Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cast Your Cares Upon Him, For He Cares For You

I connected with my sister-in-law, Quenby, this morning for the first time in a few weeks. We had to plan to call each other because our schedules are so crazy, and even with our careful planning we began our call 25 minutes later than anticipated.

It's a beautiful, Indian summer day today in Newberg, so I placed the call from my cell phone and took Paige to the park. While I was chatting with Q and pushing Paige on the swing, another mom came up with her pint-sized daughter and started pushing next to Paige. I briefly finished up our conversation by asking her to pray for a guy friend for Grant at school.

Grant is a bit introverted, especially in new situations, but when he feels comfortable, he becomes out-going, full of life and goofy. He has a vivid imagination and is completely content to play by himself, but equally enjoys playing with friends once the ice has been broken. His best friend, Alden, lives across town and goes to a different elementary school. According to Grant, "There is no one who understands him like Alden," so I think he decided to stop trying to replicate his perfect best friend at school. (Never mind the fact that Alden's mom and I had to force the boys to play together the first time because they both can be so shy initially). Grant's guy buddy from last year isn't in his class this year, but several girls that Grant knows ended up in his class, so he's been hanging out with a gaggle of girls. Nice girls, but they're girls. I've been asking God to give Grant the confidence to step out of his comfort zone and initiate hanging out with some guys in his class, and that in turn new friendships would develop.

Back to the park... I hang up with Q and apologize to the Mom Pushing Her Daughter for being rude and talking on the phone in front of her. We proceed to get to know each other and compare families. Her name is Amy and they have five kids. We marvel at some of our family similarities and then I ask if her kids go to Mabel Rush. Why yes. Her 8 year old son, Raleigh, is in Mrs Kirk's class.

I almost fell down. Raleigh sits directly behind Grant in class and is a boy that I've been encouraging Grant to get to know, but Grant has been hesitant since Raleigh is always with his best friend Dane. Amy proceeds to tell me that she couldn't help but overhear my later-than-scheduled-conversation with Q. Apparently, Raleigh is also hesitant to approach boys he doesn't know well, but his parents have been urging him to branch out because when Dane is not available, there is no Plan B. She's heard about Grant because Raleigh really likes Grant and by the way, would Grant like to come for a play date?

While I am basking in God's goodness to me, Amy says, "Oh, there's my neighbor, Rose," who is approaching the park with yet another pint-sized, precious little girl. Amy makes introductions and says, "Jodi is Grant's mom," to which Rose excitedly says, "You're Grant's mom? THE Grant from Dane's class mom? Dane LOVES Grant. We've been encouraging him to make friends other than just Raleigh and he's been talking about Grant for a while now. I've been trying to get your contact information so the boys can play together." !!!!!!!!!!!!! We continued to chat and get to know each other and exchanged contact info with promises to set up a play date for the boys soon, all the while watching our THREE 3-year-old daughters play together!

I was so overcome by God's direct answer to prayer that I could barely contain myself. I Peter 5:7 kept running through my head, "Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you." My heart was exploding with gratitude to the Lord for caring enough about my son to provide the chance to make some new friends. The boys might get together and not hit it off. After all, Alden is a tough cookie to measure up to in a friend. But, they could also really like each other and I am so grateful to God for opening these doors to new friendship.

I can hardly wait for Grant to get home so I can tell him how much God cares for him. What burden can you cast at God's feet today?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Perfect Mom

I took my two youngest daughters to the park this afternoon. It was a park trip that almost didn't materialize due to semi-poor behavior and lack of obedience with a happy heart. But they came through in the last seconds, and the trip to the park was salvaged.

While there, I happened upon a home-school mom with her three very obedient, non-fit-throwing, correctable-the-first-time children, and one of them was autistic! I watched her call them to her for correction in a lilting, refreshing, soft and kind voice. She got down to eye level and whispered her expectations to them gently. Of course they responded perfectly, instantly modifying their behavior in a happy tone with no arguing. She seemed unphased by their constant clamoring for her attention and she never once sat on the bench (by me) for a break. She was constantly diverting potential bad behavior, redirecting requests to be worded politely, and saying no by giving choices that were actually enticing. When her daughter peed her pants, she calmly said, "Where do we go potty Karissa? Let's make a better choice." And when their park trip was cut short because of the potty accident, all three kids ran to the car giggling instead of protesting.

