The Most Hilarious E-Mail My Husband Ever Sent Me

Two hours ago, my husband told me he and my three year old would be taking a Sunday nap. 5 minutes ago, I checked my e-mail and found the following:

So there I was……asleep. I vaguely heard the sound of a toilet lid being raised or lowered in the distance. About the time my mind concluded that it was in fact a toilet and that the source of the sound was approaching my location, I saw it, dangling at the end of a tiny arm, about the time my sleeping brain processed the sight, the smell arrived, deftly confirming that it was in fact, poop. Yes a toddler extending a soiled diaper exclaiming, “Look”, as though I could do anything other than show the horror in my eyes and the uncontrollable cringing of lips and cheeks, gnarled in disgust. Yes, it was a dirty diaper being thrust into my face whilst I slept, but most importantly, the foul source of the mess was clearly absent from the center of this horrible cornucopia. I quickly reached-out and snatched the diaper, lunging to my feet. Questions began to fly” What, How, Why, Who did you”? “Crap”? Yes it was crap and plenty of it.

Internal monologue was screaming, “No, he brought it to you and that is good right? No it is errant Human feces, it is always bad. Why on earth would he. Wait, where is the payload? How did he think this was what his potty training was leading-up-to? Did he slide down the stairs like that? Thank goodness we don’t have carpet in this house”.

Yes, he did in fact walk to me in our room holding a dirty, used diaper, un-wiped, and telling me to look as though some success needed to be celebrated. After he was scoured in the tub and with wipes, I had no choice but to go on the hunt. That’s right, ‘a crapspedition’. As I crawled on hands and knees retracing his likely steps from upstairs to downstairs now armed with three washcloths and antibacterial cleaners hanging like sidearms from the waistband of my pants, I was never so vigilant and never so suspicious of every speck on our floors. Third stair up, I was on the septic little trail. I found some suspect crumbs and smears of nastiness and continued my mantra , “poop is Icky, we have to clean it”, J giggled downstairs, now wearing an Olaf costume ball cap as though everything was fine. “Poop is yucky, we have to clean it”, I moaned in reply. that was when the smell hit me like a ton of….well a ton of something that has to be cleaned. I looked-up and saw a closed toddler bedroom door. No doubt he had sealed it like a coffin as he exited to avoid certain DooDoom. The overpowering smell was at least as bad as any truck stop restroom I have ever encountered.

As I carefully followed the treacherous trail, I noticed, the smell was coming from the open bathroom door to my right in the hall. There it was, peering up at me from its porcelain prison. A 2 flush job and a bowl scrub required. Then I continued the hunt toward his room, the inevitable ground zero for this poopacalypse. As I suspected, there were signs of a struggle. Not the struggle of trying to be responsible and hold it or get to the potty, maybe even alert the authorities; no it was the other kind. Play had occurred here, the kind of play that can’t be interrupted by going to the potty. Comforter, floor, and circus tent, all victims of this atrocity. I write this unable to continue the hunt for more. And that is why you can’t nap for 30 minutes around here. Even the slightest rest could leave you wondering if that behavior was good at its core. Do you reward dumping poop in the toilet or scold the delivery of the empty diaper, a memory that will make sleep lightly for weeks? Or do you instead say everything will be covered in saran wrap and painter’s tarps until he is 7?

I love this man.

“I thought your family would enjoy this”, he said. 8 years of being married into the Allen family has finally warped him.

To all of you trying to nap and potty-train, you aren’t alone.

The School of Delay Fish

I’m not the mom I thought I would be.
My sons aren’t what I envisioned. There is no denying that they are “delayed”, “behind”, “coping”, “traumatized”- not the status quo. Sometimes the pain of living with that is beyond measure. Other times it is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. On most days, it is both.

My two year old can’t walk. He is close to crawling. Naturally, there are very good reasons for that. Leukemia causes pain in the leg muscles and bone marrow, so a child having sudden pain or refusing to walk is a notable concern in conjunction with other factors. There are always reasons for why we can’t keep up. It doesn’t change the facts, no matter how the pain may be alleviated for the moment. I am still thrilled for your kid’s early accomplishments and I still want to hear and celebrate with you! Each kid is at a different pace and I don’t mind the occasional jog or sprint moment in my tortoise-paced marathon. If you reach finish lines before we do, you can cheer us on when we cross.

