Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas in Austin: Decorating a Christmas Tree on Highway 360.

The Christmas traditions in Austin vary a bit from your normal, run-of-the-mill tree-trimming elsewhere. Due to our warm climate (it was 85 last week!!), we're able to do quite a bit of outside activities, and I don't exactly mean caroling or dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh - hey! One of my favorite holiday traditions, and what always signals the beginning of the holiday season in Austin to me, is the decoration of a cluster of Christmas-y trees alongside Highway 360 (or Capitol of Texas Highway, as it is also known) just south of the intersection of Spicewood Springs Road.

In years past, I've attempted to avoid 360 like the plague, because - despite the gorgeous scenery - it really is traffic hell come rush hour. This year, however, my job requires me to do a significant amount of driving on 360, and so one caffeine-addled afternoon, I decided that this would be the year that our family would stop admiring the display from afar and finally adopt a tree of our own.

So, one beautiful and unseasonably warm Saturday, we headed to the dollar store to score some cheap (read: disposable) Christmas decorations, and off we went to pick our tree. Though it was the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, the good ones were already taken, so we went with one near a big landmark tree so we would be able to find it easily, and went to town with the gold and red and green balls and tinsel and claimed a tree for our very own!



and After:

 (Ours is directly left of the big AHS one in the center)

These were taken the day that Ava was admitted to the hospital - just last week. Now check out the trees:

How do you signal the beginning of the holiday season to your children? What are some of your family traditions?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Mommy's Little Artist.

She definitely didn't get those mad art skills from me. That's about as great of a face as I can draw at 28.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My 1,000th Post.

This is my 1,000th post. Let that sink in for a second.

I mean, wow. Not that I'm doing any great things over here, like changing the world, but still - I'm so happy to have gone on this blogging adventure, both for my sanity, as well as for the fact that I've been able to chronicle so much of the blurry early days of motherhood and all of Ava's firsts, both good (walking at just over ten months!), and bad (her first hospitalization last week). I've gotten to know so many wonderful people, some of whom I've been blessed to meet in real life and have become friends both on-screen and off, and have been privy to a myriad of advice and ideas that have changed the way I've thought and felt about different parenting situations I've found myself in. In short, though this began as a way to express my extreme and complicated emotions about my unexpected pregnancy and then motherhood, it has become so much more.

Thank you so much to all my wonderful readers, and for those who have gone on this journey with me, both here and in real life. I value all of your comments, and all of your opinions - even when we disagree, and sometimes especially so - and look forward to 1,000 more!

Top Reasons to Go to a Children's Hospital When Available.

When we realized we'd be heading to the ER with Ava, we immediately thought of our local and state-of-the-art Level 1 trauma center children's hospital, Dell Children's Medical Center. We'd never been there before, but only because Ava had never needed the type of medical intervention that could be better given at an institution specially designed for children. Though we had concerns that the wait times would be longer, we tossed those hesitations by the wayside, being more interested in child-size IVs and trained medical professionals sensitive to children's unique fears and issues. It turned out to be the second best decision we made that night (the first being to rush her in immediately per our instincts).

Here are just a handful of the ways that Dell Children's Medical Center went above and beyond during our stay:

- As mentioned above, everyone on staff is specially trained to address the fears of both children and their, ahem, hysterical parents. I was never made to feel like a crazed mother, nor was Ava talked down to or treated with anything even remotely resembling disrespect. Instead, everyone went out of their way to ensure that she was comfortable, that we were in the know, and that she experienced as little anxiety as humanly possible during our stay, both in the ER and our room. We were offered coffee in the waiting area, asked repeatedly how long we'd been waiting (it was only about thirty minutes from our entrance through the ER doors to being brought back to an ER bed - IMPRESSIVE!) and treated with empathy and compassion. For that, I am endlessly thankful. 

- All of the medical equipment is designed for children where possible. She was given the smallest IV needle possible, and the support used to immobilize her hand was definitely child-specific. We also had to measure her urine output the entire time we were there, but she was resistant to using the "tee tee hat" insert for the toilet, and they were so accommodating, pulling out all sorts of gadgets to meet our request that she not be catheterized unless as an absolute last resort. They were great about respecting our wishes.

