Friday, December 20, 2013

Tree, meet acorn

Even as a kid, I had little tolerance for what I perceived to be people talking down to me, or for wussiness or bullshit.  I used to yell at my Tubby the Tuba record because I thought Tubby was exasperatingly little sissy.

My mother would walk by my bedroom door when I was listening, and hear me yell, "oh, Tubby, you fat little tuba!"

I was hyper-rational, never believing in monsters or Santa or the tooth fairy.  I played along when I was little, but deep down it wouldn't have occurred to me to think they were real.

I get frustrated with Zeke sometimes, because as bold and assertive as he is, he believes in and worries about EVERYTHING.  Any bad thing that he hears about or learns about, he obsesses about all of the various ways that bad thing could impact him (or Katy Perry -- when the terrible flooding hit Colorado in September, after seeking reassurance that our house wouldn't be swept away, his next worry was that Katy Perry's house would be hit.  I assured him that Katy would be OK because she doesn't live in Colorado).  I am the opposite.  I will take reasonable caution in a situation, but I generally don't assume the worst and I don't worry much about awful things happening.

I guess at Zeke's school they were talking about rattlesnakes one day as part of some science discussion, and Zeke grilled me for an hour that night about whether rattlesnakes were going to somehow slip into our house and eat him.

"Honey, there aren't rattlesnakes in Denver.  Rattlesnakes live in the desert, not in Congress Park."*

"But what about other snakes?  What other poisonous snakes are there that are around here."

"J, you wanna take this one?"

And he's all too susceptible to the suggestions of his friend Shaun, who apparently spends his days regaling Zeke with stories of monsters and vampires.

"Mama, can vampires get in our house?"


"How do you know?"

"Because there's no such thing as vampires."

"But Shaun says there are!"

"Who's smarter, me or Shaun?"


"Yep.  And I always will be.  Stop listening to that little punk."

Josie, however, is immune to the nonsense.

"I'm not afraid of monsters or vampires, Mama," she'll say in a superior voice, nose in the air, and basically accusing Zeke, to his face, of being a complete pussy.  "I'm not afraid of anything."  (And she really isn't.)

"Good.  You shouldn't be.  And don't taunt your brother.  Nobody likes a show off."

Last night I was sitting in bed reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's new book about Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the rise of the progressive movement.  The kids were sitting on the sofa in our bedroom, watching The Goodnight Show, a kids show on PBS involving a young woman named Nina and her friend Star, who is a star-shaped puppet.  Together they watch kids' cartoons, play games and get ready for bed. One of the games they play is a matching game.

The matching game drives Josie insane, because the version they play is so simplistic and babyish that basically you'd need to be unconscious not to be able to figure it out.

As I'm reading, I'm interrupted by the dulcet tones of my youngest, berating Nina and Star.



"Yes, Mama?" she responds, sweetly.

"Is everything OK?  What's going on?"

"Nothing, Mama.  Just watching The Goodnight Show.  Love you, Mama."

"Love you too, sweet pea."

That's my girl.
*I have absolutely no basis for saying this.  I have no idea if rattlesnakes can be found anywhere in Denver.  But I'm certainly not going to tell Zeke that, nor am I going to worry about it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A is for "nipple," and other updates

Even though I don't really use this space as a daily diary -- obviously, given the paucity of posts this year -- I love going back and reading about things that happened last year or the year before or in 2006.  So when I don't post, I feel bad, not because I'm depriving the world of my brilliant musings, but because I'm depriving myself of an important took I use for tripping down memory lane.  And I'm a nostalgic kinda chick.  One of the reasons I love reunions so much (and why they make me so emotional) is that I've known so many wonderful people and experienced so many wonderful experiences and lived in so many wonderful places, and I have an overwhelming desire to remember it all and keep it with me, in my heart and my brain, as much as possible.

It's been a difficult, busy few months.

The good news is, I'm still alive and functioning (mostly).
I managed to shake off the depression that had been hanging around since September.  It sapped my productivity and my motivation -- I haven't been exercising as regularly or eating as well as I should, which has exacerbated feeling down and sluggish.  It's so stupid -- I am so obviously aware of how exercise and healthy eating contribute to my mental health, and yet when I need it the most, I can't make myself do it. Drives me nuts.

On the "what's going on with my brain" front, I had an MRI last week.  It was very noisy, but otherwise unremarkable.  I'm still awaiting the results.

In any event, I am getting back on track.  P90X3 was just released (get amazing results in only 30 minutes a day!) and I'm going to be doing it post-New Year's with a great group of people.  So I can get ripped again just in time for spring break in Nicaragua.  Cannot wait.

