Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Son Has No Tastebuds

Actually, I think he's tastebud-disabled. Admittedly, you could say the same for me - the first month of my pregnancy, I ate wasabi paste straight from the tube. I'm addicted to wasabi peas, dried anchovies, smoked oysters, etc. Always have been. So I suppose I shouldn't be surprised when I have to eat my wasabi peas out of his sight, lest he demand that I share. Ditto for dried anchovies, oysters, all the rest of it. And there ARE things he doesn't like - he is not convinced that raw mushrooms are a food, for example. Anything really, really mild, there's a chance he'll hold it in his mouth, forget it's there, then gag and spit it out. He used to do that ALL THE TIME, which is why we used to put chili powder on everything he ate. So he does HAVE tastebuds, they're just, well, "differently abled".
Sometimes, though, I do wonder. Today, I was peeling him an orange, and he decided I was taking too long. He picked up that white membrane that goes down the center of the orange and started eating it. Okay, not too weird, it's edible. Then he picked up a chunk of skin, nibbled experimentally at the edge, and apparently he liked it, because he then CHOMPED. Big bite of orange peel, chewed and swallowed.
Is it just me, or is that bizarre?
Assuming he has tastebuds, I think they've been dropped on their heads a few times too many. Or he's burned them off with wasabi in utero.
Generally speaking, he's an easy kid to feed. He likes vegetables, and in particular will eat anything in a hollandaise or cheese sauce. He's got all the toddler favorites - cheerios, mac and cheese, bread and peanutbutter - but he'll also eat things containing squid and tofu. The only catch is that the first bite of almost anything that isn't a bread product will involve a fight. BUT, if you can pin the hands down and get him to swallow what you force in his mouth, he will then eat the rest of it. I know not why this is, I'm just glad that once the first bite's over, we're usually home free.
If we HAD a food battle, it would be over meat. We went through a phase where meat had to be ground and concealed in something. I was celebrating the week of Thanksgiving when he had his first Happy Meal and ate two out of four chicken nuggets without a fight, because I once bought a box of frozen popcorn chicken with the intention of using it as quick and easy protein for him, and he would not eat those no matter what. Back then, the speech therapist said he wasn't chewing, and so he gagged on it, and being a quick study, he figured out what it was that gagged him and rejected the entire food group. If I held up a bite of pork chop, chicken, or a chunk of a hamburger, he would instantly dissolve into tears as if I'd offered him a nightshade salad with hemlock dressing. "Mommy, how COULD you!" Since then, thanks to hot dogs, crunchy raw fruits and vegetables, and some very tender steak, he has been getting better at chewing and it's not an issue. He's not that much of a carnivore, but he has an uncle and a cousin both who are not that into meat, so there's a precedant for that. I have no problem with him getting his protein from beans and peanut butter, so long as it's his own choice and not because he thinks he'll choke otherwise.
Orange peel, though. Huh. That's a new one on me. Hey, we know he'll never starve!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas - Kala Christouyena! (Literally, "Happy Christ's Birth")
Kittyboy is officially two. He was a very good boy in church this morning, as his mother stumbled through a Christmas Orthros and Liturgy. Services that only come once a year are NEVER done without a comedy of errors, substituting Christmas hymns in the wrong places, or forgetting them entirely. At least I was not the only one singing, there were two sopranos and an alto in the congregation. And there actually WAS a congregation, maybe a dozen people or so. It wasn't Husband and I and Father, the way it's been at least one year that we've been here. That alone was a lovely Christmas present. Although, I didn't get to do my favorite Christmas hymn in English. So here it is!

"Today, the Virgin bears Him the Transcendant One, and the earth offers a cave to Him who is beyond access. Angels, along with shepherds glorify Him. The Magi make their way to Him by a star. For a new child has been born for us, the God before all ages." (Christmas Kontakion, in the Third Tone).

