Thursday, January 30, 2020

Old Man Bennett had a farm...

Hi! Remember us? 
I can't believe it's been almost a year since I last blogged!

SO much has changed in our neck of the woods...most notably, our neck of the woods!

We moved from our very urban home a stone's through from Los Angeles International Airport to a very rural town in North San Diego County. 

More space, less people, slower pace of life, 

We moved on December 23rd. 
Yes, 2 days before Christmas.
Because where's the fun in going through a hellish experience like moving if you can't do it during an already ridiculously stressful and busy time of the year? 
As I always say, if there's a hard way to do something, the Bennetts will find it. 

But I digress. The important thing is that we did it - and even got a Christmas tree! Grabbed it from Lowe's at 6pm on Christmas Eve!
You now when you're out on Christmas Eve and you see some poor dude driving around with a Christmas tree on his roof and get all judgy and think to yourself "seriously, dude? It's Christmas Eve. I mean, why even bother at this point?" Oh wait, right. Me neither.

So we moved. 
And we've been settling in, working toward our dream of a slower pace of life. 

Allie, our resident 10 year old sweet rescue kitty caught a mouse less than a week after we moved in.
In our living room.
So we set out to get a barn kitty, to help with rodent control.
Except that we got a really adorable 4 week old kitten.
One who was supposed to stay in the cardboard box for a bit.
But ended up in our bed night 1. 
And almost every night since.
I mean, how cute is she??? Her name is Bootsie and she is adorable, and ornery, and just SO.LOVABLE. 

So clearly we need to get ourselves another barn kitty. Because this one's obviously an inside cat. Or maybe we need to get a mean feral cat who won't let us touch it? We're discussing it.

Next, we added 4 little week and a half old chicks. 

I can't ever remember their names. The kids named them and they're all some variation of Stars Wars characters with chicken themes. Like "Luke SunWalker" and "Obi-chick-nobe." That kind of thing. 

So they pretty much chirp and poop. And spill their food and water everywhere. 
And try to escape the box they're in.

The two most egregious escape artists. And they have no shame about it.
Maxi and Bootsie don't understand why we don't let them be in the room with the chickens. Maxi just wants to be their friends. Bootsie just wants to eat them for dinner (and isn't even pretending she's not thinking that.)
Can't wait to have a coop built and them to be old enough to be outside! And laying eggs. Or maybe just strutting around. Because we might have ended up with 5 roosters. Or 5 hens. It's anybody's guess. We won't know until they start laying eggs...or starting fights. We're really hoping for the former? 

Goats are coming at some point. 

In the meantime, Allie and Maxi are adjusting. They LOVE Bootsie. Maxi just wants to play with her all day - and Allie wants to clean her. And they all play together really well. We're super lucky!
Maxi is loving being a country dog and just adores running wherever we let him on our 2 acre property. He gleefully realized yesterday that not only is he allowed to dig now, but we want him to go get those gophers! He is having the time of his life digging and running. 

Kiddos are doing well with the adjustment. We were still going up to LA weekly to finish their classes up there, but that ended last week. So now, they're down in San Diego fulltime. 

Sierra is growing LIKE A WEED. I mean, seriously, this kid. Won't be 13 until April, and is already 5'7.5"!!! She's grown an inch and a half in the last month alone! I'm still holding out for the last few inches I have on her (I'm, 5'10") - but she's getting dangerously close for my comfort! She had a hard time with the move at first (she had so many friends she was sad to leave behind), but seems to be hitting her stride now and starting to really like it down here.  We're so proud of how she's branching out to meet other kiddos here. 

And Bodie is growing and holding his own, cardiac wise. We saw his heart failure team in December and his electrophysiologist last week. He continues to have a low BNP (measure of heart inflammation) and his function continues to improve, even if only slightly. He's doing so much better than we ever could have hoped 3 years into heart failure, and for that we are so very blessed! At his last appointment, he was riding his pacemaker 85% of the time, which is fantastic. He continues to have his care managed by his team at CHLA, with appointments every 6 months (and followups with the Stanford transplant and heart failure team annually). He loves San Diego and is already making friends. 

