Thursday, June 29, 2006

First book

Tonight Colin chose to "build towers" with his blocks for 5 minutes before bedtime, instead of reading a book. Once the timer went off, he changed his mind (of course). We said we were sorry, but that was his choice, and sent his sorry ass to bed (literally).

Anna chose to read books instead, and picked an easy one and a challenging one. "I'm going to read this one to you," she said, holding the challenging one.

She faltered on the title page. "How about you read me this one first, then I'll read this harder one to you?" I offered. She agreed.

Then Anna read this book from cover to cover. And not just from memory! She certainly knows the rhythm of good ol' Dr Seuss, but she sounded out the words!

I always knew Anna would be a good reader. I've told her when she's a big girl and can read by herself, we'll go to Starbucks together and sit and READ. Today, I knew my dream would come true!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Missing you

People are always excited to hear when you get a new dog after losing one. Its a sign that you've healed, that you're moving on.

Getting our new dog, Francesca, is helping me in some ways. I have a doggie buddy to take care of, one who will go jogging with me. But in many ways, she makes me miss Montana so much.

At first, it was hearing her walk around the pergo floors. I'd hear that sound, and my brain would think it was Montana. Also, she's using all of Montana's old stuff - her collar, her choker chain and leash, her kennel, her food bowl, even her leftover heartworm preventative.

Then, there's the fact that she's not Montana, an extensively trained, 10 year old Golden Retriever. No, she's a 10 month old, untrained Catahoula mix. One that likes to chase and harass the best cat in the world. She's not stealing food as much, but she is mouthy - chewing up lots of stuff (I have to continually supply toys) and affectionately nipping me and the kids, which we do not appreciate.

So, after the kids finally go to bed, I'm taking her for a 15 minute walk and obedience session, practicing polite leash walking and sitting. She does want to please and definitely needs the direction and discipline. But it makes me miss Montana even more, because 10 summers ago that's what she and I were doing. With Montana, I had hopes of obedience trials and lots more free time to spend with her. For Francesca, I just want a good dog, and I'm exhausted, and I've been training my kids all day - I don't have much patience left for her.

After tonight's lesson, she was still so ornery, and would not leave poor Claudio cat alone... so she's back in the kennel for now. She probably would have done better with another dog to mentor her, and sometimes I wish I'd gotten her when Montana was still around. But, she wasn't even at the shelter until after Montana died, and how stressful would that have been for old Montana, when she was losing her mind anyway?

I do love Francesca, and I know she'll become a good dog with time and training. I am glad I saved her from the shelter. I just really miss Montana, and hate that she had to die so early.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Eat Local Produce!

We had a great weekend. Saturday I took the kids to the Farmers' Market. Its something I love to do, but since I work a lot of Saturdays, I don't always have the opportunity. I always feel especially virtuous after I do this, too - giving my money directly to the farmers who are labor to make this food. Its fresher, too, since it was usually picked the night before, and did not have to travel far to get to market. We went late in the morning, and instead of being out of everything, the farmers seemed extra generous. Also, it had rained earlier, cooling everything off, so instead of being hot and cranky, everyone seemed cheerful under the midday sun.

We went by the Peach Creek Farm stand, where they sell their Berkshire Pork. They have an old English breed of hog that's supposed to taste much better. On display are pictures of their one boar (El Rey) who's HUGE and very happy. The sows get to farrow in pasture (instead of on cement), and they all get to frolic in the mud and sunshine all day.

Last time I bought some of their sausage, which was great, but this time I wanted to try something new. Colin was wearing his favorite shirt that says "CHEEKY MONKEY" on the front, and the pig farmers really liked it. "My mother is Scottish," one of them said, "I grew up hearing that all the time." Me, too! Anna smiled and spoke politely to them while I got the cooking directions for my bone-in shoulder roast. Next thing I knew they were giving my children some of their pastries - stuffed with a cinnamon-apple mincemeat. The pastry was made with their lard, so it had that sweet/savory thing going on -- YUM!

