Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nolan's day to shine

As if our lives lacked any form of excitement, Nolan decided it was his turn in the sun today.  Monday when we were at physical therapy for Ethan, Nolan wanted so badly to go play in the ball pit.  Today while Ethan had speech, Nolan said everything the therapist wanted Ethan to say in hopes that HE would be rewarded.  He is tired of being left out.  No speech, no physical therapy, no audiologists - what a boring life he leads.  He has even asked me, "When's my 'ppointment?"  So today...  He broke his leg.
Now I have a child that I have to carry back and forth to the bathroom (and everywhere else).  I suppose it IS Nolan's turn to have some individual attention.  He certainly deserves it, but I would have been more than willing without the broken leg.

Nolan broke his tibia.  He has a splint for the next week and then he will have a hard cast for 6 weeks.  We have 2 stairs that go down into our living room and the light switches are right above these stairs.  He was turning off the fan and landed funny on a stair.  Doug heard the pop from across the room.  I have never heard Nolan scream like that.  I drove him the 45 minutes to the emergency room and I am SO lucky it happened on a day Doug was home to stay with Ethan and pick up Brenden from school.  Nolan was so good in the car and only whimpered when we went over bumps.  He screamed like a champ in the waiting room, so we made our way up the waiting list and were the next people to be seen.  He screamed through the x-ray where they had to pull his leg straight and through the splinting, but other than that, he has been a trooper.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy Birthday to Brenden!

Brenden has been counting down the days and it finally arrived. Brenden turned six today.
Trying to make Nolan look at the camera.
 The cyborg.
It's a ball you can climb inside and roll down a hill.
Checking out the new thesaurus.
He closely analyzed all of his presents.
The mother-load of chapter books.

He pretty much got all books.
Brenden's wish: A little sister.
What a few sprinkles will do: "I want to suck your blood..."

I'm pretty sure he'll pee blue tomorrow.

Brenden asked a little while later if Jesus makes wishes come true.  I had totally forgotten what his wish was and told him that if he had faith, Jesus makes some wishes come true.  Doug threw in there, "And mom and dad have to get busy..."  Then I remembered what the wish was.  Brenden added, "But mom's always busy..."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Time to "bunker down"

According to urbandictionary.com:
bunker down: term used by confused individuals, who are not sure if they want to hunker down or to go and get in a bunker.

Doug and I were at a restaurant with friends this afternoon and when we walked outside, there was a huge ash cloud moving our direction. We stood there, looking straight up, and watched it go right overhead (and toward our house where our children were with a babysitter). Then we went and watched a Dooms Day movie and thought, "How ironic, that here we are watching this and there is a volcano erupting RIGHT NOW..." Kenai was fortunate not to get any ash, but we have a light layer of blah colored granules everywhere. It's ugly.

Then as I took the babysitter home, I got to watch it all over again. There have been about 4 eruptions everyday.

The following pictures are from the Alaska Volcano Observatory:
This is EXACTLY what we saw from the restaurant - I have a picture just like it on my phone.

Volcano weather system

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Morris the Moose

Brenden just ate 
1) a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch 
2) a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios 
3) a bowl of Special K with strawberries and 
4) a bowl of Cocoa Puffs 
for dinner - yes, for dinner - don't judge me...  Then he promptly asked if we could make cookies.  "Uh, no - I'm pretty sure you just ate your sugar allotment for the day."  He asked me the other day if I ate too much sugar when I was a kid and that was why I was so fat.  Gotta love kids.

I protested as Brenden was fighting with Nolan and the response from Brenden was, "We're just being brothers..."

Our volcano erupted again this morning.  The ash was headed our direction, but changed course and went south to Homer.
We have named our pet moose Morris.

Doug surprised me and didn't take many pictures ice fishing the other day...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mayhem and Pandemonium

No, not really mayhem and pandemonium.  You all probably found out the same time I did that our volcano erupted Sunday night.  We were in Anchorage, so we missed all of the fun.  We were eating breakfast at our hotel on Monday morning when the news started talking about the volcano erupting.  By Monday morning, it had erupted 5 times and it is expected to erupt for several months.  Everything here is totally normal.  Everyone is going about their normal lives.  The ash has been blown north for the most part and we live east, so we have even missed out on most of that.  It is beautiful and blue skies today.

