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The week has been a mixed bag. This coming Tuesday Ellis has a heart catherization procedure and it could be an outpatient procedure or turn into an overnight stay if there’s profuse bleeding from the cath site. That decision will be based on her condition after the cath. Mid June, she will have her fourth heart surgery at a new hospital for us; from Stanford to UCSF. Lead up to it has been mildly overwhelming with administrative things to emotional processing for us.

It’s been on our schedule radar for a couple of months but it’s soon becoming reality.

I’ve become braver, it seems, because I’m crying less worrying about the process. Gearing myself up for a big experience like this makes me less emotional. This self-preservation mode allows me to run on adrenaline and to focus on what needs to be done there and now. The emotional stuff gets buried for the time being. For that I’m grateful, however, I hope it doesn’t implode and lead to a depression relapse after all is over and done. When normalcy resumes, that’s when the buried emotions flare up, like it’s done in the past. There’s a pattern of running on adrenaline, putting out fires, attending, caretaking, and when things are transitioning back to normal, the unbearable sadness overtakes me.

To make up for missed time this summer, I’ve added a few fun outings to our schedule in the past few weeks. It’s been a scheduling nightmare switching lesson times, debating activities (less risk exposure), driving to appointments, working on our own school lessons, spontaneous outings, picking up take-out, etc. It’s like packing in all the things I think they’ll enjoy and we get to enjoy them before Ellis recovers from her surgery. We’ll be stuck at home for that period.


Last time Ellis was in the hospital (October 2021) our fish tank population declined by half from a mysterious fish illness. I’ve made modifications since then for a healthier habitat, but our interest in it declined significantly. Since then Elliot has been talking about switching up the substrate from gravel to sand, and I wanted to make him happy. “Ok,” I say, “why don’t we just do it.” What was I thinking.

We picked up seven pounds of sand and Elliot was beaming with joy at the fish store when an employee we met last time complimented him on his knowledge of fish breeds and habitat; that interaction boosted his confidence. It was the first time that an outsider acknowledged his fish learning and affirmed to him that YouTube is indeed a great teacher.

Anyhow, we came home with the sand. You would think it was a bag of gold due to all the smiles and loud talking. Each had a task to perform in replacing the substrate.

gravel substrate. water is clear

About 15-30 trips to the bathtub with a heavy pail of water, the trips did a number on my back and arms. But it was hard to stay positive when I saw drips of water falling from their elbows to the floor, water toe prints on the fabric chair, and pieces of loose gravel on the floor from the fish net.

Once the substrate was replaced, fish transferred from holder tank to main tank, floors and bathroom cleaned, I could feel my skin parched to my bones and fingers throbbing from grabbing the rim of the heavy pail.

But then the mystery lingered. Why wasn’t the water clearing up?! Then the epiphany.

Last time we added 1 pound of unrinsed sand, which eventually cleared, but this was 7 pounds. In the midst of all that excitement, we missed the essential step of rinsing out the sand’s dirt particles. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

When I told them the news, they looked dejected. Well, I was not going to let some dirt particle get in the way of murkifying (not a real word) this good memory. The pain had to account for something pleasant.

I cleaned out the tank 3 more times: careful not to stress out the fish, disrupt the sand, or make more drippy mess in the house. It’s still cloudy but you can at least see the fish swimming around. They don’t look ill or weak; taking that as a positive sign. But I turned into the biggest grouch from this back-breaking work. My good intentions backfired in the end with my grumpiness.

However, this morning we all sat in front of the fish tank marveling at the natural look of the sand and talking about our next plans for the tank. In the meantime, I have more water changing to do and pain relief patches to apply to my sore arm.

Thank you everyone for reading my ramblings. I appreciate you taking the time and if you skipped parts of it, that’s cool too. I get that everyone is busy.

Hope you have a great weekend and time to refresh for the upcoming week! I want to end with an encouragement that you are all special people and there’s only one “you” in the world.

Categories: Aquarium & Fishkeeping Mom lIfe Play Raising kids

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Welcome to my blog! My name is Esther and I'm so happy you are here. I'm an avid nature photographer and a daydreaming thinker. My posts revolve around photos of nature's beauty, homeschooling adventures with my 2 kids, sporadic reflections on my child's heart condition, Bible reading reflections, gardening feats, and other mish mash things. Hopefully you'll leave encouraged, pensive, or smiling at the simple things of life. Thank you for stopping by and hope you'll find some interesting posts to read!

