Thursday, December 20, 2012

Early Christmas Present and a Fall Photo Album Update

Last Thursday, December 13th, Naomi was acting peculiar. She came into the kitchen, where I was making sugar cookies, and pulled open the blinds to stare out the window. I scolded her for being careless with the blinds and not getting her schoolwork done. I asked her what she was looking at, and she said, "Oh...nothing." Then she went into our schoolroom and stood staring out the front window.

It was about the time that the school buses start pulling up in front of our house and unloading all the kids who live in the trailer court, so I asked if she was watching the kids come home. "No," she replied casually. Clearly, she wasn't giving out information, so I even entertained the thought that she might have a secret crush on a boy she was watching. I sure couldn't think of anything else she would be secretly stalking all afternoon.

I continued baking cookies and Naomi continued to disregard my reminders that she ought to be doing her schoolwork. At this point, I was so mystified that I demanded she tell me what in the world was going on. Backed into a corner, she sighed and turned to me. "It's a surprise," she scolded.

Oh. A surprise for me? Something outside for me? My children often made surprises for me that involved construction paper, toilet paper tubes, and scotch tape, but I doubted they would have planted one of those kinds of surprises outside. Could this possibly be something Matt was behind? No. Certainly not. Matt had not bought me a single Christmas present in the entire previous thirteen Christmas seasons we had known each other. Silly me...but...maybe.

About fifteen minutes later a large brown truck pulled up beside our house and all the children began screaming, "It's here! It's here! Don't open it, Mommy! Daddy says we have to keep you from opening it until he gets home! It's a surprise! Don't open it, Mommy!" The UPS man smiled broadly at my crowd of cheering children as I signed for the large package.

"They're telling me this is a surprise," I informed the delivery man, raising my eyebrows at him to ask if he had any information.

"I don't know nothing!" he laughed, with his eyes twinkling, and I thought that his job must be wonderful this time of year.

The large, trapezoid-shaped, brown box gave no clues to its origin, and though I had a reasonable idea of what might be inside, I pretended to have no idea at all.

"!" I mused, "What in the world did Daddy get me?" All the girls giggled with a wild excitement that told me they'd been plotting this for some time with Daddy. "It looks like...a new...pyramid decoration for my living room!"

More giggles erupted, "Nope. No, no, no. Not even close, Mommy."

"No? Hmmm....well, then...Oh! I know! It's a new swing set for my baby dolls!"

"No, no, no. Not at all."

"Can I open it now and look?"

"NO!! No opening until Daddy comes home!"

Matt was almost as giddy as the girls when he finally arrived home three hours later. We gathered in the living room and this is what I found.

Yes, this is the brand new iMac that just became available to order on November 30th. The card from the kids reads:

"Dear Mommy, you're the best mommy ever. We love you a lot. You'll really like our early Christmas present. It's a new computer that is even bigger and faster than Daddy's. I bet you'll really like it. Now you won't ever have to complain to Daddy about how slow your computer is. Have a Merry Christmas. Love, Naomi, Hannah, Emma, and Toby"

This is, for the record, the best Christmas present I could have possibly received. I have been using a Dell laptop that Matt and I bought in 2002, just after we were married. It is now exceedingly outdated, slow, and frustrating to try to complete any task on. This fall I have nearly given up on blogging or posting pictures because of the enormous amount of time wasted trying to use a computer that continually froze, crashed, and lost my work. Matt heard my laments and saw my frustration and put my needs before his own this year. I feel very well taken care of. Here are the before and after pictures of my desk.

This is also the computer that Toby pulled 17 keys off when he was a toddler. B key never recovered.

Matt has been working hard to get everything installed and transferred to my new computer. Most of his spare time in the last week has been dedicated to getting everything up and running for me. Today I finally retrieved a huge number of pictures from my camera that my previous, retarded computer couldn't handle. In honor of my new, updated capabilities. Here is a collection of some of my favorite moments from this summer and fall that I haven't had a chance to share yet.

"Mommy! Elijah got into the wipes tub and pulled out all the wipes!"

