Friday, August 18, 2017

Back to School 2017

I recognized the look on their faces, these new-to-the-school moms, rushing their tiny ones through the masses of excited children in the halls. Trying to keep up, holding a tiny hand for one last time this summer, as they dart in and out of a sea of backpacks and Kleenex boxes and classroom snacks for their new classrooms. Their new home-away-from-home. And I remember that feeling. 
Ironically, I'm still there. 
My baby is in third grade and I mirror those new nervous smiles, trying to show how excited I am for the big day, but still worried. Will he be okay? Will his teacher be nice? Will he have any friends in the class? 
Hold that hand as long as he'll let you.
Don't be embarrassing.

I probably overstayed my walk-in as a third grade parent. Actually, I know I did. John & Emma told me. And I was dismissed at the front doors today for day 2. That's Evan's way of gently letting mom know he was going to be okay. Because, you know, he's the mature one in this situation.

I made it through his drop off without tears, and even dropped off Emma with makeup intact!
But don't send me flowers just yet. Because as I drove out of the drop-off loop at the junior high, momma's tears fell like Niagara falls. Hubby got his annual phone call, talking softly, cooing his tear-laden wife back to normal. Poor guy. I wonder if he waits in his office now, expecting the call, and heads out into the pit after he drops his wife off at the first day of school.


Can you imagine being a momma bird? Knowing their chicks need to fledge the nest. Knowing they'll spread those wings and fly, and knowing they'll LOVE seeing the world from above. And when a chick won't go on their own? Momma gently pushes them out, because even when they think they're not ready, momma knows they are. It was what God made them to do, and it's what God made us to do. 
My little ones need to fly. And they will. and they'll love it, and they'll soar. 
And neither of them ever need to be pushed.
They're amazing.

(Momma bird, however....)

After school, a happy boy came running out of the building. I asked him how his first day was and he said, "AWESOME!"

When we picked Emma up, she said her first day was "Really Great!"

And once again, my heart was full and my little ones were on their way to the best year yet!

(And the house projects have resumed...)

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

2017 Illinois River Float

Floating the river is always a fun trip for us, but it was made even better this year because our friends joined in on the fun!
We stayed at a different resort this year, because the river was too high in our usual place, so we were a little more "exposed" to the regular river rats and all their "exposing" activity, but you know, now that we've got teens, it's never too early to show them firsthand the results of drinking in excess, right? ;)
The reason we chose to stay here at War Eagle Resort, was because close to our campsite was a small river run that was shallow enough for the kids to wade in, and if the current got them, it would take them right to the raft launch area, which was pretty much next to our tent.

Behind our tent was a creek that was calm and still. We got to watch the catfish and gar catching their dinner, and the little boys caught minnows.

I made a bug lawn spray with a recipe I found on Pinterest, and it must have worked, because between all nine of us, I think there were only a few mosquito bites! I'm going to have to cook it up 100x fold and use it at our house!!

This is hamburger, by the way. A big ol' foot long red eared slider that we found up the road. The kids wanted to save it from the raft buses that flew up and down the road, so we moved her to our creek.

And then, we loaded up for the float trip.
A little advice: You have to check in with your ID, so while it seems ridiculous to float a river with your license on you, you'll have to. Otherwise you'll have to walk allllllll the way back to camp to get it and walk alllllll the way back to the float office and teach your kids and your friends' kids the f-word. I mean, I'm not saying that Kyle did that, it's just a recommendation. Ha! ;)
And also, if your kiddo has a double ear infection, bring extra ear plugs, because when you lose the only one you brought, your kid will hate you when you when you replace the tampon cotton with ear putty and push too hard and make it hurt so bad they almost call you the f word that they just learned from your friend... just sayin'...
But we FINALLY set off on our journey.

This photo was taken right before boat 857 got stuck in an upturned log's giant roots, spanking Anitra in the butt and making Ethan cry. Look at their faces! HA! I have the whole thing on video. I'll have to send it to them one of these days when they can look back and laugh...but for now, still too soon...

You're not allowed to tie the rafts together, so for snack time, we made the teens be our connecting devices.

The teens saw their first boobies-for-beads action on the river, and the littles eventually started chanting along with the group saying "AEROLA! AEROLA!", before we had to explain what that meant. We saw passed out drunks and drunks trying to paddle canoes that were eventually underwater at some point. It was pretty educational. Not what we normally get at the family friendly part of the river we are used to. Trying new things, right? Ha!

Back at camp, it was showers and relaxing.

I don't like s'mores. I don't like chocolate or graham crackers. But, Evan made me one and he was so proud, I had to eat it.
So here you go, mom & dad. Put it in the baby book! My first s'more!

