Monday, December 29, 2008

The Problem with Kalamazoo

On Saturday, after a whirlwind of singing rehearsals, I went to Costco to get gas for the van. After I gave the attendant my card and he returned it to me, I rolled the window up most of the way and started singing to the music. All of a sudden there was a middle-aged lady with long gray hair approaching my window. She asked, "Are you on the phone?" I shook my head no and rolled the window down wondering what the heck she wanted with me.

She asked, "Are you from Michigan?" Somewhat startled by her question, I told her yes, we lived there about 6 years ago. Did I know this lady? She said she noticed we had the name "Plainwell" on the back of our van (because we purchased the van in Plainwell, MI). She said her husband was from Plainwell but they had lived in Grand Rapids for many years. I explained to her we lived in Kalamazoo for 2 years while my husband went to Western Michigan University.

She said that Kalamazoo was a lot different from Grand Rapids. "Oh??" I asked intrigued because I'd never been to Grand Rapids.

She emphatically said, "Oh yes." Then she leaned in towards my window as if she had a great secret to tell me and continued. "Kalamazoo is full of Christians, Christian fundamentalists, Conservatives..." then, while making an awful grimace with her face scrunched up she spat out, "and Republicans! Ewwwww." She shuddered like she just drank some horrible medicine.

All I could do was throw my head back in a forced laugh and take a sip of my water. She laughed with me not noticing my forced effort and then introduced herself and went back to her car in the next bay.

Poor lady. She hates Christians and Conservatives and Republicans so much but can't spot one when they're sitting right in front of her!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

From Urgent Care to the ER to Surgery

Saturday night we were informed that our church meetings for Sunday had been cancelled. It had snowed ALL day long...bringing 8-10 inches so it wasn't a real surprise. But a massive disappointment. It was supposed to be the Christmas program.

Since we weren't going to church and I had planned to cook a roast, I invited our next door neighbor, Jean, over to eat with us around 1pm Sunday.

Around 11am we got a call from our friends down the street. They were going to hold "pretend church" (minus the Sacrament) complete with talks, lessons, and songs and invited us over to join them. We were grateful for the opportunity to feel the Spirit on a day that might have proved difficult for us otherwise.

We went to their house at 3pm right around the time it started sleeting. I was starting to get anxious that we wouldn't even make it out of our driveway. We have no studs or chains, but I tried comforting myself with the fact that we did purchase our van in Michigan where snow like this is no biggie and the van does have front wheel drive. But still....I didn't want to be the idiots who got stuck in their own neighborhood, going to "pretend church" when our real church meetings had been cancelled in order to avoid such a predicament. Fortunately our efforts to feel the Spirit were blessed. We had no problems getting there, but I admit I was a little stressed for that 1/4 mile drive.

We had a lovely time at our neighbors and the 2 1/2 hours that we spent there flew by like it does at "real" church. We headed for home at 5:30. We snacked for dinner since we had a big lunch and I had about 3 pieces of rich chocolate and a piece of caramel. It wasn't long after consuming the candy that I felt some discomfort in my abdomen. As I changed out of my church clothes, I told Jared, "No more candy for me, I've got some bad gas cramps."

I went to bed hoping the gas would pass (no pun intended) but when I woke up on Monday, I still had the pain. Jared wasn't working at the Urgent Care that day. I was planning to go into the office and do some billing stuff. But...the weather was pretty iffy and as much as I wanted to get out of the house, I figured I'd better play it safe. At the same time, I wasn't feeling well enough to go in even if I could.

Around 10am, I laid on the couch to do some reading and put my knees up which usually helps alleviate gas pain and move it along. I fell asleep and laid in that position for 2 hours, but it made no difference. I almost felt worse. So I went and laid on the bed, curled up in a fetal position. I felt like a drag. Here it was Jared's day off and I was under the "stubborn gas" weather.

I laid on the bed like that for another 2 hours, hoping the pain would go away. Jared did offer to get me some Gas-X (or something of the like) but it seemed silly to send him out in the bad weather just for gas relief. Around 2:00 I felt like I might be sick. Was this the flu?? It didn't seem like it was. And I wouldn't throw up. So I ate some toast trying to induce vomiting, but that was also unsuccessful.

At 3 o'clock Jared mentioned my IUD as a possible factor. I hadn't checked for the strings in a while. So I did a self-check, twice. I couldn't feel the strings. Hmmm. My OB/GYN told me to call her if ever I can't feel the strings or I've got abdominal pain, or both. Like every other business, however, her office was closed so I got the answering service who told me to contact the doctor on call. I spoke with the nurse and asked her what the symptoms were of an IUD that's moved. She spoke to the doctor and they told me that chances are, if I can't feel the strings, it's because I've expelled it not because it's moved. She said I could go to the ER or wait (which is funny because that's what Jared tells the patients who he talks to when he's on call). While I was on the phone with the doctor, Jared had called up to the Urgent Care where he works and told them we might be coming. They were closing hours early at 4pm. It was 3:20 and if we were going to go, we needed to do it right away. The abdominal pain was an issue, but even more concerning to me was the status of my IUD. If it was out....we kind of need to know that!

Our neighbor Jean came over to watch the kids while we ran up there. It's only about a mile and a half away, but of course, we got behind the most conservative driver of the year who was going only 10 mph. I know we were driving in snow, but c'mon! They were in an SUV too.

At the UC, they checked me in and took my vitals then, after a pregnancy test confirmed I wasn't pregnant, did a plain film x-ray. The doctor showed me the x-ray and verified the IUD was still in there and then showed me all the dark spots that covered the film. That was gas. And the white patches within those dark spots were stool. He said it LOOKED painful. Great. I kept the UC open for gas and poop. Way to go, Jenn. The doctor had me lay down and started palpitating my abdomen and the areas surrounding it asking for pain levels. It hurt enough for me to grimace when he pushed on my left side. But when he pushed on my right side, I yelped and all but jumped off the table. He did a little more prodding and a couple more tests. And then he came back to the right side and pushed more. It was horrible pain. He gave Jared a knowing smile (he and Jared sometimes work together) and said, "She's got tenderness in her lower right quadrant." What does that mean?? He said that's where my appendix is. Ahhh. I asked him about the gas and stool. He said an inflamed appendix can cause the intestines to be blocked causing a back up. The doctor wanted us to get a CAT Scan, but of course Imaging at the hospital was closed so we'd have to go to the ER for it. I was ordered not to eat or drink anything in case surgery was necessary, they handed me the x-ray they had taken, and called the ER to let us know we were coming and off to the ER we went. Jared called our fabulous friends, the Prestwiches and asked if they could relieve Jean and watch the kids for us, since we weren't sure how long we were going to be. Without hesitation they moved into action that doubled the amount of children in their home and just days before Christmas, no less.

