Friday, November 28, 2008

Odds and ends

I went on a Facebook binge the other night. I didn't plan to, it just happened.

I was playing with Picasa 2, which is Google's photo organization software. Turns out it's now Picasa 3, so once that was downloaded, I started going through old pictures. I figured it was time to upload some more to Facebook, so I did. Anyway, if you're interested in them, they're on my FB site.

The past few days have gone fast. We had Thankgiving here yesterday. Marci basically spent all day making green beans, sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables, stuffing, chutney and turkey. What sucks is that I have zero talent in the kitchen, which means she has to do it all. It's a good thing she knows what she's doing.

Sadly, carving the bird came to me and, well, I already mentioned my talent level in the kitchen. Luckily, I made pretty good work of it and we, plus Knight, Shannon and Mom, all had a darn tasty Turkey Day.

Today was Black Friday and, thought it was gray out, it never looked black. Yuk yuk yuk!

We went and saw Dad at the funeral home. Mom had a plaque made with his name, birth and death dates, and we took it there to put in with his ashes.

Evidently, to open where Dad's resting, costs money. Like $795 moneys or something. I couldn't believe it. It took all of about 5 minutes for a maintenance guy to climb up a ladder, turn a screwdriver and remove a glass panel. Then he went up and down adjusting the plaque and pictures. All told, it took maybe 10 minutes total. I guess today's adjustment was free, but if we want to add or move something in the future, we'll be ponying up. Who knew?

Anyway, we had dinner at a friend's house tonight and that was good. Nice to have some after-dinner talk sans kids for a change. They have a boy and girl and our boy and girl love to play with them, so that was nice.

Speaking of talking, what we talked about was Riley's acceptance into the Make a Wish program! Based on his recent surgery and changes in his life, the people from MaW decided that he would qualify for a wish! What he's going to wish for, we're not sure. He's mentioned wanting a monkey or something, but they're going to have a couple of interviewers come over and help him determine what he'd want the most.

How cool is that??

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Missing my old man

Sometimes I forget that Dad is gone. Then I remember and it makes me realize how much I miss him.

We've been cleaning the house today. I just sat down to check email and saw his monkey picture on my computer desktop and realized, "Oh yeah. Dad's gone."

It's a bummer.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ugh

Can I just say, "ugh"?

After losing two employees, doing payroll for them was not a lot of fun. I am done, thankfully, and I hope that's that.

Not only that, the bright sun is beating down on the desk across from me and is *perfectly* reflecting right into my eyes.

More complaining? Sure! I'm hungry and am don't want to go out to lunch again. And I took apart my cell phone to clean it today and may have messed it up a little.

What else? I get to play music tonight. Not a complaint, but going to T-town is never too exciting. At least it's not pouring rain.

On the flip side, a bunch of people from church came over yesterday and helped us make our yard less embarrassing. They donated their time and muscles, tools and gasoline, to clear a bunch of leaves and debris. The yard looks a lot nicer and we love them for the help.

So that's good.

I'm just ready for this "economy" to turn around. I'm ready for business to pick up. I'm ready to have some good things happen.

That is all.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Songbook IV


After 3 plus years, after dozens of shows, a new Lund Bros. record is finally available. It's entitled Songbook IV and it's at all the cool online stores (www.cdbaby.com or www.notlame.com), or at a Lund Bros. show near you.

Not only do we have this CD for you, but it's also a Double CD! Just like our previous CD Tangents, this one features 2 discs. One full of Chris' songs and the other full of Sean's songs. Trust me, it's just easier this way.

I'm pretty excited because I'm finally on record with the Lunds. After being their longest tenured bassist, I have some proof. All I asked was that they spell my name right on the CD jacket. I'm happy to say they complied.

So now I just need to get a show booked, but the timing couldn't be worse. With holidays fast approaching, I'm thinking that any CD release party needs to be after the first of the new year. I'll keep y'all posted.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

So far so good

Hanging out at the hospital with Marci and Riley. Had a great day today. I got here about 1:30 or so and what do I see? Riley cruising down the halls with Marci and a friend. He's been Mr. Peppy today, pretty much back to normal.

