Sunday, July 31, 2005

To see great pictures of my kids

Be sure to check out Saturday, July 30th's posting on Jessica's blog.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Viva Terlingua

Terlingua died a year ago (last Friday in July, 2004). For those of you who didn't know her, Terlingua was our remarkable dog, the one we got before we were even engaged, the one who was with me through vet school. Our first baby.

I thought of her a lot today as I helped a family come to the terribly difficult decision to euthanize their old labrador retriever, who had lung cancer. I diagnosed him in January, and he had been coughing his head off since May. But today, the owners, who loved him like a family member, saw the joy go out of his eyes. They were concerned they were giving up on him too soon, and also didn't want to end it for convenience sake (they've been up with him multiple times every night, and having to clean up some diarrhea). I helped them realize he wasn't going to get any better, and only had more suffering ahead of him. It was excruciating, but they chose to end his misery, and give him an easy, dignified death, surrounded by those he loved.

Terlingua in the baby room, before Anna was born.

Here is what I wrote last year about our girl:

Just a note to commemorate our beautiful dog, Terlingua, who died on July 30, 2004. She lived to the grand canine age of 13 1/2, but we found even that was far too short.

Anthony and I found Terlingua in the town of the same name near Big Bend. We actually saw her sister first, and thought she was a cute puppy, but one look at Terlingua's eyebrows and we were smitten. Her father was a Golden Retriever, and her mother a Lab/Hound mix, and her owner was a traveling carpenter. Terlingua was following him everywhere he went, working on the little restaurant theater there. He said he needed to find a home for her, and was happy to give her to us when he found out I'd just been accepted to vet school. We scooped up this scuffy little 12 week old puppy, fleas, ticks and all, and drove her to El Paso. She slept at my feet on the floorboard the entire trip (this proved to be her favorite car traveling position). At my parents' front porch, my father took one look at Terlingua's big feet and pronounced, "You will live to rue the day you got that dog." Fortunately, more untrue words were never said (I know my father agrees)!

Terlingua proved to be a great dog who lived up to her great name. She loved to jump high and catch the Frisbee. She traveled with me to schools and to nursing homes. I remember one large old lady who couldn't see very well always said, "Bring that big ol' dog to me. I grew up on a farm and I like big dogs!" Terlingua liked going camping, and she would haul us enormous logs for the fire. The smaller ones she would chew to shreds like a woodchuck. One year, in front of an entire class of incoming vet students, she performed a great trick: she fetched a beer out of a cooler. I was so proud of her for successfully completing the trick under pressure! And, long before we had children of our own, many kids called Terlingua their friend. There was a lonely little girl in Bryan who used to knock on my door and ask if she could throw the tennis ball for her. Anthony's nephew Andrew loved Terlingua's eyebrows and canine teeth when he was just little, and Terlingua gently stole sausage balls right out of his toddler hands one Christmas. Young Samantha and Caitlin Bennett were actually afraid of dogs until Terlingua (and sister Montana) acted as good canine ambassadors.

Terlingua and Montana share a stick in summer.

Terlingua may have been free, but she wasn't cheap. Even with my professional discount, her nearly annual surgeries added up. Here is a true list of body parts removed from Terlingua: dewclaws (extra toes), uterus and ovaries (of course), one anal gland, foot long piece of small intestine, right femoral head, left upper 4th premolar, spleen, multiple lipomas, and one fibroma.

Some of those may require further explanation. Terlingua had severe hip displasia. When the arthritis pain curbed her Frisbee catching, we gave her a hip replacement. After a long recovery, she was racing across the field behind our house once again, hurling her body in the air to catch with precision the Frisbee Anthony had flung with all his might. Then one evening, I chucked one of her toys across the yard as I walked to the garden, and heard a sickening pop and yelp, and she fell to the ground. In a freak accident of physics, she had fractured her femur in a horrifying spiral just distal to the pin in her hip. After calling many veterinary surgeons across the state, we decided to take her to Houston, where Dr. Liska put a 10 screw plate on the femur, and quickly restored her mobility.

