This Too

I’ve been putting it off, but rising anxiety prompted me to finally look into the side-effects of medications I might be prescribed for CIS in a few weeks.  If you are curious, there are only four out there, of the twelve drugs available to slow the progression of MS.  All four of them are injections, self-administered.  Barf.

We’ll see, though.  I have two appointments in the next few weeks with two different neurologists.  I have been given the choice to not do anything at all, and so far that is the route I’ve taken.  The second appointment is when I believe I’ll be told some more numbers and we try to guess what my likelihood of having another attack/progressing to MS is.  And if that probability calls for preventive measures.

I’m not entirely stress-free on other fronts, either.  I’m working really hard at bootcamp these days (holla, Fit Moms!), but there’s something there that isn’t quite right.  I’ve been getting overwhelmed and panicked.  Maybe it’s the intense claustrophobia I felt working out in the small room the other day, maybe it’s just my body “doing some emotional processing” like my favorite yogi once taught me, or maybe I’m just tired from all these extra late-night snuggles my koala needs.  This too shall pass.  Until then, my husband has offered to make me a t-shirt that says “I Might Cry.  Or Punch You.”  Heh.  He knows me so well.

My intuitive, sensitive little daughter is going through another round of what we call “Full Koala” around here.  Preschool has gotten a little harder for her (Thanks, Alice!), her tummy hurts, and she has been crawling into my bed earlier and earlier in the night these days. (Thank you Jim Gaffigan!  “My wife has instituted this opendoor policy, where if one of our kids wakes up and has a nightmare, they’re welcome to come into our room and pee in our bed.”  tee hee!)  I made my choice about this a long time ago.  Give her enough time and security and she’ll bloom on her own. These two hothouse orchids of mine wilt when pushed and thrive when they are ready.  Every once in a while, though, I feel a little squeezed, a little impatient.  I’m not looking for a magic bullet, but I may be waiting for a ton of books from the library called things like Quiet Kids, or The Shyness Breakthrough, Nurturing the Shy Child and Growing Up Brave.

My poor husband takes the brunt of this when the kids are in bed and I tell him to “Go away.  Right now.  I have not been alone for one moment in three days.  I love you dearly but go away now.  Take these damn cats, too.  Fine, you can sit on the other sofa, but I swear to god, don’t speak.”  He’s a good sport, bless him.

About a year ago, I told a friend that true-to-form, my daughter’s snow angels were even pressed against the side of mine. She still is.  Today, we got a sprinkle of fresh snow and she asked if we could make “a snow angel, and mine angel will be right next to you, and you can be the angel’s mommy.”  Of course. Of course we can.

A snow angel mommy and girl
Here. Just here under my wing, doll.

Oddly, I’m not tired of winter or the cold yet.  I don’t mind bundling up, or the shoveling, or the early dark this year, but I am missing walking barefoot through the yard.  I do miss the green and feeling the heat of the driveway.  I’ve never experienced winter this way before.  Must be the work of the new skylights.

All of this calls for action, so I made my annual “save me from winter” trip to the garden center yesterday.  I already have my seeds and the dinosaur terrariums made by the kids from last year’s trip are still mostly alive, so I came home with a giant pink cyclamen to brighten up the windowsill.  And new tea towels.  And two baby kalanchoe plants in bloom because my daughter fell in love with them.

Pink cyclamen, orange cat
Cyclamen, Stuart-Approved

I also had a couple dozen things that needed to get done yesterday, but instead gave the pothos and the croton a nice soak in the shower.  I sprayed all the dust off their leaves, gave them a trim, and huffed the scent of warm, wet dirt for a while.  Ah, summer!  Then I dismantled the dish-washer and cleared out the gunk in the trap and behind the seal.  Why must I clean the things whose job it is to clean? Why?  Nonetheless, it sparkles now and I feel accomplished in a way I’ve been missing for some time.

Those things, and a steady diet of raspberries, red peppers, avocados, (and popcorn), eaten while sitting with a goofy four-year-old in the bay window have me in a late summer mindset.  Everything is flush.   This too shall pass.

