Two Candles

Finn Joseph,

You’re TWO years old today! Wow. It seems we just celebrated your first birthday (see post).DSC_0181

In the short 24 months I’ve known you, and the nine scary months prior, I think you’ve made me a better person. At least I feel myself changing. Spilled milk isn’t such a big deal. I’m becoming stronger, kinder, bolder, less selfish and a little more like Christ inside. All because of you.ArmstrongOctober2013_5 copy

I believe all parents have grandiose dreams for their kids, and though my dreams for you have changed, I am no different. I believe you are so unique, so special, so gifted that you were created for some great purpose. I dream you’ll be a gold medal Paralympic athlete, Valedictorian, a brilliant medical researcher creating fool-proof shunts for people like yourself, a talented musician, the first rock climber with Spina Bifida to flash a 5.14…

But the truth is, your life is important even if it ends up being very simple. Maybe the only people who will know your name are close friends and family. That’s okay. There aren’t many two year olds with a family like yours–people who love you unconditionally, who will fight for you, who are on their knees for you.

Your toothy smile fills the room with joy.IMG_0970

Your sensitive heart (and ears) make me protective.

Your innocence is pure.

Your sense of humor surprises me.IMG_6913

Your cheeks are oh-so-kissable.IMG_6713

Your naughtiness reminds me you’re a child.

Your lifeless legs stir in me anger and sadness, but also determination.IMG_6716

Your voice is the sweetest melody.

Your unpredictable health reminds me you are not mine. You are His. I am not in control.

You are TWO! And I am thankful for each of the last million + minutes I’ve spent being your mommy. I can’t wait to watch you grow into a big brother, to wipe your tears when life is mean and to cheer you on as you conquer fears and curbs alike. You are my little superhero.  (related posts: Superheroes and Child of Steel)

Happy Birthday, Mighty Finn!DSC_1580



Spring Cleaning

I don’t know if it’s called “nesting,” if I’m finally feeling well enough to stand for longer than ten minutes, or if it’s just because the sun was shining for a couple of days, but I have been in the mood to CLEAN! And I know it’s not really Spring yet, but I’m pretending.

On Sunday, I organized my closet and made room for baby girl. I collected a few bags of clothes to donate or sell on consignment. Also organized our game closet. It made me miss our Baylor/Truett buds so badly…we played games together weekly. photo 1

Wednesday, I cleaned out the guest bathroom cabinets. I filled four garbage bags with random linens to sell in a May garage sale. I always clean on Wednesdays while Finn naps, but this week I really cleaned. Can anyone other than my grandma really fold a fitted sheet neatly? photo 2 copy photo 3 copy

Wednesday evening I organized my JBF (Just Between Friends) items to sell in April. All the buttons snapped, all hangers facing left. They are very particular at JBF, those ladies.

Thursday, I bought a new basket. A larger one to keep Finn’s toys from overflowing onto the furniture. I hate a living space cluttered by toys. Especially in a small 4

Today I swept out the garage. I was so tired of tracking in sediment from this winter’s ice storms and the popcorn ceiling residue from Joey and I’s miserable de-popcorning project. If you’ve ever thought of de-popcorning your ceiling, don’t. Hire someone. Anyone.

Finn also got his first big boy haircut today! I took him to Dawna at Lollie’s Beauty Bar. I love Dawna. For the hour or two I spend sitting in her leather swivel chair, I believe we are the best of friends. We bring each other coffee from Starbucks, I bake her cookies, she remembers every detail of my life and is a professional conversationalist. Not to mention a stellar hair stylist.

ANYWAY…Finn was a little apprehensive at first, but he sat bravely on my lap and watched PBS Kids while Daddy cheered him on. photo 1photo 2photo 3

What a stud! He looks like the two year old he’ll be next week. I’m so in love.

Before and After

Before and After

My dream Valentine’s gift came true this year: A car 2

photo 3There aren’t many things that make me happier than a clean car. It makes me feel fancy, sane and for the short week it stays that way, I feel like my life isn’t quite such a mess. Thank you, Joey.

