Jun 30, 2010

Adventures with Granny

Granny planned an adventure for the Littles today. It started at the mall, which houses a glorious carousel for small people to ride. Gavin was completely thrilled when he saw it. "It SPINS!" He chose the elephant.

Lexi exceeded my expectations and was as excited about the ride as her big brother. She clapped and giggled. I love her expressions in these photos.

Our mall outing also included rented strollers (with steering wheels!), lunch, a visit to the pet store, and ice cream cones.

After naps, Granny filled up the little pool in the backyard. Gavin and Lexi donned their new swimsuits and jumped in. Granny and I put our feet in the cool water as the kids splashed and played. Gavin liked to dive in from the side and nearly submerge himself. He kept saying, "I'm under the sea!" He doesn't even know that's a reference to The Little Mermaid.

After dinner, Granny and I pushed the stroller around the neighborhood. Gavin and Lexi loved seeing all of the farm animals -- cows, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks. It was h-o-t, but the kids were enthralled.

Good times at Granny's house. Good times!

Old stomping grounds

This morning the Littles and I set out on a walk. I revisited a high school running route and was instantly transported back in time.

During the summer of 1993, when I was 14, I was training for a spot on the high school cross country team. I had survived an abysmal ninth-grade track season and was determined to leave the foibles and failures of junior high athletics behind me. So nearly every day I pounded the pavement, coaxing my body into shape. I ran and ran and ran and ran.

I ran past the homes full of kids that I babysat on the weekends. This house had the best food, this family paid the best, these kids drove me crazy. I ran past the home of the boy I liked, hoping he'd happen to look out his window as I sprinted by. I ran past the park where I played softball with the girls from church, past the home of the Young Women leader who always loaned me books to read. I ran past the home of my seminary teacher who later became a General Authority. I ran around eight neighborhood cul-de-sacs, trying to increase distance without really going anywhere. And I always (always) sprinted down El Moro, the last stretch of street before home.

In August that year I made the cross country team. In fact, I spent three years as a varsity runner for Mesa High. Those years cemented my love for running, and my happiest high school memories came from cross country. All of that began on the running route I retraced today.

This morning I walked through that neighborhood a different person. My figure is much rounder and softer and my mile time is roughly double what it was in 1993. I pushed two squirmy tow-heads in the stroller, managed drinks, and answered Gavin's endless questions. I thought fondly of my older boys who could have been zooming on scooters up ahead.
Now I'm the mom paying a babysitter and wondering how I got so old.

Sometimes I long for the simple days (and size 4 figure) of my teenage self. But this life--here, today, right now--is pretty good, too.

Jun 29, 2010

Little Miss grows up

Lexi doesn't have many words at her disposal yet, but she's all fired up about making her many opinions known. In some ways this is a very vexing stage, but she's just so tiny and adorable that I love her more every day.

Suddenly she has to use her own spoon to eat and she's a pro with the sippy cup. Today she wouldn't let me feed her. Not one bite! When the spoon strategy didn't work perfectly at dinner, she was content to dip her fingers in the yogurt and suck on them. I think she really just wanted a bath after dinner.

Lexi's latest decision is that she would rather not nurse any more. For the last few months, she's been pretty fickle on the subject. She would boycott for a day or two, then nurse with gusto for a week, then skip a day, then nurse all night long. With our life being so up in the air, I thought nursing would be a nice constant for both of us. I thought it would ease transitions and help her feel comfortable and safe no matter where we were or what we were doing.

Turns out that nursing IS the transition! Suddenly it's over and Lexi isn't looking back.


Well, Lexi's health and happiness is really the end goal, after all. If she would rather move on, I guess I can, too. We've had a great 13 1/2 months together. And now that this phase has come to an end, I intend to usher in a new phase of my own: sleeping through the night.

Jun 27, 2010

Mystery diagnosis

I spent Friday afternoon helping my friend, Melanie, unpack moving boxes at her house. My mom helped us for a while, then graciously watched Gavin and Lexi so I could finish up. Melanie bought me dinner then dropped me off around 6:00.

