Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! We've had a good holiday up here. Zoe and Astrid both got a ton of stuff. I think the big hit of the year was Zoe's new "Kota the Triceratops" toy. It's normally well over $200 but we got it on sale for an unbelievable $89 at Costco, so we just HAD to have it! Here is a video of Zoe riding it. It is so cool, it plays music and moves and eats leaves and burps and purrs and falls asleep. It's such a neat toy.
video

It also has been great to have James' mom Shannon up here for a Christmas visit. She hasn't ever seen Astrid and it's been 2 years or so since she last saw Zoe, so she definitely was overdue for a visit to see her grandkids. Zoe has loved having Grandma Shannon here and so has Astrid - it's just 1 more person to pay attention to her.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Happenings

I love my daughter. Someone should just bottle up "Essence of a 4 year old" cause she is just so dang cute I can't stand it. This month I've been doing a few "Christmas-y" things with her, and she's just so into Christmas it's so cute. We put up our tree Thanksgiving weekend. It's a fake one, since Alaska does not grow good Christmas trees, all real trees are shipped up here and they are so dead by the time they get here I just figure it's not really worth it. Anyway, here is a picture of our tree, which she helped out a lot with. She wanted to hang a lot of the ornaments, and I let her. I made sure to hang the fragile ones up high - with a crawling 10 month old on the loose I only put non fragile ones and ones I didn't care too much about on the bottom. Now you'll notice the bottom branches are empty - Astrid has seen to it that all ornaments are now out of her reach. Tilt your head sideways to see the picture, I had to turn the camera to get the whole thing in it. The next thing Zoe did was make gingerbread houses. She came home from preschool one day all excited that they had made a gingerbread house in school that day. I asked her how she did it and she proceeded to tell me "well first you take a milk carton with no milk in it, and then you put graham crackers on it with frosting" - she was supposed to decorate it at a family night activity that week, but we were unable to make it. She came home with a naked house in her backpack, so that weekend I got a gingerbread house kit at Costco, and I put that together, and she put some candies on it. I put most of the candies on, because she'd do a few and then say she wanted me to do it. So any random strange candies were her, and the rest were me. We used the extras to decorate her house from preschool and she was SOOO happy to do that with mommy. Here she is with the results of her handiwork.

I have a few more pictures of the houses but didn't want to overwhelm you. She promptly wanted to eat these as soon as they were done, but I made her wait a day or too till I could take a picture. James said she could eat them then, and the she could make some more when her Grandma Shannon comes to visit. That satisfied her pretty well.

Tonight, I was wrapping up some presents for Zoe's Grandma Shannon, and she wanted to help. So I let her help, and I gotta say, I think she's inherited my gift for wrapping, because she did a pretty dang good job for a 4 year old. She first wanted to wrap a picture we're giving to her Grandma. She picked the paper, unrolled it by herself, and put the gift in the middle. I told her where to cut, but she operated the scissors on her own, and folded the paper on her own. I held it down while she taped, and then she operated the scissors to trim up the edges before folding. I pinched the edge and told her to cut where I pinched. I helped fold up the edges, and she taped it. She also picked the bow, and put it on, and then put the sticker and label on by herself. She even signed her name that it was from her, all by herself!!!On the second present, she did everything more by herself (I still directed by telling her where to cut) - she operated the scissors even more on her own this time. Due to this fact, she went a huge bit crooked while trimming up the edges, and so it required Mommy's skills to make sure all parts of the package were hidden by paper, but even so, it still turned out pretty well.

You can see the results of her wild cutting and Mommy's rescue efforts in this pic here:
I consider myself to be a really good gift wrapper, but I'm not so wrapped up in it that I can't relinquish control to a 4 year old. It's all about the joy of being with her, and teaching her the process, and then enjoying the process after all.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Tag

Wow I've arrived! Someone tagged me! Thanks Alaina! :) I feel loved. Okay here we go.