The other most noteworthy surgery occurred when we were on vacation in the Napa Valley. Due to her rough beginning, Terlingua always was a garbage hound (to put it mildly). She decided to consume a kitchen rag and get an intestinal obstruction while we were gone. Fortunately, our consciencious neighbors, the Owens, we watching the dogs that weekend. They took her in to the hospital where I was working, and Dr Riddle (an excellent surgeon) removed the nasty obstruction, as well as a foot of necrotic intestine, while we were out of town. The kind people I worked with took excellent care of her while I was gone. She recovered uneventfully, and proceeded to eat (in the following years): bills (envelopes licked shut, stamps applied), many breast pads, an entire cloth diaper, several cloth baby toys, tomatoes directly from the garden, innumerable tissues and paper towels, and at least 12 of Anna's socks. Amazingly, these items all passed through her entire GI tract uneventfully. In the last year of her life, I heard her even lift the lid of the kitchen garbage can late at night, hunting for treats.

Terlingua was mild and gentle, at least with all humans. One of her greatest roles was as boss (dictator?) to her younger "sister" Montana. Terlingua was not pleased when we brought her home as an 8 week old puppy. Her gruff growls sounded like canine curses. Eventually, sweet Montana, who was happy to be her underling, won her over. For the past 9 years, Terlingua has relished her role as lord and ruler of Montana, who would often run past me to pay submissive homage to the ruling canine of our house. Even my mother-in-law's dogs knew to defer to her. Terlingua taught Montana how to be a good dog in the Martin household, and I know Montana will miss her, too.

Terlingua and Montana in winter.

On May 1, 2004, Terlingua did not eat her breakfast. This usually meant she ate something she shouldn't have, so I decided to take her with me to work that Saturday morning. We were busy all morning, and as an afterthought, I decided to run some lab work after the office closed. I was stunned to find out that she was severely anemic -- like blood transfusion anemic. A quick scan of the ultrasound probe revealed the cause: a large hemorrhaging tumor in her spleen. My boss, Dr. Werner, took a quick look and said, "That's gotta come out today." He and our registered tech, Enricka, gave up their Saturday afternoon to help me remove Terlingua's spleen. She most certainly would have bleed to death if we hadn't. There were 2 small, similar masses in the intestinal omentum that we also removed. I had been up most of the night before with Colin running a high fever, so I let the wonderful people at the emergency clinic take care of T-dog that night. Although she was severely anemic and weak post-operatively, she rebounded quickly for an elderly patient. The pathology report was hemangiosarcoma, one of the most aggressive cancers a dog can get. My friend Regina's brave dog, Nicolas, only lived a few weeks after we took this tumor out of his abdomen. I knew the prognosis was grave. Still, it didn't seem possible we could lose her. With Enricka's help, she went through 5 rounds of chemotherapy with virtually no side effects.

We were hoping for a year. 13 weeks after the initial surgery, Terlingua was laying by the fence, listless in the July heat. I lifted her lip and saw how pale she was again. "I'm losing you, aren't I?" I whispered to her. In a strange arc of symmetry, my sister Emily, who had been visiting the weekend of her splenectomy (and was so helpful watching the kids while I was gone) was visiting again this weekend. A short time later, Terlingua ran out of my bedroom and collapsed. It was a terrible thing to see. I ran out of the house with her, left the kids with Emily, and took her to Dr. Caplan's (I didn't think she would make it to South Austin). They were great there - the put in a central line, resusitated her with fluids, and took Xrays. Dr Caplan tapped her belly and got a lot of blood. My worst fear was coming true: she had a metastasis and was bleeding into her abdomen. I had to know for sure, and Dr Locke at the specialty hospital agreed to scan her abdomen, late on a Friday afternoon. Although her liver and heart were clear, there were two new tumors (already) in her abdomen, bleeding. Gently, she told me surgery was not a good option for her. I decided to take her home.

Terlingua spent the evening at home, eating rice (one of her favorites) and being loved on by Anthony, Emily, and myself. She seemed very concerned about how upset we were. Knowing she would be gone soon was very hard to face, but I didn't want to see her collapse again. Finally, she got up and went to rest by the back door, one of her favorite places. Surrounded by us, as she layed down her head to rest, I pushed the solution into her IV catheter. Our great dog left us. It was the hardest thing I've ever done.

We buried Terlingua under the oak tree in the back yard, in the shady spot where she loved to lay. It will be nice to look out our back door and think of her as part of that tree. Terlingua was such a large part of our lives, and we feel her loss profoundly. It is some comfort to know how many other's lives she touched as well.

