Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thankful For Lessons...

Life hasn't always been fun and games. I've had a lot of crapfest moments, our daughter died fifteen hours after she was born, we had two miscarriages, I was diagnosed with MS, I fought breast cancer, and the worst is that our youngest son has been actively fighting cancer for nearly 7 years.

But those crapfest moments taught me several lessons for which I am very thankful. So in this season of giving thanks, here are the lessons I am the most grateful for

(coincidentally they are also things I wish I had learned a lot earlier in my life).

Real Friends Are Blessings...
Friends who are loyal and present, friends who are the type of people you hope to be for them. I'm extraordinarily blessed to be surrounded by true friends who love others more than they love themselves and they show it every single day. They make me a better person and I grow because of them.  Cherish those people in your life and invest in them. People who are negative, gossipy, or cause drama have no place in my life.  I have zero tolerance for "mean girls" and I wish them well in their lives and walk away.  I certainly wish I had learned THAT lesson much earlier in my life.

Conflict, confrontation,and discord...
I know that sounds strange, but those things are actually very healthy when you adopt an attitude of "let's agree we disagree but I continue to respect your point of view". I love it when people challenge me, have new ideas that are outside my comfort zone, or simply disagree with my point of view. That's how we learn! It's pretty easy to always give myself high fives, but (and here's the tough thing to swallow) I am not always right. GASP! Conflict, confrontation and discord keep me honest, questioning and humble. Whether it's about whether I should wear a wig or hat when I was bald or if I'm confronting a world renown doctor about my son's cancer treatments, I grow by using my voice. The key is to equally use my ears.

Heaven knows I need this. I routinely screw up. Sometimes, it's worse than others, but I am blessed to be around people who subscribe to this thing called "forgiveness".  "My People" as I call my friends and network are amazingly gracious and loving and they forgive me when I screw up. The only return gift needed when you accept someone's forgiveness is to extend that same forgiveness when you are kicked in the teeth.  Every day I pray, "forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against us". I can't be forgiven until I forgive others. Suck it up, see the other person's point of view and let it go.

Learn To Keep A Secret...
Oh how I wish I had learned that in my teens and twenties.  Seriously! It seems that the quickest way to spread gossip is to tell someone, "don't tell anyone!" and whooooshhhhhhh it's international headline news.  The bottom line is that you should never have to even say "don't tell anyone" to anyone when you are telling someone something. ;) Simply stated, when something is told to you, don't tell someone else. Use your intuition (which is generally screaming "shut up") and keep it quiet. The translation from our mouths to another's ears is usually all shades of confused and then you end up being quoted incorrectly. Then there's the worst case scenario...you blabbed and it ends up hurting someone you love. My middle name is now "Vegas".

Anything Worthwhile is Worthy of Fighting For It...
We have been told more times than I can count, that Braden was close to dying. I've had no gas in my tank more days than not, and I had a choice. Crawl under my covers and suck my thumb (like I wanted to do) or get up and fight. I'm Irish and I've dished out a lot of "black eyes" along the way. There has been a mountain of collateral damage from me fighting for him, but he is still here with us today. Tomorrow isn't a guarantee, it's a gift. Fight for what (and who) you believe in no matter what the odds or how big the monster is, just do it respectfully and with consideration for others.

My mother used to tell me that we show grace, understanding, compassion, and kindness to others not because of who they are, but because of who we are. My mom's middle name was Grace and we named our daughter who died Miranda Grace after her.  Show others grace because you are a good person, not because you believe it will be returned to you. It actually may do quite the opposite and come flying back into your face. Don't let that stop you. It's not about them, it's about you!

God Doesn't Give Us Bad Stuff To Test Us.  

I simply do not believe that the God I believe in gives us pain and suffering. The God I believe in would not give those things to us to test us to see if we are going to remain faithful, or to drive us into His arms to repent. The God I believe in is a God of compassion, grace and love. He is there to give us...


I may be wrong, but I personally do not think that God has my life planned out. I think things happen and it's up to me to choose how I'm going to handle those things. I choose to try to employ all the tools/lessons I just listed above. And most importantly, I try to handle them in a way that I God teaches us through the lessons Jesus taught us on Earth. If even Jesus and his disciples were faced with hardship and agony, how arrogant would it be of me to assume that if God really loved me, He would save me from any crapfest moments??

