Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Lost in Translation

A few months ago I met a Japanese couple and their cocker spaniel. They had just moved to Austin temporarily for some big job, and they speak very little English. What was clear was how much they loved their dog. I gave her a check-up, boosted her Rabies, and made sure she was on heartworm prevention.

Last week they came in and saw another doctor. Their dog was vomiting and was quite ill. The presumptive diagnosis was pancreatitis. This requires several days of hospitalization and can have a good or poor prognosis. My colleague explained everything to them, and they nodded and said yes. Then they said, "Why she vomit?" Unfortunately, in a clash of cultures she mistook their nodding for understanding, and they were just being polite in a Japanese way. Eventually, we found they could understand written English better than spoken, and there are some incredible websites now that will translate for you (apparently this is how the husband gets along at his job).

Late last week the case was transferred to me. The dog seemed better, and was even able to eat and keep food down. Her bilirubin went down to normal, and her white blood cell count approached normal. We had tried to get an ultrasonagrapher in to check the dog earlier in the week, but she was unavailable. Then on Friday, there was a cancellation, and we got the dog an ultrasound appointment.

On Friday morning, her liver enzymes and bilirubin were worse. The ultrasonagrapher approached me with wide eyes. "I want to show you the gall bladder," she said. It was large and sludgey and in danger of rupturing. The pancreatitis was resolving, but now this secondary problem was worse. I called a friend of mine who was a surgeon. She said she could cut the dog later that same day, if the owners could bring them in.

I called the owners, and they came in to discuss the dog's case. I found that if I spoke slowly and used the simplest English, the husband could understand me well. (I think trying to communicate with my limited Italian in Italy has helped me learn how to speak English better to non-native people!) They were concerned for their dog and agreed to the surgery. The husband said, "I have just one question. There are two gall bladders?" No, I said, only one. "But, you remove it?" Ah, very good question! I explained that the gall bladder would be removed, but the tube (duct) would remain. They were satisfied and took their dog to the surgeon, since I told them I would even let her work on my dog.

Fortunately, another surgeon at the referral practice had a sister-in-law who was also Japanese and even knew this couple. So their communications with them were much easier. I found out on Tuesday that the dog did well through the weekend and went home.

I hope that these people had a good experience during a scary time with their dog. I think that the staff from our clinic were very nice to them, and did everything they could to make them comfortable. They racked up a huge bill with 5 days of hospitalization and diagnostics at our place, before the huge surgery. They never questioned a bill, and always trusted our recommendations. How scary that would be, to be in a country that I only had basic language skills in, with such a different culture, with a sick "family member," and not knowing if the doctors were really doing their best, or just saying that the dog needs to stay in the hospital for arbitrary reasons. One of our staff said, "I hope we have given them a good impression, and thank goodness they didn't go to a crappy vet hospital!" (Sadly, there is a lot of disparity among vet hospitals.) I totally agree -- I can't imagine being in Tokyo and being bewildered and hoping that people were taking the best care possible for my dog.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rubba Dub Dub, 4 Babies in a Tub

We won't be able to do this much longer. Four cousins in a tub, and they couldn't be happier about it:

Anna, Colin, Paige, Graham.

Cool Auntie Steph brought crayolas for the tub, and everyone loved making their own graffiti.

Look, Steph, I actually got one with all 4 looking at me:

Here is sweet Paige, sitting on the edge of the tub, singing, "Tinkle, Tinkle, little star." She is quite precocious. If you ask her what her name is, she says, "Paigie WalKER." If you ask what her silly cousins are doing, she shrugs her narrow shoulders in a perfect "I dunno."

Paigie. Will she resent me someday for showing her topless? Hope not.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Heat Wave

Lots of VIPs in Austin this weekend - President Bush stopped by to check on the storm progress (must appear concerned), Chris Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow, and wee Apple were here (along with many other great bands) for the Austin City Limits Festival, and we had my sister and family, on the tail end of their reluctant tour of Texas, aka Fleeing Rita.

Stephanie prudently left with the twins from Houston in what seemed like plenty of time, and got caught in the gridlock going north. She spent a few days in Dallas at my other sister's house, then stopped Saturday night with us on their way back. The cousins took a group bath, then reluctantly went to sleep. We had time for breakfast and a trip to the park before they left for home. Mercifully there was little traffic for them on the way home.

