Friday, November 30, 2007


Trystan can poop. At least in theory.

He went into surgery this morning around 9am. They started closer to 10, and we were back to his room at about 12:30. He is so far just sleeping, on us most of the day. He wakes up every now and then to fuss, but at the moment he's just taking tylenol for pain and nothing else.

My husband is once again the lucky one who gets to stay the night with him. At least this night should be cleaner than last night. Yesterday, they cleaned out his digestive tract with solution force-fed to him through a feeding tube directly into his stomach. That was not a pretty sight. The ostomy bags continued to come off all night, and by the time I arrived at 8:30 this morning, my husband had used every last blanket, towel, sheet, washcloth, and matress pad in the room to help sop up the mess. Oh yeah, and there was an enema around 2am (or maybe 4..he was kind of groggy at the time). That went up his stoma, and then back out again. Yummy.

Today, we have no action coming out the backside yet. That will happen soon, though it'll just be digestive juices at first--there's nothing else in the kid. It will probably be about two more days before he can eat anything, which is why I'm home. Why tease the boy with his favorite comfort food when he can't have it.

Now, we get to move from the land of ostomy bags to the land of diaper rash, which we're assured is coming. Skin utterly unused to handling anything stronger than pee, plus wacked out system full of diarrhea-inducing antibiotics = a very large tub of butt paste. Again, yummy.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Trystan update

Trystan is at Children's. We took him in at 11 this morning for "bowel prep". His surgery is tomorrow (Friday). Bowel Prep is their way of saying "make him miserable and make a huge mess". He had a feeding tube in place, which is bugging the heck out of him, and an IV.

Through the feeding tube has gone 40oz of a fluid designed to clean out his digestive tract. BTW, 40oz is probably more fluid than he drinks on a normal day, and they fed it through in a matter of hours. Since what goes in must come out, he's been flooding his little ostomy bags. Those things are meant to hold poop, not liquid (and what's coming out quickly started looking just like what went in--clear liquid).

I think my husband and I have put on like 8 or more ostomy bags over the course of today, because they just won't stay. I was tempted to just leave them off and wrap him in towels. My husband kept trying to engineer solutions that included Foley bags. When I left tonight around 8, we had yet another bag, of a different brand that the hospital had that looked easier to apply, but possibly easier for him to wiggle out of.

Luckily, the geiser had slowed to an occaisional trickle, and I'm hoping my my husband's sake that he makes it relatively well through the night. I'm home for the night, and he's staying at the hospital. Trystan's on clear fluids through midnight, and then nothing (or maybe just water) until the surgery tomorrow, so my breasts weren't required at the front. Therefore, I get to sleep in the big comfy bed at home for at least a night or two, while my husband gets the daybed mattress thing in the hospital room. Yes, I feel sorry for him, but then I stayed every single night for the last surgery. This way too, Charlotte will get to see both of us over the course of the week-long stay, as I'll be back on duty when Trystan gets to actually eat again.

I really really hope that we never have to do this again. If I never see an ostomy bag again, it will be too soon. And I'm looking forward to actual poopy diapers. I'm sure the reality of that will wear on us quickly enough, but for now, it's a wonderful thought.

I'm off to bed. I may post again tomorrow, and possibly sporadically over the next week if I make it down to one of the family lounges that have internet access. Or, I might not get on again until we're all home next week. Man I'm tired.

Monday, November 26, 2007

There's never a good time, but some bad times are better than others

Our dryer is not working. Luckily it finished a load of jeans yesterday before giving up and going on holiday. That was not so lucky for the load of baby clothes that followed. The thing powers on, I select a setting, and press Start. I hear a click. Then, nothing. No heat. No movement. Wet clothes.

The really ironic part is that we have another working dryer in the house, but it's not currently useable (needs power and venting). Our old washer had nothing but trouble and when it died for the 3rd or 4th time in 6 years last fall, we replaced the whole pair with stackable front-loaders. I was going to sell the old driver, but pregnancy and babies got in the way.

Sears is supposed to be coming today to look at the dryer. I hope that they have whatever part is fried on hand and can leave us with a working dryer. The alternative is to deal with a pain in the a$$ 2 days before Trystan has to go in for a week-long stay at Children's.

