Hey! I'm Emily... homebody, amateur philosopher, professional photographer, mama and wife. This is my little world-- a place for me to preserve the little snippets of my life that bring me joy, make me think, or show my creative leanings. I'm so happy you're here. If you get a minute, please introduce yourself in the comments. If you like what you see, you are invited to follow my blog through your RSS Reader. Just click the link at the bottom of the page to add me.
Thank you for being part of my little world... :)

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Sunday, July 24

MidSummer Musings

Sunday night, July 24, and I am sitting at my desk ready to crack those knuckles and get back to work trying to dig out of the editing pile of sessions from June and July. Pandora is playing the Ingrid Michaelson station--- so so consistently good, you guys-- and I am ready to work. Except.....

Except I haven't written, for myself or for you guys, in AGES. My brain is rusty and dusty and itchy and hungry. The trap of waiting too long to write begets a tendency to keep waiting even longer, until something TRANSCENDENT presents itself as a good "come back" topic, and that's just silly. Most of this ordinary life isn't TRANSCENDENT, really... by anyone else's standards. It's just life. My ordinary life. And even if I DID have some stunning things to share and report, that would involve making room to edit and prepare some great photos to go along with the post... like photos of the Grand Tetons mountain range I got to spend time in last month.... Or photos of my kids in this incredibly beautiful shady, flowered glen that I took them to earlier this summer (and subjected them to poison ivy and ticks and heat rash to make the photos happen. So yeah. Sometimes the photo that speaks a thousand words still isn't really telling the truth. Ha!) 

So then NOT writing begets more NOT writing, and suddenly it's the middle of summer and y'all have given up on me, which is bad enough, but worse, I've lost the chance to sort through my chaotic and emotional inner self that is always there, always ready to benefit from some good, cathartic, stream-of-consciousness writing to help me find my center again. 

But seriously--- why don't I make time to write more often? Journal, blog, blurt... something. 

I blame the pesky kids. 

And my natural tendency to be a bit lazy. 

I choose Spider Solitaire on my phone above healthy self-time journaling. 


I guess you could also blame the 34.5 week pregnancy cookin' over here, too. And the 100+ degree humid gross terrible hateful summer dog days heat. Those are probably a huge part of it. 

In fact, the heat, the belly (and the beginning of achy hips and ribs and winded walking), and the constancy of three very vocal, very vibrant (read: needy) kids this month, adding in the actual potty training of one of those kids, have pushed me into this restless inertia wherein we have been home a LOT, together a LOT, and not finding much fresh, inspired mojo as we sit in the house doing the same things day in and day out. 

Now that Quinn is showing signs of being able to handle outings in his new underwear, with his new skillz, we fully plan to brave the heat and GET OUT OF THE HOUSE a bit this coming week. Thank heavens. But even with planned outings, there are things I am mentally itchy for, thinking about, planning on.... sort of that crazy nesting urge beginning..... But I am finding it VERY HARD to make the physical and emotional parts of me catch up to this mental buzzing. 

A few of the things rattling around my chaotic brain, as I plan ahead to baby arriving (due Sept. 1!!) and school starting again and other current affairs in our Southerland world here in STL. 

1. A big one--- getting ready to move kids around and redesign the rooms. We've decided (probably because we're insane) to integrate Quinn into the Lucy/Noah room so baby can have Quinn's tiny single room, and still keep our guest room. The big room will become a "bunkhouse" of sorts, with three beds on one wall, and a whole row of IKEA shelves opposite (not as tall as the photo here, but the same clean white style here.)

 I've decided to begin the process of moving furniture and setting up the three-kid room, getting rid of old stuff and making it look cohesive.. and to begin NOW before baby arrives, though I have also decided NOT to set up the nursery yet. I think I'm not ready for Quinn to actually move into the kids room yet. This summer on our road trip, he was the number one problem child every single night when all three had to share a room, and I..... I'm just not ready to do that again yet. My newborns take a few weeks/months to need their own room/crib, so I can wait til later fall to set up the baby room. But if I can have Quinn's "new spot" set up early, he can begin getting used to the idea while still getting to sleep in his usual spot for a bit longer. It might also help him feel less "replaced" when the baby arrives. 

So my mind is stewing on all the things I want to set up, what I want to get rid of, how I want to freshen the decor, etc. I just need to figure out how to find the TIME AND ENERGY, physically, to match my mental plans.  

2.Related to #1, in planning a fresh "look" for the 3-kid bunkhouse room, I've latched onto the idea of making them all matching patchwork quilts to tie the whole room together. This is my inspiration photo:

 I plan to make all three basically the same, but sneak in a few more pinks to Lucy's quilt. Noah's will be XL twin, and Lucy's and Quinn's will be toddler bed sized. And this feels like a CRAZY undertaking with only 5 weeks til baby, but every time I really THINK about it, these are easy. EASY. And my BFF Melanie is willing to quilt them after I make the tops. Which leaves just the binding, which is handwork in front of the TV anyway. So really, this is not impossible. And I REALLLLLLY want to do this. Okay. Tomorrow. I'm beginning cutting tomorrow. No more excuses. 

