The tale of the CT scan

Many of us know, all too well, that Cranio makes our lives forever different. This week we had a reminder of this.

On Monday Zoey was playing with David on the couch. In a typical sibling outcome, she ended up getting pushed off the couch. Her arms failed to catch her, and with a sickening crack, she landed face first on the carpet. While in the middle of a meeting I received a text message from my beloved letting everyone know about this, and that she believed Zoey broke her nose.

A flurry of fear filled me, and my heart was pounding. I tried to focus on what must happen, as I was methodically tracing my next steps. I was shocked with the thoughts flying through my mind. As an adventurous boy, and adult, my nose has ended broken 20+ times. I know the game. Ice, time, black eyes for a bit, and move on. But not for Zoey. For her, ‘normal’ has a new definition. Anything involving the face or head is not a small deal. So much time, so many surgeries, and more to come, all mean that things are different.

We debated on rising her to the ER. Spending the countless hours waiting to be seen, all for an x-ray. Instead, we reached out to her Craniofacial team. We sent pictures, a narrative, and our fears. Then we waited. We waited for an email or a call. Something to tell us we were crazy, or what our next step was.

 

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It came, a CT scan was needed. I knew what this meant. Surgery, either to fix or the next one we have been discussing was rushing back to the table. My fears were only lit aflame by the bruising that Zoey had the next day. It was telltale and bad. But every time I looked at Zoey, I could see the braveness forcing itself through. I saw my sweet little girl smiling, but I saw the pain.

So, today we loaded up the family and made our trek to the hospital. Zoey was in high spirits. We told her what was going to happen. As our silver van sailed the laughter wafted from the back while Zoey and David joked. My heart was still.

Check in was fast, and our wait was short. When it came to be our time, Zoey took my hand, and we walked. The long hallway caused our footsteps to echo, click, click, click. We almost made it past a beautiful mural filled with butterflies. As I feigned exuberant excitement to point them out to her, I looked at her. And my heart fell a little out of my chest. For the first time, in a very long time, I could see a little fear poking through her eyes.

We walked into a room that, to be fair, I wanted in my home. Freshwater fish scenery adorned the walls and hid the machines. Bass, trout, otters, even a carp with moss covered rocks and flowing plants. There was a light show on the ceiling giving the appearance of rippling water on a lavender and rose summer evening. I bent down to look at Zoey. Her eyes missed all of this, and we’re locked in the machine in terror. Her little hand quickly tightened around my finger.

For the next few minutes, we had to fight her. Her strength and agility were providing a great deal of surprise to the experienced technician. Every breath from Zoey was a scream of “No!”, “Mommy!”,”Stop”, and “Daddy.” That last one ripped shreds off my heart. It was full of fear, anxiety, and hurt. I fought tears as I kept reminding her that I was not going to leave her, that I was there, that I would never let anything bad happen to her. But I know they were falling on deaf ears. Undaunted by this, I kept talking to her. Holding her, and taking my place right next to her.

The fretted bindings that were holding my heart together wholly unraveled as she fought through those that were holding her down. The technician looked at me and asked if I wanted to call it off. My heart was screaming “Yes, please stop this!”, but my mind knew better.

It’s a tough row to hoe being a dad. Our entire job is, or at least it should be, vying for the welfare of our children. Protecting them from any harm that comes our way. And as my daughter lace screaming for this to stop, writing on the table, fighting against the straps, and the hands, I knew that this needed to happen. So, we fought on.

Finally, I found a way to hold her. Though it was not soothing her in any way, I was able to contain her. In a matter of moments, the X-ray and ct-scan were over. As they pulled her bed out of the machine, I can see the streams of Tears along her cheeks. Like Jewel filled streams of water against the blackened eyes from a broken nose. I Let Go. I stepped back just take a photo of this moment, preserving it and posterity and something else that she has yet again had to fight through. Something that her adult self may look back upon as she wonders about the journey her life has been. The time that she can look back and see her little 6-year-old body strapped to a table and remember that she overcame it.

The moment that the straps were freed she bolted upright. She left into my arms and held me tight as I could quickly feel her tears soaking my shirt. I held her so damn close. Whispering to her that this was over, that she did it, and telling her how proud of her I was. It was at that moment that she finally saw the fish, the Otters, the plants, the light show on the ceiling. “Like daddy’s fish tank” for nearly hoarse voice proclaimed in my ear. With a shuttering thump, I felt my heart begin to beat. My smile matched hers as I looked deep into her eyes. That brilliant sparkle of wonder was finally returning.

