Cora is 8!

The morning started with her running into our room at 6:30 declaring that it was her birthday. We cuddled for a bit before she decided she wanted donuts for breakfast, so Jake took her and Magnolia to Winchell's at 6:45.

While they were gone, I wrapped her presents from grandparents. After she ate, she got to the business of unwrapping. 

In the afternoon, she had a fun party with some friends. We did our parental duty and served more sugar in 2 hours than what our girls get in a month. This year, she wanted a My Little Pony/Equestria Girl theme. 

In the middle of the party, we had our own version of Cupcake Wars. There were three rounds with three participants in each round. Each group had three minutes to decorate their cupcake to their heart's desire, and we admired each one when it was over. 

There was pin the Cutie Mark on the pony and a few other crafts, including a DIY bookmark because everyone knows cool kids read.

It was fun and loud, and we're all exhausted. 

We watched Muppet Treasue Island and continued our party food binge for dinner. Right before bed, she decided she wanted to try on her new clothes. I'm so glad she did, it was adorable and included twirl tests! 

When she was cleaning up her school game right before bed, she went through a rite of passage: she swore for the first time. She was pointing to a map that had a rock formation in Kentucky. Pointing to it, she said, "What the hell is that?" I paused and said, 

"What'd you just say?" 

She replied, What's that, it looks so weird. 

Me: Oh, it's rocks. But how'd you say it the first time?

C: What the hell is that?

Me: Yes, that! Where did you hear that?

C: I dunno, from movies?

Me: ...going on to explain how there are words we just don't say.

I know exactly what movie! We've been watching The Sandlot. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. I'm so proud of myself for not completely falling a part laughing. 

Yep. My girl is 8. 

Dreams [with] My Father

It’s a funny thing - meeting one’s father at the age of 14. The actual situation itself is peculiar. What do you say to this man; how do you kindly ask the questions you’ve come up with in your lifetime thus far of wondering?

More than just the meeting is strange, the time in my life was strange. My mom got married for the first time when I was 12. My step-dad was and is amazing. Sure, we had our moments, but I chalk those up to growing pains on both our parts. My step-dad is the one I refer to as my dad if I’m ever talking about “my dad” in a conversation. Not only is he a great, kind human being - he’s the kind of person who doesn’t quite know what a great, kind human being he is. He has no airs, just a good, loving heart. I’m the winner winner [veggie] chicken dinner in the dad department.

If I would have met my father before my mom got married, I would have expected him to fill a void, to play a particular role in my life, but that role had been filled, so what role would this new person play in my life? I wasn’t sure. What I did know after that first meeting, was that I wanted this man in my life. We didn’t see one another very often. I’ve seen him, like actually been in his presence, 9 times all together. We were great pen pals for a while, so there’s always been an element of sharing that has made me feel like we’ve been building a relationship, but for people who wake up and see their fathers every day, you can imagine what 9 times is like compared to a lifetime. Our relationship continues to evolve.

I’ll never forget the first time I met him. We have similar distinguishing features, the biggest one being our eyes. When I saw him for the first time, it was like I was looking into my own eyes. The structure of our thought patterns is similar, and the things we find interesting are similar (though we mostly express them through different avenues). I was sure he and I were cut from the same cloth. I treasure those instant familiarities.

When I was visiting with him and my grandmother in January, I asked a few questions to help me piece together the time surrounding my birth. I ended up with some fresh insights that I’m still sorting through. I’d always known who my father was, and after stumbling upon a newspaper article tucked in a box in the closet under our stairs when I was 9, I learned that he’d been in a serious car accident. I didn’t know when the accident had taken place, nor the extent of his injuries besides the fact that he suffered a traumatic brain injury.

It turns out, his accident happened on January 1, 1985. The first day of the year I was born. He was living on the lam in Hawaii after a run-in with the law in October while a student at NAU in Flagstaff, AZ. The night of the accident, he’d been out drinking and ended up driving his boss’s truck over a 50 ft. cliff on the island of Kauai. He was in a coma for quite a while, and when he came to, the doctor asked him if he knew why he was in the hospital. My father replied that he’d probably been in a bull riding accident (BTW, he also rode bulls - he and my mom met at a rodeo, introduced by a mutual friend). With his response, he was flown to a hospital in Honolulu that had a special unit for patients with brain injuries.

(My father sent this picture to me about a decade ago, when we came across it again together a few weeks ago, he casually said, "And this is the day you were conceived. Well, right around it, I guess." Good to know.)