Gavin and Lexi were clearly ready for bed. Gavin ran his own bath. As the kids were playing in the tub, I noticed that Gavin had a rash on his lower torso, bottom, and legs. It was light purple, and the spots were about pencil-eraser sized. I wondered if it was a heat rash. (Mesa is very HOT right now!) I also noticed that Lexi's diaper rash, which had appeared that morning, was much worse. I decided to call the after-hours service my Colorado pediatrician offers, but not until the kids were in bed.

The nurse I talked to thought Lexi's rash sounded like a yeast rash. She called a prescription into our neighborhood Walgreens in Colorado. I could pick it up in Mesa the next day. Excellent. But what she said about Gavin stunned me: "Hang up the phone and go to the nearest Emergency Room immediately. He needs to be seen within the hour."


Her response really scared me. What could be so serious that he couldn't wait for urgent care the next day? Couldn't I watch and wait? She was adamant....and yet quite vague about her concerns. She refused to tell me what illness she suspected. So we got ready for the ER. I gathered some snacks and water and a pitiful collection of entertainment options for Gavin. I had no idea what to expect.

My parents were out, but my 16-year-old sister was asleep on the couch. I put the baby monitor next to her ear and roused her enough that she promised to listen for Lexi. My parents would be home in a little while and take over from there.

En route to the ER, I called Garry and Melanie to let them know what was happening. Garry felt helpless. Melanie offered to meet me there. I'm so glad she did.

We settled into the waiting room with 30 other people at 8:15 p.m. The receptionist hinted at a long wait. In triage, the nurses said the ER had no beds.

Gavin thought the whole thing was a grand adventure. As the hours ticked by (we spent four just in the waiting room), Gavin acted like he was on speed. He was happy and energetic and talking loudly and running around the room. Melanie and I took turns trying to entertain him, although Melanie did the lion's share of the work. I was physically and emotionally exhausted when we arrived in Mesa last week, and my reserves were depleted. A few days hadn't replenished them sufficiently for a night such as this.

One of Gavin's favorite games was playing catch with his stuffed animals. He would hand Russell or Charlie (of course they came with us) to one of us and say, "Catch him to me!" That meant he was ready to catch. I laughed every time. At other times, when we would encourage him to take a drink or read a book or sit down, he would say, "I ready all did." He meant to say, "I already did." This is a favorite phrase these days.

Just after midnight we were transferred to an ER exam room. (I expected the waiting room crowd to erupt in a chorus of cheers, but they didn't.) This change of pace was nice, but we found ourselves in a small, more dangerous room with a door, and Gavin didn't appreciate being contained and having safety restrictions. He was totally buzzed.

Finally, a nurse came in to take vital signs. When she finished measuring his respirations, Gavin exclaimed, "She feeled me up!" We had a good laugh over that. A Physician's Assistant eventually arrived to examine Gavin's rash. Gavin laid on the exam table and was amazingly calm, quiet, and cooperative for the exam. The PA was surprised that we had been referred to the ER, and she didn't offer a diagnosis at all. Gavin didn't have any other symptoms (besides his crummy appetite, which persists) and was clearly feeling fine. I felt pretty foolish, very frustrated, and extremely tired. The PA ordered a rapid strep test because of the rash, but none of us were surprised when it came back negative.

The events in the ER exam room took two hours to unfold. The waiting was almost unbearable. After getting strep results, we waited almost an hour to be discharged. By 2:00 a.m., Gavin was exhausted and ornery. He was screaming. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. At least Melanie was a calming influence!

We got home around 2:30 a.m. Lexi had been awake (and screaming, mostly) since 10:30 p.m. Poor baby...poor Granny! I put her to bed. I put Gavin to bed. I put myself to bed. Lexi got up at 4:00, and then we all slept until 8:30. Then we all enjoyed a three-hour nap in the afternoon. Gavin seemed just fine, although the rash didn't fade.

It wasn't until bedtime Saturday that I noticed Gavin's fever. I administered Motrin and checked on him frequently. At midnight he was burning up. I slept next to him and listened to him grind his teeth all night. This morning his fever remains (though lower than at midnight), he has red spots on his cheeks, and says he "feels gross." He's sure acting like he feels gross.

