Friday, December 25, 2009

How to Preserve your sanity in Modern Day Times and Places

1. Begin each day cheerfully and unhurriedly.
2. If you feel sad, try to bluff it and act happy.
3. Calmly accept the problems of the day.
4. Avoid negative and useless worries. They only cause ulcers.
5. Substitute positive thoughts and emotions.
6. “Age Quod Agis” (Do what you are doing; That which you do, do well)
7. Hand nobody the right to depress you emotionally. It’s much more fun if you do it yourself.
8. Follow a moral code you believe in. (It doesn’t have to be Mommy’s or Daddy’s either!!!)
9. Cultivate a sense of humor and proportion.
10. Meditate daily and recreate reasonably often.

On the Subject of Labeling

It's clean-up time and I'm moving some stuff over from my other journal.

I originally wrote this in January, 2004.

"What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think." – Emerson

I guess this is a sensitive topic for me. My three-year-old son was just diagnosed as having a "Biologically-Based Disinhibition Disorder"; that is, ADHD. This diagnosis comes as no surprise to those who know him well. C. has always been unique in many ways. It's difficult to adequately describe how we knew that something about him was more unique than other children. From his behavior to his speech, something was definitely amiss. We had him evaluated first by the school system's Child Find program. They indicated that he had delays in receptive and expressive speech, social and emotional growth, as well as gross and fine motor delays. They said that ADHD was a strong possibility. From there we went to a neurologist who sent us to a neuropsychologist. After extensive testing, the neuropsychologist pronounced C. to be a very bright little boy with ADHD.

For us, the diagnosis was confirmation of what we had already suspected. Our attitude is, here's our answer, now what can we do about it. In the coming months we will be working with a behavioral management specialist, among others. Whatever we can learn and do to make all of our lives better, we'll do. Knowing that he has ADHD clarifies why he sometimes behaves the way he does. It also lets us learn how we can best deal with him.

The strange part of this comes about when we let others know about his ADHD. For us it is a way of explaining why he seems so beyond energetic and outgoing. "Disinhibition" ought to be C.'s middle name - he's never met a stranger and thinks nothing of sitting on a complete stranger's lap and starting a conversation. Another ADHD description, "runs as if driven by a motor", also suits C. He is as rough and tumble as a little boy can get, except sometimes more so. Our neighbor, when discussing this with me, explained that she thought too many kids were diagnosed and that C. was just a typical little boy. But! Her son “was never like that” . Oh, and her daughter, who is C.'s age, is afraid of C. Wow, thanks. Just because ADHD is over diagnosed, doesn't mean he doesn't have it.

But I digress. Too many people are astonished that we'd allow someone to "label" such a young child. What, like we hadn't already? "C. E." was his first label, followed closely by "Big Man", "Destructo Boy", and “Conzilla” . His personal favorite is "C. Shine", which must always be followed by his song. He is an amazingly cheerful little boy who is enthusiastic about every success. Anyone who looks only at his ADHD "label" and ignores his beautiful smile and sweet disposition is missing out. Of course, their vision may be clouded by having been on the receiving end of one of his hair-pulling or shoving episodes. Or maybe they've had to chase after him as he ran out of the classroom. His teachers still manage a smile at the end of their day with him. They see the boy, not the diagnosis. Why can't everyone else?

The other concern that I've heard is, “I know the way people talk about ADHD kids. I don't want my child to be one of the kids they're talking about”. My guess is, if your child is exhibiting the kind of behaviors that would lead someone to suggest the child be evaluated for ADHD, it's too late. Trust me, people are already talking about the child. Know that the people talking about those kids are petty, narrow-minded folk. Anyone who judges a person based on their medical condition is an idiot who does not deserve my respect or consideration. There, I said it. If you can't handle childish behavior, get out of the field that causes you to deal with children. 'Nuf said.

I have little regard for labels. They are just something that someone calls us. My name is a label. To my husband, I am Julie or Jules. To my kids I am Mommy. Different labels, same me. My eldest daughter K. is often known as "the girl who wears glasses". Last year she was "the girl with the eye patch". My younger daughter A. is now known as "that cute baby". As a newborn she was known as "the baby with the rash". In the future she will likely be known as "that kid with no teeth" or hopefully "that kid with dentures" (at which point we will be known as "that family wearing barrels"). All different labels, for a different reason.

Labels don't scare me. People using labels scare me. The best thing I've read is that a label is only harmful if it is misused. If I use his diagnosis to figure out the best way to treat him, that is using the label properly. If I say "Oh, he has ADHD" to explain why he hit a kid while not disciplining him, that's misuse. Another misuse of labels, in my opinion, is refusing to try to get a diagnosis because you don't want your child labeled. Will ignoring the problem make it go away? I don't understand. I'm not saying you have to get him or her diagnosed with something. If you think there is a problem with your child, get him evaluated. If there is a problem, get the child the help he or she needs. If not, sit back and count your blessings. Parents should be their child's advocate at all times, regardless of the outcome. You know your child, you know when something is amiss. Act on it, don't try to wish it away. I cannot imagine not having C. evaluated for ADHD any more than I can imagine not having K. evaluated for lazy eye. But I suppose it is less socially acceptable to have an emotionally and socially challenged child than a nearly-blind-in-one-eye child.

The range of potential manifestations for C.'s "label" isn't much shorter that A.'s. No two kids with their conditions react the same. No one has a problem accepting that she has a medical condition, but his diagnosis often draws challenges. Why? Because his "label" isn't acceptable in our society. Hopefully someday it will be.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Representing the People

When people ask me why I'm so enthusiastic about Barack Obama, I'll show them this:

This is an issue that's important to me and he's addressing it. I love that he's such a good husband and father. We need more men like him and BUMD in the world.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Proud Parenting Moment

BUMD just handed A a banana. In typical fashion, she immediately raised to her ear and said "hello?" Looks like we're raising them right.

(Yes, she's wearing a Christmas Dress in October. You can never start celebrating too soon, at least in her world.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Music Monday

Summer is finally starting to slide into fall. The kids are back in school, the weather is almost cooperating, and heck - the calendar says it is so. There's something refreshing about fall. It's as though summer is one big free-for-all and fall is purpose-driven, but not necessarily rigid. There's still time for jumping into piles of leaves, but only after you're done with your homework.

Billy Joel's song Famous Last Words always makes me think of fall. It was his farewell to his usual songwriting, but at the same time it's a farewell to summer. "Summertime has come and gone," but "there's comfort in my coffee cup and apples in the early fall." One season ends, but the next is just as welcome. Life keeps moving on.

"Ain't it sweet after all these years"?

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Now that I've whined a bit, it's time to get back to laughing about it. Like Kirsty says on her blog: "If you don't laugh, you'll cry, and nobody likes a crybaby." True that.

I've settled for telling people that A has enrolled in the Disease of the Month Club. It's an easy answer to give to people who ask how you and the family are. I've also come up with a plan for the kid picture for the holiday card. You see, K has vision problems. C has speech problems. A's next appointment is to check out her hearing problems. Can you tell where I'm going with this? It's going to be great.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I've been staring at the title of my last entry off and on for the last month. The whole entry seems over-dramatic, except for days like today. I just got off the phone with the pediatrician (again, too many times this year) to discuss the latest zebra. Another incidental finding. Another report consisting of 'everything's ok, but we noted some things that don't belong there'. Maybe they're an issue, maybe (hopefully) not. But go see a specialist to see what (s)he thinks. We've seen this specialist before and eventually been given the all-clear. Please let it be so again.

I am so, so tired of this. All of this - the poking, prodding, what-ifs, and hopefully-nots. Thank goodness I've been blessed with a child who is able to deal with it. Just yesterday she helped convince her brother that the flu shot wasn't really that bad. "I'll go first and show you how it's done," she said. What a lovely, brave girl. Why does it always have to be her?

Saturday, August 15, 2009


"When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras"

I've been struggling to find a way to explain A's tendency to come down with intriguing medical conditions. I'd already been chastised for calling her "weird" and rightly so. It's not nice to call your child "weird" even if that's an apt explanation. Yesterday, I found the solution - she's a "Zebra Collector."