As I watched her excel at mothering in an area that I feel most vulnerable, I felt myself begin to feel really inferior. Good grief. She did everything exactly the way I would do it in a dream world. The one time at the park that I said "No" to my daredevil daughter, she immediately started arguing and presenting her case for why she really NEEDED to stand on top of the monkey bars instead of monkeying under them. I heard a voice in my head whisper, "Failure. Why do you bother trying?" When I gave my hooligans the five-minute-warning, I felt inferior because Perfect Mom didn't need to give a warning. Her kids just dropped what they were doing and ran to obey. "Failure."

We weren't in the door two seconds when my over-dramatic daughter started wailing about something completely insignificant, and since she gets her flair for the dramatic from her wear-your-emotions-on-your-sleeve mother, I responded in an equally non-quiet, non-calm way. "Failure." Our toddler, who was nearly perfect for the first 3 years of her life, has recently discovered that she too can join the ranks of Very Naughty Children. She decided she didn't need a nap and made sure I knew about it in her sassiest voice. I was being tormented by a constant chant of, "Failure. Failure. Why can't you be more like Perfect Mom?"

When I finally got my toddler to sleep and took some time to be with the Lord, I realized that God didn't cross my path with Perfect Mom to elevate my feelings of inferiority or make me feel like I can't do anything right. The person whispering those lies in my ear was Satan and we all know he's a fat, toothless dog with no power over me as a daughter of Christ. As I claimed that truth, I felt the cloud of failure lifting. I heard God whispering to me, "Look. You've been faithful in asking for help in this area. And you're making progress, but still have a long way to go. So guess what? I gave you a visible picture of what a calm, gentle, consistent mom looks like. And by the way, you have other gifts and talents as a mom that Perfect Mom was admiring in you."

And so, I press on. Trying to make James 1:19-20 come alive in my life and be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to get angry in the hope that it will result in a righteous life. I won't ever be Perfect Mom, but I can pray that God will continue to transform me into Flawed Mom Who Reflects a Bit of Who Jesus Is to her kids.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Was Closing My Eyes

Paige, our 3 1/2 year old, is a lot like me. She loves her sleep and looks forward to nap and bed time each day. A short nap for her is anything under 2 hours and my guess is that she'll nap every day until she starts 1st grade. She's been known to find her green blankie and her "nukie" (pacifier) and come to me and say, "I'm tired. Can I take my happy nappy?"

Paige is WAY too old to have a nukie. But she's the baby and she somehow manages to get away with things the other kids never could. Curt's response to her nukie? "Everyone has a vice. Let her have it forever for all I care." But it bugged me, so mid-summer Paige and I had a chat. She told me that she would get rid of her nukies "when school starts." She thought it would be wasteful to throw them away, so she opted instead to "give them to Baby Sammy." I cleared this idea with Baby Sammy's mom and waited for the first day of school.

Last week, in preparation for the first day of school, we made up a "Bye Bye Nukie" song that I recorded Paige singing. She giggled as she saw herself on the computer and seemed genuinely excited to say bye bye to her nukies. On Tuesday, Paige happily bagged up all her nukies (including her car nukie) and sealed them in a ziplock baggie. We went to Baby Sammy's house and since he was sleeping, his Mommy received Paige's care package with great enthusiasm. She even traded Paige's nukies for some big girl toys which of course Paige thought was great.

We left Sammy's house all smiles and with no tears so I optimistically thought we'd have smooth sailing. However, the second we walked in the door and Paige realized it was nap time, she started crying, "I want my Nukie. I don't want to give them to Baby Sammy. He doesn't want the pink ones." It took her a while to fall asleep and nap and bed time for the remainder of the week have been much more challenging than normal.

