December 30, 2008

An Official Diagnosis

About three weeks ago, Savannah came to show me her big toe which had a large red bump on it and was sore to the touch. Tom and I both looked at it, poked and prodded it, felt it for warmth (it wasn't) and decided with our vast medical wisdom that it was probably a spider bite. We washed it, put Neosporin on it, and went merrily on our way.

I've been keeping tabs on it, and while it never looked any better, it really didn't look any worse either. I told her that if it was still bugging her after Christmas, I would take her to the doctor to have it checked out. A promise I made "knowing" that it would be fine by then, and I wouldn't have to spend yet more money on medical bills (this past year has been a red-letter year for that). Christmas day, it actually started looking worse, the red was expanding, and it was getting markedly more swollen. Being the good mom that I try to be, this morning we headed off to the doctor.

There the doctor did the same poking and prodding that Tom and I had done. They took x-rays to rule out a broken toe, and drew blood (a very traumatic moment for Savannah and thus for me) to rule out infection, inflammation, and rheumatoid arthritis. Her diagnosis: "I really don't know." She's too young for gout, especially with no family history. The arthritis is a stretch too, but we needed to rule it out. She called an orthopedic specialist and got us an appointment for this afternoon.

By this time, my worried-mama mind was heading in MANY terrible directions. This afternoon we went in for the appointment with the specialist, prepared for the worst. I think we both expected her to be admitted to the hospital, with perhaps an amputation in her immediate future.

The new doctor listened to the story, looked at the poor, swollen toe and then put a blood pressure cuff on the opposite ankle. "Just for fun" he wanted to cut off the blood supply to that foot for 5 minutes. In "normal" people (he obviously doesn't know us!), as soon as you release the cuff, the blood will instantly recolor the foot. In other people (like Savannah, as it turns out) it will take 7-10 seconds to gradually recolor the foot, and then the entire thing will be a really pretty scarlet.

So what is it?

Vasospastic Syndrome: Definitions:1. an inherited tendency to respond to stimuli such as coldness or emotional stress with inappropriate vasoconstriction or insufficient vasodilatation in the microcirculation.

In English, this means that when her hands and, in this case, her feet get cold, the blood vessels shrink up and block the blood flow to toes and fingers. If it's bad enough you get tissue damage such as what Savannah has. And it more than likely was inherited from me (my fingers are ultra-sensitive to the cold of winter; just one more reason I hate snow). The cure for this is to keep hands and feet warm and dry, covering them with what turns out to be the world's most expensive and hardest to find kid-size socks (SmartWool, only $12 per pair!) and another new pair of snow boots (The last pair were bought, coincidentally, 3-4 weeks ago, right before this problem). The new boots are not nearly as stylish as the old in Savannah's eyes, but at least they're warm, and waterproof.

To sum up: Today I spent $70 in co-pays, $45 for new boots, $20 for wool socks, and Lord only knows how much I'll owe for x-rays and blood tests. But the priceless moment? The priceless moment is having your daughter medically diagnosed as a SPAZ!

Hmmm... what does that say about me?

December 27, 2008

Precious and few...

Last month, right before Thanksgiving, there was a nasty accident in Sardine Canyon that took the lives of 3 people: 2 young parents and a 9 year old neighbor girl they had with them. Their own 5 year old daughter survived, but with several broken bones, and their toddler was unharmed.

Sardine Canyon is beautiful at all times of the year, but especially in the fall. When I worked in Ogden, I used to treasure my daily drive to and from work, even though it was an hour each way. However, I DREADED the winter: steep hills, sharp curves, horrible wind that created blizzard-like conditions at the "dry lake" part, insufficient snow plowing (especially early in the morning and late at night, the times I normally drove through), and a lack of a barrier between my lane and oncoming traffic, just to name a few things.

After I had Savannah, I continued to commute through the canyon, taking her with me to a daycare close to my work each day. Savannah was a very colicky baby and would literally SCREEEAAAMMM her way to and fro each day. She had a nasty habit on the return trip of finally falling asleep when we reached the reservoir, which was approximately 3 minutes away from home. Needless to say, between the screaming baby and the thought of winter, I decided it was time to find work closer to home. Although I had loved my job, I have never regretted giving it up, and it has been a huge relief to not drive through Sardine.

