Our
Journey:
Avalon's Army of Angels
November 2, 2009
Happy Birthday Aurora, goofy, good and awful
Some days are so high on the weird scale...they actually reset the parameters.  Then there is
today.  Today defies quantification.

First and foremost, I must attend to the most important element of the day:

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday my beautiful, charming, rotten, 15 year old...
Happy Birthday to yoooooooooou!!!

Contrary to what my svelte, youthful appearance might suggest...(stop laughing) I am actually
the mother of a 15 year old.  As a confirmed 29 year old (I
said stop laughing) I obviously gave
birth when I was a mere child myself.  My first, oldest, makes-me-look-ancient little one turned
15 today, or as she prefers to describe it, "365 days from driving".  She says she intends to
update her age daily to reflect the current proper statistic.  Mommy expects gray hair
production to increase in direct correlation to the 'age number' decrease.  Oh yeah, the panic
has already begun.

Although I am having panic attacks about allowing my baby on the road with heathens,
nere-do-wells, and their giant machines of death...it has nothing to do with her.  Aurora is
becoming a wonderful, responsible, makes-mommy-PROUD young woman.  Sure, sure, we
have our moments where we seem locked in mortal combat.  Despite those, I think my
daughter is fantastic.  She's taken on a huge armpit-load of responsibility lately, and still
manages to keep up in school.  She's smart, funny, artistic, and well, dag-nabit...a pretty cool
kid.  She'll probably die a thousand deaths and threaten my very existence when she reads
this, but tough nubs, I'm proud of the person she is becoming.  And guess what?  She doesn't
know how to edit the site.  Ha!

Happy Birthday, Aurora...you will never be too old to be my 'Little One' and I LOVE you up to
the moon and back!

OK, now that my proud mom genes have been satisfied, it's time to return to regularly
scheduled ranting.  Hold on folks, this was one bizarro day.

Last week we received an email from A Kid Again, inviting member families to a "private
concert" by the band, Honor Society.  HS had a real concert in Cleveland, and they had
graciously agreed to hold a private, afternoon concert for AKA families, with a meet and greet
to follow.  

Ambrosia, Avalon, Nick, and I had seen HS a few months ago when they were the opening act
for the Jonas Brothers.  We had all really liked the band, so we were thrilled to get to hear
them again, much less getting to pose for pictures.  Woot!  Figuring in the fact that life is about
to get nasty, germophobic, and painful for Avalon, one last hurrah sounded like fun.  Aurora
was less-than-thrilled about driving to Cleveland and hearing some 'kid band' on her birthday,
but she eventually caved to familial pressure (mom) and agreed to not only go, but to stop
being so damn sullen about it...

Because this was a free concert that was the same day as a real one, it was early in the day,
from 12-3.  The time actually thrilled us, we hoped it would reduce the number of people who
were able to go.  It's easy for online school to be suspended for a day, but brick and mortar
people were going to be less likely to pull kids out of school.  Hip hip hooray!  We figured we
had a good chance of getting excellent seats.  

The concert was at Memorial Hall in Parma, OH.  Parma is  a suburb of Cleveland, so we knew
we were in for a 2 1/2 hour drive.  Since the concert didn't start until noon, we figured leaving
by 9:00 would get us there plenty early.  One giant problem though...the van really began
acting up last week.  Seriously, I the oil pressure went to zero as I got off the highway going to
the hospital for the PICC line on Wed.  To be able to safely get home I had to take all back
roads, stopping twice when the pressure bottomed out.  The hospital is 40 minutes away.  
Parma was NOT going to happen in our van.

First I asked my dad to borrow his car.  We know we all fit in it, and he's offered in the past.  
Well, that just didn't work out.  Next, I called our dear friends Rourke and Jessica to see if I
could be a horrible mooch and borrow Rourke's van, since I knew it was merely a 'back-up'
vehicle for them.  Oops!  I was a day late and a dollar short...Rourke had just
sold the van!  
(seriously, like just a few days before I asked)  Yay for Rourke, rats for my plans.  Things were
looking dubious.

