Thursday, November 29, 2012

From the Rabbit Hole...

This morning, as I watched the nurse push a large dose of pain medication into my IV, I turned my head away and closed my eyes.  I had reached my limit.  The last two days were pure torture.  I spent the day holding onto that hospital blue bucket - vomiting air and bile.  My abdominal pain increasing with every heave. I have been here for seven long days.  I have been away from my husband and my children.  I miss my boys and my bed and my health.  The doctor told me yesterday there is no end in sight at the moment - I could be better in a day or I could be better in a week.  With this disease, there are no predictions.  Unfortunately, this bug ravaged through my body and I was, as he put it, in bad shape.  

For the first few days (was it?  It's all a fog.) I was able to write my blog from my phone's key pad.  I wasn't able to access Blogger from either my laptop or my iPad.  Of course I wasn't.  Why make something easy for me during a terribly difficult time, right?  But two days ago - I couldn't even focus my eyes to do much at all.  I spent most of the day with my head in that blue bucket - or with a wet hospital rag covering my face.  Not even the pull of readers reaching out to me could get me to type on those miniscule little keys.  I'm glad that so many of you found me on Facebook to get updates - but I apologize that even there there weren't many.

This morning, with my eyes closed, I decided to give in.  To do everything it took to get home to my children.  I slept until I heard a voice calling my name.  My eyes focused on the clock - it was close to noon.  I had been dreaming drug induced dreams - Alice in Wonderland dreams - I was happy to be down the rabbit hole for that time because it meant I wasn't feeling the abdominal pain.  I turned my head and saw the face attached to the voice.  It was the wonderful Indian born doctor that has been carefully and thoroughly taking care of me since I arrived.  We went through the usual conversation we had each day - "How are you feeling?  Is the pain any better?  You have lost about 9 pounds to date, I have been told.  Can I examine your belly?"

Except today was a little different.  When he pressed on my belly to see how much pain he could evoke, I burst into tears.  He pulled his hands back in shock - "Are you okay?  Did the pain get worse?"  He was used to me wincing and sometimes crying out in pain... and we had just gotten over my instinctive sucker punch that one day (just kidding)... but this was different.  I was done.  I just sobbed and he put his hand on my knee and waited.

"I want to go home.  I need to go home.  I have been away from my children for far too long.  Doctor, please.  I need to go home to my children."

And then... after seven days... I heard:  "You can go home."

I looked back at the clock.  I wanted to be sure it had moved since I checked it last.  To be sure I wasn't still in that rabbit hole.  I looked back at the doctor and said "How?  Really?  Are you sure?"

He told me I am no longer contagious really.  The way someone in my house would get it is to come in contact with my stool and then ingest it.  I'm pretty confident that won't be happening.  He did say, however, that I have a ways to go.  I would need to rest a lot and take my medication.  I am still on the pain medication, nausea medication and a protonix.  The protonix medication will be used to hopefully heal esophageal erosion.  Of course it will.  Good God.  Moving on...

If it had been up the good doctor, I would have stayed probably through the weekend and then let go reluctantly.  But I guess he's a sucker for a mother in distress.  I promised him that I had a husband who will take good care of me.  I'm very grateful to Miss Sara who has taken exceptional care of the boys in my absence.  And Ed took charge once she left and was wonderful.

When I walked in the door at 4:00 this afternoon, I was never so happy to see these two faces (captured so poorly with my phone and my foggy eyes and shaky hands).
Gavin smiled and clapped.  Brian wanted to "show me" everything (including a very obvious Christmas present that had arrived and was sitting in the living room).  He was also fascinated with the neck pillow I used in the hospital.  That was a Godsend - thanks to Ed for that.

Gavin stared at me a lot - Buddha style.  He looked happy and healthy and free and clear of his RSV illness.  Nursed back to health by the village at home, thank God.  And Brian was super excited and ran circles around me.  When Ed was about to load them in the car to head to the pharmacy for my medication - Brian looked back at me very concerned that I wasn't going with them.  It broke my heart.  I feel at this moment (and I know I'll change my mind) that I'll never want to leave them again.


Which leads me to what you're all probably wondering.  How in the hell did I get Campylobacter??  Well, I spoke with the head of Infectious Disease at the hospital before I left today.  He explained that I most likely got it from food.  I took out my calendar and told him that before Gavin got sick that Sunday night, Ed and I had taken a little getaway to Atlantic City.  We stayed at the Borgata.  I enjoyed some spa treatments, spent time in my room doing nothing (which was quite blissful) and we ate in their restaurants.  Then, we got home and soon I was headed to DuPont with a very sick Gavin.  I was awake for two days with him and fell ill with a fever the evening of his discharge on Tuesday.  He said - based on the timing of my fever and the incubation time for the Campylobacter - I got it from something I ate at the Borgata and not from the hospital.  It has been reported by the lab to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  They will be contacting me for more information of my whereabouts and what I ate.  Then they will trace it back to the Borgata.  It will be interesting to see if there were other people affected by this.  I hope there wasn't - I wouldn't wish this on anyone.  

