Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The First Day

Today was the big day, my baby boy, Logan, started kindergarten. Wow. Although I guess calling him my "baby boy" is a little behind the times. But in my heart that's what he'll always be. How cheesy, I know.

His school starts at 9:15, so about 8:00 I started getting him ready. He had some of a bowl of Frosted Flakes, brushed his teeth, and got dressed. Of course, he couldn't wait to put his cool backpack on - even though the only thing in it was a travel pack of Kleenex since he had a runny nose. I took the obligatory pictures:

And then we were off. We waited forever in the drop off line, parked, and in we walked. We found the check in spot for new kindergarteners, and found out he would be in the green room today. (A side note: our school does staggered entry for kindergarteners. Each child goes one day of the first week of school, then on Friday the "kindergarten team" gets together and places each child in a permanent room. This helps to match them up personality wise with the teachers and skill wise with the other kids.) We went in the room, met his teacher, gave her his lunch money, and she showed him where to put his backpack. They were having free time while everyone finished checking in so I asked him if he wanted to play with the blocks. He said yes and asked me if I would stay to watch him play. I got a tiny bit worried at this point that there was a meltdown coming, so I cheerfully told him that I had to go to work, but would be back in the afternoon to pick him up. He gave me a kiss and a hug, a wave goodbye, and that was that. The next big phase of his life began.

I picked him up in the afternoon and could immediately tell he was exhausted. I asked what he did, and he said he didn't know. I asked what he had for lunch, and he couldn't remember. He did manage to let me know that he was going to need some milk when we got home. After a cup of milk and some peaches, he was finally rejuvenated enough to tell me about his day. They had PE and learned about bike safety. Apparently he should always wear his helmet. They played a lot of games - red light, green light and freeze tag among many. They learned to walk in a line and keep their fingers to their mouths while doing this. They cut out a palm tree and leaves and glued them to a page; then used yellow circle stickers as the coconuts. He had written an "L" on each coconut. They had a hearing test and the teacher read them some books. I'm sure they did more things and I'll continue to hear about them over the next few days.

All in all, it was an exhausting really fun day and he can't wait to go back. I'm so excited for him that he's begun this journey. I hope he can always remember how excited he was in the beginning.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Lifetime of Sickness

People with severe or chronic illnesses are constantly on my mind. My husband, Joey, has 3 chronic diseases. He has bipolar depression, which is about as fun as it sounds, but is very familiar to most people. In May 2003, he was diagnosed with Arnold Chiari Malformation. A mouthful that most doctors haven't even heard of. We've actually had the joy of explaining the disease to most new doctors he sees, but unless it directly affects them or why they're seeing him, they don't really care or want to learn about it. Although sometimes this is true even of the doctors who do need to know more about it. But anyway...he has very severe leg pain, has had it most of his life. No one was ever able to figure out a cause until they did an MRI and a neurologist in Morehead found it. However, he was a doctor who didn't care, and told Joey to come back and see him when he couldn't walk. Gee, thanks for the help. Eventually he found an awesome general doctor who researched it and led us in the right direction to seek treatment. This led him to The Chiari Institute on Long Island in NY. They are awesome, very talented doctors, who have studied and researched this disease for many years. They were able to determine that he needed brain surgery to relieve the pressure his brain was putting on his spinal cord (a very simplified explanation, but it might take all day to provide the details). They performed the surgery in October 2005 and after a long, hard, painful recovery he got a little bit better for a little while. Then it was back to the same old stuff. Along with the severe leg pain he has horrible headaches (again a simplified way to say it, but how else to say really bad head pain?), memory issues, vision problems, urinary problems, and balance issues, among many things. After a lack of improvement following the brain surgery, they did another MRI and found that he also had Tethered Cord Syndrome. This is where your spinal cord tethers to your spinal column (I think). They did lower back surgery to detether his spinal cord (cut it loose, basically) in August 2006. He should have had immediate relief after the surgery, but it seems that because it was tethered for so long (because so many doctors overlooked it), there was too much nerve damage. He is now on constant pain medication, has been hospitalized too many times to count, and is on disability because he can't work.

My husband suffers every day of his life. Some days are better than others. Some days he can get up and hang out with me and the kids, and go places with us. But there are a lot more days that all he can do is lay in bed and hope the pain lets up. I worry about him constantly. I try to keep a positive outlook and be his bright shiny light when he gets to the darkest places. It's hard for him to stay upbeat when dealing with these things every day, so I try to do it for him. Sometimes it drives him crazy because it seems so pointless, but the other option doesn't work for me.

