Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fourth Night

The fourth night of Hanukkah.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Tonight was to be family film night. The original plan was an early dinner and Larry would take the boys to go see the latest Harry Potter movie. Meanwhile, I would stay home with Max and Rebecca and watch a more four year old friendly film with them. Well the movie theater switched around its schedule from Saturday and they missed the last showing and came back home. So I guess in the end we had a much more family oriented night.

Today's big excitement was provided by Rally. I had been noticing that things weren’t right with her so I whisked her off to the vet. Turns out the poor thing has a raging urinary tract infection. Now she gets to have four pills a day for the next two weeks. Luckily, she is very easy to pill. I dropped one pill on the floor just as I was about to give it to her and she scarfed it up and looked for more. This is a cute picture of her curled up under the table that the menorah is on.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Third Night

Tonight is the third night of Hanukkah. Tonight Max and Rebecca got some very cute Gund animals.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

This is actually Max’s second mouse. The first one was an early victim of John, aka the Jaws of Doom. I noticed it at the checkout when I was getting a frame for Larry’s birthday present. Rebecca was all over the over toys and Max was asleep in the cart. I snagged it and a Pegasus for Rebecca when she turned her attention elsewhere. Max was utterly delighted when he opened up his present tonight. I know that will be the last time I’ll be able to by presents for them when they are with me.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Second Night

Here is Rebecca with our menorah on the second night of Hanukkah.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

She was a bit miffed that she got a hat while her brothers got Yu-Gi-Oh cards. She tossed the hat (a nice crushed black velvet affair with a few flowers on the band) and announced that she “no like hats!”The photo session seemed to mollify her a little. I figure by tomorrow morning she will be over her pique and love the hat.

First Night and More

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. My Mom has a menorah at her house that was given to us by Larry’s paternal Grandmother. We found a nice spot in the front room, lit the candles and recited the blessings.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I’ll try to do another update tonight after we light the candles again.

The funny part is that the menorah shares the room with my mother’s Christmas tree. This year she has decided to get a pre lit artificial tree. At the age of 76 my mom has decided that she no longer has the energy or where withal to deal with a real tree. She now lives in town so she has the added burden of disposing of the dried out husk. No longer can she just toss it into the swamp. I miss smell of a real tree, but not the mess and bother.

After she set it up she then decided that she no longer wanted to deal with hauling ornaments up out of the basement. The stairs are treacherous and the boxes are awkward. I suggested that the kids could decorate the tree. I bought paper, scissors, glue and a craft kit. The kids had a wonderful time making things and putting them on the tree.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I think it turned out quite well. We ended up making them on Christmas Eve and think it is a nice little tradition that we may have started.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Hanukkah!

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Tonight we all wish you a very Happy Hanukkah.

And today we also wish you a Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Baking And Birthday Presents

On Thursday I wrote how I do a fair amount of gift baking, usually I make my tried and true chocolate chip cookies. As I said in the post below, they are very popular. Here is a shot of a batch fresh out of the oven.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The funny mat underneath is my Silpat (I learned about it from The Food Whore). It is a nonstick baking surface that Larry gave me for my birthday this year. I love it! The cookies really do just slide off. I can’t wait to make some Shofar cookies for passover next year. I have tried to make them before, but they were a big sticky, albeit tasty mess.

Anyway back to this week.

For the boys’ teachers I asked them what do they want to give this year. Nate wanted to give chocolate chip cookies to his teacher and Jake wanted to give brownies.

So I made a batch of cookies to split between Nate’s teacher and the bus driver and plopped them into some decorative cookie tins. I tried a new chip variation and used a mix of 2/3’s regular semi-sweet morsels and 1/3 carmel and chocolate swirled chips. They were fabulous! For the brownies I like to use Baker’s One Bowl brownie Recipe with, of course, a few modifications.


4 sq. Baker's unsweetened chocolate
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla*
1 c. flour
1 c. chopped nuts, optional**

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwave bowl at high 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

3. Stir sugar into chocolate. Mix in eggs and vanilla *until well blended. Stir in flour and nuts. Spread in greased 13 x 9 inch pan.***

4. Bake 30-35 minutes**** or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Cool in pan; cut into squares. Makes 24 fudgy brownies.

Note: When using glass baking dish, bake at 325 degrees. For cake-like brownies, stir in 1/2 cup milk with eggs; use 1 1/2 cups flour.

* I add about 1 tablespoon of Chambord (the raspberry liquor, not the castle).
**Nuts, no way! I use chocolate chips.
***I use a 9 x 9 inch pan. this results in a nice thick and gooey brownie.
****Since I use a smaller pan that makes thicker brownies, the baking time gets extended another 5 to 10 minutes.

