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Thursday, July 17, 2008


My sister and her family got in last night, then left this morning to go to the Tennis Championships in Indianapolis. They took Conner with them and their three older boys, and left Micah, my three-year-old nephew, with me.

While they were sweating and getting autographs from the likes of people like James Blake, the little ones were playing dress-up and band parade around the house and keeping cool with the water hose. They all get along remarkably well, which has always been the miraculous case with Conner and my sisters' (six total) older boys, and a trend that appears to be continuing with these three younger ones as well.

Only this trio definitely has a ringleader. But these boys don't seem to mind. Cousins rock.

Monday, July 14, 2008

It Was a Beautiful Day

And I had every intention of posting these pictures at the end of it, until I fell asleep putting Sean-Peter to bed -- late -- because a little yard work will do that to you...(This photo brought to you by Conner.)
(This one, too.) (He sure knows how to bring out the best in them, doesn't he?)
Olivia was trying her hand at some tricks on the rings. You don't get the full effect here, because my camera has, like, a five-year delay, but she really can do some scary dangerous amazing things on those rings. Comes from a few months of gymnastics, I suppose. Not to be out-done by his sister, Sean-Peter decided to have a go.This was about five seconds before our latest trip to the emergency room.Just kidding. But I was holding my breath. What does that say about me? That I hold my breath while I continue to hold the camera? Hmmm...The number of house projects we have on our to-do list is staggering. And that's just in the house. The yard is almost an afterthought.

The latest is trying to fill up some of these holes in our rain-washed yard. The kids actually had fun helping out with this one. Imagine, being told to dig in the dirt. After sprinkling on some grass seed, the idea is to turn our rickety yard back into a lawn before those holes turn into full-fledged erosion. Time will tell. Might be that more rain simply washes away the seeds before they can take hold...

I am procrastinating, like, a thousand things on my to-do list right now. And that's after about a million interruptions since I started this post some four hours ago. Including ten minutes I just took to finally unpack from our trip we got back from over a week ago. Sheesh. I guess I can't complain anymore when John takes three months to unpack from a TDY.

Oh, wait. Yes I can.

But I thought it was time I unpacked since I'll be packing again in just a few days. You know, fresh start and all that. Although packing is definitely taking a back-burner for the time being to getting this house ready for guests, projects and all. Since I finally got a hold of the guy who said he could help us get our microwave installed above our stove, and he said he could make time in his busy schedule this Wednesday -- the same day my sister and her family arrive. You don't mind if my kitchen is in complete disarray, do you, Cheri?

Because I hate to put the guy off, considering our options for experienced help are so limited, here in this still-new-to-us town. Especially since our only other contact blew us off completely. "Good help is hard to find" and all that.

Is it just me, or does this summer already seem to be preparing for its departure? Here we are, mid-July, and I have no idea where June went. Or the last two weeks, for that matter. Okay -- I know it partially went to school still getting out and to scout camp and on a road trip to Kansas. Oh, and a teeny-tiny surgery ... but seriously. My sisters and parents and I have been anticipating this trip up to Michigan together for months now, and now it's here, and I just feel tired.

I tell myself that once the preparations are done, once we're in the car and on the road ready to go to our destination, that it will be fun and light and airy and it will be worth it for all of us to get together, at a lake with a beach and boysboysboys (and one little girl) running around making memories. And it will be. And I guess I better stop procrastinating now to do my part to make that possible.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

We Like This Kind of Bud

John found out that he has the opportunity to be Bud Anderson's escort next week during his induction to the Aviation Hall of Fame.

Go ahead, click on the link. I'll wait. Because this is cool. It's so cool that it totally makes up for delaying our vacation trip up to Michigan we've had planned with my family for like, forever.

The fact that I'm even a bit excited about this gives you a tiny, teeny-tiny clue of just how excited John is. Really, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. A WWII Ace? Wait, no -- triple ace. And test pilot. And active pilot still at 86 and going strong.

