Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Book List

Let's pretend for a moment.

Pretend that it's not January 29, 2012.

Pretend instead that it is January 2, 2012. Or anytime in that first week of January, anyway. Pretend that it is early January, and that I have my act together. The Christmas decorations have been put away since December 27 (ahem), resolutions have been made and adhered to, and my 2012 Reading List has been formulated and outlined, with an average of 2 books to read every month.

Or, not. In reality, I'm already running about 3 weeks behind with 2012. Good grief. I have been trying to put together a reading list, and have barely come up with anything. Friends will recommend books to me, which I don't write down, and subsequently forget what they are called. If one more person tells me to read The Hunger Games I will stick a pencil in my eye. Just can't do time travel people, sorry.

So here's what I've come up with for 2012: a mixture of favorite authors, books from my 2011 list that didn't get read, recommendations from facebook friends, and "assigned" reading.

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

I have heard nothing but great things about this book. And I have no idea what it's about. It's in my amazon shopping cart (because some books are better "flipped through" than read on Windell the Kindle), so hopefully this will be a February or March read.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

Yeah, this one was on my 2011 list. I still want to read it, I just never got around to it last year.

The Drop by Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly is one of the authors I read every time he writes something, but I've been trying to be a bit more patient when a newly released book comes out. I would love to borrow this, or find it at the library, since I only read these "mystery/suspense" type of books once.

Radical by David Platt

Another 2011 leftover. I've heard great things about this book, but I also know that it will be a hard one to read, so I'm looking forward to it but dreading it at the same time. We'll see if it's on the 2013 list.

Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich

I'm reading this one now on the Kindle. I was also hoping to borrow this one from the library, but Windell and I caved the other night during a bout of insomnia. Hey, has anyone seen the One For the Money movie yet? Was it good?

Bossypants by Tina Fey (finished 1/25/12)

Not last summer but the summer before that I watched every episode of 30 Rock on Netflix during a few long night shifts. (If anyone I work with is reading this, I meant to say "afternoons at home" instead of "night shifts". It's just a phrase I use for "kids' naptime".) I am hooked, and I pretty much think Tina Fey is a comic genius. No surprises to the book, it was exactly what I expected: humorous, entertaining, not meant to be taken too seriously.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Recommendation from a friend, it sounds like something I will enjoy.

Another tip from facebook. Loved Blue Like Jazz when I read it many, many moons ago, didn't make it through the next book of his I read, so we'll see how I do with this one.

Forgotten God by Francis Chan

One of my "assigned reading" books. My d-group girls (have I mentioned here that I meet with a group of high school girls from church every week? I love them to pieces) are going through this book together. We like to talk about boys and prom dresses and the holy spirit over chicken sandwiches once a week. Good times.

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

Another assignment, Brandon has his youth leaders reading through this book right now, and it's a surprisingly easy read given the subject matter. Nice short chapters, interesting stuff.

Okay, blog readers. 10 books. I need about 15 more for 2012. Any suggestions? Please don't say Harry Potter, Twilight, or Hunger Games. I'm not a fan of wizards, vampires, time travel, or basically fantasy of any kind. Also not a fan of manipulative stories intended to make me cry while simultaneously making me dislike every single character in the book(I'm talking to you, Jodi Picoult.)

Any great authors you've read lately? Books that sucked you in while your laundry piled up and the dishwasher went unloaded? My favorites from 2011 were Unbroken and Cutting for Stone. Just get your laundry done before you pick either of these up.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Last 24 Hours...

We learned recently that my 93 year old grandmother would be having a procedure done to improve her pacemaker function this morning. A minor procedure, as minor as a cardiac procedure can be for a 93 year old woman. I had just enough of an unsettled feeling that I felt like I should take advantage of a few days off work, and drive up to Austin for the day to see her. It's been...eventful. I'll just give you a quick recap.

Tuesday 4:14pm- leave home, in the rain, to drive to Austin, where it's also raining. Search in vain for the Buc-ees gas station in Brenham, only to eventually realize that there is no Buc-ees in Brenham.

6:30pm- thanks to my father and 33 years of brisket consumption, I am unable to drive through Elgin, Texas without stopping to pick up BBQ. I call my dad, to see if I should pick something up for my Uncle Joe, who is already at GG's house, and I'm told that (of course) Joe has already stopped for his own BBQ. I get a pound of brisket anyway. Trimmed brisket, in honor of cardiologists everywhere.

7:00pm- arrive at GG's house, she had no idea I was coming, so she is pleasantly surprised to see me. Apparently several friends have been by to visit earlier that day.