I’ve learned many valuable lessons about teach children I didn’t learn as a classroom teacher. For instance, to teach William the Conqueror to crawl, I must get down on a mat on my hands and knees, support his body and gently force him into position. Then I must make him bear weight and let him push against me to make him stronger. This takes my “drill sergeant face” to a new level. We’re talking Russian Olympic Coach, here– because it makes him stronger.

I suppose that is what has happened to me for the past three years. I’ve been broken. My plans have been altered for life and I’m delayed. Sometimes it is hard to see everyone run ahead and wave as they go by. It is hard to be patient when someone is always behind. It is easier to put us in a group and go on.
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I’m learning that adventures are much better when you travel with “delay fish”. You can learn a lot in the school of delay fish.

The amazing thing is, after weeks and weeks of pushing, striving, sweating, and fighting, one day they start moving. I sat on a large, red, rectangular gym mat and watched a ball roll away from William. As I started to move and reach for it, he scooted in his own rump-bump way and like a flash, he was across the mat and holding the ball. I was overjoyed to be dumbfounded. Imagining him getting up and walking across the room makes me instantly tear up– it will be like watching the impossible occur and yet it WILL happen. Holding on to that much hope and faith overfills my heart.

I think all parents feel this way from time to time. We push, pull, plead and strain to get our kids to do things and then one day the not only meet but exceed our expectations. As we try to savor the moment, we realize we must speed after them. This is the heartcry of those who parent, teach, train, disciple, and love. All of a sudden we are passed by those we lead and we must catch up.
“There go my men, and I must hasten after them for I am their leader.”–Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin

I am learning that I must lead by example as well as lead from behind. When the boys are marching at their own place to destinations that I had never planned. Along the way, my William has gained followers. People are watching him. They are inspired. They cheer us on, pray for us and ponder us. My sons make people think about Jesus and what faith looks like when you strip away all the promises of a perfect and pleasant life. Jesus spent more time healing the broken than with the folks that didn’t want to be fixed. If you have to be broken to be in the presence of the most high God, it is worth it.

Slow down. Make time for divine delays. They will hurt. They will break you. They are worth it. I am not the mother I thought I’d be. My sons aren’t the sons I thought I’d have. They are better. Maybe, just maybe, they can lead me to become the mother I want to be.
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“Don’t rush a miracle man, Sonny, or you’ll get rotten miracles.”
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“Reach Out and Touch Faith”

I love to people watch. Occasionally it can be a horrifying pass-time but it also allows us to see some wonderful things in the world around us.

This week William has been allowed out of the room but must remain on the floor, so we spend a lot of time ‘driving’.
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There are 18 rooms on the hall and every so often, the doors will be cracked. As I walk laps around the same tiny loop, we see glimpses of others’ lives. In the evenings when things are simultaneously quiet and restless, we can see the ‘true self’; just like at home, night time is we can stop being busy and can genuinely struggle, relax, suffer or blissfully rest.

As William and I walked our loop this week I have seen some incredible things. In one room a frail teenager sat on the bed while a tall, brunette nurse hung an IV bag with a smile. On our second loop I could see this nurse, Emily, standing behind this girl, brushing out her long gentle waves with great care. She was not rushing off to other patients; Emily’s attention and conversation was entirely focused on this girl. By the third loop a beautiful plaited braid hung between her shoulder blades and the opening to a hospital gown. For the first time in days, I saw the girl smile.

This small act is quite profound. In this place people are often isolated to our rooms. Often, nurses must put on gowns, gloves and masks to even enter the rooms. This becomes tiresome in the endless rounding and checking on each patient. Many of the patients go all day with their only touch being when vitals are taken or something functional is taking place. Emily paused from the chaotic rush. She SAW this girl and she touched her. When one brushes hair too hurriedly there is pain. Playing with and styling hair is a special thing in young ladies. It is even more profound on a floor where the Q-ball look is wildly popular due to chemotherapy.

