Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 2- Hanging in the PICU

We had a mostly uneventful night.  I actually slept for about four and a half hours straight, which I think is a new all-time record for a sleeping closet in the PICU.  I came to visit Max about 4:30 am, and he was quiet, content, and very swollen.  We are surprised at the extent of the swelling this time around.  It started setting in immediately after sugery, and his eyes have already been swollen shut over 24 hours, where last time the swelling didn't start for about 12 hours, and then his eyes were only shut for around 12 hours.  (Hopefully, this means there was more extensive work and that they actually got the job done!)  His sodium levels were not behaving throughout the morning, and when they took a nose dive at the 8am check, I knew we were going to be here another day.

Luckily, because he has been through this before, no one is near as concerned as they were when we faced this in May.  We've still been doing sodium checks every two hours, but no one is concerned about the little fluctuations, and although his levels are still quite low, they're stable and moving s-l-o-w-l-y in the right direction.  We're hopeful (but not holding our breath) that we'll head to a regular room tomorrow.

So today has been blessedly uneventful.  It has amazed me how being in the hospital completely overtakes your world and changes your perspective.  I spent the last few weeks dreading the hospital stay, but now that we're here, in the middle of it, adrenaline and survival skills kick in, and before I know what's happening, being in the hospital seems like the most normal thing in the world.  You learn to rejoice in the really small things, (a shower, clean clothes, a baby that's sleeping because he's not in too much pain,) and have great conversations with other parents and staff members that you've never met before. 

I guess what I'm saying is that as of right now, things aren't too bad.  Don't get me wrong.  It sucks like nothing else to see your baby swollen, miserable and in pain, but considering everything, we're doing pretty well.  We're grateful that he's spending most of his time sleeping, and that when he's awake he doesn't seem miserable. 

Today's big milestone is that he finally is able to have fluids by mouth.  We were given the go ahead to start giving him water in a cup (which he loves,) and after convincing him that we weren't trying to torture him, he was thrilled and started guzzling it down.

A few hours later, he was awake and obviously agitated, and started reaching to me when he heard my voice.  He squirmed and was making familiar "I want to nurse now!" noises, so I stood at the edge of the bed and he latched on and went crazy.  After a few minutes in that cramped position, Tom and the nurse helped me arrange the wires and climb in next to him, and he happily clutched on to me and nursed for the next hour.  He then proceeded to throw up everything that he had just eaten all over himself and all over me, but everyone was thrilled that he was willing to nurse.  And after a dose of Zofran the wonder drug, Max was feeling better too.

After shift change, he heard my voice and started trying to crawl out of bed.  He was so happy to settle into my arms and go right back to nursing, (no vomiting this time!) and Max and I spent a happy hour and a half in the rocking chair.  It felt so good to hold him again, and do something, however small, to help him feel normal and peaceful. 

More pictures are coming, with the same warning- they're pretty graphic. 

You think I look bad?  You should see the other guy!

They had to make a slit in the turban because the swelling was increasing and they needed it to stay on.  Can't wait until it comes off, not just so we can see his new and improved head, but also because Max hates it!  We know he's awake because he starts tapping on his turban trying to get it off!

He loves these little dogs.  He reaches for them and clutches them close to his face whenever he's awake.

Finally getting some water.

Loving some daddy time.

I'm really hoping this is the worst of the swelling. His eyelids are starting to flip themselves inside out.

All tucked in for bed.

I can't say thank you enough for all your support, love and prayers.  I am amazed at the ourpouring of comments and concern for my little boy.  I have amazing friends and family- thank you!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On the other side! (Again!)

We got a call from the OR after about two hours letting us know that the neurosurgeon was starting his part of the surgery.  My heart fell.  After two hours they were just starting the main part of the surgery?  Turns out, they had some trouble getting him to sleep, (turns out he probably metabolizes anesthesia like I do because he ended us needed double the amount that a kid his size would usually need,) some trouble starting his lines, (again taking after mom, poor kid,) and they had to get the ear tubes placed.

And as a side note, can I just say "Hallelujah!" for ear tubes?  When the surgeon placed them, he told us that Max had fluid building up in his ears again, so it was looking like we were heading for another ear infection. 

It took the neurosurgeon another hour to finish removing his skull plates.  When he came back to the waiting room to talk with us, he told us that Max had significant scar tissue and it was "a little more difficult than usual."  Yeah.  What else is new?

I was incredibly antsy and restless at this point- I spent the next few hours pacing the halls of the hospital, running little errands, calling Serene, (who knew just how to distract me!) and probably making everyone around me crazy.  After lunch, I was so grateful to meet up with our surgeon in the hallway and hear that things were finished after more than six very long hours. 

