Saturday, February 21, 2015

Things That Eat People

Believe it or not my Boston friends, there are places in the world that are not covered with 7+ feet of snow. And we are currently in such a place. 

Nana took the girls out to a warm and sunny driveway to play and draw with sidewalk chalk. They were drawing things that eat people. 

Bears eat people. 

Man-eating ghosts eat people. 

Sharks eat people. 

And according to MeToo, potholes eat people. 

She's right, you know. Boston potholes in the winter can be lethal. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Texas Wine Tasting


BestestHusband and I just returned from a wine tour, and the unimaginable has happened:  I think I drank too much wine. I actually ruined my appetite for wine. I never thought I'd say that...

We toured 3 wineries in one day and 1 the next morning. Yes, I was drinking wine before noon. I'm not sure I'd recommend it as a chaser to an order of Eggs Benedict. Or a warmup for hiking Enchanted Rock. But whatever. 

We drank about 25 different wines. Some of them were frightful. Some of them were wonderful. But the whole experience was truly Texan. 

There are wineries in Texas? Oh yes, there are quite a few in the Hill Country. And a lot of vineyards in north and south Texas, as well. The soil and climate are very similar to wine producing areas of France, Italy, and Spain. In fact, some of the varietals native to those countries actually do better in Texas. (Well of course! Everything's bigger and better in Texas!) The wineries tend to cluster along Highway 290 and highways that branch off of it. You could drive down 290 and find a dozen tasting rooms within a 10 mile stretch. 

We chose to head off the beaten path for our tour. Armed with recommendations from my parents and BestestHusband's iPhone, we turned off the highway onto sometimes-paved roads. 

The experience was well worth the drive. We saw ranches. We saw signs that warned of loose livestock. And we saw some loose livestock. We rumbled over cattle guards. We saw cacti, mesquite, and live oak. We saw Rosemary hedges. We saw deer. We saw cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys. We saw llamas and emu. We saw rolling hills and lovely  vistas. We saw windmills and rusty tractors. We saw lovely stretches of open nothingness. 

And then we sat at wine bars, learned a lot about the growing local wine industry, and we drank a lot of wine. As we looked out over the rolling Hill Country, capped by a gorgeous blue sky. 

Forget Napa. Texas wine country is the place to be. I'd highly recommend visiting in April, when the windflowers are in bloom. I saw them seeding the grass along the highway. They should be spectacular. And tell the llamas I say hi. 



Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Snow

Existence in Boston currently is being controlled by The Snow.

"Oh stop whining," some might say. "You live in the Northeast. Snow happens. Get over it."
Some might say that. I do live in the Northeast. Snow does happen. But it rarely happens quite like this. 

Here's what usually happens:
It snows. Sometimes a foot or two. The city shuts down for a day. School is out for a day, maybe two. People plow, shovel, and blow snow into big piles. Then it gets warmer in a day or two. Sometimes it even rains. The snow piles disappear, and the roads and sidewalks are clear of snow within a week, usually sooner. More snow might come, but it too will disappear quickly. Boston's snow removal process is predicated on the idea that the snow will disappear on its own within a few days. Because often it does. 

Here's what happened this time:
It snowed. We got two feet of it. The snow was plowed, shoveled, and blown into big piles. And it was cold. It stayed cold. The snow blew around a bit in the wind, but it did not go away. Then we got another foot. That snow was also plowed, shoveled, and blown on top of the big piles. The piles got bigger. And it stayed really cold. And then it snowed again. Two more feet. So now we're up to 5 feet of snow in just a few weeks. And the plows and snowblowers add that snow to the existing big piles. But shovelers just can't. You can't throw that much snow on top of piles that big for very long. And it likes to fall back down on you when you try. And the piles are everywhere. They're in yards. They're along sidewalks. They're along streets - the narrow one-way streets lines with cars on either side that Boston is famous for. They're at entrances to driveways, blocking the view of oncoming traffic - traffic driving on sometimes icy but always narrowed roads. 

Snow is fun, right? It's great for sledding, throwing as balls, and building into snowmen. We should all just be having fun! Right? 

