Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rachael in her casts

Robert had a good idea of taking a picture of Rachael before the surgery.
See how she is up on both toes? That's why she needed the surgery and casting.

He'll take another picture of her in the same spot when her casts come off.

And here's Rach today in her casts!

What a little trooper!
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Rachael's home from surgery!


Rachael had her Achilles Tendon Lengthening on both feet yesterday. She got to pick the colors of her two casts, and picked pink and green.

The nurses offered her Slushies after she woke up. She didn't know what those were, but quickly decided she liked them, as she had three of them!

We're all home and doing fine. I decided realize how immobile she would be, though, and at the risk of sounding extremely self-centered, it's a little hard for me to get used to.

For example, since she can't walk or even stand, we have to lift her on and off the toilet and carry her (or push her on the stroller) from room to room. She can't do even the simplest things I'm used to her doing, like getting herself a drink, getting dressed, or making her bed.

It's weird; my Most Capable Kid (because she's the oldest) has suddenly gone to being Almost Totally Incapable.

She will have the casts on for a month, at which point she will wear removable leg braces.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Jenny Weight-Loss Program

It's quite simple, really:

1) Eat nothing after 7:30 pm

2) Eat nothing "on the fly."
This is the hardest, and most important: No popping things in my mouth while I clear the table; no grabbing a cookie when I walk into the kitchen to get something, etc.

And that's it.
As long as I stick to those two rules for a period of time, I tend to stay fairly thin.

Well ... maybe I should say "less overweight." :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My New Obsession -- The Big Bang Theory!

No, not the actual scientific theory.

Are you kidding? I can't even name the planets in order.

No, I mean the TV show called The Big Bang Theory!

I first heard about this show from my dear friend Ali over a year ago. She told me it was funny, and that Bare Naked Ladies did the theme song (always a plus) and that "the guy who played David from Roseanne is in it."

Well, yay. I'm there.
But unfortunately, we got about three channels, and CBS was not one of them.

But now something has changed -- is it that High-Def stuff? -- and now we do get CBS, and a couple months ago I started taping BBT. Now I am finally getting around to it, which means I can plop on the couch after the kids go to bed and watch three episodes at a time, skipping commercials ... aah, the joys of modern technology.

And here's the best part:

Robert has watched it with me a couple times, and he likes it too.

We almost never have TV shows we both like: He tends to like things like Nova and Apocolyptic Movies, while I tend to like things that are Not Nova and Apocolyptic Movies.

(We did enjoy watching Friends together at times, although if it weren't for the Joey character, I don't think he would have cared much.)

So this is cool.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Upcoming surgery and casts for our toe-walker

Well, Rachael's surgery is this Friday. I'm starting to get edgy and anxious about it.

I'm not really afraid something will go wrong. But I'm wondering how much pain she'll be in, how uncomfortable the casts will be, and how the braces afterward will work. I'm hoping she can still be in her dance recital in June.

And I hope that, after going through all this, she doesn't somehow start popping back up on her toes again after it's all over.

I'm thinking maybe this is another positive thing about homeschooling. Would second graders make fun of a girl wearing leg braces? Or are kids still nice at that age? I guess there's no telling.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What I did with my picky eaters

[Warning: This is going to strike some people as harsh, cruel, and maybe even somewhat abusive. If any of my unschooling buddies still read here, you are not going to like this.]

I hate the idea of forcing a kid to clean his plate.

I hate it when parents spend the entire meal harassing their kid about what he does or doesn't eat.

I hate it when parents say, "If you don't finish that, you'll eat it for breakfast!"

And I don't like the idea of using food as a reward or punishment.

However ....

I knew something was wrong around here when we all stayed at my in-law's house for the weekend a few months ago:

The girls were going to have a sleepover at their Aunt Carol's, so my MIL made some macaroni and cheese and a couple other simple things for the girls' dinner before they went. The girls wouldn't eat it.

Robert, fearing they would get Cranky and Difficult with no dinner, asked Aunt Carol if she could get the girls some dinner.

So Aunt Carol took the girls went through the McDonald's drive-thru. Rachael, age seven, cried when she saw her hamburger had "stuff" on it, and refused to eat it.

And I thought, This is not right.

So I started implementing an idea I think I read in a book, believe it or not, way back when I was pregnant with Rachel. Something like "How to Cope with a Picky Eater."

Here it is:

At mealtime, try to serve at least one food you know your kid likes. Serve them very small servings (about two or three bites) of everything.

They can eat, or not eat, whatever they like. But they can't have seconds of anything until they've finished everything on their plate.

And that's it.

I'm not militant about it. For breakfast, Rebecca still gets her waffles every day, and Rachael gets her oatmeal. But I usually do it at dinnertime, and it has helped. They are trying more foods and having a slightly more balanced diet.

