Saturday, December 19, 2009

Everybody loves tacos!

Every year we are lucky enough to be invited to a great White Elephant family party.  This was my contribution, and I thought it was perfect:  a bulky set of festively decorated taco accoutrement.  Like who really needs a taco holder?  That only holds 4 tacos?  AND comes with a tortilla warmer.  This is what makes it the perfect white elephant gift.

I did not count on the fact that Colin had been surreptitiously admiring my unwrapped gift on the dining room table.  When his number was called, he STOLE this present from another guest!  He asked me to help him hide it so that no one would steal it from him.  Never fear, no one did.  So I got to take my bulky, festive gift home.

This morning I told Colin, "You know, if we don't use that Taco Set, we can return it, and you can get a gift card to buy whatever you want..."  Luckily for me, he was totally sold on this idea.  He loves gift cards, and got himself a new Bakugon and a notebook.

So much easier to find room for that than the fiesta set!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


We have a great new injectable antibiotic that lasts for 10 days. Its quite pricey for large dogs, but for cats it only costs $10 more than the $25 liquid or pill that you have to give your cat BY MOUTH twice a day. Since cats don't mind shots the way kids do, but really hate that bubblegum flavored liquid, and really abhor a dry pill being shoved down their throats, I haven't had any feline owners decline yet. Worse case scenario, the cat has to come back for a second injection in 10 days.

Today I saw a cranky, painful, febrile kitty with an infected bite wound on her leg. Her owners of course opted for the magic shot. "This only lasts 10 days," I said. "That would be Christmas Day, and we are closed. So if she's not completely better by Christmas Eve, come back that morning for a second injection."

Yikes! 10 days to Christmas! How did that happen?!?

Monday, December 14, 2009


Sorry for the atrocious lack of posting, but my list of holiday projects is long, and then there is still work and school and piano and ballet and you get the idea.

Sunday nights I go to my Bollywood dance class with my friend Susan.  Its a lot of fun and a great workout.  We moved to the 5 o'clock class which is full of older Indian women, then there is Susan (half Japanese, half Indian), and then there is me.   We have a blast.

Five minutes before I walked out the door, Anna begged to come with me, and how could I resist?  Several of the ladies commented that she looked just like me, and with two blonde ponytails and black yoga paints, we really did look alike.  Anna thought it was weird to dance barefoot (such a ballerina) but she followed along.

One of our songs is "Dil Bole Haddipa," from a recent Bollywood film.  It means "My heart goes Haddipa!" and Haddipa is the equivalent of Ole!  Bravo!  Opa!  Halleluia!  As we are dancing our bhangra and sweating up a storm, Anna is laughing and boogying along.  The chorus comes along and she shouts, "HADDIPA!" right with the music.  The Indian ladies were so impressed.  "Did she really sing along with the song?" they asked.  Yes, she did!  That is my beautiful, irrepressible Anna!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Welcome Bonnie

If you haven't read the post below titled "Spencer," scroll down and read that first.

Incredibly, the day after my MIL Marion lost Spencer, a friend of hers called out of the blue.  "Would you be interested in having another sheltie?  I have an elderly friend who is moving in with her son.  He is allergic to dogs so she can't keep her."  The woman had not heard about Spencer, but her timing was good.

Soon Marion was driving to meet "Bonnie," although she told me she felt a little guilty after just losing Spence.  I told her not to be, because even if he had not died, I'm sure she would have taken Bonnie in.  For some people, getting another dog right away helps the healing process; others need a lot more time.  Marion needed another dog.

She is an older dog but looks like a puppy because she got a haircut.  Marion cannot understand why anyone would cut a sheltie's beautiful coat, but it will grow back.  They have already been for lots of walks, and Bonnie follows Marion everywhere.  "Looks like we have a little sweetheart," she says.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


I'm all tired out from having too much fun again... Anna and I returned late last night from Houston, where we traveled for my sister Steph's annual Ladies Christmas Tea.  It is a giddy excuse to get all dressed up and celebrate the season with the girls.   Anna adores it, and this was my niece Paige's first year to attend.  Emily flew in for 24 hours from NYC.  I just wish Stephanie could dress me, and do my hair and make up for all my events.

As we drove down in the rain on Tuesday, and I turned on the President's speech.  I told Anna, "President Obama is giving this speech at West Point, where (my cousin) Robert goes to school.  He's actually there, seeing and hearing him live."

Anna said, "Oh, wow!  I wish he would come speak at T. Elementary (her school).  Wouldn't that be grand?"

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Dogs get their prime socialization between 8 weeks and 16 weeks.  This is the time they need to be exposed to as many new situations as possible - young children, cats, cars, parks, cows, etc.  After this window closes, they may never be comfortable with new situations.  Stick them in the back yard this entire time, and they will become fearful and unconfident.

Once there was a beautiful shetland sheepdog puppy named Spencer.  He was first owned by a college student, who did not have much money or time.  To save money, he didn't buy a crate or kennel; he got a wooden box with some air holes in the top.  Since he was studying all the time, he didn't spend much time with his new puppy.  He left him in the box nearly all the day long.  Once the dog was grown, the student realized he didn't have the resources to care for this dog, so he took him to Dallas Sheltie Rescue.

Shelties are herding dogs.  Their job is to watch for danger, and warn when something is wrong.  They have tons of energy so that they can chase after sheep all day through the hills.  Take a dog like this, hard wired for attentiveness and exuberance, then restrain them in a sensory deprivation tank during their formative years, and you have a recipe for a nervous, unsocialized, anxious dog.

Spencer was returned from his first home back to sheltie rescue.  My mother-in-law, Marion, was contacted because she had successfully homed one of their other dogs.  She was skeptical, but she gave Spencer a chance.

He was a very nervous dog.  Impossible to walk on a leash because he was afraid of the wind blowing the grass.  Terrified by mailboxes and garbage cans.  Skittish around other dogs.

In fact, he didn't know how to talk to other dogs.  He got into a big fight twice with our old mellow Terlingua, and bit his housemate Fox so badly he needed stitches under his eye.  Both dogs were by far his senior, and he should have known better.

When he stayed at my house for "boarding," I soon learned I had to "kick" him off of the covered patio in the morning to make him go pee, or else he would anoint my kitchen with his urine.  I'm sure he had agoraphobia, because I'd shoo him off the porch and he'd bunny hop to the big oak tree, huddle under it panting, then he'd pee, and bee-line back to the safety of the indoors.

Eventually, Spencer did get accustomed to life in his new household.  The loved being petted by Marion, and he enjoyed playing with her grandchildren.   He loved wrestling with Fox.  He liked the routine of family life.  He still always gave an alarming shrieking yap every time the phone rang.  The open wire kennel had to be put away or he'd spend all day huddled in it.  He never, ever, learned to walk, even though he was patiently taken many times by patient Uncle Volker.

He did get brave enough to walk to the mailbox, and he loved to walk to the car when Marion was bringing in the groceries.  He'd happily sniff everything and follow her back and forth from the car to the refrigerator.  But he'd never leave the safety of the driveway.

That's what old Spencer was doing today, following Marion in with her groceries, when a large red truck came barreling down the alley.  The sound of it startled Spencer, and its front wheel clipped him, and its back wheel crushed him.  The truck sped down the alley, never stopping.

Marion called me after to tell me that Spencer had died, and I still can't believe it.  This poor, long suffering dog did not deserve to die this way.  It was almost as if his fear of the big, fast moving world came true.

We had been talking about getting Marion a new dog, and now she is left without any furry "little guy."  So I am trolling the internet, looking for the right dog (or two) for her.  It is tragic and shameful how many dogs are looking for a new home, for good reasons (foreclosure, death of the owner) but mostly bad (new baby, no time, just plain abandonment).  If there is anything good that comes from Spencer's loss, it is that another dog will get a second chance, just like he did.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Yesterday Colin and I made a pumpkin pie from scratch, even roasting the pumpkin and everything.  That was the last thing that my oven baked.  Late last night I was going to pre-roast some veggies, but the oven wouldn't get warm.  Anthony determined that the igniter was out, should be easy to replace.  However, no one would be open at 10:30 pm to sell us one, and certainly no one would be open on the holiday.  I was so tired and tried not to sink into despair.  Emily remembered that my nifty microwave also has a convection oven feature, and I thought, I can do this.

It all turned out great.  I was very thankful for the precooked smokey Greenburg turkey.  It took a while to rotate the roast veggies, stuffing, and then roast potatoes.  The broiler in the oven still worked, so we reheated the meat on the bottom of the oven with the broiler on.

