Friday, July 10, 2009

Bumps in the roof

Our kitchen extractor fan has a long metal vent which goes through the cupboards and ceiling and out through the roof. When it rains it makes a loud noise of raindrops and this morning there was a distinct shuffling and pattering of animal feet.

I opened the cupboard and tapped on the vent and the animal noises intensified then vanished.

Wren: What is IT?
Me: I think it is an animal on our roof or inside it.
Wren: I hope it is not a giraffe or an elephant that is knocking on that door.

I hope so too.

We are planning on going raspberry picking this morning if I can wake myself up. I have been technically awake for an hour but Wren suggested we get up to make coffee "so mummy wake up". He has a fair degree of concern for my beverage consumption. A few days ago he told me to drink more water because "milk is not coming out" (I had suggested the correlation weeks ago).

Its another bright day after some clouds and cooler weather. I made cherry preserves a few days ago and the counters in the kitchen are still sticky. I am not a clean cook although I clean up afterwards but we are now faced with a persistant sheen of sugar. I guess there is no point in being too fastidious if we are going to make jam today :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I am small like a hippo

Wren still nurses. Yes, even Heather didn't know this. I guess people expect Wren to have just kind of given up or me to have said "no" at some point. There have certainly been moments. I was halfway to weaning in Australia but then read something by the WHO saying that most babies naturally wean between 2 and a half and 3 so whats the hurry?

This morning, lacking any weaning signs from Wren I decided to discuss it with him. This is how the conversation went (he is a bit over 2 and a half).

Shannon: I think you should stop having Mummy's milk.
Wren: Why?
Shannon: Well, you are a big boy now, like Frost. Big boys don't drink mummy's milk.
Wren: I am not a big boy. I am a small boy. I am smaaaaallll like a ... like a giraffe!
Shannon: A giraffe? That's quite a big animal.
Wren: I am small like a HIPPO!
Shannon: OK, you are small but you are getting too big for mummy's milk.
Wren: Why, I LOVE to suck it. It is so tasty. I have some more now? Just a taste?


I guess it will have to play out as angst and tragedy unless I am willing to continue. I am not sure.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Art of Wren

Wren loves drawing. If he is having a tantrum because I have denied him access to the computer / sugary breakfast cereal or soda or have chastised him for hitting Frost (with a wooden dagger, again) I can always distract him with the offer to draw. Wren has never had a scribbling phase of drawing. Even when he first started he would draw lines and talk about them. Now, he assembles a kind of mental map of the thing which may or may not be recognizable to anyone else.

One of Wren's favorite subjects is big machines. He routinely draws diggers and big cranes and crane-diggers. This drawing shows a digger. The little orange circles are the centers of the crawler tracks which circle around them. The bumps are the crawler track treads surrounded by a big BODY of the machine. The top protuberance is the operators box and the scoop. The scoop is the line with a balloon like thing on the end. I think the lines may be a ladders since I often draw one. It may equally be a crane attachment or a bird. Frost was humbled by this drawing. "Wren draws better circles than me" he said.
Abstraction or Code?
Things are not always clear to me. This following picture is beautiful but I have no clue what is happening. It was drawn while we were on Vashon so I doubt Wren remembers either but he is not just making marks. He talks as he draws imagining what is going on. I can ask him tomorrow - he will probably say its a digger because there is a scoop up top but what are those little lines (usually called FUR when I ask)?
The Daddy Picture
Wren drew this when Heather was babysitter Frost and Wren. She says Wren drew it while Frost talked to him so I am imagining he drew the basics and then Frost asked him "where are Daddy's eyes?" or something like that. They both swear Wren drew it and Frost only wrote the title for him. Hrmmm.

When I asked Wren who he was drawing he said "daddy" but "Frost wrote Daddy." I then asked about the two lines on the chest and he described those as being "fur". He also described the hair on top as being "couple hairs". It was very funny..

HUGE Robot

Recently, Wren has started drawing robots. Today when he did this drawing I asked him about it and he said it was "a HUUUGE robot dancing with chains." Its interesting because it is much more upright than the diggers which overwhelm the page with their apparatus.
Wren Do Writing Like Frost
Finally, here is an example of Wren's WRITING. On many of Wren's pictures you will see dashes like morse code to one side. This is Wren "writing" some title and signing DRAWING BY WREN. He noticed me writing on the sides or backs of some of his drawing and has become possessive about signing them himself.

