Sunday, November 8, 2015

Family Comes to Visit

In September my Auntie Katy, Uncle Don and my cousin Sam came from the West Coast to the East Coast for a Virginia wedding and decided to make a stop in Chapel Hill for a few days and pay a visit.  It was so nice to see them, and strange to think that they had never met Orion before, since it had been over three years since we had been together.   

We had cold, rainy days when they visited, but it didn't stop us from planning a really crazy trip out to Wrightsville Beach.  I had checked for rain that day but forgot that at the beach, wind speed can also be a deterrent.  After driving two hours out to the coast, we spent about twenty minutes on the beach, dodging the stinging flying sand, and then escaped to Wilmington for thrift store shopping, some walking along the river and a delicious dinner and ice cream.  The salt air is always therapeutic, but next time I'll check for wind speed before I make the 4 hour round trip to the coast.

The nice thing about having family visit is that even when there are not frenetic plans, being together is enough.  We cooked hot soups together, played a new card called Square 9 (almost every night), we gardened together in our community garden, picked scuppernong grapes at a friend's house, and went to the Emerson Waldorf School Contra Dance, which was so much fun.

All in all, a really nice time to catch up and enjoy time with our family!  Thanks for visiting!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Cookie Stand

Back in September, Gigi and our neighbor Michael finally had their big opportunity to live out their dream of running a joint venture.  Tutu was helping to organize a yard sale, and although there was already another kid lined up to do a lemonade stand, we decided to jump on board with a cookie stand so that the kids could experience a little piece of running a business together.

First up was cleaning the stand.  Michael's dad James had painted a cute stand yellow and blue but it was filthy so we put the kids to work.  

And then after baking and cleaning up the stand, the big day rolled around.  Michael and Gigi wrote the name of their bakery on the chalkboard on the front of the stand, and opened shop.  Unfortunately, business was slow and they found that running a joint venture was more complicated than they thought it would be.  Within the first hour, the partners were split and mad at each other, and Michael wanted to go home.  It was awesome teaching Gigi about welcoming customers and how to do sales though!

Oh well, first time for everything!

Peanut Gallery

The latest from the Peanut Gallery:

Gigi talking with Marcos about the time machine she is building with her friend Michael.

Gigi: I'm not really sure if I want to get that time machine working.
Marcos: Why not?
Gigi: Because I'm not used to all that success.


Gigi at the age of 5, talking about her future husband...
Gigi: I hope he'll be a democrat!


Gigi: At church it's always calm, quiet, calm, reverent.  My thing is fast, fun, loud!  That's why I don't like church.


I had read something sad and was having a sad moment, laying on the bed.  Marcos came out of the shower and lay next to me and put his arm around me.  Gigi and Orion walk in...

Gigi: Are you guys mating again?
Metta: (Stifling a laugh).
Marcos: What does that mean?
Gigi: It's when moms and dads get naked and smooch each other.
Marcos: Well, I'm the only one naked so I guess not.

Orion: You're a nice mama.  But you spank us sometimes and that's being a bad sport!


Orion: When I grow up, and I'm an adult, I can be a wonderful dad.


Orion: Mama, if you want to be a better Mama you need to fix yourself.


Metta: Orion, everything about you is just reminding me what a big boy you are!  You're holding your shi shi through the night, starting to brush your teeth and you can even take off your clothes and get dressed all by yourself!
Orion: Yeah, then I can drive a car!


Orion: Gigi, you're the best world in the girl!

First Day of School!

Maybe I'll change my mind someday, but I am definitely a mom who prefers the rhythm of the school year to the freedom of summer time.  I'm late, of course, in posting about the first days of school, but I'm glad that I waited because these two have really come into their own over the past few months and I am loving watching them in their school element - so happy and well plugged in socially!

Gigi is in her final year of Kindergarten at the Emerson Waldorf School, and although she started off the school year a little hesitantly, she is now fully in the middle of things.  She has a new little best friend named Donna Marie, and she loves some of the new boys in her class, especially Alex from Poland and Johann from Germany.  There were very few boys in her class last year and they were very high energy, and while she loved them, she couldn't match paces with them and they just didn't have much in common.  Now she has more of a spectrum of boy personalities to choose from and she has found a few very good boy friends.  

As a human being she is so different from the girl that she was last year - she is now more in her head and more thoughtful and more even-keeled socially, whereas last year she was the youngest and was such a class clown, trying to figure out social dynamics with a class of mainly older girls.  Gigi is definitely an artist with her head in the clouds, and sometimes she frustrates me because she can't follow through with two or three simple commands.  I tell her to go upstairs, get dressed and brush her hair, and I follow five minutes behind her to find herself in her pajamas, making faces at herself in the mirror, nothing accomplished.  But at other moments she directs her feet and her will, and I'll find that not only has she done what I asked, but she has prepared the toothbrushes and folded all of the blankets for both her and Orion's beds.  Her teacher Miss Robin says that at school she is no longer the little ray of sunshine that she was last year, but I'm getting used to the thoughtful, smart, powerful, joyous, and loyal friend that she is becoming.

And then there is Orion.  I was so happy that this year panned out exactly how I was hoping it would - We found a small yet lovely group of friends to do coop preschool with, so he has his "preschool" every Wednesday morning.  We rotate homes, and so every four or so weeks I teach all of the little guys at our home.  They are all boys, and there are only four, which has made life dreamy.  I remember my first year of doing coop with Gigi, there were 7 kids in the group and it was stressful.  Four is perfect.  This year my friend who is heading up the coop preschool insisted on also doing field trips, which has been such a treat.  Every month we go somewhere fun with our friends, such as the Observation Deck park at the airport to watch airplanes, the Fire Station for a tour, and in December, a care home for the elderly, to bring them some holiday music.  

