Archive for the 'coping' Category

Happy birthday Roland!

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

My son’s first birthday is today! He turned two. (Confusing? Well that’s adoption for you.) He’s been our son for eight weeks now and boy is he thriving! For one thing he can talk now! He says “hello” to everyone we meet! Plus he can say Mama which I LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (He sometimes even refers to me as Mama. Mostly I’m “Dadoo.”  What the heck does dadoo even mean?!!) (And I swear he has the cutest little accent, but maybe that’s in my head. :)) Click here for a video of him saying all his cool new words! Wow, how far he’s come!

We wanted to do something grand for his first birthday in our family, but ended up downplaying the whole thing a bit. We didn’t want to have a crowd or even a small group in our home since we have to maintain this as a safe place for a few more months. We also didn’t want to let him blow out candles, because knowing my son, introducing him to fire would only lead to burning down our entire block. :) So instead we tried to teach him the happy birthday song and gave him all his favorite baby foods. He also played in the church nursery today, so take that orphanage attachment mess!

It’s days like these where I am floored at the thought of anyone giving up this child.

Raca. Fools!

Yes I know that was an impossibly hard decision and I can’t possibly know what they were going through, but that doesn’t change the fact that their decision was the wrong one. This kid is so amazing that thousands of mommies would line the streets waiting to fight over him. And I’m starting to really believe that better  physical  functioning like the kind an American family can provide with better doctors is not worth the sacrifice of a loving home from birth. (It’s not like he needed a heart surgery, he just has a physical limitation!) Almost two years of neglect can’t be rectified by better orthopedic treatment. He needed his parents. He deserved better.

But now what I’m going to write will seem to negate what I just wrote, because orthopedic stuff (like shoes and sitting in a gait trainer) is just what Roland got as his birthday present and he loved it. But I guess I just wanted to say that the fact that he gets to experience better functioning through modern medicine now in no way makes up for what he went through. Only God can redeem the mess that special needs kids go through over in Eastern Europe. Ugh. Part of me just feels a bit guilty that the trauma of losing his parents the day he was born directly led to me (with my orthopedic connections) getting a most precious son.

So sorry, back to the shoes.

The best gift we gave him (besides a home and family and to a lesser degree, kitties) was shoes. Happy birthday baby! Last Thursday I noticed that after this last set of casts his feet are really starting to be “feet shaped.” So as a lark I tried putting some shoes over them. I used Laelia’s old shoes that happened to be boy shoes. They are nothing special and in fact they are in no way functional as they get in his way. But wow was this boy happy! He just stared at his feet and looked so proud of himself. It hit me that these were the first shoes he had ever been able to wear in his entire life. And he just couldn’t stop staring at them and grinning!

The next day I took it a step further. I dusted off the ol’ KidWalk (a gait trainer with a seat) and gave him the feeling of standing in those shoes. I swear, I could have given him ten birthday cakes and a million dollars and not made him nearly as happy as he was just standing in his big boy shoes. Here’s his first “step” kind of.

Mostly he would try to lift his foot (while not weight bearing at all) and get super excited. I would push the KidWalk a bit forward and he would  squeal  with delight. It was pretty precious. Then I’d push him a little ways and when we’d stop he’d say, “Ta da!” Like, “Look at me, Mom!”

After that hard work he fed himself a snack using his new bendy arms! What a big boy he is!

We also tried reading him some books. *sigh* Roland is really not the sit-and-listen kind of child so he mostly just competes for attention with the book. (Video here.) And sometimes he’s so annoying while I’m trying to read to Laelia (required for school) that he must be chased and caught and head-patted into submission. (Video here.)

Haha, Roland just grabbed a wet wipe off the table and made the “blow nose” noise with his mouth. That never gets old. Have I shared that video? Here it is.

Okay I’m off to play with my kids. Laelia would like to point out that she just had a birthday too so they are both birthday kids. :) I said that was good to know because I was just about to go chase down, catch and tickle mercilessly any birthday kids I found! (She has since run off screaming. Gotta go!)

Happy birthday Roland!

We love you.

Casts

Friday, October 5th, 2012

So we flew to Philadelphia a bit over two weeks ago, got a game plan for our little man from Dr. van Bosse, and flew home in two plaster casts. For the 36 hours after casts went on and the Tylenol with Codine was taken our little man screamed his head off. He was up all night screaming and since we were all in the same room in the Ronald McDonald House, we were all miserable and upset. Then he was doing this  weird jerking thing that scared me. (Thanks for all your emails about it! Turns out since it only happened during deep sleep that it was most likely a combination of medication, sleep  deprivation  and stress. We’ve since added this medication to Rolly’s chart as an allergy, even though it probably wasn’t an allergic reaction, but we’re trying to avoid it for the future.) We ended the medication while on the airplane home and everything was much better. We think maybe the drugged feeling reminded him of his drugged life and caused more stress. Who knows. Anyway about a day and a half later he was doing great. He had even learned to crawl again in that time.

For the rest of his serial casting we’re doing it locally, and as an added bonus he is getting his elbows worked on as well. So last Tuesday he got the old casts taken off and the new ones put on plus one on his left arm. Of course they used the Saw of Death. I’ve been asked if I mean a cast removal saw, but no, I mean the Saw of Death. The one that eats children.

He did really well at first but then broke down into  hysterics  for the rest of it. (It didn’t help that the eight year old boy next door also screamed… louder.) Then he cried on the 5 minute car ride home and then fell asleep from exhaustion.

These casts were a lot lighter than the last ones. I was expecting another day of screaming, especially since we had not given him any medicine this time, but actually it was great! He only screamed a bit when we first got home. Mostly that was because it was abnormally hot for Autumn (go away Summer!), and he could no longer knee-stand or knee-walk or crawl like with the last set of casts. As  his feet get better (straighter) they pitch him forward making knee-standing (and walking) a lot harder. When he woke up from his nap he was so mad. He did that high-pitched screaming while throwing a huge fit thing no one likes, but I was completely able to bring him out of it easily. I just stood him up and helped him get around. Once he learned he was not helpless then he got better. We even got out Laelia’s old caster cart  that her grandpa made for her and used that as a walker. He started to feel better.

