Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Garbage Can Debate--A Cautionary Tale

This morning, as I continued to clean up vacation remnants, I heard the garbage collectors outside emptying our Herbie (non-Lexingtonians, all of our waste containers have names. Rosie is for recycling, Herbie-curby is for garbage, and Lenny is for lawn clippings. Cause we're cool like that...) and thought about how the garbage sat in that can for two weeks while we were on vacation. It was smelling...rather ripe out there. It reminded me to do something I've been wanting to do for well over a year, and I quickly Googled "garbage can cleaning in Lexington, KY" to get some price estimates. Yes...I want our cans professionally cleaned. I fired off a text to Marty, and here was the conversation:
Now. Before you go agreeing with him, let me explain. I cannot believe I'm putting this out there in the blogosphere for all to read, but alas, I want what I have gone through to go to the greater good of humanity. Because it needs to have SOMETHING positive attached to it. Because it was HORRIFIC. If I can save just one person from going through what I experienced, then maybe I can put the whole episode to rest in my mind. Maybe. Probably not.

The story starts almost two years ago, when Marty was in the hospital near death. We were very fortunate in that all of our friends and coworkers got together and created a meal train for us.  It was amazing and so helpful; I had absolutely no time to go to the grocery in the thick of the craziness that was our hospital life; our fridge was always full of good things to eat, and my kids and I, along with visiting family, were well-fed. I couldn't have been more thankful.

Unfortunately, though, we would sometimes end up with little leftover bits of food that had to be thrown away. I would bag and double-bag the leftovers and put them in the trash.  Our Herbie, at the time, stayed in our garage; our neighborhood association has a bylaw against leaving cans outside of houses, and we get fined if ours stays out a day past our collection day. That wasn't the problem, though.  The problem was that rolling the Herbie to the curb each week was one of Marty's jobs. I wasn't used to doing it, therefore I couldn't remember to do it. The end result was a rank Herbie that had been in my garage for two weeks without being emptied.

It gets worse.  The other thing you need to know is that we use our garage for storage, and for an extra play space. When the kids play outside, we always open the garage so that they can go in and out. Anderson's yard tools are in there, as well as the kids' bikes, sidewalk chalk, etc. I include this because you need to know that my children actively play in there, and were playing in there at the time of the...incident. It was August and our house was a revolving door of helpful friends and family taking turns to be with my kids so I could go to the hospital to be with Marty.  So, whoever happened to be watching the kids at the time, be it me, family, or friends, would inevitably take them outside. Which meant the garage was open. With the rank Herbie.

One night, after yet another exhausting hospital day during which Marty had started getting better but had the unfortunate side effect of ICU psychosis (which wasn't dangerous like ARDS, but was exhausting for me as a caregiver; he thought everyone was trying to kill him and I was the only person he'd listen to...good times). I remember being EXHAUSTED this particular evening. Bone tired. Dead tired. Whatever you want to call it.  I went into the garage to get some dog food for the dog, and that's when I saw them.  I looked closer at the ground.  Little black things that could only be one thing in my mind--mouse poop.  I cried. Hard.  I was so tired, so stressed, and now I had to deal with a mouse infestation. I felt guilty. My kids had been PLAYING in there hours earlier and I hadn't even noticed.  I started Googling mouse poop to determine whether my kids could get sick from it. I texted friends, freaking OUT. I cried some more. Googled exterminators.  Went to bed with the plan to drop my kids off at school in the morning and then come home and start cleaning out the garage.

The next morning I woke up depressed but determined. I got the kids to school, checked in on Marty to be sure he was okay, and then I came home and started taking everything out.  In the light of day, with a little sleep and a lot more clarity, I got a closer look at the situation.  Friends, it wasn't mouse poop after all--it was MAGGOTS. I cringe as I say that. Absolutely cringe.  The black things were little hatched shells. The source? The Herbie, where all that leftover food had been sitting for two weeks because I couldn't remember to take out the garbage can.  I cried again--a lot--and then I set about cleaning it. I emptied the garage completely and swept up/killed an unnatural amount of maggots and maggot shells.  It was like a scene from a horror movie, and it took hours--the entire day, in fact.  I dragged the Herbie into the backyard and literally poured a gallon of bleach in it, scrubbed it with a broom. I bought cans and cans of organic, natural bug spray to continuously spray the flies that had hatched and were living in the garage. I had to do this for days. DAYS.

