Category Archives: Christmas

Transplant Day 70 and real-life angels

God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. – Spencer W. Kimball

Brian flew home Monday. I was kind of worried how this would play out as the last time he left while Patrick was still inpatient, I found myself feeling in well over my head trying to juggle caring for Patrick and trying to piece together little things for myself like food and clothing and bathing.

However, instead, I’ve found the last couple of days almost relaxing. An important lesson I’m learning here is to let people help me with little things so I can be free for the bigger things. For example, Monday morning a hospital volunteer knocked on the door just as I finished dressing Patrick to ask if I needed a break.  So, she came in and played with Patrick while I took a shower, did my makeup (a rare luxury), made the bed, and cleaned up the room.

This week has been full of volunteer angels. From church, I find women I barely know (have met a few times or not at all) providing meals or coming and sitting with Patrick so that I can go back to the Ronald McDonald House to eat or shower or do other things. There is an after-holiday lull in charitable donations and so fewer meals are offered at the beginning of January than throughout the rest of the year. So, one evening while a lady from the Relief Society (church women’s organization) was introducing Patrick to the joys of a fart machine, I hurried back and made up a week’s worth of taco meat so I’d be ready for days I either couldn’t get away or nights where dinner wouldn’t be waiting.

This has been a blessing I can’t put into words. I am not unhappy that in our first month here, we ate such carefully portioned meals, a-la Hormel no refrigeration required microwave dinners, that I lost several pounds. But sometimes it was hard to be patient with Patrick and happy with this 24/7 mom/caregiver role I’m living because I was hungry. But right now, I am anything but hungry. I have to think to not end up being fed dinner twice. I haven’t even touched the supply of meals I bought right before Brian left because there has always been another one there someone has made for me.

But beyond food, this has given me the chance to keep up on laundry (with a little bit of help from a friend willing to fold and slip into my room my clothes if I can just get them to the dryer) and to stay showered and in fresh clothes (which I find goes a VERY long way to my general sense of well-being), and sane. I get an hour or two here and there and in it I try to be as productive as possible. I probably look like a mad-woman flying through the Ronald McDonald House when I go there.

Patrick is happier with this help, too. Someone appears offering help and he shoos me away to “the House’ so he can play. Patrick needs people. He loves when someone comes and he has someone new to play with.  He really loves the volunteers who come help Child Life with activities. We had an awesome time the other day flying airplanes with the ROTC. Right now, Patrick is one of just a handful of kids old enough to play with, so they are especially excited to see him, too.

It helps so much to have people. Tonight, I got a call from a woman from church who is quickly growing on me, saying that she had some time and could she come play with Patrick so I can get out. I almost felt like I was taking advantage because I’ve been so well taken care of, but I’ve sworn to myself to accept help when offered. So she came and I almost didn’t even leave because it’s -3 with a wind chill of some other horrid number and everything is closed here as a result. But I remembered that Patrick’s been running a touch low on diaper cream and I had one more jar of his preferred kind at the house, so I went to go.

But, when I got to my car, it just wouldn’t start. I’d turn the key and it sounded almost like it was sighing. I had a jump starter in the trunk, but even that didn’t help. It just showed me my battery’s power dropping from 60% to 40% to unreadable.

So I came back in and I bought diaper cream at the outpatient pharmacy instead. Then I called Brian and I called my dad to assess the symptoms. And then i came back to the room feeling a bit beyond alone and helpless. Only I wasn’t alone. There was this sweet angel from the ward making playdough P’s with Patrick on the floor. And she listened to me talk through my problem and she offered all the help she could think of. And then she just talked for a while which is something I am REALLY missing here… talking to grownups and especially friends of my own faith.

And things felt lighter going to bed. In fact, Patrick and I stayed awake and giggled and talked for a while. Sometimes, he and I get playing a little more like it’s a sleepover. And last night he told me that when he grows up he wants to be a firefighter and put water on things. And that when I grow up I want to be a doctor… not like the ones in the hospital, but like the toy one in his Duplo block set that he got yesterday.

Which reminds me of another super nice thing that strangers did for us. Right before Brian left town, he discovered a couple of Christmas presents hidden under the bed that we’d overlooked on Christmas morning. Well, they couldn’t have been more perfectly planned if we’d done it on purpose.

When we got married in December, I was really sad that the wedding and honeymoon took up most of the Christmas season for us. So we decided to extend our family’s Christmas holiday like they do in Europe. There, the 12 days of Christmas actually start on Christmas day and are counted forward until January 6th, also known as Epiphany. Or, in Italy where Brian was a missionary, it’s called Befana.

So, we have celebrated Befana. We leave out our shoes and a good witch fills them with little gifts. After Patrick went to sleep Monday night, I snuck down to the C store and picked up some treats for my shoes, then I put the newly found presents and some chips and a book into Patrick’s. And when he woke in the morning, we had our own little holiday. And he got a couple of fleece sweaters that have been perfect for these bitter cold days. And he got some duplo blocks that have proven to be great entertainment, too.

