Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Drama at the doctor

I had a scary moment at the doctor today. Embarrassing and chilling.

It was a challenging appointment from the start. As I filled out forms and confirmed my insurance, Q asked questions about everything around him and R grabbed at things on the desk. In the exam room, Q was shy and nervous, and R was tired and fussy. I juggled the boys as they were weighed and measured, examined and probed.

Then it was time for the horrible shots. Three nurses surrounded Q, held him tightly, and stabbed him with one vaccine in each arm simultaneously. The poor guy had such fear in his eyes as he looked up at me. I told him it was medicine to prevent him from getting really sick. When the pain hit, his bottom lip trembled and his face crumpled, but he didn't cry. Such a brave little man.

R had three shots in his legs. He cried heartily but got over it quickly. They were deemed healthy and happy, collected their hard-earned stickers, and we went off to check out.

That's when it happened. I put R down momentarily as I wrote a check for the co-pay. He crawled around a bit crossing the mat that activated the automatic door. And then suddenly he was on the move, speeding toward the door. Before I could react, the door started moving and closed on his head! It immediately reopened, and I sprinted over faster than I knew I could move, but he was crying and rubbing his head. Nurses gasped. It was awful.

I felt like a horrible mother. He was OK of course, but I felt bad for looking away even for a moment. I had the fleeting thought of the door not popping back open. Of it closing, injuring him terribly....or worse. I felt sick and fearful.

I don't think I'll ever look away again.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Good eats

This weekend I did a lot of baking and cooking. Some recipes were home runs while others were OK, but won't be going into the rotation of regulars.

Earlier this week I made brownies cocakaigne (recipe follows). They were easy and gooey. I ate most of them myself. I love brownies.

Saturday night we made these chocolate cookies from Martha Stewart's daughter. They are very tasty but alarmingly flat. They aren't a pretty cookie. But, again they taste divine. I'd only make these again if I adjusted the recipe a bit to make them not quite so flat and crisp.

Sunday morning we had Sticky Buns. I am a sucker for a sticky bun. These weren't quite as good as my mom's, but they aren't bad for a quick, indulgent treat.

Sunday evening, we grilled out, Modern Mama style. I marinated tofu cut into large chunks in soy sauce, honey, ginger, and garlic. The tofu went on the grill along with yellow squash and zucchini and pineapple. I served it over long grain and wild rice with a sprinkle of fresh mint. Very tasty and good with a nice crisp white wine.

Thankfully the weekend ended on a healthy note, but the rest of it was sinful. I've been putting in some serious time on the treadmill to make amends.

Brownies Cockaigne

source: Joy of Cooking, 75th anniversary edition

1/2 cup butter
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
4 eggs, room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler and then cool mixture *If you don't cool the mixture, your brownies will be heavy and dry.
Beat eggs and salt until light in color and foamy in texture and gradually add sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until well-creamed.
With a few swift strokes, combine the cooled chocolate mixture into the eggs and sugar. *Even if you normally use an electric mixer, do this manually. Before the mixture becomes uniformly colored, fold in the flour, again by hand. Before the flour is uniformly colored, stir the nuts in gently. Bake in a greased 9x13 pan for about 25 minutes. Cut when cool.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Swimming pools, traffic jams, and library cards

Q again refused to go in the pool at swimming lessons this week. He stands on the deck and occasionally dips a toe in the water. T asked the Y to refund our money, and they agreed to give us a credit for future lessons when hopefully he will join his class.

T had today off from work, and so we went to a city water park. Q made some major progress and went into the water all the way up to his waist. We're getting there.


I went to my first book club meeting this week. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am already diving into the next book The Forest Lover. We took the boys to story time tonight and Q and R got their own library cards. They even picked out four books and read them tonight at bedtime. I love a good library.


I subbed two evening exercise classes this week. It was a new class for me, so I left extra early to account for traffic and to make sure I was prepared. I was a few miles into the trip when I hit a wall of traffic. I wondered is this just normal rush hour over here? It looked like Los Angeles.