The doctor said that everything went as well as he could have hoped.  Max stayed stable throughout the surgery, he received about a unit and a half of blood, and had quite a bit of scar tissue that he had to work around.  He removed the plates and screws from the first surgery and replaced them with different plates and screws that should dissolve within nine months.  The doctor said he was very pleased with Max's new head shape and felt that he was able to achieve the correction that he wanted.

The interesting part was that the doctor said that he saw some evidences of increased intercranial pressure as he was operating.  Hearing that confirmed to both of us that we had made the right decision to pursue a second surgery.

They brought him back to the PICU intubated because of the heavy amount of anesthesia they had to use.   This added a whole new intimidating mess of tubes, wires and machines to my poor boy.  They told us they would extubate him as soon as he woke up so that they could make sure he could breathe on his own.  We kept expecting it would happen right away, but we were in for a lot more waiting. 

And waiting.

And waiting.

They finally extubated him a few minutes ago when he started stirring and getting visibly upset.  They knew it was time when he started trying to pull it out on his own.  It was really hard to watch, but he looks so much better and more peaceful now. 

His sodium levels, which are a huge concern because of our previous bout with SIADH, are in the low/normal range.  We have to be at 135 to get discharged to the regular floor, and he's at 134.  I'm really hoping they come back up, because I would love to get out of the PICU.  Fortunately, we have a much better set up this time.  There's a small pull-out sofa, a bathroom to ourselves, a closet where I can put my suitcase so I don't end up getting robbed again, a slushie machine down the hall, and much more space.  That, at least, makes me feel a bit less crazy.

They told me I can try to nurse him as soon as he's awake and looks like he's ready for it.  He's in a big bed this time around, so I'll probably just climb up next to him.  I'm going to hang here for another hour or two to see if he'll wake up, because I don't want to miss the opportunity to feed him.  If he doesn't stir, I'll head to the pumping room (where I ineveitably feel like moo-ing!) and then off to my tiny, glorified closet they call a sleep room.

Check that.  Max is now officially fluid restricted due to his dropping sodium levels.  Sigh.  They're not officially calling it SAIDH, but they are working to get on top of it before it gets too crazy.

So now for the pictures.  If you're squeamish, you may want to skip them.   They're not gory or bloody, but they're a little sad, especially if you haven't ever seen this before. 
Playing in the bath the night before surgery.  I was loving playing with his curls for the last time.

"Before" shots- this triangular shape is called triganocephaly- the exact thing we set out to fix.

Hanging in the waiting room, sporting the shiner from last night's fall from the bed.
Rocking the baby scrubs.
Happy as can be after a serious dose of Versed.
Just out of the O.R.
Extubated and very sleepy.  The swelling is starting to kick in.


And waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

They took Max back for surgery about 7:40 this morning.  We were told to expect at least 5-6 hours. 

Did I mention there's lots of waiting?

Everything went well last night and this morning, thankfully.  Max decided he liked the hotel beds, and probably would have slept the whole night through had he not fallen out of the bed and given himself a huge shiner on his right eye.  He didn't seem to mind this morning when there was no breakfast, and was so interested in what was going on in the hospital that he forgot to be fussy.  It wasn't until right before the surgery that he started getting sad and begging for milk.

But can I just say that we are so grateful for versed?!?  They even had a nasal spray version, so that we didn't have to fight to get him to take it orally.  Within a few minutes, Max was happy as could be.  He didn't have a care in the world.  (And Tom and I were begging the nurses for a dose of our own!)

It wasn't any easier to hand him over to the anesthesiologist, just because we've done this before.  I was doing okay until I heard Max yelling "All Done! All Done!" as they walked him down the hall. 

So we're camped out in the waiting room, visiting with instant friends and pretending that we don't know what's going on across the hall. 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Pre-Surgery Freak Out

Max's surgery is bright and early Tuesday morning.  (In theory of course.  Last time, we were assured that our surgery would be first thing in the morning: 7:30 am. It get rescheduled to 12:30 pm at 8 pm the night before.)  We won't know the exact time until tomorrow afternoon sometime.   W're headed to the hospital tomorrow afternoon for bloodwork and pre-op labs, then we're picking Tom's mom up at the airport.  Then Tom and the girls are dropping Max and me off at a hotel downtown (I am so not leaving Heber at 5 am for a 6 am check-in time at the hospital.  Nope, not happening.  The day is going to be bad enough without having to get up at 4 am.)  Then Tom will take his mom and the girls back home, and meet me in the hotel room sometime tomorrow night. 

You know, I have made a valiant effort to deal.  I've blogged about how I met my husband, we've had what feels like 842 violin events, (which translates into 842 trips to Salt Lake and back...) we planned and carried out two photo shoots, drove to weekly doctor appointments, and generally tried to ignore the fact that we were facing another surgery and hospital stay.