General Patrick update.. Tonight, they turned off his TPN again, hanging some IV fluids to keep him hydrated. He will reach full enteral (through the belly) feeds on Elecare Jr. tomorrow late afternoon. They will check some labwork in the morning and we’ll start talking about discharge again. (Which means that I will also be making some phone calls in the morning to see if my insurance’s emergency roadside service can help me fix the battery issue so we have a way to leave here.)

Patrick feels great. I’ve learned to change the dressing on his surgical incision and will need to still do that for a few weeks. He is not a big fan of the job, but has gotten so he doesn’t cry the whole time.

We spend our days mostly playing. Today, they got the playroom ready for patients to play in. It is still missing locks on the toy cabinets, so you have to have help and permission to play there and have to keep the door closed while there. But that just meant that Patrick had to have 3 hours straight playing there instead today. And the room all to himself.

While he played, I downloaded more of his homeschool materials and the hospital teacher helped me print some readers. A “cold day” made it so Patrick missed his post-holiday return to school this week.. again. He’s only had 4 actual “school days” since we got here. I just learned a couple of the ladies from church homeschool and I am getting ready to pounce and pick their brains to figure out how to make my mommy school efforts even better.

We’ve been working on just one more goal here. A few days ago, Patrick was complaining that his left leg and ankle hurt. This isn’t the first he’s complained of it, so I asked for a physical therapy consult. She came seeming ready to assure me my concerns were over something normal that would pass. She watched him walk and stand on tiptoes and squat. And as we worked, she shifted from telling me that his hip looked weak but would get better to a genuine concern about what she was seeing. This is somehow maybe related to his cerebral palsy and we don’t know if it’s really a new problem or just one made worse by recovery.

She gave me some exercises to try to get Patrick to do.. lifting his legs to the side and walking on his heels. Because of his dyspraxia (motor planning troubles), this seems really, really hard for him as he’s never tried to move that way before. At first, he just wouldn’t. But I’ve figured out that I can turn it into a game of silly walking mother-may-I or a “can you do this?” challenge and he’ll play along.

Nevertheless, my plan of doing occupational and feeding therapy only with my limited visits while he’s outpatient is kind of disintegrating. If this problem doesn’t go away before we leave here, we’ll need to do some follow-up therapy. And I really need to find the number and call and get that scheduled.

I think Patrick feels more in control of himself here at the hospital. Maybe because the rules and routine are more predictable. Maybe because he’s spent more time here. Maybe just because his medication levels have been steady while he is here. Maybe because it’s not Christmas anymore. Maybe it’s because he can order ham and chicken broth for every meal. Or because my attention is less divided and all of the ways he acts out are him trying to have my undivided attention. I don’t know for sure, but I’ve also been using the extra time I have with helpers here trying to pull together some picture schedule and behavior reminder resources so going back to the Ronald McDonald House can maybe feel less chaotic.

Regardless, I can see that our time here is special and important. And I am beyond grateful for the helpers who have let me use this time well instead of just trying to survive each day.

 

Transplant Day 56 and Christmas Day

We had a very unique, but very amazing Christmas day this year.

It all started with a little bit of excitement. Every night sometime between 2 and 4 a.m. I have to get up to refill the formula in Patrick’s feeding bag. So at 3:30 I was up and it seemed to go really smoothly and I stuffed the little stocking that Patrick had hung on the IV pole by his bed. And then I went into the bathroom and the pump started to alarm.

Well, I got there quick enough that it didn’t wake Patrick and I fixed the kinked tubing. And then I noticed a very distinct smell. The smell of Patrick’s ostomy bag leaking. I felt around the pouch and it was definitely starting to come off. That usually would mean waking him to change the bag. But I looked around a room full of presents that Santa had already brought and I knew that if I woke him, we’d be having Christmas right then.

Now, my previous history of early Christmas mornings aside, I also knew that Patrick would not have time for a nap in the rest of the day without missing out on some big fun things. So I took a risky chance. I crawled in bed with him, wrapped him in a towel, secured the bag the best I could, and slept next to him. I knew we’d be starting the day off with a big mess and that we’d have to work hard to keep it from making his skin sore. But it seemed the best choice for a good Christmas day.

I had nightmares about ostomy bags the rest of the night and at 6:30, when Patrick started to stir a little, decided I’d waited long enough and let him wake up. I explained he was wet and needed to go right to the bath. He wasn’t so sure, but I didn’t give him a choice.

We got him cleaned up pretty quickly and changed into his spare Christmas morning pajamas. (We learned long ago that we need two pair of special Christmas PJ’s.) We asked him if he thought Santa would have come and he said no. Somehow, he’d missed all the presents on the way through.

But when he did see them, that’s all he wanted.

We let him start with his little stocking. That was simple stuff. A Dora doll, some hot wheels cars, some silly putty. Then Brian pulled out the big stockings.

I’ll confess. I was pretty worried about Christmas stockings this year. I could not figure out how to go about getting that part of Christmas ready when Patrick needed to be with me and time in stores was limited. Heck, we tried to buy stockings once and had to leave the store without. So when a package from Brian’s work showed up full of gifts, including stockings, I was relieved.

