Sunday, September 30, 2007

October Eve

When we woke up this morning, it was a perfectly fall-ish day. Blue blue sky, fluffy white clouds, the wind making all the leaves quiver, and chill, chill, chilly. Now it's a perfectly fall-ish evening, and the sky is still blue and the wind is still blowing, but it's warm and wonderful.

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

We didn't meet a head of state or get a dog or anything big like that, yet last Thursday and Saturday were chock-full of doings and feelings.

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

Ten days ago Nels went to his first, and so far only, day of pre-school. A stomach bug kept him from going last week, and a cold kept him home today. Gretchen, if you're reading this, I feel your pain.

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

"Mom, can you get all of the bumps out of the sidewalk?"


"If you were Cinderella you could do it."

Friday, September 7, 2007

Let's Go for a Walk

It was such a nice day today that I thought you might like to join the boys and me on our walk to the post office.

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.

St. John's.

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.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Long Weekend in Boise

In case you were wondering, it's hot here too. Today it got up to 101, which tied the record for hottest September 3rd.

Let's see. For me the weekend officially starts on Friday evening. I went to the gym and spent too much time on the weight machines and ended up doing very little else. I thought the place would be a wasteland on a Friday night, but it was not the case. I call it "the gym" but it's the YMCA. That's like "the gym" but way, way better. If I had a mind to, I could play racquetball, climb the climbing wall, swim, shoot some hoops, or do any number of other fitness-related activities. I can almost guarantee that I will never do any of those things, but it's nice to know I could.

All the people who work at the Y are extremely friendly and they look like a random sample of people rounded up from a neighborhood, rather than a random sample of people selected from a trendy LA night club. And to REALLY let you know you're not at Gold's Gym, the closing announcement goes something like this: "The time is now 9:30 and we will be closing in 30 minutes. Please think about making arrangements for getting home. There is a phone in the lobby for you to use if you need it." Boise doesn't feel like home yet, but I get a big dose of community at the Y, and I love it.

On Saturday we cleaned house and cooked for our dear and only Idaho friends, all the more dear for being the only. I had been hankering for Shrimp and Fennel Risotto, and since I was the cook, that's what we had. I tried new recipes for salad and dessert, courtesy of crazed Disney princess Food Network chef Giada de Laurentiis. The Endive and Frisee Salad with Oranges was great (honey in the vinaigrette and freshly toasted hazelnuts were key elements) as were the Berries with Mascarpone and Meringue. I couldn't find meringue cookies so I substituted shortbread with stem ginger. I went a wee bit crazy buying fresh berries at the farmer's market that morning. End of the summer blow-out, I rationalized.

Sunday? Eh. I had hoped for more from it, but that's a consumer mentality, I suppose. When Shaun went to pick Nels up from Sunday School, his teacher reported that Nels had been "very very silly." Oh dear. When Nels gets silly, it's just shy of mental. It was yucky hot and we lazed away the afternoon and ended up a little cranky and stir crazy. So we decided to venture out to dinner. As a family. Something we don't do often.

I probably won't eat at Highland Hollow again, unless I'm just going for fries and a beer. I really wanted Hot Wings. We ordered hot wings. What we got were two pounds of pale (creepy pale!) bumpy-skinned chicken wings tossed in what Shaun described as salsa. To me it was like chicken wing cacciatore. There was no glistening, almost neon sauce, only mealy tomato sauce. Wow, were we bummed.

All was not lost. We redeemed our evening at the Hyde Park soda fountain Goody's. (Our Bend friends know it.) They make their own ice cream and sauces, and the place was packed at 8:30. Kids in bathing suits, kids in pajamas. It was great. I had a sundae of chocolate almond ice cream with bittersweet fudge sauce, and it was as good as the chicken wings were bad. We bought Nels an entire sundae of his own, even though we knew he'd never come close to finishing it. It was such a pleasure for us to see his face when it arrived and to watch him enjoy it. Perhaps the way we felt contains a bit of what God feels when he gives us something good.

Monday was a bonus day. We had a date with the Hamiltons at the zoo. I think we all held out quite valiantly as the day got hotter and hotter. Willem actually seemed to be more into the animals than Nels. He said "monkey" about 500 times. He appears to be set to some strange sort of internal monkey bearings, because every time I let go of his hand he would start off in the direction of the gibbon cages, saying "monkey...monkey...monkey." The creepiest moment of the day was definitely when the 16 inch long legless lizard (basically a snake with a lizard head) reared up and expressed enough interest in Willem that he took several steps backward. I particularly enjoyed the meerkats, lolling about in the sun and the sand like sailors recovering from a particularly festive shore leave.

Willem was more impressed by this tiny tiger that he could sit on than by the real one whose head was almost as big as Willem's entire person.

Here's the obligatory "boys riding the Komodo Dragon" photo. Really we were too hot and busy wrangling sleepy kids to take pictures.

The remainder of our Labor Day was pretty much taken up by more naps and lazing. I'm going to blame it on the heat. It's got to be good for something.