Time Off

May 30, 2009


Even superheroes take time off from saving the world. I have still to post about last weekend’s excursion but it’ll have to wait. Once I clean out the fridge I think I’m going to take a nap.

Happy Saturday!


Preschool Themes: Weather

May 25, 2009

To help me deal with the fact that my last preschool buddy is leaving I’ve decided to create weekly preschool themes. I won’t have the benefit of only planning every other week, and the children won’t have the benefit of sharing the table with one of their best friends *snif* but that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on learning.

Anyway, we’ve totally exhausted the alphabet during the past year and a half and I needed something new.

Last week I taught “Weather” for preschool and we carried it on all week.

We talked about Rain, Rainbows, Snow, Sun, and Wind.

In addition to learning how rain actually works, we sang “Rain, Rain, Go Away”, “It’s Raining, It’s Pooring” and “The Eensy, Weensy Spider.” We also filled up squirt bottles with water and rained on each other.

We talked about the colours of the rainbow, and how they are created. We told the story of Noah and the Ark (and the rainbow.) We saw rainbows in crystal. And, thanks to the brilliant idea of Dana, ate rainbow cookies.

5.20.09 Rainbow cookies SMALL SIZE

We talked about how snow happens when the clouds try to rain and it’s really cold. This was the hardest to explain to our SoCal boys, but we didn’t lack in the fun department: for a snowball fight we through mini marshmallows at each other, and for snacks we ate popcorn. We sang “Once There Was a Snowman” many, many times.

The easiest. We live in LA. Sun is the only weather the boys really know. For this we sang “Mr. Sun” and “You Are My Sunshine.”  For this we did a dot-to-dot.

Blowing through straws we were able to talk about the power of wind. Wind on water, wind on paper, wind in your hair, the boys really enjoyed running around being windy.

We also identified weather in the books that we read. Some that worked especially well were:

“Chicky Chicky Chook Chook” by Cathy MacLennan
“Come By Chance” by Madeleine Winch
“Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers
“Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” by William Steig
“You Can’t Go To School Naked!” by Dianne Billstrom, illustrated by Don Kilpatrick III

There are so many more, those are just a few from our bookshelf.

This theme would lend itself well to a theme on seasons, which I chose to forgo for the time being as it’s just too abstract for our little guys right now! (haha)

Saturday around Los Angeles

May 23, 2009

El Pueblo
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(he was mesmorized by the fountain and gardens)

Union Station
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(he loved those mosaic and wrought-iron walls even more than I did — I never hugged the walls)

China Town
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(this picture requires no explanation)

The Healing Power of Old and New

May 23, 2009

Thursday morning I went to a new (to me) park to meet an old friend. She moved away nearly two years ago and was back for a short trip. Our boys played together as though they had never been apart (not surprising, really, as Little Red still talks about Gilbert nearly every day.) It was a short visit, but it was perfect. She’s one of those friends with whom I never feel the need to explain, and we just pick up every time as though there was no break. She’s one of those friends who, while doing me a favour, always made me feel it was I who was doing her the favour.

The boys had a peaceful naptime, and I even had to wake up Daytime Brother so we could play at the Freemons before his mother got off work. The children’s play was constructive and pleasant. The adult company was as delightful as always.

It was a really good day, exactly what I needed.

On Friday I visited with another friend, one who will be moving soon and whom I will also greatly miss. She introduced me to my new love (Tim Tams) in one of my old loves (peppermint tea.) She asked me about my moral objections to rental properties and listened to my theory on the capitalist subjugation of the modern proletariat. She didn’t blink when Daytime Brother broke her statue, but graciously said, “I got it from my mother-in-law and never really liked it anyway but didn’t know how to get rid of it.” She understood when I talked about my intense need to use baby wipes as infrequently as possible and how it makes me feel so wierd around here, like I’m crazy to not just use them for everything. And she smiled knowingly when I confessed that I told Paul I wanted a composter for my birthday. France is far, and I’m going to miss her.

Again we had a peaceful afternoon during which time all three boys napped and I tried a new recipe. The only flaw to my fantastic Friday was that although I reread the recipe several times I somehow missed reading that the bars needed at least 4 hours in the refrigerator and there was no way they’d be ready in time for soup night.

No worries, we picked up some Hawaiian sweet rolls on our way up the hill and had a wonderful night with old friends and some new friends. It’s hard for me to be outgoing with people I don’t know, but had great conversations with two new friends, including one who is the mother of a girl who will be in Little Red’s Italian class.

