Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Appendicitis Sucks

About a month ago my life was super busy, as every springtime inevitably is, and I really didn't have time for surgery or sickness or anything else but on May 28th while I was watching Nash's baseball game I started feeling sick. Actually, I really started feeling sick about five days earlier while we were on vacation for Atley's birthday.  I just ignored it.  In fact, I tried to do the same thing during Nash's game, attributing the pains in my stomach to the McDonald's fries and Diet Coke I had just scarfed down.  (Truth be told that healthy diet could have contributed to my impending condition.)
When we got home that night I was undeniably feeling terrible. I took a few Tums, mumbled about how we needed to eat better and laid down.  Around midnight I woke up with pains in the center of my stomach. I got out of bed and felt nauseous.  The pain increased, I had a horrible case of the chills and I started vomiting.   Gradually, the pain became worse and it began centralizing on my right side.  I walked upstairs and told Scott that I thought I needed to go to the hospital.  He didn't respond so I started making lots of noise looking for my shoes and bra.  Yeah, I'm even passive aggressive when I'm deathly ill. He woke up dazed and confused and I told him again that I was going to the hospital.  I grabbed my keys and headed for the door. Of course, he tried to stop me and told me I was obviously not thinking clearly, driving one's self to the hospital was ridiculous.   So, just for everyone's information and for the sake of our posterity, Scott wanted to drive me to the hospital.  He did not want me to go alone, BUT we had three kids sleeping upstairs and I was in too much pain to deal with all that. I had to get there quickly, so I just left him bewildered, standing in the doorway. He was perhaps a little unsure whether he was awake or asleep.

 Luckily, there wasn't a lot of traffic at 2 AM and I made it to the Emergency Room Valet without inflicting further injury upon myself or anyone else.  I felt a little dizzy as I stood at the front desk, filling out the endless paper work and the next thing I remember I was slumped over in front of said desk with a nurse and an orderly trying to get me into a wheelchair.  The whole passing-out nonsense turned out to be a blessing in disguise. They realized quickly that I was pretty sick and rushed me back to triage. Nurses took my blood and urine samples and put me in a room next to a stab wound victim who had  lots of suspicious visitors and a few police officers milling around both our doors which was totally exciting. I kept pretending I wasn't really sick but undercover trying to find the victims would-be murderer. I have a very healthy imagination.
  I explained my symptoms to doctors and nurses and residents and was promptly hooked up to an IV and given something for nausea and pain.  I was carted down the hall for a CT scan with and without contrast and was feeling pretty fantastic with the cocktail of drugs coursing through my veins. The drugs were so wonderful I was pretty sure I must have just had gas and that I was miraculously cured of my flatulence and would be going home in a matter of minutes.  Much to my surprise, the doctor came in and stated that I had an appendicitis and would be requiring surgery soon.

"Oh, okay. Well, I'll be back in a few days then." I said this while attempting to stand up and grab my purse.  I believe this was that FIGHT or FLIGHT response I read about in Biology freshman year.

"No, actually, you will be going into surgery in about 20 minutes, or as soon as we can get that antibiotic drip bag into your veins."

"Wait, what?"

At this point I thought I might need to call Scott and explain to him what was going on. He certainly couldn't make it before my surgery began and I was feeling pretty scared and pretty alone.  I had about 15 minutes of conscious thought to say my prayers.  Truthfully, I am not afraid of being cut open.  In fact, this was going to be the 5th time my stomach would be sliced and diced. I even jokingly asked if they could just install a zipper while they were in there. What I am terrified of, is anesthesia and horrible doctors. I prayed more sincerely than I had for quite sometime.  I prayed for comfort, for a feeling of peace and calmness to accept whatever was going to happen.

