Archive for December, 2007

Christmas Videos

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

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Merry Christmas 2007

Thursday, December 27th, 2007


What an embarrassment of riches.  A surfeit of gifts.  Opening this pile required portions of two days, and to be honest, we still haven’t gotten to the stockings.  This didn’t include the gifts that Santa brought Christmas Eve.  Young Will was absolutely overwhelmed.  He still hasn’t grasped that all those things were for him.  Our children are very, very blessed to have such a wondrously generous family. 

We began opening our Winter family gifts Christmas Eve afternoon because Nicki and Tony had to leave around noon on Christmas Day to catch their flight back to Minneapolis.  Will’s first gift included a couple of little crash-’em-up cars, and we had a hard time getting him to open anything else after that.  But, we soldiered on. 

12-26-07-30.jpg Anna helps Grandpa (and Kotcha) open his Backyardigans DVD

12-26-07-31.jpg Grandma inspects her sheepskin scarf, from Will’s home in Ningxia

12-26-07-32.jpg Will and Anna, already bored with the proceedings, try to escape in the garbage bag

12-26-07-33.jpg Grandpa, the Music Man

12-26-07-34.jpg Anna’s stuffed James, one of Thomas the Tank Engine’s friends.  Will got Thomas.

Then we had to go to church, because Mama had to play the piano, and my choir had to sing.  Will and Grandpa had matching red sweater vests and plaid shirts, but I never really got to see them together, so I don’t have any photos.  My sister does, so hopefully she will e-mail them to me, and I can add them in.  Dast I hope that she might even update her own blog with some photos?  Stay tuned!  Bed was in order immediately after returning from church, so Santa had to make a late night appearance.  Mama and Baba had to help him set things up, until about 4AM.  The only good thing was that neither child really has any concept of Santa bringing gifts yet, so they weren’t champing at the bit to get up early on Christmas morning.  We made a relatively civilized entrance to the living room at 9AM.  I’m putting the video in another post when I’m done with this one.

12-26-07-35.jpg 12-26-07-36.jpg The Fisher-Price Geotrax set that Santa brought!

12-26-07-37.jpg 12-26-07-38.jpg Joe shows off his package wrapping prowess!

12-26-07-39.jpg The kids opening an easel from Autie Renee

12-26-07-40.jpg Anna’s new baby, Sally, and her stroller and milk bottle

At this point, my camera’s battery died, so I didn’t catch much more of the present-opening frenzy.  I’ll have to rely on Joe’s and Grandpa’s pictures.  But Anna and Will received some very lovely clothes, and Anna got some fantastic educational toys:  a really cool globe from Aunt Rosemarie and a wonderful floor puzzle from Uncle Jon and Aunt Eileen, and a big Play-dough set from Grammy and Nono.  Will got a punching bag from Uncle Jon, a vet clinic from Grammy, and the prize of all prizes, a huge monster truck from Aunt Rosemarie!  A very cute TJ Bearytales and some story cassettes from Grammy and Nono were also a hit with both kids.  There’s also a video of Will opening his truck coming up.


A new child of God

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

The morning of December 23, young William Joseph Winter Casciari became a child of God through the sacrament of Holy Baptism at Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Barre, Vermont.  As with Anna, his Baba was worried that lightning might strike, or that the water would sizzle as it touched his forehead, but thankfully, the Lord’s will is stronger than that of our children (or ours, for that matter), and the baptism went off without a hitch.  Whew.  With his entire family in attendance, he made it through the sacrament, and then managed to behave badly enough that his Uncle Tony felt obligated to take him out into the nursery for the rest of the service.  Well, perhaps a bit more work at behaving in church is required.  He will behave pretty well for Joe and I, but all discipline is lost if anyone else enters the picture.  I guess one of my big jobs as a parent is to teach them to behave appropriately even if I am NOT present.  That’s a big job.  How in the world do Moms do that?

Here are some pics to commemorate the occasion.  The first 3 pictures are courtesy of our good friend Marion who took them during the baptism itself.

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A BIG family get-together

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

The extended Winter family all arrived on Friday, December 21, in preparation for Will’s baptism on the 23rd. Grandma and Grandpa got here in the afternoon, and enjoyed some relatively quiet getting-acquainted time before Auntie Nicki and Uncle Tony arrived in the evening.

