Thursday, September 27, 2007

The evil of Cupcakes

While in the car with my husband the other day, we heard an ad for an
upcoming episode of The Biggest Loser. We had watched the first season,
back before we thought Charlotte was paying attention to TV (and
definitely before she learned the word "ELMO"). Between the colic and
the evening clusterfeeding, we watched a lot of TV back then, as I was
spending a lot of my time on the couch anyway. In general I enjoyed
watching people work hard on such a healthy goal, and it was interesting
to see what kinds of regimens the trainers were dreaming up for their
teams. However, there's some aspect of every reality show that has me
talking to the TV--chiding the contestants or the show's creators
because of the sheer stupidity of what they're doing. During at least
one of the episodes, the contestants entered their communal kitchen to
find a beautiful display of every kind of baked good and pastry you
could dream up. It made my mouth water just to look at it. But these
poor people, who were literally working their butts off every day and
cut off from their friends and family, not to mention their strictly
enforced "diets", were punished if they so much as tried a fingerful of

As I monologued to my (sort of) patient husband the other day, this is
exactly the mindset that makes so many "diets" fail. People lock
themselves into some sort of strict deprivation mode, and may God strike
them dead if they even smell chocolate. Once they do fall off the
bandwagon and try the smallest taste of something, they then decide that
their diet's completely ruined, and spend the next week gorging on
anything fattening that they can find in order to punish themselves.
That is just dumb. Dumb dumb dumb dumb. A treat now and then (dare I
say, even every day) is not going to make you fat. And if eating a
cookie or two a day will keep you satisfied so that you don't get
desperate and eat an entire tub of cookie dough in an evening (locked in
the bathroom so that no one else can see your transgression), then it
seems like a good thing to me! Fat and Carbs have a very important
place in a healthy diet. I'm not advocating chucking the whole grain
bread, lean meat, and vegetables in favor of a Twinkie and Hostess
Cupcake diet, but I just don't see how a cupcake every now and then can
be so bad.

I saw a recent article on the New York Times website discussing the
controversy over cupcakes in schools. We're not talking a lighthearted
water cooler discussion, we're talking about lawmakers taking sides over
whether to pass legislation to ban or allow parents from bringing in
cupcakes to celebrate their child's birthday. I can definitely
understand the arguments from folks who want schools to serve healthy
lunch options (so that kids aren't buying Ding Dongs and orange Kool-aid
for lunch every day, not that I ever did that...ahem...). The problem
isn't that schools are dictating that every child must have a cupcake
every day; it's that parents are bringing a special treat to celebrate a
special occasion. Heaven (or Congress I suppose) forbid that that
special treat be made of fat and carbs and little else. Heck, I think
that describes most of the dishes my high school cafeteria used to sell.
Cut out those cupcakes and I suppose we'll eliminate the obesity crisis
in America. That's a logical argument, isn't it? Why don't they work on
making those healthy choices more appealing (or at least edible, as most
of the "good" food in my schools growing up was not), while still
allowing the special treats on occasion. Otherwise, kids who are
feeling deprived are going to learn to binge, and then to hide it.
That's a challenge that nobody wins.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dinner last night--Warm mixed green salad with chicken and pomegranite-redwine viniagrette

Last night's dinner was pretty good, if I do say so myself, though it has room for improvements. I started off with no plan except that we had frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts, and a bag of mixed salad greens. I haven't had much time for cooking decent food in the last couple of weeks, so it felt really good. Here's what I ended up doing:

Pound the chicken breasts with a meat mallet until even thickness maybe 1/4-3/8" thick. Salt and pepper each side (I use Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper). I actually used some Emeril's Bayou blast on one side of the chicken, but ended up doing an overall non-cajun flavor, so would just salt and pepper next time. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in skillet over medium heat until shimmery. Add chicken breasts and sear (don't move them) till browned on the bottom--3-4 minutes? (I never watch a clock, and was attempting to do dishes, talk to Charlotte, and not stress over an increasingly fussy baby at that point). Once seared, the chicken releases easily from the pan (I use heavy stainless steel pans, not nonstick). Flip chicken and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through (maybe 5-10 minutes)--use a instant read thermometer to check temp if you're not sure. Pounding the meat first makes this part go really fast and everything cooks evenly. Remove chicken from pan to a plate, and tent loosely with foil.