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Rolling Thunder

This morning, it's raining outside. Like, not a monsoon rain, but it's pretty heavy. And were I a baby turtle...monsoon. Just sayin'.
The skies are grey and it casts a greenish haze over the world.

But as I herd Evan into the van
(for the third time, after he forgot his backpack, and his homework), I'm feeling SO FREAKIN blessed to have a garage. That I can park in. And stay dry. And my little guy can run in and out three times and the inside of my car won't be molding tomorrow. And even moreso, that I can wear slippers and never once set foot into the flooded ground.

The school had sent an email that tardies weren't going to be given today, because the drop off line is 452 miles long when it rains, and it will go long past the starting bell. Luckily, Evan is waterproof and he can make the 100ft. walk into the school without me staying in that line for the front door drop-off. I watched him run off with his backpack and umbrella and I kinda missed the little pre-k baby that I used to huddle under my umbrella like a duckling, keeping him dry on our waddle into the school as if he would melt in the rain, but then I looked down at my pajama pants and fuzzy crocs and actually said, OUT LOUD, "eh", and drove home to my dry garage to grab the princess and drive her down the street to the bus stop, not because she would melt, but because she's wearing my favorite pair of VANS and I can't allow them to get wet. Priorities, people. Seriously.

You know, when we lived in Cali, there was nothing I missed more than thunder. Okay, well maybe seasons, but besides that, THUNDER. Big rolling thunder that you could hear approaching. And short, cracking thunder that makes you flinch and smile at the same time. I missed sitting on the porch swing watching the stormclouds roll in with my dad or grandma, when she was visiting. I missed counting the seconds between the sound and the sight and guessing how far away it was. And I missed the way it all came together into my favorite kind of weather. And today, it's beautifully chaotic in the sky, and the thunder is crashing almost constantly like the ocean waves and the rain is pouring down like a big, cry of relief, and the lightning is shooting across the sky like quick glimpses into a world beyond, and I am at peace. This is my weather.

The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Have a wonderful Friday!

xoxo, H

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Emma's Update (Again)

SO, first of all, THANK YOU again for your never ceasing prayers! We are so so so thankful for each and every one!

And now, to the news you've been waiting for!

After the blood draw, and a (what felt like 4 hour) 45 minute wait, the results were good! Although the levels are still high, they are lower than before, and the possibility of it turning out to be lymphoma are pretty low!! Like, pretty much NO! Like, THANK YOU GOD low!

SO, that means that whatever this is, she's fighting it off!

We are still waiting on a couple tests to come back to possibly figure out what kind of virus this is, but there are only so many they can test for. Either way, she's kicking it's butt, and we'll be monitoring her levels until they return to normal.

God is good!

xoxo, H Pin It

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Follow-Up Day!

     You know how in high school, they'd tell us to dress up for tests, because if you feel good, you'll do good? Well, that's the thought going through my head this morning as I stare at my closet full of nothing to wear, and choose a nice button up shirt to complement my rain boots. And then I immediately hang it back up. I'm grasping for straws again! I tell myself. Because that's what the whole two weeks has been about. Grasping for a reason that she got these strange readings. Mono? Zika? Flu R? The soon-to-be-named-Castro-Virus? ANYTHING but the prognosis I dread the most. I've asked agnostics and atheists and Buddhists to pray to whatever it is they believe or don't believe in.  I've made a zillion collect calls up to the heavens, imagining his royal highness rolling his eyes and laughing at the squirrely human who won't shut up. SO I grab my comfy flannel and pull my jeans on and haphazardly braid my hair into a keep-it-outta-my-face braid, and keep that brave face on until the kids are off and it's just me and the zoo. I scramble around in the cupboard until I find the coffee mug of choice. Not one from my usual rainbow collection, and not the peeps ones Kurt got me, that have made their Easter presence, but the giant, fat, stein sized mug from the depths of the shelf. The one saved for days like this. The days when holding Heidi together is gonna need a bit more coffee than the average joe. You know, first day of school, last day of the world, Eli's Birthday, John's CT scan days, and now this one. Emma's day.
     I'm nervous, but her local Dr. doesn't seem too worried anymore, and our M.D. friends try to say encouraging things, swollen lymph nodes...they're pretty common, and I'm sure it's going to just be a virus, and she'll be fine!, and I believe them, but I also don't commit. Because when I commit, the bottom usually drops out PLEASE don't drop out on me this time!
     I have a whole page in my planner filled with a collection of sweet notes we've gotten over the past couple weeks. A friend going through her own scary medical issues takes the time to make me a little scripture card, another card left on my windshield while I was out running at the lake. (What a heartwarming way to end that run!), a rainbow postcard all the way from Wisconsin giving us "SQUAD POWER!!". This girl and I are so very blessed with our circle of warriors. The texts and emails and voicemails and prayers and flowers are humbling, and I am more than brought to tears at each and every one. SO if I haven't thanked you, please know how truly thankful we are to know that you are there, that you aren't just Horton's Who's! We hear you! And we are humbled and loved.
   We'll start off on our journey in a couple hours! Updates as we get them!
        xoxo, H

