Archive for February, 2013

Biking briefly at the park

Monday, February 25th, 2013

It was sunny and 75 in Houston this afternoon… perfect Get Outside weather. So when the girls finished lunch, Claudia put on their socks and shoes, and Sam began chanting, “car, car, car, car, car,…”

However, I’m still somewhat sick and very low energy (I’m texting this from bed at 6:30 pm and will sleep shortly), so I wanted to stay close to home.

It occurred to me that we’ve never taken the “bikes” that Gram Nancy gave us for Christmas outside. I thought about places with level pavement, considered nearby Lamar Park, then decided that the tennis court at Cherryhurst would be even better, because of the backboard wall to shield us from gusty wind.

We climbed into my van, stopped to buy gas (because after Dad and Emily’s rolling nap excursion yesterday, my fuel gauge was on “E”, and the display asserted “0 miles to Empty!”), made the short trip to the park, and took our bikes onto the court.

Both girls mounted their bikes and began to ride, apparently fascinated with the open space, sun, white stripes, the green painted wall, etc… for maybe two minutes.

Cate and Sam biking at Cherryhurst

Sam and Cate

Then, Sam looked up and noticed the playground at the other end of the park. She climbed off her bike, toddled halfway across the court, then pointed and turned to look back at us as if to say, “Do you see that? Can we go over there?”

Sam spotting the playground

Cate turned to see what Sam had seen, then promptly climbed off her bike, and headed off. A few minutes later, they were both in the grass, wading toward the slides and swings, the bikes forgotten.

Next time, we’ll take the bikes somewhere free of such powerful temptation… like the driveway next door!

Cate admiring tree shadows

Sam against the wall

Bikes, forgotten

Cate, Sam, and Claudia headed to the slides

Food Poisoning!

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Friday evening, I made tortellini for the girls (thanks, Cindy, for the suggestion!), and Bill grilled up some spicy Italian sausage. Tossed with his homemade red sauce, the combination was delicious!

But afterward, I didn’t feel good, though Bill seemed fine. I tossed and turned all night. In the morning, confronted with a bit of water, my system gave up and evicted it’s contents. What a waste of a good dinner!

All day Saturday and all of today, so far, I’ve been down and out with food poisoning. I’m running a low-grade fever, can’t eat or drink without regretting it, and I’m wasted tired.

I’m 90% confident the culprit is a Stonyfield Farm peach fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt I ate Friday afternoon. It looked odd, but it was a different brand than I usually get and still “in date”, so I ate it anyway.

Big mistake. Next time, I will happily toss $1 worth of yogurt to stay on the safe side.

40 hours later, I’m still running a fever, but I managed to drink half a glass of Gatorade without ill effect. Progress!

In the meantime, I am immensely grateful to Auntie Em, who raced over here early yesterday morning to help Bill with girls so that I could stay in bed all day. And now she’s back today, too. So. Very. Grateful.

* * *

On a side note, dehydration and nursing don’t go well together. We’re still “comfort nursing” before breakfast and dinner, and then I pump before bedtime to get them another few ounces. I figure I’ll keep it up through the end of flu season.

I’m sick enough that sitting up and setting up to tandem nurse is exhausting. The girls are clearly eager to do it, and comforted by the Mom Time. But I swear they looked up at me this morning as if to say, “Really? That’s all?”

Judging by how little I was able to pump last night, making milk is not my body’s priority. I hope that it will get back in business once I’m able to drink more fluids. Otherwise, we may be about to wean rather abruptly.

* * *
It’s nearly noon and I’m finally not sleepy. My stomach is starting to rumble with what I hope are pangs of simple hunger. Time to get up and brave some broth and rice.

Adventias: Gran’mom and the girls

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

I used to think it was really cool that my family now spans four generations, from Gran’mom and Gran’mere down to Sierra, Izzy, Sam, Cate, and now Ali. And then I realized that it isn’t meaningful if the great-Grans and the little people never interact.

One of the obstacles is geography: Gran’mere is in Ohio, which is 1,200 miles from here. Sierra and Izzy have been there once, but Cate, Sam, and Ali have not yet. I aspire to fly the girls to Columbus sometime this year, but I can’t at all visualize how I would manage it.

