Saturday, December 26, 2009

We had a White Christmas!

Can you believe it?
IMG_4727
The first one Dallas has had since 1926. My first one EVER.
IMG_4730
We are going to be moving in two days. Happy New Year, everyone! See you in 2010.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Visit with Santa

Santa visit
Katie was not amused, although she did keep whispering things in my ear that she wanted me to tell him.

You want a Wii?  Oh ho ho hoho.
This is Santa's face when Grace told him she wants a Wii.
Have you been good this year?
This is Santa telling them that Wii's are verrrry expensive, and we'll just have to wait and see about that. He's looking to me for some sort of confirmation, but I have adamantly told the children they are not getting one this year.

(Except, they are getting one this year. They have been verrrrry good, and mom feels very sorry for them right now. I hope they are surprised.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009, I will not miss you.

Y'all, this year has sucked. It really has. However, in an effort to rise above my self-pity of late, I will now share with you some photos of the not-so-sucky times of 2009. Both of them.

Let's see, there was bluebonnet frolicking... this just makes me teary-eyed about leaving Texas...

down to the river
then we went to swimming a lot I guess...
rrroar.
And oh, yes, Big Bend National Park. Okay, fine, there were three fun times. But THAT'S IT.
Tunnel on the way to Rio Grande Village
Okay, I had fun driving through the tunnel at Big Bend. Whatever.

Oh, and I have a new niece, so FINE, 2009, YOU HAD SOME GOOD STUFF. YOU WIN.
bailey
I don't know why this photo is so small, and I won't be able to take my own photographs of this sweet sweet baby until 2010. Gahhh, I'm ready for this year to be over.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bad news and good news and bad news and good

I have had SUCH an emotional week. I didn't post about it, but on Thursday we went to the nephrologist and just got some really bad news. I mentioned that on the MRI the tumor did not look malignant, but what I didn't know was that the MRI also found a large number of small cysts that hadn't been seen on the other scans. She feels that I have polycystic kidney disease, but she said she wasn't going to diagnose me 'officially' because once that term is written in my chart, I will be uninsurable. Given my already precarious insurance situation, I am grateful for this. She wants to do another scan in February and re-evaluate at that time.

I actually did write a lengthy post about how I was feeling about this devastating (possible) diagnosis, but I deleted it and gave myself a few days to get a handle on my emotions. It's a really bad disease. Very VERY bad. Incurable except for a transplant bad. And the statistics say that IF I have it, I've likely passed it on to 50% of my children. So 1.5 kids. It's bad. But it's not 100% definite at this point, so I'm not going to waste any (more) time grieving over it until it is.

So, to the good news. Today I went to the urology oncologist at UT Southwestern, the guy I had been waiting 3 weeks to see. He is an expert on kidney cancers, and performs nephrectomies all the time, so I hear. He was not impressed at all with my tumor. He said that it did not look cancerous, and that he would not recommend having surgery at this time. He wants to re-evaluate it in March and see if things have changed.

So, YAY! Thank God. It amazes me that two different doctors looked at the same scan and came up with such drastically different recommendations. My first urologist actually told me that she wouldn't wait more than a month before removing it, and this guy today said it would be a mistake to take it out at all right now. He said if it is cancer, that there's really no risk in waiting a few months because it is so small and very slow-growing. The bigger risk would be to remove my kidney and reduce my kidney function significantly when I have so many other problems to contend with. So the lesson is, kids, always get a second opinion.

Also, a lot of people have been asking how I'm feeling. I feel like a wrung out dish towel emotionally, but physically I have been doing okay. I have mild to moderate pain in my kidneys almost every day, but it is easily controlled with Tylenol. This may be due to a kidney stone in my left kidney, which could pass soon or not at all, or it may be related to the cysts, which means I'd better get used to it. My last blood tests showed an improvement in kidney function, and I took some more tests on Friday but haven't gotten the results yet.

There's just a little bit more bad news that came today just a few hours after the doctor appointment. I haven't written much about it on the blog because it is quite personal (like this isn't), but my husband was laid off from his job last April. He has been doing contract work and he is great at it, and God has provided marvelously for all of our needs, but really we need a (steady) full time job with decent health insurance, especially in light of the last few months. There was a job in this area that we thought would work out perfectly, and today we found out that it is just not going to happen any time soon. We close on our house in 3 weeks, and it looks like we are going to spend some time at my parents' lake house in Georgia to regroup and wait to see what happens next. It's an adventure...she said half-heartedly.

Now to the final good news of the day to bring our roller coaster to an end: My parents are coming here for Christmas!! They just told me tonight, and I actually cried when I got off the phone because I am just so happy about it and so completely emotionally exhausted from this crazy crazy day. There are just some times in your life when you need to see your Mama and Daddy, and this is definitely one of them.