3. Meanwhile, our precious kitten, swiftly becoming a grown cat, has been peeing on our couch. Who knows why. Many cat-owner friends have mentioned that cats reacting to pregnant human owners is a really real thing, so I'm crossing my fingers she's just acting out because I'm emitting some kind of pheromone that makes her feel territorial. Good heavens, I don't even know. Because if she keeps up this behavior even after I've had a baby, we're going to have to make some hard decisions about the cat. But meanwhile, my crabby pregnant nose CANNOT HANDLE the cat pee living room anymore, so I have couches on my mind.

 I keep spinning ideas around and around... how to replace part or all of the current couch without risking a new couch also getting peed on? Do we take out half the couch now? Craigslist-hunt for a temporary fix? Just use bean bags from now on? cover the existing couch in foil and duct tape? Move away? 

Needless to say, I feel very restless and dissatisfied with the current situation, so I think about this a lot. I think we've landed on a plan, but I am not for sure. I'll keep you posted. 

4.After a week of mostly staying home, due to Quinn and potty training, I am READY TO GET OUT. So I have outings on my mind. 

This week we will definitely hit our local pool, maybe more than once. How cute is it?! (None of my kids are swim-skilled enough to do that tree-rope, but Noah loves the waterside. And the little kid area is totally engaging for Lucy and Quinn. 

I also think we'll go to the library one morning, and if it's a really rainy week like it's starting to hint at on my weather app,  we might head to the Science Center. I'm not keen on lots of walking at this point in the pregnancy, but we can stick to the Discovery Room maybe and I can sit lots. (What a slug I am!)

And there's always Pokemon Go. And we are TOTALLY doing it the "hot, uncomfortable pregnant lady" way: in the air-conditioned minivan, with a hands-free holder, where we pull into parking lots and troll around parks a LOT, and only hunt for Pokemon when the car is not moving, I promise. I can't even feel apologetic that we're doing it this way. I cannot bring myself to be out in this heat and humidity for long enough otherwise. And this has become a major family activity. Noah and I are the primary players, sharing our account, but Lucy and Quinn watch that phone like it's an in-car DVD player and LOVE the whole process as entertainment. Every time we catch a Pokemon, Quinn calls out "GOTCHA!" like the app says. And Lucy likes to say, "Oh, it's a feisty one!" when one of them pops out of the Pokeball and avoids capture. We're all thoroughly entertained. So we can always go out on a Poke-Hunt when we're really feeling cabin-fevery. 

Ultimately, the theme to my itchy nesting brain these past few weeks: wishing I just had more TIME and SPACE to get things in order and declutter and clean and make pretty things. It's incredibly draining to just maintain a home with all three kids home all summer, all while incubating a baby. And beyond the nesting instincts eating at me, I miss having energy and great weather to go out and have adventures with my kiddos. If I'm going to have them around all the time, I wish at least we could be doing more fun things... making more art, exploring more nature, reading more great books. But it all comes back to me being hot and tired and achy and we end up doing so much less. Lots of Legos and magnatiles and drawing and play doh.... Lots of extending the one-hour Minecraft time to two hours instead. Lots of Pokemon Go to make errands more interesting. Lots of just letting go and trying not to drive each other crazy. Lots of not making dinner, opting for sandwiches or cereal instead. 

It's a precarious place to be, emotionally. It's a good lesson in letting go. Letting it be what it is. I'll need to be doing that a LOT once baby arrives. But it's also a hard place for someone like me-- a thinker and a maker, a DOER. I feel a niggling sense of failure threading through these slow, repetitive days, unmarked by obvious PROGRESS. I am not easily able to center myself into the moment and just be grateful for what is happening right then. It should be a gift to just be home with my babies, watching them free play, communicate, laugh, and want to tell me all sorts of things. I should be grateful for every "slow moment", for soon I will feel a more constant frenzy just to manage a new baby AND a new school year for my TWO school kids.... 

But I'm hard-wired to crave marked and obvious productivity as a mark of a day well done. And I feel frustrated by my own plodding pace, my own need to rest more. My own current state of inertia. 

I am going to work on that this week. Both changing my inner-criticism when it IS slow and I AM doing "nothing".... But also on trying to chip away at a few projects and outings, to help bring some balance back after these past few weeks of imbalance. Maybe the rainy weather (and infinitesimal decrease in temperature) this week will help. 

Cutting quilt squares. Maybe building a toddler bed for Quinn. Library visit. Being in a swimming pool. Maybe booking a prenatal massage. Things to look towards this week. All shall be well. 

And.... publishing a blog post for the first time since April. Let's begin there. BAM.

Tuesday, April 12

She Turns Five Today, My LuluBell, My Love

{I cannot believe I've never made one of these for Lucy before. What fun to go through five years and compile her photos from month one til now (give or take a few months)... She really is a #luluface, and my goodness, I'm biased, but she's gorgeous, inside and out.}

From April 12, 2011 to today, five years later, she has been my love, my muse, and my joy (most of the time.)She is complex, emotional, and has a rich inner world that she's just now able to really express to me. She makes up her own songs and sings them with unself-conscious abandon (until I pull out a camera). She giggles *so* much more than she cries (finally!). She loves critters and animals far more than dolls, and adores dress ups and costume personas. (See above, her last photo-- that is HER. My bunny, my sweet smiling costumed girl.) 

