Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Rest Of The Walk

I'd have been glad enough to go for a walk just to get the fresh air and sunshine, but Gunnar and I were rewarded with a couple of more unusual sights.  Gunnar loves being the one to spot something.  Or hear something... like rustling in piles of brush and branches along the path.  What could it be?  Well, we didn't see it, but I'll give you a hint...

Do you know what does that?  Beaver.  And if you don't protect your trees...

But we really hit the jackpot deeper in the woods, when Gunnar discovered...

... this big fellow.  He's (she's?) a good sized barred owl.  He didn't seem at all disturbed by us, though he swiveled his head around in characteristic owl fashion as we walked around him to get a good look.  I love the way he's fluffed out his feathers to stay warm on a cold day.

We didn't hear him vocalise, which is too bad because they make some interesting sounds - not your typical hoot.  (Hear him here.)  It's the right time of year for them to nest and lay eggs, so he may have had a mate nearby.  We didn't see another, but they're typically cavity-nesters, so she would've been hidden.

We watched him for ten or fifteen minutes.  Gunnar was glad to be able to point him out to a couple other folks, walking by.  Oddly, one man asked me if I thought it was a pregnant female, since it was so big and puffy.

Um, sir.  It's a bird.  They lay eggs.  I'm pretty sure they don't gestate.

We finally walked on, down to the other pond, where we usually find ducks.  They're quite accustomed to people.  The very second the first piece of stale hamburger bun left Gunnar's hand, we had the attention of the whole flock.

In fact, sometimes they'll take food right from your hand, but they were a bit more skittish today.  The current was flowing faster and they had to keep moving all the time, just to keep their place.

If you're not familiar, they're common mallards.  The male has the iridescent teal-green head, while the female is spotted brown.  She has gorgeous indigo feathers near her tail, but they're not visible in this photo.  I always felt sorry for the females, being so drab.  And that's pretty common across the board, with birds anyway.  But then, the females usually stay on the nest to incubate the eggs, and it's much safer to be plain.  She wants to be unnoticed.

Boy were the drakes ever feisty.  Chasing each other around.  Maybe fighting over the bread, but probably over the females.

The females, on the other hand, were much calmer.  These girls hopped right out of the water and came around behind Gunnar, trying to get a bite they didn't have to fight for.

We usually make a big circle and come around the other side of the pond, but decided to retrace our steps and look for our friend again.

Yep, still there.  Up in a hemlock, surveying his kingdom.

We looked under his tree for pellets, but no luck this time.  We'll be back, though.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Walk In The Park

People talk about a white winter, but here winter is brown.  Plants and trees are dormant, and the woods are quiet.  But the sun came out Monday, so Gunnar and I went for a walk.  He wanted to feed the ducks, so we headed down one of our favorite trails.

In a windstorm late last year the big eagles' nest we've watched for years came crashing down.  I wonder if they'll build a new one nearby, or move on?  Maybe more baby ducks will survive to adulthood, Gunnar hopes.  But it's early for baby ducks.  And we didn't see any adults in the first pond.

There were coots, though, diving for their lunch and rippling the water.

And Gunnar's favorite noisy friends, the red-winged blackbirds, were calling busily.  Maybe the woods are waking up, after all.  They stake their territory with a loud Woo-kah-duh-DEEEEE-doo, and hide their nests down in the cattails.

Not everything is brown.  One of the first to awaken is the Oso Berry, or Indian Plum.  You'll know it because if you crush its lime green leaves they smell like... cucumber.

And truly, we have green all year.  We're called the Evergreen State for good reason.  Gunnar led the way downstream to another pond, still hoping to find ducks.

But first, a favorite tree.  This Western Red Cedar apparently fell across the path, years ago, and was trimmed back.

But it didn't die.  It's branches reach for the sunlight, like trunks now themselves.

People play and swim in this creek in the summer, when the flow is gentle.  Not now.  Rainfall and melting snow have filled its banks to the brim, and above.

We go over this smaller bridge to see the Big One.  A local landmark.

I had to stand back to take the picture, as the spray was billowing up and over Gunnar.  And see the little bit of snow left, on the pillar by his arm?

The boys have waded and played here, on warmer, calmer days.  Amazing how much the water flow changes.

Too bad you can't hear the thundering.

See that nice, long chute of water behind the bridge?  It has gates now, at the top and bottom.

And I will neither confirm or deny what certain kids may or may not have done there when I was Gunnar's age.  ;D

I'll show you what else we saw tomorrow :D

I Am Not A Cruise Director

Oh, you're bored?

That's too bad.  But hey, I have lots of chores that need to be done.

Or you could think of something yourself. 

Yah, I thought so.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Grasshopper Days


Grasshopper Days

For today, February 27, 2012.

