Thursday, January 31, 2008

Back to Normal

As I wrote below, last Friday I experienced what it was like to watch my older son, Andrew, endure a seizure. I received some very nice comments on the blog. I also received several e-mails from well wishers and inquiries from co-workers who follow my writing. Thanks all for your concern.

It’s Thursday night, tomorrow is Friday. When I wake up tomorrow, a week will have passed since Andrew’s seizure. Our mornings have been quiet. My son sleeps well, my wife and I are sleeping better, and things are returning to normal.
=> Both my kids have lost a tooth this week.
=> Andrew’s got a birthday party to attend Friday night.
=> Grandma’s coming to visit.
In short, it’s been a typical week.

Hopefully, the next one will be…and the next one…and the next one. I do know it can’t continue, though.

My older son has only a few baby teeth left.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Miss on the Hat Trick

Blog Link: I found out today that I had been added as a link on the blog of a fellow writer, Carol Burnside. Carol’s blog is titled Road to Publication and details her journey as a writer. The blog has some great advice and links for other writers. I was surprised to see my blog there, as I didn’t know she had linked to it. I provided a link in this write-up and added a link on the right. Please check it out.

New Article: The February 2008 issue of Atlanta Parent magazine is out. You can find it, free of charge in many locations throughout metro Atlanta. I wrote a review of the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center. It can be found on page 94.

The Missed Hat Trick: The Auburn men’s b-ball team lost at home to LSU 81-80. This is Auburn’s second straight loss to a winless SEC team, a team it should have beaten. It was a close game, but Auburn blew a five point lead in the last minute of the game.

Monday, January 28, 2008

New Blog for Writers

I've recently discovered a wonderful blog written by a Denver-based agent named Kristin Nelson. The blog is called Pub Rants and gives her perspective on the publishing industry. I'm a daily reader and the archives are excellent. Check it out.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Losing Ugly

Yesterday, on the 25th anniversary of Bear Bryant’s death, Necrophiliac Nation rose up to claim their first SEC win, 97-77, over our beloved Auburn Tigers. I turned the game on late, having been at my older son’s Pinewood Derby. I turned on the TV and found the game, just as Alabama took a 22-20 lead. Auburn hit a bucket to tie and then went into a funk. Soon, it was 39-22 in favor of Alabama. Auburn couldn’t hit a shot, kept turning the ball over, and the refs seemed to be noticing only one team on the court. Alabama would eventually open up a 30-point lead. Auburn managed to shrink it back to 13 before losing by the final 20-point margin. Mercifully, it was over.

After the game ended, the players were good sports. The Auburn players congratulated their rivals, while the Alabama players, even seemed gracious in victory.

On the other hand, the fans emptied the arena, stormed Bryant-Denny, and tore down a goalpost. Fans were heard to laud Nick Saban on the victory, claiming that it was one more step on the return to fall dominance.

War Eagle! Our boys played hard. They just had an off night, which seems to an occasional thorn for this team. With one exception, the first SEC game of the season (at home vs. Arkansas), the team seems to have nights where it just falls apart. Ignoring the Arkansas loss (six points), Auburn’s losses have averaged nearly 21 points.

Part of this may be the team. With injuries, we have essentially seven players who play. Still, play they do and I love them anyway.

On the good side of things, my son finished second in his Pinewood Derby meet. My wife and I were proud parents.

On The Morning of the Third Day

As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, we have been weaning my 10-year old son, Andrew, off his seizure medication. We started several months ago, on the recommendation of a seizure specialist who informed us many kids had seizures and that our son needed to grow out of them. Andrew had been taking this medication every day for over seven years, after an EEG showed petit mal seizures. As he grew, his dosage was increased to maintain a “therapeutic” level in his bloodstream, a level verified regularly with blood tests. At the time of the doctor’s recommendation, Andrew took eight pills a day to control his seizures. The weaning process reduced his daily intake by one pill every two weeks.

