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Ten-Years-Old and Mad Courage

Tomorrow is my son’s 10th birthday. And right now, he is currently upstairs sleeping on a bare mattress with a bucket next to his bed. Not exactly the way we were hoping to send him into the double digits! He had stumbled down the stairs a few hours ago and asked if I would bring him to school because, after all, he was “feeling much better”. But looking at the dark circles under his eyes and the grayness of his skin, I encouraged him to rest a bit longer. (He was asleep within 10 minutes.)

This has been a year of transition for Cameron. A year of change and growth, strength and love. I’ve watched as he’s awkwardly tried to figure out how to be “cool”, yet smiled as he still asks for toy trucks and a sandbox digger for birthday gifts. He has faced numerous physical, emotional, and spiritual obstacles in these last 12 months. I’ve been proud to watch him find security in our home, which has allowed him to begin healing from wounds that have scarred him since he was just a little boy.

Four years ago, Cameron spent his birthday alone. He has a kidney condition that was first recognized when he became very ill while living with his birth father. Unfortunately, the man couldn’t be bothered to care for his child. Fleeing, he left Cameron all alone in the hospital until the police charged him with abandonment. Cameron turned 6-years-old surrounded by hospital staff, wondering why his family hated him, and assuming he was dying.

It took nearly four years for my son to find the courage to tell me this story. He has recently found his voice to share this, along with a string of other atrocities he endured during his first 6 years - things that have haunted him, caused him to hate himself, and a belief that others would hate him, too, if they knew how devalued he was to his first family.

It’s been a grievous few weeks in our home as we’ve heard these memories being shared by Cameron, as well as the ones shared by his sister. The courage to voice these things has come with a price, though. There has been a lot of rage. A lot of defiance. A lot of aggression. But understand that this is not a set-back in any way. There may be a lot of behaviors left to come, but when we choose to face our pasts, sometimes we regress. And sometimes we don’t know how to handle all the big feelings that come along with security and unconditional love.

But Love is bigger than Shame, and Hope is stronger than Fear.

Unfortunately, the set-back that we do have to face is the one surrounding his kidneys. With his condition previously being controlled by medication, we were told not to worry. But after 7 relapses in 2 years, it’s been determined that Cameron is a rare case. Where most people with this disease rarely have a relapse, if ever, Cameron continues to worsen. We had been hopeful as we’d tried a new preventative medicine. But sadly, the medication proved completely ineffective.

So now, my almost 10-year-old is taking an insanely strong medication that will kill his kidneys. Why? Because it will destroy them slower than his condition will.

Cameron was diagnosed with Nephrotic Syndrome and Minimal Change Disease. In a normal case, this wouldn’t be the end of the world, but in Cameron’s case, we are faced with some difficult choices that may need to be made in the future – things like chemotherapy, dialysis, or a transplant. Each time he relapses, Cameron’s kidneys spill the body’s protein into his urine, which is toxic for his already damaged organs. And each time he gets sick, it triggers more protein release. Sadly, even with no trigger, his remissions have come to an end and we find ourselves in the same predicament.

Our entire house has had the flu this week. Cameron included. But when he became ill a second time, I found myself becoming a little more concerned. Because is it just the flu? His current medication has numerous and devastating side effects. The doctor told us that it wasn’t a matter or if Cam would experience side effects, it was a matter of which ones and how severe. Is this part II of the stomach bug due to his weakened immune system, or are these side effects from an awful med?

I feel terrible leaving him in his room - isolated from the rest of us as his birthday approaches, hoping it isn’t reminiscent of 4 years ago. So far, he has called out from his room no less than 10 times, just to make sure I’m still here, wondering what I’m doing. And that’s why I keep going in and talking with him, trying to keep him company… and then Lysoling the crap out of myself as soon as I leave his room because, we all know that Mamas don’t have time to get the flu, especially twice.

Cameron is not aware of the severity of his illness. He already has so many worries and fears, that it seems cruel to add to them at this particular time, a time when so much bravery is already being required of him. But if you’d like to, feel free to post some Happy Birthday love to my page for him, and I’ll be sure that he gets them.

