The Pictures

So…long post ahead. For those friends of mine who have lost a parent and sometimes struggle with remembering that they’re still near, this will strike a chord.

Last fall, my dad gave me 5 huge totes full of pictures…like all of the pictures. 1975-present. My whole life and then some. Albums, frames, boxes of loose pictures.

My mom had done a good job of putting pictures in albums until 1990ish, when, for whatever reason, she decided she was done…and she was always trying to get me to organize them for her :). So really, I knew what I was getting into when Dad brought these. Mom still took lots of pictures; they just got put into boxes after that point.

My sister Hayley and I decided to take an evening last fall to start going through the boxes (we made it through 2), just to see what all was in them. In addition to our childhoods in photo form, we found some amazing pictures of both of our parents as children, too.

Part of one box was just an absolute hodge-podge: pictures of my kids, my mom pregnant with me, a few random family Christmas pictures we’d been sent over the years, cousins’ school pictures, and on and on…a good number of them were pictures that had been pulled from albums at one time or another and just never put back*.

There was one pack of pictures, all together in an envelope, in the box that I found a bit curious: my mom’s college friend Paula’s family Christmas pictures. Just her family pictures, 10-15 years’ worth probably. Paula and my mom had been roommates at EIU, and despite living 2+ hours from each other after graduation, kept in touch via letters for years and years. Paula and her husband had 4 beautiful girls that I can remember meeting a few times as a child, but mostly, I remember watching the girls grow up by seeing their Christmas card pictures every year.

It was interesting to me that in this mess of photos, Paula’s were grouped. I mentioned to Hayley that maybe I should send them to her…Hayley thought it was a good idea. And then, for whatever reason, I sat them on my desk and thought about mailing them several times over the next 2 months.

I didn’t know if it would be weird…the adult daughter of your deceased college friend, finding your family pictures? I finally decided to do it, prompted primarily by the idea that if someone sent my family’s pictures to me, I’d be thrilled, and not think it was weird. (Also, I realized that I might not have every year’s Christmas picture of my own family…bummer.)

So a couple of weeks ago, I wrote Paula a little note, stuck it all in an envelope, and sent it on its way.

I cried and cried when I got this email from her earlier this week. Grab a tissue.

To say that you are wonderful and that your Mom is looking over both of us is not enough praise! I got your envelope with all of the pictures that Arlene had saved from past Christmases.

I cleaned out my mom and dad’s pictures three years ago and found some Christmas pictures my mom had saved. So I bought a Christmas photo album and for three years it has just been sitting by my bed. So finally, I thought, “well Mollie is 30 years old, maybe I need to get going on this”.

I finished it by New Years but had several years that were missing and sure enough, they were with your Mom’s collection. Just fascinating isn’t it? Arlene was always helping all of us when we needed it in college. I just looked at those pictures you sent and thought, “my God, she is right here with me on this. She is filling in the blanks that I didn’t have!” Amazing! I cried and smiled the whole time I filled in the missing years.

For real. 5 1/2 years after she died, my mom was able to help someone with something.

I don’t know why Paula’s pictures were all together, and I don’t know why my dad chose last fall to bring me the buckets, but I’ve got to think it’s not coincidence that those things happened the year that Paula put that album together.

The rest of Paula’s email made me vow to do a better job with my boys about talking about what my mom was like. Luke and Bennett have scant few memories of her that are really theirs, and of course, Jack Henry has none, as he was just 9 months old when she passed away. In fact, out of nowhere a couple of times over the past year, he’s had little breakdowns about how it’s just not fair that he didn’t get to know her. Here’s just a little more of the email…

I am so lucky she was in my life. I still cannot believe she is gone. I think of her often and always with a smile. She was such a kind, kind friend…

Sometimes for me, the missing her is kinda far away, and sometimes it’s very near, and all this week it’s been just below the surface. That familiar mixture of it being not fair that she died at 55 and of feeling so thankful that she was my mom and we had the years we did, of “wow, it feels like yesterday” since she died, and “so much has happened since, how can it only be 5 years?”.

