Saturday, October 10, 2015

Juniors Tennis

Meet my son, August. 
He's 7 years old and stinkin smart and talented and sensitive and just all around good looking. 
And he plays tennis when he's not keeping the peace around our house in his official capacity as cowboy law-man.

Just recently, we signed him up for an under-8 Jr. Tennis league. He is now an official USTA member. He has been taking weekly lessons since the Spring, and it seemed time to start getting some match experience. His league matches kicked off this past Sunday (after our day in the ER), and he didn't really give it much thought until just before we were getting ready to go.

Then the reality of the situation hit him full force and he was terrified.
Like I said before, he is a really sensitive kid. I have spanked him probably 2 times in his life. A stern look is usually all it takes. He FEELS things, people. DEEPLY. He's tough and all boy, don't get me wrong - those things are definitely not mutually exclusive. But he suddenly became adamant that he DID. NOT. WANT. TO. PLAY. TENNIS. He started crying and we could not get him to stop! 

It was one of those parenting moments when you really have to just make a judgment call.
Obviously, he was simply nervous and scared. We understood that. He'd also committed to do something and his coach and fellow team members were counting on him.
We gently explained all this to him as he sobbed and sobbed. 
Kyle and I each explained how we both got crazy nervous before matches or races or sporting events, and that we had even read about an Ironman triathlon who bawls like a baby right before the start of every race (it's true). Nerves come out in different ways. But you can't let them stop you.

We kept comforting him and encouraging him as everyone put their shoes on. We filled his water bottle and ushered everyone into the car. Tears still a-flowing.
We drove there, all the while he just cried.

And then we parked the car and he climbed out of the car and the tears dried up. 
Stoic August emerged. What I like to call his Poker Face.
No emotion. Just business.

Here he is above, warming up with his Coach Shaun beside him. 
All during warm-up and as the other players warmed up, he was fine. He's never crazy or wild or expressive out there, even in lessons. But he really does love tennis.

He played two matches that day. In this league, it's best of 3 games. There are several things that are unique about this level - they don't overhand serve - they drop hit. They each serve 2 and then switch servers, and they each get 2 attempts to serve. The scoring is different, too. Rather than using love-15-30, etc. They do first to 7 points, using these clips attached to the net. When you score a point, you remove a clip. Then, as absurd as it is, you call out your score by subtracting 7 from the clips on the net. Rather than starting with 0 clips and adding them to the net and counting those. So every time a kid called the points, they had to do a little subtraction problem. It was bizarre.

At this level, the parents are able to help the kids out with calling the score, helping them identify whose point it is, whether the balls are in or out. You let them do as much as they can, but interject when required. For instance, this one kid called a ball out when it was clearly in.  So a parent will say, "Uh, was that in or out?"..."Out?"..."You sure about that?"...."In.....your point...." Keeping them honest, kind of. And you encourage them - we all want our kids to love this game!

August won his first match easily and his second match, he lost in the 3rd set. It was funny because the only reason he lost the second match was because he didn't move to the  ball fast enough or often enough. His strokes were great! There were several good rallies, but his opponent was a hustler and just generally more peppy than August.  As his opponent walked off, I heard him say to his dad, "that kid was good!" I think because August had on his Poker Face, he didn't expect any skill from him! 

With the matches completed, August walked a little taller. I asked him if he had fun - resounding YES. I asked him if he was looking forward to next week - YES! 
Hopefully the big breakdown was just a one-time nerves issue...

Friday, October 9, 2015

A Rough Week

What does it take to transform this super cute, happy, smiling (NEWLY 2 YEAR OLD!) into the picture you see below??

A really nasty case of CROUP.
That's what.

My poor little baby started running a fever last Thursday night and woke up on Friday with a barking seal cough to go along with his fever. It was unmistakably croup. His voice was also hoarse, which happens as the vocal chords get inflamed.  He was mostly fine all during the day, but that night, things got interesting. His fever would not go away. 101 - 102. Kyle and I were up every hour on the hour during the night checking his fever, making sure his breathing was ok and giving him Tylenol and Motrin. I somehow managed to keep my 6am long run Saturday morning with my running group (10.5 miles this week), which was not as hard as it sounds because I was pretty much awake when my alarm went off at 5:15 anyway. 