She is a recent new devotee of drawing, and I LOVE to see how she is able to make her vision a reality so far-- simple but clever line drawings of dinosaurs and storm clouds and  happy girls... I like to hope that there will be pages and pages of her drawings in the future, and that she'll continue to find joy in expressing herself that way. She's getting better and better at being in a group of peers, and I really think she's going to be ready for kindergarten next fall. As shocking as it seems to me that it's nearly time for that, I am almost ready to believe she'll be great when the time comes. 

She's so excited to have a sister coming (did you see me announce that on FB/IG? We're having another GIRL!! *squee!*) and talks about her all the time... always thinking about the actual logistics of bringing our baby girl into our life.... "Mommy-- we need a new car!" or "where will she sleep?", etc. etc. It's so neat to see her so excited and invested in this baby girl. 

I am so lucky to be Lucy's mama. I love her so very much. She is complicated and intense and deep and still so mysterious to me in so many ways... But I trust her. And I trust God that He knew what he was doing when he placed her in my stewardship. I trust that she will teach me FAR more than I could ever teach her. And I am so grateful for her light and her joy and her own way of living life---she is a perfect part of our family and I cannot wait to see how much more she will grow in the next 12 months. My sweet Lucy girl. 

Sunday, April 10

Flowers For Her Hair: Flashback to Last Summer

Last summer, we spent several days in our little found "meadow", a public green space set aside for one of those drainage valleys/tunnels for a neighborhood. (I'm not sure how else to describe these green spaces? I don't remember them from my childhood, but I see them a lot out here in West County.) 

I had made the rookie mistake of enrolling Noah in two summer enrichment classes that were only one hour each, and instead of being back-to-back on ONE week, they were each in their own week. So I realized that first day of dropping him off that I'd have less than 45 minutes to really DO anything with my two other kiddos, that driving home and back would take more time than it was worth, and that hanging around the CCL school for that hour would be equally useless and maddening...   So we were left to improvise a plan. Wer drove around that first day and ended up finding this green space within 2-3 miles of Noah's summer school. It had not been mowed in over a week and was completely blanketed in clover blossoms. Crab apple trees were interpersed with little evergreen trees, and there was abundant shade, and room to run. In short, it looked like a magical meadow, something from a storybook. And so we stopped and parked and began two weeks of daily visits to this lovely, quiet, wonderful place. 

On one of our last regular days there, I brought two flower garlands I had just purchased and brought my big camera, to capture some photos of Lucy, a way to commemorate our time there. I'm so in love with these photos, both the more formal ones and the ones that just show her being free and wild and happy in our meadow. 

So, even though this is now almost a year later, perhaps these photos will be a springy/summery breath of joy for you, as they always are for me to look at. ♥

In the weeks and months that have followed our initial two blissful weeks of going to the meadow, we have made the effort to get back there several times... We've now been to this place in the fall, the winter, and just a couple of weeks ago, we had our first spring visit. We've brought Noah twice, and Joe has been with us once. And now I have the happy news that Noah's summer school this year is actually going to be held at the school that is literally FEET away from this place, so even closer than the 2-3 miles from last year. We are so ready to get back there this summer. 

Wednesday, April 6

Who's Still Letting Me Carry This Adult Card Over Here???

Just today, I:
  • Wore my pajamas and no bra to Lucy's preschool dropoff. 
  • With three-day unwashed hair in a bandanna, not even put into "hide-the-scary" little ponytails. Just barely-contained Medusa tentacles under a raggedy old bandana. 
  •  Slumped into the soft, dangerous corner of my couch under a quilt and put on three (or was it four) DVR'ed PBS cartoons in succession for Quinn while I fell asleep, not ready to face the grey rain and the work and the sheer HARDNESS of life today.  
  • Finally opened a Nelnet student loan financial statement from my stack of mail, to see what they were hounding me about, since I'd let probably three months' worth of their mail come and then go straight into the "to file" stack without looking at them. CLASSIC avoidance. 
  • Ate two Samoas for my mandated diabetes snacktime instead of something with health value to it. 
  • Sorted a pile of mail that included requests for property tax to be paid, a car to be registered, and some Noah appendicitis medical bills to be settled. All from at least two months ago. 
  • And still didn't actually DO any of those things they are requesting of me.
  • Let the kids play iPad games after Lucy's preschool pickup so I could have a silent-scream emotional breakdown about all things financial. 
  • Finally ordered three client books that were from sessions IN THE FALL, because once pregnancy hit at the end of December, I've been pretty dang worthless with major projects and deadlines in general. 
  • Felt more than a few waves of irrational, hormonal anxiety wash over me over the well-being of this 18-weeker in my tummy, letting the anxiety overtake everything else. 
  • Ate more jelly beans than my carb allowance permitted, because I was on hold with a billing company and stressing about it. 
  • Walked past at least 6 long-term piles of STUFF, multiple times, that just need to get handled for gosh' sakes, but are easier to continue to walk past. 
You guys. This is just today.

And yes, I am coming at this from the flawed perspective of a very hormonal, more-than-slightly-irrational pregnant lady... But still. COME ON. How am I 38 and still so bad at so many things? How are people still trusting me to be an ADULT for so many things? I CANNOT GET MY SH*T TOGETHER. At all. Ever.

