December 31, 2008

I'm not kissing that mouth

I've known Seth for nearly 14 years and he still surprises me. You might think I'm about to get mushy on you, but I'm not. I guess I could tell you about the wonderful dad that he is and how he went out on Christmas Eve (after picking up on my ridiculous hints) to get the gift I wanted. Nah, I'm going to give you a glimpse of the real Seth. He doesn't get much airtime on the blog and this is too good to pass up.

This morning I came downstairs and found his travel mug full of yummy coffee. Score for me, but too bad for him. He usually doesn't notice that he left it until he reaches over to grab a sip and gets nothing but air. This morning was a little different. He was rushing to work yesterday and needed to make a pit stop. But he didn't have time. What's a guy to do? Duh, use the now empty travel mug, of course.

This, by the way, is not an activity condoned by me. Or my mom. Or any gal I know. We are far too proper to do any sort of disgusting thing like that.

So he does his business and LEAVES THE MUG IN THE CAR. I don't know if he usually brings me mugs that he's urinated in, but using a travel mug is news to me. I'm looking at the travel mugs in the cupboard in a new light after today. Thinking that we should buy some disposable ones...

This fateful morning, my warnings of, "You really shouldn't do that" finally come to fruition. He reached over to find his coffee and only after taking a big 'ol sip realizes that it's his urine from yesterday. Gag.

Chalk one up for the big momma who knows it all!

December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

If you have been eagerly anticipating a Christmas greeting from us...wait no more. I decided that I would send out cards after Sally's cast came off. It would be a great way to show her post-cast and give me a little more time before undertaking the huge mailing. History dictates that I'm lying to myself and the rest of you. Lets not kid ourselves into thinking I will make time to collate and mail cards next month. So prepare yourselves...this is our Christmas greeting.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! We hope that you read this after a wonderful day spent with family and friends. We have been blessed beyond belief in the past year. God has answered our prayers in ways we never would have imagined. It has been awe inspiring for me to remember what I was hoping for last year. Anticipating the arrival of two more children and wondering what our family would be like once we became seven. From the outside it would seem that our lives have unravelled in the past six months, but don't be fooled. What seems like turmoil is nothing when we have the understanding that God is working in our lives to make us stronger. Perhaps we can help others through our adversity. Please revisit our Christmas greeting from last year to get a better understanding of having real hope.

Here's the best we could do as far as a Christmas photo. This was an impromptu picture taken on our way to church. I think they did pretty well, considering there are five kids (one of them a squirmy toddler) and an impossible number of things that could happen to ruin a picture.

December 22, 2008

Blue?

Sally told the doctor before she conked out that she wanted a blue cast. I double and triple checked with her that she really wants a blue cast. This is the first one that won't be "white until the first accident then dingy brown". I love that color, though blue sounds promising too.

In the recovery room Sally was eating an orange Popsicle and said, "I like this blue Popsicle. It's so good."

My first thought: Oh my, did you say blue? Does this mean you wanted an orange cast? At least you can't move your head to see that your cast is what everyone else calls blue.

What she heard: "Yeah, that's a good lookin' Popsicle. That's what we call orange, honey."

Aside from the color issues, she's doing well. The sore on her back looked like it was healing nicely and should be completely gone by the time the cast comes off.

Casting for a Third Time

I'm sitting in a familiar chair. Early this morning Sally and I braved the cold (4 degrees) and wind to come to the hospital. She was tired, cold, and hungry. I spent the time in the car trying to melt my body into the heated car seat. And, thanking God that I home school the kids so we leave the house on a voluntary basis. I wish I could just curl up and sleep right through winter. Alas, I find myself at the hospital at 6 am so Sally can get a new cast.

After all of the turmoil from last week, her doctor wants her in another cast for a few more weeks. She's just not strong enough to be in the brace, and the old cast is...disgusting. A few more weeks in a cast is a fine alternative to a serious injury caused by jumping into the brace too soon. That whole bed-sore-from-the-metal-objects-in-her-back thing is a worry also. Though Sally's doc assures us that she will be fine once the pressure has been relieved from her back. So here I sit, again, waiting to meet Sally in post-op. Thankful that this could possibly be our last time in this situation.

December 14, 2008

Curse the Medications

The impossible has happened, Seth and I are alone. We. Are. Without. Children. For five more days we will be alone. It wasn’t supposed to work out like this. I arranged for Josiah to come with us. My Mom offered to watch him and I haven’t had peace since. Better to keep him with me, but have a late flight across the country only to deal with time changes, flights of stairs, and dogs upon our arrival at my sisters’? Or should we trust that he will be fine and leave him safely with my Mom? Back and forth for the past two weeks.

I lay in bed yesterday morning, wondering if I should really leave Josiah. I wasn’t out of bed and I was praying for some clarity when I finally got up. As I stumbled past the girls’ room, I smelled something…yucky. Nah, putrid...fetid, rotten…you get the idea. Something reeked and I feared that it was coming from the sweet girls’ room.

Sally’s gained a little weight, as a result her TB meds have been upped. Last night was her first dose, eight teaspoons of medication. I guess it made her sick. From both ends. The story gets even worse, she not only vomited and had diarrhea, but she didn’t wake up to call out for help. A domino effect could get started here on what her life was like before we got her that she managed to sleep in such disgusting filth for a few hours. Nevertheless, we’ve got a revolting story to tell so I will press on.

I was at a complete loss. I’ve seen and managed some nasty things, even blogged about a few buggers. This one took the cake. Sally woke up, climbed down from her bunk and excrement trickled out onto the floor. Not knowing whether her meds made her sick, or she had a stomach bug, I immediately sent everyone else upstairs and shut them into the boys’ bedroom. Then, I shut Sally into the bathroom and got a BIG black garbage bag. I wadded up her pillow, jammies, sheet saver (which did an amazing job of saving the sheets) and threw them away. I heard the garbage men outside and ran, in my jammies, to stop them with my vomit covered junk in the bag.

Then, I called the doctor’s office. In a frantic tone, trying to keep from totally freaking out I explained that Sally had puke down the neck of her cast, feces up the back of her cast. I wasn’t speaking with a familiar voice, but tried to relay my urgency without screaming into the phone. She, matter-of-factly (as if she deals with this all of the time) told me to get a warm washcloth and clean her up as best I could. Then, take that washcloth and using my hand try to clean inside the cast, as best I could. Then, lay Sally on the counter and wash her hair (which was crusted with vomit). I’m thinking laying a diarrhea laden child on the KITCHEN COUNTER is probably not a good idea. Especially when you have four more kids who may be susceptible to whatever caused the...bodily explosion. So I started with the de-pooping of Sally’s legs and cast, with a lame wet washcloth. I promptly threw every washcloth into a new trash bag. My next job was to remove feces from floors and the exterior of the cast. I’ll share a little secret here, I used bleach. Lots of it. I know, it’s bad for you, but did you miss out on what I was up against? Possible infection of 4 more children, then fleeing the scene to visit my sister in Colorado? Horrible. So I bleached the floor, the bunk stairs… and the cast. I tried to bleach the cast, but was sadly unsuccessful.

Then, I let the four maniacs out of their prison upstairs and put Sally onto the counter for the vomit removal. Much easier than the other end, I still proved myself a flop in the ‘Can you remove filth from inside a cast?’ motherhood test.

I slathered Sally in smelly lotion, coated her hair in smelly goo, and put tights on her. The smell was still there. Really strong. I called the office again and got a voice mail, but warned them that I would continue calling until I spoke with them.

I looked at the clock and two hours had passed since the charade began. I’m frantically doing laundry, trying to get everyone packed, and calling the doctor’s office again. Calling the cell phone of the doctor’s assistant, until, finally, she calls me back. In an oh-so-nonchalant manner, “Apryl, what’s going on?”

“It’s bad!! It’s very, very bad!! I’ve done all I could and I can’t even sit next to her on the sofa, I just tried to and I felt sick from the smell. I’m leaving tomorrow for Denver, can you help us?”
She said we needed to come in right away. Like ‘right away’ is in my power.