Problem is, when the surgery is 36 hours away, I can't be in denial anymore.  And it sucks. 

Here's the part where I sound like a whiney three year old.  I'm apologizing in advance.

This whole thing sucks.  Big time sucks.  It's so not fair that my cute little boy has to endure so much at the tender age of sixteen months.  It's bad enough that we had to do this once.  But it's way worse that we have to do it again, less than a year after the first operation.   The first surgery experience was terrible.  Being in the PICU for five days was a nightmare in and of itself.  There's no feeling so helpless as having all the expert doctors at one of the top children's hospitals in the country tell you that they have no idea why your son is getting better.  Or having multiple surgeons tell you that Max had complications they had never seen before, and that because it happened once, it could very well happen again.

It just seems so unfair.  He's still such a baby!
He's so active.
He's busy all the time.  I don't know how he's going to handle being in pain, not being able to see because his eyes are swollen shut, and being restricted with IV's, drains, and various other tubes, wires and heaven knows what else.
I feel guilty.  Like I'm the terrible parent.  He trusts me!  He doesn't have the slightest clue about what is going to happen to him.  It kills me that we'll take him to the hospital on Tuesday morning and he'll be happy and carefree, and then he'll wake up uncomfortable, confused, scared, and in pain, and not have any idea what the hell just happened to him.  Logic tells me that I'm being the good parent because I'm watching out for him, and what he needs, and that this surgery will help him lead a normal, fulfilling life.  Try telling that to my emotional side.
He's such a happy, joyful kid.  He has the cutest smiles, and the best facial expressions.  He makes us all laugh everyday.  I wish so much that it was me going through this instead of him.  I have no words to express the heartache that comes from seeing my baby in pain and not being able to do anything about it.

I know it will be okay.  My husband gave Max a blessing tonight that promised that he would be fine and suffer no ill-effects from the surgery.  I'm taking a lot of comfort in that.

I'm also comforted thinking that if all goes well, next week at this time, we'll be back home and be able to start (hopefully) putting all this behind us once and for all.
And it might take me a long time to get over the fact that they're going to have to shave all his cute curly hair off, leaving him as bald as a cue ball again.  *sigh*

I know we'll get through this.  I know that he is strong, and that I am strong.  We did it once before, and we can do it again.

Problem is, I just don't want to!

PS:  Photography by Amanda Weilenmann.  Aren't they great?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Love Story, Part 3

Apologies for taking so long to post part 3.  If I were a "making excuses" kind of gal, my list would look something like: teething baby (two molars in one day, and more to come, yikes!) two violin recitals and one more to go, major surgery for the baby in a week, etc.  Good thing I don't like to make excuses.

If you need to catch up Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here

Our Engagement Photo- I look like such a baby!

We finally called it a  night sometime way after the Holy Ghost went to bed, and I was alternately terrified and exhilarated.  I had never had a night like that before, and I was filled with excitement, adrenaline, and yes, hormones.  On the other side of it, I was reeling from the weight of the profound conversation.  What had just happened?  Did I really just talk about spending the rest of my life with someone I had barely met?

The next day was Sunday, and the thought of seeing Tom again had me guessing.  Were we officially dating?  Would we sit by each other and hold hands, proclaiming our couple-hood to the ward and start the rumor mill flying?  Was I supposed to hug him when I saw him?  Kiss him?  Or would we just smile at each other shyly and pretend nothing had happened the day before?  Unfortunately, I had lost my book of instructions for this kind of event. 

I'm ashamed to tell you that ten years and three kids have managed to suck the memory out of what actually happened at church that day.  Despite wracking my brain for days, I have no memory, however vague, of those three hours.  It's a little disturbing, really. 

But after church, I decided to do what all good girlfriends do on Sundays: cook dinner.  (OK, the truth is, I had little to no experience in this department.  Either the cooking dinner department, or the girlfriend department.  I was flying blind.)  I cooked up some noodles with alfredo sauce, (It was alfredo sauce out of a jar.  How emabarassing.  But the worst part is that I felt so gourment!) added some salad out of a bag, (Told you, move over Julia Child) and set out to call him to see if he wanted to come over for dinner.  I ran into a bit of a snag when I realized I didn't remember his last name and had to ask my roommate who exactly I had gone on a date with the night before so I could call him.  And then I had to get over my years of being conditioned by my parents that "Nice Girls Don't Call Boys."  But I did.  I found out his last name, picked up the phone and invited him over and everything.  And most importantly, I didn't turn into a pumpkin.

