12.13.2016

Our daughter's strabismus surgery recovery

You may remember my post from almost a month ago about the eye surgery our little girl was having. She had an outward deviation in both eyes (with the right eye being the worst) that had gone unnoticed to us for nearly six years. I always saw it happen every now and then, she'd be focusing on something and one eye would try to follow the action happening elsewhere.

It got to the point where she was having headaches nearly every day (of course I thought she was just trying to get more headache medicine because who doesn't like white grape?), she could hardly read anything using both her eyes without it blurring (everything was fine with just one eye!) and a whole host of other issues all because her eyes didn't play well together.


So three weeks and five days ago she had surgery to correct her eyes. It was outpatient, only took a mere 30 minutes and she only had to miss two to three days of school as long as she felt OK.

You might remember me doing what I do best ... working myself up about the surgery and counting the minutes until it was over.

Her surgery was scheduled in the morning at 930, woo, we lucked out, she (I) wasn't stuck waiting until the afternoon. We arrived at the hospital at 730 where they promptly changed her into the cutest pair of kiddo scrubs I've ever seen ... that or my daughter is just made to wear scrubs. She looked like she belonged on Grey's Anatomy, the elementary addition.

She was given a coloring book, her hospital ID bracelet and we answered the same questions about 11 times, which, I'm not complaining about because it's just the staff making sure they have ALL the information they could possibly need.

We met with the nurse that would care for her in the room, we met with the nurse that would care for her in recovery, we met with her eye surgeon again and we met with the anesthesiologist and his nurse.

They all asked us the same questions five more times, making sure we didn't have a history of allergies, what did she have to eat last and when, what was the surgery she was having and what did we understand about it.

About 20 minutes before it was time to take her back they gave her a liquid medicine to help make her tired and silly.

It took about 10 minutes to kick in, but once it did boy was she goofy. She kept telling us she wanted to live in a house made of candy, but that it would be located inside the stomach of a teddy bear. We were laughing, for once, we felt a little less worried because it was almost here.

And then about five minutes before it was time to take her back she started to get overly anxious, she started to cry and ask us a million questions. She would dose off for two seconds, wake up and ask if the surgery was over. Why did she feel that way? Was the surgery over? Where was that teddy bear she wanted to live in? Was the surgery over?

Finally they arrived and wheeled her back. The doctor told us he would be back in 20-30 minutes to tell us how it went, then, she would wait in recovery for up to an hour to see how she was feeling and let her ease into waking up, then her bed would be wheeled back to us. She'd get a popsicle or slushie, and as long as she could keep that down and her eyes weren't bleeding too badly (you read that right, EYES BLEEDING), she could go home within an hour or so.

So we waited. We paced. We texted friends and family to update them because at least then we weren't counting down the minutes. And suddenly, it was time. Exactly 30 minutes after going into surgery her surgeon was in our room telling us it was a success, she did great, and her eye muscles were easily accessible which made things even smoother.

And there it was. The relief. All the sudden things felt lighter. Things felt ... normal again. The surgery was over! It was a success! It went smoothly! We were done!

Except ... we weren't. Between all my worrying about the surgery itself and her being put to sleep, I didn't bother to worry about what she would be like after. I didn't contemplate how I would feel seeing my six-year-old daughter wheeled back into the room with towels over her eyes to combat swelling, bruising and bleeding. I didn't anticipate seeing her tiny arm taped to a board with an IV and tubes coming out of every which way.

I didn't bother to worry about that, and it was worse than the surgery. At least the surgery was over with quickly, how long was she going to feel like this. And worse, did she feel as bad as she looked? They woke her up rather briskly, and sure enough, she did. She did feel as bad as she looked. She struggled to open her eyes, she cried bloody tears from the pain and all she wanted was mom and dad to turn the lights off and let her close her eyes.

She drank her slushie. She kept it down. Around 90 minutes later we were placing our sweet little girl in the car (with a brand new pair of super sweet giant black sunglasses to block the light), while she danced between crying in pain and falling asleep.

Once we got her home we carried her to bed right away. We pulled down all the blinds and we snuggled her up with her favorite blankets and stuffed animals. We got her more slushies and popsicles and we kept a cold rag over her eyes ... pumping her full of Tylenol every four hours to the minute. And I'd like to say it worked, but I still don't think Tylenol does a damn thing, and judging from her crying in pain, she would agree with me.

