Saturday, January 16, 2010

Strange coincidence

In the mail today I received a letter addressed to somebody else. I only realized this after I opened it and it said "Dear Donna."

I looked at the letter and check it contained and was confused. The sender lived at our old house - the one we moved from after Frost's first year.

I called the author of the note. Indeed, she lives in our old house and remembers us moving on. The gate that was installed for us is still unfinished but they are happy there.

She meant to send the note to a friend who lives a few doors up from us but reversed two of the numbers by mistake.

Peculiar? Downright odd.

When bruvvers attack

This morning has already broken yesterdays armistice and it was all Wren's fault (at first). He woke up in a terrible grumble (missed nap yesterday and woke early today), insisting on playing one way and one way only. Life had to be all on his terms or he collapsed in fierce misery.

Frost finds this infuriating and amusing in turn and spends ages alternatively cajoling and pestering Wren with his "idea" to "help" Wren feel better.

The issue early on was the Playmobil Fire truck. Wren was very frustrated because in this model the playmobil figures can only be inserted by removing the roof. This is not right and Wren wants them to go in the small window which he views as the proper door. Today he could not be persuaded that taking off the roof was how to insert them and started screaming and pushing the truck off the table in frustration.

Frost leant close to repeat my failed attempt to help and was promptly head butted by Wren, with some ferocity. He began complaining.

Wren shouted NO in a fierce tone (reminiscent of my final straw voice) and I 'suggested' Frost retreat to the other side of the table to give Wren room then brokered a 'tell each other how you feel' episode in which Wren asked Frost not to touch his fire truck and Frost told Wren how he felt sad and hurt when Wren hit him. I told Frost to stick to the facts of how he felt but it was very hard for him.... he kept veering off into lectures "so you must not hit people because it is very bad to hit people." or "please don't hit me or I will be mad." I think Frost would prefer to be Wren's parent than his brother. He is not sure what brothers mean with someone much younger. Its an interesting dynamic.

After this truce, instead of figuring out that it was time to move on and have his own breakfast, Frost then hovered at safe distance, again suggesting that Wren let him help and that he "SHOW you how to put it in." Wren was maddened again. This little scenario continued a few times, repeating in a way that had me wanting to bang my head against a wall (Frost would tap the feet of his playmobil guy on the table so Wren was always aware of the Threat of Assistance being offered [in Wren's mind, crazy frustrating people telling him about his dumb toy].

Eventually, after telling Frost to stop speaking with Wren and trying to help him and being ignored, I snapped and yelled "Frost just butt out of it." I plonked cereal and a spoon in front of him and told Wren that if he was upset with the truck because they made it wrong he could write a letter to the factory and tell the man there because I did not make it.

He thought about that seriously and was satisfied.

Even then, Frost could not shut up! "Yes, Wren." He says. " That is called a Letter of Complaint. You can write one of those to Playmobil. Do you want to do that?" At times like this Wren is just so reactive that any word from Frost is like a personal assault so he yells NOOOOOO.

The unfolding crisis is averted by Wren running from the room to play somewhere else for all of 5 minutes.

After breakfast the boys fought about who could use the Puppet Theatre first but eventually settled into taking turns.


I feel hoarse.

Extreme weather for bus riders

The weather this morning is remarkable even for Seattle. Our hammock is blowing out like a spinnaker, the rain is driving horizontally against the windows and the usually sedate cedars are billowing like waves of green. Our bamboo's leaves are bright and glossy, bending over and startling up between gusts and the puddles are spreading across the street into sheets of water.

Wren's comments while waiting for the school bus.
"I must go inside. WAAAAH. It is freezing. What is there for my head? AHHHARRGH I can't see now."

I put Wren under a tree and he cowered there with his back to the wind and lashing rain, alternatively crying and wailing about the cold and the rain and the necessity to leave right now. He had insisted on scooting like Frost but gave up wisely.

Wren's comments as we reached the warmth of home:
"This wevver is very irritating. I am not going outside EVER EVER."

Wren's comments later.
"Mama, I think this is a flood."
"There is a storm TOday."

