Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More of the same

I flew to Phoenix this morning to give a presentation to the largest credit union in Arizona, then flew back home and got in the door a little after 9pm. Jamie let me know that Jack had over 104-degree fever today, and we have another appointment with the doctor tomorrow. I don't know why my family keeps getting so ill; please keep us in your thoughts and prayers...

I'll finish up the vacation story later this week. After reading part 1, I realize that there are tons of weird grammatical things and verb tense changes, but the scattered writing pretty much fits the content. Expect more of the same for part 2 -- hope it isn't to difficult to read and follow along.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

National Lampoons has nothing on us! (Part 1)

Whew, we're back from vacation. And it didn't quite turn out to be a "vacation from my problems", as noted in the last post before leaving. In fact, the family chaos multiplied with every mile farther from home. Here now is a rough play-by-play of the trip. It might be a somewhat lengthy read, but hopefully it will be funny for you, and it sure as heck will be cathartic for me!

Note: Even after the unfortunate incidents, I would do this vacation again in a heartbeat. The time spent with family was priceless, and it's impossible to replace the memories of seeing my children bonding with 12 relatives over a week's time.

Note #2: I'm breaking this up over two entries. It's just too darn long. :)

Friday -- Day 0 (Departure Day)

We left Houston around 3:30 pm, and an hour later I realized that I had forgotten the power cord for my laptop computer, which was also doubling as a DVD player for the kids on the 16-hour drive. Oops. Two weeks ago Jamie went out and bought a cool converter that plugged into the cigarette lighter, and now I forgot my power cord. We let them watch a movie until the computer died, then bought a new power cord for $100 in Dallas, where we stopped for dinner.

At 7:30 pm we had the part, everyone had eaten, and we were back on the road. Went to plug in Jamie's cool power converter so we could charge up the computer and, oops... it's the wrong kind. It doesn't fit into the cigarette lighter. In fact, I don't know what it would fit into. It's just two wires ending separately, like they'd connect directly to a battery. No DVDs for the kids, and they cried until 11:30 pm. At 11:45 I gave up in Muskogee, OK and stopped at a hotel. As I was checking in, the clerk informed me that their entire system was about to go offline for four hours to do an internal audit. She had to process my transaction by automated phone system, which took forever. I finally returned to the car and my near-heatstroke family (I had the van's keys in my pocket) and we got into the hotel room. Hmmm, why wasn't it any cooler? It's midnight and we drove over 400 miles due north... it shouldn't be this hot.

Kids went to sleep fairly well, but Samantha shared our queen bed and "slept" between me and Jamie. I'd liken the experience to sleeping with a tasmanian devil. On qualudes. I distinctly remember waking up at 3 am and saying, "Samantha. Get. Your. Feet. Off. My. Face." At least my computer was charging in the hotel room, so the next day's driving would have a DVD option for the kids.

Saturday -- Day 1 (Arrival Day)

Drove the last 5 hours without much trouble and arrived in Osage Beach, MO at 2:30 pm. Great to see my family again! Many hugs and kisses abounded, and for dinner a friend of the family brought his legendary ribs, brisket, chicken and beans. My dad led the family meeting to lay down the ground rules for the week (take care of the dock/jet skis, which families cook on certain nights, where to put trash, don't give the Houstonians nuts or eggs (allergies), and so on). We're all together now, 16 people sharing a four-bedroom house; what a great way to start the vacation! It's hot as heck, though. And the kids slept terribly again... if they don't start resting well it's going to be a loooong week.

Sunday -- Day 2 (The Chaos Begins)

I started the day by playing golf with my dad and brother -- something I've waited two years for! My bro did an awesome job getting us a discounted rate ($21) at a very nice course. We had fun, although Dad's knee really bothered him (he had a full knee replacement in December) and it was super hot. We took a break for lunch after nine holes and almost didn't get back out there to finish the round.

Got home around 5pm and I jumped in the shower. Ahhh, now this is vacation. Right around the hair conditioning phase of the shower, Jamie comes in to tell me that Samantha is vomiting. Weird. Samantha is 3 and a half years old and has only vomited twice in her life -- once in an allergic reaction (peanuts) and once from a terrible crupe that was inhibiting her breathing.