I think he spent something like 6 weeks in the hospital before he was able to be flown back to Arizona. 24, a life-changing injury, a baby he doesn’t know is on the way, and a whole host of legal issues awaiting. That was his life when I came into the world.

My father and I have something very distinct in common; we are both vivid dreamers. He’s shared several of his dreams/visions with me over the years [he uses dream and vision interchangeably, in part, due to his deep understanding and belief in Native American Mysticism].  About four years ago, in the middle of trying to make sense of my evolving faith and beliefs and how they differed from my Mormon faith tradition, I had a series of dreams that I’ve relied heavily on when I couldn’t quite figure out [or didn’t quite want to figure out] which way was up for me. I know that his visions and my dreams have both been guiding forces for us in our lives. I like being connected to someone who knows how powerful dreams can be.

While visiting with him the last time, I asked him two questions that ended up having two really important answers for me. The first had to do with the extent of his brain injury. His left frontal lobe was the portion of his brain that was injured. It mostly affects his emotions and short-term memory. I asked him what recovery was like. One example he gave was being in the shower and washing his hair - he couldn’t remember if he’d washed his hair, so he’d grab the shampoo and do it again, over and over and over. This happened all the time in normal daily routines. He would essentially live these tasks on repeat, not trusting that he’d fully completed them. He also had problems with association. He would go to get eggs and bring back bacon. He’d be asked to grab a hammer and get an ax instead. He’s found many coping techniques to help lessen the affects of injury, but he still deals with his injury every day, and will do so for the rest of his life.

The second question happened very spur of the moment. When I learned that he’d driven over a 50 ft. cliff, I asked him how long it took for someone to find him. The answer was pretty miraculous, really. Just before he went over the cliff, he passed a cop going the opposite direction. The cop was turning around to pursue him and saw him go over. If that hadn’t happened, it’s likely help wouldn’t have arrived on time, and he would have died in that truck at the bottom the cliff four months and two days before I was born. I felt myself getting emotional as the reality of what could have been was unfolding as he filled in the details.

I was 14 when I met this man who could have died 14 years before. I would have never known him. Rather than being a mystery man who was out there somewhere, the story would have ended with “Your father died in a car accident before you were born.” His life changed that day, no doubt, he had to learn how to move through the world a little differently, but he still gets to walk and talk and live and dream on this earth that he loves. I’ve cried several times thinking about the alternative, and it made me realize how much I love him. This man who I am deeply connected to, though have only been in the same room with 9 times. Life is so full of twists and turns, and surprise answers to questions that completely change perspectives. I know that I wouldn’t have known what I was missing had he died in that accident, but since I do know him, I’ve been sad at the very thought of how close it came to me never getting the chance. Mostly, though, my gratitude only continues to grow at what our reality gets to be now. I still don’t have a perfect name for the role he plays, but I’m glad we get to do life together in our own special way.  

Since I shared a bull riding photo...
This is a photo of my grandmother on the same day, at the same rodeo in a horse race. She won.

Day in the Life

I might as well get this out of the way right from the start. Today at work, I was helping a student organize his essay. We'd been working together for about 10 minutes when he just reaches down and grabs his crotch.

[Cricket, Cricket]

And then he held onto it for a good two minutes.


I don't think he was really aware of what he was doing, but I was! It wasn't just like a hand casually placed, it was a full on grab and hold.

I was very professional. I just kept on talking about...oh my gosh...I was talking about rearranging. I know crotch grabs are generally about readjusting, but they're so close. Let it be known, as if you couldn't already tell, there was no rearranging OR readjusting going on. Just hanging on for dear life like his manhood depended on it. Geeze, I have nothing more to say about it other than I'm glad those two minutes of my life have passed. And his introductory paragraph was in much better shape when he left than when he arrived. That is all.

Moving on...

On the way to work this morning, I dreamt up a super freaking awesome music video montage that will star my girls and me. It will be epic. And by epic, I mean I think we'll have a lot of fun.

I just started reading a book that my biological father recommended on Taoism. The book is large, and I'm only 50 pages in, but I've been so surprised by the similarities to some of my favorite Mormon doctrines. Joseph Smith was very much a gatherer of ideas; Mormonism didn't just come out of nowhere, it reflects many traditions with a few new takes on those traditions. I've been most familiar with the traditions of Joseph Smith's time, never stopping to consider Eastern influences. The major similarities I've seen are the relationship between faith and works, and multiple levels of exaltation. It's been really fascinating. 