According to Wikipedia, Zebra is a medical slang term for an obscure and unlikely diagnosis from ordinary symptoms. A has had more than her share of zebras. Why? Who knows. What we do know is that if someone in our family is going to have a weird illness, it's her.

Yesterday's pediatric ophthalmologist visit resulted in a "Horses" diagnosis. We love those. Dr. S has known A since she was three weeks old. She'd just been diagnosed with a rare genetic syndrome that is associated with eye problems. When I told him yesterday about A's recent diagnosis with Eosinophilic Esophagitis, he said "Wow, that's rare."

"So's IP (Incontinentia Pigmenti)," I replied. That conversation prompted him to look for the zebras, as he put it. I can't believe I didn't think of that term sooner. He's brilliant, as usual.

Looking for zebras shouldn't be routine, but in A's case it is starting to be. She's had repeated cases of having the diagnosis that one wouldn't expect. We had more cases than just the IP and EE. I can't decide which I hate more - looking beyond the usual symptoms or missing the diagnosis. For her, it's probably the latter. I just hope the other two continue to go easy on us.

Now, if I can just find a pink zebra to give her, life will be perfect.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The best thing about having a sister was that I always had a friend. - Cali Rae Turner

A brother is a friend given by Nature. - Legouve

A just told me that she's letting C put some things he wants on her birthday list "because I'm a nice person." When she went back into the next room to check on his progress, he told her how nice she was to let him do that and she said "well, I love you."

I need to remember this when the two of them are fighting like cats and dogs.

Friday, July 31, 2009

To medicate, or not to medicate

Today was the last day of camp for C. It was his first time going to day camp. For that matter, it was his first time attending anything other than school. We've never been comfortable leaving him alone with anyone who might not be capable of supervising him properly. He really can be that challenging. Also, he's such a homebody that he really isn't interested in going out and interacting with other humans some days.

Camp Shalom changed all that for us. He loved it. His only complaint is that it doesn't last the rest of the summer. We enrolled him in the two-week camp on the advice of our educational consultant, the wonderful Jill. She was, as always, right - it was exactly what he needed. Camp Shalom focuses on social skill education for kids with ADHD, Aspergers, and/or High Functioning Autism. Social skills training is so important for kids on the spectrum, because social skills are what they lack. By teaching him these skills, we can help C interact with other people more effectively.

The other thing we do to help him interact with others is medicate him. C is on two different ADHD medications - Concerta (stimulant) and Strattera (non-stimulant). This is the combination we've come up with after working with his pediatrician for several years. His pediatrician has worked with thousands of kids over the years. Out of these, he's only put eight on medication before they turned five years old. C is one of those eight.

When we tell people how old he was when we started him on medication, they're usually shocked. Most of the rest knew him before he was on the meds. Anyone who's seen him off the meds (in the morning or evening) know why he's medicated. It makes sense to them. He needs the extra help the meds give him. His impulses are controlled to the point that he can concentrate. At least, that's what I thought. When I talked to the counselors today, they were surprised to learn that he's on medication. They thought for sure that he was on a medication break. These are trained counselors with experience working with kids like him. I don't know whether to be amused or concerned. I guess concerned - if he can't concentrate with the help of medication, then what the heck do we do?

I read a great article on medication options the other day. It's a rarity to find an article discussing medications in a fair and balanced way. I'll be referring to it again in the coming weeks before school starts as we work (again? still?) to make sure C has optimal assistance in focusing on his schoolwork. I would love to be able to ditch the medication (the co-pays alone are a good reason to want off it), but I don't think it's a viable option for him. Anyone have a magic wand handy?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Music Monday

This is the first song we played today and, really, it is this sort of expectation I would like to set for every day. You should always know that you are blessed and lucky.

Another day, another diagnosis

If you know our family, or have read this blog often, the first thing that probably came to mind upon reading the title of this entry was "ok, what does A have now?"

If so, you're right. It's not that she's a sickly child, exactly, it's just that she seems to accumulate rare conditions at a faster rate than the rest of us. Certainly, she's had more diagnostic tests than the rest of us combined. We've started to look at it as her way of ensuring we have enough material for the annual holiday letter. What else could it be?

A had her first formal diagnosis soon after she joined us. As is often the case with her, first she had to go through a lot of testing and multiple-doctor consulting before they finally put a name on what she has. A name isn't exactly necessary, except that it gives us a way to identify the set of symptoms that she has so that we can get help treating them. The name most certainly does not define her. In fact, the only name that comes close to defining her is the nickname that her father gave her: The Reigning Queen of Pink, Grand Duchess of Fluff, and High Protector of Barbies. I suppose that calling her a "hausfrau" also works (her favorite gift ever was the vacuum cleaner her aunt gave her), but it lacks that je ne sais quoi that the other nickname has. Besides, it's spawned another nickname - her great-grandmother, also a fan of pink, is now known as the Queen Mother of Pink.

That first diagnosis was Incontinentia Pigmenti. Try saying it three times fast, or even spelling it without looking at the word. Never heard of it? You're not alone. Most doctors we see last heard of it in medical school. Whenever I encounter someone who has heard of it, I practically weep with joy because I don't have to explain it. Someday I'll write a post all about it - I've always found it comforting and fascinating to read about others' experiences with the condition. I should give back. For now, I will tell you that it means that she had a weird rash as a baby. Since then, the main effects have been cosmetic. She has alopecia (bald spots) on her crown. Most of her teeth are missing and some of those that exist are peg shaped. According to the dentist, she had 14 baby teeth and will eventually have 12 adult teeth. According to my calculations, we will need to win the lottery so that we can afford to buy her some teeth some day. To her credit, when people ask her what happened to her teeth she just tells them that mommy and daddy are going to buy her some teeth when she's older. At six, this isn't such an issue. As she gets older, she may feel self conscious. I hope not. She's fierce and we've taught her to revel in her individuality.

The next big way she made her mark was to lose a kidney. The OB swears that the ultrasound taken when I was eight months pregnant shows two kidneys. The ultrasound taken last fall only shows one. We've had her check under her bed, in the closet, etc., to no avail. Who knows. She also now has a kidney stone in that solitary kidney. We found that after she peed pink on Mother's Day of this year. After a visit to the ER, we followed up with her nephrologist. I explained that A was clearly suffering from pinkatitis. A was thrilled - even her pee is pink! I love that she finds joy in what other kids would be freaked out by. We're still monitoring/treating/pondering the kidney stuff.

While the kidney issues were ongoing, A was also complaining about stomach pain. Some were tempted to write it off as kidney stone pain. I didn't think so and luckily we have a good working relationship with her pediatricians. They ran some more tests and eventually referred her to a gastroenterologist, who ran even more. Another wonderful thing about A is that even the tests no longer freak her out. Blood tests are a piece of cake and peeing in the cup is de rigueur for a doctor's office visit.

We talked to the gastroenterologist about reflux, which didn't seem to fit. Allergies seemed more likely, except that she'd been re-tested last year and had negative skin prick tests to the foods she'd tested positive to a few years back. In the last few months, she'd been back to the allergist for a cough that disappeared once we removed soy from her diet. Before that, the allergist had her do a trial run of Zantac and took a chest x-ray as a precaution. The x-ray was clear, but showed an enchondroma (benign tumor) on her rib. We're following that with an orthopedist and wondering how she managed to develop yet another condition.

The stomach pain had kicked into high gear shortly after we removed soy and substituted lactose-free milk. We took that out and the pains subsided, but didn't go away. The gastroenterologist took all of these events into consideration, along with the negative results to the testing he'd ordered, and concluded that it would be best if we bit the bullet and had him perform an endoscopy to check out her insides.

The endoscopy was scheduled and we prepped A by telling her that the doctor would put her to sleep before he took pictures of her insides. She told me that she'd need to bring some books with her because she always reads before she goes to sleep. Seriously, I adore this kid.

