Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thirty-second delight

Last year, Utah was absolutely plagued with cryptosporidium. That's the poop-in-the-pool (I know, eeeew!) intestinal illness that takes on a life of its own. It got so bad that health officials banned little kiddles from swimming and considered banning public swimming for everyone temporarily.
They launched education campaigns. They begged. They blitzed reporters like me with news releases and pleas to publicize how to avoid it. (Here's a clue. Wash your hands. Go to the bathroom IN the bathroom. Don't change diapers on the edge of the pool).
And then someone had a stroke of genius. They created a 30-second, funny PSA that is completely irresistible. If you haven't seen it, I promise you'll laugh.

Health officials were geared up for the "year after an outbreak," expected to be bad. In fact, cases dropped below baseline levels for a typical year. I have this theory that a lot of people stayed home for fear they'd see this guy poolside.
I love him. Seriously. But I hope with all my heart that he already had a wife and Utah's requisite 2.5 kids. Cuz I think this might have a chilling effect on viewing him as an object of desire.
What a hoot.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Happy B-day, Beaux

It's the big 48 for Beaux, who took time to celebrate with his family and good friends, Ted and Janice, Saturday. He even very sportingly let the stranger at the restaurant slap a cake hat on his head and call the crew to sing to him. Thanks for that, Janice.
If you've missed it, Beaux's waiting for an organ transplant. But as we wage a life-and-death battle here at Chez Kyle, we take time to laugh and tease and live, too.
Happy birthday, darling. Here's to 40 more.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

When I knew being a mama was weird

A friend was asking me about this recently. I originally wrote about it for the Deseret News, when it happened, just days after the Twin Towers were knocked down. Here it is, mildly edited.

My belief that 3-year-old Alyson is, indeed, an unusual child was confirmed by a physician in the emergency room at Primary Children's Medical Center.

The evening had been uneventful, until my 4-year-old, Jenifer, in true drama queen fashion, ran sobbing into the room, hugging herself and practically keening as she announced tearfully that "You don't eat coins. And Aly did. Now we must bid her goodbye."

It took a while to untangle the story, but near as I could tell, Aly had swallowed coins. The exact quantity was unclear, but she cheerfully informed me it was "many."

We poured out the piggy bank and I asked her to show me what she'd swallowed. She picked up two dimes and a nickel and held them out, then hesitated over another dime.

She seemed cheerful and happy. I wasn't sure if she'd actually swallowed any. And I'd heard lots of children swallow a penny and it passes right through.

But in true motherly fashion, I started worrying. A nickel's bigger. And what if it was actually a quarter? She's not exactly adept at identifying money. Would eating multiple coins cause problems? After an unsatisfactory call to the hospital, where a lawsuit-shy nurse said she couldn't offer advice, I decided to take Aly to the hospital.

It was a ridiculous ride. Because she sits behind me in the car seat and it was too dark to see her in the rearview mirror, not to mention past bedtime, I worried that she would choke or pass out and I wouldn't know it.

I made her sing to me the entire trek across town, while I lectured her sternly on how dangerous it is to put things in your mouth and you should never, ever swallow coins.

(You should also never, ever, leave coins where a toddler can swallow them. But, hey, nobody was there to lecture me.)

It would have made a crazy sound track.

The doctor laughed out loud as she ran the metal detector over Aly's torso. It sounded like an air raid siren, beep, beep, beeping its way across her tummy. "She swallowed something, all right," she said.

The X-ray was kind of cute. Fortunately, the coins had passed safely down her throat and not into her lungs, which could be very serious. They sat in her stomach like a little hoard, out of sight. What a savings plan.

They called her the little piggy bank and gave her a pinwheel for being such a good girl when the X-ray was taken. I was delighted that the doctors are so good at putting children at ease and worried that she'd have such a good time she'd do it again just to experience once more the enchantment.

Then I asked the question I should have kept to myself.

"You've seen other kids swallow multiple coins, right?"

"Not really," the doctor said. "In 12 years here, I've seen two kids who swallowed two coins. Never this many. "Most children swallow one and it doesn't taste good and there's no reason to swallow any more, so they stop."


The story didn't end there, either. I had to get a note from Aly's pediatrician in case my special child set off the metal detectors at the airport when we went on vacation last week. And I took along the screen shot showing the coins.

