paleontology in your pajamas!!

Yes, yes, I know. It’s ridiculous the way I throw a birthday party. It’s ridiculous and perhaps a bit obnoxious, but when you are only 8, it’s also great fun to see your mom take your own wacky idea (paleontology…in our pajamas!) and run with it like there’s no tomorrow.

While I am no scrap-booker (dear Goodness), I do write a blog, so you still get to have to deal with my birthday party wind-downs. Just go grab yourself a beverage and replay the Preakness in the background, because, like the great I’ll Have Another, I’m sure you’ve been here and seen this all before…


Another birthday banner made in the birthday boy’s favorite colors but this one actually lasted the entire party. Thank you, Mother Nature.


invitation with a clearly marked RSVP line and easy to use email address…hmmm.


Yeah, man, you’re in the right place. Hula skirts don’t have much to do with paleontology but, hey, we had one on hand, and it was beggin’ to be used…the scary stuffed green generic dino on top legitimizes it all, don’t you think?


Let’s get it started all up in here. Nothing spells cool–like jurassic-ly cool–than a few hundred semi-permanent tattoos, 2 sponges and 16 eight-year-olds…

…unless it’s your younger brother trying to scare everyone…

Here we have a photo of all the victims…er, willing partakers of the Paleontology Pajama party being guarded by Louie the Dinosaur, a Fernbank Museum of Natural Science souvenir of Jack’s from way back when he was maybe 2 years old…

Two years ago, Jack wanted a Mad Scientist party. The Mad Scientist showed up and promptly sliced her hand open with a butcher knife while she was wrapping up her prep-work for the party. She had to scurry off to the ER, tourniqueted arm held high, while her back-up came 30 minutes later to conduct the party.

Russ realized when the Paleontologist/Fossil Lady showed up at our house that–you guessed it–she was the same woman who had wounded herself at our house two years earlier.

Thank goodness it’s near about impossible to harm yourself with a fossil.


We could not have picked more attentive listeners. Jack’s class is just adorable…






chiseling away at their “fossil muffins”–plaster of paris + sand concoctions stuffed with all sorts of (real!) tiny fossils, shells and shark’s teeth…



Surprise visit from our neighbor across the street; he and Theo are big pals and enjoyed watching the end of the party and running around together (and getting more tattoos than a prisoner with a life sentence). 


Jack mixes the volcano-making concoction…


still mixing…


Great photo, but I promise we’ve made bigger, messier, wilder volcanoes on our own. Oh well, Paleontology Lady gets an A for effort (and an A+ for remaining woundless).


Jack making his wish. I made a wish, too:  that the next 8 years would not go by as quickly as these first 8 years have.

Jack’s classmates are some serious “Happy Birthday” singers. They don’t just add in the cha-cha-cha parts; they’ve added 2 brand new tunes at the end (or maybe I’m just old and out of the loop…anyway, take a listen):


We had a canvas on which all of Jack’s friends could paint a message; it was a huge hit.


the finished product. no idea where we’ll put it, but it is rather fun…


The dreaded goody-bags…

…filled with HFCS-free, dye-free treats (yes, really), dinosaur bubbles, an inspirational magnet and a Paleontology Party Tunes cd. If you overlook the possible copyrighting issue (this cd was created solely for personal use, btw) and the fact that there’s a Def Leppard song included on it, it’s about the best themed party cd we’ve ever made.


Henry was fast friends with Jack’s classmate, Helen, who wants to be a vet when she grows up, too.


It’s a Pujols jersey. Nevermind he’s a great baseball player; in a house full of boys, it’s just fun to say his name.



Typical gift wrapping around here: strong out of the gate (gifts wrapped in Jack’s favorite color) but fizzling at the wire (gifts straight from the UPS truck).



Henry studying some geography. Theo put this puzzle together several times this weekend and every single time, Henry would find it and lie down on it. He learns by osmosis, clearly.

Another birthday come and gone.
Another baseball season come and gone.
Another school year come and (is almost) gone.
And another long, wide-open summer coming our way.

We are ready for it. Hope you are, too.

Do You Know a TougH Girl?


Last May 15th was the First Annual Hyperemesis Gravidarum World Awareness Day, and with Princess Kate now suffering from this horrible condition, HG is back in the news.

It’s been more than 6 years since the birth of my 2nd son, and more than 6 years since I endured HG.

I’ve had 3 babies; pregnancy, though indeed a miracle, is not my idea of a fun 9 months. With 2 of my pregnancies, I was tired, queasy, irritable and vomited multiple times. I felt the sloshy, spinny, hangover-y feeling for several weeks but turned the corner around week 15. Most likely, this is what your experience with pregnancy and morning sickness has been.

As miserable as it likely was for you, morning sickness is not Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Not by a long shot.