We still miss her and think about her all the time.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Chicken Little

On Tuesday a client brought in a stray cat with an injured back leg. She'd been gimping around for a week but they couldn't catch her until that day. She was too wild to look at without anesthesia, so we dumped her from her carrier into the "tank" - a modified glass aquarium that we run gas into until the subject passes out.

This little 5 pound cat had severely injured her left hind leg. No broken bones, but all the skin had been long ago stripped off her entire ankle. All the bones of her tarsus (ankle) were exposed, surrounded by a few stringy tendons. Her foot was a contracted, shriveled, dead monkey paw. Like Tales from the Crypt. Like a chicken wing in the fryer too long. Leave that chicken wing on the bottom of your garbage can for about 5 days, and that's what it smelled like, too.

I told the new "owners" she needed an amputation, and discussed our concerns about her quality of life as a 3-legged stray cat. But, they were willing to keep her and pay for the procedure, so I gave her an antibiotic shot, and we cleaned up the leg as much as possible.

Today I spayed her first, and it was obvious she'd already had at least one set of kittens this year. Then I removed her leg, disarticulating it at the hip joint. Although it was only infected below the knee, there really is no point in sparing part of the limb, since she won't be walking on a prosthesis, and a "peg leg" is more prone to injury and self trauma. The surgery went well, even though it was a bit gristly. I gave her a local nerve block, an NSAID, and morphine to try to dull the pain.

After she recovered, she ate well, and even let my nurse pet her. There's hope for her yet. Her owners picked her up, pleased. My nurse nicknamed her "Chicken Little", for her scaredy-cat attitude and her gross, exposed, shriveled leg (now mercifully gone).

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

We love Watermelon!

His shirt says CHEEKY MONKEY. Entirely appropriate. For our 4th of July dinner, I grilled chicken, corn, and other delicious veggies, and put a plate of watermelon on the table. Colin ate nothing for dinner but wa meh mon! Now I know not to break it out until after the meal is served. Moh wamehmon, prease.

I hate it when he pokes his little monkey fingers in it! Guess who taught him that trick?

The big monkey.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Pictures by Anna of her new Hamster!

Which she named Vino. Her dad suggested it, and it won over the other names she was considering: Pancake, Waffle, and Spotty.

Anna saw a classmate's little hamster at school back in April. Immediately, she coveted one and it was all she could talk about. When her desire for a hamster didn't pass with time, we decided to make it a goal. We told her if she had 30 days with no bathroom accidents, she could have a hamster. We made a sticker chart - one sticker per day with no accidents. It was slow going. When she had only 5 or 7 stickers, she would moan, "But I really want a hamster..." Finally she achieved her goal. It took almost 2 months. She was rightfully pleased with herself when she completed the last 4 days in a row.

A co-worker donated an awesome hamster cage, with hidey-holes, ramps, and 2 exercise wheels. We got a dwarf hamster, because they apparently are the friendliest. We tried out 3 in the handling area before we found a gentle one.

Look closely and you can see his little pink tongue as he drinks water:

Sorry about the poor focus but Anna proudly took these herself. Vino explored his cage the first day, but spent most of today sleeping out of sight. So it was very exciting this evening when we found him out again after dinner.

The hamster guy at Petsmart told us to wait a few days until we try to handle him, so he can get used to the sounds and smells of his new environment. I told Anna she can't try to pick him up until Wednesday. The wait is killing her.

Anna's not the only one mesmerized by the new pet. Claudio quickly showed Anna why Daddy said the hamster would be like "Kitty TV." Strangely, although Claudio's natural instincts draw him to the rodent, Vino does not seem at all afraid of him.

Claudio on alert by Anna.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Pizza Pie

I wanted to post something tonight for you loyal fans, but I am a little tired, so a few pics will have to suffice. Tonight we made pizzas on the grill, just a little inspired by Steph's recent trip and pizzas. Both kids helped me make the dough, Anna with the 1 cup measure, Colin with the half cup, dumping the flour into the KitchenAid. Anna rolled a pizza dough for her pepperoni pizza practically all by herself. Below are the adult pizzas - on the left, prosciutto and sage (homegrown) and goat cheese (from the Farmer's Market Saturday), and on the right, sweet red bell pepper and onion (we grew both) and chicken portobella sausage and parmegiano reggiano (we bought from Costco). Delicioso!

