Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My to-do list just grew a few more feet

I probably should not be allowed to shop in a home improvement store unsupervised. I'm not dangerous or anything. Let me rephrase that. I don't cause anyone bodily injury or property damage. No running with saw blades, climbing the shelves, hijjacking the forklifts, or drinking the bug killer. No, none of that. But give me half an hour to wander the aisles, and my debit card will be cowering in a corner, desperately crying "Uncle!" Much like at a dessert buffet, my eyes are bigger than my stomach, er, house. Gazebos, paint, light fixtures, kitchen appliances, french doors, POWER TOOLS! OMG is that place fun.

My husband and I have been working on some fix-it projects around the house lately. Some, like new aluminum soffits and fascia (with a little siding repair) are necessary and boring. Some, like the new floors we've been scouting (spoiler: bamboo is a leading contender), are exciting and expensive, and extremely scary. Over the holiday weekend, we tackled one that's fun, affordable, and only somewhat scary: trimwork. We have two large archways between our formal dining room and our family room that are plain plain plain. We're talking 72" wide by 12" deep bare drywall, with the skimpiest baseboard around the bottom. Basic, builder-grade nothingness that does not suit my preferred aesthetic. Not that I can afford my preferred aesthetic, at least not in one lump sum. By necessity, we're the tortoise in this race. Unless someone has an "in" at HGTV for a free whole-house makeover? Anyone? Anyone? The silence is deafening.

Our new fancified archways are coming along splendidly, no thanks to me. So far, I'm the shopping-and-spackle person. We requested assistance from my in-laws over the weekend and got my father-in-law. So, I drew child-care duty, and the boys got to play with the tools. Last night I returned to the renovation utopia that is Lowes for an additional trim piece (they claim that I measured wrong...I wasn't driving the saw, so I can only presume that they're telling the truth...).

On the way to the lumber aisle, I took a shortcut past a lovely selection of area rugs (planning ahead for those hardwood floors, you know). My detour of choice also happened to pass their selection of vinyl flooring. The last time I looked at those options was when we built the house, and I was suprememly underwhelmed by the choices then. But now, oh my. Some of those actually looked like stone. They weren't even shiny! And the pattern was random from piece to piece. Visions of a redecorated master bathroom danced in my head. I would still love real tile floors in there, but I think that plan would involve removal of vanities and the (cultured) marble tub surround, and thus the shower as well, and nevermindIwon'tredothebathroominthislifetime. Peel and Stick. I can do that.

Account balance: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Family Travels

There is no red brick in Austin. I had not anticipated that. I am not horribly well travelled, but the big cities that I have seen the most of--Indy, St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, all have lots of red brick, at least in the older sections of their downtowns. Austin is a city of stone. Cheap, scraggly, poorly maintained homes and ancient gas stations are clad in beautiful tan, gray, and gold stonework of the type that, here, costs mega bucks. New homes around here have tiny accents--a corner, the arch over a doorway--down there, it's everywhere.

My younger sister, 3 of 5 for you Star Trek fans, graduated last weekend from UT. I am ashamed to admit that in the 10 or so years that she has lived there, this was my first visit. I have many excuses for that, none of them good, two of them under 38 inches tall. Regardless, we came for graduation. The flights were rough, the driving was confusing, and the visit far too short, but we had a good time. Besides my little family, my mom and the rest of my sisters all came as well.

We arrived late Thursday night, and met up with my sister on Friday. We hung out most of Friday afternoon at a dive called Freddie's. The weather was perfect--mid 70's and breezy, and Freddies had a huge outdoor patio area with a swing set! Heaven with french fries! The adults could talk, and my kids (and my baby sis, age 12) could play. After our 3-hour lunch, we went back to the hotel and our kids napped, and then we went swimming. The pool was outdoors, which I had not anticipated. I do too much travelling in the upper midwest. A quick dash to a local Target netted us sunscreen, an innertube for Char, and some Dove chocolates for me. We had a late dinner at a local Tex-Mex place.

