Thursday, March 22, 2012


The month of February was busy for us.  We had Juliana's transition meeting out of Early Intervention (the services stop when she turns 3) and she began being tested for Early Childhood special education services in our school district.  Ryan and I took turns taking half days off of work to bring her in for testing.  Juliana was a little trooper, especially because the testing always took place during nap time.  She usually melted down at the end of the 2 hour testing, but who could blame her?

This past Tuesday, Ryan and I attended her meeting where first they revealed the results of her testing and then wrote her IEP.  I have been to many of these meetings at the high school level, as the general ed teacher, but never as the parent.  It was a bit overwhelming when they walked us back to the conference room and everyone introduced themselves.  We had the speech pathologist, the occupational therapist, the physical therapist, the social worker, the regular ed teacher, the school nurse, and everyone had a laptop out. 

Ryan and I had been pretty sure that Juli would qualify for speech therapy, just because she definitely is behind in that area, but we were unsure about the other areas.  As each person read off their findings, I was reminded of the same feeling I felt in Juli's first EI meeting- overwhelmed.  Juli qualified.  She qualified for speech, occupational, and physical therapy.  Part of me is disappointed, because I had hoped that by doing Early Intervention we would have her caught up by the time she was 3, but I am happy that she will be getting the help that she needs.

After everyone agreed she qualified, then they had to go over her goals for her IEP.  Each therapist had 2 goals for her, that were broken down into more detailed skills.  Some of them require Juli to follow directions, some of them require Juli to be able to avoid obstacles and go over obstacles without falling, some of them are for behavior, some of them are related directly to talking, and some of them are going to help her build up her strength.  Because she is small, she is also going to require a special chair in the classroom for safety issues (we will see how that goes, because she likes to sit like everyone else).  They also put in her IEP for her to have someone near her (an adult) on the playground or in the gym because she does fall a lot since that is a safety issue.

And then another bombshell was dropped.  Juli will be starting as soon as she turns 3.  Even though there will only be 3 weeks left in the current school year, she will still start preschool and will go 5 days a week.  Oh, and she will be taking the bus to and from school.  My baby girl will be on the bus!  Noah is a little jealous of that part, because he doesn't get to take the bus to his preschool and he will be a walker to Kindergarten in the fall.

I know this is good for Juliana and this is what she needs to get caught up.  I know that these teachers are awesome and the therapists are great as well.  It's just overwhelming to think that in just over a month, my baby girl will be taking a bus to preschool.  Even though we have had so many struggles with her, time has gone by all too quickly.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Growing up we always look at our parents as indestructible, invincible.  Like they can never die.  As we get older, we slowly realize that our parents are not invincible.  This past Wednesday, that realization hit me right between the eyes as I stood in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit with my mom and sister looking at my dad, who was attached to a ventilator.  That morning, my dad had gone to Loyola for his second heart ablation, a procedure he had had done two and a half years ago.  Back then, he had been on the table for 8 hours, and when his doctor came out to talk to my mom, his exact words were: "I burned the s**t out of his heart, but he will still need to have this done several more times."  It was a rough recovery, taking a good 3 months before my dad started to feel like himself, and he had to work up the courage to have the second one done.

When they called us back, it had only been 4 hours into the procedure, so we had high hopes that he was done.  As we waited and waited, there was no sign of a doctor or a bed with my dad in it.  My mom began to worry and so did Jaime.  I tried to keep them calm.  Eventually the doctor appeared and told us there had been a complication.  He was very careful with his choice of words, so as not to terrify my mom.  He explained that a hole had been made (more specifically towards the back by the Right Pulmonary Vein) and because my dad was on blood thinners during the procedure he began to lose quite a bit of blood and he called for an open heart surgeon to evaluate the situation.  He explained that they had to put a drain in my dad's chest so that the blood had a place to go instead of accumulating around the heart.  His hope was that my dad's blood would begin to clot so that they wouldn't have to crack his chest open to sew up the hole.  Then he left to go back with my dad.  Jaime immediately began to pray.  She is a prayer warrior.  I am not.  I have been angry with God lately, so I let Jaime pray and I said silent prayers in my head and yelled at God at the same time.  The doctor came out every half hour or so and gave us an update on how Dad was doing.  Just as the surgeon was about to crack him open, Dad clotted.  He had lost 2.5 units of blood.  They moved him upstairs to the Cardiac ICU, and we were finally able to see him.

