Monday, May 31, 2010

1st Annual GlassFest

Before i left to come back to CHOP this time around, i was able to have an AWESOME 1:1 day with Samson on Saturday. Ron stayed home working on the garden while Thomas took his afternoon nap. Shirley called from downtown to say there was cool stuff going on that Sam would be into, so we headed down; Market Street was shut down for Corning's 1st Annual GlassFest weekend.

We started at Wegmans' end, and the first thing we ran into was a giant inflatable slide. For $2, Sam was able to go down three times. He LOVES it! Or as he would say, "Mom... i fell in LOVE with the slide today!"

Next, we picked up a bag of popcorn and a cold water (it was HOT out!) to enjoy as we walked down the street looking at all there was to see and do, including live glass-blowing exhibits, musicians playing their instruments (which Sam hunkered down to watch for several minutes), and various craft vendors.

One of the modern furniture/gadget stores on Market Street, had a lot of hands-on 'things' out for kids to play with. Sam meticulously stacked up a bunch of foamy chair-things only to WRECK the whole pile as a grand finale! That caused several laughs from passers-by. Typical boy! We sampled candied almonds and cashews and chose a pack of almonds to share with everyone over our cook-out supper. When we got change from one of the purchases, i put it in his shorts pocket and told him it was for the wishing fountain on the walk back. He tossed three coins in and when i asked what he wished for he said, "I wished for you and Henry to come home soon." God, i love this kid with every inch of my heart. I like that wish very much.

But For Now....

Three weeks ago, the morning we were going home....

As many of you know, Henry is still in Philadelphia. I have jumped in, from Ron being here for two weeks. Our "Game Plan" from now on, for whenever Hank is here and we have no idea for how long, is to alternate as much as possible, IF possible, to give each other equal time between here and home. It must be stated once again at this point how incredibly accommodating and caring our Wegmans family and supervisors have been with us. I mentioned to a friend that sometimes i feel like our situation is getting "old" to everyone; the constant trips back and forth to hospitals and never being home and always having to be out of work (at least one of us). Kind of like how the novelty of a newborn wears out after a few months. But she said that was ridiculous and it's not like that, it just feels like that from my perspective. Perhaps she's right. I still find it very important to acknowledge how giving, thoughtful and wonderful everyone in our lives has been.

At the time of this post, it is 8:30 Memorial Day Monday. My plans are to spend a lot of my day with Mr. Hank and attempt to rock him. I tried to do it last night when i arrived. He was sleeping and I thought it'd be nice to snuggle up, as I've done in the past. However, he woke to start fussing and if he could talk, would have said, "MOM! Look! I'm really in a lot of pain, please put me down, this is not comfortable." Fair enough, little guy. He just got brought over to the 'step-down' unit after being in Intensive Care for four days after his nissen surgery. I had mentioned previously that the nissen was going to be performed laparascopically. Ron informed me on the day of surgery that it could NOT be done that way and was performed in a more traditional, slightly more invasive surgery through an incision on his belly. I would like to ask today why that was chosen and what that means, if anything. Right now, i know it means pain for Henry.

I'll admit, I'm a little leery about seeing his surgery site (he was swaddled last night). The nurse explained to me that his GJ tube site has been leaking a bit and they think it is due to his nissen incision being so close in proximity and that all his stomach tissue (inside and out) is irritated and inflamed. It's not so much the physical appearance that i dread. I'm cool with that by now. It is seeing him in discomfort over yet another THING that needed to be done to him to keep him comfortable and 'functioning' and we have yet to even get to The Big Heart Surgery to FIX his heart. That is due in several months. And his cleft lip surgery has obviously been put on the back burner as well. I've heard that this first year is easily the hardest. At this point, as i type, i'm eager for this year to be over. In my mind, I keep coming back to how Henry looked the 5 days in a row before we came home this last time three weeks ago (it's been THREE WEEKS ALREADY!??!?!): he was vibrant, alive, alert, clear, happy and SMILING. I do hope i can see that smile again VERY soon!......