My husband is the biggest WWII buff you could ever know. And he's obsessed with aircraft and anything that had a gun from that era. He's the kind of guy you can walk through an aircraft museum with who can tell you about every single thing you see. He speaks of fuselages and wing spars as intimately as some guys talk baseball scores and batting averages. He's a geek model builder of the highest order. Although he doesn't build models so much anymore as collect boxes of them to hoard (300 and counting). You know, for his retirement. Or his widowhood, take your pick. Because moving around and finding a place to store those models everywhere we go is just about to kill me.

He also just so happens to already own his own scaled rendition of Bud's P-51, Old Crow. (Hey, Bud, do you mind if I call you Bud?) You know he's getting this baby autographed.

And he gets to meet the guy. And spend four days carting him around, showing him the sights, keeping him on schedule, polishing his shoes and holding his umbrella, if that's what it takes. Because I don't think we've gone four days in Ohio without something wet falling from the sky since we moved here almost a year ago.

He doesn't know the itinerary for the whole four days yet, but the induction ceremony itself is on Saturday. The day we were supposed to leave on vacation. But, hey, Michigan ain't going anywhere.

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's Ba-ack

Remember when Olivia was sick? It turned out she had strep, too. We got her some good drugs, then promptly left for Kansas. Ever had to give a kid ten days of antibiotics while you're on the road? Well, hopefully you fared better than I did. Needless to say, a few doses were, um, forgotten, and I was still giving her doses, like, two weeks later.

Then last weekend she got sick. At least, she seemed kind of sick. Not real sick, but not well, either. But then she got better. Then on Wednesday she got sick again. Not real sick, but definitely not well, either.

So yesterday I took her in, to get another culture, and to confess that I am a bad mom and can't remember to give my daughter her medicine every day. This spunky little girl all dressed up like a princess sporting pretty spotless sparkly sandals not acting at all sick because, well, she wasn't. But we have another road trip/vacation in about a week? And, you know, I just had a feeling.

Then the rapid strep culture came back negative and I decided mom's feelings aren't all they're cracked up to be, but better safe than sorry and all that.

Today we all had some mandatory fun on base, this family function that John's work organized at the lake.

Yes, the base has a lake. I didn't realize that until today. I knew Wright-Patt was huge, but sheesh.

We got there toward the latter end of the festivities (to say the least) because I was kind of on the phone. Okay, I was really on the phone. But I have a good excuse, because it was with my friend Stephanie who lives in Germany and we don't talk often so when we do we really talk. And I totally thought John was coming home to change clothes for this forced-fun thing so it never occured to me that he'd taken a change of clothes to work with him (that whole planning ahead concept not being his forte and all) and that he'd be calling to tell me to get. over. there. already.

No, we do not have call waiting. We also don't have caller ID. We're old school like that. So if you're trying to call and no one picks up it's nothing personal, really. We just don't feel like answering the phone. Or we're actually not there, of course. Anyhoo...

So we barely make it there before they packed up the food, which the children snarfed down because it was, ahem, well after lunch by the time we got there, and they were also well-motivated to earn samples of the SUGAR on display all around them. I do believe this was Sean-Peter's first taste of cotton candy.
Doesn't he look just like a little birdy?That daddy happily fed. That little guy still doesn't like to get his hands sticky.

And just because I've been so bad about updating Conner's state of affairs (or anything else, for that matter) since his surgery, here he is, as you can see, getting along just fine, now sporting a simple wrap on his right arm that hides the stitches. It was his underarm that really caused him discomfort for several days, where they took out the lymph nodes. Poor guy. He was walking around like C-3PO there for while. (The biopsy on those came back negative, by the way.)

Okay, totally an aside, but doesn't his cap make his blue eyes look glorious?

It was too hot with too many sweaty kids and bad too-bright lighting to take any pictures outside. And the lake was not all that. But we did have a nice time today, the perfect family day (you know, once I got off the phone and all), especially once we got home and John and I put ourselves down for a nap.