I am really just a mess, trying to fake my way through adulthood.

 I am good at: Artistic things. People skills. Singing in harmony. Sleeping. Making sweets. I think that's probably it.

But other than that.... I am really just a big, HUGE mess.

Usually, I can take that and run with it in a positive direction--- focus on all the ways my strengths help make the world a (better? well at least a PRETTIER) place. Focus on how we are all making progress even when it doesn't feel like it. Focus on how maybe me being a mess is a good thing to share with others to help them feel less alone... 

But I'm just not there today. Not in the "how can I learn from this? How can I look at it in a better light?" place. I'll get there. Or I'll have a really really excellent day soon and this haunting, yucky feeling of being SO BAD at SO MUCH will fade to just a tiny hum in the background again. 

At least until the tax man comes knocking, or I get pulled over for expired plates. 

Because I'm overdue for both of those. 



So here, guys--- take my Adult Card. Someone come make me a sandwich and rub my back and make it so that I don't owe money anywhere and someone help me figure out how to just do fun, creative things  and not have to keep the plates spinning otherwise. Help my kids only be cute and snuggly, saying only funny clever things, and help me to just be free from my own stifling expectations finally. I'll make you a cake if you can do these things for me. Cakes, I can do. 

Adulting, I cannot.

Sunday, March 6

Our Next Apple

Five and a half years ago, I did a blog post, HERE, sharing a letter I'd written to the 16-weeks-along Lucy growing in my tummy, and included with it some photos I'd taken to illustrate the idea of a baby-as-apple. 

This weekend, it seemed a good a time as any to recreate this photo session:

Since in a few days, I will once again be 16 weeks pregnant. !!! We are over the moon to announce that  Southerland Baby #4 is cooking in the mama-oven right now! I've been able to see the little kiddo bouncing around the ultrasound screen, heard a marvelous steady heartbeat, and all is well with the pregnancy.

Since our dating days, Joe and I have talked about wanting four kids. And even when one, or two or three kids has seemed so overwhelming that we looked at each other and genuinely wondered if we'd been nuts to want the ones we already had, that number---4--- has always felt good to me. Right. This is a good good thing, and our family is so blessed to get to begin this journey again.

Joe is so sweet, as easy-going as ever about the thoughts of upcoming sleep deprivation and challenge and let's just be frank-- MISERY that comes with tiny, crying babies (coupled with needy, whiny kids who seem to find the most intense moments to cry out their own needs). He is wise enough to have the long view of it all- to remember that those moments are not the WHOLE picture, and that even the tiniest, saddest baby can, in the next moment, be such a thing of wonder again. And that all babies will continue to grow and develop amazing personality traits and just get more and more awesome, eventually becoming actual KIDS with WORDS and ways of making us, and each other, laugh and laugh. Thank goodness for the long view. 

We've told the kids about their sibling-in-the-works. We're trying to help them grasp the concept of waiting til the end of the summer for this baby to arrive.  Quinn is, understandably, apathetic about it all. When asked if he wants a baby brother or sister, he tends to say no. But mostly, I think he's just not quite getting it yet. But, I mean, he's three. So that's okay. And it WILL be a shift for him to not be the "baby" anymore after three+ years on that throne. 

Lucy is starting to get it. She talks about babies in tummies. She requests a sister, and that her sister have "yellow hair" like her. She says that when she is a grown-up and married, she will have a baby in her tummy too. She has actually taken out the baby doll she got for her first birthday and really NEVER showed interest in, and has played with her for the last few days. She's going to be such a neat age to be a big sister again.
(A friend joked that since I was recreating the Apple Session again, I should pose each kid with a different fruit. So here is Lucy holding a grapefruit, which represents a baby at 23 weeks development.)

And Noah. Noah has been so fun this time around. He TOTALLY knows what this means, and in fact had been telling me several times over the last year that it was time for us to have another kid, because  "he'd seen our patterns and we have a baby every three years".... which isn't QUITE true, thank you, but made me laugh. Like all we had to do was wish it, and the next baby would be so.  So when we told him we actually were pregnant, he was really excited. Giddy, even. By the next day, he'd gone through a whole range of emotions, as he told me, "When I think about you being pregnant, I feel both happy and kind of embarrassed." When pressed, he said he'd just stopped thinking we would actually have more kids, so now that it's really happening, "I'm not sure how to get used to the idea." Ha! I think, after all those initial emotions, he's settled into a comfortable place of being excited, with a side order of "overwhelmed, because you know how kids can go through that phase where they're kind of.... you know... obnoxious?" (Yes, Noah, I do know. Ahem.) "Well, with TWO siblings, I feel like that's my limit, and any more would be... too much!" Another HA. Cute kid. He's gonna be FINE.

(Noah with pineapple, representing 33 weeks gestation. Also, yum. I could go for some fresh pineapple right about now.)

So there you have it. The BIG thing going on in our lives right now. The primary reason I've been a mostly-useless blob since Christmastime. The joyful idea that has taken root and is growing, even now, into a real live person who will add their own unique personality and light to our family. I am so so so excited. I am so grateful. And I am so tired. I'm going to go take another nap now. 