It was 2:00, I had JUST SHOWERED and no one had eaten lunch. We were setting records. I threw together sandwiches, dropped the Bigs off at art lessons and raced to the office. Then we had to sit, in the waiting area, smelling up the whole place with pukey poop smell. It was wretched. They took one look at Sally and got out the big saw (after donning gloves and spraying the room with Lysol). She screamed, Josiah screamed, and we gagged. It came off and revealed a dime embedded in her chest (interesting) and just a wee bit ‘o mess around her bottom (surprisingly did a better job than I thought). They x-rayed—good results, new bone has grown and the rib is grafted in. The tore the old cast apart to just the shell then re-padded it and covered it to hold us out a little longer. Upon getting a look at her back, I was dismayed. She still looks lumpy, but has healed well, the pressure from the rods against the cast has caused a bed sore-like wound at the site of one hook.

Right now, Sally’s in her cast. An ace bandage is holding it together. She has a hole cut in the back exposing her tender spot (though I’ve been assured this is perfectly safe) to allow it to heal.
The foul odor? You’ll have to ask my mother-in-law about it, since I masked it heavily before I left. I have a sneaking suspension that Sally’s cast is still suffering from the episode. Only a few weeks left with it, then just a brace. Time won’t pass quickly enough.

December 6, 2008

Decorating Madness

This will be known as the Christmas that Daddy hurt his foot. Seth was working in the bathroom today and slipped in the tub while holding a piece of drywall. Something is protruding from his foot, but we are just trying to ignore that and enjoy the day. Except, his injury means that he's stuck on the sofa with his foot raised and I'm dragging the boxes out of the attic. I huffed my way out of the attic then down the stairs with 5 or 6 boxes and the artificial tree. I wondered the entire time WHY I've made my husband do this for 10 years. I'm also incredibly impressed with his stamina and the fact that he has never complained about decorating the tree. When we have to decorate the tree for a second and third time after it's fallen, he complains. The initial decoration is always welcome.
I toyed with the idea of leaving everything in the attic and just pretending that fall decorations would be nice until January. Since my house may be almost normal by then. Sadly, I had an attack of mother guilt. Seeing as two of my children haven't celebrated Christmas I knew that I couldn't leave the tree alone this year. It was grand when I thought Seth would be in charge. I'm usually on the sofa sipping warm beverages and passing out ornaments. He does the grueling work.

The foot thing was only the start of a ridiculous evening. We have a dining room table in our living room. If I haven't mentioned that before, it's because that doesn't hold a candle to the toilet that's hanging out in the hallway. We decided to put the tree ON the table, thus killing two birds with one stone. Josiah can't tip the tree over and we don't have to move anything to put the tree up. The only problem is that I couldn't reach the top of the tree to put in the branches. The kids couldn't reach the tree at ALL. Seth in his pained stupor, came up with the idea to...move the tree to the floor and decorate it there. Wonderful!
I hauled the tree (now fully put together) to the floor and we commence with decorating traditions. Hot chocolate and brownies, hanging ornaments. Josiah's screaming, Seth's worried about spills, and Sally can't seem to keep an ornament on the tree. They all fall off when she walks away. I'm snapping pictures like a madwoman and too soon it's over. Now the real fun begins...It's time for me to PICK UP THE DECORATED TREE and place it gingerly on the table. Right, since I'm secretly the hulk. I managed lift off with a little aid from Seth but then...whoa to the right, then left, then some shattering, and finally I slam it onto the table.

Sigh.

The top of the tree won't fit. Seth and I look at each other and Eli speaks for us all when he says, "It doesn't look like a real Christmas tree." That's true, dear one, it looks like a Christmas bush. I laid the top of the tree horizontally and mounded some lights on it and called it a night. When I plugged in the lights all of the kids cheered, so I would say we've had success.

Some photos from the evening...Seth and the kiddos, Josiah finally stops crying so he can make a phone call on my lens cap, and the girls dropping hanging ornaments on the Christmas bush.

Good Gifts

After spending one hour in Toys-R-Us today, I'm done. I stood next to a woman who had some 'line rage'. It freaked. Me. Out. People lose their minds during this time of year. It's the shopping equivalent of road rage. She watched the cashier interact with other costumers and saw errors being made and price checks radioed to the back. I watched her as the heat started rising in her face and pretty soon she's squawking at the next person who asks, "Are you in line?" It's unpleasant to watch.

I think I'm done with leaving the house. Make a guess on what I spent for five kids, I double dare you to hit it on the nose. It's a little tricky because I had two coupons and the insurance company gave us some cash to replace toys ruined in the flood. Also, bought Eli two presents for his birthday. My biggest hint: I really pared down from our normal madness. Guess away, but there's nothing in it for you except for satisfaction.

Last year, I posted a list of families who were fundraising as gift ideas for those of you who are clueless. Jill posted a comprehensive list of links to organizations that will use your money wisely. I'm not about to duplicate perfection, so if you are in search of a gift for the person who already has everything (we live in America, who doesn't have everything?) go visit her blog and find something wonderful there.

Along those lines...I have a great friend who is adopting. She's the kind of friend that I have yet to meet, but we've had many long talks over the phone about her amazing adoption. She can't mention her fundraising efforts on her blog, but I can! So, how about you leave me a comment with your email and I'll send it along to her so you can order something. She had their website printed on the products, but has since disabled it (just do what the agency says...) I personally find humor in wearing a t-shirt with a website listed that no longer exists. It's a conversation starter, not that I need more of those. Sheesh, my family is a conversation starter.

Here are a few pictures...

December 3, 2008

Start thinking...

Jill showed this video to me at her house a few weeks ago. I can't help but feel convicted for going overboard during the holidays. Having kids helps ease the guilt because I use them as my excuse for going bonkers. We don't want to disappoint, do we? Certainly the children will be utterly destroyed if there aren't mounds of gifts under the tree. Today, Everett was giving Sally the lowdown on Christmas rituals around our house. He said, "Mommy and Daddy usually just give us like 3 presents, we get lots more from the grandparents." Oh, really? If he thinks we only give them three presents, why bother giving him more? So, this Christmas, why don't you join me in being radical?

November 30, 2008

I'm Back

How do I follow up on a post from a month ago? I lost contact with the outside world the day I left our house a month ago. My parent's house is grand and comfy, but without internet or phone lines. We enjoyed the respite, but I felt bad that I left everyone hanging while we waited for our house to become livable. Then we waited some more, then we went on vacation. When we came home my modem had blown up so I managed another week without internet.

I hate trying to play catch up and I'm still surrounded by chaos. So, I'll do the easy thing and just post some pictures. You just checked in here to see the cuties, anyway, right?

First, and posted on everyone else's blogs, was a fun time meeting families from NC who have adopted or are adopting with AWAA's Ethiopian program. These guys we've 'known' since the beginning. It was wonderful to meet our friends. We got the blessing of converging on the Coen's for the weekend. Silas and Josiah were roomies in Ethiopia. Silas turned one last week, Happy Birthday! We also got to visit with Team D for an evening. My boys envied after their Star Wars collection and I envied Shari's bookshelves. Then off to the beach for a week!
Sally and Josiah's first visit to the 'real' ocean, not just the big lake. Sally asked my mil, "Where does all this water go?" She had a great time, but will enjoy it all the more next time when it's warmer and SHE can get into the pool instead of watching from the side. Only 6 more weeks until she's without a cast!! We had a few casualties, Ella and Josiah ended up soaking wet. Both of them even went back for more after their near death experience.

We left the beach while it was snowing and headed up to Jamestown for the day. We had a delightful, yet freezing, time. We have been working our way through the 1600's this year so the visit was timely as far as school goes. Kudos to the grandparents for being brave enough to invite us to join them for the week. Thanks!
Upon arriving home, the house is still a disaster. We have a ceiling, hot water, and electricity. The bathroom is demolished, but slowly coming together. I wouldn't have expected living with one toilet to be a trial. Everyone has to 'go' at the same time, causing running, screaming, and jostling on a regular basis.

November 5, 2008

This is what I woke up to...

