Thursday, December 30, 2010

Scootin' along
(post 500!)

Wow, this is my 500th blog post. Cool beans. (edited to add: Maybe. By my count, it's actually 495. But Blogger's dashboard says 500, so whatev.)

Now to the point of this post: the kids' big present this year. Our sweet girl has been eye-ing (not sure that that's right, but eying looks too weird for me!) the scooters in the neighborhood, and we decided it was time.


Although he isn't quite big enough to warrant one, we knew that our little man would be a bit covetous if he didn't have his own. Enter the three-wheeled version.


Don't you love their little pads, gloves, and helmets?




Our how-did-she-get-so-big? girl is pretty slow (for now!), but she has the hang of it.



Granted, he is still working on it. This is how he rides most of the time.


With a Daddy-powered engine, of course. 


He gives up easily, which we expected. Remember, we got this to ward off jealousy, not because we thought he was 100% ready for one.


We have discovered, though, that the protective gear is handy either way. Each of the scratches on his knee pads? Yep, they came when he was nowhere near the scooter.


He doesn't approve, though, when Daddy tries to ride it. He ran back, told Lee "mine!," and climbed back on.


We're obviously still working on sharing. But, once again, how cute is he in all that gear?


All in all, I'd call this a win. We may have more walks that result in one of us carrying the scooters, but that's why we bought the kind that fold up and why Lee is fashioning a sling-style strap for that purpose.

The only problem is that I think she aged about two or three years when she stepped on her scooter. Doesn't she look so big here?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

lately

Things have been quiet lately.

Here, that is. Life has been anything but!

I could give a long post explaining all the reasons for quiet, but it can be summed up this way: ick. MRSA ick. Virus ick. Antibiotic-induced ick.

Lots o’ ick.

We have had a lot of non-ick stuff, too, so the past few weeks have been one of those difficult yet wonderful seasons in life. Many more posts will be coming that highlight the wonderfulness of it all.

As far as the ick, I’m going to offer some explanation because people keep asking what the deal is with the MRSAness.

MRSA is an antibiotic resistant staph infection. It’s often called a superbug because it doesn’t respond to typically used antibiotics. Certain antibiotics do work, but they’re the stronger ones that usually have more side effects. (Yep, that makes life fun.) MRSA used to be a hospital-based infection, particularly dangerous there when it affects those who are already sick or when it settles into surgical incisions. Nowadays it’s more and more common outside of hospitals, often called “community-acquired MRSA” or CA-MRSA. While the reasons are many for the rise in CA-MRSA, we all can help prevent the spread of it by good hygiene and by saving antibiotics for when they’re truly necessary (for example, don’t ask your doc for them to treat viruses).

The prevalence of CA-MRSA is one reason I get it easily, but the primary reason is that I’m in one of the susceptible groups for it. You know, when you hear about the need for the flu shot or other measures for folks with compromised immune systems? Yep, that’s me. For starters, I have a couple of autoimmune disorders (click “health” on the bar above for more on that), which means that my immune system is like yours – fighting off bad stuff, like viruses – with some extra overachieving attributes that cause it to fight the lining of my joints (that’s what happens in rheumatoid arthritis) and my thyroid gland (that’s what happens in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis). The RA has already eaten away at edges of bones in my wrists, thumbs, and fingers, according to MRIs and x-rays, and we’ll be checking in the spring to see if it has gotten worse this year and if additional bones have eroded. In order to tone down that overachieving response and slow or stop bone damage, I get IV drugs every eight weeks that target the inflammatory response of my immune system. That medication suppresses my immune system, which is usually beneficial for my health – because, remember, my immune system is overactive, so suppressing brings it closer to the level of a normally functioning immune system – but can also make me somewhat more susceptible to infection.

My MRSA infections – now numbering eight in the past two years – have all been localized to the skin. The fatal MRSA cases that make headlines are ones in which the bacteria enters the bloodstream, but – praise God! – I’ve never had that happen. Even though mine haven’t gone full-blown systemic, they still hurt. A lot. Even the words "boil" and "abscess" sound yucky. Three have required incision and drainage, and two would have if my doctors hadn’t been concerned about the scars that would leave on my face.

One of those was the week before Christmas. My face doesn’t usually look like this. (And, yes, I am trying to smile normally. My skin was stretched too tight for anything more than these lopsided attempts.)


