Thursday, August 24, 2017

No buffalo roaming, just foxes skittering

Something I don't talk about much or even notice anymore is our house. Most days, its just a building that holds our stuff and occasionally irritates me with its quirks.

We live in an old house. It was built in 1920 and has lots of cool features and a few not so cool features. Cool: original hardwood floors in most of the house. Not cool: 1 1/4 bathroom (the sink in the half bath doesn't work). Cool: awesome fireplace and beveled glass and mirrors and crown molding in most of the house. Not cool: the plumbing is a patchwork and needs to be updated and a sink needs to be repaired. Cool: my built in bookshelves in our room and our original kitchen cabinets. Not cool: our electrical is also a patchwork and needs to be updated. Cool: lots of big original windows so we don't have to have lights on during the day. Not cool: lots of big original windows so the house kind of leaks warm and cold air. I don't want to replace them because they're so pretty, but man.

I could go on. I love that we've got nice sized rooms, but I hate that the layout of these rooms is so awkward and the placement of certain areas is the way it is. The kids' room, for example, has six walls, three of which are exterior walls of 90% windows. Lots of light, sure but's a weird shaped room.

I knew this was my house when I saw it on the realty website in June 2010. It was priced a little above what we could afford, but it had been on the market a while and I wanted to see it anyway. By the time we got our (terrible) realtor to set up a viewing, they'd dropped the price a lot and then accepted our offer below that. We moved in in July of 2010 and have both loved and hated it ever since.

We have three bedrooms, a living room, a front hallway that's kind of useless (it's really a big room, not what you might think of as a hallway), the aformentioned 1 1/4 bathrooms, large kitchen, back hall/mudroom, laundry room, and a large space upstairs that's tricky to figure out. It could be a bedroom or a second living area. We've mostly used it for storage for the past 7 years. Out of sight, out of mind. We put long planks in the attic space at one point (I think I was pregnant with Elijah at the time) and that's become our mid-term storage: storage for items I don't need right now, but use annually (holiday decor, out of season clothing) or every couple of years (outgrown kid clothes). Also, there's some other stuff: a sewing machine, cross-stitch patterns I've already done, my high school year books, a couple tubs of keepsake items from Dad and my youth I'm not up to getting rid of yet.

We also have a house in the back that's not finished, mostly just walls, roof, and floor (though there is a bathroom out there that could be made useable) that's for longer term storage. I have a small apartment's worth of furniture, a small mountain of boxes, dining chairs, all of our outside toys, cross-stitch stuff I don't want but don't want to get rid of...y'all, I'm a borderline hoarder. But at least my stuff is about 90% organized. And I do actually get rid of tons of stuff every couple of years, donating to garage sales or the Salvation Army. I've tried to sell some things myself with limited success.

When we moved in, we were pregnant with Asher. I knew he wasn't going to be an only child, and this house is seemingly designed for two kids in one bedroom and a third on their own in the other room. We had the front room as a guest room for a long time, but after a while our guests ceased staying with us, so we turned it into a playroom for the kids. They've got my grandmother's old yellow couch, which is the most comfortable couch ever, a tv with gaming systems, and all the toys they occasionally play with, plus a toilet for their use (though they naturally run through the house, find me to inform me of their need to pee, then use the main bathroom). We want to keep that room as their play area, so then we planned to put the boys upstairs and keep the girls downstairs, either in the same room or eventually moving Eden to the front room with the private bathroom. Things were moving along great, then the boys announced it was too creepy upstairs and they didn't want to move up there.

Cue the record scratch. We've been trying to figure out the best way to utilize our space since day 1 and it's been trickier the more people we add to the household. We toyed with the idea of taking out a loan at some point and adding a bathroom in the attic and expanding the upstairs room so that could be a master suite, we talked about adding a bathroom to the master bedroom by extending into the yard, we talked about sacrificing part of the master for a bathroom (we really need/want another bathroom). We've switched the living and dining rooms twice, once when Elijah was about 4 months old and back again about 2 months ago. We've rearranged the furniture in every room but the kitchen multiple times.

Luckily for everyone, Elijah recently decided he'd be ok sleeping upstairs as long as he could take his Mario plushies. Asher, when faced with the choice of sleep upstairs with Elijah or downstairs with his sisters decided upstairs wasn't so bad after all. Now I just have to get my stuff relocated and Austin to go through his and decide what to do with it. I'm hoping we can have the boys upstairs within a couple of months.