Hey, Anth, we really should make pizze alla griglia next time the folks from Seattle come!

While we grilled (it is a team effort) the kids played in the sandbox and Claudio slept under the little Mexican White Oak.

Here's a little garden shot of the peppers -after tonight's harvest - with rain cistern in the background.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Today's Musings

Since I cleaned my house on Monday and worked on Tuesday, I had a lazy breakfast with the kids this morning. Finally I got them dressed and we went to our local rec center to see one of our favorite people, Ms. Anja. She is the delightful German woman who works the nursery while people like me work out. The kids adore her, and Anna brought her a picture she had drawn for her this morning of the hurricane.

While I jogged on the treadmill, I enjoyed the new MP3 Player Anthony bought (after reading a review in PC Mag comparing IPods with good quality cheaper alternatives). I realized that nearly everything he downloaded so far was British, either Yaz and Erasure in the 80's, or Coldplay and Keane from today. Oh well, it was enjoyable.

In the afternoon, Anna had her second private swim lesson with Peyton. Anna really likes her private swim lessons and always refers to them that way. We were lucky to have Peyton (a guy) as Anna's swim instructor in group lessons this summer and last summer. Peyton is a 17-year-old hottie.... who calls me ma'am. He is pretty cute and very good at motivating the little kids in his group with out talking down to them. He also can handle 5 little kids all by himself. But in the group lessons, Anna kinda zoned out, and was definitely the baby of her class. In private swim lessons, though, she has all of Peyton's attention, and she really performs. The first time he had her jumping in and doggie paddling to him at the middle of the pool. Today, he had her jumping in to deep water, swimming alone, then floating onto her back, all without assistance. I was impressed.

After swim lessons we had some Blue Bell ice cream then swam some more. What a relief no one subscribes to that silly old wives' tale about not being allowed to swim for at least 1 hour after eating. Remember that? So you wouldn't get a cramp and drown? Whatever. I remember being a kid, so ravenous after swimming I thought I'd implode, trying to decide whether to eat a couple of Doritos or just jump back in and have more fun.

We got home about 4 pm, and I put Colin down for a late nap. I woke him up about 75 minutes later, and boy was he a grumpus! If we don't do something very physical in the morning, he doesn't take a nap at all. Tonight we put him down for bed kind of late but we heard him in there, talking to himself for at least an hour. Yes, sadly, my baby is outgrowing his nap, but its not fair so I'm not really admitting it to myself. Why is it other people have children who take naps up until kindergarten? Although, I do remember being a young child, being made to take a nap and LOATHING it. And I remember going to college and having a napping renaissance. I could take a nap on any day now, except for all the things I have to do and people to care for. And if Colin doesn't nap, I don't know how I'll get anything done without resorting to hours of mind-numbing television.

Monday, July 18, 2005

An Account of W.A.R. - Women's Adventure Race

This past weekend my sister Emily and I participated in W.A.R. It was an adventure race for teams of 2 women that included mountain biking, running/walking, a water portion, and mystery events. It benefitted the Young Survival Coalition, a group supporting women under 40 with breast cancer.

I ran across W.A.R.'s inspiring website when I was training for the triathlon. One night when Emily told me on the phone about her recent work-out efforts, I mentioned the race to her and asked her if she wanted to do it. Then next day I emailed her the link. She used to work for a breast cancer foundation. It looked like so much fun, and was for such a good cause, she couldn't say no.

If you know Emily, you know that she is not a natural born athlete. That is what makes her participation even more inspiring! Although it is not her nature to sign up for something so adventurous, she stepped outside her box and did it anyway. She bought a mountain bike, and she practiced running on the treadmill at her gym, and took the plunge.

Part of the challenge of an adventure race is not knowing what will be asked of you -- we knew there would be some running (up to 2 miles) and biking (up to 6 miles) in between mystery events (which could be anything from obstacle courses to word puzzles). And there would be a water event, in which we'd have to take a water craft of our choosing (anything from an inflatable canoe to a kickboard).

The morning of the race was exciting; so many teams of women, many of them in inventive costumes -- because there was a costume contest as part of the race. The best costumes we saw were 2 women decked out like Wonder Woman (red boots and all) and 2 Valkyries a la Wagner. Several teams had capes, too. We just had matching athletic tops.

