Wednesday, February 21, 2018

You're not alone, George.

George turned 6 this weekend. He had a joint pool party with his BFF, Nate. To be clear, this is officially his 2nd BFF, his original BFF was Hen(d)ry Bush. The only reason this pool party happened is because the 2 of them planned it. No, really. Nate and George come home with convincing stories about one another and their lives, every night. Us parents frequently exchange notes. Rarely, are their stories fully true or accurate, but guaranteed, they are hilarious. Every time. The pool party was no exception. They seemed so sure this "pool party" had been planned, who were we to disagree? The teachers, and even classmates, admit that the two of them tend to just excitedly speak and giggle about things of which, nobody actually knows what they're talking about. It seems the two of them live in their own little world.

When I first learned of this friendship, it absolutely over-flowed my heart with joy.  Not just because I enjoy Nate's parents, but because, I'd worried no one would "get" George. You see, of all my children, I have always found George to be the hardest for me to understand, connect with, jive. He and his father bonded so easily. I, on the other hand, just frequently feel frustration when trying to parent him. He tends to have these stubborn moments, where he simply shuts down. Being born with an extremely low supply of patience, this dynamic doesn't work well. George has some of the highest highs, he makes us laugh more than any of the other kids (though Diana has quite the master to learn from and is advancing quickly), but he also brings out that anger {I typically try to deny even exists with in me} and I just have to walk away. I say all this with complete love for my child, each one has their own, very individual list of peaks and lows. Today, in church, I truly couldn't decide what I was observing in George. A peak? Or a low?



There was a pew plus about five seats spaces between George and I this morning at the weekly Wednesday all-school mass so I had a great view of him. On this particular day, the kids were coming off a 4.5 day break turned 5.5 days due to weather, which also means Cabin Fever. I could see Curtis a bit further from me, then Brock one more row from there. Curtis yawned, stretched, picked his nose bit, but otherwise seemed content to just sit. Brock gazed all throughout the church, bobbing back ever so slightly the ENTIRE mass, and at one point I was sincerely concerned that he might have literal ants in his pants. No one seemed to notice or mind. Then we get to George. You could see that George wanted to be still. He loves to please people. His favorite thing in the world is to help others and see their appreciation and satisfaction. His second favorite thing is probably hugs. He doesn't want to be a disturbance or disobedient, yet, he could. Not. Sit. Still.
He could not sit upright. The kid next to him was coughing, so he needed to cover his ears. The music was too loud. His shoe felt funny. He needed to blow his nose. I'm sure the hard wooden pew was too firm on his bottom. His shirt probably had shifted and he could feel the tag of his pants. For all I know, the light was too bright, the piano too loud, the temp too hot. He was being assaulted by so many uncomfortable, bothersome things, and when he tried to fix them, he was being asked to hold still. To be quiet. I could feel his exasperation. I could sense how conflicted he feels in his little heart. Wanting so much to please his teachers, parents, loved ones, friends...yet his body is sending him totally different signals. I could see him bring his hands up to his face and rub it in frustration - something identical to my coping with irritating/frustrating situations.

In this moment, I suddenly knew. There I am. There is my genetic contribution to my little Matt-clone, daddy's boy. I used to dread mass. The hard pew, the kneeling, the sitting still, the quiet, the holding hands - some dry, some sweaty, some dirty. The hot. The cold. The sounds. I dreaded assemblies. I watched me classmates sit stone still, cross legged, on the gym floor, and would give myself pep talks: "Look, they seem comfortable. Courtney Jianas hasn't moved in 45 minutes. Everyone else can do this, so can I." I'd repeat this over and over as my legs burned on fire from holding still, and finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I'd extend my legs. Stretch out my back. Whisper something to a friend. Go to the bathroom. ANYTHING to not be trapped like this for one moment longer.

There were times I was accused of being a teacher's pet, and now, seeing George, and how much he loves to help. How it could mutually help him get out of the restrictive classroom rules, while not being a disturbance and actually being productive, I see why I did it. Why teachers allowed it. Instead of being punished for moving and talking, I was being useful. Busy is such an over-used word these days, but that's what we are. Me, Brock, George. We are busy.

I could see George frustrating those around him, but, in my heart, I smiled. He's in Kindergarten, he will hopefully continue to learn coping skills, as I did. As Brock has. I could see Brock staring at the ceiling, probably in a completely different world, distracting himself from the mass discomforts. Though, now I find the church to be a place of peace, and quiet, I still struggle to hold still. Constantly switching which leg is crossed, giving myself pep talks not to lean my butt against the pew while kneeling, convincing myself I don't need to go to the restroom. In high school, teachers frequently found me in the hall "on my way to or from the restroom"; it became a running joke from a lot of them where they'd ask if I actually attended any classes. In college, I simply didn't attend lecture. In med school, I had to have the outside, back row seat due to my frequent position switches, moving, getting up and down. I would subconsciously hike my scrub pants up past my knees because somehow that is more comfortable.

