Mom's the Word

Determined to carry on the annual tradition of looking at Christmas lights, you put on your jammies, load up the kids (including the brand new infant), and ride around town. You see lots of lights, but the Christmas carols playing on the radio do nothing to drown out the irate screaming from the two-month old in the backseat who remains unimpressed by inflatable Santas.

You can always whet your kids' whistle with a nice cold glass of gingerbread man...known to the average person as "ginger ale".

If decorating the Christmas tree were an Olympic event, your kids would take the gold in "Securing the most ornaments on a single branch as close to the tip as possible."

Your seven year old scoffed at the sight of his stocking hanging on the mantel.  "Pssshhh...those things look like socks!"  Your reply - "That's what stockings are, Ben.  Socks." - rendered him completely speechless.  That's what it feels like to blow a little boy's mind.

You often describe your seven year old boy and four year old girl as an old married couple.  They bicker like one.  But they also love each other so much you can literally see it in their eyes.

Your wild-woman of a four year old stayed still long enough at her last haircut to have her hair braided like this:

That, friends, was a Thanksgiving miracle.

After spending six months+ assembling the backyard playground, it becomes worth it in a single-moment when you see your kids' smiles when they finally get to swing.

You can't decide whether to stop her from downloading viruses or encourage her to develop her typing skills, but either way you snapped a picture of your toddler navigating her way around the computer.

While reading Tonight on the Titanic (Magic Tree House), your son asks you which adjective best describes the Titanic sinking - sad, scary, or exciting?  How on earth do you answer that?

Thanks to your toddler's cute little classmates playing up her obsession with her belly button, you now know if you say "Ding dong!" she will press on her belly button with one finger, as if it's a door bell.  Silly babies.

Every exit is an entry somewhere.

So maybe two days before Thanksgiving wasn't the best time to hear the words, "Have a seat" come out of the boss's mouth.  Maybe the news that "beginning in December your hours will be cut to half-time" seemed better than being let go altogether.  Maybe seeing the tears in the boss's eyes when I told him that half-time with two kids in full-time daycare simply isn't an option was a small comfort in an otherwise tumultuous day.

You see, the whole thing has been a long time coming.

Dang economic downturn.

I take some comfort in knowing that I made it all the way to "the end".  Of all of the employees in our tiny company, I was the last to be let go.  And it was visibly painful for my boss to have to say the words.  I know that he didn't want to do it.  I also know he kept me too long because when it comes down to it, he's not a business man.  He's an engineer - with a big heart and not a lot of savvy.  It's okay.  It's one of the many reasons I like him.

This job isn't perfect.  I've been [grossly] underpaid for the duration.  The benefits are pretty much non-existent.  I have virtually no opportunity for advancement.  But there are a few perks.  My boss is a good Christian man, whom I deeply respect.  He values family and has let me bring my kids to work with me on countless occasions when there seemed to be no other option.  He let me move hours around here and there so I can attend my kids' school functions, basketball practices, and doctors appointments.  He let me work through lunch to pay back the time it cost me to pick Ben up from school two days a week.  He lights up when the kids stop by for visits to see me.  He has told me countless times that "when 5 o'clock comes, you go home to those babies."

And he provided the afternoon chocolate too.

There simply isn't enough work to keep me on right now.  I get that.  I've been quietly anticipating it each payday...the conversation that would start out with "Have a seat"...just like I've heard many times before me.  Only, that joker changed things up and did it on a random Tuesday instead.  When I least expected it.

I guess he wasn't expecting it to go the way it did either.

The final decision was that I would work as needed, from home, with the promise to check my email once a day and keep in touch.  He insisted that he can't do it all without me.  (But I really think he can.)  I suppose it's nice to feel needed.  I left work that afternoon to pick Sarah up and told the director that I was going to have to pull the girls from the school.  And that's when it all sank in.

My greatest fears realized:  I am going to be at home with my babies.

This shouldn't terrify me but...it does.

My mom asks me pretty regularly how I fit everything into a day - from work to chores to fun times.  My answer has always been the same, "I don't know any differently."  Since the moment I became a wife to the moment I became a mom to right now, this very moment, I have always had a somewhat chaotic lifestyle.

