Thursday, October 26, 2006

Happy Birthday, M!

My dear, sweet boy, there is so much to say that there's no place to begin.

Just know that I love you with all my heart and soul and I am so proud of you.

love, Mommy

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Messing with Natural Selection

I love our dog. Truly. But there are some aspects of dog ownership I could do without.

Yesterday was a decent day, even if the night before was unsettled for a couple of us at home. The bags under my eyes made that plain to all around me. But I did manage to get through most of my to do list, make a big dent in a work project, and hold my cousin's seven-week-old baby. Even managed to pick up the kids with time to spare and felt in a decent mood. I was looking forward to the pasta dish I planned to cook.

But then when we opened the door of the house, all that flew out the window as we were smacked in the nose with the scent of doggie diarrhea.


Yup, the dog was ill, and there was a nasty mess in her crate that needed cleaning RIGHT NOW. Apparently it had just happened because the mess was, uh, still warm. If I had just left work a few minutes earlier...

Thank goodness C is old enough to really help out because trying to clean up such a mess with a two-year-old underfoot would have been too much. Over the next several hours, we took her out frequently, but she still messed on the screen porch and we no longer have cushion for the wicker love seat.

This dog, Miss T, is a sweet dog. She's a retriever-collie mix and we adopted her from a rescue organization that saves dogs from kill shelters. She'd been in Kentucky before she was rescued and came up here.

Miss T is not the brightest bulb. She has the attention span of a gnat. There are times she clearly needs to relieve herself, but when we take her out she smells something in the wind and can't refocus to her original goal. I've taken her out 19 times on windy days before she's actually peed! She has a delicate stomach but loves to scavenge. We work hard at keeping everything off the floor and keeping her away from the garbage, but sometimes she manages something. I have no idea what it was this time. If she did not have a family of humans looking out for her - and willing to clean up after her - she would have exited the gene pool long ago.

But I will never get rid of this dog, unless she physically harms a member of the family. What she does and has done for C is what it's all about. When we moved up here from the South, C begged for a dog for a couple of years. I kept intending to do the research and find one, but something always came up. On that first awful day in the PICU, while C was coding in the next room, I bargained with God. I asked God to save him, he has so much life still to live, that I'd get him the dog he wanted, I'd take him to LegoLand.

So when it became likely in the following days that C would survive, I emailed an old boss who now runs a rescue organization and asked her to start keeping an eye out for a dog for us. Three months later, Miss T joined our family.

There are aspects of dog ownership that I don't like and bits of Miss T's personality that drive nuts. Messing with natural selection or not, she completes our family.

P.s. Yes, we did go to Legoland, too. It was awesome.

Monday, October 23, 2006


When I put in my profile that my son M is 7, it wasn't quite true. He's 6 3/4. He turns 7 on Thursday.

I am extremely anxious for this birthday.

On my 7th birthday, I was admitted to the hospital with double pneumonia. I don't remember how long I was in the hospital, but I remember the oxygen tent, and the nurse and a doctor flirting and my grandfather's contact popping out and it being crushed under the rail of the rocking chair he was in. I remember sharing a tv with a girl who had just had her leg amputated. I especially remember it being a big deal that I was in the hospital because my mother was Christian Scientist. But it all turned out fine. I'm fine. I went home soon enough and resumed 2nd grade.

On C's 7th birthday, he had a stomach bug, then had a low-grade fever for a few days. He was a little pale at his birthday party, but we figured he was fine. But two days later he was diagnosed with pneumonia and the day after that was in the local emergency room, then transferred that night into the Pediatric ICU at a children's hospital in the city. And thus began the most terrifying and awful period in my life. I sure hope it is the most awful period in C's life, too, because if anything is worse than that, well, I don't think I can go there.

C ended up on coding, being put on a ventilator for 9 days, having part of his lung removed, and all sorts of other insults. We were so lucky in the end - he survived. He missed a lot of school, required physical, occupational (and emotional) therapy, and his body took literally years to recover completely. But he's here. That time, that experience changed our life.

(I think, really, that is blog is for finally getting out everything about that time. I wrote lots of snippets at odd hours in the hospital, but never did anything with them. When my father died a month after C left the hospital, it became all tied up together, and until now I think, was just too much to consider all at once, or even in parts.)

