Alaskan Adventures

A few weeks back, Mr Minion and I went on a cruise to Alaska to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. We actually got married in January, but a cruise in Alaska in January is probably a bit difficult. And cold. And dark. Little Miss Minion stayed with her grandparents while we were gone, since half a day on airplanes does not sound like a fun time.

We began our adventure at 2:45AM local time. Our flight left at 6AM, so we wanted to make sure to leave plenty of time to get to the airport. The first leg of the flight was several hours and took us to Seattle, where I got the obligatory Starbucks in Seattle and we boarded our next plane: a prop plane that we had to board directly from the tarmac. An hour later, we were in Portland, and 3 more hours later, we were in Anchorage. After a 2 hour bus ride, we arrived in Whittier, Alaska and boarded the ship. We got there just in time to drop our bags off in our room and head down to dinner. The ship left Whittier at 8:30PM local time, which ended up being several hours later in our hometown. It never got dark, which was kind of off-putting, but the curtains in our room blocked all the light so we were able to sleep.

The next day was a Sea Day and it started off foggy. We had breakfast at the buffet and  by the time we finished, the sun had come up. We headed up on deck to check out the Hubbard Glacier. It was huge and we could hear the ice cracking, but didn’t see any calving. We got sushi for lunch and explored the ship some more, then went on our balcony to watch more of the glaciers and landscape. We also had coffee cards, so we each grabbed a fancy coffee before heading back to our room. Dinner was a formal night, so we got dressed up and met our official dining companions. There was a couple from Colorado, a younger couple from Minnesota, and an older lady who was by herself. We decided to nickname her Mrs Peacock, like the character in the Clue movie. She kept telling us REPEATEDLY that her husband was in isolation because he was sick. She was also convinced that hazelnut was what they make coffee out of and got rather intoxicated from a single glass of wine. We requested to switch tables the next night, partially because she was a crazy person, but also because we didn’t want to get infected from her husband, who was allegedly being released from isolation the next day. After dinner, we hung out in the indoor pool area and read books until we got tired.

Another sunny sea day followed, and we had breakfast as we approached Glacier Bay. The ship picked up some Rangers who narrated what we were looking at and told us information about the area. There was a special information session that we attended where the Park Rangers gave a presentation and then we headed back to our room to check out the view. We stopped at three glaciers (Margery, Great Pacific, and one more whose name I have forgotten). The ship was 60 miles from the nearest area of development, and only two cruise ships are allowed in the Bay daily. The whole Glacier Bay area used to be covered with thousands of feet of ice. The glaciers carved the mountains as they receded.

The next day was our first port day: Skagway, Alaska. Skagway is a small town of about 900 people and it our favorite of the three ports we visited. We went into town on our own early in the morning and went shopping for souvenirs. We also took a brothel tour at the Red Onion, which was fantastic and very interesting. It was a slightly overcast day, which made for some cool pictures of the mountains. We went back to the ship for lunch at the grill area, which was provided by a local restaurant. They were crab cakes, which are my new favorite thing. After lunch, we headed back into town for a bus tour up the mountains. Our bus driver was essentially a PG version of Ryan Reynolds and he provided a great commentary and fun facts while we went up. We stopped several times for pictures and ended up at the summit of 3K feet. They get 40 FEET, yes FEET of snow up there each winter. When we got back to the ship, there was a flyer in our room about a respiratory illness that was going around. Given the fact that nobody wants to get sick on vacation and that we didn’t want to bring anything back to Little Miss Minion, we immediately instituted a no-elevator rule and took the stairs everywhere. We also tried to stay on deck as much as we could.

The next day was Juneau. We took a bus to the Mendenhall Glacier and everyone was coughing. After what felt like a year (but was probably only about 20 minutes), we arrived at the glacier and had about two hours to walk around until we would be picked up again. Mr Minion and I checked out the visitors’ center and then walked to the glacier and waterfall. It was about 6 miles round trip through woods that had warnings about bears. The views were beautiful and the trail had markers that showed where the ice had been in the past. It was strange to think that only 80 years ago, the glacier had reached halfway through the trail, so about three miles from where it is now. After we got back to the ship, we grabbed some fish tacos from the grill area and found a good spot on deck to read. We ordered a pot of coffee from room service and I snagged some blankets from the pool area so we could be warm on our balcony. That evening, we watched Bohemian Rhapsody from the hot tub in the rain, which was pretty fun. There was a huge TV screen up on the funnel and we sat in the hot tubs while the movie played.