Tom came over and joined me four my amazing two course feast, (And it was years before he told me that he had just finished eating his own dinner when I called, and that he doesn't like alfredo sauce at all!) and afterwards suggested we go to Temple Square.  We did the ultimate sappy-couple thing and walked around Temple Square holding hands, talking, and yes, kissing.   If I hadn't been half of the sappy couple, I probably would have been nauseated by the sweetness and romance.  Once again, my memory fails as to what exactly we talked about, but I was becoming more and more convinced that this was heading in a serious direction.

After a full day of classes Monday, I managed to convince myself that I was obviously going off the deep end.  I had only been on two dates.  I didn't want anything to do with boys!  I was going to graduate school, remember?  I had all but talked myself out of it;  I was nearly positive I was going to call Tom up and break it off that night. 

We were living near the University of Utah, and one of my favorite things to do when I was anxious, stressed, or needed to think was to drive up East Canyon at crazy break-neck speeds.  I'm not a wild driver by nature, but there was something soothing about taking those curves at 75+ miles per hour.  I would usually stop at the top of the canyon to think, cry or pray.  I picked Tom up Monday night, and informed him we were going for a drive.  The conversation was intense.  I kept telling him all the reasons we were being crazy, and he kept telling me all the reasons we weren't.  We talked for what seemed like hours in the canyon.  We both confided in each other that everything felt wonderful, right, and calm when we we together, but as soon as we were apart, we both started having crazy doubts and fears.  As we said goodbye that night, instead of breaking things off, I had a calm, unmistakeable assurance fill my heart, and I knew we were going to get married.

The week passed in an insane blur of classes, jobs, practicing and seeing each other as much as posssible.  The next Saturday, Tom wanted to take me to the symphony, because it was his night at the symphony that started it all.   After the concert, as we were waiting in the never ending line to get out fo the parking garage, Tom told me he had a question to ask me.  Being an impatient kind of girl, I said, "Well, ask me then!"

He turned to me and asked, (seriously this time,) "Will You Marry Me?"

Of course I said yes. 

Ten years and three kids later, we still love each other.

You get a lot of funny comments from people when you get engaged after only a week of dating.  We went back to Tom's apartment that night, and as all good boys should, he called his mom to tell her the news. After talking with her for a few minutes, he said, "Here Mom, talk to her. You'll love her. Her name's Stacy," and shoved the phone at me. After glaring at him for not even giving me half a second to prepare, I took the phone. After approximately 47 seconds of small talk, his mom asked me, "What are your intentions with my son?" We still laugh about that one. Because  we all know that I am obviously the evil temptress who tricked him into marrying me.

When we showed up in our singles ward the next day, (holding hands and being all kinds of cheesy,) everyone was shocked to hear that we were engaged.  The rumor mill hadn't even had time to pass on the news that we were dating, let along getting serious, or engaged!

The next Monday, during a break between classes, I sat outside the music building and called my good friend Marti to tell her the news.  "I didn't even know you were dating anyone!" she squealed. 

My response?  "I wasn't!"

We got engaged Novemeber 13th, 1999,  (I realized after Max was born that we got engaged 9 years to the day that he was born.) and got married in the Bountiful Temple on March 16th, 2000. 

It was a wild and crazy ride, but I wouldn't have changed a thing.

In hindsight, I sometimes shake my head at how crazy it was to assume that I knew someone well enough after *one week* to marry them.  But as I look back, I marvel at how perfectly it worked out. Before this, I was queen of the "date someone forever but never go anywhere with it,"  so if Tom hadn't been so forthcoming with his feelings, I probably would have given him the big fat brush-off.  If we hadn't started dating when we did, I wouldn't have given him the time of day, because I would have been too far invested in the graduate school process.  I love looking back on this story and realizing how everything worked out so perfectly. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Love Story, Part 2

We waited a week for our date, and I though I thought several times about calling it off, I stuck with my original resolve to have some kind of social life. 

When he picked me up, we were able to talk quite easily.  He had planned a double date with his cousin and his cousin's girlfriend, and we headed to their apartment to eat dinner.  Normally, dinner with one person I only slightly know and two that are strangers would make me panic, but it was surprisingly easy to laugh and joke with them. 

After dinner, they had decided to take us to "Quick Wits" a clean, comedy-sports troupe in downtown SLC.  The comedy act itself was hysterical, but I got a little distracted when Tom decided to put his arm around me and lightly scratch my back.  What did he think he was doing, anyway?  I didn't even know him!

But it was on the way home that things really started getting interesting.  I wish that we would have somehow had a tape recorder or video camera, so I could review how in detail this all unfolded.  But from my admittedly fuzzy memory, here's roughly how the conversation went down:

Him: "You know, I'm really tired of playing the dating games, so I'm just going to tell you something straight out.  I like you. I really like you."

