Monday, March 31, 2008

Three on 3/30

Happy 3rd birthday to our spunky little girl!

We had a small cake-and-presents celebration on Sunday. She was darling as she sang for herself and then blew out all her candles in one quick blow.

Today we invited some friends over for a sack lunch birthday party. Natty requested PB and honey sandwiches with Cheetos, cheese sticks, fruit snacks and grapes. With that kind of menu, I decided a personalized sack lunch for each little girl would be fun. She was thrilled to have her friends help her celebrate her special day.

Presents are so much fun! It doesn't take a three-year-old long to rip into the goodies. She spent the rest of the day playing with all her fun things.

The cupcakes are the best part of any party, even if they do only eat the frosting.

She's grown up way too fast. She's full of personality and adds so much life to our home. We sure love this darling birthday girl!

Friday, March 28, 2008

End of An Era

It started in August of 2002. I had been running solo for quite some time but it was then that a new friend, Stephanie, started joining me on my regular route. She had decided to run a local 5K, had seen me out running in the morning, and asked if I wanted to run the race with her. I agreed and we started running together each morning.

A lot of life has happened since then. There have been rainy days, sunshine, power outages, wind, ice, trials and joys but the 6 am morning run has always remained a constant. We very rarely took a sick day and not even pregnancy could stop us. We were two determined girls with unwavering dependability, which is what made the routine work for so many years. I figure we’ve covered about 4,000 miles together.

A lot of conversation and bonding occurs over 4,000 miles. We’ve covered topics like family, education, church callings and entertainment. We’ve used that time to plan outings, get-togethers and play dates because our children can’t ever seem to get enough of each other. Though many things have changed over the years, this small daily routine never has. Until now.

Over the years people have occasionally asked, “Are you guys still running every morning?” The question would always sound a bit ridiculous to me. Of course we were still running. Why would we stop? I now have an answer to that question. Stephanie will soon be much farther than a half-mile away. She’ll be moving out of state when her house sells but with her husband leaving to start his new job, she won’t be able to leave the kids each morning to meet me on the usual street corner. Thus, we have met this running era’s end.

I’ll keep running. I may even have a new running friend (no pressure, Camille:)) but it’s still hard to see this end.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

How Does Your Garden Snow?

There are daffodils under there!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Easter!

Visiting the Easter Bunny at our neighborhood egg hunt.

The kids had fun dying eggs.

Pretty girls all dressed up for church.

My handsome boy.

Candy anyone? I sorted all the candy the kids got from Grandma, Grandpa and us and this is the result. I'm not sure we'll ever be able to eat it all!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Week in Review

  1. Season’s End: Caleb scored 8 points in his final basketball game last Saturday. We attended an awards ceremony, which was much like a graduation, where every child that participated had his/her name called, walked on stage in front of thousands of people and was given a basketball. His teammates voted him “best shooter” and he even won a raffle for a free water bottle. We can’t say enough about this program and the wonderful experience it was for Caleb. His eyes welled with tears as he expressed how sad he was that the season was over.

