BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sometimes the bear eats you

Someone sent their kid to preschool last week with a particularly contagious cold.  This week exactly half of Nikolai's preschool was missing, and those that did make it to school were all recovering from runny noses.  Nikolai was not the exception to the rule.

So we've had an exciting time of it this past week.  It all started when Nikolai came to our bedroom with a croupy cough last Friday night.  Like all young children with croupy coughs, he was quite upset and had difficulty breathing.  Luckily this was not our first case of the croup, so we took him outdoors for a breath of fresh moist sea air and he quickly recovered.  (Of note, we even tried to buy a humidifier at the local pharmacy, but the pharmacist talked us out of it, saying that the air in James Bay was always moist enough to cure the croup).

Nikolai quickly fell back to sleep, and we decided to have a parent sleep on a futon mat on the floor of his room.  Brad took the first shift, but was unable to sleep through all of Nikolai's wheezing and rasping, so I ended up spending the night camping out. The croup has since migrated through all of the possible stages of illness: sore throat, fever, laryngitis and now he is pretty unhappy with sinusitis.

But the week wasn't just exciting because of the croup.  On Sunday morning one of the other tenants accidentally broke a bottle of an illegal pesticide in the basement.  Luckily a Hazmat team wasn't required to clean it up.  However the clean up was a two day affair and we were required to leave our suite while the chemical "hydrolized".  Apparently the chemical was only a Neurotoxin and not carcinogenic.  Given that we're not all dizzy and suffering from nausea, we're probably fine.

So I bundled my sick Nikolai up and bused him over to Grampy's house for the night (Brad hauled our overnight bags on his bike).  The only catch to the plan is that the buses are on a "working" strike, and two of the buses we were hoping to catch were not running.  Nikolai was pretty feverish, and it was cold by Victoria standards (1 C), so I snuggled him up in my coat where he promptly fell asleep.  I can only imagine the sight we made with the two of us sitting on the bus bench for 45 minutes.

By the time the bus did arrive it was packed.  Luckily we made it on before the driver decided to stop letting people board.  However, after only going a few blocks, the bus broke down.  By this point I'd made friends with everyone around me on the bus, so my pretty shitty day made me laugh at the incredulity of it all.

At last we made it, and we camped out in Grampy's living room.  Though I was ready for some good rest, it was not to be. The night started out with Brad and I sharing the pull out bed and Nikolai sleeping on an improvised bed of couch cushions.  However, it ended with Nikolai refusing to sleep on the floor and me sleeping on the floor.  Yes, it was a weekend of "comfortable" sleep.

To end on a happier note, Christmas has apparently arrived in Victoria.  Like Ireland, it seems to have escaped the multicultural aspect of a "holiday season" and relishes in the Christmas-ness of it all.

Above is a photo from the Santa Claus Parade.  It's done after dark, which really spruces up those homemade floats (since we are a relatively small town, we don't get the big company floats that are so impressive in Vancouver's Christmas Parade).  Below are some photos of "Centennial Square".  They put up a Ferris wheel for the season, and at just $2 a ride it's a deal!  Unfortunately Nikolai isn't up for the ride. (Note my coat does a good job of hiding my belly! Clearly I need to get Brad to take a picture of my bump sometime soon.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Doctor ain't there nothing I can take?

I have been suffering from sciatic pain that started in July. Then in August the pain got so bad that I was having difficulty sleeping because of radiating pain down my legs.  By September I frequently had bouts that were so painful that it felt like my legs were going to give out from underneath me.

Being pregnant means that chronic pain is quite common.  I think pain is even more common for second (and subsequent) pregnancies since your body is happy to fall apart as soon as your hormones start up.  The "fun" part of being pregnant means that all the usual options for pain issues are out.  Forget your T3's, you're not even allowed to take an Ibuprofen.  And the lovely muscle relaxation that would be provided by a hot tub is also out.  Basically my only self care option is to lay on my side with a hot water bottle.

Given that we are car-less and I need to walk a certain distance just to get Nikolai to preschool or buy groceries, spending the day laying on the couch or even sitting in a desk chair is not an option.  Luckily Brad has superb health care.  I have finally tried every available option, and here's a basic rundown:

Midwife: My midwife told me that my problem is because I'm carrying very low.  Basically the baby was head-down and in the birth canal by 28 weeks. (I can attest to this fact as she often knocks at me in the bum or bladder with her hands). Putting aside all the potential risks of a preterm labour, it also means that my pelvis has been fully open for a while.

She gave me a prescription for a sacroiliac support belt.  It is a huge thing that I wear whenever I'm standing up for more than just a minute or two.  And it probably has helped me with the pain more than any other treatment. 

Chiropractor: According to the chiropractor my issue is because my left pelvis loosened more then my right pelvis.  Thus my left leg had more pain because it was supporting the weight of my belly.

I wasn't super comfortable with the treatment, which involved laying on a maternity pillow and having my right pelvis cracked.  The chiropractor said that I would need to come in weekly to keep my right pelvis loose.  She wasn't happy about my support belt because "it would just mask my real issue".  I went twice.  The first time was nice because my whole body felt looser afterwards.  The second trip didn't seem to do anything so I decided not to go back.

