Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Question from Natalie

"Why am I last?" mourned Natalie about her position in the family.

"That's the way God planned it," I answered.

"Well, then.  Why can't I be God?" she demanded.

Why not?!  That was a question I had never myself considered.  A question only Natalie could ask.  I tried to give her a good answer, really I did.  But how can I explain in preschool terms the everlasting nature of God, how he created her out of love to be exactly the person she is supposed to be?  At 7am, I just stuttered unintelligently   By the time I had an idea of what I was going to say, she was gone, off to the next thing.

Apparently, we have quite a bit of catechism and apologetics still to get through...for both of us!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Op Ed: Share Bears

Since I have a blog, I have this great opportunity to express my opinion about anything I want, even something so ridiculous that you will likely stop reading by the second paragraph.  However, as this has been a constant irritation to me for years with no end in sight (although the end is getting closer), I thought I'd subject you all to my opinion on the subject of....drum roll please...shared stuffed animals.

What is this, you ask?  It is a teddy bear or a puppy or anything cute that goes home with your child who is in a preschool class, a daisy troop or other organized group for young children.  It usually comes in a backpack with a binder and a few accessories, and your child brings it home for a weekend or a week or whatever period of time is appropriate for the organization.

As the "lucky" recipient of the coveted backpack, you get to take pictures with your "friend" and put together a collage and commentary on what you did together and how much fun you had sharing this special time together.  You add your page to the binder when you return the friend and the backpack, and then it goes to the next child.

Don't get me wrong, I am not heartless.  I think it is a sweet idea that could unite a group in a fun way. Nor do I have any heebee geebies about sanitary issues and the sharing of germs between houses.  For goodness sake, I have seven children and a big stinky dog, not to mention the cat and the turtles, so I already live in a menagerie of germs, no matter how often we disinfect.  (Tangent...it must be true that the more you let your kids play in the dirt the healthier their immune systems become as my kids are rarely sick, thanks be to God.)

However, as soon as I see one of those backpacks coming home with one of my kids, my stress level goes sky high.  Why?  Because I become responsible for keeping that friend out of the dogs mouth, away from the swimming pool, and away from food of all kinds.  I have to keep track of any accessories that came with it and live in a constant state of terror that we are going to lose or break something.  The kids, completely delighted with their special friend, carry it all over the place and I have to trail behind them like the guy behind the elephants at the circus to be sure we don't spoil it for the other kids.  This is no small task and I am constantly on guard the entire time the friend is visiting.

As a bonus, I get to look at all the nice pages other parents did for their children while I frantically snap some photos the last day we have the friend, sometimes making the child change clothes so it appears that we did it all along instead of all at once at the end.  Then I have to caption these photos in a way that makes the whole visit seem like it was a little taste of heaven.

No, I am not a fan of the share bears.  But, I endure what I must for the delight of my children.  Sigh.

(If you are still reading, I commend you and thank you--it feels great to get that off my chest.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Making Memories

We have changed the way we are doing things around here lately.

We have a history of buying things to celebrate our kids achievements (i.e. some silly little not-too-expensive thing they have been wanting).  What happens is that they love their little thing for awhile and then it takes its place in the junk pile before a month has passed and off it goes to Goodwill.  We have come to understand that this is not a good way to teach our kids to live the spirit of poverty, nor is it good to feed their natural tendency towards consumerism.  Yet, we still want to celebrate our family when they do something special or particularly good, so what to do?

It was Jay's spiritual director that made it clear for us.  "Make memories," he said.  Rather than buying a new pair of gloves or a giant gummy bear or some magnetic men or a nerf gun, he explained, we should channel those resources instead into making memories that will last a lifetime for the whole family.  This is especially true given my precarious and unpredictable health situation.  In theory, this should bring our family closer together and help us detach from "stuff" and learn rather to appreciate each other for who we are and truly celebrate together the accomplishments of the individuals.

We have been doing this for awhile now, and so far we are quite happy with the results.  It is not perfect (we still sometimes give in on the "stuff" but less than we used to), but the truth is that we can really see better relationships developing between our children.

