February 5, 2014

My Boob Tummy

There have been two circumstances in my life that I have been okay with my weight gain.  First, pregnancy.  If my body is going to get that deformed, hells yeah I'm gonna indulge a little.  Second, weaning myself off of antidepressants.  Woot!  So that's the good news-- I'm off my meds.  (Although I have quite the supply stashed as I am pretty sure they will come in handy at some point later in my life.)  The bad news-- I've packed on an easy 20 pounds.  Yikes!

My biggest concern gaining that much that quickly was that people would think I was pregnant.  I dreaded the day someone would ask, "When are you due?!" or say, "I didn't know you were expecting!" There are a million ways to phrase it, but if you're not preggers, they all translate to, "Wow. You are a tub of lard."

Thankfully that day never came... not yet anyway.  Instead, I got this:

After months of not going, I finally went to Women's Basketball at the church on Wednesday night.  It was awesome.  I always have so much fun when I go.  I can't walk for like three days afterwards, but still a ton of fun.  Anyway, not too far into our game, Jolene and I (playing on opposite teams) jumped up to grab the same rebound.  I ended up with the ball and she took a quick swipe at it before making her way back down to the other end of the court.  She missed the ball, grabbing me instead.  By now she was a few paces ahead of me and called back, "Sorry! Was that your boob?" To which I replied, "No, that was my gut."

So there you are-- I'm chubby enough that a handful of my gut feels like a booby. Good times. Worse than being mistaken as pregnant? I haven't decided yet.

August 14, 2013

Good Bye, Corolla #1

Soon after Randy and I were married we bought our first car together, replacing Randy's money pit Buick Regal.  I LOVED our 1997 Toyota Corolla.  Now, almost 15 years later, I tolerate that car for one reason:  it's paid for.  That reason alone is enough for Randy to overlook the 101 reasons why we need to say good bye to his beloved piece of crap and look for a car that doesn't make us look like we are homeless.  (That's actually another tick in Randy's pro column-- the fact that it makes him look homeless.  That is not a joke.)

Here is a sampling of the said 101 reasons to get rid of the Corolla:

Reason #100-- It smells like farts.  Even Henry says so.

Reason #18-- Thanks to the baking Southwest sun, over the years the paint on the hood has slowly flaked off, exposing that ever so lovely primer gray color.  It's super classy.

Reason #27-- You can't open the passenger side front door from the inside.  In order to get out, you have to manually roll down the window and then reach your arm over and open the door from the outside.  Classic.

Reason #62--  At some point the lock on the trunk stopped working and we couldn't get into it. (That was reason #11 until the lock miraculously began to work again one day.) Before the miracle, in order to get into the trunk, the backseat was ripped off from whatever held it down, causing it to rest slightly forward and making it possible to see the contents of the trunk from inside the car, which Randy claims to have come in handy from time to time.  That leads us to...

Reason #63-- Occasionally the kids have to ride in "Daddy's Car." When this happens, Emmy's seat is placed in the back on the passenger's side because the seat belt for the seat behind the driver doesn't work.  That means Maren has to sit in the middle, but because Emmy's big bamma car seat takes up the entirety of her seat and then some, we're unable to balance Maren's booster seat on that little hump that makes up the middle seat of every compact car.  To compensate, a large object must be placed underneath the left side of Maren's booster seat because that would just be crazy to expect Maren to lean forward (thanks to the busted back seat that now sits at an angle slightly less than 90 degrees) while trying to maintain her balance on her teetering booster seat which sits, off-centered, on that stupid hump.

Reason #3-- In order to start the car you have to first place the wrong key into the ignition and jiggle it around.  Only then can you insert the Corolla key and attempt to start the car.  If the key won't turn, don't give up.  You may have to repeat steps one and two fifty times, but eventually you will be able to fire that bad boy up.

Reason #1-- The driver's side door cannot be opened from the outside.  Randy was driving to work one night and a deer ran into the door, causing a massive dent and shattering the handle. 

