Sunday, June 30, 2013


Yesterday, Squib told me he didn't want to go to a friend's swim party because of his scar. (Leave it to my chitlins to skip all things laparoscopic and go straight for the scalpel...and other...things). It was the first time either one of them expressed a desire to hide any of their scars for any reason.

Squib's chest was cracked to reach his heart and repair it. He has a rather impressive "zipper" from stem to sternum, not to be too silly about it. Then there are all the puncture-type wounds for drains, etc. Beanstalk has a similar "zipper" from sternum to lower abdomen used to place his g-tube and explore what was thought to be a malrotation of the intestines. Beanstalk had to one-up every one by adding a scar for a subclavian line (the poor child inherited my veins) and two scars where--essentially-- his feet were cut off, the bones resculpted to correct the clubbing, and then were reattached. Obviously, Beanstalk "wins" if this was a contest.

But they are still here!!!!

How do you teach your children that those scars are battle scars from battles fought hard and won?! I walked them down the grey hallway and placed them in the hands of an anesthesiologist for each one of these battles. We nibbled our fingernails to the quick. We watched the clock. We feared. We prayed. We didn't care how they came out of it as long as they came out alive.

And they did! Each time I see those scars, I think, "We did it!....He did it!....We won!" "This kid is a fighter and he has a bad a** scar to prove it." Be ashamed of it? Oh, heck no!
I realize, though, that they want to fit in. They want to be like kids that have no "zippers." If it wasn't zippers, then it would be hair or clothes or shoes or things. But scars?

Those are signs of a warrior, kids. Few have made it through those and lived to tell. Be proud!

Monday, June 24, 2013

No wookin'!

Well, it's that time, now. At 7 and 10 (a few weeks shy of 8 and 11) the weebles are starting to talk! (Talk legibly is the only way we can describe it). There were times when I thought I'd never understand Squib and he'd continue to try repeating the same word again and again and again until I understood him the 40th time. Beanstalk was just eeking words out every third month (or so) if he needed to and not before.

Frankly, now that Squib talks, there are days I want to say, "would you please shut. up. now. please. thank. you." Oy! He even talks in his sleep. Talking wasn't really his speech issue. It was that he had trouble pronouncing things. Now I can understand him. It's fabulous! Really!

Along with all this, Squib is having a privacy streak. He tries to lock doors all the time. He's never used a door lock since there are all of two doors in our house, so he fumbles it all the time. He leaves it locked when the door is open and tries to slam it shut with the deadbolt out screaming, "no wookeen'!!!!" as loud as he can.

Beanstalk is using a lot more words. Lap, mama (I heard that 3 years ago), race, dance, cookies, water, please, thank you, etc. Also...the entire script of Despicable Me. Who knew? Apparently he watches that a lot at his Dad's. I put it on for the first time on Saturday and he could recite every character's lines w/inflection a hair of a second before they did. It was a little weird. We stared. Sad, but true. He did not notice because he was fairly swimming in vanilla wafers and water.

It sure is good to have kids that actually speak! In English!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Old Grey Mare

I was twenty-one when I had my first knee surgery (in February). It was on my right knee. The first surgeon scoped it to remove arthritic tissue and something called a plica that was supposed to have gone its merry way after I stopped crawling as a toddler. After I started falling all over the place and swelling and running a high fever and blacking out with pain during physical therapy it seemed to "people" that maybe something went wrong.

So we went to a second surgeon who's first question was, "Did it ever occur to him that the plica may still be there because it was still doing its job?"

Well, then.

That led to surgery number two (in July) and surgery number three (in December). 1993 flat out sucked. Mostly, it sucked doing the full semesters of college courses to keep my insurance (yay). The surgeon was rather appalled at what he found in there when he went to clean the back side of my knee caps off. "It was a hellish disaster area in there. I'll be shocked if she doesn't need new knees by the time she's forty! I'll give her a 30% chance of walking like she did before. What the **** did she do to screw them up this badly?" My parents had no idea. There was no accident or particular sports injury, so they suggested the only thing they knew.