We put the boys to bed an hour and a half late, because we stayed late, because we were all having such a great time. They rewarded me by sleeping in until 6:30 (this week they’ve been waking at 5:30.)

Today looks to be another great day.
I am so blessed.

Field Trip

May 21, 2009

Little Red just announced that we need to go back to the Bagetty because he lost his mask.

Anyone else want to take in some fine art on the Westside?

Full Circle

May 19, 2009

We slept reasonably well on Friday night, under the tender care of our French-Swiss nurse, Valerie.  A woman I felt sure would have been my friend even without the need for professional courtesy.  After a night of fluids my little guy had the energy to scream at the vampires who came for a sample to monitor his progress. “No! No! Leave baby!” he exclaimed.  It made me both very happy and very sad.  When he’s at his worst he doesn’t talk, but hearing him tell them to leave the baby alone was very sad.

We met with the attending physician who was just starting out his 24 hour shift. It was clear that Boy Blue’s case was unusual enough that the residents were unequipped to handle the mystery, and we saw very little of them after our first hours on Friday. Even Dr. Grybauskas was frequently trumped, by the nephrologist whom I never met, but was also monitoring Boy Blue’s progress by blood work. On Saturday morning, after being on a bicarbonate drip all night, Boy Blue’s CO2 levels were still a little low (19, and they should have been at least at 22.) Until the acidosis was resolved there was still a concern that there was something not quite right in the kidneys.

Saturday was Day 3 of his episode, so he was considerably better than the previous two days. He only vomitted once (at noon, and whether he stopped after that because it was time, or because the nurses put him on Zofran, we’ll never know) and he was a little playful. He made games when I fed him and we rolled a ball around our room for a few minutes. Then we sat in the windowsill of our beautiful, large window, and watched whistfully at what seemed to be every other family in pediatrics playing in the play area just outside our window.

The day was long. The day was short. While not with us at the hospital Paul entertained Little Red and called me for updates I didn’t have. Dr. Grybauskas made orders that were overruled by the anonymous nephrologist (orders like getting off the drip to see if he could maintain his levels independently.)  The few friends in the know dropped off so much food Paul had to put some of it in the freezer.  Little Red spent the evening with his cousins while Paul visited us again, and left after he had barraged the resident (Dr. G being unavailable) with all the questions his mother had asked him all day.  They had taken another blood sample in the evening and Dr. Miranda, our patient resident, was at that time able to confirm for us that the nephrologist was no longer concerned with renal problems and had we ever heard of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome?

Boy Blue, much less afraid of his surroundings on Saturday night, slept well, only awaking when our nurse, Ron, checked his vitals, and quickly going back to sleep. 

Sunday morning’s bloodwork had his CO2 levels up to 29, even after being off the sodium bicarbonate, with no major discrepancy between the blood and the urine.  We upped the potassium in the drip for good measure, but were pretty optimistic about things. 

Boy Blue was certainly feeling better.  He ate breakfast.  He didn’t take any morning naps.  He walked around the room, and when we finally got the approval to unhook from the drip, we went outside.

I noticed immediately when we went out that there was fresh blood at his iv site and ran back inside to the nurses to ask “is this normal with a hep lock?”  Well, since it was an unideal location for an iv in the first place, and had been in for 48 hours even though it was only intended for 1, they decided to take the whole thing out while we played for “half an hour or so.”  The plan was that they would prepare a new site when we returned.

I took that timeframe very liberally.  We had been out for over half an hour before Paul and Little Red came, and Little Red had been dying to play with all the cool toys so we went back out.  By the time we went in for lunch the doctors had decided that Boy Blue no longer needed an iv, that they would monitor him for a couple more hours, and discharge us that afternoon.

To top it off, when food services came by with lunch, the sweet, ever-smiling lady who had been visiting us for days said (when she saw we had two extra family members), “I have an extra fruit tray today, would you like it?”  Would we ever!  The whole family ate until full.  The boys played cars and balls in our spacious room.  Finally the doctor came in, gave us a final chat about Cyclic Vomiting, and discharged us.

Both boys were asleep before we were out of Los Feliz, and transferred easily to the couch for long naps.  I opted not to nap in fear it would mess me up at night, and instead caught up on many of the things I needed to do: email my parents and let them know we had been in the hospital, and email my pediatrician to arrange the return of her car seat, do laundry, and take a shower (heaven!)