...and I still voted. What's your excuse? I guess I did have a little extra time; we were awakened by Everett at 3:45 am exclaiming "EMERGENCY"!!! We hopped out of bed to find that a valve had blown off under the sink in the bathroom (an undetermined number of hours ago) and was spraying water everywhere. Seth ran down to the basement and turned off the water; in doing so he realized the impact was slightly more than just the upstairs bathroom or even hallway. There was a torrential downpour in the dining room and the basement below. About fifteen minutes later, as we're frantically trying to "mitigate the water damage" I heard a creaking sound and a rushing of water, this was followed by losing about a quarter of our ceiling as it plummeted to the floor with a loud crash (see left). Several hours later, after our best attempts to handle the situation "at the lowest level" and some arm twisting from the insurance company they brought in the big guns. We now have a sampling of state of the art drying apparatus positioned strategically around the house (see right). The kids and I were ordered to leave, so we're on "vacation" to beautiful Mom and Dad's house for at least five days. It looks like we'll be getting a new bathroom, several refinished floors, some new carpet and a new ceiling. Not to mention some "stuff" to replace the "stuff" that was destroyed. I emphasize stuff, because that's really all it is; this is not a tragedy, simply an inconvenience. By the way, Chuck Baldwin won right?! Maybe this flood destroying a TV and a computer isn't such a bad thing after all, this way I can just write history as I imagine it to be.

November 3, 2008

Families in Ethiopia and Waiting Children

The families who were in Ethiopia last week arrived home safely this weekend and five more families are meeting their children today. Exciting times! Visit them at their blogs: the Nunez family, the Terwillegers, the Hammonds, the Brittons, and the Laughners.

I got an email yesterday about the Rainbow Kids website. There's a lot on the site, but the most important, by far, is the listing of waiting children. If you are early in the process of adopting, or thinking about adoption, please go check out their list! There are many children in Ethiopia (sibling groups too!) listed as waiting for families. These kids are ready for adoption, but need a family who is ready with their dossier (or paperchasing) to get matched. Take a few minutes and visit the site! Pass it on to those you know who may be interested in adopting!

November 2, 2008

Fall...

Rarely do I get a picture of all five kids that is *just* what I want. We had an exceptionally (70 degrees, people! I thought we had slid down the country and stopped in Florida) warm day on Friday. I took my camera, kids, and candy to the park. The pictures I took were all flops and on our way back to the playground (to eat the bribery candy, of course) I took this picture. What is remarkable to me is the order that the five kiddos lined up--from oldest to youngest. It's the absolute best picture of our day and completely candid.

October 31, 2008

Uhhhhh...

Twice today I had parental fumbles. Fumbling is not unusual, but it steams me when it could have been prevented. The kids are old enough to catch me bumbling with "Errrr, uhhhh, umm" and then they have the audacity to laugh. Laughing at wise mommy...the nerve!

When I picked the guys up from art class, I was informed that a 'big kid' had made some nasty comments about Ella's hand. I then got some details on exactly what happened from Eli. He is the informant of the family, but confuses his details and Everett generally ends up talking over Eli with the truth. I was buckling everyone into the van when Eli said, "This big kid, he's like 10 or something, said Holy Cow to Ella's hand. Then he said it was a freaky hand and Ms. T had to get him in trouble."

Sigh. I could have filed away a perfect speech for this. In my free time I should start coming up with answers to questions that I can't shouldn't respond to on the fly. The following is the perfect example of what happens when I try to think while buckling...

"WHAT IN THE WORLD? Well...hmmm, that wasn't very nice of him, was it?" Ella was welling up with tears looking at me during Eli's rehearsal of the dialogue.

"Okay, you know what I think...I think that kid is a...big dumb dumb. I mean it. I think...well, I think he's stupid. Yeah, he's stupid." Now, I'm holding Ella's chin and looking in her eyes (and I've forgotten what a tried and true 'good' mom would do). "You listen to me, when some nasty kid says something ugly like that to you, if I'm not around to remind you, you just think, 'My mom tells me you are stupid.' Say it with me. He's stupid. He's stupid. He's a stupid boy to say something so mean. Honestly, God made all of us different, just look around our van! It's sad that that boy isn't bright enough to see that God made each of us special and it's wonderful that he made you different than everyone else. He has a reason for each of us to be the way we are. So I'm telling you to think it to yourself, 'Well, my mom thinks you are stupid.' "

Yeah, the only thing is...I don't let my kids says things like stupid and dumb. I'm also thinking there might be some fist fights later on when my little girl VERBALLY passes on my "stupid" comment. Good thing she has three brothers.

Then in the van that night, Eli asked how babies got out of their mommy's bellies. Always trying to put off the inevitable, Seth told him that it was just a little too late at night to start that discussion. That prompted a line of questioning until Seth told him that women have an invisible zipper inside their stomachs that only babies can operate.

I'm thinking that this is probably not a good solution. I leaned over and said that maybe he should give them a better answer--like the truth. He gawked. Then Everett said, "No, really, how do they get out of there? Do they burst out, what happens?" We just realized (we are really slow) that Everett hears everything we say when we are in the van.

So I told them. I told them the absolute truth. Ella and Sally were stuck on udders and milk and cows so the conversation quickly turned to 'why don't horses have udders'. Thankfully. Since I was getting a little...ahem...flustered. They now have heard the truth. Not the whole truth. I will try to remember to tell them that they cannot share this new found knowledge with the general populace at church. I'll probably forget though, so if my kids hang out with your kids, you might just want to go ahead and have 'that discussion'. Not the whole discussion! Please, spare me those questions! I need another 10 years to think about what to say. Or I can hand it over to Seth, "There's this stork..."

October 25, 2008

This post is just to let you all know that our house isn't all emotional chaos and medical novelties.

The big boys taught encouraged the littlest boy to take on a new challenge. You can only imagine what it may be. I'll just say that they told me my mom tried her hardest to keep Josiah from exhibiting his skills at the table. She was unsuccessful in deterring him. Why would he quit doing something that brings gales of laughter from his biggest fans?

I took pictures of him DURING LUNCH. I thought I would post a few, but Seth laughed so hard when he saw them he told me to put them into a slide show complete with soundtrack. This video will reveal that my dear husband is indeed a HUGE nerd, because he came up with the "perfect" music all on his own. I'm proud to say that I've never actually seen a 2001 space odyssey anything.


October 24, 2008

Travelers

This week families from our agency left to pick up their kids. Some of these kids we met while in Ethiopia. It's so exciting to watch them 'come home'. Here are the sites: Redferns, Schmidts, Lusse, and VanWettens.

There are going to be a flood of families traveling in the next month. Courts in Ethiopia closed from August to October. Once they re-opened, families could pass court and travel about two weeks later.

October 22, 2008

Sally's Update



We had Sally's first visit with her doctor last night. We brought all of the kiddos because the local paper wants to do an article on Sally's surgery, our family, etc--since we are so interesting (read-crazy). I'm more than happy to talk about how the Lord has blessed us and provided for our family, especially Sally's miraculous surgery and recovery. We met the journalist and had a wonderful conversation with her before seeing Sally's x-rays. She got rave reviews from her doctor. Everything is still in place and looks fantastic. The second best bit of news was that we won't need to see him again until she's re-casted. Not that we don't like her doctor, but hauling five children to the office is cumbersome.


I'm about to show you the coolest thing--her old MRIs. I guess that sentence just gave me away as a huge nerd (you have to say that in robot voice to really savor it). It's too bad I didn't have these copies earlier, as maybe it would help you to see what was going on in her back. I should have tried to get a copy of the x-rays they did last night, being able to see the rods and rib in place would probably help too. I'm a visual learner (and a huge nerd).


Well, there's a cliff hanger if I ever left one. My scanner is off and I'm too lazy or tired or both to clear off the stack of children's artwork from the top to turn it on. I'll scan the copies in the morning. I will be well rested and chipper. Since that happens one day out of seven.
Okay, I'm a little late, but here are the scans:
The first is my fav, you can see basically her brain to her bottom. It's from June. The light gray area in front of her bump is the infection. You can see the deteriorated bones between the abcess and her spinal cord.

This one is from September, right before surgery. It's a closer view, shows the same as above, just more damage done. Again, the gray area is the infection, you can see it's eaten up her bones and is right up against her spinal cord.

