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Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry and Bright

Calvin checks out his first Christmas tree.

We set up our Christmas tree about a week after Thanksgiving. It's a little, fake tree because we don't like to buy a real one on the years that we are going out of town for Christmas. Fire hazard and all that. We took a video of the Great Lighting of the Little Christmas Tree, but it ended up being kind of a bust because only the bottom half of the tree lit up! We found the loose bulb and fixed it, and I think it is a very pretty little tree.

My family has a tradition that every year, each of us kids and my parents together would get new ornaments. So my brother and I each have one ornament for every year of our lives up until we moved out of our parents' house, and our parents have an ornament for every year of their marriage. When James and I got married, I started this tradition for our new little branch of the family and now that we have Calvin I am excited to do the same for him. 

I decided to forgo the typical "Baby's First Christmas" ornament care of Hallmark in favor of something that I felt was more unique and special for my little chicken. Here's a video of Calvin opening his very first Christmas ornament, which is also his very first Christmas gift!

We did another photo shoot to get a nice pic for this year's Christmas card. This time, at Crissy Field. I had this brilliant idea to make a cute banner with a Christmas message, but it was really too windy for it. Here are some of the photos we got:

We brought Calvin with us to a couple of holiday parties, including a Holiday Baby Bash hosted by a friend from the mom & baby group I go to. You might recognize these tots from the Halloween party pics. They are much sleepier in this picture! And sorry about the glowing eyes, I couldn't figure out how to fix it in a pic from my cell phone. 

A few days later, which was a few days ago, we got on a plane very early in the morning and flew out to Atlanta. So we are here hanging out with my parents, and on Christmas Eve we'll drive up into the mountains to spend time with James' parents. I am always thankful to get to spend the holidays with our wonderful families and to get to see some much missed friends while we are in town. More Christmas pics to come!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hooray for Dr. Dad!

We are still sad about our lost kitty, Lucas...

Calvin won't even remember him! It makes me so sad :(

...But happily we have some very good news to think about instead!

James' PhD defense at Stanford was last week and he did great! I am so proud of him!

Thank goodness some of James' lab mates took pictures on their phones! I had remembered to bring the camera but sadly I had left the memory card in my laptop. Oops.

Calvin and I were there to watch James' presentation and Calvin only had to be taken out of the room at the very beginning so I was able to watch most of it. Calvin slept through most of it. James' degree will be in mechanical engineering, but his research has had a biomechanics focus. As he presented all the experiments that have compiled his thesis and all the results and conclusions... I was flashing back to weeks when James was spending every other night in the lab running those experiments, days when he was frustrated that something had gone wrong and had to be redone, late nights he spent analyzing results or writing papers or preparing presentations. I know it has been a tremendous amount of work and stress for him and I am just so so proud of him for all of it! At the end of the presentation he thanked the organizations that provided funding for his work, he thanked his advisor and the defense committee, he thanked his lab mates, and he was kind enough to thank me which was very sweet.

The oral defense was closed to only James and the defense committee so Calvin and I waited in the hall with James' lab mates. I was so nervous for him!! An hour or so later the committee members started filing out with smiles on their faces. They told me that James did great. They told Calvin he should be proud of his dad :)

We popped the corks on champagne and fancy beer (and even some of James' own homebrew!) and toasted his success right there in the hallway. Then his advisor took us all out to dinner at a brewpub where we also watched Stanford beat UCLA! Again!

Of course James got lots of messages of congratulations from friends and family. The funny thing was that some people's messages sounded like they assumed James was going to go out and party and get wasted celebrating! We laughed about this as we were on our way home at like 10pm with a sleeping baby in tow! I mean, not only did we have Calvin with us, but James was EXHAUSTED. It had been a totally grueling month for him, especially the two weeks leading up to the defense.

Whew! Completing that thesis defense has been a long time coming and I know James is so relieved to have it behind him. The next day he slept in, then spent the rest of the day watching football in his pajamas and playing with Calvin! Unfortunately, the work is not 100% done. His reading committe is still reviewing his thesis and giving him revisions to make. It will be maybe a couple more weeks of this before it's all said and done. Because the quarter ends next week, James' degree will not officially be conferred until the end of winter quarter in March. But he is still set to start work as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford in January in the same lab where he has been doing his graduate research.

