Peace of Mind

This week has been particularly challenging. Monday was fine. However, on Tuesday things got turned upside down a bit. Our Little Fighter went to the pediatrician to get some routine immunizations. When I came home from work on Tuesday, he was pretty lethargic and was quite warm.

After feeding him a bottle around 5:30, he turned an ashen gray and started having trouble breathing. Amanda rushed out the door with him and took him to the ER. I followed soon after. Thankfully, my mom was at our house so she could watch Baby Boy.

It was difficult to watch all of the poking and prodding being done to Our Little Fighter, as they began to run tests on him in the ER. I was wishing I could take his place with all of the needle pokes to his tiny body. I now can empathize with my parents who spent countless hours with me in the hospital when I was younger. It is frightening when something is happening over which you have no control.

Once all of the testing was done, acute respiratory distress was the diagnosis. However, we have no idea why it happened. Children born with trisomy 18 can have respiratory problems that can lead to sudden death. Therefore, Our Little Fighter was sent to OSF Children’s Hospital in Peoria for observation on Tuesday night. Fortunately, he was able to come home on Wednesday evening. However, we still don’t have any real answers.

Yesterday, he did fine here at home. Today, he seems to be doing better still. However, there is now always going to be a question as to if and when he will stop breathing again. Pray for peace of mind for all of us.

The Toothbrush Roadie

Baby Boy has been learning a lot of new skills lately. As his father, I too am learning a few new tricks of the trade. If you’ve ever been to a concert, you certainly have seen a “roadie” at work. They are the individuals who haul pieces of musical equipment to various venues, set it up, and make sure it is ready to go for the night’s performance.

I too am a “roadie,” except I work a little closer to home each night. In fact, I don’t have to leave my bathroom. Baby Boy has a set of toothbrushes. One features Sesame Street’s “Cookie Monster,” while the other has a picture of “Elmo.” It is my job to fine tune these instruments. Essentially, that means putting a dab of training toothpaste on each brush, as he likes to use both each night. Then it is time to watch the maestro at work.

I wish I could say it is like watching a great guitar virtuoso perform a jaw-dropping solo. However, it is more like viewing a road construction crew on an Illinois highway in the dead of summer. Lots of digging around in holes, but not much actual work being done. I think the best part is watching him rinse each brush and toss it back in the drawer. For this is when he usually finds both of Amanda’s brushes and decides he will perform an encore for his audience of one. This is generally done sans toothpaste.

It makes me nervous when he exits the bathroom while eyeing the toilet brush. I begin to wondering if he thinks he should grab that and end the night with a real showstopper. If that happens, I think I’ll take a page out of Jimi Hendrix’s notebook and set fire to all of the brushes in the house.

Laying My Burden Down

I am scared. Life is full of ups and downs. One moment things seem to be fine. Then the next everything changes. In these moments writing has always been very therapeutic for me. Therefore, I am going to let my fingers do the talking today.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Amanda and I have taken in a new foster child. This baby was born with the mosaic form of trisomy 18, which means some of his cells have three copies of chromosome 18 while other cells have two copies of chromosome 18. This defect in the cells can lead to a host of developmental problems. No one really knows precisely in which cells the chromosomal abnormalities are present.

Currently, Our Little Fighter’s only visible issue is a cleft lip, which makes feeding a little more difficult. His breathing is also a bit labored. However, he sleeps, poops, and pees just like any other baby. What scares me is that the prognosis for babies born with trisomy 18 is very poor. Only between 10-15% of children with this condition live past their first birthday.

Life has thrown a lot at us since December of 2019. That is when we first became foster parents. Shortly after that the world seemed to come to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this period my work life has changed a lot. The office where I work has lost two employees to retirement. One transferred to another office. Three others left to pursue other careers. Then, this past Tuesday I found out the manager of my office opted for early retirement and was gone the same day. Needless to say, there is a lot of uncertainty in life at the moment.

I wish I could say I knew how to deal with all of this better. Fortunately, Amanda and I have great support from family and friends. However, the uncertainty remains. We have had our first foster child for over 2.5 years now. To us he is our’s. I love him like I never knew that I could. He is still a ward of the state officially, which scares me more than anything else. Any day he could leave us and be given back to his birth parents.

I have to put all of this in God’s hands. Mine are not big enough to carry this load. He is faithful and just. My head says to trust Him and His will. However, my flesh is so very weak. My middle name is Thomas for good reason. I am filled with doubt on a daily basis.

There is an old spiritual song that has been covered by musicians across several genres of music. I believe I first became aware of the song via a recording done by Mississippi John Hurt, a blues musician who passed away in the mid 1960’s. The song is about laying down the hardships of life now and focusing on the good that is yet to come, especially in a spiritual sense.

This is something I still struggle with on a daily basis. Just when I go to “lay my burden down” I pick it right back up again. Hopefully, one of these days I’ll truly realize my hands are not big enough and I’ll “lay all of my my burdens down.” I do believe better days are ahead.