I trust God. I trust that I will be able to see the better path to handle those hardships and I pray for strength to take that path as it is usually more difficult.  God is my strength and salvation and through all of this crapfest, that point has been repeatedly driven home. My faith has grown exponentially as a result of the hard stuff.

Be Thankful...
It's really that simple.


I once read something that said, "What if all you had tomorrow was what you thanked God for yesterday?" Amen to that!  Be thankful for your blessings amongst your crapfest because sometimes that very crapfest may end up indirectly blessing you if you open your heart and receive.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It IS a sport...

I'm not an athletic girl.

I duck when a ball is thrown in my direction, even if it is thrown gently,

and I can't reciprocate the throwing of a ball in anyone else's direction with any sort of accuracy...

whether it is the broad side or narrow side of the barn, so to speak.

My balance is awful because of my MS so I fall frequently, once I fell and broke my arm...

while walking....


Well in all honesty, I was chewing gum at the same time.

So it was a pretty big surprise when I decided to join a gym.


Me...and a gym???

I'm just the girl who ought to join a gym...

so I can hang out with all the athletic people and their ripped physiques...

because my physique is sooo ripped...


I'm more of a hail damage thigh and arm flab flappin' kinda girl.

You know what arm flab is right?

In the event you have been spared this particular gift, it's the flab that hangs from the back of your arm and flaps when dangled as you raise your arms...

Actually, if you are standing behind me on a windy day, there's a good chance you are going to look like my East Coast buddy here from my arm flab smacking you in the face...

I'm just not into sports and athletics...


I do like to walk.


you say,

walking isn't a sport.

Walking is just a "leisure activity".

Not the way I do it.

I am the most competitive person on the entire planet.

That is actually not a good thing because I take it way too far.

Like my first day at the gym...

I joined because they had an indoor track and in the cold weather of winter, I would have to walk on my treadmill day after day after day,

and I do not enjoy walking on a treadmill, repetitively stepping a few inches on a conveyor belt gets a bit boring after a few weeks,

and it makes me feel like George...

or Astro.

Ruh roh!

At least an indoor track gives me a chance to move in a tight circle...

(yup, nothing repetitive and boring about that)

Now I did mention that I'm the most competitive person on the planet and I believe that adding in an element of competition is the key to changing an "activity" into a "sport".

That's how walking is a sport...let me explain...

I strap on my heart monitor....cue up my app to track my speed and distance...put knee braces on both legs (did I mention I'm older than dirt?), and I connect my blu-tooth headphones to my i-phone, crank up my tunes...

(we should pause at tunes because that is an incredibly important part of the motivation/inspiration for walking in a "sport-like" manner. One must have an eclectic mix of Usher, Katy Perry, Godsmack, Metallica, Rob Zombie, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5....gotta mix it up and keep it fresh...for proper motivation/inspiration purposes.)

Each time I walk, my goal is to beat my personal best time...11:45 minute mile with no running, only walking.

My heart rate his locked in for a fat burning target, I'm swinging my arms like a crazy person (duck if you are near me due to the arm flap thing) and I am hauling bootie as I walk.

Literally. Hauling. Bootie....

I am literally hauling my bootie around that track.

I have one personal goal...

to pass every single person I meet....

especially runners.


slowwwwww runners.

Shoot, once I even passed a person riding a bike while I was at the park.

Sure, she had piggy tails and training wheels but I totally smoked her! ;)

My first day at the gym, I encountered a very fit woman, about my age, running.  She was obviously a really experienced runner (as was identifiable by her tippy toe running and slim/trim/fit/looking great in spandex legs).

I actively disliked her from the moment I spied how awesome she looked in that spandex.

She had that "prancy" zip to her step and she was a strong runner...

I set my competitive eyes on my her...

Target Aquired...

Lock on...


And I hauled my hail dents and flabby flappies...

and cranked up Usher...

and in a few laps I was right next to her.

The instant I stepped two steps in front of her, she picked it up and zipped out in front of me.


Being the competitive person that I am, my response (inside my head) was..

"Oh....so you wanna play sister, well game ON!!"

And I kicked it in again...and caught her...



I'm pretty sure I was actually smiling when I passed her the second time.

And then...

she did it again!!

She kicked it into gear and took off to pass me back.