No sooner had I given up my job there then Tom got a job that required him to make the same tricky drive, and it scares me to death, especially after tragedies like those I mentioned at the first. He was literally cars behind the crash that killed the 3 I mentioned earlier. He had a front row seat to watch as the police and paramedics put up a shield to keep people from seeing the wreckage, and again as Life Flight landed. This accident really touched me, probably because of the young ages of all involved, to the little girl Savannah's same age who died. It's all too easy, driving through that canyon as often as we do, to imagine that it could have been one of us. To help ease my nerves, Tom calls me each day as he leaves work so that I will know, approximately, what time I should begin to panic... Usually each night, about the time that I reach for the phone to call and check up on him, I see his trusty headlights coming down the road.

Like most couples, we have our ups and downs and don't always see eye-to-eye on everything - often even major things. However, I am reminded how much I love him each night in the winter as I wait anxiously for him to arrive home. The problems we face fade in the light of imagining a life without him.

Christmas Eve this year also brought a reminder of just how precious life is. One of Josh's very best friends from high school, Eric Jorgensen, died in an avalanche while snowmobiling that morning. He was 22 and had just gotten married earlier this year. He and Josh and a group of about 4 others were basically inseparable: the kind of friends that kept in close touch even as life moved them in separate directions. A skiing accident claimed another of the boys, Chris, their senior year which I think made the remaining friendships all the more strong. They all knew firsthand how quickly things can change.

I am so sad about Eric and I cannot imagine the pain his family is going through right now, especially at this time of the year. Since Josh has joined the Army and moved on to start his own life, we do not see this group of great kids very often except when he comes home for a visit. Eric served a mission for his LDS church so had been gone for the last couple of years and hadn't been around for these visits.

Just over a month ago I was sitting in our living room on a weekend afternoon, arguing with the boys over something stupid (none of us can even remember now what it was). I saw a truck pull up and some shaggy guy got out and came to the door. Even after I answered it and he asked for Tom, I couldn't figure out who it was. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be Eric. He had grown a beard and mustache, and had just returned from hunting so he did not look like himself at all, but he truly looked content and happy! I am so glad now that I got to see him that last time.

I am once again reminded of just how precious life is, and how quickly it can be taken away from you. The last couple of years has brought me reminder after reminder of this fact, but it seems like I have amnesia, and it's so easy to get caught up in the annoying "little" things, especially with those we love like our kids and spouses. Like many parents, I find myself longing for the kids (teenagers especially!) to be grown and on their own. I am resolving this next year to spend more time enjoying their uniqueness, their goofy personalities, and even their annoying traits.

Josh is flying in on Monday for the funerals, and I am going to hug on his neck even if he calls me T-dawg or any of the other annoying nicknames he has for me (apparently guys don't EVER grow out of this trait). And with all the other kids, each time they drive me crazy I will try to remember: "there but for the grace of God go I."

Now go hug a loved one...

December 20, 2008

Up Close and Personal...

Yesterday was the culmination of a long week at work, with more work ahead of me for the weekend: Christmas cards (yes, I've still not done them, but I DID finally get my real letter written), laundry, wrapping presents (or as Savannah asked: "Mommy, when are you going to fold our presents?" Can you tell how much of my life is spent on laundry?!), grocery shopping, and finishing up the gift buying.

With all of this in mind, and with the snow falling in great gobs, I decided that I really didn't want to deal with cooking dinner. I ordered pizza from Hyrum for the kids and dinner for Tom and me from the small restaurant here in town. Anyone who knows me well knows that even though I've lived in Idaho and Utah all of my life, I am NOT a fan of snow. I do not ski (although I'll admit that I'd really like to try cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing), snowmobiling is fun for about the first 10 minutes before frostbite sets in, and ice skating is a personal recipe for disaster. All those songs about "dreaming of a white Christmas" are a total bunch of crap in my book!

But I digress... Although most sane people would order pizza and then have it delivered to them in the comfort of their home, and although the only thing I hate worse than snow is having to DRIVE in the snow, I also have this part of me that feels guilty about making somebody else have to drive in it. So, I ordered it to go. Braden and I hopped in our Tahoe (thank GOD for 4-wheel drive) to drive the 7 miles to Hyrum to pick up the pizza.