Me: (After scraping my jaw up off the floor...) "Well, I like you too."

Him: "You're the kind of person I could imagine spending the rest of my life with."

Yes, he actually said that.  At that point, I wasn't sure if I was flattered or horrified.  We had a good time together, he was easy to talk to, but I definitely wasn't positive this was the person I was going to spend the rest of my life with! 

We kept talking.  The backyard of the house I lived in at the time had a huge parking area in the back of the house, so we parked and talked some more.  He is a huge country music fan, and had his car stocked with all manner of country love songs.  He played several of them for me, including "I Can Love You Like That" and "I Love the Way You Love Me" by John Michael Montgomery.  And yes, he sang along. 

It's hard to describe what I was feeling at that point.  I was incredulous that I was sitting there with a boy that I hardly knew who was singing me love songs, when a week before I was swearing off romance, dating, and the opposite sex all together.  I thought of the brochures for graduate schools that were laying on the floor of my bedroom, and the audition trip I was planning.  But I couldn't deny that he was treating me the way I had always wanted to be treated, (I mean, really, what girl doesn't want to be serenaded with love songs?) and that I was amazed that he was going out on such a limb.  And the more we talked, the more I liked him.  So many of the things we valued and wanted were so similar; it surprised me how in sync we were with our goals and desires. 

We talked for a while longer, and I kept insisting that he was crazy: no one could possibly know, after one date, what he was professing to know.  But as late night talking often does, talking led to, well, kissing.

But here's the most important thing for all of you reading this to know:

He kissed me first!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we've been arguing about this, good-naturedly, for the entirety of our marriage.  But since you're all reading my blog, it's important for you to know the truth.  All that happened was that I stopped talking for a minute and leaned towards him and he did the rest.  He insists that I did the kissing first, but I know that when we get to heaven and we get to have a DVD playback of our lives, it will show the real truth and the argument can be settled once and for all.

More to come...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Love Story, Part 1

Tom and I celebrated ten years of marraige yesterday.  Well, celebrated might be a little too strong of a word.  The real celebration came over the weekend, while the actual day yesterday was marked with two trips to Salt Lake for violin rehearsals, a pot of soup left on the stove for Tom to eat with Max and Ashlynn, and both of collapsing in front of "House" after all three kids were in bed.  Not quite the romantic, exciting life we envisioned when we tied the knot ten years ago!

I spent the summer after my junior year of college working at a music camp in Michigan.  It was a crazy, wild, fun summer.  I was pretty involved with a boy from my single's ward who moved there, and we had some pretty intense, romantic times together, but it ended badly.  I came home to Utah with a incredibly broken heart, only to learn that every single one of my girlfriends were either engaged or married.  Every. Single. One.  It was terrible.  I was roommates with two of my engaged friends, and they so smitten and sappy that you couldn't carry on a conversation with them without it including the words "tulle" or "wedding cake", and it seemed that those who were married may as well have fallen off the face of the earth for all the interacting with the real world they did.

I was so tired of dating, tired of relationships that lasted forever and went nowhere, tired of being around friends with whom I could only discuss wedding plans that I decided to swear off everything.  No dating, no boys, no relationships, nothing.  I was going to graduate school.  I started sending away for brochures, planning audition trips, and talking to people about letters of recommendation.  I was even determined that I was going to go to a family ward, because the last thing I wanted was more of the Singles Ward scene.

Then, one fateful October night, one of my engaged roommates convinced me to go with her to a Sunday night church social.  It sounded as much fun as practicing Kreutzer Etudes, but I knew that I needed some semblance of a normal social life or I was going to need my practice room turned into a padded room.   So I went, and she promptly ditched me, leaving me to navigate through a room full of strangers.  I started talking to the boy sitting behind me, making all the normal small talk.  You know, "What's your name, what are you studying, etc."  When I told him I was majoring in violin performance, his eyes lit up and he immediately blurted out:

"Will you marry me?"

He explained to me that he had been to the symphony for the very first time the night before, sitting on the front row, right in front of the first violins, and had been mezmerized the whole night.  We chatted a bit for a few more minutes, but I didn't really think anything of it, other than that was definitely the first time I had been proposed to after knowing someone for approximately 42 seconds.

A few Sundays later at church, I was feeling lonely and awkward.  I noticed Tom sitting down, (and miracle of miracles, I actually remembered his name!) and asked if I could join him.  I spent my time listening to the lesson, and he told me later that he spent his time watching me.  As we left class, he asked me if I would like to go dancing with him sometime.