We're still homeschooling and enjoying watching the kids learn and grow. 
(Bodie has decided multiplication and division are pretty cool when you can use poker chips!)

(Yes, Bodie's protective eye glasses are helpfully sitting ON TOP of his head as Sierra prepares to light carbon bubbles on fire inches from his (now completely unprotected) eyes. At least his hair won't catch fire?). 

If you find yourself in North San Diego County, come visit us! We're about an hour or so south of Temecula, have wineries close by and have lots of space for guests! 
At some point I'll post pics of our new digs, but for now, I'll leave you with this. This is the view out our master bedroom window. Almost every night. 

We love our home. We love our town. Many times since the move I have stop to looked around and think to myself "How did we get so lucky to get to move here???" 

We are feeling so very, very blessed. 


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

And puppy makes FIVE...

Bodie has been begging for a dog for a couple of years now. Actually, full out campaigning is more like it. He wanted one more than anything in the whole world. We held off, mostly because our life has so many moving parts and so much uncertainty already that we just couldn't justify adding another living being to our chaos. But a couple weeks before Christmas, I really started feeling the pull for a dog, feeling in my heart like the time was right. A day or so after I started feeling it, Dusk came home from work and told me he had been feeling like it was time. Clearly, God was moving both of our hearts in the same direction. Kinda futile to keep resisting at that point. ;-)

We managed to keep it a secret from Bodie until Christmas, where we gave him a box with a bone and leash in it. If you have a tissue handy, you need to watch this video - especially starting around the 45 second mark, where it all starts to come together. 
(If you're having trouble viewing the video, the link can be found here)
It was worth every second of keeping it a secret!

Once we got back to LA after Christmas, we started looking in earnest, hitting up many of the local shelters. Nothing felt quite right and we were feeling fairly discouraged. And then, we happened to find the most amazing little guy on Craigslist, of all places! 

A wonderful woman had a change in her life circumstance and needed to rehome her year and a half old Corgi Mix. The kids and I went down to "just to meet" him, and fell in love instantly. We walked back in the door a few hours later with the newest member of our family (and all of his belongings that his former owner graciously gave to us as well!).

Meet Maxi.

(I'm campaigning to change his name to something a touch more masculine, but Bodie appears to be sticking with the name his former owner gave him, so apparently, Maxi it is.)

He officially joined the Bennett clan on January 3rd.

Not exactly a "puppy" (he'll be 2 in March), but I'll be darned if we didn't end up with a dog that will forever look like a puppy! At around 20lbs, he's fully grown and the cutest thing EVER. We're not 100% sure what he's mixed with, but we're guessing Chihuaha. 

He is obsessed with me. We laugh that we got Bodie a puppy, but somehow Maxi didn't get the message and thought we got ME a puppy.
But there could be worse things. Maybe I needed someone to think I hung the moon, since I don't exactly get a lot of daily positive feedback on the whole homeschooling gig. ;-) 

But he loves everyone (ok, LOVES LOVES LOVES the kids and I, and is getting there with Dusk - but always picks him to snuggle with first in the morning), and is really bonding more and more with Bodie, which we LOVE seeing.

He goes to bed with Bodie, and oftentimes falls asleep with his head right next to Bodie, sharing his pillow.

He LOVES to dive under the covers and snuggle up any chance he gets - and smothers you with kisses the second you walk in the door (even if you just went out to the car to get your cell phone charger).

He lives for treats and is such a quick learner. The kids have already taught him to sit, stay, shake, dance on his hind legs, turn around on his hind legs, and give hugs. Bodie is having a blast.

