Friday, October 29, 2010

{pros and cons}

Operation Hacky Sack Head is officially two weeks underway. The first few days were rough: the little man had some heat rashes on his cheeks and a little trouble adjusting to sleeping with his fancy new hat on. But after a few days of gradually increasing helmet-on time, we are now sporting the helmet 23 hours a day, 7 days a week. The helmet is actually heavier than I expected; it has to weigh at least a pound or two. I mentioned this to Dr. Rob Bell, and he responded by picking the helmet up and then dramatically almost-dropping it on the ground. Good one, doc.

There are definitely some pros and cons to the helmet. The most obvious, most significant pro is that Ave is going to have one sweet looking noggin when this is all over. I'm already planning to make one of those old-fashioned silhouettes to celebrate the end of Operation Hacky Sack Head.

Another pro is that Ave is a little more protected from my chronic clumsiness. For instance, I am usually half-awake when he is ready to get up in the morning, and perhaps once or twice I may or may not have accidentally "tapped" his head on the door frame while exiting his bedroom. It probably isn't a bad idea that my baby wear a helmet considering how often I drop/spill/kick/break/knock over things.

And, as if I even need to say: sweet decals. Our good friends Ryan & Corin sent us an awesome sticker stash we are planning on rotating through. If you missed Ave's Halloween costume debut, do yourself a favor and scroll down to the next post. Your heart may explode from the cuteness. Seriously. It just overwhelms me sometimes.

Cons? Well, they aren't too serious. Inconvenient, yes. But problematic? Not necessarily.

First of all, it gives him a little heat rash on his cheeks. Nothing a little Aquaphor can't fix.

Secondly, the extra weight means it has been even harder for Ave to lift his already-extra-heavy head. When he wears it for Baby Boot Camp, it feels like we have regressed 3 or 4 weeks. He is just now able to again do the things with the helmet on that he was doing before we started. But this con is really a pro in disguise, as Drill Sargent Debbie pointed out: the helmet will act like a dumbbell for his neck and trunk, helping him bulk up even faster. He is going to be one hot body-building babe (with a perfectly rounded head) when this is all said and done. And with scars, too? The ladies won't be able to stay away.

It also smells faintly of a sweaty gym socks, despite me scrubbing it down with alcohol wipes every night. Oh well. I guess that's manly.

And people stare. Unashamedly. It doesn't bother me so much when little kids stare at him because, I mean, hello. They're kids. And most of the time it's a look of jealousy on their faces, like, "Man, my mom is so lame. I wish my mom would let me wear my skateboard helmet to the grocery store."

But when grown adults stare at him like he's a unicorn or a leprechaun, it takes every ounce of my internal fortitude to not lash out. I have to try so hard to not say stuff like,

"Oh, yeah, he was born without a skull, so the helmet holds his brain in place."

"I drive a motorcycle, so he wears it when he rides on the back instead of in the sidecar."

"The dog keeps gnawing on his head like a chew toy, so we got this helmet for him so he won't get any more scars on his head."

"He's on the 6-12 month day care co-ed football team. Flag, of course. We start tackle when he's 18 months."

I have to keep telling myself that Jesus would not, in fact, say these much as I would like to believe He would.

It's also hard to get mad about him wearing the helmet when he looks so unbelievably adorable in it. Several times a day I half expect him to come flying around the corner on a skateboard or look at the window and see him jumping over flaming trash cans with a motorcycle, like he's Evil Kenevil or something.

In other news, we have visited the neurosurgeon, Dr.Taco (the neurologist), and Dr. Rob Bell this month. All of them say Avram is doing just perfectly, and both of the neuro guys said they don't need to see him until he is one. This is a big deal people. No brain guys until April. That's six months of only going to regular doctor's appointments.

All three doctors also said they usually do not support baby helmets, but that in Avram's case they believe the helmet is 100% necessary and said they were glad we were doing it. This was a huge relief to me; another small confirmation that we have all the right people along the banks of the river.

Dr. Rob Bell was very happy with Avram, except that I hadn't fed him any meat yet. To be honest, every time I read the words "pureed beef" in the baby cook book I threw up in my mouth a little bit. It just seemed so wrong to feed a baby meat, so caveman-like. But I relented, and we tried some chicken this week. Let me just say that if you're looking for a dramatic diet plan, just keep a bowl of pureed chicken around. It will do wonders for your appetite. And, of course, Ave loves it.

I am so ready for this guy to have some teeth.

