Saturday, June 6, 2009

Mount Rainier - Paradise in the Mist

On Friday, we drove up to Paradise - the main Visitor Information Center on the Nisqually road. The park is very popular in summer when the wild-flowers bloom in the high meadows (about 2 million visitors annually!) but right now the area is covered in hard dirty snow and mist and snowshoes are still rented from the gift shop. One day I hope to visit the Mountain and see the peak. We see it well from Seattle on a clear day but on this and our last visit it has been obscured by cloud.

When we reached the visitor center carpark we were excited to see a fox. Inside, we saw many warnings about feeding the foxes and figured out it was begging from visitors - hoping for a scrap.

After the recent heatwave both kids were excited to see snow but had forgotten how cold it is. It was hard to remember because the air was not cold but the snow itself could freeze your fingers pretty quick if you tried to make snowballs. Here, the kids throw snowballs made by Dad and I and Dad helps Wren descend from the snowbank which was "slippelly!"

"Watch out, its slippery!"

We stopped off at a viewpoint to see a waterfall and hoping to find a Gray Jay. We had seen them at this spot one winter when we came here with Mum and Mervyn. Unfortunately there were no Gray Jays in sight but Wren loved looking down the cliff at the tumbling waterfall. He called it a "water fountain" and as soon as we drove off he started crying to return.

Wren likes 'water fountains'.

I bought a few field guides at the Visitors' Center - a key for tree identification, Plants and Animals of Mount Rainier and the Cascades and a book on Roadside Geology of the park. I am very excited about each of them. As always - I want to know more than I have time for.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fever again

Frost still has a fever. It was 101.9 in his ear this afternoon. Unlike the past few days he is really rather groggy and had a long nap this afternoon. He says he has a headache as well as his bad cough.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

30 lbs!

I forgot to mention that Wren was weighed at 30lbs yesterday at the pediatricians. That makes him about 50th percentile for weight. I am quite relieved as he has been patchy in his eating. He ate well today but doesn't ask for food or take responsibility for eating at mealtimes. However, he will suddenly demand snack, yoghurt, apple, salami or whatever when hunger strikes. This is seldom at mealtimes. I need to figure out how to avoid him eating snack all day (cookies more often than I like) rather than meals.

Montlake Fill

Dad has arrived from South Africa and despite the sickish kids we have been having a good time with him. This morning, when Frost's fever had abated, we thought he was well enough for an early birdwatching walk on Montlake Fill. Its a natural area (aka wild parky place) on the shores of Lake Washington near our house that has a very rich birdlife.

Here is Dad carrying Wren near the cattail trees. We saw a number of birds - Dad chats to everyone we meet so we received some help from other birders. We saw a great blue heron, a chestnut teal, many redwing blackbirds, many turtles on logs, gadwalls and various other ducks whose names I forget.

Dad had to carry Wren because Frost faded fast and had to sit and be pushed in the stroller. I felt guilty and stopped to get him a Jamba Juice on the way home. Here he is collapsed and coughing.

We also saw some strange sights on our walk. The pond on the West side of the fill was churning with fish. I think they were carp and were doing some kind of mating pursuit. They were thrashing the surface, chasing, hitting water littles, pushing through reeds and even approaching the shore. Some other birdwatchers (with cameras and big lenses) said they had "never seen anything like these fish before" and that the nest of a grebe seemed to be threatened by the fish. The nest was a floating platform of twigs and had eggs in. The carp were thrashing up and looked as if they could break the next or smash the eggs.

Further on, at the inlet near the cattails, we saw a huge bloated dead beaver floating on the surface of the lake. You can see it as a tiny dot above the highest log in this photo. Wren overheard me talking about it to Dad and asked to see it again and again. Frost said "that is DISGUSTING" and wished he hadn't seen it.

The rest of the day Frost lay around and had extra screentime, rest and reading. We did gardening and made an excellent risotto with some local morels, chicken and lemon. Delicious. We finished it off with a bit of Molly Moon salted caramel icecream. Mrrmm Mrmm.

