I bought a house to renovate. I’ll refer to it as The Hollow House because it is near Panther Hollow. It is also near “Big Jim’s” which apparently lots of Pittsburghers love, but I like the alliteration of HH better. Plus, calling it Big Jim’s house could be pretty confusing.
Anyhow, Here are some current-state pictures. The biggest orders of business are 1) waterproof the basement 2) renovate the kitchen 3) renovate the bathroom 4) cosmetic upgrades like painting the closet doors, adding new house numbers 5) other little maintenance fixes like caulking cement cracks around the home and fixing a storm door latch.
I’d like to have it listed for rent in May. Time will tell how soon we’ll have it ready for tenants!
While I usually love buy thrift store goodies, this sale caught my eye. Mostly because socks and pants are hard to get in great condition used for little boys….and the shirts were just too quirky-cute.
If you need some nice kid clothes – check out their well made, low priced options (free ship over $50, no returns).
How many people does it take to install a lightbulb? How many months does it take to get a whiteboard installed at my office?
I am working in a government style workplace these days. After the bleak conditions but impressive amount of work produced by most people in my last office, this is kind of a 180.
Por ejemplo, I received a whiteboard for our training room in October. It was just hung up on January 25th. This was not for lack of effort on my part, but here is the thing: I couldn’t just bring in my own drill and get’er’done. There is a union, actually there are a bunch of unions here. But anyhow, there is a janitorial/service union and if you do something as bold as hang a picture in your office or rearrange your furniture, they will be in an uproar and accuse you of trying to steal their jobs (or so I’m told).
Knowing that was the case, I sent a few emails and gave multiple verbal reminders and pleas to the head custodian. I even bought a stupid dip mix packet for his kid’s school fundraiser before Christmas.
He can put his shoes on properly because he’s going to be three years old (he yells “I’m gonna be free years old” at me when I try to tell him which foot to put in which shoe then defiantly, confidently proceeds to shove the wrong feet in the wrong shoes).
I am enjoying my time as the mom of little kids. I know the little kid phase goes by fast. In an effort to capture some moments that I’d otherwise forget, here goes…
One night at the dinner table this week, I asked Kyle if he was scolding me or maybe I joked that I was scolding him. Roger said “chook chook chook” and leaned forward in an assertive posture. We burst out laughing. “Chook chook chook” is what Ol’ Mama Squirrel says to scold potential predators when they come near her babies. He’s been getting books sent home to loan for a week and this was one of them. Kids are such little sponges.
His sugar addiction is something we probably need to work on. When leaving a friends house Sunday night he was practically unhinged because I told him he could have the cookie they gave us once he was buckled in safely to the car then, in his opinion, we weren’t leaving fast enough. There were tears.
I’d say every other day me and Kyle think of our little daydream fantasy of sending him to a very rough family so that he could realize the grass isn’t greener and that we really aren’t so bad.
Driving home on Halloween, the song “I want candy” came on. Roger said “This is the best song ever. It’s even better than ‘rebel just for kicks.'”
The kids were also being adorable comparing their loot from school parties and hearing Evan pronounce “wolipop” makes my heart explode. The innocence and sweetness of little ones. <3
February 2018 was the month I spent 13 days in the hospital.
It all started on January 31st, a Wednesday. I barely took note of a sore throat. On Thursday, February 1st, I felt a little more of a sore throat but figured it would be the kind of thing to pass quickly. Friday, I felt fatigued and resigned myself to taking a weekend of rest, hydration and fighting off a cold or flu. Saturday and Sunday I pretty much slept all day, but by Sunday mid-day I had pain in my left chest. I didn’t even feel well enough to drag myself out of bed to watch the Super Bowl. On Monday I called off sick from work. On Tuesday the 6th, I summoned strength to drive myself to a walk-in urgent care center. About to open the door, I read a sign “X Ray Machine Out of Service.” Dammit, I thought. At this point I feared my side pain might be lung pain indicating pneumonia and knew the lack of an X Ray machine was not ideal. The nurse practitioner examined me, gave me a nebulizer treatment, sent me off with the advice to go to the emergency room if I didn’t feel well the next day.
