Monday, December 31, 2012

The Nightmarish Miracles Before Christmas - Part 1

I've been writing... just brain vomit... trying to get the events of last week out onto a page so I can let the painful details and memories start to fade a bit.   There have been several of you who have asked about the details, and I've noticed a bit of increased traffic on my blog from people checking regularly, so I thought I'd post what I have so those who are interested can read it.  Really, this is more of a journal entry, so the thoughts may seem a bit scattered.  It's been written in snippets of time over the past few days... here a paragraph, there a sentence, whatever I have time for in between the festivities of celebrating our modified Christmas and enjoying our visiting families.  If you're mostly wondering what, medically, happened to Brian, scroll down until you see pictures.  It's there that I explain the medical jumbo.  I have not written about the final diagnosis yet... that will come, paragraph by paragraph, soon. 


The home phone rang through the chaos of the night.  I stepped over the remaining gingerbread house crumbs and wove around several of the 12 adults we had chatting together in the family room before I reached the handset to check the caller ID.  "It's Brian!... ?" I said with a little laugh and an exaggerated eye roll.  He had been chatting with us just minutes before, but he's funny that way sometimes.  Our house is not very big, but he'll pull the lazy card occasionally and call me from one room to the other to get my attention.  I picked up the receiver and hurried into the living room, knowing that the sound coming from the 20 children downstairs would be muffled enough in there for me to hear.
"Hey!" I said.
"Can you... come here?," came the strained whisper on the other side.
"Yeah... just come." ... something was wrong.
"Are you okay?"
"... um.  No."
"Where are you?"
"In ... the bedroom."  I dashed down the hall and opened our bedroom door to see Brian writhing in pain, arm squeezed up against his chest, eyebrows and corners of his mouth downturned and puckered in pain. 
"Brian!" I gasped, rushing to his side, "What's wrong?!"
"I... don't... know.  Just... pain... like... crushing... it's not going away... and it's spreading to my left arm... I think... it might be... ... ..." he couldn't bring himself to say the words, but we were both thinking them. 

... Heart attack?

But... what?  Certainly not.  He's 32.  He's healthy.  We were just making gingerbread houses.  I stood above him, my right hand absentmindedly brushing the hair from his forhead, my own face contorted in a mixture of concern and confusion.  Laughter from our guests rang down the hall, but my world suddenly seemed so silent.  "Can I ask some of the guys to give you a blessing?" I asked.  A nod.  "Do we need to go to the hospital?"
"Um... maybe," came his response.  "It's just... not... going away."

That was enough for me.  A maybe from Brian, ever the downplayer on his own discomforts, was like an iron clad get-there-as-fast-as-you-can.  I'm sure I looked like a deer in headlights as I stuck my head outside the bedroom door and motioned quietly for the first priesthood holder I saw to come.  And then the second.  They slipped down the hall and found Brian as I had.  The blessing was quick and beautiful and confirmed my decision that we needed to get to the hospital.  Fast.

But, my brain, you know.  The one that doesn't process things very quickly these days.  The one saturated with pregnancy hormones and sleep deprivation and managing a household with three children all during the chaos of the holiday season.  I just stood there.  "I think we should probably go to the hospital..." I finally said, waiting for the three doctors in the room to verify my feeling.  The two standing just stared at the third, writing in pain, with the same concerned, confused look I had.  And then they snapped into action.  "Yep.  You should go," one said.  I sped out of the bedroom to find shoes, keys and purse while the men helped Brian.  In the instant I rushed to the coat closet, the people in my home turned from a several conversation casualness into a mastermind of efficiency.  The words 'chest pain' and 'hospital' were thrown into the air and I was swept up in a whirlwind of help.  Bending down to find Brian's crocks, I grabbed one and started searching for the other when one of the women came to me with a sharp and pointed, "What do you need?"  I held up the crock, "I need to find the other crock."  Grabbing the first crock from my hand and bending to shuffle through the shoes she said, "You go get your keys and purse and get out to the car."  Bless her for thinking clearly.  I followed her instructions and by the time I got my purse and keys together, she had the crocks on Brian's feet and the men had him in the car.  I rushed to the drivers seat and half-heartedly warded away the offers for someone else to drive us in... we needed our car... right?  Indecision froze my brain again as people looked at me expectantly.  "Linds, I'm worried about you driving," one friend pointed out.  Was I okay to drive?  I was certainly in a sort of panic.  Instantly, a wash of clarity came over me and I felt comfortable and capable and knew I needed to have the wheel (and the gas pedal) at my control in order to manage my own stress.  "No.  I'm fine," I concluded.  "Really.  I feel good..."  I sat down in the drivers seat, immediately realized I had forgoten my phone and jumped back up to run for it.  One of our doctor friends standing close said, "You really should go."
"But I need to grab my phone."
"No, you should go."
"I need a phone, though."
Another friend, Mark (who is a dear friend of Brian's and a fellow ophthalmology resident), reached in his pocket and handed me his own phone and just before I shut the door, thankfully remembered to tell me the password.  I sped out of our driveway leaving my kids... had I even said goodbye?... leaving 20 kids in total and 10 adults in my home behind me. 

The roads were practically deserted as I flipped on my brights and sped down the road.  The trees whipped past in a blur of motion, but my eyes and brain became hypersensitive to my surroundings as I scanned the sides of the road for deer or other animals that could cause an accident.


Brian put his seatback all the way down and continued to writhe.  "Will... you... sing?" he whispered.  His request sent a surge of adrenaline through my body and bathed my eyes in the fresh pain of hot tears.  His sentence bore his truest emotion... an unfamiliar emotion that, in ten years of marriage, I had never seen like this.  He was scared; and in immeasurable pain.  I responded by taking a deep breath to clear my own anxiety, by pressing the gas pedal a little closer to the floor, and by slowly letting out my breath in the words and tune to Silent Night. 

Silent Night,
Holy Night.
Brake a bit for the red light and hold on as the inertia of the right turn pulls me and sends everything in the backseat crashing into the door behind me.
All is calm,
All is bright.
Stop sign ahead.  Left turn.  Car coming slowly from the right.  Left side clear.  If I stop completely, the car coming from the right will pass and I will be stuck behind him.  If I go, they'll have to brake for me, but we won't be close enough to crash.  Brake a bit and hold on as the inertia throws everything in the backseat crashing against the other door. 
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild.
Red light.  Have to stop.  Unsafe to cross.  Feels like seven years.
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace. 

Through two more verses of Silent Night and another two of The First Noel it felt like time was racing by faster than I could make the tires go.  Another red light, but this one just barely.  Intersection still clear, my lane clear, cars stopped on all sides.  I tore through the intersection with hawk eyes on the lanes that would start moving in response to their newly green light.  They didn't move. 

