listening to their crazy banter. I was impressed that 3 of them voluntarily used napkins, and I withheld comment as they each tasted each others’ “delicious” yogurt creations.

3. Four of those same children are now busily repairing the “broken flippers” on their little friend J, who has decided he is a sick dolphin who needs medical care. Apparently he prefers to be an injured dolphin instead of his usual sick puppy. Either way, he is wrapped tightly in several Ace bandages.

4. The thermometer has passed 90 degrees. Combined with the humidity, the kids need a break from outside play; thus, J has become a sick dolphin. Update: J briefly sustained a dangerous snake bite before asking if he could be a daughter instead of an animal.

5. Swim team practice began this morning at 8 AM. G and S are veteran swimmers and are pleasantly tired from their hour swim. H is new to swim team and swam 100 meters before deciding to take a break. I was okay with that decision since that’s the farthest she’s ever swum in her 7 years. She did another 100 meters with a kick board and then called it a day. She was shocked to learn that she has to go back tomorrow for another swim practice. So far she’s told me that she won’t be diving off the blocks and won’t be swimming in the first meet on Thursday. She was greatly disappointed that she didn’t get to swim the backstroke. This promises to be an interesting season for H.

6. I actually had time to have a lazy conversation with a neighbor today. It’s amazing how a little interaction with other adults throughout the day can recharge and redirect the flow of my day. Thanks, Clair!

7. I was able to spend some time vising Sofie and her parents without feeling rushed. Perhaps that was the most important thing that I accomplished today. Please continue to pray for Sofia. Her body is shutting down, and her parents’ request is that she not suffer any pain.

8. All 3 girls had complete melt-downs during or after dinner tonight. That’s proof positive that they are ridiculously over-tired and in dire need of sleep. Right now they are each quarantined in separate rooms, and I’ve started the washing machine in hopes of drowning out the crying and moaning.

Tomorrow we’re going to get up and do it all over again. I’m hoping my summer cold will be gone, that H will decide that she wants to swim, that I won’t forget to teach S’s math lesson, and that our dentist doesn’t find any cavities or reason to refer us to the orthodontist. That’s not asking for too much, is it?

Happy summer, everyone!

 


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Growing Up

My babies are growing up, and they won’t be my little girls much longer. I don’t write this because we regularly spend $200 on groceries every time we shop. And it’s not the way that G’s legs seem longer each morning she tromps down the stairs. Instead it’s how they’re handling changes in the world around them.

For the past several months, our tightly knit neighborhood has been rocked by cancer. I’ve written about Sofia’s battles, but there is another family nearby with 2 parents who are fighting 2 different cancers. In our own family, my favorite aunt has been undergoing chemotherapy for yet another type of cancer. The hardest one to ignore, however, has been Sofie’s, and the hardest questions to answer have come from S and H. Yesterday they finally understood that they won’t be able to celebrate Christmas or the next round of birthdays with their sweet friend.

As their mother, I want to shield my girls from unnecessary pain, but I can’t shield them from everything. And I see value in allowing them to walk beside their young friend as she faces something so much harder than many of us understand. (If you’re still reading at this point, Daddy, go get the box of tissues. I could use a couple anyway.)

My girls never met their brothers Seth and Owen or their sister Lucy, but they know where they are. They know what heaven is, and they don’t fear the life after this temporal one. They know that Sofie is going to get to play with Lucy and the boys before they do. They also know that there is no pain, illness, sadness, or death in heaven. And they know that this is where Sofie will meet Jesus face to face.

The screen is growing blurry now for some reason, so I’m going to post a picture instead of writing more on the subject.

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This poster is the collaboration of neighborhood kids and moms who gathered yesterday to turn a friend’s craft supplies into something beautiful for Sofie. The children decorated butterflies, and I followed a clever friend’s idea for attaching the butterflies to a foam board. While we hadn’t intended to be symbolic in our artwork, I think a butterfly is entirely appropriate for our little friend.

Meanwhile, S made a monumental decision yesterday: she finally agreed to cut off most of the hair that she’s been growing for the past 3 years. S has thick blond hair with tons of natural wave, but she despises brushing her hair and is not very particular about rinsing shampoo after she applies it. Since swim team practice begins on Monday, we’ve been suggesting coaxing her into donating her hair before 6 weeks’ worth of daily swim practice does its damage. When I told her that a friend’s daughters had recently donated their hair to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program, she was intrigued. She didn’t want to donate the 10 inches that Locks of Love requires, and Pantene will accept 8 inches. I’ll leave you with a few pictures to show you the transformation.

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Before: The shock of what she’s going to do has just registered

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During the cut: Amused and unsure

 

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After the cut: Is there enough left for a ponytail?

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The last picture: Moms are so annoying when they tell you that you’re beautiful.

Yes, my girls are growing up. And yes, I’m not sure their dad and I are ready for them to grow up quite so fast. But they’re doing it well: they’re becoming young ladies.

 

 

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