Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kids are Gross

Kids are so gross. They will pick their noses. Eat stuff off the floor. Squish egg between their fingers when they are supposed to be helping you "hatch" them to help with the baking. Ryan refers to cracking eggs as hatching them. He loves to help out in the kitchen. And yes, he stuck his hand in the bowl and squished them between his fingers today. Uncontrollable urge I guess. And our little goat, as I like to call her, has had her fair share of gross., if you recall from a past post.

But tonight I experienced the ultimate in gross. Along with a good heaping helping of panic.

Our little acrobatic goat can climb out of her crib now. This past week has been a struggle at nap and bedtime. So tonight we went through the regular routine of putting her in her crib, closing the gate at the top of the stairs and retreating to the living room for some quality adult time. We went upstairs several times to catch her running around the room squealing, or to comfort her crying and re-tuck her back into bed. We decided to let her cry it out a bit before going back up. Robert then went up to get her because her crying had escalated. As he was going up the stairs I heard him ask, "What is that smell?" I was using a natural cleaning product downstairs on a few toys. It did have a nice fragrance. But he didn't say anything about it when he was in the same room with me just seconds ago. Then I heard:

"What is that? It is really strong up here - OH MY GOD!"
"Oh no! What is that? Oh no! What is that? OH NO!!!"

I raced upstairs asking, "What is it? What's wrong?" And as soon as I hit the first step I too smelled a very strong chemical odor. The smell thickened as I reached the top of the stairs, fearing the worse.

Robert had her in his arms and had the box of baby wipes in his grasp. He then began wiping her face and hands as he explained that she got a hold of something in the bathroom. In the toilet.

I looked in the bathroom to see the toilet open and thankfully, empty. But there on the side of the bowl was a blue gel that had little finger marks dug into it. "Toilet Diamonds" as Ryan calls them, are Scrubbing Bubbles Cleaning Gel that is applied under the rim with an applicator and I suppose look rather tasty to an almost two year old.

She had gel on her hands, in her hair, on her face, and yes, we believe she ate some too.

So as it turns out, I just got off the phone with Poison Control. She's going to be okay. There's a possibility of some mild irritation to her intestines, perhaps vomiting and diarrhea. But she is alright. Thank the heavens!
But Geez! That is Super Gross!  I feel sick to my stomach just writing about it!

Now before any of you go out of your way to scold me on the safety measures I should have in my home, I just want to assure you that we have child safety locks on the cabinets where the chemicals & cleaning products are kept. And actually a majority of the products are natural and safe. But we never in a million years dreamed she would eat anything out of the toilet! (Eww! - full body shiver!) And no, we are not going to invest in a toilet seat lock. I think she's learned her lesson.

And to my friend who said our family has so many sitcom worthy ordeals - this one's for you!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Truly Super Duper


This past weekend we all went on a shopping trip to a store.
An ordinary task for most people.
But for us, it is an unusual venture. Ever since Ryan's diagnosis we have kept him pretty sheltered. We do not take him to the stores with us very often. We took him out to a store probably less than half a dozen times last year. Shopping carts have so many germs and shoppers can be quite disgusting sneezing all over my precious boy. Well, maybe not directly on him, but near enough that it invades his air space. Now that he is suffering an upper respiratory infection just days after swimming in the cesspool of consumerism and bad hygiene, confirming my fears, I believe we may never leave the house again.

So we took him to Target this past weekend. Something we probably should've done before Christmas if we wanted to spare ourselves the embarrassment of failing the most important parental seasonal duty. <<see Santa Fail for details>>

We had a bunch of stuff to return (duplicates of gifts) so we were pretty excited about having a gift card to spend! We walked to the back of the store towards the toy section. To be honest, we had our doubts that we would find anything to fit the bill.

"Okay buddy here we are! Now we are going to look at some toys and we need you to tell us if you see the Super Duper Lightning McQueen Thingy." I explained.

"What does it look like again?" Robert tried to get him to divulge more info.

"It's super duper and has strings on it." He had just mentioned this small detail to me last week when I prodded him once again for info. I dismissed it at first but now I am not so sure. Now I am even more confused.

Great. Strings on a toy car? A car puppet? Doesn't make sense.

