Category Archives: Traditions

It’s great to be 8!

On Monday, Patrick will be celebrating his 8th birthday. 8! 8 whole years! And 2 whole years since his transplant!

I’m working hard to pulling together his birthday video. We’ve had a big and busy fall so it’s going to be a little late this year. But it’s just astounding to see how he has grown in the past year. In every way.

The year after transplant, Patrick’s body was shocked and he didn’t grow. But this year we can barely keep up with his clothes. We upgraded him from the only bed he’s ever known, one of those crib-bed combos, because he had gotten too tall for it. His clothes are a medium now and he’s in that awkward size 13 shoe that’s right between little and big kid styles. He is just inches below my shoulder now. And honestly, sometimes I turn around and am surprised to see that he is still small because he feels so big.

He’s grown a lot in spirit, too. For the time being, we have hit upon the perfect mix of medications for his ADHD that keeps him calm and focused while still letting him be his boisterous self. (His psychiatrist warns me he will outgrow these doses soon, but for now they are working.) That has given him the opportunity to grow in a lot of other ways. To sit still and listen and understand. To have his own ideas of how to do things and then to stand up for them. He is becoming more helpful, more responsible, more patient.

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He is still the amazingly compassionate child we have always known who is endlessly concerned for the happiness of others. He is the first to give a hug when someone cries. He remembers others’ needs he heard of throughout the day in his prayers. He can tell you all about each of his classmates favorites. And he sees the best in even those who sometimes seem the most different.

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With glasses helping his vision, Patrick has grown into a voracious bookworm. He reads all the time. Bedtime reading time is non-negotiable and he’s often found on his bed looking at books. His reading fluency is growing by leaps and bounds. He reads everything to me. And is pretty darn good at spelling. His handwriting is really getting better which is very impressive in light of the fact that he is right-handed and his brain injury has left his right side fairly weak and uncoordinated. He doesn’t like math. But if he forgets to protest because he doesn’t like it, he’s even getting the hang of addition.

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We bought a trampoline last spring and Patrick can often be found in the backyard jumping. He went from not jumping evenly with both feet to starting to do jumping tricks. One of our favorite summer passtimes was to go into the backyard and alternate between jumping until he was too tired and reading Dick and Jane. He’s discovering joys we didn’t think possible like bike-riding and swimming.

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He earned his Tiger Cub Rank last month and most of the available beltloops. He’s excited to move on to Wolves and we hope he’ll be as happy and welcome in his new den as he was in the one we left. He had a wonderful experience at scout camp this summer. Patrick loves scouting and I love what it teaches about being a good boy and growing into a good man.  He is really trying to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent… and HUNGRY.

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We went to a Patrick’s annual follow-up appointment with his transplant team last week. They were so happy with what they saw in him. The first thing the surgeon said was “well he has changed since we last sawl him,” commenting on how tall and grown-up Patrick seems now. While Patrick sat on Dr. Mercer’s lap and took pictures on his cell phone, we reviewed his diet, growth and medications. With everything going so well, Dr. Mercer decided that Patrick may not still need steroids to prevent rejection. They gave us instructions on how to gradually wean him off of them and the acid controller that they have made necessary for him, too.

He gave him the all-clear for sports. (Adaptive baseball here we come, we hope?) And we decided it’s time to start planning to remove Patrick’s port. With things so stable, they think that he can soon only need labs 4 times a year. That makes the port not worth the risks. Still need to talk to the doctors here about how to go about that.

 

With so much growth, we faced a big choice for Patrick this year. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 8 is the age at which children are generally considered old enough (accountable) to be baptized. We believe that younger children are innocent and unable to sin and repent, therefore baptism is not required for them. Most 8 year olds are able to understand enough about the gospel, baptism, promises, and repentance (if not more) to be able to decide if they want to be baptized. Living in Utah, where the church is so prevalent, 8th birthdays are a really big rite of passage.

So we have been watching. And studying. And praying. And finally a few weeks ago we met with our Bishop to talk about baptism. By that interview, the answer was fairly simple. We decided that Patrick is still not at the same level as most 8-year-olds. Right now, he is still innocent. And so, for the time being, he will not be baptized.

