Saturday, April 30, 2011

Updating is a bit slow around here...

Turns out that when you have 3 growing and bustling kiddos, it seems quite a bit harder to post updates and pictures on a regular basis, if you haven't noticed already. What started as a daily posting when I first started this blog has turned into a "when I get around to it" posting. So for those who ask "how do you do it all?"...well, I don't. ;-) There are about a half-dozen tasks that are circling in my brain that need accomplishing in the near future and blogging seems to keep me feeling like I am doing "something" without actually accomplishing what I truly need to be doing. I never used to be a procrastinator...I really didn't. But the term seems somewhat appealing these days.Regardless, accompanying this post are our pictures from Easter...just a week+ late. The kids had so much fun!! We usually have a big Easter hunt at our pastor's family's house, but they have a dear member of their family who is battling cancer and is in need of prayer (pray for Sis. Janice, will ya?), and she had surgery last week, so our tradition was put on hold for a bit.
So we decided to hide eggs at our hood after we returned from church...and after naps, of course. Sadly, (and a bit premature, in my motherly mind), Abby decided that she was too old to hunt for eggs, and instead opted to help hide the eggs for Emma and Nathan to find. That makes me sad. I know that Abby is quite beyond her years in maturity, but she is still 7. I can't remember the year I stopped hunting for eggs, but I can't imagine it was that young.Anyway, Emma and Nate had a blast as they partook in the ritual that will hopefully hone their skills of finding their keys or wallet or their kids' library books when they are older. Seriously, it was pure genius for someone to come up with a "fun activity" that will in essence teach our children mechanisms of trying to figure out where things are hidden when their brains fail them due to old age.Onto different news, my motherly intuition was right last week when I had a sense that Nate's "scheduled then canceled then mysteriously scheduled again" endoscopy wasn't actually going to happen on Thursday. We met a bewildered GI doc in pre-op that morning who looked just as confused as we were. Turns out that GI had canceled the procedure and contacted the OR about it, but the OR failed to take Nate off the schedule. No harm done...especially since we live just a few short miles from the hospital. If we had driven a couple of hours, it would have been a harder pill to swallow.The great thing that came out of it is that GI did agree that we can do the tube placement and the endoscopy at the same time now. We have an appt with our surgeon the first part of June, but they also said that they wanted this all done sooner and were going to try to facilitate the surgery date. As of yesterday, I was told that they are meeting with the surgeon today to set a date, so we should know more concrete plans soon. They also said that they wanted to admit Nathan overnight before the procedures to make sure he is tanked with some good dextrose. And he will probably spend 2 or 3 days in the hospital afterward as well.
He got sick on our way home from Houston with a cold that produced more snot than I have seen in a long time...that eventually turned into a sinus infection, so we are treating him with antibiotics currently and hoping he is back to normal before all of this goes down. Other than that, he is doing well...he has had good energy the past few days, and it is always so good to see him feel relatively well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Living a somewhat normal life amidst the medical chaos

