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A Letter to Rhino...A Letter to my son

Rhino and MommyMy dear, sweet little boy.  Where does the time go?  It seems like just yesterday we were meeting you for the first time (though you’d already been kicking and punching me for quite some time!).  Your birth itself was rather uneventful.  It was a four hour long induction.  At the end, there we were, holding our fourth baby.  A little boy weighing in at 8 pounds 7 ounces…bigger than any of your older siblings (though your little sister would eventually beat you by 8 ounces). 

 You’ve been a little rambunctious from the beginning, and so you still are today!  You are a happy, healthy, strong 3 year old boy.  You have no sense of pain (we’re fairly convinced you have a future in the NFL at defensive tackle), and rarely show any signs of fear.  Sometimes, I wish you had just a little more fear.  You make your old momma so nervous sometimes, while you climb furniture and old tractors without a thought for your own safety.  You think fist fights are hilarious.  Luckily, when you do get hurt, a kiss and a band-aid still makes you all better. 



Rhino with a pipeA year ago, we were worried, because you didn’t seem to talk much.  You’d get frustrated and angry when you didn’t get what you wanted, but you didn’t talk much.  You’ve come so far over the past year.  You jabber up a storm these days.  Unfortunately, it’s still mostly spoken in a foreign language.  But, at least you’re talking!  You’re speaking more clearly each day.  By this time next year, I wonder if we’ll even be able to remember your special language! 

You have an exuberance for life that is infectious.  Everything is exciting for you…even if it’s just an episode of Paw Patrol (or is it Pop Control, as your big brother calls it…or maybe Bah Bole, as you assert?) that you’ve seen a thousand times…today.  After all, we bought them on DVD so we could see them over and over again.  You come grab my hands and start jumping up and down, telling me that you want to dance at least 3 times a day.  I need to agree far more often!  Just, maybe not while your baby sister is trying to sleep. 

Muddy RhinoSometimes, you look up and smile at me, and you have a certain twinkle in your eye.  That’s when I know that the proverbial brown matter is about to hit the rotary cooling device.  You’re up to something.  If I say, “What are you up to?” in my biggest, gruffest Mommy voice, you’ll get a huge grin on your face and start giggling maniacally.  Then, you’ll say, “I Doh-nooooo!” (that’s “I don’t know”…if you don’t speak Toddlerese).  Perhaps, when I get up to follow you, there will be a flood in the bathroom, or I’ll walk through the door just in time to see you scramble up the side of the bathroom counter to a perch you’ve found standing in the bathroom sink…why is it always the bathroom?  Your cuteness at these particular moments, when you know you’ve been ‘busted’ is incredibly endearing.  But, no…for your own good, I must stand firm…all while hoping that someday you have a little boy just like you.  Then you’ll understand.  I just hope your future wife is a patient woman (Bless her heart!). 

For all of the mischief you make, you pour out just as much love.  You bring Mommy flowers, and give me huge squishy hugs.  You can be as sweet and gentle with your little sister as you are rough with your big brother.  You have a big heart, my dear son, and you use it well.  I pray you keep it that way.  I pray for you every day.  On good days, I pray for all the big, grand things you might do with the life God gave you.  Some days, all I can manage is constant prayers that your guardian angel is being extra vigilant!  Thankfully, you’ve made it another year. 

I love you son.  More than you can possibly understand.  Happy Birthday! 


Easy Peasy Pleasy

My granddad died on March 27th…one day before his 87th birthday.  The emotional roller coaster that I’ve been riding for the past month and a half is almost unbearable.  I’ve gone from the incredible joy of the birth of a new baby, to the grief that can only be felt when you lose someone you love dearly.  I loved my granddad dearly.  He was a great man, who’s joy for the simple things in life was infectious.  He left behind a wife, two sons, three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.  Granddad touched countless lives.  We knew the end was coming for a little over a year, and for him, I’m sure death was a great release.  I know he hurt so badly, and that is over for him now.  For that I am grateful.  

I have so many fond memories of Granddad.  He helped to raise me.  I spent countless hours with him and my grandmother growing up.  They only lived a couple of miles away.  Granddad and I would go down into the creek behind their house.  We spent hours exploring up and down that creek.  We would find interesting “artifacts” in the mud and silt.  He would tell all kinds of stories.  During our explorations, we would play all kinds of pretend games.  One of our favorites was for me to pretend to be a teenage girl, and Granddad would pretend to be my little brother.  He would get into all sorts of mischief in our games.  It was my job to keep him out of trouble!

The big sister/little brother game was a common one with us.  We didn’t just play it while exploring the creek.  We would also play on our long bike rides.  Granddad would ride bikes with me farther than anyone else.  He would take me clear up to the main road.  He would ride with me down to the elementary school a couple of miles away, so that I could play on the playground (and he could take a rest).  Every once in a while, he would stop to point out something interesting that he had seen while we were riding.

Granddad was a master storyteller.  He had a way of telling stories that made you feel like you were really there.  He could tell a funny story about the trouble he and his brother got into while they were growing up, and by the time he got done, it was as if you had been there too, right along with them.  I can still remember the suspense and fear I felt when he told me a story about the time his brother dared him to stick his tongue to a frozen train track during a Missouri winter.  They didn’t believe a tongue would actually stick to the metal.  So, Granddad’s brother dared Granddad to try it.  As it turns out, tongues do stick to frozen train tracks.  And then they heard the train whistle.  The way Granddad told the story, I’m sure he managed to peel his tongue off the track mere seconds before the train came speeding along the track, with my granddad and his brother barely escaping certain death…or at least tongue amputation.

I can still remember, as a small child, when I would ride anywhere in a car with Granddad, he would tell me stories about the road lice.  Now, you may not know it, but nearly all roads have road lice.  You can tell, because of all the little bumps.  Most people think they are there to separate the different lanes of traffic.  But Granddad knew the truth.  Those bumps in between the lanes were actually road louse houses.  He would have me staring at those little bumps throughout the entirety of a long road trip, desperately trying to spot a road louse.  Of course, I didn’t know what they looked like…and according to Granddad, they were very shy creatures.  After all, wouldn’t you be scared to come out of your house if cars ran over it all the time?  I sure wish I had his talent for keeping kids entertained in the car!  With five kids of my own now, that kind of talent would really come in handy!