There's an Indian restaurant called Samosa House here. I love it. Like LOVE it. For the last several days I've been craving their "Veggie Chicken." I think about it several times throughout the day, but I haven't indulged because I'm being very aware of our grad school budget. Jake is traveling to conferences/workshops over the next few months, all of which will be paid for, but it's done so through reimbursements. We've got to have enough cash on hand to make travel arrangements that are reimbursed 4-6 weeks after receipts are turned in. Veggie chicken on one hand, conferences on the other. The struggle is real.

I'm off on Fridays. The beach is calling my name. Tidying up around home on one hand, the beach on the other. No contest.

I dropped the girls off for school this morning. I haven't done so very much since the semester started (Jake's been taking care of business in that department). I walk Magnolia to her classroom, and we wait outside of the door with the rest of her class until the bell rings and her teacher welcomes them in. Cora walks by herself to where her class lines up. Sometimes I try to run and catch Cora before her class gets into their room to give her one extra kiss. Today was one of those days. As I found her class making its way around the building, she was in line next to two of her friends, and they were talking about Cora's upcoming My Little Pony themed birthday party. Cora said, "Spoiler alert: Magnolia is going to be Twilight." [Great hand motions accompanied this statement.] I really love the way they (Cora and Magnolia) love one another. It's not always rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes it's really annoying to be the buffer between two sisters. But they are special to one another. I'm grateful for that. 

Cora is going to be 8 in eleven days. I don't know what to say about that except, "Where did the time go?"

Cora's Ear[s]

For about four years, aka half of Cora's life, we've been working to figure out some speech/hearing issues she's had. We started out in speech therapy when she was four. At her five-year-old well-child check, her doctor performed a tympanogram test. That's when we discovered her eardrums weren't vibrating and that she'd been experiencing chronic fluid build-up behind her eardrums. She'd had chronic ear infections since one. They almost all but went away after she stopped eating dairy products, yet this uninfected fluid remained.

We went to an audiologist, and her tests concluded that Cora was definitely experiencing hearing impairment. She'd essentially been hearing everything like she was underwater. We suspended speech to deal with hearing. She had tubes placed in August of 2013. Everything went great for a while. One of her tubes came out on its own, but the other, while I could see it, wasn't coming out. A few months ago, her ear that still had the tube started "weeping." We took her to the doctor, we got more ear drops and a referral to an ENT because I felt like we'd given the tube enough time to come out on its own. We got the referral, and literally months went by before we were able to get in. Last week, Cora's ear with the tube started bleeding. Like blood dripping out of her ear for 24 hours. We have quite a collection of prescription ear drops, so I treated it at home. The bleeding stopped.

At her ENT appointment yesterday, the doctor found that inflammatory tissue had grown in Cora's ear canal. It was the tissue itself, not her ear that had been producing the discharge and bleeding. As she prepared to remove the tissue, she said we might have to schedule a surgery to remove the tube if it was still in her eardrum (she couldn't see past the tissue). She worked for a bit, and pulled out a chunk of tissue. She went back in to do a little more clearing, and the tube came out! I was so relieved. She couldn't see Cora's ear drum all the way because there were still spots of inflammation. We're going back in three weeks so she can make sure her ear drum is in good shape. In the meantime, we're using a steroid/antibiotic combo ear drop for the next week.

As we left the office, Cora said, "Everything sounds so loud!" I've asked her several times if she could hear okay in the last few months. She always said, "Yes," but she'd obviously become used to the blockage. Her doctor has also ordered an x-ray so we can see if her adenoids are enlarged. This is such a big deal for me! For all of the speech pathologists we've seen, the sounds Cora couldn't quite make weren't that big of a deal to me. I thought it sounded like phonation was happening in an unusual place. When I discussed hyponasality with the doctor, she had Cora talk to her for a few minutes. Hyponasal is what it sounds like when our noses are stuffed up - Not enough air is passing through our nasal cavities. (This is versus hypernasal - When too much air is going through and one sounds like Fran Drescher.) After speaking with Cora, her doctor said she could hear it too. The adenoid gets involved because when it's enlarged, it blocks air from moving through the nasal cavity properly.

I'm really anxious to find out if there is another structural component to Cora's speech. The big one we're working on now is reshaping her upper palate to widen and lower it so it isn't so obstructive in her nasal cavity. There have been so many layers to the hearing/speech process. No singular step has been quite as clear cut as we'd hoped, but I feel like we're finally down to the last few pieces of the puzzle.


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