Saturday, January 31, 2009

Day 10 in the House of Plague

That's how Matt answers the phone; "Hello, House of Plague". He came home from the hospital when it got slow to give me a break from the kids. (My hero, spending his break from sick hospital patients to take care of his sick kids). Most normal moms would grab a razor, body scrub and head for the bathroom. Not Slacker Mom. I grab my camara, my card reader, and head for the laptop. It hasn't been that bad, really. It would have driven me crazy if I was one of those over-achiever type A moms. But I gave that up two kids ago. Now that I've made peace with my inner slacker mom, I'm actually really good at sick days.

Maya took the prize for the highest fever: 105.6! Now some people would worry that their kids might have a seizure with fevers that high. If Matt wasn't a doctor and I wasn't a nurse, our kids would have been in the ER. After getting a urinalysis, chest xray, blood draw and a lumbar puncture, we would have heard those dreaded words: "It's viral". I hate having to tell people that after they've dragged their kids into clinic. It makes them feel so much better when I say, "I could prescribe antibiotics, but it will not make it better. In fact, they may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rash and possibly an allergic reaction."

Today Maya brought me a book she wanted me to read. It was the guide to Wii MarioKart. Now anyone that knows me knows I don't read instruction manuals. I take that back, I did read one instruction manual. It was the idiot guide to my camara. It has big pictures and not too many words. 1. Take your camara out of the box. 2. Attach the wrist strap. I'm not joking. Anyway, back to the Wii manual. So for kicks I flipped through the book and began reading the Spanish section. On the second paragraph I realized it was warning that playing video games may cause seizures. Did you know that 1 out of 4000 people can have a seizure while playing video games?

I just looked up febrile seizures on Up to Date. It said that 2-4% of children under the age of 5 experience seizures with fever. That's 2 to 4 out of 100. Okay, I'm no math whiz, but according to my calculations, children under the age of 5 are 40 times more likely to have a seizure during a high fever than while playing video games. Isn't that reassuring? My advice to you: don't let children under the age of five play video games while they have a fever! That's why they pay me the big bucks. (Grin).

Here's my Slacker Mom Guide to sick days:
1. Have Costco two packs of Tylenol and Motrin in the house. If they have vomiting AND fever, ask the pharmacist for Tylenol suppositories. Our Safeway pharmacy keeps them in the fridge in the pharmacist. God did not prep you with years of diaper changing and butt wiping for no reason. The look on their face when you slip that suppository in is priceless. Kind of like the look your dog gives you when the veterinarian pulls out the rectal thermometer. (You're going to put that WHERE?)

2. Learn how to make a good batch of chicken noodle soup. If you think cooking is for fat people with French accents, stock up on Progresso soup. Always have a stash of juice, popsickles, ginger ale and saltines. Oh, and a good digital thermometer, preferably the ear kind. The one we got at Costco is going on 8 years now.

3. If you don't have a large collection of kids movies, it helps to have Nickelodian or the Disney station. Sure you can read them books or rent books on tape. But this is the Slacker Mom guide, not the Super Mom guide. I saw a great movie on Nickelodian this morning called "Gym Teacher". It was hysterical. "Cinch up your jock straps and tighten up your training bras!". Even the commercials are funny. Now I can't decide if I want to take a Disney family cruise or a Nickelodian family cruise. Two words: Daycare Included. I can't wait for Madagascar 2 to come out on video. The Two-pack has the latest short film from everyone's favorite undercover secret agent, cargo ship hijacking, explosives experts and mission impossible style penguins. I saw a commercial for these colorful bendable sticks that these kids are using to make incredible art projects. I said to Riley, all you would make out of them is balls. Riley said "And Chris would make the wrong kind of balls." I love my boys. They may not be creative, but they keep me laughing.

4. Finally, think of it as your excuse to take a break from the daily grind. No PTA meetings, no hockey practice, no guilt trips. (Did you ever stop to think that maybe illness is God's gift to women who do too much?) Grandma, Nanna and Matt took turns staying with the kids so I could do errands and get fresh air.

