Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

New Year, new blog template. When I get free time, I'm going to learn how to customize one of these for myself. I have oodles of spare time on my hands - ha!

We had a pretty good year in 2005. Anna turned 4, Colin turned 2. Their parents got older, too. Anna guessed that I was 18 the other day. That seems really old to her.

Anthony and I celebrated 10 years of marriage this year with a great European trip. I also celebrated 10 years as a veterinarian, which seems really weird, because so many times I still feel like a new grad. The learning never ends in this profession.

We had a hot Texas summer that would not end. It was still blistering hot in October. It was a great year for peppers, but not for tomatoes. The prolonged heat made it seem like Christmas really snuck up on us. Its been hot this holiday season, too - 85 degree highs this week. Its beautiful weather for going to the park, but I'd prefer it to be seasonally appropriate. I love sleeping with the windows cracked on cold, crisp nights, snuggled close to Anthony.

In 2006, we hope to get a new car. Anna will start kindergarten in the fall. We hope to make more dents in the many projects around our house. Colin has been sick the last 24 hours with a stomach virus; when he vomited all over the carpet last night we were reminded that its not quite time yet to replace our old gross builder's spec carpeting. Maybe after potty training is done. But hopefully we can get do some landscaping, painting, and buy a new kitchen table (thanks, Em!)

Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Mas Xmas Recap

On Christmas morning, Anna led Colin out of their bedroom to the pile of presents. Anna spied the Teddy Bear with a candy cane on his paw, sitting on top of her presents. Those were the humble things she'd asked for when she sat on Santa's lap. "Santa Claus remembered!" she shouted. "How did he know?!?" She picked up her new bear and hugged him. She was so amazed with everything Santa brought her, especially the Hi-Ho Cherry-O game she's wanted since she took it to someone else's birthday party. "This is the best Christmas, ever!" she proclaimed.

Colin enjoyed his gifts, too, but lost some steam on opening them about halfway through. Colin's favorite gift was the Hot Wheels track Santa brought him. Colin mostly got cars and balls, while Anna mostly got craft things. I know it sounds pretty gender biased, but that's really what they are each interested in right now.

After delicious Eggs Benedict for brunch, Anna marveled at how Santa knew what she wanted and managed to bring it. He's magic, we assured her, and she looked out the window and said very earnestly, "Thank you. Thank you for everything. Thank you for my Teddy Bear." It was so heart-felt.

For dinner we had delicious roasted leg of lamb, sweet potatoes, salad, and spinach souffle. Afterwards, Anna sat on Nana's lap, and Colin snuggled with Auntie Emily, as they stayed up and watched "The Polar Express." Anthony and I started packing up the car.

We got up early the next morning, said our good-byes, and were on the road by 6 am Mountain time. We had chewable dramamine, but Colin refused to take it. He was suddenly wise to the banana trick, too. On the outskirts of El Paso, I ended up pushing it into his wailing mouth and forcing him to swallow it. THAT was no fun. He still ended up a little queasy, crying and saying "I wan' go home..." a few hours later. We stopped at a barren rest stop in the desert and walked around the stark concrete picnic tables, getting red sand in our shoes. The terrain was as comforting as a stubbly unshaven cheek, but the fiercely blowing fresh air did us all good. A few more miles down the road, we saw the enormous wind generators outside of Ft. Stockton slowly tilting like underwater cartwheelers, making a Megawatt of electricity each.

The trip home took a little more time than the trip going, since we left a little later, and had less excitement about our destination. After the fourth movie, Anna actually said, "How about no more TV, Mommy?" We were about 1 hour from home, and I thought that sounded really good. Colin, however, kept making movie suggestions from his carseat. As we drove into Austin, Anna started crying. "I miss Nana and Grandad," she said through her tears. But when we walked through the door, she said, "It feels good to be home, doesn't it?"

Montana was such a trooper on our travels. She curls herself up in the backseat and hardly lifted her head on either long journey. She was good at my parents' house, too, except when she cleaned out their chihuahua Patchie's food bowl. Unfortunately, she had 3 large seizures on Christmas Day. They seem to come in clusters. It was hard for all of us to watch. Fortunately, no seizures on the way home or since.

I will post some pictures, in the meantime you can see some on Emily's blog.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas review

How nice it is when your audience clamors for more (see comments, last post). As predicted, we were exhausted by the drive home. Also, I had to work today! Anyway, back to the Christmas recap:

Anthony and I had a wonderful getaway. We went to a late dinner and then slept in, with no little people waking us up. After a leisurely breakfast (think omelets, with smoked turkey, mushrooms, and brie), we went for a hike in the woods. We originally intended to go skiing but New Mexico wasn't as lucky as Colorado, and only had about 5 inches of man-made snow. Definitely not worth the hassle of ski gear and rental. It was a beautiful crisp day, perfect for hiking without a jacket. The dry, thin mountain air soon had us panting with our hearts pounding in our ears. We hiked into the wilderness about 2 miles, mostly up, over fragrant spongey pine needles to a ridge with beautiful aspen views. Anthony saw the tail end of a large elk bounding away; I only heard its large muscular bolt from us. The only other creatures we saw were twittering little wrens - not a single other person on our hike. Several times as we walked a strong wind would race up through the pines toward us. It was loud and terrifying, but like a jet plane racing overhead, ultimately harmless. The trip back to the car was easier cardiovascularly but more treacherous, being downhill on slippery little rocks and leaves, making one think of how dreadfully unfortunate a twisted ankle would be! We did, however, make it back without incident.

Back in El Paso, I hurried in the house, a little faster than Anthony, to see my children. "Mommy!" Anna joyfully cried, but Colin's face FELL when he saw me. "Where my Daddy is?" he asked me, accusingly, and he would not hug me. Once he saw his Daddy was back, he did warm up to me, too.

Later that night, we went Christmas caroling. The kids really enjoyed it, but we adults were all missing Stephanie's voice. Christmas Eve I went to the gym with my mom, we took the kids to an empty Peter Piper Pizza, and then we ate Tamales, a traditional hispanic favorite for the night before Christmas.

After the "Night Before Christmas," (which Anna has memorized in its entirety from school), we put the kids to bed then listened to them on the baby monitor while Santa made Jingle bell noises and said, "Ho ho ho!" outside their bedroom window. They were silent, and I thought maybe they were already asleep, until we heard Colin say in a stage whisper, "Anna! Wake up!"

"What..." Anna whined.

"Santa coming. And reindeers!" Colin whispered back.

"You already told me that 30 times!" Anna told him.

They repeated this conversation two more times, then Colin belted out a solo of his favorite preschool song (Autumn Leaves are Falling Down) which Anna apparently slept through, then Colin joined her.

To be continued, with pictures...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Over the river and through the desert, to Grandmother's house we go

We arrived yesterday in El Paso relatively intact. Here are some trip highlights:

Loaded up the kids at 5:30 am. Both of them were so PUMPED by the prospect of going to El Paso, neither of them even pretended to stay sleepy. Then commenced the frantic search by the parental units for the CHEWABLE DRAMAMINE. Bev and Anthony had gone to 4 stores on Monday night to find these pricey pills which would prevent us from having to do the roadside cleanup. We both remember them being on the countertop. After 30 minutes of looking, we decided the Grinch must've stolen them. No pharmacies were open at 6 am, so we stopped at a 24 hour grocery store, but they only had the swallowable kind. I took a taste - bitter! Fortunately, I convinced the kids to eat them in a little piece of banana. Anna wailed that it tasted bad, and Colin made an awful face when he swallowed, but hey! Mission accomplished.

Most of the morning we drove in a white fog. I had been looking forward to the sunrise, but it just got brighter and hazier. We stopped in Sonora for breakfast at Sonic (Anthony likes their breakfast burritos); Anna got and devoured a Jr. Hamburger. We stopped in Ft. Stockton for gas, and it was time for more Dramamine. I knew the banana wouldn't work again, so I bought the kids an ice cream sandwich. Anna was too savvy and wouldn't let me slip the pill in her ice cream, but I snuck it by Colin and he was the one who really needed it.

The kids watched Totoro, Nemo, Ice Age, and Mary Poppins. We didn't even have to stop for the last 3 1/2 hours, and we were there. No accidents, but no poop either with all the inactivity! Since she visited by herself last spring, Anna "showed" me where everything in my parents house is, like the bathroom. Colin picked up and shook several breakable items but everything survived.

Today, Anthony and I ditched the kids as soon as my sister Emily came into town. Not really, but it kinda felt that way. We headed north to Ruidoso for a night away alone. We're staying at a great resort. Our room is nice, and when we got here we felt like some physical activity -- we went for a jog around the lake at sunset. Then we relaxed in the hot tub and had dinner. We'll head back tomorrow after a hike. So far, its a great holiday season.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Some photos before the big holiday

Seems I am running out of time as usual before the big holiday. We are leaving on our big western roadtrip Wednesday, and I am working tomorrow. Here are some pictures, meantime.

Every holiday season we get together with our good friends and have a Mexican dinner - in a restaurant, since we don't want to burden anyone with being hostess right before the holidays. Apparently others had this idea, because although we arrived at 6:05 pm, there were already several large tables ahead of us, and we waited over 45 minutes just to be seated. The kids were great, though. Afterwards, we went to a new Amy's Ice Cream location that actually had a playscape. Load up your children with sugar and let them play under the lights past their bedtime! Actually, it was great fun, and we'll definitely visit this location again.

