31 March 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Piano Man

On Sunday I dug out my old keyboard and set it up in The Imp's room. He's played it constantly since.

29 March 2010

Things I've Learned - Croup

In a nutshell: not as much fun as you'd think.

Before Thursday at 2:00 am, I'd never come face to face with croup before. That's when The Imp woke up, crying, struggling for breath and barking that awful seal-sounding cough. While I comforted him and listened to my baby pant and wheeze, my husband turned to Dr. Google and gave us a preliminary diagnosis of croup. We called the British Columbia free 24 hour nurse line (which if you're in BC and haven't taken advantage of, you really should - they've talked me off the ledge more than once), and they asked us all the right questions and made reassuring noises. Croup was confirmed by our actual in-the-flesh doctor on Friday morning.

The sum total of my experience with croup up to this point was, at the age of seven, having read L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, where Anne's experience with raising Mrs. Hammond's three sets of twins helped her, with liberal use of ipecac, save the life of Diana's little sister, reconcile with Mrs. Barry, and be joyfully reunited with her bff. Not having any ipecac handy, I had no idea what to do. (And having since googled ipecac, it's a good thing we didn't have any!) To be honest, I thought croup was one of those old-timey words for an affliction we've since started calling something more scientific sounding - like consumption for tuberculosis.

Image scanged from this website

Summarizing what our doctor told me: croup is a swelling of the trachea, usually caused by viral infection. In an adult it would only cause a cold, but in a little person, since the involved body parts are smaller, any swelling can cause obstruction of the airway. So it basically manifests itself as wheezing, some struggling for breath, and coughing that sounds exactly (and disconcertingly) like a barking seal.

It's really awful to hear, but not uncommon, and usually goes away by itself after a few days. Temporary relief can be achieved by getting outside into fresh air (Hello bicycle rides!) or sitting in a steamy bathroom (my pores have never been so open). If it doesn't go away on its own, a one-time steroid treatment can be used to reduce the swelling and allow the body to heal.

What made this extra fun for us is that croup is often, as was our case, accompanied by a fever. The Imp has a history of febrile seizures, so that put us immediately on Seizure Watch 2010. Diligent temperature taking, administration of Tylenol and Advil at regular intervals, and much anxiety are the hallmarks of Seizure Watch. Add total parental sleeplessness into the mix and that makes for a pretty frazzled, short-tempered, emotionally draining experience.

Fortunately, The Imp took it pretty much in stride, as he does most things. He's gotten so accustomed to having his temperature taken that if we leave the digital thermometer where he can reach it, he picks it up and tries to stick it in his own armpit. He knows the words for Tylenol and Advil and can identify which drops are which by the shape/colour of the container. (Which alarms and saddens me more than a little, I must say.) He was distressed by the sound of his own coughing, and didn't sleep particularly well, but was comforted by snuggling up to me in bed - which punctuated for me why we don't co-sleep with him anymore; sharing the bed with him is like trying to cuddle up to a very localized tornado. With the exception of a 3 second episode on Friday morning, he was seizure free. His fever's been gone more than 24 hours and he's sleeping comfortably in his own crib as I type.

And if it wasn't for the storm, howling winds and pelting rain against the windows, I'd be sleeping too. After the last three days I certainly need it.

The takeaway:

1) Croup: an actual thing. Who knew?

2) It sounds worse than it is. Which is good because it sounds really really awful.

3) The impact of twitter on my daily life cannot be overstated. I received good advice, commiseration, sympathy and support, and relief in the humour of the zombie apocalypse.

4) This parenting stuff is hard, yo.

27 March 2010

Things I've Learned - Earth Hour

Striving for lucidity in between croupy sleepless nights on Seizure Watch 2010 with The Imp, I've been doing a little thinking as Earth Hour approaches. Last year my husband was working on the pilot of The Good Wife, and The Imp was sleeping, so I spent the designated hour alone, in silence, reading by candlelight in the living room. It reminded me of a time when I was a child in Reunion, and a cyclone knocked out the power for a few days. My mom was away, but I vividly remember sitting at our kitchen table with my dad and my little sister reading by candlelight before bedtime.

This year, as Earth Hour draws ever nearer, what comes to mind is not the turning off of lights for a few minutes this evening, but some of the more substantial groping-for-sustainability changes I've made in my life since this time last year:

1) Transportation:  I've been using my car much less, walking, taking transit, and bicycling much more. The bicycling in particular I've enjoyed much more than I thought I would, and The Imp absolutely loves it; so much so that he often insists on wearing his "bicy hemmet" at breakfast.

