Thursday, December 30, 2010

Post Christmas Quasi Vacation

I spent most of my "vacation" in front of my computer--working. I can't really complain because I love my job and we have been sick. We postponed our trip to my Grandparents' house in Arizona. Overall, I think it was a good decision. I really couldn't see me and my mom on the side of Tehachapi pass putting on tire chains. Don't get me wrong, we can certainly wield a sledgehammer, but cars are not our forte.

Instead we've been vegging to Barbie movies with the girls and gorging ourselves on the huge basket of Marich chocolate we won at a school fundraiser. I think I've gained three pounds since Christmas. I must admit that we had enough tamales left over that I ate them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a few days. Do you blame me? They are so addicting.

Now that the tree is down and all of Christmas is packed away I'm in "project" mode. I have so many things spinning around in my head. I don't know what I'd like to do first. Since I've started sewing with my mom I've started thinking of more things I can make, but I want to do them all at once. My new idea is a king-sized duvet. It seems fairly simple but finding the fabric that won't cost a fortune is going to be a challenge. I always like the the most expensive stuff! Good taste, I say.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


So today was my last day of work before "vacation." Samantha had an appointment to make sure her breathing meds were on track and she was improving. A-okay, but the darn appointment was in Santa Cruz. We left at 10 and finally got home at 2:10. Just enough time to run in the house get the other child--Alyssa--and tote her off to the doctor while we waited another half hour. Ugh.

People are complaining left and right about how busy the grocery store and Target are before Christmas. Try getting seen by the doctor, folks. And I didn't bitch about it! (Now doesn't count.)

But I stuck it out because I couldn't imagine 4 days with my kids so unbearably sick that they look like they should be in the morgue (Alyssa). And once again mother's intuition won out. So Alyssa gets at least a week on steroids--oh, Lord! This kid has amazing energy on her worst day and steroids will just about double that. Holy smokes! I sure hope I'm ready for this because she's never been on the 'roids before. She could be hyper, which is hilarious, or the abominable snowman, which sucks.

I guess I'd better charge the video camera so I catch it all tomorrow when she starts to tear open those presents. So Santa, please don't put any coal in her stocking because she's really a good kid, but those 'roids . . . Try 'em sometime and you'll be as productive as you are now with a little Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny mixed in.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Christmas Spirit

So far this has been a pre-Christmas week like no other. Usually I'm on vacation, kids are still in daycare, and I have endless hours to cook, clean, wrap . . . you get the picture. This year I've got two kids with a nasty virus, a disabled husband, and I'm working full time. Add in between supervising a team of 6 people, asking my boss to hold while I clean vomit off my two year old, and scheduling breathing treatments I have managed to keep my head on straight. Albeit, I did go outside today (make-up on!) with a cowlick on my forehead, but I put myself together.

I had to scrap the idea that I'll have Christmas Eve dinner just perfect. And I sure as heck won't be making (cootie-fied) Sugar Cookies with my kids, but it's not a week I'll soon forget. I sure can't remember now why I didn't take this week off work, but I guess I had more important vacation days with the family this year.

As I write this, my two year old is asking "why" to everything and coughing on the laptop. Oh, they joys of motherhood! And to think after all this, I still have the Christmas Spirit! Ho, Ho, Ho.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A moment

I had "a moment" today in between pulling the recently puked-on laundry out of the dryer. I wouldn't change a thing about my life. I may not have dreamed of cleaning snotty noses or asking my boss if I could call her back because my two year old was vomiting outside my office door, but I wouldn't change a thing.

I wouldn't change the short time I got with my Grammy or the stroke that left her with Alzheimer's. I got to spend some silly moments with the teenager and the child she was before me. I got to see her laugh so hard she'd fall over. And I got to hold her hand one more time before she died. I loved that woman and I miss her tremendously, but I'll never forget her spirit.

Nor would I change my mother's cancer. It completely sucks and at the beginning I would often curl into a ball and sob until I had nothing left, but it has taught me about patience and about life. I have learned to take things in stride. I used to be so uptight before her diagnosis. I even had one of my best friends notice how calm and level-headed I became. I'm so fortunate to have my mom in my life and to live around the corner from her. Some people wouldn't want to live so close to their parents, but it's worked for us.

And I certainly wouldn't change the helpless and debilitating postpartum depression that took hold of me after I had Alyssa. I am so thankful for my friend, Shannon, and my family for holding me together. It taught me how important it is to ask for help when I needed it most. I'll forever try to make up the first 8 weeks of Alyssa's life and the guilt I feel for that depression, but there is a love for my children that even depression couldn't take away.