The next day came and I felt miserable. Kyle, my dear husband, came home and drove me to UPMC Passavant emergency room. There I was given fluids, an x-ray, diagnosed with pneumonia, had blood tests and was told I’d be staying the night. At this point I assumed I’d be out the next day – probably just needing to re-hydrate and get on the right antibiotics.
That assumption was wrong. I met lots of doctors, nurses, x-ray techs, cleaning staff, nutritionists, physical therapists, residents and administrators over the next few days. In the initial days, the game plan was to drain the empyema infected fluids from my chest cavity with chest tubes. After many x-rays, two CT scans and the placement of lots of chest tubes…if I remember correctly I had four or five in total but never more than three sticking out of me at any one time. The morning I was introduced to the Infectious Disease team was unreal. I burst out laughing darkly and asked if I was in the movie “Outbreak.” They told me my infection was of the Strep variety, not the kind of Strep associated with Strep throat but Strep B which is quite bad. I’d be on high doses of antibiotics until it was managed.
I spent time trying to stay positive and not worry too much about the disgusting and large amount of fluids and sushi-like salmon chunks draining from my chest cavity into the clear briefcase style receptacles at my bedside. I prayed I’d be dodging surgery and that the current care plan would be enough. I was cooperative with every 4 a.m. X-ray, midnight vitals test, and other variable thrown at me.
A woman came in to perform an ECG on me in the wee hours of the morning. I asked her why she was doing it and she said “usually they’re ordered when someone’s gonna have surgery.” Therefore, I found out before dawn on the 12th from a tech that I’d be having surgery. The chest tubes and medicines hadn’t done enough. I was very frustrated with my care team because one of the numerous doctors I had should have delivered the news. I’d never had surgery before and cried later when consulting with the doctors. The lead surgical doctor scared me into getting on-board with the surgery when he listed the alternatives such as having lung disease for the rest of my life. A healthy life with my family is what I’d fight for.
Later, I was able to express my frustration with the surgeons in a more calm manner. I hope that they will take into account their patients’ feelings more thoughtfully in the future. On the bright side, I felt badass telling the surgeons how irritating it was to find out about my surgery secondhand. When the surgical team walked away the ICU nurses were like: “We love you! More people need to give them honest feedback. The surgeons act like they’re gods and forget they’re taking care of people and the patients are too intimidated or scared to say what they’re thinking.” Perks of being a vocal straight shooter.
Back to the surgery…
On the 13th, in the evening, I had cardio-thorasic surgery. On the way into the surgery it was almost comical how much bad news they threw at me. They sharpied my left shoulder area with a blue marker branding me with the surgeon’s initials. Why? To make sure they’d operate on the correct side. The surgeon told me I’d want to understand the risks: statistically a 1/100 chance of dying in this surgery, the possibility they’d have to crack a rib to get to the specific spot in my chest cavity they needed to drain fluids from, the possibility that I’d have an IV in my carotid artery when I regained consciousness – if the other viable ones weren’t good anymore. Considering how many days worth of poking and prodding I’d been through and the damage to many wrist and hand veins – this was a real concern. Oh yeah, and they told me I’d be naked in surgery. So, nothing like receiving all those pieces of information before being wheeled into a cold room full of strangers!
I woke up from the surgery on Valentine’s Day morning around 6:30 a.m. It was traumatic to wake up with a breathing tube down my throat.
I looked around and it shifted backwards and I thought I’d choke to death.
I tried to wave and ask for help.
Like a criminal or person in an insane asylum, I had huge, heavily weighted mitten-wrap things on so that I could not lift my hands and arms one bit. It was terrible.
