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.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Guerilla Gardener

There is a man who lives in the somewhat dilapidated apartments behind my office. These apartments are surrounded by a parking lot, another parking lot, and office buildings. There is quite a lack of green space. I would not ever describe this man as well-kempt. I'm not sure I would go to the extreme of calling him filthy, or even dirty, but I might guess that he's not purchased new clothing, any time real recent. He never appears drunken, or disheveled. In fact, he always seems completely lucid and content. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say "happy" as he tends to have a more serious presence about him, but conversations with this man are very pleasant. If I had to guess, he might be a painter, or a "handy-man". Someone in these apartments is a "junk collector", for all I know, it's him. But there is one skill I'm 100% sure he possesses: gardening.

This man starts working on his garden in February. He loves on it, covers it with recyclables for freezing weather, waters it, preens it, weeds it. Every day. It flourishes. It is beautiful. It brightens my morning every time I park my car. At the same time, it also causes a sharp pang of guilt as my bumper covers, breaks or destroys some stems, nearly every morning. Because of this aforementioned complete lack of green space, this man is gardening on a 1.5 foot (at most) road verge. I have to pull up as close as possible, because this now beautiful and bustling garden separates our extremely cramped backside office parking from their apartment parking lot. This verge is so small, if it weren't now filled with flowers of all sorts, you might not even notice it.

I look at this man in awe. I silently thank him multiple times through the Spring and Summer, even Fall. He has brought wildlife to a PARKING LOT. This morning, there were Monarch butterflies. Through the Spring and Summer there are little Yellow Warblers (or Finches). And now the Hummingbirds are arriving to feast on the Morning Glories. There is a constant buzz from the bees, and many other small types of insect and butterflies. I once asked if he was hired to do this, and he just laughed at me. I felt it was a silly question as well. I would have been flabbergasted to hear that the owner of these seemingly forsaken apartments would hire someone to plant flowers, literally in the cracks of the parking lot.

I engaged him in conversation again, recently. I found out that he has affectionately and appropriately been named by his friends: "The Guerrilla Gardener". His unconventional tactics in gardening surprise me on a daily basis. We all reap the benefits of the beauty in our lot. I've seen some of the nurses and staff picking flowers, which the Guerrilla Gardener has always kindly suggested we do; "They're just going to wilt away eventually. There are plenty. You might as well take them home and enjoy them."

I think I love this garden a little bit more than I should because of this modest and humble man. I hope he knows how much we all admire his work. But I don't think he really cares if we do...


Tuesday, June 13, 2017


As a mother of 5, I think one of the most frequent comments I get from people with 3 or less kids is, "I could never do that."

Though, I think some of them mean, I could never do that and...

...still be sane.
...still keep my home in order.
...still get my kids everywhere on time. about life.
Et cetera and so on...

Often, my response is, "you're right".

Ok. That's really just in my head. But before you think I am being arrogant, let me explain.

You could never do this. WITH your current expectations, that is.

You see, with every change in life comes adaptation. You can't always foresee what these changes will be or how they will change your life as you know it. You can't always plan for them. When looking from your current view, some changes appear to be negatives. A loss. But what we so often forget is that sometimes there are unforeseen positives that outweigh these "losses" so immensely, that you don't even notice they're gone.

Once upon a time, I loved to shop. I enjoyed walking up and down aisles, imagining how I might redecorate my home. How I might re-style my wardrobe. I created Pinterest boards. I loved Pinterest. At a certain point, I was determined to become Pinterest famous (if that's even a thing.) I would physically shop in stores until I found things that matched my visions, but before I fully realized it had happened, I phased into online shopping. I had lost the time to walk through the stores. This didn't happen immediately. I didn't have a kid, then stop. I didn't even have 2 kids and stop entirely. Nor 3. I don't think it was until somewhere in the 4 or 5 range that I simply stopped wandering the stores...but I don't notice it. I don't necessarily miss it. I think it has been replaced by sporting events with my kids. By lunches with my friends.