Needless to say, I went to a new physical therapist as well. He did torture me. It was his job. He also knew what he was doing and in a relatively short time for someone destined to not walk again, I was up and moving around. It took a longer while to get a lot of my mobility back. Years. But, after I turned forty last year, I did run my mile. It was just something I told myself I was going to do when I got there with my very own knees (what's left of them).

I'll tell you what, though. They are starting to complain! I've fallen a few times. Stupid stuff. Moving chairs at the library. Caught my boot heel on the DishTV cable when it came loose from its hangers on the steps to the back yard. If my knees took that particular hit as personally as my face did, then...they are well and truly miffed.

So when Buddy asked me to do the spider monkey thing and rock climb over the stuff crammed into our storage unit to see if the mattresses were at the back, I realized three-quarters of the way into it that I was having more difficulty than usual and that maybe it was time to start training a new generation of spider monkeys. Since the trip involved climbing and lifting, there is more pain than just from hiking...and the old knees...

...just ain't what they used to be.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Phone Etiquette

This used to be a lot easier, I think. First, the phone was attached to the wall. When it rang you were inevitably unable to answer it a certain percentage of the time, so you gradually taught your children to talk on the phone. They just picked it up and spoke. No swiping or selecting FaceTime or speakerphone. No voicemail or answering machines. You had to learn a certain amount of etiquette like not telling people someone was in the bathroom or that your parents just left you alone at home or that you were all about to go out for a few hours.

Now, it's so much more complicated. Children (on average) are also so much more tech-saavy. Even Beanstalk, though he doesn't necessarily intend to utter a word, knows the touch buttons "do things" so he smiles and whispers under his breath and starts reaching out to poke things. My last conversation went something like this.

Me: Hello, Alex! Happy Birthday!

(Meep! Meeeeeeeep! Giggle...)

Beanstack: He's smiling and trying to mess with the phone. Just keep talking.

Me: I love you, sugar. I just wanted to call on your birthday and say I love you and I'm proud of you!

(Wrestling noises and stray beeping. More whispering in Klingon and the odd Beanstalk noise).

Beanstack: Oooohhhkay. I think he's done.

Me: Alrighty, you guys have a good night.

The phone call ends amidst somewhat of a din. Animal noises would not have surprised me. Now, Squib has this whole thing figured out and we have actually practiced good ways to decide what to say and how to remember them. Once. This was his latest attempt.

Me: Hello?

Squib: Hi, Mom!

(In the background I hear jostling like there is running going on. Pad, pad, pad, pad, etc.)

Squib: I miss you.

Me: Well, I miss you, too! What are you up to?

Squib: Nothing. (he sounds like I'm accusing him of a federal crime)

(He always says "nothing." We have yet to work on this part of conversation in general. If he were sitting right here, he'd say something like, "I've been making mutant ninjas out of baby turtles and they've been attacking the Earth in exchange for watermelons." Or something).

Me: Have you seen any good movies lately?

Squib: Yes. (but they, too, are state secrets)

(Sometimes I do beat my phone on my forehead. This is also when I hear his dad enter the room and say, "Where did you run off to with my phone?" Oh, oops. I sit here patiently and listen to the discussion about how Squib wanted to make the phone call in private, etc. But he's lost his train of thought, so he's done now).

Squib: I love you mom, bye! (like it's all one word)

The phone is already in his dad's hand and up to his dad's ear before I can tell him I love him, too. So I clamp my mouth shut. Nothing is weirder than telling your ex you love him by accident. Even if he knows it's not for him.

On Squib's part, he's counting the fact that he said approximately five things and isn't counting what they were, exactly. I don't know what he had on his list, but I'd be interested to know. He probably got totally derailed by the fact that he snuck off to have the conversation practice and didn't exactly tell his dad what was up and then felt like he got caught (which he did) and lost track of things totally.

So we are still in Phone Etiquette 101, it seems.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Height of the Beanstalk

The Saturday ritual of Andrea Bocelli's Sacred Arias DVD at 9:00 a.m. has, of course, already been discussed here. As has Beanstalk's ability (and now mine) to sing every word in the original language and direct every beat of the accompaniment. 9:00 a.m., people!