"I'mjustgonnago," Brian slurred out as we pulled up to the Emergency Room entrance doors.  Before the car had even come to a complete stop, his door was open and he was stepping out onto the hard pavement.  I watched him stumble into the hospital as I practically threw my whole keychain to the vallet parking attendant.  "He duzn't look too good," he said.  "But he be alright.  He at Duke now."  I tried to smile, put my half of the bright orange tag into my purse as he put his half around my keychain, and then ran in after him.  The emergency department was practically dead and Brian was hooked up to the EKG 90 seconds after leaving the car.  The nurse tracked his heartbeat for a few seconds before Brian said, "Can you... turn it?"  He motioned for the nurse to turn the screen towards him so he could see what she was seeing.  She lifted her eyes to meet his without lifting her head and slowly shook her head, no.  "Just... turn it," he repeated.  "I want... to see."  She turned the monitor to face him and his lips contracted into a straight line.  "Okay," he said.

Okay? I thought to myself.  Okay?  What does okay mean?  I tried to open the vault of information I knew I had learned in my human biology classes to decipher the EKG reading myself... but it was rusted shut by a decade of unuse.  The nurse ripped the newly printed paper from the machine and with a small, "I'll go give this to the doctor," left the room quickly.

"That didn't... look good, Linds," Brian whispered.  "That... showedthatI'mhavingaheartattack."  Within seconds he was lifted up on a table with 10-12 doctors and nurses buzzing around him like bees.  I slipped into the corner so as to not get in the way and, clutching my friend's phone, watched as people dressed in white and blue worked together like a well oiled machine around him.  One barking orders, others stripping him naked, attaching wires, inserting IV's in both arms, asking questions, shoving papers under his nose to sign, all the while using doctor talk and occasionally taking the time to look me in the eyes and ask, "Are you okay?"

Am I?  I wondered.  How can I tell?  I felt as if I were watching it from another place... an action filled movie playing out before my eyes.  But that tall man lying on the table was not an actor.  It was my husband, and there was no remote control in my hand.  No way to push pause to get a drink.  No way to turn down the volume.  No way to rewind to figure out what I'd missed in order to make sense of it all.  No director suggesting the doctor language be supplemented or replaced with regular English so the average American could understand better.  No way to fast forward to make sure the ending was a happy one.

After all the research I did later, I know now that if it had played out like a movie I would have understood the seriousness of the situation a little more deeply in that moment.  The doctor would have taken me aside and explained to me that they were very concerned for the life of my husband.  That they were going to take him up to the catheterization laboratory (cath lab), insert a catheter up through the artery in his groin, down into his heart vessels through his aorta, and there inject a certain dye that would help them see exactly where the problem was.  They would have told me that things in the cath lab could go badly.  Very badly.  They would have mentioned that for the next two hours Brian's life would be in a perilous condition, but that they would do their best to keep him alive.  As they hurriedly pushed his hospital bed down the hall towards the cath lab, I would have been running alongside the bed, holding Brian's hand, tears streaming down my face.  And at the point where he was wheeled into the elevator that I could not go into, there would have been an emotional separation - expressions of love and a nagging realization that it could be the last time we ever saw each other alive.

But there was very little of that.
I didn't understand.  I kept calming the worst case scenerio in my head with the comforting words from the parking attendant.  He be alright.  He at Duke now.  He wasn't going to... die?  Right?
Certainly not. 
And, after thinking about it, my lack of understanding makes sense in a way... the doctors recognized Brian when he came in and, because of that, felt a personal attachment to the case.  Their normal protocols of explaining the situation to the patient and family members were interrupted because they knew that Brian understood on a deep level exactly what was going on.  They knew that when they said, "We're getting the cath lab prepped," that Brian understood all the bold print and all the fine print behind that statement.  But, they forgot that I didn't.  Even with a background in human biology, I did not know what the 'cath lab' was, what would be done in there, how long it would take, or whether the doctors were optimistic that he would pull through this.  One of the doctors did take the time to tell me about the procedure that was to take place in the cath lab, but none of the risks that accompanied the procedure were explained.  So, I held his hand while they waited for the cath lab to be prepped.  I wished I could call my family to alert them to the situation, but all of my contacts were in my own phone... and I only had my friend's phone sitting in my hand. I made a phone call home to see how the kids were, and to ask someone to bring my phone.  Becky was staying at my house tonight with the kids, and my phone was thankfully already in transit to me.  The only helpful number I had memorized besides my own home phone number was Brian's parents' land line... thankfully memorized back in the day before cell phones were standard and memorizing phone numbers was common.  I stepped outside the room to place the call (I stepped outside... proof again that I did not understand the severity of the situation completely), and was disappointed to hear the answering machine pick up.  I left a brief, shaky message informing them of the heart attack and asking for prayers and as I hung up the phone, was introduced to two social workers that had been assigned to me.  I wasn't sure how I felt about having social workers assigned to me, and I was sure I didn't want to make small talk, but there they were so I smiled and nodded.  Glancing at my belly, they politely asked questions about when I was due, and whether or not it was my first.  My answers sounded curt, even to me, so I apologized and said, "I just want to go back in with my husband."  They understood.

I took Brian's hand again and a nurse handed me a bag full of his clothing.  Mark showed up at the doors, wearing his Duke badge, with my phone and a small bag full of my belongings that another dear friend, Kim, had thrown together for me after I'd left my house.  Pajamas.  Toothbrush.  iPad.  Then, just as if a hive of bees had exploded behind me, doctors and nurses started pushing Brian's bed out through the doors and down the hall.  My own phone in hand, I picked up my pace to follow him and opened a new text message along the way.  "Brian is having a heart attack," I typed, "please start praying.  I'll call later."  I paused just long enough to see them push Brian's bed into the staff elevator and hear my social workers say, "We'll need to go this way now."

The terror of the possibility of his death didn't hit me until forty minutes after I watched those elevator doors shut on that last chance I had to tell him just how much I love him.  Once it hit, I watched those elevator doors close over and over in my mind.  Brian said later that the reality of the situation hit him just as those elevator doors closed.  Wait, he thought, cath's can go badly.  I wish... I should have told Linds how much...

Dropping my head back to my phone I started scrolling through my contacts to select my family's names as my social workers led me down another hall and up another elevator.  Amber ... Brother ... Dad ... I couldn't think clearly and kept scrolling through alphabetically.  How many were left?  Oh, there's Mom ... Michelle ... did I get them all?  I was vaguely aware of the two social workers flanking my sides and felt a bit rude for burying my nose in my phone when they were there, waiting to talk to me.  Keep scrolling.  "Sorry," I mumbled and motioned to my phone, "just need to send a few messages."  Finally I got to the end of my contacts list and had to assume I got them all.  Send.

