Friday, April 27, 2012

El Diablo

El Diablo is what Bubby has been calling Lou lately, because, well. He's a monster. A cute monster for sure, but a monster nonetheless. I was really spoiled with Norah as my first kid. She has her moments, but 99% of the time she is calm, cool, and collected. She loves to dress up and play pretend, do puzzles and art work, read books and watch movies. She is incredibly smart and introspective and wants to know everything about the world. She's kind and thoughtful and has the best sense of humor. Basically she's me. (If I do say so myself). And that's why we get along so well.

Louis is an entirely different kid. He learned how to walk and overnight it seemed like he became someone else. He's cute and funny and sweet, for sure. But, he's also demanding and impatient and throws the world's biggest temper tantrums at the drop of a hat. He's at that awful age where he knows what he wants but has zero ability to communicate those wants. So, our days involved a lot of grunting, crying, pointing, stomping, hitting, and general terrorizing.

Basically this:

He's also quite the dare devil. He doesn't walk anymore.... he runs. Everywhere. He climbs everything. Gets into everything. I can't tell you how many legos I have fished out of the toilet. He does somersaults in the tub. He regularly attempts to drown himself.

I left him in his room for about 15 seconds while I put his pee soaked pajamas in the laundry. When I got back I discovered he had flipped over the box full of big legos and was doing a tap dance on top of it.

By far the biggest problem is that he runs away from me when we aren't at home. See, Norah is my rule follower. I don't think she's ever crossed the street without reminding me that I need to hold her hand. She sticks close. Lou is the complete opposite. He runs. And runs fast. In whatever direction I don't want him to be running. He thinks it's hilarious to make me chase him. Unfortunately, he has no concept of "street is a dangerous place for an almost 14 month old to be" and some of his behavior is really starting to be unsafe. I think we are going to get him one of those monkey backpacks. With a leash. I can't believe I actually said that. But I like my kids alive, so we'll do what we have to do.

It may be a very long toddlerhood, indeed.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Tonight Norah told me she remembered when she lived in my belly. I asked her what it was like in there. She said, "gooey."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

And....We Bought a House

So, I guess this means we're staying.

After some tense negotiations we are in escrow. On this bad boy:

For an interesting bit of perspective:

California house: 1,100 square feet
Texas house: 4,044 square feet

California house: 3 bedrooms
Texas house: 5 bedrooms

California house: 1 bathroom, 1 poop closet (ie, the smallest half bathroom known to man)
Texas house: 4 full bathrooms (2 with tub/showers, 1 with a stand alone shower only, and the master with a stand alone shower and separate giant tub)

California house: one car garage
Texas house: three car garage

California house: galley kitchen with no room for a table
Texas house: gourmet kitchen with walk in pantry, eat-in dining area, and center island

California house: home office consisting of my lap top in my lap on the couch
Texas house: separate office space for both BVZ and myself

California house: no play room
Texas house: giant play room

California house: one room that was the family room, television room, and dining room
Texas house: formal dining room, two living rooms, separate and self-contained media room

California house: a brick patio
Texas house: upstairs balcony, downstairs covered patio

California: awesome backyard with flowers and fruit trees
Texas: awesome backyard with grass, a playscape, and wait for it.....

wait for it....

A pool. With a waterfall. And a slide.

California house: a price tag awfully close to seven numbers
Texas house: a price tag no where near seven numbers

All of a sudden Texas doesn't look half bad.

Now, who is coming to visit first?

Happy Spring!

We got family pictures done a few weeks ago. Our normally delightful and mild tempered Louis was in the foulest mood. It was early, wet, cold, and the morning kind of went downhill from there. Luckily, the photographer captured this gem and the rest is just gravy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Norah has been suffering from stomach aches for the past few months. Nothing extreme and nothing that seemed to interfere with her daily activities or delightful disposition. For a while I suspected that she was doing a little attention seeking (being sick around here is a fast pass to a bed on the couch, the special treat of juice, and more television than usual), and/or trying to get out of eating vegetables at dinner. The complaint almost always came during a meal, far before it was over.

It wasn't until she was asking to go and lay down at random times during the day that I figured she needed to be evaluated. We saw her pediatrician who felt that her lower abdomen was a bit tender and slightly distended. She told us to try some mild antacids and check back in a month. The stomach aches continued and she had about a week of irregular pooping. I took her back in and we had a blood panel and stool analysis done.