The informational sheet said she would be in pain for the rest of the day, but that she should feel a big recovery the next day. Possibly because I hadn't even thought about recovery would be like, I doubted even more the next day would just magically be "better."

But it was, somehow. She woke up her regular self. She wanted to go to school, she hates missing art class, but was still too sensitive to the light, so we brought art class to her. We purchased canvases and dozens of colors and brushes, she spent her afternoon sitting in the semi-dark living room painting holiday canvases and begging us to let her go to school tomorrow.

So we did.

Her eyes looked like raw meat. They were red and swollen and slightly bruised, but she promised us she wasn't in any pain. We talked to the teacher about her surgery, about her not overexerting her eyes and we told Pear Bear to go to the nurse and call us if anything hurt even the slightest bit.

I had my phone in my hand the entire day. I waited for the call. Surely if her eyes looked that bad they had to feel that bad, right? I guess wrong.

She made it through school flawlessly. She ran off her bus smiling, telling me everyone wanted to know where she was and if her eyes hurt and how cool she was to be so strong.

The first week after surgery was hard. Her right eye deviated the most so it was overcorrected during the surgery. (Eyes muscles generally pull outward as they heal, so sometimes the surgeon will overcorrect an eye to make sure it's straight once it's fully healed up).

Our little girl who had this slight outward deviation, one hardly anyone noticed, now had one eye that occasionally looked too inward. My husband and I tried not to talk about it, neither one of us wanted to admit what we both were thinking "what if we made the wrong decision, her eyes are WORSE and she has to have another surgery?" I began thinking "why didn't I push for therapy more, for exercises, why didn't I fight more."

And then, slowly, after a week and a half or so, we didn't notice her eye doing that anymore. My husband and I exchanged glances once again ... were we just trying to be positive, or had her eyes actually improved? And it wasn't because we'd grown accustomed to it, it was because it wasn't doing it. Her eyes were straight.

She's had one check up so far with the eye surgeon and her eyes are already working together better than before. She was able to read an extra two lines down on the eye chart with both eyes than she'd be able to prior to the surgery. We take her back in 10 days for another check in to make sure they're where they should be, but somehow, after all the drama (maybe some of it made by me), we're back to normal.

Whatever normal is, anyway.

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11.14.2016

Surgery: Things you don't see coming

I woke up this morning to my phone's monotone, persistent alarm.

It was 7 a.m. and Monday morning. Usually, we start the week by getting snacks ready, signing important papers and looking ahead at what we have planned. Do we have girl scouts? What times do I have pitching lessons? Does Pearyn have any last-minute homework I neglected to look for?

Today was different, however. I woke up with a lump in my throat. I looked at the clock again, 7 a.m. Who knows, tomorrow at this time we might be at the hospital. Or we'll be sitting in bed, not sleeping, because we'll be waiting to go to the hospital.

I'm not the most chipper person in the morning as it is, but today is different. Today is worse. Because today is the day before our six-year-old daughter has surgery. I let it sink into my mind a little longer. Surgery. Our beautiful baby girl. I think about all the things that could go wrong, things that have literally a .000000001 percent chance of happening, but somehow, today, it feels so heavy it weighs on my chest. The worry, the stress, it all feels so consuming that I can't and don't want to get out of bed. Instead, I want to lay in bed and look at my little six-year-old girl sleeping peacefully, stroke her hair and protect her from anything big or bad in this world.

But I can't.

We're lucky, truly, because her surgery is minor and it's not even that big of a deal. In my head, I know this. She's been struggling with headaches and vision lately, and we found out she has exotropia strabismus. Basically, her eye muscles aren't aligned and rather than working together, one wants to do what it's told while the other wants to follow other more exciting things. It's a simple surgery, it's 20-30 minutes, it's outpatient, we'll get to take her home and cuddle her, feed her ice cream or whatever her sweet little girl heart wants, but it still feels like a big deal.

I noticed a small drift in her eyes while she grew up, but ignored it and attributed it to me being that overly worried mother. And then when she struggled to read the eye chart at her doctor, he sent us off to the eye doctor, "No big deal," I thought, "She'll just need glasses."

