Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Also, (not quite) Wordless Wednesday

A fungus among us

So, Soren and I have ringworm. Yippee! I have no idea how we got it. (Well, that's not actually true. I got it from him. I suspect he got it by virtue of being a four year old boy who touches everything and doesn't wash his hands enough.) Up to now I had not, to the best of my knowledge, ever had it before, so the lad and I have both gone days and days - in his case, over a week - with it before I finally figured out what it was, this evening. So, naturally, I'm assuming the whole house is infected and it's just a matter of time before some pops up on Eleri & Tom too. Let the psychosomatic (and actual) itching begin!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Just call me Susie Homemaker

I never used to be particularly talented in the domestic arts. I was kind of a disaster in the kitchen for many years. I'll never forget one of the first times I made pizza for Tom; he requested sausage on his pizza and, not knowing any better, I brought home chorizo from the grocery store. (In my defense, I was a vegetarian at the time and had been one for several years, had in fact spent nearly all of my formative cooking years as one.) I was involved for, I think, a year, in sewing 4-H in late middle school. I managed to make one decent pillow case, which I kept until it ripped irreparably about a month and a half ago. And as anyone who lived with me in college can attest, tidiness is not my forte.

(Okay, Tom and the kids can still attest to that one, but I'm way better than I used to be.)

What I'm getting at, though, is that I've actually grown to be a half-decent cook. I've been baking bread from scratch since Tom & I moved in together. For a while after we first moved to Virginia I was baking some nearly every week. That waned dramatically as I got more heavily pregnant with Eleri, until somewhat recently when our friend Heather moved away and gave me her sourdough starter. Since then I've been steadily working my way up to actual good sourdough bread. (Current achievement: "reasonably decent") Making bread is not so difficult once you know what you're doing, but sourdough is a whole different animal. For one thing, it takes two days to make each batch. It's not necessarily a huge increase in work, but you can't exactly just whip up a batch without some serious forethought and time management. I haven't yet managed to make what I would consider a "true" sourdough, but my most recent loaves have borne just a hint of that sour tang I'm working toward. I'll get there, eventually. (A lot of it has to do, I think, with cultivating the starter in just the right way. I'm still experimenting with different feeding regimens, trying to develop the flavor I'm looking for, but more or less guessing about the specifics.)

In recent weeks, I've branched out from bread to making homemade granola bars. Tom & the kids go through tons of granola bars, and keeping a steady supply the "least bad" ones can be a bit expensive. So I consulted Pinterest and have been working my way through different recipes. I think I've found the one I'm going to stick with, at least for a while, and should be able to tweak the flavor profile for some variety. (Recipe to be added later.) I've also got a recipe for homemade pop tarts I want to try soon.

This is turning into a bit of a humblebrag post (or maybe just straight up braggy brag), which honestly wasn't my intention. Mostly I'm still marveling at the fact that I am apparently way more domestically capable than I ever thought I could be. I've made Christmas stockings for both of the kids, and not long ago I patched a pair of Eleri's jeans by hand, and they not only came out adorably, but the patch is thus far holding up just fine to repeated washings! I marvel at it every time I pull the jeans out of the dryer. Who'da thunk it?

I suppose you could conclude from this that there is indeed hope for me where cleanliness and organization are concerned, but I don't know. Maybe that's just a bridge too far. ;)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Two weeks

That's how much time is left before Soren goes back to school. He starts two weeks from today! Where did the summer go?!

Well, since my blogging has dwindled dramatically of late (my "high water" mark for the past 9 months is 13 posts in the month of April), there's not been much of a record here as to where exactly the summer did go. So I'm going to do my best to recap.

Ohio Trip

Road trip! Technically this trip took place the week before summer break started, but it counts. We packed up the car and headed some 500 miles away to attend the wedding of some of our California friends. It was awesome to visit with some people we only see about once a year, others we haven't seen since we moved.

It was a long but fairly pretty drive through western Maryland, a bit of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. We broke the trip up into two days on the way there, stopping in Zanesville, OH for the night (about 3/4 of the way to our final destination, near Dayton). We listened to an audiobook (Shades of Grey), the kids had lots of iPod time and music and books. I'd bought them "restickable" alphabet stickers to put on the windows and (rather foolishly) also bought some "window crayons" which did, as promised, clean right off the windows themselves quite easily; it's just that they were rather tougher to clean off the upholstery, the plastic of the doors, the kids' clothes, and the kids themselves...but lesson learned! I didn't take any photos while we were driving, but there were a lot of trees, tons of rolling hills, some bigger mountains, and then a lot of flatland. Very green and summery all along the way. I bet the view would be gorgeous in the autumn with all the fall colors, but it was also quite pretty in the early summer.