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Micro-Mini Update

Since so many of you have been asking so kindly, this is where Hank's at:

We expect his nissen surgery (which will be laparoscopic, a good thing!) will be on Tuesday with several days recovery. Depending on the time frame, either Ron will travel home with him Memorial Day weekend or we will tag-team off and I will head down. Either way, the PLAN is for Henry to come home SOON SOON SOON and get on with LIFE LIFE LIFE! :-) Til next time....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hit Pause

So Henry and Ron are NOT headed home today, or even tomorrow. I spoke to Ron and he said that the GI doctor "got to thinking" about Henry's GJ tube and how it likes to move around on him, paired with his severe reflux, and decided on a nissen procedure afterall. Its a little befuddling to Ron and i why this was decided NOW instead of when they first arrived, as well as being decided after several days of non-activity from Henry. It's an "anticipation decision" it seems. Which is fair enough; it's my knowledge that a nissen leaves little room for failure. It literally prohibits anything from coming back up by the nature of the surgery. Period. Ron says it could happen a couple days from now and then several days of recovery and observation. This is where we're at. I'm feeling a little empty, but without any good reason, so I'll simply chalk it up to disruption of our lives and a mood. Henry's in good hands, this i know, especially having Daddy Time... Just miss my guys...

On a side note, being home with the boys has been wonderful. Sam tries my patience every day, but I can also tell (as well as being told by him) that he appreciates my return and presence. I've gotten Tommy out of the highchair and I pretty much give him everything in the exact same manner as I do Sam. I give him a fork/spoon and let him practice (with much success!). He's very good with an open cup now. He sits at the cocktail table in a little chair kitty-corner to Sam and they eat their dinner together side by side. Its so nice to see my little (middle!) guy growing up. He's so freakin HAPPY, i love his smile to pieces. I'm the luckiest Mom i know!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Let's Try This Again...

As most of you know, Hank is back in Philly, and this time, Daddy is with him. From what i understand, they replaced Henry's GJ tube on Friday and by Saturday were telling Ron that it went great and they anticipated him being discharged Monday to return home! Ron and I were both thinking it would be this straight-forward. We truly hope this works and creates some calm and uneventful moments in our family for a while!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spoke Too Soon...

Well, er, um... we, the Telford Family Unit, are no longer whole, at home. In fact, we barely were home at all. Hank returned once AGAIN today to Arnot Hospital less than 24 hours after discharge the first time (Tues/Wed) with further refluxing issues. He even showed his pediatrician how he does it, in her office this morning! We were sent over to the hospital for x-rays and admittance. Hank was put on electrolytes because we stopped feeding him via his GJ tube. The x-ray showed that, sure enough, Henry's feeding tube had once again become dislodged. Only this time, it was not noticeable on the outside, which means the tube has coiled upon itself inside Henry's stomach. It seems his physiology has caused this somehow, and that is why CHOP has come into play again. It is up to them to fix this problem, for good ("So she states adamantly!") This is out of Arnot's hands at this point.

So for now, it's 10:30 pm and Henry is currently at CHOP; he was airlifted by helicopter around 6pm tonight. Ron tried to go with him but there were weight restrictions. Hank's settled in to the CCU a mere 3 and a half days after discharge. I would give anything to see the look on those CCU nurses faces when they get a load of Hank rolling in to their unit again so soon. Ron is taking my place this go-round and heading down sometime tomorrow morning. We'll call RMH in the morning and try to get him in; it is to our advantage that he is solo. Easier to give a room for one person vs. a family. Maybe he'll get Room 20, the room at the front of the house on the third floor that used to house a great big organ. Its about the size of a generous walk-in closet. Cozy!

For the heckuvit, i'll toss out my prediction: Henry will get a nissen, after all. I talked about this in a previous post when it was being decided on whether to give him a nissen or a GJ tube. We all know the latter was chosen. A nissen will prohibit anything from coming back up. His reflux issues really affect him - they create breathing difficulty, increased breathing, breathing pauses and bradycardias (the infamous "brady"). It's all bad news for Hank, so if they can get this reflux issue under control, it will be a non-concern. Because Henry's been throwing up since our drive back from Philly, I'm always waiting for the next throw-up. Just waiting. It's an awful feeling, anticipating something i cannot control or stop.

More to come as it develops....

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Life's Hankerific!

First and foremost: WE'RE HOOOOOOME!!!!!

Lil update up til now...

