Friday, December 23, 2011

As a record

"Max has diagnoses that include lipomyelomeningocele, neurogenic bowel, and neurogenic bladder."

Max's bladder pressure spikes to 120 cm (40 cm is an uncomfortable pressure for an adult) when the bladder is filled with only 50 mL of fluid. He has three bladder spasms during the 10-minute test.
"How can you be certain that the test catheter doesn't influence the results?"
"He cannot take a bad test."
"He was so tired. That catheter was a challenge."
"You cannot fool this test."

Seventy-five–minute visit (it is recorded on the chart):
Max will begin using an intermittent catheter, four times a day. Eight a.m., 12 noon, 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

"Oh, look how flexible he is!" 
"He's going to be a hurdler!"
"Look how he sits! Did your other kids do that?"
No, they did not.

And then.
Chart: "Max came to this particular Spina Bifida Clinic due to sudden onset of lower body weakness."

The lower body weakness has resolved. Sometimes "lipo kids" have relapses like this. Sometimes it progresses. Sometimes it does not.

That haunting mass at L5-S1.

Some days I sail along sanguinely: I guide the catheter in and out in only a few minutes; I chat and laugh about it with friends; I make blankets for the children's hospital. His legs look normal, really.

Some days I throw the catheter against the wall. I forget to record the urine volume on the chart. I cry.

Today I detest it. I scrape the mass off the MRI in my mind with a razor blade and dice it into pieces too tiny to be detected.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


For my 29th birthday, Eric sent me to a spa for four hours, where I relaxed and read a book. (Eric was flat-out exhausted when I came back: "I can't believe that you do this!" he said, which was probably the most gratifying thing he could have said, the darling.) My dear friend brought over this gourmet cake, which was straightaway enjoyed by all:
I remember as a kid hearing someone saying that all the angels in heaven are 30 years old because that is the prime of life. Someone also told me recently that at age 30, your desire to be responsible increases dramatically. So here's to a year of pre-prime, pre-responsible life--cheers! Around my birthday I asked Jacob to take a picture of me, as a record. I like the picture that he took. I don't look any prettier or any plainer than I do in real life:
Also, keep this picture in mind because I don't think that I'm wearing make-up in any of the other pictures in this post, which is funny because I love the stuff and always make Mary Kay consultants excited with how much I want to buy. I have trouble keeping it on throughout the day, however, and especially when we're doing fun projects, which are the things that I like to blog about. Anyway, enough about my face, for heaven's sakes! I told Eric that I would stop blogging in five minutes--yikes! Here's what we were doing in November:

The lucky kids got snow, followed by a day that was warm enough to play outside in it. My favorite creation was the "snow carousel" that they made around the flag pole!

Adam has gone from curious to crazy! He paints/colors his face every day, creates his own art/cooking/building projects around the house, and insists on wearing clothing inappropriate to the season and occasion (pajamas everywhere, backwards shirts, athletic shorts in 30-degree weather). He uses a deep, scary voice to tell us about the orange monster that's hiding downstairs and shouts "yeehaw" on the swings. Oh, and he takes off his diaper when it needs to be changed. I am learning to be very fast.

Preschool is a blast. I taught a week on nursery rhymes--we painted fluffy blackbirds coming out of a pie and dipped our own candles and nimbly jumped over them. Later we had a First Thanksgiving lesson and created a nine-foot cornstalk in our living room.
Then we ground corn with hammers and rocks and made cornbread! I get such a high after finishing a preschool lesson--I love these eager little learners.

I went with the boys on a bona-fide hayride through a park festooned with Christmas lights. The kids watched the tractor the entire time, of course. Fun night.

Nana and Grandpa came for a week-long visit and helped us with all sorts of home projects. I was also able to get out and help in the boys' classrooms and run errands with ease--alright! Here's Grandpa at the Children's Museum:
 Nana knows a cute baby when she sees one:
Enjoy an example of Adam's fashion sense: backwards hoody with red athletic shorts and snowman leg warmers. He was also wearing light-up Lightning McQueen shoes. Michael is characteristically pleasant and appropriate.

