kids and family 

2019.08.18UPDATE: Family Update: Downward Dog

August 18, 2018

Papa passed quite quickly in May. And I say "quite quickly" in relation to a weekend as opposed to the many years of his full life. The lowlights of his disease were that he was on a relatively low-sloped decline until he experienced a trauma -- he fell and broke his collar bone -- which accelerated its progress dramatically. Over the next few months, words, around which he had modeled his life, would increasingly flee until he was saying few if any actual words at all. Dementia was for him a cruel and sinister irony.

Fast-forward to June. The dust has begun to settle for Yaya, who has determined she will stay in the house but look for opportunities to move to a smaller place in town. Kiddo has completed a very successful year in middle school. Bartlett, our older dog, has been slowing over the past couple of months; it's become obvious his hearing is significantly diminished, and his gait has slowed, but he still likes to romp and play with his kitties now and again. Laurel and I are preparing to move the family.

By early July, we're in at the new house. The cats came in the first trip in my small car; the dogs came in the second in the larger SUV. Laurel and I had been talking quite a bit about countermeasures for keeping the dogs from falling into the pool, but we first wanted to see how well they'd do with all of us outside with them on their first visit to the back yard.

The yard is mostly pool. The back door, at the north side of the yard, exits onto a patio which leads directly to the steps down into the kidney bean-shaped pool after about 20 feet. The pool was obviously made for relaxation or very gentle exercise; its maybe 5' deep at most. The absence of any sort of barrier between patio/yard and pool strongly suggests children were not part of the install equation. What grass there is is on the south side of the yard. Plenty there for small animals; one just has to guide them along the walkway between the house and the pool to get to it.

As I said, I've spent a few cycles on how to ensure the dogs' safety, with inputs from both Laurel and kiddo. But then the big moment arrived, when we could watch them in the yard for the first time and determine whether they -- chiefly, Bartlett -- could navigate the shoreline on his own.

We hadn't been outside for 30 seconds. I had only walked out a few feet -- far enough to deposit my towel before going into the water -- when I turned to see Bartlett standing at the bottom of the pool. He was out of the house for SECONDS and walked straight off the deck into the water. We viewed this as a prime indication of how poor his eyesight has become -- and wouldn't have believed it without this event.

I started this post talking about Papa for a reason. And here it is: I find there is stunning similarity between Papa's trajectory and Bartlett's. To be clear, I am certain Bartlett suffered from, essentially, dementia. Like Papa, Bartlett was on a slow decline until a trauma. For Bartlett, it was falling into the pool.

He was underwater for perhaps five seconds. Kiddo and Laurel were pulling him up within three. By the fifth second he was in our arms and being carried to the deck. We watched him pretty closely for a day -- he slept very, very soundly that first night. The following day he seemed a little slow. But by the end of two weeks, much about him had changed. His gait had become stiff and extremely slow. His steps were uncertain. He would stare at walls. He would yelp when touched from a direction he couldn't see. We'd consulted a local veterinarian who prescribed some medication to make him hungry again, and Laurel cooked some nice food for him to eat. But through the second week it was clear it wasn't having enough of an effect.

Laurel and I spent the past few nights wondering if he would wake the next day. I made the call to the vet's office on Friday. We were slated to put him to sleep at noon the following day (today).

This morning we saw even more evidence that we were doing the right thing: a liquid mess in the back yard which suggested stomach problems, and, as we walked him into the vet's office, urine that was alarmingly dark. Our boy was shutting down, and he knew it. When Laurel found him this morning, he was asleep in a corner of her office -- an unusual place for him. Laurel interpreted it as him going to a remote place to die.

Our new vet was beautiful. She had absolutely the right words for us; she knew we were grieving. It's... it's difficult to meet somebody when you've been "ugly crying." Laurel and I spent probably twenty minutes on the floor with our boy -- the first ten just laying with him and petting him; the second ten, doing the same, but lulling him to sleep after receiving the sedative. The doctor even kissed her palm and placed it on his head. She could tell were were both absolutely devastated at having to bring him in, and she made me feel like her heart really, really went out to us.

I don't know if the other animals have figured it out yet. The younger dog watched me completely dissolve into tears over Bartlett minutes before we left with him. But because Bartlett had been so sedentary over the past few days, I don't know if the pup (I say "pup," but he's like seven years old now) or the cats have done the math because he hadn't been moving from room to room as do the rest.

I'm particularly curious about how the pup will adjust. Pup isn't like Bartlett; he's not got the sense about him to be "one of the family." He's a dog through and through, nothing more. That doesn't mean Laurel doesn't love him to pieces --- she absolutely does. He just doesn't have that je ne se quois that transcends; that -ness that tells one very clearly he's some Gestalthund. What pup usually IS, though, is jealous: he got so unbelievably mad whenever we would separate Bartlett from him. It gave me the idea that he was certain Bartlett was getting to do something fun and he was stuck not getting to do whatever amazing thing Bartlett could. To be honest, he was right about that some of the time. Bartlett, for his part, absolutely hated being separated from his little buddy. He would yowl inconsolably when pup was gone for vet appointments and the like.

I hope Spirit Bartlett will visit him. Pup is such a nervous little dog.

 

UPDATE: Pup finally got the memo. It's taken a few weeks. Last week we had an awful lot of rain (for this area, anyway), and some thunder-bumpers were part of the package. We have a good product called Thunder Shirts to help keep them calm despite the commotion outside (they're good for fireworks, too!). Anyway, the Thunder Shirts' design is a little complicated, and it's not so easy to tell which shirt goes onto which dog. As the storm was approaching, Laurel placed one of the shirts onto pup, and figured out pretty quickly it was the wrong one (by size) -- but pup had already taken a big sniff of it, and the math was well underway. He sniffed at the fabric some more, and Laurel could see him recognize Bartlett's scent, then remember him, remember he was ill, and realize he's been gone for a little while. Pup became sad and sort of moped around the house for the day.

Pup has had a behavior late in Bartlett's days of hiding treats. Laurel would give them each a biscuit; Bartlett would drop it on the floor and forget about it, so Pup would later pick it up and eat it, or, as time went on, he'd hide it someplace where he knew Bartlett couldn't get at it. The hiding behavior became noticeable after we'd moved and Bartlett was in steep decline. Kiddo and I would find dog bones (the biscuits) under our pillows at night. Probably the best "hiding" job I saw was when he'd turned one of Laurel's flip-flops onto its side by a wall, and placed the biscuit behind it.

Since pup's epiphany last week, the hiding has stopped. We'd figured he was doing it in response to Bartlett's assertion of dominance through food control. Here we've at least circumstantial evidence to suggest that was the case.

Finally, I think other behaviors have changed in Bartlett's absence, and for the better. I sort of wonder if pup is actually happier without Bartlett, insofar as he no longer has to compete for attention; there's no reason for jealousy, much like there's no reason to hide biscuits. I know pup could display some amazing jealousy where Bartlett was concerned; he would bark his "mad bark" whenever Bartlett was allowed out front of the house and he was put in the back yard. With those days behind him now, I hope pup will feel happier and become a better friend to us all.

August 18, 2019 - One Year Later

I wanted to offer a few words one year on from the previous post on this topic.

Bartlett visits us from time to time. Kiddo senses his presence occasionally, as she does with Papa. Yaya actually saw Papa earlier this week -- clearly enough to note that he stood in the doorway wearing a blue shirt. But Bartlett checks in on us from time to time. I still miss him terribly.

Pup has matured very well over the past year. To the best of my knowledge, he has stopped hiding treats -- there's no threat. The cats love him and they don't care one bit about his bones. Today, his favorite things are watching me eat and being where we are -- he gives me little kisses on my ear when I'm in the water at the edge of the pool, because that's about the only time we are eye-to-eye. For as much of a pain in the ass as he was when he was younger, he's really grown into being a great little dog.

I think we all also recognize that pup wouldn't play well with another dog in the home. I'm pretty sure he'd be fine with another kitten at some point, but not a dog.



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2019.08.18On Kiddo's Relationships

I share my daughter with another dad. I moved my family to Texas over a year ago. Before moving, the other dad essentially sued my wife for custody of kiddo. It was a waste of resources -- both his and ours. Had he simply talked with my wife instead of throwing his laywer at us, he likely would have arrived at a very similar arrangement we currently have. Our arrangement essentially involves her traveling up to see him over long weekends, some holidays, and over the majority of the summer.

Kiddo's extended family is comprised of her dad, his wife, and her teenage son. The boy hasn't had an easy life -- he lost his father at a young age, and has -- or had -- nothing but resentment for his mom's new husband.

This summer, kiddo had a few hiccups and we had to end her vacay early so she could have some medication issues worked out. Since then, kiddo's relationship with her extended family has been strained. She has come to feel that his stepson takes precedent over her; kiddo feels like a second- class citizen when she visits.

Distance hasn't made the heart grow fonder. Since school has started, she has hung up on him on a few calls.

My feelings aside, I can tell that kiddo is looking for closeness right now. She needs reassurance that her place is solid and her (other) family dynamic is strong. So I've been working extra hard to provide that for her.

Although I have no standing in the matter, I feel --- having been a child of divorce too --- that she shouldn't have to make the trip to see him if she doesn't want to. I don't dare actually suggest it, though.



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2019.08.17Mom is Slipping

Image of an elderly woman and her caretaker. Image credit: GIS


I'm losing my mother. Little bit by little bit, call by call. I guess I've suspected this for a little while, but today's call was different.

Just different enough, perhaps, to make it more than perceptible -- different enough to suggest alarm.

A couple of weeks ago she called me to tell me how proud she was that she was able to frustrate a scam artist. She was so happy that she managed to challenge him enough into finally hanging up.

Today I saw the bill -- she may not have fallen for his fake Publisher's Clearinghouse pitch, but she managed to rack up a $140 bill for the call: She doesn't understand that on mobile phones both parties pay to talk; who called whom is meaningless.

When I called her today, I told her about the bill, but I'm not certain she understood what I was saying. I wasn't going to be crass and tell her that she'd blown our budget; she may be 80, but she deserves to be treated with respect. I made my point in a way that approached the boundary but not so subtly that anyone might miss it. She didn't appear to pick it up. She didn't react in a way that suggested she understood me. Arguably, she might have just been hoping the issue would fall to the riverbed of an otherwise flowing conversation, so she might reflect on it later; but I'm uncertain.