Raspberries, Avocado, and red pepper.
Le Cure de Soleil et Fruits Expensive

The Vegetable Garden Begins

I got my seeds delivered this week! I am excited! The garden doesn’t look like much right now…..

Snow covered garden beds

but I have hope.

Every year is different in the garden. I don’t think we plan on putting in any new beds this year, but you never know. The last few years have started well and then attention and watering dwindled and I don’t even know what we harvested.

The plan this year is to stick to stuff we actually know will grow AND that we will eat. The kids are mostly feral during the summer and eat all the radishes, carrots, kholrabi, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, raspberries, strawberries, black and blue-berries and grapes before it gets in the house (basically everything except the kale).  We’ve tried sweet corn and had the world’s smallest harvest:

World's smallest sweet corn harvest: one tiny ear
It was really good, though!

I also bought them all my seeds online this year. I can find seed brands and varieties I like at a local store…but buying them there would probably mean bringing one or two children with me and then we end up with fourteen packets of radish seeds, eight varieties of sunflowers, and twenty packets of things that don’t even grow in Wisconsin without a greenhouse. I prefer to buy my seeds from Botanical Interests or Renee’s Garden. Because they have the prettiest packages. Oh, and because I know they aren’t owned or somehow connected to Monsanto in any way. (I have so much rage toward this evil empire, I won’t get into it here. All I will say is that if you, too, would like to make sure they are in no way making a profit or continuing to steamroll the vitality of the earth on your little piece of it, check here for a few ways to garden without them.)

The list of vegetable seeds for summer, 2015  is:  Carrots, Cabbage, Cucumber, purple hull Beans (so we can find them in the jungle come harvest), Fennel, Kale, Kholrabi (Q’s favorite) , Lettuce, Radishes (the Bean’s favorite),Sugar Snap Peas, Summer Squash and Zucchini, and Pumpkins and Jack-Be-Littles for decorations.

Botanical Interests seed packets Botanical Interests seed tapes Botanical Interests Sugar Snap Peas

I won’t be starting any seeds indoors this year.  We’ve had some success with artichokes and tomatoes and peppers, but I’m not up for giving up the bay window to moldy seed pots and inevitable over-watering by the young helpers this year.  I’ll get robust little seedlings from the farmer’s market instead, come May for tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and cauliflower and probably seed potatoes because it is such an easy and fun one for the kids to plant and harvest.

My herbs will be Basil, Cilantro, Parsley, Dill and I can never resist thyme, rosemary and oregano plants.  I have some seed tapes for scallions and a few lettuce varieties this year so I hopefully don’t have to thin them.  Those ones always get away from me and then are thin and ratty and inedible.  The tapes make it really easy for the kids to help with the itty-bitty seeds too instead of using the little seed-dropper or fingers.

No winter squashes or gourds, no chard, no parsnips or turnips or spinach or arugula or garlic or edamame or quinoa .  Less is more.  At least this year it is. For flowers in the vegetable garden, the calendula always comes back from it’s own dropped seeds and usually some rogue sunflowers and nasturtiums do too.  Every year, I think about making a sunflower house or tunnel, and it never quite turns out. Sunflowers have a mind of their own, you know.  I haven’t decided to make a go at it again this year or not.  The last thing is the zinnias.  I like to plant them from seed, even though it takes a bit to get going, but then there are nice shocks of color all through the second half of the summer.

Jack-Be-Little pumpkins and a stealthy cat
Stuart is ready for the cat-days of summer.
Nasturtiums, edible lovlies, although we never eat them
Sunzilla will return! I believe this one was named “Wyatt” by a visiting gardener




Happy Garden planning to you, too!


Was it cold yesterday?

Yesterday, waiting for the bus with my son, I realized I hadn’t even checked if there was school.  I mean, it felt a bit chilly, you know.  I checked, and it was -11F with a windchill of -23F.  Huh. Do we have school at this temperature? Then the bus drove up and my scrappy little 40 pounder got on and it drove away.  I guess we do.