My middle son’s pregnancy was a whole different beast entirely. I began vomiting when I was 6 weeks and 3 days pregnant with Tucker and did not stop until 3 days before I delivered him–in a spectacularly scary way–at only 36 weeks gestation. (You can read about Tucker’s arrival ).

And I do mean vomit. Constantly. Yack-counts, as I came to call them, numbered in the 20’s on a daily basis.

I threw up until I had nothing left to vomit. Once you work through any residual bile in your belly (which burns your mouth and coats your throat with ulcers), you wind up with the dry heaves, which cause small fissures in your esophagus and thus you vomit blood.  I threw up until I had broken blood vessels in and around my eyes. I would wake up in the middle up the night to throw up. Hyperemesis is relentless. It is constant. There is no relief.

I threw up in Ziploc bags while driving my firstborn to school, which was pure torture. I threw up in parking lots, school restrooms, pharmacies, my OB’s office, the hospital. I threw up out of car windows at red lights, in every sink in our house, in the shower. Several times I threw up until I was completely dehydrated and slipping in and out of ketosis, where your body has gone into starvation mode and begins to break down fat instead of carbohydrates. Spilling ketones (+3 or over) wins you a trip to the hospital.

I learned the HG mantra of “easy down, easy up,” which means that since every single thing you swallow will revisit you within the hour, you want to do all you can to make the experience as tolerable as possible. I threw up Gatorade that still had ice chunks in it (an interesting experience, by the way, especially if your throat is coated with ulcers). Anything with carbonation hurt like a mother, but Chik-Fil-A sweet tea was easy. Toast? Not so delightful; it’s insanely sharp and pointy. Rice comes out your nose.

At 23 weeks pregnant, when I had not gained a single pound and my blood pressure was 90/50 and I had thrown up twice in the examination room with the doctor standing in front of me, my OB declared I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a life-threatening situation that affects only 1.5-2% of all pregnant women.

HG isn’t all about uncontrollable nausea and vomiting, but all of the other issues related to it hail from the terrible cycle: loss of more than 5% of pre-pregnancy body weight, dehydration and production of ketones, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic imbalances and, duh, difficulty conducting daily activities (such as standing upright).

Unmanaged, HG can kill you. Sufferers have no choice but to pump their bodies full of all kinds of medicines even if they swore they’d never take any medication while pregnant. The following are medicines I took while pregnant with Tucker: Reglan, Zantac, Compazine, Phenergan (tablets and suppositories), Tigan, Zofran, Tylenol with Codeine, Colace, Benedryl, Amoxicillin, Ambien and Percocet. The only thing that finally helped me break the cycle of non-stop vomiting for a spell was a perinatologist-prescribed, homemade concoction of Unisom and B6, a combination which basically produces a miracle drug (to HG’ers, at least) called Bendectin and which is not available in the U.S. Go figure:  our FDA will allow petroleum additives in our food but will not allow a medicine known around the world to help alleviate the constant nausea and vomiting associated with a potentially life-threatening disease. That’s crazy.

When I reached 28 weeks and still had not gained a pound, I had a Matria Home Healthcare Nurse who brought a Zofran pump to my house. The machine sat in my fridge, its needles and catheters scaring the bejesus out of me. I cut a deal with her instead: we maxed out my oral Zofran dosage and if I threw up more than 4 times a day, I had to call her because it was mandatory to start the pump. My husband set his alarm and woke me up nightly to make sure I got the midnight dosage of the little dissolvable pill that cost–at that time–$32 a pop. I was taking 4 a day.

I wound up not being honest with the Matria nurse, clearly the low point of the entire torturous ordeal. I was lucky if I had only thrown up 4 times by high noon. Thankfully, about the time the Matria nurse came into my life, I’d connected with other women suffering through HG on the lifesaving Hyperemesis Awareness board. I do not know how I could have made it without them.

They warned me about the fine layer of fuzz that would grow all over my body, a mammalian defense mechanism to try to keep a malnourished body warm. They assured me that my fingernails would likely grow back even though they’d split and peeled off. They helped me find ways to avoid my triggers (certain random things that can throw you over a cliff so fast that you find yourself in the ER by sundown). taught me things I’d have never figured out–for instance, that Pepsodent Sensitive Toothpaste is the least flavored toothpaste out there, that unscented Aveeno products really are completely unscented (smells are a huge trigger for most HG’er’s), and that deodorant doesn’t really matter because it can’t cover the stench of the ketones you’re spilling.

They explained why bright lights and moving through shadows could crumble me in an instant. They understood why I had beach buckets in every room; they knew I wasn’t kidding when I said I had to crawl from room to room in my house. They saved me.

They taught me that fluids are key. Either you get more down than you toss back up (yes, involves a measuring cup) or you are hospital bound for an IV. If this means slowly eating a cup of ice chips as your “sticky” meal, then so be it (a sticky meal being one that has any component that stays down or sticks with you).

