Thursday, December 18, 2014

Of Winter Celebrations, Christmas Pageants and Playing Possum

Yesterday was busy. It started, work-wise, with a very exciting validation of a model I've been working on for 3 years. Honestly, I tried to explain to Dave why this was so exciting and apart from telling him when to smile and act enthusiastic, it’s hard for civilians to get excited about academia/research. (((sigh)))

IN MORE ACCESSIBLE NEWS, the twinnies had their winter celebration yesterday. This generally involves getting to meet the other parents and listening to the children sing in French. (As they are in French School). In the first clip, there is an amazing surprise at the end that I am honestly shocked that the twins ((cough, cough, Bridget)) could keep secret. Bridget is on the right and Christopher is just behind her on the left.


Last night was our church Christmas pageant. This year we moved from the sanctuary (no pictures or applause) to Heaton Hall (pictures, applause, laughter). The kids also did a new play, indeed, the World Premiere of Erica McGee’s No Room At The Holiday Inn. It was a sweet, fun play connecting the birth of Jesus to modern day lives. Erica’s a goddess of children’s theater and singing. It was truly fun and meaningful.

And here are a few pictures:

Conor playing The First Noel before the play started. The tone of his playing was impressive. I was so proud of him!!



Some sheep you might know looking very adorable.




Joseph, aka, my son.





And the final song, A Thousand Points of Light. I think this song is an original song written for our church a couple of years ago. It is a huge favorite among the kids and the families. And this year, the actors were allowed to “free dance” the song because it is really that joyful. One might note that one particular sheep was dancing and prancing all over her pasture, while Joseph got down in the middle of the stage and even broke out some Jazz hands.






Then, after the show, the LBGT group at our church sponsored the dessert reception. It was dang tasty. And about halfway through it, Queen Elsa and Princess Anna showed up. The gays throw the best parties, even at church.




It was an amazing day. Then Dave and I walked out of the church, looked at each other, and said, “Somebody is going to be crying on the way home.” Dave took the least likely one to cry in his car, and I got the twins. I swear to dog, the minivan doors were still sliding shut when Christopher began WAILING about how he didn’t get enough candy (school party, stocking of candy, dessert party) and BRIDGET AT MORE!!! It wasn’t FAIIIIIRRRRR!!

I wish I could say I handled it better than I did. I actually did well for the first half of the trip. And then I screeched at volume I did not know was possible. The crying stopped, but it wasn’t the right parenting behavior.

So we got home, STARTED homework, and did a few chores. And looked out the door. Our back door is mostly glass and gives us a good view of the goings on in the backyard. There is a doggie door beside it and, Sweet Baby Lemur, Dave had already shut it to keep the cats in for the night.

Because standing there, at the back door, in all his white fur glory was Patches, with a dead possum in his mouth. He was bringing us a gift!! Just like the cats do!!!

Screaming ensued.

Dave got Patches to drop the possum on the porch and brought the dog inside. Please pause for a minute, and JUST IMAGINE if Patches had brought that in the doggie door. When you have stopped jumping up and down and flapping your hands, you may continue reading.

So Dave and I stared through the door at the slobber covered possum on our back porch wondering whether it was alive or not. (You know, “playing possum.”) Patches in the meantime was SO PROUD of himself. He was poking Fred with his snout. Jumping around Fred with his paws. And basically saying “TOP THAT RAT, SUCKA!” Fred had no reaction because, you know, cats’ brains are not as developed and gloating is not one of the four emotions they experience.

We concluded that the possum wasn't playing and was actually dead, so Dave went to get a shovel and a contractor bag to put the dead possum in. I stayed inside the house and supervised through the door.

Dave had to open the contractor bag because those things are big and thick. So he gave it a hard flap that was, in fact, quite loud. The possum lifted his head. To make sure this was not some sort of death twitch, Dave flapped the bag again and the possum lifted his head even higher and looked right at him.

New possum fact! They will play dead until some extremely loud and odd noise is made near them.

Dave slowly backed away and put the shove and bag back in the garage.

It took about 45 more minutes before the opossum finally figured out it was safe enough to leave. We could tell because Patches was barking persistently and loudly and I can honestly tell you that he was saying “MY BIG WHITE RAT IS GETTING AWAY!!!”

By this point, of course, both twins were crying and Conor was sulking that the only reason I told him he played well was because I am his mother. The good news, of course, is that once we got all three kids in bed, they fell asleep in less than 10 seconds. HOORAY! It’s just that hellish time when they are overly tired and ALONE WITH US that sucks.