Christmas Questionnaire Time!!!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Oh defintitely hot chocolate. I CANNOT stand egg nog. Gross gross gross.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
As a kid it didnt' apply because Santa just brought us candy for the stockings, but now I think it depends on what it is size wise...

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
There's too much snow outside in December to risk life and limb on a ladder hanging anything.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No.

5. When do you put up your decorations?
Thanksgiving weekend. We have a fake tree now so we can do that. As a kid it was always really close to Christmas Eve, and sometime Christmas Eve itself before anything went up.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Umm...my mom makes this for Thanksgiving but I'm going to do it for Christmas too, which is her recipe for sweet potatoes that came from her mom. They are so delicious and it tastes like pie, not sweet potatoes and they are all covered with giant marshmallows. So delish. And I usually never eat sweet potatoes cause I hate em.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?
I think it has to be the year we went dumpster diving for a tree. Funny story! About the day before Christmas eve or so, we went out in our big van to buy a tree. Wyatt (or someone) said that they had seen a tree lot over by Target at the old Fallbrook Mall. So we went over there, and drove around, and saw no lot. We went to the back, and they had already taken all the trees and put them in the dumpster! So my dad backs the van up and hops in the dumpster to find a tree. Sure enough, he found a really nice one, so we brought it home. They loved it cause it was a free tree and it's a great story now!

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I don't remember, but I think my mom told us that as soon as we stopped believing then Santa wouldn't bring us anymore stuff, so I never really "stopped" believing.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
No, we didn't. James did so we do it now.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
With ornaments that I got when I got married and with ones I've bought, and with the things that Zoe has made. Same style generally as my parents tree when I was a kid.

11. What is another favorite Christmas tradition memory?
All of us kids decorating the tree, and semi-fighting over who would hang the really cool ornaments - like our "jumping Santa" - he was wooden with a string and when you pulled it, his arms and legs moved like he was doing jumping jacks. We all liked him and wanted to hang him.

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes, but it's been a long time. I can only go forwards and I need to use a wall to stop at the rink.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
No, I don't think I really have one...

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Oh...everything I think. I love imparting the joy of the holidays to my girls and watching how excited they get over the whole thing.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Pumpkin cheesecake!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Another one?? I don't think I have enough for more!

17. What tops your tree?
A star, which is leaning at the moment because the top branches where the topper is supposed to go are not very strong.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Both. I love giving presents and shopping for them. I hope this doesn't sound too weird, but to me, presents are an outward expression of your feelings toward a person, especially when it comes to family. I think, "if I get this person this thing that I just know they will love, then they will know that I care about them because I took the time to find this and give it to them". And of course I love recieving presents cause they're so fun. :) And I do love how a great big pile of them looks under a tree.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
I like a lot of them. I can tell you the few I HATE, and will change the radio if I hear them. Let's see - I hate "Winter Wonderland", " Feliz Navidad", "The Christmas Song" (the chestnuts roasting one), that cheesy one about the kid and the shoes, and I think there's another one or two but those are the ones that pop to mind now.

20. Candy Canes?
Yes please!

21. Do you feel Christmas is too commercialized?
Well yes, doesn't everyone? However I love it anyway and I don't really mind.

Now, I tag....Kathryn Kahumoku, cause she's my follower :) And anyone else who sees this and wants to participate. Have fun!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My poor husband

I really need to clean out my camera cause today I could have gotten some good "after" shots of what I saw when I came home from work today, and I can only imagine what my husband went through today. My first inkling that something was up, was this morning. I got a call from my husband at work. He said that he had put Astrid in the living room to crawl around and went and rested cause he was still tired. When he came back in the living room, she was crawling around naked - and she was not naked when he went to lay down! After inspecting the baby butt for signs of poop, and inspecting the floor for signs of poop - and finding none, he went on the hunt for the diaper. It was on the floor in front of the TV, with poop in it!

