Thursday, August 29, 2013

Throwback Thursday: "Thomas Is Has Friends!"

Our Little Tutty-Tutt Age 3
Once upon a time Tutt, or Scott as we call him, was just a little thing.  He's 11 now, but I remember when he was 3 and 4.  He was one of the most handsome, lovable and adorable boys I have ever met.  In addition to being handsome and sweet, he also LOVED Thomas the Tank Engine.  When I say loved, I mean: he had a ton of the trains, a bunch of movies, and books and he would only ever talk about Thomas.  

Thomas and All His Friends
The start of every Thomas show has a theme song that starts: 

"They're two they're four they're six they're eight
Shunting trucks and hauling freight,
red and green and brown and blue
they're the really useful crew;
All with different roles to play
Round Tidmouth sheds or far away,
Down the hills and round the bends
Thomas and his friends."

After several million views of the videos Nellie and I knew all the words.  Having been teased a lot growing up, it was natural for me to tease my little boy.  I would sing the words correctly until the last line where I would sing "Thomas has no friends," to which Scott would reply in the most indignant voice he could muster "Thomas is has friends!"  It was so cute, and he was so predictable.  I could do it fifteen times a day and the reaction was always the same.  

As we taught Scott to pray we would sometimes feed him a prayer line by line.  One night Nellie was guiding him through the process.  "Thank you for this food..." she would begin "thank you Thomas...." Scott would say, "Thank you for our family..." "thank you Thomas....." "Thank you for our house, car, livelihood, etc" "thank you Thomas, Thomas, Thomas..."  It was one of the cutest prayers ever...a little boy sincerely thanking The Lord for everything that was important in his current world-view.  As I remember some of Scotty's stories they always make me smile.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Finding Gratitude

One of my friends posted a video to his Facebook page that I wanted to share.  Back in July of this year, ESPN did a feature on Richie Parker.  He works for Hendrick Motorsports and seems like a really nice guy.  He was also born without arms.  Watching this video reminded me of some of the blessings that I take for granted on a daily basis.  I am grateful for the example of people like Richie.  It's pretty inspiring to watch him go about his day.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Life with my Lu

By Nell.  Last night we headed up stairs after watching a movie, and a familiar smell assaulted my nose.  Every type of perfume I own.  Combined.  Familiar because this same situation occurred the night prior, only tonight with the addition of the blue-eyeliner-turned-lipstick.  Sound asleep and unaware of her stench, I'm sure she felt lovely in dreamland.

Trev commented this morning that she was like a walking stick of potpourri, and then the name "Grandma Glade" was born.  Subsequent baths have still not fully removed the essence.


This morning after the kids were out the door to school, Lulu asked for her "freckas" (read: Breakfast).  She asked for strawberry cereal, which I know to mean the Special K flakes with the freeze-dried strawberries sprinkled on top (thank you Grandma Hansen).  I got out a little green plastic bowl, poured the flakes and sprinkled the berries, and sat it down in front of her.  Lu's face twisted sour as she said, "No strawberries! No strawberries!"  I got a new purple bowl out of the cupboard, not wanting to fish out all the strawberry pieces, and poured her a new bowl of just flakes.  I didn't even get it set on the table before she whined, "No Mama! I want the green bowl!  GREEN BOWL!"  I sighed loudly, the kind of sigh that usually makes Trev ask what my problem is.  I dumped the original green bowl with strawberry-infested contents into a 3rd bowl, poured the untainted purple bowl contents into the now unoccupied green bowl, and set it in front of her.  She looks discerningly at the bowl, examines it, then starts crying, "I wanted strawberries, Mama!"

"Seriously?!" was all I could think to say.  I walked to the original green-bowl contents now in a 3rd pink bowl, fished out 3 or 4 strawberries, walked to the table, held them over her bowl and said, "You want these strawberries?" "Yes!" Lu squealed in delight.  I dumped the berries on top, splashed the milk, and walked away.  Lulu-2, Mama-0.    

Friday, August 23, 2013

THE Table

Today is a good time to talk about our new kitchen table.  The table that caused more heartache and stress than any other kitchen table I have ever made before.  I know I sound a little over-dramatic -if you read the whole post I believe I can save anyone following my steps quite a few mistakes.  Since I made most of the mistakes and learned from them.

First of all: let me show you a picture of what I wanted to build.  It was a beautiful slab table that I saw in the Restoration Hardware catalog.  Restoration Hardware is the place I would model my entire home off of if I only had the budget.  Unfortunately, I do not--so instead I try to duplicate and replicate.  They are definitely worth checking out, especially if you know someone awesome that has everything and need to get them an amazing piece of furniture.  Many of the pieces they sell are rustic and huge.  They are often made from reclaimed wood and each one is unique and wonderful.
Restoration Hardware Plank Table in All its Splendor and Beauty
After having built the top for the map case, I knew some things that I wanted to change for the table and its top.  First, I didn't want to have any gaps in the wood.  In fact, I wanted the top to fit together so tight that no one would know that it was individual planks.  I also knew that I wanted it to be big enough to fit the pew that we already had for the table.  It is a beautiful old church pew that we had been able to take from one of our old churches before it was razed.  We had used it for years at our old kitchen table, which really didn't fit.