We had:

Greenburg turkey
Ham (Colin ate SIX BIG slices)
Gravy with cream and herbs
Alice Water's mushroom stuffing
Roasted sweet potatoes and acorn squash
Green salad with arugula and tomatoes from the garden
Cranberry Orange relish (new and improved)
Roasted rosemary potatoes
Colin's pumpkin pie
Henley's pecan pie
Italian carrot cake
Chocolate cheesecake
3 types of Pinot Noir

I always make my stuffing/dressing with mushrooms and herbs, and was excited to find Alice Water's version, similar to what I've attempted.  Instead of broth, though, she uses milk, which made it like mushroom bread pudding.  AND I used my truffle salt that I got in San Francisco, and that made all the difference!

I love how much my kids have come to love this holiday, full of food and family and gratitude.  Colin said, as he returned to the table with a plate of seconds, "Thanksgiving is AWESOME!"  Bring on Christmas!

Monday, November 23, 2009


OK, I fell off the PoMo wagon.  We've had multiple house guests, parties to host, home improvement projects, as well as all the usual activities.

I am slightly sad not to have made my commitment this year, but please know it is because I am having WAY too much fun.  And this is just the start of the crazy holiday rollercoaster!  Hopefully, I'll come up for air occasionally between now and New Years!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaBloPoMo Haiku

Fran's farewell party
Third time's a charm, still so fun
Prosecco goes POP!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lame Day 20 post

Tired from work
Tired of cleaning the kitchen (and Anthony does it a LOT)
Tired of NaBloPoMo

Excited about Emily coming tomorrow
Excited about (farewell) party for Fran
Excited about new paint
Excited about Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Hour

I usually end my appointments with some sort of query to make sure we've covered everything -- do you have any more questions for me?  anything else before I walk you up front?  see you in a week for your recheck!  --something along these lines.

Today I ended my second to last appointment with, "Is there anything else you need?" since I just answered a bunch of questions and did some refills.

The cat owner sighed, and said, "Well, I really need a margarita..."

Sorry, you'll have to go down the street for that!  Ha!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The gift that keeps on giving.

So my wonderful mother watched my children while I was gone AND cleaned my house.  There was a time this would have embarrassed me, but now I just feel gratitude.  She also changed all the sheets and did all the laundry.  Today being Wednesday, the day I usually make a feeble attempt to clean and straighten the house, I suddenly found myself with all this freedom.  It was great to just relax with houseguests (Lindsey and Fran), then do some food shopping and cooking, before the kids came home for their usual Wednesday after school activities.

I am thinking I really need to find a maid service!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Who's on Primo?

Colin says to Fran: How do you say 'no' in Spanish?

Fran: No

Colin: No

Fran: No

Colin: What?

Fran: Que?

Colin: What?

Fran: Que is what in Spanish

Colin: No, I mean no

Fran: No

Colin: What?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Home again

The end of the vacation always sucks.

Flying from West to East sucks.

But coming home to two little kids, jumping up and down like cheerleaders, arms waving, voices shouting, happy hugs -- totally worth it!

Special thanks to my mom for making this mini-vacation possible - in more ways than one!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend in brief


Sleep in!
Lots of walking
Farmer's Market
Wine and Cheese tasting
L'osteria del Forno for dinner (our long time fave in North Beach)


Sleep in! (again!)
Rent bikes
Golden Gate park
Golden Gate Bridge via bike
Blue & Gold Ferry
Sea lions!
Martinis at the hotel restaurant bar
Thai food (someone at the bike shop told us about a local Thai dive.  We ordered FOUR entrees.  There were so many good things on the menu, we wanted to try them all!  Plus, we'd skipped lunch.  And, we biked for 6 hours today!  We ate 75% of all the dishes.  It was SO GOOD but the best was the green curry.  And, $40 for 4 entrees and 2 beers, in SF.  Nice end to a long weekend.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Oh what a night

I have to tell you about our excellent meal last night: I had heard buzz about Flour + Water from people like Ruth Reichl, so I had to check it out.  The restaurant is small and warm, lots of earth tones and candles, and lots of shared tables.  The wine list is nearly all Italian.  We started with a margarita pizza with arugula.  The crust of this pizza was transcendent.  Thin, crispy, chewy, and dotted with scorched bubbles, steaming from the woodfired oven, gently wilting the fresh arugula on top.  I had been to the bathroom and could smell the pizza as I approached the table from 10 feet away!  Then we split the papparadelle pasta, which came with a wonderful ragu with tiny bits of pork shoulder as tender as jelly.  The housemade pasta was so good, perfect in texture and flavor; it really could stand on its own.  We were seated close to the semi-open kitchen, and I loved watching the chefs calmly churn out dish after dish, sharing tasting spoons of the entrees before they plated them up.  The only hiccup was that the side of oven roasted yams came long after our entree was finished, but that was OK since I was happy to eat them as dessert!  Tiny orange cubes, browned corners, anointed in brown butter, sage, salt, and parmegiano reggiano kept my belly warm for our walk to the concert.

Pomplamoose apparently booked this show months ago, before they achieved cult status on YouTube.  The little cafe was already packed to the gills - standing room only, no one else getting in - nearly 2 hours before they were set to go on.  We managed to belly up to some of the cafe windows, and actually this turned out to be a primo spot - we had a direct view of the stage, and they opened some of the windows so we could hear pretty well.  I don't like the deafening aspect of live music anyway, and there is no way my short self could have seen much being inside.

They had a great drummer with them, and the show was excellent - high energy level, amazing keyboarding, solid vocals.  I did miss all the harmonies that you get on the videosongs.  In person Jack is even more crazy and caught up in the music - his whole body jiggles, and he could not stop rapidly jumping up on his teeny tiny stool to egg on the crowd, then slamming back down to manically play the keys.  And Nataly is even more his foil: calm, introspective, strumming her bass and effortlessly singing.  Jack was so wild and sweaty at one point he even took of his pants and remained that way the rest of the evening. (he did have boxers on)  We met them briefly afterwards, and they were of course gracious and joyful, just like they are on their videos.

While they were clearly overwhelmed by the turnout to their show, we were not surprised.  Their last show only had about 40 audience members.  No doubt their next will be even larger, and not free.

We wished we could have had Anna and Colin there (since they are huge fans), but we doubt they could have lasted for this late show, especially with the time change.  Also it would have been so hard for them to see, although maybe two little people could worm their way to the front.

One last note -- Nataly announced their last song, and then said well, we have actually one more, but it would be too difficult in the crowded cafe to leave and come back for an encore, so they were going to go ahead and play the last two songs, but then that was really it, OK?  Ah, so refreshing!

Friday, November 13, 2009

If you're going to San Francisco...

After a traveling day where we really had to roll with the punches, we are happily in beautiful SF.  Eating now at Flour + Water, later Pomplamoose!  Details to come...

Sent from my wireless device

Thursday, November 12, 2009

You've been a great audience! Goodnight!

Regina was awesome.  She sounded so good.  She played with a full band, by herself on piano, by herself with guitar, a capella, and it was all captivating.  I still can't get over how she can play piano with one hand, drums with the other (OK, it was just a chair but she did have a drumstick), and sing full voice and on pitch.  She did pull that ruse where she thanked us profusely and sincerely, and said this would be the last song, when she hadn't even played some of her most popular stuff.  So after the crowd cheered, she came back on and played another five songs.  I totally enjoyed those songs, and then she thanked us again and exited, and the lights immediately came on, and the background music, so you knew there wouldn't be any more, and we left.

But why do they even do that?  Act like they are done for the night, just so you will beg them for more songs, which they have prepared, just in case you insist?  Regina was so warm to the crowd, and seemed so genuinely touched by all the applause and shouts after her songs - why play the game?  Anyway, totally great performance, amazing voice and musicianship, every one of the songs written by her.

Now, back to packing packing packing.  Leaving for San Francisco in the morning!  The song they played after the lights came on last night was EW&F's September.  Nice premonition for Pomplamoose!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I hear in my mind, all of this music...

I can't believe how lucky I am -- tonight I am going to hear Regina Spektor!!!  Fran is coming with me, and Anthony is holding down the fort. THEN, on Friday Anthony and I are getting away for the weekend.  We are going to one of our favorite cities, San Francisco, where we are going to hear Pomplamoose!!!

I don't go to that many concerts, and now two in three days... my brain might explode.

Sent from my wireless device

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I find the crunch of acorns underfoot very satisfying. But not the crunch of snails. After the summer from HELL we've had a very wet fall. There are gastropods all over the sidewalks and it is impossible to miss them all. Too often the snails meet suddenly with death with an audible, sickening crunch.

For a while we had a small accumulation of dead leaves two paces from our doorstep. We squashed a few snails, then more would come to consume their dead brethren, then they would get squashed, too.