Thanksgiving dinner was low stress--a lot of people were there to help (Eric's sister and her husband came too, plus Eric's buddy from his residency). I made all the normal Thanksgiving things, plus my great-grandmother's fruit salad and cranberry gelatin salad, absolute musts! Here's Max's first run at the annual fare:
Ahh...the relieving moment when everything is actually on the table and we're all sitting down:

Post-Thanksgiving celebrations included The Sound of Music, board games, a hike up Picnic Point, a visit to a state park, and Christmas decorations!
But what would a Brinton blogpost be without a little bonfire? Zachary, Jacob, and I built this dual-chimney bonfire base from scrap wood that we salvaged from a dumpster in our neighborhood. The kids called it "Oil Derrick."
After burning some cardboard to get things started, we accidentally lit the bag of charcoal on fire on the ground and had a lively time putting it out. See the bag of charcoal in the foreground? Don't put a bag of charcoal that close to a large fire!
 Some tin-foil dinners,
 and anticipation later,
 we set our creation alight.
 These are perfect moments sitting by the fire with the little babes.
We noticed when we drove up to the fire pit that no one had been there since we had three weeks before! How could our precious pit go unused for so long? We will have to go back and keep it company soon! I'll write about that (and more!) next time. Until then, take care.

Monday, October 31, 2011


I've convinced myself that a mere monthly blogpost will have to do here, at least until I train my kids to do their own laundry! Please pretend that these stories were cleverly reported throughout the month, instead of quickly cataloged here on the 30th. 

We recently bought a "trail-a-bike" from our friends, and we are loving it! After a few days on it, Zachary was able to ride a two-wheeler for the first time! Now Michael is graduated from the Burley and onto the trail-a-bike. Here's the grown-up guy now:
One Saturday Zachary pleaded for us to all ride up to the church (5 miles away). We ended up driving halfway there and biking the rest, which was still a taxing climb for our young bikers in the freezing wind. Running and biking are especially rewarding here at the edge of town: 
Bonus: yesterday we discovered a sidewalk route to a huge nearby park. I love seeing the boys set goals and then meet them--biking has become a (nearly) everyday activity here!

Eric's Orlando Trip
Eric had an opportunity to present at a major ophthalmology conference this month. His brother and dad (also ophthalmologists) presented as well. Love this picture of Eric and his bro:
They settled down for a picture with their mom:
And here's Eric on his birthday in Orlando (we celebrated later, don't worry!).

The home front
Although we missed Eric physically being here, I felt like he was more "here" because I got to talk to him on the phone for more than usual every day. Plus, when I know that he's gone I get into super-planner mode--we kept very busy!
Of course we had to go to the apple farm a couple times, because apple-picking season is only too short, and so is boyhood!

I once read a book that advised letting your children know a certain place in nature "intimately." I've tried to familiarize my boys with a few special natural places that they can know deeply. This apple farm is one of these places.
The school put on a costume party and BINGO night, and we frolicked around in our costumes for the evening. Jacob designed his own costume this year--he was Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole. I loved the idea--and I loved that he wanted details like the "Fram" mug (labeled with the name of the ship that took Amundsen and his team to Antarctica). Only a few people have known who Amundsen is, but that's okay. Jacob knows!
The kids had their Primary program, which was honestly one of the best I've ever seen, despite their having 100+ kids onstage! Jacob invited a friend:
Embarrassing confession: After church Zachary wanted to make pumpkin pies. I only had a big can of pumpkin, which makes two pies. I figured that we could share the extras with our neighbors after FHE, but come Monday evening both pies were completely GONE! Yes, the boys and I ate two pies in under 24 hours. We even had whipped cream on top. Oh, the gluttony!
We filled the other days with bike rides to the park
and fun outdoors.
(We even saw a flying monkey once.)

