Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Bubba was finally diagnosed and treated for his asthma, and has found great relief with his allergy treatment as well. I never thought we could take a camping trip and he not suffer the whole time. While I'm so pleased with his progress, it took a toll on us all this year with the first 9 weeks of the year driving twice a week 50 miles round trip for shots, then we moved to once a week... but thankfully our last appointment, right before Christmas, the doctor moved us to every other week for the duration of the treatment (another 3-4 years). Woohoo, this will make our weekly life and schedule so much easier to manage.
Bobcat went through a lot this year as well, but really has handled it like a champ. At the beginning of the year he went through a battery of tests to check his growth hormone levels. Thankfully that all came back normal... but they found a nutritional marker which led us to a GI. There, after a rather scary biopsy, he was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. While it has been a big adjustment both from the dietary standpoint and the financial standpoint, the success he has already shown in just three months is amazing. He has grown 2 inches!!!! This is huge, and we are expecting still more in the coming months!
Snookie... well, nothing really major has happened to Snookie... he's just Snookie. He's Mommy's little boy, but growing up before our very eyes. I still can't believe how far we've come in just 4 1/2 years. When he first came home to us he said less than a handful of words... now he is reading, and when you aren't watching he's quite bright (ahead of his brothers in many ways at this age).
This year also marked a big shift in our sacramental life. Bobcat received his First Communion in February, and in September Bubba began his lessons with Daddio so that he too may receive his First Holy Communion in the spring of 2009! Wow, every Mass I'm amazed as I watch Bobcat take part in the Eucharist... it's one of those moments when you know that you are attaining the goals set for you in your vocation as a parent!
On the homeschooling front... wow, first - second - third grades! I can't believe that I've been homeschooling for 3 1/2 years already. I have to say that this year really has been the gold star of all the years we've been doing this. All in all, the boys have taken this year on with a much better attitude, and we've been able to tweak the areas where we were struggling. Plus Daddio has taken an even more active role with adding Math tutor to his role along with Sacrament Prep! This has been a big help to me, and the boys love having him more involved (and I have a few more ideas for next year that he can take on :-)!
Traveling... wow, this year we had the opportunity to really enjoy the great outdoors. We camped in several locations with RV's, in tents, and even with a group of friends. Then there was the amazing summer beach trip. This year was really special because we were able to spend it with our dear friends, who were very early on in their pregnancy of our godson (who's due oh so soon!).
In summary, this year was filled with struggles, but ultimately was truly wonderful! And next year... well, we have a godson that is to arrive anytime now which means a trip down to visit and attend a baptism. Bobcat's health is supposed to continue to climb! Bubba will make his First Communion. MORE CAMPING, of course. The sky is the limit, really!
So there you have it people, the Llama household is movin' and shakin'! We hope that your year end review is filled with a since of great progress, and that your coming year is filled with grace and great anticipation!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Okay, Scrooge aside, we had a nice Christmas just the 5 of us. We got up at a reasonable time, attended the 8:00am Mass (which for our church was practically empty), and came home for breakfast and a few gifts! We tried to take some pictures (which didn't go well), but after a hearty meal it was time for the annual shredding of wrapping paper. As usual we had a very modest gift exchange... but the delight was very apparent with the boys... who enjoyed a new set of PJ's (including a homemade fleece robe) and slippers, and LEGO's (their first real set). Also a relative sent them each a horse (which was a huge hit). Nothing needed batteries, nothing had flashing lights or made any noise on their own, and all needed imagination!
Sidenote: I had no idea that the robe would be immediately transformed into a Jedi Robe!
After all was picked up and the boys headed to their rooms for some intense Jedi Lego barn yard antics, Daddio and I headed into the kitchen for several hours of cooking.
That evening we were to have family guests, and were quite excited to try out all these lovely dishes. Unfortunately our guests decided not to show up... and we enjoyed the meal on our own. It was delicious! We have a second duck waiting for another lovely opportunity to enjoy such a tasty meal!
While our time was lovely, dealing with our relations really turned out poorly. I'm glad that portion of our Christmas season is over. Now we get to enjoy our children, our home, and our food in peace.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Anyway, apparently geese are very expensive. At least they are at Central Market, and I wouldn't have any idea where else to find one. 14 lbs at $7.99 per... not gonna happen. So we decided to try another type of bird. The ducklings were just $3.99 per pound. Smaller, so we got two. We shall see how that turns out.