Today there was a snail on a leaf on my windshield. The window was also foggy, so I turned on my wipers, flicking the snail-leaf combo to the ground before I backed out. Or so I thought. By the time I reached the freeway, the snail started hauling his long body and house across my windshield again. The first part of my drive is low velocity from all the traffic, and I watched his undulating efforts. Past a certain exit things accelerate, and as I drove 40, 50 miles an hour, the wind pulled the snails shell away from his body. He pulled his antennae in, hunkered down, and clung to my windshield.

At 60 mph, he suddenly detached. Involuntarily, I said, "Oh!" and tried to see him in my rearview mirror. I'm sure he was flattened by one of the many cars behind me. Oh well. I don't love the snails, but I don't like watching or hearing their demise.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Full Plate

I am tired today after a full day. I had 3 dentals and a spay scheduled, and managed to squeeze in a C-section. Yay! Those are always fun, especially when the delivered puppies are healthy. My afternoon was busy, too, mostly because I had two 5 o'clock appointments due to a small scheduling hiccup. One of them was a truly crazy owner who had to tell me all her crazy theories about what was wrong with her dog. He's a collie who used to weigh 65 lbs and now weighs 118 -- but he doesn't overeat! It's all because of the steroids he took in May! Listening to people like that is wearisome. The other 5 o'clock was a truly crazy lab with a comminuted fracture of her toe. She resisted the first two doses of sedative I gave her and needed a third just to get the splint on her. I'm sure she'll be back for a rebandaging of her splint before the scheduled 1 week check up.

I hope you guys are enjoying the synopsis of my day, because you'd have never heard it if not for NaBloPoMo!

Sunday, November 08, 2009


I love the way Colin talks, and I know a lot of his quirks will be fading fast. When he reads to us, he still over-pronounces the past tense of words. Looked becomes "look-ted," and there is "jump-ted," and "climb-ded," etc.

Also, for some unknown reason, he has always said "exturb," instead of disturb. Like, "Anna, you're exturbing me!" She always corrects him, but exturb persists. One morning I even heard, "I sense an exturbance in the force..."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Old age is not a disease

At work today I saw a 15 year old golden retriever that I've been seeing for a few years. About 18 months ago I told the owner that her spleen was enlarged. This usually means a tumor, could be benign or not. I recommended an ultrasound to further evaluate the spleen, then a big surgery to remove the spleen. I spent a long time explaining this to the owner in person and later on the phone. Eventually she called me and said she was going to try a treatment a friend recommended to her, cottage cheese and flax seed oil.

Seriously? For a tumor in the spleen? I know my plan was expensive, and if you can't afford it that is really okay. But don't fool yourself with this treatment.

Fast forward to today. Apparently the tumor is not malignant, because the patient is still alive and happy. Only now the tumor is enormous. The dog has a pot-bellied appearance and his back is hunched to accomodate the tumor. "He may be uncomfortable, but I don't think he is in pain," I said. "Of course, the tumor could burst at any time, and that would be an emergency." Probably it would kill him.

"Well, I'm really just relying on you to guide me here," the owner told me.

Inside I think, "Are you joking?!?" but in reality I say, "I still recommend an ultrasound and full bloodwork to evaluate him, then removing the spleen if we don't find anything else."

She looked at me, shocked, and said, "But I thought you said he was too old for the surgery."

I said, "No, I said we'd do an ultrasound first to see if he was a good candidate. We do surgery all the time on older patients." She then requested estimates, and I gave them to her.

I hope that she will consider my plan. I think she loves her dog, but she is not very savvy when it comes to making medical decisions for him. Sometimes I think people like this don't deserve golden retrievers that live to be 15.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Look at the cute visitors I had at work today!

My sister's family picked up their new Viszla puppy in Austin today, and I got the first viewing. She is so precious! Her name is Vindaloo, or LouLou for short. We left her at my clinic and went and ate Indian food to celebrate. When we came back she was napping, all cuddled up like this:

When she woke up she looked at me with her gorgeous green eyes!

I am hoping they had a safe, uneventful trip home and have a quiet night tonight.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ft. Hood, Texas

After my first job as a vet ended, I worked for a while as a civilian contractor at the Ft. Hood Veterinary Treatment Facility.  After 14 months of being overworked and underpaid, this job was a respite.  The clinic saw pets owned by military families.  We offered basic preventative and outpatient care only.  I got to do lots of spays and neuters on the animals adopted from their shelter.  Occasionally I saw a few of the only remaining cavalry horses, kept at Ft Hood for ceremonies.  We started at 8:30 and ended at 3:30.

It gave me a deep perspective on military life, working with the people in the Army at the VTF.  They really give up so much of their personal life to serve.  Most of the decisions about their lives are made by the Army.  I saw the dynamic between enlisted and officers.  I saw how it wasn't just the soldier in the army, it was the whole family.  I saw how quickly these people bonded to each other, since they all shared the same military lifestyle, and no one stayed at any one post for too long.

I met people from all over the United States, plunked down at this huge facility between the plains and the hill country in Texas.  It did seem that small towns were over-represented.  These small town folk had lived in places like Germany, Hawaii, and Korea.

This was the time was between the Gulf War and the Iraq War.  It was peacetime, but the Gulf War was still in short-term memory, and these soldiers knew the dangers of their jobs.  There were lots of helicopter pilots and tank drivers.

Ft Hood is really huge - bigger than some counties in Texas, perfect for maneuvers and war games.  It was so big it was one of the few military bases you could enter without going through a mandatory check point, although I did have a military ID and badge.

After a few years, the nice captain in charge of the Veterinary Treatment Facility left, and her replacement was simply awful.  I was ready for a more challenging job, and a good opportunity came up in Austin where we had moved.  I was sad to say goodbye, but it was time, and a lot of my friends were already gone anyway.

I was thinking of these people as I drove home today, hearing about the mass shooting that happened this afternoon.  If I had been working at the VTF today, I probably would have been held there in the "lock down." I know these soldiers are under so much stress, but I can't fathom how one would turn on his comrades, especially one who is supposed to help them with this kind of stress.  The military life was not for me, but I have a lot of respect for those who chose it.  I am crying inside for them today.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Anna could not get her nose out of a book yesterday. I had to tell her things repeatedly. She'd look up at me like she was coming up from underwater.

I understand. I was exactly the same way at her age (just ask my mother). But then every time I'd ask her to go in her room and do something, 10 minutes later I'd go in the and find her in her book again, tasks not done. Eventually she got overtired and overwhelmed, and I had to take charge and put her to bed. I tried to explain to her that you have to do your tasks first, then reward yourself with your reading. If I read all day like I want to, I'd never make dinner, do laundry, or do any of the things I need to do.

Today I did all my chores and pre-made dinner before the kids got home. Shortly after they get home, we have to go to gymnastics then piano. We don't get home until our usual dinner time, so its good to have everything done ahead of time. While they are doing their activities, I indulge in a little reading time of my own - usually my only chance all day. Only today, when it was time to leave, I couldn't find my book anywhere. I wanted to cry. Tick, tock, time to get in the car, and still no book. I was trying not to freak out, but I was pretty upset. Anna said sympathetically, "Want to read one of my books?"

Sadly, its still MIA.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

What I missed Halloween Weekend

Anna was Padme Amidala, heart and soul.

With cousins, Henley and Rian.

Colin was Boba Fett.

With pal, Katherine.

Sorting the loot.
Thanks for the great pictures, Anthony.  I actually sneaked a peek at them on my smart phone during the keynote address Saturday night!

Monday, November 02, 2009

More on the Dental Forum

Ah, the Dental Forum. Three days of getting jazzed up about vet dentistry by people who are totally obsessed with it. They put my passion to shame. My friend and technician, Luis, traveled with me, and I could see him getting the bug, too.

In addition to many many lectures, I did a wet lab on fracture repair. I love these! We took a plastic model of a mandible with a nice clean fracture like this:

Then practiced wiring and placing acrylic splints on it, over and over. Isn't this cool?:

I explained to Anthony that the wires would actually go in the soft tissue/gingiva between and circling around the teeth, anchoring them down. He turned green and nearly retched! I think this is so awesome, but he can't even watch me do oral surgery. I can't wait for the next patient hit by a car or kicked by a cow so that I can all the king's horses/all the king's men/put him back together again. I realize this urge is not normal, kinda like the surgeons on Grey's Anatomy are always itching for a major trauma. Looking around the conference, I realized veterinary dentists have this peculiar desire, however have really bad hair, unlike TV. (Also I am thinking I should start telling people I am interested in veterinary oral surgery, not veterinary dentistry, since I do far more surgical procedures than cleaning/cavity filling, and ALL my patients are under anesthesia.)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Here we go again

I haven't posted much lately. I was gone most of last week, getting motivated and informed at the annual Veterinary Dental Forum. I love this conference. However, this year I HATED the timing -- over Halloween weekend. I guess most of the planners are older vets who DON'T have children. Children who rank Halloween right up there with Christmas and their birthdays.

