Monday, September 27, 2010

J Boy: In Black and White

 
Okay, I admit, the only way that I got the extra Mario Brother to sit still was to photograph him playing video games at his sister's birthday dinner.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pixies. And Pizza.

 How, you ask, did we end up with 9 exuberant 7 year old girls in our house today?

Well, a few weeks ago, I was busy manipulating  negotiating with Sydney over her birthday party celebrations.  "She" settled on a bowling party.  We were down to a detailed discussion of the guest list, when Husband suggested that maybe Sydney would want to do a movie party. At the theatre. Because a new Tinkerbell movie was to be coming out. We've done movie parties the last 2 years with Jackson and apart from a severe risk of blue slushie incidents, it's really an easy party to put on.

Sydney, who is part pixie, completely bought into the plan.  In retrospect, I should have maybe checked on some of the details.  I called the theatre to book the party and they completely disavowed any knowledge of any pixie type movie coming out this month.

And then it dawned on me, four dreaded words: Going Straight to DVD.
 
So it became a home movie party, with some pizza thrown in for fun. Pizza and Pixie Party, we called it.
One who believes in dressing the part.
All eight invitees had open calendars so it was a earsplitting lively event.  We started with a craft, which led to an eery quiet along with excessive use of glitter glue. The quiet scared me.  I needn't have worried, as soon as they were done the exuberance returned and I had to agree to send them outside.
Do not underestimate value of cartwheels.
I was a little worried that Jackson would feel left out.  He agreed to be our party assistant.  He took the role seriously ensuring the girls screamed as loudly as possible.
Jackson taking orders for movie snacks and pizza.
Movie time was quiet. 
All nine. Cozied up for Tinkerbell.








Helpful Note to Parents: No matter how much your child "always wanted a pinata", but you have always avoided due to possibilities of skull fracture to to errant baseball bat, when you find one the "opens" by pulling of ribbons,  do not spend the $17 on an empty pinata even if you do lovingly fill pinata with carefully chosen age appropriate things (i.e. not the cheap plastic whistlers). It won't work and you'll just have to tear the thing open with your bare hands, which is not as easy as it sounds. 

In an exercise in LETTING FREAKIN' STUFF GO! I let Sydney choose a Dairy Queen Blizzard cake instead of my own masterful creation.

I am still working on letting go ...
I believe now that we have concluded all the  official, informal and sanctioned 7th birthday events, we can now give away the 6th birthday leftover gifts still piled up under our bed as surely the statute of limitations is up.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SYDNEY!!


Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification is one of the things we endeavour to pound into teach our children. 

In my ever-to-be-humble-opinion there are way too many people walking around the planet (or at least this continent) that wait for nothing.  The product of I-want-it-I-must-have-it thinking is that decisions are not carefully considered. Critical questions are not answered.

Like can I afford this?
Is this the right choice for now AND the new few years?
Is there a better choice I can make?

Now I would have much less of a problem with instant decision making if it were primarily about helping others like making a snap decision to work at a homeless shelter or visit patients at a hospice.  Most often it's about acquiring stuff.

New $400 boots are purchased because wearing last year's $400 boots is untenable, even if the $400 is charged to a credit card and won't be paid for till the next year and the actual cost, allowing for interest, will be $700.

A 10 day cruise is booked even if it has to go on the line of credit.  Just because it sounded good.

A new car is purchased without consider the possibility of car pooling and the need for sufficient seat belts. But it was a convertable!

So a house is purchased not thinking about the reduction in salary during maternity leave or a desire to have one or both parents on a reduced work schedule. Because the house, you know, had a triple garage and Wolf appliances! 

Husband and I are thoughtful in most of our decisions. Whether it is where to live, what activities to put our kids in or where and when to vacation, we have endless discussions about what will be a good fit. Cost, timing and suitability to our family are the three major variables.

So we are trying to teach our kids to be thoughtful in their decisions.

A couple weeks ago Jackson told us he wanted to buy a new Wii video game.  With his own money.  With a price tag of $60, it was a significant chunk of his savings.  While most parents might take a less interventionist approach and let their kids spend their own money how they want, and live with the consequences, I am not most parents.

First step was to break the news to the J Boy that at 9:10 pm on a Friday night there were virtually no stores open and even if there were we were not going to be going to buy it now. If anyone is going out that late on a Friday, it`s going to be bringing Mommy back a mini Blizzard from Dairy Queen.

Jackson accepted the reality and told us we had until noon the next day to make it happen.  When we reminded him of how well ultimatums have worked in the past, he graciously extended his deadline by 36 hours.

I changed tacts and told him that we needed to have a conversation about it. So I conducted a probing interview: Wasn't he saving up for something else?  Was he willing to part with that amount of money and defer his 'big' purchase? Why did he want this game? What about other games he has talked about?
Has he talked to anyone that owns this game? Has he tried it himself? How much does it cost? Can you get it used? Is the price about to drop when a new game in the series is released?