Plus the door handles on BOTH sides of my van broke off this week and I'm hoping my dad can fix them for me. BOTH door handles. The second one broke off in my hand yesterday and all I could do was laugh. So typical of the way this year has been going.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Suprise Snow

It never snows here. The weather forecasters said it wouldn't snow here. They said we wouldn't even have a frost.

They were wrong.

It only lasted about 2 hours, but it was fun.

In the back yard, we even had snowflakes shaped like basketballs. And one pogo stick.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Day After Thanksgiving!

I have a little MRI update of sorts. I went early Wednesday morning and had my innards scanned once again. It was a little creepy, but thankfully I didn't freak out or anything. I mainly kept my eyes closed and pretended I was on the beach. Anyway, the nephrologist called later that day and said that the report from the MRI indicated that the tumor in my kidney did not look malignant. THAT is big news. I know that is big news. She felt that we should wait on the surgery and look at it again in a few months to see if it has changed.

However.

We are trying not to get too excited about it until we see the surgeon on Thursday. His opinion is the one that counts. I know that sounds strange, but if I get it in my head that I'm not having the surgery, and then I walk in there and he recommends the surgery, I will seriously have some sort of emotional breakdown of ugly crying right there in his office. So right now I just think that it is really good that the tumor looked better on the MRI than it did on the CT scan, and I'm feeling hopeful that maybe just maybe things will turn out fine.

But still, maybe not. And even so, there are still plenty of other unknown long-term issues with both kidneys that we will continue to deal with.

So, to sum up: encouraging report, kidneys still in peril. Will know more on Thursday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today was bananas. Too bananas to even spell it out.

First of all let me start off by saying that I have been instructed to significantly cut back on my potassium intake, and the lack of chocolate and tomato in my life is causing me great duress. I will try to carry on with this post anyway.

Secondly, we have a contract on our house. They want to close December 28. So far they seem very sane.

Thirdly, I went to the doctor today to discuss the surgery. The good news is that all of my lab results came back almost normal, which for me is good, and the nephrologist has given me the okay to go ahead with surgery. The bad news is that sucker is going to be a BEAST. The incision will be from front to back, all the way around my right side. Allllll the way around. All. The Way. Around. I think they use a giant can-opener. And also one little minor detail, they're going to take out my rib. I'm having a RIB REMOVAL. IT'S BANANAS! And I can't even eat bananas!

Fourthly, my eye exam was fantastic. No cysts on the retinas, no vision problems. I was just so happy to finally get good news from a doctor. Now I am praying for a clear brain MRI, well, not clear, I mean, I want a brain to be in there, but a brain with no cysts. As long as the MRI looks good, one of the major deadly kidney diseases will be likely ruled out. And then we will just have the tumor and possibly another major kidney disease to contend with.

I can hear your questions now: Chrissy, when are you going to have the surgery? Which doctor are you going with? Where are you going to live when you sell your house? What will they do with your rib when they are done?

The answer to all of them is the same: I do not know.

I go for the MRI early Wednesday, and then next week I meet with two different surgeons, one of whom does this type of surgery laparoscopically on occasion for qualifying candidates, so I'm really looking forward to what he has to say. Hopefully he will say I can keep all my ribs.

Meanwhile, happy Thanksgiving to y'all! We're leaving tomorrow for Houston to see my sister and her family as well as some aunts and cousins that I haven't seen in quite a while. And I'm going to smell the potatoes but not eat them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Warning: Medical Jargon

I had a nephrologist appointment today, and I've really don't even know how to explain what happened, mainly because there's so much that I don't understand at this point. The main thing is that (I think) my kidneys are functioning well enough to go ahead and meet with a surgeon. This is a HUGE answer to prayer.

I had already made myself an appointment with a guy at UT Southwestern in Dallas who fit my list of correct credentials, but the funny thing is that my nephrologist called me right after I left her office and said that she was calling over to UT Southwestern to get me an appointment with a urology oncologist there, and I was like, "Oh, I'm one step ahead of you, baby." Okay, I didn't say that. I should have.

She also ordered an MRI and a long list of blood tests, and an opthamology referral to check for cysts on my retinas. ACK! Apparently this is a possibility? She also wants to check the MRI for brain cysts as well, because apparently this is a possibility too? Yikes.

There have been so many moments in the last two weeks where I thought that maybe this wasn't as big of a deal; it might not be cancer, it might be just this or just that. Today was not one of those moments. Specifically when the doctor told me that, yes, I do look like a candidate for one of these major kidney diseases, but that those diagnoses can wait until after I get this tumor issue solved. That's the important issue right now. So let's just put those potentially fatal life-altering diseases on the back burner, shall we?