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Monday, March 27, 2017

I'm Back...with a request

Well, my computer has officially DIED, and hubby was obviously missing my blogging so much that he bought me a new laptop! Okay, well, maybe more the fact that my whining and sadness over the loss of my faithful laptop friend was getting annoying COULD have played a part in it as well, but whatever.
The truth is, blogging is for my kids, but it's also my therapy. It keeps me sane in times of stress or worry, it keeps me thankful and reminded of blessings, and it keeps our family in touch with those far away.
And today, I'm very, very thankful for blogging, because I need to send out massive amounts of prayer invites to YOU!

Emma had an appointment with her  doctor on Wednesday for pains in her legs and a swollen gland on her neck. The minute she said it was a lymph node, I immediately pictured hours upon hours of lymph node tests and surgeries and scans and all the worrying and crying and praying and it caused me to forget to breathe? Or breathe too loud? Or turn pale and frozen? I don't know EXACTLY what caused it, but Dr. C immediately reassured me it was nothing - and just because John had cancer, didn't mean every swollen lymph node was cancer, but that she was going to run a full menu of blood tests just to ease this momma's heart. She would call me in the afternoon to let me know all was well.

Hours later, as I sat in the sun, watching my little man try his hardest to dunk a basketball in the towering rims above him, I got a call. And you know how it is when you've got kiddos around and you're busy wondering how the Jesus sandal tan is gonna look on your feet, etc. I didn't really hear her name or what where she worked, but she needed more information about Emma for her appointment tomorrow.
(Appointment tomorrow? Oh crap. What appointment?)
Sure! I say, and she takes my information and insurance policy and addresses and phone numbers and says that she can give me directions to the hospital tomorrow. Her appointment is at 1:00.
(Hospital? HUH?)
So I ask her, embarrassingly, where she was calling from again, and she tells me she is from the Children's Hospital/St. Jude's in Tulsa.
SO, if you know me, you know I could barely hear anything over the beating of my chest. To say I was panicked would be an understatement. This poor woman was being questioned and hurled freak-out-mom comments that she could not answer, being just the lady at the desk who got the short straw that day and didn't know it until she called Heidi Castro on the playground in her Jesus sandals and rainbow sunglasses.
I hung up, and in a blur was home, trying to find answers or solace in someone - ANYONE. My friends were nowhere to be found, my husband was in a meeting, and I was so confused. Do I call Dr. C? Do I bother her and force her to tell me WTF is going on??
By the time I had gotten off the phone with my stepmom, who was coming over to be with Evan (though, probably moreso with me), Dr. C called. She could tell something was wrong.
Was it the high pitched hello? The snot sniffling? The shaky voice? Or maybe just the gasping after every syllable language you usually forget around age ten, but some of us emotional messes continue to speak fluently all their lives?
But I got out that I had gotten the call from ST. Jude's, and she was horrified that she had not gotten to talk to me first. We went over the test results, which had left her a little confused? concerned? and because she wasn't 100% sure, she had consulted her friend in Tulsa, who wanted to see Emma for herself. There were signs that were consistent with lymphoma, and Dr. C wanted Em to be seen by someone who would be able to tell us what was going on.

The thoughts that went through my head hurt. It was like playing John's cancer all over again. Reliving it, painful moment by moment. I didn't want to do it again. I didn't want to helplessly watch as someone I love more than life has to fight alone.
And I definitely didn't want to lose another child.

That night we did the first step of any. We prayed. We let close friends & family members know, and they prayed. Emma's small group at church were praying.

By the next morning, an entire army was putting on the armor of God, standing around our child in a protective circle, embracing her with prayer. We had texts coming in from people we hadn't seen in years, letting us know they were with us.

God works in amazing ways, doesn't He?

The wait at St. Jude's was long and scary. I found myself staring at the colorful butterflies and flowers decorating the lobby, thinking how nice it is that they made his place so inviting for the children, and yet I felt like I was staring at the little light on a lantern fish, mesmerized by the beauty of it all, just to be swallowed up in it's jaws a moment later.

But, I'm *pretty* good at putting on a brave face...

We got into the exam room and Dr. H was called into surgery, so she was a little bit late. During that time, our nurse, Diana kept us company. She was sweet, and funny, and made us feel SO at ease. I truly believe she's doing what she was put on this earth to do.
We were visited by a parade of people. A counselor to help us all through her diagnosis, a med student that kept popping in at the wrong time, and the financial lady from St. Jude, who told us that anything our insurance didn't pay for at this hospital would be paid for by them.

