Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Our dog is broken

I was laying down with Matt for the upteenth time on Monday night when Nate opened the door and said those words...

Our dog is broken.

I wasn't sure how to respond.  Despite the fact that it was almost 10pm, Matt didn't want to go to sleep.  We both got up to check on broken Otis.

He was laying on the floor, his rear end curled down, and his tail tightly between his legs.  His abdomen was tight.  He was in a lot of pain.  This was odd... just 2 hours earlier, he bounded down the ramp to greet me as I got out of my car.

We got him to go outside to relieve himself, but he didn't want to go anywhere.  He just sat down at the bottom of the steps and waited.  Nate picked him up to bring him inside and Otis went to sleep quickly.  He wasn't crying out in pain or breathing heavily, but he was not himself.

We wracked our brain for what could be going on.  He'd had a rawhide the day before - could it be an abdominal blockage?  Cancer?  A bacterial infection?  Hip dysplasia?  The chocolate incident from 2 weeks ago?

In the morning, Otis got out of his bed like normal but immediately sat down.  With assistance, he went outside.  The typical routine in the morning is that Otis bounds in from outside and immediately devours his food. But this morning, he walked gingerly inside, took a mouthful of food, and dropped it all back into the bowl. Then he sat down next to the bowl and stared at all the uneaten food.

We called the vet and they wanted to see him that morning.  By this point, Otis was refusing to even stand up.  He would sit painfully on his rump before sliding to the ground in a rigid, tense state.  And just stare.  Please help.  Luke stood by his side, crying that Otis didn't feel good and please make sure that the vet has a cage that is long enough for him.

Nate loaded him into the van.  I got all the kids off to school, and transported Otis to the vet.  In the ride, I had all sorts of irrational thoughts. 

Otis, this can't be the end of the line for you. I got you a new bed for Christmas and you haven't even seen it yet.

Otis, you're only seven.  I know they call you 'geriatric' now, but you're the most spry geriatric I know.

And some more rational thoughts...

Otis... please buddy.  Be okay. Luke asks me when you're going to heaven. I told him not to worry because you'd be around for a long long time. He asked me again when you would die. I told him you'd live to be 14. Don't make me a liar today.

Two vet techs met me in the parking lot, and with a towel holding up his rear hips, he walked inside. They found him a rug to sit on while I checked in. Other dogs (some hyper - typically right up Otis' alley as a new playmate) would come in, and Otis just sat there on his rug, wagging his tail like he always does.

After all the paperwork was signed, the vet techs came back with their trusty walking towel and took Otis back to an exam room. I watched him walk unsteadily through the double doors and said a silent prayer.

Thankfully within a couple of hours of thinking the worst, we got a call. The exam and blood work had revealed a massive kidney infection. Otis back likely hurt as bad as someone passing two kidney stones at the same time (which is why he wouldn't walk or eat). They gave him an antibiotic shot directly into his kidneys and watched him for a few hours.

By the time I went to pick him up, Otis was up on his feet and wagging all around. I hugged him as hard as I could around the neck before we headed out the door. He walked into the parking lot slowly but surely. I gave him a boost into the van, and he settled in comfortably.

Big sigh of relief.

He pranced into the house, and there were cheers all around. Otis was home! He was sad, though, when he found out that he was not allowed to eat that night. He whimpered for a bit but eventually went to sleep. This morning, he sprung out of bed. He bounded down the stairs to relieve himself. He bounded back up them to attack his morning food.

Otis the geriatric dog is back. He might have been a little broken, but he's sticking around for a bit. And he's going to have the most awesome new doggie bed under the Christmas tree on Tuesday morning.  We're so grateful he's going to be home to see it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

For a moment, I wished you couldn't read

Dear Luke:

Today we learned about a terrible tragedy.  We learned that someone went into an elementary school and killed 20 children and 6 of their teachers.  No one knows why.  The reasons why wouldn't take away the pain and confusion even if we knew them.

I had a busy day at work today and could only get small bits of information about what was unfolding in Connecticut.  My thoughts were with our friends and family nearby, hoping that they were no where near the school at the time. 

