Monday, December 24, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Too Much HGTV, Perhaps
I spent an inordinate amount of time watching HGTV ("Home and Garden Television" for my family members who also have never had cable.) It was one of the few channels that could be counted on not to be inappropriate for children, and I was quickly hooked. Room makeovers, interior design competitions, people looking for new houses, homeowners finding out what their homes are worth...what's not to like?
Well, OK, there were a few shows that I quickly learned to avoid. Shows that do things on the ultra cheap and feature lots of crafty "re-purposed" items. As I've said before, I like things to be what they are. And, on the other end of the spectrum, I took a pass on the shows that focus on $35,000 bathroom renovations. I recently saw a bathroom featuring glass "vessel"-style sinks. I don't want to have to Windex my sink every time I use it to keep it looking nice. Also, only one sink in a "master bath" is just fine with me. I don't really need company when I brush my teeth.
Once we moved into our house in Boise, I stopped watching TV during the day. For a long time. But upon putting our house on the market, I allowed myself to be sucked right back in.
One show I enjoy wasting my time with is House Hunters. A house-hunting couple takes a look at three different places and then decides from among them. The US version can make me a little crazy, depending on the subjects of the particular episode. "I don't really like the color in here...this closet's only big enough for MY clothes...this isn't a very big master..." and my most despised comment: "The kitchen's OK, but I really wanted GRANITE counter tops." Don't people know that these counter tops will look as dated as avocado appliances and goldenrod medallion vinyl flooring in about 10 years? As Mark Helprin says in his novel Freddy and Fredericka, "I wonder where in the world there is a hole big enough to swallow all the granite counter tops that in a few years will be marching out of kitchens like an army of the dead.”
Now that HGTV has House Hunters International, the domestic version has lost much of its luster. This program is FASCINATING. I watched a German and Dutch couple search for a home on the Italian coast, where the ages of the available properties varied not by decades, but by centuries. "Is this the original floor?" Why, yes, it is the original floor. From the sixteenth century. I've seen a Brit and Australian looking for a house in Jamaica. And a Japanese couple buying an apartment-sized home in Paris. It's fun to see what does or doesn't come with a house in different places. It's so different everywhere, and so are people's expectations. But the challenge of choosing a house is the same for everyone to whom money IS an object: deciding which items on a long wish list are the things one wants most.
The show that's caused me trouble, though, is not House Hunters. It's Designed to Sell. On this program, some hapless person trying to sell his house is rescued by a designer with a team of carpenters, who spends $2000 and fixes all of the nasty things that would put off potential buyers. The show culminates in an open house at which a steady stream of nicely groomed people wander through the house and "ooh" and "ah" over all of the improvements.
When our realtor started holding open houses to sell OUR house, my only frame of reference was Designed to Sell. I did not have a team of carpenters. I did not have a budget of $2000. That, however, did not prevent my perfectionist tendencies from kicking in. I banished all clutter and piles of stuff. Everything was put in its place. So much so that I think it borderline creeped some people out. After a few open houses yielded no offers, we asked our realtor if he thought there was anything we needed to do to make the house look better. "No, they love it," he replied. "They love the colors, they love the furniture. Actually, someone asked me if anyone lives here or if the house was staged."
Well, that's just silly. No one would stage a house with a fake cat, complete with litter box. But it did make me think I was going a little overboard with the HGTV.
That and the fact that Nels identified the host of House Hunters by name.
"Mommy, is that Suzanne Whang?"
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Now, I'm no frontier woman when it comes to bearing up bravely when in pain, but, as someone who recovered completely from mono and viral meningitis (at separate times) within three weeks, not to mention taking only a week to get over being treated for malaria when I really had food poisoning in Africa, it galled me to be laid low by something as pedestrian as pink-eye.
On the morning a week after my eyes began their cruel attack on my face, I walked into Willem's room and was greeted by the cheeriest "Hi, Mommy!" I've ever heard him muster. He prattled on happily ("Daddy doing? Puppy go? Morning!") while I stared aghast at his face. It appeared that a hive of bees had stung him about the eyes. He looked like a different kid. He was in a great mood, for which I was very thankful, but his sanguine mood was so incongruous with his appearance that the overall effect was extremely creepy.
Of course I called the doctor immediately. The nurse called me back. "He has pink-eye," I said. "He got it from me. I'm getting over it."
"OK. I'll call in a prescription for some drops. What pharmacy do you like?"
After we got it all squared away she added, "Now give us a call if it gets inflamed or red around his eyes. That would mean an infection of the tissue around the eye, and that can get pretty nasty. We'd need to see him so he could get oral antibiotics as well."