So, let's recap.  Home from a mini-getaway to a sick Gavin who gets hospitalized with RSV.  Awake for two days in the hospital with him and threatened by an obnoxious roomate's father.  Home not even 4 hours before I start to get the shivers and shakes.  In the ER on the eve of Thanksgiving with suspected appendicitis - and sent home with pain meds and orders to rest.  It is only an ovarian cyst about to burst, prepare yourself.  Thanksgiving day in bed - feeling like I was going to die.  Fevers up to 102.4.  The worst pain I've ever felt.  I've never had real "labor" but I suspect it felt like that.  It's Thanksgiving so I don't call a soul to say, "Hey - can you come sit with my two sick and highly contagious children so my husband can take me to the hospital?" and my pride (and fear of traumatizing Brian) kept me from calling the ambulance.  Back in the ER, I was taken very, very seriously.  They were extremely concerned about me and quickly had an IV in each arm.  Turned out my ovarian cyst had ruptured and I had - after many tests and blood draws and finger exams - Campylobacter... which, by the way, can cause Arthritis and Guillan-Barre syndrome.  Beat ya on one of them!  I spent seven days alone on isolation in bed.  A girl with terrible arthritis that is intensified when she stays still for too long.  Yeah... that.

Really - there's only so much a chick can take.

If you need me, I'll be in bed for a while.  I'm not sure what, if anything, I'll be blogging about.  I may not blog at all some days... confident that you don't want to know about my bathroom trips.  So find me on Facebook.  We'll make it fun there for a while.

Thank you so much for your love and support.  I was insanely lonely in that hospital room on isolation. Even in my rabbit hole, I somehow got your comments and messages.  Every single one helped me through this nightmare.  I love all of you.

I'm HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Monday, November 26, 2012

Unimpressed...

I am sad to report that I am worse today.  Last night I started vomiting a lot which, in turn, caused significant abdominal pain.  They put me out of my misery with an extra dose of pain meds.  I was able to sleep for about four hours or so.

The vomiting continued all morning until I asked my nurse if there could possibly be any other options besides Zofran.  That clearly wasn't helping.  She came back a little later after having a pow wow with the pharmacist.  They now have me on a "cancer cocktail" - a combination of meds that they offer to cancer patients who need a powerful anti-emetic.  I still feel extremely nauseous, but so far I've only thrown up twice.

The events of last night and today have exhausted me.  I have not been able to eat and can only sip liquids slowly.  I had to write to Gavin and Brian's teachers to tell them they wouldn't be at school and each email took me about 15-20 minutes. I kept falling asleep and would wake up having to erase a whole lot ajjdhnnsdkjßxhdduwjb x

See what I mean?

The doctor was in and was unimpressed with my progress.  He said I'd likely be here a couple more days.  I'm sure you can guess how I feel about that... and I'm sure you are right.

Thank you for your support and friendship during this very stressful time.  I appreciate the nice notes so much.  I've been posting pictures sent from home on my Facebook page.  Feel free to friend me - I will accept you all!  Click on the Facebook logo at the top right of the page or search for Kate Gallagher Leong on the Facebook page.

Now I must lay back down for a good and ugly cry.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Diagnosis...

Last night I took another turn for the worse.  My abdominal pain intensified, I started vomiting and dry heaving (a very cruel joke when you have terrible abdominal pain) and...for the icing on the cake, I was slammed with my period.  I've been on Zofran (an anti-nausea medication) ever since.  I've noticed two things about this Zofran - it causes extreme fatigue in me and... it doesn't work.  I've continued to vomit up until - hold on - - - - - just now.  It's safe to say that I am completely and utterly miserable.

I was also starting to feel paranoid.  Every test was coming back negative, yet here was this patient saying she was in terrible pain.  Did they begin to doubt me?  And on the flip side - should I wonder if they missed something important?  Why haven't they figured it out by now??

But then, this afternoon, I got the news.  The last test came back - a stool culture that took a few days of growing in the lab before they could read it.  It came back positive for Campylobacter.    I'll let you click the link to read more about it - I'm just too tired to write anymore.

Basically it's a food borne illness and it causes a range of symptoms depending on the person.  If Ed and I both got it, he may have minimal symptoms.  But because I have immune issues, it wrecks me.  They are going to put me on IV antibiotics and keep me here until my body calms down.  

I will be very happy when this is all over.  I have no words to describe how I feel right now, but there have been lots of tears.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holding Pattern...

I am still not able to access my journal on my laptop OR my iPad.  I have no idea why!  So once again, I am typing this from the tiny keys on my phone.  Not that easy when you're on pain meds that sometimes make your eyes drift into a semi asleep position.  So I will do my best tonight.  Don't expect much!

I'm still here, obviously.  I still feel positively awful.  The fevers are gone, but my abdominal pain has stuck around to torment me.  I cheered out loud when the doctor told me that the test for C. Difficile came back negative.  Go ahead and google it - I bet you'll cheer, too.  There are still a couple tests pending that should come back tomorrow.

