A writer's tale of living and working in the country.

Month: May 2012

Sticks and Stones

Is there a particular number that pops up on your cell phone that you hesitate to pick up? A number that always bears bad news? One that will undoubtedly ruin a perfectly good day? 
That’s my dreaded number. The horribleness of it is compounded by the fact that I only get four numbers as opposed to the full ten. Who belongs to this short set of digits?
The school nurse.
For me, this number is one I really don’t want to answer, but I know I must.
After this number comes up on my screen I usually throw my head back and sigh, then close my eyes and answer, “Hello?”
The sweet voice on the other end of the line always says, “Is this Mrs. Hopper?”
The nurse then always proceeds to fill in the name of the child and explain which illness is about to ruin my week. But not last week. Last week I got the absolute worst news that a school nurse can deliver. “Ian is in the office. He fell off the monkey bars and his arm is very swollen. He can’t move it and I believe it’s broken.”
My first thought is to call Andy. But then I remember that he is soaring 30,000 feet over the western states on his way to a week-long business trip. So I inform the nurse that I am on my way and I put a call into the Pediatrician. The doctor can see him right away and I push my old truck a little over the speed limit. The nurse calls me twice in the ten minute drive asking if I am almost there- that seals my fear that it must be bad.
I park in the fire lane (don’t judge) and run inside the school office to see the tear-swollen face of my kindergartner. His arm is laying awkwardly on a clipboard and even from across the room it looks…wrong. The kind of wrong that makes you nauseous and search for something else, anything else, to look at.
It takes almost ten minutes to get him to the truck. Every step causes the board under his arm to giggle and pain to shoot through my child. Getting him into the car takes another five minutes. Driving to the doctor’s office is slow and painful. Getting him into the office takes yet another five minutes.
I think you get the picture.
The doctor sends us to an outpatient clinic for x-rays and then we go back to the office to wait for a radiology report- at lunch time.
An hour later, the doctor comes in with the news. A severe wrist break that may require surgery. That is the good news. The bad news? No Orthopedic Surgeon in our small town will touch a break that bad on a kid that small. The nearest children’s hospital?
An hour away.
Now comes the panic. I still have two other kids. At school. And my sixth grader has a mandatory band concert at 7 pm. It’s now 2:30 pm and even after we get seen in the ER at the hospital an hour away, they are talking surgery. We will never make it back in time if we even get to come home tonight.
I’m staring at Ian and he is playing a DS one-handed, using his legs to steady the device on his lap. My cell phone vibrates with a text from my dad, I have no calls today, do you need help?  
Freak yes.
Gratefully, we hit very little traffic and are seen immediately at the ER. I walk quietly beside my little boy and listen as nurses talk to him.
“Do you want a wheel chair?”
Ian rolls his eyes. “I broke my arm, not my legs.”
And my personal favorite conversation that takes place when a pushy ER doctor engages my son who has spent six and a half hours with a broken arm and no pain meds. “Can you move your fingers straight out?”
At this point, the doctor seems to believe Ian is not being completely honest so he grabs a hold of his hand and wrenches his small fingers straight out.
“OWWW! My arm is broken!” Ian frantically points from his wrist to his fingers. “They are connected!”
With hands raised in surrender,the ER doctor arranges for us to be sent to surgical prep. A great Orthopedic PA comes in and explains that while they do not have to do surgery, Ian has to be put under anesthesia while they manipulate the bones back into place.
The nurses put in an IV and pump Ian full of Morphine, but the fun starts when the surgical team gives him something they call “giggle juice.” Within seconds of that magical liquid entering my child’s body, he begins laughing uncontrollably. They roll him into surgery and I can hear him laughing all the way down the hall.
Twenty minutes later I am standing in the recovery ward staring down at my small child in a big hospital bed. I’ve endured recovery myself, and I have stood beside several adults in recovery. Ian is a whole other can-of-crazy. His memory resets every three minutes. He lays with his head on the pillow, eyes closed, then jumps up, tries to shake away the dizziness and asks, “Where am I?”
“You broke your arm. You are in the hospital.”
He lays his head back down and closes his eyes. Three minutes later- we start all over again. Thankfully this game only lasts an hour. Ian is eventually released and we make our way back home, pulling into the garage exactly twelve hours after he fell off the monkey bars.
The kid has been a trooper. He can’t go outside- it’s hot and his arm will sweat under the cast. The cast goes almost up to his shoulder so he has no use of his arm, but he refuses to let us help him with anything. He has even learned how to play Wii one-handed.
At the most recent recheck at the hospital, I watched with amusement as Ian and another little boy caught each other’s eye across a crowded lobby. Like mirrored souls, they waved at each other with matching arm casts at exactly the same time. At that moment, something an ER nurse said suddenly popped into my mind:

Sticks and stones may break your bones, 
but trampolines and monkey bars always will.

No, Ian did not turn invisible from all the X-rays, he just got a smaller waterproof cast!

