Thursday, January 29, 2009

Of Note

I received a truly lovely thank you note in the mail today. You know the kind that come on a personalized note card reminding you that you’ve made a friend far above your station. I LOVE personalized note cards, envelopes and the like. They ooze sophistication, thoughtfulness, and a grown up priority list that includes things to do like “order personalized note cards.”

The only personalized anything I use these days are those free return address labels you get in the mail. Of course, they’re not supposed to be free. My stack of poorly designed stickers was offered in exchange for and in expectation of a donation—to a children’s hospital, to breast cancer research , to the Audubon Society. Quite sadly, although I liberally use the labels to assure the safe voyage of such important matters as keeping the lights on and the house warm, I’ve never sent a donation. It’s the worst kind of karma, really.

Today, though, I am inspired. I am a grown up after all. Securely in my thirties with three kids and some degrees collected over the years to show for it, I think it’s time I ordered some more demur stationary supplies. Of course you’re probably thinking, “Maybe then I will get the thank you note she owes me from last October.” And you would be right. I think about the hundreds of thank yous I owe you nearly every day—the weight of my social thanking responsibilities often gives me a heavy heart. So tonight I will carefully select a note card and design that speaks to the gratefulness and joy I hope to relate and will then start to put to paper the thanks that I’ve recited in my head for you again and again. You know who you are. Watch your mailbox.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


McKay is a gifted conversationalist. I would say he has a knack for conversation. A flare. A penchant. A talent. He listens intently, waiting for his turn to speak. And then, as if he can sense what you need to hear, he launches into what can become extended diatribes (or soliloquies as the occasion calls for) full of inflection, pauses, twisted facial expressions and frequent full body smiles.

Matt and I have discussed it again and again. There is no way our other kids verbalized like this. And so early. It's like he understands us, but speaks another language. Maybe it's Heavanese. You know--like Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese. Yes. McKay speaks Heavenese.

It's a beautiful language; filled with wisdom and purity. It makes me smile from head to toe and even giggle in the middle. There is a tricky way he curls his lips to make some of the sounds. I love watching his lips. Even more impressive is that a great deal of what he says is based purely on feeling, reflecting and seemingly commenting on the emotions swirling around him.

What would it be like to have to feel your way through life again? To rely purely on your instincts to navigate? When do we lose that ability—or begin to ignore it? I propose the world would be a much different place if we all did more to feel--or pay attention to our feelings. What if when a neighbor insists she’s fine, we could sense the need in her voice, then instead of ignoring it for the million reasons we've learned to ignore so much that is pure and right and good, we fill it? What if?

Just something I'm learning from my little mentors these days. Perfecting the art of feel may be one of my most challenging lessons yet. But then the rich lessons my littlest one was sent to share rarely come easily. He leads with his heart; a heart so big and full of voice there was only room enough for half of it. Feel on.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Six years ago today Tyler made me a mother...

Today, he just makes me proud.

Again and again and again.

Happy Birthday Ty-bug.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Five Fabulous Months

Five months of growing
Five months of teaching
Five months of firsts
Five months of faith
Five months of worry
Five months of victories
Five months of cuddles
Five months of kisses
Five months of holding on
Five months of letting go
Five months of hope
Five months of healing
Five months of prayers
Five months of love
Five months of amazing grace

A lifetime to go…

Today we celebrate the first five months of our time with Mr. McKay. If I could bottle his spirit, I’d give it to you. If I could capture his scent, I’d send it to you. If I could wrap up the warmth of his cheeks, I’d surround you in it. If I could fill you with his giggle, you’d never stop smiling. He is a miracle. My miracle. Our miracle. The Lord’s miracle. I am so glad he’s mine.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What I've Been Meaning to Say

I've been feeling full of things to say these days. Not particularly wise or memorable things, but personal revelations of sorts nonetheless. However, I have found it difficult to blog.

I meant to blog last Thursday, but it evolved into a de facto date night. The boys were enjoying a night of life-size dinosaur bliss (thank you Stace and Stratt) so Matt and I were left with our littlest man to relish memories of a former life when we had just one child at home. It was nice--for about 30 minutes. Then it felt weird so we headed out to do some shopping. We wandered, we browsed, we completed our list and in an act of unrestrained impulse, we purchased a frozen yogurt to share on the ride home. Wild, I know. Say all you want about how life changes after kids or thirty or whatever your imaginary milestones happen to be, but that night was simple and relaxed and wonderful. So I did not blog that night.