It was a very long drive to the hospital from Urgent Care due to the road conditions. But we didn't care. Jared and I were in good spirits. How sad it was that we were actually giddy to be going to the ER because it got us out of the house. The kids weren't driving us crazy either. It was more or less being forced to stay inside with nothing to do and nowhere to go to because everything was shut down or cancelled.

We only had to wait an hour and a half in the ER before being escorted back by Sheryl in her Santa hat. She was a great nurse. She drew blood and then gave me an IV. Then we met Dr. Alana Hunt. We liked her too. She said my pain could very well be appendicitis, but possibly an ovarian cyst. The CAT scan would definitely give us more information, so I was prepped for that.

Getting a CAT scan was a new experience for me. Fortunately the techs were very kind and reassuring and it went quickly. The tech told me he'd try and get the results within the half hour. I don't even remember what time it was at this point. But Jared and I weren't waiting too long before Dr. Hunt returned. She waved her finger back and forth as she came into the room and said, "You aren't going to like this." Great, I thought. I really am just full of crap and they're sending me home. How embarrassing.

She said that it wasn't my appendix. The culprit: my IUD. It had punctured my uterine wall, almost the entire way through, and it needed to be removed. Whoa. The IUD had crossed our minds at one point, but the pain wasn't registering to me like uterine cramps that I've had in the past. But at least we knew what was happening. And the sick side of me was actually relieved something was wrong. #1) I had a legitimate reason surrounding my pain and I wasn't making a mountain out of a mole hill--living with someone in the medical field always makes me question whether medical attention is truly necessary #2) I was still out of the house.

We let the Prestwiches know I was being admitted for surgery, but they were already prepared for an all-nighter and had the kids' PJs and baby things. All that was left to do was wait for the surgical team to get there. Apparently there were no other surgeries scheduled, and they sent the nurses home. Whoopsies. It was a little before 9pm at this point, so I sent Jared to go eat dinner. While he was gone, Dr. Gent, the OB/GYN on call came to talk to me. He explained he would try to get the IUD doing laparoscopy first but might have to cut me open if he wasn't successful. I understood.

Jared came back around 9:20pm after grabbing a bite to eat and the surgical nurses had arrived. They wheeled me up to the OR holding room to get the consent forms signed and so the anesthesiologist could talk to me about his part in the surgery.

As I moved myself from the gurney to the operating table and the nurses fluttered around hooking things to me and strapping me down, I couldn't help but think....first of all, I forgot to kiss all my babies goodbye when I left for the Urgent Care. That was really dumb. I just thought I was going to be gone for 30 minutes and didn't want to make a big deal about me leaving and casually walked away. I won't do that again. Secondly, I didn't wake up this morning thinking "I'm going to need surgery today." Yet here I am. It's incredible how QUICKLY your life can change. Fortunately this was a fairly low risk, easy procedure as far as surgeries go, but I never saw it coming. That's what was disconcerting to me.

The anesthesiologist put an oxygen mask over my face, I felt a sting in my arm as the sleepy-time medicine was administered, I felt my eyes get heavy and told the surgical team, "goodbye."
The next thing I knew, I was in a different place. I was hearing voices. I was trying to open my eyes, but it took a lot of effort. I was coughing too. I finally got my eyes open, but they wouldn't focus. I tried hard to do that too, blinking and squinting, but it took me a while. I was trying to shake out the cobwebs, but it wasn't working.

I guess that's all the nurses in the recovery unit to be awake...because a few minutes later they wheeled me to the 5th floor. I vaguely remember Jared following us. My new nurse needed to get some health information from me. I could hear and understand her fine, but I couldn't make my eyes open up. Jared answered most the questions for me. When I tried answering, my perfectly formed answer in my brain came out muddled and nonsense from my mouth. It was very frustrating! Why people would purposely drug themselves is totally beyond me!

Once I was settled in my room, Jared left to go home and get some sleep. I'm a "lightweight" when it comes to anesthesia and got sick shortly after he left. But I was able to sleep for 3 hours before they came back to check my vitals again. My mouth was cotton and my throat was sore from the breathing tube. I could barely close it and get my saliva glands working. The nurse checking my vitals gave me some ice chips. And I was able to sleep for another 3 hours until 6:30am this morning when my vitals were checked again. Too bad they can't check your vitals while you're sleeping.

I had a headache and was hungry and couldn't really get back to sleep. I hadn't eaten since 2pm the day before and that was just toast. I couldn't order breakfast until 7am though. So I watched the "storm coverage" until I could order my French toast breakfast with bacon. I was able to go to the bathroom twice, I kept my breakfast down and Dr. Gent told me that "there was a God last night" because not only could he find the IUD with the scope, he was able to get it out with the scope. He confessed it was iffy there for a minute. He gave me my prescriptions, one for pain and one for birth control pills, thank you very much. He told me to come see him in 2 weeks for a follow up appointment and then said I could leave when I was ready.

I ordered lunch at 11 so I could have one of their chocolate shakes and Jared came to get me at noon. We filled my prescriptions at the store, grabbed a few groceries and then went to save the Prestwiches from our children. Of course the kids were upset to see us. They wanted to stay. That's right, back to the boring house for us.

All is well. I'm sore from surgery...similar to C-section pain just not as deep. The only problem really is when I hold Calvin. His little feet rest, dangle or kick RIGHT smack dab where my sore spots are. But I can't not hold my baby. At least my sharp abdominal pain is gone. And looking on the bright side, we've already met our deductible for this year and will only owe a small fraction of the ridiculous costs of yesterday's medical adventure.