And now...I am facing the unknown.  A whole different kind of chaos, I'm sure.

I really am going to miss this place.  The truth remains, this is part of a master plan.  I might not get that, but God does.  And there is a plan for me.  I just have to listen - and figure out what it is.

For now, the plan is for me to take a breather for the first time in my adult life.  I am going to enjoy every minute of this holiday season.  We are going to tear up the kitchen making cookies.  We're going to burn some of them because we will be distracted from dancing to Christmas carols.  We're going to play school.  We are going to keep working from the workbook that Abby loves so much and have our own "circle time".   We're going to break the new backyard playground in.  We're going to stamp our Christmas cards together and I'm only going to mind a little bit when my four year old helper puts them on upside down and crooked.  We're going to take walks in the middle of the day around our quiet neighborhood.  We're going to put tinsel and garland on every flat surface in our house.

And no, Julie, I will not prepare myself for the weight gain that supposedly plagues the stay-at-home crowd.  I have heard your challenge.  And I accept.

But I am still going to have my afternoon chocolate.  And my morning coffee.

Because some things, no matter where I spend my 8-5, just don't need to change.

Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me, prayed for me, and ridden the ride along with me.
"We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps."  Proverbs 16:9 (New Living Translation)


Bookbag Treasures

One of the many joys of being a mom is that I get to rifle through my kids' things.  That's right.  I just said that.  I'm sure it will result in more juicy findings when they are older than seven, four, and eighteen months old.  For now, though, I'll settle for my funny, gross, sometimes frightening discoveries.

One of the places I get to rifle through is the bookbag that goes to and from school with Ben.

I remember being in elementary school and being obsessive about keeping my desk clean.  I have a suspicion that my son is that boy who sat next to me that drove me absolutely insane.  You know the type.  He's the one  with random scraps of paper overflowing out of his desk in any haphazard manner, with nary a clean piece of paper to be found in the mess, and perhaps even a suspicious odor emanating from the depths of the chaos.  There is more glue on the top of the desk than left in the glue stick itself.  He has a pencil case, but it's full "treasures" he collected.  Meanwhile, a pencil is unlocate-able.

I know this because that is precisely what his bookbag is like.

Maybe it's a boy thing?

At any rate, while cleaning up my kitchen this weekend in prep for making the annual turkey dinner that I don't get to eat (but I still really do enjoy making - for Sam's office), I stumbled upon the bookbag.  So I dove in.  And I found some good treasures in there.

He had a stack of artwork from the previous week.  And wouldn't you know?  I took a picture (or seven) for you to enjoy along with me.

First up is, what appears to be, an adorable little scarecrow.  But if you thought that, you'd be wrong.

Thanks to the helpful text bubble coming from the "scarecrow's" mouth, we learn that "I am from Mars.  I come in peace."

And apparently, on Mars, they love red Power Rangers as much as Ben does.  They even wear likenesses of them on their hats when traveling to other worlds.

But, no matter where we come from, it seems we all agree that there's no place like home.  Especially considering that the Martian scarecrow had "Mars Sweet Mars" sewn into his overalls.

Then there's this adorable little gobbler.  It looks just cute enough to eat, don't you think?

I guess Ben thought so too...because it would be weird for the turkey to write the words, "Eat me" on itself.

Among the other treasures in Ben's bookbag were countless scrap pieces of paper he collected to make Christmas presents for all of us (that's sweet - truly), several hoarded pieces of candy he'd gotten for good behavior, and dozens of gigantic acorns.  I almost didn't want to ask about those.  Turns out, he'd just been collecting them little by little from the playground.  Innocent enough.

In the spirit of thankfulness this week and all year long, I just want to let you all know how much I appreciate you reading this little old blog.

And please, please take the time to count a few of your blessings.  Right now.  Yes.  I'm being bossy.


Turning my frown upside-down

It's only natural to be in a rut from time to time. To just feel kind of funky - and not in a hip, groovy kind of way, but more like an "I think my armpits stink" kind of way.   I don't like feeling this way, but sometimes it just happens.  Life can be tiresome.  And sometimes it gets you down.

And then...something happens that snaps you right out of it.