12-26-07-16.jpg The stickers brought by Auntie Nicki were enjoyed by all!
12-26-07-17.jpg Grandma puppy dog-sits!

On Saturday, the Casciari clan arrived, and we had a big family dinner together at the Eastgate. They were gracious enough to give us the big private room in the rear of the restaurant, so the kids could relax a bit and run around if they needed to. It was a very nice time. It was also Baba’s birthday, and he got to enjoy a few gifts and cards and some strawberry cheesecake for dessert, so I hope he had a nice time. It’s a bad time to have a birthday if you want individual attention. I might try to get him to change his birthday to the summertime.

12-26-07-18.jpg The kids dressed up for dinner
12-26-07-19.jpg 12-26-07-20.jpg 12-26-07-22.jpg 12-26-07-21.jpg 12-26-07-41.jpg 12-26-07-42.jpg 12-26-07-23.jpg The Casciari cousins and the aunties

Mama’s train

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

In our house, if a toy is being squabbled over, or if there’s something I just don’t want the kids to touch, it become’s “Mama’s”. I picked up this cute little train a couple of years ago, and got it out for the first time this year. I set it up under the tree, but it’s just too delicate to be manhandled by toddlers, even though they are drawn to it like moths to a flame. After about 10 minutes of repetition, they finally understood that this is “Mama’s train”, and no one has messed with it. Fortunately, as you will see in a recent post, they got their own train set for Christmas, so they don’t have to be quite so concerned with mine anymore. I managed to shoot this before my living room degenerated into full-scale holiday destruction. I do not know what Anna is saying at the end, other than “Christmas train!”

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Some snow pics

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

I’m so far behind on blogging that I can’t even remember when we had our big snow storms, but I’ve got some cute pics to share, so I’m going to start with those.

These were taken December 3, so they must have been after our first real snow of the year:

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The following were taken on the evening of December 8 at our company Christmas dinner.  We ate at the Eastgate in Littleton this year, because our favorite restaurant, the Grand Depot, is still closed.  We know the owners, and they are just taking some time off, but we hope they open up again soon, because we really miss them!

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I dressed the kids up in their Sunday finery on December 9, and attempted to get a nice photo or two to put in a Christmas card, or frame for family members.  Somehow, with 2 children, it has become 4 times as hard to get a photo where they are at least looking pleasant.  Smiling is out of the question.  After considerable editing, I finally came up with the final shot below.

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On the 10th, we dressed them up in their snow suits and took them out in the back yard with the sled to ride down the hill a few times.   Anna is a trooper, but our little toughie from the wilds of Ningxia is a bit of a wimp.  I lasted longer than he did, and you all know how much I love cold fingers and toes.  I think there was about 18 inches of snow down at this point. 

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Our biggest snow of the year so far came on Sunday the 16th, preventing us from making the hour long trek to church, and cancelling my choir’s anthems for the day, and even worse, forcing us to miss a critical Christmas rehearsal.    Good thing we didn’t try it; we ended up with 12-14 inches of snow that day.  It was snowing hard – I tried to capture that in the photos below, but I don’t know if it really displays the intensity.  We were getting upwards of 1 inch per hour.

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The kids rode that one out indoors, and Anna taught Puppy Dog how to sit on her high chair tray.  Isn’t she clever?!  Maybe she can start working on the real dogs now!

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That day inside allowed me enough time to put up our fantabulous, 4 foot tall, glaringly artificial, white Christmas tree!  I happen to think it’s quite pretty, and I even snapped some pictures before the cats managed to completely denude the left side of all its ornaments!


This was taken at 6 PM as the storm was winding down.  I think we had been plowed once already at this point, with another plowing happening the next day to clean up the next 4 inches or so that fell overnight.  The snow pile in front of our mudroom came up just about to the bottom of my flag. 


Will’s Doctor’s visit(s!)

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

On Tuesday, our young Will had his first visit with the craniofacial team at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, NH.  We had several choices of referral hospitals to visit, but I have had such good experiences with the care at Dartmouth that we decided it was the best place for us to go.  We knew that if we didn’t like this team, we could always try somewhere else.  It’s also only a 1-hour drive; other places are at least 2 hours away.

