Thursday, June 30, 2005


Whenever someone asks me what the kids are doing this summer, I say, "Swimming lessons." What better says "childhood summer activity?" I had nearly forgotten how much of my early summers were spent in swim lessons until we took Anna to her first class. The chlorine smell, the sound of children's voices reflected off the water, and the endless rounds of "Marco! Polo!" brought me right back. Now I know what all moms know: when its too hot to do anything else, go to the pool for instant entertainment. I also now know that it takes lots of organization and loot hauling on the shepherding mom's part. (And Dads! Anthony has been doing nearly all the swimming lesson duty this summer.)

When time allows I go swimming on my lunch breaks at work. There is a free pool nearby with a few lap lanes and a shower. At the top of the hour, the lifeguards blow the whistle for "adult swim." I swear, the first time this happened I almost got out of the pool, scowling because my fun was interrupted. Now I know that for five minutes I get to swim in relative peace and quiet, but it still feels so weird to be still in the pool!

I like the solitude of swimming laps. When my head is under water, the raucous sounds of the world are left behind. I like my rhythmic breathing when I do breast stroke, and the way I can really stretch out my weightless body. I like getting to be out in the sun after being in a windowless building all morning. My heart gets pumping and I don't get hot.

What I don't like (and I hated this as a kid, too) is seeing all the gross stuff at the bottom of the pool - hair, leaves, and dead, waterlogged bugs. And bandaids! Why are there always so many used discarded bandaids at the bottom of pools? So gross.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bevie's Here!

Yesterday I picked up my cousin, Beverly. She is staying with us for a week to fill in while our regular babysitter is going to her college orientation. Its great having her here. We all enjoy her company, and she is very easy to be around. She is also very helpful at all times, not just when she is "on duty" as the babysitter. Making dinner while Bev plays never ending games of "Hide and Go Boo" was much easier.

But the best was when I got to go to Costco ALL BY MYSELF! We realized there were things we needed from Costco, and Anthony was too busy with work to go, and it was time for Colin's nap. So, Beverly stayed at the house and watched Cinderella with Anna.

I had never been to Costco alone. It was great, browsing the isles at my own pace without anyone interrupting me with demands. I could look at the (boring) books as long as I wanted. I didn't have to share my samples. So nice...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

I guess we could still immigrate...

You're Canada!

People make fun of you a lot, but they're stupid because you've got a much better life than they do.  In fact, they're probably just jealous.
 You believe in crazy things like human rights and health care and not dying in the streets, and you end up securing these rights for yourself and others.  If it weren't for your weird affection for ice hockey, you'd be the perfect person.
Take the Country Quiz!

Friday, June 24, 2005


I met a neat little old lady at work today. She brought in a dachsund that used to belong to her daughter in Wisconsin, but she was taking care of the dog because her daughter has MS and cannot adequately care for the dog.

She told me her husband died a few years ago. "You know what, honey?" she told me, "They don't make movies or write books about loneliness. Because who would want to read 'em? But this little dog sleeps in bed with me at night." She told me all about their little routine, how the dog barks and wakes her up at 5 am, they get up and eat, and then go back to bed together. They have a great relationship. Taking care of the dog is also a way for her to do something for her ill daughter who is so far away.

When she left, she hiked up her skirt around her knees and hopped into her SUV!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Have some sympathy

Today I saw a cat for annual examination and vaccinations. The woman who brought her in said that she was healthy, except the cat didn't like another feline member of the household and the two of them had been spraying parts of her house. It had been going on for some time, and although she had tried some things (Rescue Remedy, an herbal treatment, and Feliway, a pheromone spray) she said "nothing" worked. These cats had intercat aggression and, although they are female, were marking vertical surfaces in their territory. This is different behavior than inappropriate urination on horizontal surfaces.

After some probing, she told me a lot of these problems started when she got her divorce. The cats even started spraying her books, so she had purchased plexiglass and velcro and put them over her bookcases.

By now you're thinking what I was thinking. Why would she put up with such behavior from her cats? She said her mother and sister said she should just get rid of them, and her eyes teared up. Clearly she loves these cats, and they were quite a comfort to her when she got divorced. It was painful for her to admit they were ruining her house.

Seeing that she was on the road to becoming a crazy cat lady, I talked to her about some pharmacologic ways to get these cats to reduce their anxiety, which should stop the spraying. There are drugs which have studies that prove they actually help with this type of marking behavior (unlike some of the other methods she tried).