A few hours later, after copious amounts of cookies and regaling of her day, who received the long-awaited email. Her nose is fractured but not displaced. No worries about surgery at this time. Reading these words brought great elation to me after a long day.

It’s my job as her dad to protect her. I do not, and will not ever, take this aspect of my life lightly. But it is also my job to remember these moments period to capture them for her and her brothers. So that some dark day, when I’m no longer here to do my job, she will remember these hard days when I did my best.

Leading up to these events I was amazed private care an outpouring of affection that we received from so many others. Before the moment when we walked in that room, crossing the threshold, I was confident that this would have been easy for Zoey. “It’s just a CT scan,” I told myself over and over again. I had failed to remember the fact that nothing is as it should be. That many of the things that many other parents take for granted are entirely different for us. I’d also done the disservice I forgetting that my daughter can be scared. By failing to remember that countless things can disrupt the brave face that she puts on every single day. But for now, and I listen to her sleep in the room next to mine, I find peace. This was only helped by finishing some fine scotch and getting these words out.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Early mornings

Here I sit, listening to the sounds of my sleepy home. Being woken up at 3 am to the sounds of my daughter crying. Sometimes the medicine she has to take to help her use the bathroom works too well in the middle of the night. Having stripped bedding, started laundry, cleaned her up and put her back to sleep, my mind is in overdrive. These morning are spent validating my role as a dad.

As I ruminate over the last five crazy years, I look at the changes that I have gone through. Culminating in the birthday celebrations of the previous four days, I now have a six year old.

A six year old.

Where has the time gone? Better yet, what have I done with this time that I have been given? As I listen to the sleeping sounds of my children, my pregnant beloved, and even our dog, I am left to wonder about it all. I see the struggles that no one else sees. The hard times we have been through. The mountains we have had to climb either dragging the kids with us, or chasing them upwards. I know, parenting, done right, is never easy.

But what about rest? What about finding time to be still? “You need to stop and smell the roses” is something I hear far too often. However, even when I try in earnest, days like today happen. Over and over again. I took a vacation to spend time with family. To get away from stress. To rest and be still. Instead, every single day I have been sleeping less and less.

But, there is time with the kids. There have been moments. Unintentionally amazing moments and memories. Laughter, tickle fights, nature walks, even lazy cuddle on the couch and watch Peg + Cat moments. So, why am I exhausted?

It has been a full five years. From the moment Zoey came on the scene things needed to be different. There were new words to learn, procedures to discuss, pain and fear to work through. All while maintaining a brave face. Not for anyone other than Zoey. She never demanded, but has always deserved my best. Such a strong and brave soul is contained in that little body.

This translated to being the dad that David has needed. He is the embodiment of the thing so many parents say under their breath. “Someday you will have a kid just like you…”. Yeah, I do. Smart, adventurous, aggressive, defiant, little version of me. Still, my little buddy. Showing me countless times that long after I am gone he will be there to take care of his siblings. I know he will do well, just have to keep him alive.

Following the twin tornadoes (seriously what David and Zoey can do to a house in five minuets is mind blowing) comes my respite. Sweet little Jacob. The most mild mannered of the three. Happy to run and play, or cuddle just the same. Quick with a smile, a hug, a laugh. But, he is nearing two, and the signs are there. This is going to be a fun round of the terrible twos.

I know not what #4 will bring. What special kind of chaos he will add to this mixing pot of a family. But, I am as ready as I can be for him to arrive.
All of this is a good kind of exhausting. But does it need to be exhausting? This is the question I ask myself over and over. I am sure that, someday, I will be able to find a pattern that will allow sleep. Though it really is not about the amount of sleep. It is about finding time to be still.

Time to go change the laundry, and empty the dishwasher.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

*edit notes: So, I tried to use speech to text, during the hours of 3 and 4 in the morning, while exhausted, to write this post. All that I have done today was fix some grammar and word use issues that were driving me nuts.

Reading is challenging during the winter storm

As I awoke yesterday to a fresh, white, blanket of snow, I knew what I was going to hear. “The Richmond offices are closed due to inclement weather” the voice echoed on the other end of the call. A flurry of texts ensued as I alerted my staff of this event. Wondrous thoughts of sitting by the fire and finishing my second book, perhaps starting my third, of my 2018 Reading Challenge lulled me back to sleep.

Boy, did I sleep. I finally had a chance to get some rest. For the past few months I have been running at full speed, tilting all the windmills in my path. Perhaps it was the cold weather, the radiant views as the sun streaked across through the barren trees, but I relaxed. I rested. I woke up late. The kids were going outside to enjoy their snow day. Though, truth be told, snow days do not exist as a homeschooling family. Be that as it may, they were filled with excitement to run outside and dive into the snow that caused a day off. All one and a half inches of it.