I don't want to treat her like a child. Yes, she's 80, and she never worked to understand the technologies that became so common over the past twenty or thirty years: computers and cell phones and Wi-Fi and all remain unexplored. (I found myself explaining yet again the difference between the mobile phone and its service, and what between them is paid for and what is paid as a monthly bill.) Twenty years ago her eyes would just glaze over as I'd try for the umpteenth time to explain what a virus scan was and how to do it.

So my current countermeasure is to enable some protection from my service provider. The good news there is I won't have to install anything on her phone -- it's done through the network. That's a relief.

I guess I'll continue to monitor our conversations in the coming weeks, but today made me feel like I have to explain more and work harder to get points across. I'm hoping she was just mystified by the technology.

During the call she noted that it's hard for her to get around to places outside of her retirement home -- noting that loading her walker into a car is inconvenient. Additionally, she mentioned on the call that she knows she's living in a place where people come to die.

I admit I wasn't prepared to respond.



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2019.06.29A Turn of Good Luck

We had quite a day here yesterday.

Among the good news: Our kiddo is getting her medications sorted out; our "other kiddo" got married; and I got a job offer. About the only way it could have been better -- realistically better, I mean -- would have been if Laurel's promotion had finally come through.

Here are some details:

  • Last school year, kiddo finally got a diagnosis of some peculiar behavior she'd been having since a couple of months after the start of the school year. That diagnosis is not the kind of thing a parent wants to hear, but receiving it is worth celebrating when your kid is suffering, because it unlocks all kinds of assistance for your child. Anyway, a few months ago, the specialist increased her dosage on a particular medication, and, as it turns out, kiddo started having some pretty unsavory thoughts starting at about that time. That kind of behavior is apparently a known side effect of this specific medication. So she has been admitted to a behavioral hospital for analysis and observation -- but the biggest benefit of admitting her is that a new medicinal regimen can be started immediately. Without that, it could have taken weeks to get things switched around. We are confident she is getting put on the right track, and, at this point in the summer, it should set us up for a greatly improved school year. *

  • Laurel and I have a sort of quasi-daughter. She and Laurel met several years ago and they just kind of hit it off. When she learned that the girl needed help, she offered to let her live in our home for a short time. And in that time, she really turned her life around. So I couldn't be prouder to have learned that she got married yesterday!

  • I have been doing contract work since last September. I thought I was on a good trajectory for converting to FTE, but my new director has other plans. This is a big problem for me, because company policy specifies I cannot contract with them for more than a year at a time without a significant break in service (like 90 days) -- and nobody can afford to leave a job, not work for 3 months, and then return. Well, nobody I know. So I've been quietly in the market since that conversation. Yesterday one of the companies I've been speaking with notified me of their intent to offer me a position, and I'm elated. Details have yet to be discussed, but more on this will follow if I accept the offer.

  • And speaking of jobs and offers, Laurel is a very good candidate for a more senior position with her employer. She's been through three rounds of interviews, and apparently there's another to come. As I understand it, she'll be one of three in the entire company doing this kind of work; seems to me they want to be sure they get this right. So while we didn't hear anything about it yesterday, I'm hopeful good news will reach her ears in the coming days.



*Now, I wrote all of that stuff about kiddo before we went to visit her yesterday. Holy Hell. It felt like we were visiting kiddo in jail -- about all that was missing were orange uniforms on the kids and bars on the doors. We were restricted from bringing ANYTHING in with us to visit her -- no mobile phones, not even sunglasses. Most of the patients are there for either drug overdoses or attempted suicides -- I suspect their daily regimen is geared toward these -- so they're all in group therapy sessions most of the day. Kiddo described one boy who said he tried to hang himself, but whatever he'd tied the rope to on the ceiling broke; so he tried to slash his arms, but he missed every vein. So in addition to feeling out of sorts with the structured environment and all the strangers, she doesn't really have anything in common with the other patients, either. She hates group therapy because she's forced to talk about herself and her feelings and all, and she's really uncomfortable with that. I tried to offer what comfort I could by reminding her that she's never going to see any of these people again, so she really could "let it all out" -- get everything off of her chest she's been holding in; it's an opportunity to spill to complete strangers she'll never see again. We sat with her for an uncomfortable hour. And we'll do it again today. Hopefully she'll have had more sleep.



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2019.05.16Ten Years After Laurel's Cancer Diagnosis

10 YEARS CANCER FREE

Laurel was diagnosed with skin cancer ten years ago today.

She has told me it was the event that made some very important decisions for her.

Every year, I mark the anniversary of her diagnosis, and the anniversary of the day she got the news that she was cancer free.

I usually commemorate these occasions with flowers -- she loves flowers. This year, for the tenth anniversary of her cancer diagnosis, I did something very special.

A couple of years ago, in commemoration of her cancer scare, she selected several flowers that have significance for her and asked her mother, an artist, to draw them for her. She then took that finished drawing to a highly talented tattoo artist, and had it committed to her skin. Her mother took it a little further and painted the flowers as a watercolor, which I had framed.

So this year, I took a digital photo of the watercolor and sent it to a local flower shop (I later used it to make the images you see here). Today I expect that shop to deliver a replica of that piece as a floral arrangement. I'm very curious to know if she'll realize it. My surmise is that she'll see customary bright flowers, but I don't know if she'll catch on.

Every year when I order flowers for these occasions I end up somewhere between misty and completely bawling to the poor clerk taking my call. Not this year: This year, I saved it until I typed this.



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2019.03.01UPDATE: The Day (Hasn't Yet) Arrived

Photo of a shark jumping out of the water

Well, it's happened. I'd heard nasty rumors that kiddo had develped hair in her pits, which meant we were on a six month clock for... this.

Kiddo dutifully reported, with a measure of pride, that she'd had some spotting yesterday. And just like that, Operation Shark Week went into effect. She went to school today with a few extra items in her backpack.

I'm not having an easy time with the news. For as much of a hypochondriac as she has been, I fear she'll become a "regular" in the school nurse's office again (she described the new nurse this year as an 'A-hole,' by the way).

I can't imagine the amount of Zoloft the middle school nurse must be taking.

 

 

UPDATE:

I saw this post from two years ago in This Week in halfgk History and couldn't resist an update. As it turned out, it hadn't begun. Actually, it *still* hasn't begun.

She's had a little spotting from time to time, but Aunt Flow has yet to visit.

She's 13 now, and halfway through her 7th grade year. It's gotta be coming soon, right?

I wonder if medications she's taking are affecting this?



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2019.02.10Family Update: Laurel and the Brain Aneurysm, One Year On

When I opened Facebook yesterday morning I didn't expect to be greeted by a photo I took of a Jacksonville restaurant. It was the first place we visited when Laurel felt up to walking around after her surgery to clip a brain aneurysm.

We were staying in an economy hotel about two miles from the hospital. We lived in a room on the third floor for three weeks -- buying groceries every few days to cram into the tiny refrigerator or sit on the small countertop above it. She slept so much those first few days, but gradually her strength returned, and we spent some time together walking the beach and dining at local places. In that three weeks she showed me how brave she really is.

Today Laurel is every bit as bright and beautiful as ever. Yesterday she got a new tattoo in memory of her late dad; she now has a tattoo for each member of her family. Last night we all got pedicures -- five of us -- our family plus two very good friends of Laurel's, one of whom flew in from out of town. She sat in the chair and just beamed, she was so, so happy.



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2019.01.20First-Time Teening

Image of a crowded shopping mall. Image credit: GIS

Today, I hit a parenting first.

I gave our newly-minted teen permission to join a couple of friends at a mall.

I recognized the friends' names, but I still had questions, and you can believe I asked them. I really tried not to make it too taxing on kiddo -- I still recall the millions of questions I got from my mother every time I wanted to do things. Happily, we've enjoyed some technological revelations since then -- like mobile phones and GPS.

Perhaps the biggest motivator for me was having answers to the questions my absent wife might ask. I damn sure was not going to get mama angry at me for letting her go without copious detail backing me up. I copied down as much info as I could about the kid whose parents were driving -- well, I got as far as the phone number when the kid texted that they were out front.

Coat on. Shoes on. Not just kiddo -- ME TOO. I went out to the car to say hello and thank the dad for shouldering the responsibility. Then when I got inside I scribbled down his name and a description of the car.

I figure that as these trips become more common, and the parents of her circle of friends become known, I won't have to go to measures like these. But I'm a first-timer here. A first-timer with a brand new teen in a metroplex of 8 million. In the town where I grew up, we had two malls -- one was popular and one wasn't. Not with kids, anyway. That mall was maybe three or four miles from our house, an easy drive. One story, with department stores on either end. This place? The mall has valet parking, and its shops aren't exactly Spencer Gifts and Things Remembered -- they're more like... places I can't pronounce with items I can't afford.

I had even written down what kiddo was wearing. I was not messing around. I helped her organize what to bring, and wrote that down, too.

When mommy radioed in from her shopping trip, I gave her the scoop, and probably volunteered more information than I should have. Turned out she and her girlfriend were headed to the same place. I texted her what kiddo had on, and even gave her the mobile number of the friend she was with.

I'm sure I probably recorded way too much metadata in preparation for the event. But, in my defense, she was about to leave in a car with people I haven't met for a giant mall I don't know well and am not sure I could even get to. I figure spending some ink and paper and asking a question or two is a small price. I made certain though that I didn't give her the grilling I used to get.

Besides... *Opens Find My Friends app on phone*... there's no need.



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2018.11.22UPDATE: On Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving

Image of a classic Thanksgiving card. Image credit: stufffundieslike.net

First, I need to get something off of my chest: I have never been one for the "let's go around the table and say what we're thankful for" kind of thing at Thanksgiving, because I feel its an act of performance.

Being thankful -- and the things, people, events that people are thankful for -- should be a private matter. Making one list these items only invites trouble, because "obligations" tend to intrude. Thoughts like, "I'd better say I'm thankful that lush Uncle Jerry and tightwad Aunt Margaret made the trip, because I'm seated right across from them."