*pout*

For crawling (his primary mode of transportation) he was a one-stooge show for a while. He could get onto all fours, but then his tricep would fire up and his uncasted arm would go straight (like what he’s used to doing to start crawling) and he would fall towards the bent arm like a slow-motion, messed-up somersault. If I kept his uncasted arm bent (as much as it would bend) he could crawl fine. I can’t tell you how many times I would say, “Keep your arm bent, baby,” only to watch him once again do the slow roll onto his back. He looked like a turtle stuck on its back. (I did my best not to laugh.) Eventually he got the hang of it. Ugh, I just hate that it’s all going to change again on Tuesday.

Besides not being able to straighten it to crawl, he now uses the casted arm MORE in a cast! It helps that the cast is light and a bent arm is more functional.  Also he still has full use of his fingers.  We casted his non-dominate side and he seems to love  moving it around (read: “thunking it over and over on the furniture”). He’ll even do things he used to do with his right arm instead with his left. Like…

Pulling all the wiring out of the wall, or…

Pulling out the Internet cords. *sigh*

For all the  hassles   he really is handling casts really well. And now that the weather has mercifully cooled down, he’s a happy little man again. Until next Tuesday…

And I’m happy overall too. Except that I’ve been accused of breaking his arm, oh, about a hundred times. >:-/  Once by the parking guy at Children’s hospital, once by the receptionist at the counseling office, once by the grocery store lady, once at Target by like a whole slew of people, once at Baby’s R Us, etc etc. Boo. (I have two responses in my back pocket: one’s informative and the other is completely snarky.)

But casts really are a blessing and not a bad thing. And even though he had to learn to get around differently, rest assured he can  maneuver  his way into mischief just fine with them on.

This is how we let Mommy do Wii Fit. (We don’t.)

The hard times and the good

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Peek-a-boo!

Today was the day I was going to write about my son’s one month home. He’s been with us one month. I have so many pictures of this trouble-maker, you have no idea. And videos. And accomplishments. And joy. And love. And a high number of just his finger. (Stop pointing at the camera, my love, and keep doing the cute thing you were doing. I give up. Cameras are too cool and must be pointed at.)

But life is happening and it’s too much to find the time to write. I will share–believe me these picture demand to be shared–but not until next week. I hope next week. After we’re back home from medical travels. (Oh I’m not looking forward to having Mr.  Trauma  back on a plane. God help us.)

You see today is hard. Today my husband is sick. Today we missed the school bus. Today Roland has an appointment to get casts and we’re going to the appointment but refusing the casts… again… because our son is not ready. Tomorrow we fly to Philadelphia and Delaware for medical treatment for both kids. We arrive so late that we can’t get into the three Ronald McDonald Houses and must get a hotel. Today I called the rental car company and found out our reservation wasn’t put in. Today I feel defeated, busy and stressed.

But where my focus really is, even if it shouldn’t be, is that today is the last day of work for me. I had to leave my career. It was work-from-home, but my position required coming into the office for some much-needed meetings, and I just can’t. I don’t know when I could as my little one learns he is safe and that we won’t leave him. My family demands so much right now. I was pulling all-nighters to get my work done. Leaving my job to care for my family has made me feel like the biggest quitter ever. Six years I put into my company. Six years. I won’t even have more free time if I do this, just a couple more hours sleep a night… when Roland lets me. Oh and I’m good at what I do. I get a sense of self from what I do. A sense of pride. And we rely on my income. I don’t know what we’re going to do, although I know we have a few months to figure it out. Today is hard. Not just because I have a ton of work to do for my company before I leave everything in other’s hands, but because this was my life. The life I liked.

“If this life I lose I will follow you.”

This life is a blip. A blip. One tiny speck on our timeline of eternity. In that perspective it’s easy to lose this life to gain so much more. Is my son worth it? Damn right he is. Damn right.

(Yep cussing on the blog. First clue that I’m overly emotional.)

And I haven’t packed for Philly yet. In fact (shocker) I haven’t unpacked from Ukraine yet. Heh.

So instead of writing about all the joys of the first month, I’m going to leave you with some of the beauty in the pain.

I’ve talked a lot about the first three days of non-stop, mindless screaming from our new little son. (It helps that I’ve spoken with another family who adopted out of his orphanage and some of my  suspicions  were supported.) That was hard. But by day four, I don’t know, I was filled with love for this screamer. It could have been the wonderful prescription medication I was on, but something was different that day. We had just settled into the uncomfortable knowledge that this could be our life now. It could be our life for months or years. And we needed to function despite that. It’s scary when after three days you have no light at the end of the tunnel. Three days is long when your child is screaming at top volume, but it’s longer when you don’t know if it’s just three days or a lifetime.

Want to see a glimpse of day four? Turn your volume down and click here. By day four I loved this little boy. By day four his screams were not high-pitched anymore, and he seemed to be asking for comfort instead of reacting to an unseen terror. I held him on the couch after not showering or brushing my hair or teeth for three days. I held him and whispered love to him. I was able to smile–a small miracle. My husband took a video. We wanted to capture daily life.

Then, and I cry as I remember this, then this happened: This. For the first time ever he came back to us. Back out of the world he was in. I can’t describe how for three days his eyes were just blank, unfocused. Then he started to make eye contact. Then he didn’t thrash when I touched his face. He came back. He came back.

And he made kissy faces. “More kisses mom. Yep right there on my forehead. Perfect.”

When I wrote the blog post about (not) living happily ever after, I was being very honest. I thought maybe people would not want to adopt after reading how we were adjusting. Then THREE people emailed me after that and said that they read the post and were definitely going to adopt. One started the process. Another picked an agency. A third is definitely, seriously considering it a few years down the road. Wow. Wow. Really guys? After I post about screaming? Welcome my fellow crazies! Haha!

They get it; it’s about people.

Now do me a favor and click here. Read  this story and then you can tell me that we’re all crazy. (We won’t argue.) Go ahead. I read that link and cried my eyes out. It speaks truth to me. It lets me know I’m not a freak show for wanting to go back and get another one, or support others getting theirs even though I know it’s so hard. Just read it. (Despite the amazing support we’ve received, we still have the same crowd mentioned in the story.) Do me a favor and just read it. I didn’t write it, but we sure lived it.

See you in a week, friends. Hold onto this promise from me, incredible joyful stories are coming. Just give us one more week or so of hard. Pray for us.

And they all lived happily ever after… kinda.

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Click to enlarge image.

