Monday, October 30, 2006

Neighborhood fun

The chili cook-off was quite a success, especially given the honestly little effort that went into it. At least fifty people attended (I think more like seventy), and thirteen chilis were entered. My chili received praise from the judges but did not win the grand prize. That honor went to a woman who has lived in the neighborhood a long time (probably longer than I've been alive)....and she deserved to win. You can see pictures here.

What I really liked about how yesterday went was that it gave all of us neighbors a chance to remember why we live here. This neighborhood is special - a soon-to-be-shining example of new urbanism and urban renewal. The first wave of homeowners of the new houses is a pretty neat group of people...mostly young, white, and solidly middle-class. None of my neighbors are rich, and a few are poor, but at yesterday's event, that didn't matter a bit. Hopefully we can keep the momentum and keep having successful events.

Friday, October 27, 2006

And now a Meme

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says:

Amenable adjective See liable,

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can...what do you touch first?

A pamphlet for Laura's Lean Beef

3. What is the last thing you watched on TV?

Part of a movie with the Husband. It was about vampires.

4. WITHOUT LOOKING, what time is it?


5. Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?

3:01. Amazing

6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear:

Various people talking.

7. When did you last step outside? What were you doing?:

This morning I walked the dogs.

8. What are you wearing?

Brown shirt & sweater, tan pants, brown boots. I'm looking awfully cute today.

9. When did you last laugh?

Earlier today. It was work-related, and I don't wanna get dooced, so we'll leave it at that.

10. Seen anything weird lately?

Have you heard about the manatee? Watching live raw footage from the news chopper is about as weird as it gets.

11. What did you dream last night?

I can't remember, but the kids both told me about their very interesting dreams this morning. Susie's included falling off a rollercoaster and landing in a Japanese classroom, and she had great problem-solving skills...she pantomimed using a telephone and said "Moshi-moshi; ohayo gozaimasu" (which are typical Japanese greetings) in order to get assistance using the phone. I don't know how she knew that, but I think she's very smart. The Boy's dream included a magical rubber duck and an evil clone of his sister (who was "immature" and "liked" him - "liked" in that girl liking a boy way that is extremely icky to seven-year-old boys). They crack me up.

12. When did you last laugh?

Didn't I just answer that question?

13. What's on the walls of the room you're in?:

A calendar and various stuff pinned on the bulletin board. Nothing terribly interesting.

14. What do you think of this survey?

Better than some.

15. What's the last film you saw?

That one I watched on TV, I guess. Does that count? I didn't see the whole thing. Last one I watched all the way through was "Memoirs of a Geisha", which I liked even though the Japanese characters were mostly played by Chinese actresses. I guess Hollywood figures that white people think that all Asians look alike. Well, I know better. I think a lot of other people know better too. That's annoying.

16. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?

New clothes. And an electric car. And a motorcycle and a scooter. Honestly that would all happen the same day, so I don't know what would come first. Oh, and some really cute black boots.

17. Tell me something about you that I don't know.

That who doesn't know? Because different people know different things. Okay. Here's one that nobody knows. I once cheated on a French test in high school. (I hope they don't take away my diploma!!)

18. If you could change one thing about the world, what would you change?

Hunger. Nobody should ever have to be hungry.

19. Do you like to dance?

Sometimes. Especially with the kids.

20. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?

I've named her already. But here's another name that I didn't use: Marley Eliza

21. Boy?

Ditto the above. If there were another boy in my life, he'd be Jackson Joseph. Called JJ.

22. Would you ever consider living abroad?

Done it. But I was a kid then. Yes. I'd consider it. Especially the Netherlands. Or some parts of Canada. Or many other places. But it would be hard because of family. So there would have to be lots of money being earned to allow travel to happen.

Fun quiz

Are You a Slacker Mom Too?