I like my thankfulness unrehearsed and uncoerced. I don't want social pressure to inform what I should or shouldn't say. Every time I've been made to do this, I've tried to assemble my words as the people before me were taking their turns. That's what makes this such an awful exercise.

I've spent the last few months not feeling very thankful. I lost a job that I really loved; I lost a house and a neighborhood I really loved. Selling the house ate through all of the savings I had left, and now I have a massive tax bill because of the penalties. I was without work for two months. All of this shattered my confidence and made me feel "less than," despite none of it being my fault. My exercise and diet routine was shot completely to bits -- through a combination of change in routine, losing my motivation, and stress. No, I'm not thankful for any of that. At least, not yet.

Here's what I am thankful for: Through all of that amazing awfulness, my wife and daughter and their love have kept my spirits fairly buoyant, along with the friendship of others. I'm thankful for a new employer who was willing to work with me to help me get back on my feet, and I've been showing them a wealth of gratitude. I'm thankful I was able to save my mother in law's life -- that's hard for me to write -- and I'm thankful we're all getting along in this tiny house. I'm thankful our daughter is doing so well in school, and of how proud she makes me. I'm thankful for new friendships in unlikely places, and new pursuits. I'm thankful I can cook for my family and still talk to my mother. I'm thankful mom sold her place and moved into a care facility. I'm thankful for guidance and for new experiences. No, my life is not what it was, but I feel like I'm on the mend -- and I'm very thankful for that.

I'm saying that, even in hard times, we can probably find things to be thankful for. There's a lot about my life that has absolutely had me down over the past couple of months. Someone once said, "it's not how many times you get knocked down that counts. It's how many times you get back up." These days, it's not hard to find somebody who has things worse than you do. That exercise in itself is a measure of thankfulness.

A year ago this week, the neighborhood got together and spent a couple of hours packing boxes and bags of food for people in need in our community. I need to make time to do that more often. Because it's one thing to be thankful for the blessings in your life. But to BE a blessing in someone else's life is another thing entirely.

2018 UPDATE:

I read this post today, a year on. And I wanted to share my thoughts. 2017 was a very difficult year. 2018 "ain't been no picnic" either: Papa passed away in April; I moved the family down to Texas for a job in the summer -- I was $15K in the hole from moving expenses and was making my first payment on a new mortgage when that company started slashing jobs right and left, leaving me with a tremendous sense of guilt for uprooting us all and putting us in this mess. It was a shame I carried semiprivately for a while -- despite picking up a contracting job nearly right away. Despite all of this, I'm so very thankful for the love and encouragement of my family to get me through.

We're lonely there - on its surface, it seems it would be difficult in a city of eight million. I work among a hundreds of contractors from overseas who prefer their native language over English at least. I've been working there for two months and only one man among them has bothered to acknowledge me enough for us to exchange pleasantries. (I have sort of made friends with the barista downstairs, though.) Laurel has managed to coerce a coworker to move up from Austin -- she's so happy to have a friend in town now. We're back "home" for the holiday week, and I've been reminded of numerous connections we simply don't have where we live now. Facebook isn't the same as being in the same room and laughing your faces off with each other.

So right now, we have each other. And I don't think it's a stretch to say that we're both so grateful for that. Without love, all of this would be pointless.



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2018.09.23On the Texas Life

I've decided to split out content related to our Texas move into it's own web form, and keep the family life content just focused on family events (funny things the kid says and so on).

The new Texas Life web form has content related to the move, the new house, settling in, and so forth. Please join us there for all things Texas... y'all.



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2018.09.08Rain, Rain, GO AWAY

For the third time this week, I'm actually pumping water out of my pool -- somewhat unconventionally -- because the rain has filled it to its maximum height.

The National Weather Service keeps extending their river flood warnings because the rain won't move out of the area.

We totally need the water, but this is too much, I'm afraid. We're having to add water to our pool weekly -- sometimes more than that -- during the hot summer weather. But really. Having to dump water OUT of it three times in a week??



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2018.09.04Family Update: Kiddo Got a Big Ol' Boot

One of my coworkers, who is very ways in the ways of volleyball, called it a "rite of passage."

Got a call from the school nurse this morning. This wasn't kiddo's previous "frequent flyer" kind of behavior: she rolled her ankle during this morning's practice.

Two hours and fifty bucks later, she's sporting a shiny new boot -- complete with air bladders to improve its fit. X-ray imagery shows no break, just a pretty fair sprain. Doc says she'll be showing off her new footwear (single) for the next couple of weeks.



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2018.08.18UPDATE: Family Update: Downward Dog

Papa passed quite quickly in May. And I say "quite quickly" in relation to a weekend as opposed to the many years of his full life. The lowlights of his disease were that he was on a relatively low-sloped decline until he experienced a trauma -- he fell and broke his collar bone -- which accelerated its progress dramatically. Over the next few months, words, around which he had modeled his life, would increasingly flee until he was saying few if any actual words at all. Dementia was for him a cruel and sinister irony.

Fast-forward to June. The dust has begun to settle for Yaya, who has determined she will stay in the house but look for opportunities to move to a smaller place in town. Kiddo has completed a very successful year in middle school. Bartlett, our older dog, has been slowing over the past couple of months; it's become obvious his hearing is significantly diminished, and his gait has slowed, but he still likes to romp and play with his kitties now and again. Laurel and I are preparing to move the family.

By early July, we're in at the new house. The cats came in the first trip in my small car; the dogs came in the second in the larger SUV. Laurel and I had been talking quite a bit about countermeasures for keeping the dogs from falling into the pool, but we first wanted to see how well they'd do with all of us outside with them on their first visit to the back yard.

The yard is mostly pool. The back door, at the north side of the yard, exits onto a patio which leads directly to the steps down into the kidney bean-shaped pool after about 20 feet. The pool was obviously made for relaxation or very gentle exercise; its maybe 5' deep at most. The absence of any sort of barrier between patio/yard and pool strongly suggests children were not part of the install equation. What grass there is is on the south side of the yard. Plenty there for small animals; one just has to guide them along the walkway between the house and the pool to get to it.

As I said, I've spent a few cycles on how to ensure the dogs' safety, with inputs from both Laurel and kiddo. But then the big moment arrived, when we could watch them in the yard for the first time and determine whether they -- chiefly, Bartlett -- could navigate the shoreline on his own.

We hadn't been outside for 30 seconds. I had only walked out a few feet -- far enough to deposit my towel before going into the water -- when I turned to see Bartlett standing at the bottom of the pool. He was out of the house for SECONDS and walked straight off the deck into the water. We viewed this as a prime indication of how poor his eyesight has become -- and wouldn't have believed it without this event.

I started this post talking about Papa for a reason. And here it is: I find there is stunning similarity between Papa's trajectory and Bartlett's. To be clear, I am certain Bartlett suffered from, essentially, dementia. Like Papa, Bartlett was on a slow decline until a trauma. For Bartlett, it was falling into the pool.

He was underwater for perhaps five seconds. Kiddo and Laurel were pulling him up within three. By the fifth second he was in our arms and being carried to the deck. We watched him pretty closely for a day -- he slept very, very soundly that first night. The following day he seemed a little slow. But by the end of two weeks, much about him had changed. His gait had become stiff and extremely slow. His steps were uncertain. He would stare at walls. He would yelp when touched from a direction he couldn't see. We'd consulted a local veterinarian who prescribed some medication to make him hungry again, and Laurel cooked some nice food for him to eat. But through the second week it was clear it wasn't having enough of an effect.

Laurel and I spent the past few nights wondering if he would wake the next day. I made the call to the vet's office on Friday. We were slated to put him to sleep at noon the following day (today).

This morning we saw even more evidence that we were doing the right thing: a liquid mess in the back yard which suggested stomach problems, and, as we walked him into the vet's office, urine that was alarmingly dark. Our boy was shutting down, and he knew it. When Laurel found him this morning, he was asleep in a corner of her office -- an unusual place for him. Laurel interpreted it as him going to a remote place to die.

Our new vet was beautiful. She had absolutely the right words for us; she knew we were grieving. It's... it's difficult to meet somebody when you've been "ugly crying." Laurel and I spent probably twenty minutes on the floor with our boy -- the first ten just laying with him and petting him; the second ten, doing the same, but lulling him to sleep after receiving the sedative. The doctor even kissed her palm and placed it on his head. She could tell were were both absolutely devastated at having to bring him in, and she made me feel like her heart really, really went out to us.

I don't know if the other animals have figured it out yet. The younger dog watched me completely dissolve into tears over Bartlett minutes before we left with him. But because Bartlett had been so sedentary over the past few days, I don't know if the pup (I say "pup," but he's like seven years old now) or the cats have done the math because he hadn't been moving from room to room as do the rest.

I'm particularly curious about how the pup will adjust. Pup isn't like Bartlett; he's not got the sense about him to be "one of the family." He's a dog through and through, nothing more. That doesn't mean Laurel doesn't love him to pieces --- she absolutely does. He just doesn't have that je ne se quois that transcends; that -ness that tells one very clearly he's some Gestalthund. What pup usually IS, though, is jealous: he got so unbelievably mad whenever we would separate Bartlett from him. It gave me the idea that he was certain Bartlett was getting to do something fun and he was stuck not getting to do whatever amazing thing Bartlett could. To be honest, he was right about that some of the time. Bartlett, for his part, absolutely hated being separated from his little buddy. He would yowl inconsolably when pup was gone for vet appointments and the like.

I hope Spirit Bartlett will visit him. Pup is such a nervous little dog.

 

UPDATE: Pup finally got the memo. It's taken a few weeks. Last week we had an awful lot of rain (for this area, anyway), and some thunder-bumpers were part of the package. We have a good product called Thunder Shirts to help keep them calm despite the commotion outside (they're good for fireworks, too!). Anyway, the Thunder Shirts' design is a little complicated, and it's not so easy to tell which shirt goes onto which dog. As the storm was approaching, Laurel placed one of the shirts onto pup, and figured out pretty quickly it was the wrong one (by size) -- but pup had already taken a big sniff of it, and the math was well underway. He sniffed at the fabric some more, and Laurel could see him recognize Bartlett's scent, then remember him, remember he was ill, and realize he's been gone for a little while. Pup became sad and sort of moped around the house for the day.

