December 21, 2011

See ya next year!

That's what Ben gets to say to his orthopedic surgeon! His spine is a mess, but it's a surprisingly stable mess so the orthopedic surgeon feels comfortable going to yearly follow-up appointments unless problems come up. Woohoo!!!!!

I made the classic mistake of speaking to a resident and while he was reviewing the X-rays and MRI he thought it would be nice to tell me there are excellent surgery options for dealing with chest wall deformities, but they are risky. And then there was the classic "He really has VACTERL? He looks really good!" Okay, thanks, now go away. Then the real doctor came and told him that although Ben is a disaster on paper he's actually doing well.

Now we only have urology follow-ups on the 6-month marks and everything else is yearly. We won't get the kidney test results back for a few weeks I imagine. Ben was super good for all the testing. The kidney stuff took forfreakingever with them trying to get the perfect picture or something. But who cares when you can watch Toy Story 2 ten times in a row? He chased down a resident to make sure he knew "No shots for Ben!" And Ben earned two AngryBirds for slamming down 12oz of juice in 5 minutes. I hope this doesn't come back to haunt us when he's in college.

See ya NEXT YEAR Dr. Sturm! :)

December 15, 2011

Nutella

Olivia's first Nutella spoon! I told her we girls will be doing this the rest of our lives. :)

December 13, 2011

Two days since we got back from the North Pole and I think we are still recovering from the experience.  What an experience it was!  Ben is telling everyone about how he met Santa and got presents, Olivia likes talking about "Princess Misses" (Mrs. Claus), and Ariana is constantly playing with the Santa hats they handed out on the train. 


I have such wonderful memories flooding my mind, too.  Memories of Mrs. Claus who was so incredibly kind to our children - and gave extra special attention to Olivia - and stayed completely "in character" for the WHOLE day, of Ronald McDonald who helped me carry 5 plates of breakfast to our table of kids, of an official police escort to the train station, of swarms of firefighters helping out with everything - lifting the kids in and out of the train and buses, carrying our stuff, chatting it up with the kids, everything, and of all those firefighters, their trucks, all the the things they passed out to the kids on the train - Santa hats, stockings full of goodies, lunch, stuffed animals (Olivia is sleeping with them), games, goodie bags and water bottles from the fire department, fire hats, and all those people standing outside in the freezing cold just to wave as we went by and point the way to the North Pole. 

Arriving at the North Pole was intense.  Probably 100 people outside waiting to welcome us and cheering like we had won the World Series.  I don't know why, but that was incredibly intense and moving.  I hate to say "too much" but I wasn't the only one sobbing in the bathroom...it was wall-to-wall women leaning up against the walls and some on each other's shoulders.  I can't even type this or go back and review it for editing without getting emotional.  It was THAT moving. 

Inside Santa's house there was everything - probably a dozen magicians, a princess, Frosty the Snowman, the mayor of the North Pole complete with top hat, a walking-talking Christmas tree, therapy dogs (unfortunately our Lucky wasn't among them), face painting, airbrush tattoos, photo booth, cookie decorating, sundae bar, headband making, nail painting and everyone was just so completely nice and helpful.  It wasn't just oh-here-are-some-cookie-decorating-things-help-yourself...nope...it was more like as soon as Ben showed interest in cookies someone was pulling out a chair and someone else was grabbing the supplies and someone else was sitting down with him and helping him decorate.  The kind woman painting Olivia's nails fulfilled her every request even though it meant about a dozen different colors of nail polish, polka dots and stripes.  And the place was decorated to the hilt.  Even the hallway to the bathroom was decorated floor-to-ceiling.

And when it was time to visit Santa it was so special.  When we were ready to leave we put our name on a waiting list and they called up a few minutes later.  The entrance to his room was decorated like Candy Land.  They had adorable stuffed polar bears with ONP branded scarfs around their necks.  The scarf fell off Ben's and even though I - his adoring mother - was standing right there he wanted Mrs. Claus to fix it for him...she was that wonderful!  We were led back to Santa's room where he was waiting for us in a big chair sitting next to a roaring fireplace.  Something about that room was so special.  Maybe it was because it was the first time in about 6 hours we were relatively alone, maybe it was the quiet relief of being out of the big crowd, or maybe it was Santa magic.  Whatever it was, it was special. 

Then we were brought through another door where our coats were waiting.  It was a little hectic getting the kids in coats and assembling all our things so when a woman said, "Don't worry, we have some people who will help you bring it all out to your car" it didn't quite register what she was talking about.  When we pulled the car up there was a mountain of gifts waiting.  A mountain.  It took some creativity getting it all into our van.  We have an Odyssey.  It's not like it's a small 4-door sedan.  It seats 8 passengers.  We were STUFFED in there.  I had to sit crossed-legged in the front passenger seat because gifts took up the foot well.  It was another overwhelming moment.  I confess I did one of those ugly crying/laughing jags.

When we got home and unloaded everybody and everything the kids started ripping open presents.  Olivia opened her first present - a baby doll - and she was done.  Not interested in any more presents because she had a new baby doll to play with.  Hahaha.  Ben was tearing through them like it was a race.  Two remote control cars, a HUGE fire engine, clothes, and all sorts of other stuff.  Ariana got her phone, and tons of other toys, books, and a princess couch that folds out into a bed with sleeping bag and a HUGE, pink teddy bear about 4 times her size which she loves to scream and tackle.  I can hear her happy screaming across the house and I immediately know she is attacking that bear.  Olivia has been diligently attending to her new baby and has requisitioned the princess bed, which Ariana has already barfed on and caused much uproar.  Hahaha.  All three kids have been pushing that firetruck around the house.  Ben has been driving his cars all over the place and wore his new BuzzLightyear shirt and matching socks to school yesterday.  It's pretty much been non-stop joy around here.

Joy. 

I think that's the take-away we will have forever from our experience with Operation North Pole.  It's been a rough year in many ways in our life this year and especially recently.  We have certainly had some terrible Christmases in the past.  (Remind me to tell you about the "Manger Rage".)  As usual, pictures often speak louder than words -

Christmas Past...



Christmas Present...

December 11, 2011

Signed...

After

Before

Wow!

Wow! That just about sums it up. Too much to write about with my thumbs on my phone, but it was crazy fun. We are on the way home now and the only one with leg room is the driver...we are crammed into this van with presents. Ridiculous amounts of presents.

I hope nobody had a fire in the Northwest suburbs because every firefighter, truck, ambulance...EVERYHING was involved in this. Tell ya what, I sure do love firefighters now. Big time.

Nail painting

Cake pops

Punched tickets

Stockings!