Abby's soccer season is coming to a close with next week being her last week of practice and games. I have to say that this is the first time I will be sad that it is over for a while. It has been so much fun seeing her skills blossom so drastically over the past couple of months. She finally gets it. She loves it. And she's really good.
She started the season timid, confused, and frustrated. Although she has played soccer for a couple of years, this was the first season she has truly been taught how to play the sport instead of just being taught to kick the ball to the goal. Granted, I do think that a lot of this comes with age...she is at an age and intellect to be able to understand rules and moves and strategies better. But I do think a lot of it has to do with the great soccer association we started with this year as opposed to other years.
She's ending the season confident, aggressive, and having an absolute blast on the field. And man, it is so much fun to watch her play! She has excellent control of the ball most of the time and will take off down the field in almost a full sprint to score a goal. If she breaks away, she will almost always score. That kid has one of the longest strides I have ever seen. She is also excellent on defense, even doing a slide kick tonight as a last ditch effort to prevent the other team from scoring (we have no goalies at this stage, and the slide kick worked).
Tonight, she scored 4 goals. It will be a little different for her next year when she moves up to 4 v 4 games complete with goalies, but she is looking forward to continuing in the fall. And I am looking forward to cheering her on from the sidelines.We do try to live the most normal life we can amidst the medical chaos in our lives. The girls participate in soccer or ballet, school, different events, birthday parties, and play dates. I used to roll my eyes at Hillary Clinton's comment of "It takes a village to raise a child." I don't really know why I would roll my eyes at it other than the fact that she was the one saying it...but in our life, that statement rings true. It takes a village to raise my children. Since we have no family in our immediate area, we rely on the aid of friends that help us by keeping, shuttling, car pooling, and picking up our girls from their various locations. We are so very thankful for these precious friends...there are simply no words that are adequate enough to explain how much we care for and appreciate them all.
So onto the medical of the hardest parts of the medical system is miscommunication. It adds frustration and anxiety to the parents who are already overwhelmed to begin with. Unfortunately, when dealing with multiple chains of command in the medical field, it is pretty much impossible to go unscathed by the frustration caused by miscommunication at some point.

Case in point...we were informed a couple of days ago that Nate would be undergoing an endoscopy at our outpatient surgery center Thursday morning. My concerns that he probably wouldn't be approved to have the procedure there due to his complexities were met with confusion and quite a few phone calls to different departments. I finally spoke to an anesthesiologist in the center yesterday, faxed over our protocol, and was met with an early morning phone call this morning saying that Nate's procedure did indeed have to be performed at the hospital and with an admittance. Further phone calls put him in for the procedure next Wednesday morning, pre-op Monday and possible admission for fluids Tuesday night, but she would get back to me. A good plan, in my mind...and I was really impressed that they were all so vigilant to the complications of this disease and how it can affect some kiddos.So, I thought all was well with the plans until tonight during the kids' bedtime when we received a call saying that Nate's procedure was scheduled for tomorrow at 9. Yes, it would be at the hospital. She had to make sure he could have fluids 2 hours before hand instead of the normal "NPO after midnight" rule, and that was granted by the charge nurse. This is all a new plan to me, and I honestly won't be surprised if we get there and get turned away. I don't know...something just doesn't seem there have been way too many irons in the fire. Thankfully, as long as he is able to have some gatorade or apple juice in the morning and they are able to follow the anesthesia protocol given to us from his mito doc, I have no concerns for his safety. But, the lack of correct communication is exhausting and frustrating.
Add into the mix that we received a large bill this week for some past genetic testing that insurance denied, leaving me to try to sort out where it all went wrong...and trying to move over all of Nate's maintenance prescriptions to an insurance mandated mail-order program and being met with problems along the way...well, all of this makes me want to literally stick my head in the sand and wait for the storm to blow over. It does all get to you at times.
When I was going through my emotionally-charged teenage years, there were oftentimes that I would cry myself to sleep for no apparent reason. Hormones are tough when you are 15. But I distinctly remember telling myself in those many snot-fests that "tomorrow will be another day, and you'll forget the things that got you so worked up today." And thankfully, this was most always true. I would wake up with a smile on my face and with little recollection of why I was so emotional or frustrated the night before.

The same rings true for now as well. Although hormones have been replaced largely by the stress of the world, tomorrow will be another day. I will wake renewed and ready to tackle the tasks at hand.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 3: Houston...and some changes on the horizon

Everyone knows someone who has earned the label as an excellent hugger. not one of those people. I often go in for a hug too clumsily, stop too early and make it seem superficial, or do a half-hug that only seems to mean that I am totally uncomfortable in the embrace. When I initiate a hug, it usually ends up more awkward than not. Its just a skill that needs fine tuning on my end.
But we all know someone who seems to excel in the art of hugging. They come towards you with complete open arms, which makes you never second guess that it is a warm invitation for an embrace. Their hugs wrap around you snuggly and make you want to instantly melt into their chest. Its rare to get an embrace so genuinely loving and warm without a hint of hesitation, so it is a special treat when it does happen.
Our immuno/pulmo in the mito clinic is one of these expert huggers, and I can not get enough of her warm, welcoming embraces when we see her. Hugging seems so natural to her, and it is amazing the sense of trust and admiration that grows in her as a person and a doctor when she gives that warm hug after a few months of being away. She's a dignified lady, who makes jokes about how she loves the "grey haired" look of her age. She's classy and friendly and loving. She won our hearts and trust the first time we met her, and our love for her grows each time we visit.

