Monday, October 26, 2015

It's Not All Kittens and Rainbows

Today was going to be a nice weekend update post.  But it's not.  It can't be.

My heart aches right now.  Aches. And I am beyond angry.  You see, I have two younger sisters.  And the thing about sisters is that you are close even when you aren't.  And we don't see each other often and we don't talk much and we live like a million miles away but I love my little sisters dearly and I always want what is best for them.

(Yeah, I promise I'm their biological sister.  Same parents.  Crazy genetics).

My middle sister has battled mental health issues and drug addiction for as long as I can remember now.  She was the one who drank in high school and started smoking when she was oh so young.  And from there it progressed, like you so often hear about.  She did marijuana and prescription pills and then it moved onto other things.  And she would go to rehab and it would stick for a bit, and then it wouldn't.

And I can't tell you what goes on in the mind of an addict because I honestly have NO FREAKING CLUE.  And I don't think her story is mine to tell.  But my feelings about it are real.

Her addiction has destroyed her family; it has destroyed our family.  Because you always love your kids, my parents have gone above and beyond to make it better.  And it's like she doesn't even care.  Or maybe she does.  But I don't know addiction.  And I'm angry with her for being so selfish and such a burden (emotionally and financially).  And I HATE her for what she is doing to her kids.  I know I would do anything for my children.  Most parents would.  But when you are staring in the face of an addict, I don't know that you can say that.  And I feel like the reason "you don't understand addiction" as true as it may be can't (or shouldn't) get in the way of the love you have for your kids.

The lies.  So many lies.  She's clean; she's good; everything's fine.  Here is a woman who has barely worked a day in her life and has always found someone to "take care of her." Well, she's not taken care of, she wasn't fine, and she was using a drug that most likely will at some point kill her because she will overdose.  Yeah, let that sink in for a moment.

But then I think she is probably fragile and can't hear these awful things that I think about her.  At a point I think I have to tell her that I fear for her life.  When I go months without hearing anything about her, I wonder if she is dead.  Would any of us finally have some peace if she was?

So today, I think about all of the families out there dealing with addiction and the heartache is causing them. Maybe one day I will find the strength to let her know what a horrible thing I think she is doing with the drugs and the lies and misery, but for today I just put it out there so maybe we can make it through another day.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Things are Getting Real

Oodles of doctors appointments coming up.  We get to meet with a pulmonologist and have a follow-up with her orthopedic surgeon next week.  The following week is her heart cath and punch biopsy to try and diagnose her genetic condition.

And I'm so many things:  nervous, excited, and indifferent.

Nervous:  What if something goes wrong?  What if we can't fix it?  These are my worries.  I know we have sought out very competent doctors, but things happen.  And the reality is that they can happen to anyone.  And if they can't fix it with the heart cath, that means open heart surgery and long recovery times and the possibility for more complications.  

Excited:  This could be the path we need to go down to get things fixed and get her to her healthiest.  What if we make a genetic diagnosis so we can prepare for those things down the road like spinal surgery with more certainty? 

Indifferent:  This has been our journey for a long time now.  It's been so taxing there are times that I really just have no feelings about it anymore.  I just go into a zone and don't think about it.  It's selfish, but true.  

Image Courtesy of Bethany Blair Photography

Being a parent is always hard.  And with being a stay-at-home mom, most of my worth is tied up in my kids right now.  And for me, that makes it harder.  It's all I think about.  And then to have Allyn have all of these really complicated medical things (with no answers) going on daily....well, it's just a lot.

So if you read this and you think about it in the next two weeks, say a really big bold prayer for this sweet little girl of ours.

Monday, October 12, 2015


We had a long weekend.  Our school district was out Thursday and Friday for parent teacher conferences.  Ironically, we are not out today.  Sometimes I just don't get the logic.

Fall is trying to settle in to the Chicagoland.  The trees are turning and some mornings are brisk.  But then we have and 80-degree day.  And it's supposed to frost this coming weekend.  More things I don't understand.

Wednesday the kiddos got out of school and Ben was traveling (again).  When he is not home I really try my best to keep the kids on the go and out of the house.  Being home results in lots of terrorizing: me and each other.  But when we are gone, things seem to be more manageable.  Wednesday early evening we headed up to Nolan's school to play on the playground because I was confident there would be other kids there.

 We stopped in the garden for some pictures (and to look at all of the fun stuff they are growing).  One sweet picture.
And one silly picture.