Honestly, I didn't care that much about our crappy car until the day that Randy had to take the van to work and I was stuck with his car.  I had to take the girls somewhere and as usual, I was running a tad late.  I walked outside and saw the car seats sitting on the garage floor.  Eff.  I hate running out the door and realizing the car seats are not ready to go.  I grabbed Emmy's seat first and began to install it behind the driver's seat and then realized that seat belt didn't work.  Grrrr.  I got it put in on the other side, threw Emmy in, and then went to put Maren in her seat.  Maren's freaking out because of #63.  It was then that I realized I needed a book to shove under her seat so she could remain upright during our car ride.  Finally the kids are in.  I ran around to the front to jump in and the damn door handle was busted.  Oh my gosh.  Trying to save time, instead of walking to the other side of the car to open the door, I figured I would just reach my arm in through and around the back seat to open the door.  I couldn't quite reach.  Crap.  So I decided to go over the seat.  I let all my air out and then pushed my body between the roof of the car and the driver's seat and yay, I opened the door.  I'm feeling super proud of myself until I tried to squeeze back the same way I squeezed in and I was stuck.  I couldn't get my boobs over the head rest!  I was furious.  I swear I tried for like 30 seconds to free myself.  All the while I'm repositioning my boobs in every way I can imagine, my butt is hanging out the back door while the world is driving by, and Maren is policing my language: "Don't say damn it!  Don't say shit!" I finally made it out of there, shut the back door and jumped into the driver's seat with a huge sigh.  But it wasn't over.  I stuck the key into the ignition and it wouldn't turn.  Silly me.  I was using the Corolla key when I remembered #3.  It was a good day-- it only took me about 5 tries to get the key to turn the engine that time.  I closed my eyes for a second to catch my breath (I felt like I just finished a fight... that I totally won) and we were off.

It's time, Randy.  It's time.

UPDATE:  So I actually wrote this post about a month ago and am just now getting around to posting it.  We've since bought a car-- Corolla #2.  It's seriously the exact same car, just 10 years newer... and it doesn't smell like farts.  Yay!

June 13, 2013

Nickelodeon Universe, Mall of America

After our visit at Mayo Clinic, we drove up to the Mall of America and hit Nickelodeon Universe.  What better way to test the limits of your HLHS kid's poor functioning heart than to take her to an amusement park?  Maybe not our best decision, but the kids LOVED it.  Even Emmy, who was stuck watching on the sidelines, got a kick out of it.  Here are a bunch of pictures...

The Swiper (as in "Swiper, no swiping!") Ride.  This thing looked pretty tame, but those turns were pretty sharp.  This one would have been fun for me even without Maren.  

Maren on the kiddie Bumper Cars.  This picture captures one of three 5-second periods where she was not stuck.  She couldn't figure it out.  She kept her foot on the gas the entire time while cranking the wheel as far as it would go to the right.  She could make about 2 full donuts before ending up pinned in the corner screaming, "Stupid car!" over and over.  Twice she was freed by other drivers bumping into her just right.  The other time she was freed was when the ride operator stopped the ride to rescue her and give her one-on-one instruction.  That took about 30 seconds while the entire world watched.  When the ride started again it took Maren about 3 seconds to pin herself again.  Good times.

Henry was too big for the other bumper cars.  Had we known Henry-sized bumper cars existed, we would have started with them.  These were a lot more fun for everyone.

This was the Wonder Pets Fly Boat Ride.  This is the ride Maren looked forward to riding the most.  When we talked about going to Nickelodeon Universe, this is the ride Maren talked about.  The ride would slowly lift the kids up and then gradually bounce them down.  Going up was great.  Coming down, not so much...

Is this not the look of sheer terror? Wait...
Is this not the look of sheer terror? Before this one I took Maren on a real roller coaster called The Orange Crush.  I was nervous enough about it that I almost bailed at the last minute, but she really wanted to ride it.  I expected Maren to be scared on that one, and she was, but not like this.   It's hilarious now, but at the time there was a split second when I thought Maren might die.  I just about jumped the fence and pushed the pregnant attendant out of the way to smack the big red emergency stop button myself.  Probably the scariest ride for both of us.  Yikes!
 When we were out there, we also went to this small zoo that was a little off the beaten path.  It was pretty incredible for what it was.  I'm glad we went. 

Henry's impersonation of a Snowy Owl.  Not bad.

This is the otter exhibit.  You can see one of them behind Henry. 