Saturday, February 27

1,000 Gifts: Pt. 2

41. Those times you are sleepy and you're actually in a place/position to let it go, give in, and doze off.

42. Finding a new favorite song. 

43. Chocolate peanut butter no-bake cookies.

44. Perfect game nights with perfect companions and perfect snacks and not having to worry about being a parent the whole evening. 
45. Pasta when you REALLY want pasta. 

46. Rereading old favorite books.

47. When your have girlfriends who know you, flaws and all, and still tell you that you're doing okay and make you feel awesome. 

48. Oscar nominations and trying to get out to see lots of movies when it's kind of the blah part of winter. I don't get to do this as much as we did before kids, but we do it a bit, still, and I love it. This year we even managed a date night and went to see the Oscar-nominated animated shorts and live-action shorts, presented together at the Tivoli. So good. I love these things. 

49. The inevitable days in the middle of winter where we are gifted with sun and temperatures above 50 and we can just go outside and stand, barefoot and only a little chilly, and remember that spring WILL actually come again. 

50. Quinn's insane cowlicks, even when he won't let me tackle him with a comb and spray bottle to tame them. 

51. Succulents. 

52. Peanut butter M&Ms. 

53. The way Lucy compulsively says "I love you!" right now. Like a tic, almost.... just, like, to fill the silence. Like she is finally really great at communicating, but when there's a lull, she knows that something should come next, and her auto-response is, "I love you." Its so sweet.

54. Noah's drawings. Always. Currently, he is obsessed with Terraria, so all his papers (and they are copious) are filled with depictions of boss battles featuring all the crazy bosses of Terraria. He gets so intent, and puts in so much detail. So neat. 
55. New notepads and notebooks. 

56. Donuts with custard or cream filling. 

57. Fires in fireplaces or firepits.... the smell of woodsmoke and the mellowing out as you stare into the flames. 

58. 2:30pm. When Lucy and Quinn have had stories read and are both in quiet time, usually napping, and Noah is not yet home from school, and the sun is in a perfect spot over the back side of the house to fill the house with light, and everything is quiet, and I can just clock out for a tiny bit. Refuel. 

 59. Carpenters music. Especially if I can sing along with one of my sisters or my brother. 

60. That Joe does the dishes. Every day. Even now that our dishwasher is broken and he has to do them by hand. 

61. When a book makes me cry. 

62. iPhones. And iphoneography... just another way I can continue to take WAY too many photos of my kids and my life and the things I don't want to forget. 

63. Re-finding old photos and falling in love all over again. 
64. Julia Days. For the clean house, for sure, but even more for the friendship and the confessional and the inspiration. 

65. When I don't have to make my own food. 

66. Non-white envelopes when I have to mail something. 

67. Great sleep. 

68. My new 85mm lens and re-finding that bubble of excitement with a photo I just took. 

69. Velvet stage curtains, and how my kids are discovering them for themselves on Sundays after church. 

70. Pink grapefruits. 

71. Hearing Quinn sing along to songs when we're all in the minivan listening to our favorite playlists. 

72. The way that Lucy almost always skips a little as she holds her preschool teacher aide's hand when they walk to the car for pick-up. 
73. Cadbury miniegg season. 

74. Snuggling with a kiddo or two with quilts on the couch while we watch a cartoon or they play a game on the iPad, or we read a book together. 
75. Taking Quinn to the train store, and seeing his total immersion and joy. 
76. Tickling my kids and hearing them laugh like crazy. 
77. That Joe scratches my back every night before he heads to bed. 

78. Singing loud to favorite show tunes. Even better if it's with a friend who knows them equally as well. 

79. Good bread. 

80. Memories. Nostalgia. Natsukashii.

Tuesday, February 16

Noah's Hospital Stay, Part Two: Operation Appendectomy

It had already been quite a week by the time we were being told to bring Noah to the E.R. at 2:30a.m. Friday morning, January 29. Lucy had sustained a fever since Sunday, prompting me to finally make an appointment for her Wednesday. She was, of course, positive for strep throat. Awesome. Nothing else the matter with her--- no complaints of pain or anything... just that fever. Still, I'm glad we caught the strep and kept her home all week, so she could keep her germs to herself for the most part. 

But then late Wednesday night, Noah woke up moaning. He complained about his tummy, and I got to work preparing a puke bowl for him. He had a minor temperature--- no higher than 99-- but friends had reported that puking was one of the first signs of strep in their own kids, so I knew it was probably Noah's turn. He moaned next to me in bed for a while, not actually throwing anything up for nearly 20 minutes, but also not managing to make anything happen from the other end in the bathroom... But after that 20 minutes, he had a massive round of vomiting, and I figured, "well, that's that!" and Joe came to help clean him up, give him a drink, and get him settled back in bed with a clean puke bowl and a few towels. 