7-9pm: Sit and talk to GG and Uncle Joe about kids, hospitals, medical procedures, and GG's new digital picture frames. Joe and I make plans to meet my aunt for breakfast at the Kerbey Lane Cafe during GG's procedure, and GG is quick to let us know that we have picked a "hippy place" to eat breakfast, and that's "not our kind of place". Yes, we are just nervous enough to drive to Austin to be with my grandmother for her pacemaker procedure, but not nervous enough to sit in the waiting room while she is in surgery. Not when there are hippy pancakes to eat. GG has to be at the hospital at the ridiculous hour of 5am for her 8am procedure. Joe will take her to the hospital, I will meet them for breakfast and see GG after surgery.

9pm- We discuss how we should probably go to bed around 9 or 9:30, since they have to be up at 4am, which in my world is STILL NIGHTTIME.

9:30pm- Joe goes to bed. GG introduces me to a box of old family photos that she has been sorting, hugs me, and goes to bed. GG's dog, who has at verious times in his life had the names Timothy, Spot, and Dog, growls at me.

9:30-10:15- Paw through some of the greatest pictures I have ever seen. My late grandfather in 1945 in the South Pacific, straddling a longhorn cattle whose horns to this day are in GG's garage because she doesn't think they belong in the house. My great-grandfather standing with four "Tennessee cousins", 3 of whom are staring back at me with Harper's ears. I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera, so I could at least have "picture of a picture" quality of some of these prints. I take bad cell phone pictures of a couple of them and show the Harper ears to Brandon.

10:30- Fine. I guess I'll go to bed. Take a sleeping pill (I don't tend to sleep well away from home), and crawl into the comfy, quiet room with my Kindle. Fall asleep at about 11.

11:01pm (estimated): A very dramatic thunderstorm rolls in, brining to my window all manor of LOUD thunder, rain, what sounded like either hail or baseballs being thrown at the house, and I GUARANTEE you I saw every lightning bolt in that storm through my window last night. At some point during the storm my nervous mind is realizes that perhaps God is trying to remind me who is still in control.

11:01-3am: Toss and turn, thinking to myself "this storm would be really cool to watch on the porch swing at my parents' house in the DAYTIME when I'm not trying to sleep, unsuccessfully, despite my little sleeping pill. Groggily decide to take another 1/2 of sleeping pill, thinking if I'm getting 0 hours of sleep on 1 pill, then maybe I can get 3 hours of sleep on 1/2 pill. Perfectly sound logic to a 3am sleep deprived brain.

3:30ish: I hear sounds from the living room. I climb out of bed to investigate in my nightshirt and undies. It's GG, and she's got someone she wants me to meet. I smile and shake hands with her friend that is visiting, tugging my nightshirt down as I introduce myself. At some point I realize this is a dream, which means I am in fact SLEEPING. In my dream, I give myself a mental high-five for successfully falling asleep during the storm, and go back to bed. Note to self: Lay off the sleeping pills.

4:15am: Is someone knocking on the door? What is that POUNDING sound? I really think someone is knocking on the front door. GG and Joe have probably already left. Did they forget keys? Is this another dream? Have more family members shown up on GG's front porch unannounced? I should really check. This time I had the foresight to throw on a pair of pants with my nightshirt and investigate. My grandmother sits calmly in her chair in the living room, "Good morning, Mandy! Do you want some coffee? Oh, that banging noise, Joe is adding a notch to his belt because he just keeps getting so skinny! He's just losing weight and he looks so good, doesn't he? So he's hammering another notch in. He really should just give that belt to Tom if it doesn't fit him anymore. Honey, do you want some coffee?"

4:16am- back to sleep. Awake for good at 6:36. Drink whatever is left in the coffee pot, unsure when it was brewed. It was warmish. Throw suitcase in van, and manage to find hospital 3 minutes after they have taken GG back for surgery.

7:15- tag along with Uncle Joe, Aunt Mary, and GG's Mastercard for hippy breakfast and a little more coffee. Learn that my father, who was supposed to fly in from Dallas, is actually driving down because "planes don't fly in hailstorms and lightning displays". Airlines are so finicky. Also learn that last time Dad came to town when GG had a procedure done, he deemed the visitor seating in her room to be inadequate for the number of visitors she had. So instead of asking if there was another chair available to move into the room, he left and went to Sams, where he bought several new folding chairs, then returned, CHAIRS IN HAND, to her hospital room. I cannot make this stuff up. We should introduce my dad to the woman who hides hooded sweatshirts at the JC Penney.