Patrick’s stocking was huge. It took half an hour to go through. Of course, that was the tip of the iceberg for Christmas morning. Between family, friends, DDM, and  gifts donated through the hospital and  the Ronald McDonald House, we were very well taken care of this Christmas. When I look back at myself a month ago, lying awake in the hospital in tears and unable to sleep not being able to imagine how we could possibly pull together Christmas this year and contrast that with the abundant and generous outpouring that we received I am humbled and grateful.

A phrase from a verse in Malachi kept running through my head.  Malachi 3:10:

“prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

Indeed – it took most of today to make space to put away Patrick’s many gifts and there is a small collection in the corner of the “too much” that we will probably pass on to other children.

After opening gifts in our room, we let Patrick pick a couple of toys and we headed down to the kitchen to take care of meds and formula. It was fun to see children pop in and out with Christmas presents and smiles on their faces.

Finally, 10:30 rolled around and Santa was due to arrive. Christmas with Santa in the Ronald McDonald House is going to stay forever in my memory. Each family had a pile of presents with our names on them. Most were simple, some were astoundingly generous. Santa went around the room telling the kids about how he’d picked certain things just for them and which gifts were most popular.  I’ll never forget the tears in the eyes of one mom whose family had arrived for emergency surgery just a couple of days before who really did think they’d be missing Christmas this year.

And then, after presents, we gathered for Christmas brunch. The Hilton had sent a gourmet meal over with roast beef and turkey and potatoes and stuffing and the yummiest green bean casserole on the planet and about 20 different desserts.

We ate well and then had to reign ourselves in because we knew we had other plans.

In fact, right after brunch, I went up to the room to pack our things to go for the rest of the day. A couple of my very close friends from college married and live two hours away in Iowa. And they invited us out for Christmas dinner. So, we took a drive yesterday. It was fun to see country life in Iowa. And it was amazing to spend some time with friends.

Drue and Rachel have to be two of my favorite people on the planet. They’ve been through a lot in their 13 years of marriage. And now seem so happy and in their element. Both grew up in smaller towns and so it is natural that they’ve settled down in bigger small town in Iowa with 5 acres of land and a historic house they bought for $1 and moved to the lot.

While they finished up making dinner, (smoked leg of lamb and homemade gravy and Idaho mashed potatoes!!) their daughter, Julie, took Patrick out to the chicken coop and he came back with his shoes all muddy.. So then he had to play around in stocking feet all the rest of the evening, which he loved. And they gave him a real metal slinky and showed him how to use it on the stairs, and he loved that, too. And mostly, he was tired because we gave up naps to try to get him to sleep at night and he might not really be ready for that.

BUT he made it and we had a lovely dinner and played Catch Phrase afterwards and reminisced and caught up. And we got to see the stars (something I hate that Patrick misses having to always be in the city so he is close to medical care and clean.) And then we drove back and Patrick managed to stay awake the whole way, which mean he would sleep.

But we ended the day almost as excitingly as it started because one of the bottles of formula opened and spilled in the cooler and so we had to make a new batch of formula and clean up the sticky mess. So we got to bed a bit late and then Patrick woke up at 3 and insisted I come sleep in his bed. So my dreams of an early bedtime and a then sleeping in till 9 were both dashed, but it was still a wonderful Christmas.

And today was mostly quiet with a trip to Costco (then a trip back to the room to replace the feeding button that Patrick accidentally pulled out as he got out of the car. That was traumatic and he talked about it all day.).. Then we took another trip to Costco where we actually bought the totes and batteries we went for. And we spent the day resting and cleaning and playing with new toys. And today we DID make it to bed on time. And maybe tomorrow we’ll even sleep in.

I will never, EVER forget this Christmas. This season brings out the best in us. We are kinder, more generous, more Christlike. And as I read the Christmas story with Patrick this month, I could relate more with the story of Mary and Joseph far from home, staying in a stable of all places as their baby was born. But Heavenly Father knew where they were. And He sent angels to tell ordinary, humble working men – shepherds. And then those shepherds went and it was through those ordinary people that the Lord sent the message that He remembered and He knew what was happening and was was going to happen.

And we, through the ordinary people, have seen the hand of the Lord this Christmas.

Some of you are reading this. I need to say thank you. You may think that what you have done was something small. But this Christmas was anything but small for us. So thank you.

Transplant Day 55 and Christmas Eve

Oh what a difference a good night’s sleep makes. Patrick slept 10 hours last night. Which means I got a good 8 hours with only my routine fill-the-feeding-bag interruptions. We all felt so much better.

We’d have slept longer, but today was lab day. That’s ok. We needed to get up and get moving to fit in all we hoped to do.

One of our favorite Christmas traditions since before we had kids is to visit the zoo on Christmas Eve. People don’t think of the zoo on this day. They have other things to do. Therefore, it’s quiet and uncrowded. You can take all the time you want. Animals behave differently when it’s a little cold, too.. so you get to see a different side of the exhibits in many cases.

And guess what? Omaha is home to one of the world’s best zoos: the Henry Doorly Zoo. And so of course, as soon as we finished the morning meds and formula mixing (complete with me forgetting to vent my bottle after shaking it so the baking soda made it explode all over the kitchen) we headed off the zoo.

Well, with a stop at Taco Bell for breakfast. Patrick willingly took bites of an entire hash brown this morning. That is a HUGE deal.

