Thursday, March 31, 2011

Museum Piece

The Boy may well end up completing his high school education away from us. He's progressing in his new Home Away from Home. This feels like a half-life as a mom. Not a failure, but not quite what I signed up for, either. These thoughts are swimming near the surface of my thoughts of late. Not that one's offspring are ever fully banished from a mom's mind, but there are some pools of thought which are less often explored than others because they are too deep, and the danger of drowning too great.
Perhaps the thoughts are stronger today because the Boy's 16th birthday came and went with nothing more to mark it than a brief visit to the school without so much as a candle stuck in a twinkie (There are rules about bringing in outside food to the dorms, but there are vending machines with all sorts of junk. Don't get me started...) because the vending machine ate the coins without dispensing the cello-wrapped, processed mini cakes selected. The absence of the twinkie was somehow more difficult to swallow than the inability to make Evan the red velvet cake he would have really enjoyed. It just seems so pathetic to be willing to settle for the shadow of a celebration only to be unable to even pull that off successfully. Or maybe those thoughts are just more potent because I spent yesterday afternoon hanging out in what should be his bedroom?
That bedroom sits vacant in a mute testimony to what I wish. What I hope. What he did and did not choose. There have been conversations about converting the room to a space that can be used by those of us who live here in more corporeal form, but I resist. He never made that room his own. It still has the new ceiling fan to match the light fixtures in the rest of the house sitting in the unopened box on the floor because the mister and the Boy were going to install it together. The paint color was on the walls when we moved in, and he consistently deferred choosing another color despite several conversations about repainting the room to suit him. The narrow twin bed remains undisturbed by any but the old Bella cat day after day. The Boy's other furnishings speak of teenage boys in game rooms and locker rooms with a penchant for the color red. Still, I have stood guard over that room for months as if it housed my dreams.
The behavior is not terribly different from a parent who has lost a child and refuses to clean out the room or let go of possessions. This has always seemed a sad tendency to create a museum piece to the frozen last moments in time with lost loves; yet, I so understand the why and how of it. My mister began to wear the Boy's clothes because he is practical, but I was horrified by this act of betrayal as if he had voiced out loud the possibility that our son might continue on to adulthood without living under this roof we prepared for the restoration of our family of five. As if he were really gone, and we were only four. And that was not pretty. Letting go of the clothes came only after a visit when the Boy stood taller than I. The pants that I so resented seeing on my mister would be a tad too short for the Boy now. I sobbed alone later over this evidence of change and growth... but also saw in it the reality that I cannot hold on to the frozen dream of being a whole, normal family in this place at this time.
More than one crying jag, daydream of normalcy, hollow-chested desperate prayer, whistful wish, and brutally cut off thought unbidden have characterized the past months. Not unlike the Mothers with Museums, I grieve for the loss of What Could Have Been. What Should Have Been. Like those mothers, I am fumbling along trying to find the New Normal. To just be okay. Unlike those mothers, I have the possibilities of a future with my child to pull me away from the museum I would create to avoid the terror of forgetting a Lost Love. Because my love has simply chosen a route where I cannot walk alongside him, but he still travels onward toward manhood.
Yesterday, I pulled the bedding from his long unslept in twin bed, stood the mattress upright against the wall, and the mister took the frame apart. We will drive these pieces over to be donated to another family's need this weekend. Later, the mister and I drove home in the mommobile with a double mattress and bed frame in the back and a box spring tied to the roof. We wrestled the bed up the stairs and into the shambles of what was the Boy's room. The new bed still needs sheets, but I have a sense of the look of it after draping it with the quilt and the pillow shams that will match the paint on the walls. The locker room accents look wholly out of place now, and will likely be the next items to go. I feel a pull toward completing the transformation of this space into a guest bedroom not in order to cleanse it of my son's presence, but because the space will reflect the potential for future use. The unknown identity of the future guests whose heads will rest on those new pillows may well include none other than the one whose presence I have tried so hard to hold static in the place that was never really his own. Perhaps he will retreat there one night after enjoying a slice of his mother's red velvet cake...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