We have options if the repair will take time: 1) bring up old dryer from basement and install in laundry room...that's a pain because of where the new dryer currently is, but more do-able than my grumpy husband wants to admit. 2) Air-dry everything--again, do-able but a pain. We don't own any sort of drying rack. 3) Laudromat (hey, maybe I'd get some writing done, if I don't have to bring kids with me and bolt my laptop to the wall every time I get up to rotate things) 4) Impose on friends. We've already done this with the 2 loads that were wet last night (one from the washer and the baby clothes that never dried). Problem here is that we don't have that much time and have a lot of laundry that I wanted done before Thursday. 5) Wire up the basement so we can have a second dryer there. Interesting idea, but would take more work than I think we can do by Thursday.

Blech. Sears repair is supposed to show up between 8 and Noon today, calling an hour ahead of time to confirm their arrival. My husband is working from home (thank goodness he has that option), but it's 11am and Sears has yet to call.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

To cook or not to cook

How do you feel about cooking your own Thanksgiving dinner? Do you? Do you love it? Hate it? Dread it? Order in? Just curious.

In a completely un-systematic random (but not statistically random) sampling of the people I have discussed the topic with lately, I am squarely in the minority. I really enjoy cooking a big Thanskgiving dinner. Over the past dozen years or so, we've probably hosted about half of the dinners at our house. We do the whole traditional dinner-Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, apple and pumpkin pie (other side dishes vary by the year...sometimes squash, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn, whatever else looked good). I love to cook, and have been helping make our family dinner since I was little. My mom is a nurse and frequently worked on Thanksgiving, and I can remember basting the turkey every hour one year, in between playing with Barbie dolls and swinging outside-I was probably 8 or so at the time.

Some years I've tried fancier dishes than other years. We typically brine the turkey before roasting, make the dinner rolls from scratch. Pies are from scratch (this year I'm using pre-made pie crusts-my homemade pie crusts are one of my weaker points in baking). One year I
made a pumpkin cheesecake (I don't particularly care for cheesecake, but that was actually pretty good). We don't use pre-made sides. We don't buy a foil pan. The cleanup doesn't really scare me (hey, I'm one of 5 kids....*every* night there was a huge pile of dishes and pans to clean up).

Talking to our family members and some of my coworkers, there are a lot of people who find the whole business to be nothing but drudgery and work. Some of them go out. Some order a dinner. Some join a larger group so they don't have to cook and host. Some of them go to great lengths to avoid cooking (it seems to me that some people's "shortcuts" like more effort than just straight-forward cooking).

Bring on the drudgery, I'm itching to start cooking!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The end is near

Trystan's surgery to close his colostomy is in about two weeks. I can hardly wait. I am not looking forward to seeing him in pain post-op, nor having to feed a mechanical baby (aka breastpump) instead of him for a couple of days afterwards. His roughly week-long hospital stay will be hell on our family--Charlotte developed some real fears last time after I spent the entire stay at the hospital with Trystan (that time he could nurse as soon after surgery as he felt up to it). But I am looking forward to an end of little pouches adhered to his tummy, to carrying a bag of medical supplies with us in the diaper bag, of having to order what are really diapering supplies from a medical supply house. I'm tired of worrying about whether a bag will come off overnight while he sleeps, or will start leaking while he's snuggled in our bed (we never did get a waterproof mattress cover for our bed, and really don't want runny poop soaking into our sleeping place). I'm tired of being limited on potential babysitting options, of having to explain to curious strangers who see me emptying his bag at a public changing station. I'm tired of whining about all of this on this blog, but what good is having a place to vent and whine if you don't use it?

I had to call the medical supply place this morning to order one more set of bags for him..they come 10 to a box, and we have about a dozen left at home. If the darned things behave, they can last 2-3 days apiece. When they don't, we can go through 4 in a day until we get a good seal. I'm not a gambler, and I don't want to run out two days ahead of time and have to run all over town trying to find more in a hurry. I asked them if they would take back unused ones, or an unopened box should we be so lucky, and was told that they didn't do either. The surgery office said that they could take them, even from an opened box, as they have patients with limited resources and poor insurance who have trouble obtaining supplies or paying for them. That thought was sobering--I once priced the things and they cost around $30-50 per box of 10...imagine paying that every 10 days or so on top of diapers and all the other baby stuff you need. Then there are protective pastes and powders, and the dressings for his other fistula (mostly gauze and tape, but you go through that stuff fast, and sensitive skin demands fancier stuff than typical first-aid supplies). Once again, I am thankful, thankful, thankful to have good insurance. All we pay for are normal baby diapers and wipes like we would be for any other kid.