We rarely go out to eat at real restaurants and we hardly ever go as a family to a movie.  The boys love to snowboard but rarely go.  The girls are always asking to go ice skating but we don't.  When there are so many children, any normal outing such as the zoo costs a fortune and it has always seemed more economical to celebrate the individual with something small than doing anything with the entire family.  We are learning, however, that economy is not always the most important thing (though it certainly not cannot be ignored).  But when you stop buying a lot of little things, you find you have more to work with!

As a result, in recent months, we have made a point to do more and worry less.  One day we had lunch and went underground bowling at Bex after church.  I played pool with the boys and had so much fun!  Over break we took the boys snowboarding at Squaw Valley (they had never seen any ski resort bigger than Mountain High) and the girls (and Tony) finally went ice skating.  We saw a couple of movies (Wreck it Ralph and Les Miserables) and we have been out to several meals.  Not ordering drinks makes it much more affordable for us (and healthier too as the kids want soda).

Even our Christmas present strategy changed this year.  Santa brought one present for the whole family (a Wii u) and each kid got a game to share with the family.  This has brought our kids out of their bedrooms and back into the family room as we had hoped.  One of the games is Jeopardy and we have so much fun playing together.  Another is Just Dance 4, something we can all play and enjoy that has exercise benefits as well.

As the kids are getting older (we only have three years left with Joey!) we are wanting more together time.  They are naturally separating due to their ages but we are doing our best to bring them back together.  Thanks to Jay's frequent travel, he has a lot (and I mean really a lot) of air miles and hotel ponts.  We use those only for the family, for trips together to places most families of nine cannot go.  This is our reward for all the time Jay spends away from us working.  Like most people, finances are tight for us but we are learning that when God sends a little extra our way, we are supposed to use some of it for making memories.

Making memories doesn't always have to cost money.  Sometimes a family dog walk in the desert can be more valuable than anything.  Family prayer as many nights as we can keeps us in tune with one another and with God, and we are working on finding a larger dining table that does not double as a homework table so we can eat dinner together at a table most nights (football season exempted since the boys and cheerleaders get home at crazy hours).  It is in these things that we are connecting, in these things that we are gluing tight our family bonds.

I pray they stick forever and ever.

Thursday, January 03, 2013


As you know, I can take a decent amount in the pain and suffering department.  What happened to me at the dentist today, however, was off the charts.  I cried like a little baby.

For several months now, I have had what I thought at first was a very long lasting mouth sore.  Except it wasn't sore.  It was kind of like a hole with hard edges.  Naturally, after awhile I started thinking about mouth cancer.  I made my regular cleaning appointment a little sooner than usual to have it checked out.

To my surprise, the hygienist,  after scraping around it with that fun pointy tool of hers, declared it to be a bone.  I had grown a bone spur on the upper inner quadrant above my last molar that actually poked a hole through my gum.  What?!  Who does this sort of thing happen to?!  I've never even heard of such a thing.  But leave it to me to be groundbreaking in a wide variety of medical fields.

Just at that time we were changing our dental plan to a better one that actually covers these sorts of things, so I decided to wait at least until our new insurance kicked in to see if it was going to go away.  It was my plan that it would go away on its own and I wouldn't have to deal with it ever.  Good plan, right?

While on our mini vacation this past week, I came down with a throbbing toothache right between two crowns in my upper left quadrant.  I had by then become so accustomed to my own decision not to deal with the bone spur (and plus, I could no longer feel the bone so I was convinced it was on the mend) that it didn't even occur to me that it might be related.  Sadly, I resigned myself to one or possibly two root canals, two new crowns or even (gasp!) a bridge, cursing the family teeth the whole way.  As it turned out, any of those things might have been more pleasant than what actually happened.

When I arrived at the dentist this afternoon I told him where I hurt and pointed out the original "mouth sore" to show him how the bone was no longer showing through.  After painfully prodding the entire area he informed me that it wasn't closed up, just swollen over.  Uh oh.

I had developed an infected abscess behind my back molar that was radiating pain through the entire quadrant.  Gum surgery, he announced, was in order right away.  He happened to have an opening in his normally packed schedule, so he said enthusiastically, "Wanna do it now?"  Oh, boy.  No notice.  No time to search for information/read horror stories on the internet.  Just like that?

I weighed my options for about 30 seconds.  I like and trust my dentist.  I am sure he was not suggesting something I did not need.  If I left, it would only get worse and I'd have to do it anyway.  The kids are still out of school, there's not too much going on the rest of this week, our new and improved dental insurance is in place, Jay is home, so I couldn't really find a reason not to.  "OK," I agreed.