Notes from the Road

It has been an eventful week, but we have returned home after a restful vacation in New Jersey. After nearly 2,000 miles and countless hours in the car, we are back where we belong. It always feels great to be home after time away, even after an enjoyable journey. I made a few observations along the way that I would like to share.

First, having been born and raised in Illinois, I am always amazed at how much better things are done in other states. For instance, in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, there are several convenient travel plazas along the interstate. Most of these are very clean and have a lot to offer weary travelers. Illinois has very few of these, and the ones that are available are nowhere near as nice. Where does the money go from the tolls that motorists pay when travelling through Illinois?

Second, there are still a lot of good people in the world, despite what you may see on TV. Amanda and I met lots of kind people in New Jersey that were willing to take a few minutes out of their day to talk. Sitting outside a donut shop in downtown Asbury Park, we were greeted by several friendly people just out for a stroll. It costs nothing to be kind, other than a little time.

Third, it is always good to be with family. We may not see eye to eye on everything. Likewise, we may get on each other’s nerves from time to time. However, there is nothing like the love of a family. I am proud to say I have a great family both near and far.

Finally, can we stop putting gumball machines inside every travel plaza across the country? It seems like in every plaza we visited there were gumball machines just inside the door. At each machine stood kids who were much too young begging their parents for a quarter. Whoever came up with this idea must be making millions! On second thought, maybe Illinois could use some of these. Perhaps our schools and other essential services would then be adequately funded. If not at least we’d keep the dentists in business.

Still Life at 80mph

As I write this I am laying in bed in a hotel room in Florham Park, New Jersey. The TV is on and I am unwinding after a long day of travel. On Tuesday we will head south with my brother and his family to spend a few days along the Jersey Shore. Travelling is something that we love to do, as it is a great way to make memories.

Yesterday, we left home, picked up my mother, who lives just a few blocks away from us. We then headed for Strongsville, Ohio. This is approximately halfway between our home in Illinois and my brother’s house in New Jersey. Memories have already been made, and a third-degree misdemeanor was accidently committed.

After hitting the road around 8 a.m. this morning, we made our way across the eastern side of Ohio. We then entered Pennsylvania, which is actually quite a beautiful state through which to travel. Around noon we stopped for lunch at a Dutch Pantry. This appears to be a franchise popular along I-80 in Pennsylvania.

This chain of restaurants could best be described as Pennsylvania’s version of the Cracker Barrel. In other words, the lobby was filled with chachkies no one needs, and the menu was filled with dishes considered, “homestyle.” However, the silverware was really nice, as one of us (not me) decided to walk out with a set. Sadly, this was not the most heinous crime of the day.

My mother, who is in her 70’s, has a smartphone. Today, as we passed particular landmarks, she would snap photos with the camera on her phone. I’m not sure she was very successful. She takes decent photos with her when she is stationary. However, get her in an SUV going down the highway at 80 mph and things are not so pretty, especially through a bug-spattered windshield. By the time a subject was in focus, we were already passed it by a mile or two. When I asked my mom to send me a few of the shots she took she refused. My suspicion is that she got some nice candids of insects entrails and nothing else.

We travelled over 400 miles today, a restaurant is down one set of silverware, I’m exhausted, but I am still curious to see what the rest of this week brings. Tomorrow, we begin with an Independence Day parade. The pictures should be better, as my mom will be standing still.

When One Door Closes, Another Opens

One door is closing for our little family. However, another one is opening. We will be leaving our much loved two-story house on Saturday. It was nearly nine years ago that we moved into our current home. This house is cozy and it has a lot of character. Unfortunately, it is not very handicap accessible. Likewise, we have begun to outgrow it. So, for the last month we have been loading our lives into boxes. It is amazing how much stuff can accumulate over the course of several years.

This house holds so many good memories. It was the first house that Amanda and I shared as husband and wife. It has kept us warm in the winter. It has sheltered us from the storms of life. This house has been a retreat from the world around us. It is where we welcomed Baby Boy. He will be two years old in December. He took his first steps through these halls. He spoke his first words in these rooms. When we leave on Saturday, we will unpack our boxes and breathe new life into a much bigger house.

Our new house will be a place to create new memories. Likewise, we plan to add on to our family. Our house will become a home just like our existing house. I am excited to see Baby Boy running through the halls while opening each new door. There are lots of closets, so he will have many new nooks and crannies to explore.

Turning over the keys to this house will bring mixed emotions. However, I can’t wait too see what the future will bring. God has blessed us and I know He will continue to do so. Come and see us sometime. We will leave a light on for you.

The “Escape Room”

Have you ever just wanted to disappear for a bit so that no one could find you? I often find myself trying to “escape” for a few minutes of serenity. However, I’ve discovered this is next to impossible with a toddler. For instance, a trip to the bathroom by myself is rare these days.