And I am also ready for him to start walking. He is going to have to learn pretty fast, because tiny little 5'2", 110 pound me cannot keep carrying around at 19 pound, 28" baby. I am not kidding when I say this kid is going to be half my height by Christmas.

It's strange how relieved and how anxious I feel at the same time. He really is our miracle baby. With the conditions he has, he should be having seizures. He should have vision problems. He should not be accomplishing milestones as easily as he is: babbling and smiling and eating solids and propped-sitting.

It's a relief. It's a blessing.

But the dark side of me, the carnal side of me, is just waiting and anticipating for everything to suddenly take a downward spiral. It amazes me how every blessing, every bit of good news, is tainted with the fear that creeps in so conspiringly. Just another reminder that I have to choose to walk in faith, choose to live in the moment, choose to trust, choose to lean on the everlasting arms.

I have to keep putting him in the basket and sending him down the river of God's plan, despite how dark the sky may look, or how rough the river waters flow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

{his burden is light}

I opened up the mail this morning, and there was a letter from our insurance company.

Ave's helmet is totally covered. All $3,800.


I just rocked Ave to sleep for his morning nap, gazing at those beautiful little lips. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude, with the Lord's kindness, that I couldn't hold back the tears.

And the load keeps getting lighter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

{the birthday boy}

Today, my baby brother turns 21 years old. It does not feel real.

In my mind, Paul should still be in elementary school, rockin his 49's sweatshirt and jamming to dcTalk. He should not be in college, living on his own, having just ridden his bicycle from South Carolina to California. It does not seem possible.

In our family, it's a bit of a tradition to tell stories about the Birthday Boy (or girl, of course). In honor of that tradition, here are a couple of my favorites.


When we were kids, our family went to Florida at least once a year. It was a hard life, I know.

I recently read that for each beach vacation you take as a child, you have 20 more moles than the average person. This explains so much for Paul & me. There are hundreds of moles between us (and...I just ruined your breakfast. You're welcome.).

We went to the same resort every year, so Paul & I had some freedom to roam since we knew the joint. We were even allowed to take the elevators by ourselves (if you can imagine such freedom). When we found ourselves in the elevator with strangers, Paul & I would start talking in foreign accents. We thought we did a pretty convincing job, but in retrospect we definitely mixed about 8 different accents.

"Blimey, it's hot outside."

"Spot on, chap."

"We ought to throw a shrimp on the ba-bie."

"Ya man. Slammin."

When the doors opened and our victims stepped off, we would absolutely roar. Ha! Fooled them. Suckers.

They probably walked down the hall, rolled their eyes at each other and said, "Dumb kids."


Paul was a snuggly little kid. A real mama's boy. My mom could not walk past his room during the day without Paul throwing his arms up and calling to her, "I wanna hold you."

He also really liked to help. One year, when he was pretty little, he assisted my mom in the assembling of the Christmas tree. We had one of those fake trees with the branches that snap in to the trunk, and Paul was having a hard time getting them in place. As my mom worked on the top of the tree, she heard a little voice:

"Get in there, you little bastard."

"WHAT did you just say?"


"Paul Avram, where did you hear that word?"

Let's just say my dad's judgement in appropriate movies for children was no longer trusted.


Contrary to what some may believe, Paul is not always sweet.

He once, as a four or five year old little boy, chased my poor, screaming Yoo-Hoo through the entire Orlando airport. Why was she screaming, you ask?

Two words: Rubber. Snake.


A couple of years ago, I got a package in the mail. I don't remember what it was now. Paul was home when I opened it, and we were delighted to read that the hundreds of foam packing peanuts inside would dissolve in water. The directions even encourage simply flushing them down the toilet. How environmentally friendly, we thought. Absolutely wonderful.

Later that afternoon, Dad was playing golf across the street. As was and still is his routine, he makes a very necessary trip back over to the house when the course meets up with our driveway. He hustled inside, ran into the kitchen bathroom, and opened the lid, only to find the toilet packed to the rim with packing peanuts.

Let's just say he was not as impressed with their environmental awareness as we were.

Apparently, you are supposed to soak the packing peanuts in a bucket of water before flushing them down the toilet. Our bad, Dad.


I like to think that I am a good sister. Growing up, Paul & I went through some tough crap together. There were a couple years when we didn't trust anyone but each other, when we had to look out for each other. Even though he's the baby, there have been many times he has taken care of me.