The rest of the day, possum included, pretty much rocked.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The First Family Nutcracker

I  took the twinnies  to the Nutcracker yesterday.  It's actually  the first  time I've  ever seen it in person and it  was wonderful.  The twinnies wanted  to see  if because  Bridget had checked The Nutcracker book out of the library and became enchanted  with the story.

So we  went.

Highlights of  the production:

During the overture, when the music is  playing, the curtain is  down, and no one is  dancing:
"What *IS* this?"

When the Nutcracker stabs the Rat King, both twins were very upset:
"Is he dead? Did  he just kill him? I mean, like is he  a person and now he's DEAD!?"
((Bridget  was about to  sob by this point))

Speaking of Bridget, she  was  not aware that  the seats rise when you stand up  and twice  tumbled  down the row  of   seats onto the  floor.   She was very  embarrassed, but it was  so  freaking cute?

I  sneaked in cookies.  As  soon as the curtain rose:
"When can we  have  our snack?!?!"
"Halftime."

When the snow  and the snow  queen were  dancing and it  was snowing pretty hard on the stage:
"They are crazy! Why  are  they dancing in the fweezing  cold!?!"

And the general  gloating:
"We are  up SO LATE!! We are up  later than Conor!!"

Christopher  asked  for  us  to  do  this every year.  It was a lot  of  fun and I  have  to  agree, it's  going to  become a  family  tradition.   Who could  resist  this cuteness?

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Death and Life

Conor didn't know about Stampy's death until he came home last night. In the morning, he had told  me he was worried that Stampy was sleeping so much and I brushed him off. It was only when I  deposited the Roomba for a quick clean of the boys' room did I understand what this "sleeping" was.

Thank goodness. That would have been a horrible day for Conor at school.

He was very upset. And obviously, he felt very guilty.  We all agreed to wait a bit before re-gerbiling.  I hope Santa's stocking gift of a clear water bottle helps excite him again.

In other rodent death news......


this dead mouse is what I found while cleaning some clothes off a chair in our bedroom.  J'accuse, Fred.  J'accuse. Especially when Fred had taken a very new interest in lying on top of the clothes and sleeping throughout the night.  

Unfortunately, I've come to expect these sorts of adventures with Fred in the house. Indeed, the second shriek of the day occurred when I found the the giant  (plastic) ant the kids had hidden on the top of the dresser.  The physical and emotional reaction has become so natural, I couldn't even touch it and made Dave move the giant plastic ant so I could keep cleaning. 

In a more delight-in-death news, our Thanksgiving Turkey was a hit this year! BACON FOR THE WIN!!


Start with some apples and sage.....

cover in bacon.....

die and go to heaven.

This one is a definite repeat. In fact, we might repeat it at Christmas!! The bacon alone is pure heaven.

I'm sure it's distasteful to link gerbil/mouse death with eating turkey. But we're on an urban farm around here and I was a strict vegetarian for 7 years. No need to sugar coat what we're doing when we eat meat. Coat it in bacon. It is very tasteful, indeed.  

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Gerbil Deaths

Ugh.

Shit.

Ugh.

Stampy Longnose, the final  gerbil from  Conor's  birthday died  this morning.  And unfortunately, we  can't  blame the cat.  Conor forgot  to give that  poor, sweet  gerbil  water.   And Dave and I forgot  to  supervise our dear son in the care of  his new  pets. And now  we've  lost  Stampy.

Pet deaths  suck.  Even if they are  rodents.

Anne Lamott  has a great article in Salon today  about the natural co-existence  of anger and guilt.  I  was initially  extremely angry  at Conor for forgetting to  water his one remaining gerbil.  Then I  realized I was feeling incredibly guilty for  not supervising Conor better and not  giving Stampy  water myself.  And then I realized that  I  was  able  to  keep  my gerbils in water, when I was a girl, because of  the huge clear watering bottle that was so prominent in their cage.  The watering bottle  in this cage is  small, blue, and in the back.  There are real human factors errors with it, in addition to  the human errors we  obviously had.

In any case, Conor  is going to have  a new  responsibility, which Dave and I can clearly supervise, of maintaining the water  for  the cats and the dog  for the next 3 weeks.   And then we'll see  if  Santa  will bring a bigger, better,  CLEAR water  bottle  for  the front  of  the gerbils cage.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Our Roomba

Wow!  Two blog  posts in two  days!   And it's  the second of December.  Maybe I'll  make NoMoRoPo (or  whatever it  is for  writing in November)  DoReMeSo  and post every day  in December.

