Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Mall

At 9:45AM on a Thursday, the mall is not quite awake. Chain link security grates sit barely open, like the eyelids of the store salespeople clinging to their coffee cups like short paper canes that will support their slow progress to work. Around Starbucks, business is booming, the barristas bright-eyed and alert, whether from ample AM java or from having been on the job for hours, it's hard to say. The lighting is dim, the hallway music is off, and the play area is already crowded with strollers and toddlers, and tired-looking mamas who divide their attention between paying heed to precocious preschoolers and glaring jealously at the 'No Food or Drink' sign.

Everyone is dressed better than I am. Except the mamas. But I lack the requisite stroller and munchkins, so I feel conspicuously unfashionable in my t-shirt and faded jean skirt. Passing a mirrored column, I see my reflection. Eyes, too tired. Toenails unpainted. The salons look open already, and I see a woman having her hair shampooed inside one of them. Her male hairdresser wears a voluminous white coat and a beret. I wonder if he has an affected French accent as well. I could probably get a pedicure at the "salon and spa". Or I could stick to the plan.

I need clothes. Nothing fancy. Nothing frou-frou. Dressy at my job is Friday casual in many others. But a steady trail of colored markers, hot pink cupcake icing, and baby puke has rendered a lot of my wardrobe unsuitable. Much of the rest claims a vintage older than my daughter.

I always hate shopping in mall stores, with nosy salespeople watching, making unwated suggestions, asking me to remember their names. But I have store credit from last Christmas. Alas, that store doesn't prop open their tall glass doors. Later, a paper sign "closed due to technical difficulties" appears in the window. So I search for other options.

Some places are too outlandish. Most are too young. A few look too old. Their clothes would look lovely on my mother, but I'm not ready for that yet. I walk around Macy's, and then wish I hadn't bothered. I keep secretly hoping that my fairy godmother will bibbity-bobbity-boo them back into Famous Barr. But my favorite pumpkin seems to have permanently morphed into a black-and-magena-and-silvery-white collection of clothing that I am too short, too plump, too boring, and too poor to feel like purchasing.

At some point during my matamorphosis into a mother, I have lost the ability to shop for myself without first shopping for my children. It is some psychological condition, a suggestion that has been implanted into my brain. The consequence of ignoring it is guilt. Nagging, annoying, heart-rending guilt. I acqueisce to it, I always do, rationalizing that both kids are on the cusp of changing sizes, and fall is coming soon.

I do manage to find a few items for myself, at one lone store whose color pallete doesn't require olive or yellow undertones in one's complexion. Its the same store, ironically, that I recently complained about to a friend. Their shirts are always too tight in the sleeves. Maybe my upper arms are too fat. Lord knows, that since my youngest now walks everywhere, I can no longer boast of impressive upper body tone. As usual, I don't fit into their woven tops. Maybe I could tailor a larger size to fit my torso. Or maybe I'll just stick to knits. But the colors are good. The prices aren't outrageous. And I spend slightly more on myself than I did on my children. Slightly.

For once I don't reject the help of the salesman. Maybe because it is a guy, who is neither pushy nor intimidating. Well-dressed female salespeople always make me feel defensive about my own appearance. Maybe because I am the only customer in the store, so I really can't avoid him. But he arranges my selections artfully in the changing room, and swaps out a size for me. And I don't have to remember his name so that he can claim his commission.

On my way to the car I am accosted by two separate kiosk-venders--both men who are fasionably dressed with delibertely stubled jawlines and crisp white shirts, and foreign accents of unknown authenticity--offering to help with my "natural appearance". One wants to smear something on my fingernails, and another wishes to help with my hair. As if someone who doesn't paint her nails or blow-dry her hair actually wants to add more products and steps to her morning routine.

I give them a wide berth, and sink gratefully into my car, my purchases stowed in the trunk. Its a start.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I don't get tagged for memes much. Here's one from one of my VACTERL links. Check out little Gavin, who's a couple months older than Trystan and with some similar health problems. And he's nearly as cute :) Ok, he's probably just as cute as my guy, if not more, but I'm a momma so my children are always cuter than anyone else's. No exceptions. Little Gavin's mommy Kristin tagged me (hi!)