My social workers and I were left with just another minute to walk through the halls together and we passed the time with little chit-chat.  As we arrived at the waiting room and I explained that I wanted to be left alone to make a few phone calls, I realized I didn't know what to expect next.  "So..." I began, "what's going to happen now, exactly?" I asked.  They looked at me, confused, so I explained, "I mean... how long am I going to wait here?  And, is anyone going to come and give me updates or anything?"  I could tell they didn't know, but they gave me a rough estimation that I would receive an update within an hour and probably see Brian again within two.

And then they left.

I put my bags down in the waiting room and sat in the chair to try to process my thoughts.  Too much noise.  Too many people chatting and laughing around me.  Too much movement as they milled around.  Too distracting.  I wanted to herd all of the people out, turn off the lights and sit in the darkness for a few minutes.  Impossible.  So I closed my hand around my cell phone and stepped into the quiet hall to make the phone call I'd been anxious to make anyway.


The flood of tears I had been fighting all night all caught in my throat at once and made it hard to breathe.
"LINDSAY?!" came my mom's panicked voice.
"Mommmm...." I managed to say, though it came out as more of a moan.  The tears slowly started seeping through my crumbling face and my left shoulder fell into the wall beside me.  I left it there, unsure whether I would be able to stand on my own.  Something about hearing my mom's familiar voice in my ear brought the deserted hospital hall demandingly into perspective.  I was alone. 
"What is happening, honey?!"
I explained, in broken words, that Brian was in the cath lab, and that I was just there... waiting... all alone with nothing to do and no one to talk to.  Questions were asked by both of my parents and, piece by piece, the sequence of events that had played out that night were told and met by a sort of disbelief on both sides.  In my mind's eye I saw them, huddled around my mom's iPhone, listening to my voice on speaker.  In their voices, I could hear their hearts pulling for mine and I believe that, as much as I wanted them there, they wanted to be there, too.
"Lindsay..." came my dad's gentle voice.  I couldn't answer.  "You need to call someone to come and be with you."

I knew he was right, but... who?  There are several women here that I love, but I needed someone who was completely effortless to be with.  Someone who knew me so well that all the walls and barriers of new and forming friendships had been broken.  Someone who could sit in comfortable silence or engage in unceasing conversation.  Someone who knew me well enough to read between the lines of my emotions, sense what kind of words to say, and let me cry.  Five years ago I would have had a number of people to call - but those dear friends had all moved away.

"I don't know who to call, Dad," I finally responded.  "The only person I feel completely comfortable with is sleeping at my house tonight watching my kids."
"Call her," came my dad's advice.  "She will find someone else to come sit with the kids... you need someone with you."  Eventually there was nothing left to say... had it really only been 15 minutes?  My dear mother-in-law, Jean, beeped in on the other line and I quickly ended my phone call with promises to keep my parents updated.  Jean must have heard the message.  She must be terrified. 

My conversation with her followed a similar path that the conversation with my parents had taken and lasted just ten minutes as well... what is there to say after all the details have been laid out?   So, I called Becky.  "What do you need?" she began. 
"Well, I don't know..." I sputtered.  "I'm just feeling..."
"Do you want me to come?"
"Yeah... I think so..."
"I'll be there as soon as I can.  I'll call Kim to come sleep with the kids."
"Thank you..."

I hung up the phone and went back into the waiting room.  Still distracting.  Overwhelming.  Confusing to  be in an atmosphere so contradictory to my feelings.   So I left again to call my dear friend, Katie.  We cried together and after another ten or twenty minutes, a familiar pain started shooting in my lower back each time I stepped on my left leg.  Slow walking... pacing back and forth was starting to take it's toll on my weakened back.  "I need to go, Katie," I said regretfully... though, again, there was really nothing else to say.  I needed to sit down for a while before the slow pacing eventually rendered me unable to walk at all.  As I sat, the reality of the situation started settling into my heart.  How long had it been?  Would I be getting any updates soon?  Was Brian... okay?  I hung my head and quietly let the tears fall into my lap.  For the first time I dealt with the possibility of his death... was it a possibility?  Two agonizing minutes passed before Mark stuck his head into the waiting room and caught my eye through my tears.  He came and sat next to me and quietly mentioned that there were better places to wait if I wanted to leave. 
"But, they said they'd come give me updates," I mentioned.  "I don't want to be gone when they come..."  Mark furrowed his eyebrows slightly and nodded his head.  "I don't think they actually leave the procedure to come with updates," he said, "but I can go tell the fellow where you are, just in case."
"...Okay," I said.  I felt immensely blessed to have him there... both as a doctor and a friend.  As we walked through the halls I wondered what he had been doing over the past 45 minutes since I'd seen him last.  "Have you just been here, the whole time?" I asked.
"Yeah..."  He told me he'd gone back into an observation room where he could watch and hear the procedure.  "I don't know why they let me in there," he commented.  "The fellow just motioned for me to come."  He told me that Brian was still okay... that he was mentally involved and asking questions when Mark left.  That the major artery in Brian's heart had split open and that they had placed two stents inside and were in the process of placing a third.  I asked questions about how that worked... how could they stent something if it had split open?  And it was here that some of the differences in knowledge between an ophthalmologist and a cardiologist began to be clear to me.  Mark didn't understand very well, either.  Eventually, I worked up enough courage to start asking the question that had been tickling the back of my mind, but it came out like a sporadic, uncontrolled waterfall.  I was afraid to stop talking because I was afraid of the answer.  "So... is he... going to be okay?  I mean now that he's here and getting surgery?  I know that heart attacks are serious, and if left untreated can be fatal, but now that he's here?  I wish I would have been brave enough to ask in the emergency department, but I was too afraid of the answer... I just wanted to ask them what they were thinking - if they were concerned for his life, or if they knew that as long as they followed specific steps, that the outcome would most likely be a good one.  In the end, I'm okay that he needed this surgery, and I'm okay if the healing process will be long, or he needs to take medications the rest of his life as long as he'll be fine now, but I don't know if that's true... or if the doctors are optimistic at this point.  So..." Mark patiently waited for me to finish, "... so... is he... you know... like... out of the woods, now?"  I watched as his face scrunched up tightly and as tears sprung into his eyes.  He took a deep breath and started shaking his head.  "No," he whispered and turned his head slightly away.  His eyes kept flitting up towards mine, but neither of us really wanted them to connect. 