Saturday morning was the graduation ceremony. At my alma mater, Wash U, the ceremonies were divided by school--Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Art, etc. UT further divided things by major. My sister's ceremony was as large as the entire Wash U ArtSci graduation, and only covered Biology and Chemistry majors. Did I mention that she was Magna Cum Laude? And that she's headed for grad school next year (after a summer doing research in Panama)? She puts me to shame :) Her path to her degree was a very non-traditional one, and that makes her success all the more deserved in my book.

My sister opted to not attend the school-wide commencement that evening, much to my daughter's disappointment. Char heard the announcement about fireworks. Instead, we drove to a BBQ place called The Salt Lick south of town. They were offering a streamlined menu in honor of graduation crowds, but I didn't feel slighted. In a huge rustic screened porch, we ate ribs, brisket, sausage, turkey, baked beans, fresh baked bread, potato salad, and cole slaw family style, all-you-can-eat. We had to get our blackberry and peach cobbler to go.

Back at my sister's house, we sat around and talked for hours. Char declined the opportunity for a private tour of a local firestation, courtesy of my sis's firefighter live-in-boyfriend. The kids enjoyed chasing the cats and the dog, and using Jenga game pieces as stacking blocks. They were also showered with attention from their grandma and various aunts. It was a good weekend all around.

I'm pretty sure that Trystan called my sister by name at one point, and maintained a couple-minute conversation with her--none of us have any idea what he was saying, but he was very sincere. If I had to guess, I think he was saying "Congratulations! We love you!"

Monday, May 19, 2008

Flying with Small Children Step by Step: Chapter 1, Airline Security

While packing, remember that all liquids and gels in carry-on luggage have to be in 3oz or smaller containers (not larger containers that are partly empty, mind you) and placed into a single quart-sized ziploc bag--only one to a customer. And you must be able to remove your individual baggie so that it is visible while your bags are scanned.

Translation: remove all lotions, diaper cream, hand sanitizer, chapstick, nasal saline spray for the congested baby, and infant ibuprofen from the places they would be most useful (like the changing pad in the diaper bag or your coat pocket where you could actually reach it in-flight while sitting in the middle seat with your 13-month old, between two strangers, one drinking redwine, and the other hot coffee).

While planning to feed children onboard the plane, remember that outside beverages or other liquids are not allowed, except for baby items. The screeners will allow babies and very small children to have sippy cups of beverages. This is helpful in case your 13 month old prefers whole milk or prune juice to Coke mid-flight. This is not helpful to a parent who prefers a baby-proof container of liquid, rather than the very small wide-mouthed plastic cups that the flight attendants so kindly provide. Consider packing an extra sippy cup for your own beverage, but remember that you will have to argue with your child about why the are not allowed to drink out of "their" cup.

Food and snacks will not be provided by the airlines, even during a 5:40-7:40 flight, which actually begins boarding at 5:15. Eat your first dinner before you board the plane, and plan on a second one when you land. Bringing food in your carry on might be OK, but not if it is a gel or liquid. Gels or liquids (which would include things like peanut butter or cheese) must be in a 3-oz or smaller container, placed in your quart-sized Ziploc baggie, one baggie to a customer. Teddy Grahams are neither gels nor liquids until they reach a child's mouth, but allowing a baby to eat them off of the floor after he has dumped the bag can lead to strange looks from the travellers around you. Practice indifference to disapproving looks prior to flying.

Before walking through scanners, remove all jackets, watches, wallets, etc, and place them in a bin. Remove any electronic devices (like the portable DVD player to entertain the children during the flight) from their bags. All carry-on bags must go through the scanner. Note that this is much hard than it sounds while corralling 3-year olds and juggling a baby. You may attempt to leave them secured to strollers or carseats while you do this, but that reprieve is only temporary (see below).