Mom got to see him first, and she came back in tears, but she let us know he was alright and we could go back to see him.  Seeing your hero attached to a ventilator is not an easy sight.  Jaime started to cry and hyperventilate, and I took her hand and helped her into the hallway to calm down.  Then we went back into the room and talked to him a little bit.  He was not awake.  They had him heavily sedated, but he would respond to your voice if you asked him a question, and sometimes he would squeeze your hand.  There was blood on his face, and that was hard to see and he was attached to so many tubes.  They are very strict in ICU and when visiting hours are up they make you leave, so we didn't get to see him for long.  It was later when we left.  Mom went to a nearby hotel.  Jaime and I had driven together, so I drove her home and then drove myself home.

Thursday morning, I picked Jaime back up and we went back down to Loyola.  If everything had gone normally, Dad would have been going home that morning.  Unfortunately, he was in ICU.  When we got there, he had been disconnected from the ventilator and he could talk to us, which was a nice surprise.  They wouldn't let him eat anything, so we bought him a strawberry smoothie from the coffee place in the lobby.  He was in a lot of pain, but he was trying to pass it off that he wasn't hurting (FYI, Dad, we could tell).  Since he wasn't super critical they were a little more lenient with us and the visiting, but not much- they still kicked us out.  In the afternoon when Jaime and I left, Dad's heart went into atrial fib and his blood pressure dropped.  Normally after an ablation you are put on blood thinners, so that if you go into atrial fib, you won't throw a clot and have a stroke.  Because Dad had the hole, they couldn't put him on blood thinners (because he would bleed out), so now they became concerned that Dad was going to throw a clot and have a stroke.  The doctors began trying different meds to get his heart back into sinus rhythm, and they were trying to aleviate his pain.  Since Jaime lives closer to Loyola she went back to be with Mom during this and then they were both kicked out when visiting hours were over.

On Friday, I went back to Loyola.  There was actual talk of Dad being kicked out of ICU finally.  His heart had converted to sinus rhythm and he was having a little less pain.  By the afternoon on that day, he was moved to 5 Tower, which is the regular cardiac ward.  That meant that he had his own room, with a couch for Mom to sleep on (no more hotel room for her), no more beeping machines for him and no more puking roommate for him either. 

On Saturday, at 6:25 AM, Noah walked right up to my side of the bed and said, "Momma, it's morning time. Let's go see Grandpa now!"  He was already dressed, and had his backpack packed with things to do at the hospital.  He had been dying to visit Grandpa at the hospital, but you have to be 12 or older to visit in the ICU, so he had cried on Friday when I told him he couldn't come with me.  When we finally got to see Grandpa, I think Noah felt better to see him face to face.  Jaime brought Rori & Liam with and we spent most of the day visiting and exploring the hospital- since Grandpa was very popular with the doctors that day.

I woke up on Sunday morning to an interesting text from my mom.  It turns out apparently one of the cardiologists tried to kill my dad Saturday night by ordering Heparin, a blood thinner.  My dad was on it for 6 hours and he could have bled out if not for the nurse and my mom.  Another reminder.  I talked to my mom in between services at church and it really hit me that my dad is not invincible.  At that moment, I wanted to do nothing more than to jump into my car and drive to Loyola.  I had to wait to do that though.  After lunch, I think I did about 80 down the highway, but I felt better once I saw my dad.

Which brings us to today.  Today is Monday.  Because my dad's heart had been in atrial fib for over 20 hours, the only thing left to do was to shock it back into sinus rhythm with the paddles.  They did that a couple hours ago, and his heart converted.  Unfortunately, his heart won't hold that forever, so there's a nasty little drug that he has to take for 3 months called Amiodarone.  Potential & permanent side effects include: turning your skin blue, going blind, and hardening of the lungs.  Another reminder.  My dad was adamant against taking this drug, but now his back is against the wall and he has no other option.  He is not invincible.