Even with 5 children, I still go to lunch with my friends. I even make it to happy hours or coffee or brunch or dinners. It might require more planning, but I still get to do it. I could exercise more, but if someone asks me to join them for a social rendezvous, that run gets kicked aside. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I occasionally miss being in fantastic shape, but I simply don't miss the work it takes to get there. I've prioritized socializing over fitness (not health, they're not one in the same. Trust me, I'm a doctor.) This is right for me. It makes me happy, it makes me less stressed, it recharges me. If exercise does this for you, then you prioritize it. So, yes, from an outside perspective, the ideal would be to get in both, but from the inside perspective, you don't feel like you've lost anything, you've just adjusted your expectations. Adapted.

I used to write blog posts, with carefully chosen and edited pictures to compliment the story up to 10 times a month! I edited photos and updated albums. I was great about thank you notes and birthday wishes and thoughtful gifts. I hung framed photos or art in my home. I planned elaborate and well-executed parties on the regular. I spent time day-dreaming of home improvements. Now, I get a post up about once a month. There aren't any photos. The last photo album I printed was almost 2 years ago. The last item I framed?? No idea (though, I did, after nearly 3 years, finally update photos to include all 5 of my kids in the existing frames on the wall.) And if  day-dreaming about sorting through toys and throwing out broken ones and putting them all in their "place" counts as "home improvements" then, I guess I still do that on a pretty regular basis.

I laid out at the pool for hours on my days off. Leisurely swimming laps if the urge compelled me.

I fed my competitive spirit by being part of adult sporting leagues in volleyball, kickball and basketball. We regularly had game nights with friends. I now find ways to be competitive in the form of competing in corporate challenge, subbing for adult leagues in volleyball, soccer and pickleball. Maybe even playing with my children...but there's a fine line there, that I'm not certain I don't cross over. They need to learn how to be a good sport when losing, right!??

Now, I feel I need to add some perspective at this point. I have never been without a huge commitment filling most of my time. I played sports intensely; swam, lifted, exercised for 6+ hours a day from age 11-22. I then worked 2 jobs until the start of medical school, and after that, residency, and now, a full-time position as a physician. So the time I am speaking of filling, has always been tremendously limited for me. There has never been a point in my life that I haven't been forced to really assess my true priorities...and this might be where most people struggle.

To continue to adapt, you MUST establish your priorities. It's vital. And once you've done this, it's time to manage expectations. And once you've done that. You can do ANYTHING. You can have all the children in the world. Or none. You can marry. Or not. You can run a marathon. Or walk around the block. You can travel. Or never leave your home state. You can make choices and evaluate their impact on your quality of life and keep them up, or leave them. And instead of saying "I could never do that" you will find that you've started to say, "why only 5"?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Love is blind. Or is it?

As quickly as that rare and blissful moment came of waking up due to my own body's natural inclination, it vanished. 7:02am!!!??? My meeting started 2 minutes ago. I jumped out of bed just as Matt walked back into our bedroom, exasperated, "I have to shower and leave, ASAP! I am going to miss the whole meeting, and I really needed to make it to this one."

Unphased by my {more common than I'd like to admit} hysterics, he replies, "Why is this one so important?"  

"I was supposed to introduce Botox migraine treatments to my partners!"

"Oh. Well just don't shower then."

What?? Don't shower? I mean, don't get me wrong. I have been known to push that a bit longer than I should. I still blame the swimming days for my severe aversion to getting wet. But, I was at the pool all day yesterday. In fact, we even went twice! {And now you're questioning that whole aversion to getting wet statement. Yeah. It doesn't make total sense, but I can tell you this; I rarely get in the pool. I'm mostly just observing small children while getting a bit of sun, and feeling free.} I can't possibly skip out on this today, can I?

So, I start in with all the excuses. I was at the pool. My hair is greasy. I haven't washed my face. I have to be in small rooms with patients. Near them, touching them, they can smell me. He just stands there, and says, "seriously, Erin, you look fine."