I started a tradition of drawing really bad cartoons over at my other blog. The above creation was inspired when someone actually said this to me. SOMEONE ACTUALLY SAID THIS TO ME! (Boohoohoo.) For real. Seriously. But  I did not cold cock them. Oh no, I just gently corrected them. And that one  herculean  act of self restraint pretty much means I can yell at the next one hundred people karma free. Pretty sure that’s how that works. Don’t correct me.

(Disclaimer: This is my story as Roland’s mommy. His daddy and sister have their own stories. I may get their permission to share their stories with you, but for now this is my story.)

(Um… other disclaimer: Imma ’bout to get preachy.)

When your child first comes home is a time known as the honeymoon phase. It’s been described as a time where they are so new and well behaved. Then something triggers culture shock or they finally feel safe enough to show you their grief and life gets harder for a time. My girl crush, Jen Hatmaker, describes it really well here.

But for very little guys who don’t yet get self preservation skills, they are brutally honest almost immediately.

When Roland arrived on American soil he was glossy-eyed and shell shocked. I had this wonderful moment with him where after 28 hours of travel and dehydration he let me make a warm bottle of breast milk (donated) and he downed the whole thing and fell asleep in my arms. Precious.

Then he woke up.

And proceeded to scream.

For three days.

Straight.

I spent most of the first three days curled up on the living room floor with my child who screamed and thrashed. (Full body thrashing convulsions.) I held him while he screamed at top volume for over an hour at a time. As he screamed his whole body jerked violently. He screamed until he threw up. I looked at my husband and we both said without a word, “What have we done?”

During those three days there would be periods of “not screaming.” Not to be mistaken as periods of peace or happiness, just… not screaming. We would walk on egg shells until something triggered him. Food triggered him 100% of the time. He had MAJOR food issues. He had sleep issues. He had abandonment issues. He stimmed. He had sensory issues. Changing his diaper was traumatic. Changing his clothes was traumatic. Holding him in my lap facing away from me was traumatic. Bonding was out the window. We were hunkered down in survival mode.

We were in the trenches.

When people congratulated us on our adoption we felt so hollow inside, like we couldn’t accept their well-wishes on account of feeling so broken like we had ruined this. Obviously things got better. Three weeks later I’m full of cutesy Rolly stories and I go around showing off my son proudly. But for three hard days, and about a week more of “not easy” we were in the trenches.  And it was hard on everyone.

Keep in mind that during this time one of our friends had a  tragic  accident where their adopted daughter drowned and now is suffering brain damage, and another family traveling the same summer as us got word nine days before departing to meet their son that he had died waiting for them. Those stories made me cling to my son, despite the hard times.

Things we heard in the trenches:

“I really hope this was God’s will for you.”

“You asked for this.”

“I’m not sure how much we are suppose to take on other people’s problems. I mean how hard is your life going to be now because of this.”

“Adopted kids grow up weird.”

Okay that last one was said by Pat Robertson who is not a real person, but the other three things were said by real people, aka people in my life. Shockingly, these were professed Bible-believers from three different faiths.

I’ve already written a blog post on why the Bible-believing crowd should support orphans which you can read here. In it I site over a dozen Bible passages (not an exhaustive list) commanding followers to support orphans (and foreigners and widows). One I don’t quote much, because it’s always quoted is James 1:27 which says that you’re not really the good religious person you think you are if you’re not helping orphans and widows. God’s will for someone’s life is not some magical feeling individuals get while they’re meditating where they hear a whisper telling them to buy a car or have a baby. God’s will is outlined in Scripture: Love God. Trust Jesus. Give. Seek justice. Do good. Think good. Care for orphans. Help your neighbor. Etc.

Not God’s will? It’s clear as day!

As far as claiming that the Bible calls people to lives of comfort and never to anything hard (or too hard to handle), well that’s a lie. I’m convinced God does not want you to be comfortable. Peaceful, hopeful, content, sure, but not comfortable. And usually it’s something too hard to handle alone. Let’s just look at some Bible-y peoples and their easy lives, shall we? Jesus was  crucified. God is constantly grieved. All of Jesus’  apostles  died in cruel ways, save the one that got exiled which is no picnic. Most of the prophets were killed, all of them went through cruel things. Their lives were the least comfortable. Job was God’s favorite. Joseph too. Moses. John the Baptist. I don’t want their stories. Do you? The Levites were never given property of their own, despite how valuable that was in that day and age, because God was their portion. Every character in the Bible went through hardship for God, because of God. The Bible says to followers, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) That’s your Bible, people. One that points towards eternal rewards and not toward earthly comforts.

My experience in the trenches may be limited compared to others.  We think Roland was coming off of something, maybe a drug to make him sleep through the night. He screamed like a mindless crack baby. And whatever it was in his system he had to come off it cold turkey. Our friends who adopted from a different orphanage in the same country were given the names of the medications their son was on and they were able to get the prescriptions in country and have their child come off it gradually. Not us. Roland’s little system just crashed. Remember the breast milk and the child in my arms when we first got home? I held that memory through the next miserable 72 hours.

He needed his Mama. Even during the worst of it if I moved away from him a few inches he would roll towards me while thrashing around. He felt safest to scream while right up against my leg. (Yay.) Walking the halls with him helped. I whispered love to him when I didn’t feel it, when I was a shell of a person. My ears were always ringing. He was so angry.

Three days. And then Roland was back. Well hello there Mama!

My sweet, goofy boy.

We still had a long way to go, a lot to grieve, but we had support. We had meals from close friends. We had emails and Facebook messages. We had other adopting families tell me that it’s okay to feel the “what the bleepity-bleep have we done” feelings and to love your child when that biological pull is not there. Roland still had the occasional melt down, especially over food or if he thought we might be walking away from him, but things were better. Everyone was breathing. Laughter came back. When he threw a screaming fit, Laelia and I would just shrug at each other and have an entire conversation through it while I rubbed his back. We were adjusting and eventually I could bring him out of his fits quickly. I was starting to get to know Roland and learn about his trauma and his triggers.

After those three days, that biological pull was there. As if I’d birthed him. Amazing.

Now my son is not just a screamer, although his nickname is Mr. Screamers, but so was Laelia’s when she was little. Just imagine the jolt to his system! He had never been out of that orphanage. Never. been. out. I made him suffer through his very first car ride (which scared him), his first rain (the umbrella scared him), his first walk through the city (which scared him), his first  chew-able  food (which he choked on), his second chew-able food (which he threw up) his first three plane rides (trauma), a new place to live, new smells, new foods, new expectations, new sights, traffic noises outside and a whole host of culture stress and shock.