Quiz Score: 30

Creative Mom

No matter what they throw at you it's no match for Creative Mom. You know what your timewasters are and you know how to get around them, leaving you with enough time to strike a nice balance between doing all the "mom things," and also enjoying "grown-up" time. By juggling the two roles with your own unique style you are teaching your child(ren) how to lead a balanced life and keeping it sane for yourself!

Take this free personality test by Clicking Here>> or going to

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Halloween and Chili Smack-Down

It's almost the Husband's favorite holiday. He loves him some Halloween. Is it the candy? The costumes? The spooky movies? I dunno. He just loves the whole thing. And now that we're both approaching forty, when he starts decorating the exterior of the house for said holiday, he's starting to look like "Middle Aged Man", that character from Saturday Night Live about fifteen years ago. And just knowing that reference probably divulges our age more than we'd like it to.

This weekend our neighborhood is having our first-ever Chili Cook-Off. But with all the trash-talking going on, I've decided it should be called the Chili Smack-Down. See, I'm an organizer. So when someone suggested that we should have a chili contest, I totally ran with the ball. Now people are saying that it's my "baby". Um, not. But I am gonna win that trophy. Even if it means cheating. Which I'm not against. At all.

I won't divulge my secret weapon. But I'll leave you with a hint. It starts with C.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Easily impressed

I'm going to keep this short because if I don't, I'll easily expose myself as the geekiest, dorkiest person in the world.

I just found out that a friend of our family not only had a professional athletic career, but has also been elected to a high office in a European country. And now I'm planning our family trip to that country in a few years. Because it would be so cool.

Did I mention that I've had drinks with a European politician?

Yes, that makes me cool.

I'm such a dork.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Growing pains

There are a few moments in parenting that are so quiet and normal and unspectacular that you almost miss them. But they happen and they're sometimes amazing.

This morning I was in the kitchen pouring my coffee and I glanced up. Susie had come in the room to put something in her backpack. She didn't look my direction and was only there a moment, but I could see the woman inside her. The woman's getting closer to the surface. When she was a baby I could only see the woman inside a little her eyes (and more in pictures than in "real life"). She had a really intense gaze. Still has it.

But now her proportions are changing and her body is starting to change a little and her face is losing that luscious baby fat (and gaining cheekbones!) and her hair is different and suddenly she's beautiful in a different way than she used to be.

And she's also so cool. I had printed out the excel spreadsheet I made for week one of my husband's diet (OCD? Nah!) and affixed it to the refrigerator door. She's fascinated by this diet and is participating...checking what he's supposed to have for breakfast and having it too. (Of course, I'm augmenting her diet because she needs more fat in her diet than we do.) Her interest and support of this new healthy lifestyle is really touching. And I don't want to dismiss it as "cute", because I think it's more than that. She's really participating in this as an equal, not as a little girl who puts on Daddy's shoes to be funny. And she ate brown rice and curry last night with no complaints.

Monday, October 23, 2006

It was supposed to be a nice, quiet weekend...

...but it wasn't. Okay, it was nice. But not really quiet. From the moment I got home Friday, with news of the FREE NBA TICKETS I had scored, forcing the realizations that (a) there was no time to cook and eat dinner at home and (b) there was no time to eat dinner in a restaurant and (c) we'd better leave RIGHT NOW if we want to take the trolley, we were moving fast. We walked the 8+ blocks to the nearest trolley stop, braved a VERY CROWDED trolley (I love tourists, really I do), then walked from the trolley line to the state-of-the-art FedEx Forum to see our hometown Grizzlies defeat the Miami Heat. And the kids were on the jumbotron. And we saw some neighbors there. Good times. (Oh, they serve salads at the FedEx Forum. Thank goodness. Hubby just started the diet!) Got home way past the kids' bedtime and everyone crashed.

Did I mention that the FREE tickets I scored were marked at $105 seats? $105 EACH. Like meaning that my family's buns were collectively parked in $420 worth of NBA seats. That's more than my freakin' dining room set cost. Total. People really do a lot of strange things with their money.