Paige, who "is not tired" has been trying every tactic to stay awake and avoid going to bed without her nukie. I've been inwardly giggling at all her antics. "I'm not tired. I need a drink. I want to play puzzles. I want you to read me a story. I want to read me a story. Don't touch me. You're squishing me. Don't touch my blanket. I want to play kitchen. Don't leave me. Don't touch me. Stop taking my stuff. Get off my pillow. That's MY pillow. Don't go. Lay by me for FIVE minutes..." And on and on. One minute she's trying her hardest to be firm and sassy, the next she's dissolving in giggles or needing lots of physical touch to stop crying.

This afternoon was no exception. She was tired and cranky but informed me that "I'm not tired." She went through the gauntlet of stalling but finally decided it wasn't worth it and out of nowhere, laid down next to me (on her "nest on the floor" not her bed), grabbed her blankie and snuggled right up so that her cheek was touching my arm. She instantly started breathing heavy and I started counting. Every second a puff of hot, exhaled air kissed my arm. Two minutes later, when I was sure she was asleep, my arm was damp from her breath and I was madly in love. I snuck out of her room and took my own happy nappy.

She just stumbled out of her room, three and a half hours from when she fell asleep, ginormous smile plastered on her face. She happily broadcast to me how obedient she was by saying, "Mom, I was closing my eyes."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Time to Stop Whining and Resume Living

I’ve been mired in self-pity. Wallowing in Woe Is Me. Grouchy. A Whiny Pants. The Crab Master General. It hasn’t been pretty.

We all survived the first 13 days post-surgery and even though those days were intensely painful, I still managed to find things to be thankful for. But somewhere around day 14, I fell off the Grateful Road of Recovery and started limping under the Gray Whiny Cloud of Ingratitude. And let me tell you, being a Grouch is exhausting work.

I figured if I was going to be in pain no matter what I did, the best choice was to keep sitting around feeling sorry for myself. Anyone who knows me, knows that sitting around is a recipe for disaster. I can’t do it to save my life and it makes me increasingly grouchy the more unproductive I am. Somehow I failed to remember that reality.

So I sat, unproductive, and I wallowed. Hopefully, for everyone around me’s sake, I didn’t voice it as much as I inwardly felt it. “Woe is Me. Poor Jodi. Once so active, now an invalid and you’ll be 80 years old before you’re fully recovered. Boo hoo.” That line of thinking deflated me and I felt my spirit sink deeper and deeper in the mire. I was happy to share my story of woe with anyone who showed concern about my knee.

This week I made my way back to the gym. I missed the camaraderie of sweating with the regulars, and as a matter of principle wanted to start implementing this discipline back into my schedule. I reveled in the sympathy from all my friends and gladly told in gory detail about the journey I’ve been on. This morning I didn’t plan on sweating, so I limped into the gym sporting a new-to-me running coat and feeling quite proud of my matchy-matcherson exercise outfit. After telling my story to the umpteenth person, I found a shred of motivation and started my wimpy leg lifts and stretches. Before I knew it, I was sweating and I actually had to take my stylin’ coat off.

It was like God released the poisonous toxins of grumpiness along with my sweat. I got the proverbial slap in the face as God reminded of the passage in I Thessalonians 5:18 that says, “In EVERYTHING give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” It doesn’t say, “Give thanks when life is good and smooth and let everyone in a 100 mile radius know when life is bad.” I confessed my sin and was reminded of one of my favorite songs that says, “I’m trading my sorrows. I’m trading my pain. I’m trading it all for the joy of the Lord.” I had neglected to intentionally trade up for the joy of the Lord.

Over the course of today, I’ve been doing a lot of trading up. Leaving behind grouchiness, frustration, and pain and exchanging it for the joy of the Lord. It’s time to stop whining and resume living.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

To The Wolves

Yesterday, Grant started 3rd grade, Katie started 2nd grade, and Alli officially has her first full day of Kindergarten tomorrow. And I, well I felt like I fed them to the wolves. This is the 5th year we've done "back to school," but only the second time we've done it at a public school. The first three years, they attended a tiny little Christian school with one class for each grade and class sizes capped at 15 students. It felt more like an extended family than school, but most of all it felt safe. I knew the kids. I knew the parents. I knew the teachers and the principal. And best of all, the school enforced our worldview so we got to watch our kids grow in their understanding of God's plan for their lives while they learned their ABC's.

