My sweet oldest child is at camp all week. (!!!) In his honor, I must post about his nemesis -- the red tricycle.

It seems innocuous. Bright and shiny. Fun, perky streamers. A handy compartment in the back for storing treasures. Totally harmless.

Unless it is accompanied by this:

I happen to look with my eyes when I'm walking, but Javi doesn't. Therefore, the sweet trike turns into a maniacal machine determined to break one of his legs.

He tripped over it no less than five times the Sunday he left for camp. Somehow it always managed to be right in his path of movement.

And when it wasn't stationary, it was being steered by a little girl on a mission to wreak havoc on her big brother's nerves by running over his toes, crashing into his calves, hiding his camp supplies in the "trunk."

Think it worked?

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Going with the Flow

Summer time in our neck of the woods means a string of free performances at the local library. I am all about the free. Usually I take Javi, but this year Bella seemed the perfect age to enjoy the shows.

Last week's performance was Flow Circus, a local entertainer whose props include toys from around the world. He did a great job of integrating storytelling, juggling, magic, dance, and humor into his show.

Bella danced and clapped and got really, really angry when she was never called up onto stage. (Apparently she doesn't know she's not the star of everyone's show.) She's talked about nothing but the show since we exited the auditorium.

But that doesn't mean she made it easy on me. She tried to pull her dress over head, got in and out of her seat, yelled "He's not picking me!" at the top of her lungs, kicked at the back of the seats in front of us, and refused to stop touching another audience member's braids. All in all, it was a normal day out with my Meanie Weenie.

Only this time she wound up enjoying the show from someone else's lap (ehem, a someone else we'd never met before).

Only Bella.

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday***

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Cluck of the Week: Lazy days of summer

Here's Your One Chance Fancy Don't Let Me Down really is a survivor. The predators have multiplied -- but she's holding it down (with the help of delicious seasonal foods, of course).

There's the (damn) hawk that perches on a high tree in the woods behind our house and randomly swoops through our yard hoping to sink its talons into something tasty. That (damn) bird knows good stuff can be found here.

We've also discovered a nightly raccoon visitor. It waddles its way onto our back deck and gobbles up any food Fancy has left behind. Last night it was a few corn cobs and some leftover watermelon mush. Tonight it'll clear away a pile of feed Bella poured out, some soggy grapes, and cucumber peels. Raccoons eat chickens, but Fancy is always safely roosting when the bandit comes to scavenge.

And then there's the cat lady up the street. Seriously. The cat situation is so bad that her direct neighbors banded together and simultaneously called Animal Control. The approximate count is 30+ cats and kittens. Here's the fun part -- they are all half-feral outdoor cats and not a single one has been fixed. The adults wind up down here at least once a day ... but there's a bb gun for that.

Fancy's name does her strength and self-preservation no justice. She just eats and lays eggs and chills. But homegirl does not die. (Yes, I am knocking on wood.)

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On bringing home the bacon

Work is killing me. There, I said it.

There are kids underfoot during the day. Camp start and end times to make. Consulting meetings and networking lunches. Proposals to submit and invoices to fight over. Phone calls from people who tell you they want you to share your knowledge, but don't want to pay you for it. Deadlines and words and rampant commas. People seeing you make money, and then trying to cash in on your ideas.

Work. But not the kind that pays my bills. 

I freelance as a writer and am paid pretty lucratively when it comes down to hours spent meeting those deadlines. But I have a side project that's really taking off. It holds my heart and sucks up my time and energy, but doesn't pay much (or anything until recently).

If I could just get rid of those paying writing jobs, I know I could grow my side project into something spectacular. Or, if I could have full-time childcare, I know I could handle all the work coming my way without regularly working until 2am. Also known as: different variations of the same pipe dream.

And then there's the guilt about how I should just be happy to have a job when so many are struggling -- especially in my town where unemployment is in the double digits. Add more guilt about how I wish the kids were somewhere else during the day ... which ratchets up when I read so many bloggers posting about how glorious the long summer days are with their amazing and smart kiddos.

How do you work-at-home moms juggle security with entrepreneurism, parenting with needing time and space to work, fitting everything into a day? How do you parent the kids and chauffeur them to camp and get the groceries and clean the house and make the dinner and clean up after and nurture a marriage ... and still find the time to be a woman who brings home some tasty bacon?

