27 February 2006

Gold Medal to Oliver in the Sleeping Olympics

I'm really afraid to publish this as I know it will jinx the future, but Oliver shattered his previous sleeping duration record (6 hours when he was about 3 months old - hasn't come close to that since) last night, sleeping 10 hours!!! He went to bed at 7pm. Stirred briefly at 11pm. I usually feed him then but he was back to sleep by the time I got my glass of water. I didn't hear from him again until 5:15am. He even went back to sleep from 5:45 to 7:30. Amazing....

I just wish I had gone to sleep at 7pm too.

UPDATE: 1pm....You just knew it was too good to be true. I received a call from Oliver's school around 11:30am. The little guy had a 102.2 temperature. He's home now and asleep after some tylenol and a long nurse.

22 February 2006

it happens every February

Have you noticed that Girl Scout cookies and the Sport Illustrated swimsuit (and I use that term loosely) issue appear at the same time every year?

Coincidence? I don't think so.

20 February 2006

baby = therapy

Today is an in-service day at Oliver's school. This annoyed me since I don't have the day off, nor do I have other options for childcare. CD and I decided to split the day, with me staying home in the morning and him covering the afternoon.

Oliver napped for about half an hour. Not what I hoped for but enough for me to get a shower. The rest of the morning we played. I cranked up a little Laurie Berkner and Ralph's World on my laptop (okay, we did also listen to Baby Beluga but only because he really really likes it - has to be the most annoying, stick in your head song. ever.).

Playing on the floor with a ten month old is great therapy. Oliver was all over the place, resulting in much chasing, and wanted to pull out every toy he owns, but every once in a while he would pause, pull up to a stand using my arm, put his thumb in his mouth and his head on my shoulder, and sigh contentedly. I can't imagine what I would have to pay a therapist to make me feel as good as I did in those moments, if it were even possible.

Since I spend a lot of time whining on this blog, it was high time for sharing a feel-good moment. I now return you to our regularly scheduled bitching and moaning.

19 February 2006

a less weighty issue

At ten and a half months, Oliver continues to grow at a fairly steady clip. His growth has slowed down, of course, but he continues to hang out around the 75th percentile of the charts.

Weekly weigh-ins are still on Sunday night, before bathtime. I'm doing a lot better at not worrying about them and whether he gains, loses or stays the same, I don't do anything differently in the days that follow.

Oliver is eating just about everything (no citrus or cow's milk). I haven't bothered keeping up a food list since the doc said whole egg was fine. He has snacks and lunch at school and enjoys them immensely. He especially likes the social aspects of mealtime, and really doesn't like to dine alone. This is a challenge at home since we tend to eat about an hour after he goes to bed. We do a little better at breakfast, when Oliver's high chair rolls into the dining room and he enjoys some toast with CD.

Penguin has begun to camp out next to the high chair when Oliver is eating. Her efforts are frequently rewarded. Oliver isn't entirely proficient at executing the transfer of foods from his fingers to his mouth.

We are seeing progress with the elusive sippy cup. It was just a matter of getting the right cup. Once we got the same ones they have a school, which are not spill-proof, he has done very well. He isn't getting bottles at school now, just a little breastmilk in a cup during snacks. I am also not pumping at work anymore. That may be my favorite aspect of all this progress. I still don't plan to cut him off on his first birthday, but I do see the day fast approaching when he won't be nursing anymore. It's a little sad, but I am ready for him to be less dependent on me.

Another home challenge is figuring out what to give him. Finger foods start with cheerios (or in our case, an organic equivalent) but I've been flying blind beyond that. Doc has suggested some things that I initially thought strange but they've worked well. Fish sticks are a big hit. Scrambled egg is another easy thing to make. I keep tofu in the house now as that is one of Oliver's favorites. I've given it to him plain and watched it disappear but they marinate it in soy sauce at school so I expect the plain stuff to be rejected soon. He's got a long way to go before he can wield the spoon on his own but I'm certain yogurt will be top of his list when that day comes.

remembering the Piper-dog

This will likely be the last post about Piper, but I realized I haven't really given readers a flavor for how unique she was.