First up was the jog. I assured Emily we could "hustle" more than jog. Part of the jog included scrambling up a huge pile of gravel and back down again. We jogged through the trees, and the smell of pines, sunscreen, and OFF reminded me of camping. At the end of the jog we had to clip our feet together and walk back 3-legged.

Then we got on our bikes. Along the bike route we stopped for many mystery events. Once we had to put on fuzzy handcuffs and go through a ropes obstacle. Then we had to walk across a 8 inch pipe on the ground without falling off, otherwise you had to start over. Emily crossed with no problem. I went 3/4 of the way and fell off. I started over, then fell off at the same point. Only the 3rd time I had better luck! We got back on our bikes. It was hot. We stopped in a field and picked up a quiz. Stationed around the field were 7 questions (math and word puzzles) and we were required to answer 4 correctly before moving on. We did 5 to be sure. Emily was great - quickly making 3 letter words out of "WOMEN" and solving the word scrambles while I wrote down the answers. We got all 5 that we tried correct- wohoo!

As we returned with our bikes, Anthony and the kids spotted us! Anna leaped and danced around us, shouting, "We found them! We found them!" Colin ran to me an giggled. We were thrilled to see them, and to know the race was half over. We grabbed our float and went down to the lake.

Anna let us use her whale float, Shami (Shami because its a girl, and Shamu is apparently a boy name). We were also required to were life jackets which were a big pain! The lake was just gross -- tons of mud and seaweed most of the way out. It was sprinkling when we got in, and by the time we got to the first buoy, they waved us in due to lightning. We were glad we got to do the water portion and cool off in the water. There was also a float contest, so some people had made really creative floats with PVC pipe and decorations. The canoes were definitely the fastest and cleanest, though.

We got back on our bikes for another loop and it really started to pour. This was great for us as it had really been heating up before this. It was not so great for the volunteers on the course, who were shivering in their drenched cotton T-shirts. I also worried about Anthony and the kids, but apparently they were fine under a tent.

The course was muddy and the rain drops were stinging our shoulders. We saw one older lady fall off her bike. Fortunately she was fine, and got up as we passed, saying, "Its OK - I'm tough!" We didn't fall, though we did push up some hills. The cool rain gave Emily a second wind. Soon we could see the end!

At the end of the race, we had to run the "Gauntlet," an obstacle course like on military training camps. OK, it wasn't that hard, but you get the idea - over a rope wall, rolling under ropes, crawling through tunnels, then wallowing through the above muddy tank to get to the finish. It was muddy and gross, but we were already mucky and soaked, so we just laughed through it.

At the finish line we got a medal, a $50 spa gift certificate, and hugs from Anthony and the kids. Then there was a large meal by Carrabba's - grilled chicken, penne pasta, and Caesar salad -- it was awesome. Emily and I waited for a free chair massage, and Anna got one, too, saying shyly, "I like it!" Then we drove home for a well deserved shower.

We did it in 2 hours, 12 minutes, and we figure we were in the 25th percentile (about 75% of the finishers in front of us, 1/4 behind us). Click for Emily's version here. It was loads of fun, and I was so proud of Emily for doing it with me!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

What makes ticks tick

I saw a dog on Friday for her annual check-up and for a tick. Her owners noticed a tick the day before behind her ear. The husband said he heard nailpolish would suffocate the tick and cause it to fall off. The wife didn't have any nailpolish, but she did have liquid bandage. She figured that was pretty much the same thing so she coated the tick in liquid bandage.

Liquid bandage is made up of the same stuff as in Super Glue. The tick shriveled up and died but then became permanently attatched to the sweet dog! Inside I was cracking up! They were trying to get the tick off the dog and instead glued it onto her.

I have heard all kinds of crazy methods for getting ticks off, including applying the burned match, vaseline, and rubbing alcohol. One old vet told me to pull the tick out clockwise because that's the way its mouthparts "screwed" into the flesh. Most of these methods are to supposedly prevent the head from becoming imbedded.