Sunday night, i went back into CHOP for evening snuggles. I had plans with a couple RMH Moms (okay, one was an aunt, but a very "Mom-ish" aunt!) to go to Chili's at 9 to celebrate Mom's day over drinks and/or dessert/munchies. At 8pm, as i'm in the process of typing directions to Ron on how to get here, I hear gurgling and choking and look over to see Henry throwing up stomach contents. Remember, he had very bad reflux issues before the placement of his G-J tube, which effectively eliminated disturbances in his stomach by pumping his feeds directly into his jejunum (or intestine). The only things going into his stomach are reflux-inhibiting meds. There have been ZERO reflux issues up until this point.

I was definitely bothered by this, for the above reasons, as well as for the simple fact that he's rockin the boat THE NIGHT BEFORE DISCHARGE! I was not laughing. His timing is impeccable (that's one adjective). I cleaned him up, got a nurse in to check him out and together we decided he might have simply been irritated, warm, out of sorts, no big whoop. I was fine with that. Kissed him goodnight, yukked it up with the gals, and called it a night.

The next morning i packed up my room at RMH and checked out and headed over to the hospital. I arrived and the nurse filled me in on Henry's night and adds "oh yeah... and he threw up again this morning. But just stomach contents!" As though that is supposed to make me feel better. It does not. No one can really take these throw ups past face value because all his vitals looked good and he wasn't running a fever. Little sign of any sort of distress.

Ron and Dad arrive around noon and soon thereafter, we are discharged! Henry is flocked by his darling girlfriend nurses, all waving their white hankies (pun intended) and blowing him kisses goodbye. The four of us decided to visit an outside vendor for a bite to eat before hitting the road. Henry's continuous feed was already started, and we were good to go!

About 2 hours into the drive, Ron was sitting in the backseat with Henry and told me that he's throwing up again. Third time now. I am not comfortable with this news at all. We pull over and between Ron and I, take turns wiping up Henry and consoling him. Again, only stomach contents (aka, yellowy, mucousy bile. MMmm....). At this point, while still pulled over, i call CHOP for guidance and speak to the cardiac fellow Mike. He suggests the new environment, air temp and car turbulance all could be contributing to Henry's condition. While he leaves the decision on whether to continue to return to our discretion, he suggests we continue on and just keep an eye on him. So we do that. I mean, afterall, we are HEADED HOME!!! No need to claim self-defeat so soon, right? We had a goal and we decided to continue aiming for it.

Henry threw up once again, now on 'my watch' in the backseat, and just looked so worn out and tired and YUCK. He sounded gurgly and off. He easily appeared to be choking during this reflux, so it was important to set him fully upright, which a carseat does not do. We pulled over again, and in my haste to get him into a more comfortable and safe position (paired with my shaky hands, expressing frustration, unhappiness and anxiety over the events i'm watching unfold during our HOMECOMING!), I pull Henry toward me neglecting to pay attention to the location of his G-J tube and it gets wedged and subsequently YANKED. It cannot come out, due to that Hollister zip-tie get-up attached at his belly, but it can certainly HURT by the pulling pressure. Henry screeched loudly and i realized what was going on before i could quickly react, and through a slew of muttered obscenities, freed the tube and cradled him before checking the damage.

The damage was ultimately done. The feeding tube into his intestine was pulled out at least a half an inch more than the pen-marked dash i had placed earlier. To backtrack a touch: Henry's toes are very good at snagging, and then kicking, various tubing and wires attached to him, and about 2 days after his G-J tube surgical placement, i came in to see that the feeding tubing had been pulled away from it's former flush-setting. Please see diagram above: a very small longer tube (feeding tube into jejunum (intestine)) encompassed by a larger, rubber-y tube (gastric tube, aka, access only to stomach). The larger tube ends right past the balloon in his belly and has tiny holes which allow medicines to be dispensed ONLY in the belly. The smaller tube continues on into his intestines to feed him there, past his stomach. NOW YOU GOT IT!

I showed Ron and we both concurred that might not be good. But we both reasoned that he had been x-rayed the day before and it was determined that even with the feeding tubing pulled out some, the placement was still in the intestine. My accident had only pulled half an inch more. That couldn't possibly be enough to dislodge the placement of the tube, which would mean feeds ending up back in the stomach. HALF AN INCH?!?

