Friday, December 25, 2009

A True Christmas Tale Teaser

Merry Christmas! We are enjoying a leisurely Christmas Day at Grandma & Grandpa Fraley's house, but I wanted to let you know we have a true, blue middle-of-the-night Christmas mystery story to share.

Right now, though, we're embarking on a Christmas Coma, so I'll share the story next time we meet here. For now, I'll need to decide what to imbibe in/on? Can't think of the right word...the coma has already commenced. Below is the list of choices of food we prepared for Christmas. Mind you there are only 10 people in the house, and 4 of them are under the age of 13:
  • 2 hams
  • 1 turkey
  • 1 pot of green chili
  • Couple dozen tamales
  • Sausage Queso dip
  • Meat & cheese platter (with about 8 cheese varieties)
  • 7-layer dip
  • Dessert dip (oh, mama...)
  • Li'l smokies (no, thank you)
  • Chips & salsa
  • Chips & dip
  • Crackers, crackers, crackers, tortillas, sour cream....
  • Ham roll ups
  • Dr. Byrd Cake (amazing moist banana bread w/ pineapple)
  • Lemon pound cake
  • Fudge
  • Nut balls (Mexican Wedding Cakes)
  • Dipped pretzels
  • Beles (Butter, sugar and raspberry preserves - 64 lbs of these 3 ingredients per cookie)
  • Pecan sandie-like cookies
  • Banana pudding (baked Nilla Wafer variety w/ perfect merengue)
  • Peppermint divinity
  • Pecan divinity
  • Turtles
  • Relish tray (hey, don't ever say we're not health conscious)
  • Cookie Press Cookies (almond spritzers)
  • Toffee
  • Spinach artichoke dip
  • Guacamole (when the avocados ripen later today)
  • 15 cases of soda (I kid you not)

Mom was concerned last night there might not be enough food and was going to make baked beans. We injected her with a strong sedative and laid her out on the couch for a few hours. She understood.

Anyone else going on the HCG Diet at New Years?

Ok, Christmas mystery post next....after the coma.

Merry Christmas from the farm,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When Worlds Collide

Ever since the moment happened in my bathroom a few days ago I've gone back and forth, waffled, flip-flopped (and once again noted I was MADE for politics) about whether to share.

So I can get on with my life and hold to my value of keeping it real, I'm just going to tell you. That's all there is to it.

I was standing in my closet-sized bathroom after my shower and picked up my black, lacy pretty underthing that provides blessed support and works very well under heavy sweaters or delicate-fabric blouses. You know, those blouses I would wear in my former life? Where I wasn't dodging turkey poo to get in my front door?

I was standing there preparing to put on said contraption when I took a look at it and sighed. And then proceeded to turn it upside down to shake, then pound a little, then pick the hay out of it.

Hey, old world, welcome to my new one.

Love from the farm,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Old Timey Playing Christmastime

The kids and I spent yesterday afternoon and evening decorating the house for Christmas. Adam informed me that he wanted to go all out with decorations this year because this will be his last Christmas with us before he heads off on a mission for two years; then college after that; then inevitably that Christmas with the girlfriend's family, nervously trying to make a good impression; then married and "this year, we're having Christmas at the in-laws"....
Well, ok, he only mentioned this would be the last Christmas before his mission - it's I who went the rest of the way down that treacherous road to Christmases future.


His description of how over the top he expected us to go went something along the lines of, "I want it to look like someone vomited Christmas all over the house." (I wish I could remember his exact words, because that paraphrase is really gross.)

I believe we achieved his desire. We have lights strung inside the house, the entertainment center leads one to question whether we have created a shrine to television, we have an "eclectic" array of styles and colors co-mingling (clashing) in our small living spaces, and tea lights everywhere. We even have a corner still filled with pumpkins that need to be baked and pureed - but don't worry, we have lighted garland that will Christmas those gourds right up. Adam strung a couple strands of big colored lights about 8 feet up one of the 6, 30+-foot poplars in front of the house. Somehow, it works.

Mike came home from work and loved it. We saved the Christmas tree for when he arrived so he could be part of it all.

(There has only been one fire so far - it was a small one, and Macy caught it quickly. We have a few burned silk roses, but thankfully, the Christus the candle was warming did not suffer smoke damage.)

The house feels like Christmas, Adam's satisfied, and last night, we finished the Christmas story in Luke, Chapter 2, and it was good. Not sure what we'll be reading for the remaining 11 days of Christmas, but we have many scriptures from which to choose. Like the health care reform bills floating around the Hill these days, we're not lacking in pages.