Our last port day was Ketchikan, and it was POURING rain the whole day. This was “true Alaska weather” according to the locals, and we had one excursion in town. We boarded a tender and made our way to the Lumberjack Show and Competition. This was even cooler than it sounded. We got front row seats to watch as about ten lumberjacks showed off their skills in several areas of lumberjacking (new word). After the show, we stopped at a couple of souvenir shops and then headed back to the ship. We had scheduled a package at the spa called “A Perfect Day” and it was a special for anyone who had purchased shore excursions. It included a massage and a facial for a pretty reasonable price. At the end, they had a sales pitch for the products they use. I ended up buying one of the aromatherapy oils and it was the same price on land as onboard, so I counted it as my treat to myself.

Our last day was a Sea Day and it was the busiest of the days in terms of activities that we wanted to check out. After breakfast, we did a culinary demonstration with the head chef and maitre d’hotel. They have been working together for a long time and it shows. They made little jabs back and forth while the chef cooked and it was pretty funny. After the demo, they took us on a walkthrough of the galleys. There is an actual escalator in the galley, since there are two main dining rooms on two floors. After that, I watched other cruisers paint watercolors. I have zero artistic talent, so it was fun to watch some talented people paint. One girl painted a picture of a mountain from her phone and it was gorgeous. I took a picture of it and it has inspired me to try my hand at recreating one of my own pictures. After that, I met up with Mr Minion and we got coffee and read on deck in the fog. Once the fog let up, we watched jellyfish off the side of the ship. In the afternoon, we went to an entertainment show where a music group was playing songs from the 50s forward. After dinner, we had to pack up our stuff and get ready to go home in the morning.

We docked in Vancouver British Columbia and had breakfast, then grabbed more coffee and headed to our lounge to wait until our group was called for disembarkation. We met a lady and her friend who were cruising together and spent about an hour talking to them. The bus ride to the airport was hot and everyone was still coughing. We arrived at the airport around 10AM local time. Our flight wasn’t until 7PM. We spent our time at the airport napping, reading, and wandering around. Our flight was delayed by an hour and a half, so we were afraid we were going to miss our connecting flight. When we finally boargot airborne, Mr Minion and I watched The Sandlot. We caught our connecting flight with ten minutes to spare and finally arrived home around 8AM local time. We immediately went to bed.

All in all, it was a great vacation and we had a wonderful time. I loved seeing actual mountains for the first time in my life. Highly recommend.

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4,000 views?!

Just checked my stats and I’ve gotten over 4,000 views since I started this little blog 4 years ago. What originally started as a way to update the many friends and family members who were asking about Little Miss Minion while she was in the NICU has turned into a way to share my views and experiences with prematurity, hydrocephalus, the NICU, and now, going back to school to be a NICU nurse.

Little Miss Minion is so much different than she was a year ago. Someone at work asked me this week at what age does your baby become a little kid? I looked back through my pictures and I think it’s between three and four. At three, LMM still had some baby face going on. Her cheeks were chubby, her movements clunky. Now, she’s got a kid face, never stops moving or talking, and says things like “only for babies.”

Some quick 4 year old facts about LMM:

Favorite thing to do: eat

Fave movie: Greatest Showman

Fave beverage: milk

Fave song: never enough from Greatest Showman

Fave thing to do: go to the park or color

Likes: counting to 10 with me in Spanish and French in the car. Asking “what’s that?” Snacks.

Dislikes: bedtime. Naps. Coffee (I drink coffee in the car and she’s always telling me that coffee is “yucky”). Thunder.

Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll be able to update more since classes are out for summer!

May is an interesting month…

I was skimming through social media this afternoon and saw several interesting tidbits that I thought I would pass along.