He provided thoughtful answers to many of my questions. He had tried the game. He had read reviews on line.  There was another game he was thinking of, but that was definitely second on his list.

I commended him for the work he had done.  Then I told him, we needed to do research on where to buy the game and when to buy the game.  And that might take us a few days, which would also give him time to see if he might change his mind.  I told him I was thinking of the following weekend as the time to buy his game.

He went nuclear.

But when the mushroom cloud settled, he said a surprising thing to me. "Mommy, I changed my mind about what game I want to get."

I could not have scripted it more carefully myself.  I think he made my point. And I hope when it comes time to buy his first car, choose his university, decide upon his career path, he will remember that.

He did wait a week, and went with his original choice of games. All week, he told me how he was weighing the options, he interviewed friends who had the game to get their impressions. I was pretty darned proud.

Disclaimer: all this talk about instant gratification does not apply to the navy purse I saw and bought impulsively last Thursday. It was a REALLY good deal and I really, really wanted it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seven: En Famille

Tonight we celebrated seven in style at the restaurant of choice of our honouree. 
Red Robin's it was:
We had a few presents:
Sydney on opening what she desperately wanted: her own camera that takes movies:
First photos:
Being serenaded by Red Robinites:
Obligatory ice cream shots:
Ice cream is very serious business:
I think she looks a little like me here:
Next stop: Pixie and Pizza Party

Seven!

How I know my seven year old is growing up:


She gets up when her alarm clock goes off and gets dressed. Sometimes before me.

She wants to try salad, using our giraffe salad tongs

In the midst of purging THEIR toys, she brings me a doll which was mine from age 4 and says "Mommy I think you should get rid of this -- Susie's arms and legs keep falling off". When I demur she sighs and says "Okay Mommy but when I'm a grown up it will be time to let it go"

She has been heard saying:

"We both know that's not true."

"Mommy have you had your coffee yet this morning?"

"Even though I am a healthy weight, I'm going on a diet." (YIKES!)

"Mommy I don't think you should say that around us. We're children you know"

Happy Birthday Girlie Goo!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nutrition


Yet another one of our parental gaps is our kids' nutrition. Well, that is not exactly right.  We do limit the treats, make every effort for the carbs to have a reasonable amount of fibre (i.e. bread, pasta) and don't allow sugary drinks - they both prefer milk and water to most anything else.

But when it comes to vegetables, they have the bilateral vegetable aversion.  Anyone in Husband's or my family will tell tales of how each of us were fussy.  Legend has it in Husband's family, that he had his own section of the fridge dedicated to him and him alone.  Severe punishment was visited upon the soul to cross the border into that sacred territory.

I certainly ate some vegetables, but didn't care for many.  I didn't care for the texture of many vegetables then.  Even now, I have a few I like to avoid.  Husband is pretty good but has his own vegetable no-fly list.

The problem with this is party because the ones I don't care for he likes. A lot. And vice versa.   So I really don't care for celery or peppers. I'll barely tolerate peas. Those are his favourites.  He likes to stay away from mushrooms and cooked spinach and those are my favourites.

So when it comes to cooking dinner, the intersection of vegetables we both like AND that we have in the fridge which is not growing fungus can be a narrow list.  But with trial and error and some vegetables that can be cooked or eaten by just one, we do okay. Usually.

The problem is that our overlapping veggies don't have much overlap with the kids, who seemed to each have their own preferences. 

We started off the kid nutrition on the right foot. They were 9 months old  each when I lovingly steamed or baked vegetables, pureed them and froze them in ice cube trays. I gave them 2 vegetables every night. They  ate everything.  I seem to recall them baulking at a couple veggies initially, but eventually they ate it all.  They also ate a wide variety of fruits.

But then we screwed it up.

We were so busy keeping up with preschool fundraisers and takeout menus those early years, that somehow the vegetable quotient was neglected.  By the time our kids were four-ish it was down right embarrassing.    Even their fruit preferences narrowed.

A friend at work told me that around age 7 the kids get over some level of their fussiness and start entertaining new foods. That was actually true with Jackson.  He started eating more things. He expanded his vegetable quotient to include peas and sometimes roasted cauliflower. 

For the past year or two Husband and I have tried harder to eat a bigger variety of veggies and fruits and offer it more often to the kids.  We've had some limited success.  Sydney added watermelon to her list of acceptable fruits. Jackson developed a liking for strawberries.  They both ate carrots once day with the inducement of peanut butter.   The kids learn about healthy eating at school so in theory they are open to eating healthfully.

Last week, I took a new tact. I asked the kids what new vegetable OR fruit they wanted to try.  I included fruit as it was the concept of openness and commitment I was after. So if someone wanted to try kiwi or raspberries, heretofore undesirables, I figured it would be a step in the right direction.

Much to my surprise, Sydney wanted to try salad. Importantly, she wanted to use our South African salad giraffe tongs.  Who knew fancy cutlery could be such an inducement?

Jackson wanted to try broccoli.

