darren lamarr

Parent/Teacher Conference - Day 2

While yesterday was devoted to our daughter, today was the day for our son’s conference. They are both completely different children and the tone of the two conferences was also completely different starting with having five adults present today! To be honest, I think having that many people, his teacher, the assistant teacher, my wife, myself and the family advocate present were a bit too much for our son. Family advocate you ask? Why yes, and no, we didn’t have a clue as to why the teacher asked for her to attend.

We started our meeting with introductions. Each student was taught how to introduce people to each other and today was their day to practice their new-found skill. 

My son, “Mom and Dad? This is Ms Hanson and Ms Grune.” A bit of coaching and then he continued, “Ms Hanson and Ms Grune? These are my parents Carrie and Darren.” 

From there we progressed through his own step by step self appraisal of his work so far this year with a few comments from his teacher. He does well when he knows what he’s supposed to do, is at least partly familiar with the material and can just focus on doing schoolwork. Reading is also an area of strength for him. He’s in the top third of his class in math, the top twenty-percent in reading.

However, sitting still at a desk for more than five minutes and actually listening to instructions seems to be a big struggle for him. Even during our time there he got up and walked around to illustrate the points he was making. It appears that our youngest was not destined to work a desk job!

So what do you do as a parent when your child is performing well academically provided he has the right environment for him to excel? And what do you do as a parent when the regular school environment is not that environment?

For now the answer seems that you continue to adapt, cope and offer as much home support to enable their success while continuing to look for solutions that may be better.

The Call

I had a call this evening from my neighbor. It seems her husband was out of town and she needed help with hooking up her cable so that her daughter could watch TV in the bedroom while she had a ladies night with her friends (one being my wife). Being that I work for a cable company and am a good friend I was who she called.

Thankfully, I got to take a nice treat with me when I left a few minutes later after fixing the problem. Thanks Katie!

Sunset in Edmonds

On my way to take care of the grocery shopping for Thanksgiving this evening I decided to take a little detour and swing by the beach in Edmonds to check out the sunset. I was very glad that I did. We don’t get many sunny days here in Seattle this time of year but today was one of those rare special days.

I spent about forty-five minutes hanging out on the beach. The jet stream has drifted south so we’ve been getting some of that cold Alaskan air lately. It was bout forty degrees out this evening. I froze my butt off, but sixty shots later I think it was worth the effort.

Half and hour later as I sat in the pub having a beer I was certain it was worth it. Too bad I still had grocery shopping left to do but at least I was properly fortified for the elements!

Paul the Taxi Man

Not to put too fine a distinction on it but the job of being a taxi driver in America has increasingly fallen into the realm of our immigrant communities. It’s rare to get a taxi almost anywhere in America without it being someone that either speaks with a strong accent or struggles to speak English at all.

I won’t get into the reasons for this as I really can’t speak from any level of authority on the subject. It could be that like farm work, it’s a line of work so poorly paid few non-immigrants are willing to do this. Or, maybe it’s just an easy place for someone new to America to get their start. Regardless, suffice it to say that I was surprised when I hopped into my cab this evening when I encountered Paul.

My normal routine when I hop in a taxi is to shut up, whip out my phone and start checking email. That was not to be my fate on this journey. Paul is a talker and the trip to the Denver airport is not a short journey.

Paul’s been a taxi driver for forty-one years. Paul also speaks with an accent, a subtle Chicago one. When he was a young he joined the army and was stationed at Fort Lewis here in Seattle before shipping out to Korea for an eight month stint. When he returned he went back to his home town of Chicago before then moving to Denver, getting married and raising two kids as a taxi driver.

When I asked him how business had been of late he said, “Not good.” The past few years have been difficult for the taxi business in Denver according to Paul. He now only drives three days a week. I was amused by the fact that while he was a good driver, he also drove exactly the speed limit the entire trip. That’s perhaps the first time in my life where a taxi driver didn’t drive hell bent for leather to my destination.

His kids are now grown and he has three grand kids, all in their twenties with the youngest twenty-year old boy living with him and attending college in Denver. He wants to get into the hotel business.

Paul was truly a delightful man to spend part of my day with. During the drive I mentioned to him that I did photography. When we got to the airport I asked him if he’d mind if I took his picture. He said no problem so I had him stand in front of his cab and grabbed a few shots.

Thanks Paul for the fun drive. I hope I get a chance to see you again the next time I’m in Denver!


One Day, One Hospital, Two Kids

Being a parent is extremely hard. There are the good times, when you kid does something special, the bad times, when your kid is in trouble, and the horrible times, when your child is sick. And then there are days like today, some of the worst days of your parenting life - when you take two children to the hospital.