I don’t believe in praying to or for the dead, but I very much believe that God blesses us with reminders of those we’ve lost. I’m so thankful that I got a reminder this week.

PS…if you’d like to comment on this, will you do so here, instead of on the Facebook link? I’d love to have all of the comments here, particularly so Paula can see them, too. Thanks, friends.

*I think this justifies me being totally OCD about my albums.

In a Boy House…

- Bennett read a book from the school library called “300 Weird Facts about Animals” or something like that. There were 5 facts that he relayed to the family; every one of them involved poop. For instance, did you know that wombats poop cubes? Well, now you do.

- Thursday night, Matt and I had dentist appointments…please join me in celebrating no cavities this visit, which used to the norm for me, but since 35, has definitely not been. Anyway, there was a new dentist there, a young, unmarried girl. We were talking Olympics, and how the boys like sports with amazing feats (slopestyle skiing and snowboarding, halfpipe, skeleton, you know, stuff where there’s a good chance of serious injury or death), and how they’d been enduring figure skating when it comes on. I said something like, “I think they’re pretty much just always waiting for someone to fall.”

Which, I realized after I said it, based on her reaction, made them sound like horrible little monster children (keep in mind: she has no children, AND she’s never met mine. I am making a stellar first impression). I said, “They’re really nice kids…and they’ve definitely come to appreciate the athleticism it takes to skate and jump, but they aren’t fans.” Know your audience, Nicole.

Analyzing this later, I think that it’s not that they want to see people fail (I mean, I seriously hope not), but they love America’s Funniest Home Videos, which is filled with unexpected failure caught on tape, right? And they see people doing these amazing stunts, and expect it’s going to go wrong.

-7:30am on a Saturday during the Olympics = US Hockey.

-This text exchange:

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I love them. So much. But I could definitely go for less talking about poop.

Trying to Solve the Mystery.

I love a good mystery/thriller in a book or a movie. In one of my kids, not so much.

Back in early November, when Bennett had a cough that had turned into bronchitis, we started investigating the possibility that his frequent, long-lasting coughing had an underlying cause. That post is here, detailing how fun he was on Albuterol for the first time (I know, that one’s going to be funny someday. Right now? Too soon.). We followed up with a trip to the allergist, which I wrote about here.

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Both our pediatrician and the allergist suspected intermittent asthma, brought on by sickness and/or allergies (exercise, thankfully, does not seem to be a problem). However, when we were at the allergist and he did the breathing test, he passed (meaning they didn’t detect the asthma at the time). And we didn’t see any improvement when he was on the Albuterol; his bronchitis finally cleared 2 rounds of antibiotics later, but a nagging cough hung around. FOR WEEKS AND WEEKS. Chronic coughing is kryptonite to me, I know this now.

During one bad coughing spell of a couple of days, I took him back to the doctor (this was very early December, I think), but we saw one of the other docs in our practice. To try to get a good idea of what was going on, since she’d never seen him before, she asked in depth about his health history. Long story and appointment short, she suspected that he might have silent reflux. Given his history of spitting up as a baby and his recurrent cough, she thought that this was something to consider.

I was very interested in this angle…I read up a lot on it, talked to Karen (she’s a dietician) and her husband Rich (a doctor) a lot, and had a nice long phone conversation with our pediatrician about investigating this as a possibility. He was on board, given that we weren’t so far seeing success with asthma treatment, and this couldn’t hurt to try.

We did a 3-week dose of Zantac (after reading about long-term side-effects, I was adamant about him not being on acid-reducer medications for long, but agreed to try it at the beginning to give him some time to heal if that’s what needed to happen), and at the same time, put him on a low-fat, low-acid diet. Which is harder than it sounds, particularly for a kid who doesn’t in the least need to be on low-fat foods. I mean, I purposely load his PB&J with peanut butter to get him a few extra calories!

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He religiously took the medicine, and I religiously watched his diet, and ya know what? He kept coughing. There were days that were better than others, but the cough did not go away. If it was reflux-related, we really should’ve seen some noticeable improvement over that period of time. And we didn’t.

So we abandoned the reflux idea.

And he kept coughing for the next few weeks.

