when I started this blog five years ago, I was a pet sitter and the name animal-crackers made sense. now I'm a stay-at-home-dad and freelance writer, but rather than confuse everyone by getting a different blog, it's just easier to keep posting things here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bright eyes

It's a long hallway from the maternity ward to the NICU, and much of it uphill. As we walked along the green carpet toward another visit with Dylan, Andree and I discussed the strangeness of our situation.

Assuming everything continues to progress well, three months from now we're going to take home a newborn who is already more than three months old. He'll be a newborn in every respect. A year from now, he'll be a 9-month-old infant.

And we amused ourselves with the idea that we could stop going to the NICU for the next three months. We'd just show up sometime in late November when he's "done" and take him home.

Our conversation continued along this strangeness even after we scrubbed and stood by Dylan's bed. For instance, of course Aug. 22 is his birthday. But wouldn't it be nice to celebrate his coming home as a second birthday. After all, he'll be just like new.

The nurse, Terry, was nice and very talkative. She offered to turn off the anti-jaundice lamp and pull back his headgear for our visit. And as she lifted the little blanket from his head, she showed us the newest IV.

In his fucking head. He has a tube in his head. Apparently they found a great vein up there.

"He's a unicorn," she said, trying to keep the unveiling light.

Great. Now our son is a unicorn.

Terry encouraged us to hold his hands, so he would stop flailing about. He's been rather agitated today. Maybe because he has a tube in his head.

Then, as we talked to Dylan, the most amazing thing happened. He opened his eyes and he looked at us. First he looked to his left at his mother. Then he rolled his eyes around and looked at me. We continued to talk to him and he continued to look at us.

His breathing eased as he relaxed. His blood-oxygen level increased. His lungs were doing less work but getting better results.

"He recognizes your voices," Terry said.

Of course he recognizes Andree's voice. He had to listen to it for 24 weeks (minus whatever time he didn't have ears). I doubted whether my voice was having any affect. But Andree said that when I spoke Dylan squeezed her finger.

And his little bright eyes kept looking at us.
posted by todd at 11:03 PM 7 comments

Monday, August 29, 2005

Oh...and happy birthday

Dylan made it through his first week. Yay!!!
posted by todd at 11:24 PM 7 comments

Mr. Staypuff

Another visit with Dylan this evening. The doctor had told us he was puffy around the neck and upper chest from the leaked fluids. They weren't kidding.

He had no neck. He looked like the guy on Jake and the Fat Man.

I know it's not a big deal. It's not affecting his vital signs or causing any stress on him. And it will go away. I just looked bad.

We didn't take any pictures. Dylan's under an anti-jaundice heat lamp much of the time, and plastic wrap is stretched across his tray to keep in the moisture. Plus his head and face are always covered for protection. Peeling back all the layers just for a picture right now doesn't seem worth it. But we'll get one as soon as we can.
posted by todd at 11:16 PM 0 comments

The rollercoaster

It's been a busy two days. Andrea came home yesterday morning. She's tired and needs to heal.

Then we started the rollercoaster everyone at NICU had warned us about.

I can't remember if it was before or after Andrea was home, but we had learned an ultrasound had detected bleeding in Dylan's brain. And another ultrasound was performed Sunday morning.

Sunday evening when we returned to the hospital the nurse wouldn't tell us the results. She said we needed to talk to the doctor. This seemed unusual since the nurses never had qualms about discussing ultrasounds before. But it didn't set off the alarms in me that it did in Andrea.

So we grabbed the doctor as soon as he came into the unit. He accessed the report on the closest computer. Andrea read over his shoulder and didn't like what she saw.

We needed to leave the NICU as they were preparing to perform surgery on another infant. We sat in the waiting area for about 20 minutes until the doctor invited us into the film viewing room.

First he drew us a diagram of what we were talking about and then he showed us the actual ultrasounds. The short answer -- he was bleeding in two locations. Very small amounts and in an area that controls limb movement and not cognitive ability. He said it wasn't good, but it wasn't as bad as it looked or sounded.