The thing about this tumor is that it is possibly kidney cancer. I've read many different statistics, but the doctor today told me that it was a 50% chance. The thing about having possible kidney cancer is that it is still just a possibility, which means of course that there is the possibility that it is nothing, a 50/50 shot. However, it is not advisable to biopsy a kidney tumor because the needle will spread the possible cancer, and it really isn't a good idea to leave it in there in case it is cancerous, so tumors that look and act like cancer just have to be removed, period.

This leads us to the impending surgery. I don't know what to expect, but I suppose I will find out at my next apppointment. The internet tells me that a partial nephrectomy (removal of part of the kidney) is possible if the tumor is in just the right place, and I hope it is. A radical nephrectomy (full removal of the kidney) is actually an easier surgery technically and can be done laparoscopically with much less recovery time. The downside is, well, being down to only one kidney for the next 50 years, and I really don't want that.

I'm not totally certain about the hospital and recovery time for the partial nephrectomy; I've read in a few places that it is a pretty large incision and a 4-5 day hospital stay. (I also read a horrifying account of a radical nephrectomy that described the removal of ribs and a huge gigantic monstrous scar, but apparently that was written quite a few years ago and hopefully that was an unnecessary freak out on my part. Let's hope so.)

Meanwhile, I've been having lots of pain in both kidneys, but more so on the "non-tumor" side, which contains a 3 mm kidney stone that may or may not be 'exiting the premises', so that should make for a fun Thanksgiving.

So. To summarize, I don't know anything really, nothing has been ruled out, nothing is certain. I will go for an MRI and then I have an appointment the week after Thanksgiving with the surgeon. In the meantime, I made sure to get a prescription for some pain meds.

We plan to go to Houston next week to celebrate Thanksgiving with some extended family that we NEVER get to see, AND my sister is going to be there, and I am very excited about that. We contemplated canceling it; I'm hurting and cranky and money is tight, but we both agreed that we really need to see family and that it will be nice to get away for a few days.

Thanks again to all of you who have sent me encouragement; I love getting your comments and your e-mails and cards and I've even gotten a few packages. I appreciate all of the prayer and support. I am very blessed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Birthday Girl

My baby turned nine last week, and her party was this weekend. We invited her Brownie troop over for a back yard campout, and a good time was had by all. I spent exactly zero time planning this party, which is a big difference from what I normally do, but they are such a sweet group of girls, they really just entertained themselves and had tons of fun.
Happy 9th!
I did take the time to make her cake, though, can you tell? What a work of art.

In health news, I would like you to disregard everything I wrote in the previous post. Things change quickly around here. I've had phone calls and e-mails from so many friends and relatives who know about doctors and health struggles, and I've gotten excellent advice. My husband's cousin is a surgical oncologist, and he spent about 45 minutes on the phone with me the other night, reviewing and explaining my CT scan results and answering each of the many questions that I had written out for him. He reassured me that since I live in a *large* metropolitan area, there is really no need to travel to Houston to get good care. He knew exactly what type of surgeon and specifically what training was needed, and even did an internet search and sent me the names of a few doctors in town who had the specific training he recommended. And guess what? One of the doctors is actually a partner in the practice where I am already a patient. Huge relief.

So that's how it's been around here this weekend, moments of panic and dread followed by reassurance that this too will be fine.

This week I will take Tommy for his tonsil recheck, Grace for her annual checkup, and then I will go for testing at the nephrologist on Thursday. It's all medical, all the time around here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Feeling Better Thank You

I had the rug jerked out from under me on Tuesday, but today I think I'm finally getting back up and trying to come up with a plan. I called the urologist's office and got a long list of questions answered, and then I called random nephrologists and found one that could see me next week. That made me feel SO much better.

Everybody and my mama has been advising me to look around at surgeons and find "the best". I have no idea how everybody finds doctors that are the best, and googling things constantly is making me a little crazy right now. One thing that people have told me over and over again is to go to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I really like my current doctor, but I realize that I like her because she is personable and that I honestly have no idea what kind of surgical skillz she has.

So I looked around online for a good surgeon in Dallas, which got me nowhere, and then I called the doctor that I worked for last month at the Fair. He is an OB/GYN and a cosmetic surgeon. I explained the whole mess to him and asked him what doctor he would see if he was in my situation. He stated that without a doubt he would go to MD Anderson, simply because there are doctors in Dallas who do these types of surgeries here and there, mixed in with all of the other urology stuff that they do, and then there are the doctors at MD Anderson who do these surgeries constantly. That makes sense to me. So I am getting that ball rolling, but I have no idea how long that will take or what sort of logistical nightmare that will be set into motion.

In the meantime, I have received tons of support and encouragement from people who are praying for me and who love me. I am a very very blessed chica. Sometimes, though, I think when people hear I have had a cancer diagnosis, they assume that I am dying, and I'm not really sure how to respond to that yet. I know they mean well, and I don't want to be flippant and say "Oh, I'll be fine", because it is really scary and there are going to be some difficult things ahead for me, but I don't want people to think I've been given a death sentence either. Maybe I just feel awkward because this is still very new.