For her sake, I hope it helps.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Triathlon Photos

I finally got the photos the professional photographers took last week at the Danskin Triathlon. Here you can see me struggle:

I just finished the swim portion (half a mile in just 18 minutes!) and I am running up the hill to the transition area to jump on the bike. The ankle strap has my timing chip. On my left wrist is my Ironman Triathlon Watch my sister Steph gave me years ago. Prophetic, no?

Here I just finished the 12 mile bike route (the hardest portion for me - those hills!). 2 down, 1 event to go!

Crossing the finish line! Hooray! Boy, my face looks tired.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Twins Party Pictures

We just returned from a hot trip to Houston, where we celebrated Paige and Graham's 2nd birthday. The party was awesome, with a petting zoo and lots of happy toddlers, and lots of sweating adults. The party started at 9:30 am, and it was a sauna. The little people didn't mind, though, as you'll see:

The pirate ship is attacked by cousins Graham, Paige, Colin, and Anna. It was at least as popular as the petting zoo in the background, which had goats, ducks, chickens, and huge rabbits.

Instead of messy cake, they had beautiful iced cookies. Here, Colin gives me a bite.

Here is a picture of the awesome Steph, who managed to orchestrate the whole event, and record it on her videocamera. All her hard work and planning really paid off.

Here's me with birthday girl Paige.

Graham really loves his Nana, who helps him with the arts and crafts table.

Pensive Paige cuddles up to Steph toward the end of the party. We spent the rest of the day in the pool. More pics of that to come!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Looks slightly painful

Too bad this wasn't going on when we were in Madrid!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Happy International Blogger's Day

Actually it was yesterday. As I heard on the radio the other day, 10 years ago there was little on the web, there was no "blogosphere," all this rush of information and interaction and commerce did not exist. I remember when Anthony proved to me that you could find information on anything on the web by searching the most obscure thing I could think of (which was a drug called "yohimbine"). I remember when we were amazed that companies started putting their web site address at the ends of their commercials. I remember shocking our friends by daring to do all our Christmas shopping on line and thereby avoiding the dreaded mall.

But now there is a whole new dialogue with this blogging phenomenon. Like never before you have a public forum to toot your own horn, make your argument, and chronicle your life. You can find people sharing similar experiences, and really get to know them as they share little self described pieces of themselves. Too often, my conversations start with, "On this blog I follow..." and then I tell some interesting or witty anecdote (that is not mine).

Blogging has helped me find a way to write that I never could find before. The difference is an audience. Keeping a journal is great, but I was never inspired enough to write just for me (not since high school). People I know leave comments, and that makes me happy and gives us something to talk about. When strangers read my blog and comment, I am thrilled that I struck a chord with someone I don't even know. And, I have a record of what my daily life was like when my children were small.

It feels really exciting to be a part of this exchange. I imagine great writers of the past exchanging formal letters with each other. I would never have thought I was worthy enough to be part of a conversation like that. But I can send a message to another writer, someone whose life seems like mine, with little effort.

And my parents can impress (or confuse) their friends by saying each of their daughters has a BLOG.

For a great essay on blogging that'll inspire you to write, click here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Post Triathlon Celebration

Sunday night we had dinner at our friends' house. Lisa and Michael made a wonderful meal of lemon herb chicken, tender green beans from the Farmer's Market, and grilled peppers. The kids had a lot of fun, too.

The girls mostly played in the pool.

Colin played with rocks and pointed to airplanes.

Happy girlfriends: Lyra, Anna, and Ruby.

After dinner, we had this fabulous summer cobbler that Lisa made with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and peaches, with ice cream. The kids opted for just ice cream cones.

Colin and Lyra -- 2 year olds really know how to enjoy their ice cream!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Triathlon Story

Yesterday, I did the Danskin Triathlon in Austin. This event includes a 1/2 mile swim, 12 mile bike ride, and 3 mile run.

The first time I'd heard of the event, my friend Regina was training for it. Anna had just been born, and Regina wanted me to train for it, too. I was way too post-partum to think of such a thing, but I was mightily impressed when she did it a few months later.

The next year, Regina was pregnant, and then I was again the following year, so last year we did it as a relay with her friend Cara. I was the swimmer, since that's my strongest event. Cara is a great biker, and Regina ran.

I was so impressed with how well the event was run, and how women of all sizes and ages were doing the event, I was determined to do it myself the next year. Regina was my inspiration. Also my mom, who I remember being so fit in her thirties (she taught aerobics). As a chubby preteen, she was very inspirational. I hope I can be as good of a model for my kids. Also, I felt differently about my body after I gestated then birthed 2 children, and nourished them with my body. I realized my body could do amazing things.