Pup has had a behavior late in Bartlett's days of hiding treats. Laurel would give them each a biscuit; Bartlett would drop it on the floor and forget about it, so Pup would later pick it up and eat it, or, as time went on, he'd hide it someplace where he knew Bartlett couldn't get at it. The hiding behavior became noticeable after we'd moved and Bartlett was in steep decline. Kiddo and I would find dog bones (the biscuits) under our pillows at night. Probably the best "hiding" job I saw was when he'd turned one of Laurel's flip-flops onto its side by a wall, and placed the biscuit behind it.

Since pup's epiphany last week, the hiding has stopped. We'd figured he was doing it in response to Bartlett's assertion of dominance through food control. Here we've at least circumstantial evidence to suggest that was the case.

Finally, I think other behaviors have changed in Bartlett's absence, and for the better. I sort of wonder if pup is actually happier without Bartlett, insofar as he no longer has to compete for attention; there's no reason for jealousy, much like there's no reason to hide biscuits. I know pup could display some amazing jealousy where Bartlett was concerned; he would bark his "mad bark" whenever Bartlett was allowed out front of the house and he was put in the back yard. With those days behind him now, I hope pup will feel happier and become a better friend to us all.



Link to this

 

2018.07.28Family Update: Downward Dog

Papa passed quite quickly in May. And I say "quite quickly" in relation to a weekend as opposed to the many years of his full life. The lowlights of his disease were that he was on a relatively low-sloped decline until he experienced a trauma -- he fell and broke his collar bone -- which accelerated its progress dramatically. Over the next few months, words, around which he had modeled his life, would increasingly flee until he was saying few if any actual words at all. Dementia was for him a cruel and sinister irony.

Fast-forward to June. The dust has begun to settle for Yaya, who has determined she will stay in the house but look for opportunities to move to a smaller place in town. Kiddo has completed a very successful year in middle school. Bartlett, our older dog, has been slowing over the past couple of months; it's become obvious his hearing is significantly diminished, and his gait has slowed, but he still likes to romp and play with his kitties now and again. Laurel and I are preparing to move the family.

By early July, we're in at the new house. The cats came in the first trip in my small car; the dogs came in the second in the larger SUV. Laurel and I had been talking quite a bit about countermeasures for keeping the dogs from falling into the pool, but we first wanted to see how well they'd do with all of us outside with them on their first visit to the back yard.

The yard is mostly pool. The back door, at the north side of the yard, exits onto a patio which leads directly to the steps down into the kidney bean-shaped pool after about 20 feet. The pool was obviously made for relaxation or very gentle exercise; its maybe 5' deep at most. The absence of any sort of barrier between patio/yard and pool strongly suggests children were not part of the install equation. What grass there is is on the south side of the yard. Plenty there for small animals; one just has to guide them along the walkway between the house and the pool to get to it.

As I said, I've spent a few cycles on how to ensure the dogs' safety, with inputs from both Laurel and kiddo. But then the big moment arrived, when we could watch them in the yard for the first time and determine whether they -- chiefly, Bartlett -- could navigate the shoreline on his own.

We hadn't been outside for 30 seconds. I had only walked out a few feet -- far enough to deposit my towel before going into the water -- when I turned to see Bartlett standing at the bottom of the pool. He was out of the house for SECONDS and walked straight off the deck into the water. We viewed this as a prime indication of how poor his eyesight has become -- and wouldn't have believed it without this event.

I started this post talking about Papa for a reason. And here it is: I find there is stunning similarity between Papa's trajectory and Bartlett's. To be clear, I am certain Bartlett suffered from, essentially, dementia. Like Papa, Bartlett was on a slow decline until a trauma. For Bartlett, it was falling into the pool.

He was underwater for perhaps five seconds. Kiddo and Laurel were pulling him up within three. By the fifth second he was in our arms and being carried to the deck. We watched him pretty closely for a day -- he slept very, very soundly that first night. The following day he seemed a little slow. But by the end of two weeks, much about him had changed. His gait had become stiff and extremely slow. His steps were uncertain. He would stare at walls. He would yelp when touched from a direction he couldn't see. We'd consulted a local veterinarian who prescribed some medication to make him hungry again, and Laurel cooked some nice food for him to eat. But through the second week it was clear it wasn't having enough of an effect.

Laurel and I spent the past few nights wondering if he would wake the next day. I made the call to the vet's office on Friday. We were slated to put him to sleep at noon the following day (today).

This morning we saw even more evidence that we were doing the right thing: a liquid mess in the back yard which suggested stomach problems, and, as we walked him into the vet's office, urine that was alarmingly dark. Our boy was shutting down, and he knew it. When Laurel found him this morning, he was asleep in a corner of her office -- an unusual place for him. Laurel interpreted it as him going to a remote place to die.

Our new vet was beautiful. She had absolutely the right words for us; she knew we were grieving. It's... it's difficult to meet somebody when you've been "ugly crying." Laurel and I spent probably twenty minutes on the floor with our boy -- the first ten just laying with him and petting him; the second ten, doing the same, but lulling him to sleep after receiving the sedative. The doctor even kissed her palm and placed it on his head. She could tell were were both absolutely devastated at having to bring him in, and she made me feel like her heart really, really went out to us.

I don't know if the other animals have figured it out yet. The younger dog watched me completely dissolve into tears over Bartlett minutes before we left with him. But because Bartlett had been so sedentary over the past few days, I don't know if the pup (I say "pup," but he's like seven years old now) or the cats have done the math because he hadn't been moving from room to room as do the rest.

I'm particularly curious about how the pup will adjust. Pup isn't like Bartlett; he's not got the sense about him to be "one of the family." He's a dog through and through, nothing more. That doesn't mean Laurel doesn't love him to pieces --- she absolutely does. He just doesn't have that je ne se quois that transcends; that -ness that tells one very clearly he's some Gestalthund. What pup usually IS, though, is jealous: he got so unbelievably mad whenever we would separate Bartlett from him. It gave me the idea that he was certain Bartlett was getting to do something fun and he was stuck not getting to do whatever amazing thing Bartlett could. To be honest, he was right about that some of the time. Bartlett, for his part, absolutely hated being separated from his little buddy. He would yowl inconsolably when pup was gone for vet appointments and the like.

I hope Spirit Bartlett will visit him. Pup is such a nervous little dog.



Link to this

 

2018.05.14Family Update

It's been an eventful few months, to say the least.

  • Papa: Papa passed a couple of weeks ago. The family has been reeling. It's one thing to know in your head that that one's time is short; but I find that knowledge doesn't really prepare one for the actual event. He passed with his family all around him, telling him it was okay to go.
  • Yaya: My heart breaks for her. Papa's now actually gone, not just apart. 51 years together. And here she is at 80, confronted by the loss of friends all around her (many are moving to care facilities or out of state to be closer to family for care) and by having to learn all sorts of things for herself that Papa always took care of -- this, coupled with her physical condition, is why staying in the house isn't a good option. She knows this, but is reluctant to move out and move on. At least now, once the dust settles from Papa's passing, she'll get a firm sense of what she'll be able to afford -- Papa's care prevented any sort of accuracy in forecasting.
  • Me: Six months ago we moved in with Yaya to prevent her from being alone over the winter (it wasn't the original plan). After a short contract with a company on the east coast, I've landed with a company in the south and will be moving my family down there in the short term.
  • Laurel: Her brain aneurysm was corrected in February, and is fully recovered from surgery. Last month, she completed her masters program, and now has an MSML -- a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. I couldn't be more proud. She's excited about the move -- she has her father's way of being excited about new opportunities and new things to do, and takes the bumps along the way in stride.
  • Kiddo: Has powered through her freshman year of middle school and the end is in sight. She's excited about the move too.



Link to this

 

2018.02.17Family Update: Laurel and the Brain Aneurysm

Overview

Four years ago, Laurel was diagnosed with a stable, unruptured, fusiform brain aneurysm on her middle cerebral artery (MCA) in the area above her right ear.

Procedures for removing aneurisms in the MCA are performed by choking the aneurysm off with a microsurgical clipping technique, performed via craniotomy, while most others can be treated using a coiling technique which is performed using a minimallly invasive endovascular method. The methods are significant to us because Laurel's aneurysm, being located on the MCA, makes it a poor candidate for use of the endovascular method.

I'm going to be updating this article day-by-day. Please check back often!

January 28, 2018

We are preparing for a trip to Florida tomorrow. We're not visiting Disney World or even going on vacation. And we're not bringing kiddo with us. It's a getaway for two... to the Mayo Clinic.

The Mayo Clinic was Laurel's choice of medical practice for taking care of her aneurysm.

I think it's fair to say the discovery is what really pushed Laurel to have the vertical gastric sleeve surgery in 2016. The resulting weight loss resolved a number of problems that would have added certain risk to the procedure we're preparing for in the coming week.

For my part, I am working very hard to convince myself that we are in the place we're meant to be in right now. Faith in that notion ought to relieve me of the stress I'm feeling.

January 30, 2018

The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville is comrpised of three interconnected buildings. One can walk from one building into another and never really know one had changed buildings. The Cannaday and Davis buildings contain clinics and administrivial functions, and they are on opposite sides of the Mayo Hospital building.

We arrived in Florida on Monday evening, and on spent most of Tuesday moving from clinic to clinic as directed, often repeating information we'd told the previous clinician. We started in the Cannaday building, where we met Laurel's physician and talked strategy.

We also found at the time that Mayo never received the image files from our local hospital. This, in part, is what put us on track to schedule a diagnostic cerebral angiogram.

The angiogram is essentially comprised of a probe, which gets inserted into the body, a dye, which gets injected into the body, and a large machine which captures images from the probe's point of view. At least, that's how I understand it. The angiogram was itself a surgical procedure, albeit a minor one.

UPDATE:
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and Jill a dull girl. We're in Florida for goodness sakes. We're looking to spend at least a little time in the sun. So earlier in the day we got a recommendation for a seafood place, and tonight we visited. I give you the Safe Harbor Seafood Company, right on the water.

Photo of the 
      enclosed deck at the Safe Harbor Seafood Company

The blackened Dolphin and blackened Trigger were outstanding. The conch fritters were a trip back in time for me.