The bad news is sad.
J's dad died last week.  He had been sick for years, but took a bad turn when he had a stroke about a month ago.  He was in hospital and his condition was deteriorating.  We were in Virginia visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, checking in with the Aussie relatives the whole time.  When we returned, we received a middle-of-the-night call from J's brother, letting us know that the doctors didn't think there was much time left, and that if anyone needed to come to Australia to say their final goodbyes, it needed to happen ASAP.  So we got on the phone and got a flight departing the following night.  J was able to spend precious last days telling his dad everything he wanted to tell him - how much he loved him, how much he looked up to him.  He also got precious time with his brothers and sister, and they were all able to lean on each other.

Denis died on Tuesday, December 10 (the day after our 8th wedding anniversary).  J said that his dad told him that he was ready to die, and that he looked more peaceful in death than he did in his final days alive.  I know he had been unhappy and uncomfortable for a long time.  I'm glad his suffering is over.

But of course, it's hard for J.  As much as we can acknowledge that it was time, it's still his dad.  Denis was a good man and a loving father.  And in all honestly, he was the only parental figure from J's childhood that ever did right by him -- the others were either useless or downright abusive.  (And if any of J's family is reading this, sorry, but it's true.  Believe me, I'm the one cleaning up the resulting emotional/psychological mess they made.)  So J is grieving, and the kids and I are doing our best to give him TLC.  Life goes on.

In other news, my kids are crazy and hilarious and fun.
Winter is upon us, which means it's ski season.  Zeke started ski camp a couple of weeks ago (it's 3 Saturdays in a row), and he LOVES IT.  The first day they stayed on a tiny little hill with an incline of maybe 2 degrees, going up and down via a magic carpet.  When I picked him up at the end of the day, he insisted on showing me how he was able to jump on his skis.  So we went over to the little beginner area and he skied down the hill, stopped half-way down, jumped in place on his skis, and then came down the rest of the way.
Zeke tears up the slopes.
Last Saturday they learned to use the rope tow to go up a slightly longer run that had some curves and terrain (little jumps) built in.  He mastered that, so I took him on his very first chair lift, to the top of a short green run.  He got off the lift perfectly, pointed his skis downhill, and whooped and hollered as he skied down.  So much fun.

Josie is a sassy little thing, and getting so smart and mischievous.  Whenever we're in the car, Zeke likes to play an alphabet game, where we pick a letter and then say words that start with that letter.  Josie can play, but she mostly likes to crack everyone up by coming up with some random word that starts with a different letter.

Zeke:  Let's do "M."
Me:  OK.  Machine.
J:  Macho!
Zeke: Motorcycle!
Josie: Mama!
Me: Monkey.
Josie: Apple!

And everybody cracks up.

We finally decided that when Josie uses a word that starts with a different letter, then the different letter is now the letter we have to use.

Josie:  Apple!
J:  OK, now we're on "A."
Zeke: Allosaur! (he just watched a documentary about allosaurs)
Me: Aardvark!
Zeke: America!
J: Africa!
Josie: Nipple!

And everybody cracks up.

'Tis the season to get some rest.
I'm tired.  J was gone for almost two weeks, and while my kids are crazy and hilarious and fun, they're also exhausting.  Between the logistics of being the one to do morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up and dinner and bath and play-time and bed and ski camp and laundry and on and on, I could use an extremely long nap.  So the Christmas break comes just in time.  I will be on leave from Monday, the 23rd, through January 1st.  I'll do some baking and we'll open presents from Santa and we'll ski and sled and watch movies and go to museums.  And, I'm hoping, get some sleep.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Many, many straws piling upon my back

About two weeks ago, I was sitting in my office talking to one of my coworkers when all of a sudden I realized I was speaking in fits and starts because for the life of me, I could not retrieve the words I wanted to say.  I stopped to gather my thoughts and then tried to speak again, but again tried to say a word, but again it was the wrong word and I stopped again.  At the same time, I had this sort of tingly feeling in my head and my upper body -- kind of like the cold flush you get when you start to feel panicky.  I kept trying to find the words, kept failing, kept stopping.  Finally, much to my (and my coworker's relief), after about 25 seconds the fog cleared and my brain started to work again.  I was a little freaked out, but otherwise felt normal.

I assumed it was dehydration or something similar.  I drank a bunch of water, and started keeping a big pitcher on my desk, so that I would be better at making sure I was having enough.  It's dry in these parts, and I often feel like I don't remember to drink as much water as I should.

