Current Status: Snuggly

I had been trying to figure out where Connor got his hair color. Apparently the answer is my beard.

In related news my daughter informs me that my hair color is now grey. I didn’t think that was true a month ago.

Spinal Epidural Arteriovenous Fistula

2017 has been a pretty crap year by my accounting. Politics and the world at large are crap, and I went from running 5 miles at a time down to having trouble walking a quarter mile. In hindsight it started getting noticeably worse in 2016, but slow long term changes are really hard to recognize. I kept thinking I was just being kinda pathetic and needed to be more consistent with exercise.

Instead, it turns out that for probably the last decade (at least) my spinal cord has been slowly dying and I have been slowly retraining my body to compensate for it. The past year or two the damage got bad enough that I couldn't (easily) compensate for it anymore. At one point a doctor who was meeting me for the first time after looking at my MRIs said that he wouldn't have been surprised if I was in a wheelchair.

On the plus side it hasn't gotten that bad though there was a week or two in September where I almost wanted a cane. But after two relatively minor surgeries and a whole lot of testing I'm reasonably hopeful that we've both found and fixed the root cause.

Year Max Distance (miles)
2011 2.75 running
2012 4 running
2013 5 running
2014 5.5 running
2015 8 running
2016 5.5 running
2017Q1  4.8 running
2017Q2 0 running, 1.5 walking
2017Q3 0 running, 0.5 walking
2017Q4 0 running, 0.25 walking
The blurry bit is 30-50% of my spinal cord being dead between T5 and T7.

A spinal fistula (just read the link) is a malformation of the arteries feeding blood to the spinal cord. They are very rare. About 5-10 per million people per year are diagnosed, so about 3,000 per year in the US. In my case, there is a system of arteries that run (in the wrong direction) from my pelvis up to somewhere in my thoracic spine. Occasionally that blood flow was probably disrupting the hemodynamics (such a great word) of the blood feeding my spinal cord which sometimes resulted in nerve cells dying.

In September I had a second spinal angiogram where the surgeon inserted glue at the start of the fistula which will hopefully block any blood from flowing into it and causing further damage. I'll have another angiogram in a few months to look again, and really I won't be sure until I haven't seen any further loss of function for a year or two.

Nerve cells don't regrow, but they can get retrained. I've probably been slowly and constantly retraining mine for years before I couldn't keep up with the damage. For the past three months I've been working on rehab and doing a lot of adjusting medications. Lots of odd pain, twitching, and ways in which my body doesn't work well. All the common impacts of having an incomplete spinal cord injury. I probably won't know for at least a year how much function I will get back. Most likely not all of it.

But yesterday I (briefly) ran on a treadmill at my physical therapy appointment.

So on to 2018 and having a better year.

Goodnight Sweet Bees

We may no longer have an active bee hive in our backyard.

There is really no other way to start this story – I thought I woke up because I needed to pee. It was 3 AM. I was sleeping in the guest bedroom. I had been sick. The 13 month old baby was sleeping in our bed with Mekayla. Retreating to the guest bedroom sometimes means I sleep better. After getting back in bed, and starting to fall asleep, my hazy mind was starting to realize there were some odd noises occurring. Some sort of rustling. But more ominous than “rustling” implies.

Odd noises are not particularly odd in our house. I mostly tune them out. Kristine and Laurent and their twin three and a half year olds have been living with us for over two years now. Their bedrooms are above ours, so I’ve learned to tune lots of little noises out. This was just a little noise, but different.

It kinda sounded like when the milkman delivers milk in the middle of the night on Sundays. A bit of rustling as he digs around in the cooler we leave out by the front steps. Sometimes you hear the bottles clink. I don’t hear any clinking bottles though. And I’m towards the side of the house, not the front where I normally sleep. And it is Saturday night. And why is he taking so long.


I’m awake now. The milkman does not make things crash. Was that upstairs? Our bedroom and the guest bedroom are in the basement. Did some shelves fall over? I almost expect to hear a three year old crying. But upstairs is quiet. Where did that crash come from? Where is that rustling noise coming from? Did it get louder?