While chicken cooks, chop a small white onion into thin slices (maybe 1/8" wide, 1" long or so). I only used half an onion, and ended up regretting it later, definitely the whole would have been tastier. After taking the chicken out of the pan, return it to the stove, and add the onions. Don't clean it or anything--all the brown bits are good in the sauce. If the pan is too dry, then add a tad more olive oil. Saute the onions until they start looking translucent. I deglazed the pan with Red Wine Pomegranite vinegar--I probably used 1/4 cup or so, but could easily have doubled that. Also added about 1 Tbsp of brown sugar. Scrape all the brown bits (pan sauces make for nice clean skillets, don't ya know), and then simmer the vinegar until it's thickened and about half the volume--maybe another 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, pour any accumulated juices from the plate holding the chicken into the sauce. When the sauce looks nicely thickened, add chicken breasts back in for 1-2 minutes on a side so they soak up some flavor. Remove them from the pan again and cut into 1/2 inch strips. Take the sauce off the heat, and stir in about 1Tbsp butter (the real stuff, if you please).

Mound the salad greens on a plate. Top with strips of warm cooked chicken. Drizzle the pan sauce and sautéed onions on top (call it dressing). I had some toasted slivered almonds in the pantry, which added a nice crunch. The salad could also stand some cheese--maybe feta or queso fresco or something else crumbly but soft (we didn't have any). I sprinkled a little freshly ground sea salt on top as well to offset the sweetness of the dressing/sauce. Total time from meat mallet to table: about 30 minutes. Charlotte loved hers--I kept her salad separated into piles so she could pick and choose how much lettuce vs chicken she ate (some of each, btw, and all of her nuts).

We had Bisquick biscuits on the side (with some parmesan cheese and dried herbs mixed in)--not the best side dish, but they got done while I was cooking everything else and rounded out the otherwise veggie-meat meal. Then the 3 of us shared a banana split for dessert. Charlotte wanted a banana, and wanted her daddy to have one too, and me to have ice cream (bossy little thing that she is). So I layered a split banana with 3 small scoops of ice cream, some sliced strawberries (the non-fuzzy ones left from several days ago), some Magic Shell, and cool whip. Yummy. I think she mostly had bananas and cool whip and I mostly had ice cream and chocolate sauce, and both of us were happy. My husband declined to eat more than a bite or two (he claims to not like sweets....though I don't always believe him).

Last night was supposed to be Trystan's big foray into solid food--I have a box of baby oatmeal ready in the cupboard. However, a day lacking in naps caught up to him and he crashed about 5 minutes before 7 when our dinner was done (and stayed down all night, though he did wake to nurse). So, tonight's his night instead :)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Side Effects

Trystan is continuing to do well from his surgery last week. On Friday,
he stayed home while my sister watched him, and was, by all accounts, a
really good baby. He's been a bit gassier than normal all weekend, and
a bit more attached to me. His stool was also a bit runnier (with the
colostomy its always runny anyway, but it was much more watery than
normal). They sent him home with oral antibiotics twice a day until
Saturday night, which I think were bugging his stomach--those things
wipe out all bacteria, not just the bad ones. With a couple of days of
mommy milk, things should right themselves. His bottom actually looks
remarkably good--the incisions are essentially healed (there's a
definite red mark, but not any sort of open wound). It looks like he
has a hemorrhoid where his colon is sort of bulging out, but the surgeon
said that would right itself over time--his body and muscles will need
time to sort themselves out. He still has a catheter until tomorrow,
which doesn't bother him any, though it has forced us to pull out and
wash 9-month sized clothes for him--he was on the verge of growing out
of the 6-month ones anyway, but the padding from the second diaper is
making the old ones impossible to button. I think he's been growing
anyway, and we'd already started weeding out the smaller clothes from
his closet before the surgery. Heck, he ate nearly 20 ounces in 8 hours
from my sister on Friday--we normaly send 12-15 to daycare, so I may
have to reevaluate that.

