Archive for September, 2006

Grampa’s Romper

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 21:29

This is the first in a series of photos I’m trying to take of Sylvan in the clothes of his forebears. Grampa's romper The process isn’t proving easy or simple, since he’s growing pretty quickly and being messed with (e.g. having his clothes changed) falls pretty low on his list of favorites. This romper was my Dad’s, and his Mom kept it beautiful for years and years. It has a label that says “Handmade” with the initials BLM. The stitching on the collar and on the front is pretty intricate. Sylvan pulls off the 60 year-old romper quite well, I’d say (remember that you can always click on a photo to see a larger version).

Sylvan’s language acquisition continues to astound us. He frequently uses words that I don’t even know he understands, much less that he can actually say. Tonight, for instance, he told me “dock” when I was putting on my sock after a shower. Now, I know, that sounds a lot like his word for truck, dog, and duck. The difference in pronunciation is slight, but he uses those words discriminately, when he sees a truck, dog or other four-legged mammal, or duck. He also has a word for “potty,” we think, as well as one for “light.” Those words sound nothing like the English words for them, but he uses his words in only those specific situations.

Even more amazing is that almost every child goes through just this language development! Miraculous. Really, it’s like a miracle. I can’t believe we all don’t go through life grunting.

You had a stroke?!

Posted by julie on Sunday, 24 September 2006, 14:04

When my friend Laura asked what was up with me medically, since I’d mentioned the Seattle hospital in a past entry, I e-mailed her this explanation of my recent medical misadventure:

The last weekend of July, I was climbing Rainier with my brother-in-law, Chris, who is married to my Chris’s sister, Stephanie. He has considerable mountaineering experience, and we had a great outing, climbing to 11,200 feet (about 3000 feet shy of the summit) before I felt like I needed to turn around because the gusty wind was throwing me off balance on steep snow slopes. On the way down, I was sleepy and had a mighty headache, but I usually do at altitude.

Chris and I camped down low, at 2000 feet, outside the park that night. In the morning, I awoke at 4:30 and sat up and immediately fell over to my left, onto Chris. He kept sleeping. I wasn’t sure why I woke up. I was having a little difficulty breathing, but I figured it was just residual from there being so little oxygen at altitude. I put my left hand in my right on my chest, and I could only tell that I was doing that because my right hand felt what felt like fingers. My left hand couldn’t feel it. I figured I’d slept on it wrong or it was cold. I finally fell back to sleep only to wake again at 7 to fall over directly onto Chris again. That woke him up, and he looked at me, pretty concerned. I must have looked pretty out of it. He got up and set up the stove, and I tried to pump breastmilk with a hand pump. I couldn’t use my left hand to put the pump together or to pump. It just wouldn’t do what I asked it to do. I got out of the tent and walked around. My left foot dragged through the rocks, kicking them. I could lift the foot, but I wasn’t getting enough feedback to know how high to lift it.

So, Chris and I decided that instead of hiking, as we’d planned, he would drive me back to Eugene, a five hour drive, so I could go to the hospital. On the way, when we got out to use a restroom, a woman who happened to be a nurse saw me and suggested I get to the nearest ER, which I did. They gave me a CT scan and suggested that I be airlifted to Seattle, where there’s a world-class neurology unit, since I’d probably had a stroke. So away I went in the helicopter. It was a beautiful flight, with clouds snaking up the valleys and rain hitting the windshield. I was glad that I was stable and aware enough to enjoy it. Unfortunately, we killed a seagull on the way.

In Seattle, the MRI confirmed that I’d had a stroke, and not a small one. The neurologist was sort of surprised that I was doing as well as I was, given the size of the stroke and the fact that the embolus had stopped blood supply to two areas of my brain. Over the course of four days, I had a contrast CT scan, an MRI, an ultrasound of my heart, one of my neck vessels, and one of my legs. The heart ultrasound, the echocardiogram, showed that I had a PFO (patent foramen ovale), which is a hole between the right and left atria. In young people who have cryptogenic (unknown cause) strokes, they often have PFOs. The PFO allows blood from the right atrium to pass to the left, instead of from the right atrium to the right ventricle and on to the lungs, where the lungs would filter most clots and bubbles. So my clot passed into the left side and up to my head. One-fifth of the population have PFOs, since it’s just a hole that’s open until you’re born to allow blood to bypass the lungs. With the first big breath after birth, lots of people’s close. Mine didn’t. I actually had another test this past Tuesday during which they passed an ultrasound device down my throat to see the heart better. That showed that I might have an atrial septal defect (ASD) instead of a PFO, which just means that instead of a flap that opens and closes, I might just have a doorway that’s continually open.