So, this part of me is so frustrated for kids like George. And Brock. They are good kids. They just sort of beat to their own drum. The structure and rules of school will always be a struggle because it simply isn't their "style". So far, we have been incredibly lucky to have amazing teachers that seem to "get it". There is no snuffing of their personalities or creativity while also trying to help guide them to behave a bit more conventionally while in school. We, as parents, don't accept any sort of disrespect or defiance and expect them to do as they're asked. We are flexible and willing to work with these boys in whatever way they need to grow up to be intelligent, functioning, happy, loving and respectful individuals. The school seems to be totally in line with these principles as well.

George will not have an easy road. I wonder if he will make it through 8th grade in this more rigid-type educational structure, perhaps he will eventually require an alternative school. Perhaps not. All I know, is that I love this kid. For all his struggles, he has the biggest heart a little boy could ever possess. He uses hilarious facial expressions, bizarre hand movements, funny stories and comedy all around to protect that sensitive infrastructure. It's irresistibly endearing. If nothing else, he will always have people that love him, and coming from experience...that is more than enough. You're not alone, George. {You have Nate.}

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

December 13th.

Finally! Matt walks in the back door to find me hunched over the laptop at the dining room table. Kids running a muck. A few of them crying. Partly because they're hungry, but mostly because their mother's been neglecting them all day in order to slave over a very non-essential, time-consuming, extraneous Christmas gift that has brought out the very worst in her OCD. 

"Thank goodness you're home, can you take the kids away? I have been working on this for 5 hours and they need to be ordered by end of day today to get here in time for Christmas." I say as Matt walks over to view what exactly has been hoarding ALL of my attention today. 

I excitedly show him my work. 20 custom photo mugs for all of my family. Some even outfitted with a meaningful, or funny quote...which took me an hour, easy, to figure out how to compose. But! We aren't talking just your standard, run of the mill, 10 ounce ceramic mug. These are Magic Mugs. 

These mugs start out black and only when holding a scalding substance do they magically reveal the image. Groupon gold I tell you. The instant I saw these items for only $4 each, I snatched them up. Game over. My brain had already fast-forwarded to Christmas day. Everyone opening their mug. Seeing an ugly, simple, black mug and thinking "wow, thanks Erin." Then, setting it under the Keurig and seeing a very thoughtful and significant image slowly appear from the bottom up. Suddenly, everyone would LOVE their mug. They'd be clawing and fighting their way over to the Keurig. Others might start heating water on the stove. Maybe even microwaving it. All smiles and excitement. There would be laughter. There would be tears. People not expecting gifts would get one. I would be the Christmas day HERO!! Magic is quite the understatement. 

He sees some of my work, grins at a few of them, and says, "Erin. Don't get your hopes up."

Pshhh. Who me? No. Never. I'm fully aware that these are a $4 Groupon, so the odds of things not going smoothly are very high. Likely the correct photo won't even end up on the mug. I have braced myself. I AM a reasonable human, thank you very much.'s going to be sooooo awesome when they do show up and they are perfect. And I am the Christmas day hero.

"I know, Matt. I haven't. I just need to get them ordered now." 

He eyes me skeptically. "Ok. But don't get your hopes up."  He proceeds to call all the kids out of the kitchen and settles onto the couch in the family room.

December 20th

I received notification that my Mugs have left the warehouse! I am ecstatic. I instantly click the tracking number. The FedEx information loads quickly...and THAT my the instant Christmas was ruined. 

Expected Delivery Date: December 28th, 2017.
Location: Prairie Village, KS

Wait. What!? Prairie Village!? A double whammy, not only is it being delivered no less than THREE DAYS TOO LATE, it's going to my OLD ADDRESS. I had been fighting with the damn "auto-population" during check out the whole time, and obviously, the Mac won. I was at work when I saw this, and, even though I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've cried {during pregnancy doesn't count} in my life, I found myself choking back tears. 

I had gotten my hopes up. 

I felt so defeated. I wasted precious hours on these. And though, by themselves, they are a cool gift, it just wouldn't be the same to not experience the wonderful chaos that would ensue upon opening these gifts Christmas day. 

