Moments of Vacation.

We’ve been on our annual double-family vacation, during which I took a writing hiatus. I’m still gathering and editing my photos from the trip, but here are a couple of stories from my favorite moments.

The Ghosterhood of the Traveling Skirt.

2017 Spurlahan Trip _MG_9394

All four kids shared a bunk room for the first time this year. It was the most generous bunkroom I’ve ever seen – two sets of double-bedded bunks. I was somewhat afraid that Noah would be a hindrance in this arrangement – either not letting the others go to sleep, or being in general boyish and naggy. But he was not. He fell asleep instantaneously every night and slept deeply, never waking up in the middle of the night.

Except for that one night.

Noah awoke to go to the bathroom at 4am. And some strange things occurred. Strange things for which he was very anxious to tell me about the next morning…

”I can’t go up the stairs to your bedroom anymore because when I woke up in the middle of the night, I saw a teal skirt floating at the bottom of the stairs! It was just hanging there – floating!!!!”

Ali: “Yeah! He said it was just like mine and AJ’s swim skirts!”

FullSizeRender 87

FullSizeRender 93

Me: “Did he wake anyone else up?”

Tessa: “He woke me up because he was going through the suitcase and throwing clothes out and GASPING!”

Throwing clothes around and gasping, y’all. At 4am. Naturally, I found all of this extraordinarily amusing (only because all children went back to sleep after The Skirt Situation), but Noah was quite serious. There had FOR SURE been a floating teal skirt and it was certain that STRANGE THINGS were going down in this house. Apparently the suitcase rummaging had been his attempts to find Ali’s teal skirt – and gasping when he couldn’t find it.

(It was in my room hanging up to dry, but I suppose could’ve floated down the stairs…)

The mystery was thrown around all morning, us trying to convince Noah that he had probably just been half asleep or maybe even sleepwalking.

The older two girls asked gigglingly if they could prank Noah with other ghostly occurrences. We assured them that no good could come out of that plan, so no – no more ghosts were necessary.

Ashley (AJ and Tessa’s mom) mentioned that she’d heard someone get up to go to the bathroom, but missed the rest of the commotion.

Then I looked at Ashley’s shorts…and a theory began to form in my mind.

“Wait a minute. Did you sleep in those shorts?”

“Yup.”

“And…did you open your bedroom door and look out when you heard someone get up to go to the bathroom?”

“Yes, I did.”

SHE WAS WEARING TEAL SHORTS. That were very flowy – just like a skirt.

I informed Noah that he had seen Ashley’s bottom half in the dark (her room was at the foot of the stairs he was now terrified of), and had associated it with the swimsuits the older girls had worn the day before. And we all laughed that there had, actually, been a Teal Skirt(ish) Situation after all.

Noah was insistent that this is not what had happened. It was NOT shorts and it HAD been floating. But by the end of the day, Ashley somehow convinced him.

“Maybe strange things aren’t happening in this house after all…”, he surmised.

And I kinda felt like this whole ordeal was payback for him ghosting me with my keypad a couple weeks ago.

Karma’s a ghost, kid.

 

Frogs, Frogs Everywhere.

The frogs were deafening at night. There were multiple lakes and swamps and ponds and puddles near our rental house, and therefore were significantly more frogs per square mile than humans. Tree frogs and bullfrogs were most plentiful – I caught one of each to hold (and to allow them to pee on me.) (Frogs get such joy from peeing on me, and I consider it the price of the thrill of holding a frog.)

The day after the first wave of rain from the tropical storm (more about that later), the kids finally caught a break and were able to go swim in the pool. (Certainly not the ocean – double red flags were in abundance.)

The neighborhood pool was always in possession of some leftover toys or floats from the neighbors, so it makes perfect sense that, upon seeing a large frog-shaped shadow on the bottom of the deep end of the pool, the kids assumed it was a dive toy.

They quickly added doubts to the mix and decided that instead of diving down and picking it up, they’d dive down and investigate.

I was pretty sure it was not, in fact, a dive toy.

After a few unsuccessful kid missions, I got the giant pool net.

IMG_8690

They all crowded around as I went fishing for a giant dead bullfrog.

IMG_8692

I pulled him up, and everyone took a moment of silence for the sad frog (who was accidentally not included in the photo of his funeral. Or maybe not accidentally. Corpse selfies are, after all, bad form.)

IMG_8693

Then I carefully posed him on a beach chair for his last photo, memorializing him forever. As one does.

IMG_8678That feeling when you go to the beach on vacation and your arch-nemesis {Tropical Storm} Cindy follows you there.

But the most important educational moment of this trip is when I realized that bull frogs apparently have saggy man boobs.

FullSizeRender 114

 

FullSizeRender 117

Frothed Frog Milk Espresso, anyone?

