Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Good Lord Willing and the Creek Don't Rise...

...we'll sell our house on Thursday, 11am. We listed it mid-June 2007 and moved out of state in July. That's a load of Benjamin's paid in 2 house payments and double utilities. A month ago the 1st buyer walked away with cold feet 4 days prior to closing. A phone call tonight from our realtor informed us that "all systems are Go" with the current buyers. As we pack an overnight bag and prepare for the trip back to Madison, WI tomorrow, it's hard not to worry about that darned creek, especially as my home town is actually flooded.

If you're in the market to buy or sell a home in Madison, WI, I STRONGLY urge you to look into the services of Jessica Spotts with Stark. She joined our efforts in January and has been amazing. If you need a new roof, our experience with Crest Homes has been great as well.

UPDATE: The unlawful withdrawal from an ATM in the UK finally showed up today. We'll see just how quickly we actually get the $ back from our credit union. Brilliant!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

London Calling

New Scotland Yard

Yesterday we received an early morning phone call from New Scotland Yard. An Inspector of Crimes from the London Metropolitan Police was calling to follow up on M's ATM card debacle.

Maybe I should back up. Wednesday (April 23) M received a phone call from the fraud security company associated with our credit union about a suspicious charge. The charge happened on April 23, or 3 days after his return from Europe. According to the security company, "M" withdrew about $400 from an ATM in Dagenham (East London) somewhere between using his card at the Post Office and the grocery store in the States. What!!!? Uh, no.

M's card was not stolen. M's card was never out of his possession as he has it in a Harley wallet with chain. M is careful and is aware of the ATM card reader scams. So how could this be?

As best as he can tell, his card was copied when he used an ATM in Heathrow Airport where he transferred to a flight to Cologne, Germany. He wanted to buy our son a post card of a Flying Scotsman train. The value of the dollar is so bad (ex: $20 bought £8, the postcard was £1 or $2.50 - yikes!) The ATM he used was next to a cash exchange place, it had no external card slider, but was the type that you insert your card. It seemed safe. His card did not get stuck or captured. However, after attempting to withdraw money, he received an error message (something about being unable to process his VISA card). He went on his way and thought nothing more about it.

Immediately after the call from the security company we cancelled his card, we put a fraud alert on his credit reports, we contacted the London Police via email, and the next day we got new accounts. Thursday I received an email reply from the London Police that Heathrow was out of their jurisdiction and they had forwarded our information to New Scotland Yard - Metropolitan Police.

Back to 7:45 am Friday morning. My cell rang and Inspector M was calling from London to follow up and complete a police report. We are very impressed with how quickly they got back to us. Inspector M was very nice, thorough, and had a very strong accent. Both M and I had a hard time not giggling as he reminded us of characters from Monty Python or Wallace and Gromit.

Play the movie above for a quick snippet of W&G

Hopefully it's all over. In fact, so far the funds have not actually been taken out of our account. It is unclear as to whether or not the thieves actually received money, or just attempted the withdrawal. If it does show up, we've already filled out the papers to contest it. That and with the police report, we would get the money back. Nevertheless, we will be nervous and check our credit reports regularly.

It does leave us scratching our heads. How did they copy his card? What newfangled technology has been developed to copy cards that are inserted (but not captured or stuck)? Will the thieves simply toss out his copied card now that it doesn't work?

Lastly, according to the police website, this type of crime tends to be perpetrated by Eastern European organized crime types vs. Brits themselves. So, did M fly all the way to London to get ripped off by the Russian Mob? We will likely never know.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Willkommen Home!

After nearly a week in Köln (or Cologne), Germany - M is home! He was there for a conference but managed to do a bit of sight seeing and dust off his German. Of course a visit to the cathedral was a must. It has 2 spires, is 515 ft tall, and took 632 years to complete.
There was also the unusual beer bike (which since it has 4 wheels is really not exactly a bike, but still), and roaming the streets with Conan O'Brien-esque names like Filzengraben. We're so happy to have him home. To see more of what it is really like in Germany, click here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The train gene

Today we went to our 2nd model train show. We are convinced that Alexander get's his love of trains from his daddy. I've never heard of a train gene, but if it exists, I'm sure Alexander has it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Easter slideshow

A new slideshow (Easter 2008) is finished.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I feel the earth move under my feet

I've been in Florida when a hurricane was near. Living in the mid-west I've been around many tornadoes, thunderstorms, flooding, snow storms, and the rare thunder snow. I didn't expect to experience an earthquake like this here. This morning at 4:37 am a 5.2 magnitude quake shook me out of my sleep. Not understanding what was going on, I thought I was going crazy. The whole house was shaking and there was a low rumbling just like you might imagine a quake would sound like. The kids never woke up but my MIL who is visiting did. It was the craziest thing. The walls, the bed, everything was bouncing. Nothing fell off the walls, but it really shook em. The epicenter was 6 miles SW of West Salem, IL or 130 miles south of us and it was the strongest quake in the region in the past 40 years. The earthquake occurred in the Wabash Valley fault system, adjacent to the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Here's a local report.
I don't know how long it lasted, maybe 15-20 seconds at most. They say to expect aftershocks, but nothing too serious. So far we've not felt any more shaking. It was so still and quiet outside immediately afterwards. I'm sure people who live in CA or other areas that are used to this sort of thing but for a mid-western girl, this is Big haps. Here's the CNN link.
UPDATE: I just spoke with my sister in Iowa. Just yesterday her 11 year old son was talking to his dad about earthquakes. He's been known to make freaky predictions. He said "I bet there will be an earthquake in the 5 surrounding states soon." That's exactly how it was reported this morning on their local news. doodee-doodee-doo.
Apparently there was a 4.5 magnitude aftershock at 10:20 am. I didn't feel it, but our friend RK did. Aftershocks are expected to continue throughout the day. There were others measuring 2.6 and 2.5.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Meet me in St. Louis