January 31, 2018

We reported to the Mayo Hospital at 6 AM on Tuesday morning and, due to unforseen circumstances, didn't actually have the procedure until close to noon. The angiogram took about an hour and a half. It still ended up being a very long day.

We spent the evening just laying around watching TV and ordering in. We ordered from an American gastro pub and the food was awesome. Laurel got caught up on all the grease and carbs she'd been missing, and we slept pretty well.

Perhaps part of the reason we slept so well was the phone call we received from the neurosurgeon's nurse -- we were able to schedule the craniotomy for next Monday.

February 1, 2018

Today is Wednesday. We slept in until 9 AM -- even after having napped for a little while the preceeding evening. We've a consult scheduled with the neurosurgeon for early this afternoon.

The surgeon told us a little bit about the craniotomy, and the risks involved. The plan is for an incision behind the hairline beginning above the ear and extending upward toward the top of her head, then basically folding the skin forward to expose the bone. (My palms are getting sweaty as I type now.) There were two considerations he pointed out:

  • There is a network of nerves that seem to originate from the area of the ear and radiate forward to the face. Among these is a nearly invisible nerve which connects to the muscle used to raise the eyebrow. If the nerve crosses the "fold" of the skin, it is possible that the ability to exercise the eyebrow muscle may be temporarily retarded after the surgery. Think of it like what would happen if you were to fold a garden hose over onto itself.
  • There is a muscle attached to the skull called the temporalis which protrudes downwards from the skull and wraps around the jaw, at which point it's known as the masseter muscle.

    A cutaway image of the left side of the human skull, including the temoralis muscle
    Image credit: Duke University

    The neurosurgeon explained he would have to make a split in the temporalis to get to the bone beneath. A byproduct of the incision is some affect the act of chewing, probably until the muscle heals.

    There's also some concern about the split causing atrophy of the portion of the split closer to the face as a result of decreased blood flow, which could result in a minor disfiguration near and behind the zygomatic process, which is the portion of the skull at your temples. The neurosurgeon characterized this as happening to most, but cosmetically noticeable in some.

    an image of the front of the human skull, with names of various features
    Image credit: Wikipedia
We'll likely ask more questions about things when we meet later this afternoon.

A note on yesterday's angiogram: Laurel doesn't seem to be experiencing any discomfort today. The incision site (I guess I'll call it that) looks good, and only minor bruising is starting to appear. She was good last night, staying off of her feet and letting me handle picking things up off of the floor. She hates not being able to do for herself, but she's a good patient.

UPDATE:
It's later in the evening. Our appointment with the neurosurgeon ran very late -- we didn't actually talk with him until over an hour after our appointment time. During our visit, he answered every question we threw at him, but we came away with a very nice (??) overview of what will be involved with the procedure on Monday.

One other thing we learned was why the CT scans from our local hospital are still important to him: CT scans offer context the angiograms don't. Put another way, the angiograms highlighted the MCA and the aneurysm, but blacked out everything else. The benefit of the CT scans, even though they're less precise, is that they show the MCA and the aneurysm in relation to everything else - the bone, muscle, and other tissues beneath and above.

The neurosurgeon is considering ordering a CT angiogram (CTA) in case the local hospital doesn't come through with the scans they did last August. A CTA differs from a standard CT scan in that the scan includes the injection of a dye to increase the definition of veins and arteries in the image.

The surgeon described Laurel's procedure as a right pterional craniotomy. Google it at your own risk. Also, Laurel's aneurysm is located on her MCA at a position roughly equal to the Sylvian fissure, which is the boundary separating the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. This is a huge bonus for us, because it means no navigation will be required inside the brain.

One of the things that will happen at the close of the procedure is that they will inject a fluorescent dye into Laurel and monitor her circulation to ensure the clip is stable and that they didn't adversely affect anything else. I likened it to when automotive technicians added a fluorescent dye to the gas in my car, then went under the hood with a black light to look for compromised seals.

Finally, there's an additional side effect to the procedure. Laurel may experience some temporary swelling in her right eye as a result of a pooling of fluids. The swelling will go down.

At this point, we're in vacation mode until Monday morning at 6:30 unless the surgeon orders the CTA; and the surgeon ordering the CTA means they were unable to get the imagery from our hospital at home.

February 2, 2018

Slept in again. We were up late, having driven down to St. Augustine for dinner with friends at the Gypsy Cab Co.

Today is about administrivia: extending the hotel and car reservations and so on, plus picking up a few odds and ends at the grocery store: our coffee creamer supply is critically low.

It's nearly noon, and we've not heard from the clinic. This seems to suggest they received the imagery they were looking for, and didn't order the CTA.

We don't have any big plans for the day.

P.S. - if you've ever questioned the value of the trip insurance offered by the airlines, here's a tip: Laurel bought the trip insurance for this trip, anticipating (correctly) the chance things might not go as originally planned at the hospital. The trip insurance will reimburse us for all costs related to our extended stay. After burning through all of the hotel rewards points I had left, the extended reservation still cost over $2,000. Add to that the cost of food, rental car, and so forth... it's significant.

UPDATE:
We drove to St. John's Town Square this afternoon. I got a great photo of Laurel reclining for a pedicure with a mimosa. Dinner tonight at J. Alexander's. The paneed hake (rhymes with "make") with lemon butter crab sauce was insanely good.

After dinner we walked around the square and did a little browsing.

And our creamer shortage has been resolved.

One last thing for tonight -- I went down to stick my feet in the hot tub for a few minutes and came upon a guy drunk on Bud Light who was really touched by the notion that the hotel caters to Mayo Clinic patients. I made the mistake of mentioning Laurel's impending procedure and he offered (several times) to give me his phone number so I could call him on Monday if I wanted to talk. His advice to me was to stay positive and "move on," by which I think he meant to just take things as they come and not to dwell on them. He may have been completely wasted on cheap beer, but that doesn't mean the advice was bad. I thanked him by calling and asking the front desk to look in on him when I got up to our room -- I didn't want him alone in or near that hot tub in the condition he was in.

February 3, 2018

The drunk guy from last night was at the hot tub again this morning when we came down for breakfast.

We ended up driving back to the airport to swap rental cars. Our first one was a Dodge Journey, a small SUV. It was a brand new car, but the infotainment center was rather bizarre and it had no back-up camera... it's surprising how much we've come to depend on those things. Our new rental is a Ford Explorer with navigation and a back-up camera. I guess the iPhone interfaces with the infotainment system via an app that has to be downloaded and installed.

All cleaned up and pretty again, we'll be heading out for some lunch at either Taziki's or PDQ, then we'll head east to see the beaches -- it may be 60° and overcast, but hey, it's not snowing.

We're now on what we'd call the second leg of our trip -- that is, we've reached the point where our original reservations have expired and extensions or new reservations have taken over. It's why we drove the original rental car back to the airport this morning to exchange it for another.

This afternoon we drove out to Jacksonville Beach. It was probably about the worst day we could have visited: cloudy and super windy.

Photo of Neptune Beach
      in Jacksonvile Beach, Florida.

We spent maybe 20 minutes walking along the beach and immediately sought out a coffee shop to warm up. (We found a Starbucks a few blocks away.)

February 4, 2018

Super Bowl Sunday started out with rain, although it's warmer than yesterday -- it's 66° as of 10:30 EST.

We're planning to hit up a shop or two today -- scarves for Laurel to wear around her head post-surgery, and I'm in need of some better footwear (I've been walking about in my slip-on Chucks -- great for airport security lines; not so great for all the walking we've been doing).

We'll figure out what time the game is on and order in. I'm certain today is like Black Friday for pizza shops.

I've been noticing that Laurel has been spending a lot of time surfing Jacksonville real estate. Today we spent the afternoon walking through model homes in two separate real estate developments. She wore me out. But we saw two models that were laid out really, really well.

So in preparation for the Super Bowl, we ordered a deep dish pizza from a local place named Siena's Italian Cuisine -- we opened the heavy box to something resembling a cheese wheel. They provided a marinara sauce to go over the top. Wow was it good!!

We tuned into only the last couple of minutes of the Super Bowl. I had been following along via intermittent queries to Siri while Laurel watched every episode of Worst Cooks in America -- it's funny how every television we own or watch for an extended period seems capable of only receiving the Food Network and the Travel Channel. Anyway, we caught the last couple of minutes when it was looking like the Eagles might actually pull it out... I'm glad Philadelphia is bringing home the Lombardi Trophy, and that the Patriots seemed professional and gracious about the loss.

February 5, 2018

5:15 came awfully early this morning, following an uncomfortable night before surgery. Laurel was wheeled into the O.R. at 8:30 AM on the dot, with a little pain medication in advance to help with anxiety. It seemed like the decision and all it entailed suddenly left the realm of academic exercise in the five minutes before she left. And in a way, I'm very grateful -- I had been the one doing all of the crying up to this point.

I'm crying because they're cutting my beautiful baby's head open. I know they're doing a good thing -- although I still can't quite let go of how close the call was between operating and leaving it alone. When it's over she's going to have screws and fancy washers holding a baseball-sized piece of skull in place, and her face will have been peeled back and sewn back together. She will be bruised and swollen and scarred, and we've been told about the weird noises she'll hear from the air that got let in. Nobody wants any of this for a loved one. The notion of this is making me cry now -- how will I ever keep it all together when I see her this afternoon?

I'm back at the hotel now. I've eaten, had a little coffee, and have the A/C working a little overtime to make up for whatever got changed yesterday -- the room temp was part of the reason sleep was evasive at times. I'm going back to bed now to try to catch up on some of the sleep I lost earlier.

UPDATE 1:
12:30 PM EST. No word yet from the hospital, but that's to be expected. After making the previous entry I texted a few of Laurel's friends directly and took a nap for a little while. Just got up and made a little food. I figure I'll get cleaned up and head back to the hospital in a little bit. 1:30 PM EST will mark five hours.

I anticipate the next word I'll hear is that she's out of surgery. I think their practice is they take her back to ICU and do a few things (basically, this is recovery) before I'm invited back to see her -- so I won't get to see her right away once she's out of surgery. BTW, recovery in ICU is standard operating procedure (forgive the unintentional pun) for craniotomy patients.

UPDATE 2:
12:54 PM EST: I just got a call from the hospital. The news is, "Things are going well," and that the surgeon "is currently working under the microscope."