State capitol building Madison WI from Lake Monona
Madison, Wisconsin: Ice fishing huts, the capitol and construction cranes.  And lots of ice.

Last winter, Wisconsin got hit hard.  We got a good pile of snow, early, and then lots of colder-than-normal weather.  (No, not Boston-level snow, or Syracuse-level snow, thankfully.  I mean, I’m claustrophobic enough in two feet of the stuff.)  Months of cold, cold weather.  Everyone whined, wrung their hands, gnashed their teeth, or, at least I did.  I threatened my husband that I would just drive south one day, and never come back.  I remember a morning at the bus stop when it was -7F, no windchill, and I felt like a super hero for being out there during the worst cold ever. I know exactly what my son was wearing because we had prepped for twenty minutes to be ready.  And then we had another month of identical or even worse weather.   What a difference a year makes.

Granted this year has a lot going for it that last year didn’t.  We didn’t get any snow accumulation until a few weeks ago, so that miserable trapped feeling has had two months less time to develop.  Also, we’ve been miraculously much healthier this year.  Even without MS symptoms to worry about, we’d been slammed the two previous years with every cold, Norovirus and Strep bug out there. Pnuemonia.  Uncountable ear infections and sinus infections.  But not this year.  We’ve had two mild colds make the rounds through the family and that is it. (Please, please, please, don’t let me jinx this.)  Maybe it is because I have a new policy for the kids–As soon as you walk in the door you get yelled at to wash your hands. Now.  Or maybe it is because we’ve been through two years of trading germs with the other kindergarteners and we’ve had everything there is to get.

Other things that have made this winter “not so bad” is our collection of amazing gear we have amassed over the last few years.  We have been the very lucky beneficiaries of ultra-tough and warm snow pants from neighbors and cousins.  A Land’s End “end of season” sale filled out the rest of our warm gear with fleece hoodies, down vests, jackets, hats and water-proof mittens. (This sale was in January. January!  Clearly this was a decision by someone who doesn’t actually live anywhere near Wisconsin, where winter doesn’t even get going until then.)

Other things that make life so much better include slippers, flannel sheets, area rugs next to the bed and in the bathroom, and seat cushions on the dining room chairs.  See, if your butt or your feet get cold in January, they don’t warm back up again until June.  It’s true.  An anniversary gift/Christmas gift to me this year was two tube skylights, one for each of the dark corners of the kitchen and living room.  Actually, let’s not be coy.  This is a gift for everyone because the house doesn’t feel like a strange, toy-filled mausoleum any longer and a happy mom is good for everyone.

I just read that this cold snap has a name, “The Siberian Express”.  Not as thrilling as last year’s “Polar Vortex”, but still has a chill to it. I want dibs on naming next year’s cold snap “The Inuit Icing” or “Arctic Smother”.

Oh, and Santa brings SmartWool socks and hand-knit neck-warmers because the gift of warmth is the gift of love.  If you’ve been really good, Santa brings unstinkable wool base layers or sweaters, silk long underwear, low-light ski-goggles or lobster gloves or Yak Trax for the husband who bikes year-round, or “ninja” suits (thermal underwear) in awesome colors.   I don’t have smarty-pants wool underwear or a down trench coat…but I know what’s on my wish list for next year!  When you list it all, it sounds like a huge investment.  But if you consider that you’ll wear these things every day for four months, that whole “cost per wear” thing evens out pretty well. (Also, you can wear SmartWool socks over and over and over…) And it makes daily sub-zero waits at the bus-stop no big deal.

Heart-shaped melt on oak tree
Oh, Winter. I (sometimes) ❤  You Too

If you got cold just reading this, I recommend having a hot cup of tea, then finding all the jackets, boots, and cold-weather gear you no longer use and donating it to a shelter in your town. Today.  If you are cold at the bus stop, imagine how homeless people and kids without snow pants are feeling.  And check on your neighbors and your water pipes.  And your heaters!  And floss your teeth!  You get the idea.  Be kind to each other.  It’s cold out there.