Here are the girls posing on a cow:

Here is Colin on a rocking cow:

Best Pals, Ruby and Anna:

Here are the beautiful sugar cookies Anthony and Anna made:

Look out, Colin eats Santa! Actually, this was a very special sugar cookie from one of our babysitters.

Anna is getting full on cookies, and is having a hard time deciding which to eat next:

And here's Anna with the girl who is making this week sane and bearable for me: visting cousin Beverly.

Colin, adorably, calls her "Bett-eree." Sounds like battery.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Tis the Season

Today at work I saw 2 schnauzers. While their owners were out looking at Christmas lights last night, they got into a bag of Hershey's Miniature Mint Chocolates. They were very excited and smelled minty fresh.

Chocolate contains a chemical called Theobromine. Fortunately for humans, we have an enzyme in our liver which metabolizes it. Dogs and cats don't have the enzyme, but they still love chocolate. Too much theobromine can cause hyperexcitability and rapid heart rate. In severe cases (small dogs eating very dark chocolate) it can progress to heart arrhythmias, seizures, even death.

Baker's chocolate has the most theobromine, dark chocolate has a lot, milk chocolate a little, and white chocolate none. The bag - that the owner brought in with the incriminating torn open foil wrappers - contained mostly milk and some white chocolate. But these guys were little. Their heart rates were slightly elevated, but they did fine, and did not need treatment other than observation today.

Because chocolate is also high in fat, these guys are also prone to pancreatitis, a severe inflammation of the pancreas which can be caused by the pancreas being overstimulated by a high fat meal. Remember, these guys were schnauzers (this is the part where all the vets in the audience roll their eyes and groan), a breed with a particular propensity for this disease.

In fact, this owner lost a schnauzer to pancreatitis about 18 months ago, but not after the little guy put up a brave fight, spent 6 weeks in the hospital, had TPN (intravenous feedings) and a major abdominal surgery by a board-certified surgeon. These poor people spent $10,000 on that dog, and he still died. It was a black day for all of us.

Fortunately, though, these 2 little rascals seem fine so far, and have been sent home. It seems I see chocolate toxicity every holiday season, so remember -- enjoy your hot chocolate and other treats, but make sure your 4-legged creatures just get carob (or even better, greenies!)

PS Thanks everyone for your encouraging comments. Things are about the same, but at least I feel better, getting it out there and knowing I was heard!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I am so tired of holding my sh*t together while my children lose theirs.

To say we have struggled with potty training in this house is an understatement.

I have heard that when the children are ready, they will train themselves. My question is, when is that day coming? Anna is more than 4 1/2, and we still struggle daily.

Before you get all judgemental on me (and to keep this post from turning into a book called, "How Not to Potty Train Your Child: Exhausting 1001 Methods") please know I have really done everything short of beating the kids or bribing them with MnMs.

We have even made an appointment with her pediatrician to talk about it. She asked us what motivates Anna, is it wearing big girl panties, not wearing diapers? No, she seems happy to wear the convenient stuff and sit in her filth all day. The pediatrician made some recommendations that really helped with the urine accidents. But, when the urine accidents stopped, she started having poop accidents. No big b.m.'s (she still does that in the potty) but leaky small soft ones in the afternoon. Like daily. Today, she did it twice. And, she still leaks enough urine to cause her serious dermatitis between her thighs.

Colin showed great interest months ago, even requested to poop in the potty at my sister's house back in June. Since then, suggesting to him to go poop or pee in the potty is like suggesting we pull out his fingernails with his little toy pliers. On weekends or days I'm around a lot, he runs around nudie or I put him in training pants. By mid-day, he's had so many accidents, he's frustrated and requesting a diaper, and all I'm doing is cleaning up the floor and doing laundry.

So, I back off (like everything I read suggests). He tells me when he poops and sometimes even just if he's wet, but now is totally refusing to go on the potty. We used to have a routine where everytime I changed his diaper I put him on the pot and he'd pee. I'd clap and verbally reward him. Now, he NEVER wants to be on the pot, he moans the whole time, "I don't LIKE it... I wanna get DOWN..." He hasn't peed on the pot for weeks.

Today, I knew he hadn't peed in his diaper for at least 1 hour, so I knew he had to go. I put him on the pot and sat down next to him on the comfy (ha!) linoleum floor. I figured we'd just sit and talk and eventually his urges would get the best of him. We sang a few songs, but mostly Colin just played with the toilet seat, then wanted to stick his fingers in my mouth, then played with the lid, then wanted to stick his fingers in my nostril...

Hmm, how much time was I willing to devote to this project? Being the holiday season, we did need to run errands before picking Anna up at school. 15 minutes, I decided. When he told me he wanted to touch my eyes with my eyelids open after 12 minutes, it seemed like the moment of opportunity had passed and we were just in a battle of wills. As I rose from the floor, I thought, "What is this brown mud under my shoe?"

Then I realized. In the moment I had lifted Colin onto the toilet, a small soft poo must have fallen out of his butt. I stepped on it, then sat in it, for 12 minutes. In the bathroom which had been cleaned that morning.

I am so tired of poop and pee and feeling like we live in a litter box. I hear and read about people like Alice whose son potty trained himself in a weekend while she was preoccupied with other things, and I'm happy for them, but I haven't had any inkling of that. I encourage it, and it doesn't happen. I back off, and it doesn't get better. I feel like this is harder than vet school. At least in vet school there was a definitive end, and I had buddies going through the exact same thing as me. (OK yes I am wallowing in it a bit today--literally).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Kids are Gross

Yesterday I picked up Colin, all sweetly snuggly and warm from his overnight sleep, and carried him into the bathroom. As I layed him on the changing table, quick as a flash, his little finger plucked a booger out of his nose and popped it into his mouth.

Later, he was rearranging my sofa cushions. "Look, Mommy!" he said, as he held up a fossilized cheerio he'd found. As I turned my gaze toward him, you guessed it, he popped it into his mouth and started chewing. "NO, Colin! Spit that out."

Now he was hanging over my couch, dripping mashed up stale cheerio and drool onto it.

But none of that beats my all time gross out story, the one that makes the people I work with (the ones who pick up dog poop and squeeze anal glands all day) want to hurl.

It happened when I took the kids by myself to the Farmers' Market. Anna had to pee, and of course that meant the dreaded Port-O-Potty. I hustled all of us in there, admonished Colin not to touch ANYTHING, and put Anna on the toilet-paper-lined seat. Then, as I was helping her pull up her pants, Colin decided he needed to peer into the blue water. "Colin, DON'T look in there!" I said.

As I pulled him back, I could distinctly see his wet lip marks on the seat.

Don't worry, I washed out his mouth with the organic soy soap they had outside the door.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Happy Holidays from Vetmommy!

I hope you like the new look! Its an Italian template.

This weekend was full of holiday cheer. Friday night we went to the local Holidays at Heritage Park. It was a party put on by the local parks department, held at in a large barn. There was hot chocolate, crafts for the kids, and Santa even came. The weather was cold and crisp - finally seasonally appropriate - and the kids had a great time.

Saturday I tried to photograph my kids for a Christmas picture. This is such an exercise in frustration. I don't understand why 2 children who are normally such hams for the camera refuse to look at me and smile for this photo. Do they sense how important it is, compared to usual casual photos? I put them on the playscape, and say, "Colin, look at me, Colin, smile and look at me, Colin COLIN COLIN! LOOK HERE! Please Colin, look at Mommy. Now, Colin, look here, Colin, Colin..." Finally he looks up, and I snap the camera, but Anna, who has been looking at me and saying with progressively less enthusiasm, "Cheese! Cheese. Cheese, cheeeeeese... cheeeeeeese..," her smile has completely faded and now she looks down. Repeat this scene 20 times, punctuated by moments where Colin runs off, and ignores all my requests for him to return; when I haul him back by the arm, Anna runs off to play elsewhere, and refuses to come back. I could send you lots of pictures of the tops of my kids' heads. It isn't lost on me that none of us are having fun, and the more my anxiety and frustration rises the less likely I'll get a good smile. At least I did get some good pictures in the end. In previous years it has taken multiple photography sessions, and one time I just downloaded a photo from video.

My friend Lisa is an excellent photographer, and sent me about 7 different excellent photos of her beautiful daughters. She was perplexed because they were all so good, how do you decide? Actually, this is what she said: "It is just so hard. A x-mas card photo has to be so many different things to different people. It has to clearly show the way the kids really look for relatives & friends far away. It has to show the kids' personalities for the people who see them all the time & don't want to see some fakey, posed portrait. And it has to look all serene & reverent, or goofy & fun, or present some other sort of scene or feeling. It has to generate an emotional response, not just make you think "Look how big they are getting." Okay, I promise I'm not as freaked out about this as it sounds. I'm just, um, having trouble deciding." Yes, this is the pressure women put themselves under this time of year!