Charlotte is still recovering as well. I think having me stay at the
hospital was pretty hard on her. I got to see her once, for about an
hour, between Sunday bedtime and Thursday after school. My husband had
a harder time getting her dropped off at daycare all last week, and she
is normally somewhat clingy in the mornings. She refused to leave his
side for her Wednesday dance class, so got to sort of play in the hall
out side class--she loved the class the previous 2 weeks when I took her
and joined the group without a backward glance at me. This morning, she
threw a fit when we tried to explain that Trystan wasn't going to
school, but she was, and that I was doing the dropoff (normally her
daddy drops off and I pick up). When we walked into the building, she
got visibly scared at the door to her classroom, and hid her face on my
neck, until one of the workers retrieved her from my arms, and gave her
another neck to hide in.

I hope after tomorrow, that things will get back to almost normal again
for a couple of weeks. Both kids will be able to go to daycare and stay
home on the same schedule, and I won't be disappearing for a several day
stretch again. I guess for the next surgery we'll have to reevaluate
(again) our approach to spending time with both kids. With the last
one, I left Trystan overnights to come home, but that left him a lot
clingier for a couple of weeks afterwards. This time I stayed with him
and my husband only brought Charlotte to see us once, which traumatized
her. If only there were two of me and two of my husband (or at least
1.5 of each), we could cover both kids at once!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Trystan's Surgery

I intended to post an update earlier this week, but couldn't find a wireless signal at the hospital. I had a copy of the configuration directions, but the best configuration in the world doesn't help when the radio waves can't pass through concrete walls.

Trystan had his surgery this week. This one is callled the "pull-through", or the "anoplasty" or the "PSARP". Trystan now has an anus. (That is a word that I never used to ever really say or type, and now it seems to come up in conversation alot....). The surgery was long--3 or 4 hours. His large intestine was connected to his actual bladder and not one of the tubes draining from it, like they originally thought from the x-rays. He held up great, and was allowed to nurse Monday night as soon as he was awake enough. He was pretty sore--the incision went from the base of his scrotum to a couple of inches past the new opening. We tried really hard not to move him too much Monday and Tuesday morning--I gave myself an odd backache trying to stand next to his hospital crib and nurse him without holding him overnight Monday. That probably looked pretty funny, but he wanted the comfort and I didn't trust moving him that much.

One of my sisters came into town to help us out. She couldn't make it till late Monday, but spent Tuesday and Wednesday with me at the hospital. She was a lifesaver. My husband had to work much of the week, so she helped keep me sane, and was a much-needed second pair of comforting arms for Trystan. He spent most of Tuesday and a lot of Wednesday cuddling with one of us while we watched TV and chatted.

By Wednesday night, Trystan started feeling really good and found his energy. He started smiling at everyone in sight, rolling around his crib and vigorously playing with his toys. That afternoon, he played so much that he pulled his IV out of his foot (bleeding all over his aunt's lap in the process). Since he was eating and not needing the extra fluids, they didn't replace the IV and just switched him to oral antibiotics instead of the IV ones. Later that afternoon, he pulled the tape off that was holding his catheter tube to his leg. The doctor decided that we could remove the large tube and collection part from the cathether, and rig up a double-diaper system. Basically, he wears one diaper with a hole cut in the front where the tiny catheter tube is threaded. The open end of hte tube is in a second diaper, worn on top of the first--that keeps the catheter in place, protects his still-tender incision area, and gives him the freedom to be a rolly-polly high-energy curious baby safely. It makes it a bit hard to button a sleeper over (I will have to wash a couple of the next size up to wear the next couple of days). To change him, we should mostly have to change just the outer diaper until the inner one gets messy.