I groaned inwardly.  I had no desire to date, in fact, it was exactly the opposite- I wanted to stay as far away from that scene as possible.  Plus, (and this was the real reason,) I can't dance.  I really can't.  The joke in my family is that there was only so much grace to go around in my family, and my sister the ballet dancer received all of it.  It's really embarassing.  You would think being a musician and all that I would have some innate sense of rhythm and movement.  It just ain't happening.  Many people have tried to teach me and have failed miserably.  I'm a lost cause, really.  It's embarassing.

I tried to explain all these reasons to him without making it sound like I was giving him the brush-off.  (I didn't tell him the no-dating thing, of course, just the part about being a completely hopeless dancer.)  He tried to convince me it would be fun, and that he had taught others girls to dance.  I kept trying to explain to him that it wasn't a good idea.  Finally, he suggested something else, and I hesitantly agreed.

"It's just one date," I reasoned to myself.  "I need some kind of social life, and really, what can one date hurt?"

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Am I the only one?

Who never celebrated St. Patrick's Day other than the wearing of green clothes and gleefully pinching those who didn't? 

I'm wondering if I've missed a memo somewhere.

Admittedly, I'm a bad holiday mom.  I hate Valentine's Day, I usually throw Easter Baskets together at the last minute, (which reminds me that I need to prepare Easter baskets before we leave for the hospital in two weeks, or I'll be in big trouble...) and I don't have matching decorations for every holiday.

But I confess, I don't understand all the craziness that has been surrounding my girls for the last two or three days about St. Patrick's Day.

St. Patrick's Day?  That one holiday where you pull out a green shirt?

Somehow, Ashlynn is convinced that there is a St Patrick's Day leprechaun that comes to visit in your sleep, and leaves you candy if you leave him a pot full of Lucky Charms and cut out circles colored to look like pieces of gold.  True story. 

I wanted to tell her it was all a terrible lie.  Trouble is, the mommy guilt kicked in.  Poor Ashlynn has been getting the shaft lately as we have some severe "middle child syndrome" going on.  Between the part time job that is managing Abby and her violin practicing and lessons, and the chaos that is preparing your toddler for another surgery and hospital stay in less than two weeks, Ashlynn might be getting a little lost in the shuffle.  So yeah, I didn't have the heart to be the mean mommy.

Trouble is, it would have been nice if she would have told us this most fervent of beliefs before eight o'clock at night the night before St. Patrick's Day.  Thankfully, I have a husband not afraid to venture to the local convenience store at 11pm to get some candy to leave from the St. Patrick's Day leprechaun. 

Although if, by chance, there is a St. Patrick's Day Leprechaun, perhaps he wouldn't mind leaving me one of his little baskets of gold...

Just so you know, I'm drawing the line at the Arbor Day Tree Fairy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

In the Dog House

I am NOT a dog person.  Not at all.  And I am becoming less of a dog person every. single. day.  I  don't really understand dog people.   My husband's brother used to call us up all the time before he had children, and tell us how busy his dogs were keeping them.  I kept thinking that he had no idea what busy was.  I just don't get what makes people call their dogs their babies, buy them presents at Christmas time, or even let them in the house!  Admittedly, I have a low tolerance for chaos.  And being as I have three kids and a husband to clean up after, any mess the dog makes threatens to send me over the edge.

This is Cooper.  We got Cooper as a teeny-tiny puppy in the middle of my pregnancy with Abby.   Just for the record, getting a brand new puppy while you're in the throes of pregnancy-induced insanity is an incredibly bad idea.  My husband came home from work one evening to find me sitting on the floor sobbing because the puppy had peed all over the floor again, and how in the world was I going to handle having a baby if I couldn't even get the dog to stop peeing on the floor, and why don't they just make diapers for dogs, etc. 

Despite that initial ugliness, Cooper has been with us ever since.  Even though I threaten to kill her at least once a day for the last nine years, she has managed to survive fairly unscathed.  We put up with the barking, (although I think about shooting her every time she barks and wakes up the baby,) the shedding, (we fill at least two large-size garbage bags every summer with dog hair.  It's only about half of the hair that she's shedding, and it's completely disgusting.  And just for the record, don't believe someone when they tell you that long-haired German Shepherds shed less than short haired...) and the smell.  (I decided once at approximately 9:30 at night a few weeks ago that I couldn't take the way she smelled anymore and decided to give her a bath.  Not a great idea.  Because then instead of just smelling like disgusting dog, she smelled like disgusting wet dog, and two out of three floors of my house were soaked, which is infinitely worse.)  She is most definitely my husband's dog, and something I tolerate in the name of familial harmony. 

Enter my husband, and his big heart and desire to help people, and last week we ended up with two more dogs while friends of ours are in South Africa trying to figure out their lives. This is Sadie.  I couldn't get a picture of her brother Koda because he is constantly spinning in circles like a tornado on crack.