I also came home to every housewife's Christmas wish fulfilled - sort of. Husband's brother's family is visiting (Eric et al), and while we were at church, instead of sleeping in, Eric DID ALL MY DISHES. I had apologized for the state of my kitchen, and they said it wasn't like I had much time to get stuff done with a toddler running around, and then this morning I came home from church to the sound of dishes clattering and water running. I screamed, "NOOOO! Bad Eric!" He said it was Christmas, what the heck, why not. Merry Christmas!
After his post-church nap, Kittyboy opened his presents. He has a whole set of animals now, parents and offspring of horses, goats, pigs, sheep, and cattle, and he immediately added them to the Nativity scene. Very generous of him. It was a very full stable.
He has also been given what I suppose is every two-year-old's dream - a battery powered four-wheeler. It's an ATV for the preschool set. One-wheel drive and a cruising speed of two miles an hour, courtesy of his Uncle Eric. It is the duty of uncles, I suppose, to give the "somewhat dangerous but incredibly cool" gifts. It's their JOB, like his Uncle Carel buying him his first pocketknife for his first birthday (to be given at some point well into the future). Husband put Kittyboy's little hand on the button that makes it go and pressed, and the thing jumped forward. Ha HA! Kittyboy giggled, and giggled, and giggled, as he lurched across the living room floor. Yeah, that's going to see a lot of use!
Sooo.... we had decent attendance in church this morning, all my dishes are done, and Kittyboy can chase the cats at 2 mph.
Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Kittyboy's "First" Christmas

Baby's First Christmas is generally a way bigger deal to the parents than the baby, unless he was born December 26th and is very aware for a one-year-old. Personally, I count THIS as Kittyboy's actual first Christmas, because it's the first one of which he's really been aware. His FIRST, he was only aware that everything was cold and giants were doing things he didn't like. It wasn't terribly festive. His second, last year, he wasn't yet moving around really. He could roll and scoot, but nothing else, and he appeared to take most of the season (tree up, decorations, etc) as yet another odd thing his parents did.
This year, with him walking, reaching, grabbing, throwing, and all those wonderful new skills, we learned the Glass Ornament Lesson (they don't work, though they do make wonderful explosions when hurled on a hard floor), and the Porcelain Nativity Figures Lesson (they don't look fragile until they're in an enthusiastic little boy's hands, then they look SUPER-fragile). Our tree is decorated with dollar store plastic only, which can still be destroyed (the "Plastic Is Not Toddlerproof Either" Lesson) but at least doesn't need to be vacuumed.
THIS is our real first Christmas!
When Kittyboy first saw the lights, all lit up on the floor in a jumble, he was instantly fascinated. He put his face right up to them, close enough the lightbulbs were touching his eyelids, again and again. The angel was the most beautiful doll he'd ever seen, and he had to hold her and help put her on the tree, and then had to be held up to her so that he could touch her dress and wings and the lights in her hands, and give her kisses. He does insist she's a bird, because of the wings.
We've finally got a Nativity set, courtesy of Ebay, which we feel comfortable having down on the floor. It's some kind of clay or plaster, extremely light (so it won't fall just by being dropped), and it's just beautiful. And of course, we've had all the toddler-related excitement over the figures - hugging all three Magi to his chest and running off with his new friends, taking out ALL the figures to move them around on the carpet and then rearrange in the stable, treating Jesus' manger as a car and helping Him drive around the living-room (the base is smooth and so it slides nicely on the carpet), and this morning he took the angel that hangs on the roof and gave her a ride in his rollar skate.
I've been working on the signs for Jesus, Mary, and angel, in the hopes that he'll quit calling angels birds. So far, he's not making any of the signs, but he HAS figured out that the word "angel" applies to both of the winged people in the vicinity of the tree. He just still thinks they're in the larger class of "bird". Some birds are chickens, some birds are ducks, some birds are ravens (we have a lot of those around), and some birds are angels. That follows, right? And it's nice to give them rides in case their wings are tired.
This is the First Christmas I'M going to remember as special!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Remembering a "Brush with Death"

