Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas to Us

To take the pressure off the spousal gift giving, Anthony and I go in together for a big gift.  I'm totally happy with this arrangement.  This year I got a new kitchen.  (and an Apple mouse).

I love my open kitchen, but have always hated the color scheme - grey laminate countertops and white-washed cabinets.  It was colorless.

Oops, in this picture you can see we started the deconstruction of the kitchen - the cabinets over my desk are gone.  We almost forgot to take BEFORE photos.
See the big black dishwasher, and all the clutter.  There is a corner on the right that is completely wasted space. (now filled with a "lazy susan" cabinet for all my pots & pans!)
We had to live a few days with a gutted kitchen.  Hello, eating out!  However, one must have morning caffeine.  See above, my temporary tea station, and below, the coffee station on the up-ended microwave!
The cabinetry was installed moments before Thanksgiving dinner, and the bellisima countertops a few weeks later.  Behold!  The newborn kitchen! (be sure to click on it to view it bigger)

Here's a close-up of the amazing granite.  Its Yellow River, from Brazil.  But we were really picky about our piece.  We wanted one with lots of movement, lots of drama, lots of red.  They shipped a special lot to Austin for us.
All those little specks of red?  Those are garnets.
A word about this peninsula of gorgeous granite: previously this area was squared off.  This is the area where everyone congregates when we have meals, get togethers, parties, etc.  Anthony's brilliant idea was to extend this area with a graceful curve.  Now there is more square footage for partying!
We didn't need any new appliances, but we did get a new dishwasher, see above.  What, you can't see it?  Oh, that's because it has an integrated cover so it matches the cabinetry.  Hint, it's just left of the sink. And here's my gorgeous countertop again...
And, my new desk area, from whence I write to you.  Note, the backsplash is also granite...
And even the coffee station is restored!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Its beginning to look...

Anthony is a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas, in regards to our energy usage.  He won't let me keep the Christmas tree on too long because it uses so much electricity (1,080 watts -- like a hair dryer continuously on while its lit).  He frets while he watches our meter.  He's not a miser, he's just green.  Like the Grinch!

My tree is in our front room, but we mostly live in the living room.  I have a live wreath in there, and I hang a lighted garland on our mantle.  "I'd let you leave it on all the time if it was LED," he said.  My old garland was looking ratty anyway, so after a google search, I made a speedy stop at Sears for this nice LED garland:

At 2.4 watts, its been spreading Christmas cheer 24-7 since I bought it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A busy week

Just over a week ago, we all went to Aunt Sudie's funeral in Waco.  My grandmother asked for my sisters and I to sing a piece we perfected back in high school, one we haven't sung together publicly in 16 years.  But we found it hard to say no.  We only got to practice together the morning of the funeral.  I was pleased with how our harmonies still could ring.  No way I could have done this by myself:  we could do it only because our sisters were up there with us, and for our heartbroken Grandma Dulce, and with the help of our dear Aunt Sudie's spirit.

At the graveside we were asked to sing "Amazing Grace," and with my sisters' blessing we decided to include Anna.  She loves to sing, and when I told Anna she was included, she was duly honored and happy to give something back to Sudie, too.  This arrangement of Amazing Grace was cobbled together via many emails and some YouTube videos, and I'm proud of it, too.

After the interment we went back to the church where a team of kind church ladies had prepared a nice lunch for the family.  This was so welcome, because we all wanted to visit with family members, and the meal and dining room provided space for this.  Amazingly, there was a Spice Cake with real RUM in it.  I had to eat it, just to say I had rum at a Baptist church!  One lady confided that although she doesn't drink, her favorite cake has JACK DANIELS in it, and its her favorite cake!

That weekend, we started demolition on our kitchen.  That saved us several hundred dollars, and it was quite cathartic for Anthony.  Cabinet installers arrived on Monday, assembling our gorgeous new cabinets from Ikea.  They finished mid-day Tuesday, and Anthony reinstalled our microwave, stove, new dishwasher, and placed the old countertop on top of the new cabinetry. (Granite countertops come in 2 weeks.)  We got all our kitchen debris replaced in the new cabinets (fabulously organized by my engineer) late on Wednesday night.