In fact, after later research, Brian and I discovered that there was a 35% chance of failure once Brian was in the cath lab.  They were discovering that the source of the problem was that one of the main arteries in his heart had torn, or in medical terms, dissected.  The left anterior descending artery.  The LAD.  The widowmaker (an uncomfortable nickname for this artery that I learned in college).  The dissection happened just after the LAD branched off; serious, because now the entire artery was receiving no blood:

It's hard for me to put into words exactly what a 'dissected artery' means, so here are two illustrated pictures that help:

The innermost layer of the artery became detached from the rest of the layers and folded down into the lumen of the vessel.  The blood shunting through the artery at that point started ripping its way through this new passage created, essentially creating two pathways for the blood where there should only be one.  (One analogy I read that was helpful in visualizing this compared a dissected artery with a lined coat.  If you imagine the lining of your coat ripping up near the shoulder, you know that when you put your arm into the sleeve, your arm may slide through that rip and down the sleeve.  But at the end of the sleeve, you're in the wrong hole, so your hand will not come out where it's supposed to.  The difference here is that the lining of an artery is attached at every point, so ripping through the entire length is more difficult.)  This is, obviously, unsustainable and over the course of just a couple of minutes, the whole artery became blocked off. 

In order to try to repair the damage, the surgeons opted to place stents in the artery to open it back up and start the blood flowing once more.  They had already placed a catheter up through his femoral artery and into his heart (to find the source of the problem initially), and used this pathway to place the stents. The following pictures show the catheter pathway and then what the stent looks like and kind of how it works. The only pictures I could find of stent placements were showing how stents are used to hold the artery open after plaque is pushed away, but Brian's situation was quite different and much trickier than this.  It gives you an idea, though.

There are a couple of reasons why stenting a dissected artery (as opposed to a plaque filled artery) is dangerous... first of all, because the lining is torn and folded into the correct pathway, threading the catheter into the right place is difficult.  Second of all, the arterial wall behind the lining can be filled with blood, causing the tear to rip further along down the artery once the balloon is inflated. 

Despite the difficulties, Brian's surgery worked.  Neither of us know how well it went - but we do wonder if there were complications or tense moments along the way.  The case was long (we have no real reference point for this fact other than that Brian heard one of the surgeons say to another, "Wow.  That was a long case."  It was two and a half hours), and in the end they ended up stenting the entire length of the artery.  Five stents in total running down the full length of his heart. In placing one of the stents the doctor told me they had to sacrifice another, smaller artery that branched from the LAD.  "This means that the portion of his heart that relies on this artery for its blood supply will die," the doctor explained to me later, "and he may feel some pain over the next couple of days as that happens, but there was nothing we could do about it.  We had to sacrifice a small portion for the larger portion." 

I was sitting with three friends when they wheeled Brian past our hall.  Becky, Mark, Leah.  Becky and I had spent the last hour and a half sitting together, talking together, crying together, updating family members and friends whenever we could... Mark had been in and out of the cath lab and had tried to put pieces of the puzzle together for us.  Really, his message each time was that 'he's still okay...' and that was enough.  Leah had just arrived to give support and love.  As they wheeled Brian past our hall, Becky was standing closest, "It's Brian!" she said.  I bolted down the hall as they pushed him out of sight and heard one of the tech's say, "Wait a second; there's a young lady running down the hall."  They backed the bed up so I could see them and I found myself holding Brian's hand again, feeling so grateful for it's warmth. For other than watching his eyes move to meet mine, that was the only sign I had that he was alive.  He looked like a cadaver with skin hardly a different shade than that of the sheet wrapped around him.  His eyes were yellow and sunken.  The squeeze from his hand was so weak.  The tech pushing the bed said they were going to set him up in the ICU and that the doctor would be by to see me in a few minutes.  When the doctor came, his tone was incredibly serious as he explained what had happened throughout the surgery.  LAD.  Five stents.  Smaller artery sacrifice.  No smiles.  Hope his heart recovers.  We'll know more in the next couple of days.  Keep praying.  Such a somber attitude and a general feeling of, "... it was hard ...but we did it... now we wait."

The initial crisis had passed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Miracle

I have no pictures to share tonight as my camera battery remains forgotten and huddled to the wall in my living room 7 miles away from this hospital chair.  A sad day to forget it, I'm sure I'll feel later.  But there are too many things to be grateful for to dwell on that any longer.  Besides, no picture could capture the feelings of this Christmas night.  So instead I'm left to just words; though, words do seem so very inadequate.

My heart feels warm tonight.  Broken, bruised, torn, certainly.  But beautifully warm.  The sleeping pill I just swallowed will start to take hold of my mind in just a few minutes, making this small hospital chair seem much more comfortable than it actually is, but I would be sad to miss this chance to write down the few words that are in my heart tonight.  Words of intense gratitude... gratitude so deep and encompassing that I feel a new hole has been ripped through my soul to make room for it.  Gratitude so filling and so personal that it won't stop coursing down my cheeks in silent tears. My husband is breathing... I can hear it... deep and soft... he's sleeping... And just a couple of hours ago, I climbed up into his hospital bed to snuggle down, found a spot in between all the wires hooked to his chest to rest my head, and turned on a movie.  The movie was mediocre, but listening to his heartbeat underneath my ear was an experience that will be burned into my memory forever. 

His heart beats still.  Not as well as it did before the heart attack.  But it beats still. 

The warm lights from the Christmas strands strung across the room make me feel cozy tonight in more than one way.  Their soft glow naturally creates the atmosphere for it, but the real coziness comes from knowing that true friends were so willing to drop their own Christmas eve plans to come decorate when Brian moved from the ICU.  The three foot Christmas tree stands in the window as a symbol of the love that has been poured out for us over the last four days.  How can I thank you all?  Will you ever know how much I needed you and how grateful I am that you were there?  While my thoughts were turned to nothing but my husband, you were loving my children, scrubbing my house, restocking my fridge, doing (all) my laundry, wrapping the mountain of Christmas presents I had prepared for my family, bringing your love to me in the forms of hugs, dinners, gift cards, cash, phone calls, texts, e-mails, messages, bags of cinnamon smelling pine cones, and a suitcase full of decorations.  You cried with me and prayed and fasted.  And in doing all of this, you gave me the most precious gift this Christmas: your time.  Oh, how I love you all.

I feel my head swimming in sleepiness, but I will sleep well tonight... though I will be physically wrapped in a scratchy, white, hospital sheet, I will be emotionally wrapped in this seemingly endless field of gratitude.  Gratitude for all of you. 

But mostly gratitude to the Lord for the life of my husband.  Miracles seemed to drop from the sky in order for Brian to survive the type of attack he had. So, that deep breathing I hear next to me, that heart pumping blood underneath all those wires, that body and soul that have become my everything...