The endoscopy was relatively easy. The most painful part was the $250 co-pay. The best part is that A got to see pictures of her insides, which were pink! Life can't get much better than that.

Now, I'm a research fiend. I must know everything about the topic I am obsessed with at the moment. This serves me well with her IP, since I often have to educate doctors about it. I've been asked by more than one if I'm in the field. LOL So, it shouldn't be particularly surprising that I had researched her symptoms and come to my own conclusions about what she had. The doctor seemed a little surprised when he called on Thursday and told me that A has Eosinophilic Esophagitis, and all he got in response was "ok". I eventually had to tell him that I'd done my own research, which made the rest of the conversation fairly simple.

Less simple is what follows. She has an appointment with their EE clinic to have further testing by the allergist they work with. She'll probably have to go on an elimination diet. We will certainly have to remove the problem foods completely from her diet.

Upon sharing news of her latest diagnosis with others, one response I got was 'Oh, how awful, she won't be able to eat anything' - basically, her life will suck. Sure she'll be able to eat. We'll just have to adjust the types of foods we make for her. Our food bill may suck, but her life won't. If we have anything to say about it - and we have plenty - she'll just look at this as another fun adventure. She's brought us on so many already. What's one more?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The gall, I tell you

Summertime - it's our vacation, right? Not so fast. It's hard to have a fun vacation when you don't feel well. It's also hard for the kids when their parent doesn't feel well. None of this makes for a fun or even active summer break.

The day before school let out, I ended up in the ER with severe stomach pains. I thought it might be my gallbladder, but the doctor said it was kidney stones. Fine, then - off to the urologist. He said that kidney stones were an issue, but he thought that, given where the pain was, my gallbladder might be the problem. Back to square one. An ultrasound showed sludge and the urologist sent me off to the surgeon. The surgeon helpfully described it as a "sludgeball" (BUMD said that it sounded like something the kids would call each other) and said he'd remove the gallbladder. The first available surgery date was two weeks later. In the meantime, I was told to just eat a bland diet. Easy - for those not doing it.

One definition of gall is "something bitter to endure." That pretty much accurately describes living with a malfunctioning gallbladder. Eating hurts. Not eating makes me feel unwell too (although it's great for weight loss). We were supposed to meet friends for a BBQ in Canada. We'd made fun plans to tour parts of Montreal, Quebec, Massachusetts, and Vermont. All of those plans were cancelled.

Needless to say, it hasn't been a fun summer so far. However, surgery was Tuesday and I've been feeling better since. The kidney stones still need to be dealt with, but that will wait for now while I recover from round one.

Things are looking up in the kids' lives as well. C starts two weeks of summer camp next week. He should have a blast. During the second week, K is going with her grandfather to visit family friends in Colorado. She'll get to be an only child and do some hiking. She's very excited. A is excited too - during the days on the second week, she'll be an only child too. She's having fun dreaming up all of the activities she and I will get to do alone, together.

Maybe, just maybe, our real summer has just begun.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Saturday in the Park

It's the Fourth of July - how can I pass up the opportunity to play this song?

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Internet is really, really great for so many things. In this case, it's because I can post from my iPhone. Pretty cool.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Day of Reckoning, Final Edition

"Final Edition", 'cuz I'm never doing that again. Epic fail on the weight loss plan. Clearly, declaring my intentions in public didn't make me any more likely to be successful. All in all, app. 10 lbs. down total since September. I never made it to more than 14 lbs. down during the past several months. At least I didn't gain weight. ;-)

I have learned some things about what works for me (other than not going public). I am prone to making grand plans and then dropping them if I don't follow them to a "T". I need to just settle down and focus on the basics: get healthy and fit. How I get there doesn't matter as much as if I get there.

Dairy is not my friend. I've mostly removed it from my diet and I feel better. Cheese and butter taste so good but make me feel so bad. Chocolate is also a frenemy. Despite what I keep reading, chocolate does cause acne. Within a day or so of eating it, I break out in evil cysts. So not fair.

The South Beach Diet plan is also a mixed blessing. If I follow it to the letter, I lose weight like crazy. I also feel awful and fairly deprived. I need to figure out how to customize the basic concept so it works for me. I avoid dairy, artificial flavors and colors, and artificial sweeteners. That eliminates all of the dessert options. Boo hiss.

Exercise is a good option to lose weight, but only if I do it consistently. I think what I need to do is try to become strong and healthy, instead of focusing on burning the calories. Get healthy and the weight loss will follow. Even if it doesn't, I'll still be in better shape than I am now.

The most dramatic lesson I learned recently is that, why, yes - kidney stones are more painful than labor. I've been through natural childbirth and I drove myself to the hospital when I had appendicitis. The pain I had two days ago was so bad that I was crying and unable to move until it subsided. A visit to the ER soon after brought news that I have multiple stones in both kidneys, including a 6mm one in my right kidney (where the pain was). They gave me nice drugs and a referral to the urologist. I'll see him next week. In the meantime, I've been doing a lot of reading about kidney stones. It's clear that I still have some dietary changes to make. I owe it to myself and my family to try to be healthy. Will this involve further weight loss? Probably - but you can bet I won't be talking about it until after the fact.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Music Monday

On Friday, I turned 39. One more year 'til 40! Believe it or not, I'm pretty excited about turning 40. Every year, I feel a bit more comfortable with myself. 40 should be even better, right? For now, I still have to wait nearly a year to find out if I'm right.

The Wii Fit did put a tiny dent in the celebrations. It told me to not "let age get in the way." As if! Age is but a number. It's how you feel inside that counts.

The song that came to mind after that reminder was No Time at All from Pippin. I love everything from Stephen Schwartz, but Pippin was the first musical I adored. This song, in particular, fits my mood for now. A couple of quotes that I love from the play:

"Now don’t take life so seriously. Just take things as they come along. Don’t do too much planning, and don’t do too much thinking. How’s that for wisdom so far?"


"It’s time for me to start living...and stop worrying. Maybe that’s the secret. Just to enjoy all of the simple things in life."

So, why wait until I'm older still? Now's the time to live, and laugh, and love.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Friendly Reminder

Don't get so caught up in the 'what-ifs' that you miss what is.

This is directed at me, but I thought I'd share.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Music Monday

BUMD and I will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary this Wednesday. In August, we'll celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. Confused? Well, as usual, we did what works best for us. In this case, we had our wedding in May 1991 and a church wedding in August 1992.

The first wedding was a small, private affair - just him, me, and his best friend. Brett held the scabbard while BUMD and I jumped over the sword. We'd decided that we were committed to each other, so the marriage was official to us (albeit not legal). That was fine for the moment; my parents had already said that they wouldn't support a married student and I still had one more year of school to go. BUMD had just graduated and had work to do here in VA. We spent the rest of that year trying to spend time together at least once a month, until I graduated in May of 1992. We moved into our new apartment in VA in July.

In August, we had the official church wedding. I suppose I can't blame my parents for doubting our initial commitment. We had, after all, only been dating for three months before getting engaged. The family engagement track record wasn't too hot at that point, as my sister and brother had recently broken off long-time engagements. Our relationship was clearly different. We just were, and are, right for each other. We couldn't see a reason that we shouldn't be married, so we decided that we were. Formalizing the relationship in front of a larger audience and signing some paperwork made it official to others. Therefore, we celebrate both dates.

Since we didn't wait to get married, I never had the "Wedding Bell Blues" that Fifth Dimension sings about. That hasn't stopped me from loving the song. I was tickled to hear K singing along with it today. I've clearly been playing it enough lately.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I Want Candy!

Anyone who knows me knows that the phrase "I Want Candy" doesn't leave my lips very often. "I Want Chocolate" - well, that's far more common ("I Neeeeeed Chocolate" even more so). Our family avoids food dyes and other chemicals, so most candy is out. The kids are hardly deprived - the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus bring high quality chocolate, and most Halloween candy is traded in for a toy or other present. As a result, their consumption of the usual candy you'll find in grocery stores is limited, at best.