The good news, and there’s much, is that, first of all, I’m pretty much fine. I might not be as deft with my left hand as I once was, but I’ve never been ambidextrous. Typing is good therapy. I can run, dance, and pick up my son (which was my first concern). I’m a little short of breath, and my cardiologist here said that that’s probably because there’s a hole in my heart.

The rest of the good news is that I can have the hole repaired. My blood is fine, and not more likely than other people’s to clot. To close the PFO/ASD, they put in a little device like a double-sided umbrella which the heart tissue soon covers so it becomes part of the heart wall. That surgery is done with a catheter up through a blood vessel from the groin. It’s out-patient surgery, so it would only take a couple of hours. If I get it repaired, I’m no more likely than any other young, active, non-smoking female to have another stroke, so that’s what I’m leaning toward. Sylvan can’t be breastfeeding after the surgery, since I have to take another anticoagulant along with aspirin for the three months after the surgery, so I’m not sure when we’ll get it repaired – maybe next spring?

North Bank Deer Preserve

Posted by julie on Sunday, 24 September 2006, 10:02

In an attempt to give Chris some time to work on his thesis (he napped for four hours instead!) and to raise my heartrate enough to shove off this horrific cold, Sylvan and I drove down I-5 to Roseburg on Saturday to the North Bank Deer Preserve, which overlooks the North Umqua River, a wide, gravelly fly-fisher’s dream. The BLM-managed area was created to provide habitat for the federally endangered Columbia white-tailed deer. Thanks to my need to study a sketched map, we stopped early in the hike and actually saw three deer as we sat quietly by the gravel road. Sylvan watched and pointed as the deer stotted through the September-dead grass and Oregon white oaks.

Sylvan studies the oak gallsNeither Sylvan nor I saw the “fainter track/old roadbed” mentioned in the hiking guide, so we set off cross-country, following deer and horse trails through the thigh-high, crispy grass. Soon, Sylvan asked to get out and explore, so we sat in the shade of some enormous oaks, eating Cheerios. We heard a raven, not a bird I’ve ever heard at 600 feet in Eugene, and one of my favorites, because it reminds me of being in the mountains.

Wow, Mommy, this Deer Preserve is beautiful!When we started hiking again, I walked uphill, dodging the frighteningly prevalent poison oak (Really, it was frightening. Some of my former students, the ones I’ve urged on as they scrambled on all fours up rock ledges while whining that they were going to die, would have enjoyed watching me dance around the poison oak. I’ll let you know in a few days if I avoided it enough and used enough Tecnu in the shower hours later.). We bushwhacked along a ridge strung with large oaks. Sylvan fell asleep. I wasn’t sure where we were, but I could basically see from where we’d come. Eventually, we hit a gravel road that wasn’t on the guidebook’s sketched map.

I turned away from the direction of the car, hoping to get in a little more of a hike. Now that I was on a road and didn’t have to think about navigating anymore, I noticed how many different trees forested the darker valleys: madrone, Douglas fir, big-leaf maple, oak, and a conifer too far away to identify. After some uphill walking, I headed back downhill. Walking down the road, through the oak woodland and oak savanna, I was surprised by how much the light and color looked like the mountains of the southwest in the fall; everything was yellow and brown, dry and crunchy. The speckled light under the trees made this place look like just what it had once been – cattle pastures. As lovely as the Deer Preserve was, the cattle pasture feeling reminded me that I really need deep, green forests for my outdoor rejuvenation. Maybe next weekend?

