Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Be Fri / est ends

I might have spoken too soon about the rolling out of bed. I did find Ellie near the heating vent last night, mostly hidden behind the rocking chair. And Paul found her there again tonight. So perhaps this is still a work in progress.

But to balance that, there's something else I should have added to yesterday's list of happiness. Ellie will not eat fried foods, and her hands-down favorite food right now is broccoli. Oh, yes, she loves her pasta. But she doesn't plead for it like she does for "oppoli?" several times a day. I never want this to end.


Most of the kids in Ellie's class are there for preschool in the morning, including lunch, then nap at school and play in the afternoon until their parents come pick them up. Ellie and another boy are usually just there for the morning preschool part. Guy's mom often comes to pick him up at about the same time I pick up Ellie.

I was so glad when Guy moved up to the "2's" room because he and Ellie got along well in the "older toddlers" room. They're even better friends now, it seems, possibly because Ellie can walk and keep up better. It's really just been gross motor that's held her back at school.

Guy is typically developing, but he's still learning English. I'm guessing that he and his family are from Israel. I have no idea why Ellie and Guy have formed such a bond, but it's the cutest thing.

Today when Guy and his mom exited the classroom into the hallway after us, he unleashed a mini-torrent of English or Hebrew at his mom. "He wants to walk with Ellie, hold hands like this," she explained.

So I took Ellie back to Guy and they walked down the hallway hand-in-hand.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Maybe Golden Grahams

I am tired. So very, very tired. And it's late. But!
  1. Ellie stopped rolling out of her bed by the middle of last week.
  2. Now it's a behavioral issue involving convincing her to stay in bed.
  3. Tonight she climbed into bed and fell asleep on her own (after much rocking, reading, and singing on my part and some crying and beating at the closed door on her part).
  4. Everyone is healthy.
  5. I led a discussion this morning on the authors of the four gospels, and I think it went well.
  6. I actually exercised today and didn't die; I might try it again tomorrow. I've had to adjust belt holes, so something must be happening. But I am really craving a box - yes a whole box - of sugary cereal with milk. And I don't usually eat sugary cereal, with or without milk.
  7. My Valentine's present for Paul had better turn out kickass cool, after it's all said and done.
  8. It's impossible to look at this face every day and not smile.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

A Very Good Read

Do you read Egotistical Whining? If not, you really should check her out. She's been on my sidebar for ages, but probably doesn't get enough attention way down there. Seriously, read her. She's awesome!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

How 'Bout a Mouth Full of Chiclets

I've been walking around all day looking like I had a knuckle sandwich for my mid-morning snack.

At about 9:00 this morning, Ellie started coughing. I gave her some medicine for her congestion (almost 7 months since she caught "this cold;" we're going for a world record) and for the cough. The constant coughing was sad, so I made her some sugar-free hot chocolate, thinking that a hot beverage might help. Thankfully, I tested it before passing the cup to Ellie. It was very, very hot. I was startled and splashed it, burning my tongue and the skin from my upper lip to just under my nose on one side. It's very attractive today, but will probably be even more attractive once it scabs. Here's hoping.

Regardless, the medicine and hot chocolate failed to stop the cough, which also kept her from napping. Eventually, Ellie crashed and napped hard from about 4:15 until I woke her for dinner. I stayed up foolishly late last night and was exhausted today, so I'd been in a semi-somnolent state all day despite the gorgeous weather (in which we walked briefly, never fear).

She ate well, bathed well, played well, and went back to sleep well at bedtime. She woke up screaming a little while ago with a 102.5 degree fever, by far the highest she's had since we acquired the necessary equipment to measure such things (a good ear thermometer rather than one of those useless underarm ones).

Poor Ellie.


Here's an unrelated rant on diet. I'm on one. I hate dieting, but it's obviously necessary at this point. I'm a firm believer in exercise to control weight, and "moderation" is the only diet I really believe in. But things have been far beyond "moderation" for some time now, so desperate steps were necessary.

Paul's dieting too, and it's going well. To clarify: it's going well for him. My weight's been stagnate for a few weeks despite closely adhering to the plan. I know the solution: exercise. So that's the background.

I got a call from my mother-in-law last weekend. She asked how the diet was going and I said that it was going really well, etc. She talked to Paul the next day and they had a very similar exchange. She said that she was sending a care package for the three of us.