As we were slowly returning along the dark, long, skinny, and slippery 2-lane road (with a deep drop-off to the canal lining the entire thing) home, Braden calmly said "deer." I have long-suspected that Braden has more than just a touch of A.D.D., so in addition to constantly fidgeting, he doesn't often say anything in a calm manner. He's very enthusiastic about life and everything he has to say!
Anyway, he had been yammering on and on about who knows what while simultaneously tapping a raucous drumbeat on the top of the pizza box. The word "deer" briefly entered my subconscious as not fitting in with the conversation, which I'll admit I was only half listening to as I concentrated on the road. Then he calmly said it again. Because of his natural exuberance, I've often worked with him about not screaming something when he DOES get excited because it will more than likely cause me heart failure, even if it's for nothing. Finally he'd learned his lesson, just when a nice, rousing shout of "GREAT MOTHER OF ALL THAT"S HOLY" would have been better.

All of this transpired in the space of about two seconds of course, so about the same time that I was pondering it, I also saw the deer in the headlights. I knew I couldn't stomp on the brakes because the road would be too slippery and we'd go off into the ditch for sure. I also knew I couldn't hit the deer without doing some major damage to both it and us. We braked, it looked at us, we slid, it looked at us, we slid some more, and it finally decided to meander out of the way.

Honestly, I don't know HOW we didn't hit it or go off the road. That is the closest I've ever come to certain disaster, and it really did seem to play out in slow motion. As we finally drove past, Braden congratulated me on my good driving (which was really a compliment coming from him) and continued on with his story... Meanwhile, my heart was trying to take flight within my chest, and the good old adrenaline kicked in and my leg (which was really needed for pushing on the gas pedal) started shaking like a chihuahua in a snowbank...

This just goes to prove my point, once again, that I should have been born as a bear so that I could just hibernate the winter away.

December 17, 2008

Let's be honest

One of the things that I love about this time of the year are all the Christmas cards from friends and family, and I especially love getting the generic Christmas letters that some people send out to everyone on their list.

I'm not being sarcastic when I say that, either. I think it stems from my grandmother. She wrote Christmas letters every year that I can ever remember, and I used to love reading them, especially to see what she'd written about me (there's nobody like a grandma to make you feel like queen of the world, even if in reality you were a totally shy, nerdy girl!). I still have several of them that were sent to me once I had grown up, married, and moved out on my own, and I absolutely love reading over these snapshots from the past. Not only do they bring back memories long forgotten, but it's a little like having her back with us. I can practically hear her voice in my head as I read them. Since my grandparent's were both blind, I had the privileged job of being "reader of the mail" from the time I was in 4th grade. At Christmas-time, I looked forward to reading those letters from their friends as much as they enjoyed hearing them.

I know some people complain that those letters are "impersonal," but I know how busy my own life is, and if I had to write a completely personal letter to each person on my mailing list, it just wouldn't happen. In fact, if I'm being totally honest (as the post title suggests I will be), I'm doing well on the year's I actually MAIL my cards. I dutifully buy them each year, but I probably average every-other year in actually sending out my Christmas greetings. I'm working on it. As of today, I still haven't mailed out this year's greetings, but it WILL happen, even if I have to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Easter Blessings, all at the same time! Anyway, I understand that my life is not the only one that's scarily out-of-control, so I love reading my own friends' letters to catch up on their lives, especially those that I don't get to visit with as often as I'd like.

I'm bound and determined to get mine sent out by the end of this week, but I want to include my own letter as I've done the past few years (at least those where I was on the ball!). Here's the problem, though: I don't know what to write. 2008 hasn't been the worst year for us, all things considered, but it hasn't been the best either. I know that we can't be alone in this, and I have to wonder just how many of the letters I receive are "padded" a bit to make life sound good. It seems like every one has a perfect marriage, perfect kids, perfect jobs, ad nauseum...

Have you been to my home? Perfect we ain't! So, in the spirit of getting "real" this year, here are my proposed highlights:

Tom has worked as service manager of the automotive shop for another year without going totally insane, especially given the state of the economy, the cost of gas to get back and forth, and the attitudes of certain underlings who also happen to be the boss' sons. The eye twitch has subsided with medication, and we feel positive that the anger management classes will be a grand success!