I immediately left the shower and was told Samantha had eaten peanut M&M's. A family member had missed my dad's meeting and didn't know about the allergy -- totally not her fault. Nobody would ever intend to kickstart a reaction like Samantha was having; this was just an accident and weird coincidence that the person who missed the meeting also happened to offer a nutty food to Samantha 24 hours later. Samantha vomits one more time for good measure, and her nose is super-congested, but besides that she seems fine. We always have an epinephrine injection on hand for serious reactions, but this one looks to be minor. We put her in bed and planned on giving her a hearty breakfast in the morning.

Oh, I almost forgot. When her second vomiting occured, we freaked out a little bit and wanted to call the hospital to get some advice. While running to get the phone book, I tripped over a chair and broke my pinky toe. Nice.

Monday -- Day 3 (Scrubs Day)

Samantha woke us up at 5 am with severe vomiting, eventually turning to dry heaves. This continued every 20 minutes until 8 am, when we decided to take her to the medical clinic. There ends up being no doctor on hand there, so they send us to the Emergency Room at Lake Hospital. We go through the triage process and Samantha is admitted to the ER. She had already cried and looked me in the eyes to say, "Daddy, please don't let them give me a shot." Now they're saying they need to do an IV to rehydrate my daughter. What am I supposed to say?
"Sugar, don't worry, there won't be a small needle poking you for a few seconds. Instead, there will be a much larger needle staying in your arm for the next few hours. It'll be fun!"

Yeah, I don't think that'll work, either. Eventually a couple of nurses literally hold her down while another nurse puts the IV in. Samantha does very well and gets the fluids she needs. But the vomiting continues. The doctor puts some phenegren in the IV and that stopped the vomiting. And knocked Samantha out cold. She is finally resting while we wait on her blood test results.

I look over at Jamie to say something, and she looks white as a sheet. She had been experiencing stomach trouble for two weeks prior to this trip (she had blood test done five days earlier but the results still weren't in), and now she's been to the hospital restroom at least seven times since Samantha came in. She says, "Michael, I think I need to see a doctor." No problem.

I go back to the triage area, now to process my wife in addition to my daughter. Someone on staff overhears what's going on and then this conversation ensues:

Her: "So you brought your daughter in this morning, and now your wife is sick too?"
Me: "That's right."
Her: "Do they have the same thing?"
Me: "No, they have very different symptoms, so I don't think so."
Her: "Is everybody else in your family okay?"
Me: "Well, I broke my toe last night, but I don't think you guys can fix that. And my son just got over a nasty virus three days ago, but he seems fine."
Her: "Okayyyyy. And no, we can't do anything for your toe. It'll have to heal on its own."
Me: "Thanks. I just want to get my girls well."
Her: "Are you here on vacation?"
Me: "Yep, just started."
Her: "Oh, sorry."

The doc finally comes in and tells us that Samantha probably has a stomach bug -- this is not an extended allergic reaction. He says that he won't give any more medicine to her because further vomiting may be good to get out the bad stuff. Riiiiight. And when her head spins around I'll say it's good for her neck flexibility. At least she's still sleeping.

A nurse comes in to tell me, "Michael, we found out what's been going on. Your wife has giardia." I say, "Wow, I'm so glad you guys figured it out! And I have no idea what you just said." She continues to tell me that giardia is a nasty and rare bacteria that infects people when they swim in rivers and streams inhabited by beavers. Huh? We live in Houston. You know, 5 million people, lots of traffic, incessant heat, low cost of living. Not many beaver-populated streams, though.

The nurse is amazed that Jamie has had this for two weeks and hasn't passed it on to us, since it's highly contagious. Score one for Jamie and her diligent hand-washing practices. We are prescribed an antibiotic that will take care of the giardia over the next seven days.

Finally we're released from the ER, both girls in tow. Samantha vomits again in the van when she wakes up, and the doctor reiterates that he won't prescribe any more phenegren, and to just bring Samantha in again if she gets dehydrated. Sounds like a party. We pick up Jamie's prescription and take her and her very contagious bacteria back to the house with 12 other people. Did I mention the temperature outside is over 100 degrees, with heat index over 110? Are we really 500 miles north of Houston?

Tonight we had dinner and Samantha wanted food, but we couldn't give her any due to the constant vomiting. She looked me right in the eye with pouty lips and said, "Daddy, I'm hungry! Please give me food!" Somebody shoot me.