Our appt with her this time was extremely easy and enjoyable (despite the little man being in some kind of mood that day...but it was day 3 in a long stretch of appt days, so I gave him a little leeway). She did up his dosage of Flovent since he is still grunting with exhales some in the evening and wheezing during activity from time to time. After not responding to his pneumo vax and being revaxed, he has finally mounted a beautiful response. We will check these again at a later time to make sure that he is indeed keeping these titers. She ran some more labs on him because he continues to have numerous lymph nodes that are enlarged, though I am fairly confident that we will never know why they remain that way. All in all, it was a great visit. A great ending to a tough trip.
We headed eastward toward home the next morning. Although it was good to be heading home, it was also hard to say goodbye to those friends that we have grown to love so deeply over the course of our trips to Houston. We leave our hearts with them each trip and look forward to 6 months down the road to see them all again. The trip home was uneventful and made me thankful once again that my little guy is such a great traveler. While traveling, I called our GI team at home to set up an appt to discuss our Houston trip and new testing information and was surprised that they had an appt opening for Monday morning.
Jay, Nathan and I headed to yet another appt this morning. Through this journey, my darling husband has accompanied us to all of the big appts...essentially, he will drop whatever he is doing to be at any appt I say I need him, but most all of the follow-up appts are left to me and the Nateman to tackle as Jay works or takes care of the girls. After our first appt with neurology, he came to all of the neuro follow-ups with us until Nate was diagnosed (those were really tough and long appts). The three of us went to Atlanta together and to Houston the first time we started in that clinic. And today, since we both knew we would be met with big decisions regarding Nathan's care, he accompanied us to our GI appt.
As it stands right now, Nathan will undergo an upper endoscopy on Thursday morning to take biopsies from his GI tract. He will have a repeat gastric emptying scan done soon so we can get an accurate view of how his gut is responding to the motility meds he currently takes (the last GES in Houston was off meds for a couple of days), and we will meet with a surgeon soon in preparation for the placement of a feeding tube.This plan did not catch us off guard. Our GI and Pulmo team has mentioned a feeding tube a couple of times in past visits, but we have never felt that we were quite there yet. We did, however, know that it would be inevitable in Nathan's life and care. He has struggled with growth and motility issues for some time now, and he has recently struggled quite a bit. He refuses some of his favorite foods because in his description "they hurt my belly". He complains of stomach pain almost on a daily basis and has recently really started to struggled with intense bloating on top of it all. He has been on 3 different motility meds and none seem to be helping as much as they should. We knew he was struggling, but we didn't quite know what to do.

While in the nuclear medicine waiting room before Nate's GI study in Houston, I prayed that God would give us guidance and show us the path he would have us go with our son's care. We know that Nathan and others suffering from this disease have to live life with daily pain...its a horribly unfortunate part of the disease process. But, we also know that with the daily pain he deals with, there are pertinent times where we can intervene and help in his quality of life. The problem is knowing what we can do and when we can do it. So in this moment, I prayed for guidance. "Lord, please show us if we need to intervene with further measures to help Nathan's GI system. Give us clear guidance." was my prayer in that waiting room.Clear guidance was indeed what the Lord provided. After meeting with the GI doc conducting the study, in which he told me that Nathan's results were some of the worst in the entire study, I thanked God for the evidence he gave us to know the next step...a step that we have been so unsure about for over a year. Conversations and emails between Nate's other doctors confirmed what we had on our was indeed time to intervene and give Nathan additional help from a nutritional and hydration standard.