My husband got home after his Saturday morning class, informing us that there had been several calls to his cell phone that were meant for Susie, it got crazy. Turns out there was an impromptu birthday party in the making. So what was meant to be a day of leisurely running a couple of errands but mostly hanging around the house turned into a mad dash of an afternoon, cramming in the errands that really did need to be run, then zooming in a different direction to get a present then attend the party.

Did I mention that the party lasted four hours? And that we were tired and wanted to go home? (Yes, the adults.) Note to self: if seven children are bowling, they really should use two lanes, not one. Because kids are slow bowlers. And not very good.

Wait, that's only half the weekend. It gets quieter.

So the adults "recovered" by sleeping late on Sunday, then we all had yummy smoothies for breakfast. Husband took a bike ride while the kids showered and got dressed. After lunch, the kids slipped away to spend the afternoon with nearby friends (nearby = I can drive them to the house in under five minutes and wear my pajamas in the car). My husband and I enjoyed the kid-free afternoon by watching saved-up TIVO'd television episodes and movies. Lovely. Finished the evening with homemade pizza (whole wheat crust and goat cheese, thankyouverymuch), one glass each of red wine (it's healthy!!) and a little more television.

Idyllic, no? I don't know when we'll get to do that again. It was nice.

Friday, October 20, 2006

It's Friday!

My neighborhood is awesome. Our first neighborhood newsletter (newspaper-in-training) was delivered from the printer yesterday. So cool. And the people who volunteered their time in making it real are dedicated enough that they are also volunteering their time to distribute it house-to-house. Cool folks.

And one of my neighbors, whom I don't really know well, just offered me tickets to this evening's NBA game. For free. Because she works there. How awesome is that?!?

We've got a nice quiet weekend planned. A trip to the Farmers' Market with our Greek friends in the morning tomorrow, and church on Sunday, but that's really it. After I'm done eating bonbons and drinking champagne whilst lounging on the sofa wearing my satin Japanese robe, I'll spend some quality time with the sewing machine working on The Boy's Halloween costume (the Grim Reaper) and possibly Susie's costume too (Wednesday Addams, of The Addams Family). And sewing merit badges on her Girl Scout sash. Because if I don't, she'll probably kick my ass. (She's almost as big as I am now...and pretty scrappy.) And I really don't think I could fight back after all those bonbons and champagne. Note to self: don't sew anything until I've sobered up.

I'll probably study some cookbooks too, since I've got this whole diet makeover thing to do now. Anthony Bourdain, I apologize in advance. Your cookbook will be neglected for the next few months. At least it's baking season so I can make lots of whole grain, high fiber breads. With vegetables baked into them. And superfoods.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Eating Healthier

With my husband's newly-diagnosed health issue comes a mandate: eat better, exercise more. Don't believe they hype; not all families with busy moms eat a diet of pre-processed crap. My family is a case in point. We don't own a microwave, even. Most days we sit down to a home-cooked meal. True enough, that meal is seldom eaten at the dining room table (much to my chagrin), but we do eat together. And we mostly eat healthy foods.

The husband and Susie are vegetarians. She has been her whole life; he became a vegetarian shortly after we got married. (I was a vegetarian until pregnancy, when I started chasing down small animals in a quest for more, more, more protein!) The Boy and I eat meat. He doesn't eat a lot of meat, however, so family meals tend to be vegetarian.

Given that our family's normal diet consists of mostly vegetables, grains, eggs and beans (I try to have a light hand when it comes to cheese), I'm left in a bit of a quandry when directives like "Eat healthier" come our way. Holy crud, how much healthier can I make the stuff? No more butter? No more white flour? Aren't we doing a lot better than most people? How good do we have to be, for goodness' sake?