On Monday we got her results and Norah is testing positive for celiac disease.

According to Wikipedia, celiac disease:

"is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages from middle infancy onward. Symptoms include chronic diarrhea, failure to thrive (in children), and fatigue, but these may be absent, and symptoms in other organ systems have been described.

A growing portion of diagnoses are being made in asymptomatic persons as a result of increased screening; the condition is thought to affect between 1 in 1,750 and 1 in 105 people in the United States. Celiac disease is caused by a reaction to gliadin, a prolamin (gluten protein) found in wheat, and similar proteins found in the crops of the tribe Triticeae (which includes other common grains such as barley and rye).

Upon exposure to gliadin, and specifically to three peptides found in prolamins, the enzyme tissue transglutaminase modifies the protein, and the immune system cross-reacts with the small-bowel tissue, causing an inflammatory reaction. That leads to a truncating of the villi lining the small intestine (called villous atrophy). This interferes with the absorption of nutrients, because the intestinal villi are responsible for absorption. The only known effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. While the disease is caused by a reaction to wheat proteins, it is not the same as wheat allergy."

It explains a lot. It certainly explains why her stomach hurts and feels full after only a small amount of food. She is a skinny kid, but nowhere even close to failure to thrive (she has the exact same body type as BVZ-I attribute her figure to genetics, not celiac). Most young kids who have severe celiac disease suffer also from debilitating eczema and other skin conditions. Norah has none of that.

Now, in adults positive blood work isn't enough for a confirmatory diagnosis. An endoscopy and/or colonoscopy is typically done to evaluate the damage done to the villi in the intestine and bowel and gauge the extent of the inflammation. A biopsy of that tissue is often also done. Obviously those procedures are incredibly invasive and would only be done on a three-year-old under general anesthesia.

Her pediatrician feels that regardless of the extent of it now, based on her blood work she has a 100% chance of developing full-blown celiac disease at some point in her life and her symptoms could get much worse. Since the only treatment is a gluten-free diet there is no reason to delay getting her on the diet now. In fact, it will probably be much easier for her to adjust to this lifestyle now rather than when she's older. Getting rid of her present stomach aches are only a small part of it. We have to take steps now to prevent damage to her organs in the future.

I have been reading a ton about it in the past few days, and there are lots of people and lots of kids who are absolutely debilitated by this disease. They can't have any trace of gluten in their bodies or on their skin-even handling play-doh will cause a reaction-without getting incredibly ill. I think an accurate comparison can be made to a peanut allergy. There are some people who will get hives from eating peanuts and then some people who will die from breathing peanut dust. From what I understand so far, Norah is definitely on the hives end (thank god). Now, that's not to say it might not intensify as she gets older, but there are celiac sufferers out there who have it much, much, MUCH worse than she does.

So, what do we do from here? In a nutshell, she can't eat gluten anymore. That means no more bread, no pasta, no cakes, cookies, cereal, etc. It's pretty restrictive, and when you look closer it also means no salad dressing, no condiments, no lunch meat...basically anything you buy at the grocery store that comes in a can, box, bag or jar has gluten. Jelly has gluten. Some peanut butters have gluten. Applesauce in a glass jar has gluten. Canned beans have gluten. A lot of yogurt has gluten. Anything frozen is going to have gluten.

Now, my kids don't eat a ton of processed food. I do my best to fill them up with fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats and dairies. But they do eat a lot of gluten. Norah has either waffles, pancakes or cereal for breakfast every morning. She has a sandwich for lunch every single day. Quesedillas are coveted. She loves ranch with her carrots. She eats a lot of pasta. She could eat her weight in pizza. She loves a good chocolate chip cookie more than life itself. And a good cracker and cheese plate is an afternoon snack enjoyed regularly around here. In other words, eating as she knows it is going to change.

When I picked Norah up from school that day I explained to her what her doctor had told me and how she was allergic* to a lot of different foods she is used to enjoying. She took the news really well and was interested in hearing all about it. She has been telling people that she has an allergy called Silly-Ack. [*I know that it isn't technically an allergy, but it was the easiest way to explain it to her. There's a great Curious George episode that she loves about a cat who has an allergy. Television wins again.] She may change her tune the next time we are at a birthday party and she has to eat the cupcake from my purse and not the cake table, but we'll deal with it one cupcake at a time.

