Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cardiology Clinic & Icy Weather

Wren had another cardiology check-up today. It is still icy (was 17 degrees F, around -7C, when I left at 8am this morning) and the streets were packed white with ice. The arterials were clear but there were almost no cars out.

I found clinic very difficult. When I watched the echo it was clear that there is still a lot of turbulence through the aortic valve. After the echo there was a long wait to see Dr Olson and I started to imagine the worst - he needed surgery again NOW, the valve was failing, he was in heart failure.

It turns out that its not that bad. His gradient was up a bit - 3.8mm/sec through the valve - but Dr Olson felt it was still relatively stable. Why can't stable be lower? Why does it have to creep? The mitral valve is still mild-moderate.

What I realized is that I am very very anxious about Wren's heart but I don't think about it day to day as much as I did pre-surgery. That doesn't mean my anxiety has gone anywhere except underground. I am starting to understand those parents who steal their children from hospital and run away with them. With Wren looking so good day to day it feels as if the hospital makes him be a sick kid and when he is at home everything is fine. As we approach the hospital both Wren and I feel lousy. Wren starts asking for comfort ("want milk?") and reassurance ("no owie?" "Owie all gone?") while I feel sick and defensive and like bursting into tears.

I just can't stand the tension of waiting to hear how the echo is. I wish the Doctors could be standing right there and explaining things to me so I wouldn't have to go through such a process of dread. Today was worse because there was a delay post-echo (probably due to ppl being delayed by snow).

Our next appointment is in 3 months so we shall be able to get a better sense of the trend in gradient. We can taper lasix to 1X day for a week and then stop it.

In January, I am going to see a therapist I saw last year. Hopefully she can help me put these fears in perspective and to cope a bit better.

Snow activities
I took the rice out of the sensory table and let the boys play with snow in it. Frost liked to melt it with the hairdryer and Wren wanted to eat and scoop it. They were both very excited and ran around the house squeaking and talking about it, wanting more and wanting to HAVE IT ALL.

We also went for a walk and it was very cold but lovely to see the sun. Wren wanted to walk a long way but he lacks good snow boots so I brought him home after one lap of the block. He saw icicles, ate frozen raspberries, wanted to see the chickens and examined the stones in the sidewalk poking through the snow. Here is Frost dragging Wren in the sled and then sledding with Elias yesterday.

Frost wanted to talk about everything all the time. When I didn't talk fast enough he would narrate his experience to Wren. Frost was hunting for icicles and wanted to harvest them from strangers homes. He also liked making snowballs. He didn't want to go sledding today. If there is more snow this weekend I shall insist!

Here they are in the garden building a snow fort for the army guys.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Dark Side of Seven (or Darth-Sohn)

Today Frost is home from school because of a faux-snow closure and all of us are enjoying watching the squirrel climbing up the birdfeeder. Since I put a large metal band around the pole it takes the poor beast a few attempts (aka falls to the ground) to make it over the impediment. Its better value for the birdseed but it will still eat most of it before a bird gets any.

Spending all this time with Frost I have started to notice that he has a very dark sense of humor. Is this my fault? JoshI'm wondering if I should have let him read The Far Side so young or perhaps the Simpsons?

Just after breakfast he announced: "Shannon, I am making all the faces in the paper into Zombies"

Wren was interested and so he started teaching him how to do it (Wren was only scribbling in black pen but he had the vision!)

Frost: "Come Wren, you make weird markings on their faces. But now I not only doing Zombies, I am doing HALLOWEENS TOO and now Wren's doing Halloweens too."

When Wren's scrawl did not satisly Frost's aesthetic he added: "Wren, let me help you more Zombify." Here is the result of Frosts newspaper zombification.

We walked to the Third Place Books for lunch. This place used to share the Honey Bear Bakery which was a spot that was popular with old people and small kids. I liked it because I could read board books to Wren on the floor and then have a cheap cookie-coffee combo for about $5. No More. They have undergone a rennovation and a new restaurant has moved in. They do sell coffee but also tasty restaurant meals. I am not sure how they manage it but I always end up spending a lot more than I anticipated. Mental note: this is not a casual coffee spot any more. It is a R-E-S-T-a-U-R-A-N-T. Also, the large (tall) coffee is tiny - if delicious. I think they use Illy. For lunch for the three of us (and everyone knows Frost eats like a gerbil) it was $30.

While at the bookstore Frost fell in love with a calendar titled The Bunny suicides Calendar 2009. It is by Andrew Riley. Some are very macabre and some are funny and some are both. Frost is now begging me to give it to him for Christmas. While looking it up online I found another title by the same author - cartoons called "Lies to tell small kids". It is very funny. Some of them had Frost and I laughing together "Tell them that rain is god's wee wee" and just me: "wine makes mommy clever."

The Bird Feeder
Mum asked how the bird feeder that is squirrel proof was doing. Have the birds found it? This was one of Mum's projects while she was here. The answer is "YES". As you can see in the picture below, Wren has enjoyed watching many small birds (chickadees and white eyes) eating the suet and the mixed seed. Apparently, feeding birds over winter is quite controversial. I was listening to a show on NPR in which callers shared their strategies for keeping hummingbird feeders thawed during the cold snap. Some use hand warmer packs, others leave lights on all night and others take their feeders indoors overnight. The critics say that this is causing the overwintering of hummingbirds outside their range. Who knows, we are only offering seed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Flamingos in the Snow

It snows in Seattle every winter but it seldom sticks around long. We have to rush out and play in it before it turns to slush. Not THIS week. It snowed on Saturday night and it is still on the ground, icy and crunchy. In fact, I just checked the Bryant Weather Station reading and it is 19.2 degrees F or -7 degrees. ICY. This picture shows Wren on a walk around the block on Sunday. Wren has a proper respect for cold but Frost has been eager to run out barefoot. Josh let him and he came in crying which is a proper lesson in natural consequences.

