Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Failing the test...

I was rather a mess last night.  I was rushing around, preparing dinner after work, before getting Bumblebee ready for her spring music concert when my cell phone rang.  I glanced at it, didn't recognize the number, and ignored it.  Seconds later, the home phone rang.  The caller ID on the home phone said it was the hospital in Ames.  It was my doctor calling.  I turned down the teriyaki chicken on the stove and went into the sun room, where I could shut the door away from the kids and pets who were swarming me at the moment.

Dr. L was calling about my Down Syndrome screening.  The test itself is a combination of an ultrasound and a blood test.  The ultrasound measures the length of the fluid filled space between the neck skin and the spine.  Last week as I had it done, the ultrasound tech and the doctor who oversaw the test were both very positive.  The space measured small enough for them to say that things look 'good'.  I left the appointment with some great ultrasound pictures (the baby - who I will be referring to henceforth as "Goblin" since s/he is due on Halloween - looked like an alien instead of a blob - that's progress!) I was feeling very happy and optimistic and did a dorky Facebook announcement that evening.

In my sun room yesterday afternoon, I listened with a kind of shock as Dr. L told me not to freak out (does he know me or what?) but that I had technically failed the screening.  I have a 1 in 86 chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome.  That is slightly worse than the regular risk for my age, but still not horrible odds.  He did the math for me and told me that it means that I have a 98.8% chance of having a baby without a chromosome disorder, but that if I wanted additional testing, I could do an amnio.

The Internet is a scary place sometimes, and I went to some online communities and looked at what other people my age had gotten as their test results.  Most of them had much more favorable results.  1 in 400 chance or a 1 in 5000 chance, etc.  Mine was definitely on the low end of the results.  I was concerned.

I finished dinner in a haze, got Bumblebee ready for her music program.  My mother-in-law came up to attend the show and I fear that I might have been distant with her (sorry if I was, Judy!). After what seemed like an eternity of kids singing "Kookaburra," "Honk, Honk, Rattle, Rattle", and "Take me out to the Ballgame", I finally came home and had time to think.  All I wanted to do was talk to The Husband about it, and I knew he'd be calling from his hotel room soon.

I worried, it's true.  My mind raced through the what-if's, and the why-me's, and the seriously-can't-a-girl-get-an-effing-break's?  Then I took some deep breaths and centered myself.  When The Husband called, I told him the news.  I hadn't cried about it at all, until I talked to him, and as I was explaining things, I choked up.  He quietly listened to me haltingly tell him what Dr. L had told me.

Finally, when I was done, he asked "What is the purpose of having the amnio?"

I explained that it was only to find out definitively if Goblin has Down Syndrome or not.

"Pft. Doesn't matter.  Don't do the amnio." he said.  Simply, surely, immediately. I swear to you, I fell in love with that man all over again when he uttered that sentence to me.  He made me realize in an instant that it doesn't matter if Goblin has DS or not.  We will love him/her no matter what.  And if that is what happens?  Well, we're good parents and I think our home would be a great place for a DS baby.

We're not going to do the amnio.  I'd be lying if I said I won't worry or wonder what will happen when we meet our little Goblin this fall.  But I think no matter what, everything's going to be ok.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An Egg of a Good Time

Yikes. Two depressing posts in a row is not cool.  How about we brighten things up with some pictures of Bumblebee and me decorating Easter eggs last night?

First, you have to start by putting the coloring into vinegar.  It works best if you use your husband's late grandmother's china tea cups.  I love how it fizzes:
*photo of a closeup of the fizzy coloring liquid:
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Then, you make sure to stir up the fizzy liquid.  Bumblebee is wearing my sun hat.  You know, the one I wear when I'm outside so that I don't wrinkle up like a prune?  It looks cuter on her than on me. Boo.
*photo of B stirring the liquids:
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Then comes the fun part.  Decorating the eggs with crayons before coloring them.  I like to draw springy things like bunnies, butterflies, and flowers.  Bumblebee likes phrases such as "rock out".  It's a personal decision.
*photo of an egg with a flower drawn on it:
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*photo of Bumblebee coloring on her egg:
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*photo of Bumblebee holding up her "rock out" egg:
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After all of the coloring is done, we gently put the eggs in the colored vinegar and let them sit.  I like to let them sit for a long time, because the color is more vibrant:
*photo of an egg printed with "Vali-Kate" soaking in the coloring:
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When you're done, all you need to do is stack the eggs on a plate, pop them in the fridge, and give the camera a goofy grin like Bumblebee is here:
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Oh, and get ready for lots of egg salad sandwiches in your near future. I have to say that I love this holiday tradition so much more than carving pumpkins...  So much easier!