BTW, I don't remember what the book says, but I personally wouldn't do something like that until about age four, which means Benjamin gets a break. Actually, right now he eats almost anything anyway.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More American Girl stuff for Christmas

Robert correctly says that we would probably have no American Girl products in our home if my mother wasn't Willing and Able to buy them.

Luckily for us, she does and is, and so we do.

Here's Rachael, with Julie and her new outfit. I think it's technically a Felicity outfit.
I don't think it matters, since all the dolls basically look the same except for their clothes anyway.

And here's Rebecca, dressed as Kit, and holding Mia, who is wearing Rachael's gift for Julie,
although it is actually a Mia Outfit.
(Rebecca was confused when the gift was opened,
just as you probably were after reading that last sentence.)

And here's my two girls together -- oh, wait, I was just informed that it is Kit and Ruthie -- with Woofie -- but no, I suppose it is really Grace.
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Our third annual trip to Scottish Rite

Many of you know that, a few days before Christmas 2005, Rachael had to be taken to the ER in an ambulance and was in ICU at Scottish Rite for almost three weeks. She a very severe case of a rare blood disorder called Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia.

Some of you might also know that we have a winter tradition of going back to the PICU and bringing lunch platters for the families who are currently suffering there.

We chat a little with the families. It is a little odd to chat with them, because they have a way of interacting that is unusual. Or rather, it would be unusual, except that they have a child on the Brink of Death and have been living in a hospital for weeks. It's sort of an odd combination of being dazed, yet slightly friendly, yet a little awkward and uncomfortable, yet deeply grateful, all at the same time.

Here are Rachael and Rebecca (we left Benjamin at my parents' house) with nurses Angela, Kristy, and Laura, all of who remembered us.

Rachael made several cards to give to girl patients, along with a stuffed bear in a pink tote bag. We gave them to the nurses to distribute as they saw fit.

You can see photos and read details about last winter's visit here.
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My handsome son!

Our cousins sent us some hand-me-downs in the mail along with Christmas presents.

This is a wonderful thing because, as you may remember, my goal in life is to never buy my children clothes.

Here's our Benjamin, age two and a half, in his new suit. Notice he is holding his "cool" and is deliriously happy.

Here he is again!
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Friday, January 16, 2009

I just played an entire Oratorio!


I did!

Not all in one sitting. And, sadly, not for an audience.

But I still think it's pretty cool.

I'm in-between Christmas Concert Season and Spring Festival Season (which they now call Large Group Performance Evaluation, sheesh), so I have nothing, musically, to work on right now.

I own the entire orchestral reduction for Handel's Messiah, and over the last week, started on page one and went all the way through until eventually I got to page 250 at the end.

I didn't realize how much of it I was not familiar with. We performed a good chunk of it in College Concert Choir, and I've played most of the arias myself For No Real Reason, but there was a lot in there I didn't know.


Now I'm kinda itching to get the score to Mozart's Requiem and trying that one next. I wish they had stuff like that at the library.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What makes someone a good cook?

I had the pleasure, this past weekend, of hearing both my mother-in-law and my mother say that I was a good cook.

I really liked hearing that.

It does sort of amuse me, though, to be called a "good cook," because in a way, I still feel like I can't cook at all.

Yeah, I "make food." But I feel like I don't cook.

I can't trussel a chicken and have never even stuffed one. I've never wrapped filet mignons in bacon. I don't know what it means to "braise" something. I've never made a yeast bread, except in the machine with a boxed mix. I mean, come on.

For example, here's the recipe for what my mother-in-law was enjoying this weekend:

Mix together cream-of-something soup, a half cup of chicken broth, some minced garlic, and a packet of Italian salad dressing mix. Pour it in a crockpot Throw in a hunk of frozen chicken. Turn switch to low.
Six hours later, show up again, shred the chicken with two forks, stir in a block of cream cheese, and set to high. Boil some noodles, and bring it all to the table. Meanwhile, tear open a bag of salad with your teeth and stick a bottle of salad dressing on the table next to it.

I mean, seriously, does that even count as cooking??

I didn't invent this recipe; I just read it somewhere and did it. What exactly am I "good" at here? Opening the can of soup? Tearing open the salad dressing packet?

So I'm wondering:

What, exactly, makes someone a "good cook"? Is it just the fact that I do cook at all that earns me that title (assuming you can even consider what I do to be cooking)? I'm wondering if there are adults out there who do less "cooking" than I even do, which is kind of scary if it's true.

I'm thinking that if I am, in fact, a good cook, then all it takes is owning a good cookbook or two. And actually opening them up occassionally, I suppose.

Any thoughts?