I love the house. We've painted it and that actually helped my feelings about it a LOT. We're slowly getting it to how we need it but with four kids and a limited amount of money to do that, it's taken time. We've done something every year we've been here and I hope we can continue that as long as is necessary. This year was supposed to be plumbing, but things have gotten away from us financially because of Asher's testing and Elijah's hospital stay and a photo package we bought for Rebekah, so this year it'll have to be something small. Like maybe a tree to replace the one that died.

We love where we are. Being across and beside Serenity House has had minor inconveniences, but overall hasn't been terrible. The Red Cross is on the other side and they're quiet neighbors, too. We like being within walking distance of downtown and all that has to offer, we love being within walking distance of the church (though we haven't actually walked there much the last couple of years....too many kids). We're even walking distance to my oldest brother and my mom. I just need a grocery store closer than Ambler and a few more restaurants, maybe some more shopping downtown and I'd be all set.

We were blessed in that we both graduated college with no debt. We were able to start saving immediately for whatever we needed to so we were able to buy our first house six months after we were married. Our only debt currently are my car and our house. We're looking at buying Austin a new car, but I'm hoping once we've got mine paid off, we might be able to continue pulling that amount out of our account and put it into the house. It would take a while, but we'd eventually be able to fix everything that needs fixing, add on a bathroom, fix up the guest house into maybe a rental apartment or something.

Unless someone has $100,000 they want to give us for those

Little by little we'll chip away at it. Our plan right now is to never leave. It (mostly) works for us and meets (most) of our needs. It's the home we brought our sons home to and the home our daughters were born in. We've been here 7 years and already have a lot of history here. A history we hope to continue.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hospital Adventures

Oh my good lord. I guess Elijah got a little jealous that I don't write as much about him on here.

A couple weeks ago, July 31, Asher got sick late that night. He threw up a couple times. He was feeling ok, but not well enough to go to the day camp we had him signed up for. He missed three days of it, just attending Monday and Friday. Thursday and Friday, Eden threw up once each day. So Thursday, Elijah got to have a special treat in being the only one in the family to go to a friend's birthday party. Saturday, everyone was feeling good, Sunday night, Elijah threw up once.

Monday and Tuesday, he was up and down, hard to keep away from the others, just like Asher and Eden had been the week before. We made and delivered dinner to friends who had a little boy injured in an accident on July 29 and then went home and ate our own dish of the same meal. Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, Elijah threw up again.

Wednesday morning, Elijah didn't get out of bed. He said he was too sick. After a couple of bed wetting incidents, I realized he wasn't going to get up to go to the bathroom so I put him in a pull up. That makes it easier to make sure he's not dehydrated so I was ok with it (plus less laundry). He went through several on Thursday and that evening, when Austin was checking on him and dumping the bucket, he commented that it looked like Elijah had cinnamon and sugar in his vomit.

He hadn't really eaten anything since dinner Tuesday, so that surprised me. He had taken a little nibble of a cracker, so I figured that was it.

Friday morning, his vomit was black and grainy. I studied it for a second, then googled. It said that if vomit looks like it has black or brown flecks, that indicates that there is blood present and the patient should receive immediate medical care.

Now, we live in the age where we google and EVERYTHING is dire, so I decided to play it safe and call the doctor. Of course, it was after business hours because they close at noon, but she called back very quickly and when I described it, she said to take him in.

Bob came right over and sat with Asher and Eden and I took Rebekah and Elijah to Regional, calling Austin to meet me on the way.

We got there around 2:45 and sat in the waiting room for about a half hour before going to a triage room where they checked his vitals and said he didn't have a fever and his pulse and blood pressure were good. By 3:30 we were in another triage room waiting for a doctor or someone. I texted my siblings to keep them in the loop. At 4:30, a nurse came in and started an IV and drew some blood. As weak as Elijah was, needing to be carried everywhere and not able to reposition himself much on the bed, it took two nurses, Austin, and finally me to hold him down to get it in. He complained a little but then went back to being quiet and still. John showed up about 4:45 when they hooked up a bag of saline to get him hydrated.

Two bags later, we were told we were going to be admitted. That was around 6:45. John left to take care of his kids and we started making some arrangements for the night. A friend volunteered to bring Austin dinner and we asked him to wait until we were in the room. That didn't happen until 7:45. Then Bob said he had a couple errands he needed to run, so I asked a friend who lives two blocks away to come sit at the house until someone could get there. She got there around 815-830 and then another friend showed up with pizza for the kids, who I'm sure were starving.