The next day was my birthday. I woke up early to run. (A new self-prescribed ritual for personal sanity that has revolutionized the mood of our kingdom tremendously over the past few weeks--but that discussion is for another time.) It wasn't long before Ty bounded downstairs to wish a cheerful good morning and ask when I was going to make breakfast. My half hour of "me time" was clearly coming to a close.

Sweaty, I stepped off the treadmill and rubbed his bedhead. We headed upstairs where after he asked me what day it was, he eagerly presented me with a gift. I opened the package and pulled out a clearly homemade but impressively symmetric beaded necklace. "Do you like it mom, do you like it?" "I love it," I said as I slipped it over my head to complete my haphazard look. It was perfect.

I am finding as I journey farther and farther into my thirties, I have a tendency to want to forget celebrations like birthdays, to simply let occasions like this roll by. Sure we can go to dinner, have some cake. Whatever. Just nothing too fancy. But as the days leading up to and even for a few days after reminded me, celebrating others is a life skill most kids need to be taught.

For my boys the hustle, bustle, fun, and play of everyday revolves solidly around their needs. Their wants. Their happiness. And so it should. Every kid deserves to be the center of someone's universe. Mine are each superstars in their own galaxies and they know that. I would have it no other way.

But there are times when the spotlight must shift so they understand how to recognize others in the crowd. Unfortunately as I watched them watch me try to uncelebrate another year of life, I saw disappointment. As I thanked people for calling, but let them know it really wasn't necessary; confusion. When I received a gift and told the giver they really shouldn't have; shock. When I told Matt I didn't care if we did anything to mark the occasion; pleading. Finally I realized they had solidly and willingly shifted the spotlight and I was refusing to step into it. My actions were somehow telling them their birthdays didn't matter, and perhaps their milestone was somehow not worthy of a gift or outing. That, devastatingly, I just didn't find the occasion that important. And to three and five year olds everywhere that's akin to asking them to skip Christmas. Simply unacceptable.

So we celebrated. I undid the downplaying, and showed them I was happy to celebrate my birthday. They made (or unwrapped) a "cake" with the help of Grandma and all things Hostess they were only too proud to claim. We went to dinner. We sang. They helped me blow out candles and I counted all the reasons this birthday meant a fresh start of a new adventure. So I did not blog on that night.

Then it was the weekend. My head was swimming in things I wanted to work out in this space. You see that's the trouble with starting a blog or a journal or a napkin where you jot things down to work them out--once you start, you're hooked. It's cheap therapy and it's not half bad to go back and read about lessons you've already learned. It somehow keeps you from having to relearn them. And that's a good thing. But instead I watched CNN all weekend. The Obama Express, the pre-inauguration festivities, the speculation on our new president's first 100 days, the hope. Oh, the hope of people all over our nation. I watched and was inspired and overwhelmed. So I did not blog then either.

Today, though, I am blogging. As I end this exhaustingly long post (and if you're still with me please lean forward so I can place a gold star on your patient noggin for reading my rambling) I know that somewhere in the busy-ness we are learning. We are growing. Somewhere in this blog that was started primarily to chronicle McKay's incredible journey, we are experiencing something even more breathtaking--a place called normal--a place where there are days without tubes or surgeries or mystery illnesses. And while I will take my life lessons where I can get them, I prefer learning them from normal. It's nicer here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


As bedtimes go, ours is filled with two stories each night~ one "I have to read this for school" book and another "I choose to read this for fun". (My little readers hardly suspect they are learning from both books...moms are so sneaky.)

Tonight Ty and I read about Spider-Man and the evil Mysterio. Mysterio will stop at nothing to trick and hide the truth from Spider-Man who always seems to thwart the wrong-doer's elaborate plots just in time to save Aunt May from certain doom. In tonight's saga, Spider-Man figured out he was fighting all of his most fearsome foes in a computer-generated parallel universe. Once he figured out it wasn't real, he smashed out of the lifelike set created by Mysterio to trap the superhero, grabbed Aunt May and headed home.

Surely this must be what's happening in our own life. As Mr. McKay and I made the familiar journey to his pediatrician's office for his synagis (RSV) shot and the eagerly awaited results of last week's tests, we were rewarded for our patience and perseverance with only more mystery.

"All the tests came back negative," his doc tells me. "And his surgical team highly doubts any surgical connection to his symptoms."

"So what does that mean?" I ask.

