Thursday, January 31, 2008

And He's Off!

For the past several days, Bruce has been working on his balance — practicing steadying himself, seeing how long he can remain upright on his own without falling or grabbing on to something. Want to see him toddling for a few steps?

It makes a mommy proud!

But that's not all. My master multi-tasker is also focused on climbing stairs, saying new words like "boppy" and cutting his second tooth! He has discovered the joys of pulling all the pots and pans out of the cupboard. (He loves banging pot lids together, making great, crashing cymbal sounds!)

Do you think he's trying to get all this stuff in before he turns one?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Whaddya know? More weight lost.

On November 11, I wrote about being excited over losing 60 pounds since giving birth. Bruce turns 1 in a few weeks, and the scales are down seven more pounds.

Can you believe I lost weight over the holidays? That has never happened before. I figured once Bruce started motoring around the house (i.e. getting into anything and everything!) I'd be more active, but I didn't figure on losing up to seven pounds. That's something to get excited about.

I think it might be time to go try on the old belly dancing costumes! Would love to find that they all need to be taken in. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

First Tooth Revealed!

Way back on January 11, I posted about Bruce's first tiny, white tooth. It has taken me this long to snap a photo for all to see. He's working on a second tooth now, but here is that long-awaited, anxiously anticipated milestone tooth. Was it worth the wait?

Shrimp-Filled Piquillo Peppers in Sherry Vinaigrette

Doesn't this look yummy?

It is a tapas recipe I found in the July 2005 issue of Cooking Light magazine, in an article titled Spanish Nights, that was lying around my kitchen. Tapas reminds me of Old Madrid. (I traveled there on my first paid vacation as a working woman.)

Tapas are small, savory dishes served in Spanish bars and restaurants as hors-d'oeuvres or cocktail snacks. A tapas-themed dinner group gathering wouldn't be complete without Manchego con Membrillo and a sparkling Spanish Cava. On a couple of occasions, my dinner group has made theme dinners out of tapas and they were mucho gusto!

Is all this foodie talk making you hungry? A bit of delectable nibbling sounds so good! I think I will be working tapas into our weekly dinner menu since I've got it on my mind. I may even make Shrimp-filled Piquillo Peppers in Sherry Vinaigrette, since it seems to be beckoning me from the food mag pages. Here's hoping you give the festive finger foods of Spain a try. Bon Appetit!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Space Cowboys -- LEGO my Firefly!

Happy 50th anniversary to the LEGO brick! In honor of such a shiny occasion, I'd like to share these hand-made mini-figures, based on the short-lived TV series Firefly.

Firefly aired on television for 11 short, but exceptional episodes back in 2002.

Firefly was a Sci-Fi Western set in the inky blackness of space. It was wonderfully comedic and dramatic, with "big, damn heroes" that had realistic and gripping challenges to overcome. After it's cancellation, a legion of impressively loyal and creative fans (I was one, albeit a "Janet-Come-Lately"), flooded the FOX TV network with requests for Serenity, a full-length feature film titled after the rebel ship that was their livelihood and home.

The Reasonably Clever website shows an impressive model of the firefly-class ship Serenity out of LEGO bricks. A few years ago I bought two of the snack-size Serenity kits listed on the page as Christmas gifts for me, Mr. Ridiculous and a married couple I know who are even bigger fans than I am. (They are decorating their at-home bar in a Serenity theme. I joke that they should call it their "Fruity-Oatie Bar." Movie fans will get the reference.)

Is anyone out there making LEGO Firefly movies, similar to LEGO Star Wars? Ooh, I'd love to see those.

So, happy 50th anniverary of the LEGO brick and here's hoping that Firefly and Serenity live on for at least as long!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Dog Who Lived

UPDATE: I guess God didn't like me making hasty presumptions! Julie's latest blood test results showed a rise in red blood cell count from 12.5 to 21.5. A healthy dog's PVC count in between 35-55, so Julie has made good progress this past week. I cried tears of joy when I heard the news.

It gets better! Julie's reticulocytes (or "retics" - precursors to red blood cells) are up 11.7% over last week. A typical dog generates retics at a rate of 1-2% to replace old, dying cells. So Julie's bone marrow has kicked into overdrive to fill the void.