Ice fishing hut Lake Monona

First Grade, First Impressions

Things I learned and things that happened after just one hour in a first-grade classroom:

1.  First grade is such a big year for learning.  Reading and writing skills grow exponentially.  Kids master basic math operations for numbers up to 20.  They learn to tell time, to count money, to follow complex directions, to work on their own and how to ask for help if they need it.

2. First-grade teachers have tremendous workloads.  The preparation for one day’s lessons must be immense.  I’ve written lesson plans for high-school chemistry and for 8th-grade science, and those are cake-walks compared to what an elementary school teacher must do.  Every subject.  Every day.  Every child.  The hand-written posters of examples and directions.  The classroom management.  The diverse needs of 16 children.  The next time you run into a teacher, but especially an elementary grade one, give them a hug.  Or better yet, a raise.

3.  Today was the first time I’ve ever been called by my daughter’s preschool.  She was crying uncontrollably and wouldn’t tell anyone why.  That I had just said that she was finally ready to be apart from me does not escape me.  Children are nothing if not ultra perceptive of any signs of their parents presuming to function without them.

4. First grade makes you tired.  They are a sweet bunch of kids and I had the easy job of passing out a snack, then reminding them what they were supposed to be doing (writing an opinion), spelling words and helping some of the Spanish-speaking students with directions.  It wasn’t taxing, but I felt totally drained after just an hour.  Part of that comes from the isolation of parenting small children.  I’ve always been an introvert, but then I worked in a tissue-culture lab for several years, meaning in a sterile hood, by myself for hours every day.  And then I had two kids and stayed home with them for several years.  Yes, they make lots of noise and the weird screeching and high-volume that comes with kids (even though they are paradoxically noise-sensitive,) but my whole life is surrounded by a thick bubble of silence and non-interaction.  Even with grocery shopping and other errands, I can go whole days without any real human interaction.  And I like it that way.  (Sort of.)  So being surrounded by chatty six- and seven-year-olds is particularly exhausting.

5.  I realized I do not miss teaching.  At all.  I enjoyed it when I was there, and I  liked teaching eighth grade science more than high-school chemistry, because eighth graders are a curious mix of jaded and naive.  On good days, you can still get through to them and see them get excited when they make a discovery or connection.  On bad days, they’re just narcissistic jerks.  It’s about a 50/50 mix and hardly ever do you get every kid on a bad day at the same time.  However,  I left my son’s classroom nauseous and head-achy, probably because I was already getting a migraine when I went in, but still.  The point in my teaching education where I was doing all the teaching/grading/planning in my student teaching position coincided with my first pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage.  Walking through a school hallway while nauseous, even for non-pregnancy reasons, made me a little heartsick.  I was offered a Bilingual Biology position at a nearby high-school the same day I found I was pregnant again and I turned it down. For lots of reasons, I’ve been fairly sure I wouldn’t go back to teaching, but as time goes by, that becomes more and more true.

6. I see a lot more volunteering in the classroom ahead for me.  For one, my son was thrilled to have me there.  For another, a bilingual student gave me a hug and thanked me for coming to help him with his work before I left.  And the look the teacher gave me of relief and gratitude was also a great shot in the arm.  I enjoyed it a lot…and I enjoyed leaving too.

If you can manage it, I recommend spending some time in your child’s classroom too.  There’s all sorts of stuff to learn.

She Is

Try it.  Make a liar out of me.  I just told my daughter the only job I could think of that a girl couldn’t do was be a daddy.

I hate, hate, hate that I’m having this conversation with her.  She is four.  She has lots of questions about what bones are made of, how fingernails are attached, what eyelashes are for, why girl toys have eyelashes but boy toys don’t.  She’s smart and observant, but the truth is that she wouldn’t have to be either of those things to see that things are classified in this world, and that things that fall into the predetermined “girl” category are also considered “less”.

We were listening to a kids’ radio station and some train song came on, sung by a woman. My daughter heard this, thought for a minute, and asked “Is this a real train engineer?”