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ten Years

It’s been ten years since we lost you.
A sharp fragment still lives deep within my heart
that surprises me with a quick stab, stealing my breath for a moment.
But I am not sad today, of all days. At least, not yet.
When night sets in, and I close the door to my bedroom to go through your memory box,
I will let the tears come.

It’s cold and rainy today; the trees are creaking and the wind is howling.
It’s the weather that always reminds me of April, and of those horrible weeks 
when we knew we were going to lose you.
I remember a cold and dark night, after you were gone, 
waking up to see your father’s side of the bed empty.
I crept downstairs to find him gently cradling your teddy bear shaped urn and sobbing quietly. 
My memory fails me now: did I console him, as he had for me time and again? 
Or did I creep back upstairs like a coward?
I want to believe that I held him until he was calm, but I don’t remember.

Your little sister is here today because you could not be.
She is a joy in our lives and her spunky personality makes us smile even on rainy April days.
We got to hold her squirming body in our arms because you were born so still.
I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have you here with us, 
a ten year old boy running through the house.
Would you look up to Jakob and wear his hand me down clothes?
What kind of mischief would you get into with your cousin who is the same age?
But these are fleeting thoughts, because I can’t truly picture you as a ten year old,   
nor can I imagine our family without Valerie.

Your father gave me a necklace on the Mother’s Day after we lost you.
It’s a golden heart, with an angel inside.
I wore it for a long time, and eventually, when the pain began to fade, 
I put it in a safe place in my jewelry box.
We lost another baby in January. Early on this time, so the pain wasn’t as raw.
Before we knew it, another was on the way. One who is thriving, growing, 
and making me nauseous and chubby.
In a superstitious move, I will wear that angel necklace these next six months, without taking it off.
It makes me think you will look after us somehow. And we will be safe.

It’s been ten years, 120 months, 3,650 days since we said goodbye, 
Since your dad and I held your tiny body, draped in a white dressing gown.
Since we printed the words ‘Some people only dream of angels, we held one in our arms’ 
above your footprints and put them in the frame that hangs on our bedroom wall today.
Ten years.

Friday, April 8, 2011

If you want cheerful, this isn't the post for you.


A man I went to high school with was killed in a horrible car accident yesterday.  A 19-year-old in a stolen SUV was racing through town at speeds greater than 80 MPH when he ran a stoplight and t-boned Chad’s car, killing him instantly.  I hadn’t kept in touch with Chad since high school, and my memory of him is slightly blurry, as if I’m looking back on him through someone else’s glasses.  He went to our youth group, as I recall, and I remember his smile, and that he was a genuinely nice kid.  I can’t wrap my mind around the thought that he got up in the morning, showered, dressed for work, and kissed his wife goodbye, only to be gone in an instant.  He leaves behind two sons, a wife, and an ex-wife.  My thoughts go out to each of them as they come to terms with their world that has been turned upside down.

A good friend of mine recently lost someone who meant the world to her to cancer.  He was in the prime of his life: young, attractive, a man who made an impression on everyone who knew him.  I didn’t know Casey, but offered to go with my friend to the funeral last week so that she didn’t have to stand there alone as she said her goodbyes to him.  It was so difficult watching her suffer through the funeral mass.  I fidgeted sadly as I sat watching his family and a church full of friends struggle as they said their goodbyes. The church was full, as it often is for the funeral of a young person, and I spent the time looking around at the crowd, wondering how they knew Casey, and what he had meant to them.  He was a good friend to my friend, and they had many things in common.  She has some fun memories to cherish of the time she spent with Casey, but why only memories? Why did he have to go and leave so many people behind who are crushed because of his untimely passing?