This Bobcat pounced at Henry.  Pretty freaky considering there is almost no space between you and the fence.  You could have pet him (and consequently had your hand eaten) if you wanted to. 

Good family fun!

April 11, 2013

Mayo Clinic Visit

Randy and I drove the kids out to Minnesota last week to visit with the folks from the Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome at the Mayo Clinic.  I can't remember if I have mentioned it on the blog before.  These guys are involved in a few different research projects.  They are trying to figure out the cause of HLHS and also how to improve the quality of life for individuals with HLHS.  A lot of the stuff they're doing is completely over my head, but what really grabbed our attention is the fact that they are working towards manipulating skin cells-- gathered from a skin sample from your arm-- and turning them into healthy heart tissue.  Theoretically this healthy heart tissue would be injected into the heart and somehow replace the bad cells, improving heart function.  Pretty amazing stuff.  Here are a couple of links about the program:


First, the good news: It was a great experience.  Everyone we worked with was extremely kind.  We would do it again in a heartbeat.  They were able to get from Maren what they needed.  It was a long day, but for the most part everyone kept it together.  "Keeping it together" is relative with our kids, but Randy and I are calling it a success. 

We did leave with a few questions.  Dr. O'Leary, the cardiologist working with us, was concerned about a few things with Maren's heart.  Before coming, we knew that Maren's heart function is pretty bad.  It's not been great for a long time.  It never seems to get any worse, but definitely has never really improved.  Dr. O'Leary put a number on it for us, which really scared me.  Maren's heart is functioning at about 30%-40%.  Ouch.  He also told us that there seemed to be some significant narrowing around her Norwood.  The Norwood was Maren's first surgery.  I don't know what they did, but it's some opening that needs to be open and seems to not be as open as it should be, causing her heart to work harder than it would have to otherwise.  (My stomach is turning as I write this.) Also, her protein levels are a little below normal.  Protein loss, or PLE, can be a complication with post Fontan patients.  It's a scary thing that can't be prevented nor cured and it haunts me constantly.  Right now she's good, but it's something to watch. 

Sigh. So the next step is for the guys at Mayo Clinic to talk to Maren's doctors at U of M about what they found.  From there, one of two things will happen.  Maren's doctors will tell us that nothing has changed.  They knew about her crappy heart function and the narrowing of her Norwood, but because she is doing so well clinically, and has been doing well for a while, they want to leave her alone for the time being.  OR they will say, wow, that's news and we better do something about that while she is still healthy. 

For the time being, we are happy to stay in our bubble. From what we can see, Maren is doing great.  She's so, so happy.  She loves going to school.  She loves drawing and coloring for her teachers at school and church.  She's making progress developmentally-- both physically and mentally.  I was just telling Randy the other day how I feel bad because I often have very low expectations of Maren.  I don't know if it's my way of subconsciously protecting myself emotionally so I'm not let down when she doesn't meet her milestones. Who knows.  Maybe I'm just a jerk.  But just over the last month or so, I've really seen a jump in Maren's mental acuity.  Her vocabulary is improving, sometimes a little more colorful than I would like, but beggars can't be choosers, right? And even her understanding of concepts.  Like just the other day I was peeling hard boiled eggs for dinner.  Maren wanted to help but she had just come in from outside and was covered in dirt and mud.  While she went to wash her hands I finished the job.  When she came back she was upset and said, "But, Mommy!  I wanted to hatch the eggs!"  She's able to reason much better than she used to-- making timeouts, among other things, much more meaningful and productive. 

The point is, Maren is the same little girl she was a month ago.  She is a walking miracle.  We will continue to take things a day at a time, focus on the abundance of good, and soak up every second we have with her.  The same is true with Henry and Emmy.  Gosh, being a mom is great!  I have my moments, but when it comes down to it, this is really the most amazing job ever.  I love my kids so very much and I am so very grateful that they are mine and Randy's forever. 

As part of the study, Randy, Henry, and I also had echocardiograms done.  While we were waiting for Dr. O'Leary to come in and explain our results, Henry and Randy slipped out to have their labs drawn.  Soon after, the doctor came in.  He began by telling me that Randy and Henry's echoes were completely normal.  They both had normal, healthy hearts.  I king of braced myself and with a nervous laugh asked, "But...?"  Apparently I have a funky heart, too.  Yay!  Obviously, it's not bad.  I don't even remember what he called and I'm not going to try and restate how he explained it to me, but I'm fine.  He told me that I could live my whole life with my heart the way it is and have no symptoms.  However it is something to keep an eye on.  If it gets worse, there may be some issues.  When I get the results in the mail I'll post the name of it for my reference.   

