Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's Finished!

After ten years of marriage, our wedding album is done!

Wow, you say, is that REALLY behind or what? Well, sort of. I started in 2007, so I'm slow, but not ten years slow. At that time, our wedding pictures were in a nice wooden box-style album. It has a picture frame top and opens to several small hanging albums with wooden spines and slots for pictures. I'm not saying this is optimal, I'm just emphasizing that it was a real place to put pictures, not just a shoebox, because it was at that point that my husband started saying "You are making these great albums, but it so sad that our wedding pictures are just in a box!".

After I finished spluttering that they weren't just in a box, I realized that he would like them to be scrapbooked and I would love to scrapbook them, so I better get started! Since I was pregnant with Sammy, I reasoned that before his birth would be the perfect time to do it. I worked on it only at the "scrap nights" we used to have with a fun little group of girls, led by Jennifer. I attended a scrapbooking retreat at Jennifer's invitation in January of 2008, making some progress. But then I was all out of scrapbooking-specific occasions, so I set up a serious workstation at home and spent all my late-night time that I couldn't sleep because of heartburn, contractions, heartburn, the baby head-butting me repeatedly, heartburn, and general discomfort (and heartburn) working on the album.

I finished the sections for the preparation and the wedding in February the night before Sammy was born! I was scheduled to be induced on a Monday morning and my mom was flying in on Sunday evening. Her flight was delayed, and then delayed some more until it was 2:00am by the time James arrived back from fetching her at the airport. By the time she arrived, voila! It was done.
As lovely as that was, I really wanted the honeymoon in the same album. We went to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada with our little film camera. Most of the pictures had only one of them in it, and there were so few compared to our digital snap-happy style of taking pictures. Some of the scenes were lovely and I hated to let myself think "I'll do that someday", and never get back to it. So I went back to work on it.

Inspired by my sister's completion of her son's album, I took it with me on this past holiday trip with the faint hope of making some progress. Finally, just before the stroke of midnight on the last day of the year, watching the Times Square party from my Granny's house in Alamagordo, New Mexico, I finished the last page. Being the statistics- and symmetry-loving girl that I am, I was particularly pleased to have it done during this calendar year.

It was so funny to see us as we were then ("What in the world am I doing wearing pink jeans!?"). But it was sobering to realize how much I had forgotten. I couldn't place many of the pictures: "James, do you know what day this is?", "James, where was this?", "James, what were we doing here?" Good thing hubby dear has a good memory. He finally wrote down a schedule of what we had done each day, what kind of place we had eaten, and some of his favorite memories. I sometimes hear people talk about scrapbooking for other audiences - our friends, our family, our kids... but as much as that's true, I'm treasuring in my own heart the memories of our first days of marriage!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wetlands Park, Yuma, Az

Planning on visiting Yuma, Arizona? Maybe not too many are, but there is a fabulous castle playscape there at the Wetlands Park. I've been to Yuma a couple of times, but I was working on helping out my sister with some things and didn't take time for playscape fun. Zack loved this, and his little cousin had a great time too. Too bad he ended up with his first split lip! But, being the tough guy that he is, he went right back to playing.

One thing I loved is that Zack started describing the imaginary parts of the "castle", in a precursor to the elaborate make-believe lands I remember inventing with my cousins when we were kids. He was most intent on the "dungeons", but I had more fun on the battlements!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Applause, please

Sammy spent Christmas Eve learning to clap: yay!

He's feeling great and starting to eat normally again. The only fly in the ointment is that he's been broken out, head to toe, in eczema. I had it as a kid and both boys have dry skin and a little trouble from time to time with exzema, just not of this magnitude. Is it possible that the albuterol from the breathing treatments is causing it? He broke out on his cheeks and around the mask first... but then it could be the dry Arizona air.

It doesn't seem to be bothering him much, though! Here he is, mugging for the camera, making best use of his Squinty Smile:

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Friday, December 19, 2008


We received a small gift basket for Christmas that had been assembled by the gifter (or their helper?). The items were nice but I especially enjoyed that even though they were purchased items, they were selected and packaged into a basket by hand. The included treats, like the beautiful tea with it's shimmering fabric bag and colorful leaves above, were all the more lovely for the extra attention.
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gettin Better

Here is Sammy, on his first day in a week without fever!

Friday we headed out to run some errands just as soon as he woke up from his nap. He was fussy in the basket at wherever place I went. I did need to run into Walmart and do an exchange (two glass gallon jars - bulky and a little heavy), so I figured I could do one more thing. I loaded the awkwardly large jars into my oversize reusable grocery bag and just carried it and my purse on my shoulder with Sammy on my hip and took Zack by the hand.