Will’s appointment started at 9AM, so it was an early wakeup call for us.  We got on the road at 7:45 with 2 sleepy kids and a handful of breakfast bars.  We made it just in the nick of time, and got all checked in.  They came for us right away, and there was very little waiting throughout the day, which was really nice.  Our first visit was with an ear, nose and throat specialist (a very nice young man), who looked at Will’s ears, nose and throat.  Clever, that!  I knew he was the doc I wanted to hit up about the odor that comes from Will’s nose, so I led off with that.  He examined him carefully, declared that he didn’t have an infection, but that he did have an alveolar cleft!  Ha!  With all my studying of clefts, I was familiar with the term, but I guess I had never seen a picture illustrating the alveolar cleft, so I had missed this entirely!  He suggested a more comprehensive rinsing program with a salt water solution, both through the nose and the mouth, to flush through the cleft more effectively.  Because Will was sitting in my lap at this time, I didn’t get to see what he was talking about, so we moved on to the next appointment, and I got to ask some more questions.

Next we saw the plastic surgeon, another very nice young man.  I don’t quite understand when it happened that all the doctors out there became so young.  Thankfully not everyone we saw that day was younger than me, so I don’t have a total age complex, but it’s pretty close.  Anyway, from his perspective, Will’s initial repair was pretty well done, and he will hope to do his lip revision surgery as late as possible.  Because cleft children always have a deviated septum, which will magnify in intensity as they grow, if the repairs are done at a young age, they will usually have to be revised again during the teens.  If we can hold out until he’s 11 or 12, there’s a good chance that would be the only corrective surgery he would have to have.  When I say “hold out”, that means we will be evaluating his awareness of his different appearance, and how it is affecting him socially.  If we can build up his self-esteem enough that he is not concerned about comments from children not his friends, we won’t have to rush to cosmetic surgery.  I fear that I will have to work on my parenting techniques a bit to accomplish this feat! 

So, regarding the alveolar cleft:  if you lift Will’s upper lip as far as you can, you can see a deep groove on either side of his central incisors.  The doctors speculated that these grooves were wide enough for us to pass a piece of dental floss through.  These grooves allow for a communication between the area in front of his upper teeth and his nose.  While we don’t typically see liquid coming from his nostrils, the ENT doc speculated that saliva, etc., may be passing through there and may be the source of his odor.  Thus the flushing we’re going to try to teach him how to do.  The “grooves” in his mouth delineate his pre-maxilla, which in his case is an isolated piece of bone, not fused to his hard palate.  The skin is continuous, but the underlying bone is not.  I’m going to skip over a couple of doctors to get to the oral surgeon and orthodontist, because they are the ones concerned with this cleft.  They explained that we don’t really know yet exactly how this cleft will affect his teeth.  Right now, we don’t know where the lateral incisors are going to descend when the permanent teeth try to come in.  We don’t know for certain which teeth he has; some cleft kids are missing teeth, some have extra teeth that erupt.  We will have to wait for awhile, and perhaps at his next appointment, x-rays will be done to look at his permanent dentition so we can find out.  None of these issues are horribly critical, though.  The teeth issues will be addressed with orthodontia in the future.  The only surgical issue is the cleft in the alveolar bone, which is the bone that holds our teeth in place.  When he reaches 6 or 7, and the permanent teeth are trying to erupt and seat themselves firmly, he will likely have an alveolar grafting  procedure to add some bone to the cleft area.  This will give the incisors and canines a firm bony bed.  This is the same procedure that adults with periodontal disease and alveolar bone loss often have to help save their teeth.  I don’t know how they do it in children, but in adults, it’s usually a local anesthesia, out-patient procedure.    So, in summary, the best case scenario is that he will have 1 plastic surgery, one bone grafting procedure, and braces.  Not too terrible.  Worst case is probably 2 plastic surgeries in addition to the other things.

After the plastic surgeon, we saw a pediatrician who specializes in genetics, because occasionally, clefting is associated with other defects and can be part of a syndrome.  She had Will strip down to his undies, which made him cry for some unfathomable reason.  So, he bawled through her exam, even though she was so very kind and gentle.  She looked at fingers and toes, and lots of other things, but found no evidence of other defects.  He appears to have isolated clefting, which is the most common.  We discussed the likelihood that Will could pass on the cleft to his children.  Right now, statistically, children of cleft-affected parents show a 2-4% incidence of clefting, as opposed to about 0.5% in the general population.  She speculated that this figure is skewed higher than it should be because there is a genetically based syndrome which is a dominant gene.  Children of these adults have a 50% chance of being affected.  Therefore, the adults with an isolated cleft probably really have a lower chance of passing it on.  We just don’t have reliable enough data yet to isolate those folks from the statistics.  She thought that by the time Will is thinking of having children, we will likely have a genetic testing panel we can run to make certain he is not carrying this gene, and we may have better statistics.  With isolated clefts, we really don’t understand the etiology yet.  We don’t know how much of the cause is genetic vs. environmental.   We’ll likely know more in 20 years or so.