So, I started running in November. I couldn't run more than a half mile without my right knee KILLING me. How was I ever going to do this? I backed way off, and started running for 5 minutes, then walking for 5 minutes, slowly increasing my times. For the longest time, it seemed I couldn't go further than a mile. Then I could do 2, then 3, still taking my walking breaks.

I biked a lot with the kids in the bike trailer. I biked to pick Anna up at school, and to far away parks on the weekend. I biked and then I ran. The last few weeks, I went to the pool and swam.

On the race morning, I hitched a ride again with Cara. I hadn't really spoken to her since the last race, but she is one of the neatest people I've met. It was really great to have a buddy to go to the event with, and to wait with before the swim.

I got in the water at 7:55 am. We swam in a U shaped course into the lake and back. There were lots of women around me. Twice I was passed on the right and left, and then the swimmers converged in front of me. The lake was murky and I got a big gulp of it once. Its hard to concentrate and swim smoothly like you can in the lap lanes of a pool. Finally, I came out of the water and ran up the hill to the bike area. I put on my shorts, shirt, helmet, drank some water. Then I started pedaling. The first 1/2 of the bike course was great. Then, after slowing down for a sharp turn, I hit an unexpected hill. I was seriously winded at the top, but at least I didn't get off and push my bike up on foot. There were 2 more large hills to go. At the top of the 2nd hill, I could see the long descent, then the LOOOONG ascent of the last hill. Also, I could see runners behind a fence coming down the hill facing us. It was a bit disheartening to see this hill, and be reminded of the task ahead (running).

I hunched down over my handle bars to decrease wind resistance on the downhill. As I started uphill, volunteers were shouting to us, "You can do it! This is the last big hill! Quarter mile to the bike finish!" Boy, that helped. Then the runners were shouting, "Go Bikers! You can do it!" I was determined to make it, and I did. As I crested the hill, I felt chills of exhaustion and exhilaration.

Back at the transition area, I parked my bike, drank cold water, reapplied sunscreen, and took a potty break. I started running and my legs were a little sluggish. At the same time, I almost felt like it was "downhill" from here on out, since I'd done the majority of the distance. I plodded ahead, slowing only for water breaks. Then, there was a huge hill at the end. It was hot. I was tempted to walk. Fortunately, there were more volunteers cheering us on. "Last hill and then you'll see the finish! Photographer at the top! You look great, you can do it!" Finally, I was there, and pushed through the finish. I was thrilled to finish in just less than 2 hours since I'd started. I hadn't pushed my bike uphill and I hadn't walked any of the run.

At the end, I felt great. Very tired, but a little high. My family greeted me as well as a coworker. We went and ate pancakes at Magnolia Cafe afterwards. A race photographer stopped me and said he recognized me from the bike ride. Some women asked about the race while waiting for the bathroom and seemed impressed. I said, "You should think about doing it next year." Oh no, they laughed. But really, the event is one that anyone can finish, with a few months of preparation.

Later, I found out I swam in 18 minutes (in the top 25% of swimmers), biked in 50 minutes, and ran in 38 minutes. I finished in the middle for my age group and overall. The winner was a 37 yr old mom of two, and the runner up a 34 yr old mom of 4! It was really neat to start in a group of women all about my age (your age is written on the back of your leg), and most people I saw in the race were in their 30's. I saw some in the 40's and 20's, two teenagers, and a few in their 50's (they were walking the "run" portion, but who cares? They were completing it!). Then, just before I ran up that last hill, I saw a 69. SIXTY-NINE! Incredible. You go, girl!

Happy Birthday, Anthony

Today is Anthony's birthday. He shares it with my dear niece and nephew, Paige and Graham. We are going to Houston to celebrate their 2nd birthday next weekend.

When I first met Anthony he was 22. I thought he was a MCP (male chauvanist pig). He drove a fast red car and had the biggest stereo speakers I'd ever seen. Later, I found out he was not a MCP, he just appreciated women who could cook and looked good in a sexy dress.

Today, Anthony is 38. He drives a blue company car, and he finally gave up the big speakers and installed sleek surround sound speakers in our walls. He is passionate about coffee (you knew that), red wine, recycling, renewable energy, and politics.

He is a great dad, and takes great care of our kids on the days I work. When he looks at them, I can see how much he adores them. I am so lucky, because I know he adores me, too.