For me, it was the fact that in just a matter of days a friend at church noticed that her nine-year-old son's hand wasn't gripping as tightly as it usually does, took him to the doctor with a suspected nerve injury, got an MRI on his brain, discovered a tumor, and headed off to Memphis so that some of the best doctors in the world could operate on her precious little boy's brain.

I heard the news and I looked at my seven year old Ben.  I tried to imagine for one second what it must be like for her to hear those words about her little boy.  And, quite frankly, I just couldn't stop the tears. 

It was all too sobering to hear the news, because, when I heard it, I was in the middle of pitching a hissy-fit about photo calendars that I was attempting to build online.  In an instant, I was humbled.  How dare I complain about something so insignificant as bad customer service and shoddy technical support?  This woman just found out that her son's fragile brain had a tumor inside of it that was affecting his motor skills.

Her little boy.

I know that life will probably re-consume me at some point and it will take another sobering reminder to snap me back out of it.  Because that is one of my shortcomings.  I am selfish.  We all are.  And, inevitably, I'm going to start thinking about all of my own "problems" and my focus will be on me.

But for now, I'm going to be grateful.

I'm going to quit my grumblings.  After all, it is Thanksgiving in just one week.

Apparently, even in the midst of trying to cultivate a spirit of gratitude, life and the creepy, sneaky world come and steal me away.

Not tonight.

Tonight, I'm going to thank God for my burdens - because given a little perspective, I bet every single one of them is a blessing in disguise.

Thank you, God, for the endless cycles of loading and unloading the dishwasher because it means I had food to eat and dishes to eat it on.

Thank you, God, for the endless piles of laundry because it means my family and I have clothes to wear.  More than enough clothes to wear.

Thank you, God, for shoddy customer service and tech support because it makes me appreciate the good customer service that much more.

Thank you, God, for the days that are monotonous at work because even when the hours are long I still have the job.  And that is so much more than so many have.

Thank you, God, for the seemingly obnoxious opinions of people who think differently than me because I live in a country where the freedom to voice our opinion is a valued, protected, and fought for privilege.

Thank you, God, for the nights when I feel like my patience is completely shot and bedtime can't come fast enough because I learn each time that I am wrong.  There is always just a little bit more inside of me if I dig deeper.

Thank you, God, for the times that my kids face ridicule and I can't protect them from it because it helps their skin grow thicker and it helps them learn how to handle adversity.  And it helps me learn that I can't always protect them, and they're doing just fine on their own.

Thank you, God, for all of those deductions from our paychecks each month because they provide our family with amazing health coverage, hope for the future, and the fulfillment of a civic duty (okay, the last one is a stretch).

Thank you, God, for the dirt and stains on my kids' clothes because it means they spent the day exploring the great outdoors, enjoying food, and just...being kids.

Thank you, God, for the smudges on my mirrors and appliances because it means I have the eyesight to see them and the itty-bitty, greasy-fingered companions to put them there.

Thank you, God, for instability in the job market because it makes me grateful for each day that I continue to be employed.

Thank you, God, for any and all of the disagreements I have had with my husband these past eight years because they are over.  And we're stronger for having gotten through them.

Thank you, God, for the utility bill because it means I have the luxury of using my air conditioning and heat when I need them.

Thank you, God, for the laugh lines that seem to be taking over my face as the years pass because they indicate that I have laughed hard and often.

Thank you, God, for our "broken health care system" because despite what people say about it, it finds tumors and saves lives like precious Mac's every day.  

I could probably go on, but for real, I'm thankful for sleep.  And I need some.

I do have a favor to ask of you out there in blog land.  If you would, please pray for Mac and his sweet family as they go through the next few days.  His surgery is over, but there is no telling what the future holds for them.  I am so humbled by the outpouring of love and prayers they have received in the past 12 hours alone.  If there's one message it's that God is good.  All the time.

Thank you so much for your readership and your prayers.  I am so grateful for each and every one of you.


Mostly Minivan-related Mom Things

Within nanoseconds of being put in her carseat, your wily eighteen month old removes her shoes and socks.  Inevitably, when you get to your destination, you manage to find only one of the socks.  No worries though!  You can either pull a spare pair from the depths of your gigantic purse or manage to find a close-enough match from one of the thousands of other unmatched socks lying about on the floor of your minivan.