Outside my window...  still some snow hanging around in (little) patches from yesterday, but it is gloriously sunny now.  Cold and clear and sparkly fresh.  Must get out for a walk with Gunnar today :D

I am thinking...  still in a happy haze, thinking of Tate being implanted in the near future, and all the blessing we hope that will be for him.  Also, getting "back in the groove".  I feel like I kind of stumbled through the last week.  This cold is dragging on and it's harder to pull the energy together to do all my 'normal' things.

I am praying...  for my coming-in-June niece :D, for health in the house, for Tate and surgery, work for Kerry, and character for the boys.

I am going...  to get school going, just shortly.  The boys are downstairs playing with Legos.

I am reading...  just finishing Streams to the River, River to the Sea, a story of the Lewis and Clark expedition told from the point of view of Sacajawea.  The boys are loving this.  Next up, The Great Turkey Walk, which we've read before, but is good for another run through :D

I am hoping...  to get through the day (and choir practice this evening) without fits of coughing.  Wish me luck.

I am hearing...  the furnace running (cold today!), the dryer tumbling, the washer sloshing, and the ubiquitous tappety-tappety-tappety.

I am remembering...  you know, it's getting hard to remember what it was like before we had kids.  What did we do?

From the learning rooms...  oh heavens, what's different than last week?  Or the week before?  Tate has moved on from Geology to Meteorology (weather) in science.  Gunnar finished his 4th grade math and has started 5th grade math.  And since the first several lessons are review, he's zoomed through 22 lessons in two days (last week) and is knocking off the first three tests today.  Wyatt is plugging away.  We decided to drop the Logic curriculum he was studying.  I haven't had time to familiarize myself with the material (different from the way I remember studying it) and he's not handling some of the more abstract stuff very well.  Fine.  We'll try it again next year.

From the kitchen...  hmm, we should have our "big" meal for lunch, since we'll all be together, and Wyatt and I will be gone at dinner time (choir), but I have no great inspiration.  Soup and bagels?  Yah, that sounds good :D

Around the house...  probably should put away the few Valentine things still scattered around.  But can I really start thinking spring when we had snow yesterday?  And I didn't get a single picture.  *sigh*

On my mind...  the Mother Load.  As always.

Noticing that...  parenting sometimes happens in waves.  If you think you have some issue or bad habit "conquered" and you let it be, then it crops back up again.

Pondering these words...  Duty is ours.  Results are God's.  John Quincy Adams

One of my favorite things...  waking up to birds singing.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  choir practice, CAP, and the usual round of school and social life.  I'm sure more will crop up, but it's nice not to have much on the calendar.

Here is a picture I am sharing...  this made the boys laugh so hard they just about peed their pants.

They weren't even sure who it was at first.  Grandpa Grasshopper was dressed up for a kids' program at his church.  I love the concerned look on the pastor's face, yah?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brain Dump

It's been kind of a strange day.  Heck, it's been a strange week.

Winter?  Spring?  Winter?  Raining buckets.  Snow in the hills.  Yet, I wake to birds singing.  What???  The robins are back.  I think the first day I heard them was Valentine's Day.  Very sweet.

Then today, stopped at Stuff-mart after church.  Went in under a sunny sky, and came out in darkness and huge, gloppy snow falling.  Couldn't see fifty yards.  Fabulous.  But the good news is I stocked up on cough syrup and cough drops.  Fun times.

I think Kerry and Gunnar wondered if we'd dropped off the planet, it took us so long.  They stayed home from church, in an attempt to keep the lid on the Petri dish that is our family.  You're welcome.

I'm still practically giddy about Tate.  Seems odd to be excited about a major surgery, but we're looking past that to the good things beyond :D  Tate himself is quite nonchalant about the whole thing.  But then, he's a veteran of three surgeries and he's generally a calm, steady kid.  Yay, Tate.

In other news, it's time to get back on the wagon and beat back the chaos, clutter, and general mess that follows when I've been under the weather.  If entropy had a gender, I can guarantee you it would be male.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Children's said YES!

I don't have a surgery date yet, or other details, but...


Tate is excited.  We're ALL excited!  He's getting an implant!  Hurray for technology :D

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Things I Cannot Explain...

I love color.  It makes me happy.  When we bought this house (when my grandparents died), most of the rooms were painted beige.  With flat paint, no less.  There was a blue-and-pink Victorian bedroom.  Another bedroom had black wall-paper with enormous pink and white flowers, and Pepto-Bismol-pink trim.  (That is NOT the kind of color that makes me happy.)  And the whole rest of the house was dull beige.


We did a lot of painting.  Some of you noticed the deep turquoise bathroom.  That was the boys' request, and I was happy to oblige.  Given that they really wanted to paint that color on the outside, it was an especially happy compromise.   And then I found this fabulous formica for the counters.