After consulting various table designs on Ana-White I had my plans all made up and went to the orange hardware store.  The day I went I ended up taking Tutt, Yaya, Lulu and one of their friends.  This was tough because I was trying to find the most perfectly straight boards I could find.  For the top, I decided to construct it from 2x12's, four of them to be precise (huge mistake!  read on).  For the slab legs I decided to join a bunch of 2x4's side by side while turning out the end pieces to give it the illusion of a thicker slab.  I ended up out the door with all the lumber I needed for around $100.  Given the lifetime supply of 2 1/2" pocket hole screws I had already bought, this was my only real expense!
Our Table: Before

The first step I took was to begin building the base of the table.  I cut the 2x4s into sections that were 29 1/4" high and squared them up using our jointer Butch.
10 2x4's Squared up and Ready for some Glue and Screws
After squaring them, I drilled ample pocket holes, glued and screwed them together to form the planks for the legs.  
One Plank Leg Joined Together On Top of our Old Table

After completing both "planks" I used a couple of 2x4's to fasten the planks together and ran a 6x8 down the middle to give it added stability and the base was "finished."  I was actually a little nervous once I'd squared everything up and screwed it all together.  
The Finished Table Base
The base wasn't as sturdy as I'd hoped and gave way quite a bit, which turned out to be no big deal once the top was on it.  Next it was time to make the top. 

I was pretty nervous about doing the top because I wanted it to turn out perfect.  First step was to square off the 2x12's we would be using.  Once they were squared up, it was time to arrange them in the most interesting way.  Next came more drilling.  I love using pocket holes, but sometimes all that drilling can sure become tedious.  Finally, it was time to glue and screw.  After piecing the top together I sanded and sanded it to get it smooth and to level it out.  
Glued and Screwed and Sanded Too!
There was one piece of wood that didn't seem to line up right even though it looked square to the naked eye.  I simply sanded some more until it was all even.  Probably should have seen it coming.  After the sanding, we added some 2x6s breadboards to each end.

One feature I wanted the table to have were some extension pieces we could slide in when we had company over.  In the end, they've become a little more permanent because I really like them on the table, but we can always remove them if we want.  

To make these we simple joined a couple of 2x6s together and attached some 2x4s on the underside.  On the base we first marked the spot for the extensions and then repeatedly cut the area with a circular saw.  After slicing and dicing a while, we used a wood chisel to clean it up.

Once that was completed, it was time to put it together for the first time.  The top was so blinking heavy it about gave me a hernia bringing it in from the garage/shed/shop.  When we first put it on, I think I loved it right away!
The Table When First Put Together

Then it was time to stain, what a joy that is.  Nellie and I wanted the table to be gray like the map case top, but warm as well.  We used Minwax Classic Gray for the first coat.  We would coat one board, move on to the next, and then wipe off the first board.  This allowed the table to take in the color without too much.  
The Stain on the Underside of the Table--You can see all the pocket holes in this shot

Next we added smaller amounts of the Minwax Dark Walnut and wiped them off much quicker.  The brown would warm up the cool gray in a way that was really neat.  I really liked the color we ended up with.  

After staining the table in its entirety, we added about a gazillion coats of clear poly.  The finished product:

Now,  let me tell you about what I would do differently next time: I made a few mistakes on this table that are near deal-breakers.  In fact if anyone loves the table and wants to buy it from me, I would sell it in a heart-beat just to make little modifications for my liking.

The biggest blunder I made was joining together 2x12s for the top.  I thought it would give it a more elegant look.  Turns out that finding straight 2x12s is the harder than finding gold.  Second, after having made this mistake I read in the instruction manual for my Kreg jig (always read the directions!) that you shouldn't join wood thicker than 8" together.  The table first developed a small crack only a couple days after it was finished.  I read a lot of workworking websites and concluded I must have made it so the wood couldn't expand and had thus incurred the crack.  We experimented with what we could fill it with.  First we used glue, then wax, then wood filler that was "stainable."  They were all mediocre, but it was alright.  I waited to see if anything else would happen.

Nellie was at home one afternoon a couple of weeks in to our new tablehood when she heard something that sounded like a gunshot.  She went to the source of the noise in the kitchen where a crack the length of the table had formed!  After a few days the crack had expanded to be 1/4 to 1/2" wide.  We could clearly see the floor through it.  I thought we could just install a chute under it and connect it to a vacuum hose and use it to clean our table off....but it was still a huge, ugly crack.

I was discouraged.  I thought that table was crap at this point.  I had felt so proud of it before and now it was a testament to my foolishness.  Thinking I could build a table that we'd actually like: ha!  It wasn't until I visited the garage a few weeks later that I figured out what had gone wrong.  Two of the remnants of the 2x12s I had used for the top were sitting on top of each other.  One of them remained flat, the other one had curled to the point it looked like a "C" with some curve to be desired.  I picked the piece up, applied some pressure and it snapped in half!  Figuring out that I had just screwed up in my choice of wood made me feel much better.  It was as though knowing the cause of the problem made me feel like it would be alright.

Nellie and I set out to find a solution that could fill the crack once and for all.  I figured I could make another top if it didn't work, but would rather find a solution for the time being at least.  We ended up using a product called Bondo Glass.  It's a fiberglass ooze that mixed with a hardener smells like death.  We dyed it with some black dye and fed it into our cracks.  After some drying and sanding and some more coats of poly, our table is better than before.

Does our table have some character?  Absolutely.  Are there some things I would change if I made it again?  Absolutely.  Mostly preferences about how long I would have made it etc.  I can say that I love the table and it's beautiful to me.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

BYU Cougar Kickoff

Every year around the start of football season, BYU hosts the Cougar Kickoff at their football practice facility.  Traditionally it is held on a Tuesday night, so I have missed being there because I work late those days.  I was excited when I found out it was on a Wednesday this year and the whole family could go together.  Nellie was super-excited I'm sure, because things revolving around BYU football thrill her to the core (that was a joke by the way).