We slowly proceeded down each aisle and pointed out each Cars toy we thought might be the elusive prize. He dismissed them all. We even tried to play up the coolness of some of them, desperate to fill the void of his crushed Christmas dream, hoping he would be somehow convinced that this particular toy within our budget was super duper. But alas, he was not easily impressed.

We were coming to the end of the toy section. The aisles were now filled with clearance merchandise of rejected overstocked misfit toys. Our hopes were dim but we trudged forth.

Then we spied an entire shelf of large boxes with the Cars 2 logo. We studied the box and discovered it was a slot car race track, much like the ones we remembered having as kids. We reminisced for a moment then focused on our task.

This was not cool enough to be it. Could it be?

Then we saw it. There in the picture on the box, a child holding a remote that had a wire leading back to the box attached to the race track. As if it both occurred to us at the same time, Robert and I said "Strings!"

"Is this the super duper thingy?" I cautiously asked.

"He looked up from his giant Icee cup which was now half gone and nonchalantly said, "Yep, that's it." No thrill, no excitement, no jumping gleefully, no hugging and kissing everyone as he ran through the aisles crying with joy. Nope, nothing. Not the reaction we were expecting.

"Are you sure this is it?" Robert prodded.

"Yep, that's the one. The one with strings." Again, clinical, dry. As if we should've known this from the start. But this time he perked up slightly as he reached for the box to get a better look.

I could see a glimmer in his eyes. The look on his face - truly super duper! This was it! We had finally found it! The holy grail of Lightning McQueen toys - and at an incredibly discounted price! Who knew it would be a slot car track!

I must've been displaying that concerned look on my face that revealed my doubts of it's value as a toy worthy of our household. Robert looked at me then searched the box for battery information.

You see I have an unwritten checklist of toy ownership feasibility. He knew what I was thinking. This toy failed miserably. Being a Libra I like to weigh the pros and cons of EVERYTHING. I am quite proud of the skills I have to make decisions, the only problem is it sometimes takes forever to reach that decision. This one did not take long. My thought process went something like this: (and yes, there are 3 colorful voices in my head arguing at all times, a la 3 Stooges - the classic one, not the one with that modern day reality TV stooge - I can't even bring myself to post a link)

Does it require batteries? YES
Does it look like something we will have to change the batteries on often? of course 
Ugh! Let me guess, probably a size we do not have.
What size? D's
As I guessed, we do not have any - in fact we just gave some away for Christmas

Does it make noise? Yes.
Typical, though not a deal breaker

Does it have parts small enough for Rowan to eat? Yes.  
Uh, she'll try to eat anything
Does it look like they can get hurt playing with it? Huh! 
I can almost envision the blood.

Could they use the parts as weapons? Yep 
more blood. not looking good.
Are there many pieces? Yes  
about a zillion
Does it look like it's going to break? Uh,  
Do you have to put it together? ...
Once together does it stay that way? :(
Warning! Warning!
Is this the toy he wanted? Yes! Will he love it? Yes!! Will it relieve my guilt if I buy it? YES!!!

This year I'll be stocking up on batteries and taking him to the store in November, in a bubble, with plenty of Purell and antibiotics on hand. In the meantime, I need to brush up on my kid-speak deciphering skills.  As Lightning McQueen says, "Wish me luck!"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Baked Potato and Leek Soup

Baked Potato and Leek Soup
Creamy, cheesy, hearty, veggie packed, restaurant worthy meal in a bowl. But sooooo NOT figure friendly. I'm sure you could make slimmer variations with skim milk and fat-free stuff, but it probably won't taste as good as this one! Potato soup is my all-time favorite and this recipe is the best one I've made. It is super easy and perfect for cold snowy days.

10 medium Potatoes (baked for 1 hr. at 350* and then rough chopped with skins on - do this first and bake while prepping all the other veggies and start to cook the soup)

1 large Carrot, peeled and shredded
1 stalk of Celery, diced
1/2 large Mayan/Sweet Onion, diced
2 Scallions, diced (Reserve a small amount for topping)

2 cloves of Garlic, minced
3 large Leeks, sliced (slice first then rinse in a bowl to wash away the sand, leeks float and sand sinks, drain/dry on paper towels)
Salt & Pepper 
A tablespoon of dried crushed Thyme (I eyeball this by pouring some in my palm and crushing it)
1 lb of Bacon (Reserve a small amount for topping)

