Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dana at the ENT...Again...

I just wanted to fill you all in on Dana's trip to the ear, nose and throat specialist today. First, a quick background for anyone who doesn't know what I am talking about.

When Dana was at her 3-year check-up, she failed her hearing test. It wasn't that "raise your hand" test-it's the one they give newborns. So she went back a few weeks later to be retested and she failed again. Then they scheduled her with the ENT. He said she was full of fluid. The audiologist got a flat line on the tympanogram, which meant her eardrum wasn't vibrating at all, meaning she wasn't hearing. So he scheduled us for 3 weeks later for yet another test. And again she failed. And again he got the flat line. So he decided to put tubes in her ears, though she had only ever had one infection, way back when she was 2. So in July Dana got tubes put in, and the ENT said he scraped gunk out of her ears that was like rubber cement. Her speech improved dramatically, right away, so we thought all was well. So then last month she went for her 4-year exam and she passed in her right ear and failed in her left ear. So, with her whole history, the pediatrician scheduled her for the ENT again. Which brings us to today.

We learned 3 important things today. First, the right tube has dislodged and is trapped in her ear canal. It isn't blocking her eardrum, but it needs to come out. He tried to get it out with a tool that looked like a very long needle, but it is trapped by wax. Second, the left tube is blocked. Third, the audiologist did more tympanograms and then put her in a sound-proof booth for more tests, and she has no hearing loss! None! It's just those crazy tubes.

She has drops to use for the next few weeks, which will loosen up the tubes so they fall out. He wants them to fall out. That is the goal here.

The audiologist is sending her test info to a speech clinic, and they will call us so she can start speech therapy. The fact of the matter is, strangers should understand her 100% of the time, and I would say Kevin and I understand her about 80% of the time. Nobody should EVER have to ask her to repeat things, yet it happens constantly. Think about it though: that one and only ear infection happened right after she turned 2. The fluid never drained-it just condensed and eventually made her unable to really hear. So for about 15 months, during the time toddlers experience the most growth in their speech, she couldn't really hear. It was like she was under water. And that is how she speaks: it sounds muffled, not crisp, as if she is under water. Because she is speaking things the way she was hearing them. It still kills me that we didn't realize she wasn't hearing. Teacher Sarah at ECFE says she has heard of this happening to other families, too, and that parents don't realize the non-verbal cues they use to communicate, and that Dana relied on those other cues and got along pretty well. And I can see that, but I still feel awful.

Also, she speaks VERY LOUDLY. I am crossing my fingers that once her hearing is completely normal, she will tone things down.

It was a lot of great news today. We are so relieve she won't need another surgery, and SO, SO, SO relieved that she has no hearing loss. Yay for Dana!

Spooky Tricks

So Nora found an old book of Kevin's when we were at Grandma and Grandpa's house a couple of weeks ago. It's called something like "Spooky Tricks" and Nora loves it!

Here is her most favorite trick:

"Look at this box! I got you a wonderful present!"

I am not sure you can even see inside the box, but it's a FINGER! SCARY!

She loves to take a moment after the shock wears off to show her "mark" the hole in the bottom of the box, through which she pokes her own finger! Hahahaha!

My favorite part of this trick is that she likes to show it to us over and over again, and we are supposed to be frightened and shocked every single time we find a finger inside. Plus I am the one who cut the hole in the box for her. Yet still I am expected to be surprised by what I find inside. Oh, please don't grow out of this, little Nora!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Keenan Cutting a Rug

On Saturday we attended the much-anticipated wedding of my good friend Tara and her fiance Dan.

I have to say, it was a lovely affair. And I am going to tell you upfront that Nora had my (Kevin's) camera for the first part of the evening, so I didn't get any of the shots I intended to. By the time she returned it, I had forgotten the initial awe and was busy with other things. Also, I don't have any photos of any of the four Ackers, but I am pretty sure my sister does. So I will try to get some from her to post later. I wore a pretty fancy dress. People were shocked to see me in something without stains. It was sort of embarassing.

The highlight for the kids was the candy buffet. That's right: an all-you-can-eat candy buffet! There was a banquet table with about eight different kinds of candy in canisters, complete with silver scoops. And Tara's sister folded the most beautiful origami boxes out of black, white and red paper so people could transport their treats home. Or else to their tables. Maybe both. The kids were in heaven, from selecting the prettiest box to filling it with gummy bears, malted milk balls, M&Ms and all sorts of other treats. I really wish I would have taken a photo of that. And of the cupcakes. Can you even believe I forgot to take a photo of the tiers and tiers of cupcakes? They were amazing-most were white cake with raspberry, lemon or vanilla buttercream, but there were also carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Kevin told me he heard someone say they were the best cupcakes he had ever tasted. I suggested Kevin do right by me and set him straight on who makes the best cupcakes (hypothetically, ME!), but they really were delicious. Plus, I am not sure this man had ever tasted one of my cupcakes before, so it's hard to punish him for that.