  2. Nurses Station: The results of Caleb’s MRI and blood work were both good.
  3. Luck o’ the Irish: Caleb had fun building a leprechaun trap for a school assignment. He painted a small box green, a bottle cap for the pot yellow, punched circles of yellow paper for gold coins and posted a sign to lure the little guy in. We used some artificial moss in the bottom of the box which camouflaged honey that was intended to keep the elfin stuck once he tried to nab the gold. Though it sat on his desk all last week, it has yet to trick the clever fellow.
  4. Look-a-likes: Natalie and I were at the school Monday morning doing PTA duties. One of Alyssa’s classmates came in late and went to check in at the office. The little girl looked at me, then at Natalie and said, “Alyssa, are we late?” Natalie just looked at her without responding so the little girl repeated herself, this time a little more emphatically. I finally noted that it was Natalie, not Alyssa that she was talking to. I’m told all the time how much the girls look alike. I admit to getting their voices confused but I don’t see the resemblance as much.
  5. Rushing the Season: Natalie has developed an obsession with shorts. Our trees are blossoming and the tulips sprouting but we’re certainly not warm enough for bare legs. Each morning I carefully select an appropriate outfit but every time I turn around, she has changed into shorts. At bedtime, she wears pajamas on top, shorts on the bottom. I insist she change when we leave the house but the shorts are replaced immediately upon our return home. I’m looking forward to summer when she’ll be able to wear just one outfit a day.
  6. Science Center: The kids did not have school on Friday so we made a trip to the Pacific Science Center with many of our friends. I also offered to take several other kids whose parents couldn’t go. It made an already busy outing that much busier but the kids had a great time. Alyssa tried the muscle endurance station which times how long you can hang in the pull-up position on a bar. She far exceeded the average (18 seconds) for a female of her age, and hung almost effortlessly for 60 seconds. I barely managed half of the average for someone of my age and I’m still paying the price.

  7. Downtown: Jon and I accompanied the Young Women of our ward to the Seattle Art Museum. We visited the “Roman Art from the Louvre” and “The Gates of Paradise” exhibits. I felt sophisticated as I roamed the galleries listening to the commentary through my personal audio guide device. I thought the art was fascinating. We then walked up one city block to a favorite downtown restaurant for some seafood cannelloni and filet Roquefort accompanied with great conversation. Cap that off with some white chocolate cheesecake and crème brulee and you’ve got an ideal night of kid-free togetherness.

  8. (8.85) New PR: We survived another gymnastics meet. They are agonizingly long and nerve-wracking but we’re proud of Alyssa and all she’s accomplished. We enjoy watching her present her skills to the judges. She did a beautiful bar routine which earned her a personal record of 8.85. She placed seventh all around in her division and as always, scored a perfect 10 in cuteness!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Day At Mary's

Caleb and Mary have become pretty good friends. He’s gone to Mary’s (Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital) many times for several different medical problems and she’s always treated him well. Mary provides good food on those days when the visit is particularly long and she also gives some pretty good prizes. Once when Caleb spent the day with Mary he came home with a new Monopoly game and yesterday he came home with Twister. She has fun computers, lots of books, games and toys that help make Caleb and all those that accompany him feel right at home.

We arrived at Mary’s around 9:45 yesterday morning. Mary had so many friends visiting that our usual parking spot was taken. We tried our second most usual spot but it was also occupied so we had to select a new slot. I like Mary and all but having a regular parking stall means we’ve been there a little more frequently than I’d like.

Mary had lots of activities planned for us; an EEG, an appointment with a pediatric neurologist, and an MRI. Just trying to schedule each of these appointments caused a good deal of stress but we are so grateful that we were able to pack it all into one day, making just one visit to Mary’s.

First up was the EEG. In preparation, Caleb got to stay up until 12:00 am and had to be awakened at 5:30 in the morning. An effective EEG requires the patient to be asleep for part of the procedure. We were told to deprive him of sleep to make falling asleep for the test a bit easier. Caleb felt it a special treat to get to watch all of Mom and Dad’s TV shows and his late bedtime caused some envy from his sister. He didn’t seem at all tired when we arrived at the second floor EEG lab. Mary had Dora on for Natalie and Jon had Miss Berry (my name for his Blackberry phone) for entertainment while Caleb and I went to the procedure room.

The tech measured his head with a tape measure and covered him with red markings. Then she rubbed some sort of adhesive onto each red spot, dipped little electrodes into a thick cream and attached them to his head. Caleb held a mirror and grew wary of his appearance as he watched the process. Once the electrodes were placed, his head was wrapped in gauze and we were ready to begin.

The first portion of the test involved a strobe light that blinked every few seconds in increasing frequencies. Then he had to blow forcefully on a pinwheel for three minutes straight. The final part of the test, by far the most stressful for me, was when he had to fall asleep.

