Oct. 18, 2008

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by Christy

Nora is 4 months old on Wednesday. It's been an eventful few months for all of us. Nora has really become a charming young lady, if still rather strong-willed. She has lots of wide open-mouth smiles for most anyone who will smile at her. She is just starting to laugh a bit if you can tickle her just right. I was blowing raspberries on her feet tonight, and she gave me a few little "haha"s in delight. She is still very reluctant to take a bottle at all, and only really sucks at it if I'm the one feeding her (we've been practicing so that she can transfer that skill to other caregivers.) It's nice to be indispensible, but even mama needs a break occasionally.

Nora is still quite a big girl too. She's still really long, and is probably over 15 pounds now. She's mastered finding her feet and sucking on her fingers and fist. She has been grasping things a lot lately too, reaching our for a handful of whatever she touches. She pulled out a handful of Anders' hair one day--ouch--he took it very well.

She seems to be an especially active baby who likes lots of stimulation, and is easily distracted by stimulation. I can't hardly feed her in the rocking chair in the living room because she loves to gaze at and talk to the lamp and shelf on the wall behind me. We almost always have to lay down in bed for her to have a good meal, which gives me a nice rest too. Anders has really taken a shine to her lately. He wanted her to watch him play trains, he wanted to give her a bottle. When she was sitting in her bouncy seat, he started playing peek-a-boo with a blanket, until eventually he put the blanket completely over her ("she likes it, it's her home"), running a lap around the house, and pulling the blanket off of her and saying "peek-a-boo Nora!" I like to think of it from her perspective--darkness, sound of running feet, sudden light and sound. Very interesting!

For those of you who hadn't heard, Nora had a urinary tract infection, which turned into a kidney infection, when she was just about 3 months old. We had a 3 am trip to the emergency room after she woke up with a fever, which was especially difficult because fevers in babies under 3 months old are taken very seriously because it is rather unusual, so she was subjected to all of their tests except the spinal tap, thank goodness. We were happy to hear that it was only a UTI, but our pediatrician recommended doing several tests to be sure that the UTI was not caused by a structural defect in her urinary tract. Thankfully, after some tests (stressful for both mama and Nora), she got a clean bill of health. Now, we've just been dealing with a perpetual runny nose, thanks to our little germ delivery boy who mingles with all of the germs in Corvallis at preschool. We've instituted a more rigorous hand washing policy at home, but as our doctor said, Nora will have an immune system of titanium by 1 year.

Anders' imagination is really taking off. He often has conversations with his animals, and can carry out stories with his cars or trains all on his own. He found a little lizard toy in the sandbox one day and said "oh lizard, now I have 4 best friends!" When I asked who his other 3 best friends are, he listed Henry, Atticus, and Mackenzie. He and Henry are still best buddies and go to school together too. We get together with Atticus to play about once a week. It's fun to watch those two wrestle and chase each other around, but it's also great for Sarah and I because they are really independent now and we can just hang out. We see Mackenzie almost every weekend at the farmers' market, but we should try to get together more. They really enjoy each other too. Anders is still liking school and learning all sorts of things. I got a note that said he had a lesson in washing off the table, and spent a long time concentrating on it. I'm looking forward to some of these skills transfering to home!

Anders is still a music fan too. He has a small CD player and lots of CDs in his room, ranging from kids to rock to jazz to classical. He discovered the classical set the other day, a kids collection with 3 CDs--one has music that evokes "fantansy" play, another evoking big movement play, and one of quiet songs. He was mesmerized by a song on the fantasy album one morning, and later told me that "when the scary part came on, all the cars went in here to be safe. Then they came out when the happy part came on again." I'm very impressed by his ability to grasp the emotional content of the music and articulate it. He still likes his jazz, and if we put on some jazz album that we have he can identify who it is (yes Brad, he knows who Miles Davis is now). We've watched some of the Ken Burns "Jazz" documentary with him too. He seems to do well with the abstract world. One day he told me that he can't draw real things, only "pretend things, like thunder and lightning." (By the way, we almost never have lightning here, so it might as well be pretend to him). His art usually has a lot of motion involved. Nothing stands still in Anders' world, including himself. He's amazing.

Our sad news is the loss of our kitty, Maiko. She'd been with us for 12 years, since she was a kitten. She was diagnosed with kidney failure last December and did very well for awhile after a change of diet, but went downhill pretty quickly in the last month or so. Anders has been dealing with the loss very well, to the point of asking for a new pet. He's been working through lots of big questions though, which is a little tough as a parent, but I'm feeling good about the way we've handled it.

As you can see in the pictures, we've had some fall fun. Lots of canning, making jam and applesauce. We had a fall fun extravaganza with Heather, Tim and Henry when we went to the pumpkin patch and made applesauce later in the day. Still loving the farmers' market almost every weekend, and the weather has mostly been lovely and bright. I so adored being able to go to see Sigur Ros in concert in Portland. I'm still thinking and dreaming about it; it's still lifting me up 2 weeks later. A thousand thanks to mom and the Merfellings for taking our kids. We had 3rd row center seats and they were amazing. During the finale, there was a rain of confetti. We scooped up a bunch and stuffed our pockets to bring it home to Anders. When he got home from school the next day, I surprised him with it and we had a confetti fight. Such fun! (Here is someone's video of one of my favorite songs on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD-Drh-lzMo&feature=related There are plenty of other videos if you're still curious. The sound quality on the video isn't very good, it was much better live and the studio albums are wonderful. If you can't understand the lyrics, it's not the sound quality--they are singing in Icelandic.)