I came home to find his fever had still not improved and he was noticeably looking bad. Super pale with red-rimmed eyes, his breathing didn't sound good to me and he was obviously sick. 
I ended up taking him to an urgent care clinic where they agreed it was croup, and gave him a steroid shot.  And since he was retracting pretty noticeably with each breath and had stridor (which is the sound you hear when the breathing gets really difficult - almost like air being sucked in over a row of pipes...for some reason I picture wind blowing over a plowed field - wind over furrows), they sent me to the ER of Children's Hospital. Now somehow, THAT I was not expecting. 

Given the large amount of family members living around me, you'd think it would be easy to find childcare for my other 3 children, but it was not.  My parents were in Knoxville, TN for the Razorback game and we couldn't locate any of my siblings. We ended up getting Chad and Melissa to watch them for us, and I am so grateful for them. My kids had a fantastic day/evening with them and I didn't worry about them at all. Meanwhile, poor Wyeth had undoubtedly the worst day of his life.

When we arrived at the ER it was deserted and we were rushed back.
Nurses and doctors descended upon us and quickly assessed that Wyeth was pretty sick. (Later, several confided that they just knew he was going to be admitted). They diagnosed croup, but wanted to run lots of tests to rule out other causes. I think his fever was low enough that they didn't suspect meningitis (there have been several cases of that going around), so thankfully no lumbar punctures were on their list. Praise God for that!!

They sent for a breathing treatment right away, as there was a noticeable stridor in his breathing and his chest was sucking in hard with each breath. They also wanted to do a chest x-ray, some bloodwork and catheterize him to rule out a bladder infection.  

From that point on, it was a seriously hard day.
The breathing treatment and x-rays were the easiest things Wyeth dealt with that day.  

Although he did not like it one bit, he was almost too sick to struggle much.
And his breathing noticeably improved afterwards.

The chest x-ray came back clean and so they did another x-ray of his throat to rule out a throat abscess. The problem was that the second x-ray needed to be read by a radiologist to confirm that no CT was needed...which means that he couldn't nurse or eat anything. The radiologists were all swamped. Meanwhile, they quickly cath'd him (which broke my heart into a thousand pieces) and then called in a guy to start an IV on him.

Ya'll - I used to be a nurse. At ACH, in fact, and I love the hospital. I love the nurses. I have so much respect for that place and our time spent there only reinforced that love and respect. But there is nothing that diminishes the pain of watching your baby suffer. And he was so dehydrated by this time that they had to try 3 times to start an IV on him and he was suffering. I was holding his body against me (he was sitting in my lap facing me) so I was able to assist the nurses while comforting Wyeth, but it was gruesome to feel his poor body go rigid with pain while they tried to find a vein. I'm tough and it about made me cry.  His hoarse little cries were GUT WRENCHING! 

One of our nurses was a super nice guy who really liked us and felt like he'd failed us when he couldn't get an IV started. They called the IV team and were able to start one in his hand. Praise God! They got the blood they needed to run some tests on it, and left the IV in. At this point, they all thought we were going to be admitted.

After the x-rays and IV, we were left to wait on the radiology report. This would tell us whether we had to stay for a CT. Wyeth was so exhausted that when they came in to do a second breathing treatment, he remained asleep the whole time. 

It was kind of funny because there were a lot of unknowns about whether we'd have to be admitted. Apparently, they had on the boards that we were going to be, so this poor lady kept coming in to get us to sign all the paperwork, but we had been told that depending on a few factors, we might be going home. So we kept sending her away. 

We were blessed with a fantastic on-call doctor who knows her stuff. She eventually heard back from radiology that there was no throat abscess and we didn't need a CT scan, which meant that Wyeth could try to nurse/eat. She wanted to be sure his breathing was solid enough that he WOULD eat without gagging or having problems. She watched him nurse easily and eat some pudding and finally said we could go home but to return immediately if his breathing took a turn for the worse. We were so relieved. Also, during the day, Wyeth's fever had disappeared. 

We ended up getting home around 11:45pm Saturday night. We slept with one eye on him all night, making sure his breathing stayed good, and watching for fevers. 