Everyone must remove their shoes, and place them into a bin to be scanned. This includes 3-year olds who are rather upset to be parted with their new sparkly gelly sandals, and squirming infants who like to remove their socks and throw them. Also, your husband's tall cowboy boots must be placed standing upright in their bin, not laying down or sharing a bin with anything else.

Remove all babies and small children from their containment devices. Containment devices (i.e. carseats, slings, and strollers) must be collapsed and placed on scanner. Children may walk through the scanner or be carried. Sending a baby through the x-ray machine is not allowed, no matter how much you argue that he’s already had dozens of x-rays in his life and this one’s not likely to kill him either.

10 feet later, re-dress and re-pack all of your belongings. Explain to your 3-year old why they must get out of their stroller, remove their shoes and jackets and not touch the walls of a scanner while tall strangers stare at them, and why they have to then put their shoes back on right after they took them off.

Do this quickly, as after following all of the previous instructions, you have monopolized every plastic bin that TSA provides, and your belongings stretch from one end of the conveyor belt to the other. There are other travelers behind you waiting impatiently for their turn. Beware, as these people have just discarded their Starbucks, and have not yet had an in-flight adult beverage to improve their mood. Nor will they see your small child sitting on the floor insisting that she can put her own shoes on.

Don't forget the baby, who you placed in a plastic bin on the conveyor belt to keep him out of trouble.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hold still while I carve you a new face...

Every couple of years, I find a new obsession in the realm of personal care products. No, not that kind of personal care prodcuts. This is a strictly G-rated post! Well, after that little allusion to non-g-rated material, this is probably a PG-rated post. Anywhoo.

A couple of years ago, I became entranced with the idea of pedicures. My feet have forever been ugly, thanks to genetically defective toenails and enormous callusses from taking too many barefoot modern dance classes. We will not even discuss the length and color of my toe hair, as no self-respecting female would ever admit to growing such hideousness. Alas, the days of covering my shame with socks and closed-toe shoes seem long gone, as flip-flops have become the new snow shoes, and even pantyhose are taboo in many social situations. To date, I've had exactly one spa pedicure, a Christmas gift, and it was a truly wonderful experience that left me with enameled nails and (relatively) soft feet. I keep plotting to repeat the experience but once I research spa locations, offerings, and price lists, I chicken out.

I have attempted to re-create the pedicure thing at home. I am the proud owner of one of those bubbling foot "spas" that they sell at Walgreens, and a basket full of bath salts, sugar scrubs, and shea butter lotions. I also have an assortment of callus-removing tools that would look equally at home in my kitchen tools drawer. The foot-spa device, by the way, is kind of a pain to fill, and the cord is too short. Sitting on the bathroom sink works much better.

Before the foot thing, there was teeth whitening. That worked ok, but I drink too many colas and coffee drinks. A couple of years ago, I finally threw out a collection of solidified fingernail polishes and the remnants of a set of do-it-yourself fake nails that I attempted for a formal in college. Remember my genetically defective toenails? My fingernails suffer the same fate, and attempting to color or extend them does not help (maybe if those kits came with all thumb-nail sized pieces...most of the "medium" sized ones were way huge for my pinky nails.

One might suppose that I would learn when to stop the silly ideas about trying out "beauty" products that I don't need, and that I know cannot possibly correct my "flaws". One might suppose incorrectly.

This week's experiment: sunless tanning lotions. Why? Because despite all of the bad press about the dangers of tanning, on top of my naturally translucent skin tone that burns lobster-red the moment I even approach a sunny window, I have some deep-seated desire to look tan. I don't know why. It's absurd. It's unhelathy. It separates me from the walking dead and the deep-sea creatures.