A woman on the staff would come talk to me loudly and cheerfully and tell me they’d be taking it out soon then walk away. I hated her as she’d walk away – completely unaware of my private nightmare. All I could do was try to use my eyes to communicate how desperate I felt and to please hurry up during the quick times she’d come yell-talk to me.
It took a full hour before the tube was removed. Oh, and, before removing the tube, the lead ICU doctor come over, stuck a vacuum mechanism down my breathing tube, into my lung and vacuumed it out. During which I thrashed around feeling airless, tortured and like I’d surely die without oxygen. It was all so intense and yet under this veil of orderly, hospital, sterile control.
The blessing that day was that my husband, kids and mom visited me around 9:00 a.m. Kyle showered me with sweet gifts, a card and a Snoopy pop-up Valentine’s Day card from the kids. My mom gave me a card and helped busy the kids so Kyle and I could chat and connect for a few minutes. She left and the boys ate kinder-eggs and hung out for a while longer. A lovely nurse joined us and aided in the chocolate eating, toy playing and little kid fun.
A quick note on “nutrition” in the hospital system. They should be ashamed of themselves for the food they serve. You had to STRUGGLE to find a whole grain, high protein, reasonably healthy option on the menu…except maybe some eggs at breakfast. A very kind nutritionist actually hooked me up with a delicious high protein yogurt that my family members took to bringing me for future breakfasts. The hospital had a huge corn-syrup laden dessert menu, plenty of juices to choose from, all the white bread and fried foods a girl could dream of and vegetables steamed or boiled so much they were close to disintegration. A team member confided in me that their “nutritional” choices were all simply cost driven, and while it’s not surprising, it’s shameful. Especially for a “non profit.” Someone in the administration should stand up for what is right. Hospitals are there to make people healthier and food can be a huge contributor to health and well-being when it is balanced and nutrient-rich.
Apart from some complaints listed above, the staff at the hospital and the policies were generally good. I was always in a private room and the team members were great people. I bonded with a kind custodian, a bunch of nurses and some doctors. I was moved out of the ICU and to a recovery room around the 15th. I had three drainage chest tubes coming out of my body and two large stapled-closed incisions on my left side so showering and shaving in the stand-up stall in my attached bathroom while keeping the IV pole and tubes out of the way of soap and water was a real act of athletic and logistical genius. I was told to take walks a few times per say and do breathing exercises to expedite the time I’d need to stay there after the surgery. Walks were a real production with a walker to hang my drainage boxes from and the IV pole wheeling nearby pushed by a staff member accompanying me. I found many-a-fan of my leopard print furry slides so if you’re wondering what footwear to spend your hard earned money on, here is a link. I think they really popped when worn with hospital socks. Feel free to copy the lewk.
In recovery, I watched a lot of “Fixer Upper” and a “Madea” movie. This was all good fun because we haven’t had cable since around 2009 (?). I did some light reading and took a nap every day. I was a bit surprised by how tired I was, but in hindsight I can see why I was exhausted. My body and mind had been through so much and I was still not released or told I was doing well and had two fluid-free functioning lungs again.
Friends visits, calls, cards and texts were such a buoy. A lot of people asked if I was bored or stir crazy being in the hospital for so long, but I never was. Every day was filled with lots of testing and tasks to complete. Maybe it was forcing myself to eat bland hospital food or pushing myself to go for one more walk before bedtime. Another reason I didn’t feel cooped up is that I knew without modern medicine I would have had a bleak outcome. Perhaps lung disease for the rest of my life, at best.
On February 20th I was discharged. Kyle picked me up and was overjoyed to walk out (ever so slowly and carrying no weight) into the fresh air. I felt anxious to deal with potholes and the jolt they’d give my body. I felt unsure what the coming days would hold. We drove south and picked the boys up from daycare (our Au Pair was in Hawaii for the whole ordeal :-|) then went home. Over the next day or two I was emotional. I was so glad to be home but in pain, restricted from picking up my dear boys, in charge of sanitizing my wounds, re-wrapping them every day, keeping on top of all my outpatient medications and appointments. It was how folks must feel if they get out of jail or some other bad situation. You’re so glad to be out but you’re overwhelmed by life on the outside.