Anyway – we got to the zoo and discovered it was bitter cold. Thank goodness this zoo was also designed by people who live here in Nebraska where the humidity makes all weather feel extreme. Most of the exhibits are indoors. So we hurried into the Lied Jungle where we warmed up in a rainforest climate. Patrick had a great time running around here and elsewhere in the zoo.. but he would get tired and try to get us to carry him and then we were grateful for his stroller/wheelchair. He’s still got a ways to go recovering.

We had a lot of fun this morning. There are lots of babies at the zoo right now and we got to get up close views of several of them. Patrick and Brian had a great time playing with one of the gorillas. We saw an extremely rare white lion cub. And then, we were tired. So we headed out… but not before acting on the idea to turn one of the very generous cash gifts we received this week into a membership to the zoo so Patrick can come back as often as he wants while we are here. The zoo in off-peak hours is an approved immune-suppressed activity.

Anyway – after the zoo we came back for lunch and some quiet time in the room. Then Brian and Patrick started some laundry while I went to the store for a few last-minute things.  (Including stocking stuffers. I opted not to get stockings after some filled ones showed up in a package from DDM. But then Patrick got another stocking from a friend that he was allowed to have early. He told me yesterday Santa was going to fill it back up again… On a sidenote, I’m glad Patrick knows now what stockings are for as the first few times he saw them, he asked if he could wear them.) Then, Brian took Patrick off for a walk to let me wrap the last couple of presents in the room.

Dinner tonight was catered pasta. An amazing family took the time off this evening to arrange that on a night that Ronald McDonald House doesn’t always see people willing to give up the time to provide us a meal.

We spent the evening working on crafts with the rest of the house. Wendy and Kate went all-out with clay ornaments and ice-cream-cone Christmas trees tonight. It was a lot of fun to see everyone’s families arriving tonight to spend the holiday with them. The mood of the house was pretty light and happy today.

Patrick, for the first time I can remember, is genuinely excited for Santa to come. He just kept showing me that only the white ring was left on his advent chain. And then he’d skip and run down the halls.

We followed some other traditions tonight: opened Christmas presents. He was so excited by the minion pajamas Grandma sent that he decided to go into the bathroom and dress himself. (We asked him why in the bathroom. He said “A dunno” (a common phrase right now) and away he went. Then he stayed and drew on the mirror with the dry erase markers I use to chart fluids there for another 15 minutes.

We opened another traditional package – a Christmas book that we share with his birth parents. This year I picked “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” which seemed a bit over his head, but I thought appropriate for the year.

Except the no presents thing. Patrick had a little trouble setting down to sleep at first, but when he was sleep he was out cold. So Brian got out the presents that were hidden under the bed. This room is overflowing with presents from the hospital, from family, from friends, from co-workers. And I know there are more outside of this room, too.

And so, that was our Christmas eve. Different. Simpler. Uncluttered. Very few last-minute preparations. No hours spent on a fancy meal. A later bedtime than I’d usually allow. And lots of new friends.

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of others – this year is different, but not nearly as hard as I thought it would be as I laid awake in the hospital worrying about it a month ago.

Right now, my biggest worries are where we are going to put all these gifts once they are opened.. and how to convince Patrick to take a bath and put on clean pajamas (yes, that’s a short gut Christmas tradition) before diving into the pile of presents that are in the room he’s waking up in.

Transplant days 53-54, insomnia, and Christmas carols

Photo Brian took while we were singing Christmas carols. Notice that when Patrick is tired he can't stop moving, hence all the pictures are motion blurred from this day.

Photo Brian took while we were singing Christmas carols. Notice that when Patrick is tired he can’t stop moving, hence all the pictures are motion blurred from this day.

Last night was a tough mix for us. Patrick slept the best he has in a week. Brian and I did not. As I put Patrick down, I noticed that there was some blood in his ostomy bag. An intestinal bleed could mean scary things for him.. But we also knew that it was Sunday night and not the most efficient time in the hospital. So we decided to wait and watch. And within an hour and a half the bleeding had stopped.

But for me, that meant setting the alarm clock every 2 hours during the night to make sure it didn’t come back. If that weren’t enough of a loss of sleep, at 4 a.m. Brian got up to go to the bathroom. Patrick woke up and insisted someone needed to lay with him. As much as I love the sweet little boy cuddles, Patrick hogs the bed.

We did finally all get to sleep, but unfortunately, Patrick had labs due this morning so when the alarm went off, I could only snooze it a couple of times before having to wake us all up.

After labs, we left Brian in the room and Patrick and I went downstairs to get him his meds and make his formula. The formula especially is quite a production to make. This morning, though, more than usual. While I was still working on it, the front doorbell of the house rang. I was the only one downstairs, so when it rang a couple more times, I went to answer. Turns out the girl from the office had locked herself out with a couple of people bringing by donations.

Well, Patrick sometimes bebops over and lets people in if they wait long enough. So he went and let them in. It turned out to be a family from a montessori school coming by to drop off some donations. They were waiting for the rest of the class, though, so they came in to wait. Then the bell rang again and this time it was people coming to put that night’s dinner into crockpots.

