Sunday, August 31, 2008

The more the merrier

It was another scorcher here today. The kids didn't even venture outside until after dinner. They played nicely together all day, mostly in their pyjamas.

Out of the blue, they started lobbying for another sibling.

"Let's have a baby brother!" Colin said.

"I want a sister!" Anna said.

"Guys, you don't get to pick!" I told them.

"Let's have twins!" said Colin.

"You could adopt," Anna said.

"Where are these babies going to sleep?" I asked them. "Plus, if we have more babies, its going to be a lot longer before we can go to Europe again. I really like having two big school-aged kids."

"Oh, I hadn't thought of that," said Anna. End of discussion!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

School Daze

Yesterday I was off, as usual, except as my jealous friends with small children noted, BOTH my kids were in school until 3pm. So I had the day to myself, except that Anthony was at home "working" in the "home office" all day. No really! He did write a lot of reports, in addition to paying lots of attention to me.

It was great to see the kids tumbling off the bus together. I love that there is a rule that siblings have to sit next to each other on the bus, but honestly, Anna is so protective of Colin I'm sure she'd sit next to him anyway. And Colin loves to say, "Anna is bigger, so she is in charge of me." I wonder how long that will last.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First Day of School

Here we are, in our first day finery (except me in my scrubs):

Beautiful Anna, as we sent her off down the hall to start 2nd grade:

Happy Colin and his teacher. Does she know what she's in for? ;-)

No tears from any of us, but lots of deep sighs and wistful glances.

Monday, August 25, 2008

End of Summer. Goodbye, Baby Boy!

School starts tomorrow. I woke the groggy kids up early today to get them ready for tomorrow's even earlier schedule.

For dinner tonight I prepared a cool, no-cook summer meal. Although summer vacation is ending, summer temperatures will persist here for at least another month. We dined on another huge Insalata Caprese (it was a really good tomato year), pepper salad (also from the garden), crusty bread, prosciutto and its beefy cousin, bresaola. We toasted a great summer - swimming lessons, trip to Europe, then lots of partying and good times with friends once we returned.

Below is Colin's "homework" that he needs to bring the first day of school. We are pleased that he got the same kindergarten teacher as Anna, and she had similar homework. The assignment was for him to put his name on the gingerbread man, then to write a good manner that he says he uses. Then he can decorate it.

You may have noticed he chose to decorate it with a Dos Equis bottle cap. Hopefully the other kindergarteners will not notice this. That plus some random pom poms and a scrap from Anna's sewing box, and it is complete.

We are so looking forward to having both kids in the same school until 3 every day. Colin is very happy to go. I am only a little sad to see my baby go off and officially become a big boy. "Why didn't Peter Pan want to grow up?" he asked me tonight, after I teased him that he could still stay home tomorrow and stay my baby boy. I understand -- as a kid I couldn't wait to get to the next stage. Funny how that feeling subsided after I got into my 20s.

So tonight, lunchboxes are packed, backpacks are ready, and first-day-off-school outfits are laid out. We are ready to launch!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Live on Stage

Thanks to Anthony for reformatting this so you can see the entire song. It's a cover of a Gavin DeGraw song, "Cop Stop." Its a hard range for Anna to sing, but she definitely makes up for it with enthusiasm and stage presence.

Brief little post

So it turns out August is not such a great month to try to post every day. Or to clean your house before your mother comes for a visit. No, we did that today after she left. Anyway, Anna and Anthony are back, much to our delight. We went to hear The Manny play on Friday night, and here is a short, dark video of some of Anna's funny dance moves. Notice all the hair flipping! Hopefully I'll get a video of their duet uploaded soon (right now it's too big). Enjoy,

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Anna has ballet, and this year Colin finally decided on an activity for himself: Gymnastics. There is a great program at our Rec Center that is very non-competitive with a great teacher (he took her class as a 2 year old). Luckily it is on Wednesday afternoons - perfect since I have Mondays and Wednesdays off, and Mondays we do ballet.

I went to the Rec Center to register, and as I filled out the form, the last spot was taken by someone who was registering on-line. Noooooooooooo!!!! I was so acutely disappointed, I thought I might throw up. Colin was sad, too, but I know he didn't understand the ramifications as clearly as me.

So we are on the waiting list, and I asked the nice girl to let the teacher know how much we wanted to take her class. I am hoping she will remember Colin and maybe slide him in. I hope.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Big Band

On Monday as we left the library we could hear the high school band practicing. Colin wanted to see them, so I drove over and rolled down his window. There were a bunch of young teenagers in shorts and tank tops holding instruments, practicing their half-time routine.

