AIDEN'S SURGERY: Part III -- Into surgery, and beyond!

{Read AIDEN'S SURGERY: Part I -- It's a Twister! and AIDEN'S SURGERY: Part II -- Jam packed day}

We all got a good night's sleep (much needed) and headed to the hospital for our 6am registration for surgery slated for 7:30. Aiden was such a big boy. He was so cooperative and didn't even freak out at the sight of the nurses! Aside from complaining just a couple times that he was thirsty (again, he couldn't drink because of the anesthesia), he didn't object one bit to any of the prodding. He rode around the hallway in a little red fire engine, giving all of the nurses a good laugh.

After all the prep work, I sat in the hospital bed with Aiden as we were moved to the pediatric day surgery holding area. This is where they give the goofy juice - the medicine that makes Aiden very sleepy and out of it (essentially he acts like he's drunk). This helps him stay calm when we leave him to be taken back for surgery. And every time, we always (half-way) joke that it might be beneficial to slip us some of that goofy juice as well. I'll tell you, even having been through this numerous times before, it NEVER gets easier watching them wheel your child out towards the steel operating room doors. There is just so much that could go wrong. And that's your baby.

The surgery itself went great. It took just about 20 minutes for the ENT to place a new set of ear tubes and just under 2 hours for Dr. Fearon to insert 2 pins into Aiden's right index finger to straighten it and to deepen the space between his left big toe. We were called back to recovery to see a VERY angry little boy coming out of the anesthesia. He just kept yelling "take it off, take it off" about the wraps on his hand and foot and it broke my heart. He fought the pain meds hard, but finally succumbed to them falling sound asleep holding the Buzz Lightyear that Ethan so graciously let Aiden take along with him (who also now sported a bandage on one hand and foot courtesy of the nurses).

We only spent about two hours on the pediatric floor before being discharged. From there on out, Aiden was the trooper that he always is. He was happy as could be - if his hand and foot hurt, either the medicine or Aiden was masking it very well. By the time we got back to the Ronald McDonald House, all he wanted to do was play at the park. I reluctantly agreed, wanting to let him do or eat just about anything his little heart desired. But seeing as though he had just had his fingers and toes sliced in to, I figured he would hesitate once outside. Boy was I wrong! That little stinker was climbing up ladders and sliding down slides as if nothing had happened at all! This kid is something else!

We stayed one more night in Dallas to make sure that everything went okay the first 24 hours after surgery, and once again met up with the Gorman's who hosted us for dinner at their house.

All was well the next morning so it was back to home sweet home, and everything has since been pretty much back to normal. His recovery includes wearing the bandages for 10 days on both his hand and foot. At that point, the bandages are removed and we begin wrapping the space between his toe as we did when he had his separations. He will wear a splint on his finger to keep it from moving much for another 2.5 weeks when the pins will need to be removed. Dr. Fearon said I could do it myself (to which I laughed because I obviously thought he was kidding). Instead, I think I will have that done by a medical professional :) I'd rather have pins put in MY finger than to remove pins from my sweet baby boy's!

I have to admit, we are one lucky family to have so many people sending prayers and thoughts our way during the last week. Having the friendship of the Gorman's to help us relax during this stressful time was wonderful. My dad managed to keep up with Ethan while we were gone and he didn't burn the house down! Our awesome neighbors sent homemade cookies and muffins with us to Dallas, along with a movie for Aiden to watch in the car. And after we got back, another awesome neighbor brought an amazing dinner over on a night where we were just too exhausted to cook. For all of the above, we are so grateful and feel truly blessed. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

AIDEN'S SURGERY: Part II -- Jam packed day

{Read AIDEN'S SURGERY: Part I -- It's a Twister!}

We started our day bright and early as the "sleep study" ended promptly at 5am and our first appointment to register for Aiden's MRI was scheduled for 6am. And because he had to have general anesthesia for the MRI, he was not allowed to have anything to eat or drink until after the scan. Not to mention that the electrodes leave huge globs of goop in his hair that need to be cleaned off with baby soap and adhesive remover. Fun stuff I tell you. So you can imagine how difficult it was to soothe a grumpy, sticky, hungry 3-year-old without a paci or bottle like in years past. Poor baby was NOT happy. (PS - mom wasn't either).

Because most of Aiden's experiences in doctors offices or hospitals involve needles, he has developed a pretty unhealthy fear of anyone donning scrubs or latex gloves. When the anesthesiologist arrived to begin Aiden's happy gas, total tantrum mode ensued. A couple of puffs from a magic mouthpiece and all was well again. It was kind of scary to watch him fall limp in just a matter of seconds. It shows just how strong the medications effects are on the nervous system and brain.

The MRI took about 30 minutes and it took another 30 minutes or so for the anesthesia to wear off - which meant 30 minutes of another seriously unhappy little guy. He thrashed around in my arms and I felt a bit like I was wrestling with a soaking wet fish. The poor nurse who had to take his vitals experienced the wrath of Aiden - who had somehow become the strongest and heaviest toddler I know, throwing his weight around and almost knocking me over in the process.