This weekend I plan to take a few moments to pray and clean out some messy areas of my mind. Nooks and crannies cluttered by fear. Worry piled high in corners. Selfishness thick on the sills of my heart. Like my home, my son’s hair and my vehicle, my spirit needs some spring cleaning too.

Not Cool to Pee in Your Pants

Most people don’t know much about Spina Bifida. I sure didn’t prior to Finn. It sort of shoved its way into my life uninvited.

Let me introduce you.

Spina Bifida is a neural tube defect that occurs within the first 20 days of gestation. It is the most common permanently disabling birth defect. In most cases the spinal opening also causes hydrocephalus (or spinal fluid swelling in the brain) that requires a shunt to regulate it. There is no known cause, though folic acid supplements can help prevent neural tube defects. There is no cure.

Basically Finn’s spinal column didn’t fully close in utero. Spina Bifida means literally “split spine.” So his nerves were exposed at the opening (lesion) and damaged. In most cases, everything at and below the lesion has some paralysis and loss of function. Finn’s lesion is at L4/L5. His legs, ankles, feet, bladder and bowels are thus affected. He also has a VP shunt on the right side of his skull that drains spinal fluid and keeps him alive. According to the chart below, Finn currently functions more at the L3 level. The lower the level on the spine, the more function the person will have.


We made the short trek to Children’s hospital on Tuesday for a major urology appointment to check up on Finn’s bladder/bowels. He had a urodynamics test administered when he was about 3 months old and again this week. He cried pitifully through the ultrasound to check his kidneys, but the sucker Pascha suggested made it a little more bearable.

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To our surprise, he was a champ during the hour long urodynamics test–mostly thanks to Joey, his iPhone and PBS Kids on the screen above him.

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Here’s what we found:

  • Finn has a “safe bladder.” This means it drains properly and does not reflux back into the kidneys. When children die from SB complications, it’s usually due to kidney failure. This is a huge praise that Finn’s kidneys are healthy!
  • Unlike most kids with SB, Finn does not currently need to be catheterized, as his bladder voids on its own.
  • Finn’s problem is that the bladder and bowel muscles are weak. There is little to no innervation (nerve to muscle connection) in his bladder.  When full, it is unable to hold urine. This is also true of his bowels. When Finn laughs or moves quickly, he will have leakage.
  • This is fine, of course, in diapers. However, we suspect Finn will not want to be in diapers the rest of his life. So…
  • When we decide it’s time–usually around the time a normal child would be potty trained–we will teach Finn to catheterize himself every 2-4 hours. This keeps his bladder drained and will help him avoid unwanted leakage and stinky wet drawers.
  • He will also undergo a bladder surgery that will “build up the bladder neck” (whatever that means) to help the muscles prevent leakage.
  • Another surgery will ensue for his bowels, most likely a “stoma,” or opening in his belly button to help him clean himself out periodically.

We don’t really comprehend all this means. It’s just a reminder that our son was born with Spina Bifida, will not lead a “normal” life, and will require us as his parents, to be his advocates and biggest fans.


Despite Adam Sandler’s attempt to make “peeing in your pants cool,” it’s not. And this part of Spina Bifida–aside from the whole wheelchair thing–will isolate Finn from his peers even more. I pray daily for his future friends. That they will be loyal, brave, kind, funny and not squeamish about Finn’s potty life.

What to Say to a Pregnant Woman

Okay, people. Let’s chat.

Something about a woman with a protruding  belly and low-slung elastic banded jeans makes people think they can say all sorts of crazy things. Right?!

6 months preggo with Finn

6 months preggo with Finn

It seems we feel license to talk about a woman’s body–to her face even–simply because she’s pregnant. It’s certainly not appropriate to discuss a woman’s changing (aka: enlarging) body whilst not pregnant, but once she’s expecting, it seems any comment goes.

I share most of this in pure jest…most. 😉 It’s just a phenomenon I’ve witnessed with both pregnancies that I think many women can relate to.