Are you kidding me???

And this time she ran out much further to increase the distance between us.

I considered not chasing her down for a third time.

I rejected that consideration.

My heart rate was now 184.

I was seeing spots due to the lack of oxygen in my body.

My clothes were soaked from the sweat and I'm pretty sure they could hear my breathing in the next city.

But I cared not.

I did the only thing one can do when faced with this type of sports-related situation.

I broke out VanHalen's Right Now.

Bish is goin' down.

And I kicked it in again....

and I caught her again...

and she did it again.

For real???

So I literally stopped, put my hands on my hail dented thighs and loudly laughed and yelled, "you go girl".

She pretended not to hear me...pssshhhhhh...

She didn't have headphones on.

I began walking with my arms above my head to cool off...

literally and figuratively...

She pranced past me again as I was cooling down and it took every ounce of self control I had to not  talk trash about how she may have actually passed me...

but technically a "walker" had passed her not once,

not twice,

but THREE times that day.

So I repeat...

Walking is not a leisure activity...

it is a sport.

I'm headed back to the gym for the second time,

and "Ms. Prancy Runner" better bring her A-Game if she's there again...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Just A Truck...

It was just a truck...

A blue truck...sheet metal, glass, rubber, fiberglass,

and probably a whole lot of plastic...

We had it for over 10 years and we just traded it for a "new to us" 2010 vehicle with about 70,000 miles on it because the 140,000 miles were beginning to cost too much to make sense for us to keep it.

And it was just a truck...

It had no feelings,

no physical needs as it sat out in the rain and snow,

no emotional needs requiring hugs of comfort and quiet understanding.

But somehow that truck carried a lot of emotions.

I vividly remember the night that my husband was at the dealership purchasing the truck.  I called him at about 5:00 and told him that our 3 month old, Braden, was getting sicker and sicker and having hard time breathing so I was rushing him into the ER and taking with us our 20 month old son, Zach.

So the sooner he could meet us there, the better.

Brian was just signing the paperwork as I called and soon he was at the hospital.

Braden was taken to the children's hospital downtown and immediately placed on life support due to respiratory failure...

for ten days we sat in the Intensive Care Unit....and hoped he would get better. When he wasn't getting better, I remember crawling into his crib with all the lines attached to him, and I told him that he was going to need to fight.

Just 3 years earlier, his sister had died 15 hours after she was born due to hypoplastic lungs at birth. She died hemorrhaging and convulsing in my arms as I kissed her and told her how much we loved her, that it was okay for her to go, and that she should look for her Grandma Ross (my mom who had died from brain cancer in 1984) and she would take care of her until I got there.

I explained to Braden that he was NOT going to get the same speech from me and that he needed to fight and live.

Inexplicably, shortly after that, Braden started doing better...and in 48 hours we were in a regular hospital room and 24 hours after that, we were home.

The truck had fallen off our radar at that point, but not off the dealership's radar.  They needed us to sign paperwork on the vehicle we had traded in when we bought the truck. We explained that we could not leave the hospital (and frankly didn't really care about the paperwork) so the salesman graciously came to the hospital and Brian left Braden's room long enough to go sign the papers.

He brought with him a gift for Braden and a book for us to pass the time...and his prayers.

Then on December 28, 2007, that truck took us back to the same ER because Braden was once again having breathing problems as he had multiple times after that first night.  We assumed it was pneumonia again...

He went in for a chest x-ray and the doctor came back with a horrified look on her face.  There was a large gray mass covering most of his torso and she didn't know if it was a tumor or a progressively regressive liver disease.

They wanted to transport him to the children's hospital downtown in an ambulance but he has autism and that didn't work well the first time because I couldn't sit with him.

We declined and drove him to the hospital in the blue truck. He looked out the window and said, "moon" when he spied a full moon.  Brian and I both remarked that we knew that what we were heading to the hospital for was going to change our lives forever but there was Braden staring out the window of that blue truck celebrating the beauty of the moon.

It set the tone for how we wanted to try to keep perspective for whatever it was he would be fighting.

It was cancer....and we've spent every day of the past almost 7 years since fighting Braden's cancer.

That truck has driven through snowstorms to get us back to the ER because he had spiked fevers that could be a central line infection which is life threatening. Snowstorms so bad all reports said to not get out on the road because it was too dangerous...but the blue truck got us to the ER safely.

