Friday, October 17, 2014

The Halloween Tree and 2013 Ornaments

We've recently put up our beloved Halloween tree!  The tree is really filling up but we get so much joy from studying each ornament and remembering the year that Harris was a frog, Grace was the infamous chicken or when they were both furry, fluffy animals.  The making of the ornaments is truly a labor of love for my Mom and they are priceless to me.

We added last years ornaments that we have just now finished making!  My Mom made the Phillie Phanatic to match the costume she made for Harris last year.  He turned out darling.

I was a bit flummoxed as to how to make Grace's Coke can ornament as she originally used a trash can for her costume.  I decided on using a mini Coke can and added clothespin legs to the bottom and straw to the top.  I think it turned out cute.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Plz Take Pill (or Commence)

Every morning*, Harris has to take a PPI (protein pump inhibitor) pill to help reduce gastric acid that might be contributing to his EE.  He's been incredible about remembering to take the pill as soon as he wakes up.  However, the other morning he forgot, which really isn't the end of the world, and that night while tucking him into bed I found that he had made himself a reminder note and placed in on top of his alarm clock.  For some reason this note delighted me; it completely cracked me up that he included "please" on a note to himself!  (Note to self: work on spelling)

Two nights later, I noticed that the ante had been upped when Grace got into the mix and went all out for his reminder!  Needless to say he loves it!

*He only takes the PPI when a Scope is in the schedule

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Gray Jay?

Over the weekend, I was standing in the kitchen when a bird flew right into our window and dropped straight to the ground.  When I went out to check on the bird it was lying with both of its wings out and looked completely dazed, if not dead!  Grace came to the rescue of the bird, whom she immediately called a Gray Jay.  I've sinced looked the Gray Jay up and it does indeed look like our little visitor, but it's not typical for them to be in our area and it's beak is a little longer than Gray Jays.  So we are not really sure what it was?  The sweet bird let Grace pick her up and hold her for at least five minutes.

She would stare straight at Grace and seemed perfectly content with her.  I think it took Grace all of 30 seconds to fall hard for the little bird, but she was happy when she was able to fly off to a tree branch as that reassured her the little bird would be okay!

Friday, October 10, 2014

EE Update- The Allergist

this is about 3-4 minutes in- by the end of the 10 minutes his arms were a hot mess!

First, I would like to say that Harris is doing great!  He has taken to his new diet with such grace and ease and for that I am entirely thankful and I'm so very proud of him.  I'm also doing so much better than I was when I wrote the last update.  I feel more at peace with this being our path and no longer have so much of that fear that bubbled up and over when we first heard of his numbers and saw the state of his esophagus.  Having a plan and taking action has helped a lot!

Yesterday, we had our appointment with his allergist and we left feeling good about the whole visit (which lasted an entire two hours with no waiting- just with the doctor) and well taken care of.  We had lots of questions which were thoughtfully answered and discussed.

One of our big concerns and questions was about external allergies.  We've never noticed that Harris has struggled with seasonal allergies until this year when he was constantly sniffly for a good solid month (including when he had his scope).  We thought that it must be allergies because he felt fine otherwise, so we sort of ruled out a cold, etc.  Also, we have two cats that I was concerned were contributing to Harris' issues.  The more I read about new EE research the more I realized that environmental allergies can contribute though it should be noted that it's unlikely to do as much damage as Harris has on its own.

They no longer do food scratch testing for EE since it has shown to be absolutely unhelpful but the Dr. did want to do scratch testing for environmental allergens and a peanut/tree nut test to see if he is still anaphylactically allergic to nuts (he is).  It's interesting to me that when the Dr. examined Harris he asked him lots of questions about how he was feeling in general to which Harris answered "great" and "fine" or "no" when asked if he was ever itchy, uncomfortable, etc.  However, that's not how Harris presents.  For example, the Dr. called us over to look at Harris' eyes which were red at the bottom (when you pull down on the skin) and told us that that was not normal- nor was his nose.  He believes that Harris possibly just doesn't know any difference and therefore doesn't ever complain.