After Halloween ends, of course, up comes NaBloPoMo. I have a love/hate relationship with this event. Like the Danskin Triathlon, it keeps me disciplined and in shape (at least it keeps my blog in shape).

So, watch this space for daily updates, at least for the next 30 days.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good as New

After a yucky week at work (long days, more favorite patients lost), we had another busy full weekend. The kids enjoyed a drop-off Halloween party, and the adults enjoyed a wedding party (with much dancing). Anna and Colin both got hugely scraped elbows from falling while scootering. I went on a long, lovely bike ride - I do so love that bike Anthony got for my birthday, it feels like I'm flying, especially on a breezy sunny day - and came back to find that Anna had fallen on the sidewalk again. When she asked her dad to check if her lip was bleeding, he spotted her chipped tooth and said, "OH MY GAWD!" That reaction completely freaked her out and she spend hours agonizing over her broken permanent tooth. It looked like this:

Quite a horrible break, but fortunately not into the pulp of the tooth, which would have been FAR FAR worse. I called our pediatric dentist, and he was able to fix it today with a composite. I have a composite on one of my front incisors where there is a divot in the enamel. What I didn't realize was that because hers went into the dentin and was more sensitive, she was going to get a shot of local anesthetic. Several shots. We did it without the nitrous, and Anna was a brave soldier. 30 minutes later, she looked like this:

This was taken with my phone, so there's not much detail, but he really did a beautiful job! Anna was so pleased and so relieved, she was giddy. And although she had a fat-feeling lip, she was happy to go to ballet afterwards. Such a trooper!

Monday, October 19, 2009


We had a great weekend, thanks in large part to the weather. It was sunny, breezy, lows in the 50s and highs in the low 70s. Summer is long and arduous in Texas, which makes us appreciate fall so much. Anna was remarking on how spring is nice, too, but then you know its just going to get hotter...

So for now, cool crisp fall is upon us, and we celebrated by ending our summer garden. Saturday night I made grilled chicken breasts, marinated in basil, rosemary, and lemon (from a meyer lemon that fell off early). We also had a mixed pepper salad. The kids found one overgrown huge eggplant. We have a wonderful heirloom called Rosa Bianca. It makes grapefruit sized white fruit with streaks of lavender. They are never bitter, always creamy and nutty, but I was worried about this overgrown one. I chopped it up and cooked it in olive oil, garlic, onion, tomato, and basil. Normally I am the only one to eat the eggplants, but Anna spied that stew and said, "That looks delicious!" It was one of the best eggplants this year. She and I devoured it all.

Sunday, we were all in the garden, pulling out the old tomatoes and 2/3 of the basil - with the rain its gone crazy, with huge, dimpled leaves. However, its choking out the thyme and oregano, and we need room for the fall plants. I picked only the most perfect leaves from the bushes that we culled... and ended up with 2 large bowls of leaves. Hard to believe there is still a ton left in the ground. At least now the broccoli, cabbage, and lettuces can finally take root.

Of course I had to make a massive batch of pesto with all that basil, which Anthony and I slurped down after the kids went to bed. Ah, the true end of summer 2009... can't say I'm sad to see you go, especially with all that pesto in my freezer. Still, sad to think I won't have another sublime tomato or eggplant until next hell season.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Won the battle, lost the war

Where did this week go? Crammed full, as usual. Long days at work, lots to do at home. Wednesday I did have some fun, going to Ikea and out to lunch with a girlfriend. It was a nice respite before gymnastics/piano/dinner/homework/bedtime/work again.

I have an old patient who I've been treating for a year now with Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism). This is a super-complicated disease. The patient has to take just enough medication to kill off just enough adrenal gland to make them have normal cortisol production. Not enough, and they are out of control. Too much, and you can destroy the entire adrenal gland and end up with Addison's disease (hypoadrenocorticism) - the opposite disease.

My patient, a sweet geriatric dachsund, was extraordinarily hard to regulate. The test to check the adrenal gland function is expensive ($130) and requires two blood draws over a few hours. I would tweek her medication, then retest in 4 weeks. Tweek again, and retest in 4 weeks. And so on, for nearly a year.

The owner was a dream. She never complained about the frequent visits or the costs. She called me with every slight change in symptoms. Her goal was always to make her pet's life as good as possible.

This week she came in for her adrenal test, but now she had not been eating for nearly 3 days, and had vomited. Was her adrenal gland over suppressed? My patient seemed so depressed. I ordered a full blood panel (another $100) in addition to her usual test.

Amazingly, for the first time her adrenal gland function was normal. I'd hit upon the right combination of drug for her. Unfortunately, her kidneys were in failure. We put her on fluids for 24 hours, but saw minimal improvement. An ultrasound revealed end stage kidneys -- little hope for recovering any function. By now, she hadn't eaten in 5 days.

Her dedicated owners decided to stop treatment and end her suffering. It was a decision I supported. They came in red-faced and sad for her euthanasia. I was crushed, too. After a year of frequent treatment, the staff and I were quite fond of her. I was frustrated that I'd finally got Cushing's disease under control, only to by side-swiped by kidney disease.

The patient was quiet, sweet, and ready to go. The owners said goodbye, and I did, too. As I bent down to her, she licked me on the nose - always before she had been reserved, but I think this time she could see how sad I was, and she was actually trying to comfort me. For the first time, she reached out to me. Her breath was stinky from uremia and dental disease, but those kisses were so sweet and precious.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cruelty Free Bacon Now at Sprouts

Some of you may remember that I avoid conventionally raise pork products. I cannot support raising pigs, animals with the intelligence on par with a dog or 3 year old child, in farrowing crates that don't let the mothers move around. All they can do is stand or lay down; they cannot even turn around. (Having recently been a mother cooped up with a new born, I know that you need your own space!) Also, adults are raised on concrete and therefore cannot wallow in the dirt like their instincts tell them to. So, I've been buying my pork at the farmers' market from Peach Creek Farms. Love their ground pork, chops, and stew meat, but not so much their bacon.

Happily, Pederson's Natural Farms Bacon is Certified Humane by the Humane Farm Animal Care Program. (Its nitrate free, too. And from Hamilton, Texas. That's local to me.) I can buy it at Sprouts, and their eggs are humanely raised, too. Our hens are old and the days are getting shorter, and we're getting about one egg per week. After caring for chickens, I don't want to ever buy eggs from places that put 1000 chickens in a space the size of your guest bathroom, stacked in crates, crammed in on top of each other. My eggs and bacon come from the farmers' market or Sprouts.

Now Anthony wants to know why I don't apply these rules universally to beef, lamb, and poultry raised for meat. Well, a girl has to have her priorities. I prefer grass-fed beef, but its not always practical. I do buy it intermittently from the farmers' market. Also, we eat a lot of Morningstar Farms meat substitute products instead of beef (ie taco meat, chili meat, burgers, etc). We don't buy a lot of lamb, and about half the time I buy it grass fed at the market from Loncito's. Free range chicken and turkey is not very available either, and unheard of at restaurants. And chickens raised for meat don't live (suffer) as long as egg-laying hens.

Many feel we Americans should be eating less meat anyway, certainly not three times a day. We frequently go meatless for dinner at our house: tofu, tacos, pasta, egg-based dinners, etc.

Also, these animals (cattle, lamb, and poultry) are not on the same intelligence level as pigs. I feel that the pigs do suffer more. So I am happy to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Change of heart

I got a request to refill a medication on a dog we haven't seen for two years. Legally, they must be seen within the last year to fulfill to maintain the doctor-patient-client relationship, so I refused. The dog showed up in the afternoon for an appointment, also overdue for vaccines and heartworm testing.

The dog was nice enough, although nervous and unruly. "She drives me crazy," the owner said. "She can't be around other dogs, so I can't take her on walks, because what if she sees another dog? And she goes nuts when my parents' dogs come to visit. So she doesn't go anywhere but the house and the backyard." I mentioned the dog was overweight, and she said, "Well, that's because she doesn't get any exercise. But I can't take her anywhere. She drives me crazy. And look at this shedding." I tried to let all the complaints about her dog roll of my back. She even complained about fitting the cost of the appointment into her budget. At least she wasn't complaining about having to make the appointment.

