Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Taking Stock

Sometimes it helps to step back and take stock just in case you have started to lose perspective completely (hypothetically speaking, of course). So, I've decided to make a list of the good, the bad, and the ugly from our first week in our new home. If I had my office together and computer up and running, I'd make a clever table-like chart. But since I'm blogging via phone, you're out of luck.

So, first, the good:

No more Comcast. And added bonus? Since we no longer have Comcast, I no longer need to remember our child-lock PIN, which I changed and then promptly forgot. This means I can watch movies and TV rated higher than PG for the first time since February. Score! 
Massive gluten-free and organic sections at the grocery. On the downside, no one told me they don't take credit cards, so I had to make an embarrassing and unexpected run to the bank while the cashier held onto my food.

My bank is only 8 miles away instead of 25.

Ren and I now have a bedroom on an entirely different level of the house. That means I can't hear it when the kids wake up and start fighting over Lego at 5 a.m. Added bonus? Separate rooms for them means they fight less over Lego anyway.

Gluten-free buns AND trains at a nearby restaurant.

The colors we chose for the kids' rooms might just work after all. A word of caution: "Lone Star Quilt" by Dutch Boy paints is a heck of a lot darker than you'd expect. Fortunately, once you add a bit of furniture and an off-setting color scheme, it's really not that bad. 
We have more than one bathrooom. 
No raucous college kids or crime watch signs anywhere in sight.

You can really buy just about anything online.

The bad:

You can buy just about anything online.
We know no one here except the realtor and the guys remodeling the basement.

The basement remodel means most of kids' toys are still in boxes. I knew we shouldn't have believed it when they said they'd be done by move-in day.
It's absolutely no fun to get to a zoo you've never been to before and realize your spouse can't really walk and the two kids most able to help push the wheelchair are only interested in high-risk driving.  
Even though we have more than one bathroom including an "en suite" far from where the kids sleep or play, someone still always manages to interrupt me every time I try to relieve myself. Every. Single. Time.

Explaining the kids' allergies and dietary restrictions always makes me look a) pathetic, b) overbearing, or c) like the most unlucky parent in the world. People usually respond by feeling sorry for me, being slightly annoyed, or acting visibly shocked. I'd forgotten how terribly unhelpful these responses really are.
In guess, really, things aren't that bad. I think Ren's back is clouding my judgment. That's the only truly ugly.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What I Hate About Moving, Part I Have No Idea...

Okay, so I totally did not mean to leave you hanging. Ren is fine, aside from the random facial swelling that comes and goes and always responds to Benadryl. Is anyone else married to someone who has allergic reactions to major changes? I'd feel better if you said you were.

Since my last post, we packed, I lectured for two days at a seminar miles from home, we packed some more, and, then, we moved. So, here we are, and I've managed to let several perfectly good blog posts pass me by in the process.

I think I'll try to pick up where I left off: what I hate about moving. The biggest thing I hate about moving is change. As a kid, I wept at the end of each school year. I mean, how could anything ever be as awesome as Mr. Mills' fifth-grade homeroom? (For the record, I was right about fifth grade. My sixth-grade class was full of delinquents who did things like remove bricks from the bathroom wall during restroom break. Do you know how excruciatingly boring  it is to sit through an entire afternoon of rebukes and explanations as to why such behavior is inappropriate?) Turns out Ren also stinks at change, so you can imagine what sort of children we've spawned.

Sky's last speech appointment, which was also his last visit to the children's therapy center that has been a second home to us post diagnosis, did not go well. I'm sugar coating here. A more appropriate description would be that it was one of the most hellish 45-minutes I've ever spent. Ever. The therapist wanted to spend ten minutes creating social stories for the move before shifting into free play (in celebration of Sky's last day there). He would have nothing of it. Instead of 10 minutes of work followed by 35 minutes of play, we had 45 full minutes of meltdown, which included but was not limited to the following: screaming, crying, fleeing, kicking, knocking over chairs, and yelling at the therapist. It was awesome. And by awesome, I mean, utterly heartbreaking. For everyone.

Forty-five minutes is forty-five minutes. And the therapist had other appointments, so the session ended with me sitting on the floor holding Sky in a bear hug to help calm him. Of course, before we left, both the therapist and I reminded Sky that sometimes his choices (in this case, adamant refusal to do what he's told) lead to unpleasant consequences (in this case, the worst ending to anything ever). After all of the positive experiences we've had there, it was a crappy way to end. It made me cry. But that's the thing about moving: there never seems to be enough time to lament your losses.

Ninety minutes later, I was on the road to my lecturing gig. By the end of my two-hour drive, I had a sinus infection. Because, of course I did. This ensured that all of us were sick just in time for the move that took place the day after I got back from my trip. If you're wondering why I scheduled the move right after a three-day business trip, you obviously don't know me at all.