It was New Year's Eve, 5 or 6 six years ago. Paul & I were at the New Year's Eve service, and I was sitting next to my Yoo-Hoo (my dad's mom). Worship had just ended; everyone had greeted each other, found their seats, and settled in as Pau-Pau began to teach.

Suddenly, I heard a noise from Yoo-Hoo. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye, and her eyes were closed. I thought she was snoring, so I gave her a little nudge. Her eyes stayed close, and she kept making the snoring noise. Suddenly, she collapsed in my lap, and I froze. My grandmother was passed out in my lap.

My uncle was sitting across the aisle from me, and he yelled to Pau-Pau. My dad ran back to us from the stage, and took Yoo-Hoo into his arms. Pau-Pau led a prayer from the pulpit, and an elder called the ambulance.

Later that night we learned it was nothing serious, but in the moment I was so scared I couldn't look away, or stop shaking. I felt my legs give out, and I closed my eyes, but I didn't fall. I realized Paul had wrapped both his arms around me, like a cacoon, holding my head against his chest.


Here's a little birthday video the babe & I made for his uncle.

Happy Birthday, Uncle Paul!

Happy Birthday to Uncle Paul from Cassie Beer on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

{toast & honey}

I guess I should probably explain why I have entitled my blog "toast&honey." I'll give it my best shot.

When I was a kid, I had the worst allergies. My seasonal allergies were just terrible: Spring always has been and always will be my least favorite season. Once the frost stopped coming at night, I would cease breathing. The majority of my childhood Autumns and Springs were spent inside with kleenex stuffed up my nose, which was just the absolute pits because I loved to be outside.

When I was in elementary school, I went to an allergist. He did that horrible test where they draw this Battleship grid on your back with a Sharpie and then poke each square with a needle loaded with a different allergen. There were 50 squares on my back and 20 on each arm. The idea is that the needle pricks you are allergic to will swell up, revealing exactly what makes you sneeze and wheeze and break out in hives. I had to lie there, on my stomach, for 20 minutes to let the reaction start, and I couldn't so much as scratch myself. My mom had to hold my arms down. And it itched. Bad. It was torture. I deeply resented that bald little nasally man.

Well, needless to say, my entire back broke out. Grass, pollen, dust, mold, strawberries, weeds, mustard, apples, mildew...the list goes on and on. The worst reaction? Horses. The horse square was on the lower back right side, and it looked like someone had replaced my hip with an elephant's.

The doctor said it was the worst reaction to horses he had ever seen. Of course it was. Who is even allergic to horses, for heaven's sake? What a stupid allergy.

I was given a prescription for Claritin and some nose spray. I took them every day, and they helped a little bit. Ever so slightly. I was still a snotty, swollen mess.

My dad always fixed breakfast for us when we were kids. It was no pop-tarts-and-Cheerios kind of thing, it was a feast. Every morning. He had this fresh fruit juice concoction: strawberries, bananas, oranges, was liquid delicious. Some days he made waffles with a side of chorizo, some mornings we had omelets with hash-browns and onions, or chocolate chip pancakes, or french toast with buckets of powdered sugar. My dad would get creative with his creations: some mornings we would have pancakes shaped like our initials, or animals, or faces drawn on them with squirt-butter. My brother refused to eat the pancake "crust," so his pancakes were always trimmed down (which I can't necessarily call him out on, because I did the same thing with hamburgers. We were strange.). I always drank chocolate milk, and Paul always drank strawberry, so some mornings dad would mix the two syrups together and make us drink it (probably my least favorite creation of his).

Even though we never knew exactly what to expect when we came down for breakfast, I had one side item that remained a constant: toast and honey. Somewhere, my dad had learned that if you eat a little bit of honey every day it will help your allergies, much more than medicine.

We're not talking about store-bought honey here. Won't cut it. It has to be the real honey. Bought-on-the side-of-the-road, locally-grown, sold-in-a-bell-jar honey. So every morning, from elementary school through high school, Dad would make me a piece of toast and honey.

Miraculously, my seasonal allergies have almost disappeared. I can actually go outside in the spring, and at the worst I may have watery eyes. I can walk barefoot in the grass and not look like someone decorated my feet with paper cuts: a far cry from breaking out in hives and not being able to breathe. My dad is very proud to have remedied my allergies. To this day, if I so much as sneeze in my Dad's presence, he says, "You're not eating your honey." Seriously. It happened last week.

