Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nativity Scene for Boys

The boys and I set up the Nativity Scene on our dining room table today. As we unwrapped each piece, I explained the siginificance and biblical accuracy of each person or animal. We then set them up in some sort of a logical and nicely laid out manner. This took some convincing because their favorite pieces were the camels and they wanted those in the stable right on top of baby Jesus. I finally convinced them that the camels should be off in the distance towards the head of the table since they actually didn't show up until baby Jesus was a toddler (biblical accuracy again). We finished our project and I went to display more Christmas decorations elsewhere in the house. I heard them playing near the nativity scene and I thought I would just go back and peek on them to see what they had re-arranged.

This is what they did:

Here is a birds eye view:

Some of you may not recognize these parties from your more traditional nativity scenes, so I will explain. That is Little Dude - the Black Bear Webkinz that Gavin has ALL THE TIME. That is some blue Dolphin laying ON TOP of baby Jesus. They tell me Dolphin is licking Baby Jesus - I chose not to ask any more questions about that one. Also, if you look closely, you can see that they are both holding Batman on top of the stable near the angel. Earlier Batman was hiding in the stable protecting Baby Jesus from the Joker and Bane. I guess he needed to do some roof surveillance, too. I am now going to go read my Bible to see where I can find the passage about the Joker.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A theory in Relativity

I have had so many people say to me they feel so guilty complaining about their own issues or problems once they learn more about ours. Serious cancer can do that to people. Everything is relative. To me, most of the time, it isn’t important that Brian doesn’t help clean a toilet. (EVER!) Or that he isn’t romantic or that he doesn’t help get the kids ready on Sunday morning or take an interest in our finances or whatever it may be. To me, those are not important issues due to our own life-threatening issues. When someone tells me they feel guilty thinking their own issues are taxing, I ALWAYS reply with, “Your issues and concerns are troublesome to YOU.” The fact that my issues or problems are bigger in someone else’s eyes doesn’t mean anything. I still pray for their requests and burdens the same way they pray for mine. However, sometimes someone’s problems can give us perspective on our own blessings. It is all relative.

For example, when I hear someone complain that their husband travels all the time or works long hours, I think, “At least Brian is home.” When I learn of a cheating spouse, I think, “At least Brian is devoted to me.” When I learn about poor, struggling families, I think, “At least God has covered our heads with a warm house and richly provided for our needs.” When I hear about other’s family issues, problems and rivalries, I think, “We have such a loving, supportive family. Thank God.” I don’t mean to belittle someone else’s problems any more than they wish to belittle mine. I pray for their needs, but their problems and issues make me thankful for what I have.

This week, my brother-in-law and sister found out that my brother-in-law lost his job. There is a lot of burden that comes with news like that at this time of the year and at this point in their lives. I didn’t tell Mindi, but I think, “Thank God Brian has a good job with insurance to keep providing for us.” Then I pray for their financial provision and Matt’s job situation. Mindi didn’t say the words to me, but I am sure she is thinking, “Thank God Matt is healthy with no major medical concerns.” I’m sure she continues to pray for a miracle recovery for Brian. That’s just the way life works.

Everything is relative.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Did you know I could read?

We had some breakthroughs in our house recently. Gavin, our 6-year-old Kindergartener, is beginning to read. He has memorized over 20 sight words. To emphasize this memorization, I have him read all the sight words that he should know when we do our stories at night. However, on Sunday night, I got out our “Bob Books Now” set. This has sight words and basic word sentences such as: “Mac sat. Mat sat. Mac sat on Sam.” etc. Each book introduces a new letter; therefore a new sound. Gavin read lots of new words simply by sounding them out. He was frustrated at first, but as he would get it correct, he would read it again and again, feeling very proud. He did just great and I lathered him with praise (Gavin needs praise). What a breakthrough for him. Grant, our 4 year old, is picking up a lot of sight words as a result of this work with Gavin, but getting angry that he doesn’t get a long story at night as often.

Today at the hardware store, while buying new Christmas lights, Gavin, of course, had to use the bathroom. We went to where the facilities were located and I told them that one was the boys and this one was the girls. Go in whichever. He went into the boys. Grant looked up at the doors and our conversation went like this:

Grant: “That one is boys and this one is girls?”
Me: “Yes”
Grant: “M-E-N and W-O-M-E-N?”
Me: “Yes”
Grant: “Did you know that I just readed that?” (Yes, he said ‘readED’)
Me: “What did you read?”
Grant: “That sign.”
Me: “I know, but what does it say?”
Grant, pointing to the WOMEN sign: “Girls” and pointing to the MEN sign: “boys”
Me: “Actually, this says women and that says men. M-E-N spells men and W-O-M-E-N spells women” stressing the mmm sound in men and the www sound in women.
Grant: “Women? And Men?”
Me: “Yes, you didn’t actually read ‘boys’ and ‘girls’, you spelled women and men”
Grant: “Women… that’s kind of weird.”
Me: “What is so weird about it”
Grant: “Cuz, girls’ farts are the stinkiest!” He then proceeded to run down the aisle as fast as he could and slide as far as he could on his knees between the paint and the fertilizer.