"It means it wasn't C-diff, it wasn't rotavirus, and we'll probably never know exactly what was making McKay sick, but it seems the meds have improved things, so I'm not too worried about it," he answers.

"Oh," I cleverly respond. "Yes. I guess as long as he's good now..."

So tonight, after reading about our favorite web slinger and Mysterio, I think that instead of obediently packing up my poor, pricked little babe and heading for the car; I should have been checking for the trap door to reveal the evil mastermind behind all the drama and knock his lights out.

Seriously, could I make this stuff up? Just as we're getting our feet under us; just as I contemplate doing things like maybe making an appearance at work; just as we think about making vacation plans for the summer; we are stopped by some mysterious illness that robs us of sleep and confidence only to find out that it eludes detection. Will it return? Will our fear of it and its evil band of potential foes continue to rule our lives? Truth be told: For the short term, yes. Our fears will cast the deciding vote on most decisions for the coming months (at least through round three of surgery). For the long term, never. Fear is the opposite of faith. And if there is one thing Miracle McKay is good at teaching us again and again it's to enjoy the present and be not afraid.

So tomorrow night, a story will be a story. No thoughts of exacting revenge and refusing to believe that the cause of so many significant events in our life will and must remain a mystery. I will enjoy having my freshly scrubbed five year old cuddled securely under my wing, take in a deep breath of his still damp hair, and enjoy the next installment of Spidey. And know that, together, despite the odds, all will turn out well if we continue to cheer for the good guys.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What's In a Smile?

I got an inadvertent guilt trip from my five year old earlier this week—an experience I’m told is as universal as it is inevitable. It came during a review of pictures downloaded from his purple digital cheese machine. Of course he laughs hysterically as he explains all of the almost unintelligible shots; recounting to me exactly what they’re of and why he took them. And after quite a bit of head turning and a lot of imagination, I come to understand what he’s talking about and how that might be funny from his 4-foot point of view. We laugh together.

We laugh until we reach an impressively well framed shot of me (considering the others in the bunch). For some reason the giggling stops and Ty just stares.

"Why don't you smile like that anymore Mom?" he asks.

"What?" I respond. "I smile all the time, Ty."

"Yea, but not like that," he says.

Shocked and with my feelings more than a little hurt I, too, stare at the picture now. What is so special about that smile, I think to myself. In fact the picture is a pretty unflattering shot taken from below chin level looking up at me in my XL t-shirt in my ninth month of pregnancy after just waking up. Seriously, who's gonna miss that chick? (Against my better judgement I have included the photo below merely as evidence. There is to be no downloading, no reproductions, no speaking of the photo in public~)

"Is there something wrong with the smile I use now?" I press.

"No, it's fine. Yea, it's fine mom. It's just different from that one," he says. "Oh look that's my Lego guy, he's so funny because..."

Ty had moved on from our smile discussion, unaware that I would not do so for days. I felt guilt. Had the last few months changed me more than I realized? Had I unknowingly passed that change onto the boys I had painstakingly tried to protect from it?

To know true guilt, the kind that's so sticky a good night's sleep can't scrub your heart free of it, you must disappoint someone for whose life you are currently responsible and that you love more than you can explain. I felt guilty.

So the next day I tried to smile the smile from the picture. I even wore the t-shirt. No luck. And that made me not want to smile at all.

So I asked the Lord, "What's happened to my smile? Why has my spirit changed? Please bless me to have a happy soul. To regain the smile that Ty knows."

But my answer was so very different than I expected. My mind was overwhelmed with thoughts of "A season for all things." I felt assured the Lord had blessed me with a new way of being. A wiser way of being. A more compassionate heart. A soul more aware of my blessings. Inward perspective that had changed my outward appearance. I felt impressed that Ty was not disappointed with me; just adjusting to his "new" mom. The season for that smile had passed.

Although I am not totally at ease with my answer yet, I know it is true. Try as I might to change the way my smile looks these days, even if I succeeded, it wouldn't be the new me. So maybe I am a little more serious. Maybe my smile is more reflective than gushing. What I have come to realize as I pondered the smile question, what has helped wash the guilt away, is the acknowledgement that the only thing that really matters is that I'm still smiling--and I mean it; on the inside and the out.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Math Homework

I always did pretty well in math, but I never really enjoyed it. In fact I dropped AP Calculus to join the Newspaper Staff. Unfortunately math haunts me everywhere I go these days. Here are some math problems that make my head hurt:

1 Baby+
5 medications
(1 medication must be given twice a day, with doses 12 hours apart
2 medications must be given 3 times a day but at least two hours apart from each other)=

Answer: Hmmm?