“No.  Is this a real girl train driver?”

“Of course.” (Because, why not?) “Train drivers are girls or boys.” And then I said what I said about girls and jobs they could do.  “It would be silly if a girl grew up to be a daddy. (She giggles.)  That’s the only thing I can think of that she can’t grow up to be.”

Tell me, though, what do you do when an intelligent, well-meaning woman, who has even read Pink Brain, Blue Brain, (which I haven’t read, but whose express purpose I understand, is to “break down damaging gender stereotypes”) consistently tells your daughter that dinosaurs are “boy toys?” Says “boys are like that” when talking about rambunctious, rowdy behavior?  Who gets visibly distressed at the thought of my daughter getting her dress dirty?

Mostly I don’t say anything.  My daughter is her own person.  She continues to host dinosaur battles in her lap arena on long car trips.  She continues to jump on beds and tackle her brother.  She continues to dress herself in a beloved CARS t-shirt and dinosaur hat.  She continues to make big messes, exploring the water-adaptability of all her toys and shoes.  And yet all she has to do is wear a pink dress once and that’s all people see.  How is it that we ignore 90% of her personality and focus solely on the pretty, “girl” stuff she does?  How many times can she play cars and have you insist she’s only doing it because her big brother likes them?  I mean, have you met this little girl?  Believe me when I say she has never, not once, done anything she didn’t want to do.

Every kid I’ve ever met wants to discover about the world, figure out things for themselves, are natural-born scientists, and yet my news feed is filled with things like “Girl Day, 2015” to encourage engineering skills in our girls.  Such garbage.  Not that there is one, but that we need one, and boy do we need one. That we need to remind ourselves not to limit children.   What are we doing to our girls that we suddenly need to be re-teaching ourselves and the adults in our children’s lives not to be the gender police?  I’ll tell you.

We just went to Barnes & Noble and discovered this:

Usborne's Sticker Dressing Herores book
Heroes, but from a creepy world with only dudes.
Usborne's Sticker Dressing Heroes page
Hey! There’s two women! …in the background….in bikinis.
Usborne Sticker Dolly Dressing display
Usborne’s Sticker Dolly Dressing books

A lovely display of sticker books.

Look!  There are so many choices!

There’s even one for “Heroes”…

Without a single woman in the book.

Not. A. Single. One.

I’ve already written to Usborne, a children’s book publisher out of the UK about the egregious error of not including any women in their Heroes sticker dressing book.  (Well, okay. There are two women in the book.  In the background, in bikinis, on one page.) About the lack of choices they present to boys AND girls.  Here is a company dedicated to publishing children’s books.  This is what they should be able to do best, and yet they looked to old stereotypes to create an entire display of over-the-top sticker books, twelve of them with girls, and only girls, putting on fashion shows, traveling, planning their wedding,  being pop stars and running hair salons, and one of them with boys, and only boys, doing rescue work.  I expect better.  And so should you.

Is it small?  Yes.  Does it still irritate me to no end?  You bet.  I didn’t even have to go looking to find ridiculous and limiting gender stereotypes. They came right to us, right at my very observant child’s eye level.  It is everywhere and I swear to you I will punch you in the face if you’re the first one to tell my daughter she can’t do something because she’s a girl.  Actually, I’ll let her do that herself.  She’s got a mean right hook.  Just ask the cousin who tried to take her Lightning McQueen car out of her hands.

To The First Grade Classroom!

Emboldened by my own success of finishing the doll house, and BOTH children’s baby books (only four to six years after the fact, mind you), I’m moving on to bigger things:  Volunteering in my son’s first-grade classroom.

I’ve always had my young, beautiful barnacle with me, at all times of the day, waking and sleeping.  She is my weight when I work out, and when I shop, my lap-warmer wherever I sit, including the toilet, my constant companion.  Now that she has started to bloom and is willing to be separate from me as long as she is promised a lunch box filled with snacks, it is time for me to find myself again.   But first, get some stuff done.

