Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Things Kids Say

The old "Starling" here.

Mouse was noting in conversation that I am old (not older, but old). After responding "gee, thanks, honey" I said: can I be old when I feel pretty young?
Oh Mom. That's just your feelings teasing you.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas morning

This is how Christmas morning went at our house; the pictures speak volumes:

Jaybird did get the baby doll she had asked Santa for.
The kids are always nice and sweet on Christmas morning; Jaybird even stopped to give me the present she had bought for me with her own money, before she opened all her own presents. She was very excited and proud to give a present (a bar of dark chocolate). What a charmer.
Mudpuppy has been giving his own presents: lots of smiles.
Tomorrow we make our way through the so-called super storm (which turned out to be nothing more than a couple days of steady drizzle) to visit my family in the Twin Cities.
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Waiting for Christmas

In the weeks running up to Christmas, we prayed with our Advent wreath every night, and some of us made snow angels . . . .

Jaybird had been begging and begging to see Santa; she was very concerned to get her list to him. This, in many ways, has been her "first" Christmas, the first time she has approached it with anticipation. Mouse was also interested in seeing Santa -- somewhat surprisingly. We had thought she was beyond that stage; maybe she's somewhere in between, which is fine.

Not sure where to find Santa in town, we traveled to La Crosse last weekend, where the local Rotary puts up two million lights along the riverfront. We got there just as the display opened, but still had to wait about 50 minutes in pretty cold weather to get to see Santa -- who, mercifully, was inside a warm little house.

Unfortunately, Jaybird -- who had been jumping up and down with anticipation mere moments before -- got "cold feet" (ha ha) when her turn came, and she refused to enter Santa's house. Given that she'd been talking about it for weeks, and we'd driven all the way down the river, and stood out in the cold for almost an hour, we were not about to walk away without having her talk to Santa. So we dragged her into the house, where she plastered herself against the wall, arms spread out. Then Starling had to go along with her, pushing her a bit (the photo is blurry because I had to hold Mudpuppy, who was howling by this point). But she finally got up the courage to tell him what she wanted: a baby doll. She was pretty happy afterward. although she did say that she was "too embarassed" to tell him what she wanted to name the doll: Anna Rose, her baby cousin.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

New monikers (take 2)

I've just posted a couple of posts about our triple-dip Sunday (three sacraments in one day), but I also need to explain the new monikers that I came up with. Because the old ones went over like a lead balloon. I actually considered just using the kids' real first names -- but I'm just not totally comfortable with that. So here they are:

Bear: For our 9-year-old boy.
Mouse: For our 7-year-old girl.
Jaybird: For our 4-year-old girl.
Mudpuppy: For our baby boy. Yes, it's the name of a salamander, but it sounds cute.

And "Jackrabbit" for me and "Starling" for my darling wife.

Hopefully these will stick, cause if they don't, I'm going to numbers.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

First Reconciliation

Mouse had her first Reconciliation on Sunday afternoon (yes, mere hours after Mudpuppy's supplemental baptismal rites). She's been preparing for this for four months, so it's a big deal. They had the kids do it within the context of a communal penance service, which is good, because then the kids get to see lots and lots of other adults going to confession, too.

Here is Mouse with her confessor. (This was taken after everyone had cleared out.) I went to him as well, and he seemed really good. Mouse said it was :kind of scary but good." She had a big smile on her face when she was done.

Reconciliation is a beautiful, under-appreciated sacrament. We get to present ourselves to God as we really are -- warts and all -- in a very concrete, intentional way. Without intentionality, and without sacramentality (the concreteness of the thing), it's all too easy to minimize or sidestep our faults and failings. I can't speak for others, but I know that for myself, acknowledging my sins to God through the Church is a whole different experience than just acknowledging them in prayer. Sometimes I even come away with a smile, like Mouse did.

Baby's baptism, part 2

We completed Mudpuppy's baptism on Sunday; the actual baptism took place on ur back deck several weeks ago during the H1N1 outbreak in our house. A "precautionary" baptism, as they say. The supplemental rites were completed on Sunday -- the candle, the chrismation, the white garment. Everything but the actual water rite. However, our pastor did bring out a small bowl of water that he used to sprinkle on Monkey as a reminder of his baptism; the rest of us signed ourselves with the water as well.

He was pretty good during the baptism -- even though he's been pretty fussy the last few days. As evidenced below:

"Ack! I'm getting a sugar overload just by hovering near that cake!"

Our friends served as godparents; they are converts from the Nazarene Church. Count on converts to be hard core about their faith and their godparental responsibilities:

Finally, here is a priest friend of Starling's admiring the baby:

Incidentally, Starling wrote up a very funny post about baptism at her blog.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Haven't had a chance to update this blog recently with everything that's been going on with Becky, but this picture was too cute to resist.
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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Becky update 2

For those of you checking up on Becky here, here is the update I posted on her CaringBridge website. Check for further updates at that site, entering her name as Becky Arganbright.:

When we went to see Becky this morning at about 8:30 she was just coming out of her medically induced hypothermia. This is a relatively new, life-saving technique that they call the "Cool It Protocol." I counted eight IV lines, not including the ventilator she had shoved down her throat; she also was getting an "assist" for her heart from a balloon inside an artery that was helping her circulate her blood.