The Chambord intensifies the chocolate flavor of the brownies. You don’t have to use it, but i highly recommend it.

I baked the first batch of cookies and the brownies Tuesday night so the boys could take them to the last day of school. Wednesday morning I baked another batch of cookies to spilt between our mail carrier and for us. I was just able to finish making them before she showed up with our mail. It was one of the few times I’ve slogged out to the mailbox hoping that we did not have mail. I’ll find out next year how the baking was received.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Thursday Three: Ramahannuchristmakwanzavus

Hey! It’s Thursday and y’all know what that means.
Today Terry is treating us to a very special Second Annual Axis of Weevil Ramahannuchristmakwanzavus Thursday Three!

Terry writes the following:
We understand that there are several different types of highly competitive holiday celebrations ongoing at this time of year, so we expect you all to behave and be nice to each other's religious and/or non-religious proclivities and not make the Animated Swingin’ Singin’ Santa Lite-Up Guest Greeter cry. Or Santa Monica, for that matter.

Remember, anyone (theoretically) can play along, and if you don’t do any celebrating of any sort, it’s okay. Just make something up and no one will be any wiser. Just leave your answers neatly gift-wrapped in the comment section below, or leave a link to your blog so we can all come by and oooo-and-ahhhh at your inventiveness.

Anyway, on to the questions, which were once again provided by our favorite East Carolinian, Jim Smith (not an alias, by the way), just like they were last year.

They are this:
1. Are you an early bird in the prep for the holidays, and if so, how early do you start?
2. If you decorate your house, when do the decorations go up, and what are they?
3. Do you go out of your way to find special, well-thought-out presents, or are you so harried and confused that gift cards make more sense?

Well I’ll do my best not to make the Santas cry, but Santa needs to stop scaring all the children.
Originally I was a Unitarian and I converted to Judaism shortly before I married my husband. In no way was I pressured to convert, it was a natural evolution of my beliefs. As a result I live in the strange world of Christmahanukah. At home we celebrate Hanukah and we go visit my Mother up north for Christmas.

1) I think I’m about average. I get some things early and others are done at the last minute. I have a hard time doing anything before Thanksgiving. I like to do my holiday’s one at a time and in a linear fashion. The only exception is Hanukah gift wrap and candles. I have learned over the years to snap those babies up when they appear in the stores. The Richmond area has a very small Jewish population and the area merchants generally do not cater to us. This year our local Target had some beautiful Hanukah candles for sale before Turkey day. Last weekend there was no evidence of any Hanukah related merchandise in the store.

2) My decorating is limited to displaying holiday cards on the windows and our menorahs. Up at my mother’s house we help put up the tree and decorate it. She will have a few knick-knacks, a crèche or two, a wreath on the front door, one of these (her spinner is much simpler) and wreaths on the candles. It is fairly low key. No outside displays or lights.

3) Larry and I try to put a lot of thought into our gifts. We limit ourselves to our immediate family, my mother, my brother and his wife. For everyone else, teachers, the mail carrier and others I bake cookies for them. Last year our mail carrier, Yvonne, wrote the funniest thank you note. Apparently my cookies caused marital discord. She and her husband fought over who got the last cookie. We also make up a calendar every year with photos of the kids and dole them out to their grandparents, aunt and uncles. I can’t tell you any more because my family (Hi Mom!) reads this mess.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Artist of the Week: Legos Revisited

This week’s artist is Jake.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Jake built two very nice skyscrapers this past week.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

They are not very big, less than 8 inches, but they really do look like buildings you would see in the city. Admittedly they are very garishly colored ones, but nice buildings all the same. I like the grey top to the red building. It is a piece from one of the robot kits Jake and Nate have strewn about on their bedroom floor. I like how he could use the piece in a completely different way. This is what I love about Legos and blocks in general. They allow for a lot of creative expression. My only complaint is that there is nothing more painful to step on with bare feet than Legos. As a result they have banished to their bedroom. I threaten to toss any I find left downstairs. My own mother had the same love hate relationship with Legos. She used to tell my brother and me that the rattling of a lego being sucked up by the vacuum cleaner was her most favorite sound in the world.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Doom at the Bus Stop

There are a fair number of vultures about our subdivision. You can see them wheeling about in the thermals overhead. I accept the fact that I live in their environment. We live near a very well forested state park and the houses were built with the minimum of tree removal.

Never the less it is a bit disturbing to see this

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

as you escort your children to the bus stop one brisk morning.