Sunday night we had salad and broccoli with our meal.  I told the kids that we would keep trying things as it sometimes takes TWENTY tastes for something to appeal to a kid.

Jackson went first: he held his nose, screwed up his face, held his breath and took a mouthful of broccoli with lots of cheese on top.  He said it was "so and so". By which he means so-so.

I told him I would take it! I said I felt so-so about peas at best but I ate them with dinner sometimes. He agreed that he could eat broccoli once a week.  After finishing the half dozen bites of broccoli on his plate, he conceded he was actually starting to like it!

Girlie Goo's turn. She used the giraffe tongs to scoop out some salad. No dressing.  She didn't care for it.  Not surprising. Sydney is actually a very good tryer-outer.  She rarely resists. She is also an expert spitter-outer.  She actually swallowed the lettuce.  She agreed to try it with poppy seed dressing which was deemed as "too spicy".  She spat it out.  She also gamely tried a large gob of cheese with a tiny amount of broccoli.  That also was destined for her napkin.

But she was not to be outdone by her brother acquiring a new vegetable to his acceptable list, and she continued to eat her tiny tiny bowl of naked lettuce. And agreed she could choke down some every week. We told her we'd look for a more kid friendly dressing.

And that is what we call success in this house.  Next up on the must try list: celery for me. Mushrooms for Husband.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why I Am The Way I Am

I am quite certain that many people of my acquaintance think my neuroses, be they innate traits or learned behavior, are unnecessary and perhaps even slightly damaging to my children.  The specific neuroses I am talking about, and there are many, is the control freak gene.  The requirement that I remind my children OF EVERYTHING. That I understand the rules, parameters, required items and schedule at all times.

I admit, I try to manage things closely. To know what is coming. To prepare.To organize.

I suggest that this neuroses is caused by my children. In support of my hypothesis:

Monday morning, first day in new classes.  Despite being told where to line up to enter the school, Jackson was not clear.  He asked me to phone the mother of a friend. NOTHING but that would calm his nerves. So I phoned and appeared as nervous Nellie mother, trying to sort out where Jackson has to line up for class.

Tuesday, Jackson was asked to bring pastels to class. I miraculously dug up a set that has all the colours in the rainbow.  I told Jackson they are in his backpack, where they are the next day as well as he disavows any knowledge of their existence.  Two days later I stuffed them into the pocket in his planner thinking that he can't write anything in the planner with a large lump of pastels in it.  He told me that evening "Mommy, I found the pastels!" as though he successfully executed a treasure hunt. One day later they are back in the backpack, destined never to make it to school to reside with the remainder of his school supplies.

Thursday, first of "Lunch Lady", where we pay extortionate prices NOT to have to pack a lunch. I  told both kids that it was Lunch Lady day. I told Sydney twice more because last year despite being told, we received a call from the school office advising that we neglected to pack Sydney's lunch. I am so on top of this. 

9:00 a.m.: call from Sydney's teacher advising we forgot to pack her lunch and could we drop it off?

Friday, we were a little behind in the drop off.  We might have been okay if the school ran it's clocks by the atomic clock as we do in this house.  But they run fast and where we should have have 2 minutes for the kids to shuffle to their classes, we actually had minus one minute. Jackson arrived at his assigned exterior door only to find it was closed.  He was on his own.  With full credit for problem solving skills, he checked two other doors, hoping he could sneak in, only to be disappointed.  He went for the only door left: the front office door. But it had been drilled into his head "FRONT DOOR IS A NO GO ZONE."  Incredibly, he absorbed that rule.  Well part of the rule, he failed to absorb that last bit "... AFTER SCHOOL"  Kids that are late in the mornings (and that is rarely us) go to the office for a late slip and then shuffle off to their class.

But Jackson put his thinking cap on: how was he to get to his class through the front door without being noticed?  He crawled in, escaped the notice of the secretary and chief dispenser of late slips. He was kind of proud of his solution.  I have to admit, I am too!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dear Tenants

You are hereby given your eviction notice effective immediately. 

You may have figured that out because we effectively changed the locks.  You will notice that access to the deck is gone, replaced by wood lattice. And large rocks now secure the chicken wire so you can't come in under the fence.  We know you can climb fences, we're just hoping you won't bother any more.

I know that it mere months ago that I welcomed you to the neighbourhood.  But what I saw yesterday made me shudder and sent Husband to the home improvement store for lattice.

You were having sex in our backyard. 

Before I get into just WHY this disturbs me, let me just say how refreshing it was that you, girl raccoon fell asleep immediately afterward.  However, I have completely rethought my impression of male raccoons as being gallant and gentlemanly, given that you went to the edge of the yard while your companion slept.  I do give you a small amount of credit for remaining in the yard while I made hissing sounds and obscene gestures with a stick. But really, you didn't come to her rescue? You don't know what kind of threat I can be.

I admit that you, like I, may have been puzzled as to why your lady friend would take one step and then lie down for a rest.  It really was taking her an eternity to join you. I give you credit for trying to help her up the rocks to your escape pod, but she really did not seem to appreciate being dragged by the scruff of her neck.

