I had such high hopes for that laptop, but alas, finding a wi-fi connection can be harder than I expected. Let me sum up.

I spent a few days at home with my family in Illinois, left the girls, and drove to my house in Iowa to meet the movers and close up shop. A crazy two days kept me busier than I expected. I met with some friends and had to cancel fun times with other friends, but I was able to accomplish the necessary tasks. I had some fun posts ready in my head, but everytime I sat down to blog them, my laptop refused to connect to the internet. This is sad because those posts were really funny. (I can say that because without reading them, you won't be able to contradict me.)

I arrived back in Illinois around midnight on Friday and have enjoyed hanging with my brothers and sister and parents. Mom and I recorded specific designing shows on HGTV and watched them together every night. I'm going to miss that a lot.

Pete and I are preparing to leave in the morning with the girls. The van is packed except for the playpen Mercy is sleeping in right now, my wall charger which is plugged in and a few odds and ends that need to wait until morning to be packed. We're meeting Jeremy at our apartment in Indiana and restocking the refrigerator for him in preparation for next week. Then we will all drive to Ohio to meet up with my whole family and Suzy's whole family for a joint birthday party for Liberty and Abraham. (Suzy is my brother Nate's wife and Abraham is their son.)

We'll spend the weekend there, and then the girls and I will travel back to Mom and Dad's once more. I have to make another trip to Iowa while Jeremy stays behind in Indiana, but after that week is over, we will finally be a family again. Happy all together, as Liberty says.

And now if you'll excuse me, Liberty is trying to listen to my heartbeat with Grandpa's tape measure. "Mommy! Turn around; I need to see your beat-beat."

PS> To everyone who has been calling and emailing about Liberty's health condition: thank you for loving us! She is doing great. Her spots are almost all gone; her fever has been gone for over a week now, and other than a slight tenderness in her knees and ankles and a reluctance to climb or run too fast, she is back to normal. Isn't God kind? :-)
My parent's house in the middle of Illinois cornfields holds such strong feelings for me. Last Thanksgiving, I wrote this post, and this morning that same peacefulness washed over my heart as I pulled back the crimson sheers covering each of the living room windows to let in the beautiful morning light.

I sat on the wide front porch and watched my children enjoy the sunshine, the tire swing, the trampoline, the apple trees, the sweet, corn-scented country air. Sturdy porch boards under my feet and thick rafters and beams overhead surrounded me with my dad's handiwork and symbolized the love and protection always available to me.

I thought back to the previous day's journey. The girls and I had encountered no less than seven road construction and painting crews between Inna-inna and Illinois. At one point, the traffic had crept along at a 10 mile per hour pace for three miles before we encountered a flagger holding a "SLOW" sign. I wondered if I should go even slower as I passed her.

We stopped three times in the first hour to change a diaper, to pick up a fallen baby doll and to rescue a very important blanket. Rather than risking getting lost, I chose to pull off to the side of the road instead of taking exit ramps and finding parking spots. During our twelfth pullover, a kind man knocked on our window and asked if we needed help. I held up a stinky diaper and said, "Not unless you want to dispose of this for me!" He laughed, shook his head, and beat a hasty retreat.

I took a wrong turn once and stopped for directions once. All in all, not too bad. The worst element of our journey was my full bladder. It wasn't until about three hours into our trip that I realized I hadn't made a plan for my own bathroom needs. I pondered my predicament for the next five hours sometimes more urgently than at other times.

But sitting on the front porch, enjoying Liberty's and Mercy's glee, the song of birds, the sound of corn rustling and leaves dancing, the easy breeze, and knowing the laughter and camaraderie of family was only an arm's reach away, I decided without hesitation that the full bladder, and the longer than necessary journey was definitely worth it.

The only thing missing is my Jeremy, and he'll join us here on Friday!
On Wednesday mid morning, Liberty sat down on the picnic table bench next to me at the park and put her thumb into her mouth. My friend Calle and our four remaining little girls continued the high-pitched shrieks that only the joyfullest of little girls on a beautiful sunshiny day are capable of reaching. (For the record, Calle wasn't shrieking.) I glanced at Liberty beside me on the bench and frowned. "Are you okay, HoneyBunny?" I asked.