Flash back almost 11 years to the day-Atley's birth was extremely difficult for both of us.  He still carries the scars of a traumatic birth in the form of a brain cyst.  After more than three days of trying to have him, we were both in distress and taken in for an emergency C-Section.  Of course, I was scared then too. As they wheeled me into the operating room Scott said,  "It's going to be fine.  I'll see you on the other side."  I remember not knowing whether to laugh or cry at his poor choice of words, "I'll see you on the other side."  It sounded like he thought I was about to meet my maker.   Since that time we have always laughed and joked about the incident and it has become a part of my vernacular. When the kids are facing something difficult, I will whisper to them, "It's going to be fine. I'll see you on the other side."

So, as I lay in that hospital bed, alone, early that morning, awaiting surgery, praying for comfort, I remember saying something like this, "Please help me to know that you are with me and that I am going to be okay."  Soon after I finished that prayer I was being wheeled down the hall to another operating room in a different state, eleven years later. My husband wasn't there to offer me any infuriating words of comfort. It was just me. Suddenly, a young nurse approached and tapped me on the shoulder.  He uttered a few words that were sent to me directly from heaven and were nothing short of miraculous. He said, "It's going to be fine. I'll see you on the other side." A feeling of peace warmed my entire body.

I will never forget that tender mercy from a most loving Heavenly Father. There were certainly others in that hospital on that early morning who were in more dire circumstances than I, but He took the time to comfort me in a very personal way and I am eternally grateful to Him for that reminder of His love for all of His children.  I am also grateful to the young nurse who showed compassion and was willing to be an instrument in our Father's hands.

When I woke up from surgery Scott and Harley were there.  Harley was happily taking pictures of me on my phone and I was so grateful to see both of them.
What I thought would take a week to recover has taken nearly a month. I have had a few complications, including an allergic reaction to the surgical glue, a re-opening of my incisions, an infection and countless disgusting things I won't share, BUT I think I am on the mend.  
Fingers crossed anyway! 
 My mother-in-law flew in for a few days and was such a tremendous help to our family. She organized kitchen cabinets and closets, kept us fed and did enough laundry to last a lifetime and most importantly kept the kids and animals at bay.
Harley's favorite part  of the whole ordeal was hanging out with me in the hospital.  Every time I would get up to use the bathroom or walk around she would jump at the chance to put on my leg compressors.  
Her smile is always a bright spot during hard times.  
Nash wrote me countless get-well cards and was as sweet and tender as possible. Here is one of my favorites.
(Translation:  I have the best mom ever. But isn't that obvious. Also get well soon. P.S. This paper looks like Utah.)
 Atley kept it real. One day he came up to my bedroom and explained how he had just read a study about kids with concussions.  Apparently, the quicker they got out of bed and resumed normal activity the faster they healed.  Perhaps I could take that same advice with my problems.  Hey, it's hard on everyone when momma is sick.
And if you will humor me for a moment-my sweet husband has been so good and kind to me this past month.  He has had to do much more than his fair share of the work while I got better and I am so thankful for his efforts. 
 I hope this post doesn't sound overly dramatic. I am fully aware that in the grand scheme of  the world's problems an appendectomy is not terribly serious, but it was certainly serious enough for me to realize that maybe all my busy-ness was misspent on insignificant things. I am reevaluating my priorities and gaining a whole new sense of gratitude for my good health. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Atley's 11!

I am going to refrain from all the usual birthday clichés like, "How did this happen?"  "It seems like only yesterday when he was born." or  "I can't possibly be old enough to have an 11 year old." And head straight into how this child wanted to celebrate his big day.  His first request was a cheese cake topped with French Macaroons from his favorite bakery, Fluffy Thoughts.
Atley always wants to be on the go.  He loves to travel, loves history and really loves gift shops.  This year Grandpa and Grandma Butler came up and we all headed to Williamsburg for the Memorial Day weekend.  He had a great four days planned for us and we just followed him around providing the necessary cash.
Our first stop was Norfolk where we took a cruise on the Elizabeth River.  We were able to cruise around the Naval Station and see all the ships at dock. An aircraft carrier even went right by us with the sailors manning the rails.  It was a perfect day.