The package arrived yesterday. It had 2 outfits for Ellie (so cute!) and, and . . .
  • Sprinkles. Like for cookies.
  • Heart-shaped cookie cutters.
  • Two large bags of M&Ms, one with peanut (for me) and one plain (for Paul).


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

On Sin

In the Garden of Eden
I was thinking. A lot of people think of women as weaker in faith, or more susceptible to sin, or unqualified for religious leadership, or simply as symbols of temptation because Eve was the one who ate of the apple, then offered it to Adam.

It seems to me that the opposite conclusions are more appropriately drawn from the scene, if you choose to read it literally.

Eve was tempted by Satan and succumbed. Adam was merely tempted by Eve. Doesn't that imply that Adam was more susceptible to corruption?

In the Las Vegas Airport
A friend loaned me a book by Richard J. Mouw called Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport. It's a Dutch Calvinist theologian's response to a scene from the 1979 movie Hardcore in which a dour Dutch Calvinist tries to explain his religion to a Pagan prostitute. He does a lousy job of sharing the message in a manner appropriate to his specific audience in the airport and to the late 20th Century audience more generally. Mouw has set out to write the response that the movie character should have given, if he really wanted to reach his audience.

I must admit that I know very little about Calvinism and "Reform" Christianity. In fact, I thought that most of us Protestants were "Reformed" and that Presbyterianism was based on the teachings of John Calvin, so what's the difference?

A lot, it turns out. For example, Dutch Calvinism is based on the TULIP doctrine.
T = Total depravity
U = Unconditional election
L = Limited atonement
I = Irresistible grace
P = Perseverance of the saints

I have only read the first two letters so far, but I have problems with both.

As far as total depravity goes, I have a hard time reconciling "love your neighbor" Christianity with the belief that we are all inherently depraved, though capable of some good acts. I prefer to think of most of us as inherently good, though tempted to commit evil acts from time to time. I'm still working on this one. I am willing to stipulate that every aspect of our lives is touched by sin. And that's not a pretty thought.

As for unconditional election, I have a hard time with the author's suggestion that we can determine who has been chosen for eternal life with God by the gifts they are given in this life. He gives the example of a Midwestern American woman raised in a Christian community and given the tools to foster her spiritual growth from a young age, versus a woman born in a small village in North Korea without the same supportive Christian community. My concerns are:
  1. Who are we to assume we can know the mind of God? How can we know who is selected?
  2. I don't think we can assume that only Christians will be elected, given that according to Calvinist doctrine, none of our own actions can merit salvation.
  3. I am seriously uncomfortable with the implication that those selected by God will be born into wonderful families and live wonderful lives. That's too much of a short and slippery slope toward othering our neighbors. And it's too close to justifying the evil that befalls so many of us.

This has been an interesting read so far, though.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ellie's Great Big Week(end)

Paul Learns a Lesson:
On Wednesday afternoon, I picked up Ellie from school and took her to Paul's office before heading out to the airport. As we were transferring Ellie from my car to Paul's, he said, "Say goodbye to Mommy because she's never coming home!"

I know!

Apparently, he thought that she wouldn't understand. Oh, but 2-year-olds understand so much more than they can communicate verbally. She communicated her understanding to him in this case by crying. Then having a very hard time going to sleep that night. Then being up from 3:00-4:30 am. Both Paul and Ellie were very glad to see me when I got home.

Baths Are More Fun With Friends:
A friend's husband has been working and playing long hours, and she was going a bit stir-crazy at home with the baby. So she came over for dinner on Friday, then she and I left the toddlers with Paul and went to a movie.

The evening was great fun, at least for the women and children. I enjoyed seeing The Family Stone - OK, I would have enjoyed seeing just about any movie in a theater - and the kids enjoyed each other. I liked the way the writers handled the sibling relationships (so real) and really enjoyed how one of the characters (and actors) was deaf but it was no big deal. For once there was a character with a disability in a role that wasn't all about the disability.

Riding the Rails:
On Saturday, among many other things, we removed the crib rail from Ellie's bed and replaced it with a small toddler bed rail. Everybody was very excited by this development, and Ellie and I practiced having her climb up into bed to "go night night," then wake up and come wake up mommy. I went out after Ellie went to sleep (more on that later) and checked on her when I got in around 3:00 am. She was curled up, fast asleep, on the heating vent on the floor. She'd rolled out of bed and off the pillows we'd piled up to prevent just such an occurrence. Getting her back to sleep in the bed was a bit of a chore.

Tonight she went down much more easily. I went in to check on her around 11:30 pm, before I made the weekly grocery run. I heard her breathing, but didn't see her anywhere. She was fast asleep under her bed!