We chose to settle in Newberg because of its community feel and the excellent reputation of the school district. And our kids have experienced two of the five very excellent elementary schools. We have nothing but positive things to say about the teachers, the principals, the staff and the level of education our kids received. And I feel like they are just where God wants them to be. But every time I enter the doors of their school, I get a bit panic-stricken. It seems so big. So cold. It has cement floors and a crazy, maze-like layout. It has five 2nd grade classes with 28 kids in each of them. I don't know a fraction of the kids. I met all their teachers for the first time on supply night and I might recognize the principal if I saw her in the store. To this hyper-emotional, see-only-potential-danger mother's heart, it feels scary and unnerving.

Never mind the fact that both my kids were so excited the night before school started that they could barely fall asleep. Or that they sprung out of bed at the crack of dawn chanting, "School starts, school starts, school starts!" And did I mention that the "maze-like-layout" makes perfect sense to them? Graduating to the next colored hall is actually a bit of a badge of honor and every student is proud to broadcast where their classroom is located.

As we walked through the crowded entrance to the school, all I noticed was that my 8-year-old who was ready with backpack donned for 30 minutes before school started, walked slower and slower the closer we got to his classroom. His excitement over his new rock star hair and his Chuck Taylor Converse hi-tops dimmed as his nerves took over. By the time we reached his classroom, he ditched his backpack in his cubby, found his desk and refused to even glance at a certain little girl he'd been waiting months to see. Oh, and did I mention he followed me out of his classroom and gave me the most heart-wrenching hug imaginable?

I noticed my uber-fancy 2nd grader with her sparkly scarf, sequined tank top and newly bobbed hair standing in her very long classroom line, surrounded by rambunctious, crazy boys, LOTS of BOYS, with no girls in sight (or at least none that I noticed because I was too busy imagining worse-case scenarios). Her brand-new, pink camouflage backpack engulfed her entire back and as she took in her new surroundings, she just looked so small. And baffled. And a little overwhelmed. And did I say small?

I am not the mom who normally cries at drop off, but I headed straight to my best friend's house and before I had time to swallow my first sip of coffee, the first sob erupted. What kind of mom leaves her precious treasures with a bunch of strange kids and an adult they don't know? For EIGHT hours at a time? Oh right. Almost every mom.

As I poured my heart out, the Lord used my friend to comfort me and I felt my emotions start to come back to planet earth and off of hyper-drive. I remembered how we prayed for each of the kids' teachers all summer long and waited anxiously to get the announcement letter in the mail. I remembered that putting faces and personalities to Mrs. Kirk, Mrs. Young and Mrs. Harris confirmed to us that God had indeed placed our children in just the right hands. And I remembered that last year, I wasted the entire first day of school torturing myself with worse-case scenarios and endless tears, only to have them both come home thrilled with everything about their new school environment.

So I dried my tears, slapped a little sense into myself and watched the clock move toward 3:38 p.m. As expected, they bounded off the bus, pushing past each other and talking over each other to tell me about how great their teachers are, how fun it was to reconnect with old friends, and how cool it was to see that Converse are indeed the "most commonly worn shoe," according to Grant's unofficial poll. I guess we didn't feed them to the wolves after all, but I'm not guaranteeing I won't feel the exact same way next year!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Alli Marks

My daughter Alli believes the world is her canvas. I remember introducing Alli to the world of art with a pad of drawing paper, a new coloring box and a fresh box of fat crayons. She kneeled on the counter stool, wrapped her clumsy, chubby toddler fingers around the red crayon and very intently started scribbling ferociously. When her hand slipped off the paper and the red scribble extended onto our laminate countertop in our brand new home, I inadvertently gasped. Then exclaimed with way too much gusto, “Oh no Alli! You have to keep the colors on the paper. We ONLY color on paper. Not Mommy’s new countertop.” For good measure, I followed up my instruction with my best Mommy frown. My over-reaction told her smart two-year-old mind, “Wow! If I color anywhere that’s not on the paper, it gets Mommy really excited.”