Last night we went to my work Holiday Party. We thought it was going to be the 3rd year in a row Anthony would have to stay home because we could not find a babysitter AGAIN. But, one of our babysitters called back when her schedule cleared up, and we both got to go and had a great time. I actually curled my hair beforehand, and did much fancier make-up than my usual minimalist stuff, which was also stressful, because I never do this foo-foo stuff. I felt like such a poser, and wished Stephanie was there to do my make-up and hair. I was so afraid I would look like some child who just applied her mother's make-up with as much skill as a crayon drawing, or that my hair would be a big frizzy mess and I'd just have to put it all up in a ponytail. But everything turned out OK, and all my fellow workers were unrecognizable in nice clothes and pretty hair, instead of the usual scrubs and ponytails. Its our one big party of the year, both for me and for our clinic. I can't imagine having to do this almost every night during the holidays, like my poor sister Steph, for whom it becomes a chore. But with the practice, maybe I could make it look as easy to be beautiful as she does!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Moh Chocolate, Preese

My German mother-in-law gives my kids Advent Calendars every year. There is a quaint holiday scene with gnomes and forest creatures, and 24 doors. You get to open one every day in anticipation of Christmas, and underneath is a small chocolate.

Anna has the drill down - every morning BEFORE she eats breakfast, she pulls her calendar down, opens the door, comments on the design on the chocolate, and pops it into her mouth.

Colin is struggling a bit with the "one-chocolate-per-day" concept. "I hold mine's, preese," he says, that extra apostrophe-S showing it really is his possession. After some negotiation between us, I hand it to him, reminding him about one-per-day, and holding it while he clutches it, too. "Look, Mommy, look, another chocolate!" he says, and lightning fast opens the door to number 15. "No, no, Colin, you can't eat that one yet!" I scold him, and scotch tape No. 15 shut. "Moh chocolate... preese..." he whines.

"How about a vitamin?" I tempt him with the large bottle of chewable multivitamins. He picks out a purple, and feeds me an orange one.

Fortunately, he's got the one-per-day concept down pat on the vitamins.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Little Boy, Big Palate

Yesterday Colin and I were running around and went to Central Market, another local gourmet grocery store. I had run out of Yorkshire Gold tea, and they always have it. We ate lunch in their cafe before shopping. I decided to order us a pizza, made with pesto and goat cheese. He got a fruit salad, I got a Caesar. Soon, he was picking off all the goat cheese from his slices - in order to eat it FIRST -- then munching on the pesto-smeared bread.

As we headed into the grocery store, before we were near any food displays or anything, he started moaning, "Chocolate... chocolate... I want chocolate."

So I got him a 20 cents worth of dark chocolate chips when we went through the bulk section, and the little guy was happy.

Monday, December 05, 2005

How to be a Good Wife, 1955

You'll have to click on the above image to read the text. Really, you must, because it is hilarious.

Some of that stuff is so funny, but its also sad to think of how many young hausfraus must have squelched themselves, trying to follow that advice and please their man. Also, most of these tasks must be done during what we call "witching hour," that time when you're trying desperately to get dinner finished and the kids are at their neediest and whiniest, and the clutter that has accumulated all day is at its worst.

I said, jokingly, how ridiculous it would be if I expected Anthony to do all this on the days that I work and he is in charge of the kids and dinner. I thought that by turning it on its head, expecting a MAN to be so subservient, it would really show how ridiculous it is. Instead, I realized how much of that he does do - dinner ready for me, a cold drink (usually a Cosmo!), and the kids bathed and presentable.

But, I can't get him to make dinner wearing high heels.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


We got to host one of our favorite people in the whole world this weekend, David, and his lovely new FIANCE, Deedra. It is so great when someone you really like gets together with someone you like just as much, even though you've only met them a few times. Deedra is warm and funny and down-to-earth, and my children love her already.

The only bad part is they came in on Friday afternoon (while I was working), then we all went to dinner at the Salt Lick. Saturday morning I had to work AGAIN and they left after lunch.

At lunch they asked me about work -- was it OK, did I save lives? Funny, while I was at work my mind was half at home, wishing I could be back there enjoying a lazy morning with all of them. Yes, yes, work was fine, I brushed them off. Then I remembered that people find my work really interesting, and I'd had some interesting cases.

Just before I left, I called some clients with bloodwork results on their 20-year-old cat. She's in kidney failure, but that's stable, except now she has anemia. The kidneys produce a hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to make new red blood cells. When the kidneys fail, they stop making that hormone. There is a synthetic human version of this hormone available - you may have seen the commercials for Procrit - and we can inject cats with this hormone to boost their blood count. I was telling this client they should come in at the beginning of the week to get started on the injections, when she said, "Can I come in now? I'm 5 minutes away." It was about 10 minutes until close, but I said yes. The client, her partner, and cat came in about 12 minutes later and I got them started on reversing her anemia. They were concerned about not doing anything heroic for their very geriatric cat, and I assured them that this would drastically improve the quality of their cat's life, giving her more energy. We'll have to monitor the cat closely for a while - there is a slight risk that the cat can develop antibodies to this hormone, since it is a human one, not a feline one - but other than that its pretty simple. They thanked me profusely as they left.

Earlier, I got to see a young puppy with a broken arm, give it vaccinations and change its cast. I also taught an owner how to do hydrotherapy and rebandage her dog's large wound, since we've been doing it all week but wouldn't be open on Sunday. That and a bunch of vaccinations and well-checks. No aggressive or bitey animals. Not a bad Saturday at all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Great Gobbler Visits Hondo, Texas

On Saturday, we were invited to a feast of a family we aren't even related to - such an honor. Our good friends, Michael and Regina, are lucky enough to have all of his family in the Austin area, and they often invite us to family gatherings, like Ashlynn's birthday party. We were thrilled to get to go to Hondo, a little town 30 minutes west of San Antonio, where they have a great ranch house on their family land.

There's a sign as you enter Hondo that says, "Welcome to Hondo. This is God's Country. Please don't drive through it like Hell!"

There were 3 fried turkeys, and they were good. Moist and not too greasy. (Later I caught Colin wandering around, holding a crispy wing, gnawing on the back attatched). All the invitees brought the side dishes. I saw several old aunt types mixing up Jello and CoolWhip "salads." (How can something with no vegetable matter be called a salad? Rest assured, Anthony was appalled.) There were other great offerings, cripsy rolls, green beans, squash casserole, dressing, and oh yeah, more turkey. Then there was the dessert TABLE.

When I unleashed the Pumpkin Cheesecake from the springform pan, Michael grabbed the pan and relieved it of several fingerfulls of cheesecake, which he shared with his wife and mom before properly cleaning it and returning it to me. There were also date bars, made with their Grandma's recipe. She's gone, but the date bars live on, even served on her famous china date bar platter. There was a homemade coconut cream pie with a short homemade crust that gave me pause, and a plate full o'cookies that every child snatched from.

After the big meal, it was time for the Great Gobbler hunt. Michael's very creative and generous mother knows the "Great Gobbler", who leaves a trail of goodies for all children (defined as those who have not graduated from college). The Gobbler leaves sacks of goodies tied to trees along the trails on their ranch, and the kids take turns driving the caravan of golf carts around the trails, pausing along the way for each to untie their goodie bag. Inside the tie-dye cloth bag was a bandana, monkey hat, and a wallet containing a real dollar, monkey necklace, and monkey tattoo. After the 18 bags were collected, we followed the trail of feathers the Great Gobbler left, to a pile of hay that contained candy and Lotto tickets. Hey, we won $10 with our scratch-offs!

After that, we were given a list of items for the nature scavenger hunt, things to find like lichen, a maroon leaf, and a burnt orange leaf. It was boys vs. girls, and everyone had to show what they found at the end, although everyone got a prize - custom burned CDs.

We talked and played until it was dark, then it was time to head back. Anthony and I didn't realize our invitation included an overnight stay, but we had left Montana behind, so we needed to get home. Both kids fell asleep on the way home, tired and happy, clutching their Great Gobbler bags.

Hondo ranch house, from across the pond.

Ashlynn and Anna played "doctor," operating on each other to get things out.

Ashlynn cuts Anna.

Here, Anna returns the favor. Hey, what can I say, both of them have veterinarians for Mommies!

The Great Gobber Caravan.

Colin and his snagged turkey.

The next day I asked the kids what they liked best about Hondo. Anna said, "Playing with Ashlynn." Colin said, "The swing. The ladder. The slide." I said I liked all the nice people and all the good food. Anna said, "Mommy, I have another one. I liked all the cookies."

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Guacamole Recipe

Who would ever think you'd hear a complaint about bland food from England? (see Auntie Norma's comments on the last entry). Truthfully, I think the food in England is quite good; but much of it is boiled (as opposed to, say, roasted in olive oil) and I think that's where the bland association comes in. However, no one can call Seriously Strong Cheddar mild!

Anyway, the Guacamole. A standard in Tex-Mex cooking. I used to mix in all kinds of things -- chopped tomatoes, jalepenos, onions, fresh garlic, etc -- making this dip quite laborious. Since acquiring 2 small children, I have streamlined things. And now, when I bring the simplified version to parties, it gets raves and requests for the recipe. Here it is:

Jenn's Guacamole

4-5 ripe avocados, yields to the touch but not mushy
Juice of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/4 lemon
Generous shaking of Spicy Cajun Salt Mix (i.e. Tony Chachere's)
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

Mash avocados. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Serve with tostadas (corn chips).