I guess we'll have to buy a lot more wipes soon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The color of autumn

I always feel sentimental in the fall. I have always claimed spring as my favorite season; I love the beautiful colors, the budding trees, new growth, sweet birdsongs. It doesn't hurt that my birthday falls right at the official start of spring (technically it's still in winter, but the first daffodils and tulips always forget to check the calendar). But fall has always been so precious to me.

Autumn historically has marked big changes in my life: the start of the school year, moving here to St. Louis for college at Wash U, buying our first house. With Charlotte's birthday in August, fall has marked big developmental steps for her as well--the end of sending bottles of breastmilk to daycare, moving her to a big-girl bed, and announcing the impending change from baby to big sister, giving up diapers. The cold winds of autumn, for me, sweep away decaying stages of my life, and the scent of dropping leaves always leaves me a little sad for the warm summer days that have fallen by the wayside.

The fall color this year seems more beautiful than in years past, and seems to be lingering longer. Maybe it's the warmer weather we've had, or the rain that hit at just the right point to sustain the trees a touch longer. Maybe it's just me, as I've been outside a lot more often during the day than in years past--this season of early nightfalls passes more quickly when you only see the sun on weekends. Here in the middle of november, there are green leaves still on many trees, and the rest are showing their most vibrant colors. Even our sad, the straggly sugar maple in our front yard, which normally fades from green to a rusty red-brown, boasts scarlet-tipped golden leaves this year.

Over the past week, I've driven from one end of the metro area to another several times along highway 40, and been able to savor its lively foliage for perhaps the last time. By the time it is reborn in a couple of years as the new I-64, I'm afraid that the beautiful tree scapes between Kingshighway and 270 will be replaced by towering concrete walls. The thought of those beautiful views being clearcut as the highway and interchagnes are rebuilt makes this fall's colorspray even more poignant.

Last night after bedtime, Charlotte crept quietly up to our bedroom door. She stood there in her pink footy pajamas with a shy, slightly upset, and very tired look on her face. She had dropped her baby bunny doll off the side of her bed and could not found it, and needed help, a hug, and to be tucked back into bed. Seeing her bright little face shining against the dark hallway behind her, I suddenly had a vision of her much taller and older standing in the same spot. Just like the fall color, the image made me sad, because when that day comes, she won't want us to pick her up and
cradle her on our shoulders, or carefully spread her Winnie the Poo blankets around her, tuck Baby Bunny and Glo Worm under her arm, and won't need us to blow her kisses from the doorway so she can sleep. Like the deep dark of the quickly approaching winter, that day is not as far away as I could hope it would stay.

P.S. I have not actually seen detailed plans for the highway reconstruction that show trees and shrubbery being removed during construction. But based on other projects around the area, and the increasing number of bald spots near current construction on the route, I can only assume we will see more of the same. But please don't take my opinions and fears for hard facts and set me up for some libel suit from MoDot on account of a little nostalgic rambling.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

That's it, she's finally cracked...

I am finally owning up to it. I'd read several friend's blogs, friends who admit publicly that they like to write, about NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month (for those of us who are not up on the latest writing news). Basically, you try to write a novel of at least 50k words during the month of November. Apparently typical novels range from closer to 70k words (for those skinny books), to well over 100,000 or more. So 50 is really just a sort of prototype. A novella, if you will. Still a rather impressive accomplishment.

Well, over Halloween I was sitting in a training class and while I was indeed paying attention to the class, I was also surfing the web (does that make me a little ADD? quite likely...), and decided to look up what the whole NaNoWriMo thing was about. The next thing you know, I'd actually signed myself up.

What? Writing? Isn't she an engineer? I didn't think engineers read books, let alone could write them. Unless books were full of "if !(foo(bar->getData()) == NULL)". Ha! Fooled you!

I don't make much use of it at work these days, but I did actually study literature in college. Study so much of it, they gave me a pretty piece of paper in a red folio with the university seal on it. Of course, none of the stuff I read or wrote for my major in college was in English--it was in Spanish. I will admit that there was one conversation class, and one "culture" class thrown in there, but my major wasn't about ordering tequilas in a bar or asking directions around Cancun. It was pretty much all reading and analyzing literature.