Then we got up and found a message on the machine (you know, because Conner didn't feel like answering the phone) saying that Olivia's culture had thought about it for awhile and decided to come back as positive after all. so HA! kudos to moms unite!

Speaking of Olivia, remember the letters for her name that she helped paint? Just so you don't think I'm totally Lame Mother of the Year, not giving her her medicine and all, I did finally get her name up on her wall, see?
Yes, and her curtains, too. Though you must look closely ...

Do you see it? Do you? Well, do you??

Right! Those are not THE CURTAINS. (If you click on the link, scroll toward the end of the post to see the photo.) The ones you actually see hanging in Olivia's room in the photo above were my consolation prize, as "Temporarily Oversold" ultimately translated to GONE FOREVER.

I was completely devastated. Although Olivia was all like, get over it already, mom.

Actually, she was so excited to finally get some curtains in her room. The poor little thing has no idea what she missed out on.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Conner Had Surgery and How We All Went to the Acupuncturist in Kansas

I really don't mean to get on here after such a long hiatus and continue to write about all the medical ills in this family of mine. But it seems worth mentioning that Conner had his surgery on his arm yesterday and everything went pretty much as planned. He came home pale and woozy from the anesthesia, but once that wore off completely he was ready to eat and smile and milk his war wounds for all they were worth.

That mole on his arm? The one that promptly dropped from any further mention in this blog? He had it removed in April, and I kept thinking I would sit down and write about it real proper-like, but kind of like my intention to start exercising or organize the household files or get that blasted wall border removed all ready or the million other topics I thought I would blog about, it simply never happened.

I knew something was up with the results from Conner's moles when we went to have his stitches removed and the technician left us -- me and all three kids -- for an indefinite period of time in the clinical room where there were numerous foreign cords and sharp objects and pushable buttons for Sean-Peter to find and destroy after I asked him if the pathology reports were in. After he had been gone awhile and I had exhausted every item in my backpack and purse and was contemplating tearing out my hair and tying the individual strands end-on-end to see if maybe the kids would accidentally strangle themselves -- or me -- a doctor I had never seen before came in and, never looking up from the papers he was obviously reading for the first time, told me that the one mole had looked suspicious so they had sent it to the Mayo clinic for further testing.

Um, okay. Can we go now? I mean, really. What am I supposed to say? Is it cancer? This guy didn't know me from Eve, and Conner was sufficiently oblivious to his sterile report as having anything to do with him. I saw no point in asking questions.

I talked to our regular dermatologist later, of course. He seemed to have trouble articulating the diagnosis of Conner's mole. It wasn't that he didn't know what to say; it was that he had so much to say. He literally spewed forth medical diarrhea, complete with terminology and names of all the doctors and pathologists who pored over Conner's mole tissue like a bunch of giddy scientists analyzing an alien specimen. At least that's what it sounded like to me, sitting at home trying to make sense of all this noise that was coming out of my phone from this kind, concerned doctor who obviously adhered to the more is more principle.

Apparently it was a difficult diagnosis to make, but a "severely dysplastic" "spitz nevus" was thrown out as the official description. But you still want to operate? But that's not melanoma, is it? Oh, but it's severely dysplastic, which is the real cause for concern? And it used to be considered melanoma, but now it's not? But one pathologist noted that if she hadn't known it came from a 12-year-old boy, she would have thought it was melonoma? Which it probably will be eventually, even if it's not now?

Things being clear as mud and all that, we ultimately went with their recommendation to have more tissue taken out to ensure that all the abnormal (melanoma? pre-melanoma?) cells were removed the first time around. We should know the results next week. They also sent his original mole tissue to a geneticist in California for, you know, genetic testing. But we haven't heard anything back on that yet, though it's been over two months.

