Friday, October 24, 2014

Halloween Countdown: Monster Bowling

One week 'til Halloween!! Who's excited?? Obviously me ;)

I'm also excited to introduce my Halloween countdown post series! For the next week, I'll share a post a day with a toddler-friendly Halloween-themed play idea. Thanks for checking it out!

Calvin has a little play bowling set which he loves, so he was into this monster-themed bowling set we made together. 

6 toilet paper tubes*
glue (possibly a stapler...)
optional: washi tape or masking tape

*You could also use paper towel tubes, disposable water bottles, or pretty much any other cylindrical objects you have lying in your recycling bin. Also, obviously it doesn't have to be six... you could do a full set of 10 pins, or however many cylinders you can find ;)

First I made all the face pieces for the monsters using scrapbook paper. I drew a bunch of eyes, ears, noses, mouths, and hair/hats and cut them out ahead of time. If this sounds like way too much work, they also make stickers of face parts that you can probably find at a craft store. Or with an older kid, you could just draw faces onto the tubes. 

Then I helped Calvin put the monster faces together on the tubes. I had seen this method of putting glue on a sponge for the kid to press on and I tried it out, but maybe I didn't do it right... I wouldn't recommend it, at least the way I did it, because I had to add so much glue as the sponge soaked it up that it felt like we were wasting glue. Next time, I'd just put glue on a paper plate. Or look up that sponge thing and figure out how it's actually supposed to work...

I ended up using a stapler to attach the hair and hats.

When all the monsters were made, we let them dry overnight.

To set up our bowling lane, I used washi tape to mark where Calvin should stand, and the spots for each of our monster bowling pins. It was nice to have the places for the pins marked so that Calvin could reset them himself.

We used a bouncy ball small enough for Calvin to palm.

Calvin's bowling strategy is to roll the ball, see how many monsters he knocked down, and then walk over and kick the rest of the monsters over! #cheating Then as we reset the monsters, we count them in the voice of the Count on Sesame Street... Six! Six monsters! A-a-a-a-aaaah!

Even Henry can bowl! With some help ;)

Happy Monster Bowling!

Come back to check out the other posts in this series :)

What are you guys doing to get ready for Halloween?

Pumpkin Day in Half Moon Bay

This month has been so dominated by the kids' medical issues that we are just starting to get to do the things we love about October... like getting ready for Halloween and watching our favorite team in the World Series! Go Giants!! #OrangeOctober #YesYesYes 

Last weekend, we took the boys to pick out pumpkins in the pumpkin capital of the world... Half Moon Bay!

Pumpkins by the sea

Our destination was Bob's Vegetable Stand and Pumpkin Farm, on the south side of HMB. As we were driving down Highway 1, James turns to me and asks, "Hey, when's the big pumpkin festival in Half Moon Bay?" And I'm like... "Um, I didn't check... It's proooobably this weekend." We had never been to the HMB pumpkin festival, but we had heard lots of stories about how horrible the traffic into and out of HMB is during festival weekend. We would not have chosen to go there during the pumpkin festival on purpose... but since we were already passing through Pacifica... and since we had already promised Calvin a day at the pumpkin farm... we couldn't just bail out. And since we were headed to Half Moon Bay anyway, we figured of course we should check out the festival itself before going on to Bob's farm. 

The festival was nice. It reminded me of the Fall Festival in my old hometown Duluth, GA. Lots of arts and crafts booths, tons of pumpkin foods - pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin coffee... and a little kid-friendly area with pumpkin carving, face painting, craft tables, and a stage where they were doing a sing-along of Halloween songs. Calvin and Henry got their faces painted and Calvin devoured a pumpkin smoothie. 

It's funny... For a while Calvin was afraid of spiders. Then he was obsessed with noticing them in Halloween decorations everywhere... and now I think he likes them! He picked out the spider face paint all by himself.

Next we went on to the pumpkin farm.

Last year, we went to Lemos Farm, which offers a pretty glamorous pumpkin party with lots of bells and whistles. It was fun and I remember that Calvin really liked the live music. I actually took the boys to Lemos Farm a few weeks ago with our friend Jaime and her daughter, Autumn.