Sure, Sammy was much happier being held, but picture me by the time I had crisscrossed the store twice and added my three purchases (two of them slightly smaller glass jars) to the load. The glass jars in the bag are clanking together, I'm trying to hold a fussing baby, contain Zack, and convince him to carefully help me carry this stuff. Just as we get in line (a Walmart line during Christmas season, no less), I realize that Sammy is not fussy anymore. He's flushed, and he's hot, and he's listless.

Zack had one specialty of illness as an infant and toddler: high fever with some congestion - viruses like Roseola, or it's relatives without the rash. We figured Sammy for the same thing as his temperature climbed. We had to put him in a lukewarm bath to get the temperature under 104, which was not a popular move around here - neither with baby nor with mamma. We went through a couple of days of battling the fever, checking him every two hours, alternating Motrin and Tylenol, and using cool compresses that he hated. Just when we figured the worst of the fever should be past, it was up again and we had another night just like the worst one, bath and all. Meanwhile, his cough is sounding worse and worse. So, out we go into the 32 degrees and misting (that's crazy cold to us Texans, and we sure don't know how to drive in it, just to get everyone oriented) to the Dr., though I really feel like it's viral, and what can they do?

Viral it was, but it was more than I thought. I had only been able to get in to see the nurse practitioner rather than his usual pediatrician and after examining him, staring strangely at his chest with his sleeper open (what is she looking at? what is she counting? why is she frowning?), the NP was back in with his usual doctor.

"Well, he's borderline for hospitalization right now. We would definitely be justified hospitalizing him if you're more comfortable with that."

Mamma is at full alert.

He had something I hadn't heard of, but I guess a lot of people have, RSV or respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus. They had done nasal swabs and confirmed it (also confirmed negative for flu, which was good). He had another virus, roseola or the like, overlapping it; the rash started as we were in the office. He had two ear infections. The thing concerning the doctors was his labored breathing and low blood oxygen saturation. Apparently, RSV often causes enough breathing problems that it's the number one cause of hospitalization in children under two (so said the doctor anyway). But, in the hospital, they would mostly just give him fluids and breathing treatments, and I could do that at home if I was comfortable with it. I was a little concerned that I hadn't known what "labored breathing" looked like. The NP could see his chest pulling in at certain spots and hear a wheeze in his breathing that was very noticeable to me once she pointed it out. But I still wanted to avoid the hospital if at all possible, not wanting him exposed to more illnesses and woken for meds and checks on the floor's schedule instead of his own.

They tried out the breathing treatment on him in the office to see if it helped enough to justify sending me home with a machine. The nurse set it up, then slipped out of the room a nanosecond after turning on the machine. Sammy hated it, screaming and thrashing the whole time. I was supposed to be doing the treatment and didn't know what I was doing, alone in the examination room for what seemed like an hour (it was more like 15 minutes), trying to hold him upright and still with this loud mask over his face. I am not sure how much medication he actually got. It didn't change his blood oxygen saturation but he seemed to be less labored, so they said I could take him home if I could do this every three hours, waking him at night. My brain was in crisis mode, so of course I could do this. I can do a lot in crisis mode, and do it all with logical efficiency. I don't panic, which is handy. Of course, I have to come down from crisis mode sometime, but at the time, it is effective.

We started him on antibiotics for the ear infections (and to keep the RSV from going into pneumonia) and continued the regime of fever meds and breathing treatments. It was a little like nursing a newborn in that the three hours counts from the beginning of the treatment, so by the time we did it and got him calmed down again (which usually did require nursing) there wasn't much time before the next one. He wouldn't eat, but he would drink milk, so that was ok. We had a houseguest and a catering order and a party I was helping with, so I juggled. Our housegeust was actually more help than hindrance, playing with Zack and staying at home with him while I took Sammy to the doctor. We're supposed to be leaving on a 1140 mile trip (that's the distance one way) day this coming weekend. The Christmas shopping needs to be finished, the Christmas cards need to go out, I've lost the paperwork to get the (overdue) registration on the car, I need to prep for a wedding that I'm coordinating when we get back... you get the idea. That crisis mode was handy, I guess, because that list is not far from being done. The catering order looked great. Thanks to James' parents coming and staying with the boys for an afternoon, the shopping is mostly done. The Christmas card envelopes are printed. James saved me and took car of the car registration. The party was fun and had plenty of food. I haven't slept much, but hey, I'll pay that bill when it arrives (hm... my throat is sore... maybe that bill is here already).

Today I'm rejoicing that Sammy has no fever (so far), and is smiling again. He even got dressed today, much to his brother's relief (Zack doesn't hold with staying in jammies all day). Sammy still won't eat, but we're down to breathing treatments every five hours (longer if he's sleeping) and he seems like himself. Check out this face - there's no doubt he's getting better.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This blog is sad

It needs some posts.

