Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Learning is the discovery that something is possible"

The title of this post is actually a quote I once read and I thought it really applied to our day at the Don Harrington Discovery Center.

The Discovery Center has over 100 science exhibits, a planetarium, and tons of hands-on opportunities for kids. I have taken the boys there since they were toddlers and it's still one of their favorite places to go.
Cayden's favorite exhibits this year were all in the biology area. He learned about veterinary surgery and used a microscope to study human and animal blood cells.

Braxton learned about the surface tension in bubbles and how circuits work.

My favorite exhibit was the wind delivered big laughs and great photo opportunities (and you know I love those)...who could ask for more than that!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cadillac Ranch

One of the weirdest, must-see attractions in Amarillo is the Cadillac Ranch.

The Cadillac Ranch was built in 1974 by Stanley Marsh, a man three fries short of a happy meal a helium billionaire. Marsh and The Ant Farm, a San Francisco art collective, assembled used Cadillacs representing the "Golden Age" of American automobiles (1949-1963). The ten grafitti-covered cars are half-buried, nose-down, facing west.
We have been to the Cadillac Ranch several times; however, we have never spray painted the cars. Many tourists spray paint the fact, Stanley Marsh encourages it. I bought three cans of spray paint for me and the boys and we got down to business. It is actually a lot of fun (that doesn't make me a delinquent, right?). The boys decided to "tag" the cars with their name and "Fargo, ND".
Here are a few pictures from the adventure. The first is a shot from the road of all 10 cars. The next is a cool shot looking down the row of cars. The last 3 are of the boys painting the cars...and yes that is Braxton on top of the car, trying to find a place where no one had painted (no such luck!)

8 Things I Forgot About Amarillo

The boys and I just returned from a trip to Amarillo. In many ways it seems like yesterday that we still lived there but this trip just reminded me that three years is a long time...time marches on and things change....well maybe things don't change, we do and we forget so much about a time and place that we thought we would remember every detail. I didn't intend to keep a list about Amarillo, it just kind of wrote itself. So, what follows is the top 8 things I forgot about Amarillo.

1. Amarillo is HOT! Not just hot, but devil's spit hot. It was 293 degrees 103 degrees during the day and 90 degrees at night. I will get back to you, but I have a sneaking suspicion North Dakota thermometers don't have a "100" on them!

2. If thunder really is God bowling in Heaven (like my mom told me when I was young) then the Texas Panhandle must host a summer long tournament. The storms there are awesome. Beautiful clouds combine with afternoon heat to form dangerous storms, complete with 60mph straight line winds, hail and tornadoes. Thankfully we saw no tornadoes this trip. Here are pictures of beautiful clouds and their eventual aftermath. The first night we were there hail ripped off most of the leaves on the tree out front of Steve's parents' house. It also made small dents in the fence. The look on the boys' faces were priceless too. When the lightning, thunder and hail started their eyes became as big as saucers...they said later they didn't even realize at first what it was! Now that the blizzards and floods are over we can finally say that North Dakota has the best weather ever!

3. The Texas Panhandle is FLAT. The North Dakotans think they have a corner on that market but they certainly do not. The Texas Panhandle may not be classically beautiful but there is something to be said about a horizon that allows you to really enjoy the skies and make you think you can see the end of the world. All of Amarillo doesn't look like this of course but this was taken just north of the hospital and I think it is a great example.

4. Driving in Amarillo is a study in human psychology. Everyone waves at each other (which I think is really nice, by the way). Whether it be a full hand wave or the "index finger raised off the steering wheel" wave, everyone waves as they pass you. On the other hand, they all stomp on the gas pedal the nanosecond the light turns green, assuming that you will too. I am not sure how there aren't more rear end collisions, at least with out of towners like myself. Drivers also go everywhere at 55mph, even if they only have 5 car lengths to travel. Steve was quick to tell me that I have lived in Fargo too long if this bothers me. It is true that Fargo travels only at 25mph. I was left wondering...did I drive like that? I guess I did.

5. There are way too many cows near Amarillo. There are feed lots all around. If you've never started your day with the smell of cow poop, you've never lived.

6. Racial diversity does exist. Not everyone has blond hair, blue eyes and Skandinavian ancestors.

7. My Thai is still my favorite restaurant of all times. (In case you were wondering I eat chicken fried rice, no tomatoes, extra egg). I ate it at least 3-4 times a week when I was pregnant with Cayden....and he loves it too.

8. Donut Stop is, was, and will always be the BEST donut place in the world. For those of you who think it is Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donuts, come to Amarillo sometime and let me buy you a cup of coffee and a glazed donut!

There is way too much to tell you about our trip at one time. Over the next few days we will share stories and pictures of our trip. Come back and check us out.

