The Surgery, Part One

I mentioned I'm recovering from a pretty major hip surgery. I've debated whether to share the details here, but I have decided I will. I will document my progress as an encouraging reminder to myself that I'm healing. Also, as I prepared myself for this surgery, I didn't find a lot of information about specifically what to expect. There were medical sites, and then there were message boards, full of horror stories such as, "I WAS ON CRUTCHES FOR FIVE YEARS" and "I WILL NEVER FEEL MY TOES AGAIN".

Message boards are of the devil. Run, run away.

But only the scary stuff gets written about, it seems. I know there are numerous success stories, and Lord willing, I plan to be one of them. So I document this here, with a big shout-out to any other hippy chicks who are thus afflicted.

The Condition

I have Femoroacetabular Impingement. I have no idea how to pronouce that. Inside my head, I call it "Femo-bluh-bluh-lar Impingement". Thankfully, it also goes by the abbreviation "FAI".

Here is a great medical description of the condition.

Here is a mediocre non-medical description: The top of my hip joint (the "ball" portion) has a bony bump ("cam impingement") that has been shredding the hoo-ha out of my labrum (the tissue in the hip socket).

I would like to point out the sentence on this website that says "FAI is common in high level athletes," so that anyone who knows me in real life can get a good belly laugh. Yes, it is Olympic gymnasts, professional baseball players, and me. (Not really. It's common for active people to have a labral tear, and not everyone will be symptomatic. The cam impingement isn't quite as common, and I was probably born with it. That bony little outcropping has gradually caused some pain over the last few years.)

The Injury

So with my congenital impingement, the stage was set for some trouble. (Side note: I am always very uncomfortable with the word "congenital". Every time I use it I look it up in the dictionary first. I feel like I might be saying something my grandmother might not want me to say.)

Then, about two years ago, I discovered the Zumba.

Ah, Zumba. At the mention of the word, I feel a little step-step-cha-cha-cha comin' on. I LOVED THE ZUMBA. I shimmied in with both feet and I Zumba'd at every class I could find. I Zumba'd at my house on the off days. I Zumba'd in the kitchen while I cooked dinner, promting the ten-year-old to cha-cha with me and the teenagers to avert their eyes. ("Mom is twerking again!" they'd shout. Let me be clear: There was never, ever any twerking.)

I even got certified to teach Zumba. ("I AM VERY UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THIS," said the 17-year-old.) It was about this time that the dull ache that plagued my hips for years turned into something sharper. It had been a deep ache that often radiated down my thigh and wrapped around the sides of my hips. This new pain was becoming sharper and was moving into my groin. About 75% of the time, each step I took created a painful, grinding sensation.

Shakira, with whom I naturally have so much in common because of all the Zumba, says that hips don't lie.

Oh no, they do not. It was sadly time to hang up the cha-cha shoes and find out what the problem was.

And thus, I leave you with a compelling cliffhanger in which I have quoted Shakira. Part two will include an elevated geriatric toilet seat, but you will just have to wait…


Nothing Doing

See this view?

It's mine.

I had major hip surgery 11 days ago (more on that later), and this particular surgery has a long and complicated recovery. LONG. Did I mention it is lengthy?

I can bear zero weight on my operative leg (the right one) for a total of six weeks, so here I sit. Actually, I can only sit in short spurts too. So here I lie. Or lay. Whatever–I couldn't figure out "lie/lay" even before pain meds.

(And let us pause for a moment to acknowledge that if you zoom in on that picture, you will see the name of the socks are "Bair Paws". Seriously. They gave me misspelled socks in the hospital's pre-op room. I took one look at them and started to gather my things and told Hubs, "IF THEY CAN'T SPELL 'BEAR' THEY ARE NOT CUTTING OPEN MY HIP." Thankfully, he talked me off this ledge, as they are the most comfortable socks I have ever worn. Also, and I really need you to work with me and picture this, the Bair Paws gown they gave me had a hose attached and it blew comfy warm air into my gown. I am a chronic spelling snob, but I'm also a chronic cold person, and guess what? Comfort wins. Nice job, Bair Paws people. Atrocious spelling, but great product.)

