Monday, March 24, 2014

Better To See You With

Last week Claire had eye surgery on both of her eyes. I didn't talk about it on here beforehand because I couldn't bring myself to. Since the moment we scheduled the appointment, I had been quietly panicking. 

Even though Claire's vision is fine, her eyes don't work together yet. When one is focused, the other is looking inward. We tried glasses first, but she is what the doctor called a non-responder. Basically, they weren't helping with the alignment and they were making her vision worse. 

I heard from just about everyone that the procedure was pretty routine and the doctor told me he had done thousands of these procedures. But I also read the literature that they force you to read and sign saying you've read all the risks. And let me tell you, it was frightening. I was terrified we were going to blind our child or worse. 

Every time the panic rose to the top, I would squish it and immediately think of something different. I did that multiple times a day for the few weeks before surgery. I have so much compassion for those parents who go through much, much worse. You are the bravest of the brave. 

I knew this was relatively minor as children's surgeries go, but they were still going to wheel her away from me, put her to sleep and cut into her eyes. An image I couldn't shake.

The night before the surgery I had a dream that Claire died while under anesthesia.  I woke up clutching my chest, trying to calm my breathing. 

The panic was rising. 


Claire's entourage (Me, Scott, Grace, both sets of grandparents, Aunt Carrie & Uncle Nate) made the trip to Wichita the night before. We bowled (big thanks to our friends the Halls for loaning the wheelchair!) as a pre-surgery adventure. 

We ate dinner at Red Robin and went back to the hotel to crash. Well, at least the adults did. Grace refused to settle for the better part of an hour and Claire was right there with her for most of it. 

We woke up before the sun on Thursday and loaded up to head to the surgery center. Grace stayed at the hotel with my Dad and my sister. 

Claire did fine up until I reminded her that we wouldn't be able to go back with her to "fix her eyes." The nurses were good though and promised her she could help them blow up a balloon when she got back there. 

Waiting was terrible -- although made so much better by my mom and Scott's parents being there. We really couldn't be any luckier to have such caring, supportive parents. 

They called Scott and I back to debrief. The surgery went fine (huge sigh of relief). And a few minutes later, we went back to see her. The nurse told us that all kids are upset when they wake up, but that may have been the understatement of the year. 

She woke up screaming, and then switching between trying to scratch her eyes out and rip her IV out. It took three of us to hold her down and even then we weren't really all that successful. The nurse said I could sit on the bed and hold her. She calmed down after that, but was still upset that she couldn't see. Scott and I both had tears in our eyes watching her in so much pain. 

As we were leaving, the nurse called her a "spit-fire."  


She's doing fine now and rarely complaining about her eyes. We go back at the end of April for a post-op and should know then how successful the surgery was. Let's all cross our fingers that she won't have to do another one. 

But either way, I know she's "Claire Tough." Especially when donuts are involved. 


I can't say it enough times: HUGE, HUGE thank you to our family. From having fun the night before, to waiting with us during surgery, to entertaining Grace at the hotel, to helping us pack and unpack and driving back with one kid who couldn't see and one who required multiple potty stops (including twice on the side of the road) -- I feel immensely lucky to have you all in our lives. I know the girls feel the same way. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Striking A Pose

It's been awhile since we have done an impromptu photo shoot. It started when I asked to snap a picture of Claire's "rainbow outfit." She picked out the pants and then insisted on finding a rainbow shirt to "match." And then the socks. It's a moment that needed recorded. 

And, of course, Grace wanted in on the action. 

After awhile they went and changed clothes and came down in this. It quickly got out of hand. 

This was, of course, pre-broken leg. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

And She Danced

We are just weeks away from the girls' first (but surely not last) dance recital. Claire is sitting things out for a few weeks, but we're hoping she will be back in the game at the beginning of April. Until then, check out this sneak peek we got from last week's class. We normally have to sit behind a curtain where we can hear everything, but can't see -- it's pure torture.  Claire took the sitting out pretty well. She made a friend with an older girl in the audience. But that wasn't super surprising

Monday, March 10, 2014

What Goes Up

Claire: Mommy, push me higher! 

Higher she went. 

Claire: Mommy, push me really high! 

Another big push. Giggles.

Claire: Higher! Higher!

Swoosh, one big (last) push. 

A gust of wind. 

Hair in the eyes. 

A split-second to brush it out. 

One hand gripping the chain as her eyes met mine. Shock and fear. For both of us. 

Seconds felt like minutes as she tumbled to the ground. As I watched her go head first to the ground, I hoped with every ounce that she just wouldn't land on her head. If anyone can hear me now, I thought, please don't let my baby land on her head. She flipped right before she made impact. 

A scream. Running. Falling to my knees. Holding her. Whispering to her that it would be okay. More screaming. This time, not from me. 

Hush little baby, don't say a word. Finally, just tears. 