I'm just not buying it. God love him, that man always thinks I look "fine". I think I look like a supermodel, he says I look "fine". I think I look like a ragamuffin, he says I look "fine". I spend an hour on hair and make-up. Fine. I go for a run on my 3rd day without a shower, and, well, beyond fine...if I'm in active wear, he's trying to grab my a$$. I simply cannot trust his judgment when it comes to my looks. And, honestly, as much as this is a put down to myself, I'm not real sure about his taste in general...ask him his celebrity crush picks. Thumbs down. He even liked "10 Things I Hate About You" Julia Stiles. What? Puke. She's got some kind of weird moon face. (No offense Julia. Mwah.)

"Matt, you always think I look fine. Love is blind. And that's great, and it really works out well for me, and it's something I'm so glad we have, but, sorry, I just don't believe you."

"Well, just know I have nothing to gain by telling you this. I don't care what you do, but I think you can go to the meeting without showering."

With that, we part ways. I'm sold...let's face it, I'll take any excuse not to shower. I throw on some clothes. Bobby pin my hair. Throw it in a messy bun, in that oh so basic attempt to make my slovenliness appear intentional. Dash out the door. Show up late to my meeting, and...

...I am greeted by smiles. What!? No one is holding their nose or vomiting in their mouths from my filth!? What's wrong with these people? Can't they see I didn't shower this morning!? Am I taking crazy pills? Was Matt, god forbid it, RIGHT!??? Stay calm, Erin. Stay calm. Present your Botox, and just go with it. Maybe he called them ahead and warned them about my appearance: "Hey guys, Erin looks pretty awful today. It's bad. I'm worried about her. Can you please just not say anything? And also, just try to hide your disgust when she walks in the room? K. Thx"

The meeting went as usual. I got to the office. I walk into my first patient's room, yet again, late. I apologize for my tardiness, and she looks up at me for a moment and says,

"Well. You just look too pretty to be seeing patients today."

Huh. I guess he really was right, after all. Maybe love isn't all that blind. Maybe love sees everything. Guess, I'm going to be googling pictures of Julia Stiles later...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Berry's Great Mis-Adventure

It all feels kind of like a dream. The instant I looked down at my phone, while attending a wedding shower in St. Louis to find that I had missed 2 calls from Matt in less than 4 minutes, I knew it was bad. He was supposed to be at the hotel, swimming with the boys, so, instantly I knew that one of our children had drowned. I couldn't breath as I waited and waited for Matt to answer my call back. He didn't pick up. I called again, and again. Diana followed me to a back corner near the laundry and fiddled with the dryer (hope she didn't damage anything) and the whole party disappeared as I focused on that phone. Finally, a voice, "Berry ran off." Huh? What? How? Why? That dog has literally never left the front yard, ever. "She panicked when the neighbor came to let her out and just took off." Shit.

Here we are, her people, 4 hours away in St. Louis. At a party. At a hotel. Breath, Erin. And start texting like mad. I tried to notify every single person I knew in Brookside. I posted to Facebook. Matt posted to Next door. Within minutes I had friends and family looking. Within an hour, someone had responded to my Instagram post that they'd seen her in Mission Hills, but that she was too scared to come and was just running. People came together from all directions, connections, neighborhoods to get the word out. To give us advice. To help us. In the same moment that I was sick to my stomach with worry, my heart was filled to the brim with amazement at all the human kindness. One of my longest and bestest friends spent no less than 5 hours searching for that dog on Saturday.

This was a dog. A silly family pet. How often had I not given a second thought when I loose dog didn't come to me? I shrugged it off, and though, "Oh, I'm sure it gets out all the time and is headed home." Never again. If I see a loose dog, if I can't pick it up, you betcha I'll be scouring those lost and found sights, calling animal control and finding it's owners.

We got that first sighting one hour after she escaped, then proceeded to have 54 hours of silence.

Berry went dark.

Matt drove, and drove and drove for days. The hope I was clinging to, was that she'd been found and they were just waiting for Monday morning to take her in to an open shelter or vet. I called every single one. No luck. The sad thoughts that whirled through  my head never ceased. I wanted to start preparing myself that she was gone. Sure that she'd either been hit, was curled-up injured, freezing and dying, or someone had found her and was simply keeping her for their own because she is simply the sweetest thing in the world.