All these things, however, lead me to wonder about our God. Why does he allow this kind of suffering? I'm not an incredibly religious person. I went to church when I was younger, and recently I've tried to get back into the routine of going. But it's hard. It's hard, but I feel so invigorated after I've gone to church and sang songs of praise, and listened to the pastor give such wonderful, interesting sermons. I choose to believe that He only gives us what we can handle and that there's a reason for everything. Maybe he allowed Joey to have this disease so he can counsel and support others with the same problems. Maybe it's to bring us closer as husband and wife, and as a family. Maybe there's a reason God hasn't revealed to us yet. All I can do is have faith that there is something out there bigger than us, watching over us. Tonight, and every night, I say a prayer for those who suffer and those people who support them. I pray God watches over Joey and gives him hope through the darkness, and the ability to see through it. I pray that God gives me the strength, love, and wisdom to be there for him as he needs me to be. Most of all, I pray that God gives peace and understanding to all those who suffer.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Back to the Real World

My mother in law, Barb, has been visiting us from KY for the past 2 and a half weeks. Her primary purpose in coming was to help out while Joey recovered from a lumbar puncture he was scheduled to have. She was also coming to visit her favorite son, daughter in law, and grandkids. I'm not sure if she knew it - but her visit served a much larger purpose for me. While she was here I didn't have to cook, I didn't have to empty the dishwasher, I didn't have to clean, I didn't have to do laundry (although I did do some), I didn't have to rush home from work if I needed to stay late, and I was able to go shopping by myself. She took a lot of the responsibility of caring for the kids (mostly because they preferred her over me) and handled a lot of bath nights.

For a long time in the beginning of mine and Joey's relationship, she and I didn't get along. We were civil to each other, but there wasn't a connection or a friendship. Mainly because I "grew up," we have moved past that. We were able to hang out together and have fun. She came to NC wanting to have a yard sale, so I decided to throw some kids clothes in and help her out. We went to the mall and shopped around, had lunch, and spent way too much money at Sam's Club. We took the kids to the Pit Party at the Monster Truck Jam and suffered through the crazy breakfast at the hotel the next morning.

As she left this morning to go back to her real world, so I return to mine. I fixed dinner tonight, I emptied the dishwasher, I picked up the house, and I took both kids with me to Target. Her presence was immediately missed. But she's not missed only because of the things she did to give me a break, but because one of my friends is gone. She's not here to talk to and discuss all the crazy things the kids did and what's going on with Joey, and I will miss that. She is someone who knows and understands all of Joey's medical problems and personality quirks as well as I do, and understands when they get to me. She is someone I can lean on when I need to get something off my mind, and someone I can make jokes with about my crazy life. So as she heads back to KY, I hope she knows how much she means to our family, and especially me. Finally, after all these years.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Right now a lot of our focus is on Logan as he gets ready to start kindergarten, but our baby girl shocked us tonight. While I was with Logan at his school's open house, Gracie was coloring at the kitchen table as my mother in law cooked dinner. All of a sudden, Barb (my mother in law) realized Gracie was singing the ABCs. She stopped to listen as she sang the entire song without missing a letter. When I got home, she asked me if there was a reason I hadn't told her Gracie could sing her ABCs. Well, probably because I didn't know she could. I asked her to sing them for me and she did it again perfectly. Holy crap! I had no idea I had such a smarty! We decided she probably knew other things we didn't know about, so I asked her if she could say her numbers. Low and behold, she counted 1 to 10 as we sat there and listened. Who knows how long she's known these things, but at least we finally have something to show for the all the money we pay the daycare!

Growing Up

Well, we had a big night in our house tonight. I took Logan to an open house at his school so he could see it for the first time. He starts kindegarten next Wednesday. I haven't felt so sad that I thought I would cry at any moment...until we were walking down the hallway in his school. Here is this little boy holding my hand walking for the first time through a hall that he will soon know like the back of his hand. It's all beginning. I felt my chest start to tighten and became seriously concerned I was going to make a fool of myself. But once we started down the kindergarten hallway, I relaxed. We met all 9 of the kindergarten teachers and explored all of the rooms. We visited the cafeteria and the gym. The truly sad part was that once we got through the first room, Logan no longer needed me. He ran ahead to each room checking out all the things they had to offer. He wasn't scared and holding my hand, he was a big boy exploring his future. I was so proud of him. When people say time flies, they fail to mention how quickly it goes. It seems like just yesterday that I gave birth to him.