I had lunch on Tuesday with a former coworker who is dying.  Doctors recently stopped treatment for her cancer and she expects that there are only weeks left of her time in this world.  As I drove to the restaurant to meet the group of friends who were gathering to see Janet, my stomach was in knots.  This lunch was planned to celebrate her life, to share some laughs, and create memories.  I wasn’t sure I was up to the task, but in the end, it was a beautiful lunch.  There were about 10 or 11 of us, we were loud, boisterous, sometimes crude.  Janet joked about putting one of those motion-detected recordable trinkets on her grave that would say, “Help, let me out!” or “Get the hell off of me!” when someone came to visit.  Someone had asked about a trip she had previously planned to take to the Badlands.  She’d been hoping to go this summer, before things took a turn for the worse.  In true Janet style, she quipped, “Is that what we’re calling this?  My trip to the badlands???” in complete deadpan. “I was hoping to go to the other place, but I guess we’ll see what happens.”  She managed to put us all at ease, and when I said my goodbyes to her, knowing that it was for the last time, she looked me in the eye and grabbed my hand. With a soft squeeze, and a genuine smile, she thanked me for coming.

These thoughts are swirling around in my head today, leaving my mood as gray and cold as the weather outside. Why do things like cancer, accidents, and loss, happen to good people?  I’m generally an optimistic person, but today things look glum.  Why do good people have to die when they are at the prime of their lives?

I think my boss summed it up quite succinctly this morning as we were talking about Chad’s accident.  “You have to live each day like it’s your last, because when your time is up… boom.  It’s up.”

This cheery post is brought to you by the sucky month of April.  Returning year after year, April can be counted on to conjure up sad memories, crappy weather, and melancholy moods.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Frazzled: (adj.) worn out; fatigued: A party that left us frazzled.

(Ha! I love that definition of frazzled.)

Well hello there, blog pals. Welcome to SPRING! My third favorite season.  The weather here in Iowa alternates between cold and gray to sunny and nice, but seems to always come with a wicked wind that blows things around that make me sneeze. Ah-choo.

Here’s what’s new with us:
  • Track season is in full swing, and Hollywood and The Boy are both out for it this year.  Track meets are long and cold, and there seems to be some law that the kids will run events that are spaced as far apart from each other as possible, so that I am required to spend hours and hours at the track, freezing my lady bits off. 
  • Softball season has started for Bumblebee.  She’s playing in the regular little league, and got asked to be in a fancier tournament league as well.  I think we’re crazy for signing her up for both, but she seems to love it.
  • I have abandoned my camera and it’s making me crazy.  I’m itching to get outside and play with it; to get updated shots of the kids and the pets, and to play around with perspectives, lighting, angles, and everything that makes photography interesting.
  • Lots of fun family news: my baby brother is getting married in July.  Another brother his wife are moving back to Iowa from Kansas City, and they are becoming first time parents in July! 
  • Speaking of becoming parents… The Husband and I are expecting a new addition to the Frazzled family. “Peanut” is due in late October.
  • Hollywood and I are going to visit the University of Wisconsin next Friday.  Squee!  We are both excited about the trip.  I’m looking forward to spending time with a beloved Aunt who lives in Madison, as well as her family. But more importantly, I’m looking forward to the look on my beautiful daughter’s face as she explores the campus that will likely become her home in just 16 months.  What an awesome adventure my little girl is heading toward.
  • When I started this blog and described my life as “Frazzled but loving it” I must have had April and May in mind… Every night is full of kid activities, sporting or school/music events, and so forth.  The Husband has been out of town a lot lately, so I’ve been running ragged trying to get to everything without losing my mind, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So that’s what’s going on here… I realize that I buried a pretty big announcement in that list...  For those of you who know me on Facebook, please keep it quiet until I make the big reveal there.  I’m going to wait a few more weeks, though.