Monday, February 27, 2012

Look who is 4!

Our darling Stephanie is four years old today!
We celebrated in advance on Saturday morning at the river with her favourite friends, Callum and Frances and their older siblings Zoe and Lydia. Stephanie continues to be wild and wonderful in our family and extremely shy and reserved around others. Even the two families we invited seemed to overwhelm her, and she spent much of the morning at home trying to convince us that she didn't want a party after all. Luckily, these friends and their moms understand her well and the party time itself was very low-key and simple. Everyone had a great time!

One of the best parts of birthdays in our house is the abundance of CAKE. For her birthday party, Stephanie wanted lemon cake (which was recently enjoyed at a friend's party, thus the desire) with lemon glaze. Huge hit! But the party being separate from the birthday day means that more cake will be enjoyed very soon.

Instead of party bags full of junk and candy, we gave the kids beautiful pinwheels. Markus organised a treasure hunt to find them. The kids had to use clues to find 4 envelopes. Inside each envelope was a puzzle piece of a picture Markus had printed out of the back of my car (where the pinwheels were hidden). The kids loved it!

The pinwheels spin so quickly in the wind that Stephanie said we don't need an air-conditioner anymore because she can make air-conditioning for us. She called the pinwheels "air-conditioners" for the rest of the day. Now, she's absorbed that this is not the right name, so she calls them "nice sticks," as in, "Mama, where is my nice stick?"

Callum gave Stephanie a pink cat swim cap, which she absolutely loves. The look is hilarious.

This morning, we celebrated in our family's traditional way: decorations and presents waiting at the table, coffee cake so the birthday song and candles can be enjoyed first thing.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl! We are so blessed and lucky (and thankful!) to have you in our family!

Friday, February 24, 2012

An Ellie health update

Our sweet Ellie has had a nighttime cough for nearly 3 months now. She seems fine during the day, shows no other symptoms, but she has an awful cough at night, both at bedtime when she's dropping off and not infrequently during her sleep as well. It's been a real worry for me. Although I know she's all right, her cough will wake me too and I lay in bed, listening and concerned. We tried everything we could think of: Vicks, a humidifier, elevating her pillow, more frequent intensive cleaning in her room for dust... The GP just loves antibiotics and put her on course after course for nearly a month until I finally put a stop to it. Weeks passed without treatment, and she didn't get worse...or better. Internet research pointed again and again to asthma, but the doctor wouldn't hear of it. Finally, I took her to a GP friend of a friend who is not so antibiotic-crazed and more open to listening. She admitted asthma was a possibility but said it was very hard to diagnose in children because the test are very effort-dependent. She felt that it was sinusitis and Ellie needed a steroid nasal spray to open her eustacian tubes. That didn't help either. While I was away, the cough got a lot worse and the original GP diagnosed bronchitis and more antibiotics and ran blood tests. The friend GP gave us a referral back to the ENT who saw Ellie for ear infections over a year ago, and he saw us this week.

He sat us down, asked about why we were there, and without a moment's pause, he declared it asthma. He said anyone who says postnasal drip causes a cough for several weeks was out of date and misinformed, especially when it doesn't respond to any of the treatments the GP had prescribed. He declared it was asthma brought on by allergies. Then, he paused long enough to look at the blood test results the GP had forwarded (we hadn't seen them yet) and smacked his knees in confirmation. Asthma from allergies to dust mites, grasses and cats. He said cases like hers were most often brought on by genetic predisposition to allergy and it's not necessarily the case that exposure to the allergens triggered the response. He said the asthma was always something that was going to happen, whether she was 1 or 90, so we could just be happy it didn't come on earlier. He also said that's where his advice ended, because he referred us to a paediatric respiratory specialist, who will see us next week.

Hello there!

Did you know I went to New Orleans last week? I haven't blogged about it here, but it's on my public blog. Being back here again, I can hardly believe it happened. On February 10, I flew from Perth to Gulfport, Mississippi. Qantas has a direct route to Dallas now, which cut a few hours off each way. Even so, my total trip was close to 60 hours round-trip, door-to-door, in 10 days. Crazy? Definitely. Worth it? Absolutely!

I am a happy member of the Krewe of Muses in New Orleans, a group that might just be the best Mardi Gras krewe ever (not that I'm biased). I rode in the parade back in 2007 and had an amazing time. Since then, Muses has become so popular and overwhelmed that they have had to close membership, making my part in it feel even more exclusive and prized. There are so many members that they aren't sure when/if everyone will get a chance to ride. As much as I've missed the wonderful women I ride with (my float sticks together every year and they've included me in all their goings-on over time), I was starting to get nervous that Muses would realise that I never ride and perhaps someone else deserves my spot. Off I went!

I'm so happy I did! This year's ride was absolutely incredible. The crowds were insane! The enthusiasm was over-the-top! And the women I ride with are just plain fun. They are thoughtful, good people who know how to have a great time. I'm so lucky I landed on that float in my first year. Just being in New Orleans again made my heart glad. I couldn't stop smiling as I drove the familiar streets, stopped in familiar places and visited with old friends. The time in Mississippi was great, too. I needed to check in on our house. I wanted to visit with Grandmary. I took the opportunity to catch up with a few old friends. The trip was fantastic!

Being back here again seems very strange. I just had such an incredible experience, but it is so foreign to everyone here. They have no idea what I'm talking about when I try to answer their polite questions about my trip. Being there felt so right on so many levels that being here almost feels wrong. It's like I left "home" to come back to my family, but my family is all that is "home" about here. After over three years in a place (a significant length of time with my nomadic track record), that's a surprising feeling.