Pure Vanilla

20191014_130707638_iOSWe are often asked what is like in our family.  We have all kinds of funny little phrases that we use to quickly describe it.  My previous favorite was, “A tentless circus with lots of side shows.”  This picture above is my new metaphor.  Going forward, I am just going to show people this picture.

I am sure some of you who are wondering where this is going.  Well, that is exactly the point, so without further delay, allow me to explain.

Beautiful is away right now, helping Princess and her Prince Charming with the birth of their own Princess (to be blognamed after I get to know her a bit better).  That meant, I was on morning tidy up.  After I had worked at for a bit and was feeling pretty good about the general state of the house, I noticed that I had walked by this little gem at least a half dozen times.  Yes, that really is a botte of Pure Vanilla Extract. Normally, a bottle of vanilla extract wouldn’t even warrant notice, never mind becoming my new theme meme.  However, this particular bottle was sitting in our living room right next to the TV.

My thoughts ran something like:

  1. Is that a bottle of extract?
  2. Yep, vanilla extract to be precise.
  3. That will make a really nice icing, but it will yellow a bit. 
  4. Almond extract is a nice choice too.
  5. I wonder who put that in living room.
  6. I wonder what they were making.
  7. How about that,  I didn’t even wonder why that was sitting there.
  8. Yep, this sort of thing is common enough that it did not even phase me.

And there it is:  The very metaphor of plainness – vanilla, in completely the wrong place and this is perfectly normal for us.  When you have special needs children in your family, you learn to expect the unexpected, and you learn that your normal is not like other people’s normal.

You drive through the neighborhood and see the immaculately trimmed bushes and edged yards, and you think, “Good for them!  It must be nice to have that kind of time.”  You see other kids running out to go play after school, while yours is hustled off to speech therapy.  Other parents are posting their kids and their new sports trophy, or a picture from some exotic location while you are just trying to figure out which child has school the next day.  You have to ask your child three different ways if he likes his quesadilla spicy of plain, because you’re not sure if he really understands the question (and he is giving you a different answer every time – turns out after 6 times, he likes them both, but he prefers not spicy).  And you have big children that are still having toileting accidents.  That is our normal.  And we love it.

Ours is a blessed life.  We live  with some of the most amazing people on this planet.  I am privileged to visit with, and enjoy them every  day.  And Beautiful and I have the responsibility of helping them find their way in the world.  My only regret is that most of you will never have the chance to know these amazing people like we do.  They see the world differently and they enjoy deep satisfaction in things we are “too busy” to see.  They are eager to share that world with us every day and it constantly blows my mind.

That is our Vanilla Extract.  It might look like everyone else’s, but ours is sitting in the living room, and we are just fine with that.


4 Weeks–4 Girls


Eight weeks of Chemo have passed so that means the number of the day is 4.  Four weeks of chemo and 4 girls is the theme for this post!  The picture to the left is the four girls a couple of years ago.  We haven’t taken pictures yet this year, and last year we just did one group shot.  So…a couple of years ago will have to do.

Beautiful was blessed to have all four at our home today, albeit not at the same time.  We woke up to the the normal routine of getting the kids off to school so Curly Girly and Bright Eyes (middle left and right respectively) were part of the primary focus to get things rolling.  Curly Girly can turn anything into a task 10 times longer than you thought humanly possible, but she is also the first to volunteer to help.  It is a unique combination.  If the task is for her, she will take all day (e.g. 20 minutes to eat a child’s yogurt – what are you chewing?  there is nothing to chew in plain yogurt!?).  If it is helping someone else, she will shift gears and move faster than I am usually ready for.  Bright Eyes must share an exciting story with you that will include copious amounts of detail that might cover such important aspects as what type of braid was in the ponies mane, but it is not a normal braid it is a braid that wraps around other braids and it makes a braid out of braids and it shakes when the pony canters and each braid had a different color bow …(well you get the idea).  But the story will also be delivered in rapid fire (and a little bit monotone) so you better be on your toes because she KNOWS when you are not listening and feedback is always required.

Sweetness (far right) is Coco’s bride and brought over the grandchildren for Beautiful to enjoy (I of course benefited as well – it was great to be able to see them without competition).  What a treat to be able to share the day with all of them.  We get to enjoy hearing about what is happening in her, equally large family, and visit with the little people all at the same time.  Princess (far left) came and joined us for a bit and it rapidly became a little impromptu party.  They all love Aunty Guh and of course we all always happy to have a visit from any of the kids, but Princess always bring the sunshine with her.