Back to the issue of public fornication. First and foremost,  I do not want you raising babies under our deck.  This is an adult only complex. Well under the deck, anyway.  I have quite enough children to ignore and I don't need raccoon offspring in the mix. I think the pair of you have really done sufficient damage. I know first hand how children destroy your house and leave a trail of fishy crackers behind them. 

Second, and more importantly, under no circumstances do I want to have to explain to my children just exactly what you were doing. I cannot risk you doing that again in broad daylight. 

I hope you that find a new and more suitable home soon!  I really, really, really hope that you are not still under the deck.  We  really can't tell.

Former Landlord.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just One Thing

Just one thing makes the school year: the teacher. 

I don't mean necessarily a good teacher vs. a poor teacher. I mean a good fit. A teacher that "gets" your child, understands what they need to be challenged, or when they need to be left alone.  The right fit will be different for different kids, or even the same kid in different grades.

Last year, was a triumph for us in terms or teacher assignments. Absolute perfect chemistry for my kids.  Could lightning strike twice?

Though some parents and kids know their teacher assignments the year before, our school plays cards close to the vest.  Though they make some draft plans, the class lists are top secret.  All summer long.

On the first day of school, the kids learn who will be their teacher. For the next three days.  The whole school participate in active and leadership activities with their temporary teacher. Kind of a soft landing after a 10 week hiatus from spelling tests.

But Friday, my friends, Friday is the day when all is to be revealed. 

Last year, I arrived early for pick up knowing that at the end of the day, the kids meet their new teachers.  I skulked around and saw whose Sydney's teacher would be. I  had to use deductive reasoning to sort out Jackson's class assignment because two of the grade 3 classes were on the main floor and one upstairs. So I did not find him in either of the main floor classes, I correctly deduced that he must be in the upstairs class.

When I sheepishly admitted to skulking, another Mom told me the kids had been in their classes ALL DAY and she had come at recess to gain intelligence.  I never thought of that. I had been out skulked.

So this year, under the pretence of being a caring mother and delivering a nice hot lunch for my kids, I came to school hoping for news because waiting a whole extra 2 hours might kill me.

I was disappointed.  The kids had not yet met with their new teachers. So I reverted to last year's plan and came early at the end of the day.  Two of the grade 2 classes were not visible to the naked eye, but one class, the one I hoped for Sydney was.  I surreptitiously sidled down to the class and had a peak. I saw kid after kid after kid that I hoped Sydney would be in class with. But could not find Sydney.  I looked harder. She is kind of tiny and they were at a circle at the front of the class with desks obscuring my vision.

Then the kids I knew starting waving at me.  I wouldn't make much of a spy. I was becoming an actual distraction so I left not knowing where Sydney was assigned. 

But lightning did strike twice. Great teachers and good friends for both.  I would love to celebrate and revel in the joy but I have to go start writing cheques. For planners, a recorder, donations for a school fundraiser ...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Jinx

My Facebook status 8:15 a.m.: Wait. Something is wrong. We're ready early.

Yes, first full day of school in the new school year and we are 10 freakin' minutes ahead of schedule.  While I'm a bit of an on time freak, we're almost never early.

But I jinxed it.

Because the children were entirely ready to go at 8:15 and I don't start the harassment to load into the van until 8:25, they seized on the opportunity to grab some computer time. Because the 12 thousand hours they had over the summer wasn't enough.

At 8:16 I told them we had about 5 minutes (I lie and add minutes into a slush fund. It's how we get places on time).

Jackson screeched "but we just got on!!!"

I was buoyed by the prospect of SIX HOURS in their absence and I maintained calm. "You have a few minutes then we'll go to school"

Jackson said nothing, but barricaded the door with furniture.

I cheerily pushed the door open and told them "Two minutes!"  I also may have mentioned that Jackson (and Sydney if she cooperates with his conspiracy) would lose computer privileges if they fail to cooperate.

Two minutes later I told them time to get to the van.  Then I had a human and furniture barricade to contend with.  I went for the weakest link.

"Sydney you'll lose computer too if you don't cooperate."

"Mommy" she said thinking quickly "I'm trying to MOVE this chair so I can come."

Jackson was much less compliant.

"Jackson go downstairs now or you'll have no computer until Saturday."

He thought about it.  He really hates to lose.  He needs to keep something back.

"Okay I'll go, but I won't respect you."

I can live with that.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Really, I Was Asking For It

I was not really on top of the shoe situation this summer. And I paid. 

Well in my defence I had a plan. In late July I took the kids for new shoes. Sydney's toenails were about to poke through. Jackson's were about to combust. 

So we went and bought Reeboks. Generally I have not spent a lot of money on my kids' shoes, but I'm starting to realize that they are in them a lot. And a lot of that time is spent running.  Also, Sydney inherited bilaterally the over pronation gene which seems to suggest knee surgeries and back pain in her future. So I forked out for Reeboks.

