Lady Bug

There Are No Minor Procedures

As we wait to send Lady Bug back into surgery it feels like something major. It probably isn’t even technically surgery. Tubes in the ears to solve a chronic ear infection problem. Three months ago when she had her seizure life felt more fragile and dangerous. All her scans looked good and the only lingering symptoms have been nearly constant ear trouble. So here we sit, in a pre-op room, waiting on the doctor to arrive and take her back for tubes.


On a scale of difficulty from 1-10, tubes would probably be a 1. The fast and easy baseline operation yet they will still put her under anesthesia. They still come into the room and make you sign forms agreeing to anything that may happen from organ damage to death. There is still the possibility of an IV in a tiny arm and we will still be sitting in a waiting area watching an avatar of our baby posted on a constantly updated television screen.

The doctor opted for being less invasive by not removing the adenoids, which I understand is commonly done as part of tubes. I am glad to have a doctor who wants to minimize the amount of work done on little ones. We might have to do the adenoids later but for now just tubes. Our doctor is also the same one who performed my sinus surgery as well as my sister’s. He has my full confidence and respect.

But Lady Bug is the baby. She is number four and the last of our children that still enjoys being rocked to sleep. She stills wears a diaper and uses a pacifier. She smiles from her cheeks and randomly decides to give kisses and hugs. I want to keep her in a bubble and guard over it. I want to keep her free from pain and discomfort.

In a few minutes she will leave us to have her “minor procedure”. The nurses will take her out of our hands and beyond our sight. We have to trust that they are experts and in an hour everything will be fine. After all it is just a minor procedure and many children go through things that are much much worse, right?

This feeling isn’t about comparison. Relativity doesn’t help.

There is a major lump in my throat that tells me there is no such thing as a minor procedure.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Threeto Shift

Quiet is never good. We pray for quiet but the truth is that it doesn’t exist in a normal situation. Quiet is suspicious. Quiet says that something is broken, someone is hurt, or electronics are hypnotizing them.

My resident gangster in training, Don Threeto, has been awfully quiet these days but I’m still onto her tricks. She is adapting her game as all good masterminds will do. The main reason is that Lady Bug is becoming more mobile these days and is bulking up on anything food she can scavenge. Like the skinny dude on the prison block, she is plotting her rise to power. She eats whatever she can find and has a goal. Forging herself in the fire of pain by falling off of furniture, running into walls, and dropping things on her toes. Lady Bug may not match Don Threeto in cleverness but she can squint her eyes and swing wildly with the best of them. Her scream is nothing to be messed with and she can butt-scoot down stairs fast enough to ignite flannel pajamas. Another six months and we could have a full blown turf war on our hands.

The psychological games continue with near constant references to killing things.

Example: Prima says, “I’m a beautiful rainbow.”

Threeto replies with, “I hate rainbows and I kill rainbows.”

I ask the obvious question of, “How can you kill a rainbow?”

She looks me straight in the eye and says, “I know a guy.”

Jesus kid… You are really putting me at a crossroads here. Do I accept that organized crime may be your “thing” and buy all of the classic gangster movies and CSI collections as educational material? Do I surround you with Care Bears and little Buddha statues? I hope something changes soon.

I thought she might be softening a few weeks ago. She was acting timid and sweet. I checked her temperature and sure enough it was slightly elevated. I took her to the walk-in clinic and as soon as the co-pay was paid she sprang back to life. That didn’t explain the temperature being elevated but some part of a parent boils at the sudden disappearance of all symptoms once you arrive a the clinic.

The nurse asks, “So what are you in here for today?”

I snapped back a little hastily, “Who the hell knows? Nothing I guess. She was acting like a catatonic lobotomy patient thirty minutes ago and now she is Pippy F’n Longstockings on crack. You tell me nurse lady and make it worth twenty five bucks.” At which point the wide eyed nurse says, “okkkaaayy” and checks her patient’s blood pressure while minimizing eye contact with me.

The doctor comes into the room and checks things out anyway and finds an ear infection so I didn’t feel totally duped. However, I did find the source of the dramatization by Don Threeto. The doctor was trying to negotiate the strep test and was about to bargain with a reward when Threeto said, “Do you have suckers?”



Boom. There is was. I just paid twenty five dollars for suckers. She was totally cured and back to the old tricks in no time.

FYI a picture of a nurse holding a big dripping shot is not helping...