Dilated Eyes - 1st eye exam

We went to St. Louis Children's Hospital yesterday to get Sophia checked out. We saw 3 doctors and a speech therapist.
Here's the skinny:
Sophia has misalignment of the left eye due to a weakened muscle that she's had since birth. She is so smart that she has figured out that when she tilts her head, she can correct her vision as she's likely been seeing double. She'll need Strabismus surgery (eye muscle surgery) and while they're in there they'll do a nasal lacrimal duct surgery on both eyes as she has had lots of yucky discharge for a while. Dr. C said, "I see she tilts her head." I said we started Physical Therapy for Torticollis around 6 months of age. She said she just recently gave a talk about misdiagnosis of Torticollis when it's Strabismus to a group of peds docs. PHARFIGNEWTON!!! The good news is that her vision is very good regardless.
Next, her new GI, who he says has spent a lot of years working and studying Hirschsprung's disease, is especially concerned that her constipation may be caused by this. She needs a rectal suction biopsy and then we'll go from there. I did a google search for him and Hirschprung's and he's listed many places. In layman's terms, this is when there are missing nerve cells in the bottom segment of the intestines. This causes the stool not to move all the way through the end of the intestines. Repair is done by cutting out the effected part of the intestines and reattaching it to the anus. (Her duodenal atresia was the uppermost intestine that was blocked and was cut out and reattached to the stomach.) In the general population Hirschprung's occurs in 1 in every 5,000 but with Down syndrome it is 1 in 75.
We're scheduled for the biopsy on May 8th and pre-surgery appt. with opthomology on May 9th. Eye surgery will be May 19th. We'll have to wait and see what the biopsy tells us about the next steps there.

For you detaily people; click on the bold type for information on Hirschprung's disease,
and on Strabismus, and on Nasal Lacrimal Duct Surgery

A Precipitous Birth

We knew we were having another boy. We didn't even think about girl's names. M's family seems to only produce boys. At our run-of-the-mill ultrasound we discovered a few things. This baby (who was due on my birthday on 7/19, based on an early ultrasound) was a girl. A girl! A girl? A few minutes later we learned about soft markers of Down syndrome. Less than a week later DS was confirmed and we learned of her duodenal atresia (surgery was done hours after her birth). It was a lot to get used to.

As we settled into our new life called 'after' (short for life after the DS diagnosis) we began the discussion of names. M and I can argue about what to make for dinner for 2 hours, so needless to say we can take quite a while to make even the most mundane decisions. He suggested Sophia as it is Greek for wisdom. I immediately agreed. I pulled out my dust covered baby names book. In the book I had a list. One side had my favorite girl's names. The other had boy's names. The first name on the girl's side was Sophia (written a couple of years before). We knew our baby would have that name and I knew she would not make it to my birthday as she was destined to arrive early. She was born at 37 weeks and 4 days in the back of a moving vehicle. We settled on Madison as her middle name as it was the name of the city we lived in and loved - a city we would move away from less than two weeks after she was discharged from the NICU as it gave her roots. Labor began on a Tuesday. We went to the hospital with our doula and after being monitored we were sent home. Contractions worsened and slowed over and over for almost a week but never fully stopped. We were sent home from the hospital a second time over the weekend when labor failed to progress - again. "Come back when they are 5-1-1" (five minutes apart or less, for a minute+ in duration, for an hour). Labor never made it to that pattern.

I was in transition in our kitchen moments after we had decided to go in after a night of painful contractions on a Monday. I found that I could not sit down in our van as she had begun to crown. With our 1st child we had 28+ hours of labor with 4 hours 40 minutes of pushing (no epi until near the end and delivery with suction cups as he was a whopping 9 pounds). The feeling was nothing like I had ever experienced and I was in shock that she was coming so fast after stalling for a week and after such a hard labor with my 1st child. I felt her coming. M drove like a mad man and called 911 to alert the hospital that we were coming and to be ready. The 911 operator asked him to look to see if he could see the baby and he wanted us to pull over and wait for an ambulance. He said no, he couldn't see her and kept driving. "Sir, are you looking?” "NO" he replied! I instructed him to keep driving!!! "We are not pulling over!" He knew he better listen to me and not some operator. I was still standing in the passenger side of the minivan facing backwards gripping the head rest. "Sir, can you feel the baby?" He reached. He felt her head and pulled over immediately. Running to the back of the van he pulled out a sleeping bag and laid it on the grass on the side of the road in case he was about to deliver his daughter. We had recently sat on it to watch fire works. We were on the side of the road at a Tenney Park at 5:45AM. The ambulance pulled up a moment later and the EMTs tried to get me to walk. I could not. When they realized Sophia was coming out, I was pretty much scooped up and whisked into the back of the ambulance with the van speeding behind with flashers on. M says that we had bald tires and were going over 70 mph on a 35 mph street and passed 2 cops. He prayed that the tires would hold out as he took a corner. "Don't push! It will be better if you deliver in the hospital!" I remember thinking "so this is the ring of fire" and "is my bottom falling out?" She was born in that ambulance moments before it pulled into the bay. I had wanted to try natural childbirth. Guess I got my wish.