Theater is Art!
There were so many other things this weekend, but I'm too exhausted to type them. We did go see Dora the Explorer Live!: Dora's Pirate Adventure this afternoon. We got off to a rough start, since I made a mistake and bought tickets for yesterday's show instead of today's. We did get seats at the last minute, but were up a bit higher than I would have preferred. Ellie loved the show, regardless, so I should probably quit beating myself up about it. I'm beginning to suspect that I need more than 3-4 hours of sleep a night. Alas.

An Apology:
Finally, I want to apologize to Jessica. She kindly invited me to a "Girls' Night" at her house on Saturday night, and I was unspeakably rude. I showed up very late. I invited another friend to come along with me. I didn't bring any food. I talked way too much. And at one point, with a growing sense of horror, I realized that it was 2:30 am and I was still sitting in her living room talking! I kept her up all night! I should be fined. Jessica, if you ever invite me out again, I promise to behave slightly less like someone who never gets out of the house. I am so sorry.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Home on the Dirt Pile

I don't want to say that I was anxious about my business trip this week, but when Paul and Ellie got home from work and school on Wednesday evening, they found the front door to the house standing wide open. Oh, the glass door was closed. But the wood door was open. It seems that I rolled my suitcase out the front door, put it into the car, and just left.

In my defense, we've had a landscaping crew out here all week and so there's plenty to distract the eye from teensy weensy little household details like an open door.

It's going to look so cool when it's done. The next outdoor projects are to build Ellie's swing set/play gym thing (as part of the retaining wall project, the landscapers are building a large, level play pit), fence in the back yard, add shutters to the windows, and eventually replace the brick patio with stone. It won't be too long before the outside of our house is looking pretty spiffy!

But for now we're broke. And the inside is our next priority. Coming up for the inside are finishing the basement family room/playroom, creating a "big girl bedroom" for Ellie in the guestroom (sorry, guests!), replacing all interior and exterior doors and frames, replacing the baseboards, and eventually building a new office for me. So I guess we're planning to stay here for a while!

But back to my trip. My meeting went really well yesterday. I'm glad I went and am excited about what might come from the strategy session. The travel itself was bearable, but a touch rough. For some reason, I had to fly on a little toy jet in both directions, and the best world to describe both landings is "yaw." Oh, how I hate yaw.

I stayed at a lovely Loews, which is usually a nice treat, but not this time. My room was literally on the back of the elevator bank and I could hear the elevators going up and down all night. The room wasn't even in the nicely carpeted hallway with the other guest rooms; it opened off the marble elevator lobby before the firedoors, directly across from the service doors, which slammed. A lot. My room's windows opened out directly onto a tar paper roof covered in broken glass, with nearby office windows close enough to read their cubicle posters. The walls were horribly scuffed. Worst of all, the bathroom floor around the toilet was liberally smeared with dried blood. Oh, yes. But I got in late and left early, so I didn't change rooms. By the time I noticed the bathroom floor, I was already unpacked and exhausted.

All in all, it went well and I'm glad I went and I'm glad I'm home. No matter how messy it gets here, I can still use the bathroom barefoot.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Excused Absence

Tonight will be my first night away from Paul and Ellie. I know! She's two! We left her alone with my parents already once! But this is Paul (a wonderful and more than capable daddy) alone with Ellie in our house, so it feels different.

I plan to read. And sleep really hard. And think about other stuff. And work lots. And make believe that my life is like it used to be, just for a little while.

My super cool happy fun almost-perfect part-time job is sending me on an overnight business trip. One night is the perfect length for a business trip, I think. Oh, how far the American Airlines Gold frequent flyer has come in the past few years. It doesn't seem like so long ago that I'd gladly hop on a plane with very little notice to give a presentation somewhere across the country.

In the meantime, there are some absolutely adorable pictures of Ellie here. Jessica, you all simply must come over again very soon so that we can have a rematch of Carcassonne. I promise not to cheat this time!

When I get back, I'll post belated pictures of our homemade Christmas presents. And more of Ellie.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Language is Powerful

This is essay was written by Carol Mills, an assistant professor of Communication Studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. One of her three children has Down syndrome.


This summer, ESPN promoted the NBA playoff with upbeat and funky promos featuring the song “Let’s Get It Started” sung by the hip hop group, The Black Eyed Peas. The song was actually an adaptation of their earlier release, “Let’s Get Retarded.” When I discovered this, I contacted ESPN and encouraged others to do so, too.