If you don't have lemons AND limes, just use one or the other (but I really like both). Also, if you can find cilantro (coriander leaves), you can leave those out too, but it won't be as great.

5 ingredients, people. You can do this!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Tips for those with Preschoolers

When you present a beautiful china plate, with strategically placed morsels of smoked turkey, honey-baked ham, mashed potatoes with Daddy's special LAKE of gravy, stuffing made from sprouted wheat bread from Whole Foods and mushrooms and homegrown and cleaned and chopped herbs not to mention the organic free range chicken broth, and the aforementioned roasted veggies (which were absolutely beautiful but of course I forgot to take an after photo) and the little cherubs who have been sitting at the set table for an hour begging for food on their fancy plates, 'cause they're so hungry from eating a light breakfast and then going to the park while everything was heating in the oven, when after all that they turn up their little noses at the FEAST we've been talking about for days...

Put some cheerios on their china plate. It doesn't look good but will temporarily stop the howling so you can enjoy your turkey and the wine.

After the cheerios are gone, you can succumb to the Dora, too. Or more Seeduction rolls. Anna ate 2 1/2 rolls for her feast!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

On the Feast's Eve

Here are our winter veggies, that will be sacrificed tomorrow, roasted in olive oil, and consumed with turkey: butternut squash, beets, turnips, onions, garlic, and the last little eggplants from our garden.

Gosh, I hope we have enough food (there is no room in the fridge).

Colin is mesmerized by his first glimpse of Star Wars.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Feast! Feast! Feast!

Last week I worked a lot, but now the week of feasting has begun! We all have feasts tomorrow. Anna's school has a Thanksgiving feast every year, and this year she drew "Mashed Potatoes" to bring. We called Oma for her recipe and, as per the Montessori instructions, Anna helped me make them today. She peeled half a small potato in the time that I peeled 7. Then she helped me mash them with the "Guacamole maker." (You can tell we make a lot more guacamole than mashed potatoes).

At my work we're also having a pot luck tomorrow. One of my co-workers is smoking a turkey. I'm bringing extra mashed potatoes, salad, and a pumpkin pie. Anna and I pre-made our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie yesterday, so it was easy enough to make 2 instead of just 1.

Colin's school is having a feast tomorrow, too. They decided since everyone is going to be sick of turkey this week, they are having a taco buffet. Anthony signed up to bring "taco meat," but don't tell anyone: he's actually bringing SOY CRUMBLES. We eat meat at our house, but when it comes to tacos we prefer the Morningstar Farms Burger Crumbles over real ground beef anyday. Its so easy to cook, too - no draining the nasty fat, and no breaking up of the big meat chunks. It'll be interesting to see if anyone notices.

On Thursday - actual Turkey Day - my in-laws and our nephew Andrew will come down from Dallas for a feast. The Greenburg Turkey arrived today in all its smokey goodness. I love these birds - you know they will come out moist and delicious without any effort. I'll make broth from the carcass that will flavor our soups and rices for the rest of the winter. Although there will be only 4 adults, 1 teenager, and 2 preschoolers at this feast, we'll have WAY too much food - the turkey, a ham, dressing, gravy, roasted veggies, asparagus, seeduction rolls, cranberry relish, pecan and pumpkin pies.

Friday, I have to work, but Saturday we have been invited to Michael and Regina's extended family feast out in Hondo, Texas. They will be frying turkeys in that time-honored Southern tradition, and the rest of us guests are bringing side dishes and desserts. I plan to bring a butternut squash-wild rice pilaf, and Martha Stewart's Pumpkin Cheesecake. Anthony doesn't like pumpkin pie, but even he is looking forward to that cheesecake! After the feasting, the Thanksgiving Gobbler drops "nests" of goodies in the fields for the children, and Texas Lotto tickets for the adults.

I'll try rouse myself from my tryptophan-induced stupor occasionally this week to blog. Rest assured, I'll be going for a long jog on Sunday.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Book Meme from Jessica

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the sentence in your blog with these instructions.
5. Don't search around for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually closest.

Here's my entry, from Veterinary Neuroanatomy and Clinical Neurology byAlexander de Lahunta:

The axons (of neurons of the sacral parasympathetic general visceral efferent system) course with the ventral roots to the spinal nerves, where they leave as ventral branches that unite ventral to the sacral vertebrae to form the pelvic nerve on each side.

What can I say, I'm still at work. Doesn't make much sense to me, either!

Precious Cargo

Anthony got to take me to lunch today, which was really nice! Its always a pleasantly strange when we can have an extended uninterrupted conversation.

On the way back to my clinic, I noticed in the backseat was Anna's Pooh Bear and Colin's Green Blanket, left behind from drop off at their schools this morning. "Yeah, I drive around with this in my backseat, and hope no one notices it," Anth said, "It doesn't look very cool."

"You'd better not let anything happen to this car!" I said, "Or we'll never get any sleep!"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What do you say to a dog who acts this way?

7:10 am - Montana eagerly runs and jumps in the car to go to work with me.

8 am to 6 pm - Montana sniffs dogs that walk by the doctors' office, gets a Thanksgiving bandana from the groomer, begs my coworkers for food, and -- mostly -- sleeps under my desk.

6:02 pm - Montana stops to pee on our way out, losing sight of me. I call her and she runs to me, a perfect recall, just like she learned in all those obedience classes 10 years ago. A beautiful, smart, obedient dog.

8:50 pm - Montana has a grand mal seizure on my kitchen floor. I'm all alone, so I can't give her IV valium. All I can do is hold her.

8:52 pm - Seizure is over. Montana blinks at me and wags her tail.

9:02 pm - Montana empties the litter box for me. Back to normal.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Conversational transcripts

Colin: Cinderera a GIRL.
Me: Are you a girl?
Colin: Nooo!
Me: Are you a boy?
Colin: No.
Me: What?!
Colin: I a LITTLE.
Me: Oh, are you a little boy?
Colin: YES.

Colin: Moh Juice, Daddy.
Daddy: You have to say please.
Colin: Mas Jugo, POR-PA-BORT.
Daddy: OK, little buddy.
Anna: Daddy, can I please have more juice, too?
Daddy: Sure, just a second.
Me, handing Daddy the vino and opener while manning 3 pans on the stove: Daddy, can I have some of my juice, please?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Like a Diamond

Go to Jessica's blog to watch a video rendition of my kids singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

Its hard to hear in this version, but my favorite part of Colin singing this song is when he says, "Up ah BUBBA worl so high..."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Here are some PRETTY pictures.

Here's Colin, checking out all the butterflies on one of Anthony's plants.

How appropriate is that bug shirt?!? Click the image for a close-up and you can see more butterflies. Also nice detail on Colin's beloved GEEN BWANKET.

We are fortunate to live just within the edge of the Monarch Migration trail, as these intrepid invertebrates make their migration from New England and Canada, down to Mexico to hibernate for the winter.

Anthony took a nice close-up.

We'll get 20-30 butterflies at a time on this one bush. You can see them swooping across the lawn to come in for a landing. Guess it pays to plant native.


I know I need a new post...

...Just so those awful dental pictures aren't the first thing everyone sees! But, I'm at work today, filling in for my boss, who gave me an extra day at Christmas for working today, woo-hoo!

We had a party party party weekend. First we had a surprise 40th birthday party for our dear friend, Michael. I've known Michael since I was a college freshman. I didn't feel old until I saw the flower girl from his wedding there and realized she's now a college freshman. Michael has a great immediate family (his wife is my best friend from vet school) and a great extended family. My kids loved playing with all their cousins and a good time was had by all.

Sunday we went to my cousin Beverly's Sweet 16 Birthday Party. Beverly had many friends there, plus some kids she babysits and families from her church. Most of the teenagers played football outside, then came in and sat down, boys at one table, girls at another. Beverly can't wait to drive! Good luck at DPS, Bevie!

Then Anna had a birthday party at Pump It Up, a place with multiple huge blow-up tents, jumpers, and steep steep slides. Anna was the only girl from her class there, but ran/jumped/slid around with all the boys. I enjoyed talking to a lot of the other parents, getting opinions on different schools to send Anna to next. Anna had a blast, of course. My only complaint was that the party was 5-7:30, and all they served was cake and chips. Hopefully she burned it all off with the running and jumping.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What I did at work today

Warning! Gross pictures to follow.


This is severe, advanced periodontal disease. This is what can happen if you don't brush your teeth for 13 years. Yeah, that is hair between and under the roots of the teeth.


Ah, much better. I pulled 21 teeth, leaving just 3 behind. She'll be so much healthier for it. It took about 3 1/2 hours of work to remove the teeth, debride the sockets, fill them with consil (a synthetic bone graft), and suture the gingival flaps. It was tiring and disgusting, but I get a real sense of accomplishment, knowing how much I have improved this dog's health and quality of life. Not to mention her breath!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Don't look a gift chicken in the beak

One of my coworkers came in from walking Montana today and said, "There's a chicken out there, tied to a tree."

Say what? "Really, it's a chicken, just tied to a tree, no note or anything."

I had to go out and see. Sure enough, there was a black and white barred hen, with a thin string tied from its shin to a little seedling. It was yanking on that string, trying to run away from me, and that little string was cutting and bruising her leg.