Today is National Nurses’ Day and the first day of Nurses’ Week (at least in the US). I would like to send a huge THANK YOU to Little Miss Minion’s nurses in the NICU, as well as the nurses who have taken care of her during her various hospital stays and doctor’s visits. I also want to say thank you to the nurses who took care of me when I was inpatient before her rather early arrival. A particularly large thank you goes to L&D Nurse J, who was the nurse I told about LMM’s slowing movements two hours before she was delivered. Thank you for listening to me, for checking out the monitor, and for IMMEDIATELY calling the ultrasound techs who got to the room so fast I think they may have already been on their way up to me. Thank you to NICU Nurse J, one of our primary nurses, who taught Mr Minion and I how to give LMM a bottle for the first time, how to wrap her like a burrito to keep her warm once she got out of her isolette (without tangling her multitude of cords), and invited us to volunteer with the March of Dimes as family advocates in our stats. Thank you to overnight NICU Nurse S, who helped us bathe LMM without dropping her body temperature. This tiny task made me feel more like a parent more than I would have thought possible. Thank you to daytime NICU Nurse S, who was also one of our primary nurses and walked us out of the hospital on our 84th day.

The month of May is also Preeclampsia Awareness Month. Preeclampsia is the reason I had to have the emergency C section that saved my life and saved LMM. Without immediate delivery, my blood pressure would have continued to climb, causing strokes or seizures, and my kidneys would have continued to shut down as a result of narrowed blood vessels. The HELLP syndrome I developed as a side effect of the preeclampsia would have continued to destroy my platelets, causing a hemorrhage, and would have continued to damage my liver. Basically, I was lucky. Many women aren’t so lucky and many women DO die from preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. About 60,000 women die annually worldwide as a result of this condition. There is no cure. The only way to stop it from progressing is delivery of the baby, and even then, the mother can still develop post-delivery preeclampsia for like six weeks after delivery.I guess I find it interesting that these two awareness events take place in the month I had Little Miss Minion. Fate? Maybe. Divine intervention? Probably. I’ll take it!

Sick Day

Little Miss Minion has a cough so she’s taking the day off from school and I’m using today to catch up on school. 🙂

In the next two weeks, I have a 100 point paper, a 100 point lab test, and a 125 point final exam. Oh, and my baby is turning 4!!!

The paper is kind of cool- we were given a test tube with two different bacteria in it and we had to run a bunch of tests on it to see what kind of bacteria was in there. I figured both of mine out after only two tests. One was Staphylococcus aureus and the other was Salmonella typhimurium. After we figure out what we have, we write a paper explaining the process and tests we used to determine the bacteria.

Anyway, hoping to get the paper outlined today and maybe work on my study guides for the two tests. So far, we’ve played with play doh, practiced writing letters, and watched some TV.

An Announcement

I cannot believe that Little Miss Minion will be 4 in a few weeks! Looking at her now, you would never guess that she started out fighting for her life at less than 2 pounds. Our journey began four years ago today in 2015, when I was admitted to the antepartum ward for observation of suspected preeclampsia. I remember being torn between complete denial that anything was wrong and terrified at the idea that something was. When Little Miss Minion arrived at 28 weeks, weighing one pound and fourteen ounces, my life was put on hold. Every day, Mr Minion and I would go to the hospital, scrub in at the NICU, and spend as much time as we could in our room there with our daughter. After 84 days, we were able to take our multi-million dollar baby home and I never wanted to see the NICU again. 

 

After about a year, I started to feel like I needed to give back to the place that had given me back my daughter. I began volunteering at the NICU that Little Miss Minion spent her first three months of life. I go into the unit, visit each room and speak to any parents who happen to be around. I’m also a board member of the organization. It’s something I’m very passionate about. 

 

About a year and a half ago, Mr Minion and I had a long talk. As corny as it sounds, I had been feeling a calling from the NICU. Not just to visit the parents and drop off goodie bags. To actually become one of the nurses who make such a difference in the lives of these babies and their parents. I’m proud to announce that I have been taking classes at our local community college in pursuit of a degree in Nursing. I have two more semesters to go before I can begin nursing school, which will take about two years of full time classes. After that, I hope to get a job working as a nurse in the NICU that started this journey for me. 