We’ve known for awhile that our eldest was going in for another surgery. He was born with a cleft lip and palette which has required numerous surgeries; ten so far not counting some of the smaller ones. Today was just one more in the long line of surgeries, so we were at least mentally prepared as best as can be for today’s procedure, as hard as it may be.

Back on Monday our daughter came down with something that gave her headaches, fever in the 104 range, sore throat and vomiting. We took her to the doctor who prescribed bed rest and lots of water. Bed rest she got but trying to get her to drink was next to impossible without spoon feeding her water. Today she woke up very weak. We had a follow up doctors appointment already scheduled for her so despite her fear and protestations otherwise, I picked her up and loaded her into the car, retching, tired and weak.

When the doctor walked in to the office and took her blood pressure, both laying down and sitting up she said, “this girl needs to go to the hospital. She’s very dehydrated. Do you want me to call the ambulance or do you want to take her in your car?” Fear took over. I loaded her into the car with the doctors parting words, “keep her talking and if she passes out you must stop and get her feet elevated,” ringing in my ears.

Hazard lights flashing, off I went on my mad dashed way to deliver my daughter the eleven miles to Seattle Children’s hospital. She was laying down in the back seat and I insisted she talk to me the entire way to ensure she not fall asleep and unconscious. With multiple calls to my wife who was already there at the hospital with our eldest entering surgery, constant conversation with my daughter, driving on the shoulder to bypass the freeway traffic jam and just sneaking through yellow lights I managed to show up at the emergency room in about twenty minutes. That’s about how long google maps says it should take without traffic. I was motivated.

I could see my wife Carrie standing on the ER ramp as I drove up. I scooped up my daughter, carried her into the ER and said, “Doctors called ahead to check her in,” and called out her name. They said, “we have no record of that. Please go sit down.” I was shocked and upset but of course what could I do? I sat down, held my daughter and waited.

While I held her she kept repeating to me the things she’d been saying on the drive down, “Daddy, I’m tired.” and “Daddy, I’m scared.” I did my best to reassure her that we were in the right place and that the doctors would take good care of her. Meanwhile Carrie dealt with the front desk and in about ten minutes someone came out to put ID’s on us and about five minutes later we were in seeing a doctor. 

After many questions, visits by about ten different people, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, blood draw, and many other things they put her on an IV saline drip. We learned pretty rapidly that her blood sugar levels were good followed awhile later by the news that her electrolytes were also in good shape. They were not clear on what exactly had caused her to become so dehydrated but were testing her for mononucleosis as that seemed the most likely thing. 

After the first 500 mL of saline had gone in to my daughter we could already see a difference in her. By now Carrie had to go back meet our son in post-op while I stayed with our daughter. Later, they came in to check on her and they let me know that she didn’t have mononucleosis - they thought that she just had a really bad viral infection of some sort. Great!

By the time the last 500 mL had gone in she was looking and feeling a lot better. The Tylenol and anti-nausea medicine also probably helped. She even managed to get up and walk herself with a little bit of help (something she’s not been able to do all week) to the bathroom. Up to now any time she tried to stand up she felt nauseous and would dry heave her way to the bathroom.

At about this time I managed to get word to my wife of the current situation and that we’d be getting discharged if our daughter could manage to also drink eight ounces of fluid. She let me know that our eldest was not having a good post-surgery and may need to be admitted for what was supposed to only be a day surgery - he was bleeding a bit too much and they had a hard time managing his pain. And so the roller coaster continued. 

My daughter finally managed to get her eight ounces of water drunk and so we began the drive home - it seemed to take an awful lot longer to get home than it did to get to the hospital. The shots above show her near the end of her treatment - I wish I’d taken one at the beginning though I know I never had the thought nor time. She looks so much better.

And once home and her safely tucked into a blanket watching a bit of TV in the living room, a place she’d not visited all week, I got a call from Carrie letting me know that they were discharging our eldest too. He’d come home and be able to spend the night with us. Bleeding much better, though his pain was still a problem. They determined he was well enough to deal with it at home.

Goodbye today. I’m so glad you ended far better than you began.

Breakfast Sandwich

This simple sandwich is tasty and easy.

1 English Muffin toasted
1 fried egg over medium
1 Slice cheddar cheese
1 Piece canadian bacon
1 Trader Joes hash brown
A few dashes Tobasco 

Toast your muffin and hash browns while making the rest.

Fry your egg and put the bacon in the pan at the same time. Gently flip the egg when the bottom has set then remove it from the heat and allow it to finish. Layer them together with the bacon first, then cheese, then egg then hash browns. Allow the cheese to melt a bit then top with katsup and a few dashes of tobasco sauce.

Beer Review: New Belgium Snow Day

I noticed this new beer on the shelf this evening at my local, it’s the new winter seasonal from New Belgium and replaces their 2 below winter seasonal. I’ve always found New Belgium to be hit or miss with their brews. Some I merely drinkable while others, particularly their seasonals can be very tasty.