I'm sure I'm missing so much that has happened, but the pictures can tell the rest of the story. Oh, and Ted.

by Ted

Fall is in full swing here in Corvallis. Nora is growing well, and appears fully recovered from her urinary tract infection episode. Anders is getting bigger and more mature all the time. He got stung by a bee the other day, which was terrifying for him, but he recovered pretty quickly. He was quite scared of bees this summer (just like his old man), so it will be interesting to see if this changes his feelings one way or another.

Work is busy. Our big news is the succesful testing of our ocean wave energy prototype. I spent two non-consecutive nights on the ocean as part of the testing, and suprisingly I was more or less completely fine, motion-sick wise. I look forward to another opportunity some day. As a result of the testing, we have had a lot of media attention. I have done a few radio and television interviews now, and more requests come in every week. Here are some OSU reports: story and video.

Anders has started asking big questions, which is fun. Like "where did dinosaurs come from," and "how did the dinosours die?", and "how did the universe start?". Unfortunately he asks these as a stalling technique at bedtime, knowing it is hard for me to resist answering. He is a very smart, talented, curious boy. Another activity we enjoy together is watching Hikaru No Go, which is a Japanese cartoon about a boy who becomes interested in the game of Go when he is visited by the spirit of a former Go advisor to the emperor. Anders won't sit still for an entire game, but he does like the board and the stones, and he has a grasp of the basic concepts. The other day I went to the local Asian market and bought him his own Go board and stones. Go has a sort of etiquette based on how you hold and play the stones, and Anders really has the hang of it. He can snap the stones down on the board quite nicely.

Overall though, Anders is very much a kinetic learner. He loves to move, and run, and jump. He has also been very interested in tackling, wrestling, and other physical play lately. However, he doesn't always act on these impulses with proper warning for his playmates, nor does he yet really respect how strong he is getting. However, I don't know that he will ever top Lyndon's "tackle the kid with the football in the airport" performance.

On a final note, we said goodbye to Maiko recently. We got Maiko from the Humane Society in Minneapolis in July of 1996, the year Christy and I were married. I remember picking her up. She had a beautiful coat, and she was a feisty kitten, coming right up to the bars of her cage to play with our fingers. She earned a reputation as a difficult cat amongst friends and family, as she was always distrustful of strangers, but she was calm and affectionate with me and Christy. And she was always very gentle with Anders and Nora. She was a good cat, but it was clear she was not having a good quality of life in the last month. We had her put down on the 10th. It was hard. I didn't anticipate how hard it would be to decide that she should die, and make an appointment for her death, Oct. 10, 2008 at 2:00 pm.

One day, about two months ago, Anders got up before us (as usual), went to the bathroom, and came in to our bedroom to announce that Maiko was in the bathtub, which is very unusual behavior. I got up, really half expecting that she would be dead, and I must admit that I found the thought a bit comforting as I walked to the bathroom. We knew she was going to die soon as a result of her kidney disease, and I found some comfort in the thought that it had happened naturally. However, she was fine, just licking water from the bathtub faucet. Shortly after that, she took a turn for the worse, just sleeping and yowling in discomfort. She was also losing a lot of weight. It was clear she was not having a good quality of life and that things would not improve, so we made in appointment and I took her in.

Maiko always had a special bond with me, so I was glad I could be there with her. First the vet injected a sedative to relax her. The young Maiko would have been yowling, and hissing, and scratching, and growling at the vet, but now she was too weak to fight. She didn't even move when he gave her the first shot. After about 15 minutes, the vet came back and gave her another shot: a massive dose of barbituates, a muscle relaxant, and she died there right in front of me almost instantly, with my hand on her. I hope she knew I was there at the end. I hope it faded out for her with my voice and my face there for her. She was a good cat, and she did so well with Anders and Nora. I still feel a bit regretful, in a way, that maybe I didn't give her all the attention I could have toward the end, especially as we knew she would die soon. And I think there is really no excuse for that. I suppose it is a strong reminder to live each day such that you would be at peace with how you treated yourself and others should it all come to an end.

Despite the difficulty of saying goodbye to Maiko, I do console myself that it was a good death. And she lived a good full life, one of comfort and care. I remember a quote from a character in the Prarie Home Companion movie: "the death of an old man is not a tragedy." On one hand, Maiko was a unique creature that will never exist again, but on the other hand, death is entirely commonplace. Trillions of lifeforms have died before her and trillions will die after, and to die peacefully and painlessly with your mate there with you is really a pretty good way to go if you think about it. Many people and animals should be so lucky, when the time comes.

Oh, and here is my favorite Sigur Ros song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doc1eqstMQQ. The final repeated cathartic refrain is "Og her ert pu, Glosoli" translated as "And here you are, Glowing Sun".