Then as if a switch had flipped, I placed him in the stroller (thank you April!) and as soon as he heard me say we could leave now, he was all smiles and said "Bye!" without a single tear. Seriously - he could have an acting career in his future I tell ya!

We bounced around the hospital from appointment to appointment and thankfully Aiden remained in good spirits the rest of the day (I think the M&M cookie as big as his head may have had something to do with it). There was pre-op testing and education, media and photography where they take pictures every year of Aiden's hands, feet, and head to have a visual representation of how he's growing/changing and finally a visit to the anthropologist who takes very precise measurements of his head/skull.

The ladies from CCA picked me up for a quick bite to eat (thank's Char, Annie, Jill and Robin!) before continuing our afternoon of appointments at the hospital. The final visit was with Dr. Fearon, the craniofacial surgeon who was going to be operating on Aiden the following day. You may think it's weird, but we always kind of hope that Aiden will act as cute for his doctors as he does at home. It's kind of like a short window of opportunity to show them just how well he is doing. And maybe, subconsciously, we also hope that his sweet personality will make them fall in love with him a bit, thus ensuring they may be even more careful when we put Aiden in their care in the operating room.

In this case, Aiden couldn't have been cuter. He marched right in to Dr. Fearon's office like he owned the place. In fact, when he opened the door to call us back, Aiden jumped up with a big grin, said "Hi! My mommy's right here behind me" before proceeding into his office and checking out the toys. As we started to discuss the surgery, Aiden politely asked before dumping out a bag of flash cards, then began naming each picture and declaring "Look, these match"! I was so proud :) Dr. Fearon was quite impressed with how he is developing and gave us the great news that his sleep study was normal - meaning ZERO issues with sleep apnea! Alleluia! After explaining the surgery in greater detail, we were on our way.

Almost 24 hours of tests and appointments later, we were finally ready to leave the hospital for a bit and get some fresh air. We couldn't wait to meet up with the Gorman family for a nice dinner outside in the sunshine. We had a lovely time, as did the kids, 4 year-old John (who was 10 days post-op from his 2nd cranial vault), 2 year-old Rory Cate, and our boys.

Finally, it was back to the Ronald McDonald House to rest up for the next day - surgery day.

AIDEN'S SURGERY: Part I -- It's a twister!

This past week was spent in Dallas for Aiden's surgery. We arrived Tuesday afternoon and checked Ricky into the Ronald McDonald House before Aiden and I were to head to the hospital for his overnight sleep study. After getting our room, we let Aiden play at the park and in the toy room, while we kept a watchful eye on the news tracking the severe weather headed towards Dallas. They were throwing out words like "baseball-size hail" and "widespread tornados". Wonderful.

The kitchen was filling with smells of dinner being prepared by Southwest Airlines as we decided whether to stick around for the complimentary meal or get to the hospital to avoid driving in it. As the big storm blob moved across the radar screen, we determined we'd have enough time to fill our tummies and immediately leave for the hospital afterwards.

Ricky dropped us off at Medical City as the sky turned several shades darker. After registration, we made it up to the sleep center to start our night. Because this area is designed for people to have their sleep monitored without interruption, there are no windows, televisions or other distractions. In other words, I had no idea what the conditions were like outside.

That is, until a security alert blared through the hospital's loud speakers.
We were all hurried into the hallway of the 4th floor.

Aiden had thrown a mega-sized tantrum when we were trying to hook the electrodes all over his head so the technician had decided to let him calm down before trying again. He totally wore himself out and fell sound asleep in my arms. Normally this would not have been a good scenario, but in this case, it turned out to be better so that we didn't have to stop an already started test by unhooking all of the wires for our move out to the hallway.

From what I could tell by refreshing my iPhone's weather app over and over, it's probably a good thing that I couldn't see what was going on outside. Sirens were going off and tornado warnings were everywhere - the hospital location was directly in the path of the worst of it. I checked in with Ricky every so often, who had been moved to a storage room along with all of the rest of those residing at the Ronald McDonald House.

After about an hour, we finally got the all-clear to go back to our room. Aiden slept through the entire thing which made it a bit easier to get the test going, although he still protested the attaching of the electrodes on his head through a sleepy haze.

In true sleep study fashion...we got no sleep. Ironic, I know. Well, Aiden slept okay aside from the fits he'd have every few hours when he'd wake up and realize how uncomfortable he was. As for me, I basically laid awake waiting for it to JUST BE 5 O'CLOCK ALREADY.

I have to admit I was more than a little rattled from the bad weather that night. I've always been a bit scared at the mention of tornadoes (okay a lot scared, who am I kidding). Mix that with the recent events in Joplin, MO and Tuscaloosa, AL and you can imagine I had only the worst in my head. Luckily, it seems that although numerous funnel clouds were spotted very close to where we were, none were reported to have touched down or caused any significant damage.