Then last weekend it happened again.  It was Saturday night, and we some friends were over to eat, watch a movie, and most importantly, coordinate the purchase of our plane tickets to Nicaragua, where we're going for the kids' spring break. I was in the middle of a conversation when I felt my brain fog up, my body start to tingle, and I couldn't find the words to continue the conversation for about 25 seconds.

I worried that I was having little mini strokes.  I googled the symptoms, but I haven't had any numbness or vision issues, so I figured that was unlikely.  Then I thought about my cousin Simon, who was arguing a case in court one day and suddenly found himself unable to speak or continue making his argument.  He was dead two years later of a brain tumor.

Also, these episodes have come during a time when I constantly feel exhausted, constantly have a low grade (at least) headache, constantly feel like I can't focus or stay on task the way I'm usually able to. I had been chalked it up to a bout of depression that has been going on for almost two months -- it hasn't been severe, but it's been enough that I've felt extremely disrupted by it, particularly because it's lasted much longer than usual.

I went to the doctor on Wednesday, first to see my GP.  She gave me a neurological exam and asked me a bunch of question, and also ordered a series of blood tests, looking at everything from my folate levels to my thyroid to my blood sugar and cholesterol. 

When I got home, I developed a crushing headache, about as painful a headache as I've ever had (I've never been one to get bad headaches).  I took a bunch of ibuprofen, and while I was waiting for it to work, suddenly noticed this fuzzy cloud of grey in my peripheral vision on my right side.  I kept glancing over to my right because I had a sense that something was moving over there, but it was the grey fuzzy cloud. 

Then at one point, I went into the kitchen and put both hands on the counter in front of me, with my forearms parallel to each other.  I then focused on a midpoint about 8 inches in front of my hands.  I could see my left hand in my peripheral vision, but I couldn't see my right hand at all (I could see it if I looked directly at it, but not when I looked at the focal point).  Once it passed a line about 20 degrees off the midpoint, it just disappeared. 

a crude rendition, looking down at the top of my head,
 of how I was standing, where my hands were, and where I was looking
The fuzziness/peripheral vision weirdness continued yesterday morning.  I noticed it as I was getting the kids ready for school, and then when I was walking from the bus to my office building.  There was a man walking in front of my and slightly to my right, and when he passed the 20 degree point, he disappeared.

To top it off, my blood work came back.  Everything was fine except for my blood sugar, which was high, especially considering my lifestyle.  I have been described as "prediabetic," and told I need to go in to talk about treatment options, which is probably going to be similar to what I had to do when I was pregnant with Josie -- regular testing of my blood sugar, and a highly restrictive diet.

 I have to go in for a fasting blood draw tomorrow so they can test my cholesterol, which I fully anticipate will come back high, since it runs in my family. 

I've also had my info reviewed by the neurology department at Kaiser.  They want me to do an MRI and an EEG.

Needless to say, I'm a little freaked.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

But now I am six, I'm as clever as clever.*

After I finished my workout this morning, I tip-toed into the kids' room to wake them up.  Both were asleep in Zeke's bed, snuggled up with their arms around each other.

"Good morning, kiddies," I whispered.  I rubbed their backs.  "Josie... Zekey... Good morning.  Happy birthday, Zeke."

Zeke rolled over, opened his eyes a little, and smiled at me as he stretched the sleep away.

"It's your birthday!  Happy birthday, honey."

"Thanks, Mama."

He put his head on Josie's shoulder and kissed her cheek.  "Josie, are you ready to get up?"

Her eyes were still closed and she shook her head.

"Zekey, let's go downstairs and you can open your present.  If Josie wants to sleep a little more, we can get her up in a little while."

Zeke popped up and jumped out of his bed onto the floor.  His bed is a low loft, so it's a jump of about 4 feet.  He landed and said, "yep, six-year-olds are tough."

We proceeded to go downstairs.  I was going to give him his present (a skateboard and a new helmet), but he said, "Mama, let's wait until this afternoon, so Daddy can see it, too."

We had birthday doughnuts for breakfast, I picked out all green clothes for him to wear (it's his favorite color), and he happened to have a field trip for school today, at which he claims he will have a ride on a roller coaster.

It's good to be Zeke.  As my mom said, "his life is firing on all cylinders these days."

It's really true.  He's learning to read, and digs it.  He loves encyclopedia-type books -- when my parents were visiting, they got him a kids' encyclopedia book about animals, and he sits and reads it for hours.  I'll sit with him at bedtime and we'll learn about mammals and birds and primates and different kinds of bats and big cats and insect eaters.