Seven weeks before he was due my doctor put me on bedrest. One week after that, on Sunday afternoon, as I lay on my bed watching TV, my water broke. Let me tell you - that is some messy stuff. Anyway, having 6 weeks to go until I was due, we ran around like crazy packing what we thought I would need and a few things for Joey, certain the unpleasant part would start anytime. I didn't have my first contraction until we were in the car on the way to the hospital in Mt. Sterling, about 30 minutes away. No too bad, I thought. I can do this. We got checked in and they checked to see how far along I was. 2 centimeters. My confidence increased. 2 centimeters and the contractions weren't too bad. Maybe I'll survive. Then my doctor informed me they were going to send me by ambulance to UK Hospital in Lexington since I was 6 weeks early. They assured us that it would be fine for Joey to follow the ambulance in the car since I had plenty of time before I'd deliver. They loaded me up and off we went. My contractions kept coming, but I was okay. Then, I'd guess about 10 minutes away from the hospital, something felt very strange. LOTS of pressure. The nurse riding with me said she'd check me, but my contractions were probably just getting stronger. Umm, no. I was fully dilated and ready to deliver. WHAT?! I started crying, afraid of giving birth in an ambulance. They told me not to push and the male nurse let me squeeze his hand through the contractions. Looking back on it, he probably had to have some kind of reconstructive surgery after I was done with him. However, I managed to resist the urge to push.

Now as luck would have it, my mom had been at our house that Sunday morning. When she left, she stopped in Lexington to do some shopping. So when we called her, she said she'd just wait for us at the hospital. This turned out to be a huge blessing. When we realized I was fully dilated, the ambulance turned on the siren and sped through the lights. Joey, of course, could not do this. We lost him. When we got to the hospital, mom was waiting right at the emergency room doors, found out the situation, and immediately started helping me. Thank God. Alone was not how I wanted to be. They took me to a delivery room and the nurses were just putting around getting things ready. Finally, the ambulance people told them I was ready, they checked, and things got hopping. Without any time for drugs, after two pushes, out came Logan. Hooray! They took him away to clean him up and started trying to clean me up. I was in labor for less than four hours. Joey finally got there, and was immediately bummed out. He'd completely missed the birth of his first born. Except, of course, for the yucky water breaking part.

He quickly realized, however, that they were having some kind of trouble with Logan. They brought him to me, let me see him for a second, and after a quick stop in the nursery, took him to the NICU. This is terrifying - to see the child you'd created and given life to whisked away because he was having trouble breathing.

He was in the NICU for 11 days. Aside from not breathing very well, he was a very healthy little boy. We got to hold him for a little while after a couple of days, but he had to wear an oxygen mask and had IV's everywhere from his arm, to his feet, to his head.

But he was precious, and we loved him. He eventually gave up the oxygen and we were able to bring him home. Another terrifying experience. I leaned over his carseat for almost the entire hour long ride home, listening and watching to make sure he was still breathing. We made it home, and we've made it through 5 years of his life. And next week he starts school. The beginning of the end - leading to the point where he leaves us to go to college and start life on his own. It's hard to believe it wasn't yesterday I was sure he was going to stop breathing during his first car ride. I love him and I'm so excited for my little boy as he begins this big adventure.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Going Redneck

My 5 year old son, Logan, loves watching Monster Truck Jam on TV. He wakes up at 7 a.m. most weekday mornings to watch it. He builds monster truck courses out of blocks and races his monster trucks on them. He loves them. My mother in law found out that there was going to be a monster truck show at the Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Knowing how much he'd love it, and how much fun we would have watching him enjoy it, she bought us all tickets to go. The Monster Truck Jam started at 7:30, but with an emtpy Vault bottle, you could come at 4 and go to a Pit Party where you can see all the trucks up close and meet the drivers.As I sit here writing this, he is telling me the name of this driver he's getting an autograph from. Seriously, he loves it. Anyway, needless to say he had a blast. Gracie didn't enjoy it quite as much. She found it a bit loud for her tastes - kept her head pressed against my chest while I covered the other ear with my hand - and proceeded to take a 45 minute nap. I have no idea how she managed it, but that's a kid for you.
So the whole family got to go and we had a blast. We even got Joey out of the house for the night, which is enough to make us all happy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

