Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Christmas Pageant

Do you know what is missing from this picture?

Apparently this:

And this:

After Ray's procedure yesterday (everything went well and he is recovering nicely), we went to my nephew's birthday party. Dylan is 5. I am not sure how he managed to get to be 5 already, but that is a whole other post. The party was at 6 and we got there quite late, but the kids got to play anyway, and we all had a good time.

Before leaving, we put the kids in their pajamas and then bundled them into the car. The theory is that on the hour ride home, they will sleep. It works for Liam, but Xander is not so easy these days. When it became obvious that he was not going to sleep, I started talking to him about the Christmas pageant.

First off, you should know that church has not been easy for us with Xander. The noise and crowd seem to do him in. We stopped going at all for a couple years, first because I was so sick while pregnant with Liam, then because it was also pointless for us to go only to wander around the building after him, as he flatly refused to take part in the church service or go to the infant room (they actually came and got us). We went last year for Christmas Eve for the kiddie service and Xander cried and held his hands over his ears!

The weird thing is that he has no problems with being in a pool with 10 other classes of swimming lessons going around. School doesn't bother him. Shopping is fun. But church is like kryponite. It makes him crazy. So we stopped going.

We went again last week to try again and this time he is old enough to be in the Sunday School class. I went with him. He didn't cry or scream, but nor did he participate. And I had to be there with him. So at the end of it they talked about how over the next few weeks the Sunday School kids will be preparing for the Christmas Pageant.

So in the car I was trying to talk it up. And I got him with this:
"You get to dress up."

Ah, now he's interested!
"Great, Mommy," he says, "I'll dress up in my Batman costume."

Doh! Not so successful. So I get Ray to tell him the basics of the Christmas story. He's heard it before, but we try again.

"So you see Xander, there's no Batman in the Christmas story."

There is not even a pause when he answers: "Okay, I'll wear my pirate costume instead!"

I laughed and laughed. My Mom laughed. Ray laughed. The big miracle is that Liam didn't wake up.

I kept trying to convince him that there was no Batman AND no pirate (mean Mommy!) and suggested he might be a sheep. He was unimpressed with the sheep idea and gave a, "No thanks, Mommy!"


Pirates of the Caribbean and Batman meet the baby Jesus! It'll be a classic.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Knowing More

As of yesterday afternoon, we know more about what is going on with Ray. As I suspected, the abdominal CT was our goldmine of information. It turns out that Ray has an abscess that is attached to the top of his bladder and to a piece of his colon.

Last night, at the urging of our doctor, we went to the hospital to get the ball rolling on removing that abscess. It took the doctors a while to decide which route to take: abdominal surgery or a procedure that involves sticking a needle into his gut and draining the abscess. Because the abscess is attached to both the colon and the bladder, there was even some debate as to whether this was a surgical case or a urological case. Turns out that surgery is more responsive than urology in that hospital, so the ER team asked them first and they took Ray's case. He's been admitted as an outpatient.

Today Ray has gone back to the hospital that did the CT scan to get a disk of his CT. CT's have as much radiation as 1000 Xrays, and Ray has had two CT scans this year. The doctors would like to save him from having another one. Getting a disk of the one he had on Tuesday will save them from having to do another one. (If you are wondering why we are not going back to the hospital that did his CT to have this procedure done, well our doctor recommended this other hospital because they have a better reputation for these sort of problems.)

At 12:30 he is going to the radiology department and he will have an hour long procedure. Other than that they will stick a needle into his stomach and drain the abscess, I am not sure of the details. It will take about an hour. And they will culture the material that comes out of his abscess. It's rare and unlikely for it to be anything other than bacteria (possibly from his diverticulitis attack), but they want to be sure that it is not a freak cancer or something equally alarming.

Ray already has an appointment for a follow up with his surgeon next Wednesday.

Now you know as much as we do!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Getting His Point Across

Liam doesn't talk very much, and we've begun the process to do speech therapy. He's what the speech therapy world call a "late talker".

This is the definition of a later talker:
  • has fewer than 10 words and is between 18 and 20 months of age; or
  • has fewer than 25 words and is between 21and 24 months of age; or
  • has fewer than 50 words or no two-word phrases and is between 24 and 30 months of age; and
  • has relatively good comprehension, play, social, motor and cognitive skills
Liam has no problems socially or in comprehension. Frankly, I think he listens better than his 4 year old brother!

We are doing a program called Target Word. Interesting enough, this program was developed in Toronto, so it comes from our own backyard!

Yesterday was our first of 5 meetings and 2 video taped sessions. They do the video taping, so we can see what we are doing wrong and correct how we do it.

The basic theory is that with late talkers it is less beneficial for them to have an isolated 30 or 45 minute session with a speech therapist than it is to teach his parents (who are with him most of the time) how to approach it. Basically, we will become his speech therapists. It's an interesting and empowering thought.

What I came away with yesterday was an awareness of all of the things he does to actually communicate with us without using his words. He points, grunts, looks at things, and signs.