We came home this morning. He still has the catheter and will until next Tuesday as they wait for his bladder to heal before letting it handle its normal duties. That will make caring for him a bit trickier, since I don't want to ask daycare to handle that as well (its no worse than a regular diaper change, but he's already a special case with the colostomy). We (and our surgeon) weren't expecting that going in.

It's really nice to be home right now. Trystan's taking his best nap of the week, especially since no one will wake him up to take his temperature or check his bottom or just make loud noises in the hall outside his door. I am really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight. I also have seen Charlotte for only about an hour all week, and I'm looking forward to seeing her this afternoon!

Friday, September 14, 2007



That is not what you want to hear from the mouth of a 3-year old who is sitting next to your 5 month old. Charlotte apparently decided that Trystan wanted to sit up, and pulled him up to a sitting position. And then backed away. He looked around, gave me a goofy grin as I raced towards them, and promptly toppled over. And darn the child if he didn't laugh about it. I guess if he'd hit his head that hard, he would have cried, but by laughing he's re-inforced Charlotte's "helpful" attempt.

I think up and down definitely describes the last couple of weeks. Right before Labor Day weekend, I got a nice polite letter from my company's HR department saying that they were dropping Trystan from my health insurance because of "lack of documentation". I had sent his birth certificate, as they requested, several months earlier. At the time, they were doing some sort of company-wide sweep of requesting birth certificates and tax forms to prove that our medical dependents were legitimate, and I made the mistake of (silly me), sending both children's birth certificates in together. Apparently, one group (in one state) was handling dependents that were on the account as of last December. Another group (in another state) was handling dependents that were new this year. Pardon me for not realizing that all of the envelopes with my company logo and "Depended Verification" printed on the top, and PO Boxes for addresses, were actually going different places to people who were not speaking to one another.

Yikes. I called them immediately that night, and faxed them a copy of Trystan's birth certificate on that Saturday. By Tuesday, the representative said that the had not received it, or that it had not been "sorted" and "applied to my account". I then, over the next week, faxed it at least 5 more times (with and without cover letters, with my employee ID, with my social security #, and other various permutations), plus I mailed it in, calling nearly every day. I didn't get confirmation until this past Wednesday that they had received it, and could figure out what to do with it! I explained (again) that the BABY was having SURGERY on MONDAY, and that they needed to get him re-activated on the health insurance immediately if not sooner. I was told again this afternoon that they have the "work order" marked as Urgent, and that someone who deals with the insurance company is supposed to "push it through" today. In the mean time, someone from the hospital has also noticed that he's "inactive" and is trying to help get things straightened out so that we don't get a bill the size of our mortgage in the mail in a couple of weeks. Actually, its more that she's encouraging me to get thing straightened out. Same difference to her (if not to my stress level).

In between stressful phone calls, things have been relatively good around here. Charlotte is enjoying her dance classes. Trystan is getting closer and closer to crawling--he's pushing up on all 4's and trying to rock. Occaisionally he gets his butt in the air like he's doing a downward facing dog pose in Yoga. Then again, occaisionally Charlotte does too--she's seen a couple of my workout videos. Today we went to the lab at the hospital to have blood drawn, and both kids were quite good. Trystan got mad at being stuck by the needle, but really calmed down in a hurry. Charlotte was more interested in watching the needle and the blood than she was in distracting Trystan. She walked away with 6 Disney Princess stickers and a sucker for his trouble. Afterwards, I decided that the day was too nice for us to drive past the zoo and not stop. We had a rather pleasant afternoon, with only one minor meltdown on the way to the car (Charlotte was very tired and suddenly remembered that we didn't get to see the elephants). Both kids napped in the car on the way home.