It should be noted that Bennett is relatively unbothered by the coughing…just because it’s so normal to him, I guess. Unless he has bronchitis, he never seems to be in pain or anything.

However, Matt and I couldn’t take it anymore finally decided that I needed to take him back to our pediatrician and go over everything we’ve tried, and make a plan for what needs to happen next. We brought this up to our small group, and asked them to pray for Bennett to stop coughing, and for us to be able to find an answer to all of this.

The next morning, I called the doctor and made an appointment for the following week. The next day? Bennett stopped coughing. I’m not even kidding. He kept not-coughing all through the next week, and of course, did not have a cough when we went to the doctor (though, honestly, that wasn’t a huge deal…he’s heard him before, and his file shows his repeated issues with croup and bronchitis over the years).

The doctor and I went through everything we’ve tried, and he really felt that we can rule out reflux. Good, because that was a major pain in the rear. He really still thinks it’s asthma, and this time, he put him on an inhaled steroid for maintenance (twice a day, even when not coughing – he’s taking QVar for those of you in-the-know with asthma meds. Cheaper than Flovent for the record), and wanted us to have a rescue inhaler to use when he is symptomatic. I politely requested Xopenex, and he gladly prescribed that for me in place of Albuterol, calling it “Albuterol Lite.” So Bennett-on-speed will hopefully not be making a reappearance.

He’s been on the QVar for 2 weeks, and out of the blue on Monday, he started coughing again (tiniest bit of a runny nose, but I can’t even say he has a cold, it’s so slight), so I went and filled the Xopenex script yesterday and he started that. He’s using his inhalers like a boss, not having to use the spacer anymore, which is much easier.

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So, we’re in the “we’ll see” stage again. It’s maddening to not know if this is going to work, or if asthma is even what he has for sure. But I’ve definitely learned that asthma is a tricky and sometimes-elusive thing to pin down, so I’m trying to be patient.

Small group: keep praying. :)

Just a Little Encouragement…

…for those many friends of mine who have joined My Fitness Pal this month!

I just have to tell you how excited I am for all of you, and how proud I am of all of you!

12 of you added me right around January 1st (some were already on MFP prior to that time), and between the 12 of you, you’ve already lost over 40 lbs! Isn’t that amazing? Way to go!

One thing I forgot to mention in that first post was that you should take some measurements. I’m so mad that I didn’t do this at the very beginning of my diet…I think I did it about 6 weeks in. Watching those measurements move down was as exciting as watching the pounds go away for me! And being able to buy smaller clothes is also really motivating. I won’t lie; that’s one of my favorite things.

Also: I hope you’re truly making water your best friend. If you need a little kickstart, go buy a new water bottle…Target has these on clearance right now for 5 bucks. I like this one because it has the ounces printed on the side.

For some motivation: like my sister’s Facebook page!

Lots of people have asked what I snack on, so I’d love to compile a list of favorite snacks. Then we’ll all have a go-to. Comment here on the blog and I’ll add them!

Snacks
*Almonds – I love Blue Diamond Lightly Salted Almonds. 85 calories for 14 almonds. At the beginning of my diet, I remember thinking this didn’t nearly fill me up. But give it a little time…they’re full of protein and good fat, and if you stop eating at a whatever you’ve designated as a serving (half or a whole serving or whatever you have room for in your calorie count), it will take the edge off your hunger.
*Popcorn. My favorites are Skinnypop (huge bag at Sam’s Club is $5), Popcorn, Indiana’s Fit Olive Oil (I tried the real butter flavor, and didn’t like it. The Olive Oil one I bought it at Walmart), or Boom Chicka Pop’s Sea Salt. All of them have 35-39 calories/cup, and all are all-natural. When you want to eat a lot of something, these kinds of popcorn are a good choice. Look, too, for Kernel Season’s flavorings!
*Light cottage cheese – 1/2 cup
*Apple slices and a Tbl of peanut butter
*Broccoli, celery or carrots and a Tbl of dip (many dips are around 35 cal/Tbl) or hummus
*Greek yogurt. My favorite is vanilla Dannon Oikos because it’s not as tart as many. A whole container is 120 calories (I often eat a half a container with some granola).
*String cheese
*Clementines (around 40 calories)
*PopChips
*Veggie Straws and hummus
*Berries
*Steamed or roasted vegetables
*Triscuit crackers
*Pecans with dried cherries
*Sunflower seeds
*Reduced-sugar craisins
*Hard-boiled eggs
*Cinnamon roasted almonds
*Breakfast-on-the-go Mix
*Protein bars (check carefully for calories and sugar, though!)
*unsweetened applesauce
*Babybel Mini Light (50 cal)
*Pomegranate seeds (50 cal for half of a fruit)
*Sugar snap pea pods (1 cup = approx 40 calories)
*Dark Chocolate Pretzel Crisps (130 calories for 5; great as a dessert!)
*Pepita seeds
*No-Bake Energy Bites