 On our second day we visited both Jamestown Historic Site and Jamestown Settlement.  Harley socialized with Pocahontas, Nash was too lazy to walk himself and Atley corrected the tour guides whenever they provided misinformation.
We also spent some R & R at the resort swimming and working on our calligraphy.

Day 3 found us at Yorktown Victory Center.  The boys enlisted in the Continental Army until Nash panicked when he thought he had actually joined the ranks. He attempted to tear up his enlistment papers but we told him a contract was a contract. He spent the next three days asking us if he really had to go to war and when he had to report to duty.

We spent our last day at Virginia Beach and thus ended Atley's Birthday trip extravaganza. 
We love you Mr. Beans and can't wait to see where you take us next year.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Market Fair at Claude Moore Colonial Farm

After 7 years of living only a mile from Claude Moore Colonial Farm we were FINALLY able to go to the tri-annual Market Fair. Claude Moore Farm is a living history museum. Actors "live" as a country family would have lived in the year 1771. They farm crops native to Virginia in the manner taught to them by the Powhatan Indians.  It is like a miniature Colonial Williamsburg but way more manageable.
Nash took to heart the idea of "putting aside the routine chores and cares of life," by practicing a little meditation.
Our first order of business was exchanging our 21st century money for some 18th century Spanish Coins.  Apparently the colonists were not able to import English money so they used Spanish silver. Each silver coin was cut into 4 bits.  At the fair each bit was worth a dollar.
Next task-FOOD!  We had bread and cheese with blood sausage and roasted chicken, pecan pie and homemade pickles. DELISH.
The kids talked to the interpreters of all ages, played colonial games, shopped for colonial wears, made candles, scent satchels, and Harley painted a lovely fan and made a Corn Husk Doll.

Everything was so adorable and educational.  It was great fun!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Remembering V-E Day

May 8th marked the 70th anniversary of V-E Day (Victory in Europe).  To commemorate this important event the air space over the National Mall was opened and a plethora of World War II planes flew over the city in formation and in order of their appearance during the war.  I really had no choice but to take the boys out of school so we could enjoy the festivities.
The airplanes were amazing and even included the only operating B-29 Superfortress in the world.  This is the same type of plane that dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
 Atley adopted a grandma at the event.  She was very impressed with his knowledge of airplanes. She asked him questions all afternoon and he was in heaven. As the P-51 Mustangs were flying over, Nash said, "It's pretty cool to be an American isn't it mom?"  Yeah, it's way cool buddy.
The following day we went to the Air and Space Museum at Dulles where the same planes involved in the flyover were scheduled to land at the museum.  Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate but there were lots of other activities for the kiddos. They learned so much about life during the war.
They learned all about planting Victory gardens and even planted some seeds of their own.
Harley learned all about Rosie the Riveter. They designed and launched their own aircraft and even made paratroopers that they dropped into a war zone.
They played in restored WWII military jeeps, used the sometimes primitive instruments that were the only things available to the soldiers at the time and also learned how to spell their name in Morse Code.
The most special part of our V-E Day experience was visiting with the WWII veterans.  Nash has always had a tender place in his heart for the elderly.  I feel like it is a spiritual gift for him. At one point in our day I discovered Nash with a man named Ernie Krause.  People were gathered in front of him and Ernie was explaining his role in the war.  He was born in 1921. He and his brother both enlisted in the Navy. However, his brother was shot down somewhere over Europe and never made it home. He told some incredible stories and people asked him questions and shook his hand. He was amazing to listen to and as sharp as a knife. During his story Nash quietly slipped behind him and the rest of the crowd.  I noticed Nash silently standing behind this hero with his chubby, grubby, little boy hand resting gently on the old gentleman's shoulder listening intently.  I was so touched by the image that I failed to snap a picture.  I later had him return to Ernie for a quick picture.  It was such a sweet moment and something I will always cherish.
Of course, we spent the rest of the weekend recreating the Battle of the Bulge on our dining room table and streaming war documentaries on Netflix.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Refinishing Our Kitchen Table