The theory at this point after the doctor and surgeon discussed my case at length is this...

I have a bowel infection which causes inflammation... which produces pain.
Inconveniently, I had an ovarian cyst rupture at the same time... which added pain.  A lot.
They saw fluid in my abdominal cavity, which can cause discomfort.  And they suspect that the ruptured cyst leaked blood into my abdominal cavity.  The perfect storm.

I was grateful for a few things today.  I was able to sleep for two three hour stretches during the night.  I even dreamed!  This afternoon my doctor increased my pain medication which helped a lot.  My Mom came to visit me and brought beautiful pink roses.  I was so happy to have her there.  Then my Mom went to my house to stay with the boys so Ed could come see me!  And just as he arrived, so did my sister, Bean.  Tomorrow if the tests come back negative, they will take me off isolation and Ed will bring the boys to see me!

I'm in a very depressing and painful holding pattern.  Hopefully I'll have more to report tomorrow.  In the meantime, say a prayer for me?


Friday, November 23, 2012

An Unexpected Twist...

When I was discharged from the emergency room, the doctor told me to rest and take the pain meds she prescribed.  She wasn't too concerned about the ovarian cyst and said that when it did burst, I would feel better!  Well, part of that happened.  I already had terrible pain.  Adding a ruptured cyst on top of that truly mad me feel like I was going to die.  It was awful.  

But she said the pain would go away...and it didn't.  Actually the pain got worse.  The pain meds were useless.  All day on Thanksgiving and all the night before and all last night I was in bed or in the bathroom - or using up tissue boxes to dry my tears.  The boys came up to visit a couple times, which made my day.  And Brian hung out with me as we watched "The Polar Express" for the first time.  When it ended, he said:  "Thanks, Mama, this was the best movie ever for me! And you're the best Mommy ever for me, too!  You're my best friend ever."

Thanksgiving night I knew I needed to go back to the hospital.  I met all of their criteria for going back for a reevaluation... And then some.  But the boys were in bed asleep - and sick.  I didn't want to drag them out in the cold to have Ed drop me off.  I wasn't going to call a neighbor on thanksgiving and ask them to come sit in our sick house. And I didn't want to call an ambulance and cause a scene. So I decided to wait it out through the night and if I felt this bad in the morning - Ed could drive me with the boys.

Each hour I turned and looked at the clock.  Sleep came in short spurts and I could not get comfortable in any position.  I also needed to make many, many, many trips to the bathroom - if you know what I mean.  Every step from my bed to the bath sent terrible pain to my abdomen.  I considered that ambulance several times.

When the sun came up, I woke Ed and told him he needed to take me to the hospital.

In the emergency room they quickly realized that I was far worse than two days before.  After examination, the ER doctor had strong suspicions of a perforated bowel or colitis.  Both pretty terrible scenarios.  Thankfully they dosed me up with IV pain meds which took the edge off.  But I still felt the four different abdominal exams that produced copious tears... A rectal exam that was very rude... A transvaginal ultrasound AND an abdominal ultrasound which kicked that girl right off our Christmas card list... A second CT scan... And Two IVs because they suspected sepsis.

But here's where it got weird.  All of those tests showed nothing significant that would be causing the fevers and pain!  Still, they knew that something was very wrong and decided to admit me for a few days.  I was devastated to hear that.  I've barely cared for poor sick Gavin all week - and I've hardly seen Brian.  This just broke my heart.

Their suspicion at this point is a bowel infection.  I'm in a private room with isolation precautions.  There are tests still pending and I've met with a surgeon should something happen or be revealed.  Something is definitely amiss in this belly of mine.  They are concerned with how sick I am and will be monitoring me very closely.  I'd like to say I'm pain free, but I'm not.  The doctor wants to be sure I can feel when things come and go.  I'm not happy about that part.  I'm pretty tired of sitting in a bed in terrible pain.

I'm not going to lie - I'm pretty nervous.  Okay, extremely nervous.  The rushing and concerned faces in the ER got to me. 

I will be very happy when I'm home holding those sweet boys of mine.
Thank you, as always, for your love and support.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Postponing Thanksgiving...

As most of you know, I'm a very positive person.  I'm very aware of the blessings in my life and I'm truly thankful every day... I don't wait until Thanksgiving to reflect.

So, with that said - I feel a lot better saying that I am NOT feeling very thankful right now.  This is the second Thanksgiving in a row that I've had a struggle.  Last year, on the heels of my Dad dying, I spent Thanksgiving miscarrying.  This year, the day I bring Gavin home from the hospital - still very sick with RSV - I start to feel bad myself.  I sent Sara home for the holidays.  That was my original plan - and if it wasn't it would have happened anyway.  With Gavin and Brian sick and now me... the last thing I wanted was for her to get sick for her Thanksgiving weekend.  

