Sunday, May 31, 2009

An Alternative To The Bonding Reflex

With the economic downturn, status ain't what it used to be: the hottest fashion accessory in our trendy neighbourhood isn't a pair of Dolce & Gabanna sunglasses, or Lululemon yoga-wear woven from sea grass--it's a toddler, of course! And with two...well, let's just say our spot with the Joneses is well-secured...

With the weather improving (slowly, but improving nonetheless), your standard-issue/once-around-the-park-Jeeves stroller ride just wasn't cutting it with our discriminating dynamic duo, who at nearly six months have become a lot more inquisitive (read: hands-on) than they were even a few weeks ago. We'd been shopping for infant carriers since before they were born, but the range of choice and contradictory consumer reports (not to mention the atrocious service one would expect from Babies R Us)were enough to make us want to lie down and wish the entire subject away. Lidia had given a friend's Baby Bjorn a test run, but found its lack of back support troubling.

We decided to go with a pair of matching harnesses from Infantino, which promised greater relief for our spines and longer life in that this model supported infant weights of up to 32 pounds (!).

Assembly was fairly straight-forward and within minutes, we were each toting a boy like a couple of Gap-clad marsupials.

It was a bright day but a windy one as well--not an entirely unknown symptom of living off of King Street West--so we had to be careful to shield the boys from not only the sun and the harsh blasts as well.

The boys were content and wide-eyed at the awesome spectacle of all that is Queen Street West--from graffitied walls to the tattoo parlours to the overpriced handbag emporiums and esp. the admiring glances of persons from all possible social classifications, if you get my drift--and if you've ever been around Queen West And Bathurst on a typical afternoon, you certainly will.

Feeling ambitious and neither of us plagued by a slipped disc, we expanded our walk all the way down to Spadina and then back around via King. Eventually, Nathaniel nodded off but Carter remained wide awake as we embraced yet another yuppie cliche for a break at one of the three hundred Starbucks locations in our neighbourhood (to be fair, I hadn't had a Starbuck's beverage since the fall of 2008-I'm a Tim Horton's man...Second Cup if absolutely desperate).

I sampled some iced-concoction while Lidia went with the latte. When we were finished and about to leave, Nathaniel woke up and Carter fell asleep...must've been all that soothing World Beat music they pipe in...

When we arrived at home, the boys were wired from their stimulating walkabout, as if they'd absorbed a little of the residual caffeine from the coffee shop (told you they were into the whole tactile-thing), but eventually settled into nap mode. As I watched them sprawled out on the mat, all I could think of was something I'd read earlier:

32 pounds? How about to the corner and back...?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bumbo Time

Flip, Flop, And Fly!

It took Carter a little bit of time to catch up (his mind was on other things), but as of this week, he and his brother Nathaniel are steadily flopping around like a couple of mudskippers. Feet and fingers are everywhere--we've bought two of every toy in an attempt to keep them from getting into tumbles. They're both fans of the "O-Ball" (recommended to us by Nathaniel's therapist Amanda), which can be flung and bashed with minimal damage to furniture, cats, and especially, each other...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Best Seats In The House

Yesterday, Amanda came by for another physio session with Nathaniel, and was once again amazed at his strength, balance, and energy--so much, that she suggested we get him sitting up in a Bumbo chair as soon as possible! So Lidia picked up two--just because Carter gets to sit out on the bi-weekly exercise regime doesn't mean he's off the hook!

Tonight, the boys were noticeably tired after their day trip, so taking the chairs for a test run was probably all a little too much/too late before they got cranky and let us know it was time for bed (if only I possessed such willpower--here I am up at an ungodly hour when I should know better). But for a moment, the boys looked mighty comfortable--soon enough, they'll be demanding the TV remote and the game controllers...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Two-Four The Road...

While Canadians refer to it as the "May Two-Four" weekend, Victoria Day is in reality, the last Monday on or before May 24. This year the holiday seemed to be a lot earlier than I'd remembered it being in years, but a day off's a day off, so why quibble?