This week, Tuesday, Andrew took his final pill. There had been no issues over the last several months. Our biggest concern had been the possibility of grand mal seizures. Andrew had endured only two in his life. A few weeks prior, we received the results of Andrew’s latest EEG. Andrew’s seizures were benign. We celebrated. Andrew was excited. We and our extended families were ecstatic. High-fives all around.

On Friday morning, before I left for work, I went to kiss my wife and kids goodbye. I do this every morning, trying not to disturb their slumber, but am seldom successful. When I entered my sons’ room, I noticed that Andrew seemed to be shivering. Both my boys sleep with two blankets; Andrew had kicked one of his off. I went over to fix his blankets again.

“Are you cold, Andrew?”

Though I knew he was asleep, I half expected a groggy “Yes, Daddy.” None came. As I moved his second blanket to cover him, though, I realized something was wrong. Andrew’s entire body was shaking. Fear raced through my body.

I went to the bedroom door, flipped on the light, then returned to Andrew’s side. I looked at his face; a pool of saliva was pouring out of the corner of his mouth. “Motoyo!” I cried, calling for my wife.

I looked at my son, “Andrew! Andrew!” No answer. I checked to see if he was breathing. His chest rose and fell to confirm it. I yelled a second time for my wife, all the while trying to get Andrew’s attention…to get him to talk to me. Nothing.

I went to the bedroom door and yelled for my wife again. “What?!” she bellowed, coming out the door. Seeing me at the boys’ door, though, her mood changed from annoyance to alarm. “Oh my God! Is Andrew having a seizure?” “Yes,” I responded.

I returned to Andrew. A few seconds later, my wife entered, carrying Andrew’s emergency seizure medication and the cordless phone. The medication was to be administered if Andrew had a seizure longer than five minutes. I didn’t know how long Andrew had been shaking before I found him. However, as the shaking had finally subsided, we chose not to administer it. “Try to sit him up,” my wife suggested. I did as best I could, but Andrew fell back on the bed, “Andrew! Andrew! Speak to us!” we both pleaded. No response.

My wife dialed 911. I tried to sit Andrew up again with little success. I looked at his eyes. They had rolled back partially into his head; I could see only half of the pupils.
“Is he breathing?” my wife asked. Again, I found myself looking at Andrew’s chest to confirm it was moving. In and out. In and out. He coughed and his breath came out in a huge gasp. “Yes,” I said.

I then heard the voice of my other son, “What’s wrong with Andrew?” I turned behind me. Christopher, six years old, was awake and sitting on his bed, looking scared and clutching his teddy bear. “Andrew’s sick. He’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” I knew Christopher was concerned. I wished I could help him more, but knew I didn’t have the luxury. I turned back to Andrew.

“Try to stand him up,” my wife commented, still on the phone with 911. I did my best, but nothing worked. Andrew’s body was like Jell-O. Motoyo finished the call and came back to us. “Andrew, can you hear us?” We worked hard to elicit a response, knowing that getting him to say something was paramount. First, a few groans, then finally, “Mommy.” At last, a bit of relief.

“We need someone to meet the ambulance,” my wife said. “Can you go downstairs? I’ll take care of him.” I agreed, went over to Christopher and asked, “Want to come with me squirt?” He nodded. I picked him up and carried him downstairs, then found a blanket, which I wrapped around him and his bear. We went to the door.

The ambulance arrived shortly. As they drove towards us, I stepped on the porch and waved to make sure they wouldn’t miss the house. I let them in and directed them to Andrew’s room, following them up the stairs. Andrew, still disoriented, was scared of the paramedics, but let them take his vitals. He was talking a little more and preliminary tests showed him to be fine.

Motoyo told the paramedics about Andrew’s seizure history and the medication changes. “We’ve seen this many times before,” the paramedic said. “People have seizures within a few days of stopping their meds. We can transport him, but his vitals are fine. The best thing is just to call his doctor and get some advice.” We agreed and kept Andrew at home.