Tracy continues to work at the university where she always feels like a loved and highly valued employee. The gray highlights in her hair continue to fill in nicely, and she's excited to have added 57,000 miles in the last year to her vehicle shuttling surly teenagers from event to event. Referred to fondly as "Momster," she lives only for her childrens' needs and asks nothing in return. Except back rubs, which she NEVER gets.

Evan is on a real roll and has remained ungrounded, through sheer luck and deception, consistently since the end of October! We go into the next year with high hopes that he will pass the 10th grade, and he'll probably only have to take a few hours of summer school to reach this goal.

Braden looks up to Evan as a real role-model and is following in his scholarly footsteps. In other highlights, he almost shot his first elk earlier in the year, and would have had it had he BROUGHT more than just one bullet from the truck parked 3000 vertical feet and 2 miles away in snow a mere 3-feet deep.

Savannah continues to be a "daddy's girl," honing the much-needed future skills of manipulation and perfection of "head games" on her unsuspecting father. Sadly, she has frequently fallen ill. It's some sort of new disease that is brought on solely when asked to complete some chore around the house or in her bedroom.

So there you have it! The true goings-on from the Jones family. At least it'll make you feel better about your own life!

Merry Christmas everyone... :-)

December 13, 2008

Daddy/Daughter Conversations

Savannah rides her morning school bus with a couple of little cretins, errr, I mean little boys, that pick on her. This pair has been dealt with many times by the bus driver (not just for picking on S), but the problems never seem to get solved. Because of this, last year Tom started giving her a ride to school each morning, which has worked out really well. I have to wake up earlier than they do to get to work on time, so I usually get ready in blissful silence (at least after the boys leave!), and then I wake them both up just minutes before heading out the door. Savannah is totally a daddy's girl, so I just assumed that this was good quality time for the pair.

A few days ago I had another one of my sleepless nights, and I just could NOT drag myself out of bed on time and opted to gain at least 1 more hour of sleep before heading to work. Tom had an appointment at 10 a.m. which meant he also got to sleep in a little before showing up for it. Sooo... I decided that I would take Savannah with me when I left and drop her off at school. I don't know if it was just because she doesn't get to see me much in the mornings, but she was in full-on chat mode. She talked my ear off, never once stopping to catch a breath! Tom wandered in after I sent her in for cereal, and made the comment "Wow... she hardly ever talks to me... She just looks at me really weird." Hmmm... There were so many ways I could have responded, but I decided to be nice and didn't take the bait!

As I was driving her to school, I decided to approach the subject to see if I could figure out why.

Me: So Daddy says that you don't hardly even talk to him in the mornings... How come you don't?

Savannah: Because he's a GUY, and they just don't like to say as many words (this stated with the tone of voice "Duh mom!"). Plus, he doesn't do GIRL talk...

Me: O-Kay... He also says that you look at him weirdly... What's that all about?

Savannah: (Real matter-of-factly, indeed, almost cheerfully): Oh, that's because he's got blood all over.

Me: What??!!!

Savannah: You know, from where he gets cut shaving.

Needless to say, I giggled the rest of the way to work. Later in the day I told Tom that I had figured out his problems, and shared the story with him. Yesterday, he called me after he got to work to tell me that things had gone much better, and she talked to him more.

To help set the conversation up, however, you need to know a little information about our darling Tweener. Savannah has recently been traumatized by the fact that two of her cousins who are only 2 years older than she have started wearing training bras. The horror! All of a sudden, you can't even say the word without her saying "that's disgusting!" I keep explaining to her that she'd better get used to the idea, because baby, your time is coming soon!

Anyway, back to the original story. Here's how their conversation went:

Tom: So what kind of GIRL talk should we talk about?!

Savannah (looking at him to see if she'd really heard correctly): Umm, I don't know..

Tom: Should we talk about BRAS!

Savannah (giggling): DADDY!

I think the ice has been broken. :-)

December 5, 2008

Not exactly my style, but... was pretty sweet all the same.

As I've said before, I really love listening to my favorite music. The boys, Tom, and Savannah all have their own favorite tunes too, of course. Each of our tastes are often VERY different, although there's usually a few places where common ground can be reached: Chris LeDoux, Toby Keith, etc.

Braden is my truly musical child. He has always been able to carry a tune beautifully (which he did
not get from me), although now that he's hit puberty he sometimes hits an odd note. I love to sing, but I can truly say that I suck. When the kids were little, there were no lullabies in the world that came from my mouth that would calm the kids; I daresay that they usually cried harder after my feeble attempts to soothe them.