At the end of my exam, I said, "Unfortunately, her heartworm test came up positive." "What?" the owner said, "I can't believe it!" She got very quiet. I talked about the process for treating the worms, starting with chest Xrays and labtests, ending with a series of intramuscular injections. It is expensive, especially for such a big dog. "I'm so stunned," she said. Well, we weren't; her dog had been off preventative for over a year. We don't prescribe it just for fun in Texas. Even at my high-compliance practice, we treat about one dog per week. I offered to get started today, or we could schedule in the future if she couldn't afford to start now. "No, I'll have to reschedule. But I'll definitely save up. I don't want her to die! I just can't believe this."

Funny how she changed her tune, but I'm glad to know she really does care about her dog.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

All knowing

So work for me was DEAD on Tuesday. Again, denied the moderation that I crave!

We had parent-teacher conferences this week. We found out Colin is reading above grade level (a pleasant surprise) and that he is doing well with his coursework but having a hard time keeping his hands to himself (not a surprise).

Anna's conference was very enlightening. She came along -- I was worried about this, but she insisted, and it ended up being a great parent-teacher-student meeting. Anthony was there, too, via speaker phone. After the usual "she's so great, and nice, and responsible, and smiles all the time," we cleared up some misunderstandings about problems that were marked wrong when we thought they were right (they were actually corrected after grading). We also discussed how Anna needs to pick more challenging books, and her teacher agreed and explained to both of us what books she needs to pick and how she can move up on AR. Lastly, her teacher also told us that although she gets all her work done in time, she is drawing and coloring during most of the lesson and work time. If she would get her work done first, she could work on fun, challenging projects the REST OF THE WEEK but instead is frittering her time away. I understand that she is both bored and very creative, so it was so helpful to have this discussed all together. Now we all know she needs to get 3rd grade work done first, then move on.

We have the pleasure of my Chilean friend Fran's company again this week. She is studying to take the US veterinary exams, and while she was taking an online review of equine diseases I premade an enchilada casserole to eat after gymnastics and piano lessons. When I pulled it complete out of the oven, she said in surprise, "When did you make that?"

Anna sighed, and knowingly said, "Fran, you miss a lot, don't you?"

As they say in Chile, "Ja ja ja ja ja!"

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Things at my clinic were dreadfully slow in July and August. Summer is usually our busy season; blame the recession. It picked up in September, but like this: crazy gulping down your lunch busy one day, twiddling your thumbs dead the next. Personally, I prefer moderation in all things. Or better yet, a busy morning, then coasting through an easy afternoon until quitting time.

Last week for me was busy morning and afternoon. I had big dental procedures in the morning. Tuesday night brought a cat with major head trauma from being hit by a car 20 minutes before "closing." We stayed late (of course) to stabilize her and send her to the emergency clinic. Later I found out she died there at 3 am. Thursday ended with a euthanasia, a poor cat with an ear tumor so painful all she could do was lay on her side and howl. I felt so bad for her, I gave her a morphine shot before I euthanized her. That totally backfired on me, since it made her vomit violently right before I dispatched her. Not what I had in mind for her last moments.

Friday was the worst, though. The day ended with me going to do a home euthanasia. One of my friends, a former technician at my work, asked me to help her friend. Thank goodness she came along to help me. With the unexpected traffic it took 45 minutes to get to the house. I met the owner and the dog, emaciated with liver cancer but sweet and friendly. I could tell within moments of meeting them that she was as attatched to her dog as I was to mine, and feeling as much turmoil as I did when I had to euthanize Terlingua and Montana. We discussed her reservations, then they went outside for a walk and to say goodbye. You just can't rush these things - its her last moment with her dog. Finally the deed was done, smoothly and peacefully and tragically, then we loaded the dog up and made the long journey back to the clinic. We arrived way past closing, and I still had to make a clay pawprint (to give the owner later), put him in "the morgue," log the drugs, call back the owners who picked up patients while I was gone...

I got home hours late, much to the consternation of my children. And then had to work on Saturday and stay late, to help out a client who works on Saturdays until noon, like me. Here's hoping to an easier week this go-around, especially since Anthony will be out of town.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

EMC's Mad Men

Did you see this?

Perfect, love the opening especially, but they forgot the multiple scotches!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Swine Flu - not all its cracked up to be

So last week both kids got sick and we eventually diagnosed with Type A influenza. Type A includes the seasonal flu and H1N1. There have been no confirmed cases of seasonal flu in Austin (and Colin was vaccinated). There have been confirmed cases of H1N1 in Austin, and although the CDC is not testing all suspected cases, that is the presumption: they had H1N1.

Colin missed a week of school, and Anna missed all but one day. Basically they had high undulating fever, congested noses, and Anna vomited. We treated them with ibuprofen, sudafed, saline, and gobs of TV.

Anthony and I so far have not gotten sick, though we have certainly been exposed. We also inadvertently exposed my visiting friend Fran, and our heroic babysitter Wesley (they're not sick either). Perhaps we've been exposed to a similar virus before. In any case, the swine flu is no longer as virulent as once feared. Hard to believe our school was closed for 2 days last May for a possible case, later confirmed not to be swine flu. Now, one in four were out in Anna's class, and one in three were out in Colin's, surely with the very same dreaded disease.

I was very happy to send them back to school today, although they were drowsy and dragging, since during their recuperation we let them sleep in as long as possible every morning. They came home with lots of make-up work, which is very tedious for Colin but is inducing some anxiety in Anna ("What if I don't get it all done? What if I get a bad report card?")

Staying in, cooking and cleaning for this lot, does make one weary. The good news is we won't have to line up for the swine flu vaccine - available by injection only, and requiring a booster! Also: no fish died!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Anna had a little friend stop by today. Her dad asked if she could play at our house while he went on a bike ride. "We are about to leave to go buy new ballet shoes, but she can stay a little while." He said he'd be back in 30 minutes.

While I was outside hanging a load of laundry, both Anna and Colin called me, "Mommy you need to come in right now!!!" Anna's friend had dumped half of the fish food into her tank.

This is potentially disastrous. It can cause nitrogen levels to rise and can kill fish. Anna was horrified, because she knew this had happened to another family we know. I got the net out and started scooping as much food out as I could, but it was flake food and dispersed pretty quickly. I rinsed out the filter and did a water change.

During this time the friend was no where to be found. She hid from us, and when Colin found her, she said she was going to leave and go home. "Don't go home! You need to wait until your dad gets here," I shouted her, since I couldn't see her.

Finally dad showed up. "We had a little problem. She spilled half of the fish food in Anna's tank." I told him.

"Huh," he said. "What kind of tank do you have? Yeah, I lost a whole bunch of fish when her little brother added soap to my tank a few years ago." Then he launched into a long description of his tank and problems he's had. Meanwhile his daughter snuck out behind me, jumped on her bike, and headed home. Finally I said, "We've got to go to the store!" and he said, "OK, well, do you want me to buy you a new filter or pay for more fish or something?"

Uh, no, but an apology would go a long way, dude! Or, how about talk to your daughter about how to behave when you go to someone else's house, or what to do when you make a mistake. It was certainly a long topic at our dinner table tonight!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mini Me

Anna burst into tears when I picked her up from school Monday because her throat hurt so badly. When I asked her why she didn't ask to go see the school nurse, she said, "There wasn't time. I wanted to get all my work done!"

I was able to get her into the pediatrician's office, and her strep test was negative - yea! But that means its a virus; nothing to do but wait it out. Her throat hurt worse on Tuesday morning, and soon she was weepy at the thought of going to school. Since Anthony was out of town, there was only one choice... go to work with me.

This isn't such a bad option. First of all, my work is pretty friendly to this situation. Its easier to deal with a kid than to cover an entire missing doctor's schedule. If she wasn't febrile, she wasn't contagious (according to the ped's office). Plus, Anna is very self sufficient. She packed herself a bag of notebooks, chapter books, and a DVD while I walked Colin to the bus stop.

Most of the time, though, Anna watched me in surgery. I'd be happy if she stayed at my desk and took it easy, but she kept asking what she could do to help. She held a lip out of the way while I pulled some teeth, cut a few sutures after I tied them, put lube in an anesthetized cat's eye, and comforted animals a lot. While my technician Luis was recovering a patient, she plopped down of the floor next to him and lounged in the cage, helping monitor the golden retriever's recovery. She was a little grossed out by rectal temperatures, anal glands, and blood in general, but overall she amazes me.

On the drive home she was pretty tired, and in the evening whining a lot about her painful throat. She stayed at home with me again today (I was off), but tomorrow I think it will be back to 3rd grade learning.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jiggered - Women's Adventure Race

There reason I went to the coast was to teach other vets how to take dental Xrays in a wet lab. It was great fun, but it's a little harder to be on the teaching side of one of these gigs. I enjoyed watching several of the vets get inspired. Hopefully some of them will have dental Xrays at their clinic soon.