He is now playing with the Playmobil 1-2-3 house I had put out to sell. He is saying "it is a very stormy day in my house today. They need a table and stairs so they can go upstairs. They have to go up. "

My legs are soaked from the 10 minutes we were outside. Brrrrrr.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day 2: Sibling Co-operation

There were no outbreaks of sibling rivalry today. They played well together. Here is an example (I was lurking waiting for discord but none happened!)

The Boys play Destroying and CRUNCHING toy soldiers

Wren: Those are my guys.

Frost: No, none of them are your guys but you can play with them.

Wren: Vroom. Here comes my army helicopter.

Frost: Here is MArio, he is going to knock them over.

Wren: Can my helicopter help?

Frost: Help knock them over or help the guys?

Wren: Are you going to STROY the TANKS?

Frost: Yes.

Wren: See, I put them here and kaboom, boom, and are we going to story. Oh, see, he's not standing up.

Frost: Hmm mmmm mm (singing). Agh.

Wren: [watching] Why did he get dead? [indicating soldier who has fallen down]

Frost: Because he doesn't have a leg. [the soldier one that came from the thrift store broken]

Wren: Ah, Mario fall down.

Frost: It doesn't matter. Come on Wren, lets go. Lets get this party started. That means lets… well, I don't know what it means, it doesn't matter. It only matters HOW AWESOME YOU ARE. Mum, Mario is possessed by an evil spirit. Look, what is making him move.

A small remote controller mario kart is jerking along the floor every few seconds.

Wren: Maybe the button is on?

Me: No, he just jolts when the power is on even if you aren't driving him.

Wren: I'll hold him.

Frost: Oh, the giant is coming to our rescue. Will you destroy them or help them? Come on Wren, I need Mario. Okay, come and help.

Wren: I will watch you, I am an expert. Boom, bang.

Frost: That tank SPLODED.

Wren: Now, that tank is broken into pieces. RUN, BUUM.

Frost: RARAG DJI DJI DJI OK WRen, set up the guys again. I want them setup by the time I get back. [Frost goes to pee]

Wren sings to himself and the guys:

Wren: Hes an expert. hes an expert. he loves to crunch guys over. he loves to crunch guys over so many of them are violent because Frost says knock them over.

Frost returns.

Wren: No, I am not ready to crunch and boom them. I am making them.

Frost: Ok, tell me when you are ready.

Today was a bit of a fun but sad day. I am overshadowed by the terrible suffering occurring in Haiti. I feel sad all day. Ever since I became a parent I have felt far more connected to people in crisis and having Wren need life saving surgery just makes me feel the dread that parents must feel knowing their injured children could still die due to lack of medical care. We've donated to Doctors without Borders but I hear that their 3 planes have been unable to land in Haiti today due to chaos at the airport. I don't think there is much more we can do from here other than donate funds to organizations with the infrastructure to do the work but it casts a long shadow over an already wet day. We've had a few hiccups in the bathroom's final stage. A faucet sticks, there's an extra hole in the tile. Still, nothing that feels more than a minor irritation. I'd love to hear how others are feeling and responding to the tragedy. Who are you donating to?

I have told Frost that there was a terrible earthquake and he walked in when I had BBC News on. He saw injured people walking holding a crying child and burst into tears. He said it was INAPPROPRIATE and asked why I watched such HORRIBLE things that SUCK! I told him I would watch it later but I was trying to find out what was going on. However I think his response was very tender and appropriate and makes me wonder when it is appropriate to expose children to the reality of the suffering going on in the world, both close and far from home.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Research on Sibling Rivalry - Day 1

I am reading Siblings without Rivalry and on Chapter 2. My first exercise is to observe my children's sibling rivalry and the dynamics of siblings in our family. I presume later chapters will give me instructions on how to improve my response and you will then have the pleasure of seeing how cross it makes me. For now, a transcript of BREAKFAST DAY 1.

The boys and I are sitting at the table with breakfast. Frost has been woken at 5.30am by Wren yelling. Frost has tried to go back to sleep but failed and is surly and resentful. He is wrapped in a blanket and has been saying he can't go to school because he is too tired. MEANWHILE: Wren is drawing in his sketch book and eating dry Cinnamon Life from a bowl with his fingers. He is talking about the drawing he is doing. His narrative is constant and stream of consciousness.