He had a swallow study done this afternoon where we were able to see an X-ray view of him eating and swallowing. It was pretty neat to see, but unfortunately he's still aspirating (liquids and food going into his airway instead of all the way down his throat). At this point, we're not sure what we'll do, but the specialists were saying he may need a tube in his nose to throat for liquid intake. Great.

Haley has been a super trooper this whole time. I feel bad sticking her with Nana and Papa only, but she's been handling it well and she may earn a big-time treat when we all get home.

Marci has been a super duper trooper this whole time. She's been at Rye's side non-stop. She's had one shower in 4 days. She's probably slept less than 10 hours the past 2 nights. And through it all, she's been strong, inquisitive, patient and compassionate. I know I couldn't do it.

Work has been pretty good. It's been busy, but we've been doing some house cleaning and organizing. Through it all, Ed and Rich have been studs and I am grateful for that. It's nice to be able to trust my co-workers again.

I have a lot to be thankful for these days. The relief I felt yesterday after surgery was palpable. I had no idea how stressed I was until after the surgery. And now to see Rye pretty much back to normal mentally (and seemingly almost physically) is pretty incredible. I mean, this kid had BRAIN SURGERY just over 48 hours ago and it just seems like he's got a cold or something.

People are always saying how resilient kids are and I guess it's really true.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Riley's Surgery

Crossposted from Riley's blog:

Marci and Rye are still at the hospital, hopefully resting well. I just got home with Haley and she is hopefully asleep too.

Man. What a day! Whew!

Marci, Rye and I started the day at 5. Well, Marci and I did. Rye woke himself up around 5:30 and we were out the door by 5:50 or so. It was miserable out. Rainy, windy and darn cold. We made the drive to Children's and got down to business.

After checking in, we waited in the surgery waiting area for a few minutes. Talk about depressing. The room is fairly large and there were, at 6:30 in the morning, no less than 10 families waiting there. Waiting for what? Surgery. For their kids. How lousy is that?

We got called back and taken into a pre-surgery room. Riley was his hyper and goofy self. I asked if he was scared at all and he said no. All this time, I've avoided using the word "scared", not wanting to color his perception of the surgery. I asked him why he wasn't scared. He said because he already knew everything. I guess if you know it all, there's nothing to be afraid of!

A bunch of nurses, anesthesiologists, doctors and surgeons came by to visit. They asked us questions (does he wear contact lenses or glasses? !!), they asked if we had any questions. They gave Rye a drug (Versed?) which was supposed to calm him down. Someone brought in a pink Nintendo DS labeled ROCKET SLIME and let Rye play with it. The combination of the two had him on one mellow cloud. He became a floppy little dude and when it was time for him to go, Dr. Jim the anesthesiologist took him without a fight. And that was it. He was gone. Marci and I held each other for a few moments and shared a few tears. After 2 years of searching, our little boy was finally off to get some answers.

Marci and I went to get a bite to eat. A couple of our friends, Felicia and Rich, were planning to join us at the hospital for moral support. I tell you, I could've used them at breakfast time. They could've brought some edible food! But I digress.

After a lousy meal, Felicia showed up. Her and Marci and I chatted a bit and hung out. Rich was nowhere to be found. Finally, an hour later, he showed up. Thanks to the power of his iPhone maps, he ended up at Children's Hospital's admin offices in downtown Seattle. Oops. Once we were all rounded up, we headed to the family hang-out area to relax, talk and update.

We did receive pages throughout the morning with updates to Riley's condition. Basically this old school black clip on pager would wail loudly, indicating that we needed to call the ICU desk, which would then patch us through to the OR. They told us that they had Riley pinned down, that they started the micro surgery, things like that. We got a call later saying that some woman wanted to talk to us about the video we'd shot yesterday and the video being shot currently of the surgery.