When we showed up at the field, we got miraculously close parking, which is always a good start.  Lulu rode in the stroller while Eva and Scott walked.  The whole practice field was surrounded in booths of different types.  Many of the booths held tables at which sat football players with sharpies signing autographs.  There were other booths there that housed different games that kids could play and win different prizes.  Cosmo (BYU's cougar mascot) roamed around the gathering as did the cheer squad and some of the athletes whose autographs weren't required.  
I love this picture.  I was trying to get Lulu to look at me and she kept closing her eyes.  I asked her to open her eyes and this is what I got!

One thing I loved about the Cougar Kickoff was being able to be an unabashed Cougar football nerd.  Since I have followed the team and recruiting for years, it isn't unusual for me to recognize players when I see them around.  I am good at reminding myself to only engage in casual conversation if it is appropriate to engage them at all.  I also make sure to never mention that I know what high school they went to or that they are currently healing from a grade 2 ankle sprain, or that they may need to get their grades up in order to continue playing.  At the CK it's a little different.  Since the players seem a tad bored signing autographs, it was fun to talk to a few of them.  
Scott and Taysom Hill
Scott's extra hair is gone and so is Jake Heaps (2011 Fall Camp)

Scott and I met Taysom Hill, who we hope will be a fantastic quarterback over the next few years.  He was really nice and patient with all the fans who wanted to take a picture with him.  I got a picture of him and Scott (hope that turns out better that when I got a picture of Scott and Jake Heaps a couple of years ago).  Scott and I took turns getting players to sign our BYU helmet.  The helmet was a birthday present from my father-in-law that had previously been a prop for ESPN.  Unlike most of the helmets you see autographed it is a full-on helmet.  Many of the players remarked that they wore that actual model or used to wear it.  I laughed at how many of them just slipped it on their heads.  Terrance Alletto slipped it on and posed for a picture with Scott.  
Gotta Work With Scott on His Stance...Scott and Terrance Alletto

I was really impressed by how cool most of the players were.  They stopped and talked to Scott like he was the only kid around (which he certainly wasn't). We did get rejected by one star player (who will remain nameless) toward the end of the night.  I'm sure it was just a matter of needing to stop at some point, but it was a little hard to see Scott turned away by him.  
We're Still Missing Some Players--Great Start Though

Eva and Lulu spent most of their time playing games and making their way around the field.  While we were there we had to change out Yaya's medicine.  We had all her supplies and simply walked to a corner of the field where no one was and took care of the change.  She was a little embarrassed until she realized no one seemed to be paying attention and got over it pretty quickly.  We also ran into an old friend I used to work with and his family.  It was so nice to be able to catch up (albeit quickly) with one of the truly good guys I've had the privilege of knowing.  His little kids were darling and seemed like great future Cougars. 

Anytime I run into people I know at fan events, I tend to like them a little bit more.  I think it's because I figure they must be pretty big BYU fans to make it out to an event like this.  Next time I see them I'll hit them up about how KVN is playing or something like that.  

In review: great event for kids and families.  I owe Nellie big time for putting up with 4 kids tonight.  Maybe I'll watch Anna and the King with her sometime as a payment.  Also: I can't wait for August 31st when BYU kicks off at Virginia!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Finally breaking radio silence--Part 1

Hey.  It's me.  Nell.  The other half of the shared pants.  I can't quite put a finger on why I've been so hesitant to write up until now.  The most successful blogs are filled with brutal honesty and people's innermost insights.  We, as a general public, love to see the human side of those "in the trenches" with us, and relate to their struggles and foibles.  While I love seeing that side in others, I usually am fairly content to keep my own true emotions and struggles sub-level, satisfying people with a feigned smile and a wave.  I worry that writing honestly on a blog will expose me far beyond what feels comfortable...and this imaginary smoke screen that "I've got it all put together" will dissipate.  Nevertheless, my better half has talked me into this endeavor.  Be gentle with me, I beg, as I share bits and pieces of our life, starting with our most recent hospital drama.


I never should have got on that plane.

It sat deep in my gut like a rock.  Anxiety.  Prickly and heavy, churning and twisting all morning as I tried to focus on the task at hand: laundry and packing.  Eva hadn't made life any easier for me.  Usually pretty unbothered when I leave for a few days as long as I bring home a good present, she pulled and yanked on my arms and shirt, uncharacteristically bemoaning my departure.  She carried on until the point of sobbing, begging me not to leave her.

"Eva, you'll be fine!  I'll be back on Sunday night.  You won't even miss me," I tried to reassure her quickly as I kissed her on top of her head and rushed out the door, not wanting to be late for my flight.  I wouldn't know until much later the regret that would be mine for being so dismissive.  I was making my yearly trek to my Grandma George's house--a tradition started by my cousin Cari.  We go for 3 or 4 days and take a break from motherhood and get spoiled by Grandma.  I always look forward to it, but for some reason, on this particular Thursday as I readied my luggage, I felt unsettled.  I even commented to Trevor in the car on the way to the airport how inconvenient it was that my stomach wouldn't calm down.  I got on the plane anyway, shoving the gut-rock as far down as possible, trying to be excited for my upcoming weekend.