From that moment on, her creativity was unleashed and the bounds of paper were too prohibitive. She marked her territory with a squiggly, faint line as if to say, “Alli was here.” I found Alli Marks on the floors, hallways, walls and baseboards, not to mention her closet, baby dolls and even the exterior of our family mini-van. Occasionally she intertwined the dark, angry scrawl that was clearly intended to make a statement. My reactions to her artistic impressions ranged from explosive anger, lecturing (as if she cared), making her clean up her mess and completely ignoring her, but nothing seemed to squelch her creativity.

We tried hiding the crayons, introduced Color Wonder, the colorless-unless-used-on-magic-paper markers and washable crayons, and confined the art supplies to the kitchen. Despite our best efforts, Alli always managed to find the one non-washable crayon that we missed and continued to leave her mark on her world. I found myself stocking up on Magic Erasers, inwardly growling at each new discovery and marveling that my angle-faced toddler was simultaneously vandalizing my house and making me feel like a complete failure with every sweeping stroke.

As she grew into her preschool years, the volume of Alli Marks began dwindling, but didn’t disappear all together. (No doubt, her furniture and toys all breathed a heavy sigh of relief!) Whenever things in her life grew topsy turvy, changed dramatically or felt out of her control, the Alli Marks reappeared. She always seemed baffled that we traced them back to her, but it didn’t take much sleuthing to guess the criminal now that she marked everything with a capital A followed by two L’s and a lower-case “I” dotted with an open circle. She signed her desk drawer, two of her new dolls, and the top of her dresser. For reasons I didn’t understand, leaving her mark on unconventional items seemed to be a coping mechanism for my little girl who thrives on structure and clear boundaries. I learned to not give in to my urge to scream at her or put her in time out until she’s 30, and instead would calmly ask her to clean it up, not do it again and rehash the rules of when and where she could use art supplies.

I recently had knee surgery and my new status as an invalid has forced our family to get creative in accomplishing the tasks that normally fall on my shoulders. Grocery shopping, a task I dread because I do it in two week increments, was the latest challenge. The Stilp Six stepped up to the plate and we creamed the grocery shopping by dividing and conquering, good planning, and cohesive teamwork. Everyone pitched in and we knocked out the task in record time. It was the first time in months that grocery shopping was fun and the kids basked in all the praise we dished out over their helpfulness. We sent them upstairs to start the bedtime routine and I limped over to the kitchen table to wipe it down for the final time that evening.

And that’s when I spotted it. A barely visible, green-crayon, capital A- the first Alli Mark in several months. I calmly called Alli down and she came bounding down the stairs, perma-smile plastered on her face, newly A-lined bob framing her almost Kindergartener face. I asked her if she noticed anything different about the kitchen table. Bless her heart, she scoured it carefully, examining the left-over coloring books, the half-colored pages and the crayon box. She settled on a scrap of a Go-GURT wrapper and proudly brought it me. “This?” she said and headed to the garbage can, expecting more praise for her helpfulness.

I glanced at my structurally sound, but scratched and battered kitchen table and then it dawned on me. Alli has waited her entire life to start “real” school. Her larger-than-life Tinkerbell backpack has been hanging on her hook and at-the-ready for weeks now. Just the day before, she had waltzed into her new classroom, carefully sorted out her school supplies into the labeled bins, examined every nook and cranny, and insisted on photos with the “Welcome to our class” banner and with her new teacher. The newest Alli Mark was no doubt her way of processing all this new change, and I briefly contemplated agreeing with her that the scrap of garbage was indeed why I called her back to the kitchen. In the end, I pointed out the A, she scrubbed it off, whole-heartedly told me how sorry she was, and skipped back upstairs.

Tomorrow Alli will strut into Mabel Rush Elementary School, over-sized Tinkerbell backpack proudly displayed and leave her first Alli Mark on Mrs. Harris’ kindergarten class. If it mimics her personality, it will start off quietly and a bit reserved, but will quickly swell to bold and colorful and most likely fly off the paper and a bit out of bounds. I can hardly wait to see it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I Didn't Have Fun. I Want to Go Back.