We met her downstairs and she just kept talking and talking. She was the head or some VIP of the Chiari Syringomyelia Foundation (CSF), the group that was going to use Rye's video for education and information for people researching Chiari. I thought she was going to talk about consent, etc, but she was there kind of pushing her cause. She gave us good info, but it was a little too sales-pitchy for me, so I tuned her out. Finally, Rich and I headed out and went to chat.

I was also updating Facebook, this blog, as well as my thread at Gaming Trend all this time. I had my trusty little Blackberry with me and was plugging away with updates. I kind of know how a smoker feels now. The hospital is a cell dead zone and in order to post or email, I had to go outside. So every 45 minutes or so, I hoofed it outside to do just that. If I did smoke, I guess I'd be multitasking out there.

We got a page around 11 or so saying that Riley's microsurgery (the actual work on the brain) had begun. About an hour later, we got a page indicating that Dr. E wanted to speak to us. We hoofed it over to the ICU area and waited. My imagination started goofing off again and I started to expect Dr. E to come around the corner with a defeated look on his face and bad news for us. Before I completely freaked out, he came and told us surgery was done and it went as perfect as it could have.

Sweet relief!

He said Rye hardly lost any blood (a thimble-full), that the extent of his Chiari was "impressive" and that he was able to do exactly what he needed to do. He showed us a few snips of video that was shot from the microscope's vantage point. It was pretty fascinating. The hole in Rye's head looked to be about as big around as a Yoplait yogurt cup. We got to see his brain (looked like crabmeat), as well as his cerebral tonsils "shrink" as Dr. E moved them back away from the spinal cord. Incredible stuff.

After talking with Dr. E privately, we did it again for the cameras. It'll be interesting to see just how photogenic we are after stressing for 5 hours and having gotten up at 5 in the morning. I hope to have a DVD soon so we can put some up for everyone to see.

From there ,we had some lunch. Riley was still out and had to have a follow-up CT scan to check for any blood clots. After that, he'd be put in the ICU where he'd come up from the anesthesia. So it was back to the cafeteria for more fun and games.

About a half hour into eating, we got a page saying Rye was up. Marci hoofed it to his room, a little nervous because she'd promised him that she'd be there when he woke. When we got there (pretty much the exact farthest point in the hospital from the cafeteria), he was moaning and sobbing for Marci. It was pretty sad and emotional. I saw him in his bed, shirtless, then I saw his scars on the back of his head. He had a half-reverse mohawk from the base of his neck, up the back of his head. He had two 2" long vertical scars and, in all, looked pretty gnarly.

I held it together pretty well until I started telling him how proud I was of him and that there were so many people offering their thoughts, prayers and well-wishes. It's amazing how one little dude can have so many people (strangers, even!) pulling for him.

Marci held Rye for a while. He was tied up with cords and tubes and a catheter (!) and it was a chore, but she did it. He eventually calmed down and faded in and out. I was so excited to see him and really marveling in the fact that over the past 6 hours or so, someone performed brain surgery on him, yet here he was, even better than he was then. Incredible!

Over the rest of the day and night, we had Rich and Felicia there, then Haley, Ted and Judy showed up later. Haley got a little weird when she saw Rye's scars, but she was cool with him later, as long as his scars were hidden. She gave him a card she wrote at school and I just about lost it when I read that Haley wrote "Riley, I miss you" to him. Rye got to talk a little and I'm happy to report that the same little dude is there under all the wires and hoarse voice. Poor guy didn't eat anything all day, and only had a little apple juice in the early evening.

So for the next few nights and days, Riley and Marci will be staying at the hospital. He should be getting out of the ICU and into standard recovery by tomorrow (pending tonight's stay), and, with any luck, will be home by Saturday (my estimation, crossing fingers!).