There are, of course, exceptions. Some things just have to be experienced. Twizzlers, sadly, are out. Thank goodness I didn't make the dye=crazy connection until after K was a toddler. A steady supply of Twizzlers helped me get through grad school. Mmmmmm - strawberry twizzlers. Panda black licorice is good, but it's just not the same. I just found that they make a raspberry version - I might have to track it down.

One of the essential candy experiences takes place in the movie theatre. Sure, popcorn is great, but I want my Junior Mints. Chocolate and mint - is there a better combination? Unfortunately, I had to settle yesterday. I took the kids to see the Hannah Montana movie. K and A were excited, C less so. We got our tickets and walked up to the concessions stand in gleeful anticipation of experiencing a Junior Mint-and-Popcorn induced movie theatre coma. But - no Junior Mints! The nerve, I tell you.

K and I looked through the rest of the offerings and I decided on my next favorites - Sno-Caps. K asked what they were and I turned to her in shock. How could I have missed this part of her childhood education? It's already slightly stunted from lack of Swedish Fish and Jolly Ranchers. Sno-Caps are fairly safe (no red dye, but vanillin (synthetic vanilla - yuck!). So first I asked for one box, then decided to play it safe and get two. We made quick work of them. Even C, who mostly lacks a sweet tooth (and can eat red dye stuff without going insane), ate a fair bit. The popcorn was suitably salty and the movie was bearable. It was even quite good in some places. It gives me a lot of hope for Miley Cyrus's career beyond Hannah Montana.

I'm sure I'm horrifying the hard-core Feingold evangelists. I just prefer to do things in moderation. If it won't kill them, why not let them try it? That said, this was A's first and probably last experience with movie theatre popcorn. Midway through the movie, she started coughing. Later, she said her throat hurt, which is the same feeling I get when I consume cinnamon. She had a negative skin test to corn last year, but it looks like her allergy remains. It's the same cough she had with soy milk. When we switched to rice milk, it went away. Oh well, at least she got to experience it once. Next time, though, I'm bringing my own Junior Mints. Some things are just essential to the experience.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What Goes Around

It seems like every time I check out at a store, someone asks for a donation to a charity. Homeless pets, people with disabilities (really - that's how they phrased it), cancer, you name it. It's like a gift with purchase, only it's going to someone else. I actually admire this approach, even if it's a bit overwhelming to be asked every time. I usually end up giving some small amount - it's barely noticeable to me, but if everyone does it the donations really add up.

It came as no surprise to me a couple of weeks ago when the cashier at Borders asked if I wanted to donate a book. They were collecting books for kids at Children's National Medical Center and Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children. This was a really easy sell. I am a sucker for books and A has been spending time with specialists at both hospitals. I even got to choose which book I wanted to donate. I was happy to make that donation, but a little skeptical because BUMD's cashier didn't ask him to donate (we always check out separately so we can each use coupons). I eventually shrugged it off and figured that Borders is a good business - surely someone got to enjoy those books.

Just over a week later, I got my answer. We were in Borders (again) when A had to go to the bathroom. I took her in and she decided that we should share a stall. She's six and relishes her independence, so this doesn't happen much anymore. As I was helping her, I realized that the pee in the toilet was pink. Now, she's known as the "Reigning Queen of Pink, Duchess of Fluff, and High Protector of Barbies", but this was taking her pink-love a bit too far. We headed back home in a bit of a tizzy and I made her pee in a cup so I could see for sure. Again, pink/red pee. I put in a call to her primary care, who told me to call her nephrologist, who told me to take her into the ER. Yeah, Happy Mother's Day to me. It wasn't like BUMD could take her - he doesn't do girl part stuff or needles if he can help it.

We went to Fairfax Hospital, where we stood in line for a few minutes before signing in. After waiting for a few more minutes, we were called back to the kids' triage area. From there, we were escorted to the kids ER. They found a small gown for her and then showed us to a room with a bed, rocking chair, a small TV, and the usual ER stuff. A was particularly delighted by having a gown that fit her. We keep ending up at facilities that serve mostly adults and have no child-size gown. She always looks like she's wearing a kimono. She told the nurse that she walked like a penguin in those gowns. She cracks me up.

Once she was in the gown she had to pee in their cup (and yes - I brought the pink pee with me). Of course, now her pee was clear. It figures. They tested it while she was seen by nurses and doctors. In between those exams, she got to watch TV in bed - what a treat for her! The child life specialist stopped in to introduce herself and asked if there was anything she could do to help. She then excused herself and came back with a selection of books. She told us that they had been donated to the hospital and that A could choose one to keep. Ah ha! Well, that answered my question.

Eventually, it was determined that A didn't have an infection. We were sent home and advised to see the nephrologist that week. We saw her on Tuesday. She sent A for a renal ultrasound, where they found a kidney stone. It should be no big deal, but it does explain the hematuria and perhaps the stomach cramps. We'll be keeping a close eye on things, since she only has the one kidney.

Overall, the visit to the ER was one of the best doctor's visits I've experienced. The staff was excellent, the facilities were nice, and everything went smoothly. We were home in less than two hours. Of course, the main reason is that A is not very sick. I'm exceptionally grateful for that.

We have a lot of appreciation for our good health these days. A's godmother also spent Mother's Day in the hospital with her son, who is our godson. Devin was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia in January. He entered Duke University Hospital in February and had a stem cell transplant in March. Yesterday, he was released from the hospital. He'll continue to be seen as an outpatient for a few months while they monitor his recovery. I am so, so thankful that he's doing so well. He is a fighter and we're so proud of him. We're also thankful that his parents have been taking such good care of him. They are exceptional people. A child (sorry - teenager) could not hope to have better advocates. If I can be half as good as them, my kids will be lucky. BUMD is going down to see them this weekend. We're excited that this moment has come. It's been a long winter and spring for them, but summer's definitely coming.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Yesterday was a Good Day

Not a great day, but a good day full of happy-inducing, soul-satisfying experiences. It needed some help getting there, but things were going my way and I made it happen. I love days like that.

The morning routine went smoothly. DH and I were able to get some quality time in. I left to get my hair cut and realized I didn't have any cash for tips, so I stopped into Trader Joe's to get some treats and cash back. While there, I noticed a group of small children surrounding the cooking/demonstration area. They were being shepherded by none other than Mrs. W., C's kindergarten teacher. I hadn't seen her since last year (all the kids are done with preschool now), so we had a chance to hug and briefly catch up. It was wonderful to see her.

From there, I went to see David. He worked his magic and made me look great. While I was waiting (color and highlights take a while), I started craving a hamburger. I shouldn't really give in, because BUMD and I are on the South Beach Diet. By the time my hair was done, I was a goner. I decided to go for it and a few minutes and miles later I walked into Johnny Rockets. Two men sitting at the counter smiled at me as I walked in. I'm decidedly not hot these days, but the happy feeling must've shown through. I took a seat at the counter. The waiter was pleasant. The music was good. I ordered a #12 with onion rings and a vanilla coke. The coke was perfect - crushed ice and yum in a I-haven't-had-a-coke-in-oh-so-long kind of way. The onion rings were also perfect - fresh and crispy with the ideal amount of batter. Nice. The burger was good - not the thick, juicy kind I was craving, but still tasty with a good amount of mayo and sauce, crisp lettuce, juicy tomato, and tangy onion. It was a really good diet-busting lunch.

To round things out, I went to TJ Maxx to spec out a new purse. While walking there, I passed a woman sitting on a bench. She asked for money. I gave my regrets, but then decided that if I found what I was looking for, I'd give her something on the way out. I not only found a purse, but also a hat. They're set aside until Sunday now. Thus satisfied, I made good on my promise. It's not a location where people are typically asking for money - I wonder what she was doing there?

Later, I was supposed to go to a meeting but was not exactly enthused about it. I let BUMD talk me into opening a bottle of wine and staying home instead. We cooked up a steak, made a ton of veggies (mostly back on the diet track), and sat down to watch some TV with the kids. Later, we got some more quality time.

