April 13, 2016

We Almost Lost Him

I carried my son's unresponsive, lifeless body through the doors of the emergency room and put him in the arms of a trauma team.  I know I was running, but my body felt like it was in slow motion.  It was such an odd feeling... life rushing and flashing before my eyes and also slowing down to a crawl as we tried to rush to the hospital.  It was the worst moment of my entire life.

It's been almost two months since we nearly lost our little Miles and yet, it still feels so fresh.

On Monday, February 15th, all the kids were home from school. President's Day.  The stock market was closed so Kamron was taking a leisurely morning with no rush to get to work.  Scarlett and Noah were up, watching TV, making noise, pouring bowls of cereal. Normal day.  Miles was sleeping in.  He is always our first kid up.  In fact, we often wonder if he ever sleeps at all so it was unusual for him to still be in bed. I went up to check on him.  He said his throat was hurting a little and he was tired.  I felt his head, told him he could go back to bed and kissed his little cheeks.

About 30 minutes later, he came downstairs- scrawny arms sticking out of his size 5t pajamas and huge tears falling silently out of his sleepy, little eyes.  I scooped him up and hugged on him for a bit and he said that he just wanted to relax in a warm bathtub.  I drew him a bath and put him in.  He's nearly 8 years old, so he bathes by himself.  I'm not sure if it was mother's intuition or not, but for some reason, I kept going in the bathroom to check on him.  He was just not himself that morning.  I was in and out of the bathroom gathering laundry.  We were chatting.  He complained of a headache and a sore throat.  I mentally made plans on how to get him to the doctor on a day when all the other kids were home from school.  He asked me if I could make him some breakfast- no matter what ails the kid, he's always hungry.  I took that as a good sign.  We went through the list: cereal, poptarts, waffles... he said "probably waffles." I walked out of the bathroom and went to check on some other things.  In and out. In and out.

And then in.  And my boy was floating, unresponsive in the bathtub. I frantically pulled him out of the bathtub and wrapped him up in a towel.  I thought he was dead.  I thought I was pulling my dead child out of the bathtub.  I shook him and yelled at him to breathe.  Nothing.  I kept shaking him and yelling at him.  Finally a small breath.  His head was rolling around, eyes rolled to the back of his head, he couldn't speak or move his body or follow commands.  His breaths were shallow and sporadic.  I kept screaming at him to breath.  It may have only been a minute.  It felt like an eternity. His whole life flashed in front of me. Meeting him in the Congo for the first time.  Watching him look out the window of the plane as he said goodbye to his life in Africa and left behind orphanages and poverty and everyone he'd ever loved. Thinking back to those early days as he discovered the love of his brother and sister and that smile.  Always that smile.  My baby boy.  Wrapped up in a towel in my arms as I sat on the bathroom floor begging him to live.  Begging him to breathe.

I started yelling for the other kids in the next room to get Daddy.  He ran into the bathroom.  I shouted to call 911.  We live out in the country and there was ice on the roads.  He took one look at Miles and said, "The ambulance will never make it in time.  Get in the car!"  I unwrapped the soaking wet towel he was in, wrapped Miles up in a dry towel and a blanket, and ran out the door, telling whatever kid was closest to grab my shoes and toss them in the back seat.  They had no idea what was happening.  All they saw was me carrying their limp, lifeless brother out of the house in a towel.

Kamron zipped out of the driveway and drove toward the hospital 20 minutes away.  I sat in the back seat and held onto Miles, tears falling down my cheeks, looking at my baby that I just knew was going to die.  I knew I should pray and could not come up with any words.  I couldn't even figure out how to plead with God.  No words would come.

I finally realized that I had left the kids at home with no supervision or any clue what was happening. I called my neighbor.  One sentence in, and she swooped in to mother my kids.  I called my mom. We called the hospital to tell them we were coming.  The words felt robotic and strange. "I walked in the bathroom and my son was floating.  He's not responding.  Yes, he's breathing but not very well.  No, I don't know if he was without oxygen.  He's 7. We are 10 minutes away"

Kamron was driving as fast as he could with ice on the road.  I remember people honking at us.  I remember thinking we were never going to make it to the hospital.  I remember thinking that Miles wasn't breathing enough.  I remember thinking that this child, this joyous child did not deserve this.