But then we went to the eye doctor ... and then another. And both of them said the same thing: surgery. We talked about therapy and exercises instead, about corrective glasses, about all sorts of things. But we still received the same urging: surgery. Her eyes take too long to rebound, she's getting headaches, she's nauseous, they're blurring her vision when they work together.

After a lot of pondering and discussions, we decided to go with the surgery. And even though I know it's a simple, little surgery, one this doctor has performed probably thousands of times in his career, it doesn't make me feel any better. Because this time it's my baby. And my baby hasn't had this surgery 1000 times, in fact, she's never had surgery. She's never had a broken bone -- a stitch in her whole life.

So for the last month I've been counting down the days until this surgery, until her eyes could be fixed and she could continue her love of reading she's slowly developing, until the headaches would subside; and yet, now that it's tomorrow, I feel like there's an elephant sitting on my chest and the last thing in the world I want to do is have my daughter put to sleep and operated on.

We'll get through it. It's silly, I know. I'm being silly and worrying for things that I don't even understand; but it doesn't make it any less real to me, to us. I'm lucky I dye my hair constantly, or I'd probably have developed an entire patch of gray hair by now. I don't know how parents of children with heart surgeries, cancers or other more serious ailments handle it. I'm ready to lose my crap and she's having a 20-minute outpatient surgery.

My beautiful, blue-eyed little girl is having surgery on her beautiful blue eyes tomorrow and every time she tells me she's scared or she's nervous I have to fight back the urge to say "me too baby girl, me too."

Instead, I smile and I tell her they are amazing doctors and she doesn't need to worry, because that's what mommies and daddies are for.

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10.27.2016

Parent teacher conferences and my increasing anxiety

It's that fabulous time of year again ... the time when teacher's send happy, pastel-colored papers home and ask you to check off what blocks of time are best for you to come in and talk about your precious offspring.

I always get a little excited for parent teacher conferences. It's the perfect time to get that rare insight on who the heck my child is when she's not with me - you know - when she's out in the real world being her own little person.

And that excitement lasts for about three minutes because then I remember what happens during parent teacher conferences - you find out exactly who your little sugar muffin is when you're not around - but sometimes, they're not little sugar muffins, sometimes, they're downright assholes, so then you spend the rest of the time leading up to these conferences trying to figure out if your kid is THAT kid.

So I basically spent the past week quizzing Pearyn on all the hot first grade gossip her classroom has, things like who gets the most "yellow" or "red" days (signs that they've been making trouble for the teacher), if any of her teachers have had to talk to her about anything and if she understands the different stuff they're learning.

I, of course, get the typical sixTEEN year old response of "I dunno mom, yeah ... and can I have my iPad?"

Thanks babe for all that deep reflection (said no parent ever).

My anxiety was in full-throttle for this year's conference, as last year's had a few surprises I wasn't ready for. Our bright, inquisitive, never-shuts-up little girl was struggling with reading. And by struggling, I mean she had no desire to do it whatsoever and so she went through the literacy support program her school offers to catch her up.

I know, I know, she's still so young, what's the big deal. I think it just shocked me because if my kiddos get any part of my intelligence, I always assumed it'd be my love of books, words and writing. I mean that stuff is basically genetic, right? Not so much.

We did learn however, that even though she was in kindergarten (AND despite that she was learning common core, barf, yuck, yarf, did I mention BARF), she was actually excelling way past in her math comprehension.

So how's that karma for ya folks? I, the book-obsessed,  math-loathing chubby vegan mom, managed to birth a tall, lean, not-as-interested-in-books but is a math-loving machine.

Cray cray, right?

So the good news is I went into last night's conference ready for whatever that teacher had to throw at me. I was armed with all our knowledge from last year, all the books we read and read and read again this past summer, and her own little workbook we've been doing at home since school let out.

And are you ready for the big "thing" my daughter needs to see improvement on this year?

ORGANIZATION.

Much to my relief, our little sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice baby girl is doing gloriously in reading this year; her math skills are still ahead of where she should be; she's a social butterfly and respectful little girl; but she may or may not have a tendency to lose her folder and leave her coat lying around for all to walk all over.

Gee, I wonder where she got that from.