Here's the rules:

Here's how it goes:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs

Here is my nominee list. In case you're curious, these are all folks that I went to college with (or who married someone I went to college with) (or who went to college with someone I married). I know of a couple more blogs that I could list in this same category, but I'm following the rules and limiting to seven.

For you lucky seven: if you don't feel like playing, well, then, I have no idea what the consequences are, but probably something dire. Like 9 lashes with a wet noodle. So there! :) Actually, some of these are less active than others, so there's a strong chance that they won't see the tag.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Little Princess

Our little princess turned 4 on Sunday. She is still recovering from a weekend filled with fun activities, sugar, and more gifts than are probably healthy to receive in such a short period of time. Princess indeed.

In some ways, Char is so grown up suddenly. She started pre-k through her daycare this Monday, along with a new session of dance class. This year, she gets tap as well as ballet instruction, and she was thrilled to death to go with me to buy her new shoes. She also got to pick out a new leotard and a fluffy tutu that will be used mostly for dressup at home. She was the only girl in her class in a non-pink leotard ("Purple is my best!").

The past two days, she has come home from school with that grade-school lined paper (the kind with the dotted line down the middle of two solid lines), needing to practice writing her name. And her progress is amazing. From mostly getting all her letters on a sheet of paper (in no particular order, line, or direction), she has now become almost legible. That's quite a feat with a name as long as hers is. I think I was lucky growing up--6 letters in my first name, and only 3 in my original last name.

Never make the mistake of leaving Trystan out of the action. Anything his sister can do, he can do also. And he will scream the house down until you let him try. The following photo is proof of that. Note, he did have some help getting the dress on, but he already had a leg in the neck hole. He demanded the addition of the tiara as well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

(cough cough) I think I'm feeling a little sick today...

I skimmed through this morning's Post Dispatch this afternoon while nuking my lunch. Normally I skip right to the comics, or at least the business section, but I was feeling brave and started browsing other sections. I came across the following column, by Bill McClellan, wherein he expresses surprise and annoyance/frustration/exasperation? that people take sick days when they're--gasp!--not actually sick.

At least he was bright enough to not complain that folks were taking sick days to care for their kids. I think, in this century, that actually expressing that opinion outloud would immediately label you as a caveman and get you written up for sexual descrimination awareness training. I hope it does.

But seriously, to expect that employees are entitled to, as part of their compensation package, a number of days every year of paid days off, and not expect them to take them, or to be able to bank them against a future catastrophic illness (like maternity leave, LOL), is just silly. To me at least.

Mr. McLellan points out that folks who are self-employed or work hourly jobs frequently do not have the benefit of sick days, and will likely fail to earn money when they are sick. Agreed. Ideally, those people will take that into account when deciding on those career paths. You can't expect to work 100% of all "work hours" in a year. Stuff happens. Plan for it. Besides, if you're working for yourself, you usually get to set your own hours right?

Granted, most of my sick days (that are not spent with a sick child) are what I consider "mental health" days. Without the occaisional unplanned day off from work, I might end up doing something drastic. Nothing involving firearms, mind you. Arriving in my pajamas, singing the Smurfs theme song at the top of my lungs and dancing the Macarena on top of the conference room table, possibly. Some days I just need OUT (if it requires a padded cell and nice-young-men-in-their-clean-white-coats, sobeit).

Personally, I hate sick time. I would much rather that companies would give us a bucket of "paid time off" and not quibble sick vs vacation. Heck, for a working mom, being sick is sometimes a vacation. 8 hours at home with no children underfoot? You mean I can watch non-musical live-action TV during the daylight? Or nap? Bring on the flu, baby.

At two of my (former) employers, I got my wish. Paid Time Off. No faking a cough (or emailing your manager so that he can't hear how happy you are to be skipping work for the day). For longer times, you'd have to request your time in advance. But for one day, just call in. Everyone was responsible enough (normally) to cover their responsibilities.