People have four large muscles in their thigh. (This I know mostly because a doctor said so yesterday, and another one backed it up today.) Middle Child's special place in the shallow end of the gene pool involves one of those muscles being underdeveloped compared to the other three. She happens to be in the thrall of those fabulous teen years characterized by rapid growth as evidenced in an x-ray showing her growth plates to be open and a physical exam that showed a range of movement that allows for wobbly knees. All of this good stuff came together a day or so ago in a knee injury that is causing MC substantial pain just as track season kicks into gear.
She was seen yesterday in an orthopedic practice (where they already know us both on sight). The specialist pretty much informed her that she should start physical therapy in hopes of stimulating the muscle electrically and with specific strengthening exercises toward a goal of trying to correct the inequity. She should expect to be in pain, have an ongoing regimen of NSAIDs and icing the knees. Or... she may need to reconsider running.

Holy [fill in the blank].The kid runs. It's what she does. Delivery of the news that she may not be able to do it could have been handled with a little more delicacy. Or a lot more. Top that off with her stoicism during the exam followed by her exclamations of severe pain as soon as we got back in the car, and the visit was hardly satisfactory. Last night, Katie was in so much pain that she was in tears. This morning she felt better after a night of rest, elevation, and ice on the knee. I juggled to get her scheduled with a physical therapist starting next week, again requested that the track coach keep her out of athletics, and dropped her off at the curb for school this morning.
Except she was in pain again. After almost reaching the Children's Shelter where I was scheduled for a morning shift, I turned around to head back to the middle school to pick Middle Child up for the second appointment in as many days. This time we were seeking a second opinion from our pediatrician. His estimation was that there's probably another year or two of rapid growth to go, and then Middle Child's stride should stabilize. He feels that a simple neoprene stabilization sheath for the knees + ice + NSAIDs for one week only + reduced activity should help with the pain that is caused by a sprain.
Our regular doctor also noted the muscular inequity that could lead to future knee injuries, probably contributed to this one, and thinks physical therapy is a great idea. Katie felt much better after hearing that she is not necessarily done running, but that she is more prone to injury caused by the muscular inequity coupled with the awkwardness of the early teens. She's definitely feeling more hopeful after hearing the expanded explanation, and I am much more comfortable with short-term medication and long-term therapy while we wait to see what only time will tell.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tidbits: Date

* The mister and I marked our 17th wedding anniversary over the weekend. He offered up a dress-up dinner out followed by the chance to see "The King's Speech". We ended up with a much more casual evening of La Madeleine for dinner and a treat. Bowling a couple of games at Splitsville and wandering around a local shopping center people watching gave way to our closing out the night at a coffee shop.

*The daughters were waiting up for us. There might have been some Mother-Daughter texting during Date Night while the mister was away from the table. There was definitely a post-date wrap up discussion with the girls as soon as the mister and I returned home. I like to think that their Daddy is setting the bar high for our future sons-in-law and those fellows who will likely proceed them in dating the daughters. I also like to think that when they are of an age to date, we will continue the precedent of filling each other in on the moments that make one's heart go pitter-pat.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Genetic Disorder

Erin is making her biome project. It involves the gruesome dismemberment of two plastic toy animals followed by super glue reattachment procedures for the creation of a Frankencritter that was supposed to be straight out of Erin's imagination. Unfortunately, Discount Store was lacking in snowy owls, polar bears, wolves, arctic foxes, or any other cool creature that could be forest or tundra dwellers.
Hunting through the animal figurines, she started trying to find any two animals that at least shared the same habitat since she will also be writing a report on the biome where her Frankencritter would exist. She was particularly taken with the idea of a pair of big cats, but the tigon/liger failed the habitat test. Then she saw the zebra which does share the lion's habitat, and it has all those lovely racing stripes. I asked if she'd considered that one was an herbivore and the other a carnivore. To which she replied, "Perfect. Then they will make an omnivore!" Thank you, young Dr. Frankenstein, and we'll look forward to meeting your Zion/Libra!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Picture Post: Progress

In five months of steady practice and lessons, Erin has worked to build a growing repertoire of skills. It's a joy to watch her step onto the ice because she really loves the sport, and what Mama doesn't enjoy seeing their lovey excell? So, today's picture post is a bit of maternal pride in my sweet girl's progress.
Coach Alyssa teaching backward crossovers