Sure enough, this morning another ultrasound showed the amount of blood had shrunken to a very, very small amount. All seemed okay.

Then just an hour ago, a different doctor called to say one of Dylan's two IV lines had leaked fluid into his neck tissue. His neck is swollen, but the fluid isn't causing any stress and will eventually absorb back into his system.

The real problem is that they had to pull the IV and now need to reinsert it elsewhere.

Still, overall he is okay. He's surviving and will be one week old tonight at 11:24.
posted by todd at 5:05 PM 4 comments

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A good day

Dylan was turned over onto his belly this afternoon. It's probably the most movement he's had since he was placed in NICU. And the nurse said he seems to be enjoying it.

Earlier today the doctor had said his capilary was bleeding a teeny bit into his brain. On a scale of one to four, this ranks a number one. It's not unusual or likely to cause any damage, the doctor said. They plan to take another ultrasound tomorrow morning to see whether it has healed.

Except for that, the doctor said Dylan had a great day. The ventilator was lowered to 25 percent oxygen. Just a day or so ago, it was 70 percent. (We breath 20 percent.) And his chest is rising and falling in little fits as he tries to breath on his own. All good signs.

Best news of the day -- Andrea finally saw Dylan live and in person this morning. She was taking some milk to NICU and talked to the doctor. He said it was okay for her to come in. So she scrubbed up and went.

She was VERY happy to say the least. He looks better in person than in pictures. Plus, it was a good time to see him. His skin looking a little healthier and the doctor was upbeat about his condition.

Andrea's doctor told her she could come home tomorrow. But I wouldn't be surprised if she stays until Monday. I'd rather have her here -- Josh and I both miss her.
posted by todd at 4:12 PM 8 comments

Friday, August 26, 2005


Dylan is still ok -- which is great. Every hour helps. Last night the NICU respiratory doctors tried to decrease his ventilator to test his lungs. At first, they seemed to do well. But then his blood-oxygen levels fell and they had to increase the ventilation again. So it's going to be a while before his lungs can work on their own.

Josh and I made a surprise visit to Andrea at 9:30 last night. She was a wreck. The post-partum hormone changes are really hurting. And it's worse since she can't see Dylan. Her fever is dropping slowly, but still hasn't fallen below 99 degrees.

We didn't stay long, but it was a great visit. We played with a bag of miniature Reese's cups on the bed. It's amazing what will entertain a 3-year-old.

Josh had been feeling better last night when we saw Andrea, but he woke this morning with a 100-degree temperature. No projectile vomiting, but lots of sinus congestion and coughing. Because of that we couldn't see Andrea this morning.

In an hour, however, a friend is coming to watch Josh and I'll go visit. I'm worried I won't get to see Dylan having been exposed to Josh's bug.

Thanks everyone for your warm thoughts and encouraging words.
posted by todd at 2:49 PM 1 comments

Thursday, August 25, 2005

More pictures of Dylan

Spent a little more time with Dylan and took a few more pictures.

I wish I could spend all day there, but the seating arrangements suck. And there's Josh to think about. Here's a close-up.

Those tiny eyes flickered open for a split second today. It's supposed to be normal, but it was the first I've seen it.

Josh projectile vomitted after his nap this afternoon. Could be a bug he got at school or another allergy-mucous episode. Either way, we didn't get to the hospital tonight.

Andrea was disappointed to say the least. She still has a fever, her hormones are changing, and she's antsy to get out of there. Hopefully, she can come home on Saturday. But I'm not holding my breath. Not while her temperature remains above 100.
posted by todd at 8:42 PM 9 comments

No bleeding

Andrea just talked to the NICU doctor. Dylan had a third ultrasound and there is still no signs of bleeding in the brain! That means it's unlikely he'll end up with cerebral palsy, mental retardation or a Terry Schiavo lifestyle.

There's still many many hurdles to get over before Dylan leaves the hospital. But this one was a biggy. Now the doctors will focus on his lung development.