Thankfully, the antibiotics did their job. The infection was halted before it entered my bloodstream, before I went septic.

Now, I look like myself again.


Soon, I’ll be feeling like myself too (though we will probably be switching drugs, because I’ve had too many serious infections on this one). Which means – hopefully! – that blogging will resume as usual soon.

Which is a good thing, ‘cause I have lots o’ blog fodder saved up – pictures, reviews, rambling thoughts; all posts that focus on the wonderfulness of the past month instead of the ick. After all, it's much more fun to write about (and read about) more pleasant topics than this one!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Introducing...

I’ve wanted a dog ever since I graduated college. It made sense not to have one during college, but that’s the only period of my life during which I haven’t had at least two pets. My first roommate post-college wasn’t keen on dogs, nor was Lee (who was my fiancĂ© then), so we adopted our two brother cats from a family who couldn’t give them enough attention anymore. 

When one of those guys passed away (from feline diabetes. shocking, yes, because he was only 22 lbs…okay, maybe it’s not shocking), I lobbied for a dog. I lost. We got two more adult cats instead.

So what did it take to get Lee interested in a dog? Three factors played in:
  1. The realization that not all breeds are as slobbery as my parents' English bulldogs
  2. The reality that our oldest feline friend might not be around much longer due to some chronic health problems that aren't responding well to treatment right now
  3. The Robster
Our little man loves dogs. He rarely throws major tantrums, but he does EVERY time we have to leave a dog. That, combined with his watching our girl play fetch with our friends’ dog in Alabama last spring, pushed Lee over the edge. One of our mornings in Texas, a few days after we had been in Alabama, she woke up and – before saying “good morning” or anything else – said, “I want a dog like a Max.”

So it was mostly the kids who convinced him. (I knew I had kids for a reason.)

Earlier this week I asked for suggestions of short men in history. Here’s an explanation for that: Most of my childhood pets were named after historical figures. Beau was actually short for Brigadier General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard. And, yes, I could spell and say that back in elementary school. I learned about Beauregard and Alexander the Great and Ivan the Conqueror and other men in history through our pets.

Why short men? Well, the dog formerly known as Bud is half basset hound. He was surrendered by his previous owners to a shelter that euthanizes within five days if animals aren't adopted by then, and the rescue we’re working with plucked him from doggy death row. They know he’s part basset because the momma was a basset. The dad? We’re not completely sure. Probably a mix, mostly lab, maybe some Newfoundland, possibly some chow, maybe some other stuff. The rescue called him Bud the Bassedor.

He’s a big guy on little legs. See?





I'll post more pictures after he officially joins the family tomorrow. These are courtesy of Craigslist because I forgot to take any when we met him on Saturday.

Now that you've seen the pictures, do you understand why we were seeking names of short men in history? Bud is his rescue name, and he's not too attached to it. Otherwise we would keep it, as we have with our cats in the past (well, except for Heckler whose name was Dickie, and we couldn't handle that). I'm glad changing it will work, though, because we already call our human little guy Bud or Buddy from time to time.

Now to the name, without further ado...we started with Napoleon, who actually wasn't shorter than the average guy in his day but the myth of his short stature has persisted nonetheless. Then we went where anyone goes nowadays for ideas. Nope, not Google. Facebook.

I didn't explain that it would be a dog's name. Here are some of the possibilities offered there: Alexander Pope (4'6"). Genghis Khan (5'1"). Yasser Arafat (5'2"). Yuri Gangarin, first man in space (5'2"). Gandhi (5'3"). Voltaire (5'3"). Picasso (5'4"). James Madison, the shortest president (5'4"). Lenin (5'5"), and I also read somewhere that Stalin was short too. Charlie Chaplin (5'5"). Athanasius of Alexandria, a renowned theologian who was called the black dwarf by his enemies because of his height and dark skin. John Keats (5'1"). The Lucky Charms leprechaun. Zacchaeus. And Yoda.

I lobbied for Athanasius of Alexandria, because the nickname black dwarf would fit the dog formerly known as Bud well. Lee lobbied for Yoda.

(Did I say earlier that I would get to the name without further ado and then proceeded to do lots of further adoing? Yes. Yes, I did.)