See, we got this kitchen remodel scheduled a few days before hosting a large group for Thanksgiving!  So I did no pre-cooking.  However, I had so much help - first, a precooked smoked Greenberg Turkey arrived that week, and my MIL made pies, side dishes, and a ham.  The meal was completed with rolls and green beans from Emily, cranberries from my mom, and pie-lettes from my dad.   All I had to do was make Alice Waters' Mushroom Dressing, and herb gravy. Also, there was a fabulous team effort in the kitchen by the above parties.  We started with 13 guests, which grew to 16, then 18!  We had plenty of food and room.  There was lots of visiting, some football throwing and wrestling, football watching, performances on the piano, team dishwashing, wine opening and coffee brewing.  It was an epic day.

Late that night, in a freak accident, my sister's elderly cat slipped in the bathroom and hurt her leg badly. Emily called me in a panic, and I drove down there to check her out.  Clearly something was wrong, so we went to my clinic and took an Xray.  She fractured her femur!  We gave her some pain meds, and got her in to see an orthopedic surgeon the next day.  She is 17, but did well with the anesthesia, and got to come home today.  It will be a long 8 week recovery, but we are all glad that Sabrina is on the mend.

There was plenty to blog about in recent days, but I didn't have time or discipline to write every day.  Instead you get this monstrous tome.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Family Reunion

Last week we had a big reunion of my mother's family in Waco.  Pictured above is the five brothers and sisters, with their spouses and many of their offspring, as well as the matriarchs, my Grandma Dulce and her sister Sudie.  What I love about this photo is my two children, who look so comfortable and confident in the love that they get from coming from this family.  Everyone is excited to see them and talk to them, and they definitely respond to that.  It is how my sisters and I felt growing up in this loving extended family.  (sorry for the small image; I'll try to get a larger one in its place)

That is the post that's been rattling around my head for about a week.  Today I found out that my great Aunt Sudie, pictured in the wheelchair, passed away.  We knew it was close, and we were all thrilled that she was able to participate in this reunion.  She never had her own children, but she was super special to all of us.  She gave us many gifts, especially by the example she set.  Mostly I'm feeling sadness, but most of all for her sister, my Grandma Dulce, who had been her roommate for the last 2 decades, and her companion since she was born.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Colin said tonight: "Anna!  That is rude.  R, O, D, E, --rude! Stop it!"  I laughed so hard, I forgot what offended him so much.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Work hazard

I spent my lunch hour unblocking a tomcat who could not pee.  He was a huge 17 pounder with a tiny penis.  Many jokes were made.  Fortunately the patient was asleep and could not hear them.

Of course I wore gloves, but afterwards I kept smelling cat pee.  I washed my hands repeatedly, but still.  Washed my arms.  But now I figured it out - its in my watchband.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Halloweenie Pics!

Better late than never.  Here is me, as a Crayon.  Yes, this costume is a reprise.

Emily as the fabulous Lady Gaga.  Anna is wearing her Jr. High cheerleading uniform, with jingle bells in her pony tails and her feet.  This uniform is as pristine as the day Emily wore it, thanks to ever-living polyester.  You know, back when cheerleaders wore big bulky sweaters, not midriff-baring tops and microminis!

Colin was a fabulous Harry Potter.  (with a blonde mullet)

There was an adorable 3 year old (a Lyra look-alike) who LOOOOOVED Francesca in her skeleton costume, and helped me walk her the whole time, repeating, "I walking the dog!  I walk the dog! I hold the leash!"  So cute.