At my current job, I have sick time and vacation time and separate policies as to how each is accrued and how much carries over upon which day of the year. But then, in my group, people frequently "wake up on vacation" or call in with a "sick car". For me, well, let's just say I've been known to convalesce in a movie theater. I was actually sick that day though...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reading List update

Finished Sizzle and Burn by Jayne Ann Krentz and Death Angel by Linda Howard, both last week sometime. So, add two to my "contemporary romance" tally.

Over the weekend I started Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner, a follow up to her debut novel, Good in Bed, which I read several years ago, shortly after it was published. So far, I'm enjoying it. The only strange thing, which may be deliberate, is that I keep getting confused about the point of view. It's told in 2 first-person POV's--one the mother (Cannie) and one the daughter (Joy). The chapters basically alternate between the two, but each time I get about half a paragraph in before I remember that someone else is talking. Again, it could be deliberate, as their stories are pretty intertwined, and the book has a heavy emphasis on mother-daughter interaction.

I realized the other day that I haven't counted any non-fiction books in my list. I don't read many, normally, but have a small stack on my nightstand. They're reference-type books, the type I wouldn't usually sit and read cover-to-cover. Two of them are about Mesoamerican culture, and they're filled with short sections on things like religion, agriculture, architecture, etc. I'm not really sure how to know when I've "read" one. Ah well, maybe I'll keep this list as strictly fiction.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Have I complained about the grocery stores around St. Louis in a while? Well, then it's high time I did.

Our grocery situation here sucks. Maybe it's just where I live. Its funny, I have never noticed a lack of population around where I live (in Maryland Heights), just a dearth of places to shop.

Within a reasonable driving distance, I can shop at either of 2 Schnucks, a Shop N Save, and a whole lot of Quick Trips & Convenient Food Marts. I have to drive quite a bit longer to find an Aldi, and even more for a Dierbergs. And I don't really like any of them.

Sure, they each have their strong suit. Schnucks, well, they're just a grocery store and they're everywhere. Shop N Save is cheap. Not just their prices, but their selection. Aldi is cheaper. Dierbergs would be really nice for buying pre-made foods, except that in the time it takes to drive there and back, I can usually whip up something at home. Trader Joes is just as far away as Dierbergs, and Whole Foods? Forget about it. Lovely food (expensive food), but I'm not fighting traffic to Clayton or Chesterfield to shop at one.

Funny, but even at the age of 17 when I arrived in town as a freshman at Wash U, I was apalled at the grocery store options. Not that I was shopping for much back then--mainly sodas (so I could save quarters for the laundromat) and convenience stuff. But everything here was so expensive. Where I grew up in the Indianapolis suburbs, they would build a Kroger next door to a Marsh, with Meijer, a Super Walmart, and Super Target all right down the street. Grocery mecca. There was food--good food--to be had, and the prices were excellent, even at the fancier stores (they have to be, with that kind of competition).

I've heard rumors that the old Northwest Plaza may be getting a Super Walmart, and I'm thrilled. It's just as close as one of my local Schnucks's, you know. And I know that even if they won't have fancier food, at least the prices will be better. It's a start. And if I held my breath waiting for a Dierbergs or Whole Foods to acknowledge the vast land north of Olive, then I would look more like Smurfette than I'm comfortable with.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A soggy mess

Hello Neighbor. You. Yes, you. The one who lives next door to me. I know that we've met. I've seen you two or three times in the, what, 5 years that you've lived here? I am happy to see that you are making a few improvements around the house. Are you planning to sell? Or maybe remarry? Really, I've seen more activity at your house in the last month than I've seen since your wife moved out. I'm not sure that I'll miss you. I am not sure you were ever home enough to miss. Now that we have the pleasantries out of the way, let me tell you something:

You and your landscape crew need to stay out of my yard. And stop touching that hose. Yes, I know that it is dripping water down into your yard. It is supposed to do that. And I see that the extra water is causing a soggy patch in your yard. Believe it or not (and I'm guessing, not), the problem is not our hose. Let me explain.

You see, when our builder (who I hear has gone out of business) designed our yards nearly 10 years ago with the huge hill down the back, they designed a way for the water to drain safely among the yards without washing our backyards (and eventually, our houses) down the big hill. There are nice storm water collection spouts every three houses, and the water is supposed to drain from our yard, through yours, and down to your other neighbor's (notice the large concrete drain in their yard? It's not decorative).