I spent a half hour going a few miles and watching the time tick by. I chewed my fingernails and worried. Finally, I saw construction cones up ahead and wondered why the hell they decided to go road work in the middle of rush hour? It turned out that the intense heat of the day buckled the highway forcing emergency repairs and closing two lanes. What a nightmare.

I finally got on my way and arrived three minutes late (I would have been 25 minutes early). I was flustered and frustrated. I felt like I looked bad even though it was entirely out of my hands.

I taught the class again this evening and the weather was scorching again. I left my house even earlier and worried about exploding pavement the entire way. But lightning didn't strike twice, and I arrived obscenely early.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009


It's hot. It's over 90 degrees and humid. Not fun. Complicating the problem: the air circulation in our townhouse sucks. Right now the downstairs is ice cold and the third floor playroom is sweltering. I happen to be there right now, typing as the kids play and watch PBS. It's got to be 85 up here.

T invested in some fans last week. We put one in the window of the boys' room and also put an oscillating fan in there. Our room is fairly comfortable thankfully. The boys are fascinated by the fans and think they are positioned more for their amusement than for an actual need. So, the fans are going constantly, and the air conditioner is humming along at high speed. It's going to be an expensive electric bill.


A good high school friend visited this weekend for the night. We had a few drinks at home, a few at the restaurant, and a couple at the bar we went to afterward. I do that about once every year or two. And then I am reminded why I avoid it.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Cutting back

Our lifestyle has changed with our move across the country. Now one salary (and my extremely meager earnings) support us. We still have a mortgage plus our monthly rent, not to mention T's college loans, a car payment and two kids. We are doing fine and consider ourselves lucky to be doing as well as we are compared to what some people are dealing with right now, but I am still trying to cut back in some areas. I used to get (at least) one Starbucks a day at $3 - $4 a pop. We often got lunch out and I got manicures every other week and pedicures once a month. I have made the painful decision to do my own nails, and to cut out most of that coffee. We find many of the Midwest baristas pale in comparison to the Northwest pros, so it is not too much of a loss. I still will have to splurge on a mani/pedi once in awhile, but it felt very extravagant to keep up that habit.

Another indulgence that has gone by the wayside is a housekeeper. When T and I worked different shifts, and he went to school on Saturdays, it made sense to hire someone to clean our home. Now of course, I am home a majority of the time and am tasked with keeping the house clean. I miss her though. You can't beat the feeling of coming home to a spotlessly clean home through no effort of your own. Incidentally, I think our home is actually cleaner now. Our housekeeper came once every two weeks. So besides picking up the clutter, T and I just didn't clean. With two kids and a menagerie of pets, two weeks can be a long time between deep cleanings. Now, I tend to clean here and there every week. Since I am in this house so much, I can't stand for it to be dirty. It's never going to be a chore I like, but I can handle it.

I still like to splurge from time to time on clothes and shoes and getting my hair done, but I am reining it in. Sometimes responsibility sucks. But I do get a little burst of pride when I realize I didn't spend a dime all day.


I just finished a very intriguing book. It was the selection for the book club at our local library. I am going to start going to those monthly meetings. The selection for June is The Life of Pi. It took awhile to get into and was an odd and quirky read but was very satisfying at the finish.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pollen pain

I have an allergy conundrum. My allergies lately are driving me absolutely insane. The horrible itching eyes that make me want to scratch my eyes out, the constant sneezing, the runny nose, the scratchy throat! Ick! I have found Zyrtec (the generic kind) works pretty well to kick my symptoms (better than Claritin), but it makes me feel a little like a zombie. I feel like I am moving in slow motion and am desperate for a nap. It dulls me. So I am not sure which way to go. Today my eyes were red and my sneezes continuous, so I had to give in and swallow a Zyrtec. Like clockwork, it made me super drowsy but after a nap, I was back on my feet. Still with that hazy, blah feeling though. What to do? It's an annoying situation.