...that is my Christmas miracle.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Scrambled Thoughts VII - Christmas Style

1.  Pregnancy brain has me wrapped in its clutches.

This is not an entirely new feeling... I remember laughing about it before in previous pregnancies, but this time it's become a bit of a problem.  Less... funny.  More... frustrating.  Trying to string two thoughts together is like trying to catch a bat with a pot (and we all know, you can't catch a bat with a pot).  I keep picking up pens and paper to try to organize my thoughts in a readable format, thinking that if I could just get them down, then I could consult my list as frequently as I needed to in order to stay on task.  But I keep losing the lists, or forgetting that I made one, so start another.  The interesting thing, when these lists are compared side to side, is that they're not really consistent with each other.  You'd think a to-do list would be a to-do list and not change much over the course of a few hours... if you need to make brownies, you need to make brownies yaknowwadImean... but, oh, there are several things that are completely different.  Laundry on one list, shopping on another, wrapping presents on a third.  So, generally, I just end up starting a multitude of different tasks or projects and then completing none of them.  Need to do laundry?  The darks will end up in the washing machine... for 3 days.  Need to wrap some presents?  An inventory will be completed... and then forgotten.  Need to make dinner?  The water will start boiling... and end up evaporating completely before it's remembered, by which time the husband is home, kids are wild and/or crying for food, and I am left with my hands upturned and a confused look on my face thinking, wait... didn't I start dinner?  Well, regardless of how I am or am not perceiving things, the Christmas season is well underway. 

2. As long as it has pepperoni, my kids don't care how ugly the Christmas tree turns out

To kick off our Christmas celebrations, we made pizza.  This Christmas tree pizza was the most intense... the other two pizzas were in the shape of an ornament (think large round pizza) and a present (think large square pizza).  We're full of creativity over here. 

3. If you don't really think it's funny, don't let your children think you think it's funny.  Otherwise it might just become a holiday tradition.

Dancing around in stockings has become such a tradition in our house.  You know, trim the tree, hang the lights, dance around in the Christmas stockings... I actually am quite fond of this little tradition that has spontaneously happened for the last 3 years, but there is another parent around here that feels a little scroogy about it (one of the stockings did have a bit of an accident involving a tear and a bit of tape...).  However, three years is the official stamp of a tradition, so... I can't wait to stuff my 16 year old into a stocking a few years down the road.  All for the sake of tradition, of course.

(Yes, we taped the stocking back together.  Yes, we own needles and thread.  They just happened to be in another room at the time.  Yes, I plan to fix it properly.  Yes, I know most of my plans never actually come to fruition, so we will probably have a taped-back-together fabric stocking hanging on our mantle for the rest of the year.  And probably years to come.)

4. Warning: If you can't put lights all the way up through your Christmas tree angel, she might look more like a dementor when night falls.

A beautiful angel... really, she is.  But she looks a little... how should we say... ghastly at night.  Sorry beautiful angel.  Did you notice the ribbon on my tree?  Doesn't it make it look fancy?  I feel like a real grown up this year.  (Because, apparently, grown ups have ribbon on their trees.)

And how about this cutie helping to set it all up?  She's getting too big these days.  Puttin' Christmas trees together and all.

And, I enjoyed my pre-lit Christmas tree this year just as much as I did last year.  Remarkable how free you can feel when you don't have to string lights up and down branches.

5.  Sometimes it's okay to take a break to read a book.

Just for the sake of taking a break.  Or reading a book.  Don't worry, all the boxes of Christmas decorations were still all over the place after I read the last page.  Plus, it was fun to turn around the corner after things were cleaned up and find these two taking their own little break.

6.  You know you've succeeded in your dessert making responsibilities when your never-thinks-about-the-camera-ever husband seeks the camera out to take a picture of your latest dish.

Sincerest form of appreciation, dear.  Thanks. Plus, who knew he would be so easy to please?  Box of brownie mix (and honestly, even as a make-everything-from-scratch kind of person, I've never been able to find a brownie recipe that I like better than the box mix), cartons of Cool Whip, chunks of candy bars... could this be easier?

7. Zippo has returned

And this year he's slightly more mischievous than in years past.   He must have heard the rumors that all the kids friends' elves are making messes, and bringing them fun goodies to eat.  He must have felt a little pressured to keep up with the Joneses.  I bet he's not a big fan of Pinterest and all of those super creative people who are making his nightly jaunt to the North Pole and efforts to find a new hiding spot every morning seem piddly-ish. Now he's dipping himself into flour, eating bananas and putting the kids' shoes into their Christmas stockings.  Silly Zippo.

8.  Christmas concerts are way more fun when you don't have a baby to entertain.

 We've loved the Duke Choir Christmas Concert for the past couple of years now... but this is the first time we've been able to stay for the entire thing.  Usually the baby or the 2 year old starts wailing in competition with the choir about halfway through and has forced us to count the blessing of staying for half of it, and take our disturbances home.  Not this year!  Hooray for happy kids and late nights... a combo that hasn't been seen much in the past.  I think it had something to do with the jingle bells they passed out in the middle. 

9. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. 

Another fun way to spread Christmas cheer is by scowling at all the happy patrons who are enjoying a story-time read aloud by Mrs. Claus herself.  This little elf sure spread some cheer to Brian and me as we watched her through the entire story-time... she rivaled Kristen Stewart on her vast array of facial expressions. Here... and just because she's so awesome, let's zoom in a bit:

She screams 'Get me out of this stupid costume' all the way from the dagger eyes, to the pouty mouth, to the hand on the hip, to the other hand clicking her pen in-out-in-out-in-out-in-out-in-out.  Kids seemed to like Mrs. Claus, Brian and I liked the grumpy elf, we all won.

10.  Pregnancy brain has me wrapped in its clutches.

It's happened to me before, this being my fifth pregnancy... but I don't remember it happening at this level.  It's been so bad lately that I even mentioned it to my doctor this morning.  She just laughed and said it's probably the combination of increased hormone levels (which studies suggest may be a primary reason for the muddy thinking in the first place (I love that... the words suggest and may be totally sell me)), the decreased level of sleep I'm getting, and juggling three other children in the whirlwind of the holiday season.  Whatever the reason, it's bad.  In creating my to-to list this morning, I somehow got to thinking about blueberries and couldn't even trace my thought trail to see where I had veered off the 'to-do' path.  No one really even likes blueberries in my house, and I can't remember the last time I had a conscious thought about them before... weird.  I picked up the wrong flat rate box at the post office yesterday (apparently they have a flat rate box only to be sent to military members), spent over an hour at the dollar tree trying to help my kids pick out just 9 Christmas presents for family members, lost the scissors and tape at least 24 times during the course of wrapping 15 presents, and have left wet clothes from the morning load in the washer overnight several times this week (which is a problem because they start to smell).  And, we've been out of paper towels for over a month now because every time I go to Costco, I forget them.  Trying to string two thoughts together is like trying to catch a bat with a pot (and we all know.....