(I was tempted to use the coral version of if in the kitchen, but orange isn't my happy color and I wasn't sure I would love it long enough to commit.  Good decision.)

For the rest of the house I chose three colors - a green like a green apple, a buttery yellow, and a periwinkle blue that all play very nicely together, and painted all the trim (doors, ceilings, etc) white.

All that to say, to each their own

I realize not everyone finds this as wonderful as I do.  I think it puts my in-laws (whose entire house is shades of brown) into some kind of visual overload when they come to visit, but they don't live here.  And I don't live in your house, so do what makes you happy.

What I don't understand is the absence of color.  Specifically, the popularity of gray.  In this climate.  I can't tell you how many blogs I've seen with people repainting their houses (interior) gray.  It may have a swanky name, like Oyster Bay or Samovar Silver, but it's gray.  And you know what I see when I look out my window, 19 days out of 20?


All I can say is that you people are made of sterner stuff than I am.  Because with all the gray outside, if I saw gray, gray, and more gray inside, every single day, I think I'd need Prozac.

What about you?  What colors do you like?  Are you bold in your homes?  Or do you stick to neutrals?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another Rainy Day

I don't know how many Pacific Northwesterners are out there reading (hi, neighbors!), but I - for one - find February about the worst month of the year.  It's cold, dark, and wet.  And it's been cold, dark, and wet since October. 

Back in October we didn't mind so much.  We lit our pumpkin spice candles and enjoyed the warm, cozy glow.  We decorated our Christmas trees and celebrated.  But now, with the holidays behind us, six months into the cold-dark-wet with more to come, there's just a whole lot of blah. 

If I had the money, this is when I'd fly the family off to Hawaii every year.  Anywhere warm, friendly, and bright.  But since that's not in the cards, we find other ways to lift our spirits.  Like our annual LOTR marathon.  Tate built himself a pillow palace for comfortable viewing.

Wyatt and Tate have CAP each Tuesday and they're loving it.  In fact, Tate is on another computer right now doing another level of online testing, in hopes of promoting again next month.  (He passed!)  They have PT and inspections tonight, which means they've both been busy.  And if the sight of teenage boys voluntarily doing their own ironing isn't a happy one, I don't know what is ;D

And Gunnar has cause to celebrate too.  He just finished his fourth grade math!  (He IS a fourth grader, btw.)

He's my only one who has been exclusively homeschooled, since we began as he hit Kindergarten. 

I wish I could remember what we actually did each day, back in the beginning, but I only have a handle on some things.  I know we started Story of the World, and went through the whole four-year cycle with all the boys together.  I know we studied Biology together.  And I know I launched the boys into Saxon math. 

Wyatt and Tate were easy, in that I just started them at their grade level.  (Which doesn't exactly translate, btw, as Saxon was WAY ahead of the public school, but it worked out for us and they got caught up.)  But Gunnar... I think we just played around a lot.  Saxon Kindergarten and first grade math both looked way too easy to invest in.  I think I ended up buying the first grade worksheets.  We started cherry-picking through them midway through his Kindergarten year, and he's been 'off-cycle' ever since.  Which is why he's already finishing his math for this year, with another fifteen weeks of school yet to go.

He had a brief moment of delirious joy, imagining that he didn't have to do math for the rest of the year, which is kind of ironic, since he's so good at it.  But his unreasonable teacher (aka Mom) is cruelly forcing him to start his fifth grade math tomorrow.  Which, actually, he's pretty glad to do.  There are a couple nice things about being off-cycle like this.  One, it's like having extra time in the bank if we need to slow down and take more time to master a difficult concept.  Also, we can whiz through the first five or ten (or twenty) lessons, which are intended to bring kids back up to speed after a summer break and are mostly review. 

Sweet :D

Hey, you've gotta find things to celebrate in the blah days of winter.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cough, Cough, Hack

Well, it's been an awesome four days.  If by awesome you understand that my alter-ego, Gladys, staged a hostile-takeover.  Gladys has apparently been smoking for sixty years or so, and has the cough to prove it.  She doesn't sleep well either.  She flops around the house in sweats, and doesn't do the laundry.  I'm hoping she leaves soon, and life can get back to normal.  Or what passes for it, in this house. 

On the upside, Gunnar thoughtfully loaded about a hundred Man vs. Wild episodes onto our Netflix instant queue.  Gladys likes Bear Grylls, though she has a hard time watching him eat raw insects and reptiles when she's not feeling her best.

I was really hoping spring was coming (hence the background change), but woke up to fresh snow in all the hills around the lake.  Down here, of course, it's just raining.  All weekend.  Buckets and buckets of rain.