We sent Conner into surgery yesterday knowing they were going to remove one lymph node from under his arm, to do a biopsy on that as well. Only while they were there they did this dye thing? It tracks up into the lymph nodes and somehow marks the ones that need to be removed? And they told John, before the surgery, that it was marking two, only when they came out of surgery they said it actually marked five so that's how many they ended up removing. We were a little perturbed they didn't come out and do parental consent and all that. You know, instead of telling John after the fact.

Not that it would've mattered, I suppose. There's something so imposing about medical professionals, and their been-there-done-that matter of factness that makes you feel like a heel who doesn't want the best for your kid if you question their judgment. It just seemed to me, when John told me about the lymph node surprise, so counter intuitive to remove something from your body that is supposed to help you fight infection. The radiation tech guy told John that this dye showed which lymph nodes weren't doing their job which allowed the bad cells to develop in Conner's mole in the first place ... the surgeon told John that the dye showed where cells from the bad mole might have traveled. Sounds like the age-old chicken or the egg question, if you ask me. But nobody did, and it's all moot now.

And now here it is July and so far this summer seems to have completely snuck by unannounced. It doesn't help that it's July 4th, the quintessential summer holiday, and it's raining, which is pretty much what it's been doing here since March (once it stopped snowing)and we have belatedly realized that we have no clue what the laws are in this area about shooting off fireworks, though we're thinking that the total lack of local fireworks' stands is probably a clue.

Not that I'm much of a fireworks fan, I'll admit. I do like sparklers, even though their impact has waned from my childhood since they've improved their safety quality admittedly so kids won't burn their hands but with the adverse side effect that they also no longer can spell their names in the air like little magicians waving their wands. (Remember?)

It doesn't help, though, that we just came back from Kansas where Conner got his cousin fix complete with working at the local fireworks' stands there alongside said cousins where Conner caught onto the fever and glamour of lighting things up and watching them go boom. We readily and naively said okay of course when he asked, as a special thing post-op thing to do, if we could set off our own fireworks at home. Like, what's so special about that? Oops. Luckily, the rain is saving us. How about that movie instead that we talked about, champ? Welcome to Ohio.

We did enjoy a week of summer in Kansas. When we showed up my family said that was their first real day of swimming weather, as they've been having quite a bit of rain and mild temps themselves. This was especially nice because we stayed at my sister's in Derby, and they have a pool. This is one of the few pictures I took the whole week. And by a few I mean few. Because right after I took this one? My camera battery died. And my charger was in my toiletry bag. No problem, except my toiletry bag was sitting in our house in Ohio, right where I left it before forgetting to load it in the van. No toiletry bag, no life. Never underestimate the power of mom forgetting The Bag.

I did pick up my mom's camera. Only to have it tell me her memory card was full before I could take a single photo. No, neither one of us thought to put my memory card in her camera. We're cool like that.

So I zen'd it and pretended that I was on a deserted island. Only with indoor plumbing. And it wasn't deserted, but occupied by boys and teenagers seemingly bursting from said plumbing throughout my sister's resort-like home, eating everything in sight. Seriously. I would show you pictures but they would all just be a blur. Oh, that, and my camera was dead. Did I mention I forgot my toiletry bag? It was definitely harder for me to go without my camera than without makeup. I think that could say a lot about a person, don't you think? Which would you rather go without, in a house full of people: your camera; or your makeup? (Well?)

The main motivation for our whole cross-country trip was to take Sean-Peter to an acupuncturist in Wichita, a certain Dr. Jones (not to be confused with Dr. Jones of the Indiana Jones fame, though her husband is reputed to be the inspiration for the film's character) to see what effect she might have on his neurological apraxia of speech disorder, since acupuncture is to Chinese medicine what neurology is to Western medicine.

Not that I have any idea what I'm talking about, but that is how I understand it in my layman's terms. I'll direct you to my cousin's natural health site where she gives a good overall definition of this type of treatment.