Grandma Bev picked the girls up from the wedding just after 7pm so Kevin and I could stay as late as we wanted. It was good timing, because they were so wound up from the excitement and the candy buffet! They left before the dance started, which is sort of unfortunate, but they were so ready to go.

Luckily, my nephew stayed much later, and WOW can that kid dance! It totally cracks me up! His brother, Zak, was exactly like this at weddings when he was little, too-dancing up a storm, not a care in the world. I tried a hundred times to catch Keenan on film, and these are, sadly, my two best tries.

The first one starts with him break dancing and then shows some of his other moves. The second one shows him from behind, doing the Robot. At one point, he ran back to our table for a drink of water and some gummy bears and he said to me, "Boy-time really flies when you're dancin'!" Also, earlier in the evening, another little boy came up to Keenan and said, "Hey! Let's go find some chicks to dance with." So apparently 4 year old girls are chicks nowadays.

This just kills me! About five minutes after I took the second video, I looked out on the dance floor and there was Alyx, my sister, holding Keenan and dancing to a slow song. And his eyes were closed! He danced and danced for almost 3 hours straight and then he just crashed.

They camped him out on a bench at the back of the room and he slept for another 45 minutes or so, until they carried him out to the car to go home. I remember when my girls were babies and they would fall asleep in the midst of chaos, but Keenan will be 8 in June! I can't believe he could tune out the very loud music enough to sleep. Then again, I didn't dance my heart out all night long like he did. So cute!

Happy Birthday, Kevin and Grandma Bev!

April 19 is a day of celebration around here as it is both Kevin's and Bev's birthday! Isn't it cool that Kevin shares a birthday with his mom? (Even stranger, I share a birthday with Bev's mom, and Kevin's brother David shared a birthday with my Grandma Emma. And my dad and Grandpa Adonis shared a birthday, too. Are we codependent or something?)

Nora took this photo of the birthday kids. Not bad camera work!

Nora and Dana made birthday crowns for Kevin and Bev, and party crowns for the rest of us. They even have our names written on them! Handmade personalized party hats-awesome!

Did I mention somewhere that Jan and Ross invited us over for a birthday barbecue today? It was amazing-Ross has a way with that grill. My job was to bring cake. Kevin requested white cupcakes with buttercream frosting: plain but delicious. Blue is his favorite color. Not powder blue, but it was the best I could do.

Bev and I both love Bridgeman's Raspberry Fudge Torte ice cream, so when she said she wanted chocolate birthday cake, I knew this was the cake for her. I myself was a little diasppointed with the cake itself and will work on a better chocolate cake . However, the chocolate orange ganache and the raspberry cream on top were both divine. If I do say so...

Jan set up a tea party for Nora and Dana in front of the fireplace. How cool is that? She set out tiny teacups and saucers and a pot of hot cocoa. I believe they drank THREE pots!

Nora took this shot of dinner from the balcony upstairs.

I couldn't capture every piece of the fun on camera. Jan and Ross threw a fantastic bash for our blondes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Friday Fun

We often spend Friday mornings playing with our friends. Last Friday, we met at Playfront Park, which was lots of fun. I rarely take the girls there because there are so many nooks and crannies, and so many tall things, that is is hard to keep tabs on them. Particularly when they go in different directions.

Here, Ayla, Nora and Dana spin on the tire swing. For some reason, they all prefer to be pushed by Tara, not me. Not that I am complaining or anything.

I really love this photo of Miles. He reminds me of a turtle hiding in its shell.

No trip to the playground would be complete without some upside down time.

After we were done at Playfront, we had lunch and headed out to our friend Claudia's farm. She and her husband, Bob, raise cattle. While Claudia and I visited and caught up, Bob pushed the girls on the swings, took them on a ride in the trailer behind the lawn tractor, let them jump on some hay trailers, brought them in the barn to introduce them to the calves, invited the mamas in and let the girls feed them all, brought them on another ride, and on and on. They visited with the gigantic dog, Jill, who I believe is a Great Dane and is as tall as Dana, and the kitty, Katze. I could go on and on about the fun they had, but don't Nora's pants say it all? They can hardly wait to go back to go on a real tractor ride.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter 2009

Here are a few Easter photos.