The Saga Continues

At 3:30 in the morning Seth and I woke up. Errr, we were already awake because Josiah had been fussing for a long time. He was finally quiet and perhaps (though at the time I dared not think it) even asleep when we heard thumping coming from downstairs. Thumping never exudes comfort, especially in the wee hours of the morning. Seth, in his courageous state, went to investigate. I tried to keep my eyes open in the off chance that he needed some aid in throwing out whomever was thumping their way into our house.

It took a while for him to return to bed, but at some point I heard a toilet flush and knew all must be well. Intruders won't usually take the time to use the facilities while breaking in, right?

He was laughing. The thump, thump, thump was Ella hopping on one leg (remember, she's got a prosthesis that she doesn't sleep in) to the bathroom. He heard the toilet running and glanced into her room. She was wide awake staring at him. When he got up to her bed he asked if she was okay. She just stared. Can't imagine why, except...maybe...she still had food in her mouth?

He said, "Can you talk to me?" She shook her head in the negative.

My friend told me we should contact Guiness about this. I'm inclined to agree. I can see the title: World's most stubborn little girl manages to hold food in her mouth for a record breaking nine hours.

The morning went well, Ella woke up eager to eat. Unfortunately, during breakfast I noticed vomit all over the back of her jammies. Upon removing them, I noticed it in her hair. She politely informed me that she did throw up in her bed. Like its no big deal to puke and then lay in it. Dear me.

After two showers--TWO showers since the first one didn't remove all of the unconsumed pasta--life seems back to status quo until lunch.

October 20, 2008

What's a Mom to do?

I just put my daughter to bed. Her cheeks were filled with lasagna. And her epilepsy medication. It gets even better. She had eaten that lasagna almost 2 hours ago. I think I smelled vomit, but it was just her and the lasagna...digesting in her mouth. I couldn't bear to kiss her cheek so I did something I would never picture myself doing. I blew her a kiss and waved goodnight...from a pretty good distance.

What is this madness?

This is Ella four years after leaving a Ukrainian orphanage. Still dealing with 'food issues'. When we brought that cute two year old home we never expected to hear the doctor tell us that she was "failing to thrive" after three months with us. I expected more obvious behaviors--hoarding, rocking, night terrors, but got none of those. I suppose we should have been happy that our daughter wasn't struggling with other things. Instead, she was voluntarily starving herself to have control over some facet of her seemingly out of control life. We pleaded, coerced, and tried to force her to eat. We tried all kinds of foods to no avail. We couldn't tempt her with anything. I finally started feeding her half and half mixed with pediasure powder. She drank constantly and this was one way to give her some calories.

I don't remember when Ella started eating, but it happened. It's never been quite 'right' though. I always thought that at some point everything would just click for our daughter. One day, she would wake up and shake off the orphanage dust. Sadly, the survival skills that she learned as a toddler have stuck. As time passes, the behaviors don't rear their heads too often--nothing like those first few months at home. But every once in a while, subliminally, Ella reverts back. And watch out, because life is about to get pretty ugly.

Last week, Ella wouldn't eat her lunch. It was the usual fare, stuff she always eats. I put it away and told her she could have it for dinner. Then, I sent her to her room for a while. That seemed to be what she needed and she happily ate her dinner. A few days later the same thing happened. But, all was still well...until Sunday. She decided to pull out the big guns, by refusing lunch and dinner. Then this morning, she didn't eat breakfast. She didn't eat lunch. She finally ate dinner (it was passable to us--three bites of lasanga). Our policy is to just ignore her. We let her know that if she doesn't eat, she can miss out on the fun thing we will be doing after the meal. Very nonchantly and calm. Always calm, always cool, always scoring a point for the parents. Sometimes, Seth and I even meet for little sessions in the bathroom to figure out our next game plan. I'm serious.

Yeah, didn't work so well this time. Sunday, we figured out that we needed to turn up the heat a bit. I turned a MOVIE on after lunch yesterday and she still wouldn't eat. She lives for TV time. This was a serious anty upping on our part. She wouldn't budge. Seth popped popcorn. Still no dice. Fine, just sit on your bed and be hungry. It got a little more serious today when she started holding food in her mouth. She took one bite at breakfast and just refused to swallow. This may sound bizarre to you, but we've been seeing it around here for, oh, about four years. The I'll-take-a-bite-but-you-can't-make-me-swallow routine. She's obviously got some skills since she ate lasagna for dinner and managed to hold it in her mouth until bedtime. Seth thought that was a record breaker, but I can't wait to call him in the morning and let him know that she woke up with a mouthful of lasagna.

Why is she doing this? Great question, if you have the answer please contact me immediately. My first response is that she wants attention. She doesn't care what kind of attention she gets (we learned this early on), so even negative attention will do if she feels like she's missing out. My second guess is because we were gone at the hospital, life is out of control, yada, yada. That doesn't jive with her waiting two weeks before starting this nonsense. So, I'm thinking it's got to be attention. Which is why Seth and I have to pump ourselves up not to give her attention for this mess. And we chastise ourselves for not seeing sooner that maybe she was feeling left out. She gives us no warnings that she's about to burst. It would have been nice for her to pull me aside last week and say, "Mommy, I'm feeling a little weird about Sally being hurt. I want some special attention like she's getting."

Too bad I don't let her watch Dr. Phil or maybe that would have happened. Except I've never heard her string together that many words at one time. Sigh. Tomorrow is a new day. I have high aspirations for that bowl of cheerios.

October 17, 2008

Recouperating


A week has passed and I didn't even notice. Sally seems to be almost completely back to herself. She's still getting a dose of medication every six hours. She's pleading to ride her bike and go back to church. She still spends part of her day laying on the floor. She drags a quilt around the house and flops down on it when the mood strikes her. Since that won't fly in Sunday School, she's still staying at home on Sundays.

We have had a week of 'normal.' Normal for us may not seem normal for you. We had school at home every morning, went to art lessons, went to the park, and took many, many walks. The madness of our daily lives was delightfully...mundane. Blissful, even.

October 9, 2008

Josiah's One!



Today our baby turned one. Everett spent most of the day telling him he's too old for...whining, crying, crawling, bottles, etc. With all of the surgery drama I had set myself up for being in the hospital today. I decided that we wouldn't *tell* Josiah that his first birthday was celebrated a week or more later. He had the best gift we could hope for--our family all present as he celebrated his first year. It was nothing fabulous by traditional standards--we will do the hyped up celebration later with extended family. Here's a clip of Josiah on his first birthday...just started walking in the past few days, thinking he's the only reason anyone ever laughs, and generally the most spoiled kid around. We adore this baby...is he still a baby?


Disclaimer: If you are in a public place you may want to do a little volume control. By most standards our house is LOUD. We sing in this clip. I mean, we scream in this clip. Josiah joins in and it gets obnoxious. Also, I had more control over the candle than the video portrays (that's for our social worker, just in case she's watching).

Pictures from the week

I took pictures all week long. Some for Sally, some for our kids at home (I didn't want them to come into ICU and freak out). You've READ about the past week, but pictures are always a nice balance. I'll put them in here chronologically...
Happy and clueless before surgery. She's pretty pumped about the 'fancy duds' we are wearing. The hospital's program allows one parent back in the OR but you've got to be dressed appropriately.

This is what Sally looked like when we got to her in the ICU. I took this and sent it home with my mom so she could let the kids see Sally. We weren't sure if they would be okay visiting her the next day, but they were. She said when Eli woke up on Friday the first thing he said was, "Did you bring a picture of Sally home last night?"

Our first glimpse of a smile. This was the "retake" after she saw her frowning face in another photo. She's without ventilator and various tubes by this point.

Feeling good enough to wear her handmade hospital gown. She got so many compliments on her assorted hospital garb and everyone LOVED her quilt (that's for you, Grandma).
In a moment of drug induced stupor Sally needed Dora to cuddle with her. That's a gigantic Dora balloon, by the way.
First meal in three days. Chicken broth, delightful.
I was a proud mama. All of the children were so brave. They are so little, but came to the hospital and absolutely tried their best to cheer their little sister up. They clamored for her attention and did silly things to make her smile. She adored their brief visits.
My three sisters came through with the one gift I tried to find for Sally before surgery--a Maisy doll. She came in the mail and was delivered by the three kids (who gave all credit to the Aunts). Sally was beside herself (well, as joyful as you can be while in pain and under the influence of drugs).
Seth took this picture because...it's funny. Really, when the nurse brought these diapers in we couldn't stop laughing. I think they are a men's large. Obviously, they didn't work very well. Every nurse that came in had heard about our "explosion". She's in her turtle shell, this is before her permanent casting.
Yesterday in the playroom. Her first time walking since surgery. I couldn't believe that we were even trying it! Thrilled beyond belief, she wanted me to call 'the guys' so they could come and meet her in the playroom.

