State of the Skippy – Holidays

Historically, I’ve not been very good at summation posts. Things like conventions, conferences, holidays, vacations and the like are so full of experience that blogging about any one of them feels like a pale tribute at best. Instead of trying to capture the entirety of the season, I’ll make a couple of notes about some highlights.

We got to see Annie at the Wharton Center, and watch my good friend knock ’em dead as Daddy Warbucks. Wrangling was done to make the tickets happen, risk-taking was done to make after-play food happen, and then visiting was done to send Gil and Allison off on their winter break. An excellent afternoon, evening, night, and morning. And I’m not just saying that because of the scotch, the mac and cheese, and the breakfast. Did I mention the scotch?

The family gatherings this year were amazing, though we were down one due to illness. Gifts were exchanged, children (and perhaps some adults) ate way too much junk food, silly hats were worn, drinks of many varieties were imbibed, and everyone made it through safe and sound. In the end, an amazing set of holidays.

16028681287_70d0f20687_zThey moved the Great Lakes Invitational back inside the Joe Louis Arena, thank goodness. No more open-air hockey shenanigans. Cian and I arrived in time for the championship game between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Trying to explain the rivalry between these two similar-sounding schools to my friends who live out of state is an exercise in hilarity.

The holidays were so much more than this. I didn’t mention that Cian knew I was going to have a coffee and a coney at the game, how hilarious the white elephant games were this year, or how we’ve apparently been Doing It Wrong this whole time. I didn’t talk about the tree, the new battery charger that I got, my renewed interest in video games, or the New Year’s party.

And maybe that’s good, because then I didn’t have to bring up who won the hockey game.

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

Tomorrow (today, if you’re in the Eastern time zone), I leave San Francisco for Lansing.

But, Dave (you may say), you just got there!  Not so.  I’ve actually been here since the 2nd of February, which was around the time that the Writing Journal posts kicked back into gear.

Fooled you!

Um, anyway, in other news, the server upon which the blog is hosted is currently being migrated, so certain aspects of the site may not be available intermittently.

In other news, because I can’t resist their mocha tesora, I happily provide a link to Philz Coffee.  Mmmmmmm.

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Site Update

It was bound to happen. Inevitable, really. It could not be avoided, no matter how much I fought against it.

In the last WordPress update, my theme broke. It drew ugly lines across the browser, overlapping any photos or text that was unlucky enough to be in the way. So, I decided to switch themes. If you’re reading this on the site, you’ve probably already figured that out by now. If not, well, I did. So there.

Some formatting tweaks needed to be made, and I finally made the time to get them done yesterday. There was some pretty outdated information in there, as well.

After some tweaks, revising, and simplification, I present to you, my new page of writery goodness! CUE THE TRUMPETS!

What? No trumpets? Fine.

Feel free to poke around, kick the tires, give it a look-see.

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At every point in this process, I was sure something would fail, and the whole thing would fall apart. It took us so long to find a house that we both wanted, let alone one that we both loved enough to want to live in for twenty years or more. I was convinced, no, I was certain that such a house didn’t exist.

If the universe did break, and such a house did exist, there was no way in hell that it would be in our price range.

It took us months, but we found a house. Neither of us was turned off by it. Neither of us was “meh” about it. We both wanted it. Sure, it didn’t have the bigger kitchen that Nikki wanted, and it didn’t have the garage that I wanted, but what it had made up for that. More than. The price was even doable, though it wouldn’t be the improvement over renting that we had been hoping for. So, we got pre-approved, contacted our landlord about getting out of the lease early, and… we stopped. Our landlord considered “out early” as three months, not eight. We hadn’t communicated how quickly we might want to move, so we put ourselves on pause.

And then the price dropped. We were sure it would get snatched up.

And then the price dropped again. We were biting our nails and pulling our hair out and gnashing our teeth. There was no way someone wouldn’t buy it out from under us. It’s only a mild exaggeration to say that we were wailing and rending our clothes in preemptive despair.  MILD.

And then the price dropped. AGAIN. We couldn’t wait any longer, and so we toured it again. Dad (Remember him? The superhero?) came out too, so he could point out things that we might miss through rose-colored classes. We found some stuff, he found some stuff, and we sent a list of all the stuff off to the owner, in hopes that he’d fix the stuff before we moved in. We got an affirmative response, and were off to the races.