Last year on this date, I couldn't stop crying. This year, it took me until 7:53 P.M. to remember what day it was - the second anniversary of the day I was admitted to the hospital. I take that as a good sign.
The story of my son's exciting and traumatic birth began Dec. 18th, 2006. I was six months pregnant, and the ONLY things wrong with my pregnancy were that I had only gained twelve pounds, and that the baby was not as big as my ob-gyn, Dr. Rundle, would have liked him to be at that point. It was Monday, a week before Christmas, and I wasn't feeling good. Nothing urgent, just flu. I called Dr. Rundle's office, described my symptoms, her nurse asked me a series of questions (odd things, such as "Any headache? Changes in vision?"), and said it sure did sound like flu. Lay down, drink fluids. I called in to my afternoon shift and did just that. Tuesday, boy was that flu beating me up. I was sick as a dog. The nurse called again to see how I was, and ran through the same strange list of questions. No, really, it was just VERY bad flu. Wednesday came and passed, and I couldn't lay in any one position comfortably. Again, the nurse asking about headaches and blurred vision. What was UP with that, I wondered. Thursday morning, I was bound and determined, I WAS going to work. I had missed three days, I was in charge of the accounting and bills at the school program for which I worked, and Thursday was Bill Day. I was going to get those bills out one way or another. I spent the whole morning holed up in the teachers' lounge writing receipts and logging payments from the rest of the week, but looked so bad that my supervisor said not to come back that afternoon. I was perfectly happy not to - but, I had missed so much work that I figured I had better get a doctor's note. That I had already missed three days of work was the ONLY reason I dropped Husband off at his job and went straight to Prompt Care that afternoon. It was the last place I wanted to be, because all I wanted to do was go home, curl up and die.
Luck of the draw at the walk-in clinic, I got Dr. Gerber (for all eternity to be known as Prince-Among-Princes-At-Springfield-Clinic). He took my blood pressure, felt my stomach, and said that it was most likely flu ("well of course," I thought, "just write me a note!"), but based on the quadrant in which the pain originated, he wanted to do a blood test and make sure it wasn't a gallbladder problem to which pregnant women are susceptible. Yeah, sure, okay. I had blood drawn and went out to the waiting room while they tested it.
When the nurse came and got me, she re-took my blood pressure, and looked at the result as if the machine were broken. Then another nurse popped in and asked, "Which hospital do you prefer?" I said I guessed St. John's, and she left again. Lots of talking in the hallway. Something about which ob-gyn was on call right then. Then Dr. Gerber came in. "Your gallbladder is in distress, your liver is in distress, your platelets are down in the 30s, you have a collection of symptoms for something we call HELLP Syndrome, did you drive yourself here? You are driving straight to St. John's, you will be admitted immediately. Don't go home, don't go anywhere else, you need to be in a hospital NOW." It wasn't my gallbladder.
I left voicemails for my bosses and Husband on my way to the car ("Dear, I can't explain because I don't understand, but you need a ride to St. John's when you get off, because that's where the car and I will both be"). Being admitted is a haze of sorts in my memory. Various IV drips, a belt to monitor the baby around my waist, more blood being drawn, lots of vomiting before I started feeling better, and neither Husband nor I actually understood anything. We weren't exactly into asking questions, and all the medical personnel surrounding me were dashing about. Nice little "Now here's what we're going to do" explanations were not the priority. Getting me hooked up and stuck to everything conceivable WAS. My room had the atmosphere of an ER. One nurse did tell Husband in the hallway outside my room that I was "a very sick little lady", but she didn't elaborate and he didn't ask. It was the 21st of December, two years ago today.
The next morning (the 22nd), "bright and squirrelly" as my dad would say, Dr. Rundle was at my bedside in her jogging suit, looking as if she still needed coffee, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. Her nurse had been calling me all week with those weird questions precisely for this reason - HELLP presents with stomach pain, vomiting, etc, like flu, but is supposed to include ridiculously high blood pressure, high enough to cause headaches and distorted vision. I never DID have the high blood pressure, and so the big, obvious, trademark symptoms weren't there to tip anyone off. She kept saying, over and over, how VERY glad she was that I'd gone in, or no one would have guessed it was anything but the flu. You don't send a woman six months pregnant out into the snow and ice when she has flu-like symptoms on the chance that she has a really rare blood disorder instead, you tell her to stay home and drink fluids, which would eventually have been really bad, considering that later that morning I went into labor. A quick-thinking nurse rolled me onto my side, which stopped it. Later that day, Dr. Rundle and all the other ob-gyns from her office came in to ask me how determined I really was to STAY pregnant, because the baby COULD be born then if we wanted. I said I wanted to stay pregnant as long as I could. They didn't look entirely comfortable with that, but left.
Sunday the 24th the neonatal specialist took his sonagram machine on a walk to come see me. I'd been wheeled up to his office the day before, at that time the baby was a little stressed but okay, and I guess he was just curious to see what was going on 24 hours later. Rather than have me sent up, he brought the machine down to my room, which was funny. Baby was "fighting - not struggling, but fighting." The nurse who came on duty that night was the same one who had been there when I was admitted, and she commented that she was surprised to see me. I assumed, incorrectly, that she had expected the baby to already be born...
That night about 10:30, my liver started yelling again. Nurses coming and going, more blood being drawn, lots of calls to the lab, because they couldn't give me painkillers without bloodwork. I will put HELLP syndrome liver pain up against natural childbirth any day of the week. I was going out of my mind. It was about 1 a.m. that they finally got the okay for Demerol, which apparently doesn't only numb the pain, it also makes you really not care about it. I was on Demerol until 10:30 Christmas morning, when I went under general anesthetic for a c-section. Everyone who sees my son's birthdate says, "Oh, it's the Christmas you'll never forget!" WRONG. It's the Christmas I'll never remember. I wasn't coherant until after 5 that evening.
The rest of the week I was busy trying to pump milk three months earlier than my body had planned to. I was discharged that Friday, and the nurse checking me out asked "So how does it feel to have a brush with death?" and I laughed, thinking she was exaggerating. I mean, yeah, I was sick when I came in, but I was fine after they started all the IVs and everything, it all turned out okay, right? She said, "Oh no, that's not a joke. You don't know how sick you were." Husband said soberly that he had printed out some online articles for me to read when I got home. He had looked up HELLP in Wikipedia just the night before, and was glad he hadn't beforehand (say, the night right after I'd been admitted).
The nurse who had told him I was "a very sick little lady" was trying to let him know there was a good chance I wouldn't recover. She was surprised to see me still there on Sunday, because she had expected I'd be in ICU or dead. My being admitted had been so frantic and rushed because it WAS such an emergency situation. I read the Wikipedia article, noting in my mind that my platelet level had been of Level One, i.e. very severe. And I took it all quite calmly until the next December 21st, when it hit me like a ton of bricks.
A year ago, I couldn't stop crying. This year, I forgot the date until the day was almost over. That makes me pretty happy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Best/Worst Gifts