Also, Andrea received a definitive answer as to when she can see Dylan. She has to go 24 hours with her temperature below 99 degrees.

She hasn't yet since her surgeries. She has an infection and is receiving antibiotics.

The pathology lab finished dissecting her uterus. Turns out her doctor's hypothesis as to what caused the bleeding was correct.

The placenta is basically a tumor. It latches onto the uterine wall and steals blood to grow and (I assume) help feed the fetus. Well, this time the placenta latched onto the scar from her C-section and myomectomy. It grew into the scar and damaged it further. That's probably more information than many of you wanted to know.
posted by todd at 7:31 AM 9 comments

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Here's Dylan. He's about 36 hours old.

He's got tiny hands.

Andrea's looking better today.

Except for her arm.

But this is the one that was really beat up.

posted by todd at 5:10 PM 3 comments

First surgery

Dylan should be in his first surgery by now. The doctors need to close a valve that is short-circuiting the blood system and putting undue pressure on the lungs, eventually causing them to bleed.

The doctor said that the surgery is so routine, he's never lost a baby to it. Still, all the usual surgery risks are there.

Andrea sounded much much better when I talked to her on the phone this morning. By last night she had been awake 40 hours straight (exluding the two hours of surgeries, but that doesn't count). It's impossible to get any real sleep in the hospital with nurses coming in and out of the room.

She still hasn't seen Dylan. Since her surgery, Andrea's had all sorts of minor problems including a recurring low-grade fever. Any fever at all is enough to keep us from seeing him.

I'm heading over this morning after leaving Josh with a friend. Hopefully her fever is down we'll get to see Dylan together.

I saw him for a couple of hours yesterday. First while Andrea was in her second surgery and again around noon. I got to hold his little feet.

Also, we still haven't told Josh he has a baby brother. Anyone with experience on this? We don't even know where to begin.
posted by todd at 8:33 AM 6 comments

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Andrea and Dylan

Dylan was born 11:24 pm Monday weighing 1 pound and 13 ounces.

Andrea had started bleeding around 11 and the doctor couldn't get it to stop. So he delivered the baby caesarian and patched up the uterus.

Because the hospital had our old phone number, there was some difficultly contacting me. I got to the hospital at 12:30 am. They still hadn't stopped the bleeding entirely, so the doctor performed a second surgery, this time to remove the uterus.

While she was under, I went and visited Dylan. He's so tiny. And we don't know if he'll make it.

Andrea is doing fine. She had lost 2 liters of blood and required three transfusions. She's okay now though.
posted by todd at 8:41 AM 10 comments

Monday, August 22, 2005


We want to thank everyone for your words of encouragement and concern.

Josh and I visited her this evening and were happy to see she was untethered. The second IV and catheter were removed, so she's walking around a little. Very very little.

But so far it's all looking as good as we can hope for.

Keeping thinking happy thoughts for us.
posted by todd at 8:24 PM 4 comments

An update on Andrea

Andrea is doing well. She’s in ANOTHER room. Her fourth so far. This one has a great view of the courtyard, but only basic cable. Also, one of her IVs and all of the monitors have been removed and she's eating normal food. This all means they don't expect she’ll need emergency surgery.

Her regular obgyn came by this morning and said he wants her to stay another week at least.

Unfortunately, the stress is starting to take its toll on Josh. The last two times we returned home from the hospital he cried and wanted his mom.

But help is on its way. My mom is flying in on Saturday and staying a couple of weeks. She's a very doting grandmother and will be a tremendous help.

Oh and in news of the weird -- a hospital admissions clerk came to Andrea's room to tell her they called our insurance and we aren't covered. Not to worry though, Andrea had already spoken to her HR contact and she had said we were. Turns out the hospital had our old insurance information from 3 1/2-years ago when Josh was born. Whew.
posted by todd at 3:58 PM 7 comments

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Pictures of Josh

Josh has rediscovered his Bob the Builder hat and jig-saw.