Here's what I'm going to do. Eliminate butter (sigh....). Use 1/2 whole wheat flour when I would normally just use white (in breads, anyway....not sure that would work in cookies, etc.). (Not that I even really bake cookies all that often.) (Except now I want to do just that, but it's probably just a reaction to all this talk of healthy food.) More soups (they fill you up with less calories - thanks to the water!). More fruit. More nonfat and lowfat dairy products. Less reliance on eggs. And we're going to strive to have at least three superfoods in our meals each day. Oh, and ice cream? Not so much. (I'm so going to have to take the kids out to get some fat calories for their developing brains!) The good news is that consumption of red wine is actually recommended for this condition. Hooray!

But those are the easy changes. The harder changes are deeper-rooted. The celebratory trip to the ice cream store. The Friday night pizza. Those associations of food with happiness and togetherness. We can enjoy family time without wrapping it around some high-fat, high-sugar treat. Which is something we want our kids to learn anyway. We're already on the right track - the kids enjoy the family bike ride to the Farmer's Market more than they enjoy a meal at the local Mexican eatery. And a long walk after dinner can replace dessert, right? I guess it's gonna have to - health issues are usually a combination of genetics and behavior. We can only control the behavior. So let's get it under control and see how healthy we can be!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

School Picture Day

When I was a kid, school picture day meant that my mother got out the steam curling iron, picked out a pretty dress for me to wear, and burned my head making my hair resemble Shirley Temple's. There are a few memorable shots, like the one in first grade when I had no front teeth. Like all four were gone at the same time.

Today's school picture day, and Susie asked me to curl her hair. (I declined, choosing to make two braids instead.) She asked me last night what she should wear (they normally have to wear school uniforms, but not on picture day). Since tonight is her Girl Scout Investiture ceremony, I suggested she wear her brand-spanking-new Junior Girl Scout uniform. She looks so darn good in it - and good timing - the Brownie uniform was too small!

The Boy was similarly befuddled as to fashion choices for the day. We started with this really cool bowling shirt, but realized that (a) it's missing a button and (b) it looks REALLY STUPID tucked in (and shirts must be tucked in). Moments later, he returned to my room, clad in a navy polo along with his navy shorts, looking pretty darn sharp. Did I mention that he has a mohawk? When given the choice between spiking it up or combing it down, he chose gelling it down because "I want to look really good for my picture, Mom." He also brushed his teeth twice. Wonder how long this one will last - I like the new interest in hygiene.

Let's hope they don't blink or make a stupid face. I'd love the pictures to turn out good on the first try.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Testing, Testing

And the result is? Apparently I'm just sweet, not diabetic. Turns out my thyroid medicine sometimes causes high readings on blood glucose tests.

And in a whopping moment of extreme irony, my husband, who had his physical the same day as mine, got his results back today, too. And he's now got a diagnosis: "Metabolic Syndrome", which is a name for a combination of symptoms including high insulin levels (and insulin resistance), overweightness, high "bad" cholesterol and low "good" cholesterol, and a few others. It's basically a pre-diabetes, pre-heart disease diagnosis. And reversible, we hope. But he's now on meds and a diet. Have I mentioned that he's been a freaking VEGETARIAN since 1994?

I guess I'll keep loving him too.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hey! It's Raining!

No, I'm not really posting about the weather. Yikes...perish the thought. Although I do spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and reading about the weather. But it's raining. I like rain, especially now because it hasn't rained much since spring. 'Nuff said.

I have no great drama to report, in my life or in my family's life. That's pretty cool, if you ask me. We had a busy but non-dramatic weekend in which we did fun things together, including:

  • Riding bikes to our neighborhood cafe, then having breakfast there.
  • Riding bikes to the Farmer's Market and buying a HUGE pumpkin, among other things (did I mention that I cheated and rode my bike HOME then drove our vehicle to the Farmer's Market? No? Well, I did. I didn't think it was a cute idea to carry a very, very large pumpkin on the bike all the way home. But it would have made for a much more interesting blog entry, I bet. Next time, I promise.)
  • Hosting a sleepover (three extra girls = no sleep)
  • Navigating the local Corn Maze (big labyrinth)
  • And I taught Sunday School too. (Can't you see the halo over my head?)