For those of you wondering about the doctrinal implications of this, the Book of Mormon teaches:

Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them;

To be clear, Patrick has a very strong love for Heavenly Father and Jesus. Just this morning he refused to get out of the car because I’d forgotten to say a morning prayer and he wanted one. He wants to be baptized. And we believe that in a few years, he’ll be ready to understand and make that choice.

For those with logistical questions: Because we believe Patrick will someday be able to be baptized, we are not doing any replacement baptism celebrations. Those things can wait a couple of years so he can appreciate them. For the first time in his life, something can wait. He has years ahead of him so this is ok.

I’m going to throw in a separate bonus post about this decision, but in light of an 8th birthday, I thought at least this much should be answered for now.

Instead of 8th birthday traditions, we are going to do something that Patrick has rarely experienced in his life. We are going to have a plain old ordinary birthday. With terminal illness, then transplant, birthdays have always been a bit unusual. This year, Patrick’s school is celebrating Halloween today and not next week so he won’t have to share except for trick-or-treating. It’s a long weekend. We’ll have cake and present with family at Sunday dinners. We’ll go to an amusement park on Saturday so he can ride rollercoasters and drive cars. We’ll send treats to school We’ll decorate with a banner and balloons. I’ll make him his choice of dinners. And we’ll have cupcakes and sing to him and open presents. Just us. Just boring. It will be wonderful.

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Because he is wonderful. And we have been blessed with a little bit of ordinary. And for Patrick, ordinary deserves to be celebrated.

8 years, buddy! I am so proud of the boy you are becoming.

Mini summer

So extended school year isn’t really a very full-time summer school option. It’s 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off. So for the past week, Patrick’s been having a mini summer vacation.

We started off it grand fashion. He has really done well in his new summer school classroom. The kids are much more on his level and I feel like he’s making good progress there. The education is focused on maintaining and, at least in the realms of social skills and keeping a routine, it’s going a long way.

The last day before the break, Patrick had his first turn in the school swimming pool. They invited me to come help, just because he has so little experience in the pool. I’m so glad they did! When I got there, he was already dressed for the pool and waiting for me. I’m used to a little boy who is very cautious in the water. I guess he was watching out for his line, because Patrick was NOT afraid. At all. He was extremely brave. I helped him float and worked on teaching him to hold his breath or blow out if his face got in the water. We got him a floating vest and at one point, I turned my back, and he decided to go on his own. I’ll never erase the memory of him laughing as he rolled over and over again in the water.. trying not to inhale.

I’ve been in a better summer mood this week. I finally made Patrick’s 6th birthday video, 6 months late, as a father’s day gift for Brian. You can view it here. I’ve put it off because it was too hard to look at the life we’d left behind when Patrick went for transplant while he was still recovering. I thought I was in a better place. I was. It was therapeutic. It was also still hard. It made me miss last year’s summer school adventures. It made me miss him having friends. And it made me miss the days before steroids where disappointments didn’t lead to big temper tantrums, leaving me fearful of doing some things. I actually had nightmares all the time I was working on the video.

But, with it done, I was ready to dive in and make this a good summer, too. I’m still not as organized and awesome as Mommy school. But we’ve done some good things. We had a picnic at Red Butte Garden. We took a cousin and visited the children’s museum. (Called and asked for suggestions of a less-crowded time to visit and enjoyed being there without fighting a crowd.) We’ve toured a few different libraries.  We finally started collecting brag badges. We mixed up our lunch routine and went to Liberty Park where we started out just eating hot dogs, but stumbled across their wading fountains and ended up staying 3 hours just because.

It was triple-digit heat all last week so I decided that, with the success in the school pool, it would be a good time to get out the backyard swimming pool. This went better than I expected. First, the neighbor’s 10-year-old who often comes to play and help me with Patrick, helped me fill up the pool and taught Patrick how to play in it. I tried putting sunscreen on my own back with spray sunscreen. I haven’t been that burned in years.

The next day, we invited the boy across the street to come play. This was much more on Patrick’s level of play and they had a great time together. This little boy only just barely became a big brother, so there was lots of coaching for both of them about how to play together. But they had successful pool noodle sword-fighting, basketball, water fighting, and general splashing. In the end, I had to call it done because it was well past lunchtime, but neither boy wanted to be done.

Patrick actually spent the rest of that day in the pool, too. He is loving being uninhibited in the water. I love being able to share something I love so much with him.