After the geneticist, we talked to a speech pathologist.  Will was getting a bit sullen and uncooperative by this time, so she had a bit of a hard time getting him to repeat things so she could hear them.  But he finally came around, and she was able to tell that he does not seem to have any cleft-related speech issues.  I mentioned the inability to pronounce “t”s at the beginning of words, and she was able to demonstrate that he can make that sound at the ends of words, so it’s more of a cognitive miscommunication at this point.  She thought that he would likely be doing those sounds correctly in 3-4 months, but that if he isn’t, we should check into the intervention services offered through the state and the school system.   These services are freely available if we should need them.  Her honest opinion was that he would be fine.

Then it was lunch time, so we went down to the food court and Baba got us all pizza slices, and we had a nice lunch.  Anna was a very good girl during all of this, and I think relieved that none of the attention was focused on her.  Thankfully both Joe and I were able to go; I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have entertained Anna and held Will at the same time.  As is Anna’s normal MO, we had to go poop in a public bathroom after lunch, which takes at least 15 minutes and a book.  Ah, she is her mother’s daughter!  At least we don’t have to deal with excrement-encrusted squattie potties anymore.

After lunch, we went back upstairs to the craniofacial clinic for our meeting with the orthodontist and oral surgeon, and then we were done.  The doctors will all write up their reports, and will have a meeting of the minds to make recommendations for Will’s future appointments and treatment.  It will likely be at least 18 months before we meet with them again, and there really won’t be any treatment done until he is at least 6 or 7 years old.  All in all, he’s in very good shape for the shape that he’s in.  I don’t have the smell conquered, but at least I was reassured that it isn’t due to some dastardly infection, and we can start to work on it.  I now understand the alveolar cleft issue as well. 

After our appointments, we made a trip to Kohl’s for some Christmas shopping, and then Joe headed off to teach his class and I took the kids home in a snow storm.  We got about 6 inches of snow that night to add to our 12 inches on the ground.  More coming tonight (maybe 2 inches) and then a nor’easter planned for Sunday.  We don’t know how fast that’s moving yet, so there aren’t any snowfall predictions yet.  If it stalls over us, it could be a lot of snow; if it moves quickly, it will probably be more in the 6 inch range.  This will be our first white Christmas in several years!  This is what the weather was advertised to be when I was enticed to move up here, but we haven’t really seen it since we’ve been here.  At last the jet stream or the el nino or something has shifted again so we’re getting our normal weather.  Hooray!  I just hope it doesn’t affect the travel plans of family coming up for Will’s baptism next weekend, and Christmas celebrations.

I’ve got some new pics, but the camera isn’t right under my nose, so I’ll try to do that later.  I know that’s what people REALLY want to see!

My new gao gaos

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

I seem to have acquired two new little dogs.  They’re not very well-behaved, but they’re cute, most of the time.  They are housebroken after a fashion, with occasional accidents. 

As I vet, I often counsel people with new puppies to crate train them.  This consists of placing the puppy in the crate any time during which he or she cannot be directly supervised.  It helps prevent potty accidents, and keeps them out of temptation’s way.  It also gives them their own little territory, a den of sorts, where they can go when they’re scared or tired, and feel safe. 

We help train puppies and kittens to not be afraid of their crates by leaving them open in the family areas of the home so they can investigate them, and go in and out of them without any stress or drama associated with it.  When they become comfortable running in and out, you can start closing them in for short periods of time.  I have used this technique well, don’t you think?  People laughed at me when I said I could, if needed, take Anna to work and keep her in one of our big comfortable dog cages.  Now I know it would work with either of them.  If they’re comfortable hanging out in Siri’s dark, small, smelly  crate at home, just imagine how much they would enjoy the bright, cheery stainless steel cages at work!

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