With Old Age Comes Memory Loss

So my baby girl turned 2 on May 14th. I was reminded of this as I was pulling in the parking lot to pick her up from daycare and my mom called to wish her a happy birthday. This was fortunate because when I went in to daycare they told me all about the birthday party they had for her. Pathetic, I know. I consider that one of my worst parenting moments. Who forgets their child's birthday? In my incredibly weak defense, my son was visiting my in-laws in KY and we planned to have a party for her at their house, as well as my moms, when we visited them at the end of May. So we weren't planning any big shin-dig as it was just me, Joey, and Grace. No excuse, but the only defense I have. So, after picking her up from daycare we headed straight to Target and bought her bunches of presents, the $3 bouncy ball being her favorite. Well, I'm sad to say, I've had another memory lapse. Yesterday, August 17th, was my 6 year wedding anniversary. My husband also forgot. Pathetic again, I know. I was coming in from taking the dog out around 6 pm and my mother in law (who's visiting) says, "I know what today is!" I looked at the calendar and said, "Yeah, it's August 17t..shit." Are you kidding me? She then headed in to our bedroom where my husband was and tells him happy anniversary. He said a few choice words expressing his disbelief that this day was actually a cause for celebration. He looked at me, asked if I remembered, and mumbled happy anniversary. You would think we would immediately head out the door to at least celebrate with a nice dinner out, but no. It had been a long day and he was feeling particularly bad, so he went to bed early, I finished my tasks around the house, and we fell asleep like normal.
We have never done big celebrations for our anniversary. There's always been something in our way to prevent us from the alone time necessary. I don't feel cheated out of anything by forgetting, I just worry that I've forgotten something else.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Don't look back and say if...

Choosing a title for your blog seems like such a big decision. You don't want it to sound dumb, you don't want it to be too cheesy. But finding the perfect one - that's a tough job. I chose "Don't look back and say if" because it's something I believe strongly. If as you're going through life you continually choose to look back and say, "But if this had happened," you will constantly question eveything and never enjoy the choices you made.

For instance, when we were preparing for Joey's back surgery that was to take place in NY, out of network for our insurance, Joey's very wealthy boss said he would take care of everything. Doctors, travel, hospital bills, food, everything. And this is a man that made enough money in a couple of days to pay for all of this. We were so relieved to be able to plan this surgery and not worry about the money - simply look forward to Joey getting better. Well, of course, surgery, out of network, in New York - not cheap. I don't know if his boss didn't realize how expensive it would actually be, or if he just decided Joey wasn't worth the money - but in the end he paid for almost nothing, not in the grand scheme of things. Let's just say Joey and I were devestated, to say the least. We struggled for a while, but finally came to the realization that there was no way we could afford to pay these bills. The only option was to declare bankruptcy and start over. While we are deciding how to proceed with our lives, we also have to accept that Joey isn't getting better. We realized he couldn't continue to work, and my tiny salary couldn't support our family. What a mess.

Joey applied for disability and we decided to follow his best friend to Charlotte, NC where I could get a better paying job. We planned to move to Charlotte over New Year's weekend between 2006 and 2007. By the way - bankruptcy sucks. We knew we wouldn't be able to buy a house for a while, and that we'd have to hold off buying new cars for a few years, but we had trouble renting a house. Are you kidding me? We had to pay the first month's rent and two deposits before they trusted us, but they did and we still happily live there. Anyway, we moved to Charlotte, I got a job the first full week we were there that doubled my previous salary, and I still happily work there. Joey has found better doctors than he could have hoped for in our tiny KY town, or anywhere close by (trust me, I know, we looked). Our daughter is in an awesome (ridiculously expensive) daycare, our son is getting ready to start kindergarten, and we are happy. We still deal with Joey not being a well person every day, and we still deal with the effects of having to declare bankruptcy, but we are a family and we are together.

My point to this blog is to say, in the beginning when all of this craziness began happening, it was so easy to say, "But if he'd paid for it, we wouldn't be in this situation." But that keeps you from appreciating where you are now. We LOVE Charlotte, I've made some truly wonderful friends, and we are happier than we ever were in KY. So now, I say thanks to the idiot who backed out on us, and look forward to the years to come with my family.