Sadly, no picture of Anthony, who donned blue scrubs and went as Dr Troy, plastic surgeon from Nip & Tuck.  His shoulders looked great in those scrubs!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

I guess this NaBlo isn't working for me

So that's not bad, right, posting two days in a row? Sheesh. Well, Wednesday I was sidelined by a migraine. Thursday I hosted five members of my extended family for dinner. Friday I had a miserable cold and went to bed early. By the time it was Saturday, I knew it was a lost cause.

Saturday I took the kids to Applebees for a pancake breakfast. The only reason I went was that it was a fundraiser for ballet. I brought my own butter from home, because I knew there would only be margarine. Sure enough, only Country Crock was offered. My butter was still a little cold, so Anna whined for the easier spreading transfat kind, but I held firm. Like my butter!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Career Day

Anna and Colin's school doesn't allow them to dress up for Halloween.  The week before Halloween this years was "anti-drug propaganda" week.  After days of dressing up in red, wearing crazy hats, and wearing crazy socks (as in, sock it to drugs!), the grand finale was to dress up as what you want to be when you grow up on Friday.

Anna said she wanted to be an actress, and needed some crazy sunglasses.  I told her that was fine, but if she wanted to be a surgeon (another career she is interested in), she could wear the adorable scrubs my mom got for her.  She was sold!

Colin said what he always says lately.  "I want to be an ocean scientist."  I had anticipated this, and suggested he wear a lab coat, a long pair of swim trunks, and a shirt with an embroidered shark.  He decided to add some tools - tweezers, a mini wrench, and his giant squid model - and he was set.
They were pretty psyched on Friday morning, walking out the door with nametags (made with the label maker and old nametags of mine) that read:

Dr. Anna M.                                                            Dr. Colin M.
XYZ Animal Hospital                                             Ocean Scientist

They looked so good, the principal even took pictures of them.  I was so thrilled that they both chose science careers!  Well, except for that brief flirtation with acting.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Don't Know about NaBloPoMo

Its November 1st?  Should I do it?  Feeling unsure.  Last year I crashed and burned, but then again, Fran was in town and ALL my free time was spent having crazy fun.

I don't know that there will be much more free time this year.  There are ballet rehearsals every weekend.  Incoming relatives and a family reunion.  We are planning an kitchen remodel.  Right before my favorite food holiday.

At least there is lots to talk about.  I may give it a try.  But Anthony's out of town all week, so I'm already driving solo.  And writing in incomplete sentences!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Mask?

I have a lovely client, one of the best when it comes to her pets.  She is attractive and generous.  She drops them off twice yearly for comprehensive wellness checks.  She sends us trays - no, PLATTERS of delicious food from our local gourmet grocer at Christmastime; just when we are about to die from sugar overload she sends us cheeses and kabobs and spinach dip, etc.  The entire staff loves her.

She's been dropping her cats off for the last year and a half, so I haven't actually seen her in a while.  When she came in last week to pick her newest kitty up, I ran up front to say hello.

I didn't recognize her.  Her upper lip was puffed up like a duck's, her brow was creepily smooth.  She was supernaturally tan with white skin under her eyes.  Her hair had been uber-highlighted, and perky breasts cleaved under her V-neck.

"You look so tan!"  I sputtered.  She said she's been hanging at the pool with her friend and a new baby.  I tried not to stare at her lips as she spoke.  Why would such a beautiful woman  - beautiful inside and out - do this to herself?  The puffy upper lip was especially distracting.  Everyone agreed she looked not younger, but scarier.

I will never understand why women choose to mutilate themselves this way.  I hate growing older and losing my youth, too, but botox and restylane et al don't fool anyone.  I think most women just go in for a little injection, then pretty soon they're checking out with a full meal deal.  Those plastic surgeons are good salesmen.

Just say NO!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On again, Off again

Saturday I saw a dog who had eaten a bunch of pillow stuffing the previous Sunday.  Throughout the week, his appetite and came and gone, as well as some intermittent vomiting.  But Friday night he refused to eat, then vomited a lot overnight.  So Saturday his concerned owners brought him to me.