So sure was I of tragedy, that I scoffed at the insistence by veteran pet rescue searchers to create flyers. How on earth could printing flyers and hanging them help anything? Everyone is on Next door and Facebook. Where would I print them? How many, how much, who would create it? How would I hang them. Everything felt like a mountain. Even feeding my children. Thank goodness my sister took a few for those middle 40 hours. 

This is where the encouraging stories play a vital role. Friends, family, acquaintances all started telling me their lost pet stories. How their dog was gone for 2 weeks and they found them. My mom reminded me of my sister's childhood dog, Ribbon, who ran off and was found underneath a truck almost 3 days later. Texts about neighborhood dogs being gone for 2 weeks and being reunited. The more people told me these things, the more I realized, we have to do the signs. We have to do everything.

A kind woman, named Kim, connected to me through one of my very first swim coaches sent me a long, long text explaining to me exactly how to make the flyers. This complete stranger had so much advice for me and told me to call her at anytime if I needed more help. I quickly created the file, called around to printers and found one who said he'd like to do it for me immediately and at cost (Moss Printing on Johnson Drive). He told me his own tragic pet story and said he wanted to do anything to help, and to keep him posted on the search. Matt bought a laminator and some zip ties. I got some bright colored poster board, and we went to town. Creating 100 signs. People reached out and asked for the PDF so they could print and hang signs in their own neighborhoods.

We drove around hanging signs, the kids bound up in the van watching a movie. I honestly cannot remember when or if the kids were present for most of this venture. Matt was annoyed that I insisted on coming, and bringing the children, but I told him, "I'm not currently equipt to care for them." My brain couldn't switch off. I could hardly hear my children, let alone care for them. My phone ran out of battery 9 times in 70 hours (normally this would only happen 2-3 times.) I was glued to it, waiting for something!! Anything. On any one of the 7 Facebook groups, 3 lost and found sites or Next door, or a phone call from a flyer. It got to be after 7pm on Monday night, so Matt dropped us at home so I could attempt to focus on the kids for a moment and feed them and put them to bed. So, I put my phone on the charger and spent the next 15 minutes warming mac & cheese and hot dogs.

Then, it happens. A foreign number starts ringing. "Hi, is this the person looking for Berry? I posted to Next door, but I think my husband and I saw your dog cross Shawnee Mission parkway and Santa Fe heading South. I got out and on the ground and called to her and just as she started to come to me a motorcycle scared her away. We tried to follow but she was running away full steam and we lost her." What!!? OMG. She's alive! She's alive. I got off the phone and sent Matt in that direction. I called me mom to relieve me, so I could head that way. Soon, another sighting an hour later and 10 blocks further South. I had texted friends. Matt's mom headed that way. I ran into an old neighbor who'd seen that she was in their neck of the woods and he came out with his own dog to search. Again, we drove for hours. No luck. It was snowing and freezing and pitch black.
Matt hung signs all around Overland Park and headed home around 11:45pm. Exhausted. Disappointed. And hopeful, we tried to sleep.

But, she's alive. She's crossed so many major, major intersections, has been out for 60 hours, and it still able to run fast enough that no one can catch her. She's ok. We will get her in the morning. I can feel it.
The next morning, we woke up to another post. Someone on Nextdoor said they'd seen her another 8 blocks South at 1am (79th and Antioch.) Matt headed straight that way to search and hang more flyers. Our neighbor headed out to search before work. Mimi headed out again. Our previous nanny of almost 5 years, Kerry, loaded up her kiddo and headed that way. I got the kids dressed and fed and motivated, and we started our own search party. No luck.