When I got home, everyone had already eaten dinner.  I walked in the door, hugging everyone as quickly as I could.  As you and Will and Matt got ready for bed, I ate a bit of dinner and started to read news stories about Newtown on the iPad.  As I got up to refill my drink, you snuck to the table and started reading the story I had pulled up on the screen.  It could only have been 20 seconds that you read the story, but you're so smart, buddy.  You read words at a second grade level and you comprehend the words that you read.  I didn't want you to read those words.  I didn't want you to comprehend anything.

In that moment, I wished that you couldn't read.  I wish that you weren't on the verge of losing innocence and learning about something so horrific.  I didn't know how to give you answers to the questions you might ask.

In the story I was reading, the author mentioned a dad at the scene at Sandy Hook Elementary who was covering his son's eyes with his forearm... trying to save him from the reality of the situation and trying to preserve innocence.  I tried to do the same thing.  I shut off the iPad and asked if you'd gotten a chance to read anything on the screen.  You said no.  I was grateful.

In the upcoming hours and days, we will learn more about the gunman.  The victims' names will be released.  Their stories will be shared.  These young, innocent children were in elementary school.  Many of them - like you and Will - were in kindergarten.  Five and six years old.  Unbelievably young. 

This story will hit close to home for everyone.  Newtown could be any town, anywhere in this country.  Sandy Hook could have been your schools.  Today was every parent's biggest fear.  I drove home from work in tears and couldn't wait to hug you all.  I felt so fortunate to hug you and your brothers when I walked in the door.

I know you're going to grow up one day, and I know that stories like this one will be - painfully but realistically - topics of conversation.  I hope in those days I am more prepared to give you answers to the things that don't make sense.  I hope in those moments, we can have a conversation about the world, the people in it, and the unpredictability of it all.  I hope that when we talk about all of this, you're much older. 

I am praying for the families in Newtown tonight.  The families who lost children.  Young children who lost friends.  Husbands who lost wives, kids who lost mothers.  A community struggling for answers.  For the innocence lost in the survivors. 

I love you so much, Luke.  I am grateful that you're home tonight, sleeping peacefully in your bed.  I am grateful that Will and Matt are doing the same. 

All my love,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Swing

I am beyond excited for Christmas this year.  I am not sure what makes this year different from others... but I am counting down the days to Christmas with equal excitement as the kids as they move through the Advent calendar.  We will be joined by two sides of the family for the holidays - which is the first time that has ever happened!  And I am really looking forward to having so many people together to share a magical time of year with us. 

I have some vacation to burn at work, so I took the morning today to wrap gifts.  I started Christmas shopping back in September.  Some of these gifts haven't seen the light of day since that time (they're hidden deep in the bowels of the attic) - so I saw them today with the excited eyes with which I first met them months ago.  I think I might have hummed as I was carefully wrapping each one.

My goal as a mom is to get to know my children... understand what makes them tick, and try my best to encourage and stoke their curiosity, talents and joys.  To appreciate and nurture the unique quirks and -isms that make them individuals.  Nate and I have been amazed this year at the continuing development of distinctive personality traits in all of 3 of our kids.  It has been interesting to both sit on the sidelines and also be a part of that development. 

Because we started gift shopping earlier this year, we had a lot of time to think what we thought each Slavik boy would like.  There were eureka moments!  And I really cannot wait for Christmas morning, to see their faces as they open these carefully thought out gifts.  I hope in the years to come, they see the joy in my face as they open gifts on Christmas morning and know that I am their biggest advocate, loudest cheerleader, and that I know and appreciate them for being them.

So in addition to gifts being wrapped, the tree is up, decorations are covering the mantle, the outside lights are nearly complete, and my Christmas cards have been sent!  We took family photos this year with my cousin Steph Harkenreader (check out her photography website here).  You'll notice the new family photo at the top of the blog - here are a couple more favorites from the day. 