So, Nathan will have a feeding tube placed within the next few weeks. Our GI team is recommending a GJ tube instead of the usual first step of a G tube. For those not familiar with the medical terminology, a G tube is a tube that is surgically implanted directly into the stomach for feeding. A GJ tube is a tube in the stomach and a tube in the small intestine. We will feed through the J tube (jejunum: small intestine) and vent through the G (gastr: stomach). Our team feels like a GJ is inevitable in Nathan's case, so they would rather start with a GJ instead of a regular G tube. However, the final decision comes to the surgeon who will be placing the tube.He will still be able to eat by mouth anytime he wants. A feeding tube for him will not change that. However, Nathan has been eating less and less the past few months. We will still encourage eating in every way, but we will also have the ability to supplement him on a regular basis with the nutrients and fluids that he does not get. Like our GI mentioned this morning, this is a "quality of life" decision for Nate. We can help him feel better by helping in this area and potentially give adequate nutrients and energy for the other parts of his body as well. He went on to explain that helping this little disease-related issue may end up helping other issues along the way and make him feel so much better in the meantime...much like it was when we started oxygen a year and a half ago.
This road is a tough road at times. It is quite difficult knowing that the "extras" Nathan has (oxygen, feeding tube, multiple meds) will most likely be with him the rest of his life. That is one of the reasons we are always so hesitant to add new things...because we know they are probably here to stay. But if it means that he will have happy and healthy days, we are more than willing to try anything.

We prayed for guidance...and guidance is what was provided. God is so merciful.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 2: Houston

I just learned that another one of our beloved mito kids passed away yesterday. Emma Grace was an absolutely precious child who has really struggled the past year with the effects of this disease. Her mother's blog was one of the first I read when our neurologist mentioned mito to us when Nate was 4 months old, so I have been following this dear family online for some time now. We have lost so many children in our mito community this year. It always hurts so deeply to fathom their parents' pain. Please pray for this sweet family.

Day 2 in Houston was devoted to time with Nathan's mitochondrial specialist, whom we utterly adore. The clinic is comprised of some of the most brilliant and caring doctors and staff, and we love them all so very dearly. Honestly, if anyone is looking to see a doc specializing in mito, I totally recommend the UT mito clinic in Houston. Feel free to contact me for info. This now concludes your public service announcement.
So, back to the appt...

Our mito doc came in and played with Nate for a bit. When we arrived to Houston, Nathan and I visited the wonderful world of IKEA for a few minutes, where he picked out a stuffed spider puppet thingamajigger...which he loved putting on his hand and scaring people. But our beloved doctor took matters into her own hands and used it to scare is always so sweet to see her interacting with the kids.
When she finished playing with Nate, she told the residents with her that it was always amazing to see how well he looked on the outside (despite being extremely small for his age) but know how much was going on inside his body. She then told me that she was a bit worried about Nate because every time we come to see them, he has new issues we have to tackle. Its a bit sobering to hear a doctor say that they are concerned about your child, but at the same time, it is also so very comforting knowing that she has so much understanding of this disease and how it affects Nathan. She essentially knows the concerns before we have to bring them up. Have I mentioned how much I wuv her?She said that it concerns her that his muscle biopsy shows a global deficiency across the board in the complexes. Sure, he has a defect in Complex I, which diagnosed him with mito in the first place, but all of his complexes are quite low. That info coupled with the knowledge that he has had numerous bodily systems involved and is still having new symptoms crop up every few months of his short 3 years so far, it points us to the possibility that he may be suffering from a mitochondrial depletion syndrome...meaning that his mitochondria are essentially depleting.The monkey wrench in all of this is that at the time of his biopsy, his quantitative mtDNA number was 77%, which is a good number. MtDNA depletion syndromes aren't usually diagnosed unless the mtDNA is under 50%. But, since Nate's biopsy was done when he was only 8 months old, there is a possibility that the mitochondria hadn't depleted that much by then but was already showing the global deficiency in his complexes. So, in order to know more about what the next few years may entail for Nate, and to give us an idea on what treatments we will and will not pursue, we need to know if there has been any change in his quantitative mtDNA number, signifying a depletion.This means that Nathan will undergo either a punch muscle biopsy (if a punch will give them enough tissue for this specific test...she has to check on that) or a liver biopsy when we return to Houston in October.
In our other medical convos, she recommended we start lactulose to help with some of his break-through issues with increased ammonia. He is already taking arginine, and lactulose will also help bind and remove the excess ammonia. He will be having an ABR hearing test done at our home hospital since he failed his last vibration hearing test in his left ear. I will be really surprised if the ABR is abnormal, but it will be good to check anyway.