I called Matt at about 11:30am to inform him that the kids were done, they needed food and to be released from their car seats. He stated that he didn't want to leave the area, in case we got a call, but you could tell his spirits weren't real high. No sooner did I start to drive home, than my phone rings again, and a woman slightly out of breath says, "I just walked past your flyer and I see your dog! She's right in front of me at 81st and Mackey, I'm trying to follow her." My heart is pounding, I can't believe it, that's near where we are all searching. I turn around, I tell her to keep an eye on her if she can, but to not chase her. I hang up and call Matt, he starts to head that way. I hang up to see I'd missed a call from Kerry. I call her back and get a loud, "I've found her, Erin! I've found her. There are a few of us trying to get her." And I stay on the phone with Kerry, as she gently calls Berry's name, and finally, the terrified, panicked pup stopped. Her brain switched off survival mode, and she curled up crying at Kerry's feet. It was over.

71 hours later, a lifetime, yet a flicker, we had our pup. It all feels kind of like a dream.

If this experience taught me anything, it is this: there are still amazing, altruistic, caring, helpful people that exist in this world. So many of them. Good exists.

But it also showed me that:

Tragedy helps you really see what matters and get over past indiscretions.

Microchip, tag, collar and leash your dog. No matter how well trained or behaved they are. (Berry had never previously left the yard.)

Flyers work.

I don't know how those families that have a loved one go missing that is never found, ever function normally again. My brain really couldn't switch off into normal life function. I honestly didn't hardly eat or drink my self, let alone feed my children.

There are some people out there that are just "do-er's". And I am not trying to dis anyone, but do'er's are my favorite types. I'm not real sure I qualify as one. I describe myself as the "idea man", with poor execution skills. Which might be why I surround myself with do'ers, because, they jumped into action without hesitating. Spent hours of their weekend searching the streets of KC. They are amazing.

My eye is still twitching.

My heart is still swelling.

Things I still don't understand after this whole experience:
Why do we have pets in the first place?
So, that, my friends, was the great Berry chase of 2017.



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Growing Like Weeds.

I've had to work late the past 2 nights, so the only time I've had with the kiddos has been the brief and utterly chaotic morning time. So, tonight, when I headed up to bed, I stopped in each of their rooms to give them a little kiss goodnight. I found each in their typical positions. Diana on her belly, wrapped in her 2 pink, fleece blankets, one nearly covering her face. Mitch on his side, fetal position holding his blanky that was given to me for Brock by Susan Kuechler while covered with a small, light quilt that was actually given to Curtis by their Great Aunt Mary Lynne. Hashtag: Fourth child problems. Brock, face up, sweaty, Giraffee across his neck, covered up to his chest with his comforter that was once Matt's. Curtis I found curled into a tight ball completely covered head to toe by the large down comforter, he has always slept with his face covered. Always. And George, fetal position, hugging his ZeeZee, under the same down comforter, as close to the edge as possible. He's our only child to fall off beds or couches when sleeping.

Not one child stirred. I kissed and hugged, each and every one. Patted them. Smiled to myself. I've long since decided that the way they sleep so soundly, every single night, is a testament to how loved, secure and at peace they feel. I have healthy kids, with strong immune systems, and lots of energy, and busy little brains and bodies, because they are so loved. They are supported and enriched. The go to bed after a full day of life. So they sleep deeply, safely and soundly. That makes sense, right? I'm convinced of it.

I reflected to myself, on the life of each child. How much they have grown. That I can't believe we have no infants. It just does not seem all that long ago that we welcomed Brock into our lives. Yet, this morning, he informed me that he was "embarrassed to wear those {IU candy stripe} pants to school" because they were going to the symphony on a field trip. Embarrassed!? When? And how? He is too young to know that word, let alone feel it! He has matured so much. He can actually be quite helpful...unless he's playing Minecraft. Then he's kind of a jerk. I mean seriously, I think it puts him in a trance. He loves chess. He awkwardly and minimally plays basketball. That {lack of} athleticism is absolutely NOT from me. He makes clever jokes that actually elicit laughter, from me as well as others. He also has this obnoxious fake laugh that he does so persistently you can't help but giggle yourself. I think the younger years were hard for Brock, he is very much a man of reason. He needs to know the whys and whens behind everything, and that's so hard for youngsters. I think he will do nothing but flourish as he ages.