Back to my bride.  Beautiful is definitely feeling the affects of her Chemo.  Her hair is almost completely gone now and that has created some funny scenarios.  I don’t want to say she worries about things, but she sure puts a lot of thought into situations that never even register with me.  For instance, she actually put thought into what she would do if she were pulled over.  To her, the wig doesn’t look like her license (although most people can’t tell it isn’t her hair) so she was concerned that a police officer might think she were disguising herself.  She was trying to decide if she should remove her wig to show she was going through Chemo.  I had to gauge my response very carefully.  I wasn’t sure if I was being punk’d or if I was dealing with “Chemo brain” (yes that is a real thing).  I took the safe course and just asked what she decided.  She hadn’t so I guess we will cross that particular bridge if we find it in our way.

We had a little extra help this week.  Thanks to the 5th grade Moms at Wake Christian Academy.  They made a bunch of freezer meals so we are well prepared for impromptu dinners when Beautiful is not up to it.  My meal repertoire is limited to about 4 and is very heavy in the meat and bread departments.  That would get old in a hurry.

We are looking forward to wrapping up another week.  While we do have some fun things planned (pictures, a birthday party, etc.) the real special sauce is knowing that we are one more week closer to getting Beautiful through her chemo.  We will continue to press on knowing that not only are we getting closer, but each day and each aspect of this challenge is shaping us.  We are being refined for a purpose.  It may be that purpose is to reach one other person (Beautiful meets someone new at chemo each week it seems), or it may be something bigger.  We don’t need to know, we just need to continue on and let our God and Father take care of those details.  He knows and He never stops caring.

Please continue to remember us in your prayers.  It is a source of great strength and it is a blessing to all.  Until we meet at the blog again.  Go Fourth!

Don’t use it all at once

GenerousSampleWe all know the helplessness of discovering that you are out of “personal tissue” (AKA Toilet Paper) after you have found yourself in the state where you need personal tissue.  After you have been there, you learn to be a bit more proactive and replenish supplies before someone is stranded.  Yesterday, Beautiful was giving directions to Bright Eyes in order to avert future catastrophe.

I wandered into the master bath in time to hear the directions Beautiful gave her in order to find the T.P.  After she was gone for at least twice as long as she should have, Bright Eyes arrived with her contribution, all smiles and pleased as punch that she could help.

Yep, you guessed it.  That little 2 ply square is what she brought to replenish our depleted supply.  It might not be effective, but she sure had fun bringing it.

A rose by any other name…

RoseMy little Bright Eyes had a gem the other day.  We were spending some time together and I was taking her with me on some errands.  It was close to lunch time so I told her she could pick ANY place she wanted to eat.  I would not necessarily make that same offer to the older kids, but it was safe with her.

As we drove down the road, she was naming different places.  She was just able to settle on McDonalds when she changed her mind.  She exclaimed, “Oh I know, we haven’t had Jingle Bells for a long time.  Let’s eat there!”  I didn’t know how to even begin to decode that one and glanced over my shoulder to see her, and hope for a clue.  That was when I saw the Taco Bell out her window.  Bingo! 

It is true that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I am not sure that changing the name of Taco Bell really helps.


kissy heartsParenting is all about shaping the eternal.  Like craftsmen, our goal is to bring out the very best in those little hearts and minds by putting the very best into them.  Each child we work with is a unique work of art that will last forever and will go on to invest in other little, eternal people.  It is an amazing process, but it is also a full time job because their little minds are constantly being exposed to images, and thoughts.  Some will be good, some bad, and others amazingly funny.

P.C. demonstrated this in typical P.C. form.  We are all (im)patiently waiting the arrival of “Little Buddy,”  that cute little bundle of love between Coco and Sweetness.  There has been all kinds of interesting ideas exchanged between the ladies about how to get the labor started.  I have no idea if any of them actually help, and I am not about to even begin to speculate about that.  That would sort of be like the pot telling the potter how to go about their work.  Even so, that did not intimidate P.C. from offering his own advice.  Partly because he is just P.C. and will offer ideas to anyone (even if they didn’t ask), but more importantly, because he had some valuable information to share.  He knew how this all worked.

Beautiful decided to take the “farm route” to school yesterday.  This was the inspiration that P.C. needed.  He informed Beautiful that he knew how to get Little Buddy out.  He told her, “Coco and Sweetness just need to eat, then kiss and then hearts will pop out of their heads.  After that, Little Buddy will come out.”  You see, that is how the chickens do it in Minecraft.

Yes, my son has his understanding of reproduction from a virtual Lego building game.  We will fix that when the time is right, but for now, that is close enough!  Our minds were created to know creation.  They do not handle a knowledge vacuum gracefully.  I am grateful that there was information there for him to work with.  Given P.C.’s creative thinking, I am not sure where that would have gone without his Minecraft knowledge.  I am glad I will never find out. 