So here I am, in the kitchen trying to mix up Patrick’s 2.5 gallons of crazy complicated formula with people buzzing all around me making dinner. (And me telling them where to find everything.) And I look up and notice that there’s a little boy Patrick’s age that came over with the Montessori group looking bored but trying to be good. So I grabbed Patrick and went over and introduced him and got them a game to play together.

Eventually, the rest of the Montessori class arrived and they took some pictures together (and with Patrick.) And then my phone rang and it was the transplant team returning my call. And when I came back, Patrick had somehow gotten them to give him one of the gift bags that they’d brought along. As it happens, it was filled with Sesame Street themed things that we now find invaluable.. an Elmo bread crust cutter-offer and a couple of dry erase number and shape writing workbooks. (These happen to be the two fine motor practice things that i didn’t have in dry erase form.)

P.S. the doctors said that the apparent blood in the output was likely an anomaly and not to worry about it unless it came back.

We came back to the room to find Brian on a work call so I made a hurried effort to get Patrick his mommy-school readers printed for the week so we could get out of the way. We went downstairs and spent an hour doing mommy school. I could tell Patrick was tired then. He was happiest just snuggled up doing educational games on my computer.

And as the day wore on, he got more and more tired.

At dinner, we got to eat the chili that had smelled so amazing in the house all day. Then we tried going for a drive to look at Christmas lights. But I got us lost. And Patrick fell asleep. It was kind of a bust.

— picking up this post a couple of days later—

Patrick falling asleep wasn’t the greatest of things for him. He was still exhausted enough to be totally irrational. When he’s tired, the steroids kind of take over and all rational thought shuts off. We were all already tired, but nothing we could do would convince him to sleep. Brian and I went the rounds with him until 2 a.m. when Brian had him downstairs in time out for screaming in the middle of the night. I decided we needed to just find a way for the grown-ups to sleep so I drew up morning meds so we wouldn’t have to go out of the room for them. And then suggested we just turn on the TV for him.

Well, when Patrick saw the room, he decided he was ready to lay down again and went to sleep without much more fight. We slept till a little after 9 when giving morning meds was enough to wake Patrick.

It was kind of a rough morning. I don’t do well when I’m tired. I cry a lot.

But once we got past the morning, we were able to lay down and rest a little and that helped us reset. (Not sleep… just rest. We received several dozen.. maybe even 100.. homemade Christmas cards this week from a middle school, a primary, and Brian’s work so we sat down and read all of those.)

I called the team back one more time because Patrick’s output had been black looking during the night. They came back again and said his labs looked good and he didn’t seem to be feeling bad and that maybe it was the food he was eating. As in, the dyes in the food he was eating.. (That night instead of letting him have a cup of soup at dinner, I served him ham instead of soup. Sure enough, no funny colors.)

After dinner, though, we had something I’ve been looking forward to ever since I started playing the piano here. Our Christmas sing-along.  I spent the quiet moments in the day typing up and printing lyrics to several Christmas songs. We gathered up those of us in the house who’ll get together to do things like this. Plus, the sister missionaries came over. They had offered to come visit and that happened to be the only day that they could come.. and the best day for us to do the sing-along. I figured more voices could only help.

It was a lot of fun to gather around the piano and sing. Everyone was a great sport. We sang everything on my list, and then when we needed to fill some time before our next activity, we took requests. I hope everyone got to sing or hear their favorite.

Then everyone visited for a while and then went upstairs to work on a craft that one of the House employees had put together for us. Patrick and I really kind of enjoyed that while Brian drew up meds.

And then, Patrick laid down in bed and was asleep in about 10 minutes. I think I wasn’t far behind. Looking like we are going to need to explore a new phase in Patrick’s life. Giving up naps.

It is amazing to see how much this has made him grow up. Have I mentioned he also weaned himself from pacifiers? After 6 years and not knowing how he’d ever quit them… the hospital experience was enough to just make him not like them. I offered them back a few days after we got to the Ronald McDonald House. He tried them but didn’t like them. So I sat down and explained that kids grow up and then they are big kids and grownups and don’t like paci’s anymore. He thought about it and then said, “Me too, mom.” He was done. I told him that as soon as I get a chance, I’ll remove the pacifiers from his wubbanub friends and he’s great with that idea.

And that has nothing to do with anything except that I hadn’t told you. So that’s a summary of the hardest 2 days of the week. Next post, Christmas Eve.

 

Transplant Day 48 and some Christmas Cheer

It’s been a busy couple of days. Without labs in the morning, I’ve been trying to work on a little bit of a better sleep schedule.  I don’t know that we’re getting more sleep, but at least we haven’t been up till midnight.

Yesterday we didn’t have labs and Patrick actually slept till 8 a.m. Then we took our sweet time getting ready and out of the room, which is always nice. It usually means I get some cleaning done.

Because Patrick had slept so late, I decided to try out skipping nap.  That meant I needed to keep him entertained for the day instead. I stole a little bit of internet time in the morning while he played in the playroom and I downloaded the new homeschool curriculum I want to use for “mommy school.” (I’m using Reading the Alphabet, if you are curious.) Then we came upstairs and I printed out a little reader to practice with and a reader.