He loves to be outside, and is allowed to go out by himself to ride his bike in the neighborhood.  He LOVES it.  He loves riding, he loves stopping at friends' houses for a visit, he loves getting exercise.

The other day he found his Batman costume (from Halloween last year), put it on, and went for a bike ride.  I couldn't stop laughing as I watched a little mini-Batman (wearing a bike helmet, natch) ride off down the sidewalk.

He loves to go hiking.  He loves to go camping. He's good at rock climbing.  He loves to go to the science museum and the children's museum and the zoo.  He has tons of friends.  He's doing great at school.  He's excited about having lost a couple of teeth.  He's a great athlete, strong and coordinated.  He started taking drum lessons about 5 or 6 months ago, and it turns out he's a natural -- his teacher raves about how he's never seen a kid his age pick it up so quickly and easily.

Sometimes I worry about him.  I worry that it's not good to go through life having everything come to you so easily.  To be handsome and healthy and fit and charming and smart and a good athlete and on and on.  To be good at almost all the things you like to do, almost immediately.  Adversity and challenge build character.  So I try to praise him for his efforts, rather than for being good-looking or smart.  He gets bigger kudos from me when he's kind to his sister or when he behaves himself at school than when he brings home schoolwork that is noteworthy.  I push him to try hard and stick up for people that are having a rough time, because I don't want him to go through life thinking he's such hot shit all the time that he doesn't need to make an effort or be a mensch.

But as far as I can see, he is a mensch.  His approach toward the world, and the people in it, is benevolent.  He's a happy kid, and he radiates that happiness out onto everyone he encounters.

For today, on his birthday, he gets to be King of the World.

Thanks to my friend Vicki, for reminding me of this A.A. Milne poem:

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I'm as clever as clever,
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


"Mama, it's not daytime,"  Josie insists.

I have just crawled back into bed -- my bed -- with Josie and Zeke, where they are cuddled up together.

"It's time to get up, kiddies."

"Noooo, it's still dark out.  How can it be daytime if it's still dark out?"

"Well, it's fall now, and soon it will be winter.  When it's fall and winter, the days are shorter, and it stays dark longer."

Josie sits up and looks out the window.  "Look, Zekey!  Look!!"

Zeke sits up.  "Oooooh, the sky is turning pink!"

"I know!  Isn't it beautiful?  Look, Mama!  Pink sky!  It's very beautiful."

Then they lie back down, each with their head on my shoulder.  I hug them close and kiss them on the tops of their heads.

"Mrawr.  Mama, I'm a baby tiger," Josie says.

"Me, too," says Zeke.

They both start talking baby talk, cooing and nuzzling up against me.

"Good little tigers," I say.

I think about how sweet they both are, and how I should appreciate the fact that they still love hugs and snuggles and cuddles.  And one day they won't.

"Mama, did you know that bats are nocturnal?"  Zeke asks.

"I did know that."

"Nocturnal means they sleep during the day."

"Yep.  Very good!"

Zeke sits up.

"Look, Josie! Look at the sky now!"

"Wow!  It's pink and purple now!  Mama, pink and purple are my favorite colors!"

"I know, honey," I respond.  "What a beautiful sky."

Josie looks over at Zeke.  "Zekey, lift up your arms."

He gives her an amused look.  "Why?"

"Just lift up your arms."


He lifts up his arms.  Josie wiggles her finger into his armpit and giggles.  "Pit potatoes!  I'm pulling out your pit potatoes."

Zeke laughs, giving her a look like she's the cutest little thing in the world.  Then he turns around and sits facing us.

"Mama, am I going to be hairy when I grow up?"



"Well, you've got the skin and hair from my side of the family, and the men in my family are pretty hairy."

"Will I be hairy like Sam and Josh?  Will I have hair on my chest?"

"Yes, I think so."

"My legs are already pretty hairy.  Feel them!"

I rub my hands on his legs, chuckling to myself.


"Yes, Josie."

"I love you."

"Me, too, Mama!  I love you!"  Zeke adds.

"I love you, too.  I love you both very much."

Josie sits up and looks at the sky again.

"Aaaaaaand it's blue."

We get up and get ready for the day.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Somehow, it wasn't a total disaster, or, how I paid $98 for two stickers for my kids

Last month we went on our final camping trip of the summer.  We went to a place called State Forest State Park, up in the north-central part of the state.  It's a very rugged part of the state, with jagged peaks and moose and lakes full of fish. 

Because we're us, the trip, like every other camping trip we've taken this summer, started out disastrously.