We pulled into the hospital emergency room where a trauma team was waiting for us.  I put him in a wheelchair and they whisked him to a room.  It was too bright.  There were too many machines.  There were so many people.  There were still not enough breaths and there were still no words from my child who always has something to say.  There was just nothing.  He was a shell of his tiny body.

One of the doctors started asking me questions.  I could not formulate words, only tears.  I could not make sense of what was happening.  Thankfully, my mom works at the hospital next door and she had come over as soon as we had called her.  She stepped in with all the answers.  I watched Kamron stroking Miles' leg while the doctors worked on him while my mom answered all the questions.  The narrative of his adoption, the malaria, the TB, the extreme malnutrition, the string of surgeries to get him healthy,  the delays, the years long gut problems, the seizure he had a couple of years ago, heart murmurs, the medications... hearing them outloud... oh my God...my resilient kid.

The team had him all hooked up.  I watched the little blips on the monitor.  Heart beating, breaths going in and out, flurry of activity.  More questions.  More tests.  More tears...

By some miracle, when Miles went unconscious in the bathtub,  he remained face up.  When I found him in the bathroom, the first thing I saw was his little feet up in the air.  His behind had sunk to the bottom of the tub and his face was half submerged and his feet were floating a couple of inches in the air. When I picture in my mind how it must have happened, I see angels all around that bathtub cradling his body and holding his head enough above the water to keep his lungs from filling with water.  I see that so vividly I know it must be true.  There is no other way that our son would be alive.

My mind went all the places you never want your mind to go.  I imagined if he lived through this at all that he would be severely impaired.  I imagined how I would tell the other kids.  I imagined what would happen if he didn't make it.  I wondered how I could go on.  I blamed myself for putting him in the bathtub.  I blamed God for bringing my boy all this way to go like this.

Somewhere in the middle of all my doubt and fear, he started responding.  That tiny little body started understanding some of our words and his little eyes opened a bit and had some life in them.  For several hours we watched a miracle unfold.  X-ray of lungs came back clear.  Vitals started picking up. Miles started following commands between falling in and out of sleep.  He took some sips of water.  He started being able to answer some basic questions.

Before we knew it, he was asking for orange juice and television.  Like nothing had ever happened. A strep test came back positive and we began to piece together that Miles must have spiked a fever and likely had a seizure.  He had a febrile seizure a few years ago and the recovery felt similar to how he responded to the last seizure.

Because there were so many unknowns in what had happened, Miles earned himself an ambulance ride to the downtown children's hospital for admittance and further testing.

He spent 3 days in the hospital having his brain looked at and his heart monitored due to a murmur that was discovered last summer during a sports physical.  He thought he was at a luxury hotel where people would bring him cheeseburgers and scrambled eggs and orange juice right to his bed any time he asked and he had full control over the remote.  He watched Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs three times back to back and marveled about how no one stopped him or told him he'd had enough TV.  His attitude floors me- he finds the positive in all things.  I have so much to learn from him. He was finally deemed okay to come home and follow up with a neurologist was ordered.

Bringing him home... what a privilege. When I carried him out the door three days earlier, I truly did not think we'd be bringing him home.  His life is an answered prayer.

After reviewing all the testing and discussing his medical history with the neurologist, Miles was diagnosed with epilepsy.  We'll just add that to the list of things that make Miles... Miles.  Like all things in life, Miles has rolled with it.  He's taking pills every day to prevent seizure activity.  I forgot he couldn't swallow pills because by the time you have four kids you can't remember which kid has which skills.  So, after the first week of choking on pills and drinking a liter of water to get one pill down, he can now swallow pills like a champion.  He has a helmet that he loves.  Because when you have epilepsy, and your mom makes you wear a helmet to climb trees and such, you should look cool while doing it.