So, when our can goes unemptied in the heat of summer for over a week, you can see why I get a little antsy. I never, EVER want to go through that again. Therefore, I will be calling a cleaning company and letting them clean that damn Herbie. Let my suffering be a warning to you, too--trust me, you don't want to go through what I went through.

Marty isn't sold on it because he wasn't THERE! If he had seen the horrors, he would be on my side. I didn't even want to bother him with it, you know, with the whole almost-dying-thing, so he didn't know for awhile. I'm pretty sure I've earned this Herbie-cleaning. I'm calling it $40.00 well-spent.

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Big Fat Vacation Post

So we went on a little trip last week. Okay it was huge. Huge for a ton of reasons--it was our first *real* vacation with the kids, and huge because two years ago, my anxiety was so bad that there is no way I could've gone on a vacation like this.  I don't post a lot about my anxiety issues, but not because I'm embarrassed--I hate that there is a stigma about mental health issues and I'm very open about what I've gone through and how medication has helped me. Other things just seem to take precedence here. Maybe one day I'll feel the need to talk more about it. In any case, it was a big deal.

I won't give you every single detail of the trip. It would bore you. Honestly, we didn't do much. We didn't do any touristy type things--no miniature golf or parasailing or anything like that. We just...hung out. Spent time together. Time as an extended family with Marty's parents (Nana and Papaw), time as just our little family of four, and Marty and I even got to spend some time alone. We played on the beach, played in the various pools at our resort (we stayed here and it was fabulous--I highly recommend!), did a little shopping and ate some delicious seafood meals for dinner. We cooked in one night, brought food in a few others. It was so low key and chill--it was perfect. The weather was perfect, there were no expectations, I even let the kids *gasp* stay up late enough to swim in the dark! If you know me at all, you know how hard it is for me to deviate from our routines. The kids repaid that kindness by sleeping in until 7 most days and taking solid naps, even though we'd gotten away from the nap routine. Playing hard in the sun and water just wore them out completely.

The only blip in the trip was the traveling to and from Alabama.  The kids tolerated the drive fantastically.  They watched many movies and took a few car naps (not nearly enough but oh well). We got out to snack and stretch often and made it a point to eat at least one sit-down meal each trip. The problem came with Anderson's...ahem...bowel habits.  He deals with the typical ASD constipation issue. It isn't horrible and could be much worse, so it generally isn't a big deal.  His routine is to go to the bathroom, skip a few days, go again.  Leading up to his...well...being able to go, he sits on the toilet numerous times, trying to make it happen. Let's just say that he did that on the way there and back.  Due to an unfortunate automatic toilet flushing incident at a Cracker Barrel, he wouldn't just attempt it on any toilet, either.  This lead to some hanging out in bathrooms in, shall we say, 'special' places.  I spent a good 20 minutes in a one-seater gas station bathroom somewhere in northern Alabama with him, listening to the people line up outside and wonder what the heck was taking so long.  Good times.

As we switched off driving home yesterday, I was mentally reflecting on the trip. Without further ado, here are my top five vacation revelations, in no particular order.