I thought maybe it was the Flu, but I wasn't congested.  My entire body ached - every joint, every muscle, every everything.  I had fevers ranging from 100-102.  Ed had taken off from work on Monday (he had been up all night while I was at the ER and needed to sleep the next day) and also on Tuesday while Miss Sara was here.  Once I sent her home, he was here to be with the kids while I went to bed and shivered under the covers.  The next day, he went to work and I truly felt like I was going to die.  I had started having bad belly pain before I got out of bed - it hurt just to touch it.  Just walking down the hall to the boys rooms was a struggle.  But the worst was getting Gavin dressed.  It took me twenty minutes.  He is so strong now and I had such little strength to wrangle him to get his diaper off.  We both cried from frustration.  It was an awful morning.  I was dealing with whatever it was that I had - plus my usual morning Rheumatoid Arthritis stiffness and pain.  Unbearable

Ed came home after a half day, thank God.  I went right to bed.  Things got worse - especially with my belly pain.  By dinner, I called my doctor.  I was shocked when he said he suspected Appendicitis and told me he'd like me to go to the emergency room to get a CT scan.

To make a long, boring and very "un-Thanksgiving like" post short - 

It turned out not to be Appendicitis.  They saw fibroids on the CT scan and also a large ovarian cyst that hasn't ruptured yet.  The doctor said she wasn't sure how I made it that long before coming in.  She told me the only treatment is rest and pain control and sent me home with a prescription for Percocet.  

So here I am again - in bed.  Alternating between sweating and freezing.  Alternating between crying and sleeping.  We canceled Thanksgiving (which was just the four of us anyway) and are postponing our dinner maybe into the weekend.  I have a call to my doctor to tell him about last night and see what he thinks about it.  I've had a lot of people message me asking why they didn't remove it surgically - enough that I'm starting to worry.

My plan now?  I'm going to call the boys up to my room and put on "The Polar Express" - a movie they have never seen.  A little bit of Gavin and Brian time will be just the medicine I need.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  Enjoy your day with your family and friends.  If you're alone this Thanksgiving, climb in your bed and put a movie on, too.  It will be like we're having a virtual slumber party.  You're never really alone!

Thank you for loving our family - in good times and bad - in sickness and in health.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Home-Sick

This will b-b-be very b-b-brief.

We are home.  We high tailed it out of there at 9:30 this morning.  A lot happened over the past 24 hours - including another sleepless night for ME.   

I got home - sent Miss Sara home to enjoy the holidays with her family until Tuesday.  I didn't want her exposed to anymore sickness.  I gave the boys baths - they both took a nap for over two hours - and so did I.

When I got them out of bed, Ed sent ME back to bed where I slept until 7pm and woke up... sick.  Very sick.  High fever.  Sh-sh-sh-shivering.  And every inch of me - from skin to joints to muscle - feels like one big pain receptor.  I haven't felt this sick in a very long time.

So - I don't know what to expect over the next few days.  If I don't post an update, that is why.  And if you aren't FaceBook friends with me, feel free to send a request.  You can read all about yesterday and last night - and I'll probably post updates there over the next few days.

Please say a prayer that Ed stays healthy.  He's the only one taking care of ALL of us now!  Gavin and Brian are still sick, tired and miserable.



Monday, November 19, 2012

Never A Dull Moment...

Well - Ed and I went away.  We relaxed, I worked on Brian's very late two year video (oh, yes I did!) and we ate a lot of good food.  But mostly - I was excited to sleep.  A lot.  As it turns out, it was fortuitous that I got all that extra sleep.  Someone was watching out for me.

While we were headed back to reality, I got a message from home that Gavin developed a runny nose.  We were on our way home, so I didn't panic.  When we got there, Gavin seemed a bit "off," but he was still smiling and his nose really just seemed runny.  I gave him a bath and we put him to bed.

I sat in bed for a long time and couldn't shake a weird feeling all night.  When it was 12:30am, Ed turned over and asked me if I was going to go to sleep - and I said I couldn't for some reason.  Finally, close to 1am, I put my head on the pillow.  I was just starting to drift when I shot up with major anxiety and felt the need to rush to Gavin's room.

When I got there, he was lying in vomit and having difficulty breathing.  I unzipped his bed and picked him up - quickly realizing he was burning up and was like a rag doll.  After yelling for Ed, I brought Gavin to the bathroom and took his temperature - 103.6.  He got a dose of Advil... and I also decided to try his rarely used nebulizer to see if that would help.  We didn't even come close to finishing the treatment before I announced that we needed to get him to the emergency room.

Ed helped me pack furiously and I rushed Gavin to our local hospital.  I debated for about two seconds if I should take him to DuPont - his main hospital that's an hour away - instead, but he was truly in distress.  He needed help with his breathing immediately.
We got to the local hospital around 1:30.  They took a chest X-Ray, put an IV in (and got it in on the first try!!) and suctioned his nose to test for RSV.  The RSV came back positive.  We were all pretty shocked.
As soon as Gavin was stable on oxygen, they called for a DuPont transport team to transfer him.  I had an hour before they got there and was SO grateful when his nurse said she'd bring in her paperwork and sit with Gavin while I rushed home to pack some more essentials.  Like Gavin's portable DVD player with his Little Einstein movie.  I'd rather leave home without my toothbrush than that - it makes him so happy.  And it makes traumatic things less traumatic.