For some reason I thought we'd see the doctor Friday night so kept hanging around. Finally about 9 I accepted we weren't so headed home. Austin didn't want me to send anything back but I found Elijah's kitty and sent that back around 1130 with Kristen so he could have at least that.

Saturday morning, I woke up with a headache. Not a lot of sleep and stress and a little dehydration of my own built it into a migraine. I was going to drop the kids off with the Dukes so I could go to the hospital, but I was feeling bad enough that Beth came and got them. I got a quick nap with a cold pack on my neck, then rallied enough to pack a bag for Austin and head up to the hospital for a couple hours.

Elijah was still vomiting off and on, even though he was no longer taking anything by mouth and hadn't since shortly after we got to the ER. They attempted meds by mouth a couple times but they always came back. I left around 7 to pick up my kids and get some dinner for myself then we all headed home to rest. I was eating when Cari called and basically said she was coming in the morning.

She and her niece arrived around 9am and I headed out shortly after, swinging by Target to get some Mario stuff for Elijah. It's hard to find Mario stuff! I found some figurines and a racer toy along with some glow in the dark mini Thomas trains and a set of Mario pjs. I got all that and headed to the hospital, getting there around 1030. Right after I got there, they took Elijah down for a CT scan. He did great and when they pulled him out and complimented him, he said "Yeah, I was really scared!" When Elijah heard Cari was in town, he said "But I haven't seen her." Kid knows how to play pitiful really well at this point. I hung out until lunch then headed home to nurse Rebekah. She was happy to see me, the other kids were indifferent. Cari ran and got us adults lunch then she and I headed to the hospital. Cari made a quick visit then headed back to the house. Austin's parents arrived around 330 and came straight to the hospital. I stayed up there until about dinner time, around 530, then headed home for the night.

We were told if Elijah could eat something and keep it down, he could go home. So Austin and his parents attempted to bribe him to take small bites with stories. When Austin told me it was going really slow, I said "know your audience. Bribe him with something he cares about: Mario and minis." So Austin bribed him with minis (I'd taken them all home) if he ate his cracker. Elijah got excited and ate too fast and threw up. So that meant another night in the hospital.

Austin came home briefly to drop off his computer and get minis and maybe something else? I'm not sure. We had a friend volunteer to bring dinner Sunday night, then we told them the grandparents were here to maybe another night, then when we realized the grandparents weren't coming to the house at all on Sunday, I texted and asked if the offer was still good. It was, so the three of us here feasted on chicken strips and french fries before heading to bed again.

Monday morning, Austin's parents met him at the hospital so he could get to work. I got the kids settled, then Austin's mom came to the house so I could go up to the hospital. I got there around 10 and by 11:30, headed back for Rebekah. Elijah was doing so much better I decided to keep her with me. That also saved me time running back and forth. He was excited to see her and she seemed pretty pleased to see Papa and Elijah. We spent the day just sitting around, like you do in a hospital. I took a little nap because my stomach started bothering me Sunday afternoon and Sprite and rest are about all that fixes that. Austin got there around 430 and we saw the doctor again. She said he was good to go as soon as he saw the gastroenterologist. The nurse informed us earlier that he didn't make rounds until after 5 most days. So the discharge paperwork was ready to go, we were half packed, Elijah was talking about going home, food was coming to the house....and no gastroenterologist.

I finally left around 5 in the middle of a big storm. I ran barefoot through ankle deep water to get the car and pull it up to the pick up area so Rebekah wouldn't have to get wet, then Austin waded out into the rain to put her in when we had to wait for the car ahead of us to load their passenger. A normally 15 minute drive home took me nearly half an hour because I had to keep back tracking to avoid hugely flooded intersections and once even downed power lines. I almost didn't see the power lines, they were so covered with water in front of me and debris to the left.

I finally made it home, got everything inside, and called Mom to update her and called Austin to tell him what route to avoid.

Dinner arrived around 630 and the kids and I ate pizza and Beth had chicken strips from the night before. We sat and watched some videos and read books for a while until Mom and Bob came over to say hi. Finally around 9 I decided to put the kids to bed and Beth decided to go on to the hospital to get Allen and then go to their hotel. She took Austin a change of clothes and headed out.

I stayed up a while, dealing with kids and pumping milk for Rebekah and waiting for Austin and Elijah. At 1030, he texted that the night nurse finally called the gastric doc to find out what was going on and we found out no one had told him he had a patient to see. He'd be there about 9 today.