Which means we chose well, for our LOTR marathon.  I mean, if you're going to spend an entire day, watching mythical creatures battle it out, you might as well do it during the monsoon, right?  That was fun.  And thank you, Grandpa and Grandma Grasshopper for hosting us.  We may have a nice TV, but with our lumpy, fifteen-year-old futon, my lumpy forty-five-year-old heinie wouldn't have made it past Rivendell. 

And that's the rest of the story.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mini Brain Dump

Which is to say that I don't actually have much to say, and it's too much trouble to write a narrative, so I present you with a list.

1.  The reason being, I feel awful.  My throat and ears ache.  My lungs feel "chunky".  And my sinuses don't want to miss the party, and are getting involved.  A trifecta of misery.  And yes, I'd like some cheese with that whine.

2.  Gunnar just tore his thumb-nail, trying to pry two Lego bricks apart.  So he's not having a fabulous morning, either.

3.  The boys are being very sweet.  Probably because they know my patience is stretched pretty thin and I *ahem* have trouble being very godly when I would rather be curled up in bed.

4.  What is it about orange candles?  And why can't I remember not to buy them?  I love citrus, and I get seduced by the yummy orange-creamsicle aroma when I smell the candle in the store.  And then I light it and I smell... a kerosene lamp.  Why???

5.  I'm waiting on pins and needles to hear from Kimberly.  Because she's going to have her baby any day now.  And she's going to be such an awesome mom :D

6.  Gunnar and I are studying cephalopods.  We're both intrigued, especially by octopuses.  Who wouldn't be?  No skeleton at all, eight legs, suckers, blue blood, three hearts, jet propulsion... I mean, they sound like science fiction!  And they're really smart, too.  So I checked out some supplemental books from the library and stayed up late last night reading one, because I couldn't put it down.  It's called Super Suckers: The Giant Pacific Octopus, by James A. Cosgrove and Neil McDaniel (in case you too are fascinated by giant mollusks.)  Here's the money quote.

The suckers of an octopus are able to taste what they touch... (chemotaxis)... In encounters between divers and giant Pacific octopuses, divers often fail to realize that when the giant Pacific octopus reaches out to touch them, it is also tasting them to see if they are edible.  Given the strength of a giant Pacific octopus, divers should not allow octopuses to contact them unless they're prepared to deal with a potential confrontation.

You've been warned.

7.  Only 47 hours until our annual LOTR endurance event marathon commences.  And there is much rejoicing, on the part of the boys.  Not sure if they are more excited to watch the movies (probably) or because the fiesta includes snacks we don't normally have on hand.  Doritos, cookies, and even Cadbury Mini-Eggs.  Yes, the legends are true.  I hoarded some from last year, in case they weren't on sale in time.



(That's Tigger-speak, Ta Ta For Now)

An addendum:   Regarding octopuses and octopi, this is what I've read.  Octopus is not Latin, but Greek.  (If it were Latin, the proper plural would indeed be octopi.)  With Greek, octopus is the family (or genus?) name and the proper singular is otcopod to which the proper plural is not octopods, but octoposes, commonly (mis)spelled octopuses.

But octopi sounds cool.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Funny Valentine Moment

We're wrapping up school-work after lunch.
Kerry calls up from downstairs that he is going out on errands.

I stick my head out the schoolroom door.
My parents want to surprise the boys with a Valentine treat.
And we're invited, too.

I mouth to him
Grandpa and Grandma want to take us out for ice cream.

He looks confused.

Lip/face reading is not his forte. 
I step further from the door,
mouth it again, with motions.

He looks confused.

The boys are trying to sneak out into the hall.
Their lip-reading skills are much better.
I send them back.

Kerry finally gets it.

So, to confirm,
he holds his hand to his head like a phone
and slowly starts to say.


I give him The Eyebrow.


Our youngest is ten.
They can all spell.

Yet we all had a good time.  Hurray for Grandpa and Grandma Grasshopper and DQ treats ;D 

Turns out Kerry's "errand" was to the grocery store, which was mobbed with men.  He presented me with pink tulips and a bottle of coke, (the beverage, not the narcotic), instead of chocolate.  (Apparently the card aisle was practically hand-to-hand combat.)  Which is just fine.  (As in totally fine, not sarcastically fine.)  I have for him a bottle of Choco-Vine. 

(Yes, that is a lot of parentheses.)

And you?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Grasshopper Days

Grasshopper Days

For today,  Tuesday, February 14, 2012.

Outside my window...  we are practically in the clouds.  Rain is drizzling down through the leafless trees and not much daylight gets through the clouds.

I am thinking...  about all the new music we're learning for the Easter concert - fun!

I am thankful for...  Kerry spent a crazy amount of time on the phone yesterday and got our mortgage "restructured".  Basically, we refinanced without going through a refinance (if that makes any sense at all.)  The downside - it re-set the 30-year clock.  The upside - locked in at 3.75 interest (yay!) and reduced our monthly payment by about $250 (huge yay!)!!!