Frost: Wren, shut up. SHUT UP.

Me: Frost, don't talk to your brother like that.

Wren: QUIET GONE, I Need QUIET GONE drawing.

Frost: What does that mean?

Wren: That means you go quiet and far away in our house so I am drawing.

[Frost leans closer, right next to Wren's sketch book]

Wren: GO AWAY.

[Frost covers himself in a blanket very close.]

I tell Frost to move to the other side of the table.

Wren sings to himself while drawing and sings. He talks all the time. [this can be irritating to me too]

Wren: Da ad ad ad ad Do. In a different house a baby is sad because he has no father or dad or grandpa or anything. They got died. I don't have any fathers because they died a lot of turns. I am drawing a house of them. They are in a family house. A ghost comes into the house and he is very friendly. And the boy says that his father died and the ghost says my father died too.


Frost: Shut up. WREN.

Wren: That wasn't good. That hurts my feelings.

Me: Frost, please listen to Wren. You hurt his feelings. If you can't be polite to Wren you can leave the room.

Wren: Frost, you are RUDE. I told you. Echotie. You are RUDE.

Frost [laughing] What does echotie mean?

Wren: It means you are rude.


Wren: No, only I SAY ECHOTIE.

Me: Wren, Frost can use words he wants.


Frost [muttering under blanket] echotie, echotie, echotie


Frost has his face to the table wrapped in a blanket.

He mutters: [you are echotie]

Wren: BAD FROST!!!!!

Wren: Could I have breakfast Mom?

Frost has his face on the table under the blanket he is making a snuffle noise.

Wren: Frost, go away because you are IRRITATING ME.

As you can see, Frost is the instigator in this case.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Drawing me to distraction

Over the past few days Wren has returned to drawing with a frustrated obsession. As soon as he woke up this morning he wanted to go and draw. He wanted to draw even more than he wanted to play with ME! Yesterday he drew for a couple of hours. Drawing is a very serious occupation. The ingredients are:

1) Paper
2) Pencil
3) Narrative
4) Frustration

Wren starts each drawing with loud complaint. “I don’t know HOW TO DRAW A…” bulldozer, crane, D&D, guy or something else. He yells this a few times and sometimes throws away a first attempt. However, do not be fooled into offering help. He will accept a picture in a book – then he looks at it and draws something utterly dissimilar – but more commonly he just complains to overcome his drawers block facing the open page and will yell at you even more if you try and help, express encouragement or praise.

Once the first shape is drawn there is a critical pause.

If the first shape meets some obtuse internal criteria then he continues. If not, he crumples that up and yells or cries and starts again.

If left alone he usually complains but continues.

Continuing, the narrative begins on a theme: “I am drawing a rocket. This is the engine. It is a big rocket. It is a space ship in space. It is fire coming out. It is ‘rupting. It has a guy. This is me. I am a guy. ....” then there is silence with some muttering and concentration.

Sometimes he asks me questions like “what does he need now?” I suggest he needs a planet. Frost generally suggests strange things. One of Wren’s recent drawings of D&D guys and a house includes a generous sprinkling of “black Pokeballs” which I blame on Frost without any real reason other than doubting Wren thought up black Pokeballs on his own. Its just unlikely.

Sometimes I get my sketch book and draw Wren drawing. I am not feeling very creative so I am just drawing what I see. Unlike Wren my imaginative renderings are poor and dull. However, I have hopes for some kind of derivative portraiture and must remember to ask Bill and Judy to cut the ply for me before they FINISH THIS WEEK!!!!

Yes, you heard right! The bathroom will be done this week.

Some pictures from yesterday
By the way, Wren is just 3 and I think these pictures are fabulous!

The bulldozer picture
(the wiggles on the top of the paper are "my name WREN" and the wiggly stuff to the left center is rubble. The thing to the right is a bulldozer and a tractor underneath it. The dark spots are the first Pokeballs.)

The bulldozer picture evolves to include many more Pokeballs and some spiders and WREN SELF.

Detail of the spider and WREN.

Another picture. This one is about robots and a city or house. It supposedly shows plumbing and a rubbish bin and pipes that go DOWN THERE.

Wren drawing the PIPES drawing.