Patrick was so excited to do mommy school. I think he’s feeling as bored and stir crazy as I am. He mastered his book in about 5 minutes. The series I’m using is a sight words preprimer series.. So pretty basic stuff. Just sight words mixed with pictures that he should be able to decipher. This is what he was using in school before transplant so it seemed like a good place to pick up. It’s probably a slower paced curriculum than he’d be getting in a typical classroom, but i figure that anything is better than 3 or less hours a week and the pace seems to match his learning style. Once he had mastered his book, we did a little bit of writing practice with the word of the week, (“a”) and the letter of the week (“Tt”).. and then we took his book to practice reading to other people. Both he and they love this method of practicing reading. I have the feeling that taking his books to the office staff to practice is going to be pretty par for the course.

After a little bit of resting/cleaning time in our room, we got ready for the evening’s excitement. Last night was the hospital’s annual pediatrics Christmas party. A company called Renaissance financials hosts this every year for the inpatient and outpatient pediatric patients. That means that you don’t have to be in the hospital to be invited. They know there are a lot of us here who’ve traveled quite some way and will be here long-term.

The party started with a magician. It’s amazing to me to see Patrick old enough to appreciate these things. He laughed and was awed by the tricks. He really wanted to be a helper, but didn’t raise his hand to say so.

After the magic show, we found our tables and worked on making jingle bell necklaces, marshmellow snowmen, and gingerbread houses made out of graham crackers and take out boxes. We were joined there by one of the employees helping to host the party.

That kind of made this the perfect blend of holiday party for me. It had all of the kid-friendly elements that I’m used to from a school or church party. But there were employees and their wives there for their annual company Christmas party, too.. All dressed up. It kind of helped soothe the part of me that is really missing corporate Christmas dinners.

We had a dinner of pizza and breadsticks. Patrick enjoyed some crust and declared the julienned carrots from my salad “perfect.”

And then, they made us all sing Christmas carols. They top this off with a tradition where each of the 12 dinner tables has to make up and action to do to their assigned day of the 12 Days of Christmas. I hope our 5 golden rings had enough flair.

Then, the night was topped off with a visit from Santa Claus himself. They came and called the kids up for their turns one by one so there was no line or crush. Each kid got some personal time with Santa. Patrick took his to open the present that Santa had brought him.. A big noisy 3-wheeled motorcycle that races across the room when you push a button.

Patrick’s attention was gone pretty quickly after his visit with Santa. We snuck out as things started to wind down and ran to the store to get a few things to make some little gifts for the many people we have gotten to know here. (I’m making angel ornaments out of ribbon, a paperclip, and a bead.) Patrick thinks Michaels is the best store ever.. specially since they had little shopping baskets with a handle he could pull like a rolling suitcase.

And then we came back to the house where all the kids were playing with the toys Santa brought. It reminded me of Christmas morning… which makes me really look forward to Christmas. We have lived with these kids for a couple of weeks now and they are getting to be friends. It was fun to see them sharing toys with each other.. racing around shooting each other with nerf guns and taking turns with the remote control car.

It was especially needed last night as one of the families staying in the house lost their son last night. It is hard to put into words the way that a loss like that hurts in a community like this. We understand more deeply than anyone can the pain of that loss and just want to take it away.

Today has been a pretty low-key kind of day. I got Patrick to sleep last night by 10, but that meant he was wide awake and happy at 6:30. He chose to play on his bed for an hour, though, and when he was ready to go was pretty good downstairs.

The grandparents of the boy who passed away stayed here last night and Patrick has been particularly attached to them all day.. Cuddling up with both of them and playing charmer. He really has a way of knowing what people need sometimes.

Then, when he did leave them, Patrick went to visit his friends in the office. He has made this a bit of a morning tradition. I don’t think they mind much. House rules say they are supposed to give us our space.. but if we go visit them, that is ok. Patrick likes to go visit.

Over lunch, Tyson, the 18 year old transplant recipient, took Patrick downstairs to play in the playroom while I showed his mom how to make homemade frosting and how to roll out and cut sugar cookies. (It’s funny how this is something I have just taken for granted knowing how to do. After a lifetime of baking with mom and grandma, going to church activities, doing crafts, and learning other homemaking skills.. I guess I kind of assume that most people have some experience with these things. But they have been wowed by my skills here and it’s kind of a strange feeling. The things you discover when you leave the Mormon belt.)

I got a call this afternoon from hospital social work asking me to come pick up Christmas gifts. While we were still inpatient, they came and asked if one of the hospital departments could adopt us for Christmas.. given how far we are from home and knowing what our co-pays were going to be. We tried to decline and offer this to someone else, but they insisted that we fit the bill to help. So, we made a simple list for them.

What I picked up today was not simple. My trunk is full. And there was a gift card included too that kind of blew me away.

Anyway – once we finished that outing, Patrick asked to try to play at a park. We went, but he got too cold too fast again. So we came back to the house and let him play in the playroom while I paid some bills and then pulled out my new Christmas music books and played on the piano. This is another thing that I kind of have taken for granted in the past. People who play the piano are limited back home, but there’s a few of us in every neighborhood at least. Here, though.. some of the staff say they have never seen this piano used to play actual music. I am so excited to try a sing along.