So YAY JAMES!!! The hardest parts are now behind him and he's just polishing up that thesis! We'll have to have a big big party once that sucker is printed, bound and completely finished :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Come Home, Lucas

Our cat has run away!

Actually, he ran away twice within a week, but this time he hasn't turned up.

The first time we noticed him missing was the weekend before Thanksgiving. I had last seen him Friday afternoon in the upstairs window as I was leaving to go to the store. When I hadn't seen him Friday night or Saturday during the day, I figured he was just still hanging out upstairs. But when I'd still seen no sign of him by Saturday night I got worried and started searching the house. James and Hartley (my cousin who lives upstairs) searched the house too. On rare occasions, Lucas has been known to disappear within the house for 24 hours and then reappear from some undiscovered hiding place so we were all hoping that he was just eluding us.

Still no sign of him on Sunday and it was time to admit that he had gotten out. We think he snuck by my grandmother while she was either on her way into or out of the house. We're pretty sure if it had been me, or James, or Hartley that we would have seen him and been able to stop him.

 I should have called the SPCA that day, but I was kind of in denial so I put it off till Monday, and they ended up calling us first.

A neighbor had found Lucas lying in the street and brought him to our local SPCA. They were able to use his microchip to get our information and contact us. We drove over there immediately.

Poor Lucas was in the SPCA vet clinic. He'd had two grand mal seizures since they'd gotten him the day before.

We had suspected that he'd had seizures before when he was a kitten but they were never officially diagnosed as such. He would have these episodes where he'd drool a lot and be unresponsive, and sometimes he would shake his head in a weird way... then he would snap out of it after a while. It had't happened in a long time. The last time it had been really bad was right after we first adopted him. We had spent that Christmas eve in 2009 at a vet emergency room and the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. We couldn't afford more extensive tests, so we ended up bringing him home fearing the worst. He spent Christmas day looking pathetic and not eating much, but the following day he made a miraculous recovery!

He had more drooling, zoning out episodes that first year, but nothing so dramatic as that Christmas eve. And the episodes seemed to have stopped. We figured it was associated with stress, which would explain why it happened again after he'd gone missing. We think he must have had a seizure out on the street because that would explain him lying in the middle of the road. The SPCA vet said the seizures he had while he was there were clear grand mal seizures complete with the violent shaking. We never saw him do that.

Poor baby, he was sickly and pathetic. He'd lost weight and he was sleepy and limp. He'd been drugged with a sedative to prevent more seizures. We brought him to another vet for blood tests. Again, they couldn't tell what exactly was wrong without further testing which again, we couldn't afford. So just like when he was a kitten, we brought him home fearing the worst.

And Lucas might really have nine lives, because he made another miraculous recovery! After lying around and eating very little for about a day and a half, he started getting up, walking around, using his litter box, eating and drinking water. He had sure scared us, and we were so relieved to see him pull through again!

By last Saturday, he was almost his old self again. He was starting to show us that he wanted to get out of the apartment and venture out in to the rest of the house and he seemed well enough so I let him.

But then he never came back!

He got out again! Seriously, fool me twice shame on me! I feel terrible. I had no idea that he would try to get out again. It must have happened the exact same way as the first time. My grandmother is the only one who left the house and came back that afternoon. She says she didn't see him, but I don't see how else he could have gotten out! He must have gotten past her.

This time I was much quicker to call the SPCA and 24 Pet Watch. Both said they would call if his microchip was scanned again. That was on Sunday. We haven't heard anything. We are still keeping an eye out for him in the neighborhood and I every time I look out a window I hope I will see him.

If Lucas still has 7 lives left, then maybe he is somewhere out there still safe and sound. I like to think that maybe a gang of stray cats (of which there is at least one in our neighborhood) has taken him under their wing and that they go around together finding food and singing songs like in a Disney movie.

That seems reasonable, right? Or maybe a lonely stranger came across him and Lucas was so sweet and friendly that the person took him home and is now taking good care of Lucas as a new-found companion. And they sing songs together too.

Our poor Lu baby! I just still can't believe he got out again after all that drama the first time!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Deep Fried Turkey Day

To anyone reading this blog, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I hope you got to eat some delicious food and spend time with awesome people. I'm very happy to say that we were blessed with good food and good company once again this year.