There were at least a dozen vultures in a dead tree not a stone’s throw from the bus stop. Here is a better shot of the birds.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I like how one of them has spread its wings to catch the feeble warmth of the early morning sun.

They only congregate on cool mornings with bright sunshine. The most unsettling location that they select is the roofline of some poor soul’s home. Imagine pulling out of the garage and seeing a dozen or more very large and very black birds that are commonly associated with death, arrayed on top of your home. What a nice way to start your commute to work. And yes, I have seen it a couple of times. Thankfully it has not been my home, but I can imagine the sound of them clumping about on the roof.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Its a Brand New Day

As you can see, things got changed around a bit here. I hope you like it.

I *think* it is all set. There hardest part was re-jiggering Haloscan and getting my pretty banner all set.

There are also a couple of additions to my Links: Out of the Frying Pan and Janis’s spot Gone South.

So please leave a comment about what you think and any oddities that may crop up.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Wake Up Call

Thursday had an interesting start.

Both Larry and I forgot to set the alarm clock. Usually this wouldn’t be too big a problem, I normally wake up around seven and this is early enough to get the troops up, dressed, fed, give Max his thumpies (chest PTs) and still make the school bus at 8:40am.

But this time I didn’t wake up at 7 and the alarm did not go off. Instead, I awoke to the sound of the phone ringing. My first thought was who on Earth would be calling at this hour (I thought it was about 7:00am, the sky was overcast and it was snowing) then I switched over to “Oh no something is wrong with Mom!” I grabbed the phone and was about to answer when I noticed on the caller ID that the caller was one of Jake’s classmates.

Why on earth is he calling?

J wanted to speak with Jake. Ooooh kaaaay. I dug up Jake and handed him the phone. At that point I noticed the time. Ack! It’s 8:05 and we are all still in our pjs !

I flew upstairs and told Nate to get dressed and got Max up. Jake then called me over. It turns out the J had forgotten his spelling words and panicked that maybe the spelling test would be today and not Thursday since the fourth grade Chimers would be performing for the school superintendent on Friday. (As a side note Jake would never panic over something like this, he honestly would not care.) I dug up the list and handed it to Jake. After a few words he called me back. He had just awoken and he said his voice was not ready to read off all the words. So I took over and, thankfully, J’s mom took over the transcribing on their end. I then calmly read off the list of 25 words to J’s mom while my mind was screaming “AHHHHHH! MUST GET DRESSED! MUST GET KIDS TO SCHOOL! AHHHHH!” Meanwhile Larry dressed Max and Rebecca, brought them downstairs and started Max’s nebulization. Once off the phone I slapped together pb and j sandwiches for Jake and Nate’s breakfast (boy was I grateful that they have been on a sandwich for breakfast kick) and then rushed upstairs to throw on some clothes. All the while I was amazed that school was starting on time with the snow falling (I doubled checked on the computer while reading off the words) I got another lucky break that the hot lunch that day was something they both like. At 8:35 I hustled the boys out the door to the bus stop. Amazingly we were on time.

I then turned towards home. I still needed to feed myself, take a shower and deal with Max and Rebecca. As an added bonus they had a check-up at 10:30 and we had to be out of the house by 9:50 in order to make it on time.

Larry (and I just want to say here is a fabulous guy) had already started Max’s thumpies, I relieved him so that he could shower and get to work.

In the end we all got dressed and made it to our respective destinations.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Thursday Three: Anticipation

This week’s Thursday Three is all about waiting. Terry posts the following:

We’ve still got a good week left before even CONSIDERING doing an All Holy Day Version--this week, you’re just gonna have to WAIT. Or, you know, participate in today’s rendition of the game that’s sweeping the nation, the Axis of Weevil Thursday Three, Unbearable Anticipation Edition!


As is the custom, we will ask you three probing and insightful questions (or three just-regular questions) and you will either answer them in the comments below, or leave a link to your blog so we can run thither and gape at your answers there.

SO, what sort of questions today?

Well, as we noted, this is all about the thrill of waiting, so--
1) Have you ever camped out overnight to be able to purchase something? If so, what was it?

2) If your service in a restaurant has been abysmally slow because of the waiter, do you withhold a tip from the waiter, leave a penny or two for spite, leave something a bit smaller than a 15% tip, or go ahead and tip 15% or more just so if you come in again in the future, the waiter won’t spit in your food if he remembers you?