ANYHOO......

The Roomba.   Or as we are calling it:  Shaun the Sweep  (Dave gets credit  for that!)

YEAH!

So if  you  are  people  who vacuum and/or sweep frequently  or even occasionally, you  probably don't  need this.  But if you are  like  us  and the kids  and  the  animals are  all amazed every  time  they  see  a broom or a vacuum,  this  appliance  might  be  for you.

So  questions folks have  asked: Does  it get  corners?     Does  it  get  the whole  room?  Does it  work on wood floors  and area  carpets?   Does  it actually  work?

*Yes  (and  gets  all the way  under  sofas  and beds and dressers)
*Yes (it takes a long time, like an hour  when you'd  take 15 minutes.  But  that's  an  hour you're  doing something else)
*Yes! It adjusts to carpets and wooden floors  and tiles and even gets  this funky, dirty welcome mat  we  have
*Yes, it  actually  works.  In  fact  it  works  a lot  like  this:




Shaun  flashes and light circles around when he  finds a really dirty  spot, which was constantly  the first time  around our house.

The thing is, instead of  having Dave get  out the  vacuum, more all the furniture  around, pick  all the crap  up  off  the floor (that  is  now a constant--no crap  on the floor any more), and then put all the furniture back and put away the  vacuum, now, after breakfast,   I just pick  up  Shaun from his docking station, put  him  in our high traffic area,  turn him loose, pour myself a  cup  of  coffee  and come up here to tell you  about it while he  cleans  up  downstairs.

That was a long sentence.  That was longer  than the  effort it has  taken  us  to  do  this.

If you regularly vacuum, you probably don't need this.  If you are  slobs like  us  and can't  afford  a regular  housekeeper  and  your kids have  asthma  and the  house ought  to  be cleaner, this thing  is fan-freaking-tastic.

So yeah!  We're  not  getting any endorsement (HA!)  for  writing this review.  I  love  it. And  I'm using it  twice a day  in different parts  of the house.   Yes.  I  have gone from never  vacuuming to  a mean, hard driving taskmaster for  our robot!!  :-)   I  love it!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Crazy Fall and Update on Twins

It has been an extremely stressful fall.  Dave's father passed.  A very good friend  of mine's  father unexpectedly passed way too young.  A good  friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.   Another  good friend's  marriage hit  a very rocky spot.  Another good  friend's  daughter is  dealing with a serious health  crisis.  My  mom's  blood  pressure  is  jumping  all over the  place.   Add in  a couple  of  dead gerbils, murdered  by the  family  cat, and it's  been a bit  rough around here this fall.

And  then we have  the twins.

The  twins  are fine.  Christopher has  had a bit  of  an  on-going  cough, but  they are  both  quite healthy and doing well.

Still, Kindergarten has been a bit more of a difficult transition than we  thought and  we  have decided  to  hold  them back next year.   Yes, I  realize that  it's early  to pull the trigger on that decision.   But what we see  is  not just  whether they are mastering what they  are supposed in Kindergarten, but  1) they  are  young  for kindergarten,  2)  we would  have held  them  back if  we'd had  the money to pay  for  Transition-to-Kindergarten, 3)  we  held  Conor back  (same due date as  twins) and it was the best decision we've ever made, 4) despite Dave and I  being as old as dirt, we are  a  young (i.e., not wanting to  grow  up  quickly) family, and 5) they *are*  having  to  work  a bit hard(er)  to  master basic kindergarten objectives like writing their letters and learning the alphabet.

Dave and I  see this  as an opportunity to give the  kids one more year of  youth and also the  best opportunity for  them to do  as well as they  can in school.  Academically, we know the kids are above average.  Developmentally, though, they are  young for  Kindergarten.  They are June birthdays,  but were 6 weeks  preemie  and have had serious health issues. Why  *not* let them have another year  to  really  build their foundational skills and mature before the real work starts? Why not  give them every  opportunity  in the  world?

It's ironic, isn't it?  We see our  decision as being  very ambitious for  them.  It's  not  what  most families  would  choose as "ambitious" but it seems to us like  the best opportunity for  them.