There has to be a better way...

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On being kind

It's just me and him, circling
and negotiating his wants, my needs
as the many days of summer
stretch out long and too lean.

Today's goal was to wield kindness
like a sword. Spend precious hours
focused on him, only and fiercely,
showing him that he's loved, even
though I won't give into demands.

A hot dog, a cardboard box,
and green spray-can hair dye
gave me more peaceful work time
than an entire afternoon of yelling.

Kindess. Attention. Time. They actually work.
New goal: Keep it up, woman.

***This post is part of Six Word Fridays.***

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My rough and tumble girl

Ballet is for girls who pirouette and chasse like delicate flowers.

My girl is a powerhouse of movement and sound, a tumbling rumbling flurry of action, the wind that whips your hair and makes your eyes water.

In other words, she's most suited to gymnastics.

She had her first recital (ever) last month and insisted she wear her ballet leotard rather than her unitard. She refused to allow us to come near her. She tried to perform each activity without a spotter. She put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes when anyone tried to exercise their authority over her.

In other words, she carries exactly half of my genetic code. My attitude and her father's daring. My independence and her father's dexterity. And in that almost-too-small leotard? All that tush? That's 100 percent from the mountain. Guess I should've known way back when.

Despite her fiesty, fierce determination to show us all what she's made of, her coaches have asked her to begin training for their challenge team. That means she'll be taking those rolling eyeballs on the road.

Olympics here we come!

Let's hear about your child's first display of arrogance mixed with middling talent. Or, of course, how fabulous he or she is at everything.

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday and Way Back Whenesday.***

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Fear Is The Best Medicine

My darling son lacks impulse control, which gets him in trouble in more ways than one. For instance, yesterday he decided to steal a 5 Hour Energy drink and use it to take his ADHD medication. Cue a day of horrid behavior and emotional and physical rollercoasters.

Because he couldn't figure out why a kid shouldn't drink 5 Hour Energy, I decided to tell him the combo of drink + meds could cause his heart to EXPLODE at any moment. His ensuing panic and fear that his heart was a ticking time bomb reminded me of the Cherry Tree Syndrome. Ah. Good times. Nothing like instilling a little fear in your kid to replace bad nerves with hearty laughter.

And so, here's an oldie but goodie. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

This is Javi:

Shortly after this photo was taken, Javi decided to steal a handful of fresh cherries out of his mother's snack bowl. He stuffed a couple in his mouth and tried to chew them as quickly as possible so that he could finish the others in his hand before grabbing more. Unfortunately, that furious chewing and swallowing resulted in a serious misstep.

He swallowed a cherry pit.

So began an 18-hour saga of Cherry Tree Syndrome. Javi's mom couldn't resist acting horrified that he ate the pit because -- doesn't he know? -- that pit will sprout in his belly and a cherry tree will grow up, up, up, (same way the food gets down) until the branches erupt from his ears.

Hour 2: Severe and random belly aches.
Hour 15: Feeling the tree as it grows big.
Hour 17: Spotting its leaves just beyond non-lighted sight in his ear drums.

His mom had to break the first layer of bad news. If the branches happen to grow into his brain, Javi will no longer be one of the smartest kids in his class. He'll probably be last on the PBS board and won't be able to remember his times tables for the third grade. He may not be able to swoosh a basketball in the net from 15 feet a way. He most likely will forget how to ride a bike.

Then came the second layer of bad news. He can't simply prune the branches as they come out of his ears. Nope. That's because the branches will push through poor Javi's eardrum and bring part of it out with them. So if he trims the branches, he's likely to also sever his eardrum.

Which will leave him deaf.

Javi then used his brand new (to him) desktop computer, which sits upon his brand new (to him) computer desk, to search for cures for a sprouted-in-the-body cherry tree. He used search terms like, "how to get a cherry tree out of your body," "what happens when you swallow a cherry pit," and "weed killers for cherry trees in your ears."

Unfortunately, Ask.com returned no useful information. Javi used Ask.com because that's what his Internet browser defaulted to. He never asked his mom what other sites might be good for finding a cure to Cherry Tree Syndrome.