He and the cat are getting along - more or less. He chases her. She screams. And then comes back for more. And then she hits him in the face over and over and gets mad if he walks away while she is "playing" with him. I stopped defending her some time ago, once I realized she's actually enjoying it!
He LOVES to be with us, wherever we are - on walks, snuggled up on the couch, exploring in the backyard, playing ball and going on car trips (he's already been to both Palm Springs and the Central Coast). He is the silliest, sweetest dog ever.

He gets spooked, especially by men (not sure what that's about), but has finally stopped barking at Dusk in the middle of the night, so we're making progress. I predict that these two will be besties eventually. :-)
 He's settling in nicely, and we expect that nervousness to continue to diminish.
In the meantime, we are all falling in love with the sweetest addition to our family - and wondering how we got so lucky to get this little guy! 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A Birthday fit for a King

As hard as it is to believe, Bodie turned NINE yesterday (I know, right???)! 
We celebrated his birthday with a special dinner with BOTH sets of grandparents last night, and then a birthday bash today. Because he's Bodie, and he came out of the womb keeping me on my toes, and he's obsessed with King Tut and all things Egypt, he chose King Tut as his birthday theme.

Because, where's the fun in doing Lego or army dudes, or anything easy to find on the shelf at Party City - when you could ask mom for a PYRAMID CAKE and Egyptian decorations??? 

Thanks to the help of Dusk, my parents and inlaws, and Sierra and her sweet bestie Olivia, we managed to pull off a teensy bit epic + a whole lotta chaos birthday party with 17 of Bodie's closest friends. 

If you know Bodie, you know he's stubborn. So when he asked for a costume and I agreed to purchasing the headpiece only, he went right to work making his own costume. And the added makeup and gems were just the icing on the cake.  
He was so proud of his costume and he definitely owned his version of King Tut.

The pyramid cake was actually made out of Rice Krispy treats, cut to shape (thank you Grandma Jan!), covered in molding chocolate and then frosted. So fun!
Bodie had such a wonderful time with his family, friends, grandparents all the way from San Luis Obispo and Reno
and even his favorite teacher from Venice Lutheran, the beloved Mrs. Rehrer. 
We felt so blessed. 

Bodie, Daddy and I could not be prouder of you. This has been such a year of transition, as you navigated moving from a traditional school to homeschooling. I know it's not always easy. And I know that trying to navigate all of that while being in heart failure is just sometimes too much for you. But you're such a trooper and you keep trying. You're growing. You're learning. You're stretching yourself. And you're owning who you are and who you're becoming. Bodie, you are so special (not so special you can get out of chores, but yes, special) and so unique. Please don't ever forget that. We will always be here for you, to pray with you and for you, to shepherd you, to push you, to support you. We love you so much and are so grateful for you, buddy! 


Friday, October 19, 2018

Thoughts from 10,000 feet

Can I be honest for a minute here?
Homeschool is kicking my butt.
As in, constant chaos, and half the time I don't even know what day it is.

All 3 of us having ADHD doesn't make it easy. 
Some days, it's sort of like the blind leading the blind. 
Or more accurately
 "The easily distracted leading the more easily distracted. Oh look! A squirrel!" 

It's fun and we're all learning (at least I am - and I assume the kids are as well?), and nobody has killed each other yet (although that's not entirely from lack of effort on either child's fault - it's mostly my mad skills at breaking up fights). And I'm SO SO GLAD we're doing it.

But whew - the juggling of schoolwork and fieldtrips and client deliverables and work for Sisters by Heart, not to mention all the regular stuff of life and regular physical therapy to (hopefully) avoid back surgery for me - it's a lot! And most days, I don't quite have a handle on it. (Huge props to my fellow full-time working mamas - I don't know you do it all!)

But we're getting there. Bit by bit, we're figuring out how to live in our house allllll the time without making it look like it's lived in alllllll the time. And we're figuring out how to have fun while learning. I wouldn't say we've hit our groove quite yet, but I do feel like maybe I can see the groove right around the corner. So that's progress, right?