As I mentioned, we were traveling to Ohio for a wedding. This required us to get the kiddos some new dress clothes. Shopping for them was actually pretty fun; the kids were really tickled by the whole "take stuff to the dressing room and try it on" concept. Of course, that excitement didn't last too long, and they were quickly bored with my looking through the clothing racks, but we did end up with some good stuff, I think.

Soren was a little bit between sizes when we were trying stuff on, so his new suit has some growing room. El's dress should also, hopefully, be useful for another year or so.

Soren was terribly jealous that Eleri got to wear a pretty dress and kept asking why he couldn't have one too. I don't have any particular problem with him wanting to wear a dress, but I wasn't about to take away from the couple's big day by being the person who brought her son to their wedding in a dress. So we compromised. I told him he had to wear a suit like Daddy to the wedding but that if I could find a kilt for him that wasn't outrageously expensive, he could wear that to the rehearsal dinner. Happily, I was able to find one, and he got many, many compliments on his awesome kilt at the dinner.

I did also let him try on her dress in the dressing room at the store, but I'm not going to embarrass his future self by putting that picture online. ;) He looked adorable though.

Anyway! It was a lovely trip, and a beautiful wedding, and the kids were pretty darned well behaved, all things considered. We made the drive home in one day; it took 10 hours, but it was nice to get back to our own beds. I'm looking forward to having some more fun traveling adventures as they get a bit older.

Mom's Visit

About 3 weeks after our Ohio trip, my mom came to visit. I blogged about it at the time, and (almost 2 months later) I still haven't uploaded all the photos I took while she was here! I'm terrible. But it was very nice to have her here.

Summer Reading

We signed up for the library summer reading programs through both local library systems (Alexandria City and Fairfax County). Alexandria City lets you choose a reading goal; Soren declared he would read "one HUNDRED books!" this summer. (He's close to meeting that goal! Just about another 18 books to read in the next 10 days. I think we'll make it.) Fairfax County just said you had to read 15 books, and once we - quickly - hit that target, Soren was rewarded with a coupon book full of neat stuff. One of the coupons is for a free kids' ticket to a DC United game, so he & Tom are probably going to take advantage of that opportunity sometime in the next month or so.

As a result of this "100 books for the summer" reading goal, we've been going to the library at least once a week. For a while we were going twice a week, actually. Wednesday mornings in June and July they were offering music programs and, one week, a puppet show. So we went to several of those. And then on Thursdays they have the 3-5 year-old story time, which Soren got to attend by himself while El and I browsed for books or while I sat in the children's section and she played. The lad very much enjoyed story time, which always concluded with a song and some coloring. It's on hiatus for the last few weeks of summer, which is unfortunate, but when it starts up again we'll definitely be attending. And soon Eleri will be old enough to join in, and I will have a gloriously quiet half hour all to myself in the library! (I'm already wondering how many months early I can fib and say she's turned three...)

Anyway. Lots of library time for us. And lots, and lots, and LOTS of books. Soren has taken a huge shine to the Nate the Great series (which I believe I mentioned before), and I'm pretty sure he's read just about every single one of those. (Okay, looking at the website I see he's still got 9 to go, out of 26 total.) Lots of Nate the Great pretend play going on around here as a result, which is actually totally fine with me, since I can frequently coax him into using his detective skills to locate and put away toys and the like. ;) We've also made our way through some longer books together (Farmer Boy, Stuart Little, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and we're most of the way through Little House in the Big Woods), and he's just this evening we finished the last of the Lighthouse Family series.

Eleri, for her part, also enjoys her book time, though she does most of her reading with Tom in the evenings. She's still very much in the "fixate on one short book and ask to be read it over and over and over and over again" stage, so she will sometimes con me into ten minutes of repeated readings of Humpty Dumpty in the middle of the day, but she did actually sit through all of tonight's Lighthouse Family book with us tonight with very little fidgeting. And those are pretty long for a 2 year-old. I am continually grateful that both kids are so fond of books and reading. Seriously. It's awesome.