Another obstacle is mental. When Gran’mom came to our house for Thanksgiving dinner in 2011, I was eager to introduce her to our new baby girls. I anticipated letting her hold and cuddle one of our tiny bundles, perhaps sitting on the couch. But Gran’mom recoiled when I tried to bring a baby near, insisting (incorrectly) that she would infect her with something. One of Sarah’s medications makes her nose run constantly, for as long as I can remember. But dementia leads her to believe that she’s contagious when she isn’t. I tried to reassure her that it was safe to greet the baby, but she was visibly uncomfortable being too near the babies, and I desisted.

Since then, I have broached the subject several times of bringing my daughters to visit her at Belmont. Every time, she has declined. At first, she said no outright, insisting that it wouldn’t be safe. Later, she softened her position to, “I don’t think so. Not yet, anyway.” Given that she is always startled when I refer to having children at all, it’s probably no surprise that she doesn’t jump at the chance to meet them.

But today we all went anyway. I needed to go see Sarah and transact several items over there, and I planned to go while the girls were napping at home with Claudia. But today involved precious little napping. They spent most of an hour declining to nap in the morning. So we had lunch and tried again, but they only napped for an hour. Rather than leaving them at home, I decided to take them with me, and I’m so glad that I did!

Despite Sarah’s past concerns over hosting babies, once real, live, toddler girls were actually in her room, she enjoyed them immensely. She waved back when they waved at her, and she reached out to touch them ever so gently. She also enjoyed watching them interact with Zachary, her cat, who is considerably more approachable than our Tibbs.

When I got out the laser pointer, I was amused to discover that Zachary wasn’t the only one motivated to chase the bright red dot around the carpet. But unlike Zachary, Sam detected in under a minute that I was controlling the dot and came over to investigate the object in my hand. Nice!

Sam also pushed Sarah’s rollator around a bit, and even climbed up and flipped over the top of it at one point. Sarah seemed fascinated to watch Cate, Zachary, and Sam all play together, and declared excitedly (at least a half dozen times) that, “this is the most action there’s been in here in… as long as I can remember!”

We also had cookies. I think Gran’mom was in her 80s before tea and cookies became a daily ritual. When I came to visit, she always shared them with a funny line about, “aren’t grandmothers supposed to provide cookies?” With her dementia, our roles are reversed and we (Jean, Chris, and I) bring cookies to her. Today we had oatmeal raisin cookies, and I decided to share them with our girls, too. They have never had cookies until now, and judging by the speed with which crumbs disappeared and small hands returned to fumble for more, they clearly met with approval.

It felt really weird to have my daughters and Gran’mom in the same room together, when I’m used to devoting my complete attention to one or the other. But I think all three of them enjoyed the visit, and seeing them interact with each other makes me very happy. I intend to get us all over there again in the not-too-distant future.


Gran’mom regarding a stuck Sam

Zachary regarding Sam with a bag of cookies

Cate with more cookies and Claudia

Bob and Gran’mom

Cat box!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

When our cat, Tibbs, was diagnosed with diabetes in 2005, the vet had us change his food. We replaced his Iam’s dry kibble with a prescription Purina canned/wet food, specifically formulated for diabetics, with more protein and less carbohydrate.

The upside is that the combination of daily insulin shots and “DM” food has helped Tibbs maintain “excellent” glucose control. He’s nearly 14, but Dr. McD sees no reason that he won’t stick around for another long while.

The downside is the “DM” food smells horrendous when it comes out his other end. Within moments of Tibbs using his box, one can detect the pungent aroma throughtout our house, which if we’re home, generally warrants prompt scooping.

This evening, Tibbs came out of his malodorous box at the same time Claudia and I were taking Sam and Cate in to dress for bed. As I shepherded Cate toward the bedroom, Claudia lifted Sam onto our bed to change her diaper and get her into jammies.

I split off down the hall saying, “I’ll be right in, but first I’m going to scoop the cat box so that nobody suffocates.” I went into the bathroom and began scooping poop. After maybe a minute or two, I heard someone approaching from the hall, with an awkward gait and some clunking. I looked up to see Cate follow me into the bathroom, hoisting an empty orange Arm & Hammer cat litter carton in front of her.