Do you think ESPN would have used the BEPs' song if it was originally “Let’s Act Like _____" (insert racial, religious, cultural, or sexist) epithet of your choice? Absolutely not. Though hip hop may play by different cultural and language rules, the Disney subsidiary ESPN does not. Adapting a blatantly offensive song clearly violates appropriate cultural and business standards. During the same time period, teen actor Lindsay Lohan repeatedly replied “that’s retarded,” when questioned about various rumors. And, Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show, regularly used the phrase “like a bunch of retards.” There was little attention or reprimand for any of them.

However, during the NBA finals weeks, there was intense media scrutiny and criticism for football coach Bill Parcels using the phrase “Jap play” during a press conference and basketball legend Larry Bird’s comments about race affecting the NBA. And, comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s show was taken off the air one night because he made an insensitive comment about people from Detroit.

These events reflect a larger social issue: Though dearly sensitive to slurs against other groups, the general population does not see the derogatory use of “retarded” as offensive. Using the word as a pejorative term is common in entertainment venues, daily conversation and children’s play. Though a child would be reprimanded for making a racist comment in most schools, it is not uncommon for students — even teachers — to use the word as an epithet for something they consider negative or inappropriate.

The implications for taking control of language are profound. If children grow up hearing that when they forget something they are “retarded” or that those who act poorly are “a bunch of retards,” how do you think they will react when meeting someone with a diagnosis of mental retardation? Do you think neighborhood parents will fight inclusion if they hear about “retarded children” more than if they hear about “children with developmental delays?”

Our society’s long-time use of “retarded” as an epithet is decidedly negative. We can work to end this. Speak up and educate people.

The best approach often is a direct one. You might say, “You know, ‘retarded’ actually means ‘to do slowly.’ The way you’ve just used it hurts me and many others. It’s like hearing a racial slur.” I’ve often done this, especially with college students, and they are surprised. Most have no idea they are being offensive. They think it’s just another word until told otherwise.

If being direct is too scary, try a gentle question such as, “What did you mean by saying it is ‘retarded’?” This can create an opportunity to share the term’s negative use. Or, if it’s comfortable, try humor. When someone says, “I’m so retarded...” you might say with a smile and a wink, “Oh, that’s okay, so is my son and I love him anyway.” After breaking the ice, explain why it’s important.

This is not about confrontation — it is about education. After awhile, you’ll find a comfortable approach. Yes, initially, it may feel awkward, especially when talking to a doctor, teacher or media representative. But remember, those people need to hear it most. The more you speak up, the more natural it becomes.

Similarly, you educate others about using “people first” language. If someone refers to your child as a “Down’s child,” simply say,“Actually, he is a child who has Down syndrome.” If the person says, “It’s the same thing,” or gives you “The Look,” you might ask if they’d like to be called by their last name first from now on. The words are the same, only the order is different, why should they care? Or, as many people do, ask if they’d want to be called the “ulcer woman,” or the “cancer dad.” Diagnoses should never define the person.

Finding our voice to educate others and correct language might be difficult, but it is imperative. This is not simply about semantics, political correctness or being overly sensitive. It is about respect. Once you start educating others, you will be surprised by reactions. A few may never get it, but most people will thank you. They will even tell you that they never realized the impact of their words. In that moment, you might say, “That’s why I said something. I knew you’d understand.” Then, breathe a sigh of relief and think of what and how you might respond the next time there’s a need to educate someone. And, we all know, there will be a next time.

Language is Powerful
— By Carol Mills, Ph.D., Tuscaloosa, AL

Saturday, January 14, 2006


First, a little story. There was this guy on my freshman [dorm] floor who once told me that I look exactly like Peter Sellers. Yes, the guy who played Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies. Since then, whenever I'm asked which celebrity I most resemble, I always answer, "Peter Sellers!" which makes people laugh and/or look at me funny.

PPB over at The Ice Floe uploaded her face at MyHeritage.com to see what celebrities she most closely resembles. That sounded like fun, Ellie's asleep, the carpets are wet, and our TV is currently otherwise occupied, so I decided to upload my own face.

Guess who I looked like? Yes, I'm a 59% match with Peter Sellers. It turns out that my old friend Tim could see me more clearly than I see myself.