All this to say, I love when it looks, feels and smells like Christmas. And, I love when it sounds like Christmas, too. Which brings me to the below link. But, first, a long-winded explanation:

I'm a sucker for radio shows and radio programs. I love listening to Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" and "What Do You Know?" when I'm in the car at the right time on the weekend. I absolutely love it when I stumble across an "old timey" radio program, which is why I was happy today when I was sent to the link below. The NPR broadcast isn't technically "old timey," but the narrator's voice sure makes it feel like it.

Here's some of the appeal for me:

  • I love radio shows (noted above)
  • The narrator says "us youngin's" just the way I remember my Aunt Sue saying it when she'd talk about the life she and my Dad's other 10 siblings lived on the old farm in Kentucky, with their parents
  • While some people don't take to the soft, drawling nature of voices like this gentleman's, I get all warm inside because it reminds me of the voices and warm spirits of all of my Dad's brothers, sisters and cousins that I loved to listen to while I was growing up. My memories are of no one ever talking about unhappy things or speaking ill of one another. Stories and conversations were always accompanied by good-natured chuckling and a fair amount of ribbing- no one was loud or crass or cynical. I somehow knew all these people had enjoyed growing up together. Now, my memories are framed, you understand, in holiday visits or family reunions - when feelings are a little softer and reminiscing is steeped in sentiment - but even as a child I knew these were good and kind people. I could hear it in their voices.
  • I love that the kids in the story play those silly, ruleless, made-up games and assign them names as if they're real games that everyone has always played, like "Christmastime," "Christmas Gift," and "Go Up to the Kitchen Door and Smell."
  • That the little boy notices his parents have an unspoken communication, just like I always sensed when I'd see that certain look pass between my Mom and Dad; and that Mike and I have developed over the years. I'm grateful for that level of knowing someone - and of him knowing me, too. And, I'm so grateful that my parents have had that unspoken magic my whole life, and that they are ever more tightly bound to one another as the years continue to roll by.
  • I love that for 10 minutes (it's a long one, make sure you have time to snuggle down and listen before you click the link), I just got lost in the gentle lilting and meaningful pauses as a humble and humbling story was told.

Now, click the link, turn up your volume, cross your ankles, interlace your fingers behind your head and stare off into space.

Playing Christmastime on the farm,


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pondering the Future

Each of my kids contemplates the future occasionally - what they want to be when they grow up...where they might go on their missions. Tanner is my only one, however, who actively ponders (out loud, anyway) who he might marry and what she'll be like. This is a frequent conversation with Tanner. He's always been a romantic at heart.

Just two days ago, we were driving along the freeway in Phoenix when he earnestly said, "I WISH I knew who I was going to marry and what my kids will look like."

I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye and saw him gazing out the window. This was the 2nd time he'd made this exact same statement in the past few days.

Then he said, "Do you think I'll get married, Mom? I mean, do you think I'll live long enough?"

I started to get this big stitch in my stomach, but suddenly I had the glimmer of an inspired thought, so I answered with a question of my own, "What do you mean? You're worried something might happen to you, or that, like, the world will end before you get a chance to get married?"

In a matter-of-fact (actually, slightly "Duh!") tone he responded, "You know, that the world might come to an end first."

Sometimes, Tanner is simply a 12-year-old boy.

By the way, Lyn? Thanks for taking Tan to see '2012' last week. Yeah, right back at ya, babe. For the record, I'll be taking Ellie to see 'Cujo' and 'Alien' for her 4th birthday. Sweet dreams.

Love from the farm,

Back At Home

Just an addendum...Tan and I are home. All is well. The pills are back in their pouch and, hopefully, will stay there a good long time. Tanner's protein spilling abated and within a time frame that avoided additional kidney damage. I'm thankful, thankful for things righting themselves and moving on with no new scars.

Love from the farm,

Monday, December 7, 2009

Betrayal In My Pocket

As the kids were loading up the car yesterday so they could stay at Grandma's while Tan and I went to the Valley, I snuck over to the corner in the kitchen where we keep the medicine. I pulled out a zip-locked bag that contains all of our old prescription meds and rifled through them until I found Tanner's leftover bottles of Prednisone and higher dosage blood pressure meds. I slipped the bottles into the pocket of my lime green windbreaker and headed out to the car.

On the trip down here, each time I bumped my pocket against something or reached my hand into the pocket, I winced. Hoping Tanner doesn't ask what's in my pocket, or what that rattling sound was - not that he actually would ask; what 12-yr-old pays attention to such little noises coming from their Mom and gathers up enough curiosity to ask?

I have them with me because Tanner has been spilling protein from his kidneys at a rate that signals damage or gradual failure. He's been all over the board the past month, spilling copious amounts some days then trace amounts the next. When we contacted his doctor on Friday with news of near-record high rates of spilling, and the fact that his blood pressure was up again and some of his old symptoms that tipped us to his disease initially had returned, the response was firm: watch him for any signs of swelling - if he begins to swell, give him 30 mg of Prednisone twice a day; if he vomits or gets the slightest fever, get him down here to the emergency department of Phoenix Children's Hospital. If you don't have to come over the weekend, we'll see you Monday morning.