Seriously though, I wish my Pear Bear had gotten some semblance of organization from her father, because if her room and my housekeeping skills are any indication of what her future holds for her, I have a feeling that little "well organized" box on her report card is NEVER going to be checked.

But ultimately, I'll take it, as long as she doesn't become the little asshole.

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9.29.2016

4 things I learned when my husband was gone for two days

I'm back! I'm alive! We're all alive!

Amazing, right?

So finally, I've set aside my work (which I sometimes spend far too much late night "me" time on), I've carved out a little niche of time so I can delight you all with my inner musings (and by delight you all, I mean so this stressed out mom can get some real life things off her chest.)

It's almost October. I still don't really know how that happened. It seems like just a few weeks ago the kids were dragging me to the pool we joined; I was sitting on my yellow softball bucket calling pitches; we were at Disneyworld living an adult hell.

And all the sudden -- I blink -- and it's the end of September. And the end of September means it was time for my husband's work to have their two-day convention. That means two days of full-blown only mommy parenting the kids, trying not to damage their fragile little psyches while hiding the fact that I'm basically losing my shit.

And so last night, at 10:11 p.m., when both my sweet bundles of joy closed their very heavy eyelids, rested their sugar-addled bodies on my legs and chest, I finally sighed in relief ... well, that or sheer amazement that I didn't pull all my hair out.

Don't get me wrong. I adore my children. They're blessings, they light up my life and honestly, they really are all that cliche crap people drone on about. But what they also are, which not many people are ready to admit, are soul-sucking tiny spawns who know every little button to push and rather than simply pushing it a dozen times over ... they leap on it, stomp on it and dance a little jig until momma's ears are bleeding from listening to the 300th video about Minecraft and my hands are ready to fall off from making 795 vegan cheese sandwiches as a bedtime snack.

Cause, I mean, who gets hungry at dinner time, right? That shit is for the birds (or adults, rational people and basically not any child ever).

The thing that makes this difficult is my husband. He's a keeper that's for sure. And because we don't adhere to those gender stereotypes of what a mom and dad should do, when one of us is gone, the other one feels it. Like, a lot.

With that being said, here are the four things I've learned while my husband has been at his convention.

I am literally the messiest human being alive

I mean seriously, guys, by the time the night was over there were at least eight paper plates dotting the living room couch, floor, table, fireplace mantle (keep in mind only three of us ate one meal ... so I'm not sure where the other five plates mysteriously came from), there were five juice boxes lining our living room table alone, toys here, toys there, toys everywhere, and don't even get me started on the kitchen. I didn't even COOK and there were vegan cheese wrappers decorating the counter like I just hosted a party for 20 small vegan children, 10 empty kids cups and to make matters worse, I'm pretty sure I fed our dog cat food.

So I think it's safe to say my husband DID NOT marry me for my housekeeping or wife skills. Hell, he's lucky if I remember to make the bed in the day.

Bath time with one parent means nakedness everywhere

So I'm normally in charge of bath time for the kiddos, which is totes fine with me because it gives me a chance to read some trashy teen vampire novels or play some Candy Crush. Usually I do all the cleaning and hair washing of said children and then when they get out it's daddy's problem to wrangle the wild beasts and attempt to clothe them. We don't bother to dry them, that would take too much of their precious time away from picking their noses and making fart jokes, so instead we throw giant t-shirts on them, call it pajamas and let them air dry.

But when there's only one parent for bath time, that means once I get one child out, they wander the house in total nakedness while I finish washing the other. Which would be fine, if I didn't have to hear my daughter ask why the dog keeps trying to lick her bare ass all while comforting my son who is convinced I'm trying to poison him when I attempt to wash his hair. And then, once he's out of the tub it's basically a naked free for all, which includes blocking my son in a room so he can't streak through the house and slip on the wood floors, while trying to put my daughters "favorite" pajamas on from when she was three, because you know, they still fit now that she's SIX.

I lose my shit a lot less when my husband is home

And it's not just because someone is there so I'm on my best behavior, oh no. I would lose my shit a lot less if Mary Sue Ellen from across the street was there with me, ya know why? Because someone else is in the trenches with me. I mean sure, I certainly prefer my husband to be the one waging toothbrushing and technology-restricting battles with me, but ultimately, I'll take any semi-living, breathing human being at this point, just SOMEONE. Someone to see that I'm on the edge of losing my shit and give me that look, you know, the one that says "I'm going to lose mine too, so let's not and we'll be in this together."