They taught me various ways to take my sublingual Zofran tablet, and they had page after page of methods to deal with the infamous impacting constipation that comes from maxing out on Zofran while being completely dehydrated. (As if HG weren’t incapacitating enough…)

They taught me that I was not alone and that I was not going crazy nor was I a wimp.

They taught me to trust that the HG would go away once I delivered my baby. They taught me that my baby was going to be one tough guy because he was enduring this–a limited food and nutrient supply, a dehydrated and fatigued and malnourished mother and a constant onslaught of medicines–during the most critical stage of his life, while he was in utero.

But, most importantly, they taught me that I am a fighter, one who will do all I can to protect myself and my babies. I learned to handle panic (a little, at least) by taking everything one step at a time and to be thankful for every good moment given to me.

My experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum was miserable beyond words and I only had a moderate–not severe, at least in medical terms–case. There is no way I would have come out of it 29 weeks and 4 days later without such an unbelievable support network. My husband, my family, my spectacularly resilient oldest son, the Organization for Hyperemesis Education and Research, the HelpHer forums and my friends all helped me keep trudging along, one day at a time.

HG is no joke. Please, if you know any mom-to-be who is suffering through it, help herThe HER website is a rich resource for learning about the illness and ways to treat it as well as the signs that it’s time to head to the hospital. The site also provides discussion forums for sufferers and their families–forums which can provide crucial help and information at a time when the sufferer feels she’s reached the end of her rope. With much needed support, understanding and awareness, more research will be conducted on HG, and the day will come when we will understand what causes it and, more importantly, how to prevent it. And for any woman who has suffered through HG, that day will be just as joyous as her delivery day was.

baseball cards and monk costumes

Why on earth is the end of the school year so chaotic? We have 20 school days left, but you’d never know it based on how fast and furiously we’ve been going at life.

Sweet Thing learned how to ride a big boy bike.


Yes, that’s without training wheels. He was 3 and [1 day shy of] 3/4 years old! I hauled the Schwinn Tiger up from the basement back on March 29th, intending to reattach the training wheels to that puppy, but Theo said he wanted to ride it like it was. The big brothers were still in school, so I said, “let’s give it a whirl,” and–miracle of miracles–he took off like a pro.

You could not have wiped the smile from my face…or from his either.

A sweet lady visiting a neighbor videotaped it on my phone and the whole afternoon was so huge in our world that I wrote a blog entry about it for the Mamas Against Drama site.

worn out bicycle rider

Not one to be outdone athletically, Tucker perfected the art of the headstand later that evening.

Dude held this position for 32 seconds. I timed it.

We took the boys to a Braves game where we sat on the 9th row behind home plate. The boys are utterly stadium-spoiled now.


Chipper hit a homer on the very next pitch. Told you the seats weren’t bad…





The baseball outing led to the rekindling of an obsession for Jackers: baseball cards. I have a shoe box full of them; they were my dad’s (or, more likely, my uncles’) and I eagerly skipped off to fetch them for Jack. What started as a bedtime diversion morphed into an incredible tromp down Memory Lane…



1970 Thurman Munson. Be still my beating heart.

Lately his afternoons and nighttimes are filled with fantasy baseball team creating and baseball card sorting by team, by position, by year, by mascot–birds here, 4-footed creatures there, non-animals over here (looking at you, Phillie Phanatic)–you name it.


I love helping them with the multiple levels of organization because I totally get it. Of course you stack all the catchers together. And then you re-sort them into Leagues. And after that, into teams. And I love this exercise because I did this same exact thing growing up (yes, I really was that cool).

Smell that? Summer’s coming.


Behold: Harry Potter and Phillip Ransford, III (from Wendy Mass’s terrific book The Candymakers), ready to take Dress Like Your Favorite Book Character Day by storm…


Again, it’s pretty scary what Mama can do with a glue gun (and a monk’s costume, which we just happened to have in the closet). Told you I was cool.



Ever really wondered where caterpillars come from? Here is your biology lesson of the week: butterfly mating. Caught on camera.



Um, right. Okey dokey, moving on.

Beethoven ain’t got nothing on this kid:

Tucker waiting to belt out the best Chopsticks you’ve ever heard.

Future Academy Award winner right here:

He is a [neon orange] Lorax, defender of trees, in the 2nd grade production at Trinity School.

Warm weather = water fights.


Twenty days of school left. Ten more days until Mother’s Day (love me some Mother’s Day). Only 2 baseball games left for the 2 older boys until the playoffs start. One day until we take my parents to see The Eagles (Lord, please let them play “Lyin’ Eyes”). And only 16 days until Jackers turns 8. That means 16 more days of being even more nostalgic than I typically am.

May is such a huge month for us. It is our Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. It spins us and pulls us here and there and makes our stomachs drop. And we love every second.

Here’s to every day being May Day!