The heat and the drought finally did break. We've had days of drizzle and overcast clouds. I feel genetically predisposed to love this kind of weather, but everyone here seems to appreciate the cooler, wetter weather. Viva la difference!

However, it did make for very MUDDY conditions at the annual Women's Adventure Race. This is the 3rd year Anna and I have participated. Costumes are encouraged; Anna decided she would be Padme Amidala (also her Halloween costume) and I could be Princess Leia. This makes her my "mom!"

Here we are after the race, just as enthusiastic, but more disheveled!

Thanks for the photos, Triona!

Friday, September 11, 2009

I'm back

Just arrived home from the coast, drove nearly five hours in rain and traffic.


More later.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Back to School

We had a nice, quiet Labor Day weekend, staying home and letting the kids relax after a long week at school. The transition out of summer vacation is hard on them.

Today, I was SO HAPPY to have them go back to school, so that I didn't have hear, "MOMMY!" every 10-30 minutes.

Also, I was happy to let them go to school and be addressed by the President. I am still floored that people are so afraid of Obama that they don't even want their children to hear him. I was no fan of President Bush, but I would not have kept my children home just to shield my children from him. Which is what some of our neighbors did today.

Before I heard of the controversy, I thought Obama's speech would make students feel important, since he was addressing them, and maybe inspire them to take more interest in current events. Today I was glad to hear Laura Bush spoke out in favor of the speech.

Anna's class heard the speech; Colin's did not. What happened at your school?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Farmers' Market Haul

Arranged for me by Anna.

We haven't been to the market much this summer, since I work half the Saturdays, and we were gone other weekends, and for the remaining few, well, I just couldn't bear the heat. I feel bad for the farmers, out there in the heat for hours. I made up for it this weekend by buying LOTS.

French Melon (smells like oranges!)
Crispy, ugly, but delicious pears
Heirloom eggplants
Baby squash (so cute Colin has to have 'em)
Striped zucchini
Large round zucchini
Heirloom garlic

Also purchased but not pictured:

Berkshire pork
Grassfed beef
Round Rock Honey
Texas Olive Ranch EVOO
2 Chelsea buns, 4 scones, and 2 mini quiches from the English baker

Hooray for eating locally!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Big and Small Changes

For those of you sympathetic souls in cooler climes, please know that the weather has abated the past two days. We are a full 10 degrees cooler in our high and low temps. 93 may not sound cool to you, but when you are used to opening your front door and feeling like you walked into a convection oven, opening your door to 93 is like an oasis, a reprieve. In the mornings, it is nothing short of amazing to walk outside and feel like the morning is FRESH, not muggy and pregnant with potential heat.

We went to the pool yesterday and got goosebumps.

When there were no other little boys for Colin to play with today at ballet, I agreed to go outside with him and let him play in the little gazebo in back. In the shade, I didn't even break a sweat!

Speaking of Colin, he had his annual check up today. We discovered he has grown FIVE inches since last year (the nurse measured him twice). At 48 inches, he has broken the 4 foot mark. He is on schedule to become SIX FEET ONE INCHES. As our pediatrician said, "Uh, how tall is your husband?" He's 5'8", and I'm 5'2". Someday Colin will tower over us.

Later I was snuggling with him, and told him, "Can you believe you are going to be so big and tall? I don't want you to grow up!" Colin sagely said, "But Mommy, I will be able to help you do so many things." That, I will look forward to!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Small TK Story

Hearing all the Ted Kennedy remembrances on the radio this morning, I was reminded of the story my high school government teacher told us.

She and her husband visited Washington DC the summer before I took her class. She visited our local representative -- we lived in Midland, Texas; I don't remember who the representative was, but no doubt he was republican and conservative.

My small town teacher was brushed aside by the staff of our representative. There was no way she could even get in to see him. Later that same day, she went by Ted Kennedy's office. He not only met her, he also took her and her husband to lunch. They discussed current events and topics important to her as a teacher. Pictures were taken.

Six months later, in her Midland classroom, most of her students were unimpressed. "He's such a liberal!" they proclaimed, since he did not belong to the only party that one could be elected in our county. But she remained touched that he would take time to listen to her, a person without power, not even in his district.

I think this was part of what made Ted Kennedy so beloved by so many, that he would meet with the small man, someone with no power or political pull, certainly with no lobbyist or PAC. This woman could never vote for him, and this lunch would never amount to much.

But he was a politician. Perhaps he knew that by being kind to this teacher, rebuffed by her own representative, her friends and students would remember his gesture, and maybe retell it. This was how he built his legacy, and how I remembered him today.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Summertime Blues

105 yesterday. At least 102 today. We avoid the outdoors, because even running errands in your car causes one to get hot, sweaty and cranky. The grass is brown, the leaves on the trees are shriveling, and even the mistletoe is wilting.

Today's laundry day. At first I told myself I'd take it easy and just use the dryer. But I hate to waste all that heat and sunshine, and it will dry my clothes faster anyway. I pinned up and took down three loads today. Taking down load #1 and putting up load #2 under the intense zenith sun, I did get a little dizzy from the full-on heat.

Tonight was "Meet the Teacher" night; first day of school tomorrow. We were thrilled to find out some of our favorite friends and neighbors with two kids our kids' age are all assigned to the same two teachers. We decided to take the excited kids to the park, to burn off some energy so that hopefully they will go to sleep early. If you sat still, in the shade, and caught the hint of a breeze, it was almost tolerable. Anna got cranky and tired first, and I was happy to walk her home, where she took a COLD bath. I stuck my dusty feet in to wash off before cooking dinner. It felt great.

So summer vacation ends, but summertime burns long and hot like a supernova here in Central Texas...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

4 generations

On Wednesday I took the kids to Waco to visit my grandmother Dulce and my great aunt Sudie. The people in the last decades of their life were amazed by the little people in the first decade of their lives, and vice versa.

Sudie was amazed by how much Colin could eat. A few hours after eating a large, Southern lunch in the dining room, Colin was hungry again (Grandma gave him peanut butter and crackers). I reminded Sudie that about an hour before lunch he also ate a huge bowl of sliced fruit that I'd brought him. "I would hate to have to feed someone every two hours!" she exclaimed. "Can you imagine, my mother had to feed 8 of us?"

Colin and Anna also had to go run around on the lawn after an hour of visiting, even though it was 102 outside. "What are they doing out there?" Sudie asked. "Where do they get that energy?"

Colin loved playing with the resident pool table. Anna wore her beautiful blue ballet recital costume to lunch as she did last year, and brightened many peoples' day. They both played some simple songs on the piano. You could not even see them behind the big grand.

Colin asked me, "What do old people like to do?" I told him they play bridge, and bingo, and Wii bowling (that would be my grandma). Grandma leaned over and said, "What are ya'll talking about?" I told her Colin wanted to know what people liked to do here, and she said, "People here like to SLEEP!"

"Oh, that would be my fault," Sudie said sorrowfully. She is frail, and drops off at any moment, any lapse in the conversation. Her body and her mind have atrophied, but her sweet personality still makes contact.

My grandmother, always a powerful personality, is struggling with the loss of her vision and the decline of her sister. Yet she speaks rapid Spanish to most of the staff, and still can boss all of us around.

We had a great visit, and I'm sure they were exhausted from just watching and listening to us as we briefly burst into their lives. "Come back, come back, come back," Sudie said. If it were up to Colin, we'd be there again Saturday, for the ice cream social!

Friday, August 14, 2009

When the kittens are away the cats will play...

My parents generously took Anna and Colin for their end of summer visit. It is eagerly anticipated by all parties -- the grandkids are "spoiled" by their grandparents, my parents get time alone with my kids, and, of course, Anthony and I have childcare all week!

So we've been out every evening once again. Ah, childless and carefree! Its a little exhausting. But fun! Not so good for blogging.

Last night we went to a wine tasting - all obscure Spanish wines. We loved it, narrowed down our choices, and ordered a case. The nice older couple we were seated with had never been to a wine tasting before. This one was very unpretentious, but I don't think they liked it. Even though we only got tiny, taster portions, they left most of it in the glass, and exited immediately after the speaker was finished. No one was seated in the last chair at our table, and with them gone, Anthony and I plundered the extra seating's glasses to pinpoint our favorites. Score!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Something for Nothing

I have a patient who is a very old Boxer, one of my favorites, forever young at heart. I like his owners, too; they are totally dedicated to him and call me often with updates on his condition.

Being a boxer, he has had many skin tumors, some benign, some that I've had to surgically remove. I've also sewed up some lacerations on him. He has a chronic digestive problem, and I have consulted with the owners via phone and email in between visits on how to manage this condition.