No time to read, but ...

I remember back when my oldest child was about nine or ten months old, I thought it was a little odd when women said they couldn't find time to do anything after they had children.

Back then, I remember working on concert pieces [I am a free-lance accompanist] while Rachael played on the floor nearby. I organized and labeled photos while she napped in the afternoon, and I did a Variety of Things after I put her to bed at night.

Then I had two kids.

And then three.

And now I don't have time to do anything either.

One thing I miss is reading. I was so proud of myself that I read I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb, a 900-page novel, when Rachael was a baby.

Since Rebecca (Number Two) was born over five years ago, I think I have read less than ten novels -- none of which are 900 pages long -- including:

The Curious Incident Involving the Dog in the Nighttime (or something like that). I forget the author.

A Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

a few books by Elizabeth Berg ... one I liked, a couple I didn't.

Anyway. The point of all this is to say that, even though I don't get to read much on my own, I do at least get to read a lot with the oldest two, which is not quite the same, but still good in its own way.

I made a list of what we've read together since around August (basically, the "school year" so far) and was impressed at how much there was:

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Clearly

Mrs Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald

Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic by Betty MacDonald

Charlotte's Web by EB White

Mr. Popper's Penguins (can't remember the author)

The Chocolate Touch (can't remember the author)

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Pippi Goes on Board by Astrid Lindgren

Pippi in the South Seas by Astrid Lindgren

Betsy's Winterhouse by Carolyn Haywood

C is for Cupcake by Carolyn Haywood

Right now we are in the middle of Seven-Day Magic by Edward Eager, which they are a little young for, but seem to be enjoying. Hopefully we'll read it again, or they'll read it themselves, again in a few years.

When we finish that, I'm hoping to read Here Comes the Bus by Carolyn Haywood.

I have read part of The Secret Garden with Rachael, which we both like a lot, but Rebecca is too young for it, and won't sit still for it, and it's hard for me to find regular time to read to just one kid. We had the same problem with the Little House books. (I will also confess -- and I had the same experience when I read them myself as a kid -- that the Little House books tend to put me to sleep.)

Becca particularly liked the Pippi books.

The child who puts me over the edge

I wonder if most parents have this ...

I have One Child who is the one who Drives Me Crazy Most. (If you know us personally, you probably know who it is.)

Said Child just makes me livid sometimes in a way the others don't. It probably has at least as much to do with me as it does with Said Child.

Maybe God sends you offspring like that to force you to deal with certain ... uh, weaknesses, in yourself?

I have been having a Tough Day with This Child. One insight I do have -- although I often don't actually listen to my own insight -- is that the times I most want to whack and scream at This Person are the times when He or She most needs my cuddles and hugs and calmness.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Over two hundred dollars for groceries??

I must be doing something wrong when I go to the grocery store.

But I'm not sure what it is.

Yesterday I went to Publix -- yes, with all three kids -- and we ended up spending $234.

What's even more amazing is that the receipt said that I saved $31 by buying sale items.

In addition, the milk, apple juice, eggs, orange juice, sour cream, cream cheese, diapers, rice, and kidney beans were all generic items.

It would make sense if I weren't going back to the grocery store for almost another month. But I can pretty much guarantee you that I'll need to go back within a week, or sooner, for milk and fruit, if nothing else.

No, I don't use coupons. I'm one of those people who sort of "doesn't believe in coupons." That probably sounds stupid. But really, in my experience, most coupons in the paper or for things we shouldn't be buying anway, and/or that would be almost as cheap if I bought the generic version instead.

Any ideas? Is this crazy compared to your own grocery bill? (There are five people in our family.) Are groceries just expensive no matter what you do?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Rachael's MRI

Some of you may be wondering why Rachael, age 7, had an MRI last week, and if that means Something Hideous.

If you know her personally, you know that she walks on her toes almost all the time. Sometimes people comment that it's cute.

After literally years of us going around trying to decide if it's something she'll outgrow, something we should do PT for (which we tried and were dismissed, saying it wouldn't work), something she should be nagged about, etc, I finally took her to an orthopedic, who said nothing would improve it other than surgery and casting. In her case, time would only make it worse.

Which was, frankly, a relief after all this debating.

He added that he wanted her to see a neurologist to see if something in that area is causing it. That's the doctor who ordered the MRI. I don't have the results yet, but he said he expected it to be normal.

Rachael is scheduled for her surgery and casting, on both feet, at the end of the month. She will have to wear a cast on both legs for about a month, then leg braces for about a year. (So we can practice saying in a southern accent, "Run, Rachael, run!")

I'm not really thrilled about any of this, but I am glad it's finally going to be taken care of.

It's funny, in a way she won't seem like Rachael anymore without walking on her toes.