A New Tradition

Posted by julie on Saturday, 23 September 2006, 11:07

Sylvan and I, at Chris’s suggestion, decided that we would institute a new tradition on the day before Sylvan’s birthday: hiking to the summit of Mount Pisgah every September 11. Last year, in a fit of get-this-baby-out-of-me, Chris, Aunt Jenny, and I hiked up with Sylvan in utero from the east side, which is longer but not quite as steep as the well-traveled, west-side summit route. In 2005, the hike worked like a charm; I went into labor the next day at 5 a.m.

So, this year, Sylvan and I slowly climbed to the top from the west, hopping off the busy summit route by taking trail 17, which Chris helped build. We stopped to smell the pennyroyal, feel the lichen on the oak branch that crossed the trail just over our heads, and, with our eyes and pointed fingers, follow the bald eagle as it soared to the west, over the Coast Fork of the Willamette. Sylvan and Mount Pisgah's sculptureAt the top, Sylvan found that he appreciated the summit sculpture, which, along the outside, depicts flora and fauna through the eons; Sylvan slid his fingers along brachiopods and ferns. The sculpture is broken up by two fissures running through it, which, it turns out, are great peek-a-boo slots, as you can see from the photo.

Why we don’t hash anymore

Posted by jonesey on Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 22:33

why we don't hash anymoreFrom left to right, at Sylvan’s birthday party: Anne, Colin, Sam, Mike, Kylie, Brooke.

Oral Hygiene for my Grandmothers

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 22:09

Chris and Sylvan brushing their teethOral hygiene starts early in this family. Gramma Maria gave Sylvan a toothbrush nine months before he had any teeth, then, when Gramma Diana was here last month, she picked up another toothbrush (the downstairs toothbrush) and taught Sylvan to spit in the sink (or at least make a cute spitting sound) when he was done brushing. Sylvan’s new predilection for imitation means that brushing is great fun.

Sylvan bites into the appleAnd Sylvan’s love of everything spherical has led to a new phenomenon: feeding himself! So apparently, if he can call it a ball, he wants to try to put it in his mouth. He only calls spherical objects balls if they’re larger than plums, which is convenient, since he has no interest in feeding himself grapes or cherries or any other manner of small choking hazards. Apple-balls are his new love. As I was unpacking our CSA share yesterday, Sylvan added his little bite-marks to three of the five apples.

Sylvan’s Favorite Birthday Gift

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 15:05

Sylvan loves the exit signFor those of you not aware of our son’s fixations, here is Sylvan worshipping his own personal fetish, an exit sign that his Daddy gave him for his first birthday. Exit signs seem to exert magical or spiritual powers over the poor, hapless child, as you can plainly see in this photo. We first discovered the power of the exit sign at a nature center in Lewes, Delaware last May. The fish and the turtles didn’t even place a close second in holding Sylvan’s interest. Green exit signs seem just as powerful as red ones, too; when the boys were visiting me in Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center in early August, Sylvan pointed to every green exit sign as Chris walked the hallways.

Now Chris just has to figure out how to electrify the thing.

Babies on the Farm

Posted by julie on Monday, 18 September 2006, 8:27

Sylvan, Viggo, and Helen in the flowers

Last Thursday, Sylvan’s friends Viggo and Helen invited us to cut some zinnias and dahlias with them. We didn’t need any flowers, but Sylvan enjoyed teasing the goats (“dogs,” in Sylvanese) with his tasty fingers and patting the sweet mules (also “dogs,” since they, too, have four legs and fur). It was our first real autumn day, so, true to Oregon form, the heavy gray clouds split time with brilliantly bright sun.

Nine steps

Posted by jonesey on Saturday, 9 September 2006, 20:47
Sylvan took nine small steps today, a new record. He was up to six last night. He’s not really walking so much as moving his feet without either falling over or giving up and sitting down.

Sylvan in Fall CreekHere he is standing in Fall Creek last weekend. Click for a larger version.

Sylvan Talks

Posted by jonesey on Friday, 8 September 2006, 21:00

This morning, Sylvan woke up, then turned, pointed out the window, and made the sign for “tree” (hold your forearm out in front of you, perpendicular to the ground, fingers extended, then rotate your wrist so that you can see the front and back of your hand alternately). There were trees out there.

He then stood up, pointed out the window, and said “truck” (actually, he says something like “tuh”, but it’s different from his other words). He was pointing at a truck.


Did I mention that he turns one next week?