I am praying for...  more work, good attitudes, and a peaceful home.

I am creating...  hmmm.  Wish I had something inspiring to report, but not so much.  I have some mending I need to get to - does that count?

I am going...  to get pizza for the boys for lunch.  Happy Valentines Day!  (Love that Little Caesar's two-large-pizzas-for-ten-bucks-on-Tuesday deal.  I can hardly feed five of us a cooked meal for ten bucks.)

I am reading...  Steams to the River, River to the Sea with the boys.  The story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, told from Sacagawea's point of view.  Fictionalized, for sure, but lots of good history in there :D

I am hoping...  to hear from Children's, but it's still too soon.  They probably won't even review Tate's "case" until late next week.  Still, I'm waiting on pins and needles...

I am hearing...  heavy equipment working in the alley, in the next block.  They seem to be replacing something.  Storm sewer?  I don't know.  The boys are having a Lego break before we start school.

I am remembering...  are all little boys fascinated by heavy equipment?  Mine were.  Especially Tate.  One year they were digging up the street near us, and I drove by with the boys in the van.  Tate was probably two, maybe three.  I pointed out all the different vehicles and what they were doing, knowing Tate would be intrigued, especially with the excavator.  He gave me a patronizing look, and said,

Actuwee, Mama, a backhoe

And he was right.  It was a backhoe.

From the learning rooms...  Wyatt - one more week of factoring polynomials (which he hates), wrapping up the Civil War, studying weather patterns, and the usual round of grammar, writing, Wordly Wise, and Logic.  Tate - exponential fractions, finishing a unit on Geology, grammar, Wordly Wise, and more.  Gunnar - dividing by two-digit numbers, studying cephalopods (octopus, squid, cuttle-fish, nautilus, etc.), spelling, grammar, handwriting.  And Tate and Gunnar together - learning more about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which has always fascinated me :D

From the kitchen...  yah.  Pizza coming ;D

Around the house...  a few red candles and things for Valentine's Day, plus the usual piles and piles of books and games (Take Off!, Uno, Apples to Apples, Axis and Allies, and more.)

Something I want to remember for later...  watching Wyatt at choir practice, and seeing him enjoy it.  He realized that choir isn't a "girl thing".  There are men there.  It's cool.

On my mind...  the Mother Load (I need to start a load of laundry.)

Noticing that...  the boys were SO good yesterday.  Praying or a repeat :D

Pondering these words... 

One of my favorite things...  seeing the boys when they really "get" something new.  I mean, a new idea.  Like Gunnar and long division.  He loves it.  He even wants to do the extra problems.  And I don't think it's because long division is necessarily so fun, but because he's mastered it, and that feels good.  :D

A few plans for the rest of the week...  well, we already have choir practice accomplished, then CAP tonight, and youthgroup on Wednesday evening.  The boys need to check their CAP schedule.  They may have something Saturday.  If not, we're having our annual LOTR marathon.  Woot!

Here is a picture I am sharing...

I've always loved this pic of Gunnar.  We were off to Disneyland, in 2007, and he was five.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Free! Helpful Parenting Tip!

If you are the family sitting behind us in church last Sunday, this is NOT directed at you.  You rock.  Two or three kicks, and you were on it.  My heartfelt thanks.

To any number of other clueless parents we've encountered on airplanes, in theaters, at various churches... take a note:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Another Friday Brain Dump

Well, it's Friday again.  Hallelujah.  And after the insanely busy earlier part of the week, the last few days have been pleasantly... dull.  I wish I had something exciting to share but that would require that something exciting happened over here, and I can promise you that isn't the case.  

Fortunately, I kind of like routine days, when ordinary things happen.  Things that remind me how glad I am to be here for them.

1.  I love how Gunnar (who is ten years old and has an astounding vocabulary) will occasionally mispronounce a word.  Like when he prays for Tate to get a Coke-u-lar implant. 

2.  And I love his funny expressions.  Like when he's done with his school work and waiting for friends to be available to play, I guess I'll just tiddly-poop around for awhile.  Where does he get that???  He sounds like A. A. Milne.

3.  I have made some progress on the Mother Load.  Of course, as fast as I cross things off I add new items.  *sigh*  But I got all the bills paid today, with a few bucks to spare, and that is a huge load off my shoulders. 

4.  I called our local university's Audiology/Speech/Communication department (they are fabulous).  Though we haven't been up there for ages, the receptionist remembered me and chatted about Tate.  Chances look good that if he's implanted we could get his AHab up here.  Big smile :D

5.  I found a website (thank you Stephen) that allows you to plot your own data and show/print an audiogram.  Spent about half an hour entering almost every audiogram I have of Tate's.  Fascinating and kind of depressing, as I can watch Tate's hearing loss progress before my eyes.