Sure enough, 15 min from home, Henry decided to throw up a gigantic amount of formula. This was definitely not a good sign. It was indicative that yes, indeed, a half an inch might definitely have been enough to pull out of the intestine. I had no idea what the starting measurement was, as a guide. Now i'm quite distraught. This has been an EVENTFUL ride home, something no one wished upon us, especially us. We quickly decided to pull into my dad's place right off the exit. I called CHOP once again. Spoke to a different cardiac fellow, Lisa, who Henry LOVES (he smiles the most of anyone with her), and she suggests we stop the feeds for now, just get home and get him settled and calm, start feeds up again at some point, and just watch.

So that is what we do. And all seems to be going well except that at 3:30 am, Henry decided to throw up his feed again, one we had started back up at 11pm. Not good. And he didn't sound good. Or look good. He didn't look the worst I've seen him, but just very washed out and TIRED. Taxed. It broke my heart. This after five days of him radiantly glowing, a vision of vibrancy and alertness, at CHOP. He was basically laying around, super happy, getting a meal. Nothing else. No IVs, no [noteworthy] bradys, no desats. And he LOOKED happy. Lots of smiling, bright, alive, just great. And now... looking at my child in the glow of a closet light, in my arms in bed, looking so tired and needing sleep, gurgly and mysterious... it broke my heart. Through tears i said to Ron, "I'm so unhappy right now." As my friend Katie said later, "you guys can't catch a break." That's exactly it. I just wanted a break, and by that, i didn't mean a party, or time away. I meant a chance to NOT be at CHOP, at home, naturally, and with all three of my boys.

I calmed Henry and myself down and i called CHOP again and spoke once more to Lisa. Through discussions of what i saw and what he was doing, Lisa suggested softly that we go to the ER. I told her that i was in denial of doing what's best and right because going to Arnot hospital always results in a trip to Philly.

But that's what we did. We stopped his feeds, and by 4:30 am, he was being admitted. The reason? 6 throw ups and paused breathing. A home telemetry kit (continuous monitoring of Henry's heart rate and rhythm which takes place at a remote location in NJ and then sent to CHOP for evaluation) that we set up at 11pm tracked only two bradys, but while i watched him, he appeared to show signs of more. Several things were certainly 'off.' Nurses hooked him up to all their stuff, got a couple x-rays (one to determine current placement of his GJ tube and sure enough, it was now in the stomach), some bloodwork and by 11ish was being wheeled to his own room on the pediatric floor.

By 1:30pm, we had a slot in Interventional Radiology's plans to re-place (but not replace) the J part of the G-J tube; push it back in to the intestines and out of the stomach.This required no anesthesia, a big factor in letting us choose to do it here vs. CHOP. The IR doctor let me come in with them due to the short nature of the procedure as well as the non-sterile requirements. I liken his fixing Hank's GJ tube to replacing the drawstring through the hole of drawstring pants. After sportin' a very heavy and constrictive protective x-ray vest, paper hair bonnet and face mask, i watched Dr. Joe (only got his first name) reinsert the J-tube via four gigantic monitors in front of him. He used a guidewire to fish it around where he wanted, including the opening to the jejunum. I was actually following along and understood what he was doing; it felt great to be on-site (Hank was out cold sleeping, btw). I felt good seeing how far he got it in and how he connected it all back together. Super laid back guy, but so obviously a pro at IR work.

Hank's feeds were reintroduced at half capacity to start this afternoon and that is where i left him at the time of this post. Ron is spending the night at the hospital and I came home to pick the boys up from school (daycare) and take them both to get Sam's haircut (Thom is ready but i forgot the "First Haircut" camera, so i had to pass!). Despite the rain and chill, i had such a simple yet wonderful time hanging out with just my boys, doing stuff out in the world. It actually felt a touch ODD for about 10 min at the beginning. Like a newbie. Weird.

I want to say that i feel POSITIVE about things right now. I think the dislodging of that J tube easily caused huge disruptions in not only, obviously, his refluxing, but in Henry's general well-being. If he refluxes, then he never regains his breathing fully, or the quality, and then that can affect his heartrate and oxygen levels. Everything is a cycle with Henry.

Tomorrow is, truly, another day.