Sunday, June 14, 2009





no fair...



and just too cute!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Catching Up

This is surely the longest post I have ever done...its quite like a novel. Make sure you have a few spare minutes, sit back, read and relax...and don't nod off to sleep!
This post may come as a surprise to some of you, and not so much for others. Cayden has had many dreams for his life and I believe that one of them is about to come true. Cayden is about to begin receiving Growth Hormone injections! We know all the pros and cons and feel blessed that he is finally being given this opportunity.
Cayden has always been short and has been very slow to grow. Growth is charted by age on a percentage basis on standardized growth charts. Most traditional charts end at 3%--meaning that at that point there are only 3% of the population shorter than you. About the time Cayden turned 6 he "fell off the chart", meaning he was lower than the 3% mark. He has generally calculated to be at or less than 1%. We thought that that would be enough to qualify for some type of treatment...but that was not to be. Both his endocrinologist in Texas and North Dakota decided to ignore follow him instead. Every 3 to 6 months Cayden was brought into the office and comprehensively measured (by that I mean, they measured overall height and weight, the length of arms and legs, arm name it) and we were sent on our way. In a cruel (or funny) twist of fate, it seemed that Cayden would always have a small growth spurt before his visit. He did not grow AT ALL for 5 months, but would then grow 1/4 to 1/2 inch in the 2 weeks prior to the visit. We were told repeatedly that you never want to do growth hormone deficiency testing when a child is even though the normal growth rate per year is 2.5 inches and we were never remotely close to that, we were always given a pat on the back and told "See you in a few months". It has been frustrating for us but a thousand times more so for Cayden. He has tried valiantly to not let his height bother him on a day to day basis but its become harder of course as he got older.
About two months ago Cayden had another visit with the endocrinologist and we were sure it would end the same way. After measuring him and plotting his numbers the doctor turned from his computer and started to say something. I interrupted him and said "I know, see you in a few months". He chuckled and said "No, we definitely need to do something, and do it now". My eyes got misty and I made him repeat it. He said that Cayden had not grown even a millimeter during the past 16 months, making this the first good opportunity for testing.
Testing sounded easy...go to the lab, get blood drawn, wait for results. Turns out, it isn't so easy!
The test they ordered was a Growth Hormone Deficiency Stimulation Test. Cayden had to be admitted to the hospital for the day (see picture above). They put in an IV line almost immediately and explained the procedure in more detail. They would be giving 2 different stimulant drugs through the IV and would also be drawing blood every 15 minutes through the IV! Because the drugs they were giving would stimulte his overall system, and because they weren't completely sure how his heart would react to the stimulation, he was put into the Pediatric Intensive Care unit for the test. He had been unable to eat or drink anything (including water) for the 12 hours before the test so he was ready to get it over with.
The beginning of the test was a breeze. The first drug introduced was arginine and it was not supposed to have any overt side effects. For this reason, they let him have some ice water and let him order a movie to watch. The picture taken above is from this time span. He looks like he is reclining in a hotel bed...and for the most part it was. The IV was in by now and he couldn't feel anything each time she drew blood. It looked like the day might be easy...that was not the case.
The second drug they gave was insulin (which sounded fairly innocuous, but wasn't). It was then she explained that they needed to get his insulin low enough for his body to approach a "diabetic coma" without actually doing so. She said she had glucose on hand in case we had trouble but she needed his glucose to be 40 or less for the test to work. 15 minutes after giving the insulin his glucose was 19! She said she was "concerned but not worried"....I, on the other hand, was worried! His body began to react to the challenge appropriately but it was a long 2 hours. He began to sweat profusely, became disoriented, and eventually "passed out" from a combination of low glucose and exhaustion. As bad as all of that sounds, our bigger concern was his heart. His blood pressure and pulse rate skyrocketed. It brought back horrible memories of standing next to Cayden in a hospital bed, running my fingers through his hair to calm him, staring at monitors as if they were the actual lifeline, and praying. As his glucose came up the symptoms abated (his pressures and pulse were still elevated a bit when we left but they had him on activity restrictions for the next 24 hours and felt things would return to normal soon...and Thank God, they did).
The blood samples were sent to the Mayo Clinic to be run and the 2 week wait for results was agonizing. The results show a "definitive growth hormone deficiency" to our ears. At least someone had finally tested him and actually found something wrong, something we can fix. We also had to do an MRI to rule out structural abnormalities of the pituitary gland or tumor. We got the results this morning on the MRI and everything was normal.
What happens next is another exercise in frustration. All of his charts and results were faxed to the insurance company and the company that manufactures the type of growth hormone he needs. We need to receive approval from both of them before we can get started. The doctor's office hopes that all of this can be accomplished by the beginning of July...cross your fingers and say a prayer that this is true.
Cayden knows that he has alot to dread and look forward to...he will take daily shots (given by Mom) for up to 4 years....but he also knows that he has many inches in height and immeasurable gains in confidence to look forward to. To those of you who knew nothing of this story I apologize...its been a long road and we hesitated to talk about it much until we were fairly sure of the outcome.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Splashin' Good Time for All

