Tag Archives: helpers

Daddy in Norway

A couple of months ago, Brian came home and told me that the business associate that was visiting from Oslo had surprised him with an offer he didn’t think he could accept. Because the internet is a global enterprise, you shouldn’t be surprised (though you probably haven’t thought of it) to learn that web companies sometimes do business with other companies overseas. This particular one was holding a conference near their headquarters in Oslo, Norway. Brian was invited.

You may not know about me, because I live so deeply in the special needs mom world, that I was a student of linguistics in college. That I love other cultures. That I taught English as a Second Language. That until we became parents that we were travelling as often as occasion allowed. No. If my husband was invited to visit a new place in Europe, I wasn’t going to say no.

I did tell him that I couldn’t promise that I wouldn’t be jealous and/or that I wouldn’t have a hard time holding it together while he was away. But I did promise I would try.

So, last Tuesday as I was dealing with a fire at home, Brian hopped on a plane to Norway, with a connection in Amsterdam. He spent the first part of his week in the conference being shmoozed by the hosting company, with a little bit of touring Oslo in the meantime. Then, he headed off with the friend who’d invited him to a cabin in the Norwegian forest where he biked, boated, and even walked barefoot through a forest so moss-covered that it was as if the forest was carpeted.

I make it a policy to not stay home and sulk if I can help it. A great deal of time and energy was spent working on taking care of our little house fire.

Thank goodness reinforcements also came on time to help with that. With summer starting, the neighbor girl who is doing respite for me started. She worked 3 days last week and it was life-saving. As an added bonus, the neighbor’s 10 year old called and came over a couple of times during the week to play with Patrick. He adores her and it really helps me. Then there was the amazing friend of mine who came to my house after getting her own boys up and ready for the day to help me get Patrick and myself up and ready by 8 a.m. so that we were keeping in habit between Nebraska and the start of summer school. I swear I only showered that week because of her help.

Two other friends worked together to bring in a meal Tuesday night and that, combined with leftovers of a frozen lasagna and spaghetti I’d made Sunday, made up most of what Patrick and I ate that week. I think the most complicated other cooking I did was some vegan macaroni and cheese from a box.

I’ve become aware of a tendency between Patrick and myself to build upon each other’s negativity. If I am in a bad mood and criticize him, then he becomes more defiant and naughty, and I in turn get more strict. So I decided that, as we kicked of summer, we needed a way to encourage more positive speak. I’d read an idea of putting warm fuzzies in a jar when children are caught being good. But I didn’t have any pom poms. What I did have was a bag of rainbow colored foam popsicle sticks. Cut in half, they created a very durable, easy to handle “ticket”. Sunday night, while I was waiting for Brian to see why the internet was out, I slapped some labels on an old gelato jar and a formula can. One for me, one for him. And now, I carry a pocket full of tickets. When I catch Patrick doing something especially kind of helpful, when he obeys when he doesn’t want to, when he gets control of his temper when he is feeling out of control, etc. he gets a ticket. They easily move from my pocket to his. And once or twice a day we empty his pocket into the jar. When the jar gets full, he earns a reward. At first, I was offering kids meals. Now, we’ve opened that up to a dollar at the dollar store, too, since we are filling the jar more than once a week.

Anyway – this has helped the mood in our house. It also gave us a great excuse for an outing.

Wednesday is “library day” in our house. So, once the cable was fixed Wednesday, with Patrick’s jar full, I decided we had earned an outing. I checked out museum passes for the month of June. I thought we’d start with what had been his least favorite museum before, the Leonardo. And then we could go over and visit the city library.

Well, it turns out that the exhibits at the Leonardo have changed a bit and Patrick has grown up a lot. He is a little bit of an engineer at heart, taking after his father and grandfathers in wanting to know how things work. And he couldn’t get enough of the hands-on engineering exhibits at the Leonardo. He wasn’t as much in love with the arts side of things. But, when I thought he’d seen it all and suggested we go, he announced, “No! I love to be here!” And we went and did them all again. We arrived at 3:30. We stayed till 5. That is a long time at one thing for Patrick.

When we left the museum, I considered moving my car, since it was in 2 hour parking.. but instead let Patrick lead up up the stairs on the outside of the library. You can climb to the roof of the Salt Lake City Library by a long circular set of stairs on the outside. Of course, Patrick did. And then, after playing on the roof, we rode downstairs in the glass-walled elevators to the children’s section. Patrick was enchanted.

The children’s section has a hole fort-like reading corner. We picked out books and went to read. Then Patrick needed a diaper and I remembered my car, now 10 minutes past time to move it. We went outside with the intention of moving the car.. but getting outside reminded us both we were hungry and Patrick voted to go to dinner.