Getting the hang of the new skill


Big Sister taking close up photos of Erin practicing spirals

Working on increasing the height of that back leg

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tidbits: Progress

  • Our church is going into a capital campaign. The purpose of said campaign is to have freedom to bring word of Jesus to more people. The first week of the Bible study intended as preparation for the campaign closed out with our visit to see The Boy at school. He said that the text of the messages from the last series in Romans (copies were provided for him by our service planning staff) have become the source of a study group formed with other guys from his dorm. I think that is exactly what "organic church" looks like as someone who loves Jesus simply shares that with others. The Movement to Multiply Our Heart is happening already.
  • Having fully recovered from the dizziness and nausea that went with her ear infection, Little Bit was back on the ice in full force last week. She worked hard, and the results were exceptional. Her coach is recommending Erin advance two levels in the next session that runs from April to June. She's moving right along.
  • Last night I found it necessary to referee an argument about (of all things) conversions. Middle Child was disgusted because no one would tell her how many cups were in a quart. Little Bit and I both informed her that she needed to do her own homework. She defended the lack of knowledge saying, "This is SO stupid. I don't need to know this stuff. It's not like it's on the [standardized test]!" *cough* Her sister, without missing a beat, informed her that she would so need conversions. She paused, and then crowed that conversions are used for baking. (We have clear priorities around here.) And in case she ever wanted to work in a soda factory. (Alrighty then.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Since there is no trash pick-up as we are accustomed to in the 'burbs, the trash at House of Hope is periodically burned. This happened the last night of our most recent stay. The smoke from the fire behind the guest house sent Erin's allergies into hyper-drive. She managed to get to sleep with a Benadryl and the use of most of a packet of tissues in efforts to keep her nose clear. She woke the morning of our short flight from Puerto Lempira on a small plane with a head full of crud. By the time the flight landed at the regional airport in La Ceiba, Erin was in tears from severe sinus pressure and ear pain.
She was stoic on the drive back across Honduras to San Pedro Sula, and picked at her lunch. Her energy level seemed to revive when she saw the swimming pool complete with slides at the hotel. She swam in the sparkling water with her sister, and thoroughly enjoyed the hour of goofing off after the week in Puerto Lempira. She crawled into bed right after returning to the room while everyone else took turns running through the shower. When we checked on her, she was burning up with fever.
We had no way to check her temperature without a thermometer, and were not comfortable going out into San Pedro Sula in hopes of procuring one. The hotel offered to call an ambulance, but that was really the only option they could offer. We decided to treat with the antibiotic prescribed in case of illness during travel by a provider in the U.S. and ibuprofen to try to keep the fever in check. The following morning, we were all tense from a long night with Erin's continued illness, but relieved when 4:00 rolled around so we could call for check-out. The shuttle to the airport was due to depart at 4:45, but the driver was ready early. Just before we could leave, Erin raced to the restroom where her stomach went into total rebellion. We added an anti-emetic to stop the vomitting. We pulled out of the hotel compound praying to be able to stem her symptoms for the next eight hours. The goal was simply to get her home, and get her to a doctor.
We arrived at the airport, checked in, and Erin dozed while we waited for our first flight. Her ears hurt terribly on the short hop from Honduras to El Salvador, but she knew there was still one more flight to go. I phoned Walker, who would be picking us up at the airport, to warn her that she might want a barf bag in the car, but Erin ate little and the medication seemed to be holding her belly at bay. The fever continued, and the ear pain grew worse. The relief of reaching home was short-lived, and we found ourselves at an Urgent Care Center before we had even shaken off the dust of our travels. The only information gleaned from that wasted visit was that Erin had a high fever, two infected ears, and no Strep or Flu.
By the following morning, her ears were bleeding and the fever continued at 103 despite the administration of Ibuprofen and Tylenol. She became sick and dizzy when she tried to stand. The infection raged for over a week. Our pediatrician saw Erin every 2-3 days. By the end of the week she was on three oral antibiotics and an antibiotic ear drop that finally worked together to combat the infection.
Our pediatrician of 14 years commented that he had never seen an ear infection like it. Erin was no longer hearing out of her left ear by the end of that week, and as the infection cleared the doctor noted what he referred to as a gaping hole in her left ear drum. He determined that we would recheck the ear drum a week later to see if it was healing naturally, and, if not, then we would return to the audiology and EENT team that previously corrected Erin's hearing issues.
Our prayers for complete healing were answered this week! We visited the pediatrician to hear the news that was largely expected after watching Erin spinning on the ice during a skating session an hour before the visit. He ears look excellent, and the hole has completely closed with new tissue. Erin's hearing is likely at least normal, and she is not experiencing any of the issues with her balance that came with the severe ear infections. Dr. K. pronounnced her cleared to travel, but she just looked slightly horrified by the announcement. Having made two trips to Honduras in the past few months, Erin has concluded with the horrors of her return trip home that she does not wishto return to Central America anytime in the near future.