8:45am- return to hospital, where 2 of GG’s friends from church are waiting. We chat about their grandchildren, the weather, traffic, and why they can never get GG’s DVD player to work when they go over there to watch a movie.

10:00- GG’s surgeon calls, surgery is over and has gone great. He thinks that she will be able to return home today instead of staying overnight as originally planned. The Friends plan for movie parties at GG’s house and sleepovers there while she is recovering. She is about 20 years older than them, but please don’t tell her.

10:30am- we go back to see GG, who is awake. She immediately asks me if I slept well last night, before Joe woke me up by hammering into his belt. Was my bed comfortable? Is it still raining outside? Have I met her nurse, Kathryn? Do we know each other already, since we are both nurses?

11am- Dad texts me. He’s still on the road from Dallas, but he wants to know what the “chair situation” is in GG’s room. I say a silent prayer that he will not arrive with additional seating, and embarrass me in front of my good friend Kathryn The Nurse.

11:30- GG comments that she’s just not very hungry right now, and lamenting on her skipped breakfast and lunch, that she should be losing a couple of pounds, and won’t that be exciting! She says the only thing she feels like eating is an orange, so I text dad and tell him to not show up without oranges.

12:30pm-Dad arrives with oranges, carrying 2 brand new folding chairs under his arms. I am not even kidding. So now GG’s hospital room in the day surgery wing is equipped with adequate seating for four, should any of the staff need to sit down at any moment. Not embarrassing at all.

1pm- GG’s doctor checks in, surgery went great, and my 93 year old grandmother is the proud owner of a brand new pacemaker. Dad and I escape to grab a bite to eat next door at the Central Market, or, as GG calls it "where all the beautiful people go". I'm a pretty big fan of GG.

As of right now, GG is sleeping, healthier than she was yesterday, and all set to go home this afternoon. I am so thankful that everything went well with her surgery this morning, and for the (ahem) unconventional time that I got to spend with my family

And as an added bonus, I have two new folding chairs to take home.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Can You Hear Me Now?

Oh, those stinky cleft palate ears.

Last year when we brought Emerson home, we knew that language and communication would initially be a big challenge. Like, how the heck am I supposed to communicate with my 3 year old daughter who doesn’t speak a word of English? And I speak approximately 4 words in Mandarin. But kids are smart. And if anyone has to learn an entire new language and culture on the fly, a young child is a pretty good candidate. They little brains are sponges at that age, and pick up language considerably faster than adults.
We had some concerns back then about Emerson’s hearing (is she ignoring us because she can’t hear us, can’t understand us, or because she’s a three year old and sometimes they ignore their parents?) But for various reasons, (her language skills, her uncooperation with translators) we were not able to accurately test her hearing. We knew from a little research and from feedback from our ENT, that most kids with clefts have ear problems--up to 80% have eustachian tube and middle ear dysfunction-- and potential hearing problems. We decided last January to preemptively put ear tubes in Emmy’s ears, to help improve any hearing loss she may have due to fluid in her ears.

Well. Whether it was the ear tubes and improved hearing, or just time and development and learning the language, Emerson’s language skills improved quickly after the tubes were placed. Unfortunately, the tubes fell out sometime this past August or September. We got 8 months out of those tubes. We had noticed last fall that Emmy has been having a little more trouble hearing. She was saying “what?” a LOT, and watching us very intently when we were speaking. She wanted the TV turned up even louder than Daddy.
Her speech is not quite what we thought it should be by now, even after having over a year to learn language. Two-year old Harper is usually easier to understand than Emerson. When I took Emmy to the school district for a speech evaluation last fall, they refused to do it because she failed her hearing screening with the school nurse.

This past November, after another failed hearing screening and a trip to a (new to Emerson) ENT, the audiologist tested her in the ENT's office and told us what we had suspected: Emerson's hearing in her right ear is barely in the "normal range", and she had about a 30% hearing loss in her left ear. Another test showed lots of fluid behind both of her eardrums. The ENT, Dr. L, told us that when her palate did not form properly in the womb, her eustacian tubes (or more specifically, the tiny muscles that keep them "open"), also likely did not form correctly, and that she will probably need ear tubes until she is a teenager. Good to know.