We had a big snow storm the last two days. Today the sun came out and the kids got outside to play for a little while. It's like the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm already scheming how I'm going to get a third week of slacking off out of this. Do you think Matt would fall for this? "It's an adult version of this virus, Matt, I have the headache and fatigue, but no fever!"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday without Alana

Maya now has the high fever for 5 days virus that Chris had last week. Her temperature got up to 103.8 yesterday. After school Riley began complaining of a headache that made him cry. He skipped hockey and went home and lay on the couch watching TV. Chris, the only healthy one, had already forgotten how miserable he felt just a few days ago and proceeded to be very loud and irritating. He got angry while playing video games on the computer and became beligerent when Mom dragged him away from the computer. He kicked and screamed all the way to his room where he yelled at me through the closed door. Let's just say he has lost all TV, movie, and computer games for the rest of the week.
Tuesdays without Alana. No salame sandwiches. No juicy gossip over strong coffee. No one to paint my toenails and Maya's fingernails. Just work, work, work.
Last Tuesday I vacuumed almost the whole house. Yesterday I printed half my blog, from June to December, 2008. I was printing the other half when I got greedy and put too much paper in the printer. Now there's a paper jam that I can't seem to find. I also consulted with Epidemiology in Anchorage about a potential case of TB in a child from another country.
This is more involved than it sounds. I will spare you all the gory medical details but the short version is, I'm working with school nurses both here and in San Diego and the Public Health Department to get records showing she doesn't have active TB before we subject her to nasty procedures like a bronchoscope down her trachea and a 4 drug regimen for a year to treat multidrug resistant TB.
If all this talk about TB is fascinating you instead of grossing you out, I recommend a book called Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder. It is about a doctor named Paul Farmer who started clinics in Haiti to help some of the poorest people in the world. He is the world's leading expert in infectious disease, especially ones that prey on poor people, like Tuberculosis and HIV. He graduated from medical school with both an MD and a PhD in medical anthropology, while taking his classes by correspondence. Starting in his first year of Harvard Medical School at the age of 24, he would show up on campus the first day of school, buy his books, and head back to Haiti to continue his work. Then he'd fly back at the end of the semester to take his finals. He was already brilliant and so passionate about his work that there was nothing his professors could do to reign in their most eccentric student. They must have realized they were in the prescence of a demigod and were smart enough to stay out of his way.
Since then, he has started programs all over the world to help the poorest people fight poverty and disease. He doesn't charge them for health care or medication. Knowing the body cannot heal itself without the most essential ingredients, he gives them food, clean water and money to get back and forth from clinic to home. He sometimes walked 20 miles one way to visit patients in remote villages.
He reformed TB programs in Russian prisons. Before Paul Farmer, a prison sentence in Russia was a death sentence. If those prisoners were released, they would go home and infect their families and the whole community. He now has clinics in South America and Africa as well. The volunteer organization that funds his work is called Partners in Health. For more information about Partners in Health, go to
The second most important book in the past decade is Three Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin. It is about a man named Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer and ER nurse. On one of his expeditions when he failed to summit K-2, the second highest peak in the Himalayas, he got lost and wandered into a remote village where he was nursed back to health by the local villagers. When he asked them what he could do to repay them, they answered: "Our children need a school." He began fundraising and got enough money to build a school. But when he showed up at the village with all the supplies in a rented truck, he realized they could not get across the yak hair foot bridge. So first he had to build a bridge.
He has been building bridges between the Middle East and the West ever since. Building schools all over remote mountain villages of Pakistan and Afghanistan where girls would otherwise never get an education, and the only other option for boys would be extremist schools for boys, funded by the Taliban. The organization that supports Greg's work is called Central Asia Institute. They have a program where school children can participate by collecting pennies. For more information about Pennies for Peace, go to

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Deep Blue Funk

I am in a deep blue funk this weekend. I'm not sure why. I think I have attacks of depression the way some people have panic attacks. They seem to come out of nowhere at the least unexpected times. That's not entirely true. I'm suffering from cabin fever and sleep deprivation. And my best friend is like, 5000 miles away.