I am particularly amused when I have food or drink he wants to try. He walks up to you, grinning and smacking his lips, like it tastes good. Smack, smack, smack. It never fails to make me laugh and only on the one occasion, when I had hot tea, did it fail to make me give him some of what I had.

Last night I had a glass of juice and he did it. Smack, giggle, smack, smack, big grin, looking hopeful, smack.

Of course I gave him some.

And then I tried some of the techniques. I talked to him all about JUICE. Lots of talking about JUICE. "Is that good JUICE. Tasty Juice. Do you want more Juice?"

The goal is to say it at least 5 times and then give a pause.

He'd drink, then run off laughing! And come back again.

We must have done this a dozen times.

And I was rewarded: he said something that sounded like "uice".

He's trying!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


It would appear that I have been slack in my blogging. Not because I am not interested in blogging or because I lack for things to say -- on the contrary! -- but because life gets chaotic sometimes.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Xander and I had a conversation about heaven. These come at regular intervals, since our dog Nouschka died over 18 months ago. He's processing. It's my only explanation. The other day he was concerned that God may not be feeding Nousch properly. This was compounded when he asked me if God was "a people" and I said "not so much". We then had a conversation about souls going to heaven and bodies not going (he didn't ask where they go, so I didn't go there). He considered this information and said, "So, Mom, do our heads go to heaven." I laughed a bit. He has a very interesting and literal way of looking at things. I must remember this. I also must remember to stash this little tidbit for his wedding day! It might be just the thing.
  • Liam has discovered pretend. He pretends to wash and dry his hands. He pretends to eat food and laughs. He pretends Lego blocks are a ship of some sort and flies them around the room, complete with noises. It's cute. I worried that we wouldn't see pretend for a long time, since he is not talking much. Turns out that pretend does not hinge on words. Foolish Mommy!
  • I had a day of professional development. It was my first since Xander was an infant, so long overdue. I took a course about business writing techniques by Paul Lima. He was excellent. I discovered that many of the techniques I used when I was writing by hand (paper and pen and then typewriter), I have abandonned when using the computer. I'm convinced to go back to them. Also, the exercises were so incredibly easy and smooth to do that I have regained a measure of confidence I didn't know I had.
  • I'm working on my website for my business. Hooray!
  • We've all had our H1N1 shots now. The boys got the second half of theirs this afternoon.
The big thing is that Ray is sick. And not flu sick either. He has some kind of infection in his gut. When I came home from Manitoba he had some gut ache and started a fever that evening. He's had that fever to some degree or another ever since. If you are counting (we are!) that's 12 days. He's now been to the doctor 3 times. He has had a full round of antibiotics that we believe did absolutely zilch. He is now on a second round of the same antibiotic (in case it is actually holding the infection at bay for now, since we don't really want this thing to go Supernova over the weekend) and a second antibiotic to cover all bases. He's had a load of blood work done, a full urine sample, and stool specimen. Most of the results are in and show he has a high white blood cell count: in layman's terms, he has an infection. Well, crappola, we knew that. And we are waiting on the abdominal CT, which is scheduled for early next week.

We've not been much fun. Ray can't do a whole lot, because much more than daily living sucks the energy out of him. He's taken 3 sick days in this time, which is absolutely unheard of for him. Basically, we are just going from day to day and trying to survive.

And we sit and worry about this. If it were a virus, he'd be better by now. If it were diverticulitis, it ought to be worse or much better by now. And there is no sign of a bladder infection from the tests. Bummer, but we are out of answers. Hopefully next week will bring more answers and more blogging.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


It's Remembrance Day here in Canada. I generally spend a portion of the day thinking about the soldiers of the past and present and all that they have done so that I can have the life I do. And I had some of that today.

However, today I spent some time remembering the other side of war. The people caught in it and how they survive and get to the other side. The reason is very specific though: Stella.

Stella and Walter were friends of my parents when we lived in Ottawa. Like my Dad's family, they are Polish. As in born in Poland and emigrated to Canada after World War II. Just like my grandparents. I was about Xander's age when I met them. Stella and Walter had no children. I didn't know why then, but I do now. Stella was in a work camp during World War II and she got appendicitis. She would have been in her early 20s. Well, the Nazi doctors didn't just remove her appendix: they messed around with her reproductive system. I am not sure exactly what they did to her, but it doesn't really matter as it boils down to whatever they did ensured she would never have any children.

I remember Walter as laughing and kind. And Stella as warmth itself. She had a little garden and would let me putter there with her. She also took me places in the city. I especially remember going to the wading pool with her. And she made me a beautiful crocheted blanket.

I have trekked that blanket across Canada, through Europe, and over to Asia with me. Although I have to occasionally sew it up in places, that blanket is still on my bed today.

Years ago, Stella and Walter moved to Manitoba and my parents, in their own infinite moving pattern, lost track of them.

As you know, I was in Manitoba last week, for the funeral of the mother of one of my very best friends. While I was there, I spent a day with my parents, who live two hours away. We visited with some old friends, and out of the blue, my father started talking about Stella and Walter and how he'd lost track of them, but he had tried to find them in Selkirk, where he thought they had gone. He never did find them. That was last Wednesday.