I took some abdominal Xrays, and saw what I expected: a very full stomach, empty gassey intestines.  For the stomach to be full in a dog that had not eaten in 24 hours, I knew something was amiss.  I diagnosed a gastric obstruction - much better overall than an intestinal obstruction, but still, a surgical problem.  I told the staff to prepare for a surgery.

The owners asked me if it was still in the stomach, could it be removed endoscopically?  Clearly, this would be preferable to an open abdomen.  There would be fewer complications and a faster recovery. But we don't have an endoscope, so I called our referral surgical center.

"Yes!  We can do that procedure!  Are they coming soon?" was their first response.  Then I got a call back requesting the Xrays.  Since I can send them digitally, they soon called me again.  "You know, with something fibrous like stuffing, and with the way those Xrays look, I think we'll work on this patient for 3 hours, pulling little bits up, then send them to surgery anyway.  It will be much longer and more expensive than surgery alone."  The owners understood, and asked if instead we would do the surgery.  So we were back on.

I was excited about doing an exploratory gastrotomy, even if it was after close on a Saturday.  "Couldn't we just give this dog something to make it vomit up all the stuffing?" my technician asked.  "Silly Susan," I said, "He's been vomiting all week.  It's not coming up."

Our pre-anesthetic medication contains morphine, which makes a lot of patients vomit.  The dog urped up a little stuffing.  "Oh, well, I guess now we know we're doing the right thing with surgery," I said.  Then he HEAVED about 4 times, bringing up a stomach sized amount of disgusting polyfoam stuffing.

We took another Xray, and sure enough, empty stomach.  I called the owners.  "Wow, you are fast!" she said. "No seriously, did we forget to sign something?"  When I told her about the very productive vomiting, she was very happy.  I sent the dog to the after hours emergency clinic for some monitoring, but he went home that evening, free from stuffing AND surgery.

Monday, October 04, 2010

While I was gone

I was gone most of last week, at the annual Veterinary Dental Forum.  Its my conference, my people, all teeth, all the time.  The week before Anthony was gone all week; he left again this morning, back on Friday.  It's the new normal.

While I was gone he sent me this great group of pictures.  Colin, after sticking to his scooter far too long, finally learned to bike on his tiny heavy beginner bike.  Once he had that down, he soon took to stealing Anna's 5-speed.  Even though it is pink, it was far superior to what he'd been using.  Anthony got him his own bike -- in blue, much better -- and left it for him in the garage with a note saying "To Colin, Love Mom and Dad."

After Colin got home on Friday, a beautiful Texas fall day, he ditched his school things and went out to the garage.  He started wheeling Anna's pink bike out when something caught his eye.

 Now he's jumping up and down and squealing.

 He's a pro already!

Can't you feel his joy?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chewy the Hamster

On Sunday Anna asked me to look at her little hamster, Chewy, because her eye was tearing.  There was a swelling on the right side of her face/neck causing the problem.  The swelling was pretty soft and movable.  I figured she had an abcess or a cheek pouch impaction - that hamster is always shoving huge things in her cheek pouch.  I promised to take her to work the next day to lance the abcess.

When I got there the next day, the hamster's swelling was worse.   I gassed her down, then explored her cheek pouch with an otoscope.  It was empty and otherwise normal.  I felt this swelling, which felt much firmer now, not so fluidy.  I aspirated it with a needle and no pus.  Clearly this wasn't an abcess; it was a tumor.

This was going to be a big task, so I decided I needed to bring Chewy home and talk to Anna about it first, and also let her see her hamster before the big procedure.  "Yes, do it, if it will keep her from dying!" Anna said earnestly.  Well, maybe it will keep her from dying, and maybe not.  She might die under anesthesia.  Anna was tearful but still gave consent.

The next day after all my regular surgeries were done, and during my lunch hour, I sedated Chewy again.  The tumor had grown significantly again overnight.  Now it was pushing her mouth to the side.  With one technician holding a miniscule mask to her face, and another monitoring her heart and respiratory rates, I cut the skin over the tumor.