Chris was sick all week. Fevers up to 103 for 5 days. He wasn't hard to take care of. It's just that he couldn't be at school so I had to either be with him or arrange childcare every day for 5 days. No breaks. When I did leave him with Nanna or Grandma, it was to work or attend to some other responsibility. Nights were harder. I woke up all night long to give him sips of water and offer him Motrin or Tylenol. I didn't have to check his temperature because it was like sleeping next to a soft, silky furnace. That was when I wasn't getting up to put Maya back to bed. She doesn't wake up and call me anymore. Now she just comes upstairs and climbs in our bed. Poor little guy is feeling better now. That means he's back to his oppositional defiant self.

Riley is suffering from Bradley withdrawal. Sometimes after coming home from Bradley's house, he is less tolerant of is little brother and sister than normal. Riley is not an ideal older brother. Sometimes I wish he had been the baby of the family. I think he still wishes he were an only child.

I have a question for parents who have more than one child: How do you engender love, cooperation and harmony between siblings? Or at the very least, tolerance? Slacker Mom does it by not having two of everything so they have to learn to share and take turns. I am not an overly controlling parent. I give them lots of room to fight and work things out. I figure if I don't let them fight, then I am not allowing them opportunities to bond either. I draw the line at physical violence, but I do not rush in at the first sign of a squabble.

Elizabeth posted a blog about how seven children was easier than two or three. She describes the older kids making dinner while the middles entertain the littles. I realize that she spent years training the older kids in the domestic arts, but how do you get the middles to play with the littles? When I was freaking out about having a third child, my mother-in-law said more kids is easier because the little ones do what they are supposed to do because the bigger ones do it. Well, what if I can't get the bigger ones to do what they are supposed to do?

I used to think that two years was a terrible time span between kids because you are having a baby when your child is in their terrible twos or fearsome fours. One year apart seemed like a nightmare because you essentially have two babies. (The trade off is that they get out of diapers at almost the same time and then you can have them on the same hockey team so you don't have to drive to the rink 4 nights per week or split up on the weekends if they have games in different cities.) So I had the boys 3 years apart and that was not any easier. Then I noticed that when people had their kids 12 to 18 months apart, the toddler did not seem to mind because they didn't realize that they were no longer the center of the universe. My boss' kids are four years apart and opposite sex. Yet I never saw a brother and sister more loving and such good friends than those two. It seems to me that some kids just naturally like younger children and do not need much encouragement to play with them or at least just be nice to them. If you don't have one of these little natural helpers, can you do anything about it?

Tea party with Miss Kitty.

Ingenious Matt eating chips with chopsticks so he doesn't get greasy fingerprints on his computer keyboard.

Maya puts her elbow pads and knee pads on while Riley and friend Danny get geared up for hockey.

Cinderfella tending the hearth. At what point do I worry about pyromania? At least he's not torturing small animals, so he can't be a sociopath, right?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Irene and Alana's Bogus Adventure

I'm in Anchorage with Alana. I'm putting her on an airplane to Saipan in 20 minutes. She needed someone to drive her to Anchorage and I was the one whose life was the least complicated at the moment, if you can believe that. So I was at her beck and call. I told her this too shall pass so she shouldn't get used to it. But she is loving having me around to be her her personal shopper at Value Village, chauffeur, sherpa and pre-trip angst therapist. I am going above and beyond my usual job duties of best friend and she is going to owe me a gazillion hours of free daycare for this. Just kidding.

I know a gazillion is not a number. Neither is a br---llion. I have this fantasy of writing a children's book called "A br---llion is not a number". But I can't tell you what the number is because I don't want anyone to steal my idea and make a br---llion bucks off of my idea before I do. I can tell you that I have a good friend who is going on a trip to South America and he promised to get me a picture of a Br---llion" for my book. (Oops! I've told you too much!) When I asked him, he said, "You mean like the wax job? I'll have to ask my wife." I said, "No! I mean a person!". Then he said, "Male or female? With or without feathers?" What a crack-up! I love that guy!

You know, one of the things that has always saved me from my chronic depression and existential crisis is my ability to surround myself with funny and fun-loving people. A mutual friend of ours was concerned about Alana and I getting into a downward spiral together. But it's like this: there seems to be a finite amount of depression between the two of us. When one of us is depressed, the other one somehow manages to rally and become the upbeat one. When we are not commiserating about our misery, we are cracking each other up! It works for us and it's better than any medication in the sample cabinet at my work place!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Star Sunday

WARNING: Do not read this blog if your children are perfect angels who are well behaved all the time. It may contain controversial topics, mature themes, and adult language. Do read this blog if your kids are too big for their britches and you are a parent who has ever had a challenging day, week, month or year.

