Monday, April 30, 2007

Pet Portraits

Finally, for my friend Leah, here is the fire belly toad:

Also, Anna's female betta fish, Greeny:

Colin's male betta, Bluey:

Francesca, watching the squirrels in the backyard (quite calmly!):

Speckles, the toad, flashing some fire:

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Love notes

Yikes, almost a week since my last post. We've been so busy, and its not even May yet.

Anna has been writing my lots of notes lately. Usually after I've put her to bed, she scribbles a little something to me. She is destined to be a night owl like her dad. I love these little notes; with her phonetic spelling, it's like you have to decode the message.

Here is what she wrote the night before Easter Sunday:
"Dear Easter Bunny I Do NOT like jellybeans."
She actually wrote that on 2 different notes. Also:
"Eastr Bunny I am in the room that has a sine on it. rely wot to see you. Love Anna. PS Ther is a presit for you! Love Anna. PS Hide the eggs."

She left me this when we were gone at Spanish class:
"Mommy - I frgot to tel you suthing. I ned a wotr bodl. Love, Anna PS Fur the feld trip."(field trip)

Then one night, right before she retired, for some reason she decided she wanted to get a bull dog. I said no way! I'm sure we'll get another dog in the future, but it is not going to be a snoring, wheezing, demodectic genetic anomaly like a bulldog! No matter how ugly-cute they are. Anna couldn't let it go:
"Mommy- It wud be so cuot and we cud biy a dogy bed. Love, Anna PS and it woud sleep in my room." Then she drew a circle with a little puppy on it that very much resembles a turtle.

We went to a great wedding this weekend but I think I will write about it on the other blog.

Monday, April 23, 2007

In the moment

Sometimes I look back on the week I just finished and think, "Whew, got through all that, cross it off the list, that fun weekend is over, gear up for the next one." Looking forward to the next thing, already sad about what is done and gone. Never living in the moment.

Well, I truly am glad that the "week without Anthony," is gone. We all missed him, but especially me. Certainly, no one starved or was late to school, but juggling ALL the balls all the time was exhausting. By the time I finished all the chores, it was time for bed - I only got to watch 1 hour of TV all week long! Seriously, I don't know how you single mammas do it.

Also, I don't know how mothers in general are supposed to be living in the moment. We are the ones who always have to be planning ahead, shopping for meals later in the week so that we're not dashing to the store or fast-food restaurant at the evil hour, starting to cook those meals early in the evening so that we can all eat and get bathed and get into bed early enough on a school night, planning most of the social events for the family, remembering the birthdays, the library books, the school permission slips.

So a big "huzzah" to dads like Anthony who do the dishes after dinner so we don't actually have to do it all, and pick up the slack when it comes to things like taxes and finances, something I seem to have no talent for. I know you feel underappreciated, baby, but I thank my lucky stars for you, especially on April 15th!

Also, it's great to know you appreciate my blogging, a habit that keeps me away from you at least an hour most evenings, and one I didn't get to indulge in much last week.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A new pet food crisis

You may have heard about the Menu Foods recall, involving canned and pouched dog foods containing melamine, a toxic pesticide contaminating wheat gluten. Melamine is banned in the US, but this wheat gluten was purchased from China. It causes acute kidney failure. Several dogs and cats have died. Many foods were recalled because they contained wheat gluten from the same source. We saw several patients who had eaten recalled, but not contaminated, foods; they all had normal kidney function when we checked. Fortunately, it seemed, our area was not affected.

Then, this week my colleagues have had 5 cases of kidney failure. All the dogs ate just two meals from a new bag of "Natural Balance." This is the dog food endorsed by Dick Van Patten, prominently displayed at Petsmart. This time the rice protein is contaminated with melamine. These patients' kidney values are off the charts, some higher than I've ever seen a dog recover from. I haven't personally dealt with any of the cases, but I feel for the doctors who are - the patient's kidneys are shot, their electrolytes are all messed up, and their prognosis is grim. We've euthanized two of the patients (both were geriatric), and the others are improving but are not yet out of the woods. We've heard of a total of 13 cases in the Austin area so far.

It is so tragic for these dogs and their families. Their owners are trying to choose a good food for them, one that sounds natural and healthy, with a kindly celebrity on the bag. At our hospital, three dogs are in the same family; at another, six dogs from the same household are sick and hospitalized. The hospital bills are staggering, and the company hasn't offered to compensate yet. These previously healthy dogs may be left with permanent kidney damage. The ones that are dead should still be alive.