Along with his talent for storytelling, Granddad had another great talent.  My granddad could whistle.  It wasn’t just any whistle.  He had his own very special whistle.  I could tell his whistle apart from anyone else’s.  It had a very unique sound.  Granddad was always whistling.  He whistled any tune that came into his head.  But, I most often remember hearing him whistle The Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Not a song you’d typically hear whistled!  Now, every once in a while, he would sing it…rather badly!  His rendition was very loud, and always overly dramatic.  He enjoyed my pained reaction.  But, the sound of his whistle is something I will never forget.

Granddad also had a couple of great culinary passions: popcorn, and ice cream floats.  He had a special pan that he used to cook popcorn on the stove.  The bottom of it looked like a typical sauce pan.  But, the top had a lid that attached to the handle.  On the end of the handle was a crank that turned a mechanism in the bottom of the pan that kept the kernels moving.  It looked a lot like this one.  I thought it was so awesome when he made popcorn.  He would let me pour the popcorn into the pan, AND turn the handle while it popped!  My mom never let me play at the stove…but Granddad did.  Of course, he was standing with me the whole time making sure I wouldn’t burn myself.  Now, the ice cream float went perfectly with a popcorn snack.  Granddad liked root beer in his.  But I was never a fan of root beer.  So, he would make a Coke float for me.  The ice cream had to be Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.  We were in Texas, after all!

When I got a little bit older, Grandmother and Granddad took me with them on a number of vacations.  I spent weeks every summer, travelling to some exotic location.  They took me on a road trip to Washington D.C. (Remember the road louse houses?  He even managed to get a teenage me to search for them!).  We went to England, three different times.  I even joined them for one week out of their three week 50th anniversary trip to Hawaii.  They probably would have asked me to join them for all three weeks, but the first two weeks were during dead week and finals during my first semester of my junior year in college.

Driving in England with Granddad was always an adventure.  Of course, to us Americans, the British drive on the wrong side of the road!  On our first trip to England, on the very first day, we were driving from Gatwick airport to our first temporary residence.  We were all tired and jet lagged.  Granddad started veering off the road, and knocked the headlight and side mirror off our rental car.  That woke us up!  Then, after we got off the M road (I can’t remember which number it was), Granddad went to turn on our next road, and of course, turned onto the wrong side of the road!  More excitement!  He finally got it figured out around the time we were about to leave to come back to the US after 3 weeks each time.  But, we always had fun.  We stayed lost a lot, since Grandmother was the navigator…but that’s a story for another day!

I could tell a million more stories about my granddad.  But, I’ll save some for another time.  I have many, many happy memories of this man.  He will certainly be missed.  I am sad.  But, I also know that I have hope.  Hope because we will meet again…free from pain, and free from the confusion and haze of dementia.  So, until that time, I will have to be content to remember.  I will remember all the time I had to spend with him.  I will remember how blessed I have been to have had my granddad in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ethannevelyn.com

 

Sincerely, Paula

 

Coffee and Conversation button

Did you miss Part 1?  Read it here.


The next morning, Andrew and I were up by 5 am.  Andrew went out to take care of the animals, which had to be done before we could leave.  I showered and dressed.  Then, I cooked some eggs and toast for breakfast.  Andrew came back into the house as I was sitting down to eat my breakfast.  He started washing eggs.

“We have another errand to run before the induction.”  he told me.  We already had one errand to run before heading to the hospital.  Andrew and the kids had picked all the carrots, and they needed to be taken to the food pantry in town.  Tuesdays are the big distribution day, so, that’s the day Andrew always drops off any fresh produce he has to donate.  Now, apparently, there was a second errand.

“What’s that?”  I asked suspiciously.

“Weeeeeeeeell, I caught that opossum that’s been up on the porch stealing the dogs’ food.  We need to take it down the road and let it go.”

“Ugh.  Really?!?  Opossums smell so bad, and we’re already running late.  Can’t you just let Midnight have it?  He’d have so much fun.  Then we wouldn’t have to worry about it!”

Midnight has some sort of problem with opossums.  We don’t know why, but he harbors a serious grudge against these little critters.  Of course, Andrew knew I wasn’t serious…at least, not completely serious.  Well, maybe I was serious, but I knew he’d say no.  Opossums are actually beneficial creatures to have around…just not if they’re stealing dog food.

Andrew laughed, “No, we can’t give it to Midnight!  That wouldn’t be right.  I don’t want to kill it…I just want it someplace it won’t steal our dog food.”

“Oh, fine!”  I said, annoyed.

So it was that we had to find a spot down our little road where we could perform the “release” portion of my husband’s “catch and release” opossum program before the birth of our fifth baby.  Only in my life do these things happen!  This was already shaping up to be a unique story.  But, I had no idea how much drama was yet to come.

After all of our pre-induction stops, we finally made it to the hospital, but we were a little bit late.  The nurse was ready and waiting on us.  She handed me my stylish gown to wear during labor.  I got changed, then into the bed I climbed.  The nurse hooked me up to the monitors.  When she finished, she put in my IV to start my first dose of antibiotics.  I was Group B Strep positive, so I had to have at least two doses of these IV antibiotics at least four hours apart. 

Now, my doctor and I have played this game before (I’ve been GBS positive with my last 3 pregnancies).  I have a history of fairly fast labors.  My second baby only took 5 hours to make her appearance.  The boys took right around 4 hours each…one was a little more, one was a little less.  We planned to have one dose complete, and the second dose at least started before my doctor even began the induction.  So, I knew I had a few hours to wait around while the antibiotics were going.

Meanwhile, our baby had decided to play a game of her own called “run away from the pesky monitor”.  Every time the nurse found the heartbeat, Baby would run away again.  The nurse decided, in a bit of arrogance, that Baby would be in a certain place.  Clearly, Baby was not there.  But, despite the evidence, the nurse refused to try the monitor anywhere else.  This, of course, let to much annoyance for her, and constant interruptions to us, since she was continually having to come in to readjust the monitor.  The reasons many people seek to avoid continuous fetal monitoring were about to become more obvious.