And the tears fell.

Because EVERY YEAR, we've donated money to St. Jude because it was the least we could do. We had two healthy children out of three. We didn't have to worry about hospital stays and medicines and waking up the next day alone.
And now here we are.

Worried, and scared, and nervous.

Well, not ALL of us. :)

Dr. H came and they did a more in depth blood test, and she wasn't sure what was going on, either. She did find a handful of swollen lymph nodes and a couple levels had changed a teeny tiny bit since the day before, but we were no closer to answers.

From here, her blood cultures will go people who specialize in children's cancers to see what they think. We will go in weekly for the next two weeks to observe the levels again, and see how they change.

So, what can you do?
Pray for this to be just a strange virus that her body is reacting to strangely, but will go away on its own. Pray that her body will be strong, and fight hard. Pray that every doctor involved find peace, because it is never easy to deal with a sick child, (or with a sick child's mother!), and pray that whatever the outcome, we will remember that we are not alone.

Just look at this girl!
Strong and brave.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Always Potterheads Festival 2017

It's no secret that I'm a huge Potterhead (a fan of all things Harry Potter), so when I had the choice of attending a fun, great cause fundraiser party or hit the city up to regale the glory of Potterheads like me, I went for the obviously selfish choice, which ended up being much more fun for me! ME ME ME! 

The weather was pretty much freezing with a subzero wind chill, but the line to get in was wrapped all around the huge building like a scarf, weaved out of wizarding robes and house colored scarves. Hagrid headed up the front of the line along his his family members, two of which we shared a table with at the Quidditch Team Fundraiser Ball last December! Small world!

There were food trucks set up outside with their fun menus carefully laid out, luring us in with the warm scents of dragon flesh on a stick and hot butterbeers.

When we finally got inside, the place was AMAZING. The house cup contest hadn't officially started yet, but by the time we left, those cups were filled to the brim with cash. I'm not sure which house won, but at any rate, it was going to be a close call. 

The first thing we did was to get in the line for wands. Evan had his heart set on getting a wand, if nothing else. (But there was a list, if course, of things he "NEEDED" to find while there in Diagon Alley)
Emma & I shopped at a couple booths while the boys held our spot in line. I ended up with a crochet Mandrake-in-a-pot to keep Cactus Jack company in the rainbow room, and we caught up with the guys just as they purchased their wands. 

Evan decided on Ron's wand while John went for the Elder Wand. They promptly took them out of their silky boxes and began having a duel right there in the middle of Diagon Alley, which was probably a good choice, seeing as how within minutes, it was too crowded to even walk around!

Another stop we made was at the broomsticks shop, where Evan carefully and sloooowwwwly chose the best broomstick in the lot. It had to be green. It had to be a certain size. It had to not be too straight or too crooked. It had to have the right bristles. (The muggle seen here is actually removing a couple not-right bristles from the final pick.) 

Emma & I had planned on buying a sorting bathbomb. They're white, but once you put them in your bath, they reveal a color to "sort" you into your right house. BUT, when we saw these, we went a different direction. Each of these house bathbombs have a patronus charm inside! We grabbed one for each house, of course. 

After shopping the booths at Diagon Alley, we headed upstairs to the food & activities. 
The decorations were AMAZING.

We signed up for a potions-making class, and then casually strolled up to get tattooed. 
We live on the edge like that.

While Ev was getting inked, Em and I checked out the goodies at the sweet shop and the trolley. 

I ended up buying a sorting hat cookie. When we bite into it, it'll show the color of the house we're sorted into. 
Any guesses??

Isn't this the sweetest Slytherin you've ever seen?!

The house band was playing versions of Hedwig's Theme and covering other songs from Christian to Hip Hop. Pretty impressive!

The glowing cotton candy line was uber long, mostly because every 15th customer got a free wand and the cotton candy was only $3!
From this line we watched the band play, muggles and wizards heading in and out of the card reader's tent, Azkaban photos being taken, and a "sexy Harry Potter" selling photos and prints. 

That's a family four pack of Butterbeer, folks! My man knows how to party!

The Potion-Making class was fun! He got a little bottle and labelled it, filled it with potions and ingredients, and had it sealed and hung around his neck.

Then it was back down to the car, backpack bulging with wizarding gear to last us until next time!

The little wizard flew around the parking lot while we decided on what to grab from the coffee truck.

Emma went for the "Ghostly Mocha", while I couldn't pass up "Dobby's Drink", because, well, DOBBY.

Dobby's Drink turned out to be a shot glass of Cortado, which was awful-tasting, but for the experience, I drank as much as I could.

It was an AMAZING festival, and I absolutely can't wait until next year!
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