Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The End

It's 1:30 on a Thursday afternoon.  I have a rare open window of time to myself.  Max is at school, Alexis is on a playdate, and Tayler is actually napping soundly.  In just a couple days, we are leaving for a week long vacation of which I have hardly done anything to prepare for.  And, while the to-do lists between work, home and vacation prep are blaring at me, I can't seem to touch a thing on any of them.  Instead, I head up to the landing on our steps, pull the blinds a little higher to let more sunshine in, and lay down next to my dog.

It's his favorite spot this time of the day.  The sun warms the carpet and he loves to be there as he can typically rest while keeping eyes on me.

But today is a bit different.  Because I know it is one of his last.  As I lay next to him, we snuggle on our favorite blanket together.  It's the same blanket we've used since he was a new puppy nine years ago.  The blanket has history.  Homemade, washed and patched up around the edges more times than I could count, it has worn well.  I picked up the fabric from the Los Angeles garment district when I was in college.  As leaders of our dance team, we spent a few days with our coach taking as many classes as possible and soaking in as much choreography as we could in an effort to bring it home to use and develop from for the upcoming year.  Our coach knew the city well, and one morning knew exactly what booths to hit for the deals on fabric for uniforms for the season.  It was there, on a day when I was so exhausted from all the dancing and walking, but energized at the same time with the adventure of it all, that we walked by this fabric.  Both a friend and I picked it up.  A funny souvenir for a vacation, but nonetheless, I was excited.  Who knows what she did with hers, but mine has clearly stuck around.

We lay together.  I begin to think of all the hours we've spent snuggled on this blanket together.  Pregnant and exhausted, I should take the opportunity to sleep along with him.  But I can't.  As I listen to his labored, sleeping breath, tears stream down my face.  While I wish all the medicine in the world would fix this little guy, I know, and so does he, that isn't going to happen.  His time is short, and his breath and movement is labored.  I have no way to comfort this guy, other than to share my love with him in the best way I know how.

So we lay together.

His dramatic change began the Sunday prior.  On that same blanket, as he sat next to me, he had a seizure.  Not his first one but odd to watch this one initiate while he was in a resting position.  Something neither Mike nor I had witnessed before.  Kermit had occasional seizures.  In fact, a few years prior, we'd taken him to the vet, had a full check up and were told that we should just watch them.  If they became regular, to bring him in.  But they never did.  Post seizure, the guy was beat (as he would get), but then went back to being his usual self.

The next evening, as we sat there together, I was rubbing his ears, when I felt the entire side of his face was extremely swollen.  In just a day, he seemed to have developed a huge tooth/gum infection that had inflamed a side of his face.

I took him in the next morning, and by then his eye was swollen shut.  The vet evaluated him, and said with a surgery tooth-extraction/cleaning combo and some medicine he should be back to regular.  She drew a blood sample before we left, gave us some pain meds for the little guy and had us scheduled for first thing on Thursday morning.

But, the surgery never happened.  As we found out, the tooth/gum infection was just the tip of the ice berg for our little guy.  His blood work showed that his blood cells were attacking one another.  After taking another sample the next day, they had depleted so much, she wasn't even sure what combination of meds would or could bring him back.  After going through a list of everything under the sun that he could have gotten himself into, and then ruling all of those out, she let us know that he was suffering from an autoimmune disease, and had been for quite some time.

As she told me all of this over the phone, I felt like I couldn't understand what she was saying.  I remember asking her what would work best to bring him back to good health, and then she started talking about a specialist in another state.  At that point, my mind turned off.  As if it had stopped processing all information.  I called Mike and was so jumbled in explanation, I told him to call her directly.  So he could make sense of what I'd just heard.

That's the funny thing about dogs.  You always know that they will never live as long as you, but you never really expect or plan on them not being there either.  Standing in my mudroom, I was just arriving home from carpool, and the energy of the kids coming home was in the background.  Our dog was there with us, and I just couldn't imagine that he really was at the end.

"He'll bounce back from this." I said in my head over and over that day.  "He's a tough dog."  The past few nights had been relatively sleepless as Kermit (who sleeps in his own bed in our room), kept breathing so loudly and irregularly.  His infection from his mouth had caused a small yet constant spotty dribble of blood.  As I kept finding places around the house to clean up I would tell myself, "This couldn't be the end.  It's just an infection, and he'll clear up."  I told myself.  Convinced myself.

