Seven Lessons Learned in Seven Days‏

Children possess uncanny permanent marker detection…just one of the life lessons I learned this week.

Life’s been especially busy around here lately. My husband spent a week in Montana working on a scale monitoring system project while I took care of the kids at home. In the busyness, there’s plenty of opportunity for learning. Here are some lessons I learned in the last week:

Laying down together under the warm heat lamp, the new lamb and our three-year old.

Laying down together under the warm heat lamp, the new lamb and our three-year old.

Bears Knock Down Pictures
Our youngest child recently turned two. Every day, her growing vocabulary and creative exploits tell us more and more that she definitely is no longer a baby, but a real, live two-year-old. One of her most recent “milestones” is learning to stretch the truth.

A few days ago, I didn’t pick her up out of her crib right away when she woke up. With a few minutes to kill, she filled her time by undressing herself and emptying her crib of blankets.

I also noticed the picture that normally hangs above her bed was missing, so I asked her what happened. She looked at me very seriously, shook her head, and with a disgusted look, said, “Bear knocked it down, Mom.” Oh, the teddy bear did it. Of course.

If only baby books had a spot to record “Child’s First Fib.” I can’t say my heart swelled with pride, but I was a bit impressed by her convincing delivery. I’m sure with time, she’ll improve on her technique, and stop blaming her mishaps on inanimate objects like teddy bears.

Children Possess Uncanny Permanent Marker Detection
It’s a well-known truth that a bag left unattended will receive little attention from a child, unless it contains something inside that a child shouldn’t touch. Yesterday, my husband left his laptop bag on the floor. The laptop bag is a familiar sight, one that doesn’t generally draw much attention from our kids.

However, this time it happened to contain a blue Sharpie marker deep within.

While I was in the kitchen doing dishes, my busy two-year-old walked in to tell me, “Need a bath, Mom.” I turned around to see her, bare from the waist down, legs covered in long blue streaks that reached from one foot, up her leg, across, and down to her foot on the other side. She also had a big lovely patch of blue on her lower back.

This is a girl who loves the bathtub, and I do believe the coloring episode may have been premeditated with that end result in mind. I incorrectly assumed, however, that she used our kid-friendly washable markers. After she soaked for half an hour and still had bright blue streaks, I realized the marker was a permanent one.

After a little more questioning, she showed us the marker in her super secret spot behind the couch. She of course left the cap off, drying out the marker so we can no longer use it. The blue stripes of her body art, however, look as though they will last for quite some time.

Good tires are Worth the Money
On my husband’s drive to Montana last week, he drove through a big icy section in South Dakota. In one particularly bad spot where several cars lined the I-90 ditches, he lost traction and slid into the ditch himself.

We generally give very little thought to our car because we use it so rarely, and we were both amazed when we realized how old the tires were. After the ditch episode, our car received some much needed attention in the form of four new tires.

On Jarred’s trip home, he again encountered a long icy stretch in South Dakota. This time, however, the roads were even worse. Once again he drove past ditches lined with cars, but this time, his tires gripped the road and he arrived home safely. Good tires are worth the expense.

I Can’t Do It All
In the week while my husband worked in Montana, I held down the fort at home. I fed lots of things: our four kids, the fire in the wood burner, the goats, the bottle lamb, the chickens, the cats, and the dog. I cooked, cleaned, and kept life moving on as normal. Single parenthood is tough, even when it’s temporary.

I knew the extra workload and stress took it’s toll when, at the end of the week, I got a bad cold and ached all over. Even more telling was the fact that nobody else even had a sniffle.

Boring Anniversaries are Wonderful
On Saturday we celebrated our 11th anniversary. We pondered getting a babysitter and going out to dinner, but I was wiped out, and so was my husband after his road trip. We simply stayed home. All of us enjoyed the rare sunshine and nice weather that day, and we ate an easy meal of leftover chili for supper. We didn’t even get to our low key plans of watching a movie together on the couch, thanks to a certain two-year-old who had a rare rough night falling asleep.