Ok! Let’s talk snacks in the comments. And keep up the great work all of you! You’re going to be so glad you’re doing this hard work.

Making Me Smile Today…

It should be noted that a mere 19 minutes after posting this to the blog, the iPad was taken away indefinitely due to how rudely the boys were treating each other. Figures.

1. My boys’ school. It’s just such an amazing place for them to learn and grow. I’m happy I get to be involved there.

2a. The Subway worker thinks it’s weird that I’ll gladly eat an egg white sandwich at lunchtime. She was new…I’ll give her a break for thinking it’s weird AND not knowing how to make a sandwich. She’ll learn.

2b. That an egg white sandwich sounds good to me. A little over a year ago, I wouldn’t have considered that a decent breakfast/lunch choice.

2c. Wearing new jeans.

3. Jack Henry is so pumped for his 100th day celebration tomorrow. He doesn’t know what they’re doing because it’s a surprise, but “It’s going to be good. I can feel it.” was what he told me.

4. Watching Luke and Bennett take on leadership roles at school. Every day, B and his friend Ty walk the kindergartners who are car-riders down to the lobby of the school. Luke has several roles, but his daily bus safety patrol is a favorite.

5. #4 makes me especially happy because, you know, they don’t always show me their best side…I’m the one who gets to constantly ask them to stop talking about farts and remind them 100 times to brush their teeth.

6. JH’s Cardinal-fan-summertime snowman project at school. Adorable.

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7. The boys’ snacktime discussion of how good the special effects are in Back to the Future, “since it was from 1985 and stuff.” Also, that they call each other McFly.

8. Calories left at the end of the day = a glass of wine while sitting on the couch with Matt watching Nashville tonight.

One Step Forward, Two Back: The Organization Edition

Seriously. Just when I get excited that one area of my life/house is totally under control, I realize that two (or eight, whatever) are totally NOT under control.

**Sneak: I have a fun organizing surprise coming your way in a couple of weeks! Stay tuned.**

I’m lucky enough to have have 3 freezers: the one in the kitchen (it’s a side-by-side, horrible in terms of storage, makes me curse at it regularly), our extra bottom fridge/top freezer in the basement that we brought here from our old house (when you buy 6 gallons of milk at a time, you need an extra fridge), and our half-size deep freeze, a floor model purchased years ago, and still an awesome investment.

I buy lots of stuff in bulk: shredded cheese, chicken, ground beef, bacon, bread. Plus more stuff. Plus all of the applesauce Heather and I make annually. So we use a lot of this space.

However, I often don’t know what I have in the freezers. On the first of the year, prompted by what I don’t know, I cleaned them all out.

And then, I made a list of what’s in them, and stuck the list to the side with a cute magnet.

For example, I had 4 bags of leftover turkey breast from Thanksgiving. So I wrote: Turkey Breast 4 3 2 1. Then, I just cross out the 4 when I grab a bag of it to use, so that I know there are 3 left.

this was taken a while ago, so more has already been used! it's one of those things that makes me wonder why i didn't ever do this before now.

this was taken a while ago, so more has already been used! it’s one of those things that makes me wonder why i didn’t ever do this before now.