Here's his first, back from 2002 when he was diagnosed at age three.  For you non-hearing-loss folks, the right line shows his right ear and the blue is his left.  I think the graph is pretty self-explanatory.  Most children can hear things at 10 decibels (the line between white and gray) or better.

And here's the most recent, from December 2011.  Yah.

If you're interested, the website is here.  And in case you're wondering, I've asked Tate and he doesn't mind me sharing about his hearing loss journey online.  He's a good sport :D 

6.  Wyatt and Tate have a CAP training for most of the day tomorrow.  Gunnar has all kinds of plans for special Mom and Gunnar time.  Hope he's scheduled in some planning-for-the-next-week-of-school.  *sigh* 

7.  Tate was promoted at CAP this week, and I missed it!  The boys told me that Commander's Call was at 8:30, and as I pulled the door open (at almost exactly that time) someone was already shaking his hand and cameras were flashing.  Rats!  Hoping I'll get some pics from the squadron, (photographer said he'd be sending a disk). 

8.  You know you've got a very casual family when you come downstairs in un-faded jeans and a sweater (and shoes!) and the boys ask you where you're going.  Yah.  Probably to do laundry!

9.  And now, off to make dinner.   I'll alert the media.  (Can anyone identify that quote?)

Enjoy your weekend :D

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Like Drinking From A Fire Hydrant

That's a bit like what all these appointments feel like. 

But it's so exciting!

Here's what's happened so far...

Warning: long, wordy post.  Get a drink.  Use the bathroom.  Come back later.  Whatever.  I'm documenting this for me and for Tate, as well as sharing it with you.

In late December we saw Tate's audiologist at Children's and had his hearing tested.  As I suspected, he had lost more.  A lot more.  Ten to fifteen decibels more.  At my request, his audie referred us to the CI Team at Seattle Children's and we began the series of candidacy appointments.

On Thursday, Grandma Grasshopper came with Tate and I to meet with the co-head of the program and the psychologist.  I have to tell you that normally I am not a big fan of the whole psychology/psychiatry genre, but this appointment was great.  Actually they both were.  The first doctor talked more about the nuts and bolts of how implants work with hearing. 

Amazing.  That's all I can say.  It's amazing!  Talk about fearfully and wonderfully made.  I knew what the cochlea looks like (a snail shell).  But did you know that if you could unroll your cochlea it would be kind of like a piano, with low notes at one end and high notes at the other?  I had no idea.  So the electrodes slide into the cochlea and snuggle up to the nerve endings, stimulating them directly and bypassing the damaged cilia.  (That's my oversimplified layman's understanding.)

The second doctor (the psychologist) really wanted to make sure that Tate (and we all) understand the process of this.  It's not like having your appendix out, healing from surgery, and voila, all fixied.  There is a lengthy process of habilitation - learning to listen - and training your brain to make sense of the new input.  Granted, Tate will likely have an easier time of this than a profoundly deaf child who has had no previous access to spoken language, but it's still a process.  It's still hard work.  And everyone needs to know what the ride involves before they buy the ticket.

Yesterday I took Tate down to have an Auditory Skills Evaluation, which was interesting to watch.  They want to know exactly what his (language) strengths and weaknesses are.  Sound discrimination, syntax, idiomatic language, inferencing, etc.  Tate rocked these tests, which is a blessing and a curse... 

His speech and language skills are so good that it probably makes it harder to qualify him for a CI, which is kind of like being punished for working hard and being successful.  (Hmmm, some political analogies come to mind, but I'll save that for later.  *eyes roll*)  Still, we talked at length about this, with me making the case that, 1) His language skills are so good because he (well, we, but mostly he) works so hard all the time.  And he shouldn't have to be working that hard just to hear.  And 2) he has acquired a lot of those skills while having significantly more hearing than he has now, and his loss is continuing to progress.

So today (third day out of six that we trek to Seattle and back) Grandpa Grasshopper drove us down to meet with the co-head doc for more audio (in the booth) testing, and then a meeting with the surgeon.  I had been advised that this would take quite awhile and be more in depth than his usual testing, so we were surprised when after maybe 20 minutes of testing speech comprehension on his aided ear, the doctor said she had all she needed.  We headed down to the cafeteria, parked ourselves at a table by the window, and settled in to do Tate's schoolwork while we waited three hours for the appointment with the surgeon.  Not half an hour later the first doc came and found us because after talking with her colleagues she wanted to do further testing. 

Back up to the booth to test his left (bad) ear.  As expected, he has some sound awareness but no speech recognition.  Then they rigged up a loaner HA for that ear and ran the test again, with the same results.  It was kind of funny when they put the HA in and turned it on.  I think it was kind of bugging Tate having noise in that ear, because that's all it was - noise.  Nothing really beneficial.  We weren't sure if he could even tell if he was getting feedback or not.  After a few minutes he said that the "rumbling" in his left ear got louder when we were talking, so we figured he must be "hearing" our speech.