Alas, though, nothing is perfect. I accidentally pulled Patrick’s g-tube out the day before his first time swimming and it bled a little. We have had off and on g-tube infections since and I’m sure that it’s from spending so much time in the water. Thank goodness it’s supposed to be a cooler, rainy week so I can get away with taking a few days off to let it heal.

The other big event of a summer break is that I decided it was time to work on potty training. I took Patrick to K-mart and let him pick out a pair of big boy underwear the last day of summer school. The next day, I woke up with a migraine, but he was excited to wear them. So we plunged ahead.

He made it through all 5 pairs of underwear in 2 hours, trying his best to “hold it” in between small accidents. I gave him lots of goldfish crackers and praise and did my best to keep things fun and happy. But he was still discouraged. The session ended puddles and a frustrated little boy. I’m pleased to report his mommy stayed calm and positive.

The next day, when I pulled out his underwear, he cried and threw a tantrum that he didn’t want them. But I reminded him it was only for the morning and that there were prizes waiting. After several tries, he finally went in the potty and earned the water gun I’ve been dangling as a carrot for months. The light went on and the next day, he made it several times, staying dry for half the day.

We took the weekend off, and then started again on Monday. I think he’s actually getting the hang of this. We still aren’t accident free and today is the first day I’m trying underwear all day. I don’t know how it will go to have them trying to potty train when he goes back to school next week. I still haven’t tried using a potty away from home. We might need the next long break to solidify what he’s learned. But so far, things are going better than I expected. Now if only I can convince him that this is the better option for him.

(Note: I know this is a long gap without pictures. But I am trying to not post pictures my son will find embarrassing someday when his girlfriend finds this old blog.)

We had a simple 4th of July. The evening was spent at a barbecue with my family. We’d decided to not push Patrick’s limits this year by participating in my family’s huge fireworks. Turns out, that was a convenient choice as it started to rain right after we ate. We left in a downpour but made it home with just a little sprinkling, so we decided to go ahead with our smaller fireworks. (We bought a small pack of fireworks, plus a couple of fountains specifically labeled “silent” so he wouldn’t be scared by the noise.) Who’d have expected, after years of miserable 4th’s and Patrick terrified of fireworks that, on this smaller scale, Patrick would be in love with fireworks. We had to stop and go inside for half an hour because of rain, but when it let up we went out and lit more. He was very upset when he found out we only bought enough for one night.

The rest of the day was simple. Brian hosted a barbecue for his team at work Monday so we spent most of the weekend deep cleaning the house and prettying up the yard. It feels really good to finally have cleaned up some of those messy corners and piles that have been haunting me for being undone since we got home in February. And I caught a clearance sale at the greenhouse down the street. So I got 3 healthy cucumber plants and two basil for free, some adorable patio pumpkins, eggplants, and yellow zucchini as well as a 3 pack of bell peppers for virtually nothing.

Isn't this tiny eggplant adorable? And the flowers are so pretty!

Isn’t this tiny eggplant adorable? And the flowers are so pretty!

Then, we went back later for some miniature sunflowers to fill in the front bed where our irises grow in spring. Brian wanted to plant giant sunflowers from seed earlier this year. We planted a seed in a family home evening lesson about faith. They are as tall as me now. So tying in little sunflowers in the front yard seemed the perfect touch. I’m in love with my sunflowers this year.

I also happened to listen again to this wonderful sermon this week, which only made me more in love with them. The Lord is My Light by Elder Quentin L. Cook, apostle

One of the remarkable characteristics of young wild sunflowers, in addition to growing in soil that is not hospitable, is how the young flower bud follows the sun across the sky. In doing so, it receives life-sustaining energy before bursting forth in its glorious yellow color.

Like the young sunflower, when we follow the Savior of the world, the Son of God, we flourish and become glorious despite the many terrible circumstances that surround us. He truly is our light and life.

We’re plugging away. The stress of having Patrick will me full-time when paired with the Brian’s very busy summer planning handcart pioneer trek reenactment for the teenagers in our church has me running a little ragged. I’ll be honest, when paired with facing my feelings about what we’ve lost, I’ve had more trouble with anxiety and depression lately. So  looking to sunflowers as a symbol and reminder of life-sustaining faith and hope, even in the midst of a week where popular voices are calling it old-fashioned, hypocritical, and even bigoted to believe in Christ.. that is helping to lift me up. My sunflower plants really do turn and follow the sun all day. I see them every time I come and go from my house. And each time I do, I remember that it is worth following light, even before flowers bloom.  That little seed of faith we planted is as tall as I am and growing more, so long as it follows the light.