We are home!

Yesterday, Sally walked down the hallway to the play room. That was our last step to get sent home. Her doctor couldn't believe that he was letting us leave, but we got home yesterday afternoon. The past week has been a blur, but an amazing experience in seeing God answer the prayers of so many people.

In a moment of quiet last night before bed, I told Seth that I couldn't believe this week was over. The past month I've felt like this would be such a traumatic experience it would be 'The Event'. All other hardships would be compared to this and probably fall short. I honestly thought we would have weeks, if not longer, in the hospital. Followed by months of recovery at home.

Seth looked at me and said, "I thought she was going to die."

Sitting on the other side of that, realizing we are back to normalcy. I'm baffled. I'm thankful. I'm ready to cry at any moment. I'm praising God.

Thank you so much for encouraging us. Thank you for being the prayer warriors when I was falling short. For waking up at odd hours and talking to God about Sally when quite possibly that was the moment she was crying out in pain. I can't thank you enough!

October 8, 2008

Day 6: Out of ICU! Home soon?

We moved late last night from ICU into a regular room. This was a nice step in the right direction. The criteria for her release today was for her to walk and continue to eat and drink; she's done all three so far today. She walked around in the play room and played and painted for a while, then she walked all the way back to the room (a couple hundred yards). So, it looks like we're on target to leave sometime today!

Ortho doctor stopped by to check out his handiwork on Sally's cast. He compared her x-rays after casting to the x-rays immediately after surgery and said they are exactly the same. So, even after all of her rolling, moving, and attempts to dislodge the grafted rib, everything is perfectly in place. She's a little uncomfortable because of how tight her cast is, the belly hole is a little window compared to her last cast. If she complains too much we'll call the 'Cast Man' and he can cut it up some. As he was leaving, the doctor said, "She has done amazing. Usually these kids are in here for a few weeks."

Huh?! We expected about a week, if all went well. I guess usually kids don't do quite as well as her. The PICU nurses were calling her a superstar. She's an amazing, resilient little girl, BUT she has a Father in heaven who works in miraculous ways and we give him all credit and glory for her experience this week. I'm still in awe.

October 7, 2008

ICU Day 5

We had a good night last night. Sally is stuck in ICU until we can get her pain under control. Last night was the first time that she wasn't crying every hour or two. This morning, we were told that she was having her casting early. It worked out well because she had just had a dose of Tylenol and was "chipper" as we rolled her downstairs to the cast room.

We aren't sure what will happen today after she is in this cast. As far as we know, she will be in ICU for today. We are hopeful that she will be admitted to the regular floor today with plans to leave Thursday.

UPDATE--Sally is in the cast (from chin to hip) and still on target to leave tomorrow or Thursday. I know I'm feeling good about her complete encasement in plaster, but she seems a little 'miffed' about it. No more slipping out of her protective shell at 2 am...

The doc found a fabulous product for her--gortex pantaloons. I snicker at the name, but am overjoyed that she won't soak the cast with urine...today. Next week--maybe, but today the gortex is there protecting it from stinkiness. She will be in a cast for three months, getting it changed out after six weeks.

Right now she's sitting up coloring for the first time since we got here. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude to God for seeing her through this with such an amazing outcome.

October 6, 2008

ICU- day 4

Last night was beautiful. The upped meds yesterday (and Tylenol by mouth) made an amazing difference in Sally's disposition. Seth went home yesterday to take care of the kids. Sally drifted off most of the day, but when she was awake she was pleasant. We actually had a full conversation for the first time in days:
"Mommy, Rara has earrings. I want earrings, too."
"Maybe when you have your birthday. Then you can be sure you really want them. Ella doesn't want them because it hurts at first."
"For my happy birthday I want them. I want a ring like yours, too." Riiiiight. I feel bad about all this mess, but I'm not about to buy you an engagement ring, dearie.

This morning we eagerly waited for the general surgeon to come in and check out the drainage from Sally's chest tube. When he came in, the PA with him said, "How do you say her name?" He looked over and said, "Haven't you ever read the Bible?" Seth laughed long and hard about that, since Salome (we messed with the spelling to aid pronunciation) is only in there twice.

The surgeon said that she hadn't had hardly anything drain during the night and we could proceed with removing it. Plans for that and casting were made until our ortho doc came in and said he was afraid to put her in a permanent cast since she may...ahem...foul it up. She had a *little* explosive action last night in the diaper she was wearing. It took three of us to get everything cleaned up. Needless to say, putting her into something permanent while she's struggling to get onto the potty is probably a bad idea. So we will wait until tomorrow.

While he was here, he decided to just get rid of the chest tube and central line (stack of IVs coming from her neck). Quite a bit of drama and hysterics involved in that little operation, but we are one step closer to leaving ICU. He said that we should leave the hospital on Wednesday!

October 5, 2008

ICU day 3

Can it be? Today we are halfway through our hospital stay. We hope. Last night was the worst yet. Sally's developed a tolerance for her pain medications and wasn't on oral medications yet (which last longer). She spent a good part of the night moaning, crying, and chanting something in a language I couldn't understand. I told the nurse she was singing an Ethiopian mourning song and he thought I was serious. Nevertheless, she was upset, we were upset and there wasn't a thing we could do. She wanted to move, move, move and finally moved herself out of her splint to the point of screaming with discomfort. Neither the nurse nor I (in my cognizant state) could understand right away what she was so upset about. Once we saw what had happened I almost lost it. I keep picturing these precariously positioned ribs getting jarred by a false move. We managed to safely manuever her into the splint and she fell asleep.

She got rid of all tubing from her nose yesterday (joy, joy!). Today, she starts eating again. After last night, the doc has started her on codiene by mouth in addition to the IV meds. She took that (with much pleading and prodding) and then had a popsicle. Life is good. She's been waiting for popsicles since Thursday. We haven't heard nary a moan for at least 2 hours. Where was the peace last night?

Still waiting on the chest tube to come out tomorrow (if she keeps up with her great progess) then we can get out of ICU. Not that I'm terribly anxious to get out of here. We've scored the biggest room. We have extra beds so Seth and I can stay in the room all night. The big kids have come by daily to visit with Sally and it's uplifted her spirits to see them. She's trying really hard and so are they. The child life specialists have an activity room and library for the hospitalized kids and siblings. We take turns with one or two kids in ICU while someone else plays in the activity room. That has been a blessing. I probably wouldn't get to see the kids at all if we didn't have that room. They can only sit in a hospital room for so long before anxiety kicks in. Josiah, for obvious reasons, has only been in for a few minutes to see Sally. I took a picture of Sally yesterday with Ella, when she looked at it she made me take another so she could smile. It looks like a grimace, but I'll post it when I get a chance.

ICU doc just visited. She's "doing beautifully". I'm trying not to think about the 'what might have been' and just thank God for what is right now.

October 4, 2008

ICU-day 2

Sally had a rough night. She's (medically) doing phenomenal, but she's started to get very uncomfortable. She's lucid long enough to start welling up with tears. If she gets to that point the nurse gives her a boost of sedative to calm her down. She's got a continuous drip of pain relief, but sometimes it isn't enough. Last night, Seth took the early shift (until 4 am) while I slept then we switched. Sally slept most of the night, but woke up at least once an hour to ask us to move her. She has this idea that if she can just wiggle off to one side of the bed then she will find relief. So one of us has to be awake to answer her and then grab a nurse to help us roll her to one side.


Today we hope that she can get rid of all tubes coming from her nose (it's good to have goals, especially in the hospital). If she can hold down her stomach juices, then they will take out the stomach tube. It looks like she'll lose a tube a day. Hoping to be out of ICU on Monday.


Here are some pictures from the visit yesterday...