And finally, due to some recent urination issues, it is possible that he may have the starting symptoms of a neurogenic bladder. Essentially, somedays he will pee 3 or 4 times a day...and then there are days where he will go up to 15 times a day with no change in liquid intake. He will often have accidents on the excessive urination days, and he has been totally trained with no accidents for a full year now. It is so strange and has had us scratching our heads for the past few months. He had a diabetes workup that was perfectly fine, so we just chalked it all up to Nate being Nate. I had never even thought that it could be a neurogenic bladder, even though that is something that is sometimes seen in mito. Since this is more annoying than causing problems at this time, we are just going to watch it for the time being.So, it was another difficult day of info on this day. Even though I had known from our last visit that our mito doc was hinting around that he could have mito depletion, it really threw me for a loop when she was more serious about it this time and suggested a liver or punch muscle biopsy. It took me a little bit to regain my thoughts, and I do agree with her that we do indeed need to know a bit more of what to expect the next few years. I have always found that the unspoken words between doctors and families are some of the toughest. We don't always ask the questions that we want to ask because we know that our doctors are not equipped to answer them...and doctors don't always say what is on their minds because they do not want to add additional worry to parents. Its an awkward dance that evolves and has everyone wondering if they truly understand what is happening.But what I do find comfort in is that we serve a God who is omniscient. He formed Nathan into the whole child that he is today. He is perfectly knowledgeable about all of the intricate details inside his little body, and he knows what the immediate and extended future holds for our sweet son. And I trust our God because he is holy and perfectly in control.

Dayo Uno: Houstono

Nate and I crossed over the Florida state line earlier this evening, and we are now nestled quite snuggly into our hotel room in Pensacola, leaving us about 5 hours of traveling remaining tomorrow. Leaving the Houston city limits this morning was accompanied by a good cry...partly due to sheer exhaustion, partly due to being quite overwhelmed by all the new info, and partly due to the emotional toll all of this takes on us from time to time. And it probably didn't help that I was listening to old Sarah McLachlan CD at the time, which isn't exactly the most chipper thing to listen to when you are already a bit down in the dumps. But it was definitely one of those cries that makes you instantly feel better when it is over...ready to tackle everything head-on all over again.
This trip gave us a lot of info...and a lot of that knowledge wasn't all that great. It was most definitely that hardest trip we have taken so far from a medical info standpoint. While our team at home is absolutely incredible, it doesn't even begin to compare to the mito clinic in Houston. They just know so much more about this disease. We have known for some time now that Nate was having increased problems, but with the lack of knowledge about mito at our home hospital, we didn't test or become too concerned about the new or worsening symptoms. Ignorance is bliss sometimes...until you realize that your suspicions are even worst than you even imagined.

The first full day of medical testing and appts started bright and early in the morning and ended at near quittin' time. Since we had to be at the hospital so early in the morning, the 4 hours of sleep I got the night before wasn't nearly enough to tackle the marathon day. But the day was indeed tackled, and my littlest guy amazed me once again at his ability to face so many tough situations without complaint. He truly does amaze me...I can't say that enough. Sometimes I want to kiss his face off. Especially when at the end of our very long and arduous day, and after his first blood draw of the week, he looks at me and says through tear rimmed eyes "I so pwoud of you mama! I did so good with my blood and I so pwoud of you!" Obviously in need of some intense praise, I just hugged his teeny body close and made sure he knew that it was I who was proud of him.Nate partook in a mito/GI study on Monday. Essentially, it is a research study that looks at the gastric emptying and motility of patients with mito. They needed 26 patients for the study and when we received the call asking us to participate a few weeks ago, it made Nate number 26. I am really looking forward to the data that will come out of this research.