I think the kids enjoyed his chocolate cake as much as he did. We all had 2 pieces. Colin kept saying, "Big bite!" and crammed huge pieces in his gob.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Blood letting

There was lots of exciting medicine at work today. I treated a cat that had a severe flea infestation and actually became perilously anemic from the fleas. The little ctenocephalides sucked her dry. Normally a cat's blood is 30-45% red blood cells, anything less than 20% could use a blood transfusion. This poor kitty was at 9.5%. No wonder she was hypothermic and bradycardic (low heart rate). She was "making biscuits" and had pink (instead of white) gums after getting 55 cc of healthy cat blood. One of my nurses' cats bravely donated, under sedation.

I also saw a 19 year old cat with edema. She is pooling fluid in her abdomen (ascites), in her chest (plueral effusion), and her left front leg (pitting edema). She has a bad heart and probably also cancer in her lymphatic system. Its been going on a while, and the little cat just keeps eating and purring. Her owner was leaving town, and wondered if she needed her belly drained. Her belly wasn't bad, but her breathing was labored due to all the extra fluid around her lungs. I performed a thoracocentesis, and drained about 320 cc of watery fluid out of her chest. That's almost a cup and a half, people. She gave a big sigh of relief!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Spear Grass

Last week one of my clients sent her boyfriend in with her dog. She was peeing blood, and by the way, she also had these grass things in her skin. The urinary tract infection was easy enough to diagnose and treat, but the grass awns in her fur were another story. This dog was a samoyed (a fur producing machine) and all in her underbelly were little spear grass awns. You may have played with these things as a kid, throwing them at your friends. They have a barb at the end, sharper and harder to pull out than a fish hook, and then a twisted stalk, so they really screw into the skin. I plucked several from her side that where already imbedded in little pustules. I could also feel several swollen tracts along her belly.

These things are really evil. When I was at school, we treated a labrador field trial champion that had developed a serious pyothorax (infection in the chest) from one of these buggers migrating all the way through her chest wall. She was in the ICU for weeks with chest tubes. There are also reports of them migrating into the spinal cord. Even if they just migrate into the skin, they can cause chronic abcesses.

This Samoyed also was "hind-end sensitive," meaning she would bite you if you touched her back there. I recommended this dog be shaved to remove any visible awns, and that was going to mean sedation. I gave the boyfriend the estimate, and suggested maybe they start the shaving at home and let me finish the job.

My client came back with a half shaved dog. She said she removed tons of awns but knew there were more. The dog would just not let them complete the job. I administered a sedative IV and she sunk to the floor. My technician and I both got a pair of clippers and started shaving. Too bad I'd decided to wear black slacks that day! We removed many more spear grass awns, and I was able to "express" some out of pustules I found. But, there were 4 long skinny cylindrical tracts under the skin that I highly suspected more awns were tunneling through. I recommended to the client that I try to get them out with a local, and she agreed. I told her if she didn't feel comfortable, I could take the dog to the back to work on it, but she preferred to stay with her dog. It worked really well; I made a few stab incisions, and with some digging around, was able to remove the awns.

The fact that I was doing minor surgery in the exam room with the owner present really freaked the staff out. Fortunately, the tech helping me was great, and the nurse supervisor knew I knew what I was doing. We joked about doing "drive thru surgery" but really it wasn't any worse than your dermatologist taking off a mole.

We reversed the sedation and the patient walked out of the exam room. I warned the owner that there may still be more to come, but at least we removed a whole lot of potential problems.

If you see spear grass on your dog, take them off immediately, even if it means losing that beautiful fur! And avoid those fields in the future!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Store Wars

If you have seen the original Star Wars movies, and have even the slightest interest in organic food, you MUST click here to see this movie.

Uncle Buck, this one's for you!

Monday, June 06, 2005

My throat still hurts

I went to my physician today, because I have a sore throat that has lasted longer than 7 days now, and a cough. She has a small little practice in a tiny little office. When I called first thing this morning, her staff (as always) acted like they were too busy to be bothered by me, but managed to squeeze me in after lunch.

I had to drag along the little ones, of course. Anna was fine, but Colin was convinced the little plug in fountain in the corner of the miniscule waiting room was a drinking fountain. This sadly concerned the 2 office staff far more than it did me or the other people in the waiting room (who were quite amused). What could I do, I had to turn my back on the 2 year old to sign in, etc, and that is of course when he did it. More than once.

