Surgery, Snow, Smoothies, and The Senate.

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All The Laws of Physics were contradicted this past week.

1. It snowed, in Alabama, in early December. Significantly (for Alabama) – 4-12 inches.
2. Said snow stuck, stayed around an extra day, and some snow is still on my yard as I type.
3. I had my uterus removed yet came home looking four months pregnant.

It was a surreal week in all the ways. Snow had been in the forecast for days beforehand, but for the first time in my adult life, instead of planning and scheming on how to best maximize our snow opportunities if it actually did snow, I literally paid no attention to the possibility. I didn’t even deem it worthy to mention to my children. Because it has never, in my lifetime, snowed in early December. Preposterous. Plus, I was having surgery. So how could it snow when I literally could not maximize it? Inconceivable.

So when I packed my children’s bags to go to my parent’s for a few days, I did not pack them snow-ready apparel. I packed them cold weather apparel, thankfully, but no extra clothes or waterproof anything. It wasn’t even something I thought about as I filled their suitcases and mine.

Chris and I showed up at the hospital early Thursday morning, received our pager, and waited for a table to come available – because when you get down to it, having a hysterectomy is no different than going to Ruby Tuesday for a steak and potato.

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As we waited, we had no choice but to direct our attention to the morning newscasts, which were losing their mind over the fact that it was so definitely going to snow the next day. We rolled our eyes and made fun of their 14 hour “window for snow” – glad they can be so precise.

I don’t remember much about Thursday post-surgery, as I slept off and on most of the day. I tried desperately to stay awake and visit with Chris, and insisted on eating and drinking far too quickly after surgery. After realizing that I was so high I could not swallow food, Chris set off on a quest to get me one last Magical Smoothie – a legendary treat only given to new mothers. He had to journey through multiple wards and wings and buildings, negotiate with nurses and plead for a token to take back to his princess, trek back through wards and wings and buildings without allowing his treasure to be stolen by other desperate husbands seeking The Magical Smoothie, and finally, he delivered The Smoothie of Healing to me.

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I’m not saying that smoothie is why I’m able to blog this quickly after major surgery, but I’m not saying it’s not.

As the smoothie slowly helped rouse me from my Sleep of Death that evening, we watched the continuing frantic news about impending snow. Which would’ve been super exciting if a) I weren’t currently catheterized and therefore had zero chance of enjoying it, and b) every single commercial hadn’t been regarding Alabama’s upcoming senate vote.

Being forced to repeatedly stare at these two men while in a state of extreme medical inebriation helped me see through the political issues and realize a couple things.

1. Doug Jones has a couple of spots on his face that need to be checked out. He might need to get in with a dermatologist right away. And there’s not a dermatologist in the state with more open slots in his appointment book than our dear ex-gov, Dr. Robert Bentley. Can someone arrange a rendezvous for these two gentlemen?

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2. I finally realized who Roy Moore’s supervillain alter-ego is. Somebody light up the bat signal – we’ve got a serious problem down here in Alabama.

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After dreaming about those nightmares for half the night, I woke up at 3am to nurses frantically saying “We’ve got to move you!”

I groggily said “Are you kicking me out?”

“Don’t you smell that?? It smells very strongly of smoke in here!!”

Then Travis the Maintenance Man sauntered into my room and started sniffing around the fridge, the vents, my phone charger, and my IV bag – because I have literally never been in the hospital without having a maintenance man end up sharing my room with me.

At 5am, my nurse was frantic enough that she unhooked me from all the things and made me walk – for the first time – across the hall and three rooms down. Which, albeit annoying at the time, did give me a better view as the sun came up – because it was indeed snowing.

Chris arrived around 6:30 (I insisted he go home to sleep because no one should have to sleep in hospital chairs and endure frantic 3am nurses and visits from Travis the Maintenance Man), and we watched the snow fall together, somewhat stunned and a lot worried about our ability to make it home. Chris figured out how to open my window and gift me with snowballs, which is basically why I married him.

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It was around 11am when they said I could leave, and as it turned out, 11am was the exact worst time to use the roads. The snow had accumulated a good deal (and some had turned to ice), but not enough cars had used said roads to make them safe. And, although it was only a (in normal driving conditions) 15 minute drive from the hospital, there were a lot of ups and downs between the hospital and home.