I was worried that Orion would take a little while to warm up to me leaving while he is at preschool, but he didn't.  He used to be really clingy but he is growing into his independent self, and I love having a few hours each Wednesday to do something by myself in the morning.  Being a stay at home mom, it is a rarity to have those hours when my hands are liberated from having to tend to a child.  

And that is where we are!  In school, and very happy about it.  Yay!

Gigi and the ITP Episode

At the beginning of September some weird things started happening to Gigi's body - a bloody nose that wouldn't heal, big dark bruises that we couldn't explain, tiny reddish dots on her legs, and finally, sores in her mouth when I went in one night to brush her teeth.  And that was when it all came together for me - these symptoms weren't separate from one another, they were all related, and I realized that the inside of her body was bleeding.

After putting the kids to bed, I went straight to the computer and typed out her symptoms in a google search bar.  This can be a dangerous idea because being an internet MD has the power to make you certifiably crazy, but I actually found exactly what I needed, immediately.  Something called ITP ("Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura"), or... leukemia.  Fortunately, after climbing the mountain of fear, I was able to rule out leukemia because kids with cancer are extremely sick, pale and listless and in contrast, my Gigi was still bouncing off the walls.  So, it looked like the culprit was ITP.  ITP is an autoimmune disease that occurs when some type of virus goes through the body and offsets the immune system, causing it to identify platelets as enemies and then destroy them.  Luckily, the prognosis for kids is fairly good - although it can be dangerous, many kids heal without any intervention and the immune system is able to reset all on its own.  

So the following morning I made an appointment at our pediatrician's office, and then I went off to lead the Parent Organization meeting that had been planned weeks before.  Marcos took Gigi to the doctor's office and when I arrived, Dr. Goldbach had just finished making his diagnosis - it looked like ITP.  I actually was glad that Marcos was there for most of the appointment without me because he's better at stroking the male ego - he just listened patiently to Dr. Goldbach describe the symptoms and then quietly beat him to the punch - "So, you think it looks like ITP....?"  Dr. Goldbach laughed and asked, "Have you been doing your research?"  Marcos responded, "Metta has".  Good man.

After they took Gigi's blood at the pediatric office so that they could look at it under a microscope, we went out for milkshakes as a family and then headed home for a quiet afternoon.  Marcos was feeling under the weather himself, and it was relieving to have him home from work for a few days.
A few minutes into my rare afternoon nap, the phone rang and it was Dr. Goldbach.  He said that Gigi's platelet count was 5,000 and that we needed to head to the Emergency Room at UNC hospitals, where they would be expecting us.  A healthy person has a platelet count of 150,000 to 440,000 and our daughter had 5,000 with sores already in her mouth.  Since bleeding in the brain is the worst thing that could happen in this case, and she already had open sores, there was no other option but to take her in immediately to be treated.

After some rather dull hours in the Emergency Room, where I retold our story multiple times at differing levels of detail to every health care provider who came in, we were transported to our room in the Children's Hospital.  Gigi's blood had been drawn again in the ER, to confirm her platelet levels, and the result was 8,000 - definitely low enough that she needed treatment.  The treatment was called IVIG and it's basically the antibodies of thousands of healthy plasma donors.  For whatever reason, it helps to kick the immune system back into normal mode and it will often do the trick permanently, without any need for further treatment or thought about ITP.  Gigi was in good spirits in the hospital once we got to the children's floor - there was a play area, access to TV, and there was a pantry full of juice, cereals, Italian Ice and ice cream.  Walking around the floor to explore made it very clear that we were in the hospital with a jackpot emergency health crisis - although Gigi needed to be there for treatment, she was literally skipping down the halls, while very sick children lay still in their beds in the rooms we passed along the way.  We were really thankful that we weren't there for something worse.

That night we ate sushi for dinner, and Gigi received a very slow drip of the IGIV through an IV in her hand all through the night.  Marcos insisted on staying with her so that I could sleep in our comfortable bed, and I went back in the morning after a good night's rest at home.  Gigi had slept comfortably all night long, and was in good spirits, although she was mortified by having to pee in the "hat" catch in the toilet, so that the nurses could measure her output.  Around noon we were given the okay and were discharged from the hospital.  All in all, not a shabby experience.  I was slightly frustrated by the seeming lack of communication among the doctors and nurses - they all had different things to say about when we could leave, for example - but when I texted my friend Amber about my frustration, she told me to ask for the Attending Doctor if I wanted clear answers.  She spent many years as a nurse and I was grateful for the tip.  I hated to "I want to talk to your manager" the place, but when I asked for the Attending to come speak with us, he is the one who really gave us our answers.

The week after Gigi's treatment we went back to the Pediatric Hematology clinic at the Cancer Hospital (again, seeing the other kids there made me very thankful that Gigi was so healthy) and her blood was drawn again to see the treatment had made a lasting change.  From a platelet count of 5,000 one week before, she was up to 337,000 - well within the range of normal, and it was such a miracle!  I had seen her symptoms clearing over the past week and was hopeful that her platelets were back in action, but the confirmation was so relieving.  She was back on track!

So, now what?  I have been watching her body in case the platelets improved for a time but not permanently, but we are at the point where we are now in the clear.  It is very possible that we will never have to deal with this again.  We are thankful for competent health care and for this darling girl Gigi in our lives!