...wait... have I already told you about this?)

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Fried Chicken and Bananas kind of day

It started yesterday afternoon when Carson hobbled off the bus.  He's kind of a hobbler by nature - jumping (sliding, dancing, leaping, hopping, skidding) from foot to foot rather than just walking - so unusual movement from that little body is a little more... well... usual, I guess.  But this time the hobble was a bit different.  A bit more subdued than normal, and a bit more consistent.  "What happened to your foot, Bud?" I asked.

P.E. happened.

Apparently, during his one hour per week chance to run around and be a kid (which, if you ask me, is quite ridiculous... one hour a week?!  But I'll be kind to not step onto my soapbox so I don't get too lost on a tangent), he fell from a bar and landed a bit funny on his foot.  A closer inspection revealed that it was the top of his foot that was impaired, and by this morning he was unable to walk on it at all.

Plus, Miles was spiking a fever.  So the three of us stayed home together, all for different reasons, and enjoyed the day.

Turns out it was a perfect day to keep my sweet kindergartner home.  While tragedy was striking those sweet babies in an elementary school in Connecticut, I was sitting side-by-side with my own babies, playing Mario Brothers.  Later, we settled down into the couch and ate cheese cubes and crackers along with our tall glasses of chocolate milk while we watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  We read stories and watched more TV.  I guess we were waiting for the time to pass until Carson's 4:15 appointment at the clinic, but it didn't seem like waiting.  It seemed more like living.

But hecticness broke out when McKenzie arrived home from school (which I suppose is a form of living, too).  "Grab your shoes, kids.  Time to get in the car."  By this time, I was a little reluctant to keep the appointment at the clinic because (of course) an hour earlier, Carson had started exclaiming excitedly, "Hey!  My foot is feeling better!  Watch!" at which point he would demonstrate his ability to stand on it.  Miles looked terrible (and terribly cute) all snuggled up on the couch, cheeks flushed, eyes glazed and watery.  I didn't really want to drag him out to the clinic to get Carson's foot X-rayed.  But... today was Friday.  If I waited until tomorrow or Sunday, then I'd have pay triple the price for the same services because they would be performed in the ER.  So, "Grab your shoes, kids.  Time to get in the car."  Better safe than sorry.

Then, a groan.  A whimper from the couch, and Miles spewed buckets full of liquidy chunks all over the couch.  And the pillows.  And the rug.  And his clothing.  And his hair.  We rushed to the bathroom to finish the job where more liquidy chunks were deposited on the tile floor around the base of the toilet, plastered to the wall behind the toilet, and eventually found dripping down the outsides of the toilet (collecting in a nice pool at the base).  Many inside the toilet bowl itself?  Nope.  But, kids are more important than messes, right?  So, Miles was quickly (but lovingly) stripped naked, and placed into the tub where the warm water was gently rising.  I grabbed a container of Clorox wipes and went to work on the bathroom while telling the other kids to please go get into the car. 

"Can we have a snack first?" they asked. 
"Well, we're already going to be late," scrub, scrub, scrub, "so I would appreciate it if you would... don't step in the vomit! ... if you would just go get into the car."
"But!  We're starving!"
"Okay... um... grab a cheese stick.  But then go get into the car." Scrub, scrub, scrub.

Next, I grabbed the Resolve and went to work on the couch, the pillows, and the rug.  I have a slight issue cleaning up vomit into the kitchen sink (I know... go ahead and think it's weird... it just feels wrong), but our bathroom sink drains are not quite big enough for even very small chunks, which leaves the kids' bathtub and my shower.  Since Miles was in his bathtub, I ran back and forth from my bathroom shower to the offending spot several times before the chunks were all gone... the whole time watching the minutes tick off the clock and thinking to myself now we will be at least 7 minutes late.  8 minutes. 13 minutes.  Finally the fabrics started smelling less like vomit and more like Resolve, so I turned my attention to the 3 year old in the bathtub.  Scrubbing him clean, I tried to offset my frantic rushing with soothing words.  Eventually, he was dressed in clean, dry clothes and loaded into the van (holding a giant blue bowl in case anything else wanted out of his body) with the other children who had been eating their cheese sticks obediently in the car.  (Bless them)

It was at this point that I realized I was wearing my skinny jeans and had absentmindedly put my slightly oversized running shoes over my feet, which gave my legs a sort of upside down sledgehammer look.  But, we were going to be 20 minutes late by this point, so away we went.  I sped the whole 20 minutes to the clinic, all the while perfecting what I would say if an officer found my speed offensive enough to pull me over. How could an officer give a crying mother a ticket (yes, I could have turned the water works on quite easily by this point) when she was talking about broken feet, a clinic visit, a vomiting 3 year old and a cramping baby bump (which has become quite uncomfortably common this pregnancy)?  Thankfully I didn't have to perform my speech. 

After parking, we shuffled out of the car one by one and, much to my dismay, I realized that somewhere along the drive, my back had seized up (another thing that has become quite uncomfortably common this pregnancy.  It's manageable as long as, when it happens, I don't need to put any weight on my left foot since that sends a shockingly numbing pain through my spine that causes me to crumple to the floor. Slightly embarrassing in public, I would imagine).  It was most definitely in response to my scrubbing the floors just minutes before, and left me trying to figure out how I was going to make it into the clinic without using my left foot.  I unbuckled Miles, closed my eyes for a split second to shoot a prayer to the heavens, Uh... help? while I reached for my purse.  My hands closed around my purse while my eyes were still closed and I pulled it out, upside down, to sling it around my shoulder.  Pens, chapstick, coins, wallet, and tiny toys went cascading down my side to the pavement and under the car.  I bent down, barely refraining from using a curse word, to collect it all back together.  Standing up, I tested my left foot and found, to my relief, the pain to be manageable.  Even so, I'm sure we were a sight to see walking into that clinic.  I can see the wordy headline: Pregnant Sledgehammer Mom, holding large 3-year-old (holding giant blue bowl) hobbles, 20 minutes late, into clinic hand-in-hand with hobbling son.  Daughter seems fine (though, she is also wearing tennis shoes with her skinny jeans.)

I then watched, frustrated, as Carson explained to the Dr. that it didn't really even hurt anymore.
Diagnosis?  Give it more time.
No X-ray needed.
A little Ibuprofen should do the trick.