4 tbsp of Butter
1/4 cup Flour
4 cups Milk
1 container Sour Cream
1 bag of shredded Cheese (I used Sargento's Double Cheddar) (Reserve a small amount for topping)
1 Box of Chicken Stock or Broth

Heat oven to 350* and bake the potatoes for 1 hr
While the potatoes bake, prep all veggies and other ingredients
When the potatoes are done, rough chop leaving their skins on and set aside.
Coat the bottom of a large stockpot or Dutch oven with a little vegetable oil.
Turn heat to medium high
Add all diced veggies (except potatoes) and Salt & Pepper & the Thyme, and stir occasionally until just softened
Remove veggies from pot and set aside.
Cook the bacon in the pot

Drain on paper towels and crumble and set aside.
Drain most of the grease but leave the browned bits
Add butter and melt, scrapping up the bits from the bottom of the pan

Add flour and make a roue
Whisk in milk slowly until all flour is dissolved and the liquid is thick
Season with Salt and Pepper

Add shredded cheese and stir until melted
Add sour cream and chicken stock and mix well
Return veggies to the pot along with the rough chopped baked potatoes and the crumbled bacon
and stir.

Let simmer on low until ready to serve.
Top with reserved scallions, bacon, and shredded cheese (optional)

Serve with crusty bread or a multi-grain flatbread like in my picture.

Rowan LOVES her soup!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


The thin line between providing our children happiness and spoiling them rotten is a tightrope that I think all parents stumble across. For me, this has become a difficult task when I am consumed with overwhelming desire to never have Ryan face anything remotely disappointing ever again, after all that he has been through. But it seems I should give him more credit. Just the other day he proved to be amazingly hopeful in the face of disappointment.

We were in the car headed to my sister's house for my niece's 3rd birthday just this past Friday.  Rowan was asleep within minutes as the hypnotic engine played her favorite lullaby. Ryan played with a toy and hummed happily. I was fighting off a headache (the start of my current cold as it turns out), trying to concentrate on the road as the commercial noise on the radio softly buzzed in the background. Then from the back seat I heard a sweet little voice.

"I had so much fun the other day opening presents!" he chimed so cheerily, kicking his feet rhythmically against the back of the front seat.

"Oh, you mean on Christmas?" I clarified more than asked.

"Oh yeah, yeah, yeah... on Christmas, " he corrected. "That was so much fun!"

"Yes, it was a very special day and Santa was so very nice to bring us so many wonderful gifts." I tried to continue on, mentioning something about how just being together was gift enough but I was abruptly interrupted by the saddest sound ever.

"Yeah, it was so nice, even if Santa did forget to bring me the super duper Lightning McQueen race car thingy that I really, really wanted."

My heart sank. I had dreaded this moment but I thought it was going to happen on Christmas day, not nearly a week later. You see, for the past month we ran into Santa several times at a variety of venues. And each and every time when Santa asked what he wanted, he would instantly reply with the same exact answer: A Super Duper Lightning McQueen Race Car Thingy. He sounded so much like the kid in A Christmas Story, the same enthusiasm and quick tongued matter-of-fact manner that it made me giggle every time.

Believe me, I tried to figure out what in the world that was. I asked other moms and relatives if they could decipher the foreign language of my child. I only got the same deer-in-headlights look I'm sure I displayed the first time I heard him say it, followed by looks of pity and the unhelpful tidbits of "Well, you'd better figure it out soon." I looked through sale ads asking him to point it out to me. That proved to be too overwhelming for him because he ended up pointing to each and every awesome toy in the ad that he wanted Santa to bring for him. But none were the Super Duper gift he so coveted. I asked him to describe it for me to which he responded with a "You know mom, the super duper one." Riiiiight. How silly of me. I scavenged the aisles of several stores, even daring to ask a pimply seasonal worker if he knew what it was to which I got a blank stare which turned into a suspicious look as if I were playing some kind of a hidden camera joke on him. I even typed it into Google hoping maybe it would miraculously show me the item I sought instead of the 1,240,000 useless results. I was even desperate enough to ask my cryptic four year old to draw me a picture of it. "Mom. You know." was all I got. Apparently I have impressed my children so much with my incredible mind reading skills that they automatically assume my powers transcend the Santa-Parent barrier.