After so much busy-ness, we were done having fun late yesterday afternoon. The kids were tired (from staying up too late at the sleepover as well as the good healthy exercise of the maze), as were the adults. The kids hit the hay a bit earlier than normal (7:30!!!! - am I good or what?) after a dinner of leftover pizza. As my husband and I sat and watched reality television, then a DVD, I felt like I was forgetting to do something.

Sort of like the feeling I had for months after college graduation: the "I'm supposed to be doing homework" feeling. For about six months after I graduated, I would come home from work and putter around my apartment, feeling completely certain that there was something very important that I was forgetting to do. I finally realized that after almost all my life being in school, I was unaccustomed to not having homework. And balance was restored.

My evenings are often busy with my volunteer activities, my second job, or doing important child-related things, like scouts, etc. So when I have a night "off" like last night, instead of simply enjoying it, I wind up puttering around just like I did almost fifteen years ago. Tonight is another "night off". Perhaps I should give myself an do something that I enjoy and don't have to turn in or complete at a specific time. That sounds nice.

Friday, October 13, 2006

In Sickness and in Health

My husband didn't know what he was in for when he met me. We met in college; I was a freshman and he was a sophomore. I had skipped a grade in early childhood, so I was 17 when I started college. (And if you do the math, you realize that I've been "with" him for more than half my life.)

Close to the time we met, I started showing seemingly unrelated symptoms. I had manic energy but was tired because I never slept. I was losing weight. My eyes were itchy. And I was feeling, well, a bit crazy. A little part of me thought that I was going crazy.

A few months later I was diagnosed with Graves disease, which is the most common form of hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland, in a nutshell, controls the metabolism. To use a dated metaphor, if the normal, healthy body's metabolism is a record that is supposed to go 45 RPM, mine was going more like 78. (And the converse disorder, hypothyroidism, would be that record going at 33.) For a few years, I was treated for this (we chose medication rather than more invasive therapies) and went into remission.

We got married. A couple years later, I relapsed and went back on meds. Had a baby and went into remission. Had another baby. A few years later, relapsed again. Back on meds. But the doctor was pressing me to go the "next step". See, being hyperthyroid, even if it's well-managed with meds, is pretty tough on the heart. My resting heart rate was over 100. Often closer to 120. My thyroid doctor pretty much told me that I needed to think about my children not having a mom if I didn't get the radiation that would destroy my thyroid gland (making me dependent for the rest of my life on artificial thyroid hormone). I researched and agonized and finally decided to do it in 2004. Long story was a tough summer, health-wise. But it worked and my resting heart rate at my last two doctor appointments was in the low 80's. A huge milestone.

So my husband has been through all this with me. He's seen me sick. He's seen me well. He's sent me to the doctor to get my levels checked (and was correct in thinking I had relapsed). He held my hand through two cesarean sections (and held my hand through the psychological aftermath of each one). He saw me rage and rail while under the influence of large doses of prednisone. He told me I didn't look fat when I had gained 20 pounds.

And he sat in the doctor's office waiting room yesterday with me. He was grading papers; I was reading magazines. I was there for several hours, with occasional blood draws (once an hour). He hung out when he didn't have to. It's hard to express how important that is. Although we chose non-traditional wedding vows (which didn't contain the "in sickness and in health" phrase), he's lived out the spirit of those old-fashioned vows so well. He's never treated me like someone whose body is broken, defective, flawed. He's just loved me through all of it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Trying not to worry

On Monday, I went to the doctor for a physical. See, if you're me, you've been under a specialist's care for most of your adult life and you forget that you also have to see a "normal" doctor for that basic preventive maintenance type stuff. So I finally made the appointment and went. And my cholesterol is fantastic! I'm feeling pretty good about everything...I quit smoking last winter, I'm getting exercise, I eat pretty good, nothing's bothering me.

