Monday, September 24, 2012

Treading Water

I have a whole list of things I want to write about - the first day of school, sending Campbell to kindergarten, Campbell's sixth birthday, Ella's recovery, our new neighborhood, how the laundry keeps escaping and threatening to take over the house - but I'm having a hard time putting my butt in the chair to write.

Most days, it's all I can do to make it until bedtime. Ella can't ride the bus because of her knee, so I spend a lot of time driving her back and forth. And I've had a spare kid home sick every day for weeks it seems.

So this week I'm hunkering down and getting caught up all the way around. Maybe then I'll be able to write.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Paging Dr. Tyson

Ever since Ella knew what astrophysics was, she has wanted to be an astrophysicist. Really. Her goal is to the be first person to walk on Mars. She spent weeks trying to convince me to let her have a lemonade stand to raise money for NASA. "How much lemonade do you think I'd need to sell?"

Ella's siblings groan every time it's her turn to pick a TV show because she usually opts for something like Nova Science Now or Through the Wormhole. Her favorite podcast is Star Talk by Neil deGrasse Tyson. She loves to spout off facts about planets and stars and string theory and 5th dimensions - stuff that's way over my head.

I have to admit that I have a slight crush on Dr. Tyson. I love how enthusiastic he is about being smart. He genuinely gets a kick out what he does. I've read his books and listened to his podcasts. And when I went to NYC for the marathon, I might have actually lurked outside the Hayden Planetarium in the hopes of seeing him.

Last spring, Ella started her own website, The Magnolia Post, and without my knowing it, she sent an official interview request to Dr. Tyson.

Hello Neal Tyson! My name is Ella Gardner, I am 11 years old and I have my own newspaper and online newspaper. I think it would be really neat if I could meet you, or do an online interview. By the way I think Star Talk is one of the greatest podcasts ever, and I did more research on dimensions and on string theory. I really hope that you will reply, but it is fine if you cannot, I understand that you are very busy. Thank you for considering my request, 

Ella Gardner
Head of The Magnolia Post
Future Astrophysicist

 It's a cute, completely appropriate e-mail from an 11-year-old. When she told me she'd sent it, I figured there was no way she would get any kind of response.

A few weeks later, as we were driving to dinner with friends, Ella was checking her e-mail on my phone and started yelling about how Dr. Tyson's office had replied and said he'd do an interview. I was sure that it was a nice form response and that Ella had misinterpreted it. When we got to dinner, I looked at the e-mail and was stunned.

Dear Ella,

Dr. Tyson is happy to do an interview with you.  What is the best time of day for you?
Will the interview be over the telephone or will you come to the museum?

Let me know and we can find a date that will work for both you and Dr. Tyson.


Elizabeth Stachow
Executive Assistant to Neil deGrasse Tyson
Director, Hayden Planetarium
American Museum of Natural  History
175-208 Central Park West @ 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192

It's a real response inviting Ella to do an interview with Dr. Tyson. I posted an excited announcement on FB and started planning our trip to New York City. Ella was so excited she was jumping up and down, which was tough to do since she was on crutches.

Ella and I both sent e-mails back to Ms. Stachow. Mine said that she had made an 11-year-old very happy and that if Dr. Tyson was actually willing to meet with Ella, we'd make the trip to NYC, just tell us when. Ella's e-mail  essentially said the same thing - "My mom said I could come to NYC to meet with Dr. Tyson."

And then we waited and planned. One friend was so geeked about the whole thing that he suggested having Ella do a Kickstarter project and offered ideas how she should make it interactive. He also sent a link to an interview where Dr. Tyson talked about how important Carl Sagan was to him when he was young.

My crush on him got a bit bigger.

Ella started researching how much it would cost to fly to New York. I promised Lily that she could go on the trip too. Knittergran was offering to fly up and meet us there. I was thrilled about the chance to take my big girls to my favorite place. Ella told everyone who stood still long enough that she was going to New York to interview Dr. Tyson. It was all very, very exciting.

And then nothing.

She and I both sent second e-mails to Dr. Tyson's assistant. I even called up to the museum and left a message for her.

Not a word.

My first reaction was that of a mama-bear protecting her young. I was going to go all scorched-earth on Dr. Tyson and take him down. I'd put it all over Twitter and Facebook and he'd see the error of his ways.

But then I realized that A. I have 30 people a day read my blog and he has millions of followers, and B. pissing off Neil deGrasse Tyson was probably not the best way to get him to meet with my daughter.

So I haven't done anything, until now. It breaks my heart just a little every time someone asks Ella whether she's set a date for the interview and she has to explain that she's never heard back. It makes me a little mad at Dr. Tyson. Between moving, changing schools, illness, injury, surgery, and a lot of other stuff, Ella's had a pretty tough year. Getting to go to NYC and meet her hero would have gone a long way toward making Ella Ella again.