My goal is to make each February 9th from this point forward one of complete security, love, and encouragement for him. Thank you so much for all your prayers and love for our family. It has been our lighthouse these past few months and you’ll never know how much we love and appreciate you all.

When a boy wants cinnamon rolls instead of cake for his birthday, that's what the boy gets!

When a boy wants cinnamon rolls instead of cake for his birthday, that's what the boy gets!


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Birthday Week

     It is Birthday Week in the Costa household!!! Note the exclamation points? That's because we are not celebrating any holidays nor are we hosting any children's parties. It is Birthday Week for just us big people, therefore we don't have to do ANYTHING we don't want to do (uh-hem baking cakes, cleaning the house "guest-style", blowing up balloons until we're dizzy, wrapping presents, or dealing with fall outs from disappointments and emotional "it's over"s). We will eat the good food and watch the good T.V. and NOT clean ANYTHING because we won't be inviting over the people who care if our house is guest-style clean, our-style clean, or just plain dirty! The benefit of adult birthdays is that we can do virtually nothing and it feel like all the somethings that we longed for as kids. It's wonderful and fabulous and perfect. This, my friends, is how we celebrate Birthday Week.
     But not this year. Apparently we've grown tired of celebrating the in wonderful, fabulous, perfect sort of way of which we are accustomed. Because this year, we are going away.
     I know. Hold the phone, right?
     We are actually leaving our dogs and leaving our kids and leaving our dirty house to go away. Could it be that perfect just got more perfect?? Folks, not only do I not have to clean for my Birthday Week, but I don't have to stay here and look at the filth either! It's so exciting that there may even be some tears shed as we walk out the door and prepare to spend 36 hours away from it all.
     However, as with most things, there is a catch. And it's name is Packing. You know what I never have to do for Birthday Week when we stay home? Pack. Even the word itself just sounds to harsh. Pack. P-ack. Ugh, why can't there be people in my life that will know what to pack for me and just come over and do it while I'm asleep? People that will plan for the unexpected, know which pants will cover my muffin top, and anticipate just which top will make me feel sensational and yet sexily understated at the same time. People that will drag the suitcase from the back of my closet and fold all the things so neatly and wrap my leakables in leak-proof containers and load my heavily-laden suitcase into the back of the car for me..... I need better friends, that's all I'm sayin'.
     My husband fails to see p-acking as an issue. Probably because his list includes these three things:
Phone charger, clean underwear, contact solution.
     Anytime we go ANYWHERE he acts like packing is just no big deal, and he proceeds to grab his few items and then make a sandwich while I run around like a mad woman, scrambling to get all the "what if" items accounted for, make the list of all things needed for my in-laws to care for our dogs and kids, make sure we've got enough money in the correct account for any unexpected purchases, etc., etc., etc.
     So, to make my life so much easier, I made a list of things that I absolutely must bring and I will simply wing the rest, just like the husband. Here is my list so far:

     1) Breast pump- even if I leave everything else, this is a must! There will be no relaxing or fun times to be had if I'm engorged and drenching the front of my shirt while in public. No one will know if I forget clean underwear, but everyone will know if I forget my pump!
     2) Mini cooler- to store the pumped milk. Wyatt has grown used to milk sans chunks.
     3) Extra breast pads- no sense risking it. They weigh like half an ounce and are worth their weight in gold.
     4) Condoms- oh my gosh, and birth control! I'm pretty sure Husband has birthday wishes that involve more than making good use of the hotel's gym accommodations, and we need another munchkin running around like we need a kick in the head.
     5) Caffeine- While the kids are away, the parents will play. But only until 8 p.m. if we forget to pack the caffeinated things.
     6) The real bra- no one wants the nursing bra uni-boob on date night. No one. It's time to suffer through and put on something with an underwire and some support. Hike 'em up, tie 'em up, whatever gets 'em UP and where they should be instead of keeping my abs warm where they usually reside. (Well, keeping the place where there used to be abs warm, anyway.)
     7) And while we're at it, let's pack some good underwear- (but also throw in a secret pair of granny panties for the actual sleeping part of the trip.... no one wants to sleep in the pretty stuff because it shifts around and creeps up and up and up and, well, it really ain't pretty any more at that point).
     8) Shoes with a heel- gasp!
     9) Skinny jeans- (or at least skinnier jeans) basically anything that makes me look like I did before all these little people is acceptable, skinny or not.
     10) Earrings- I haven't worn them for 2 1/2 years due to grabby hands and a few torn ear lobes. But for Birthday Week I will make an exception.
     11) Toiletries- all the things that it takes to make me look human.
     12) Medicines- all the things that it takes to make me feel human.
     13) And finally, The List......
     You couples know The List. Every time you manage to leave the house kid-free, what's the first thing you talk about? The kids. But not us! We are NOT talking about the kids at all during our time away, and to make sure we stick to our plan, I am creating a list of go-to topics that are sure to spark meaningful conversations, flirtations, and emotional intimacy. Things like......
     The Holocaust....
     Gas Prices.....
     Favorite Colors.....
     The Weather.
     Well, hopefully I'll win him over with my skinnier jeans and flashy earrings. If all else fails, we'll just make out in the corner booth and hope my breast pads hold out. Happy Birthday, Baby.