I conceded that Athanasius of Alexandria would be a tough name to call and hard for the kids to say, and we didn't like variations of it (Alex was out because we didn't want a person name; Nasi because it was too much like Nazi; and AA because we don't think he has any drinking problems). Lee conceded that Yoda is not the kind of historical figure we were aiming for.

So what did we settle on?

Yep, Napoleon. Aren't you glad we thought through all the other possibilities first, though?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

upcoming news...

We'll be adopting a dog soon. We're in love with a little big guy (you'll see what I mean by that when I post pictures!), but we're waiting until everything is finalized before we introduce him! I'm so stinkin' excited, though, that I had to share now.

Friday, December 17, 2010

She's ready!

Every day she asks, "It is Christmas yet? Is it Jesus' birthday today?" The snow has confused her, too, because she equates snow with Christmas because that's how pictures and movies and Christmas cards portray it.


And she loves the decorations we have up at church! (As do I!) I'll be posting some pictures of our tree and decorations soon, but I wanted to share this one of the eager, expectant girl now!

GOOD READ: The Clouds Roll Away review (& link to the author's Kindle giveaway!)

I think this is my favorite fiction book I've reviewed. Sibella Giorello's The Clouds Roll Away centers on Raleigh Harmon, a forensic geologist with the FBI who is working a cross-burning case in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Her job positions her between a black rapper whose yard bore the burning cross and the mostly white folks she grew up with who don't like the changes being made to the rapper's historic home or the parties hosted at it. I was concerned that some of the racial issues would be overdone or heavy handed, but they were handled well; ultimately, race proved to be a less prominent theme than I expected.

I liked Raleigh; she was genuine and believable, as were many (though not all) of the other characters. I cared what happened to her, and I wanted to get to know her better (which is why I'm adding Giorello's first Raleigh Harmon book to my reading list; thankfully, I don't think I lost anything in the story or got any major spoilers by reading this one first, though!).

I also like how Christian elements were presented. Some Christian fiction is formulaic, following the chapter pattern of (a) present important plot pieces and (b) tack on the gospel story somewhere, whether or not it fits well in that spot, because God will do a mighty work with it (and He can, but that's no excuse for lazy writing). This is not one of those! The Christian messages are there, but they're more subtle and integrated into the story rather than added on as an afterthought. She makes a scientific case for a Creator, but it's in the context of DNA testing for the case, so it works. Or, in another place, you'll find this conversation between Raleigh and another agent after she survives a precarious scenario:
[Other agent:] "Are you in trouble?"
[Raleigh:] "What do you think?"
"I think you're lucky to be alive."
"It wasn't luck," I said.
"Okay. So it wasn't cowboy, and it wasn't luck. What was it?"
I looked at him, wondering whether he would laugh when I said it. "Grace."
"What?"
"Undeserved. Without merit. No reason for it. Grace."
He gave me a lingering expression. A smile crept across his wide face. "Sounds like luck to me," he said.
The other thing I liked was her poetic descriptions of the landscape and her home. Phrases like "the ancient elms crystallized," "frost crocheted the birches into lace doilies," and "the season blew itself into existence" are found on the first page (alongside a cliche comparison of ice to diamonds, but I could forgive that one in the presence of the others!). 

I like Giorello's style. Not that it's relevant to the book itself, but I like the elegance of her name as well. Sibella Giorello. Beautiful.

And I like that she's celebrating the release of The Clouds Roll Away by giving away a KINDLE prize pack worth over $150.00! One Grand Prize winner will receive:
  • Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi
  • $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com
To enter simply click on one of the icons below. (Then tell your friends!)
Winner will be announced January 3, 2011 on Sibella's blog: http://sibellagiorello.blogspot.com/.


giorello_300x250

Find out more about the giveaway here, as well as links to other blog reviews! 

I did receive a copy of this book from Litfuse for my honest review, but I was not asked nor required to give a positive review. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

If you find

a fourth stocking that would match these three and be a good fit for our little guy, please let me know!


Lee's mom gave us the good blue one and not-so-good red one our first married Christmas, and then she gave our girl the Noah's ark one at her first Christmas. I've been looking for one for our boy, but I keep hitting dead ends.

I know I could just replace them and start new, but it just wouldn't be right.