So, there you have it - the ingredients of a good day. It took a combination of good decisions and fate to make it happen. Also a little laziness and some desire for good karma. All in all, it's the best Hump Day I've had a quite a while.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Music Monday

I love iTunes. I have all of my music in one place - all of the CDs in the house have been burned to a hard drive and every new one that comes inside gets the same treatment. Eventually, we'll get around to figuring out what parts of our vinyl and cassette collections will join the iTunes library. With over 16000 items in the library, there's a lot to listen to. We're fond on making playlists to suit our moods and quirks. Some days just beg for a playlist. Today, for instance, it's rainy and glum - so why not listen to songs that have the word "rain" in them? Some will make us feel better, while others just fit the mood outside. I noticed that one great "rain" song was missing from our collection. I'm rectifying it here. Garbage's Only Happy When it Rains definitely wakes me up and puts me in a better place.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Awetism Awareness Month

April is Awwtism Awareness Month. Interesting how "Autism" can be spelled so many ways yet sound the same. It's fitting, since Autism presents in so many different ways. Autism Spectrum Disorders affect many people, including my son. C has High Functioning Autism. He also has ADHD (emphasis on the H). He is one of the quirkiest kids around and I love him dearly.

It wasn't always apparent to us that C was different. He was, after all, our first boy. We didn't expect him to be like his older sister. We just figured he'd be his own little self. Eventually, it became obvious that something was going on. We took him to the pediatrician, who sent us to the neurologist. The neurologist examined him thoroughly and ran some basic tests. He mentioned the possibility of autism and recommended we see a neuropsychologist for a more thorough workup. The neuropsychologist diagnosed C with a "biologically based disinhibition disorder" - in other words, ADHD. It wasn't until C was being evaluated for transition from the special needs preschool to the kindergarten that he was diagnosed with Autism. The school psychologist said he had High Functioning Autism (HFA)/Aspergers Syndrome(AS).

That's where the difficulty in understanding Autism began for us. Depending on the literature, AS and HFA are either the same or different diagnoses. The term that we've gone with is HFA because it includes speech difficulties and AS does not. C occasionally has speech problems, so HFA it is. At the time, AS had only been used as a diagnosis for 10 years. What would C have been called before then? In my childhood, he would've been the 'wild-child' or the freaky kid. More labels are available now, so we tell people he has HFA. What a relief, really - it's far easier to be the parent of a child who has Autism than one of a child who is "out of control".

There are a lot of questions we're frequently asked about Autism. Among them (and please try to remember that these are my opinions - you're entitled to your own):

Do you think it's an epidemic? No, I don't. I think there is simply more information available now that allows the diagnosis to be made.

But, there are so many more cases! See above. Also, there are higher concentrations in the high tech corridors. So many people in those fields are on the spectrum. Not all of them are diagnosed as such, but if you know the symptoms, you recognize it. If those people are having kids together, it stands to reason that some of these kids will be on the spectrum.

Do you think this is a result of vaccines? No, in most cases I don't. I think it is possible that some people are sensitive to the ingredients in vaccines and that it could cause a problem, but I don't think that it is the case for most.

Shouldn't we not get vaccinated to prevent our kids from getting Autism? No, I think that the vaccines are there to ensure the health of everyone. Sometimes, people are injured by something they come into contact with. You can't always predict it. I would no sooner ban my kids from having vaccines because they might get Autism than I would keep them from having a glass of milk because it might turn out they are allergic to it and it might kill them. Besides, I have three kids and only one with Autism. The averages are in my favor.

How has this affected your life? I think I'm more patient with people. I am more aware of different personalities and how we all interact. BUMD has mentioned that he's able to manage some employees better simply because he recognises that they are on the spectrum and he's aware of how to accommodate their quirks/needs.

Would you change things if you could? No, I don't think I would. C is an amazing little guy with a fascinating world view. He makes observations that most adults I know aren't capable of. There are little behaviors I would love to do away with, but I think I could say the same for just about anyone I've ever met (including myself).

Did you cry when he was diagnosed? No, I was too busy being fascinated by all the literature we had in front of us. I have had one good cry about it, a few years ago when I finally realized that he wasn't going to be able to do any of the things that I had dreamed for him. That moment remains one of the most liberating moments I have ever had as a parent, and possibly as a person. I had to let go of my plans and give up my expectations. C will grow up to be whoever he will be. We can teach him, love him, and influence him, but we can't make him. He just is. He will be.

So, you don't wish he was normal? Hah, no! I always tell people that I'm happy my kids aren't normal, because that's so boring. I want them to be individuals, to have quirks, to be proud of not being "one of the crowd". Sure, it's fun sometimes, but there's so much more to life than "fitting in".

What? You don't want him to fit in? Well, yes I do. We make sure the kids have basic social skills, that they are aware of popular culture and social norms, and that they have a sense of how to be a part of society. But we also spend a lot of time reminding them that every person is an individual, and that what works for one person may not work for others. In other words, Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV). Be comfortable with differences and respectful of others' beliefs. The opposite of Autism is "neurotypical". Being neurologically atypical is ok by me. Innovations are made by those who don't "fit in". If we can teach our kids to respect those who aren't like them, society will be that much better for it.

Are you neurotypical? You've made it this far and still have to ask? ;-) No, I have ADHD. I recently took an Aspie test online and scored pretty high on that. The good thing is that I'm an adult and can find my way. The hard thing is to be a kid and be quirky. I hope my kids will someday find their niche too.

There are so many benefits I reap from having an Autistic child. His emotional immaturity and lack of social awareness means that he's still ok with snuggling in public. While other 8-year-old boys are studiously avoiding their moms in public, I'm still getting smothered with hugs and kisses. Who wouldn't love that?

There are challenges too, but they're really not that much different than those faced by other parents. We have it relatively easy with C's HFA. Parents of low-functioning kids have more challenges than we do. Years ago, a friend gave me his list of rules. I still have it on my fridge and refer to it every day. Parenting a child with Autism can be challenging, but as with anything worth doing, it comes with so many rewards.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Music Monday

When I woke up Friday morning, John Mayer's No Such Thing was stuck in my head. No big surprise, really. The first time I heard the song (which was followed closely by the second, and third, and many more) was when I saw the video on VH1 in the hospital just after A was born. I had ample time to watch TV - she was in the hospital for two weeks after she was born, while they tried to figure out what was going on with her health. Friday, we were back on that track yet again.

I've begun to refer to A as our "Mystery Diagnosis" child. Really, it's kind of unfair - there are other children who fit that bill better, but she is ours. Her illnesses have never been severe, just interesting enough to pique the doctors' curiosity and warrant further diagnostic tests. It's to the point now that we've at least started laughing about it - nervous laughter, to be sure, but laughter just the same.

At some point, I should probably write it all down. Today is not that day. The good news is that Friday's appointments with the pediatric nephrologist and pediatric orthopedist only resulted in appointments for follow-ups in about six months or so. Nothing major, just another "huh?" diagnosis to add to her list of "interesting" (not "weird" - she doesn't like being referred to as "weird") conditions that she has. If "huh?" is all she ever gets, that's just fine with us. There are parents out there who are facing far greater challenges with their kids. They have our prayers.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Silver Linings

Some days (ok, more often than not) it's the little things that bother me. Take, for instance, shopping carts. It irks me that so many people are incapable of just cleaning up after themselves and putting away their cart. Why no, I really don't enjoy trying to put away my cart after you've left yours sideways in the shopping cart return. Would it have been so hard to just push it into line with another cart? Apparently so. Don't even get me started on the fun of throwing out someone else's trash that they've left behind in the cart. Sometimes I can skip that cart, but on high volume days (think holidays) it's just not an option. All together now - eeeeewwww.