When your incredibly blessed-with-toys seven year old approves of the shoebox you packed for Operation Christmas Child with an enthusiastic "That's great!", you know that some 5-9 year old boy somewhere is going to be very, very happy this Christmas.

Your top desk drawer at work contains Thomas the Tank engine DVDs and a post-it note of your middle daughter's baby milestones that have yet to make it into her baby book - three years later.

Whenever you go to the drive-through at the bank in your minivan and the teller asks if you have any kids in there, your knee-jerk reaction is to be offended.  How dare she assume you have a bundle of kids just because you drive a minivan?  Then you realize, she's totally right.  And whether or not you have kids in the back you nod and smile because, hey, free lollipop.  (I know, that's evil.)

Along the same lines, you actually love that when you drive through Dunkin' Donuts and order a coffee and a sprinkled donut that the employees most likely assume the sprinkled donut is for a youngin' in the back of that minivan.  Little do they know......

Your four year old's response to being told to clean up?  "I'm too lazy to do that right now."  At least she's honest?  And apparently smart enough to use the word "lazy" in the correct context?

You thought that building a playground in your backyard would be a good way to have some peace and quiet in your own yard.  Turns out, building a playground in your backyard just means that all those neighborhood boys and girls who used to play out front are now playing out back.

The cupholder in the back seat of your beloved minivan is chock full of plastic bugs.  Your seven year old keeps them in there because "they're good toys to keep in the van because they're small and they won't get lost if they stay together in the cupholder."  Good.  Better there than scattered ALL OVER your house.  Right?

Meanwhile, the passenger side handle of your minivan is chock full of spare hair bows for your little girls.  You can never have too many extra pink bows available.  You know, in case your eighteen month old decides to rip the one you put in her hair out and chews it to shreds before you reach your destination.  (Clearly, she has a whole arsenal of ways to keep herself busy in that back seat.)

Your kids apparently don't realize the actual definition of dessert [something sweet to follow dinner].  Instead, they think it's anything of their choosing following the actual meal.  Some of their choices include a few slices of pepperoni, a cheese single, and Doritos.  Whatever.  You're not going to force them to eat sweets.


Simple Footies

Every year beginning on the first day of fall, when teachers start telling the children stories of cool, crisp air, hay rides, and raking up leaves only to come inside for a cup of cocoa to warm up afterward, Ben starts asking me when it's going to be cold enough to wear footie pajamas.

The problem is - we live in Georgia.  It's actually almost never cold enough to wear footie pajamas.  At least certainly not the first couple of days weeks months of fall.

But then there's that first cold snap of the season.  This year it came as October turned into November, earlier than usual.  Naturally, as I perused the weather forecast and casually mentioned that it was going to be getting "cold" (for Georgia anyway!), Ben perked right up.  "So I get to wear my footies!?"

You see, he loves those things.

Ben isn't a small kid.  So as the years have passed, it has become increasingly more difficult to find footies that fit him.  We've tried to suggest that maybe he's getting to big for footies.  He protests.  Not in a whiny, baby-like way or anything.  He just really and truly loves footie pajamas.  He's all about comfort.  And I guess, for him, they are the ultimate.

To me, they were always kind of like a straight-jacket.  But I guess differing opinions are what make the world go 'round, right?

I've blogged about the footies before.  He insisted on wearing them to Pajama Day in kindergarten last year.  I fretted and worried and agonized over the decision.  I just knew the other kids were going to make fun of him.  I just knew he'd be the only kid wearing them.  Lo and behold I was wrong (as is usually the case when I worry).  No one cared, other people wore them, and life was just as peachy after Pajama Day as it was before.  (And some of us, namely me, came out of it a little wiser.)

Fast forward to first grade.  Last weekend, following on the heels of what will forever be remembered as the "kidney stone week", Ben went on his first camping trip with the RA's at church.  He was going without a parent, under the supervision of other adults, in the company of dozens of other little boys all the same age or older than him.  Naturally, it was during one of the coldest nights we'd had so far this season.  When I mentioned that fact out loud, Ben, once again, lit up.  "Well that's no problem!  I'll just wear my footie pajamas."