Poor Javi. Will he ever find a cure?

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I may be battling re-entry, but that doesn't stop life from surging on. And this. This moment captured. This is the marrow of life.

My girl, held by her big brother, allowing her head to submerge for the first time. No fear, no hesitation, just fierce and unwavering trust in her brother to keep her safe, this pool not to hold hidden danger, this world to always be on her side.

A leap of faith. 

And so goes the relentless march toward independence. Since taking that leap, that inhaled and held breath, my baby is swimming. She holds her nose and plunges into the crystal blue water of our community pool. When her body's fully under, she kicks like a professional. My youngest fish.

First, two feet and up for air. A foot more and up for air. Today, the width of the pool and up for applause.


P.S. Take heart my chicken loving friends. We're chick hunting! Now to find the perfect little flock of girls to complement Ms. Fancy...

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday.***

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Cluck of the Week: A family without a flock

The heavy, wet heat of summer is here -- bringing with it trips to the pool and gymnastics recitals and two 4s on the end-of-grade tests. Unfortunately, work has sucked up every extra minute this past month.

I thought this would be the night I finally have time to sit down and turn memories into words, but I can't revel in any of it -- not the gorgeous shimmer of sun on wet skin or the light scent of gardenia in bloom or five days without children where I spent my time lounging in lake water so clear I could see my toenail polish four feet down. Now's not the time for these life-meat moments.

Because when I returned from those languid days of being a wife, only, there was only one chicken sunning herself on the back deck. One chicken bathing herself in the sandy dug-out space beneath the hydrangea bush. One chicken squawking and pecking on the door for a treat. And that one chicken -- Fancy -- turns out to be the luckiest chicken on God's green earth.

One of Lulu's many visits to the front window.

In the same place where we found sweet Maisy, there was Lulu's dander and feathers and fluff. A thorough search of the yard revealed nothing we hoped to find. No tell-tale leftovers of a hawk attack. No trail of feathers and blood to signal a dog or cat or fox hauled her off. Just a handful of fluff that scattered when the evening breeze picked up.

The sole survivor of a fox attack at her previous home, Fancy has now also survived dogs, hawks, and cats -- and she seems completely unfazed about being the only girl left. I don't know whether we should use this as an opportunity to bring home more chicks (as the pecking order wouldn't apply) or just consider Fancy the last chicken we should subject to our neighborhood.

Lulu Girl chillin' with the kids on the front steps. She liked popping bubbles and
sharing the many treats they found to hand out.

There's not sadness so much as resignation, and the decision never to free range any other flock we may have in the future. A coop may be a cage, but it's safe. For the chickens and for their families.

The last time I saw Lulu -- on the day we left for vacation, she spent a few hours
perched on the window box for a little respite from the oppressive early June heat.

Wherever you are, Lulu Girl, may you rest peacefully. You will be missed.

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Kidney Cutie

April 23, 2012

We're hurtling further and further from T-Day aka Transplant Day (February 21, 2012). Ashley and her donor sailed through surgery and are both doing well. (Read Jeremy's story here.)

Unfortunately, though her kidney issues are resolved, Ashley has still been hospitalized several times since the transplant -- and has been in the hospital for a week now. Doctors can't figure out what's wrong, but she has been dealing with intense abdominal and intestinal cramping as well as C. Diff, lethargy, and -- most recently -- a recurrent fever.

The cramping and other intestinal stuff is straight Cystic Fibrosis. People often forget that CF is only 50 percent respiratory. The other 50 percent of the disease affects the digestive system. The fever is bad news all the way around as she's immuno-suppressed. Hopefully her medical team gets her fixed and home soon!

Your thoughts, prayers, well wishes, good vibes, good juju, etc are much appreciated! To stay updated on her story, follow the Kidney Cutie page on Facebook.

February 2012

Many people know that we are currently fundraising for my sister's life-saving kidney transplant. This page should serve as resource for those who'd like more information about her condition, the status of our fundraising, and all other transplant/health-related stuff. (Check out our FAQs.)

If you have a question that isn't answered here, please feel free to ask it via email! Stay updated on her fundraising progress and needs at Kidney Cutie on Facebook. Donate to her transplant fund here.