2) Household cleaning: over the last year we've been moving away from standard (and often toxic) cleaning products and have been using good old vinegar and baking soda as our cleaners of choice. I first tried it in the bathtub "just to see" and was so impressed with how it worked that I haven't used anything else in the bathroom (or the kitchen) since. It's so much less expensive, doesn't leave noxious smells about the place, and I don't feel like I need to rinse the bajeesus out of the tub before we can let The Imp have a bath in it. So we're saving water too: bonus!

3) Re-usable shopping bags: I'm not rock solid on this one yet; I seem to remember the shopping bags as I walk into the store rather than as I leave the house, but we've definitely cut the amount of plastic bags coming into the house by about 80%.

4) Farmers' markets: being a die-hard foodie, I've been a fan of Vancouver's farmers' markets since they started holding them a few years ago. There's nothing quite like fresh in-season produce. But in the last year, I've been even more focused on buying local, in season, and cooking at home. Bringing my own bags and containers to the markets cuts down on the amount of garbage created too. The vendors at the markets are so excited about what they do; the love of good food is infectious. One Saturday last summer as I was buying tomatoes, the man who had picked them that very morning smiled at me and said, "You can still feel the sunshine on them, can't you?" Enchanting!

5) Re-usable coffee cups: my own personal rule, a New Year's 2010 resolution, was that if I forgot to bring my stainless steel cup with me, I was not allowed to get takeout coffee. As a result I've enjoyed some lovely if unintentional "for here" coffees when I did forget my cup. There's something to be said for just slowing things down for 20 minutes and watching the world go by once in a while. The French have that, like many things, absolutely right.

It's no coincidence that many of these changes have come into play after I became a parent. Something about watching your child grow up makes you intensely aware of the world they are inheriting.

24 March 2010

Wordless Wednesday

I was looking through some old photos yesterday and stumbled across this one.

Me, the morning of my wedding. My friend Heather caught a final quiet moment before the mayhem of The Getting Ready began.

This was almost seven years and 20 pounds ago. It's now my motivation for my fitbyforty mission.

21 March 2010

Things I've Learned - Helping Mummy!

My sister-in-law is celebrating her 50th birthday today. I'm the designated birthday-cake-maker in the family, so this morning I was up early looking through recipes for something worthy of the occasion. Cake, filling & frosting chosen, I got out ingredients and got ready to bake. The Imp picked that very moment to become desperately in need of my attention, clinging to my leg and insisting "Up, Mummy!" repeatedly. He WOULD NOT like to go read books with Daddy, thank you very much.

He was, however, delighted to help me stir flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together.

And the problem with child labour would be...?

Well, I guess the problem with child workers is their tendency to eat the product.

Given that The Imp a) never stops moving, and b) has the attention span of a... well, an almost 2 year old, I was surprised at how diligent he was about stirring things together. He stuck with it until it was all mixed together, and then worked at it again once we added the wet ingredients. I can't even begin to describe how much fun he had - and how much I loved it. It's not often I recognize those perfect moments for what they are as they're happening. This morning I knew. As I stood there next to him, The Imp dressed in his too-big hand-me-down jammies on the chair pulled up to the kitchen counter, fork in hand, enthusiastically stirring cake batter, I knew.

This was one of those moments. I was so overcome with happiness that I had to struggle not to cry. I will remember the look on his face until the day I die. He was perfectly happy, stirring with purpose, saying proudly as he smiled up at me, "Helping Mummy!"

Happy sigh.

Daddy held him at a safe distance while the cakes went in to the oven.

Cake layers cooling on racks prior to filling/frosting
Far left is the layer The Imp made

Right then, dabbing a wee speck of sentiment from my eyes, on to frosting.

The genesis of cream cheese frosting

Add pure cocoa powder & icing sugar

Like most things in life, it needed more chocolate...

...and Kahlua.

And strawberries & whipped cream, of course.

Now for the assembly:

At this point in the process, I had to stop taking photos as things were getting a little messy. The four layers stacked were somewhat lacking in structural integrity. (Let's just say it's not an earthquake-proof cake.) And then the cream cheese frosting wasn't sticking to the whipped cream and the whole thing threatened to devolve into not so much cake as birthday pudding. I live in fear of the car journey to my sister-in-law's house.

I did manage to use ALL the frosting and filling, so.

The finished product:

The takeaway:

My husband and I were talking this afternoon about the things we remember from our childhood; the things that made us really happy. For him it was going skating with his whole family every weekend in the winter. For me it was sitting under a tropical night sky with my dad and having him teach me the constellations of the southern hemisphere.

We realized one of those Important Truths. It's not the fancy birthday party, the cool new bike, the "event" moments in our childhood that stick with us. It's the simple time spent standing on a kitchen chair with your mom stirring together your first cake.