In the constant struggle to shape their little minds and hearts, we sometimes miss things. That is why it is important that we think about how to reach and grow our children.  We would like to miss as little as possible.  As a parent, it is comforting to know that Minecraft has my back.

And, yes, we are still (im)patiently waiting Little Buddy’s arrival.

Redistribution of Wealth


We had a redistribution of wealth here yesterday.  No, this is not a political discussion, but it is a funny little illustration of how early human nature manifests itself.  Let me explain.

It all began when I started handing out the gold.  Pooh Bear was very excited that he was a recipient of the distribution.  He was happy until he noticed that his pile of gold was smaller than mine.  That was when the trouble began.  Poor Bear informed me that he saw a problem with the size of our piles.  He was polite but insistent.  I did not relent because, you see, we were talking about those golden sticks of goodness.  Yes, I am talking about French Fries!  [Editorial note: He was recently introduced to fries with ketchup and that took the goodness up to a completely different level]

I carefully explained that I was bigger and needed a bigger pile.  He was not buying it.  The piles of fries were all that mattered and they were different.  Need had nothing to do with it.  My explanation fell on deaf ears and then the grasping began.  Pooh Bear decided if I was not going to help, he was going to solve the problem for himself.  He promptly hopped up on his knees and grabbed a fistful of fries to add to his pile.  This was getting to be very entertaining so I ran with it.  I decided to make the piles even and see what would happen.

As you guessed, there was much rejoicing in the land as the wealth was now equitably distributed.  Then the eating began in earnest.  My pile quickly diminished and once again we had a have, and a have not.  However, the roles were now reversed.  I pointed this out to Pooh Bear, a normally generous young fellow to see what he would do.  He smiled said, “All done,” and gave me the sign for all done.  It is funny how in these circumstances it looked suspiciously like “Talk to the hand.”  I had a laugh.  I was not going to a beneficiary of another redistribution.  Since I spent my gold, I was all done.  He continued to happily munch for a while, keeping a wary eye on me to make sure I was not going to resort to his solution.  The lad was definitely catching on.  Clearly he has older siblings.

I went back to my day and came back a few minutes later to check on him.  He was all done too.  The really funny thing is that he never even finished his pile of fries.

It is funny how we can absolutely need something when someone else has it, and then find we really didn’t need it at all.  It was a good lesson for both of us.  I clearly didn’t need as much as I initially thought, and in the end, neither did he.  Even after the good natured conflict, we both had more than we needed.  That is the nugget in all of this.  I hope I remember our little lunch for a long time.  It was a timely lesson this close to Christmas.

Shifting Solar System

IMG_3355We had a change in the solar system recently.  You would think something like that would be memorable, but honestly I could not pinpoint the day it happened.  It just did.

It is sad for us, because, Beautiful and I enjoyed the old order.  We were the twin stars of Pooh Bear’s little world.  He would love nothing more than to see either one of us.  No matter what was happening if we walked into the room, everything else in his world stopped.

Every morning he would get up and charge into my office to get his morning hug and see what Daddy was working on.  That was then.  That was the old star.  Oh, he will still come see me, and I still get hugs, especially when he is tired or just needs a little “pick me up.”  But there are other things he needs to do now.

Pooh Bear is a busy toddler with a jammed packed schedule.  There are only so many hours in the day to play cars, watch Cars, or read about cars.  He has to make sure he is getting the most from his day.  If he were older, he might say he was “Redeeming the time.”  Or “Being a wise steward with his day.”  If he were more classically trained, “Carpe Diem,” might be his mantra.

As a parent it can be somewhat deflating to know that even in the eyes of a two year old, you take a back seat to things (sticking with the car theme here).  And that is where the problem is.

We don’t have children for our self-esteem or for how they make us feel important, needed or valued.  Children are a gift that we are able to enjoy protecting and pass along the pearls of wisdom that were given to us by our parents, or that we picked up along the way.  We are parenting well when we can equip them to not need us, and simultaneously do it in such a way that they still love us, and love to visit with us anyway.  Each child at each age has unique challenges that require help to overcome.  As we teach them to overcome those challenges, we are teaching them to stand, as much as possible, on their own.  You may be blessed with a special needs child that will always require your help their entire life.  Their independence will be limited to a large degree, but we need to give them what we can.

Being replaced in the solar system is a natural part of the world.  I have been through it seven times now.  It doesn’t get any more enjoyable to know you were demoted, but it does get easier.  At least in this case, a demotion is a good thing.  I might not be Pooh Bear’s sun anymore, but I know that is not because I got smaller. It is because his world got bigger.  That is fun to watch, if you are not too busy feeling sorry for yourself.