We were in Anchorage for Brenden's implant mapping and Ethan's hearing aid programming.  Ethan's right ear was previously his "good ear," but now it has dropped to be level with his left ear.  The left hearing aid wasn't re-programmed but the right was.  As soon as we put the right hearing aid back in his ear, Ethan threw a tantrum, ran his head into the table, and broke the hearing aid.  Wonderful...

Brenden is doing well and is starting to be able to decipher some sounds with his new implant.  He tells me I am being mean when I make him wear it alone, but it has to be done.  It has been a long 2 weeks since he has been required to wear it alone.  He takes advantage of the fact that I can't tell him to stop when he is being mean, and still doesn't turn when I scream his name at the top of my lungs.  The audiologist says that the implant itself is turned up almost to the level of his old one, so it is not that he isn't getting enough volume, but that he just still hasn't learned what the sound of my screaming voice means.

Doug took Brenden and Nolan out ice fishing on Saturday.  I am sure he has some great pictures, but he has his camera with him, so I will have to post them when he gets home.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Medical Billing

Once upon a time, a long, long, time ago, I worked in medical billing.  I don't know how anyone who has never worked in that field trusts their insurance company to process their claims correctly.  I could have a full-time job doing the medical billing for my own children.  I spend hours on the phone and internet trying to resolve the issues that insurance creates for themselves.

In my insurance company's defense, we live in Alaska.  There are special "rules" for processing our claims.  BUT, I do hate that almost NO doctors here bill their own claims, also meaning there are no in-network providers for that wonderful provider discount.  I pay for the entire visit out of pocket and then, after faxing the claims and fighting with the insurance company, get refunded for some of the money.

Lucky for us, the surgeon and hospital in Seattle do their own billing.  I have been watching the Aetna website as the claims are pouring in.  The hospital, the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the medical imaging facility, the medical imaging provider, and on and on.  I am SO glad I didn't have to pay THAT $60,000 out of pocket to be reimbursed when insurance finally decided how to process the claim!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Warning: It's a long one!

Brenden made these notes for everyone before we left for Seattle.  Others said "I hope you have a good time."
I. am. tired.  Brenden and I got back to Anchorage on Thursday last week.  Brenden's implant was activated on Friday.  He says it sounds like "ding, ding" like a bell when he hears sounds.  For anyone unfamiliar with cochlear implants, a person does not "hear" through the ear like a hearing aid.  Sound is transmitted via electrode into the cochlea and is learned to be perceived as sound in the brain.  Some people hear it like a fax machine, others like fingernails on a chalkboard, but it is different for everyone.  "Hearing" takes time and training.  Brenden has a lot of work ahead of him.  His ear is still sore and his head is still very swollen, but he hasn't had pain medicine since the day of the surgery.  He is so brave and strong.
Brenden playing listening games
Friday Brenden and I drove home in fairly good conditions.  The roads were wet and a little slick, but not too bad.  
Frozen waterfalls on the highway
I got home to two little boys who were excited to see me and one very tired looking grandma.  Doug's mom flew up and stayed with the boys, like the true angel that she is.  They tested and tried her patience.  Saturday we did NOTHING.  Okay, well, I tried to catch up on a few things, but for the most part, we did nothing.  Sunday we drove back to Anchorage on completely dry and clear roads.  It looked like fall.  The snow was melted off of the side of the road and everything!  It was a quick, easy drive, taking only about 2.5 hours.

Sunday night was rough.  This time I took all 3 kids back up with me.  They were all so worked up by being in a hotel that they didn't want to sleep.  I laid down with Ethan at 9:00, but Brenden and Nolan were still up and going.  During the night, Ethan had a terrible fever.  I woke up to his little feet burning a hole in my arm.  Luckily, I had some ibuprofen for Brenden's swelling that I gave to Ethan.  He and I were up for quite a bit of the night.  Brenden woke up at 4:00 for a little while, but went back to bed.  Nolan woke up at 5:00, but I managed to talk him into going back to sleep for a little while too.

Monday Brenden had an audiology appointment at 2:15.  We were kicked out of our hotel at noon, so we decided to go to Walmart.  We don't have one of those here.  Okay, so I had forgotten my deodorant and I really needed some.  We wandered through the store for a little while and only had about 5 things in our cart when we headed to the checkout.  We were the next people in line when the fire alarm went off and we were kicked out of the store.  We waited for a little while, but could only take the 5 degree temperature for so long, so we went out in search of the illusive Safeway gas station.  Blah blah blah, a little while and lunch later, we went to the audiologist.