Cheers!  Hope your house is starting to buzz with the excitement of the holiday season!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

First new clothes

When you're the younger brother of twin boys, the chances of you ever getting anything other than hand-me-down clothing is pretty slim.  Not only were Luke, Will and Matt born all in the same season, but we've been able to pick the nicest of the twins' clothes for Matt to wear.  He didn't have to wear puke or grass stained hand-me-downs - because believe me - there are plenty.  That Luke sure did like to puke.  Glad those days are over.

I digress.

Matt was able to get his first real new clothes today... because Matt is finally getting the hang of potty training!  And I couldn't bear the thought of him having to wear Luke's hand-me-down drawers.  Sometimes there are lines that shouldn't be crossed. 

So Matt and I went to Target this afternoon to pick out some brand new big boy underpants.  He was a little indecisive, but finally picked out 2 colorful packs of his first undies (I gave his as much time as he needed - this was a big decision and he doesn't have a lot of shopping experience).  He was very excited and told the woman at the check out that he was getting his first "unduh-pants."

When we got home, Matt rifled through our shopping bag to retrieve his treasures.  Then he took off all of his clothes.  Then he opened the pack of Thomas the Train underwear and proceeded to put one pair on.  Then another. 

Then another.

He was proud of himself for a moment, but then panicked slightly when he realized that we had purchased 10 pairs of undies and he had a long way to go.

When all was said and done, Matt put on 4 pairs of his new drawers. He danced around the house in them, very happy with both his new title of "big boy" and his brand new colorful rear end.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

An Al Bundy holiday performance

Tonight was Luke's first ever school holiday performance.  He was very excited about it, and was taking his responsibilities very seriously.  When he came home tonight (after school but before the show) he told us:

You cannot wave to me when I am on stage.  I will be acting professionally.  No waving.  And absolutely no smiling.

I am not sure if a teacher said that to him or if he came up with it on his own... whichever it is, between stifled laughs, Nate and I agreed we would not wave at him when he was on stage.  We didn't want to put his professionalism at risk.

When we arrived at school, I dropped Luke off with other kindergartners - dressed in red and green and wearing over sized Santa hats.  I found Nate, Will and Matt in the multi-purpose room and futilely attempted to keep everyone settled while we waited around for the show to start. 

The lights dimmed and a gaggle of kids made their way up on the stage.  They took their positions.  Luke was in the very front.  Not sure if that's because he knew the words to the songs or because he's on the little side.  Regardless of why it was, I felt a twinge of panic.

Earlier this week, while listening to the radio on my way to work, I heard the hosts ask people to call in with stories of bad things their kids did in a holiday show.  The one that stuck out to me was the mom who called to say that her son sat in front of an auditorium full of people, picking his nose.

And that just didn't seem too far from our reality potential with Luke in the front row.

The music teacher introduced herself, introduced the kids, and started the music.  The kids swayed a bit, waiting for their cue.  I snuck up front to take a couple close up photos of Luke.  And it was at that moment that I realized that there in that room, Luke was doing his best Al Bundy impersonation.

For those unfamiliar, Al Bundy was the main character (played by Ed O'Neill) on the sitcom Married... With Children - a show built around the dysfunctional family life of this character, his wife, and their 2 kids.  Al Bundy is an under appreciated shoe salesman who always has a negative or degrading thing to say about his family.  It sounds bad, but it was pretty funny - and Al Bundy's signature move was slouching down into his old plaid sofa, putting his hand down his pants, and flipping on the TV.

And there was Luke, doing the same thing! 

Thankfully the first song of the night - In The Spirit - had the kids doing all sorts of dramatic motions with their arms.  Thankfully we've got a son who is a performer and took the professionalism of his performance very seriously.  Thankfully he took his hand out of his pants.

The next song of the evening was Polar Puppy - I couldn't quite understand all the words, but the kids all made these little barking sounds for emphasis and that was pretty cute.  Then they all put their sunglasses on for a rousing rendition of Hip Hop Reindeer.  Not kidding.

