An Open Letter to my 8-year-old on his 6th day after tonsil surgery

Dear Super Tall Guy,

I’m actually not surprised by your anger this morning. I’m not surprised that you kicked out at me with your 80 pound body (now 7 pounds lighter than it was a week ago). I completely understand when you then curled into my lap and tearfully whispered in my ear, “Why did you let them take my tonsils out?” I felt your pain, the warmth of the tears, the wet of the drool.

You had no idea it would be like this. You had no idea how much pain there would be….that you wouldn’t be able to swallow anything for days….not even your own saliva. You were not fully informed. Oh, just a little day at the hospital while you sleep and then all TV-watching, ice-cream-eating bliss for a couple days is what you were told. You did not sign up for all of

You should be angry in the middle of the night when you feel like you are going to choke. You should be angry that your brothers are running around having fun and you don’t have the strength to get up off the couch. You should be mad that even the offer of unrestricted ice-cream, popsicles, jello, or any kind of liquid including soda has no appeal to you at all. It stinks.

I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was going to be like this either. I watched the video sent out by the hospital. I read all the handouts given. “Keep the pain medications going around the clock for the first couple of days.”  “Offer cold liquids and transition to a soft diet as tolerated.” “Head to the emergency room if there’s any bleeding.” It seemed straightforward.  I had no idea the pain would be so bad overnight that you would stop swallowing completely. I had no idea we’d be back in the emergency room two days later for some IV fluids as I watched your lips and tears dry up and you couldn’t even take the pain medications for over 24 hours. I didn’t know you would have absolutely no food of any kind for six days.  Your moaning in the middle of the night breaks my heart. The tears well when you turn to me at 1:00 am and say, “Mommy, say a prayer for me please.”  I see your hurt.

I’m so sorry for yelling at you when you combined apple juice, koolaid, and the melted freezer pop liquid and then spilled it all over the table and floor. I’m sorry for snapping at you when you kicked out at a passing brother who brushed your foot. I’m sorry for being impatient and demanding that you just swallow!! You’re right….I “don’t know how it feels.” I don’t know how much it hurts. I don’t know how it feels to think that you’re constantly about to choke and die. I don’t know what drives the panicked look in your face in the middle of the night.

But I do know that we needed to do this to get you sleeping better and healthier in the long run. I do know that two weeks may seem like forever in your mind, but they are actually such as short window in your wonderful life as it plays out.

And I do know that I love you. I do know that I’m incredibly proud of you for hanging in there. I do know that I’m amazed by your brave face as the nurse tries to get an IV into small dehydrated veins. I do know that you have shown such amazing strength and courage over this past week. You have surprised me. You are no longer my little baby….you are becoming my big man.

But thankfully you still fit in my lap….because I still need to hold you.

I still need to kiss you.

And say, “I’m sorry.”

I love you, my big guy.


Brave face….in the face of loss

Our house has been on the market for over a year.  It’s a torturous process.  An agent calls, we work into the wee hours of the morning to clean up all remnants of 5 little boys, we vacate the house (often hanging out at my mom’s)….I carry 8-10 large plastic bins of cleared items (including the countless sippy cups and sippy cup parts from the countertop) down into the basement, stack them up among the 30-40 other storage bins already down there….and then slowly bring them all back up one by one in the days after a house showing as we remember things we need next.  Well, it’s usually me wondering things like, “where’s the bundt pan to make this cake?”… “what happened to the metal spatula that I like using to get the cookies off?” … “where do all the sippy cups keep going?” (some of them do find their way behind the couch or under the seats in the car, only to be thrown away once found if they meet the black-inside criteria).

All this is to say that having one’s house on the market is a Pain with a capital P.  But what has really been troubling me (other than my back when carrying all those bins) over the past year is a sense of a slow leak…a slow, yet accumulating loss of things.  I find myself often thinking, “I wonder where I put that x, y, or z the last time we packed up the house?”  “I can’t remember where I put….”  And, it’s almost like Christmas to the boys when we go to my mom’s house and they find one of the bins with their toys in it “Oh, look, it’s our Batman-mobile!!  Look, here’s our tractor!!”  I get the same joy occasionally – “Oh, look, here’s a bin full of cereal boxes…most of which have expired!”  But generally, I find myself frustrated and grieving the loss of items which I used to rely on.

Naturally, these simmering feelings were blown into gargantuan size this past week with the burglary of our house.  Frustration, grief, anger, sadness.  Kathy was on the local news the next day telling our story.  A friend called to tell me she was “coming up” on the news as I pulled into the driveway.  “Oh, I’ll run inside and watch,” I said….followed quickly by “oh, we don’t have a TV.”  Noah falls asleep in one of his unique, semi-unsafe positions and I long to reach for the camera and capture another “Noah sleeps” moment.

Yet, all of that is nothing compared to the loss of my memory.  I have sudden amnesia. Sudden Alzheimers.  And yet, I am not sick.  It’s just that I entrusted my memory to a machine because there was so much within my brain and now that machine has left me….and so has the memory of Micah’s first word and when he learned to walk.  So has the memory of how many classes I’ve done for “continuing medical education.”  So has the work that I’ve put into building a crisis nursery….hours upon hours of work….gone.

So I spent the week walking around with an ache inside and a brave face in front.  “Doing okay,” I’d say and then tell the story of how Bazer the police dog chewed up the furniture.  I’m really good at telling a funny story.  It keeps my own emotions in check.  And people have told me all week “Wow, you’re brave. You’re strong.”  And most of the time I feel like I am and then I crash – big time.  I come home late one night and the older boys are in bed without their respective pull-ups on….and the blankets and the sheets and the jammies are soaked through….and I explode.  Fueled by my anger of loss….it actually doesn’t matter what small thing sparked the explosion.  Fueled by an older son who does not want to hear that his dearest “blue blankie” is saturated with urine and thus must be washed NOW.  Fueled by the audacity of someone to invade our privacy and safety.   Slamming doors, kicking, muttering under my breath….I finally lay in the bed and sob.  That’s where the brave face falls apart sometimes.  And the words of Mandisa’s song “What if we were Real” run through my head:

“Well, I’m tired of saying everything I feel like I’m supposed to say

I’m tired of smiling all the time, I wanna throw the mask away

Sometimes you just have a bad day, Sometimes you just wanna scream ….

We keep trying to make it look so nice, And we keep hiding what’s going on inside

But what if I share my brokenness, What if you share how you feel

And what if we weren’t afraid of this crazy mess, What if we were real.”

What I’ve slowly come to realize in my week of working through this, is that while it’s important for me to be strong and protect my children – that’s the only face I show them most of the time.  The face that says “Mommy has this all altogether.”  I rarely show them the “real” me.  The hurt me.  The angry me (well, no – they know that one really well).  The sad me.  They need to see those faces sometimes too so that it’s safe for them to be “real.”  So tomorrow we’ll buy a dog bone for Bazer in case he wants to come back and visit sometime and we’ll all practice being real.