Curtis is loving Kindergarten. He has so many friends already, but, of course knows none of their names. He chases the girls, and they all seem to like it. We knew he wouldn't struggle on the social end. Class work on the other hand? His attention to detail is lacking. I'm unsure he will ever write the numbers 2 & 3 the write direction. He has got the color words down, and that's about it. He happily does his work, but I'm pretty sure it's mostly motions and he's not real engaged. At his basketball game the other day, you could literally see a little light bulb go off in that extremely transparent little ball of emotion, when he stole his first ball. He proceeded to have 3 more steals and 4 attempted baskets. Watching him hop around out there and beam ear to ear is entertaining to every spectator. Curtis simply makes one smile, there's no avoiding it. Such positive energy seeping from him (of course, unless he's angry.)

The other day, George sat with his father for hours, and intently watched as Matt rewired, soldered and glued back together a lighted snow globe (that Mitch later shattered). He puts together puzzles for those double his age. He can be so intense, engaged, interested and focused. Yet, you ask him to simply put on his shoes or pick up that puzzle and suddenly he collapses, has no energy and cries "but it's going to take too long." He might be the goofiest child I've been blessed to know. But has a heart of gold. His teacher informed us that everyday he looks out for his friend "Hendry Bush", finds him a seat and makes him feel welcomed. When you give this boy a purpose, he puts his all into it, and the pride beams from his "real man" chest as well as the smile he's trying to contain.

Methodical Mitch. He, I could go on about all day, and all night, and not necessarily good things. Three is a tough, tough age for him. He does not sleep enough. He goes to bed at 8 and is up at 6 every morning. He needs to sleep another hour. I have never met someone with such a precise internal clock. He literally comes to my bedside at 6:21 every single morning. This is after he has peed. Watched some Umi-Zoomi. And gone downstairs to help himself to a granola bar or Gogurt, which is why he is at my bedside. To ask me to open it. This kid and his routines. After dinner, while the other 4 typically join me or their father in the family room, Mitch slips back upstairs to be alone. To watch a show, or read, or do a puzzle. That being said, he is such the intense, silent observer. He shocks you. He potty-trained himself at 2.5 (earlier by almost a year than any of his brothers.) He can read an entire book (Hello, Ninja). One day, I saw the emptied contents of his back pack and asked Matt...did he write his name!? There was a paper, with a very obvious "M" and somewhat obvious "i" and "c" and 2 other not to completely obvious letters, but definite potential attempts. So, the next time I saw him with a marker and paper, I asked, "Mitch, do you know how to write your name?" And his eyes lit UP! "Yeah, M-I-T-C-H". Sure enough, he wrote every, single letter. Clearly. In reverse order, but clear as day. Not one of my children has done this at age 3.  I couldn't believe my eyes, and I excitedly congratulated him, "Mitch, that's so good, you are writing your name!!" His joy vanished, he scowled at me, and said, "stop it mom." Just like when I, or my sister sing. He doesn't like hysterics.

Last, my sweet little Dee. She harbors that same infectious joy gene as Curtis. You cannot help but smile when you see her. She loves all that is little and cute. She loves to be part of it all. She hugs the dog (and hits her and laughs.) She eats all the things. I think she out eats those brothers at every meal, yet she is still in size 3 diapers. Perhaps, like Brock, she will never grow out of them. This morning, when I got her out of bed, changed her, and pulled her hair back, she immediately said, "bow". She loves to accessorize, specifically her bows and her clue where she go this! She has begun to ask "why" when we deny her anything. I find this to be so unbelievably adorable. I wish the previous 4 had done this at 20 months, instead of age 4. She received a baby doll for Christmas from her Mimi. I think it has changed her life.

These are just a few of my fleeting thoughts and memories from the past few months. So many amazing moments. They simply never stop. Thankfully.

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Organizational Mind.