After the big party we had last year where we renewed our vows, our kids were a little disappointed that our anniversary just seemed like a regular day. My husband and I, in contrast, thought it was a great day. A week apart gave us both renewed appreciation for each other, and we were happy to crash at the end of the day in the same bed.

Blessings Come in Strange Packages
On Sunday morning, I shook my head in disbelief at once again seeing a world of wintry white outside. I already felt sapped of energy from being a little sick, and the snow just made me feel exhausted as I pondered getting everyone ready and out the door in time for Sunday School and church.

Blessings, though, come is strange packages. Our neighbor called and jokingly wished us “Merry Christmas” and also told us that church was cancelled because of the weather. Instead of rushing out the door in the morning, I headed upstairs and filled up the bathtub. I soaked away the congestion, aches, and all of life’s tensions for about an hour. The magic of warm steamy water and a husband downstairs acting as ring leader of a cleaning operation greatly improved life. Turns out, the snow was just what I needed that morning. It was an unexpected blessing.

Persistence Pays Off
Lamba Lamba Ding Dong is our newest little project around here. He came from our neighbors who are too busy to feed a late-arriving bottle lamb. He arrived as a scrawny little thing that didn’t do anything but lay under the heat lamp and barely drink part of his bottle. A few weeks later, his growing body is filling out his skin, and he runs and greets us at the gate at feeding time. On nice days, our kids take Lamby outside and he follows them around like a loyal puppy.

A child shall lead them: Spot and our other "dog," Lamby, following their buddy.

A child shall lead them: Spot and our other “dog,” Lamby, following their buddy.

While the bottle feedings 3-4 times a day get tiresome, I do have to say that I’m a momma that loves seeing something grow from my care. It’s one of the most gratifying parts of my job. Nurturing definitely has it’s rewards.

Lamb, kids, tires, anniversaries ..that’s some of my life’s learning for this week. I just hope next week’s lessons don’t involve any more sniffles or permanent markers.

Written April 2013.

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Emergency Hernia Surgery for our Two-Year-Old

Written January 29, 2012.

Right now I’m sitting in room 445 in the Pediatric Unit of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings, MT. It’s 11 PM on Sunday night, and I’m waiting for our two-year-old to get out of an emergency hernia surgery. In a little hospital crib in the room our 9-month-old baby girl is sleeping. She’s not sick, but she’s along for the ride because she is a nurser. Sleeping in the hospital bed nearby is my husband, Jarred, who is sick with the stomach flu. While waiting in the ER for information about our little boy’s surgery, Jarred got sick and vomited 2.5 liters. We don’t usually tally that sort of thing, but in the ER, measuring things is standard protocol for the nurse who helped clean it up. Life has a way of throwing curveballs and helping keep things in perspective. Here I was stressing out about our upcoming cross country move, and suddenly, all of that screeches to a halt because my baby boy is in surgery right now.

Sleeping in the hospital after emergency hernia surgery.

Even before an emergency hernia surgery, the weekend was full. On Friday afternoon our 6-year-old celebrated her birthday with a much anticipated party with nine friends and cousins, ages 7 and under. The two hour event took every bit of our reserves out of us, even though we tried to keep it pretty low key. Low key just doesn’t happen with that many kids swarming around a house, high on Pixie Sticks and Pepsi. As chaotic as it was, we wanted to let her have one last party here with her classmates and cousins, and they all had a blast.

So after a Friday spent getting a house ready for the onslaught of excited kids, and adding the general melee of the week, and moving plans, we didn’t do much at all on Saturday. Our two littlest ones have been getting me up a lot at night, so my days are a blur, and I looked forward to a Sunday with no plans at all.

Saturday night was especially exhausting. Our baby girl woke up once at midnight, but our 2-year-old got up and out of bed and wandered into our room three times in the night, got up for the day at 5 AM to watch cartoons, and then kept returning to our bed every half an hour or so until I dragged myself out of bed. In hindsight, he was probably starting to feel the pain of his hernia. On Sunday morning, I dragged myself to the shower and we headed to church, where I don’t remember a bit of the readings, but I do remember that our baby girl was hugging her dad adorably for much of the time.