A week before Easter, Nora "reminded" us that we "...always sleep at Grandma's house the night before Easter." Oddly, none of the grownups remember this tradition, but Nora was so convincing that we did pack our overnight bags. Easter is her all-time favorite holiday and I wasn't about to poke holes in her fun.

Speaking of fun, Nora got up at 6:30am, and Dana and I got up a bit after 7am. Normally, I have to haul Nora out of bed after 8:00, so this was interesting. Though typical of kids and holidays, I think.

Anyhow, they found TWO baskets each and the went on a lengthy Easter egg hunt. The Bunny hid 3 dozen plastic eggs filled with goodies all around Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Around noon, Grandma's Bev's cousin Jan came over to dye eggs with us. I think it took about an hour to dye 2 dozen eggs. And to eat a few...

Jan brought a roll of masking tape and cut out shapes (polka dots, grass, etc.) to stick to the white eggs. She helped the girls put on the shapes, dye the eggs one color, peel off the tape, and re-dip them so the main egg was one color and the pattern was another color. It was incredibly cool and so fun! She also did some fancy calligraphy, which the girls loved!

Jan brought a loaf of no-knead bread and even brought the recipe. I am going to start a loaf after I convince Dana to get out of the tub. It has been almost 2 hours and there she sits, wrinkling away. Anyhow, I will let you know how the bread goes. She fancied hers all up with some herbs, flax meal, rye flour, and whole wheat pastry flour. I haven't decided what to do with mine yet.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Yarn Eggs

I know I did this as a kid, but I forgot about it until Nora's Brownie leader mentioned something about needing liquid starch.

This was probably the messiest project we have ever done. Or, at least, the most time consuming to clean up. But it was fun, and the girls want to make more tomorrow.

We took tiny balloons (I bought water balloons, which can be up to 3" in diameter) and set them on a little piece of wax paper. Then I poured a bunch of plain white glue onto a paper plate and cut each of us a piece of crochet yarn about two yards long. We sort of crumpled the yarn up and covered it in glue, and then wrapped it around and around and around the balloons. When we were satisfied with how they looked, we set them on the wax paper to dry overnight. In the morning, we popped the balloons and pulled them out. And this is what was left. The girls loved the strange crackly sounds the balloons made as they pulled away from the glue and yarn.

It took many strands of yarn to get this effect. It took almost a whole bottle of glue to make 3 eggs. Still-so fun! The messy part was when the glue on our fingers started to dry and became very tacky. Each time I cut a length of yarn for someone, that someone had to peel it off of my fingers. And then we all started peeling glue off of our hands. It looked like our hands were peeling after an ugly sunburn. When we were finally done, it took me five minutes per hand, armed with a washcloth, to scrub the glue off. So five minutes times six hands: that's a long time! I read somewhere you can use sugar water instead, and that sounds less messy, so we may give it a try tomorrow. Oh, and as I alluded in the intro, I think you can use liquid starch, too. So many options!

More Spring Break Fun

With the weather warming up and the warm sun shining down, we have spent a lot of time outside this week.

This is probably the favorite activity: riding bikes around the garage. Sometimes they set up obstacle courses. Sometimes they go in opposite directions. Sometimes they prefer the garage doors closed. The fun never ends! They usually have helmets on. Don't you love the parkas? And Dana's fancy dress?

When they aren't in the garage, they are often inside coloring. Here, they work on a cooperative project. Dana drew most of a dinosaur, and Nora finished it and colored it in.

Nora enjoys using Daddy's camera to snap photos. I deleted about 50 photos of the floor and the cover of Nora's new favorite movie (more on that later). She took this one of Dana, which is pretty great, considering she has no idea how to focus.

And can you believe this self portrait? I love that you can see the freckles on her nose and all of her baby teeth. I know those will start to get loose any day now.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Break

Nora has been home on spring break this week. It has been awesome to have her home every day. I miss her when she is at school.

I really love when she lets me hold her hand.


Dana got a gift card for her birthday, which is always a wonderful surprise. Both girls really love to select something for themselves, and they take such care! We spent a long time going up and down the toy aisles at Target, and nothing was really sparking her interest. Finally, I suggested we go look in the garden section, only because I wanted to see what they had and I was bored of the toys. And you know what? She spied some kids gardening things and she was sold. Just like that. She picked a watering can, a spade, and one of those tiny rakes. They are all pink, and all lovely. She was absolutely thrilled with her selections! So we continued on the theme and picked out four or five packets of seeds. Then we headed to Home Depot to grab soil and one of those seed starter things.