Friday morning Trev called and said that Eva was sick and that he was taking her to instacare.  They sent him home without a second look or worry, saying nothing was wrong.  I was mildly concerned that Eva didn't feel well, but in no way alarmed.  Things escalated over the course of the day--her rib pain and fever increased and Trev decided to take her to the pediatrician.  He too was puzzled at a lack of "sick evidence", but instead of sending her home, followed his gut and sent them next door to the ER, just for peace of mind.  How grateful we are to Dr. Mumford for that.  Several different ultrasounds showed nothing.  I was about to go into the Columbia River Temple with my grandma and cousin at this point.  The working assumption was that perhaps Eva had a gall stone.  I shut off my phone and went in, thinking that this was a pretty crappy situation that Trev was having to deal with on his own.  I felt so bad for him, and bad for Eva, and minorly guilty that I wasn't there helping to shoulder this load.

It didn't take long for that old rock in the pit of my stomach to surface.  From the moment I sat down, the churning commenced, making it impossible for me to enjoy the peace and solace I am used to feeling in the temple.  The uneasiness grew, dredging up all kinds of crap in the witches brew now boiling up my insides.  Mild worry had turned frantic, and all I could think about was getting out and calling Trevor to check on my baby.  I practically bolted out the door, as soon as I was able, stopping only to say a quick prayer for Eva.  My fingers shook uncontrollably as I turned on my phone, waiting the eternal seconds for it to come back to life so I could call.

"Nell, they did a CT scan and found a spot on her liver.  They won't even touch it here and are sending her up to Primary Children's.  I talked them out of an ambulance ride and am driving her myself."  All I could think to say was, "Are you joking?!" even though I knew he wasn't.  Tears gushed out my eyes.  I couldn't see.  I couldn't think straight.  The rock expanded 10 fold, taking up every square inch of my body, leaving no room to breathe.  Shallow breathes were punctuated with small gasps as I struggled regaining my composure.  I had to be home.  Now.  "I'm coming home." Not a question, a statement.  "No, no..." Trevor soothed.  "It will be all right.  We don't even know what it is yet.  At least wait until the doctors have seen her." But I had made up my mind.  I struggled and pushed the emotion down deep as Trev at this point reminded me that we were on speaker phone, and Eva could hear me.  I managed a poorly disguised reassurance to Eva, told her I loved her, and said goodbye.  I hung up the phone and descended into the bleak blackness of uncertainty, sobbing uncontrollably as poor passerbys watched with sympathy.

This would be the longest night of my life.  Miraculously, the good folks at Delta changed my return flight to the first one out that morning--with no extra charges or fees attached.  How thankful I am for that.  But I still had all night to wait.  No sleep came.  The power was out so I didn't have the luxury of TV or my rapidly dying phone to distract me.  I sat against the wall with a small lantern, in the same room where my Grandpa died, and alone with my thoughts, contemplated life.  I spent most of those agonizing hours in prayer, riddled with guilt at the manner in which I had last left Eva, hoping I'd have a chance to make it up to her.  Unfortunately we have a family history of childhood liver cancer, and tending to often jump to worst-case-scenario, I imagined what life would be like if things didn't work out and we lost our sweet Birdie.  I asked for something, anything, to help me make it through, and like so many other times in my life, the peace of the Spirit rested in my heart for a few brief moments.  I knew everything would be okay.  I just didn't know what the "road to ok" would entail.

As the clock finally turned to 4:45 am, we left and headed to the airport.  Adrenaline pulsed through my veins and thudded in my ears.  Minor run-ins with a rodeo mother and ornery flight attendant nearly pushed me over the edge, as it was taking every ounce of strength to "keep it together."  I opted to sing primary songs in my head, a trick I'd learned as a kid.  (For those of you who know my singing voice, I assure you, I sing way better in my head than out loud.  Your loss.)  The only problem was that the only ones I could think of made me even more emotional:  "Heavenly Father, are you really there?  And do you hear and answer every child's prayer?"  Singing was out as I willed those tears to obey and stay put.  

After what seemed like the longest flight of my life, we touched down in Salt Lake and I booked it with all my luggage to my in-laws car.  I was finally on the homestretch of this awful separation.  I passed through the familiar hallways and elevators of Primary Children's in fast-motion.  The whole experience was quite surreal.  I know this hospital well.  We volunteered here as newly-weds, and still attend the yearly fundraising events KSL hosts.  Never before have I come with such a heavy heart.  My sweet baby's body lay in the bed as I came to the door.  It looked so small and vulnerable with all the cords and monitors.  But Eva managed a weak smile and called out "Mommy!" as soon as she saw me.  I immediately crawled into bed with her, pulled her close, and whispered that I loved her and had been trying to get to her all night.  She sighed, closed her eyes, burrowed into my chest and fell asleep.  Uncertainty still reigned.  But in that moment I had peace.  I was finally home.

So You Had A Rough Day?

As we recover from our time spent at Primary Children's, we are slowly finding ourselves catching up on sleep.  Eva is starting to act more like her old self and is excited for school to start tomorrow.  She has a pink fanny pack that houses the pump that she has attached to her 23 hours a day.  Nellie made sure she didn't have the ugly black one that came from the home-health company, she also helped Eva decorate the pack to make it as palatable as possible.  

We are becoming pros at changing out her medicine, which we only have to do once a day.  Eva is excited to watch her collection of syringes grow as we have to flush the line with a saline solution and she gets a new "squirt gun" every time.  