Around 9 am they began taking her off the drugs that were keeping her heavily sedated and paralyzed (so she wouldn't shiver during the hypothermia). I was told by the nurse that the sedative would wear off fairly quickly, but that she might not be responsive for several hours or a few days. Well, around 10 a.m. the doctor supervising the ICU came in and talked to me for about 20 minutes, basically saying that there was reason to be optimistic but that we should also be prepared for the worst. I stepped out of the room so he could examine her, and when he did, she woke up. I could hear the nurse saying, "Rebecca, you are in a hospital. You need to stay still and try not to move too much." And then the doctor was asking her whether she was in pain and explaining that her vision would be foggy for a while. And then the nurse was saying, "Your kids are all right. Your baby is being taken care of." When the doctor came out, he had a big smile on his face and said that it was really good that she was awake and responsive, that it improved her prognosis significantly.

When i went into the room Becky was moving her arms and legs quite a bit and seemed to be trying to sit up -- she looked scared and confused. The nurse tried to calm her down a little bit, and I again reassured her about the kids and told her that everyone was praying for her and that she would be all right. She started crying a little bit. She kept trying to talk around the ventilator, which of course is impossible.

She continued to be responsive to her parents and husband when they arrived a short while later, although the nurse increased the sedative to calm her down a little bit. Later, a neurologist came by to test her and found that she was able to feel everywhere he touched and able to respond to his questions in a way that made sense (still nodding or shaking her head). We also talked to a cardiologist who said that her prognosis for a full recovery is very good, although she will have all of the issues that anyone who has survived a major heart attack would have -- including concern about the arteries growing into the stents that were placed in her heart. She will be in the hospital for another week or two, and then she will need at least six weeks to fully recover. She should be able to lead a fairly normal life after that, although she will have some minor damage to the heart.

The cardiologist also explained that the survival rate for this sort of event is very, very low -- like in the low single digits. She survived because her husband was there to call 911 when she told him to (she must have had some early symptoms); and because the emergency response was so fast; and because she received CPR less than a minute after going into cardiac arrest; and because the CPR was good and continuous for the 40 minutes or so until they could shock her heart back into action; and because she was taken by helicopter from the initial receiving hospital to Abbott Northwestern, which is one of the best heart hospitals in the country and which has been pioneering the life-saving techniques used on Becky; and because the head of the emergency cardiology unit at Abbott Northwestern was available to do the emergency surgery and oversee her initial care, including the innovative new techniques that probably made the difference between mere survival and full recovery. Without all of those things, she would have either died or been in a persistant vegetative state, most likely.

And let's not forget the incredible outpouring of prayers. She has had Masses said for her, countless rosaries, and people staying up all night to pray, people who don't know her but know someone in the family or have simply heard of her situation. Thank you for all those prayers; clearly, we have been very, very blessed to have the outcome that Becky seems to be experiencing.

Becky's kids are hanging in there pretty well, although obviously they miss her; they are a little too young to fully understand what is going on, other than having lots of strangers and relatives in the house and being completely off their routine. As far as they know, mom is away taking a really long nap. The newborn has had problems adjusting to formula -- she was up most of the night, keeping Dennis (Becky's husband) awake for a second night in a row. My sister Mary and I will be taking the baby tonight.

They hope to begin weaning her off of the heart assist pump today, and if that goes well, they will remove it tomorrow; if that goes well, they will remove the ventilator, which I am sure Becky would hugely appreciate.

Things are still incredibly busy here, so I have to run -- more updates later.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Update on Becky

Here's a quick update on my sister, Becky, who had a massive heart attack, including a aortal dissection, last night.

First off, thanks so much for your prayers and general support. At its best, the Catholic blogosphere can be an avenue of grace -- a way of having an expanded experience of the universal Church, and this has been a good example of that.

We arrived in town late this afternoon to help take care of Becky's four small children, including her newborn (12 days old as of today). They are, thankfully, mostly oblivious (although wondering why mom is taking such a long nap).

For her part, Becky has received the sacrament of Anointing and remains in a state of medically induced hypothermia, which they are going to begin bringing her out of tonight through tomorrow morning. They plan to keep her heavily sedated and paralyzed for another two days after that, so we should know whether she will survive sometime over the weekend, or by the middle of next week at the latest. They continue to say that they just don't know whether she will come out of it or not, although there are some encouraging signs. Last night they were giving her a 50/50 chance of survival, which is amazingly good odds considering the circumstances. The fact that she was given CPR by a police officer within a minute of cardiac arrest was a huge factor; the fact that she is at one of the best heart hospitals in the region is another plus. Also, she is going to be the subject of a seminar attended by 50 national heart specialists here in town tomorrow -- her doctor is giving the presentation. Apparently her case is very rare.