Next we went to a little family vegetable stand. Last time we went they gave Anna a yellow crookneck squash to try, so she dutifully told them how much she enjoyed it. We bought some more squash, some peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes from them.

We went to the goat cheese stand, which has a table covered with samples. The entire time I am there making my purchases, Colin is eating sample after sample after sample. These kind goat farmers response to this is to give him more! Anna only likes mild cheeses, and won't ever try the "stinky" goat cheese, but this time they had a goat mozzarella, and she liked it!

We picked up eggplants and onions at another stand. There was only one peach stand. The warm winter plus spring hail storms did in most of the area peach orchards, except for one microclimate in San Marcos. They were selling baskets as fast as they could fill them, and they were sweet and juicy.

Before we left, I wanted to get some cucumbers for salad. I let Anna and Colin each pick out one from a curvy variety at one stand. On they way back to the car, I realized they were eating them like popsicles, skin and all! I laughed at them, delighted that they were devouring a vegetable I couldn't even get them to try before!

The next day we had some of our favorite friends over to feast on all our fresh produce. I slow roasted the pork (it was good and flavorful, but more pot-roast in style than Anthony and I really like), made goat cheese gratin potatoes, marinated the squash, peppers, and eggplant with basil and olive oil then grilled them, and made a salad with the tomatoes. Our friends brought an appetizer of almonds, brie, and fig jam from Spain (yum!) and a decadent ice cream pie for dessert (fantastico!).

Fresh veggies, dressed in basil, awaiting the kiss of the grill

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer Afternoon

It was showery off and on this morning, but after lunch the sun was shining, so I decided to take the kids to the pool. We have a great local pool that's like a mini waterpark geared toward little kids. We go right by it on my usual bike route, and the kids were DYING to go all winter. It doesn't open until school ends in May. I couldn't believe we hadn't been yet this summer.

I called the pool: "Are ya'll open?" "Yes, its sunny here. Ya'll come on out!" was the reply. That was about 1:30.

So, I started getting ready. Undress both kids, apply sunblock and swimsuits - it sounds simpler than it is, because you have to chase them down, disengage them from various activities, they get out other toys while you are putting stuff on them... Also, Anna had to have a tinkle break and Colin had a poopy pull-up in the midst of all the preparation. Pack the towels, floaties, change of clothes and shampoo/conditioner for after the post-swim shower, water bottles, wallet, cell phone, sunglasses, visor, keys, and...

2:15. Dark ominous clouds. Then, lightning and big drops of rain.

I checked the radar, and it looked like it might clear up. So, I had the kids watch a 30 minute show, I did some dinner prep, and then called the pool. The rain was clearing. They said they would open again at 3:30pm.

It was a great time to go to the pool. The parking lot was empty. The sun was shining. The water was refreshingly cold! After lots of swimming and sliding, we paused for a treat. Colin and I got fudge bombs and Anna got a rainbow pop. They came out of the freezer too cold to bite all the way through. I thought they shouldn't keep them so cold. Mere seconds later, popsicle drips were running down our arms, off our elbows and onto our legs. Colin's fudge bomb looked HUGE in his little grasp, but he focused all his attention on devouring it, slowly and steadily, until he handed me the naked stick. Anna excitedly told me about each flavor change as she ate down her rainbow pop. "Maybe I should get some fudgesicles for our freezer," I thought, until I saw our messy selves, and decided this was a good pool-only treat. "I have an idea, Mommy," Anna said. "Let's get back in the pool and it will wash off all our mess!"

It was a great afternoon, spoiled only a little by Anna's total melt down when it was time to go --she was overwhelmed by the desire to purchase forbidden peanut MnMs and eat them in the car (never!) and by the disappointment of going home-- while napless Colin slumped, eyes half mast, head against the side of his car seat.