When I told Brian the story later, he stated, “Well it’s true. Girl farts are stinky.” Yes, breakthroughs, indeed!


Sunday, November 25, 2007

After the Turkey

Well, Thanksgiving is over. I am not going to write much today as I feel a need to catch up on some sleep and some alone time with my hubby. We often feel after a holiday or a vacation with family that we have barely seen each other since we left the house. Today is no different.

Unfortunately, we lost a relative over the holiday - Brian's sort-of step grandpa (long story) and the only great-grandpa the boys have ever known, albeit a little bit. While we are saddened at this loss, Elliott lived a LONG AND VERY FULL life here on this earth impacting MANY.

On a totally separate note, it was FANTASTIC to see everyone. Lots of family - some I haven't seen in over two years or close to to it. Every year some of my mom's extended family (she is one of 11 and there are 22 first cousins and 32 offspring of first cousins on that side alone) get together for Thanksgiving, and every other year we spend Thanksgiving with my mom and dad. The other years we spend it with Brian's mom and dad. My family gives me PLENTY of things to talk and write about and that will be coming in the next few days.

We actually got home from my parents before bedtime this evening. When we arrived in Peoria, there was a speckle of spit of snow on the ground. I could NOT believe how excited the boys were. Gavin, the 6 year old, was literally giggling with glee pronouncing that this was his first snow. Are you kidding me? I have pictures of him playing in snow for the last 6 winters. He took snow skiing lessons the last two years. We did not see our front lawn last year from the middle of October until April due to snow pack and coverage in Edmonton. He had to wear snow pants and boots to school every day during that time. Where was he? Regardless, he and Grant bundled up in whatever gloves, hats, snow pants, snow boots and coats they could find. It was 34 F degrees, they looked ridiculous, and they were driving me nuts as we were trying to unload and get things put away, but they had a ball. I do think, however, the entire point was to justify a request for marshmallow topped hot chocolate. They got it, of course.

I also put up the Christmas tree, and we will decorate it tomorrow after I buy new lights. The little twinkle lights I have blow fuses every year. This year I am scrapping them and starting new. We have little for Christmas traditions. One we have had for our entire marriage, however, is that I put the tree up by myself until the boys put on ornaments and garland. Brian is NEVER involved. This was never by choice. In fact, I can remember many years of realizing upon completion that he either watched me the entire time or watched football while I worked for an entire day adding Holiday cheer to our home. Today, he asked me if I needed help putting up the tree. I simply looked at him dumbfounded and said "I think I am good. I usually do this part solo. Um.... in fact, I am shocked at the offer.... Really.... I just don't even know what to do with that." He said, "I know, I don't know what I am thinking. I'm a little surprised at myself." We kept our tradition. I managed to get the tree up while Brian resurrected his fallen IPOD (another story) and the boys watched a little TV enjoying their hot chocolate. Due to my long-standing tradition of solo assembly I have become particular about putting up the tree. We have a fake one and I like it to look a certain way before we destroy it with Scooby Doo ornaments and other atrocities that give it the character the boys LOVE!

Well, in true Angie form, I have managed to say nothing and 'not write much' in about 2000 words and several paragraphs. Stay tuned for more Thanksgiving stories.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I love Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays for many reasons. First of all, while living in Canada, certain dates became a sense of pride to me. Memorial Day and Independence Day and Thanksgiving were just another day to Canadians. Sure, TV was different because over half of what’s on in Canada is the American major broadcast and cable stations, but little else reminded me of the State-side celebrations. School was in session; people worked and just carried on like any other day. Canadians have different holidays. Victoria Day in May, Canada Day in July, Canadian Thanksgiving in October. Their biggest shopping day of the year and equivalent to Black Friday (day after our Tgiving) is Boxing Day – December 26th. Stores take no returns that day due to it being such a large SHOPPING day. It is a national holiday in addition to Christmas Day. Anyway, of all these lost American holidays, I missed Thanksgiving the most. Perhaps because Victoria Day and Canada were so close in proximity to the American counterparts of Memorial Day and Independence Day. Also, they involved cookouts, get-togethers and fireworks much like our holidays. However, Thanksgiving in November just came and went. One of our two years in Canada, Brian even traveled over the American Thanksgiving holiday. The next year, he took off early, and we watched football and lounged around as you are supposed to do on such a holiday. However, it never felt like the Christmas season officially started and it never felt quite right. I missed Thanksgiving and I am really looking forward to celebrating it with my family again this year.