Nick finally suggested we call our friend, Joe.  Joe has lent Nick his truck before when Nick's
truck was out-of-commission.  He'd offered his truck lots of times.  Heck, Joe would give us the
shirt off his back.  He's got to be one of the most generous, kind-hearted men on the planet.  
After a bit of convincing that I would actually be able to pilot the thing, Nick made the call.  Joe
delivered the truck in less than an hour.  The man is a saint.  

So there you have it, we headed out to Parma, OH this morning, myself and 4 kids, in a GIANT
whopping MAN-truck with lawn service decals on it.  This was not a truck like Nick has
had...this was a
beast.  A powerful, FAST, really tall, FAST, very manly beast.   Thank George
Nick thought to warn me about the power of the beast.  Good Lordy me, I was driving out of the
subdivision and realized I was going
40!  Aurora and I decided that if I managed to drive 5
hours round trip and not get a ticket....it'd be a miracle.   We also decided that if I got a ticket,
Joe would laugh hysterically, and so would Nick...until we had to pay it.  Seriously, we were so
worried, we double checked that the registration was in the glovebox, so we didn't look like
criminals when we got pulled over...

Of course we didn't manage to leave exactly by 9:00.  Google maps said the trip should take 2
hrs 18 minutes, so when we were on the road by 9:30, we figured we'd still be there 10-15
minutes before the show.  Probably not going to get the closest seats, but we knew there were
only 70-100 people expected, so we would certainly be able to see/hear well.  

The drive up was long, but we had fun.  We had lots to talk about and enjoyed being so close
together.  The van has us all spread out, so the closeness is interesting.  The decibel level in
the car definitely reinforced my love of LARGE, spacious cars...but it was fun in the short-term.

Two hours in, Anam had to go potty, so we were forced to make an unscheduled pit stop.  
Aurora was nice enough to run into a Wendys with he and Ambrosia, to save me from having
to navigate the whole thing in my giant patchwork skirt.  Two points to the birthday girl for
being thoughtful!

When we tried to leave Wendys, we were routed away from the highway because we could
only turn right - it was a divided highway.  We ended up having to go down to the next light to
turn around.  Sometimes fate knows what its doing.  The next light had a McDonalds which was
mighty handy to stop the "I want food!  I NEED french fries!" that had been coming from the
tiny man ever since he stopped pottying.  OK, mom caved - we picked up fries and chicken
nuggets to eat as we made the last leg of the trip.

I really should have been clued in when we exited the highway into Parma.  I really should have
possibly gotten the hint that this was going to be interesting, as we slowly made our way
through a tiny, aging, small-town suburb.  I
should have taken the hint, but I was too busy
watching for roads and panicking about the fact that we were going to be about 5 minutes late.
 The kids were mad about missing the first song, I was apologizing and saying maybe the band
would start late.  Tee hee, it is to laugh.  You'll see.

We finally reached Ridge Ave and turned right, looking for the address we had.  Now, the
email had said that 'Memorial Hall' is located directly behind Parma City Hall, so we figured it
wouldn't be too hard to find.  As we turned onto Ridge, Aurora said, "Hey!  I think that's City
Hall!" and gestured toward what looked more like a township fire department than a
city hall.  I
said, no...I don't think so.  She countered by pointing out a sign that looked kind of official.  As
we passed said building, Aurora spied a giganto tour bus, pretty much cementing that we were
passing where we needed to be.  We turned on the first side street and tried to get in a back
way...but there were no back ways to be had.  So, we looked for somewhere to turn around.

We finally turned around and made our way back to the main road and the entrance to the
'city offices'.  We kept looking for signs, ideas of where to go...
something.  We decided to aim
for the bus, we'd work it out from there.  That's when we saw it...a sign.  Specifically, a sign that
said something on the order of, "Memorial Senior Center"...uh oh.  Methinks 'Memorial Hall' is
not what we had imagined...

In the midst of our giggles, we did, indeed, find the giant bus.  Once we rounded the end of the
building, it wasn't hard...the bus was nearly as long as 'Memorial Hall' itself.  The giggles got
louder.  Soon enough, we saw Mr. Damron, the head of AKA.  He looked perplexed about the
lawn care truck, until we got close enough he could see us through the window.  I stopped and
offered to drop the kids (so they wouldn't be
late for the show) and go park across the lot
somewhere.  No, no, Mr. Damron said to park in this little loading area.  You see, the bus had
to park close to the venue so the stars could be
rushed in...and in doing so, had blocked ALL
of the parking.  When Mr. Damron had asked someone in the county office about parking,
she'd offered to help.  She had gone out and moved
her car from one side of the lot...to the
other.  Seriously, she pulled out of one spot, and pulled directly into the opposing spot, a
whopping 20 feet away,
closer to the building.  Although, I suppose she didn't intend to get as
close as she did.  She missed the brake, went over the parking block and ran
INTO the
building...  The giggles were nearly deafening...