He woke to puke about three more times in the night, but he managed it well (thank heaven for older kids who can contain their own vomit. THANK HEAVEN.) By morning, Lucy had actually puked once, too, confirming my suspicion that this particular strain of strep was a puking kind. So I set both kids up on our couch with a sheet under them and towels over them, and puke bowls for each. I knew that my pediatrician was a stickler for seeing and swabbing each suspected kid, even when there was confirmed strep already in the house. So even though I was SO aggravated at having to go BACK to the doctor less than 24 hours after going for Lucy, I made the call so we could get Noah on the antibiotic and begin getting him well. He just looked so wimpy with his hunched over posture and moan-y sounds. His fever still held at a low 99. 

Lucy, meanwhile, was doing much better after her one rogue puke and a half-day's worth of the strep meds. And Quinn was his usual self among all the drama. I resentfully schlepped all three to the darn doctor, puke bowls in tow (doctor, PLEASE can't you just call in a scrip for me to pick up in a drive through, PLEASE??)... And sure enough, upon entering the lobby, hunchy-walking Noah bent over his bowl and retched out a huge bunch of liquid. While the receptionist tried to hound me for our 2016 insurance cards. Which had not been issue enough for the other receptionist LESS THAN 24 HOURS AGO to cause a hold-up, but apparently, today, with a puking kid behind me, was imperative. I confess, with a little bit of embarrassment, that I lost it. Literally moved my fists to my hair as I raised my voice to say, "THIS DIDN'T MATTER YESTERDAY! My son is BARFING, and my daughter is positive for strep and I'm having a hard time understanding why I even have to BE HERE RIGHT NOW when you guys could've just called in a prescription for my OBVIOUSLY SICK SON. Please don't hound me for my new cards right now! When I'm not DEALING WITH VOMIT AND DRIVING TO THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE every 12 hours, I PROMISE I will sift through the old mail pile and find the 2016 cards. PLEASE."

Needless to say, the other receptionists came to the rescue and patted the one gal on the back and murmured to her (probably, "Let the crazy lady through. We'll figure it out afterwards.") and told me it was okay and that we'd get it worked out and let's just show you to your room, okay? I calmed down enough to wipe away tears and blush and apologize profusely for losing it. The nurse was super helpful getting Noah and his full puke bowl to a bathroom to wash it out and wash his hands and face. And we headed to our assigned room to wait, me, three kids, two puke bowls, and a LOT of embarrassment and frustration. 

Doc came in, checked Noah, let me beg him to just swab Quinn too since we were all here and if Q already had strep, maybe I could avoid yet another office visit. While waiting for results from the test, Noah fell asleep on the examination table (!!)... Poor kid was clearly so yucky. After about 15 minutes, Noah's swab came back positive, and there we were. Prescription called in. Hallelujah. Quinn= negative. For now. So we trudged back out, Noah hunchy-walking and me hiding my face from the front desk as we exited. 

Upon getting home, I got everyone settled for Quiet Time, and made a little nest of blankets on the floor in my room for Noah and he was asleep within minutes. Everyone slept all afternoon and when Joe got home from work, everyone seemed a bit better. Noah had not puked since the doctor's office, and Lucy was downright perky. Noah got his first dose of amoxicillin at bedtime. He complained that his tummy still hurt, but it wasn't a puke-y type of pain, so I didn't know what else to tell him but to try to get some sleep. In spite of his long nap, he was able to sink back to sleep pretty easily, even with the hurting tummy.

Joe and I were jarred awake that night, at midnight, right as Thursday was rolling into Friday, by Noah moaning. I was so wiped out from bad sleep the night before that I sent Joe to take care of him. Joe offered him a puke bowl, tried to have him go to the bathroom... none of it helped. At one point Joe must've tested Noah's tummy by poking it, because even in my half-asleepness, I heard Noah yelp from his room, "Ow!" And even in my half-asleepness, the thought began to surface--- "What if this is appendix?" When Joe came back to bed, I asked if everything was okay, and Joe reported that he tried to make him as comfortable as possible and told him to try to sleep. I asked if he thought it was something else, and Joe said, Maybe? But that we should just wait and see. We drifted off.... but I was awoken less than an hour later by more moaning. Noah had clearly not been able to sleep. I went to see him and he was really miserable. I did my own poke test, to see what side the pain was on. Lower right. I then googled symptoms and began to line them all up. Pain in belly gradually moving to the lower-right side. Nausea and/or vomiting.  Low-grade fever, usually between 99-100. And Noah had been hunchy-walking the entire day. I went back to my room and woke Joe, asking him what Noah's temp had been an hour ago. 100. I told him I thought this might be appendix. He sleepily said he wondered, too. I asked if I should take him to the E.R. and he said he was hoping we could get through tonight and he would take him to the walk-in hour at the pediatrician's office first thing. I wanted to be conservative, too--- who want's to bring in a kiddo for suspected appendicitis, only to be sent home for gas? And Noah WAS already positive for strep. Maybe that was all this was. 

But just to be safe, I called our Nurse Hotline. She ran through symptoms with me, and at the end had me have Noah stand up and do the "jump test". "Ow! Ow!" was his response as he gingerly hopped twice. She said that was usually the last thing to confirm their suspicion, and that based on all of the info, she strongly recommended we bring him in right then. Joe had fully woken by now and come into the room while I was on the phone. I hung up and looked at him and said, "Okay. I guess we're headed in tonight!" A wave of trepidation crossed Noah's face, but we tried to reassure him that we just wanted to get his tummy checked. We told him a little about what appendicitis is, but omitted that it might get taken out. No sense in making him anxious before we were sure. Joe helped get Noah ready to go and carried him to the car while I got dressed and packed a handful of things-- books and the ipad, etc. 