Having spent a better portion of my life in regions that truly understand snow, it was a little laughable. But, to have some time to relax, time with family, is always a blessing. We quickly made plans to clean, organize, and de-clutter. These are never ending tasks when you have three children ages five and under. I assure you that the hurricane that is them trying to ‘help’ clean is far worse than the snow that kept me home. But we did these things just the same.

I watched them bounce up and down as we talked about snow, and smile chocolatey smiles as they had their hot coco. I handled the negotiations as to why I felt we would not be watching any more Christmas movies, even “Christmas Train” (or Polar Express as some of us call it), just because of the snow. They tried. It was adorable. But, it was an amazing day.

Near the end of it I realized that I had lost the opportunity to read as I had intended. It was the end of the day, the kids were going to sleep, and I was just relishing in the relaxation that I received from this unexpected day. In the quiet of the night, while I soothed my youngest back to sleep (for the millionth time) I read a little. Happy, and content with my progress, I logged in at 50% complete on my second book. Slowly, still reflecting back to the cool weather, and the day off, I lulled myself back to sleep in preparation for the day to come.

I hope to have a post on my thoughts on the first book, “The Giver”, sometime this weekend. Stay warm out there, and remember to take time to enjoy the unexpected gifts that are a snow day.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Day 4: Your Favorite Time of Day

There is a moment that I look forward to (almost) every day. After a long day there is a fraction of time that I close a door, take a few steps, pause, take a breath, and open another.  This is the moment that makes every single day worth whatever has been thrown at me.

When I get home, without fail, there is a moment that transpires. As the door opens one or two little voices will YELL from within the house “Daddy’s Home”! There is a cacophony of screams and a thunderous pattering of feet. I am bowled over as two excited children attack me with hugs, kisses, and begin pulling on my arm. As they guide me into the next room a little cherub face will turn and a brilliant smile will come to his face. Then my beloved bride will come and say “Welcome Home”.

No matter the day, no matter what is going on, this moment makes my entire day fade away. It is in these moments that the weight of the world leave me, like a mantel taken off. No matter what was on my mind the moment before I touched the handle, I am in my happy place. I am dad and husband. I am home.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Putting Fear in the Fearless: Tales of Failure as a Father

Yesterday, my world stopped, and a fear arose. I am still shaking off the ghost of what happened. Sleep has not gone well.

This weekend was a long and busy one. On the list of activities was getting together with my Dad, stepmom, and family.  We wanted to hang out, and have the kiddos go swimming at the hotel. So, we packed up and headed to the other side of town. The overcast, rain-laden clouds hung heavily in the sky, however, this did not affect the interior of our minivan as we traversed through the city. The littles knew we were on our way to see Grandpa and Grandma.  Their conversation was peppered with comments about pizza and even the word “pool.” As for Kati and I, our conversation was more softened about the busy times we have found ourselves in.

We arrived. Like a heard of animals we descended upon the hotel’s atrium. There, family and pizza boxes awaited. The boys took over a table to snack, juggle children, and play cribbage. Some of the children wandered over asking what we were playing. Smiles flippantly appeared upon all of the dad’s faces, it was about time to pass this game on to the next generation. Such a stoic torch, one that has been passed throughout our family for longer than many of us know.

After some pizza, and cribbage, the locals were getting restless. It was also at that time that some of the other children needed to go home for naps.  So, the gaggle was reduced to our three and one of my nieces.  My brother stayed to hang out with us, and to see if his daughter wanted to swim. So, a quick change into swimsuits was had. There is something amazing about the sound of little feat running down long halls. The heavy padded carpet making a thud, thud, thud that reverberates as the base, below the trill of their voices. The anticipation and excitement crescendos with each and every spoken word. I am thankful that it was mid-afternoon. This lessened my fear that anyone could be sleeping. We opened the door to the small indoor pool and all worked to contain the excitement of the children.

I hopped in the pool.  Like children looking at a puppy both Zoey and David circled around the pool, they wanted to jump in. They listened. Many of the methods that I have learned, and those that were added by family swim lessons at the Y took hold. I watched as they both sat down, feet dangling in the warm water.  My children don’t fear the water.  Heck, they do not really fear anything. They know that they are strong, I know that they are resourceful, and my fear is that they are fearless.