But, you know what?  You're still my hero, Daddy.  I love you very much.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Rollercoaster Named Buster...

Back in January Ryan and I began our discussion on whether or not we were ready to get a second dog.  Well, it wasn't really a discussion, it was more like an argument.  The kids and I thought we were ready, and Finchy agreed.  Ryan said he was not ready, and he gave a really bad reason why (leading to the reason for the argument).  Eventually the truth came out, and we backed off of the idea of getting a second dog.

The last day in February, Ryan asked me what I wanted for my birthday.  I told him that I wanted a dog for my birthday, but since he wasn't ready for one, I needed time to think.  He told me he was ready to get another dog, but it needed to be 5 years old or younger.  Thursday, before I picked Noah up from preschool, I did a quick search on  I wanted another Golden Retriever, but the Golden Retriever rescues in IL won't adopt to you if you have children under the age of 5, so I was hoping to find one on Petfinder.  Sure enough, a couple popped up.  One of them fit Ryan's requirements.  He was exactly 5 years old.  I immediately sent Ryan the link, and he agreed that we could look into getting him.  I emailed the rescue place and his foster mom contacted me.  She said he was great with children and other dogs.  He did have one problem.  He was overweight.  He tipped the scale at 95 pounds- that's a big golden.  I filled out the online adoption application on Friday and the 3 people I listed as our references (non-family) were immediately contacted by the lady.  Friday night she called me and we set up a meeting for Sunday after church. 

Ryan was excited.  I haven't seen him this excited in a long time.  We didn't tell the kids about the pending adoption.  Sunday we told the kids about the visit.  Noah got super excited.  Just as I was getting ready to serve for the second service, my phone rang.  It was Ryan.  I knew immediately from his voice that something was wrong.  Apparently the rescue had allowed another family to adopt the dog on Saturday.  All our excited-ness and happy feelings came crashing down around us.  At lunch time we broke the sad news to the kids.  Noah was upset.  At that point, I didn't want to look for another dog, but Ryan wanted me to get back on Petfinder and search.  So, during naptime I did.  I didn't really find a dog that fit our family like this other dog did. 

Around 3 o'clock the phone rang.  It was the same lady from the rescue.  Apparently the family from Saturday decided that he was too big to handle and had returned him to the rescue.  She wanted to know if we were still interested.  I told her we were definitely interested.  Then she asked if she could bring him down the same day to meet us and I agreed to that.  I called Ryan up (he was running errands) and gave him the news.  He immediately perked up.  I wasn't letting myself get excited, because I didn't want to be let down again.

Around 4 o'clock the doorbell rang.  I opened the door and there was the biggest golden retriever I have ever seen.  We invited them in and let Finch and him get to know each other.  They got along pretty well.  The kids loved him immediately, and Ryan hasn't stopped smiling yet.  I haven't seen Ryan smile like this since before we got Chili Dawg's cancer news.

So, meet Buster.  He's 95 pounds of Golden Retriever love, and I think he's here to help us heal.  Not bad for a birthday present, huh?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Happy Birthday, Noah (a day late)

My ray of sunshine turned 5 years old yesterday.  This little man has stolen my heart forever.  I am in awe as I watch him grow.  He has one of the kindest hearts of anyone I know.  Every day when I drop him off at the babysitter's we have a special routine that we go through before I can walk out the door.  I always get 3 kisses and 3 hugs.  Every time I wear my Chili Dawg necklace he always gives it a kiss.  When he prays, he always asks Jesus to take care of Chili Dawg until we get to heaven.  On Monday nights, when Ryan goes to his Journey Group, he always cries, because he's "going to miss Daddy so much", so Ryan has to sneak into his room when he gets home to give Noah another kiss while he's sleeping. 