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There was sliding and swearing and stops to breathe deeply and check ones heart rate. The last half mile was the scariest, as it is basically a curvy nonstop downhill cross-your-fingers-and-wish-for-a-sleigh ride.

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But we miraculously made it without incident.

Meanwhile, the children were having the time of their lives at Gramamma and Pop’s.

There were snowball fights,
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And snowmen,
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And sledding,
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And swinging,IMG_0399 s_1

And snow cream and gingerbread-castle-making while their decidedly non-snow-ready clothes were in the dryer.
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Oh – and there was peanut-feeding my mom’s semi-pet squirrel. Because that’s a normal thing that all kids do at their grandparent’s house.
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The snow did indeed last for nearly that entire window of 14 hours that the morning prior’s news had suggested. It was preposterous in all its beautiful white glory. While I rested on the couch, Chris brought me my own fresh snow for snow cream,
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But eventually the temptation was too great, and the roads had ironically become snow-free and therefore safe to walk on, and I insisted Chris take me on a very slow walk around the neighborhood.

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It was as if Satan had sat around and put some serious thought into it. “What could possibly make Rachel take a long walk just 24 hours after having major surgery? I’ve got it!!!”

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The next day, the snow was still a work of art, and we took another walk, then a drive, then one more walk around The Botanical Gardens. It was, admittedly, too much too soon, and I hurt a good deal after the second outing. But the world beckoned to me louder than my abdomen pain.

The oddness of seeing fall colors and snow at the same time was something we have never experienced before, and will probably never experience again.
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The sun had come out and had begun creating micro-snow showers from the trees.

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The scenes of overwhelming white were nearly too much to take in.

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After these absolutely unavoidably necessary outings, I have followed doctor’s orders and stayed in my Lounging Princess Position, and will continue doing so for another week, as I attempt to make amends to my de-uterized abdomen. And – maybe it was the snow, or maybe it was always the magical smoothie, but I feel surprisingly good.

On Being Absolutely Delicious.

Our family has two distinct branches.

There’s the Chris Branch.

Chris does not recall a time when he had a run-in with any poisonous-plant-caused rash, and does not have the pleasure of experiencing bug bites of any kind. Sometimes he feels a bug on him and is annoyed by the biting sensation, but does not swell or itch or react in any way to the bite thereafter. More often, though, bugs don’t even bother to perch upon him.

Then there’s the Rachel Branch.

I spent most of my childhood and parts of my adulthood afflicted by the rashes of multiple poisonous plants, and am the best insect repellent money can buy, because if I’m with you, every living thing within 25 miles will be feasting on me as if I’m the main entrée at a party thrown by pre-prison-days Martha Stewart.

It appears, after much analysis and hiking, that Ali is a descendent of the Chris Branch, and Noah is a true prodigy in the Rachel Branch.

The poor child can get bitten by anything anywhere regardless of whether he is lacquered in bug spray and/or the surface area in question is completely hemmed in by tight-fitting garments.

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He’s the Taco Tuesday of the mosquito world. The Avocado Toast of the ant world. And the Double Fudge Brownie Milkshake with Sprinkles and a Waffle Cone Straw of the spider world.

And furthermore, his reactions to said bites can be rather…intense.

Which explains how his penis swelling like an overextended water balloon last week was totally standard for him.

It wasn’t his first rodeo.

(And when I say rodeo I mean the kid was walking like he’d just dismounted from a large bull.)

But he was calm, he was knowledgeable, and he fell right back into Protuberated Penile Procedure.

Noah-Ice-Packs-Spider-Bite“Put one ice pack in the pants, get an extra ice pack to swap out, and oh by the way this whole operation is easier if I wear gloves.”

He took it all with the casualness of a sore throat, as if carrying around an oversized package is something that is common to everyone’s daily experience, not just the UPS and FedEx men.

…Or at least, he was nonchalant until he was half asleep that night, when he meandered to me about his feelings about the situation.