The one below is one of my favorites. Wren says it is a robot wearing a coat. Mentally, I have been calling this drawing the hairy man. Whenever I look at it I have the sense of meeting a yeti. Its like a worst case scenario for needing waxing but I am relieved it is only a robot wearing a coat. Not so scary at all.

Finally, a picture of A SPACE SHIP Wren made tonight. Joshua was told about this one too. Wren says it includes an ice-cream, sprinkles and SPACE NEEDLES.

I hope you share my sense that they are most gorgeous and accomplished. Now, if I had drawn and painted them they would be some kind of surreal folk art.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More from cardiology

Wren was very anxious about the clinic visit today. I am not sure whether it was due to his experience of getting shots at the doctor last week but he was teary and anxious going in. I explained that he could ask any doctor or nurse to stop if he was unhappy about something and must tell me if he was feeling worried so I could help.

Immediately, he said "I am feeling anxious." I asked him what he felt anxious about and he said he was worried about his snack. I reassured him I had snack and then he said he was anxious about going to the doctor.

Anyway, we survived. Once we entered the echo room and lay down to watch Thomas the Tank Engine Wren asked me to lie on the bed with him (as I used to do when he was a baby). I promptly fell asleep on the bed in the warm dark while I heard occasional Thomas music between episodes. Josh and Frost arrived toward the end of the echo which was good timing since Frost had nothing to do but ask questions in the dark and was trying to read Foxtrot by the light of the ultrasound dials.

One interested comment by Dr Lewin has made me feel better. Apparently by this age Wren should be symptomatic if his condition gets significantly worse. In other words, if he is completely asymptomatic there is a chance of relatively stable obstruction. I am not sure I believe this (I want to) but its good to start to think that I could observe any significant deterioration through outward signs.

Nurse Nancy (?) was very kind with Wren and explained how they do "arm hugs". Wren asked "but is it a BLOOD PRESSURE THING?" and she said "yes, but we call it 'arm hugs' because some kids are worried when we call it blood pressure."

They sang the alphabet song to count out how long the machine would take. Wren sang a lot more forcefully once the cuff was released.

About the leg pains which we think are scooter fatigue or growing pains, Dr Lewin agrees. However, he did investigate closely because children with coarcs can present with sore legs due to decreased circulation to the legs. He does not think that is the case for Wren because his arm-> leg pressures are within normal range and his coarc repair looks completely open. He complained of sore legs again this evening and we gave him Tylenol. He has grown 5cm in 6 months so 'growing pains' or at least some muscle aches are a good excuse.

Height: 38.5 inches (75th)
Weight: 15.1kg (67th percentile because they use a different chart to the ped who says hes 50th)
BP arm: 104/50
BP leg: 120/?

I can't recall anything else now. I am trying to read Siblings Without Rivalry but really want to read Regency romances. Its shameful, really. I know. When I read them I don't watch TV so its doing that vegetative thing with my brain. Still, the bathroom is doing well and I can now relax for a few months about cardiology.

Next appointment is in 6 months. Until then, hypnotize your child if they have to lie on a hospital gurney. Don't stand to attention if you hear the national anthem. Your hypnotized child may then leap off the gurney and FALL!

Quick version

Things went well at cardiology clinic. We had the shortest appointment yet - usually 2 hours but this time it was a bit over 1 hour and no EKG was needed.

The main point is that Wren's heart problems are stable. There has been a very slight increase in gradient over the aortic valve - like 44 to 47 but it could be measurement error. Being a bit jaded, I wish measurement error occurred in the improving direction but since it all looked as expected I was pleased.

He has three issues that we will watch. Any one could lead to surgery and Dr Lewin said it is just unclear or unknown which will change first. They are:
  • the mitral valve (mild, mod regurg),
  • sub-aortic stenosis (tunnel type, no significant turbulence but narrowed
  • aortic valve - stenotic, moderate.
Nobody knows how these will change but we remain stubbornly hopeful that he can make it till later childhood for a valve replacement if that turns out to be what he needs.

We ate dinner at Blue C and shared a mango mojito. Those things should grow on trees, really. The tree should be near cardiology clinic.

More later.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Value Village: $14.95
He wears it better.
Making pasta for dinner. Wren does it HIMSELF!