Soon after I was all wired in, the monitors showed that the baby’s heart rate had dropped significantly.  I was having some mild contractions, but I couldn’t even feel them.  Remember, nothing had been done yet to start the induction.  The contractions I was having were just the same Braxton-Hicks contractions I’d been having for months.  We were even still waiting to start the antibiotics.  

Our nurse came in, and started trying to find the baby’s heart rate…again.  She didn’t seem too worried, at first.  But then, when she did find it, it was only 50 beats per minute…far too slow!  That started a panic.  My nurse patted me on the arm and said, “Looks like you’re gettin’ a c-section, Honey!”  She put the oxygen on me and had me rolling back and forth, trying to get the baby back into a good position.  There were nurses flying around the room, and the hospital staff OB came in.  Everyone in the room seemed ready to whisk me off to the OR for an emergency c-section.  Andrew and I are still trying to decide if the drop in heart rate was real, or if it was an artifact of an arrogant nurse and an ill-placed monitor.  Whatever the case, we were scared!  We were praying like we’d never prayed before that our sweet baby would make it into this world.

By the time my doctor arrived a few minutes later, the baby’s heart rate was back to normal.  He looked at the tape from the monitor, and decided it had nothing to do with the mild contraction in question.  The drop had started before the contraction had started.  The baby’s heart rate had been just fine up until that point, and by that time, it was strong and steady again.  There was no reason to rush off into surgery.  The best course of action, he believed, would be to continue monitoring for a few hours.  If everything continued to be fine, we would start the induction as planned.  However, if it happened again, we would need to consider a c-section.  He seemed to think it was necessary to talk us out of surgery.  I had never been more thankful for a non-reactionary doctor with a steady head on his shoulders!

We had to wait for the antibiotics anyway, so it wasn’t that big of a deal to wait.  But now, we were nervously obsessing over every sound coming out of that monitor.  Andrew sat and watched every blip the monitors recorded.  Every time I got up to use the rest room, that nurse was back in my room before I even got done to make sure the monitors were hooked back up immediately.  All this time, Baby’s heart rate was doing fine.  It was nice and strong…140 when resting, and about 160 when active.  But, Baby decided running away from the monitor was no longer entertaining enough.  Now, Baby has declared war on the monitor…kicking and punching the spot where the monitor is strapped around my belly.  When a contraction would hit while Baby was already wiggling, the fight was on!  Baby’s heart rate would go up to 180, and the contraction monitor would go crazy with all the kicking it received!  I decided it was safe to say that Baby was handling everything just fine.

Around 12:45, the doctor came back in to start on the induction.  He had the nurse start a slow dose of Pitocin along with the second dose of antibiotics to make the contractions I was already having get a little stronger and more regular.  Baby was still up fairly high (probably because I had been strapped to a bed all morning), and he didn’t want to break my water yet because of the risk of a cord prolapse.  So, the nurse started the IV with what she called a “whiff” of Pitocin.

The Pitocin drip was so slow that it didn’t do a whole lot.  I still wasn’t really feeling the contractions very much.  The doctor returned an hour later to break my water.  The nurse later informed us that he had broken my water at 1:46 pm.  That’s when things started to get exciting again.  The doctor told us that I should get into active labor within an hour or so.  He would be in his office until 3:00.  After that, he would be back by to check in and see how things were progressing.  He expected, given my past history, to have a baby around 5 or 6 pm.  “But,” he tells me, “if you start feeling anything strange, especially if you feel like you need to poop, before then, let the nurse know, and we’ll check on you a little sooner.”  He said I could have an epidural any time.  We told him I was going to try to go without it this time.  He kind of chuckled and said, “Brave woman!”

The contractions became strong and regular very fast.  Andrew kept trying to talk to me, and make me laugh.  I was already hurting pretty badly, and he was trying to distract me from it.  But, I was not in the mood!  At first, I as able to manage a weak smile or two.  Then, I just started to ignore him…all I could concentrate on was the contractions and the impending birth of my baby.  Eventually, he realized I needed him to be quiet and just be there for me.  He stood next to the bed and held my hands through the contractions.  

About half an hour later, I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore.  Now, I had read all about the emotional signposts of labor.  I was clearly feeling a lot of self-doubt (which I knew indicates transition), but it had only been half an hour.  There was no way I was that far along…I thought.  My last two labors had taken right around four hours.  In my mind, I still had at least 3 hours before the birth of our baby!

I told Andrew several times that I couldn’t do it.  I needed the epidural.  He just said, “Yes you can, yes you can.”  He was very encouraging, but he was afraid we still had a few hours before birth as well.

“Get the nurse to get me an epidural!”  I said finally.

Andrew proposed a compromise.  “The nurse will be back in here soon to check you.  Wait until then to see about the epidural.  If you aren’t very far along yet, perhaps the epidural would be best.  But maybe you’re almost there.  If you are, you can do it without one.”

I grumpily told him, “You’re just trying to make me wait until it’s too late!”  But, reluctantly, I said, “Fine.  I need to pee anyway.  Help me get to the restroom.”  So, Andrew helped me out of bed and to the restroom.  When I got there, I realized that I did not, in fact, need to “pee”!  I told Andrew.  He ran to the door to advise the nurse, “She feels like she has to ‘go’!”  

The nurse replied, rather nonchalantly, “Okay.  I’ll come check her.”  

Andrew helped me back from the restroom while the nurse took her time getting into my room.  We had to stop twice because the contractions were coming so fast.  I was much more comfortable taking them while standing and leaning on Andrew.  I didn’t want to get back in that bed.  As I got to the bed, another contraction hit, and I sank down on my knees while I waited for it to pass.

The nurse finally wandered into my room quite lackadaisically.  I managed to get back into the bed.  None of us really thought I could possibly be very far along yet.  It had only been a little over half an hour.  But, as she checked, her eyes got as big as saucers.  “Ummmm…she’s a 7 and a half, and just stretched to an 8!”

She practically ran to the door, stuck her head out and called, “She’s an 8!” to another nurse at the nurse’s station right outside the door.  We heard the other nurse say, “Wow!  That was fast.”