Now, I may be a bit wimpy when it comes to pain tolerance, but I'm no slouch at vocabulary. So when I said, "Hmm...inflamed. Like, all puffy and pink around his eyes?" it wasn't because I didn't understand her meaning, but because it meant I'd been incapacitated for a week by something worse than pink-eye and that my discomfort could have been quickly alleviated if I'd only seen fit to visit a doctor.
I took Willem in. Less than 48 hours later he looked like a new kid. Or rather, like the old kid. Nels and Shaun escaped with only one red eye apiece and very little puffiness. The whole family has been dosed and the dread words "eye drops" have been added to each boys' vocabulary.
I have found that the sicker I get, the more impaired becomes my judgement. This results in things like having one's appendix out at two in the morning the day before Thanksgiving. So let 2008 be the year: if I can't function, I'm calling the doctor.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I Feel Pretty
Thank you, WebMD.
With so many friends, relations, and acquaintances dealing with REAL health problems (like cancer), it is perhaps churlish of me to devote a post to an unserious malady that will go away on its own in a relatively brief amount of time. I will do it anyway. My two eyeballs are stuck very prominently into my face, and I have been unable to think of anything else since I woke up Monday morning and discovered that I couldn’t open my right eye.
Two days later the left eye followed suit, sending me to impressive depths of self-pity. That afternoon my right eye was just about as bad as it was going to get before improving, and I had to pick up Nels from school. (Shaun had been kind enough to take over drop-off duty.) Having rejected Shaun’s helpful suggestion that I borrow a pirate eye patch from the boys, I decided to let my hair fall in front of the ugliest eye and keep my head down in an effort to avoid any eye contact.
Alas, I was unable to resist making a gentle dab under my eye with a finger, and at once the jig was up. One very nice mother took a peek at my swollen face and red eyes and exclaimed, “Did something happen? Are you OK??????!!!!!” The alarm and concern were so kind and so out of proportion to what was actually wrong with me that I was tempted to invent a dead pet or relative right on the spot. Instead I sheepishly said that I was fine apart from an embarrassing case of pink-eye.
As I was leaving, another mom inquired how I was doing. I explained about the pink-eye. She was fascinated and offered her help. “I never had pink-eye!”
Well, neither had I. At least, not until a year ago, when I caught an extremely mild case of it from the boys. My contraction of pink-eye contained a double indignity. First, pink-eye, like a lice infestation, is for kids. There’s something unseemly about a 35 year-old woman with pink-eye. Second, pink-eye is not just for kids, it is for OTHER kids. I don’t remember a single case of pink-eye in our house growing up, though my mom may remember differently.
Other kids got pink-eye, of course. I figured it was a case of some sort of deal their parents had made with the devil. These kids had their own bedrooms, slept in hotels rather than tents on family vacations, had televisions, wore store-bought clothes to grade school, and enjoyed lunches that contained items such as chips, cookies, and juice boxes or pouches. In exchange, the children suffered from asthma, allergies, ear infections, and the aforementioned pink-eye. All of the above benefits and liabilities were virtually unknown in our household.
So this killer case of pink-eye renders me suspicious. Now that I’m grown and have children of my own, I realize that my kids have their own rooms, wear clothes from Old Navy, and watch way more TV and eat far more processed food than they should. They’ve been known to have an ear infection or two. I have had a few bouts of symptoms that resemble allergies. It could be that all that’s standing between my kids and asthma is their infrequent (thanks to me) consumption of fruit juice.
No, I don’t really think that. I did get a doozy of a cold courtesy of the virus or bacteria that brought on the pink-eye, so most of this is the DayQuil talking. But it still couldn’t hurt to get a family camping trip in this year.
P.S. I really wanted to include a photo with this post, but I figured I’ve subjected you to enough.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Halloween And A Big Birthday
Nels wore his costume to school, as did the rest of the kids.
He ended up wearing it all day...to varying degrees.
Willem wore the rooster suit that Nels wore on his very first trick-or-treat outing. Let me tell you, if you want to spread a little love around, all it takes is to run some errands around town with a toddler dressed as a rooster. I'm pretty sure it was the best day of Willem's life, thanks to all the smiles and attention directed his way.
The day after Halloween was my 35th birthday. I can finally give my poor mother her due. All those years of having to costume children and then put on a birthday party the next day...I was worn out and I only had to come up with one costume (the rooster was a no-brainer) and think about getting older in lieu of throwing an actual party.