Eric's birthday surprise
I have never been more excited for a birthday present than I was for Eric's this year. While he was out of town, the kids and I took the storage-shed of a garage (this is when everything was moved to the center)
and turned it into a well-organized, beautiful place. We assembled new steel shelving, put up wall mounts for the bikes, hung racks to store the bike helmets, hung hooks for lawn tools, and cleaned every corner. I still have a few racks to hang, and sometime when the cars are out I will have to take my "after" picture.
Also, I have to give a shout out to my dad, who I called more than a few times for help on things that weren't working. Another experience I'm grateful for: I said a fervent prayer once in regards to a stud finder that would not find any studs. (Maybe the insulation was thick? I haven't figured out why it wasn't working--it worked on other walls.) Within seconds, it occurred to me that I could find the studs on the other side of the wall, measure the distance with a level, and then mark points. They were 16" apart on the inside wall, and so I marked out 16" on the outside wall with a level, and then checked for studs with a finishing nail. This experience was very faith-promoting for me--I would not have thought of that process on my own. I feel like our Heavenly Father answers prayers in loving, simple ways.
Well, Eric loved the surprise, and we were all happy to have him home again.

A day with Grandpa and Kim
My younger sister moved across the country this week, and so she and my dad stopped by on their way East. The kids were off of school and Eric got off of work, and so it was a mini-vacation for everyone!
We climbed the tower in Blue Mounds, made tin foil dinners,
and played in the leaves.
Maxey-pumpkin, you are adorable!
In the afternoon we built a bonfire and roasted s'mores. (Do I mention s'mores in every post? Honey Maid should pay me royalties.) We were generating 7-foot-high flames for a while there:
We were sad to see them go.

Halloween fun
Our ward threw an amazing Fall Festival, complete with dinner, a pie contest, a costume contest, a parade, trunk-or-treat, the works!
Here we are: Max as a cow (I couldn't find his hat--oops!), Eric as a baseball player, Michael as a wizard, Zachary as a knight, Amy as "Miss Mush" the lunch lady, Adam as a tiger, and Jacob as Mr. Amundsen.
Strange coincidence: When I told Kim that I was dressing up as a lunch lady, she ran to her car and retrieved an authentic 4 oz. school lunch scoop (she used to work at a preschool). It was the perfect accessory, and I ended up getting "Best Female" costume--ah yeah!  
I guess that's a wrap--I hear a baby awake now, and that's my cue to shut the computer down! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

September Stories

September was stressful. One reason was that we had twenty-one doctor's appointments within the month! To me that means at least twenty-one phone calls to receptionists, dozens of calls to babysitters, several notes to teachers, and hours of worry. Half of it was to check up on Max's condition through the spina bifida clinic here. He's doing okay. The other visits were check-ups for the boys and for Zachary's kidney monitoring. And one visit was for Eric, who walked into a clinic complaining of chest pain and was taken by ambulance to the hospital (which, comically, was next door). He was not having a heart attack--he is a stress case from work, and his body is fighting back! Work is the other reason that September was stressful. Eric has pulled ahead full-throttle into his studying. Any time he's sitting down, he's reading; any time he's standing up, he's listening to his audio study guides. (He uses an earpiece in one ear--I keep thinking of the seashells in Fahrenheit 451.) I'm proud of him for his diligence, but I'm also trying to manage my larger workload.

With that (long) caveat, let me also report that September was beautiful. As I was scanning through our photos, I longed for these special moments with my boys. They and Eric are my fuel! Here's what we've been doing this month:

Michael is busy each week attending his co-op preschools and a music class. They have show-and-tell every day in preschool, and they sit on these placemats that we made. It's adorable.
One day the ice cream truck came down our street and so we splurged and bought each boy a popsicle, because ice cream trucks never, ever come down our street! Encouraged by his success, the ice cream man came back the very next day. The boys dumped their banks and bought popsicles all in coins. When the truck came again, however, the market had run dry. The kids didn't feel like they had that kind of money to spare, and so they quit buying and he quit coming. The end. 
One night for home evening we wanted to go roast s'mores, but we kept striking out on parks--why did none of them have a fire pit?! Finally we pulled over in this muddy creek bed and made a fire. I kept saying, "This is a memory, guys!" and Eric kept saying, "Aren't you guys having fun?" I think that we were trying to convince ourselves--the kids are always having fun.
One week I taught preschool three times, all on birds. Check out our packing paper bird nest and awesome beaks! We had seven kids decked out in beaks.
Later on Michael had a friend over and we made "bird pudding." I don't know why I was so into birds that week!
All my kids love kitchen crafts--I think that even Adam could fend for himself for weeks, he's so independent. Here he's made himself a six-decker peanut-butter sandwich, without a lick of help (or permission) from his mother. Gourmet!
There were some perfect days, crystallizing days when we felt as if autumn could just linger here indefinitely. A beautiful farm near our house had perfectly ripe raspberries for $2.75/pint, and so we went and picked some.
This picture is Wisconsin to me: the farms are picture-book beautiful.
Here's a different farm, with a delightful little market. 
I bought the boys bottles to feed the baby goats. They finished the bottles and then went after our jackets, naughty kids!
One evening we went on a 4-mile bike ride through a trail in the woods. Zachary was a real champ, finishing up as the youngest biker--he probably had to complete about twice as many rotations as the rest of us!
I always squish the little boys all into the Burley even though it's made for only two kids. Is that horrible? They look cozy enough.

Two funny backpack findings:
1. I gave the kids corn on the cob in their lunchboxes one day. Both boys ate the corn, wrapped the cob back up in foil, and then put it back in the lunch bag. I laughed when I opened them. Why did both boys think that they should return the cob to me?

2. The other day I found that Jacob had revised an item on his spelling homework. Look at number 10:
Yes, he crossed out the "three" and wrote "ten." When I saw it, I laughed aloud again. That it just the theme of my life: why do something easy when you could easily make it harder? Sheesh. What am I teaching my children?

Three fun field trips:
1. I went along with Jacob's class to a nature center, where they spent a morning catching bugs and pond creatures. It's the sort of thing I did every single day of my childhood--I felt seven years old, too, with my hands in the pond mud. 

2. I also got to go to Zachary's field trip to a farm. We fed dried corn to the goats and Zachary giggled and whispered to me. I was glad that I could just be his mom for a day. 
3. The little'uns and I have been trying to navigate our way downtown with the free campus bus. One day we went to the university's dairy; another day we went to the geology museum. But seriously, the field trip is the bus ride!

For Michael's birthday, we bought a bouquet of helium balloons, and they've stayed up for almost two weeks now! They remind me of upbeat, darling Michael, now four! 
We decided to camp for his birthday present--we went back to a spot that Michael had chosen earlier in the year. It's since become a favorite place.
 In our family, we teach s'mores in infancy! Roast, Maxey-baby, Roast!
 And hallelujah--here's Eric, earpiece-free, documented relaxing for a moment!
 The next day we climbed up this 60-foot-tall tower to see beautiful Blue Mounds area--check out my self-timer magic.

We topped off the month with a visit to Minneapolis, where Eric's sister and family have recently moved. We got there late and transferred the kids into their beds. We heard squeals of joy at 6:30 the next morning, when the cousins woke up and discovered each other! They played non-stop the entire weekend.
I caught the five-year-olds enjoying some "conference popcorn," our tradition for the past few General Conference weekends. I don't know why I didn't line up all the boys together--between our two families, we have nine boys! It sure made for an energy-packed visit!
On the way home, we stopped by "Spoonbridge and Cherry" in Minneapolis's Sculpture Garden. Apparently Eric did a report on Minnesota in third grade and has been wanting to see this sculpture ever since then. Check! The kids got a kick out of it.
Oh, and doesn't this picture of me look like a candid celebrity mom shot? Eric teases me incessantly about these glasses.
Well, it is way past my bedtime now! But how could I not record such precious times? Every time I feel like my plate is too full and that I can't do this, I think, "but I am doing it." I'm doing it and loving it.