Once Mr. Damron parked us in the loading zone, we began piling out.  Avalon wanted to just
walk in, no wheelchair.  Since we were all of 10 feet from the door, no problem.  However, Mr.
Damron suggested her chair might be more comfortable than the
folding card chairs that were
set up inside, so we went ahead and unbungied it from the bed of the truck.  Uh huh....more
giggles.  

One step in the door, and the giggles were painfully difficult to keep from becoming guffaws.  
'Memorial Hall' of Parma is not the giant Broadway-tour-hosting Memorial Hall of Dayton, OH.  
No, no...it's not.  
This Memorial Hall was more likely to host a senior citizen Yuker tournament
or Saturday bingo.  
This Memorial Hall couldn't hold thousands, it had folding chairs for a
hundred, and only one row had bodies in them.  
This Memorial Hall was charming, quaint, and
small-town cute...but man-oh-man was it funny under the circumstances.  

All the way to Parma, we'd been wishing in the car that some of the people might back out.  We
figured that if we could get the number down to 60 or so, it would really mean we'd get lots of
good pictures at the end.  We needn't have worried.  That poor band.  I mean, really.  They
spent the Summer opening for the Jonas Brothers.  They played huge arena venues, with
moving stages, enormous light and sound systems, and tens of thousands of screaming fans...
 And here we were, 20 people in a senior center.  Good grief, the humor of it all was so thick it
was nearly painful...

OK, all funny aside, I did feel sorry for these guys.  Then again, I figure it's one of those stories
they'll trot out on Letterman some day.  I'm also guessing they'll torment their manager over it,
Lord knows what he'll owe them after today.  As for being late?  That's just funny.  The
organizers were so desperate for warm bodies they were waiting hoping someone,
anyone
would show up.  I'm reasonably certain interesting conversations were happening on that giant
bus too.  
You're kidding, right?  You mean we really have to go through with this?  C'mon...are
we being punked or something?
 

I don't think we saw hide nor hair of the boys until at least 12:45 or so.  Who knows?  We were
too busy chatting and privately giggling.  

I have to say, I give the members of Honor Society huge credit.  They came out as if there
were a 1000 audience members and they played their part to the fullest extent.  They didn't
back off on their performance, and they were as enthusiastic as the 8 ft x 16 ft stage would
allow them to be.   They did a spectacular job...for all four songs...

Uh huh...
four songs.  We'll come back to that.

After the 'concert' (really, can FOUR songs actually still be called a concert?  I'm voting for
'musical dalliance'...but that's just my humble opinion) - so, after the
concert, the band said
they would take questions from the audience.  There weren't terribly many questions, but there
were memorable moments.  It turns out, the boys are actually men - ages 29, 30, 31, and 31.  
This prompted me to be a tad ornery and ask them if the Disney children they have to play
nice with are ever irritating.  They were quite good at stifling their snickers and going on to
provide a respectable PC answer, but when you're sitting 15 feet away, it's easy enough to
see the amused glances and diverted looks to avoid outright laughing.  Yep, I enjoyed that.

The truly fun moment was missed by nearly everyone in the audience but Aurora and I.  One
of the promoters asked about having a career in the music business.  You know, the standard
question of
If these kids want to grow up to be rock stars, what do you suggest? garbage.  I
hate those questions, they are so predictable.  Again, though, I have to give props to the band
members.  They did an excellent job of answering the question.  Several of them said things,
and they all stressed the importance of practice and of loving your craft.  They really spoke
about the love of music - not choosing this as a career because you want money or fame.  
That's when the lead singer came up with, 'It's not always
glamorous you know.  Really, it's not
fun and glamour and big fancy stuff all the time.'  As he said it, he kind of glanced at our family
and gave this sideways grin - he knew we totally got the joke. It's nice when you can have that
silent 'thing' that says the other person
knows you understand the absurdity of where you both
are at that moment.