This year, we decided to go for a totally different pumpkin picking experience. Bob's is a "pick 'em where they grow" farm with fields of pumpkins, a small area with goats and chickens and a turkey, a giant haystack for climbing and jumping, and of course, the vegetable stand. Much more low key. And it was great :)

We definitely sat in about two hours of traffic to get home :/ But that's part of the experience... right? We brought home four fat pumpkins. Two to carve, and two to paint. It's finally feeling like October around here. And Halloween is one week away!

Since I'm so excited about getting into the spooky Halloween spirit, I'm going to do a Halloween countdown post series with toddler-friendly Halloween-themed play ideas. First in the series is coming up later today! #HalloweenCountdown #OneWeekTilHalloween

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Ironic Thing About Fixing Henry's Sleep Apnea

Henry finally came home last Wednesday, after a week-long hospital staycation following his tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy. It took that long to get a BiPAP ventilator set up at our apartment for Henry to use at night.

The t/a surgery cleared his airway and made a significant improvement in his breathing both waking and sleeping. It seems to have also cleared up his chronic runny nose :)

But, because of his hypotonia, it still takes more effort for him to breathe at night than his pulmonologist would like. We don't want him spending too much energy on breathing that he could be using on development. So basically, the surgery fixed the sleep apnea, but didn't totally fix Henry's nighttime breathing issues. Hence the BiPAP.

The BiPAP is similar to a CPAP which is commonly used for people with sleep apnea. The difference (to the best of my understanding) is that a CPAP gives constant "positive air pressure," meaning that it blows air into the person's nose/mouth to keep their airway open, and a BiPAP also gives positive pressure, but at two different levels which alternate to help Henry breathe in and also breathe out. With Henry, part of the problem is that his little lungs and diaphragm don't exhale effectively which means he could end up with too much carbon dioxide in his body. Hence the BiPAP.

On Monday night we had a scare that sent Henry to the ER. We knew going into his original procedure that the doctor would only do the tonsillectomy if he felt it was absolutely critical. They don't like doing that surgery on kids as young as Henry, and one of the reasons is that they are at higher risk for having post-surgery bleeding. For Henry, it was absolutely critical and the doctor still did only a partial tonsillectomy to be on the safe side. Unfortunately, Henry did develop bleeding a week and a half after the surgery. When I saw him coughing blood, I took him to the ER and his own ENT, Dr. Chang, happened to be on call. Henry had to go back into the OR so that Dr. Chang could take a look at the surgery site and cauterize it again. Henry spent just one night in the hospital this time, and came home the next day feeling fine.

Back in the PICU at LPCH... getting some rest after the procedure.

I realize that none of that is ironic so far. I'm getting to that part.

With all these measures taken to enable Henry to get better quality sleep, you might think that we're all getting better sleep. But better quality doesn't necessarily mean better quantity. Before the surgery, when he was still snoring like a chainsaw, Henry slept through the night just fine. He would typically sleep from about 8pm until 8 or even 9am. But his hospital stay has messed up his sleep schedule! He got used to being woken up at night for meds or a vitals check and getting a bottle to help him go back to sleep. So now he is still waking up for milk in the middle of the night and getting him up for a bottle means taking of his mask, turning off the machines... and then putting the mask back on and turning the whole shebang back on afterward. Which is ok if you do it once and he goes back to sleep... but what's happening is he'll go back down for maybe half and hour and then wake up and fuss and we have to do the whole thing again! Instead of helping Henry sleep through the night, this whole ordeal has actually messed up his ability to sleep through the night!

So, no, friends and family. We are not all getting more rest around here. James and I haven't had a decent night's sleep since before Henry's surgery! In fact, big brother Calvin has decided to have a sleep regression of his own. It started with him waking up at 5 or 5:30am instead of 6:30 or 7 like he used to, so we tried a later bedtime for a few days, which seems to have decidedly backfired. The past few nights he's been waking multiple times a night, and last night James gave up and let him sleep in the bed with us. #facepalm

It has to stop! Mama and Daddy need sleep! There's just not enough coffee in the world!!

We gotta night-wean Henry again and I think we'll go back to an earlier bedtime for the Bean.

I mean, I am thankful that Henry is getting more restful sleep and that we don't have to worry about him, ya know, not breathing during the night, but man oh man I miss getting a full night's sleep!!

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz z z z z z

Oh sorry, I just fell asleep while typing this post.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Henry's Home from the Hospital!