Sean-Peter had already responded remarkably well to occupational therapy, a type of treatment that is geared toward helping children with any sensory integration issues that they may have. I have slowly come to learn about all the little things that add up to the big picture which is Sean-Peter's struggle with speech. It's not enough to say that he has a speech disorder that impairs his ability to sequence the thoughts from his brain into words using the muscles that we all use to talk. You can't separate his other struggles -- his extremely picky eating; his difficulty with auditory and visual filtering; his seeming lack of innately sensing the space his body is inhabiting -- from his inability to speak intelligibly.

So many of these things -- oh, he's all boy; all children are picky eaters - he'll grow out of it; he's just detail-oriented, like his father -- I have come to understand should not simply be written off as Things That are Sean-Peter but also as part of the overall picture that can help to understand a neurological disorder that mainly grips his speech, yes, but should not be treated by dealing with his speech alone but rather with motor planning throughout the whole body.

Indeed, within two weeks of beginning his once-a-week occupational therapy -- and employing a few of the techniques at home -- his intelligible speech literally exploded. My family in Kansas, who all heard him "talk" at Christmas time, were quite simply astounded when he showed up talking for real in June. One of the things they commented on, too, was not just that they could understand so much of what he said, but that he said so much! Even though you suspected that he was harboring an extensive vocabulary that was lost in the hypernasality that swallowed up his intelligibility, it's quite another to hear it come out of his mouth at the same time you're coming to terms with understanding him in the first place.

His private speech therapist has said that she usually sees progress like this in apraxic children take a year or more to achieve. It readily helps that he is so "stimulable", but both of us agree that this leap occuring right after he started OT is not coincidental.

So we came to Kansas, and to Dr. Jones, already quite pleased with Sean-Peter's current level of speech. Having arranged the appointments and the whole trip months in advance, we had no desire to call it off. At the same time, though, I can't say that I'm wholly disappointed that, immediately following his appointments with her, that we have not recognized a dramatic improvement in his speech. How much more dramatic can it get? is how I feel, at the risk of sounding complacent.

Which isn't to say that she didn't affect some change. His poop is different, for one thing. And while that may be TMI for some of you, I'm sorry, but poop is a very significant and telling function of our body. It wasn't so much that I thought it was unhealthy before -- he was pooping, after all -- but it's kind of like how you don't always realize how sick you really felt until you're all better. It's just different and ... healthier, that's all. I'll spare you the details.

Because we were already going so far and to so much expense to take Sean-Peter to this acupuncturist, I decided John and Conner should go as well. And why not me, too, while I'm at it. And, really, my desire to have Sean-Peter helped in any way possible served to provide me with some treatment that I otherwise never would have gone out of my way for, and that alone was worth the whole trip.

I don't believe that all acupuncturists are created equal -- otherwise I would've just looked someone up in the phone book in Dayton -- and this one truly is gifted. It wasn't just a matter of going to someone and "getting stuck with needles", as I would readily joke. It was like a treatment and therapy session all rolled into one. So different from medical doctors, who ask you what your symptoms are and then decided whether to prescribe you medication; she talks to you about things that seem to have nothing to do with anything, then reads your body as you answer and gleans information that your words couldn't even have told her was there.

But this book has gone on long enough, so I will leave you with a song that Olivia and I (and, yes, Sean-Peter, too: I'm telling you, he's amazing) have been singing a lot of this year. Which is particularly pertinent on this wet, wet, 4th of July. This is the version I remember growing up singing. Somehow it morphed into something rather morbid, if you look at the lyrics -- which aren't the original ones, I know. (I used to always wonder, how did he bump his head if he was already in bed? Did he die? Is that why he didn't get up in the morning? Or was he just knocked unconscious?) But I figure if this is how I remember singing them, then that's how my children will sing them, too. Traditions, you know.

It's rai-ning
It's pour-ing
And the ol-d man is snor-ing
He went to bed
And he bumped his head
And he never got up in the mor-ning.

I am curious, if you would all oblige me (the two of you who actually read to the end) -- what was your childhood version of this song?