We have  the support  of  their  wonderful teacher, the school counselor, and the zillions of  our successful friends  who were held back  by their  parents when they were in  school.  We're  "announcing" it to help normalize it  to other  families. As a  college prof, I  have had  lot of students struggle  to get their degree  as quickly as  they  can so they  can get  out  and  start working.  I point out  that going slower will likely help  them get  more out  of  their  degree and that, really, what  is the difference of  working 49 compared to  50  more  years  before they  retire.   (That  one always gets them)

So  there  you go.  We're  positioning  this to the kids that they are going to be  "Teacher's  Helpers" next year.  We thought we'd throw it  out  to  the  Internets so folks  aren't  surprised when  the transition to  Kindergarten starts up  again next fall.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Enterovirus D68

So, I'm probably one of the few people in the country more  concerned about  EV-D68 than Ebola.   And I'm probably one of  the few people in the country stalking the CDC website daily for more information about positive identification of this virus.

I'm also probably one of  the more cranky followers of  this virus in North Carolina.

It is of no surprise to anyone why:  the Squirrel. And it actually moves me when my real life friends ask me  about  how she is doing and let me know if they (or  a loved one) feels sick and what the  symptoms are and are not.

I was even in the local  paper, in which I thought the point was  to rant that we're not  getting information from the NC Department of  Health And Human Services about the LOCATION of verified EV-D68 cases and the patronizing tone of the NC epidemiologist that we should just assume  it's EV-D68 is out there and kids are getting it.

Assume?  I  should "assume"??? I'm sorry. I'm a scientist. I don't assume diddly squat.  I want data.  And if the data are that all  NC's EV D68 cases are around Raleigh, why should I assume Mecklenburg County has them, too?

Especially since the DATA from our pediatrician is that all the respiratory illnesses she's seen this year have been very  mild.

Especially since our school nurse says that most of the school absences are from stomach problems.

Especially since I've seen friends on FB--from Los Angeles--who've had to take their children into urgent care for breathing problems. Like  the Mom of that child and the Dad of another (who has been traveling all over  the country)  have ended up  with horrible, HORRIBLE colds with real respiratory and breathing issues.

Especially since EV-D68 lasts till late fall in *New Jersey* because only until then does it get cold enough to kill the virus!!  FYI, Fall Temp NC > Fall Temp NJ.  

It  is clear from the CDC chart that NC does not have a lot of EV-D68 compared to other states.


And the daily increase  of  cases has  drastically  declined.  At one point, there were between 50 and 75 new cases a day. Now there are about 20  new cases.

So here is  my latest thinking on EV-D68 and Charlotte.

1)  We might have escaped  it.  I am not seeing anyone  on my FB  newsfeed whose child has had a really, really bad  cold or who as  an  adult they have had a bad  respiratory  cold.
2)   We might have  already had it!!   EV-D68 has been around for  a while.   Bridget was hospitalized  *last* summer for  a horrible  respiratory  cold  that  took down  the entire family which  a  junky  cough. (I'm thinking of  her  second  hospitalization where we all coughed up  a lung or  two  in the house) No one tested anybody last summer for  EV-D68.   Maybe  Charlotte has already  had  this  bug and the city is  now basically immune.   (I'm hoping for this option)
3)   It  hasn't hit Charlotte yet.   Boooooo. Let's  hope  that one isn't  correct.

I  still don't understand why  the NC DHHS won't tell us where the  verified cases have been. The HOSPITALS are  revealing  that  they've treated  kids with EV-D68. The  reason NC DHHS won't is for HIPAA--they don't want  to reveal patient information. W.T.Fudge.Monkeys?

How many children are in Forsyth County?  If I tell you 1 child tested  positive  for  EV-D68, do  you know  which child  it  was???   NC  DHHS  reports  Lyme  disease  and cancer rates BY COUNTY.   But they can't tell us which county contains an illness  that is spread  through  the air and is  very serious  for  children with asthma?

I do think (hope) we're on the back end of this illness. But I'm not fully convinced.  Also, I  just  don't think this disease is as contagious as  they are saying. They say  the virus can live for days on surfaces. But when only 1 or 2 children in all of New York City get the diagnosis, how contagious can it  actually  be.  (And  yes, my  understanding is that the diagnosis is only made for kids in  intensive care, not for kids who have just been hospitalized.  It's  a very  expensive  test) I don't  know why Colorado and St  Louis had  such bad breakouts, but  I  don't think it's  burning  through the rest of the  country.

At least not through Charlotte.

At  least not through our house.

Famous last words, eh?