Summer Camp

Soren had two weeks (well, not quite...Tues-Thurs, two weeks in a row) of day camp at the end of July and beginning of August. The camp was run through the Rec Center preschool, so though he was not in his old classroom with his old teachers, he was in a familiar place with familiar people. Not that I think he would have had much trouble otherwise, but the familiarity probably helped a little. Anyway, the weeks each had a theme - "Beat the Heat" for the first one (they made fans and ice cream, played with beach stuff indoors and went to the spray park), and "Mini Olympics" for the second (opening ceremonies, made torches, day of games, medals, closing ceremonies, and another trip to the spray park). His team "won" a medal for javelin throw (which they apparently did with a pool noodle). He had a good time, and it was nice to be back to the El-and-me time we got to have during the school year, though she did seem to miss him more and ask about him more frequently. The daily reunions when we picked him up from camp were over the top adorable, all huge hugs and big smiles from both of them.

Mall Walk Wednesdays, Coffee Shop Fridays

I had to beg a double stroller from a friend, but mall walk has continued. Soren has claimed to miss it terribly and has at least been very glad to see his buddy L on a weekly basis. They'll be in neighboring classrooms next year, so he's quite tickled that they'll have occasion to (probably) see each other at least briefly, every single day. I have also, for the most part, maintained my weekly "mom dates" for breakfast and coffee at Grounded, which has been much appreciated. It's been good to maintain a routine at least a couple of days a week throughout the summer. We've had lots of flexibility to explore, and also to just veg when we've wanted, but not having to come up with something novel every single day has also been nice.

The Rest of It

Pool, spray park (though not as often as I'd thought), playgrounds, picnics, playdates, Fireman Sam, Doc McStuffins, Zumba, intermittent horsing (Tom's been late getting home for a while now), and of course our balcony garden. I was all set to update with recent photos, but I didn't get around to uploading them, and I'd really like to just go ahead and finish this post so I can put it up before the title and first paragraph are no longer accurate. But I'll put together a separate post all about the garden and its hits and misses. Promise.

I think that's all I can dredge up from my brain at the moment. More soon, hopefully.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Photo glut

For those of you who don't use Instagram, I've finally gotten around to exporting all my Instagram photos to Flickr. The quality's middling (since these are just iPod pictures), but I'm quite pleased with having almost daily candids up somewhere again. So go check out my Flickr stream, and see what we've been up to.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Four by Fforde

When British Jenny stayed with us back in November, she gave us a copy of Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair as a thank you present. I'm a little embarrassed to say it took me about six months to get around to actually reading it, but once I did, I was quickly charmed by Fforde's amusing narrative. The Eyre Affair is the first in his "Thursday Next" series, about a literary detective named (duh) Thursday Next who investigates things like Shakespeare forgeries and pirated copies of novels with alternate endings. She ends up fighting a supernatural villain and chasing him into Jane Eyre through a crazy invention of her uncle's called a Prose Portal. It sounds very bizarre but it's all quite funny and enjoyable to read.

Before I'd even finished The Eyre Affair, I picked up another by Fforde, Shades of Grey, on audiobook for us to listen to on our drive to Ohio back in June. This one's not part of the Thursday Next series and is about a world in which humans have evolved highly specific color vision. No one can perceive all the colors in the visible spectrum, and of course there is a social hierarchy built upon what one can and cannot see. Click through the link for a better summary than I can provide and take my word that it's another entertaining read.

Tom's read through Book 6 of the Thursday Next series and both of Fforde's "Nursery Crimes" books as well, but so far I'm straggling behind and have only finished Lost in a Good Book and The Well of Lost Plots. The story kind of goes off the rails at the end of Lost in a Good Book and transitions almost entirely into BookWorld. I don't mean off the rails in a bad way, but it definitely veers away from "bizarro alternate universe" and over to "straight-up fantasy world." Entertaining though. I'm taking a short break to read some nonfiction (and I also blazed my way through Wool in 4 days), but then I'll be back to see what's next for Next.

The Heart of the Sue

So. Last month I went to see a cardiologist for the first time in my life.

(Spoiler alert: I'm fine.)