The drive is beautiful, taking you through truly rocky mountains.*

Everything was fine until about a minute before we pulled into our campsite, when it clouded up and started to drizzle.  As soon as we got there, J and I quickly set to work setting up the tent in the rain, which was falling harder and harder with every passing minute.  By the time we were done, it was pouring.  "Torrential downpour" seems like such an overused term, but truly, nothing else describes it.  Plus it was thundering and lightening.  We sat for about 10 minutes in the tent, but there was no sign of any abatement in the storm.  Water was getting into the tent because the wind was whipping so hard, we were already soaked from the tent-assembly process, and it was dinnertime.  We had no fire, and thus no food.

I said, "this is crazy.  Let's drive up to the next town and get some dinner.  Maybe after a while the rain will ease up."

We drove to Walden and had burgers (me and J), grilled cheese (the kids), and wine (me) at the Moose Creek Cafe (it's very moose-y up there).

J and Zeke hug it out at dinner. 
It was still raining buckets by the time it was getting dark.

"Motel?"  I offered to J.


So we slept the night at a local inn that looked like a log cabin and offered us 2 bedrooms and a kitchen for $79. We enjoyed hot showers and watched some TV and the kids bounced on the beds and giggled.

We went back to the campsite the next day and found the tent to have a little bit of water in it, but nothing terrible.  We proceeded to have a lovely day doing camp-y things.

We checked out a wildlife preserve.

We went to the Moose Visitor Center.

We aired out the tent and its contents.

 We built a fire.

 There was a little amphitheater near our site, so the kids put on a show.

We saw an eagle.

We went exploring in the woods.

We found a beautiful lake.

Zeke made a friend who let him help with some fishing.

Muscles were flexed.

Jagged peaks were admired.

This part of the Rockies is famous for its wildlife, so we were hoping to see some moose.  The campsite host told us that the best time to look was right around dusk, and told us some of the spots where they tend to be seen.  He warned us, though, that they tend to keep to themselves and it's not unusual to go looking for them and come up empty.

Well, we hadn't made it 5 minutes up the road when we saw some hanging out in a field.

 Pretty freaking cool.  And then the next morning, J and I were up before the kids and enjoying a cup of coffee when we spotted another one in a meadow right near our campsite.

It was magical.

We had some stuff to do back in Denver, so we packed up early and hit the road (it was about a 3 hour drive).  I drove.  The bulk of the drive is spent on a county road winding through the mountains until you hit the interstate, and the posted speed limit is 40.  On parts of the road, you really need to go slowly because of the steep turns, but on other parts, driving that slowly was painful to me.  I bragged to J about how I hadn't gotten a speeding ticket in over 20 years.

And then was pulled over for speeding.

The cop was really nice, and I fully admitted that I had been going too fast, and apologized.  He chatted with the kids and then wrote me a ticket for a full 15 MPH slower than I was going, so I wouldn't get too many points on my license.  My fine would be $98. I thanked him, and he asked if the kids wanted some stickers.  I said, "sure, who doesn't love a sticker?"

J pointed out that since we were getting two of them, it was only $49 apiece.  We told that to the cop and he cracked up, and then we all went on our way (at the speed limit).

The stickers are now displayed on our fridge, reminders of a lovely weekend that could have been a fiasco, but somehow wasn't.

*This road is actually now closed due to damage from the recent flooding.  :(

Thursday, September 26, 2013

They say it's your birthday, we're gonna have a good time

My dearest Josephine, you are now four years old.  

In the last year, so much has changed, and so much of your you-ness has revealed itself so vividly.

You are fiercely independent, wanting to do things by yourself.  Sometimes you are OK with accepting help from Daddy or Zekey or me, but often being offered help pisses you off to no end.  "I CAN DO IT MAMA!  LEAVE ME ALONE!"

A part of that independence is an increasing willingness to just go off and entertain yourself.  I'll find you in your room or sitting on the floor somewhere, coloring or playing with blocks or toys or "reading" a book, all while singing to yourself.

Speaking of reading and singing, you apparently have inherited my ability to quickly memorize almost anything you hear.  So after reading a book to you two or three times, the next time we read, you will recite the book along with me, verbatim.  Same with movies and songs.  You'll recite the dialogue as you watch.  Or be sitting in the car, or in the grocery cart at Target, and suddenly start singing a Katy Perry song at the top of your lungs. It never ceases to amaze or amuse me.

You and your brother love Katy Perry beyond all sense, and want to send her presents and invite her to our house.

Your relationship with your brother continues to be a source of great joy to me.  While you engage in occasional bickering, you really do love each other like crazy, and you're so sweet to each other.  You snuggle together, play together, giggle together, pretend to be mommy and baby, run around at the park, swim, and do everything else together.  You are each other's best friend, and it's wonderful.