The doctor says Julie is no longer in guarded condition and can take leash walks, providing it isn't too cold outside. (Anemia makes it difficult to retain body heat so she has to be careful about hypothermia.) She can also climb stairs without putting excessive strain on her heart. What a relief for a worrier-mom like me!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Piggie Snacks as Survival Food

One of my best friends, fyrlocc, loves nibbling on baby toes and mentions them as "must-have" items on the appetizer list whenever our dinner group meets. Isn't that sweet?

I admit that I think Bruce has the most adorable (and tastey) baby toes ever, but it's nice to know that I'm not alone.

At our house we play a game where I scoop Bruce up into an embrace and declare that it is time for "Piggy Snacks!" Of course he erupts into instant giggles and squeals of glee as I take his delicious, little toes and pretend to eat them all up. I swear, his laughter adds years back onto my life.

Some days these little, joyous moments are all that get me through the emotional rollercoaster day after day. Yes, death is a natural part of life. But that doesn't make it any easier to watch Julie slip slowly into increasing periods of exhaustion.

Bruce, God bless him, is doing his level best to distract me with happy moments! Today he crawled through the doggie door. So cute! Darnit, I didn't get a picture. He'll have to do it again so I can record it in his "First Year" baby book and post a photo here.

Less than 30 minutes after conquering the doggie door, Bruce discovered the Tupperware® cupboard in the kitchen. Playing with Tupperware® is a rite of passage! The best part? It kept him enthralled for 45 minutes. I was able to tidy up around the kitchen and prepare for dinner while I watched him pull plastic bowls, lids, canisters and containers out all over the floor.

Tragic Death - R.I.P. Heath Ledger

I was in UTTER SHOCK last evening when I heard of Heath Ledger's death on the 11:00 p.m. news. It's so sad. I thought he was a talented actor and how awful is it that he left a baby daughter behind?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Simple Pleasures

It has been five days since Julie's last blood test and I'm delighted to say that she's still with us. Every day more and more of Julie's personality shines through which makes it easier to focus on daily routines and other happy things. Like Bruce feeding Julie animal crackers.

And giving her lots of love when the animal crackers are all gone. (Maybe they were consoling each other.)

On Thursday she goes in for another blood test to check her packed cell volume. I'm expecting it to be lower than before, but perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised. A few days ago, I was sure that she wouldn't live as long as Thursday. And she may not, but I seem to have new hope. Here she is dozing in a defiant patch of sunlight that belies the winter chill.

By Thursday our little sun worshipper will have run out of meds. It could be that the steroids have been keeping her eating and drinking. That could be a big part of what is keeping her alive. We don't know how much longer she will be with us so we're taking it day by day. Each day is a gift.

As content as she is for the simple pleasure of warm sun on her face, I am grateful for every moment we have left to spend with her. We love you Julie, Julie.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Julie Update & Joop Forever

Julie's latest blood test results showed a rise in red blood cell count from 13 to 14. That's good news, right?

Well yes, but the doctor was quite discouraged. You see, her PCV (packed cell volume) count should have been significantly higher by now. One point isn't enough to hang your hopes on.

There could be a sneaky cancer lurking somewhere unseen that is affecting her bone marrow's ability to generate new red blood cells, or a red blood cell parasite could be the culprit or something that didn't present itself in previous tests.

The doctor recommended we send Julie to a specialist for bone marrow testing and a sonogram. Quite frankly, we can't afford these tests. Even if they found the cause, we've spent all our available funds getting her this far. Julie must either rally on her own using the meds she has or die. It chokes me up.

UPDATE: I guess it is not God's will for Julie to rebound from this life-threatening crisis.

Julie's full blood panel & CBC (complete blood count) results have come back from the lab: PCV is 12.5 (remember that this number should be between 35-55 for normal dogs). There appears to be no bone marrow stimulus; i.e. no evidence of reticulocytes (or "retics" - precursors to red blood cells) being generated.
This is grave, grave news for Julie.

Her liver and kidneys do not appear to be damaged, which is a blessing. The doctors are not prescribing her any more medications and are not recommending a second transfusion. When her current meds run out her stability should deteriorate.
I stumbled across this page as I was processing the above information: All Pets Go to Heaven
[Warning: If you tend to tear up easily, grab the Kleenex box now.]

It reminded me of a riveting photoblog from a few years ago about a Dutch dog named Joop whose owner lovingly chronicled his life in a daily dog log. Joop had a huge following. I sat at my desk and sobbed the day he died. I'm sure I was not alone.