3) Do you ever listen to “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” on NPR?
Now! Run away and answer the questions as quickly as you possibly can without delay! First one up gets a free autographed picture* of Ralph Waite!
1)No, I have never camped out overnight for anything. I’ll show up a few hours early, but that’s it. In fact the best seats I ever got for a concert were purchased after it sold out. Larry and I were in England for our Junior semester abroad (I was at the University of Lancaster and he was at University of Warwick). We had gone to the Birmingham Odeon to pick up some concert tickets. While standing in the lobby I noticed posters for OMD that had “sold out” plastered all over them. The concert was coming up soon and I thought *maybe* it wasn’t completely sold out. I asked the ticket lady and she said “Just a minute love” and trundled to the back of the office. A moment later she reappeared and said she had two in the back row. At that point some sort of madness seized me and I asked if she had anything better. She nodded and disappeared again. A few minutes later she came back and said she was sorry, all she had left was two tickets. One was in the third row and the second was in the forth, but one was right behind the other. I happily accepted the tickets and paid for them. It turns out they were guest passes that had been turned back in. They looked a bit funny, but they were good.

2)I spent a summer waitressing at a mid-level pseudo-Lebanese restaurant called Landers (As an interesting side note here is a neat story of a former patron. Key quote about her longevity: “Perhaps the trick is that Alice drinks Manhattans or beer every night, Allison said, and eats ice cream after every meal.”) that catered to tour buses. As a result it takes truly appalling service for me to reduce the tip. Generally I am a generous tipper especially if the kids are particularly messy. However, one time I went to a Perkins (pre-kids) in Madsion, WI that reached the absolute nadir of service. It started off poorly with the waitstaff unable to bring out my beverage. Everyone else at the table got their sodas, but I did not get my milk. After about four reminders I finally marched back to the station in back and buttonholed a waiter. I stood there and waited for him to pour me my milk. The meals took forever to come out (we’re talking over an hour). The capper to the evening was a hunk of glass on my piece of cake. I left a penny as tip to make clear my disappointment and we never went back.

3)Nope. I don’t listen to a whole lot of radio. In the car and in the house we generally listen to our cds. Occasionally we’ll listen to Car Talk if we bump into while we are driving about.

So to sum it all up: no, yes and nope.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Artist of the Week: Pastels

Last summer there was an artist who had set up shop at the 17th Street Farmer Market.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

His name is James Poole and his work is fairly nice. The kids were intrigued by him, Jake in particular wanted to buy one of his works. As we stood there under the hot June sun he approached us and suggested that maybe we should sit for a quick portrait. I dithered for a moment, how could I great all four to stay still enough and what was I going to do with it once he was done? I then realized that a portrait of the five of us could be a nice birthday present for Larry. I could frame it and he could hang it up at work. That just left us with the problem of what to do with two squirmy three year olds. Mr. Poole then offered his chair for me to sit on with Max and Rebecca on my lap.

After I got settled in the chair with the small ones, Jake and Nate flanked me on both sides. The artist then set to work. Jake and Nate were perfect. In fact at one point we told Jake he could loosen up a little, he did not have to be absolutely still. Max and Rebecca, on the other hand, only remained on my lap due to my firm grip on them. Here is the finished work:

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I like it. It is not an exact representation of us, but it does work. I like pastels and I think they are a very fun and forgiving media to work with. Coupled with a good pencil you can do a lot with them.

Since Larry’s birthday wasn’t until the third of December; I had this parked on an upper shelf of my closet. Unfortunately I still missed giving this to Larry on his birthday. I was stuck in the hospital with Max that day. As a result it wasn’t presented to Larry until the following Monday, the 5th. So much for planning ahead and being organized! Hopefully next year Larry’s birthday will be a little less eventful and I’ll be able to write about him.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dinner and a Movie

On Saturday Larry and I got to enjoy our delayed night out on the town. Our birthdays are the 3rd and 7th of December, so we like to celebrate them together on the most convenient date. This year Larry’s birthday fell on a Saturday so we made plans last weekend. Life, however, intervened, and I spent Saturday night in the hospital with Max. Luckily Meryl was still willing to watch the kids this weekend, so we were able to have dinner, a movie and not worry about keeping up the sitter.

We had a 7:30 reservation at an Italian place that was conveniently located near a multi-death theater. Since we were sans-entourage, we were a few minutes early. It was a nice change from our usual frantic dash from the house.

The restaurant, Pasta Luna, is the second location (and relatively new) of a fairly well regarded Northern Italian eatery of the same name that is in Richmond’s far west end. When we arrived we were promptly seated in the main dinning room. The lighting was soft, the ambiance was somewhat upscale and our waiter was attentive. However there were a few incongruities with our dining service. The atmosphere cried out for a waiter with a pepper-mill for the salad, but none was offered. The oddest note was when the wait-staff cleared the table of our salad course, they were very careful to tell us to hold onto our utensils. What?! Utensils are such a precious commodity that we don’t get a separate salad fork? At that point the place seemed more like a diner, but the food arrived and it was very tasty. My only complaint about my meal was that it was swimming with a sauce that, in the soft lighting, looked oddly like cheese-wiz, but tasted nothing like it. We were able to linger over dinner and I opted to have the crème breule for dessert. Then we were done and it was off to the movies.