Piper was territorial. We initially thought her outbursts at shows, when she was in a crate, was a bizarre reaction to black and fluffy dogs. She was really just defending her turf. The most dramatic demonstration occured a few weeks after we moved into our current house. CD was shovelling the front walk when a neighbor came by with his very friendly yellow lab, Katie. Piper saw CD "cheating" on her and promptly attempted to go through the window to chase off the invader. She managed to put her head through the glass without getting so much as a scratch.

Her favorite spot was on the couch with a full view of the living and dining rooms, and the aforementioned window. From here she kept watch over the house and the neighborhood, alerting us to anyone walking by the house.

When we brought Oliver home, Piper wanted to lick him. Any bits of exposed flesh captured her attention. Penguin tried to keep her away from Oliver but Piper was persistent.

In the household pack order she was the much-put-upon younger sister to Penguin. Pen frequently wanted to put Piper in her place and reminder her of the pack order. Piper didn't seem to take any of this, or anything else, too seriously. Piper had a very short memory and never held a grudge. She was the silly foil to the much more intense Penguin.

I keep looking at Piper's spot on the sofa, though it wasn't really her spot and Pen was there frequently as well, and expecting to see her there. I miss her.

CD had a great idea yesterday, perhaps turning our loss into something positive. Very few necropsies are done on dogs who pass away, yet the information that would be gathered could be of benefit to future Clumbers. It's a very emotional time for owners and often not something they've thought about. I look at it like organ donation. The time to make the decision is well in advance, when it can be considered in a less emotional state. I hope we can create a fund to educate owners and perhaps subsidize necropsy on young dogs. More on that as we develop the idea further.

18 February 2006


Piper passed away early this morning. I don't really have the words to express what we're going through. I was six years old the last time I dealt with the loss of a dog and it's brand new territory for CD. I always knew I would outlive my dogs. I just never expected the first one I would lose would be the youngest and until a week ago, by far the healthiest.

She leaves a very big hole in our house. Since she liked watching Baby Einstein I expected her to be Oliver's best friend as he grew up. Pen is happy to take on that job but it won't be quite the same. She's more the grand old lady, much less child-like than Piper. It doesn't seem fair to him, especially since he has the very important job of making us smile over the coming days.

16 February 2006

give blood

Piper is having a transfusion tonight. Her red count got too low. This should help her handle a possible endoscopy tomorrow.

I visited for a few minutes tonight (and got a little kiss) and told Piper that her half-brother Sherman wanted to donate blood for her. Sherman, and his mom Tara, are really, really wonderful. They had enough blood on hand, and it needed to be used before it expired, so Sherman wasn't needed. We say it's the thought that counts.

No answers today, but no more questions arose either. At this point, I'll take whatever positives I can find.

15 February 2006

in other news

Despite some pretty insane veterinary bills (see the three posts below), I am indulging my greatest fantasy today....people are cleaning my house. The plan is for this to become a regular thing, now that CD is gainfully employed. Penguin isn't wild about having strange guests in our house, banging around, making all sorts of strange noises and such, but I hope she gets over it in time. In the future, she will have to supervise this activity. It's a little painful to watch, kind of like when movers show up to pack your stuff. Like sausage being made, one just shouldn't see it. Part of the fantasy should be not having to come to grips with what a slob you are, or that you need this kind of help.

And in an additional effort to make things run more smoothly on the homefront, I have now been to Super Suppers twice. It takes a little less than 2 hours for me to assemble 24 dinners to bring home and stuff in the freezer. The price is reasonable, especially when shopping and prep time are factored in. I made some better choices the second time around and have recommended it to friends. The stuff tastes even better when I realize how little time dinner takes to prepare and clean up.

Oliver turned 10 months old last Saturday. He's crawling around like crazy, eating everything in sight, and growing. We have the local babyproofing expert coming on Friday. (Yes, timed precisely to follow the housecleaning extravaganza. The whole thing would have been too embarrassing otherwise.) We probably should have scheduled this for a couple of months ago but better late than never, and we are still getting it done before Oliver takes his first steps.

rollercoaster - not the fun kind

We're still on a rollercoaster with Piper. She spent a second night at the emergency clinic and was transferred to their internal medicine specialist at the daytime clinic (same location) this morning. He initially would not take her case due to his workload but he did agree to take it today.