Back to recovery.

(Side note: Clearly, the FDA should list that a side effect of painkillers is over-use of italics and parentheses.)

I haven't been this helpless since I was a toddler. I can't fix a drink and carry it with me to the couch. I can't sit at the computer for more than a few minutes at a time. I can't sweep a floor or empty a trashcan or drive a car or walk to the mailbox with my husband.

My mother–the Greatest Hero In My World–has all but moved in to run my family. Precious friends are providing weeks of meals and rides for my kids and are coming to sit with me so that I will not be alone.

This is how it will be for much of the summer. Once I can start walking in six weeks, I am assured the recovery will still be slow and my limitations will be many. I am told my joint will not be normal, strong, and pain-free for six months.

And I won't lie to you: This is hard.

Me, the mom of the carpool, the class party, the field trip, the sleepover, the mega-grocery trip–I am a bump on this couch while that world outside my window just whirls along without me.

And I feel it, smacking me in the head every time I look around, the lesson that hangs in the air waiting to be learned: I can still love my people.

Let me repeat that, because I don't fully believe it yet, even though a little part of my brain knows it must be true: I can still love my people.

I sit here, waited on hand and foot, knowing how much work I'm creating for the people I love best. And I can't help. I cannot love them by jumping up and fixing them a casserole or driving to dance class. I can love them, as I sit (lay/lie) here. I can listen, pray, watch, laugh, comfort, but I can't DO.

And guess what? Loving your people by DOING is way easier than loving them the other ways. I realize, painfully, how addicted I've been to proving my love to my family (and myself) by just moving around on their behalf all the time.

The other day, I crutched myself gently out to my front porch because I need to breathe some air. It was starting to sprinkle, and my ten-year-old daughter dashed out past me and began to dance in the rain. I just watched her, easing myself onto a bench. She danced. And I just watched. I didn't run inside to grab my phone and snap a picture of the cute moment. I didn't watch for ten seconds and then tell her, sorry, I have to go inside and fold clothes now. I just watched her. I watched the beautiful length of her legs, and the funny way the hair started to stick to the side of her face. I just watched and savored that moment, right there.

I just loved her.

I am seeing these moments begin to take shape, as I let go of the old ways of loving my family and try to embrace these newer (and harder) ones. I listen to the sound of my husband's footsteps in the kitchen as he prepares my meds and comes to put me in bed, and I pray that God will ease his burdens. I just love him.

When my son needs to discuss a school frustration, I do not cut the conversation short to hop onto the next thing, because I can't–because the only way I can love him is to hear him. And we talk, more deeply than we've ever talked on the topic. I just love him.

I am ashamed how hard it is to slow down and love my family in this new way. I should've learned it years ago.  I wonder what all I have missed when I dashed off to fold their towels instead of watching them dance in the rain?

Teach me, Lord.



How (Not) To Teach a Boy To Drive

***This post has been syndicated at BlogHer.***

When those hospital nurses place that baby in your arms and wheel you out to your car, they give you all kinds of health tips and safety checklists. They warn you about lead paint. They warn you about tummy sleeping. They even tell you to count how often he poops.

What they do not tell you on all those checklists is that you might want to begin preparing yourself right now for the fact that you will someday teach that tiny little creature how to drive a car. And when that moment comes, even though you have a full awareness that your child is maturing and becoming an adult, there is another part of your brain that feels like it's been ten minutes since that hospital checklist, and why, why did I just hand car keys to a six-pound baby who eats every two hours?

(Come to think of it, he still eats every two hours. It's easy to see why I would be confused.)

Anyway, here we are. Driving. With my Adam.  He has a learner's permit, so all his driving hours are with Hubs and me. God bless that poor child, because there could not be two more polar opposite driving teachers on the planet. Let's hope it makes for some well-rounded learning and not to a tendency to tune out my voice for the rest of his life.