This might come as a shock to those who don't know me well, and be old news to those that do, but I struggle quite significantly with "perfectionism". I am avoiding terms like A-type personality or OCD, because the first is WAYYY over-used and the second is an actual disorder, of which I'm sure I don't quite reach that level...yet.

This "perfectionism" both energizes and paralyzes me on a day to day basis and nothing is immune to it. I care {too} passionately about every single aspect of my life. I am such an extremely visual person that this perfectionism affects things like the interior of my home, my photos, my and my children's wardrobe/closet situations the worst. And a HUGE contributing factor to the paralysis is my second most notable trait: commitment. I avoid terms like persistence, stubbornness, inflexibility... hoarder...because I don't think those are quite accurate ALL the time, just sometimes. If I decide on something, it's for LIFE. Done. Sports. Schools. Paint colors. Significant other. Career. Shoes. Don't ask me how many pairs of shoes I have, nor how old the oldest pair I still wear is. (Ok fine, I'll bite...2001. In my defense, they're New Balance and coming back in style. I'm about to pull out my Doc Martin's from '96).

Lately, I have been stuck in a major Photo rut. Totally paralyzed. I used to simply load my phone photos (which were about 1/10th the number I take today), my point and shoot photos and Matt's DSLR photos on one computer, in our family room/office, and go from there. Create blog entries. Albums. Store in an organized fashion in folders on the PC. Well, now my media amount is out of control. We have a Go-Pro to add to the mix over and above that I take at least a dozen photos daily. There's not enough storage space on the computers. It takes to long to gather from all the different sources. The computer/office is no longer located in a central area of the house. So now, for a year or two, I have been trying to formulate a solution to this problem. Instead of just throwing together a family album (to at least say I have one), I have been thinking and thinking and thinking about it. I cannot just put something together, it has to be perfect. I am still annoyed about my family album from 2014 because I forgot ONE photo. One, single family photo from Christmas day is not in there, and to this day I view it as an incomplete Album that I need to remake and possibly just throw away. I'm not saying it's right, it's just who I be.

Best I can gather, I have a few problems. The first being, I need to either A.) take fewer photos or B.) figure out how to be more selective and just immediately delete ones I don't need or won't use or I guess C.) get medicated. Seriously though, how many takes does one REALLY need of one single situation? My logical brain knows this is absurd, but my obsessive brain knows there is a chance that out of the depths of my ridiculously unpredictable and vivid visual memory, I will suddenly want a photo that I might have deleted. Gasp! This creates quite the predicament...I can't hit that delete button! For example, how do I pick from these 5 photos:
I posted one to Instagram that I felt, all things considered, encompassed the moment I was trying to capture, but all 5 together REALLY brings me back to this day. The feelings. The cuteness and absurdity. Dee with her finger to nose, and adorable outfit her Mimi purchased for her in Ireland. Mitch, on his sugar crash and Holiday exhaustion. Brock, bored. George and Curtis??? But, I can't have 5 photos from EVERY DAY and EVERY moment of our lives. I shouldn't even have one photo from everyday. It's too much. Not necessary. Overkill. And impossible to keep up with, store, organize and develop.

The second is that I need a system and storage location that is convenient, flexible, operational that also preserves photo quality. A lot of these online places compress the file, even iPhoto does it.

Third, I am often terrified to order any online product because I am sooo intensely disappointed with poor quality. I forgot to mention, but stationary, albums, and, well absolutely any paper products of any type are a source of one of my most intense idiosyncratic obsessions and loves. If I told you my birth announcement "budget", you might vomit (which is why I don't tell anyone...least of all, Matt.) I view them as art, ok!?

Therefore, I've decided, this is the year. I will find one place to store top quality photos from all my media. That I will exercise extreme self restraint and compile only photos I plan to use forever and always. That I will click that button and just print it, even if it is far less than perfect. And I will start from January 1 (well, 2) 2017 and though I hope to regain those lost years, will focus on the current one.

When I do finally figure out the perfect method to this social media, camera at our fingertips, digitally excessive media madness world...I will share it with you fellow A-type, OCD, perfectionists.