See, swelling in kidney patients means their kidneys are shutting down - in Tanner's case, it would most likely be because the filters in his kidneys have become inflamed, his body's immune response would be too intense, then something happens to the filtering capability and blood and protein escape into the urine instead of staying within Tan's cells and vascular system, where they belong.

Once again, I marvel at the new level of vigilance we keep these days. Used to be, a call from the doctor's nurse would be along the lines of, "If his fever doesn't go away in 2-3 days, call us back," or "just fluids for the first day, then gradually add back in solids over the next few days." Now, we're being told to watch for signs of organ failure. On another evening, several months ago, when Tanner's blood pressure and white blood count were too low, his doctor called me and told me to watch for bleeding from his nose and mouth. I calmly responded, "Ok. And if that doesn't happen, we're good to go?" I actually chuckled when I hung up. The answer had been yes, as long as he doesn't begin hemorrhaging, he should be fine. Well, ok then.

I realized my actions felt furtive yesterday - sneaking the Prednisone into my pocket, being nervous I'd get "caught" with them. I recognized that hyper-aware sensation as the familiar paranoia of youth brought on by good, old fashioned guilt.

I feel guilty carrying these meds around because I know how much Tanner dreads them. He was miserable on this drug that caused his face to swell so much that he was unrecognizable to even close family and cousins. He had painful and damaging side effects that limited him to only walking - no climbing stairs, no running, no P.E. But, this counfounded medication did the job we needed it to up until he took his last dose mid-April, and I'm certain we'll be employing its magical qualities to fight the battle for his kidneys very soon. In spite of its excessive side effects, this wonder drug rescues his kidneys, returns them to their best functioning state, then it rides off into the sunset. It's kind of like being stuck in a warehouse with a bunch of pipe-wielding thugs - as much as you hate to bring them in with their over-the-top dramatic moves and their ridiculously overdeveloped pecs, sometimes you can only count on Jean Claude Van Damme or Chuck Norris to vanquish the attackers.

I know exactly how it will go this morning in the doctor's office: Tanner will calmly take the news from his doctor, nodding and looking her in the eye, striving to betray nothing of his dread. And then, he'll look at me and the beseeching and pleading not to make him do it will burn straight through me.

And, while he's old enough to understand that this medicine is important for him, there will be a part of him that doesn't understand why I, his mother, who is supposed to keep him from unpleasant things, is making him take it.

It may seem like a melodramatic thing - if he needs the medicine, just give him the medicine, and away with the histrionics. But it's one of those details inherent to this relatively new world Tanner lives in that just nags at you like a festering sliver. It's small, but it causes all manner of discomfort and irritation. And, the Mom in me just wishes that if the kid has to have this ailment, that the treatments could at least be painless and lacking in side-effects. Instead, I have to be complicit in all that he endures.

If by some miracle, his doctor doesn't decide to put him back on the meds in spite of his recent instability, then I'll just slip the vials back into that zip-lock bag when we get home and he'll never have to know of that secret betrayal.

If it turns out like I expect, and we have to twist the cap off those darn pills once again, I hope he'll understand that this one element of his ordeal, just like every single other aspect of his condition, I would take on and bear for him if only I could. How I wish we were allowed to stand in for our kids, even if just to take it all away for a little while.

Love from the city,

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's Christmastime

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
-Norman Vincent Peale

Tonight, Tanner will have his tongue stuck to a flag pole, and be drug all through the town. Macy will be incessantly going up and down a slide, and Karlie will be in a basket of bunnies.

Tonight is the annual Christmas Light Parade in our little town and the kids will be on the police department's float, which, you've probably guessed, is re-enacting a rather popular Christmas movie. The wassail* is warming on the stove. The girls are still basking in the glow of the success of their annual "Girls-Only" Christmas Party from this morning. And, we're having our Christmas Eve baby's 4th birthday party this afternoon, so her celebration isn't lost in the holiday glitter. Finally, Gertie the Goat awoke with a sheen of frost on her back a few days ago.

All of these clues make it official: the Christmas season has taken hold of us, and the warmth of the music and merriment of the season will keep the winter cold at bay.

We hope there's lots of hot cocoa and fudge in your stars for the coming days this Christmastime.

Love from the farm,

(*I learned this week that traditional wassail includes ale and wine. So, I'm not sure what we've been drinking all these years, but I can tell you it's yummy and we're going to keep calling it wassail in our family. All you purists can call it "Mormon Wassail," if you can't bring yourself to sully the good name of the original holiday drink.)

(P.S. I'm not sure the music and merriment of the season will actually keep Gertie warm. We're exploring other options so we can avoid the frosty fur. That's just sad.)