What is in store for my sweet, sick boy? I hope this mystery illness resolves without another trip to the ER.

Jun 25, 2010

Settling in

Well, I've been in Arizona almost a week. Zach and Tyler are having a fantastic adventure in Nevada. Garry is doing the lonely bachelor thing in Colorado. It is pretty weird for my family to be so spread out, but everyone is healthy and happy.

The pace of life in Colorado was far too frenetic, but having it all come to a screeching halt has been an adjustment for me. I'm still trying to find the right balance of activity and relaxation. A primary objective is to catch up on my sleep. Gavin and Lexi are complicating this effort. Apparently adapting to our new surroundings and routine has been a challenge!

For all the crazy things Gavin is and does, I have been able to count on the calm of an afternoon nap and an early bedtime. We are struggling on both counts here. He requires my presence until he falls asleep (which sometimes takes 30-60 minutes) and wakes up 3-6 times at night. He has also had almost no appetite since we arrived. Gavin usually eats with gusto, but he is barely picking at meals and rarely snacks. It's the weirdest thing! He is definitely dragging from the sleep deprivation.

Lexi has suddenly become fickle about nursing. We are down to just a few feedings per day, but Lexi can't decide if she'd like to keep them or not. For a couple of days she refused nursing all day....and then just HAD to nurse during the night. I'm not a big fan of this plan! We are still working things out. Garry mailed her "sleep sheep" sound machine (which we forgot in the melee of a hasty departure) and that helped a LOT last night. Hopefully good things will come!

The Littles have played in the backyard kiddie pool and in Granny's fun toy room. We have done some errands together and joined some cousins for lunch. We spent an afternoon at Melanie's house. I went to the chiropractor for headache relief (success!) and helped with some yard work. All in all, this new life is pretty low-key.

My awesome brother, David, is fixing my computer, which completely died the day after we arrived. I am very grateful for his efforts. I'm sure my mom and sister will be glad when I get my computer back so I stop mooching from them for my various Internet fixes! Perhaps when it is functional again I can offer a more interesting post...with pictures!

Jun 22, 2010

The rest of the story

What do you see in these pictures?

Four happy kids and their grandmothers, right?
Fun memories made at a restaurant in Kingman, Arizona
on the day that Zach and Tyler went to stay
with Grandma Bartle for two weeks.
Happy memories, indeed.

But this picture tells the REAL story.
Four kids who have spent more than 20 hours strapped in the van in two days
being unleashed on the unsuspecting patrons and staff at Denny's.
Two kids climbing in and out of high chairs.
Four kids coloring with and breaking/eating crayons.
A frazzled mother (and her mother) trying to keep her cool,
running around the table and trying to meet everyone's needs
during an unexpected delay.
Lots and lots of messes (this picture doesn't do justice to the messes we made).

But still, lots of happy memories....
even though my family of six now resides in three different states.

Are we there yet?

So much of life right now is about waiting. We wait at swimming lessons and the doctor's office, in line and at meetings. We wait in the car, we wait for dinner. We also wait for a certain house to sell. With so much waiting going on, we try to entertain and distract ourselves from the unsavory task at hand.

This is how we do it.

During showings, we usually end up at the park. The Littles also play at the park during baseball games. There is no waiting on the sidelines. There is no watching the game. There is climbing and swinging and playing on the toys. This is how we wait.

When waiting for the van's oil to be changed, we walk over to Best Buy to enjoy the air conditioning. This waiting is fun for the big boys. A 3-D TV is pretty sweet for gaming.

At swimming lessons, we have several strategies. We play with the wagon. We roll in the grass and kick a ball.

When outside entertainment is exhausted, the kids must be restrained indoors by the pool. That's when we break out the snacks. Food is a key element of waiting.

Sometimes we strap in unsuspecting victims and push them around the pool deck.

We take pictures of the scenery. (Oh, Colorado! Your beauty is unsurpassed!)

We play peek-a-boo.