So, for now, the kids are each using tacky tasteless overly commercialized Disney ones, a Cinderella one that plays Christmas music at an obnoxious volume and a Lightning McQueen one that says various Cars quotes. I don't love 'em (don't even like them), but they were ridiculous cheap, less than two dollars each if I recall correctly. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Life with our boy

I thought our girl was a rough kid. (And she is.) I thought she liked to get dirty. (And she does.) I thought she could be destructive. (And she can.)

And then I had our boy.


His legs are reverse dalmatian, with white skin blotted out with black bruises of unknown origin. His clothes seem to turn slightly brown with dirt upon touching his skin. In less than three minutes, he can remove the outlet plate, screw and all, and expose all the wiring without using any tools other than his fingers. (I've seen him do it, and I'm still not sure how it happens.)

And he comes home from church with accident reports that say something like "he dove headfirst into a bin of building blocks without warning and without trying to stop himself or put out his hands."

Can you imagine that from this guy?


No, I don't know why his pajamas are partially unzipped.

He flies a bit more under the radar than his sister did. If she was up to no good, it was obvious. Even now, she comes to me and tells me, "Don't look at me, and don't follow me when I go to _______" if she's about to do something wrong. (And, yes, that means that I should definitely look at her, pay attention to what she's doing, and follow her. Oh, how I pray that she will continue to tell on herself as she gets older!) He just quietly slinks away to see how many does-it-sink-or-float experiments he can do in the toilet water. (For the record, sippy cups, My Little Ponies, and toothbrushes float; Matchbox cars and Mr. Potato Head pieces sink.)

I love him. I love the new things I learn being his momma. I love that as much as our girl is Daddy's girl, he is Momma's boy, telling Lee first thing in the morning yesterday, "Hi, Daddy. I need Mommy."


And, yes, I did try to get a picture with him wearing antlers to match his red nose. Evidently he doesn't have enough self-respect to avoid splashing in toilet water, but his draws his dignity line at wearing reindeer headwear. Go figure.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hallo

Grad school, over (well, not technically until grades come in, but it's pretty much done).
Christmas decorating, almost done.
Getting our home and lives back in order, in progress.

And part of that getting-back-in-order process is returning to this place. I made a few changes while procrastinating, er, taking breaks from grad school this semester, but there may be a few more coming. I have a small gaggle of books to be reviewed here, as well as children's ones to request because those are my favorite to review. I have a lot of life to share with y'all through pictures, including some taken with my new fancy schmancy DSLR (for you photog nerds, it's a Canon t2i with the following lenses: a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8, the Canon 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 that came with the camera as the kit lens, and a 55-250mm f/4-5.6, as well as Lee's dad's Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro that I try not to covet, er, I mean use whenever I can get my hands on it. I have an amazing friend from high school, Al, who is a professional photographer in Vegas who helped me figure out what I wanted in a camera, even when it meant pointing me toward Canon when his preference is Nikon). I have written several notes in various places that will become encouraging or silly or serious posts that I'm looking forward to sharing with you.

It's gonna be fun. I'm looking forward to life after grad school. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with each of you.

So here are my favorite guys saying, "Hallo!" (which is how the little man - the one with a scraped up nose in this shot from diving headfirst into a toy bin at church - says hello, kind of like a combination of the male name Hal and the word low).


And, by the way, if you want to catch coffee* or have a playdate sometime soon, my schedule is refreshingly open. I've neglected many a friendship during grad school, and I'm looking forward to seeking forgiveness for that and rebuilding in places where it's needed.

*Two disclaimers here: (1) I am only currently open to going to coffee places with parking near the door. If I have to walk much in this weather, I will get hypothermia or exposure or whatever you want to call it. Remember that I am a Florida girl at heart. and (2) Because I know some of you (*cough* Jenelle *cough*), I must add this: I do agree that it's best to use a cup to catch coffee and that it's probably not wise to play catch with hot beverages. So what other sarcastically literal or puntastic comments do you have for me? 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Confession

My laptop currently has 8.0kb free. We have network-based data storage. I just haven't been using it.

Oops.

(Alternate title: "Why my computer issues can't be used to fuel the Mac vs. PC arguments, because I could manage to mess up an Apple product just as effectively as a PC. Just saying." Or "Guess what I'm doing right now? Yep, deleting old files and moving others off my laptop." Or "Ways I exasperate my husband.")