No sooner had we bought the shoes, after receiving solemn promises that the shoes felt good, fit well and were an acceptable colour, when Sydney told me the tongue slips. Could we buy her new shoes?

Jackson became the owner of his first lace up shoes.  He learned belatedly the whole shoe tying thing, due to some faulty finger muscles (really, we were surprised too.) Once we had the shoes and the statute of limitations on returns expired, he was unclear about his commitment to tying shoes all the freakin' time.  I agreed that taking these shoes on holidays was not worth the necessary wear and tear on my sanity.  We came home from holidays and Jackson had his foot vs. elliptical trainer issue.  The bulky bandages made any shoe wearing uncomfortable and I wisely did not press the laced shoes. 

Then I was preoccupied with my Dad's subdural hematoma and so yesterday, the day before school starts, I told him I wanted to sort out the shoes. He wanted new ones.  I told him they cost money. He said he would pay me out of his allowance. I suggested that it was cheaper to work with me to try to make the shoes comfortable than to pay me for them.

He agreed. I put on the shoes for him. He tied them. He declared them comfortable and it was sorted.

Then I remembered that he needs inside shoes for school. When we last shoe-shopped in July, I found some shoes I thought would be good for inside shoes i.e. on sale but he assured me that he did not need inside shoes as his old ones still fit. I knew at the time that they likely wouldn't last or wouldn't fit by September, but since shoe-shopping is painful, I happily did not engage in another Mommy vs. J Boy death match.

So yesterday, with not enough hours of daylight to make the shoe shopping happen, I realized that today, the day all kids in the district go to school for 30 minutes and then head to the mall, would be a dreaded trip to the shoe store. 

I expected Jackson's cooperation level to fall somewhere between tortuous and excruciating. He did not disappoint. 

He put on shoes. Said they were fine. I said "are you sure". He said "no they are too tight." I gave him another pair. He said they felt weird.  He said "are we done yet?" and flopped on the ground blocking the aisle. He said he didn't want shoes. I said "too bad" and threw a pair of Star Wars shoes at him.  He said they pinched. We tried a size bigger. Too big.  Eventually we had a good possibility, but I wanted Jackson to try a half size larger, just to be sure about the size. I may as well be asking him for a kidney donation without anaesthetic.  After the clerk climbed to the top of the ladder to retrieve the only size 13 1/2, he tried them only only to be proven right and the size 13 was the right size 

Jackson's troubles were only starting. Now we had to find Sydney shoes. We had a whole plan for Sydney's inside shoes. The white shoes I had to buy for her hip hop performance were earmarked as inside shoes. However, she had been pretty game about the Reeboks enduring all kinds of discomfort, which I had to admit were a bit big. We we decided that she'll wear the hip hop shoes for outside shoes, save the Reeboks for when her feet grow a little and we'd acquire new inside shoes.  My agreement to this plan was in no small part influenced by a BOGO -- buy one get one at 50% off.  When you add the 10% coupon I had, her shoes only cost me $9.

While Sydney and I tried every possible shoe in her size, plus a half size up and down, Jackson lay on the floor and moaned that he was ready to go. He flopped around like a fish out of water.  Even my promise of a treat, my threats and as a complete last resort logic ("shoes don't magically appear, you know we have to buy them") did nothing to curry favour or modify his behaviour.

This outing was made particularly special because I was not the only frazzled mother who forgot to buy shoes sometime in the last month.  And quite a number of hyperactive children made the trip. Plus one baby that cried like a very, very, very, loud crow. 

Plus the crabby clerk who I asked for help in divining if the shoes fit as in wear-until-Christmas or fit-until-next-Tuesday. She was quite cross with me.  She tried to teach me how to tell if the shoes fit but I maintained my ignorance.    In support of the proposition that IT IS NOT THAT EASY TO SEE IF THE SHOES FIT, I point out that one clerk told me a size 12 of a particular shoe was too big for Sydney and the crabby one said they were too small.  Turns out Sydney thought size 12 was just right.

Now I have warmed up and am ready  for the biathalon of motherly achievements: finding underwear AND jeans for a certain slender 8.75 year old.

First Day of School Photo Op: A Retrospective

For the second year in a row, I did not get their haircut. But to be fair, my ACTUAL deadline is picture day at school - September 23. Here they are in by the lamp post on our front lawn.
And a trip down memory lane ....
2009
2008
2007
2006

Monday, September 6, 2010

Back To School 2010

I am momentarily pausing my nonstop happy dance (which I am only doing to ignore an EXCESSIVE amount of griping and sighing) to bring you photos of the Second Annual Back to School Dinner.  Another one of the pathological celebrations in this house.

We ate at the coffee table in the living room because I couldn't find enough real estate on either the kitchen or dining room for us to eat. It's one of the reasons I REALLY need them to go back to school.
The meal was one of the very few things we all like.
More popular than pizza.
Or french fries.
Chocolate chip pancakes. 
You will note I made them one in the J and S shapes and after I attempted to put the chocolate chips in the S and J shapes. All that was after an exhaustive and fruitless search for the heart shaped cookie cutter.   Sometimes you just have to let things go.