He was so much improved on Sunday afternoon that we took him with us to August's first Junior Tennis match. He remained fever free, breathing easily all day.

He even tried to work alongside Kyle Sunday evening.

It was night and day difference. 
He ran a fever on and off later this week and still has a little cough, but viral croup takes some time to work out of your body. As of today, he has been fever free and happy as a clam.
I am thankful for so many things throughout this week that I can't even begin to list them all, but mostly thankful that Wyeth is better.

Interesting tidbit here....over the past week I heard various anecdotes from nurses and friends who noted that blond hair/blue eyed children seem to have worse problems with respiratory issues than brown hair/brown eyed children.  None of my other children (all darker) have ever had any issues with this. I'm not sure the science behind it all, but it's interesting.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Captiva Island, Part 2

In the evenings, we played games, read books, and I worked on knitting projects!

I apologize for the sideways nature of this picture, but I love how cute Wyeth looks, slinking down in the chair!

At home for a lunch break before heading back out for more sunshine and salt water!

August, Brooklyn and Dorien would play "I spy" using the chart of shells. I think they have the shell chart completely memorized by now.

Heading out for dinner!

Me and my Brooklyn!

Eating at the Island Cow - there was lots of open space, unlike previous times of the year when we'd been there! (I love how August buttoned his top button!) 

I don't know what the sign means...but it was an opportunity to sit by a skeleton.

Brooklyn knew it wasn't real, but she still didn't want it touching her.

The lighthouse at the bottom tip of Sanibel Island. A 15 mile bike ride there and back gave Kyle and I each a nice 30 mile ride!

What a gorgeous day and a gorgeous boy!

Here I come!!!

Wyeth and Kyle!

Little brothers -  Wyeth (almost 2), Dorien (4).

Reading in bed before lights out.

Wyeth squeezed himself between Dorien and the screen wall in order to sit in Dorien's lap.

A late night walk down to the beach...

Revealed a white sand crab that quickly scuttled sideways into the grasses. 

It was a completely black night. No moon, no stars...just darkness and the sounds of waves rolling over rhythmically down the shoreline.  Staring out into the blackness, we began noticing these sparkles at the edge of the water just where the waves broke. Glittery, glowing brief shimmers of light. It definitely wasn't jellyfish. I did some research when we got back and I think it was phosphorescent ocean plant life. It was a first for all of us and incredibly cool!

All good things must come to an end, and we began our drive home on Saturday morning. Ironically, we found out that the next morning there was to be a sprint triathlon on the island!!! Had we known, we totally would have planned our trip around that! Maybe next year...

On our return journey, I knocked out two hats. One was intended to be for Brooklyn (the lilac one) and one for me (multicolored hat). It worked out exactly opposite of how I'd planned. But it's ok, because Brooklyn decided she really liked the multicolored version.

Side view - this is the PurlBee Cozy Ear Flap hat.

Back view of the lilac version of the same hat. 

Clearly too big for her, but so cute at the same time!

Driving back through Dothan, Alabama, we happened to catch the most glorious sunset right as we were pulling into our favorite restaurant for dinner!

We discovered this place, The Cactus Flower, several years ago just after it opened. I have no idea why we stopped here - there's nothing to really attract attention to it, but it blew us away with how good it was. It's kind of a fresh Californian approach to Mexican, and it is amazing. If you are EVER near Dothan, plan to stop here. It is well worth it. I always get the vegetarian quesadilla which is about the size of a medium pizza! It's at least 2 meals for me, and perhaps the most delicious thing I've ever put in my mouth. It's a well established part of our trip routine. 
So, until next time....farewell Captiva!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Captiva Island, Part 1

This September, we took the 18 hour trek down to our annual beach destination - Captiva Island, Florida. This was our 6th year to go there and the 3rd year in this particular house. We look forward to this trip each year in ways you can't imagine. It might seem dull to return to the same place every year, and ordinarily, I would whole-heartedly agree with that sentiment, but there is something unique about Captiva. Just ask those who find themselves returning year after year.