What big eyes he has.

posted by todd at 9:18 AM 1 comments

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Still there

Andree's still at the hospital and likely will be until late next week. Then she's confined to bed rest until the baby is born. And if she starts to bleed again, she will go back to the hospital and remain there.

We're at 24 weeks now -- the very earliest a baby has even a chance of surviving with lifelong medical conditions such as cerebral palsy and mental retardation.

The goal is 28 weeks. At that point, Dylan has a 95 percent chance of developing into a normal, healthy child. So every day in the womb counts.

Unfortunately, the bleeding has led to contractions which lead to more bleeding. The doctor gave her magnesium sulate which reduces the contractions. It can also lead to lung failure if too much is given.

The doctor measured and weighed the baby. Dylan is 1 pound and 10 ounces -- at the 79th percentile. He's a big boy, and that helps with his survivability. Plus, Andree has received a couple of steroid shots that will accelerate Dylan's lung development. His Olympic dreams, however, are gone.

In short, the people at the hospital seem to be on top of things.
posted by todd at 11:26 PM 3 comments

At the hospital

Andree is at the hospital. She's ok for now, but she's staying another night.

She started bleeding last night. A nearby friend came over to take care of Josh and we were off to the hospital.

Her bleeding stopped. She's fine and Dylan's fine.

Josh, however, woke up from a bad dream and freaked out when he saw our friend, Chuck, here. (He'd never met Chuck.) So we arranged for another, more familiar friend to babysit him for the night.

After we talked to the doctor, I came home. But Josh and I heading back soon.

More to follow.
posted by todd at 9:25 AM 5 comments

Friday, August 19, 2005

The things we hold on to

Ever notice how there's certain things you believe that just aren't true? I'm not talking about grand political-socio-economic-historical stuff. It's the little things we hold on to. The little lies that we tell ourselves -- even as we recognize them for what they are.

Here are a few of mine:

1) I can judo. I had two 1/2-credit phys-ed classes in college. Twelve years ago, this was. And I still think that if I were to get in a street fight today, I'd be able to bust out some judo, disarm my assailants and toss them like bags of hay.

2) Someday, I'll make good use of my Arabic and Hebrew skills. Very similar to No. 1. In college -- a gazillion years ago -- I took three semesters of Arabic and two semesters of Hebrew. I can't even recite their alef-bets.

3) Blueberries make it healthy. Yes, blueberry pancakes are healthier than regular pancakes. This is also true for muffins and donuts. It's fruit!

4) Same with strawberries. Strawberry ice cream must be healthier than vanilla or chocolate. Right?

5) I'll be rich. This one confounds me on several levels, because I'm not materialistic. I'm a pack-rat and a terrible consumer. I wear shoes until they disintegrate. So it's not like I have an overpowering drive to be wealthy. What's worse, I don't have a plan for becoming rich. I'll never receive a fat inheritance. But somehow, the money will appear.

6) I'll have an important job. Actually, this has all but slipped away. As a child, of course, I figured I'd be an astronaut or doctor. Even until recently, I imagined I'd be a top-notch journalist, a congressman or a lead guitarist. Now, I have no idea what I'll be doing in five years. Hopefully writing books.

I'm sure there's more. But that'll do.
posted by todd at 10:28 AM 3 comments

Monday, August 15, 2005

Got the look

Ok, I've been wanting to do this post since Phil did his, but I just haven't gotten around to it.

There's this site called Analogia that estimates which celebrity you most look like. I tried it with a picture of me looking off camera with disasterous results. It said I most looked like:

David Paymer, an actor who has been in a bunch of movies including Amistad, Nixon and Get Shorty, to name a few.

Then I tried a different photo with different results.

This is me, an arguably average guy.

This is supposedly the celebrity I most look like. Sorry Mr. Paxton. I hope this doesn't dent your career.

This guy is No. 2. Allessandro Del Piero, a soccer player who has obviously been kicked in the face. But not as much as this guy:

Jaap Stam, another soccer player. Come on! I thought maybe the software was messed up. So I tried a little experiment. I used the same picture and tried to find which female celebrities I most look like. Here's the results:

Soleil Moon Frye. You know who this is? Punky freakin Brewster!!!