My father, God love him, firmly holds that if it is practical, it canNOT be given as a present for any holiday or occasion. He learned well from his own father, who gave clothesline and a toaster as presents (in Grandpa Speed's defense, they WERE items for which his wife had asked). My husband subscribes to the same rule. And.... I'm trying very hard to break him of it!
I have more than enough clothing. I have more shoes than I wear. I LOOOVE jewelry, anything colorful or sparkly, but I have more than I wear, especially since until I get Kittyboy to leave what I'm wearing alone, I can't wear much at all. He's broken chains. "Samson" is another of his nicknames. Flowers die. Plants, I have to find room in a window for. Unless there's a book or movie I'm really wanting, or music, or something, what I usually ask for is something I've actually been wanting and NEEDING.
I am the sort of woman who will ask for a new set of pans - a really nice cleaver - a vacuum cleaner - a bookcase - a coatrack. And I will be sincerely happy and grateful and jump up and down when I get it. If I've spent more than a week thinking, "GEE that thing would make my life easier," said item will appear on the wish list for the next gift-giving occasion. My "big brother" the trucker found me a magnetic knife bar at a truck stop which thrilled me to bits the Christmas he gave it to me.
Case in point - for Mother's Day, I wanted a clothesline. I really, really, really wanted a clothesline. My "clothesline" last year was a rope around a tree on one end and the TV antenna on the other. It was blocked on two sides by the house and the garage, so it didn't get as much wind as it might have, it was under a TREE so it didn't get much sun, and so it was dysfunctional in the truest sense of the word - non-functioning. All spring, I asked for a clothesline. Actually, "asking" is too polite of a term. I nagged, shamelessly. But installing a real clothesline is a Project, and so kept getting put off. So when Husband asked me what I wanted for Mother's Day, he heard, "Clothesline! Clothesline! Clothesline! Clothesline! Clothesline! Clothesline!"I even went to Menards to see how expensive they were, and told him where they were, how much, all that. I was REALLY looking forward to hanging my laundry.
I don't remember what he came home with instead of a clothesline. I think it was flowers and candy. Anyhow, I was CRUSHED. I had TOLD him what I wanted. I had told and told and told, and how could he not have listened? I didn't want flowers, or candy, or even a special meal necessarily. All I wanted was a clothesline! And... sniff... I didn't get one.
Seeing me ready to cry with disappointment FINALLY convinced him that I had been serious. I wasn't just asking for one for Mother's Day because I wanted one in general, I really did want one. The next day, he swung by Menards after work, and came home with a bag of concrete and an expanding, rotating clothesline, and on his next day off, he put it up. I was sooooo happy...
So now he believes me when I tell him I want a big aluminum mixing bowl for Valentine's Day. Now if only I could get the rest of the WORLD to believe me.
Apparently I'm a freak!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