Sometimes there are benign, well-encapsulated tumors that peel right out.  A few times, when people are willing to spend money on their pocket pets, I have done these surgeries with great success.  This was not going to be one of those surgeries.  This massive tumor was irregular and had adhesions to everything.  It was extending under her eye and ear, into her oral cavity, down to her shoulder, shoving her trachea up and over like a snaking river.

Delicately I teased the tumor away from the vital structures.  I feared that if I hit a big vessel beneath (the carotid or jugular) she would rapidly bleed out.  My technician noted her heart rate slowing.  We added heat support and adjusted her gas.  It was frustrating that I could not intubate her and ensure her airway, or give her IV fluids, but of course that would be impossible with such a small creature.  After 45 minutes I had the mass about 3/4 of the way free, but Chewy developed a lot of edema (swelling) around her contorted trachea, and she expired.

The whole clinic was sad, for the little hamster and the girl who loved her.  When I got home, Anna burst out of the house, and I gave her the bad news.  She cried, hard, for about an hour.  When she had regained some composure, she said, "I know its not your fault, Mommy, I know you tried.  I'm glad she died while she was under anesthesia, so she wouldn't be in pain." Anna never ceases to amaze me. She also asked me to thank the technicians who assisted me and helped Chewy, and for the coworker who had made a precious clay momento with Chewy's pawprints.  She held her pawprint clay to her heart, and asked me if I would have her cremated ("I want to have her burned.").

Poor Chewy certainly couldn't have lived more than a few more days before that tumor would have choked her.  I was surprised how well Anna understood that.  Chewy was a "rescue" hamster that we got from a girl who basically ignored her once she became a teenager.  Skittish at first, she became quite friendly and curious, and let all kinds of children hold her.  She was in our home for only 4 months, but I think they were good ones.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My passion, my pup

Sunday Francesca was chewing her nightly "boney," her rawhide chew, when she suddenly stopped.  She kept bringing it to me, which was annoying.  "Go eat your boney, I'm watching a movie," I told her.  But she wouldn't eat it, and kept nudging me for attention.

She went to bed with her boney.  And carried it around the next morning.  "What is wrong with you?" I said as I lifted her lip.  Then I saw that she had broken her big molar, and there was a large red spot where the nerve was exposed.


I am collecting cases as I work on my dental fellowship, but I did NOT want to practice on MY dog!  Poor Francesquita, no wonder she couldn't eat her boney.

Fractured teeth are very common in dogs, and this tooth is the most commonly fractured.  If the fracture exposes the pulp, or nerve, of the tooth, there are only two choices:  extraction, or root canal.  Do nothing, and eventually the pulp will die and fill with bacteria, and the tooth will abcess.  Meanwhile, its painful and unhealthy.

I got myself mentally prepared to perform the root canal.  Its a complicated, 3 rooted tooth, and I don't have as much experience with fixing it as I do single rooted teeth (like the fang).   Also, it is awkward working on your own dog, if you think about it too much.  Anthony put it in perspective for me, though, when he said, "What is the worst that could happen?  She could lose a tooth?"  Right.

So today, I fixed it, and it was the best I've ever done.  Just like in a human root canal, fils are introduced into the pulp chambers in each root:

Then, using progressively larger files, all the organic material/pulp is removed.  Once its cleaned, the pulp chambers are filled with an inert material called gutta percha:

Then the holes you made in the tooth and the rest of the crown is restored with composite.  The tooth is dead but functional.  Once it fractured, it would have died anyway.

Francesca is woozy and drunk from the morphine, but she is painfree tonight.  That is my gift to her; she gave me a great case to work on and a little more self confidence.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Lots of good bloggy ideas in my head.  Little time or energy to get them out.