Helen Hunt. Between her and Bill, I look like half the cast of Twister.

Lacey Chabert. She and Moon Frye both star in the cartoon series Bratz. Also, Ms. Chabert is the voice of Eliza, the bratty teen on The Wild Thornberries. Her movies include Lost in Space and Mean Girls.

So there you have it. Depending on how much make-up I wear, I either look like a fugly soccer player, a twenty-something hottie, of someone who's been through a tornado.
posted by todd at 2:37 PM 2 comments

Friday, August 12, 2005

San Antonio

We're back! You probably never missed us. We drove to San Antonio yesterday, spent the night and did some touristy stuff.

For those who are not from Texas or do not know the story of San Antonio, I would recommend renting The Alamo -- that's where all of our historical knowledge comes from.

Andree and Josh relaxed outside the Alamo, with the sun in their eyes.

Josh kept me from falling into the fountain in front of the Alamo Research Library. Minutes later, Josh threw a dime into the water and made a wish.

After we left the Alamo, we went to the Gazebo.

And after the Gazebo, we went to the ice cream shop and Josh's wish came true...

posted by todd at 4:58 PM 4 comments

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Somewhere over the honeymoon

I recently received my first Comments spam. How naive and innocent I was before the brutish hawkers of cheesecake invaded my personal blogspace.

At Phil's urging, I did some research on spam blockers.

Blogspot has a simple and dare I say ingenious solution to these Web-bot ruffians. Delete their comments.

Thank you, Mr. Blogspot. Thank you for the kind help and sophisticated software.

So, expect to see the implementation of an alternate form of comments.
posted by todd at 11:05 PM 2 comments

Babylon Aisle Five

We stopped by the neighborhood Ultra-Mega-Wal-Mart yesterday to pick up a few things. Some donuts, shoes, howitzer. You know, the typical Wal-Mart goodies.

While Andree was off looking for some clothes, Josh and I checked out the village-sized area of shoes. We found the aisle for his size and I looked for something he might like.

Another family was there, too -- a mother and two daughters, probably 4- and 2-years-old. The older daughter is sitting on the floor and discussing shoe options with her mother, en Español.

In Texas, this is far from uncommon, and we're hoping Josh will become fluent in the language. (I was one of the losers who took French in high school.)

But for now, he's not.

Josh sat down next to the girl, who was still talking, and this is what he said:

"Blabiddy blah blee blah blah blee."

He babbled and babbled and babbled. The girl stopped talking and looked at him like he was an idiot. Josh didn't care.

I was mortified. The mother smiled politely as they exited the aisle.


Question for comments: How many languages do you speak and what are they?
posted by todd at 7:30 PM 3 comments

Monday, August 08, 2005


"I've got dirty teeth in a crazy world."

                               -- Josh, Aug. 8, 2005
posted by todd at 10:24 PM 5 comments

Got nothing

I sure wish I had something interesting to say.

Weekend: Visited with friends. That was nice. Busted a sandal. Sits were mostly boring.

Saturday evening, I went to walk two of the most annoying dogs I've ever met. Very poorly trained golden retrievers. The family also has a cat that does little more than hide.

Whoever had done the morning sit had scooped the litter box into a plastic grocery bag, then forgot to throw away the bag. In the hallway were the remains of the bag, some litter and a few bits of uneaten cat turds.

In other news, Josh needs a little brother desperately. One is on the way, but not soon enough. It used to be Josh played well by himself. With his toys or books or whatever.

Now, if he spends more than 60 seconds alone he franticly seeks us out and clings like clean socks. Not so long ago, this was a sweet gesture to be enjoyed. Now it feels like I'm carrying an additional 35 pounds on my already overweight body.

And Andree is already walking for two. She can't handle three.
posted by todd at 4:56 PM 1 comments

Friday, August 05, 2005

March of the Penguins

No spoilers here.