6 months preggo with Finn

6 months preggo with Finn

I recall complete strangers coming up to me at the gym or church to talk about my body while I was pregnant with Finn. And now again with baby girl. They reach out to touch my belly. Tell me I’ve really gotten big in the past week. I still look good–for a pregnant woman. The baby’s “riding low.” Your chest has grown! Are you sure you have the right due date? One man at the gym even admitted he thought I was injured or something because he thought I had let myself go. (This one makes me giggle!)

So, if you’re unaware or it’s been a while since you’ve popped out a few kids yourself, may I remind you:

Pregnant women are emotional. And oftentimes fragile. And self-conscious. We KNOW our bodies are changing/growing. Every popping button tells us so. You really don’t need to remind us. 🙂

At least I will speak for myself. In my career, my body is a focal point. I wear spandex in front of mirrors. And people watch my movements. It’s frightening! Especially when I’m not really liking the way my crops are fitting.

Half-way with baby girl! 20 weeks.

Half-way with baby girl! 20 weeks.

So…if you’re wondering what to say to a pregnant woman, just tell her she looks great. Cute. Healthy.

And on the off chance that she doesn’t really look that great, remember what your mommy taught you when you were a kid: If you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything at all.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t ask her if she’s having twins!

The Love Law

Although Valentine’s Day is a “Hallmark holiday” and it slightly annoys me that heart boxes and teddy bears fill the grocery store aisles as Christmas decorations go on clearance, I still love it. I think holidays are fun simply because I like to celebrate, and I like to eat, and I like to laugh with people I love. Holidays are just that–holy days to celebrate what’s sacred in our lives. A day to “set apart” something and make it special.

And what better thing to celebrate than love?!

Finn at GoKids for his Valentine party. His shirt reads: "Love is the coal that makes this train roll." Thanks, Andersons!

Finn at GoKids for his Valentine party. His shirt reads: “Love is the coal that makes this train roll.” Thanks, Andersons!

I spent a few Valentine’s Days alone, and though they’re certainly not as magical as when you’re holding the hand of your date, it is still an opportunity to celebrate the people who enrich your life.

Some Valentine’s Days I feel led to I send flowers “from Jesus” to friends I know are hurting. Jane did this for me one particularly lonely V-Day. Once in college, I went for a long run to pray and thank the Lord for being my Pursuer. I always get to talk to my dad on the phone on Valentine’s Day, and he used to send me flowers prior to Joey. Dad’s always so sweet and sappy on the phone. Short–but sweet. 🙂 Twice, when I was single and Jane’s boyfriend was long-distance, we got all dolled up and took each other out for dinner on Valentine’s Day. Starbucks for dessert. Great memories.

I hope you were able to celebrate this weekend. Not romance. Or sex. Or chocolate. But love.

My love and I. Date night!

My love and I. Date night!

Dinner at Scratch. Sweet potato black-bean burger. YUM. If you haven't been to Scratch, go!

Dinner at Scratch. Sweet potato black-bean burger. YUM. If you haven’t been to Scratch, go!

Crispy pancetta mac-and cheese to share! Sinful. Then we saw Monuement's Men. Such a fantastic movie!

Crispy pancetta mac-and cheese to share! Sinful. Then we saw Monument’s Men. Such a fantastic movie!

All weekend long I’ve been thinking about His love. How it’s perfect; unlike our diluted, and often twisted version of it. How Scripture says it’s self-sacrificing. Patient. Kind. Doesn’t boast. Drives out fear. Never jealous or rude. Doesn’t keep track of mistakes. Rejoices in truth. Always hopeful and supportive. Trusting. It doesn’t fail.

Wrong holy-day, but the Christmas carol, O Holy Night, is stuck in my head today for one reason. This line:

His law is love.

God isn’t waiting for us to mess up while He taps a ruler in His mighty hand. He’s the Judge, for sure. But of all the rules He chooses to focus on, it’s love. The greatest (and hardest) commandment. His government system? Love. His reason for Christ on the cross? Love.What if we were thrown in prison not for our crimes, but because we failed to love?

Just love. And I should aim to do it the way He does.

Hope you had a happy Valentine’s Day!