That afternoon we went to a natural food grocery store and I let her fill the cart with things that sounded appealing to her. Gluten free food isn't cheap. A jar of marinara sauce was $6. A box of spiral pasta was $5. The box of crackers she picked to take as her school snack was $4.50. A box of frozen waffles was $6. Peanut butter was $5.75. Jelly was even more. Now, obviously the idea is not to replace every food she might eat with a gluten-free version. In an ideal world we would only eat fresh, locally grown, raised, and prepared food. But our world isn't ideal and my three-year-old loves peanut butter. And frozen waffles. And cheese and crackers. (And I am totally okay with that.) One of these days I will make a big batch of homemade marinara sauce to freeze for the foreseeable future. But that day is not today and so I spent about one billion dollars at Sprouts. Even vitamins have gluten. A bottle of gluten-free children's vitamins cost $15. Geesh.

Today was day three and so far, so good. I am not going to say that gluten-free pasta is the same as regular pasta, but it was good in it's own way. We've been eating a lot of broccoli. The pediatrician said it might take several weeks to see an elimination of her symptoms. But, today there wasn't a single stomach ache complaint, so we may already be onto something. A lot of people with celiac also have issues with dairy and eggs, but unless something changes we are keeping both in her diet. Dairy free would be really hard and I hope we don't ever have to cross that bridge.

I am not yet decided how to handle Lou. On one hand he's so little and every day is a new food adventure and I don't know if I want to deny him the nutrition contained in whole grains and foods with wheat right now.

On the other hand, I feel like in order for this to work, the entire family has to eat gluten free. I am not going to make Norah feel singled out, nor am I making multiple meals, multiple times a day. There is also a very serious issue of cross-contamination with celiac disease. Using the same toaster for regular and gluten-free waffles, for example, could contaminate Norah's food. Same goes for cutting boards, utensils, dishes, etc.

To further complicate matters, there is a significant genetic component to celiac. It is likely Lou will be affected at some point as well. The pediatrician asked a lot about any symptoms either BVZ had ever experienced and encouraged us both to be tested. I am fairly certain that I will also test positive. [I was diagnosed with irritable bowl syndrome a million years ago-okay maybe ten or twelve-and the more I read about celiac the more I suspect it is the source of a lot of my own sickness over the years. We shall see.]

It's going to be a work in progress. The one thing I am certain of, however, is that we are going to use this as an opportunity to focus on health, eating as clean as we can, and putting physical health and well-being at an absolute top priority. And yes, that just may mean I have to get my ass to a gym. Sooner rather than later.

In unrelated, and somewhat more uplifting news, Aunt Amy has been watching Lou and Norah every Thursday when I go to work. Today I got these pictures. Lou is such a toddler. And Norah is such a personality. How very, very, very lucky I am.


I am always looking for fun science experiments for Norah to try. Knowing this, my friend Suzy sent me several links to blogs that described how to make your own Easter egg dye. I knew it would be the perfect project for Norah and I even made a grocery list of all the things we needed-blueberries, raspberries, beets, turmeric, and eggs.

The Saturday before Easter we were at the grocery store. Without my list. Blueberries and raspberries were way too expensive to do anything but eat, I forgot beets, and I was convinced I already had turmeric in the pantry. So, basically we made it home without anything we needed to make natural dyes. At least I remembered the eggs.

We only did a half dozen since it was just us. Norah told BVZ that I got "rotten eggs" and was unconvinced that the ones I got would actually work. [We eat brown eggs and so she somehow decided that white eggs were rotten. You would think it would be the other way around, but there's no arguing with the logic of a three-year-old.]

She did a good job of getting the eggs into the pot and I didn't notice one had cracked until its brains oozed out in the water.

We then went through the fridge, freezer and pantry and picked out things we thought would make good dyes. It actually ended up being way more fun that way.

The first thing she chose was Cayenne Pepper for "red." We basically dumped half a spice bottle into a saute pan, added some water, and boiled it.

Then we found a bag of frozen blueberries at the bottom of the freezer and used those to make "blue." (I encouraged the use of blueberries as I knew it was the one thing that was guaranteed to work. Norah wasn't that into it because she didn't want blue.)

Then we boiled dried cranberries to make "pink." [Not pictured.]

We let our pots boil for about 20 minutes, then strained the ones with fruit, and poured the reduced liquid into low-ball glasses.

The Cayenne made a dark orange that was really cool, but the pepper didn't fully dissolve. It actually made an interesting texture-kind of speckled.

It was super fun and Norah was really into it. I love little kid science.

