2010, you treated us OK

decade of aughts ends
not with a whimper, but a
bang of contentment

When the Aughts began, I was newly married. I dreamed of kids, of maybe one day owning a house, and of a magical mobile phone that would allow me to find movie times.

Now, here we are, ten years later. My hair is whiter, my face has lines, my butt is bigger, but all those wishes up there have been fulfilled (though I don't have time to ever see any of the movies I can find the times for on my phone).

Ten years was so long ago I wasn't even dreaming of writing books yet. Well, I was dreaming of it, but never in a realistic "that could actually happen" way. And now, three books later I can't believe that back when I had ALL THAT TIME (no kids! crappy job! no Internet at work! barely Internet at home!) I didn't write like 16 books all at once.

Still, though, I'm happy with the progess. The babies came and the books followed. The babies came and the house followed. Somewhere in there Steve Jobs stole my idea and made an awesome phone for me to use to take pictures of the babies and books. And now here we are on the cusp of a new decade, a new year.

What are my dreams for the future? I hate to even say. The past couple of years in this decade have taught me not to look too far ahead. To keep dreams simple, attainable, day-to-day.

So for tonight, instead of dreaming big for the future, I am going to be big grateful for the past. I am going to enjoy the cacophony of the kids hollering at each other. I am going to worry about Ike-a-saurus and his new coughing ailment. I am going to eat a hot dog and drink some champagne and wait for the clock to switch over to the New Year. And when it does I am going to wonder at everything that has happened in my life – not just in this past year, but in the past decade.

TEN YEARS, MAN.

And now to the toughest decision of the night: drink the bottle of 1995 Dom Perignon my husband found buried in the back of the pantry, or save it? I think that thing could pay for Christmas next year.

Ham and a roll

My friend Jote has started a lovely tradition, 30 Days with a Grateful Heart. If you're a mama, and you're in Austin, I'm sure you've heard of it. And you haven't, I urge you to check it out. It's just a simple, peaceful way to say thank you for the things you have. I've been trying to do it everyday, through posts on Facebook, though I admit that in the past few days especially, I've gotten behind.

So while I'm sitting here on the couch, eating Christmas ham tucked into a roll, listening to the dishwasher run for the 6,000th time today, hearing the quiet murmur of kiddo voices and a grandma telling stories upstairs, I just want to take a moment to be grateful.

Sure there are the big things like being grateful for having a nice house and money enough to pay the mortgage. And I am, of course, grateful for the small things like an ever present bag of M&Ms in the pantry and a cup of tea when I wake up in the morning. I'm grateful for the things every mommy is grateful for – the smiles and hilarity of her kids, the never enough quiet time away from the kids, the warm hugs and sloppy kisses from little ones who are so dependant – and so independant. All of that.

But there are other things I'm grateful for, too. Things that have colored my world more richly, added layers and depth that I never knew I was missing. I am grateful to have known such hardship that the simple, lovely Christmases like this one stand out with such fierce clarity. I think everyone can say that they are grateful for a paycheck and good health – but until you've known times when those things are absent you can't ever really know what it means to be truly, truly grateful for what you have.

Merry Christmas, Bloglandia. May you and yours enjoy the glow of the tree, a warm drink with a kick, and the deep down feeling of gratefulness that can only come when you really know how lucky you are.

Sloppy, tipsy kisses to you all.

Ike’s new words

Something about being in Cincinnati makes Ike-a-saurus’ vocabulary explode.

We’re starting our trek home today with at leastĀ five new words:

Bubba: this is what he calls Sam
NO!: said with glee – snow
Bootbaw: football
Batbaw: basketball
Buttabel: jingle bells (and sometimes Santa)

You can see how they sound alike, which makes for much hilarity/confusion.

Right now, though, he’s screaming MAMAMAMA. so much for blogging in the car.

The ‘Nati is taking us by storm

We made it to Cincinnati yesterday, after a long couple of days of driving. Whew. We managed to stay ahead of an ice storm yesterday, and get settled into our hotel room just before the big snowstorm hit.

Needless to say, the kids are overjoyed at the snow and cold. My husband and I? Well, in our good moments we're bemused. Ha. The drive to the hospital this morning for Ike-a-saurus' first test was pretty harrowing. Snow EVERYWHERE, still dark outside, cars unintentionally sliding through red lights. It took us 50 minutes to go the 3.6 miles from the hotel to the hospital! But we made it early to our appointment, and the doctor and speech pathologist managed to make it, too, so yay!