I tried to pull myself together. I tried for the next 3 days to not look at the tracker. I tried to re-ignite the spark of excitement for Christmas. I couldn't let it go though. I called FedEx. I called the Mug company. I asked Matt to call FedEx. I had my old neighbor walk down and give the owners of our old house my phone number in case they miraculously showed up before Christmas. Now. In my defense, my melancholy probably intensified due to 1-3 children puking and pooping and with fevers at any given moment starting on the 15th. 

At this point, I am just praying for nothing short of a Christmas miracle to get me out of this funk.

December 23rd

The illnesses continued. In both my house and throughout the community. I had to make another REALLY difficult and Christmas-ruining decision to cancel our 12th Annual O'Laughlin Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. It didn't seem right to invite people in to my stomach flu-ridden home. Also, I feared the bug could hit me at any minute. So, to add insult to injury, instead of prepping my glorious Winter-wonderland of a home, I popped into work to get some charting done. And, because I am a glutton for punishment, I checked in on the package tracker, one more time. 

Estimated Delivery: Out for delivery.

Wait. What!? Is this a prank? What exactly does this mean? This time, I am taking Matt's advice. Absolutely, not getting my hopes up...but...I think we are getting the mugs!!! OMG OMG OMG OMG.

An hour later...

Estimated Delivery: Delivered. 

They made it. The neighbor texted me. Matt picked them up from the old house. I opened each one. Poured hot water in them and watched the magic. Each one worked. It had the right image. It was perfect. I wrapped them in the special bags I had purchased specifically for the mugs. I sighed such a sigh of relief. I think I was glowing. For a moment, the sick feeling about cancelling the party had gone. Things were right in the world. I could not wait for Christmas morning. Could. Not. Wait.

Everyone was going to be so surprised. 

Christmas Day

We awoke in the wee, wee, like 1 to 2am morning hours to Curtis puking. Then Diana puking. Then Mitch pooping. Then everyone crying because they wanted to go downstairs and see if Santa had delivered. Then going to wake up Dee only to find her crusted in vomit. A lot more crying ensued as we showered her and delayed gifts even longer. I felt off - probably from the less than 4 hours of non-continuous sleep, and was, again trying to hold back tears. What a disaster. 

Our whole schedule got pushed hours back. We were rushed everywhere we went! I could hardly muster the energy to sit and smile. Getting the mugs to everyone felt like work. There was nothing magical about it. And frankly, I didn't get to see much...

...I went home sick. 

No Christmas Hero here. Unless you count surviving the day. But, even after ALL of that...

...I will probably still get my hopes up. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Magnetizing Story.

The morning of November 20th started like any other Monday. Absolutely miserable. And chaotic. As per the usual, I believe I awoke to Mitch standing at my bedside asking, "Who is watching us?"


"Whyyyyyyyyeeee!?? Ugh."

Mitch, it doesn't matter, you have school all day, you will hardly see her. (It doesn't matter who I name here, he always whines. Unless I say it's me or his father. Even then he whines, because I'm not sure he can speak in any other tone.)

"Do I get my lunchbox?"

Yep, just like EVERY Monday.

No reply, he sulks off. Because, that's also what Mitch does...sulks. He's simply a peach.

I then got up, maybe I showered, definitely I gathered uniforms, then I proceeded to try to round up the 3 grade school boys, quietly, as Diana frequently sleeps in until 8 or so. Or, at least pretends to, then sings to herself for a bit. Lately, she has been doing recaps of her day in song to the tune of Let It Go, "We went to Science City, it was Science city, and the guy!!!! He fell down. And we played at Science City. And *jibberish, jibberish, jibberish, jibberish* Science City..."

After reminding Brock at least 7 times to get his shoes and socks on, he finally does it, but only after bribing him with breakfast. Or threatening not to give him breakfast if he doesn't get them on...does that qualify as a bribe? Maybe it's extortion. I don't know, there's a fine line there, am I right?

On this particular Monday, I'm pretty sure we were privvy to "uncooperative George". You know, as opposed to "screw waiting on these adults to help me, I can do everything myself, in fact, I'm looking for my own apartment George". Though the latter gets him into some pretty age inappropriate situations (I'm just waiting for him to attempt to drive himself to school), it's great because I will wake up to him 100% dressed, and potentially even self fed. Where as, "uncooperative George" has the most incredibly severe, frustrating, yet almost admirable stubborness one has ever encountered. Things that he can do in seconds become "too hard" or "take too long" or "my arms don't work" or "I'm too tired" or "I hate sk-cool" or "Why is *insert whoever the sitter is for the day* watching us!?" So, that's fun.