By Wednesday night, although he still wasn't eating any regular food, and hadn't since Monday, I was convinced that he was going to pull through.

My hopes were smashed as Mike and I did our own research on what his condition really meant.  Reaching out and talking with as many voices of reason as we could, we began to draw to the obvious conclusion that fixing Kermit was no longer an option.  It was about doing was was best for the little guy.

Thursday was thankfully a warm, sunny day.  Something that has been very few and far between.  As the kids came home, the girls joined me on the landing.  Tayler loved the chance to sit with him and snuggle with him and her baby.

  When they gathered together for their snack at the table, Kermit struggled his way down the stairs.  Instead of joining them under the table as he usually does (to catch and eat all the spilled crumbs), he chose to just stop at the bottom.  With the warm weather, I carried him outside.  He lifted his head and enjoyed the warmth.  I'm so grateful that he was able to enjoy that day with the kids.  Clearly their energy helped him forget how much pain he must have been in.  He even perked up and barked a little as they ran around.  I'm so happy they all enjoyed that afternoon together.

As the evening progressed, the little guy worsened even more.  In hopes of getting him to eat something, I cooked up eggs for dinner (probably his favorite food).  It was tough to watch him struggle to eat a few bites only to leave the rest in his bowl.  Even tougher to watch him stay and lay on the ground instead of joining the kids with their bedtime routine.  Even tougher to listen to him try to breath.  Even tougher to see him clearly in pain.

Max had an amazing knowledge and sense about the whole thing.  After we'd put everyone to bed, he came back downstairs and asked to spend some time with his buddy.  As they snuggled and his eyes filled with tears, listening to all his questions about death and life were something I'll cherish.

By the next morning, our little guy had a look.  Ready to get the kids up for school, Kermit would usually walk along with me as we went from room to room.  But on this day, as he was unable to get up and walk, I carried him from his bed to each of the kids rooms so he could be there.

Many times through out the morning, I'd catch him lying trying to get enough air to breath.  His face and eyes had lost all shimmer, and he was clearly ready to go.  I'd carry him as much as I could to let him feel, hear and sense a little more of what went on, but as I held him, he no longer held himself.  Instead the little guy would just collapse into me, as if it hurt too much to even be held.

As much as my selfish mind wanted to hold onto him so that I wouldn't have to let him go, I knew he was done.  And, as if he knew that he wanted to say goodbye to everyone, he held on until both Max and Mike were home. 

Friday, March 14, 2014 was his last day.  Almost exactly nine years old.  Love that kermie-kerm.


 A few updates on Max these past few months:

On his own, he fell in love with NFL football this year.  At the beginning of the season, he picked the Seahawks as his favorite team.  You can imagine how his excitement built throughout the season as he saw them progress to the Super bowl.  And like any real fan would, he spent his long-saved money on his favorite players' jersey - Beast Mode (to our surprise, he actually pulled the trigger and spent his money he'd been saving for ages).  It was fun to see him proudly wear it the week prior to the big game.

Here's a blurry picture of him watching the game just before the big Super bowl.  We caught a video of the girl-like screams and dance he did when he saw them win.  Hilarious.

We were able to go to his music program.  Max isn't much of a hand-action-singing kind of a kid, but was actually pretty excited about this concert.  His music teacher did a great job of building all the songs around a typical day at school, with lyrics like "beef and nachos" and all sorts of things that are funny for 2nd grade kids to sing.  It was a bit catchy and he genuinely looked like he enjoyed himself up there!

 One Saturday afternoon, we took the kids to the zoo.  This is Max standing in his favorite spot.  Thanks to his knowledge of river monsters, he loves seeing the ginormous arapaima.

And, like most boys his age, he has a passionate interest for mine craft.  We really aren't screen people at our house (especially if you are referring to the world of video games).  But, we get that he likes to be part of what others are so excited about socially.  I really do believe that less is more in this world of technology at our fingertips, but for me to go into the why behind my reasons, it would take a whole separate post.  In short, it's not a daily thing at our house, and there is a lot of understanding between he and I as to why.  He gets it, and has the control and ability to earn it.  And, I get that he likes to feel part of the conversation at school.  But much more just really doesn't work for us.  He recently finished building a roller coaster and rode it with one of his pigs.  And while I have no desire to start building my own world, it is fun to see what he comes up with.