There have been happy trips too...Zach's flag football games, his baseball games, drum lessons, school music programs, culinary classes...

It took Zach to his first day of preschool...then kindergarten and up to sixth grade, and it took Braden to his first day of preschool and up to fourth grade (what a huge blessing from God).

It's gone through infant car seats, booster seats, and now to just big boys sitting in its bare seats...

The truck hauled us to birthday parties for 10 years of memories, it heard a lot of little boy giggles between those doors.

And road trips....oh the road trips. Filled with me sitting in the middle of the back seat squished between the boys' car seats so I could retrieve toys, snacks, and drinks when they bellowed for them.  Two years ago, we took a road trip from Kansas City to Phoenix Arizona and the blue truck faithfully rolled through every mile and hour of endless cactus and beautiful rock formations.

That blue truck watched our boys grow up and traveled through 10 years of life with us.

But life isn't like the movie Toy Story...the truck doesn't come alive when we aren't around and have tell stories to the other trucks...

....at least I don't think so. ;)

(I admit that when I'm donating toys or throwing away broken ones, I do wonder thanks to that movie.)

And I wonder what the blue truck would say if it was having a conversation with its friends.

I probably don't want to know....there was a lot of accidental spit up and puking incidents that occurred while traveling over the years. Some caused by chemo, some caused by really bad reflux...


There were a lot of diaper changes in the backseat because I refused to change the boys in filthy public restrooms...that was then followed by scrubbing of the truck seats...

I imagine the truck would have some of its own stories to tell, if it could...

It was just a truck.

But saying goodbye was hard.

A lot of memories, good and not so good, were made in that truck.

And I was sad to see it go.  I hope it finds good home now and that the new owners treat it well.

We still have my 12 year old vehicle so we have a vehicle with a longer history than either of our boys as I bought it while I was pregnant with Zach

...and we have a "new to us" vehicle that we can hopefully make all happy memories in.

All FOUR of us for a very long time.

Goodbye "Daddy's Truck" and thanks for the memories.

Braden saying goodbye to Daddy's Truck

Sunday, November 9, 2014

When Your Hair Comes Back....

Our 10 year old autistic son, Braden, had a bone marrow transplant in March of 2014 to try to save his life from a secondary leukemia that was caused by the treatments to save his life from his first type of cancer, neuroblastoma. His 11 year old brother was his perfect match donor.

Our oncology teams in Philadelphia and in Kansas City have never seen a child survive this particular form of leukemia that was induced by treatments after battling neuroblastoma.

Not good.

When you go through a bone marrow transplant process your immune system is completely knocked out so you can accept the donor cells.  You have an immune system that is less than that of a fetus.


Since, then Braden has been in isolation. He has been unable to go into places with crowds for the past seven months. Places like school, theaters, indoor play areas, birthday parties, sports games,  out door places where he would be digging in the dirt or that have a lot of dust (fungal risk), and pretty much any place that there is a crowd of people.

And because of the autism, he hasn't been able to understand why he can't go. He can't comprehend "you have to wait several months before your immune system is going to be able to handle being around other people or around dirt because it presents a fungal risk before you can do anything fun in places where there are more than 3 people".

So we have simply told him that he can go places "when his hair come back".


For the past seven months, when he has wanted to go someplace that he wasn't allowed to go I would tell him that we could go, but we needed to wait until his "hair comes back".

It was going to take several weeks for his hair to grow back and it was just easier to give him that tangible way to measure when he could go do things again.

He had a wish list of things to do when his hair came back:
* Chuck E Cheese (germ enough for my skin to crawl on a good day...let alone after transplant)
* The College Basketball Experience in down town KC...his favorite place in the entire world
* School
* The Pumpkin Patch
* And the "Fun Fair"... aka..."Worlds of Fun"

It's a pretty simple list...he's not asking for much but they were things he just couldn't do until he was out of isolation.

Well....his hair is back....it's pretty thin but it's back!

And with that hair came...

Chuck E Cheese (still shuddering....)

where he played Skee Ball and Basketball...

and we rubbed his hands every ten minutes with Purell.

We made it to the College Basketball Experience and he was SO happy!!

We surprised him with a trip to the "Fun Fair"...

And we went to not just one pumpkin patch...

