Elijah caught his breath and his eyes froze in fear as I carried him out into the below-zero wind chills yesterday morning. I ran him to the warm van, where he relaxed enough to breathe again and let out his scream of protest. Of course I would have to spend the entire day running around town on the coldest day of the year. After last years' mild winter and the warm beginning to this winter, I think even my older kids had forgotten what real cold was. Even dressed in long-johns and sweaters, they shivered in the van.
At our home-school art class we shivered again as the church struggled to warm up. Elijah carried his apple with him, and munched happily as he toddled around inspecting drawers and cupboards and locked doors. Naomi, Hannah, Emma, and Toby painted watercolor snow-scenes with the nine other children in their class.
And then we added chaos to cold. Elijah realized he was up past nap time and decided to spend the next hour staging an arm-flailing, food-flinging, red-faced protest while I attempted to help the other kids finish up their collages. He flung his apple off the side of the high-chair where he'd been banished after I declared him beyond redemption. The apple narrowly missed the head of a baby girl who was crawling nearby. She happily accepted the Rice Chex shower that followed, but Elijah wasn't out to make anybody happy.
"Mommy!" Toby whined, "I can't cut this! You cut it!"
"Would you please cut this?" I corrected him, picking up his scissors.
"Mommy! Look at my picture!" Hannah called out above the commotion.
"Oh, that's beautiful, honey," I called back, with one eye on Elijah, one eye on the scissors I was snipping with, and my other eye on her picture.
"Mrs. Eby?" queried Naomi's shark-obsessed friend, "could you help me cut out these purple polka-dots for my (and here he inserted the name of a prehistoric shark species that probably only thirty human beings have ever heard of, which was recreated from a jaw bone discovered high on a mountain somewhere). Since we don't know what (prehistoric jaw-bone shark name here) really looked like I'm going to make mine with purple polka dots, but I can't cut them out. Could you cut them out for me?" He handed me a paper with pea-sized circles drawn all over it before I could refuse.
"Sure, I'd be glad to help you," I smiled back.
I quickly snipped out the polka-dots, admired Emma's collage, served up some sandwiches and clementines, and then rushed my kids back out into the arctic. Elijah got a cat-nap on the way to my friend's house, but woke to scream again when I dropped him in her arms, along with Naomi and Hannah, before I ran back to my car.
"Where are we going, Mommy?" Toby asked for the thirteenth time.
"We're going to the hospital so you and Emma can have ultrasounds and a blood draw," I answered for the thirteenth time.
The last nine years of sleep deprivation seemed to catch up with me as we entered the warm, dark ultrasound exam room. I sat yawning and struggling to stay awake as the technician in training and her mentor looked for Toby's kidneys. "The right kidney is laying sideways under his belly button, stuck to the bottom of the left," I advised them, to speed things up a little. "We want to make sure that as he grows the ureters don't get kinked, and we're also checking to be sure there are still no signs of cystic kidney disease, because two of his sisters have polycystic kidney disease."
The bean-shaped kidney came into view, right where I had suggested it would be. I was happy to see as she measured it, that it had grown a couple centimeters in the last two years. When he was a baby I had been told that the right kidney would probably just shrivel up and disappear, but there it was: healthy and growing, even if weirdly out of place.
Time passed even more slowly as we waited...and waited for the technicians to get the pictures approved by the radiologist. "I'm so sorry that took so long," one apologized as they reentered the room. "The radiologist is all into teaching us, so he was telling us all about polycystic kidney disease as he looked at the pictures. And I was like 'Yeah, yeah, his sister has that too.'"
I laughed with them and helped Emma hop up onto the bed for her scan. Oh those radiologists, acting like their technicians had all the time in the world to learn about rare diseases...wait a minute. Why would he be teaching them about polycystic kidney disease while looking at Toby's pictures, and before the technicians informed him that Emma and Naomi had cystic kidneys? Suddenly my heart was in my throat, and all I could think was, "I must have heard that wrong. I'm sure I did. Maybe the radiologist had looked up our kids' histories beforehand and seen that it was in the family. Maybe he was teaching the technicians why Toby's kidneys weren't cystic. Please let that be it."
I tried to focus on Emma's scan, to watch the fuzzy, black and white beans on the screen. Her left kidney was bigger than her right, the same as Naomi's...the same as Toby's. It was going to be a long two or three days now, waiting for the radiologist's report.
Toby and Emma were both very brave for their blood draws, and were richly rewarded, heading back to the van decorated with stickers. I wondered what state I would find Elijah in as I drove to pick up the kids, but Elijah was wandering around calmly when I arrived. He let out a little relieved cry and ran to me when he saw me.
Once we arrived home I had exactly 35 minutes to pull dinner from the crock-pot, serve five kids, put Hannah's hair up in a bun, change Elijah, and rush everybody back out the door in time for Hannah's ballet class. We arrived at the dance studio to find it mostly deserted, with two other families sitting in their cars, looking as bewildered as we were. After waiting in the van a few minutes, the man in the car beside me informed me that he'd called the dance office and they told him classes were cancelled because the schools had cancelled for the cold.
This made my feat of serving dinner in record time seem less heroic and more futile. Hannah was deflated as well. But at least I wouldn't have to try to keep a very over-tired Elijah happy in a waiting room for 30 minutes. Just one more stop before home.
I surprised my mother-in-law by arriving ahead of schedule. Then the older kids ran wild in the basement with their cousins for an hour while my sister-in-law and I sorted through some clothes that had been passed down to us from a neighbor family, but Elijah was done. Done with running around town, done with people outside his nuclear family, done with being appeased by apples, just...done. He wailed in his high chair, arching his back, and flinging his Rice Chex to the floor again. I couldn't get my kids and my bags packed up fast enough.
After a stop by the Goodwill drop-off to rid myself of the leftover hand-me-down clothes, and a stop by the pharmacy drive through to pick up some medicated lotion for Elijah's eczema, we finally arrived home at 7:30pm. I had just tucked Elijah into his crib when Matt came home from work at 7:45. Coats, shoes, and bags were strewn across the floor. Dinner dishes still sat on the table. The laundry hamper overflowed in my office. I thought to myself that it was going to take an entire day at home just to recover from this one.
And now it's time to start recovery day. At least Elijah slept well last night.