As with many things about this trip, the message was a little vague. I guess the second sentence means they've begun work on the aneurysm. The poor volunteer who phoned me is a guy sitting at a desk someplace -- he's got no direct knowledge, so... *shrug*

I really liked the first sentence, though.

UPDATE 3:
2:39 PM EST: Hospital reports "the aneurysm has been clipped and secured." We're now at hour six of the procedure; I assume this report means they're testing and getting ready to close. Next call I receive from the hospital should be the neurosurgeon.

UPDATE 4:
3:40 PM EST: Neurosurgeon reports surgery went well; ran long because the aneurysm was nestled up against the frontal lobe, so extra time was taken to maneuver in to isolate the aneurysm. Two clamps were used to cut off the blood flow, and her vitals were constant and good throughout.

I was STILL on the phone updating everybody when I got the next call...

UPDATE 5:
5:20 PM EST: Laurel is out of recovery and ready for me to come visit!

UPDATE 6:
9:00 PM EST: Laurel is resting comfortably for the moment. She’s got all of the symptoms we were told to expect—- headache, pain in the jaw muscles on the right side, and pain probably from swelling behind the right eye — but nothing more (apart from a touch of nausea, which is common in craniotomy patients). Pain management has made her sleepy.

And I am thankful.

She was a little bit of a jerk when I got there -- she demanded her lip balm and then basically told me to shut up when talking to the nurse a few minutes later... so I sat quietly for a few minutes until she asked for me again. I sat with her there for a few hours, in the dark, feeding her crushed ice as she'd ask for it.

She looks good -- as good as a woman whose head is wrapped in a bandage can, I guess. Her right eye looked a leeeetle droopy, but I'm not sure if that's just the effect of the bandage or not. No bruising or swelling that I could see, but it's possible those may set in overnight.

Drove back to the hotel, made myself a bite to eat. Started considering this evening's entertainment options as I was typing. I could write some code, but I think I might hafta sugar up to do it. Maybe I'll browse some new books on my Kindle or just surf the Chive for a little while... I could use some funny.

UPDATE 7:
11:50 PM EST: Ended up playing a few hands of solitaire and watching the latter half of Doctor Strange. The hospital scenes read differently now.

Tomorrow I plan to sleep in, shower, eat, and head back to the ICU. Perhaps I'll bring the laptop along and bang out some code.

February 6, 2018

12:30 PM EST: Laurel is recovering well. She's eating, drinking, walking, and using the restroom with assistance. Pain management still keeps her sleepy. Some bruising happening on the right side of her face; her jaw is still sore, and she still has that headache. By all indications, her recovery is progressing very well. She's already had an IV removed, and she'll get her bandage taken off this afternoon. Apparently the hospital has a fun selection of hats from which she may choose... she's looking forward to it.

She was moved out of ICU and into a room on a different floor late this morning. She's sleeping again now. Lunch today is a mango smoothie with protein powder added, and chocolate pudding. Her choice.

I didn't exactly sleep in this morning, but basically everything else went according to plan.

So far today I got to speak Russian and Tagalog in addition to English. Such a win.

Yesterday was pretty frenzied with constant updates -- basically every call I got from the hospital became about an hour of some combination of calls, writing update texts, an update post to Facebook, and updating the site. I took the call from the surgeon while I was in the car, and pulled off of the street. I sat there for an hour. I expect that updates will be far less frequent from today forward -- particularly the urgent messages and calls. I'll still respond to queries as I can.

UPDATE 1:
1:35 PM EST: Bruising is really becoming noticeable around her right eye. She's been asleep for about the past 45 minutes. I've been silently working through 4 oz. of steamed broccoli for most of that time.

UPDATE 2:
10:40 PM EST: Laurel's bandage was removed late this afternoon -- at least, most of it was. Beneath the bandage is a... honestly, I don't know what this thing is. I would have expected it to be gauze... it's where gauze would go over the sutures, along the seam where the skin was cut. Only it's not gauze. It might be a pad from a 3M Tegaderm dressing, but with the transparent adhesive removed from around it.

When the bandage was removed, Laurel complained of her hair being "matted" in the back. As best as I can tell, perhaps a drop of glue fell on the back of her head. So, doing the math (read: I'm completely reaching here), perhaps whatever that long strip is was actually glued over the shorn skin. I heard the nurse mention that someone was going to remove the remainder of the dressing tomorrow, and to shampoo her hair.

I had been worried about the reveal... worried about how I would respond. I snapped a couple of photos for Laurel to see and she wasn't exactly elated with her current look. But I'm following Phillip's advice, and just "[being] positive and moving [forward]."

Thank you, Phillip.

February 7, 2018

Got in a little late this morning, wrangling coffee and iced tea as ordered.

I struggled into the room to find Laurel awake and without the remaining dressing. A short while later she was escorted into the shower.

When we left last night, we'd requested a different anti-nausea medication that Laurel knew worked well for her. Sometime in the night it must have been authorized, and I was overjoyed to see her eating applesauce this morning.

A nurse came by a few minutes ago and mentioned there's talk of releasing her today. Personally, I think I'd rather she stay through to Thursday. She's barely eaten in the past couple of days, and at this point she's eating applesauce. I guess I'd prefer she have a little more nutrition under her belt before we head for the hotel.

She's sleeping again. I'm sure the shower really took it out of her.

UPDATE:
3:30 PM EST: Lots of sleeping happening, but in the breaks she's using the toilet, and going for walks.

I need to do a little bit of grocery shopping this afternoon, because I'm running on low on supplies at the hotel. I'll probably take off in about 45 minutes to do that -- hopefully by doing so I'll avoid the rush hour mess on San Pablo and Beach Boulevard. I'll grab some dinner in the room while I'm out and come back for a while this evening.

February 9, 2018

Laurel was discharged from the hospital yesterday. She ate some dinner last night and ate some breakfast this morning. She has three medications -- one of which is for the prevention of seizures (another standard operating procedure for craniotomy patients). Her other prescriptions (pain and anti- nausea) are further fortified with Tylenol and Advil.

Her swelling continues to decrease -- she noted this morning that the FaceID on her iPhone is working again. She's still got a headache of course, though it's not as bad as it was.

February 11, 2018

Laurel's swelling is just about gone -- her jaw and cheek are still a tiny bit swollen, and she's still got some color in the area of her temple and right eye.

She had a very active day yeterday. We stepped out of the room for a while and did a little shopping (she drove a motorized cart), and we went out for sushi last night. The roll made her stretch her mouth a bit, and her jaw is sore today (oops). We also stayed up late last night watching the olympics.

Also, she didn't nap yesterday. She finds she's a touch tired today.

Chick-Fil-A's sriracha sauce is not my friend.

February 12, 2018

Last night we went to another spectacular seafood restaurant. Marker 32 served a Mahi Hoppin' John with a beautiful basily flavor that sent me into orbit. The black-eyed peas and rice were a bit heavy - almost mealy - and weighed down the dish enough that I could only eat half. The basil was the perfect introduction for the marinara atop the fish. It was crazy good.

A neighboring table remarked that Marker 32 is known to be second only to Safe Harbor Seafood for the quality of their seafood -- and that's because Safe Harbor actually fishes for the food they serve. Looks like we've covered all the bases here!

More importantly, Laurel looked beautiful at dinner. She's got her curly hair arranged around a bandana, and any remaining swelling is imperceptable without careful study.

She completes her anti-seizure medication tonight (she never had a seizure), and she'll have her staples removed on Thursday. At one point yesterday she logged into her work computer and spent some time catching up with one of her peers. I slipped out for a sorely needed shave... two weeks away from my clippers did me no favors. We had a little down-time yesterday afternoon, laying on the bed and watching women's olympic ice hockey (USA beat Finland).

So far today, she's playing on her XBOX. I interpret this as a huge step, because gaming tends to create elevated mental activity. I admit I'm curious to see how long she'll play and how she'll feel when she stops.

February 14, 2018

Laurel continues to improve, though I have noticed she's got some bruising on her throat now, probably from her intubation during the procedure.

Her use of the medication has been declining. We talked about it a bit, and I learned that she's moving away from prophylactic use and toward management-as-needed. I've been meticulously logging her consumption of both the pain and nausea meds as well as her supplementary OTC meds, and all have been in decline over the past two days. She was typically using one of the OTC's at about 90 minutes after her prescription meds; those times have been slipping to two hours and beyond. She's actually run out of the nausea med, but she's getting it refilled.

Last night we had another new dining experience: TacoLu is located just over the bridge toward Jacksonville Beach. They're a casual, Day of the Dead-themed taco joint and bar. Their "$10 Taco" is made with Filet Mignon, but it doesn't hold a candle to The Carne Royale.

Today, Laurel is out getting some "face time" with a beautician while I hang back in the hotel room to have an interview with a prospective employer -- my second in two days!

February 16, 2018

Laurel got her staples out yesterday afternoon.


Afterward, we went out to celebrate. Dinner was at Pusser's Bar and Grille at Ponta Vedra Beach. I couldn't have been more excited about this -- during my service to our country I was lucky enough to participate in the time-honored British naval tradition of splicing the mainbrace. The restaurant even had a rum tub under glass:




Today was our big day for heading out to the beach. And the weather didn't disappoint.




We're finally coming home tomorrow. We spent this evening in the room having Chinese take-out, doing laundry and packing our bags. We can't wait to rejoin the rest of our family!

February 17, 2018: Home Again

After a long day of travel, we made it back home at about 10 PM. The longest part was about four hours on the aircraft taking us from Dulles: Bad weather was moving in, and we sat in the plane for about an hour and a half before we went anywhere. But we did okay, and got home safe.

We were welcomed home with a small banner hanging in our bedroom and another by the back door -- both painted by kiddo. When I got in the door she gave me the biggest hug ever and wouldn't let me go. I won't soon forget it.



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2018.01.28Family Update: Terry Charch

Papa continues in decline at the rest home. His weight is down significantly, but appears to be doing very well physically, and eats everything put in front of him. Mentally, though, his transition continues. He's still verbal, but has joined the club of residents clutching dolls and stuffed animals. It seems he is projecting memories of his infant children or grandchilden onto them -- I suppose they're all doing that. Over the past few visits, he's been cooing to one of these community objects. He introduced us to a teddy bear today, which he named "Terry Charch."