Because of the MRI that would be taking place in the afternoon, Caleb wasn’t allowed to eat anything after 7 am but he could have clear liquids so we had given him a Sprite. That darn Sprite in combination with Caleb’s tiny bladder caused us some trouble. Though he’d already gone three times prior to being hooked up to all the wires, he needed to go again and there was absolutely no way he was going to fall asleep without relieving that pressure. After about thirty minutes of trying to coax him to sleep, the tech unhooked the consol that held all the wires and I carried it behind him to the restroom. While he was going and I was holding a box full of wires, I begged him to try harder to fall asleep. That meant no more visions of Tom and Jerry, which were giving him a minor case of the giggles. I suggested counting backwards instead. I also asked if I could rub his back. She approved and a few minutes and many silent prayers later, sleep finally fell on my boy.

After 12 minutes of sleep he was startled awake by the tech clapping loudly in his ear. With that, the test was complete. She removed the electrodes and did a quick rub on his head with a wet washcloth. But not all the red or the goop came off and he spent the rest of the day looking as if he had a head full of scabs surrounded by greasy hair.

We had an hour to spare before our appointment with the neurologist and it was lunch time so Natalie, Jon and I took advantage of Mary’s yummy food. Poor Caleb couldn’t eat so he opted for a comfy chair in the waiting room where he passed the time playing his Leapster.

The appointment with the neurologist was informative. He described Caleb’s EEG as “minimally abnormal.” By that he meant that it showed some abnormalities but none that required immediate prescription of medication. The strobe light portion of the test showed abnormal brain waves and the other concern was that the left and right sides of his brain were not producing the same number of waves. Evidently a child his age should produce 8-10 brain waves per second. The left side of his brain was doing just that but his right had dips to 6 or 7. It was just slightly lower than average and one more reason to warrant the MRI which was to be done shortly. As I understood it, another explanation could be that the right side could be the part of his brain that experienced last Friday’s seizure and it is just still recovering. He said we have a 1 in 5 chance of a second seizure and it would most likely occur in six months to a year. If a second seizure were to happen, he told us he then be diagnosed epileptic and immediately put on medication. The good news is; we have a four out of five chance that it will not reoccur. The doctor answered my many questions, gave Caleb a quick physical exam and sent us on our way.

By now it was nearly 2:00 and the kids were growing quite restless. It was a beautifully sunny day so I took the kids outside to burn some energy while Jon checked in with work. We ran a few races and breathed in the fresh air before gathering our things and making our way to our third and final location, Radiology.

It had been determined that Caleb be sedated for the MRI. Mary’s sedation area is really great. We had a semi private room/waiting area where Caleb was put under and later recovered and it was equipped with some great toys, like a play kitchen, to keep Natalie entertained.

True to form, Caleb handled the IV beautifully but watching him be sedated was the hardest part of the day. The doctor told us he would fall asleep within twenty seconds but I wasn’t prepared for the abrupt way my son would transform from alert to gone. Once they started the drug he began counting silently, using his “magic finger” to write the numbers in the air. When he reached nine his finger slowed, he turned toward us with an intense, confused stare and slumped to the gurney in an instantaneously sleep. Just like that, he was down. I nearly broke down in that moment. He looked lifeless. But I held together as Natalie and I watched him be loaded into the MRI machine. Then they closed the enormous door while Jon remained in the room to watch the procedure. He was given sound deafening headphones to block the noise but even with them, he described it as a blaring Metallica bass line. That noise would’ve been highly disturbing to Caleb so we were glad he would not even remember what had taken place.

He woke ten minutes after the scan was complete. Once they determined he was well enough to go, we were on our way. It was almost 5 pm and we’d been at Mary’s all day. Caleb felt alright but stumbled to the car like a drunk, his body still weak.