P.S. on that last post

P.S. All jokes aside -
"Chicagoans think southern Illinois starts at Kankakee"
"I told them I was from downstate and they thought I mean Joliet"
AND the radio reporter whom I actually heard urging listeners to go to the DuPage County Fair (my grandparents live in Wheaton) because "You've got to see these cows, they're bigger than you think..."
I did once ask directions of a Chicago gas station employee. I had gotten off at the wrong exit trying to get home, managed to escape suburb madness back into the city proper, and stopped at a gas station on E. Cicero. I knew where I was, what I didn't know is where I-55 was from there. All I wanted to do was buy a map and ask how to get back to I-55. He asked me where I was going, and I said Springfield - just point me to 55, that's all I need. His first answer boiled down to "can't get there from here" which I knew was bogus. So then he asked where Springfield was. I had a cranky 18-month-old hanging on my arm, and my patience was short - I answered "South."
"Oh, so like, Joliet?" That was as far as the map was unfolded.
I took a deep breath to grasp what shreds of my temper were left. I unfolded the map the rest of the way, to show the lower THREE-FOURTHS of the state. I pointed at Springfield. "No, not Joliet. SOUTH."
His jaw dropped. He stared at the map as if it were a piece of alien technology. And I swear to you by all that is holy, the next words out of his mouth were, "HOW did you get up HERE?"
"Interstate... Fifty... Five."
Stupid people would be so funny, if I didn't have to interact with them.
And that young man can vote...

Justice at Last

The wheels of Justice can move exceedingly slow sometimes in IL - George Ryan, for example. He was in office HOW long ago? And I was certain that in the case of Chicago's Own, a.k.a. The Gubernatorial Flyboy, a.k.a. Rod Blagojevich, he would be loooooong gone by the time anyone moved a finger against him. I mean, it's the Chicago political machine, know what I mean? And we all know how THAT works, puh-lease. Better chance of finding Bin Laden, right? I mean, he got elected not once, but TWICE. I can understand one mistake, but TWICE? After the FIRST four years of flying his lazy backside back and forth from Chicago because he couldn't be bothered to call U-Haul (or didn't think we down-state hicks had indoor plumbing - or like the gas station clerk from whom I once asked directions in Chicago, he didn't have a clue where Springfield WAS or that I-55 goes right there - or maybe he didn't know that Chicago's not the capital - the reasons Springfielders have posited as to why he didn't move here are multitudinous, as have been the jokes on the subject).
nd today, thank you so much, I was proved wrong. There IS justice in the world, even in Chicago. I was walking through Dollar General buying toddler-proof ornaments (the Kittyboy's broken two already), and heard something over the radio about "the governor's arrest". I thought, "What governor? What state?" and blanked on it until the next news break, when the announcer very clearly stated that OUR governor was behind bars. I actually started dancing right there in the store. I couldn't believe it. It was like Christmas morning with a Jag in the driveway. It was AWESOME.
We even watched the press conference at 11, which taught us something very interesting. Our esteemed governor has TWO very bad habits. His first is using his office for personal gain wherever humanly possible. His second is swearing like a sailor. The official running the press conference was reading excerpts from the wire-tap transcripts, and I don't think there was a single quote he was able to repeat in its entirety. "The governor then replied, 'Bleep them, if they won't bleeping do it, I don't bleeping care.'" This is how he routinely spoke to his subordinates, colleagues, and even donors? A governorship, you can buy - class, you can't.
How touching, and right before Christmas, too - one of those heartwarming moments that brings together an entire state, regardless of party affiliation. Well, except for the 13% that still supported him as of the last approval rating I heard - ah heck with them. Party hats and noisemakers for everyone!
Oh, and he's not going to resign, because this is just "politics". Yeah, in Chicago I'm sure it's politics as usual. Orange is going to look SO good on him.