But TWO...

And the second one was with friends and we trudged through a muddy corn field breaking ALL the old rules about dirt...

And we added in a few bonuses like feeding koi fish by hand at a pond....

We decorated a pumpkin that had grown on the ground and was covered in dried mud before we washed it...again so illegal with the isolation rules (fungus)...

He even went on a hay ride with all the neighbors dressed as a purple minion for Halloween!

And yes, he even started fourth grade last week.

Okay...so maybe he's not as excited about the whole "doing work thing" at school as he thought he would be but he IS excited to see his friends again! ;)

When Braden went into transplant we didn't know if he would survive that process, we didn't know if the side effects from transplant would be debilitating, and...

we didn't even know if he would be here seven months later for his hair to come back.

What a huge blessing! We are grateful beyond words for every moment...

every detour...

every memory...

because it could all change tomorrow.

Braden has won all of these memories....cANCER lost every one of these days!



Monday, September 29, 2014

For Your Good...

I still remember it like it was yesterday.

I had just started chemotherapy for my breast cancer when I got a card in the mail telling me that I could have as many massages as I wanted (for free) to help me be comfortable during chemotherapy.

There was apparently research out there that said they had found that when cancer patients felt more comfortable and had a chance to relax and take care of themselves, the chemotherapy process was easier.

I stood there in disbelief as I read the letter that was sent to me about my unlimited massage offer to help me through my treatment process.

My best friend was at my house and I showed it to her. She read my facial reaction and asked, "What do you think about that?"

I had to consider how to respond.

My then five year old had just been diagnosed with a relapse of his neuroblastoma cancer.

And there was no known cure.

We were sure his fifth birthday was going to be his last.

He had started treatments when I found the lump in my breast.

I knew right away what that lump was, and to be very honest, I really didn't care about my own cancer.

My only concern was my son, who by all physician reports, was dying.

So as I read that card, I was mad.


You see, at that time, the clinic at our hospital was so crowded that the chair he sat in for chemo was my lap...

and my lap sat upon on the dirty floor because there were not enough chairs for the kids to sit on.


One time, Braden was playing as he was hooked up to his chemo and a little girl (who was also trying to play while hooked up to her chemo) tripped over his line and de-accessed him enough that the chemo was no longer going into his port, just under his skin forming a large lump.

A very dangerous thing.

My five year old was dying and couldn't even get a chair, but I was offered unlimited massages.

That was the moment that threw me into action.

It was the moment that made me decide that we needed to form a 501(c)(3) to fund research for children with cancer...

so our kids could have a chance for a future.

We did just that and this past weekend, we had our third annual Hope Gala for Braden's Hope For Childhood Cancer.  Over 800 were in attendance and we raised about  $176,000 to fund awareness and research targeted therapies to shut down the activators of childhood cancers.

And I had chills.

I went to church on Sunday night and one of the songs we sang had the words from Romans 8:28.

God makes ALL things...not the things we choose to have in our lives....work together for our good.

we certainly didn't choose this crapfest, but ALL things are working together for "our" good.

"Our" good is the good of all children with cancer.

I don't believe God gave us this crapfest...I think that came from the "other guy" but I do believe God holds our hands through every bad moment and that He wants us to use all things for something positive.

During this entire crapfest, I have experienced a lot of positivity and witnessed more acts of selflessness and compassion than I could ever list.

I been blessed by friendships and support from the most amazing people in the entire universe and many of them have joined with us to fight to bring HOPE to our children with cANCER.

And most of them are not people who have children with cancer. 

They are just people who care and act to fill a need.

This crapfest has brought more beauty and grace into my life than I could have ever imagined.

Yes, I wish it had never happened, I wish our son didn't have to go through everything he has had to endure.

But the simple truth is that I cannot change our circumstances. 

But I CAN choose who I react and I can control what I choose how I act as a result.  

So thank you cANCER...thank you for creating the crapfest that led us to...

beautiful selfless people surrounding us...

true friendships...





gratitude for every moment...

...and HOPE.

Braden just turned 10, even after battling a secondary cancer we were told he would not survive a year ago.


HOPE wins because 

ALL things work together for our good...

if we trust, believe, and have faith that no matter what the answer to our wants and needs, the answers  will work together for our good.