We spent the afternoon at the pool...the indoor pool. It hasn't even reached 70 degrees during the past 2 weeks so we gave up and headed indoors for our water fun. There are several nice outdoor pools to choose from here and I know that someday we might get to try them!
It has been awhile since the boys have been swimming so I wasn't sure how it would turn out. Braxton had a few swimming lessons this spring through school but I wasn't sure how much they had helped him to feel more comfortable. I shouldn't have worried of course.
Braxton is always fearless but Cayden has always been a stronger swimmer. They both ran immediately to the diving boards. Not only did they jump from the highest board, but they quickly began to challenge each other to do tricks off the board. (I occasionally had to look the other way but I did manage to refrain from discouraging their "enthusiasm")
The pool's policy was "No Cameras Allowed" so I have no exciting pictures to share. I had to take the picture shown above outside the building.
By the way...I don't remember indoor pools being extremely loud, hot and humid. Maybe things just look rosier as time passes!

Friday, June 5, 2009

The best news I have heard in a long time

Here is a much younger Cayden. I came across this picture this evening and was reminded of a time when things were so much more uncertain for Cayden, a time when everyday was filled with worries...and joy of course. I feel so grateful that most of our days now are filled with fewer worries and even more joy.

Today was Cayden's annual visit to the Pediatric Cardiologist and I really wasn't worried about what we would hear...until I checked in at the front desk and the weight of all those worries from the past hit me like a brick. I don't mean to borrow trouble but I generally do. We were told to expect them to do an EKG and maybe an echocardiogram (they generally do them each visit). A new Cardiologist walked through the door, a man Cayden and I both felt instantly comfortable with. He was an older gentleman who peppered our exam time with stories of the first VSD (Ventricular Septal Defect) surgeries and how things have changed since then. He told us of the first 50 year study done on VSD patients and how the results show that the life expectancy is now the same for VSD patients as the general public! He told us that the first surgeries done used parents as heart-lung "machines"....the blood supply was shared between parent and child, with the parent essentially keeping the child alive during surgery.

He also told us a bit more about the Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon from Children's Medical Center in Dallas that peformed Cayden's surgery....they had worked together in Minnesota many years ago. Small world! He told me that his surgeon was one of the finest men and most gifted surgeons he had ever met. I told him that our family had always felt blessed that he had done the surgery...but that it was nice to hear such nice things about him.

He listened intently to Cayden's heart for several (nerve wracking for Mom) minutes and then smiled. He said he heard NO MURMUR at all and did not even feel the need to do the EKG or echocardiogram! In fact, he said Cayden didn't need to be seen again until his senior year of high school!! He said Cayden no longer needed to receive antibiotics before dental or oral procedures (although it doesn't really matter since this is still required due to his shunt) and lifted all activity restrictions previously advised due to decreased heart function.

I know God loves us and wants everything for us...but today I was just overwhelmed and amazed at what he has done in Cayden's life!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fire and Ice

Our family (OK, our kids) decided to have a bonfire last night. It is a North Dakota tradition we have embraced. We picked up some firewood (from a neighbor's curb during Clean Up Week!) and the temperature was nice (about 65-70 degrees). We even had calm winds--isn't that actually an oxymoron?? Cayden invited a friend and the three boys scavenged the surrounding area for things that they might be allowed to add to the fire--just to watch them burn, of course. A good night was had by all. It was only when we went back inside that we heard the National Weather Service issue a Frost Warning for overnight!!! Don't they know it's June???
By the was a frosty 35 degrees this morning!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Safety First

For those of you who haven't read the previous post, you might want to do will help explain how and why my tenacious children acquired a safe. They were riding their bikes, looking at the piles of treasure junk at the curbs of our neighbors. They were gone quite awhile. Brax eventually came busting throught the door screaming for help. I took off running, sure someone was in need of a LifeFlight helicopter ride to the hospital. On the way down the street, however, Brax explained that the skateboard wasn't working and they needed me to lift something really heavy (by the way, he wasn't kidding!!....that thing weighed as much as my car...ok, not really, but it seemed like it at the time). They had worked and worked, pushing with their own strength, loaded it on the skateboard and made it a full block. Unfortunately, they ran out of steam about the time it fell off the skateboard and landed in the middle of the street--with another full block to go. SuperMom was supposed to single handedly save the day....NOT! We did manage to find Steve's dolly, load it on there and muscle it home. It was only then that I thought to ask them "What in the heck do you plan to do with this?" They had heard a rattling sound inside when they first moved it and they were convinced it held some type of treasure. They tried pliers, hammers and even a bat. Brax was convinced banging on the dial was the way to go, Cayden chose the handle. They were neither safe nor effective. In the end, it took Daddy and his idea to use a crowbar before they were able to gain entry. The treasure?? A marble! Oh well, at least they found all this out in time for us to put the safe on our curb for pick up time this morning.