So, M turns 7 on Thursday.

Wtih M, we also have to consider a birth defect that he has. He was born with a bicuspid aortic valve. At his young age it really should mean very little - antibioitcs before going to the dentist, knowing he'll never play American football, rugby, or any other sport with upper body straining. But at last year's annual check in with his cardiologist, Dr. B told us he also has an enlarged aortic root. Right now it's *just* within normal range for his size (tall), and it goes along with the valve about 50% of the time.

I struggle with what to do. Part of me wants to say - sit here on the couch with me, and be my sweet boy. Don't exert yourself. But if you knew M...well, that's not going to happen. He's exuberant, joyful. We struggle with how to discipline him without squashing his joie de vivre. He's smart, too. He asks why. His birthday party is on Saturday, climbing this thing called the "Pinnacle" at the local REI store, followed by pizza. I have to tell the employee running the belay line not to give him much slack, help him up a bit. Because I want him to feel like all the other kids, but I don't want to take an unnecessary risk. I want him to grow into all his potential, and I just pray his potential and growing aren't mutually exclusive.

We see the cardiologist on Wednesday. He knows my fears and understands them. Even before he met M for the first time, he consulted on C in the PICU when there was some question of whether C's heart had been (unrecoverably) damaged in the code. I don't even know where to begin in what to talk to him about. I need a lot of reassurance. I need to hear that M will be okay. I don't know if he can give me that.

I think I will be holding my breath a bit, through the appointment on Wednesday, through M's birthday on Thursday, through the birthday party, the days that follow...through his whole life, really.

Friday, October 20, 2006


The power went out about 7 o'clock this evening. The kids and I were finishing up dinner, watching a rented DVD, and it just went. The storm that is moving through the area includes a high wind warning, and I guess that wind knocked something out somewhere. We'd been busy inside, so I hadn't realized the wind had started to pick up.

S was quite upset, but I found the flashlight quickly, found some candles and we were able to get her settled. C read to her and M kept asking if he could light the candles with the matches. Uh, no! He's seven, and I'm not crazy -- despite appearances to the contrary. I also managed to find the camp lantern in the basement.

After about 20 minutes it became clear that this could be a prolonged outage, so we blew out the candles and brought the camp lantern upstairs. Everyone found pajamas and we climbed into Mommy and Daddy's bed for some reading.

Luckily, just after 8 o'clock, the power returned. C asked if we could look for the weather on the TV so we could know how long the wind might last. I said sure.

I turned on the TV and started flipping to different channels trying to find some weather.

Wait a sec, what was that?

I quickly try to backtrack and find it...could it be?




I went to grade school and high school with that guy.

It really is Bobby! Or, Bob, I think it was by the end of high school. He lived on the next street over from me. My friend shared a backyard fence with his family.

What's this he's on?


He's an ambulance chaser. It's an ad. One of those, "If you've been injured/taken this drug I can get you lots of money, here's my 800 number." Lovely.

I'll be honest and say that I am in touch with only one person from high school, and even that contact is spotty. I rather like it that way. After my father died, I figured someone with minor sleuthing skills could find me without much difficulty after my full current name and location were printed in the obituary. I was right - a girl who had once been a close friend emailed me and actually apologized for her behavior when that friendship ended (adolescent girls can be ruthless). In another twist, her partner in that ruthless behavior all those years ago has ties to this area, and that girl's parents now have a realty business about 40 miles from here.

Over the years, I've occasionally seen, heard of, or run into people in random places, always interesting since I live 3000 miles from where I grew up. I saw one guy from high school on a game show in the early 90s. I was unemployed at the time and watching game shows was the height of my days, aside from opening thanks-for-your-resume-we'll-let-you-know letters. Saw one kid in the St. Louis airport as we were getting on the same flight home for the holidays.

I saw this other kid on the subway platform in 1990 or so. I swear he looked exactly the same as he did when he was 13. He was the school genius and went off to the local college every afternoon for high level math classes. For one project in eighth grade he decided he was going to build a model rocket that would fly higher than a certain brand of model rocket. When asked how he was going to figure out which rocket went higher, he replied, "Simple trigonometry," and proceed to describe in detail the equations he'd use.