Despite my dislike for those habits, I was grateful for them today. BUMD is tackling the lawn, so I decided to take the kids grocery shopping. C was not at all enthused with the idea. I told him if this was the only thing he didn't want to do, I'd let him stay home. Given that "I don't want to" is so often his initial reaction to many activities, I told him to suck it up and behave. Usually he gets over his initial reluctance and actually has fun. Not so today. We were standing in front of Scary Teeter, trying to decide which cart to take. A wanted to ride in one of the car carts, but they'd been left haphazardly in the sun instead of in the shady spot right next to it. Full disclaimer - the kids are 20 and 26 months apart. I took them shopping together when they were little and still managed to return the cart - hence my irritation at the lazy people.

So there we were, debating the cart options, when C said that he didn't feel good. I asked him if he was going to throw up and he said yes. I reached into the suddenly perfectly parked cart, grabbed the flier that was conveniently still in it, and held it under C's face just in time to catch the vomit. I managed to get most of it, leaving the sidewalk splattered with just a tiny bit instead of a large bio hazard zone. I really didn't want to ask their staff to clean that up. Once he was done, we headed straight back home. My shopping list had also taken a hit, so there was no sense in trying to stay. C got his way after all. It was a nice day for a drive anyway, and K offered up the airline sickness bag that she keeps in her seat area for the drive home. The fact that she has one ready should tell you how often the kids get car sick. That she still has it several months after the last plane trip shows how much things have improved in that category.

I suppose I could complain that the last customer didn't leave a bag in the cart to help me catch things, but I'll just shut up about it all now. Sometimes, the things that bother you turn out to be the things that save you. It's like a sign I have: "Life is 10% how you make it, and 90% how you take it." So, so true, especially today.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Music Monday

Yesterday was Easter. It's spring, the time for renewal. Why, then, am I having so much trouble renewing my faith? I don't know how to articulate what I believe in anymore. I guess I need to concentrate on who I am instead of what I call myself.

I was baptized Catholic by parents who didn't really follow organized religion. My mother was Catholic. She went to a school run by the same nuns who had taught her mother. The nuns were young and cheerful when it was my grandmother's turn, but far less so by the time my mother was a student. I think it ruined things for her. My father was raised Episcopalian but didn't really practice. We seldom attended church. When I was 14, my sister and I started going to church with friends. After a few months of regularly attending and singing in the folk group (it was the 80s, ok?), we were ready to take the plunge. We went through RCIA classes and soon received our sacraments - First Communion for me, and both First Communion and Confirmation for her (she was about to graduate from high school). I was Confirmed a few years later.

Over the next few years, I was very involved in our parish activities. During college, my attendance was spottier. I was married in the Church by the same priest who baptized me. People who've seen our wedding album always comment about how happy Father George looked. I'm not surprised - it was a lovely, welcoming church community. I had many friends there and always felt a sense of love when I entered the church.

After getting married, I stopped going to church regularly. By the time our children were born, I'd drifted so far I didn't get them baptized. Eventually, I felt the need to bring them to church. We had them all baptized together. It was quite a sight. They began attending CCD. K received her First Communion a couple of years ago. C was due to receive his this year. I stopped taking them late last year after I was no longer able to explain to them why we believed certain things even though the Church was telling us to do something else. The term "Cafeteria Catholic" may work for some but it's darn near impossible to explain to small children, particularly those who are autistic and rule-bound.

My sister still attends church regularly. She was visiting this weekend and we had many conversations about our faith. I was relieved when I heard that she'd struggled with similar issues. Our childhood parish is very liberal. Our current parishes are very traditional. For me, the complete lack of feeling at home in my new church was the breaking point. She struggled through and is still working on things. During times like this weekend, I wish I could say the same. I miss having a spiritual home. I'd like my kids to have one. BUMD has no real interest in it, despite being raised Catholic too. I think it might be easier if I found a spiritual home within myself and then found a spiritual group that can enhance it. If I'm not feeling the love within myself, how am I to share it with others?

Many years ago, I was driving up to my home parish for Good Friday Mass. I was excited not only for the services, but because my sister was driving home from college and was planning to meet me there. I felt profound joy in church that day, for so many reasons. On the drive up (it's called Our Lady of the Mountain for a reason), I was listening to Boston. That day, the song Foreplay/Long Time reminded me of Jesus' struggle during his last days. There was just something in the music that evoked the same feelings within me that I felt when listening to the scriptures during that mass. I told my sister about it and she agreed. Of course, I had to play it first thing yesterday to commemorate that time together.

"Time doesn't wait for me, It keeps on rolling." Will I ever figure out how to roll with it?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Music Monday

Some kids watch TV before school; mine usually watch whatever I put on the kitchen PC (aka 'Command Central'). Hulu is great for watching vintage TV. Pink Panther is a particular favorite. Another favorite channel is YouTube. I adore it - it's another great way of reliving my youth, until the record company executives insist that the video be taken down. One of the first videos I remember seeing was Barnes & Barnes' Fish Heads. It was weird then and it's still weird now. Needless to say, the kids love it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Toothsome Tuesday

Saturday was a ugly day - cold, rainy, and depressing. We were supposed to attend a community potluck but none of us felt much like being social. What we all needed was some good comfort food and a night in. BUMD and I got the comfort food; the kids were less convinced. I guess Shrimp and Grits is more of an adult taste. The first time I heard of the dish, I couldn't imagine how that combination could possibly work. Boy, was I wrong. It's divine. BUMD declared this to be the best version he's ever tasted. I agree - it's a keeper.

Shrimp & Grits

2 cups water
1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth
3/4 cup half-and-half
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup regular grits
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3 bacon slices
1 pound medium-size shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

Bring water, chicken broth, half-and-half, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until thickened. Add Cheddar and parmesan cheeses, butter, hot sauce, and white pepper. Keep warm.

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon and set aside.

Sprinkle shrimp with pepper and salt; dredge in flour.

Sauté mushrooms in hot drippings in skillet 5 minutes or until tender. Add green onions, and sauté 2 minutes. Add shrimp and garlic, and sauté 2 minutes or until shrimp are lightly brown. Stir in chicken broth, lemon juice, and hot sauce, and cook 2 more minutes, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet.

Serve shrimp mixture over hot cheese grits. Top with crumbled bacon.

Serves 4

Recipe courtesy Southern Living magazine.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Music Monday

This song followed me around for months before I finally caught it. I kept hearing snippets in the grocery store and stopped to listen on more than one occasion. The lyrics were intriguing. I finally thought to write down the lyrics so I could figure out who wrote it, then promptly lost the paper I wrote them on. I did it again a few months later and remembered to look it up when I got home. Good thing, too - not only do I love it, but K is also enamored. I never thought I'd hear INXS recording again, but Afterglow makes me glad they did.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Music Monday

Weekend mornings tend to be fairly lazy occasions in our house. BUMD and I have a general routine of sleeping in - he gets one day, I get the other. Whoever is most awake when C wakes up takes the first day, and the one left sleeping takes the next. C is generally up first. He just doesn't need much sleep - he's often the last one up at night too. A is usually next - she goes to sleep early but will also sleep in when given the chance. K is last - she's up late reading, then sleeps in like a tweenager.

We feed the kids something basic when they first come down. Once most of us are awake, it's usually brunch time. We occasionally go out for brunch, but my new-found cinnamon allergy has dampened my enthusiasm for most brunch foods. Even if the food doesn't contain cinnamon, it still affects me if it has come into contact with cinnamon. Don't even get me started on the evil that is Cinnabon - I can't even walk near the place without getting a blast of cinnamon toxins and ending up with a migraine, at best. Waaaaah.

But I digress...we don't really need to go out for brunch. Ours is so much better. This Saturday morning, the menu was ricotta pancakes, bacon, porridge, coffee, and a bloody mary for me. Some may think of the 'porridge' as 'oatmeal', but we had brunch at the wonderful Sarabeth's last weekend. One of their specialties is porridge and I am still obsessing.