Like I said, it was a great experience :)  Maren's not scheduled to go back in to see her cardiologist until sometime in July, but I plan on following up with U of M as soon as they get a chance to look over Maren's stuff.  I'll make sure and update then. 

If this reaches any HLHS families out there who are interested in participating in the study, make sure to check out the links posted at the top.  It really is an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of families down the road and maybe even yours.  Feel free to contact me as well. 


Introducing A.J.

Meet AJ, or Fat Idiot, as Randy likes to call him.  Here's the story:  

In a moment of weakness, Randy promised Henry that he could have a dog.  Fudge, the guinea pig, died a while back-- sometime last fall.  I knew he was sick and I prepped Henry and Maren for the day, but it was still hard for Henry when he came downstairs that morning and I had to tell him that his beloved Fudge had died.  Maren didn't really care, but she did try to comfort Henry.  She kept saying, "It's okay, big guy."

So Henry's upset... cry, cry, cry.  Maybe three minutes later, through tears and a quivering voice he asks, "Can I have a dog?"  No frickin' way, was my first and only thought, but I wasn't going to tell him that.  I told him to call his dad at work, KNOWING that Randy would say no.

Here is Henry's side of the conversation-- the side that I can hear:  "Dad, Fudge died.  Can I have a dog? Okay. Bye." Henry threw the phone down on the couch and turned on the TV.  He was completely expressionless.  I'm thinking I'm the smartest mom on the planet.  Henry can hate Randy for the rest of his life, not me, for saying no to a dog.  Trying to sound sympathetic I asked Henry, "What did Dad say?" Henry says, still with no emotion and not even looking up from the TV, "Dad said yes."  What?!  I knew Henry wasn't lying.  I believed he thought Randy had told him he could have a dog, but certainly it was just a misunderstanding. 

I called Randy and asked what he had said to Henry. My plan backfired in a major way.  Randy promised the boy a dog.  Randy's defense:  "What was I supposed to say? He called me crying about his stupid guinea pig!"

Anyway, we promised Henry that we would begin looking for a dog in the spring.  As that time approached, I really began to worry about where we would find a dog.  Of more concern was how we would find a dog that was not an idiot/jerk/make us hate it so much that we had no choice but to kill it or send it away forever-kind of dog.  I have not had the best luck acquiring decent pets.

#1 Pinto Bean, the three-legged feral cat.  She would come to you, purring and rubbing against your leg to be petted and then once you did, she would bite the shite out of you.  I'm talkin' blood-drawing, need to go on antibiotics so you don't get some funky feral cat disease-bite.  She was a butt.

#2 Pedro, the orphaned puppy that I raised from his first day of life because his mother didn't want him.  Maybe she knew that he'd grow up to be a psychotic freak show that would go after people's jugular.  That was a scary dog. 

#3 Chewy, who was fine until Henry was born.  After that he started peeing on everything.  It wasn't funny at the time, but when we were living in New Mexico, Chewy peed on Randy's bullet-proof vest.  I scrubbed the hell out of that vest but it was no match for New Mexico's desert heat.  As soon as Randy started to sweat, he smelled like cat urine.  Hilarious... now, for me, not Randy.  Shortly after that he peed on my maternity overalls-- the only thing that fit me at the time (I was preggers with Maren.) That was not funny at the time and still is not funny today. 

#4 Daisy, the biggest jerk-dog I have ever been around.  She was THE WORST.  She was cute and that's about all she had going for her.  That's all I can say.  I still get angry just thinking about that dog. 

ANYWAY... I was really worried about how we were going to find a good dog.  I felt stupid and a little embarrassed doing it, but one morning I got down on my knees.  There I was-- a grown woman asking God for a dog.  Wow.  It may have been the most awkward prayer that I have offered: "Heavenly Father, I know this is stupid, but we want a dog for our family.  We obviously have very poor judgment when it comes to picking out dogs.  I don't want to go through the hassle we did with Daisy.  Please send us a good dog.  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen."  I could just see God standing there in heaven with his mouth open asking, "Really?" Regardless of how lame it was, it was sincere and it was done. 