(But I gave him kitties and he loves kitties. So there you go.)

But it got easier. It got better. After only a week if someone said, “Where’s Mama?” he would turn around and put his arms up for me with a huge grin on his face. I was told to hold and carry him everywhere and I have. I’ve held him while peeing. Don’t judge. ;) I’ve gone days without showering or brushing my teeth like having a newborn. It took a week for him to have a meal without a melt down. Cheerios were a form a torture at one point, and now they are his favorite food. We still are feeding him baby food out of ziplock bags with the corner cut off to squeeze in his mouth, but he ate veggie  lasagna like a champ! I could dry him off after a bath without towel trauma. He started cuddling during nap times. He let me change his shirt without crying. His pants. His diaper. Dear Lord his diaper.

Oh, and I got a tooth brush in my son’s mouth for the first time in his life. Where’s my medal?

After two weeks we could do diaper changes while laughing and playing. He drank his first cup of water without it coming out his mouth or choking on it. Meal time no longer was traumatic and he no longer freaked out if I had to get up to get something during the meal. He also no longer ate until he hurt. He was trusting us to care for him. He was trusting food would still be there. He was gaining weight.

Haven’t seen  stimming  since the first week.

Roland is 23 months old, but had a mental age of 9 months at the time of meeting him. After two weeks of us visiting him in the orphanage daily he was up to a 12 month mental age. Now after a few weeks at home he’s up to 18 months on a good day. That’s what love can do. He can say his sister’s name. He can say kitty and then point to a kitty. But when I try to get him to say Mama, he just gets excited and throws himself into me as if to say, “You’re right here.” :) He said, “Ma ma ma ma?” after a nap the other day and my heart simply exploded with love.

After daily stretching (which he lovessssss, not) his elbows gained 15 degrees of ROM on the right and almost 10 degrees of ROM on the left. For those of you without experience with arthrogryposis and range of motion, that’s a good thing. It means his elbows can bend a slight bit more. It means changing his clothes is easier and soon he can start feeding himself long soft bread sticks. He’s already shown an interest in self-feeding.

But besides the very real triumphs and glorious stories of my son overcoming, well, everything, the real reward is in our changed perspective. I got to experience first-hand the redemptive work of God that he did for me. The Bible says that God adopted us. We are heirs of God and co-heirs (with equal portion) of Christ. The Bible is full of adoption language! Check it out: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)  What a life-changer this is. I thrash and scream at God because I don’t understand him or his ways, and I certainly don’t understand his care of me. But God loves me. Forever.

***Roland, it’s mommy’s job to love you. You’ve already given me more than I could ever give you. I would take you again in a heart beat. You are mine.***

Please consider adoption. And if you do not qualify legally to adopt, go here, pick a  category, find a baby and do something, anything for that child. Or go here and support an adopting family. That counts as caring for the orphan. Orphans are God’s very heart.

Grandma Joy

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Hi Grandma!

My name is Laelia. We’ve never met but I’m your grandkid!

 My name is pronounced LAY-Lee-Uh.  When mommy thought it up she showed it to her family to make sure it was  pronounceable. They all pronounced it fine. Little did we know that a litany of medical professionals would have trouble with it. Blame Grandpa, a.k.a. Mr. Can Pronounce Things.

Oh right, and I have arthrogryposis multiplex congenita. It’s the amyoplasia type. It doesn’t affect my vision. The glasses in my photo are daddy’s. But it does affect my ability to put them on. This was a triumph for me.

This is my daddy!

Yeah it’s the guy you picked out for mommy’s sister to marry. The guy you picked out for my mommy was never going to happen. Sorry Grandma. But your other daughter did marry that guy’s best friend. So you weren’t far off. My mommy threatens to be as embarrassing about boys as you were. I’m afraid.

But anyway, I wanted to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!

I’ve been wishing all women a Happy Mother’s Day all weekend, including teenagers. So far no one at the mall has corrected me.

I went to Cubbies this year. I know you would have liked that since you were an AWANA leader for years and years. I may do Sparks next year, but next year they do racing games and I don’t know if that will be up my alley. But I enjoyed Cubbies very much so we’ll see!

Oh and my mommy wants you to know that all your Sparkies sang the song you taught them, hand-motions and all, a week after you went to Heaven at their AWANA awards ceremony.

I ask a million questions all the time, so eventually I figured out that you went to Heaven right after Mother’s Day on May 15th.

I found this out after I learned to walk.

I started really walking at four. One of the first things I did was walk right into the road. My mommy got really upset. That’s when I learned cars can hit people and then they go to Heaven, just like you did.

We talk about car and road safety a lot. This is my new car seat because I’m such a big girl. I take a lot of trips to a place called Philadelphia and this is easy to ride in and easy to carry!

Um… These are my balloons. It was very important that I show you my balloons. Very important. Here they are.

This is how I like my room. Mommy said it would look familiar to you. I do believe you told mommy to have a child just like her and this room is a result of that. ;) I pulled out all the books and puzzles and blankets myself! The very first time I did this my parents were so happy that I was so mobile! Now they are less thrilled.

This is my grandma Christina! You would have liked her a lot. Mommy told me how before you went to Heaven you told Grandpa to marry someone good. She makes birthday cake. So obviously Grandpa followed your instructions.

She’s holding Levi. He’s my only cousin. But you have more than two grandkids… you are going to have THREE!

This is my baby brother. We get to meet him in eight weeks. He’s not little like this anymore, but we don’t have another picture of him! He’ll be two in October. And I’ll be five in October! I’ve been promised a giant double birthday party. With cake.

Roland has two moms! One gave him life and the other will give him love and a home. It’s just like I have both you and Christina as grandmas! One to make me possible and the other to give me love and a family.

I’m a very happy kid. You’d like me.

Happy Mother’s Day, Grandma!

Three steps forward, one step back

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

So after our three hard days of evil AFO adjustment came our breakthrough: Laelia slept through the night and woke up without her face all scrunched up with pain. We relaxed and considered it a victory. The very next night Laelia slept a bit and then woke up screaming. For all our caution the shoes had caused a deep red mark on her left foot. She cried for twenty minutes after I removed the brace. I finally put her in a hot bath and the heat soothed the pain. She stayed in the bath for three hours begging me not to remove her. With a red mark that fierce I can’t put the AFO back on and I can’t tighten the straps. The orthetist can’t see us until Friday to adjust them either. Crap.