I am not a patient person. I want things to go how I plan them to go, I want results right away. I always undercook rice. I try to put my jeans on right after painting my nails and always mess the paint up. I read magazines backwards because all those ads in the front make me antsy. I had terrible insomnia as a kid because I was too excited about the next day to fall asleep. Every time Avram accomplishes a new milestone, I catch myself checking it off the list and start practicing for the next one. I do not like to wait.

Mother Teresa once said something about how none of us can do great things, only small things with great love. It took months for that one small action, one piece of toast and honey, to make a difference for my allergies. But once it had taken effect, it made all the difference in the world.

I am learning that I cannot do one big thing to make the difference for Avram, I cannot do one big thing to become the person I want to be, I cannot do one big thing to strengthen my marriage, I cannot do any great thing for God. Being a "big deal" or considered "cool" or Super Mom or being on stage with my name in lights is not what will make the difference.

I can only do small things with great love.

I can speak with kindness, I can choose to show grace and mercy even when it hurts, I can remember to breathe. I can fight to see the good in people, I can choose to be selfless, I can remember to pray. I can do the little things no one will ever thank me for. I can read "One Fish Two Fish" to Avram for the 1000th time, I can fix a pot roast for J, I can drink more water and be kind to myself. Small pieces of toast with honey, small actions of love, small bits of light in the darkness.

I can do small things with love, every day, and that is what will make the difference.

Toast and honey.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


We picked up the babe's helmet today. I could write about how I had to fight tears the whole time he was being fitted, but I'm just not up for it today. I need to write about some good things, some happy things, so this is strictly a celebration of the current parts of life I want to bottle up forever.

Avram is teething, and it is just the absolute worst. He is drooling like a mastiff, and he has this pathetic little cough that I'm convinced is only 50% real and 50% him amusing himself with his new sound effects. He always has to have something in his mouth: a rattle, his thumb, a spoon, a sock. When I hold him facing away from me, he gums my arm from wrist to elbow: slowly, meticulously, as if he is sucking every last kernel from the most delicious corn-on-the-cob.  We have so many hickeys between the two of us that we look like a couple of hormone-crazed adolescents.

Ave and I have a new game. I will smother his cheeks in kisses (sometimes he turns in at the last second so I get him right on the kisser, and his dad yells, "Hey! That's my move, young man."), and then I put my cheek right next to his mouth. He face-plants right on to my cheek, mouth open, leaving my face soaked. He then throws his head back and giggles, as if he just got away with something sneaky.

When he wakes up in the morning, I can hear him talking to himself in his crib. He has mastered his "b"s this week, and he is quite pleased with himself. When I go in to get him up, he just lies there smiling up at me, beaming like morning sunshine.

Friday, October 8, 2010

{power of the pack}

J & I were watching Planet Earth, and in the Fresh Water episode they showed this pack of otters. They form massive packs, like 15 or 20 strong. Otters are really pretty funny looking: like a wet, stretched out mix of a squirrel and wiener dog. They hunt together, eat together, swim together, sleep together: chatting away the entire time. They even cuddle, for heaven's sake. During a swimming party, this massive crocodile tried to pick one off for supper, and this entire clan of skinny little otters chased him away. A pack of squirrely wiener dogs ran off a huge, hungry crocodile. When he was gone, you half expected them to start high-fiving each other.

Before we had Avram, J & I had decided we wanted three kids. I mean, if a fourth came along we wouldn't kick them out on the street or anything, but three just seemed so...right. You just make plans like that. It's what people do.

My brother is my best friend and I wouldn't trade our relationship for all the world, but as a little girl I always wanted a sister to play Barbies and Mall Madness with. True story: when Paul was born, I refused to go to the hospital because he wasn't a girl. I forced my Yoo-Hoo to watch Bambi three times before we could go. Then, I called him Katie. For months.

Once I was finally resigned to the fact he was boy, I called him Pumpkin Head because he had a bad case of jaundice. I was an awesome sister. In a shoebox somewhere, there is a picture of my cousin Maggie and me holding Paul at his dedication. We both have this stone-cold look on our faces, like, "Yeah, we are so excited about another boy in this family. No, really. So happy."

Occasionally Paul would play Barbies-and-GI-Joes with me, but that usually ended up in headless Barbie dolls and a Power Ranger stuck an inch into my knee cap (Also a true story. Scar to prove it.).

J has two brothers and a sister, and it's just so much fun at their house when everyone is there. They are all so different but still so close, and when they are all together their mom positively glows. They are a village. A small, happy village.