Anyway, back to Braden. In addition to being a really good singer, he also is very talented on both piano and guitar, even though he's never really had lessons. A few years ago, Savannah had wanted to start piano lessons. We do not have any room in our house for a piano (although I would LOVE to), so my mom got her an electric keyboard that she could keep in her room. Unfortunately, the person I'd hired to provide the lessons quit teaching before we'd even arranged the first lesson (but not before I'd bought all the books she told us we'd need; arrgghh!). Since then, I just haven't done anything about it.

Braden can hear a song on the radio and then get on the keyboard and pick the notes out by ear. He amazes me! He has been able to do the same thing on his guitar. This trimester at his school, he FINALLY is taking a guitar class, something I've wanted to give him forever, but we just couldn't ever afford it. For the past few days he has been practicing at home, continuously playing the intro to AC/DC's "Iron Man" song. As I said, we don't exactly have the same tastes!

Earlier tonight, Braden came in, insisting that I listen to him "just this one more time." As he played, he ad-libbed the words, changing it to "I love my mom..." There was a lot more to it (ad-libbing and usually ruining songs is another talent he has. He has forever ruined the song "Return to Pooh Corner" by Loggins and Messina for me. I won't tell you the words he's come up with, but suffice it to say that Pooh, Tigger, and Owl do NOT fare well in his warped version.).

So, even though I would prefer to hear him croon Jim Croce's "I'll Have to Say I Love You In a Song," I'll take what I can get!

December 1, 2008

My favorite Black Friday

This past Friday I slept in until about 9:00 a.m. and then wandered out of the house around 10:30 to hit the stores, without kids - usually my idea of heaven on earth. I wasn't really in the mood for the typical craziness that accompanies the day, so I wandered aimlessly through a dozen stores or more, wondering more than once WHY I continued on when I obviously wasn't in the mood. I am really trying to get into the Christmas spirit, but I would love to find a way to make the focus more on the meaning of the day and less about the "gimme" attitude that people seem to focus on. The clerk I talked to at Wal-Mart (where I bought milk and cereal, nothing else) told me that there had been three fights that morning and they'd even had to call the ambulance for one of them. What's wrong with this picture?!

I had never done a "Black Friday" shopping spree until about five years ago when my mom somehow convinced me that it would be "fun" to stay over on Thanksgiving, sharing the couch with 2 dogs, and then wake up before the crack of dawn to go out in the freezing cold. Great, sign me up! And you know, it really was fun, if for no other reason than nobody else in the family (in other words, the kids) wanted to tag along, so we actually had quality time just the two of us, which never happens anymore. We enjoyed it so much that we did it again the next year.

Three years ago, just weeks before Thanksgiving, I ended up having to have a hysterectomy. Me being me, it couldn't just be an easy, stay-for-1-night, typical operation, and I ended up having pretty severe internal bleeding and an emergency operation again the next day to fix the problem. Needless to say, it was not a fun time and my recuperation time was extended quite a bit. I definitely wasn't up for sleeping with the dogs on the couch and going out early! However, being the bargain shopper that I am, I couldn't help but look through the pounds of ads in the paper that day.

On Black Friday, I was feeling more than a little sad because I couldn't be out with the crowds, finding all the great deals, or more importantly, having that important "mommy-daughter" time that I'd come to look forward to. Tom, showing a husband's true love, took pity on me and took me out (although NOT at the crack of dawn) to Wal-Mart. This from the man who suffers from a severe case of "mall leg" if he even steps foot in our small, local grocery-store! Anyway, he bundled me up, drove me to Wal-Mart on the busiest day of the year, got me situated in one of those electric carts they provide for those who need them, and gamely followed behind me. I just have to say that driving those carts is not as easy as it looks, especially if there happens to be 3,000 people crammed into the same aisle as you. We laughed our way through the store with him liberally apologizing for my lack of driving abilities. I was terrible!

That year I did most of my shopping online, and I honestly can't remember if we found any treasures that had to be taken home with us that day, but I will never forget the fun we had and the sacrifice he made to take me ... I do believe it was the LAST time he's ever been there even though I'm pretty sure his shins have healed by now.