We all got to DuPont at 4am~ish and were brought right up to the floor where it all began.  We spent close to three months living on this floor when Gavin was an infant and had... RSV.
Did I happen to mention that I haven't slept since Sunday morning when I woke up at 9?  Please don't examine this post for grammar or typographical errors.  Thanks in advance.  *yawn*

Gavin just fell asleep - 11 hours after this all began.  He's exhausted and working hard to breathe.  They have him on Oxygen and are treating him with that cough assist vest that we fell in love with last time we were here.  
He has a pretty ugly cough - and his chest sounds very congested.  There's absolutely no telling how long we'll be here.  But we do have something on our side.  Gavin's main doctor is here and in charge of him!  That doesn't always happen.  Dr. Raab is not an alarmist and is pretty laid back about discharges.  They just did rounds and decided - since Gavin was sleeping - to turn off his oxygen.  If he can stay at a certain oxygenation percentage for a few hours on his own - we may be able to go home today.  But it all depends on Gavin.  Say a prayer!
As much as I'm worried about Gavin, I'm equally worried for Brian.  He had just welcomed me home.  Last night he didn't want to go to bed - he wanted a second book and then a third book and then more tickles and then another hug.  He got all of that and more... and we talked about all the things we were going to do together this week.  And then this morning when he woke up, Gavin and I were gone.  And... he has a cold, too.

Truly - it's never a dull moment at our house.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Keeping a Safe Distance...

I have been accused of being slightly overprotective of Gavin.  And by slightly I of course mean EXTREMELY- in bold caps - to the point that I'm sure at least once someone whispered (She's crazy!) behind my back.

But, since Gavin started school this past August, I've been pretty proud of how I've changed.  Slowly I have found myself backing off.  Mind you, it's millimeter by millimeter - but it's a start!  I don't realize how it's affecting him, really, until I see him with Brian.  By now you all know how I feel about those brothers - the dynamic duo.  
I have always worried that Brian wouldn't connect with Gavin - wouldn't be able to relate to him - and, physically, wouldn't really be able to play with him.  Thus began my devastating, tumultuous quest for a sibling which was just one tragedy after another.

But I digress.

Lately, as I watch from behind the half wall or in between the branches of the ficus tree or from around a corner - spying on them as they play - I've noticed that Brian is trying more and more to engage with his big brother. Typically, Brian will either try to include Gavin in a game - or he'll start to "do" something to him.  Before he "does" anything, though, he always makes a sideways glance to gauge my reaction.
  Lately, I've tried to remain neutral - letting him make his own decisions and trying to not freak out at all - and he has made the right call (like not putting a bucket on Gavin's head to cover his eyes... or not wrestling with him) the majority of the time.

It makes me so, so happy when I am driving Brian home from school an I hear him say from the backseat "I can't wait to show Gavin..." or "When Gavin gets home we can..."  I love that he loves his brother so much!!  
I have this new "thing" that I do with the boys.  I dramatically exclaim "Oh no!  I forgot!!" and smack my forehead - I'm completely immersed in the acting to the point that I'm beginning to believe I could be a method actor.  Seriously...I am that good.  (I hear you whispering again...) Brian loves this - he falls for it a lot and looks at me with wide eyes waiting to hear what it is that I could have possibly forgotten that is SO important.  It's then that I say - "I forgot to tell you - I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!"  I end Gavin's with a tickle, which he loves.  So, this week - Brian has decided to do his own version.  My little protegé.  I've heard him say to Gavin, "Gavin! I forgot!  I! LOVE! YOUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!" and then I hear "Tickle, Tickle, Tickle!"

There are definitely days when I am down about my (extremely) unsuccessful (big time!) attempt to have another child.  But lately I have been reminded by these brothers that we are always given just what we need.  Life is one big lesson.  And just when you think you're about to master it - the lesson plan changes.  
******
Tomorrow afternoon, Ed and I are running away for a little "before the winter" R&R!  I won't be writing until Monday.  Enjoy your week!  And, as always, I am thankful for all of you - from all over the world - that love our little family.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kids Behaving Badly...

Did you ever notice that the angels you write about on your blog, brag incessantly about at parties, and enjoy impossibly sweet "Normal Rockwell" inspired moments with at home act like HEATHENS when company arrives?

oy.

I'm trying to be fair and balanced as a Mom and lump both of my children into this category of "Kids Behaving Badly" but I think we all know who I'm referring to and his name does NOT rhyme with Blavin.