Hubs is calm. He ascribes to the philosophy that experience is the best teacher and our boy will rise to (and learn from) whatever driving challenges Hubs put in front of him. He pushes him, gently, with minimal interruption except when it's critical.

I, on the other hand, ascribe to the philosophy that I should share every bit of automotive-related knowledge that has ever been inside my brain, all the time, at every opportunity, pausing only for enough breath that I don't hyperventilate:

It's time to change lanes. Check your blind spot. Did you look over your shoulder? I didn't see you look over your shoulder. People have been KILLED because they didn't look over their shoulder. Okay, good job. Now, do you see those brake lights in front of you? Back off a little. Back off. BACK OFF. That's better. [Phone beeps.] Ah, did you hear that? You just got a text but we are not checking it, NO SIR WE ARE NOT, because just remember that if I ever learn you have texted while driving I will nail your bedroom door shut until you are thirty. Hey, that was a nice turn, but did you see that guy roll through that stop sign next to us? He's an idiot. You must assume everyone around you is an IDIOT, ALL THE TIME, and they are about to make every driving mistake known to man, and if you think this way, then perhaps you will survive.

I'll leave it to you to decide which parent he'd rather drive with. He's too respectful to say it, but it is noticeable that when he is driving with Hubs he is confident and capable. When he is with me he is jittery and tense, and we both end our driving sessions with wild-ish eyes.

(While it is true that I may not have a future career as a professional driving instructor, let the record show that when they handed that pooping, hungry, crying six-pounder to us in the hospital, I had my wits about me and it was Hubs who was in danger of hyperventilating. It takes all sorts.)

Adam is a great kid–cautious and responsible. If were to trust any kid with two tons of accelerating steel, it would be this one. His mother may have gray hair and permanent knee damage from stomping her imaginary brake on the passenger side, but Adam? He's going to be just fine.



He walked into the kitchen while I chopped onions for dinner. He began to talk about a new video game release, and I, being distracted, gave some distant mumbles of assent.

Suddenly, he walked up to me. "Mom, you look like you need a hug." 

Then he hugged me. And held me.

He's 13, nearly 14. These last few months we've laughed together a lot. And we've frustrated each other a lot, too, scoping out our new spots in this family, in this world–he's becoming a Big Person, I'm becoming the mother of a son who needs me in a very different way than he used to.

It's exhilarating, frightening, wonderful, irritating, and hilarious. 

And so I stood there in my kitchen, at the end of a very long day in which we had puzzled each other at length, my son (my son!) holding me. Even an embrace is uncharted territory–when will my arms get used to the surreal sensation that he's a head taller than me now? I don't even always know where to put my hands.

But then my heart remembered, and my hands found their way to his back, a back that is strangely muscled and lean now. I patted him, just as I did when he weighed six pounds.

My mind scurried to find a joke to explain this sudden and unexpected moment–he loves a good quip more than anyone I know, after all. 

But the joke caught in my throat, blocked by the lump of emotion as we stood there, my hands still patting his back. We were perfectly silent, though my mind raced to capture the moment and sear it into my heart.

Remember this. Remember this.

Finally, gently, he slipped away from me. "Moment of affection now ceased," he announced, grinning my favorite cheeky grin and heading for the fridge to gulp some milk straight from the jug.

Moments like that don't cease, though, despite the boy/man's best efforts to the contrary. Those moments fill me up, fortify me for this strange new journey I'm walking. It's a journey that leaves me baffled and delighted and frightened and filled to the brim with joy at my front-row seat as I watch him become a man.

Alive and Kicking

Hi, I'm Shannon. Once upon a time I blogged here, and then I took an entirely unplanned break, and then I started getting e-mails asking me if I had died. So it seemed like I should pop in and put those concerns to rest: I have not died, run away, or otherwise gone crazy (despite Hubs' occasional testimonials to the contrary).