Monday was the typical Day 5 of the cycle.  If it weren’t for the tracks on his arm and the medical adhesive, you’d never know he’d been ill.  He ran around the park, climbed the stairs, slid down the slide, ate, and talked as though nothing had happened.

This morning we went in for a follow-up with our pediatrician.  As we played in the waiting area (we were early) a few of the nurses came out to marvel that Boy Blue had recovered so quickly.  Our doctor was equally impressed.  That’s Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome for you: when you’re in the cycle it’s debilitating, and when it’s over it’s forgotten.  Boy Blue has even gained half a pound since Friday!

Children are so resilient.  We would do well to be more like them.

This whole experience was a rather beautiful one for me.  I was aware of the chaos, the confusion, the concern that swirled around us, but I never succumbed to the fear.  I was completely present for it all, in the moment, doing.  It was empowering.  I knew we were okay.  I knew that no matter whether we got answers or not, Boy Blue would be 100% normal on Monday (it being Day 5.)  I could feel the supportive prayers of our family and friends, and I knew we would be just fine. 

And he was.  And he is.  And so are we. 

(That twitch I have is starting to fade…)

I Was Hoping For A Virus

May 19, 2009

If Little Red hadn’t come down for a glass of water at 11pm, we wouldn’t have known until morning that Boy Blue had thrown up. We’re pretty sure it was the vomiting that woke up the older brother, but he was too tired to know what woke him.

As we’ve already learned with our little guy, once the vomiting starts, it won’t stop for three or four days. This was no different.

Thursday was a very wet day. I left a message with our pediatrician asking if there was another virus going around or should I come in to test for a food intolerance? A nurse called me by noon and set me up with an appointment for first thing on Friday morning. I watched my lethargic boy doze on the couch between bouts of vomiting, and counted his ribs to pass the long afternoon.  I thought if I watched him long enough my mind would suddenly discern what it is inside of him that causes these episodes.  I knew it was more than just a virus.  That night I went online and did some research.

Friday morning Little Red stayed home with Paul and I loaded Boy Blue and his Daytime Brother into the stroller for the 8:30 appointment.  We were there to check in at 8:15, and everything seemed normal.  I explained to our pediatrician the history of this being what I thought to be the sixth episode, without a regular timetable between episodes, but the episodes themselves had a very predictable pattern.

I told her that although we don’t know anyone who is sick, we do play at the park a lot and I was hoping she’d say there is a virus going around and to just hang in there.  She said she wasn’t convinced that was the case, as she hadn’t been seeing a higher than normal number of cases.

I explained that my second thought was that he had developped a food intolerance.  We hadn’t added anything new to the diet, so I was pretty sure he didn’t have a full-blown allergy, but as food allergies and intolerances are in my husband’s side of the family, maybe something like that was going on.  She said she’d run a food panel in our blood work.

I prefaced my third idea by saying, “Now, you know I’m not a hypochondriac, but do you think it could be Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome?”  It was an outside shot, but when I did my research I could see it had merit.  She agreed with me that it was an outside shot, especially as she’d never had any abdominal migraine patients so young (early research suggests a link between cyclic vomiting and migraines.)

She was concerned that he had lost weight again, and was back down to 22 pounds and 7 ounces, although he grew another inch and a half since the end of March and is 34.5 inches tall.  His weight used to hover around the 40th percentile mark, and has now fallen off the charts.  She sent us downstairs to the lab for bloodwork, including a food panel, and also for an x-ray (in case the vomitting was caused by some sort of blockage or malformation on the inside.)  She apologized to Daytime Brother that he would have to wait longer before we left the medical office buildings, and presented us with a handful of stickers and a couple of lollipops.  (I thought when you took the Hyppocratic Oath there was something in there about not giving candy to babies?  I was surprised, but grateful, and felt incredibly strange when later I was saying, “here, Aiden, would you like a candy?”)

The line for the lab was long, it being Friday and in the middle of the morning, but Boy Blue dozed and Daytime Brother was content to be pushed in the stroller and play with stickers.  (and flirt with anyone who’d make eye contact.)  Boy Blue gave me the “you’ve got to be kidding” look when I asked him if he’d pee in a cup, puked on the shoes of one of the lab assistants, but didn’t cry at all when we took seven (or nine?) vials of blood from him for all our tests.  He was likewise pathetically docile during the x-ray, a stark contrast to when we x-rayed his leg during his failed attempt to break his ankle. 