But look at this gift I got today!  I have a wonderful client who has gifted me with some of her gently used things, like a Waterford crystal bowl, Italian table linens, and a Lladro figurine.  (Can you tell she doesn't have a daughter?)  But today she gave me a gift I will really treasure:

Those are hand knit socks! Merino wool with just a touch of cashmere! Such beautiful tiny stitches!

I can't wait for chilly weather!

(PS these are NOT gently used.  They are brand new, never worn, knit just for me!)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Next Installment

In Chile, we met another vet friend of Fran's, Catalina.  She was vivacious and friendly, and when she heard we were interested in going skiing, instantly volunteered to take us -- any excuse to hit the slopes.  She also had two daughters very close in age to our kids, and could loan us clothes and equipment.  She made it hard to say no.  So we made plans, and pre-bought lift tickets to get a discount.

Then, Colin started vomiting at around 3 am and continued every 45-60 minutes thereafter.  Anthony took one for the team, and stayed home with the sick boy while Anna and I went up the mountain.  Here's Anna in the car:
It takes about an hour to get up to the slopes.  We were so high!  Above the tree line!  Los Andes were SOOOO beautiful.  Here's Anna and I, just before her lesson.
Anna did not get taught very much in her lesson.  However, it did give Cata and I some time alone on the slopes.  I hadn't been skiing in nearly 15 years, but was pleased to learn it was like the proverbial bicycle.  I forgot how FUN skiing is!
And this resort was incredible.  Efficient, modern lifts, and so many runs!  We had access to 4 large areas of trails.  And no one was out there -- usually I skied right onto the lift.  The longest line I encountered was 4 people long.
Look at those beautiful mountains!  No trees makes for safe, wide runs, but it was so very bright.  I was grateful for the goggles Cata loaned me.  After lunch we had a few slow runs down the bunny slopes with Anna, and Cata tried out her snowboard.  Here's the only picture I have of her that day, my ski angel, taken by Anna after our last run.
I also forgot how very uncomfortable ski boots are, and how great it is when you take them off at the end of the day.  Skiing in July!  Incredible!

The next day Colin was BTN (back to normal).  He wasn't sad about missing skiing, just sad that he missed the snow.  Fortunately, Fran's mom, Carmen, and her uncle, Felipe, planned to take us to his rustic little cabin in Cajon de Maipo.  There was snow!!!
I love this view of his adorable cabin, with the mountains reflected in the windows.
Felipe lit the gas for his oven, and we heated up the empanadas we'd brought and opened the wine.  Felipe and Carmen speak about as much English as we do Spanish, but we had a lovely meal together, and a lively conversation.  Colin and Anna went outside to have a snowball fight, then we all went on a hike around the area.  It was a beautiful day.
We were also invited to be the guest speakers at Fran's niece, Elisa's kindergarten class.  The kids were supposed to ask questions in English, but they asked in Spanish.  They loved Anna, and asked her what her school was called, and what her friends were called.
Anna said, "Heather... Katherine...Benjamin...Vannida...Christina... umm..." A little boy said, "Tienes solo cinco amigos?"  (you only have 5 friends?)  It was hilarious.  We also sang them a little song we knew from her school in English and Spanish. 
What else did we do?  We ate out a lot.  One of Fran's favorite restaurants is Tip y Tap, a little Chilean restaurant that we loved for its dining room with windows that overlooked a play ground.  One wall had a forest scene, so here's Fran and I, correr en el bosco!
Here's what Fran liked to order:  tartar.   Fran! Someone forgot to cook your hamburger!
Here we are eating in a Patagonian restaurant with Catalinda.

This is from a high-end steak house where we ate with Fran and her brothers.  Oh man! that grass fed beef is good!  We started with Pisco Sours, then had wine, steak, and salads.  At the end of the meal, every table got a complimentary plate of cotton candy.  It seemed hilarious to us to get circus food at such a fancy place.  Good thing the kids weren't there to get so silly on all that sugar!

There is one last thing I have to post about, the amazing tiny winery we visited.  Until next time...