Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bit of a Rough Patch

I don't remember the last time my blog was silent for an entire week.

Sorry about that. This post may shed a little light on what has created the dearth of posts.

We've had a bit of a rough patch around here lately.

It began with Eve and a fever that would not break.

When the ibuprofen was working, she would do puzzles
or watch TV
 or read stories.

But most of the time, she looked like this:
 or like this
 or like this.
It was a really rough five days. She spiked a fever so high that it burned your lips to kiss her forehead (my favorite thermometer). Her eyes were bloodshot and raw. She slept fitfully, ending up on our bedroom floor most nights in a pile of pillows and blankets and crying that she felt sick. She hardly ate anything and would complain that her stomach hurt (because it was empty) and beg for cool water.

On the morning of the sixth day, she wandered downstairs for scriptures, half dressed and handing me a wrong-side-out shirt to right for her. When I asked her to raise her hands over her head so I could help her, Lily let out a gasp. "She looks like a Holocaust victim!" I sent her upstairs to weigh herself, and she had lost 10% of her body weight in five days (four pounds). It stunk.

But it got worse from there.

This is what an emergency room looks like at 3:30 am when it's not flu/RSV season.
 3 am on Wednesday morning, Brad nudged me awake and said that he needed to go to the emergency room, and that he could drive himself.


A few years ago, he was in a motorcycle accident where he landed on his head. He walked away with a crumpled bike, a sore neck, and not much more thought about it. A few months ago, his neck had begun to bother him, and an MRI revealed a lot more about that accident than he knew at the time of the crash. His C5-C6 vertebrae had crushed together, and the doctor reading his MRI (Dr. P, a family friend) seriously explained that he could have/should have been paralyzed from that accident, but his vertebrae had served their purpose and cushioned the impact as much as possible. However, he bears injuries that will never heal. Dr. P explained that if he ever felt extreme nerve pain or numbness in his hand, he needed to drive to Barrow's emergency room in Phoenix immediately.

When he awakened me, he had been feeling the pain and numbness for over an hour, and it was time to go to the hospital. And there was no way I was letting him drive himself.
The 30-minute drive to Phoenix was deserted. So was the parking lot. And the hospital. Brad has never been one to complain when he's sick, but this was different. I've never seen him like this. He described his pain level as "If ten is boiling in a pot of oil--then I'm a nine," and it never dipped below a five no matter what the ER staff tried.

After twelve hours in the ER, we were no closer to answers than we were when we arrived. Two X-rays, an MRI, two EKGs, two shots, and one oral dose of Percocet later, we drove home. I still had mom responsibilities--carpool, dinner, tutoring, piano practicing--but I threw in a quick trip to Walgreen's to fill his five prescriptions.
By this time, I was bone tired. I could barely think, and I was worried.

I've always been grateful to count these two men as our family friends and neighbors as well as our family physicians who stitch kids and diagnose croup and prescribe for pink eye at odd hours of the day and night, but never have I been more grateful than I did that Wednesday night when they both showed up at our house.
They read the test results and listened to the events of the night and day. They offered advice, comfort, and a much needed priesthood blessing. I will never forget them that evening.

Wednesday was a fitful night's sleep, with Hyrum waking up Thursday morning feeling ill. I gave him some ibuprofen, sat him in front of PBS when the other three left for school, and I headed back to bed to sleep a little. Somewhere in the fog of my late-morning nap, I recall Hyrum tapping my arm and saying, "I'm good, headed to school. Bye, Mom." I couldn't tell if it was real or imagined, but when I woke up 20 minutes later he was gone. (We live within sight of the school, and he had decided to head out the door just after the tardy bell rang.)

His whole world was different when he got home.
The characteristic blistering fever and bloodshot eyes from Eve's virus were evident now in Hyrum's face.

 Poor guy. I kept telling him that the best way to feel better was to eat healthy food and drink water to flush out the bugs.
So . . . that was Thursday. All he wanted that night was to sleep on our bedroom floor.

And I had to tell him no.

Months ago, I scheduled an appointment to take the GRE on Friday, October 2. I hired a tutor to reteach me math that I hadn't used since 1986. I spent countless hours doing problems and consulting answer keys. I did batch after batch of flash cards and dissected text passages for hours. I couldn't reschedule on such late notice.

So what did I do?