You have a great sense of adventure, a great sense of humor, and are a little bit nuts.  Your hair is never brushed, and when we go camping (which you love), by the third day you wander around looking like Central Casting sent over a street urchin from the set of Oliver Twist, complete with scruffy hair, dirty clothes and soot on your face.  You and Zeke like to bounce around on the furniture, jumping from one surface to another, doing flips, wrestling, and knocking each other around, all while giggling maniacally.  You have this hilarious evil laugh that sounds like an extremely gutteral "BAAAAAAAAAAAH hahahahaha!"  If I don't know where you are, all I have to do is follow the laugh.

But you are still my little snuggle bug.  My favorite time of day is when I wake you up for school in the morning, and you wrap your long, gangly limbs around me and bury your face in my shoulder.  We give each other a big squeeze, and then just sit like that for a minute or two.  We also have a new good-bye ritual at school, in which I will put on some lipstick and then kiss you on the backs of your hands, so you have kiss marks to carry with you throughout the day.

You see good in everyone and everything.  You remark on how beautiful people are  ("Mama, you're very beautiful, and so is Mimi"), revealing your own beauty all the more.

 I love you to the moon and back times a million billion plus one, my little monkey.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Aussie Word of the Day, Unmentionables Edition

It's been a while since I did an "Aussie Word of the Day" post.  I think at this point I'm so accustomed to Aussie-isms that I now use them myself.  More than once have J and I been discussing the timing of completing a particular activity, and I've said, "no worries, I'll take care of it this arvo."

Now Zeke is getting into it.  He finally embraced riding his bike without training wheels about a month ago, and now rides at every opportunity he gets.  He's allowed to ride around parts of the neighborhood by himself, and many afternoons, J picks him up at school by riding his bike and carrying Zeke's bike with him (dude is seriously strong) so that he and Zeke can ride home together.

Apparently on one of these trips, J explained to Zeke that an Aussie-ism for bike is "treadly."  Zeke thought this was hysterical and now uses it at every chance he gets.  "Mama, Daddy and I are going out to ride our treadlies," followed by uncontrollable giggles.

He has taken to asking J how to say different things in Australian, and takes great pleasure in working his new vocabulary into conversation.

The other morning I was getting him and Josie ready for school, and brought down their clothes to put on while they watched the Sunny Side Up Show.  Zeke looked at his pile of clothes and said,
"time to put on my Reg Grundies!" 

I was definitely giggling hysterically along with him.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It was a head-scratcher, for sure.

We went to New Hampshire last month for our annual family beach vacation.  Which was lovely.  Except that Josie and I came home with lice.

Josie started scratching her head the last few days, but both kids were spending the bulk of their time in the water or rolling around in the sand, so I figured it was salt and sand.

But then it continued when she got home.  And her first day back at school, I got a call from the preschool director informing me she had nits and bugs in her hair.

So I dutifully went to the Walgreen's and bought a lice kit and proceeded to treat everyone in the family.  Which sucked, because our gas got shut off by mistake while we were on vacation and it hadn't been turned back on, so we had no hot water.  And even though it's summer, the cold water was really cold, making it both uncomfortable and difficult for purposes of combing through hair that has just been treated with pesticides.

Plus, there was no way in hell either child was going to get in an icy cold shower or bath, so I had to wash their hair out in the sink.  And Josie's hair is super-fine, but she also has a TON of it, so it tangles very easily, especially when we haven't used conditioner.

I spent two hours combing through her hair with a lice comb while she cried.  It was horrible.  It hurt to do my own head as well, but my pain threshold is a bit higher than hers.

All was well for a week or so.  Then we got another call from the preschool director.  

I went back to Walgreen's, got another kit, and went through the process again. At least this time we had hot water, so it wasn't as awful as before.  But I still spent 3 hours combing through Josie's hair.

A week later - same deal.  The director is getting annoyed with me.  And I was about to lose my shit.

The prospect of going through the whole process again was more than I could handle.  I googled "professional lice removal denver," called the company at the top of the list, and arranged for the lady to come to the house that night.

It turns out that the pros don't use the pesticide shit you get at the drugstore.  They use oil (our lady used olive oil).  Apparently, about 20 years ago, there was some concern about the lice treatments that were available, namely that they were too strong.  So the companies that manufactured the lice removal kits simply diluted the stuff so it was half as strong as what they had been selling before (which, for all its toxicity, worked).  Predictably, there were certain lice that were strong enough to resist the diluted strain, so what has developed over the last 20 years is a breed of "super lice" that is largely immune to the chemical treatment.