We admired Mary’s view of Mt. Rainier and then said good-bye. I had one hour before I needed to be at Scouts and work was waiting on Jon. It’s true what they say, there’s no rest for the weary.

We have reason to hope that this new road ended with our day at Mary’s. It just may be that we won’t have to deal with any of this ever again. We will find out the results of the MRI in a couple of days.

We are so grateful for the continued prayers and support of our family and friends. We have truly felt them. Thank you.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A New Road to Travel

It was the sort of déjà vu I never wanted nor ever imagined I’d have to experience. One rumbling fire truck, three firefighters, two paramedics that arrived in an ambulance a few minutes later and a stretcher in the very spot of my entry way where it had been just two months ago. Now they gathered in my bedroom—last time it was the girls’ room-and instead of my father, the patient was Caleb. The procedure was the same; administration of oxygen, taking of vitals with the blood pressure cuff and finger pulse monitor and the barrage of questions about had happened. I told them the story that I’d have to repeat many more times before day’s end.

Caleb woke Friday, showered and dressed as he would any school day, and came downstairs where I was busy in the kitchen. He let out a moan as he threw himself on the couch, telling me his head was hurting. I gave him three chewable Tylenol and figured he’d soon be just fine. A few minutes later, I was in my bathroom doing Alyssa’s hair for school when Caleb lay on my bed and reiterated that his headache was quite painful and he was also feeling dizzy. I told him to go to sleep, that maybe when he woke up he’d be better. He buried his head under the pillows and I covered him with a few of his favorite blankets. I got Alyssa off to school and called the office to let them know that Caleb was sleeping off a headache. I fully expected that he’d wake up in an hour and be ready to go to school. I put on a show for Natalie (she’s come to expect one right after the big kids head out the door), checked on Caleb who seemed to be sleeping peacefully and grabbed a book and began reading in the den.

Not more than ten minutes had passed when I heard an agonizing wail. It was followed by Caleb shouting, “Help me!” I ran upstairs and found Caleb holding his head saying, “I’m so dizzy!” I tried to talk to him but his eyes began darting wildly and uncontrollably from side to side. I asked many questions regarding what was he seeing and begged him to just close his eyes. He could never manage more than one or two word answers and most of his responses didn’t make sense. I held my hand to his eyes and tried to physically close them but they wouldn’t close and Caleb muttered, “I can’t.”

I knew something wasn’t right and picked up the phone to call Jon at work. My entire body was shaking and I was unable to speak. He advised me to take Caleb to his regular pediatrician. I didn’t want to overreact but it somehow seemed like I needed more urgent care for my boy. I ran downstairs to get the doctor’s number and while I was looking it up, called my dear neighbor, Camille, who has now been through far too many emergencies with me and abruptly told her to come over. I then dialed the doctor’s office and was listening to their prerecorded messages when Camille arrived. Caleb’s eyes had become fixed in a glassy, empty stare. I repeatedly asked him to look at me but he was unresponsive and unable to shift his eyes in any way. While he eventually moved his gaze in one slow, deliberate shift toward my face, he was unable to converse. He couldn’t identify Camille or how many fingers we held in front of his vacant stare. Camille suggested I call 911. While I called she sat with him and continued to ask him questions. His skin was clammy and tiny droplets of sweat formed on his upper lip. He was beginning to seem slightly more responsive but then rolled to his side and fell asleep.

Camille whisked Natalie off to her house just as the fire engine came rumbling up to mine. Three firefighters came into the room and tried to rouse Caleb. He was groggy and a bit disoriented but he was now able to answer simple questions. He described a headache which he rated an 8 out of 10 and was still quite dizzy. After taking all his vitals and asking me all the questions, they asked me where I’d like him to go. I offered to just take him to his pediatrician now that he was more stable but they said that he needed to be taken to a hospital by ambulance. They continued tending to Caleb while I called Jon to let him know that we were headed to the nearest ER. Since he commutes by train, he explained that he would get a taxi and meet us there as soon as possible. One of the firefighters with a muscular build scooped Caleb in his arms, I threw his favorite blanket on top of him and he was carried downstairs to the awaiting stretcher. Caleb curled on his side, his eyes closed, as they covered him with a large navy blue blanket and strapped him in.