We saw another bird in the store that we had never heard of: "capon". Is that something that everyone else knows? They were fairly large, and a good price, but we weren't feeling that adventurous to buy something we'd never even heard of. Turns out it's just a castrated rooster. Google reveals the following fascinating info:
The bird is fastened on a surface on its left side with the wings held together above the body. The legs are also fastened together and the bird stretched out to its full length in order to expose the rib cage area. Feathers in this rib area must be removed and the skin disinfected with 70% ethanol or another skin disinfectant.
Using a sharp scalpel or knife, a one-inch incision is made through the skin and other tissues between the two posterior ribs. The skin should be moved to one side before making the incision so that skin cut and muscle cut are not aligned afterwards. The incision should be deep enough to expose the abdominal air sac covering the intestines and other abdominal organs. Care must be used to avoid cutting a large vein in the skin that runs diagonally toward the back of the bird. The abdominal air sac is punctured with a sharp hook or probe to expose the internal organs. The testes are located on the dorsal wall at the anterior end of the kidneys, posterior to the lungs. The testes of a three-week-old cockerel are about the size of a large wheat kernel and may be yellowish, white, gray or black in color.
Both testes should be removed from the single incision, the lower or left testes removed first. The testis is grasped with special forceps and then twisted free from its connective tissue while slowly pulled from its attachments. Care must be taken not to rupture large blood vessels located between the two testes. The upper, right testis is then similarly removed. Electrically heated cautery equipment is available for incising the skin and removing the testes. It prevents excessive bleeding and may reduce the incidence of "slips". The rib spreader may now be removed and tension on the bird released, allowing the skin and thigh muscle to slip back into place. Once the bird is released, the incision should close without need for sutures or bandage.
Now, I'm no PETA wacko, but this sounds pretty bizarre to a city boy. I don't think we'll be partaking of capon any time soon.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday morning, Snookie asked if we could go to monk mass. We've talked about monk mass before. Monk mass is a totally different experience than mass at our home parish. It's worth the drive, and we went pretty often earlier this year. But eventually we decided that we liked the earlier time slot available at our home parish, and then when we got Bobcat's diagnosis, we discovered that our home parish could accommodate with a gluten free communion host. We wouldn't expect special treatment from the monks - after all, they are not a parish designed to serve their parishioners. It's really their mass, and regular people are allowed to come. That's my impression anyway. Bobcat could receive the Precious Blood (wine) only, but the monks don't serve that to the lay people. A decision which I totally endorse, by the way. I wish they would serve under the bread alone at our church because it would involve fewer extraordinary ministers (lay people), and because it takes them so much time to cleanse all those chalices when they're done. It's no wonder so many people leave early, I'm always tempted to leave myself. I thought it was very cool that Snookie, age 6, preferred monk mass. Even a child can recognize and enjoy when things are more reverent.
Well, let me tell you, our experience at regular mass this Sunday was very disconcerting and really made us long for the monks. First off, nobody took the pyx with the GF host from the altar (it's supposed to be the deacon, but we had a visiting deacon who clearly hadn't been informed by the church lady in charge of that stuff). So Bobcat and I had to stand there with everyone staring while Father went up to retrieve it. I am seriously considering becoming an EM myself, just so I can serve him myself and be a lot more discreet about it. But, I don't like the idea of lay ministers, and I don't really want to be one. I know a certain number are necessary, but we have way too many, and I don't want to be among them, or to leave my family during the most important part of the week.
Okay, this is getting long, but here's the really weird part. The announcement was made that for Christmas Eve, there would be two "youth masses" (4:00 and 6:00). That's fine. I'm okay with "family masses", I guess, if it means that the homily will be geared towards children, but everything else is still done reverently, and children and parents will remain seated together. But this is definitely going to be one of our new pastor's interesting inventions. Because for these masses, we are invited to bring a blanket! It's going to be in the parish hall, not the church. I hate to criticize a priest, but this new pastor of ours has raised a few eyebrows with his way of doing things lately. I almost want to go, without the kids of course, just to see what it's all about. Morbid curiosity. MommaLlama and I were joking that maybe the blankets are for the kids to wear and then everyone could pretend to be a priest and help consecrate the Eucharist. I just can't imagine what sort of bizarre stuff is going to happen. Santa will probably visit and deliver the homily.