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One more week of summer awesomeness ahead. This week, we’ll resume our mommy school studies, try to earn a brag badge a day, wear underwear all day, and try to get daddy ready for Trek.

Christmas in Patrick’s House

DSC_9449Well, despite the fact that Patrick spent most of the week before doing forbidden things and saying “naughty, naughty, naughty,” Santa still came to Patrick’s house.

I was very excited to share Christmas with a little boy finally old enough to understand. In fact, I was wide awake at 5 a.m. after having a horrible dream about needing to collect a sample to test for C-Diff… and could barely get back to sleep because I knew it was Christmas!

Patrick, on the other hand, slept until 9. Brian and I actually got up and started making breakfast before the little munchkin dragged himself out of bed. Who was I to argue with him sleeping in on a day when naps would be near impossible?

IMG_2526 IMG_2527He loved opening presents, though wasn’t so keen on the fact that mom and dad kept taking the new toy away to give him another present to open.

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Still, it was quite the Christmas complete with lots of Elmo, cars, new clothes, books, and a stocking with goodies of bottled water and puffs.

Then, we finished breakfast. I found that I could make decent eggless milkless pancakes from a mix, so we made some silver dollar sized pancakes for Patrick and some big, fluffy, pecan laden pancakes for mom and dad.

We ate and then, still in PJ’s went to take presents grandma and grandpa. The rest of the day we visited family. We had a big family get-together with my family at my grandpa’s house. The place was so packed with cousins and gifts that you could barely walk!

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We spent the evening with Brian’s family. His brothers drove in from out of state and for the first time in years, the whole family was together on Christmas day.

At last, exhausted, we headed home to bed. Christmas was everything I could have dreamed!

As I reflect back on this Christmas season, I realize just how blessed we have been this year. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, the presents and family and good food… I’ve had a few little moments where I realize that we have been given the greatest possible gift this year. Our little boy was able to share in all of the Christmas magic with us.

 

This year, Brian’s company party took us to the theater for a production of A Christmas Carol. You know, I think I’ve seen or read that story at least a hundred time in many, many formats. I’ll admit, the character Tiny Tim has always seemed a bit romanticized to me.. how could a little boy really make THAT big of a difference?

This year, it took a conscious effort to hold back the tears. Having Patrick in my life has taught me just how a very special child can really touch hearts and lives. I understand why Bob Cratchit would stay working for that awful Scrooge. And what’s more, I understand why Christmas in their house was so very special.

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Dickens described Christmas in the Cratchit household with these words:

“There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty; . . . But, they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time; and when they faded, and looked happier yet in the bright sprinklings of the Spirit’s torch at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.”

Happy, grateful, please with one another, and contented with the time. That is how I’d describe our Christmas this year. With our own Tiny Tim, each seems a little more precious.

Yes. We had a very merry Christmas in our house.

Christmas Eve in Patrick’s house

This year was Patrick’s 3rd Christmas.. And, once again, we were blessed that he was well enough to spend it at home. Still, with Patrick’s needs, getting ready for Christmas was quite a feat! I was exhausted in the days and weeks before but, looking back, all of it was worth it!

In our family, we start celebrating on Christmas Eve. Daddy got the day off again this year, so we were able to spend the whole day together. First, we went to Christmas Eve breakfast with my family.

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It took some effort to keep Patrick safely away from the eggs, but thanks to everyone’s help, we managed. Then, we exchanged presents and Patrick got to play with his cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents.

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Then, we packed up and headed to the zoo. Christmas Eve at the zoo is a tradition Brian and I started before having kids and this year Patrick was strong enough and old enough to take with us.

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The zoo on Christmas Eve is a different place. It’s much less crowded. It’s cold. The animals are all given Christmas treats. These factors bring out a different side of the animals. This year, for example, we got to watch a rhino take a mud bath. And Patrick got to visit with a very unshy cavy.

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Patrick managed a nap in the car on the way home.. just enough to be up and active the rest of the afternoon. It took some help from daddy to free me up to cook Christmas Eve dinner.