Another reason I love Thanksgiving is it is a no-rush, no-hassle, no-expectation holiday. It is the way God intended for holidays if God would have created holidays. It is a time to just BE. It is a time to spend with our family/friends without gifts and material things clouding what it is about. We have been trying to teach the kids why Thanksgiving started – Pilgrims coming over hundreds of years ago and making peace with Natives – trying to share the land and harvest. We talk about it at dinner and they usually start playing under the table when the topic comes up. Not interested. I just don’t want them losing why we started this holiday the same way I don’t want them losing that Christmas is about JESUS’ BIRTH; not about Santa and not about presents. I don’t get quite as upset if they don’t quite get what Thanksgiving is about versus Christmas. I can’t let them lose that. (I often wonder why we still do the whole Santa thing based on the focus getting skewed, but we do, so I will blame myself – gives me blog fodder) Back to Thanksgiving: I love that we get to have 4 days off work and school without any expectations. The kids don’t even care about the meal. Gavin’s librarian dismissed the kids the other day to start checking out the books in this order: “If your favorite part about Thanksgiving is watching football, you can look for your book. (a couple boys got up) If you favorite part about Thanksgiving is Turkey, you can get your book. (a few got up) If your favorite part about Thanksgiving is the vegetables, you can get your book. (a few more got up) If you favorite part about Thanksgiving is the pumpkin pie, you can get your book (the rest got up except Gavin, mostly because they are Kindegarteners and just wanted to be the first to get the Princess I Spy book)” Gavin, being quite honest, just sat there waiting to hear something he likes. She said, “All right Gavin what is your favorite part of Thanksgiving?” To which he replied, “HOT DOGS.” She didn’t want to let him get up. Good thing I volunteer so I could assure her that he is exactly right: he doesn’t care about any of the others, and he probably WILL eat a hot dog.

One more reason I love Thanksgiving is I love being reminded to be thankful. I try to be thankful all the time, and we start each boy’s prayers at night with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving before asking for our own requests and forgiveness. But I love being reminded in new ways to thank the Lord. Last Sunday, at church, we had our Thanksgiving message. We were reminded by Pastor Cal to be thankful even when in ‘deep weeds’ through the story of Jonah. Jonah, after complete disobedience to God and finding himself in the belly of a big fish realized the importance to start faithfully praying in Thanksgiving to the Lord, BEFORE BEING DELIVERED. WOW! (Check out their website if you want to listen to or download the message) I would say that Brian’s diagnosis of a Grade IV brain tumor (I still LOATE that word) could be related to being in the belly of a big fish. However, staying focused on our Source and not our circumstances can help us to remember to be thankful. Circumstances are always changing and faltering, while our Source is constant. Circumstances don’t define our outcome or us; our Source does. We can be reminded and assured that with faith and obedience in our Maker, we WILL live all the days on this earth that He has for us to fulfill His purpose in our lives, and He will take us when that is through. I can’t comprehend that His purpose for Brian would be anything but seeing his children grow up and being there for them guiding them, leading them, directing them, etc. It is important (and AMAZINGLY DIFFICULT, I might add) to practice and live a life of faith and thanksgiving BEFORE we receive deliverance and relief. So, I choose to pray in Thanksgiving for the awesome power of my God and for his faithfulness to us even when we are in the belly of a whale.

I hope this Thanksgiving holiday you can be reminded of your blessings – all you have to be thankful for. Moreover, I hope you can find a few moments to reflect on those things and shoot God some thanks and praise for his faithfulness in your life.

PS. I will be at my parents this Thanksgiving Holiday for several days. Since I think they are the last two remaining breathing humans with dial up service, I choose NOT to post blogs from their house. I choose to just BE - with my family, with my kids, with nature and with whipped cream topped pecan pie.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Blogging for Angie

I have decided after spending too much time reading other people’s blogs to start treating my blog the way they were meant – a chance for me to vent and soapbox several times a week about whatever I wish while giving people an odd, eerie inside look to the everyday goings on in our lives realizing I am essentially airing dirty laundry for millions to view. How exciting – gives existentialism a new meaning. I will update more regularly about the mundane ins and outs of our lives for anyone who wishes to read- our spiritual ups and downs, our every day funnies and worries, and just how it is to be us. You can stop here if you don’t wish to hear the verbal diarrhea that is about to follow my new philosophy on this blog.

