Much Ado About Nothing

"The mother of our particular hobbit-what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off." -from The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

A.K.A. Liam

Tests are in. Everything was normal. NORMAL....just miniature.

The little ankle-biter, which he can be called in the most literal of senses, (watch out for your toes too, hobbits can sneak up on you and this particular one has some sharp chompers to be sure!) put us through all that needless worry only to prove that in fact, he is fine. All that more detailed testing showed a perfectly healthy little tyke. We await repeated testing for Celiac's Disease, (which I would put money on it coming back normal), and then we wait a few months before charging the doors of the pediatric endocrinologist's office to see whether Liam is a candidate for growth hormones. Mixed feelings on that one; I mean shoot, he has Lily to protect him after all.

At any rate, I have been given the green light to give the child as much fat (i.e. ice cream, french fries, cheesecake, gracefully fried chicken, etc....) as he wishes. Lucky devil. But, it must be in moderation if you ask me because "they are inclined to be fat in the stomach" these hobbits, so, we'll have to be careful of that!

Anyway, I just thought you inquiring minds would want to know. Thank you all for the kind phone calls, emails, prayers and well wishes. Next time the boy cries wolf, please take it as we will, with a grain of salt (and perhaps some butter on the side....for his sake, of course.)


A Mostly Serious Update on our Hobbit

We interrupt the normally uplifting and light-hearted side of this blog to bring you this news update on itty-bitty Liam.

In the midst of last week's stomach crisis, I had the pleasure of taking Liam in for his 18 month (not so) well-visit. He had gained all of NOTHING since his 15 month appointment. His head had not grown and his weight and head size had fallen completely off the growth charts. (Fortunately, I was too exhausted to panic and Liam is too young and happy to care.) The doctor, quite disturbed by this, decided to draw some blood in attempt to figure out what's going on. It's one thing to be small, it's an entirely different thing to stop growing.

So, the nurse comes in with the needle and syringe to draw the blood. I put Lily in the stroller at the foot of the table where she carefully stood up to watch and then I proceeded to help hold Liam down so that they could find his invisible vein. Liam cheerfully and innocently looked up at us with his big eight-toothed grin. As the nurse took the needle out, Lily's eyes grew 3 sizes and when she carefully poked the needle into Liam's arm, Lily let out the biggest screech ("Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!") sending Liam, who had been okay initially, bursting into tears. He continued to cry as the nurse "searched" for the vein, digging under the skin with the needle while explaining she didn't want to have to restick him, until, after over a minute, she finally reached some blood.

The doctor praised the nurse: "Good job finding the vein," he said.

Really? Because we kind of thought she sucked at it.

The immunizations went about as smoothly: Liam finally calm from the previous experience, Lily screaming each time he got poked and Liam left crying. I know it isn't really funny but I have to admit, there was a twisted humor to the scene.

At any rate, the test results came in and there appears to be something up with Liam's little kidneys. We are not certain of what but today he went through another round of blood draws at the local Children's Hospital (as well as giving a urine sample via catheter) to figure things out. This time, no Lily to screech with each stick or tube insertion, so no crying baby either. He took it all with ease and quite honestly, even I was impressed with how well he handled it. (I am guessing not many toddlers watch quietly as their blood sucks out of their little arm, through a tube and into a syringe but Liam thought it was fascinating!)

I'll post more as soon as we have some answers. Prayers are always welcome as we navigate both the world of state-run health insurance (which we are still fighting to get our coverage resumed) and the uncertainty of what's ahead.

May God grant our doctor with the wisdom needed to figure this out; the state with the competence needed to sign the form to reactivate our kids' health insurance; and the rest of us with health, peace and patience as it all comes to pass. (And while we're at it, perhaps He could give that first nurse slightly better pediatric phlebotomy skills, I mean, seriously!)