Predictions of 75 mph winds? Pshaw. It was breezy, but we didn't even get a drop of rain. NOT ONE DROP. The weather headline here is not the hurricane storm, its the heat wave. Sunday it shot up to 107 at the house. Today it only got to 106. I opened the back door this afternoon, and it was like opening the oven door on your face. I picked up Anna at school, and instead of them all waiting out front on the benches, they were hiding inside the big building. "We didn't even go out to play this afternoon," the teachers said. I don't blame them. Its like you wouldn't go out in a blizzard; this is the diametrical opposite.

I checked the chickens this afternoon to make sure they still had water, and they were all hiding in the shade, panting. Bless their hearts, they still layed 2 eggs.

Hopefully soon it may cool off 10 degrees. That's significant, but think of it -- it'll still be 96. Too hot to do anything outside. Thank goodness Wednesday the kids will have gymnastics again, because it'll be too hot to go to the park.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Battening down the Hatches

This is the phrase everybody is using around here. Although Austin is a good 200 miles from the coast, last night they were predicting that Hurricane Rita could still be a category 1 hurricane by the time it moves up here. 75 mile/hour winds or more. Yikes.

I could see Anthony getting more and more wound up as he watched the weather reports. I finally had to take the TiVo remote and put on The Daily Show. Protective night-owl that Anthony is, he stayed up after I went to bed, locating our old Coleman stove from the days we went camping, rustling up various containers for water, and even going to HEB for food supplies.

That was probably a good move, since I hear today that the parking lots at local grocery stores are full, the shelves are empty, and the check-out lines are backed up halfway down the aisles. However, the threat is much less this morning so we are all cautiously relieved. And worried about Louisiana.

We're pretty slow here at the vet clinic today, but a lot of people are calling for sedatives for their pets to relieve storm anxiety. I figure everyone's rushing around, trying to prepare, and the news says "refill your prescriptions" so they figure they better call the vet for some pills. Just remember they're for the dog, not you!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Today Colin had his first gymnastics class. He saw the class set up last week in the gym at the Rec Center where I work out, and he went nuts. I felt a little guilty because I had taken Anna as a toddler to Little Gym classes, but they were kind of like fun physical therapy for her since she was such a late walker, etc. Although Colin doesn't need the therapy, I figured it would be good for him to channel some of his energy.

We got there 5 minutes early (really, me!) and wisely the instructor said, "Just let him explore and get comfortable with the equipment." Colin went beserk. He ran from brightly colored mat to mat. There were 2 balance beams, 2 monkey bars, wedge mats, and a mini trampoline. He would have been on the tramp the entire 45 minutes if I hadn't made him get off to let other kids have a turn. It wasn't difficult to entice him with another activity though. His favorite was a monkey bar that he could swing from and kick down a tower of big soft foam blocks. He did this one repeatedly and soon will be sporting a 6 pack as a result, I'm sure. There was also a balance beam set up with bean bags at one end and a bucket at the other. Colin walked across the beam, tossed the bean bags into the bucket, then jumped off the beam onto a dot on the floor. (The beam is only inches off the floor - he's not Mary Lou Retton). Another mom was amazed at Colin's throwing ability, but its all that basketball practice he does. At the end of the class we played with the ever-popular parachute.

During the class I kept peeling Colin's hand off my finger. He thinks he needs to hold my hand to jump off the small mats, climb up the stairs, and go across a wide beam. He doesn't, really, and this class should give him more confidence. But in my heart, I want to baby him, and keep him dependent on me as long as possible. My brain knows better and hurts my heart as I tear my hands away.

My heart feels a little better when I see his joy at successfully completing the jump.

You'd think after so much activity the boy would have a good nap, but noooooo, he lay in his crib and sang, and talked, and played for an hour and a half. Oh well, it gave me time to shower and make some phone calls.

Anna is also taking gymnastics at her Montessori school and loving it, though she will probably soon be eclipsed by her brother in that department!