At the end of the day, the Cayenne was so-so, the blueberry was awesome, and the cranberry didn't do shit. [See bottom right.] We didn't actually eat any of the eggs, since "blueberry egg" doesn't rank up there with anything that's even remotely appetizing. I think BVZ ate them instead.

That night I figured I should probably make the kids an Easter basket (I love them, I just always forget about that kind of stuff until the last minute). Thankfully, Target is open late.

Norah got a new, $7 dress, a Fancy Nancy book, a $1 puzzle, some bubbles, and a pack of M&M's.

Louis got a book about bugs, two baby food pouches (from the pantry) and a box of Mum Mum's (also from the pantry).

They were both beside themselves with joy. Just goes to show you, kids are easy. In fact, on Monday afternoon, Norah made a "caterpillar thank you card" to send to the Easter Bunny. Damn, I love that kid.

They hunted for eggs filled with marshmellows and cheerios. Norah declared that Lou wasn't allowed to eat marshmellows (he isn't) and decided the best course of action was to shove them all in her mouth at the same time, lest he get his hands on one.

Then we had a fun and laid back afternoon with the cousins, et al. I didn't take any pictures, so I have nothing to show for it. We also failed to get the kids' picture with the Easter Bunny at the mall. Norah would have been into it but Lou would have hated it. So, I don't feel all that bad about not doing it, even though I do enjoy a traumatized-baby-on-a-creepy-bunny's-lap photo op as much as the next guy.

Maybe next year.

Nice Dance

This video isn't that interesting until the last few seconds when Lou does something super cute. Feel free to fast forward to that part.

In other news, Lou has started saying both "uh-oh" and "nigh-nigh" in the correct context. Be still my beating heart.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Here and There

Obviously I haven't lived with a lot of three-and-a-half year olds, but I think Norah has one of the best imaginations around. It's all about pirates and princesses and underwater kingdoms and buried treasure. In this picture she's a fairy private investigator. (See, she does pay attention to me).

She does this thing where she ties up stuffed animals to Lou's crib and sometimes his exersaucer. When I ask her what it's all about she will only tell me that they are being "trapped" and I shouldn't worry about it.

She's a big fan of the easel these days, which I love. I do not, however, love the gigantic mess she makes every time so we resort to n.a.k.e.d. art time (the last thing I need is someone getting to this blog who googles that particular phrase).

While Bear is still a big part of her every day life, he is actually getting left at home every once in a while. I am not sure if it's because she is just getting more comfortable in unknown situations or because she's afraid he's going to get lost. When Lou got a haircut several weeks ago, Norah accidentally left Bear at the salon. We got him back but there were some tears and tense moments and ever since then she's been more willing to let him "nap" when we leave the house.

Lou gives me a heart attack about 17 times a day. His new thing is climbing in the bathtub.

But he's pretty hard to resist.

This one isn't bad either.

He pretty much climbs everything. As in everything.

Nothing makes this dude happier than a stroller ride.

Norah's been really into accessories lately. Along with her Hello Kitty purse she is wearing three necklaces, a bracelet, and multiple sparkly rings.

Lately Norah has been Cinderella, I have been Druzilla, and this little cute guy has been Anastasia. He makes an excellent Anastasia.

Norah has been having some stomach issues these past couple of months. We saw her doctor a while ago and were taking a wait-and-see approach, but it seems to be getting worse rather than better. I took her back earlier this week and her doctor decided to do a full blood work up and ahem, stool analysis. Doc suspects she might have a gluten sensitivity (not a total intolerance), but really it could any number of food sensitivities.

She got a tremendous amount of blood taken and was very brave and calm until the phlebotomist was taking the needle OUT of her arm and then she decided it hurt and needed to cry very, very loudly. This wouldn't have been such a big deal except for the fact that she was sitting in my lap and so the loud crying was directly in my ear. Oh yes, and that I just so happened to have LOU with us as well. Since I had to sit in the lab chair with Norah in my lap, the nurse had to take Lou. She's a very nice nurse, but oh my. Did he have some serious stranger danger. I guess it was reassuring to know he is attached to me, but crying Norah on my lap and SCREAMING Louis in the hallway was a bit much.

After all of that I still had to collect her stool sample. Which basically meant catching her poop in a net and distributing it amongst five different containers. It was a science experiment with shit. Hopefully we'll get the results sometime next week and get some answers.

Despite the circumstances, she looked very fashionable.