We already knew that Nathan had gastroparesis. A gastric emptying study done when he was less than a year old showed that. I can't remember the exact number, but his half emptying time then was around 100 minutes when a normal half emptying time is under 90 minutes. He has been on motility meds for a little over 2 years because of it, but we have noticed over the past few months that they don't seem to help him all that much and that he is eating less and less and really struggling with weight gain. I knew that it was pretty much a given that his gastric emptying time would be delayed...but it was even a shock to me with how delayed it actually was.After eating his toast, orange juice and a radioactive egg, he was placed under a nuclear medicine machine that took pictures every minute for 90 minutes as the food moved from his stomach to intestines. My amazing little fella laid still for the 90 minutes, perfectly content to watch cartoons. We went back 4 hours after he ate for another minute scan and again 6 hours after he ate for the last of the scan (another short one).

When meeting with the GI doctor conducting the study, he said that Nathan's motility testing was grossly abnormal and overall one of the top worst ones in the study. "Grossly abnormal" are definitely two words that you never want to hear when someone is talking about medical tests. Nate's half emptying time (time it took for half the food to leave his stomach) was 196 minutes. That is a dramatic change from just 2 years ago. This test also showed that there was delayed small bowel transit, and that there was absolutely no food in his large intestine at the 6 hour mark, which is significantly delayed (food should be there by 4 hours). This testing showed that not only was his stomach horribly delayed in emptying, but his small intestine is suffering from terrible motility as well. Essentially, his GI dysmotility due to mito is progressing at a rate that we never expected. Though his recent increased symptoms make complete sense now, it is so very difficult to see how much his gut function has declined so drastically over the past 2 years.We also met with a different GI doc in clinic that day as well. I wanted to meet with a GI that is more familiar with the presentation of children with mito than our home team in Florida. While our GIs are wonderful, the docs at Memorial Hermann have so much more experience with mito kids. This GI doc ran quite a few blood tests on the little guy and also recommended that he have an upper endoscopy when we get home to check for eosinophils in his GI tract which would give another reason for his stomach pain and failure to thrive. We also have some big and serious conversations to have with our GI team when we get home on the next step for Nate regarding treatment.

So, a long day to start off a long week. The little guy was a trooper...simply amazing as he tackled the annoying testing with no complaints at all. I am so thankful for this little guy.Day two and three of the trip to shall come tomorrow or Saturday. :-)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

10 things I love about Texas

10. The pride shown all over the faces of the people who say "I live in Texas."

9. The state flag...simple, elegant, strong.

8. The way the hot wind blows the grass constantly. I don't know why, but I love stepping outside and feeling that.

7. Whataburger.

6. Men wearing cowboy boots everywhere. We had a resident today who was wearing them...something you don't normally see in a hospital/doctor office setting. He also had what I am betting was a cowboy hat hair line which made me assume that he was just a cowboy posing as a doctor who would ride his horse Bessy on the sides of the interstate toward his homestead once it was quittin' time for the day.

5. Mexican restaurants.

4. The fact that almost every eatery has Dr. Pepper.

3. The fact that most every one has some sort of "Texas themed" decoration in their house...(see #10 for reason)

2. The state is home to so many of our dear friends and family. People who we wish lived nearer. People who we love deeply.

1. It is also home to some of the most amazing, compassionate, brilliant, and understanding doctors in this country. Doctors who I can honestly say that I am so very thankful that they know and care for my son.