We arrived at the theater and we surveyed our options. We decided that we would see “Walk the Line.” It had good reviews and it was not a kid’s movie. Unfortunately we were at least an hour too early. So we bought our tickets and piled back into the car. There was a Target further down the strip mall and we could do a little Christmahanuka shopping for the kids. It was nice to be able to confer with each other as we shopped without the children. In the end we got a bunch of Yu-Gi-Oh cards, a dinosaur, some ponies and a couple of shirts. We schlepped our bags out to the car and drove back to the theater and scored an excellent parking space. It was positively thrilling!

Then back to the muti-plex, we found our theater and settled in. The movie is terrific. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon did a bang up job. Joaquin had a wonderful smoky intensity that built up as the movie progressed. By the end of the movie he was a very believable Man in Black. Reese as June Carter was a lovely counterpoint to Joaquin’s Cash. Together they had a very noticeable on screen chemistry. They both did a nice job with their vocals which was a relief for me. I find lip syncing to be a very jarring experience and I prefer to hear the actors own voice singing than someone else dubbed in (and yes this does mean I prefer subtitles to dubbing in foreign language films). The movie itself is about Johnny Cash’s life up to his engagement with June Carter. A large part of it was about their relationship and it made for a great date movie.

So thank you once again Meryl for making it possible for us to have our birthday night out.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Spam poetry

While perusing my spam-mail I decided that the best way to present them was in the form of poetry.

Each line is a complete subject line and they are in the same order that they appeared in my inbox/bulk mail folder. The only punctuation I added was the period at the end. The authors that I attribute this to are my two favorite spam names.

Dynamic cleavage holography
burch see scm see springe oneagan some citric

Princess in bouquet but manumitted the
calculate it's linemen be conferee but
grimaldi and prayer some colby not
rhodolite and laredo it snark be
idol and dessicate !

Now wang you bratwurst
errant may astigmat a manatee on
Judicial Judgements-Support of Children-Investigator
donga rhombus
As listen my enclosure
Dear Friend.

By Jesus Bacon and Festus Yakubu

So what kind of spam poetry can you do?

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Proof is in the Pudding

Or in this case the filling.

Last week I was over at Gone South and I noticed a recipe that Janis posted for chocolate meringue pie.

I’m always up for new adventures in dessert and I liked how this one read. I asked for a bit of clarification on how to make the crust and I was ready to go. Life, however, has a way of happening that disrupts plans. So it wasn’t until last night that I got to make the pie and here it is:

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

This morning Larry and I got to taste some of the extra filling that I put in a small bowl. The chocolate had a lovely orange infused flavor. I can’t wait for tonight when we get to eat the actual pie.

Larry noticed the recipe on the counter and asked if I did the “yada, yada” part. I said “Yes, at that point I wandered around the kitchen.” I think that is my favorite part of the recipe, that and licking the bowl. I’ll post a taste evaluation report after dinner.

Of the four people who actually ate the pie, three loved it. Larry, Max and I thought it was delicious. Jake liked the meringue part, but not the chocolate filling.

I will definitely make this again. I might fool around with the flavorings next time. Maybe coffee instead of orange or possibly raspberry... the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thursday Three:Non-Sequitur Edition!

Hey kids its that fun filled time of the week were I answer random questions from the always entertaining Possumblog. This week’s edition is as follows:

But it’s still just a wee bit too early for the Christmannukazaastivu3Kingsdastice (and Boxing Day!) Version of the Thursday Three. SO, instead of that, we’ll offer up something ENTIRELY unrelated to anything remotely dealing with the high holydays, or shopping, in order to bring you the Non-Sequitur Edition of the Axis of Weevil Thursday Three!

1. What do you think is going to be the next big fad in blogging?
2. Have you ever stolen anything?
3. What is your favorite fish recipe?

Now then, as is always the case, anyone may play along with the quiz, even if you lived or traveled in the Congo between the years 1978 and 1990, or if you are prone to vertigo or peripheral hallucinations. Just leave your answers in the comments below, or a link back to your blog so we can all come look at your answers in person.
  1. The next big thing will be... Ah heck I don’t know. Terry is probably right that there will be more Borg-like collective blogs. Meanwhile I’ll just keep chugging along, under the radar, doing my thing.