After a late start on Saturday, the four of us packed up our roomy new vehicle and navigated the surprisingly underpopulated streets of the GTA for a long overdue visit out of the city, which would soon be overrun with hopelessly lost tourists, patio drunks, Toronto FC soccer hooligans, and the latest protest. With Maggie all but back to 100%, we felt we could leave her with Minnie alone for the day and not worry (but who knows what they get into when we're away?). We played a new CD of Sesame Street favorites--including Oscar the Grouch's duet with Johnny Cash--but the boys slept through most it. But these songs are timeless, appealing to youngsters and adults alike, so Lidia and I were quite happy to hum along ourselves...

Of course, within minutes of arriving and getting reacquainted with everyone, it was like no time had passed at all. Grandma and Grandpa discovered that it now takes a little more elbow grease to hold onto these guys than the last time (imagine what bath time is like when they're wet!)

Aunt Wendy rolled out a good sized blanket so they could show off their ever-growing skills at grabbing and biting anything in sight (good thing Mooch avoided them).

Cousin Stephanie was only a few days away from turning sixteen (which made me feel about 110 years old), so an impromptu birthday party was improvised while everyone was under one roof. The boys seemed a little bewildered by the whole spectacle, but I couldn't help but wonder how we were going to engineer these types of events in their future: one cake? Two? And all those candles--I'm pretty sure there's a clause in the condo corp's building code that we'd be violating...

The boys were quite content to chill on a blanket and flop around until they collapsed from exhaustion (it never ceases to amaze me how much mileage they can get out of a few dozen ML of formula). Carter has added some eardrum-shattering squeaks and hollers to his antics, and Nathaniel just keeps himself flipping over and is gradually discovering the mechanics of crawling.
Of course, there were gifts: new duds, toys (now we have a machine that can sing "Itsby Bitsy Spider" for us!), and their first set of Hot Wheels cars...

The weather eventually turned cold and murky but not before we were able to get in a tour of the neighbourhood, around which one day the boys will find very exciting possibilities to get into trouble: a choice of playgrounds, thick marshes, construction sites--actually, I'm getting nervous just thinking about it.

We returned on Sunday for a very special excursion indeed: the boys' first trip to a class-A restaurant. To further celebrate Steph's sixteenth, we journeyed via several car loads to the Mandarin Restaurant, where their mom and dad filled themselves to capacity on glorious heaps of lobster, sushi, prime rib, and other reminders of our once generous disposable incomes, while Carter and Nathaniel gorged themselves on their own beverages (not that the management seemed to mind, and of course, the dynamic duo attracted no shortage of admirers...).

Happily fed and enchanted by the sights and sounds of the strange, new surroundings, they were very well behaved--having a lot of fun being passed around from lap to lap, taking in the sights, including the aquarium and the spectacle of long lineups of strange adults stuffing themselves until they were near comatose.

Hey, how about teaching the boys a little lesson in moderation, people?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Welcome Home, Maggie!

We waited on pins and needles this morning for the call from Dundas West Animal Hospital, which would update us on Maggie's recovery and when we could expect her home. They called us promptly after opening with great news: the little fighter has bounced back spectacularly and would be ready for discharge today at 12:30 pm sharp (as with our "human" hospitals, even vets need the room)...

I took an early lunch so Lidia, the boys, and I would make it on time--midday traffic being horrendous at just about every turn. We even found a parking spot right out front! Talk about your medical miracles...

I spoke with Dr. Bainbridge about the lab report and ultrasound results, all of which cleared her--and us--of any fear of tumours or lingering problems. In fact, Dr. Bainbridge was surprised at the success of her recovery--usually, there's some residual damage to the organs, even if not necessarily life-threatening. The antibiotics she'd been given drove away her infection but certainly not her fighting spirit, or her appetite.