James pried himself away from his PhD work for the day and we all went over to my cousins' house. It has become a tradition in recent years for James to deep fry the turkey. He learned how to perform this culinary feat from his own dad since fried turkey was a tradition at their house when he was growing up (in fact, James' family Thanksgivings hosted so many people that they would have a fried turkey, a roasted turkey, and a smoked ham... plus all the sides of course and something like 8 different pies!). 

The turkey was delicious! Just perfect. Stuffing, cranberry salad, ham, pumpkin cheesecake... it was a great meal! 

Calvin sat at the table with us and got to taste some turkey! (Taste! Not eat :)

After the meal, Calvin was sleepy so we put him in the Ergo to nap... James was sleepy too!

The next day it was back to the grindstone for James. His PhD defense is scheduled for next Friday (eek!) so he is up to his eyebrows in thesis writing and presentation prepping. But he does have to take some breaks so we managed to squeeze in a couple more Thanksgiving traditions over the next two days.

Friday I used the leftover turkey to make Hot Browns. This is another tradition from James' family and it is such a yummy way to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers! Here's the recipe from it's original source, The Brown Hotel in Louisville. It says it's for two servings, but I found that there was way more than enough Mornay sauce. Next year, I think I'll halve the sauce ingredients. 

Here's one Hot Brown. I burnt the bacon. Oops! 

The Saturday after Thanksgiving is a big day for college football rivalries including our very own GA Tech vs. UGA. This rivalry is quite a hot topic in both of our families. Half of the six kids in James' family went to Tech and the other half went to UGA and the stubborn side-taking has trickled down to our nieces and nephews. One year, the older kids actually convinced the younger ones to switch teams and cheer for their side! As for my family, my grandmother is an alum and a former professor of The University and she and my dad are huge Dawgs fans. I grew up cheering for Georgia and wearing red and black UGA outfits. I learned how to spell "Georgia" by singing the fight song. And while I still enjoy watching the Dawgs beat those wretched Gators, I have become kind of a traitor and changed teams on my dear old dad and grandma. I have fond memories of going to Tech games with James and tailgating with our friends in Atlanta and it's more fun for me to cheer with my husband than against him! So although we are now on the opposite coast (and had to roll out of bed to watch the game at 9 am!), we dressed Calvin in his Tech onesie and cheered for the Jackets. The Dawgs beat them again. It doesn't make me want to switch back teams. Sorry ;)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


We just celebrated Calvin's seven month birthday! Hooray! 

And we're celebrating another milestone for our sweet boy: Calvin is starting to sit up on his own! He hasn't totally mastered this new skill, but his dad and I are still pretty excited that he can do it even for a few seconds! 

See? He stayed there long enough for me to get a picture... but just barely :)

I realize that there are babies much younger than Calvin who have got the sitting thing nailed. His "girlfriend" Autumn, who is 5 months old has been able to do it for weeks. And I have seen other 7 month old babies who can crawl and push themselves up into a seated position all on their own. And this is sometimes hard for me to see as a mother. I'm sure it's not a unique tendency to compare my son to other kids and to want him to be just as advanced and more. But I remind myself that Calvin will do things in his own way and in his own time and it's just my job to keep him in an environment where he can learn and grow safely and happily. And I remind myself that for Calvin, reaching those developmental milestones calls for a little extra celebration.

There were a lot of unexpected things about Calvin that we learned in the first few months of his life. The first in this list was actually discovered at my 20 week ultrasound when the technician typed "2VC" into my ultrasound summary. She also told us Calvin was a girl. We later learned that 2VC meant that my/Calvin's umbilical cord had two blood vessels instead of the usual three. This is sometimes associated with other developmental problems, so they sent us to a second ultrasound. At the second ultrasound they assured us that everything else was fine and that Calvin was not a girl, but in fact a boy! 

After Calvin's very unexpected early and fast entrance into the world, there were the usual new baby things to worry about... breastfeeding, swaddling, jaundice... We were having lots of trouble feeding him so we often had to feed him using something called a Supplementary Nursing System which is basically a bottle with tiny tubes that can be taped to a mother's nipple, or a fingertip to feed the baby extra milk. 

James is "finger feeding" our tiny hungry boy with the SNS.