My vet thought they hit the end of the line with medicine, and she was probably a surgical case, hence the transfer to the specialists. But with very low platelets, surgery isn't a very good idea. And with ultrasound not revealing a mass or tumor, going in just to take a look around was an even worse idea. I do love the surgeon at this practice. He is very conservative and took excellent care of Penguin's cervical disc problem last year (treated with steroids, not surgery, and she did very well).

So we still have no idea what is causing Piper's problems, and she's not improving. The internal medicine specialist feels it is likely an auto-immune issue and wants to give the steroids time to work. The evidence there will be a rising platelet count. He's also treating her for some other possible causes, just to make sure all the bases are covered. I have confidence in him, though we haven't met in person yet.

13 February 2006

one sick puppy

Things clearly happen for a reason and I am now very glad to be in Pittsburgh instead of New York.

Piper, our very healthy dog, the one with a very skinny file at the vet (in contrast to Penguin and Chewy, who require wheelbarrows to move their files), is not doing well. She didn't want to eat most of the weekend and was just not at all herself. I suspected an obstruction and took her to the vet. The vet thought gastroenteritis and kept her to administer fluids. After I left, they found petechiae on her abdomen and decided to do blood work. That revealed elevated kidney values and very low platelets (thrombocytopenia). There was also fluid in her abdomen.

An internal medicine specialist who can do an ultrasound has been called in to consult this afternoon. We'll know more after that. It's not clear if the kidney or the platelet problem is primary. Given the history of auto-immune issues in Clumbers, we are fearing the worst. She has been started on steriods and antibiotics. CD and I will go see her later on.

Please hold good thoughts for the Piper-dog. I don't intend to change the name of this blog any time soon.

[10pm update: Piper condition got a bit worse during the day and she is at the emergency clinic for over-night monitoring. Things don't look good, but the cause of the problems is still unknown. I'll pick her up in the morning and take her back to our regular vet. Once we get the labwork back we will know if she needs to go to Columbus or Cleveland for more specialized care. I am hoping she has a quiet night and there is good news tomorrow.]

12 February 2006

not happy

After three cancelled flights, hours (literally) spent on hold with Northwest Airlines finally being told I could not arrive in New York before 7pm on Monday, I threw in the towel and abandoned all hope of getting there.

I get to spend Valentine's Day with CD, but if we can find a sitter and go out I will declare it a miracle. We have yet to find a reliable sitter in Pittsburgh. Finding one with their own transportation is too much to even hope for. We have been out by ourselves exactly twice since Oliver was born 10 months ago, and once was in Florida and we prevailed upon family members to help out.

11 February 2006

I love snow...just not today

Ah, the best laid plans....are sure to kick you in the ass. I'm not supposed to be home right now. I'm supposed to be in Detroit, waiting for a flight to New York. I could have been there but I happened to check the web to see my flight status and notice that my flight from Detroit to New York was cancelled, as of about 1:30 this afternoon. Had Northwest notified me when they cancelled it I could have made an earlier flight but no, they didn't think that was necessary. And in another amazing feat of customer non-service, their website told me I couldn't re-book on-line so I should call customer service. When I did that, I was told they couldn't handle the call volume and I should go to their website. Anyone see a problem with this?

I finally got through to them and once I explained I had no interest in spending the night in Detroit, then flying to New York by way of Minneapolis tomorrow, they re-booked me for tomorrow morning. I'll miss the lunch reservation but should make dinner. Unless that flight is cancelled too. I'm not at all optimistic. I'm not even going to pack. I'll be up feeding Oliver at 5am. I'll check then.

Northwest did call me, about three hours after I re-booked, to tell me my flight was cancelled and I was re-routed through Minneapolis. This required another visit to the website to make sure I was still booked for tomorrow. They really are ridiculously bad at this stuff.

The only up-side to all this is my freezer stash of milk should hold up if I leave tomorrow. Woo hoo. This is going to severely cramp my wild plans for getting some sleep and doing some shopping.