Massage Therapist: I do love massage therapy.  Unfortunately we never have time to work on my back or shoulders.  According to the therapist my issue is that my sacral muscles are working over time to hold my joints in place. And the nerve that runs through the sacral muscles is the sciatic nerve. Based on the properties of the sciatic nerve, the muscle doesn't just ache like normal muscles, it basically causes the dull radiating pain down my legs, until the muscle finally seizes and then I have the extremely sharp debilitating pain.

This means that my massages are anything but relaxing.  I spend most of my time trying to relax my muscles while suffering from sharp pain.  It does help for around a week afterwards, so I have been going back regularly. Besides, I figure that the painful part of massage therapy is helping me train for labour as I practice relaxing and focusing myself away from the pain.

Osteopathy: As it turns out my family doctor is also an osteopathic doctor.  At the moment I don't think that there is osteopathic training in Canada; however, my doctor is American.  (For anyone who is curious, I think she's here because of a strong belief in universal health care. She is a fab physician.)  Even using the Internet, I was not able to figure out what it meant to be an osteopathic doctor.  However, because she was also my family doctor, my treatments were covered by government health care so I signed up for three treatment sessions.

According to the doctor she was feeling my fascia (connective tissue around my bones) for tension.  She primarily noticed tension in my right hip, and released it with pressure.  Even though it seemed like she wasn't actually doing anything at all the treatment was painful.  She chatted with me the whole time which helped to distract from the pain.

My pain did seem to improve after several treatments.  However, the most noticeable outcome was that I was instantly in a better mood.  I laughed and was happy for the first time in weeks after that first treatment.  I felt so open and free, which only continued to improve with subsequent treatments.  Unfortunately my doctor is REALLY busy, so after my last treatment I was unable to get another appointment until December 24th.  (She really is that good.)

Acupuncture: Once I realized that I was going to have to wait for nearly two months to have another osteopathic treatment, I decided to be brave and try acupuncture. So many of my friends have used it for pregnancy related pain that I knew I would have to try it. (No matter how terrified I was of the procedure, there is some scientific evidence proving it to be quite effective.)

The treatment involved laying perfectly still with a bunch of really thin needles sticking in me.  The needles in my hips went in with very little sensation.  The needle in my forehead stung for a bit. And the needles in my hands and feet went in with a massive explosion of nerve feeling/pain that quickly dissipated.  Even though it initially was disturbing, I quickly got used to it and I was asleep by the end of the treatment.

The acupuncturist described what she was doing using terms like "energy centres".  I was later told by my massage therapist that the needles are likely stimulating the fascia (see above) that run through our body.

I will definitely try acupuncture again. It seemed to help a bit with my leg pain. However, the mood effects are more noticeable.  I had the treatment on Monday, and I have slept soundly every night since then (that's a huge feat with a 35 week pregnant belly).  My mood has improved and I seem to have a ton more energy.  Now, I just have to get over my distaste of the treatment!

The picture is from my baby shower last weekend.  We saved everything from when Nikolai was a baby, so my "gifts" were promissory notes to take Nikolai out for some exercise.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A cake for every occasion


As I've mentioned a few times, Nikolai was discharged from the allergist this summer with a diagnosis of a sucrose intolerance and a sulfite allergy.  She also threw in a few other things like strawberries and kiwi.  It is a very limiting diet. Sulfites are present and unlabelled in nearly EVERY processed food items as well as being naturally present in a number of foods. Sucrose is not just found in sugar, but also most fruits, nuts and seeds as well as starchy foods.  

As a result, we were constantly letting Nikolai cheat a little bit on the sulfite and sucrose side of things.  However, Nikolai also had a minor flare up of his symptoms about once a week. So we decided to do a good job of figuring out his tolerance levels.  It is a flash back to May/June, but I am much better prepared, having learned how to cope with his diet over the intervening months.

What we have discovered is that he is very sensitive to sucrose, and can only handle starches as long as he eats less then two servings a day.  He is somewhat more robust to sulfites. Which means that we can use things like mushrooms and canned tomatoes in our cooking, but he still can't handle higher sulfite items like potato chips and olives.

As a result I've had a very healthy pregnancy, because I seldom get the chance to cheat on Nikolai's diet.  It's hardly fair to enjoy a croissant or a brownie in front of a four-year-old that is forced to abstain. On the upside of things, Nikolai has become very good at self monitoring, as we have been conscious in linking every major flare up with the foods that he ate.  He has become so self-aware, that I gave him permission to eat whatever he wanted at a friend's birthday party, and despite the fact that he we weren't there to monitor him, he chose to eat the low sucrose fruits rather than the cake.  I don't take any credit for this amazing level of self-control; I think he honestly understands the connection between eating sugar and feeling poorly.