We reached the doctor’s office later that day. They suggested still keeping him off his meds. Andrew’s grand mal seizures occurred while he was sleeping, not uncommon for children, and the EEG had shown his seizures to be benign. The doctor said that we could restart the meds if we wanted to, but that Andrew’s body still needed to learn to fight it. Being able to take him off his meds had been a dream for many years. He had been med free for two days, before the seizure on Friday morning. We were willing to deal with it, hoping it would get better.

On Saturday morning, Andrew woke up without incident. I must have gone to his room at least six times during the night to check on him. During Andrew’s other seizures, I had already left for work. My only experience had to been show up at the hospital, after my wife had already taken care of it. This was my first time dealing with it and it’s scary. I hope Andrew grows out of it soon.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Snow in Auburn

It’s snowing in Auburn…and from the looks of it on TV; it’s been coming down hard.

I remember during my four years at Auburn, I believe it snowed once. It was winter quarter and I had a 7:00 a.m. swimming class. (Don’t knock it. I lost over 10 pounds that quarter.) I walked over to class. The professor was there to let us know that the class had been cancelled. If I remember correctly, the snow melted by 8:30.

From the looks of what I saw on TV, it didn’t look like the snow would go away soon.

The same can be said for the Auburn men’s b-ball team.

The reason I saw the snow in Auburn is that Auburn played Ole Miss on Fox Sports South this evening. Ole Miss came into Auburn with a #18 ranking and a 15-1 record (2-1 in the SEC). Their only loss was to a Top Ten Tennessee team (the men’s, not the women’s).

Auburn came into the game beat up. Extremely thin due to injuries, the team has no height and no back-ups. They start four guards, for pete’s sake. In the first week of the SEC season, they loss a close battle in a Thursday night game to Arkansas, then played gamely on Saturday against Florida, before running out of gas. With Alabama playing equally poorly, the B’ham Times’ Kevin Scarbinsky wrote that the only thing keeping Auburn and Alabama from both having 0-fer conference seasons is that they were playing each other.

What a difference a week makes!

Auburn has reeled off two straight wins with a come from behind blowout at LSU and then an upset of Ole Miss.

Admittedly, as well as Auburn played and holding a five-pint lead in the final minute, I didn’t let myself breathe easier until less than ten seconds to go. Last year, Auburn went into Oxford late in the season with an outside shot at the SEC West crown. Leading by two possessions with less than a minute to go, Auburn turned over both the ball and the game…and with it the Division title. Ole Miss won the West Division with a 9-7 record. Auburn finished 7-9 and in 4th.

Now I have but one question…has Toomer’s ever been rolled in the snow?

War Eagle!!!

Snow

For those of you who haven’t gotten outside the house this week, it’s been snowing. Snow fell Wednesday night and then again today. It was a welcome sight. We moved here from Portland, Oregon in early spring 2006. In Portland, we averaged snow about four times a year. My boys had snowball fights and built snowmen. My brother-in-law, visiting from Seattle, once built a huge snowwoman that appeared to be lying on a beach and getting a tan.

However, since moving here, we’ve yet to experience snow…and my boys have missed it. Last winter, our first one in Atlanta, my boys often asked, “Daddy, when is it going to snow? When is it going to snow?” I always had to say, “Don’t know. Don’t know.” (Interestingly enough, I never heard a single word about the fact that they get to go swimming at the beach more than they use to do. It’s not that Oregon doesn’t have a beach. The water on the Oregon coast is just much colder.)

So, when the snows came Wednesday evening, my boys were excited. They looked outside, ‘Mommy and Daddy, can we? Can we?” Our answer…Andrew, you need to study for your math test on Friday. Christopher, it’s late. You’ve had your bath and are in your PJs. Both lamented.

“Can we have a snowball fight inside the house?”
“No, Christopher.”