The doc asked him to leave the HA in for an hour, and then come back up and run the test in the booth again.  Alrighty.  You hold the hoop, and we'll jump.  But to be fair, this is not a meaningless exercise.  The point is two-pronged.  When you want to solve a problem, you try the simplest and least invasive solution first.  If a HA would benefit Tate's left ear, then that would make sense.  We want to do what is in his best interest.  Also, I'm sure the insurance company would rather buy a HA than a CI and surgery.  So we thoroughly documented the fact that the HA may help his left ear to detect a few more sounds than when unaided, but none of those sounds are "usable".  He couldn't recognize a single Ling sound or simple word.

Interestingly, though, before she did the testing the third time (after wearing the HA for an hour) she asked him if he thought the HA was helping or was it distracting him.  He said it had bugged him at first but now the sounds were blending with what he heard in his right (aided) ear.  She liked that.  He has an adaptable brain :D

By then it was time to meet with the surgeon, who - oh my goodness - looks so young!  But had a wonderfully calm, confident, competent manner, and we liked him right away.  He reviewed Tate's medical history, asked him several questions, and fielded questions from all three of us.  I was glad that Tate had questions of his own this time.  He's such a go-with-the-flow guy that I want to make sure he is invested.  And I truly think he is.  He had been looking at the literature and saw that one of the three companies claimed that their electrodes are longer, and he wondered if that meant he'd hear better with that kind.  Turns out, there's no data to support that, but excellent question.  All the docs (and parents) we've talked with say about the same thing - that all three CI's work wonderfully.  They just have different bells and whistles.

So...  Sounds like the CI team meets every other Thursday, but one of the docs will miss this week's so they'll likely not discuss Tate for another two weeks.

Fine.  No problem.  We want to keep the momentum we've got, but there's no urgent rush.  I did ask him what kind of time frame we'd be looking at if they approve Tate and he said about a month and a half, which would probably mean April.  Or maybe May.


You know, it's kind of funny.  I have to admit that I'm guilty, at times, of idealizing how much simpler and more peaceful life was in "olden days".  But you know what?  Give me technology any day!  I'm so thankful we live in these modern times!

Yes, we're still taking it all in, but thankful for answered prayer already. 

*  They seem to all be talking about implanting his left ear, so I don't think that will be an issue.

*  Though he hasn't been aided in his left ear for five and a half years, he's still hearing some sound in that ear, so the nerves haven't completely given up.

*  I've felt a peace and confidence with all the doctors we've met with.  No weird vibes, or wishing we'd drawn someone else.

*  We'll keep talking about it, but Tate is mature enough to understand the decision before him, because it really is his decision.  On the one hand, we're the adults and it's not fair to "pass the buck" completely onto him with a decision of this magnitude.  But he's old enough to take it in and have his say.

We so appreciate all your prayers and encouragement!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Grasshopper Days

Grasshopper Days

For today, February 6, 2012

Outside my window...  gorgeous.  Cold and clear.  Snow in all the hills.  Going to and from Seattle this morning we could see Mt. Rainier, the Olympics, Mt. Baker, and some mountains clear up in Canada.  It's that clear.

I am thinking...  so very many thoughts swirling around my brain, mostly related to Tate and the possible CI, also how we're juggling school work around three trips to Seattle in less than a week, and then there's all the financial information I need to get together in hopes of doing something to reduce our mortgage (?), and choir practice starts again tonight.  Just a few plates to keep spinning...

 And that's just part of the Mother Load...

I am thankful for...   the grace of God in these crazy times!  And the wonderful and supportive family He gave me :D

I am praying for...  wisdom, a calm head amidst seeming chaos, work for Kerry, and victory over Mt. Laundry.

I am creating...  oh my.  Not much.  A whole new file for Tate :D

I am going...  to take deep breaths ;D  and to make sure the kids burn off some energy outside in the sunshine!

I am reading...  just finished Calico Bush - very interesting account of a "bound-out" girl in colonial times.  Her family died as they came to the new world and she was made an indentured servant to a family taking a claim in Maine.  Even though it's about a girl, the boys enjoyed it.  Starting Squalls Before War: His Majesty's Schooner Sultana, a look at history from "the other side", based on actual ship's logs.

I am hoping...  how do I separate this from "I am praying"?  I'm hoping and I'm praying for better hearing for Tate!

I am hearing...  silence, ahhh silence.  For a moment, anyway...

I am remembering...  when the boys were babies :D  Funny how it all seems rosy now, but how exhausting it was then!