Luckily, with a little help from the internet, I have been able to find tons of recipes that work around Nikolai's diet.  For Brad's birthday, I made the following sugarless cake.  I will admit that it was a bit time consuming to make everything from scratch, however I made extras of the cookies and we still are enjoying the leftovers.

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake

Chocolate Wafers
Cream together a 1/2 cup of butter, 3/4 cup honey and 1 tsp vanilla. Whisk together 1 cup of flour, 3/4 cup of cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1/4 tsp of salt. Combine the dry and liquid ingredients until they form a firm dough, add 1-2 Tbsp of milk if needed to bring the dough together.

Roll the dough into a log with a 1.5" diameter, wrap it up in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Cut the logs into 1/8" medallions and bake on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 F (180C) for 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.

These cookies freeze well.  I used them as a cookie crumb base for the cheesecake, but we have also used them to make various concoctions involving whipping cream and fruit, whipping cream and mint, and I could imagine filling them with ice cream to make a sandwich.

Fruit Sauce
Fruit Sauce is a pretty standard affair around here.  Basically we stew up any fruit we have and sweeten it with honey as needed.  We stir fruit sauce into our yogurt, kefir and hot cereal.  We pour it over pancakes and desserts.  It truly is brilliant stuff.

Cheesecake
Make a cookie crumb base by mixing 1 1/2 cups of finely ground cookies with 6 Tbsp of melted butter. You can also add sugar or other dry sweetener to taste.  Press it into an 8" spring-form pan (or cake pan).

For the cheese filling blend together: 550g of cream cheese, 150 ml of sour cream,75g (1/4 cup) honey, 3 eggs, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp cornstarch, 2 tbsp and lemon juice. Pour over top of the cookie base.

Bake at 400 F (200 C) for about 40 minutes, or until firm to the touch.  Allow to cool before pouring the fruit sauce over top.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

If you want to destroy my sweater

I am so glad that winter has set in. It gives me an excuse to fulfill my desire to sit around the house.  I have been suffering from a good deal of pelvic pain which started in early July, but really impacted my life as of September.  Given that we don't have a car, I'm still walking for all of our outings and chores, so it's not like I'm having a sedentary pregnancy.  In fact, I officially exceed the "exercise guidelines" for a fit pregnancy, simply by getting Nikolai to and from preschool. 

Anyways... the point I am getting to, is that we really haven't been doing that many exciting activities outside of our home.  However, I am not a person to sit still for long (and I imagine that not having access to a television is responsible for that).  So as we count down to the Due Date (7 weeks!) my blog will be filled with recipes and crafts.

This week's theme is Reusing Old Wool Sweaters.  And it begins with a story... of a cashmere sweater that Brad NEVER wore (both because it was too posh for his student lifestyle, and because it was too valuable for his student lifestyle).  The side effect of not wearing the cashmere sweater was that we had a infestation of wool moths in Brad's sweater collection. 

Since I'm a believer in the motto "waste not want not", I saved the sweaters for future sewing projects.  So here's a quick tutorial on sewing with old 100% wool sweaters, followed by some photos of some projects I've completed.

1. Wash the sweater in hot water with a load of towels.
2. Tumble dry the sweater with a load of towels.
3. The goal is to "felt" the sweater, so repeat if necessary.
4. If you have properly felted the wool it shouldn't unravel, so you can use raw seams, and sew close to the edge for any project you want.


The first thing I made was a cover for our hot water bottle out of Brad's cashmere sweater. 
Nikolai LOVES the hot water bottle... even when it isn't filled with water.  He just loves using the bottle like a pillow and would carry it around the house with him if I let him.  So for Christmas I decided to use the remaining scraps of the sweater to create some gothic-styled stuffed animals. 

Here's my general design for the animals:

They required a bit of patching to work around the moth holes, but I think they'll be well liked even if they aren't that pretty.  (Apparently I need to learn how to embroider... but I so dislike it, that I've decided to re-brand the dolls as a trendy-hipster stuffed animal).
I've also sewn Nikolai a patchwork sweater (pattern-less, cut following the lines of one of his pre-existing sweaters). More recently he got a pair of slippers following these instructions from Martha Stewart.  They were so ridiculously easy that I can't imagine EVER knitting a pair again!
Lastly, I took an old Aran Knit sweater and turned it into a blanket for the baby.  It's rather small... but it will serve nicely for it's intended purpose.  When the baby is born it will be cold outside... and I will also have a very active Nikolai on my hands... so I imagine I'll spend a lot of time baby wearing.  However, my winter coat currently doesn't close around my belly, so it certainly won't close around my baby.  My plan is to use this blanket to cover the gap in my coat by tucking it into the sides of the carrier.  I hope it works!
I started by cutting out 6" x 6" squares.
And I sewed the right sides together. (Here's a view of the backside).
 I do have loftier plans for this small blanket... as you "may" have noticed the satin binding hasn't been well sewn... and this is because I hope to expand the blanket as the baby grows older.  So if you have an old "fisherman's sweater" or "Irish sweater" sitting unworn at the back of the closet (I know you do... because they always seem like a good idea until you realize how warm and bulky the sweaters actually are) send it my way!