08 February 2006

feeling brave

In a few days I will be making my annual pilgrimmage to the big city, New York, for the big show, Westminster. I love New York, in really small doses. Being able to combine great shopping, ridiculously good eating, and a dog show with catching up with friends I don't get to see nearly often enough is making me giddy. Last year I was very pregnant and very uncomfortable, and rude people who would not give me a seat on the train did not help, but I still managed to have a good time. This year should be even better, with MANY fewer trips to the bathroom.

Of course, the downside is leaving Oliver for nearly four days. The only other time I left it was for just over 24 hours. We all survived. This time I am a lot more worried, despite his eating lots more regular food and drinking various beverages fairly reliably from cups.

I am more than happy to share with CD a glimpse of what I went through last month when he went away for 11 days. Wrangling baby and dogs solo is a challenge, even with Oliver in school on weekdays.

Another negative is being apart from CD on Valentine's day. I hate this part. He proposed on Valentine's day in 2003 so it feels WRONG for us not to be together. It does give me the chance to leave a little something for him to open on Tuesday, and for him to sneak a card into my suitcase. I always come back with truffles from my favorite chocolate shop and hope he forgives me.

The whole trip is a delicate act of cramming in as much shopping, food and dog stuff in a short period of time. It will be a minor miracle if we get it all done.

The shopping agenda includes the usual: Zitomer, Petit Bateau, House of Ralph and Zabar's. And a new addition, Astor Wines, in an effort to end my quest for a nice bottle of Germain-Robin brandy to replace the one I left in Walla Walla in 1997 because the movers wouldn't accept it.

For restaurants, we typically eat very well on the weekend, only to subsist on Madison Square Garden hot dogs on Monday and Tuesday. Due to my very late arrival on Saturday, we are limited to lunch and dinner on Sunday. We are going to try Rosa Mexicano for lunch, and return to Artisanal for dinner. My heart skipped a beat as I typed "Artisanal". I've been thinking about it for weeks. So much cheese. So little time. My arteries are surely clogging from the mere thought, but what a way to go.

This is the first year in a while we won't be going to Union Square Cafe. I will really miss eating there, especially when I bite into that MSG hot dog. Maybe we could sneak away for lunch on Monday....

I usually try to arrive early on Saturday, for maximum shopping, eating and schmoozing. I'd planned to minimize time away from Oliver by leaving late on Sunday, forgoing the food and shopping to just do the dog show. Alas, it was unbelievably expensive to do that on USAirways, who I swore I'd never fly again since they no longer accept non-cabin animals. So, problem solved. I'm flying via Detroit, saving a bundle and not giving any business to USAirways. The only bad part is the additional time away from my boys. Maybe a lot of chocolate and cheese will make me feel better.

Let's not forget about the sleep....I may get to sleep uninterrupted, for hours at a time, for the first time in about a year. Oliver plunked his head on my bladder in month seven, and since his birth, he has not let me sleep more than about five consecutive hours, so it really has been about a year. This could be a really great trip.

05 February 2006

typically Pittsburgh

You couldn't call it pretty (except maybe Randle El's pass to Ward) but they certainly got the job done.

It was a hell of a ride and now I'm looking forward to The Bus' next career, The Booth.

napping MACHINE

Oliver naps rarely and briefly at school. A typical nap is about 35 minutes and he manages just two of these a day. This leads to his being fussy and over-tired when we bring him home. Recently he's been increasingly difficult to put to bed at night.

Ah, the weekend.... What a difference! Yesterday his morning nap was one hour and 45 minutes. The afternoon nap was a more typical 40 minutes. The morning nap today was two hours! And another hour in the afternoon.

I have blogged previously about my theories for why this is so, including home being way boring compared to school. I don't have any new theories. I'm just trying to enjoy it.

Of course, his teachers will think I'm lying when I tell them he napped for three hours today. I can live with that.

WDW baby care centers reviewed

First and foremost, it's wonderful that there are Baby Care Centers at all the Walt Disney World theme parks. Not having to whip out a boob in the middle of Fantasyland is a very good thing. The changing facilities are consistently clean and there are enough of them. The supplies they offer for sale seem to be adequate, though I didn't buy anything. It was still nice to know they had food or diapers or tylenol for an emergency. If you are loyal to particular brands and they aren't Huggies or Gerber, bring your own. I'm guessing the prices are outrageous, so bring your own anyway.