We have HOPE that Braden will live a long life and right now that is enough.

Actually, it is more than enough....

it's everything.

Monday, September 8, 2014

5 and 10...

When Braden relapsed with neuroblastoma, he was weeks away from his fifth birthday on August 11, 2009.

We were told that he had a less than 10% chance of survival and that there was no known cure.

The disease continued to spread, but we tried some therapies that had never been tried before and got lucky.

He went into a second remission and has remained in that remission since January 25, 2011.

FIVE years ago!

He had less than a 10% chance of being alive in 5 years.


As Braden would say, "Boom Baby!"

The time between August 11, 2009 and January 25, 2011 was very rocky and we were told more times than I can count that he was not going to survive and we needed to spend our time wisely and enjoy every day with our son.

We continued to fight...and more importantly, so did Braden.

It was a big gamble. We knew that the therapies we were trying could shorten his life even more...

our hope was that it would bring him more time.

Nothing is more difficult than making life/death decisions for your child.

And there is no right answer.

There is only an answer...

and faith...

and HOPE!

My heart has shattered into a million pieces a million times. It has been held together with duct tape and bailing twine for many years....since our daughter Miranda died on August 1, 2001...

Some days it feels like my heart has simply hardened into a rock because it's easier to shut out feelings than it is to feel the pain of them.

I'm a different person today than I was 13 years ago. And that is not all for the best.

Every time I think that I can't keep doing this, that I'm too tired to keep fighting, I think about all of my friends who have buried their children, and in their empty arms and broken hearts, I find my reason to continue.

Being able to continue to fight every day, no matter how hard it is, is a blessing!!

Their loss inspires my fight. Braden's fight and courage and relentless HOPE and positivity give me energy and reason...

and for that, I am grateful, blessed, and changed in a positive way.

When Braden turned 5, I believed it was the last birthday he would see.

Then he turned 6...7....8....

and at 8, it became a crapfest again as just weeks before his 9th birthday, he was diagnosed with a secondary cancer that was CAUSED by the treatments he had to save his life.

That is messed up.


The things that saved his life were now going to be the very things that would end it.

We were told that he only had a few weeks to a couple of months to live....

and we needed to spend our time wisely and enjoy the time we had with our son.

Same message as we had heard multiple times before.

But this time, the doctors told us they had NEVER seen a child with his initial diagnosis and his secondary diagnosis survive.

We tried some things that had been done with other children before hoping to buy some time...

to delay the end.

And then came the hope again.

His cancer responded to the treatment...and our teams began to think he could try for a cure with a bone marrow transplant.

So we all were tested and his 10 year old brother, Zach, proved to be a perfect match as a bone marrow donor. So he went through transplant and received his brother's bone marrow cells to try to save his life.

And a year after his secondary cancer diagnosis, he is celebrating his 10th birthday.

cANCER free!

It's early in the post transplant process as it's only been about 4.5 months with the new cells. It's all still a crapfest and up in the air. He stands a 50% chance of relapsing with the secondary cancer (a leukemia),

and because we've replaced his immune system with his brother's any immunity his own cells had developed against neuroblastoma is gone so he stands a high probability of relapse of his neuroblastoma as well.


he is turning ten...

double digits.


He's kicking it's backside.

All thanks to the courage and fight of a tiger...

the love of an army...

the protection from a God who is bigger than cANCER...

and HOPE.

We weren't supposed to get this day,

but it's here and we are grateful beyond explanation.

5 years post relapsed neuroblastoma diagnosis...

10th birthday.

Hey cANCER...you lose!


Sunday, August 24, 2014

What Not To Do On Vacation...

It's really all my fault.

We were on vacation, driving home from Philly to Kansas City after our 9 year old son's cancer scans.

Zach, our 11 year old, is a huge history buff. I find him reading historical fiction in his room at all hours of the night. We decided that because of his interest in history and the military, we would make a few stops on the way home that would interest him.

One of our stops was at Gettysburg.

Something that was on his list of "Top Things To Do In My Lifetime" and he was beyond giddy.

We went past the gift store and Zach asked if we could go inside. I knew there was absolutely no way we were walking out of there without something. So we went inside...

I told you this was all my fault...and that was the first mistake I made that day.