The very best part about having brunch at home is that we get to choose our own music. Our iTunes library is huge - at last count, we have nearly 16,000 items. One of our favorite playlists for weekend mornings is called "Diner Mix". It's a collection of the tunes we're used to finding on the jukeboxes in our favorite diners. All this great music and we don't even have to put a quarter in (or call someone who cares if we're still wearing our jammies). One of our favorite tunes off the "Diner Mix" playlist is The Foundations' Build Me Up Buttercup. You can't help but be cheerful when you hear it. This song and some good food will start anyone's day off right.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Music Monday

BUMD and I had a great time in NYC this past weekend. His parents picked the kids up from school, which meant that we were free to leave Friday morning after dropping them off. On the way to DC to drop off the van, we were listening to the CD I burned the other day. Like many others in my car, it's labeled "misc" - in this case, it's a compilation of the various songs I've been listening to on iTunes lately. None of them make any particular sense together, although when listening to it you do get the overwhelming sense that my musical tastes were formed in the 70s. One of the songs we listened to was America's Ventura Highway. BUMD remarked that he wanted to know how the alligator lizards got into the air. That had never occurred to me before. It's a good song, great rhythm - why worry about the lyrics of most 70s tunes? I don't have access to the proper drugs to make those kinds of connections.

Still, by the time we were on the bus heading up 95 we'd already come up with several theories. We ended up revisiting this topic at random intervals throughout the weekend. It's actually a good theory to contemplate while in the Village, but maybe not so good while in the subway looking at the rats. BUMD was sooo excited to see real subway rats - he really needs to get out more. Clearly, we also need to get out more together. Give us a weekend alone to talk with no interruptions and we end up discussing alligator lizards. Deep thinkers - maybe not.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You Gotta Keep 'Em Medicated

BUMD and I are taking off tomorrow for an adults-only trip to NYC to celebrate his final weekend as a 39-year-old. His parents are taking the kids for us. It's a win-win-win. I know they'll have fun together and we definitely need the time alone. It'll be an adventure for all of us - the ILs are taking the kids out to "Grandma & Grandpa's House in the Woods" - aka their place in WV. The kids love it there.

Traveling with kids is easier now that they're older. No more packs of diapers or cribs or numerous outfit changes. The kids are easily portable these days, with one exception - their medication schedule. There are mornings when I feel like a walking, talking Pez machine. K is taking three pills and one nasal spray; C is taking five pills (but soon down to two once he gets through the current bottle), and A is taking two pills, two nasal sprays, one packet of powdered medication, and one inhaler. Why do I get the feeling this is going to appear in the Holiday Letter?

Anyway, the point is that they actually need all these meds. I can generally remember to give it to them, especially now that I'm taking medication. A is really really good about reminding me if I don't. C's behavior reminds us if we don't, unless he's sick. With a bad case of the flu, his energy level finally resembles that of an average 8-year-old boy. Which is to say, energetic. Without the benefit of stimulants or sickness, he's extremely hyperactive. At a lecture last year, our pediatrician noted that out of the many kids he's treated, he's only medicated eight children before they turned five. C is one of those kids. We don't medicate him so he calms down, we medicate him so he can function. His hyperactivity gets in the way of him living like a normal child.

A takes meds for allergies and ADHD. The inhaler and powder are part of a trial we're working on for two weeks, until we see her allergist again next week. She can skip the ADHD med, but only if you're willing to listen to her talkalldaylong. If you're ok with that, have at it. I kinda like my moments of sanity, however fleeting they may be.

K can actually get away without having her ADHD meds, as long as you make sure she has her coffee. That's the thing that cracks me up - people will make comments about how they would never medicate their kids, but when you look over, their kids are guzzling Coke or Mountain Dew. Stimulants, people! Millions of adults self-medicate daily with their caffeine-laden soft drinks, coffee, or tea. But nooo, they don't take medication. Nope, don't need it. Of course not (::pats their heads::) - you're already taking liquid stimulants. Why bother with the pill form?

We started K on coffee before we decided to medicate her. Her third grade teacher had said that K was brilliant but clearly not working up to her potential. Without telling the teacher, we started giving K a cup of coffee every morning and voila - she started doing great in class. A few months later, we accidentally switched to decaf for a few days (they should be required to put the word "decaf" in large, bold lettering on the package). By the time BUMD and I figured out why we had headaches, we got a report back from K's teacher stating that K was distracted, not focusing, what was wrong?? Of course - no stimulants, less focus.

By that time, we'd also taken the girls to see a neuropsychologist who diagnosed them with attention disorders, among other things. A's genetic syndrome was the main reason we had her seen. K's visit was probably over-the-top, but since we'd also had C evaluated by the neuropsych, we figured why not? Now we're three-for-three. The neuropsych was also alert enough to note some issues BUMD was having and sent him to a neurologist, who eventually diagnosed BUMD with severe sleep apnea. Now that's a value-added service.

So now I'll end this post and pack the medication and instructions. It's a lot to keep track of, but it's still better than changing diapers. Besides, MIL loves Pez machines. She can be one for the weekend. ;-)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Music Monday

I'm squeaking in under the wire with this one. ;-) I've been managing to exercise regularly for the past few weeks. One of the songs that gets me through my cardio workout is Daft Punk's Around the World. If I'm nearing the end of my workout and am ready to quit, this song always keeps me going. More than once, I've gone past my time because I couldn't bear to quit moving. It's that kind of song. It's also great for doing lunges and squats - the rhythm is perfect.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Music Monday

It's the last Monday of February, a month dedicated to love. I've tried to keep up the spirit - the red-and-hearts tablecloths still graces the dining room table. It's currently adorned with an entire army of Bionicles. C love them, so I guess they're in keeping with the spirit of the month.

I couldn't let the month slip away without posting one of my favorite love songs, "I'll Cover You" from Rent. It's such a joyful, giving song. In the play and movie, the actors are so happy to be together. Despite the angst that surrounds them, Angel and Collins remain madly in love until the end. As other characters say in the song "Goodbye Love", "I'd be happy to die for a taste of what Angel had. Someone to live for, unafraid to say I love you."

I'm lucky. I have that in my life. BUMD is a joy to be around (most days - we all have our moments). He makes my life complete. ILY Always!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day of Reckoning, Month 5

...and, by default, Month 4 (since I didn't manage to post that day). I've at least managed to lose another 3 lbs, bringing the grand total lost to 9. Not particularly spectacular for five months.

The latest weight loss (ad)venture involves giving up sugar. I may have to settle for simply avoiding it most of the time. Today, for instance, I was out running errands. I really, really wanted to stop at Subway and get an Italian sub, but I settled for going to Whole Paycheck and getting some sushi and a seaweed salad. I figured that was marginally better than eating bread and cold cuts that I know have sugar in them. It turns out that my "healthier" choice still contained sugar, both in the salad and the sushi. Going completely sugar-free is much harder than I thought.

Score card:
9 lbs down, 51 to go.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Toothsome Tuesday

After last night's decision to join Kirsty in eschewing sugar, I couldn't very well post a dessert recipe today. Instead, I'm posting a well-loved recipe that I've been turning to for years. I found this in a newspaper many years ago and we printed it as part of our "For Starters..." cookbook (as in "for starters, we'll have this for dinner."). It's delicious and nutritious, and tastes almost like chicken. If nothing else, I'll now be able to find a copy of this recipe when I'm away from my own computer.

Turkey Cutlets with Black Bean and Tomato Sauce

2 1/2 TB olive oil
6 thin slices uncooked turkey breast (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup canned black beans, drained
1 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

1. In a skillet, heat the oil and then lightly brown the turkey slices on both sides; remove turkey to warm plate and season with salt and pepper.
2. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook slowly for 3 to 4 minutes; add bell pepper and chili powder and cook for one minute.
3. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, black beans and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Return the turkey slices to the skillet, cover and simmer until the turkey is cooked through and the flavors have blended, about 5 to 7 minutes.
5. Transfer the turkey cutlets to a platter and spoon over the sauce. Top with sprinklings of the coriander, if you wish, and serve piping hot.

Serves 4

Monday, February 16, 2009

Momedy: Eschewing Sugar. It's time to Just Say No.

Momedy: Eschewing Sugar. It's time to Just Say No.