Now if I can just remember to take those little pills...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Eye can't see!!

It was date night tonight. On our way to dinner, Jared was fiddling with his eyes, rubbing them and blinking them several times quickly. He told me that something weird was going on with his eyes.

Jared usually wears contacts. But Tuesday he woke up with a pink eye infection he got from the urgent care on Monday. So he took his contacts out and started using his glasses. He still had them on tonight and was still giving himself the medicine.

He told me that with his glasses on, the vision in his left eye is blurry. This eye was the one that was infected first. But his right eye could see clearly. Yet when he took his glasses off, his left eye could see perfectly and his right eye was blurry. He was so stumped by this new, IMPROVED vision in his left eye (that he hasn't had since he started college...years ago...) that he gave himself a vision test at the office where you cover one eye and try to read the letters in each row, then switch eyes and repeat. Amazingly, he was seeing with 20/20 vision out of his left eye. He couldn't believe it. His right eye was his normal bad sight. What was going on?

We pulled into the parking lot of the eatery and sat discussing this a little further. I told him this situation had to be frustrating, seeing blurry with one eye and clear with another--with glasses and without. That would drive me nuts. I suggested he might want to call our optometrist because I had no answers for him. Except that maybe it was like "Phenomenon" and he had a brain tumor or something.

As we sat in the parking lot, he took off his glasses again, squeezed his right eye closed and without hesitation, started reading signs from quite a distance. Then he looked through only his right eye and the same task wasn't possible. It really was....weird.

Jared thought maybe he might try just wearing one contact in the right eye tomorrow because his left eye was just fine. A few seconds later, Jared mused, "It's like I'm wearing a contact in my left eye."


I tilted my head at him and asked, "Are you?"

Without saying anything, Jared gently prodded around his left eye and about 10 seconds later, produced a small, clear, flimsy lens that sat on the tip of his forefinger. Well, whatdaya know?

"You had a contact in this whole time??"

Jared just sat there staring at the lens and then realization struck. "You know what happened? Sunday night, after my nap, I woke up and was rubbing my eyes, trying to focus. I saw my left contact fall and couldn't find it. Since it was almost time to change them anyway, I just took the right contact out and put new ones in both eyes."

I doubled over in a burst of laughter. He had a contact in the left eye the WHOLE TIME!!

But it gets better...

So then on Tuesday, he woke up with some gunk in his left eye and assumed he had a pink eye infection from being at the urgent care the day before. (Maybe he did, maybe he didn't...) So he took his contacts out...ONE from EACH eye, started wearing his glasses and taking the eye drops. But "clearly" he took only 1 of the 2 contacts out of the left eye. Oh my lands! Too funny.

It never dawned on him til tonight that he still had a contact in because he swore he had seen it fall. Now that it's out, he has unobstructed vision out of both eyes. Imagine that.

So now Jared feels like a royal idiot and I have to say, it's going to be hard to beat that one. But I'm certainly grateful for the blog fodder. Thanks, Jare! Eye love you!

Snow Day #3

Wednesday, Dec. 17th was actually a better, more productive day for me. Malissa and Jarrod showed up at 7:30am. After I got them settled and the kids breakfast, I actually worked out and showered.
It had started to snow, so I took a big bowl outside to catch the big flakes. Later we were going to make snow cream. Around 10, the kids wanted to go outside again. Fortunately it had warmed up, so it wasn't quite as cold. They walked across the street to the playground and I noticed they hooked up with our other neighbor friends. Looks like they were playing football.

While the kids were gone, I organized the boys' closet. My friend Stephanie gave me her old toy shelf with bins. She asked if I wanted it and I said yes. So I took the few toys that we have out of the buckets with lids and put them in the open bins on the shelf, that found its new home in the closet. I was very happy with the result. It always makes me feel good to be organized and clean.

About the time I finished up, the foursome came back inside. Jake's jeans were soaked about halfway up his shin. I told him to change his socks and get some new pants on. He had trouble getting his rain boots off. I think they're too small. A couple minutes later, Cooper walked past me on his way to the family room and said Jake was crying. I went in to see him. His feet and ankles were bright red and he was scratching at them wildly. Through his tears he said they were so itchy. *groan* Frostbite. I know how that feels. It's an awful sensation having them itch and sting as they warm up. So I covered his feet with my hands and a blanket and tried to distract him. Took a few minutes for him to calm down. He wailed that he didn't want to go outside and shouldn't have. I asked him why he went out then. He blubbered, "I couldn't resist." (Oh my, so sad).

He finally got feeling back and was okay. We had sandwiches and chips for lunch. Then after I was done doing the dishes, we made snow cream.

In my Internet search for a fun activity to do on Tuesday, I came across the recipe for snow cream. SNOW CREAM?? I've never heard of it. But apparently it's pretty popular. Good grief. What rock have I been living under? I've lived in UT for 11 years at different times, I've lived in IL and MI for 3 years and Alaska for 3 years and I've never heard of snow cream. But it was time to put my ignorance to bed.
We took our freshly fallen snow from our bowl (8 cups) and to it we added in this order...1 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp. vanilla, and 1 cup milk. Each of the kids got to pour something in.

Then with a wooden spoon, the two little boys helped me mix it all up until it was the texture of ice cream. Then we had to eat it right away. The kids each got a cup full. Then we all took our first ceremonial bite.... was pretty tasty! VERY cold...colder than ice cream if you can believe that. And you could taste the snow :) The kids even had a second helping.
We played two games of UNO and Malissa beat all of us both times. And then we were surprised by Jared coming home early! They shut the office down due to the weather and he was home around 3pm for a fun change. I guess the snow does have its perks! And Malissa and Jarrod went home shortly after that.
Another fairly successful and productive day...especially with the white stuff. It actually hasn't been too bad. Even though we had to postpone some planned things and rearrange our schedule, we got to do other things we wouldn't have done otherwise--like make snow cream! As they say, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Snow Day #2

A gal from my ward had previously asked me if I could watch her Kindergartner M-W after school. I said I could. At church on Sunday I said I could still watch him, even if school was out. Monday she didn't go to work, but Tuesday and Wednesday she needed to. She asked if I could watch her 9 year old daughter as well, since school was closed. I said no problem. So on Tuesday, Dec. 16th, Malissa and Jarrod came over at 7:45am.