I decided to approach. I said who I was, that I went to school with him out west, and he was stunned. He started to ask about certain people, if I knew what had happened to them. As it turns out, I did know, because my one contact was part of that crowd. When I told what I knew (it wasn't pretty), he became angry with me and asked me why I was telling him this. Really. I resolved that if I ever saw anyone else from the west on the subway platform - or anywhere else for that matter, I would say and do nothing.

The sighting tonight on TV has me thinking about why I am so ambivalent about contact with people who knew me then. I kind of like knowing where certain people are - as much to avoid them at all costs as anything else - but don't really want those same people to know where I am. Am I the only one who feels like this? What is it about that part of my life that I still need to come to terms with? It was high school, for goodness sake, more than half my lifetime ago! And didn't we all have at least a little bit of insecurity about who were and who we would become?

How long will I be wrestling with my inner adolescent?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Just Some Photos I Like

Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, August, 2006

Gerbera Daisies in the Rain



Black Sand



Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fracture of the First Metatarsal

On Satuday, my oldest, C, tripped while running to my car from baseball. Note that baseball was over. He was just trying to get to the car to go home.

I thought it was just a little sprain. Shake it off, I said.

When we arrived home after picking his spanking new spectacles on the way, he wanted to put ice on it. I thought he was being a little dramatic but let him.

That afternoon we drove north to do some apple picking and see some friends. He limped through the orchard, but was just as active. I told him to stop favoring it, that it would feel better more quickly if he walked as normally as possible.

Sunday he went to a friend's birthday party at a sports complex. Flag football, and all that. He limped less, was just as active as the other boys. I figured he was fine and just milking the minor injury for best effect. He is 10, afterall.

On Monday morning he was still complaining of discomfort, so I took a look at it.


It was swollen and starting to bruise.

Bad Mommy!

I saw the other children off to school and took C to the doctor's office. They sent us to the radiology center for an xray. The xray techs told us it usually took about an hour to get films read, but nothing jumped out at them when they looked, so their money was on a bad sprain. But, they said, this isn't an official doctor's opinion. Remember that. It was 10AM.

I took C to school and went home to do some work while I waited for the pediatrician's office to call. Noon came and passed, one, two, three o'clock. Children climbed off school buses and still no phone call.

Finally at 3:45 I called the pediatrician's office. No read back yet, call again before 4:30.

I called at 4:15. Finally the read is in. (I really dislike the hospital associated with the radiology center, for many reasons, and this didn't help. But that's a post for another day.) The nurse says C has a fracture of the first metatarsal, she'll have Dr. H call me in a few minutes. At 4:35 she calls and says Dr. H just says to call an orthopedist; it needs to be stablized properly. They give me some local names.

I start calling. It's 4:37.

"Hi, I have a 10 year old with a fracture of the first metatarsal and it needs to be stablized."

"We close at five o'clock."

"I can be there in five minutes. I live in town."

"We close at five o'clock."

"I really don't know what needs to be done here. I need some direction."

"We close at five o'clock."

"Can you help me at all?"

"We close at five o'clock."

The conversation deteriorated from there, and that was just the first place I called.

Finally, my husband called his pediatric trauma friend in his hospital's ER. He told us to pick up the xrays from the other (closer) hospital and come on in. We live 33 miles from my husband's hospital, and we try to use local resources for what appear to be smaller things like this, but apparently, in this case, that was a waste of time. The big city hospital was the only one that was going to care.

My husband and C went off to the ER in the city while I gathered the other children, released another chipmunk at the conservation area and scrounged leftovers for us for dinner. They were back before bedtime.

The fracture was confirmed, but the orthopedist in the ER said he needed to see a specialist in the morning because the fracture might involve the growth plate.

He's there right now.

Our adventure continues.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Catching Chipmunks

Chipmunks have lived in the rock walls around my driveway since before we moved into this house. When we built the tiered rock walls on the other side of the driveway last summer, I imagined the critters sticking their heads out of their dens and saying to one another, "Hey, Alvin, get a look at the condos going in across the way!"

In the past several months the chipmunks have become a bigger nuisance. They annoy the dog and induce her frustrated barking from the porch, they make certain parts of the planting beds among the rock wall unstable and promote erosion, and they try to dig up some flower bulbs. Just a few days ago I tried putting in some fritillaria meleagris (guinea hen flower) bulbs for next spring and they've already gone for those.