After Avram was born, J & I did some reconsidering of that magic number. We just weren't sure--and still really aren't--about how much care he will need, or if what he has is genetic or spontaneous. And I'm still not positive about how I would handle being pregnant again, or if I would have a complete nervous breakdown from the fear that bad news looms at every check-up.

Don't read too much into this (Mom): we have quite awhile to think about adding to the pack here. I need some time to enjoy being able to tie my own shoes again. But when I think about how close Paul and I are, and how I couldn't have possibly made it through the last, oh, ten years without him, or about how much joy Jason gets from being around his siblings...I don't want Avram to be alone when J & I have both gone all senile and loony. I want him to be able to call his siblings and say, "Oh geez, they found mom walking downtown in her underwear again, what are we going to do this time?" Or if he does need extra care and something happens to me and J, I don't want him to only have one sibling with all the responsibility. I don't want him to be alone if we are long gone and he gets sick, or in trouble.

He just can't be alone when the crocodiles come.

He needs a pack.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

{behind door number three}

Well, it seems God has made up His mind.

Monday afternoon, the little man and I headed to the cranio-facial surgeon. He pulled out his Baby Jesus routine and was a total charmer the whole time, even though he didn't take an afternoon nap. I mean, he's just so dreamy.

In the waiting room, there were three other babies all waiting to see the same doctor for the same reason. Ave was sitting in my lap, really showing off his Baby Boot Camp skills, while the other babies sat snug in their car seats. One of the other mom's said, "Wow, he's sitting up really well. How old is he?"

I replied (very humbly, of course), "Oh, he's only 5 months."

Show off.

The panty hose scan turned out to be a breeze: it ended up being more doo-rag than ski-mask. He looked like a little Snoop Dog. I asked the tech if I could take a picture, and she just lowered her eyebrows at me. She must not be a mother.

The doctor came in and said, "Well, he definitely needs a helmet."

Alright. We're ok. I was ready for this. 

" He will probably need to wear it for 23 hours a day, for four to six months, starting next week."

What the $#*%@(^#.

What's really lame about the whole thing is that usually we would get to pick out a sweet pattern for his helmet, like racing stripes or flames or spaceships. Since Ave has a shunt, his helmet has to be clear to make sure there isn't too much pressure on his shunt. The nurse tried to console me by saying, "Well, you could put some stickers on the front." Not helping here, lady.

We are still waiting on our insurance company to process all the paperwork, but so far it looks like the odds are really in our favor for his helmet being covered. For one, insurance usually requires a baby to have 8 weeks of physical therapy to try to correct the plagiocephaly before trying the helmet, and Ave has already completed that. Secondly, the measurements from the scan were all on the higher end of normal or in the extremes; meaning that the helmet is definitely medically necessary. Fingers crossed.

So, for now, it looks like God has chosen Door #3: the babe has a bad enough case of hacky sack head that insurance is probably going to cover most, if not all, of the cost. We pick up his fancy new gear next Wednesday, and then we will be going back every 2 weeks for adjustments.

99.9% of the day I'm doing just fine with it. I know it is temporary, I know it will be such a blessing in the long run, I know this is just another perfectly tailored answer to prayer. The other .1% of the day I can't believe that this beautiful baby is going to have a plastic helmet on for his first Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that he won't be able to wear the hats I knit him for this winter. Meaningless stuff in the long run, but in the moment it just seems like the weight of the world.

 I find myself holding Avram a little more this week; sneaking in during his naps just to pick him up, snuggle him, and cover his head in kisses.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

{our tree house}

Our apartment is surrounded by trees. 

There is a tree across the street that looks exactly like the trees in the backyard of my childhood home, and I catch myself staring at it often, drifting back through time and space to my Narnia, my Shire, my Glenmerle. 

Outside our bedroom window, there is a tree so close that its branches are pinned up against the window panes so tightly they look like the arms of smashed spider. This means we have frequent Peeping Tom squirrels, and have been awakened on many a windy night by knocks and taps and bristles. As fearful as we may be of a violent storm sending an oak branch into bed with us, it is also comforting knowing that one of nature's giants is shielding us from the surrounding cold concrete city.

If you look out any window in our apartment, the scene is outlined in tree branches. It feels very much as if we live in a giant tree house, high above the dangers on the ground, safely hidden in the arms of the leafed gods. It is our secret clubhouse, and we are in charge of who and what is allowed passage inside, we are the King and Queen and Baby Man of the castle.

It is our haven, our bungalow, our corner of the world, our cleft in the rock.