I ended up buying a few items that I thought perhaps were cool enough to qualify as super duper though in my heart I feared the worst. I even held out hope that our foundation Santas had hidden the prize amongst the generous piles of wrapped gifts. (The presents were ALL so very wonderful, by the way! Thank you Secret Santas!)

"Wha?" I stammered reaching for the radio knob to shut off the noise. "You didn't... Santa didn't..." I was so glad he could not see my horrified face.

"Santa must've forgot to bring the super duper Lightning McQueen race car thingy I asked for." He then let out a huge sigh of disappointment and my heart broke. "That's okay. I guess the elves just didn't know how to make it." he concluded. I imagine he was shaking his hanging head.

"Ohhhh. Can you tell me about it please? What does it look like? I'm just so sad about this." I pried for more info.

"Oh no Mom," he reassured, "Don't feel sad about it. It's not your fault."

I couldn't even breathe let alone speak as I tried to stifle laughter and tears.

"It's okay, mom. Maybe Santa will remember to bring it next year."

So although Santa obviously failed, Ryan's positive outlook persevered and that is a win in my book.

Speaking of Santa fail... This morning Daddy came downstairs with a box he found in our bedroom. Inside were a few small gifts that Santa had forgotten to put under the tree. D'oh! Hopefully Santa will have his act together next year!

We hope you all had a wonderful holiday and here's to a prosperous New Year!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Whole Lotta Mess

Today I had the honor of writing a guest post titled All I Want for Christmas on another blog. This is quite an honor for me because I admire her writing. I thought it best to elaborate on that post, particularly the pictures that are displayed. So here is the story for those who are curious.

Below is a photo of what I like to refer to as the "April Fool's Day Wholly Queso Rug Incident". Totally my fault too. The kids were 100% innocent on this one. And this by far and wide, was the worst my carpet has seen. Yes, worse than cat barf, kiddie pee, and leaky sippies.

I tried to "Rachel Ray" it and carry a boatload of stuff from the living room to the kitchen. Why, do you ask, was the food in the living room? (For shame! Food should never be in the living room!) We actually weren't having a meal and this was AN ENTIRE tub of queso. We had just received a care package in the mail, in a neat styrofoam cooler, from the Wholly Guacamole company, and I let Ryan open the box in the living room. Tons of yummy goodness: guacamole (his fave, mine too), salsa, queso... and t-shirt and misc promo items.

Totally cool until I dropped the container and it just shattered wide open instead of bouncing like plastic containers are supposed to. Turns out cheese sauce can fly pretty far too. A good 8 feet radius was splattered, all the way to the other side of the room onto toys, the chair, the walls. So gross to clean up. That cheese sauce soaked in fast as if it were a thin liquid instead of thick creamy goodness.

Instead of spouting off all the words that immediately came to mind, I just kept saying "Wholly Guacamole" over and over and the kids thought it was hilarious. My house smelled like a Mexican restaurant for a while, but not in a good way. Nothing like the smell of old spicy cheese to greet you when you come home from a weekend of yucky hospital smells. Turned me off queso, haven't ate it since.

Ryan with his booty of cheesy and guacamole goodness!

I can't even look at this without the memory of the smell invading my nostrils all over again!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Pocketful of Pennies

When we were young, my sisters and I were allowed to roam the neighborhood on our bikes. We'd be gone for hours, unsupervised. As long as we were home by dinner time, which we always were, all was well. When it was raining, we stayed inside and played Barbies, or My Little Ponies, or house with our dolls, always barring our baby brother from the play. But you can only play nice with conventional toys and be cooped up inside for so long, before you start getting rambunctious and creative. We'd run around the house like crazy, bouncing off of everything, and climbing the walls, literally. We lived in a single wide trailer which is pretty small for a family of six. The hallways were narrow and perfectly spaced to climb when you were bare foot, bracing yourself on the moulding. I liked to do this daily. Dad would always yell at me and say I was going to warp the walls.

Sometimes we'd take over the living room and play a made up game of "don't touch the floor" in which you'd pretend that the floor was a swamp filled with alligators, the pillows and removed couch cushions were rocks that jutted above the surface, and the couch was a boat that occasionally sank into the depths stranding us on the precarious rocks. A jump rope was a perfect rescue line that helped to get pulled to safety on the shore - the kitchen.