Treatments were to continue at home for another ten days: we're supposed to give Maggie a half pill of Orbax daily and 0.5 ml of metronidazole drops every 12 hours. Ever tried to administer medication to a pet? At least the Dundas West folks are trained professionals...

"She's like whole new cat", I was told when she was finally brought to the lobby. "I don't want a new one", I answered, "I just want Maggie back!

Thankfully, it was our familiar, if somewhat logey, tortie, straining against the mesh of the pet carrier, meowing , clearly eager to familiar surroundings and routine...

Sporting shaved forelegs and tummy from her ultrasound and IV, Maggie looked a little different than when she left but it was her lingering aroma of the vet's office that caused her Minnie the most anxiety. Her normally serene sister erupted into a series of defensive hisses once Maggie bounded from the carrier.

Maggie wasted no time in checking out her old haunts, making sure everything was exactly as it should be, and even hopped in her hammock to catch some sun. She then moved upstairs to steal Minnie's favorite spot at the bedroom window to inspect the backyard, likely in the hopes of spotting Merlin, whom she missed out front by mere seconds (he must've known she was back!).

Upset with her sister's less-than-enthusiastic reception, Maggie retired to my closet for a well-earned snooze...

We could all use one...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Road To Recovery

It's been a nerve-wracking 24 hours, but at last there's a happy ending in sight: this morning, Dr. Bainbridge called us back promptly from Dundas West Animal Hospital to tell us that Maggie's lab tests all checked out and her problems were not related to tumours or disease, and in all likelihood she was suffering from irritation of the kidneys or gallbladder. He theorized a kidney stone, but felt all symptoms pointed to a bacterial infection. Now, caused by what, exactly, is anyone's guess. While Maggie's been an indoor cat since she came to us, she could've simply munched on something tracked in on one of our shoes and had a reaction.

Dr. Bainbridge suggested eliminating all worries with an ultrasound, since one was already scheduled for another ailing cat, to rule out any additional perils. A pricey solution, but worth it. And besides, we're covered by Mastercare pet insurance, which I've long been told by countless naysayers is a waste of money. Oh really?

By the time I was home for lunch, Maggie had been cleared of all dangers and Dr. Bainbridge said he would begin a regime of antibiotics. He called back a short time later to inform us that she was finally eating on her own. Wow--if only our medical doctors were as caring and considerate as these vets...

After work, Lidia and I gathered the boys and rushed out to Dundas West Animal Hospital at Dundas and Roncesvalles to pay our girl a quick visit before they closed for the day.

Lidia went in first, and came back out beaming at her good spirits. I was next--and brought in some of her favorite toys at Dr. Bainbridge's suggestion. There are no shortage of Maggie's playthings strewn about the three floors of our house--but we decided that her orange scratch mouse, her weird dual pom-pom thing, and most of all, her well-chewed Barbie pink slipper, would be just the items to remind her of home.

Maggie greeted me with an enthusiastic meow that suggested she'd had enough of this joint. But she was clearly in loving and thorough hands. She was being treated to a diet of kitten food, which was high in fat content and only a temporary measure to make up for lost nutrients.

Around her left paw was a blue sock via which was attached her IV tube, and she tried several times to bite it off and shake it free. She gave me several enthusiastic head butts and even tried to climb me.

Then she went to work on the cupboard doors. Maggie was definitely on the mend and returning to her regular, bratty self.

I fed her some chow and with seven o'clock approaching, gave her a big hug goodbye, and left the clinic feeling better than I had since Sunday (and covered in her cat fur). Hopefully, her toys will make her a little less lonely while she's stuck in a cage for another two days to full recover.