Choosing Battles

What an uneventful weekend! Lots of Olympics and movie rentals…if I were a winter Olympian, I think I’d want to be a cross country skier. Skiathlon women are fierce. And I love the way they flop dramatically across the finish line.1391862649020-USP-Olympics--Cross-Country-Skiing-Ladies-Skiathlo1

Woke up late for our first JD McCarty physical therapy appt on Saturday. Finn got in! Yay! He had a blast. (Playground post about this place)

Shooting baskets to build leg strength. Finn loves "b-ball!"

Shooting baskets to build leg strength. Finn loves “b-ball!”

Slam dunk!

Slam dunk!

Finn in the "KidWalk." His legs just dragged, but maybe someday they won't.

Finn in the “KidWalk.” His legs just dragged, but maybe someday they won’t.

Joey performed a wedding for a couple of sweet college students on Saturday. I had to stuff a cheese cube in Finn’s mouth because he wouldn’t quit pointing at the stage and yelling, “Daddy!”

And I’m sick. Really sick. I mean, I’ve had a cold for over a month. I get it; I can’t take anything much while I’m pregnant, and I know my sinuses get inflamed in the second trimester, but whatever hit me on Thursday morning was something different. Mean.

I’ve had no sense of smell or taste for five days. I took Finn to the nursery at church on Sunday and all the ladies pinched their noses: “Phew! What’s that smell?” Well, it was my son. And he had burst through his diaper; poop up the back, and I couldn’t smell it.

I have the hearing acuity of an ninety-year-old. My clients are making fun of how I’m whispering instructions: “Do what kind of push up exactly?!” I’m not sleeping well (sorry, Joey!). My face hurts. My ears won’t pop, and each time I cough this horrible, manly cough, my stomach feels like it’s going to explode. It’s just cruel to combine round ligament tears with deep coughing.

My weekend was full of Mucinex (which is worthless), wads of tissues, herbal tea and honey…

If you’re sick like me, order this next time you go to Starbucks (but not the location on Main in Norman…they “don’t do steamed lemonade. It messes up their wands.” What?!) :

“Grande mint tea with steamed lemonade and one packet of honey”

Thank me later.

…blueberries and green juice. We have to cheat and buy our green juice/smoothies now. Finn can’t handle the sound of the juicer, the blender or the food processor. He thinks we’re all dying or something. You have to choose your

I hate going to the doctor. The worst is when they call you back–you think you’re getting somewhere–and then you wait in an even colder room for over an hour while you hear the doctor telling jokes in the hallway. It drives me batty.

But I woke up today feeling badly enough so I surrendered and went to the doctor. No flu, bronchitis or strep. No clue. So I’m on a low dose antibiotic and I pray to Jesus it works. Because I’m miserable. And the only time I hate my job is when I’m sick. Not fun to teach a spin class when every breath hurts.

Well, here’s to choosing your battles and hoping your health is better than mine of late.

Winter’s Lion

So this is Winter. High of 16 degrees today and snow off and on for the past week. It doesn’t look like February will relent. More “wintry mix” in the bitter 10 day forecast.

Stepping out the front door on Sunday felt like entering a Winter Wonderland. Finn wasn’t as enthralled, but I felt like a character in Narnia.

Not much to do in the snow when you can't walk or wheel...

Not much to do in the snow when you can’t walk or wheel…

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My mom read Chad and I the Narnia series before bed when we were kids. I dreamt of ancient castles and wild steeds carrying me to faraway lands.

The lion, Aslan, in these books represents God the Father. He is kind and loving, yet fierce and dangerous. “Safe?…’Course He isn’t safe. But He’s good. He’s the King, I tell you,” says Mr. Beaver.aslan

I’ve found Mr. Beaver’s wise observation to be true in my own spiritual life. I used to think God was predictable; safe…more like a beagle than a lion. But He is anything but predictable. In recent years I’ve witnessed His wildness–an aspect of His character that gives me a new, awe-inspiring respect for Him and His mysterious ways–whether I like them or not.

Hosea 11:10 tells of His ferocity:

They will follow the LORD; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west.

I love this imagery. As I shiver in my car on the way to work these February mornings, I remember Narnia and its Lion King, who causes my heart to quiver and tremble when He roars my name.

A similar post: Weak Things