By 2:30am Noah and I were at the Mercy Hospital E.R., getting him into a room to be checked. He was looked over by a really sweet E.R. physician and she was really kind and gentle with him as she requested blood and urine samples for testing and get him set up in a hospital gown. Noah also got some morphine and an I.V. and was able to doze a little between doctor visits. A little while later, a pediatrician on duty came to visit him. This doctor explained to us that while it was very likely this was, indeed, appendicitis, there is a not-well-known side effect that sometimes happens with strep throat where lymph nodes surrounding the intestine get inflamed and mimic the pain of an inflamed appendix. This thing, called "mesenteric lymphadenitis", is often the cause for misdiagnosing appendicitis, so they wanted to be really sure before they moved ahead with their diagnosis. She put in paperwork for Noah to be admitted into the pediatric ward officially and to be seen by the pediatric surgeon. He would, perhaps, give Noah a CT scan to an ultrasound to help finalize the diagnosis.  After almost 4 hours in the E.R., they rolled us up to his peds. room and Noah and I both settled into sleep for a little bit, since the surgeon didn't usually begin his rounds until at least 8:00am. It was almost 6:00am at this time. 

Between that brief sleep and the visit from the surgeon, we saw Noah's actual pediatrician (the one from his doctor visit the day before) when he came to check in and to sympathize with this turn of events. He did his own exam and confirmed that he was 93% sure it was the appendix. I'm sure he expected some kind of "why didn't you catch this yesterday?" from me and was ready to deflect it, but I sincerely don't fault his exam of Noah from the day before. Between that 1:00pm visit and the midnight moaning,  Noah's belly pain really had ramped up to where it was obvious to the touch, when it hadn't been at that level at the appointment. And, I mean, he DID have strep. So all the other symptoms lined up with that sickness as well. So I let the doc off easy, and he headed out, promising to check back in in a couple of hours. Meanwhile, Joe managed to gather some things for Noah and I and he made a run to the hospital to see us and drop off the items.  A wonderful gal from our church stayed with Lucy and Quinn so he could do this. 

At this point, I truly believed that if he did indeed need his appendix out, we were going to be here for maybe the full day and one overnight, at most. And then there was still that hope that maybe this was all due to strep and not his appendix at all. I kept working on keeping Noah's spirits up whenever he was awake. The morphine was helping his pain, so he was really not doing too terribly as we waited. By about 9:00am, we finally got the visit from the surgeon and from his nurse practitioner. The surgeon confirmed that he was 95% sure it was appendix, and with those odds, the best way to know for sure was to just get in and take it and know for sure. Noah didn't show any signs that his appendix had progressed to a rupture, so the doctor was confident this would be an easy visit for Noah, all things considered. The nurse practitioner stuck around to explain the details as to why this was more likely an appendix issue and not the aforementioned mesenteric lymphaditis-- something to do with white blood cells and some other stuff. But it made sense at the time and I was confident in their decision to get Noah on the surgery rotation as soon as possible. 

So then I was left alone to help my sweet 8-year-old kiddo process the news that this hospital visit would lead to an actual surgery and removal of one of his organs. He'd been clinging so hard to the hope that this wasn't actual appendicitis, and to see his hope dashed was so sad. His bitter disappointment was almost harder to see than the hint of fear starting to form in his eyes. I tried as hard as I could to validate his feelings, to tell him it was okay to be scared, to be sad... that I would be, too. That no matter how you look at it, this sucked. I reassured him that dad or I would be with him for as much of it as we could, and he would be okay. That this organ was not really super important, and that one day he might even like having the story to tell and the scars to show. I'm not sure my (too many) words were much help to him, honestly. I think what helped better was distraction-- being put in charge of the remote control, for example, a power I'm not sure he's ever really had. so iPad gaming helped, too. 

Lucky for us, a spot on the surgery schedule opened up pretty quickly, so by 10:30am, we were being wheeled to the pre-op area. Cue Noah's fears and anxiety again. But the pre-op stuff took AGES, so it was easy to see how his fear would wane and calm until the next person came in to give their speech and info. Then more fear, then more waiting, then more calm again. Eventually, he actually napped again, as he waited. At one point, when the actual surgeon came in to talk to us, he asked Noah if he wanted to pray together, and Noah said yes. What a neat guy to be comfortable making that offer a part of his daily work. It reassured Noah, I could tell. I added prayers of my own with him when we were alone again. Finally at noon, Noah was taken back to the operating room and I was shown the waiting area for family members. 

