Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Baby's first ER visit

Last night Megan and I took Kate to her first - of few, we hope - visit to the emergency room. Let me say first that she is fine, don't worry. When changing Kate's diaper last night Megan found what looked like blood in her urine. Switching into protective mother mode, Megan called the after-hours nurse hotline, who, after asking a series of questions including what Kate had to eat that day, advised us to take her to the St. Louis Children's Hospital and to ask for a special section called CARES, where they would be waiting for us. In this case, the nurse's attentiveness actually scared Megan, who feared it meant we were dealing with something serious.

Luckily, Jenny was available to take Clara, and when we arrived at the emergency room, we were escorted to a separate section of the hospital. Megan asked what CARES stood for but the nurse hesitated when answering - it was then that I realized how frightened Megan was. "Do you not want to tell me?" she asked the nurse. The giant sign that said "Radiology" just added to our fear. But he wasn't hesitating out of respect for the gravity of the situation; he really didn't know what it stood for. Several people working in the CARES section didn't know either, but we were reassured when it turned out to be just a separate emergency room for children whose doctors called ahead - kind of a way to bypass the regular crowded emergency room. It's called the Center for After-hours Referral Emergency Services (although the best guess we got from a nurse there was Children's Ambulatory Referral Emergency Services). If anyone in St. Louis has to take a child to the emergency room for any reason, I suggest calling your doctor and getting into CARES - it probably saved us hours.

The doctor reassured us that there was no reason to worry, that they'd check her urine for sign for blood and then move on from there. Often, she said, discolored urine is unexplained, but if no blood is present there's no danger. Poor Kate weathered the visit like a champ, mostly smiling and making sweet noises at anyone who passed us - the doctor said they weren't used to a visiting child who was so happy. But two hours after her usual bedtime, Kate turned into a lunatic. When she wasn't desperately trying to get anywhere but where she was or wailing at the injustice of it all, she was belly laughing at nothing. At first I was playing peek-a-boo with her, which she found quite pleasing, but then she began laughing at nothing and didn't stop. Now I know I'm funny. Correction, I'm hilarious (to my children.) But I wasn't doing anything!

Finally the doctor returned with the good news that they didn't find any blood and we could take her home. Kate fell asleep in Megan's arms and as I got the car I saw a dad pull up with his high school age son, still fully dressed in his football uniform. His ankle was wrapped and he had to be helped out of his car. I couldn't help but flash back to when I paid a similar visit to an emergency room in Sacramento with a broken arm after a high school football game. It just highlighted the fact that while this night was a false alarm, one or both of the girls will probably be back to the emergency room at some time in their lives.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Montana Man Spa

Several years ago Megan's father Tony and I decided to learn how to fly fish, taking lessons from a local fly fishing outfitter. We honed our skills in the trout streams of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, often with Tony's colleague (and frequent poster on this blog) Ron Shane. Last week, the three of us traveled to the Mecca of American fishing, Montana. Clara and Kate stayed with Susan, and while I would say they were spoiled silly by their Nana, it would be more accurate to say that Tony, Ron, and I were spoiled silly by the people who took care of us in Montana.

Understand that I would have been happy with just a few days without Desitin and The Wonder Pets. What I got was a few days in the ultimate man's spa. After arriving in Missoula, we were taken to the Blue Damsel Lodge along Rock Creek, a world famous trout stream. The lodge was a beautiful log house crafted with an artist's eye for details large and small. Keith, our host, made sure everything we would need was available to us and Josh, the chef, crafted gourmet breakfasts and dinners that kept us glued to the giant oak dining room table the majority of the time we were in the lodge. Keith's voice was so similar to Sam Elliot's that I asked him to call me "The Dude" during my stay (from "The Big Lebowski.")