So. A couple of weeks before Christmas was ear tube set #2. Emerson and I loaded up at 4:45 in the morning, and headed over to the surgery center for a new set of the tubes. Praying that this improves our girl's hearing! A couple of days later Emerson and Brandon headed downtown to the big children’s hospital for a speech evaluation. This time, the speech therapist decided that Emerson could benefit from speech therapy. Her (relatively mild) speech issues do not seem to be directly related to her cleft palate, they are more likely related to hearing and language development.
A couple of weeks ago, we had her hearing rechecked at the ENT, and though her hearing is improved, she still has some mild hearing loss in her left ear, though not enough to warrent intervention (like hearing aids).

So, this semester, instead of princess dance classes, Emerson is going to see Miss Sarah at speech therapy to "play games and read books" once a week. So far she loves it, but she still asks almost daily when she is going back to princess dance classes. I think she misses having an audience. I made the mistake of telling her that she would be joining the boys on swim team this year (in April), and her face immediately lit up and and said, "WHAT?? Everyone is going to watch me swim??" Yes, Emerson. 80 kids on the swim team, but everyone will be there to watch you swim.
Sweet Emmy, we love you so, so much!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dear Eight-Year Old Dane,

Dear Dane,

Hi Dane. It's Mom.

I have this mental image of you 10 years from now, reading my blog and realizing that I completely skipped over your 8th birthday without so much as a recap. It's entirely possible that Teenage Dane will be overwhelmingly embarrassed of his mom for keeping a blog recording of all the little things you did when you were a little boy. Teenage Dane with the Teenage Hormones and the Teenage Angst will just have to get over it.

You had a great 8th birthday. A couple of months ago we got word from your school that a children's book author was coming to school the same week as your birthday. The same children's book author who visited last year, and signed your story after you had won a writing contest. (I just searched through four months worth of posts from 2010 looking to see if I blogged about you winning a writing contest. I didn't. Mom Fail.) You were pretty excited about the prospect of seeing this author again. As you put it, "He already knows me, Mom." Of course he does. So imagine your excitement when one of the birthday gifts you opened was the author's latest book, just waiting for an autograph from the author himself.

And it was also pajama day at school, so you got to wear your (8 inches too long) brand new A&M pajama pants.

(We surprised Aidan with a book to be autographed, too.)

At your request, we waited until "the best day of school ever" to eat lunch with you during your birthday week. Pajamas+Book signing+parents eating leftover pizza (Dane's request) at lunch with you=Best Day of School Ever.

For your big 8th birthday party you wanted to go to Buffalo Wild Wings and have a sleepover. Your silly mommy thought this sounded easier than your traditional parties where we invite everyone we know and throw you all in a rented inflatable in the backyard. Joke's on me!

You, Daddy, 5 (yes, 5) other little boys, and one of our college students (recruited to help drive) enjoyed all manner of spicy wings for dinner, before heading back to the house for some backyard football in the dark. You and your friends played football in the freezing cold, dark backyard for a while, before wandering inside in search of cake and video games.

Mommy was blessed with the beginning of a sinus infection and body aches and feeling like she had been hit by a truck, so Daddy took the late shift and stayed up past midnight until the last of your friends fell asleep. One of your friends woke up before 6am the next morning, and woke all of the other little boys (and your sisters) up. Awesome! I'm sure all of the mommies were so thankful to get their post-sleepover boys back cranky and exhausted for the rest of the day. I think everyone had fun though. Lots of video games, football, eating, and just a little sleeping. What sleepovers are all about, right?

Dane-o, you had a pretty big 8th birthday. I can't wait to see what EIGHT has in store for you.

Love, Mom.

P.S. Teenage Dane, if you're reading this, please quit rolling your eyes when I give you hugs and kiss your face every morning.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Christmas Lights Walk-thru

Yes, it is officially mid-January and I am still posting about Christmas-y stuff. Blogger and its' photo uploader HATE me this past month, and it's caused a bit-o-delay in the blogging.

Whew. Glad I got that out of the way.

A few days before Christmas, my parents popped down for a quick overnight visit while they were visiting my GG a couple of hours away. (Oh, by the way, my 93 year old grandmother went to a New Year's Eve party and I didn't. She actually was helping with the food and planning, so I guess technically she co-hosted a New Year's Eve party. I have never once been to a New Year's Eve party. Perhaps I'll start hosting them when I'm 93.)

Where was I? Parents. Here. A couple of days before Christmas. For the past few years, a nearby town has had this cool Christmas light display that you can walk around in, so we went to check that out with the kiddos. It wasn't quite as good this year as it has been in the past, but I still managed to take a few bad pictures of my kids. Someday I will learn how to actually use my camera.