"What is that guy doing?" Colin asked me about the drum major, who was dramatically keeping tempo with white gloves. I explained to him that he was the leader, and was demonstrating the beat so everyone could keep time. I told him our Manny used to be a drum major.

Colin wrinkled his nose and said, "I've been to his house, and he doesn't have any gloves!" Lots of other instruments, though.

We watched some more, then I asked him when he is big, what instrument would he like to play in band.

After a brief pause, he answered confidently, "Electric guitar."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dances with Dogs

My friend Fran loved taking care of Francesca so much that she got herself an adorable catahoula puppy. He, however, is terrified of Francesca, since she jumps in his face and barks, "PLAY!" at him. She is harmless but big and assertive.

So after dinner tonight, when she feels frisky, I jumped and danced and wrestled around the kitchen in my underwear with her. Sure hope the neighbors didn't see in the open window (oops).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Just the Two of Us

This morning Anthony left for a week-long trip to the Corpus Christi area. I drove Anna half-way to Houston for a solo week with her Nana and Grandad. That leaves just Colin and myself.

After returning from our brief car trip, Colin wanted to go to the library. Returning home, I asked him if he'd like to read but he wanted to watch Scooby Doo! When that was over, he amazed himself by completing this puzzle alone without his helpful meddlesome sister.

After a dinner of scrumptious leftovers (smoked salmon, wild rice, grilled veggies, just picked tomatoes), Colin went out front for a little bird watching.

Love that boy!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Old school

Today my cousin Beverly moved in to her dorm at Texas A&M University, where I also attended. In fact, she's living in the dorm I lived in my sophomore year.

"Bev, I lived in that dorm the first year it opened!" I told her. "That was, uh, the year you were born."

That's when I realized it isn't a new dorm to her, it's as old as she is! I remember when my mom picked me up from there to take me to the hospital to see newborn baby Bev.

How could I be so old?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

You know its hot when... look forward to summer showers that cool it off to 94. Hey, that's almost 10 degrees, folks!

Friday, August 15, 2008

End of an Era

I said good-bye to a friend and co-worker today. Kareen was one of my favorite technicians to work with when I started at my current clinic, back when I had just one baby and she was pregnant with her son. I loved working with her because she was so efficient, one of those assistants who puts the thing you wanted in your hand before you could even ask for it. I also loved her no-nonsense attitude and incredible work drive.

For years we did surgery day together on Thursdays, chatting while working about things like breastfeeding, diapers, and circumcision. They called it "Maternity Thursdays," and our single male co-workers cringed.

Kareen was ambitious and wanted a better life for herself and her son, so she went back to school to become a teacher. She went to school FULL-TIME while also working FULL-TIME and getting promoted to manager. Somehow, she did all this and never stopped spending quality with her son, and took him to numerous enriching activities (T-ball, karate, swim lessons, and personal field trips for the two of them). She also trained for a triathlon. I don't know where she gets her energy.

Truthfully, the last few years I've been working less with Kareen, since her school schedule often made her days off the days I was on, and she's been moved more to special work projects. It kind of helped me wean off of depending on her. Still, I always looked forward to the days she did share my schedule, when we could get a brief catch up.

This fall she starts student teaching. Typically, she planned ahead, saving salary and paying off her car ahead of schedule. I am so excited for her to get to started her dream career, a job where she will be off when her son is, too. I know we'll still see each other, but it will be occasionally, not regularly. Now only one other employee is left from when I first started, almost 6 years ago (right, Dana!?!).

I can't believe how much my life and Kareen's life have changed since we first met. I know she'll be a great teacher (wish my kids could have her), but there is such sadness in my heart.

Maybe now she'll learn to call me by my first name!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Anticipation and Dread

As I tucked Colin in tonight, we participated in our usual goodnight routine: one kiss full on the lips, one kiss blown into each other's mouths (don't ask, its a boy thing), then he gives me two sloppy raspberries, one on each cheek. During our ritual tonight I thought about how excited he is to start kindergarten in less than two weeks...

... and all the viruses that they will soon be sharing with their classmates. :-(

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How to have fun in Austin

Swimming in spring-fed Deep Eddy
Dinner at Hula Hut

Watch the bats emerge from Congress Avenue bridge

Eat Amy's Ice Cream (with your new light saber)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Helping local felines

For the past 2 years our clinic has participated in a city funded program for spaying and neutering feral cats. There are large groups of wild cats in Austin, and the thought is that if they are all sterilized, you can keep a closed colony. If you trap and remove (or kill) all of them, they just get replaced by new strays. (Opponents argue that the feral cats kill way too much wildlife, especially protected bird species. Very true, however, Austin is not a trap-and-kill kind of place.)