I was't super happy, to say the least. They brought in a portable x-ray machine and x-rayed Elijah for the doctor and then removed his iv. Austin posted on fb:

"Relative pain levels of hospital experiences:
CT scan: 0
Vomit: 1
Vomiting blood: 2
Getting contrast by IV: 3 (for a second)
Taking medicine by mouth: 4
Getting your throat swabbed: 5
Taking medicine by butt: 6
Getting an IV stuck in arm: 7
Missing your little sister: 8
Taking all the tape off your arm so they can unstick the IV: 10"

Poor Elijah was just done, I think. He was exhausted from being in the hospital so long and being told he could go home so many times and the not being able to. I'm not sure when he fell asleep, but he was asleep by midnight.

I was winding down to go to sleep when Austin texted that the doctor had come in at 1230. He realized that it wouldn't be possible for him to get there at 9 this morning, so he went ahead and came in last night.

All of Elijah's scans have been clear all along. Nothing on the ultrasounds or the CT or the x-rays. Nothing too weird in his bloodwork or urine or vomit. A diagnosis has been kind of the equivalent of "I don't know, aliens?" We're pretty sure it was gastroenteritis, but even then, we don't REALLY know. The IV antibiotics seemed to do the trick. We don't know where it came from because he ate what everyone else ate, even another family, and no one else got sick. He's been around the same people and places he always is. So who knows. Apparently, some people can show a sudden random sensitivity to something and get really sick really fast. He had wet several pull ups on Thursday and even one Friday morning, so to find out 8 hours after his last wet pull up that he was severely dehydrated was a little shocking.

The gastric doctor cleared him to come home with no restrictions. We'll still take it easy and rest a lot this week. We don't have any plans until a follow up with the pediatrician on Friday morning and we'll keep it that way.

If Elijah had been awake at 1230 or 1, I think Austin would have packed up and come home. But he decided to let Elijah sleep so they got home around 7 this morning. Beth and Allen met them up at the hospital for discharge then headed on home. Austin put Elijah in his bed and he's currently still asleep at 1030. Eden has been up and down, Bob has been by with donuts and to pick up the prescriptions to drop off for us, Austin's back at work for a few hours today, and I'm contemplating going back to bed myself. It's good to sleep on a rainy day when all your people are where they're supposed to be.

I know I forgot things. SO MUCH happened it's hard to keep it all straight. It was more stressful for me than for Austin (I say, I don't know for a fact) because while he was there with Elijah 90% of the time, he had a lot of downtime. Elijah was watching tv a lot and Austin was on his phone or computer. I was running back and forth, to stores, to various locations to take care of the rest of us, coordinating care and feeding of everyone. I didn't have time to straight up ask for help most of the time. I did ask for a few things here and there, but for the most part, I hate asking for something like that. I feel like I'm imposing and sometimes the wording of offers of help make me think that person doesn't REALLY want to, they just want to offer (and I get that, I really do). So when people just showed up and said "No, this is what I'm doing," I could almost cry. Friday I came home and some dishes had been washed and tables and counters wiped down. Saturday I picked up my kids from the Dukes and they'd been fed and had playtime with friends and watched movies and observed a hullabaloo outside. My sister came Sunday and didn't just keep my kids from running in the streets: she swept, she changed the litter box, she folded a small mountain of laundry, she changed dirty diapers (her niece probably did that,, she gave Rebekah a bath, she fed me and my kids. If there had been dirty dishes in the sink she would have washed those too, I'm sure.

My tribe showed up.

I was in MOPS for 2.5 years and never felt like they showed up for me. Ever. One person from MOPS helped out after Eden was born and it was one of the most amazing things ever. I've copied it twice now and had intentions of copying again but then Elijah happened. This was the main reason I left. I felt like I had no real community there and it hurt to keep going and putting myself out there and feeling like after all that time, I just had friendly acquaintances. I've gotten closer to some of the other women since quitting, ironically enough.

Our church has been showing up more and more recently, and I love that. In a week and a half, we had a new baby, an accident involving a child, an accident involving the new baby's pregnant aunt (nothing too severe, she's fine), and now Elijah. We've set up meal trains for three of us and the dates get filled up quickly. We're recognizing how much we need each other and we're showing. up. It's hard to be in this world alone and when your kids are hurt its even harder.