She popped her thumb from between her lips just long enough to whisper, "Yet's go home, Mommy, I'm cold."

"You mean, you're hot?" I smiled down at her.

"I'm cold," she whispered and continued staring off into the distance.

Tiny alarm bells sounded in my head, and I decided it might be important to return to our apartment where Liberty could sit out of the sun and have a cool drink. The mid-eighties temperature and non-shaded park underscored my decision. We picked up our sand toys, and Liberty hopped off the bench to help. Then we walked home and gave out juice boxes to each girl. It wasn't until I had served a plate of lunch to the girls that I realized Liberty was missing. With her plate in my hand, I looked around and found her sitting quietly in her rocking chair.

"Lib? Are you ready to come eat?"

She just looked at me.

Calle and I exchanged a something's-not-quite-right glance, and I remembered the park incident. I set the plate down and crossed the room, confirming immediately the presence of a fever. Liberty's underarm temp proved to be 101.8. I gave her Motrin and tucked her into bed.

Six hours later, Liberty quietly walked into the living room, her hair dripping with sweat and impossibly curly. I had checked on her several times throughout her nap and chosen to let sleep do its best to heal. She sat and watched a twenty-five cent garage sale "Tummy-tummies" (Teletubbies) video with her daddy and refused any sustenance.

Thursday morning, both of my girls greeted me with smiles and good mornings when I stepped into their bedroom. I lifted Mercy from her crib and turned towards the kitchen. "Wait! Mommy, help me please. May you please help me please?" Liberty's voice entreated.

I smiled at her politeness and stopped at her bedside. "What do you need?"

"Help me get out of bed."

"Help you get out of bed?" I repeated, unsure of her purpose for asking. "Can't you do it yourself?" I teased.

She quietly but pleasantly said, "No."

I lifted her from her blankets and gently set her feet on the floor. She let out a small whimper and landed on her bottom. Puzzled, I looked down at her. She didn't move from her position and did not look up. "What's going on, Liberty?" I asked.

"Help me please, Mommy."

I placed my hands underneath her armpits and gently raised her to a standing position, but when I began to release her weight onto her feet, she urgently grabbed my shirt and held tightly. The first stab of genuine fear found its way into my heart. After much questioning and experimenting, I realized her legs would not hold her weight. I carried her into the dining room and placed her at the breakfast table. She wasn't hungry and her temperature registered at 102.7.

The rest of the day continued according to the pattern established in the morning, broken into cycles of Motrin and Tylenol doses.

On Friday morning, Liberty struggled to sit up in her bed and asked for help again. Her underarm temp was 103.2. When I placed her into the bathtub and began running water, she cried out in pain, "The water hurts me, Mommy!" She struggled pitifully in the water, unable to move her legs effectively, and my heart broke inside my chest. I looked at my daughter who at least twice each day happily tells me, "Bye, Mommy. I have to RUN!" and then proceeds to run 20 or 30 laps up and down the 100 foot sidewalk in front of our building.

I called the doctor.

When I explained Liberty's symptoms to the nurse who came to the phone and requested an appointment "as soon as possible," she set one up for one thirty that afternoon. Someone from church came to watch Mercy since I knew I would have my hands full carrying Liberty.

At 1:30 PM on Friday, I carried my almost three year old daughter into the doctor's office. She hunched in my arms, very protective of her legs. Her knees were drawn up almost to her chest, and her back arched in a permanently rigid, painful looking posture. Both feet seemed frozen in an overly stretched position. It made me wonder if her feet were cramping into that pose. Looking at her scared me.

Apparently, it scared the family doctor, too. He diagnosed her fever and the spots that had broken out all over her body about ten minutes before we started for his office as just a virus, but her uncomfortable and twisted posture he referred to an orthopedic specialist who "happened" to be in town at 2:00 that day. He called the specialist, and an immediate place on the schedule magically opened for us.

The specialist turned out to be a very nice man. He joked with Liberty and quickly put her at ease. He attempted to massage, squeeze, pull, push, bend and stretch Liberty's little body, but he did it so gently and so comically that Liberty spent most of her time giggling at him and thinking he was tickling her. She only displayed tears when he touched her calves and when he attempted to straighten her legs, and even then she bravely smiled at him through her tears. "I want to be happy, Mommy," she said to me with a smile on her face and a voice tight with tears.