I love how these boys are enjoying playing together already.

Such a Daddy's boy

The "twins" strike again, losing their first teeth 24 hours apart.


Superman, and his smaller side-kick Pooperman

So there's your pictorial highlights from summer and fall 2012 in the Eby house--all thanks to my new favorite Christmas present ever, from my favorite husband ever.

And now, back to real life: running a household where four children ages 6 and under are infected with strep throat at the same time. But that will have to be the subject of another blog.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Hannah Gets Jipped Again

Ever since Emma effortlessly lost (yes, literally lost) her first tooth while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and beat her older sister to the missing tooth club by one day, Hannah has been wiggling and yanking at her second loose tooth, determined not to be outdone again.

Matt had the day off of work today, so I had the pleasure of picking Emma up from preschool and driving her to speech therapy all by myself today. As we drove, we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and had a lovely conversation about her morning at preschool. Emma clearly enjoyed having all the attention to herself, and especially having zero competition for pushing the elevator buttons at the therapy building.

After checking in, Emma brought a book to me and asked me to read it. I stared at her mouth for a second, then suddenly began laughing. "Emma?! What happened to your other loose tooth?!" I asked. "Did you eat another tooth?!"

Emma looked bewildered, put her finger in her mouth and felt the newly-widened gap on her lower jaw. She looked back to me, and seeing the amusement on my face, decided that it was indeed a funny situation. How in the world does a child unknowingly eat a baby tooth that we didn't even know was loose...twice!...while her poor older sister can't seem to coax her teeth out with a sledgehammer?

I called Matt to share the laugh, and after he had spread the announcement to the kids I heard Hannah yell, "I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!"

By the time we returned home two hours later Hannah had yanked that stubborn chomper right out of her jaw, and she couldn't have been more least for someone who had just won second place...again. Tonight the tooth fairy will be busy again. At least she pays the same, whether or not your tooth came out before your little sister's.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ingraspable Complexity: A Health Update

Another day, another doctor--it's one of those kinds of weeks again. I haven't posted much of a health update on the kids lately because, while there have been health struggles, we haven't gotten much in the way of conclusive answers. After another long morning with another doctor I feel I need to vent, conclusive answers or not. So for those who are interested here is the run-down on the Eby kids' health lately.

Elijah--This poor little guy has been afflicted with diarrhea ever since the rounds and rounds of antibiotics in September for his ear infections. Time and probiotics are not healing it either, it's getting worse. He was the most ill over the Thanksgiving weekend (of course), with watery diarrhea running all down into his footed sleeper 10-15 times in 24 hours. He had finally begun sleeping through the night two weeks prior, but when diarrhea began striking all night long I had to return to tending to him every hour or two around the clock. We tested him for C Diff, and that was negative. It can't be rotavirus, because he's been vaccinated against that and because the doctor didn't think it smelled like rotavirus. We just had his blood drawn again on Monday to check for food allergies, and are still awaiting those results.

Toby--He's just getting over his second ear infection this year and has a mysterious mouth ulcer that has ruined his appetite, but overall he seems to be in better health since we discovered his milk allergy and removed dairy from his diet in October.

Emma--This is my healthiest child. She's had a few preschool-shared viruses but is doing great overall. Her speech therapist even suggested we are almost done with her need for speech therapy! Emma is now able to produce all of the sounds that are age appropriate for her (th, l, and v aren't considered delayed until kids are six or seven). She doesn't always include them in her everyday speech, but she will if she is reminded, and if all she needs now is a reminder to speak carefully, that's something I can do at home with her. This is amazing news just 6 months after therapy started!

Hannah--She is still plagued by tummy aches, with some weeks being better than others. But she insists that there is a big improvement since we pulled corn from her diet and she still won't touch a corn product so I have to believe that was at least part of the problem. She is still tiny for her age, weighing 42 lbs at 6 1/2 years old, but the doctors assure me that her growth is adequate. She certainly has the perfect ballerina figure.