It's an interesting and annoying parenting dilemma - kids love to make liars out of us in front of others!  I totally get the psychology around it.  There's competition for the parent's attention when guests are here.  There's testing of boundaries when the child knows you likely won't discipline them in front of guests (which isn't really true for me - sorry to disappoint, kid that has a name that rhymes with Lyin'!)  Maybe there's some social anxiety with new people.  Who knows.  And in the moment when you're mortified and frustrated and trying to fend off hands in your face and "Mama Mama Mama  - look at this!  Mama Mama Mama - come this way!  Mama Mama Mama..." all while you're trying to have a conversation or simply hear your guest - you really don't care.  Actually - you are two seconds from disowning the obnoxious little person that you are SURE is now possessed with the spirit of someone ELSE'S child.  Not yours.  No way.

So, yeah.  That happened to me today.

On a lighter note - the boys are sleeping like angels and my lungs have resumed taking in and letting out air.  So now I can tell you that we had a wonderful visit from a friend we haven't seen in YEARS!  Ed's long time friend, Thea, was in town on business.  

She and her beautiful family live out in California now.  Luckily, we live in the digital age and have been able to watch each other's children grow up online.  But even so, nothing beats face to face.

This is a pretty good indication of how crazy and distracting the boys were.  Brian was causing such a scene during this photo that Gavin was flipping out a bit from the noise.  Good times.
Everyone leads such busy lives.  I always feel so honored when people take time out of their very busy schedules - or even give up precious time alone! - to visit us.  It really was an honor to spend time with Thea today and hear about her family.  

In other news, today was Gavin's first "Picture Day" at school.  Let's just say that I should have had a Valium packed in his lunchbox for Miss Sara.  The story of the photo session had me in hysterics - it sounds like it was quite a production to get Gavin to sit still... to look even remotely in the direction of the camera... and to smile.  I can't wait to see this picture!!  I can't imagine it being anything but adorable.  I mean, come on.  We're talking about Blavin.  Sorry - I mean Gavin.



Monday, November 12, 2012

Giving...

If there's one quality I want to foster in Gavin and Brian, it's generosity.  I want them to be generous with their time, their love, their spirit and their good fortune.  Growing up, my parents encouraged giving to those less fortunate than us...and my Dad and I loved to do volunteer projects together.

Since the day Gavin was born, I feel like we've been on a constant receiving end of generosity.  When he was hospitalized, people brought us meals.  When I lost babies, people brought us meals.  (People have brought us a LOT of meals to the point that I started to think of things I could make up JUST to get these amazing meals)  Neighbors and friends have sent us hand me down clothes.  Other friends and neighbors have given us toys.  Blog readers have sent care packages and toys.  One especially generous blog reader, a retired school teacher who we lovingly refer to as Grandma Barb, supplied the boys with what seems like a lifetime worth of books!!  We have been so blessed by so many people.

So, it has felt really great over this past year or so to give and give and give.  But, more importantly, it has felt great to know that two little boys are watching.  Whether it's something small - like handing a dollar to Brian to put in a serviceman's can on Veteran's Day... or handing five bucks out the window to a Penn State student collecting money for their Childhood Cancer campaign - or something big like giving baby gear and clothes and toys to Gavin and Brian's speech therapist or packing up boxes for hurricane victims - they were watching.  And Brian always has tons of questions.  My answers always include a story about Pop who was truly the most generous person I've ever known.  He taught me that it doesn't matter how little you have - you can still manage to give something big and make a difference in someone's life.

Last week, I purchased a castle climber and slide with the intention of giving it to Gavin's classroom.  I bought it from a local Mom - she practically gave it away for $20.00! - and she was so happy to know it was going to help Gavin and his friends.  I thought it would be a great indoor activity and therapy tool during the cold winter months when they can't go outside.
It was at our house all weekend and I cleaned it up well so we could deliver it today.  Brian had a LOT of fun playing on it this weekend so I was a little bit fearful that he would have a tough time letting it go.  Okay, a lot a bit fearful.

But I was wrong.  I loaded it in the back of the van and Brian and I drove to Gavin's school to pick him up.  The whole way there he talked about how happy Gavin and his friends were going to be when they saw it.  I was so proud of him.  We carried it in and he demonstrated how to climb and slide and that was that!!
While we were there, I had a chance to chat with two of Gavin's therapists.  Whitney, on the left, is Gavin's Speech Therapist - and Erika is his Occupational Therapist.  They both are so great with Gavin and you can tell that he really adores them.  
Whitney told me that they were working hard on lip closure today.  Just like Maggie did, she adds crushed crackers or rice krispies on top of his puree and uses a flat spoon to encourage him to close his lips around it.  Generally, he scrapes everything with his teeth.  Lip closure is an important step in speech and language development.  She's been using massage around his mouth and bringing bubbles to his lips as well!

Erika worked with him on feeding as well.  She's trying to encourage him to feed himself.  He was doing well with that for a while...but, in Gavin style, went on strike for a bit.  To get him back in the groove, she used a technique called "chaining" where she'd leave the spoon in his mouth so he'd be forced to pull it out himself with his hand. Tricky, eh?  As a reward after therapy, she bounced him on the big therapy ball which I am SURE my little daredevil just loved.