I could do it by myself, but I never, ever want to

It's true, life is better when you're together. Today marks my last day that I'll be without my husband in our humble abode, and while it's been secretly kind of nice to have them all to myself, I can't wait for him to walk through the door late tonight and resume his role in our family bed as the heat source for my daughter and son.

And sure, it was fun to order pizza for dinner and give zero fucks about planning anything out, but I'm pretty sure I'd eventually get tired of vegan pizza and my children would revolt and fashion some sort of shooting device out of their pizza crusts with their leftover black olives.

At the end of the two days, I made it through my one-on-two time with my kiddos. I mean sure, the dogs may be dehydrated and the floors might be a lot stickier than when my husband left, but we're all alive and unscathed as far as I can tell. Except for Silver, our cat. He's seen far too much nakedness and I think we might have scarred his one working eye.

But ya know, that shit happens.

When daddy goes away, everybody gives up something ... a small piece of their soul, the gift of eyesight ... clothes ...

It's whatevs.

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4.13.2016

30 things I've learned by 30

Well, it's happening again.

My birthday is tomorrow.

And while 31 doesn't seem quite as epic as 30 did, it's certainly been meaningful in its own way. So now that I've been living, breathing and making oodles of mistakes for the last 30 years, I thought it might be worthwhile to jot down the things I've learned in my one-day-shy-of-31 years old.