I have had several ideas for posts in my head. They were fairly well fleshed-out, and it didn't really occur to me that I later would not even be able to remember what they were, much less capably write them. I guess those moments have passed, and now I'm going to have to notice some new ones. My noticer might be a little bit out of order just now.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


The sugar thing seems to be working. Whether it's just our being more consistent, or that the ongoing consequence really speaks to him, or the sugar itself, I don't know, but our house has gotten calmer, which is a relief.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


The last three books I've read have been fascinating. And by "read", I mean thoroughly read, digested and even made an occasional note... on the first third of the book. Ok, let's be generous and call it the first half. These books were checked out from the library, which has a three-week loan. At least one, maybe two, of them I was able to recheck for a second three-week stint. Six weeks and I can only get through half a book?? Mommy or no, that's pathetic.

I've got holds on all three to check them out again and I'm waiting my turn. Let's see, maybe I can get through half of two or three more books before I get these back.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sugar and its Effects

This month's "celebration"round robin seems to have taken it's toll on our family. Zack is a crazy, crazy little person. He seems to be having fun, but it's driving us batty. I think he's been getting candy and treats at every turn; then he turns into this jumping, shouting, spastic force of nature. Who wants to spend all day saying No! or being said No! to?? Not us, and theoretically not him (though I doubt he's in favor of a change).

So we are beginning an experiment. For at least a few days, we're cutting off the sweets and trying to see where all they are embedded in our routine. For example, when Zack wakes up (before we do), he is allowed to have a "breakfast snack" (as in, "Mommy, that isn't a breakfast! That's just a breakfast snack!") of a yogurt. Only problem is that even the least sweet individual prepackaged yogurt is pretty sugary. For another example, we have this little basket where we put various small treats. It started with we had all this Easter candy, so we put it in the basket to have one small item a day. There were also Benefiber chewables in there, and Zack chose one of those as often as he chose a Hershey's kiss or a Starburst (we were really feeling clever over the additional fiber). That seemed to be working fine. But then, after Halloween, there were all these (small but not tiny) candy bars in it, items which were MUCH bigger than a Hershey's kiss, and Zack wasn't interested in the small things or the Benefiber. Plus, once a day turned into after every meal, and could he please please please have regular dessert AND a treat from the basket?? Plus, I think they are giving him sweets at school. He came homing this week (yes, in December) saying it was a special occasion and they got to have candy corn at rest time. Hmm... restful...

We simply can't make it through the last half of the month, and a long car trip coming up, without some kind of reset on the crazy behaviour. We told Zack if we got on a better behavioural roll, we would add back in a few treats at upcoming celebrations and see what happens.

I'll keep you posted on whether it helps.
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Here's the amount of accumulation, just so you have a idea what level of snow it takes for us Austinites to make a fuss!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Guess that's Austin

When we went to pre-school this morning, it was eighty degrees. When I stepped outside after a church brunch, the air was hanging heavy, the sun hot on our necks. It occurred to me that I ought to have worn sunscreen on my neck if I was going to stand around outside chatting.

We went to the bookstore tonight and as we got out of the car, the wind held the door shut against Zack attempts to open it, a little stinging rain penetrating the lightweight clothing that had seemed too heavy earlier in the day. By the time we left the bookstore, the rain was frozen, pinging on our windshield.

As soon as we got home we set Sammy in his crib, directed Zack to entertain him and bundled ourselves up in the first sweatshirts that were handy with raincoats over top (Zack asked me if I was going to do painting. Guess my sweatshirt was a bit on the shlumpy side?). We ran outside and turned on the lamp we use to keep the garden from freezing on cold nights, revealing four more red tomatoes but also bits of ice sparkling among the tiny shoots of the new lettuce and the swiss chard sprouts. We covered up the garden and the herb bed and the succulents, running back and forth and tracking mud on my not-vacuumed-often-enough-already floor.

We put the kids to bed and put on the news to see what scary severe weather system could be producing frozen stuff falling from the sky. They said the sleet and frozen rain were over for the night, folks, nothing left to see here. I finally convinced myself to do the evening kitchen routine when I heard more sleet, yes? Not so! Not sleet but SNOW. In Austin!

From 80 degrees with tomatoes ripening on the still-producing vine to 30 degrees and snow. Guess that's Austin for you!

Friday, December 05, 2008


I had a doctor's appointment at 10:00am. I left the doctor's office at 1:39pm.