Here's the truth about ticks: when they are attatched, there is a cement-like material that glues their mouthparts in. Until they are engorged and this material is dissolved by another biochemical process, they cannot physically disengage their mouthparts, no matter how many hot matches you put on their little bodies. Also, only the mouthparts are in the skin, so the head is not going to get stuck and continue to grow or fester. The best thing to do is grab the tick near the base and pull slowly and steadily out. Interestingly, that cement also has an antiinflammatory effect, so that the tick can stay without causing pain that the host may notice. Once its gone, the antiinflammatories are gone, so you might get a red, raised bump (suspiciously looking like a tick head?).

Also, ticks do not drop on you out of trees. Even scientists believed this for years until they studied ticks and found none of them in trees. Instead, they wait on blades of grass for a host to walk by, waving their front legs in front of them. When you brush by, they grab your leg and scramble up your body. They can climb from your ankle to your shoulder in less than 90 seconds. When you notice them on your shoulder or back, you think they must've dropped there from a tree.

Also, ticks can wait on that blade of grass for over a year, just waiting for you to walk by. And many ticks are about the size of a poppyseed. Think you're going to see that on your furry dog? Better to keep them on monthly prevention.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Future Bloggers

Sharing the laptop.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The cobbler's children have no shoes.

I brought my wonderful Golden Retriever, Montana, to work with me today because I knew the schedule was light, and I hoped to clean her teeth. She had some serious halitosis, which I figured was due to gingivitis from the tartar buildup.

Above the gumline, other than the tartar, I didn't see any problem teeth. However, as I was cleaning the second side, my probe fell under the gumline about 9 mm on one of her upper premolars. Normally you can only probe 2-3 mm or less. A little bit of pus oozed out after I removed the probe. An Xray revealed the extent of the problem:

The tooth in the middle (206) is the problem tooth. The tooth to the right is normal, and has bone that completely covers the roots, all the way down to the crown. On 206, there is a huge area of bone loss between the roots, especially on that root on the left side. On the actual Xray, you could see that it extends nearly to the root tip. That tooth is abcessed. It had to be extracted.

I felt bad that she had gone with this problem for so long without me noticing, but there really was nothing to see above the gumline. Even though she was under general anesthesia, I did a local nerve block, to block the pain receptors and so she would wake up numb and comfortable. After lifting a gingival flap, I cut the tooth in half and easily wiggled out the 2 roots. The soft tissue and bone around the tooth was pretty unhealthy. I filled the extraction sites with a synthetic bone graft and sewed the gingival flap shut. After a fluoride treatment and morphine shot, we woke her up.

Montana turns 10 years old later this month, and is such a good dog, we sometimes neglect her. I mean, we always feed her, and let her in from the backyard as soon as she barks, and I don't forget her heartworm and flea preventative. But she is so easy going, she doesn't need a lot of attention. We can leave the front door or back gates open and she won't leave. She only barks if someone rings the doorbell. She is very tolerant of the kids. She never missed a meal from dental pain. But I know "doggie breath" is not normal, and now I know why Montana had it.

Because I often find hidden dental problems and end up doing extractions that were not anticipated, my staff often jokingly accuses me of being bored and pulling out teeth for fun. You can bet they really let me have it for bringing my own dog in just so I would have something to do!

Montana is resting comfortably at home now and getting lots of TLC from all of us. She'll be getting soft food, antibiotics, pain relievers, and extra hugs and kisses for the next couple of weeks!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

A great babysitter, a great blog

Most people know we have a great babysitter-- Jessica. What I didn't know until recently is that she has started a blog! It chronicles her 18 year old adventures and has many pictures of my children, complete with unsolicited complimentary comments!

Reading her blog reminds me a lot of 1988 when I was a smart young girl, about to embark on the greatest adventure ever - college. Except, without the pouffy 80's bangs, of course.

Please take a gander at Life, Love, and Laughs.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Yesterday's high was 104. It was another unbearably hot day. But then, after dinner, we had a sudden Texas thunderstorm. It rolled in quickly, with big huge droplets, and wind that tossed the tree tops around. There was lots of lightning and thunder, or "Punder!" as Colin proclaimed after every rumble. We went on the porch to watch it for a while (it has been so long since it rained) but then the blowing spray kind of scared Colin, and it was bedtime, so we went in.

The wet weather cooled things off like a Nestea plunge - today's high was only 94!

