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.