Here's the scoop:

We moved unexpectedly this summer, fulfilling a life-long dream to live in the country. I should explain that by "in the country" I mean "more than four minutes away from a Wal Mart." It's a whopping nine minutes to a Wal Mart, and I think this must be just exactly how Ma Ingalls felt. You city folk just wouldn't understand.

So: New (unexpected) house and new schools, which meant that late summer and early fall were flurries of unpacking and helping everyone ease into all the new-ness. As if that weren't enough, my little tiny baby started kindergarten, which meant that I had no preschooler at home for the first time in 13 years. It was the end of an era. A sticky, playdough-encrusted era.

I realized this meant it was time to get busy on all the stuff I'd been putting off forever. I thought about running for Congress (not really) or going back to medical school (not really on that one, either), but I decided instead to to tackle the mysterious chunk of petrified something-or-other I'd been needing to scrape off the bottom of the breakfast table for a decade (yes, really, on that one).

A funny thing happened, though, as I found myself so necessarily elbow-deep in the business of real life. The part of my life that was, for so long, filled up with Twitter and deadlines and comments and stats and advertising suddenly grew silent…and, to my staggering amazement, I liked it that way. This blog was an important part of my life for so long, and those of you who have read here so faithfully have encouraged me in ways I can't express. So why, I asked myself, was it so easy to step away? I had the sense that for this moment, anyway, I'd simply said all I wanted to say in this space.

And then I wondered if I should blog some big, official announcement, but blogging about not blogging seemed a little trippy, doesn't it? So I'd look at my computer and shrug and–whaddya know–six whole months had passed.

Really, that's the whole story. No big scandal or trauma, just the much-needed realization that my online life had become too consuming and–despite my best efforts–it was keeping me from giving the best part of myself to the people I love most. It was time to change that.  And it's been very, very good. Life is quieter now, or, at least, "quieter". There are, after all, four offspring in the house with a tendency to ride down wooden stairs in laundry baskets.

This all sounds like a "The End." It's not. I don't have any plans to close this blog down, though I can't guarantee any plans to fill it back up, either. Right now I'm content for it to sit here and let me dabble in it occasionally or often or never. (Clearly, I am all about the strategic planning.)

In the meantime, wherever you are, I hope you're well and happy and finding your own little slice of quiet. Or "quiet".

See you around, sweet friends. Thanks for stopping by.

If You Give a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy a Cookie

This afternoon I was sitting with my daughter as we tried to cram for the library's summer reading program enjoy some literary stimulation. I was reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie for the 3,722,185th time in my life, when the 13-year-old wandered in to ask me for something listen and reminisce about his sweet preschool years.

We finished reading and closed the book. My son asked if I could fix him something to eat. Of course he did, because it had been a shocking TWELVE minutes since lunch, and how could an adolescent boy possibly be expected to survive that long without food?

As I asked him what was wrong with his own two legs got up to graciously fix him something, I was inspired by the circumstances to flex my own literary muscle. Hence, this (with a sincere hat tip and apology to this).

If You Give a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy a Cookie

If you give a thirteen-year-old boy a cookie,
he's probably going to ask for some soda.

But as you are a mom who is feeling the pressure to make Positive Nutritional Choices,
you will urge him to drink milk instead.

He will shrug, and you will pour a giant glass of milk–whole milk–
and you will reflect that if you drank that much whole milk you would have hips
as wide as Tennessee.

He will finish the milk and and wipe his mouth with his shirt,
and you will not complain, because this is better than the milk moustache he normally wears.

He will set down the cup and ask if you've seen his cell phone,
and you will tell him you turned it off, because
why-oh-why must he and his friends text each other Chuck Norris jokes all day?

He will shrug, and then he will think of Chuck Norris,
and this will remind him of the movies, which will remind him of popcorn,
and he'll ask if you can fix him some.