This kid.  He is such a gift to us.  He changes our world in so many wonderful ways.  I hug him closer still, months later, at the thought of what if and thank God for sparing our sweet Miles. I find myself reading an extra chapter of Flat Stanley when he asks for "just one more" with that million watt smile.  When I reflect over all that this child has been through, I can't help but get overwhelmed and excited over the plan that must be in store for his life.  How lucky we are to get to be a part of it.

March 19, 2016

Big Apple Birthday

My main squeeze is turning 38 today.  We are rapidly approaching the time where we've been together for half of our lives.  Weird.  Last weekend, I pulled off an epic birthday surprise.  I am THE. WORST. at surprises.  Never invite me to a surprise party- I will blow it.

Birthday Boy

For me to keep something a secret and actually not give it away is a pretty big deal.  For months I planned a get away to New York City sans kids (!!!!) behind Kamron's back.  I scheduled days off with his office managers, booked flights on a credit card that hadn't been used in a decade,  met with the babysitter on the sly, packed our bags and hid them and pretty much was the sneakiest person alive.  I scrubbed the computer history a billion times and had anxiety at level ten at all times and decided that I will never be able to be the kind of person who could have an affair because being sneaky makes me dysfunctional.

Every other person on the planet, including our kids, was in on the secret because I can not keep my mouth shut.  Basically, I have zero chill. I lived in fear that someone would tell him or let it slip on accident.  Finally, the day of the trip arrived and I woke Kamron up at 4 am and said, "Honey, you need to wake up. I'm taking you out for breakfast... in New York City." Kamron is the most non-morning person who has ever lived and he was all disoriented and could not figure out what was happening.  He was a good sport and didn't ask too many questions and just got up and showered and away we went. I think it finally hit him as we were boarding the plane what was happening.

It's been kind of a weird year.  One of our kids has been off the rails for the better part of the last 18 months.  I'm still figuring out how to live with rheumatoid arthritis and it makes me cranky and in pain a lot.  Kamron's work has been insanely busy.  We have lots of ill extended family.  As far as seasons of life go, it's been a difficult one.  But, I think it's been a great year of marriage, despite the fact that I think we only went out alone maybe three times in the whole last year.  I told Kamron on the plane that I really wanted to celebrate a great year of marriage as well as his birthday.  He said, "You think it's been a great year of marriage?  Hmmm.  I really thought I got on your nerves most of the year." So, you know, there's that.

On the rare opportunities that we get to go away for more than a couple of hours together I remember that we are FREAKING FUN PEOPLE.  When you get us away from kids and work (mostly kids) we figure out how to be the fun loving people we were back in the day.  I like us.  We made tracks all over that town.  We were complete and total tourists and it was THE BEST.

Central Park.  
Statue of Liberty

Top of the Empire State Building

Caught The Lion King on Broadway.

Times Square

China Town (God bless dumplings in China Town)

The Bull.  Kamron is a financial advisor, so this means something to him.

Me?  Not so much.  How should one pose with a butt?  I obviously don't know. 

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

And then there was the food.  Listen, a year and a half ago I got serious about my health.  That rheumatoid diagnoses scared the crap out of me and one of my besties and I joined Weight Watchers and I have kept off 30+ pounds.  Despite what Oprah says, you can not eat bread every day. So the weekend was a total splurge.  We pretty much ate and drank our way through the city.  Whatever Yelp said was the best thing to eat in each neighborhood was what we ate.  It was like one big three day progressive dinner.  It was glorious.

You know how you can tell the difference between a New Yorker and a tourist in the subway?  Tourists ride the subway like it is an entertainment event.  New Yorkers just look at you like you are so dumb without making eye contact.

And just a few others:

This is THE place to watch our beloved Cats while in NYC.  The Big Blue Nation represents well here :-) 

Happy, Happy Birthday KT.  You are SO very loved and celebrated by all... even Maggie. 