The kids actually entertained themselves well and for quite some time. Around 11am they asked to go to the park across the street and play. They lasted longer than I thought they would...30 minutes. I give them lots of credit, too. It was sooooooooo cold. Sadly, I've endured worse weather conditions than this, but it's amazing how un-used to it you can get when it's not the norm.

The foursome trompped back in, had some hot chocolate and I was debating about lunch while trying to think of a fun "we're trapped inside" kind of activity. I remembered an idea I saw in a magazine a few days before....make snowmen out of pancakes. What a miracle...I actually had everything we needed to do it and I could combine lunch and the activity. What kid doesn't like playing with their food? So I made banana pancakes in graduated circles as best I could and the kids used pretzels, chocolate chips, marshmallows, and cheerios to create their snowmen.

They seemed to have fun and each of them made and ATE 3 different snowmen creations.
After they played some more, we watched the Pixar Short Films we got from Netflix complete with popcorn and then before we knew it, our friends' dad was there to pick them up. It was a not so bad snow day after all.
But I had yet to go to the grocery store. I was dreading it on many levels. The crowd was as bad as I had anticipated. I really have yet to find a day and time that Winco isn't busy. But the drive was okay. The main roads were decent so that was a relief. I can certainly navigate snowy roads, but don't want to any more than I have to especially as the temperature drops and in the dark. But it was my grocery day and there was no getting around it.
While I was gone, the school districts announced they were closing school again on Wednesday. Once I heard the news, I had no hope for school to resume the rest of the week. I was bummed for the kids--mainly because they were trapped at home with boring me all week. Not to mention the week of school before the Christmas break is usually an extra special one. And it's one thing for the kids to be out of school, quite another for it to be unexpected, day after day, on top of weather conditions that deter you from being outside. But for someone who isn't very crafty or creative, we made the best of it. And the kids have done really well under the circumstances.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thus it begins...

Sunday the 14th, I woke up to get ready for church at 9am. I looked out the window...nothing. I thought we were supposed to have snow or something. We were all ready to go and around 8:15 the snow started to fall. No biggie. It wasn't enough to keep us from church. Only contagious illnesses and the Sunday after having a baby will keep me from church. And even then, I'm usually home against my will. I hate missing my Sunday meetings!

So we left. But the snow kept falling and in big flakes. I was happy to see, though, that the weather didn't deter everyone. We still filled the chapel and overflow area and many of our ward members who live in the country were there before 9am. By the time church started the snow was really coming down. And then came the let down. Under the Stake Presidency's direction, and they know best....they were sending us home after Sacrament meeting. What a disappointment. I had already missed the Sunday before. Jake had thrown up in the middle of the night Saturday and Jared was out of town. I had no choice, but to stay home. It was a drag then, too.

But that was only the beginning of my Sunday sadness.

The long awaited stake Messiah performance complete with choir, soloists and orchestra (that I've been working painstakingly on since October) was also cancelled. We had invited friends and school teachers and neighbors for the big event. I even made a worksheet for the boys to do while they listened telling them about Handel and how he came to compose the oratorio and things to listen or watch for during each song the choir sings, in addition to rating each song. The performance has been tentatively postponed til Sunday, Dec. 28th, but STILL.....(can you hear the high pitched whining in my voice yet?)

So Sunday was slow all around bummer day.
But it got "better".
School was closed Monday.

I had a lot to do on Monday, Dec. 15th...6 loads of laundry, make a payday treat for the office, take the treat to the office, pick up the pager for Jared while I was there, take the pager to Jared at the Urgent Care, and then get the kids some gloves because Cooper went out in the freezing temperatures that morning to make a snowball and came back inside ten minutes later with frostbite on his hands. We have no snow gear in this house and discovered we are very unprepared in the way of clothing for this weather. But I have a hard time investing in something that we may or may not use from year to year. With that said, however, I may just have to suck it up.

But before doing any of the above, except making the treat, I called my neighbor and ward member, Matt McReynolds. He had sent out an email over the weekend giving everyone suggestions for preparing for the arctic blast and snow. Our internet was down Friday through late Sat. afternoon, so I didn't get a chance to ask him about it. We had our water spigots covered already, but I didn't know it was a good thing to cover your foundation vents. So I called him up Monday morning to see what we needed to do.

I was ashamed to say, I couldn't give him the number of vents we had. What kind of uninformed homeowner am I? I'd seen a couple over this past year while working in the yard, but never thought to take inventory. Before I knew it, that good man came over with his wife Margaret and he counted our vents, in the FREEZING BITING wind. There were eight and I never would have guessed. Then Matt and his wife went back to their house, and using some of his own plywood and saw, custom cut the wood to size for our vents, and without announcing their return, they both worked to put those wood pieces in each of our vent spaces. And then they were gone. I noticed them back out there and made some hot chocolate to warm them up, but they were off before I could give it to them. I cannot believe the pure charity they showed to us that morning...of all mornings. Jared and I are still touched by their sweet service. So we're going to try and get them something special to show our appreciation and gratitude. This went beyond a baked-good thank you.

After that and after a neighbor and her daughter came to deliver us yummy treats and visit for a few minutes, we had lunch and then ran our aforementioned errands.

Jared was home around 5:00 because the Urgent Care closed down early because the roads were starting to get slick. And we were in for another long was closed Tuesday.

Bumpers and Blessings

Last Thursday I was driving home with Cooper, Karcyn and Calvin. I was just a couple miles away on Cornelius Pass Rd. when traffic was slowing down to a crawl. For some reason, I felt like I needed to check on Karcyn who sits directly behind me. I did a quick look, but did a double-take because I couldn't see her face. When I turned around, the traffic wasn't still slowing down, it had stopped. The pick up truck in front of me was so close, I couldn't see it's bumper. In the fastest millisecond, yet in slow motion, I simultaneously screamed, slammed on my brakes then we bumped into the pickup truck with a sickening crunch. Our force bumped the truck in front of us farther than it was when I hit it and both vehicles came to a stop.