Tomorrow is a big day!  It's Gavin's first school picture day!  I'm sending Sara to school with props to entertain and make him smile.  Her job is depending on how good these pictures turn out so... good luck with that, Miss Sara!  (don't worry, I'm just kidding.  or am I?)



Sunday, November 11, 2012

On This Day...

On this day last year, 11/11/11, my Dad was laid to rest.  Ironically, it was Veteran's Day - a most fitting day to pay respects to this retired Navy Captain.  I wrote a personal eulogy, which I only shared here.

On this day this year, everyone in our family received an email from my niece, Julia.  Julia is an extraordinary woman - and my Dad loved her dearly.  Actually, they have a lot in common.  (Like their writing talent!!)  She just started her first year at Tulane University in New Orleans and we're all so proud of her.

But this email.  It rendered me speechless.  Yes, me.  The email was so beautiful that, with her permission, I have to share it with the world.

*******************


Reflections on Keeping Faith
~ Julia 2012


            In the spring of senior year we received an assignment in my government class to write an eight-page paper on the United States president that we picked out of a hat.  My luck is normally slim in randomly choosing things, so I had low hopes for picking a president that could inspire eight pages from me.  Even though I didn’t know much about him at the moment that I unfolded my little square of paper, I was pleased to have chosen our 39th president Jimmy Carter, simply because he was fairly modern.  By the end of the paper I found myself referring to Mr. Carter as my man Jimmy.  Many of the documents I read seemed to indicate that President Carter had a weak legacy, and maybe I still am just too young and full of idealism, but I felt that Jimmy Carter had strong and admirable intentions in all of his actions even if they didn’t always produce positive results.  Carter’s attitude and spirit is what stuck out to me, I was able to see past the failed attempts at rescuing the Iranian hostages or earning another term and admire his intentions.  I believe that is the legacy our president of the Gallagher family, Pop, left after his term too.  There is no doubt that his actions are honored and remembered but in the past year I am sure what we have held with us is a positive spirit, a self challenge of overcoming adversity, a quiet whisper of ‘keep the faith’ in a tough moment. 

In thinking back, Pop and I probably talked about Jimmy Carter before.  Especially since I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, the Carters were strong advocates for the organization, so I’m sure I couldn’t have escaped a joke comparing myself to Rosalynn Carter.  With my new knowledge and respect for Jimmy Carter, I would love to have that conversation again, and hear what Pop’s thoughts were on Carter.  Pop stayed on my mind through writing this paper last May as I noticed several similarities between him and President Carter.  The most apparent and fundamental likeness was service in the Navy.  Another similarity was a less than glamorous childhood marked by challenges and hard work.  Finally, the crossover that excited me most was when I came across one of Jimmy Carter’s memoirs called Keeping Faith.

As we all probably have for almost everyday of the past year, I’ve thought about Pop more especially in the beginning of my college journey.  When I flew home during Hurricane Isaac I felt ‘touched by an angel’ by the passenger next to me. It was an older man just a little younger than Pop, with glasses just like Pop’s, reading a strategy book on card games, and later pulling out a kindle. Just that was enough for me to feel that Pop was ‘with me’ through this bustling hurricane evacuation as well as through my new college experience in general.  I nearly cried when we started talking and I learned that he, as well as his oldest son, was in the Navy. My beliefs of heaven and faith have only been strengthened in the wake of Pop’s death.

Once I was back on campus, it wasn’t before long that I found myself, pretending to know where I was going, in the stacks of the library searching for Jimmy Carter’s memoir.  Finally I found the dark blue, fabric bound book, with a simple, Keeping Faith Jimmy Carter, etched on the bind in gold.  I renewed it twice and tried to get through as much as I could, but it turns out diligent leisure reading is not genetic.  From what I did read, I reflect.  Keeping faith involves risk.  Maybe this in an attribute learned in the armed services, that Jimmy and Pop both had it alike, but I think risk and faith come together for courage in action.  Another theme I came across in Keeping Faith was Jimmy Carter’s reflections on being sure that he and our nation were practicing what we were preaching to other nations.  This lesson is found in the Bible and from those of strong morals and values that we cannot criticize others for something we ourselves are committing.  Finally a large portion of the memoir was about human rights.  This was a great reminder to me of the connection between my faith, what that means to me, and the commitment to upholding the rights of all people. The two are interlinked and cannot be extracted from one another.

Keeping faith molds itself to each situation, joy or struggle, in my life.  Sometimes it means hope, sometimes it means remembering the beliefs of the actual faith or religion I practice, and in the past year sometimes it just means ‘hey pop!’  Faith has challenged and confused me, but I will always keep it close.



Friday, November 9, 2012

Gavin Got Love Bombed!...

Today was all about Gavin (Well, except for one small part when he helped me pick out makeup but let's not go there).  The whole day was about him! (Well, except when I turned off his movie in the van after the fifth time Little Einsteins came on and I just wanted to hear some country music but let's not go there, either.)