Because the flu season had been so bad, instead of getting outpatient care starting day one, I had to track down the nursing team and got them around day 3 of discharge. Thankfully I’d managed to keep my wounds clean and well cared for so the nurse was able to basically provide advice and reassurance as well as document all my vitals, meds and do whatever else UPMC required them to jot down in their laptops.
I kept in communication with my employer about my illness, care plan, recovery time required, and return-to-work timing. Things started looking questionable when the owner of the company which has “unlimited vacation days” put me on an unpaid leave of absence. How that all played out is a story for another day.
For now, the story of the hospitalization and beginning of recovery from pneumonia and empyema has come to an end. If you are sick or have a loved one who is sick, my heart goes out to you. Health is wealth and may we be healthy and happy, dear ones!
Our mornings seem crazy. However, I wouldn’t trade them. Here is a snapshot of one of our crazy-fun starts to the day. 5:45 – 8:10 a.m. on a morning last week…
It was week two of taking the boys to daycare in the morning. My 6th day in charge of getting two not-always-cooperative little critters out the door, safely buckled in their car seats, through the doors of school then getting my own tush to work.
Evan (2.5) and Roger (4.8). Evan woke up and was doing some chattering in his crib. I went in to get him and he was really peaceful and sweet. He held my hand then I got him out of the crib.
I walked into Roger’s room with Evan on my hip. Immediately I was assaulted by a urine smell. I gently woke Roger up and asked him to change out of his peed-in pajamas. It was almost 6 a.m.and Kyle came in and offered to put the sheets in the wash. That was a lucky bonus gift of help because usually he’s on the way to the gym before the kids wake up.
I wiped Roger down then on the third pair of underwear I suggested – we had a winner – navy with white star boxer briefs. He seemed sleepy so I continued encouraging his getting dressed process. He shot down my first few outfit ideas and landed on (forecast of mid 80s) Adidas pants and a grey long sleeve shirt with dinosaurs on it and “Old School” written in orange. I went into Evan’s room to start dressing him but then need to go back into Roger’s room because he was balling. He was crying because he had his shirt on backwards so I helped him put it on the right way. Back in Evan’s room we picked out jeans and a Paw Patrol t-shirt. We got the t-shirt on with no issues. Then I changed his diaper and put his jeans on. I picked out light brown socks which he was not too keen on but eventually, after much fussing about not liking the socks, he got distracted by something Roger was up to and I slipped the socks and shoes on him.
I decided to feed them a breakfast of chocolate chip waffles from the freezer. They wanted a frozen waffle (rather than waiting for them to be heated up).
Roger started happily eating his. Evan cried and said he couldn’t bite it. I took it and broke off a little bite sized piece for him and he began wailing about the broken waffle.
For approximately the next 10 minutes he was tearful, very tearful, about the injustice and tragedy of me breaking his waffle.
At this point the remaining 4 waffles were warming in the oven. I had the coffee machine started and Roger was hanging around in the kitchen calmly eating a frozen waffle.
Towards the last few minutes of Evan’s wailing, he ran up to his room to comfort himself with a binky. I went up and invited him to come down for breakfast. He caught his breath and walked with me.
Roger kept asking for another waffle and Evan kept asking if it was ready yet. I kept asking them to get their plates out. Half of good parenting is repeating the same thing or saying it in a slightly different way without getting exasperated, raising your voice, or opening a wine bottle at 6:11 am.
The kids got the plates out and on to the counter. I ask them to go sit in their chairs at the dining room table and I was getting the waffles on the plates, but had to take a few breaks to check on why they were squabbling before I could finish buttering and drizzling syrup on their brekkie. They ask for me to cut their waffles up into pieces so I did.