I have three kids, fourteen violin students, and a  life I barely have a grip on.  (On good days.)  These dogs have enough energy to power a small country, with enough left over to destroy my house in the time it takes me to eat a brownie.  The dogs and I are not friends.

My kids are in heaven.  Abby spent the first few days they were here waking up at 4:30 in the morning to check on the dogs and make sure they were still here.  Max, who is obsessed with dogs, is thrilled that these dogs are just the right height to give him slobbery dog kisses and then knock him flat on his diaper-clad bum.  Gross.

So yeah, I'm counting down the days until the dogs are gone, the muddy dog-prints are reduced by a third, and our normal amount of chaos returns.  And this week has helped me come up with a very important set of rules.  You didn't ask, but I'm telling you anyway. 

So here they are.  Rules to be followed before we ever get another dog:

1- We have to be done having children.
2- All children we have must be potty trained.
3- The dog will be our only pet.
4- I will be the Alpha.  The dog WILL listen to me.
5- The dog will be smaller than a German Shepherd, bigger than one of those annoying ankle-biter yapper dog, AND
6- The dog will not be allowed to shed, and I will not be picking up any poop.

I'm thinking this set of rules might keep me dog-free for at least another 3 or 4 years.  One can only hope. 

I mush prefer my cat, who spends approximately 23.5 hours a day sleeping.  (How do I get in on that gig?) 

So tell me, are you a dog person?  Do you like pets?  How do you keep a house, kids, and pets without going crazy?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sometimes it sucks to be the kid

This year, Ashlynn decided she wanted to switch school to be part of a dual-immersion Spanish program.  We were all excited about it. Sounded like a great opportunity, expand cultural boundaries, have a new and exciting talent, blah blah blah.  The new school wasn't far away and we were able to arrange a carpool, and so I switched both girls over.

It hasn't been what you would call a banner year for either of them.  While it's been fun to hear Ashlynn count in Spanish and hear the funny phrases and songs that she comes home with, neither one of the kids have loved it there.  Ashlynn, who is normally a cute, charming fireball, has been in tears several time because she's been targeted by a certain boy in her class.  After stuffing my inborn mom urge to find the child and flush his head down the toilet give him a stern talking to, we talked with her teachers several times and things seemed to be going better in that regard.

Enter yesterday, a bad violin lesson for Abby, and a hour's drive back to school.  My beautiful, talented oldest daughter sobbed her guts out for forty-five minutes yesterday, telling me how much she hates school because the kids are mean to her and she has no friends.  There is no feeling more hopeless in the entire world than seeing your kid in pain and not being able to do a thing about it.   There's a pair of girls who are best friends, and Abby wants desperately to be included, but these two girls have no intention of adding to their pair.  One of her other friends has committed the ultimate betrayal, and instead of playing house at recess with Abby, has decided to go play basketball with the boys.  (And Abby let me know, in no uncertain terms, that she was NOT interested in learning how to play basketball.  "It's a boys' game, Mom!") 

We talked about other kids in her class she could play with, and she told me that "The brown-skinned girls won't play with me because I have white skin."  I wanted to cry at this.  She's eight years old, and having to learn difficult, painful, unexplainable issues of racism?  But this was the kicker: she burst into a fresh round of sobs and told me that a boy in her class told her at lunch that she was "as fat as a lunch table," and she hated that she was the fattest girl in the class. 

Wow.  I knew kids were cruel.  I had a difficult time in school and felt very much like that until fourth grade, when I was placed in a accelerated program and finally found some friends.  But I hurt for my daughter who is so obviously taking an emotional beating at school.  After a talk with her teacher, I found out that what Abby really seems to want is a best friend, someone she can stick to and giggle with.  Most of the kids are playing jumprope or cops and robbers at recess, and I think Abby would much prefer to have someone to play house with.  I talked with Abby a lot about reaching out to other kids who might be lonely, and how she needed to be friendly in order to have friends.  You know, all those mom things.  But I still ached, and cried, and prayed, because it seemed unfair that she should be so sad.

Today's lesson?  Even when things are bad, never assume you've been through the worst. 

I was brushing Ashlynn's hair this morning while she and Abby were talking about how Ashlynn was getting a new toy today. 

"A new toy?"  I asked, skeptically.  "Why are you getting a new toy?"

"Ummmm,"  Ashlynn hestitated, "A boy in my class is bringing it to me?"

"Why is he bringing you a toy?"

"I can't tell you."

Well, as any mother knows, "I can't tell you" really means they need to tell you right now.  I pestered her for a minute, and finally it came out.

"A boy in my class lifted up my shirt to look at my panties and then told me he would give me a toy if I didn't tell anyone.  He's always talking about boobies too."

My heart fell.  Then a few seconds later, I was ready to raise HOLY HELL.