Later tonight, Knight and Shannon stopped by. We were able to take Shannon in, but poor Knight not only couldn't come in, but had to wear a germ mask as he's been getting over a case of the flu. Shannon came bearing gifts. She brought a DS! Not sure if she knew or if it was coincidental, but we asked if Riley wanted a gift and he lit up as much as he could. She gave it to him, unwrapped, and he gave a nice little smile. You could tell he was super happy about it even though he couldn't really show it.

Overall, it was a scary, exhausting, funny, relieving day. I am beyond relieved that my little dude made it through surgery with flying colors. I'm so happy about the potential he has to improve. And I cannot wait to have a root beer with him. That's the promise I made him way back when, that when he got all better, he and I were gonna have root beers to celebrate. That'll be a good day.

Running Blog at Riley's Blog

If you're interested, there's a blow by blow of my day at Riley's blog. http://rileychiari.blogspot.com

And, he's off!

We just sent Rye off to surgery. Note to self: get Riley a Nintendo DS soon. That thin worked better than any anesthetic could. More later. No reception in hospit and it's freakin cold out here!

Monday, November 03, 2008

What a day

I got into work today and a guy who was on a 1.5 week vacation came up to me with a letter. This just 2 days after another guy came up to me with a letter. That guy quit. And guess what? So did this guy.

Super!

After Friday, I wasn't feeling too bad. This guy that quit had been with us for 17 years and, frankly, it was time for him to go. He was supposed to sell for us, but wasn't doing much of that. Not much of a team player also, so, he kind of did us a favor by stepping down. I figured the other two guys would be happy about the increased workload and was all ready to talk about it this morning when I got blindsided.

Though blindsided may be to strong a word. I thought Guy #2 might have something up his sleeve. I just didn't trust the guy but he was a strong producer for me. When he told me he wanted to take 1.5 weeks off, I figured he might be shopping around.

After he gave me the letter, before opening it, I asked if he was walking too. He confirmed it, then I read his letter. I was a little stunned, to say the least. Not so much that he was walking but because of the lousy timing of the whole thing. Both these guys knew that Riley was having surgery this week. But instead of doing something decent and giving me two weeks notice, both guys wanted their resignations effective immediately.

Now if there were no surgery happening, I'd have been better with it. The trouble now isn't a question of doing the work. We can do the work. It's a manpower issue. With me in and out, I have essentially 2 people in the office. That makes things tricky. But, we can make it happen. I'm sure of it. It'll be a little rough at first, but once Rye gets home and I can spend more time away from home, we'll be in good shape.

So, after that debacle, I had to go to Children's Hospital with Marci and Riley (and Judy?!?) to meet with the doctors and get Rye a CT scan. Long story short is that Riley has a nice thick skull, all the better for screws to bite into to hold him still. And the doctor told us what he plans on doing. Unfortunately it involves Riley and his skull and a little part of his brain.

After that, I had to go back to work and do some damage control for the remaining troops. I realized in all the drama, I never told the guys that I had no plans to shut down and that we'd be soldiering on. So I did, and that seemed to make them feel a little better.

At home tonight, Mom came over for a Riley's special dinner. When I got home, Marci pulled me aside and said Mom was crying. I guess she was having a sad day for some reason. Haley was sobbing too so I grabbed her and then we had a little sob fest; I was a little emotional as well, thanks to the day's events, as well as Riley's thing and even a little missing of Dad in there. I kind of felt like I needed a good cry. Even though I didn't get one, it was nice to let my guard down a little.

I'm feeling like I kinda need to hold it together for everyone. Marci has a big task ahead of her. Though Riley is our son, she is his advocate and will be his voice at the hospital. She's had a lot of stress lately and her body is starting to feel the effects of it. Anything I can do to help her is good, and it starts with holding it together.

But it's tough.

*pity party alert*

After the last 2 months I've had, well, I hope you understand.

*pity party over*

So, it's on like Donkey Kong tomorrow. I'll be posting here and at Riley's blog off and on. If you're the praying type, say a prayer for us. If you'd rather be voting, well, vote wisely. Me? I'll be hanging out at Children's Hospital, keeping an eye on my family.