Every time I look at this kid I feel like he has grown.  A couple weeks ago he came down for breakfast in the biggest pair of floods ever.  While I'd like to say I just shrunk his pants in the wash, it was definitely not the case.  He eats more than I do (already!), and his growth this year definitely shows it.  

He's a social guy who's happiness in the home makes me feel lucky to get to hang out with him.  I still wish I could bottle his energy.  He's the kind of guy that really doesn't need as much sleep, and can go strong and fast all the time.  

It's been fun to see his progress at school this year.  Figuring out things at his own pace is how he prefers to do it, but when he's ready for it, you see the light go on and it all clicks.

Still a drawing, building kind of a guy.  And, loves to read all the non-fiction he can get his hands on (he knows more animals than I do!).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cheetah School

Just as I was pulling out of the three month long morning sickness period that seemed to take over my life, I realized that Alexis seemed super irritated and kinda whiny.  Really not her personality and she was driving me crazy.  After a few days, the weekend hit, and Mike noticed the same thing - she would just nag and pull and strive for more and more attention.  I kept thinking, "jeez, she is driving me crazy, I can't wait until she goes to school all day!"

That afternoon Mike and Max were on an errand, Tayler was taking a nap, and she and I pulled out a game that we hadn't played in forever.  And she was like a different kid.

Then it hit me.

I had been driving HER crazy.

All at once, the last three months flashed past me and I realized we'd gotten into the worst rut.  We'd been playing with the same toys, the same art supplies, the same everything because it had been the easiest stuff to pull out.

She was completely BORED.

And so was I.

After spending the afternoon feeling guilty for not engaging her better, my better half told me to stop sulking and make a plan.

I pulled out my ideas from when Max was that age, went through our cupboards and found all the stuff we hadn't been using, thought about what she really loved to do best at preschool, and then spent some time on pinterest looking for a few ideas that would fit Alexis really well.

Our new school was born.  Sure we've played school plenty at our house but even that had become a bit mundane.  This needed a name.

I wanted her to come up with it, and after a few ideas of mom-and-me school, or Alexis' school, she remembered her favorite animal, and Cheetah School was born.

Every day we do something in relation to Cheetah School and she has LOVED IT.  And I have LOVED IT.  Some things are exactly what we did before, they just have new energy as they are encompassed in a "school" format.  My attitude has completely changed about her, and I realized so much of the day in and day out of parenting is perspective.  If it doesn't work, don't just be irritated, but make a change.  Invest some time in making a plan.  Nothing we do is overly complicated, fancy or technical, but it feels different to her (and me) every day.   Some of our projects together take a couple hours, and sometimes they are fun stations (or centers) that she will do independently.  And sometimes, it is just a few minutes of writing practice.  But it is something engaging for her to look forward to at home.  And that's definitely better from where we were before!

Below are some pics that I've snapped along the way the last couple of months.  I should take more (for memory sake)!

Her number line.  First, putting all the numbers in order, then writing them below.
 Headed off to one of our field trips.
 Getting ready to start on her valentines day project.
 She made me this note just after we started Cheetah School together.  Ahhhh, makes me feel good!
 Took a nature bike ride to pick up from school on a rare warm day.
 Painting shapes.

 Field trip to the pet store (it's been fun turning some of our regular errands into new adventures!)

 I made the girls a few new sensory bins (Alexis loves the ones she has at preschool).  She talks about her marble bin at school quite often, so we made one at home.  It's my favorite one too.
 Of course, we kicked off school with her own sign on her door.  Each day we trade out our word of the day with a little hide and seek.
 She made her own chain for a countdown to vacation.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Two going on Five

Full of energy and personality, turning 2 for this girl has been more like she's trying to skip herself ahead a few years.  She's definitely very excited to figure things out for herself and do things just like her brother and (especially) her sister.

Fascinated with shoes right now, she'll wear any pair she can find.  She loves to take them on and off, with particular interest in Alexis' glitter shoes.  And of course, all shoes need accessories.  And I must say that most of these pictures are a bit blurry as I can never get her to hold still long enough!

On her birthday, I took the girls to the children's museum.  They loved their little adventure together - and it's a nice place to go when the weather is so dang cold.
 Opening gifts was a bit hilarious.  She is lucky to have fun presents to open from our extended family. She loved getting into the boxes that held the packages (literally!). And, with each gift, she wanted to open it completely - including putting on a new outfit as soon as she received it!