I've had a few days lately where I have felt overwhelmed.  I know Nellie has felt the same.  Even with all the love and support we have felt, there are times where I wonder when things will get better.  At times like these, I've always felt comforted by a talk that Jeffrey R Holland gave 14 years ago called "An High Priest of Good Things to Come."  He concludes his talk by telling a story from when he was a young father attempting to move his family to the east coast.  It makes me smile, I thought I'd share it with you:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Diagnosis and What's To Come

Yesterday as I sat at work my phone buzzed and I looked down at a text message that removed all my focus.  It's been tough trying to work this week and be focused on the task at hand, so the fact I had been was a miracle in and of itself.  It was from Nellie and it read: "Finally! Good news. Preliminary pathology report came back.  The spot is an abscess, not a tumor.  We are most likely looking at just infection which means we can go home tomorrow with the iv antibiotics for a few weeks."

First of all, isn't it impressive that my wife punctuates text messages?  It's nice.  A dying art really.  It's hard to express the joy and relief that washed over me.  Even though we have been confident all along that all would be well, it always bothered me not having answers.  It was nice to have an answer, even if it's just a preliminary answer.  I was anxious to drive up to PCMC immediately and take them home.  Unfortunately, hospitals don't move that fast.  Even with the great news, there is much to do before we can actually be discharged.  We have to be trained on how to care for the picc line.  We have to sign a ton of documents I am sure.  The good news is, we are going home!

One of our friends told us to not tell anyone we were coming home or it would be delayed, so I'm not saying when just that we are.  Yaya is feeling back to normal for the most part.  Along with feeling better, she is also sassy and bossy.  Being spoiled in the hospital is tough on a little girl who has to adjust to regular life again.  In many ways she was treated like a princess for the last week: unlimited meals in bed, toys that come with meals, every visitor seems like they brought a gift with them, all of her messes were cleaned up, she was allowed to dictate what was on tv at all times.  She also had unlimited access to crafts and art supplies that she could start and finish whenever she wanted.  Transitioning back to limits is going to be fun.  We're excited to get back to "normal."

She is going to be on antibiotics for six weeks is what we are being told right now.  We are lucky that she is going to be on a slow drip type of system so she won't have to be taken out of school for her medicine.  She gets to wear a fanny pack of shame to hold her medicine.  I hope it doesn't prevent her from making first grade friends.  Being the kid with a weird fanny pack might help, what do I know?  Part of the reason she is going to be on the antibiotics for so long is because the abscess isn't drain-able.  The liquid in it is thick, like a syrup and is not conducive to normal drainage.  

We are relieved that this chapter is closing.  Nellie has been a trooper and has been at her side non-stop since Saturday morning.  I'm certain she can't wait to sleep in her bed again.  Scott and Lulu are sure to be thrilled to have mom and dad back.  They have been very well taken care of by Alexis who all-but stopped her own life this week to help us out.  We are so grateful to her for her love and patience!  I'm not certain when real sleep will come, but I am sure it's going to be deep and long when it does.

Thank you to everyone who has followed along and has asked about Eva.  We have felt the power of prayers in our behalf!  We have felt divine peace and guidance though wearied along the way.  We have felt so loved and humbled by everyone rallying around us.  We have heard from those great friends that you can go years without talking to and the bonds still feel strong as every.  We have been able to visit with some great people who were willing to do anything to help us out.  There have been so many sacrifices made in our behalf that we won't ever be able to repay--mainly because we know what they meant to us.  

Perhaps now we can go back to what this blog was intended for: to serve as a window into our lives.  I have been the dominant voice here, but Nellie has plenty to say.  She wants to share from her own perspective the events of the last week.  I am sure it will be much more eloquent, but I am okay with that.  This has been a great way for us to communicate.  We love all of you!
Thank you Primary Children's for taking Eva from this:
To This!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Picc Line and Biopsy

I'm actually writing this blog post (using Dragon Dictation App) as I drive back to primary children's for the second time today.  After going to work this morning, driving back up at lunch for Yaya's procedure, going to work this evening and then going home and driving back up tonight I'm  just passing 350 miles that I've driven since Friday. I'm exhausted but I'm grateful that things seem to be looking up.  Here's a brief update for today: the doctors came by last night/this morning and told us they were going to be installing A picc line and also biopsying a piece of liver. In order for the picc line to be installed Eva needed to be sedated.  After she was sedated they took a needle and inserted it into her liver In order get some sample pieces of her liver spot so they could better understand what it was.
This Illustrates the Placement of a Picc Line

For those who don't know (which I did not prior) what a picc line is it like a long hose that goes from the upper part of her arm and inside across the shoulder and then down to the chest.  Her antibiotics are going to be injected at the port on the picc line.  Before were able to go home Nellie and I need to be trained on how to clean up and maintain it.  As for the antibiotics it looks like she's going to have them for 14 to 28 days.  They will need to be administered every six hours which means with school starting that she won't be able to attend a full day of school as Nellie will have to pull her out of school early to give her her medicine which takes about a half an hour to administer.  It looks like a long road ahead but hopefully this is a solution that allows Eva to get better!

Yaya's Picc Line in Place

Looking back at Friday morning when I first took her to InstaCare I felt kind of foolish when the first doctor gave me the impression that I was an over-reactive parent.  Every step we took to escalate the care I second guessed what we were doing.  I'm not happy that Eva is sick, but I'm happy we listened to her when she told us how cruddy she felt.
Yaya and Mom Prior to Her Procedure

 We are hoping again that we get to go home tomorrow. If we do, it will feel like the toughest part is over. We are again so grateful for all the support we have received. So many have been so kind to our little family in ways we can never repay!  
Our Bathroom Door at PCMC with Artwork by Eva and Cards From Well Wishers

Monday, August 12, 2013

Day Four & Counting...