Now, before I launch into this, let me say that I am fully aware that none of this is in the same category as real Health Problems. This is more in the category of Annoying Crap. I am very thankful that I'm generally in good health, at least with respect to anything serious. I guess it is this generally good health that has led be to the (clearly ridiculous) assumption that if you go to the doctor with a specific combination of symptoms, an onset timeline and whatever details are relevant, they should be able to say what's wrong with you and tell you whether to wait and heal or give you some kind of treatment. Right??


Why is it always some puzzling mystery? Why is it "Wow, I've never heard of that" or "Hm, I couldn't really guess what's happening with that". Sheesh. They can completely replace a person's hip but they can't tell my why my ear hurts??

My almost four hour appointment today (accompanied by two children) netted me a very annoyingly painful "office procedure" (unrelated to the ear pain), a recommendation for surgery (unrelated to the ear pain), and a diagnosis of "take three Advil three times a day and call me in six to eight weeks" for the ear pain. Whaaa?

So here's what I'm thinking:

A) Why did I bother going at all?
B) Why, oh why did I leave the house without coffee?
C) How could I have gone out without snacks for the children?
D) How could I have gone out with only a single coloring book for Zack?
E) How do they blithely keep a woman with a four-year-old and a nine-month-old in the waiting room for HOURS?
F) How do I get sucked into these "minor procedures" that turn out to be ordeals?
G) Is a simple diagnosis so much to ask?


Update: The annoying "office procedure":
a) Was billed as "surgery"
b) Was ridiculously expensive

I guess I'll take a fix over a diagnosis.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


As previously mentioned, Zack's a little moon-crazy...
But Mommy, I don't see an American flag on the moon and I've been looking and when I see the moon I look really hard for a flag and I really don't see one.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Here's a tip for childproofing the christmas tree

Or, try hanging it from the ceiling. That's also convenient.

In case you are a family member and prone to concern, skip over the photo group of getting the tree up there. Really, it wasn't too bad. No Deannas were harmed in the making of this Christmas tree. And, as far as the ornaments go, I only dropped one little guy, and he didn't even break. Even with the scary big step off the ladder, it was better than last year when I was pregnant and James had to do this part, using my instructions and a laser pointer for where each ornament should go. Am I kidding about the laser pointer? Actually, no.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Harvest to Dinner

Capellini with Fresh Tomato and Parsley Sauce and Chicken

Thanks to the late harvest, I finally managed a tomato-focused meal that James actually liked. Tomatoes are usually a little acidic for him but he said these "taste like candy!"
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Late Harvest

Last weekend we started cleaning out the summer garden with the intent of planting the winter garden - including my favorite crop, lettuce! You may think lettuce sounds boring, but fresh garden lettuce is one of my absolute favorite things. And with the tenderness and the variety, it's really not boring at all. So I was all for the changeover to the winter garden.

Our decision to take out the last of the fall plants was, as usual, thwarted by a late spurt of production by the tomatoes and peppers. Long after the tomatoes should be through, they finally start really doing something (just like last year, and the year before...). I think the summer heat had been too much, especially for the Romas. Now, with the milder weather, there were blooms, green tomatoes and red tomatoes. We literally watched some turn red over the course of the morning, seeing the color develop by the second.
James and Zack always have fun with the garden, and we brought Sammy out in his bouncy seat to enjoy the cool, sunny day. Zack continues to be fascinated by the produce and the creatures. We have been finding these caterpillars of the black swallowtail butterfly on the parsley for the past few weeks. I think this was the last one for the season. At first it was tempting to pull them off, but they only ate about a third of the parsley (plenty left for us) and the butterflies were beautiful (wish I could have gotten a photo of one!).
Aside from the lettuce, one of the best things about the garden is Zack's experience of planting, waiting, watching and harvesting. He is thrilled to gather up the red tomatoes and bring them in or go out and break of a few sprigs of an herb. And he will happily pop a "snacking tomato" in his mouth as a reward for time working in the garden. My recent reading on the politics of our food supply (letter to the "Farmer in Chief" and associated interview and the books Food Politics and What to Eat) confirms what James has always known - our kids have so much to gain from growing a bit of food (and so do we). I'm astounded to realize how much we've been blessed by planting in this little five by twelve foot space on the side of our traditional backyard.

Even leaving the now producing tomatoes and peppers (and the parsley and chives that often survive over until the next year), we cleared out enough space to get several more things planted. We enjoyed a trip to the Natural Gardener (wow, they've got some MONSTER sized swiss chard right now!) for plants and seeds, but then ran out of time to get them in the ground. Now we've just today gotten around to doing the planting, so I guess lettuce is that much further down the road. The good side of the delay was that the neighbor girls came and planted seeds with Zack. The kids spent all of twelve minutes at it, so I doubt it was imbued with great meaning... but I'm envisioning getting to show them the sprouts when they emerge and later the plants as they get to edible size. Our relationship with our neighbors has been growing lately as the girls (first and fourth grade) play so sweetly with Zack and the two year old boy at the next house down, so it was a nice opportunity to send them home with some truly succulent tomatoes. Add the relationship building benefit to the joys of the garden!