I knew that would make you keep reading! Let's see, where do I begin?

The good, the bad and the ugly: No, I'm not talking about my hockey parents. (That's a topic for another blog). I'm talking about Maya's language. "Miss Manners" has learned to say "What!" when she is called, "shut up!" and "go away!"

Yesterday I got a Hanes catalogue in the mail. Chris was looking at it today and said "That magazine is disgusting!" I said "Why? Because it has pictures of bras?" He said "Yeah! And some of the pictures look like they are having C-E-X!"

I was going to log on the blog how many days in a row I got the kids to school on time. But they were late on day 2. And that was because Matt took them to school on day 1. I'm not going to blame it on the fact that Chris was refusing to go to school. I told him if he wasn't dressed by 8am, I was carrying him to the car in his pajamas. So at 8:05 he ran downstairs to get dressed. I told him it was Maya's first day of school so if he didn't want to go to school he had to sit in the car or in the office. He chose the office. After several attempts from his classmates and the principal to cajole him into going to class, he kept returning to the back room in the office. So he came home with me after Maya was done with preschool. Chris has never been big on school. He would rather get a job. He loves to work. So I made him take down the Christmas tree. He can build a fire in the fireplace all by himself. He even chops his own kindling now.

I bought my first "Real Simple" magazine today. I've avoided that magazine like I avoid trendy yoga wear. I figured the first step in simplifying my life was to NOT spend my money on something else that I have to take to the recycling bin at the end of the month. Everyone tells me all that stuff ends up it the landfill anyway. But I was seduced by the titles on the cover as I stood in line at the grocery store. "Feel calmer now: 20 essential lists to organize your life". I fall for organizational self-help guides like overweight people fall for fad diets. I even signed up for a seminar next month that promises to teach me how to get more done in less time.

I know what you Type A people are thinking: Maybe you'd get more done if you'd spend less time blogging and looking for old friends on Facebook. The point of accomplishing more in less time is so that I CAN spend more time blogging and looking for my old friends on Facebook.

I just got done reading a book called Confessions of a Slacker Mom. It's not about what you think. It's about a different approach to parenting. Like trusting your instincts instead of relying on the latest experts (in case you haven't noticed, expert opinions change like fashion trends). Slacker Moms do not believe in buying all the latest toys for their kids. They believe in kids learning to entertain themselves. Slacker moms are really into natural consequences. Slacker moms do not try to childproof the whole house. They teach their children to avoid danger. Afterall, the world is not childproof.

I still read the expert books, but I pick and choose and do what makes sense to me. Sometimes my instincts mislead me. For example, for the past 6 months, my instincts told me that if I ignore my boys' bad behavior, it would go away. "They're going through an adjustment phase" my instinct said. Well, now I have three children behaving badly instead of two. Although I may not buy her philosophy lox, stock and bagel, it's still a worthwhile book. I probably don't need any encouragement to slack off any more than I do already. So now I'm reading Super Nanny. Wish me luck.

Today was Star Sunday. On Epiphany at our church, we pick a paper star out of a basket. The star has one word on it. You can make what you want of it. Consider it something you need to work on, or a gift. I was hoping for "courage". Instead I got "Abundance". I don't know what to make of that. I know I have abundance already. Maybe I have an abundance of courage. I overheard the ladies talking at during fellowship hour. One said, "I learned never to pray for patience, because God will TRY you." Then I remember what God, played by Morgan Freeman, said in the movie Evan Almighty. If I pray for courage, what God will give me is the opportunity to be courageous.

Maya got Chris to help her put his hockey gear on, then came to me and said, Mom! Uh picture!

Today we went out to the Spit to look at the frozen harbour.