My wife eventually went outside, got a bucket of snow, and put it the bathtub. Christopher put his bathrobe on over his PJs, made a huge snowball, stepped outside on the front porch, and launched one into the front yard. Satisfied, but only for a moment. Christopher asked if he could play in the snow before school the next day. We said, "Okay." It was funny. A kid who has to be dragged out of bed each morning before school rose early to spend 20 minutes in the snow.

And then today the snows came back. My boys dressed excitedly. They made two snowmen. They pelted their old man with snowballs. They slid down the hill on the side of our house with the kid from next door.

And, for a brief while, they no longer missed the snows of Oregon.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Blood: Thicker than water, thinner than a Cosmopolitan

When my older son was first born, my mother got him a shirt that reads: Daddy loves Mommy, Me, and the Auburn Tigers. My wife referred to it as the “Daddy loves mommy the least” shirt. She loves to give me a hard time about Auburn, saying I love my alma mater (and college football) more than her. I tell her she’s wrong. Unfortunately, I dug myself a hole over the holidays that I will be in for a long time.

At New Year’s, my wife and I did something that parents need to do occasionally: we took a vacation away from the kids. We haven’t always felt comfortable about taking vacations by ourselves. We hesitated for many years, owing to concerns over our older son’s issues. As he has matured, we have realized that the worst-case scenarios we envisioned in our minds were not likely to happen. Our biggest concern now is that we know our younger son is the proverbial handful.

Our first vacation alone was a little over a year ago. We spent a weekend in New York in December. Our kids did fine, so we looked forward to our next opportunity.

That chance came with the arrival of the New Year’s holidays. With grandparents offering to look after the boys, we went to Myrtle Beach with my younger sister, Jeanne and her husband, Barry. For the women, it was a chance to shop. For the men, golf. On New Year’s Eve, we all went to dinner at Greg Norman’s Australian Grille.

And herein lies the tale.

Auburn was in the Peach (Chick-Fil-A) Bowl against Clemson.

This game kicked off at 7:30 on New Year’s Eve.

Greg Norman’s was a good choice. The restaurant has a bar with a number of TVs. After dinner, we repaired to the bar to ring in 2008. We found a table and began celebrating.

My eyes were all but glued to the TV.

Somewhere at around 11:30 p.m., Auburn sealed the victory with a TD run in overtime. Our table leapt in celebration. (Given that we were in South Carolina, ours was the only table that celebrated.)

Shortly thereafter, as I watched the post-game, I realized something was going on. I asked “What’s up?” but was told “nothing.” Finally, my wife asked, “Honey, which do you love more, Auburn or me?”

It was then I knew something was wrong.

I told my wife her, of course. Yet, I stared at my hands, almost looking without seeing. I closed my eyes and concentrated. Then it registered. My left hand felt different.

“My wedding ring’s gone,” I said.

I didn’t need to ask where it was. I knew my wife had it. In the celebration of Auburn’s win. I had thrown my hands up. My ring flew off and hit my brother-in-law. He gave it to my sister. My sister (aren’t you MY sibling) gave it to my wife.

Despite my sister’s dubious actions, I still regard myself as lucky. Had the ring not hit my brother-in-law, we might not have realized it was gone until after we had left the restaurant. Still, it was embarrassing, especially when you realize that I was the evening’s designated driver.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Blood: Thicker than water, thinner than a Cosmopolitan

When my older son was first born, my mother got him a shirt that reads: Daddy loves Mommy, Me, and the Auburn Tigers. My wife referred to it as the “Daddy loves mommy the least” shirt. She loves to give me a hard time about Auburn, saying I love my alma mater (and college football) more than her. I tell her she’s wrong. Unfortunately, I dug myself a hole over the holidays that I will be in for a long time.

At New Year’s, my wife and I did something that parents need to do occasionally: we took a vacation away from the kids. We haven’t always felt comfortable about taking vacations by ourselves. We hesitated for many years, owing to concerns over our older son’s issues. As he has matured, we have realized that the worst-case scenarios we envisioned in our minds were not likely to happen. Our biggest concern now is that we know our younger son is the proverbial handful.