But that is all to say, I meant to post this update a few weeks ago, but well, everything, got in the way! So, I'm doing it from 10,000 feet in the air, en route to a cardiology conference in Chicago.

Bodie had appointments with his cardiologist and electrophysiologist in early October, and the results were better than we could have imagined. (and not just because he sat by himself for a blood draw for the first time EVER - and didn't even flinch!!!)

His heart function has improved!
I mean, let's not kid ourselves - it's not like normal function good, or even "normal for his half a heart before he went into heart failure good' - but better. A little bit better. His BNP (measure of inflammation from heart failure) dropped all the way to 9 (which is actually low for a healthy person, if you can believe it!). As his doctor told Bodie "your heart isn't dangerously sick anymore." It's still sick, but not nearly as sick as it was 2 years ago - and it's STILL continuing to improve! In fact, it has improved enough that his doctor dropped his middle of the day diuretics dose, leaving him with only needing medications 3 times a day!!!

On the rhythm side, we discovered that Bodie has been in atrial flutter pretty much since April. That means, for 5+ months, the top of his heart has been going at just below 200 to over 225 beats per minute! As far as we know, his ventricle was NOT going that fast, just his atrium. The reason we didn't catch it sooner is that he presented atypically. Think of flutter like a broken record - the heart is caught in a loop, on the same track. So you'll hear that track, but not the rest of the record. So, typically, you'll see not a large variation of rates (tracks), maybe 10%. But Bodie's variations were significantly more than that, going much lower and much higher. So we didn't realize it was flutter.

The good news is that his doctor was able to identify what it was and pace him out of it!

Here is the BEST news though. What we know about Bodie is that his body doesn't tolerate arrhythmias for long periods. He is ok with being in a faster heartrate about 50% of the time, as long as he is getting regular breaks from it. But when it lasts day in and day out with no break, we start to see behavior changes - he gets very easily frustrated with ANYTHING that doesn't go his way (as in, a zero frustration tolerance), very emotional, angry, very "triggery". just hard to deal with. Which makes sense, considering he's basically been on a constant adrenaline rush - none of us like that feeling. Well, he has been like that for months. And complaining off and on that he "felt yucky." But I didn't realize it was because he was in a near-constant arrhythmia (insert mommy guilt here).

Looking back, I am realizing I really noticed it starting last spring (probably April-ish - not so much of a coincidence), when he started complaining about how hard school was for him. Prior to that, he had been an excellent student. I talked regularly with his teachers, and we all decided that things just get harder in the latter part of 2nd grade, as more independent work is expected of the kids - and that was why he was struggling. And it totally seemed plausible.

Here's the thing with Bodie. He is such a complex kid. It's so hard to know at any given point what might cause a behavioral shift like that - is his heart failure worsening? Is all of the change (school closure, homeschool situation, etc.) just hard on a kid who needs routine? Is he not getting enough sleep? Is the undercurrent of stress running through our household too much for a kid who is very tuned into the emotions of those in his environment? Is he just hitting the wall that a lot of kids with heart defects ultimately hit in school, where we start to see the impact of years of oxygen deprivation on the processing speed of his brain? Or is he just being a defiant 8-year old and we need to push through it?

In short, we just don't know.
So we go one by one down the list until we figure it out.

In fact, the week before his appointment, I had him back at the therapist, for the first time in months, because I just didn't know how to help him.

As it turns out, I knew exactly how to help him.
I just didn't know I knew.
And his EP knew.
He paced him out of that flutter and by the next morning (really, by later that evening), Bodie was a different kid.

It's like we have our Bodie back.
He's still tempermental from time to time, because, well, he's Bodie. And he's human.
But it's nothing like it was.
It's manageable.
He's SWEET and WANTS to help.
And he's HAPPY again. And engaged. And just Bodie again.
It's been really quite unbelievable.

To say that we're grateful is an understatement.