My Dad and his wife Marcy came up for a visit yesterday. It was a gray, rainy, chilly morning and we spent the first part of the day just being together. The kids fought for attention from Grandma and Grandpa and forced Grandma Marcy to take a bazillion pictures of them, while the grownups tried to sit and chat over the malay. After lunch, Marcy got out the crayons and spend the afternoon at the table with the girls, playing with them and even showing them how to draw stars. Poogie took her afternoon nap, Grant disappeared to work on his Legos, and Dad, Curt and I crashed on the couches. Somewhere in the discussion of what to do with the overgrown mess above our rock wall, I fell asleep. Hard. And woke up over an hour later. Turns out my Dad conked out too. It's almost a crime to not take a nap on a gray rainy day and when we came out of our comatose state, the sun was out. Well kind of. At least it wasn't raining and the sun was peaking out occasionally through the gray clouds.

We loaded into our vehicles and hit the state fair. The kids just love exploring the animal barns, oohing and aahing over the cows, pigs, sheep, llamas, goats, bunny rabbits, and even the chickens. I actually got a picture of Grant smiling from ear to ear, which is hard to capture if he knows the camera is pointed his direction! I was determined to avoid both a wheelchair and those motorized carts, so I countered all the meandering around the fair with lots of sitting. On benches. On hay bales. At picnic tables. I'd gimp along behind everyone, find a place to sit and they'd eventually circle back to me. It really was fun to see how excited the kids got over all the animals and a treat to experience it with my Dad and Marcy. We took the obligatory picture at the milking parlor where my brother spent multiple summers working. We went to the horse arena and sat in the bleachers and watched the various horse-owners work out their horses. Katie, who loves horses, would have stayed there all day.

When the animal barns were done, we ate our way through the food stands. Fried corn dogs. Foot long hot dogs. Hot greasy french fries drenched in ketchup. A Farmers Meal platter with corn on the cob, pasta with sausage, potato salad and toast. Some Chinese stir fry. Cotton candy, root beer float, hot fudge brownie sundae and a milk shake. We sampled all the food and loved each bite. I was holding out for some Umpqua ice cream, but the long walk back to the booth made buying it at Fred Meyer a more exciting option.

We took pictures, laughed, watched the kids dance to the Johnny Cash impersonator on the free concert stage, and joked about some day actually doing the big human sling. On the way out, we watched a cow auction, climbed on the ginormous John Deer tractors, and dealt with 3 of our 4 kids melting down all at the same time.

On the way home, Paige kept crying, "I don't want to leave the fair. I want to have a sleep over there." We'd say, "Oh, I'm so glad you had so much fun, " to which she'd retort, "I didn't have fun. I want to go back." There's always next year little Poogie.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Long Haul

I got my stitches out yesterday and had my first post-surgery follow up with the orthopedic surgeon and his PA. Grandpa Terry was gracious enough to be our personal chauffeur for the day, driving the kids and I to and from Salem and all over Newberg picking up prescriptions and fast food for lunch. He even took the kids to the park while I was meeting with the doctor. What a gift he is to our family!

I saw the Medical Assistant first and she took my stitches out. The "gentle tug" actually felt more like a strong pull, but I'm grateful to have them gone none-the-less. Next up was the Physician Assistant, who I think is a really great guy. He had this same surgery last year and can relate on a personal level to what recovery is like. He answered my bazillions of questions, but not the way I wanted him to.

ME: Can I drive?
PA: No, cause it's weight bearing and you're supposed to have your brace locked at zero when you're weight bearing.
ME: My brace locks?
PA: (confused) Um yeah. Like this. (shows me how). You're supposed to have it locked at zero when you're weight bearing and at 90 degrees when you're sitting. And since it's your right leg and pushing the gas and brake pedal is weight bearing, no driving till we ditch the brace. This is really important cause we don't want you undoing the repair that's healing.
ME: When will that be?
PA: In five weeks.
ME: Okay, what about exercise?
PA: Nothing at all for five weeks. Except firing your quad and some little leg lifts. You can still go to the gym and work out your upper body and your left leg, but nothing for the right leg at all. After you ditch the brace, we'll start with light cycling and swimming. Not one step of running for at least 3 months. And the first time I ran, it took me 22 minutes to run a mile and a half and it was excruciatingly painful. Don't expect to run without pain for about six months. This is not a quick recovery.
ME: Can I have a tissue to dry the tears forming in the back of my throat....