The kids enjoyed milk in champagne glasses, as is now our tradition.
Sydney had to 'cheers everyone' with every sip.
Reading the letters "we" wrote to them, wishing them well and telling them how proud we are:
Last year, Sydney couldn't read hers by herself:
Here's to a great year in grade 2:
And grade 4:
p.s. Yes, I know they both need haircuts. In my defense they were just back from the pool. And I've had a few things on my mind.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Puppy Love

The kids ask the question all the time "when can we get a dog".

Early readers of my blog will remember my Democracy in Action post where we had a family vote on the subject.  Some may even remember Jackson's post as a guest on my blog where he wrote about that.

Our answer to the kids frequent questions is always  "when you're more responsible."

That usually ends the discussion. Sometimes there is a feeble "we'll be more responsible".  Occasionally they may press us for what year we might think it would happen.  But usually, they don't press it.

But on our vacation, we spent a week in a house with a dog and a puppy is definitely on the radar screen. Even Husband and I have to admit we are both near ready.  We used to have discussions like this:

Me: We should get a dog some day.
Him: Yeah. Some day.

Now we have discussions like this:

Me: "Can you put grass down beside the deck where the patio pavers are?"
Him: "Why?"
Me: "So we can train the dog to go there so I will not have to pick up dog poo with a bag and it won't be all over the yard."
Him: I don't know if that will work.
Me: It has too.

I have spent the last 4 years living in a neighbourhood with almost as many dogs as children.  I am not ready to be one of those people carrying around bags of poo.

I do not know why I think the dog would be trainable. By us.  The one clear and uncategorical parental failing Husband and I have is the ability to potty train our children. They were both four by the time we accomplished the task.  We single-handedly funded the Pampers pension fund for the 26 months we had TWO kids in diapers.  What makes me think training a dog would be any easier?

I have a few other conditions under which I am willing to acquire a dog.

It must be a female.  Non-shedding. Small to medium sized dog, but not one of those little ones that fit in a Kleenex box. Oh and I want to pick the name.

I started getting a little push back from Husband on that last one. And Jackson.   Sydney will agree to any of my unreasonable demands just so she can have a puppy in her life.

You see I want to name the dog Austen (after Jane Austen).  Or Marcia (Brady Bunch). Or Barclay (because I have always thought that a very cool dog name).  Or possibly one of our leftover unused baby names (now that I am of questionable fertility status and if we had more babies now, we might not be able to pick them up or live to see their high school graduation):  Parker, Spencer, Riley.

Jackson says "it should have a dog name, not a people name."  A dog name is Barky (as opposed to Barclay). Or Spot.

In the past few weeks, a possible dog has come up in conversation. Here's an example:

Me: Time for bed. Can you guys head upstairs?
Them: What??????????????
Me: It's 9 o'clock.
Them: We just wanna finish this/ watch the end of this show/ do one more thing/ check this out.
Me: DO YOU GUYS EVER WANT TO GET A DOG????

Usually I get grudging compliance.  One could argue I have gone to this well a little too often.

Last week at 10:30 p.m. Jackson came into our room.  I was staying with my Mom that night as it was the night after my Dad's surgery.

"Daddy, there are some things I need to talk to you about."

And so ensued a 30 minute conversation about what exactly "being more responsible" looked like.  Jackson wanted specifics.  A couple days later, after Husband had briefed me on the conversation, Jackson brought me into the loop. Husband overheard Jackson lecturing Sydney on "being more responsible".

A day later, Jackson called a family meeting.   Husband and I (okay, usually it's not Husband) call family meetings occasionally. They are usually single-purposed: like figuring out what we can do on a rainy Saturday so they don't drive us mental planning a fun family outing. We try to make it a positive thing so family meetings are not all about ranting and venting discipline and correction.  But occasionally we do point a few things out about their behaviour.

Anyway, this was the first ever kid-initiated family meeting.  Jackson took the floor:

"I've already had a meeting with Daddy. Another meeeting with Mommy. And I had a meeting with Sydney. But it's time for a family meeting". 

I should point out that he had notes. And graphics.  He was feverishly pacing in the living room.

"What I want to talk to you about is Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and The Master Plan."

I raised my hand.  He has not actually told us what the meeting was about, not that it was hard to guess, with all the pre-meetings.  "Are these your plans about how you are going to do your homework in grade 4?"

"That is part of it!!" Jackson replied excitedly.  "Actually that is Plan A."

So he went on to describe how we could come up with a schedule to do homework. Once he actually had homework.  It was more of a  plan-to-make-a-plan then an actually plan.

"On the first day we have homework, we will all sit down and find the best time.  It won't be permanent because we have to see if the plan works."

The J Boy repeated himself about 17 times and wore down the treads in the carpet before his mercifully moved onto Plan B. Cleaning.