And then the kindergarten performance was over - just 12 minutes after it started.  The kids exited the stage, and the 5th graders took over.  We listened to some other songs - some sung, some played on plastic balloon things, some played on recorders (which could have gone terribly wrong but didn't), and one with guitar accompaniment.

Then they brought the kindergartners back out, and the two groups sang Deck the Halls together.  The 5th graders were the only ones who really knew the words, but those 5 year old kindergartners sang their little hearts out during the fa la la la la la la la la's.

The house lights rose and chaos ensued as parents tried to pick up their kids and beat everyone else out of the parking lot.  I found Luke and we talked for a bit about how much fun he had with his performance while we waited for the crowd to thin out.  He was so excited!  Matt told him he did a good job, and Will was all smiles as we put on out coats.  Thankfully the program was a success!  Thankfully Luke was (mostly) professional as he wanted to be!  Thankfully he did not smile or wave (but I - guiltily - cannot say the same for myself).  Thankfully Al Bundy did not make a repeat performance.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I'm the boss

Can you believe that Matthew is already two and a half years old?  Hardly seems that long ago that he went from being Baby Cart to Matthew Sullivan.  These days, he comes home saying all sorts of new things.  He's mastering compound sentences and is paying a lot of attention to the world around him.  His favorite thing to say these days?

I'm the boss.

This sends Luke into fits of anger because Luke believe that Mommy and Daddy are the boss.  Then they argue over this point, which cracks me up.  Because I'm not really the boss... though I do feel like the business manager some times.

His second favorite thing to say is Luke's name... and since Matt can't yet pronounce the letters L or V, what he actually says is "Yukey Skabik."  Or when he's in a rush (or Luke isn't listening), it is Yukester for short.

Matthew likes to jump and climb and have naked runs right before bed.  He's fearless.  Then he rolls off of the couch, bumps his head, cries for a minute, and then runs away again at full speed.  A minute later, he's pulling the bean bag chair out of Will and Luke's room, throwing Luke to the ground, throwing the bean bag on top of him, and then sits on top of it.  Thankfully Luke laughs about this part.

Though he enjoys this game of "Squish Luke," his favorite game at home is Pillow Pile.  For this game, Matt and Luke gather every single pillow and comforter in the house and put it on the floor at the bottom of my and Nate's bed.  Then they fling themselves from our bed, onto said pillow pile.  Sometimes there are other brothers in the way.  Sometimes Otis hasn't picked up on the fact that his life is in danger, and doesn't move out of the way quick enough.   Sometimes they bump their heads on large pieces of furniture.  But that rarely stops Pillow Pile from continuing.

Every now and again, Matt takes a moment to slow down and show his sweet side.  He likes to give Will hugs and kisses at bed time, checks on him when he's crying, gets him a new toy for his tray, climbs up on his wheelchair to say "have a good day at school."

He isn't content playing on the pre-school playground.  He must play with the big kids.  And while on the big kid playground, he must climb on top of the highest, most thrilling monkey bar he can find... and then he must pretend to not pay attention to you as you intently stand underneath him with outstretched arms, just waiting for his little hands to let go.

Matthew opens the fridge to get his own cup of water (it must be cold water).  He pushes a stool to the bathroom sink to wash his hands after using the potty on his own (woo hoo!).  He climbs intently into his big boy bed (converted crib toddler bed), asks for you to fold his blanket into a square (though sometimes a triangle, and sometimes a rectangle), and then place it on his back as he falls asleep.  He climbs onto the kitchen table, gets himself a banana, opens it, takes two bites, and then puts it into the garbage... stealthy... and healthy.

When I drop off in the morning at day care, Matthew insists on walking me to the door.  He holds open the door with a strategically placed foot, then tells me he needs a hug.  Once the big squeeze is over, he makes a fishy face and tells me that he needs a kiss too.  Once that is over, he closes the door and walks proudly into his classroom to start his day.  He then sits around the breakfast table at school, repeating everyone's name and whether they're a boy or a "grill" (as he says).

Oh... that boy.  He keeps us laughing, thats for sure.  Now if only I could convince him not to be completely fearless?