And lastly, I wouldn't change my husband's heart surgery. It renewed my faith in something larger than me. I reached out to my family and friends and they were there for us. I found I was clam and collected. I could be the strong one when I needed to be, but my husband is the other half of me. I found myself appreciating him as my husband and the father of our girls even more. I found myself loving life even more.

I wouldn't change a thing about my life. It has shaped exactly who I am, the woman my children and my husband love, the daughter and sister I am, and the woman I want to be. I love my life!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Split second

I've been scared a few times in my life--like the kind of scared where you make a split second decision that can make or break a life. Two of those have been with Samantha in the last year, the second of those today.

She quite frequently aspirates into her lungs in the winter. Whether or not it is related to acid reflux, hypothyroidism, or illness, I do not know. Thankfully we have a wonderful pediatrician who believes in me, rather trusts me enough to write us a storage closet full of inhaling corticosteroids. This is the second time those boxes of inhalants have kept us from the ER and who knows, a tracheotmy?!

Samantha was sitting down on the floor eating her goldfish when she choked. She took it right into her lungs and was grasping for air. Every tried breath was a cough taking more and more oxygen. I ran to the cupboard and pulled a tube of Xoponex into the nebulizer and over her face. I reclined her in my lap. She continued to cough every time she inhaled. After about two mintues and begging her to relax--"Please, don't cry, it will make it harder to breathe"--she calmed down enough to take a few breaths without coughing.

I had a choice. I could have called 9-1-1, but that would have taken too long. I'm so thankful that we have the medication we need at hand at all times. Goodness knows how it could have turned out. Last year when this happened it took us 4-6 hours of solid breathing treatments to get her from blue to pink. It's amazing how clear things become when you are faced with such serious and potentially deadly events.

Samantha is okay, terrified, but okay.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Al had his post-op appointment at Stanford yesterday. We met with the surgeon, Dr. Fischbein, and charted Al's progression and expectations. He was very happy that Al looked so well. He wants Al to start walking more so he can build up his strength to run again.

Dr. Fischbein asked if instead of returning to a regular cardiologist if we wouldn't consider coming to Stanford and going under the care of Dr. Liang who specializes in aortic cardiology. Dr. Fischbein explained that most cardiologists do not understand the kind of surgery Al just had and that he'd get proper care here. So Dr. Liang stopped by to meet us.

Dr. Liang set up a stress-test in February so that he can monitor Al's heart rate and blood pressure while he runs. Dr. Liang also wants to find out if the dissection was blood pressure related or if there are additional genetic factors. In fact, Dr. Liang is part of Stanford's Marfan Clinic.

Al was very pleased with Dr. Liang and felt much better about his future care. Al wasn't entirely comfortable going to a cardiologist outside of Stanford, so this is a perfect solution.

So we stood in the hallway of the Cardiology Clinic with four doctors for at least half an hour. At least two of the doctors had been part of Al's surgery and all were familiar with his case. It felt good to be in such good company and with the men who saved his life.

Monday, December 13, 2010


This time of year I start to get a little mental. Typically it starts after Christmas, but because I've been stuck at home taking care of everyone it seems to have started earlier.

I get this overwhelming urge to purge, decorate, and otherwise organize every bit of our lives. This weekend it started with Alyssa's closet and a cube system I had stuffed in there. I just pulled it out of the closet and secured it against one of her walls.

I also got this idea to hang pictures from a rod in Samantha's room and a few from the quilt rack in Alyssa's room. So I spray painted picture frames in spurts yesterday. I kind of stunk up the house because I did it in the garage. But after I opened the garage door and the side door the smell dissapaited. I ran out of paint so I only finished four frames. I hung two in Samantha's room and two in Alyssa's room. Samantha got to pick what she wanted in the frames: a picture of Alyssa and a greeting card shaped like a cat. Alyssa's frames hold a different greeting card with cats (gotta have the same as Sissy) and embroidery of a bunny I did when I was a teenager.

The best comment I got was from Alyssa this morning: "Mommy, my room so pretty." Ahh the little things. And my brain now has a little more space in it.

All in day's work . . .

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I'd be lying if I said I'm handling all of this well. I actually feel like I'm coming apart at the seams most of the time. And the kids seem to be challenging authority more. It could be that they're unhappy because they're getting a lot less attention from me. I'm sure it's a combination of everything.

Al has been doing a lot more: wanting to partake in some of the things he did before like barbecuing. As a result he's put more strain on himself and I feel like he's set himself back a week or more. Things like pulling in empty garbage cans and opening the sliding glass door have contributed to this. And I worry more when he's sitting there rubbing his sternum or the area where the drainage tubes came out.