It's a place of peace and utter relaxation. Of afternoon thunderstorms, lazy days in the ocean throwing frisbees and searching for shells without critters in them. A place with familiar restaurants whose menus you have memorized. Home of the Orange Crunch Cake. Of manatees that everyone sees but us! Of dolphins, sea stars, crabs and shells galore.  A place with roads as familiar to you as your own hometown. There's something isolated and private about it, even though there are houses everywhere. 

This year, we went later in the year than we've ever been before, after school had started, and our week overlapped Labor Day weekend. 

It had been a lovely, but hectic summer and Kyle and I were eager to shed the trappings of our everyday lives and enjoy some quality time with each other and the kids. We always leave early Friday morning, drive all day, stop and sleep, and drive another 6-7 hours until we arrive in Fort Myers, Florida where we load up on groceries for the week and then drive onto the island where we don't budge for a full week. 

Wyeth did remarkably well on the trip, although he figured out that he could slip his arms out of his harness. A clear sign it's time to move up to a bigger carseat!

The kids were super excited. They love the routine of the 2 day drive it takes to get there as much as anything. Largely because I drop all my restrictions on sugar and they get more than they ever want or need from their treat bags. There are movies to watch, books we read aloud, Adventures in Odyssey cds to listen to, naps to take...

We definitely have the best decorated beach house I've ever stayed in. And I love our homeowner. She is incredibly helpful and has done a fantastic job making the house welcoming and equipped for every need. 

I love the huge map of the island and surrounding locations that greets you as you enter.

Some native wildlife greeted us as well.
Now, which way to the beach???

Thank you, Wyeth!

This was his second year here, but he was older and wiser and this ocean was a tad daunting to him. He was a little unsure. Exercising caution around the ocean is always a good idea.

Each day, we loaded our beach buggy with the chairs, umbrella, beach toys, towels, snacks and walked the short way to the beach to claim our spot. All of the stuff we hauled down there (minus the food) came with the house. Can't beat that.

This is the walkway from our house/neighborhood area to the beach. 

There it is....what we traveled so far to experience...

August gets super excited about Captiva. He loves making things in the sand and finding shells and body surfing and swimming and playing...

Kyle soaks it up.

Various expressions of joy look like an impromptu dance...

Hoping to sight a manatee, we strolled across the main road to the harbor side of the island.

The sky was dark and ominous, but it didn't dampen our enthusiasm. 
Sadly, we never spotted any manatees.

But we had fun tromping about the piers and calling for the manatees. That alone, was quite fun. There's a song from Veggie Tales called "Barbara are the one for me..." We sang that in hopes that it would attract Barbara. It did not. A few odd looks, yes.

After the weekend, the majority of people went back to work and school, and the beach thinned out considerably. It felt very much like our own private ocean. There were a few other families out there with us, but for the most part, it was blissfully quiet.

Captiva/Sanibel are known for their shells, but this year, we found unprecedented numbers of them. Sand dollars by the hundreds were under our feet in the sand...thousands of shells with little crabs occupying day, Kyle found about 6 enormous sand stars, all in a group. They were about 14 inches across. It was amazing!

 A friend we made while there said a manatee swam within a few feet of him - they were equally startled to find the other so close. And the dolphins were out like we'd never seen them! That was such a treat. One day, a momma dolphin and her baby were fishing in the shallows and swam within about 3 feet of us. It was unbelievable.

Sweet little Dorien. He put on his floatie and had the best time hanging out in deeper waters with me and Kyle.

Wyeth, on the other hand, just wanted to be with us. In our arms. He was not keen on any sort of flotation device. WE were his flotation device. And despite his white hair and blue eyes, he never burned and actually got pretty tan!

Some days the ocean was as smooth as glass. A couple of days the waves were so rough, I body-surfed for hours! You never knew what to expect. Every day was a brand new ocean.

Kyle and I were still training for our triathlon, so we brought our bikes and swim gear and did some open water swimming, biking up and down the island and lots of running.

White sunscreen on my white little baby boy.

August, in contrast to Wyeth, turned so dark he looked like a Native American. His hair lightened considerably, too!

Brooklyn turned brown as a nut, too! She had so much fun!

Hanging out with my littlest man while playing frisbee with Kyle. There's something about the ocean that makes me want to play frisbee. 

For hours. It's addicting. 

More tomorrow.....