When I was a teenager, I used to get these very brief, very specifically-timed, hormonally-related episodes of tachycardia. Not something to be concerned about, I was told. After I had the kids, this magically went away. Maybe even before I had Soren, but not long before. Since then, it's been replaced by a very occasional fluttery sensation in my chest that is not accompanied by an increased heart rate. I always just assumed it was an atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. Asked my doctor about it and was again told, nothing to worry about. Whenever it happened (always at the same time of the month, though not even every single month), it lasted less than a minute and never caused any pain, shortness of breath or other symptoms that would raise red flags.

So, almost exactly a month ago, when I started feeling it one day, I barely took notice. Then it happened again the same day. And the next day. And the day after that. Every day for a week. Increasing in both frequency and duration. By which point I had definitely noticed. So I called my doctor and scheduled an appointment for an EKG.

I couldn't get in to see her for another 10 days, and my symptoms didn't vary much in that time. In fact, I felt the fluttering the whole time I sat in the waiting room and waited in the exam room. Until the moment the nurse left the room to get the portable EKG machine. Talk about bad timing. I was hooked up for exactly 10 seconds, and of course displayed a textbook sinus rhythm for those 10 seconds. Naturally. While I was talking to the doctor afterward, it started up again, and she listened with her stethoscope but couldn't hear anything out of the ordinary. She sent me for blood work and referred me to a cardiologist.

Blood work: normal.

Got in to see the cardiologist 3 days later. The day before my appointment, the symptoms subsided dramatically. The morning of the appointment, I hadn't felt the fluttering at all. I'd completely cut out caffeine for the past 4 or 5 days, just in case that was an exacerbating factor. So the morning of the appointment, worried that I'd show up to the cardio entirely symptom-free, I chugged a big iced coffee when I dropped Eleri off with A's mom. (Soren was at summer camp.) It didn't have any immediate effect, aside from the "WHEE!" feeling of consuming way more caffeine than usual. This was going to be interesting.

At the cardio's office I waited. And waited. I'd had a 10:30 appointment, but when I had seen neither hide nor hair of the doctor by 11:20 I started worrying that I wouldn't get out of there in time to pick Soren up from camp. (Camp didn't get out until 1:00 but I had no idea how long the appointment would take.) As I started stressing and trying to formulate a plan to get someone over there to pick him up (neither of my designated emergency contacts were available, so that was complicating matters), wouldn't you know it? Flutter-flutter. The doc finally came in at 11:30 and I gave her my history in a caffeinated rush and told her it'shappeningrightnowandIdon'tknowhowlongitwilllast. She sent for the EKG and they hooked me up...just as it started to subside again.

It would have been funny at that point if I hadn't been so frustrated and afraid of looking like some sort of malingerer. To her credit, the doctor didn't dismiss my claims and scheduled me for further testing. Once again, I started feeling it again while we talked, and again, she listened but couldn't hear anything unusual. She told me she really wasn't finding any indication of an arrhythmia and that I could be feeling a deep chest muscle twitching or something. I was to come back in a week and a half for a stress test and echocardiogram.

I got home, googled "What feels like palpitations but isn't?" and was directed to, of all things, an anxiety support message board. Huh. Apparently, anxiety can manifest in about a million different ways, one of which is precisely the fluttery feeling I'd been having. I hadn't been feeling particularly anxious when this whole thing started, but I was for damned sure getting increasingly anxious about the symptoms the longer they went on. Which, logically, would lead to a self-propagating sort of scenario in which anxiety about existing symptoms manifests as...increased symptoms.

So, after two and a half weeks of weirdness, I was more or less back to normal. Very mild symptoms here and there in the time between my first and second appointments with the cardiologist. It came as no great surprise that my echocardiogram and stress test both came back completely normal. (The echo tech did say he detected two very tiny heart murmurs, but they were too small to be of any concern at all.) The doc concluded that, more than likely, my heart is not causing whatever sensation it is that I've been feeling. If I do have an arrhythmia, it's a benign one, and she said if the symptoms come back again, she'd set me up with a portable heart monitor that I could wear and then press a button whenever I felt anything funny.

So that's that! I didn't keep everyone in the loop while this was going on because I didn't want to freak anyone out unnecessarily. But I'm blogging it now to continue my trend of medical public service announcements. ;)

Friday, August 03, 2012

El in the morning

She is a funny kid. ;)