Anyway. Maybe when Bobcat's GI tract is fully healed, he'll be able to tolerate one little communion host per week and we can go back to the monks.
Friday, December 19, 2008
So, to rectify the situation, they both gave Snookie the cookies they would have had for dessert, and now they are working on a list of 100 reasons why they love Snookie. It's taking a while. But I think they, especially Bobcat at age eight, are old enough for some of Dr. Ray's famous writing assignments. It's making them think. They've actually come up with some good ones, and we'll share a few when they finish. A couple of my faves so far:
-We love (Snookie) because he is fun to play with.
-We love (Snookie) because he is sweet.
-We love (Snookie) because he shares his new toys.
-We love (Snookie) because God made him.
When this is finished, they will read him the list. I'm pretty sure Snookie is over it, but I want them all to know that this is serious. We'll let you know if it works.
"Sorry for growing up so fast. I should sowed my wild oats, been drunk more often, experimented with illegal substances, been a roadie, etc. I forgot to backpack/hitch hike across wherever, searching for the meaning of life. I should have been confused and angry and dabbled in Buddhism, and tried to get discovered in Hollywood.
I apologize for discovering the One True Faith so soon, and for falling in love with a great girl, who happened to be my best friend, and who I knew would be a great mother one day.
Oops. I forgot to waste my 20's. My bad."
Then the real voice says, "Thanks, I do look fly, don't I?"
Like I wrote before, I'm not saying it's easy to find the right person. And I don't condemn anyone whose real adult life started later. I'm just really grateful I didn't have to wait long. We felt 30 when we were 19. We actually wanted to grow up, and we don't feel like we've missed out on anything at all. I don't regret already having a better career and a longer marriage than either of my parents ever did. I don't mean to pick on my parents or anyone else, and I don't mean to brag. But I've never been convinced that the man-boys I work with who have endless play money are truly satisfied with their lives of leisure or their live-in girlfriends. It's time to grow up, gentlemen. It's a challenge, but it's also a lot better on this side.
Oh, if we had only known the road that lay ahead...
If we knew then what we know now... well, I don't think we would have changed a single thing. During our dinner out on Tuesday I told Daddio that while I always dreamed about my married life I could never quite picture what it would be like. But now that I'm living it, it is exactly what I've always wanted to do! (This last picture is courtesy of Bobcat during our trip last week.)
A girl really can't ask for more... a great husband (who takes her camping)... a great dad to their children (who knows just when to give mom a break)... and a great provider (so that we never worry about what lies ahead).
Monday, December 15, 2008
Today 26 degrees...
From our campsite we could watch the sunrise/sunset over the rim... and you can actually see the moon moving above the edge of the rock!
Oh, I guess I should tell you where these lovely shots are from... the Grand Canyon of Texas... or by its proper name... Palo Duro Canyons! What a truly magnificent place. Every where you look, you can see God's awesome hand at work.
The hiking is really great. They have several trails to choose from, for all different levels of hiking ability. We are fairly good hikers as a pack, and so the moderate trails were definitely fun in the mornings before us old folks were tired and sore... then in the evenings we chose the easier hikes.
This next shot is a picture of a formation known as The HooDoo, it sits on the southside (I think) of Capitol Rock. It is a really neat formation! You can see it on the Lighthouse Trail.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
She has a million excuses to skip this event. I helped her make the list, and completely let her off the hook. Freezing weather, fussy Snookie, 30 minutes driving each way (probably worse on the way home with traffic), stuck with my little car for the day because I took her SUV. Seems like a lot of trouble for a possible 2-minute viewing.
But in the end, this mommy of boys knows that space shuttles are AWESOME. And Bobcat has new binoculars from his birthday, and what better way to use them for the first time? You're a great mommy, my dear! Thanks for embracing the world of boys and going above and beyond.
Friday, December 5, 2008
We have been unable to conceive, so we obviously enjoy complete control over the size of our family. But we still get the same questions as other people with more than two children.
Q: Are you having any more?
A: Maybe. Probably. Eventually.
Q: Oh, you want girls, right?
A: That would be great, but we wouldn't love boys any less. I'd feel like a eugenicist Nazi by "custom ordering" a girl and refusing to accept a boy. Adoption is not shopping - at least, it shouldn't be.