My heart pounded, my hands started shaking. I'm such an idiot!! I've never hit anyone while driving. I pulled the van over to the side of the road as best I could. The pickup truck did the same. The kids were remarkably calm and fine. I, however, was a bundle of nerves. Stupid me! Now what??

It took me forever (30 seconds I'm sure) to get to my insurance card. I figured that was a start. I know you're not supposed to admit fault when in an accident, but c'mon! I've got more dignity than that. It was clearly my fault. He and I both know he didn't put his truck in reverse.

The next thing I know, an Asian man, about my parents' age is at my window. Shoot. I should have been out first. I rolled the window down and bless his heart, the first thing out of his mouth was, "Are you okay?" Well, no, not really. I just played bumper cars with our vehicles and I feel horrible about it.

I told him I was sorry, I had just turned around to check on my daughter. He poked his head in and asked if she was okay. I said yes, that we were fine. Then I handed him my insurance card. He looked at it and said "Yeah, my truck is okay and my wife is not hurt and you have a little dent in your bumper." He shook his head and said, "I don't want to cause hassle for you."

It's true...I hit the guy's towing hitch. His truck WAS okay. I told him to take my card anyway, in case something comes up later down the whiplash or truck issues. He shook his head. He wouldn't take it. I asked "Are you sure?" He said he was. He stuck his head in one more time and asked the kids personally if they were alright. Cooper said yes, that his seat belt worked. And the man wished us well before heading back to his truck. I started to cry at this point. In humiliation, at the horror of what could have been, and at this man's kindness. I told him thank you and wished him a Merry Christmas and they drove away.

The damage to our van is minimal but sadly will probably cost maximum. Eventually I'll get an estimate on the repair to see if it's worth making an insurance claim over. Even the State Farm agent was shocked the other driver wouldn't take my insurance info. or give me his. I included this sweet man in my prayers that night and hoped he would be blessed for blessing us.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The first Hough Thanksgiving...EVER!

If you trace back through our past 11 Thanksgivings, you would find us practically anywhere but at our own house. AND...the only contribution we would be making would be a side dish or two at the most. And maybe a pie. This wasn't because we don't like Thanksgiving or don't want to do our own. We've just been thought of and included by friends or away from home, or it just worked out that we didn't do our own Thanksgiving. And to the friends who made sure we didn't spend this holiday alone, we feel sooooooooo blessed because of you!

Here's my attempt at our Thanksgiving history run down. The only year that's hazy is 1998...(I think I'm right though).

1997--with our "adopted" family, the Gardiners in Ogden, UT
1998--with Sarah's family in Lehi, UT (my fabulous roommate while Jared was living in IL)
1999--with the Hough family in Pontiac, IL
2000--with my sister Michelle, our neighbors Kim and Harry, and Nicole (Jared's sister) and her future husband, Jeremy in our own apartment in Ogden, UT (but sticking with tradition, we didn't do the turkey)
2001--with my ENTIRE family in Orlando, FL...we ate in the dining room of our hotel
2002--Jared's parents came to MI after Cooper was born and we ate at The Old Country Buffet
2003--with Jared's family at his brother's house in Bloomington, IL...Jake decided to throw rocks around the parked vehicles and out of the three hit our van and shattered one of the sliding door windows ON Thanksgiving day. Niiice. Yea for that $0 windshield deductible because it covered the sliding door too!
2004--with the Schneider family in Forest Grove, OR
2005--with Jared's parents and friends in Pontiac, IL
2006--with the Wilde family and friends in Hillsboro, OR
2007--with the Horne family and their neighbors in Aloha, OR (we were closing on our house 1 week later)

2008--we got several offers to do Thanksgiving with other families and we were touched by the invitations. But we wanted to try it on our own, at least once. Besides the fact that Jared offered to work at the Urgent Care from 8am-3pm to help fund his CME conference in Missouri the following week.

Which meant I was responsible for the entire meal. I wasn't too worried. Especially since I wasn't cooking for guests outside my little family. That helped take some of the stress off. I was most concerned about the turkey. I've never bonded with one before. I also had a goal not to call my mom to ask any questions, but that didn't last when I looked inside the turkey and couldn't find the bag 'o giblets. I looked and I looked, but they weren't there.

Mom instructed me to stick my hand waaaaayy down in there and feel around. I told her I already did and couldn't find one. I think she doubted my attempt at feeling around for it. She said I had to really get fresh with the turkey. Okay, so maybe I didn't put my hand ALLLL the way down but I was doing a lot of looking and couldn't see anything that would resemble a giblet bag. That's when she asked..."did you look in the neck cavity?" Huh? I thought I was in the neck area. That's when I realized I was at the OTHER end of the turkey. Sure enough, there was another, much smaller "entry" and tucked inside were those giblets. Phew...trauma one was now complete.

I made my mom's awesome sage stuffing and jammed it inside the bird, in all the available spaces. With Jake's help, I got the turkey in the oven bag and we were good to go. It was hard to determine how long to bake it though. The oven bag box said one thing and the turkey instructions said another. I got a turkey with a pop-up timer, and after about 2 hours and 15 minutes, the turkey looked pretty good. Nice and golden brown. But the timer didn't look like it popped up. The fact that my oven cooks VERY HOT only complicated the matter. So I called Mom again. She asked if my timer was up. I said it only looked like it was a hair farther away from the turkey than it was when it started. She said it was probably done. I wasn't convinced quite yet. But what did I know? Mom's had much more fowl experience than me. After talking some more and finding out their stuffed bird, that was larger than ours, only took 2 1/2 hours, I figured ours was probably done. I guess we would know soon enough.

I was actually impressed at how all the other dishes came together at the end. That was my only other T-day challenge. After I took the turkey out to rest at 2:30, I baked the green bean casserole (physical proof of my love for Jared, because green bean anything, just the smell, makes me my stomach turn), mashed my potatoes & made the gravy. The pie, fruit salad, cranberry sauce and rolls were already done. Jared walked in at 3:05 to carve the turkey and we were set!

It wasn't a big spread, but we were okay with that. If I could have just turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes, I would be a happy girl. All the other stuff (minus the green bean gaggerole) were bonus. And sadly, we didn't have leftovers for more than a couple days. But I now have turkey-confidence (and with that comes turkey anatomy awareness) and look forward to doing it again--even if it's not Thanksgiving.