"We all have to come up with our own schedule.  For example, I plan to clean my room every 3 days. If that doesn't work, I'll clean it every 2 days."

"I'd be happy if you cleaned it every week."  This, Husband will tell you, is the pot calling the kettle black. My side of our room is generally the most untidy spot in the house.

Jackson went on to tell us that the rest of us have to commit to cleaning up our own spaces and he will record our commitments.

Plan C has several subjects, Jackson told us.

"Subject 1: Snacks -- Sydney should start getting her own snacks. But that might mean we have to move some of the food and the bowls so she can reach it."

I put up my hand.  "What about your snacks?"

"I already get my own snacks."

This must be in a parallel universe because when Jackson gets hungry one of the following things generally happen:

a) he gets cranky.
b) he gets REALLY cranky.
c) he tells us he is hungry.
d) he tells us he is hungry and demands to know why we are witholding food from him and didn't we know he is starving to death and he very much doubts that he can even walk to the kitchen table at this point because he is so weak from hunger.
e) all of the above.

I wisely did not use the family meeting to challenge his assertion about the snacks.  Jackson moved to Subject 2.

"Clearing the table. Sydney and I will clear our dishes after we eat.  Maybe sometime we will learn to put our dishes into the dishwasher instead of onto the counter. Also, I already know how to turn on the dishwasher, so I can do that. Only you might have to remind me how to turn on the dishwasher because I forget."

I made a feeble comment that "Good Behaviour" might also be one of the subjects -- as we have been encouraging one of our progeny to be less intense. And the other one to be less pouty. I'll let you figure out which one is which. Or you could just read on.

Jackson finally moved onto The Master Plan. Where this is all pulled together. He had a chart with two columns. Column one would be checked when we all agreed on what the plan would be.  Column two would be when the plan is completed.  When all the Column 2 are checked, we will get a dog.

Then suddenly Jackson was trying to get me to agree to something about The Master Plan. I didn't know what he was saying, and I was afraid he was trying to get me to commit to getting a dog at a certain time.  He kept pressing me in the dog-with-a-bone fashin (if you'll pardon the pun) so I said "I don't know what you're asking, but we are not getting a dog tomorrow."

I will concede that I might have and should found a gentler way to put that. 

He ran off in a cloud of intensity without formally adjourning the family meeting.

But don't think we're allowed to forget about The Master Plan.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

PINs, Platelets and Prayers

Post surgery, lying flat as per doctor's orders.
At first it about PIN numbers. Then it was about platelets and finally it was all about prayer.

A week ago, I was at work and Husband called.  He received a mildly concerning call from my parent. My Dad had forgotten his PIN number at Safeway. And they were headed to the ER. But my Dad was okay to drive.

Pardon me? People go to the ER for forgetting PIN numbers?

I tried in vain to reach them on their cell, but I inherited from them the never-have-the-cellphone-on-or-recharged-when-it-might-actually-be-useful gene.

So I jumped on some public transit and went to the ER to find them. Imagine my surprise to find out that they had already not only been triaged, but my Dad was being examined by the ER doc by the time I got there.

The doc did a series of coordination and neurological tests.  My Dad was speaking, responding to questions in great detail.

This is going to be embarrassing.

The ER doc said "your symptoms are subtle, but we're running some tests to see what we can find. But at the end of the day, we may not find anything".

The obvious subtext being "you're 76, people forget their PIN's at Safeway once in a while."

As luck would have it, that Tuesday afternoon a blue moon was obviously out.  There was almost no one else in the ER that needed attention. My Dad had a nurse to himself. She had no other patients.  My Dad didn't actually need her either so she was free to update her status on Facebook.

Within two minutes of the doc leaving the exam area, a porter came to take Dad for a CT scan of his head.  While he was gone, the blood lab lady came looking for him.  Dad came back from CT and made a donation of a small bottle of pee to the cause again missing the blood lab lady. While she might fairly be said to have the next claim on him, before she could mark her territory, another porter came to take him for a chest xray.  Another tech came and did an ECG before long-suffering blood lab lady finally took her 7 vials of blood and we were done with testing.

In 45 minutes Dad had incurred for the citizens of British Columbia a sizable health care bill.  And the blood lab lady waited longer than he did.

About 15 minutes later, the ER doc came in and started asking about a minor fall my Dad had had the prior weekend while mowing the lawn. Then he told us that Dad had a subdural hematoma. Basically a blood clot on the brain.  He showed me the CT scan on a monitor and I saw my Dad's grey matter all squished to one side.

I said I was a bit shocked about the diagnosis and  ER doc agreed. He said based on the way Dad was walking and talking he thought it wasn't anything "I forget my PINs all the time and I don't have a subdural hematoma" he told me.

We had an afternoon to wait for a consult with a  neurosurgeon. During our wait, it was apparent that quite apart from forgetting his PIN number at Safeway, Dad was struggling a little for words. And numbers.  He couldn't work out what 10 times 15 was. My Dad, it must be known, is really good at math in his head.