Have you ever noticed how small children become fascinated with something and immediately want to touch it? Even paintings or pictures that they find beautiful that have very little texture. When we really see something and admire it, we often want to touch it. Moms of small children constantly have to say, “Don’t touch that! It’s dirty!” and “That can make you sick!” How often we take that approach with others. The sick, the homeless- the rejected in society will often say that one of the hardest parts is that they are rarely touched. One of our nurses is about to go overseas to train and teach nurses handling the Ebola crisis. We would say that is bravery. Reaching out to the broken and sick often looks brave. Contact that transmits love is risky.

In here I am rarely touched by someone other than William. Believe me, at the end of the day I can still have moments when I don’t want anyone touching me at all for a few minutes. I think it is because the constant reaching out and touching our bodies is exhausting– it is how we give of ourselves. Is it any wonder that just sitting quietly in someone’s presence, perhaps holding hands or shoulder to shoulder is more significant during grief than any words of comfort? Sometimes the best medicine for what can’t be fixed is knowing someone cares.

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I can tell which nurses are in love with William by how they smile at him and touch him. They high-five, cuddle, and blow kisses. The therapists force his body into strengthening positions– they put their bodies in line with his to strengthen him. They feel his strength by feeling him. He may scream through it but the next time the move gets easier– and he grins.

When we stop trying to fix, we can heal. Sometimes we can’t see the disease– only its evidence. Faith is like that. Hope, love, faith- the evidence is how we touch, grasp, reach out and draw in.
In the words of Depeche Mode, “Reach out and touch faith”.

A Little Help From My Friends

I spent most of this week on the home front thanks to some amazing friends.

My dearest friend and I talk nearly every day, punctuated with “Get that out of your brother’s nose!” and “We don’t pee in fire trucks!”, etc. because we are mothers. I have only seen her about 3 times in 9 years. In the middle of all this she did something crazy. She bought a plane ticket she couldn’t afford, left her kids for the first time while her husband used a week of vacation he never gets and came to help me. I am telling you, having your best friend live life with you during a crisis can heal your heart.

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On Tuesday night she and William had more fun than I should ever know about while I took a 48 hour pass to be at home with my amazing man. We celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. This year we decided to do something somewhat unusual because this year has been extreme and stretched us. I have a teeny fear of falling, so my crazy suggestion was to go rock climbing. My man is great at it but I prefer to keep to the ground.

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I am proud to say that I could see how far I’ve come in charging ahead to conquer my fears this year. Also, yoga pants give me superpowers. I am proud to say I scaled a few walls quickly and without complaint…until I got to the inverted part where one must hang and climb. That is when I turned into a cat clinging by the claws to avoid being bathed. There is always room for improvement.When you’re climbing and hanging on by a thread-even a strong one- the ROCKS are what steady you.
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My man is a rock. I love that man. We had a wonderful day and a great dinner at Texas Roadhouse, where we had our first date. The scars and lines in our faces show that this decade was a rough one for us. Our smile lines are deeper than our worry lines, which is something worth celebrating. Our marriage is stronger than ever because we are fighting TOGETHER. Men and women are made to fight. They secret is fighting FOR each other, not against each other and I married one amazing warrior.

Soon after my man took a shift with Will and I got to spend a day with my dear friend. We had a blast. We relaxed, laughed, and even cleaned/reorganized. Oh…and we potty trained a toddler. Some of those activities smelled better than others.
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Faithful and true friends are ROCKS. They are ropes. They bring you to base camp. Praise the Lord for base camps like bed times and the best moments in life. Another of those happened this week. I received a series of text messages that started with, “What exactly does labor feel like?” and ended with:
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My sister and her husband welcomed my nephew into the world after a long and difficult labor. That’s how life is, you know. A long and hard climb with many wonderful moments of base camp, rocks to rest on and breathtaking views.

Then on Saturday another amazing friend Amy, who is no stranger to long hospital stays and lives close to UNC, offered to let my man and I have another 24 hours together with our other son– something that only happens about 6 days a month. In that time she got Will to eat again after 3 days of refusing food. Boy oh boy did she influence for the better!
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Friends are rocks. They steady us. They protect us. In a pinch they can be thrown at attackers. Blessed is the one who has a true friend. They make the climb worth it.
This weekend with my husband anchoring me and my friends supporting me, I realized I could climb and not be as afraid.

Climb on.

Getting the Gurney; You Need Blood

“When you can’t run, walk. When you can’t walk, crawl. If you can’t crawl… find someone to drag you on a gurney.”