The fear of what may be in our pets' foods is making one of my co-workers research homemade diets. It is ironic, because previously she was critical of our clients that fed their dogs "people food." She wants the very best for her own dog, so she is willing to cook and buy vitamin supplements, for an extended amount of time.

Another co-worker felt the whole contamination issue was indicative of what is "wrong with our country. We need to be supporting our local farmers." I agree with buying locally, but unfortunately, industries in this country usually go for the cheapest source, not the most ethical or safest. I also wonder if any of this toxin will show up in human food, part of a solitary ingredient in a highly processed food. Judging by the vast number of prepackaged items I saw in children's lunches at Anna's school, it could be widely devastating.

At least people have dialysis and the possibility of kidney transplants...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Solo portrait

Anthony complained that he has missed my blog. He is away in Houston all week, so I am single-parenting it and have had no time to update. I am exhausted, and any secretive thoughts I may have had in a moment of irritation about being able to do it all myself better are more than remedied. What follows is a post started and interrupted, now completed, which may suffer from lack of editing.

"I saw some paintings of ballet dancers at a museum in Houston by Degas," Anna told her ballet teacher Monday. She was excited to share this with her teacher, and practiced correctly pronouncing Degas most of the drive to the studio.

Her teacher is a reserved, kind German woman, a retired dancer. "Really?" she said, arching an eyebrow. "I'll bet most little girls your age don't know who that is."

I was so proud of her for bravely volunteering this information to her teacher. Then, she and Colin had one of their best classes yet. Anna always enthusiastically participates, but I can really she her progressing - lengthening her neck, pointing her toes, copying her teacher's arm movements.

Colin has waxed and waned on the ballet front. Yes, internet, I take my son to ballet class, because I do not think it's at all sissy (hello? Baryshnikov!), and I think Colin could benefit from the structure, discipline, and physical activity. OK, also it's way easier for them both to be in the same activity at the same time. This week, Colin did very well in class, and the office manager told me that the instructor is thrilled that a boy is participating. I had not picked up on that previously (she is reserved!) and worried that Colin was annoying her. We shall see if he sticks with it enough to do the recital in June.

Back to the art exhibit Anna mentioned! We went to Houston this weekend with Anthony, to see my parents' new beautiful condo, and to visit with our cousins and Auntie Steph. On Sunday before leaving, we went by the Museum of Fine Art, which has a visiting exhibit of many incredible impressionist pieces. Anna liked the Degas, but her favorite was Monet's Water lilies. Stephanie liked the Renoir, and I loved the 2 Van Gogh pieces, especially the cypresses. His paintings are so full of passion and turmoil to me. We were all riveted by a painting of Joan d'Arc, standing in her parents' garden, haunted by the voices she hears from ephemeral angels, barely visible behind her. Colin mostly moaned about wanting to ride the elevator the last 30 minutes we were there.

If you are anywhere near Houston in the next few weeks, the exhibit is well worth the trip.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Right in the zyphoid

Interesting case today: in the appointment book it said, "Check lump by nose, either a tick or a BB." It was actually a BB (no legs - my first clue!). It was buried in this poor guy's face and actually spun like a globe. I popped it out like a zit, and it left a big divit. We flushed the crater and applied antibiotic ointment. Only a flesh wound.

This guy is a total sweetheart. "Do you think the scar will make the chicks dig me more?"

The sad part is that this means someone in his neighborhood is mean enough to shoot BBs at a cat. If it had hit his eye, he would have lost it. Now he can't go out without supervision anymore. Unfortunately in Texas, if the cat (or dog) is on your property, you can shoot it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A moment in time, gone

I was commenting today on my friend Laura's blog, and found myself making this long, wistful post about an image of me and my dogs that I wish I had.

I wish I had thought to have had a picture taken of myself when I used to walk both kids and the dogs 3 years ago. Anna was in the stroller, Colin was in the Baby Bjorn strapped to my chest, and Terlingua and Montana walked politely on the left with their leather leashes wrapped around the stroller handle. They were such polite walkers, there was no fear of them pulling the stroller over. I hardly had to do anything to command them but walk. Invariably, as we passed people on the hike and bike trail, they all said the same thing. "Looks like you've got your hands full!" Really, like, several times on the same walk. Same phrase, over and over.

They were wrong; this was an easy way for us all to get out and get some fresh air and exercise. It was a pleasure to be in charge of all of them.

Hard to believe it was such a short time ago, that Terlingua and Montana are now gone. We gave our neighbors the stroller, and now Anna rides her scooter and Colin rides his bike to the park. Francesca enthusiastically walks beside me, requiring much correction.