Then, she set about preparing my room for imminent delivery.  I tried to tell my nurse that it was time for an epidural.  She stopped, and looked at me, and said, “Ain’t gonna happen!  There’s not enough time.  You’ve just got five more contractions.”  She resumed running around the room getting everything ready.

I started to feel the need to push. 

With the next contraction, I announced, “I have to push.”

“NO YOU DON’T!”  the nurse stated rather emphatically.  “If baby comes on its own, fine.  But don’t help yet!  Just give me five more contractions.  PLEASE!”  She ran to the door of the room, then ran back in.

On the next contraction, I told her that I had to push, I couldn’t stop it anymore.  The nurse gave me the least  helpful advice ever, “Just breathe through it,” she said, “just breathe.  Don’t push yet.  The doctor isn’t here.”  A wave of more panicked nurses flooded into the room.

By the next contraction, I was screaming from the effort of trying not to push.  The nurses had set off all the blinking lights in the entire hospital.  My room was crawling with nurses.  The staff OB wandered in again.  Apparently no one had time to fill her in, and she was wondering what all the screaming was about.  I couldn’t hold back the pushing anymore, my body just took over.  It wasn’t physically possible to stop it.  I could feel the baby crowning.  Birth was imminent.  My nurse had her hand on the baby’s head.  She practically yelled at the staff OB, “Get your gloves on!!!”  

Just as the staff OB was reaching for some gloves, my doctor ran into the room, leap-frogging over a couple of nurses who where close to the doorway.  The nurse said, “Your gloves are right there.  She’s crowning.”  They switched places just in time for the next contraction.  I finally got to push.  The baby’s head was delivered immediately.  I started to push again to birth the body, but the shoulders hung up a little.  Everyone was a little confused.  The doctor realized my legs were still down from trying not to push, and said, “Her legs!  Get her legs up!”  Andrew and the nurse helped me get into the proper position.  One more push, and our new daughter was born at 2:52 pm…after one hour and six minutes worth of active labor.

They laid her on my chest.  I held her while I delivered the placenta.  Andrew and I were overjoyed.

The doctor took a deep breath, looked around and said, “Now that’s what we call a precipitous delivery!”

The nurse said, “You still owe me one contraction, by the way!”  Everybody laughed.

I held our baby girl on my chest for quite a while.  Eventually, Andrew and the nurse took her to the other side of the room to weigh her and clean her off a little.  She tipped the scales at 8 pounds, 14 ounces, and she was 21 inches long.  Andrew calls her his “itsy bitsy giant.”

After the doctor finished sewing me up, everyone left us alone to bond as a new family.  Our little girl nursed like a tiny expert.

We asked the doctor, when he made his rounds the next day, how on earth he made it from his office so quickly.  We were figuring he must have already been back in the hospital for some reason.  But, he gave us a sheepish grin and said, “Lots of unsafe driving!  I didn’t use the brakes much.  I set a new record.  Apparently, I can make it here from my office in three minutes.”

The doctor discharged us that evening.  We took our sweet new baby girl home.  Her brothers and sisters love their new baby sister already.  Her youngest brother may be a little excessively affectionate.  He wants to give her kisses every time he sees or hears her.

We are now home, learning to be a family of seven.  It was a wild ride, but we’re so happy to have our new baby girl with us at last!

 

 

 

 

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Twin Mummy and Daddy

ethannevelyn.com

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here.  Wondering why?  Well, we welcomed the newest member to our family!  This birth was an interesting journey, and a bit of a wild ride…from the very beginning!

Monday morning, we had an appointment with our doctor for our 40 week check-up.  Imagine, for a moment, this scenario: You are heavily pregnant, sitting at the doctor’s office…with you four older, very bored children.  It’s the day before your due date, and your blood pressure is starting to run just a little bit high.  So, the doctor wants to wire you down for a non-stress test…just to make sure everything was alright with the baby.  This is the scenario unfolding for me that morning.  Fortunately, my husband had met us there for the appointment.  

My boys were in rare form that morning…each specializing in the kinds of torture only brothers can provide for one another.  They were sitting in the only two regular chairs in the exam room, looking innocent as can be.  Soon, Monkey would screech and smack a very still and innocent looking Rhino.  Rhino thought it was funny, and started laughing.  Monkey was told to leave his brother alone.  They quiet down for a couple of minutes.  Then, Rhino would screech and smack an innocent looking Monkey.  Now it was Monkey’s turn to laugh.  They were taking turns poking each other just out of sight of their dad and me, thinking we wouldn’t catch on to their little game.  Soon, Bear got into the game.  She went and sat between them, under the pretense of helping them to behave themselves.  Instead, the two boys both  turned on their sister, so instead of poking each other, now they were both poking her.  Meanwhile, Lizard was on the doctor’s stool…you know, the kind that’s on wheels with the seat that spins freely.  She was propelling herself back and forth across the open section of the exam room while laying across the seat of the stool.  The doctor came in to this scene, and fortunately started laughing.  He looks at everyone, and said, “Reminds me of my kids.  But they’re grown up now.”

None of the other kids had ever made it all the way to their due dates.  Baby was measuring big, and I was sick of being pregnant.  I was ready for this birth!  But, at the previous checks over the past three weeks, my body just wasn’t showing any signs of agreement.  We were all getting a little anxious for this baby’s birth…even the doctor!  But today was a different story.  I was finally starting to dilate and was about 50% effaced.  The doctor pulled out his phone to decide when to schedule an induction.  Andrew and I piped up, asking, “How about tomorrow?”  So, we decided to go ahead and schedule an induction for the following morning.

After the appointment, I called my parents to let them know it was time to come down.  We only gave them 8 hours notice to get here.  But, that’s a lot longer than they would have gotten if I had gone into labor on my own!  They always stay with the bigger kids while Andrew and I are at the hospital for a birth.  We were all excited.  It was almost time for Baby!

 

Stay tuned this week to read Part 2, where we finally get to meet our new baby!

 

The Life Of Faith

 

 

The Best Thing to EVER Come Out of that Shipping Crate

Back when Andrew and I first got married, I was working for a diagnostic lab in the veterinary school at the university in our town.  Not too long after we found out Bear was on the way, I was promoted to Laboratory Supervisor.  I was responsible for making sure the lab ran smoothly, and making sure our results were dependable.  Part of that job included making sure all of our machines were functioning properly, and that any new machines or equipment was set up and running as quickly as possible.