This drawing of writing was done while Frost did his handwriting book this morning. We have started doing daily handwriting practice after breakfast and Wren, not to be left out, works quietly at his own writing. He said "Wren do writing like Frost".

I have signed Wren up for a weekly toddler art class at a nearby studio. I know he will enjoy painting at an easel and trying new ways to make drawings. I am looking forward to it myself.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

6 months post-op Cardiology Clinic

We went to Seattle Children's Hospital for a cardiology appointment today. Wren had a chest X-ray, echo and consult.

I think that the appointment went ..... WELL!! The key words are "stable" and "hanging in there" and no procedures are needed for now. We are in a "wait and watch" stage with a follow-up in 6 months.

For those of you who don't know the background, Wren has Shone's syndrome with multiple problems in the left side of his heart, the side which pumps oxygenated blood to the body. The problems are mainly stenotic - which means that parts of the heart are too small which makes his left ventricle work harder to squeeze the required amount of blood through the obstructions.

The main areas we are watching are those repaired by Dr Hanley in November 2008: aortic valve and sub-aortic outflow tract. This appointment the gradient across these areas was stable. That is very good because in Shone's syndrome the blockages tend to be progressive but if Wren reaches a stable stage it could be a long while before he needs valve replacement surgery.

Joshua, ever the optimist, asked whether Wren will still need a valve replacement in the long term. I added, like by age 8? Josh felt that wasn't the long term and he meant by age 18. Dr Lewin said that "it depends" but he expected Wren to have a new valve by 18. This rather shocked me because I feel that we are forever teetering on the edge of valve replacement and cannot fathom the slightest chance Wren could make it to his teens before needing one. I thought Dr Lewin would laugh at the question.

After listening to Dr Lewin's explanation it seems that IF the AV area remains pretty stable we will now be watching the balance between the obstruction and the performance of Wren's left ventricle. The LV is now mildly thickened (not noticeably changed from before) but over time it is likely to thicken to maintain the work of forcing blood through the AV area. Right now, his LV is "hanging in there".

His mitral valve is also "hanging in there" with no appreciable increase in obstruction. The valve is abnormal but not stenotic and the regurgitation due to its abnormal function is only mild.

Wren's chest X-ray was clear (no more pneumonia) and Dr Lewin said it was not bacterial in the old X-ray and did not look severe.

The weights and heights were a bit flat - Wren was 13.2 kgs 4 months ago and is now 13.6 kgs (approx 30 lbs). However, I think that the last measure was a bit optimistic. He is 75th percentile for height and 50th percentile for weight. I need to make sure he eats but its ok otherwise and the lack of real weight gain may be due to a faulty weight last time and/or his 3 weeks of viral illness before school ended.

Overall, we are very relieved and quite happy. Wren is not healed but being stable is a pretty good second.

Monday, July 6, 2009

*** Fireworks ***

After anticipating July 4th Fireworks for a month, Frost woke in the morning and threw up. He had two more bouts within the hour and was looking weak and apathetic all morning. I feel very guilty about this because I think it was probably a result of giving him celery filled with peanut butter with a December 2006 expiry date. It was a mistake to eat peanut butter from our basement "emergency kit" [mental note: check the expiration date of food down there]. He is now completely recovered.

Josh leaps away from a ladybug

Thankfully In the evening Frost recovered enough to go to the park with us and some of our friends who risked the pestilence to join us in some patriotic activity. As dusk fell, other kids and parents came down to watch until we were quite a merry band yelling "OOOH" and "AAAAH" and waving sparklers.

Alden, Frank and Trixie* with a Box of Fireworks they are NOT GOING TO LIGHT IN SEATTLE

July 4th Public Safety


The Seattle Police Department and the Seattle Fire Department would like to remind the public that there are no legal fireworks in the City of Seattle.