I haven't mentioned Curtis, because unlike ALL of his siblings, he kind of simply just does what he is supposed to...routine doesn't seem to bother him a bit. I think he might even enjoy it. Routine means he gets to mindlessly go about his day. In stark contrast to his older brother, who I feel has not less than 772 thoughts reeling through his mind at any given moment, I think Curtis might have 1, or 2...on a really hyper day. Bizarrely (but maybe the right adverb is: unfortunately) Curtis is our "Black sheep", yet I feel also the most "normal".

In other words, my other kids are all #$%*ing weird.

Which, perhaps, is a great way to get to the moment where this EXTREMELY typical Monday got a bit off track. I know, I know, I'm with you, at what point exactly was it "on track"?? All of us made it to our appointed locations, on time, and relatively cleanly dressed, so, yup, those are pretty much my standards these days.

I was traversing through the insanity that is Monday morning in a doctor's office. Seeing patients, returning calls and emails, checking labs...when my phone began to ring, and I could clearly see it wasn't the school, but the actual Kindergarten teacher herself calling. I didn't get to it in time...but that sick feeling was there. This was a first. A call during school hours from the teacher! That means the kid didn't even get to the school nurse, or it was so bad the nurse couldn't call because she was performing CPR or whatever they do for a child that has a tragic accident at school.

I try calling back. It's busy. I text "Sorry I missed your call, do you need to talk?" I then get this reply:
Oh thank God! One magnet, not a problem. And, it's uncooperative George day, so not much would surprise me. Then, I get to thinking, wait. But has he swallowed any other metal recently? Why do I even have to ask this? He's 5 and a half. Aren't we past the whole 'worried your child might swallow something phase'? Crap. Will we EVER be beyond that phase with this child? Ugh.

"It's fine unless he has swallowed any other metal! Please ask him if he has swallowed anything else."

A bit later, from 2 different sources: He says he has an entire piggy bank in his belly. But insists it's from when he was 3.

"Does he seem to be laughing about all of this? Can we trust his answers?" This is a real legit concern. George tends to do things simply to get a laugh. So, I really needed to know if he was making light of the situation.

Teacher's reply, "No, he was definitely a bit panicked after it happened. It wasn't on purpose."

After texting a few of my medical comrades, we deem everything to be ok, and that we will just become concerned if he develops some abdominal pain or stops pooping. Which doesn't happen. We aren't real diligently watching his poop either. Honestly, Brock is more stressed about the situation than any of us. Eventually, we all kind of forget about it. Except Brock.

Flash forward to the early, early morning of December 1st. George is writhing in pain on and off for hours through the night. So many families have had that stomach bug, I don't really think anything of it, except, please don't throw up anywhere except the toilet. Pleeeasse. But the kid just can't get comfortable. I push around on his belly, which doesn't seem to illicit any kind of pain, and it feels nice and soft and normal. I go back to sleep. Then, I hear him groaning, I wake up, and BOOM. It hits me. The magnet!!!! I punch Matt awake. "The magnet! We don't know if that has ever passed. Crap. Should we just wait until morning, and I'll X-ray him?" A groggy and confused Matt contributes very little to the discussion and I go check his belly again. All seems fine. It's now 2:30am and George has gotten up again, crying now. Matt very sternly asks him if it really hurts and if we need to take him to the hospital. George says, "I think so". (PS. In the meantime, Diana has awoken with a 102.4 fever and is miserable. No sleep for all!)

There it is folks, after a collective 28 years worth of children existing in our home, we took one to the ER. We all knew it would be George. I then get this text:

Two hours later, an exhausted 5 year old, and relieved 34 year old return home, and crawl back into bed. Matt mutters, they said if he keeps pooping it's fine, and give him some Mira-lax. George sleeps soundly for the next 3 hours. In the reasonable hours of the morning, I called some concerned grandparents to reassure them about the situation, but Brock overhears me saying the magnet is still in there. I get off the phone to see a pacing, bug-eyed and very worried Brock. "The magnet is still in his stomach!?" After a ridiculous amount of reassurance, we get all the boys off to school, George included. Reminding George that he cannot poop without telling us! And to quit flushing before an adult gets a chance to look at it. Brock becomes agitated and yells at George, "Stop flushing the toilet, George!!!" At this point, the whole house is in hysterics about George not taking this situation serious enough. Lucky for George, he has 4 siblings, more than happy to announce when he is pooping.

According to a few different accounts, George proceeded to proudly point at this right-lower quadrant, exclaiming, "the magnet it right here". I am sure the kindergartners were just soaking up the drama of it all, and George provided all the proper theatrics.

Meanwhile, I'm over-thinking things. Is it stuck in the ileo-cecal valve? If it is, what kind of procedure could get all the way to the small intestine? How long can we let this magnet hang out in his gut? I'm trying to get through my work day, to rush home and prepare my home for 30 women, after almost no sleep and a house full of tired and ill children, with no nanny, because she called in sick as well. December 1st will absolutely go down in history as one of THE most chaotic, difficult and fun days in the O Family Circus history.