He’d chosen Arby’s for dinner and a downtown location felt just fancy enough. I knew we needed to do some grocery shopping, too, and while we were eating I remembered that the downtown Smith’s location as a fairly large allergy section that I’d never explored. So we went grocery shopping. Patrick was beat! But they had goldfish crackers on sale. (We’re using them to give him small amounts of dairy exposure to try to help reduce that allergy… plus he loves them.) And, as I went looking for vegan mayo, I discovered a new product called “Just Ranch” that happened to be on clearance. It was an entirely vegan ranch dressing. And next to it was “Just Coleslaw Dressing,” though they were out of “Just Mayo.” We picked up a few, headed to the car, and made it home, snacking on goldfish while we drove, just on time to go to get by 8.

Friday, we tried to meet some support group friends at the park. I’d picked an adaptive playground I love because I find them easier not just for wheelchairs, but also for kiddos with TPN or tube feeds in tow. Alas, we ended up there alone. Short gut means hectic schedules and I often end up planning get togethers that only I attend. But we stayed to play, anyway. We’d made up some chicken salad with the Just Coleslaw dressing and Patrick devoured it. (Yay!) Being an adaptive playground means it was full of special needs kids and their special moms. So when the phone rang and it was Patrick’s summer school teacher calling to learn about him before the next week, some sweet special moms just took him in with their own so I could talk.

Saturday, we decided to try out another museum pass. This time to the Museum of Natural History. I’d opted to spend the morning working in the yard before it got too hot. And it was crowded in the afternoon, which made it harder for Patrick to focus. But we still spent a couple of happy hours and I think he got a chance to explore and play with everything that suits his abilities.

Sunday, we attempted a little more church than usual. Patrick did really well in Sacrament meeting. He set up his toys on the floor and happily entertained himself past our goal of the first talk. It took effort me to stick to my resolution to not overload him and leave once we’d met the goal.

We went home, ate lunch, and talked to Daddy.

That afternoon, I took Patrick back for Primary. His first attempt since transplant. He was tired by then. And overwhelmed by the new place. He said the opening prayer, except he didn’t. They’d whisper ideas of things he might say in his ear, and he’s just say “no.” But he got to talk in the microphone, which made him happy.

Then, he ran wild around the room for the remainder of singing time. (Different to go observe instead of leading.) And then I took him home.

I’ll write more about Monday. Maybe tomorrow. The short version is that he started school, I started working with a district representative to talk about his 1st grade placement, and then we went and brought Daddy home from the airport. That night, I cooked my first real (not restaurant, frozen, boxes or reheated) meal in 2 weeks. And we were all ready to crash by 9.

How can I help?

Yesterday when we were checking into the Ronald McDonald house, our host asked where we were from. When we said Utah, he said, “Oh! Mormon country!”… Then after a pause told us he’d just come back from Utah after helping to settle some kids who’d been through a really rough time. “Mormons really take care of their own.”

We can testify from our own experience that that is true. And yet, our amazing friends, family, and congregation are always asking what more they can do. One of the questions we hear most during these long difficult stretches is “How can I help?”

So, in tribute to all of you, and in answer to the dozens of people who have asked for ways to help over the past few weeks, I thought I’d pass our waiting room time bragging about some of the ways we’ve been helped over the years.

1. Visits.. It doesn’t matter if we’re at home or in the hospital. A new person always lightens and lifts the mood. For example, last hospital stay one of our friends was brought to the hospital for work and found herself with some extra time. She texted and asked if it was a good time to stop by. She came and, because Patrick needed out of the room, we walked down to the playroom. That’s when we discovered his line had broken and we turned around and headed back to the room. She walked with us, and as nurses swarmed the room to help the problem, noticed that the breakfast cart had come. So she went and picked up a muffin and milk for me.

I share this story for two reasons. First, it shows that you might just dive into chaos and wonder if you’re in the way. The truth is that Patrick talks about who visited all day long, whether the visit was at a “good time” or not, whether we actually had time to chat and play or not.

When we got home, another friend came to visit and brought a few new toys and a balloon. (New distractions are always a big help). Patrick’s talking about that visit a week later.

We get lonely. We get sick of each other. We need our days broken up. We may not be great hosts, but just your presence helps.