The next day, after Wave Number Two of Tropical Storm rains, there was another bullfrog – an even bigger bullfrog – swimming desperately in the out-of-order hot tub. I was able to rescue him as well – but this time, before death.

FullSizeRender

As his facial expression implies, he was eternally grateful for my efforts.

What You Hear While Getting Needled.

I don’t talk about Dysautonomia at length here very often, because frankly, I find it annoying. Same for running – I run nearly every day, but I just don’t find running a very interesting subject to talk about. I like running a huge deal. It makes me feel better. I put one foot in front of the other thousands of times in a row. What more is there to say?

(A LOT, according to all the running groups I’m in. I should really work on being more interesting.)

Dysautonomia is also something that is a part of every single day for me. This June will mark four years since I very suddenly began experiencing this very stupid disease, and I’ve come to look at it as something that I have to just work on, every single day. I can’t just leave it as is, or it will get worse. I can’t just keep doing what I’ve been doing to help it, because things quit working. I have to constantly tweak, analyze, research, try new things, and WORK at feeling decent enough to function.

A few things I’ve found in the past year that help are:

1. Tailwind (less weird than it sounds)
2. Cutting out sugar
3. Very controlled moderation of caffeine (one dose in the morning, one in the afternoon, not allowing them to be too close together)
4. IVs of saline and vitamins.

Yes, Dysautonomia is so fantastically annoying that I’m willing to voluntarily get large, straw-like needles jabbed into me twice a month. And I’d do it every day if I could.

FullSizeRender 83

I’ve known for a long time that IV fluids can significantly aid Dysautonomia sufferers, but I wasn’t into paying a $150 ER co-pay to try it out for myself. And you can’t just walk into CVS and ask them to hook you up. However, we have recently acquired a clinic in Birmingham that provides much-less-expensive-than-the-ER private pay IV treatments with a full menu of groovy vitamin choices to add to your IV bag.

This is amazing.

I went once, then immediately signed up for their 12 month package to achieve discounted rates and two treatments a month.

The IV makes me immediately feel like Wonder Woman after a long weekend and lots of sleep (I usually try to go run immediately afterwards because I have the BEST runs of my life that are almost worth writing about.) The saline ecstasy lasts for a few days.

But the real ecstasy comes from what you might get to overhear at the clinic.

The rooms are are outfitted with giant, cushy, recliners and have the privacy of a curtain over the doorway. So if someone else happens in around the same time, you might get the privilege of hearing their life story.

Usually they’re boring, like mine. “I have dysautonomia. I was feeling very blacky-outy.” And the occasional man bringing in his great-great-great-granddad. “He was sick, and now he’s really weak.”

But the other day, we all finally got something to talk about.

I was halfway through my treatment when someone else came in. He sounded brusque, businesslike, and commanding. He spelled his first and last name at least three times while they were trying to pull up his account. He had no patience for how long it took to type his name.

As he was walking past my curtain, I heard him begin, voluntarily and quite casually, to explain why he was there.

“I do a LOT of drugs. I travel for work, and you gotta do what you gotta do, you know? When I’m at the clinic in Atlanta, they’ll give me three IV bags at once. Is that something you can do?”

“Uh…no…the most we’ve ever done for one person is two bags at a time.”

Two bags at a time? I did not know this was a possibility. Isn’t one enough? Apparently not if you’ve done a LOT of drugs.

They put him in the room across the hall from me – I can only assume for my entertainment. He proceeded to explain that he’d traveled a lot this week, then partied for three days straight. And also…he couldn’t pee.

“If I came back tomorrow, could I get two more bags of fluid?”

Holy cow this guy wants four bags of fluids in two days. AND HE CANNOT PEE. And to think I was feeling bad getting two bags a month.

Nurse sounded skeptical again. “Well…I mean…I guess you could…but you really need to give the vitamins and minerals a chance to work their way through your body. If you still can’t urinate after these two bags of fluid…maybe come back tomorrow.”

Wait a minute.

No.

If you still can’t pee after getting 2000ml of saline and vitamins pumped into your body, I think you might need to go to an actual hospital. The body can only hold so much fluid, right?? I mean. RIGHT??

But he seemed unconcerned. This whole organ-failure-by-three-day-party seemed like something he was accustomed to experiencing. He casually explained that he was pretty sure four bags of IV fluids would definitely jump start his bodily functions again.

The nurse came back in my room to unhook me. My single little IV bag was done, and so I mourned the ending of my audio entertainment.

I whispered to the nurse. “Sounds like I’m the boring patient today.”

She giggled. “I know, right??” She told me that she hoped I felt better. I told her I was thankful for guys that do a lot of drugs. Because there aren’t enough Dysautonomia sufferers in Birmingham to justify the existence of this clinic, so they’re totally subsidizing the demand for my legitimate medical needs. And keeping me entertained while I receive it.