- It may sound ridiculous, but the design and decor of the hospital alone was a lifesaver. How many walks we must have taken through the halls to check out the handprints ingrained in the walls, the many murals, the colorful, child-centered artwork, the fish tank and so on. If she hadn't been hooked up to IVs and feeling awful, she may have thought we were at an amusement park:

- Catering only to children, the hospital had an amazing playroom for admitted children and their families to use. Sadly, we were unable to use it since we were essentially labeled as extremely contagious. Instead, a Child Life Specialist (a career path I actually explored through my major and sometimes wish I would have pursued) came to our room and asked us what we wanted to play with from it, and then brought us coloring books, paints and paper and games. What an amazing service!

- One of the most amazing things that Dell does is offer a service on the website to send greeting cards to patients. Better yet? Anyone can do it, and they're FREE! We got 34 cards delivered to Ava's room on Monday, with an outpouring of love from around the country. I can't remember the last time my heart felt so full with love, both incoming and outgoing. To everyone who sent a card, I can never, ever sufficiently express my gratitude to you, but let me at least start by saying thank you so much. We love you all. Each and every card brought a smile to her face, and tears to my eyes. 

- And last, but certainly not least, if you're ever looking for an Austin-based non-profit to support, please consider the Assistance League of Austin. One of their projects they fund is sending carts of toys and books into the hospital, and going door to door to visit sick children and allowing them to pick a toy and book each! I may or may not have cried over the gesture, when Ava perked up at a new Belle barbie (her favorite princess!) and a Goldilocks and the Three Bears book to read. Thank you so much, ALA. We will certainly repay the debt.

- Oh, and popsicles. Lots and lots of popsicles.

A huge thank you to the staff, doctors, nurses, clinical assistants, child life specialists, ALA volunteers, and everyone else who was a part of Ava's team of medical providers. We are forever in your debt.

Monday, November 26, 2012

How We Spent Our Thanksgiving.

First and foremost, can I get a hallelujah that it wasn't in the hospital? Woohoo! We came close to this post consisting of pictures of sad-looking plates of hospital food and Nick Jr. reruns.

Instead, we got this little slice of heaven:

Ava's first trip to the beach! 

It's a safe bet she LOVED it.

Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


On this day of Thanksgiving, I have more than ever to be thankful for.

Despite my regular posting this week (I'm also thankful for scheduled posts!), I've actually been bedside at Dell Children's Hospital while Ava suffered through a serious illness, one which we still can't put a name to.

Despite having one of the most charming Saturday mornings and afternoons this past weekend, the evening took a turn for the worse, when driving over to a friend's house, Ava started complaining of severe back pain and then started projectile vomiting. This was a huge change from ten minutes prior, when she was running around with my husband, jumping on the bed and being silly. A mere hours before, we'd been decorating a Christmas tree on the side of Highway 360 and re-visiting the 360 Bridge Overlook - this time with daddy. But between 5:30, when her nausea and vomiting began, and 7pm, when we arrived at the Children's Hospital, Ava threw up likely over thirty times. And, for reasons no one seems to understand even now, she became so dehydrated in that short period of time that she actually became unresponsive while in the ER waiting room, unable to hold her head up, recognize us, or tell us her name.

In short, it was the absolute scariest experience of our entire lives.

The hospital, thankfully, was a Godsend. A nurse came out and found us and asked A's name, and then rushed us back, sending someone for her folder. Her blood pressure was 141/83 - a shockingly high amount that they said indicated serious pain, and our worst fears were that she had appendicitis or something equally serious that would require surgery. Thankfully, those fears were not proven unwarranted upon examination. They were concerned, however, about a potential UTI gone rogue to her kidneys given the complaint of back pain and obvious signs of pain, and tested her as such. It took us some time to get her to produce a urine sample due to the dehydration - we went through TWO bags of IV fluids before she could even pee (!!!!!!) - and when she did, it tested "dirty", so a kidney infection (acute nephritis) was initially assumed. Despite Zofran (a wonder drug, if you ask me), Ava continued to throw up in between bouts of falling asleep, and sometimes even vomited while asleep without even opening her eyes. Truly terrifying.