Next week one of my sisters is coming out to help while Trystan's in the hospital. I'm looking forward to her visit. I don't get to see enough of any of them, and having an extra pair of hands around the house will be a life saver. We're still expecting about a 3-day stay, and I'm expecting to pretty much stay with him the whole time, and stay home from work most or all of the week. I did read a description of his surgery on another hospital's website last week, and it said that patients go home with a catheter in place, that stays until a 2-week checkup (!). No one mentioned such a thing to us that I can recall, and I'm slightly panicked. We were expecting and planning that he'd be in ok shape to go back to daycare after a week, but certainly can't with a catheter (heck, I don't know how to entertain a rolling, exploring 6-month old at home for 2 weeks with a catheter in place). We have a deadline at work, and no real backup plan at the moment for after my sister has to go home. Should make for an exciting week.

I should try to take my inspiration from Trystan--to enjoy life when I get to sit up and look around, and try laugh it off when I fall back down again. I just hope I don't bump my head to hard on the way down next time!

Saturday, September 08, 2007


The last couple of weekends have been pretty busy for us, unlike today. My husband and both kids are all asleep, so I actually have a couple of minutes on the computer :) Here's the highlights:

I got Charlotte and Trystan's pictures taken several weeks ago, and both kids were happy and smiling and cute. Here's one of my favorites:

Charlotte turned 3 on the 24th. We had a little party for a couple of her playmates. By "little" I mean that there were only 4 other kids in attendance. My husband and I might have gone a little overboard on the cake:

Also, we don't appear to have a good photo of it, but Princess Charlotte hosted her guests in a "bounce castle". We're talking a 10x10 inflated bouncer like they have at fairs. We bought the thing--larger ones can be rented but there are apparently some restrictive laws about them around here (rental places need to provide an "attendant" as if it's a carnival ride). The purchased one is huge and fairly heavy-duty, and just about fits in our basement (we have 9ft ceilings and the top is a little squashed, but it still could go outside if the weather weren't 100degrees or raining). Yes, we spoil her. But we got her a lot of good exercise in the process. Here's a closer photo of her inside:

Over Labor Day weekend, my mom and baby sister came to stay. We went to the St. Louis County Fair and Air Show and got to see the Blue Angels (very cool). Charlotte got to climb in several of the planes and helicopters on exhibit, and loved it. She also got to ride several carnival rides, though she was upset that she couldn't ride the big viking ship--she's too short. I think she's still got part of a bag of cotton candy to finish too. Unfortunately we had loaned our camera to friends, so we have no photos.

We're gearing up for Trystan's next surgery on the 17th of September. He will have at least one more after that to finish out his GI tract. Another of my sister's (#4 of 5) is coming to stay with us for that week to give us moral support and some extra attention for Charlotte. After my experience with Trystan's last hospital stay, I'm expecting to stay likely all of the nights with him this time--he should be eating a little quicker, and could use more attention when he's not eating (assuming he's feeling up to cuddle time...I think the company will help him relax even if he's hurting some). Last time I came home and slept in my bed a couple of times as the entire weekend before I'd basically not slept because he was so sick. It won't be fun for Charlotte (any of us really), but we will all make it through.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Illness followup

Trystan's illness from last week was just a virus. My husband did take him to the pediatrician, who tested him for a kidney infection. Poor kiddo had to wait around and be manipulated as they attempted to collect a urine sample by catheter—after two failures (I believe he peed before they could get the catheter in), they ended up with a lucky "catch" and collected a sample in a cup. They waited so long that the ped had a speaker of some sort for a talk within her office, and ended up offering my husband some of the pizza they had ordered from the group. They also had to provide him with a couple of extra diapers, as the repeated failures to catch the pee wiped out the diaper bag's stash. By Wednesday, he was feeling quite a bit better, and I stayed home with both kids, and even ventured to the library with Charlotte for story hour. Initial tests showed that it was unlikely that he had an infection, and indeed the culture failed to grow anything of interest.

It's a little scary how reactive we have to be to everything happening to Trystan. He's not allowed to be a typical baby who gets the occasional virus from daycare. With every fever, we're going to worry about kidney infections, and every large spitup could be the first sign of another bowel obstruction. Any unexplained symptoms like lethargy could be signs of heart problems. It is easy to forget from day to day that we have a baby with some rather severe health problems. He is such a happy, active, bright baby that I forget that I should be worried about so many things.