Side note: I don't recommend artificial sweetener for small children.  It made them pee every 5 minutes for the next hour.

Brenden shocked and surprised the audiologist.  She had already kind of figured out how she was going to map (aka. program) his implant, but he just kept telling her to turn it up louder.  Generally, they start out at a pretty low volume and over a month and a half, slowly turn it up to introduce sound to an ear that's never heard.  In theory, he should still not be able to understand anything with his new implant alone, but he was able to decipher a few words from a given set.  Brenden's old implant battery died, so he was left wearing the new one alone.

With a dead battery, Brenden was back to deaf.  All of the sudden, Brenden was walking away from me toward the elevator, Nolan was running one way down the hall and Ethan headed in the other direction.  Suddenly it was like one of those nightmares I used to have where I had to choose which child to save.  Brenden wasn't looking at me, so I couldn't yell for him to help or even come back.  Nolan doesn't listen anyway, and Ethan just doesn't quite "get it."  I ran to get Brenden before he got on the elevator and was lost from sight, grabbed Nolan and kind of pushed him (as nice as possible) to the ground so I had a short head start on running to get Ethan.  In the end, Heidi, the audiologist scooped up both Ethan and Nolan while I tried to sign to Brenden that we weren't done yet.  (Exhale loudly.)

Once we were done, we headed back to the car.  Ethan was now 4 hours late for his nap, so I was thrilled when he fell asleep quickly.  The drive was HORRENDOUS to every degree of horrible there is.  I called Doug a few minutes into our drive and warned him we were headed out and don't expect us anytime soon.  There were extreme white-out conditions and I couldn't see 10 feet in front of the car.  About 10 minutes into that drive, Nolan announced that he needed to pee.  I found a place to pull-off, but the snow was so deep, I couldn't get very far off the road.  I was very nervous that someone would hit my WHITE suburban from behind as Nolan was standing in the door to pee.  I did get honked at quite a few times and a few too many cars came too close for comfort.  In the end, Nolan did NOT need to pee, but managed to wake up Ethan from the draft in the door.  

Ethan then SCREAMED for the next 4 hours of our drive home.  I couldn't see ANYTHING and I think that, had there been oncoming traffic, it would have hit me more than once.  I tried to drown Ethan out with the radio, but there were no radio stations to be found.  Lucky for me, I had a cd in the car (something that almost NEVER happens - I treasure any quiet time there is in life), and I turned it up to drown out Ethan as much as possible.  The children were being punished for misbehaving by having no movie in the car, but I think that it was really just punishment for me.  Brenden only had on his new implant and was annoying Nolan as much as possible, without looking at me so that I couldn't say a single thing about it.  I ended up without anything in my center console because I kept throwing things at him to try to get his attention.  That was the WORST drive I have ever had.  As if the weather wasn't enough, the kids just had to add to it.  I considered pulling over and crying, while allowing the car to be buried in snow.  I also considered turning back and trying again another day.  BUT, we made it home and we don't have to make the drive again for another 5 days.

Pictures from the drive:
(these are the "safe" points where I felt ok to take one hand off the wheel for a picture)
Last night after we arrived home, I asked Brenden to go get something out of the car.  He came back in a few minutes later and said there was a moose in the way, but wondered if he could go pet the moose.  Uh, NO!
While I was in Seattle, the Utah School for the Deaf decided they had urgent business for me that had to be resolved NOW NOW NOW.  I was as accommodating as I could be with a little boy having surgery and none of my normal resources.  I returned home again last night to an email informing me that there was a deadline yesterday that they had forgotten to tell me about and they needed handouts for my conference I am doing in May by today.  NO WAY!  I found out I was doing the conference right before I left for Seattle and all of the sudden it has to be done and they need handouts to publish.  HA!

Back on the home front (while Brenden and I were in Seattle):

Kevin took Doug clamming.  Doug knows Kevin from High School.
In volcano news: after being lowered from "orange" to "yellow" status last week, we are back at orange after several earthquakes and a little spewed ash.  No full-blown eruption yet, but still, ash is a big step.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Big Day

Before I get to the big day, I will post about yesterday.  Brenden started the day with this:
Then we went to the Aquarium in downtown Seattle.
There is a floating bridge in Seattle, which we think they need to duplicate across the water to Anchorage for us.
The aquarium is along a pier and goes out over the water.
The first thing we did was watch the octopus being fed.
Then we were attacked by the octopus - I guess they didn't feed her enough.
Nemo and Dori
Jennifer and Brenden
A 3000 pound shark was caught off of the Washington coast.  They froze it and made this replica.
Brenden caught me!
We liked these tiny sharks.