Q: Your boys have been through so much. Don't they deserve all of your time and attention?
A: Why do you assume they will be neglected if we adopt another? Are our hearts two sizes too small? (Yes, we're grinchy, but we still like babies.) Is our house too small? Would that be a good enough reason to shut God out of our love life, if we were fertile? If not, then how can it be a good enough reason to never adopt again?
Q: Okay, so you're basically amazingly generous freaks who wantsto save all the orphans. Bless your hearts. I know I could never do it. There's a special place in heaven for you, etc., etc., etc.
A: *BARF* Not really. We're not saints. We just wanted a family like everyone else.
These questions can be challenging because while we want to be real and honest about the challenges of parenthood, particularly adoptive parenthood, we feel that performance anxiety that Darwin referred to. If people see your kids climbing over the pews in church and bowling with frozen turkeys in the grocery store and destroying every room of your home, they won't exactly be drawn to consider a more generous and open union.
But for us, these questions are doubly painful because, while fertile people are insulted by the family planning questions, infertile people are both insulted and reminded of their infertility.
Ironic isn't it, that we have the control that the world wants? They take pills and patches and mutilate their bodies to avoid the gift of life. Meanwhile, we are supposed to be totally over it, right? How dare you secretly wish for a pregnancy! I know that for a fertile couple, discerning how many and how often is a challenge, and I'm not saying that we'd throw caution to the wind and have a dozen kids. But we'd like to have the option of being "out of control".
And I assure you that "freedom" is not all it's cracked up to be. Consequences are a big part of what makes the marital act so unifying and satisfying. That is a big challenge for infertile couples. It's something I'm still learning about after eight years of marriage. Early in our marriage, we were told that pregnancy was possible. So we watched, waited, got our hopes up... Hey, maybe that temperature drop was significant! We'd embrace, and then wait and hope. And invariably be disappointed. That hurts both spouses, but especially the wife. Without getting too graphic, it eventually occurred to me (common knowledge to most of you, yet sheer brilliance to me) that there is a reason why women are more receptive at certain times. I had actually developed a sort of "contraceptive mentality". I felt that because there is no danger or consequence to our marital act, there is no reason why I should be denied my marital right. We didn't have the deliberate barrier that contraception puts up. We were giving ourselves as fully as we could. But at the same time, that sensitivity and communication was lacking, especially on my part. I didn't understand what the big deal was. It wasn't her fault, after all. You're not a "failure", don't take it so personally. We'll have a family eventually. Why should I be frustrated and denied?
That is a dangerous path, and I can see how, taken to an extreme, a husband's selfishness and frustration, coupled with a woman's obsessive single-mindedness, leads to divorce. Sex without consequences is never good, especially if you have chosen to construct the barrier yourself.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
It turns out that I don't want anybody to have fun, at least that is what my father-in-law told me on Sunday. Great Granny and Grandpa were asking about our tank and if it had a DVD player in it. I said no, and that we don't need one. GG thought that was great, by Grandpa had this comment "What, do you not want anyone to have fun?" Um, no, that's not why I deprive my children of a DVD player in the car... we don't have a dvd in the car because we don't NEED one. Take Sunday's trip, we were in the car for 3 1/2 hours to GG's house. During that time the boys read books, listened to music, talked to one another, played with the few toys we brought and played games. The same thing happens on the 7 hour drive to the beach during the summer, or the 4-6 hour drive to our different camping destinations.
It's not deprivation, it's simply not relying on mindless entertainment (or media babysitting) to get where we need to go. We're forming character, if you will. I'm not saying it's evil or wrong to have one, I just don't think it is necessary! Of course this conversation came after the one where he asked if we had PSP's, Wii (feel free to give the grown-ups this one), gameboys, guitar hero's.... all to which the answer was no.
I guess we are just too mean, making our children play with toys or games that don't require batteries... :-).
So the boys are sitting at their desks working on handwriting and chatting with one another and notion of gifts comes up. They talked about toys or practical items and their value... then Bobcat made an interesting observation!
Bobcat: "Grown ups don't need toys for Christmas or birthdays because all they really do is read and cook stuff!"
What I take away from this is that they see us reading, and that it is fun and informative. Then the cooking part... I cook way more than we eat out and that is normal for them, and hopefully they will continue that trend as they grow-up. Oh, and the kids don't know this... but every gift idea that Daddio has given me had to do with cooking (camp cooking to be specific).