All that said, all of the Baby Care Centers are flawed to varying degrees and in different ways. They could all use a bit of a decor upgrade. This would be a great project for one of the design shows on HGTV.

Magic Kingdom - I know it's right off Main Street and on the edge of Frontierland but the rockers in the nursing room are uncomfortable, right out of your great-great-grandmother's parlor. And the small side tables are nearly inaccessible from the rockers.

EPCOT - Completely unreachable side tables in the nursing room. Maybe if I had the wingspan of an NBA center.... Every time I was at this one there was a mom complaining about the tables. The location is atrocious, convenient to Mexico and not much else, though I'm having trouble coming up with a spot that would be better. EPCOT could really do with two Baby Care Centers.

Animal Kingdom - Claims to be the best but I was unimpressed. There are private nursing rooms with a changing table, in addition to the large changing area. That was nice, I suppose, but I found nursing in there a bit creepy. It was too quiet, too isolated. I think I was used to the communal aspects of the nursing rooms at the other parks and this one took me by surprise. Lose the lavender.

MGM - Hard to find, no attendant. It is a doorway off the Guest Relations room. It took me five minutes to figure out that for nursing I should go in one of the tiny "rooms" (more like a miniaturized fitting room) and pull the curtain. No attendant ever appeared during the entire time I was there.

Downtown Disney Marketplace - There is no Baby Care Center, but according to Guest Relations, any of the shops will allow moms to nurse in their fitting rooms. I tested this and found the staff at the main shop (I call it House of Mouse but the real name escapes me just now) very helpful. Then again, they probably didn't want me to do anything that would scare all the kids.

02 February 2006

seemingly doomed

Here's the post about the trip. Starts off pretty scary but ends more or less well, I promise.

The trip was supposed to be 13 of us staying in two lovely suites at Disney's Beach Club Villas for six days of fun at the Happiest Place on Earth. It didn't quite turn out as planned.

Friday night my sister and her husband were supposed to fly to Florida. She was going early to do a little shopping and get things sorted out at the hotel. Two pit bulls had other ideas. They attacked my sister and her two golden retrievers while her husband loaded up the car. She tried to make the flight anyway, after getting more than 20 stitches in her hand and assessing some puncture wounds in her dogs. They didn't make the flight. Probably a good thing, in retrospect.

I'll spare all of you my thoughts about the owners of these dogs, but feel free to tell me what you think of them getting a $100 fine and nothing else.... The only good thing is that the dogs were current on their rabies vaccinations.

There were no flights on Saturday from Portsmouth, NH to Sanford, FL. Also probably a good thing. They were planning to fly Sunday but a red streak appeared and started moving up her arm. Stitches removed, antibiotics started, surgery contemplated, etc. I'm way over-simplifying but the whole thing ended up with her getting IV antibiotics every 6-8 hours for over a week. She is still in a lot of pain but is done with the antibiotics and now doing physical therapy. It's going to be a long road. Oliver is especially thankful for his cross-stitched Christmas stocking. His aunt may not be able to engage in that activity for a while.

As for us, and extremely minor by comparison, I woke up Saturday, the day before we were scheduled to leave, with food poisoning. My body spent five hours ridding itself of toxins by all available routes. Then I felt fine. The culprit was a bad sandwich from my favorite local food store, Whole Paycheck. It had been quite tasty. I'm going to assume it was a fluke and continue to shop there.

These two events left me thinking I should crawl back into bed and wake up in a month or so, not giving the trip another thought.

We left very early Sunday morning for Florida, all the while thinking my sister's doctor was going to let her leave later in the day. We didn't get the news they wouldn't be joining us until our arrival at the hotel.

Our party was down to 11 (my mom and step-dad, eldest sister, her husband, her two daughters and their husbands, CD, Oliver and me) and we were all more than a little upset about our missing family members. My sister had planned this trip for about two years. We were spending her Disney Vacation Club points for the hotel. It was all just wrong. Oliver, of course, didn't have any idea about what the rest of us were thinking and tried like crazy to cheer us up at every opportunity. He's a happy kid and seemed to know we were all supposed to be happy too.