I put in mole skin and that helped a bit, but they still couldn’t be tightened. I really did not want to lose three days worth of pain, but didn’t want to make it worse. A friend on Facebook (thanks Martha!) suggested New Skin (the liquid bandaid) to put on the red marks to protect them from the brace. Apparently that’s what ballerinas use when their shoes are rubbing holes in their feet. It was worth a try. I called Rite Aid to see if they had some. They had it at the counter when I ran in. I explained that it was for my daughter’s braces and I’d never used it before. The gal ringing me up immediately tried to stop me from buying it! She said stuff like, “You don’t want this. This is like for burns and stuff. Let’s find something else.” And I was like, “That’s fine. This is what I want. I will… buy it… now… thank you?” Finally she said she would never put this in a child’s mouth and I realized our communication error. “No, it’s for the braces on her FEET, not on her TEETH!” We both laughed. Now that I’m back home and smelling this stuff I want to thank her even more. It’s strong, like an oil refinery. I scratched my face and it burned my eyes a little!  If this was going anywhere near a child’s mouth that would be abusive!

Thankfully the mole skin plus the liquid New Skin did the trick. She was able to wear her braces. I think the left side is a little loose because it’s hard to judge when you’ve packed it with mole skin, but hopefully it’s fine. I hate this stuff!

And just for the record this has nothing to do with her surgery. This has everything to do with her feet missing heel pads and having been severely clubbed at birth. The ankle foot orthotics (AFOs) are killer because we’re trying to avoid yet another surgery on her feet. Her knees are doing okay post plate insertion. She does not like to bend them though, and that’s probably good because we’re not suppose to work on bending them until they’re straighter. Still when she’s not in her protective KAFOs (that keep her knees straight and secure) then she will hold her breath when I pick her up because she’s worried I’ll do it wrong and bend those little knees. But she is standing again and taking steps (although not as many as in her casts), and she’s getting better everyday.

Well now that Laelia is feeling only a slight irritant instead of major pain, she has become only a slight irritant instead of a major pain. (Come on other mommies, back me up here.) One day I couldn’t take it anymore. She’s been acting out and whining a lot over silly things. Finally I called my husband and said, “I can’t take it anymore!” And I loaded Laelia in the car and we drove somewhere. Anywhere! Just needed to get out of the house. We drove to a fish store actually. Laelia wheeled herself all over the place and the whole time kept gasping and shouting out her discoveries. She loves fish. And yes I bought our family it’s first fish. ($4.99?!! Didn’t fish used to be 20 cents?!)

Meet Rocky!

Laelia’s eyes got wide at the thought of getting and naming her own fish. I was so proud of myself for thinking up a way to teach my child responsibility instead of just staying home and strangling her adorable, annoying little self. She promised to feed it and play with it and love it. We got it home and the first thing she did was pick up the container and start shaking it while loudly singing, “FISHY FISHY I GOT A FISHY!!!” She’s seen Finding Nemo so many times and yet has learned nothing from Darla apparently.

After explaining how to care for her fishy, we got it’s food out. Laelia had to finish all her dinner before she could feed the fish. (We had fish for dinner, is that wrong somehow?) Laelia gave it a few balls of fish food that were the size of dust particles before announcing, “This is boring! Can we feed him the entire bag? Can I play with him? Can we get another one?”

*sigh*

Adjustment following AFOs: Seven tricks

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

These are the things that make us quite blue.

Here they are now:  Pain One and Pain Two!

Laelia  got new braces this week. Now you’re probably wondering why that means we missed an art show at the Park Gallery (where Laelia was one of the artists), a birthday party, church  and a couple of promised  trips to the zoo. Let me explain.

There’s nothing I dislike more than painful ankle foot orthotics (AFOs). My husband and I have considered surgery over  using AFOs (not a good idea by the way)  and had our worst parenting experiences following getting new AFOs.  Dark times.

We have been through this before, but that only makes it marginally easier. When you’re looking at getting casts off and seeing your darling child’s legs again all you think about is bath time and putting them in real pants. What no one seems to warn you about is that you’re in for pain. New AFOs that are really doing their job WILL make your child weep in agony. (My first experience with AFOs when Laelia was a bitty baby went something like this.)  This time we at least knew what we would be looking at.  Still we got our hopes up just a bit that it would be easier now that Laelia was older. It wasn’t.

When I was  younger I would get  the braces on my teeth adjusted and they’d hurt. It was done after school and all I could have for dinner  a few hours later was  aspirin. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep. And I was one whiny teenager during those first two days  following an  adjustment.  AFO pain is suppose to be comparable with that, only with a little kid who could probably out-complain someone who was just hit by a bus.

(Speaking of, Laelia scared me to death when she started to scream her head off in the middle of the night. It turned out  she was frustrated with the volume control for her movie. Of course everything is major when you’re in discomfort, but still.  I gave her a stern look and asked her, “When are you allowed to scream like that?” She hung her head and guiltily replied in her little voice, “Only when I’m on fire or being eaten by a bear.” That’s right!)

So how do we get through new AFOs? There are some tips and tricks.

#1. Send husband far, far away.  My super wonderful husband  is mush when his daughter cries. Plus he works two jobs to support us and our adoption and needs the sleep. (Plus I have a personal theory that hardship makes women stronger and reduces men to tiny, helpless children. *ahem*)

#2. Remember it always takes three days with AFOs. After three days life gets normal again. Keep your eye on the goal. You can do almost anything for three days, right? Plan on getting no sleep for those nights and treat it like having the flu. Call in sick and hunker down for some hard times.

#3. The trick is to  not ease up on the dorsiflexion  straps. Loosening the straps leads to a month of this and this. I’m serious. It also leads to months of whining about loosening the already loosened straps. This is the first time in our child’s life that I have not loosened the straps. I always have caved on this point in the past. (What can I say?! I’m weak!!) Don’t do it!

#4.  Medicate the kid. Now when it comes to medication I always hesitate. I hate “unnatural” things in my body, even when they’re good things. And being a first time mom I have been scared to put anything into my precious daughter’s system, especially when she already has to have meds after surgery. But medicine  takes the edge off. So this is the very first time I actively asked for a prescription for pain meds before starting this new AFO process. It made me feel icky, but I’m glad I did it. It helps on  a physical level and also on a psychological level. When Laelia knew she was taking the pain meds she started feeling  better. When we hid them in her food she only felt marginally better.