Noah's surgery only took about an hour, and the surgeon came to report to me while Noah headed to recovery. He said that everything had gone very well-- that Noah was doing great. However, upon opening Noah's tummy up, it was pretty clear right away that the appendix had indeed perforated, or ruptured. But the perforation was in an area, kind of pinched up or "walled off" against the colon that the leaking had been largely contained. He was confident that this was not going to be a serious concern, and that he was confident he'd been able to clean up most, if not all, of the mess. Anything he didn't get would be taken care of by the i.v. antibiotic Noah was going to be getting, and that for now, the main change in plans would be that Noah would likely be in the hospital for more than one night, just to get enough antibiotics pumped through him, and so that he could be observed for any complications from infection, etc. So much for that "in and out" idea I'd had in my head. Even if Noah recovered quickly, we'd likely be there through Sunday instead of going home early Saturday. Still--- it could've been much worse. One nurse told us that the worst cases are sometimes in the hospital for a month, healing from the burst appendix mess inside. 

I was able to see Noah in the recovery room by about 2:00pm, and we were back in his room by 2:30, and we both napped most of the afternoon, still trying to catch up on missed sleep from the night. Amazing folks from our ward helped us with dinners and offers of childcare throughout this adventure, and this sustained us as we tried to make sure Lucy and Quinn had some kind of routine while still managing to have a parent there for Noah 100% of the time. So after Joe served our first gifted dinner to the kiddos, he brought them to the hospital to see Noah and so Joe and I could switch places for the night. The little kids LOVED the hospital. The snack room, the toy room, the bed that moved up and down, the cartoon channels on the TV, Noah's cool balloons and things, multiple elevators... The whole place was like magic to them. Ha! I know Noah didn't see it the same way. 

What stunk for Noah was that his life got exponentially harder and more miserable after the surgery. His appendix pain was one thing... but the post-op recovery was a whole new beast, and it was a tough one to conquer. It was so hard to see him hurt like he did. He was happy upon waking from his surgery. A little goofy, even. But by the evening, he was pretty low, so even with his siblings and dad visiting, he didn't have much of a smile to muster, and was only marginally interested in treats/balloons/cards that Joe brought with him. 

At the end of it all, Noah ended up staying at the hospital Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night. Joe had been confident Noah would bounce back faster than that, but Noah was still so puny Sunday night that I am not at all surprised it took those extra days. His appetite was one of the last things to return. I think he was at his lowest on Sunday--- he had zero sense of humor and was snappish and short-tempered... SO not like him. But by Monday, he'd begun to show some signs of life again. It helped him to have visitors in those days following the surgery. He got a special visit from his second grade teacher Mrs. Clince, visits from his siblings multiple times, and visits from friend Hidde, Cooper and Luke, Jackson, and his home teachers, who helped give him a blessing. He also got to see my parents for a bit. My friends Jennie and Caroline came by with sustenance and sunshine. And Anne-Sophie, a friend from Joe's work, brought food and tea and gifts fro not only Noah, but for the little kiddos, too. So much love sent our way while we were helping Noah through this! 

During his stay, Noah got to dabble in  a bit of art therapy, music therapy, and he got to have a Wii rolled into his room so he could try his hand at a Pokemon game. He got to watch many movies, play lots of hours on the iPad.... and through all of that, really, what he wanted most was to just be home. Seeing him perk up at Lucy and Quinn visiting those last couple of times really drove home to me how much he wanted his normal life back. It was a relief to me to see his walk improve by Monday and to hear from Joe that his appetite was slowly coming back. 

Joe and I took turns sleeping over at the hospital,  and Monday night, Noah's last night, was Joe's shift. By then, we were all hoping that Noah would get sprung the next day, waiting impatiently for the surgeon to visit and give the go-ahead. Lucky for Noah, once the doc said he was good to go, it all happened really fast-- given the go-ahead at noon, Noah was shuffling slowly through our front door by 1:50pm. The relief on his face was tangible. He was alight at the sight of Fiona, and so genuinely happy to just be home. I immediately got him settled on the couch and within minutes he was fast asleep, the most peaceful he'd looked in days. 

 Since that crazy weekend, he's continued to heal and is doing wonderfully. I ditched the whole family the day after his return home and headed to Hawaii to visit my sister, a trip that had been on the calendar for months.... Terrible coincidence that this appendix thing had to happen right before, but people keep reminding me that at least it happened before I left and not while I was gone. Still, it was hard for me to leave my kiddo so soon after his ordeal. It was hard for him, too-- he was extra weepy and clingy in the days following the surgery, and I could hear the quiver in his voice whenever I talked to him throughout my trip. 

But while I was away, he managed to stop needing the pain medication, then to try two half-days at school, and eventually do full days again, one week after his return home. My parents and Joe's parents were both able to come help for parts of the week I was gone, and the kids all had so much love and care given to them while I was away. 

Today, you'd not even know Noah had been through this craziness, except, if you look closely, you might still see darker smudges under his eyes, and a skinniness that just needs a few more pounds to fluff him back to his usual self. And sometimes he reverts to a hint of that hunchy-walk.... Mostly, I hope, out of habit and caution, and not because he really is uncomfortable. He had his follow-up dr visit today and has been given a clean bill of health, so things are only going to look up from here. 

Thank you, all of you who lent support via your kind words, your prayers, your positive thoughts... And for you who sent love via food, childcare, visits, offers of any and all of the above.....Thank you for lifting up our whole family when life took us in an unexpected and difficult direction. We are so grateful. We are so blessed. All is well. All is well..... 


(And thank you if you read this whole dagnab thing. I don't know how to make stories short. It's a problem. The end.)