Thank you for your prayers, visits, and emails! Sally has been 'pleased' to hear about everyone praying for her.

October 3, 2008

Intensive Care-day 1

7:30 am Last night, the doctor pulled Sally off of the paralyzing drugs that she's on and she moved her feet on command! She's doing amazing, breathing with the ventilator and moving her hands and feet. She should be weaned off the ventilator today. Right now she's waking up more often. She's unhappy for obvious reasons. Her hands are tied down and she has tubes everywhere. Her worst enemy is the respiratory therapist who came every hour during the night to suck mucous out of her lungs. Sally would startle awake and thrash her hands during the procedure (that lasts just a few seconds). She is trying to talk to us, but can't. I can't imagine her anger with this since she's the nonstop chatterbox of our house (if you know the other kids this should mean a lot to you). Once the breathing tube comes out she should at least be able to express her anger verbally.

Personally, I was up all night. The nurses came in once an hour to fiddle with her. I jumped out of the chair and ran to Sally every time--that sleepless, middle of the night, stupor that makes you act wild. Seth slept in the room with us. I'll repeat that, he slept. At 5:30 I couldn't bear laying there any longer. I stood next to Sally's bed and lost it. I've held it in for so long. Once I let myself feel relieved about surgery and how well she's doing, I couldn't stop myself from weeping. I'm in a place I never imagined I'd be. I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for God's care and just cried. I was crying, thanking God for all of you who were praying for our daughter yesterday. I was crying because she's been such a trooper and I'm terrified of what today holds for her. Then, Sally woke up. With clarity, she looked right at me.

I couldn't stop myself and couldn't talk. I was caught by her doing the one thing that I wasn't allowed to do with her watching--bawling my eyes out. Seth came over (chiding me) while I tried to compose myself (which didn't happen). Finally, I gave up on sucking in the tears and hoped she wouldn't notice. She was visibly upset and so I started telling her about the people who are praying for her, grandparents that are going to visit, and then I said, "Maybe the guys (that's what she calls the three big sibs) can come and see you today. Do you want them to come here?"

A glorious thing happened, she looked at me and gave me the 'Ethiopian nod'. I didn't think she was even listening to me. She's mad, confused, and hurting, but she's still sweet, strong, Sally.

Thank you for your prayers and wonderful comments (if you haven't left one for Sally go visit the "For Sally" post). You have all been a blessing to us; I'll continue to update as Sally makes progress.

2:30 Sally's been off the ventilator for several hours now. Then she was on O2 for a couple of hours but is off that now as well. She is breathing well, but is still quite uncomfortable. She's making tremendous progress; she's able to talk to us and let us know what she needs and how she's feeling. The rest of the kids and grandparents were able to come and visit with her for a couple of hours, take advantage of the local attractions (foos ball, air hockey, library...) and enjoy a delicious trip to the cafeteria.

We should be in ICU for a few days until her chest tube is removed. We (and the staff) are amazed at her progress--truly answered prayers. Thank God for her quick recovery this far. Please continue to pray for her as she is in pain and being weaned from the 'strong stuff' that has kept her sleeping until now.

October 2, 2008

Surgery Day

7:30 Sally and Apryl go back to the operating room. Sally gets freaked out in the OR because of all the commotion. She calms down a little and soon passes out.

8:45 Nurse called to say that surgery has begun. It took a while for anesthesia to put in various IVs and get her prepared.

9:30 Our favorite ortho nurse stopped by to let us know that Sally's rib is out and they now have access to her back. She said that she is doing well and they will let us know as progress is made with cleaning out the abscess.

11:20 Doctor just updated us. He's done with the first part of surgery! This is an answer to prayer!! He said the infection was contained and easy to clean out. Once they opened her up, her tissue was healthy and free of infection. They cleaned the infectious mass out and then removed the vertebrae that were affected. The rib that they removed was long enough for him to cut in half and use both pieces for support. He left one piece connected to the blood supply (it will grow) and anchored both pieces to the healthy vertebrae on top and bottom. Her nerve function is great, and the general surgeon is closing her up right now. He will begin the rod implants shortly and expects that to last for three hours.

12:45 The Doctor called the waiting area and said they have started the second half of the surgery (ie. rod implants). We thought we were already on our way with this, but it took a little longer to get her closed up. Now begins the last three hours of waiting.

3:15 Another update...the surgery is still underway and is still going well!

4:00 Rod implant surgery is over! They are closing her up. The doctor will be out with a report soon.

5:30 Doctor is here--Sally is on her way to ICU. She is doing absolutely wonderful!! Praise God, she's got FULL nerve function, and never even had any blips on the monitor. She lost only 400cc of blood and didn't need a transfusion (he said that is well below average blood loss during the surgery, we were expecting transfusions). The rods are placed, he added bone growth 'helper' to her vertebral column (the 'gutters' along the rods). Her ribs stayed perfectly in place during the flip to her back and we are waiting for x-rays to make sure everything is placed perfectly (chest tubes, etc). He didn't replace her cast, but put her into a splint-like shell to keep her stabilized, for fear that she may startle awake at some point and injure herself. The splint will allow her chest to be monitored more safely. On so many levels the surgery went perfectly--even better than perfect. God has answered our prayers today!

She still has a long road ahead. She will be ventilator for a few days, and still needs to wake up and wiggle her toes (hopefully sometime in the night otherwise they'll do it in the morning). Please THANK GOD for his care today and continue to pray for her as she recovers!

For Sally

I know that we are covered in prayer. I am blessed beyond understanding by the sheer volume of people praying for Salomae. Many of you will be checking on her today by reading our blog. When Sally is a little older, I would like to be able to tell her about all of you who have been prayer warriors for her. When you stop by today, would you do me the favor of leaving Sally a comment? I've made it simple, so all of you lurkers can come out of hiding--no blogger id needed, just click on 'comment' and follow the directions.

Thank you so much!

We've been crying in the waiting area as I'm reading your comments...

October 1, 2008

Our Last Appointment

Josiah wakes up really early most mornings. Today was no exception. He and I cuddled in the dark living room on the sofa as he finished his bottle. His eyes closed and we both started to drift off. I was trying to forget about laundry, lesson plans, and posting about surgery. Just enjoying the few moments I could with a baby that is usually too busy to cuddle. I settled in and thought he was asleep when he ripped the bottle out of his mouth and burped in my face. Such is motherhood, I suppose.

Instead of cuddling, here I sit trying to remember everything that we talked about last night. The important stuff? Since the doctor hasn't done this exact, specific surgery before, he doesn't know how long it will take. **side note--that sounds horrible, he hasn't cleaned TB off of a kid's spine, but he's done a strut graft and fusion before, so don't freak out** The complicated part is cleaning out the infected bone and abscess. The general surgeon is going to do that (he's got experience cleaning TB out of organs). After that, he'll take a rib and anchor it into healthy vertebrae on the top and bottom. Then he will flip her over and put anchors and rods along the weak area of her back. He said it could take from 2 to 10 hours to get the first part done. He feels very confident about the surgery and about the final results.

I can't possibly recall what we talked about for an hour, but I left feeling much better than when I arrived. I was at the 'vomiting point' on our way up. Obviously, it doesn't take much to feel better than that.

Here's the last picture of Sally's 'bump' before surgery...

September 29, 2008

Sweetness

Today, pulmonology had to give Sally a once over to make sure she's healthy enough for surgery. We've not met this doctor, but he's heard about us for months. He's seen x-rays, MRIs, CTs, and reports but never actually seen the cute face that belongs with all of the junk. He gave us good news. Then he gave me a reality check. I don't really want to face reality at this point. I'm trying my best to just press on towards Thursday in the hopes that I won't have an emotional breakdown before then.

He gave me a rundown of the various tubes I should be expecting to see coming from Sally when she's in ICU. Then, he explained what would be coming or going from the said tubes. Then, he told me about lungs collapsing and pneumonia. Then, I asked how long we should expect Sally to be in ICU and he replied, "Oh, three to seven days." Like so nonchalant. I guess he didn't meet up with the planner in my mind that had us there about two days. Big difference in two and seven. Especially when you are talking about sleeping in a chair and watching your kid live with tubes coming out of her everywhere. I was giving him my 'deer in the headlights but faking like I'm okay with everything he just said' look. I think he knew I was freaked out. I'm not a very good faker.