Then, when I came home, Astrid was sitting in her chair, fussing and eating. I gave her some dinner, and since she was so messy, I decided to give her a bath. While feeding her, I saw one of her baby toys on the counter COVERED in diaper rash ointment! OMG!!!!! When I put her in the tub, there were towels on the floor in the hallway, and some poop on the side of the tub...so I wipe that off, and ask James about it. He says he will tell me later. So, I go to clean off her high chair and see poop in her high chair! Right at the part that goes between her legs. She was NOT poopy when I put her in the tub. So I have to know, WHAT HAPPENED??? So I asked him. "James did Astrid poop in her high chair???" Here is what he said happened today:
1. James had Astrid in her room for about 15 seconds (his estimate). During that time she got into the diaper rash ointment and got covered in it, she also rolled around the carpet with it, so there was ointment on the carpet, on her, on that toy I saw, and on one of Zoe's chair's and her little table.
2. James had Zoe in her high chair to feed her. After a bit he noticed that she had pooped all over herself and all over the high chair, so he had to wash her off...so gross!

I felt so bad for him - Zoe never did any of that when she was a baby!

A belated thing for me to be thankful for

One of the reasons I started a blog was also to serve as my personal soapbox to get the word out about Congenital Heart Defects - CHD's. I found this on the CHD Blog, and they got it off another heart blog - "Adventures of a Funky Heart". Since is the first time I'm using another post on my blog, I do hope I'm giving proper credit here...:) Hope I don't step on any toes!

I am immensely grateful and thankful for the wonderful, courageous, pioneering doctors and medical staff who came before us, and who had the courage to do what was considered impossible. The following is a small bio of one of them. You also can learn a bit more if you watch the movie "Something the Lord Made". Here's the post:

Vivien Theodore Thomas was born on August 29, 1910 in Lake Providence, Louisiana. After graduating high school in 1929, he planned to attend Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State Normal School, (now known as Tennessee State University) with hopes of becoming a doctor.

He had been in school two months when the stock market crashed, causing him to lose his part-time carpentry job. Forced to drop out of college, Thomas still found work as a Lab Assistant at Vanderbilt University Medical School, working for surgeon Dr. Alfred Blalock. Although hired to sweep floors and clean out cages, Vivien Thomas impressed Dr. Blalock with his intelligence. Blalock was so impressed that he trained Thomas to be his Surgical Technician.

Thomas began assisting Blalock in the study of shock during surgery. Shock is caused by a sudden drop in blood flow through the body, and can be fatal. Working together, Blalock and Thomas developed ways to prevent shock from occurring during an operation. By World War II most of their theories were in use, saving the lives of countless injured soldiers.

In 1941, Dr. Blalock was hired by Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, to serve as the hospital’s Chief Surgeon and as a Surgical Professor in the Hopkins Medical School. The doctor asked his trusted assistant to go with him, and Thomas agreed. But while Blalock was responsible for training every surgeon in the school, Thomas had to enter the building through the service entrance. He was also listed on the hospital payroll as a handyman.

The two men respected and trusted each other, but were hardly equal. At one time, Blalock was paid ten times more than Thomas. Often the doctor hired Thomas to serve drinks in his home during a social event. And never was Thomas allowed in the Operating Room.

It was at Johns Hopkins that the two men met Dr. Helen Taussig. Taussig had been hired in 1930 to oversee the Cardiac Clinic of the Harriet Lane Home, and quickly grew interested in “Blue-Baby” diseases.

Usually, blood coming into the heart is routed first to the lungs, where it absorbs oxygen. The oxygen rich blood then goes back to the heart, where it is pumped throughout the body. Blue Babies are born with a badly formed heart or blood vessels that cannot provide enough oxygen to the blood. Their skin has a distinctive blueish tinge, especially in the fingertips. At that time Blue Baby diseases were incurable, and almost all of the patients died very young.