He's off the Percoset. It was working to manage the pain, but he was so nauseated that it wasn't worth it. So maybe this pain is normal. I just don't know and that is what scares me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The gravy train

Thank goodness for insurance. I keep looking up the claims for Al's heart surgery and there are still a lot missing. We met our deductible and our out of pocket maximum before Stanford started billing. Whew!

So many of our friends have been asking if we'd let them know what it costs. Sure! We've got nothing to hide and really who's prepared for this?!

Now the health care provider bills insurance and then insurance will pay them a contracted rate typically far below what they billed. I'm going to provide the billed rate, not the contracted rate because that differs so much based on the provider.

Stanford brought Lifeflight down to pick Al up. He had to get an ambulance ride to the airport since the helipad isn't ready yet. The ambulance ride, like three miles through town, cost $2,402.70. Lifeflight's 70-mile ride cost $23,837.72. Lifeflight will not negotiate their rate so our insurance picked up the full amount. Ouch!!

There are about 10 different doctors who have billed for their specialized services. I do wish it would say exactly what their specialties are on the claim. The only one I could gather was the anesthesiologist for the day of surgery. That was $9,709. The surgeon cost $62,000.

All in all the total cost thus far is $441,987.60. My first guess of $500k wasn't too far off. I don't expect there will be any other bombshell costs like the $343k ICU claim. I'll update again once all is in.

Al is doing very well. He's moving around a lot more and helping around the house when he can. His blood pressure is completely under control now with two meds. It's the lowest he's had since this problem started. Next week we'll follow up with surgeon. I'm expecting that it will be pretty uneventful.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Little Things

I've decided to try and do little things for each person as much as possible on very little budget. For instance, I took Samantha to the movies last week alone. Then on Saturday I took Alyssa shopping with me and we had a little lunch. The one on one time seems so important especially in our busy life.

. . . take today for example. With routine lab work we found out that Samantha needs more thyroid hormone. And we've noticed some of the symptoms like overly dry skin and some sadness, but it's easy to attribute that to the weather or her worry for Daddy. Last night just after 6:30 she asked to go to bed. We hadn't noticed that all of these things including the tiredness were her body asking for more hormone. It made me and Al very sad and left us feeling helpless. So today I decided that after school I would take Samantha to Starbucks for some hot chocolate.

Samantha was so excited she was bouncing off the chair most of the time. She didn't want to leave until she'd consumed every last drop of her hot chocolate. And then she opened up a little . . . "Mom," she said, "I'm not very good at jump rope. I keep trying but I can't do it. Everyone in my class can do it." So we talked about how she doesn't have to be good at everything but how she should try. I told her I wasn't very good at science but I love to write and read.

I just love those moments.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Time Out!!

Sometimes I just have to give myself a time out. It's typically happens when I'm right at the end of a very frayed rope. Like tonight for example . . .

When we, inexperienced parents, had Samantha we decided to parent with the attitude that we'd let her guide her choices. Now don't get me wrong, the idea isn't that she chooses whatever she wants, but that she gets two options and selects from that. We took our new found parenting technique (mistake) and applied that to eating choices when Samantha started to eat solid food. Lucky us and our stupidity--five years later we're still battling over food. This is the only avenue in which we should not have applied our parenting technique. In reality this theory worked well with a closet full of cute outfits, too many shoe choices, and buying a toothbrush.

If Samantha had a choice she'd live on homemade pizza and bubble gum. She won't touch a vegetable at all. She won't touch a banana unless it's her only option and she would rather starve than eat one measly slice of apple. Combine that with an overactive gag reflex and you are living in my own personal hell. I can't force her to eat because she'll psyche herself out so much she'll throw up on her plate.

So tonight I made quinoa and fish. She has no problem with meats or fish, but that alone does not keep her satiated and she knows it. She's had quinoa before in her favorite rice-bean-like meal, Harvest Grain, from Trader Joes. But tonight she wouldn't touch it. I couldn't even look at her while she sat there for 10 minutes with it on her spoon. She kept wiping her forehead with her hand and rubbing her hands in her hair like she was nervous or anxious about putting it in her mouth. I was about ready to lose it so I got up and walked away from the table.

Every meal I struggle with this. I'm tempted to feed her only fruits and raw vegetables. I don't want to starve the kid at school, but I'm about ready to go all "Raw diet" on her.

Now Al and I didn't parent the same way with Alyssa. She gets to choose her breakfast, but that is it. And she eats nearly everything. She isn't a huge meat fan, loves fish, but will try and fruit or vegetable in the house. The girl will steal all my asparagus if I turn my head.

How long will we be punished for our first fatal parenting choice? I don't want to give myself time out every dinner.