And one more thought from Bobcat that has nothing do with the previous: "I just don't understand how God was never born, I'm going to try and remember to ask Him that when I get to Heaven."
Monday, December 1, 2008
-When men and women fall in love, they get married.
-Then they have babies.
It won't be long until they need more information.
Visiting the various family members this weekend was almost the first step in their learning about how broken their extended family is. We were playing outside at Granny's house yesterday, and they almost opened a can of worms when my six-year-old half-brother (their "uncle" - weird, right?) was explaining that there is a swimming pool at his mommy's house but not at his daddy's house. Bobcat looked really confused - why would there be two houses? So I quickly changed the subject. It hasn't come up since, but I'm trying to get myself ready for the explanations they'll need.
So, how do I explain this to our children? I don't want to sound too judgmental. I hate that word - judgmental. I am judgmental (if I'm anything!) After all, it's my right and duty as a parent to make judgments. Rather, I should say, I don't want to be too harsh. I don't want to make them angry with anyone. But, I'm not going to say, "It was nobody's fault, these things just happen." Because that's (expletive deleted) simply untrue. There is always fault. I have my theories. I'm not going to share the ugly details with the children, but I will obviously have to explain to them that divorce is wrong. I'm sorry, mom and dad, if the kids are shocked by your repeated failures. I'm not going to make excuses for you. It will be hard to hide my anger and digust as I see the disappointment on their little faces. But I have to explain to them that OUR marriage is secure because it is built on our faith. They need to know the difference, and to know what makes a good marriage, so that they will trust in their parents and feel safe.
I really think boys are more clueless about this stuff than girls. I know I was pretty naive and only learned anything from my sister when we were younger. But I could be wrong. Maybe they know more than I think they do, but don't want to ask. No, I really do think they would ask about it if they had a question. I've planned to not say anything unless/until they bring it up. It'll click sooner or later.
I had thought for a long time, that if they ever ask why Grandma and Grandpa divorced, I would just say, "I really don't know. You'll have to ask them yourself." I'm sure they would do a decent job of keeping the message age-appropriate. But, I don't want them making those excuses I mentioned earlier, however subtly. And I don't want my parents to feel ambushed by curious kids. They deserve their privacy, I guess.
I suppose for now the answer is, "You're not old enough to have that information. We'll talk about it more when you grow up. All you need to know today is that everyone in our family loves you, and that Mommy and Daddy will never let our family be broken."
Can you tell that I'm totally over it? It didn't bother me much for a few years, until we had children of our own. Parenting definitely forces you to re-address the things you thought you had put away for good. Frankly I'm angry that I'll have so much to explain one day, maybe sooner than later. They've had enough pain in their young lives, and will have to deal with issues from their birth parents. That's more than enough pain for a sweet little boy. It sure would have been nice if our families were models of normalcy. Oh well, here we are. Again, just remember that there are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.
The menu included:
--ham that was glazed with whiskey (distilled is GF) and brown sugar (a la Martha Stewart 2007)
--sweet potatoes with brown sugar and cinnamon
--cherry pie (pictured here)
--chocolate chip cookies
The ham was simple, we've done that before... as well as the sweet potatoes. The pie... well, I've never made a pie before let alone a GF pie. So I picked up a pie crust mix from our friendly GF store (and tried to remember just how the chef did it at the GF support group meeting at the beginning of the month). It was really quite comical how that pie came together... but Daddio was very encouraging and I managed to get it done! Next up, the cookies. I tried earlier in the week before to alter a previous recipe to be GF with disasterous results... so I took the easy way out and opted for a mix here too.
One thing about GF cookies the chef told us is that they have a hard time staying nice and fluffy. The gluten in flour gives the structure to the food you are cooking... so the cookies do get kind of thin (which is really sad because my cookies are usually lovely and fluffy). After all was said and done the cookies were flat but tastey!
If you're wondering about the little shapes on top... yes, I cut those out of the crust... I didn't want to attempt to grid the top... the crust was very unforgiving and these shapes were much easier to deal with!
And the reason I'm glad the work was all finished on Wednesday... well when I woke up on Thursday I felt worse than I had all week... damn this evil cold, I am so ready for it to be GONE!