These beautiful words of wisdom came from my beloved sister-in-law–wife, mother of 5, world traveler and missionary, and general awesomeness in redhead form. It was also the unofficial motto for her church several years ago. After all, where people are really living and striving for authentic holiness, some people are running and some are on the gurney. It all depends on the day.

This is the beginning of Week 2 for William the Conqueror. During Week 1 he was infused with chemotherapy drugs and aside from some nausea and mild crankiness he does fairly well. This week his counts are beginning to drop early, which means his immune system is unable to fight and everything implodes. It’s like a teething toddler meeting the flu. Only Taylor Swift and miles of walking in circles in his push-cart will console him.

I found myself getting very frustrated with all the screaming today. I pounding headache raged from my eye and ear down the neck. E-mails sat impatiently. Plans needed working for the folks at home. My list of level 2 priorities was long. I was getting downright snippy.

While the nurses consoled William saying, “Everyone gets a bad day”, “Look what you’re going through!” etc., it occurred to me that bad choices begin with a good excuse.

Priscilla Shirer uses the metaphor of a water glass in someone’s outstretched hand. If someone shakes the arm holding a full glass, water will spill out. We can say the shaking caused the spill, but the reality is that water was IN the cup; that is why a full cup overflowed and water spilled out.

When we are shaken, what is IN us will shake OUT of us.

As William started up his “roar”s and “MOM” screeches, the nurses told me how low his hemoglobin levels are and said it was time for a transfusion.
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Soon blood products were hanging and coursing into his veins. With in an hour William showed marked improvement. When he is drained and can’t continue, the blood of another is needed to transform what we have into something better. The small amount of “whole” and healthy blood can cover all the deficiencies of William’s blood. The difference is obvious and notable, even though it is gradual. That’s the gospel right there. The perfect blood of Jesus infused into us covers our deficiencies and changes everything. Testing the blood tomorrow will reflect the impact of the healthy blood more than Williams, just as the more Christ-infused we are, the less we see of ourselves.
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Today is a “walk” day for me. I am hauling a gernie. I can’t carry more weight or go any faster. I am tapped out.

I find that many of my friends, particularly mothers, are often hauling very heavy gurneys and guilty that they aren’t at a running pace anymore. Our situation has changed and yet we won’t give ourselves the grace in our new task. Worse, some of us take PRIDE in the difficulty of our path and almost delight in our misery as if to bring glory to it.
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It is much easier to find someone to run, walk, or carry with you if you stop being miserable in it. It is better to just be infused with blood and just be encouraged in it. In our world which loves to play “who has it worse”, that is difficult.

NOTHING helped today– except an infusion of new blood. Sometimes you just need a doctor. Sometimes you just need rest. Sometimes you need a gurney. It is in time, presence, listening, carrying– THOSE are the things that get under our skin more than the list of “have you tried”s or “I have a great product” or “I read this article”.
If you are in a season of running, RUN! If you’re walking, walk! If you are crawling, crawl! It’s NOT a competition.

Today is a gurney and life-support kind of day. May we all be looking out to see how we can infuse others with life-giving things. Speak life. Run the race. Walk in His paths. Crawl and pray on pray on your knees. Lie flat and cry out. Jesus can work with it all. That’s something to glory in.

Round 3: Cracking Up

I have an “Owl” friend.
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She swoops in when things are darkest, asks lots of questions and is extremely wise. She is the kind of woman who can look intently into the heart of things in the way an artist can see a canvas and sees what true beauty can become of it. When she gives me gems of wisdom, I treasure them; many of our conversations have words I know by heart. I am surrounded by so many who feel broken and weak right now that I know I must share this gem with you. Rather than tuck away these pearls of wisdom, I want to set them and boldly wear them over my heart for all to see. I must confess that when the Spirit gives me treasure, I sometimes want to hold it closely and bury it instead of sharing and investing. (Reminds me of a parable about talents…)

In the old corps dorms-turned-female-dorms of Texas A&M, we spent hours talking into the night on hard mattresses. While I sat across from her on my pull-out hospital bed and she in a light green plastic chair, still lovely from the day of work and eating some dinner she brought, it was hard for me to believe that nearly ten years had passed.