Later that night, our friends came over to play games and have dessert. It was a nice ending to a lovely, history making day for our family.

Wolf to Bear

Jake has been done with all of his Wolf requirements in cub scouts since September except for ONE. Visiting a fire station. This was the biggest pain to arrange. Each scout has from one birthday to the next birthday to get the requirements for each year completed, but Jake's birthday is the end of December which doesn't really help. It's almost like we lose a month because there aren't many meetings, if any, in December. Jake wanted so badly to get his award EARLY, not just when it would have been the right time.

Jake's den leader tried twice, over several weeks, to get a visit to the fire station arranged as a den activity because Jake wasn't the only scout who needed to go. But the fire station never got back with her. We were all feeling very discouraged. But the Kindergarten came to our rescue. The middle of October, Cooper's teacher mentioned a possible walking field trip to the fire station at parent/teacher conferences. I was planning to help chaperone. And then it dawned on me! Maybe...just maybe, I could get permission to have Jake come with us. Cooper's teacher asked the principal and it was approved. Hooray for wonderful principals and understanding teachers!!!

Of course we had to wait until November for Jake to get his awards, but it was worth it to have everything in place.

They went ahead and advanced Jake to the Bear den since this was the last month for awards before he'd be with the bears in January.

Here's Jake with his den leader Sister George. She really made scouts fun for him this year. Phew....we all survived. Here's hoping we make it another year!

I am a child of God--and so are YOU!!

The Sunday after we got back from our trip to South Beach was the annual Children's Sacrament Meeting Primary Program. This was a special day for lots of reasons.

#1) Grandma and Grandpa Lee were there (even though it wasn't planned).

#2) Jake was going to be accompanying the primary children as they sang the song "I Am A Child of God". This was not a simplified song, but the version that adults play. Not to mention he was playing two verses of it while the children sang and while a violin played along, too.

#3) Mrs. East, Cooper's Kindergarten teacher and Mrs. Garrett, the boys' music teacher were attending.

Mrs. East and Mrs. Garrett both made it without any difficulties and we were tickled pink they would come and support our kids as well as the other students they know from our ward.

Jake's piano part was early in the program. (Thank goodness. I get so nervous for my kids.) And he did SO GREAT!!!! (I think Grandma and Grandpa cried they were so proud). I couldn't stop smiling. Yea for him!! Man, that takes courage. If he was nervous, he sure didn't show it. I'm so grateful he's getting experiences to share his talent at such a young age. Cooper had a speaking part and said it perfectly memorized. Jake nailed his part, too.

It was a wonderful program! We're so grateful for the primary teachers and leaders who spend hours and hours helping us teach our children the doctrine of the gospel and helping them to learn to feel the spirit through the words, testimonies and music of Primary.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Camping" (Day 3)

The weather seemed to let up on Friday, November 7th. As soon as breakfast was done and Dad unhitched the truck, we set out for a drive further south on Hwy 101. Our first stop...Seal Rocks, which was really just an overlook spot. We checked out the view and whatdaya know? There were actually seals out on those rocks. Imagine that. Only the trained eyes (i.e.--not Cooper's) could make them out...because the seals were very well camouflaged. But it was still pretty cool. I still can't get over how BIG those suckers were.

As we continued down the highway, I noticed signs for the Heceta Head Lighthouse. I couldn't pass that up. By the time we got there, the sun was not only out, but shining! It was beautiful as we headed up the 1/2 mile trail to the lighthouse.

So far, I've seen 4 of the 9 Oregon coast lighthouses. In four years time, I guess that isn't too shabby.

When we were quiet, we could actually hear the barking of the sea lions from the Sea Lion Caves near the base of the cliffs south of us. We were headed there after we ate lunch in Florence. Our next stop....MO' try their famous clam chowder. It was pretty tasty. We all enjoyed the fuel stop and the large portions of food.

In this picture, we are beginning our descent to the elevator to take us 200 feet down to the Sea Lion Caves. Behind Jared you will see Heceta Head Lighthouse on his left and the light keeper's house to the right where we had been before lunch.

I love this picture of Karcyn. It's not fair she can look so cute without even trying. She loves anything that flowers...even weeds.

Wow, that cave was so cool!! I've never seen anything like it before. The sea lions were actually outside, but we got to see them eating from an outdoor viewing platform before we went underground. It was really incredible to be down there and to read about the history of the cave and sea lions. We weren't allowed to take flash photography of the cave, so we just took pictures of ourselves :)

I was so proud of myself. From one of the cave "windows", I timed the rotating lens from the lighthouse just right and got a picture of it beaming towards me (even with a delay on my camera). Okay...I admit it. It took me a couple of tries. But only a couple.

A quick pic of the kiddos by the sea lion sculpture before heading back to camp at South Beach.

It was still daylight and the weather was decent when we got back to our campsite so we decided to visit the beach again. Grandpa found a big fuzzy caterpillar crawling on the sand to show Karcyn.

The boys had a blast waiting for the waves to come and get them.

And then Karcyn rubbed sand in her eyes and the party was over. Jared flushed her eyes out as best he could but feared there were still grains of it he couldn't get. Her eyes were red and puffy and she kept batting at them as they continued to irritate her. We had some eye drops to give her (her right eye in particular) but getting her in a position to do it and prying her eye open as she forced all of her mighty strength against us was another story. (How is it that kids 1/4 your size can be stronger than 3 adults??) After we managed to give her some eye drops we put her to bed. But she woke up 2 different times crying from the irritation. We only hoped she hadn't scratched her cornea. If it was scratched, her eye would hurt and bother her as if she still had sand in it, even if she didn't, until the cornea healed. How miserable, especially for a child. After the second time she woke up, clearly in distress, we wised up and my dad and Jared administered a priesthood blessing to her. She slept soundly the rest of the night and didn't act bothered by her eye after that.

"Camping" (Day 2)

All during the night, the wind howled and the rain pelted the top of the trailer. It was quite the storm. But we were toasty warm and comfortable.