My other matches, several of which are hilarious, flattering, and humbling on their own:
Sania Mirza, 66%
Meryl Streep, 60%
Peter Sellers, 59%
Danny Elfman, 58%
Chava Albertstein, 53% (Paul matched with her too)
Wim Welders, 48%
Benzair Bhutto, 46%
Madonna, 42%
Michael Moore, 41%
Rita Hayworth, 41%

That's me. One part Michael Moore, one part Rita Hayworth. Serve in a martini glass, garnished with a nose.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Who Are You?

OK, I'll bite. My Sitemeter is set to ignore me. That means that about 90 of you stop by here every day (more on weekdays, fewer on weekends). Or, one very compulsive person clicks here a lot!

It's interesting to watch how some blogs get very high visitor:comment ratios and others do not.

If I understood the phenomenon, my ratio would probably be a bit higher.

Anyway, you're here and I'd love to hear from you. Please feel obligated! I hear that it might be National De-Lurking Week! [What nation? Well, apparently this one! And probably a few others.]

Parenting Skills

Oh, give me strength!

My thin and hungry child is crying for more food.

But she has a full plate and bowl in front of her. I already caved and added a little bit of cinnamon and sugar to her plain applesauce. And I made a second kind of sandwich in case she would prefer PB&J to ham and cheese. But I will not cave and give her something else for lunch! I will not!

But it's so hard. She could use the food, surely. But if I just make her something I know she'll eat, she'll learn that all she has to do is cry and she'll get whatever she wants. And down the line I'll really regret it . . .

Seeing it written out makes me feel better. I am making the right decision here. (I hope.) And if she gets hungry enough, she'll eat the sandwich(es) and applesauce. Right? I mean, I don't want a kid like my cousin who went through a period of only eating white rice. I'm the boss. Well, sorta.


Update. When I stepped back into the family room after writing this, Ellie and Lizzi were standing together, thick as thieves, and the food was all gone. Ellie's face is all messy so she must have had at least some of it herself! So I guess it worked. And I just had to leave the room so that she wasn't backing down in front of me. Meet my mini-teenager.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Nap Dreaming

Thank goodness Gilmore Girls is back tonight. It's clear that I've been watching too much of the wrong sort of television. I fell asleep briefly this afternoon, and had a vivid and disturbing dream.

My dad and I were at the forensic lab, picking up evidence, when suddenly he pressed a hand against his chest.

"I need to lie down flat on my back. I have an aneurysm. If I let up this pressure on it, I'm dead in minutes."

I grabbed a gurney and helped him onto it. Fortunately, the forensic lab was right next door to the hospital. I wheeled him across the parking lot to the big, red emergency entrance.

Inside the hospital, I realized that we weren't in the emergency department. In fact, I couldn't find the emergency department. We were all over the hospital, up and down in elevators, by the helipad on the roof, everywhere. Sometimes my mom and youngest sister were with us, sometimes not. But I couldn't find the ER anywhere, and I couldn't leave my dad to run around and look on my own.

At one point, I was sure that I'd found it, but it turned out the be the cafeteria, which was deserted except for the employees. They were cleaning amongst the tables and chairs. The first woman I saw didn't look very friendly.

"Excuse me, could you please direct me to the Emergency Department?"

She gave a hard look and I realized that her eyes were solid black, like The Source's. I turned to the next woman, who looked much more friendly.

"Sugar, what can I get for you?"

"Could you please tell me where I could find the ER?"

Her expression was suddenly quite hard, and her eyes bled black. In fact, as I looked around, all the cleaners' eyes were shiny, solid black.

I pushed dad back out into the well-lit hospital corridors, but had no luck soliciting help or directions. It seemed that I couldn't really communicate with anyone effectively. Perhaps I was speaking gibberish.

All in all, not a restful nap. But at least I finished Son of a Witch.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Ellie is so Cute!

Right now, it's all about the imaginative play. And laughing. Lots of laughing.

For Christmas, Ellie got a doctor kit. She opened up it, very seriously, and took out the thermometer. It's the type you'd put under your tongue, but she's never seen a thermometer used that way, of course, so she stuck it right into her ear. How she knew that it was a thermometer - her ear thermometer looks nothing like that - is a bit of a mystery. She has seen regular thermometers before, of course, but only for under-arm usage. Anyway, now she loves to come up to us - very seriously - grab our ears, and shove the thermometer in. Then grin mischievously. Unbelievably adorable.

She also got a Little People House, and she is really into that. Paul was watching her play with it last night.

"Hey! Where's the daddy?" he said and came over to watch more closely.