FYI a picture of a nurse holding a big dripping shot is not helping…

That night she told me that she slapped a mermaid. I asked, “Why?” She just smiled. I can only assume she owed her money or was working the wrong reef? Maybe it was for luring in sailors and disrupting boat shipments of black market goods? Lady Bug better not be taking notes.

Then again, maybe I have the whole competition situation wrong and the Don is training “The Muscle”. Lady Bug is toughening herself through hazing practices such as eating multiple containers of lip gloss and re-usable Barbie stickers. She rubs pizza sauce directly in her own eyes despite an obvious understanding that it will hurt. She is on track to be a real badass.

Completely unrelated (for the moment) I am taking resumes for an attorney to handle family “business”.

So if any parents have children who “know a guy”. This one is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

My Mona Lisas

A picture is worth a thousand words right? Some are masterpieces. Some leave you speechless. I discovered one I took today that left me looking for words.

We had a snow day today and my usual parenting failure feelings crept in as I debated playing in the snow. I want to play in the snow. I want the kids to play in the snow. I was excited last night to watch the snow fall and thinking about going outside today to throw snowballs, make snow angels, and make snow cream. But the reality of children waking up early and trying to make sure all of them are bundled up enough to avoid frostbite, put my spirits to the test. The kids who are big enough to self-dress don’t appear to have the logic to follow through. Prima walked to the door ready to go outside and did not have anything on her feet. Anything. Coat, coveralls, hat, gloves, and bare feet. The tile floor near the door is cold and that cold on her feet triggered exactly zero thoughts. Jane gets fully dressed and is likely hyper-thermic waiting on everyone else to get ready. Don Threeto, of course, has to pee after putting her coat on.

Then we get outside and I suddenly remember winters-gone-by. I realize that all of the kids are still young enough that they don’t hold memories as well as adults. Even the ones that have enjoyed snow before probably don’t remember it that well. They test it out to see if it is slippery. What does it taste like? Can you throw it at each other?

I knew I had to take pictures and I tried to stage a few to compare to the past. There is one picture from our old house that I loved. Jane was a toddler and we had 13” of snow in one evening. The next morning we played and I tried to lay her down and make a snow angel. She sunk into the snow almost completely disappearing. She cried and was all bundled up, stuck in the snow, and for a minute I found it funny and snapped a picture.

Note the trendy pink jacket and ballet shoes.

Note the trendy pink jacket and ballet shoes.

Then one today to compare.

Still rocking a pink jacket but with more attention to appropriate footwear.

Still rocking a pink jacket but with more attention to appropriate footwear.

But that isn’t the photo that got me.

The one that got me is a rare case. Every now and again you can press a button and capture a moment, wrapped in a personality, and glowing with an emotion. I am always happy to capture it and somehow sad at the same time as if I am mourning an innocence that doesn’t even know it is doomed.

This was that picture.

Lady Bug.

Lady Bug.

A smile. A full face grin that says, “I am warm from my big coat. I am comfortable with my rosy cheeks. I feel safe because I close my eyes when I smile. I am happy because my whole face is smiling. I am smiling because you are here with me and I am here with you. Because mommy said to look at daddy…” That smile is for me.

There is no yesterday or tomorrow only right now. In the photo, Lady Bug’s “right now” is in the snow with her family.

The picture is beauty.

I have this type of picture with all my children. My wife. My siblings. Family and friends and even a few strangers. I can’t imagine living in a time when cameras didn’t existing and the only similar option was getting sentimental about a painting. Maybe that is why the Mona Lisa is so famous, she is holding a wisp of a smile and Leonardo captured something rare.

If you have photos that capture your heart, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Threeto Wisdom

No matter how many times my children remind me, I am always in awe of just how fundamentally different each child can be. I am also somewhat frightened by some of the personality traits that I don’t have control over. I asked the girls a few questions just to see what types of responses I would get from a seven, five, and four year old.

First question is “What makes you happy?”

Jane answers, “Horses. Oh oh! Riding Horses! My happiest was sitting on Prince (a horse that has since died) when I was a baby.”

Prima answers, “Unicorns! Dancing in ballet class makes me happy. My happiest day was signing up for ballet class. I like funny jokes!”

Don Threeto still has a tendency towards baby talk but she answers with enthusiasm, “Wombat!” I ask her, “Did you really say Wombat? Do you know what a wombat is?” Her reply, “No no no, Combat!”

Even better.

I thought it made sense for a kid who may lead a crime syndicate one day.