Here's why we're not having fun.
6:30am:  BestestHusband goes out to shovel the newest addition to our snow accumulation. Because it's actually been continuing to snow small amounts between the big storms. The snow just keeps coming. But it needs to be cleared from our sloped driveway before we get iced in and the minivan slides backwards into the house any time we try to go somewhere. Like, oh, the grocery store. Or school. 
7:30am: BestestHusband leaves early for work. He's got meetings to make it to, and he's not really sure how long it will take him to get the few miles to work. Some mornings, it's been over 2 hours. The busses are delayed from the traffic of our snow-narrowed streets, and the trains are breaking down constantly from the snow. The roads are too dangerous to bike. So he leaves early and hopes he'll be there in time for a 10am meeting.
8:45am: I start warning the girls to get ready to leave the house for school. They start donning snow suits, hats, mittens, and boots. It's cold, in the teens. I start chasing the baby around the house to get her bundled. She's fast. And heavy. I'm exhausted before we even get to the car.
9:00am: I ease the minivan up the icy driveway and pray we get out. We shovel and salt it, but the sun does melt some of the snow during the day, just enough to trickle down the driveway and ice up overnight. At the end of the driveway, I peer in vain around the snow piles to see oncoming traffic. The piles are too high. I ease forward slowly and pray no one hits me. 
9:15am: I drop off the girls at school. They usually take the bus. But there's no where to park at the bus stop anymore. And it's consistently been 45-60 minutes late because of the traffic. The school parking lot is too small to allow us to park in it for pickup in the afternoon, but they'll let us do quick drop offs in the morning. I tell them they'll ride the bus home instead of having me pick them up. There's nowhere to park near the school for pickup. 
This morning at 9:30am: I drop HurricaneDebbie off at a home daycare in our neighborhood. The provider's husband had left for the day, so I could park briefly in their driveway to drop her off. The snow piles had narrowed the road so much that I have to do a 6 point turn to back out and head the other way down the road. I have to get out and move a trash can mid way. The trash collectors came already and it was empty, so I perched it on top of the snow bank. I had to reach up to do so. 
I drove slowly down a narrow hill towards home. There's nowhere to park at the gym. I didn't have work lined up today, but was thankful I wasn't driving to patients' homes. There's just nowhere to park. 

This was just the first few hours of our day. The Snow has changed our entire morning routine. 

3:30pm: I started prepping to leave for the bus stop. There's nowhere to park, so I have to walk. I also have to pick up HurricaneDebbie from daycare, so I grab the hiking backpack carrier. The sidewalks are impassible for a stroller or pull sled. I've learned this the hard way. 
3:45pm: I'm still climbing over snow piles and slipping on poorly-shoveled sidewalks. I stop at a few houses to ring doorbells and inquire as to whether the owners need me to hire someone to help them shovel. Only one person is home, a healthy-looking 20ish young man. I point to the mountain of snow on his property, and the barely-shoveled sidewalk. I explain that it's impassible for my children trying to get to and from school. I know some young men looking to make some money shoveling. I could call them if he needs help shoveling. Would he like me to do so? He apologizes and says that he's perfectly capable of doing it himself. Of course he is. But he hasn't done it.
4:00pm:  The bus stop is an 8 ft pile of snow on the corner. I have to stand along the edge of the street to watch for the bus. The girls arrive, and we start walking to get their sister. Walking in packed snow is like walking in sand. They get tired quickly and complain all the way to the daycare. At corners, we clamber over mountains of snow to be able to cross the street. Sometimes there's no passageway from the street to the sidewalk. Sometimes we're forced to walk in the narrow street. HeyMama starts to cry. She's tired, cold, and fighting a cold. And she hates The Snow. Me too. 
4:15pm: HurricaneDebbie is bundled and in the hiking backpack. We're slowly making our way down the snowy sidewalk towards home. We climb over more snow piles. I stop occasionally to use my phone and the city's app to report negligent shovelers. Some people shovel the entire width of their sidewalk. God bless them. Some people shovel a rabbit path, only one shovel-width wide. Lazy asses. Some people just don't bother. Those are the ones I report. I ring doorbells first. I don't want a little old lady to pay a ticket because she's too old to shovel. But that's not the case here. People can shovel a rabbit path to their car and get their car out. But then they neglect to shovel their sidewalk. These people make our walk home dangerous. We walk in the street a bit. We climb over piles. The girls look like little hamsters trudging along in the narrow snow passageways. Our world is a maze of paths with 5+ foot snow banks on either side. We can't get to the cross walk. So we cross our busy street illegally. And pray we don't get hit. 
4:30pm: We're finally home. It took nearly an hour to do a daily task that usually takes 15 minutes. We're all exhausted from the effort. There are tears. None from me today, but that's just today...