I'm really glad we got to do this today, because most of next month I will be working a lot more, covering the schedule of one of our doctors sent home on pregnancy bedrest. I will mostly be working mornings, but there will be less time for carefree summer fun. I talked to my bed-bound friend tonight, and she was actually jealous of me doing dishes. For certain, its better to be tired from so much fun then restless and restrained.

Monday, June 19, 2006

In Praise of Anthony

Anthony's birthday is always the same weekend as Father's Day, giving him a double-whammy week. I always feel like it really kind of short-changes him, though. Anthony is a great person and a great dad, and we are proud to have him around here.

Sometimes I forget how great Anthony is, until I am talking to someone else. Recently I was telling someone how "green" our house is - we have solar panels and wind generators on our roof. They generate a lot of our electricity needs and drastically lower our bill (to almost nothing in the winter). We have a great vegetable garden. It is automatically watered with waste water from our water softener, which has been converted from NaCl to KCl - potassium which is fertilizer to plants. Thanks to drip irrigation, it flows from the softener directly underground to our tomatoes and peppers. We also capture rainwater with 3 barrels at the bottom of our gutters, and use it to water our plants. We have a chicken hutch behind our shed, with 5 laying hens. We own 2 hybrid vehicles, which were purchased after much research and negotiation.

None of these things would ever have happened without Anthony.

He also volunteers in our local community, serving on the Parks board. He also submitted a grant for our city to get funding for a solar/wind project, then was key in getting this project installed.

I know I have a role to play in our family: I am the primary provider of nutritious food, household chaos reducer, and nurturer of children. However, 2 days a week, I don't do this AT ALL. The person who picks up the slack without complaint is Anthony; the days I work, he drops off and picks up the kids, makes dinner, and usually has them bathed and in jammies when I get home. Oh yeah, and a cocktail waiting for me in the freezer, too. All this in addition to getting his own work done.

Anthony makes me feel great. He admires my intellect, my job, and my physique! Seriously, he thinks I am so much smarter than he is. But that is what makes us great partners: he is smart in areas I am dumb, and vice versa. Anthony downplays his mechanical abilities - stuff he says any grease-monkey can do - but I know how valuable his skills are after talking to my single girlfriends or those with inept husbands. They pay A LOT of money for someone with those abilities to make housecalls. Since we've been together, I haven't changed oil or a tire, fixed a computer or a cranky appliance.

I could go on and on but I might make you nauseated. Before I knew Anthony, I didn't know how many places had boilers, how many things you could do on the internet, and I didn't know beans about renewable energy. I did know he would be a great dad, and still he surpassed my expectations. I also didn't know how great it would be to be in a great marriage with such a well-balanced partner. I didn't know how it felt to be adored.

I love you, Anth. Happy Birthday and Father's Day!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Danskin 2006

Its not a good thing to get bronchitis 2 days before your triathlon. I felt much better by today (until I started exercising). It was hard to get efficient oxygenation, and I didn't really improve my times much over last year. The rattle of phlegm in my bronchi accompanied me on the entire course.

Anyway, the real story of this year's triathlon was Emily (nicknamed "Iron Em" by her boyfriend, who took all these great photos). Emily was awesome, and signed up even though she was a little afraid of this intimidating event. She never wavered on the course, and completed it tired but happy and grinning.

Here I am in the water, waiting for my wave to start. It is very inspirational to be in a race, surrounded by so many other women exactly my age.

Emily in the water, waiting for her start, 8 minutes behind me.

Running up the hill to my bike after the swim.

There is an unbelievably steep long hill at the end of the bike course. It is ugly and taxing, and lots of competitors actually get off and walk up the hill. The run course parallels this hill. I happened to be jogging down the hill the same time Emily was just making it to the top of the biking hill. I yelled to her, "Go, Iron Em! You did it! You're doing great!" and she cheered me on as well. Emily looked really good, and she hadn't gotten off her bike at all!