Couldn't resist posting a few more pics from the Women's Adventure Race in Ft Worth:

Here we are doing a 3-Legged Race. Note the rubber chicken I'm holding (part of the mystery events) and the big nasty bruise on my inner thigh (from falling off the bike the previous weekend).

This was literally the last hurdle before the end (hand-holding not required).


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

School conferences

Yesterday I had a telephone conference with Colin's preschool teacher. It was a little tedious. Mostly because his teacher, who is very nice, talks in that breathy, sing-songy happy mode all the time. It's not baby talk, but it's close. "Hello, Jennifer, how are you?!? Thank you for taking time to talk to me today! We are just going to talk about Colin and our goals for him this year! I'm really enjoying him! Do you think he is enjoying school?!?"

Granted, Colin is only 28 months old, so there's just not that much expected of him. We talked about his strengths (he is easy-going, adaptable, and kind). She asked me what goals I had for him this year, and I said, "Well, potty-training..." She agreed that they would work on that. And scissoring! She has noticed Colin needs more skills with the scissors, and with learning how much glue is appropriate for a project. "Well, I'm not surprised he's not that good with scissors, since I haven't really let him use them yet..." I said. She said, "Uh huh!! And you know, we'll work on math skills, like even during lunch time, we might make a chart of how many students brought sandwiches and how many brought LUNCHABLES!"

There are only about 8 children in Colin's class, and they only go twice a week, so I can't believe the parents can't manage to make a sandwich, cut up some fruit, and throw in some yogurt 2 days a week to send to school for lunch! And that there are enough Lunchables there to fill a column on a chart! No wonder Texas children have an obesity epidemic (sadly much higher than other states).

Anyway, Colin's teacher kept droning cheerfully on, then reviewed with me the notes she took about our conversation. I wish Anna's Montessori school was more proactive with parent-teacher communication, but at least none of them talk like that!

With elementary school around the corner, I fear I will have to sit through a lot more conferences like this one.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Vino doing well

My good friend Enricka brought Vino to work on Saturday so that I could visit with him. He does get around extremely well with just one arm. Enricka is totally in love with Vino! He does have a lot of personality despite his miniscule size. Anna is slowly earning him back. Enricka has his cage on top of her rabbit's cage. As you can see, Vino really likes Abigail!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Quiet Sunday

We had a mellow day around here. Anna and I went to a birthday party for one of her classmates. It was in a really nice city park with lots of shady trees - important since it was rapidly heating up into the upper 90s today. There were lots of nice kids and parents. My only complaint was that the party was from 11 am to 1 pm, and they served the kids sugar, sugar, and more sugar.

There was the candy that fell from the pinata.

Then the cake. And juice boxes.

That was it. No other food, not even fruit or any form of protein. The main problem with this was all the kids were hungry since the party was held during all conceivable lunching times. I heard three children complain after the sugar fest, "My tummy hurts..."

Anna, after chewing her second Tootsie Roll, suddenly bent over and started hacking out a half eaten roll. Drooling excessively, she wailed to me, "Its still stuck in there!" Apparently, Tootsie Roll was stuck on her teeth, and trailing down her gullet in a elongated melty brown mess. No wonder she gagged. Blech.

At least 4 adults came up to me and said, "She's so beautiful, I love her curls..." Couldn't agree more!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mom Jeans

My mom asked me once, "Do you like those low waisted pants?" I told her although I didn't want anything that Britney Spears would be proud to wear, I also didn't like high waisted pants because they make your butt look flat and broad and weird. Then I saw this, the very thing I fear: Mom Jeans

Be very afraid.

(PS My mom gave me some great genes - youthful looks and a petite frame).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


The Women's Adventure Race in Dallas was great -- except it was in Ft Worth, not Dallas. Actually, Anthony said, "Oh my God, Jenn, do you realize where it is? This is in West Ft Worth!!!" Of course, he and the kids would be driving from N.E. Dallas where his parents live, so this was significant.

The race was held at YMCA Camp Carter, and it was a beautiful site. There were also several evacuated families from Hurricane Katrina staying at the campground. They waved and cheered us on. We started off with the run portion, but it was really more of a hike. When we went up steep rocky hills, it was too steep to run, then back down, again too gravelly and slippery to run. Then we got on our bikes.