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I tried to keep the dinner simple but elegant, after all.. the only part Patrick cared about were the rolls.

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After dinner, we open just a few presents. Pajamas, of course, and a book. We decided this year to start a tradition of getting a new Christmas book to read on Christmas Eve.

Then, as Patrick had only had one very short nap, we put tucked him in bed, set out the presents, and went to bed early ourselves.

Holiday fun

We’ve been doing our best to make the most of the holiday season. How fun it is to have a 2-year-old this year! Christmas is so magical for a child that age… and it’s the littest things that make the most difference. For example, Patrick’s been glued to the Christmas lights we hung on our house since the night we put them up. Now, given, we have some very cool lights this year – LED color changing icicles… He watches them and smiles whenever he sees them.

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Hiding ornaments behind the toybox

He loves the tree, too.. especially the ornaments.. and I’m finding that my investment in Ikea’s unbreakable ornaments has been a blessing because then he can take them off and carry them around without worrying me, and then we put new hooks on and hang them back up. (One disclaimer – they do break if you push a full toybox into them repeatedly.)

Of course, we took him to the Festival of Trees again this year. Last year, this really was a test of his patience. But this year, he loved the trees – especially the tree covered in Elmo dolls, and any tree with cars or trains under it.  He wasn’t so happy that we made him stay in his stroller so we couldn’t play with the toys in the displays and did his best to sweet talk someone else into taking him out.

We did our best to see Santa there, too… but we arrived as Santa went on break and by the time he’d made it through the crowd (giving hugs and candy canes along the way) we’d run out of time.

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Waiting to (NOT) see Santa

After weeks of snow, we had some unseasonably nice weather last week. Monday night I realized that it was probably the warmest evening we’d get all year. So, I called Brian at work and we decided to seize the opportunity to see some Christmas lights.

I made some taco soup and we picnicked in Daddy’s cubicle. For the record, soup is Patrick’s current favorite food. We stick to clear, mild broths. I’m not sure it’s the best thing for his tummy, but it he loves it and there are worse things for him, and so I let him have it from time to time. He makes a little sipping sound to ask for it and will eat until there isn’t a drop left.

After eating, we bundled up. I made a little tube warmer for Patrick because if the fluid in the IV’s gets cold on the way into his body, Patrick gets chilled really quickly. It takes about 5 minutes to do the 10 feet of velcro, but it seems to work. Then we added coat and hat and gloves. Patrick was more than happy to stay bundled and warm.

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Bundled and ready to go

We’ve got a zoo pass, so Patrick is familiar with the zoo… but looked a bit confused when we arrived there after dark.

And then, when we walked in and saw the lights, his eyes got big and he grinned from ear to ear!

 

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Posing with some of the lights (the little grey thing by his back is end of the tube warmer)

They had a really impressive display. Lots of lights everywhere, including full habitat scenes. And, where possible, we were able to walk in and see some real animals… mostly fast asleep. The leopard was sleeping sprawled in plain sight, but woke up to give us all a nasty look for interrupting his rest. And did you know that monkeys sleep all in a pile in the top of a tree?

Afterwards, we stopped in the gift shop to pick and ornament for our tree and let Patrick pick out a stuffed animal, too, that he’ll get on Christmas.

The next night, we finally got to see Santa. HopeKids had a big Christmas party for the kids. So big, in fact, that it took 3 sessions to accomodate everyone and there was still a huge crowd.

Meeting Santa- First Impressions

Meeting Santa- First Impressions

If I haven’t explained it before, HopeKids is an organization that plans free activities for kids with terminal illnesses. The idea is that if you have something to look forward to, then you have something to hope for and something to live for.

Well, we can’t really explain plans to Patrick. However, he’s beginning to understand one thing… the HopeKids shirt means fun is coming. I went to get him ready to go and pulled out two choices – a Christmas shirt because I knew photos would be taken… or the HopeKids shirt. Patrick caught one glimpse of the shirt and started to beg to wear it. When I tried just putting the Christmas shirt on him, he melted into tears.

 

This is what happens when mom says "No, stay there a little bit longer"

This is what happens when mom says “No, stay there a little bit longer”

Finally, I conceded and let him wear both. Which made him happy enough until that night when it was time for PJ’s and he fell apart again because I made him take it off… he carried it with him the rest of the night.