At the end of the race, I found my support team: Anthony, Anna, and Colin. I know I couldn't have done gotten ready for the triathlon without their encouragement and understanding.

Here we are, at the end of race. "What do you want to do now?" I asked Emily. "EAT!" she said.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Thank you notes

As a veterinarians we often get thank you notes from clients after we have euthanized their pet. They are often grateful for gentle solutions to a difficult and emotionally stressful time. It always seems a little ironic, though, to get a card thanking me for basically killing their pet.

This week I got 2 such cards. One was from a very nice retired-Army couple who really love their cats. They always bring paperback books to read while they wait, but immediately put them down when I come in the room, and are very chatty.

After a long illness I euthanized their cat, and they sent me a Hallmark-esque poem the wife wrote herself:

Few times are as serene as hearing a purr
From our lovable friend of fur.

Alas, there is regret
When sickness overcomes our pet,
And we can't fix what ails,
So to heaven they must sail.

But we knew our furry pal was in good hands,
With you, Vetmommy, who tried every plan...

It was very sweet and I was touched by their words.

I also had a patient who was very old and ailing from some progressive neurologic disease. The owner, a single 40-something woman, was very emotionally detatched. Speaking to this owner was like speaking to an alien inhabiting her body. I'd talk to her about the dog's problems, and she would just blink at me. So, I'd discuss further diagnostics, like possible referral to a surgeon and CT scans, and she'd just stare. Finally, she'd say, "But is it worth it? How long do you think he'll live?" Valid concerns, for sure, but what else was I going to say, after I told her the probable diagnoses and she said nothing.

The progressive neurologic disease progressed to the point that the dog was not walking. She brought him in for an exam. When I was done looking at him, I told her that his prognosis and quality of life was poor and that euthanasia was probably the best option. This is when owners usually get red-faced and emotional, but she nonchalantly said, "Yes, I agree." I asked if she wanted to be with her pet, and she casually said, "No, I don't need to be with him. I already said my good-byes." She patted him on the head and left (and not in a putting-on-a-brave-front way). I couldn't imagine being so cavalier about a dog who had lived with me for over 14 years.

The owner sent me a card, too, and it was typical of her Spartan manner. "I know letting her go was right for her and I have made my peace with that decision. I would like to thank you for handling that procedure. I have no issues with the care that you provided her and would certainly bring another animal to you."

What a ringing endorsement!

Thursday, June 08, 2006


One of the "gifts" I brought back for my kiddos was some fancy hotel soap. They are so easily impressed at this age! They love the soaps and copiously lather their bodies at bathtime. I sang to them:

"Oh I wish I were a little bar of soap!
Oh I wish I were a little bar of soap!
I'd go slippery slippery slidey over everybody's hiney!
Oh I wish I were a little bar of soap!"

The kids loved this little ditty, and Anna made up her own verses.

Oh I wish I were a little bar of TOE!
I'd go pretty pretty pretty over everybody's body!


Oh I wish I were a little bar of EYE!
I'd go looking looking looking over everything I see!

and, my favorite

Oh, I wish I were a circle of Booby!
Oh, I wish I were a circle of Booby!
I'd go around around around over everybody's body!
Oh, I wish I were a circle of Booby!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


We took the above ground pool that was buried halfway in the ground out of our backyard. We plan to put a pond in the resulting cavity in our yard. May rains soon filled the hole with stagnant water. The male toads it attracted sang so loudly at night we could hardly sleep. "GRRRBLAAAAAAAHHHHH!" they screamed. Apparently, the females could not resist, because days later, tadpoles appeared, shimmering away from our shadows.

The tadpoles here in the pond are quite small, you may need to click on the image to appreciate them at all.

"If you want to save any of those tadpoles, you'd better hurry up," Anthony warned. The kids and I went down in our Wellington boots, and they scooped up tons of tadpoles with paper cups. Anthony was right -- the next day the "pond" was dry and the polliwogs were dessicated.