"It won't be too bad," he cheerfully mentioned as he began gathering his tools.  I looked immediately at his assistant who looked guilty and said, when questioned by my terrified eyes, "It is going to be tender for awhile after, but you won't feel the actual procedure."

She was right on both counts.  He jammed so much Novocain into my upper left jaw that I thought I would never feel anything again.  Six, seven or who knows how many shots later, even my throat was turning numb from the run off and I felt as if I couldn't swallow.  My heart started racing (as it usually does when I receive Novocain but I had forgotten that detail), my body started shaking uncontrollably and I had a genuine panic attack.  I made them sit me up so I could breath through it.  Both the dentist and his assistant waited it out patiently as apparently this is a fairly common reaction to large amounts of Novocain.  Sure enough it passed in less than a minute and they talked me through it gently, but it really rattled my cage.  Far worse was this than the head stabilizing cage of the brain cancer patient in terms of claustrophobia.

What came next I could not feel, but could hear and imagine.  It began with his assistant asking which tools he would be needing, and his answer was, "All of them."  Really?

From what I could gather, he cut my gum in a horseshoe shape around both sides and behind the three last molars on the top left.  You know, right where my gag reflex is.  He is very lucky I did not throw up on him because I wretched pretty severely half a dozen times or so during the procedure   Good thing I didn't have lunch before I went.

He peeled back what he referred to as "the flaps" and got busy shaving and grinding the bumps off my bones on both sides (prophylactic as I had many such small spurs) and thinning the surrounding tissue (why, I don't exactly know).

When the assistant was suctioning the area near the original hole, her vacuum got clogged by a piece of bone that had come off my jaw and was just hanging out in the gum.  I was so fascinated by this that I made her give me the bone piece in a zip lock bag (yes, she thought it was weird, but who cares?).  This was not a bone he shaved, it was already off when he opened me up.  No wonder it hurt so much.

Next, he cleaned out the infection (I won't disgust you with the details) and then sewed me up.  Stitch after stich after stich, the dangling thread ticking my nose and face as it dragged along.  Finally, he packed me with a silly putty type substance to hold the stitches together, cleaned the blood off my face and told me he'd see me in a week.  I didn't feel anything except pressure during the whole procedure.  Even his initial shots were painless as he is particularly good about jiggling and pushing the Novocaine slowly so you don't feel it.  My kids go to him too and not one has ever realized that he has ever given them a shot of any kind.  It is a total bonus to truly like your dentist, the tour guide of such painful and scary adventures.

Normally when I get a cavity filled I wait for hours and hours for the Novocaine to wear off so I can eat normally without biting a hole in my cheek.  It drags on and on.  Of course that was not the case this time.  By the time I was a few blocks from home I was wondering what the heck happened to the numbness as I could feel everything as if I'd never had any medication at all.

The word "pain" does not describe it adequately.  The only time I can ever remember hurting more (and remember, folks, that I have birthed seven babies under a variety of conditions) was when I suffered a severe wrist fracture from the air bag that opened to save my life when we were in a car accident in 2006.  It took a pharmacy (and thank goodness I happen to have one--cancer bonus!), a creative and experienced pharmacist (me), and nearly four hours to get my pain under control.  Now I am in maintenance mode and feeling like a human being again, but boy what a ride.

Most of you probably stopped reading this long ago out of disgust or sheer boredom, but for those of you still with me, thanks for sticking it out.  It was such a refreshing break from cancer blather that I really couldn't help chronicling every detail.  I feel oddly happy to have some other kind of news to share.

My dentist's post-surgical instructions remind me that the worst pain will likely peak 36 hours after the procedure. So don't call me on Saturday as I probably won't be in a very good mood.

Happy New Year!  And thank the good Lord for decent dental benefits (if there is such a thing).  We changed our plan in the nick of time, which I know was no accident.

Oh, and by the way, after a careful review of the situation, I can now see that I don't REALLY think a root canal and new crowns would be preferable to this.  After all, this is over now...I hope!  That whole root canal and crown thing goes on for weeks.  I guess in retrospect I can admit that this was the better source of the pain.  See, writing this blog is better than counseling for me!