Super cute photo by Tara Wohlford of Wohlford Photography.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Fall/Winter/Spring Photo Recap...Because I Haven't Blogged in a Million Years

This has been the longest winter in the history of winters.  Ever.  It snowed every month from November to April, and that is a lot of snow for this Southern girl!  I kept hoping the thermostat would get above 12 degrees and spring would arrive.  It took it's sweet little time, but it finally did. 

And you would think that all that indoor time would allow me to clean my house or blog or write a novel or something awesome, but all I wanted to do was curl up under three blankets and binge-watch television shows on the computer.  So that's mostly what I did.  Except when I was working on my graduate classes.  Or when the kids were home for snow days.  Which was a lot.  Really. On those days we spent a lot of time at the library.  I think the kids have read through every Peanuts and Garfield comic ever written.  And thank you local public library for having the sense to carry such wonder things in very large books.

So, what have I missed blogging about on the 182 days of snow? Everything.

1. Kate became an expert bike rider last fall, but I didn't manage to get a decent picture of it until November.  Because I am that awesome.

2. Kate's first grade class studied Chinese New Year and performed a ribbon dance for the whole school.  She was amazing, of course.

 3. My kids love each other, even when they are fighting like cats and dogs.  Unfortunately the cats and dogs thing is more common than not.  Thankfully I caught them on a day when they were all getting along.  (I am sure someone got whacked on the head minutes after I put the camera away.)

4. Did I mention it snowed a lot?  This was one of the early days before we actually got bored with snow.

5.  The three bigs were in the church Christmas play.  They sang together as a trio and were 1940's kids who also dressed up like wise men with lampshades and hub caps.  I can't remember why.

 6. We celebrated Christmas, of course!  (I think they have already grown about 2 inches each since I took this picture.)  The favorite gifts this year were video games, puzzles, and books. 

7. In January Will told us that he had accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior and wanted to be baptized.  We were thrilled and celebrated with him.  And Tim got to do the honors.  After which, we attempted to get a family photo, which only proved that we are not good at group shots.

8. It snowed some more. The kids built a snowman.

9. I celebrated my 20 year high school reunion.  It was awesome and weird at the same time.  That's what growing old is like.  And now you all know how old I am.  (I would post the group shot, but the photographer didn't push the button down hard enough.  I'm looking at you, Cooper.)

10.  Kate played basketball and had a blast doing it.

There is more, but for some reason the kids think I should fix dinner.  I guess they are hungry or something.  See, this is why I don't blog.  Next thing they will want clean clothes or something crazy like that.  Maybe I will write up the rest before the leaves fall off the trees.  Everyone hold your breath.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Christ is risen!

 He is risen indeed!

Jack was totally into the egg hunt this year and all about the candy!  Will and Kate of course wanted to beat each other at collecting the most eggs.  And Ben surprised me by still being really excited about finding eggs.  I don't know how much longer my pre-teen will want to do "kid" stuff, but I am thankful for days like today when we can worship and play as a family. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Happy Christmas... Or ummm, Halloween?

Even though we have switched holidays several times, I can't continue to let the days pass without posting my kids' awesome Halloween costumes this year. 

Ben had his heart set on being Harry Potter.  He had wanted this costume for a long time.  This was the year he finally talked his dad into buying it.  He was the perfect Harry, messy hair and all.

Will really wanted to be Harry Potter too, but you can't have two Harry Potters in one family, so he decided to be a Death Eater instead.  The only problem was that they only make adult-sized Death Eater costumes.  So Will, being the creative genius that he is, found his Dad's hooded wool coat, made his own Death Eater mask with poster board, pencil (yes, he drew that himself), and glitter, and voila, Death Eater.  He and Harry battled all night.

Kate wasn't sure what she wanted to be.  She ended wearing a Pete the Cat costume to school for "Literature Day," but wanted a different costume for Trick-or-Treating.  When digging out the coat for Will, I came across my old black leather jacket and suggested she be one of the girl bikers from her current fave movie, Teen Beach Movie.  She said no, she wanted to be the biker gang leader, Butchy.  She came up with this costume all on her own.  Old black vest, my old sunglasses, black gloves with the fingers cut off: check, check, and check. 

Jack changed his mind 47 times before he put his costume on.  Thankfully I have a large stash of preschool dress-up clothes.  Dragon? Bob the Builder? Buzz Lightyear? Woody? He seriously considered them all before deciding on Puppy Dog. Good choice, son, even if you won't wear the hood.