Of course, part of the problem was that the movers started loading the truck a day earlier than planned. Between the removal of a couch and two love seats (which we sold) and the sudden invasion of strange men who insisted on putting all of our things into boxes, the kids lost it very early in the moving process. Fortunately, numerous friends swept in to help. They took the kids to play, helped pack boxes, kept me supplied with Diet Coke, drove our trash away, and treated us to our favorite Thai carry-out for lunch. On the second day of the move, two friends even showed up at 6:30 in the morning to help with the final packing push before the movers arrived. Thanks to the help of many, we survived the move.


Okay, since I have no idea how to properly end this post, I'll leave you with a picture.

How do you keep a kid from freaking out during a move? Lots and lots of Scribblenauts. That, and giving him something to do. Here, he's guarding the truck while the movers are at lunch. Potential thieves don't realize they could steal every single thing from under his nose and he'd never realize it.
Maybe it's fitting that I don't know how to end this. You know in the movies when they disintegrate something into a million tiny particles and shoot it across the room/town/world/galaxy before it's reconstituted somewhere else? And you know how sometimes in the process of putting all the pieces together, some of them get scrambled, wreaking all sorts of havoc? Well, moving is a lot like that for me. I guess I should just be happy I managed to write anything at all.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Interlude: And Then Ren Had a Stroke (Actually, "Stroke-like Symptoms of Undefined Origin")

I think from the title, you may know where this is headed. Our final moving preparations ran into a slight snag when Ren woke up Wednesday with a numb and slightly lopsided face. Now, if he hadn't been complaining the previous couple of days about feeling light-headed, and if he hadn't complained of a severe headache the night before, I probably would have just ignored it. We've been married long enough that I know he won't go to the doctor unless he thinks he's dying (or experiencing the symptoms of a detached retina, which actually kind of freaked him out). And he seemed coherent enough--at least as coherent as one can be in the midst of a major move with small children.

But then my dad called and pointed out that the symptoms were pretty consistent with someone having a stroke. When he put it that way, I kind of saw his point. After all, Ren IS a male of a certain age and he DOES have a history of high blood pressure. So, I convinced him to go to Prompt Care. In an ideal world, the Prompt Care doctor would've said it was nothing. But, he couldn't reach that conclusion based on he evidence we presented him. So, he sent us to the ER for a brain scan.

I hate the ER in our town. Don't get me wrong. The people are nice enough. But, after several visits, I'm convinced that the strategy is to keep you there long enough so that you actually forget why you are there because all your symptoms have no choice but to subside. Ren spent five hours in the ER waiting for an MRI and the results. It didn't help that a storm hit just as he finally got into the cylinder, causing a power outage that delayed the process an additional thirty minutes. It also didn't help that the first two hours of our time at the ER included our children since I couldn't find a sitter.

In the end, the kids got to hang out with two of their favorite people and Ren got a day off from stressing about the move. The tests were all inconclusive, other than to show that he did not seem to be experiencing an emergency. The next morning, he woke up with swelling on the opposite side of his face, and that's when I realized just how much moving stress stinks. We've moved so many times that Ren actually had an allergic reaction to it.

So, I gave him some Benadryl. And, after a day of Benadryl fog, he woke up this morning feeling just fine.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

What I Hate About Moving, Part 3: Changing Providers

Last week Stow wrapped up his last early intervention sessions here. This week or next, we will see or talk to the shoulder doc, the spine surgeon, the eye doctor, the dentist, the pediatric gastroenterologist, the urologist, the pulmonologist, the speech therapist, the OT, the behavioral therapist, and the kids' primary care physician. Then we move, and this safety net of providers will fall apart. Sure, I know that our new town will give us just as much, if not more, access to good healthcare providers, but we still have to find them. And then secure appointments with them. And then figure out how to pay them. And then, of course, we also have to clearly communicate every nuance of each family member's health issues while hoping they can provide care similar to what we've been getting.

Since finding good docs takes time and patience (and not a little bit of luck), we've tried to take care of as many health-related issues as possible before the move. Several times this has backfired. Ren's follow-up back MRI revealed considerable nerve impingement which requires follow-up once we get moved. His second shoulder steroid injection, seven months after the first one, didn't even touch the pain he's been experiencing, so we have to follow up on that, too. And when I took Pink P and Sky for a final dentist appointment, they found several cavities in Pink's mouth. Multiple cavities calls for a pediatric dentist which, given our rural location, means a forty-minute drive for consultation. The pediatric dentist identified eight, count them, EIGHT spots that need treatment.** The nice dentist assured me that the "silver amalgam," which contains mercury, would be perfectly safe and the best course of action. It didn't help that he kept calling it a neurotoxin, nor that he mentioned the strong possibility of using an anesthetic when putting in the fillings. So, I made an appointment for Pink, but I also immediately contacted our pediatrician who agreed that, given Pink P's personal and family history, a more conservative and "safe" approach made more sense. Long story short: the dentist talked to the pediatrician and then decided we'd be better off taking care of Pink's teeth at a major pediatric dental hospital, Once. We. Get. Moved.