Why so much fuss about a shirt? Because Patrick knows that if we get out our HopeKids shirts… especially if we all wear them… that something really fun is about to happen.

This time, it came in the form of the biggest and most kid centered Christmas party I’ve ever seen. There were photographers, of course… and Christmas presents. (They let the kids pick their own… Patrick picked a fire truck). There was a magician and a juggler and pizza and so very, very many crafts.

Patrick looks pretty unhappy to see Santa in the picture we took. I think that’s cuz we put him on Santa’s lap and then made him stay there while we took pictures. As the night wore on, Santa came back a few times and each time, Patrick was less nervous. By the end, Santa could come get a high 5 or a pound on the fist and even a little grin.

Amazingly, Patrick even enjoyed the show. Usually he’s pretty unhappy when crowds laugh or applaud, but this time, he clapped and pretended to laugh right with everyone else, though I’m not sure that he really could see what we were all laughing at.

There’s still more Christmas fun to be had. We are almost caught up with shopping and half done wrapping presents. We’ve baked our goodies and visited the neighbors. Tomorrow is Patrick’s last appointment for the rest of the month… We had a busy couple of weeks trying to fit everyone in before offices closed for the holidays. But I’m hoping now it will be worth it as we have nothing left to do but play and enjoy the family and the holiday.

Yellowstone!!

I can’t believe it! We actually made it to Yellowstone this year! Those of you who know where we were last year when we’d planned a trip to Yellowstone can maybe understand how monumental this is.

The trip up didn’t go without incident. (See the blog entry at this link for detailshttp://www.cotaforpatrickh.com/node/1001), but we arrived in West Yellowstone Thursday afternoon unscathed, despite an extra 2 hours sitting in traffic.

Because we arrived a bit late, we didn’t have time to go into the park the first day. So, we wandered around West a bit. First we had lunch at a little cafe we discovered in winter a few years ago. It’s a small place with a very local, small-town feel. We were so surprised when we told the waitress Patrick was waiting for an intestinal transplant and she told us the owner’s daughter, age 30, was listed for one, too. That, plus Patrick’s usual flirtatious play, won her over quickly.

After lunch, we shopped for souvenirs and took Patrick to play at the city park. Then, after doing Patrick’s daily TPN change, met the rest of Brian’s family at the playhouse.

Yup, Patrick went to his first play. It was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast put on in a tiny little room that seated maybe 100 people. The cast was also ushers and consession sales. Patrick did really well, I think. He watched a lot of the play.. liked the songs.. but was nervous about the Beast. And, of course, he always gets jumpy when there’s applause involved.

After a dinner of buffalo burger and huckleberry ice cream, we turned it… It was nearly 11 by the time I got meds, fluids, and PJ’s all in order and got Patrick to stop tearing around the room and go to sleep.

The next morning, Friday, we actually made it into the park for a day of walking through geyser basins and looking for animals. (We spotted a baby black bear and a bald eagle, among other things.) Brian and his brother did and impressive job maneuvering a stroller around stairs and hills in the trail.

Patrick did well for the first half of the day, and was pacified well enough by looking at books and toys on the ride back.

After dinner, we decided to turn in early.. we were sunburned, sore and tired.

It’s a good thing, too.. because Saturday morning he was up and whimpering around 4:30 a.m. Finally, I gave in and pulled him out of his crib and into my bed…. only to remember why we don’t do this. He tosses and turns and about kicked us both out! Around 5:30 he decided it was awake, anyway, and we gave in and got up and packed.

We went to breakfast early at the same cafe where the waitress was thrilled to see him.
Then, we went into the park to see Old Faithful. Patrick surprised me by actually being interested in the geyser, though the pictures don’t show it.

We left about noon and Patrick and I slept at least half of the drive home. By the end, he was pretty tired of being in his carseat and pretty bored with the same selection of toys. Isn’t that part of a roadtrip, though?

What a great few days it was! It was nice to have finally made it.. and best of all, to Yellowstone, which is such a big part of the Hoopes family legacy. We’re so grateful we were able to share it with Patrick at long last!

I’m not feeling quite as superstitious anymore about saying the “V” word.

Fireworks

Last year, we watched our community fireworks from the roof of Primary Children’s Hospital while Patrick was admitted for the first of a series of yeast infections. This year, we were able to take him to see them in person. Patrick isn’t bothered by big fireworks. He just sits back and watches them. He does think it’s kind of unfair to keep him up so late… though he really did enjoy the time to play with family.