The suggestion came from the woman at America West Airlines, whom I called to see if coins in your stomach could set off the security buzzer.

"Get a note from the doctor," she counseled, giggling. "I'd hate to have some zealous guard crack her open to see what she's carrying. And thanks for calling. With everything going on, I needed a good laugh."

We'd been told to keep track of what she "passed," to avoid complications. So there we were at Disneyland when she raced out of the bathroom, exclaiming joyously, "Daddy, daddy, I pooped a dime!"
That got the attention of the guy waiting nearby. "My kids never give anything back," he said wryly.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The move from hell

Since our newspaper office was built 12 years ago, I have sat in the same desk. It's been part serendipity -- I haven't changed beats in that time -- and part design. I've surrounded myself with "stuff" quite deliberately because I LOATHE moving. And every time they rearranged the room, the bosses looked at my desk, shuddered and left me alone.

Until Now.

I am changing beats -- there's too much medical in my personal life right now as Beaux waits for a transplant. I don't need to live it at home and at work. And for reasons not clear to me, it requires a move across the room.

I've seen house moves that were easier. But I gritted my teeth and dove in, getting ready. But when I marched my first stack of files across to my new digs (which I don't dig, incidentally), I had a nasty surprise. The last two tenants had just left their stuff when they moved on or out. When one started covering a new beat and moved, she left her old files -- as if someone wants to wade through unfamiliar reams of paper to find something that might be valuable. Another just walked away. So I got to spend four hours cleaning out that area, too.

I'm getting a lot of digs because of the sheer volume of crap I've accumulated. But I assure you, I'm not the staff slob. I will clean up after myself. Which may actually make me some somewhat unique.

Today, I noted how rude I thought it was to just leave the mess behind. "Everyone does that," my editor shrugged.

"Perhaps I should, too," I suggested sweetly.

Wish I'd had a camera to capture the look of sheer horror.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gimme a B

A blogger who makes me laugh, Lorrie Veasey from Our Name Is Blog, turned me on to the Alphabet Super Game. You list Ten Favorite Things that start with a certain letter - assigned to you by the blog owner. Because Lorrie likes my husband, Beaux, and assumes (correctly) that I do as well, she gave me B. Also, I begged her not to give me Q or X. Her blog cracks me up and she's sent me a couple of treasures, so I wish her name started with a B so I could list her. But no.... So here are 10 things that do.

1. Beaux. He's funny and bossy and mystical. Who wouldn't love a guy who made an intricate treasure hunt to help the girls pass one summer? And a guy who put together the most incredibly detailed and actually gorgeous scrapbook I've ever seen, then gave it to me? He's definitely No. 1.
2. Books. And more books. Among my top 10 of any letter. I'm waiting for Bx (see NO. 1) to finish my favorite book. It's about...
3. Bees. I think they rock, although I have to carry an Epipen to be around them. Without them, I would be hungry and thus very sad. So when I garden, I always include flowers I think they will love.
4. Baths. I love them -- especially if I have time to read a Book or can get Bx to scrub my back. And the hotter (the water!) the better.
5. Blogs. They're becoming kind of a weird guilty pleasure. Who knew that everyone was a writer?
6. Bouquets. Love them. Until Bx got sick, he sent me flowers every two weeks, even when I irritated him. And I kept all the cards. The other day, I was going through them, remembering.
7. Brothers. I have two and love them both. Dave and Ken are two of my favorite people, although we have surprisingly little in common as we get older. They have different hobbies and interests and we don't even like the same music. But we amuse the hell out of each other.
8. Brothels. Not really. But I am struggling to find Bs. And the truth is, half a lifetime ago, as I was traveling through Nevada by myself on a car trip (Literally half a life ago, since I was almost 25), I took a long detour to see the Mustang Ranch, because I was fond of horses. Imagine my surprise...
9. Birds. Not sure why they make me so happy, but I keep them in mind when I'm gardening, too. And I have a ton of bird houses and a couple of bird baths and keep them pretty well stocked.
10. Bed. Especially with the nice little heated mattress cover that makes it all snuggly and warm on a cold winter night. As does Beaux.