At the end of the Q & A, Kathy Derr suddenly spoke up.  She asked the band if they would do
one more favor and please pose for a special
Birthday picture with Aurora, who was turning 15
today.  I had NO idea she was going to do that...and cripes was it funny!  The band readily
agreed and were soon squatting down to grin around Aurora who stood in front of the stage.  
Kathy wasn't done, though.  
Hey, since you're right there, how about singing Happy Birthday
to her too?  
 What we saw was Aurora turn beat red, maybe mumble something, then one
band member burst out laughing.  What Aurora reported later was saying to herself, "
Oh
no..oh please no!"  .  
To whit the band member whispered in her ear...Too late! and burst out
laughing.  Oh yeah, these are the moments that make your heart sing...

One gloriously embarrassing song later, Aurora came back our direction and the band left the
stage.  The sponsor of the event, the pear council, or pears usa or something like that, made
a generous announcement that they had bags of pears and cds for all the children in
attendance.  The kids were thrilled to go collect their goody bags and the older girls tried
desperately to convince Anam to go talk to the giant walking pear.  He wasn't even remotely
interested.  

As Aurora and Ambrosia made their way to shake the bands' hands, their manager came over
to talk to Avalon.  He was charming and very interested.  I told him how much we appreciated
the show.  I didn't want him or the band to give up on charity because one gig was a flop.  I
explained to him what Avalon was facing, and why today was so important.  I had a 2 minute
chance to try to convince an up-and-coming band why charity matters, I grabbed it with both
hands.  

As we started to turn to go find the band, we found them coming over to us.  Ambrosia and
Aurora had already met them and chatted.  Because I'd been distracted by the manager,
Avalon would have missed her chance to say "Hi" had they not come over.  I did my best to
thank them enough for 100 people even though there were barely 20.  I also explained to them
why today was so important for us, and exactly what Avalon was up against.  She proceeded to
ask them if they wanted to see her PICC line, and they happily obliged!  Nothing funnier than a
little girl showing off a PICC as if she was a biker with new ink.  Funny stuff...trust me.  

The band was soon gone and we were saying our goodbyes and thank yous to the AKA crew.  
I have to say, my biggest thank you was reserved for Kathy, the owner and propietor of my
newest 'happy place' - the sight of my teen twisting in the wind, croaking of eternal
embarrassment as she was birthday serenaded.  Ahh...embarrassing your teen.  It's the joy of
life and the fuel that keeps your mother furnace happily burning.  It was a good day.

We were back on the road home long before 2:00.  That's when it really hit home, 5 hours in
the car, 4 songs.  That's a whopping 1 hr, 15 minutes of car time, per song.  Figuring in gas,
lunch, and several other factors, Aurora and I began writing our own song to the theme of 12
days of Christmas.  
5 hours driving, 4 good crooners, 3 bags of pears, 2 much speed, and 100
dollars we shouldn't have spent.  
Admittedly it needs work, but it made us laugh.

As we drove home, we tried to find an activity that would salvage Aurora's birthday.  Honestly,
we had thoroughly enjoyed the band, both in person and in song, but 4 songs have a difficult
time balancing out 5 hours in a truck.  After ruling out several things due to germ exposure for
Avalon, Aurora settled on puppy hugging.   She simply asked if we could go to the local pet
store and hug on some puppies.  Easy enough, and I OWED her...so pet store it was.  She
actually really wanted to stop at an outlet mall we passed on the way to Cleveland - but when
we got there both Anam and Avalon were out cold.  Sleepy short people are not good
shopping companions, so we agreed to come up with alternatives, and that's how the pet store
came to be.

Two and a half hours later, we were finally walking into the pet store.  It was a great idea and
the giggles were well worth it.  All four kids loved puppy kisses and finger chews.  It's been
over a year since I've allowed them to do this.  They are so embarrassing whenever we go.  
They all beg me for dogs we can't afford and get bent out of shape when mommy won't pony
up $2000 for a puppy.  I told them the last time I would never take them back.  It took one year
and a wonky birthday to make me do it, but here we were.  Not hard to guess that we had
disagreements about asking for a puppy again, but I stick to my earlier review - it was worth it.