This is fantastic

Someone else just quit on me.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

More heavy stuff

According to Riley's countdown timer, we have 1 day and 12 hours left until his surgery. In other words, the day after tomorrow. Here's something I wrote at Gaming Trend, a website I frequent. When Dad died, I wrote there a lot and they were great for me. Some of what follows is redundant, but not everything I write here goes there and vice versa.
My son Riley is 4. In the past 4 years, he's grown from a needy little mama's boy into a, well, needy little mama's boy (in a good way). He and I have had epic battles, as evidenced by a thread on this very site. Over the past year or so, though, he has matured quite a bit. The epic battles are, thankfully, a thing of the past and he and I get along quite well now.

Back then, we didn't think anything of his behavior, other than, WTF? He wouldn't sleep well at night, he talked funny, he made a mess at meals, and he seemed to march to the beat of his own drummer. The thing was, we just figured he was what he was and would grow up to be fine.

Certain things he did were weird, however. As his teeth grew in, he drooled, of course. After his teeth all came in, he continued to drool. No big deal, right? He'd grow out of it, right? Not really. We had him checked out and the doctors concluded that his tonsils were too big and limiting his swallowing abilities, so the tonsils were removed. That seemed to help things along; he was swallowing better, but still having issues. Further studies indicated he was having issues with liquids. He'd silently aspirate (the liquid would get caught in his throat {think frog in throat}) and after time, he'd possibly get an infection. The doctors recommended us mixing anything he'd drink with something called Simply Thick, a gel-like substance that would thicken his drinks. As a result, anywhere we go we have to carry around a sippy cup of drink mixed with ST. It's a pain, but it's what we do.

Rye also had trouble with things like going down stairs. Coming up was no problem. To go down, he could walk, but it'd be both feet on each step at a time. At age 4 now, it's the same. He can go one foot at a time, but it's awkward and slow. He has trouble with fine motor motions, things like scissors or writing utensils or eating are usable/doable, but not as adeptly as a 4yo should.

With all these issues, the doctors kept telling us he'd grow out of it. That after time, he'd be "normal" and we'd be fine. Well, my wife kept on it and going to different specialists and therapists. After one appointment, we were recommended to get Riley an MRI. The ENTs and swallowing specialists were getting us nowhere and with all the medical issues (aspirating, numerous sinus/ear infections, etc) and life issues (inability to simply drink from a water fountain, difficulty eating neatly, etc), we wanted to find out just was was affecting Riley.

In early June, we had an MRI done. A few days later, the pediatrician called and told us Riley had something called Chiari Malformation. We found out on a road trip down to California and I wrote about it in more detail here. Anyway, what Chiari means, in a nutshell, is that Riley's brain is too big for his head. The neurosurgeon we've consulted with said it's like having a size 10 foot in a size 9 shoe.

Some symptoms of Chiari include loss of fine motor skills (check), difficulty swallowing (check), frequent gagging and choking (check), among other things. Riley's brain is blocking the flow of cerebro-spinal fluid from the brain to the body. As a result, he's had syrinxes (cysts) form around his spine, which may or may not be pressing on certain areas that are causing his symptoms. You mess with the spine, you're going to affect other parts of your body.

In meeting with the neurosurgeon, he said that though the Chiari wasn't life threatening, it could potentially impact us dramatically. He said that Rye would be in a wheelchair if we didn't do something about it. Riley has 5 syrinxes along his spine and they will not dissipate unless we're able to improve the flow of his CSF. The doctor said Riley's case of CM was pretty severe, so, after deliberation, we decided to proceed with the surgery.

The past few months have consisted of us keeping a close eye on Rye. We've had to keep him from doing anything tumbling-related. We've had to make sure he's not bonking his head on anything. That hasn't been too hard, but it got hard when he'd complain that he could'nt do anything (Haley would go to gymnastics and Rye could only watch). We keep telling ourselves that this is a bump in the road and that in 6 months, he'll be healed up and working on the skills he should have if he didn't have CM.