Our first vacation alone was a little over a year ago. We spent a weekend in New York in December. Our kids did fine, so we looked forward to our next opportunity.

That chance came with the arrival of the New Year’s holidays. With grandparents offering to look after the boys, we went to Myrtle Beach with my younger sister, Jeanne and her husband, Barry. For the women, it was a chance to shop. For the men, golf. On New Year’s Eve, we all went to dinner at Greg Norman’s Australian Grille.

And herein lies the tale.

Auburn was in the Peach (Chick-Fil-A) Bowl against Clemson.

This game kicked off at 7:30 on New Year’s Eve.

Greg Norman’s was a good choice. The restaurant has a bar with a number of TVs. After dinner, we repaired to the bar to ring in 2008. We found a table and began celebrating.

My eyes were all but glued to the TV.

Somewhere at around 11:30 p.m., Auburn sealed the victory with a TD run in overtime. Our table leapt in celebration. (Given that we were in South Carolina, ours was the only table that celebrated.)

Shortly thereafter, as I watched the post-game, I realized something was going on. I asked “What’s up?” but was told “nothing.” Finally, my wife asked, “Honey, which do you love more, Auburn or me?”

It was then I knew something was wrong.

I told my wife her, of course. Yet, I stared at my hands, almost looking without seeing.
I closed my eyes and concentrated. Then it registered. My left hand felt different.

“My wedding ring’s gone,” I said.

I didn’t need to ask where it was. I knew my wife had it. In the celebration of Auburn’s win. I had thrown my hands up. My ring flew off and hit my brother-in-law. He gave it to my sister. My sister (aren’t you MY sibling) gave it to my wife.

Despite my sister’s dubious actions, I still regard myself as lucky. Had the ring not hit my brother-in-law, we might not have realized it was gone until after we had left the restaurant. Still, it was embarrassing, especially when you realize that I was the evening’s designated driver.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Birthday Selfishness

My birthday is within the week before Christmas. Growing up, that used to annoy me. The reason is the one thing Christmas and birthdays have in common…presents. I saw my friends having parties and getting presents on their birthdays. I knew they got them at Christmas. For me, though, I lost count how many times I heard the words “this is for birthday and Christmas combined.” I often felt cheated, thinking my birthday was lost in the festivities.

My older sister‘s birthday is close to Christmas as well, though hers is within the week after Christmas. (I am purposely not giving my age in this column, as it will establish a baseline for people to know my older sister’s age and she’ll kill me.) The closeness of her birthday to Christmas irritates her as well. Both our birthdays are a product of religious reasons. We were raised Catholic. The Catholic Church has a population explosion each year around December/January, as this is the time of year around nine months after Easter. (Practicing Catholic parents have to give up something for Lent.)

As I got older, I learned to deal with the situation. Presents are nice, but there are things more important than material items. One of the things I began doing was taking pleasure in certain events that happened on my birthday: little things that weren’t intentional, but that added meaning for me. I treated these events as presents. Sometimes these things have national importance. For example, Clinton was impeached on my birthday. Other times, these things make sense only to me. I love to cook and am a devotee of the Food Channel. Last year, on my birthday, I discovered I was only three degrees from Rachael Ray.

This year, the event that marked my birthday dealt with my older son and his medication. My older son, Andrew, has been taking medication for seizures for seven years. As he grows, the amount of the medication increases. Only two months ago, he was taking eight pills a day: four in the morning and four in the evening. And then, as I wrote in this column two months ago, a new doctor suggested taking him off the medication. As it can’t be done cold turkey, we have been reducing it by one pill every two weeks. On my birthday, my son was able to make another reduction, going from five pills a day to four. Halfway through the reduction process, there have been no side effects it seems.

My son still has a ways to go. As he is only halfway through his medication reduction, I am still nervous about the second half. For now, though, the latest pill reduction made a great present for my birthday.