Monday, May 10, 2010

From the Vault

I was looking around old photos i have stored on my puter for something else, and was very surprised at the number of pics that struck me as never having made it to the blog. At the time, i had to weed 'em out I guess, but now it seems really fun to post them. In no particular order (notice the dates... some are a bit old!), here they are!

Never too late to make em smart with Jeopardy!

Whenever Sam puts my glasses on, i think of Jonathan Lipnicki.

I think Sam took this pic of Thom, last summer in Maine.

Sam, on one of Daddy's walks.

I cannot believe we didn't post this before!
Ron at the
Children's Sciencenter in Ithaca, NY.

One picture from the "Mommy and Sammy Making Silly Faces" session.

It is apparently possible to pass down the "Stick out your tongue in every pic" gene.

Sammy's bug bite. It was soon thereafter that BOTH eyes welded shut. Poor bugger.

Play-doh horns. I have NO IDEA, as well, how this one did not get posted earlier.

Saved the best one for last. No words for this one... just gotta love it.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

For some particular reason, THIS Mother's Day is especially highlighted. Well, sure, there's the OBVIOUS reason: Our focus on Henry. Since the day i gave birth, he's been an unrequested highlight of our lives. But Ron and i agreed: we would NEVER change a thing. That is only solidified with each beaming smile he gives, or when i feel the strength growing in his little body and limbs. I was supporting him on my chest yesterday, facing my back, and he was holding his little head up and turning it all around for a long time. So inquisitive and strong. YOU GO, HANK!

And of course as i type this, I think of Sam and Thom, my gorgeous adorable love bugs at home. Sam mystifies and astonishes and brightens my every day, with this brain power and ingenuity and courage. I want to wring his neck with this disobedient mouth one day (or i should say one MINUTE), and the next, he is a bundle of affection, and I want to quite literally eat him up with kisses. Guess that's what being four is all about. And Thomas... well, we all know by now that Thomas is "Simple Simon." "Happy Go Lucky." He's our Tommy Boy and i can't wait to play with him again: I'll grab his feet and stick them to my nose and cause a gigantic rukkus about how BAD they smell, and the contagious giggle that comes outta his face is one of the BEST sounds in the whole world!! Even Sam comes running and joins in on the laughter, just watching. "Do it again, Mom... do it again."

I think of Shirley, Ron's mom, who has helped us unselfishly for many weeks in our separation between Corning and Philly. Without her during that time, there's a scramble to find last minute babysitters and on-the-go lunches and dinners. Plus, no 'Nanny Luvvins.' Much appreciation to you, Shirley!

I miss my Mom. I recently shared some funny memories of her on here. While she was limited physically with her various ailments, she was definitely not limited mentally, or compassionately. My mother never lectured me, she always counseled me. She guided me, even through a ton of the worst decisions i ever made (in retrospect of course). She never judged me or belittled me. She never made me feel less than what i was and always encouraged me during my every new Life Change. And i think she was most proud three times: When i graduated from art college, when i bought my house solo, when i gave birth to the boys. She died when Thom was one month old, but i'm so happy she got to meet him. She would have loved Henry too. I cannot imagine how proud she'd be of me NOW, but i am picturing her smiling down at me, and I love the thought. Life certainly plows on without my Mom, but during these times with Henry, i REALLY REALLY miss picking up the phone to hear her voice and consolement and she ALWAYS said the most perfect thing to make me feel better. Probably the greatest reason I'm able to handle things with Henry so stoically is because my mom prepared me for challenges with grace and a clear mind. Life sometimes stinks, and we don't get what we want, but it's how we deal with it that matters. She'd say, "oh hun... go ahead and have a good cry. You can even get mad. But then what? It's still there. You are smart and sensible... your instinct will guide you. And i love you so much."

The UPenn Glee Club came to sing at the RMH (Ronald McDonald House) this morning. They were very good! A very melodious version of "Yesterday" by The Beatles and a finger-snappin' version of "Blue Skies" were among the songs. Nice! The Guest Breakfast Chefs prepared a great bfast with REAL fresh fruit and homemade quiches. They also made little tiny bouquets, which i brought in to sit in Hank's room.