1)  Anderson has ASD.  I haven't mentioned it here, but I'd been doubting the diagnosis just a little bit in the last few months.  Not really doubting it, but let's just say that some things transpired that made me less certain.  I sought a 2nd opinion from a high-school friend who has a fantastic mental health practice for children, and I cannot say enough about this place. My friend's story is interesting (and you can check it out in the video on the webpage)...he actually started his career as a forensic psychiatrist, meaning that he testifies in court for various types of cases.  Throughout his work, he realized that, when he's asked to testify, he is allowed to take as much time as is needed to come to his conclusions, but when we diagnose children, we generally do a couple of observations, fill out a few questionnaires, and call it a day. He believes in taking as much time as is needed to both diagnose and treat his patients. If you live in the Lexington/nearby area and you are in need of mental health services for your child, I highly recommend checking out 360 Mental Health. Anyway, he generously met with us to evaluate Anderson and read over all of his previous evaluations, and he was honest with me and explained that Anderson had been thoroughly evaluated and that, based on all of the evidence, he came to the same conclusion as our previous evaluators.  I appreciated that, and was also relieved to know that Anderson had been thoroughly evaluated--props to our school system.  All of that to say, if I'd ever doubted his diagnosis, this trip pretty well eliminated those fears. Don't misunderstand; he did amazing on this trip. He was able to handle the lack of routine/schedule like a champ. But that doesn't mean he wasn't anxious about it. We made the critical mistake of trying to leave in the very early  morning hours. Not only did the kids wake up and not go back to sleep, but poor Anderson was SO confused. He was confused about why it was taking so long to get there, he was confused about where we were going. We had to keep reiterating our agenda for the drive day over, and over, and over...and he still never really got it. He also never really understood that despite that lengthy drive, the beach was in Alabama and our home was 10 hours away in Kentucky--something else he asked about repeatedly.  There was a lot of reassuring and repeating of schedules and talking through everything, which I'm going to admit was seriously exhausting, but he didn't have any meltdowns. He knows how to ask questions to reassure himself so that he doesn't panic, and I'm grateful he has coping strategies. But yowzah... it is something. I think he literally talked from dawn to dusk every single day. So yeah. He has ASD. I'm good with it, and glad I can put the issue to rest for myself.
2. The ocean is healing. I honestly believe that.  Breathing in warm salty air, watching the tide come in and go out--it is medicinal. Sunsets that change the sky to every shade of pink, orange, and purple are a religious experience. I swear I felt some of the weight of the world slip from my shoulders as I sat on the balcony with the kids after dark, ocean breeze on our faces as Amelia gave names to all of the stars. I wish I could get there more often.
 3.  Vacations afford parents the opportunity to fall in love with their children all over again. You know what I'm talking about--those moments where you look at your child and your heart literally bursts with love and pride. Vacations are full of those moments.  Watching Amelia--my little sandbox and dirt lover--see the beach for the first time?? That was a one-of-a-kind experience. Seeing both kids become comfortable in the water over the course of the week  left me feeling immensely proud. Peeking in on them as they napped, their hair a little blonder and their tan lines a little get the idea. My heart was a pile of mush.
 4.  Kids are innately creative.  We didn't take a slew of toys with us and we didn't really watch movies or TV once we got to the beach. The kids created games to play with each other in the condo and collected shells on the beach and played in the water and they didn't need much of anything to be entertained. We took a ton of beach toys with us, and they really didn't use any of them. Next time we will travel much lighter.
 5.  I'm a terrible traveler. I love traveling and seeing new places. I hate the actual trip to get there. I am a bad flier--I have to be medicated. I'm impatient in the car for long periods of time.  After about seven hours, I start to lose my mind. Huge props to my family for tolerating me. That's all I'm going to say about that.

So we are back and we spent yesterday going through that post-vacation depression that is much like post-holiday depression. Today is officially the first day of our summer break together--wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Heron

Probably two years ago, I was driving from my house somewhere, I forget where. There's a patch of land between where we live and the shortest route to the main road in Lexington that used to be home to a boarding stable for horses, but for the past couple of years or so, its been vacant space.  I've seen deer in the area at dawn and dusk, so I drive slowly. On this particular day, I was driving slow and looking around, and that's when I saw it. A tall blue heron stood alone in that field.  The inquisitive side of me always loves seeing rare things; I wake up in the middle of the night for meteor showers, I stop to take a closer look at odd bugs and critters, and I loved seeing this heron. In fact, I had to google to be sure it WAS a heron. I drove slowly by, not wanting to startle it, and just stared. I got home and immediately shared what I saw with Marty, who doesn't share my fascination with all things unique, and he nodded and smiled, humoring my childish excitability, and that was it.