For the 4th, my family had our tradition “Tank Wars.” We build origami cities, incorporate them with fireworks, then send in firework tanks to set the whole thing ablaze. Patrick was not so happy with these. They were close and much more dangerous. However, he also couldn’t keep his eyes off of them.

It’s always an occasion for Patrick to have a holiday at home. We felt really spoiled to have a whole holiday weekend.

Who needs sleep?

There’s a song by the Barenaked Ladies called “Who needs sleep?” Here’s a line from that song: “With all life has to offer, there’s so much to be enjoyed. But the pleasures of insomia are ones I can’t avoid.”

If you’ve been waiting for an update on the concert, I need to apologize. See, Patrick’s been having a hard time sleeping this week. It seems every few nights something goes wrong and wakes him up. First it was diaper rash. (When his prescription strength creams fail him, the result is massive skin breakdown that makes me want to cry just looking at it.) Then, I accidentally turned off his TPN pump and had to monitor glucose and hydration in the middle of the night. And my little happy-go-lucky optimist responds to these discomforts by trying to cheerfully play through them. So instead of being up crying, he’s up jumping and playing until I pinpoint the cause of discomfort and get him settled.

So – my good intentions of writing earlier in the week were thwarted by extreme exhaustion. And then a series of coincidences landed us in the hospital for about 36 hours.. not helping sleep, but helping to remind me not to procrastinate.

Here’s a rundown of the other events of the week.

Wednesday, Patrick had an appointment with his GI, Dr. Jackson.  Patrick’s central line was a bit slow to heal this time around and was a bit weepy even 2 weeks after placement. So I asked the doctor to look just to make sure there was no infection there. Since we were looking for infection, he checked his temperature and it was 99.3. So – Patrick and I hung around for an extra couple hours in the hospital. Dr. Jackson came in and we took off his central line dressing so he could examine it up close and take a culture of any fluid that was there. It looked healthy, just healing, so I went ahead and put the dressing back on. Then we went down to the lab and had blood cultures drawn. Those cultures were all negative.

That night, I got that getting sick tickle in my throat and started to run low-grade fevers.. kind of like when you get a flu shot. Never sick, but not quite right. Since the cultures were clean, I said “Ok, he has a virus, too” and didn’t think more of it.

Friday, Brian came home early from work and since we’d all missed a lot of sleep, we all laid down for a nap. I got Patrick up to put on his afternoon TPN around 4. Only when I tried to draw ethanol out of his line, I just got air. Tried again, got air again. Finally, 3 syringes full of air later, I looked and found a hole in Patrick’s central line.

So away to the E.R. we went. They’ve implemented a new policy that sent us to the Rapid Treatment Unit (RTU) for the repair which, by the way, is WAY preferrable to the E.R. Many fewer bugs and much quicker, more attentive care. The RTU is set up to give basic medical care that takes 24 hours or less.

Well, part of any admission is to check a temperature and Patrick’s read about 100. They rechecked it rectally and it came up 99.8, so we could justify not automatically being admitted. I explained the viral symptoms, but they decided to check cultures anyway. Then they repaired the line and sent us on our way.

The next day, Patrick woke up feeling great! No fevers. So since it was memorial day weekend, we packed up and headed out to Tabiona – a small town in Eastern Utah – for a family reunion. He loved the car ride.. playing in the back seat, singing with the radio, napping, and even trying to figure out how to whistle. Had a great day with cousins, aunts and uncles.

That evening, we got home to find two messages on our answering machine. The blood cultures they’d drawn were showing a staph infection.

Now, in case you haven’t noticed this, I’ve spent a lot of time learning from infectious disease over the past year. And one thing they’ve taught me is that 1 in every 20 positive cultures is a “contaminant”.. that is, something that grew in the culture that didn’t come from the blood sample taken. And staph, although it lives on all of our skin and can get into central lines, usually isn’t one you pick up at home. It’s most often contracted in the ICU. Every positive “staph” culture Patrick has ever had has been a contaminant.

So – I called the doctor and made my case that Patrick wasn’t sick and that this was likely a contaminant. We decided to recheck the cultures on Sunday.