I got up at 5 am Friday morning, showered and ate, practiced a few problems, then headed out the door to ASU to take my test with sick Hyrum and sick Brad at home.

Much to no one's surprise, I bombed it.

And when I say I bombed it, I mean it.

The verbal section was fine, and I was happy with the score that immediately flashed on the screen when I clicked the final "submit" button. The math section, however, was not so good. Really bad, as a matter of fact. I think a monkey could have done better. My brain was just too tired and too emotionally taxed to apply all the math I had just relearned. I guess I'm slightly cheered when I remember that I wouldn't have been able to complete more than 4 or 5 problems before I'd begun studying, but I was disappointed. Still am. I'm waiting for the writing prompt grades, but I'm less than hopeful. My brain froze on the first section, and I couldn't pull words out of my brain that made cogent sentences of any kind. Writing? Really? That's what I do. And I couldn't do it that day. The second prompt was better, but I don't hold any hope for a good score on that section either.

It's taken me some time to get my bearings again after such a difficult few days. The kids all seem to be better for now, and I'm grateful. But Brad is still in much pain, with no answers or possible solutions. We are hoping he can get into a pain management specialist and a neurosurgeon soon.

As for me, I guess it's time to fill out that grad school application and see what the ramifications of that devastating score will be. I just don't know. I did find a slight ray of joy when I could use the word prescient correctly in a text to a friend. That made the whole GRE worth it, right?

Thanks for listening. Here's hoping things get back to normal around here soon.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Saying Goodbye Was Harder Than I Expected

I remember the first investment piece I bought. I was twelve years old.

I had a grand vision for my bedroom, but my budget was pretty limited--babysitting in the early 80s didn't pay nearly what it pays today. I knew I had to keep my brown dresser (which I liked) and my orange bookshelf (which I didn't). In those days before Pinterest and Amazon.com, Kmart was my go-to inspiration place, mostly because I could ride my bike there if I got permission. While roaming the aisles one day, I found it--a 100% polyester full-size bedspread, printed with brown and yellow flowers on a white synthetic-shiny background. This would be just the thing to tie together all of my stuff. I couldn't wait to get it home, make my bed in the fancy way--pillows under the bedspread and tucked carefully around to emphasize their place at the head of the bed, with a small blue flannel pillow in the center made by my brother to fulfill the dual purpose of Christmas gift and scouting requirement. I was proud. It was beautiful.

I have made do with hand-me-down pieces and thrift store finds most of my life, but I will never forget the first real investment pieces we bought for our family--twin tan chenille couches with matching sets of navy and red throw pillows. We were struggling with infertility at the time, and I was desperate for something to fill the void in my life. Between the time we ordered them and the day they were delivered, I had discovered that I was pregnant with Lily Jane. It was a good day.

Those two Rowe couches survived everything. Three different houses--one room was barn red, one was butter yellow, and the third a handpicked greige in our dream home. So many different decorating schemes. I don't know how many combinations of throw pillows have lived shorter lives than these couches. Boys jumping and wrestling and building forts. The couches weathered my traditional, shabby chic, and transitional moods with ease. I never tired of their classic lines, their color, or their fabric. Even after sixteen years of the hardest use furniture could be expected to withstand, that upholstery looked great. The pieces did rattle when moved around--pens, pencils, Legos, Goldfish, errant coins, and small toys had found entrance but no escape from the dark recesses inside.

Two years ago, Brad was wrestling with Ben and when the two of them landed on the couch, the frame broke. That couch was placed on the curb and quickly found a new home somewhere in the Valley of the Sun. I didn't think much of it then.

I held onto its twin as long as I could. On occasion, I would long for a new couch, but when I looked for a replacement, I never found anything I liked better. 

Then, it happened. 

Sometime in June, the frame of the remaining couch also buckled under the extreme living conditions that are the Denton Sanatorium.

I don't know who or how or what, but the couch was no longer salvageable. Every time visitors would sit on it, I would warn them that the middle would suck them in and escape would be difficult. Some took my warnings to heart, others tempted fate and learned the ugly truth for themselves as they grunted, struggled, then begged for assistance to stand. I told Brad that it really was time to replace the couch, and he balked for a few months, traveled around Asia for a while, thought about it some more, until I finally convinced him that it was time. A new couch was ordered, and we waited.