One of my unavoidable regrets is that I haven’t been involved in my son’s school.  I just couldn’t be there.  My daughter isn’t a babe in arms to bundle into a pouch and carry along for the ride.  Even when she was in that stage, I was far too exhausted and merely surviving to do much of that anyway.  She is four and curious and you simply don’t bring along another child when you go volunteer in a classroom.  I mean, you want to be there to help, not introduce the teacher and students to a lesson in frazzled mom multitasking, complete with whispered threats to, and snack residue from the tag-along kid.

Since my youngest wouldn’t be away from me, I couldn’t be there for my oldest.  And it stung.  He’s a talker, for sure, but if you ask him about the particulars at school he’ll tell you that they learned about a specific creature from the Silurian today (Uh, no.  They didn’t.  You read that in a book last night), and that his friend’s imaginary Nag Creature (don’t even get me started on Nagle) learned to ride a bike today!  So, basically, I have no idea what they actually do in school.

This morning, I told him I was coming in for an hour to help and wouldn’t you know it, the one day when I’ll actually be able to see for myself what goes on in his classroom, he talked for 25 minutes straight, detailing exactly what they do, minute-by-minute in the morning.  This is more information than he has given us in the last two and half years, combined.  Thanks, kiddo.

I’m still curious, though.  He came home last week with Charlotte’s Web, and instructions to read the first five chapters and finish a comprehension and vocabulary packet.  Now, you know my thoughts on first-grade homework, which is not very positive, and so I’m baffled by this amount of work.  What are you doing in school, Q?  Why do you have so much work? Do other kids bring this much home?  He has no answers.

Hopefully I’ll glean a bit more when I go in today and in the next times I volunteer.  So, yes, my volunteering in his classroom is entirely selfish.  It allows me to understand that part of his life I knew so little about and had to accept at face value.  It allows me to see him more often.  And maybe, just maybe, it will help me find my own way.  I once was a teacher, you know.  You probably don’t.  It is ancient history.  I got my teaching license after working in a microbiology lab for several years.  I am certified to teach any and all science except advanced physics to sixth through twelfth graders.  Or, I was.  I never used my license.  I don’t know if I ever will outside my offspring.

First things first.  I’ll let you know how first grade goes.

First-grader's science poster
Wot! Wot do you do all day, my son?

Pure, A Dystopia for Today

From my sister blog, “Eileen Oxford’s Bookish Blog”, where I sometimes read stuff and talk about it….

Eileen Oxford's Bookish Blog

I just finished reading the first book of The Pure Trilogy, Pure, by Julianna Baggott. And yes, of course, I have some thoughts on the book.

My first one is “Another dystopia book? Count me out.” My feelings about dystopias and “after-the- fall” types is that we already live in an unreal place. This week alone, the governor of my state side-stepped two pointed questions about his belief in evolution, and proposed cutting $300 million dollars from the budget of a world renown university system while attempting to change said university’s mission to one of increasing the state’s workforce rather than one of service and “the search for truth.” Oh, and proposing a flush $220 million in bonds to a new basketball arena. Sigh. Also this week, three young students were killed in North Carolina and headlines read “Motive: Parking Space Dispute” instead of “Tragic Hate Crime, Young Muslims…

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Take Your Vitamin D! or CIS, 14 Months Later

This one isn’t about raising two kids or how I found a desiccated cat turd in the laundry basket today, although, really Stuart?!?.  This is about my health, which is tip-top, I am very, very blessed and happy to say.

I just had a few tests run as a check-up and a precursor to meeting with a renowned MS doctor. One of the perks of the city I live in is the presence of top-notch medical professionals and facilities.  I’m not expecting him to have anything new to say, that I have (had?) CIS and Lhermitte’s Sign, that I have a 15% chance of developing MS in the future, that preventive medicine might be more trouble than it is worth at this time.