  1. I'm always going to be a work in progress -- and that's completely OK, acceptable and actually a wonderful thing. 
  2. Fall in love -- as many times as you can. It doesn't matter if it's puppy love, friend love, love for a parent, just fall in, headfirst. You might get some scrapes and bruises along the way, but I promise you, nothing is ever, ever lost by loving.
  3. It's OK to not know what you want to be when you "grow up." I have always had a passion for words, for the way you can construe them and twist them to imply and mean things, so I'm completely enthralled in my current profession. Will I be a managing editor forever? Who knows?
  4. Friends doesn't always mean forever. This one has taken me a while to really embrace, but it's true. It seems sad in a way, to think the people important to you may not always be, but that's the way life seems to go, and it's OK. Shedding people you used to be close to (whether it's due to distance, life changes or simply parting ways), makes room for new people in your life you might need right now.
  5. Some people, however, do mean forever. I have had the same best friend for over 10 years now, she's not going anywhere, I'm not going anywhere, and if she or I tried to, we'd probably hunt the other down. Because I love her, she loves me, and somedays, she's the only person in this whole world I want to talk to. Not to mention my husband. The crazy guy who decided to settle down and raise a family with me. I wouldn't let him go anywhere if he tried. 
  6. Becoming a mother has changed me forever. Every day I learn something new, my children blow my mind with their love, wit and enthusiasm for the small things. When you become a mother, you see everything through your children's eyes. 
  7. The small things really do matter. Sure, the old adage is true, "don't sweat the small things," but more importantly, enjoy the small things. Savor your tiny bowl of ice cream you treat yourself to, smell your kids hair when they can't seem to stop clinging to you, save that text from someone that makes you feel happy. The small things in life add up to the bigger picture, so don't be afraid to soak them in. 
  8. Do things for yourself. Whether your working out at the gym, treating yourself to coffee or trying on a killer pair of heels, don't be afraid to give a little to yourself. Even if you're single, live with a cat and have no other responsibilities in life, make sure treat yourself to something special every now and then. 
  9. Own a killer pair of heels. OK, so maybe this one is for the ladies, but it's true. Whatever your definition of "killer" is, own it. They can be four-inch stilettos, one-inch wedges or simply a kitten heel, either way, own a pair. When you're having an "ugly" day, a killer pair of heels can take you right out of that mood. 
  10. Learn how to cook one super awesome meal. Even if somewhere down the road you don't get the itch to host a dinner party, you'll feel like the super-est adult in the world after making an awesome meal all on your own. 
  11. Find a cause and care about it deeply. It doesn't matter if it's ending worldwide hunger or world peace, find something to care about, something you can contribute to and I guarantee it'll make you a better person. Cause that's what thinking about a bigger cause does for you, yo. 
  12. Make someone a mixed tape. OK, by now it's probably a mixed playlist for their iPod or maybe a CD if you're still old school, whatever it is, make one. Anytime someone sees it they'll have fond memories, and it's meaningful. special and wonderful to impact someone that way.
  13. Get to know your parents. Sure, they may seem annoying in your teenage years, but one day it's really going to hit you that they won't be around forever, and it's going to scare the crap out of you. So once you're able to, get to know them. Find out what they loved before they became your parents. Hell, play Nintendo games and visit them on Sundays if you want. Either way, enjoy them. 
  14. Every girl should have a spare pair of shoes (ones that are easy to walk in), panty hose and a jacket in her car. Seriously, it's sounds silly now, but when you're on your way to the airport and you rip your only pair of hose getting on the shuttle, you'll be ecstatic to have another pair. 
  15. Eat real, 100 percent, unadulterated maple syrup. Screw the calories, it's amazing. And you're worth it. 
  16. Find your favorite book and read it every couple of years. You'll be shocked at the different things you can take away from the same 500 pages after a few years have passed. Chances are, you'll fall in love with it all over again.
  17. Make goals for yourself. They don't have to be big ones, they can be something as simple as waking up every day and having breakfast ... or walking four times a week. Make goals so you can achieve them, which will give you something to be proud of.
  18. If a boy likes you, he'll call or text, because he won't be able to stand not doing it. 
  19. Write real letters (the kind with a pen and paper), send birthday cards (not just texts) and remember thank you notes. These are the little things that make people smile. 
  20. I promise you, you do not need that extra shot of tequila. Sure, it sounds like a great idea at the time, but you will NOT miss it the next morning. I repeat, you will NOT miss it the next day. 
  21. Lend a hand whenever you can. Something as simple as baking muffins for your best friend after she has a baby to getting dairy-free ice cream for your mom at the store, be as helpful as you can when you can. You never know when you're going to need someone. 
  22. Hate less. Trust me, this one is a hard one for me, as I can be queen of the grudges if you really, really upset me. But the older I get, the more I realize how dumb it is to stay mad. When you hate something, you chain yourself to it. When you accept it, forgive it and move on (or away from someone if they're detrimental to your well-being), you're free. And I'm serious about that. Not giving a damn about something is about as free as you can get when it comes to negativity.
  23. Speaking of negativity, be more positive. I know, this one is so hard for me too. I have a tendency to see that darn ole glass not only half empty, but also full of like curdled almond milk or something. Trying to find the good in everything isn't naive or unrealistic, it's a healthier, simpler way of living. So seriously, start looking for the good in every situation, even if sometimes you have to look a little harder. 
  24. Spend more time with people you admire. Maybe it's a family member, a friend or an old college professor, regardless who it is, make time to be around them. Spending time with people we admire gives us a boost in the way we feel about ourselves. Because seriously, you're probably a pretty awesome person, which means the people YOU admire are probably just as amazeballs. 
  25. Don't be afraid to start over. Sometimes, starting fresh is exactly what we need in life. Maybe it's your career; maybe it's your house. Whatever it is, decide you don't like things the way they are anymore and MAKE a change. Starting over isn't giving up, it's simply opening your life to new and better things. For realz though. 
  26. Learn the lyrics to your favorite song. You know that song you always jam to with the windows down and on full blast? Instead of just "hmmm shh muh huh-ing" your way through the parts you don't know, learn the lyrics to your favorite song. They just might bring a little cheer your way when you need it. 
  27. Try new food. I'm SO serious about this one. Do you know how many people I know that have never had Indian Food? Heck, even Mediterranean food is considered oddball by some people in my life. Try a new cuisine, try a new vegetable, just try something new. Maybe you'll hate it, but maybe, it might just become you're new favorite.
  28. Try to understand more and judge less. It can be super duper hard, but more often than not, we don't know what battle someone is going through. 
  29. Wear red lipstick. I know, again, this one is more for the ladies, but don't ever doubt what an awesome tube of red lipstick can do for your outfit. You can feel fancy and it's a great way to break your old routine!
  30. Learn from others ... 
No seriously, learn from others. People have amazing things to say, which is why I'm leaving that last one open, because I want to know what YOU'VE learned in your XX amount of years you've been alive!