His owner called today to say that he felt a new lump, and asked the receptionist if he could bring his dog by and just have me pop out to the waiting room, feel the lump, and tell him if it was something he needed to worry about. It would take just 5 minutes of my time, tops.

For no fee, of course.

I asked the receptionist to call him back and let him know that on any new lump we recommend a small needle aspirate, a type of mini biopsy, which would obviously require an office visit. Make an appointment.

He called back to say the original receptionist got it wrong, its an old lump that was aspirated before, it feels different now. He just wants me to briefly feel it. He can come by any time tomorrow and wait in waiting room.

This is a lump that was aspirated 10 months ago. I sure don't remember how it felt then. Besides, you cannot make a diagnosis on a tumor based on feel alone. But what is worse is that he wants my expertise without paying for it.

I offered to do a brief exam, just examining the lump only for a much reduced office visit fee compared to the fee for a comprehensive exam, but he protested still. He got angry, threatened to transfer to another clinic, then asked to pick up his records.

I am sad that I won't get to keep seeing this patient after over 5 years, but I am more sad that the owner does not see the value of my time and expertise. He actually asked me a few months ago if he could bring his dog in on a weekly basis so that I could auscult his lungs (part of evaluating his chronic medical condition), and I said sure, make a 10 minute, $15 brief consult appointment. Then he could not believe I would charge him for it. "Couldn't you just make it part of value added service, based on how much we've spent here already?" He played that card again today, stating with all the past aspirates and lump removals he's had, he deserves a freebie. But this is a lump last checked nearly a year ago.

I suppose he also doesn't realize that every time he comes in, I have to make a note in his medical record. Its just bad medicine to give an opinion based on limited evidence. And in the end, I value the years I spent in school learning medicine too much to give it away.

I really wish I understood where this client is coming from better. Would he ask his physician to come out to the waiting room and give a brief, off the cuff prognosis?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


There are lots of things to dislike about summer in Texas, especially this summer with weeks of temps over 100 and no rain. But I do like tomatoes, and basil. The tomatoes are almost exhausted, and we have had lots of salsa, bruschetta, margarita pizza, BLTs, and insalata caprese.

I've only made pesto once, though, so a few weeks ago I decided to make a big batch. I wanted enough leftover to freeze to use in the winter. It will season our soups and sauces and pizzas, at a time when a taste of summer will be welcome.

"I really need a new food processor bowl!" I moaned to Anthony. The last time I made hummus, I had to jerry-rig the safety, since all the plastic parts had broken off. I pushed it down with a butter knife and had Anna operate the button controls. Still safe but ridiculously laborious. "Uh huh," Anthony answered me distractedly.

I washed and spun all the basil leaves, then went to the pantry to get the Cuisinart. There, gleaming chrome in its place, was a handsome, brand-new model. Anthony had purchased it and placed it there without my notice. It was begging for a test drive!

I filled the bowl with basil leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, and parmeggiano reggiano. I had enough to adorn a pound of pasta and to fill an ice cube tray for later. It was extra satisfying to serve Anthony one of his favorite meals that evening.

Friday, July 31, 2009

End o'July

Our last day in NYC was great. It was "free and cheap" day - visiting Emily's small and quaint church (Anna and Colin finally got to touch a piano keyboard), incredible Thai lunch specials, free kayaking on the Hudson, viewing Lady Liberty from the Staton Island Ferry, take-out Indian.

We had a great time with Emily, and I'm glad my kids finally got to see the big city. It went by so fast!

Back at home, its work, laundry, wrestling kids, business as usual. Last night at dinner, we told the kids, "Oh boy, can't wait until school starts again!" They said, "What do you mean?!? Don't you like being with us?" Oh yes, we do, but we also like the school year, with its routine. You have to get up early, so you go to bed early. You go to school all day, and come home tired.

Of course, in May I couldn't wait for school to end, to relax the routine. I haven't had to pack any lunches or get anyone up early for breakfast. When both kids are playing so nicely together in the evening, it is nice to be relaxed and let them stay up late. I guess we enjoy the difference.

Only 3 weeks left of relaxed summer! Hard to believe, its gone so fast. When those kiddoes stay up late, its hard to find time to blog regularly. I guess that's what's been happening to many of my friend bloggers.

Unfortunately, there's no end in sight for the scorching temperatures here in Texas. My tomatoes, and my brain, are fried...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I ♥ NY

The lack of posting has been due to preparations for and traveling to our family vacation spot this year: NYC to visit my sister Emily. She claims that we are wearing her out on our daily excursions, but has managed to update her blog twice with our visit.

We arrived late on Wednesday afternoon, and walked from her apartment to a great little Italian place, then walked to a gelateria to watch the sunset by the Hudson. On Thursday both Emily and Anthony had to work, so I took the kids out. They got quite an education immediately on the subway: first Colin pounced on what looked like a pile of clothes to look out the window but it was actually a sleeping homeless person folded over. She scowled at us but immediately folded back over and resumed sleep. Also, we had the schizophrenic man giving us an important rambling message, and a blind man slowly making his way through our train while serenading us and holding out his cup. Between these adventures, we visited the Empire State Building and spent about 3 hours at Central Park, which has some amazing playscapes and even large boulders to climb.

Friday Emily joined us and we did the Museum of Natural History, then we met Anthony to visit Highline Park. This was a really cool space, a park built on an abandoned elevated train track, using mostly native flowers -- the kind that were already growing there before anyone started tending it. It was a beautiful place to be, with so many locals lounging and strolling. We had a really great gelato cone each as we strolled, enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze.

Today we had a lazy brunch, then went to the amazing Times Square ToysRUs. It has an indoor ferris wheel, life size animatronic T. Rex, life size Barbie Fun House, and a large Lego and Star Wars selection. Then we went to see "Mary Poppins." The kids were enthralled with their first Broadway show. The show has been updated with some new songs and old ones, and the story reworked a little - much improved from the overly long movie - we all loved it. Dinner tonight was Japanese-Brasilian fusion at SushiSamba.

I can't believe tomorrow is our last full day. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

After 3.5 hours at the pool, I'm really too tired to blog...

Three girls, with the same suit!

Silly boys!

Thanks for a fun day, Gibsons!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Swim Team Fin

Tonight was the end of season banquet for swim team. What a way to celebrate - standing in a long line outside at 6:30pm, when the temp is peaking at 103, no breeze, to eat fajitas. Then we waited through the awards - since we only went to 2 meets our kids didn't actually get any special awards. But Anna and Colin we SO PROUD of their participant trophies, they held them high and beamed.

After all that, they opened the pool and let the kids splash around. Walking back to the car, we talked about how there was no more swim practice tomorrow. The kids decided they were happy AND sad. Me, too.

Swim team did do what I hoped - made them tan (especially Anna!), and lean (especially Colin), and made them accomplished, strong swimmers.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Quatro de Julio

Hope you had a great 4th of July weekend. We certainly did. Last year we were arriving in Italy! This year we visited friends in Ft. Worth. They have a new baby, a fun-loving two year old, and parents who are some of our bestest and oldest friends. It was quiet, but we did manage to cook a surf-and-turf feast with insalata caprese, watch some fireworks from the roof of our car, order some pizza, and play with ALL of Wyatt's toys.

Highlights included Wyatt galloping around, singing for us his own made up song, "Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!" Also, Wyatt, who is not yet a connoisseur of the bath, had a lesson in just how fun bathtime could be from Colin. Anna got a lot of smiles from baby Audrey, a precious former premie who is remarkably easy to soothe. David laughed at how much wine Anthony brought for us to consume in just two nights. Deedra and I escaped to Costco, mutually proclaiming our love for that store. A huge container of organic raspberries for $4?!? What's not to love?

No plans, no drama, not even a tug of war over toys between the children. Doesn't make for a very exciting blog post, but it did make for a good weekend. Here's to the next one!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Roll over, Beethoven

Colin begs me -- if he brushes his teeth and picks up his room and puts his pyjamas on REALLY FAST, can he watch a little Star Wars before bed? OK, if you get it all done.

A few moments later, he whispers in my ear, "What is your favorite song that I play on the piano?" Oh, there are so many... He knows I love a little after dinner music. So he plays me Haydn's Suprise Symphony, and Brahm's Symphony #1, and of course, Bach's Minuet in G. (You know, the big note versions). So I reward him with my rusty renditions of some songs by his favorite composer, Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise (the intermediate student versions). I am amazed how well my fingers remember most of the notes, and thank my 11 year old self for plowing through this stuff decades ago. Colin loves it, despite my missteps, then plays me his new Beethoven piece, Turkish Dance. Reluctantly, I remind him of his unfinished tasks and the promise of Star Wars, and he runs off to it.