She wasn’t done with the question and then told me, “Long Necks!” Which I hope is a dinosaur and not glass bottles of beer.

Second question is “What makes you sad?”

Jane gives a heartfelt response, “When Mamaw’s old horse named Magic died. Then a boy in my class said he was happy magic died. I hate him.”

I told her that “hate” is a strong word but anyone who delights in someone losing a pet may qualify for a strong word. I assured her that he may be trying to pick at her because he likes her and doesn’t understand how much she loves animals. I also told her that he might actually be an asshole and that one day she may have no choice but to kick his ass and to use her discretion. Jane isn’t an aggressor but one of her sisters make take up that slack.

Prima may not be much help because her answer to the sad question was, “If I don’t get to play music or if someone beats me up.” She is about two grade levels above her size so I think the getting beat up has to be empathy and not actual experience. She is a gentle giant type of personality and wants everyone to be happy.

Don Threeto tackled the question with the same aggressive randomness that I have started to expect.

“What makes you sad Threeto?”


“Reindeer make you sad?”

“Yeah and dead ones too.”

“So pretty much all Reindeer are just depressing for you?”

“Yeah. And puppies.”

“Good to know.”

So just some side notes. Two of the children are loving and compassionate. One is not yet forming sentences and the family gangster is pleased by combat and beer bottles while being depressed by puppies and reindeer. I love that kid, we honestly broke the mold when she popped out.

These question and answer sessions are always interesting. Over the weekend Prima came running into the kitchen laughing and trying to tell me what Threeto said. Once she calmed down and I could pick out the words inside the laughter I figured out two things:

1) Don Threeto says she named two of her turds (Larry and Bob).

2) These magical turds are alive and Don Threeto can text them with an iPad.

I wonder if the app is named iPood.

Lady Bug has a full understanding of what is said to her but her responses are limited to words that only a few people understand. She is the baby of the family and in true cute-as-a-button fashion she tugged at my heart strings.

“What makes you happy Lady Bug?”

“Da Da.”

“Daddy makes you happy?”

She grins and then gives a coy sideways glance, “No. Hahahaha”

Little rat.

Some families form pop bands like Hanson or the Partridge Family. Mine can’t sing or perform but they will be the perfect team. Focus, compassion, enforcement, and deceptive cuteness. A deadly wolf pack.

So if you expected to shape and mold your children into caring citizens of the world only to find out that your attempts are useless, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Heres to a Happy New Year

Seriously though, glow-stick kids. Right? A little break here and there makes them brighter and ready for use in the world. Well, I think the fourth one just came to life.


Tonight ranks up near the top on my most terrifying nights ever. I had the helpless feeling of watching and trying to help but not actually knowing what was wrong. One of those points in time where the seconds seem like hours and every detail becomes seared into your memory.


I don’t even know what we were talking about but the kids were playing around the living room. Supermom was starting dinner and I was talking with the Grandparents who had just brought the children home from Night at the Museum 3. They say it was a good movie by the way.


At some point we realize that the smallest child Lady Bug is acting strangely. She has been crawling around the floor on all fours and now is beside the couch with the top of her head against the side of the couch. It looks like she was crawling forward and ran into the couch and has just frozen there. Maybe she is looking at something on the ground or maybe she put it in her mouth. I try to get her attention.


“Lady Bug… Look at Daddy. What do you have?”

Nothing. She isn’t moving.


“Lady Bug.”

Still frozen.


I walk over and pick her up so I can see what she is doing or what she is trying to secretly put in her mouth. The first thing I notice is that her arm is rigid and is drawing itself into her chest. Her eyes are wide and her mouth is half open but she is frozen. That look is haunting even now.


There is no clawing at her mouth or throat, no choking sounds, just a blank and wide-eyed expression on the face of a little eighteen month old girl. Everyone is immediately concerned and gathers around while my mind races with what to do. Her lips are turning blue and her expression isn’t changing. She has to be choking is all I could think.


My fight or flight response is abnormally organized and methodical thought. It is my secret to test taking. I just get an idea in my head and I go with it. I turn her face down and hold her at a downward angle while doing some baby Heimlich, my wife rushes over and is repeating her name, “Lady Bug, Lady Bug!”. Maybe it was me saying her name. Who can tell?


Supermom smacks her on the back trying to dislodge whatever is stuck. It isn’t working and she is starting to turn really blue. Her face has the same stuck expression. For the first time I started the silent countdown in my head, three minutes until organs start to become damaged. Who know where three minutes came from but that is what I thought about. It is the first time I can remember honestly thinking I might be losing one of them. Sitting in my arms and slipping through my fingers.