I could feel my worries rising up from the depths.  I tried to squelch them with the reminder that last year Pajama Day went off without a hitch, so maybe the camping trip wouldn't be any different.  It didn't work.  My mind raced - But it's a year later!  He's a year older!  Is it going to be okay?  Should I make him wear different ones?  Even though, honestly, they probably are the warmest things he owns.

Determined to let him learn his own lessons, whether the hard way or not, I packed his footies in his duffle bag and kissed him goodbye for 24 hours.

I could hardly wait to hear from him when he got home.  My first question:  "So....Ben....did anyone....like your footies?"

He said, "Someone told me they were baby pajamas, but I just said 'No they aren't.  Anyone can wear them.'"  And that was it.  End of conversation(s).

Why?  Why do I underestimate my children so much?  They are self-confident, logical little people.  If someone ridicules them, they don't buckle and fold.  They offer a well-thought-out rebuttal and go on with their footie-pajama-wearing selves.

That is just one of many, many reasons I love their little one-piece-pj-wearing souls.

In light of my confident little seven year old with the body of at least an eight year old, I hereby deem my Simple Pleasure today "Footie Pajamas".  Because, if I'm being honest, I do love them too.  (On my kids...not on my hot-flashin' self.)

And in honor of Footie Pajama love, I sneaked into each of the kids rooms, turned the light on, and snapped a shot of them sleeping in their footies. 

Oops...woke Sarah up.   You'll just have to take my word that those are footies.

If anyone is interested, Sears carries boys footie pajamas up to size 12 (!).  And it has recently come to my attention that they sell adult-sized ones at Target (at least for ladies).  I guess Ben was right - anyone can wear footies.

Sharing the Simple Pleasure of Footie Pajamas and My Kids that Love Them with Dayle at

Project Simple Pleasures2


A Day in the Life of Me...Mom

You watch your son completing his homework in a familiar posture and remember fondly the days when you used to do the same...back before curling up in a ball like that for any length of time launched your body into a state of rigamortis. 

Your first grader comes home from school singing, "Justin Beiber is a baby, baby, baby, ohhh!" and you can't help but laugh at the clever play on this song, by none other than the baby himself.

You say to your four year old, "Would you put these in the pantry for me, please?" And after pausing a moment to consider, she replies, "No ma'am."  At least she was polite?  (And lesson learned - do not phrase imperatives in question form.)

Upon the sight of candy your toddler does "gimme hands" and starts repeating "Pees, pees, pees."  You're convinced she's going to grow up thinking that the name for candy is "Please".

After a few moments of silence on the part of your trouble-finding toddler, you begin searching the house high and low only to find her cutely sitting among her big sister's shoes, trying them all on.  (Perhaps your own shoe obsession is in the genes?)

You're not at all surprised that one of your slightly-anal-retentive son's prevailing comments on his first church camping experience was that after he'd gotten his sleeping bag and blankets all situated, some of the other boys jumped on his bed and messed up his set-up.

In an attempt to be more thankful during the month of November (an idea he came up with all on his own), your seven year old writes you notes thanking you for various things, like letting him go camping, packing him lunches every day, and being a good mommy.  If that doesn't make your heart sing, I don't know what will.

The first time your seven year old engaged his two younger sisters in a game of ring-around-the-rosie, you were impressed by his resourcefulness and ability to keep them entertained.  Then, after repeated attempts to play on subsequent days it became clear that he was the one who really wanted to play.  He must've been waiting years for the chance.

Sometimes random snapshots captured on the kitchen floor end up being your favorite, because, really...that...this...is what life is all about.


The Rest of the Story

While I doubt anyone has been on the edge of their seat waiting, I last concluded with a "cliffhanger" and I can't leave the story unfinished.

Where did I leave off?  It was the "biggest white mocha you can make" on Friday night after my big exam, right?

I went to bed that evening looking forward to a weekend free from the burden of an impending exam.  I had nothing hanging over my head unless you count the excitement of our church Harvest Festival and trick-or-treating on Saturday afternoon.

I guess I shouldn't have counted my chickens before they hatched.  (Or something.)

I woke up on Saturday morning with a very real, very uncomfortable pain in my left abdomen.