Team Cutie held a spaghetti plate sale for Ashley on Nov. 18 in Sanford NC. The tally for that event is $4,000!!! Thank you all and please keep spreading the word. Between blogger support and hometown support -- Ashley may get a five-year plan after all! (Note that this amount will be deposited into Ashley's local COTA account and then transferred over at the end of the month. It will not be reflected on her donation tracker page until then.)

My previous posts about Ashley's transplant journey:
Other bloggers' posts about Ashley:
Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What illness does Ashley have that requires a kidney transplant?
A: Ashley was born with Cystic Fibrosis. She had a double lung transplant in 2001 that requires she take some high-powered immunosuppressants and anti-rejection medications. Those medications have destroyed her kidneys.

Q: Why can't Ashley go on dialysis like other patients in renal failure?
A: Ashley's renal health is directly tied to her respiratory health. Several years after her first transplant, Ashley went into chronic rejection, which is managed by medications. Rejection can take all forms; Ashley's is vascular, which means her veins often refuse to carry blood into her tissues. Those veins must remain healthy, and many of them come from the renal system. If Ashley's renal system is allowed to fail and she becomes dependent on dialysis, her lung health will also deteriorate -- making her ineligible for another lung transplant. Without the eventual lung transplant, Ashley will not survive.

Q: If Ashley will need another lung transplant to survive, why should anyone spend the money on a kidney transplant?
A: Ashley will need another lung transplant because every transplant patient with a chronic disease (such as Cystic Fibrosis) will eventually need a second transplant. Transplanted tissues suffer from wear and tear at much faster rate than native tissues. When Ashley received her first transplant, everyone was fully aware that eventually she'd need another one. The same goes with this kidney. If she gets one now, she will most likely still need another one in 10 years or so. That's the nature of transplantation.

Q: What has Ashley done to slow down this process?
A: Most people find out they're sick and expect their sickness to cater to them. They don't want to give up smoking or drinking. They don't want to adjust their diet. Ashley is the opposite. She doesn't smoke or drink. Every time she is told to stop doing something or start doing something, she hops to it. For instance, she's gluten intolerant and so she stopped eating all gluten. She became medically diabetic and so she stopped eating refined sugars and high-carb foods. Then her kidney health deteriorated so she cut out high-potassium and high-phosphorous foods. She's the most compliant patient you'll meet in your lifetime! This has definitely bought her more time, but the window of good health has closed. There's not much more she can control through lifestyle changes.

Q: What is Ashley and her family doing to raise money?
A: Ashley's family has been fundraising for her for several months now. You can see past fundraisers and upcoming events on her COTA web page, which is updated often.

Q: What is COTA?
A: COTA stands for the Children's Organ Transplant Association. Ashley used this nonprofit when she began fundraising for her first transplant (double lung). When she began that process she was 17, though she didn't receive the transplant until February 2001 (age 20). She is now in COTA's system for life, making it easier to start fundraising again using this organization rather than try to find another reputable one.

Q: What happens to funds collected for Ashley, should the worst happen before they can be used?
A: Should the worst happen and Ashley be unable to use the funds in her transplant account, they will not be disbursed to the family or anyone else. The funds would be signed over to COTA for use with another patient.

Q: Ashley has one more appeal to attempt to secure funding. Where does that stand, and what does it mean for contributions made in her name through COTA?
A: Should Ashley’s final appeal with Medicaid yield a positive result in her favor, she still requires $50,000 of money in the COTA account as her contribution to the surgical costs. At this time, she is far from that amount. Any excess over that amount would remain earmarked for any future transplants.

Q: Will I see my donation reflected immediately in the balance on Ashley’s page?
A: All monies collected through online donations are reflected in the online balance on Ashley’s page. Funds collected online are reflected immediately in Ashley’s balance, as soon as your online donation is processed. Monies collected through checks or fundraising activities are reflected when the checks and money orders are received and cleared by COTA in Ashley’s name.

Q: What if I have additional questions about COTA, Ashley, or anything related?
A: COTA is happy to answer any questions you might have. You may contact COTA directly online, by calling 1-800-366-2682, or access Ashley’s page at www.cotaforashleyq.com. You may also contact me via email.

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