As horrible as this has been, there is grace around the edges; the kindness and generosity of people, including complete strangers, is an awesome thing to behold -- a reminder that love has already won the victory.

Becky's blog is called It's STILL a Blessing. We will be setting up a CaringBridge site for her tomorrow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

40th Birthday Open House

Sunflower invited many of our friends over for a really casual open house for my 40th birthday. Maybe around 30 - 50 adults showed up, along with a gaggle of kids. One thing I did to commemorate the occasion was to have my picture taken with each of the adult guests before they left -- which, besides being a fun coda to the evening, made for a nice photographic memento of the event. Here is a small sampling:

Moon wakes up

Baby Moon turned six weeks old this past Wednesday, and right on schedule, he has started "waking up."

For his first six weeks, baby Moon did two things: sleep and cry. On the rare occasions that he was awake, he looked pretty shocked to be here -- wide-eyed and worried most of the time.

Now, though, he is doing a lot more looking around when he's awake -- sometimes very calmly. He has also begun to smile a lot more (see photographic evidence above). He still cries quite a bit when he's awake, but not as much as before; and he is sleeping more soundly, and for longer, than before. He will turn his head toward someone who is speaking to him, and seems to be seeing farther -- he looks around as if he's noticing his environment for the first time. He likes bright lights and shiny objects in particular; he also gets an eyeful whenever he passes by our colorful quilt wall hanging. When he is placed on his stomach, he can lift himself up on his elbows and look around for up to thirty seconds at a time (although it's obviously quite an effort -- his head starts bobbing and then he has to rest it by laying down again).

Moon is an easy baby -- by far our easiest. Sleeps almost through the night, and calms down quickly when he gets fussy. And thank goodness for that! We're into a sort of routine with him now, which makes life somewhat easier.

Here is a picture of him getting a bath this morning:

One other thing worth mentioning is the kids' care for their baby brother. They often stop to talk to him, kiss him, pat him on the head, or just comfort him. "I just love baby Moon, don't you?" I overheard Bean asking Meadow the other day as they both watched him sleeping.

New pseudonyms

So I had a few complaints about naming the baby "Z." Trouble is, we've got two people in our family whose names begin with J, and two whose names begin with M (including the baby). So, after great deliberation, I've come up with a new set of pseudonyms:

B (our oldest boy) = Bean
M (our oldest girl) = Meadow
J (our youngest girl) = Jujube
M (our youngest boy) = Moon

S = Sunflower
J = Jupiter

Yes, it DOES make us sound like a hippie commune, but it's the best I can do under the circumstances. I looked at lists of minerals, flowers, spices, birds, planets, planetary moons, etc., etc., to try keeping these names part of some set, but it just didn't work. So if you have a better suggestion, let me know in the comments box.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Baptism of Baby Z

Well, Baby Z was supposed to be baptized at church last Sunday, but he ended up getting baptized on our back deck on the previous Friday instead, thanks to the arrival of the H1 N1 flu in our household, as illustrated by this lovely image of M lounging on the couch (yes, she's wearing a face mask):

Because she wouldn't be better by Sunday (and one of us parents would have to stay home with her), and because we expected that someone else would get the flu, too, we decided to cancel the church baptism. Our pastor suggested an emergency baptism, which made sense given the danger to the baby if he caught the flu. As it turned out, S and J came down with the flu that Sunday, so it was good that we cancelled. Baby Z hasn't caught it yet.

So we got a call from our pastor at 8:30 Friday morning suggesting that we do the baptism at 10 that morning -- he didn't want to wait until the afternoon, because he was sick, too, and expected to crash later. (He actually stopped by our house on his way to urgent care.) We quickly called a couple friends and left a message for the godfather, who teaches down the road from us, and then we went out and cleaned off the deck as best we could.

It was a beautiful day for a baptism:

We used a bowl made for us by a friend for our wedding. Here is the godfather making the sign of the cross on Baby Z's forehead:

And here is the actual baptism:

Sunday, November 08, 2009

H1N1 at our house

Yep, we've got H1N1 at our house, and we've got it good -- first M came down with it (on Thursday), then S (this morning), then J (this evening). So far, it's been relatively mild -- although M still has a fever. We're all hoping the baby doesn't get it.

More later.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween pictures

Some pictures from Halloween. First up, we have the girls, who carved their own pumpkins (with one of those safety pumpkin carvers). B didn't feel up to it this year.

B went as Luke Skywalker; earlier in the day, J went as a Sugar Plum Fairy, and M went as a dalmatian.

There is baby M, making a scary face for the camera.

The children at a neighbor's house. It was relatively warm out, and we walked most of the neighborhood for about an hour before J got tired.

And finally, their stash. They get to eat their fill afterward. (Usually it's two pieces no more than once a day for a snack.) I find that they self-regulate nicely. And look at those smiles! Then it was back to the CW for the annual showing of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" -- inside, this year -- and then off to bed much too late.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy baby

The kids' Alabama grandma came to visit for a week, making everyone happy -- including baby M!

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Baby's first bath

Baby's first bath at home (Oct 19). No, he didn't likt it, not one bit!

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