So it was with mixed feelings that I popped the top on this new brew - which would this be? It pours dark with a medium head which is what you’d expect from something that has been roasted to a caramel maltiness you’d expect from a winter ale.

On the nose it starts out a little sharp with the first sip confirming that. There’s a hoppy bite there that explains the 6.2% alcohol content. I let it sit for awhile to open up and the bite eases some but when combined with the roasty bite of the malts it proves to be a bit too much for my tastes. Still drinkable but not something I’d want to have regularly.

And then, I start to munch on a piece of salami and bam, the beer gets better. Yes, if you drink this while eating salami you’ve found the perfect match. I don’t have a clue what the salami does to my palette but it certainly helped with this brew.

Of course, I don’t particularly want to sit there munching on salami each time I open a bottle of this so it’s going to have to fall back into my “Good Enough” category of brews - one beer out of three.

"I Can See Clearly Now"

I can remember like it was yesterday when I got my first pair of glasses.  I was eighteen and had been squinting a lot when looking at road signs while driving.  Mom suggested that perhaps I should probably get my eyes examined. Great, I thought, just what I needed. I already had a bad case of acne and now perhaps glasses too? Could life make it any more difficult to find a girlfriend?

“Glasses” in those days truly were just that, made from glass - plastic lenses were either not readily available or were perhaps too expensive. And even if your vision wasn’t too bad, with the photo-sensitive glass and big metal frames to hold those glass lenses you were talking about an awful lot of weight.

And yes, it turned out that I did have vision problems.  My eyes were not too bad, yet. Perhaps 20:60 vision in both eyes. But I did need glasses, heavy glass and metal monsters that crushed the bridge of my nose and left big red marks by the end of the day - joy.

For a number of months my son S has been complaining that his eyes were “sore, itchy or blurry” when he was reading books. We put it down to too much reading during school but with the problem persisting into the summer we felt it was time to get him down to see our eye doctor to get the problem sorted out.

And that’s where we found ourselves today, off to get S’s eye’s examined. He was quite a trooper. Back during my first eye exam the optometrist would mostly just have you look at a chart, drop different strength lenses into the frame in front of your eyes and dial in your vision slowly. These days, like so much else, getting an eye exam is so much more high tech.

There’s one machine that measures for blind spots and another one that sends a puff of air into your eyes. There’s a convergence machine with a small red house and a machine with a camera that takes a picture of the back of your eye. And all of that was just for the “pre-appointment” workup.

For the actual exam they still use the traditional eye chart and the overlarge looking black eyeglasses with various and sundry lenses hidden within.  S did wonderfully throughout the whole procedure and it turns out that his distance vision is a perfect 20:20 at this point in time. He’s not as good as his mother with her fighter pilot vision of 20:10 (yes, Carrie can see as well at twenty feet as a “normal” person can see at ten) but so far, he’s better than his “blind as a bat” old man.

From there they shifted to the “close vision” tests and here my wonderful son did have a few deficiencies. Yup, he would need reading glass. One-hundred and seventy five dollars later S had picked out and ordered his new “reading specs.” Tomorrow we’ll be off to pick them up and get them fitted for his small face. Until then I’ll leave you with a small preview…


Oh What a Tangled Mess We Weave

My daughter has extremely fine hair. It knots and tangles constantly and requires a lot of care to keep it from turning in to a very knotted mess.

After being extremely ill for four days, vomiting, high temperature and severe weakness, then another three days recovering it was finally time to tackle the mess that her hair had become.

Carrie and I did a lot of research on the internet before we decided to take this on. Most of what we read said to use liberal amounts of conditioner or oil, a good detangler, a wide tooth comb and a paddle brush. 

After spending 90 minutes on this I would have to agree that it works.

First we had her shower and put a lot of conditioner in her hair. We then let it set in her hair for about ten minutes before doing a small rinse leaving much of the conditioner still in her hair. Then I used a liberal amount of detangler and let that set for a few minutes.

The best resources all said it’s best to start with a plan of attack and to work slowly. From what I could see, the ends of her hair was the least tangled so I slowly worked my way up with the wide tooth comb into the tangle. Another bit of advise was to divide and conquer - separating the hair into small sections that you could work on.

After taking small segments from the sides I slowly worked my way back towards the middle of the tangle. It took a solid forty minutes to get all of the bottom and side segments covered leaving only a large ball in the middle. That last small ball took another thirty-five minutes to finally get out. All of this was done with the wide tooth comb. I finished off with the paddle brush which found a number of other small tangles.

By now she was tired and frustrated with all of the pulling and yanking on her hair so we called it good. We’ll take care of the last few tangles tomorrow.