(Small pieces of the journey through the last year are here and here. Since there is so little information out there about CIS and Lhermitte’s, you can look at the basics here at Wikipedia(Lhermitte’s) or here for Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS), but I’ll also share that for me it presented about two months after the CIS as numbness in the toes when I dropped my chin, and numb spots in my right abdomen and leg when I drank a beer or had the audacity of getting frisky with my husband.  I know!  As if having sex with two young kids, who don’t sleep, isn’t challenging enough!  The toe thing is still there, minimally, and the other stuff is gone, thank God.  It’s been just more than a year–a sort of benchmark for this, so the chin-drop sensation might still resolve a bit more, or not.  We’ll see.)

Another perk of living in a state where February is the longest, coldest, grayest, coldest, cold month of the year, is that it keeps my hands cool, which keeps them from going numb.  In theory anyway.  That hasn’t been the case for the past few weeks.

For a few weeks before Christmas, I hadn’t had any tingling in my fingers, and I finally noticed and a balloon of hope started to fill and rise in my heart.  Maybe this was it.  Maybe the nerve damage had been side-stepped or healed or somehow removed by surgical aliens.  I tried to temper this with the very real possibility that with warmer weather, the numbness would come back.  That seems to be a standard for those with MS, that heat invariably makes symptoms worse.  But I had hope.  Hope was dashed, small though it was, when we took the kids to an indoor water park over New Year’s and that humid 74 degree room brought back useless fingertips and numb forearms.  (About the “numbness”,  I’ve never been able to describe it adequately.  If you injected Novocaine into your hand…and it started to wear off, that’s what this is.  Like rubbing your fingers across sandpaper or cut glass, continually.)

Ever since then, boot camp has been a bit trying.  I have my own “adaptive technologies” I use, like using resistance bands to keep weights or kettlebells in my hands.  I’ll wear shoulder sandbags instead of holding weights, I’ll wrap TRX strap loops around my wrists so I don’t fall on my butt or face, I’ll step outside for a few minutes in this refreshing February air to cool off.  It can be done.  Now, more than ever, I feel the need to be moving my body and being strong.  When all else fails me, I’ll walk on the treadmill and rest my hand on the rails.  I tried a cooling neck-band during last summer and while it was nice when I was running, during boot camp it was more trouble than it was worth.  I finally had the idea to look for cooling wristbands and ordered some and a cooling towel to bring along. **The wrist bands are great!  Get some and your life will get better, I promise.**  Swimming in the summer was great for keeping me cool, and so is Nordic skiing in the winter.  There’s perk number three, fun sports I can still do throughout the year here!  🙂

So the blood levels came back and one of the things we checked was vitamin D.  I was super low two years ago, in February, after a bout of pneumonia.  We did super-high doses for a couple of months, then 5,000 IUs a day until pool season started again.  My blood levels now are creeping towards the lower end and I’m supposed to add another 1,000 IUs each day.  (The correlation between adequate vitamin D levels and slower MS progression is amazing. See here, for yourself.  I don’t understand the mechanism, but who cares.)  Is this why my hands have been acting up lately?  That my vitamin D levels have been dropping as we get further and further from those halcyon days of summer?  Who knows.  So, one of the drags about living in Wisconsin, or anywhere in the midwest and points north, is the lack of sun, not just for our psyches, but for our vitamin D production.  So you too, are probably deficient.  So take your vitamin D!  Or, book a vacation someplace sunny and get it the way nature intended. 🙂

Meeting the ocean for the first time
Soak it up while you can!


On Being a Prince…

When Q was three, we were at some sort of play group and a little girl swept up to him, adorned in a ratty, too-big costume dress and said “Oooooo!  Goody!  You can be my PRINCE!”  I have a feeling this left a deep scar on his brain, because he turned around with huge eyes, pulled his hands away from the girl and slunk over to me.  “Mommy.  That girl wants me to PINCH her……. And I don’t want to.”

Now, we have our own little lady fascinated with Elsa, Anna, Cinderella and Kate (Middleton, of course.)  She routinely puts on “The Elsa Show” which involves her doing several donkey kicks and putting gloves on and off for the duration of the Frozen score.