Monday we took advantage of "extra magic hour" at Animal Kingdom and went to the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, where there was no queue. (A recurrent theme of the trip is rides without queues. Our timing was exceedingly good most of the time.) I made the most of it being my birthday and got my button at Guest Relations before checking out the Baby Care Center. (I have now visited all the Baby Care Centers at Walt Disney World. I'll be sharing my thoughts in a later post.) We liked the Bat House too. We also made a quick trip to the Magic Kingdom in the afternoon. The line for Dumbo was too long but we visited Mickey at the Judges' Tent in Toontown Fair and got the first autograph in Oliver's book. We then found the boat to go to Wilderness Lodge and our group dinner reservation at Whispering Canyon Cafe. That restaurant is a blast!!! The staff are very entertaining, to make a gross understatement. I will forever refer to the Grand Floridian as "The Red Roof Inn". Oliver was darn near angelic. [Note to self: make all dinner reservations with 9 month old children at 5pm.]

One thing Oliver didn't like was the pool. He behaved similarly at the lake last summer. It's no reflection on his Uncle Greg.

Here are a few highlights from the rest of the week, rather than the blow by blow:
Soarin' at Epcot - mmmm, smell-o-vision
Richard Petty Driving Experience - CD did the 140 mph ride along and the smile means he liked it
Extra Magic hour at the Magic Kingdom - four rides in half an hour, not a queue in sight
Character Breakfast at Cape May Cafe - Characters in beachwear!
Mini Golf at Fantasia Gardens - CD kicked my ass but it was still tons of silly fun - we should get that silly more often
Tea at the Grand Floridian - elegant and yummy, yet not at all stuffy
Dinner at the California Grill - only our second night out since Oliver arrived and it was lovely

One of the last things we did was visit Lynda, our favorite employee of The Rose and Crown in Epcot. She was our server back in October and it was love at first sight for Oliver. He cried every time she left our table. They traded pins and made a date for January. We had to make good on our promise to visit her again. This time she was tending bar so we stopped by before our dinner reservation (5pm, of course). Lynda recognized us immediately and had a lovely reunion with Oliver. One more autograph in his book. Which reminds me, I really need to get pictures in the mail to Lynda before she heads back to Disneyland Paris. Maybe we'll see her again if we get to France on our next trip across the pond.

I can't say enough about how cool the hotel was. All hotel suites should be like these. We had a full kitchen, washer, dryer, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, three tvs. It was crazy. Our bathroom had so many doors I kept getting lost. For better and occasionally worse, we could watch the nightly Epcot fireworks from our balcony. They woke Oliver up a couple of times but this fireworks addict enjoyed them nonetheless.

So the trip wasn't exactly what we were hoping, but we made the best of it. I hope we can do it again someday, but WITH my sister this time.

01 February 2006

excuses, excuses and my hairy moose

The real reason I haven't written about the trip is that an evil cold has been kicking my ass for the last few days. I had some sinus pressure in Florida but nothing serious. On the flight back, especially the descent, I had ear pressure that made me cry. (Oliver, who should have been having the ear pressure problems, slept through the entire descent.) I tried all the tricks I knew to equalize the pressure but nothing worked. It was awful.

Sunday I just felt achy. Monday wasn't much better. Had a fever in the evening but I took some advil and went to bed early. I still felt icky so I stayed home. Around 3pm, the fever returned, getting to 102 before I went to bed at 8:30. [Contrary to popular belief, this had nothing to do with my not being able to stomach yet another Bushy state of the union address.]

Joining me in the rack at 8:30 was my hairy moose, only recently located in the basement. I have a hot water bottle that has a brown, hairy cover and a moose head. He's fabulous. After over 10 hours, he was still warm this morning.

Today, same deal. I went to work but in the afternoon, the fever came back. I've been coughing a ton, occasionally hacking up a lung. And the nose finally started to drain. It's lovely. Thanks for asking.

lady business

I really will be writing about our visit with The Mouse, but here's something to amuse my loyal readers while they wait.

Woomba video

I recommend sending the kids out of the room when you view this one. You don't want them seeing you laugh so hard you pee your pants.