Despite the lack of a party (or perhaps because of it), I had a notably good day on my birthday. Nels didn't have school, so I didn't have to be anywhere. I didn't feel unsettled or melancholic or lazy (which are feelings I commonly have). I felt lucky to spend the day at home. I felt thankful for my husband and my children and who they are and that I get to spend my life with them. I felt glad for my life, even joyful. Yes, full of joy. I have no reason not to feel this way every day, but emotions are fickle. The alignment of emotion with reality was a birthday gift I wouldn't have thought to ask for but was happy to receive.
Lest you roll your eyes, let me hasten to add that my birthday was celebrated in a less spiritual fashion as well. The following weekend we enjoyed a birthday repast the likes of which will never be seen again.
Shaun made wings! From scratch! They marinated all day in balsamic vinegar and garlic and fresh rosemary and goodness knows what else. The smell of them cooking was beyond belief. The Hamiltons provided the meal proper, which was my birthday request. Beet and goat cheese salad, butternut squash ravioli with browned butter and crispy sage, and a sticky toffee pudding-esque cake. It was all delicious. In our giddiness we washed it down with a few more cocktails than were warranted. Gluttonous? Borderline. Memorable? Indeed.
And I've got a leg up on next year's Halloween costumes. I can send Nels out as Salvador Dali.
House Fer Sale
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
What We've Been Doing Since The Leaves Fell Off The Trees
Perhaps you've heard of Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novelist Richard Ford? I hadn't until he came to speak in Boise. Nor had I read any of his books, which include his big winner Independence Day. But I read an interview with him in our local paper, and he beguiled me with his attitude toward writing. His closing comments in the interview guaranteed that I would be purchasing a ticket to hear him say more things that I desperately wanted to be true:
"Read. Be a reader, and if reading moves you, then there's no reason for you to think that you shouldn't try to write something that could move someone."
The man in person did not disappoint. Instead, he was so witty and sincere and fascinating, that it became paralyzing to even attempt to write about his talk. Most striking was his emphasis on redemption, and his feeling that one should have sympathy for one's characters; that writing itself is a sympathetic act. It is brave to write in this unfashionably affirming way.
So, overwhelmed by Richard Ford, I did not blog.
The next day we found out that Shaun's job will be outsourced (probably to Bangalore) in the spring or summer. That was big news. I went into "let me hunker down and absorb this" mode. Suddenly the future is wide open, but it's too early to for me to do much, if anything, about it.
Next we decided that it would be wise to put our house on the market. The house I love. The house we've lived in for less than a year. This was a prudent thing to do. Didn't keep me from shedding a few tears over it.
Somehow it slipped my mind that putting our house on the market meant we needed to show it to people. And have photos taken of it. We hadn't even moved in all the way yet. The timing was not good. Shaun's folks were coming. It was Willem's birthday. Willem was having hernia repair surgery. I became stressed and crabby. Un-fun times around here for me and my longsuffering loved ones.
But good did come. Willem turned two! He has a surfeit of charm. And questions. My ears, they are tired.
Better yet, his hernia repair surgery went well today, and he is on the mend. The hospital is only about five minutes away, and very nice. They have a really amazing area for the kids to play in before they go in for surgery. Good thing, because things were running late and we waited there for two hours. Before they take one's child away to put him under, they give him a little something to take away all of life's cares. It's a bit unsettling to watch the "silly sauce" kick in, but it's extremely entertaining.
Willem was a champ, the staff were all great, and we are thankful for all the prayers and concern of our friends and family.
The rest of the week holds house cleaning, house cleaning, and more house cleaning. We will have an open house this coming Saturday. After that things should be as in shape as they ever will be, and perHAPS I will be able to get back to keeping this blog up to date. On the bright side, at least you'll be able to check out our listing and finally see pictures of what our house looks like.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Monday, October 8, 2007
On Tuesday we went to Music and Movement at the library. Finally both boys are old enough to love it. Fun!
Afterward we walked up the street and ate lunch at Chef Lou's, where I had what was one of my top five favorite dishes since I moved to Boise. It was the special of the day; a fried green tomato sandwich with bacon, served open-faced on French bread with chili mayo. Fun!
As we ate, a woman sitting near us got up to leave and spoke to me on her way out. "I just had to say that it's so nice that your boys are so well-behaved. It's such a pleasure to see you enjoying a meal together." Fun!
She then reached into her pocket and handed me her business card, averting her eyes from the mountain of french fries on our table. A brief glance at the card revealed a photograph of brightly colored fruits and vegetables and the words NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS. "We're having a free seminar on nutrition this week, " she continued. "Maybe you'd like to come." "Well, thank you," I said. "We do know what we SHOULD eat, we just don't always do it." Hmm...less fun.