It may encourage you to know that I've already found plenty of things to laugh about. For instance, do you know what is a really good way to get what you want? Say you have cancer.
Take a conversation with my husband about where we want to eat, for example:

Me: I want Chic-Fil-A.
Greg: Meh, I don't know, we just had that last week.
Me: But I have cancer.

Works like a charm! Chic-Fil-A for everybody!

Actually it only worked about 3 times, and then he caught on. It was a good run, though.

My friend Kim made me laugh so hard today. I was telling her about my diagnosis and the surgery and THE SCAR! (Dear Lord, I'm afraid of the scar) and her immediate reaction was to tell me that it was such a wonderful thing that I had decided to wear a bikini for the past two summers, because those days are officially over now. I probably laughed for three straight minutes. That's a good friend.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Things have taken a turn.

I got some really bad news today from my doctor, and I've decided to write about it here, partly in a way to keep all of my info straight, and to work out my thoughts, but also because this is a good place to keep info for my family members and friends, since I tend to leave out pertinent information when I speak with them.

I met with my doctor today for my CT results. The CT scan that I had last week showed a suspicious mass on my right kidney that the doctor believes to be cancer. There's no way that we can know for sure that it is cancer until it is taken out and analyzed, but it looks and behaves that way, so we are treating it like it is.

My thoughts are a little scattered right now, and I am still a little stunned, so bear with me. This all started two months ago when I had a routine physical and my bloodwork came back funny. At the time, we thought it was a kidney infection, but a retest a month later showed the same thing. I began to have pain and other symptoms of a kidney infection, or so I thought, and was given antibiotics again. My regular doctor sent me for an ultrasound and referred me to a urologist, suggesting that perhaps I had kidney stones. Last week, the urologist looked at the ultrasound and told me that I had two cysts, one on each kidney, and that they were probably not cancer, but they weren't benign either. They were a rating of a 2 to 3 on the Bosniak scale, which Google told me was either an 18 or 33% chance of cancer. She told me the CT was to look for kidney stones, which could be a possible explanation of why someone so young would have that number of cysts in her kidneys.

Anyway, she sent me for the CT scan, and I came back for my appointment today to review the results. I saw the two cysts she had mentioned last week, which are apparently benign, as well as the tumor that appears to be cancer. She still classified it as a 3 on the Bosniak scale. (4 is the worst, sorry for the technical terms here.)

My understanding is that kidney cancer, when caught early, is not a terrible prognosis. Usually a section (or all) of the kidney is removed, and there is no chemo or radiation. However, there are a few potential complications in my case.

One is that the tumor is very small (1.5 cm), which seems like a good thing to me, but according to my doctor, it may be tricky for a surgeon to find it. I don't know how big of a deal that is.

Another potential complication is that the doctor is very perplexed about why I have the kidney cysts to begin with. She has been continually saying that it is very unusual for someone of my age with no prior family history and no other health problems or risk factors to have all of this going on. She wants me to get tested to rule out another major kidney disease and to test the function of my healthier kidney to make sure that it can support me since I will need to have some or all of the other one removed.

At this point I hope you'll forgive me for being technical, but my mom is going to be googling all of these things, so I need to go ahead and put it up here....The diseases I'm going to be tested for are Von Hippel-Lindau disease (this is a genetic disorder and seems very unlikely); polycystic kidney disease (also genetic and hopefully also unlikely); and medullary sponge kidney.

So. That is where the situation stands as of this evening. I've been referred to a nephrologist, whose first available appointment isn't until the end of November (gahhhh), and will likely get an MRI in between now and then.

Some of it doesn't make sense to me at this time, and hopefully I will get some clarification on things in the next few weeks, but I wanted to go ahead and write down what I know for now so I wouldn't forget.

I certainly hope that I will be able to look back on this blog post in a few months and remember it as "The Day We Got So Freaked Out About What Turned Out Fine". Until then, keep me in your prayers if you don't mind.

By the way, Tommy's tonsillectomy went well and the doctor told us he had an abscess behind his tonsils that had some scar tissue, which tells us it was a really good thing for us to go ahead with getting them out. That was a relief. He is tired and sore, but is recovering well and being such a good patient.

And just to show a little thankfulness, remember that contract that I was so upset about losing? If it had gone through, I would be in the middle of moving out this week. God had His hand in that situation, and I know this is no different.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Updates and Random Things

We've had a busy and chaotic week around here. No news on the real estate front, no law suits pending or anything like that, but medical drama abounds. Tommy is getting his tonsils out Monday morning, which everyone says is a routine surgery, but that's mah baybeeeee and someone is going to cut on him and I'm trying not to freak out about it. I'm sure he'll be fine, and perhaps I will not weep and wail and throw myself in the floor when he is wheeled off. Perhaps.