And then there was Tim.  A ceiling fan.  Geddit? And notice Jack decided to be a dragon this time around, still sans hood.  Throw in a cute kitty cat and a super hero to make it a wonderful Halloween.

And for the record, when did Halloween start lasting a whole week?  Sunday they had a choir party, Wednesday was Trunk-or-Treat at church, Thursday was "Literature Day," and the actual Trick-or-Treating was postponed until Friday because of dangerously high winds.  It seriously makes for some crazy children when Halloween gets celebrated four times over the course of six days. I think it is time to scale it back, Muhrica.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jack's Version of the Truth

Jack is three. 

In other words, when we ask Jack to tell us what happened, we often get interesting versions of the truth.

Story 1: Jack and I were home alone.  I came into the living room to find toys and pillows strewn everywhere.
Me:  Jack, where did all this come from?  Who made this mess?
Jack:  Ummmm, Ben do it.
Me.: Ben is at school.  I don't think he did it.
Jack: Ummmm, Will do it.
Me: Will is at school. I don't think he did it either.
Jack: Ummmm, Kate do it.
Me:  Jack, Kate did not do this.  She is at school.  Did you make this mess?
Jack: (Hangs head) Sowwy, Mommy.

Story 2: A large bowl of Halloween candy was accidentally left on the kitchen table, where Jack happened to be sitting alone while he finished his ONE sucker.  Tim goes into the kitchen to find wrappers everywhere and Jack sticky.
Tim: Jack, did you eat this candy?
Jack: No.
Tim: (Going through the wrappers) Did you eat the starburst?
Jack: No
Tim: Did you eat the smarties?
Jack: No
Tim: Did you eat the suckers?
Jack: No.
Tim: Did you eat the candy in your mouth right now?
Jack: No.

Story 3: The three big kids have a bad habit of leaving their handheld video games lying around.  I often come in a room to find Jack sitting with the game on his lap.  He is not allowed to play anytime he wants, but only in certain circumstances.
Me: Jack, are you playing the DS?
Jack: (Closes the game quickly, and looks up at the ceiling in a super-innocent-I-have-no-idea-what-you-are-talking-about way. I swear if he could whistle while he looks up it would completely top off the act.)
Me: Jack, put the game away.
Jack: Sowwy, Mommy.

It is a good think that I have raised three other three-year olds, or I might think I have a compulsive liar on my hands. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kate's Bone Graft, Part 3

Good, good news!  We visited Dr. N's office today, where he looked at her hip, looked in her mouth, and declared that she can eat and do whatever she likes. Yay!  So, all the way up the stairs to the parking lot I heard, "Can I eat tortilla chips?  Can I eat hibachi?  Can I eat gum?" And into the car, "Can I play on the playground at recess?  Can I go to gym?  Can I eat Halloween candy?  Can I eat the car?"

Um, no on the car, dear, but yes to the rest. Silly, silly girl.

And as we drive home, in the rain and high wind that caused tonight's Trick-or-Treating to be cancelled I hear, "Can I ride my bike when we get home?"

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Kate's Bone Graft, Part 2

Warning: This information is largely for those who are looking for information on bone grafts in cleft kids, including myself since we will be doing this again in 4-5 years, but I won't remember any of this by then.  All of it will be way to boring for most of you.


Kate went in for surgery early on October 3rd. Dr. N. had scheduled the bone graft to be done at a nearby hospital that we hadn't used before.  Check-in was smooth, although we had to repeat the same information to the nurses several times because they both seemed to keep losing the information they just collected.  The anesthesiologists were very nice, and one of them ended up holding Kate while she "went to sleep."

The surgery went very well, and Dr. N. was able to drill down into her right hip (iliac crest), remove some shavings, and then place them in her gumline to complete her upper jaw.  It is actually much more complicated than that, but that is as much of it as I understand, so that is all you will get from me on that topic, other than to say no donor, cadaver, or synthetic bone was used.  Dr. N. thought he would need to pull the left canine and molar (both baby teeth) so that he would have the space to repair the alveolar ridge, but thankfully he only had to pull the canine.  That left him with enough room to work. The hole was triangle-shaped, and it had actually be growing in the last year.  Before that it had shrunk it just a tiny hole.  

The recovery room was difficult, but only because it is yucky coming off the anesthesia.  That half-awake-where-am-I feeling isn't much fun.  And about two minutes after waking up she asked when she could watch Teen Beach Movie (ok, it was longer than that, but not much).