I wasn’t bad at my job.  I checked through all of our results daily, and made sure all the routine maintenance was done on all of our instruments.  All of our chemicals were in stock and up to date.  Everything was going fairly smoothly, until one fateful day.

The medical director for our lab was excited.  We were finally getting our own blood chemistry analyzer.  We would finally be able to run our own chemistry panels for our lab’s research section rather than having to pay another lab to run them for us.  He was confident we would save hundreds each month.  On paper, he was right.  The tests would cost mere pennies each with our own machine.  He overlooked one important fact.

In his attempt to save money (it was 2008…the economy was a wreck), he had ordered a dinosaur!

The Hitachi 911 was a top of the line chemistry analyzer…in 1993.  However, when it found its way to our lab in 2008, it was due for donation to a museum.  In fact, the company that originally manufactured it informed me, when I called them for a copy of the service manual, that the Hitachi 911 would be “sunsetted” in 2009.  That meant there would no longer be service parts or support available for this machine.  Despite this new knowledge, our esteemed medical director wished to continue with the installation of this prehistoric  beast.  We would simply get our reagents and any parts we might need from a third party supplier.  We scheduled a week for the used equipment dealers from which the machine was purchased to come down from Minnesota to complete the installation and training for this treasured “new” tool.

The Hitachi 911 came, packed in a huge shipping crate, a couple of weeks before our appointment.  So, it sat in the lab hallway.  One day, my husband walked over to eat lunch with me.  He saw the big crate in the middle of the hallway, and immediately had a plan for all that wood.  Of course, my boss was only too happy to have someone else dispose of the giant crate.  Our lab was in the basement of the veterinary college, and the hallways were small.  The crate almost completely blocked up the hallway where it was sitting, forcing everyone to take the long way from lab room to lab room.  My boss was anxious to get rid of it!

The big installation and training day came.  The instrument was unpacked and installed.  That afternoon, our training began.  This machine had to boot from a floppy disk.  Do you remember those?  There was no operating system.  I found myself transported back to my early childhood, watching my dad program his big machines to make all sorts of metal doohickeys.

It was fairly late in the evening when we finished for the day.  I called Andrew to come pick up that shipping crate.  It was dark, and we were in the midst of a rare central Texas snowstorm (and the fact that we were calling it a snowstorm amused our guests from Minnesota greatly).  Andrew got the crate loaded up in my truck, and we started home.  When we got there, he stacked it all up in the garage.

Soon after our training, it was time for Bear to come, and I had to go on maternity leave.  I was gone for 2 months.  When I returned, I found that nothing had been done with the much-anticipated Hitachi 911 while I was gone.  It had sat idle for 2 months.  So, I started to work on getting it up and running and validated for diagnostic use.

As I started running it continuously, one part after another started breaking.  We would order a new part from our third party supplier, and I would use the service manual to try to replace it.

Week after week brought setback after setback.  Our medical director became impatient.  I was working long hours, and all I really wanted to do was be at home with my new baby.  I sure didn’t want to spend my days in a futile war with an ancient piece of laboratory equipment!  However, while I was working late, locked in this hopeless battle, my husband was going home on time.  He used his free time at home before I got there each evening carefully crafting something new and exciting from all of that wood he had gleaned from the shipping crate in which my arch-nemesis had arrived.  The work was slow and tedious.  He wanted to make sure that the final product would last for years to come.

Four months later, I put in my resignation.  I was fed up with that machine.  I din’t want to be there, and my husband and I were fairly certain that we could make it work on just one income, if we were very very frugal.

My husband made a huge dining room table out of the shipping crate that the Hitachi 911 had come out of just a few months earlier.  When he finished putting it together, it barely fit in our dining room in that little house we had it town.  It was so big that we couldn’t even reach each other to pass food back and forth.  It seemed a little ridiculous back then, for us to have such a large table where there were only the three of us for dinner regularly (and one of us was a little baby!).  But our family would grow!

Today, in our farmhouse, the table fits a little better, though it’s still pretty big.  But now, that table is full at dinnertime.  There are six of us to sit around it now.  In fact, my husband will have to build bench seating in the near future so that the soon to be seven of us will be able to fit!  It has served us well for nearly 9 years now.

My husband and I still claim that our dining room table is the ONLY good thing that ever came out of that shipping crate!

Think Tank Thursday

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Many years ago, when I was still in college, my parents took me on what would be one of last vacations together.  We were going to Colorado.  We drove from our home in Dallas to my grandparents’ house in Odessa to start our journey.  It was a long drive we’d made often together during my childhood.  We spent a few days visiting my grandparents before boarding an airplane at the Midland/Odessa airport, bound for Albuquerque, New Mexico.  From there, we rented a car to drive to our destination in Colorado.

When we arrived in Albuquerque, we spent a few hours visiting some special places in my Dad’s childhood memory from growing up in New Mexico.  It was fairly late in the afternoon before we headed out to find our lodging in Colorado.  We still had quite a drive ahead of us-over unfamiliar mountain roads, in the dark.  My dad did most of the driving.  Mom and I took turns dozing.  Soon, still driving down a state highway at about 60 miles per hour, we see a sign fly by:

Being from Dallas, none of us had encountered this sign often (though I have seen them many times since!).  We had approximately 2.5 seconds to contemplate its exact meaning.  Then, there was a big jolt, and a loud “thunk”, and we were travelling at 60 miles per hour on a dirt road…a dirt road that was supposed to be a state highway!  My dad slowed the vehicle to a reasonable speed for the new surface.  We all started laughing uncontrollably.

We’ve often looked back on this first part of our trip.  It still makes us laugh when we think back on it.  It was one of the most memorable parts of that vacation.  