In 5th Grade, Susan Cooper definitely scored the Favorite Author title. Neither of my eldest children have been particularly taken with Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence despite maternal insistence on the sheer excellence of the series. Then again, the youngest is likely the only potential Anglophile among them, and she is just now of age for a potential introduction. She writes fan fiction when a story really grabs her, so there's even greater appeal to introduce her to the series.
5th Grade being many, many moons into the distant past, I've moved on from fantasy tales spinning out in Wales to the no less intriguing histories of England and Scotland. (Wales garners little more of my attention than Normandy, and that typically because of relationship rather than individual merit.) Precious Youngest cracked the spine of my current read, Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley as we sat waiting in the pediatrician's office (separate post on that to follow this one...) this week. She read a single line, "To the south of the city lay a quadrangle of collegiate buildings attached to the adjacent ruined Kirk of St. Mary in the Fields."* She closed the book silently, and her wide blue eyes cut to the side before meeting my amused gaze.
"I don't even know what that says!" was her comment as she handed the book back. Looking to see what she had read, I laughed because the whole sentence is essentially Geometry. Telling her so, I was greeted with a stony stare. I laughed and informed her that when she is studying math and someone foolishly says that they will never use fill-in-the-blank in the real world, she will know otherwise. Then I showed her an image of the spot described in the mystifying sentence from the book. She was marginally less unimpressed by Mom's choice of reading material once the math words were translated. Which is just as well since much of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots and those around her would make highly inappropriate reading for a 10 year old.
Still, having discovered that she is not quite ready to read Alison Weir, who is Mom's favorite author, perhaps Little Bit will consider giving Susan Cooper a trial read. I suspect The Dark is Rising will suit her penchant for fantasy and mystery well. Besides, a series has the benefit of telling more of the story as the author intends it to play out than a single novel can possibly cover. That should give Miss Erin plenty of fodder for her own elaboration and story lines to continue the tales as yet untold of Will Stanton.

*Weir, Alison: Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley (Random House, 2003), p.1

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Mama Tara and Commando

Walking with Claudia
This morning an e-mail arrived from someone headed to Honduras on a mission trip. This particular someone is the contact person for our family's sponsorship of Claudia at Mama Tara's Miskito Orphanage. In describing her upcoming trip, the writer mentions that she will be visiting the young woman who her family has personally sponsored for the past seven years. This visit will differ from past visits, though. The sponsor will not see Biborly at Mama Tara's Orphanage in Puerto Lempira. This trip will require a detour to Copan. There the sponsor will be reunited with Biborly who is now away at school to further her education. They will enjoy visiting the Mayan ruins at Copan, and it will no doubt be a sweet reunion.
Mariza receiving a gift from her sponsor during our February trip
Biborly's present circumstances excite me.
I see in Biborly's present, the possibilities for Claudia's future. Not only Claudia, who is sponsored through Mama Tara's as Biborly was, but also the list of children who are gaining opportunities for assistance with basic needs and receiving educational opportunities through Reach Out Honduras. I wonder what avenues God will open up for these children in a future that came into being through the kindness and gifts of virtual strangers a world away?

Carol looking at the photos and message from her sponsor with Laura
There is a humbling effect to being part of the administration of Possibility. Of Opportunity. I wonder if the children will have answers to questions like, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" when there is no longer a question of, "What are you going to eat/drink/wear today?" The gift of some small security in their present circumstance and the awakening of potential that will lead to some unknown future is what I pray for the Alastero children to receive through our efforts on their behalf. When I doubt, or feel that the needs are too great, there will be Biborly and her sponsor who provide testimony to the great things what God can do with our small gifts.