I don't know how we (and he) got so lucky. But we will take it. Because we could use some good luck around these parts.

And thanks to the clean (well as clean as we're going to get) bill of health, we've gone full steam ahead with life!

Bodie started Jujitsu 2 weeks ago and is over the moon about it. LOVES it. (Mostly loves that he'll learn some cool moves to fight his sister, but hey, I'll take what I can get!).
And Sierra has been swimming and just started basketball (gotta use that 5'2" height for something, right?) She adores it - this girl may just have found her sport!

And we're fieldtripping like crazy.
Last month we did the Aquarium of the Pacific (in Long Beach).
Last week we did the Natural History Museum
(Bodie brought his beloved water buffalo stuffed animals to say hello to his beloved water buffalo buddies at the NHM).

And yesterday, we did the Santa Barbara Zoo.
What a sweet little zoo - it was empty and we had so much fun!

And Sierra just grew up. Like super fast.
How is that allowed?!?

So, as they say, full steam ahead.
Into the holidays.
Good thing that's not a busy time or anything.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Adventures in Homeschooling

We are officially one week into our homeschooling journey and it's been, well, interesting.

I have to admit, I've had some "what the heck was I thinking" moments - like that moment I realized my kids just put up with the math and grammar to get to the science and history. Which they clearly got from Dusk - I lived for English and Math. History? Not so much. And now I have to teach it? Ugh. Just ask my mom how much I "loved" social studies in elementary school.

And we've definitely had moments of sadness as we're seeing pictures of their friends starting at new schools. For Sierra in particular, it's hard as many of the kiddos in her classes landed at the same school. She really misses them. And I miss their moms, my mom tribe.

And Bodie and I have definitely butted heads. That kid is so much like me. SO MUCH. And there's definitely a learning curve to mom being your teacher.

But already, the blessings of homeschooling are becoming so evident to me. I keep having these aha moments where I am given 100% certainty that we made the right choice.

Like when the kiddos came home from their first day of enrichment academy. They LOVE it. As in, they don't want to leave at the end of the day and are over the moon at what they're learning. They are both developing a newfound love of math already, and are discovering there are multiple ways to learn things. Their eyes are definitely opened up and they're having a ball!

Moments like this morning, when we pulled out of our driveway to head to the enrichment academy. I looked to the left, at the insanely long line of cars waiting to turn left onto the main street by our house. The line we sat in 5 days a week for the last 6 years...and then I turned right. The traffic was light. Our drive was easy. We laughed. The pressure of the last 6 years is just...gone. It made me realize how much unnecessary stress we've added to our lives.  And it made me so hopeful that this year will be exactly what we, as a family, need.

And maybe my biggest aha moment came on Thursday. Bodie had appointments in the pulmonary clinic at CHLA - all went well, and he thought being "trapped" in the Pulmonary Function Test box was hilarious.
On our way up to the hospital, I told the kids if they finished the work they brought with them (math and science), we could go out to lunch on the way home. On the weird route Waze sent us on, we passed a random park that looked super cool. So we decided we would stop there, too. 

The kids finished their schoolwork while we were waiting for the doctor (most productive pulmonary appointment ever!). 
So we stopped by El Pollo Loco to grab some lunch to take to the park. 
(watching them grill the chicken totally counts as Home Ec, amiright???)

And then we stopped by that random park.
And we ended up staying for almost 2 hours. 
We wandered around, looking at all the different kinds of plants. We talked about the different kind of adaptations we saw.
And the kids climbed trees. 
And then climbed some more.
Guys, my kids never climb trees. We just don't have the time. 
But last week, they climbed trees for 2 hours. 
Homeschooling is helping my kids get some of their childhoods back. 
Childhoods that were taken due to illness, heart attacks, hospital stays, burglaries, housefires, and so many other things we couldn't prevent. 

But this, a moment to recapture parts of their childhood. 
This much we can do.