  2. Not knowingly. Sounds a bit lame doesn’t it. In my hometown at the local general store, Dan & Whits, you can still sign for your purchases if your family has an account. I got a Popsicle one day and left the store without signing the receipt. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized the error of my ways. I confessed at a later trip and they just waved it off. I don’t steal, I just space out and forget to pay.

  3. Fish chowder, the way my Aunt Caroline made it. This recipe is close and has the added bonus of being from Dan & Whit’s cross river rival the Co-op. I don’t remember the parsley and chives, but the cracklings are key. I have to ask my Mom about this one.

Oh and Terry you forgot Festivus! A holiday for the rest of us!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Hey! Its My Birthday!

Unfortunately the day have a very rough start with a dash to the ER in the wee hours. Max awoke at 10:30 with stomach pains. A few torturous hours later I called Dr. Elliot and he told me to bring him in. Just as I was putting Max’s socks on he urked, after which he felt much better. I still took him in as we were expected and I wanted to be sure he was alright. After only 2 1/5 hours (a record in my books), an x-ray and a blood draw we were sent home. We decided that maybe having pot roast for dinner was a bit too rich for his now tender digestive system. But enough about that.

Today it’s all about me.

40 years ago today my Mom and Dad became parents.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

They were way ahead of their time. My Mom was 36 and my Dad was 47. Nobody was having kids for the first time at their ages. Today it is downright commonplace.

This is a picture of me as a wee babe.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I was a tiny little baby, all arms and legs. When a family friend came to the hospital to see for the first time he exclaimed over what a nice big baby I was. My father realized that he was admiring the nice Polish boy next to me and told the friend that I was the spider monkey in the next basinet.

Because I was born on “...a date which will live in infamy” (Go to Terry to get a neat rundown on Pearl Harbor Day) I was almost named Pearl. Fortunately my parents decided to express their sense of humor in a more subtle way with my name. My middle initial is B. which when coupled with the surname Straight has led to a fair amount of disbelief about my name. Though I must say nobody ever refused my checks.

I have also been very aware of Pearl Harbor all through my life. I was annoyed when Dan Quail got it wrong, but I viewed him as fool and moved on. But when Bush the elder got it wrong when he was supporting his vice president, I never forgave him. He fought in WW II, he knew better.

So it is an interesting day to celebrate my birth. In a way it is fitting. If it had not been for WWII my parents never would have met and I would not be here today.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Hospitals Are Not Fun

Late Friday afternoon, about an hour after snack time, Max started complaining about a tummy ache. At dinner time (pasta, an all-time favorite) he was miserable. He came to the table, but he did not eat. In the end he wrapped himself in his blankie and sacked out on the couch. He was such a forlorn sight, laying there, fitfully dozing and complaining.

After dinner Larry said that we should take him to the ER. I agreed; it is not in Max’s nature to complain in this way. Mind you, he can throw a very impressive and protracted tantrum, but this was not the case. We decided that Larry would try to nebulize him and I would get ready to drive him the hospital. I grabbed a few books for Max, his jammies, blankie and a toy. Then I bustled upstairs to finish making the beds (they had all been stripped for laundry day). It was about a quarter to nine when I finally hit the road.

Because Max has CF I drove up to the big hospital in Richmond where the CF clinic is located. The clinic staff had drilled into our heads from day one, that if Max needs to go to an ER it must be this one. The other hospitals in the area are not bad; they are just not as capable in dealing with the special needs of a CF patient. Fortunately it is only an extra 15 minute drive to get there. Max was mostly quiet during the ride, except for the two big looping exits I took. Then he would howl the “It hurts, it hurts!” All I could think of was that he had appendicitis or a blockage in the form of bowel intussusception (the intestine telescopes into itself). Of the two, appendicitis was the less scary option.

When we got to the hospital, at about 9:20 pm, I parked the car in the visitors/patient parking deck and carried Max to the ER. It was a long slog, but better than risking the 30 minute slots by the entrance. From previous experience in other hospitals I knew it would be at least several hours until I could get out and move the car.

And boy was I right.

I didn’t get to leave the joint until Saturday afternoon when Larry came up to swap with me.

It turns out Max was severely constipated with ileus, a non-mechanically blocked bowel. We got the initial diagnoses around midnight after the ER attending consulted with the head of the CF clinic. At that point Max had been poked and prodded by a whole host of people, had an x-ray and a CT scan. According to Dr. Elliot it was a classic presentation and the best course of therapy would be a series of enemas.

Woo Hoo! A non-surgical solution!