 She loves a book called Ten Wriggly Wiggly Caterpillars and flaps her hands like butterflies on the last page.  It's definitely her favorite.  So, I made her a little butterfly cake!
 A blurry shot of one of the first times she decided to go up and down the stairs like a big kid.  That transition always makes me a bit nervous.
Just about a month after her birthday, she has kept with the big kid trend and completely boycotted her crib.  Unbelievable climbing skills to get out as soon as she was put in.  Since it was a crazy week (more on that later), and the week before we went on vacation, I made every attempt I could to delay her need to be a big kid.  It was helpless, she even mastered climbing out of the pack-n-play without tipping it over (we should sign her up for a 2 year old ninja warrior show!).  After a few sleepless nights, we took the front of the crib off, and left her to her own devices.  Clearly interested in doing things on her own terms, she would fall asleep anywhere but on the bed, and only after making a mess of anything she could get her hands on.  On vacation, she figured out that a pull out sofa bed was exactly what the other kids were sleeping on, and after the first night, did quite well.  And, seems to be liking her bed more now - especially since it has freedom AND a pillow!
She loves to shadow her sister and will definitely miss having her around next year when Alexis is in kindergarten.

Nicknames include:  Tay Tay, little T, tornado Tayler, little bruiser and when she doesn't sleep Tayler the Terror.

We are so happy to have her energy around - I love the emotion she has whether it is happy, sad, excited or mad it is so fun.   She's very clear if she does or does not want something, and there is very little convincing her otherwise.  She loves to laugh and to make people laugh, and most often will start pulling the funniest faces at dinner just to be part of the conversation.  Her strong will,  independence and competitive nature have been part of her since birth and it will be fun to see how it all develops with time.  At the same time, it's been neat to see her compassion develop and when someone is feeling sad, she will walk over to them and say "hug" with her arms wide open.  I love that about her.  Hearing "hug" in her little voice is the best.

Her favorite things are definitely books and art (preferably markers - which I just love).  She loves to dress up in anything and of course run around and giggle like crazy.  She loves to sing (of course, not on camera), and says the cutest little prayers around.

Happy 2 to Tayler!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Top Five

I haven't written too much these past few months, because I really feel like just managing the day to day has been more than enough for me.  But I've had a good handful of missed bloopers that I feel I'd be remiss to not write them down.

Below are the top five out-of-the-norm-for-Sara things that have happened lately:

1.  I shrunk Mike's new sweater I gave him for Christmas.  After all of the pinterest attempts to stretch it, I'm seriously considering throwing it back into the dryer for another round in hopes it'll come out fitting Max.

2.  Max had the day off of school.  Except that he really didn't.  And I realized this when the school called about 9:15 to see where my son was.  But, he had a nice pancake breakfast, and as he put it, "well, good thing I'm all ready for the day so we can just get there quick!"

3.  I'm trying to keep up with Tayler, but she is curiously quick.  At the store, as I was unloading our items onto the belt, she and Alexis were standing by me (Tayler pretty much boycotts any type of cart or restraint.  And does so with a lot of emotion.  Complete screaming and body throwing.  For now, it's best to just let her walk along with.  That alone is adventure enough, and probably why I avoid the store experience a lot right now!).  Anyway, they were standing by me, and as I turned around, I found those big brown eyes with one hand holding an open candy bar, and the other hand chowing down on it!  I couldn't help but laugh at how quick she'd pulled one, opened it and was munching down!  Of course, I just stuck it on to buy, put her in the cart (where she was content eating the rest of it - momentarily), and chuckled that she'd helped herself so quickly.

What was the candy of choice?  A mounds bar of all things.  And she gobbled it up!

Alexis stood there the whole time with her mouth hanging open. I think she was in disbelief.  Then coming to her senses, she turned and said, "mom, do I get to pick out some candy too?"

Funny enough, on the next trip to the store, Tayler grabbed a box of vanilla wafers from the store shelf, sat down and had ripped them open to eat faster than I could catch her.  Hmmm.