It was obvious within the first few minutes of the scratch test that Harris was allergic to basically everything both inside and outside.  In fact, when the nurse came in to take measurements she joked that Harris would need a bubble.  However, I have to stress that as bad as that sounds, Harris is not constantly uncomfortable!  I've seen children who have terrible seasonal allergies or cat/dog/dust allergies and Harris doesn't react like that!  But it could be contributing to his EE so we will start some treatment for those environmental allergies.

In summary, Harris is still off of dairy, wheat, corn, and nuts.  He's continuing to take an acid blocker and will start treatment for environmental allergies.  In two months he will have another scope to see where we are.  And that's it for now.

P.S.  The more I read about our digestive systems, our food (sources), GMO's and organic vs. non organic I feel as if I have had blinders on for years but that's a whole other topic of discussion.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


The Dahlias in the garden are absolutely beautiful!  As it's my first year growing Dahlias they have been a most pleasant surprise.  However, it should come as no surprise that my favorite ones are the big, ruffly ones, and in fact, I've already started a list of ones that I want to grow next year and every one falls into the ruffly, pink and feminine category.  Though I'm also thinking it would be lovely to plant some in shades of fall.

I love how tall this variety got as they are a really wonderful presence towering over the garden fence.

A couple of years ago, I bought this milk glass vase from our church rummage sale and it's one of my favorites.  It has a flower frog attached to the bottom that keeps all the stems standing up.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mt. Rainier...the Return Trip (part 2)

Sunrise on Rainier
So, where was I? Oh yes, it's the morning of day 2, the weather is looking very cooperative but the unusually warm summer has caused a large cravasse to open up and our route to the summit is blown. My fellow climbers and I head over to the Weatherport for breakfast all feeling a bit apprehensive. The guides give us a bit more information at breakfast: a snow bridge over a cravasse above the Disappointment Cleaver had melted out; but two of our guides, along with two from RMI, would be heading up to scope out a way over or around the cravasse while we are doing our normal day 2 training at Muir. However, these guys were making no pomises. 

After breakfasting (pancakes, bacon and French press coffee!), we do the obligatory ice ax arrest training - to learn how to stop from sliding down the face of a glacier into a bottomless cravasse; cramponing techniques - its not easy walking around with a 12-pointed Chinese throwing star on each foot; and roped glacier travel. (Off and on during our training I overhear the guides' radios; the guys trying to set a new route radioed in several times, never sounding very positive about their progress.) By early afternoon we were ready to throw on our packs, rope up and head off across the Cowlitz glacier en route to high camp at Ingraham Flats.

Cowlitz Glacier and Cathedral Rocks
The walk across the Cowlitz is not that far (took about 45 minutes) but hitting Cathedral Rocks was a new experience. Last year the entire trip to the Gap was on snow and ice. This year we climbed a couple of hundred feet on the very rotten volcanic rock that makes up the entirety of Rainier and cramponing on that stuff is difficult - loose chunks of rock and gravel, metal-toothed crampons and a fairly steep pitch are a poor combination. We took a break at the top of the Gap and got our first view of Little Tahoma and the massive cravasses in that section of the Ingraham glacier.

Little Tahoma peak and the Ingraham Glacier
This is as far as we came last year, so a bit farther up route I got my first glimpse of the high camp at Ingraham Flats. It's not a lot to look at but I was struck by the nearness of the camp to cravasses that were large enough to swallow houses!

High Camp at Ingraham Flats and the lower Disappointment Cleaver
We arrived in camp around 3pm and got settled into our tents. We had a couple of hours until an early dinner and I managed to get a little rest. Right before dinner the guides sat us down outside the tents and finally gave us some info about the route above us. The guys had been unsuccessful in getting over the cravasse or simply around it. Instead, they set a new route traversing all the way over to the Emmons glacier. But that was as far as they were able to get before heading back down to us (they were still on their way down at that time). We were told that this is the normal route later in the season but since no one had been on the upper mountain on this route yet this year, we had no idea what to expect up there. We would get up and make our summit attempt as planned but we'd have to wait and see what the mountain would have in store for us higher up. 