Of course we still had to run the gauntlet with the surgical consults. The resident was a nervous sort and seemed reluctant to let us go. When he came back a second time I pointedly asked him if he had spoken with Dr. Elliot. I did not want my son to go under the knife if he did not have to. After a pause he said no, but that the ER attending had. He then fidgeted about a bit more and then left us. Much later the surgical attending cruised in, palpated Max’s abdomen and announced that enemas were the way to go.

Whew, the big dogs were in agreement. I could step back a bit and let things roll.

All throughout this Max was very quiet and compliant with all the poking and prodding. A very worrisome state for me, normally Max is very vocal about his dislike of the medical profession and can be difficult with repeated examinations. He did protest with the initial blood draw and with the insertion of the IV, but after that he was very passive.

Then we waited...

and waited.

It wasn’t until 9:30 am that we got bumped up to the pediatric ward. I spent the whole night stretched out next to Max on this gurney. It was too small for the two of us, so I never was completely on board. But that was better than being on the floor. In hindsight I should have gotten a chair, but I was too stressed to think of it and Max needed me to be nearby.

Finally at 10:00 am we went downstairs for a contrast enema under a floroscope.
It was a fascinating procedure. I got to watch as the screen as the contrast material worked its way through. Max was wiped out and as a result was far more cooperative than I would have expected under normal circumstances. At one point the doctor almost gave up, but then we saw some visible progress with the blockage. I was very impressed with their kindness and sensitivity to Max.

The rest of the day was spent trotting back and forth to the bathroom, dragging the stupid IV pole along with us. Periodically we had to strip down the bed. Max and I were both zombies. At around 4:00pm Larry stopped by with the rest of the crew. He would be taking over and I would get to spend the night home. Unfortunately he would be stuck with the second half of the big “poop-out” namely, getting Max to drink GoLytely (a rather misnamed laxative). Oh and by the way it was Larry’s birthday.

It was about 5 when we got home. I puttered around a bit and made a slap dash dinner for myself, Jake, Nate and Rebecca. The table seemed so empty without Larry and Max.
At around 7:00 I called Larry at the hospital. He sounded all drawn out. Max had refused to drink the laxative and they attempted a nasogastric tube. It had been a disaster. Tears all around and Max’s nose started to bleed. I had called just when they had decided to regroup. I offered to go back. Max is a bit more bounded with me and we felt we had a better chance we me getting him to drink than Larry. So one quick shower later and a change of clothes in hand I headed back to the hospital.

When I arrived Max had already drunk a cup of the stuff. The threat of a repeat with the tube was enough to keep him going. I wished Larry a happy birthday and slipped next to Max in his bed. I spent the next 3 ½ hours pushing Max to drink. It was very draining. His nurse, aka the “Voice of Doom,” was not very supportive at first and never did give me a straight answer on how much he needed to drink. Max passed out around 11:00pm after drinking almost a liter. The VOD became a little more encouraging as he kept knocking back the stuff, but she never seemed to be happy that we were avoiding the tube. It was then that I started bugging the nursing staff about eliminating the IV. He could obviously drink fluids and it was a great bloody pain dragging the IV pole around.

That night poor Max was a mess. In the end we had to diaper him. My brave little boy who is so proud of going potty all by himself agreed to it with a simple nod of his head. Later on as he slept I cradled him in my arms and cried. I just wanted my little boy back.

Sunday morning a technician with a portable x-ray slipped into the room and got a shot while Max slept. The rest of the day was spent schlepping back and forth to the bathroom with the now evil pole (it kept catching on the bathroom sill and threaten to topple over). As the day progressed Max began to perk up. At mid day he was allowed jello and apple juice. At four my campaign to ditch the pole paid off. The attending didn’t want to lose it, but I told her that I only wanted to ditch the pole. The port could stay until it was time for us to leave. I then called Meryl and asked her to please stop by and bring me dinner. The really hard part of being in the hospital with your child is that you are tied to the room. If you are not there when the doctors stop by, well you are out of luck. And in my case, Max didn’t want me to leave the floor. If I wanted dinner someone would have to bring it to me. We figured a salad would the best thing for me to eat since Max would be wholly uninterested in it. So what happens? Just before Meryl arrives they do a blood draw, Max sets up a big fuss, exhausts himself and then takes a map. I could have had anything I wanted to eat. Oh well, at least I had a good visit with Meryl. It was nice to see a friendly and familiar face.

Dr. Elliot stopped by while Meryl was there. As we spoke he actually apologized for how long it took for treatment to start, a first in my experience. He seemed a little less gruff with me and when I mentioned that I wanted Max to go home the next day, Monday, he agreed that it was a good idea. As long as Max kept pooping and could eat soup with crackers it would be a go. He then mentioned how the attending was amazed at how much of the laxative Max drank. Apparently I was right to wonder about the VOD and her reluctance to give me any numbers.