Mom and baby were in the big bed together, and dad was out on the tractor busily plowing the carpet. Heh. Just like our real lives, all day every day! Mom and Ellie napping, while dad's out working on the farm. Database farm, I guess . . .

The house comes with some other furniture, including a kitchen table and chairs. Apparently, Ellie thinks that the chairs look like potty chairs. She's not far off. They're rounded, low, simple, white plastic chairs with a depressed seat (to fit the Little People, of course). Now whenever she's playing and wants to go potty, she grabs one of the chairs, says, "Potty!" and walks over to knock on the bathroom door.

Can it get any better than this?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Life in the PICU - part 5

2 years ago today, Ellie had heart surgery. It's amazing. When I look at my healthy, strong, chattery toddler, I can hardly remember the sick and helpless little baby I handed to the anesthesiology fellow 730 days ago. I wrote this last year, but for some reason saved it as a draft rather than publishing it with the rest of my series of posts about our stay in the PICU.


The schedule and set-up of the Children's Hospital PICU are interesting. The ward is shaped like a large U, with the Cath Lab nestled in the middle. You enter one end of the U from the family lounge, past the wall of pictures of former patients. After signing in at the front desk - and this is a pretty involved procedure involving a customized sheet for each patient - you walk around the U until you find your child's room. First come the medical patients, and they take up a little less than half of the ward. I'm not sure what all these kids had, but a lot of it was infectious and I felt resentful having to walk through this area everytime I went into and out of the PICU. Ellie was very vulnerable to infection. Some of these kids were a little older and they had things like viral meningitis or were immuno-suppressed. Others were quite young and had RSV.

The second half of the U, leading around to 7 West (where all the heart kids go before surgery and after recovery in the PICU) houses the surgical patients. Ellie was in the first bed on the surgical side. I don't know what I expected, but on the last glorious day, when we wheeled Ellie through the U and out through the doors onto 7 West, we walked past every single room and I saw every single surgical patient. They were all little babies with bandages down their chests, just like my little girl. Tiny, tiny babies, all in worse shape than Ellie. It was heart-breaking. Quite literally.

Nurses on the PICU work 12 hour shifts. For the first couple of days, Ellie had her own nurse. Once she was more stable, she sometimes shared a nurse with the girl next door, whose room was separated from Ellie's by a completely window-walled nurses' station. These stations were every-other room and one or two nurses would be in there at all times, monitoring their patients when they weren't in the patients' rooms. Every time Ellie's nurse went into the other little girl's room, the medical little girl's room, she put on a hair covering, gown, and gloves. Why? I was nearly panicked before I finally asked what horrible germs my Ellie might be exposed to from this child. It turns out that, of course, it's the other little girl who was at risk, not Ellie. I still don't know what she had, but she'd been in the PICU for months. She was about 7 and spent most of her time watching TV; there was little else for her to do.

Every morning the doctors came through for rounds. I always wanted to be there for this, just in case. But we weren't really allowed to "be there." You're allowed to stay in your child's room during rounds, but you could not step foot into the hallway until they're over. And the doctors do not actually come into the rooms to see the patients during rounds. My hope was that the surgeon, cardiologist, or resident would pop into Ellie's room before or after rounds and share some little tidbit about how she was doing. Most commonly, a nervous resident, clearly concerned with impressing the boss, would stop by beforehand and talk to the nurse about how Ellie was doing. I'd ask questions, and she (the resident) would promise to find out during rounds. I rarely saw the same resident again all day. I did see the cardiology attending and our surgeon nearly every day, though, so I'm not complaining too loudly.

Every morning, I'd wake up very early or, more commonly, stand up from Ellie's bedside very early. I'd go to the family lounge bathroom and take a quick shower, cram a granola bar down my throat, snag a bottle of water, and head back to Ellie's side. The PICU closed at 6:00 am and didn't open until after rounds. This could be 45 minutes or a couple of hours. And if there was an emergency at any time, the floor closed. You could stay with your child, as long as your child wasn't the one having the emergency, and as long as you stayed out of the hallway. There are no bathrooms for visitors' use in the PICU. This could be acutely uncomfortable.

On one hand, I really understand how this situation is best for the doctors and, probably, the patients. It's important for the halls to be cleared for the emergency transportation of large equipment, and for doctors to be able to complete rounds without being continuously interrupted by panicky parents. But on the other hand, it could be a little tough on the parents.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Expiration Date?