While waiting for tires to be changed at Costco, we eat, then shop, then have dessert. We run amok and make lots of noise and appall strangers in the check-out line.

Sometimes, if we are really, really, really lucky, a wait involves sleep for one or more participants (I am never in this group).

And last, but perhaps most significant, we now wait in Arizona. Last Friday I decided I had to run to the comfort of my family. On Saturday we made the 14-hour trek. That required a lot of waiting. The kids' first "Are we there yet?" happened after about two hours on the road. Electronic entertainment and LOTS of food saved us on that day.

But now, as the kids and I are nestled in my parents' spare bedrooms (we even have our own dressers and drawers in the bathroom), we are prepared to wait more patiently for things to happen with our move. Garry has returned to our house to work and wait. If the house sells soon, the kids and I won't go back to Colorado. If it doesn't, we will go back when school starts.

Hopefully this phase of waiting involves more relaxation and less stress! I am looking forward to it.

Jun 15, 2010

Good things to come

This morning I watched a touching Mormon Messages video based on a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland in 1999. I remember listening to him speak in General Conference as a newlywed at BYU. I was inspired by his words at the time and referred to his message of hope and faith and trust over the next few years as I struggled with the challenges before me. One of the most prominent struggles in the early years of our marriage was infertility. I couldn't imagine our happy ending would ever come. But come it did!

As I reflect on that particular challenge, which was so personal and so painful, I can now see how the Lord was directing my life. Even though I still don't fully understand why that struggle was mine to endure, I made it through. Good things did come. Promised blessings were realized.

Today I have different challenges, but I still wonder about the happy ending. I can't see the light through the darkness. I get tired of holding on. But in the end, I know that good things will come, just as Elder Holland says. An excerpt from his talk reads thus:

"It is not without a recognition of life’s tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God’s love and the Savior’s power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us—as well as the sea—to “be still.” Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to “be of good cheer.” Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!

I do believe. Even on the hardest days, I believe. Good things will come.

Jun 14, 2010

This day in my life

For the last few years I have documented a summer day in my life. Usually I premeditate this activity and take tons of pictures and copious notes.

At this end of this day I think a record is essential. I have a few photos to throw in, as well. This will count as my annual "day in the life" effort.

6:30 a.m. Gavin wakes me up. "Mom! When are we going to Arizona?" Groggily, I mumble, "Honey, I don't know." Gavin is frustrated with my response. "I don't want to go to 'idontknow.' I want to go to Arizona!"

6:45 a.m. I can't ignore the four children who are awake any longer. I get up and nurse Lexi. I have a migraine for the fourth day in a row.

6:55 a.m. I fold four loads of laundry. Putting the clothes away is Zach's job.

7:15 a.m. Kids get out cereal paraphernalia and begin to eat. I call the pediatrician to make an appointment for Zach, who has a painful, marble-sized lump near his Adam's apple. I'm trying not to get worked up about the possible explanations. The peds office doesn't take calls until 7:30.

7:31 a.m. I get through to ABC pediatrics. There's an appointment at 8:00. I take it, tell Zach to get ready, get Garry out of bed, then jump in the shower.

7:50 a.m. Hair and makeup done (thank you very much), family prayer said, I get in the van with Zach. Garry stays behind with the three youngest kids. He doesn't usually get to work until 8:30 or 9:00 anyway. I'm very grateful for the work/life balance Garry's boss allows.

8:00 a.m. We check in and see the nurse, then wait in the exam room for 45 minutes. Zachary bounces off the walls (quite literally) and drives me crazy. I read a pamphlet about ADHD, even though I know Zach is just obnoxious and not clinically hyperactive.

Zach took this cell phone photo upside down on purpose.

8:50 a.m. Dr. Kim spends five minutes examining Zach. He diagnoses Zach's lump as an infected lymph node. He asks about Zach's allergies. I tell him Zach doesn't have allergies. Dr. Kim begs to differ, saying Zach is "severely allergic" to something. Zach's sinuses are totally clogged, he has "allergic shiners" under his eyes, and his glands are enormous. Dr. Kim spends the next few minutes quizzing me on Zach's behaviors, sleeping habits, and physical traits. My mind is reeling. How did I not know that Zach had allergies?