Oh, Liberty, I want you to, too!

The specialist conferred with our family doctor, and they decided to run some tests. Liberty gamely painted imaginary pictures on the examining table with an imaginary paint brush while we waited our way through each test and the arrival of each team of testers.

Strep was eliminated early on, and I was told that polio and rickets were never even considered. (The only ones that I could think of.) Meningitis was on the "short list," but farther down. Blood tests were ordered, and we were sent to a pediatric specialist for a new examination. By this time, we had been at the hospital for six hours, and I was starting to feel thirsty and dizzy. Liberty probably was too. I lifted her once again and attempted not to jostle her painfully cramped body as we left the blood suckers and headed for the pediatrician. Her skin felt hot, and red encircled the skin around her eyes. When we arrived and before I filled out another form, I firmly but nicely requested from the receptionist that Liberty's temperature be taken, a drink be given to both her and me, and if the thermometer confirmed what I suspected then a dose of Tylenol be given to my daughter right away.

A nurse hurried out to us and took Liberty's temperature, bringing with her a glass of water. She ducked out of the room to retrieve some Tylenol and quickly returned with the tiny dosage cup. Slightly relieved, I began again to fill out forms, but was interrupted when a different nurse spotted us in the waiting room. "Are you Dr. _____'s patient?" she asked, naming our family doctor.

I looked up. "Yes."

"I thought so," her eyes indicated Liberty's bent form. "Come in right away; we don't need those papers."

As we passed a group of people in scrubs, I overheard their conversation. They were discussing Liberty's condition and exchanging possibilities. Two people studied files in their hand, and one person stood near a fax machine reading papers as they came through. One person called out, "Did Dr. ________ order a Strep test?" Several papers rustled as the answer was searched for.

"He did," I said as I passed them, carrying Liberty towards the examining room, "It came back negative."

The group hushed, but I did not stop to chat or see their faces. Then I heard someone say, "That's Liberty." By this time, my back was to them and Liberty's face over my shoulder smiled at them. (She only stopped smiling when her blood was taken, and even then, her smile jumped back up when she got a balloon "Bubboon.") Someone made a sympathetic "Mmmm" sound.

We waited in the examining room. Practice makes perfect, you know. We played with her bubboon, and her laughter slowly grew stronger sounding as the Tylenol began working. The newest doctor and her nurse practitioner examined Liberty and commented that she did not seem like a little girl in pain. I sighed inwardly and tried to explain, "She never does. Her pain tolerance frightens me sometimes."

The doctor decided that Liberty was probably fine. She asked us if we would like to wait there another hour or so for the blood work to be finished, or if we would like to return home and wait for a phone call. She explained that there was a possibility that the blood work results would require Liberty to be admitted to the hospital, but we could easily return if that was the case. I voted for going home and eating and having a chance to pack our bags in the case of a hospital stay.

An hour and a half later, the phone call came. Blood work shows a virus that has probably settled in her spine or leg joints causing the severe cramping and pain. The only treatment necessary is Ibuprofen every six hours until the virus runs its course.

Thank you, Jesus! I will get to see Liberty running again.

Liberty has had a fever of about 102 for two days and nights -- not too high, nothing to worry about --but she's complaining of pain in both shins and calves and struggles to walk. I've never seen anything like that before. If she still has a fever tomorrow morning, I'm going to take her to the doctor.
Yahoo! Wonderfulness has been poured on me, and I don't have the time or the attention-span to blog it all.

1. Grandpa and Nonna came to visit over the weekend. That single sentence will have to contain it's own joy for now. I will probably post bits and pieces of the visit as they come to my mind over the next little while.

2. Jeremy gave me a few hours of alone time a couple weeks ago, and I spent it at a local coffee shop. I'll have to tell you the funniness later.

3. Our house has passed most of the hurdles prior to our closing date, and I get to go to Iowa next week! Jeremy said I could take his laptop, so I'll be able to blog along the way.

4. God has changed my hurting heart. I'll give you more details on that later, too.