A few days ago, I put their cardboard “clubhouse” back up (in exchange for them cleaning the living room first.)  My daughter immediately ran off and dressed herself in all her finery in preparation for living in “the castle.”  For a bit, they both played in and out of the house and then, of course, an argument broke out.  I perked up to hear her demand of her brother, “But you need to be the prince. You NEED to!  Every princess has a prince!”

He said “No.  I’m not going to be a prince.  A princess can do whatever she wants and not every one needs a prince……….What you NEED…. is a LEAELLYNASAUR!  Rrrwarrerarrarrr!”

She brightened and said, “Yeah!  Will you be my Lily-saur?”

“No.  Leaellynosaur are not tame beasts.  But, I like you, so you can leave snacks out for me in your garden and I won’t bite you.”


Ah.  What a prince.

Dinosaur biting costume crown
**This NOT a leaellynasaur. It is actually a velciraptor, with non-royal leanings.**

A Dollhouse, Restored

It is done! The dollhouse is ready for play, and has already been inhabited by several dinosaurs.


After seeing all the flooring options for dollhouses, including the real pieced miniature wood slats and laminate “marble” tile, I asked my four-year-old if we should just paint the floors white. She said yes immediately (which I knew she would because she wanted to do some painting, hee hee). The next choice to make was the color of the exterior. She wanted red. I said no. She wanted pink and I said okay, sure. However, we didn’t have any pink paint in the house and our craft-store foray was so overwhelming we only came home with scrapbook “wallpaper” without even looking at paint. “What about blue? We have light-blue paint left over from your room. Then the house would match your room.” “YES!” (Never underestimate the power of instant gratification with children…to get exactly what you want. Tee hee, again!)

Since we had the paint handy, she and her brother jumped right in and slapped first coats of paint of the whole house.  Children, I find, are naturally excellent painters.  You have to set the guidelines, like “don’t paint the house windows”, but then they slap on a beautiful thick layer in about seven minutes, then get tired and leave, so you can do the edges and smooth over their stuff easily.  (This is how I got my son to paint the underside of deck, by the way, two summers ago.  I mean, he was the perfect height!)

The next stage, of putting in the wallpaper was a bit more challenging.  I am pleased as punch how three of the rooms have matching seams and the pattern is uninterrupted as you turn corners and whatnot.  The other two rooms are okay.  I should say that decorating a dollhouse is NOT a sport for a perfectionist.  You could die on that mountain.  We had come home with a stack of coordinating scrapbook papers, so I just picked out five I liked and my daughter agreed, then went to work measuring and cutting.  She really wanted to help with this too, but sadly for her (okay, both of us), it was too exacting.  Another time-saving (read:  lazy) choice was to use double-sided tape for the wallpaper.  I had read about using spray adhesive and decoupage, but, ain’t nobody got time for that. (Leaving out the fact that I actually have both of those.)  I also didn’t cover the paper in any way.  I’m not too concerned about the paper getting caught by edges of furniture or rogue dinosaur claws….although I probably should be.  Whatever.  Dollhouses were meant to be played in.  The double-sided tape does make it a bit easier if we ever wanted to do a repair or a reno, but that is NOT happening soon.  Have you seen my kitchen while I worked on the dollhouse?

Dollhouse interior Dollhouse interior Dollhouse interior Dollhouse interior

Another Saturday of second coats of paint all around, some futzy cutting of paper for windows, a little bit of super-glue to fix some broken railings and trim, et voila!

Dollhouse interior Dollhouse interior Dollhouse interior Dollhouse interior

If you want to see her “Before” pics, check here.

Now that it is finished, I realize I never put doors on the house.  I have three beautiful French doors that came with the house, but no miniature hardware to install them.  I briefly looked for the hardware or full door kits to install, but sort of forgot about it.  Maybe we’ll put doors in someday, but you know, Allosaurs can’t do doorknobs anyway.

Allosaurs wants to come in the dollhouse

Kids playing in dollhouse

Kids playing with dollhouse
A dollhouse restored, being played with by children. All is well in the world.