**Special thanks to the following people who made sure I did not lose my mind on the day above: Melissa Beard- the school nurse, Mr. Sorg- the principal, Dr. August, the x-ray tech in Decatur, Angie- my sister-in-law and nieces who sat beside us in the hospital, everyone who called and made sure we were OK, and lastly my parents without whom I would have pulled out every hair on my head:)

A Bayou State of Mind

Louisiana seems to have put a spell on us. We are pretty normal, logical people…stop laughing… but every time a crazy-spur-of-the-moment adventure presents itself it’s beckoning us to the Bayou State.
Take the purchase of the Mystery Machine. Sure there were conversion vans to be had in the Metroplex or even the state of Texas. But New Orleans offered us a deal we couldn’t refuse, even with the one-way airfare and the 9 hour drive back. That trip barely qualified as spontaneous- we had 3 days to plan.
The plan-time for the most recent trip to the land of Blues?
One. Hour.
We’d been half-heatedly searching for a rescue puppy to bring home to help ease Missy’s sadness at loosing Jessie. After happening upon a Craigslist Ad for a half Catahoula/ half Hanging Tree Dog, we contacted the owner and made arrangements to pick up one of her remaining puppies.
Now we had been praying for a dog that would be perfectly matched to our unusual pet requirements: brave, able to free-roam the acreage, not a small puppy (cause those tend to get taken by either hawks or coyotes), and male.
I texted for the pickup address on Saturday morning and was plugging it into the GPS until I got to the very last part: LA.
LA as in Louisiana?!
We were so upset. There was no way we could or should drive 12 hours to pick up a puppy that was 1.) only 7 weeks old and 2.) a female.
This tidbit of an animal did not meet the requirements.
But we couldn’t get her off our minds- the little ball of fur looking back at us from our cell phone screen.
Then it started to rain. For those of you who know my husband, you know he hates idleness. Rain= idleness on the farm. Or impromptu building projects…
So imagine my surprise when he uttered, “Let’s just go get her.”
Her as in the female puppy? In another state? Six hours away?
“But we would have to stay in a hotel and get her in the morning.”
“We have all those free Hilton points…”
So an hour later we were attempting to free ourselves of the perpetual Dallas traffic on our way to the land of alligators and crawfish. We spent the next six hours in the Mystery Machine and landed late at night at a hotel. Early the next morning we met the lady halfway to pick-up the dog. As we walked up to the truck we could see four little ears poking up from the back seat. The lady had brought the puppy intended for us AND the remaining puppy from the litter.
The woman explained that she thought we may actually prefer the other puppy, a female that was more of a “go-getter”. We spent five minutes with the two puppies and picked the one she suggested. So our plans for a 6-month-old male were thrown out the window when we fell for a 7-week-old female.
We named her Luna (for Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter) and let her sit in the backseat of the van with Ian. She immediately put her head on Ian’s leg and every time he tried to move, she would place her paw on his leg and pull it back, then lay her head back down.
The little blue-eyed squirt is the the bravest dog, besides Missy, that I have ever seen. She already comes when we call her, she is able to be left alone outside for small periods of time, stays close to the house, and my favorite- she barks in the face of a 100-pound neighbor dog like she’s not to be messed with.
And he listens.  

Luna at 8 weeks old.

Communing with Nature

Communing with nature used to mean hiking 2 miles up hill both ways, as the only girl on a male-filled camping trip, to find something that resembled a toilet.
Now it means stirring my iced coffee on the porch swing and watching barn swallows fight over who is going to sit on the eggs.
Ah. The good life.
The porches have been filled with caterpillars and the siding has been playing host to dozens of chrysalises. I love to identify the little squigglers as they race across the wooden boards. In fact, I would much rather spend my time allowing caterpillars to climb my arms than do dishes.
So I do.
I have been able to identify and watch both Mourning Cloaks and Tiger Moths emerge this Spring. Soon to come? The Painted Ladies and Monarchs! The toads are just starting to appear around the house and the mornings are heralded by the gobble-gobbles of wild turkeys.
A few mornings ago, Andy was drinking his coffee on the back porch when one such Thanksgiving delicacy took a stroll on our driveway. He raced into the house to get his hunting rifle only to skid to a stop in the kitchen and smack himself on the forehead shouting, “I don’t have a turkey license!”
Boy was he grumpy after that light-bulb moment.  
He sprawled on the outdoor couch and mumbled incoherently to himself for the next 30 minutes as the turkey paraded just below him- seemingly aware that he could not be touched.
Thankfully I have not found any more dead rabbits in the refrigerator, but that may be due to the boys and I warning every naive rabbit we see hopping along not to get too close.

Mourning Cloak emerging from chrysalis.
Another Mourning Cloak chrysalis.
Ian with Woolly Bear caterpillar.
If you look past the pool to the trees, you can see the turkey on his stroll.