Well, Monday morning rolled around. For once, we were planning to be home for Brian’s day off and had a big to-do list.. And at 8 a.m. the phone rang. Sunday’s culture was positive for staph, too. Patrick’s still healthy, but we’d better go in.

So, just to be safe, that’s what we did. We got there at 9:30. Because it was a holiday, things took longer than usual.. but by early afternoon they’d drawn a new set of blood cultures and by 4:00 p.m. had started some antibiotics. Meanwhile, Patrick’s nurses got to run to try to take care of all of his basic daily needs.. a slow process when doctors have to write for them and pharmacy has to fill them before it can happen.

A quick soapbox moment. One of the most frustrating things about going into the hospital is how difficult it is to maintain the same quality of care and quality of life as at home. There are so many more steps, so many more people, and so many more lawsuit-prevention policies that it is exponentially more difficult to accomplish the same things that I do at home in the midst of daily life. In a short 36 hour stay, I think the nurses had to call the pharmacy at least 10 times about administration questions, late medications, and my ever-hated argument about whether or not they’ll let Patrick have his home TPN. (I usually lose this battle and they hang something with sugar, water and electrolytes but none of the good vitamins, minerals, and fats that he’s used to.) They started him out on a super high dose of antibiotics. (I won’t let that happen again. I’ve seen it done 3 times now with the same result and I’ll speak up next time.) And they accidentally ran his TPN at a 5% of it’s prescribed rate for the night. ( Thankfully, this only resulted in a grumpy, sleepless night as Patrick got hungrier and thirstier. They caught it in the morning and there was no other harm done.) I can’t really fault the nurses here. They work their tails off trying to get everything right within Patrick’s first 24 hours. The fact of the matter is that he’s a complex kid who has a lot of special care. For me it’s routine.. but in the hospital, it’s the exception. In fact, there are some things that require special permission every time because it doesn’t match hospital policy. Still, it’s frustrating to me to have to work so much harder to maintain the status quo. I much prefer to just do it myself at home. Ok. Getting off my soapbox now.

Yesterday morning, Dr. Jackson came on service. I ran into him at the nurse’s desk looking up info to find out why Patrick was in the hospital. We talked about the 4 sets of blood cultures that had been drawn. By then, the cultures drawn in the hospital Monday were still negative for infection. Looking back, it was looking more and more likely that we’d had two contaminants in a row. So Dr. Jackson said the words that we love him for saying so often: “I think you can do this at home. Would you like to go home?”

He helped sort out a few more questions and then set the wheels in motion for us to go home. Because they’d started Patrick on an extremely high dose of antibiotic, we had to stay till 4 to have them check his blood one more time to make sure that he’d been able to get it back out of his system. Brian got off work and up to the hospital by 5:30 p.m. and we made it home shortly after that.

Patrick will be on antibiotics for the next 2 days at least and then they’ll check cultures again to make sure that he doesn’t have a real infection. And then hopefully things can go back to our at-home normal again for a while.

Whatever happens, we’re resolved to made better use of this time at home. Procrastination isn’t really an option when you can’t tell where you’ll be hour to hour. I would hate to get the transplant call and leave my house in the condition it’s in right now.

And – I’ll be getting that blog entry about the concert up hopefully before the end of the day tomorrow.

Oh – the best news of all? With us healthy and at home, Patrick slept a blissful 11 hours last night! Which meant mom and dad got some sleep for once, too.

Festival of Trees

The Festival of Trees is a big Christmas tradition here in Utah. Groups and individuals decorate and donate trees, wreaths, crafts and more. They’re displayed to the public for a week, and available for sale. All proceeds from sales, admissions, and goodies sold are donated back to Primary Children’s Hospital to help families in need.

We took Patrick to the Festival tonight. He wasn’t so sure about the crowds and was only vaguely interested in the trees. He did really like the chains used to protect the trees and the excuse to ride with Daddy and pull Mommy’s hair. At the end of the evening, we took him to meet Santa, which was a pretty good 1st Santa experience. Patrick loved his beard and sleigh bells.

This year’s Festival was a bit bittersweet for Brian and myself. There were a couple of trees there honoring friends’ children who passed on this year. Those brought tears to our eyes. It meant all the more to know first-hand the tender moments that happen in a children’s hospital. Just one way that Patrick has changed our lives and hearts for the better.