Various sick kids

I took Wren to the pediatrician yesterday because his cough has been sounding increasingly crackly. Its the cough part of a cold that has lasted 2 weeks or so and he hasn't been acting obviously sick but is obviously snotty.

Dr Levitt listened to his chest and said she could hear some crackles at the lower back. She felt that he could have a secondary pneumonia so prescribed Zithromycin, one per day for three days. He took his first today.

Meanwhile, Frost has been ill too. I think it is something different because it started with a fever on Sunday night and a sudden cough. He has had a bad hoarse cough since then, much worse at bedtime and in the morning. His fever isn't high but for the first day he had a bad tummy ache and ate very little. He's eaten a bit more today but is still lethargic and unwell.

I spoke to Dr Levitt about him too - wondering whether we should have a rapid flu test on Frost in case it is Frost flu and Wren catches it from Frost. She said we could do that or wait and see whether Wren develops a fever illness first. I decided to wait and see.

Unfortunately, this fever means Frost will miss his graduation trip with school. He is sad but there is nothing to do about it now.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Diamonds are dead

Wren really needs more toddler friends. I have signed him up for co-op preschool this fall and along with the usual anxieties about "how will he cope being left at preschool for the first time" and "I hope he doesn't hit someone" are thoughts like "I hope he doesn't yell I FIGHT YOU AND YOU DEAD" or grab a foam toy some kid is building with and start brandishing it like a sword. Wren is really 2 going on 8 because that is his real playgroup.

Anyway, this morning at breakfast I brought out the bugs. The bugs are little rubber bugs used for counting and sorting games. While I cleaned up breakfast Wren slowly moved the bugs out the box and made a collection on the table. This was his monologue:

"Dey called DIEMONDS
They die
They DEAD.
Diamonds are killed.
Dey called orange diamonds. [these were the orange bugs]
Dey orange.
Diamonds cos they die."

"Wren," I asked. "Why are they called diamonds."

He didn't even look up but apparently my question was dumb.

"Dey diamonds. Dey abslutely DEAD."

Great. That's clear now.

Meanwhile, through absent minded carelessness Frost continues to get injured around the house. He runs into things, stubs his toes on doors, pinches his fingers in things and weeps and moans for short periods of theatric agony fairly frequently.

My sympathy is taxed and my empathy is pretty non-existant in this area.

This morning he was faux weeping again clutching his elbow. I tried to look sympathetic and asked what happened. "Ow, ow. I hit my arm on the chair."

I said I was sorry but suggested he should try and move a bit more slowly or be more aware of his body.

"I AM AWARE OF MY BODY. I just get hurt in very unlikely ways!" he said.
"Well, what happened?" I asked.
"I was coming in the door and this side of my arm hit into the chair so I turned that way and then my arm was hooked IN THE CHAIR but I pulled away and it wrenched my arm and it was pulled off almost."

I sighed. I can't help myself. How do you guard your child against such unlikely accidents. How do you maintain a perky level of sympathy when they happen again and again and you think its their fault? I know I should do better but I just want to know when natural consequences start to teach the lesson. I mean, isn't pain there for a purpose?


While I was writing this post the boys got into an argument and Frost and Wren rushed into the house from the garden, Frost brandishing the large pencil (1 foot long and red) at Wren. I decided to use our school technique for resolving playground disputes and sat them both on the floor in the kitchen for a "knee to knee". The idea is that you each have a chance to talk uninterrupted and have your feelings and version of events heard, leading to mutual understanding. I have edited out most of my facilitation:

Wren started off saying "Frost come to destroy me with BIG PENCIL!"
Frost: "But before that Wren, what did you do?"
Wren: "Frost have big pencil. Frost CROSS because Wren don't stand in goal [soccer goal]"
Frost: "No, AFTER that."
Me: Frost you explain what happened.
Frost: "Wren, what happened with my book?"
Wren: I took the book and I THREW it in garden. I say YOU IDIOT.
Frost: Yes, and then what did you do?
Wren: I threw it.
Frost: Then he took his chair and he pushed it down the stairs and I was coming up the stairs. So, it could have hit me.
Wren: I threw it down. Frost is mad.