Our days were spent floating on some of the most scenic rivers in the country. We were shuttled into town each morning to meet up with our guides from the Grizzly Hackle fly outfitters, who then took us to one of the many rivers around Missoula. We spent three days total on the rivers. The first two days we spent on the Clark Fork River and the last on the Bitterroot. During that time, with the help of three different guides, my skill improved enough that I was finally getting some confidence. I worked primarily on my casting on the first day, often against terrible wind, and worked on presenting my fly in way that would attract some fish. I caught enough fish to keep me happy. On the second day I had no problem hooking fish, but I struggled bringing them all the way into the boat. I think I set a record for number of fish lost on the line and was getting a bit frustrated. On the third day I put it all together and although it was raining a very cold drizzle all day, I had my best day fishing yet.

Each night we were greeted by amazing smells from the kitchen, a variety of appetizers, and growlers of beer from the local breweries. Conversation was, of course, about the day's fishing and the ones that got away (which were, naturally, unnaturally large fish.) I had a few stories to tell after the last day of fishing: I had two trout on one line; I caught four nice sized rainbows on four successive casts; I had one trout shake itself off of one fly only to be hooked by the dropper fly; and I actually lassoed a fish - you'll have to ask me about it some time (the guide called me a true Montana cowboy.) After a couple of hours of eating and telling stories, those not pouring themselves into bed enjoyed cocktails and cigars on the porch with the giant St. Bernard Zoe.

This really is how beautiful the streams were, though I spent so much time watching for any sign of a trout that I didn't spend much time looking around me. Each day we saw bald eagles and a variety of wildlife, including a waterlogged mink who ran along the shore following us for a bit.

If you have any plans to visit Montana, I highly recommend the Blue Damsel Lodge and Grizzly Hackle outfitters:



Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sing along with Dad

Many find the thought of a stay-at-home dad funny because they imagine a burly manly man doing all the traditionally feminine tasks a caregiver must do every day. In movies and television, you don’t often see men rocking a baby to sleep or comforting a crying toddler, and when they do their discomfort is the punchline. And let’s face it, the image of a man carrying a diaper an arm’s length in front of him while pinching his nose is funny. But there is one part of my job that I would not want video cameras to record for posterity: my singing.

Any caregiver knows that you can say, “stop that, sit still for a second, calm down, oh please stop, this will only take a second…” and it will accomplish very little. But if you start singing, the child will stop and stare, if not join in your singing. Singing is the only way I can get both of the girls changed or Kate to calm down long enough to close her eyes to fall asleep. The only problem is I’m a terrible singer. As of yet, the girls haven’t figured that out, though Kate sometimes grabs my lips and pulls on them, which I won’t take as criticism until she’s four or five.

I’m not sure if this is unique to me or if others have experienced this difficulty, but whenever it comes time to sing a song, I can’t think of a single one to sing. I have shelves of CDs and thousands of songs on my IPod, yet none come to mind – none appropriate that is. So what do I do? I make the song up.

Now there are some rules to making up your own song: The tune should match a familiar song, and every line has to be repeated at least once. The words should match what’s going on at the time. For instance, here’s a song I sang to Kate while changing her diaper (to the tune of Frere Jacques):

Kate is stinky

Kate is stinky

Yes she is

Yes she is

Daddy needs a gas mask

Because the smell is awful

But there’s none

But there’s none

I also have a special song for when Clara’s fussy called “A Temper Tantrum” set to the tune of La Cucaracha. I’d write the lyrics but they change every time based on what she’s doing. If the tantrum isn’t too serious, she’ll forget her problems and laugh at her ridiculous father. Really, what pride do I have left?

While writing this I thought of a song I used to sing to baby Clara when she cried. The Power of Two by The Indigo Girls:

So we’re OK

We’re fine

Baby I’m here to stop your crying

Chase all the ghosts from your head

I’m stronger than the monster beneath your bed

Smarter than the tricks played on your heart

We’ll look at them together and we’ll take them apart

Adding up the total of a love that’s true

Multiply life by the power of two