 

I would like to give Mr Minion a digital standing ovation. He has been so supportive of me during this venture and has willingly taken on the extra slack I leave from being in class and studying. Between books and fees and tuition, this little adventure isn’t cheap either, so it has been stressful trying to make the finances allow for it, especially for the upcoming period of nursing school. Little Miss Minion deserves some credit too. I take evening classes right now, so sometimes I only see her in the mornings and she doesn’t get to see me before she goes to bed, since I come home a little after she is asleep. 

 

Once I am accepted into the nursing program, I will qualify for nursing scholarships, which should lighten the financial load considerably. I applied for general scholarships this semester, but there are a lot more available once a person is accepted into the program. I’ve got Anatomy & Physiology I this fall, A&P II in the spring, and right now, I am finishing up Microbiology. I took Chemistry before that, and my first class in this little adventure was Human Biology. The rest of the degree requirements transferred from my Bachelor’s Degree in English Education. I only had 5 classes to take in order to shift my Bachelor’s in English into an Associate’s in Nursing. I’m just taking it 1 semester at a time. 

 

Sooooo, that’s my little announcement. Surprise! I wanted to really commit to this path before I announced anything, so very few people in real life actually knew about this. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to call me Mrs. Minion, RN. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

Cleared for a Year!

Little Miss Minion had a neurosurgeon appointment this morning. This was our first non-surgery related appointment since she was born, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the doctor.

The exam room table is made to look like a racecar, and LMM had a lot of fun playing with it while we waited in the room. She likes to compare things, so she commented that the red car was the same color as her red jacket, and both of them were the same as my scarf. Her neurosurgeon came in and introduced himself to her. She wasn’t really talking yet last time she saw him (her surgery last October) and she’s far more social and attentive now. He felt her shunts and checked her stomach, checked her eyes, and just talked to her for a little bit. There was a wind chill of -31F this morning, so she had a lot to say about how cold it was.

After their little chat, he became her best friend when he gave her a sticker and told her to check out the fish tank on the way out.

We are cleared for a year! Unless she has any issues, the plan is yearly check-ups and imaging in 3-4 years, when she probably won’t need to be sedated for the MRI.

 

In other news, I am finally just about over the longest sickness I think I have ever had. My Christmas cold turned into New Year’s cold, which turned into January bronchitis, an ear infection, and a sinus infection. And this all started when my former micropreemie came home one day with a runny nose that lasted approximately 12 hours. Mr Minion says I need to eat more fruit. I think that Little Miss Minion’s daycare is cultivating the next plague. Either way, I’m really REALLY glad that I got the worse case and not LMM. And one month later, I’m finally back to like 96% healthy. PSA: if you think you have bronchitis, go the doctor sooner rather than later.

This entry was posted on January 30, 2019. 2 Comments

Hello Again

Soooo, it’s been six months since my last update.

Oops.

Recap of Minion Life since the Foot Incident of 2018:

1. Little Miss Minion has started half day preschool through her daycare.

2. She is about 32 inches tall and weighs 29 pounds.

3. We went on a Disney Cruise with Mr Minion’s parents in November and she had a BLAST.

4. Toy Story is her favorite movie right now.

5. She finally figured out how to tear into presents and it is adorable.

Late last week, Little Miss Minion had a tiny cough and a little runny nose for like a day. No fever. I heard the cough and felt Preemie Mom mode come on, wondering if she would need her nebulizer and hoping she wouldn’t be sick for Christmas. She was fine in a day or so. I assumed we had escaped it.

And then I started to cough late on Christmas Eve. The next day, Mr Minion and I were both miserable. It sounded like a pack of seals had broken into our house. It’s been a week, and we are still trying to kick it. Meanwhile, Little Miss Minion is bouncing off the walls and happy as can be. It should really be against the rules for both parents to be sick at the same time. It’s just not fair.

I’m hoping this bodes well for her preemie lungs and immune system. It’s either that or they are engineering the next plague at daycare and she has developed immunity. 🙂

Hoping you and yours had a great holiday and wishing you a happy and healthy New Year in a few days. I’m off to do some shots (of NyQuil) and have a long winter’s nap.