And even though this was Dana's gift, she was happy to share with Nora. You can see Nora using the watering can (which is actually green with pink and yellow flowers-sorry) on the overflow. We ran out of room in the seed starter, which holds 50 seedlings, and had to raid the recycling for containers.

Here they all are, just waiting to grow. We planted morning glories, tomatoes and cucumbers. We also bought mammoth sunflowers, but we ran out of space. Completely. So we will sow those directly in the ground in a month. Or else two months. You know how the weather is up here...

Ta-da! Only a few days later (I think five) the morning glories and the cucumbers were well on their ways. We're still waiting on the tomatoes, but we think maybe it takes baby tomatoes longer to wake up.

We are looking forward to a fantastic vegetable garden this summer.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dana's Birthday Party, the sequel

Here are a few photos from Dana's birthday party, the one where her cousins came over. I am certain that the quantity of birthday and half birthday parties we manage to celebrate is losing its luster for most of you, and I had no intention of posting even more birthday party photos. But remember that dress I made for Nora? Me and it have a date with the seam ripper right now, and I am stalling because I don't want to go. The wedding I made it for is in two weeks, and in case I mess it up again, I need to get to work on it. So here I am posting party photos instead. Enjoy!

Here we have Nora, Josie (in the stripes), Dana, Keenan (yellow shirt), and Brooke (blondie in the brown dress). They are enjoying the Very Hungry Caterpillar cake I made the day before. Not pictured are Ayla, Adrea, Taylor and a collection of grown ups.

Dana shows off some new jewels. See those stars in her ears? She got her ears pierced on June 1 after Nora begged for close to a year. When we went to get Nora's done, Dana started to cry and said, "But what about me?" And so, after a long discussion about what it would entail, she got her ears pierced. And here she is, 10 months later, showing off after changing her earrings for the very first time. They were a gift from Taylor, Uncle Sam and Aunt Lizzie. (Taylor is Sam and Lizzie's niece.) The necklace was also a birthday gift. She is so decked out now, and so proud of it. Nora even gave her an "extra" jewelry box to store all of her new things in.

When my mom asked Dana what she wanted for her birthday, she asked for a gold ring to wear on her pinkie, which is about 3mm in diameter. My mom searched high and low and found nothing. I assured her Dana would forget. And, as usual, I was wrong. For an entire month before her birthday, when anyone asked what she wanted, she would tell them, "Grandma Inese is getting me a gold ring!" I mentioned this at Sunday dinner a couple weeks ago, and both Lizzie and Jenni (my cousin Jeremy's wife and also my neighbor and friend) found itsy bitsy rings for her! She was thrilled-and she still is. Here you can see Lizzie helping her put one of them on.

Keenan (and Zak, Auntie Alex and Uncle Kevin) got Dana a really cute stuffed Yorkshire terrier that uses batteries to do fun things like bark, whine and snore. It really is cute though. It came in a teeny tiny puppy purse. Even better, Ayla and her mama Tara got her the exact same puppy in a different purse! I tell ya-she is so excited to have TWO puppies! She named them Princess and Sparkles. She loves them both so much. Here you can see her giving Keenan a dramatic hug.

Zak attack! Long ago, we nicknamed Zak "The Baby Whisperer." He truly has a way with little ones. Here, we see Taylor (floral shirt with green shrug), Keenan, Adrea (pink dress), Dana and Brooke piling onto him for a little wrestling. I can't imagine there are many 17 year-old boys who would encourage this. I just have to say that if my girls grow up to be half as kind, caring, generous, intelligent and responsible as Zak, I will feel like I did a good job raising them.

And now I am going to get that seam ripper... Wish me luck and patience!

Girls' Night In

Tonight is Girls' Night In at our house. Nora, Dana and Mama are hanging out together.

Here's Nora, taking her turn at Princess Yahtzee. That Disney sure is everywhere!

Dana takes her turn. Do you like her crown? Dana's all time favorite restaurant is Burger King. She will eat an entire BK Veggie Burger and a bottle of milk. I have a feeling she and my grandma, Great Emma, would have been the best of friends. Great Emma also loved Burger King. Also, Dana says "birthday" exactly the same as Great Emma did. It sounds a lot like "burrs day." I smile every time Dana says "birthday." It's like my grandma is saying "hello!" to me.

After two rounds of Yahtzee, we took a break to paint our toenails. Nora selected this fancy blue polish while we waited for a prescription to be filled the other day. I did their fingernails, too, and then I let Nora paint my toenails. They look fantastic!

I am off to tub them. Did you see Dana's chin in the photo above? She somehow got green marker all over it. We need to wash it off before bed. Happy Saturday!