Here we are at the close of another day. We have almost as few answers as we had coming into the day.  It is mildly frustrating not knowing when the answers will come, but we take comfort knowing we are in the best place possible.  It is easy to have perspective when you're surrounded by those who have it much worse.

Highlights and such of the day: Yaya got to be on tv today.  Kind of.  The Forever Young Zone does a craft show for kids to follow along in their rooms.  Eva wanted to go participate so she could be broadcast on the hospital's tv system.  She was very cute.  They made an art project, a fish in a bowl.  She was looking so amazing with her ratted hair. what do you expect in a hospital?

We also had some visitors: Christopher, a good friend who was in Nellie's photo program at BYU came by and we had a great visit.  He also took some beautiful pictures.  Emily and Becca came with their kiddos--they were here when I rolled in from a visit to work and home.  Mommy B (Jill's mom) brought us a delicious dinner.  We are being supported by so many friends. It has meant a lot to hear words of encouragement from every area of our lives.

We had visits from doctors who specialize in infectious diseases-- the current working theory. They wanted to know what animals she'd been in contact with, what third world countries we'd visited and if anyone in our house is a leper.  It feels a little bit like being in an episode of House, but our doctors are much kinder and there isn't nearly as much drama.

We do know that we will not be headed home tomorrow.  They will biopsy the spot on her liver tomorrow and see what they can find out from there.  We appreciate all the prayers that we have been the recipients of.  We are so humbled by all of the love we feel.  We are happy to answer questions if you have them, chances are we won't have answers, but that's okay.  Goodnight.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Update That Is Really No Update At All...

Today we took Tutt and Lulu to visit Yaya.  They hadn't been able to see her since Friday morning and Tutt was particularly concerned about his little sister.  When I returned home last night I came home to an immaculate house that Tutt and his aunt Alexis had cleaned.  Tutt has been amazing through all of this, so mature and caring.  He and Lulu had made cute cards for Yaya and thy were excited to give them to her.  After church we came home and gathered up all our supplies. Nellie had a long list of things we needed up at Primary Children's.  Some of our neighbors had brought by gifts for Yaya that we packed also.
Yaya in the Wheelchair She Loves to Be Pushed

When we arrived at PCMC, it was like Christmas! She had several presents to open, but she was even excited about the toys of hers that we'd brought. She couldn't believe that we knew all the toys and DVDs she wanted. It's amazing what happens when your mom knows everything about you.
Yaya (right), Lulu (center) and Their Cousin Hulk

Tutt Playing the Wii in the Forever Young Zone

Tutt and Lulu joined Yaya on a trip to the Forever Young Zone. The FYZ is a really neat amazing toy room where kids can go and forget they are in a hospital for a while.  Yaya needed some medicine changed out and our nurse told us they don't allow them to do any medical procedures in the FYZ. I thought that was really neat. The FYZ is named after Steve Young who I can only assume donated some serious cash to help pay for the amazing facility. Never hurts to have a tie to a BYU great if you want me to think something is amazing.
Great Display Outside the Forever Young Zone

Yaya has been feeling better today, her fever has been down and she's been more perky.  When her medicine starts to wear off, you can see it in her mood, but she's been a trooper.

We got visits from Grandma and Grandpa Perkins, Great-Grandpa Perkins, Aunt Alexis, Aunt Briahnna and Uncle Davin and their two cute squishy children.  We closed out the night with a visit from some of our favorite friends Jill and Brian.  Jill and Brian know far more about PCMC than I ever hope to.  Their littlest one was a heart patient ere as a newborn and is doing great a couple years later. It was very nice to sit and laugh with them.  It's nice to forget about life for a while.

We'll have a busy morning tomorrow as we're gong to get some results about  how the antibiotics are working.  If the spot on her liver has shrunken, I imagine we'll be on the way home. If not, the next step sounds like a biopsy and possible surgery.  We hope for the best, but are trying to be prepared for anything.
Yaya at the End of Another Long Day

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Yaya: Well That Escalated Quickly!

What a surreal experience it has been to be back at Primary Children's Medical Center.  Nellie and I have a strong affinity for PCMC primarily because we used to volunteer there when we were first married.  For 18 months we would go up on Friday mornings and spend 4 hours pushing an activity cart around the 3rd floor (which at the time included the MED/SURG unit and the ICU) offering cooped-up kids an activity to take their minds off of their boredom and pain.  We loved our interactions with the kids and felt so fulfilled in serving in such a small way.  

We have also had the opportunity to participate in the KSL radiothon that raises money to help the hospital to help those without means to pay for their care.  We have loved being able to take calls and participate in the fund-raising.  My parents and close family friends have been involved for years so it was really easy to love Primary Children's.
Nellie and I while we weren't taking phone calls for the KSL radiothon on the third floor of PCMC.  February 2013

Growing up, my parents participated in The Festival of Trees many times, which is another fund raiser for PCMC.  I remember watching them formulating and executing a plan for a tree for the festival.  It was odd to me that the work seemed to start in June or July in preparation for the Christmas season.  

Over the years we have many people we love who have been treated at the hospital.  Some of our friends and family pretty well have the whole place memorized and are readily recognized.  In all the time we've loved PCMC and its mission, we never dreamed it would be us benefiting from their excellence.  We have very healthy children so of course there would never be a need for us to use the hospital.  Of course, how many times does a story start that way?