Once inside, he didn't hesitate one second. He made a mad dash for the small stock of toy musket rifles in the center of the store.  Zach is a huge Nerf gun guy and he and his friends fervently defend the world (our yard) from invading forces.

So I wasn't surprised when he immediately said, "Mom...can I get this musket rifle?"

I was tired after the stress of scans, but I still had enough energy to say no because it was too big to haul around in the rental car and he didn't need another toy gun.

So, without skipping a beat, he said, "well then can I get the musket pistol...it's smaller?"

and then he grinned that grin.

Moms know the one I'm talking about, it's the one that softens your heart when you are being strong. At that moment, I knew I was weakening in my resolve.

I wanted to say no, but I was tired of always having to be the one to say no so I did a very bad thing...

I sighed and said,

"Ask your father."

It was a safe answer.

I knew Brian would say no. It was more than $10, it was big, and he has a hundred Nerf guns and he didn't need another toy gun. It was an illogical thing to buy and Brian is an engineer...driven by logic.

I recognize it was wrong to pass the task of saying no along to dad so he could be the bad guy, but I am a stay at home mom and I say no four million times a day. I was on vacation for Pete's Sake! I wanted a break from begin the bad guy....

and I just couldn't bring myself to say no to something that I knew was going to make that smile disappear.

To make it worse, after I told him to ask his dad...

I scurried outside the gift shop with our nine year old (like the chicken I was) so I wouldn't even have to see his face when his dream was crushed with the "no" answer that was coming.

Outside the store and I braced for the sad face that was going to be coming out at any moment. My stomach was churning because even though I knew it was the right decision, I was bummed for him.

But I did not see a sad face when he walked out the door.

He came out BEAMING while wearing a civil war blue soldier hat and carrying his new rifle musket over his shoulder.

My jaw dropped.

What had happened? How had my master plan gone so terribly wrong?

My husband smiled.

I said, "You let him get it??"

His shrugged his shoulders and said "well" a lot.

Lesson one...don't leave the bad work to your spouse because chances are "the grin" is going to melt him too and he is going to cave as well. Chances are he is just as weak as you are...


Zach was so happy about his musket. So happy that he could not stop smiling. He cocked and fired it about a thousand times...

before we even got in the car.

And then once in the car, he cocked and fired it another thousand times.

Then once we backed out of the parking space, he cocked and fired in another thousand times...

and so it continued.

For hours.

When we would mention how that constant clicking was "distracting to the driver", he promised he would just hold and not cock it or fire it. That didn't turn out to be the case. And neither of us had the heart to take it away because he was so happy.

I admit that it is possible that I smiled and mentioned that I was not the one who said yes as the clicking continued.

Our next stop was outside DC at the National FireArms Museum. Incidentally, this is inside the NRA headquarters.

Oh goodie!

I'm not a big "gun" girl.

Remember Zach's love of the military and all things historical?  Well this location made him want to faint from excitement.

His face was sort of like mine was when I saw the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory for the first time in San Diego.

I had arrived "home"!

Braden and I grew tired of looking at what appeared to me to be the same gun in a thousand cases. Zach informed me that this was not the case as he explained every single fact and figure about every single gun he saw while excitedly gasping and dropping his jaw at each and every one.

So Braden and I went outside and sat under some trees, played, and waited....

for them to get out of the gift shop.


you would think that the thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of clicking and banging noises in the seat directly behind Brian as he drove would be incentive to say no this time,


So I wouldn't even need to mention that we didn't need a second toy rifle.

You would be wrong.

He came out with some rifle thing that had a pump that allowed him to jerk it in the air and cock it like Arnold in The Terminator.


So now we had TWO guns continuously being cocked and fired, cocked and fired, cocked and fired, cocked and fired, cocked and fired, cocked and fired...

(reading that over and over isn't nearly as annoying as hearing them cock and fire over and over and over, trust me)

But he was so very happy!

The next morning when we got in the car to head out for the day, the guns were "mistakenly" left in the back where he couldn't reach them while we drove.

Craziest thing!! How in the world did THAT happen!?

Lesson #2...do NOT...I repeat NOT allow your child to purchase a toy musket or rifle thingie...

and then retain it in the vehicle while driving.

I can still hear the clicking in my head....

and it's been like two weeks.

But I can also get to see him smiling from ear to ear.

Maybe, in retrospect, it all worked out.

Maybe ;)