This incident is a relevant metaphor for life, though.  We often cruise through our lives, not paying enough attention to the road ahead of us.  Or maybe, we just don’t understand or appreciate what we’re looking at, just like we didn’t understand that warning sign on a mountain road all those years ago.  Then, along comes that sudden jolt and “thunk” to jar us back to our senses.  It forces us to slow down to truly spend time with and depend on those around us.  Sometimes, these jolts can be painful.  Maybe it’s a sudden move, or a lost job, or even the death of a loved one.  These types of events force us to slow down and appreciate the finer things in life…things we might have missed otherwise.  Things like really spending time with our kids, and really listening to what they tell us.  Like taking time to enjoy a sunrise and coffee (or your morning beverage of choice) with someone you love.  Maybe its taking the time to reach out and spend some time with an old friend you haven’t spoken to in years.  

Since my husband and I were married nearly nine years ago, we’ve had many small moments where the pavement suddenly ended…and a few big moments too.  One of the biggest was when we made the decision to move out of town to a farm that was an hour away from anything…a place where the pavement quite literally ended!  Our whole lives changed when we made that decision.  We were expecting Lizard at the time, and my hands were full with an 18 month old Bear.  I was so sick, and there was so much to be done.  But somehow (mostly because of my husband), we made it through.  

We can’t imagine today how different our lives would have been if we had stayed in town.  That life is so far gone that it seems almost like it must have belonged to someone else.  We moved out here knowing nothing about what we were doing, and what we know now we’ve learned from our own experiences…messing up, and trying again a different way.  Of the many important lessons I’ve learned, one of the most important is that my family is always here.  When everything gets too overwhelming, I can count on my husband and my children (even as young as they are) for love, support, and help.  That’s what being a family is all about.  The Lord gave us our family for a reason, and I am forever grateful for mine!

When the pavement ends, that’s when life gets interesting.

 

 

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ethannevelyn.com

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This is the last post in a three part series about our dog Trinity, who passed away last weekend.  If you missed Part One, you can find it here.  You can find Part Two here.


Even though Trinity really enjoyed living out in the country, I had an economic decision to make.  It was just after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Gas prices had skyrocketed.  Driving back and forth to town every day for class and work became more expensive than the rent I was paying for my room in the house.  So, I decided to move back to town.  It was back to apartment life for the two of us.

Trinity adjusted fairly well.  She enjoyed all the walks she got again, though she would have preferred them without the leash.  I had graduated from college, then went to work for a lab in my former department.  It was there I met my husband, Andrew.

Andrew met Trinity on our first date.  He was a little surprised…Trinity was a Border Collie mix.  He had a Border Collie of his own.  Trinity liked Andrew a lot.  He would bring his dog Blaze over, or I would take Trinity to his apartment, and we would all walk to the closest park.  Andrew and I would fish, and the dogs would gaze longingly at the ducks.  They would occasionally hop in the pond for a quick swim (and a quick duck chase).  Andrew was also a runner, and he would occasionally take Trinity with him on a run.  We went camping, and canoeing, and played frisbee.

It was during this time that I started working for a veterinary diagnostic lab at our university.  While I was working at this lab, I was able to do a lot of testing for Trinity for free.  As a result, we found out that Trinity had a simple deficiency.  With vitamin B12 supplementation, her digestive problems that she had dealt with since her poisoning simply went away.  She didn’t even have to have special food anymore.

Andrew and I eventually decided to get married.  We became one big, happy family.  Soon, we were expecting our first child.  We moved into a small house in town.  When we brought Bear home from the hospital, Trinity and Blaze were so excited.  They had something new to take care of!

As Bear grew, and learned to walk, Trinity had to find a few hiding places.  But she was always gentle with Bear…even when Bear wasn’t so gentle with her!

We soon moved to our little farm.  Trinity was finally able to return to the farm life, she had enjoyed so much in her younger years, but she was much older this time.  Chase was no longer her game of choice.  She now preferred to wander around, smelling all the fantastic smells that farm life had to offer.

We had three more children.  Trinity was amazingly gentle with them all.  She enjoyed her life in retirement.  Blaze died a few years after we moved out here.  He had always helped Andrew with the cattle.  After a rather unfortunate and scary incident with the cattle, Andrew and I agreed that he needed a new cow dog…Trinity had absolutely no interest in playing with the cows.  She was in retirement, after all!  Along came Midnight and Sandy.  Then a year or so later, when neither of them was very good with the cattle either, along came Patch.  Trinity eventually learned to accept each new addition…well, when they got bigger than she was, anyway!  Sandy continued to let Trinity boss her around, and Trinity took that responsibility very seriously.

Trinity’s experiences with mange that I wrote about in this post would soon come to an end.  After the first snake bite, Trinity took to snake hunting.  Fortunately, she was only bitten once more a few years later.  Though we thought she wasn’t going to make it again, she miraculously pulled through one more time.

About three months ago, she started getting sick for the last time.  It started with a persistent cough.  Sadly, there was a tumor growing larger and larger.  It was finally inescapable.  The dog who had cheated death so many times was finally dying.

We are grateful, in a way, that she was really only seriously uncomfortable for about a day.  We didn’t have to make any decision about putting her down.  She died during the night, peacefully and on her own terms.  She always did do things on her own terms!

Trinity knew a lot of people in her long doggie life.  She was a legend.  In the end, she was loved by her family…by four small children and their two parents.  Her antics will be remembered for years to come.  Perhaps, then, she’ll never die after all.  One thing is for certain, Trinity will be missed.

 

This is the second in a series of posts to remember the life of our dog, Trinity.  She was a dog who escaped death many times.  If you missed the first part of this series, you can read it here.  And here, you can find another story about one of Trinity’s many scrapes with death.


After Trinity’s unfortunate adventure at my parents’ house, we got back to my apartment and got settled in.  Eventually, she recovered fully.  She still had some digestive issues that stayed with her.  I put her on a special hypoallergenic food, and that mostly solved the problem.  Otherwise, Trinity was a happy, healthy young dog.  She had a happy tail that wagged constantly.  It could put a bruise on your leg, or knock your drink off the coffee table!  Sometimes, it was hard to tell who was wagging who!

A year went by.  I moved into a house with a couple of friends.  Trinity would have a backyard to play in.  She would have other dog friends to play with (once she got used to them, of course).

She was happy living in that house, and so was I.  We’d take walks around the neighborhood together.  We played fetch with Trinity’s toy hedgehog in the backyard.  We played chase in the backyard.