In late June or early July I bought a Havaheart trap and set it by one of the chipmunk holes by the front step. I made sure it was stocked with the bait that I read was perfect for chipmunks: peanut butter, apples, raisins and such.

Nothing. Not one chipmunk in that trap.

Oh, we did catch something...we caught a toad. But no chipmunks.

I figured I just needed to be V E R Y patient and eventually it would work.

On a whim, on Monday, I put a piece of homemade chocolate chip cookie in the trap. Within two hours, we had a chipmunk.

The boys were so excited. I was at the grocery store with S, their little sister, when they called to tell me the news. After I arrived home and unloaded the groceries from the car, we loaded in the chipmunk, still in the trap, and we drove to a nature reserve area in town and released the little critter far from us.

I figured that wasn't the only chipmunk, so we set the trap again, and yesterday afternoon we had another chipmunk. Another trip to the nature reserve, and we set the trap again. This morning I made a third trip to the nature reserve before heading into the office.

Three chipmunks in less than 72 hours. And chocolate chip cookies seem to be the difference.

I smell a Science Fair project.

Update (10/17): We're up to five chipmunks in eight days. And we didn't have the traps set for two days.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

RIP, SC(KPMBS, the ones I remember)G

It's interesting that I mentioned my aunt of many marriages in my first post. She died last Thursday. I didn't know she was sick. Rather, I didn't know her breast cancer had recurred. I learned of her death from my sister, who read it in the newspaper.

Yeah, my family, we're close.

I hadn't had any contact with my aunt for three and a half years, since the nasty scene at my father's memorial service, and contact had been spotty for six or seven years before that, as we disagreed on how my father's wife was treating him and providing for his care.

Regardless, it's sad that she had to go by such an awful disease.

I would say that what I am feeling now isn't exactly grief for her, but it's some kind of feeling about that side of my family. The lot of them have been, at the very least, fodder for some crazy tales. My husband doesn't miss a family gathering on that side purely because of the entertainment value.

I don't have a ton of aunts and uncles or extended family. One aunt, by my father, and one uncle by my mother, six cousins total, from both sides. I used to think my aunt was so glamorous, so beautiful. I saw the clothes, the cars, the houses, the done-up hair and manicured nails. Somewhere along the way, I realized that the chain smoking, the Screwdrivers for breakfast, the cast-off husbands, the cast-off children, the tantrums when she didn't get her way were the signs of a deeply unhappy and troubled woman, and I somehow created a separation from her and her kids (mostly her daughter, nearest in age to me). I felt apart from them, different. Oh, I still saw her for several years when I went out to visit, saw her daughter on trips to California, but it was never the same. I'm sure she resented that and saw it as a rejection. She had a similar falling out with my sister.

In truth, I think it was really an acceptance of all the insanity that was that part of my family, and not rejection, that enabled the separation - the moving on - for me. I was able to talk about the crazy family history and laugh and try to learn from it, but she never was able to do that. She was embarassed by what her family had been, and tried to hide it. We were polar opposites in this respect. I wanted to take the family skeletons out and dance with them, and she wanted to make sure the kneecaps of those skeletons were well-broken so they would just stay put in the closet. (Dad was somewhere in the middle.) All this became so evident around the time my father died. It's still painful for me.

Maybe what I am feeling is renewed grief for my dad.

I noted in her newspaper obituary that the surname of one of her sons was left off. After being married to her current husband for over ten years, she was not close enough to this son for her husband to know his last name. That's just so sad.

I wish that she could have had more acceptance in her life. Maybe she would have been less bitter toward her sons, less angry around my father's memorial service, less a lot of things, more a lot of things.

I hope she's finally at peace.

Friday, October 06, 2006

What Do I Want, Anyway?

(In no particular order, and not comprehensive.)

Warm toes.

Kisses from my husband and kids.

The dog to pee and poop where and when she's supposed to.

The cat NOT to regurgitate hair balls on my bed.


A self-cleaning bathtub.

A lawn without crabgrass.

Fully funded college accounts for my kids.

Red wine. Good red wine.

Extended family who...nevermind.

A manager who...nevermind.

Erging to NOT be bulking up my legs and behind.

A healthy relationship with food.

To be able to wipe away all the stress and strife my kids have or will experience.

Time to knit.