So to my tribe, thank you so much. You made a long, stressful weekend a little easier to bear. And not having to worry about meals much the next week is going to be hugely helpful as we get back into the swing of things.

Friday night heading to the room

Tuesday morning sleeping in his bed with his teddy. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A good mix

We've had a week around here. Asher started his last summer camp on Monday, an all day camp that was his "trial run" for his new school this fall to see how he'd get along with the other kids and to give the teachers a preview of his personality and behavior. It was also the last week of CCF, our church's MDO that the other three attend. Monday was great because I got to nap all day in peace.

Tuesday, Asher was throwing up, so he missed camp. Disappointing, but not a huge deal. Wednesday, he was still sick, so my plans for another all day nap were thwarted, though I did get a little nap while the others were gone. Before drop off, Eden was running around in her swimsuit and swim diaper and peed on the floor. Because those diapers absorb NOTHING. Thursday, he was STILL sick and Eden threw up, so we didn't go get groceries when we usually do and cancelled plans to go to a birthday party. Luckily, the birthday boy's grandma and mom love my kids so they came and got Elijah and he got to go have fun. That night i wiped something off the floor I thought was chocolate from a cupcake that had been stepped on and smushed into the floor. It was not chocolate. Friday, Asher was feeling better, so went to the last day of camp and got to go to the new water park here in town. Right before we left, though, Eden threw up again and somehow managed to get it on the back of her head while standing. Kind of impressive. Scrubbing and shampooing twice got her at least presentable to leave the house for an hour. Then Friday evening Asher was sick again.

I'm over it. I've cleaned up every bodily function this week. Even some feline stuff.

So yeah. I've been busy. And forgot to update on Thursday after Asher's follow up with the neuropsychologist.

Dr. B was a colleague of Dad's and new him before the aneurysms and treated him afterwards. Apparently I even had a session with him at one point to make sure I was handling everything going on with Dad in an appropriate manner. I have zero recollection of this but he was very friendly and seemed pleased to know that we were John Walke's family.

He confirmed that yes, Asher is smart. He does have some sensory issues but nothing severe enough to warrant occupational therapy. When he curls up in a ball because of noise or does some of the other odd things he does in reaction to stuff are because he focuses on the things that annoy/bother him so much that they're all he can think about. He doesn't know how to shut off that focus just yet but it's something he'll learn. (I didn't think to ask about ways to help him learn that, but we may google that.) Asher's academics are leagues beyond his socialization, which isn't unsurprising. We knew all that already. He needs more social interaction to help him be better around people but we don't want to do too much and overwhelm him.

It's a fine line.

At the beginning of it all, though, Dr. B said that neurologically speaking, Asher is Dad: the way he thinks, the way he processes, the way he explains things are all the way Dad did it. (I'm not sure if that's before or after the aneurysm, but I'm going with before.) After talking to me a bit, he said that the way Asher reacts to social situations is pretty much me. I've just learned how to cope with it and handle situations that stress/bother/annoy me. So he's a good mix of me and Dad. Which isn't a bad place to be, in my opinion.

We talked about the pros and cons of TLCA and A Moore House and Dr. B didn't come out and say he'd recommend one over the other, but did say that it wouldn't be a bad thing to focus on Asher's academics right now, so we've settled on A Moore House. A good thing, too, because I'd already bought all his school Dr. B did recommend that we try to get him into something social outside of school, so that's our next hurdle.

Overall, it was a mixed bag of a meeting. A little frustrating because he didn't tell us anything new, really, he just confirmed everything we'd heard or observed ourselves. But that's also a good thing. Everyone is looking at Asher and seeing the same things. He's a good kid, he makes friends easily, though he says he doesn't have any friends, he's smart, he's socially awkward, and he has some definite quirks.

I'm really hoping that A Moore House will work for him. I know those teachers are great and will do great things with and for him, but he has to adapt to their style. He's basically starting school for the first time this year and he's starting in 2nd grade with a bunch of kids who've kind of done this before and know the rules and each other. They're very inclusive and accepting, so its Asher who'll have to open up and accept them. He gets so frustrated when people don't do things exactly the way he wants them to that he yells and gets mad (and that's totally me, I'll admit it, I just grumble to myself or text my frustrations to a friend) and that's not going to work anywhere, let alone with A Moore House.

In other news, I think (hope) we're on the upswing of sickness around here. I think we've gone a full 36 hours with no incidents! Fingers crossed for a cleaner and less gross week.