Thursday, she'll be home. Minnie, enjoy the quiet...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Missing Maggie

It's a lonely night as I write this--one that marks only the second time I've ever spent an evening at home without my constant four-legged companion of nearly four years, Maggie. The first time was shortly after we adopted her as our own on Thanksgiving of 2005--just the usual requisite spay-and-neuter business. But tonight's different--

Last night, when we arrived home after taking the boys to visit Nona in Mississauga for Mother's Day, it became immediately apparent that something was wrong. Maggie didn't come downstairs to greet us at the door with her usual inspection and challenge for a tummy rub. Lidia found her hiding under one of the boys' cribs upstairs. She wasn't purring and was lethargic and indifferent to offers of play and food. This definitely wasn't the familiar Maggie, who since the boys have come home, has really ramped up the frisky factor, as if such a thing were possible.

Maggie stayed on the bed for most of evening, clearly weaker and shockingly indifferent to my attempts to rouse her spirits. Her favorite toys, the crinkling of her collection of tissue paper, my tossing of her "foamie" balls up the stairs--any of which could be counted on to spring her into a frenzy--were met with indifference. She eventually came downstairs to sit at my feet as I did some work on the computer, but she huddled into her nearby "cat cottage" and seemed irritated at my attempts to pet her. I'd already noticed a moist puddle on the floor upstairs--there was another by the litter box and while she was with me she coughed up clear liquid about a half dozen times. Suffice to say, this was reason enough for us to get up extra early in the morning to call the vet.

Our vet clinic, Queen West Animal Hospital, is only a few minute's walk away but when we called we were told no one could see us for several hours, even though we'd pleaded our case and in our own experience, have had to wait on more than one occassion while other people barged into their premises with last-minute emergencies. Fortunately, their new second location is nearby at Dundas and Roncesvalles, and we were offered an appointment right away. We were glad to hear it would be Dr. Scott Bainbridge who'd be seeing Maggie, given that he was the first to meet her when she was a kitten (he greeted her as "madam", being as charmed by her appearance and personality as City-TV personality Anne Rohmer was in the lobby)...

I watched the boys while Lidia took her to Dundas West Animal Hospital. A short time later, Lidia called to tell me that Maggie was very dehydrated from a lack of food and it was a good thing that we brought her in when we did. Dr. Bainbridge ordered x-rays and lab work and put her on an IV to get some nutrients into her and encourage eating.

Of course, I had to go to work, which was extremely difficult, because while I tried to keep a stiff upper lip and remain positive, our experience with Molly's rare form of feline cancer had me fearing the worst. It's human nature to try to rehearse for bad news, the idea being that it'd make taking the eventual pain a little easier to handle. But it never is. And you just put yourself through hell for nothing...

Mid-afternoon, Lidia called Dr. Bainbridge, who said that x-rays revealed no sign of any blockage (ruling out the hairball theory), but initial examination seemed to indicate a possible problem in the liver (the presence of a fatty mucous). The liver condition is a bit of vicious circle--it can be the cause of physical problems, but it can also be exacerbated by the cat not eating because of some other problem. Given Maggie's age (not quite four years old) and health (annual checkups, a life spent totally indoors), he seemed confident that she'd pull through--the fact that the condition came up suddenly bodes well for nothing chronic and long-term--but nothing will be certain until the lab report comes back..which at this point is still a long night away.

The whole scenario is so bizarre: the day before, Maggie was as energetic, chatty, and affectionate as she's ever been, spending the night near my side downstairs as we played her favorite games and eventually she took her spot by my shoulder atop the big chair as I watched TV. As usual, she spent the first few overnight hours by the boys in the glider chair, eventually crawling into bed by my feet and, when I woke up, climbing up my chest to snuggle by my neck.
Her appetite was hearty--Lidia offered up the usual Saturday morning can of Fancy Feast and she and Minnie fought over who'd get the most.

And on the morning we left, she was scratching her palm tree post and watching the action out the back window. But somehow, in roughly eight hours, she took a strange turn...

Having the boys around to keep my mind off things certainly helped keep me from wallowing in misery tonight, and Minnie's been staying close to Lidia, even though it's clear she's wondering where her little sister's gone.

I'm trying to stay away from the web and its bottomless pit of unqualified medical diagnosis and so-called "expert" opinion, but the house just seems so empty without her...