Once we got upstairs, we got settled in and popped in a movie, someone came around and asked if Kate had enjoyed her lunch.  I was confused by this question since Kate was on a clear liquid diet, having just had surgery on her mouth two hours before, but I said, "No."  The well-meaning tech then proceeded to ask Kate if she would like her to order some chicken nuggets for her for lunch.  Ummm, no.  Clear liquid diet.  She then apologized and had some broth sent up, which Kate did enjoy very much eat without complaining.

We spent the rest of the day in the bed watching as many Disney movies and TV shows that we could squeeze in.  She was not interested in sleep.  At all.  She did so well eating and going to the bathroom, that by 5pm, Dr. N. said that she could go home in the morning as soon as we were ready, and she could eat soft foods that didn't require front teeth (pudding, ice cream, mashed potatoes, etc).  Food services immediately brought her a sandwich.  The tech was in the room when that happened, so this time nice tech lady sent them back with instructions to bring her more broth and some ice cream.  I was just thankful I didn't have be rude again. I had already done enough of that, as you will see below. 

 Mmmm, ice cream and movies

There is no pediatric unit at this hospital, which means that some of the folks didn't know what to do with her.  We had a day nurse that did not understand pediatric pain management.  Usually, pediatric nurses come in and say, "We don't want her to be in any pain, so we will give the meds regularly until tomorrow morning, and then we will assess where we are and what she needs.  You just focus on getting liquids in her."  But this was not a pediatric nurse.  I had to call her every single time meds were needed, and when she brought them it took forever. She also expected my six-year old daughter to rate her pain on a scale of 1-10.  Puh-leaze.  Just the week before, Will had tried to explain this concept to her.  It wasn't going to happen.  She said 5 or 6 every single time, whether she was fine or in tears.  I asked why she couldn't just bring the meds on a schedule. The mean nurse said that Kate had to ask for them. As if a six-year old has the life experience to predict when her pain meds are going to wear off and when she might need more. 

When the night nurse showed up, I asked her right off the bat what our pain management plan was.  She said, "Well, the patient is supposed to ask for pain meds."  I glared.  She said, "Or I could go ahead and bring them in every four hours."  Yes, that seems like an excellent idea.  Why don't you do that?

And so the night went.  We didn't get much sleep, but her pain was well-managed.  Somewhere around 6am we all zonked out and were dead to the world until about 8:30.  And while we slept the day nurse came back.  I woke up to Kate beside me crying because she was more than an hour overdue for her dose.  I buzzed for the nurse.  No answer.  I stomped down the hall, but she was nowhere.  Finally the well-meaning tech comes in, takes one look at us, and offers to find another nurse to administer the medicine.  When our nurse finally came, I asked to be discharged immediately.  I knew I could do a better job administering meds at home than this lady could.

Overall our experience was fine, and there were even a couple of great folks we came across. (Kate even commented to me how the nice tech went above and beyond to make her comfortable.)  However, I was thrilled to get out of there and back home.

For the rest of Friday and Saturday, Kate was in a bit of pain, and I kept her on a regular schedule with her medicines.  She ate a lot of fried eggs and milk shakes, and she watched Teen Beach Movie.  A lot. (She stopped counting at eleven.)  Although she didn't have any swelling in her mouth on Thursday, there was considerable swelling on Friday and Saturday.  By Sunday morning it had disappeared. I woke up and heard her sweet voice singing and then asking for food.  I smiled, and she said, "I am feeling like myself again." YAY!

After that she continually got better.  We made her walk laps around the inside of the house every day, and over the course of about ten days she gradually went from bent over and hobbling to standing up straight and walking without a limp.  After a week, Dr. N. cleared her to eat soft meats cut up small, and anything she didn't have to tear at with her front teeth.  Crunchy, hard foods are still off limits.

As to the success of the surgery, everything looks great.  It is still too soon to tell if the bone is growing or if it has failed, but there no reason to think that there is a problem.  Hopefully, the worst is over, and it is all down hill from here.

Last, lots of people have asked me two specific questions:

1. Is this Kate's last surgery?  No, there will be at least one more to repair the hole in her right eardrum and to do a lip revision to address some of the muscle issues going on.  Hopefully it will help with her speech.  I can't say if there will be more in the future, since it will be up to her when she is older if she wants any more revisions done.  And of course, this is assuming no p-flaps, grafts, or anything else needed.