About the hose: This year we have had a lot more rain than any summer I can remember. And for once, our yard did not drain. We even have a sump pump in our basement, to help expel water, but our builder (the one who went out of business) ran the spout from the sump pump about 3 inches out from the side of our house. So the water filters in from the back yard, and is pumped up and out a pipe, where it runs right back to the same spot in the back yard. We couldn't mow for nearly a month because the mower sank into the mire. Sorry about the weeds.

Yes, I'm getting to the hose. Don't touch it! The end you don't see is attached, not to the water spigot, but to the sump pump. Now, instead of running that darned pump 24/7 to cycle water back and forth across a lone corner of our yard, it is actually being cycled back into the waterway, which drains into your yard. By design, remember.

I'm sorry to see that your yard now has the soggy spot. At least you don't have a sump pump. Be aware that every time you (or your lawn service) moves that hose to the edge of the big hill you are doing two things: 1) Tresspassing and 2) Potentially causing a soil erosion problem with that big hill. We do NOT want the water to rush down the hill, or it will take our yards with it. And honestly, I don't want to get any closer to our back yard/down the hill neighbors. I am sure they are nice people, but I prefer some space.

We will soon have to find someone to dig us some trenches, lay some drainage pipe (which my husband calls "tile"...but I keep picturing a bathroom floor not a perforated pipe), and get our whole mess moved underground.

Guess what? It will still drain into your yard. Sorry. It is designed to do that. And really, though we can totally empathize with your plight, we're not going to change the plan. We will not be creating any problems for your house that do not already exist due to the design of the landscaping, and to the settling of the dirt in the yards. I suggest you re-grade your yard a bit to help it drain to your neighbor's yard.

Feel free to pass along this message to your other neighbor and explain about the waterway design. Maybe it will help them cool off once they notice the swamp their yard has become. It has certainly helped me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Book List update and a 66% Year Update

I posted the other day that I finished Eldest by Christopher Paolini.

Then, within about 36 hours, I started and finished The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn. It was the first of hers that I'd read, but won't be the last. For a historical, it had a great pace and refreshing characters--the hero especially was not your typical romance alpha male. He was more of the class clown. Don't get me wrong, he was sufficiently male (with the super-man phyiscal prowess to go with it), just lacking in that annoying machismo that turns off a lot of non-romance readers.

I keep thinking I missed posting a book, but Eldest was pretty long, so maybe not.

What am I reading now? Two books--Death Angel by Linda Howard (which I won from a different author's blog), and Sizzle and Burn by Jayne Ann Krentz. The second one I picked up at the library--off the 7-day loan shelves, of course. I've read many of her Amanda Quick historical titles, including a couple in the "Arcane Society" series. Sizzle and Burn is a contemporary and also ties into the Arcane Society. I love her Amanda Quick titles, and I'm about 50 pages into this one. So far so good!

I didn't post a mid-year update, but maybe I should have. Here's my totals for the year, broken down (kind of loosely) by category:

General Fiction - 6 (includes John Grisham, Ken Follet, etc)
Contemporary Romance - 5 This is higher than normal for me. I'm usually a historical fan
Sci Fi/Fantasy - 5 I bought one of these thinking it was a historical romance. Now I know.
Historical Romance - 4 Fifteen years ago, this category would have far outstripped all others. Five years ago it would have been virtually null. The pendulum swings.
Women's Lit (Chick Lit) - 2 I could probably recategorize these in General Fic and Contemporary romance, but together they made a little grouping. And I have more to add to their number by years end)

Grand total = 22 books, with 2 more in progress and about a dozen on my shelf. I must remember to avoid the library....

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Diagnosis: Healthy

My employer offers free health screenings every year. It's probably cheaper for them to have several thousand employees spend 15 minutes in the cafeteria than to send them each to the doctor and have a round of bloodwork ordered. Assuming folks are even bothered to go.