The bike portion was nice, going through shady trails with scattered fallen leaves. The bad part was the thick sandy roads we had to ride between the trails. The bike just sinks in the sand, fishtailing and slowing to nearly a stop. The mystery events were almost identical to the Austin race - but I didn't fall on the balancing event! Emily was great on the Mind Puzzle event - we passed a lot of people with our short stop time on that event.

While we were on the first bike ride, Anthony arrived with the kids. Despite the gnashing of teeth because of the traveling distance to the race, Anthony took care of the kids the night before, got them up early, packed the car, and drove to the race. Anthony's mom and dad, and our nephew Andrew also came to help support us. We had quite a posse! Home Depot was at the race with projects for the kids to do. Here Anna creates a wooden box to hold her treasures:

After the first bike race, we had the water event. There was a small man made lake with a tiny island in the middle on the campgrounds. We had to go around the island. Emily and I piled into the tiny inflatable kayak, but our legs stuck out, and our dragging feet really slowed us down. Emily hopped out and kicked/pushed from behind, while I kept paddling.

Yeah, we might have to invest in an inflatable canoe if we do this again - plus some personal flotation devices that don't fly up around your neck the whole time. There is a float contest, where awards are given for creative floats. I liked this flipflop one. The thong part is made out of noodles, and the base is pink styrofoam wall insulation.

After the water event, we were tired, but glad we were mostly done. We repeated the bike route, without having to stop for mystery events. It was obvious how much more stamina Emily had this time around. We didn't stop except when the sand forced us to!

This next picture is blurry but really captures the moment! We just finished the 2nd bike ride and are getting ready to run the gauntlet and finish!

We really improved out time, finishing in about 1 hour, 20 minutes. We were tired and famished, and we could smell the wonderful meal that Carrabba's Italian Restaurant was cooking for us on site: grilled chicken, penne pasta, and caesar salad. Mmmm. We all chowed down, except for Anna - she would only eat the Clif Energy Bars.

Triumphant Emily and Colin after the race.

Here Montana munches on my watermelon rind after the race. Anthony brought her, too, because we left for home directly from the campgrounds. I didn't get to shower and had to go home smelling my lakey self, but I did change out of my wet clothes before we headed home.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Jumping Cousins

Colin, Henley, and Anna on the trampoline on Saturday. I figure all the physical activity made up for all the time they spent turning their brains into mush watching video after video in the car. Although, Colin's facial muscles do get a work out as he views, and he exaggeratedly smiles or frowns at happy and scary parts!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sometimes the Journey is Arduous, and the Destination is a Relief!

I will have to write my account of the Women's Adventure Race soon. If you can't stand the wait, check out Emily's blog.

We had a good weekend, but Anthony summed it all up when he said, "I remember when road trips used to be fun. Now its just work." Not to mention expensive, the way gas prices have doubled. Leaving town, Anthony had expertly packed both mountain bikes, an inflatable kayak, and all our suitcases in the van, not forgetting to set up the DVD player for the kids. We stopped at the post office on the way out of town to pick up a package, a 20 minute diversion. As we pulled onto the highway, Anthony said, "Did you hit something with the van? Its all out of alignment." That turned into a vibration, and when we pulled into a rest stop outside of Temple, it was obvious the right rear tire had broken some cables and was about to blow! While Anthony put the toy tire on, I let the little people stretch their legs and tried to keep them from running into traffic. Funny how Montana listens better with a brain tumor! By now, it was obvious we'd have to feed the offspring on the road, so we stopped later at McD's where Colin bit into a ketchup package spraying it all over his mouth and Anthony's shirt.

We had no automotive difficulties on the way home. However, when we stopped at Starbucks, Anthony tried to pay for our beverages with $15 and charge his Starbucks card with the rest, the cashier screwed up the transaction royally, putting only 80 cents on his card when it should have been more like $5. Anthony calmly explained the mistake to her, then twice to the manager, who handed him back his card with 80 cents and said, "OK, I'm just going to comp your drinks and give you these free drink coupons," leaving Anthony to say, "OK, but I gave her $15, I'm still out $5... I don't mind paying for what we actually ordered, but I'm still in the hole here..." So then the flustered manager gave him back the $15, and in the meantime Anna had spilled her decaf drink twice and Colin was jumping on the upholstered seats everytime I had to deal with that...