I grabbed her and untied her and brought her inside. We all checked her out admired how pretty she was. "Should we call animal control to come get her?" my staff asked. "No," I said, "I'll just take her home to live with my other chickens; I already have 5 hens."

About an hour later, the kennel boy said, "I think you stole someone's pet chicken." Why do you say that, I asked. "Because there's some Asian lady out here asking for her chicken."

We are next door to a Chinese restaurant. It seems some Asian friend stopped by to visit someone at the restaurant and left her chicken tied up out back (I'm not kidding). I didn't have time to talk to her, but she told my co-worker the chicken lived in her backyard, and she didn't think the string would hurt it. They gave the chicken back.

Later, after I'd left for the day, another Asian man walked into the clinic and asked in a heavy accent, "You wan' chicken?" holding the same hen out to them. The staff took the chicken back for me, and she is waiting in a cage for me to get her tomorrow.

At home, I was digging a grave for a patient (for real). I had put to sleep an elderly lady's elderly Pomeranian. This dog was 15 years old. Recently she had lost 27% of her body weight - making her a mere 4 lbs. Labwork revealed she was in advanced kidney failure, so I convinced the old lady to euthanize the dog. "I'm not sure what you want to do with the body," I said, "We offer cremation services, or some people prefer to take their dogs home to bury." "Oh no, I can't do that, I live in a, well, an old folks' home, and they won't let me do that," she said. "I asked my son before, and he won't let me bury her in his yard, either." I sensed she didn't like the cremation idea. I hesitated briefly, mentally weighing the patient in my mind. "Would you prefer I take her home and bury her in my yard? I have already buried two of my pets there." "Oh, Jennifer," she said in a sweet Texas drawl, "If you would do that, I would be so grateful."

Anna was pretty curious about the little dog, and I don't want her to be afraid of dead things, so I let her "help" me dig the hole and look at the dead creature. Colin woke up as we finished, and both of them threw dirt on the tiny grave with gusto. What a send-off! Although I was sad for my client's loss, her dog is layed to rest in a shady spot in my backyard, where soon a new chicken will reside.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Its all good.

Anna had an abdominal ultrasound today. Her pediatrician ordered it after our last visit, which was specifically about her difficulty potty training. But, while there the doctor noticed her big baby belly and history of gassiness (we eat a lot of fiber, people), so she ordered an ultrasound to be on the safe side. Cool, I thought, a noninvasive, painless test where we can see all of her organs.

Anna, however, got a little anxious.

I told her it wouldn't hurt, but she still pleaded the night before, "Please, please, puh-leeeeease, I don't want to go get pictures of my tummy." The bad part was no food or liquids for at least 6 hours before the test.

Anna woke up early this morning and said she was hungry (again). I distracted her with TV. Then I loaded everyone up in the van. Colin got to drink milk and eat a box of raisins, but fortunately Anna only once said, "Mommy, I'm thirsty."

At the ultrasound office, they told me they were running 15 minutes late. We were early, and they were actually about 30 minutes late. Fortunately there was a cool play castle in the corner of the waiting room, with lots of books and a stuffed dragon. At one point, Anna did hang her head over the side of the tower and tell me, "There's nothing wrong with my tummy. Why do we have to take pictures of it?" I assured her it was just to be safe.

Finally they called us back. Colin was superb, sitting in a little chair in the corner, smacking away on raisins and cheerios. The technicians were nice, but assured Anna it wasn't going to hurt, okay? It doesn't hurt AT ALL, okay? Can I just look at your tummy with this thing that won't hurt, okay, okay okay? Anna got a little anxious and said, "No." I couldn't blame her, I was starting to doubt them, too. They did this at her dental appointment recently, too - everyone was very nice but focused so much on how IT WASN'T GOING TO HURT, NO NOT AT ALL with such anxiety in their voices it makes me want to slap them and say, Hey! Just act like its no big deal, and she'll GET IT!

Instead, I crawled up on the bed with Anna and motioned for them to just go ahead. Once Anna saw that it truly didn't hurt, she relaxed. She started pointing out the comets and planets that were on the wallpaper border decorating the room. The tech was impressed that she knew so many planets, and Anna said, "Yeah, and I live on EARTH. I live on NORTH AMERICA. That's a continent!" Charming Anna was back. Colin said something, and she told them, "I taught him how to say my name. And letters." Then she broke into the "A B C's" song, and both Colin and Anna sang it loudly, slowly, in unison. It was precious. Colin continued with "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," as we looked at Anna's kidneys, liver, and aorta.

After it was finished, we drove to a little granola greasy spoon nearby, The Omelettry. They make great pancakes. I had a huge omelette with avocado, cheese, and tomatoes, and the kids had huge, thick, plate-sized whole wheat blueberry pancakes. Anna loved the whipped butter, and ate everything on her plate. It took a while, but Colin ate 1 1/2 of those huge suckers. Afterwards we went to play on the Central Market playscape and then went shopping.

When we finally stumbled home, there was a message on the machine that said the radiologist confirmed Anna's abdomen is normal. Yea! What a happy ending to a great day.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Adorable Anna

Anna crawled in bed with me, early yesterday morning, and said, "Mommy... I'm hungry."

Then her tummy growled.

"Hear that?" she said, "That was like a toot, only no smell."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

He can't lose much more.

This morning before I left for work, both kids were in Anna's room, watching Vino the hamster run on his wheel and getting dressed.

Suddenly, there was a ruckus between Vino (in the cage) and Claudio (nose to cage). Then Vino was rolling around spastically; I thought maybe he was having a seizure. I pulled him out, and noticed tiny drops of blood on my hand. I rolled him over and realized, in horror: His left hind foot was gone.

He had been writhing in pain.

In case you didn't read the earlier post, Vino lost his entire right forearm in a freak car accident. He compensates extremely well. Now my miniature panther had bitten his contralateral foot off. I hung my head and sobbed for this tiny creature.

I took him to work. By the time I got there, he had mutilated the stump some - I'm sure the bleeding inticed him to licking, then chewing.... ugh. His little tibia was sticking out midway. I gassed him down, cut the leg off at the knee, sewed the skin closed, and gave him antibiotic and pain injections.

When Enricka came to work, I told her what had happenned, and she cried a lot. She loves that little bugger! But, she felt better after seeing how well he gets around. He is such an amazing little survivor - its hard to tell anythings wrong with him.

Anna was upset but not inconsolable. Enricka had an aquarium and we moved him from his cage into that. He seems to be doing quite well.


After fixing Vino, I started on my first dental case, a 6 year old Shih Tzu with crowded teeth that needed extraction. As soon as I sedated her, I noticed a large swelling on her lower jaw. Long story short - she had an unerupted premolar that was causing big problems. On the left side of her jaw there was a huge cyst (Dentigerous Cyst) that had removed large amounts of bone and involved 4 teeth. On the other side there was just a small cyst, not much bone loss, but 2 teeth needed to be removed. If I didn't remove the teeth, and scrape the cyst out of the bone, the cyst would continue growing until so much bone was lost that a pathological fracture occurred.

The new, complicated procedure took me almost 3 hours, so my boss offered to do one of my spay surgeries. I hesitated, knowing it would only take me about 20 minutes to get it done. But I accepted his offer, since I was already so behind. Just after he opened the dog's abdomen, the dog started crashing. He found out the dog had a diaphragmatic hernia - a hole in her diaphragm that let intestinal contents go into her chest - like nearly ALL of her liver. This usually happens from trauma, like being hit by a car. This sweet dog was a recently adopted stray, and had probably been living with this problem for months. She had compensated extremely well. One nurse breathed for the dog (without an intact diaphragm there is not enough negative pressure to draw breath) and Enricka assisted my boss with the surgery, while I finished the dentigerous cyst. A long surgery and chest tube later, the dog was recovering.

I was so relieved my boss took that surgery. After Vino and the huge cyst, if I'd opened that dog and found the hernia, I probably would've passed out. My boss bought us all food since we all worked through lunch. I ate half of my Schlotzsky's sandwich, then left it on my desk to go see an appointment scheduled for my boss (he was busy finishing my surgery). Montana helped herself and finished my sandwich! Ahhhh, what a day.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Do It Yourself

Do you know what this is?

It's a self-done haircut.

Colin was looking for a project yesterday afternoon. He washed his hands 4 times, then we brushed his teeth. Then I said, "Hey Colin, why don't we brush Montana's teeth?" We went into my bathroom, found Montana's toothbrush and paste, then we both went to her and I started brushing. It doesn't take long, like 90 seconds. I realized I was alone so went back in the bathroom to find Colin.

He was standing, leaning forward with his head inclined, one hand on each loop of the scissors, shearing his bangs. A pile of curls at his feet.

Fortunately, the end results aren't too bad:

It's shortest over his left eye, otherwise nicely layered bangs.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween from Fireman Colin!

Here he is at my work, sitting next to his cool hat that blinks and plays siren noises but he won't wear. The cargo pants I bought him last year, so I just added reflective tape. Its too hot in Texas for a fireman's coat, so I made him a Tshirt like the kind firemen wear when they're not all in their gear.

Here is a close-up on the logo I painted on his shirt. (Really should've taken it before I let him eat anything.)