The Holiday Funk

Something about the resin Nativity sets at Wal-Mart just looks wrong to me. Okay, so they're more durable than porcelain - but, well, they have that slightly misshapen look, like dollar-store figurines. And there's that whole overly commercial feeling...
On a side note, I am also creeped out by talking dolls. I saw one a few days ago labeled "newborn" that when you pressed its stomach, said "I wuv you!" Hmmm.... I have seen many a newborn baby, personally raised one to toddlerhood, and in my experience, newborns DON'T TALK. "Exorcist to Aisle 324 please..."
So, somehow, we made it five years of marriage without a Nativity set (manger scene, creche, whatever your term is). We have been putting out the clay Holy Family my husband made in sixth grade. We have a child now, it's time to get a set that has facial features. So, I headed to Wal-Mart with the intent of buying a full set, animals and all, to be our family set.
I thought I got lucky. I found a set that lacked only a camel, was porcelain but didn't look TOO fragile, and fit my small budget. I got it home, and one of the Wise Men was already broken, in the package. I didn't want to take it back - the Wise Man could be fixed, and besides if I took it back, they'd pitch the whole set. But then Kittyboy found the sheep and the donkey, and we realized as they all rubbed against each other being cradled in his arms, that they sounded VERY delicate. And looking again at the cross section of broken Wise Man, the porcelain is very thin. This was a Very Bad Idea. Just falling from the less-than-2-foot height of his arms, those animals could very easily be history.
So now we have a set that has to be out of reach, which makes no one happy - not Kittyboy who wants to hug and kiss and examine the people and animals, and not us, because shelf space was already at a premium in our house. And I WANT a set that can be under the tree and can be loved and examined (with careful supervision) by Kittyboy on the first Christmas where he's been aware of what's going on. It doesn't have to be plastic - but it should be more durable than bone china.
Enter eBay - the world's garage sale.
This is when I discovered how incredibly picky I am about Nativity scenes. I don't like the ones that are kids dressed up in costume - that's just weird somehow. And let's not even mention the Precious Moments ones (shudder). I also don't like the ones that look obviously European. The manger should look more like a feed trough than a bassinet. And I don't understand why you would have all the figures glued in place. A LOT of the sets I looked at, which were perfectly lovely otherwise, were all glued in place. I guess that does keep them from being played with, but it also discourages the kind of creativity that, in my family at least, was always part of Christmas. Our Wise Men, for example, actually spent the time from the beginning of Advent to Epiphany (January 6th) "journeying" through the house. After all, it takes a while to get from Persia to Bethlehem by camel (FYI, it also takes a really long time to get all the way from the attic downstairs to the Christmas tree when you're frozen in a kneeling position and your camel can't stand up - you have to hop, which is quite tiring). The Baby Jesus should be able to be removed from the manger, because He's not there until Christmas (not born yet, silly!). And in an interesting twist, in OUR house, we children would hide Jesus somewhere and Santa would find Him and put Him in the manger after delivering gifts - a reminder of what the real "Gift" was.
I am soooo picky. But I did, at long last, find a set I liked. Already well-loved, which is a plus, and plaster, which while it is breakable, is sturdier than porcelain. It even comes with an angel holding a banner that says "Gloria". The ONLY drawback is that Jesus is firmly stuck in the manger, but I'm willing to forego that part, because no one else is glued down or to anything. And with Kittyboy's affinity for all things doll-like, it may be just as well that Jesus can't be carried off in an affectionate little fist to be lost who-knows-where.
Perusing Wal-Mart's Christmas section (or possessed-doll section) - great way to bring on an un-Christmasy holiday funk. Finding the perfect estate-sale heirloom to adopt - great way to feel better.