But one of our favorite games was baseball - inside. We'd use the couch, pillows, and bar stools as the bases. We usually used a pillow as the bat too. Various items played the part of the ball. It was only a few steps between bases, even for a child, in that cramped space. But we imagined it to be a vast ballpark. We each played the role of multiple ball players on each team since there were only three of us - we didn't include our brother most of the time. (He was just a baby so he was probably napping.) Being the oldest and bossiest, I also filled the role of the announcer. I would invent different names for each player. We even had pinch runners, a Cabbage Patch Kid, who would be stand ins when the bases were loaded. Now don't get me wrong here, we were not allowed to play ball inside. We were definitely not permitted to throw things, no matter how soft. But we did these things anyway reassuring our mother that we were careful (as we bounced off the walls from a combination of sugar and boredom).

There is one particular game that sticks out in my mind as I do believe it was the last game of our illustrious careers as amateur pre-adolescent indoor ball players. It was a rainy day, not a downpour, but wet enough that we were inside until it tapered off. The bases were loaded. Our mother had once again told us to "knock it off" because we were "going to break something". And wouldn't you know, a few moments later, we did just that.

One of us hit a fly ball to right field, a homer for sure. It flew just over the television and into one of our mother's prized knick-knacks, a small porcelain wishing well. We watched helplessly as it came crashing down and shattered into pieces on the living room floor. We froze for a moment, waiting to sprint to the bedroom as our mother rushed into the room to see what had just happened. Instead of turning angrily towards us, she began to pick up the pieces and then she began to cry. Overwhelmed with shame, we three began to cry as well. We slowly and silently went to our room, punishing ourselves.

While wallowing in our pity, we began to talk about how sad we had made our mom. She had never cried like that before and it was more punishment than if she had chased us to our room yelling threats of "wait til your father gets home." We devised a plan to make it right. We scrounged together what little change we had in our piggy banks and filled our pockets with the loot. We then did something we had never done before. We left the house without permission.

We snuck out the back door and onto our bikes. We rode as quickly and as silently as we could down the street and out of ear and eye shot of our home. We then roamed the neighborhood, stopping at every yard sale in search for the perfect replacement. We found a small crystal bud vase and a porcelain figurine of two doves. We pulled the change out of our pockets and offered it to the seller. We forked over handfuls of mostly pennies, not sure if we had enough to cover it. But the man, seeing our tear stained faces and overhearing our conversations, decided that we had paid him enough and it was a fair trade.

We swiftly and carefully returned to our home, giddy with pride. We snuck back inside and found our mother in the fragrant kitchen standing over a bubbling pot on the stove. We were sure she hadn't noticed we were gone. We cautiously approached her and gave her the gifts. We told her how sorry we were for breaking her wishing well. She silently took the gifts and once again began to cry. Confused and contrite, we returned to our room to cry some more and wait for the real punishment when our father got home from work. But at dinner that evening, Mom didn't even mention the incident.We had made our peace.

My mother barely recalls that day, but she did confess that although she never let on, she knew we had snuck out as our whispering and the squeaky back door gave us away. That day I learned all kinds of invaluable lessons. I learned to respect others - especially my mother's things, everything is replaceable, silence can speak volumes, never play ball inside, what your father doesn't know can't hurt you, and it is not good to make your mother cry (unless it is from happiness - but that's another story).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A few Words

Today was a long rough day.  We first woke at 5AM to Ryan screaming from pain while urinating. Then we headed to my mom’s to drop off Rowan and then off to the hospital. The clinic wanted a urine sample to test for UTI and to see if there was any blood to indicate a kidney stone. He had no problem peeing in the cup – pain free, it figures. Then we headed to radiology where after 2hrs of waiting he was sedated then scanned – all that for 15 minutes. He took his time waking up too but by noon we were headed to see the sites in the hospital and begin our 3hr wait until his next appt.

Ryan went into melt down mode after about a half hour and I was dehydrated, starving, and so ready to go. We attempted to leave, actually making it to the car, seat belts on. But we were both super grumpy and just needed to stop for a moment. I figured we should just stay, eat, and wait it out instead of going to mom’s, risking him falling asleep in the car, possibly eating, possibly napping, then heading back to do all over again in a few hours when we were both so cranky. I stepped out of the car to breathe as Ryan flailed inside. Tantrum done, then we hugged and made-up and headed back inside to eat.