Thursday night I got home from work and relieved my sister Darby who had been babysitting for us.  She told me that Yaya was not feeling well and had a headache and a fever.  I gave her some Motrin, a father's blessing and put her to bed.  Unusually, she fell asleep almost immediately.  That should have been my first clue.  Nellie was up in Washington with her cousin visiting their Grandma George.  For the past few years they have gone up on the same weekend every year to take Grandma to a family reunion.  Pretty short trip really, we thought I could handle it with some help.  

Six o'clock the next morning, I became aware of a little body in bed next to me.  Yaya clutched her bottom right rib and told me that her ribs were hurting her.  Her fever was still there as well.  We gave her some more Motrin, a drink of water and she fell back asleep for an hour.  When she awoke again, the pain was still there and after a bath that didn't help her to feel better, we decided to head to the Instacare.

At the Instacare, they took a urine sample (Yaya thought that peeing in a cup was about the grossest thing she had ever heard of) and did a strep test, both of which came back with no notable results.  I felt a little foolish for having brought Yaya to the Instacare at this point.  Figuring I must have overreacted we went home.  

After breakfast, I dropped Tutt and Lulu off with my sister Becca and took Yaya with me to work.  That worked for about an hour and a half, until Yaya again grabbed her side in agony and I decided to call her pediatrician.  

The nurse I spoke with at our pediatrician's office suggested after some questions that Yaya might have constipation so we followed some recommendations to help her if that was indeed the case.  After taking some fiber, Yaya immediately ran to the garbage can and proceeded to throw-up everything she had in her system.  She then went to take a nap, while I researched what might be wrong.  

My thoughts kept coming back to appendicitis.  We have a decent family history on both sides and Yaya was pretty insistent that she was feeling serious pain.  After a one hour nap, she woke up and cried in pain.  We then headed to our pediatrician's office.  

Yaya at the pediatricians--I love how blue her eyes look here.
At the pediatrician's office, Yaya was very brave (since her last visit there was to finish up her immunizations she was absolutely convinced there were going to be shots involved).  Although there were no strong signs that said there was definitely something more at play than a cold or flu, our good doctor could see how miserable Yaya was and sent us to the American Fork emergency room just to be safe.  

Prior to entering the emergency room, Yaya told me that she felt all better.  This was because she knew her siblings were at an amusement park and she wanted to join them.  After being admitted the doctor's began with an ultrasound.  They ruled out appendicitis among other ailments besides that the first ultrasound produced no results, the second one they located what looked like a gall stone, which the third ultrasound ruled out.  

After the 3rd ultrasound, Yaya went in for a CT scan.  She was brave and held still for the imaging to complete.  For being in so many new situations, she rarely even expressed concern, she was just so tough.  I was so proud of her.  In the CT scan images, they found what looked like an abscess on her liver approximately 2 cm long.  They sent her for a 4th ultrasound to pinpoint the spot on her, but because it was under her ribs, they had a difficult time trying to find the spot.  
Yaya's CT scan

Up until this point, I figured we would be home by the evening even as the hours crept on from 5 to 6 to 7 and on, so I was blown away when the doctor came by our room to tell us he had consulted with some doctors up at Primary Children's who wanted her to be sent to their emergency room.  You could have knocked me over with a stiff wind.  I think I lost my breath for a minute, but was soon preparing to call Nellie.  

In all the waiting, my phone had died and was charging.  Just after receiving the news, I had enough juice to call Nellie.  When I reached her, she reacted about the same as I expected.  She immediately began to cry and told me she wanted to come home right away.  It was horrible to think about her being all those miles away unable to comfort her beautiful daughter who was having to settle for having her dad around instead of mom.  I told Nellie that I didn't think coming home made sense at this point, until we knew more--but I don't think she was listening.  She was already figuring out how to get home to her little girl.  

I got permission for Yaya to forgo the ambulance and for me to transfer her by private vehicle.  Since she was stable, that wasn't a big issue.  I started to post some Facebook messages to inform those we love about the situation.  I was blown away by how many texts and messages I got.  It was truly humbling how many people were willing to drop anything to help us.  
Yaya after first arriving at PCMC

When we arrived at PCMC, we were ushered back to a small room in the back of the ER.  After a little wait another doctor came to see us.  He was wonderful and was very understanding about the stress of the day.  At this point it was around 11:00 pm and we had spent the better part of the day in different hospital settings.  I had answered the same questions and told the same story a dozen times.  Fever, headache, abdominal pain, throw-up, more pain, doctor, doctor, doctor, test, test, test.  He was so comforting as he explained the buck stopped at Primary Children's, that we were not going anywhere else and they would find the problem.  

My mom and dad came up to support me, and my father and I administered to Yaya with a priesthood blessing.  After an x-ray that ruled out pneumonia, they admitted us to the Surgical Unit.  The next doctor that we spoke with explained a lot of what they knew it wasn't, but said we could do more on Saturday morning.  

We got on the phone with Delta airlines to see if we could change Nellie's flight.  They were fantastic when they understood the circumstances.  Nellie got moved to a flight that arrived home before 9 am Saturday and we didn't have to pay anything additional to make the changes.  

Poor Yaya.  She seemed to be in more pain with every hour that went on.  Occasionally the medicine she was getting intravenously would help her to relax, but she dealt with more than her fair share of misery.  After being admitted and settling in to our room, my parents left having agreed to pick Nellie up from the airport the next day.  Becca was a trooper and took Tutt and Lulu home to sleep in their own beds and stayed the night with them.  