Allow me to go on a little tangent here.  If you don't know me, you might not know that I have an irrational fear of dentists.  I absolutely hate them.  Second only to dentists, is my passionate avoidance of all medical doctors.  I only go to the doctor after I have suffered for weeks and it becomes obvious that the only way I will be cured of whatever ailment is to get a prescription medication.

So, when I woke up and told Sam I needed to go to the ER, he took me pretty seriously.

We loaded up the kids and took the fam of five to the local ER where my ever-helpful mother-in-law (who was on her way to trick-or-treat with the kids anyway) interceded and picked up the youngins before they even drew my blood.

Evidently, I failed epically at conveying the severity of my pain to the doctor and nurse.  I was discharged with a diagnosis of a "hormonal imbalance" and a script for Motrin, which I'm pretty sure was just to appease the crazy girl with cramps.

I cried in the car on the way home.  Are you surprised?

To my delight, the pain subsided and I was able to go to the Harvest Festival.  I was even able to go trick-or-treating that night.  I am tickled pink orange (?) that I got to participate in one of my favorite holidays with my Power Ranger, Garden Fairy, and Duck clad children despite my apparent "raging menstrual cramps".

And if I hadn't, you'd miss out on these pictures.  Aren't you glad it worked out?  (wink, wink)

Nothing like waiting until the last minute to carve the pumpkin...

A Garden Fairy who was completely horrified by pumpkin guts...

The Best Hand-Me-Down Costume EVER.

My beautiful little sprite...she can call herself "garden fairy" all she wants.

Funnel Cakes at the Harvest Festival

In a nutshell...how pictures usually go at our house.

Then we got one...I love it!

I felt icky and exhausted Saturday night, but The Pain (which shall henceforth be capitalized as a proper noun) didn't return until after we'd gotten through Sunday School and lunch the next day.  Later in the afternoon on Halloween (proper), I laid down in the bed to do some reading for our 5:15 class at church and it hit me.  Like a bus.  I shot up out of bed, but it didn't matter.  There was no position I could get in that eased it.  It felt like I was in labor on the left side of my body.  But instead of getting a break every few minutes even if only for a few seconds, it persisted.  For hours.

Determined that I would not let The Pain get the best of me, and convinced it would be subsiding at any minute, we prepped the kids for church and left for our class.  About twenty minutes into it, I got up and left.  I went to the restroom.  I cried.  (Again, I know.  It's out of control.  I think the original ER diagnosis was probably right on point.)  Then I laid in an adjacent classroom, determined to listen to the discussion if I couldn't participate in it.

I heard footsteps in the hallway.  They were none other than my knight in shining armor's who had gotten up to make sure I was okay.  He looked at me, asked if I was okay, and I lost it.  No.  I wasn't okay.

In a whirlwind of emotion and pain, I had peace...made possible by our loving church family who stepped up to care for our three kids while we rushed off the the ER for the second time in as many days.  It was the longest lasting pain spell I'd experienced in my life.  It was excruciating.  I signed in through tears, attempting to rock and pace through the pain.  The triage nurse recognized me from the morning before and promised to get me in as quickly as possible.  I bawled through registration.  By the time I got into an exam room, the pain had almost completely subsided after nearly three hours.  Naturally.  Luckily, my emotions had not subsided, and by the time the doctor came to see me, I was still a weeping mess.  Through the tears, I explained to her that I am not crazy (which, apparently, was my greatest fear throughout the whole thing).  She patted me on the leg, promised to get to the bottom of it, and apologized for the dismissal by her colleague the day before.

Within minutes, I had an IV, a dose of Demerol, and orders for a CT scan.

And I was feeling good.

They wheeled me over to CT, where I got to ohh and ahh over the marvel that is modern medical technology which impressed me even in my sedated (and apparently slightly giggly) state.

The results came back.  And when the doctor came in, her first words were, "You're not crazy."  And would you know it, I got teary again.

She told me I had a 5mm kidney stone in my left ureter (the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder).  The pain was from it trying to work its way down the tube and out of my body.  She suspected I would pass it on my own, but instructed me that if I hadn't to call a urologist after 48 hours.  With an apology for the missed diagnosis the day before, a script for more pain medicine, a strainer to urinate through in an attempt to "catch" the stone on its way out (so it could be analyzed), and the verbal confirmation that I wasn't crazy (phew!), I left the hospital.