Once, nearly 20 years ago, I tried a small test-patch of a self-tanner. My older sister was a devotee of them (also of tanning beds, which I have also tried exactly twice in my life), and her face looked correspondingly orange as a result (sorry, J! It is true!). My test location of choice was a patch on my tummy, next to my belly button. It was a spot that had never seen the light of day, and if your abs aren't trim enough for bikinis at 15, they probably never will be, right? My splotch turned a vibrant hue of pumpkin, and has failed to completely fade in all of these years. It's not horriby noticable, but I can still tell. I think the original patch has grown a bit larger than it started...

I've heard, lately, that the new lotions are much much better than they used to be, and they actually carry them in different shades for different skin tones. I bought the "ghostly pale" version, along with a face tanner last week. I am happy to report that after 3 applications of the body tanner, and 2 of the face tanner, that no one has yet threatened to carve me into a jack-o-lantern. Nor has anyone asked if I went on vacation recently. The face stuff I bought is stronger than the body version, so I'm going to go very very slowly with that one. The body stuff claims that I would reach my darkest tan after 7 daily applications.

Maybe by this weekend, I will once again be visible to the naked eye.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Race

I am happy to be a St. Louisan. There are some things I will never get over: the pizza, for one. It is completely unacceptable, to me, to put cheeze whiz on crackers and attempt to pass it off as dinner. Flame away, I'm teflon on this.

I left my hometown of Fishers, in the suburbs of Indianapolis, pretty much for good when I left for college at Wash U in '94. I've been back for a week or two at a time, but I have lived here ever since. I am rarely homesick for it. I miss the people, sure, but not the yearly allergies from the corn (it must be the corn...I don't sniffle here like I did there). I never felt connected to the city of Indianapolis, despite growing up about a 10-minute bike ride from the county line. Maybe because I never owned a car. It's hard to feel connected to something when you're only ever someone else's passenger.

Still, there are a few things that I miss. Real snow, every winter. A real spring where you buy--and wear--a light jacket. More than once between March and June. Really. Basketball. For a non-sporty person with the attention span of a gnat, I did enjoy basketball. Hockey makes a decent substitute, but it's harder to spot the puck than a bright orange ball. And then, there's the whole month of May.

In Indy, it's called The Race. There's no need to specify which race. There's only one worth talking about. Starting the end of April or the beginning of May, The Race is the top news story every night. Which teams have arrived. How many practice laps did everyone do. Who has the latest technology. Whose son/grandson/brother is racing. Dramatic flashbacks to prior years' fiery crashes. Heart-wrenching sagas of family legacies. Interviews with the rookies. Black and white checkers adorn every house, every t-shirt, every paper napkin.

Our family never went to The Race. I've never actually seen it in person. I didn't have to. Growing up, we would listen to it on the radio--the tv broadcasts were blacked out. That never stopped me from knowing who won, who crashed, who passed who in the final turns. In Jr. High, Race Day meant babysitting. It was an all-day affair, and typically two or three families would go together, so I'd get paid 2-3 times my normal fees to play for a day. Around 8th or 9th grade, I remember spending a Saturday or two at the track with a good friend and her older sister. The sister was very attractive (occaisionally a Hooters girl, later a Jagermeister girl..most recently a cop, I think), and over 21. My friend and I sat outside one trailer for probably 2 hours one evening talking and playing around while her sister was inside, partying with some of the drivers and crew. My senior year, several friends and I opted to enjoy Carburetion Day at the track rather than at school. We didn't have any pit passes or anything fancy, and the morning started out rather cold and rainy. But by the end of the day, the sun was shining hot, and our ears were ringing from the roaring cars. I came home with a serious hankering for one of the pace cars--red Mustang Cobra convertibles. Mmmm...must close mouth to stop drooling. Good times.

Arriving in St. Louis, it was surreal to enter the month of May with barely a mention of the month-long circus unfurling its tents and sideshows a couple hundred miles away. I don't think it even made a mention in the news until the actual race was over and a winner declared. No one here knew much about it, no one cared. Why should they, when the Cardinals were playing. I still can't get into a game that moves so slowly. I gather that the baseball experience of roasting in the hot sun and drowning yourself in beer is probably similar to watching The Race. Minus the heart-pounding excitement, edge of your seat thrills, eardrum-shattering roar of the engines, and the very lives of the drivers hanging in the balance with every turn. To each his own, I suppose.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

You know its time to update your wardrobe when...