So there. I've justified my qualifications. I know I shouldn't need to. But for some reason, I've never allowed myself to really admit that I have any interest in reading or writing books (or any other writing). I think it has something to do with my reactions to English teachers in high school, and my solitary semester of "English" at Wash U (really freshman composition, taught by a grad student and not even a real prof). Basically, I could not (still cannot) relate to some of those people, and got a rather bad taste in my mouth for "English" as a course of study. One high school teacher was so anti-math that she insisted on recording every grade as a letter instead of a number, and claimed to be somehow averaging all those A's, B's, C's, etc to come up with your final grade. That drove me nuts..especially since no matter what, she could not believe that what she was doing WAS math (either that or pulling final grades out of her ass, something I would easily believe of her). Deep breath. Let it out. All better. I did meet English majors who did not drive me nuts. I even liked some of them :)

While my computer science degree has done a good job of paying the bills for all of these years, that other piece of paper has helped me justify spending a lot of money on buying books by Isabel Allende, Laura Esquivel, and others (not counting all of the reading I do in my native language). I have actually missed having to write papers, and frequently spend a while after each book musing over the imagery or the characterizations, or outright allusions to other works, etc. Fun stuff. Some of those hated English teachers from way back when might be proud. I have enjoyed writing for this blog. It's kind of fun to know that other people might actually read what I write (lucky you!), but mostly it's been good to be able to write things in complete sentences on lines that don't begin with // or ' (another coding reference...if you don't understand, you're really not missing much here).

I'm not writing in Spanish. I am attempting to write something like the books that first inspired my reading: a romance. Much as I would love to be writing a historical romance, well-researched and interspersed with period detail, I don't have have the time for the research and detail part. So it's set in modern times, in a as-yet unnamed city which might bear a strong resemblance to St. Louis (location isn't terribly key to the plot as yet). I have no title--probably won't until after it's a lot more done. I have the main plotline figured out, am refining details of the characters as I go. I've had the idea (and a handful of others) swirling around in my head for years. Yes, indeed, years (since probably high school) of silently inventing characters and plots, twists and turns, and nary a word written down before (see above notes on feelings of inadequacy in English).

So far, I've only written about 11,000 words. My schedule-performance-index calculations tell me that I'm behind schedule with that, but I do have a day job or two (or is it 3...2 kids plus one that actually pays me), and I've spent an awful large amount of time with a really sick baby this week. Maybe I'll catch up this weekend. I have quite a few scenes running through my head at various times, so when I'm not actually at the keyboard (and not at work...I am trying really really really hard not to do this at work), in theory I'm still working on it.

Will anyone get to read it? We'll see. I don't think it's that bad so far. It's nice right now that I am under no pressure professionally to actually write a book. If I do, great. If not, well, I'm a software enginner. In my profession, writing fiction is usually frowned on...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

(in)Frequent Flyer

I got an email today telling me that my "Delta skymiles" are about to expire. Apparently it's been two years since I last (first) flew with Delta. The message was full of links with ideas on how to keep my miles (pay $50, fly somewhere else, give my credit card number to any number of other people to monitor for spending at specific places). Should I even bother?

When I first graduated from college, I worked for a consulting company headquartered in Chicago. I spent my first month of gainful employment commuting from St. Louis to the windy city via Southwest Airlines, staying in a nice downtown hotel, and eating out for every meal all on the company dime. By the time my office was "virtualized" post-Internet bubble 3 years later, I had a walletfull of rewards program cards, and had even earned a free flight or two. Mostly, though, I wasn't a huge traveller, and my flights and hotels were all over the place, so I never racked up enough in one place to make a difference. I also got married around then, and some of those crazy programs gave me the run around when I needed to change my name (and they would not give me any new points if my name did not match their records).

In my two subsequent jobs, travel opportunities have further dwindled. I've travelled exactly once for my current employer, and don't forsee more anytime soon. I'm not particularly upset by this either. When I was still single (well, committed, but not yet legal) business travel was kind of exciting. Pre-kids (but post-house), it was fine, maybe a touch annoying with so many things to do at home. These days it would border on abusive for my family to be gone much (though perhaps provide a nice mini-vacation for me). I'm a homebody, really.

My husband and I have done a bit of leisure travel, though less since Charlotte's arrival, and none since Trystan's (I would really love a trip to the beach...maybe next spring?). These days our vacations do(would) include the kids. In fact, that last (first) trip with Delta was a week in Palm Beach, FL where we split our time between the introducing Charlotte to the beach and catching up with a cousin of mine and my grandmother, who live in the area.

I am tempted to simply chuck all those little plastic cards in my wallet/file cabinet and simply ignore their presence when we travel in the future. Am I really missing anything? Does anyone like me, who only travels a couple of times a year at most, actually earn anything from them?