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Christmas Baby

     I don't know how we did it, but we survived Christmas, New Year's, AND our first birthday party as a family. I would seriously be ok if I never saw wrapping paper and tape for the rest of my life... I'd like to say the same thing about all the sweets I ingested over the last month, but that would simply be a lie (so much for those 7 pounds I lost while I had the flu!). But that's neither here nor there. However, what I DID decide was this: had I birthed Taylor myself, I would've done things differently (well I would've done a LOT of things differently, but I'm talking about one specific point of the event). I, obviously, would've made all marvelous choices in my diet (gaining no more than 10 pounds during the pregnancy), I would have exercised daily to keep all things that sag from sagging (wait a second, I haven't even been able to do that without having a baby....), I would have told those pregnancy hormones exactly where to go, and I DEFINITELY wouldn't have chosen to get pregnant in March so that I'd never have to deal with the STRESS of planning a child's 5th birthday 2 DAYS AFTER CHRISTMAS!!
     So, I apologize to you Mommy's out there that have Christmas babies, but what in the world were you thinking?? "Oh, what a lovely Christmas present! A brand new baby!", right? That's what people say to you when they're really thinking "Oh my gosh, those poor parents! They have no idea what they're in for!!" Sure, I get it... It was March and there was probably this snow storm that left you stranded in some romantic cottage with this blazing fire (in your loins) and you simply couldn't resist your basic urges.... (scenario 1)...or you were sitting in your living room, bored during a crappy month in the middle of winter, and there was nothing good on t.v... (scenario FACT). And who uses condoms when they're married anyways, right? I mean, that's just ridiculous. It was just a quickie, just to pass the time.... there's no way we would conceive out a moment of boredom..... (Enter baby, stage right). Congratulations! Now you're stuck in the same predicament as I am. Christmas will never be the same again, birthdays will always get overshadowed, and parties will have to be canceled due to freak blizzards that leave your driveway un-enterable, or by the nasty flu bug that threatens to contaminate each person that eats a piece of birthday cake that was blown on by a 5-year-old with spittle issues.
     Be that as it may, I gotta say, not only did we survive this party, we kinda rocked it. Just sayin'. Not only did the house finally look clean (for the first time in 10 months), but the kids loved the make-over theme.... even the boys! We had Mexican pirates, fairy cowboys, and princesses with enough make-up on to satisfy the cast of The Jersey Shore. I didn't expect to see little boys falling down the staircase wearing my high heels, but no one got hurt, nothing got broken, and the birthday girl had a good time (relatively speaking, that is... after all, RAD children tend to get exactly what they want and then cry because it's a let down in some way... but we made it work!). SUCCESS!! I'm sure that I will forever curse the "March Madness" that overtook one woman 5 years ago (lovin' couldn't have waited till springtime?), but she did give me my only daughter (which was more than I can say for my own uterus), so I suppose a thank-you is in order. However, I will be sending her a strongly-worded post card mid-February, just in case Valentine's Day gets the best of her!