Today... Gavin got LOVE BOMBED!!
I was so happy to spend the day with just the two of us.  I love this little boy!!
We started off our day together like we always do on Fridays... at our joint Dr. Trish appointment.

It was a perfect kick off - Gavin loves being there and giggled through the whole session.

After she was through working with him, she mentioned that she felt drawn to work on his leg and thigh muscles.  That was no surprise to me - he's been doing such a great job walking lately.

After our appointment, we headed to Arnold's Family Fun Center and the two of us were SO excited to see that they added a new ride!  Before, there were only two rides - the Merry Go Round and a Train.  But they added something awesome!  The FROG HOPPER!
Gavin and I went on this together when we went to Dutch Wonderland and he loved it.  Today was no different - we "hopped" three times in a row!  He laughed and laughed and laughed.
After, we walked around and had some fun with their very old and very silly statues.  Like "Scary Rabbit"...
And "Lame-O Lion".  
But Gavin's eyes were on the Carousel...
This is where he blew me away.  While I held onto only his belt loop, Gavin sat up and casually held on to the pole with one hand.  We went for three rides in a row and he never tired.
 Check out the poor video I took with my outstretched arm...
After Arnold's, we took a ride over to Target.  Gavin's Uncle Mike, Aunt Lisa and cousins gave him a gift card for his birthday so we thought we'd spend it!  We got a new activity table to change things up a little at home!  

He also picked out a Fisher Price circle shaped rattle that has a chirping chickadee in the middle.  I know - it's a baby toy.  But he held that thing and shook it like it was an instrument through the whole store.  There was no way that wasn't coming home with us!!  He continued to hold it through lunch and even in the car!!

The last thing we did was pick up a castle climber and slide that I bought on a Mom's sale site, much like Craig's List.  I'm going to clean it up and bring it into Gavin's school on Monday for their classroom!  I can't wait.

We really had a lot of fun together.  Gavin was exhausted when we got home and nearly fell asleep in his Yams at dinner.

I hope Love Bombing catches on with all of you!  I have to say - it's good for everyone involved.



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Brag Fest...

Yesterday's one year anniversary of my father's passing was a little harder than I thought it would be.... and a little easier than I thought it would be.  Like most things with me, that doesn't make sense to anyone but me.  But that's how it was - one minute okay, the next minute not.  Thank you for the kind comments on FB and personal notes.  It meant so much to be remembered - and to know that my Dad had an impact on some of you.  Even those that never met him!!

I'm really grateful to Ed.  He lost his parents young, so he's had a jump on this "losing a parent" thing.  He went out of his way to show me comfort and compassion and for the last several days has been such a great friend to me.  Thanks, Ed.

Gavin is doing so well in school - and today was no exception!  
Thursdays are a busy day for him as every therapist crams in their sessions on that day for some reason.  He sees his physical therapist, his speech therapist and his occupational therapist... in addition to his school activities!  He came home exhausted today and even took a short nap.  Sara told me that the principal was in for a visit the other day.  Gavin was all smiles during her visit and she even sang and played "Itsy Bitsy Spider" with him - totally winning him over!  When they told her that Gavin was doing a "Marathon" in Physical Therapy and showed her the awesome chart that Sara made to keep track of his progress - she came up with a plan.  She told them to let her know when Gavin is doing his final lap in his 5K... and she'll have the whole school come out and line the hallways to cheer for him.  Typing that makes me cry.  Can you just picture that long hallway FILLED with the entire school of Kindergarteners and teachers?  I will definitely be there on that day - with my camera.  And I may not even try to hide it.  What a moment that will be.

Brian is also doing really well.
His speech is improving every day. Miss Maggie, his speech therapist, has been writing to me that he's been helping and encouraging other kids during therapy!  What a switch from last year.  I've been very proud of his behavior overall at home, too.  Sure, we hear whining every now and then - and the occasional "Gavin is touching my toy/head/chair/foot/whatever" - but it's not anything I'm worried about.  He is such a loving child.  At bedtime he's been saying things like, "Mommy, you're my best friend."  Or, "I love you and Daddy and Gavin and Granny and Pop in Heaven and Sara and my teachers and my friends."  Or, "I had so much fun today. Thank you Mama." This kid is a total ego boost.

Tomorrow is Gavin's day for a LOVE BOMB!  In the morning we have our joint Dr. Trish appointment - and after that, we're going to spend the day together!  I only have three things planned so far - rides at Arnold's Family Fun Center... lunch... and picking up a castle/climber/slide that I purchased for his classroom.  Gavin is VERY easy to entertain - which puts a lot of pressure on me.  I could easily take him to the grocery store and he'd have a ball, but that doesn't seem "good enough" for a Love Bomb day.  We'll just have to play it by ear.  We'll be together - just the two of us - and that's all that matters.

This post was a total brag fest.  I can't help it.  Can you blame me?  I love being a Mom.  I really, really do.


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