#5.  Take the AFOs  off and check the skin.  I know it’s hard to even look at these things let alone touch them. And yes your child will scream while you remove them and then scream louder when you put them back on. But you need  to check for redness, “work” the straps and change sweaty socks.  Wet socks  lead to  skin breakdown (click on that link only if you want to see bloody pictures of my child’s foot). Then you put those braces right back on  without loosening them! Stay  strong through the begging and pleading and shaking. (Kick your husband out AGAIN when he comes to make sure his daughter is not on fire.)

#6. Be super mom. It was hell the first two nights and  we got next to no sleep. We watched kid’s shows all night while I rubbed her back and legs and the tops of her feet with the braces on.  Hour after hour after hour. She cried and whined a lot. I had to sometimes leave the room to go punch a pillow and cry before coming back to her. (A crying child does not always result in sympathy, but instead you just want them to stop!) But I always  let her know I’m in this thing too. I stayed firm about  not loosening or taking off her shoes until she finally (30 hours later) stopped asking. We got through it together.

#7. Don’t loosen the straps.  Did I mention that already? :)  Some say to work up to the lines, meaning start out with them loose and work up to full tightness, but don’t ever start tight and loosen! Not worth it. (For the record, we didn’t do that. We started with them on the lines and stayed there. That way it would be really hard for three days instead of a little less hard for a week or two. Last time an ulcer developed. Then you back off. We were lucky this time.)

The pay off:  Last night (day three) she complained when I put on the straps but  then she slept for 14 hours straight with those braces on. She woke up saying that the pain meds had worked and  her feet  didn’t hurt. She has finally adjusted. And her feet, although a bit red in places,  look beautiful and have more range of motion.

Yay! Ugh. Now what day is it? *collapses*

See you in six months!

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

It doesn’t matter how ready I am or how many business cards I hand out explaining  Laelia’s condition, people will still look at a girl in full leg casts and ask how  we broke both her legs. And that’s if they’re nice. Most whisper in vicious tones to each other loud enough for us to hear as we stroll past. On our way back from our surgery trip last month a flight attendant guy asked, “How did you guys end up  doing both legs?!!” I guess he was pointing out it would be hard for a four year old to do it alone and her parents must have helped push her off the cliff. Most just say, “Poor thing,” as they walk past. I hate that most.

But I found the best way to avoid all the drama and have some great laughs and conversations. I simply wrote “skydiving accident” on her shirt.

I got lots of laughs and lots of random people coming up to us saying they liked her shirt. Only one lady actually asked me, “Was she really in a skydiving accident?!!” It was great. :) After the shared laugh I would just say, “She has an orthopedic condition,” and it was enough. No more strangers’ nasty comments, and even  the shared whispers behind our backs were light-hearted. My favorite: the “poor little thing” people added, “skydiving is rough for anyone.”   :)

Sunday everything went wrong that could have gone wrong. We got to the airport and realized we only had parts of Laelia’s wheelchair. Charley did a mad dash back home as we checked into our flight. They held  the plane  for us. We made it with one minute to spare. It was super stressful and wouldn’t be the end of the stress. In every flight we had that day we displaced someone from their seat who was not happy with us. We had no idea that because of Laelia’s casted, unbendable legs we were required to put her in a window seat in case of emergency. No one likes to give up the window seat  we came to find out. One guy refused to talk to us even when I was thanking him for moving and offering him my free television. (Later he paid for  Laelia’s milk we found out. Apparently  he got over it!)  We landed and ran to our next plane. We boarded quickly and then sat on it for over an hour and a half as they did maintenance. The power went out and it was a little scary. Finally we were up in the air, but some people would miss their connecting flights including us. (Remember these trips are three plane affairs for us.)

During the second flight Laelia announces that she has to go potty. Of course if the plane had left on time she wouldn’t have had to go on the plane in full leg casts. I gently carried her in there, but her legs were hanging off the potty and we both didn’t fit and I bumped her head and her right leg. And she ended up being in pain and screaming for a solid twenty minutes, holding up the line. She didn’t even go potty. Lots of angry looks later we landed. The flight attendent told me that if I missed our window to get to the RMDH that maybe the airline would put us up in Milwakee. I explained that then I would miss her doctor’s appointment.  I got in the line to learn my fate and  was standing behind a family who was put on flights to Philly that would arrive at 10:30 pm. They were told they were lucky since it was the last flight they could book. My stomach was in knots because if we arrived that late we couldn’t stay at the RMDH.

(Oh speaking of the RMDH I called during this time to make sure we had a room and was told we were not on the list! Lots of stressing later they ended up finding us a place to stay, but only if we arrived by 8:00pm! Now it looked like we wouldn’t make it there!)

Well it turned out they had room on a plane for two people but it took off in 30 minutes and was with a different airline! We had to run out of the airport and then re-enter with US Airlines and do security all over again. (Where they separated me from my daughter, which made me crazy and I complained loudly until we were reunited. Not cool TSA.) We barely made that flight before the doors closed. And then we sat there as it turned out the plane was covered in ice. (I nervously counted every minute.) They sprayed it down for a while before we could get out of there. I called RMDH when we landed and said we would arrive after they closed. They said they would wait 30 minutes longer (until 8:30) only because they had a volunteer willing to wait. But they just could not wait any longer than that. Of course we exited the plane and discovered that Laelia’s wheelchair was missing. (Of course.)  We were the only ones on the plane with the cleaning crew before they found it and brought it up to us. Then we raced to get our luggage only to discover it was lost. (Not joking.) Not just left behind, but not in their system. I explained that we had been on three different airplanes and two different airlines today and they explained that it would be a miracle to get us our luggage. That’s when it hit me, besides all of our clothes and coats and toiletries, Laelia’s medication is in that bag! Ugh. So we filled out our paperwork for missing luggage and raced to the shuttles for Thrifty Car Rental.