Now I can't wait to get some lettuce to share too!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hmm. Not so much.

I'm sure it would be better to post a successful craft project. But, since I have an unsuccessful one, that's what I'm posting instead.

We saw this great project to use freezer paper to create a stencil for putting a design on fabric. I checked out her book (really like the book. tempted to buy it.) from the library for all the details and thought I was following them. And I really liked the idea Zack and I came up with for a design. We chose Mr. McGreggor chasing down Peter Rabbit (hee hee!!). Totally fitting for Zack and really cute, I thought.

This craft calls for choosing a silhouette design and drawing or tracing it onto freezer paper, then cutting out the design with a craft knife. You then iron freezer paper to the front (and the inside of the front) of a shirt and use it as a stencil with fabric paint. I did the drawing and cutting but Zack got to do the painting and we were so excited to pull off the paper and reveal the crisp clean design.

What we got was a large halo of paint around the design, nothing like we had intended. Or like these.

In retrospect, we did everything correctly. Everything, but the paint choice. Right brand, wrong line. Dang. I'm still thinking of whether to try to salvage, start over or just chuck it. Would've been cute, right?

Squinty Smile

Sammy has a new expression that amuses me to no end. He doesn't just smile but also tilts his head back, squints his eyes almost closed and wrinkles up his nose. It's accompanied by a "heeeeee-ee-eeh" sound that is the precursor to his laugh. At eight and a half months, he still doesn't have any teeth, so you get all gums. Well, gums and those enviable eyelashes.

Part of what amuses me is that his face takes on a totally different shape, like you might be looking at a different kid than you were looking at a second ago.

Another aspect of my affection for this face is that since he has started doing the Squinty Smile I have realized that I must make a big squinty grin to him. Seeing my exaggerated expression (after all, I was just told I look like the big tricked out name tag girl, who seems to be all about "over expressive") mirrored back to me has its own appeal.

But the thing that I love most about it is that he is very clear about using it as his way of showing you that he's REALLY grinning. He shakes his head back and forth, grinning and squinting for all he's worth, and it's, "you and me, we're really smiling now!" It's engaging another person, it's more beginnings of communication, and baby, it's charming!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Steak Salad

Steak Salad with Blue Cheese, Pomegranate and Shallot Lime Cream Dressing

This meal turned out fun. Probably because cooking is more fun as an experimental venture than a daily duty, especially when it turns out well. I had one lone filet mignon that I needed to use. It had been part of a multi-pack from Costco and I hadn't been happy with the way they had cooked up. Then with only one left, when was I going to serve that? Still, I didn't want it to sit in the freezer forever.

The shallots were sauteed in olive oil then reserved, with the oil, for the dressing. I just pan seared the steak, cooking it quite a long time considering it turned out just the medium doneness I prefer (James, who likes everything well done, was rather good natured about it... though I did give him the thinner, more cooked end).

The salad was romaine, very thinly sliced celery, quartered ripe olives, blue cheese and pomegranate. It was fun to show Zack what the inside of a pomegranate looks like and let him pull and eat some of the seeds.

The rest of the dressing was lime juice with salt and pepper. After adding the shallots and some extra oil to even out the acidity, we finished it out with cream and a little bit of the rendered bacon fat from the filet mignon. Decadent, I know! But, we didn't use much, and boy was it tasty!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Colors Not Previously Known to Exist In Nature

I was making Sammy-food this week and it struck me how bizarrely vibrant the colors were. I don't think I was expecting "regular" food (this is just peas and winter squash) to have colors so intense. (Next time I need to try for a better pictures. This doesn't do the intensity of color justice.)

Hmm... maybe I don't have quite the right ideas about where the brightest and best comes from. Not man-made after all!

And, because we're talking Sammy, he should get a photo op, no?


My four year old son has suddenly figured out that he strongly prefers to win. When he turned three, he didn't have this. It's new.

For his third birthday, his grandmother gave him Candyland. Many people have played it with him (thanks, yall, I know you're taking one for the team...) and they are really good about not just letting him win. We started this very first game as a you-win-some-you-loose-some proposition, and it was fine. We were hoping it would develop in to an equanimity about winning or loosing, an enjoyment of the game for the fun of playing, an ability to be happy for the winner whether or not it is you. That worked for a while.