I picked up the rest of the brood from my dear, absolutely should be sainted, friend. We went home and unloaded more groceries (I bought 10 loaves of bread today, I'm officially losing my mind). I laid the baby down for a nap. The biggies and I made chocolate chunk cookies.

Yeah, I'm thinking that's probably not numero uno on the list of things to do days before your daughter goes into surgery. I missed getting that list upon arrival at parenthood. So, I'm making up my own rules and they include chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. While our deliciousness was baking, I pulled out odds and ends of schoolwork to finish. This caused a barrage of complaining by the eldest child (who has determined that he needs to go directly to college since he's done with this nonsense). His murmurs blended well with the bickering of two more children and I had to send everyone to opposite corners of the house. A moment later, eldest somersaults from his appointed chair onto cast enclosed daughter and slams her to the floor...face first.

I'm at my breaking point, folks. I sent the offending boy outside and followed him. Then I explained that I couldn't take little tiffs. They could wait until life was normal again and bother each other. For now we must all get along and OBEY me. Then, I sent him in to do his work like a pleasant child and I...bawled...like...a...baby.

I just sat in the sun and had myself an absolute sob fest. Shoulders shaking, tears streaming down my face, and crying to God. I haven't cried since the day we found out about Sally's surgery. She watched me cry in the elevator and still asks me, "Why did you cry when we were at the doctor's office?" Obviously, that made a big impact.

I've held it it for too long and let *some* of it out today. In front of 4 pairs of eyes. I heard their whispers through the screen, "Everett, what did you do to Mommy?" A minute or so later one of them said, "Mommy, do you need something?" Then a chorus of, "Can we help you? Are you okay?"

God, why did you make them so rotten with this wonderful sweet streak? I hugged them all and we sat down and ate too many chocolate chunk cookies. Still only three days until surgery, but for a few minutes that's forgotten.

September 28, 2008

No news

This is just a small update--we know nothing new. The MRI and CT went well; Sally knows the routine and is excited about getting popsicles after waking up from anesthesia. We have an appointment on Tuesday with the surgeon to hear his final plan for surgery. Most depends on what he sees from the scans Friday.

They did cut the cast off, but had to do it BEFORE she was knocked out. The anesthesiologist took one look at her and said he couldn't get her mouth to open wide enough to put her out. So they brought some 'happy juice' and the saw. It came off right there in pre-op. Sally was loopy, but managed to wail the entire time. He sanded the edges down so it won't cut her and then put it back on with bandages. My eyes actually started welling up with tears because of the strong odor. The inside of the cast is brown with dirt, funk, and skin. She had three flowers from a headband embedded in her back. She picks at the headband and I guess one day a few fell right down the back of the cast and got stuck. She also had some grass and unknown other items down there too. The nurse and I rubbed her down really well with a warm washcloth. Sally just kept repeating, "Ahhhh, more, more!"

That night she sat in the tub for a long time and I scrubbed and scrubbed. It was disgusting. She was ecstatic about taking a bath after so many weeks of just dipping her toes in.

Four more days until surgery...

September 26, 2008

Final MRI

My week started out rough. On Monday, my cat gifted us with a chipmunk. As I was trying to figure out what to do with the carcass, the little bugger jumped up and started racing around my living room. I screamed...for at least 10 minutes straight. The worst thing was I called Seth during the drama and thought he didn't answer-so I was screaming then hung up on him. The kids and I stood on the deck watching our cat chase this chipmunk through the dining room into the kitchen. At one point it tried to come out of the screen onto the deck with us--which lead to louder shrieking by me. I finally opened the screen door to see where it was and it came blazing out from under the table with the cat close behind. The phone was ringing in my hand and as I answered it, the stinkin' chipmunk ran for freedom right between my feet. I was SCREAMING and Seth was shouting into the phone, "Are you alright?!" Obviously, I had terrified him and finally mustered a "Chipmunk! House!" I'm embarrassed to admit to all that screaming, but I couldn't help myself. Seth calmly said, "I can't believe it. I'm hanging up now." Then I calmly turned to the kids and said, "Do you feel like you are stuck in a Disney movie?" I never would have thought that animals ran between screaming women's feet in real life. The chipmunk escaped alive, by the way.

That afternoon, I backed Moby into a mailbox at the piano teacher's house. At the grocery checkout afterwards, I had to leave my groceries on the belt and RUN with Sally to the bathroom because she has a terrible habit of waiting until urine is running down her legs before she mentions needing the facilities.

That was just Monday. Imagine four more days of incidents like that (though no more wild creatures have arrived inside the house). That would lead us to today. Sally has her pre-surgery MRI and CT. Afterwards, while she's still knocked out, her cast is going to be removed. I'm thinking that the guy who cuts it off may need a mask. It stinks so bad that Eli asked last night if worms would come out with it (yuck). Then Everett said, "Nah, not worms, but definitely lots of dirt. Tons of dirt."

Either way it's going to be nasty and they are planning on putting it back on her by wrapping a bandage around it. Personally, I think plans may change once they get a whiff. Like torching the thing the moment it comes off of her body. The doctor is nervous to let her be without it for the next week. So she'll get to take it off to bathe and sleep.

The scans today will give the doctors a last view of what they are dealing with. Hopefully, the abscess will be small and there will be no surprises. We will meet with him on Tuesday to hear his final plans for surgery. We are still praying that both surgeries (on her back and her front) can be completed Thursday. Prayerfully she'll need only a week to recover and then we will be home.

Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and recipes! You all have been a blessing to me and my family! I'll do my absolute best to update the blog as things happen next week. Please continue to lift Sally up in your prayers as surgery day approaches.

September 20, 2008

My Questions for You

We've got less than two weeks until surgery day. I'm making lists. They aren't productive lists though. They are stupid lists. I'm at the point of being overwhelmed beyond productivity. It isn't because I have so much to do. It's because I really don't know what I should be doing. So I've got some questions for you folks. Don't balk. Any opinion would be fine, I won't hold it against you if it isn't even a good, honest one. How's that for encouragement?

#1 I'm looking at one week, maybe two weeks, but possibly even a month or more in the hospital with Sally. I have my mother, my in laws, and my husband for help with our four non-hospitalized kids. That means they need meals. It could possibly be just 7 dinners (fending for breakfast and lunch is easy) but could be around a month of meals. Anyone have easy ideas for meals that I can freeze? Kid-friendly, but really easy for me to prep (remember, I've only got 11 days left) and just pop it in the oven and go? I'm willing to experiment with all kinds of crazy food, but I'm not about to leave my mom trying to convince Eli that he should eat the spinach stuffed shells.

#2 I haven't had a child in the hospital (excluding emergency room visits) so I don't know what to expect for a long term stay. Anyone have any advice on what to bring/do for Sally? How about advice on explaining surgery and hospitalization to a child who doesn't have a firm grasp of English? We've already read "Maisy goes to the hospital" about 1,568 times. Any other suggestions?

#3 What about the kids who have to stay at home? What kinds of things can I do now to prepare them? And (this is just merely because I'm curious) should I make them do school?

I'm making myself crazy. I feel like I'm getting ready to leave the country, but the hospital is only a scant 5 minutes away. I'll be coming home. Our kids will be coming to the hospital. My family can call if they can't find the casserole dishes. Though I'm planning on contributing to a landfill by supplying paper products for the time that others are responsible for maintaining sanity around here. Loving on the kids will be enough, I don't need to ask them to run the dishwasher...or cook...or wash clothes...or clean the bathrooms...

I appreciate all of you--your emails and comments have been so encouraging! I'm actually writing this post because so many of you were so helpful with the "stinky urine soaked cast" issue. I figured a bunch of genius' like you could help me a little more! Looking forward to hearing from you again!

Just to give you an idea of my mental state: I bought 15 jars of peanut butter today because they were on sale and (here's the kicker) "I don't want anyone to run out of peanut butter while I'm at the hospital." We do eat a lot of peanut butter, but I don't think we will be running out until 2015 much less in the next month.