I took this picture of the girls with Brandon last year:


Such sweet baby girls with their chubby cheeks and their short hair.

And this is how the picture turned out this year:

Story of our life. And yes, two-year and nine-month old Harper is still in a diaper. Idontwanttotalkaboutit. Potty training? It could be going better.

We may have broken a rule or two by straying off the sidewalk, but at this point our children fully expect to stick their face right into the light display.

I'm just glad Aidan didn't find someone else's clothes to wear this year.

And with that, on this brisk January 15 day, I am officially DONE posting about Christmas 2011. Maybe sometime in February I'll celebrate New Year's.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Family Pictures: Christmas Edition

What's a holiday with family without family pictures?

It's been a while since we had a group picture of Brandon's side of the family with ALL of us in it. And the last time we did was about three grandchildren ago.

And after minimal photoshop magic, I think it turned out pretty well.

Brandon's Grandma Helen joined in for some of the pictures,

Then we got just the kids and their grandparents.
(Small sidenote: A man with a very impressive mullet who works at the haircut place down the street cut Aidan's hair into a circa 1984 chili-bowl cut the other day. It was a sad day. I'm not a stomp-my-feet and scream in the haircut place kind of girl, so we tipped the nice Mullet Man and went on about our day. But hair will grow!)
Over Thanksgiving, I missed getting a good picture of just my four kids, so I thought this would be a good chance. The kids were dressed, everyone had shoes on, hair was fixed. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, yeah. Harper.

Girlfriend was DONE with all the picture-taking, and she wasn't afraid to let us know about it.
Oh, little sister with the big, big attitude. Perhaps I should make a compilation of all of the holiday pictures that have demonstrated your signature pose:

Exhibit A, Christmas:
Exhibit B, Halloween:


Oh, LoLo. I can just see us compiling a photo album to show to any future suitors when you are 23 and your father finally lets you date.

Did I say 23? I meant 27.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Are You Ready For Some Football?

On one of the adventure walks over Christmas with the family, the boys stumbled on a football field at a local school.

I'm still a little fuzzy on how they got onto the field (who leaves a stadium unlocked over Christmas break?), but I don't think anyone was surprised when they grabbed their ball and gloves and headed out the next day to go check it out.

Uncle Izzy appears to have been in full on "coach mode".
And Dane did some training...

And it looks like everyone worked on their kicking game a bit.
I love Emerson's crossed arms in the above picture. She no doubt was bossing those boys around on the football field.

This may or may not have been my boys' favorite part of the whole trip.
Not everyone got to play. There was one cute little cheerleader.
Now to somehow talk this school into keeping their field open every holiday...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

More Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011, continued...

After we finished opening presents on Christmas Day, we loaded up the van and headed 4 hours away to Brandon’s parents’ house to spend a few days with lots of family and LOTS of little cousins. Both of Brandon’s sisters and their family were there, and Brandon’s grandmother spent a few days with us also. I’m just going to run through a few highlights of the trip with a handful (okay, 20) of pictures:

Opening more presents. Madden DS games for the boys
Cabbage Patch Dolls for the girls.

I had a wave of nostalgia watching the girls open their Cabbage Patch Dolls. I think they're a generation too young to truly appreciate the significance of the Cabbage Patch Christmas. I clearly remember my CP Christmas, it was a very big deal. They still come with their own birth certificates, or, in Emerson's doll's case, her "China papers".

Make-Your-Own-Pizza night

Helping Grammy play the piano.

Playing "sneak around behind the chair and scare Grammy".
Daily adventure walks.

Izzy took Dane and Joel "adventuring" by himself one day, and they were gone for over 3 hours. At one point they came to a creek, and being too tired to walk around it, Izzy took off his shoes and just carried the boys across. I'm sure they hated that. ;)

Baby Laurel holding

Beauty parlor time. Emerson and Adrienne painted "rainbow toes",

Brandon had his long luxurious locks straightened with a flat iron.

Looking through old family photo albums with Grandma Helen.

Rearranging GranDoug's wood pile. Then the next day, re-rearranging the wood pile to its' former glory.

Smearing Mentholatum on our face and declaring “this make-up is too stinky.”

Oh wait, that was just Harper. And I don't have a picture of that one.

Catching the Many Faces of Uriah (who smelled suspiciously of Grandma Helen's perfume most of the time) on top of the dinner table one night.
I want to squish this face.
More to come from Christmas 2011! I'm hoping to be done blogging about Christmas by MLK Day (or by the time I put my Christmas tree away).