In the end we made it home safely, and had enjoyed the weekend, especially seeing our kids really enjoy themselves with their cousins. Big cousin Andrew (14 yrs) is very patient with little kids, and even let them all pile on top of him on the trampoline. Henley (2 yrs) -- or Kenwee as Colin called her -- was a favorite to bounce with or play in the sandbox with, and little Rian (9 mo.s) just grinned and beamed at them all.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Keep Austin Weird

Sorry its been so long. I've been fighting a little cold and getting ready for the Women's Adventure Race this weekend with Emily.

A coworker of mine loaned me a little inflatable kayak for the race. I had a long lunch break on Thursday, so I ate a quick meal and decided to try it out. I drove down to Zilker Park, the big city park downtown, and plugged the electrical inflater into my cigarette lighter. Then I hauled the tiny craft and the oars down to Barton Springs. A couple of shirtless guys saw me and shouted out, "Hey, are you gonna go paddling in that thing? Need any help?" I said no thanks and kept walking, and put my little craft into the water down where they rent canoes.

Its really a tiny boat. My knees were up under my chin, and I had to row with my arms at an unnaturally high angle since I was so low in the water. But it was great being out there on the water in the middle of a workday. The water in Barton Springs is an amazing blue-green color. There are some scum bubbles on the top and floating chunks of algae, but the water is so clear! I could see sunfish beneath me, and lots of huge red eared turtles basked before me, waiting until I got about 3 feet from them when they decided to dive for the bottoms.

I heard guitar music, and then a guy shouted to me, "Hey, I'll give you a dollar if you'll listen to one of my songs." In the shade of the trees on the banks, there was an older guy, playing guitar for about 4 of his buddies. "That's OK," I said, "I'll listen," and paddled over to the other side of the stream. "The song lasts 3 and a half minutes," he warned, "That's a lot of paddlin' " He came to the edge of the stream over me and sang his song, traipsing back and forth over the dirt banks. I didn't recognize it, but it was a love song with lyrics like this: "Tell me all your secrets, but don't ask me none of mine/ We'll kiss as we cross the Mason-Dixon line." I could feel the cold water soaking into my underwear. In the live music capital of the world, however, the scene and the song seemed entirely appropriate.

I really enjoyed the song, and said so at its conclusion. He said, "Wait a minute,"as he fished for a buck in his pocket. I assured him that I didn't need the dollar. "Well, all I really wanted was your phone number, anyway." I declined to give it, since I was married. "How can that be? Well, I don't mess around with a married woman," he said.

I paddled down a few more minutes before heading back. My troubador and his posse had left. I pulled ashore next to a man skipping stones and his naked toddler daughter who asked me how much my watercraft cost (nothing, since it was on loan). I walked past college students in their swimsuits and their happy lucky dogs on my way back to the car. Then I went back to work.

Only in Austin...

Tomorrow is the race, so we'll see how well the kayak does with 2 people in it!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Adorable Colin

I realize Anna gets a lot of attention on my blog, because she is so articulate and she fills every moment she is in. But please don't think I don't also adore my curly-haired cherub, Colin. In fact, after a toddler who never met a multi-syllable word she couldn't conquer, I am loving Colin's babytalk.

"I hungry," he says, rubbing his tummy, "I wanna twanwich!" He still calls his sippy cup his "MiMi," and its so cute I don't correct him, and shamefully, even encourage him. Whenever he wants comforting, he asks for "MiMi and Dween Banket."

Ah yes, the Green Blanket. I thought we were so ahead of the game when Colin appeared to be a blanket baby who had no preference between the 7 baby blankets he inherited from his sister (she who has a come-apart if Pooh Bear is missing). They were all soft knits, about the same size, and (I thought) interchangable. Until, the day the demanded the "Dween banket. DWEEN BANKET! NO, ODDER DWEEN BANKET!" The beloved green blanket has frogs on one side and raindrops on the other. Colin can tell which one it is in the dark.