I was brushing my teeth without my shirt on the other night, and I noticed a little discoloration on my nipples. I scratched at it gently with a fingernail and it came off easily. Dried milk. It's odd, I thought, that it didn't wash off on the shower sometime over the past 6 weeks.

Then, behind the dried milk came the answer: fresh milk. From both breasts. I'm still lactating.

Perhaps I will make milk forever. Perhaps I am now Mother. It feels . . . rather powerful.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Romantic Escape in the Heart of the City

Paul and I have gone out on our own only about a half dozen times since Ellie was born. Since we're well into our third year of parenting, this is pretty significant. She's walking, she's talking, she's weaned, she's over stranger anxiety; it's high time for a little mommy and daddy alone time.

My mom agreed to keep Ellie, so I started shopping for cheap deals to Mexico. My mom suggested that someplace closer would be smarter, for our first overnight away from Ellie. Just in case. Ah, reason.

I found an incredible deal for a romantic getaway package in Chicago. It was at the white-glove hotel where Paul and I stayed the weekend before he proposed 6 years ago. And in the unlikely event of a water landing, we could meet my parents halfway and be with Ellie in well under 30 minutes.

On Sunday morning, after all the New Year's Eve drunks had veered out of the city, we headed in. Paul dropped me off at Kohl's House and found a Starbucks while I had a quick visit with Frankie and Moreena. Frankie is as cute as her pictures suggest, and I was very sympathetic to her repeated refrain, "I wanna go my house!" I bet her mama and daddy feel the same way.

I met up with Paul, who was jubilant about having found free parking. We forsook that wonderful spot and drove south to Prudential Plaza, where we had lunch at Giordano's - and found more free on-street parking! After gorging ourselves, we checked into our hotel and the luxury part began in earnest. We let the valet take the car. Later we noticed that the hotel failed to charge us for this service - more free parking! Now I wish we'd tipped the guy more.

We relaxed in the room for a bit, then headed over to Marshall Field's. Unfortunately, the black shroud of mourning was gone (hi, Macy's) but we did get to see the Cinderella windows. Our first item of business, however, was to find me a coat. Paul and I forgot ours at my parents' house, but he had on a fleece vest and claims that his Wyoming heritage keeps him immune to Midwestern winters. I finally found something that fit at Old Navy, and we moved on across the street to Borders, where we drank and read and chatted for a couple of hours.

Eventually, we took a lovely walk up to The Weber for steak. We finished in time for a brisk walk over to Loews to watch The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We saw someone we knew in the theater (an old college "buddy") but were short on time so we hid from him.

After the movie we strolled 2 blocks back to our hotel in the rain and collapsed.

Oh, that hotel room. We were on the 33rd floor and the view was incomparable. To the left I could see Michigan Avenue less than a block away. Straight ahead I could see many of Chicago's landmark buildings and the Chicago River, also less than a block away. To the near right I could see Navy Pier and the lake. On Monday morning, I would have been happy to sit and watch the ebb and flow of the Chicago mist for hours. I love that city.

We slept heavily and late. When we awoke, the hotel treated us to a wonderful breakfast in bed. Then we went downstairs to the Lakeshore Athletic Club for massages. Ahhhhhh. Then we, er, returned to the room to rest. After showers and packing up, we checked out around 3:30. It was raining pretty hard, so we got the car and drove up Michigan Avenue. We found a garage that let us pay a lot for parking, and went inside Water Tower Place to have lunch and window shop a bit.

We got home in time for dinner, and Ellie was happy to see us. She had a wonderful time with her grandparents and aunt and uncle, while Paul and I had a wonderful and guilt-free vacation. I'm still feeling good. Have I mentioned how much I love Chicago?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Christmas in the John

I have two rants in the queue, but I won't let myself post them until I've posted about our holiday travels, so I'd better get busy!

Friday, December 23rd. Paul and I have each gotten a total of about one night's sleep all week long. We're so exhausted. I pick-up Ellie from school after lunch, take her home, and put her to bed for her afternoon nap, then start packing. It's slow going and I look forward to Paul coming home for motivation, inspiration, and help.

Paul comes home and he's no help. He claims that he feels "sick" and goes to lie down for a while. I am unsympathetic. Eventually he goes downstairs to get the suitcases. He's down there for a long time, and I call down after him, not patiently. He has been purging. From both ends.