The Summer Ticket.

IMG_8383

Summer began this year before I completely realized what was happening. Usually the first day of summer is a day of huge fanfare and excitement (me celebrating raucously because I don’t have to teach my children anything of great import for a couple months), but this year it was sandwiched between mine and Chris’ anniversary trip, our last field trip, and the kids going to day camp for a week. So it took me a few weeks before I was able to slow down, breathe in, and recognize the glories of summer.

The kids, in the meantime, asked “When are we going to have our first of summer clock tower meeting?”

It’s amazing how quickly they can turn a one-time thing into a guilt-wracking tradition.

I didn’t have any great ideas or incentives for this summer – despite my attempting to employ my brain on the topic. Chris had suggested a few summer guidelines, but nothing worthy of a grand clock tower meeting.

Finally, it was at lunch with Not-Crazy-Renee where I was given THE brilliant idea of summer. I was bemoaning how many questions my kids ask every day (the recurring torture of my life) and how many of them are TOTALLY UNNECESSARY.

She suggested the most fantastic idea ever concocted.

“Why don’t you give them tickets for the number of questions they can ask a day?”

TICKETS.

MY KIDS LOVE TICKETS.

It was so staggering that I reached for my phone that very second to order tickets on two-day Prime shipping. But then caught myself because we were at Olexa’s and people do NOT order tickets while eating quiche at Olexa’s.

(I learned via self-imposed torture about what people do and do not do in the palace that is Olexa’s on my last visit. Four and a half years ago.)

But I remembered to order my tickets that night. When they came in, I quickly hid them from my kids because the mind-blowing sight of rolls of tickets would create SUCH A BARRAGE of questions that I might have to hop a flight to Brazil just to survive. (At least Brazilian kid’s questions are in Portuguese.)

Sunday night, we went to The Clock Tower – right at sunset for optimal meeting magic.

170611b-Pinks-at-the-Clock-Tower

We sat down and went through all the boring stuff first. Summer bedtimes, amount of shows/iPad that could be enjoyed per day, what must be completed before shows/iPad were watched…

Then Chris unzipped the high-security bag and pulled out the most glorious roll of tickets our kids had ever seen up close and in person.

_MG_0172 Clock Tower Meeting

They were both immediately bewitched. Ali was probably in the middle of asking a question about the tickets when I snapped this picture.

We carefully explained to them that all questions aren’t bad. But most of the questions they asked were completely unnecessary, and many of the questions they asked they already knew the answer.

They would get 15 tickets per day. They would have to give me a ticket every time they asked me one of these unnecessary questions which included but was not limited to questions starting with…

“When can we?”
”How many days until?”
”Can I have?”
”Will you buy me?”
”When will we?”

When they saved up 20 tickets, if such a miracle could be accomplished, they could trade them in for a prize.

They both loved this plan. Plus, tickets. Tickets are marvelous. Tickets make all of life more fun.

The ticketing plan began on Monday morning. Chris sat the tickets up on an easel in the kitchen and it was the children’s responsibility to get their own tickets each morning.

IMG_8381 2

Ali was a quick and determined learner. Halfway through Monday she said, in awe, “I’m realizing HOW MANY questions I ask you that I already know the answer to! I’ve caught myself so many times.” She managed to slide through Monday and Tuesday while only giving me two tickets per day.

Noah soon realized how challenging this game would be for him, and began planning ahead for his next infractions.

<Silly question>
”Bring me a ticket!”
”I’ll go ahead and bring you two – one for next time.”

<Silly question, silly question>
”Bring me two tickets!”
”I’ll go ahead and bring you four.”

Noah was out of tickets at 2:20pm on the first day. At which point I realized that I hadn’t exactly figured out what to do when that occurred. Did subsequent questions count against tomorrow’s tickets? Do I not speak to said child for the rest of the day? Perhaps Duct Tape could be in order…?

I kept count of his overage for the day – he got to negative 11 tickets by bedtime. Chris the Merciful Summer Consultant declared that “Ticket Mercies should be new every morning – he gets 15 tomorrow morning.”

And so he did.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, I rolled over to see two tickets lying next to me in the bed. I squinted, confused for a moment. Ah yes, I vaguely remembered Noah coming into my room before I was awake to ask me questions.

But despite the early start, he made his 15 tickets last until 4:40pm on the second day, and I noticed a significant amount of silence and a lovely peace about him. He was clearly trying his best to not let all of those questions come tumbling out of his mouth.

By Wednesday, Noah ended the day having performed a miracle true enough to warrant sainthood in the Catholic Church. He had five tickets left over.

My summer is going to be amazing.