Then, starting a few days after he was born, Calvin basically had a string of doctor appointments where they kept finding things wrong and then telling us that they would be ok... He had to have an ultrasound to check his kidneys because kidney defects are common in babies that had 2VC, and of course we thought they wouldn't find anything, but sure enough his kidneys were slightly enlarged. His pediatrician found a heart murmur and an inguinal hernia. The cardiologist who checked his heart murmur found something called a diaphragm eventration which is where the diaphragm has some extra fibrous tissue that makes it shaped like a dome instead of a flat plane. We were assured that all these things were minor cases and didn't require surgery - except for the hernia. That had to be repaired so Calvin had surgery for his hernia when he was 4 months old.

But the sheer number of unexpected "issues," however minor, raised a red flag for Calvin's pediatrician. So his doc sent us to yet another specialist. This time, genetics. 

We had done the usual genetic screens while I was pregnant and nothing had come up. We were at very low risk for having a baby with genetic defects given our family histories and age. We were sure that the genetics department wouldn't find anything and it would turn out that all of Calvin's minor problems were just coincidental. 

And then came the most unexpected news of all. A genetic micro-array revealed that Calvin actually has something called 22Q11.21 deletion syndrome. In the past, this has been called DiGeorge Syndrome, Velo Cranio Facial Syndrome, and a number of other syndromes until the development of genetic screening revealed these were all different presentations of the same type of chromosome deletion. Basically, some of the genes from Calvin's 22nd chromosome didn't get copied during his early development in the womb. He went on developing without them. It's something that usually happens spontaneously and it didn't matter that James and I have "normal" genetics.

The genetics doctors went on to explain that this deletion is commonly associated with birth defects including heart and kidney defects and cleft lips or palate. Turns out Calvin was lucky to only have very very mild effects on his heart and kidneys. And with this new information about Calvin's genes they were able to diagnose him with something called a "sub-mucosal cleft" based on his feeding problems. Again, a very mild version of a problem commonly associated with 22Q (The sub-mucosal cleft is why we eventually had to switch to bottle feeding).

There are a wide range of other developmental differences associated with 22Q...  immunological problems, endocrine system problems, feeding problems, delayed speech, and delayed motor development. But the thing is that there is also a very wide spectrum of severity of those problems. We were and are optimistic based on how lucky Calvin was to escape serious birth defects. But we had to see more specialists to be sure. The immunologist told us to be cautious, but gave us the thumbs up. Tests from the endocrinologist came back normal. The cranio-facial team (whose job it was to help us with Calvin's palate) said we'd have to wait and see whether it is something that will need surgery later on. 

As for speech and motor development, those are more "wait and sees." With his genetic deletion, Calvin is expected to be a little behind and to need a little extra help. So when we see him learn new things - babble new sounds, move in new ways, sit up even for just 10 seconds! - it's not just exciting because of the milestones themselves, but because it assures us that our little guy is going to be ok! It relieves just a tiny bit more of the worry. It lets us know that missing those genes isn't going to ruin Calvin's life! It reminds us to be thankful for how well Calvin is doing now, and to be optimistic for his future.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

James' Favorite Sandwich

It's been a big week! President Obama was re-elected, we're sending our thoughts and prayers to those affected by Hurricane Sandy, James is in crunch time as the date for his thesis defense creeps closer, and Calvin turned 7 months old! We're a little late on Calvin's 7 month laundry basket pic because his dad and I had some creative differences to sort out and as a result we need a do-over on the photo shoot. But there was one more event this past week that probably got lost in the shuffle: National Sandwich Day.

What? You forgot National Sandwich Day? I wonder what else you could have been thinking about. We missed it too. But I feel like it is as good an excuse as any to share with you one of my go-to meals for lunch or dinner... our version of a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich!

This is James' favorite sandwich so it is always a hit. Also, it's really easy and involves the crock pot so I have made it for a board game party.

James' Favorite Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

Quantities for the ingredients really depend on how many sandwiches you're making and your taste (how spicy, how much avocado, etc.) so I'm just going to list the foods.

- Chicken breasts
- Frank's Buffalo Wing Sauce
- Avocado
- Cheddar (This is for James' version. I use Blue Cheese in my version below.)
- Sourdough bread (if you are lucky enough to be able to come by real sourdough. Otherwise, any bread you like.)

Put the chicken breasts in a crock pot and pour some Frank's sauce over it. I use about half a cup of sauce over 1 lb of chicken. You just need a little liquid to keep the chicken moist, you can add more at the end for the flavor. Cook the chicken on high for 5 hours or on low for about 8 hours. I usually use frozen chicken, so if yours is thawed, you will need a little less time. Check it from time to time to make sure it isn't drying out. Add more sauce or a little water if needed.