He is a really good big brother to Juliana.  Last year, when we had to go to the hospital with Juli on his birthday, he didn't whine or cry or say anything about his birthday at all.  He didn't bring up his birthday at all that night, or even the next day.  He just wanted Juli to be better.  He loves his cousins very much too.  He has a special relationship with Rori Rose- it started when Juli was born, and he was mad at us for bringing her home.  Rori took care of him when they came down to visit.  Now that he is older, he and Liam are getting along really well too, and have found a common bond with "Angry Birds".

This year, Noah started preschool (last year, he did preschool for 10 weeks through my high school).  For valentine's day, his class did several short plays.  Noah was given the role of a dog, and I had to come up with a costume for him to wear.  Noah really wanted to be a Tripawd dog, like Chili Dawg was, but I knew it would be hard for him to only be able to use 1 arm.  I was able to talk him into wearing Chili's Tripawd bandana, but then the morning of the play, Noah asked if he could wear Chili's dog collar instead because it had Chili Dawg's name on it, and I was wearing my Chili Dawg necklace.  How could I refuse?  He did such a good job up there and remembered all of his lines, and everyone liked his costume.  For show and tell, Noah brought in a picture of Chili Dawg and Chili Dawg's friend, Abby and told his class about how Chili Dawg & Abby had cancer and had to have their legs amputated but could still walk.  Then he told his class that Chili and Abby's cancer came back and their daddy's had to carry them to the rainbow bridge and then Jesus carried them the rest of the way because they couldn't walk anymore.  My little boy is growing up so quickly!

Happy birthday, my special boy.  We love you so very much!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mystery Reader...

When Ryan and I went to Parent-Teacher Conferences for Noah, they told us we could sign up to be a Mystery Reader.  What that means is that you sign up for a day to come in and read to your child's preschool class.  We thought that was cool, and so I chose a day around Noah's birthday.  His teachers sent home a "clue" sheet, and what you had to do was write down 5 clues about yourself that they read to the kids so they can try to guess who the Mystery Reader is.

Yesterday was the day I signed up to be the Mystery Reader.  I told Noah I had the day off of school.  We dropped Juli off at Theresa's, and I took him to preschool.  I gave one of his teachers the clue sheet and then I sat in the hallway for about 10 minutes.  Then another one of his teachers came and got me and had me wait by the door so I could listen to them read the clues and guess.  The first clue: My favorite color is purple (well, my favorite colors are purple and blue).  A bunch of kids guessed it was their mom or sister.  One kid said it was his dad.  The second clue: I like to read books.  A bunch of kids guessed it was their mom or dad.  The third clue: I like to play guitar.  Noah was the only one who had a mom who played guitar.  The other kids had dad's or brothers.  The fourth clue: My family has 1 dog (I had started to write 2 dogs, and then I had to cross that out).  I heard Noah say, "we used to have 2 dogs, but Chili Dawg is in heaven now, so we only have 1 dog now."  Broke my heart to hear him say that.  The fifth clue: In the summer, I like to do the Warrior Dash.  Only Noah and one other kid had a parent who did that.  Then, they had the kids close their eyes and point their heads at the ground.  I tiptoed in and sat in a chair.  Then the kids opened their eyes.  Noah got a big smile on his face and ran up and gave me the biggest hug!  It was priceless.  Even his teachers commented on his reaction.  When they got settled back down, I read them "The Lost Dinosaur Bone", by Mercer Mayer.  It was a lot of fun.

When preschool was over, I picked Noah up, and took him on a Momma-Noah date.  Since his birthday is coming, he had gotten a free kids meal from Red Robin.  Every time we drive by Red Robin, he always says, "Red Robin, YUMMMMM!"  We both ordered our hamburgers and then when we were mostly done, they brought him a birthday sundae with balloons tied to it.  He thought it was so cool!  I wish I had my camera, but I didn't.  From there, we went to get him some new shoes, because the kid has been wearing the same size shoes for over a year, and something told me they had to have grown even though he never said his shoes hurt.  Sure enough, I was right.  Then, we picked up some supplies for his birthday party, got his hair cut and picked up Juli since it was about the time she would normally be up from her nap.  It was a busy day, but we had a lot of fun.

I can't believe my baby is going to be 5 years old soon, AND going to Kindergarten in the fall.  I think I may throw up.