2. Food. In the Mormon world, bringing food is something we’re exceptional at. And believe it or not, it really helps. On the return from one hospital stay, a friend showed up with a pan of uncooked enchiladas. It was a few days later when we got to cooking them, but it was so nice to have a prepared meal in the fridge. Once we returned home from a trip to find a pizza on the porch. And you may remember when we charged a cookie entrance fee to visit Patrick in the PICU. Those cookies were needed sugar during time when we rarely wanted to leave Patrick’s side, and a lot of fun to share with nurses and other hospital staff and patients as we had so many of them that we couldn’t eat them all.

In the hospital, lunches are especially challenging for me. I often can’t get out of the room to get something to eat. Once, I picked up the phone to order room service to the ER 10 times in an hour and never could stay on the phone long enough to place an order. I often just skip lunch when Patrick is hospitalized. But I’m a grumpy bear when I’m hungry. Food helps me be a better mom.

If you really want to make my day when we’re in the hospital, show up with a sandwich or some snacks. (Do you know there was once when Patrick ran a fever and wanted me to lay in bed with him for 48 hours and the only food I ate were the snacks friends delivered?)

I love our family who faithfully pack Sunday picnic lunches to eat on the patio? Even though the medflight helicopters blow all of the food away when they take off and land? And I love my mom who often things to bring along things like fresh fruit and vegetables.

3. Play time. You’d have to not be looking to miss that Patrick is a VERY active and playful little boy. He wants to be doing something every moment and if he gets bored can stumble into trouble very quickly. One of the biggest helps for me is when someone will come to play.

For this entire summer, my next door neighbor’s youngest daughter has been coming over to play with Patrick. She has so much more energy than me and is more than happy to push him all around the backyard in his stroller to make him laugh, or to read books, or to do crafts. We’ve even taken a couple of field trips to a nearby splash pad. Because Patrick’s an only child, having another child to play with is an amazing gift for him. And for me? It gives me a short break from being the one who thinks of fun things to do.

Playdates are an amazing help. The patient practice Patrick gets playing with other kids. Often they come at moments where you may wonder why we’re crazy enough to go out, but it offers just the break and distraction we needed.

I’ve had teenagers come to play while I did dishes and another friend come bring the most amazing craft and science projects.  I’ve even had friends ride along to doctor’s appointments to play with Patrick in the waiting room. Patrick is so happy to have the company.. And any opportunity to wipe down counters, fold some laundry, load a dishwasher without little helping hands helps me.

4. Help with the chores. That brings me to my next topic. Chores. I always have more things on my to do list than I have done. Especially since conversations with doctors, appointments, hands-on medical care, and quality time with Patrick trump household duties quite often.

My little sister is awesome about this. She often comes by in the afternoon after school or work and helps me put the toys back in the toybox, sweep, prep dinner, iron, etc. If Patrick wakes up while we’re working, she takes him to play and lets me finish.

When Patrick was coming home from the NICU, a “cleaning crew” from our church came and sanitized the house. And one sweet lady took about a dozen shirts from me, ironed them, and brought them back to put away. I’ve had people take home our laundry, wash, and return it. We’ve had neighbors water and mow our lawn, pick up our mail, bring in our garbage cans. And on and on.

It makes a home feel so peaceful when it is clean. And often, helping me clean is easier than helping with Patrick.

5. Help in medical moments. I have to give a special shout out to friends, neighbors, and family who have stepped up and learned to do things they never imagined they’d need. You have prepped TPN, given meds through a g-tube, changed countless central line dressings, restrained Patrick so I could change a button, clamped off broken lines, treated allergic reactions, caught vomit, changed diapers with our crazy diaper cream regimen, sat with a febrile little boy so I could pack a hospital bag, and on and on. And, in what is the one of the smallest and biggest things you do, you have carried Patrick’s backpack while he explored so we could sit down.

We are a part of a very, very lucky and small minority of special-needs, and especially short gut, parents who have not just one but several people we can call on in these moments. Because of you, we still make it to the temple sometimes, catch a hockey game, see a movie, and go on dates. You make it so he can go to Primary at church with the other children. You get me to the dentist. You let me nap.

5. Listen. You read my blog. You follow us on facebook. You help us troubleshoot. (Like the onesie pattern that Brian’s mom and I developed over the years to keep his line and button safe at night… or the countless little issues solved by brainstorming with other short gut families online.) You chat. You call. You stop and give me a hug and let me cry without saying anything at all.

6. Prayer. And, when you can do nothing more, you pray for us. I have felt us lifted up by your prayers. I have felt the peace of your prayers. And I have seen countless medical miracles because of your prayers. Thank you for thinking of us, praying for us, and keeping our names on prayer rolls and in prayer groups and flickering in the flame of sacred candles.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! How would we have made it this far without you?

And thank you for continuing to offer your help. I hope this brag list helps answer your question of how you can (or already do) help.