Check out Joops's incredible photos on Flikr, then catch up with his owner Henk's latest pet projects. It's good stuff.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Coulda-Bin Calamity (The Tortellini Affair)

Picture this:
Bruce corralled in the dog pen. Healthy dog confined in the powder room. Sick dog thrashing about like a suffocating fish. Me holding onto sick dog's snout with both hands to keep medication in her mouth. Healthy dog slips out of confinement and snarfs remaining med-laced treats out of bowl. Me frantic, calling the emergency number at the animal hospital.

*ring.ring* "Hello?"

"Yes, my healthy dog just swallowed medication intended for my sick dog. Do I need to pump her stomach?"

[Snip a few seconds of conversation where I detail the name and dosage of meds, describe the tasty tortellini in which it was disguised, and the visual imagery above.]

*audible giggles* Ahem, I don't think it will do her any harm. Let me put you on hold while I double check to be sure."

*pregnant pause* (during which time I'm convinced the doctor is laughing hysterically.)

"Hello? Yes, your dog will be fine. That amount of the drug will not harm her. Just be sure to steer clear of contagious areas for the remainder of the day. I wouldn't take her to the dog park, for instance, since her immune system will be a bit suppressed."

"Thank you, doctor. Goodbye"

This is the crowning event of a morning spent trying to force-feed Julie, my sick dog, her meds.

At 5:00 p.m. we take Julie in for more bloodwork. In my little corner of the world it is snowing, with a layer of rain turning to ice on top of the snow. Businesses are shutting down right and left due to "bad weather" and people are fighting traffic on the "bad roads" to get home.

In reality the weather is not bad at all. It's actually quite picturesque. But because of all the over-stressed, maniacal drivers that can't fathom slowing down for a fraction of a second, it is not the optimal driving situation to take your pet or your family out in. But we desperately need the information this PCV test will provide so we can discuss next steps. So we go.

Please God, let there be an improvement in the red blood cell count.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Congratulations, Chick!

Congratulations to That Chick Over There's blog for being nominated for a Blogger's Choice Award! ("Hottest Mommy Blogger")
Check her out! I love reading her blog.

Julie Update & "Know your s--t".

Julie had her blood work done yesterday and the results were:
no change

Her red blood cell count is still 13 and there is no evidence that her RBCs are regenerating. Since she is eating, drinking and eliminating well [← euphemism alert!], the doctors recommended we take her home, continue her bland diet and cocktail of medicines, and bring her back in three days for another blood test.

Every situation has a lighter side, and I was amused when the doctor sent home a fecal scoring (a.k.a. poop) chart to help us more accurately report Julie's eliminations to the doctor.

Mr. Ridiculous has dubbed the photocopied chart the CRAPCON scale and posted it proudly by the back door. It was too fuzzy to post (you didn't REALLY want to see it anyway) so for any hardcore crapheads I offer up instead this link to "the best poo story ever."

If you clicked on the link above, it took you to a website called (I'm not kidding about this.) It just goes to show (yet again) that there really are No Boundaries on the Internet. What intrigued and repulsed me about (enough to write about it) was that they named their marketplace "buttplugs." Eww.

One last bit of randomness. Since I used a euphemism I felt it only fair to include a perplexing (but I can't look away) Euphemism Generator Let me know if the euphemisms make sense to you.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bringing Julie home

We just checked on Julie's condition and there is no significant change. So I will recap what we know so far.

Julie is being treated for Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia - her immune system is attacking (prematurely destroying) her red blood cells faster than her bone marrow can produce new cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to all other tissues in the body, so Julie's body is starving for oxygen.

So far tests have revealed no underlying cause for Julie's body to be attacking its own red blood cells. But since there has been no sign of her bone marrow kicking in to generate new red blood cells since her transfusion and drug treatments, the doctors are recommending sending her to a specialist for a sonogram (for a closer look at her organs -- maybe there is cancer lurking somewhere that the x-rays couldn't detect) and a bone marrow test. Both of these tests are expensive and won't necessarily get us the answers we need.

We've made the extremely painful decision to bring Julie home, even though her condition has not been stabilized. We would like to continue giving her fluids and immuno-suppressant medicines through the weekend in the hope that her bone marrow may still kick in and start generating new red blood cells to replace the destroyed ones. But if she doesn't respond to this treatment we will have to make the painful decision to put her to sleep.