Well... to all the mom's reading this, and even to the non-biological moms who care for children in a 'Mom-way'... today is for you. Whatever you do, take some YOU time to give yourself a pat on the back for caring for your children and doing an awesome job. Every day is Mother's Day, really.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Various Hank Stuff

It's Saturday morning, 12:30am, and i'm done fartin' around with the whole "I don't wanna jinx it" stuff. WE'RE GOING HOME ON MONDAY, !@#$%, COME HELL OR HIGH WATER! There. I said it. I DARE Hank to pull some stunts now. I've been using hand sanitizer like it's my job (well, it sorta IS), and God love the Guest Chefs here, but i can't eat another taco (or variations therein) for a while. I'm ready for one of Ron's Creations with yummy mystery ingredients.

HOME, HERE WE COME! Monday. Dad and Ron are driving down, leaving early morning, so that someone can sit in the back seat and watch Henry as we drive back. This was not mandatory for us to leave, but highly recommended and i don't wanna make all my friends at CHOP angry, or worse, disappointed with me.

'Hanging Out With Mommy Time' - Hank's very familiar with this nook.

Henry's new G-J tube, but more importantly, the Hollister attachment.

The round part sticks to his tummy, wraps around his stoma, and then it literally
zip-ties around his tube, keeping it stable at 90 degrees. No kickin' THIS puppy out!

Henry, cruisin' around the 6th Floor.

"Dude... that party ROCKED. I'm just gonna crash..."

A special little blanket appeared one day... so cute, so nice.

Awww Buggy... I love you too!

Thursday, May 06, 2010


I've been told we can go home Monday... but shhh... don't tell Hank. It's a secret.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Making Friends at RMH

For the most part, during my stay here in Philly and at the Ronald McDonald House, I've politely kept to myself. I nod a cheery 'hello' to folks i recognize and have seen continuously at the house, as well as in the hospital. It seems a lot of the folks at RMH have children specifically on the Cardiac 6th Floor of CHOP. And a lot of them are babies, like Henry. During dinner times, i'll tend to sit close to those i am familiar with, but i have not been actively participating in discussions. Most of the discussions are about the children and their care, and I tend to sit back and listen during those times instead of proactively sharing my story. Just my style, i guess you could say. If someone ASKS me, then i willingly engage in conversation.

There's been something about the past week that has changed.
And i can thank my Mom for it all.

One night i sat next to a woman that's always been very friendly and smiley toward me. Her name is Rachel and her nephew Bradley has been here since before Thanksgiving. The funny thing is, despite my keeping to myself, i have been listening to people's names and memorizing them. I'm odd, right? Why wouldn't i USE them and interact, right? I've always been more of an observer than a chatter box. But i digress.

So that one night, i sat next to Rachel and across from her sat Christine, a cleaning lady at the RMH, getting her supper before her evening shift. Across from me sat another gentleman, who i think is named Jim, one of the volunteers who often drives the shuttle van to the hospital. I like him. I remember him talking a few times about his parents who are in their 80s and travel the country to visit their various kids all in their 60s. I found that fascinating and HAPPY.

A younger volunteer, late teens, maybe early 20s, came over to tell Christine (in her 50s or so) that one of the bathrooms was overflowing, could she clean it up before she cleaned up the rooms. There was difficulty in his communicating what he wanted to say, but more importantly, HOW to say it to Christine. There wasn't much tact or respect for this older woman who does a great job for this great place. I chalked it up to maturity, but i SO wanted to pull him aside (in a lateral world, mind you) and "teach" him how to approach this topic. Well, there was some back and forth and by the time he left, there was definitely a 'tone' going on. We could all tell that Christine was feeling slighted and Jim broke the tension with a joke about how The Kid could have cleaned it up in the time it took for him to try and explain it to Christine. Christine said something purposely under her breath and we all laughed. The point of this story is to share how we were all brought together to chat.

We were talking about how good dinner was. Chicken something. And Jim said, "Yeah, but sometimes chicken can get blah, like it becomes chicken chicken chicken!"

And of course a memory of my Mom comes to mind and i say "You guys wanna hear a funny story?" They all nod yes enthusiastically. All of a sudden, i felt like a really successful comedienne that everyone had come specifically to see. Here was my chance in the spotlight.

(BTW, for the record, my father may not remember this story the same way as I did, if at all. Love ya dad!)