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2017.12.11Soldiering On at Christmas

Clipart image of a Christmas tree

It's nearly mid-December, and that means decorating for Christmas. Yesterday we put up our Christmas tree, and decorated it using mom's family ornaments.

I'd have to imagine all of these ornaments are dear to Laurel and mom -- they represent memories going back at least to Laurel's childhood. Decorating the tree without Papa this year must have been very hard on her.

It was at Christmastime last year that Papa fell. The trauma significantly accelerated the spread and severity of his dementia, prompting us to place him in full-time care.

Mom didn't participate in decorating the tree. I suspect she made herself busy cooking dinner. I'm sure that unpacking and hanging those ornaments would have been pretty rough on Mom.

For my part, I was free of the significance of the decorations, but I absolutely understood that Laurel was not. And I thought she was very brave.



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2017.12.09Season of Giving

Kindness is giving hope to those who think they are all alone in this world. Credit: randomactsofkindness.org

A man came to our door this morning and asked for my mother in law by name. Once he verified her identity, he delivered basically all of the food one would require to make a standard Christmas turkey dinner -- including tons of canned goods, a sack of potatoes, and of course, a frozen turkey. He also gave her a board game -- something meant for kids to play together to pass the time.

We are all just completely blown away by the gesture. From what we can tell, this act of kindness originated from a neighborhood church. Since mom was asked for by name, we must assume some members of the church -- probably neighbors -- were aware of the rough year particularly she has had, and wanted to do something nice for her for the holiday season. Going with the thought the benefactor is a neighbor, he or she has likely seen that we've moved in with her -- a couple with a kid -- and perhaps that became the basis for the donation of such a copious amount of food and the game.

I can't thank these people enough for their generosity, though I'm left with a thought: Perhaps whomever does the shopping for these lovely gestures might put more thought into the board games they're giving to families down on their luck:

Sorry!


We're grateful for all of these blessings. But maybe games like "Sorry!" 1  and "Life" 2 could send an unintended message?



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2017.11.23On Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving

Image of a classic Thanksgiving card. Image credit: stufffundieslike.net

First, I need to get something off of my chest: I have never been one for the "let's go around the table and say what we're thankful for" kind of thing at Thanksgiving, because I feel its an act of performance.

Being thankful -- and the things, people, events that people are thankful for -- should be a private matter. Making one list these items only invites trouble, because "obligations" tend to intrude. Thoughts like, "I'd better say I'm thankful that lush Uncle Jerry and tightwad Aunt Margaret made the trip, because I'm seated right across from them."

I like my thankfulness unrehearsed and uncoerced. I don't want social pressure to inform what I should or shouldn't say. Every time I've been made to do this, I've tried to assemble my words as the people before me were taking their turns. That's what makes this such an awful exercise.

I've spent the last few months not feeling very thankful. I lost a job that I really loved; I lost a house and a neighborhood I really loved. Selling the house ate through all of the savings I had left, and now I have a massive tax bill because of the penalties. I was without work for two months. All of this shattered my confidence and made me feel "less than," despite none of it being my fault. My exercise and diet routine was shot completely to bits -- through a combination of change in routine, losing my motivation, and stress. No, I'm not thankful for any of that. At least, not yet.

Here's what I am thankful for: Through all of that amazing awfulness, my wife and daughter and their love have kept my spirits fairly buoyant, along with the friendship of others. I'm thankful for a new employer who was willing to work with me to help me get back on my feet, and I've been showing them a wealth of gratitude. I'm thankful I was able to save my mother in law's life -- that's hard for me to write -- and I'm thankful we're all getting along in this tiny house. I'm thankful our daughter is doing so well in school, and of how proud she makes me. I'm thankful for new friendships in unlikely places, and new pursuits. I'm thankful I can cook for my family and still talk to my mother. I'm thankful mom sold her place and moved into a care facility. I'm thankful for guidance and for new experiences. No, my life is not what it was, but I feel like I'm on the mend -- and I'm very thankful for that.

I'm saying that, even in hard times, we can probably find things to be thankful for. There's a lot about my life that has absolutely had me down over the past couple of months. Someone once said, "it's not how many times you get knocked down that counts. It's how many times you get back up." These days, it's not hard to find somebody who has things worse than you do. That exercise in itself is a measure of thankfulness.

A year ago this week, the neighborhood got together and spent a couple of hours packing boxes and bags of food for people in need in our community. I need to make time to do that more often. Because it's one thing to be thankful for the blessings in your life. But to BE a blessing in someone else's life is another thing entirely.



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2017.10.17Cultural Inventions

Image of a classic American version of Santa Claus. Image credit: Wikipedia

Kiddo has been advancing in so many ways this school year -- academically, she's taken off like a rocket, with A's in three of her classes. We've seen some indications of her success when she's talked to us about the things she's learning. The important differentiator here is that she's LEARNING the material, and she's reaching out and getting help with material that gives her trouble.

She's also advancing socially -- making friends, hanging out with them (a group!), and navigating around the pitfalls of middle school social networking.

She's also becoming more technologically aware by having responsibility for a laptop and using it to complete assignments.

So I'm having trouble understanding how, in the midst of all of these advancements, she still believes in Santa and the Tooth Fairy?

I think it's our fault, as her parents. Because we've done so well in perpetuating those myths that she's a wholesale believer despite the pace at which everything else in her life is maturing.

Santa Claus

In a previous life, Laurel worked for a local economic development agency. Part of her responsibilities as Director of Events was to organize every last detail of seasonal parades. As you can imagine, she got to know a lot of people and civic organizations pretty well -- including the man who was hired to play Santa in the Christmas parade.

It was the holiday season (prior to Christmas) and kiddo was four when she and Laurel were at the mall doing some shopping. Laurel's Santa normally didn't work the mall, but he was there on this occasion and walking toward the break room when he spied Laurel and Kiddo. He spoke up and greeted Laurel by name, and blew. Kiddo's. Mind.

I don't know if Santa ever realized the great gift he'd given Laurel that day. His greeting sparked a conversation between Kiddo and Laurel that somehow culminated in Kiddo becoming absolutely convinced that Santa was always watching, that mommy had a DEMONSTRATED direct connection to Santa, and that she could email him at any time for any reason. (E-mailing Santa was a device of kiddo's design, by the way -- one night, Laurel was up late doing some work, which included sending some e-mails. Kiddo, still awake in her bedroom, asked her if she was e-mailing (*insert dramatic pause*) Santa -- perhaps she was afraid she'd make the naughty list for not being asleep yet!) This gave rise to more conversations than I could count that ended up with Laurel asking, "Do you want me to e-mail Santa?"

Portable North Pole

At about the same time, Laurel caught onto an absolute GEM of a gimmick: The Portable North Pole console. It's a service -- that still exists today -- whereby you can enter your child's name and upload a couple of photos, and Santa will send special video messages for you and your child. You could use these videos as a corrective device, by entering in the form that your child has been naughty and selecting a reason why -- the video will then show Santa finding your kid on his naughty list and encouring him or her to improve before Christmas. Your child is "identified" by his or her book -- Santa has a book for every child -- and the photos you send in appear in the "book." I recall uploading photos of Kiddo's room (we didn't upload photos of Kiddo; we uploaded images of things familiar to kiddo instead), and seeing her just EXPLODE when she saw a pic of her room in Santa's book. You could even add the names of your child's friends, so your kid's "book" appears next to those of the friends. We used PNP with great success.

Laurel took a few extra steps to ensure the myth of Santa was preserved, though also subtly introduced the notion that Santa was not the only gift giver. The best example I can offer: gifts from Santa were always wrapped in a super secret wrapping paper. This was absolute brilliance on Laurel's part, because Kiddo could be aware of the presence of holiday wrapping paper in the home, and would receive gifts from specific people in addition to Santa. But the roll of paper Santa used was never seen, so it was like Santa wrapped those gifts someplace outside of the home. This tack was also important, I think, because it introduced Kiddo to the concept of people giving gifts to each other over the holidays; not all gifts come from Santa.

The Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy has always given kiddo a golden dollar for every tooth she's lost. (When I was a kid, market value in our house was $0.25.) I thought the Sacagawea dollar was a great choice for dental currency because (1) it's golden color really stands out (2) it's actual legal tender (3) rarely circulated (meaning the chances of her getting a Sacagawea dollar on the economy is low) and (4) it's valued at $1.

What's not to like?

The Tooth Fairy has also always written kiddo a nice letter, either hand-written or printed in an elegant font (thank you, Microsoft Word!).

There has never been a time she didn't receive a golden coin paired with a nice letter -- though this year, we changed things up a little. More on that in a bit.

Tinkerbell

Our relationship with The Tooth Fairy was sort of pushed to an extreme a few years ago. Kiddo had lost a tooth just before we went on vacation to Disney, and in a letter, the Tooth Fairy had told kiddo that she and Tinkerbell were good friends, and that she'd talk to Tink about our upcoming visit.

Upon check-in at Disney, we asked the staff where we might find a gift shop that had little Tinkerbell-oriented gifts, and explained the whole Tooth Fairy-Tinkerbell connection. The front desk staff told us they'd take care of it (that was so nice!), and wow did they -- when we got back to the room that evening, waiting on the kitchen island was ALL SORTS of goodies for kiddo: a Tinkerbell mug filled with little toys and fun confetti, perhaps a small stuffed animal too; little pins and lanyards and things. They. Completely. Hooked. Us. Up! We thanked them again and again and again.

A couple of days later we were walking around EPCOT and saw that Tinkerbell was making an appearance at one of the exhibits -- and kiddo was anxious to thank her. I got busy downloading an app I could use to draw very large text on my phone screen, and used it to guide Tinkerbell as best I could.

First I drew Kiddo's name in large letters and positioned myself behind Kiddo so when we walked upon the stage, Tink could read her name. She took the cue beautifully and greeted kiddo by name and very enthusiastically. Next, I wrote "lost a tooth" or "Tooth Fairy sent her" or something like that and she picked right up on that, too, with Kiddo very happily filling in the gaps. It was about perfect. Kiddo left feeling kinda star-struck. I've always wanted to thank that young actress for her awesome assistance that day. I should send this story to Disney World.