The x-ray was clear, and the food panel didn’t flag anything, although some of those tests have still not come back, but Boy Blue’s electrolytes were very low so the doctor hooked the little guy up to an IV for an hour while I nursed him (the only food he would take, and the most likely food to stay down.)  It was lunchtime and I hadn’t planned to be there that long.  Our pediatrician found a fruit bar in her drawer for Daytime Brother, and the nurses asked if they could take him while I held my sick baby.  Dr. Waldron offered to pick me up some lunch as she zipped out, and although I declined, she brought me a smoothie anyway.

After an hour of fluids we did another blood draw (this time he did cry a little) and his CO2 levels, which had been abnormally low at 15 had dropped to 11.  This kind of acidosis doesn’t make sense in someone who had been vomiting acid (if you expell acid shouldn’t you have less and not more?)  Also, although he was clearly sick, he did not appear to be sick enough for such acute acidosis — an adult with a CO2 level of 11 would have needed several monitors and would have been pretty close to catatonic!)  A red flag went up in Dr. Waldron who immediately tried to figure out why his kidneys were not holding on to what they needed to.  It was then that she said she needed to admit Boy Blue to the hospital.  The fluids he needed were not available at the clinic and he needed to be checked out by a nephrologist.  I called Paul to pick up Daytime Brother (who had been on his absolute best behaviour all day and he had been there for over seven hours!!!) and pack my toothbrush, and we put the little guy on some more fluids while we waited for all the dominos to be put in place. 

Because Boy Blue had an IV in the inside of his elbow (not an ideal place, but the veins on his hands were not cooperating) they called transport instead of allowing me to drive him to the hospital.  When the paramedics showed up with the guerney (and our sweet pediatrician retrieved the carseat from her own car so we wouldn’t have to wait for the next ambulance, she repeated several times “this isn’t something I’d do for just anyone…” to the incredulous paramedics) Boy Blue lost it.  He knew we weren’t going home.  The guerney was scary.  The men were strangers.  Everything was unknown.  We left the medical office building 8 hours after we had entered.

He was too sick to realize the coolness of being in an ambulance (albeit buckled into a car seat strapped to a guerney, and vomiting again before he went to sleep.)  He was scared.  He wanted me to unbuckle him and hold him.  He wanted to go home.  He cried half the way there.  But he did settle down, and the paramedic that sat in the back with us kept me in conversation, which helped me stay on top of things.

(Funny note: as we crawled along Los Feliz Blvd -during rush hour on a Friday!- a woman walked up to the ambulance and asked the driver if he could pick up the man two car-lengths ahead who had just been in an accident on his motorcycle.  He politely explained that he already had a patient in transport and that she needed to call 9-1-1.  When we passed he remarked to us that he had seen that motorcyclist speed past us on the right only a couple of minutes ago and he thought, “that guy is going to get into an accident.”)

Boy Blue awoke as we were getting him out of the ambulance at the hospital, and started crying again.  It was a very scary thing, and to further the insult I could still only walk beside him and not hold him.  Another paramedic who watched us disembark asked the driver if he knew the lights were on.  Some day, when Boy Blue is older, he will love to hear the story of how he went to the hospital in an ambulance with the lights flashing. 

The Kaiser hospital on Sunset has been completely re-built since the little guy was born and his room in pediatrics, as it was in a corner, was especially palatial.  The crib was a hospital crib, which terrified him, but as long as the nurses weren’t checking him out or attaching him to things I held him in the chair which helped a lot.  We settled in for what we hoped to be an overnight stay wherein we found some answers and solutions quickly.  We met several nurses and not only the resident doctors but also the attending physician (for whom Boy Blue displayed his vomiting prowess.) 

After Paul dropped off Little Red for his pajama party (it was date night) he brought me some fast food.  His brother soon joined us and the two of them gave Boy Blue a blessing.  Paul was very nervous about the uncertainty of things, but I felt very comforted.  Having had a blessing and being admitted to the hospital, I knew that the little guy was in the best hands of both Heaven and Earth.  He was even calm enough that by the time Paul left and we settled in for bed that he slept in the crib with me on the pull-out beside him.

Thus endeth Friday.