One day, one of my roommates fried up some venison backstrap.  She put the trimmings and scraps in a plastic bag in the trash.  Apparently, Trinity couldn’t resist.  She got into the trash, ripped open the bag, and ingested the contents.  She got very sick – again.  This time, it was, according to the vet, E. coli…or an E. coli-type infection.  She had to stay with the vet for a couple of days.  Again, she made a full recovery and was able to come home.  We resumed our life as a care-free college student and her dog.

Another way, another move.  I moved a little way outside of town.  My new roommate already shared the property with a dog and two horses.  Trinity really enjoyed the rural life.

About a week after we moved in, my roommate had her horses tied to the front yard fence, washing them.  I came home and let Trinity out of her kennel, and out in the front yard to do her business…just as I did every day.  I was obviously not thinking clearly!  She went charging out the door, straight for those horses on the other side of the fence.  She ran up to them, barking.  As she got to the fence, though, she looked up and realized just how incredibly big those horses were…and how small she was!  Just at that moment, the younger of the two horses reached his head over the fence, and began to nibble up and down Trinity’s back.  Trinity froze.  It was the funniest thing I had ever seen.  Trinity had met her match.

She remembered her lesson for a while.  But one day, I had the bad luck to let Trinity out at exactly the same time that my roommate was letting the horses out to graze.  They would always take a few minutes to run and buck and play before settling down to eat a little.  One of Trinity’s favorite things to do was chase things.  And that’s exactly what she did.  She ran straight for the fence, scooted underneath it, and ran after those horses.  I don’t know if the horses even noticed her.  She chased them to the back of the property.  The horses came back, making their full circle.  But Trinity didn’t.

My roommate and I started walking out towards the back of the property, calling for Trinity.  We walked a little way, and finally saw Trinity coming…on three legs.  One of her front legs was very clearly broken.  My roommate very kindly offered to drive us to the vet.  
So, I lifted Trinity and carried her to my roommate’s truck.  Off to the vet we went.  It was fairly late in the afternoon, so Trinity had to stay overnight to have her leg set and casted.  I brought her home on my way home from class the next day.  She was still the same happy Trinity with the same happy tail.  The cast made it hard for her to walk, but she soon figured it out.  It took about two months, but her leg finally healed.  Needless to say, I as on a first name basis with the entire staff at our veterinary clinic.

Trinity got used to her newly-healed leg.  She was back to running and playing chase in no time…just not with the horses!

 


Part Three of Trinity’s story is now up, too.  Enjoy.


This weekend was a little emotional here in our home.  We’ve had to say goodbye to a beloved family pet.  Trinity wasn’t doing well Saturday, and when we woke up Sunday morning, we found she had died during the night.  I must say, it wasn’t unexpected.  She had been sick for quite a while.  And after all, she was 17 years old.  But how do I say goodbye to a dog who has been a constant companion to me for the past 16 years?  How do I help my kids say goodbye to a dog who has been part of the family for their entire lives?  After all, this dog has escaped death so many times.  It’s really still a little hard to process that she’s actually gone for good.

One of the ways I do it is to talk about (or write about) all the crazy shenanigans Trinity has gotten herself into over the past 16 years.  She really was a funny dog.  She was a constant guard of the food bowl.  In fact, we don’t know exactly how we’re going to keep Sandy from eating too much anymore, now that Trinity is gone.  Trinity was Sandy’s self control.

The first time I met Trinity, I was looking to adopt a dog from the pound.  I was in college, and I had grown up with dogs always in the house.  So when I moved out of the dorms, and into my first apartment, getting a dog was my first order of business!  Off to the pound I went.  There were all sorts of dogs, all barking and anxious for attention.  But one dog in particular caught my attention.  She was standing with her front feet up on the kennel door, jumping up and down, desperately barking at me, and trying to dig her way through the chain link door.  I told one of the employees that I wanted to visit with that dog.  I took her out into the yard area they had there at the pound for people to use to get to know the animals.  She stole my heart right away.  She was active and personable.  I just knew she was the dog for me.  So I took her to the front to start the paperwork and pay for her.  

The adoption fee was usually $75.  The lady at the front tap-tapped on her computer for a minute, and then frowned.  She said, “I’m afraid we may have a problem here.”

“What’s the problem?”  I asked, concerned.

“Well, this dog has been adopted before.  She has already been spayed, so her fee would only be $25.”

“I don’t see the problem there!”  I joked.

“Well,” she frowned, “she has been adopted before, and they brought her back this morning.  They said she was too much trouble.  It was an older couple though, perhaps she was just too active.  She is scheduled for…” she trailed off.  “You are sure this is the dog you want?  She may be a problem.”

“Yes, I’m sure this is the dog I want.”  Even though she hadn’t said it, I knew perfectly well what this poor dog was scheduled for, and that wasn’t going to happen to her!  I knew I couldn’t save them all, but I could save this one.

“Alright then,” said the woman.  “Just in case it doesn’t work out for you though, I’ll hold your check for a week.  You can just bring her back and you’ll save the money.”

Well, I had just been challenged!  There was no way the dog was going to come back to this place.  I didn’t care how “difficult” she might be.  She was my dog now, and we’d figure it out. 

We went straight to the pet store to get some dog food and a proper collar and leash.  I got her a kennel to use while I was in class.  I took her to the vet for her shots and check up at the first opportunity.

It turns out, she did have a few quirks.  She was not a huge fan of other dogs…a fact which made visiting my parents and their three dogs a little challenging at first.  But she got used to them.  Well, all but one of them.  But it was easy enough to keep the two of them separated while I visited for a weekend.  She got agitated whenever she saw other animals of any kind…especially large animals like cattle and horses.  That made the car rides back and forth to college rather interesting since the roads led through 3 hours worth of rural Texas.

She was a very active dog, and still rather young.  The vet estimated that she was about 10 months old.  So she wasn’t completely out of her puppy phase yet.  That explained why she was still a little “difficult”.  We played a lot, and she had tons of toys.  She seemed to be pretty happy.  She took to kennel training very well.  The kennel was her own little house, and she was perfectly happy to stay there while I was in class.  Night time was a completely different story, however.  Soon, even though I had every intention of having her sleep in the kennel, she had wormed her way out, and was sleeping at the foot of my bed.