The possession, manufacture, storage, sale, handling and use of fireworks is prohibited. Fireworks offenses are gross misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

In Seattle its illegal to set off fireworks and none are sold in the city. However, native american reservations around the city are established as Federal land which is not bound by city laws. As a result they are free to engage in various nefarious activities such as gambling, drinking, selling tobacco cheaply and ...selling fireworks. On the way back from Canada last week we stopped at BOOM CITY which is a vast parking lot of firework stands. There were at least 4 aisles of about 40 enclosed stands, shuffling crowds scuffling rising into the hot blue sky. Each stand was enclosed with a front counter and shelves to the ceiling FULL of fireworks. These are not the little tubes and crackers we saw as children. The majority of them are huge and villanous with names such as "Decimator" and "Big Artillery" and "Haunted Clown." Josh spent some time looking at the amount of gunpowder in a couple and said that it was significant. The large ones are $50-$100 EACH firework and are about 30cm cubes. I have no idea what you get for that amount by comparison with our little fountains and we didn't buy any that large.

Frost and a neighborhood kid run to retrieve a rocket

The Boys and Josh watch a rocket ascend

We spent $75 overall and our favorite one was a tube - slightly wider in diameter and twice the length of a toilet roll tube - into which you put one ball at a time (6 in the box). The ball had a long wick. When you lit it, it made an almighty CLAP and FLASH on the ground and shot up 100 feet in the air releasing a vast shower of color just like the commercial fireworks. We were lighting fireworks at a baseball field and another group was established at the opposite side. When someone on our side set off a big one, they answered with a big POP. We were out at the field for 2 hours and it was a most fabulous time. I hope that some of you can join us for a July 4th one year. We have fallen in love with the smell of gunpowder and next year we plan to buy some larger ones, even if we have to be outside Seattle to ignite them.


One exciting moment was when the police came by. It was only after we came home that I learned the details of the fireworks regulations (it is illegal but not strictly enforced unless there is a complaint and / or damage). They cruised the park and then stopped in the lot near us and got out. They went over to speak with another larger group of young adults who were letting off fireworks near the playground. Tara and I quickly grabbed the biggest fireworks from our box and stuffed them in our handbags like crims stashing our goods. We were planning an escape route. Joshua continued playing with the small ones as our cover since we believed only large fireworks were illegal. Fred and Tara asked if I was a US citizen as if I might get deported for a firework felony if I was not! I have decided I should pursue my US citizenship this year as I can now hold US and Australian without penalty. Then, if we get arrested for Seattle fireworking I can remain in the US in jail rather than being deported to Australia.

Anyway, A* and F* were afraid the police were going to come and arrest us but they moved off and the 4 groups on the field continued unabated in our pyromania. Honestly, having fireworks out in the field like that is safe if you keep a wide radius and maintain firework safety. Its so open and flat that there is no danger of starting a fire. Plus, we could keep a safe distance and still observe. The only dangerous moment was when another man set off two rockets together. One went straight up but the other went sideways and shot towards us for a while. That was a good reminder to the kids of the danger of modifying them at all.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Dead Bicycle Beach, Vashon

There were a few negative tides while we were on Vashon and since Wren still rises between 5 and 6am we were early enough for camp each day to make a detour to the intertidal zone at dead bicycle beach. Wren was anxious at first - the rocky beach is quite slippery and weedy when the water recedes but he was very excited to find crabbies under the rocks and to look for golf balls (of which we found quite a few). Here is Wren looking for crabs.

We call it Dead Bicycle Beach because the on the bank above the beach people have 'dumped' old exercize bicycles and rowing machines. The kids loved to pedal the bicycles and look out to sea. Its a lovely idea and typically Vashon - quirky and spacious.

Alpacas at Breakfast
Back at our house we enjoyed feeding alpacas. There were a couple in the paddock in front of our house and they liked to wander over in the morning and look at us. I asked for some food and the elder of the two males would come over as soon as he heard the sound of the pellets being dropped. Wren was anxious about their big teeth and after one attempt at feeding said "they want to eat me" and would do no more.
Frost and Wren have been fighting (literally) with the wooden daggers that Frost received from Pirate Camp and we bought at the Captain's Store. The joy was great but I felt that the danger of it ending badly was high so I have strung up a couple of pillows in the tree for swordplay. Wren is fearsome and I am glad he is not aiming at Frost because he has little to no judgment in his use of force or etiquette. Not facing him? Whack! Their ongoing combat games give me a deeper appreciation for this picture in which they are such sweeties.

Anyway, happy 4th of July! Frost was ill this morning so we have not had the planned gathering of friends. Thankfully, he is well enough for our personal evening firework explosion in the nearby park. We will be heading there soon.