Meanwhile, my kidneys have decided not to behave themselves, and while I'm busy trying not to freak out about Tommy, I'm beginning to freak out a little bit about that. I've had an ultrasound and a CT scan this past week, and it seems that both kidneys have cysts in them that are definitely not benign, but also probably not malignant, but so far that's all I know. (!)

I'm assuming that surgery is in my near future for that because really that junk needs to come out, and because I feel like crap and this is unacceptable. I won't know for sure until later this week.

One bright spot: we've met our deductible for the year! Our FIVE THOUSAND DOLLAR DEDUCTIBLE! Woo hoo! "Free" medical care until....oh, wait, it's almost the end of the year. Dang.

Did you catch the part where we met our FIVE THOUSAND DOLLAR FAMILY DEDUCTIBLE? (It is always written in all caps.) That is just how much fun this year has been. Really, 2009, you've outdone yourself.

Here's to 2010. May it be boring and dull and drama free.

Okay, I don't really have anything else, so here is a random photo.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Many Costumes of This Week


Halloween night



Church Festival


Storybook character day at school

Thursday, October 29, 2009

And now I am ready to talk about what happened to our contract.

Maybe. I might still be too mad. We'll see. Some of you have already heard this, or parts of it, on angry e-mails or phone calls. Here's the whole thing.

Five years ago, we put a contract on our lovely house in Dallas and had it inspected. The inspector reported that there were cracks in the sheet rock and the brick exterior, and that we needed to get the foundation inspected. Our sellers produced a report from a foundation expert stating that the foundation was within acceptable limits, and that the home needed to be watered regularly.

Being not from Texas, we were perplexed at these instructions. We came to learn that this region has a very shifty soil type, and the soil contracts by several inches in times of drought, and expands just as much in times of rain, taking all the houses along for the ride and leaving them with cracks and frequently needing foundation repair. Therefore the house must be watered like a plant. Our realtor assured us that this was normal for this area, and we would be hard pressed to find any home in Dallas that did NOT have cracks in it. Over time, we have found this to be true of our friends' homes as well and have accepted this as a fact of life, as do all of the homeowners in this area. And we have watered the house faithfully.

When we put our house on the market, we noted in the seller disclosure that there were indeed cracks on the sheet rock and the brick exterior, but that the foundation was within acceptable limits and the cracks were normal for the age of the house and the soil type. When our lovely buyers came on the scene, they asked some questions about the foundation, and our realtor again relayed to them our disclosure about the cracks.

So we all signed the contract and awaited the inspection. The inspector (shockingly) found that the sheet rock and the bricks had cracks in them. He told our buyers that this house had MAJOR foundation problems (in all caps) and then proceeded to note every other little flaw of the house, as is his job. We received several angry e-mails from the buyers' realtor demanding to know why we hadn't disclosed this MAJOR issue (all caps) and what we were planning to do about it.

Well Greg and I were very upset to learn that we had a MAJOR issue, because that means major dollars to us. We reassured the buyers that we were looking into it, and had several companies come out to give estimates. Two of the companies told us that we had MINOR foundation shifting, that could be fixed for about $3,000, with a lifetime transferrable warranty. (While that is a lot of money, please bear in mind that we know people whose homes have required $10-20,000 in repairs. $3,000 is minor.) Meanwhile, the third company informed us that all of the cracks were cosmetic, and that there was no actual problem with the foundation itself, so no repairs were needed. Their estimate was zero dollars. Seriously.

However. While we were still getting estimates from the different companies, we received a termination of contract notice from our buyers, stating that we were liars and had intentionally deceived them about the foundation, and that we had broken the law by not disclosing this MAJOR issue.

Several days went by. Our realtor, in a peace-making effort, forwarded all of the reports to the buyers, plus a copy of the bill for some electrical work we had done after the inspection.

Finally, we heard back from our angry buyers. They would like to renew the contract, they said, for the previously agreed on (and very low) price, plus a few extra things, such as:

Fix the foundation (which we had already offered to do).
Plaster all cracks in the interior and exterior of the home.
Rehang all of the doors in the home so they would be perfectly perpendicular.
Dig out all of the flower beds and grass so that 4 inches of the foundation is visible all around the house.
Recaulk all of the exterior windows where the caulking has become separated.
Replace the driveway because it has cracks in it. (?)
Regrade the yard. (!)
Fix a loose faucet handle in the guest bathroom.
Replace cracked tiles in the walkway off the patio.
Install two extra fire alarms because there just aren't enough in the house.
Have the dishwasher repaired (It is not broken. I use it every day.)
Install a pan under the hot water heater.
Have the chimney cleaned.
And by the way throw in an extra $3,000 in closing costs.