About a month after Trinity first came to live with me, we went home to visit my parents.  We had plans to go to the state fair.  So, on Saturday morning, I put Trinity outside in the back yard while I was getting ready to go.  I walked by the door, and noticed her laying on her side…she appeared to be sleeping.  That was odd behavior for her so early in the morning.  I went out to check on her.  She could barely stand, and was obviously very sick.  I called to my mom and dad.  They helped me get her in the car, and drove us to their vet.

It turns out, she had been poisoned.  Mom and Dad told me that they’d been having some trouble with some boys in the neighborhood, messing with their dogs.  Chances are, someone had tossed something over the fence, intended for my parents’ dogs, and Trinity had eaten it.  Since it was Saturday, my parents’ vet got Trinity stabilized, then we took her over to the emergency clinic, where I had worked so many years in high school and during the summers in college.  Fortunately, I had an employee’s discount, so I only payed the hospital’s cost for all of her treatment.  Even so, I had to have help from my parents in order to afford all the treatment.

By the end of the weekend, she was still weak, but she was healthy enough to come back to school with me.


On pins and needles?  Now you can read Part Two.

Mama Monday's Pin Party

 
 saving4six



We’ve all heard stories of old about the infamous snake oil salesmen, selling all sorts of remedies for all kinds of ailments.  Well, perhaps they may actually have been on to something!

My dog, Trinity, has escaped death too many times to count in her 17 years.  From poisonings, to being run over by a horse, she’s had plenty of close calls.  But those are all stories for a different time.  Today’s story is about Trinity and mange.  It doesn’t really sound life-threatening on the surface, does it?

Well, this story starts about eight years ago, not long after Bear was born.  We still lived in town.  I noticed a small spot on Trinity’s back where she was missing her hair.  I thought it was a probably a sting or bite at first, and didn’t really think much of it.  But a week or so later, I noticed it was still there…and it was definitely bigger.  And was that another small bald spot on her face?

Having worked as a vet tech all through high school and college, I already knew it was likely to be mange.  My question was…sarcoptic, or demodectic?  Only the vet could answer that question.

So, off to the vet we went.  A couple of skin scrapings and microscope slides later, we had our answer.  Demodectic mange.  This type of mange is a nuisance to the dog, but it is not contagious to other dogs, or to humans.  It is treatable, but the effectiveness of the treatments varies.

We tried dips first.  No such luck.  Large doses of ivermectin were typically our vet’s next suggestion.  However, Trinity is part Border Collie.  The breed has a known sensitivity to ivermectin.  He advised against that type of treatment, as it could easily kill her.  We should only attempt it as a last resort.

We did some research on our own, and found a flea and tick prevention medication that had fallen out of favor for its intended use.  However, many folks were have a lot of success using off label to treat demodectic mange.  We decided to give it a shot.

The first time we used it, Trinity’s hair started growing back within a few days.  It stank horribly for a day or two, but if it was going to get rid of the mange, we were willing to deal with it.  It was a monthly treatment.  Low and behold, just before the month was up, here came the bald spots again.  So, it was monthly treatments from there on out.

We used that treatment for a couple of years.  We moved out of town, on to our little farm.  The effectiveness of the treatment began to wane.  Soon, the monthly treatments were only keeping the bald spots from getting bigger.  They weren’t going away anymore.  Eventually, we started treating more and more often…once every 3 weeks, then every two…

Then, the company that made the treatment finally took it off the market.  We couldn’t get it anymore.  What would we do for poor Trinity?  She was nearly completely bald, and she was miserable.  She looked like pictures that pop up occasionally that people take of some poor creature they found that they are just sure is a chupacabra…but they always wind up being some sort of canine with mange.  She just laid on her pillow all day long, not moving much unless it was to scratch.  

We decided it was time for the last-ditch effort.  We had ivermectin for the cattle.  We were hoping that Trinity had enough non-Border Collie parts to keep the ivermectin from killing her.  But, the unfortunate fact of the matter was, we were going to have to put her down if we couldn’t find anything to help her…she was just too miserable.  So, we got the dosage for ivermectin to treat mange in a dog her size, and, with a bit of trepidation, tried it.

Luckily, it worked…and she lived through it.  We kept treating, gradually increasing the dosage as it became ineffective.  Soon, we were giving her the maximum dosage twice a month.  But mange kept winning.  We again started to discuss whether euthanasia was the most humane option we had.

One day, just as the kids and I were getting home from a long trip to visit their grandparents, Trinity was out sniffing around in a patch of tall grass in the pasture.  As I pulled the truck into our parking area, she ran out to greet us…we had been gone several days.

Less than an hour after we got home, we noticed that Trinity was even more lethargic than usual, and there was a giant lump swelling up on the side of her face and neck.  She was already quite old, and she was weak from the mange.  We were afraid nature had made our decision for us.  Trinity had been bitten by a snake.  It was, in all likelihood, a copperhead.

We took her collar off, and tried to make her as comfortable as possible.  We waited for what we believed to be inevitable.

But the next morning, something strange happened.  When we got up, there was Trinity, laying on her pillow, slowly wagging her tail at us.  She was obviously still hurting from the bite, but seemed much better than she had the night before.  The swelling in her face and neck was starting to go down a little!  It didn’t seem possible.  

By the next day, she was up and around again, up to her usual antics…busily guarding the food bowl (the one activity for which she has always had the energy).  In fact, she even spent a lot of time outside, hunting the vile creature that had bitten her to pay it back for its crime.  We were shocked, to say the least.  But, an even bigger surprise was coming.

A few weeks later, I looked at Trinity one evening, and it looked like…it had to be my imagination!  But it looked like some of her hair was growing back.  I asked Andrew if he had given her more ivermectin.  He hadn’t.  He had given up.  I told him to come look at her.  We agreed…it looked like some hair was growing back.

Within three months, our hairless wonder had regrown a full, healthy coat.  It’s now been over three years, and the mange has never returned.  Now, Trinity has plenty of other health problems (as many 17 year old dogs do), but mange is certainly not one of them!

If only we had known sooner…snake bites cure mange!  Who knows, maybe those snake oil salesmen of yesteryear knew what they were talking about after all.

 

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Sincerely, Paula