The cold temperature made the water a pale blue-green color but only along the shoreline. It looks like the Bahamas, only with chunks of ice.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Maya's First Day of Preschool

Maya started preschool yesterday. It's only 2 hours per day, 2 mornings per week. She goes to speech therapy for 15 minutes each day. She starts out in the gym for movement which suits her just fine. Yesterday she rode a tricycle around the gym for 15 minutes. Then she went into the classroom and did a puzzle (with a lot of help from Mommy). I would say, "where does the elephant go?" She would say "right there". After her puzzle she got some free play time. I ducked out for a while and made copies for Chris' teacher. I came back 45 minutes later and they were in circle time, singing the wheels on the bus go round and round. Then they stood up and danced to music. Then they had a snack. I wanted her to see that other 3 year olds do not eat pureed food. After snack we left school and went shopping, then home for lunch, then nap time. It was a good first day. She seemed to enjoy it. She's very social. Even though she was pretty quiet on her first day, she participated in her own way. There are 4 kids with special needs and 2 peer models. The peer models are really sweet little girls, one 3 year old and 1 four year old.

Vapor rising off the ocean. It's was 1 degree.

Chris took this picture from the deck.

I'm ready for my first day of school!

Stacey asked if Maya had an awesome fussy face like Autumn. This is her Oreo cookies and milk face with post-nap hair.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Frosty January

It's been bittery cold here. We were in Anchorage for the weekend where it was -20 at night. Coming home to 6 degrees above zero felt warm after our frigid weekend. We rarely get this cold on the Kenai Peninsula. Our average temperature in Homer is around 20 degrees.

Friday night we said goodbye to Sarah. We are looking forward to going to Flagstaff to see her graduate from college in May. We promised the boys a trip to the Grand Canyon and surrounding sites.

Riley had three hockey games in Anchorage. They won 2 and tied 1. Riley made 2 goals in one game and 1 goal in another. It's great to see the kids playing well and coming together as a team. It's also nice for Matt and me to spend time with the kids between games away from home where we are not tempted to work around the house. Maya loves swimming in hotel pools. Staying with my inlaws has not kept me from crashing the pool at whatever hotel the team is staying at that weekend.

Beautifully cold and clear in Anchorage

Snow man pancakes

Snowflake pancakes

Breakfast at City Diner, Anchorage

Silly Riley

Scary Chris

And they're at the gate...
Maya has gotten very independent with her swim ring.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

My out-laws, I mean in-laws came from Anchorage, Palmer and Fairbanks to ring in the New Year with us. It's been our tradition for the past 3-4 years. The tradition usually includes a charter for winter king salmon but this year it's been so cold, the harbor is frozen! Nanna saves a lot of her presents for us until New Year's Eve so it's like Christmas all over again.

I don't mean to brag or anything, but I kicked butt with my New Year's Eve dinner last night. I can't take all the credit, though. Kristin brought the prime rib which I cooked up. Matt scored us a box of King crab from Ian Pitzman. I had to use up the stuff in my organic veggie box from Full Circle Farms. So I tried 3 new recipes that came in my veggie box. Oh, and Matt scored again with the fireworks at midnight! I'm totally bummed that I didn't get any pictures of the fireworks show or a nice picture of the two of us (Sorry, honey!).

Today's my last day of lounging around in my pajamas all day. Tomorrow we head up to Anchorage for 3 hockey games. Then it's back to school on Monday. Maya starts preschool on Tuesday! Sarah goes back to Arizona tomorrow night. Wah!

Does anyone know how to have your blog professional printed and bound?

Yesterday we met Grandma for lunch. She left for 2 weeks in Hawaii. We are going to miss her!

Bon voyage Granma!

Maya sick with pneumonia.

Maya perked up after her 3 hour disco nap.

Jerusalem artichoke puree, avocado stuffed yams, and honey and sweet wine glazed roasted pears with heavy cream.

Kathleen is the crab master.

Kristin and Sarah.

Dr. Jill carves the prime rib like a surgeon (just kidding, she's in family practice).

Kristin's famous pear, blue cheese and candied walnut salad.

Michael in a rare moment without Maya on his lap.

If you are going to have a present on your lap, I'll just sit on your presents.

Riley shows us Chris' alter-ego.

Aunt Karyn made Riley a fleece Steelers jacket.

Nanna Claus passes out the presents.

And a Seahawks fleece jacket for Chris.

Irene opens a present from Kathleen and Steve.

Kathleen shares old family photos with Steve.