There were actually more requests, but I can't remember them right now and it makes me too mad to look at the e-mail. I need to assert here that in our original contract our buyers were getting our house for at least $11,000 under its appraised value PLUS a $7,000 stimulus rebate from Uncle Sam. That is what is known in financial circles as A Good Deal.

We responded that they could have the original price and the foundation repair and a few extraneous things that we'd already done since the inspection. We didn't hear back from them, and we were not sorry to see them go.

Then this week, we got an e-mail from their realtor, stating that his clients continued to be "very angry" over our deception and lies, and that they were taking legal action against us because they had to spend $300 on an inspection to find out about a MAJOR foundation issue that we knew about all along and should have disclosed.

The issue we had offered to fix. And give them a lifetime warranty.

Which we now know isn't really even an issue.

Oh, and PS? WE DISCLOSED IT.

The end of the story (up to this point) is that I wrote out a description of our knowledge of the foundation from the very beginning, quoting directly from the report from our seller and describing our meticulous watering and monitoring of the cracks should they move (they have not) and quoting from all of our current reports, etc, etc. I hope this will make them see that they have no case, however these people don't strike me as being exceptionally rational.

Anyway, that is all I have. Please cheer me with your incredulous and incensed comments.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another Example of God's Grace in the Midst of Things

Y'all. Last week was crappy. The events of last week will take me way too long to explain but the result is this: we no longer have a contract on the house. There was much animosity involved from both parties. Losing the contract makes me both happy and sad, which are the same emotions I felt about actually having the contract in the first place, but let's move on. In addition to Real Estate Crap/Emotional Roller Coaster, I got some less than stellar test results back from the doctor, the weather was gloomy, and working 21 out of 25 days at the fair had left me wiped out and fighting both a cold and two weeks' worth of laundry.

Now to a new story. I have this neighbor; her name is Ms. Elaine and she is 85 years old. She reminds me an awful lot of my own grandmother, which is odd considering my grandmother was a Southern Baptist from rural Louisiana and Ms. Elaine is a Jew from New York City. She is very giving but at the same time brutally honest and blunt (therein lies the similarity). If she cooks a big pot of soup, she makes sure that we come over to get some. If I don't run into her or call her for a few weeks she gets extremely worried that something is wrong. She likes to lecture me about how leaving the outside lights on is a huge waste of money. She scolds me when she catches me at the mailbox in bare feet and she gasps in horror when the kids come running out behind me with no shoes on either. My kids have never left her house without a pocket full of lollipops.

On Friday, at the end of my Super Crappy Week, I got a call from Ms. Elaine wanting to know if I was headed to the grocery store, and if so, could I get her a rotisserie chicken for her dog? (She feeds her dog deli meat, I have no explanation for this.) I told her no, I was just leaving to get the kids from school, but that I could go for her tomorrow. Then she told me that she had been going through her things (she is getting ready to move out of her 5 bedroom house and back to New York to be close to her family) and that she had a gift for me. She had seen me walking down the road while the kids were out riding bikes, and wondered if I would like to have her bicycle. This bicycle:She bought it 50 years ago in New York, and she used to ride it with her kids to Coney Island. She kept it all these years because it was so dear to her, but she knew she would never ride it again and she also knew that I needed it. She made me promise not to sell it or give it away, to which I readily agreed. I LOVE it. LOVE. I am so grateful for this gift. It is SO beautiful and has been very well cared for, and it just gave me immense joy that was sorely needed at that moment. She could tell I was thrilled, and I could tell she felt good about thrilling me.

As I promised to come over right after school and started to hang up, she slipped in a quick question, "Now, what about that rotisserie chicken?"

Yes ma'am, I was just on my way to the store.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Final Scenes from the Fair

The Great State Fair of Texas: Where No One Has Died on a Ride Since 1986
(fried moon pie)

Monday, October 12, 2009

One more week


Seven days left of the State Fair and I am working every single one of them. Oprah was there last night, reportedly eating a turkey leg wearing a cowboy hat; that is, she was wearing the hat, not the turkey leg, but anyway, watch for those hijinx on her show sometime soon, I really have no idea when and I am too lazy to check her website.

The feller in my picture is Big Tex, the mascot of the fair, whose jaw moves freakishly as he talks. He says things randomly like "Howwwdy Folks!" and "Don't forget to wash yer hands before ya eat" and he is a giant freak and I love him. I met the real life man who does his voice, and his belt buckle was more bejeweled and bigger than the one on the statue. He was awesome.

So anyway. I'll be back in a bit and P.S., I'm going to the U2 concert tonight, I just thought I'd brag on that real quick.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Under Contract.

Well we have a contract on our house. It's an answer to four long months of prayer and a huge relief, but my heart is completely broken. It still hasn't completely sunk in that I have to leave my beloved home. We'll be moving to Georgia in about five weeks. I can't even really talk about it yet.