I am doing this for three main reasons. First of all, I don’t want to email updates about Brian’s health, as it is a large pain for me to do so. That is why I created the blog in the first place. Then I became lax about updating it, thinking people didn’t care or want to know what is going on with us if there wasn’t something major – a test or a doctor appointment coming up. Then I realized that NO ONE was checking the blog anymore since I wasn’t updating it on a regular basis. So, no one knew if something major WAS going on unless I emailed. So, to ensure that you will check it when there is something major, I am going to try to write something at least several times a week – no matter how trite – just to keep your attention, or at least, your curiosity. I thought the theme of my blog would be something like this – what it is like to live a normal, family of 4, suburban life in middle class Midwest America AFTER your husband has lost some of his basic capacities on the right side of this body WHILE having a life-threatening brain tumor constantly threatening your existence. – short, catchy, and up-lifting, eh?

The second reason I am doing this is to keep kind of a memoir for myself. I am doing it for my boys and for my family. It is a way for me to capture in cyberspace immortality the silly, serious, goofy, problematic, troublesome and fun things that we do, say and go through everyday as a family. So, just to get my point across, I don’t care too much if anyone reads this or not. You do not hurt my feelings. I have my own selfish motives regardless of popularity.

The last reason I am doing this is that I LOVE TO TALK! I love to say lots and lots of words. I cannot type as fast as I talk and I have to think more before I type, so this is a way for me to talk to myself and mentally edit before writing down so no one thinks I am crazy. It is also a way for me to learn to organize my thoughts a bit and hone my writing skills by using fewer words than my mouth wants to use. In the same way that I glaze over when Brian tries to explain what the mechanic did to fix the car, Brian and the boys glaze over when I try to talk to the extent that I WANT to talk. This way, everyone wins.

So, stay tuned if you wish. Every once in a while, I will keep you apprised of Brian’s health, doctor’s appointments, results and our prayer requests.



By the way, if anyone wants to know one of the blogs I check regularly, here is my good friend, and old college roomate, Heather's witty, creative blog about rasing young boys:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

O’Neill Update 14 November, 2007

O’Neill Update 14, November, 2007

Well, we are back from Europe and I THINK, over our jet lag. If 11 hours of sleep last night doesn’t alleviate the jet-lag for me, I don’t know what will. I woke up this morning and knew where I was and that was much better than yesterday when I startledly awoke to a little boy in bed next to me and instantly thought I was being assaulted by some strange Italian man, only realizing that it was Gavin, whom I apparently invited in. That is what exhaustion does to you.

Anyway, just to let everyone know, a few days before we left for Europe we heard back from Stanford and they said they thought the results of the scans were stable from the last scans. So, no shrinkage, but no progression, either. That is pretty good news. Brian continues to do okay. His right hand seems to have perhaps lost a bit of its dexterity. He walks slowly with a significant limp, but he walks. His speech is about the same, some days and hours worse than others. He is working most every day, now. He goes back to the doctor this week and will start chemo again this weekend.

On the home front, Europe was amazing. We had a marvelous time enjoying the sights and sounds in London – riding the tube (subway) to get around town, visiting Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, Tower Bridge, Burrough Market (seeing where Bridget Jones lived), taking in a London West End theater production (London’s equivalent of Broadway), etc.; and of Paris – riding the Metro (subway), trying to speak the language a bit, enjoying vin rouge (red wine) bread and cheese and onion soup (they don’t call in French Onion Soup since the French is assumed when you are in France) and pastries and crème brulee, visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, The Arc de Triumphe, Notre Dame, Montmarte, Sacre Couer, and the Champs Elysee, and simply romantically enjoying one of hundreds of street side cafes watching the world go by; and then Rome – seeing the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the colleseum, the amazing Ancient Roman remains of buildings, the vast number of churches, being present for the Papal Blessing on Sunday, enjoying vino rosso (red wine), trying to speak the language, riding in the taxis with the CRAZY driving (passing cars on the left to make a right turn 15 seconds sooner and vise-versa), and on and on. It was truly a remarkable journey and one that we are appreciating even more as we look back on it and our photos.

Thanks again to Brian’s folks, Ed and Jan for a wonderful vacation and to my folks, Karen and Larry, for keeping our kids and house in perfect order.