I so needed to read this post today. Motivation at its finest. Anyone else want to join Kirsty and I in giving up sugar?

Music Monday

I got rhythm, I got music...who could ask for anything more?

Some days, rhythm is all we need. One of our favorite YouTube and iTunes videos features nothing but snapping and dancing. F-U-N

The talented folks at Anaheim Ballet have been entertaining us for months now, since I discovered them through a random search. We've watched this particular video countless times and it never gets old. Some day I hope to go to California and see them live. Until then, I remain a loyal virtual fan. Enjoy this one and then go check out the rest of their videos. It'll be time well spent.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Toothsome Tuesday

Valentines Day = Chocolate + Love

Now there's an equation I like. I don't need the flowers - they're marked up for the occasion and therefore BUMD isn't allowed to buy me any (none on Mothers Day either - the rest of the year is open season). Chocolate is just as festive and tastes better than flowers. Ok - this is somewhat debatable. BUMD makes an awesome Rose Petal Ice Cream. That recipe will have to wait for the summer.

One of the most decadent chocolate cakes I've ever eaten is a flourless chocolate cake. The recipe comes from the New York Cookbook by Molly O'Neill - can you tell I'm a fan? One time, BUMD made this cake and brought it into the office for someone's birthday. His then-boss, Sharon, wondered aloud if anyone else had the urge to put the cake on the floor and just roll in it. To this day, I can't think of the cake without thinking about her comment. There is no greater compliment.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
8 large eggs, separated
2 TBS sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla

8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
8 large eggs, separated
2 TBS sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and sugar a 9-inch springform pan.
2. Make the cake: Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water. Remove from the heat.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, sugar, and vanilla. Beat until stiff, but not dry, peaks form.
4. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until thick. Add the melted chocolate and combine. Fold in the egg whites.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan. Bake until just firm when gently shaken, 12 to 15 minutes. Place the pan on a rack to cool to room temperature. Expect the cake to fall.
6. Make the topping: Repeat steps 2, 3, and 4. Spread the unbaked chocolate mousse on top of the baked mousse in the springform pan. Chill for at least 12 hours. Serve with whipped cream.

Serves 16 to 20 (or 1 for rolling in).

Friday, February 6, 2009

GEMs for Kirsty

Today is my friend Kirsty's birthday (Happy Birthday Kirsty!). We've been talking together on the mom's board for our eight-year-olds for nearly nine years now. In her usual kind and generous manner, Kirsty asked her friends to help celebrate her birthday by doing something to make the world better. The problem is that she asked people to post about what they were going to do and then post about what they did on her birthday. I'm great at planning but suck at follow-through. Therefore, I didn't post ahead of time. I couldn't decide what to do and if I did, I would no doubt forget to do it.

As I was running errands today, it finally came to me - for Kirsty's birthday, I'm going to get this particular blog entry idea out of my head and into cyberspace. Here it goes: to help make the world a better place (for you, for others, for Kirsty, for everyone), Go the Extra Mile (GEM). It's easy, it's free, and you don't always have to do it. Just make an effort (ME time? Unfortunately, Nike already has rights to Just Do It.).

From my perspective, being a GEM involves doing the little things - hold the door open for someone; put the shopping cart back in its place; pick up after yourself; let someone go in front of you; smile at a stranger in the mall; pay someone a compliment; thank someone for good service; anything that can make someones' day better. It's generally not a difficult thing, yet so many people seem unwilling to make even the smallest effort. We all have our days - that's a given. But, if people make the effort most of the time, the little things get done. It's the little things that matter, right?

For example, the woman in line in front of me at the store spent the entire time at checkout talking on the phone, then moved off to the side right by the carts to continue the conversation. She left her own cart in front of the register, blocking me from getting to the counter and forcing the cashier to take the time to put it away. Exactly how difficult would it have been to take the cart with her and put it away? Not at all. It was frustrating and amusing to both me and the cashier. The cashier said she sees that kind of behavior all the time. I'm not even going to get into discussion of basic manners (although, if you're interested, the Best of Craigslist has several cashier rants).

The GEM discussion is ongoing in our family, although I haven't really called it that before. I think the kids get it. They're generally helpful to each other and others. Again, they have their moments too. But, the other day K came home from school with her usual good grades/good citizen award (yeah K!). It's a nice thing to give the kids. She mentioned that another kid had received a special award for helping to stack the chairs after some event. This puzzled her - she does that sort of thing all the time and gets no special recognition, nor does she expect it. Someone has to stack the chairs, so she helps out. She was similarly surprised when she got a special shout-out for helping with the mini-swim team at practice time. Her sister is on it and she thought that, of course, older kids should help the younger ones. I am so darned proud of her, I could burst. This is the attitude we're trying to foster - if the work needs to be done, just do it. Do it without the expectation of awards, rewards, or recognition. Not every effort needs to be celebrated. Doing good should be its own reward.

That said, giving out the occasional award to someone who is "just doing their job" can enlighten others and maybe encourage them to try and do the same. The recent great works of Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberg are fine examples of how to go the extra mile. Most people are familiar with his successful ditching of a commercial aircraft on the Hudson River. Less publicized was his later call to his local library, explaining that his library book was still in the plane's cargo hold and would be late. He asked that the library give him an extension of the loan and waive the overdue fees. The library did him one better, waiving the overdue and book replacement fees, and deciding to place a dedication template in the replacement copy. The book's subject: professional ethics. Sully is a true GEM. We need more people like him.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Music Monday

"Come on now, now, come on now, now. Enjoy the humor of the situation." - Barenaked Ladies

I try hard to see the humor in any given situation. It makes anything better if you can just laugh at it. Better still, laugh at yourself. Humor is the balm that softens the blows that life throws at you.

Few things aren't fair game in our house. Take our marriage, for instance. We have a great one. I've very lucky to have found BUMD - we are bestest friends and have a great partnership. We like similar things. It just works.

Still, there are some things we don't see eye to eye on and never will. We refer to those things as "next spouse" items. I will have a dog with my next spouse. He'll run for office with his next spouse. We're not being disrespectful to our marriage. We're just letting the other know that it will never happen with us. It makes us laugh to say it.

I really appreciate people who have a lively sense of humor. Barenaked Ladies is one of my favorite groups because of their ability to make me laugh mid-song. The line "I just made you say underwear" from "Pinch Me" springs to mind - you'll think twice before singing along with one of their songs. Another group I appreciate is the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. LAGQ took on Pachelbel's Canon in D and turned it into the impish wonder known as the "Loose" Canon. You can't help but smile when you hear it. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

So that's why he's skinny

Conversation overheard:

C: "No thanks, I'm on a goodness diet."
A: "Well, can't you be on just a little bit of good and some bad diet?"
C: "No."

They're playing Lego Indiana Jones. I can only imagine what that conversation was in reference to.

Maybe I should go on a goodness diet too.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Toothsome Tuesday

Since I've done so well with posting on Music Mondays [/sarcasm], I thought I'd try my hand at posting recipes and other food finds on Tuesdays. My very favorite food is chocolate, so expect to see it featured early and often. Without further ado, I present:

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325.
2. Butter an 8” square baking pan and lightly dust with flour (we use the wonderful Pam Baking spray).
3. Melt the chocolate with the butter in a saucepan over low heat.
4. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar.
5. Stir in the eggs and the vanilla and mix until smooth.
6. Add the flour and salt, and stir until smooth.
7. Pour into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick insearted into the center of the brownies comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Makes 16 brownies
Serves 1

Adapted from the New York Cookbook by Molly O'Neill.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Life's Work

For a while now, I've been joking that when I die my headstone should read "Wipe, Flush, and Wash Your Hands!" After all, that's what I say the most. Today, I'm thinking of changing it to "Yes, I'll hold." I say that a lot too, and it's much more appropriate.

Of course, all of this should be moot because what I really want is to be cremated and have my ashes scattered on the beach (either Down the Shore or somewhere on OBX). Forget the headstone, just plant a tree in my memory. I'm hoping no one has to do this any time soon. There's still a lot to be done.