I didn't try to do much outside of the house today, other than a dog walk that was a major production. When the daily necessities become exhausting, why try to do anything extra? We're lucky. We don't struggle to dig our a car parked on a street. We have a driveway. We have a backyard to move the snow into. Our patio has a retaining wall that drops 12ish feet to the grass below. We've been shoveling the patio over the wall. The mountain of accumulated snow is almost to the top of the wall. 

We're supposed to get another foot of snow this weekend. People are canceling plans in anticipation of another blizzard. Birthday parties, family gatherings, church plans... they're all getting cancelled. No one wants to go out in another storm. There's always the fear of never making it there. And given the snow mountains we already have, that fear's not so crazy right now. The Snow is in control. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Reluctant Skier

I'm sitting in the parking lot of a ski hill as I write this. SuperstormDebbie has temporarily been downgraded to LittleDebbie. She's napping to make up for the sleep she didn't get in our bed last night. Too bad we can't do the same...

BestestHusband is on the hill with HeyMama and MeToo. They were going to do lessons and work their way up to the chair lift. I have a limited view from the front seat here, but I haven't seen them yet. 

We went skiing last weekend. MeToo learned to side-step her way up inclines and pick herself up when she fell.  Not bad for a few hours of work. HeyMama gained a lot more control and confidence, and successfully raced a kid down the hill. On the chair lift up, he'd been bragging about how long he'd been skiing and how good he was. We were excited to see that the bragging stoked a competitive fire in HeyMama. She totally smoked him. 

The fact that I got on skis last week is noteworthy. I do not like skiing. I can ski. I grew up taking long road trips to NM to learn, and I became quite competent. But there's a reason I stopped skiing when I left home. I don't really enjoy it. It's cold. I don't like being cold. It's a lot of work. It requires a lot of equipment. It's expensive. And did I mention that it's cold?

Over the years, different boyfriends said, "But if you go skiing with me, you'll have fun." They were wrong. 

So I warned BestestHusband not to even try. Wisely he listened. 

I was not planning to ski again. 

But then I had kids. And they were bundled up in bright pink snowsuits, excited to ski with their daddy. And they needed a lot of help. Both of them. At the same time. So, nauseous and outfitted in a ski bib purchased to accommodate a new growing belly, I got on skis again. I was so miserable, for so many reasons. But the girls were not. And I realized that I would have to be a skier again. Sigh. Two bright eyed little girls accomplished what grown men could not. They made me try to be someone I'm not. 

So two years later I again clicked into skis and slowly wedged my way down a bunny slope. And when LittleDebbie wakes up, I'll pull another future skier on a sled to watch her sisters make careful turns down the hill. I'm going to be a skier. A reluctant one. But I'll be a skier again. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Am Schniggleboop

I've heard it said that there's no more precious sound in the world than to hear your child call you "Mama". 

I think that the first time I heard each of my children say it, I would have agreed with that statement.

But not so much anymore.

I think I genuinely enjoyed the first 100 times I heard each child say "Mama". But now, I think I hear it 100 times before 8am. And it's lost a bit of its charm. 

I think one problem is that it's so easy to say. Say it to yourself. 
Mama. 
You don't have to do much work to say it. In fact, you can say it 10 times in a row with little effort. Incidentally, this is part of an aphasia testing battery that I use at work. If a patient can't say "Mama" several times in a row within a short span of time, their severity rating gets worse. It's just too easy to say. 

Perhaps due to its ease in utterance, it's become a habitual first word for MeToo. 
"Mama, know what Vivian said at school today?"
"Mama, look at my milk. I drank it all!"
"Mama, I mean Daddy, look at my finger!"
"Mama, I mean Cameron, go away. You stink!"
It's a default sentence starter, even when she's not talking to me. 

So I decided that I need to chance my name to something more challenging. 

Like Schniggleboop. 

The "oo" is pronounced as in "book", not like in "poop". And if you don't pronounce it correctly, I don't have to answer to it. 

HurricaneDebbie can't say it 20 times in a row. Nor can she scream it at the dinner table while the rest of us are trying to talk. MeToo doesn't start every sentence with it. HeyMama can't say it without giggling, so there's overall less talking. 