We started participating in this program to give back to the community. The surgeries are DEEPLY discounted, and we also perform basic vaccinations and parasite treatment. At the end of the surgery, we "tip" the ear (cut off the top of it). This way a sterilized feral cat can be identified at a distance by his silhouette, without having to actually capture it.

The cats were to be brought in by "trappers," private citizens who were looking out for the cats, and had gotten previous approval by the city. They were to make an appointment and present the cat with a city voucher.

In reality, the program did not run so smoothly. The trappers were often those special kind of "crazy cat people," who did not want seriously sick or injured cats euthanized (as per the guidelines of the program). They wanted to drop off more cats than they had scheduled, or repeatedly scheduled an appointment then no-showed when they couldn't catch the cat.

They also didn't want the ear tipped, as required by the program. "Please don't notch the ear, because this cat is nice, and I might be able to place it in a home," they reasoned. Many of the cats that did manage to get caught for this program were awfully friendly for "feral cats." So basically these people were trying to get free service for friendly strays, not the true feral cats of Austin. Plus, the city took months to reimburse us.

Things got a lot more complicated, and some of the trappers started becoming a drain on our system. None of the people who brought us cats under this program ever became clients. Of course, that is not why we participated, but it did seem we were spending lots of time dealing with the people and their friendly stray animals. The time we gave was not proportionate to the benefit the city and its feral cat population was getting.

We decided to opt out of the program, BUT to still offer the same prices to about three of our own clients who do a lot of cat rescue themselves. These are wonderful clients who spend thousands of dollars annually on their personal pets, and also take care of feral cat populations or foster kittens in their home. These individuals always agree to whatever diagnostic or treatment plans we recommend for their pets, but sometimes take the strays to discount clinics for cost reasons alone. I am so excited to be able to help these people and the needy cats in their homes.

Today I spayed the last cat under the city program. She had been scheduled before we made the decision to stop. She was an adorable calico that had obviously had many litters. She snuggled under my chin as I examined her -- some feral cat! But Friday I will be spaying/neutering 3 foster kittens for one of our most prized clients. I know she will be grateful, and will agree to any other treatments that I might recommend. I can't wait to help her and her kittens.

Monday, August 11, 2008

All this fun is making me tired

Dinner party here last night

4 hours today at the fancy pool

Then, Dinner with friends

Full day at work tomorrow

I'm going to bed...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Local vs. Cheap foods, part 2

What I bought today at the farmers' market:

White Italian eggplants
Tiny cucumbers
Red onions
Berkshire pork
English Cheddar and Bacon Quiche made by Tracy

((Look at what Lisa bought in CO!!))

What I bought at Costco:

Crusty sourdough loaves
Champagne grapes
Havarti from Denmark
Swiss Alps Panorama Cheese (yum!)
Case and a half of Cameron Hughes' new wines

What I made this afternoon:

Homemade homegrown pesto

What I served my children for dinner:

Macaroni and cheese, from a box

(OK, so it was White Cheddar mac n'cheese, and there were fresh crudites on the side of tomato/cucumber/carrot, but yeah, look at me with the processed food when I'm tired. Also, Colin won't eat pesto anymore.)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Cheap vs. Local food

I am pretty depressed about the report I heard driving home on NPR today. It was saying how fast food joints, especially McDonalds, are benefitting from the downturn in the economy. People can't afford to eat as much at casual dining restaurants so they are choosing fast food. Plus, they are less likely to spend as much gas on going to McDonald's since there is likely one close-by.

Also saddened by the sight of my college-educated co-worker, eating Great Value (Wal-mart brand) Reduced Fat Peanut Butter on her apple slices for lunch. I'm sure she was trying to make a nutritious, economical choice. But just how do you make Peanut Butter Reduced Fat? I picked up the jar and the label said, "Ground Peanuts, High Fructose Corn Syrup..." ah, add in a terrible source of pure carbohydrates, and then, "fully hydrogenated soybean oil," a source of fat that proven harmful to your health.

It is sad that in this country food that is higher in calories (and worse for your body) is cheaper and more accessible, especially to people with limited incomes. Tomorrow I'll go to the Farmer's Market and load up on fresh, local produce, but it won't come cheap. I'm OK with that; I'd rather my dollars go directly to the farmers, ones I get to talk to about what they are growing and compare notes on our tomatoes. They are more interested in growing a small harvest without chemicals than sending a large, unblemished crop to the mass distributor. But I realize not everyone can splurge like this, or would even want to make the effort. Not everyone is a foodie, nor do all my friends enjoy my family's dual income.