The shuttle didn’t show up and the security guard hadn’t seen it in a while so he  suggested we take a taxi over to the rental place. Just as we were about to do that he comes running after us to tell us the shuttle finally came. We made it to the rental car place, but they left us on the shuttle! (I’m still not joking.)  The guy driving got out to help some VIP members get settled and didn’t come back. I couldn’t operate the wheelchair lift myself and kept waving that we were on the shuttle and no one came back. I got on the intercom equipment but couldn’t figure out how that worked either. Just as I was about to start honking the horn wildly the driver came back. No word. No apology. Just worked the equipment as I stood there in tears. We ran in the building to a long line. Oh no. RMDH had just closed for the night, but we still had that 30 minutes they offered us.  I cut in line and asked to speak to a manager. (I knew three managers’ names and was ready to demand them ALL in a minute.)  He helped us get our rental car  since we already had a reservation. Then when we got out there our rental car seat was too small, not in there properly and would not adjust easily. And it was against the law for him to help me with it.  I fought and silently  cussed at it in the cold as Laelia (as she’d been doing this entire trip) whined. I looked at her and said (I thought very calmly), “Not another sound Laelia.” Then  I finally got it in there, adjusted it  and  put Laelia in there when  the ridiculous harness pinched her. The thing was total and complete crap. Then I raced to the RMDH. Half way there my daughter asks, “Can I talk again now?” I had forgotten I said that! What a good girl she is! I was stressed out of my head, but managed to sing Old McDonald Had a Farm the rest of the way there with her as she laughed. (And on his farm he had a bridge! Bridge?!! Hahahaha!)  We arrived at 8:31pm.

Now they didn’t have to let us in the building. They have a strict rule we were breaking by coming so late. There were security issues involved here. But they saw how broken we were and how tired (and heard about everything that happened) and  in their way the RMDH made it all better. Laelia had a rough day, but they handed her the most gorgeous Ariel the Little Mermaid doll in the world. It’s part of a wonderful  collection we had seen in Disneyland and we wanted one so much!  She cuddled and kissed it and was the happiest little child ever. (“This is the best day ever,  Mama!”) We checked in and had our first real meal  of  the day. It took a while to calm down from all of that, plus we had to get toothbrushes, a pair of pants for Laelia for after cast removal the next day  as well as other things (like a ton of Pull Ups). We finally got down at midnight.

Laelia also developed a sty on her right eye. Ugh.

At 2:00 am we heard pounding on our door. I quickly got dressed (through the pounding) and answered. They had our luggage, but I had to get all the way dressed and go down the elevator and  outside in the cold to sign for it. I grabbed shoes and with no coat  ran to sign for my bag. So we were now fully awake. I  had Laelia’s medicine that I put in her cup and was thankful at least that I could shower and put on clean clothes. (What I shouldn’t have done is dig through my suitcase so messily. That would come back to bite me later.)

Our appointment was at 10:30am, but we probably only got four hours of sleep (and not in a row) after a long, stressful day/night. We ended up waiting for five hours to see the doctor. We fell asleep on the table waiting for the KAFOs to be adjusted. We got out of there at 6:30pm and missed dinner at RMDH where we were hoping to meet up with more AMC families. (There were about ten other families with AMC there. Just further proof that this is AMC mecca. It’s so wonderful to see all these kids through the years. I now believe completely that every child with AMC, no matter how affected will achieve ambulation!) We went straight to Rite Aid to get Laelia’s pain prescription, but they had trouble with our insurance card.  We got back to the house around 8:00pm when I discovered that they had NOT included a doser for measuring out the 7.5 milliliters.  A RMDH volunteer went out to the store and bought one for us while we ate leftovers from the meal. She refused to tell me the cost. It took over twenty minutes to get Laelia to take her darn medicine, but once in her I could tell things were going to get better.

When we got back up to our room it was  clear someone had been in our room because I only locked the deadbolt before we left and now the door handle was locked. I walked in to find  a notice that said there  had been an inspection and  I needed to clean up my room.  I felt completely violated. I wanted to crawl into bed, but Laelia had just had her casts removed (which she screamed through) and needed a real bath after  a month. I put her in the tub and she soaked while I cleaned up the room, most of which were things I had thrown out of my suitcase to run out the door. We had to refill the tub and clean out the dead skin four different times. I gently rubbed her legs over the scars and sensitive skin until my back could not lean over that bathtub anymore. Then once she was out I scrubbed the whole tub. We fell into bed around 11:00pm. I couldn’t breathe and my throat was sore. It was official; I was getting sick. My back was also pretty sore. Laelia told me she was sorry I felt bad. This child had just come out of casts and her legs were throbbing, but she was being empathetic. She’s a sweet little soul. She cuddled up with Ariel and tried to sleep for about an hour before I let her watch Snow White instead.

They weren’t able to do all the work on her braces on Monday so now Tuesday they had to have us back in. No problem we’d just stop by before or after our scheduled PT appointment. “What PT appointment?” I was asked.  That’s right, scheduling had forgotten to put us in the schedule. (Mariann was on jury duty we found out later so couldn’t fix it.) Without PT we couldn’t measure and work out the lift for Laelia’s shoe that we needed because of her pronounced leg difference now that her legs were straighter. Plus we couldn’t come back a different day because we  would fly  out the next day! It was a mess. I had to wake up early to call the hospital and then they called me back to come in. When we got in, the front desk/security people didn’t know we had an appointment and it took forty minutes to convince them to let us up. We were late for the appointment. We raced through it. Oh and before any of this on our way from the  parking garage to the main floor of the hospital the elevator started to shake violently. I thought, “Just great. Philly is finally going to kill us.”

During our long wait I started chatting up the front desk lady. I asked  if she had people pointing out the error in the artwork above her head all the time. I guess not!  I notice this like every time! Anyone else? (I had to get Laelia’s crutches out to show her how they work.)

Notice the pediatric crutches?

He’s gripping invisible hand grips. Nothing is holding this boy up!

When we finally saw the doctor that we do all this to see we  talking about his newborn and my adoption and conference and fun things. Finally  he said, “I guess I’ll see you in six months. Or whenever you can work out getting both your  kids  here.” Now if you don’t know  our history, our journey with Laelia started out with every doctor saying there was nothing they could do and finishing up our disappointing visits with, “See you in six months.” I have hated, “See you in six months,” for that very reason. But when  Dr.  van Bosse said that, it was because Laelia was walking and looking great. He said that because he had fixed Laelia’s legs. A few degrees in the knees would be smoothed out as the 8 plates did their job, but she was within ten degrees and looking beautiful! She was  ambulatory!