My Mom gets the Winnipeg Free Press delivered. She rarely has time to do more than glance at it, so I am not sure why she does. Well, my Dad left for a trip to Honduros (don't ask) on Monday of this week. Tuesday my Mom opened up the Winnipeg paper and flipped it open to the obituaries.

And there was Stella's face.

It's been more than 20 years, but my Mother knew her face in a split second. And then she read the obituary. Walter has already died. Stella lived to 86 years old and died in her own Winnipeg! (If only my father had had the foresight to look in the Winnipeg phone book instead of the one from Selkirk...or ask me, as I would have just done a Canada-wide search on, since their name is not common.) She was surrounded by her godchildren and friends. And she died the Monday before I was in Winnipeg. Two days before.

I remember. Today I remember Stella. Who was a beautiful person, who survived a horrific time.

And I remember that I may be the last generation to have known these people who have survived and gone on to talk about those wars. My grandparents, our friend Henry on the west coast who was in the Polish underground, and Stella and Walter. Their stories live in me, and I have a responsibity to pass them on.

I remember that my Dad spent his career in the military; protecting us all and serving his country.

And I remember the young men and women who are out there today.

But most of all, today I am remembering Stella. An honouring the gentleness of her soul, which taught me what true grace looked like.

And I thank them all.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

E-library & Exciting News

If you know me in person (and maybe even my e-friends too!) then you know that there is very little in the world that makes me as happy as a good book. Several good books can be cause for jumping up and down. Our house is covered in books, since Ray feels the same way. Only he's a "collector" (note to yourself that often "collector" is synonymous with "cannot weed through and will never get rid of anything", but I digress).

I recently delved into e-books. There were many reasons, but in a house covered in books and computers -- we have 6 working computers in a house that is less than 1100 square feet, with 4 people in it: 2 of whom are less than 5 years old (nope, that's not overkill, not one bit!) -- there was bound to be a marriage of books and electronics along the way.

I am loving my e-book reader. Tonight I bought two new books online. And then I had an idea...I had heard that you could borrow books from the library electronically. Our local library is decent, but I had doubts about e-books from it. So colour me surprised when I discovered that not only do they do e-books, but their collection is extensive! Hooray!

I got one for myself and two to share with Xander. We will see what happens when my book-happy son meets e-books.

Now...the thing is that as excited as I am about the library thing, it is not my news. No, no! The news is far more exciting.

Xander can READ!

Yup. He is reading "at" words. You know: cat, rat, mat, sat, bat. He deserves the gold star I placed above this news!

It's a start and we are over-the-moon excited about it.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Broken Heart

Xander has his first broken heart at the tender age of 4.5. He has a little friend at school named Sarah. He and Sarah have been the best of buddies since the beginning of school. A couple weeks ago she was sick all week and he was sad that she wasn't at school. Last Monday she returned and I was actually there when they greeted each other and said how much they missed each other.

But girls are fickle beings.

Today Sarah told Xander that she didn't want to be his friend.

From what I can gather, Xander was playing with another little boy in the class and then Sarah told him that he was "bad" and that she didn't want to be his friend. Xander seems quite confused about what he did that was "bad", and worse still, he sobbed while telling me the story.

Even though I know that this will likely blow over and that tomorrow they could be the best of friends again, I felt like my own heart had been ripped out as my young son cried over a trampled friendship.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Fragments of My Life

These days I don't think about my life as being fragmented, because I have lived in one house for 6 years and have my kids, work, and general life there. We have friends all over the place, but I don't ponder that part much. The thing is that I grew up an army child. I've mentioned it on here before, but I think only once in passing. There was a time where the concept of a home was so foreign to me and I struggled with that regularly. Where and what was home. But time has passed and Ray and I have created our own home. Which is nice.

I'm sitting a 24 hour drive away from my home right now at a friend's house. Ironically, my parents are about 2.5 hours away from me right now. And one of the houses I grew up in is 10 minutes away. If that.

I came to Manitoba to be with my friend Kim for her mother's funeral. It's fantastic being with her. Though I wish that the circumstances of my visit were different. Over the last few days I have seen old friends, some from way back and some from a bit back. And being here makes me think about being fragmented.

Part of me misses the big winds and beautiful open skies here. I miss my friends here. The life I lived on the Prairies for 6 years. And I go back further and know that there are other lives I have had in other places. When you move like that you really create a life in each and every place. You have to. You cannot go through life moving like that and pretend you are visiting for 2 to 4 years. You make a life. You connect with the people in your life.

The thing is that no matter how you move on and when you go back, those places and people are a part of you. And for me, having so many people and places means that my life is fragmented. And I cannot choose. So there are pieces of me scattered.

Tomorrow I am going back to the life we've created. I can't wait to be with my husband and hug my children! I am mostly there, but I will miss the life here on the Prairies that I am leaving behind.