I love my little pianist!

Also, my little poet Anna, is inspired by the piano:

There are 88 keys on the piano,
All of them black and white.
I feel like a breeze when
I whiz on the keys,
It's such a wonderful delight.

Bang! goes the forte
Softly humms the piano,
The dynamics can be loud or soft,
It depends on the way you play it.

Loud or soft,
Hard or light,
All songs are good,
Even your type.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shark Attack

How do you like this grill?

Yorkshire Terriers often don't lose all their baby teeth. (Quick, someone tell Madonna!) This 8 month old won the lottery. Often I'm pulling 2 to 6 from Yorkie mouths. Today I pulled 22 from hers.

Unfortunately, the owner didn't spay her at the same time. Someone said I should give all my business cards to the owner, to be passed out with the puppies! Ha ha!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

For no mere mortal can resist the evil of the thriller...

Shocking news tonight that Michael Jackson died. My kids didn't know who he was until today. It's hard to explain the MJ phenomenon -- we don't own any of his music, but he was so HUGE during our early adolescence that Anthony and I know all his hits.

I remember waiting around the TV for the premier of the "Thriller" video, and being breathless and blown away by seeing it. We watched it every time it was announced it would be on. So did all my friends. And all our parents. Everyone in the world knew who Michael Jackson was, that he did the Moonwalk and had that distinctive dancing style. He was our Elvis. King of Rock-n-Roll, meet the King of Pop.

Will there be anyone like that in my kids' lives, someone so huge they reach across generations and genres, and everyone has seen their video? It seems like that time is gone. With digital media, there are so many specialized genres there are no superstars. Its great that smaller artists can reach their niche audience. But I don't know any songs by current pop stars (even if I know their names, I don't know their music). Is there even a Top 40 anymore? And American Idol doesn't count -- I don't even watch that.

We showed Anna and Colin a video of Michael dancing to "Billie Jean," when he unveiled his moonwalk. They were bopping their heads to the music. "Why is he wearing the one glove?" Colin asked. "He looks so different than his other pictures," Anna said.

Maybe tomorrow I'll show them "Thriller."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


"Where did I get this jacket?" Colin asks me in amazement. He found it deep in his drawer. My sweet sister, Stephanie, sent us a ton of Oilily couture last month that she snapped up for pennies on the dollar when they declared bankruptcy. Colin adores his trendy long shorts from them. Steph sent matching knit jackets, too. But, you know, its been 102 here - not exactly jacket weather, so I stowed it.

"Oh, its so nice and soft!" he says. Colin puts it on his nudie body and models. It is so fine. He brushes his teeth and decides to wear it to bed.

That's about the only way to wear it with the forecast calling for 102 now through Sunday...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hot, so Hot

We're suffering through a heat wave here. After a nice, mild May the weather we've been dreading for months set up camp. Our highs are in the 100s every day. Usually that's a more July-August phenomenon. At 10pm its still in the 90s. By 9 am, its back up the 90s again.

The garden suffers. No tomatoes will set unless temps cool off under 75 at night. Everything is droopy with wilt, even if I water in the morning. Better enjoy these 'maters while we can! I picked some of the arugula we grew in the shade today, dripping sweat on the leaves. Its so peppery from the heat it's almost bitter.

The children and the dog suffer. Well, at least Anna and Colin can go swimming. Its too hot for me to jog with Francesca, so she has cabin fever too.

I bought an English chocolate bar (Cadbury Fruit and Nut) and was careful not to leave it in the car. However, just entering the hot car with it, AC immediately blasting, on the drive home was enough to destroy its integrity.

National Weather Service says we might get rain over July 4th. I'll take it, even if it rains out the fireworks, as long as it cools things off...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Victoria's Secret, again

Today I got to spend my lunch doing a great exploratory on a cat with a penchant for chewing up stringy things. In fact, this is her second surgery -- her owner wisely bought health insurance for her cat after the first operation.

She had chewed up a small purse strap, which went out the stomach into the first part of the small intestine, and it got all wadded up and angry on this strap. Fortunately it was easy to gently milk the strap back into the stomach and remove it there. Stomach surgery is much easier on the patient AND the surgeon! However, Ms. Eatsalot had quite a collection of objects in her stomach:

Don't you love this museum quality diorama of gastric objects my friend Susan made? That's 8 ponytail holders, a braided cord bracelet, at least 4 chewed off bra straps (from VS!), and tons of various ribbon pieces.

I reiterated to the owner how important it is to keep all stringy things under wraps - "Buy a lidded hamper for your lingerie!" She didn't seem too hopeful, since is living with a roommate. Some cats (and their owners) just don't learn! Better hang on to that insurance...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ah, that's better!

That was just the breather I needed. Amazing how much easier life is without those two beautiful demanding kids around.

My parents took Anna and Colin for Wednesday-Saturday last week. And although I worked, we were on easy street here, and managed to go out EVERY NIGHT while they were gone. Hey, why not, we had child care covered, and it was exhilarating rather than exhausting. The first night we went to a MOVIE - this is a big deal around these parts, as Anthony's tendency towards vertigo means we usually only see one movie per year, and lately its been Cars, or Ratatouille, or some such Pixar picture with the kids at the Tinseltown. I suggested we see TERMINATOR SALVATION, a kind of throw back since Anthony eagerly anticipated T2 while we were dating, and indoctrinated me to the franchise. Anthony also hates the theatre because he'd rather be in the comfort of his own home... so of course I made sure we went to the Alamo Drafthouse. If you are not fortunate enough to be near one of these theaters, I am sorry, because they serve good local draft beer and wines even a snob could love (during the show!), as well as tasty gourmet foods, all for about the same price as a coke and popcorn at the mega-plex. "That seat was very comfortable," Anth said as we left. "We'll have to do that again." Yippee!

We also went to a wine tasting and a fancy dinner for an early birthday celebration for Anthony, which would have been quite impossible with children. Also! the house stayed miraculously clean and uncluttered. So refreshing, just like when my mom did all the kids' laundry while we were in Chicago. Life is so much easier when you only have to take care of yourself!

It also was way too quiet. Francesca didn't like it because we left her home alone all the time. And we did miss and think about the kids all the time. The tight enthusiastic hugs we got on Saturday when we picked them up in Brenham were priceless. Thanks again, Nana and Grandad!

Summer is in full tilt here - over 100 degrees every day now, and the birds are still singing when the kids go to bed. Removing school from the equation is making life easier - now its just swim team, piano, and ballet. Swim team will be over in 3 weeks.

Unfortunately now it is so hot every time I go outside it gives me a head ache. My book tells me that we people with migraines have sensitive brains, and so many triggers will give me a headache - lack of sleep, lots of screaming children, drinking super cold liquids, exertion in the heat, lack of caffeine, dehydration, super-sugary foods (don't even let me look at a doughnut) -- enough triggers in one day will give me a migraine. Some days, its like walking a tightrope. At least now I feel like I've caught my breath, and I'm ready for T2....

Monday, June 08, 2009

Fa Meno, Rapa!

My friend Lisa has this great story, the moral of which is "Do Less, Turnip." Something I needed to be reminded of recently.

If the lack of decent posting wasn't indicative enough, life has been overly full since mid-May, starting with the birthday week, then there was Ballet Recital, then Piano Recital. Also, we started swim team - daily 45 minute practices during the week, and early Saturday morning meets. Swim team has been great for the kids - they have become stong swimmers, lean and tan - and I like the coaches. It hasn't been so great for us adults running them there and back. In both the meets we have attended, I have had "issues" with the volunteer requirements (this is worth an entire post by itself). Its definitely up in the air whether we'll do it again next year.

Work is great, and even if I run errands on my lunch hour at least I am doing it without the kids. The only problem with work is that I am gone from the house 12 hours those days. Then I spend one of my days off doing laundry, and the other cleaning the house. The weekends don't let up either.

Last weekend I was up at 5 am on Saturday to go to a swim meet, up again at 5 am Sunday to do the Danskin Triathlon. The tri went great - with my fancy new bike, I had a personal best with an overall time of 1hr 49 minutes. Emily improved her time by 20 minutes! However, the cumulative effects of a week with not enough sleep, the heat, a little dehydration, my period, then intense exercise gave me a whopper of a migraine. I took a nap, woke up and took an Imitrex, then took another nap.

So despite the dirty messy house, I did nothing Sunday afternoon. It was as if my body was making me stop, even if it took a horrible painful headache to do it. Life has got to ease up, and it will - there is less on the schedule in the next few weeks, we probably won't make any more swim meets, and the kids are going to their grandparents' house tomorrow for 4 days. Yippee! Hopefully all this will lead to more quality posting in the future.