Next was dinner. One of the drawbacks of the Ronald McDonald House at Christmas time is that all the dinner groups very well-meaningly try to bring in a festive holiday meal. You don’t want to know how many hams have been served here this week. Patrick is loving it, though. Ham and potatoes is one of his favorite meals and he will happily eat it over and over again. It just makes me smile and remember my missionary days when we’d be fed at member houses and we’d see food seasons. I wonder what food season comes after Christmas.

Then, I ended up letting Patrick stay up just a bit late because we decorated cookies tonight. It was so much fun and I was really grateful for Wendy, a mom and friend in the house, and all of the resources and work she put into getting Christmas cookies into the house.  The kids had a great time. Patrick loved it and, yes, I let him splurge and have some frosting tonight. (He’s supposed to be on a no concentrated sugar diet at least until things get a little more stable.)

Our word of the day was “angels”. We read about how angels appeared to sing about Christ’s birth. And then for good measure, I pulled out my YouTube video and watched this awesome video… a record breaker for multitudes of angels in a live Nativity, and heart-touching to boot.

And now Patrick’s finally made it to sleep. I’m thrilled he is asleep before 11 again.. But every night I have grand intentions of getting up and getting to work once he is asleep. I have a couple of presents to wrap and the room needs cleaning and the laundry needs put away. Especially since we have labs tomorrow. But I can barely keep my eyes open. So I’ll be settling on finishing up this post, hunting down an internet connection so I can post it.. and then going off to bed.

 

Transplant Day 45 and Gingerbread

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Well, it’s about 6 p.m. on a very quiet Sunday evening here in Omaha. Patrick is taking a little time in the playroom and I thought I’d throw out a quick update.

It’s been a simple day. We slept in a little bit because we were told no labs. I had Patrick in the bathtub when there was a knock at the door. It was his home nurse. She hadn’t gotten a change of orders. So while she called looking for those instructions, I got Patrick back out of the bath and dressed just in case. But she got it sorted out and went on her way.

That put us a little ahead of our expected schedule for the morning. We ate breakfast and got meds and then pulled out the Dora Candyland game they have here to play while waiting for our next plans.

I decided that maybe a Sunday morning outing would be a nice change of pace today. The Mormon Trail Center has a gingerbread house display every Christmas. I’d heard about it from more than one of the nurses. So I invited any of our friends at the house willing to be up and out earlier in the day to meet us at 10:30 to go over. (I am still hiding from crowds to protect Patrick from illness with his weakened immune system.)

We don’t have many early risers in the house right now, so only our friend Wendy joined us. Her son is 18 and had a transplant a year ago. So while he slept, she came with us.

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The gingerbread houses were fun and impressive. There were simple displays from scout troops and other kids groups. There were also very elaborate displays with sculpted candy and such. It inspired us to want to set up a gingerbread house making activity here at the house.

Then, we went upstairs in the visitors center and took a brief tour. I should maybe get tired of that, but I really don’t. I see so many parallels between the sacrifices that pioneers made crossing the plains to our life right now. Separated from husband and family. Small living quarters. Nebraska weather. And hard trials. I was really glad we got to go.

And they finished off the tour with this little video about the true and first gift of Christmas, Jesus Christ. I’ve been meaning to share it with you. Now seemed like the right time. I was talking to Brian last night. He’s doing all the grunt work of Christmas this year. Mailing cards, wrapping presents. Meanwhile, I’m here with my little nativity advent tree and only serving Patrick and the other people in the house as my jobs right now. It’s a different Christmas season and teaching me a lot.

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Anyway, we came back to the house and ate lunch, put in some laundry, visited with some of the other kids for a while. Patrick was sent a 12 days of Christmas gift countdown by our church youth group and today was the first day to open a present.

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Then the elders came with the sacrament. Our usual guy was busy this week and so this was a new father-son duo that came to visit. They got a bit lost on the way. It always seems so very brief when there are no meetings around the sacrament. I miss church horribly right now. I’m realizing that I had found a way to work scripture study and prayer into our hospital routine.. But this new Ronald McDonald House routine has been harder that way. Patrick can’t sleep in because of labs and that’s when I was reading before. And with his insomnia, he is up till almost 11. You think finding time to blog is hard? Try finding time for quiet study and meditation when you have a 6 year old who is desperately stir crazy with you in every waking moment.

But I can tell today that it needs to be a priority. Sundays are kind of a day to refill spiritually and I can tell that my lamp is running on empty and there are no meetings of any kind to refill me. That falls to me these days.

There’s no dinner in the house tonight so I probably had better go up and make us some dinner here sooner or later.  But I thought that while I had a quiet moment and an internet connection, it was worth checking in. Sorry about the typos in yesterday’s blog post. I wrote from my phone and I obviously didn’t do a good job proofreading.

Transplant Day 43 and Celebrating 11 years

(Sorry.. Internet connection isn’t doing syncing pictures right now. Will edit and add later if I can.)

Today is our wedding anniversary. The week has been so crazy that I wasn’t sure how today was going to turn out. We got the day off of labs so we slept all the way till 8 a.m. But then when we woke up, getting ready quickly was important. Still have to get meds from the fridge downstairs by 9 a.m.