Which is why getting the phone call Tuesday that they wanted to repeat a blood test really didn't bother me at all. Having been under a specialist's care for 17 years, I know that blood tests sometimes are wonky. And I also knew that I may have eaten a little past seven the night before, so maybe it wasn't a good 12-hour fast before the bloodwork.

And that takes us to yesterday, when we repeated the test and an hour later my doctor's office called me to have me come in again because the second blood test is wonky too. Well, not wonky. Just high. Glucose. A cursory internet search suggests that diabetes is really the only reason to see this result. Or maybe just pre-diabetes. Or a risk of developing diabetes. None of those are happy situations.

Which means today I get to go to the doctor again and take the dreaded glucose tolerance test. Dreaded? Have you had one? Have you consumed the horrible drink that tastes like sweetened bat piss? Yeah. It does. (Not that I would know, but I'm pretty sure.) (I mean I know how awful the drink is but never have actually consumed bat piss.) (At least I hope not.) Oh, and I don't get to eat or drink anything (except water) until the test is over. And that's at 3:00 this afternoon.

If this post doesn't make sense, blame the caffeine addiction. I'm sorry. I'm coffee's bitch.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

First Post

I've got to start somewhere, right? So I'm a blogger now, I guess. I've dabbled with blogging for the past few months on MySpace, but that just didn't quite have the, I don't know, anonymity that I need to make a go of it.

Here are the facts: I have a husband, two kids, two dogs, one cat, two paying jobs, and several volunteer gigs as well. Yep, I'm busy. If you're still reading, I can share a little more. I have a Bachelor's degree from a well-respected liberal arts college, the better part of a Master's degree from a medium-sized local university, and a keen fascination with things culinary and domestic. Am I a domestic goddess? Oh no. But I dabble in sewing and other crafty pursuits WHEN I HAVE TIME. And I really love to cook.

This is looking to be a boring blog entry thus far. Perhaps the key is to focus on anything except myself.

My kids are cool. My daughter (let's call her Susie) is remarkable in every way. She's drop-dead gorgeous (for a tween, anyway). Much better looking that her father or mother. And I can say that because I'm the mother and I'm married to the father (and I love him a lot). She's crazy cute. Scary cute. Makes me want to put the place in lockdown to pre-empt what's going to happen when she hits the teen years. But the cool part is that she doesn't act like one of those girls who is pretty and nothing else. Nothing like that. She's very smart and sensible and low-maintenance and quite content to put her hair in pigtails. A quirky fashion sense as well. I'm a fan.

The boy (really, that's what we call him when we talk about him) is just as interesting. Cute as heck as well (except he's in that somewhat awkward "all teeth" phase that kids go through when they start losing baby teeth and getting permanent teeth - the permanent teeth just seem too big at first). He's incredibly smart and not a bit sensible. Oh, and he's color blind. Vivid imagination and an amazing willingness to taste any food offered to him. He surprises me with how many things he tastes and likes. Most recently French Onion Soup. Much to my delight, because my husband doesn't like it. The boy is very funny. Very very funny. The other day, out of the blue, he told me, "That color-blindness test was hard. And I didn't get a chance to study at all."

The husband and I worked out long ago a way to pretty much never need child care for the kids. He and I worked different shifts when the kids were really little so they always had someone home with them (with rare exceptions), and he still schedules his work so that he's working either when the kids are at school or after I'm home from work or on weekends when I'm not working. Not sure if it saved us any money (might have cost us in lost wages back then), but the kids seem well-adjusted and we'll save the money we would have spent on therapy, right?

Not sure if it's kosher to put much out there about the husband. He's a pretty private guy. I should probably respect that and leave him out of it. For now anyway.