Nevertheless, the thought of my little dude having brain surgery is a little unnerving. Obviously there are risks. Death, paralysis, other unmentionables. But we're looking at the big picture. His quality of life will improve. He'll be able to just "be". Luckily, he's pretty clueless about the situation; he's lived it his whole life, after all. He knows of surgery, he knows he's going to the hospital. He knows he has issues, but he's had such a great attitude about it all.

Haley's a little stressed as well, we think. First with her grandfather's death, then school starting and now her brother's surgery, well, she's kind of a mess at times. It's so hard to be patient with her when she's being bratty, but it's just something I need to work on.

Marci, my wife, has been driving herself to the point of her back almost going out. She's been spraying Lysol all over the house (we have to keep Riley from getting sick, otherwise they'll postpone the surgery), taking him to all his appointments, etc. She's keeping it together, but it's been tough.

The in-laws are coming in today for a few weeks to help while Marci and I are at the hospital. They'll keep an eye on Haley and just be here for moral support. Riley will be in the hospital for about a week. He'll be in the ICU for 2 days or so, then a few days more in recovery. After that, it's back home where our duty is to keep him as still as possible. We're gonna inundate him with TV, movies and, of course, video games!

Through it all, I've been doing ok. No meltdowns or anything, though this weekend, I've been a little short of patience. It has been a tough week, in my defense. My work is slow; this economy, cliche as it may seem, is really affecting it (sales). On Friday, one of my employees resigned. Not a total surprise, but still a shock. As some of you know, my dad died in September and though the shock and grief of that have passed, it's still on my mind a lot and quite a bummer. Add in that the in-laws will be here and that my m-i-l wants to horn in on our pre-surgery appointment (WTF) on Monday, and, well, there's a little stress.

Things could be worse, I suppose, but still, one never wants to take a kid to surgery. I'm confident everything will be fine, but man, brain surgery? That in and of itself is enough to freak anyone out.

Anyway, if you can, keep us in your thoughts. You guys were a great help when Dad passed away, in terms of helping me get through it. I don't think this will be as dramatic, but it's no less stressful and any support or humor or both you can lend me will be appreciated.
It's funny. When Ted and Judy arrived tonight, the kids went nuts. They were super excited to see their grandparents. It wasn't until a little later that I saw Rye and Ted goofing around and I started to get a little misty-eyed. It was so great to see Rye with his grandpa, but so sad at the same time.

Also, I cut all of Riley's hair off tonight, just before T&J arrived. Shaved him down with a #2 all around. Luckily he's a handsome little dude, so the high n tight doesn't look bad on him. On me, I look like a black q-tip. It's lame. But it was almost emotional for me to shave his head. Made Tuesday that much more concrete for me. I took some pictures, but they're on Marci's computer. I'll have to upload them later.

I also busted out the video camera for the first time since Rye's birthday. Shot maybe 20 minutes of video today, just goofing around, things like that. I know that this surgery isn't going to affect his personality or who he is, but, until I see that little dude back to normal in a few weeks, I'm not going to take it for granted.

One last thing: I'm not one to complain (usually), but what's with the drama the past 2 months? First Dad, then this horrible economy, which is really affecting work, then Riley's surgery and someone resigning from work on Friday? Can a brother get a break sometime? Add in Marci's recent mystery allergies and her back going out, plus Haley's daily drama about something and it's a wonder I haven't ran for the hills yet. Thank goodness for good ganja.

Just kidding. I wouldn't know how to smoke it if you gave me a joint and a lighter.

That's it for now. I gotta finish up before the in-laws head downstairs to their temporary home for the next few weeks. I'll probably be posting here and at Riley's Blog as well, so forgive me for duplicates. In the meantime, hug your kids and keep Riley in your thoughts.

After the haircut