You Are My Sunshine

This morning my youngest woke up with a stuffy nose, a bit wheezy … and thinking he had a good chance of developing a believable case of Yellow Bus Fever. You know – the kind that goes away when the school bus drives by. And as I booted him out the door to make it through the day, I was reminded of a day that seems now like another lifetime, but one that changed absolutely everything for me as a mother. I rummaged through some old files and found the original essay that actually won a prize in a contest about a life-changing event. It’s a bit long, but here it is:

Good news never comes at three in the morning.

It just doesn’t.

I answer the jangling phone with apprehension, wondering who has died. Maybe it’s a wrong number.

It is a young man asking for my newborn – by name. That was fast. Barely on the planet for a week, and the little guy’s already receiving phone calls.

“This is his mother,” I reply.

“Uh, sorry, ma’am. I see now that he’s a newborn.” He stumbles over his words. “I know this may sound odd, but I need you to go check your baby and make sure he’s not running a fever or anything. Just make sure he’s okay.”

Now I’m scared. I sit up and ask, “Who is this?” My husband rouses long enough to mumble for me to hang up and go to sleep.

“This is the medical lab. I’m the night technician.”

Fully awake, I cross our bedroom and head for the baby’s crib. “What’s wrong?” I ask. It’s been two days since blood was drawn for a fever. They already found a strep infection in his blood, and I’ve been faithful with the medications sent home with me.

“Uh,” he pauses. This is one articulate guy. “Well, actually I can’t tell you that. I just need to verify the baby’s okay.”

I drop the phone on the counter and run to my baby, my breath coming in short, shallow gasps.

I feel his tiny forehead.

Normal.

I put my finger under his nose and sigh with relief as his breath warms my hand.

He’s fine.

I walk back to the phone and find I am trembling. “He’s okay,” I assure this technician. “Now I want to know what is so wrong with my son that you’re calling me in the middle of the night.”

“You’ll have to ask the doctor.”

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly, but it does nothing to dissipate the anger building inside. “I want your name. I am filing a complaint first thing in the morning. This is ridiculous!”

We sit silent on the phone for a few moments. I am hoping he is weighing the risk of a customer complaint against getting in trouble for not following proper procedure.

Finally, he speaks. “Your baby’s neutrophil count is 8. The protocol when it’s that low is to call immediately to make sure the patient isn’t in immediate danger.”

Neutrophil? “What is a neutrophil?” I ask.

“It’s the part of the white blood cell that protects against bacterial infection. It should be in the hundreds of thousands.” He speaks with an authority that is somehow reassuring, even while he’s delivering bad news. “Your doctor will be notified and will call first thing in the morning. That’s really all I can say, okay?”

I spend the rest of the night researching the internet.

Cancer.

Leukemia.

Blood disorder.

Every new site seems worst than the last, full of words that no mother wants to hear about her own child.

I turn off the computer and sit in the dark, thinking of the day I discovered I was pregnant again. I’d suffered through seven miscarriages early in our marriage trying for children and was already blessed with a beautiful daughter and son. And when this last baby tried to come into the world too early, I stayed in bed for almost twenty weeks to ensure his healthy birth. I took every precaution imaginable.

I watch the stars twinkle in the night sky and remember his big sister just days ago holding our newborn in the hospital, her face shining. I recall our young son telling the nurse what good care he is going to take of his little brother. I picture my husband, his face softened with joy as he holds his youngest child in his strong hands and recall the smile we share over this new miracle of life. And then I wonder how we will ever bear this terrible news. Our family is already falling hard for this little guy.

As the sun finally rises on my shattered world, I hear the baby fussing, hungry again. He suckles on my breast as my tears drip onto his cheek. He opens his eyes, flails a tiny fist and grabs tightly to my finger.

I wipe my eyes and pull myself together.

I have been given another day with this little bundle of blessing. Whatever the future holds, I will be grateful. However short the time, I will cherish it.

I swallow hard and smile.

“My precious little guy,” I whisper and begin singing softly.

You are my sunshine. My only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey…

Update: Seven long months, many consultations with specialists and hundreds of tests later, our son was diagnosed with Cyclic Neutropenia.


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Sharing Life from the Passenger Seat

I love running errands with my kids.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t even slightly enjoy running errands, but when my kids are along for the ride, it makes for some wonderful time together. I think I’ve found out more about what was going on in their lives while driving to Target than any other way.

So it shouldn’t have taken me by surprise while returning an item yesterday that my nearly-grown son told me, “Mom, I almost bought some lady’s eggs the other day.”

He told me then about being at work bagging a woman’s groceries only to have to wait as she struggled to decide what to put back when she didn’t have enough money to pay for everything. She sorted through the food, selecting items to return. And when keeping the eggs still pushed her over her limit, my son spoke up and offered to pay for her eggs.

I asked him why. “Well, what do eggs cost? Three, four dollars? For me, that was just my spending money. But I kept thinking that for her it could be the difference of having healthy protein for a week or two, so I wanted to help out.”