I don't know about you, but once I get moved, my head is spinning, and I feel completely lost. For example, when we moved to Tokyo, we managed to arrive in the city on February first with no coat for baby Pink who was seven weeks old at the time. The next morning, we woke up to two inches of snow, somewhat rare in Tokyo. With no car, no sense of direction, and no idea what was where, our first meals were from the convenience store we passed on the way from the station to our new apartment. And, we didn't start cooking until two days later when poor Ren walked a mile each way to buy everything we needed, including a 15-pound bag of rice and tens of pounds of things like brown sugar, sake, soy sauce, oil, vinegar, mirin, and pretty much everything else. A couple of days after that, we found two other grocery stores nestled in corners of our neighborhood within blocks of our new home. Getting settled requires time and often a few false starts and a bit of undue suffering. In the best of circumstances, it can be hard.

This go around, we face all the usual challenges, but since we're a veritable ragtag band of walking wounded, we also have to move quickly on the medical front, too. Not only do I need to round up the usual suspects: an OT, a speech therapist, and early intervention therapists, I also have to find a shoulder doc, a back doc, and a pediatric dentist, stat! But, you know, no pressure. Given that it took more than ten hours on the phone to get our cable/phone/Internet set up after our last move, and that it took three years to find our current pediatrician, I'm sure it will be just fine.***

**Apparently some kids are predisposed to tooth decay. Who knew? We brushed and flossed the same with her as we did with Sky, and none of us consume a lot of sugar or foods known to put teeth at risk, and yet, Sky has zero cavities and Pink P eight. Sigh.

***And by "just fine" I mean, "Quick! Someone get me a paper bag before I hyperventilate!"

Monday, July 1, 2013

What I Hate About Moving, Part 2: Packing with Children

You'd think since we've moved so many times with children that we'd have some kind of system figured out by now. We don't. Maybe we should try to quit moving when one of the kids is a toddler. Everyone knows that a toddler's goal in life is to create as much chaos as humanly possible in any given second.

When Sky was a toddler, he managed to lock all of the suitcases and change the combinations. It took us a full day to get them open again. When Pink P was a toddler, she liked to unpack whatever we packed which resulted in the entire family nearly missing the last possible bus to Narita Airport for our flight back to the U.S. In the end, a friend, one of the other moms from Sky's preschool at the time, had to run with us, dragging along part of our stuff all while carrying a baby strapped to her back. Incidentally, not long after that, we lost touch with that friend, and I can't help but think she dumped us when she realized how just disorganized and incompetent we really are. For the record, she's never moved with a toddler.

This time around, Stow is our toddler, and his game is climbing into Every. Single. Box. I. Try. To. Pack.

Don't let that pensive look fool you. He's probably contemplating the various ways he could take over the world.
Ooo, Mommy's winter clothes sure are comfortable.
Sure, it's cute. But, here's the thing. When there's a baby in your box, not much else fits. And when the baby gets out of the box, he likes to take whatever he discovered there with him. And, sometimes he even likes to destroy the box. Problem is, when he's not in one of my boxes, he's up to something even more dastardly--like climbing onto the stool in the kitchen to reach the drink sitting on the back of the counter and pouring it all over himself when trying to look inside and then running through the house yelling, "Yucky, Mommy!" drawing me from the room where I'm packing and tricking me into thinking that the yellow "yuck" on his shirt is potty (even though I'd just changed his diaper) when it's really watered-down green tea.

So, yeah, packing with toddlers, not so fun.

But it's nothing like trying to help my ASD kid navigate another big change. Just recently, Sky seems to have realized we are going to move. The speech therapist, bless her heart, thought that with a month to go, now would be a good time to start working through various scenarios for moving to a new place and meeting new friends. It makes sense, only, when you give Sky an entire month to anticipate something, it never goes well. During the session, she tried to get Sky to think about some of the challenges that he might encounter when we move. Nothing doing. Apparently, he spent their entire 45-minute session repeating, "I don't want to talk about this. I don't have to talk about this. My mom said I could use the computer" (for the record so not true). He fidgeted. He refused to make eye contact. He became belligerent. And, he managed not to answer a single one of the therapist's questions.

The worst part, of course, is that now the move is squarely on Sky's radar. So, he's flipped out. It's not like this is new news to him, but now it's real news. The lack of structure is palpable and nerves have set in. And it's not pretty. He spends a lot of his time running around like a spastic monkey.

Three and a half weeks to go. Heaven help us.