“I’m sad. That my firehose is swelling. But I’m glad that my bottom isn’t swelling because then it would be huge. <slaps his own butt> Because it’s already big.”

(Nobody wants to be a spider-inflicted Kim Kardashian.)

If that had been his only bite, he wouldn’t have even gotten a doctor’s visit out of it. I had already looked up my last blog post to ensure we were waddling through all the recommended treatment steps.

But it was the one on his neck that was troublesome. Because the next morning, it had turned into The Dreaded Target.

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THAT’S the sign we all have nightmares about. THAT’S the one that should send you to the doctor the minute you see it. Or at least those of us who live in a territory of Lyme Disease.

Noah, however, was becoming more preoccupied with his other still-growing issue.

“I’m tired of walking like this. But I can’t walk normal because my firehose feels gross. I HATE IT!!”
“I’m sorry. Hopefully the doctor can help that, too.”
“As long as it’s not a shot right HERE. Because that would really hurt.”

He’s not wrong.

As expected, our Pediatrician inspected the lower issue and said “Yup, looks like last time. It’ll be fine with ice and Benadryl.”

But the neck issue…whether or not it was what it looked like it was, it’s ALWAYS best to treat for Lyme if it could be a possibility. It was most likely a spider bite gone dramatic, but just in case…

As she looked up his dosage of antibiotics and steroids, Noah told her in no uncertain terms that he’s never even tasted a lime. Clearly she was mistaken.

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Mansplaining starts early these days.

Noah was concerned as to his level of boredom during his recovery. He could not walk. He could NOT run. And he even made sure to tell Chris specifically* that he ABSOLUTELY COULD NOT swim. I mean the kid had a freaking millstone hanging around his…well you know.

*Chris tends to be an authoritarian ruler when it comes to regularly decreeing family fun at the pool.

What could a boy do who could not use his body from the waist down??

While we wandered Walgreens waiting on his prescriptions, God shined down upon us and led us to a couple sets of Minecraft papercraft boxes that were on clearance ($4.49 a set, currently on Amazon for $15-20.)

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This blessed craft party ended up being the ideal weekend time passer while waiting for one to be able to walk without a waddle. With the added benefit of my house now being covered in a thin layer of a Minecraft empire.

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So at least the road to genital recovery has treasures along the way.

Epilogue: Noah is back to normal now, except for the extreme maniacal laughter and hippity hoppity effects of his steroid. I actually really like this kid on steroids. Can I get a long-term steroid prescription to treat chronic whininess? Because it’s totally working.

Mom’s Worst Adventure Ever.

Sometimes Moms make mistakes.

Sometimes Moms have inadvertently terrible timing.

These things could both be said of me on Wednesday, but I’m going to choose to blame Noah instead.

You see, we had to do an errand. And he decided to wear his extraordinarily dapper hat that Chris and I bought him last year when we went to Isla Mujeres.

The kid looked amazing.

And I hadn’t taken any pictures of him lately.

On top of that, we had no plans for the rest of the day, and we were very near Aldridge Gardens – the perfect place to photograph a child when they’re looking ridonkulously fabulous.

So it would be dual purposed: we’d get outside and take a small hike, and I’d get some pictures of the kid.

Of course he didn’t make this easy on me. He in fact drove a very hard bargain.

“I’ll let you take pictures of me in my hat if you give me 100 pieces of candy.”

“I don’t have 100 pieces of candy.”

Ali: “Just get him a box of Nerds, Mom.”

(She’s so smart.)

Before I answered, he counter-offered, seemingly not wanting Nerds.

“I’ll let you take my picture if you let me pick out one piece of candy on our way home. Whatever I want.”

“Fair enough. I can do that.”

So he grabbed his hat out of the car and we headed toward the entrance of the gardens.

He wanted to get the picture taking out of the way as soon as possible (because he wanted to put his hat back in the car because difficult), so he posed for me two inches past the entrance.

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Yes, I’d made a good deal.

I told him I needed a close-up, so he became wiggly and found all his silly faces.

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He found great pleasure in the fact that he was being difficult to photograph, and laughed a mirthful, evil cackle.

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The irony was not lost on me.

I finally got the shot I was looking for,

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And he went back to the car to drop off the hat.