Something else has happened, though, over the last year. Slowly, but surely, I've lost track of the goings on in front of me all together. The secondary ritual to the viewing is that Beanstalk sits in my lap for the entire thing. He directs and sings vigorously, his sharp little butt bones jabbing me in the legs with every energetic hop to the tempo.

I lost my perspective on the world because my very first baby stopped growing and started spurting. The boy went and got TALLER.

Instead of being able to lean his head back on my chest or my shoulder and instead of me leaning on his shoulder to spy on the screen as I usually do....shoulder blades! That's all I see. Two scrawny little razor sharp shoulder blades and a similarly boney little (ok, not so little) spine. If he's feeling particularly magnanimous, he likes to sit cross-legged on my lap and let me watch as he throws a gangly arm around my shoulders and leans his head on mine. Kinda like when he's making sure his Curious George stuffed animal can see everything, too.

Welcome to Smallville.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I Have A Plan

Plans are good. They make us feel like we have some sort of control over the world around us. The majority of people in my life outside my family, of course, have plans. They actually plan their lives and things sometimes actually go according to plan. We stand amazed at those folks. We also stand bored.

It seems as though the Scat family has always been destined to exist just past the edge of all things plannable. We are always far enough into the unknown to become somewhat comfortable with the idea of complete uncertainty from one moment to the next. Learning to be 'somewhat comfortable' with that takes a very, very long time for some people.

When you exist out there, you are constantly bombarded by problems that need solving and often you have to solve them in new and unique ways. It's not just that you have to think outside the box. There is no box.

I try to instill the basics of problem solving in my kids.

Squib called to me from the kitchen last night. "Mom! I need your help!" He had gone in there to get some ginger ale.

I replied along the lines of "get your stool out of the bathroom" and/or "try to find a way, kiddo" or some such constructive advice. Yes, he's height challenge, but he's feisty and smart. I've seen him climb the pantry shelves like a monkey. He can do this.

"I already have a plan!" He hollered back. "I need you in order to do it!"

So I went into the kitchen and there he was. He had both refrigerator doors open wide. He was evenly spaced between them. He was crouched like a spring-loaded, angry, little bear cub--claws and everything--boring a hole in a ginger ale can on the very top shelf. He was totally ignoring the ones in reach, of course. The reason for this is that the cans on the top shelf get a little slushy. They are, admittedly, the best. So I can't argue. I go top shelf myself.

"What's the plan?" I asked. I was still thinking step stool or bar stool.

"I'm ready!" He growled. "Just throw me at it."

He had such a wild, committed look on his face. He was obviously dead serious.

"No." I said. He deflated like a balloon.

"What?!" He even stomped a foot. "I had a plan!"

"Have you thought through what could really happen?" I asked.

He looked at the refrigerator and back at me.

"I'm just going to grab the can and fall back. I'm not going to knock anything else over. I promise." Pitiful, pleading eyes. The monkey could probably do it.

"Step stool? Bar stool?" I asked.

"Not at all fun." True.

I handed him the can of ginger ale and he shuffled along his depressed path on this earth. One plan less for this world.

Hopefully they figure out solutions that don't cause more problems. ;)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How To Recognize an Emergency

Earlier this week, I had one mother of a migraine. I have a spectacular supervisor, so I took my meds and emailed her and said I was going to sleep off the yuck and come in for a half day later that day. She emailed back saying they were stalking me to do sub work so perhaps I'd like to have a longer headache, LOL.

This meant I was actually there when Dad waltzed in and casually announced that Baba was gushing blood out her ear and they had been told by the doctor to go to the emergency room as soon as possible. So they both were showering and getting ready and then going.

**she was not gushing blood out her ear, but I'm bound by not exactly tell 'stuff'**

Dad stood in my bedroom as he said, "Well, her brain keeps coming out her ear. Normally she pokes it back in, but it's not staying in there this time."

I had to take several long blinks. He said it like it was normal, for one. He also wasn't acting emergent at all, for two.