After spending a week in the hospital after his ENT/GI procedure, Henry is home! 

His procedure was just as we expected: 
The gastroenterology team used a scope to look at his upper digestive system and found that everything looks great :)
The ENT team used a scope to look at his throat and saw that his tonsils and slightly-larger-than-normal adenoid gland were seriously blocking his airway while he was asleep. So his ENT doctor removed his adenoid and part of his tonsils (not a complete tonsillectomy because apparently that is considered risky in a kid his age), as well as some tissue from around his voice box in order to clear the obstruction. 
All the doctors involved said everything went smoothly. 

So the procedure itself was just what we were expecting, even hoping for. But everything leading up to the procedure and everything following it was totally not what we were expecting!

For starters, the procedure didn't even happen on Oct. 3rd as it had been scheduled! We made all our preparations, brought Henry down to the hospital, checked in, sat in the waiting room... and then we were told that an emergency case had come in unexpectedly and that now the surgery schedule had changed, and, more importantly, there would no longer be room for Henry in the pediatric ICU for his recovery post-surgery. So we got sent home!

He got rescheduled for the following week after James harassed  conveyed our concerns to Henry's doctors. So once again, we prepared for surgery day, dropped Calvin with our cousins, and brought Henry down to Lucille Packard Children's Hospital (LPCH) and this time the procedure actually did happen and it went smoothly. 

Henry in Pre-op with his daddy, waiting to be taken to anesthesia. 

I spent the first night in the ICU with Henry and it was a rough one. Poor little guy was very uncomfortable as he came off the anesthesia and felt the soreness in his throat. He was on pain meds and even a sedative. I could already hear that his breathing was much quieter while he was asleep, but the ICU nurses and doctors felt that he was still working too hard to breathe and they gave him oxygen support via a nasal cannula. 

We had been hoping/expecting to be discharged the next day... but when Henry was checked on by the pulmonologist (lung/respiratory specialist), she said that he would still need a BiPAP to support his breathing during sleep. This was a surprise for us. Based on talking with our ENT doctor, we had hoped/expected that the surgery would allow Henry to sleep safely without a CPAP or BiPAP machine. But the pulmonologist explained that although the surgery successfully cleared the obstructions in his airway (Yay!), Henry's hypotonia (low muscle tone) was still keeping him from breathing well enough without using too much energy when he's asleep (Boo). And he couldn't be sent home until there was a BiPAP set up at our apartment for him to use.

Here's our nugget Henry the day after surgery. He's sleeping with a BiPAP to help him breathe, he's hooked up to lots of monitors, and he's got a big sleeve on to keep him from pulling any of that stuff off. 

Getting that machine to our house was waaaaayyyy more complicated than we were prepared for. Good news was that the hospital case managers did all the work of consulting with our insurance and with the medical device suppliers that our insurance would pay for. Bad news was that it took a week to make it all happen! 

It's complicated and boring to explain why it took a week, but long story short, Henry spent a week in the hospital and James and I took turns spending the night with him. Calvin also spent his fair share of time hanging out at LPCH, playing with their awesome model train and meeting the therapy dogs that come around to visit the sick kids.

And visiting his brother...

Henry's recovery went well. After that first night, he no longer needed the serious pain meds and was fine on Tylenol and Motrin. He got lots of rest, and after a couple of days he showed us that he was getting his energy back. 

"I"m sitting up! I'm smiling!"

"What are all these wires for? Are these, like, important?? LOL!"

"I can go home now, right guys?? Right? Guys...?"

They kept him in the ICU for most of his stay, but finally on his last night he was moved to a regular room. 

Meanwhile, the hospital case managers got things sorted out and the medical device supplier sent someone over to set up the BiPAP equipment at our home. And finally Henry was discharged from the hospital!

Ready to go home from Hotel Hospital!

James and I are so glad to finally have Henry home and to not be taking turns sleeping in the hospital! We are adjusting to using the BiPAP for Henry. We were expecting a small machine with a mask attached... but it's a pretty big set-up. There's the machine itself with the tubing and the breathing mask, plus a small humidifier, plus a compressed oxygen machine, and then a back-up oxygen tank just in case. We are getting lots of support from the company that supplies the equipment. They will do several home visits over the next few weeks to make sure we are really comfortable using the machines and that the machines are working properly. 