Both years that I've taken advantage of the program, my numbers have all been good. Here's this years:

Total Cholesterol 160 ("Desirable" is <200)
HDL Cholesterol 41 ("Low" is < 40, "Optimal" is > 60..I was at the same level last year too)
LDL Cholestoerol 99 ("Optimal" < 100)
Triglycerides 101 ("Desirable" < 150)
Glucose 94 ("Normal (Non-Fasting)" < 140)
Blood Pressure 94/57 ("Normal" < 120/80)
BMI 24.0 ("Normal" = 18.5-24.9)
Body Fat 29.8% ("Healthy" for my age is 21-33%)

Yes my blood pressure is low. And no, I don't get dizzy (they asked!). The only time I came close to that "normal" range was about 8 months pregnant. I salt my food, too (though I don't like a lot of packaged or canned stuff). My mom began having trouble with higher blood pressure after age 40. I'm keeping these numbers for as long as I can, thankyouverymuch.

It is interesting that my BMI and Body Fat % have been pretty much the same for over ten years (not counting a few select months post-partum). I used to stress about the body fat % thing--I used to be on the borderline between "healthy" and "overweight". My age is now my excuse. Hooray for thirtysomethings!

My cholesterol levels were about the same last year. The only near "ding" on my record is really that hdl level--it's lower than optimal. Last year I chalked it up to breastfeeding, and having the fat literally sucked right out of me. This year, well, I guess it's just diet & exercise. But as the "counselor" explained, the ratio of my hdl to my total cholesterol is good. I'm just low overall.

I do need to exercise more, but I already eat plenty of nuts & use olive oil almost exclusively when cooking (& canola for baking). I tried a fish oil supplement once--it gives me heartburn. We don't eat a lot of fish in our house, which might also boost that number. I am not particularly comfortable cooking a lot of fish dishes (lack of experience manly), and honestly, the midwest is not a great place to buy it.

As part of the health screenings, they will feed our numbers into a computer system for a health survey. They will ask us additional questions about our diet and lifestyle, which will doubtless be used for research of some sort. I remember last year having to answer the question "Do you eat a low-fat diet". My answer was marked "medium-fat" diet, which is a more accurate description. I like meat and butter, and am never skimpy with the olive oil. And it's not hurting me so far. But despite low overall cholesterol numbers, the system still chided me for not eating a "low-fat" diet. Hmmph.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Book Review: Eldest

(Minor Spoiler Alert)

I finished Eldest, the sequel to Eragon, this weekend. Has anyone else noticed that the series is Star Wars with dragons? Maybe it's just me, but from about 1/3 of the way through the Eragon movie (which I uncharacteristically saw before reading the book), I was sure that I was watching "A New Hope" (or whatever the name of the 1st/4th movie was...I always used to call it just "Star Wars"...).

Eragon does not know his parents, and was raised by his uncle, who is killed by minions of the evil empire (with Galbatorix as the emperor), and is saved by Obi Wan (Brom) who happens to be a Jedi Master (a Rider) and can begin teaching Eragon about his newfound powers. Then they have to go rescue Princess Leia (Arya), and deliver her to the rebellion (Varda), and help them win a great battle. In the second book, Eragon meets his Yoda, and has to leave before completing his training, in order to save his friends from a certain doom.

Now, there are a few plotlines that have been changed around. Murtagh, for example, seems at first to be the Han Solo of the series, but by the end of Eldest, he has become more Darth Vadar. I am not sure which way the author is going with this one--surely Murtagh will be redeemed by the end of the not-yet-released Brisinger. But whether he dies in the process like Anakin, or lives through the final battle with Galbatorix to help Eragon found a new era of Riders, I can't guess. And obviously, Arya isn't Eragon's sister, but his love interest. (I always felt sorry for Luke, you know--but maybe it's best that he doesn't have a girlfriend, given how his father juggled the whole career/family issue....)

Right now, I'm stumped as to who fills Chewbaca's role. The dwarf Orrik who goes to Du Welden Varden with Eragon? Roran? And really, there's just no substitute for R2D2.

I suppose I'm poking a bit of fun at the series, but I'm not intending to be mean. It is very enjoyable and I didn't stray to other books while reading so far. I can see the growth of the author as a writer from the first book to the second. He apparently began writing Eragon at age 15. Impressive. And given the timeline, I bet he had just seen the re-releases of the original Star Wars trilogy in the theaters...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Crazy Eights

In honor of 8/8/8, I am going to share 3 lists of 8.