We always have a Halloween potluck at work. One of the other vets made this brownie graveyard. The grass is dyed coconut. Click on the image to read the gravestones; they're quite funny. (Get it? Scooter and Karl?) Peeking up from the bottom of the image is the Martha Stewart Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust, it was to die for:

More spooky treats:

The gruesome twosome on their way out the door to snag some candy!

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Happy Halloween from Pablo

This is Pablo, the character from The Backyardigans that Anna chose to be for Halloween:

(Thank goodness she didn't choose Uniqua).

And here's Anna, wearing her costume and holding her pumpkin. She helped clean it, designed the face and cut it out herself (we have some safe serrated pumpkin carving tools). She was so proud, and so was I.

I made her costume with a painted sweatshirt. I looked EVERYWHERE (even on-line) for a blue sweatshirt and found none. Eventually I settled for navy. I couldn't believe my luck when I found a blue propeller hat just like Pablo's at Goodwill.

Here she is at the park, waiting for our annual neighborhood Halloween Parade. Colin has been sick with fever so he didn't attend this year (fortunately after a long nap he woke up chipper and more like his old self. Hopefully there will be photos of him tomorrow).

The parade was to be at 3 pm, and we got there 10 minutes early because Anna was just so excited! But by 3, it was just us and the neighborhood association lady. But slowly over the next 30 minutes, more costumed children arrived. It really is great to see all of them in their costumes in the daylight. Finally, we had enough for our little parade.

Pablo runs to catch up with some of the other kids.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Walking home from the Park

Although I generally dislike living in the suburbs (too far of a commute, don't feel like we fit in much with our neighbors), there are some perks. We live walking distance from two parks -- toddler walking distance. After I got home from work today, the kids started clamoring for "Dinosaur Park." There are lots of slides and rock climbing walls and a relief picture of a dinosaur skeleton (hence the name).

Anthony took this on zoom from our backyard as we walked home:

This is another perk that keeps us from moving: behind our house is a huge field, basically public park land, and we only have a neighbor on one side. The view from our backdoor is trees.

Colin had a fever and got a little tired on the way home, and said, "Hold you..." Anna, though, is still running.

Here I am, supervising everyone coming in the back gate.

Sweet Montana, wearing a Halloweenie bandana.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A week's worth of musings

Sorry it's been so long since I posted. Tuesday I was driving, driving, driving in traffic. First, driving in traffic 1 hour to work, then 1 hour in traffic home, spent a frantic hour trying to bond/reconnect with the family before I got back into traffic for 40 minutes, driving to a dinner meeting so I could get some more continuing education hours. I drove home after 9 pm, should've been a traffic-free time EXCEPT they closed the interstate right at my exit, so I sat in traffic AGAIN waiting desperately to get home as all the north-south traffic exited at my little hamlet. Grrrr.... As a result, I spent Wednesday with the people in my family (not blogging) and of course, Thursday was a busy work day and I was too pooped last night.

As I sat in traffic on Tuesday night listening to the radio, hearing pop songs from the late 80's and early 90's, I found myself wistful for my "youth." Nothing like a song to make you remember a time (except for maybe a very particular scent memory). Nostalgia is such a fitting word - that "-algia" on the end meaning "pain" (as in analgesia). I'm sitting there, holding my steering wheel, pining for high school and vet school. Of course it dawns on me that this is totally absurd -- I didn't have much fun in high school, and spent most of it buried in a book and feeling totally out of touch with my peers and wishing the time away so I could be in college! And I had a lot of fun on weekends with all my vet school buddies, but how could I forget how stressed out I was the whole time, studying my brains out, taking tests every week, and just wishing I could hurry up and graduate and marry Anthony and make some real money.

I guess there is something to miss about being so young and idealistic and having so much of your bright future ahead of you. But more than then, I know that someday I will miss this time in my life more than any other, when I have these two precious young ones who run to the door to love me every time I come in, who think their dad and I are the most important and knowledgable people on earth. People who still have their innate ability to shrug off other peoples' bad attitudes and find the beauty in every day. Plus, I have a job I love, and a great partner to share this life with... if I could just get out of traffic and be with them!

The other good news is that starting next Tuesday my "early day" will end at 2:30 (not 4, which turns into 5, home at 6, barely enough time to eat dinner before bathtime and bedtime at 7:30). Anna is so excited about this new schedule, she knows exactly which day it takes effect!


In other news, yesterday Anthony refitted an old "heirloom." I'm totally impressed with his mechanical abilities. (The ying-yang of our relationship is one of the reasons it works so well).

I remember the first time I went to his parents' house, he pointed it out to me saying, "It's that one with the spider lamp." The spider lamp was a relic of his parents' years spent in Italy. Years ago they took it down. Anthony acquired it recently. He put in a new socket (one that will take a fluorescent light) and added a ground wire and an electronic eye so that it turns on automatically at dusk and off at dawn. It's made of wrought iron and has a yellow glass abdomen. It is so cool, and just in time for Halloween!

Anthony's Spider

Monday, October 24, 2005

Vino's back!

Everyone remembers Vino, the 3-legged hamster, right? Anna pulled it together and "earned" him back last week. She was more than joyous when I brought him home on Saturday after work.

He really is the sweetest little rodent. And, he really has adapted well to his disability; at times its hard to tell he is even missing a leg! He still runs on the wheel! Enricka (who is apparently going through hamster withdrawal) made sure he was really hand-tame. Anna and Colin have been very happy to have him back. Anna takes every opportunity to kiss him, and Colin shrieks, "Vino Wake!!!" whenever he comes out of his hidey-hole.

Here Colin poses with a sticker he found with "Cinderera and Prince!" Look closely and you can see his split lip from bouncing off the big slide at the park. There were tears and blood everywhere, but within moments he was sliding back down. Little trooper.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Karma Strawberries

"Someone sent you berries!" the receptionist told me, carrying back a box of Shari's Berries.

Who sent me berries? I thought, opening the box. Inside were 12 chocolate covered strawberries from California, and a note from a client.

We had received a request from a client whose daughter was entering a science fair. Her experiment was dealing with tadpoles and feed, so she needed a veterinarian to sign off on the soundness of her experiment since it involved animals. The mother even offered to pay for the consultation.

I volunteered, and said I didn't need compensation. I didn't mind doing it for free since it would take so little of my time and was for an educational purpose.

A few days later, the strawberries arrived. Mmmmm... I shared some with the staff, and took home some to my family. Colin ate his with relish, then said with lips lined in brown, "Moh chocolate, PREESE!"

Today I got the paperwork for the science project. Official USDA forms were filled out, and there were photos of the 3 aquariums that would house the tadpoles, and the 3 commercially available diets she was going to feed them (to see if there are any differences in their growth). It was very complete and very cute. Obviously no animal pain would be involved. I signed off, redeeming my strawberry debt. I look forward to seeing the experiments results.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Visible Improvement

About 6 weeks ago I saw a 16 year old cat who had suddenly lost one of her upper fangs. That's what the owners brought her in for, anyway. She did have terrible periodontal disease. But straight away I could see something else in this cat wasn't right. She had sunken-in eyes, hollow cheeks, and a skinny, unthrifty body. Cats are covered in fur, and some of these signs are subtle, so I am a little surprised when I can see so clearly that is obviously wrong from across the exam room. In an old cat, this usually means either kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes.

As I laid my hands on the cat, she felt thin and had a heart pounding through her thorax. I listened to the LOUD murmur and had a feeling of dread. This owner brought his cat in for a dental evaluation, but I feared she would not be a good anesthetic patient.

I explained the dental problems, then addressed my other concerns - obvious weight loss and heart murmur. I also feared she had hypertension (high blood pressure) because of her bounding pulse. Before this patient could get her tooth fixed, she'd need a full work-up. The owner readily agreed to $100 worth of labwork, and scheduled a $200 echocardiogram.

The labwork revealed hyperthyroidism but no other problems. This is a chronic condition but can be relatively easily remedied with oral medication, which I immediately prescribed. The ultrasound revealed only mild changes to the heart. High thyroid levels tend to hypertrophy (enlarge) the heart muscle and elevate the heart rate. The echo let me know in this case, despite the loud murmur, her heart function was pretty good.

This week she came back for her first check up after being on tapazole (hyperthyroidism) treatment for a month. She's gained a pound. Her blood pressure is normal. Sometimes treating for hyperthyroidism unmasks kidney disease because the high thyroid level actually increases blood flow to the kidneys, but her kidney function is still excellent (yea!). Her murmur is still loud but at least it doesn't worry me now. Stroking her back, she feels "fuller," not as bony and skimpy. And, her attitude is improved. We noticed it working with her at the clinic, but the owner really noticed how much less grumpy she is at home.

I thought I wouldn't get the chance to work on her teeth at all, but I'm pleased to report she has a dental appointment with me next week. (might temporarily return her grumpiness, though!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bibbity Bobbity BOO!

I got this email from the room mom at Colin's school. We get an email at least once a week from her since there is something different going on every week, unlike Anna's school which is always exactly the same, every week, no matter what, every season, so damn consistent you almost wish something new would happen.

Anyway, here's the email (various fun references to the local college football team deleted):

Story time Tues. the 18th. :

1. Don't forget your money(50 cents) for the little pumpkins

they'll be getting.