On Thursday morning we got up and headed to the gym.  I do a pilates mat class in the morning and didn't want to miss it.  The kids usually have a decent time in childcare there.  After the gym we headed to DeEtta's bakery for some yummy goodness.  (My children would eat their sweets every day).  After loading them up with sugar I decided we would hit up the DuPage Children's Museum.  They had finally reopened after a flood in January and we had not been since June of LAST YEAR.  And since we have a membership, I figured a day off would be a good time to make a visit.

 They were both big fans of the wind exhibit.
 It's SOOOO windy.
Upstairs was math and gross motor.  They played up there for a while too.  We finally got out of there around 2 p.m.  Allyn had speech therapy around 3 and neither kid had eaten lunch.  There was a lot of pouting as we left but I knew I didn't want to set myself up for disaster.

Ben came home LATE on Thursday evening.  We had a slumber party in mom and dad's bedroom.  Since Allyn had not napped, she went right to bed.  Which is good when you have a brother who won't stop talking.

Friday morning we had parent teacher conferences, then we went to lunch and Costco and Whole Foods and Allyn and I came home and napped.  I spent the evening cutting out Box Tops for Nolan's school.  And then I found a picture Emily had sent that her wedding photographer had taken.  And it just captured so much of our girl in one image.

Image courtesy of Steve Tinetti Photography. 

This girl LOVES BIG.  She has a spirit that will absolutely melt your heart.  And it really goes without saying that she has her daddy and me wrapped around her finger.

Saturday was early morning soccer and a lot more of stuff around the house.  And then yesterday I got to go to my happy place.  Which place is that? You ask.  Ben took the kids out for lunch and ice cream and to the Nature Center and playground for almost THREE AND A HALF HOURS while I cleaned the house.  It may seem lame to a lot of you, but I actually find cleaning to be a super peaceful time.  I enjoy things being put in order and feel a sense of accomplishment when I get them there.  And to get to do it alone and not have it destroyed behind me...HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!

The kiddos walking around the Nature Center.  Allyn was really excited about going to see the fish.

Today the kids are back in school.  Allyn was super pumped to be going back and I got to surprise Nolan's class as a mystery reader.  As I started to read his class two books, he made his way to the front of the room and sat in my lap.  It makes me happy that he still loves to be affectionate in front of his friends.  I may have even gotten a hug and kiss on my way out.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Emily Gets Hitched

Ben's little sister got engaged this past May (in Italy...what a dream).   Not one to mess around with a long engagement, they were married in September.  So we packed up the family and made the trek to Denver for a fun wedding weekend.

We hopped in a cab right after school on Thursday to fly out of O'Hare.  And honestly, we had quite possibly the most ridiculous reason for a flight delay ever.  Someone spilled a drink on the incoming flight (that was already delayed) so we had to wait another hour and a half for them to change out the padding on the seats.  So we ended up getting to our hotel around 11 p.m. MT on Thursday night.  The troops were tired. 

Friday morning we ventured out to breakfast at Snooze.  For some reason Ben thought it would be best to hit one on the southwest side of town.  So that was a 2-hour trip, but Allyn ate all of her eggs and some tortilla and Nolan had pancakes and sausage.  So a breakfast win.  Later that afternoon we had a bridal luncheon for Emily.  Allyn and I went and to say she was DONE at that point is an understatement.   She ate nothing but some cupcake icing and fell asleep in the car.  For some reason I have not one single picture of this event.  I think it's because I was tending to a certain grumpy three year old. 

That night we ventured to Evergreen for the reception.  It was a beautiful venue.  Following a brief rehearsal, we headed off to a dinner at 6 p.m.  Again, Allyn fell asleep in the car so no pictures of her.  This dinner was long.  The food was good but Allyn wouldn't eat a thing they had and only had some Ritz crackers I had in my bag.  This would prove to be a crucial learning moment for me.  Kids need to eat especially when they are at high altitudes.   We got back so late that night and crashed. 

The next morning we got up and headed to breakfast.  Allyn was complaining that her head hurt.  Of course, I had packed no medicine.  We were ordering our food (we had just picked her up some Chickfila minis that she promptly ate) and her color was looking totally off and her eyes were heavy.  I got nervous and decided to get her out in the fresh air.  Right when I stepped out the door, she barfed ALL OVER ME (and my only jacket I had packed for the trip).  It was definitely altitude sickness.  She ate more chicken and had some juice and seemed to be recovering for the rest of the day. 
So we went to Red Rocks.  (I know, right?)
That afternoon while Allyn napped, Nolan got to play with some friends of ours from Arkansas. 