Yes, I let the girls play with a cat litter carton. Once it was empty, I taped it shut. It may not be an ideal toddler toy, but it’s virtually indestructible, it’s lightweight, and the girls enjoy lugging it around by the handle on top as if it were luggage.

And it has photos of cats all over it. It’s a box. With cats. It’s a cat box.

We don’t let the girls anywhere near Tibbs’ box, and they’ve never seen us scoop or change litter. But when I said that I was going to “scoop the cat box,” Cate went and got one for me.


Cate with a cat box

Operation Emergency Nap Effort

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

From time to time, we probably sound fairly obsessed with sleep and nap schedules. If the girls sleep well during the day, then they may sleep well at night. When they don’t sleep well during the day, nights are uniformly worse. So yeah, we are.

Thursday morning, Sam had a hard time falling asleep. Cate fell asleep, but apparently got much too hot, woke up crying after 20 minutes, and declined to go back to sleep. So to keep them synced, I woke her sister at 45 minutes, after a single sleep cycle, anticipating that they would get good naps in the afternoon, after the cleaning guy left.

But that was unduly optimistic. Instead, Steve (who was apparently relying on a slow antique clock) showed up an hour later than planned. He subsequently finished cleaning and left an hour later than he’d promised. Nap time was delayed, and by the time we got them into cribs, Sam had been up almost 4 hours and Cate had been up closer to 5. (Fifteen-month olds cannot generally handle more than 3 hours at a stretch.) Totally wired, they stood and played and screwed around for more than an hour instead of napping.

Recognizing that it was still a LONG time until bedtime, and that OUR sleep was now in peril, we implemented emergency napping measures. Claudia and I loaded the girls into my van, along with their blankies and binkies (which are now a bedtime-only item), and headed out. I wanted smooth pavement and uninterrupted driving, so I headed for a highway.

I considered driving some US-59/IH-610 combo route, but at 4 pm on Friday, that promised more parking than driving. So I took us east on IH-10 instead. It occurred to me that Claudia lives in Northwest Houston (unincorporated Harris County, actually), and would never have seen the Ship Channel. So I shook off some mental cobwebs and drove her through a segment of CTC’s old freight rail tour.

We took IH-10 east from Downtown to IH-610, crossed over the Sidney Sherman Bridge by the Port of Houston, and followed SH-225 out Refinery Row to Pasadena and back. Here are a few birdseye images of places we saw (click for larger-scope aerials):

Shiny new Volkswagens in shrink wrap, fresh off of the boat from Mexico

Buffalo Bayou flows into the Houston Ship Channel

This Lyondell Bassell plant is the oldest refinery in the City of Houston

Manchester is a “fence-line community” with houses immediately adjacent to petrochemical storage tank farms

Claudia was obviously fascinated by the places I showed her, and horrified by the tiny houses in Manchester with refining operations practically on top of them. When I asked her afterward what she thought of our outing, she said it was “awesome.”

Meanwhile, between the tire hum and gentle motion, both girls fell asleep within 10 minutes, stayed asleep for the duration of our tour, and woke gracefully 45 minutes later. Bedtime still ended up being later than ideal, but dinner and the evening were pleasant, and I was only up with girls once overnight. Phew!

Sam conked out in my rearview mirror. Cate was also asleep, but only visible if I looked over my shoulder.

‘bye Da’…

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Daddy Bill had an early-ish meeting this morning, and had to leave before breakfast. After we all said ‘bye and Dad headed out to the car, we girls followed to the front window to watch him leave:

Sam and Cate watching the Yeti pull away

Afterward, I led the girls back to play in the bedroom for a little while I stalked them with my camera. With all their ambling about, this is the best shot I got:

Cate with pens and Sam with Koosh and duck

Yes, Sam is playing with the same Koosh ball that so troubled her a week ago. She seems to have accepted it without any particular effort on our part.


Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

After lunch Monday, Claudia and I took the girls to the Kipp Aquarium at the Houston Zoo. It’s close to the entrance, air conditioned, and the perfect scale for toddlers. Other than one major BONK! (In her enthusiasm to get to the next tank, Cate stumbled on the carpet and ran headlong into a wall. Poor Cate!) we had a great time:

Sam and Cate with pacu, stingrays, and turtles

Cate pointing at, and Sam trying to climb in with, box jelly fish

Box jellies!

Sam and Cate silhouetted at the door