9:05 a.m. I leave the peds office with a prescription for Augmentin to treat Zach's infected node. I am supposed to observe Zach for a month and follow up with Dr. Kim. I stop at Walgreens on the way home.

9:20 a.m. Zach and I get home. Garry goes to work. I call an allergy-expert friend, order an allergy book online, and make an appointment with an allergist. The first open slot is July 7, but Zach is on a cancellation list. I am totally overwhelmed.

9:38 a.m. I nurse Lexi and put her down for a morning nap.

9:38 a.m. Gavin steals my camera and takes three dozen pictures.

The sneaky two-year-old perspective of the family room, where Zach was playing Mario Kart.

9:50 a.m. Lexi is screaming in her bed because the boys are fighting and making crazy amounts of noise. I slowly start doing last night's dishes. My head is pulsating. I am nauseated. Is it nap time yet?

10:15 a.m. Zach and Tyler finish their morning jobs and start playing video games. Things settle down a little bit. I give up on Lexi's nap. I remember I forgot to ask the pharmacist to flavor the Augmentin. I call. It's not too late to add the flavor.

11:00 a.m. I start sorting the kids' toys. I don't get very far before fights break out downstairs. I decide it's time to pick up Zach's prescription.

11:15 a.m. We pull through Walgreens and then Taco Bell. We get Daddy's order and take lunch to him. I wonder if it's safe to drive with a migraine. It's definitely not safe to eat a taco. It nearly comes up when I hit a bump in the road.

11:45 a.m. The kids spread their lunch on the kitchen table at home. I strap the Littles in their chairs and retreat to the office. I just need a few minutes of silence...

12:00 p.m. The phone rings. It's the allergist's office. Someone canceled; can Zach come at 2:00 this afternoon? Despite being overwhelmed at the prospect, I am grateful at the divinely-orchestrated possibility of having more allergy information today, rather than in a month. I take the appointment.

12:15 p.m. I call a babysitter. We're trying a new one, hoping she works out better than the last. I'll pick her up in an hour. I realize that Zach's 1.5-2 hour appointment (plus travel time) will most likely eliminate the first day of swimming lessons today. The kids will be devastated.

12:30 p.m. I start picking up downstairs. What if we have a showing today?

12:50 p.m. I check my email, open the message with all of the allergist paperwork attached, then fill out five pages of information in my best/fastest handwriting.

1:00 p.m. I put Lexi to bed, and then Gavin. Gavin requires lots of cuddles and encouragement. When I finish with him, Lexi is still whining in her bed.

1:15 p.m. I leave four kids at home and pick up Holly the babysitter half a mile away. I zoom through my list of instructions and then remember to introduce myself.

1:20 p.m. Back at home, Lexi is crying. I get Holly settled with the other kids, then nurse Lexi to sleep. I apologize profusely to Holly for the state of the house, explaining that it's usually not so horrific and knowing full well that she couldn't care less.

1:30 p.m. Zach and I make the 20-minute drive to the allergist's office. I talk to my allergy-expert friend on the way. I appreciate the moral support. My head feels like it's going to explode.

1:55 p.m. Zach and I dash through the rain and into the office building, then check in. I feel like I've earned a gold star when I submit the completed paperwork. The receptionist is thrilled.

2:00 p.m. We are ushered to an exam room by a terrific nurse. I relate the day's history and the consultation begins. I start to wonder how much my life is going to change today.

2:30 p.m. Zach realizes he's going to miss swimming lessons.

2:45 p.m. The nurse administers 20 skin pricks on Zach's back, each testing for a different allergen. We wait for 15 minutes and monitor his reactions. I read to Zach from Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban while we wait.

Those red dots are from a marker, not blood.

2:52 p.m. Garry texts. We have a showing from 6:00-6:30 tonight.