Once the chicken is cooked, shred it with two forks. If it doesn't come apart easily, cook it a bit longer. After shredding the chicken, add more sauce to taste.

Put some shredded, saucy chicken on one slice of bread and lay some slices of cheddar on top of another slice of bread and toast 'em. After toasting, put some slices of avocado on the chicken.

Close them up and enjoy! A side of baked sweet potato fries is a nice addition :)

My version is a little different because I feel that Buffalo chicken should always be paired with blue cheese. Also, this particular time I was going for a low-carb meal. So here's my lunch:

I just put the shredded Buffalo chicken straight on the plate and topped it with blue cheese crumbles and avocado slices. I have also made this as lettuce wraps. Any variation of these ingredients is bound to be yummy. 

So, congrats President Obama, prayers for storm survivors, good luck to James, happy month-birthday to Calvin, and happy belated National Sandwich Day!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hey Food

Bib? Check. High chair? Check. Tiny BPA free dish? Check. BPA free sippy cup with with a tiny bit of filtered water? Check. Tiny baby spoon with the soft thingy over it? Check. Some kind of mushy, lukewarm vegetable? Check.

Since our tiny big boy is almost seven months old, we have ventured into the world of solid foods.

He looks way more excited than he really is about eating real food.

I was super excited about our choice for Calvin's first food: Avocado! A favorite of his dad's and mine, filled with healthy fat, and already smooth enough to not need pureeing! We captured this magical moment on video:

Hmmm... not quite the hit I'd imagined! Silly me, rookie mom, I thought he'd actually swallow some of it! It's a learning experience for both of us. I have started mushing the avocado more and mixing it with some of his formula until it's soupy. I also got him a sippy cup for water which seems to help him swallow the food. Or at least swallow more of it than he spits out. 

I am still pushing the avocado, and he seems to be getting used to it, but we've also given him applesauce (unsweetened, and mixed with formula) and some pureed cauliflower in chicken broth which was the base for a soup I made. 

Here's how Calvin really felt about my cauliflower soup.

We've also tried giving him slices of avocado to taste "Baby-led Weaning" style, but at this point, I think the only way he'll actually swallow any food is if it is mushed to a pulp and liquefied with the familiar taste of his formula. (Or breastmilk, but I have decided to gradually stop pumping so soon it will be just formula.)

Come on, Calvin! Who doesn't like avocado?? 

We want to help this tiny boy grow with some healthy food!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chicken's First Halloween

One early morning, when Calvin was just a teeny newborn, James and I were watching him sleep and listening to his soft snores with sleepy, new-parent wonder. "He's like a little bird," I said, and James laughed because it was true. His snoring was like a bird cooing. "Like a little... chicken!" And that was it because it was perfect. Ever since then, Calvin has been our little chicken. And he still snores like one too.

So Chicken Calvin celebrated his very first Halloween! I put up some little decorations and set up a photo backdrop. I also made his costume myself (in case you couldn't tell by the kitchen glove chicken feet!) with some guidance from Martha Stewart.

Last Friday, we hosted a little costume party with a few friends and their babies. Our attempts to take photos of the kiddos were pretty hysterical. The babies kept falling over, Sagan kept running away, the sheet kept falling down, and Calvin would only tolerate the whole thing with his pacifier in his mouth (mostly hidden by the feathers)! It was right around bedtime, so you can see the chicken falling asleep on the nearest pumpkin! We did manage to get a few pics of all four kiddos, and I would like to title those pictures "A Chicken and a Fire Dog Visit a Pumpkin Patch."

On Actual Halloween, Calvin and I went to visit the school where I used to teach. They were having a costume parade so I got to see my little former students in all their costumed glory. Everyone oohed and aahed over baby Calvin, of course! 

That night, we went to another party at a friend's house with some other parents and kiddos from the mom & baby group I go to. The babies were so adorable in their costumes! Calvin was the only baby boy in the group. It was so great to have friends with babies to spend our Halloween with!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Family Photos

Over the weekend, we got together with some friends of ours and their kids at a Junipero Serra Park to take some family photos. It was hard to get Calvin to look at the camera when his own mama and daddy weren't there to get his attention, but he is a cutie from any angle! We also took some pics of the kiddos all together, and one group shot of all the families. 

Here are the best pics... Enjoy!