As I lay on the couch in Yaya's room, I finally felt the emotions of the day catch up with me.  I was exhausted and worried.  I wanted to cry, to sob deeply, but couldn't let anything out.  Yaya was there behind me.  She had been so brave through what she called "the worstest day ever," and the least I could do was be stoic for her.  I was relieved that Nellie was coming the next day.  I was so grateful for the love that had been manifest by so many in so short a time frame.  Instead, I fell asleep.  

We woke up during the night once in a while.  Around 7:30 we had another doctor come by.  His words were a relief as he told me the spot on her liver didn't manifest in the way that liver cancer typically manifests.  He gave me a lot of reasons why things were probably going to be okay.  I wasn't sure what all of it meant, but I could read from his body language that he was confident she would be alright and that was good enough for me.  

Nellie showed up around 9:15 and Yaya was instantly more at ease.  She cuddled with her mom and they fell asleep together.  It touched my heart seeing these two beautiful ladies who meant so much to me taking comfort being together.  
I Love This Picture

Most of the day seemed to be consumed by waiting and dealing with Yaya's pain.  She didn't want to walk anywhere, it hurt to walk.  She didn't get to eat anything the first half of the day and she was so frustrated by that.  Again, I was shocked when the doctor came by to tell us they were going to put her on antibiotics and reassess on Monday.  I was hoping we'd be home by Saturday night, but that was not going to happen.  Who knows when we get to have her home with us again?  

I'm at home right now on Saturday night writing up this summary of what has been a long 36 hours.  I am exhausted and drained emotionally.  I am optimistic that all will be well with Yaya.  I am grateful for the good that is in the world.  I am humbled by all the calls, texts, Facebook and Twitter messages we have received.  If you read this far into the entry, I am sorry for such a boring blow-by-blow.  I actually did leave some things out, believe it or not.  My testimony of the family has grown through this experience.  We could not do this on our own.  Thanks to all of you who have helped us.  Thanks to all of you who have been praying for Yaya.  You are amazing.  

We'll keep you posted.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Anyone Can Fix A Broken TV

Alright, I'm not sure it's honest to title the post "Anyone Can Fix A Broken TV," but it's a nice thing to say.  A little while ago our TV decided it didn't really want to work anymore.  It started over a year ago with the TV having to be turned on twice on occasion because the screen wouldn't fire up, it would just go black.

A month before it died it started turning on without the sound some of the time.  Tutt (my oldest and favorite son) would get frustrated trying to get the sound to play for Mario Kart, on-off-on-off, wait a minute on-off-on and wallah.

We knew we were coming to the end of the life of our TV, when the moment arrived we weren't really prepared.  It was early in the morning, the time when Tutt, Birdie, and Lulu arise from their slumber to catch the first rays of Netflix fun.  Tutt came and informed me that our friend was no longer with us.  

I was devastated.  Not because I love the TV that much, but mainly because college football season IS coming up, and I don't think I could do without the device during this crucial period.  Further, I didn't really feel like ponying up the cash to purchase a new TV seeing as our old one was still a 1080p dream machine.

I did what any reasonable person would do: I googled how to fix (insert TV make and model here).  I found some answers.  First some message boards about how the problem were probably some blown capacitors (the tech people like to call them "caps," which actually makes them sound less cool.  The word capacitor reminds me of the flux capacitor from my favorite movie of all time "Back to the Future," so I was even more excited to try to fix my problem). Next, I found some awesome guy on YouTube who made a twenty minute plus video about how he fixed his Olevia TV.  I liked him a lot, especially after he thought the fix hadn't worked and admitted to having said some choice words.  Not that I think that's a good thing, just made him seem like a real guy.

Having done some brief research, I got on Amazon and purchased replacement capacitors  at a cost of about $16, which were sold in kits by the make of TV.  I waited in anticipation for the new parts to arrive.  When the kit arrived it was all packaged neatly in a small ziplock bag--I was ready to go.  

First I removed the power supply from the TV, this required removing a billion or so screws and carefully pulling apart the back to get to the power supply.  It looks like this: 
Next I removed more screws until I exposed all of my capacitors that were bad.  It was pretty easy to tell which ones had gone bad as they were bulging like a can of peaches that has gone seriously wrong.  
This is a picture of some of the bad caps...if you see the silver ends they all have a bulge to them.  This is where the fun begins.  I haven't used a soldering gun since my awesome cub scout leader taught us how to make a basic light switch by soldering a couple of joints together.  Having watched some soldering tutorials on YouTube (where else?), I first removed the bad caps and then soldered the new ones in.  In all, I replaced 6 or 7 bad capacitors in less than an hour.  

Then came the moment of truth.  I gathered all the pieces of the television set and began to reassemble them.  I put the power supply back in, added a bunch of screws back, and reattached the stand and speakers.  When I was finished it looked the exact same, except for the few screws that I couldn't remember their original placement.  

After plugging the TV in and saying a prayer in my heart I pushed the power button and...nothing.  Then I remembered that my TV always takes 10 second to turn on anyway.  By then, the TV had fired up and was good as new!

I was so excited that it had worked.  A big part of me thought that this would be a waste of time.  I'm glad that I had access to the information to fix it.  I'm sure I made some mistakes that someone with actual training would not have made, but: I didn't get electrocuted, and it works.

So, I'm pretty sure anyone can fix a TV with the problem that ours had, if they are silly enough to attempt it.  

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