It has been a madhouse around here. I was contacted a couple of weeks back about having Annika appear in a public service announcement to promote organ donation. Obviously I agreed, but then I was struck by the idea of including lots of kids who had had transplants or were currently waiting for transplants. So many of those announcements do a great job of presenting one face and one story to really connect with the viewer/listener, but I think there is an impression that it's relatively rare for little ones to need transplants, which is completely untrue. There are currently 116 children under the age of 1 waiting for transplants, and over 2,000 children under the age of 18 waiting (data
from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network
on 4/24/05). The producer of the spot really liked the idea, so much so that she agreed to hold off shooting long enough for me to contact other parents and arrange a time for us all to meet. So far we have 9 kids ranging in age from 18 months to 15 years coming, plus one adult who received a liver transplant 20 years ago at the age of 4. I'm planning a wading pool/sprinkler party in our backyard with the kids, so I think it will be great fun. And hopefully our last year's wildflower garden will be telegenic enough by mid-June. I'm not sure what the plan is for the shoot, but I can certainly imagine simply showing all the kids having loads of fun and then doing a close-up on each one with a title that gives name, age, "loves glitter glue and her baby sister," and "transplanted 3 years ago" or whatever their numbers/loves are. I'm sure the older kids are capable of expressing some fairly moving thoughts on organ donation, and I bet we could get them all to shout "Thank you, organ donors!" together at the end or something like that. Yes, I have an overactive imagination.
And speaking of overactive imagination...Last night my neighbor had a moms party over at her house while her husband and kids were out of town. There were margaritas, wine coolers, cheap beer in cans, and you might have even thought this was a college students' party until you took one look at the spread on the dining room table, and knew for sure that no college students in the world could ever have produced those cheese balls, marbled cheesecakes, mini-quiches, and various phyllo dough extravaganzas, all neatly arranged with the sweets at one end of the table and the savories on the other. I myself enjoyed a rare few glasses of wine, which went straight to my head, as the old saying goes. Actually I had been carefully sipping along until the older, more experienced moms decided to compare head lice stories, which was when I started tossing that Merlot back. You would think that after witnessing several liver biopsies, an upper endoscopy, an untold number of IV placements, emptying the contents of bags that drained infected bile for several months, numerous trips to the PICU, etc. that I would be made of stronger stuff, but, no, the idea of bugs laying eggs all over Anni's curls gave me the heebie-jeebies. Stumbling across the my dark lawn after midnight, I considered, then rejected, going into Anni's room to examine her head while she slept.
We have also been busy readying ourselves for our big trip to Germany next week. Joerg's mom has never met Frankie, and hasn't seen Annika since after her second transplant at 15 months. Joerg's father has come here twice for brief visits, but his stepmom has never met either of the girls. And none but one of his close friends have ever met either girl. Annika and Joerg are just plain excited, Frankie is oblivious, and I am giddily nervous. Taking Annika so far from her doctors...well, it's something like a toddler taking her first few tentative steps away from the safety of her parent's arms, jubilant and terrified all at once. Again, I exaggerate - there are great doctors and hospitals in Germany, I know. But still.
And then there are the practical issues of preparing to pack for a month in a foreign country with two young children. And preparing our house to be occupied by a college student (with a reputation for responsibility, cross fingers) for a month to attend to the cats and plants.
Frankie is all set to charm the German side of our family with her new social skills. She watches us all carefully trying to figure out how to behave, and even extends her newfound courtesy to the Grande Dame Cat, Hepburn. If Frankie wants to interact with her, she drops down to her hands and knees and starts meowing. When Hepburn comes over, as she always does, Frankie butts the top of her head up against Hepburn, exactly as she has seen the cat greet us. When Hepburn responds in kind, Frankie meows again and then pets her with a gentleness that is shocking in one who was more Godzilla
than toddler just a few months back. Hepburn obviously has a soft spot in her heart for little Frankie, as do we all.
She already has "Please" and "Thank You" down perfectly, and even happily takes turns with Annika with any coveted toy as long as I beep to announce their respective turns. Her only annoying new habit, and it is really much more annoying than it is going to sound, is that she squeals "Ow!" in a dragged-out two-syllable whine everytime any little thing is being done that she does not enjoy. And she has become just a little too fond of the word, "No."
Her verbal skills are really quite impressive - she's been stringing together two words for a while now, but it seems that we're getting new constructions every day ("There you go", "I do", "More cheese", "Wait Mommy Anni", "No night-night"). The girls and I went to a park last week, and there was a first-time mom there with her 18-month-old. Frankie ran right over to her, "Hi baby!" despite this child being, if anything, a tad larger than she is. Then Frankie started jabbering on about the dog she saw playing in a nearby field. The other baby was more the silent type, and I could see the mom forming little worried thoughts comparing the verbal skills of the two. I pointed to Annika, who was narrating another of her intricate stories to herself nearby as she lined up members of her pea-gravel family up on the retaining log. I motioned to her and said, "And that one didn't speak more than 3 words until she was nearly 3, but look at her now! Kids are amazing." The mom smiled back.
I hope to have at least one more post before we leave. And I should have some sort of internet access once we get settled in. I can't wait to see how the girls react to this adventure.