Jake woke up first thing Thursday morning feeling dizzy. The next thing we know, he's asking for a garbage can and proceeded to throw up in it. Great. Jake was sick and we were hanging out in close quarters. We waited about a half hour before giving him a small sip of water as our "test." He threw that up too which convinced us he had the stomach flu. In light of the new situation, we made plans to go sightseeing along the coast the next day and laid low.

Jake was actually feeling better about an hour later and hadn't gotten sick again, so we decided to bundle up and venture outdoors for some "fresh air"and a walk down to the beach and around the campground.

We found some cool mushrooms on our walk. Check 'em out!

Karcyn was a peach. The wind and rain didn't bother her one bit.

I didn't hear a peep out of Calvin either. He could have been in shock, but I'd like to believe he was being a trooper like the rest of us. At least no one can say we're wusses. We're even smiling as the wind was whipping that fine misty rain all around us! Wooo doggie!

Calvin says, "I just survived my first walk through icky, wet, Oregon coastal weather."

"Camping" at the Coast (Day 1)

We wanted to go somewhere with my parents in the trailer while they were here, but their time was limited. Jared and I decided it was not going to hurt the boys to miss school for a few days to spend time with family, so we took off Wed. November 5th through Sat. November 8th for a getaway to the coast. We made reservations for an RV site at South Beach (south of Newport) and left Wednesday morning. It was raining of course. But that didn't dampen our spirits. Who cares WHAT the weather is when you're in a trailer?? We were excited!

It was pouring of course when we got to the campsite. But wasn't much of a problem. Just for Mom and Jared who were helping Dad guide the trailer into our spot.

We laid low Wednesday evening as we settled in and put things away and got dinner ready. Before bedtime, Grandpa showed the boys some card tricks and they thought those were awesome!! Jake is doubled over in shock and Cooper is yelling out in amazement, when after quite a lengthy mixing and dividing of cards, Grandpa found the one Cooper secretly selected.
"Pick a card, any card"...

Grandpa is feeling Cooper's pulse to find the card Cooper picked. And it worked!

A themed Halloween

We've never had a theme for Halloween before. We're pretty uncreative and inartistic that way. Cooper was going to recycle a Darth Vader costume we've had for a couple years. I found an inexpensive giraffe costume that I thought Karcyn would be cute in. And Calvin had a glow-in-the-dark skeleton costume we inherited that was his size. We needed something for Jake though. We couldn't find anything he liked that was cool enough and that I liked in our price range. However, I don't mind spending more on a costume one year, if that child agrees to wear it for the next 2-3 years. But it still seemed like slim pickin's. We finally settled on a Clone Trooper costume for Jake. It was on the high end of our budget, but it was a size too big so hopefully he could wear it again next year.

A few days later, out of the blue, my friend Amanda sent me a couple of FYI postings off of Craig's List. One was for a Luke Skywalker costume Jake's size and the other was for an infant Yoda costume. How could I NOT get the Yoda costume for my baby who has often reminded me of that very creature? The Skywalker costume was a fraction of the cost of the Clone Trooper costume albeit not as cool. So I told Jake that if we returned the Trooper costume and he was Luke Skywalker instead, I would get him a new light saber as an accessory (and still be money ahead). Jake agreed. I was the first one to respond to both Craig's List postings on the costumes and I was sooooooo excited. All my boys were sporting Star Wars this year. I thanked Amanda for her thoughtfulness for remembering how much my boys love Star Wars. I jokingly told her, "too bad I can't find a Leia costume for Karcyn." Next thing I know, Amanda got on eBay and found several Leia costumes in Karcyn's size available for purchase.

I know nothing about eBay--only that it seems waaay too complicated for me to sell or buy so I avoid it. Amanda is a seasoned eBayer and offered to put a bid in for me and viola! We got ourselves a Princess Leia costume for our own little princess. It was lots of fun to have the theme this year and though I could never get a good picture of all the kids together, we owe all our themed Halloween success to Amanda!

It was the WARMEST Halloween that I can ever remember! What a great night. It didn't take long for Karcyn to pick up on the trick or treating concept. "If I look cute and flash a smile and say 'ick o tweet', these people give me candy." She went around a couple times! (And yes, we know that historically Leia was never armed with a light saber!)

Grandma and Grandpa Lee with their little Yoda.

The night was even more special for Jake and Coop who were invited back to Grandma and Grandpa's trailer for the night. What's cooler than spending the night with grandparents and playing video games with them??

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Half a year later...

The first year of life for a new baby is such a bittersweet time for me. It's so exciting to have that fresh new spirit in my home. They are so innocent and pure. What great therapy for the soul. And of course, I want the baby to grow healthy and strong and meet normal milestones. But I just stare at him and sigh when I think that HALF of a WHOLE year has already gone by since we were blessed with Calvin. However, because I want to him to slowly grow up healthy...I'm thrilled that Calvin has no teeth yet (I love that gummy smile). And that he's still under the 5th percentile for weight. I just can't believe that he'll be 7 months old on Dec. 1st.

Our baby caboose had his 6 month well child check on November 3rd. He weighed 13 lbs. 3 oz. So he's definitely put on some weight (about 2 1/2 lbs. in 2 months) with a diet primarily of formula. Molly, (Dr. Hicken's new PA) examined Calvin and said he's doing great. He's making his own little curve on the growth chart and that's all that matters. I'm only nursing about 3 times a day but I'm SHOCKED he hasn't weaned off of me. I was convinced once he got the bottle, my breastfeeding days were over. But he's pretty happy with both.

Later that day, I started him on some rice. He took 5 happy, gummy bites and swallowed the best he could. Then after the fifth bite, he clamped his mouth shut. I couldn't pry those lips open with the spoon, if I wanted to. I figured Calvin was full, so I stopped. I tried the next day. He totally refused. Not even one bite. Mouth clamped shut. I decided to try some squash. All my kids like squash. Apparently not Calvin. So back to the rice. He refused it the next day. This was getting very frustrating. So I let it go for a week or two. Then I tried oatmeal. He took one bit, made a horrible grimace and shuddered and spit it back out. Hmmm. The other kids have loved rice and oatmeal and other baby foods. I wasn't prepared for this. I still don't know what to do. I might make some oatmeal with formula (I've always used water) and see if that makes any difference.