At that moment, I couldn’t have been prouder of my son if he’d told me he’d earned a full ride to some elite college. As much as I ride my kids about getting good grades and being responsible, I have to say that as a mother, I care so much more about what kind of heart they have – how they treat others, if they feel remorse when they’ve wronged someone else, or if they’re moved with compassion by someone else’s difficulties.

And the thought that my son would sacrifice part of his small paycheck to help someone else made my heart soar.

I truly feel privileged to be along for the ride when my kids start sharing life from the passenger seat one errand at a time.

Choose Your Battles

I think one of the best nuggets of parenting advice I ever received when my kids were little came from my children’s pediatrician. He was quiet and gentle, and over the years I grew to respect him far beyond his gut instinct and medical knowledge as a real rock of wisdom and strength.

When I was having a particularly hard time with my first child’s entry into the terrible two’s, he told me, “If it’s not a hill worth dying on, then don’t start a battle. And if it is, don’t stop no matter what.”

There are still times when those words come back to stop me before I make a battle out of something that in the end really won’t matter for me or my children.

When my daughter, now a fine arts major in college, was less than a year old, she starting throwing fits if she didn’t like the texture of her clothing. She would go stiff, arch her back, and scream until I removed whatever she was wearing and put on something that she was willing to wear. And just about the time I finally made peace with the fact that she wouldn’t be wearing most of the frilly dresses I’d dreamed of seeing my daughter wear, she decided that nothing she wore could have buttons anywhere.

We were in the doctor’s office for her two year well child check up when Dr. Keller asked if there were any other issues I wanted to talk about. And so I let off some steam about this very willful child who I thought was usurping my authority and pushing my buttons by being so difficult every single morning when I tried to dress her.

“Is this a battle worth dying on the hill?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if this is something that you think is worth the fight every day until you win, then don’t ever back down. But if there are clothes that you think are appropriate that she will wear without a fight, have you considered that maybe it isn’t worth the bad feelings and conflict every day just to have her wear something you like?”

I admit, he made me a little mad. While I was nodding my head in agreement, I was thinking , “Yeah, let’s let you try to handle getting her dressed for a week and see how saintly you are then.” But the next morning instead of picking out her clothes, I asked my daughter what she wanted to wear. She chose the ballerina dress I’d found at a garage sale. And in keeping with my new experiment, I chose not to tell her that the outfit was not appropriate for going grocery shopping. I just bit my tongue and let her wear it.

We wandered the aisles of our grocery store that morning with a completely new attitude. She danced past the cold cereal boxes and twirled through the fresh fruit. We made it out of the grocery store without a single power struggle or harsh word. I am convinced that the choice I made that day changed everything between my daughter and me.

Her dad and I sometimes call her Crayola now because she wears the entire spectrum of colors and textures all at once. She buys most of her clothes second-hand and breezes into a room like a bouquet of flowers. And as I watch her blossom into a confident young woman, I am so glad I didn’t expend energy creating a power struggle over something so trivial as what I wanted her to wear.

Been around the block a time or two

Someone recently approached me with a question about raising their child. Now I’m no Dr. Laura and probably relate better to Lucille Ball than to Dr. Spock, so it took me a bit by surprise to have someone else think I had something of value to share when it came to parenting a child. And then she explained why she was asking me for advice. “You’ve been around the block a time or two, and your kids still seem to get along really well with you, so I thought I’d see what you have to say.”

And so it was that the two of us – a very young mom and a somewhat frazzled mom – sat down over a cup of coffee and talked about the challenges of raising kids.

Perhaps you’ll find some nuggets worth keeping as I blog about my own philosophy of raising kids. Perhaps you’ll find some ideas you think are just plain crazy. But either way, I’m looking forward to having some conversations with you as we journey together down this path of creating independent, self-sufficient, conscientious, responsible, loving adults.

Google, Garage Door Mishaps, and Delivering Bad News Via iPhone


Ok, this is sad, but I have to confess it’s also a little funny.