Here's another:

1 surgeon +
Approximately 16 years of post-high school education+
5 hours of work on an itty bitty heart=

$20, 851.72 for the surgeon (This is the fee for just one of the two surgeries he did that day...And he's worth EVERY penny!)
$4,216.00 for the anesthesiologist
$50, 574.87 for the facility

Answer: Stay in school. Become a surgeon. OR...Double check your insurance coverage.

Now that you're warmed up, here's the biggest head scratcher of all:

How can a baby that looks like this on the outside possibly have anything wrong on the inside? Riddle me that Batman, riddle me that.

Update: McKay is doing well today. Samples are collected. Tests are in progress. Medications are being administered. Prayers are ongoing. Premature aging of his parents: complete. :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Worth the Wait

It was a long day of waiting, but I think our worries are taking a promising turn. We finally got a call from the pediatrician's office later than expected tonight requesting some further tests for Mr. McKay. Matt was dispatched to collect the "sample" kit and we were instructed to pick up some special concoctions from the hospital pharmacy early tomorrow and add them to McKay's meds as soon as possible. (Apparently no regular pharmacies have the stuff tonight.)

And while I was not able to actually speak to the doc about what today's meeting of the minds concluded, the course of action seems to indicate a leaning toward something infectious rather than physiological. YEA! I will take germ issues over broken or leaking parts any day.

Of course, I'm sure we'll find out more in the days to come when the tests get back and we see what's causing McKay's little body to behave this way. I am so glad we are starting our mystery-solving with the non-invasive stuff first. Of course, I'm not the poor babe swaddled in a saran wrap-lined diaper tonight--it's for the sample. Oh the things we do for our babies!

Thank you for your prayers and concern. I truly believe we can and do will things to happen, for better or worse. And I'm certain your will has brought untold blessings into our lives. XOXO

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Little Scare, Lotta Love

We just rolled in from another run to the pediatrician's office. McKay has started some minor internal bleeding. We noticed it in his stool late Thursday night and called the NP on call at Primary's. She said bringing him into the ER was more risky due to rampant RSV admits than waiting and just watching it to make sure it didn't continue or worsen; two days later it hasn't stopped.

Tonight his doc did a blood test and chest x-ray and all seems well on those fronts. At this point he's concerned his uber-frequent (2-3 bowel movements an hour) and sometimes bloody stools might be associated with profusion issues to his digestive tract. That means there's a complication that's developed that is causing the body to redirect blood from the digestive system to other parts of the body. It's not good. I say, NO! I am not doing this. He's been fine. He'll be fine.

Of course all of this may be what's contributing to McKay's worsening sleep patterns and my subsequent lack of clear thinking. Will there ever be a day when I don't worry about this baby? I mean a day without exhausting real, true, valid worries? I am feeling myself becoming a little too anxious when I'm not near him, checking on him a neurotic number of times, checking and double checking his meds. I am seriously not like this in the real world. I'm fun. I'm spontaneous. I'm so laid back people have actually commented on it. I'm so not me right now. I was really hoping for some trivial, normal baby weirdness tonight. Ughhh.

The plan is for his ped, cardiologist, and cardiothoracic surgeon to pow-wow on Monday. Somebody please come up with something! I know they will. Mac has amazing docs and when they get together, I'm sure they will figure this thing out.

In the meantime, it's my favorite angel, Anonymous, who keeps me hoping and praying for all things healthy and good. As has become a wonderful part of our life lately, another mini miracle dropped its anonymous little self off on our doorstep last night. I scooped up the festively wrapped package and brought it inside for closer inspection. I really didn't know what to say except, "People are really amazing; really so amazing." Sitting in front of us was a tangible, hold it, touch it, peruse it, flip through it, printed version of our entire 2008 blog. It was kind of amazing to behold. First because of its volume. Have I really written that much? And second because of its content. Have I really worked through all those emotions with all of you? Have you really put up with reading so much of our inside story? It was a volume to behold and it will become a treasure for our family for a long time to come. Thank you, thank you my little anonymous angel. I would love for you to reveal yourself so I can give you more than just a cyber hug. Consider it, okay?

So cross your fingers for McKay one more time won't you? Cross your fingers that this mystery trouble will pass and he will sleep and we can pretend we are normal again. Cross your fingers for that. No. On second thought, forget the fingers. Please kneel on your knees instead. Huge love to you all.