So i say "One time, my mom cooked dinner for my dad and i. I was probably about 14 or so. And it was chicken. Probably chicken and vegetables and her favorite boxed mashed potatoes. And my dad sat down and said, "oh MAN - - chicken AGAIN!?!? I'm so sick of chicken." And i remember daring to look over at my mom's face, knowing that it wouldn't be good. She smirked a sour smile and said, "tonight will be the last night for chicken, dear."

The next day, she went to the grocery store and bought a whole deep freezer worth of frozen t.v. dinners. Packed that puppy TO THE TOP. Salisbury Steak (oh YUM (not!)), 'fried' chicken, meatloaf, mac-n-cheese, etc. You know all the choices Stouffers offers. That's what she bought. And i remember saying, "But MOMMMM, *I* didn't complain. Why do i have to eat this stuff too?" And she said "I'm sorry that you have to suffer for what your father said. Sometimes life is not fair."

And Christine and Rachel and Jim thought this was the FUNNIEST STORY ever! Especially Christine. She is a black woman full of life and she laughed so hard I think she almost choked! She went on and on "OH baby doll... that is the FUNNNIEST thing i have heard in all my years sitting here at dinner. From now on, i want you to sit with me at supper so that i can laugh like that, cuz i LUUUVV laughin' that hard. It makes me feel GOOOD!"

So now i was just on a roll. And feeling good remembering Mom in ways that make me laugh and love her so much. AT THE TIME, these stories weren't so funny, but now... they're gold.

"Well, if you think THAT'S funny... get this... my dad and his brother used to boil water in the tea kettle on the stove for their coffee. But a lot of times, they'd forget to put water in the kettle and just turn it on high and end up burning up the kettle. So my mom had had enough of that foolishness (she loved using that phrase!) and one morning, on her way to work, packed up all four burners in her bag and left the stove NAKED. To this day, Dad nukes his water for coffee now."

Christine just about had a heart attack. I loved watching her laugh so hard. Rachel was too. Jim was just nodding his head with a big smile, and i pretended that he was commiserating with my father, indirectly.

Since that night, it has opened the door to fun conversations and friendly(er) interactions with The Regulars here. There are a few families that have been here just as long as me, or just about (and some longer). Rachel and i now walk to and from CHOP together quite often, working off our caloric dinners. Another gal's mom, Mary and I, have found each other for dinners and bonded over birth stories.

Another funny story before I end this rambling...

Last night, these two dudes dressed as clowns come clopping around the cafeteria during dinner. Big shoes, makeup, the works. The one guy joked, picking up three Corelle Ware plates and pretended to start juggling them. I said, "you know, you COULD juggle those cuz they won't break if you drop them." They kind of fall out of character to ask, "what? What do you mean they won't break?" I said, "they won't! Its the material they're made out of. They are a combination of ceramic and glass, called a polyceramic. They are nearly indestructable." They look TOTALLY IMPRESSED and ask me several times, "Is that really true?" I said, "well, basically. I mean, they CAN break, but they don't usually. I've dropped a lot of them and they don't."

So they begin this juggling act. Three Corelle Ware plates are flying in the air. The dude naturally loses his stride and drops two of them. One bounced, and the other... well **SMASH** into a MILLION pieces. That's the other thing about this material that i failed to mention. When it DOES break, it's breaks into A TON OF SHARDS! Oh boy, whatta mess. I must have turned 18 shades of red, cuz it was MY FAULT! The whole place cracked up.

So i got up to clean it up, looking for a broom. And here's Christine booming behind me "oh Baby Doll (that cracks me up!) - - you are your MOTHER'S CHILD!!! MM-mmmmm - oh yes... you are your MOTHER'S CHILD and i LOVE IT!" She was hysterically laughing again and she actually playfully fought me over the broom. It's like we were almost part of the act!!! She refused to let me clean it up. I really was blushing. On my way to the shuttle to go back in to snuggle with Hank for the evening, the 2 clowns said "where are YOU going? You make a mess and then LEAVE!?" Too funny.

Good times at the RMH. It feels good to know that i'm breaking the ice in what can and often is a potentially depressing atmosphere. Laughter isn't always the right thing to do all the time, of course, but the past few evenings, it's felt warranted and right.

One Happy Guy