  • Pre-approved again.
  • Came to an agreement with the landlord about getting out of the lease.
  • Offered, counter-offered, and jumped up and down when it was accepted. Pending inspection, of course.
  • Had inspection, pest inspection, radon inspection, FHA appraisal (inspection), and inspection inspection.
  • Sent another list of stuff to the seller, got another affirmative response, more jumping up and down.
  • Jumped through approximately twelve and a half billion hoops constructed from mortgage paperwork and then set on fire. (Way better than my first mortgage, which was FAR too easy for me to get.)
  • Signed on the house.
  • Moved in.

We got it. The universe is well and truly broken, because I am once again a homeowner. The yard is a kid’s paradise, there are enough rooms so that everyone has their own, and there’s an office (read: writing room) for me and Nikki to share.

There’s still some minor things we need to fix (who puts a railing into plaster without anchors?), but they’re minor.  The Bancroft house has been turned over to
the landlord. We really, actually did it.

What really gets me is that while Hunter will remember the house on Bancroft, the younger ones will only ever remember this house as home. I’m gonna do my best to make it a good one.

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Hospital, pt. 5

The real kicker in all of this was that between her check-out from the hospital and her scheduled surgery, Nikki was in very little pain. During all of the crazy food at holiday parties, not to mention the stress of driving the family to and fro, her stomach and gallbladder behaved. She said to me, while we were waiting for her to be admitted once again, that the surgery had scared it into submission.  I’ve yet to find evidence to the contrary.

The prep was quick and easy, for a hospital. They had her changed and on the table as doctor after doctor grilled her about what was going on, what surgery she was planning to have, and what medications she was allergic to. The nurse, as usual, collapsed a vein as she tried to fit Nikki with an IV. They all blow her off when she says that her veins are nearly impossible to get on the first try, and then scratch their heads when they blow the thing out. Luckily, the nurse stepped aside for a doctor that had been putting in IVs for about fifty years, and he nailed it on the first try. If only you could make requests when it came to geting an IV.

When they carted her away to the operating room, I headed to the now-familiar surgery waiting room. I checked in, and once again distracted myself with keeping everyone in the loop. There may have also been some Facebook perusing. MAY have been. It took me a while to get worried. The time that they’d given me was an estimate, and sometiems things took longer than anticipated. When it was an hour past the time she was supposed to be done, I got antsy. I couldn’t even focus on the most twitchy social network ever devised. Family after family had gone back to greet their loved onces, and I was still waiting.

Right as I decided to stand up and ask, the nurse looked at me like she’d never seen me before.

“Who are you waiting for?”

I reminded her.

“Oh dear. I just sent that other family back to her. That’s not good. Follow me.”

I clenched my jaw and stayed polite. She caught the other confused family and directed them to the proper place, and I ducked behind Nikki’s curtain. She was pale. Even for her, she was really, really pale. She’d been out of surgery for quite some time, and had been asking for me over and over. They’d kept her in recovery, because she hadn’t come out of the anasthesia very well. They weren’t wrong – it was taking her a long time to come out of it, and she kept dozing off.

She was in more pain, she said, than after any of the C-Sections. Only, every painkiller that they gave her slowed her recovery from the anasthetic. Every shot or pill made her more nauseated. She made me go and get food for myself (shrimp and rice gumbo) despite her limited menu of cranberry juice and peanut butter crackers. Looking back over the last few posts, I’m seeing a pattern…

Eventually, one of the nurses pushed Nikki into getting up and walking to the bathroom. Since that went ok, she had her walk down the hall and back. She pronounced Nikki ok to go home, despite her complaints of nausea. She made it out to the front of the hospital, just starting to get into my car, before the nausea got the better of her. I’m pretty sure that they either gave her too many pain meds, or the ones they gave her had nausea as a primary side-effect. Nikki thinks that she just wasn’t ready to be up and walking around yet. We’re both probably right.

Her recovery since has been stellar. She’s had nearly none of the nasty side-effects to the surgery that she’d found people complaining about online. (Quick, knock on some wood!) Her stomach issues have nearly disappeared, and she can eat a ton of foods that gave her hell for years. (Knock on some more wood!) If you have any gallbladder removal experiences, drop her a line over at her blog.

With all of these trips to the hospital, we really lucked out. (Knock on some different wood!) For both of us, things could have been a hell of a lot worse.  In the end, we are thankful for that.

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Hospital, pt. 4

When we last left Nikki, she was tucked in to her hospital bed, I had relieved our sitter so that she could return to her husband and daughter, and I had finally crashed. I did not sleep well.

When the kids woke me up, I did my best to remain chipper and upbeat. I didn’t consider that me being chipper and upbeat was out of the ordinary enough to worry the kids, but hindsight tends to be 20/20.