4.  I've realized that I am probably done running.  But only after walking through the store to pick up some milk after going to the gym did I make this realization.  As Alexis took me on the store "tour" as she calls it (a few months ago her preschool did a field trip at the grocery store.  She loves to relive it.), to her favorite part, the lobster, I knew my stomach wasn't feeling too great.  Of course, as I kept my distance Tayler wanted to join in the fun.  Clearly unable to distance myself from the fish section, I thought I could hold my breath long enough.  Dead wrong.  Thankfully, we made a quick cross cut through the store, ditched the cart (as Alexis kept saying, "mom! we never just leave our cart in the middle of the store!  I should stay by it!").  The whole time, I'm trying to persuade her to hurry up so I can just make-it-to-the-bathroom-in-time.  She decides she should stay with the cart while I go, I then decide she still needs to come with me.  As she's dragging behind me and Tayler, I'm thinking "I can't throw up in the middle of my favorite grocery store!"  Gladly, we made it.  Of course Tayler sees what is happening and says "uh oh mommy."  Alexis, completely oblivious to the whole thing, is running constant commentary about how beautiful the bathroom is, and how she actually hasn't been in it before.  Great, a new thing to add to the tour.

5.  I've misplaced more things than I could even count.  The biggest one, was my wallet.  Of course, I didn't realize that I'd misplaced it until the next morning as I'm headed off to take Alexis to kindergarten round up (a program they do here to give kids a little glimpse of their classroom, hang out with the other soon to be kindergartners, and meet the teachers).  After looking for a few minutes, I remember exactly where I put it.  On top of Mike's car as I was getting out of my own car the night before and had too much stuff in my hands.  On top of Mike's car which he then drove to work, and has been at work for a couple of hours already.  Sheer panic hit me, but I had to completely disregard it, for Alexis was pounding out all the questions she had about her new morning.  I couldn't let her feel anxious about something that had nothing to do with her.  So, I buried it, dropped her off, and then called Mike.  And totally lost it.  Between tears our conversation went like this:
me: "Uh, did you drive the usual way to work today?" (calculating in my head I had just enough time to probably make it there and back before I had to teach my class)
Mike:  "That's a weird question, but yep."
me:  "Did you happen to hear anything moving around, or fall off of your roof?"
Mike: "Nope."
me:  "Well, I put my wallet on top of your car last night and you drove to work with it!  It could be anywhere!!"
Mike:  "Let me just walk outside and check my car."
(pause in the conversation as I'm internally panicking and thinking of all the places I'll have to call that day to cancel everything).
Mike:  "You'll never believe this. Your wallet is on the ground in my parking lot."
He drove 20 minutes (freeway speed, turns, you name it), and the wallet stayed on the ROOF of his car until he made it to the parking lot.

This was a clear moment where I (again) realized that we really aren't alone in this journey.  Sure, we all go through tough things, but sometimes, tender mercies are thrown our way - even before we realize it.  All the prayers I said in my head that I would find my wallet had already been answered, and I know it had nothing to do with sheer coincidence.
As I hung up, I said a prayer of gratitude, and had an overwhelming feeling that I really wasn't alone in this whole process.  And that things were going to be okay.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Think she made a mistake?

We had to reschedule our first ultrasound appt. because Mike and I both came down with a stomach bug (as if I hadn't thrown up enough over these last few months already!).  Max was super bummed, as he'd anticipated going for ages.  I was too.  Completely frustrated.

But, a week later, we were rescheduled and back on track.  We took Max and Alexis with us (something I'd highly recommend!).  Tayler hung out at a friends house (I don't know many two year olds who would be too interested in it all anyway!).  Their eyes were like saucers looking at the screen as they saw the baby move.  Figuring out the body parts was funny at first.  Alexis kept saying, "oh I see the head" and it wasn't it at all.  But after a couple minutes they started to see the baby, wiggling fingers, kicking legs, and little feet on the screen.

Then it was time for the gender shot.  Max had been praying for ages that we'd have a boy, so you can imagine the anticipation he had.  When the tech revealed it was a GIRL, Alexis let out a little scream of excitement.  Mike and I were of course excited, and Max went dead silent.

So quiet, that we kind of waited for him to say something.  So the room went totally quiet.  I awkwardly started talking to Alexis, and heard Max whisper to Mike "think she made a mistake?"

After we made it out of the room, I couldn't wait to get their reactions on video.  Completely priceless.  Another favorite are these pictures I took before we left.

I loved having them there and hearing their natural reaction to it all.  Sure, it wasn't all glorious and rosy, but it was real, and that really is what life is about.  Managing expectations, overcoming disappointment, and moving forward.

Even better was a couple days later at bedtime.  Max had just finished brushing his teeth when he turned to my belly and said, "hey little cutie in there, I'm your big brother" in the softest sweetest voice he has.

He's coming around.

And we're tickled pink.