"I think you should go to the ER." I added some emphasis. It flopped on the floor like a dead minnow regardless of the fact that her doc had said to get the h-e-double-hockey-sticks to the ER without stopping.

They went. The ER doc, bless his malpractory socks, proceeded to cram it back in (Hmmm...let me see here..has this been tried yet? Then there's the blood.) and send her home. And they were blissfully headed out the door despite my screaming via text about the potential harms of brain twisting and hemorrhage, etc. Then, Baba stood up to go and her brain flopped out again. Duh. So they did cram it back in, but with strict orders not to move her again and to bed she went and there to stay in the lovely hospital.

Needless to say, he called a surgeon at that point who determined (over the phone, heh) that a surgical fix was necessary and now it's 24 hours later and the fix is fixed and we're sleeping away the morphine. Well, not 'we' but her.

So just a helpful hint to you. Innards belong in the innards.

Monday, June 3, 2013

What It All Comes Down To... that I haven't got it all figured out just yet.

I haven't really had time. You see, around here we do crisis like pros. It's been that way since I first remember anything at all. One of my first memories, in fact, was my mother walking down a long hallway at a church toward me. I was at a bible camp. She came to tell me they were putting her in the hospital and someone else would be there to pick me up other than her or dad. Truthfully, it's been that way--one medical emergency after another--ever since.

Baba picked me up that day and took me home to get some things I needed and then took me to her house. My mother struggled with her health ever since then with multiple hospitalizations. I learned to sleep in chairs, forge her signature to pay bills (give dad a break...someone had to earn the insurance), clean, take care of my brother, and once I even attended a "parent" conference. I'd alternate nights at the hospital with dad except for that week or so that he and attrition got the raging flu and were banished. That week I made my home at the hospital. I did relief duty several years later on Thanksgiving break from college when everyone was spent. It was just something we learned to do. There's a rhythm to it. A way of life. We each dug our foxholes and learned how to make a life there.

In every way it was like a war. There was the battle we watched tediously whether or not we wanted to. Then there was the time we filled like any soldier between skirmishes. Card games. Music. Reading. Sleeping, etc. We'd dream of meals eaten on actual plates and nights slept in real beds and silence. Pure, smooth, unbeeping silence. We'd pray.

The war on illness is also waged in the soul. This is not to say that all illness is the result of sin in the sense that, for example, you contracted a cold because you lied to someone. Illness exists because we're in a broken world. If you think it isn't broken, then you aren't hanging out in the right places. Or the wrong places. I don't know. But when the hour gets quiet, there is only you alone with your soul's aching. Pleading for this to be the last of it. The end of all life lived out of a back pack and a duffel. The desire to feel completely clean and rested. The desire for the pain of your loved to stop.

After so long, you begin to see the benefits to things you knew nothing about before. The same woman that picked me up the day this all got started almost forty years ago had surgery on Friday. Was I worried? No. You want to know why? If she died during surgery, then she got what she wished for. Go ahead and think me crude. She's ready, people. Losing her mind in bits and pieces and suffering through various surgeries and chemotherapies isn't something I can hope for her. She's got a better place to go to. I'll favor that over most treatments almost any day in her case.

When Beanstalk was born, we refurbished our foxholes and made room for more. Same with Squib. Talk about difficult things to pray for. Suddenly, even the foxholes weren't safe anymore. We proceeded like usual, but with a child? They don't make walls to protect you from the damage of watching them struggle. How those two have emerged as the happiest two kids on the planet is a miracle of epic proportions.

Now Baba is in the hospital and we are back in foxhole mode. Perhaps that's our learning experience. Maybe it's just a safety zone. Whatever it is, I know that this sort of emergent disaster is something I'm more used to than anything else. I want it to end, but I just don't know what I would do with myself if it did. Perhaps we're not supposed to live any other way. No big, comfy, uneventful lives. It's just possible that we are to be taking care of each other like this. It's hard. Brutal. Exhausting.'s THE thing that matters to them at the time. THE thing that matters, period.

You aren't living life if you don't get it on you.