Dr. Taussig approached Dr. Blalock with an idea: if a Blue Baby’s heart couldn’t provide oxygen to the blood naturally , then why couldn’t a surgeon re-route the major blood vessels? Taussig’s plan was interesting but extremely dangerous. The operation would have to take place near the heart, and heart surgery was so risky it was almost never recommended. Any accidental damage to the heart would have to be repaired within 4 minutes, or the patient died.

Busy with his teaching duties, Blalock asked Vivien Thomas to work out the details of how such an operation could be done. Thomas began by studying medical textbooks, drawings and diagrams of hearts, and even real hearts taken from dead bodies. Then he operated on dogs, intentionally creating Blue Baby hearts in them. Later he would operate again, repairing the heart and making careful notes of everything he did. It was a slow process, learning exactly what had to be done. Many dogs died, and several of the surgical tools he needed didn’t even exist. Quite often, Thomas would invent them.

X-rays of the patient were another problem. X-ray films provide a good still photograph of the workings of the body. But Taussig preferred to use a fluoroscope. A fluoroscope image is best described as “X-ray TV”– It provided moving images of the interior of the body. If the patient accidentally moved, so did the picture. There was no way to record the fluoroscope image, so the three doctors would have to study their patient’s fluoroscope scans carefully and commit them to memory.

At last they felt they were ready, and Taussig began to search for a proper patient. On November 29, 1944, they operated on a little girl named Eileen. Although fifteen months old, Eileen only weighed nine pounds.

Thomas had planned to be in the observation room, watching the operation. Blalock said no – he felt more comfortable with Thomas close enough to give him advice. In preparation for the operation, Thomas had performed the procedure over 100 times on animals. Blalock had been taught the procedure by Thomas, but had actually done it only once. Breaking all the rules of the time, Thomas entered the operating room and guided Blalock through the operation.

Eileen’s heart never stopped beating and her blood vessels were only as thick as a matchstick. After about 90 minutes, Blalock was finished. Everyone held their breath as he removed the last clamp from a blood vessel. After a long pause, Helen Taussig said “Al, the baby’s lips are a glorious pink color.”

Proven to be a success, Blalock’s team performed nearly 300 operations in less than a year. Surgeons came from around the world to study Blalock’s new surgical procedures, only to learn that Thomas was the expert, not Blalock or Taussig. Still, the operation was known as the “Blalock-Taussig Shunt,” named for the surgeon who performed it and the doctor who suggested it.

Blalock retired in 1964 and died four months later. For six years, Thomas continued to teach but took on no major project – almost as if he were in mourning. But as the 1970’s began, more and more African-Americans were entering the Hopkins Medical School. To them, Vivien Thomas was not just one of their teachers, he became their mentor. And just as he had guided Blalock so many years before, Thomas’ advice and support guided a new generation of doctors through medical school.

Thomas died in 1985, just a few days before his autobiography was published.* Today, Vivien Thomas is almost unknown to the general public. But Dr. Alfred Blalock never forgot him. If someone stood too close to his right shoulder during an operation, Blalock would tell them to back away. “Only Vivien may stand there.”

* Thomas’ autobiography has been reissued with a new title: Partners of the Heart: Vivien Thomas and his work with Alfred Blalock.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I feel like a bad mom...

I feel like a bad mom! Every time I lay Astrid down in her crib to go to bed she does nothing but cry! I know that most of the time her crying doesn't bother me, but Zoe wasn't like this! And I think she got into the diaper rash ointment too, because tonight when I had to go get her because she was crying, it looked like she had ointment up her nose. Now she's back in bed because she wouldn't drink any of her bottle, and she's crying. Argh! And I did check the crib, and there is ointment on the railing, and a bit on her stuffed dog, and the ointment is on the floor.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Now I'm sad