But it wasn't easy taking that couch to the curb. When the kids left for school on the day of delivery, I told them a new couch would come while they were gone. Hyrum, panic on his face, asked, "What are you going to do with this couch? I LOVE this couch!" I told him I was giving it away, and that offended him. Deeply. "Mom, you should AT LEAST sell it! Like for $50. It's worth a lot."

Didn't know he had such an attachment to the couch, because $50 in his eyes is a ton of money.
I could hardly look as it sat there on the curb, one arm cover lost and the other naked and lonely, begging someone to take it home and love it. I felt like I was giving away something precious--not one of my children, more like a beloved family pet. Instead of leaving it there alone on the curb, rejected and dejected, I pinned a sign to its shoulder, like a mom sitting at the grocery store surrounded by melancholy children and a cardboard box full of mewing kittens:
FREE to a good home

Sixteen years of our family room memories centered around that couch. The perfect napping couch. The perfect nursing couch. The perfect story-reading couch. The perfect snuggling couch. The perfect TV watching couch. The perfect fort-building couch. The perfect scripture reading couch. The perfect family couch.

I left the couch on the curb and returned a few hours later.

It was gone.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Denton Day at the IDEA Museum

These past two Thursdays have been extraordinarily busy around here, and I haven't put as much thought into our Denton Days as I wish I could have. In fact, on one Thursday I told the kids as they walked in the door from school that I didn't have anything planned, and they could do whatever they wanted. Their reactions surprised me.

"Really? Whatever we want? On a Thursday? Well, ok, I guess."

With very limited time to venture far, we headed to the i.d.e.a. museum.
The main hall was closed to update the revolving exhibit, and neither Eve nor I had worn socks (new rule to use Artville--and I wasn't quiet about my displeasure on learning that after we arrived at the museum), so we were restricted to the main art room. I thought they would be bored and ready to leave quickly, but I was wrong. Only a few other people were there, so they could spend as much time on projects as they wanted.
Eve was able to see how the soundscape room really works--since only her movements were inside the dome, she controlled the symphony.
Micah spent most of our hour at this computer, making short still movies of the Avengers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A few smaller kids huddled around him and gave suggestions for how they wanted the story to develop.
Hyrum is my creator. He loves to make stuff out of garbage, and this exhibit was perfect for him. He was frustrated that the supplies weren't strong enough to support his ideas, but if you look next to his chest, he has the first two towers of Hogwarts started from toilet paper rolls and egg carton cups.
Eve made the striped heart glasses on the face to her right, and I made the candy cane striped glasses she's wearing.
Next time we come to this museum, we will allot more time--and wear socks. But I don't think the kids would have had any more fun even if we had had more time or worn socks.

Lesson for Mom: Denton Day is serious business for them. They want to spend time together--with me--and they don't care if it's grand and exciting. They actually like it.

I've got a good idea for this week . . . 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Homecoming Weekend

 It was homecoming weekend at Lily's school, and I was asked to help with a lunch-hour Fear Factor activity.

First challenge--two kids from each class ate a pizza as fast as they could. Lily volunteered for that assignment (she's in navy).

 But the juniors beat them out.

Next challenge was marshmallow stuffing--blindfolded.
And the final challenge--one member of each class volunteered to consume an entire Happy Meal (burger, fries, apples, and chocolate milk) that had been pureed.

 Yeah. It was as nasty as it sounds.
Only two kids managed to get the entire thing down, and there was much gagging and choking in the process. Ew.

The kids had a great time, and I was glad I got to help.

Later that day, some of her friends came over for a quick dinner before attending the JV and Varsity football games. One of her friends allowed Lily to apply henna (from her trip to India) around his arm.

 Don't think I would have been that brave.

Why they all ended up on the floor, I don't know . . .

JV played their sister school (Heritage Gateway), whose principal is the former head coach at Heritage Mesa (he was Ben's coach). It was a competitive game, with both sides wanting to take that victory. I've missed using my cool lens to take pics at football games, so I pulled it out.
One of Lily's friends took two really hard hits, and after the game was over and he was examined by a doctor, he was diagnosed with a concussion and bruised ribs.
They played hard, but the other team had one really good drive and ended up winning 14-6. Heartbreaker. Varsity made up for it with a 66-0 win.

Man, I've missed high school football. Made me miss Ben even more, watching the game and being in the stands.

What is it about high school football that I just love?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Where Has Lily Been?