I confessed to her that my heart and eyelids were heavy. While others rave about my strength, I have never felt so weak or more broken in the midst of my resilience. “Am I numb from shock? Am I not able to pray deliberately each moment because I am distant or because I am dwelling in a pit with him at all times and the Spirit is interceding on my behalf when I can’t find the words (Romans 8:23)?”

Her almond eyes stared into mine. I knew wisdom was coming; she always listens fully and then ponders the meaning behind my words before speaking. Her comfort is never cliche or wasted. We all need those friends who can be silent and yet hear our heart.

“Kait, you know how the Bible says we are like jars of clay?” We are weak and fragile but containing treasure. Well, you are a cracked and broken jar.”

(True friends know when to call you a cracked pot, you know.)

“Kait, your treasure is the Light you shine here. People see Jesus in a very dark place. To see it, your jar is being cracked so that more light can come through. You see weakness and brokenness. They see light.”
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Now, I’ve always pictured clay jars holding gems or maybe the Dead Sea Scrolls when I’ve seem that verse. I have never pictured the imagery of light coming through.

Folks, that is a GOOD WORD.

When we see inspiration, we don’t see the broken vessel nearly as much as what pours out of it. That is how we see what the intangible. We can only see examples of strength, resilience, forgiveness, grace– we “see” these things when they pour out unexpectedly.

We are most beautiful when we are broken.
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Cancer and difficulties from an extra chromosome are intricately woven throughout my son’s body. When joy radiates through it, he is beautifully broken. Light pours out.

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This hospital room would be pitch black at night if not for the pump screens and red dot from the pulse-oxygen wrap. Those tiny screens illuminate the whole room.

I often tell my boys, “Be a light. There is more darkness than light, but light is more powerful. Darkness, no matter how formidable, cannot overcome the light on its own.”

We all have cracks, holes and blemishes. Do others use those holes as places to look through ways to peer into your hidden heart? Do others see light pouring out?

I am humbled by my friend’s assessment and offer the story not to ask for praise but to offer this wisdom and my own conviction: when we are too focused on ourselves, the broken vessel, we can be afraid of what we might lose or what might fall out through our cracks. Don’t be. Showcase something wonderful. Let your light shine through the cracks. If you do it right, eventually others will see more light than clay.
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Brokenness hurts. No one likes being cracked and chipped. Remember that it is hard to see the masterpiece from the inside out. Trust the potter and let your light shine.

Round 3 Begins

After 6 days at home enjoying life as a family unit, the hospital called us back. Apparently the nurses were having dance party withdrawals and needed their boyfriend…or something. There may have been mention of chemotherapy continuing– I’m a little hazy on the details.

Either way, William and I are set to conquer our third round of chemotherapy!
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We set out at 5:45 and had a peaceful drive. As we drove across the bridge over the Jordan lakes, the full moon fully illuminated blue water against a midnight ink sky. I glanced to the opposite side of the bridge to see brilliant pinks, purples and oranges bursting forth against the black sky; it was a perfectly serene moment.

We even found a perfectly located parking spot open as we arrived on time! Princess Jasmine isn’t the only one who is punctual! (Disney joke… you’re welcome, Taylor.)

After some weigh-ins and unpleasant moments changing the Broviac dressing and taking blood, William and I were released to wait… and wait. It was a FULL house because Tuesdays and Fridays are ‘sedation days’. The place was a beehive of activity; no one was still for hours. Unable to eat and awakened at 5:15, William became a bit cranky.
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Volunteers to the rescue! Two hours were spent enjoying new playmates. Hooray!
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Finally it was out turn; the spinal tap and bone marrow biopsy went beautifully.
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Soon we arrived back in out previous room– the SUITE! He grinned and danced with all his favorite nurse while protesting the wearing of pants. He is clearly comfortable here but also comfortable giving these great ladies a hard time when they take vitals.

After a wagon ride around the center and waving hello like a beauty queen, he took a well-deserved nap, which I assume he is finishing due to the rustle of the sheets I hear. In a few hours his first bag of cytrabine, daunorubicin and thioguanine. All said and done these will last 96 hours and then we wait and pray that he doesn’t have any infections or complications again.

We’ll keep you posted! We’re starting off 2015 swinging!

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