After writing my ode to my dress yesterday, I'm not gonna get to go to the Christmas party after all. Waah! James doesn't want to go, and it's no fun by yourself, and we can't afford the babysitting either there at the hotel or here at home because we'd need someone to sleep over with the girls, plus they've been acting suspicious all week like they might be getting a bit sick, so I figured the other parents would not want my girls sharing any germs in close quarters. The company has a few rooms out of their giant block set aside for babysitting, but it's going to be like 20 kids smashed into like 2 rooms because 2 are going to be set aside for sleeping. I'm so sad. But there's no backing out now because I emailed the girl who's planning the whole thing and told her we couldn't go, so now I get to go back to Nordstrom and return my dress. Oh well. Perhaps it will fund a nice present or 2 for the girls.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bless Nordstrom

So I have a company Christmas party coming up on Friday. It's at the Alyeska Prince Hotel in Girdwood and is supposed to be "semi-formal". Me, being the pretty casual girl I am - other than church clothes- had NOTHING that would work. I had to get a new dress for it last year and that was horrible too since I was 7 months pregnant, and couldn't wear anything that was actually CUTE. So, I had been wanting to get a dress for ages, but thought I should at least see what is here in town before I ordered online. First I went to David's Bridal because I wanted to see if they had any decent dresses - they did but NONE HAD SLEEVES! Oh sure I could have gotten a jacket or something, but I just kept thinking "what if I want to take it off if I get hot??" No no, that will not do. So next I went to Gottschalks. Well, I don't know how there selection was because I could hardly see it - that's how hidden and minuscule I felt it was. I was so sad. By the way, this was this past Friday - the day after Thanksgiving. On Saturday, I went to the 5th Avenue mall and hit up Nordstrom (I do love Nordstrom). I went to their dress section and after poking around a bit it was clear the dress gods were favoring me! (Cue the angelic music) I had MULTIPLE options to choose from and they all had sleeves!!!! Oh yay! Now, I know I have not been through the temple because my husband is not active in church, and so we were not married in the temple, but I still like to maintain some semblance of modesty where I can, so having sleeves was a non-negotiable. Here are the 3 options I had to choose from in the end:Now the 3rd option picture is not exactly the dress I tried on because Nordstrom didn't have it on their site. The one I tried on is longer and has tiers in the skirt - although it is purple and the neckline and sleeves are pretty much the same.
Option 3 is the one I went with, by the way, but it was a tough decision! And for those of you ladies who want a modest dress (or relatively so) Nordstrom does have quite a few options online that have sleeves and don't leave everything hanging out for the world to see. Bless Nordstrom!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

All hail the new Nelson Family UNO champion!

So I told James last Sunday that we should play UNO as a family, because I had heard a lady in church talk about how their family played - even their 4 year old, and he sometimes won. Tonight was the inaugural Nelson family UNO game. In the first round, right out of the gate, Zoe won! And not only won, but she got over 200 points from James and I. Next round, James won, and only got 37 points. The next 2 rounds, Zoe won, and ended up with a grand total of 333 points! I will say that she does play with all her cards out on the table in front of her, but even with that she still won fair and square. I don't know what that says about our UNO abilities, although James was saying that he didn't call her on her failure to quickly call UNO a few times so she didn't have to draw cards, but still. I'm guessing that we will probably end up playing this a bunch at our house, but that's okay, UNO's a fun game!

And by the way, Happy Thanksgiving! Now the Christmas Countdown can begin - who's ready?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

You can give a girl a recyclable, reusable grocery bag but you can't make her use it!