I finally am awake enough to have some bearings. The guest bedroom I am in is right next to the bedroom that Morgan and Mekayla are in. The rooms share a wall. They also each have an egress window that goes out into the same 4 foot by 8 foot window well. The window well is about four feet deep. The bed I’m sleeping in is up against the window, so I am about two feet from it.2016-05-15 12.16.42

There is now the sound of dirt pelting the window.

I look out. My side of the window well looks dark and empty as normal. I can see the silhouettes of the back yard fence and the garden box against the sky. The other side of the window well is not empty. It is also dark. But it is moving. It is filled with a fuzzy, round bear behind. This is not good.

Why is there a bear in my window well? Well, for the past year or so Laurent has been keeping bees in our backyard. He has a large, 3 foot long bee hive that is on the ground up above our bedroom window and next to the window well. This is actually very convenient when you are a 6 foot 8 inch bee keeper. You can stand in the window well, and you are at the perfect height to look into the hive and make adjustments or harvest honey. The bear apparently finds it convenient too.

I get up and go into my bedroom. I tell Mekayla that I think there is a bear in the window well. This means there is a bear about 6 inches from the window of the bedroom. I try and peer around the window shade to look into the window well. I almost step on the dog. She is curled up in a little white ball beneath the window. She is three feet from a bear, but she looks annoyed that I almost stepped on her. There is definitely something moving out the window, but I can’t see much.

A discussion begins. What strategy does one take to get rid of a bear? Should I turn on a light? Which bedroom light do I turn on? Maybe we should turn on both so the bear will be sure to move away from both bedrooms? What will the bear do if it gets scared? What happens if the bear gets startled enough to break in the window? Its not clear to me what parts of this discussion where out loud and which parts just happended in my head.

Wait! We have more than just a bear problem. We also have an angry bee problem. When the hive was started there were about ten thousand bees. There are probably now at least forty thousand bees. Those bees are currently fighting a bear – and losing.

I had a friend in college who was certain he could win a fight with a bear as long as it was the same weight as him. I strongly disagreed, but it was a fun disagreement. I’m pretty sure I would lose any fight with a bear. And this bear looks like it weighs more than me. I also think I would lose a fight with forty thousand bees. I really don’t want to fight a bear and fight bees at the same time. Especially not in my bedroom with a 13 month old. Realistically, that is a fight where no one really wins.

Morgan is still asleep in the bed. The dog is resolutely ignoring the rummaging bear and trying to sleep under the window. I go back into the guest bedroom to try and get another look at the bear. How did he get into the yard? Its fenced in. Did he knock over a fence? If we scare him will he barrel through a fence? Or will he feel scared and trapped in our back yard?

Looking out the guest room window, I can see that the bear has turned. Yep, its definitely a bear. I see a fuzzy, round ear. I see the remains of honey comb. And I see the contour of his short, “little” bear face in silhouette. He’s both quite large, and yet not really that tall. His butt is now pressed up against the side of the foundation. Or maybe even against the screen on our bedroom window. If I scare him he may break the window behind him when he rushes up out of the window well.

So maybe we’ll get rid of the bear and just have a broken window with angry bees swarming into the room with a sleeping 13 month old. Again, I think about not wanting to fight bees. Slowly, I am coming to a resolution.

Let’s not scare the bear.

Mekayla is out of bed now too and has come to the guest bedroom as I turn away from the window. “I think I just saw it climb out.”

I look back out the window. Yep, there is no bear out there. I go upstairs, I turn on the backyard lights. I don’t see a bear. I don’t see any breaks in the fence. Back downstairs I open the shades in our bedroom to look at the scene. The entire beehive has been pulled into the window well and is standing up on its end, leaning against the house. There are white sticks I can barely make out scattered around. That is what is left of the comb frames that have been torn apart.

The dog gets up from underneath the window. She doesn’t like having her sleep interrupted. She has to rest up so she can protect us from the people and dogs that regularly walk down the street and terrorize us. What would happen if she wasn’t rested enough to bark at them all day long? Who’s going to stop them from climbing over a fence into the yard? They might break something, steal something, or threaten us.

The dog goes out of the bedroom and climbs up onto the futon to sleep. She yawns while I sarcastically thank her for defending us from the bear.