12 replies

  1. Well, you are a very agreeable mom. I would not have made a good mom as I would have said “colorful gravel is nice so let’s not go sand as it will be boring for our fish.” You just jollied along – you are a good mom Esther. What a hullabaloo for changing from gravel to sand … I hope the fish weren’t stressed out and I like how you explained the life of a fish. Yep, that makes sense. Well, I’ll be thinking about Ellis and her heart catheterization on Tuesday. This is why she gets the cool red heart teeshirt and big brother Elliot gets his own heart teeshirt – they are troopers, but so are you. You’ll tell us when Ellis’ heart surgery is so we can give you hugs from afar, okay?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Linda! You’re too kind with your words. It’s a day-to-day struggle but I try to remember that they’re with me for only a short time. When else will they try to hog my attention and fight for it. Other interests will crowd me out as they get older; just a part of life.
      The fish tank has been a blessing and a curse; I wish I were a faster learner instead of a trial and error type. We’ve had many a fish deaths and burials and emergency treatment methods too. I guess that counts for learning although there’s no grade for it. See, it’s my traditional school mind operating here.
      I’ll post as the surgery day nears. For now, it’s the cath, laying low, pre-op physical early June, and surgery June 14th. That’s if everything goes according to plan. Lots of things can come up and hospital schedules to account for too. Emergency surgeries take priority, and we’re happy not to fall into that category. Your prayers are appreciated much. Thanks Linda for your love and hugs…
      Have a great weekend and hope the finicky weather in Michigan is mellowing out to nice spring weather. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope everything goes as scheduled and the June 14th surgery is a go, so you can salvage the Summer and enjoy yourselves on some outings, hopefully before it gets too hot. Yes, happily it is not an emergency surgery. I always have you and your family in my prayers. It is actually cold here today and we escaped the severe weather from yesterday … there was a tornado about 250 miles from me which was pretty devastating. I look forward to warm weather and no issues of walking in snow and ice, but the hot weather and humidity bring volatile weather. Just a malcontent I guess. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m weird like that! When things are going well with the tank, I feel so proud. BUt when the water mishaps, fish deaths, and kids accidentally feeding the fish like half the bag of pellets…then I seriously regret and wonder why the heck I’m doing this to myself. One of my motivations is that I feel bad that both of them get stressed out from Ellis’ medical things and I want them to have something fun to look at at home. Ack, the guilt, and it’s not anyone’s fault! See what I mean, I’m weird like that.
      Thank you for the lovely comment!! I’m storing that away in my long term memory. You’re a fantastic mama too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That doesn’t seem weird to me at all. And I do things for my kids out of guilt too. Mine goes “but the poor kids, they lost everything in the fire, it’s the least I can do, they deserve to have …x…y…z”.
        Trauma is no fun to deal with. Medical things seem really traumatic to me. You’re a hero! I can only imagine how difficult a load you bear. 🙏🙏🙏


      2. Yea, I can imagine how you feel too. It’s traumatic to have experienced such a loss in the fire and frightening to live through. Girl, you are a brave soul and so are your family. Things like that are hard to overcome, but look how you guys are thriving in Idaho and you are giving your kids stability, new experiences, and even extra joys stemming from your guilt (yea, it’s not so bad to spontaneously indulge our children…all in moderation…keeps it fun for everyone).
        You’re a hero too!! Thank you friend for your empathy and kind words.


    1. Thanks for asking Linda! It was a very long day at a new hospital for us but everything went well. It turned into an outpatient procedure; the whole ordeal took 12 hours from leaving the house to coming home. Ellis is in brighter spirits, as for me I feel run over by a bus. Good to be home!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome – I was thinking about you guys for a couple of reasons. First, Ellis’ procedure – poor kiddo was thinking about the procedure and it was easier and so she feels lighter in heart and spirit – Mom, not so much. I get it. That is a long day, but glad it was outpatient. Now to stay healthy and stay strong for June 14th a/k/a Flag Day. Also thought of your family with the Texas Robb School shooting – how lucky you and the kids are to have home schooling in place. I’m sure a lot of other families will be following suit.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ellis is back to her normal spunky self. Thanks for your prayers! It took me days to recover; I don’t spring back as quickly as I used to. School year is over for us and no plans have been made. So it’s going to be a mellow summer. Last summer we dealt with going back and forth from house to hotel for the kitchen renovations. That was unexpected but we managed it well. I hope to say the same after this summer. I’m trying to live each day as it is and not waiting to do fun things with the kids till the surgery is over.
        Low expectations and simple fun.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Good for both of you Esther. Try not to dwell on the 14th and you know it will be here before you know it – dispense with that surgery and on to a good Summer. Time is so fleeting … the long weekend is over just like that (snapping fingers).


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