Stomach Bug 101

"Somewhere, some lucky guy is having a heart attack." -Edward Cole (played by Jack Nicholson in the movie The Bucket List) makes this statement while dealing with the ill effects of chemotherapy while dying of cancer. (We watched this movie one night during our illness and we couldn't help but identify with that line.)

So, these past weeks, we have had a long run of it (pardon the pun) and I am now feeling up to sharing the lessons we have learned along the way. I am guessing our little visit from Mr. Rota/Norwalk/or-whatever-gastrointestinal-bug-it-was-we-so-graciously-took-into-our-home-recently was a good reminder of just how fortunate we usually are to have such good health.

What everyone needs to know about the stomach bug

1. Don't piss it off.

Seriously, I wrote last week that we don't like the stomach bug. Although true, that was mean and uncalled for and payback is a b!t%#. Kurt and I suffered longer and more intensely (seemingly) than any of the kids. No one escaped this guy and many of us even had recurring symptoms days after we thought they were gone. I wouldn't be surprised if it showed up for an hour or two sometime next month, just as a little reminder to be nice....

2. Don't feed it the wrong thing (because this breaks rule #1).

Kurt, that means no ice cream just because the McDonalds (also the wrong thing) stayed in okay. (You can see the issue here: If mom and dad are both sick, who's gonna feed the kids?) And on that note, saltine crackers or bread, timed just right, are in fact your only ally....until they aren't....which brings me to:

3. You can, in fact, go too BRATY.

You know that old "BRAT diet" (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) we were once told to follow for prolonged diarrhea? Yeah, well, you can take it too far...you can back yourself so far up that the only way to find relief is a stick of well-placed dynamite....and then you are back to the starting point. Seriously though, this is where it was learned that you have very little recourse to fight the beast. As many doctors have told many people, it will run its course. Often, the more you interfere, the harder the recovery. So, that well-intentioned cup of warm tea on an empty stomach first thing this morning, trying to get the pipes moving again? Yeah, bad idea. Did it work? Sure, almost too well. And then I suffered all day with acid stomach issues for putting tea in an empty stomach after having a stomach bug. (See Rule #2) And because of having acid partying in my stomach, lurching towards anything I tried putting down there, I ended up dehydrated again and starving to the point of nausea by dinner....all because a little bug went Kerchoo....


4. Save the cleaning for a better day.

Hoping that I could keep the little germikins from spreading, I spent three crazy hours cloroxing my entire house down after my last blog post, and then followed everyone around with a can of Lysol in one hand, rags in the other and a spray bottle of Clorox Clean-up (just in case) hanging from my pants pocket. And I probably would have bathed the kids in the stuff if it couldn't seriously damage them. My hands were raw and close to bleeding from the washing and scrubbing and disinfecting that took place over those few days when I naively thought I could keep the bug at bay.

As I was curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor, moaning to Kurt that he either had to shoot me or have my doctor-dad call me in something to put me out of my misery, it occurred to me that the amount of undue energy spent on disinfecting the place was totally not worth it. That truth was verified as I paid attention over the next few days and realized that with little kids in the house, it doesn't matter what you do. The germs are bound to spread. I watched as Madeline picked her teeth with her unwashed fingers while sitting on the toilet. I saw Lily retreat to a lonely corner to pick her nose, study it and then wipe it on the wall. On the day Liam was most sick, he used his hand as a teether and then, catching me off guard, stuck it straight into my mouth! Even Aidan, in the middle of the disgusting week, was seen biting and then rubbing his nose across the corner of the kitchen table. It's actually no wonder they (we) are not constantly sick if you want to know the truth. So again, save the cleaning for when it will matter: like when they've all left for college.

And so, since I am such an ungraceful chicken when it comes to nausea and vomiting, (I'd rather give birth a dozen times, NATURALLY, then go through the misery of the stomach bug) I now need to go implement my new nightly sacrifice to the health gods so that they may bring us continued good health, and perhaps bless us with much more of that good bacteria that will um, eat the bad germs in our bellies. No offense of course, sweet germs, we really um, appreciate your visit, really....but if you'd just call next time, I'd be happy to tell you of some other spectacular vacation spots, somewhere else, somewhere new, somewhere far, far away....