I mean really. How can a mother of four school-aged kids go SEVEN weeks without driving? It's absurd. At the recovery rate I'm going at, we might as well have replaced my entire knee and stripped all my varicose veins... And six months to running without pain? Somehow that seems longer than the two months I recall being mentioned pre-surgery. The thought of relying on my friends for another five weeks for rides was just completely depressing. And the piece of information about weight-bearing vs. not? I wanted to snarl like Adam Sandler from The Wedding Singer, when his fiance' comes by the day after their wedding to explain why she left him at the alter, "Information that would have been nice to know YESTERDAY!" Did I really just jeopardize my whole recovery because of a piece of information I didn't have? Of course, I was too shell-shocked to remember to ask these questions while I was actually face-t0-face with the PA and could get answers.

The surgeon came in next. Checked out my two incisions and while giving me some more instructions, starting pushing hard on them, almost sending me through the roof. He explained it was called "scar tissue massage" and I needed to inflict this pain on myself every day to break up the scar tissue. Then he started round two of the "massage" and said, "Oops. I broke that one open. Maybe we should wait on this activity for another week." After we bandaged up my now open incision, he proceeded to put me through more tortuous stretches and "checks" on my recovery, then assured me I was recovering normally and repeated the same time line to good health. He ended with, "Rome wasn't built in a day. Don't expect a quick recovery."

As I gimped my way to the elevator (that I had to look for since I normally take the stairs), I felt completely deflated. I was glad to have a time line, but the length was surprisingly long. The no driving piece was the biggest hurdle and depression inducer. I called Curt to give him the lowdown and he could sense my disappointment over the phone. He decided to call the surgeon to get clarification on the points of confusion and his return call brought the first good news of the day. The surgeon and the PA had a miscommunication. Surgeon wanted me on a more advanced road to recovery, knew about the brace being locked at 90 degrees, and assured us I had not damaged the repair. Keeping the brace at 90 degrees would allow me to drive as long as I was off the Vicodin. Praise the Lord for minor miracles!

Later that night, I had someone who recently had major knee surgery flippantly tell me, "Oh a meniscus is nothing. Piece of cake." I sat at the table, alternating between completely deflated for what seemed like the 80th time that day and wanting to reach across the table and slap her. Her comment, though poorly timed wasn't ill-intended, but it made me feel like the past 13 days of my pain and sacrifice on the part of Curt and the kids were "nothing." That this journey should be a "piece of cake" and I must be a big wimp to be struggling so hard for every piece of ground I've gained since surgery.

I wanted to stay mad at her, but I really couldn't justify it. After all, how many times have I flippantly one-upped someone either intentionally or unintentionally? And her sentiment echoed my pre-surgery intentions that recovery would indeed be a piece of cake. Since it's been such a literal pain, our whole family to some extent is being forced into the refining fire. And I want this time to not be wasted. I want God to be able to purge me of thoughtless words, pride, a spirit of independence and whatever else He wants to clean out of my system that I don't even know about yet. When we come out on the other end of this, I want the dirt to be skimmed off the surface and have only gold remain.

And so I press on. Grabbing time with God when my brain can focus and appreciating the times that the Word resonates with my spirit and I don't have to read a verse 50 times before I realize I've been reading it 50 times and not comprehending it. Cherishing all the movie and book time with the kids and grateful for this opportunity to slow down and just BE with them. To watch them grow in compassion, service and helpfulness around the house and with each other. Relishing falling deeper in the ocean of love with my husband who continues to amaze me with his kindness, tenderness and love for me. Accepting help from the ever-expanding network of friends that in one year's time have become such gifts to me and letting them serve our family with meals and child care. And accepting the fact that all my past marathon and endurance training will come in handy now. I'm in recovery for the long haul and I'm ready to get this party started, one foot in front of the other.