I got out to the table with my own breakfast including water and coffee and life was great for 60-90 seconds. Next, they start arguing about something and, tired of telling them to be nice, I use a distraction technique “who wants gummies?” Gummies are the two morning vitamins we take each morning. After doling those out I sat for a minute and ate. Roger started asking for a third waffle and Evan started crying that his syrup was gone because he ate all the visible runny syrup off the plate. I explained that waffles soak up the syrup and to take bites then he’d taste it again.
All through the morning I kept looking at the clock. Every morning I have had to keep lowering and lowering my expectations for how soon we could leave the house.
I felt impatient to get upstairs and finish straightening my hair so I decided to let them finish their last few bites unsupervised. Obviously, a risk of things going wrong, but I try to test and learn what kind of responsibility they can handle in safe situations. Roger finished his breakfast and put his plate in the sink then walked upstairs to brush his teeth.
Evan stayed downstairs to finish his breakfast. Well, actually, he ended up pouring out my water bottle and splashing his hands in it on the dining room table. Expirement failed. TV privilege lost.
I actually forget what Roger was doing at this…oh, now I remember. He insisted on making a craft for Dad. He wrote “Dad” in glue and sprinkled rainbow glitter all over it. Meanwhile I had Evan next to me while I was flat ironing my hair and to keep him close – I let him pick out a read-along book. He chose Justice League. Roger came in midway through the story and listened/watched with Ev.
I told them they could watch and listen to one more read-along story after they brushed their teeth. Roger spring up to brush his teeth and returned to claim his turn to pick a story. Evan, by this point in a cuddly mood (and probably exhausted from all the early emotions) was snuggled up to my hip and taking no interest in going to brush his teeth. I tried to pawn off getting Evan’s toothbrush ready to Roger so I could finish my hair but I had to go break up a fight about who got to stand on the the step stool and ended up doing the job.
We made it back to the bedroom and Roger chose a Paw Patrol Halloween (howl-o-ween) book. While the boys sat contentedly, I finished my hair and got dressed.
Next came the time to get out the door. Evan grabbed a large teddy bear and his backpack. I assembled a backup outfit (in case of pee accident) for Roger. Roger grabbed a blanket and Frank the stuffed wiener dog. We got outside. Evan ran partway down the driveway and stood by a tree I thought he was pooping but he was just being defiant and testing boundaries.
With no parenting pride, I bribed them I’d give them one Yum Earth pomegranate hard candy each if they’d get their bums in their car seats quickly.
I exhaled, doled out a fruity candy to each boy and backed down the driveway. Thankfully, they were really content and fairly quiet on the drive to daycare and traffic was light *praise hands.*
In the hallway, Roger said “I want to show you a pretty girl. I bet you’ll like her.” “There!” he pointed. I looked right to see a young woman who looked like a stereotype of what I’d expect a 14 year old boy to find beautiful. She had long blonde straight hair, a thin and curvy body, blue eyes, lash extensions and full makeup. She is a pretty person, perfectly nice. It’s just interesting to me that the first woman he’s made it a point to single out and ask me “Isn’t her pretty?” was basically a Disney princess.
We walked Evan to his classroom and he was easy-peasy with transitioning into his school day. Roger and I walked to his room and crammed his water play outfit, backup outfit, beach towel and blanket into his cubby then joined his friends in the Kindergarten prep classroom.
It’s important to Roger that he gets to parade me around and that I say hello to his friends before I leave for work. After a bit of this and a kiss on the cheek, I was headed back to my car to start phase two of my commute to work.
Two working parents of young children. It’s no joke logistically and in terms of energy level needed, but lots of people make it work and I’m glad to be part of a good team with Kyle.
Maybe when you have a 1.4 million dollar house for sale….don’t include blurry pictures with your cat in the center. Actually, at any budget, when you’re marketing your house – declutter, depersonalize then hire a professional photographer.