McDonald's is OK once in a blue moon, but there should be better choices for people. It certainly is cheaper to fix your own, but there should be fresher, less processed choices than the uber-marketed "Reduced Fat Peanut Butter," that someone buys to be healthy that might make them die of arteriosclerosis.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Despite the heat

Here is a sampling of my harvest today. Amazingly, the Porters (big pinky tomatoes) and yellow pears are still producing, and also apparently one hen. Not pictured are the bountiful Juliet tomatoes (big long cherries), bell peppers, and gobs of basil.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

When they say not for felines, they mean it

Although K9 Advantix for Dogs says all over it, "DO NOT PUT ON CATS," sometimes people do it anyway, out of stupidity or laziness or because they are too cheap to get the appropriate product for their cat.

So I saw a cat yesterday who was being watched by the sister of the owner. Her bright brother told her over the phone to put "just a drop" of the K9 Advantix on his cat, and it would be OK.

Cats can't handle the strong permethrins in the Advantix, not even just a drop, and soon the poor cat was twitching uncontrollably, plus she was hyperexcitable. If you just approached her twitchy face, she would rare back, shaking all over.

We immediately gave the cat a bath to remove any remaining product, placed an IV catheter and gave her strong muscle relaxers. The twitching decreased, and she even rubbed against my hand when I stroked her.

I explained to the sister how we were treating the cat, and she said that when the cat started looking bad she tried to wash the area a little. "Then I got on the internet," she said, "I tried to look up home remedies for when you're a dumbass and put advantix on your cat..."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Magnum Opus

Here's what Anthony did in the baking heat this past weekend:

I think it looks so awesome!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Swimming when its 105 F

Colin and I had such a blast at the pool today that we took Anna after her ballet camp was done. It's a really cool pool with water features and two slides. If you aren't tall enough, you can go on the "family slide," with another person who is age 16 or older. There is another curvy slide that only one person can ride at a time, and if you're not tall enough, you can try again next summer.

This was the first year Anna has been tall enough to ride the slides alone. She was so psyched, and also it made things much easier on me. Last year, I had to take turns with them, and so one kid had to sit cross-legged at the end of the pool while I took the other, then they would switch. They even made me ride alone down the curvy slide just for a vicarious thrill.

Anna's face as she completed the slide for the first time was priceless. This made the pool so much easier for me, too. Colin was not to bothered by it - he has gone from the "boy who sinks" to the excellent paddler, but he's not really ready to go it alone. He is confident that when he is seven, he too will get slide privileges. I really treasured him holding my hand all the way from the ladder out of the pool, up the slide steps, and down again. It won't be long until he won't want to be seen with me. Maybe then I can read a book poolside.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

One good thing about this outrageous heat

Boy, the clothes dry quickly on the line at 104 with a slight breeze. Some of the ones I put on the line first are dry by the time I hang the last ones up. They're all dry by the time the next load is done washing, and they all smell FANTASTIC.

Tomorrow's prediction is 106. Anna is going to ballet camp, and Colin and I are going to the pool with friends.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Its hot over here

Another day with temps over 100 here in Austin. I went to work, but poor Anthony labored outside, working on the landscaping. Reportedly, he only peed once.

The chickens are hot but the young ones are still producing - we get one to two eggs per day still. The one I picked up today felt like a little ember in my hand. It must've been freshly laid. I checked its temperature with Anthony's infrared thermometer -- 118. That's almost as hot as I cook them. No wonder spring eggs are better.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Back to Business

That last post took it out of me. But, I am back from vacation, in life and on my blog, so I hope to resume regular posting now. It is interesting the effect this great trip has had on us - I feel a little more "Italian," trying not to stress over the small details of life, trying to not control every aspect but contribute to each moment, each season.

Anna clearly remembers so much of the countries she visited. When we read a book by an English author, she knows where that person is from. Colin asked me yesterday, "Can we get on an airplane and go to Italy again? I want to see Leo and Martino. And go on that zip cord." Anthony is making espresso every day, and bemoaning the persistent, humid heat. It was warm in Italy (highs in the low 90s), but by evening it cooled off enough to eat outside every evening. Here, its still in the mid 90s at 10 pm.

The kids and I are trying to cram as much summer as possible into the remaining days before school starts. We've gone to see some of the Manny's shows, and he even asked the giddy kids on stage for a song. Their mikes were low, but I could definitely hear their happy voices.