3:00 p.m. Zachary has absolutely NO reaction to any of the allergens. None. The doctor and nurse (and mother) are flabbergasted. The likelihood of any severe allergies seems slim. We opt for a "watch and wait" approach with Zach. We discuss my other kids and their possible allergenic symptoms (all of which seem more pronounced than Zach's). I decide to have them all tested in the near future.

3:25 p.m. We leave the office. It appears we'll be able to make our 4:00 swim lessons after all....if we really hurry.

3:45 p.m. Zach and I arrive home. He and Tyler fly into their swimming suits and grab towels and goggles while I put the Littles in the van. I give Holly a check.

3:50 p.m. I pull out of the driveway, leaving Holly standing on the porch in the rain. I have called her mom, who agreed to pick her up. I wonder how my life became so totally insane.

3:55 p.m. En route to the rec center, I instruct the boys on where to go and how to find their classes. If they run into the rec center ahead of me, they just might make it on time.

4:03 p.m. I walk into the pool area with Gavin and Lexi in the stroller. I am overjoyed to see Zach and Tyler in the water with their classes. We made it!!! God is good.

4:05 p.m. I take the Littles to the outdoor patio, thinking Gavin will enjoy running around in the wet grass. He does. Lexi is content in the stroller. I pull out my cell phone and call the allergist's office to make appointments for Garry and the kids to be tested. Their appointments will be on July 7, 8, and 13.

4:15 p.m. Gavin doesn't appreciate my distraction on the phone and has a loud, dramatic tantrum on the wet cement.

4:20 p.m. I am finally done on the phone. Gavin wants to go inside. We wander around the pool deck, Gavin walking beside the stroller like a big boy. We say "hello" to the brothers and every other person in the building. I hope the next 20 minutes pass quickly. They do.

Both boys forgot to remove their watches before jumping into the pool. Will they keep ticking?

4:40 p.m. We are waiting with towels and flip-flops for Zach and Tyler as they emerge from the pool, dripping wet and beaming. I remember how miraculous it is that we are actually here and savor the moment.

This moment brought to me by a loving Heavenly Father.

4:42 p.m. We are running back to the van. Time to clean the house!

4:50 p.m. When we arrive at home, Garry is already there, working on the house. What a guy! I'm so grateful for the help. The Littles stay strapped in their car seats. Zach and Tyler change out of swim suits. Tyler puts on baseball stuff; he has a practice at 5:30. Zach collects snacks.

5:10 p.m. I start mopping the floor and wonder aloud to Garry when this lifestyle will end. It is totally insane! Garry moves the Crock-pot full of marinating pork loin to the garage.

5:25 p.m. With all the kids back in the van, I leave Garry to finish the mopping, dusting, polishing, and vacuuming. He'll have to hurry. The kids and I head to the park in the drizzling rain. I call my mom en route to give her an update.

5:40 p.m.
The baseball coach hasn't shown up, presumably due to rain. We go back home. I finish the mopping. Garry has done everything else.

5:55 p.m. I abandon the morning's plan for a dinner of pulled pork sandwiches and take the kids to Chick Fil-A. I find it ironic that we are eating out on the one night in the past three weeks that I have made a plan for dinner
in advance.

Chick Fil-A has fantastic customer service. Fantastic, I tell you!

6:25 p.m. The showing is done and Garry meets us for dinner. The three boys are romping happily in the play area. Lexi is still chowing down. My Dr. Pepper is taking the edge off my headache and providing a second wind. We all have ice cream cones and take a breath.

7:05 p.m. Bath time. I am relieved that Lexi has finally overcome her fear of the tub.

This girl knows how to say "cheese" for the camera. And how to look cute in new zippers.

7:35 p.m. Silliness and merriment ensue. It feels good to laugh, at least until Tyler, Lexi, and Gavin each head-butt Dad in the nose.

8:00 p.m. Family prayer. Bedtime.

8:10 p.m. I hook up the laptop in the basement, put my feet up, and begin to blog this crazy day away.

9:02 p.m. I remember the pork in the garage. I rescue the Crock-pot, stir barbecue sauce into the juicy shredded pork, and dump it into a bowl to refrigerate until tomorrow night. Tuesday's dinner: check.

Unless we have another day like today.

The end.

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