I love blogging for many reasons, one of the most important being the history it creates of my family. I love scrolling back through my posts from a few years back and remembering little moments that would have disappeared from my memory had I not recorded them here--funny things kids say and do, family vacations, mothering successes and failures.

That said, a fine line exists between sharing the antics of the Sanatorium and my kids' privacy to share or not share their own stories. When they're younger, I draw the line more liberally, but as they get older, I try to respect their space, their room to make mistakes or try new things without it being  . . . "on the blog."

Lily has reached that place where her appearances on Denton Sanatorium are less frequent than they used to be.
Wow, I love this girl and the person she is becoming. She weathered the transition to a new high school well and found a great group of friends that she adores. More homework, harder classes--and balancing that against hanging out with friends, football games, and a few precious hours of sleep each night. You remember your sophomore year of high school, right?
She auditioned for "The Secret Garden" at MCC on a last-minute whim. (I snuck this picture of her during her audition.) Her voice has been weird for a few weeks now (I think it's because she's been screaming too much at football games and the like, but what do I know?), and she was nervous. When she stood up to introduce herself, her voice cracked and that shook her confidence a bit. One younger kid sitting behind her quietly said (but loud enough for her to hear), "Now watch. She'll be amazing." After she sang a few lines of "For Good" from Wicked, she turned to sit down and that same kid leaned back over to the same friend and said, "See. Told you." That made her feel better.
Almost as good as she felt when she read the cast list and discovered she will be part of the ensemble.

My Lily Jane.
Love that girl. Love the drama and excitement and joy and sadness and everything she brings to our family.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Last Official Day of Summer

The last day of summer gifted us with the most breathtaking clouds ever to dance an Arizona sky.
Meteorologists had predicted we would receive 3+ inches of rain blown up from tropical storms in the south, but nothing more than a few sprinkles ever materialized. All day the sky shifted from spun sugar to marshmallows to ephemeral bolls usually reserved for cotton fields.

Just as the little kids returned the chicken/scrap bucket to the kitchen counter and placed two washed eggs in the fridge, a few drops started to fall. Before long, our gutters were rushing, and our pool level began to rise.
Arizona kids love monsoon storms. My kids watch for them and hope for them and wish for them almost as much as they watch for Christmas and shiny packages under the tree. These spectacular gifts are fleeting, and we never know how long the rain will last. With dinner quickly blessed (with added gratitude for the storm's percussion in the background), food was shoveled and barely tasted, and swimsuits were donned.
It was a gully washer.
I couldn't let the moment pass without pulling out my camera. That isn't noise in the photos.
The water quickly filled gutters and spilled over onto sidewalks and lawns. Hyrum and Eve ran and splashed and shivered and floated soda can boats in races through the rivers.
Monsoon season ends about the time Fall begins. Fall is a loose term used here in the desert--temps possibly below 100 during the afternoon and deliciously below 70 in the morning.

Summer went out like a lion--blustering and drenching the desert with one last celebration.

Fall may not bring tons of turning leaves and crunchy apples, but that won't stop me from my favorite part of Fall.


It's almost time for an official Boot Day. I'm ready.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

Why does little boy hair look just fine, just fine, just fine, then suddenly loses all control and looks like a tribble from the original Star Trek?

And why does it always happen on picture day?

Today is picture day at school. And my boys' hair looked like this:
 And like this:
 I knew last night was my last chance to do something about it before school today, so I sent Hyrum upstairs for my clippers and scissors as I positioned the chair near an outlet on the easily swept wood floor. He grabbed a pool towel (best coverage of bare chests, arms, and legs), got as comfortable as he could on a hard chair wrapped in a towel, and I turned on the clippers.


Are you serious?

Now what?

Brad brought down the groomer he bought last fall when he grew out his beard (cutting of the beard post here), and I attempted to cut thick, overgrown heads of hair with a not-completely-charged rechargeable beard trimmer.

It took almost 20 minutes per head, but we reached an acceptable level of completion.
 This morning was filled with "Who's shirt is this?" "That's MY shirt!" "Which shoes should I wear?" "Do these shorts match?" "Can I wear my silver bow?" curling irons and steam irons, gel, mousse, and hair spray. Throw in a 7 am orthodontist appointment for Micah, two sessions of piano practice, scripture reading and family prayer, scrambled eggs and toast, and four filled lunch boxes.

That was our morning.

I know the school's photographer won't see what I did this morning before 7:30.

Whew. Glad that's not our routine every morning!