And you say sure, because you're thinking that popcorn is a much cheaper snack
than the bacon he normally asks for.

He will jerk his head around because he somehow heard you think the word "bacon",
and you will tell him "no, you're having popcorn, remember?"

He will take the popcorn to the living room, and you will remind him
there is no longer any eating allowed in the living room
because you stayed up late picking brownie crumbs out of the carpet
after the last youth group party at your house.

And his eyes will shine and he will say, "Brownie?" and you will say, "NO."

So he will eat his popcorn instead (in the kitchen, like a good boy).
And all the salt will make him crave another glass of (whole) milk. 

But he's polished off the third gallon of (whole) milk this week,
and he must therefore hike all the way out to the garage to the nasty old back-up fridge. 

As he walks out to the garage, you will notice that you can see the bones in his hips,
and you will sadly remember that your pants get tight if you even think about cheesecake,
and you will know that good metabolism is wasted on those young enough to think that Big Macs are gourmet.

He will return from the garage with the milk, but with all that physical exertion,
chances are he's going to want a cookie and a brownie and some bacon to go with it.

(P.S. — I just read this post to my son, and he laughed out loud. Then he said he was hungry. Then he said I should tell you that Chuck Norris once round-house kicked a salesman. Over the phone.)

Happy Father’s Day

He pushes them to take risks when I'm too afraid.


He tells them how to use a socket wrench, shake a hand, work a compass,
and paddle a canoe.

He helps me be firm when I want to be too easy, and he helps me stay calm when I didn't know I could.

He tells our girl that she's pretty and valuable, and he puts on a suit and tie to take her to dinner.


He mysteriously shows up at the perfect moment with a screwdriver, or duct tape, or an ace bandage, and he knows how to let go of a bike seat at just the right moment.

He handles all the dog poop, tile grout, and algebra.

He coaches and prays and quiets and scolds and laughs and pushes and pulls with a courage and will that is the bedrock to the rest of us.


Happy Father's Day to the far better half of this team–the man who is, in every sense, a miracle.

These Small Hours

Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain.

–Rob Thomas, "These Small Hours"

The five-year-old curled up in her bed, her hair still a little damp from her shower a few minutes before, her mind racing through her options for the best way to delay bedtime.

"What if there's a fire? I don't like to jump out of windows," she told me.

"If there's a fire, I'll come for you," I said.

"But what if I get lost in the deep, deep forest?" she asked.

"You won't ever be in the deep, deep forest," I told her. She shot me a look that made it clear this answer was far too practical to satisfy her need for drama.

I amended my response. "If you get lost in the deep, deep forest, I'll come and find you," I said, and she nodded, satisfied. Her heavy eyelids started to droop. The 11-year-old wandered in, carrying his guitar.

"Could I play her a lullaby?" he asked quietly. I nodded, and he sat down and strummed "Jesus Loves Me" while his little sister held tightly to my hand.

Then the 8-year-old wandered in, playing his drum, because we all know that "Jesus Loves Me" is much more effective as a lullaby with a loud and driving drum beat.

The 12-year-old heard the ruckus and popped in, playing along on his harmonica. This would've been significantly more impressive if he actually knew how to play a harmonica. His playing messed up the 11-year-old, who stopped right at the "little ones to Him belong part" to whack his brother. The five-year-old was so excited by this exchange that she jumped to her feet and began to sing/shriek along while jumping up and down on her bed. The two big boys stopped their fighting, suddenly distracted by the fact that "Jesus" sounds a lot like "Cheez-Its".

The five-year-old continued to jump. The 8-year-old continued to pound. The older ones continued to shriek their hymn to the little orange crackers.

I laughed, and I wondered exactly where I lost my sweet moment.

I laughed harder, and I realized I didn't lose it at all.


5:07   The five-year-old climbs into my bed, wraps every one of her limbs around every one of my limbs, and kicks off all the covers.

5:08   I pull the covers back up.

5:11   She kicks them back down.