Sadly, this image of the four of us, out for a jaunt, is only in my mind's eye.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Friday, April 06, 2007


Ach, another busy week. Here's some tidbits:

1. I went to see the dermatologist to look at a "funny looking" mole. (It turned out to be a benign fibroid.) But, the nurse during the check-in conversation said the doctor would like to do a full-body mole check, would I please disrobe and put this flimsy paper gown on? Boy, was I glad I shaved that morning and put on my pretty underwear!

2. I went to a different pet store to get Anna's toad more crickets. These look identical to the previous batch (same price, 10 cents each). But these are the loudest crickets I've ever heard. I bought them right before a meeting at work, and they chirped away while we ate lunch and talked. One of the other doctors thought it sounded nice, like auditory aromatherapy. It does kinda sound outdoorsy, but when it's in your house, it just sounds like an annoying cricket in the wall. And 10 of his closest friends. They are loud, and stinky, and cannabalistic with a penchant for suicide by drowning.

3. Anna had a picture chosen to be published in our tiny regional newspaper. Several students' pictures were featured with the title, "What do you want to be when you grow up." Anna's picture features a girl with exuberant yellow curls feeding a fish to a black and white orca. "I want to be a killer whale trainer," it says in well-formed kindergardener letters. We are so proud of her.

4. Francesca loves our home, but she likes to escape. Colin often assists her in this, leaving the back fence gate wide open. Today, as Anthony put mulch in the yard, he saw the dog come streaking across the front yard. Fortunately, the pizza delivery girl was arriving, and Francesca made a bee-line to sniff her, so Anthony caught her easily. He turned around to see Colin sticking his head out the front door.

"Why did you let Francesca out, buddy?" Anthony asked him.

"Daddy, I saw the pizza car!" He recognized the pizza chain logo on top of the Honda, and opened the front door wide.

5. One of my favorite patients, who has been in cancer remission for a year, seems to have a recurrence in his bladder (previous cancer was in his lymph nodes - lymphosarcoma). His owners love him dearly, and had previously decided not to do a second round of chemotherapy if his cancer recurred. But, this possible cancer is causing him symptoms like a bladder infection - frequent urination, straining, urgency. We aren't sure it is the cancer without a biopsy. Biopsy means invasive abdominal surgery. Is surgery worth it if they aren't going to do more chemo? What if its a different disease process, or different cancer? Would they be willing to try partial chemo? They love the dog so much, but realize quantity of life is not the same as quality of life. The quality of his life right now is good (pee issues aside), and they don't want to say goodbye. They struggle to make the right decisions for their dear dog, and I struggle to advise them, based on my limited knowledge, previous experience, and consults with other doctors.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Party Pics with no people in them

Here you can see: the adorable ladybug cake, the clay pot craft, and the ladybugs on our lettuces the next morning!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Birthday celebrations

Sorry it's been so long since I posted. What can I say? It's been Anna's birthday WEEK. Thursday was the actual day she turned SIX. She woke up bouncing around the house, got some presents before school, some more after I got home from work, and a visit from Nana and Grandad on their journey moving to Houston. We made her a chocolate cake loaded with chocolate chips, and on the top the night before I made a stencil that said "HAPPY BIRTHDAY! ANNA IS 6," with powdered sugar. Sadly this was absorbed INTO the moist cake overnight, so I had to do a hasty re-do. Anna didn't care, ate a huge piece. That plus the actual b-day excitement kept her up until almost 10pm.

For her party, we planned a smaller garden-themed party. I sent out invites 2 weeks before but only got 1 RSVP and that guest was to be 1 hour late due to a soccer game. By Thursday night I was getting quite anxious on Anna's behalf. What if we threw her a party and no one came? Compounding this was our phone service being extremely unreliable (it's VOIP and our internet connection is the source of the problem). So Friday night I was calling all the invitees to see if anyone was coming.

In the end, we had 3 of Anna's friends - a neighbor she adores (who's soccer game was cancelled so she was on time - hooray!), her favorite girl friend from school, and her friend Ruby, who she's been pals with since infancy and really, the party would have been lost without her sweet, sunny presence. Add to that her loving cousin, Henley, and the ever-helpful and much-loved Auntie Emily, and our party was complete. The weather was idyllic, as it always seems to be for her party. So we had it in the neighborhood park as usual, did a fun craft with flower pots, and released gobs and gobs of live ladybugs.

What else have we been doing? Eating outside on our lovely patio as much as possible, since it's gorgeous here (when it's not raining). It's as lovely as a good day in June in England, or August in Seattle. You wouldn't want to eat outside either of those months here, because you'd have to choose between death by drowning (in your own sweat) or exsanguination (by mosquitoes). If only the mild weather would last...