From the learning rooms...  everything is shuffled around this week to accommodate Tate's appointments.  I made each of the boys a daily list of work, but told them when I'm gone to do anything they can do without me and we'll finish up the stuff they need my help with whenever we can.  No big deal.  And when it's a sunny afternoon?  Get some fresh air!

From the kitchen...  trying something new, I cut up a ham and put it in the crock pot this morning.  Hope it stays tender.  The smell is just tantalizing!

Around the house...  I don't have many special Valentine things, but have touches of red out here and there :D  And, of course, the usual piles and piles of books.

Something I want to remember...  at one point during the testing Tate had today, the woman would give Tate a word and tell him to put it in a sentence.  They were words (or phrases) like "as a result of", or "although", that require a bit more sophisticated language skills.  This was a breeze for Tate, as he could make the sentences about anything.  I should've counted, because I sat there wondering how long would be until he made up a sentence involving a tank, an explosion, or a natural disaster. 

Not long.

His hearing may be dismal, but his sense of humor and creativity are 100%, top-notch, thirteen-year-old boy.

On my mind...  my coming-in-June niece!

Noticing that...  it's finally happened.  Wyatt is as tall (or maybe taller?) than I am.

Pondering these words...  Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained.  John Powell

One of my favorite things...  Psalm 133:1, brothers getting along.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  choir practice tonight and Wyatt is coming along :D  Grandpa Grasshopper driving us down on yet another trip to Seattle tomorrow for two more appointments, and then CAP for Wyatt and Tate.  They're both being promoted!  The rest of the week, catching up on school-work.  Whew!

Here is a picture I am sharing...

Woke up to see this, can you tell what it is?

Frost on the skylight!  (And that annoying black circle?  Thank you, Nerf, for your dart guns.)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Quick March

Happy squeal!

Just got a call from the CI coordinator at Children's and they have set up his next three candidacy appointments on Monday and Tuesday of next week -  I had no idea things would move so quickly!

Monday he has an Auditory Skills Evaluation, then on Tuesday an aided and unaided audio appointment, followed by a meeting with the surgeon.

The surgeon!

Yes, the team has to meet and approve Tate, but we're meeting the surgeon!

Also, good news, sounds like Tate's insurance will (not guaranteed, but very likely) cover ONE implant.  If he/we want to go bilateral later, well... we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.  But at least for now that's not a worry.

Yes, there are still expenses.  I can hardly bring myself to think of the miles (and gas!) we're going to be burning, up and down the freeway... but I imagine Tate, hearing better, and can't help but get excited.  Maybe even sporting one of these...

... a swimmable processor!  Who knew?  And what will the next twenty years bring?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

One Small Step...

... for a beginning.

We met today with the (co-) head of the Seattle Children's Implant team, and then the Psycho-Social specialist.  Three hours of talking.  Tate is such a trooper!  LOTS of information to process.  I told Tate it's like drinking from a fire hydrant.

Both doctors we met with were careful to say that there are several more appointments in the candidacy process (audiological testing, auditory skills evaluation, speech/language evaluation, surgeon consult, device/equipment consult...) before any decisions are made, but they also both said that he looks like a very good candidate.  (CT scan shows "normal anatomy" - which is good.)

I loved how they both talked directly to Tate, as it is his decision, as well as to us.  (Kerry stayed home with the other boys, and Grandma Grasshopper came with me).  They explained in great detail how the CI works inside the ear, as well as what the whole process will involve.

Lots of appointments.  LOTS.

And the majority of them in Seattle - a one-and-a-half to two hour drive.  But if that's what it takes, we will make it happen.  Hallelujah for home-schooling and the flexibility it gives us!  :D

We have a lot to think about.  And research... which CI?  I know there are three main types, so I asked both the docs about them.  Is one the Mercedes, one the Toyota, and one the Gremlin?  Or are they different - suited to different applications?  And they both answered the same - they're all good, all work well and have "been around" for awhile, they'll all "get you where you want to go", they just have different bells and whistles.  And one of them was pretty exciting - the Neptune, a completely water-proof processor!

Feel free to fill me in on your experiences/opinions about the different kinds of CI's, okay?

In the meantime, we'll be setting up the other appointments and doing our homework.  Sounds like things could move forward fairly quickly.  Which is good, but a bit scary.  I'm really hoping they'll be willing to implant his "bad" ear first.  That leaves him with his "good" ear aided, to cope with the transition.

The (potential) problem is that his "bad" ear hasn't had any usable hearing for a few years, so there may not be a strong "path" to take the signal (sound) to his brain.  They might push for implanting his "good" ear.  But if they do that, he loses all his residual hearing.  I'm kind of concerned about that!  Praying for wisdom - for the docs and for us.  That I know when to push for what I/we want, and when to trust their judgment.  They haven't made any decision/recommendation yet (I don't mean to borrow trouble), but I know that's a possibility.

We're excited !