I called the principal on my way to drop the girls off at school, who promised to pull the boy out of class and have the counselor talk with Ashlynn, then call me back to dicuss it.  Then I called my husband who hit. the. roof.

Needless to say, we spent the morning calling back and forth, debating our options.  Do we pull them out of school?  Transfer them back to the neighborhood school?  Do we call the police?  And what about this little boy who did it?  Obviously, the poor child has seen or learned this behavior somewhere.

It's amazing the sheer numbe rof emotions I cycled through in a few hours.  It sounds silly to say it this way, but I felt a little violated, knowing that this happened in the classroom of all places.  I was frightened knowing that not only was my daughter not safe at school but she was actually in real danger.  I was horrified to know that at six and seven years old, she's been exposed to something like this.  And I was incredibly grateful that first, it wasn't worse, and second, that she actually told me what happened so we could get a handle on it before anything else happened.

After a few hours, both my husband and I had calmed down a bit, and we met with the principal at the school.  There's not a lot they can do about the boy, unfortunately.  They can keep a close watch on him, they can talk with his parents, but because he's so young, there's no point in even filing a police report.  The principal was very kind, respectful and apologetic, and offered to do anything he could to make it right.  But we went into the meeting with our minds made up- it was time to transfer them back to our neighborhood school.  He understood, and we walked out with forms signed.  Our girls will either be at a new school tomorrow, or at home, hanging with me until their paperwork processes.

So yeah, sometimes it really sucks to be the kid.  My head is still spinning with all the "what ifs."  My husband and I are shaken, realizing in a way we haven't before, how very hard it is to keep our kids safe.  The only thing we can do now is pray, and hope, and watch, and hug them a little closer from now on.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Teach Your Children Well

Tonight, I was chopping up some veggies for dinner while Max was rummaging in the pantry.  I didn't think anything of it until he started head-butting my leg.  I looked down to see him handing me a box of brownie mix that he had not only found in the pantry, but also managed to open. 

That's my boy.  I'm so proud. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

This is what happens when I sit on the couch all day long


Sick, sick, sick.

And not just any kind of sick.  It's keep your husband home from work because you can't take care of your baby sick, your whole body aches so sleeping isn't any better than being awake sick, spend the whole day watching HGTV while watching your toddler and husband destroy the house and not caring because the only thing you're worried about is hoping you don't have to run to the bathroom to vomit yet again sick. 


And of course, it has to happen the week before my student's violin recital, and the day I'm supposed to start a brand new violin student, so the lesson cancellations today came at an especially convenient time.

I've been joking that the month of March might kill me with all the violin events, and getting ready for yet another major surgery, but apparently March and whatever horrible flu bug this is decided to act early and put me out of my misery.

So in the meantime, rather than bemoaning the fact that I feel like I've been hit by a train, I bring you pictures found on the memory card of my girl's camera.   Abby and Ashlynn have their own digital camera, and sometimes, I'm not all that diligent about downloading the pictures.  Yesterday, I hooked it up to my computer and found these little gems. 

I think we have at least 257 pictures of Abby making this exact expression as she captures her own self-portrait.
And this just makes me laugh.  Someday, we'll break out treasures like this to show Ashlynn's dates.  Can't wait.
Max with the best babysitter in the whole world.  Who just happens to be moving to Alabama in a few weeks.  Doesn't her mother understand there are rules?  Rules!  You can't just take someone's babysitter and move them all the way across the country!  What about me and my needs?  Sigh.
This is my husband's car after it got hit yet again.  Apparently, it's incredibly hard to back out of a driveway in my neighborhood without hitting my husband's car.  And it's even harder to actually report it when it happens!  Because, you know, it obviously the car's fault for just sitting there innocently.  And of course, we would love to pay for the repairs.  It's a good thing that spring is coming soon so that the money tree in the backyard will start sprouting again.
Not sure what's happening here.  But it's cute.  My only question is, what are all the little dogs watching? 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Which I Whine More About Winter

Tonight as I was nursing the baby for the 27th time, I noticed something.

There was a fly on my ceiling.  I hate flies with the passion I normally reserve for black olives, cottage cheese and waking up at 6 am on a Monday.

It's March 1st.  There's still a foot of mushy, dirty, slushy snow on my front lawn, and we haven't seen a temperature over forty degrees in months.

We don't yet have long summer nights, barbeques with friends, sun-bleached hair, watermelon, bare feet or any of the other wonderful things about summer.  Yet we have to deal with the flies, the biggest curse of summer months?  Something is wrong with this picture.

On the other hand, the arrival of flies, along with February being finished for 2010 (and for that I say, Hallelujah!) means we might just be that much closer to tulips.  It might be a fair tradeoff.
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