A couple of months later I ran into our neighbor.  She works at a dog kennel and it came up that we were going to start looking for another dog.  She said, "Oh, we've got the perfect dog for you!"  Right, I thought to myself.  It was some stray yellow lab someone had picked up a couple of months earlier.  I was half listening to her when I heard the magic word, "free," and I decided it was worth a shot to at least look at the dog.

Anyway, long story short, we went and looked at the dog and after a 2 week trial at our house, we decided to keep him.  The day we went to finalize the deal, the woman who was helping us asked, "Did you know that a few other families took AJ home and brought him back?"  I had but I never found out exactly why.  When I asked, the woman said that AJ wouldn't connect with the other families.  He wouldn't even look at them.  Our experience was the complete opposite.  When I brought Henry to meet AJ with me for the first time, he stayed right next to Henry the whole time.  Henry could give him commands and AJ would listen.  The woman went on to say, "It was like he was waiting for you." 

No joke-- I almost started to cry.  Yes, it is embarrassing.  Not because of the dog, but because Heavenly Father is so nice!  I know this is just a dog, but that is what is so great about it.  IT'S JUST A DOG! I can't find the words to explain the feeling, but it is just amazing to me-- those tender mercies of the Lord-- that God knows me, hears me and cares about me... and because of those truths, among other things, he sent us a nice dog.

So there you are-- A.J. the miracle dog. The kids love him.  He's great with the kids.  I knew AJ wasn't going to hurt the kids after a week of watching Emmy shove her fat little finger in either AJ's nostril or his eyeball.  He didn't love it, but he never tried to eat her because of it.  Emmy is probably AJ's best friend.  I am certain that more of Emmy's food ends up in the dog's mouth than hers.  Maren's a big fan.  Every morning when she wakes up she asks, "Can I go see AJ?" Of course Henry his happy.  He has his dog. 

AJ's only really annoying habit is digging.  Oh my gosh, can that dog dig!  He actually dug up Fudge a couple of weeks ago.  Yes, it was horrifying and disgusting, but luckily Henry and Maren were riding their bikes in the front yard when it happened.  They had no idea.  Fudge's new grave is in a Michigan landfill now, may he rest in peace.  Maybe I should ask God to make AJ stop digging. 

Maren's butt, or "buttocks" as she refers to it (thank you Shrek,) is ALWAYS exposed.   



March 18, 2013

Cardiology Visit

This is really late, but Maren had a cardiology visit a while back... like the beginning of January.  I had the regular nerves going into it-- but the anticipation of this exam stirred up an extra dose of anxiety.  I had received a letter in the mail informing me that Dr. Ensing, for whatever reason, had stopped doing clinical visits.  Crap.  Maren had been assigned to a new doctor. 

The next day I called the department to grill them about Dr. Gelehter and definitely labeled myself as a weirdo.  A woman answered the phone.  I introduced myself and let her know of my concern. She was very nice and asked me what I would like to know about Maren's new doctor.  I don't know why I was caught off guard, but I was.  I hesitated and then like an idiot asked, "Um... is she nice?"  It was followed by a kinda long pause.  Finally the secretary said, "Yes."  In my defense, I think my question was totally legitimate.  I don't want some jerk working with my kid! I asked a few more intelligent questions and was told that Dr. Ensing hand-picked this new doctor for Maren.  I felt better but still wanted to see her. 

As soon as I got off the phone I jumped online to find Dr. Gelehter on U of M's website.  I read her bio, pulled up her picture, called Maren over and said in a super excited/happy voice, "Check out your new doctor!"  Maren came over, pulled her glasses glasses down like some old librarian, took a look and hollered, "Ugh! She sucks!" and then walked back to where she came from-- 3 inches from the TV.  Wonderful.

All the worrying was for nothing.  The visit went really well.  Maren looked/sounded good and both Randy and I really like Dr. Gelehter.  She was, in fact, very nice.  She seemed to know what she was talking about and, bonus, Maren really liked her.  It was probably the most uneventful cardiology visit we've ever had.  Yay!