It is SO NICE when I menu plan to look at the list and build meals from there. It’s also really nice when I don’t menu plan, and can look at the list and find something quick.

this is the list of what's in the chest freezer and top freezer.

this is the list of what’s in the chest freezer and top freezer.

In short: I’d highly recommend taking an hour to do this. Totally worth it.

Now, here are 3 areas that look horrible, to balance out that win:

just keepin' it real.

just keepin’ it real.

i blame this mostly on the kids.  they come in here and take random stuff out and then don't put it back the right way.  hmm, i think i just realized who's going to be cleaning this area up.

i blame this mostly on the kids. they come in here and take random stuff out and then don’t put it back the right way. hmm, i think i just realized who’s going to be cleaning this area up.

stuff from the last picture regularly finds its way out here to this fort/tent city area that the boys are constantly  building and rebuilding.  honestly, i don't even care anymore that this part of the house is a disaster. until we have company over.

stuff from the last picture regularly finds its way out here to this fort/tent city area that the boys are constantly building and rebuilding. honestly, i don’t even care anymore that this part of the house is a disaster. until we have company over.

Sigh.

Back to another success. Now that the boys are wearing close to the same size in many of their clothes, keeping them straight is difficult. Particularly boxers and t-shirts, but also things that have just been handed down (and therefore I can’t remember where it’s supposed to go now). The conversation usually goes like this:

Me: Luke, those pants are way too short. This is your last day wearing them.

Luke: Ok.

Me, 4 days later, sorting clean laundry: Ok for real. Who wears these pants now?

It’s annoying. And things end up in drawers where they don’t belong, thus they don’t get worn. Putting initials on the tags won’t work unless I want to cross things out. So, I came up with another plan.

Dots. 1 dot for Luke. 2 for Bennett. 3 for Jack Henry.

this cardinals shirt is jack henry's...probably passed down since luke, since it'a molina one.

this cardinals shirt is jack henry’s…probably passed down since luke, since it’a molina one.

It’s fail-proof. And, everyone in the family understands the simplicity of the system, so everyone can help sort clean, folded laundry.

It only took me forever to figure this out, but there are still lots of years with all 3 boys in this house and the opportunity to accidentally switch up their clothes, so better late than never, right?

What’s working for you? Or commiserate with me on the areas I’ve let go. Please share!

Little Bits

None of these necessitate a post of their own, but they are all little tidbits of daily life around here that I want recorded.

-Whether the team is good or bad, the boys never miss an Illini basketball game. Game time looks like this around here:

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last week’s fireside pizza picnic at game time

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sunday afternoon game

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littlest illini fan likes to have something else to do during the game, but still be in the same room as everyone.

I love it. I love that they’ll always share this bond and memory of their childhood. And that Matt is always alongside them for this.

- Bennett and Jack Henry have long had an oil-and-water relationship for the most part. There are glimpses of happy moments like this one…

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b can be such a sweet and kind teacher/helper.

…but usually, they’re bickering or picking at each other. Like any time they’re together.

They’ve been sharing a room for 18 months now, and surprisingly, there really aren’t any problems with this arrangement. In fact, bedtime is the one time of day that they seem to actually like each other. Almost every night for the past month now, there is a lot of giggling and whispering coming from their room at bedtime.

I’ve admitted on here before that I am not a patient person when bedtime rolls around. Usually, I’m feeling very much like I just want them to go to bed, so that I can have a little bit of quiet before I want to go to bed (yes, that’s selfish. But it’s also true, which is why I’m saying it.).

Lately though, I’ve fought the urge to shush them as they lay there laughing. It’s the only time of day they’re friends. Even though it kind of makes me crazy, I need them to like each other.

So, future Bennett and Jack Henry: I sincerely hope that this helped your relationship. Know that I decided that it’s worth the 15 minutes of lost sleep.

- I love weekends during our baseball off-season. They’re just so chill and fun and we get stuff done around the house. It’s fabulous. Of course, I love baseball season, too. But managing our calendar during that time just gets more than a little crazy.

I will need to see this in writing in April, when I’m wondering if some sense of calm will ever return to our house.

-I love our church. Being part of a community is so important.

Happy Sunday!