Where is the Grace in Puke?

We have been missing in action recently. For that, I apologize. Caught up in a series of stomach bugs (how many can there be out there, for crying out loud?!), legal issues and simple unpacking (is anything simple with 4 children?), I have not had much time for gracefulness these past few weeks. (Picture the chicken running around headless in the last few moments of firing nerve signals....that's been us as of late.)

Finally, yesterday, something snapped. (No, not my sanity, that's been long gone.) It was a conversation I had with Lily on the ride home from taking Kurt some lunch.

Out of the blue Lily asked: "Mom, what is the Holy Spirit?"

"Well, the Holy Spirit is how God talks to us and lets us know the things God really wants us to know," I said, hoping not to have to explain Pentecost or the trinity to my 3 year old at that moment.

"Well, God talked to me," she said, matter-of-factly.

"Oh yeah? What did He say?" I curiously inquired.

"He said (using the deepest voice she could muster) 'Lily,' I said 'What' and He said, 'Don't say the word poop, heh heh.'" (And yes, that was a laugh straight out of Beavis and Butthead in case you were wondering.)

"Really?" I asked, trying not to laugh. "What else did God tell you."

"Nothing, that's it: (Insert God voice) 'Don't say poop, heh heh.''"

And in that moment, I was snapped back to the present. So, even when Aidan came running in this morning to tell me:

"Mom, I think you need to come see what Liam did in his crib last night."

And upon following him to their bedroom, we found a smiling (laughing even) Liam covered, and I mean REALLY covered, in purple vomit (seriously, who feeds their kid THAT many blueberries and do they ever chew them before swallowing? ICK!) it only phased me while in the act of cleaning it, and bathing the baby and fussing at Kurt about something or another that was not even remotely his doing....this too shall pass. (Perhaps just not with flying colors, other than purple anyway!)

So, I feel the need to get this out so everyone is on the same page: You know what Mr. Stomach Bug? We don't like you. And no matter how many different ways over the course of a month you present yourself...we will never like you! Please exit the building before I call Terminex and have my house tented. (You'd think they'd have something like that for these yucky bugs.)

Now, I am off to find my Clorox and Lysol and any other toxic chemicals we might have with which to start spraying the entire house down, again, and again, and again. And to all my "greeny" friends out there: The Holy Spirit told me to!


Overdue U-Haul Pictures

The priceless U-Haul adventure: The story in Pictures:

Beginning with Aidan standing behind the stuck truck and then trying to play "teeter totter" on the wood used to un-stick the U-Haul. You can see our good friend Craig and his son Jack trying to jack up the side...What kind of parent lets the 6 year old stand directly behind the truck anyway??? But then, it wasn't going anywhere!

Here's Kurt, trying to explain to the neighbor's step-mother what happened without using words like "hard-headed" or worse...

Our friend Todd looks on, smartly from a distance....I am sure with total admiration for this process.

The damage...

My father-in-law, Lupo, coming in with the plywood.

Kurt on the phone with the U-Haul people, just in case....

Ready to roll....(this actually worked too....)

Home again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

16 hours in the car later, some hours containing up to FOUR STOPS, and we are home.

I had the play by play typed out (since Anna Karenina only competes so well against the reality that is our life) but I think I will spare you. Actually, on second thought, if you have been reading this blog for this long, you probably have nothing better to do anyway (hee hee, just teasing!)

8 a.m. - We leave the lake house in Mercer, PA

8:10 (ish) -Kurt's brother Al calls to ask if we’re there yet...although I have a few choice words in my arsenal, I laugh because hey, that's pretty funny.

8:19 - Lily asks if we’re home yet: “No Lily," I tell her. "Just close your eyes; we’ll be there in about 16 hours."