I might not be Pooh Bear’s sun anymore, but I know that is not because I got smaller. It is because his world got bigger.

Learning to Walk

We recognize that our little family is unique in many ways.  Sometimes we forget about those differences, but every once in a while, we are reminded of some of those oddities.  One such difference is the span of time between our oldest and our youngest. 

Pooh Bear is just learning to walk.  It is great fun to celebrate the victory of his little fankenbaby steps around the house.  It is even more fun when he initiates it on his own.  He is a late walker to be sure, but that is partly because he is such a competent crawler (he can crawl as fast as the other children walk) – a classic case of the “good being the enemy of the great.”

On the other book end we have Coco.  He too is learning to walk, but not with franken steps.  He is learning to walk on his own, be his own man, make his own decisions, and have his own family.  Yesterday, he bought a house and in December he and Sweetness will be getting married and they will truly start their new household together.

It is times like these, where we are able to reflect on life, that I really love.  No matter how much we change, we are still growing and still learning to walk.  Some people just have a bigger cheering section, while others are learning to walk in more subtle ways.  In the end, once we conquer the walking, we are able to live life in a completely new, and glorious way.  Like Pooh Bear, we cannot let “the good become the enemy of the great” and not be satisfied with where we are at.  Thankful yes. Satisfied never.

Blending is fun!


When you live in a blended family it is easy to forget what that might look like to people outside the family.  To the members of the family, all the various colors are completely natural.  However, that is certainly not the norm.  I ran into two funny situations in one week.

Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck, Goose

Earlier in the week I took Curly Girly to her gymnastics class.  Since the kids are on break, I took all of the little ones with me as well.  We had a merry time occupying the waiting area watching her perform various drills in between keeping track of little ones.  When it was time to leave, her teacher held the door and Thunder, P.C. and Curly Girly all filed out.  Bright Eyes was right in front of me while I pushed Pooh Bear in the stroller (that up to that point, he decided he didn’t need).  As we were leaving the instructor asked Bright Eyes where she was going.  Bright Eyes didn’t know because we had not talked about it.  I had only told the children that they needed to load up.  The instructor saw her hesitation and told her that she needed an adult in order to go outside.  I realized at that point that she thought Bright Eyes was escaping and not really with the rest of the family.  I helpfully explained that she was with us and we all trooped out to the van.

The whole encounter was odd, but I didn’t really have time to think on it.  There were hungry kids to feed!  The next morning my waking brain had some time to process the whole event.  That was when it clicked.  Thunder, Curly Girly, P.C. and Pooh Bear, are all my wonderfully toned children.  Bright Eyes, the one who could be the genetic sister of Princess was odd girl out of this group.  Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck and a Goose.  No wonder she thought Bright Eyes was not with us.

Eye Care not a Benefit of your Employment?

WP_20131005_09_36_35_Pro_cropIn the middle of the week P.C. and I were leaving baseball practice.  B.T.W. if you have not seen kids this young play baseball, you are missing out!  It is almost too much fun.  But I digress. 

After practice, we stopped into a store to see if we could find some caps for his cap gun.  Unfortunately, those are getting increasingly rare and they didn’t have any. However we did find some great deals on some other items.  As we were checking out, the checker (I am not sure what the politically correct term is for a checker, so I am sorry if you were/are one and I didn’t get that right) was enthralled with his little antics.  At one point, she said, “Ah, how sweet, he looks just like you.”  WHAT!?  First, he is far more charming that I ever was, and secondly, we don’t share any features at all, other than being two humans with incredible (and dangerously distracting imaginations).  Aside from the fact that the checker needs a eye exam, I often wonder what they think the backstory of our family is.

As you can see, living in a blended family is a ton of fun.  Not only do we have fun inside the family, we get to have fun with people who cannot figure us out!

First Day of Preschool

WP_20130827_11_25_15_Pro_crop2Bright Eyes had her first day of Preschool today.  As you can see she is FULLY ready to shine. This year has been particularly fun as age four seems to be one of the “blossom” years (she even has the uniform for it).

She gave us another great example of that growth when she came home from preschool.  She was preparing to take her shoes off and put them in her shoe cubby by the door (a great idea that Beautiful came up with).  She decided she was going to need to some help.  When we asked her why she needed help, she explained,

I got sandbox in my shoes.

Yes those bright pink shoes in the picture below, not only look marvelous, they are also useful for transporting sandbox from preschool to home.  Who knew!?

The Bright Eyes of last year would have simply walked through the house, taken her shoes in two different rooms, and left us wondering where the sand that was all over the house had come from.  These little people never cease to amaze me!