As we were getting ready to leave, our 2-year-old complained that his tummy hurt. A few moments later he was screaming and crying in the bathroom, crouched down on the floor. I thought he was just throwing a fit because he was tired, so I picked him up and he screamed louder. When he quieted down enough, he managed to say “ow, ow, ow, my tummy hurts.” He kept on screaming for several minutes, long enough that everyone in church who sees him regularly and knows him well collectively said we should take him in to the doctor. So, in the matter of minutes, our Sunday got rearranged, and we left our two oldest kids with Jarred’s sister, we grabbed a few essentials, and headed to the ER.

When we got there, they did an abdominal x-ray and palpated his belly, took his vitals, and determined that he had a painful case of constipation and a belly full of gas making the pain worse. They gave him a suppository twice and then an enema, and we waited several hours for something to happen. The whole time he was listlessly tired and had the chills while sweating. When he finally had a messy diaper, they deemed it a success, and we were discharged and went home. As we left, the receptionist at the ER commented that he still had the same horrible look on his face as when we came in.

So, we picked up an easy fried chicken dinner at the grocery store and some recommended apple juice for our little guy, picked up our two oldest kids, and headed home, ready to call it a night. As we drove home, I held him on my lap, and he just was a limp, occasionally wimpering little puddle of his usual self. Not long after we got in the door, our sick little guy threw up all over himself and his blanket. I put him in the bathtub to clean him up, and noticed he sat completely still as the bubbles and water filled in around him. Normally, he’s a blur in the bathtub. As I dried him off he cried out in pain, and when I glanced down I saw an egg-sized bulge just above his groin on the right. Our 4-year-old had hernia surgery just 10 months ago, so I knew right away that we once again had a hernia on our hands.

Wanting to just start crying, I instead went into battle mode, and we spent the next hour getting our kids fed, packing up and shipping off our older kids back to Jarred’s sister’s house for the night, and packing up for a night in the hospital for Mom, Dad, and the two littlest ones. Jarred drove about 90 mph back to the hospital, and even though the ER knew to expect us from the call back we made, everything moved in slow motion. As we drove in the dark, I couldn’t help but wonder how helpless we would be 100 or 150 years ago in this same situation.

Once we got to the hospital, Jarred dropped me and our little guy off first, and I carried him in and mumbled his information, scrawled my signatures, and sat down on the chair. I looked down at that sweet little boy in my arms, limp and wincing in pain but too tired and dehydrated to put up much protest. Wanting so desperately to make my baby all better, but being so helpless, unable to do anything but wait is so hard. We both just wanted to scream, “Can’t you see that this little boy is really sick?” But we just waited, and I didn’t care that the crazy people that collect in the ER saw the tears rolling down my face as I cradled a little boy in footy pajamas.

The hardest part was waiting for an IV. Knowing that he would probably have hernia surgery tonight, we couldn’t let him have water. But after not drinking anything but a few ounces of apple juice all day, and then throwing up twice, he had nothing in him. He held his empty sippy cup the whole 30 mile drive into the ER, and hung onto it until right before surgery. He kept asking for water with cracked, dry lips and sunken eyes pleading for a drink, in between whimpering in another wave of pain. When it tears me up to wait the relatively short time for the IV with pain medication, I’m humbled by the desperation that countless parents feel who handle far more severe illnesses in their children or live somewhere without access to medical care.

It’s now after midnight, and we’re still waiting for our little boy to get out of surgery. Jarred just got sick again, filling up another container. It’s going to be a long, sleepless night with a baby trying to sleep in a noisy hospital crib, a two year-old fresh out of hernia surgery, a dad who is continually throwing up and not able to help take care of anyone, and me, who hasn’t hardly slept for the last few days and won’t tonight either. All of this just makes me think that if all our stuff just burned up before moving to Minnesota, it wouldn’t matter. The truth is, the only thing that I really care about moving to Minnesota is us.

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How about you…ever have one of those days where all of the little things suddenly get put in perspective?

© 2012