I refrained from hugging him and sobbing. For the first time in my daughter’s life I was  thrilled to hear, “See you in six months.” (Plus I would not mind avoiding Philadelphia for a while…)

Notice the leg difference and the white lift on her shoe?

Straight legs, feet and hips.

The legs, feet and hips she was born with.

We got  home late last night. I have had  a nose bleed off and on for  the last 24 hours.  I’m also  battling a cold. Laelia wet through her Pull Up and her  pants and onto the plane seat on our second flight yesterday. Without a change of pants I just sat her on papertowels for the flight to Denver. Then it turned out we had no time between flights. We landed at 5:50 and the next flight boarded at 5:30. Really?!!! We got off the plane twenty minutes late for the next! We had to fly home in the same wet pants because of that. Then my husband showed up in a clown car (aka his VW Beetle) because he forgot he would need my car to fit everything. But we did finally fit everything including Laelia’s wheelchair, our luggage and ourselves.  (The VW Beetle is a stupid car.)  A security personel yelled at us for taking so long. Finally we were about to take off and Laelia says in her sing-song voice, “Um, I think you’re forgetting something…” We hadn’t buckled her into her car seat.  We laughed the whole way home.  It’s been a looooooooong three days. Thankfully it was so insane that it was bearable. I think if   just a few of those bad things had happened then I would be livid, but so many things happened that I had to just laugh and  treat it like some divine test. We made it. We survived. And now we gear up for Charley’s surgery. At least his is right down the street. I’m hoping we’re all healthy by then.

 

Recovery

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Standing kid!

Happy kid!

Sorry I have not posted sooner. We’ve been busy bees over here lately (including dealing with an outbreak of bees in our living room). Laelia’s recovery has gone a bit better than I expected mostly because I expected the worst. It’s been three weeks since knee surgery and she’s still a bit tender. Laelia’s  been getting physical therapy every day (at home by me) and doing  hundreds of steps a day using her crutches. In order to do that I had to redo her heels. She’s straighter now, and that has made her slight leg difference more noticeable. Three attempts later I think we finally found a good height for both heels using wooden dominoes and duct tape. Of course this will all change again in a couple weeks when she gets her leg braces.

 

On March 5th we’ll be in Philly getting casts  off and putting  KAFOs on. She’ll have to wear the KAFOs (leg braces) 24/7, even to bed. That will be hard, but we’ll get through it.

Laelia got a card in the mail the other day from all her Cubbie friends at Cubbie club. So cute! She also got cards from her school friends. Laelia was approved to go back to preschool, but only for two hours a day (and no bus service there).  Her friends had missed her! It was so adorable!

Our two biggest issues during Laelia’s recovery were hair and eating. Okay so physical therapy and pain management are the real two issues, but those were expected. Eating and hair were  just hard for no reason.  She hated taking her medicine. I hid it in everything: yogurt, ice cream, smoothies, pudding, apple sauce, etc. It had a strawberry flavor already so that limited the things I hid it in. Giving it to her straight made her throw up (a gag reflex), and putting it in her food just made eating suck.  Laelia was too darn smart about it too. She would finally eat only the yogurts I brought her so she was eating like five yogurts a day. After a week (we gave her meds for six days)  she said, “I knew the medicine was in the yogurt, Mama.” Then she rattled off  every food item I’d ever hidden medicine in. I asked her if she knew because she could taste it. She told me, “I  didn’t taste it, but I knew because of your face. And you made me eat every bite.” But the reason she never confirmed it with me was because she was afraid if she knew it was in there for sure she’d have a gag reflex and  throw up. Smart kid.

With her hair we just started spending money on really good conditioner and calling it a medical expense on our budget. It took 40 minutes to get the knots out everyday. The reason is that she would sweat because of the casts and being confined to a bed so much. Then she would roll back and forth on her head, for comfort and some out of boredom. It just made her hair a tangled, knotted mess that stuck straight up. I had regular conditioner and special conditioner and spray/leave-in conditioner. We had to take the microwave off the kitchen  counter to fit our daughter on there length-wise and then wash her hair in the sink so her casts wouldn’t get wet. Here’s some before and after shots.

That last picture there (post beauty treatment) is  Laelia showing Uncle Phong her untangled hair. Uncle Phong is engaged to Laelia’s Aunt Linda, although in preparation for their engagement and eventual wedding we’ve had Laelia calling him “uncle” for probably longer (and earlier) than anyone was comfortable with. Hehe.  :)  (Click here to see the website my husband did for them to celebrate their engagement. I feel that link should come with a warning of sorts. Eh you’re on your own.) Laelia is going to be the flower girl in their wedding! She’s practicing walking now, and soon we’ll add throwing flower pedals while walking to her physical therapy regimen. ;)

And for those of you who were praying she’d get over her cough and be able to do surgery, we can finally share one of the reasons the timing was so important to us. My husband is donating his kidney to a person who really needs it and may die without it. If Laelia’s surgery was postponed then Charley’s surgery would have to also be postponed. Obviously that wouldn’t have been a good thing. But everything worked out. So here’s our new timeline for life events since Laelia’s surgery worked out.

New timeline:

March 4th – Laelia and I fly to Philly

March 5th – We get her casts removed and her KAFOs.

March 6th – Physical therapy in Philly and KAFO adjustments.

March 7th – Fly home from Philly.

March 12th – Doctor appointment for Charley.

March 20th – Kidney removal surgery for Charley.

March 20th until around April 20th (or 30th) –  Charley’s recovery.

Early May – We hope to travel to adopt our son.

Early Summer – We bring our son home.

My pretty girl

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

My pretty girl.

Doctors told us ugly things.

Then we met this guy.

And started doing lots more PT.

And OT!

And proved them wrong.

 

Now we’re leaving this Sunday to fly to Philadelphia for knee surgery on February 1st.

Which means no more knee standing for a  while.

And pretty girl goes back into casts.

And we’ll see lots of this face.

But in several months when all is said and done she’ll be able to do this:

(Photo credit.)

And *maybe* this:

(Photo credit.)

And why the heck not:

(Photo credit.)

Well, okay she’ll be able to walk better and have straighter legs. :)

Did I mention we leave this Sunday?!?!!

We need this:

(Photo credit.)

(But I’m tempted to make that last picture someone sleeping with chocolate in one hand and heavy medication in the other. :))