2.  Will Jack have this surgery done?  Yes.  Although his clefts in his alveolar ridge aren't visible without an x-ray, he does have bone missing on both sides of his upper jaw.  In 4-5 years we will do this all over again with him, although probably with a different team of doctors.  One of their doctors once said to me that you don't switch trains while they are in motion.  In other words, stick with one team until the palate repairs are done.  Because Kate's plastic surgeon had retired, we chose a different team for Jack.  That team actually has two oral surgeons we can choose from.  Now that Kate's palate repair is complete (fingers crossed), we will probably move her to that team as well, just to make our lives a little more simple.  Dr. L will do Kate's lip revision, and probably Jack's bone grafts too. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kate's Bone Graft, Part 1

Kate's bone graft really wasn't on our radar last year. It was something that the doctors said she would need when she was about eight, so although we knew it was out there in the future, we didn't spend too much time pondering it.  However, that changed when we saw Dr. N. at the Commission back in November. He wanted to go ahead and get X-rays of her mouth, so that he could track the growth of her mouth and determine when the surgery would be.  Dr. N. is an oral surgeon who has worked with Kate's (now retired) plastic surgeon for 30 years.  I asked him once what the likelihood of a bone graft failure was, and he told me that he had one fail once.  Once.  OK, you get the job. 

Kate is missing her left lateral incisor - aka, the tooth that doctors sometimes use to decide when to do this surgery. Because of this, there was a wider window of time to get it done.  Dr. N. said that either the summer of 2013 or 2014 would be fine, or even later if we needed to wait for whatever reason.  We went home that day thinking 2014 sounded fine with us. Or later.

Then in the spring a couple different things happened that caused us to start reconsidering.  First, the central incisor started coming in at a weird angle.  And when I say weird, I mean it was pointing straight out and the bottom edge was vertical and pressing on her lip.  Thankfully it has now started to rotate itself down into a better position, but it still has a way to go, and it irritates her upper lip.

Second, the other three lateral incisors started to erupt, meaning that her jaw was close to the right stage of growth for the bone graft to happen now.  This was surprising since Will still has one of his baby lateral incisors, and at the time this happened, he had two or three.

Third, one day at a visit to Jack's plastic surgeon, Dr. L. was making small talk with Kate and got this look on his face that meant he noticed something.  He asked her to start making faces (lip puckers, etc.), and according to him, all of Kate's upper lip muscles aren't properly connected.  That was news to us, since her (now retired) surgeon never mentioned it.  So I started making appointments and asking questions.  Within a very short amount of time we saw the other members of Kate's plastic surgery team (who thought there was no muscle issue but wanted to do some work to minimize the scar - I said no; they also said that they would work with either Dr. N for the bone graft, or their ENT for an ear drum repair, but not our ENT), an orthodontist (who said he would normally do a palate expansion on a child getting ready for a bone graft, but wasn't going to touch that front tooth with a ten foot pole because it could fall out if we start shifting things around), her ENT (yes, we can do her ear drum repair when we do a lip revision; no, we can't do an ear drum repair when we do a bone graft), and three different speech therapists (who all agreed with Dr. L., something was amiss with that front lip).

By this time it was May of 2013, and honestly it was too late for a summer 2013 bone graft, what with vacations and all (ours and Dr. N's).  Plus, was had to make decisions about which surgeries to do and which ones could/should be combined.  I consulted with Dr. L through all of this too, even though he has never seen Kate as a patient.  I decided to wait until summer 2014 so that she would have time to heal, and I would have time to mull over the choices.  There was no reason to rush.

As we considered, the decision was made to have Dr. N. do the bone graft, and then later, after she was healed we would have Dr. L do a major lip revision while Dr. M (ENT) do a ear drum repair at the same time.  Three birds with two stones.  

As summer rolled by, I became more and more thankful that I hadn't scheduled a bone graft.  Talk about busy!  We didn't slow down at all, and as per usual, we barely saw Tim except on vacation.  Also as the summer rolled by, I realized that there was no way I could schedule a bone graft for next summer either.  It wasn't going to be any better!  I knew he was suggesting summer because it is when lots of people's lives slow down, but let's face it, we aren't "lots of people."

I called Dr. N's surgical coordinator in August to discuss the possibility of doing it over fall break instead.  She suggested the Thursday before break, and then Kate would have eleven days to recover before school resumed.  Mimi could come up and care for the boys, then they could be farmed out when we got home from the hospital on Friday.

And that is what we did. 

(Stay tuned for Part 2.)