Ike-a-saurus was not a fan of the up-the-nose camera for the FEES. I don't blame him. He's had this study done twice before, but those times he had the trach, and I wonder if it felt different this time. He was not just pissed. He was – and I mean this with much intensity – fucking pissed. He pulled the camera out once, spit in the speech pathologist's face (though that wasn't really intentional, just mad about being forcefed). It was Not Cool. And we never did get much into his mouth so that we could see his swallow.

I give the crew credit, though. They didn't push it and they did the best they could with the video footage they got. We now know for sure that he protects his airway when he's "under duress" so it seems likely that trying sips of thin liquids and working our way up to non-thickened liquids is an OK thing to start doing when he's not under duress. So yay for that.

Then we went for donuts and made snow angels and now we're back at the hotel, shooting for a nap and gearing up for tomorrow. Hopefully the snow will abate some so we can make it to the hospital for our 6 AM (!) arrival time. Then he has his scope and we see how the graft in his trachea is healing. After that, recovery in PACU and hopefully back to the hotel by lunchtime. Fingers and toes crossed. I'm a little worried because his nose is runny and he has this on and off cough. I don't know if that's enough to call off the scope or not. Hopefully not.

All I can say is whew. And thank goodness for room service. And WOW, SNOW.

Snowike

Alleviate my guilt. But only if you want to. Otherwise, I will feel guilty.

So here's the thing. It's almost Christmas. Probably, you know this already.

And when it's almost Christmas, there is suddenly a flurry of activity that requires buying things and supporting things and donating things and planning things and baking things and taking the kids to things. I remember this from when I was a kiddo. The stifling hot holiday pageants at school where inevitably I wore velvet on an 80 degree night and some kid in front of me on the risers in the cafeteria puked his guts out just as were started singing Silent Night.

I remember the class holiday parties, eating the homemade cookies with red and green sprinkles, and the one kid inevitably puking up his cookies all over the floor on the the way to the bus.

And, despite the puking and sweating and rushing around, these things were fun. They created that holiday spirit in me as a child. Thanksgiving = put up the tree = count presents = sit on Santa's lap = sing songs at school = eat cupcakes at school = out of school = SANTA COMES OMG TEH AWESOME.

Christmas was fantastic when I was a kid. Sparkly and sweet and glorious and wonderful.

I'm sure it was hectic and debt-inducing and insane for my parents, because that is what it's becoming for me. Only, now we have the added pressure of keeping the family well and getting everyone to Cincinnati in one piece and then back home again in time to celebrate Christmas in our own living room.

The focus on health and buying fleece and talking to Medicaid and Cincy nurses on the phone equals me falling behind on proper Christmas stress. I signed up to donate items and/or money to needy families. Have yet to do it. I have emails from class parents asking for money so they can buy giftcards for teachers. I don't have exra money to give. There are two school winter festivals coming up – one today and one Monday, and I don't think we can go to either one. Maybe the one tonight, if the wee one is up to it, but he's still a bit puny after his bout with the flu and I am trying to keep everyone under lockdown so we don't get re-sick just hours before the trip.

The only reason the kids have any presents is because I can buy things online, thank goodness, and because we needed a lot of stuff for the trip that I can wrap and they can unwrap early. I feel like family Christmas-wise, we're good. We will have a small, lovely Christmas and the kids will be happy.

But Christmas Season Expectation-wise, I have created a swirling charybdis of fail. I feel incredibly guilty that the kids will miss their holiday parties and festivals. I feel incredibly guilty that I can't buy a hundred dollars worth of giftcards and give them to all our teachers and caregivers. I feel incredibly guilty that the baking I'm going to do is for snacks to take in the car on our trip, and not for pot lucks or for families that need it more than we do.

Is this part of Christmas As A Grown-Up? The guilt?

What can I do to not seem like a busy, selfish person? Promise I'll do better one day? That doesn't seem very effective.

I will just have to throw my love to the world with energy and force of will. Just a fierce I AM HERE, I KNOW I SHOULD DO BETTER shout into the wind. That is going to have to do.

In the meantime, I worry about Ike's fiberoptic endoscopic swallow study and the bronchoscopy, both coming up next week if he can stay well. I worry about the wee one and his sudden onset on constant illness (stress? being in a portable? genetics? [I was constantly sick in the 3rd grade, too]). I worry that the wee-er one will be permanently scarred because her mommy keeps her home from parties at school (because we are leaving that day to begin our journey). I worry about the guilt I feel and feel guilty for all worry because things could be so much worse. They HAVE BEEN so much worse. They could become so much worse at any moment.

And so the Christmas guilt worry spiral is in full swing as I pack our bags.