Instead here are some Texas-themed photos. Here are my girls' toes after they stayed with the babysitter last week:

What, you don't paint your state flag on your big toe? What is wrong with you?

And here is my boy, who lately seems to have a All-Texas wardrobe, thanks to his Daddy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Update. How's that for a title.

Y'all. I am on day 3 of the carnie job and I am Ti-urd. It has been wild. First of all, let me say this: the State Fair of Texas? It is big. It's big. It's just big. And people LOVE it. They get so excited about it. All of the people I have met, from the fellow employees of the fair to the visitors to the random people on the train going to and from the fairgrounds, have been so unusually friendly. I mean friendly even for Dallas people, who are normally pretty cordial to begin with.

And y'all, they are CHATTY. People just want to talk to me all day long and tell me stories. These chatty people are everywhere. What is with these people? They just talk and talk and talk. I guess I've been an isolated stay-at-home mom for too long, but I'm just overwhelmed by all the talking and all the friendliness. People stand at my booth and tell me about their fight with cancer and their successful weight loss and their former steroid use and their thoughts on Texas A&M's quarterback and their walk with Jesus and their traditional State Fair Opening Day Matching T-shirts and where to get the best corn dog...it just goes on and on all day long.

Now so far, very few of these chatty people have actually bought things from me, but I'm working on my sales technique. It's weak, to say the least. Let's say it's very weak. I'm still learning.

Another job perk: I sit next to a very large 'before and after' poster of some women who have used the stretch mark cream and it basically just shows women's bellies covered in stretch marks (not pretty) and then their very much improved bellies eight weeks later. (P.S. This stuff really does work, but it costs $59, like for a month's supply, and it's been a little tough to sell, have I mentioned that?)

Anyway, one unintended consequence of sitting next to this lovely poster is that people walk by, see the poster, look at me, look back at the poster, and do one of the following:

1. Recoil in horror (usually teenagers and single guys)
2. Ask me if that is me in the photo. (usually older men)
3. Lift their shirts and reveal giant beer bellies and ask me if I can improve that. (usually guys who have had a few beers)
4. Start tugging on their wife's sleeve and saying, "Honey, let's check this out!"
5. Glare at husbands who have just called them out in public for having stretch marks.
6. Nod knowingly at the photos with a look of recognition on their faces, and then come over and start asking me questions.

The #6 people are the only ones to whom I can really sell anything. I'm still trying to figure out how to sell to the men pushing strollers whose expression says they really want to stop but they don't dare. Maybe I'll just start slipping brochures into their diaper bags when their wives aren't looking.

So anyway, I'm too tired to finish this properly. I'll have more stories later and I hope to sneak my camera out there sometime this week. I know you're dying to see that poster.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Here is a list of things.

1. I have a new job as a carnie at the Texas State Fair. Well, I'm not so much a carnie as I am a salesperson working in a booth selling 'Health and Wellness' Products. Among our products, we have an $80 stretch mark cream. Isn't that what everyone wants at the fair? A corn dog, a funnel cake, and some stretch mark cream.

2. I got to take all of the products home to try them out. What makes these people think I need stretch mark cream? I mean, of course I do, but why assume that?

3. The job lasts 3 weeks and I am scheduled for 125 hours, mostly in the evenings. (Please pray for my family) What I will need at the end of that will be some under eye cream. Too bad we don't sell it.

4. House still for sale. Still cleaning. May lose mind.

5. I am really tired of people misspelling the word 'lose' by spelling 'loose'. 'Lose' is the present tense for 'Lost'. 'Loose' means something is wiggly. I've overlooked it on Facebook for a long time, but last night when I was handed an official work document that stated "this product will not help you loose weight", I'd had enough. (Of course it won't help me loose weight. Why would I want my weight to be loose?) This spelling atrocity must be stopped.

6. There are no more renovations in the works. I am sick of renovations.

7. We had a slight brush with swine flu last week. And by slight I mean that Katie was sick for a day or two, then my neighbors got sick with the same thing and actually went to the doctor and tested positive for swine flu. Thankfully no one else seems to have gotten it [yet] despite half of the students in our school being sick.

8. I got a nice surprise from my husband the other day: Tickets to the U2 concert at the new Cowboys stadium! Wooooooo hooooo! I just have to figure out what to wear; I don't think I own anything cool enough for that. But at least my stretch marks have never looked better.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Before and After

And now I will subject you to my renovation updates. First up: the Beige Bathroom.
Here is the Hideous Wallpaper Adhered to the Wall by Satan Himself:
And after spending 8 days of my life that I'll never get back it looks like this:I didn't get a good photo, but there is a new silver light fixture and a square mirror with a black frame over the sink.

So Beige!