I've never been more happy to have a sleep study behind us. Next up - Aiden's pre-op appointments.

CCA Kids Blog

For the past few months I have been working with CCA (Children's Craniofacial Association) on developing a new way to share family stories, experiences and resources. With the help of the CCA board/staff, other cranio families and volunteers, this project is one that I am truly proud of and it launches today!

Please check out the new CCA Kids Blog!

It is my hope that this site will be an extension of the many resources already provided by CCA - and a source of inspiration for other families facing craniofacial conditions. New posts will be written every week. If you are interested in writing for the CCA Kids Blog or having your own family blog listed on the site OR if you want to provide feedback/suggestions, I'd love to hear form you! Please email me at ccakidsblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Bringing a little Kentucky to Texas...Derby style

One of our most favorite times of the year in Kentucky is Derby time. I grew up playing at horse tracks while my dad enjoyed his hobby and both Ricky and I also went to college in Louisville and attended our fair share of Derby events through the years. And also, to me, Derby season signaled the start of spring - cool fresh air, blue skies and flowers blooming everywhere.

All of the Facebook posts about the upcoming Oaks and Derby festivities got me missing being back in KY. We had plans to attend a fundraising event for Ronald McDonald House in Austin but our babysitter fell through so at the last minute I got the idea to bring a little Kentucky to Texas and host a Derby party. I invited all the neighbors, who besides doing a little research online, didn't really know a whole lot about the Derby experience. I just asked everyone to wear hats and I'd take care of the rest.

It turned out to be a blast! I welcomed our guests to "Skees Downs" with a sign on the front door, then served Derby fare like tea sandwiches, hot brown casserole and bourbon balls. The neighbors pitched in to round out the spread with sausage balls, Derby Pie and even PB&J tea sandwiches for the kiddos. And of course, the drink of the day for the adults was Mint Juleps made with Makers Mark.

Before the big race, I had everyone draw a horse out of a hat for $5 a draw. We wrote their name next to their pick and displayed it on the wall at the "Betting Window". We even had a free "Junior Jockeys" version for the kids.

We all watched the race waiting to see who would be the big winner - and split the pot between 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Our neighbor Susan had the luck of the draw and took home $60! Friends Jeff got $20 for 2nd and Todd got his money back with $5 for 3rd. And of course they each received their loot at the "Winner's Circle". Along with the money, the 1st place winner had their photo taken with the "official" gold trophy and gold-encrusted horseshoe sunglasses. They also got to take home a small bud vase of red roses. The "Junior Jockeys" winner got a gold trophy filled with toy money, a red rose light up pen, a small stuffed horse and a rose bouquet made of lollipops. 2nd and 3rd place had a little swag bag as well.

To finish up, we played a few games with the kids in the backyard. We hid a small horse figurine and turned the kids loose to find it, and had a relay race with the classic horse-on-a-stick toys. They had a great time. No kid wound up empty handed - each of them took home a small gold trophy and strand of red beads to commemorate their first Derby party.

It has already been decided that this impromptu event will be back by popular demand next year. I hope to make the Skees Derby party a yearly tradition wherever we are!

Teacher Appreciation Week

"You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance." Franklin P. Jones

I feel like I've hit the preschool jackpot. Although Ethan's entry into early childhood education was a little bumpy, we ended up falling in love with his teachers at the YMCA and he really flourished. Then we moved to Texas and I was worried that I wasn't going to find the right fit for both boys. Fortunately the school we chose just happened to be opening a brand new campus IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD. Like, within walking distance! And it has been AMAZING from the start. Like I said...JACKPOT!

So to honor Ethan and Aiden's awesome teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week, I'm giving them the below (bonus - these are both budget friendly and guaranteed to get a few "Awwww"s).

The plant picks say "Thank You for Helping Ethan/Aiden Bloom!"

The flower baskets are for each of their daily teachers (Ethan's class has 2). The colored baskets were on super clearance in the leftover Easter section at the grocery store and I cut the handles off to make them less "Easterish". The flowers were only $3.50 each.

I found the printable plant pick templates at Skip to My Lou (free!) I didn't have Popsicle sticks (that wouldn't have been slurped from) so I improvised and used a few wooden clothespins leftover from a baby shower. They worked perfectly to hold the paper and I just pushed the thicker end into the soil.

Finally, the cards are for their other special teachers - those that may have started out the year in their class but either were promoted or moved to a different room as the classes expanded. They still played a very important part in my boys success at school so I wanted to be sure to recognize them as well. Just wrote them a special note in a card and taped a pack of "Extra" gum on the back. Super cheap! :)

We will be taking a hiatus from school for the summer - WE HAVE SO MUCH PLANNED - but they will return in the fall. I hope we can continue to be blessed with excellent teachers who have such a love for what they do!