When the kids go to sleep, Jamie looks at me and asks, "Do you have your sense of humor back yet?" I respond, "Sure, I guess! It's still vacation, right?" She says, "Honey, I have chiggers." Boy, does she ever. The little varmints have gotten her on the legs, the hips, the stomach, and the uh.... bikini line. That must be so much fun for her!

We finally go to bed, Jamie with her giardia and chiggers, me with a broken toe, and poor Samantha with a nasty stomach bug and no food for the last 36 hours.

to be continued...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What day is it? And funny last words...

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. I know I've said this a few times recently, but c'est la vie, I guess. In the last two months, I honestly don't think that there have been more than five days without someone in my family being sick. Right now Jack is getting over another virus and Jamie is now on day 13 of a stomach bug.

Trust me, I have 10 blog posts already written in my head and they will make it here at some point, but it will have to wait. I'm going on vacation next week! A vacation from my problems, as the good doctor in the film "What About Bob?" would say.

Until then, here are four interesting "last words" from dying men (the last one is my dad's favorite).

"Who is it?" -- Billy the Kid in 1881, upon hearing a knock at the door in a house at Fort Sumner. Sheriff Pat Garret was the one knocking and killed Billy seconds later.

"Why not? After all, it belongs to him." -- Charlie Chaplin, 1977, in response to a priest at his deathbed who said, "May the Lord have mercy on your soul."

"This is the fourth?" -- Thomas Jefferson, on the evening of July 3, 1826. While the attendant caring for Jefferson on his deathbed lied and said yes, it was July 4th, Jefferson still held on until noon the following day. He died on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist..." -- General John Sedgwick, 1864, while looking across a valley at Conferederate sharpshooters during the Civil War. Sedgwick had just finished berating his soldiers for cowardice when they warned him to stay low and out of sight.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Community -- the flipside

I've seen many articles over the past few years lamenting the end of local communities, the "front porch family times" between neighbors and other similar events. Entertainment overload, the internet and long commutes are keeping us at arms' length from each other. I must confess that from my experience this is certainly true. I know only a few of my neighbors. Heck, I only speak the same language as a few of my neighbors. My street just isn't likely to be the source of great friendships and support groups as I raise my family.

Yet there's a flipside to all of this. Entertainment, internet and commutes are actually giving us opportunities to discover new communities that didn't exist a generation ago. Use me as an example. In the past few years I've changed jobs, moved into a new house and changed churches. There's been no ability for me to maintain a consistent local community throughout all of this. However, two other community sources have flourished: my family and the internet.

People often chuckle at the idea of the internet as a connection tool -- can you really connect with people through something as impersonal as email or message boards? Well, I say why not? For over 50 years we've all seen movies and read books that told of great romances started through penpal relationships. Even this month you can go to theaters and see "The Lake House", a film involving a man and woman who fall in love after writing letters to each other (across time, no less). If long-distance writing can bring together soulmates, why can't it bring together life-long friends? This happens every day online.

The JPFitness forum is a prime example. A few years ago I logged on to this fitness message board to learn about some new workouts and get some baseball training advice. I still go there almost every day, and have developed great friendships with many of them. This year was the first time I went to their annual summit in Little Rock and actually met almost 30 of them in person. It remains one of the most powerful and "real" experiences I've ever had, and it was with people whom I only knew through the internet before driving 500 miles to meet them face-to-face.

There are still many others on the forum that I've never met or talked to on the phone, yet their friendship is a significant part of my personal community. I've written to men on the boards about dealing with spouses going through severe depression. Jamie has written similar notes using her personal experiences. I've written, prayed and cried with men on the boards going through divorce and heartache. There have been joyous times as well. In fact, for the past two weeks I've been reading "Diary of a Wombat" to Samantha at bedtime, and the only way I heard about the book was through a friend I met on the fitness forum.

Usually my blog posts are fairly linear and have a point... not so much the case this time. I guess I just wanted to say that in this time of job changes, church changes and hectic family life, I thank God for the internet. Some people may use computers as a means of escaping the real world, but it doesn't have to be that way. If you are sincerely looking, you can find great learning and personal support through this tangled web. I plan to continue using it that way.