The paramedics advised me to drive myself to the hospital and I made a couple of phone calls on the way, one of which was to Jon who was now in route to the hospital. He mentioned that he wanted to find someone that would be able to help him give Caleb a blessing. I arrived at the hospital ahead of the ambulance and two workers standing outside the ambulance entrance advised me to go through the regular emergency room entrance where someone would assist me. Right as I walked through the doors I saw our home teacher sitting in the waiting room, reading a magazine. I had been so shaky, nervous and a bit teary eyed but when I saw him I burst into tears as I realized he could be the one to help Jon administer to Caleb once he got there. It turns out his wife had a meeting at the hospital and he was just waiting for her to be finished. Jon arrived a few minutes later and Caleb was able to receive a blessing even before seeing any medical personnel. It was a minor miracle amidst our trial.

Caleb continued to battle a fierce headache and wanted nothing more than to sleep, but he had to endure several tests. The nurse tried to start an IV but the first attempt failed. Caleb looked at me with his pale, weak face as she poked him a second time. I asked him which caused more pain, the hand or his head. He moaned that his head hurt far more and when asked, he rated the IV pain as 2 out of 10. Once the IV was in place, they drew a blood sample, gave him more pain reliever, a drug for nausea that had caused vomiting right as we arrived and later started hydrating fluids. He slept soundly between visits from nurses and doctors and struggled to be roused with each exam. It was difficult for him to focus each time he opened his eyes. He slept right through a rather long ride from the ER to the CT room and when lifted to the CT machine, he opened his eyes all wide and glassy but didn’t seem fazed by the machine that would take pictures of his brain. He went right back to sleep as soon as the procedure was finished and continued sleeping for a couple more hours.

We got the results that his blood test and CT scans were clear. It had been 3 hours since our arrival and Caleb was beginning to be more alert. It was determined that we could take him home and they had set up an appointment for us to see our pediatrician the next morning. I began asking Caleb many questions about the incident of the morning and while he could remember some things, there were clearly some gaps in his memory. Though he had stared directly at Camille, he recalled hearing her voice but didn’t at all remember seeing her. We weren’t really surprised that he didn’t remember, he was clearly somewhere else in those moments.
Caleb returned home around 1:00 in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day resting on the couch. His headache and dizziness slowly faded and he was beginning to get his strength back. He didn’t manage much lunch but by dinner, had a hearty appetite.
We went to our appointment the very next morning and after reading the reports and hearing my story, the doctor felt strongly that Caleb had experienced some sort of seizure. We will go in tomorrow for more in depth blood work and he will be communicating with a pediatric neurologist to schedule an MRI and EEG. Caleb’s ER blood test showed slightly elevated blood sugar levels. He said that that is common in patients who had just had a seizure. Caleb had not had anything to eat or drink that morning so the elevated blood sugar is another thing that warrants more investigation.

We don’t yet have many answers, we just know that we’re starting down a new road. We’ve been travelling the road of digestive problems, the long, ever-winding and often steep road of Asperger’s and now we will travel this road to determine the cause of his seizure-like episode. I would’ve thought it impossible for one nine-year-old to travel so many roads at one time but evidently he’s a very strong boy and Heavenly Father has confidence in his ability to handle all that comes in his path.
It was traumatic and disturbing to have to watch my son endure this episode but Caleb is now doing great. In fact, he woke Saturday morning as if nothing had ever happened. I am thankful to see the life back in his eyes. I am grateful for many thoughtful friends who visited, called and offered their support and prayers. It really is a great comfort to be reminded of the many wonderful people who surround us in our times of need and how many others are willing to help us down any road we have to travel.