He struggled with days and time.  My Dad, who is an extremely articulate, smart and analytical man struggled mightily to figure out if the fall he had three days ago, may have caused the back pain he had ten days ago.  He thought about it, processed it before giving us his final verdict: the minor back pain, which he had first, could not have been caused by the fall, which occurred later.

As it turns out that fall was not the cause of the subdural hematoma, but the result.  An older conk on the head was the likely culprit (note to readers: don't walk into open cupboard doors). The hematoma was well underway by his more recent lawn mowing fall and a slight right side weakness likely caused it.

Those in the medical know, will know when caught in time subdural hematomas, especially older ones, are very treatable with a power tool to make an escape route for the blood.  The problem was that my Dad was on blood thinners (Plavix and Aspirin) and surgery was not a viable option unless he got into a life threatening situation.

I think we all took it in stride. My parents had strongly suspected a brain tumor. I feared a premature older age issue (dementia? senility?). We were all happy to be wrong.  So began our crash course in understanding platelets (which are suppressed by Plavix) brain physiology and crystal ball gazing. 

I say crystal ball gazing because it is a fine line and medical judgment call to divine the best time to have the surgery.   The neurosurgeon told us initially "five to eight days".  We counted down the days. Sunday was to be five days. We didn't think the surgery would happen on the weekend absent an emergent situation. So we thought surgery would be Monday or Tuesday.

Each day, my Dad's status declined a little. He struggled more for words. He forgot my brother's name one night.  He had trouble with simple multiplication - my acid test for his condition.  He became more laid back.  This was initially not entirely a bad thing when you're used to being busy and active and are suddenly confined to a small room in the neuro ward.

On Friday and Saturday the neurosurgeon declared that he thought we should wait eight to ten days for surgery.

What?!?!?!?!?!

 Did he just move the goalpost on us??  We had 4 to 6 more days to wait? The waiting was one thing. Watching the deterioration was quite another excruciating matter.

This is when I began working on a dissertation on platelets, their function, their ability to recover after Plavix, platelet transfusions and the test to assess platelet function. I read the product monograph and medical journal articles.  I read case studies and Wikipedia articles. Everything I read said waiting 5 to 7 days was appropriate. 

However, we had complete faith in the neurosurgeon.  We wanted the surgery under the best of circumstances so wait we would.  I had just completely embraced and was comfortable with the "wait 8 to 10 day" plan, when we got the news: surgery Monday, or day 6.

There had been no precipitous drop, just a steady deterioration every day.   Words were getting stuck.  Each day he seemed a little quieter and a little bit less like Dad.  It was time. 

As it turns out, it happened not a moment too soon. On Monday as my Mom and I waited with Dad for the call that the OR was available.   He was quite groggy and disengaged from the stimulating conversation his wife and daughter were offering him.  The only thing that seem to capture his fancy was Paris Hilton's claim that she thought the cocaine vial found in her purse was gum.  Note to Paris Hilton: we've got a guy with declining mental status and even he is not buying your story.

The nurse came to do her neuro checks. She asked the date. He knew that it was 2010 but could not come up with the month or day.   When asked his birthday, he kept saying "2010".  When asked his name he kept saying "2010".   It's like his needle was stuck.

At around 4 in the afternoon I asked Dad's nurse if they had any word on when he might be going in. She made some calls and came back with the news "the doctor is going to try really hard to get your Dad in today".

Excuse me?? Waiting for tomorrow was not an option. My Mom suggested that we pray.  We held hands and my Mom prayed for Dad to have the surgery that day. "Amen" she said.

Then we had the fastest and most tangible answer to prayer I have ever encountered. Not ten seconds later, the nurse popped her head in and said "surgery at 17:45".  We hugged our new best friend and sighed a huge sigh of relief.

Then we tried to prepare ourselves.  We wanted the surgery to go without any complications. But we knew better than to expect a miracle cure.  We took turns reminding each other of this.  

"He'll be just coming out of the anaesthetic"
"He could be very groggy".
"We won't know anything for a couple days".
"Let's not expect too much"
"He may not know we're there."

We had asked numerous people over the past week whether Dad would ever remember his PIN numbers or really know that 8 times 7 is 56. Would he have the spark, the smile and the ability to tell really bad jokes again?

The answers were less than reassuring.  Wait and see. Maybe. Perhaps. In time. With therapy.

At 10:15 as we waited in a conference room, Dad was wheeled to his room not far from us.  The nurse said to him "we going to turn the corner, you might get a little dizzy"  My Dad said with a visible smile, which we had not seen for days "I've been dizzy most of the last week". He meant metaphorically.  That was pretty subtle stuff for a guy who didn't know his name a few hours earlier.

He was back.

We saw him a few minutes later.  He was smiling. I asked him his name, his birthday and what 8 times 10 was.   When he got all those right and even gratuitously threw in his PIN number, we knew it was all going to be okay.

Thank you to the many who joined us in prayer.