We have this kitchen table that we bought when Atley was a little baby. It has been used and abused, moved and moved again.  It has been written on, spilled on, burned, carved on and repeatedly stabbed with forks. It fact, it has been so maltreated that it probably should have been replaced long ago. But, this same table is the place where we have eaten almost every meal.  It is where the kids have done their homework, where they have learned to write their names, where they have completed dozens of crafts and decorated cookies each Christmas. It is where I bathed two of my newborns. It is easily transformed into a fort with just the unfolding of a bed sheet.  I just can't bear to part with it. This kitchen table is part of our family institution and perhaps the only piece of furniture I am sentimental about.  However, it was turning into an eyesore.
When I finally decided something had to be done I knew that I was way to lazy and much too impatient to go the whole sanding-stripping route when it came to refinishing.  After some research I discovered a product on the market called Annie Sloan Chalky Paint. Not to be confused with chalkboard paint.  These two things are totally different.  I am sure Annie Sloan's paint is wonderful but it is also extremely difficult to find, doesn't come in a ton of colors and is astronomically priced.  So, I opted for making my own.  The best part of this process, is you don't need to sand or strip anything just make sure you begin painting on a clean and dry surface.
1 1/2 Cups Any Latex Flat Paint Tinted to your Color Preference
(I used Behr's Builders Grade Paint $14 per gallon at Home Depot)
1/2 Cup Plaster of Paris
1/2 Cup Warm Water
Mix plaster and water thoroughly until all the lumps have dissipated. Add paint and mix well.
I put three coats on the kitchen table and chairs.  Waiting about 15 minutes between coats.  The mixture dries well and adheres like a dream.  When the paint dries apply a few layers of Minwax Finishing Wax to seal and protect the furniture. 


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Harley Belle's 5th Birthday "PAW"ty!

Belle turned 5 today.  (Tear, Tear)  She requested a puppy themed birthday party and her wish is almost always our command. Yes, we have indeed created a monster. It was lots of work but tons of fun for the whole family. 
I'm a firm believer that the key to any successful kid party is keeping them occupied at all times or else you will lose them forever.  We set up a table with puppy coloring sheets and crayons for the kids to work on while all the party guests arrived.  Every child was given a pair of puppy ears and took turns getting their face painted, along with temporary tattoos while they were coloring. Of course, they all had to take a turn on the trampoline as well.
After everyone finally arrived and all of those who wanted their face painted were painted-up, we gathered around for a story all about puppies.  We pretended to be puppies by digging in the sand where there were lots of doggie treasures buried.
Once the kids knew all about what it meant to take care of a puppy it was time to adopt one of their own. 
After the adoption paper work was completed and their dogs were given a proper name, each puppy had to be checked out by our local vet, Dr. Atley.  He was very thorough in his examination and equipped each new owner with a free sample of puppy vitamins.
When the puppy was given a clean bill of health their owner could visit Nash's Tee-Pee Pet Shop where each child purchased a collar, puppy chow, a blanket, and a ball for their new pet.
Next the kids decorated puppy houses.
By this point our new pet owners were famished.  We plopped them in front of the TV with a carton of "PUP"corn for an episode of Paw Patrol while we got their Hot "DOGS" ready.
I used a bone-shaped cookie cutter for the water melon and each child had their own doggie dish to eat from.
Harley's cake looked like a giant bowl of dog food.  It was obviously Nash's favorite part of the whole evening. 
Last, but not least, the little kids whacked the puppy piñata with all their might but it took the brute strength of Nash to fully decapitate the poor fellow.
By the end of the evening the party got completely out of hand when the party-goers stripped to their underwear and jumped into the hot tub.
Happy Birthday Princess! You are a precious gift to us and we love you more than you could possibly imagine.