They asked how Mom was doing, and I told them that she was still hurting, but the doctors were trying to find out why. It took me a while to get out of the house and back to the hospital. Peter had shown up to watch to the kids, but I had a strong sense that I was abandoning them when they needed me the most. Peter picked up on this, and shooed me out when I started to get unreasonable about it.

I went, and Nikki had been in and out of dozing for most of the night and morning. They had her pain mostly controlled, but she kept getting headaches from one of the meds. We found out later that they’d been giving her a medication that she was allergic to, despite having been repeatedly informed of the allergy. I still breathe a sigh of relief when I think about it. A headache was a mild reaction – it could have been much worse. Thanks to our previous night’s sitter, a nurse in training, for catching that one. At one point, Peter brought the kids by, and they were all happy to see Mom, and relieved that she didn’t look like she was in a lot of pain. It was hard for our oldest to go, but the younger ones got bored pretty quickly, so Peter took them back home.  For all of the medical drama that our family goes through, I am glad that they bounce back from it as quickly as they do.

By the end of the day, we had learned that there were several stones in her gallbladder, but the symptoms that she was experiencing were common for both an ulcer and a malfunctioning gallbladder. So, they scheduled a scope for the next day, to send a camera into her stomach and check out the terrain. She would be sedated, at least partially, for the procedure, so it was going to take place in the surgical wing of the hospital. Once that was done, they’d have sure footing from which to proceed with a plan of action. One more day off of work, and one more time that our friends stepped up to watch our kids.

I got up and got the kids around and fed, and Peter came over to hang out a bit before I left. Just after he arrived, I got a call from one of our friends that had watched the kids the first night. They were taking her in early, and I needed to get my butt there ASAP. Off I went, at warp speed, praying that I got there before they took her back for the scope. I couldn’t let her go in without knowing that I was there. I couldn’t. Our friend met me in the lobby, guided me to the surgical prep area with the quickness (he has one hell of a stride), and I was able to hold Nikki’s hand for a few minutes before they took her back.

I spent a couple of hours trying not to agonize by keeping as many people in the loop as possible. It went by quickly, and I was called back to speak to the doctor. She had no ulcer, and had no signs of ever having had one. Her increasing issues over the past seven years hadn’t been IBS or an ulcer, but a slowly increasing number of gall stones that were doing their best to shut the gallbladder down. They’d been quite successful, and so it needed to come out.

We went home that night together. Having a diagnosis and a plan of action helped, as did the prescription for painkillers. We’d have a week of holiday celebrations, and then Nikki would go in for an outpatient surgery, and be out and home the same day.

To be concluded.

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Hospital, pt. 3

My wife has a hell of a tolerance for pain.  She has had four children, experienced both natural and cesarean childbirth, and been through trials and tribulations that I will not mention here.  She also bears an intense fear of and hatred for hospitals. If she can avoid going, she will, with the noteworthy exception of her children.  For them, she will do anything.

I had been home from the hospital for about a week when she called me at work. She’d been having stomach cramps for much of the day, and they were increasing in both frequency and intensity. She asked me to come home early, and I obliged. I made it home to find her pale, in pain, and surrounded by two of her good friends.  She looked at me, tears in her eyes, and said, “It really hurts, baby. I think I need to go in.” Her friends immediately offered to watch the kids, we each grabbed something to distract ourselves in the waiting room, and we were on our way back to McLaren.

It was a night-and-day experience next to my trip in.  We sat in the waiting room for four hours while her cramping got worse and worse.  “Breathe, baby, breathe,” became my mantra. We saw the waiting room fill and fill while we heard announcement after announcement for incoming ambulances. We had thought that the line in front of us was long, but it didn’t hold a candle to those that arrived after. Eventually, finally, they took us to a bed in the emergency department.

Blood work showed nothing. X-rays of her digestive system showed nothing. An ultrasound of her gallbladder had doctors arguing over whether or not there were stones, let alone how many and how large. All kinds of frustration was had. Nikki flowed in and out of drugged dozing, which was a relief. Though the IV drugs had hit her like a mule kick to the chest, they took the edge off enough for her to relax. Not enough for her to fall asleep, but this was definitely better than nothing. Six hours and one trip to Fleetwood later, they found a room for her. On the oncology floor.

I had already let my boss know that I wasn’t coming in to work the next day, but I needed to go home and relieve our friend, and be there for the kids when they woke up the next morning. So, I helped tuck Nikki into bed, went home to discover how hard this was on our oldest, and sent our kid-sitter home to her husband and daughter.

To be continued…

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