8 Places I've Traveled
1. San Luis Potosí, San Luis Potosí Mexico (Yes, I repeated's a city and a state)
2. Mexico City
3. Teotihuacan
(In case you're keeping score, those first three were all the same summer during an exchange program)
4. Cancún
5. Chichen Itza
6. Puerto Vallarta
7. Negril, Jamaica
8. Ocho Rios, Jamaica

8 Jobs I've Held
1. Babysitter
2. Fast Food
3. Bakery. Working the register & occisionally writing a name on a cake, not actually baking
4. Movie Theater. Box office & concession stand
5. Campus Information Desk
6. Biochemistry Lab Assistant
7. Computer Lab Help Desk
8. Software Developer

8 Things I've Never Done
1. Smoked (anything! Burning dinner doesn't count...)
2. Shot a gun
3. Broken a bone
4. Eaten buffalo, alligator, ostrich, frog legs, or other exotic meats
5. Travelled outside the northern hemisphere, or outside of the Americas
6. Snow Skiied (or snow boarded or cross-country skiied)
7. Gone to a Casino (to gamble, socialize, or even use the bathroom)
8. Attended a Professional Football Game (any team, any city)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A crisis of identity

Women get married all the time. And divorced. And you know what happens then? They change their names. Not always, but often. Very often.

You would think that most organizations would understand this issue. Every day, companies, organizations, and schools acquire new and fancier computer systems to track people. They track what people buy. They track where people work. They track the people that track people. The systems do fancy things like allowing you to enroll in classes, view your grades, and pay your bills all from a single web interface. Nifty. Very Nifty. Very smart. Very complicated.

I know how complicated some of these systems, and systems-of-systems are. I am a software developer. I have seen some of them in action, at the lowest levels. They're ugly. The easier that front-end is to use, the uglier the back end probably is. That's just the way computers work. I know that having to update multiple systems, track changes, and keep things in sync is work. It's hard work. It's damned boring work.

You know what annoys the hell out of me? Very smart, nifty, complicated computer systems that fail to take into account that nearly 50% of the population may someday change their name. Does getting a new name immediately invalidate a person's existance? No. Not according to the women (primarily) who just got married. And not according to the police. Or credit bureaus.

And yet, the process of changing one's name can make you want to move to Mexico and sell seashells on the beach for the rest of time, just to avoid the endless paperwork, bureaucracy, and aggravation it takes to switch a few letters around.

I have been married for a little over 7 years by now. One might assume that by now, all of the bugs have been worked out of my name-change-process. One might assume incorrectly.

This spring, I took a class at Wash U (yes, I'm naming names! Damnit!). It was short, one-credit, and the tuition is covered by my employer (nope, not naming them) The total bill was about $500. I enrolled, submitted a tuition voucher, went to class, submitted my final grade. And then received a bill. The problem is, as far as I can tell, that I hold my undergraduate degree from Wash U. They know my maiden name. My employer has never heard of that maiden. Somewhere along the line, Wash U decided that they were going to ignore the name I enrolled in my class with, ignore the payment voucher that I submitted, and staunchly refuse to admit that I am married. And send me a tuition bill.

The first one I ignored. I thought it was informational. After all, I submitted my voucher and my grade. After the second one, I called work. They told me that they will happily pay, as soon as they are billed. Today I called Wash U. They now tell me that they have no record of my voucher (which they had to receive before they would finish processing my enrollment in the class. I made phone calls back then too. I know they processed it.). Oh yeah, and they're about to send my unpaid tuition bill into collection. Thanks. A lot.

Did I mention that every time I go online to check my enrollment or my billing status, Wash U calls me by my maiden name? And happily shows me my undergraduate transcripts? I guess the dozen pieces of paper I submitted with the correct name were ignored. Unfortunately for me, the credit bureaus know my many aliases and will have no trouble assigning that bad debt to the correct person.