Sunday night was almost restful. The VOD came back on shift and seemed a little less negative. I, however, did not tell her of our plan to spring Max the next day. Something told me she would probably be against it. My goal was to simply demonstrate that Max could drink lots of fluids and go to the bathroom. That is all a hospital wants you to be able to do before you go home.

Monday morning dawned with a gray sky and snowflakes. I told the nurses that I wanted to bring home Max before the weather got too bad. It struck them as a fair request and they got the ball rolling. Yes! We were going home!

We didn’t get out until around 11:00 am, but we were free!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Deck the Halls and Ring Those Bells

Today I got to see Jake and the rest of the fourth grade perform at the Landmark Theater in Richmond. Originally commissioned and built for the Shriners in 1926, it was bought by the city in 1940. Recently restored to its former glory it has become a popular venue for all sorts of events.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

This site has even more exterior shots of this decidedly unique building in Richmond.

I love all of the gaudy mosaics on the inside of the building. This is what first greets you when you step in the doors

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.
The lobby continues with the same theme

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

My only complaint about the lobby is the very low ceiling. When you step into such a large and grand building, it is a bit of a let down to be fed into such a cramped tunnel like area.

The theater itself is much more to scale with the exterior. It has a wonderful vaulted ceiling with a four panel mural featuring camels and pyramids above the stage. Unfortunately the light was too dim for me to take any decent pictures of the inside. But I did get this shot of Jake waving to me from his seat.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Here is Jake again in a closer shot. He is in the box seats waiting for his turn to perform.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The Ballet Petit was doing it annual production of “The Night Before Christmas.” Between acts of the morning matinee the fourth grade would be performing various Christmas carols on hand chimes, Jake’s group played “Deck the Halls.”

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

They did a very good job with everybody keeping pace. The acoustics are outstanding in the Landmark and I could easily hear them. I had to creep up to the orchestra pit to get this picture. I wish it had been a little sharper, but it’s not bad considering that my camera is a fairly ancient digital that is held together with string.

Max and Rebecca enjoyed seeing Jake, but were bored half the time. Ballet and four year olds only work in short doses. They did perk up when the dancers were costumed as reindeer and forest creatures, but otherwise they wanted to go home.

Here is Jake afterwards with some of his classmates.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Once the whole shebang was over the fourth grade was invited backstage to see the sets and meet the troupe. Jake had a great time and was eager to perform again.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Ye Gods

They are looking for all sorts of things over here. Yesterday I got the disturbing hit on a search for “mens bathouse in louisville KY” and today I got “victorian table manners.”

What will they look for next?

Thursday Three: Working for a Living

This week Terry with a whole lotta help from Larry pose the following work related extravaganza.


Unless, of course, you're talking about the Axis of Weevil Thursday Three, which today takes up everyone's favorite topic, gainful employment!

Now, since your humble host has been so very busily engaged in just such an undertaking (i.e., remunerative activities), he has had precious little time to cogitate properly upon a fitting and proper set of questions. HOWEVER, we do have the ability to rely upon famed government contractor Larry Anderson from Kudzu Acres, who has graciously blessed us with the following:

If all jobs paid the same and education and training were not an issue,
1) What job would you most want to have?
2) What job would you wish on your least favorite politician?
3) Where would each of the jobs above be located?
1) Hmm, the job I most want to have. I am fascinated by all the CSI shows on TV, my favorite being CSI:Miami (or as I like to say the show with the beautiful dead people and bikinis), but I really could not do it. The first time I encounter an abuse case or anything concerning children and/or animals I would lose it. So I would need a job that is far less depressing and still intellectually stimulating. I like building and designing things and I’m rather fond of animals. One job could be a zoo planner and vet. I would get to research all sorts of animals and their habitats. There would be some travel and I would get to see the animals in the wild and interact with them. That would be a very cool job.

2) I think they should all become truck stop wait staff on the overnight shift. They would have to deal with all kinds of weirdness and yet still be pleasant to their customers if they want a decent tip. They must also live on their wages and tips and find a way to afford things like health care. That would take the wind out of their sails and give them a good dose of reality.

3) I would like my job in New England so we could be closer to family. It is an all day drive to my in-laws and another four hours up to my Mom’s house. It would be nice to be within a few hours drive of them. For the politicians, any wretched suburb you can think of. Right now I’m leaning towards Detroit or anything in the 25 most dangerous cities ranking.