On Wednesday, I temporarily took leave of my senses and took both the boys grocery shopping. In the evening. As we walked down the rice and bean aisle, Willem suddenly shouted "High five!" and lunged for a box of Hamburger Helper with his palm raised. Fun!
On Thursday we watched The Office and enjoyed a shepherd's pie featuring Kobe beef and decadent rosemary mashed potatoes prepared in our very own home by our oh so epicurean Hamilton friends. Fun!
On Friday I took the boys to the Boise Art Museum. They were completely enthralled. Willem kept yelling, "Look, Mommy! Look! Look! Look!" Nels kept asking, "What is that, Mommy? What is it? What is it?" We ventured into a photography exhibit of HUGE, beautiful, detailed prints, and what should we see but a nearly life-size photo of a quartered elk. "What's THAT, Mommy? Read me what it says next to it!" demanded Nels. "Uh oh, " said Willem. After about an hour of being pushed around in the stroller, the boys were let out in the children's room to draw on the chalkboard and build with the blocks. I was really proud of how nicely they comported themselves and how interested they were in the art. And not just the elk guts. Fun!
At some point during all of this, both of the boys got colds. And the night wakings began. Which was less fun. Far less fun. On Sunday, Shaun had to take Nels to a walk-in clinic to be treated for an ear infection that had rendered Nels a quivering, feverish mess. Even less fun.
Once again the Hamiltons came to the rescue, this time making pizzas with home-grown Japanese eggplant and home-made pesto from home-grown basil. Fun!
The wee hours of last night were as unpleasant as any I've had in a long time. Between the two boys, we were up six times in the night. It was like taking a time-machine back to when we had a new baby. By today, after three nights of interrupted sleep, I was crabby, weepy, and in a mental fog. Ah, the good old days. Don't hold your breath for a new sibling, boys.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
The boys are playing in the yard. I am supposed to be tidying the house, as we are expecting friends for dinner. Shaun has been deeply affected by our weekend Food Network television viewing and is now preparing a double-crust apple pie. Inspired by Fine Living's "Thirsty Traveler" episode on bourbon, we have this evening sampled a bit of Maker's Mark Kentucky bourbon and some Bushmill's Irish whiskey by way of comparison. To those who say television is a bad influence, I say, "faugh."
The boys make short work of the left over apples.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
More Stuff We've Been Doing, or Two Days Bigger Than Any Days Have Business Being
On Thursday, September 20th, Nels turned four.
I'm pretty sure that most children do not celebrate their birthdays the way Nels celebrated his. To start, Shaun woke him up nice and early before work and they dined on doughnuts together at the little table in Nels's room.
Nels is not a morning person. Despite this, he enjoyed the special time.
At 10:30 we were off to the hospital for Willem to have a scheduled echo cardiogram as part of his yearly heart exam. He was born with a moderate sized VSD (ventricular septal defect or hole in his heart) which is now small but requires checking up on. I was interested to see what the hospital was like, as we spent a lot of time in the one in Bend and liked it very much.
Those of you familiar with toddlers might well imagine my concern at how Willem would handle a test that required putting stickers all over his chest and then clipping wires to them. Could anything be more delightful and tempting to handle? He kept his hands off just long enough to get one perfect reading. Hoorah! Both boys received stickers and we were off to the Children's Specialty Center across the courtyard for Willem's echo cardiogram.
Alas, the pediatric cardiologist whom we'd been referred to from Bend was booked up until December, and the doctor we ended up with left a little to be desired. She seemed to think that I would prefer her to wear her "Concerned Fellow Mother" hat rather than her "Competent Professional" hat. She was mistaken. She was good with Willem, though, and it was a relief to stop preparing for the worst (which I'd been doing since Willem had gone in for a surgical consultation about a hernia repair and the surgeon pointed out that Willem's heart murmur can be heard simply by putting one's ear to his chest.)
The man who did the echo was some sort of pediatric genius. Willem sat perfectly still on my lap and watched the screen, entranced. "Water. Water," he kept saying. Then I talked to the doctor. She showed me an actual picture of the defect, which didn't bother me at the time but got to me later. Basically, though the defect is small, it is up to some monkey-business. We'll check back in six months and see if it's better or worse. The defect could close on its own, but if it doesn't, and continues to cause damage to the valve and impair the heart function, they may have to close it surgically. So I'm getting some good practice in being patient, which God and those who know me even very little know I need.
One might think that this was a bummer of a way to spend a birthday, but it wasn't for Nels. He looks forward to doctor visits because there are new toys to play with. He also got a sticker and a sucker. What's not to like? As long as there are no shots involved. We got Happy Meals at McDonald's for lunch and all was well with the world.