December 27, 2015

All The Christmas Things

I find that the older I get, the more emotional the Christmas season makes me... and the more exhausted too. This year was one of the loveliest on record.  It was full of all of our favorite people.  It was full of traditions.  It was full of wonder and amazement.  It was low on expectations and very low on crazy behaviors for the kiddo in our family who struggles with holidays.  Most of all, it felt like there were Hallmark levels of love on 88% of the days with 88% of the people at any given moment. That's a win in my book.

We started the season by trying to get the dog into the Christmas spirit.  Maggie was not amused.

Then our creepy elf, Steve, showed up. The children ooooohed and ahhhhhed and sometimes woke up extra early because they couldn't wait to see where Steve had moved while they were sleeping.  Sigh.  

 We trimmed the tree.  And I got weepy.  When the kids were toddlers and they'd put all the ornaments on the bottom 2 feet of the tree I would look at that tree and my anxiety would kick in and want to space out those ornaments.  Now that they are all perfectly spaced and beautiful, I miss the days where they were all jumbled onto two limbs at the bottom of the tree.

We love our little town to pieces.  Every year, they have a small town Christmas parade that goes down Main Street.  Kamron's office is on Main Street so we stood outside the office to watch the tractors and the marching bands go down the street.  

"Scarlett!  There is a camel right behind you!"  She did not believe us. 

The same day as the parade, we went to ring the Salvation Army bell.  The littles sang their little hearts out.  Miles is a hustler.

There was a little mix up the day we rang the bell and the JROTC also had a toy drive happening at the same store entrance.  I thought that it would be awkward for people as they walked in and out and there were multiple charities collecting.  Instead, the coolest thing happened.  People would walk to our bucket and put money in and then walk over the JROTC and give money there too.  As with most things in live, it's and/both instead of either/or.  I left that day thinking that people were just SO GOOD.  

Papaw David introduced Miles to The Three Stooges one day after school.  Life will never be the same. 

There is also this gem on my camera from the school break.

 One very sad thing has happened this month.  Our very beloved guinea pig, Phil, has become very ill.  Phil was a gift from Santa in 2011.  We believe that he was already nearly two years old at the time that Santa adopted him and brought him to us- which makes Phil a very old guinea pig.  Phil has developed some tumors and now has guinea pig cancer.  Our vet has us giving him pain medication and so far Phil still seems like a happy little pig, but it's only a matter of time.  We are grateful that Phil lived through Christmas.  We are trying to be prepared, but I know the children, especially Noah, will be devastated when Phil passes. He has truly been the sweetest, most wonderful little pet.

Miles was a wiseman at his school play this year.  Never has a wiseman been more adorbs. 

Every year over Christmas break, we work a puzzle.  Or, I should say, Kamron works a puzzle and the rest of us mostly watch him.  

For the last couple of years, we started decorating a second Christmas tree.  It houses all the ornaments the kids have made over the years.  It is full of popsicle stick crap and ripped up paper things with handprints on them.  Those things are some of my most prized possessions.  Several years ago, the kids colored Congolese flags for a party we were hosting and Miles favorite thing to stick in the tree every year is those flags.  

 Many cookies were made.

Papaw Gary asked Noah if he would do the honor of reading the Christmas story this year at the Terry family Christmas.  Noah took it very seriously and practiced and practiced because he wanted to get all the challenging words just right. He did amazing reading the story in front of all 71 family members.

We saw Santa at Kamron's work open house.   The kids all delivered their requests except Miles who panicked and couldn't remember anything he wanted. 

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care and Maggie thought it was the best. 

My mom came over to make gingerbread houses with the kids.  She used to have them over and do it at her house.  Now, she is older and wiser and she comes to us so that she can walk away from the mess.  Well played, mother.  I am on to you.

The last grocery run before Christmas is always a challenge.  Noah is the most organized of all my kids so he took charge of the clipboard and kept me on task :-)

Christmas eve morning we had Kamron's family over for a pajama party.  And light saber fighting.  And champagne at 10 am because Christmas. 

Aunt Kennethia got the kids a zipline to put in the woods.  That is going to be epic.