Sunday's Tooth

Fast-forward to this past Sunday. Kiddo pulled out a molar, and insisted she put it under her pillow for the Tooth Fairy. The notion completely blew me away -- just how is it she is learning about sex and science and what assholes adolscents can be, but still believes in the tooth fairy?

It was 10:30 at night. My printer is still packed. She's been using her phone a lot more lately -- texting has really become a thing -- maybe we do this letter electronically?

I set to work making changes to my website mailer code. I modified the development environment code to make the sender address read "tf@toothfairy.com," and sent myself a few test messages.

But sending an e-mail wouldn't be enough. First off, I still had the problem of the actual tooth-for-money swap; and she's now sleeping with the dogs in her room. We've been living here for three weeks now; I was praying the big dog in particular, who is hard of hearing and going blind, wouldn't attack me in the dark. Very fortunately, he slept through the whole thing, and I made it out with the tooth and the phone.

Laurel set to work configuring the phone for the e-mail account Kiddo never knew she had, and configuring the notifications to make the incoming message appear -- and stay -- on the lock screen, so kiddo couldn't miss it.

Then I got to thinking about creating contact information for the Tooth Fairy, so Kiddo would see "The Tooth Fairy" and an image as the sender instead of deciphering an e-mail address. I got the new contact AirDropped onto kiddo's unit, then got back onto my laptop and sent a test message. Everything went perfectly, so we deleted the test, turned off the phone, resent the message, and planted the phone back in kiddo's room.

On Monday morning, kiddo noted that she woke up with the coin in her hand, but found no letter. When I dropped her off at school, I reminded her the Tooth Fairy had never not left her a letter of some kind. I was confident she'd find it as school was letting out, but she didn't mention it when I picked her up in the afternoon. When Laurel asked about it later, Kiddo only casually responded that the Tooth Fairy had sent her "a note on her phone." -- it was another example of her classic underwhelming response to something we worked so hard for.

Exit Strategy

Where we anticipate trouble with all of this is at school -- or, more directly, with her friends at school. I just don't want to see Kiddo come home deflated after her entire class ganged up on her on Santa or the Tooth Fairy. And right now, we're a little more concerned about the Tooth Fairy because the Tooth Fairy is a contact in her phone! I can guarantee it'll be a bad day if one of her friends sees that. This is the kind of thing that makes an exit strategy so important. (I never in a million years would have thought I'd be using a term like "exit strategy" to describe how to escort Kiddo away from her childhood.)

Laurel and I have discussed how to proceed. Kiddo has an orthadontist appointment in the next few weeks -- Laurel's going to use the opporutnity to determine how many teeth Kiddo has left to lose, and we'll put together a plan for how The Tooth Fairy will say goodbye. At the moment, it'll probably be an e-mail message on the occasion of the loss of her final tooth, assuming that happens sometime relatively soon.

Santa's gonna be a tougher nut to crack. Every holiday season we very timidly test Kiddo's waters to figure out where she is on the scale of Santa Reality. Particularly over the past couple of years, we've braced ourselves for the result. She's heard other kids saying that Santa isn't real... and she's asked mommy straight out. Mommy's response was perhaps imperceptably subtle.

I guess I just thought that kids figure this stuff out for themselves, and parents just sort of abruptly learn that their child doesn't believe in it anymore. The parents breathe a sigh of relief and life moves on. And maybe that can happen for us. But when I was growing up, kids didn't have mobile phones with contact information for the Tooth Fairy, or probably didn't grow up believing their mothers had a Wifi hotline to Santa.

Straight Up Now, Tell Me

Of course, we have available the direct option of just telling her the truth. Reading that sentence aloud nearly made me cry; it makes me feel like I'd be killing something pure and beautiful. This is a real dilemma, as silly as it may sound. On the one hand, I'd like the convenience of Kiddo just learning it someplace. On the other hand, I don't want her to suffer for that lesson -- I don't want her to be ridiculed by friends, and I couldn't bear for her stepbrother to break her heart yet again. I feel pretty safe in saying Laurel and I would much rather have some control over how the news is delivered, and have some influence in how it is received, than to risk an event within especially her budding social network.

Epilogue

I told Laurel that I felt we should talk with Kiddo about the Tooth Fairy in particular, for some of the reasons I gave above.

Later in the afternoon, after Kiddo got home from school, we had an opportunity to talk a bit about the whole Tooth Fairy thing. She volunteered that she didn't believe in the Tooth Fairy; she'd stopped believing last year. "I had a fishy feeling," she said. I then explained the sequence of Sunday night's events to her, and also explained that we did it because we thought she really believed in it, and didn't want to disappoint her. She wasn't angry or upset at all.



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2017.10.07Moved In

Image of a real estate for sale sign in front of a home

It's been a week and a half since the closing on the old house. The plan for selling the house all along was to bring mom aboard so she wouldn't be alone over the winter. We've achieved that, though not according to plan. I think we've certainly added some stressors to her life -- she's become used to living alone -- but I think we've also made things much better for her. I've been trying to be as helpful and out of her way as I can be.

I guess I'm overly sensitive about the situation, but I'm working really hard against any of us feeling like we're occupying mom's home in more of a military sense than a familial one. I want to be as cooperative and helpful as I possibly can. The house is getting a top-to-bottom cleaning. So far, the kitchen has required the most attention -- I found a bottle of ketchup that expired over six years ago; its contents looked like barbecue sauce. At that point we brought in the big guns, and boy am I glad we did -- mold was found in a couple of spots and remediated.

This is in no way my mother's fault; it's merely a function of settling into a life or environment, combined with simply not wanting to deal with the detritus of separation. I'm hoping our time together here will be a rebirth of sorts for mom -- that new sweeter memories will gradually replace the bitter ones.



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2017.09.17UPDATED: Sidearms and Stripper Poles

Image of a real estate for sale sign in front of a home

 

Yesterday I came to realize that I've been having such a difficult time of things lately because I've got two of the greatest stressors happening at once -- being between jobs at the same time as packing up my home.

I received a visit from a friend yesterday afternoon. An accomplished business man, he offered the observation that I'm doing everything right regarding my approach to the job search. It was kind of him to comment.

Meanwhile, the house is looking increasingly maked. We held a garage sale this weekend to lighten the load a little in preparation for the move. Well, when I say "we," I actually mean our cleaning person, whom I'll call "Bill." The garage sale was his idea -- something he wanted to do for a while, so we agreed to contribute our driveway and items that he could sell, and we'd split the proceeds with him.

On Friday evening, his sister arrived to help with the set-up. We'd met her before, but we'd never seen her wearing a sidearm. It made me very uncomfortable. Also, among the items Bill contributed for the sale was a stripper pole. I spent Friday night awake for a while, wondering what I'd just invited to our neighborhood, and how much apologizing I'd have to do to my neighbors for the show in our driveway.

People were arriving an hour before the sale opened on Saturday morning. I overheard many asking "Bill" if he was the homeowner -- the "sold" sign remains in the front yard. As weird as this is, it seems to be working. Bill texts us when customers have questions about our contributions, and is keeping a record of the prices we're asking for.

I was just outside, and saw the stripper pole against the fence. Apparently Laurel and I are the subject of much conversation among the sale visitors. Because I need that right now.

UPDATE: The stripper pole never sold.

UPDATE: 9/18 - I have to take that back. Yesterday evening, slight man knocked at my door and asked if the stripper pole had sold. To my knowledge, "Bill" had loaded up his leftover things and had already hauled them back to his storage unit, so I put the man in contact with "Bill" to sort out their transaction.

This morning, after running kiddo to school, I thought I'd put my car back in the garage -- and lo and behold, that stoopy stripper pole was STILL HERE.

UPDATE: 9/28 - I put that pole in a neighbors' garage. *guffaw*



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2017.09.10UPDATED: House Hunters, halfgk Edition

Image of a real estate for sale sign in front of a home

Nothing seems to make a house your home as much as what you hang on its walls. Photos of your family, artwork that reflects your tastes... all of these things combine to represent you to the people you welcome into your home.

If you accept that argument, then it stands to reason that about the fastest way to demote a home to a house is by taking all of those mementos down from its walls.

Tonight, my home looks naked. I can't think of a more visible reminder that our chapter here is ending than seeing open walls where artwork and photos and certificates and posters were once hung.

I know it will affect me... I'm just not yet sure how: it will likely serve as a visible reminder that we have a lot of work to do, but I don't know how I'll feel. Maybe it'll motivate me. Maybe it'll just make me sad. Maybe both.



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2017.08.29Life, Unscripted

Meme of Steve Correll yelling, with text 'WHY IS EVERYBODY YELLING'. Image credit: quickmeme.com

Laurel and I exercise every morning after kiddo gets on the bus. Today the bus went flying down our street pretty early, and kiddo missed it. No big deal. As early as it was, we decided to exercise before making the drive. Kiddo joined us. We saw a police vehicle drive by us on a neighborhood street -- a rare sight. Later on our walk, we saw -- and heard -- something else: a woman, standing in the middle of the street, screaming at someone about an affair her husband was having. Apparently the woman proceeded south in parallel to us, because we saw her again after we'd turned east. At this point, we could hear a man responding to her yelling. He didn't sound agitated, and she was still ranting.

All of this drama definitely affected kiddo. It was the subject of conversation on the ride to school, and, well, clearly I'm still thinking about it. We'll need to spend some extra time with her tonight.



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2017.08.28UPDATED: House Hunters, halfgk Edition

Image of a real estate for sale sign in front of a home

The plan of previous report remains partially intact. We're still moving out... but we're not buying the other house as intended.

My employer held a second round of layoffs late last week, and I'm transitioning to alumni status. Continuing with the sale of our current lovely home will serve to relieve us of a mortgage payment.

As for Yaya's home, well, some things will be accelerated on that front. We'll put our things in storage and move in with her. Among the advantages this offers: Yaya won't be alone (a primary goal of the original move plan), and certainly won't be lonely.

So some of the activities needed to happen as part of getting her home ready to sell should now happen before we move in. She'd been having a hard time going into Papa's room; it's about to get a tweenager makeover.

It's not what I wanted. But it's the lemonade we've made.



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