Did you know that more people visited my blog last year looking for information about garage door deaths, broken garage doors, and deaths by garage door springs than for any other search using Google, AOL, Search or Yahoo combined.
Seriously. More people than those looking for information about rose colored glasses … the name of my blog.
And so it makes me wonder if there are that many people getting killed by garage doors or if there are that many people wondering if it would be a viable way to, you know, off that annoying mother-in-law. Who looks up information about death by garage door spring?
And so I’ve come to the conclusion that as a writer, I really need to give the masses more of what they want. With that in mind, I give you my latest adventure with a garage door, a Honda Pilot, and a very zealous (and worried) wife.
When my daughter – now in her first year in college – was still in a car seat, I distinctly remember the conversation one night around the table.
“Daddy, did you know Mommy drives into the garage before the garage door is up?”
Nevermind that this is an impossibility, the horror of it led to a very lengthy lecture from my beloved spouse about the dangers of driving into a garage without the garage door being up. (I’m thinking garage door springs, broken garage doors, death or maimed for life and a few other dramatizations came up in the memorable conversation.)
And so it was that I learned that I must wait for the garage door to actually go up before I could drive into the garage. Gee. Like that wasn’t something I already knew.
Fast-forward to the present. I get in our trusty Honda Pilot, push the garage door opener, start the engine and wait for the garage door to go all the way up. As you can see, I’m a quick study.
I back up slowly only to hear a loud BANG on the top of the Pilot. I look up through the sun roof to see the garage door is now sitting on top of the rails on top of the Pilot. I push the garage door opener and hear a loud hum, but the door doesn’t budge.
I consider my options. I can get out of the vehicle, leave it stranded halfway in the garage, and go back to bed. This seems like the best option, but I don’t take it. Instead I decide to gun the engine and pull out faster than the garage door can go down.
Looking back on this, it was definitely a stupid option. But sometimes stupid and luck go hand-in-hand. I back out, put the vehicle in park, and get out to inspect the damage.
Honda knows how to make some tough rails. That’s all I can say. Not a scratch in sight – which led the insane part of me to consider the option of a cover-up. I know. I missed my calling to go into politics, but such is life. And then I look at the garage door, suspended in air like a swinging halloween decoration with a large dent in the bottom panel. All I can think of is John Candy in Planes, Trains & Automobiles looking at the burnt-out, beat-up rental car and saying, “That’ll buff right out of there.”
I tried to buff. And bang. And hammer. To no avail. And so I did the next best thing.
I sent an email to my better half, complete with a snapshot of the damage via my iPhone. You see, I also learned back when my daughter was still in a car seat that bad news is best served hot. That way it has time to cool off before it’s time to pay the piper. I wouldn’t blame him if my poor husband spent the rest of the day looking up ways that someone could die by garage door spring mishaps, but he didn’t share any of the research with me.

Our Defrocked Bird Dog

Our dog, Mia, is officially the worst bird dog ever. Oh, she likes to pretend she’d hunt down a bird and have it for lunch, and she even whines at me to let her out of the house to take care of the pigeons taunting her in our little patch of xeric lawn. But when the rubber meets the road, well, she’s just wants the chance to say hi.

We recently had a very bedraggled bird land just outside our kitchen door. When I spied two pigeons pecking it, I opened the door the shoo them away. Mia just about knocked me over rushing out to join in the melee. The pigeons scattered like the playground bullies they were, but the poor little bird couldn’t move. Wet and terrified, it crouched in anticipation of the large labrador which was about to have it for supper.

I rushed to block the view of my youngest, not wanting him to see the impending carnage when Mia began tearing the feathers from this poor helpless bird as her bird dog instinct kicked in.

Yeah, right.

Instead, our fearless protector stopped just short of the quaking bird. She then very gently nuzzled and nosed her new friend.

Fearing that the bird might be diseased, I called our now defrocked hunting dog back into the house. She tried to ignore the command, wanting to play with her new friend, but she finally complied when she heard the rattling of the dog treat can. Mia came half way to the door and then looked back – wet bird or dog treat? Dog treat won, and in she came.

The bird hopped right up to our door and spent the night in the relative safety of our covered kitchen patio. Mia begged us to let her join her new friend, but, alas, she was simply put to bed early.

The bird is gone, and Mia is back to pretending that she wants to eat the pigeons in the grass.

What to do for a severe case of Yellow Bus Fever

morguefile.com

Ok, tell the truth – we’ve all done it: hyped of a case of the sickies to get out of some unpleasant task. I got so proficient at it as a kid that my mom finally created an entire name for the illness which befell me most mornings only to miraculously disappear as soon as the school bus had passed our house. “Don’t tell me,” she’d say, “another case of Yellow Bus Fever?”

Well it seems my youngest is testing the waters to see just how far and often he can fall victim to Yellow Bus Fever without losing any of his after-school perks. After several days of, “Mom, my throat hurts and I think I have a fever and should stay home because I don’t want to get the kids in class sick and my asthma doesn’t feel very good and, and and…” I got wise to the scheme.
With his first croak of the morning, I’d whip out the thermometer. “If it’s a fever, fine. If not, then you’re going to school.”
“Even if my asthma’s bad?” he’d ask, totally offended at the callousness of this woman who’d sat by his bedside and stroked his hair as she fretted over his wheezing and poor health only a few weeks ago.
“Even if your asthma’s bad,” I’d say. “We’ll pump you full of albuterol and send you on your way to fill that brain up with important learning.”
And then I’d deliver the secret weapon, “And then when you get home, I’ll make sure you get plenty of rest by sending you straight to bed. You’ll have to be careful not to get over-tired in this delicate state, so, of course, the computer and the Wii and even your Gameboy will be off limits.”
It is a modern-day miracle how fast that boy recovered. Within minutes, the croak was completely gone from his voice, and he wasn’t feeling a bit of wheezing.
I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, though – because when you’re a mom, every strategy eventually backfires. I’m waiting from that ominous phone call from the school nurse, “Your son is in the office, and he can barely breathe thanks to a horrible asthma attack. And did you even look at his throat? It’s obviously on fire. What kind of mother sends their poor child to school like this?”
I’ll have an answer though, “Oh, I was sick in bed this morning. My husband made that bad decision. I’ll be right there.”