"I thought that might be the case," I explained.  "I just didn't want it to get worse over the weekend and end up taking him to the emergency room."
"No, it's good you came in," he lied... but it was nice of him to say anyway.  "Two pieces of the puzzle that made it wise for you to come in are that the type of fall is consistent with small fractures, and that the pain is on the top of his foot, which is also consistent with small fractures.  Really, I'd say there's still a 5-10% chance that something is broken, but even if there is, I'd just say take it easy."  Again, how nice to try to make me feel like I hadn't wasted the last hour of my life. 

But the fact remained, it was a wasted trip.
I hate those.

We hobbled back out to the car and the children started asking about dinner.
Oh yeah.

"Who wants to go get a pizza!?" I said, trying to sell it.  It worked with 2/3 of the children (but Miles didn't want anything, so he didn't really count), and we started making our way up to Little Caesars to get three Hot 'n' Ready's.  Halfway there, Miles started groaning in the backseat again.  Then hiccuping, then screaming, "I needa cough!  I needa cough again!"  Translation: prepare for stomach content departure. 
"Hold your bowl up, sweetie," I reminded.
"I not wanna cough inna bowl!  I wanna cough inna basstub!"
"Well, we don't have a bathtub right now, Miles," Kenzie offered.
"KENZIE!  DON'T SAY DAT!" he yelled. 
Spotting a KFC, I said, "How about some yummy fried chicken instead?!"  Grabbing the consent from the older two kids, I swung behind a large white truck in the drive-thru line.  I have never been in the drive through line at KFC before.  In fact, I think the last time I ate KFC was back when I was in high school.  But, here we were, scanning the menu for the best deal, all the while hearing Miles fighting back the vomit.  "I not wanna cough inna bowl!"
No time to find the best deal. 
"I'd like an 8 piece family chicken bucket, please," I began into the speaker.
"Is that all, ma'am?"
"Mom!  I want one of those drummy, leg things!"
"I GOING *cough* I GOING *gag* *dry heave* *dry heave*"
"Ummm... and 5 biscuits, too."
"Mom!  Miles is going to throw up right now!"
"Mom!  I want one of those drummy, leg things!"
"Anything to drink, or any sides with that?"
"Nope.  That's all, thank you."
"Drummy leg things, Mom!"
"Your total is $16.14 at the window."
"Mom!  I want one of those drummy, leg things!"
"Thank you."
"Did you get me a drummy, leg thing?"
"Yes, Carson.  Miles, remember your bowl, buddy!  Kenz, is he holding his bowl?"
"$16.14" said the man at the window.

It was a small miracle that we made it home with no vomit.  When I spotted our house, all lit up with Christmas lights, I started cheering, "Daddy's home! Yay! Daddy's home and he turned on the lights!"  I didn't know he was home, and I didn't know he had gotten off of work a bit early today and would have been completely happy to figure out dinner for the family and have it ready by the time we hobbled into the house.  I didn't know because my phone ran out of battery two days ago and refuses to charge again.  I feel a little stranded without it...

So, we all had fried chicken for dinner.  Well, all except Miles, who finally got his bathtub.  And enjoyed a banana for dinner instead.

Monday, November 19, 2012

On the Tip of my Tongue...

What's the word I'm looking for...?  What is it...?  What is it...?  Ah!


Gluttony: (n) over-indulgence and over-consumption of food to the point of extravagance or waste.

Yep.  I think that applies here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Parties and Pumpkins

One of the greatest things about having a large family (or large-ish, I suppose... depending on whether you live in a place where being pregnant with your fourth child is considered irresponsible and/or crazy...ahem) is that parties are always well attended.  If I spend a ton of time decorating for a Halloween party and making delicious, fun foods, I don't even need to invite anyone over to have a full table of conversation and giggles to enjoy it.  (Fighting?  Food throwing?  On-the-table-climbing?  Spills (resulting from previous on-the-table-climbing question)?  Not important.) 

Prepping for the big Halloween party was so much of the fun.  Amber and McKenzie were in charge of making the hot chocolate (deliciously homemade), and Carson was in charge of making the hot apple cider (dumping the store-bought stuff in a pot and stirring until warmed.  Placing the lid on top of the pot once warmed was also taken seriously).  Next, we focused our attention onto making a pumpkin cheese ball (which had nothing more to do with 'pumpkin' than it's shape), monster mouths, witches fingers, and mummies.

After our tummies were filled with a most delicious and unhealthy dinner (minus the apples... but c'mon... do you really think anyone wanted apple slices when there were hot-dogs wrapped in cheese and buttery biscuit rolls staring them in the face?), we moved on to the pumpkin carving portion of the evening.

Or, in Miles's case, the pumpkin draw-with-sharpie-ing portion of the night.  Which he took quite seriously.

McKenzie was pretty proud of her anti-squeamishness when it came to gutting the pumpkin.  Go McKenzie!

Amber pulled a chair into the kitchen and worked on her doll head.  She's redone the makeup and is now re-hairing the thing, turning her from a creepy i-can't-remember-the-name doll into Alice from Alice in Wonderland.  Did you even know you could do that?  Miles is most concerned about the lack of a body.  Actually, he's most concerned when he sees the body with the lack of a head, but now we're just mincing words.  It's kind of creepy either way.

Hooray for me, I even jumped into a couple of pictures to prove that I exist during these parties. 

But, too bad we got a late start to the night and had to cut it short after the kiddo's were done.  I love carving pumpkins... but not enough to stay up till the wee hours of the morning, apparently.  Sigh.  Next year I will plan better.  It will be easy because I will have a 7-month-old... and planning things is always easier with a 7-month-old.


The night ended with happy kids, happy parents, and a happy Amber (who is really neither a kid nor a parent, so she gets her own category).  A success, I'd say.

Since Miles's pumpkin couldn't be lit from within, we stuck a candle on top of it because fire always makes things more fun.  He seemed quite pleased with the final result... even though you can't see his pumpkin in the following picture because his head is blocking it, you can tell he couldn't keep his eyes off of it.  Love it when the kids feel proud of themselves.

Now... can you believe it's almost time to start defrosting the turkey? 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Boo to You and You and You-u... Happy Hall-o-ween

Not sure what it was in the middle of September that got me antsy to get out of the house... Maybe it was the burnt garlic smell still lingering in our kitchen... maybe it was that I had seen enough of the insides of my toilet... maybe it was because I panicked when I realized we might live across the country next year... but something snapped inside of me one afternoon and Brian got an unexpected phone call with  me on the other end of the line saying,

"Hey, so, let's go to Mickey's Not so Scary Halloween Party again this year. ... No, I'm serious ... Really ... I already found a condo we could rent for super cheap ... we could go in 2 weeks ... or 3 ... could you get a couple of days off of work?"