Words fail me to adequately express how bereft I am (we all are) about our dear, sweet Julie. She's only 5 1/2 years old. She's only lived half her life. She's not in any pain, but severely fatigued, dazed and confused. She's one of my babies and she's probably not going to survive more than a few weeks. She wants to come home, so we're bringing her home.

This is immensely hard for me. Emotionally. I don't want her to die. I don't want to see her die. There is nothing I can do to help her except make her feel comfortable and loved.

People have said to me that I am obsessively devoted to my pets. To me they are my children. (They were my children before I had children, which is not so uncommon.) They've said that once I have children of my own I will view my pets differently. I can categorically say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I do not feel differently about my pets. I still love them with my whole heart. (Well, maybe not so much the Molly fish in the fishtank. But I digress.)
They ARE my children.

"Welcome to Married Life," Part 1

As a kid I used to laugh about the expression, "Stop the world! I want to get off!" It just sounded absurd. But it sums up nicely how I feel about the emotional rollercoaster of my life this week.

OK, it also sums up how I feel about married life in general.

But before I start sucking lemons, there is one bright spot:

The Good News - First Tooth
What's this? Yessirree, a tiny, white tooth is beginning to poke through Bruce's lower gumline. Hurray! And whew, finally. Bruce's first little nipper is located in the lower front. He's having quite a fun time trying it out, even though it has barely risen more than a millimeter or two into view. And he is wasting no time learning to "take bites."

Now it's just a waiting game for the other 19 baby whites to appear.

The Bad News - A Gravely Ill Pet
Three days ago we noticed a startling change in our dear, sweet dog Julie. She had been lounging in the bed pretty much all day (which isn't all that unusual, since it is her absolute fav-o-rite place to be) and we had a hard time coaxing her downstairs. We called her down for supper and when she finally managed to descend the stairs she was very unsteady on her feet and looked dazed.

I rushed her to the vet to find that she was acutely anemic. The underside of her ears and her gums were a deathly white. How could I not have noticed that before? They took some blood for a sample and ran x-rays and advised us to rush her over to an emergency care clinic for a life-saving transfusion.


Yesterday Bruce had his 11th month-iversary. Only 29 days and counting until his first birthday!

With Julie's condition playing heavily into our daily routines, I've scrapped all brainstorming for party themes. We'll invite friends and family over to have cake, celebrate and of course take lots of pictures.

Friday, January 4, 2008

"These are the times that try men's souls."

Thomas Paine had no idea how well his words would apply to my life today. If only Pampers really did come with a poo gauge!

I know that diapers, particularly the extremely objectionable ones, are a topic that most folks prefer NOT to hear about. But since this is what I've spent my day dealing with, one disgusting diaper change after another, I've decided to share this joy with the blogosphere. Thank me now for not including actual photos.

Here is a link to another blog that uses baby diapers to describe the local air quality in their little corner of the world: Project M

Rotting catfish would smell sweet compared to the four (and counting) freakish desecrations of decency I have changed today.

What makes it all the more trying is that I am coming down with the latest plague that is circulating up and down the eastern seaboard. Everyone I have talked to has this same bug. My husband came down with it around Christmas Eve. Bruce caught it from him. And I've been fighting to stave it off, but today had my first really sore throat and low energy day.

We moms (wow, did I type that?) know that when we get sick the kids still need to be fed, changed, carted around and picked up after. A clingy, teething, sick kid's diarhea diapers were just too much for me to handle today. Oh, and so far still no tooth!

11:00 p.m. update: Still no tooth. And about an hour ago Bruce's breathing became so labored that he actually couldn't catch his breath. It was frightening! We rushed him into the bathroom and threw the shower into highest steam mode. And sat, stood, anything we could to keep him occupied while he breathed in the steam. It took the better part of a half hour before his airway loosened up enough for him to cough. So Bruce will be sleeping in mommy's arms tonight so she can monitor his breathing up close and personal.

New Year, New Word!

New Year's Day was eventful chez Bruce because he said a new word.
**Drum roll, please**


That's right, he said "baby." We've been told the "b" words come first, so once again my brilliant Bruce is following the baby development playbook like a champ. Way to go, little man o' mine!