Lunch was quite pleasant. Ryan had pepperoni pizza and I bought a pineapple fruit cup to add his favorite topping to the slice. He also devoured a mandarin orange jello cup and a grape slushie. After refueling our bodies, we decided to go for a ride to the stars and bottom of the sea courtesy of the glass elevators in the lobby. It was almost exactly a year ago that he did this for the first time. One of his favorite nurses, Ryan, showed him this for the first time. He took him for a wheel chair ride out of his room and into the hospital. He had a trach then and was so very ill. If you look back through pictures you can see for yourself. He has come so far.

After zooming to the sea one last time, we rode the escalator and then stopped to watch the ever-fascinating ball machine. He dragged me into the gift shop where we spent plenty of time playing with every toy. I was coerced into buying him a fire truck which he is currently sleeping with.  We then went upstairs to the clinic to wait some more until our appt, only 40 minutes too soon. And it figures she would be running behind too. Wait some more. Finally the doc came in and gave us a word.

“Stable”, she said. “The scans this morning were stable.” I heard her but I also saw her. Her body language expressed something more. She seemed uncomfortable, not as enthusiastic as her words begged to be. She then said she was “uncomfortable with the terminology the radiologist used” in the report. She lost me there. What does THAT mean? She explained that there are two small areas on his lung that in past scans were referred to and considered to be post-operative changes. But on this latest report the radiologist - who she gushed is very good and very trustworthy - called these two tiny air filled pockets something else. Another word: “cysts”.

It’s just a word. Just one tiny word. Could mean nothing. Could mean… something. To a parent of a kid with PPB, and to a PPB doctor, that word has a lot of weight. PPB starts out as a tiny, seemingly harmless, cyst on a child’s lung. The cyst then grows and becomes filled with liquid and then advances to become a solid tumor. I could now understand why she looked so concerned.

She tried to reassure me that there have been “no changes” in these, suggesting post-operative sites, and that the scans have remained stable and the overall verdict is that he is disease-free. But she said she is going to confer with the radiologist and his surgeon to make sure and to better understand why this term was now used. What does it mean?

Cyst or not, they are going to keep an eye on it to determine if there is any growth or change, which may indicate return of the cancer. When and if that happens, they will decide how to proceed at that time. But as it is right now, there is no change. He is stable. His next set of scans is in three months putting us at the end of February, right around Rowan’s second birthday. So we will just have to wait, and pray, and see.

As far as the pee-pain… his test came back fine, no blood and no infection. So they have no idea what was causing that. If it happens again, I am to call the doc right away so we can look further into it. However, the radiologist said his testicles are always bouncing around up inside of him. I guess on several scans they can be seen. This is not unusual but they should be able to drop back down. She described them as yo-yos that can bounce up and down inside and then drop into position outside of the body. They are concerned because they should’ve dropped by his age and there is an increased risk for testicular cancer if they can’t drop. After a thorough exam, the doc said she could not find his left one to pull it down into place. He will need to see a pediatric urologist who can “tack it down” as she put it. I’m obviously not a guy, but it makes me feel squeamish as my imagination stumbles over just how they may accomplish this.

I am hanging onto hope, as always. There are a few words and what they all mean that will be running through my mind over the next 3 months. “Stable” is good. “Cysts” is undecided and panic inducing. And “tacking down a yo-yo” while seemingly comical is the next medical hurdle. Right now I just want to enjoy the holidays with my family. And stand in awe and thankfulness of the abundance we DO HAVE in our lives.  
Finally by 5, I got to mom’s to pick up Ro and a lovely pork pot-roast she had cooked for us. This exhausted mommy and the sleepy kids headed home arriving just minutes before Daddy who was coming home from work. And after quickly eating, I went straight to bed. I awoke to help put the kids to bed then decided to stay up a bit and write this update to all of you who’ve been so patiently awaiting a few words.

Thank you for sticking with us this past year. My heart and my gratitude are continually overshadowed and overwhelmed by friends’, family’s, and even strangers’ warm hugs of support and generosity. My sincerest THANKS! Happy Holidays to you and your family!