September 15, 2008

Run in with an escalator

Today I found myself in a department store. With my children. I could probably end there and just let your imagination run wild with the antics that might take place when one woman takes five children into a department store. Reality can be so much more entertaining.

We just left the dentist. I should have gone directly home and taken a nap. But, Everett needs a pair of slacks for church. I decide that stopping at the department store wouldn't be a bad idea. I must have lost my mind. Every time I get home from an "event" I always forget about the looks, questions, and conversations that take place while I'm out. We are a spectacle. Five kids walking around with one adult would get some stares. One Asian child, two African children, and two white children walking around with one adult gets quite a few stares. Add to it that one child is in a cast up to her neck (talking LOUDLY ALL THE TIME) and we get more than looks. It's almost as if the Muzak in the background screeches off while we walk by.

We get into the store and ride the escalator to the second floor. Now, I realize that escalators can be dangerous. I've heard the 'crocs stuck in the escalator' stories. But they are high fun for kids. Especially the kid that hasn't been on an escalator since the plane trip home from Ethiopia. We shop, I see the prices, we get ready to leave. Our trip up to the second floor was so easy that I don't consider how careful I need to be on the ride back down. We are all seasoned riders now, right? I don't realize that you can't see how high you are as you ride up. Looking from the second floor down a moving staircase is terrifying.

Ella got on and then I stepped on (with baby in sling) and Sally ripped her hand out of mine and froze. I'm going down...down...down. Three of my kids are standing at the top. For a split second I consider running up the down...but I'm not Lara Croft. So I start yelling (this is more my modus operandi), "Everett stay with them! You guys just stay there! I'll be right back! But, GRACIOUS STEP AWAY FROM THE ESCALATOR BEFORE YOU FALL!!"

I slowly turn around as they step away and meet the stares of the entire cosmetics department. All conversation has ceased. All eyes are on me. Ho hum, nothing to see here folks. I'll just be running over to the other escalator. For fun.

I almost told Ella to stand by the earrings and wait (she was slowing me down) until I got my wits about me. Telling this child to stay put would be idiotic. Once, I gave a spiel about taking candy from strangers, helping to search for lost puppies, etc. After my 30 minute talk about stranger danger, I asked her what we say to strangers who offer us candy. Her reply, "Thank you!" Yep, can't leave her alone. Ever.

Ella and I get back onto the escalator and as I'm pulling her around the corner I hear this thumping noise. It's my other three kids who have overcome their fear of escalators and found out that playing with the rubber black handrail can be quite entertaining. Just as I'm almost to them, two concerned clerks approach them. And why wouldn't they? Three kids alone playing on the escalator? Sounds negligent to me. Dangerous even. I think I hear children's services being called as I grab two sets of hands and pull them onto the escalators. We safely make it down and I try to hold my head high as we make our exit. Sans new slacks and sanity.

September 8, 2008

Just for Auntie Gayle

Almost exactly one month ago we celebrated a wonderful event in our backyard. My Father-in-law (aka Popop) had his birthday. I won't disclose his age. My Mom told me the other day that '50 is the new 30' so that means that there are still many more years of wrestling with kids for dear old Popop.
Popop pictured with the grand kids (don't mind the man hiding behind the baby, Josiah regularly levitates).

We were joined by Aunt Gayle and Uncle Dale. I'm certain that they were completely and utterly overwhelmed by our obnoxious exuberant brood. (It doesn't matter how you slice it; five kids equals madness when compared to a household of two). We managed to put on quite a showstopper of an afternoon. Entertainment included high diving by Ella and Eli, pouting from a master-in-training (Salomae), and amazing eating feats by Josiah. Sadly, this could only be found exciting to those closely related to our prodigies. I saved the day by providing corn-on-the-cob. Who knew that Auntie Gayle was such a fan? It only took about 3 hours to grill on our slower than molasses contraption called a gas grill that your husband refuses to fix so you can just dump charcoal in it and grill that way. For years. And wonder why you even bother to grill at all.

Eli working his wonders as he flops (on his knees) into the pool from a standing position on the slide.

That said, Aunt Gayle must have been charmed because as she was screaming out of the driveway leaving; she gave me a gift for the kids. I promised her that I'd let her know what I decided to do with her 'little gift'. Drum roll please...

We threw the kids a party.

Once I thought about it, I figured they didn't need more toys (though they would have been happy with that). It's back to school time. I was feeling a little sad for my kids as they watch their friends getting ready for a new school year. So I told the kids we'd have a party for them and some of their home schooled friends. Auntie Gayle made it happen. Complete with water balloons, grilled hot dogs (why did I bother, the microwave would have been fine), sand, bubbles...and chocolate. They had a blast. I think Aunt Gayle might have enjoyed it--just picture Popop's birthday but add another 20 children (and water balloons). You get the idea.

September 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, Everett!

It's hard to believe, but Everett is eight. I'm a downright mean Mother/Teacher and made him have school on his birthday. I'm a wimp disguised as a meanie. I made him 'do' math (easy, peasy since it's the beginning of the year) and history (he begged to have history today). We went to a doctor's appointment then visited McD's for lunch (don't start...). On the positive side, since I'm always full to the top of mom guilt, we did take the fast food to the park. We went on a nature scavenger hunt afterwards and made our own kilts when we got home (I'll have to explain that one). I tried to pepper fun into the muck of daily life just for his special day.

So he's eight. I can't believe that I've got an eight-year-old. I remember eight. So he'll remember what happens now. How's that for keeping you honest? Yipes. I'm sorry to say that his birthday present from us was an...xbox. We (head shaking) have joined (sigh) the masses. Do we get credit because we bought it cheap on craig's list from a 16 year old who was upgrading? Still a time waster. Included with the gift is a growing list of rules that have yet to be disclosed (I'm not a total party pooper).
Everett's so happy. His Dad is so happy. So are the siblings. And, I guess...I can try to be happy, too. Or at least put up with it. I think they played with that instead of reading books tonight. Here comes our demise! Happy Birthday, Everett!

The hat is courtesy of Rara and Popop's cross country trip. Seems to scream Vegas to us, but we are unsure of it's origin. One thing is certain, it's a new birthday tradition. For the kids, that is.

August 28, 2008

The Vacation Post

I've mentioned it before, but I have a problem with procrastinating. When we got home from our weeklong trip to visit relatives (back in July), I was too busy to actually post about the trip and only managed to write about the poopy trip back. It's been bugging me that I never put up pictures (at least) from the week. Now, we just spent the weekend camping on the lake and I'm thinking that I'll probably end up doing the same thing and just waiting until the pictures become obsolete. Then, I was struck with the grand idea of just putting the favs on here. For posterity and to ease my conscience.














I actually had more pictures posted here, but got frustrated with how they were organized. It may seem a little cluttered or disorganized as a result.











These two are from the rodeo. If you don't "get" what Eli is doing, then read this post from last year and get ready to pee in your pants. If you overlook Peta violations and child safety issues, watching kids bullet out of a corral on a sheep is hilarious. Everett, unfortunately, was too old to participate this year. He was part of the peanut 'somethingorother' where you dig up peanuts for cash. He and about 20 other youngsters raced around in the sawdust and poo digging for bags of peanuts. At the end of the allotted time they were paid a dollar for each bag they found. Delightful, until you, and an entire stadium of onlookers, watch as your eldest and another boy struggle over the last bag. They played tug of war until the sack ripped in half and peanuts spewed everywhere. It did my heart right to see Everett reach into his pail and give that boy one of his bags. I congratulated him on his generosity when he sat down with us. His reply? "Oh, that was his bag, I took it when he dropped it but decided to give it back to him." Oh, okay.




Here's a 'Before' shot of the clan as we decided to take an afternoon stroll. My Dad and Grandma sat this one out (because they are so smart). One minute we are walking across a meadow in the Ozarks and the next minute we are in the jungles of Vietnam (complete with hacking ourselves a path through 6 foot tall bamboo). Thankfully, we had cell phones and called my Dad in for a rescue.
This is Sally meeting her first fish. It didn't go over so well. Later, she was reclining in my Mom's lap when Ella yanked a fish out of the water so fast that it flew behind her and nearly took Sally's face off. She mentioned that incident just a few days ago. Scarred her for life.







This is my Great, Grandma meeting our new babies for the first time.