Here's a pic of the machines. The blue box on top is the BiPAP ventilator itself. The small white box below it is the humidifier. The big black box under the desk is the compressed oxygen tank. In the corner behind the desk you can kind of see the handle of the extra oxygen tank.

Thank you to everyone who has been keeping Henry and our family in your thoughts and prayers. We are all doing just fine. We're very thankful that Henry's surgery went well. And though we were not super excited to spend a week at LPCH or to have all this medical equipment set up in our home, we are grateful to have the support Henry needs to sleep safe and sound.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Henry's On Deck: ENT and GI Procedure Tomorrow

All summer I had this nagging reminder in the back of my mind that Calvin still needed that last hernia repair surgery. And every time it would pop back to my attention, it brought with it a wave of nervous nausea at the thought of my sweet boy going into surgery again - even for such a simple and safe procedure.

After so many tiny moments of worry over Calvin needing another surgery, I am a little baffled to be faced with not Calvin, but Henry going under anesthesia tomorrow instead. How did we get here??

Calvin's surgery has still not been scheduled. I never heard back from the scheduler (she was waiting to hear from the cardio-anesthesiology team) and now that he's recovering from a clavicle fracture, we are just going to wait until he's all healed up before we try to contact them.

Meanwhile, Henry's on deck for tomorrow. He is having a "sleep endoscopy" to examine his respiratory tract because of his severe sleep apnea and to examine his upper digestive tract because of his severe acid reflux, frequent vomiting, and trouble swallowing liquids.

Henry will be put under anesthesia, and his ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doc will use a scope to look at what's blocking his airway and causing the sleep apnea. The ENT doc will also look for a certain type of cleft (laryngeal cleft) that could be causing him to aspirate liquids (get fluid in his lungs when he drinks thin liquid like water).

The GI (gastroenterology and internal medicine) doc will also use the scope to examine his upper digestive tract to check for any abnormalities that could be causing the reflux and vomiting. He will also take swabs from Henry's esophagus to test for allergies and acid reflux damage.

If there's anything that can be "fixed" surgically, the docs will do it right then and there. It might mean removing his adenoid gland, or some tissue around his voice box. There may not be anything "fixable" after all. We won't know until afterward. Even if there's nothing the docs can do surgically, the procedure should give us some information about what's going on in his little respiratory and digestive systems so that we can figure out how to better help our little guy.

Breathing and eating seem like they should be such simple things. I pray that one day they will be simple things for Henry.

I pray that the surgical team will be skilled and capable. I pray that the procedure helps us in some way to make life easier or safer for Henry. I pray that he will be able to recover and heal quickly.

I am thankful to have access to amazing medical care. I am thankful to have family and friends to help us out when we need it. I am thankful for my beautiful little family of four.

We will report to LPCH bright and early in the morning. We will drop Calvin off at our cousins' house for the day. The doctors plan to keep Henry overnight in the ICU, so I will stay the night with him. If you're interested in updates about Henry tomorrow, I will post them on the blog's Facebook page. Prayers and positive thoughts are appreciated. Thanks :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Summer Photo Shoot 2014

After several very busy weeks with lots of doctor appointments for both boys, this last week has been nice and mellow. We're laying low with Calvin recovering from his clavicle fracture, and we finally have a bit of a lull in appointments. 

Henry's endoscopy procedure is coming up this Friday and I am possibly being incredibly calm about it, or possibly in total denial about it... I think it's actually both. I'm deliberately ignoring the things to worry about and focusing on pragmatics and prayer. Thank you to all those out there who have also been keeping our boys in your thoughts and prayers.

Running has been a really lovely distraction for me. I am really starting to get into it! I pushed myself a little too hard Sunday and Monday (got a 5k PR! 32:22) and am now taking a couple of days off with a sore ankle, but I expect to be back behind that jogging stroller by the end of the week.

And here's another lovely distraction! While visiting Georgia this summer, we snagged the chance to do a photo shoot with a very dear friend of mine who is a professional photographer, Lindsay Christerson. She did a beautiful job and I just can't resist showing off our family photos! I had intended to share these weeks ago, but things got so crazy around here that I didn't get the chance until now. 

Thank you, Lindsay, for these beautiful photos! To see more of her work, check out Lindsay Joy Photography.