Here's a Maren video-- nothing to do with the post, but I love it.  She's singing I'm not sure what song, but I think it's from Fresh Beat Band...


February 3, 2013

"I Don't Care!"

Maren is hilarious.  I remember the first time I got a glimpse of her silly personality.  She had only been home from the hospital for a few weeks, so I guess she was somewhere around 5 months old.  It was bedtime.  Before climbing into bed, though, Henry wanted to perform the puppet show that he and Randy had been working on over the previous few days.  I sat on Henry's bed with Maren on my lap while "The Three Little Pigs" began.  Maren's eyes looked even bigger than normal as she so very intently watched the puppets on Henry's and Randy's hands.  Soon they got to the good part.  As Henry made the wolf on his hand huff and puff Maren smiled, then giggled, and then full-on laughed.  It was probably the cutest thing I had ever seen.  We all laughed out loud and Henry has been forever proud of the fact that he was the first one to make Maren laugh. 

Henry's accomplishment has lost some of its merit as the months and years have gone by.  There are few times when Maren is not smiling or laughing.  She finds humor in just about everything.  When a humor-lacking-situation arises Maren is quick to inject humor wherever or however she sees fit.  When she recognizes humor in a conversation, she likes to contribute.  Of course, more often than not, it is inappropriate.  Here is one example:

I was pulling the van into the driveway and noticed a large package sitting outside our front door.  I asked Maren what she thought might be in it.  She didn't know.  I said, "Maybe the box is full of broccoli." She smiled and I continued, "Maybe there's a big bag of Q-tips, or maybe it's full of pumpkins."  I looked back at Maren in my mirror and she said, "I know.  Maybe it's full of buttholes!" My bad. "Butthole" is definitely my favorite quasi-swear word. (Thank you, Leah Weaver, my best friend in the third grade.)  Maren cracked herself up while I managed to be an adult and reprimanded her.  It was hard not to laugh.  Of course after Randy got home I cornered him and privately told him the story.  We both laughed.

Maren's finest moments though, come when she doesn't know that she's being funny.  Not that it's a swear word of any sort, but another favorite of mine is "I don't care!"  Like when I ask my kids to brush their teeth and they say, "I don't want to," and I say, "I don't care." Or, when it's time for bed and they say, "But I'm not tired," and I say, "I don't care." Maren picked that one up, but almost never uses it correctly. To Maren, "I don't care" means, "I'm kind of on the spot and don't know what to say."

To my family-- remember when Don came home from scout camp and told us the story of when Brother Tocknell asked all the boys to go out and gather a faggot? Don grabbed Jimmy Gardner and yelled out, "I got my faggot!"  (Seriously, Brother Tocknell-- what did you expect with a group of teenage boys?) My mom was not amused, but the kids-- all 6 of us younger than Don-- picked it up and ran with it.  From that day forward, whenever a sibling got mad at another sibling, the offending sibling was sometimes a "jerk" or a "butt," but more often than not, they were a "faggot." In our minds, "faggot" was synonomous with "jerk" or "butt"-- kinda like Maren's, "I don't care."

The first time I noticed it we were at church.  I was walking with Maren to the coat closet when a woman stopped her and said, "What a pretty dress!" Maren just looked at her, shrugged her shoulders and said in kind of a whisper, "I don't care," and then kept walking.  It was fantastic.  The woman looked at me with disgust and all I could say was, "Sorry.  She didn't mean what she said." Yep-- best... mother... ever.

The second time was the worst.  We're all sitting in the Bishop's office for tithing settlement.  He pops the question to Randy and me, and then Henry, and then Maren-- "Maren, are you a full tithe payer?" You guessed it-- Maren looked at him, shrugged her shoulders and said in that loud-ish whisper, "I don't care." Classic. 

Okay, one last story for this never-ending entry.  Sometimes Maren comes up with words/phrases that are all hers.  My favorite one of those is, "butt-jerk."  In a sentence it goes something like this: "Obama is a butt-jerk!"  No story with that one.  It stands alone. 

Thank you, Maren, for your sense of humor.  You constant stream of smiles, laughs, silly jokes, quasi-swears, full-on swears, and inappropriate one-liners keep me smiling.  I love you.