They hustled me into an exam room, where I furiously scribbled on the magnadoodle and dispensed raisins to distract Colin from his need to rummage through all the medical supplies in the room. Finally, the doctor came in, asked questions, briefly examined me, took a throat culture, talked a LOT to Anna (she is such a charming conversationalist), then told me the strep test was negative. Then she looked at me blankly. I asked what I should do. She recommended gargling with warm salt water (which I LOATHE) every 15 minutes for 2 hours. Then she looked at me blankly. Oh, did I want samples of a prescription medication that is really just sudafed and guafenisin? Sure...

This was very reminiscent of when I went to see her for conjunctivitis that wouldn't go away, and she said it was just viral, and she could give me antibiotic drops but they wouldn't help, and she wouldn't give me any steroid drops, and then asked me again did I want the antibiotic drops? (Then I left her office and got that erroneous red light ticket. That was a great day).

I'm sure she's a great physician but her bedside manner is just not jiving with me. I mean, I would not take so much of my personal time to go and see her if I thought what I was suffering from was a simple virus that needed to run its course. Today, I'm glad to know the strep test is negative, but at least show some sympathy for my sore throat that is hurting so bad it wakes me up in the middle of the night when I swallow. Her staff and her demeanor is giving me the message that my little problems are bothering them.

I think I will be switching to the lovely doctor who so kindly promptly sewed my face up when the dog bit me. He even called me, at home, at 7 pm five days later to see how I was doing. That's my kind of doctor!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Photos from our Weekend

Anna and Colin, busy with their stamp creations early Saturday morning.

"What doing, Anna?" --Colin

Later, we went to the Austin Farmer's Market, to buy peaches and tomatoes. Being Austin (live music capitol of the world), there's always live music. Well, this week there were also live bellydancers!

This dancer really took a shine to Anna and danced all around her. Look how bashful Colin is! The wind was whipping her hair and her scarf all around, so she drapped her scarf over Anna.

She looked as regal as a princess, sitting watching the dancers and eating her sunflower seeds.

Afterwards, Colin was tearing around the park, but Anthony managed to get this action shot.

There was a motorcycle rally in Austin this weekend. 50,000 bikes (mostly Harleys) in our weird city. Couldn't resist this shot of a biker babe in her coordinated orange and black outfit! (I don't think she had any underwear to show, Daddy.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Portrait of my Claudio, lover cat, taken by Anna.

My husband, My barista

The coffee in Italy was really, really awesome. I loved how you could walk into any locally owned bar, and get a wonderful cup of cappucino or espresso or latte -- it was always perfectly smooth, perfectly hot, perfectly SCRUMPTIOUS -- and you didn't have to go to some overpriced chain to get it. The coffee in France and Spain was good, but it was not divine like it was in Italia.

Also, staying in a native Italian's home also showed us how coffee is simple and delicious there, too -- no Italian would stand for bad coffee, but with their low per capita income, neither can they all afford the big impressive machines they have in all the bars.

Every Italian home has a small, 2 cylinder coffee maker, that makes perfect "short coffee" (espresso) on your stovetop. There is no Mr Coffee drip machine. In the mornings, they simply heat a pan of milk along side the espresso to dilute the strong yet smooth brew, and later in the day they drink it straight, with a little zucchero. Anthony knew he had to have one of these when we returned. It is a little boiler, after all!

Anyone who knows my husband knows he gets very passionate about certain subjects - alternative energy, wine, and coffee for sure. Upon returning home, Anthony spent countless hours researching the best espresso makers. He also found an ingenious, cheap device for making the foamy milk. He researched coffee beans - why Italian blends are so smooth, what are good brands, how to load the filter but not pack it... It bordered on obsession. Here are the results:

On the left you see the milk foamer, an aluminum vessel that heats the milk on the stove, then with a butterchurning paddle, whips it up into shaving cream foam. In the center is the classic espresso maker, and on the right, a small assortment of Italian grinds Anthony bought to try.

Last night he made me a large cappucino. It was sublime. It was warm, smooth, foamy. After a couple of sips, I asked if it was caffeinated, and of course it was, but he assured me I didn't have to drink it all, he just wanted me to try it. As if I could resist such a perfect beverage! The milk was all thick and creamy and warm, not thin or diluted like sometimes happens in the steam foaming process. Changing the texture of the milk makes it so much better. And the coffee was dark but smooth, no bitter aftertaste, and tempting as the silver tongued devil. I drank it ALL, and stayed up until midnight as punishment.

So the next time you come to my house, let us whip you up a dreamy sip of Italy. Then you, too, can benefit from hours of meticulous research.