So I was driving today to the store cause we were out of milk (for several days) amongst other things, and I was thinking about how when I was growing up in LA, every house was given a cool recycling bin to use. First it was a small yellow bin like this,
that we dragged out and put next to our trash cans. Then they upgraded to a big blue bin that looked more like this.This, along with a green bin for yard trimmings was hauled out to the curb with our trash every week, and 2 trash trucks would come by. One was for trash and one was for all the recyling. Anyway, I was thinking about my recyclable bags in the back of my car on the way to the store. I am all into using them exclusively and getting away from the plastic bags, but what happens? All too often I forget them in the car and I don't remember them until I've already got the girls in the cart and I'm trooping my way through the store. So what do I still have under my sink, despite my best intentions? Oh that would be a pile of bags. So what do those LA bins have in common with my current situation? I think it would be that having the tools at your disposal to be more environmentally conscious doesn't do you any good unless it's also pretty much foolproof and made so that there's very little chance of forgetting about it! I keep my bags in the car, but for me I guess that's not enough, since I am the Goldfish Girl. (Goldfish have a memory span of 3 seconds, and apparently I do too.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jumping in - or at least getting a toe wet

So I shall see how this goes. I've been intrigued by blogging for a while now, especially by all my friends who have blogs. I follow them religiously, but lets face it, a blog is just a journal in my opinion, and that was NEVER my strong suit as a kid. Or as a teen. Or as an adult. I'd try it, and do it for a couple days, and then forget about it for years and years. So we shall see what this brings. Those who read this blog probably know all about me and my family, but maybe I'll get some people who are not so familiar. My husband, James and I have been married for almost 7 years. We have 2 daughters - Zoe is 4, and Astrid is 9 months old. We have 2 cats - Kitty-brie and Artemis. They are sisters, and also girls. My poor husband is surrounded by girls - hence the name of the blog. We live in Anchorage, Alaska. James grew up in Valdez from 5th grade through the end of high school. I grew up in Los Angeles, but always hated the heat, which was why I was interested in moving up here - especially when he told me that it usually never gets above 75 degrees in the summer! I said "that's it! I'll move to Alaska!". However, he never told me we also have summers like this summer, which has gone on record as being one of the coolest, wettest, and non-sunny summers on record. Times like that make me wish I were somewhere warmer - until I read about record breaking heat, and then you couldn't pay me enough to move there.

Zoe is a happy little girl who loves preschool, DINOSAURS, Diego, Max and Ruby, Wow Wow Wubbzy, Little Einsteins, and the villains in movies and stories. She's a funny girl who likes to laugh, and likes to make us laugh. She is a special girl who has been through more than she should in her short life. For those who don't know, Zoe was born with heart defects. In medical speak she has Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndroms (HRHS), Pulmonary Atresia, and Ebstein's Anomaly. In layman's terms, the right side of her heart is too small, and the valves that pump blood to the arteries to the lungs are pretty much nonexistent. She basically has half a heart. She has had 3 surgeries - 1 at 2 weeks of age, 1 at 6 months, and the 3rd was this past March when she was 3 and a half. She has had multiple trips to the cardiac cath lab, which always involve anesthesia, and she is a miracle child. If she had been born even as early as 25 or 30 years ago, she would not be alive because they did not do these surgeries before that. Well, they did the 1st and 2nd stages, but not the 3rd. Heart hugs to anyone else who has been through that, and there are quite a few of you. Heart defects are the most common birth defect there is; approximately 1 out of every 100 babies is born with a defect of some kind.

Astrid is our baby, she is 9 months old. She likes crawling, urping, eating, putting things in her mouth, babbling, and generally being cute. She is a gigantic girl - she is about 22 pounds (which puts her above the 90th percentile) and is 28 and 3/4 inches (a tad smaller, just below the 90th percentile), but that makes for great roly poly legs and arms. Quite the pudge pot! Photo courtesy of my friend Rachael - click here to see her great site.


James is a geek - a nerd, however you want to put it. He runs a computer repair business from home - see here to find out about it - if you're local give him a call! He's fabulous! He also is a WAHD - Work at Home Dad, hence a Stay at Home Dad. He has a great relationship with the girls now since he's been home to watch them.

I'm a working mom, and the head of this crew. I work for the Anchorage office of KPMG - a Big 4 Accounting firm. I like working for that company a lot, though there are things in the office I don't like so much, but isn't that how it is for everyone? Anyway, stay tuned to see if I can keep this up!