I hope to hell that things don't get that far. Today, I have submitted vouchers again, along with a note about the name problem. Maybe this time Wash U will figure out who I am. Maybe.

Selling seashells on the beach is sounding better every minute.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Spines, batteries, and brakes

As usual, I am the quietest when there is the most going on at home. I feel like I haven't posted in forever, but thanks to Blogger's post-dating feature, you haven't even missed me yet. And never fear, I'm going to throw so much at you today that you won't want to check back in for at least another week.

I mentioned last week that Trystan had his MRI of the lower spine. Despite my worries about the radiology department's communication skills, we got the results last Tuesday. They actually called our pediatrician, who called us. In any case, the MRI showed NO SIGN of a tethered spinal cord! Hooray! Whew.

They got additional pictures of some of the issues we already knew about, namely his kidneys (or rather, his kidney singular) and vertebrae. Trystan has one (I believe) vertebrae that is malformed--I will have to get the pedi to write down the exact medical termniology (because I don't get enough search engine hits on this stuff as it is, LOL). Those are things that might be more annoying as he gets older--he has a higer chance of developing scoliosis, for example. But for now, we don't need additional surgeries (except for the future heart procedure that we already know about). No stressing about nerve damage. No additional specialists. No more tests, outside of his 6-month echocardiograms (those are just ultrasounds of the heart...not invasive at all).

Over the weekend, we went to my husband's family reunion. We didn't feel comfortable with Trystan and long drives with the colostomy last year, so we had skipped the last annual get together. It was the first time that most of the family had met Trystan, though everyone had heard about all of his issues. He charmed everyone, and all loved his hair. Trystan has "angel hair" like Charlotte did--it is so white it's nearly transparent, and sticks straight up all over his head, giving him a sort of halo. Char's eventually settled down once it grew long enough. With Trystan we'll have to start cutting it short eventually so that it doesn't look so goofy. It's adorable now.

The reunion was fun. It's always a big potluck, and this year we had a gathering room in hubby's grandmother's church, including use of their gym. There was lots of room for the kids to play, and about 1/2 of Char & Trystan's generation was in attendance (so, over a dozen kids from 3 months to about 12 years old were actually there). My father-in-law is one of 13 siblings, so the family is HUGE. Both of my kids had a blast.

We had a reservation to stay the night in town before driving home, and luckily, our car made it to the hotel before it died. Yep, it died. 200 miles from our home (and from my car) in a small town on a Saturday night, where most mechanics have Sundays off. We didn't discover the problem until after we'd checked in, swam, and were leaving to find dinner. My IL's, SIL and BIL & their twins had decided not to stay the night (the twins don't do well in kids don't do well in cars...), so we were on our own. We changed our dinner plans and walked across the street to a closer restaurant.

After dinner, we found that one of my husband's cousin's family, coincidentally, were staying in the room right next to ours. They had car battery trouble too (must be the heat and all the travel accessories), but were able to start their car and then jump ours. Unfortunately, my husband's car battery would not hold a charge, even after an extended period of highway driving. Sunday morning, my husband's uncle jumped his car again, and accompanied him to a local auto parts store to buy a new battery. Their mechanics were not in for the day, but they loaned my husband some tools, and my husband changed his own battery.

Char and Trystan thought that hanging out in a hotel room and watching cartoons was all just part of the trip. Char, especially, was devastated when she found out that we were leaving for home, and not another exciting adventure. Maybe next year, kid, assuming our cars hold out.

Yesterday it was my turn for somewhat unexpected and expensive car repairs. My airconditioning was acting a little flaky last week, and my rear brakes were running fingernails down a chalkboard at every red light. My kids went to daycare as Char had swimming lessons. My husband worked from home to be on call to help me drop off and pick up the car. I took my day-off work and cleaned the house, with my cell phone in hand all day. They didn't get it done till after 5. All that cleaning was necessary, but today I'm wishing I'd spent more time online or watching a little tv or something that didn't involve bleach or toilets.

Now I'm hoping that I'll have less real stuff to talk about for a while, so I can get back to my normal random-thoughts-from-Kristi kind of posts. Like the one about leg hair that I've been considering writing. Maybe I'll schedule that for later this week :)