He takes his little square fabric of devotion and spreads out each corner, making a little pad for himself in the kitchen. Then he sits on it and drinks his MiMi. Sometimes he folds it over his little bare legs and sometimes he feels it lovingly with the back of his hand.

He likes to watch Dora, the Backyardigans, Mary Poppins, and Bammy (Bambi). But he is in love with Cinderella. "I wah watch Cinder- rera," he croones. When she appears on screen, he beams at her. When the fairy godmother turns her rags into a beautiful ballgown, he says, "Pretty dress!" Later, he sings Cinderella's song, A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes, but Colin just hits the highlights: "A dream.... a wish... a heart may. Asleep...."

Anthony thinks his love for Cinderera and for footwear may foretell his gayness. I have heard a lot of people recently who see something feminine in their sons and think this. They almost seem to wish for it, so they can prove how tolerant they can be: "Look, my son is gay and I still love and accept him." But I don't think this necessarily portends same-sex love for Colin; I think he is in love with Cinderella, and wants to be her Prince (even though the prince is hopelessly underdeveloped in the movie).

Anyway, I am definitely in love with Colin-O.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Dos Linguas and a spill

On Friday, I got to cut and sew another cat tongue. This one was a cat with a tumor under its tongue. The owner had just noticed it when the cat started bleeding from its mouth. Hey, do you know what's under your cat's tongue? I cut the nickel-sized tumor off and sent it off to the lab. I had picked my sister, Emily, up at the airport on my lunch hour so she got to see the whole thing. One of the other vets I work with came over and said, "I can't believe you are cutting another cat's tongue!" We were almost jumping up and down we were so excited. Yeah, its crazy but I really love what I do.

Emily and I were "training" for our next adventure race. Saturday we went for a long bike ride and swim, and Sunday we rode our bikes and jogged. First we went to the high school track to run, and found it was locked. Some other people were on the track and encouraged us to scale the chain link fence, as they had. We decided it was more adventure event training and did. Emily did great; she didn't stop once on our long bike rides, and did some running/some walking at the tracks.

At the end of our second bike ride we decided to mountain bike up a steep drainage hill. Its one I go down all the time with the bike trailer, but I can't go up it with the trailer. Emily said, "You go first, I'll give you plenty of room." Good thing, since I hit a large log on the approach, and completely lost all my momentum. I was determined to continue, though, and so kept going until I hit the cement slope. My bike stopped and I went over the handlebars. I didn't hurt myself too badly, although I did land poking myself in the neck with my handle brake. It bruised my left sternocephalicus muscle (the one that sticks out when you turn your head) so its sore but doesn't look bad. I also have a large silver dollar sized bruise on my right inner thigh; not sure how that happened. My ego is bruised more than my body.

We had a great relaxed Labor Day, but it seems weird that I have to go to work tomorrow. Colin's first day of Preschool is tomorrow, too. Please check out my new banner for the Humane Society at the right hand margin.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Who got your cat's tongue?

OK, there are going to be some really gross pictures in this post, so if you don't want to see them don't scroll down. DON'T SCROLL DOWN! They are very graffic and I don't know how to make it so you can't see them unless you click on them. So, just go on to the next site if you don't wanna see.

An outdoor only kitty who hadn't been eating well for a few days was panting outside when the owner noticed his tongue was bleeding and had something seriously wrong with it. (It is abnormal for cats to pant even in this obscene Texas heat). The poor cat obviously got his tongue caught on something that seriously cut it up. There was a dangling necrotic piece that clearly had lost its blood supply and now was dying a odiferous death in his mouth. Although it was late in the afternoon, we immediately sedated him and took care of it.

Here's the first gory picture, rather artfully taken by my nurse. You can see the dead portion of the tongue as it lays on the surgical drape.

I removed the dead part and debrided the rest of the tissue. There was a deep laceration on the bottom of his tongue (not full thickness) and a shallow one at the top that I sutured closed.

The post-operative results.

Cat tongues really are amazing to look at with those thick grooming spines. After some pain medication and antibiotics, I sent him home. He was affectionately rubbing his face on my hand when I discharged him, just 1 hour later!