That evening we headed back out to Evergreen for pictures early and then the wedding at 6 p.m.  Nolan was the ring bearer, Ben was a groomsman and I was a reader.  Allyn was my date.  Like I mentioned, it was a beautiful venue.  We celebrated and danced and had a grand time.  Of course, it was another LONG evening and Allyn fell asleep for the last two hours of the reception and Nolan was beyond hysterical by the time we got back to our hotel.  But we would do it again for Lala. 

 (Oh em gee.  I packed one pair of dress shoes for the trip.  By the third hour of the third event wearing them, my feet were done.  So thank you TOMS for coming to the rescue).

 Kacy and Mike were there for the celebration. 
And I just had the best time with my date.  Because I seriously almost never saw Ben or Nolan.  (That's Ben standing up in the background taking pictures from the wedding party table.)
And kind of unrelated to the wedding, that may be one of my most favorite dresses I have ever purchased.  Although I may be investing in some Spanx because boy was it snug around the tush and I kept stressing about visible panty line.   
On Sunday we all boarded a (delayed) flight to Chicago to head home.  From there Ben headed back out to Orange County for work.  It was exhausting but we were glad to celebrate Emily and Dave in such a beautiful place for such a special event.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

That Time I Fell of the Face of the Earth

What can I say, life is busier than normal.  Nolan finished kindergarten, summer rolled around and life got extra crazy, like crazy with crazy sauce on the side.  It was good, but it was also CRAZY.

We started off the summer with Nolan in coach pitch baseball.  Practice on Monday and games on Thursday or Friday nights.  Some of which were not over until after 8 p.m. and that may have happened while Ben was traveling with work. 

We took a trip back to Arkansas to see Ben's family in early June.  Allyn just loves being at Mimi's house.  They may have taken her to Chuck E. Cheese.  She also had roseola while we were there.  She screamed pretty much the entire drive down and ran a very low grade fever.  Fever broke, and BOOM rash.  Childhood illnesses always pop up at such interesting times. 

We went in to get another serial cast for her scoliosis.  And with all of her heart issues they decided to switch her to a TLSO brace until we get all of that figured out.  Talk about a game changer for summer.  SO....

We joined a pool.  It was awesome.  We went up there several times a week beginning in July when we joined.  And we made the most of it until they closed on Labor Day.  Allyn would play in the baby pool and sit in the shade and eat snacks.  Nolan learned how to really swim.  And I got to do a fair amount of relaxing and talking with friends when Ben was there and Nolan had a friend to play with.  The pool may have been the highlight of summer.
We also made a trip downtown to meet friends and do fun touristy stuff.  If you are going to do Chicago, summer is the time to do it.

Ben's company had a night at the Peggy Notebart Museum.  Another fun trip downtown in the summer.

Being out of the cast and in the brace really helped with Allyn's propreoception.  She started walking more and even began to tackle the stairs.  It made me a little nervous but seeing her this happy is totally worth my fear. 

Also, she may be the poster child for waiting for chocolate cake at Portillo's. 

In August, we took a trip to the beach (never again) and someone had her third birthday.  She had a Hello Kitty cake and we had a little party with friends we had met there.  It was her biggest celebration to date.  She had another party on the way home when we stopped to see family outside of Nashville.  Cake and being all about her were high on her list of things she loves.

And then it was time to get back into the swing of things.

That's right.  School.  Nolan is in first grade and has a lot of friends in his class and a great teacher and is really enjoying school this year.  And Allyn started preschool through our school district's early childhood program.  She loves school and tells me every day about how much she likes her teacher and her bus driver.  She started walking independently in school and a lot of the fear she had around her peers has diminished.  School has been a great thing. 

Now that it's fall and we are finding a routine, things are easier.  We will meet with her orthopedic surgeon this month to figure out what to do about her spine: back to casting or continued bracing.  And we will also figure out what to do about her heart in the next few weeks.  We are hoping a heart catheterization will be the route that allows us the fix the ASD but the hole is almost her entire atrial wall and may be too big.  She may also have to much of a pressure gradient and pulmonary hypertension that would make that not possible.  I know she will be in good hands and it will get figured out, I just pray that whatever route we take is not a struggle for her.