I explain to Wren that Frost is sad Wren threw his book in the garden and we do not throw books. I explain that the chair can hurt Frost. I tell Frost Wren does not have to stand in the goal to let Frost play soccer [last night Frost went to a Sounders' soccer game with Josh and is all excited to play soccer]. I tell them that the big pencil is for WRITING.

They agree for now. Hug, kiss and say sorry.

Frost is so validated and happy by having his experiences heard that he rushes to the basement and brings ALL HIS PLAYMOBIL up to Wren's room (5 boxes of it) and they are now building a vast army on Wren's floor.

Of course, this will perpetuate the growth of Wren's vocabulary into all things military at a time when he should simply being stacking blocks.

In other news. Grandad Peter arrives from South Africa (via NYC) today. We are cleaning and very excited.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Planting Seeds

Wren is at that toddler age where gardening is about the best thing. We spend a lot of time in the garden weeding and watering and digging for fun.

This evening we planted summer carrots, summer spinach and some more beans. We also planted some lettuce. I am not sure how these crops will do as we usually have the beds all planted with starts or seeds by now but it was fun to dig and rake and sow. Wren was fully involved just as he was a few weeks ago when I planted beans and peas.

On that occasion, by mistake I left the packet of seed outside and Wren 'planted' or rather threw around some peas in the garden beds. We now have dense little crops of peas sprouting around the tomatoes. I hope they can tangle up together.

Wren's beans are doing very well but are being eaten by snails or slugs. I have put out sluggo but am worried about the chickens if they become big enough to free range. Will they eat sluggo? Will they die? Oh, a moment of googling later and I find its OK. Sluggo is safe for pets including chickens.

I also read this informative piece [from BackYardChickens Forum] which indicates our seedlings would be unsafe from the chickens in a short while.

"All that said, chickens cannot be in the garden - they'll eat all the fruits, veggies, plants, etc. People dream of having chickens that eat weeds and bad bugs but leave the veggie plants and good bugs. But, it's a pipe dream. To a chicken, a bug is a bug (bug=yummy) and a plant is a plant (plant=yummy). They eat it all. I have my garden totally covered with bird netting and I still have to watch my chickens because they try to jump into the netting and eat my plants through it."

I kind of knew this. Just today I fed them 4 arugala / rocket plants which had bolted and they stripped off every leaf and flower within MINUTES. They are hungry chooks.

A raccoon is walking along the fence by the window. If I turn the light off I can spy on her.

Youtube is Inappropriate Shannon

I was driving the carpool+1 home yesterday and the kids were talking about Youtube. Every next sentence from Frost these days is "did you see THAT on youtube?" or "this on Youtube?" In the middle of the conversation it veered off into "Youtube is really inappropriate. They should have a way to lock it or something."

I interuppted to ask what was inappropriate about it. The answer was "its got SEXY things on it" (this is from 7 and 8 year olds) and we don't want to see it.

"Theres lots of inappropriate things on Youtube like Ads by Google = some of them say like "hottest geeky girls" and "see the worst car crash videos" and once I found a domino video that was called "HOLY CRAPS" why did someone call it THAT? To make it inappropriate?"

"Have you ever opened an inappropriate one by mistake?"

"No. We've just looked at the sort of bloody stick figure bashing and jumping off a cliff videos - Stick Stair Stunt and its a little video and we watched Animator versus Animation 1 and 2. Those are not the inappropriate ones.... those are the ones WE watch."

"What kind does Alex like?"

"Alex and me don't watch Youtube"

"And Eve?"
"Well, at Eve's we were watching songs by a band called Aqua and they were guys dancing around doing stuff. One was caused Dr Jones, one was Lollipop when people are just dancing around in space doing stuff. That's not inappropriate but Jaxie thought it was."

"So the real problem is the ads by Google and the links to search suggestions on the sidebar?"

"Yes, Youtube and Google give us inappropriate links"

"What do you think you would see if you did click those links?"

"If I clicked those links it would be a test to see who your girlfriend is and you might get to know about these hot sexy girls. GOD!!!" [exasperated look] They are JUST CRAPPY ADS. You should make them stop."

"So, I shall ask Daddy to figure out how to put on Safesearch."