Josh and I went to see March of the Penguins this afternoon. We were there a little early, only the second pair to sit down.

As a few other people trickled in, Josh watched the commercials -- nearly all of which were Coca-Cola related. Coke trivia. Coke Zero. MyCoke.com. No matter. We were enjoying ourselves. Josh chattered the whole time.

There were nine of us in the theater when a 10th guy arrived. He walked up to our row, pushed past Josh and I, and sat right freakin' next to me.

There are at least 100 seats in the joint and he sat next to me. He had a long, ratty, graying beard and smelled odd. Possibly cigarettes and old-people stuff. I had to move the diaper bag from chair, so I said "excuse me" rather loudly.

He seemed to take the hint. He sat in the chair for just a minute before getting up to sit in the next chair over.

Josh was still talking.

The lights dimmed and the previews started. One was for Pride and Prejudice, another for Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire, and a third I can't remember. But they were all loud and not targeted toward 3-year-olds.

Josh was still talking.

Movie started. Beautiful camera work. Antarctica looked amazing from the comfort of a movie theater. The penguins made their entrance. They're cute and waddly. Morgan Freeman narrated.

Josh was still talking.

He ate some cereal I had smuggled in, and sucked down a juice box. After about 15 minutes, Josh wanted to wander around. So we moved to the very back row.

He's still talking. No one seemed to care, thank god.

Penguins are incredible. This particular group hopped out of the water, marched 70 miles to their breeding ground, paired up, mated, popped their eggs which were given to the guys while the females marched 70+ miles back to the ocean -- all of this and they still haven't eaten.

They go for 120 days without food. That's 119.85 days longer than I've ever gone without food.

Oh, and Josh was still talking.

Finally, he tried to nap (while talking) in the seat. So we marched home.

I don't know how the movie ends. But the first 40 minutes were great. I would definitely recommend those 40 minutes.
posted by todd at 3:05 PM 5 comments

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A day with Josh

We started early today, 8:20. It was about 78 degrees and breezy. Good enough for a well-shaded park.

But no one else showed up for at least a half hour. I pushed him on the baby swing, which he barely fits into. We went down the slides. The big twisty one was lightly peppered with guano, so I went first to wipe it clean.

A dozen or so dog walkers went through the park, leaving their own guano. Then finally some kids showed up. It was four boys and one girl. The girl, Anita, was the oldest and looked like she was 9-ish. The youngest was probably Josh's age.

Josh bum-rushed them yelling "my friends! my friends!" However, after an awkward few minutes, they were having fun.

"Let's play freeze tag," the oldest boy, Marcus, shouted. They all played tag while Josh ran around screaming "I love freeze tag. I love freeze tag." At one point Anita tried to explain to Josh that he was It. And that's when the game fell apart.

We spent well over an hour at the park before the City Rec kids showed up. (Some sort of summer day camp program.)

Some time later, Josh wanted me to lay on the couch so he can climb on me. I am the stepping stool so he can sit on the back of the couch. It's an important lesson on how one reaches the pinnacle of success.

"I want destroy you," Josh said.

"You want to destroy me?"

"Yeah, I want destroy you. It makes me so happy!"

Um, okay.

And still later, as I'm at the computer I heard a bustle of activity in the kitchen. I went out and found Josh has already pulled out a slice of bread and the strawberry jam. He was looking for a knife to make himself a sandwich. (Don't worry the knives are out of his reach. They're almost out of Andree's reach.)

Now he's napping.
posted by todd at 1:57 PM 3 comments

Monday, August 01, 2005

Foot and mouth

Josh went to the doctor's office again this morning. Looks like he has foot and mouth disease. Yes, I was surprised that's a real disease too. I thought our friend Jeanette was joking when she first mentioned it.

Josh has blisters on the inside of his lip and the roof of his mouth. They developed shortly after his brief 101-degree fever broke Saturday morning.

And now I know how he feels. My mouth is tingling like I just gargled with Anbesol. That's one of the early symptoms.

posted by todd at 9:52 AM 1 comments