This picture is for Natasha in Australia who inspired us to have flamingos. This is what happens to flamingos in the snow.

Anyway, the snow and cold are not all that festive. Schools are starting 2 hours late due to icy roads and Joshua has just left the house [7am, pitch dark, 19 degrees] heading to Lowes to buy a stronger blow-torch. Last night he discovered a section of hose bib in our back yard had frozen. He thawed it (ok, now that doesn't sound so smart in retrospect) and found the pipe had burst. Being Joshua he decided to effect a repair at 8pm despite the dark, cold, ice and lack of plumbing expertise. He had learned how to solder copper pipe by 9pm and by 9.30pm had assembled a repaired patch section. I went to bed.

I woke to find the water still shut off and did some dish washing in last night's bathwater which I had saved. Apparently the cheap blow-torch he bought is unable to heat pipe enough to melt solder in this cold. He ran out of butane and has now gone off to buy a BIGGER blow-torch. What projects can I get up to with the blow-torch we will now own? Heaven knows. He is going to try and cap the line if the patch doesn't work - I don't think it will refreeze quickly enough to stop the leak now that the line is drained and disassembled.

Frost has a cough this morning (again) and they are both watching the Wiggles before yoga time. Wren slept in till 5.30am this morning so I am not too haggard and Josh will be taking the day off to watch Wren for my workshift AND do some pipe repair.

New snow is expected tomorrow and an even colder spell later in the week. You can watch our neighborhood temperatures for yourselves through this link.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Quick post about the joy of mushrooms

Mum and I both share a love of collecting. We enjoy equally the hunt through a thrift store for a bargain and the forage through the undergrowth for a tasty mushroom. Last week Mum and I took Wren mushroom hunting (and walking) in Seward Park. It was a lovely gray day with low cloud but no rain. We didn't find any edible tasty mushrooms but Wren realized what we were doing and started to blunder through the bracken saying "MUSHOOM, I find MUSHOOM!"

He collected a mixed bag of little white mushrooms (which we told him you CAN NOT EAT IT) and was very proud. Here we are in Seward Park.

A few days before we found a large button of a shaggy lepiota (macrolepiota rachodes) under a fir. It was very easy to recognize and identify (we used a few guides to confirm it!) and we shared it on toast. DELICIOUS. I am now a voracious seeker of this mushroom. Unfortunately the cold freeze will have ruined the patch I found which included some more buttons which were not ready yet.

Here is Wren throwing a pebble into Lake Washington on the shores of Seward Park.

Frost types his first blog entry:

"my mom is part of a mushroom club."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Goodbye post from Granny

After 7 weeks I am leaving Seattle tomorrow. Just one more night left.

I am so pleased that I was able to stay for Wren’s 2nd birthday. It was a delightful day, if exhausting for Shannon, beginning as it does so very early. Wren so enjoyed getting presents and being the center of attention.

Shannon made a yellow “digger” cake to share amongst a few visitors from the neighborhood. The cake was slathered in yellow frosting and had chocolate dirt spilling out the front.

Wren has learnt to say “one more” while raising his finger with significance. One more candy from the cake was requested many times. And by the end of the day he broke down crying when told that “one more present” was not possible.

Wren’s speaking has developed so much in the time that I have been here. He loves to play long, quite complicated, games with his animals – he knows a world of animals: meerkats I brought him, okapi that Tamsyn sent him, moose that he got for his birthday, panda bears that Tara and family brought him today. We have been to the zoo a couple of times and while I don’t like zoos in theory, the Seattle Woodland Park Zoo is of the better kind. Wren knows where all the animals are located and declares what he would like to see. Elephant remains a favourite – maybe because they seem to do quite a lot in their way…

The best word that Wren learnt today was “wonderful”. In true fashion, once he learnt it he tried in many times in his cute American / English accent. We were using it at the end of the day when we went to see “Candy Cane Lane” a short road where all the houses are brilliantly lit up with Christmas lights. Wren loves Christmas lights - calling them "Christmas".

And the day ended with some wonder as it started snowing and now the garden is covered in a thin coating. Maybe my plane won't be able to take off tomorrow?

Happy Birthday Wren

Today is Wren's 2nd birthday. He woke at 5.30am (a big improvement due to a no-milk-before-5.30am policy) and I told him it was Wren's birthday. "Happy birthday Wren" I said. Wren proceeded to wish everything in the room "Happy Birthday" - alternating with me for ideas.

Wren: Happy birthday Wall
Me: Happy Birthday animals
Wren: Happy birthday moon.
Me: Happy birthday trains.
Wren: Happy birthday Granny.
Me: Happy birthday WREN!
Wren: Happy birthday Mommy.
Me: Happy birthday stars.
Wren: Happy birthday bed.
Me: Happy birthday pillow.
Wren: Happy birthday untent.

This went on a long long time. Granny woke up around 6am and made coffee.

Today Wren is having a digger cake and presents. Its also a day of extreme cold for Seattle AND the morning Frost has his APP Iowa Achievement test. Its not the best convergence of events but we will enjoy it however.


I am so happy and he is too.

Pictures and more later. Mum leaves tomorrow and I will be able (and required) to post more frequently again.