We realize the new bath is a bit deep :) No fixtures in yet but its been seeing some use.

The custom boxes at the head of the bath: toys, shampoos, magazines [to be cut] and vent.

To distract us from Clinic - Magnuson Walk

Yesterday morning the boys and I joined Tara and her kids for a walk/scoot along the shores of Lake Washington. We parked at Magnuson, near the new wetlands, and walked as far as the off leash dog park (where their pug, Pablo, enjoyed a frolic).

Frost had a fabulous time - Alex was on the Razor 360 bike he got from Santa, which really spins - and Wren managed to go almost the whole distance under his own pushpower.

At the dog park Wren was very anxious but also fascinated. Neither of the boys have had much exposure to dogs and almost none to big dogs. Alex met a friend of Fred's at the park and the boys tried to throw a tennis ball for his dog, a purebread American bulldog. The dog loved the ball being thrown into the lake and swimming to retrieve it but once it was in his slobbery jowls he was loathe to relinquish it.

Frost approached confidently saying "DROP" but its owner pointed out that he had never had any success with that. Frost rose to this challenge, pursuing the dog, demanding it "DROOOOP, drOP, and DROP!!!" without any better results. In the end the owner stuck his hand in its mouth and extracted the ball, time after time.

Here are the boys climbing the tree. Wren was wondering whether the tree "falled down last night?" I said it had fallen down long ago.

This picture shows the ball being extracted while the dog does his best to resist. Wren was fascinated by its testicles, asking "what is that stuff coming out of its tummy?" They were very large and wobbly and will be put to good use this month when it is mated with another pedigreed bulldog!

The boys wait for the dog to return with the ball. At this point they remain hopeful that it will drop it at their feet.

After the walk we stopped at Top Pot Donuts for tea/coffee and sugar+fat. Frost ate his entire chocolate bar donut (which was an exhibit from supersize me) and Wren ate most of his chocolate feather boa cake donut. It took Joshua two days to finish his Bavarian creme but it is now all gone and he is eating Reeses Pieces (sp) instead.

Last night Frost and Josh went out to see some live music at an all ages gig at the Kew Cafe on Magnolia. They were invited by Shawn and Sarah who took London. Frost loved it and told me he read Foxtrot, listened to live music, danced like crazy and ran around (with the lead singer's) kids and London's friends.

I read the nook.

A good night all around :)

Cardiology Clinic tomorrow afternoon

Wren has clinic tomorrow afternoon. As always its a worry. I would hope that his obvious wellbeing and health are an assurance that all is going well with his heart. However, even at his well child checkup I could not dream it was all fixed. His pediatrician let Wren listen to his heart and described it to him as "like someone sawing, ghee ghaw." Wren said he heard it.

An ER Resident once called a colleague to listen, saying it was "like a washing machine."

That's not normal. Right?

Anyway, I am hopeful and its in the afternoon so there is no point in getting all freaked out yet. For our new friends, cardiology clinic is for routine follow-up of Wren's heart defect. Almost all kids with CHDs have cardiology checkups at various intervals. If you have annual checkups you are considered pretty stable. Post-operatively they can be monthly but we have gone from month one, month two, 4 month and now 6 monthly.

At cardiology clinic they do a general well-child check (weight, height, nurse asking questions), an echocardiogram (a long ultrasound of the heart in a dark room while Wren watches TV high on the wall). After that they do blood pressures (all four arms) and sometimes an EKG showing the electrical impulses of his heart.

Finally, there is a nasty wait while the echo technician confers with the cardiologist to ensure that they have the right views and agree on what they are seeing. After that the 'team' comes in to tell you what they have learned. The team includes our cardiologist, the medical student(s) he is training, his nurse and generally another junior nurse. The rooms are not large so its pretty crowded.

We have a talk with the cardiologist and I try and scribble notes and make sense of things in a way that allows me to ask questions and assess whether this is something I should panic over. The big question is always "if and when Wren will need surgery again" probably for his aortic valve.

Wish us luck.

I will post an update tomorrow night while Mum (worrying with us) is on the plane to South Africa for my little brother's 40th birthday! Bon voyage.

Josh will be come to clinic with me but will be late to be here to fetch Frost from the school bus.