After an early dinner we headed back to the tents to reorganize our packs for the alpine start the next morning. We would be leaving sleeping bags and pads, unneeded clothing and extra food behind in the tents so we wouldn't be carrying any extra weight up to the summit. This made for a nice, light pack that I was sure I'd be thankful for above 13,000 ft. We all bedded down by 8pm, while it was still quite light outside, and I tried to sleep. Using my buff as a blindfold and with Liquid Mind playing in my ears I think I managed about 90 minutes of actual sleep. It had gotten quite windy as evening turned to night and I was sure it was raining or sleeting by the sound of the tent. However, when I had to get up to use the pee hole (yeah, just a hole in the snow) I was relieved to learn the sound was just spindrift whipped up by the wind. The sky was quite clear, in fact, and the stars were beyond brilliant!

We were all up by 2am for our Alpine start and on the trail by 3. Jack and I found ourselves on the rope with our lead guide, Peter. We led the group out of camp, headlamps blazing, and stayed out front all morning. (This would end up to be a very good thing.) We were not more than 20 minutes out of camp when we came to an unexpected (at least by me) obstacle. Before us was cravasse with nothing but a ladder laid across it. On said ladder was lashed a strip of plywood to make this into a very scary-looking bridge. Oh, but at least there was a hand line on the left, a very smallish rope, and also a running belay at the far side (so we were perfectly safe...I think). I was at the end of our rope team so crossed this thing last. I trained the beam of my headlamp into the depths of the cravasse as I crossed it but the light didn't seem to get very far, definitely couldn't see the bottom. 

Not far after that little adventure we set foot on the Disappointment Cleaver (the "DC"), devoid of snow, and spent the next hour on that large rock outcropping. Above the DC somewhere was the cravasse that had caused so much trouble yesterday, but as it was very dark I never saw where our route diverged from the earlier one. It wasn't long after we started the traverse over to the Emmons that the sky began to lighten. I had been looking foward to a sunrise on Rainier for over a year. We were above 12,000 ft at this point and most of the world was below us. Right before the sun rose the view was incredible. Once the sun broke the horizon, the entire mountain was ablaze with colored light! It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen and the pictures completely fail to capture it.

Looking back at Little Tahoma
From then on, it was long, slow climb up a lot of snow and ice. Thankfully, we encountered no surprises up there above where the guides had scoped out the day before. It was tedious and tiring though I was rewarded by a great view whenever we took a break or could venture a glance up from watching each and every foot placement. The pitch got pretty steep at times but this is just what the upper mountain is like!

Upper Mountain, view of Mt. Adams
After a long traverse heading mostly north on onto the Emmons, we switched back and headed toward the Nisqually glacier. Not long before the final push to the summit (I'm guessing we were around 14,000 ft), I glanced down and saw Camp Muir, waaaaaay below us. I zoomed the camera all the way (it's a 14x lens) to take this picture and wish I would have taken one without the zoom because looking down at where we started less than 20 hours ago was pretty cool.

Camp Muir as seen from 14,000 ft
After a final break, we turned to our right and climbed steeply up to to the crater rim for the last 20 minutes of the climb! 

(To be more time!)

Sunday, October 5, 2014


We had such a lovely, lovely weekend.  I'm finding that the weeks are becoming blurred in the to and fro from after school activities, meetings, obligations, food preparation, etc. and so to have a weekend that is a relaxing mix of family and friend time is just about perfect.

Friday evening, I met with my "God group" and even though I was late, I was so glad I went.  I tell you, sitting with a group of women who are open and honest about triumphs and struggles and everything in between is good for the soul.  Also, each of the children spent separate time with their Grandma this weekend- which is also good for the soul!

Saturday evening we had two other couples over for dinner.  I thought it would be fun to do something a bit different so we had a casual beer tasting!  I'm not even a big beer fan, but I loved trying the different brews.  We served three different beers; an Oktoberfest for the appetizers, a Pale Ale for the entree and an espresso stout for dessert!  I pretty much copied this menu exactly and it took all the guess work out of planning the menu!  I especially loved the appetizer board.  Oh, and the Beer Can Chicken was a novelty and very, very good.  We will be making it again for sure.

Sunday, after church, we decided that we could all really use a day doing something together as a family.  It was nice to focus on each other and I particularly enjoyed seeing Harris and Grace connect and have crazy, silly fun together.  Harris especially feels it when he doesn't have as much Grace time and he was so happy that I was so glad that we made the time for a hike in the woods.

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