Friday, January 9, 2009

If there were a weird kid contest

Today, the beastlies and I were driving along, reminiscing about how weird they are. And the subject of the birthday party Jeni didn't throw for herself came immediately to mind.
She was turning 8 (gosh, it has been nearly four years!) and we were having a Saturday afternoon birthday party for family at a skating rink about 20 miles away, splitting the difference in miles with our guests.
The night before, she mentioned casually that her friend Renee wanted her to have a birthday party and invite classmates.
That's nice, I told her. We'll do that sometime.
Oh, she said. We already did. We handed out invitations today.
Mind you, it was bedtime and she's telling me she and her little third-grade friend have invited people to a party we're not having at a time when we won't be home.
I think my voice pitch may have been a little squeaky.
It took a while to sort it out. She and Renee hand-wrote about 10 invitations and handed them out to girls on the school ground. She couldn't remember exactly who she handed them to.
I had a million questions floating through my mind. Like, how did she think there's be cake, or decorations, if I didn't know about it. Like, had she forgotten the real party we WERE giving her 20 miles away? Like, did she forget she had parents she should ask? And who the HELL did she think would let their kid go to a party when the invite was scribbled on lined paper, with no RSVP number?
I settled for "YOU WHAT?"
In the end, I made her quickly call the couple of little girls she remembered inviting, to tell them we weren't really having a party. On "party day," I typed a note in both English and Spanish to put on the door, explaining there'd been a family emergency and I was terribly sorry, but the party was canceled. And we left, chicken style.
And yes, someone tried to attend. There was a little gift on the step when we got home.
The best gift I gave Jen that day? The sure knowledge that if she ever pulled a stunt like that again....

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Don't touch my TV

A few years ago, at work, they were giving away a television set as part of a community-charity drive. It was the come-on to give everyone incentive to donate. A nice one, I might add.
They set the TV up on display where everyone heading to the lunchroom or restroom would pass it. And every time I went by it and saw someone looking at it, I said, "Please don't touch my TV." Or something equally obnoxious, always laying claim to the thing as if I'd already captured the prize.
I could do that because I did not for a single second believe I would win the TV. And because I genuinely believed that my lame efforts were funny.
The drawing was to be held the last day before a four-day holiday weekend. And I was getting ready to leave as I passed the fellow in charge of the campaign. On impulse, I told him I"d appreciate it very much if he's come out to the main room and draw my name so that I could get help loading it before I headed out.
He shrugged and said he might as well get it over with, so we walked out together and as I walked past the TV, I patted it and said something stupid like "see you in a minute."
The staff gathered around for the big moment and as he looked at the name he'd drawn, I got this awful, sick feeling. I knew that I had won. And I wished that he'd either called someone else's name or I'd been WAAAAY less obnoxious.
I took home something more valuable than that TV that day, though. I've been much better behaved in the decade or so since. I'm genuinely a nicer person and less of a smart alec.
I suspect, given that I am much easier to be around these days, no one begrudges me that particular "win."

Friday, January 2, 2009

My Beaux

For more than a decade, medicine was my beat as a journalist. And I've talked to probably thousands of people in all kinds of distress, from the family that was grappling with Huntington's disease to the pregnant woman who lost a perfect healthy baby to vasa previa.
I've always been struck by the grace these people seem to show and, indeed, be cushioned in.
I'm seeing that with Beaux, right now. Without a liver transplant, my husband will die. Probably within about a year. And along the way to transplant, whether it happens or not, he will become sicker and more tired and -- if the past year is any indication -- sweeter and more patient and more present.
In the nine months that we've known he will die without transplant, I've been charmed and amused and fallen head over heels in love with him. It's easy to think it's because the fear of losing someone sparks feelings. Maybe. But in our case, it's like he found himself and there's now so much more of him to lose.
He's taken up photography and made more time to laugh and takes himself a lot less seriously. He used to want things his way just because that's the way he wanted them. Now he doesn't worry so much about whose way. He just enjoys things.
In the middle of the fear and uncertainty, I see a man who is grateful for the blessings he has. It makes him easy to be around.
Mostly, he's both amusing and amused. He gets the global punchline these days.
I would do anything to make this go away. I hate it, for his sake and ours. I do not like that which I cannot predict or influence. But I would never trade this lovely man for the paler version who came before. He has brought much laughter and light and love into this house in the last year and nothing will ever take that away.
This year, he says, will make or break us. It's true that the crisis is likely to come and pass -- one way or another in 2009. But this year can not make or break us. We are made. And unbreakable.