Other than his repulsion to baby food, we are still totally enamoured with Calvin. He has turned into a very happy baby, after being so serious that first month or so. In fact, Jared even ventured to say that he's happier than Karcyn. I'm not sure I'd go THAT far yet, but he is definitely up there in "happyville".

Oh, I should probably say that one of his "flaws" is his STINKY, REVOLTING gas. It's like the gross adult equivalent! If there's a foul human odor lingering, we can't automatically assume it was one of us anymore. We have another flatulent factor to consider. Seriously, it's so nasty, he makes me cry out in disgust when I catch a whiff of it, usually followed by me exclaiming his full name. I can't believe green air that potent can come from such a small, cute little dude like Calvin. But it does. If it weren't so disgusting, it might actually be impressive.

Other than THOSE two things, we are eating him up. He's been scooting on his tummy for a while. Even got up on his knees a few times. He sometimes just cracks himself up (which cracks us up). I can lay him down for bed, still wide awake and he rarely cries, just goes to sleep. He actually slept on the floor by our bed til he was 5 1/2 months old. Why? Because we hardly knew he was there. That, and because we wanted to make sure he was old enough to put him in the same room as Karcyn. So far, so good.

Here he is with Grandma Lee wanting to play with his Cheerios rather than gum them to death.

I love this picture. Here he is lounging on the couch, propping up his little feet. These feet remind me of Dr. Seuss feet! No toes, just curves.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Grandma and Grandpa!

My parents showed up in their 36 foot fifth wheel rig about 20 minutes after we got home from Stake Conference Sunday afternoon, October 26th. This was a long awaited visit. We were expecting them about 3 weeks earlier but they had some unforeseen trailer issues that delayed them in Ogden, UT. I don't know what we were so excited about. (Just kidding, Mom & Dad!)Truly, though, this is the most we've ever seen them in one calendar year. We saw them in March for Jake's baptism, in May when Calvin was born, in August when we visited them in Alaska and again the end of October. But we'll take them as much as they can tolerate us. I think my dad was warned in High Priests that if he stayed one more Sunday they'd give him a calling. Even the ward is starting to recognize them!
However, this was a different visit. They hauled a little house with them. After they arrived and stretched a bit, we drove them to our friends', the Winkels, who were so kind to allow my parents to park their rig on their property indefinitely because it just isn't doable here in the subdivision. Parking the trailer was a tricky maneuver but we all held our mouths just right and with the help of Brother Winkel, the trailer was parked and leveled. Jared and I took the kids back home to start making dinner and then my parents came along later in just their truck. Then after they ate, my parents left! They just walked out the door and said goodbye. It was so weird. But our departure was only temporary. They weren't spending the night with us and it was definitely different--to have them just come and go. We've never ever lived NEAR family. We either lived WITH them or MANY states away from them. The separate living quarters was good in some ways...good for our dignity so they weren't subjected to our frustrating moments as parents. Even better for them to have their own little space...not having to live out of suitcases. Yuck. No one likes that. We started to catch on to the close proximity because we even took them dinner one night so we could hang out at their "house." It was way cool. They have a nice little set up.

Jared and I decided we're ready to retire!! (Too bad we've just joined the employment club and have 28 years to go in paying back those student loans).

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sardine-Packed Saturday

October 25th was the only Saturday open to do Cooper's friend birthday party that month. It was also the last day of soccer games for the boys AND the adult session of stake conference that night. Yup--we packed it all in like sardines.

I was unable to go to Cooper's last soccer game and felt bad about that, but I had a light saber cake to make for his party later, so I don't think he minded. In fact, I don't think he missed me one bit.

While the rest of the fam (minus Calvin) was away, I worked on the cake. I didn't have time to make an R2D2 cake like I did for Jake a couple years ago, so I was grateful it was still along the lines of Star Wars. And I was even more grateful that Cooper came home and accurately identified it as a light saber. He was happy, so I was happy.

Then we were off to Jake's last soccer game. He's had a fun year since this is the first time his age group has been allowed to play with goalies...and Jake wanted to play that position more than any other. I was a little disappointed because he's really good on offense. But I'm also proud of him for trying something new AND difficult. I have since learned I don't like being the goalie's mom. It's so nerve-wracking. He took his defeats like a man though and repeatedly threw his body into defending the goal, making for some sweet action. I was impressed. These pictures are actually from his game 3 weeks earlier. (He's in the maroon jersey).

And what's better than playing sports with your friends? Jake played with his friend Kayden from our old ward and Dalyn who is in our current ward. In fact, Jake and Dalyn were baptized on the same day (but if Jake had been baptized right after his birthday in January, he would have been baptized with Kayden). Kayden was sick the last game of the season, but here are Jake and Dalyn. Interestingly enough, these three boys were the goalies for their team.

Now...on to the party. This year Cooper really wanted a Star Wars themed party. So we made it a Jedi Training Academy. I even hired a local magician who came as Princess Leia to show them some Jedi mind tricks.

Jake got good use out of his Luke Skywalker Halloween costume and was the watchman waiting for guests at the back gate. (We had to redirect traffic because Leia was setting up her show at the front of the house).

We started out by having the boys take a Jedi oath before we delved into their training. Then they were given balloons with their names on them and small light-up sabers. We journeyed to the light saber simulation room (garage) and to the Darth Vader March, their task was to keep their balloons from touching the ground with their sabers. They did a really good job.

Then it was time to assemble in the Great Jedi Council room where Princess Leia was waiting for them. For 20 minutes she wowed them with her tricks and slick moves. The young padawans were completely mesmerized. So fun!

The young padawans had no problem devouring the light saber cake and star cookies and playing games until it was time to go. A very successful training with 11 padawans. They were so well behaved!
Then it was time to clean up, not just from the party but to get ready for the Sabbath, too. Oh yeah, and my parents were supposed to be rolling in with their big rig some time Sunday. With an evening session of stake conference on the heels of the party aftermath, I just couldn't clean my house like I wanted to for their arrival. Oh well...
That evening Jared and I went to what I thought was one of the best adult sessions of Stake conference we've ever been to. It was incredible and we felt so blessed to be in attendance. It was definitely a slam packed day...and phew, when it was all said and done, we not only survived, but thrived!