My mom came that evening, and the boys enjoyed waiting outside for her. Here's Nels at his post, anxious for the arrival of Me-ma.
Here's Willem just being his cute little Willem self.
I felt like I'd been through the wringer after that doctor visit, and I had a very difficult time getting the house ready for visitors and planning the birthday party we had scheduled on Saturday, our next big day. Fortunately my mom stepped into the void caused by my spaciness and spent her whole visit cooking and cleaning and entertaining the kids. I don't know what I would have done without her. Truly, truly.
Saturday morning Nels had the time of his life baking his birthday cake with Me-ma. He decorated it all by himself. He showed admirable restraint in placing the candy carefully on the cake and limiting himself to four construction vehicles.
The caution tape did not drive any guests away.
I was a little worried about how our party would go. We still hardly know anyone here, so I basically invited them all. Our motley gathering included our neighbors across the street, the Hamiltons (who took pity on my state and brought stuffed mushrooms), my friend Kimberly from MOPS and her two kids, and my mom. Even with so few people present, there were six children! I was so relieved when the house emptied out and the dust settled and it had all gone well.
I thought it to be providential timing that They Might Be Giants were playing in Boise (of all places) on the one night that we had an ideal babysitter. The Hamiltons got a babysitter too, and in my mind I was rubbing my hands with glee over the thought of going to a restaurant and then a concert with friends and sans children.
The restaurant did not disappoint. What shall I say about TMBG? I stewed about it throughout the entire show. As Shaun put it when it was over, "They didn't convince me that they wanted to be in Boise." No. They didn't exactly make fun of Boise. They just had such a world-weary attitude. One of the things I've always loved about TMBG is that they seem super smart and nerdy, in an endearing way. But this version of TMBG seemed more like jaded rock stars. They threw around the "f" word with profligacy, a habit I usually associate with people who have limited vocabularies. They complained about the venue, a movie theater that continues to be used as a movie theater. They were polished. They seemed bored. We all wanted more for our $25.
All that said, a night on the town is a rarity that I, for one, will never sneer at, and I still had a grand time.
Let's wrap this post up with a belated happy birthday to Nels. Son, you've given us four solid years of free entertainment, and one just can't put a price on that. I can hardly wait to see if you get a little weirder every year or if you've hit your peak. My head believes that God loves you even more than we do, but my heart has a hard time fathoming that. Happy Birthday!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The Stuff We've Been Doing
Willem has been working on getting some new teeth in. This causes a bit of loopy face-making.
The boys got a bath. Sadly, this is more noteworthy than I'd like to admit.
On the other hand, happily noteworthy is the fact that Shaun got Nels a trailer bike. Here they are giving it an inaugural spin. (And no, we haven't bought a helmet yet, so there's been no riding since. Despite the fact that we live in Idaho, we don't condone riding without a helmet.) If you look at the picture full-size you'll see that Nels is wearing his pajamas because he just got out of the aforementioned noteworthy bath.
Here is Willem's face upon seeing his dad and brother ride by.
And, finally, here is our family after having enjoyed a repast of smothered fries and New Orleans popcorn shrimp at the Hyde Park Street Fair. The fact that the fair features four hours of drum circle over its weekend-long run tells you all you need to know about it. I include this photo because it features the look that Nels refers to as "Naughty Eyes."
We've got exciting things coming up this week, including Nels's 4th birthday, a heart check-up for Willem's ticker, a visit from Me-ma (that's my mom as she is known to her grandsons), and a They Might Be Giants concert. So stay tuned for more Stuff We've Been Doing.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Sorry to Disappoint You
"If you were Cinderella you could do it."
Friday, September 7, 2007
Let's Go for a Walk
Our conveyance of choice
We walk three blocks down our street.
Now we take a left, and in the remaining eight blocks, here's what we'll pass:
The dry cleaner. The kids have only been here twice, but they have already learned that the place has a big candy/snack stash that is brought out if mom gives her permission.
This sign that I like.
The Jim's Coffee House Chicken.
This strange apartment building. Really, in person, it's odd.
The Episcopal "Bishop Tuttle House"
This building with a nice brick facade.
The State of Idaho's Capitol building, under renovation. Needless to say, the boys prefer it this way.
These nice Art Deco door handles. Oh, look! We're there. That's the Post Office building reflected in the glass.
Regardless of what the sign says, this is how we have to get in.
It's fancy in here!
Well, I hope you enjoyed our walk. We sure did, although Nels hadn't really counted on how uncomfortable his emergency services helmet and plastic holster with pop gun would become on the hot afternoon. He shed them immediately upon our return.
Now let's take a nap.