We went home to eat dinner and relax for a while before Nick came home.  Daddy promised to
come home early enough so that Aurora and I could go to the movies.   That's when it
happened, the surefire nail on Aurora's birthday coffin...my heart issues came back.  

Saturday night at Nett's house, my heart had been giving me fits.  I was positive it was going to
leap clear out of my chest, to find a new host somewhere in the room.  It was beating fast and
irregular, and it wasn't fun.  I was scared, but didn't say anything, not wanting to fight with
anyone about it.  When I got home, I took the blood pressure medicine I knew I'd skipped that
morning and finally 'fessed up to Nick.  I went straight to bed, and felt better in an hour or so.  I
figured that was the end of it.  I was WRONG.

Tonight, not long after we got back from the pet store, it started again.  By the time Nick got
home, I was in trouble.  The wonky heart feeling was moving on to being dizzy, having tingly
fingers, and being in pain.  It was bad enough that the feeling-guilty-about-Aurora's-birthday,
worried-about-being-exposed-to-germs Mom...told everyone I needed to go to the ER.  I hate
ERs and I HATE disappointing kids on their birthdays.  Suffice it to say - I felt bad enough to
overcome both and go.

Nick was convinced I'd skipped my BP meds again that morning, even though I didn't think I
had.  Since I could feel my BP skyrocketing, I went ahead and took a dose - knowing that
doubling up really couldn't hurt me.  I caved to pressure and let Nick drive, in case something
might happen.  (what a great thought, huh?)  Long story short, it didn't take me long to get out
the door - the heart thing is AWFUL.

On the way to the ER, I called our friend, Jeannie, to say we wouldn't be able to come to Lucy's
birthday party, because Avalon would be in the hospital.  Jeannie and I chatted until we got to
the ER.  Actually, I had to rather rudely cut Jeannie off when we got there, because I really
wanted to get in and get help.  I didn't want to be insensitive to what she was saying, I thought
it was important.  So instead, I opted to be honest and tell her why I needed to get off the
phone.  However, in retrospect, suddenly interjecting into a conversation, "I'm sorry, but we're
at the ER and I have to go, I've been having chest pains" - may not have been the best way to
handle it.  Oops.

Long story short, here is what basically happened.  EKG, chest x-ray and heart monitoring
were normal.  Yes, my HR was elevated and so was my BP, but not terribly.  The attending is
relatively sure I have SVT from my description.  SVT is when your heart periodically beats at
superhuman speed.  (an electrical issue)  When your arteries can't keep up with it, pain
occurs.  (plumbing issue)  The SVT is an 80-90% sure bet, because the episodes both
resolved about an hour after I took my BP meds.  Turns out, my BP med is one that is used to
stop SVT also.  The fact that it worked beautifully, is a good indicator that the guess is correct.
 
I was very honest with all the ER people.  A) I was serious or I wouldn't have been there - I had
too much to do.  But B) since I was doing better - I didn't have time for a 24 hour hold.  The ER
doc said the absolute shortest time he could hold me was to recheck heart attack related
enzymes in 6 hours.  He had to be sure they were clear.  Because SVT fit so well, he would
bend (nearly to the point of breaking) the rules and bounce me after that, if I PROMISED to get
to a family doctor quickly after Avalon gets out of the hospital.  I will too, the heart thing was
terrifying and utterly painful.

As they tried to educate me about SVT triggers and how to stop an episode without drugs, two
things became apparent.  One, not a chance coffee causes it in me.  The two terrible episodes
happened on days I'd only had 1/2 a cup.  Verses the day in between where I had two full
cups.  (Not to mention other days where I've had lots more)  The only thing similar between the
two days was me drinking a single Diet Coke both days, and me having lots of chocolate right
before it happened.  I'm telling you, I'm convinced chocolate is now trying to kill me.  WTH?  
What did I ever do to it?!  Not fair, not even remotely fair.  I've worshiped at chocolate's alter,
and now it's being mean to me.  I feel betrayed.  

So, from a crazy, expensive trip to Cleveland for four songs, to puppy lovin', to an ER run for
chest pains....I told you, this day defied description.  

Hope yours was interesting!