I didn't always have allergies. I am one of the lucky people who developed them later in life. I started sneezing and rubbing my eyes in Oregon. I thought maybe I was just more sensitive to the highly allergic region. I lived in a valley, and pollen and particulates were often trapped in the air. I hoped I would leave my allergies behind when I relocated, but no. They packed their bags and came with me. Now they seem to be worse than ever. I find myself just digging at my tear ducts because they are so itchy and irritated. It is very frustrating.

I want to yank all my flowers out of their pots and enclose myself in a plastic bubble.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Swimming with the fishes

I have been swimming almost all my life. I started taking lessons when I was just a tot and quickly took to it. I was soon swimming the length of the pool and holding my breath underwater. My mom had to talk the swimming supervisors into passing me into the advanced class before I was in kindergarten. I really want to give my kids the same experience. I'm just not sure they have the same idea.

We put Q in swim lessons as soon as he was eligible at six months of age. That mostly involved me floating him around and him looking around confusedly. After several sessions, Q was moving rapidly through the levels and comfortably splashing in the pool.

Then we made the mistake of not enrolling him for a year and a half. Pregnancy, a new baby, and moving got in the way. Tonight we took both boys for lessons. It didn't go very well.

R was extremely comfortable and was a natural in the water. Q stood on the deck and screamed in terror every time we tried to coax him in. R laughed in delight, kicked his feet, and even slid down the slide. Q clung to my neck if I tried to so much as dip his toe in the water. T and I didn't know if we should force him in the water to convince him it was OK, or just let him sit it out and venture in at his own pace.

I signed us up for evening classes, so we could go together as a family, and so I wouldn't have to wrangle two wild, naked boys in the locker room. I packed two bags and T and I split up after the lessons to wash the boys and get them in their pajamas. T tells me Q enjoyed the soap pump and the wall-mounted blow dryers. R was extremely slippery and made several escape attempts.

Now, one week of swim lessons is in the books. I hope subsequent weeks are more successful. A word of advice: start your kids early in swim lessons and don't take any long breaks!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

MBA and birthday

My husband is now an MBA. I am so proud of him. He went to his graduation this past weekend in Oregon. It has been two years of hard work for him and sacrifice for all of us, but it actually went by quickly. He had to go to school every Saturday and often during the week and spent many late nights studying and going to group project sessions. He was often tired and stressed, and I left alone with the kids was often tired and stressed. But, his hard work has already paid off in a better job and new home for our family. I am so proud of his determination and sacrifice for us.

While T was at his graduation, the boys and I went to my parents' house for my mom's birthday. I stayed up late Thursday night making a lemon meringue pie (my mom's favorite). Let me tell you, they are hard to make. I was stressed out as I waited for the custard to thicken and the egg whites to form stiff peaks. Then as I carefully transported it the next day on a dishtowel inside a pizza plate on the passenger seat, I nervously checked it every 30 seconds. It made it successfully, and my mom raved about it. I was quite proud of myself.

It is so different living close to my parents now. I haven't been this close since I was 18 and a high school student. It is weird just popping over for a birthday or a special dinner. Q and R will really get to know their grandparents, and their grandparents can watch them grow up through tee ball games and band concerts. My grandparents lived very far away when I was young. We did manage to see them once or twice a year, but it will be nice to give my kids a different experience.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

I love my GPS

To put it euphemistically, I am directionally-challenged. My grandfather offered to drive me to grade school once, and I got us hopelessly lost though the school was a mile away. A run in a friend's neighborhood once turned into an hour-long confused wandering among identical-looking houses. I used to call T frantically when I couldn't find an address and was late for an appointment. He would calmly lead me to my destination. His co-workers joked that it sounded like he was talking in a jet. I chose not to be offended.

Everything changed when T got a GPS for our car. The wonderful little Garmin sits perched on our windshield ready to lead me wherever I need to go. It has been a godsend in a new city as well. (Though I could get lost in my own bedroom) We have our list of favorites from childcare to work to a good coffee shop and a downtown spa. I just settle into the drivers seat, dial in my destination, and let my GPS lead the way and tell me when we will arrive. That is the best part; I know when I will have to pick up the pace to shave off a few minutes.