5:11   I pull them back up, and in a spirit of tenderness (or maybe it was grouchiness, I can't really remember) I suggest she stop it RIGHT NOW.

6:30   The alarm goes off–NPR, on my clock radio. Waking up to NPR basically causes me to move from nighttime sleep straight into a good nap. Probably not a good plan, now that I think of it.

6:41   I get out of bed, stepping on at least four chunks of dried plaster en route to the shower.

6:42   Shower time.

7:15   I head downstairs to find that my 12-year-old son is dressed, fed, clean, and cheerful, and he's sitting at the table reading.  I scratch my head.

7:16   I let out the dog and pour a Diet Coke (for me, not the dog).

7:25   The five-year-old sleepily wanders in. The 12-year-old immediately hops up and offers to fix breakfast for her. I walk over to him, embrace him with both arms, and I gently ask him if aliens invaded his body overnight.

7:32   In wet hair and a bathrobe, I drive my son to the bus stop, while remembering all the times I swore I'd never drive my kids to the bus stop in wet hair and a bathrobe. 

7:34   He makes me belly laugh, no small feat before 9 a.m. I love that boy.

7:40   Back home to find Hubs eating breakfast with our five-year-old daughter, the only member of this family who is chatty and energetic in the morning.  She is debating, aloud, the merits of pigtails versus ponytails.

7:45   Wake up the other boys and fix them breakfast. Think to myself that I don't know who invented Pancakes On a Stick, but I'd like to shake his hand.

7:51   Kiss Hubs goodbye.

7:56   The five-year-old shrieks in horror at a fly that is buzzing around our kitchen table, and she runs to get the water squirt bottle in self defense.

8:03   The eleven-year-old got a new haircut the night before, so I help him figure out the best way to fix it.

8:04   It evolves into a discussion about hair product and proper blow-drying technique.

8:07   It evolves further into a talk about some of the changes your body goes through during puberty.

8:08   I realize I might need some more caffeine.

8:11   The five-year-old has now coated every surface in my kitchen with water, while singing "I'm In the Lord's Army".

8:17   Attack the eight-year-old with a ferocious hug, because when his face is still sleep-puffy, he looks just like my baby, and a hug attack is the only logical response.

8:29   Out the door with the boys and a still-pajama'd girl.

8:38   Pull up to the school. "I-love-you-Be-good-Did-you-get-your-lunch-money?-Don't-forget-to-turn-in-that-yellow-permission-slip-Where's-your-coat?-I'll-see-you-after-school-May-the-Lord-bless-you-and-keep-you-may-He-make-His-face-to-shine-upon-you…."

8:39   Sit and breathe, and listen to my daughter sing a song she is making up about a fairy named Crystal Rainbow who wanted to be on American Idol but then a big fly came up and ate her.

8:40   Realize that I am profoundly blessed. Sleepy, but blessed.


It's Valentine's Day. This afternoon Hubs and I climbed the stairs, closed our bedroom door and…

…finished scraping the popcorn off our master bathroom ceiling.

Who needs roses when you can have soggy chunks of plaster in your hair?

We're generally not impulsive remodelers–when we've tackled projects in the past, we've usually thought them through very carefully, with a budget and a plan in place. Early last week we began to wonder how hard it would be to strip our old wallpaper, which led to a wondering about how much bathtub refinishing costs, which led to a wondering about whether we could remove a doorway. Ten days later, my bathroom looks like this:


So, it would appear we're remodeling the bathroom.

I am learning many things in this little adventure, chief among them that plumbers are expensive, sledgehammers are surprisingly therapeutic, and wallpaper glue is forever. And I am reminded, with much thankfulness, that I'd rather spend an afternoon inhaling sheetrock dust with him than sitting at a candlelit table with anybody else. Come to think of it, maybe we should've written that into our wedding vows.

Happy Valentine's Day, Hubs. Thanks for the drywall and the babies and the sanity and for looking so dang good in a tool belt.