Today James and I were realizing that we've now had a couple of complete meltdowns when Zack said "Let's see who can get up the stairs first!" and he wasn't the winner of this important race. I guess the problem with that particular contest is that we're old and slow and couldn't physically accomplish you-win-some-you-loose-some.

A few weeks ago James took him to a high school football game, just for the fun of going (and, I think, for the snacks). Zack was very interested in who should win. They decided to pick a team and cheer for them and when the team won (in overtime!), Zack was thrilled.

Two weeks ago, when the Longhorns played Texas Tech, I think he was as shell shocked at the last minute loss as I was. We tried to say "Oh, it was a good game, it's fun to win, but we can handle it when we don't win." Maybe our hearts weren't in it.

And then we had this conversation on the morning of Wednesday, November 5:
Mommy, who did I vote for?

Me: You didn't exactly vote, honey, but you were a good helper when we went to vote and they did give you your own sticker.
But did I vote for Mr. McCain?

Me: Sweetie, you didn't vote for either. Remember how old you have to be to vote?

Eighteen. Eighteen and I'm only four. Yeah.

Me: But would you like to know who won the election?

Yes, yes I would!

Me: Barak Obama won the election, so now we call him the President-Elect. That means he was elected and will be the president soon.

Oh, Ok. So. So, I voted for Mr. Obama.
Ah, revisionist history. I don't think he's alone in this one.

I don't think we can blame school for this. It's possible that we should blame our football watching. But, I think it's more like human nature. And, not to let Zack's parents off the hook too easily, but it's better than the alternative of apathy. It just isn't better than the alternative of working to win and loving others regardless. I guess our job turns out to be much harder than just not letting him win.

Maybe that's not all bad, because I really can't make it up the stairs before him.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

The night Zack wore his wolf suit,
and made mischief
of one kind
and another...

Wait. That's not mine.

Zack was a Big Bad Wolf, however. It was inspired by his love of the story of the three little pigs, not Where the Wild Things Are, but he was very pleased when we read the latter and he noticed the similarity of suit. We could ask why he chooses the villain (ah, that Mr. McGreggor of Halloween 2007!), but that will have to be another post.

My sister and I had lots of fun making these costumes from instructions on Martha's show. Well, we made Zack and Sammy's from instructions on the show and Julie improvised the lion very cleverly. I knew having a ridiculous supply of random craft stuff would pay off! Wait. I think we bought just as much as we used from my stash. Darnit. My Halloween confession is that I was a bit wistful that she was doing an original creation and I was just following an existing design, which is crazy. Sigh. But, it was a good thing I made myself stick to the pattern, since I had that second kid thing going on. Creativity gets old when you finish and then have to start again. We did the costumes a few days ahead of time so that by the day of Halloween I was refreshed and happy to quickly make a Huff And Puff And The Pig Gets Blown Down treat bag - I crack myself up.

The actual trick or treating was lots of fun. I have a bias against all these candy-focused holidays (exactly what's the message to our children?), but I was determined to set it aside for tonight and just enjoy. Lo and behold, nobody burst into flame or even exploded from sugar rush. The candy consumption did not spiral out of control when I let down my guard. Go figure.

And I noticed something much better than candy this year. I think our neighborhood was more neighborly. A few weeks ago our block participated in the National Night Out and although it is sponsored by police for crime prevention, it paid more dividends for our street in overall community. The friendliness seems to have carried over. Even for those whose names we had forgotten, we had at least a recognition that enabled us to stop and visit over the kids costumes or the balmy evening.

A few years ago, after reading Making Room for Life, James and I started sitting out in the driveway after Zack went to bed, lounging in our camp chairs and drinking Izzes, visiting with each other and neighbors as we got the opportunity. Unfortunately we seem to keep later hours than our neighbors and they are mostly in for the night before we are even out (even so, that's our best talking time, away from the visible chores that need done an the temptation of the TV and *ahem* the computer). One set of neighbors does come out and visit, so that's one more relationship forming. This Halloween there were many couples and families in chairs on their driveways or porches, welcoming the kids, visiting with the adults. It was a joy to see community formation in action, the connections being made and strengthened. We we got back from trick or treating ourselves, we set up our chairs outside to hand out candy and visited with many as they came by. I think Halloween was even better for the parents than it was for the kids.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Where have I been

Mostly here, having a great visit with my sister and nephew!

I still seem not to have completed my world tour of cold and flu symptoms (although I'm glad my eyes have returned to their normal color), but so far I haven't passed this nasty virus on to anyone else. Here's hoping!