When it comes to water, I have a long history. I have been on swim teams since I was a teenager.  Though not the fastest, there was a passion. This passion still exists today. I would rather be in a pool swimming endless laps over a short sprint on a track, any day. I took scuba diving for credit in college… because I wanted to. Since then I have used my certification speeding time floating in the endless abyss. As a result, I have learned not to completely fear, but to respect the water. Most of all, I have learned that things can happen in a second that can change your life, or even end it.

Much like looking to the stars and running barefoot in the grass, I have been working with my kids on learning how to swim. Teaching them that some fear is good, and a ton of respect is better. We have taken family swim lessons, and have plans for more. My comfortable relationship with water is something that I want to pass on. For both its power and its beauty are mesmerizing.

I pointed to Zoey. She stood, hands exactly wringing themselves. I counted, using my fingers, to three, and with a high-pitched, gleeful scream, she jumped to me. We laughed, and giggled. I moved her back to the side to hold on. As she was climbing out, I pointed to David.  He stood, and I could not see any fear, just the contained excitement shivering through his little body.  I counted, using my fingers, to three, and he leaped into my arms with a scream of joy.  For what seems like forever, this rotation continued.

Eventually we ended up in the shallows. 3 feet deep, stairs with a rail. I looked and there was the rest of the family. My niece was playing in the shallows, showing me how tall she was. My dad and brother were playing a game, while Kati and my step-mom were chatting (Jacob in tow). Meanwhile, my two wanted rides.  So, I started with Zoey. David sat down on the steps, holding onto the rail, as we had practiced. With a whoosh I was off with Zoey. As I made it to the middle of the deep end, I turned to look… and my heart stopped.

David had decided to stand up, his foot slipped, as did his hand. He was in water over his head. His arms began to flail, he tried to call out for help. My son was drowning.

 

fear has come

 

Fear gripped me like a vice, and my heart stopped.

In a flash I jerked towards him, arm stretched. I needed to get to my boy. Zoey was on my back, arms around my neck. As I made this move she tightened. My scream for help, for anyone on the side to help my boy, it was cut off as her little arms held on for dear life.

He just kept flailing, and bobbing, struggling to float, trying to breath. I tried to lunge towards him again. Fear riddled me as I tried to reach my drowning son. One arm outstretched, with every tendon and fiber reaching for him in vain. I tried to scream again. My chest pounding against my daughters little arms wrapped tightly around my neck. I reached up to pull Zoey’s arms off my throat as a blur came from the right of the pool.

In the wake of it all, by pure chance, my brother happened to look at me. He saw the look of horror and fear on my face. Following my gaze, he saw David. He leapt to action, and leapt into the pool.  He pulled David up and held him close as I finally reached them.

In that moment, all were on their feet. My brother placed David on the side of the pool, he sat there coughing and crying as we flocked to him. I have never been so happy to see a coughing little boy in my whole life. I reached out for him as tears filled my eyes.

My heart began to beat, slowly. But the fear remained.

I hugged him, looked in his eyes, asking over and over again if he was ok.

“Oh-tay daddy” he replied, over and over again.

Finally, after a few minutes, many tears, and some towels, we continued our play, though a bit more restrained than before.

Now we watch and make sure that there are no signs of Dry Drowning. This is something that all parents should be aware of, and never experience. It will add a whole new level of fear regarding the pool for your kids. Long and short of Dry Drowning is where some water enters the lungs. It causes some swelling that limits the oxygen exchange, and has the same result (and effects) of drowning. It can happen with a delay up to 24 hours before the person shows any signs that it is going on. Though rare, it happens. We, as parents, should know about it, and fear it. This is especially relevant as summer is near. The time of pool parties, and swimsuits eagerly is ahead of us.

Fear be damned, today is another day.

But, as I said, I cannot shake the ghost. As a result, I fight to get sleep. While I lay there, exhausted, I see those moments over and over. Almost as soon as I close my eyes, I am taken back. I watch it playing from a birds eye view. I consequently rip myself apart. How did I let myself get so far away? It does not seem like it was that far. It is because of this that I will fight to be a better dad. But, since I know myself well enough, I will also never cease chastising myself for not getting there sooner.

Most of all, I will never cease being thankful for my brother jumping in. My brother is a hero. Seconds matter, and in those seconds, he jumped in.  Nicholas, if you read this, know that I love you, and that I owe you. I will never thank you enough for jumping in to help my little boy. You said it was no big deal because I would have done the same, and I agree with you. But it is a big deal, to me. Thank you Nicholas, a thousand times, thank you.

Later that day, when I was talking to David about what had happened, and that I was scared, I could see that he was too. When I told him that I loved him, he looked at me. His beautiful eyes filled with love and he replied,

“I love pizza”.

Finally, all was right with the world.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.