It’s 4 AM. Laurent is outside in the window well with a head lamp and wearing a bee suit. He’s the opposite of the bear. He does not fill the window well. He’s very tall and not particularly round. That’s a lot of angry bees.

Morgan’s Two Week Photo Shoot

Its been a little while since Gramma Ann dropped by with her camera to try and capture some of the cuteness.

23-DSC_0919 18-DSC_0902




These, and many more were taken when Morgan was two weeks old. She already looks a lot bigger, but apparently I’m working on a 6 week delay. There’s lots more like that. Check them out in the full gallery.

Welcome to the World, Morgan Halley Ichneumon

At 3:10AM on April 1st, our baby girl made her way into the world. Everything with the birth went really well. We arrived at the Birth Center of Boulder at 9PM, had a luxurious soak in a bathtub, some quality time lounging on the bed, and Morgan appeared victorious early in the morning. I may be leaving out some details. Hard to tell, I was pretty exhausted.

Overall though the experience was pretty magical. Everyone is doing great, and we all got home about 7 hours after Morgan was born.

Here are a few pictures to whet your appetite.

There are lots more photos in the full gallery. If you want to know supplemental information like height and weight then you’ll need to go on a treasure hunt through the pictures.

Miscellaneous Info:

  • If you want future updates from this blog you can get them by subscribing through email, or by following one of us on Facebook or Google+.
  • If you’re looking to give us a gift, the thing we most want is suggestions about places in/around Colorado (or other places like Boston) that are fun for outings. Read more here.
  • “Ichneumon”
  • We’re laying low for a few weeks. If you want to coordinate anything please email Greg as Mekayla is ignoring 21st century technology. You can contact her by carrier pigeon if you can find a reliable one.

Memory Dump

Well, we’ve rebuilt the website, and uploaded about two years worth of photos that we had laying around into the Photo Gallery .

Best seat in the house
Best seat in the house

There’s some good stuff in there:

Go check them out, and poke around.

How can Ramen be this Good?

We got thoroughly confused hunting for our airbnb apartment today in Kyoto.

We hunted for a while to find the building, then we got there, and the combo for the mailbox worked, but the lock box with the key was not inside. It was completely empty. Mekayla was already late, so after a quick pay phone call she left me to wait for someone to come let us in. It was occasionally also snowing.

After about half an hour of waiting – bouncing from the entrance to a spot in the driveway where the sun occasionally peaked though – I left our bags to walk a few doors down. I bought myself a hot latte (in a can) from a vending machine to warm up. Warm drinks from vending machines are awesome. I had a hot Canada Dry ginger ale the other day and it was sublime.

My can of latte kept me warm for another ten minutes. Then I stashed our bags around a corner and left to find a hot lunch. Japan does have an insanely low crime rate, and I took the electronics with me.

I was hungry, and immediately honed in on a noodle shop at the corner with sketchy pictures that claimed to have been rated the best ramen in 2012. This is usually the way bad lunches begin when traveling. Choosing the first place you come across is not a great idea, but, well, I was hungry.

So I went in. There were people! Japanese people who looked like they might know what they were doing eating here, so I sat down. Then the guy behind the bar came out, asked me something, and when I acted bewildered said something about “outside”.

I went out, figuring his menu didn’t have any English and he wanted me to point at what I wanted.

He didn’t follow me.

I figured out what I wanted.

He still seemed to have better things to do.

So I went inside and meekly waved, and then he pointed me at the machine next to the door. There’s a vending machine for ordering the food! Obviously!

Stick some money in, push a button with symbols corresponding to what is next to my picture, scratch my head at other options and figure I don’t really need a drink to go with soup, and pay. Then just take the ticket inside to place my order. Efficiency!


This was probably the best bowl of ramen I had ever had: beef, an uncooked egg, great noodles, amazing spices. I left very happy, got back to the apartment building, and … still no key.

Another phone call, and oh, you’re there now, ok I’m on my way. Ringing bells, looking around, nothing. I opened the mailbox again, still empty. Hmmm, maybe this isn’t the right place, but the code works and we got directions to the street name. And it’s an 8th floor apartment, most buildings are much shorter than that. Except…

I walked a few buildings down to where my drink vending machine was, and found our host patiently waiting by the door.

Just because the code works doesn’t mean you are in the right place.