After all the bargaining, silly faces, and hat putting-up, some rumbling thunder could be heard off in the distance. As we walked back in, I mentioned it to the gentleman that works at the garden gates.

“It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to stay very long…”

“Oh, I think you’ll be fine. It looked like that earlier, too, then just sprinkled for a minute and was gone.”

I checked my radar. Off to the west was the usual summer pop-up storm that lasted 5 minutes and was entirely unpredictable in the direction it would choose to travel.

So we strolled back into the garden, reveling in the lovely day.

It started sprinkling as we were headed toward the lake, so I said “let’s go in the boathouse for a minute until it dries up again.”

The kids happily ran toward the little open-air house that sat out over the lake. It’s the best place to observe and feed turtles and fish and in general enjoy the view out of the sun or rain.

Ali dug some crackers out of her Mary-Poppins-like bag and they happily threw crumbs on the turtles, cooing at the tiny babies. I took pictures of the calm sprinkles on the lake. It was a perfect summer shower.

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Until very suddenly it wasn’t.

The rain cranked up to a level that was so heavy that you couldn’t see the fountain, and the lightning definitively reached our location. Soon, the wind was blowing in the open sides, the thunder reverberating all around us, and my children were no longer enjoying their stay in the boathouse.

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But we were trapped.

The rain was way too heavy to make a run for the car, a quarter of a mile away, and even too heavy to make a run for the house on the hill (home of the public bathrooms and gift shop) and OHMYGOODNESS DID THAT LIGHTNING JUST STRIKE THE HOUSE UP THERE??

It didn’t, I don’t think, but it was seriously close to it.

The lightning and thunder were now nearly on top of each other, and it seemed like we were surely next on its hit list. I listened nervously to the rain pounding on the metal roof above our head. I texted Chris electrical engineering questions.

FullSizeRender 90Unfortunately, he never liked his Electrical Engineering classes.

Chris and I both kept assuming that this thing would pass over any minute. ANY MINUTE. Summer storms do not stick around to attack unsuspecting families in boathouses.

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The minutes ticked by, except instead of ticking, they thundered by. See my little blue dot below? Just barely under all that lightning? Yeah. I didn’t even know my radar had that purplish color in the middle of the storm.

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The thunder got closer and louder to the point that each peal of thunder was followed by my son’s impressive high-pitched scream. Have I ever told you how very much noise rips my soul to pieces?

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Chris kept watching the radar for us and willed that storm to move on.

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I couldn’t look at the apparently lying radar myself because…Noah’s arms had gotten tired.

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After fifty minutes filled with a “pop-up storm” and my son’s screams and stomps and declaring it “your WORST ADVENTURE EVER, Mom!”, the rain finally let up a tiny bit. I measured it as “light enough to make it to the house but not to the car without my camera getting ruined” (it was safely put away in its carrying case but still. This was some seriously submersion-determined rain.)

We ran up the hill and splashed into the nice, dry house. The kids immediately began emptying the paper towel rolls to dry themselves, then plopped onto the floor and began playing cards.

One of the garden’s administrative staff walked through and was a bit surprised to see us on the floor of her bathrooms. We explained. She gasped.

“Oh! I thought I heard screams from my office and I was wondering where they were coming from…”

She disappeared around the corner and came back bearing a bouquet of lollipops.

“Each of you take one. I hear it can help with the trauma.”

She was the garden’s Professor Lupin, giving out chocolate after a dementor attack.

About a half hour later, we were able to make a run for the car, splashing through giant puddles on the way.

We found out later that our storm had seriously flooded the lower lying areas surrounding us – to the point of cars getting pulled into the (usually tiny) creek and carried downstream, turning flips as they went. The bowling alley, a couple car dealerships, some offices, and Chuck E Cheese were all completely flooded.

(Although Chris and I agreed that The Chuck was probably now cleaner than it had been in years. Maybe decades.)

So yes.

I made a bad decision that day.

But I got this picture.

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So there’s that.

Epilogue: Noah chose Bubble Tape for his candy bribe. Ali also got candy for surviving the incident with a bit more grace than her brother. For my prize, I chose spending the rest of the day reading in bed.