8:25 -We stop for gas, coffee, and adult bathroom break. I try to get DVD player working and find out the battery on the remote is dying so movie won’t go on....this is going to be one LONG trip!

8:39 - Aidan says he has to go bathroom. Irritated that we didn't make him go 14 minutes ago, we stop on the side of the road.

9:00 a.m. - By some miracle, we are able to get a DVD going.

9:15 - Lily yells out: "I'm GOING POOP!" Bathroom break #3!

9:19 - Lily tells us (again) she wants to go home. Liam starts crying and we realize we have no milk.

10:00 a.m. - Aidan asks if he can play his computer game and we realize we have no power cord. Liam is still crying.

11:15 a.m. - Having actually made it a full hour without needing to stop, we stop for gas and take another bathroom break. Kurt trys to buy battery for DVD remote: he takes it in, no luck finding 3 volt and then proceeds to lose the one we do have in between the seats of the car. DVD doesn't play without the remote. We bought milk which puts Liam (and us) out of his misery. Madeline screeches that she is hot and itchy and then strips down to undies before buckling back in. I find the power cord for Aidan, phew!

11:30 - Madeline complains she wants to go home....join the club kid.

12 noon - Lily tells us she wants out "NOW!", and struggles to get free of seat, but she can’t. Meanwhile, Madeline falls asleep.

12:04 - Liam and Madeline are out, Aidan is occupied, Lily starts choking on nothing, “Mom, I’m coughing!” she says. “You’re ok, try to go to sleep.” She says okay and starts singing to herself while hugging her new stuffed purple eggplant she has named “Watermelon.”

12:08 - Lily’s out. YES!

12:09 - Kurt pulls over b/c he has to pee again….("What, are you pregnant?") Brooks has to go, too….Seriously! We may make it home by next week….

12:12 - We are finally on the road AND everything is peaceful and quiet…Ahhhhhh.

12:37 - We have to stop to pay tolls in a long, slow line so of course, Liam and Madeline awake, argh!

12:54 - We get off the tollroad and drive into the boonies to find a Walmart so that we can get the battery for the DVD remote and have some lunch (Where Kurt and Brooks both eat Chili! Really? On a 2 week car trip??? Ugh!)….We are in Indiana….only about 4 days to go…..

1:15 p.m. - At Wendy’s, all the kids are sitting and eating quietly when an older gentleman comes up and tells us how well-behaved our children are and how nice it is to see ("You just don't see that too often anymore.")….In one picturesque moment, (even though I know the truth: that they are in a car-induced walking coma) this trip becomes totally worth it.

3:47 p.m. - Madeline finds the apples and plastic knives her Nanna packed for us. She gives Lily one of each (knife and apple) ….Although she turns over the apple, I can't convince Lily to stop wielding the knife..."This is bad, Dory, this is very bad." I practically climb into her lap to retrieve it, which is met with screaming.

4:00 p.m. - Aidan asks to cut his own apple, and against my better judgement, I give him the knife and apple and he immediately cuts himself, thus confirming my judgement. (It was poor.)

4:16 - We stop AGAIN (now in Illinois)….I buy some fruit snacks for rewards while we play The Quiet Game which Aidan wins by a landslide....(Three, Two, One, Quiet: Liam immediately starts babbling so he's out, Lily says "Liam is saying ahhhhh!" so she's out, Madeline says "Lily is POINTING at me!" so she's out. Aidan wins, again....) Total duration to play 10 rounds: about 5 minutes.

5:05 p.m. - Karen sneezes sending Liam into 5 minute laughing fit which confirms that we have definitely been cooped up a bit too long. We still have half a trip left and for sure we are down to 3 more days of this....

Fast forward to 10 p.m. - We are listening to music to get the kids to go to sleep and Liam starts practicing his beat box and laughing hysterically at himself...I think he has finally gone over the edge....

So, you get my point. It was grueling. We arrived back home a bit after midnight three days ago and are still in recovery....