(Nate swinging at the park beside the hospital as we wait for the time for our next GI scan of the day)
It's been a couple of long, exhausting days full of quite a bit of information...information that I need to let sit and simmer for a bit before putting it all down here. Hopefully I will have the chance to go into it all more in depth when I get home and am better rested and had time to think about and process the appts of the week. One more appt tomorrow and then we start our trek home on Thursday. The little guy is still hanging in there like a champ!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

10 things I learned today

10. The stretch of I-10 through the Florida panhandle is perhaps one of the most agonizingly boring stretches of interstate in this country.

9. One of the best things about a smart phone on a long trip is PANDORA! Wuv it!!

8. I'm pretty sure that there are fingerprints embedded into the steering wheel from the fear of plunging into the murky water under all the long bridges we passed from Alabama through Louisianna.

7. I am also pretty sure that I now have a good plan of escape for the little guy and I on the chance that we plunge into the depths of the murky water under the countless bridges we have to cross on our way home.

6. When stopping at a truck stop, it is best not to make eye contact with the truckers. It's a good bet that 8 out of 10 truckers will scare the beegeezus out of you.

5. It's a fair assumption that the little guy's favorite part of the trip will be the 10 seconds that we spent in a tunnel in Mobile, AL.

4. It's a fair assumption that his second favorite thing will be yelling "I see water in my window!!" 400 bagillion times as we crossed the swamps of the south.

3. Many hours of silence and choosing your own music does a mind a lot of good.

2. I have a DVD player to thank for that many hours of silence...and a sweet little boy who just so happens to be the absolute best traveler around...a little boy who also happens to be sleeping with his arm around my neck right now. And I wuv it more than Pandora.1. I am looking forward to a good night's sleep with my littlest little-un tonight, a good free continental breakfast in the morn, and crossing the great ole' state line of Texas tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Alligator Alley

Jay's parents were visiting last week, so we decided to take them to Paynes Prairie just south of town because we have been told numerous times that it is a really neat adventure. But of course! Who doesn't love the adventure of walking amongst hundreds of wild alligators while trying so desperately to keep small children under foot lest these monster creatures jump out of the bushes and eat them in one bite like a chocolate chip cookie. Because that could so happen. And I'm really not kidding.
Paynes Prairie is a ginormous sink hole south of town where there are literally hundreds of gators, bison, wild horses and cows, along with really beautiful birds and mosquitoes and ticks and snakes with deadly juicy fangs and other creatures who would be more than happy to eat a human or three. Its definitely the hit place in town. Why not take out of state guests to showcase the real side of living in the swamp?
Look kids...a field trip! the outdoorsy atmosphere. But also keep an eye out for rustling of the grass beside you, lest it be Bigfoot. Oh, and make sure you keep your eyes peeled ahead of know, so you won't run into that gator as big as your father crossing your path. Kidding, I am not. It almost ate my middle-un and her grandmother too. Big scary fangs dripping with the blood of its last victim and beady red eyes narrowed in on the two unsuspecting ones enjoying the scenic route of the prairie. Little did they know that evil was directly in front of them, ready to pounce and huff and puff and blowwwwww their houses down.
Okay, well maybe that is stretching it a bit, but a gator totally did walk right in front of Em and my mother in law. I bet it licked its chompers as well, but I didn't actually witness it. I just suspect that is what gators do when they meet victims that can be swallowed in one easy bite.
I forgot the little guy's cooling vest, and with it already being 400 degrees these days, he obviously didn't last long. Since his temperature regulation seems to resemble that of his cold-blooded predators, I decided that I would cool him down by dipping him head-first into the water a few times. However, my incredible wisdom kicked in at the last second when I realized that the gators circling us had to be covered in germs from their own feces-infested water...germs that may cause pink eye or encephalitis or those disgusting brain-eating worms that you only see on the Discovery channel. Instead of subjecting my little tyke to that type of danger, the guys decided to head back in search of some shade and coolish-hot breeze while we brave and unrelenting women headed further into the prairie.
It was a fun adventure for the short time we were there. We can NOT wait to go back...because we obviously love living on the edge of danger in our own backyard. Or we're crazy. Maybe both. Or maybe just crazy.

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