However, the cleansing rain doesn't erase the sadness I feel over the recent bombings in London. New York, Madrid, London -- all noble cities I have visited and loved their distinct personalities. All cities in which I have blithely used their magnificent public transportation. Some of the tube stations in London are Victorian. The city is un-navigable by car. The tube is celebrated on T-shirts, postcards, and coffee mugs.

What kind of desperation and misguided hate drives such depraved acts against innocent people? What really will stop terrorism?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Vet Advice

Recently in my "comments" section a high school student, who hopes to be a vet someday, asked me what advice I would give her. Here is what I told her:

Being a vet is a great job. I tracked "mixed" in vet school, intending to practice both large and small animal practice. However, I found very few practices did both well, and I have worked in small animal practice exclusively since graduation. I do miss the horses and cows, but I am very happy with my current career. There currently is a shortage of large animal vets, especially in rural mid-America, so many vet organizations are trying to recruit people who want to work in this field.

The best advice I could give a high school student entering college, hoping to go to vet school, is MAKE GOOD GRADES. Take lots of hours (like 14-16 per semester) and work as hard as you can to make as many A's as possible, and almost no C's (the rest B's). There are so many applicants to vet school (more than to medical school) that grades become a very important part of the competition. The admission committee also wants to see you take a lot of hours to prove you could handle the vet school course load, which is like 20 hours/semester.

I knew lots of people who started with me as a freshman who wanted to go to vet school, but had lots of "fun" the first few years, then took fewer hours to bring their grades up, then took a part-time job and didn't study as hard... none of them got even close to getting into vet school.

I also know people who are smart enough to be excellent vets, are very motivated now in their late 20s, but in their early 20s in college didn't apply themselves, had a few bad semesters.... after applying 4 or 5 times, they STILL can't get accepted.

Other advice: contact a veterinarian who is in the type of practice you think you'd like to be in someday, and ask if you can observe them and volunteer. Then, ask them lots of questions: what's a good day like for them? What's a bad day like? Would they choose this career path again? Why or why not? What do they wish they'd known in college that they know now?

Its a great profession, and well respected. Its a long journey to graduation, and the learning never stops. Congratulations on your aspirations, and best of luck to you.

In the midst of it all

Monday night Anthony accidentally made FULLY CAFFEINATED espresso, but it was so lovely and frothy and tempting, I drank it anyway. A few hours later I lay in bed, exhausted but not sleeping.

I started driving home yesterday at 4:30 (that's my early day - ha!) and I got very drowsy. When I got home my family attacked me -- they'd all missed me, but I had to get dinner underway. At one point, Anthony was hugging me, whispering suggestive nothings in my ear, Colin was literally tugging on my pants, asking me to play "bah-ge-boll," and Anna was whining, "Mah-MEEEEE! I really need you!" I felt like a hard roll that had been given to the seagulls after a long picnic, and I was being tossed around while little bits of me were pecked off.

"Hey, guys, stop it! You're all yelling at me!" I told them. Anthony said, "Sorry, Mommy, but you're the center of our world." Sometimes that's a wonderful place to be. Sometimes, its like being the hot molten center, crushing under all that gravity, about to erupt at any moment!

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Importance of Trifles

When my dad was a schoolboy in England, he was instructed to write an essay with the above title. He wrote about how important trifles were when having parties, and got into some trouble for misunderstanding what the teacher had intended.

When our friends invited us over for a dinner party, I volunteered to bring dessert. Anna and I looked through cookbooks during Colin's nap. Every professionally photographed dessert caught Anna's eye. "Oooh, let's make that!" she said to Steamed Cranberry Pudding. I don't think so! "Wrong season," I told her. Then I saw a trifle and my mind was set.

We made an Almond Pound Cake the day before, then the day of the party assembled the whole thing. This was a great preschooler project. She crumbled all the cake, then helped arrange the fruit layers. I spread the Creme Anglais and whipped cream, and she licked the bowls while I decorated the top. The results:

Sadly, when I used to make this dish as a teenager, I always used Sara Lee pound cake, which was liberally sprinkled with rum by my dad, then topped that with Fruit Cocktail, Jello, Jello brand Pudding, and Cool Whip. I did artistically decorate the top with fresh fruit. Sisters, lemme tell you, homemade cake, custard, and real whipped cream make all the difference! Also, I used fresh seasonal fruit - strawberries, blueberries, and Texas peaches.

That's me, proudly serving it up!