This is one of those times that I wish I had the twitter power of The Bloggess or Wil Wheaton or The Oatmeal. I'm pretty sure that one tweet from them would get some reaction.

So if you know someone who knows someone, could you maybe pass this along?

Sunday, September 09, 2012

FeeBee's Big Adventure

Ella had knee surgery this past Wednesday. The knee injury the doctors and physical therapists assured us would get better with ice, rest and PT turned out to be a torn meniscus, and no amount of ice, rest and PT would make it better. Instead of having knee surgery over the summer, when Ella wouldn't miss any school, she had it during the second week of middle school. Lovely.

We've had some not-so-good experiences at Dell Children's emergency department (did you know that's the official name now?), so I was a bit nervous about taking Ella there for surgery. I needn't have worried. Every staff member, from the receptionist to the post-op nurses, was absolutely wonderful. They took very good care of both of us.

I had planned to write a post about how sitting in the waiting room at the children's hospital had given me a new perspective on how grateful I am that we haven't had so many operations that we know the janitorial staff by name; on how even though we have a high premium and deductible, fixing Ella's knee wasn't going to put us into bankruptcy; and on how lucky we are to have four happy, healthy kids.

But I'm just too tired.

I was absolutely not prepared for how rough the recovery would be. I expected Ella to be off her feet the day of the surgery and maybe for a day after and then be fine. Instead, she has been pretty much helpless since Wednesday. Her leg is in a big brace, so if she wants to move to a new position, I have to help her shift her leg. If she wants to go from being on the sofa to sitting up in her wheelchair, I have to help her. If she needs to use the bathroom, I have to help her. (This isn't to say B hasn't been helpful, because he has been. But I'm a more patient nurse than he is.) For the first two nights, I had to get up every four hours to give Ella her medication and check on her knee-icing machine.

I don't think I've been this tired since I had a newborn.

On Friday morning, all hell broke loose. I was trying to get Lily and Campbell out the door in time for the bus, and Ella got into a panic-pain loop and was screaming "It hurts! It hurts! It hurts!" at the top of her lungs. FeeBee was in the middle of all of this, bouncing around and begging someone, anyone, to take her for a walk.

I turned Campbell and Lily over to B, who got them to the school bus, and threw FeeBee in the backyard and forgot about her.

After a half hour of her screaming, I managed to get Ella calmed down (or maybe the pain pill kicked in). I turned on "Turweeous Dorge" for Elizabeth, and passed out on the sofa between them. Then the phone rang.

Caller: Hi. This is Sally* from Heart of Texas Lab Rescue.
Me, thinking it's awfully early for a fund-raising phone call: Hi?
Sally: Um. Are you missing your dog?
Me: I don't think so. She was in the back yard.
Sally: Well, we just got a call from a guy at a construction site who says he has your dog. Here's his number.
Me: Ohmygod. I'm so sorry. I don't know how this happened. One of the kids must have left the gate open. I don't know how else she would have gotten out. I'm so sorry. It won't happen again, I promise.
Sally: Yeah, here's his number.

So I called the guy, and it turns out that he was a supervisor on a construction site around the corner, and he did actually have my dog. He was super nice and offered to walk FeeBee home for me. Five minutes later, she came down the street with her new best friend. According to Mike, the guy who called, FeeBee had been hanging out at the job site, mooching breakfast tacos from the builders.

She apparently had the best time ever and was quite pleased with her little adventure. She definitely wasn't at all sorry.

I texted my cousin, who had facilitated FeeBee's adoption, and begged her to tell the people at the rescue group that we aren't irresponsible dog owners. I really was worried they were going to make us give FeeBee back.

We put an extra latch on the gate, just in case she's actually opening it on her own. Unfortunately, extra latches do absolutely no good if the kids leave the gate open.

This morning, I put her out in the yard, assuming, foolishly, that the gate was still latched. About half an hour later, the doorbell rang, and there was a neighbor from around the corner with a sopping wet FeeBee. She and another neighbor's dog had been romping through sprinklers.

We are pretty much now the family everyone on the street hates because our kids are too loud and our dog keeps wreaking havoc. Yay us.

The lesson is all this is to make sure your dog has a collar and tags. If it hadn't been for her tags, FeeBee would have been gone on Friday, and we wouldn't have known what happened. It's probably how she ended up at the animal shelter to begin with.

Until I get a lock for the gate, FeeBee isn't allowed out unsupervised. But if she ever does go missing, we'll know to check all the local construction sites. She'll probably be hanging out, chowing down on tacos.

*Her name isn't actually Sally. I was so asleep when she called that I have no idea what her name actually is.