The costume project was great fun and Zack is excited about wearing his outfit. I have high hopes for getting fun pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Beach

Last weekend was our annual trip to Port Aransas, Texas for a beach visit. This is our sixth year to go, always in October, always timed to visit our dearest 89 year old friend, Judy. She lives in Austin and we see her at church weekly, but that's just not the same. She spends October in Port Aransas so we arrange a weekend to visit her there for that special time the beach brings. We go with other families (not pictured, since I haven't asked permission) whose kids are roughly the same age as ours. We have so much fun, and as the kids grow, and we add new kids, the fun just increases. This year we reflected on how the kids are so neat and how we genuinely LIKE them. I feel really blessed to be able to say that.

The only fly in the sunscreen was that I was so very sick. The friends were quite nice about it, but if they get what I've got, they are going to hate me forever. Luckily, they'll have no voice during the worst of their ire, so I won't have to hear much about it. Then, after that, the whites of their eyes will turn solid red (yes, my current state) and they won't be able to show their faces out of their houses. Suffice it to say, I was not in optimal health for beach enjoyment. But, I still had a good time and got down to the beach quite a bit, considering.

Now I'm spending an inordinate amount of time staring at the pictures and playing with Picasa 3's collage function. I'm mesmerized by the photos and the combination of photos. I'm looking back at previous years and how all the kids have grown. I'm sure it's a mom-thing, but sometimes the way the light catches on my kids' skin or hair makes me catch my breath. This view of Zack staring up at a kite combined with his mischievous little water kicking is what currently has me delighted:

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Voice of the People

Or rather, just me.

Or rather, NOT me.

Because I don't have one. Not having a voice (yes, literally) is very strange. I am a walking game of charades, and people didn't even know they were playing. Yes, I can whisper, but it hurts. The doctor advised me to do so as little as possible and instead write everything down. That works super for my eight month and four year old. Wait, if I can write everything in three letter words with short vowel sounds, and only two words at a time, maybe the four year old will communicate on my behalf to the eight month old?

People speaking to me either whisper or begin pantomiming things back to me. The grocery store clerk mouthed silently, "IS PLASTIC OK?", eyebrows raised, mouth wide, pointing to the bags in a motion that involved his whole arm and upper torso. Did he think I was deaf? I was making great use of my Sign Language for Babies knowledge to talk to Zack while waiting in line. But, that still doesn't make sense because if I can read lips, surely his response was the equivalent of shouting English to a Spanish speaker.

I was briefly watching four young children in a hotel lobby yesterday while feeding my younger son his solid food. A recipe for disaster, you say? I whispered instructions to them and a complete round of whispered crawl-tag-hide-and-seek ensued. It was the quietest play I've ever seen. They are usually pretty well behaved, but there would have been no way I could have instructed them to whisper the whole time and thought they would be able to stick to it.

The phone is the biggest challenge. I need it. I want it. I apparently cause fiascoes without it.

Today I was supposed to pick up a Pack and Play for use during my sister and nephew's visit from a handy spot at our church. The owner of the item was going to be across the street anyway, so he left it there for me. I told my husband this morning that I would go and get it when I picked up Zack from school. When I arrived there was no Pack and Play. I found the janitor to ask (with great whispering and gesturing) him if he had moved it, but he hadn't. I went back to the car to call the owner (maybe he left it elsewhere?) and discovered I had forgotten my phone. ARGH. I had put in on the charger without setting the charger on my purse (my usual failsafe) because I wasn't all that convinced it was going to be any use to me today anyway. So I lugged the baby across the street and up two flights of stairs to find my friend, who came back with me to look for it. We looked everywhere we could think of. NO Pack and Play. We ended up in the church office asking the bookkeeper if she had seen it and we all sadly concluded that it had been stolen. From a church! Sheesh! At this point I was very late to get Zack from school. I really only had time to run in, nab the item, and head to school, so after the hard target search, I'm late, panicked, guilt-ridden and sweating. I made a hasty and apologetic goodbye and jumped in the car, plotting how I am going to get a Pack and Play for my nephew to sleep in by tonight, and how I'm going to replace the stolen one for my friends. I pull up at school a full fifteen minutes late. They charge by the minute, so that's a $15 late fine. Plus, I'm picturing his teachers standing with the one abandoned preschooler, calling me and not getting me, trying to reassure a crying Zack that his mommy would come soon. I tear into the parking lot, leap out of the car, start to jerk the baby out of his carseat, when what do I see? Zack is standing, holding hands with his grandmother, under a shady tree. I'm a little paralyzed by confusion. Did they call her, failing to reach me? Now my poor mothering has pulled in extended family to compensate! And wait, how did she get here so fast?