Naomi--Ah, Naomi, my mystery child. We met this morning with one of Naomi's pediatricians who is very gifted at looking at the child as a whole, as opposed to all of her specialists (nephrologist for kidneys, GI doctor for liver fibrosis and celiac, cardiologist for heart murmur, ophthalmologist for crossed eyes, and orthopedic doctor for club feet) who only look at their specialized problem area. Naomi has suddenly gained about 10 lbs this fall. My initial fear was that it was water retention due to decreased kidney function. Labs initially showed her kidney function was decreased, but the nephrologist thought it could be a rare side effect of a medication she was on. We removed the medication and two weeks later her kidney function had improved again (still not normal, but not immediately worrisome anymore), so that was a huge relief for us, but didn't help to solve the weight gain mystery.

I brainstormed with this pediatrician this morning about Naomi's weight gain, and she wanted to say the weight gain was not water retention, but actual body mass added. Naomi has grown about a centimeter in height, and a 10 lb weight gain is possible if something were affecting her ability to feel full normally or affecting the way her body is metabolizing food. The doctor reminded me that Naomi had shown antibodies to the thyroid gland at her last blood draw in Sept, and though it was a small amount of antibodies, it was definitely abnormal. Her thyroid function still seemed adequate (with normal T3, T4, and TSH), but that doesn't mean she might not be feeling more subtle effects of a struggling thyroid that is under attack by her own immune system.

Naomi also mysteriously has an elevated total IgE antibody level, which indicates an allergic reaction of some kind taking place in her body, but extensive allergic testing has yet to find the specific allergen. This pediatrician actually asked me what I had been researching on the Internet about Naomi's conditions lately--not to shame me as some doctors do, but because she respects me by now, and she knows that I devote my life to this and that she can learn from my research. I mentioned some things I had read about anti-thyroid antibodies sometimes indicating other autoimmune diseases such as type I diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. I shared what I've learned recently about how different gene mutations can disable the primary cilia in some kinds of cells throughout the body causing the kidney/liver disease Naomi has, and my frustration over still not finding out which mutation she has, and therefore not being able to predict accurately the course of her disease progression.

Naomi has had multiple chromosomal and genetic tests run without finding any mutations, but today the doctor explained that because we still don't know everything about the human genome, sometimes mutations are discovered that haven't been linked definitively with a disease yet. Normally these mutations are not reported since their clinical significance is still unknown. Naomi's mutation may be just such a case, since her disease is unique to her as far as we can tell. The doctor ordered yet another chromosomal microarray analysis--this time to be done by someone she knows personally who "owes her a favor" and may be able to release information on mutations detected that wouldn't ordinarily be reported. This doctor is willing to personally research any mutations found and attempt to correlate them with Naomi's symptoms in the hopes of figuring out just what is at the cause of at least some of her disease and what we might expect in the future. (In my opinion, that makes her the best doctor in the world.)

We concluded that so much in the human body is still a mystery to us, and autoimmune diseases are among the most mysterious to the medical profession. We know that they happen but we do not know why, and we are powerless to stop them, short of suppressing the entire immune system, which obviously has terrible consequences of its own. So we decided to re-check Naomi's thyroid once more and see if the level of antibodies has risen or not, and to be sure the function is still adequate. She wants me to be extra-vigilant about Naomi's diet and exercise. Beyond that we wait and watch, and deal with symptoms as they come.

There is such a false sense of control that comes from all the accumulated wealth of medical knowledge we have to draw on today. We think we understand the human body. We think we can control it. Then there is Naomi, for whom the best doctor is the most humble one--the doctor who is willing to say, "I really don't know what is going on inside your daughter, but I will do my best to find out."