2. Ms. Sing-Songy-Voice Teacher (not her real name) had an awesome idea for the kids. On Tues. when they get their pumpkins she's going to put them away, so you won't

actually be getting the pumpkin that day. Instead, she's going to
have them plant pumpkin seeds Tues.. Then on Thursday she'll place a
pumpkin over the spot they planted their seed so they'll think it
grew. Cool, huh?

Uh, I guess its cool if I want him to believe in magic and have no sense of real time. Please, he gets too much exposure to that crap from all the Dora he wants to watch.

(Anthony and I have been on a real anti-Dora kick the last few weeks. I guess Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother are just as bad. Santa is coming in a few months, too. I guess there is no escape.)

(Except at Anna's consistent school they planted real pumpkin seeds weeks ago and the kids are still waiting for them to grow, in the meantime they take turns watering them every day).

(Methinks too many parenthetical thoughts today. Hope they provide appropriate cheeky tone.)

Monday, October 17, 2005


Shortly after Colin was born, I set out to find Anna a preschool, because she was so darned bright and articulate she needed more stimulation that I could give her, and also I wanted to have some time to spend bonding with the new baby. We found her a great Montessori school, which has been wonderful on many levels, but I was surprised by a couple of things.

It seems what Anna needed more than additional verbal stimulation was actually a place to foster her independence. She has really thrived at school, after an initial 6 weeks of bawling and tearing my heart out everytime I left her. Now she has her own little world there to grow and learn and become her own self.

I hardly remember the alone time with Colin that first year Anna was at school. Sure, I remember sitting on the couch with him while he nursed, and planning my day around the 2-nap schedule. And although I immediately bonded with my second baby, the relationship is inherently less narcissistic.

NOW, though, now that Colin is about the age that Anna was when she started her school, now I love my mornings alone with him. After Anna is off to school, we sit down for a leisurely breakfast, then he plays while I do some chores, then we go to the rec center. He loves staying with the lovely German woman in the nursery while I jog and lift weights. When I return, he runs to me with a smiling "Mommy!" and hugs me like I'm his favorite person. Then he tells me he wants to ride the elevator, and we jump down the stairs, counting first in English, then in German or Spanish (his choice). Afterwards, we might go to HEB (our local grocery store), and he acts like its the highlight of his day, mostly because of the free cookies in the deli. We go home and have lunch together, and he generously shares his half-chewed food and makes monster noises, and encourages me to join him. If I stick out my tongue at him, he shrieks with laughter, touches my tongue, and says, "Again, Mommy," at least 20 times.

Today after lunch, we went outside and fed the chickens some leftover rice, then he sprayed the garden with water until I suggested the swing. Then we did the swing until his little heart was content, which was just about time to go pick up Anna and then take a nap.

And it's great because when Anna comes home, she has me all to herself. Today, she and I took a shower, delivered neighborhood newsletters to our block, then watched "The Young Black Stallion."

Anthony had a meeting tonight, and Colin gave him such an enthusiastic hug and kiss. Anth said, "I'm going to miss this when we are no longer the people they most want to spend time with." Anna was tired and I put her down first, then read books to Colin. He spent a long time revisiting the pages after the story was finished, discussing the symbolism in the pictures. He was so relaxed and snuggly, and smelled like vanilla and cinnamon. (sigh) Do they really have to grow up?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fun with Grandparents

Last weekend, my parents came for a visit, and this weekend we hosted Anthony's mom. Both the kids really had a great time reconnecting with Grandad, Nana, and Oma (as they are known in these parts). I really enjoy seeing the interaction between my kids and our parents, too. The weather was cool and sunny, so how could anyone fail to have a great time?

Here they are, enjoying a bedtime story read by my mom and dad. Usually this is Anthony's and my job, but we enjoyed using this time to get other stuff done!

Last Sunday, we all went on a canoe ride on Town Lake. It was so beautiful, and the weather was perfect. Above, you can see Anna riding with my parents, as my dad takes a picture of me, Anth, and Colin with that same swan in the foreground, below. Also check out part of the beautiful Austin skyline.

After dinner, my dad got out the guitar and sang some of our favorite songs, including, "Dream," "Little White Bull," and "My Old Man." I told Anna, just like in the Laura Ingalls books where Pa would play the fiddle every night, when I was growing up, my dad would play the guitar. Both kids were very interested in helping to strum the strings.

Then my dad got out the old Italian accordion that he bought for Anth (he can only play 1 song on it, but he plays it really well!). Colin was fascinated by the squeeze box and pressed the chord buttons over and over.

Here's a funny picture of my and my mom looking alike. Of course, we are wearing the same pants, just different colors, and visors! My mom can still share my clothes, and its her birthday today. Happy Birthday, Mommy!

Here's just a great shot of precious, pensive Colin:

And here are my cutie-pies today, watching My Neighbor Totoro before we went out.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

I can't stop watching it.

Bizarre, and different every time you click.

Falling President Bush.

Totally unrelated, here is a dog who lost 2 legs due to a car accident, and gets along great.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Last Tuesday I saw a young cat that had not eaten for 2 days and was vomiting. This 1 year old had a history of playing with strings, too. She had a low grade fever. I recommended Xrays, and there was a bunching pattern to the small intestines.

Cats that ingest strings get into severe trouble with their gastrointestinal tract. As their guts work on passing the string, the intestines end up bunched up on the string like a gathered skirt. The string then works as a saw on the intestines. The only cure is surgery.

Based on her signs, and in agreement with the other doctors in my practice, I recommended surgery. The owners gulped when they saw the estimate, but agreed to the exploratory.

I opened the cat's abdomen, but there was no string, no obstruction, no gross abnormality to be seen. The irritated intestines were actively bunching up, relaxing, and bunching up again, which explained their appearance on Xray.

I took a biopsy and quickly closed her up. The only good thing is that the shorter surgery cost a few hundred dollars less than the longer resection and anastomosis I thought I'd be doing.

The patient did well at the emergency clinic overnight, and is apparently eating small, bland meals and not vomiting, so she is doing well. The owners are understanding about the whole ordeal, but I can't help but feel guilty. Given the same set of presenting symptoms and signs, I'd probably recommend the surgery again (young otherwise healthy cat, sudden onset, string playing, clumpy intestines). Still, I wish I could've seen into my crystal ball and saved the patient the surgery and the owners the expense.

We say in veterinary medicine that there are no negative exploratories. You have to have some where you find nothing, in order not to miss the ones that really need surgery before intestines rupture and the patient gets peritonitis. Certainly, I have sat on other cases, and had to go in anyway, after a day or two of hospitalization and gastrointestinal misery.

Still, wish I had better divination skills...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mixed Metaphor

Colin said, today after we dropped Anna off at school, "Look, Mommy, a MOTORCYCLE!"

There was a big black Harley, decked out with black leather.

"Ooh," said Colin, "PWETTY Motorcycle!"

(too much Cinderella?)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Nature vs Medical Science

I saw a client who is into homeopathy. I'd seen her before, but she usually sees an "all natural" vet in town, who was not available until mid-November. So, she settled for me again.

Now, I believe in Western medicine, but I also believe in "do no harm," and I don't prescribe antibiotics for viral infections, or just in case, or just to give the client something to walk out the door with.

What I believe more is my job more than anything else is to relieve animal suffering. So, I recommend lots of preventative stuff, and prescribe lots of pain relief.

This client is nice enough, and she loves her dog, but she is convinced everything not "natural" is going to harm her dog. She feeds a homemade diet. I have no problem with people feeding a homemade diet as long as they have done the research and take the time to make it balanced. And, you have got to cook all the meat.

She doesn't cook the meat. The protein sources she uses are mostly ground turkey, but sometimes tofu, eggs, and beef. She says, "We just want to make it as natural as possible, and so far we've been lucky and haven't had any problems."

I smiled and said, "Boy, I wish that was my experience. I have seen cases of salmonella, e. coli, and campylobacter from dogs fed raw meat diets. In fact, there was a puppy this spring that died of campylobacter; I couldn't save him."

I continued, "I know you want to feed your dog a natural food, but in the wild your dog would kill a deer or a turkey and eat it immediately. The turkey that you are buying was grown on a mass farm and processed with hundreds of other turkeys. The chance of contamination is high. You can feed a homemade diet, but please cook the turkey."

Then we discussed heartworm prevention. The owner claims everytime she gives a heartgard, her dog gets sick. She gave it last Sunday, and on Monday he wouldn't eat, on Tuesday he had diarrhea. I suggested trying a different kind of prevention, either a different drug orally or a topical drug. She said, "You know, we haven't had many mosquitoes this year, and we keep him inside during the high mosquito times, you know - dusk and dawn, and he just reacts so severely I'd rather wait."

I took a deep breath and said, "Unfortunately, we see lots of heartworm disease here. This summer, we treated 1-2 cases per week. It only takes one mosquito getting into your house and biting your dog, and he'll be infected."

She said she wanted to wait on bloodwork results. She was paying about $200 for a complete blood work up, as well as titers for distemper and parvo (to see if he needed vaccination or if she could skip it). Obviously, it was not saving money that was motivating her.

Then we came to the dog's skin. He was suffering from allergies, and had thin hair, pink skin, and scabs on his legs and chest. "Why don't we try a topical cortisone spray?" I suggested. "It will just work locally on the skin, won't be absorbed systemically, and would make him feel a lot better." Her eyes grew wide with fear. She refused any antihistamines, also, and preferred to just give fatty acids in the food.