The trusty device has led me astray a few times. Occasionally it seems to have a little glitch and temporarily gets scrambled. And once it led me to a strange address a half mile from where I really needed to go. But mostly, it is lifesaver. I don't know what I did without it. I especially love when I miss a turn and it adjusts without missing a beat. I can wander and explore and then just touch "Go home" on the screen and my path is laid before me.

It's a wonderful thing.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Love and loss

We are back home now after a touching and emotional weekend. T and I went to the funeral of our little niece. We left the boys with my parents and caught a flight so we could be there with T's family members as they mourned. It was a very hard weekend, but I was so glad we could make it.

Around Christmas T's sister found out the news that her baby would have a hard road. She and her husband had heartbreaking decisions to make, but they found the strength and love to give their baby every chance. The baby stayed in my sister-in-law's belly for 41 weeks, floating in the perfect environment she provided, happily kicking and flipping. Finally the time had come for the baby to be born, and my sister- and brother-in-law hoped for just a moment however short with their little girl. It was not to be. The little girl died right at birth.

A photographer was there to take family pictures. The little girl was perfect and simply looked like she was sleeping. My sister-in-law planned a beautiful service for her daughter and chose a burial plot in her hometown so she could have frequent visitors.

It is a hard reality to accept that this poor sweet baby didn't get a chance to live. That this young married couple with so much love are forced to endure such loss. That so much of life is random and out of our control. I have been thinking about it constantly wondering how to reconcile the tragedy. How to make it better in any small way.

The priest who married my sister- and brother-in-law led the funeral mass. He shared a message that made the situation a little easier to absorb. He talked about how the little girl in her short time on earth had touched more lives than many other people do during their decades of existence. He described how she taught us the value of life and love. He commented on her strength and bravery, fighting till the very end and bringing such moments of joy to her parents.

I have been so impressed and inspired by the strength and love of T's sister and his entire family. My sister-in-law has suffered unbearable tragedy, but she handled it with such courage and class. She loved her little girl so deeply she wanted to do everything possible for the baby.

In life's saddest moments, you want more than anything to take away the pain from your loved ones. I hope that time eases the sharpness of the loss, though I know it will never entirely disappear. She will always be the daughter who slipped away. But hopefully they can find a sliver of comfort in the fact that their little girl lives on in the hearts of all who knew her.

T and I ordered a pink rose bush for his sister and her husband to plant so that they can be reminded of their daughter's sweetness and beauty. I wrote these words for them:

Meant to live in heaven, not on earth

She showed us what life is worth.

Blessed your lives for just a while

But never ceased to make you smile.

And though she’s gone far too soon

She’ll live on in all you do.

In love and laughter, in every day

She’ll be revealed in little ways.

So may this rose bloom and grow

Brienna’s spirit, for all to know.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Heartbreaking loss

My sister-in-law just experienced a horrible loss, and my heart aches for her. Her daughter suffered from a condition called Trisomy 18 and was still born Tuesday evening. The strength and love of her and her husband touches me. T and I will be going to the funeral this weekend.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fever pitch

R had a fever of 103.8 today. Poor little peanut. He felt a little warm this morning, so I gave him some Tylenol. We ventured to a play date at the park and he seemed OK. After his nap though he was incredibly hot to the touch. He was fussy and clingy and just holding him made me hot. I contemplated taking him to the doctor, but after consulting some websites and a medical book, I decided to give him some more Tylenol and some fluids and monitor him for awhile. By bedtime his fever was down to around 100, and he was much happier.

Fevers are tricky. They aren't necessarily harmful. Often they just show the body is doing its job to fight off infection or a virus. But they seem to hit kiddoes so hard. And then there is the temperature taking. I cringe every time I have to use that rectal thermometer. We have an ear one but R always turns away at the last second, and I get readings of 97.2 or something. So, I am forced to break out the old-school thermometer and the Vaseline. Hopefully fevers will be few and far between. For the boys' sake and mine.