Fast forward again to December 6th. A Wednesday. I am off other than a short meeting, so I scheduled George to see GI, because no one has witnessed a magnet in the toilet. If I'm being honest here, we didn't search real hard, Matt and I were far less concerned than Brock with seeing the poop. After impressing all of the Children's Mercy staff with his ability to loudly snap his fingers, George gets examined. They say just more Mira-lax and a repeat Xray. Also reassuring us, this could take up to 6 weeks to pass.
On December 8th, after many uneventful (thankfully) nights, we get a chance to x-ray his little belly again. The children entertained my entire office as we awaited the results. NO MAGNET!! It was gone. I'm not sure I've ever seen Brock more relieved. I'm not sure Curtis was ever truly aware of what was going on, anyway. Mitch seemed bored. Diana, I'm sure is working on a beautiful sonnet about the whole experience, and George? After I exclaimed, it's gone! Says, "Oh". That's it. After all of this excitement, chaos, stress...a simple shrug and an "Oh".

I know you were all hoping this story would have a really exciting and dramatic ending. But it, well, there ya have it.

Addendum: Upon texting the teacher to let her know of the good news, she was thrilled, and also informed me that if we had recovered the magnet that it belongs back in the Science center at school...uhhhhh...

Friday, November 24, 2017

*Not Actual Responses*

If all of your friends were to jump off a bridge, would you do it to??

Brock: *pacing* How tall is the bridge? Have I ever seen this bridge? Does everyone live, and what kind of injuries have previously been sustained? How long have they been my friends? How does one define "friend"? How long do I have before I have to make my final decision? Is there a statistical advantage to me or my loved ones if I do jump off this bridge? 

Curtis: *punches right fist into left hand* Fuck yes. 

George: ................. *tapping his chin* .................. Internal thoughts: Hmmmm. Is it going to a.) make anyone laugh or b.) piss anyone off? And if so, how significant are the consequnces? Does potential death actually outweigh being funny and/or defiant? Hmmmm.....

Mitch: *said with complete exasperation* Uggghhhh. *walks away*

Diana: *while talking on a plastic phone with fake purse slung over her arm* I too busy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I am human.

I'm not being arrogant and I'm not trying say I'm unique here. I'm just listing facts.

I have a lot of skills.
I have a lot of energy.
I have even more ideas.
My thoughts are like an infinite movie reel.
I'm highly motivated.
I'm insanely passionate.
I have a really great attitude.
I will never be content.
I don't like to burden others when I am having a tough time, mad, anxious or stressed (except for those select know who you are.)
But I do struggle at times.

I enjoy comedy.
I strive to be funny.
I am extremely cynical.
I could talk {write} all day.
The more I make fun of something...
...the more I love it.

I am a comedian.

I am an extrovert.
I am a people person, despite aforementioned cynicism.
I could watch people all day.
I can find a pattern in almost anything. (I am Sherlock.)
I am a problem solver.
Above all, I am run by logic over emotion. Anger being my biggest Achilles heel.
I am competitive.
I am fair.

I get angry at expectation, false assumptions and incorrect observations.
I appreciate idiosyncrasies.
I admire accountability.
I prefer flexibility.
I promote honesty over loyalty.
I like to present things as they truly are, albeit with a dramatic flare at times.
I cannot tell a lie.
I am confident.

My passion is to help others, both emotionally and physically.
I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain my education.
An education for which I took an oath to "do no harm".
All day I try to make decisions in the best interest of other people.
Only to be told my service wasn't worth paying for... be berated.
I get misplaced anger all day long.
Yet, I smile.
I continue to help.
I hope to be compassionate.
I work REALLY hard to figure out a kind way to tell someone they are overweight. Their smoking is a problem. Their drinking is a problem. Their genetics is a problem. They have a virus. They have cancer. Their fatigue is actually depression. They need to talk to someone to manage their stress. Their pain is chronic. They need surgery. They need to go to the ER.
I am a doctor.

I don't see dollar signs.
I see people.
I wish everyone could enjoy life and all it has to offer.
I wish everyone could see their potential and reach for it.
I think I could have been an Olympian.
I sometimes think I still can...

I am an athlete.

As much as I wish I didn't, I care...
...I care too much.
About everything, all the time.
I love to the point of smothering.
I believe firmly in tough love.

I am a mom.

I adapt.
I am self-reliant. This is different than selfish.
I love. A lot. All the time. Intensely.
I am happy.

I am human.