The best treatment now is to just smother the suckers.

So Lice Lady sat all of us down and saturated our heads with olive oil and then meticulously combed all of the nits and bugs out of our hair.  

Except that, oddly, Josie didn't have much going on.  She had about 3 live lice and 6 or 7 nits, which would indicate that she was getting reinfested by someone else, rather than being the source of an infestation.  And like her, I had a bug or two and a couple of nits, but nothing else.

She and I went upstairs to wash and dry our hair.  In the meantime, Lice Lady started working on Zeke.

When Josie and I came downstairs again, Lice Lady said, "looks like we found the culprit."

It was Zeke all along.  Zeke, who had never once scratched his head, who never indicated any discomfort and on whom I never saw anything.  His head was crawling with them.

3 hours and $300 later, Lice Lady left us bug-free hair and follow-up instructions.  For the past week, we have been oiling up our hair every night, combing through it, and then sleeping with oil-saturated hair to smother anything living in there.  For the next two weeks, we oil up ever other night.  Then we should be OK.

In the meantime, we smell like italian dressing and have super-soft, shiny shiny hair.    

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Let your whole life be a song.

My children are always singing.

Which I assume is a good thing.  Someone once told me that humming or singing to oneself is the sign of a happy child.  Or at least, *a* sign of a happy child -- I'm sure it's not the only one. 

Which, cool.  I'll take it.

Most of their references are from kids' movies.  So when Josie and I were in the checkout line at Target the other day and she suddenly burst into a rendition of Katy Perry's "Firework," much to the delight of the checkout lady, in her mind she wasn't singing Katy Perry.

"It's the song from Afro Circus, Mama!"

They walk around singing "Over the Rainbow" because they've watched The Wizard of Oz so many times.

But we also listen to the radio when we're riding in the car, so for a while Zeke's song of choice was AWOLNATION's "Sail."

Josie digs Mumford and Sons and will go around singing "The Cave."

They're also keeping me up on what's new and hip.

Zeke came home the other day from a camp fieldtrip singing, "she's up all night til the sun, I'm up all night to get some, she's up all night for good fun, I'm up all night to get lucky.."

Which was my introduction to Daft Punk.  Daft Punk is awesome.  (Also, is there any hit song this summer that Pharrell isn't associated with??  And speaking of Pharrell, no way is that guy 40 years old.  He looks 12.  He clearly drinks vampire blood.  Anyway.)  We play "Get Lucky" and dance around the living room.  The kids have some good moves.

Music was a big form of interaction with my parents when I was growing up.  I got my love of bluegrass and 60s rock from my parents.  They exposed me to the Beatles and Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton and Traffic and Motown.  Its fun to be experiencing that with my kids now.

I thought of all of this when I saw last night's Colbert Report.  It's too good not to share.  Happy Wednesday, everyone.

Monday, August 05, 2013

I should print bumper stickers.

All I can say is, I'm really glad that when we went to Fake Steamboat, I didn't know what Real Steamboat looked like, because I would have cried.

I've been to some extraordinarily beautiful places in my life -- southwestern Australia, the Carpathian Mountain region of Romania, the northern mountains and lakes of India, just to name a few.  North-central Colorado gives all of those places a run for their money.

We experienced HORRIBLE traffic on the way out, but we finally arrived at our campsite late Friday night.  It was too dark to see our surroundings, but we were way out of town and the stars were incredible.  Millions of bright stars everywhere, plus we could clearly see the Milky Way.  It was hard not to spend all of our time looking up at the sky.

When we woke up in the morning, we discovered that our campsite was in the middle of a field of wildflowers.

A couple hundred yards away was the head of a little hiking trail that the kids couldn't get enough of.

No matter where we looked, the views were spectacular.

We went into town on Saturday and went tubing on the Yampa River.

That night we made a huge campfire and looked at the stars and made wishes.

We finished the trip by going to see Fish Creek Falls.

When we were driving up on Friday, Zeke asked about dying and heaven.  He's been all into talking about dying lately, because I guess he's realizing that he is mortal.  He asked about heaven, which I was having a hard time explaining well, given that as a Jew, I don't believe in heaven and haven't really given it much thought.

As we were talking, Josie started to cry.

"What's the matter, sweetheart?"  I asked.

"I don't want to go to heaven.  I want to go camping!" 

Amen, little girl.

Friday, August 02, 2013

The real one this time. Also, trust, but verify.

Over July 4th weekend, we decided to take the kids camping.  We figured they're old enough, they love being outside, and it would be fun.