But the morning routine is getting better. Brian sent a package yesterday and so I opened that while Patrick was in the bath. It had a few thoughtful little gifts in it. It made me really, really miss my best friend. But one of the gifts was a necklace that I have been able to wear all day to remind me of him. I have been so glad that we went big with a Disney trip last year as we’ve had to spend this day apart.

Thankfully, it’s been an overall happy day. A group home nearby comes every day to clean the playroom toys. Today, they were later than usual, which meant that we got to spend the morning downstairs playing. The rest of the house was really quiet so it was a great time to get to be out of the room. That’s how you got multiple blog posts today.

I ordered Brian a pizza and pizza cookie. I really wanted to find a way to send him warm cookies for our anniversary.. And to tell him that I’ve been working on other plans. The pizza place was kind of enough to put a note in the pizza for me, even. Then Patrick and I went upstairs.We stopped by the office because they kept coming and telling me I’d received flowers. (Don’t I have a sweet husband? It’s fun to get flowers in a place where people get excited about them coming.)

Then I made lunch and I fully intended to put Patrick down for a nap. But then my phone rang and it was his homeschool teacher cancelling class today because he had a fever and was going home sick. Then, people started to come inside and tell us what a beautiful day it was outside. Patrick had been begging me to take him for a walk in one of the house’s wagons. So, I gave in.

We had a great time. (And I met my FitBit step goal for the first time in almost a month.) And, yeah, it was so nice that I still didn’t feel right making Patrick go sleep the day away. Instead, I offered to take him to the park. One of the moms here pulled out a local guidebook that they’ve put together and gave me the address of a nearby park. It was only a few blocks away and it was perfect for Patrick’s mood. Quiet. Small enough to not be too hard for his recovering body. He was so happy he was literally jumping up for joy.

Then he got really, REALLY tired. He asked to go back to sleep, but then remembered that he had a $1 bill in his pocket that had come in the mail yesterday and he was dying to spend it. I wanted to do some shopping anyway, so we packed up in the car and we drove to one of my favorite on-a-budget stores: Aldi.

But we didn’t find a way for Patrick to spend his money there. I had, however, noticed a Family Dollar on our drive out and knew that they bring in crazy cheap toys for Christmas. So we stopped there instead. He picked out a remote control car. (Ok ,ok. Not $1. He actually had another $10 that he’d forgotten about so I gave it to him to spend when he spotted this car.) I found a shelf of kid’s knit gloves. I’ve been looking for those EVERYWHERE! Patrick can’t help himself touching things everywhere we go. Kid’s vinyl gloves are not really accessible and also not really comfortable. But little knit gloves? We can stick those in the car and put them on when we get somewhere he might need them. And then, we can bring them home and stick them in the wash. I bought 14 pairs of knit gloves. Some are pink. Patrick insisted. And that’s ok.

When we got back, he really WAS tired. I meant to come back and just cuddle up in the room and watch TV and maybe he’d fall asleep for a bit and that would be ok. But his new car required a screwdriver to get open. And then we discovered that there was a big stack of mail for Patrick today.

Oh my gosh do we feel spoiled today! Savannah, Maria, Emily, and Clarene.. Thank you! Those packages just on time to make today feel a little more special.

And speaking of special, tonight’s dinner group brought along Santa Claus. Patrick was so excited to see him again that he ended up first in line. But then he froze and couldn’t remember what he was supposed to tell him he wanted. He also pulled one of his new favorite tricks on him and pretended he didn’t know his own name. It was a great Santa moment.

Santa brought a bag of beanie bears and Patrick picked one out with polka dots, then named her Chrissy after his favorite friend from school. (Have I mentioned that I taught Patrick about naming stuffed animals this week? He’s received 2 others this week. A stuffed dog he named Cookie. And a purple teddy bear that he’s bounced back and forth between calling Pink and Cute Bear.)

Anyway.. once Santa left, Patrick was for sure ready for bed. We came up to the room and he went and picked out his pajamas. I told him he could start changing while I got meds.. But with the hospital here preferring that we loop his line up instead of down, he accidentally tugged it and pulled his dressing off. I did my first dressing change here. It went ok. Patrick actually did a decent job helping out.. being my non-sterile hands.. a job usually reserved for another grown up. And we managed to get by with the very different dressing change kit provided by a new homecare company.

Then, we make a very quick Christmas ornament, read our nightly scriptures, practiced how to pronounce “Bethlehem”, said our prayers and laid down to sleep. Patrick was out in minutes and is fast asleep now.

So I’m wrapping up this blog post and hurrying off to the kitchen to get some more formula for the night and post what I’ve written. Then, if I’m lucky, I hope to get my husband on the phone for a bit on our anniversary.

11 years is worth some celebration! Especially 11 years married to my best friend. We’ve known each other over half our lives. Howie (or as you know him, Brian) has always been my anchor. He calms me down. He teaches me patience. He has carried me through all of my hardest times. It doesn’t matter if we are right next to each other or oceans apart, we have always been best together. But I sure am excited that there’s only one more week of this particular apart time because I miss him a lot. Especially today.