The previous owners of our home were not only into ugly wallpaper, they were into ugly faux-finishing. A while back I posted these before and after photos of Gracie's room:
(so so wrong.)
(so much better.)

The office that I painted last week had been faux-finished as well, kind of a denim-like texture that was all kinds of wrong.

I don't have a wide angle lens like my realtor does (Dear Santa, I've been very good this year) so I couldn't quite get the whole room in the photo. After painting it, we are in disbelief at how much better it looks in there. I can't believe we lived with that blue funk for five years and didn't do anything about it until now.

My final faux-finishing photo involves my dining room. The realtor says this room needs to be beige. I say there is one wall that is wallpapered and I will set fire to the place before I try that again would prefer to not take down any more wallpaper. It does look a little busy now that I'm looking at it, but we get a lot of complements on it. So what say you, Internet? Should we beige this room or keep the faux?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Toothless


This child can get anything he wants from me right now just by grinning. Lord help me.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's Diptacular.

I don't know if y'all read Boomama's blog, but that woman made me laugh HARD yesterday with this post about the way Christians sign off their e-mails. What makes it funnier is that I get e-mails from church people all the time that use those types of closings. Anyway, today she is asking everyone to post their favorite dip recipes for college football season and it just so happens that the following dip has been on my mind for about a month:

The Trawler's Famous Crab Dip
(stolen from a church cookbook who stole it from a really good restaurant in Charleston.)

1 1/4 cup Duke's Mayonnaise (or Hellman's, for those of us who don't live in South Carolina)
1 cup crab meat
1/2 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp. horseradish
1 tbsp. French dressing

Mix all ingredients and serve with crackers. If you prefer a little extra tang, don't be afraid to add more horseradish or french dressing to suit your taste. Let sit several hours or overnight to blend flavors. (I think the best crackers for this are Club crackers...that way you really feel like you're at the restaurant eating Captain's Wafers or something.)


This dip is so stinkin good. I used to make it years ago when we lived in Charleston. My husband is a South Carolina boy, and when we were newlyweds we had many discussions about the merits of Duke's mayonnaise versus Miracle Whip. I was and continue to be adamantly pro-Miracle Whip, but Greg has always taken a firm anti-Miracle Whip stance. We compromised by buying both, and continue to do so today; however, we no longer live in a state that carries Duke's mayonnaise, so my husband has learned to survive on the teeny tiny squeeze bottle of Hellman's that sits in our fridge next to the jumbo-sized Miracle Whip.

Well happy dipping to everyone, and I hope you have a good weekend.

Buying a full-size jar of mayonnaise just so I can make this in Jesus' name,
Chrissy


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Taupe This.

So we've had our house for sale all summer and no one has bought it. Our realtor came over the other day and gave us some suggestions for home improvements. She walked through the entire house and basically said "Paint this Taupe!" in every room. Since I am not working while the kids are in school, my new job title is the Queen of Improvements, Specifically Taupe Ones.

Please gaze upon my only son. He lost a tooth. I now call him Leroy.The room in which he is standing is our home office. Please notice the lovely blue walls. I like to call this color "Portrait Studio Blue." Definitely not Taupe.

Here are the girls, who wanted their portraits made too.
My job #1 was to rid the office of its portrait studio. Three coats of taupe and white later, it looks like this:I have a giant entertainment center in my office that weighs about 1000 pounds, and we have been trying to get rid of it for a while. Since it is too heavy to move, I just painted taupe all around it so there is still a big blue spot behind it. Surprise, future buyers!

Now my next job will be to rid the office bathroom of its 80's wallpaper. I put Leroy to work on that.I just need to tell you that I'd rather pull out my toenails with pliers than remove wallpaper, but it needs to be done. We're also going to put in a new mirror and light fixture.

The next room on the list to be Tauped: Katie's room! (sob) This sucker took FOREVER to paint. Not happy about that.(Photos stolen from my real estate listing online. But yes, it is always that clean. Because I force the kids to clean their rooms EVERY FIVE MINUTES.)

Meanwhile we are possibly going to get a new kitchen floor. (And no, we won't be doing that ourselves.) My kitchen is totally retro-70's, but not in a good way. It's a little....brown. Although we did get rid of the mauve-and-cream heart wallpaper that used to be in here, so there's that. (Did I mention that I clean this kitchen until it looks just like this before I leave the house in the morning? EVERY DAY? I don't really shower any more, but my house is looks fantastic.)

The cabinets are going to have to stay, even though they are old and worn, because I do not have the mental or financial faculties to deal with them. I plan to douse them with Old English Scratch Cover (again) and I've considered spray-painting the hardware, but dang that seems like such a pain.

So there's your Home Improvement Update. I'll post some more 'After' photos hopefully soon.

The kiddos

The kiddos

Kidney Peril Updates

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