I shout into the wind: I'M SORRY FOR FEELING GUILTY WHEN I HAVE SO MUCH, AND I'M SORRY FOR NOT GIVING BACK. I WILL DO BETTER.

I will do better.

Just please let us make it to Cincy in one piece, and please have Ike-a-saurus be healthy.

The talking and the words

Now that Ike is trach-less and learning to be very vocal, we are THRILLED at the language he is picking up everyday.

When he still had the trach, he was just starting with a few "ow"s and "ugh"s and "ew"s- a great onomatopoeic vocabulary very fitting not just for the mechanics of a trach but for life with a trach as well.

But now, just barely three months after having his trachea reconstructed, he's throwing out big guns like, "elbow" and "elmo" and "Yah-Yah" (which is Ike-speak for our dog, Tucker, and also works nicely for "Georgia" in a pinch.)

He says "bubble" and "ball" and "mom" and "dad" and "up" and "yeah" and "go" and has a few strings of words that are both signed and spoken. He will sign, "Tucker food," but won't say it yet. And he'll sign "Mama help," while he shouts "Up! Up!" at me.

Today, though, he said his first two word string. He was jostling with his sister for a toy and he yelled out "I WANT!" I thought I'd been hearing him say this for a couple of days, but it hasn't been very clear. This afternoon, though, it was perfectly clear. And repeated. "I WANT! I WANT!"

Maybe not the classiest first string of words to have, but I'm cool with them. There are a lot of things I want, too!

Now the trick will be teaching him "please." He can sign it, but will he say it?

His speech therapist said our goal is to have three new words a month. Right now he's averaging about three words a week. I don't know if he'll keep this pace up, but I'm loving it. In just a couple of months he's gone from having the language skills of a 10-12 month old, to being MUCH closer to typical for his age.

The best part, though, is seeing how proud of himself he gets when he says something new. A little light shines from behind those huge eyes and I just want to take the moment and freeze it and store it in my heart and never forget.

I do a lot of complaining about the kids and their messes and their yelling and fighting, but everyday has a moment I want to tuck away and save for a quiet time when I need something joyful to celebrate.

We have a macabre joke around here about when we get old and trapped in dementia, which moment do we want to be trapped in? This moment right now is a pretty good one, even with the sick and the medical fragility and the no money and the stress and the tired. It has these gilded edges of comfortable beauty that I just want to wrap myself up in. Maybe that's because we've had times like these before that were followed by scary, life-altering times. Or maybe it's because I'm finally learning to pay attention to detail. I don't know. But I can tell you that as hard as it is to have kids aged 8, 4 and 2, it is a gift I celebrate everyday.

Even when the wee-er one is playing drums in the living room.
And the wee one is running the battery down on my iPhone playing Angry Birds.
And Ike-a-saurus is yelling "I WANT I WANT I WANT" at the top of his preemie lungs.

Flupocalypse!

Oh, y'all. I know it's been a long time since i posted. Sorry about that. We have just been smacked with one thing after another over here. First Ike had some kind of coughing thing for like a month, that he finally got some antibiotics for, then the wee one had a stomach virus the Monday before Thanksgiving, then the wee-er one had a fever and general malaise on Thanksgiving, so she was put on antibiotics for a sinus infection.

THEN, yesterday, I picked up the wee one from school and he was terribly sick. He couldn't tolerate any brightness, had a headache, neck pain, nausea – everything pointed to very rapidly onsetting meningitis. He'd been fine that morning, was dizzy at school so he went to the nurse, she sent him back to class because he had no fever, and by the time I got him to the pediatrician's office he was at 102 and could barely walk. The doc ran a quick flu test to help us decide if we needed to go to the ER or what. Well, the flu test came back positive. A relief, but also, DAMN. We had to watch the wee one last night to make sure it wasn't meningitis AND the flu, but by the morning his neck was better and his fever had lessened.

Now, this morning the wee-er one woke up throwing up. She's been throwing up all day. Can't even keep water down. We have just gotten some zofran for her and hopefully that will help. Our best guess is that she probably has the flu, too, and is also reacting to the prophylactic dose of Tamiflu she got yesterday.

I, too, have been mostly beridden today with aches and pains and congestion and a general feeling of terribleness, but no fever. My poor husband has been scrambling to take care of us and to keep Ike-a-saurus as far away from everyone as he can.

Did I mention all of the kids have been vaccinated against the flu? So much for that.

Did I also mention we're supposed to all drive to Cincinnati for Ike's next procedure – in two weeks? Care to place any bets on whether we'll have to reschedule?

It is a disaster up in here. What is the deal with December? It kicked our ass last year, too.