The next 48 hours passed with several bouts of pain, but nothing to show for it.  The pain medicine worked wonders, and I can honestly see how people can become addicted to it.  To go from the level of pain I was at to complete comfort (and mellow-ness) in a matter of minutes was absolutely miraculous.

At Sam's urging, I called the urologist on Tuesday morning and got an appointment for Thursday afternoon.  I even managed to go vote under the influence of Percocet with a helpful chauffeur (can't miss it, it's #4 on the list!).  On Wednesday morning, after a particularly painful evening, Sam encouraged me once again to call the urologist and see if they could see me sooner.  They worked me in at 3:30 that afternoon.

Long story short:  Despite being given the good news by the ER doc that the stuck stone had no baby brothers and sisters in my kidneys, the urologist showed me nearly a dozen others lying in wait in my kidneys. (Those don't cause any pain until they try to leave.)  He showed me my left kidney and how it was nearly double the size of my right one from blocked urine flow.  He told me that the 5mm stone was likely to not pass on its own and they would go in and zap it with a laser, Star Wars style.  (Actually, he didn't say the Star Wars thing.  But that's how I imagined it.)  With an unspoken sense of urgency, he worked me in to have the procedure the following morning at 8am.  I would be home, cured, by lunchtime.  Three and a half hours before my first scheduled appointment would have been.

The rest is history.  It was textbook execution.  I have nothing but glowing recommendations for the nurses, staff, and the doctor (who even called me personally to check on me the next day).  I woke up from the procedure, still groggy, but feeling like a new woman.

This weekend - I enjoyed my freedom.  From tests.  From pain.  It was perfection.  And totally worth waiting for...

...because throughout the process, I was so blessed.  So very blessed.  From the friends at church who stepped up in my time of need, to the phone calls from friends of the family offering babysitting services, to moments of self-growth and becoming more assertive, to a husband who literally dropped everything to care for his ailing wife.

Apparently, sometimes it takes bad things (however minor they end up being) for us to realize how completely awesome we have it.

I'll save my thankful list for another day...or you can see snippets of it on my 1000 Thank Yous blog.

I just hope, in the spirit of Thanksgiving this month (and always), we will all take the time stop and count our blessings.  Big and small.  Obvious and not so.  Because, man, we are so blessed.
We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thornton Wilder

Play Plastic Forks are Invaluable on the PE Exam

I haven't even typed anything yet, and I'm already considering what the "label" for this post will be. It qualifies for a few of them.  There's "Life's Little Adventures", "Completed", and "The List".

That should probably suffice.

In case anyone has noticed my uncharacteristically long blog hiatus [for me anyway], allow me to walk you through my past week.

Last Wednesday evening, I "finished" studying for my PE exam.  I worked the final problem of the review book and I was determined to spend Thursday evening thinking of nothing, clearing my brain, and relaxing.  Of course...I'm not entirely capable of that.  Thursday came and my stomach was in knots all day.  I was unable to focus at work.  I got home that evening, went to boot camp, came home and fixed dinner, then spent the rest of the evening packing up my books for the exam, unwrapping candies to stick in my bookbag to enjoy during the test without disturbing other test-takers, collecting random things I might need like a ruler, compass, and protractor.  You know, nerdy things.

All of the sudden as I wheeled my cart of books to the door, a peace came over me.  Just like that.  All of the anxiety I had been feeling all day was just whisked away as if a cleansing breeze had come through and carried away with it all of my fears.  It was surreal.

I laid my head down on the pillow that night, terrified of what the next day would bring, but at peace.  So peaceful, in fact, that I was asleep within a matter of minutes, and if you know me at all, you know that is no small feat.  That was all prayer, friends.  That was God's gift to me, thanks to you.