I begin to explain how I was at church and got embroiled in a search for a Pack and Play but that it had been stolen when she stops me, confessing she "had tried to help but had messed everything up". SHE had the Pack and Play! The phone log tells the true story.

I had six missed calls, three voicemails and three text messages. She had called me, realized I couldn't talk, and called my husband to see if she could help us by bringing the Pack and Play to our house or to Zack's school. He said Yes, please (uh... what was the point of my telling him this morning not to worry about the Pack and Play, that I would pick it up when I picked up Zack?) and left me a voicemail and a text for me to this effect. She went to the school and when I didn't show up by two o'clock, went in and picked up Zack. She tried to call again but then had a friend of mine text me that she was there and had gotten Zack. After I arrived, I had her call the church and my friend to say that the Pack and Play had not been stolen after all. All the best intentions, and of course my husband DID tell her yes, so certainly not her fault. Whether it's James' fault, well... I COULD make a case, but I won't. Really. Especially since I am the one always harassing James to keep his phone with him.

Stupid lost voice, and stupid me for leaving my phone at home. At least I don't have to buy two Pack and Plays.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

First Cool Evening

It's been muggy in the evenings until late this week. Thursday night it was suddenly 56 degrees, a lovely little chill in the air. James requested chili and cornbread for dinner. Zack requested that we eat outside and roast marshmallows. I don't know how long it's been since we did that, but it must have made an impression on Zack.

We ate our chili outside, Zack's excitement sparkling in the evening air. He told us every bit of his day he could think of, then he and his daddy sat in front of the chiminea long after I had gone in to clean up the kitchen. I left the door open, enjoying the occasional piece of a phrase of Zack's latest story - yet another alteration on the three little pigs - as it drifted in with the fall breeze.

A cool evening indeed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blog name

Ok, as previously disclosed and discussed, I acknowledge that the name "Deanna's Blog" is lame. Julie has a list of options, but none have really struck me quite right. Some are downright scandalous ("Making Mungers"? hee hee!).

I really just want to have a chance to write, with the tantalizing thought that someone, somewhere might read it. I want to show pictures of the kids, but I'm not really thinking of an online scrapbook. I like the idea of discussing issues now and then, but it's not really a political forum for me, more like occasional musings. I tried out "Thoughts from Deanna" for a day and hated it. Sounded crazy egocentric to me. I like capturing anything that is creative or fun before it slips away from my Pigeon Brain. What's a girl with too many hobbies and no single focus to do?

I keep thinking back to my wedding, when we were doing so much ourselves that the hours and minutes before the ceremony had to shift into a panic-driven high gear. Julie, who embodies all the best of the Fieldmarshall personality type, began to move everyone along. It was Lead, Follow, or Get Outta the Way! My friend and attendant, Alya, was sprinkling sparkles on the tables for the reception. "Sprinkle, Alya, sprinkle!" Julie barked!

Sometimes my hobbies feel like they only get going when there is a deadline and I have to shift into high gear. I finished scrapbooking my wedding at one in the morning the night before Sammy was born, almost ten years later. I finished my nephew's crocheted blanket in the backseat of the car on the way to the baby shower. I finished the preparations for the M is for Man on the Moon party the night before and morning of only due to high-gear and the help of my mother- and father-in-law and our friend, Glenn. As usual, I was in the kitchen plating up the food on the trays and garnishing at top speed just before the guests began to arrive.

So I'm trying a new name: Garnish, Deanna, Garnish! If I hate it after a few days, I guess we'll go back to the lame name.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Big day for Sammy

This morning when we went in to get Sammy, he was sitting instead of lying in his crib! He's been working really hard on learning to crawl. Right now he's at the stage of getting to all fours, then rocking back and forth but not moving. He occasionally jumps both knees forward like a little bunny and finds he has moved without really knowing how. When he gets tired, he splays out, landing on his tummy, swimming frustrated in the air. And that's where he stays until someone takes pity on him, because he won't roll back over on his back and can't get back up to a sitting position.

Make that couldn't.

When we discovered him sitting, James lowered the crib mattress a notch. I guess we're glad because the next time I went in to get him, he was STANDING in his crib! STANDING! He was not at all pleased that I took a picture instead of picking him immediately up but I couldn't resist.

It seems like Zack always had developmental jumps in multiple areas at the same time, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but he also made what seems like a huge jump in communication - he signed to ask for something! On Monday while Sammy was nursing, he made what I thought was the milk sign. Same on Tuesday. Then today, he was eating his solids and acting a little fussy. I couldn't figure out if he wanted me to feed him faster or stop feeding him and said so to Zack. Sammy then signed "milk". Oh! So he had milk. YAY for the beginning of communication!

I know these sound like little moments, but they are the moments that make me love being a mom.