I no longer think he's being a lazy jerk, but I am frustrated that he's been so inconsiderate with the timing of his illness. Eventually, much later than planned, we hit the road. I am exhausted but have to drive all the way to my parents' house. During the 6 hour drive, we stopped once so that Paul could lean out the door and dry heave on the side of the interstate, once for gas, and several times for coffee and bathroom breaks for me.

Saturday, December 24th. We got to my folks' in time to sleep for 2-1/2 hours. We got up before 3:00 am to head into the city for our flight to Wyoming. It was imperative to drive 6 hours in order to fly several more so that we could leave piles of presents and other junk at my parents house. And Lizzi. Lizzi stayed with my parents. Also, the flight was a bit cheaper from Chicago. Since we buy 3 tickets now, that really mattered.

My dad drove us to the airport while my mom wiped down everything we might have touched in her house with Lysol wipes. We arrived in Wyoming mid-morning, and greeted Paul's parents, sister, and brother-in-law with hugs.

Visiting, dinner, church, and present-opening ensued. Paul was feeling much better.

Sunday, December 25th. More present-opening, followed by Christmas dinner. Immediately after eating, I succumb to the god-awful purging flu. I call my parents. My father feels near to death, but blames it on some "bad" seafood. I am skeptical.

Monday, December 26th. In the middle of the night, Paul's sister is stuck down violently. On Monday night, her husband (who is only 27 but has kidney disease thanks to a nasty bout of strep a few years ago) is hospitalized for rehydration. Paul's mom comes home from the hospital and goes to bed; she's got it too.

Tuesday, December 27th. Paul's dad finally succumbs, after trying to pretend that he's just had "indigestion." Paul and I, feeling much better, take his sister and brother-in-law to the airport since both parents are sick. Poor brother-in-law (Hi!) runs to the bathroom twice while we wait for security. Later, I relapse briefly.

Wednesday, December 28th. Paul, Ellie, and I trek back through 3 airports to my dad's waiting car, and home to my parents' house. Ellie and my mom felt a bit "off" for a couple of days, but were spared the worst of the purging. We greet my youngest sister and her fiance with hugs.

Thursday, December 29th. My other sister and her husband arrive; we greet them with more hugs.

Friday, December 30th. More present opening! My youngest sister is struck down overnight.

Saturday, December 31st. PARTY! We stay up late doing Sudoku and playing board games. No one calls the police on us.

Sunday, January 1st. Paul and I embark on one of the best 36 hour periods of our lives (next post!) while my other sister becomes violently ill and thinks she might die. She doesn't. My 97-1/2 year-old grandfather begins to complain of stomach cramps.

Here's what we know about this flu:
- it lasts about 24 painful hours
- it's incredibly contagious
- you might have vomiting, and/or diarrhea, and/or painful cramps. Just as you're feeling better, you'll have a low-grade fever. And we've powerfully taken it from Missouri to Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, Wyoming, Kentucky, and Michigan, along with anywhere else people on our planes might have been going.

Please let me know if I should be bringing you chicken noodle soup!

Monday, January 02, 2006

And a Happy New Year!

First thing: housecleaning!

1) Thank you to PPB, Ciara, BelovedLife, Hybrid, Jessica, and Redhead Editor! I hope that you all had wonderful holidays, and that your new year has started off with much rest and relaxation.

2) While I was away, we passed the 25,000 visitor mark with Sitemeter. Yay! And thank you!

3) Jessica, with the travel and an awful flu, well, I missed it. Again. But come June I'm all over your "birthday!" I am so sorry.

4) The last 36 hours have been amazing. Paul and I have had so much fun. I'll write it up later this week.

5) In the meantime, here's a Christmas picture of Ellie on her Grandpa's rocking horse.

6) Narnia.

Paul and I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last night. I thought it was wonderful. They were quite faithful to the spirit of the story (as I remember it; it's been a long time).

Some of the changes from the original were very welcome, like dropping the "when women fight" part from the rather heavy "war is terrible" message. And, oh, did they make that point well. Every battle, every death, though none was shown explicitly on screen, was a little tragedy. As it should be whenever anyone dies. Good or evil, about to kill you or not, a life is a life, and it's a tragedy when it ends.

One interesting feminist note about Aslan on the stone table. Of course I've always gotten the bit about shaving Aslan to make him appear more vulnerable, weaker, less. Figuratively, shaving him emasculated him. In the movie, they didn't shave the lion bald. They merely cut off his mane, and a male lion without a mane looks like . . . a female lion. So they literally emasculated him as well. That's a rather disturbing read on the story, but I don't think that Lewis the Apologist would have minded it too much.