I know she is just motivated to do what's best for her dog. But nature isn't benign. In nature, its a claws-and-teeth selfish fight for survival. Chemicals don't just come in a plastic bottle of pesticide. Organisms use chemicals (called toxins) to subdue and conquer other organisms, whether they are rattlesnakes or staphylococcus bacteria. Our own bodies use chemicals (hormones) to regulate all our processes, from reproduction to digestion to locomotion. Natural chemicals can get out of balance, by natural causes, causing disease (allergies, cancer, diabetes, etc). If we can intervene with proven chemicals to improve quality of life, for people or pets, I'm all for it. Not medicating for the sake of medicating, but for a specific proved benefit.

I called her with her bloodwork results. Everything was normal except for a high eosinophil count, a white blood cell that is elevated during allergic reactions. They have lots of histamine in them, causing lots of itchy misery. "I'd really like you to think about trying another heartworm prevention," I said. "I just want to protect his heart."

"OK, I know you are a good doctor and have his best interests in mind," she said, "I'll think about it."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Vet Life

When I got to work today I had the unpleasant experience of finding out I was scheduled until 6, not 4. If they told me about this change (to cover while my boss is on vacation) I don't remember it. Only 2 doctors for a long full day.

I had an extraction scheduled first thing for a dog with an abcessed molar that was causing his face to swell. There were 2 hours allotted for that. I saw an early morning walk in, pulled the molar and another premolar next to it within the scheduled time, then we flipped the dog. Another Xray revealed the other molar was starting to abcess as well. I called the owner and they agreed the other tooth needed to come out, too, to prevent more facial swelling in the future. So I worked on that tooth AND saw appointments, took a short lunch, then returned for the afternoon slam. Left work at 6:30, home at 7:15. Greeted by bowl of pasta, prepoured glass of red wine, 2 bathed tooth-brushed happy naked children and husband who was unloading/reloading the dishwasher. WOW.

Mostly my family is very supportive and understanding of my job. But last week Anna said, "I want you to change your schedule. I want you to work NO days." I told her, "Well, there are a couple of problems with that, Anna. I really like going to work and the animals need me. And, if I didn't work, you couldn't go to school." Anna said, "Eeek! But I love my school!" I told her she would just have to enjoy me taking her and picking her up 2 days a week.

Other days she says when she grows up she wants to be an animal doctor just like me, so we can go to work together every day. She claims she will always live with us and will never want to move out. She says "We can take care of the animals together, and when it is time for lunch, I will ask you what to do!" I couldn't have dreamed up a better fantasy myself.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Choose your poison

Last night we went to a party in Texas. Yes, of course we do live in Texas, but when we walked into our neighbor's house, the Country and Western was blaring, and they were drinking Bud Lite and doing tequila shots, things that never happen in my house. We tend to drink red wine and occasionally cosmopolitans, and haven't listened to the C&W since we left A&M (where it was practically a required course).

We snuck over after the kids were in bed, with the baby monitor in tow. It was great to go out and not need a babysitter, and not worry about driving home. When we arrived, everyone was already happy and very friendly. The wife was dancing by herself to Clint Black, and she welcomed us like we were their best friends.

Our neighbors have a 22 year old daughter, and she was actually throwing the party for her friend's birthday. Our neighbors invited us so they could have some friends there, too. "We feel so old around these kids!" they said. They made us feel old, too. I had forgotten how party means something different when you're in your early 20s.

There were actually guys wearing shirts with pearl snaps and girls with big belt buckles (not from FFA, but with cheeky words on them). Then 4 Columbians came in, and they were dressed up - the girls in spaghetti strap blouses and high heels, and the guys in collared shirts and tight jeans. They brought Cristal Aguadiente, and I found out there is yet another country that makes a licorice liquor. This one was not as sweet as Sambuca but quite strong. Well, I'm trusting Anthony on that analysis -- I would not put something as repugnant as liquorice liquor in my mouth.

Pretty soon my neighbor was egging me on to do a tequila shot. She was hanging onto my shoulder, whispering persuasively and drunkenly in my ear. I could feel her breath on my neck. "Come on, Jennifer," she breathed, "You're behind! You need a shot. Come on..." It was like a little devil on my shoulder. Finally, I said I would do half a shot. The devil pulled away and there were mascara smudges on my shirt.

Something about the smell of straight tequila makes my nosehairs curl. It also makes people drunk very fast. I managed to fool all those people with my little half shot of tequila. I brought it to my lips and tasted it, but I didn't shoot it. A few minutes later they were pouring then next round, and totally believed me when I said I'd already been given a refill. No one noticed the second faux shot, either. Not a bad decision, as the wife walked into the fence a few moments later and had to be carried into the bedroom by the husband.

We decided to head home about 1 am. Mr. Pearl Snaps saw us heading out and came stumbling toward the door with a bottle of Crown Royal. "You guys..." he slurred, "Can't go... back (he gestured toward the kitchen)... found this (showed us the bottle)..." No thanks, as Anthony said, we learned our limits years ago.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Again, Me.

This morning Anna was at my bedside at 7:20 am. I convinced her to crawl in bed with me, where she snuggled but fidgeted nonstop. Finally she looked at the clock and said, "Seven Four One. What does that mean, Mommy? I'm hungry, let's get up. Come Onnnn-nuh." I said it meant it was way to early to be up, but I got up anyway.

Colin was awake in his crib, so I got him up, too. Moments later, we were all sitting on the kitchen floor, holding hands in a circle, while I took turns kissing them on the neck, tickling them. They howled with laughter, and demanded another round. "Again, me!" Colin would say. How could I not oblige?

Later, we all 4 went to the local organic farm, where Anthony and I looked at the vegetables and Colin and Anna played in the dirt. As Anthony observed, Mommy was in demand. At least every 20 minutes, someone required a hug, an observation of a minor physical feat (Mommy, watch this!), or complete undivided attention as a anecdote was retold. Usually, all at the same time. After 2 days of working, my family has missed me. Anthony said he felt sorry for me, even as he wanted to reconnect, too. Maybe it was the lack of tantrums or peed-thru bottoms, but I didn't mind the clamoring so much today. Today, it was nice to reconnect and be the center of their universe (although I may have spaced out a few times, just trying to think my own thoughts).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Lost in Translation

A few months ago I met a Japanese couple and their cocker spaniel. They had just moved to Austin temporarily for some big job, and they speak very little English. What was clear was how much they loved their dog. I gave her a check-up, boosted her Rabies, and made sure she was on heartworm prevention.

Last week they came in and saw another doctor. Their dog was vomiting and was quite ill. The presumptive diagnosis was pancreatitis. This requires several days of hospitalization and can have a good or poor prognosis. My colleague explained everything to them, and they nodded and said yes. Then they said, "Why she vomit?" Unfortunately, in a clash of cultures she mistook their nodding for understanding, and they were just being polite in a Japanese way. Eventually, we found they could understand written English better than spoken, and there are some incredible websites now that will translate for you (apparently this is how the husband gets along at his job).

Late last week the case was transferred to me. The dog seemed better, and was even able to eat and keep food down. Her bilirubin went down to normal, and her white blood cell count approached normal. We had tried to get an ultrasonagrapher in to check the dog earlier in the week, but she was unavailable. Then on Friday, there was a cancellation, and we got the dog an ultrasound appointment.

On Friday morning, her liver enzymes and bilirubin were worse. The ultrasonagrapher approached me with wide eyes. "I want to show you the gall bladder," she said. It was large and sludgey and in danger of rupturing. The pancreatitis was resolving, but now this secondary problem was worse. I called a friend of mine who was a surgeon. She said she could cut the dog later that same day, if the owners could bring them in.

I called the owners, and they came in to discuss the dog's case. I found that if I spoke slowly and used the simplest English, the husband could understand me well. (I think trying to communicate with my limited Italian in Italy has helped me learn how to speak English better to non-native people!) They were concerned for their dog and agreed to the surgery. The husband said, "I have just one question. There are two gall bladders?" No, I said, only one. "But, you remove it?" Ah, very good question! I explained that the gall bladder would be removed, but the tube (duct) would remain. They were satisfied and took their dog to the surgeon, since I told them I would even let her work on my dog.

Fortunately, another surgeon at the referral practice had a sister-in-law who was also Japanese and even knew this couple. So their communications with them were much easier. I found out on Tuesday that the dog did well through the weekend and went home.

I hope that these people had a good experience during a scary time with their dog. I think that the staff from our clinic were very nice to them, and did everything they could to make them comfortable. They racked up a huge bill with 5 days of hospitalization and diagnostics at our place, before the huge surgery. They never questioned a bill, and always trusted our recommendations. How scary that would be, to be in a country that I only had basic language skills in, with such a different culture, with a sick "family member," and not knowing if the doctors were really doing their best, or just saying that the dog needs to stay in the hospital for arbitrary reasons. One of our staff said, "I hope we have given them a good impression, and thank goodness they didn't go to a crappy vet hospital!" (Sadly, there is a lot of disparity among vet hospitals.) I totally agree -- I can't imagine being in Tokyo and being bewildered and hoping that people were taking the best care possible for my dog.