There was Christmas eve church.  

Finally, it was Christmas Eve Night.  Tucking the littles into bed on Christmas Eve is the only night of the year that the bedtime routine doesn't make me hostile.

I swore to myself that I would never do matching anything with my kids because I have made fun of my mom to no end for things like this:

But now that Sadie can wear women's sizes, something came over me and I bought us matching pajamas for Christmas.  We all declared it to be hysterical. 

The milk and cookies were put out and the notes were written and the welcome mat was rolled out for the big man. 

The big day was finally here!

Miles did not sit still long enough to get a single picture of him opening gifts.  Never in the history of ever has a child had more Christmas spirit than Miles did this year.  The kids all joked that Sadie, Noah and Scarlett had level 100 Christmas spirit.  But that Miles was at 204- off the charts for Christmas spirit.  


Noah asked me before Thanksgiving if I would get him a shirt and some paint because he wanted to make something extra special this year.  I have pretty much waited my whole adult life for one of the kids to make us something like this.

Christmas at my Granny Sadie's is one of my favorite things we do all year.  When I was little, we went to Granny's right after opening our Santa gifts and we would stay there all day playing with our cousins while the grown ups did whatever it is that grownups do.  My childhood home was sold when I was 20, but Granny has lived in the same house for 60 years, so walking in her front door feels like coming home... every single time.  My cousin, Kate ,used to say that "Granny's house is free" (because Granny let us make messes and do the things our moms wouldn't let us do) but now that I'm an adult Granny's house just has a different kind of freedom feeling.  It just feels good there. 

One of the grown up tables.  We sure do miss my Grandaddy Willard at this table. 

Miles and his cousin, Logan.  They are BFF's, partners in crime, and both just pure awesome. 

My mom and my step-dad David.  So many people have asked how David is doing.  About a month ago we found out that his liver cancer has metastasized to his sternum.  He's had a few surgeries and radiation and more chemo than one can count- and he's a champ.  What a blessing he is to us. 

Four generations of ladies.

My mom and I think we are hysterical.  Most people don't find us nearly as amusing and we think we are.  Whatever.  I heart her.

For the first time in many many years, not a single cousin was missing from Christmas.  We had to pile on the porch and document the moment.  

In years past, Christmas has been a really hard day for Scarlett.  Last year, she slept through the entire day. This year, a little cat nap on Granny's couch did the trick and she was back to celebrating.  Hallelujah.  Christmas miracle.

This is my cousin, Peggy.  She's probably the most positive person that exists in the wide world.  She is just a ray of light.  This year, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer that is now in her lung.  Cancer is just the worst stuff and our family has not had a good year with the big C.  Love you, Pegs.  You are a warrior. A very smiley, spunky warrior.

Once a year, Kamron cooks.

The day after Christmas we celebrated with my dad.  My brother is a former Army Ranger and his threshold for thrill is off the charts.  No one will get on the gator with him ever because we don't hate  ourselves.  The day after Christmas it was pouring rain.  He tossed me a rain coat and in a momentary lapse of judgement I took a ride with him.  I'm shocked I lived.

My dad was shocked I lived, too.  He said they could hear me screaming 20 acres away.   My brother just graduated with his masters degree and is moving next week to Arkansas for a new fancy pants job.  I'm so ridiculously proud of him but I am going to miss him and his adorable wife and their kids immensely.   I have already cried all the tears over it. As I was sobbing, my brother said, "It's going to be okay."  And I dripped snot and told him I knew it was going to be okay but that I hate change.  He said something utterly stupid like, nothing is going to change, it's just going to be completely different.  Boys. 

Mine and my brothers kiddos with my grandma Daisy and my GranGran.  How lucky are my kids to have great grandparents?  It's incredible. 

One last celebration with all the cousins.

Oh mom.

We model the jammies my mother in law got us like we were made for the runway (not).

As we wind down and get back to real life, I am ever so grateful for all these crazy people we get to have in our lives.  

... And to all a good night... 

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