He thought I was crazy at first.  Well, probably thought I was kidding at first, crazy when he realized I was serious.  A Disney vacation in 2 weeks?  Don't people plan for months for that sort of thing?  Well, technically yes, but it never says in any rule book that you have to plan in advance.  And, hooray for me! it only took a couple of hours for him to start feeling the excitement of it, too.  Let the planning begin!  Amber arrived to stay with us around the same time and we got straight to work brainstorming costume ideas (because, if you've never been to Mickey's Not so Scary Halloween Party before, dressing in costumes is a giant part of the fun). 

"Hey," she said one evening after a particularly electrifying game of Candy Land, "lets go as Candy Land characters!"  After hearing an audible gasp from McKenzie at the suggestion, I looked into her star struck eyes and knew exactly where her mind was.  "Oh!  Can I please, please, please be Queen Frostine!?"  Yes, dear.  You can.

Once the idea was on the table there was no looking back, and Amber and I buried ourselves in fabric, thread, pins, fabric, paint, glue, cardboard, fabric, tape, lace... And fabric.  We cut and stitched and guessed and re-stitched and realized that sewing all of those costumes without any semblance of a pattern was quite a bit more difficult than we would have originally guessed.  But, oh boy, did we feel triumphant in the end.

Amber and I may have gotten carried away in the details... to the point of making a wig for McKenzie out of a scrap piece of fabric and a whole roll of white yarn; a delicate crown out of lace, hardened by a dip in glue (and a hairdryer to dry it) and then hand painted in blues and silvers; several meticulously crafted and painted cardboard circles of various sizes; and a fairly awesome kingly staff made from a fun noodle, blue duct tape, and a large bouncy ball...

But, oh did McKenzie fall head over heels for her Queen Frostine costume.  Amber and I did, too.  Silky fabric... petticoats... dreamy.

Carson kept coming back to the idea of King Candy, but never really settled on it until we discovered the fear behind the hesitation: wearing a skirt.  Once we assured him we could change the costume in any way he wanted, he was sold.  He felt pretty kingly in his modified version.


See those 94 little pieces of brown fabric sewn to the front of his shirt (giving him that awesome, kingly, armored look)?  Each one was machine-stitched around the edges to prevent fraying, outlined with a silver fabric marker, adorned by a hand-stitched red button, and sewn onto his shirt row by row to create the layers.  Let's take a moment of silence to honor them.

 And Miles... oh Miles.   Plumpy?  or Gloppy?  And wouldn't he make a most adorable Lord Licorice?  But it was not to be.  His heart was set on being "Pwincess Lolly", and there was no talking him out of it.  So, in the spirit of 'let's-make-it-work', Amber and I brainstormed idea after idea of how to turn Princess Lolly a little more Princely.  My favorite part of his costume?  The hand-painted candy barrettes clipped into his red Afro.

Amber made a perfect Mr. Mint... and her costume was super fun to put together.  We used so much fabric in her shorts that they ended up looking like giant Grandma panties before we put all the elastic in it to gather it up.  Oh where, oh where was my camera?  So many laughs.

Amber and I felt that Brian should unquestionably be Lord Licorice... what with the tall and skinny look going on there (and wouldn't I have made a delightful Gramma Nutt?... what with the plump and round look going on here) But, though he was willing in the end, I could tell he really, really didn't feel comfortable with the idea (he never has been one to dress up much), so we let him off the hook and he and I went together as the candy kids.  A white shirt, a little red duct tape, and we were good to go.  Definitely the easiest of the bunch, even if it wasn't the most fun.

And, too bad several people in the park shouted, "I found Waldo!" in our direction.  Maybe I should have searched harder for denim overalls.

Well, after the costumes were (mostly) finished, it was time to pile our six bodies, all the luggage, snacks, costumes, and Harry Potter CD's into the car to make the long drive down to Orlando.  I set Brian loose with a task to 'string a piece of yarn from one side of the car to the other and attach something to it that can move along to show us how far we've gone and how far we have to go.'  I laughed out loud when I saw that his construction included duct tape, screws and those little plastic things that hold the screws into drywall.  I was thinking more along the lines of a paperclip...  I sure love that man.

The visual was a huge hit (thanks to a great friend who suggested the idea) - every 100 miles we'd move the car along to the next screw and pull out a snack.  They were in love with the idea. I'm pretty sure it was because the word snack was involved.  Well, Kenz and Carson were, anyway.

"What!?" Miles asked with furrowed eyebrows after we explained the process.  "Dat string is me?"
???  "No..." I said.  "What do you mean?"
"Dat string is me?"
"Uh... nope."  Brian and I looked at each other with confused faces, turned Harry Potter on and carried along the road.

After the first 100 miles, we made a big deal and pulled out the first round of snacks.  "We've gone 100 miles!  Let's move the car!"
"What?!" Miles asked again.  "Dat string is Miles?"  It clicked.  Miles... miles.  100 miles.  Now, how do you explain that to a 3 year old?  I'm pretty sure we just laughed instead and left him in his confusion.  Sorry bud.

Once we got to the condo we spent the first day and a half in the (amazing) pool, running along the sidewalks chasing lizards, watching movies, eating, and trying at each meal with a Herculean effort to keep the glass dishware provided in our condo from shattering on the floor.

Love, love, love those red curls....

Finally it was time to go into the park.  Amber and I felt strangely elated whenever someone would recognize us as the Candy Land crew.  We relished in the few shout-outs that came our way. 

No lines, people.  Seriously, no lines.  I think that's the best thing about Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.  Ever wanted to ride Splash Mountain enough times in a row that you could have plenty of tries to figure out the perfect camera position and the perfect time to snap the shot?  We didn't even have to get out of the log - they just kept sending us through.

My favorite shot of the night.  Not because of my extra pudgy cheeks, but because of my beautiful sister and because of that sweet little boy holding onto me for dear life.  He was brave, but not a fan of Splash Mountain.  After the first little drop, he slid his back hand behind me and brought his front hand around my expanding tummy to hold on for the next one.  I loved feeling his little squeeze every time we dropped again.  He'd laugh nervously at the bottom of the drops, but never let go until the very end of the ride when it was time to stand to get out of the log.  He felt so tiny wrapped up in my arm, and I know how preciously limited those days are - - - love that little guy with my whole heart.  

We rode rides and ate free candy and watched shows and parades and fireworks up until the park closed at midnight.  And then, with very tired and happy kids, we rode the ferry back to our car, drove back to our condo, and tucked our kids into their beds to dream of Disney villains and Halloween parades.