Those are jellyfish in the circle.

Brenden wanted SO badly to go to the space needle after they talked about it in school.  When I looked on the website, I discovered that there is a $35 minimum order per person.  I knew it would be too expensive, but I wasn't expecting a minimum order.  We drove by it a few times, but as Jen stopped to get gas, I hopped out to take this picture.  I asked Brenden if he wanted to jump out of the car and look and he said, "No, I'll just look at my postcard..."

On to the big day:
Brenden checked in for surgery this morning at 6:20.  He was NOT happy about it - I practically had to drag him into the hospital.  The other day when Brenden wanted to go to the Space Needle and I told him it was too expensive, he informed me that he wasn't going to have surgery because it was "too expensive."  He learns quickly!
Unhappy and scared for surgery
After a little relaxing medicine.
The medicine is starting to settle in a little bit.
And then he got REALLY silly, but he said, "I am SO EXCITED for surgery!"  At least that was an improvement.  I showed Jen the videos I took and she said, "That is NOT the boy we left you with this morning.  He is so high!"  He really enjoyed practicing breathing with this mask - it is bubble gum scented, so the air smells pretty darn good.  Mostly he just sang through it at the top of his lungs.
I had to dress up to take Brenden to the OR.
The nurse told me to put all of this on, including the mask.  The anesthesiologist told me I didn't have to wear the mask, so I took it off.  We went in the OR and the nurse told me to put it on because there was sterilized equipment in the room.  I put it on.  The doctor told me to take it off so I didn't scare Brenden.  I took it off, but left it sitting on my forehead.  Another nurse came by and gently tapped the mask with her fingertip, so I put it back on.  Then the anesthesiologist and the doctor together said, "She doesn't have to wear that!"  They had a little debate for a minute until the nurse discovered I was "mom" and they all came to the general consensus that I didn't have to wear it after all.  By this point, it was time for me to leave the room anyway.  Brenden's surgery started at 7:42.

This is the screen in the waiting room.  I felt like I was waiting for a plane to arrive so I could pick up my passenger.  The lines say things like "patient in surgical prep" and "surgery started" and "patient in post-op recovery."
Waiting for Brenden to wake up.
Wake-up #1.
Around 9:30, Brenden started to stir a little bit and the nurses immediately started bugging him to eat.  They told me to call my ride and be ready to go.  I sat there patiently and told them I wasn't planning to go anywhere anytime soon.  Brenden started to try to touch his ear and pull his IV out.  He was confused about why he couldn't sit up or move and was very disoriented.  He took about 3 licks on a popsicle and then promptly vomited 3 times.  Eventually they gave him some nausea medication, but still pushed me to get ready to go.  Last time, we felt like we were shoved out the hospital doors before we were ready to go and this time I was going to stand my ground and not go anywhere until we were sure we were ready to go.
Wake-up #2.
Brenden slept for another 3 hours and woke around 12:45.  During those 3 hours of sleep, the nurses tried really hard to wake him up and it really bugged me.  Finally I told them I was hanging out in the hospital until HE told me that he was ready to go and that I would come find a nurse if we needed anything.  He woke up much happier and more coherent.  He ate 2 popsicles and 2 cups of jello.  I called Jen to pick us up and got Brenden dressed.  After she was on her way, Brenden decided he didn't feel well and he was really dizzy.  The nurses had already gained their hope that he was leaving and they weren't about to turn back that hope.
I really wanted to wait and post a "right implant" and "left implant" incision picture, but I don't have the other one on my computer.  I will have to do that later.  BUT, here is the left.  Tiny, huh?  No hair shaving, no stitches, no bandages.  It is very swollen and sore looking though.  I need to take an hour by hour shot or something because it looks much more sore now and it is starting to stick out like a monkey ear.
This is how terrible Brenden felt when they discharged him.
Brenden threw up A LOT in the car on the way back to Jen's and then fell asleep.  I hauled him in the house and he went back to sleep for a few more hours.  He tried to eat some bread and apple juice and immediately started crying about his stomach hurting, so he is currently being distracted by cartoons.  I will update when I have something more for you!