The bathroom used to be a good place to escape and catch a few minutes of peace. Now, I usually have company. Fortunately, Baby Boy shuts the door behind us. The only problem is, there are sometimes he doesn’t want to open it when our time in the “escape room” has come to an end. It truly becomes a situation where I truly am desperate to escape from the “escape room.”

Maybe next time we go in I’ll teach Baby Boy how to clean. He already knows how to use the TV remote, so why not put a mop in his hands and put him to work. Perhaps, I then can escape to the bedroom while he is not looking. I certainly can find some peace in there. Oh wait, the cats are always in the bedroom!

Toilet Cucumbers

Having a toddler is a learning experience. Baby Boy is always on the go when he is awake. I love his sense of wonder and his willingness to try new things. However, I have learned to be cautious when he is around, especially when he tries to hand me things.

I am now the keeper of half-eaten bananas, empty applesauce pouches, and anything else he decides to hand me. Keeping my mouth closed when Baby Boy is around is a good idea. This is because he likes to share his food with me. I guess he thinks I am a baby bird that needs to be fed. For instance, yesterday, he was eating cucumbers. This is a vegetable of which I am not fond. However, he came running towards me with a slice of cucumber and jammed it into my mouth.

This is where I must tell you that Baby Boy has also recently discovered how much fun it is to play with the toilet seat in the bathroom. He loves to open and shut it. Likewise, if it is up he has been known to drop things in the toilet. It doesn’t matter what it is, he’ll dunk it and then retrieve it. We try to keep the bathroom door shut when he is on the prowl. However, he is now tall enough to open the door.

Yesterday, when he was snacking on cucumbers he made a trip into the bathroom. I was blissfully unaware of this, as I was getting ready to leave the house. As I noted above, he came running towards me with a slice of cucumber and jammed it into my mouth. I had no time to react! It went straight in and I swallowed it after a couple of quick chews. This is when I was informed by Amanda that Baby Boy had just come from the bathroom.

I am trying to avoid thoughts that it had been dipped in the toilet, but I don’t know for sure. All that I know is that I went to bed last night with a bad stomachache. Fortunately, it subsided by this morning. I guess I am immune to just about everything now. Who wouldn’t be after eating a toilet cucumber?

The End of the Road

Yesterday, we started the 1,003 mile journey back home from Florida to Illinois. We left Panama City Beach a little after 7 a.m. and headed west towards Biloxi, Mississippi. Amanda and I had visited there previously and we wanted to visit again before making our way north.

We stopped and had our last taste of seafood at a place called The Reef. We had eaten there before and had enjoyed the food quite a lot. Plus, Biloxi has some beautiful beaches as well as some very lovely homes along the coast. After having a great lunch we travelled up through Mississippi and in to Tennesee. We stopped in Memphis for the night.

Memphis is a city we have been through twice, but have never had time to explore while here. It is on our list of places to visit again once we have an opportunity to more fully sample the tastes, sights, and sounds of this great city.

I love to visit places with rich cultural histories. Memphis is certainly one of those places. From food, music, to the civil rights movement, it has much to taste, hear, and see. It is also a place with some family history for me as well. My paternal grandparents lived in the city for a while. In addition, my great uncle, Aldo Bastari, apparently once worked as a chef at the Peabody Hotel. We definitely could make a week of it in Memphis. However, that will have to wait for another time.

We left Memphis this morning around 9 a.m. and drove north through Arkansas and Missouri. Then we crossed the Mississippi River back into Illinois. I think we are all ready to be back home. It will be nice to sleep in our own beds tonight.

Day 3 – Montgomery

We woke up in Montgomery, Alabama yesterday morning and decided to just head the rest of the way to Florida. After having driven over 800 miles, we were all ready to be out of the car for a week. We had originally planned to do some sightseeing, but that can wait for another time.

So, we loaded up our Honda CR-V and set out yet again. Just outside of Montgomery, we spotted an outdoor market that had fresh fruits, vegetables, pies, bread, eggs, and all other kinds of goods. They even had some free-range chickens that were roaming the grounds. Baby Boy had fun chasing the chickens around. Fortunately, none of them were peckish. After a short break at the market we were once again on our way.

We finally reached Panama City Beach at around three yesterday afternoon. We had a late lunch at a place on the beach and then headed to join family at our rental house near the beach. It was nice to feel the breeze blowing up from the gulf. It looks like Tropical Storm Claudette has moved on, at least for the most part, although the waters of the gulf were extremely choppy today.

After settling in we decided to go and get some groceries for the week. This was quite an ordeal. I am not one who enjoys shopping, even when the market is empty. We went to two separate stores and both were packed with fellow vacationers. It almost seemed as if everyone was preparing for a disaster to strike.

Being from Northwest, Illinois, I am used to seeing people flood into the stores before an impending snowstorm to grab, milk, bread, and other staples. However, this experience was much different. It was nothing like I had ever seen. I think I’ll steer clear of the checkout lines and just spend the rest of my time at the beach with a good book.

Never again will I do this.

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