Your shoes break. As in crack. In half. Splintered soles held together by a thin strip of leather (the insole). Both shoes, on the same day, in the same part of the sole. At least the quality of the plastic/rubber soles is consistent (alternatively: at least the shape and movement of both of my feet as I walk are consistent). I am quite happy that it is not raining today.

Monday, May 05, 2008

No go

Friday Trystan was scheduled for an MRI of his lower spine. One of the complications frequently associated with VACTERL is a tethered cord. If you actually follow that link, you can read a list of symptoms. Trystan does not appear to have any of them, at least any that we could look for in a kid his age (every 1year old is incontinent). He has just the barest "dimple" on his tailbone, but that is apparently genetic (ahem). At 13 months, he does not walk unassisted yet, at least not more than 3 or 4 steps before collapsing in giggles, but neither did Charlotte. So, I have high hopes that he will not have a tethered spinal cord. But, it is so terribly common with the imperforate anus and he has known issued with at least one of his lower vertebrae, so it's worth checking.

Trystan has been sick for every one of his surgeries, except the very first (I think germs need more than 24 hours to work). An MRI is not surgery, but he does need to be sedated. Trystan, true to form, developed a cold last week, and like many of his colds, it got down into his chest. Thursday he was sniffling and coughing occaisionally. Friday at 6:30AM when we arrived for his appointment, he was coughing a LOT, and breathing poorly enough that he was given a breathing treatment just in case. The breathing treatment didn't help--he doesn't have asthma, and though he's had to use an inhaler for one illness last fall, they don't help with most of his colds--but he also got no MRI. Anestheisologists don't like sedating people who are having trouble breathing.

So, we're rescheduling. The new date will be sometime probably early June to give his lungs time to rest. In the mean time, he sound 100% better, and slept the entire night last night (8pm-7am) without coughing once. Except for a little crusty snot around his nose this morning, you'd have no idea the kid was sick last week.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Recent Google Searches

It's been a while since I checked on who was reading my blog, and why. Google has been kind enough to forward folks my way through the following searches:

  • how to collect a urine sample from a baby (Note: this is a rather popular one..apparently the process of taping a urine collection bag to a baby girl's diaper region is not otherwise well documented in the blogsphere. I have found my claim to fame....)

  • umbilical cord single artery uti (Actually, there tend to be several variations on single umbilical artery that link to prayers are with anyone just starting on that journey!)

  • reading ultrasound results (Along with single-umbilical artery, VACTERL, and imperforate anus searches, this one is also popular)

  • 9 weeks pregnant - can i drink soup from a vending machine? (I hope this person found what they were looking for. I just have to wonder why would you want to?)
  • pantyhose adventures (Ah, pantyhose)

  • Ingredients in Prepackaged Rice Krispy Treats (The Rice Krispy Treat post is another that has become oddly popular...)

  • green salad with chicken (I think I might get more cooking hits if I posted more cooking/recipe type content. I feel bad about not having photos with my posts, and I'm so not a photographer.)

  • noonsies second breakfast hobbits (I have 2 hobbits these days, and second breakfast is a daily requirement for both)

  • training underwear padded

  • pickles made baby throw up

  • spaghetti factory charlotte (I'm guessing that my little Char isn't quite the one they were hoping for here)

  • bombay company kids bugs quilt

  • june cleaver kitchen photos

I wonder if I should take these referrals into account in my search for a new identity. Maybe I should be considering "TapeItToYourButt" or "NoShit", or a long title of "The In's and Out's of Motherhood: One woman's struggle to feed her children, and what came of it all".