We decided to go to Steamboat Springs, up in the north-central part of the state.  It's a beautiful town up in the hills, and spectacular in the summer.  High alpine meadows full of wildflowers, lots of stuff to do, and a good arts/music scene.  Sam Bush, whose music I've loved since high school, was doing an outdoor concert the night we were due to arrive, so we were excited to be up in the mountains out of the heat, in a pretty, relatively lush area, listening to music and doing fun things.

J called the Colorado parks and rec department to reserve a campsite in one of the state parks, and they put us on a site that they said was about 20 miles outside of town.  Perfect.

We loaded up the car and started the drive.  The kids were crazy-excited and we were all looking forward to a fun weekend.

The drive, which is about 3 hours or so, is beautiful.  Even just 20 minutes outside of Denver, we were all hit once again with how we live in such a gorgeous place.  We sang songs and played hysterical games of 20 Questions (it was Zeke's turn and we were all stumped and asked for a hint.  Zeke said, "it starts with a 'b' and rhymes with 'wutton,'" which for some reason had us all in stitches).  We looked out the window and admired the scenery.

When we were about 30 minutes outside of Steamboat, I plugged the address of the campgrounds into my phone so we could get specific navigation to where we were going.

My phone told me we were still 3 1/2 hours away.

"What the fuck??"  I said.  "J, are you sure that's the right address and name of the campground?"

"Yeah, I wrote it down on that piece of paper.  The lady said it was in a town just outside of Steamboat."

"And you're sure it's 'Rifle'?"

"That's what she told me."

For those of you not from these parts, here's a map of Colorado to give you a sense of what we're talking about.  "A" is Steamboat.  "B" is Rifle.  The route from Denver to Steamboat is in red, and from Steamboat to Rifle is in blue.  Plus, Steamboat is up in the mountains and is cooler and greener and prettier.  Rifle is in a very hot and dry part of the state -- no alpine meadows full of wild flowers or anything like that.

In other words, not only is Rifle Gap State Park not "just outside of Steamboat," it's fucking NOWHERE NEAR STEAMBOAT.

J felt really awful about not double-checking the location before we left, and I was a bit miffed, but honestly, why shouldn't he be able to rely on the person you get on the other end of the line when you call the State of Colorado's official parks department, to reserve one of their official campsites in one of their official state parks?  People come here from all over the world to ski and hike and camp and fish and mountain bike.  The people at the parks department have clearly dealt with folks who don't know Colorado well; they should be relied upon to tell people accurately where their reservations are.  So even though J was beating himself up a bit, it wasn't really his fault.

But in any event, what to do?

We decided to go to the visitor's center in Steamboat to figure out what our options were.  When we told the lady there what happened, she was incredulous that we had been told that Rifle was just outside of Steamboat.  She gave us a list of local campsites and we started calling, but of course, on July 4th weekend, there wasn't an available campsite anywhere.  We then called the U.S. Forest Service and asked what our options were -- they said that we could camp anywhere in the national forest boundaries, but because of fire restrictions (we've had some bad wildfires this summer, if you haven't heard), we wouldn't be able to make a fire.  Fires are only allowed in officially sanctioned campsites.  So we wouldn't be able to cook or roast marshmallows or anything like that, which would rule out a major reason that Josie was even interested in camping (marshmallows).  That seemed like a pain in the ass, especially with the kids.

I said to the kids, "we can see if we can find a hotel room to stay in.  We can still go hiking and do things like that, but we won't be sleeping in a tent or anything."

The thought of another 3 1/2 hours in the car was a bit more than I could fathom.

"NOOOOO!  Mama, we want to go camping!  Pleeeeeaaaase!"

I looked back at them.  "We've already been in the car a long time.  We'll have to be in the car for another long time if you want to camp.  Do you understand?"

"We'll be good, Mama, we promise!!  We want to camp."

I looked at J and sighed.  "You up for it?"

"I am if you are," he said.

"Ok, let's do it."

So we got back in the car and drove another 3 1/2 hours to Rifle.

At least we got to drive through Glenwood Canyon, which is stunning.

We finally got to Rifle 7 1/2 hours after we left Denver.  The kids were amazing in the car.  I sulked a bit because I really wanted to be in Steamboat, but I got over it.

And as far as the kids were concerned, this was the greatest trip they had ever been on.  There were chipmunks!  And lizards!  And sleeping in a tent!  And a fire!  And dead animal bones!  And swimming!  And waterfalls!  And caves with bats in them!

We had so much fun that we decided to go camping again, this weekend.  To Steamboat. 

The real Steamboat.