Probably a month later, I saw the heron in the same place. Again, I drove slowly and took it in. I was happy to see him back in the same place, glad to know he was still around. Since that day over two years ago, I've seen this heron probably ten more times. Sometimes I see him a few times a month, sometimes I go months and months without seeing him. Two years have gone by, and still I see the heron.  I saw him again for the first time in a long time last week. He has gotten bigger, seemed even more blue and more beautiful.

That heron has come to mean more to me than just seeing a bird in a field.  His continuous presence here represents stability, I think, a reminder that regardless of what comes and goes, nature exists, the world keeps spinning on its axis.  Since I first saw him, Marty has almost died once and been critically ill twice, I lost several family members, my child received an autism diagnosis. I lost beloved pets, gained a new beloved pet, made new friends and watched best friends move away. And still, the heron shows up. Things change, and they don't, and regardless, life must go on.

Every time I see him, I immediately text Marty, who is always happy because I'm happy. And I'm always immediately grateful that I CAN text Marty, that he made it through everything that happened to him the past two years and despite all of the adversity, we have two fantastic kids, the absolute best dog, and wonderful family. He's more than just a heron. He's my reminder to take nothing for granted, and at the same time, to accept what is, because we must go on.

Monday, June 9, 2014


So it's officially summer break for us in the school system. The end of the school year builds into this huge crescendo that peaks with state testing and zooms downhill with fun activities like outside-torture-day field day and awards day. Add into the mix intricate planning of summer school and you get one stressed out woman.  But this week wraps up all the work things (until summer school in July) and now it's time to relax, enjoy this summer before the kids start Kindergarten. Except I can't.

We are about to embark on our first full-on family vacation next week.  We are leaving this weekend for a full week's vacay in Orange Beach, Alabama. When we first planned this trip, all I pictured was white sandy beaches, the sound of the surf, the cool night breeze.  But as it looms over my head, getting closer and closer, I'm feeling more and more stress.  Kids require a LOT of crap for vacation. Beach toys, tons of sun block, extra towels, snacks and drinks, toys to entertain them when it rains. And that's not even including the stuff you need to entertain them on a 10+ hour trip. Car snacks and movies and batteries and crap to keep them quiet (which is doubtful anyway). Oh holy packing.

Now all I am envisioning is hauling a ton of junk to and from the beach every day--wait a minute, every HOUR. I'm envisioning whining because it's hot or there's a bug or someone has to go potty or 'I wanna go to the pool, but wait I want to go inside, but now let's go to the beach' get the idea. More work than vacation.

I have a theory that this kind of negative anticipation comes when you have kids a little later in life. I feel like moms my age who have young kids share that same sharp skeptical cynicism that I have about things like this. It's because we are like old dogs--old hound dogs.  We've had a good long taste of life without kids--we've had many vacations unfettered by pulling rickety wagons of dirty children and beach necessities or long whiny mini-van rides listening to the Frozen soundtrack on repeat.  And we have a hard time deviating from that picture, from that routine.  We know exactly how good it can be, and while we are incredibly GRATEFUL to have children and we delight in every single 'first', including the first time seeing the beach, there's a part of us that can't help but think of the days of lying on the beach TRULY relaxing.

So with a lot of anxiety and a lot of good humor, we're prepping this week for the trip.  We've talked to the kids about what to expect, and the condo we're staying at has bunk beds in the kiddie bedroom and multiple pools with a variety of fun water features, so they're pretty psyched.  Except for that elevator.  He's a tad nervous. We shall see.

More to come from the beach....wish us luck! If you have any "traveling-with-young-children" tips, I'm all ears!  Please share....