I woke up at 5:30am the next morning, feeling uncharacteristically relaxed.  I didn't even drink coffee because I wasn't sure what restroom access would be like during the exam.  I just got in the car with my cart o' books, bookbag full of unwrapped candies, nerdy engineering instruments, primary calculator and spare calculator (that my husband had so graciously stopped and gotten for me at Walmart the night before) and headed to the test site in the city of my alma mater.  I was about to turn the radio up in an effort to fill my head with meaningless song lyrics for the duration of the 20 minute drive when my cell phone rang just as I pulled out of my driveway.  It was my sister.  I don't know how she knew to call at that exact moment, but she wished me luck and chatted with me until I pulled into the parking lot of the testing site.  There was no time for my mind to race or fill with worry.  Instead, I spent the moments before my exam bantering with my sister about who-knows-what.

I wish I could have taken a camera into the exam room so you could feel the magnitude of it all.  The sight of it prompted the nerves to creep up from their hiding spots.  The enormous exhibit hall was filled from wall to wall, front to back and side to side, with long tables.  There were seat cards on each end of the long tables identifying each tester's designated spot.  There were no less than two hundred examinees, each toting their carts, boxes, crates, and even suitcases full of books to their spots.  As I took my seat, just like everyone else around me, I tried to get a little organized.  I unpacked my most-used reference materials onto my tabletop and left the less-likely materials in the crate.  As I pulled the largest book out, a surprise fell into my lap.

(Obviously, that was a reenactment.  We weren't allowed to have cameras in the exam room.  Nor would I have worn my pink pajama pants to the test.  What to wear was actually a big decision for me, someone for whom comfort wins 10 times out of 10.  However, I kept remembering something my husband told me years ago - you perform better when you look better.  It was an argument in favor of dress codes in high school.  I get it now.  So I dressed up...comfortably.  But no PJ pants for PE day.)


There I was about to embark on my greatest career milestone to date...with a pretend-play neon green plastic fork sitting in my lap.

I giggled.  And those nerves that had been creeping up were instantly alleviated.  I remembered having to shoo a curious Sarah away from my book cart countless times the night before.  I guess she snuck that in when I wasn't looking.  How did she know it would end up being exactly what I needed to see?

I'll never look at that fork without smiling again.

With a few minutes left to kill before the proctor started the clocks and set us loose on our scantron sheets, I looked to my table-mate.  We struck up a short conversation without properly introducing ourselves first.  At the last minute, we had an exchange like this:

Him:  What's your name?
Me:  Jennie.
Him:  Kenny.
Me:  No, Jennie.
Him:  You're Jennie?
Me:  Yes.
Him:  Hi, Jennie.  I'm Kenny.
Me:  (laughing)  Ohhhhh.  I could not figure out why you kept calling me Kenny!

Okay, so that's not quite "Who's on first?", but it provided just enough ridiculous levity to pass those final would-be nerve-wracking moments with a smile.

What the heck was I doing smiling during the PE exam?

The four morning hours whizzed by.  I left feeling less than confident, but no worse off than I imagined (hooray for the power of negative thinking!).  After a sack lunch and a quick phone call, I headed back into the exam room.  I decided to take a quick restroom break at the last minute before the afternoon session started.  I walked past the super-long line at the men's room, and got to the ladies' room.  No line.

So, I finally found a perk to being a female in a male dominated field.

I felt okay, but not great about the afternoon.  The rest is history.  I finished the afternoon about 20 minutes early, hastily ran through my answers, and turned it in.  It (and I) was D-O-N-E.

I treated myself to the "biggest white mocha you can make me" at my alma mater's coffee shop.  Then I went home and thought about big, fat NOTHING.

This, friends, concludes my excessively rambling, oh-so-very-long post about the P.E. exam.  Expect not to hear about it ever again.  (Unless I pass.)

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog and has listened to me whine, complain, gnash teeth, and cry about it.  Thank you everyone who has encouraged me and had so very much more confidence in me than I have in myself.  Thank you to my husband for helping me get up early every morning in the month of October so I could study and for buying me that spare calculator (and for picking up my major slack).  Thank you to Sarah for throwing that fork in my book crate.  Thank you to anyone and everyone who prayed for me.  I felt it.  I felt it A LOT.  And last but not least, Thank you, God, for getting me through it. 

Oh, hey!

#1 - Get up when Sam gets up for one month.
#5 - Take the Professional Engineer Exam.

You have been checked.

The excitement of the week didn't end there...but you'll have to wait for the rest of it...

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