The doctor made the decision to admit her, wanting to both observe her and having some serious concerns regarding her mental state, and I happily agreed, unable to get the image of her with eyes glazed over out of my head. Little did I know that our two day hospital stay had only just begun.

Long story short, we have been through it in the past five days. Her urine culture grew nothing, though a renal (kidney) ultrasound showed a discoloration that indicated inflammation. Strong IV antibiotics did nothing to stop the pain and vomiting except make her feel even sicker and riddling her poor GI tract with some serious diarrhea, posing further dehydration concerns. She went through bags of IV fluids, and some IV Zofran - the one thing that was able to abate the vomiting while in her system. She'd be acting like she felt entirely better, pretending the green line across the floor was a snake and telling us to watch out, and then five seconds later she'd be heaving up the contents of her stomach. Nobody knew why.

Our second day in the hospital, we did get some clue to the cause when, lo and behold, I started puking my guts up. This led to a diagnosis of acute gastroenteritis, but anyone who has ever been through the stomach flu knows that while AWFUL, what I'm describing clearly is beyond the bounds of your average stomach flu. And no one was able to explain the back pain, other than "body aches". Essentially, we got a diagnosis of stomach flu because putting "I have no clue" isn't exactly an option.

Thankfully, we were released Monday night, and while Ava threw up that night, she has done much better ever since. Today is the first day she's been able to stomach any food without taking the Zofran, and I've finally been able to stop taking the Zofran that an angelic friend rushed over to me Tuesday night after I got sick all over again. By some miracle, my husband has been spared, and has been our rock through this entire thing, even when I haven't been very nice to him from feeling stressed or sick.

So today, and every single day that has come before and will come after, I am so, so very thankful for my family. For Ava, my everything. And for my husband, without whom I could never survive, who is my rock and my friend and my partner.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Kiss and hug your babies, and be thankful everyday for the abundance of blessings that you have - our families are so easy to take for granted, but so impossible to live without. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The 360 Bridge Overlook.

You may have gathered by now that Austin? Well, it's full of some pretty gorgeous spots. Considering the size of our metroplex, and the fact that it is the state Capitol, you think that we'd be overrun by concrete and urban sprawl, and yet, the opposite seems to be true!

Check out this gorgeous scenic gem Ava and I hiked one day on the way home from a full day of fun:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Things to Do at The Austin Children's Museum: Spin & Span Exhibit

We recently found ourselves with a morning free of plans (miracle that it is!), so Ava, A and I made our way down to the Austin Children's Museum to check out their newest exhibit. We haven't been for a couple months, and they have a rotating display of exhibits that come through, alongside their everyday stations (kitchen, funstruction zone, tinkertoys, art center, etc.), so we thought we'd see what was new there.

Their current exhibit is Spin & Span, examining the forces of gravity, motion and inertia from a child's point of view and in daily application. This ended up translating into an exhibit that was visually fascinating, and very hands on! There was a tornado display, multiple bridge structures that the kiddos could walk across, and much, much more! 

Aside from the new exhibit, we also visited some of our favorite spots:

 Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Our Busy Saturday!

A couple of weeks ago, Ava and I embarked on a particularly busy Saturday while David got some studying in for his grad school classes. It seems that at least twice a year, there comes a weekend where every event I need to commit time to comes at the same time, and this certainly was the case the first Saturday of this month.

First and foremost, Ava and I headed out early to head to Pease Mansion for the Acton Children's Business Fair. Think lemonade stands, but on a hugely impressive level, with local kids of all ages applying for and then putting together booths and products to sell. The oldest of the two girls I've watched for years had a booth for the second year in a row, and so we went to show our support - as well as to score some awesome finds! Kids these days are geniuses I swear. Well, except for the thirteen-year-old boy who asked me if I had any teenage sons. Um, excuse me?!

Aside from the amazing products, there was also a ton to do! Ava made both a sand ornament and a card, plus there were some vegan products! Woohoo!

After we'd spent a couple hours there, we headed down south to Gorgeous Millie's Touch-a-Truck event! Between the multitude of vehicles to explore, the painting tent, bounce house, and balloon animals, it was a great time!

Such a fun day! We can't wait for next year's events already!
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