We fed the larval amphibians frozen spinach, and they slowly grew. They grew faster when exposed to UV light and warming June temperatures. When I came back from my trip, I could see legs!

I knew that once legs appeared, their digestive systems amazingly change from the long, fermentation mazes of herbivores to the short, simple tracts of protein eaters. Also, as their gills turned to lungs, they would need a way to get out of the water. Anna and I added sunning rocks.

Close up of tadpoles.

This morning, the metamorphosis for one pollywog was complete. A New Toad!

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Long Way Home

A few minutes before boarding was supposed to start on our flight home out of Louisville, we found out the flight was cancelled due to mechanical failure. It was the last flight of the night, and the tiny Louisville airport pretty much packed up and went home - except for the 50 of us that were stranded with 2 poorly prepared gate agents. There were no flights that night, and everything was oversold the next day. Eventually (read 4 hours later) we were loaded up into taxis for the 90 mile trip to Cincinnati and put in a hotel overnight. Enricka and I flew from Cincinnati to Chicago at 6 am the next morning, then finally home to Austin.

I had just been thinking what a great trip it had been: lots of great new information from the conference, everyone we dealt with in Louisville was friendly and polite, the food was good, and Enricka was an excellent traveling companion. The best part, though, was coming out of the terminal and being greeted by my enthusiastic children, holding flowers and drawings, shouting, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" (sigh) Anthony hung back until the melee was over before he got his well deserved kiss.

I was starved when I got home, and made a bunch of eggs and sausages and toast for everyone (I got a little tired of just eating scones for breakfast). The tomato plants have doubled in size. Colin said shyly several times, "Mommy, I miss you."

Me, too, little buddy. Good to be home FINALLY.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Lowdown on Louisville

Louisville is the understudy city for this conference - it was meant to be in New Orleans, a much more enticing destination before recent meteorological events. Louisville is perfectly servicable for a conference, with a nice convention center, connected by overhead pedestrian tunnels to many nice hotels (particularly convenient this rainy morning). Downtown is small, clean, and walkable, with many restaurants. Fortunately the food is moderately priced and quite good. There are many international veterinarians at the conference, and I'm sure they are a little disappointed to be in such a small city. At least they are seeing perhaps a more typical part of America than one of the big cities. Its the "Old South, not the Deep South," Enricka's friend Johnathan told her. The accent is subtle and charming.

Not many non-veterinary spouses at this conference. Just not enough locally to go do and see for four days, other than go the the Derby, the Louisville Slugger museum, and drink bourbon.

Yesterday I got to venture out and see a little of Kentucky beyond the 4 square city blocks around the convention. Some former neighbors of ours have moved back home to Kentucky and live 20 minutes from here. They are a really nice family, and their two little girls have turned into tall teenagers. The oldest, Kelly, picked me up with her boyfriend. Our hotel is right on the Ohio river, but unfortunately they built a freeway on the riverbank, so the view is ugly, industrial, and noisy. But driving out to the house, the river is much prettier, and the landscape rolling and pastoral, with many horse farms and open wooden fences (so different than Texas, which is all barbed wire and privacy fences). My friends' new home is in a subdivision with no fences at all, and on very rolling terrain, with a creek going across their front lawn. They have a basement, providing ample storage and another cozy hangout for the teenagers.

They fed me a homecooked meal and we got caught up on each other's lives. They really are a lovely family, and I wish they were still in Texas, though they are obviously very happy to be back home. Kelly and Jeff generously drove me back, too. I got to listen to Hip-hop going and Country music coming back.

The line at Starbuck's was 30 people deep this morning but worth it, for that delicious reliably authentic Latte. Also, I got the last scone!

We are having a good time, hobnobbing and learning from the veterinary medical elite. A Kentucky barbecue is planned for tonight, and after a long day tomorrow, we'll head home.