Ultimately, I am reminded that Naomi is fearfully and wonderfully made, that the mind-blowing intricacies of the human genetic code and the ingraspable complexity within each cell of each system in her body are undeniable indicators that someone with knowledge far greater than ours designed her, and that she is upheld by that same powerful hand. Time and chance did not design the intelligent human immune system, and therefore I rest, knowing her immune "malfunction" has a designer as well. The potter has a right to shape the vessel as he sees fit--each for a unique purpose well beyond our comprehension. If I cannot understand how Naomi's body works I cannot expect to understand how her body's designer is working in this world on a grander scale. I guess that is the essence of worship.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dentist for Four

The success of taking five small children to the dentist is something that must be measured in relative terms. When the number of possible poor outcomes exceeds Emma's counting ability, I stop aiming for perfection and start hoping for a passing grade. Today I passed.

My kids could hardly wait to get to their appointment. I know, they need to get out more, but it does help that we go to a mega dentist office for kids, complete with a jungle gym in the waiting room, coloring book trays on the dentist chairs, and a prize box at the end. They threw off their shoes and took the jungle gym by storm before I could set the diaper bags down. Elijah's whole face lit up as Hannah slid down the slide. Then he giggled and crawled right up to the colorful foam bumps that served as stairs. I have never seen him scramble with such excitement, crow with such pride, or giggle with such delight as he did on that little gym. He never knew such fun existed.

When their names were called, they had to clamber to find their shoes, but were soon headed back to the cheery land of coloring and prizes (and teeth cleaning). I stood with Elijah at a two-way mirror, watching my kids happily take their places in their own dentist chairs in the large hygiene room. I cringed as the dental assistant left Toby unattended and led Hannah back to another room for x-rays. Toby sat still for about 10 seconds, then began to fidget. He leaned over the side of his chair to examine the underpinnings. He craned his head back to inspect the lighting. Then he hopped down, and I held my breath, but fortunately Naomi, who was seated not far away, barked something at him that spurred him back into his seat.

Hannah, in the x-ray room, was admiring her beautiful blue lead apron, smiling sweetly as she smoothed it down over her lap with her hands. Her eyes couldn't hide her excitement as the assistant placed the films in her mouth: something new! Anything new! How wonderful.

Emma clicked her heels together and pursed her lips as she sat on her chair: la-dee-dah...lets get this show on the road, people...that prize box is calling my name.

To my amazement, they each completed x-rays, cleanings, and fluoride treatments without a hitch. I could tell by the way Toby tugged on his bottom teeth for the dentist that he was sharing all about his new (imaginary) loose tooth, and amusing all who heard. Emma got lost trying to find her way back to her chair after pinning her certificate onto the "Kavity Free Klub" board. I saw the panic on her face and had to sneak my head in the door (against the rules) long enough to calm her and point her to her seat.

Toby emerged first, bearing a new plastic motorcycle that probably cost a hay-penny to produce in China and will not last past the first time Elijah gets ahold of it, but he was all grins. The assistant reported to me that he had no cavities, but did have a "huge mouth ulcer" under his top lip that looked to be possibly "trauma induced." He's a three-year-old boy, I have not a clue which trauma might have induced the gaping ulcer, but that does explain why he's been screaming in protest when I brush his teeth lately. She offered the helpful advice of encouraging Toby to gargle with warm salt-water, which provided me the best laugh I've had in a week.

Emma and Hannah both came out with a clean report card, and to their dismay, discovered they had picked the same plastic fish from the prize bin. They cannot escape their destiny to be identical twins.

Naomi bravely wore her sunglasses so the bright light wouldn't bother her while they cleaned her teeth. I could see her grimace and grip the arm rests, but she cooperated perfectly: no tears, no complaints. Ah, but here is where my maternal dental record was blemished: Naomi did have one small cavity, the first among my five children. I guess I can't be perfect forever. We will have to return in January to have that filled. With her new spiro-graph kit prize in hand, she didn't seem to mind the news that she'd have to return in January. In fact, I think the others might have been a little jealous.

Tonight, after his bath, I pulled Toby's Superman pajamas on him, ruffled his hair and said, "There! Now you're Superman!"

"Yes," he answered, "but I'm not saving any worlds tonight, because I have to go to bed!"

I agree. Today I saved four mouths of tiny teeth, but no more tonight. All other worlds of responsibility will have to wait or perish. Supermom needs her rest.