This was not our first rodeo with choking, I had one stick a tortilla chip in their throat and I had to fish it out by hand. They were blue and gasping but this episode was different.


Grandma had 9-1-1 on the cell phone and was hysterically trying to get the address and info across. All I could think was that they would get here too late. They will take this limp child into a blinking box on wheels and I won’t see her alive again. At the same time I am thinking about not breaking ribs and keeping Lady Bug downward facing and how when I squeeze her lower abdomen that there isn’t the slightest rush of air out of her mouth or nose. I reach a finger into her mouth along the inside edge and to the back to make sure she hasn’t swallowed her tongue or something blocking the whole throat.


That moment she let out a little bit of air and after a few pats she started to cry. Nothing came up and her cry was strong and clear but she was disoriented. Lady Bug was not herself. I started to become aware of the other things going on around me. Supermom clutched Lady Bug and the other girls had run to their room and were hugging each other and crying. The panic of the adults had scared them pretty bad too. Lady Bug was getting more and more energy back but with nothing obviously wrong we were worried.


It was hard not to let that feeling wash me away. I don’t know what I just watched but it looked a lot like loss and death. The tears streaked down my face as I put together what we needed to do next. The older three went back to the Grandparents and the baby and Supermom loaded up with me in the car. Once again, we turned the flashers on and went to the Emergency Room. We should have a parking spot at that place.


So in the middle of flu and stomach virus season we enter a hotbed only three days after Christmas when most of the sick people who put off the doctor during Christmas are now sick enough to need emergency care. We get called to triage and get a confusing look because the chart says that the patient is 101 years old. (The receptionist put in the birth year as 1913 instead of 2013.) Back in line while they fix this.


Lady Bug is fidgety and quickly becoming full of energy. Talking. Laughing. Screaming at people. Playing with a plastic horse and the inside of a shoe she pulled off. Normal stuff.


We get a room and the doctor finds an infection in the left ear. Lady Bug had a runny nose for a few days but never a fever or any other hint that something was wrong. The doctor tells us that most likely it was a febrile seizure caused by the infection although since there was no actual fever we have to get a full workup and then go see a specialist. Workup means needles.


So after holding what I thought was my dying child, I got to hold a child that thought they were dying. Bloodwork via IV in the arm. Rectal temperature, super. CAT scan, I had the pleasure of holding her head in place while she was scanned. Flu test via nose swabs. Strep test via throat swabs (flashback of choking incident was a nice touch to this test) Chest X-Ray. Urine sample via catheter – second attempt was successful in getting the line into the tiny, tiny urethra. The secret turns out to be waiting until they stop screaming to take a quick breath and then shoving quickly into the bladder. Sounds awesome to me but they weren’t taking requests. Finally, an antibiotic shot that I’m pretty sure hurt her the most. I had to help hold her through all of it and Supermom was there too holding her arms and trying to calm her down.


Six hours later we are home with antibiotics and a referral to a neurologist, just to be on the safe side. Oh yeah, we got a package of rectal suppositories for seizures lasting longer than three minutes. I guess it beats sitting there with your thumb up your own ass.


If that shit goes on for three minutes I’m going to need some nitro-pills, some tranquilizers, or the general legalization of marijuana. I am a softie at heart and this one was almost too much. We had the broken arm last week. I’m good on drama for a week or two, let’s call it done.


Back at home and it is 1:30 am and I can’t sleep. In the other room is this kid who feels like a pin cushion but is sleeping soundly. They pull at the heart strings so hard. My oldest used her new iPad (hand-me-down) to text us at the hospital. She wanted to know how her sister was doing and if everything was going to be all right. She told us she loved us. She is seven. We have a strong family bond and it ties me in knots to see that my panic and trauma is our panic as a family. I dropped the ball tonight in assuring the other three that things were alright. I’m not one for lying to my kids even though they do it to me all the time.


Tonight was a hold your kids a little tighter kind of night. Thirty seconds and our life was ready to change. I’m drained of my mental energy and if I was honest I would say that I wanted someone to hold me a little closer tonight too. Guess that will have to be the cat who tries to sleep on my chest at three in the morning.


If you have endured this type of torture, this post is for you. Hopefully, the result was better than the experience. I can’t imagine that level of loss.


Some people hope to live forever but times like this make me hope I’m the first to go.


-Underdaddy to the rescue.