Yesterday, Claire fell out of the swing. At the apex of the swing, she took a hand off the chain to brush the hair out of her face and in that moment went flying out of the swing. She cried on and off for about seven hours yesterday. After trying once to stand and recoiling with pain, she refused to even try to put weight on it. 

I knew she was tired and hungry (possibly making the situation seem worse than it was) and there was no bruising or swelling at first, so I didn't rush to the emergency room. 

When she still couldn't stand on it this morning, we took her in. X-rays confirmed -- she has a slight fracture in both her tibia and fibula, right above her ankle. 

We started the morning with the pediatrician at 9:30, took X-rays and after lunch headed to the orthopedic folks. 

At about 4:30, we were finally headed home. With a full leg cast. Orange, of course. Because she loves Apple Jack (My Little Pony). 

When the doctor said we would need a full leg cast, I asked what was probably a stupid question "How will she get around?" My mind was quickly scanning the options. He hesitated a moment and said "Well, probably, mostly you." For three weeks. Then hopefully, we'll switch to a walking cast. 

The girls were the most upset that the doctor had to cut Claire's pant leg in order to put the cast on. Priorities, people.


It has been an exhausting two days. And I have no expectations of feeling rested for at least the next three weeks. But as much as this really, really stinks for Claire and as much as it really stinks for Grace and as much as it will really stink for Scott and I, I mostly feel grateful. 

Grateful that the fracture is minor. Grateful that they didn't have to set the break. Grateful that next week is Spring Break and I was supposed to be mostly off work anyway. And so, very, very grateful that she flipped right before she landed. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Heart, My Spirit

My Heart
Claire is known in our family for her whole-body hugs. She will wrap her arms and legs tightly around you and squeeze you until her whole body shakes. She emanates love. 

She wants nothing more to love and be loved. She will never turn down a hug -- even from people she doesn't know well. She gives her classmates hugs almost every day and just yesterday she hugged a nice man who we frequently see at  our favorite restaurant hangout. I don't even know his name. But she hugged him goodbye. 

When we stroll the aisles of the grocery store, you'll find her waving and saying "hello" to nearly every person that walks by. In a matter of minutes, she had elicited  smiles from an elderly woman, a middle-aged man and a 20-something with a jet black mohawk and a nose ring. In that moment, I could not have felt more proud. You could tell the surprising show of affection from this little girl took them off guard. Their smiles were genuine and as they walked away from us, I like to think they kept smiling. 

She was spreading joy one aisle at a time.  

My Spirit
Grace radiates an essence that I can't quite describe. She is full of life -- experiencing all of its ups and downs with passion. This essence draws you in, entangles you and leaves you feeling like you are in the presence of something truly delightful. 

When I found this picture the other day, it struck me. Arms wide open, welcoming us into her life that is so full of … well, life. 

Her mind is so unrestricted -- she sings the way she wants to sing, makes up her own words as she's creating a story about her "other mom" and "mami the cow," dances the way she wants to dance. 

She's always been so true to herself. She doesn't let her differences make her feel less -- she wears them as a badge of honor. It's a quality I hope she keeps forever. 

In fact, the other day, we were reading the book "Chicka, Chicka 123" and at the very end, there is a list of every number from 0 to 100. Claire sat there and with minimal help pointed to each number and counted to 100. Grace, who has little interest in counting just to count, cannot count that high. But she wanted to give it a try. So, she started at zero and after #13, started singing the rest, something to the effect of "4, 2, 4, 5, 10, 11, 3." 

After she was done, she beamed. So proud of herself. 

The glow of that smile reached deep into my heart and I couldn't help but smile at my spirited, radiant little girl.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

On Death & Dying

The topic of death has been prevalent at our house lately. We're fortunate enough to have not had any recent deaths (at least ones the girls are aware of) in our immediate circle of family and friends, but it's still a topic that Claire brings up at least three times a day. 

After our dog Izzy died, we talked at length (or as much at length as a 3 year-old mind will allow) about what it meant to die. Of course they didn't really understand, but as the months have passed and they have repeatedly asked to go see her -- I think they are at the very beginning of understanding. 

Grace has no interest in the topic except to occasionally play dead while acting out some dramatic scene. 

Claire, on the other hand — the much more serious of my two girls — has many concerns about her death, my death, her great grandparents' deaths and most random dogs' death. 

She asks how I would feel if she died. She has demanded that I never die. She worries that her cats will die and what will happen after they do. Just this morning, she asked if all her class friends were going to die. 

I haven't hid the truth from her - or at least not much. I told her that everything and everyone dies eventually, but it isn't something to worry about for now because it will be a long, long time before it happens. I can only hope and hope and hope that is the case. 

A day will come when they will have to understand death in a much more real, less philosophical way. Maybe all of this discussion will help. One can only hope.