So far, it's a win.

And when they can all pronounce it, I'll just have to find something else to replace it with.
Until then, I'll start learning an African click language. Struggling with that should keep them at bay, at least for a few days. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thanks 2014, it's been nice to know ya!

Disclaimer:  Yes, this post will serve as our family Christmas card, a much-needed blog update, and the final blog post of the year. Yes, you can call it "lame", if you'd like. I prefer "efficient". And if you're a family member looking for our Christmas card and haven't read my blog before, check out the "Cast of Characters" page down to the right. I've given the girls all pseudonyms to ensure plausible deniability when they're older. But I'm sure you can figure it out.

2014 was a year of ups and downs, as they all tend to be. We worked. We played. We traveled a bit. But we are all healthy and together at the end of the year, so I call it an overall win. We truly do have much to be thankful for. As I've written before, we are rich. No, we don't have our dream house yet. No, we haven't won the lottery. But we have a comfortable snug home with heat that we can turn up in the winter. We have warm clothes to go play outside in. We have more food than we should probably eat. We have a high-quality and safe school to send our girls to. We have loving parents and siblings that live too far away. We have a loving family of close friends that live a bit nearer. We have friends and family scattered across the nation that pray for us, cheer us on, and bring smiles to our days. We are rich.

And the rest? Well, we're working on a little concept called "contentment".

The girls are just getting bigger and better every day:

HeyMama is 6. She loves to read, loves to do math, and says she wants to be a scientist when she grows up. And no, BestestHusband didn't tell her to say that. But he might be a bit proud... She started playing the piano, and is quite diligent about practicing. She gave a short concert of Christmas music at our friends' house on Christmas Day, and is anxious for lessons to start up again in the new year. She enjoys gymnastics more than ever, and can frequently be found hanging upside down or jumping from things. And she is the most perceptive, doting, and sweet big sister a baby sister could ever hope for. And she likes to talk. A lot. I'm still trying to find a way to bottle her energy. Or just find a mute button.

MeToo is 5. She loves to do whatever her older sister is doing. So she's into reading, math, and maybe being a scientist too. Or a unicorn trainer. Or a dance teacher. We might need to start dance lessons first... She is a child of wide-eyed wonder, finding magic in the most mundane of tasks. "Mama! Come look! I pooped a 7!" And she was right, it really did look like a 7. Other letters and shapes eventually followed. MeToo will interrupt dinner with, "Guess what! I'm having a dream inside my head RIGHT NOW!" She's full of fun ideas and whimsy. She's currently lobbying us to trade her to a neighboring family so she can have a brother.

LittleDebbie morphed into HurricaneDebbie, and is typically a Category 5. At 16 months old, she is already the strongest personality in the household, and that's really saying something... She has quickly learned to communicate her wishes, and this week has decided to do that via sentences:  "I need milk!", "I need Uppa!", "I need Daddy!" She has also learned quickly how to climb up to the top bunk, rock standing in the rocking chair, retrieve things from the middle of the dining room table, let herself out the door to outside, and undo an hour's worth of cleaning and organization in 2 minutes. According to BestestHusband, she is a living example of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. And she makes me want to drink. Good thing she's so dang charming and cute...

The dogs continue to add love, fur, and noise to our household. They have become skilled opportunists, seizing on the chance for a belly rub any time one of us sits or leans over to the floor. They even demand belly rubs from the girls. And you know what? It works. It's sweet to see them develop relationships with the girls, and see the girls take more responsibility in their care.

BestestHusband started a new job at a tech company downstairs from his previous job. What's a guy with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and a background in discovering oncology drugs doing working at a tech company? Something Very Different from what he did before. But he still has the same bike commute. (Some call being a one-car family being "cheap", again I like to call combining a commute and exercise as "efficient".) In his spare time he plays the role of SuperDad, stalks Boston real estate for our future house, tends a good-sized garden, makes out-of-this-world mexican sauces, and helps reign in the chaos that has become our household norm.

I'm still doing many of the same things as last year. I work per diem at local rehab hospitals a few days per week. I shepherd the girls to and from the bus stop. I try to keep up with a kamikaze toddler. I started running again this past year, mostly to improve my patience level. And I started baking sourdough bread. And at the end of the day, when the house has been destroyed by my kamikaze toddler and my patience has been destroyed by everyone else, I at least have something tasty to show for my time.

So if you're in the area, stop by for a slice of fresh bread and a glass of wine I'll be ready to pour. We have a guest bedroom, and plenty of mayhem to share. We are truly blessed by what we have, but are pretty much constantly exhausted by it. And we look forward to a new year of exhaustion, love, joy, tedium, exasperation, and blessings in 2015.

With love,
The Bundles Of Joy Family

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

P90X with a Toddler

So yesterday started off very badly. In fact, by 9:15am, I had admitted defeat and was headed back to bed. We were getting hit by a December Nor'easter (a cold-weather ocean storm, similar to a tropical storm but with cold rain or snow). Two cups of coffee just weren't kicking in. Everyone was grumpy. We got the big girls on the bus, and headed towards the gym. I was hoping an hour on the treadmill would turn things around. But the parking lot was full. As were the street spots anywhere near an entrance. Did I mention that it was raining sideways and cold? So I gave up. I admitted defeat, turned around, and went home. I put my overtired (and now I realize sick) toddler in her crib, laid down in the bed next to it, and we went to sleep. When we both woke up later, things were better. After a quick lunch and some tylenol for LittleDebbie, things were great. The day had turned around. But the babysitting room in the gym was scheduled to close in 20 minutes, and I still wanted to exercise. 

That's when I remembered the P90X DVDs that BestestHusband had borrowed from a coworker a while back. We still had them. And I wanted to try them out. 

I picked a workout that looked like it had some cardio and strength training in it. And I did it. And the day was completely salvaged. All was not lost, after all. I even FELT like I got a good workout, better than the one I would have gotten if I just went to the gym. Maybe I should just do the whole P90X program?

So this morning, after spending 30 minutes at the bus stop in the rain (yes, it's still raining. Send an Ark...), LittleDebbie and I came home to do P90X. I was motivated. I've been wanting to do strength training for a while, and I know myself well enough to know that I need to join a class to do it. And the classes offered when I'm usually at the gym are targeted to older ladies. Much older. Think Seniorcise. So maybe P90X is the answer to my prayers...

I did the first DVD, which targets arms and back, and then abs. And I learned a few things. I knew the part about my horrendously poor upper body strength. That's old news. And the part about my lazy core. I was aware of that, too. But there's a reason that the DVD shows 4 hard-bodies working out in a studio. Showing real people in their real homes would not be nearly as pretty:

"Show some intensity! Kick forward! Side! Back! Then other leg!"
Ok, don't kick the TV, don't kick the sofa, don't kick the kid. Move over to allow room to use the other leg.
"Stretch both arms high, and do big circles."
Ow! When did that light fixture start hanging so low?
"Take a few moments to get some water and be ready to bring the intensity!"
Crap. Where's LittleDebbie? I need to go find her...
"Run in place to keep your heart going, and be ready for legs!"
Where did all of the Christmas ornaments go? And where is LittleDebbie now? I need to go find her...
"Time for some jacks. Jumping jacks are great!"
Jumping jacks are not great after having 3 kids. I'll just cross my legs and jump in place, thankyouverymuch. Ok fine, I'll wave my arms around, too.
"And lunge, punch, hook! Other leg! Lunge, punch, hook!"
Lunge, oh, there's an ornament on the mat! Hey LittleDebbie, please leave my mat alone, put it down!
"30 military pushups! Here we go!"
Hey, I can barely do one pushup, even without you climbing on me. Get off my back, kid!

So I learned that I need to be more relaxed to my workout than the instructor would prefer. I don't yet have all of the equipment I need. But bungee cords from the basement meet my fitness needs for now. I need to set up the play yard for the toddler in advance. She will eventually end up in there. I no longer am interested in working out 'til I feel like puking. Exercising makes my day better. Puking does not. I'll do one only as long as it doesn't result in the other. Who am I trying to impress? The guy on the DVD? I'll stop when I feel like it. 
Doing the workout at 80% accuracy is still better than I would get at the gym. And I think I know a bit more about pelvic stability and residual diastasis than the guy in the DVD. I'll modify my abs workout as I see fit. 

Don't worry buddy, I'll still "Bring It." I'll just bring along my body that's still recovering from having 3 kids in 5 years, my 15 month old, and the limitations of a small living room in a city condo, as well.